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by Zohair Hussain 09.04.2013
Posted In: Culture, TV/Celebrity, Music at 11:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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'Blurred Lines': Styled vs. Sensationalized, or Why 'We Can’t Stop'

As readers' interests shift, integrity seems to lose its main market in reporting

Following last week’s “scandal” at the MTV Video Music Awards, the pacing of news and reporting made itself known as a speed force to be reckoned with. In the minute-by-minute duration and aftermath of the performance of one, Miley Cyrus, and her “partner in crime”, Robin Thicke, new age media came together to do what it does best: twitter our feed with dribble and spit-up commentary.

It can’t be denied that news reporting, in many ways, is stepping further away from hard facts and closer to tabloid gossip. In a day and age where Twitter is the new paperboy, it can’t be denied that the facts are coming faster. And while this could be an opportunity for better news, more quickly, more often than not we’re trading chances for quick links to real stories with 140 character quips on MC-Hammer-like “did you see her butt”s (#chauvanistsforCyrus).

The real disappointment comes, though, when we look to major media outlets (Still trusted by some. Take off the aluminum hat, Johnny.) the next day for hard-hitting news, only to see that they’ve decided to throw their own hats in the ring. With prize-winning headlines such as CNN’s “Miley Cyrus twerks, stuns VMAs crowd,” the morning news was just as obsessed as the evening newsfeed.

As a reporter, a writer, an observer, this obsessive, sprawling focus is what scares me most. It isn’t the performance itself, full of dancers dressed as teddy bears or Cyrus’ gyrating hips on Thicke’s overly hyped crotch (See “Blurred Lines” for more details). It isn’t so much the event that took place, as it was the reactive reports that left an extra, bitter after taste to my morning coffee.

Even arts reporting, perceived to have more lenient, pop-culture laced subject matter, used to hold itself to similar standards of respectful re-tellings of facts rather than fiction. Though there had once been a clear distinction between opinion pieces and news articles, even in the realm of aesthetic focus, the lines are suddenly more blurred than ever. And where does that leave us, the “responsible” voices?

Culture is, in many ways, defined by the voices that carry out its most essential conversations. If we are of the few so lucky as to have a readership, our words carry the weight of decades of said cultural insight and historical backing. What do we have to say for ourselves when these words, our influence, sacrifice authenticity for celebrity? Integrity for popularity? What are we really accomplishing when we re-draw the line between honest reporting and scandalized, gossip mongering, and honest words inch closer to the latter? What would our (fore)mothers say?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some voices, some news outlets out there, who aren’t doing it right. While most couldn’t look away from Cyrus’ extended tongue (search “Venom” and “Marvel Comics” for more details), The Guardian, for example, wouldn’t look past the more subtly digressive implications of the performance. Did you miss the moment where the young, stage-dominant, Caucasian Miley Cyrus groped her not so white back up dancers? (The Guardian didn’t.)  

Some took an even more seasoned route, using temperance techniques to stop the sensational train in its tracks. In Rolling Stone's initially deceptive write up, “It's Miley, Bitch: The Tongue That Licked the World”, Rob Sheffield gave a more balanced account of the 2013 Video Music Awards, mentioning Cyrus almost in passing, and spending his time taking equal shots at all the stars involved in what he said was MTV’s attempt to make “sure this year’s VMA party was a real show. With a little help from Miley."

I ask again: What are we creating when we allow objectivity to bend to the will of popular demand, asking for glitter and jazz and sensationalized headlines? Nothing. We are creating a secular sinkhole of informational access. We lead our readers right back where they started.

And that says to me that there must be a change made. The truth is, we CAN stop. If we want to.

Why can’t we create insight, rather than propagate fan mongering, rather than cling to one star's fateful decision to wear her teddy bear out that night? Let the reporters report and the readers decide. It’s now or never. Robin Thicke will age (even more so, it seems) Miley Cyrus will find Disney again (and a few more times after that), “Blurred Lines” will find its way off the Billboard charts (catchy can only be caught for so long), but the honest word —that will last for…at least a few more years.

 

 
 
by Jac Kern 08.28.2013
Posted In: Humor, Music, Is this for real? at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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I Just Can't Get Enough...VMAs

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards melted the face off the Internet, so if you’re still trying to form an opinion and sift through gif reactions, or you’re one of those people pretending you don’t know what the VMAs are — the Moonman has been around since 1983 and the VMAs have been pooping out pseudo-controversy for just as long. You know what they are. Sit back down — don’t worry, momma’s here.

If you really don’t watch the VMAs, it’s important to understand that the V and A do not matter — MTV rarely plays music videos, as we all know, and no one ever remembers who actually wins the Mooman by the end of the night. The respected academy of critics are teens who vote for whichever marginally talented star tweets the most. You watch for the pop culture experience — whether it’s Fiona Apple’s “bullshit” acceptance speech, the Britney-Madonna kiss or Beyonce’s baby bump announcement, crazy shit goes down at the VMAs. And this year was no different.

The big draw of the night was Lady Gaga’s big comeback. It’s been two years since a big performance and release, and Mama Monster also is back from a hip injury that kept her out of the public eye for a bit. Gaga opened the show with her new single, “Applause,” which was welcomed by audience boos (those turned out to be staged. Gaga — go figure.). The performance looked like some kind of jazzy, art school, off-broadway number, complete with dudes in leotards and onstage weave and costume changes, ending in LG in a big ass brown curly wig, a mermaid shell bra and thong. Her body was siiiiick (eat it, haters) and it was nice to see her look/act like a human — this is not the meat dress-wearing, alien goth princess, Jo Calderone Gaga. This is ARTPOP Gaga.

She seemed a little more down-to-earth, if that’s possible? Like she was having fun, and not taking it too seriously. Which is good, because her new song is in a fucking Kia commercial.

Next up is the kind of moment that makes careers and ends presidencies. Just kidding. It’s just Miley! So I (like every human with access to the Internet) detailed my roller coaster of emotions when I first watched Miley Cyrus’ video “We Can’t Stop.” And I must say, I have no problem with MiCy growing up and changing directions. Alternatively, I have no problem with her being a completely fake, manufactured product (cut to Lady Gaga —Government Name: Stefani Germanotta — looking like the normal girl she actually was less than a decade ago, on an episode of Boiling Points. Most pop stars were once Hannah Montanas before their producers gave them "molly" and a rejected Rihanna beat, OK?).

I have no qualms with her getting an fierce haircut and wearing denim diaper shorts and juxtaposing her former good girl image with her current hot lady looks. But there's a difference between shifting from Country to Pop or Disney kid to edgy starlet and purposefully quashing your saccharine image by motorboating a woman's thonged butt on TV just for the shock factor. I see you Miley, and I will not respond to you.

One note I must make about the performance is Miley did share the spotlight with the black chicks from her "We Can't Stop" video. (Side note: those giant bear backpack apparatuses they’re wearing look really heavy!) Many critics of the vid questioned why these “friends” only appeared in one scene of the video, when she appears to be so immersed in black culture throughout (See: Conversation on cultural appropriation I’m not prepared to start here). Once Miley was done assaulting her backup dancers, rubbing her fur-covered crotch and definitely not lip synching (for better or worse), the two songs that had everyone clutching their pearls this year came to an uncomfortable head as Robin Thicke made his way onstage.

Thicke’s video for “Blurred Lines” sparked up just as much controversy as Miley’s in recent months. From scantily-clad models (plus a naked one in the uncensored version) to lyrics like “I know you want it” — plus dumb hastags all over the place — there were bound to be some haters. But, doesn’t that description sound comparable if not tamer than nearly any popular music video circulating right now? Now, I can understand the concern about the subject of “blurred lines” when there is so much right-wing bullshit about rape culture going on right now. But the video came out in March, and it wasn’t until recently, once a few people started writing about their disapproval, that other folks started recycling these opinions and making parody videos that completely miss the point.

Look, I’ve got a soft spot for Robin Thicke. He started off more than a decade ago as an R&B singer — he’s got a smooth-as-a-baby’s-butt voice so of course his songs are going to be sexual and of course some of his videos are going to feature sexy girls. He’s married to actress Paula Patton, whom he’s been with since he was 16. They have an adorable son named Julian Fuego. If anything, Miley would corrupt him!

So Miley rips off her PedoBear onesie to reveal the two-piece from the “Blurred Lines” video and everyone realizes yes, she’s going there. The world looked on in sheer terror as she twerked every which way upon Thicke, stroking him and herself with a We’re No. 1 finger you see at hockey games. Miley’s butt looked really scary and Robin looked like Beetlejuice.

Let’s all cleanse ourselves by looking back on Thicke’s earlier, hairier years.

One actual quality performance of the night came from Justin Timberlake. Sure, he’s ubiquitous, but damn, the dude is talented. JT sang and danced his way across every stage in the Barclays Center, never missing a beat or breath, touching on hits from all throughout his career. Naturally, everyone was waiting for the anticipated *NSYNC reunion, and every time a cluster of male back-up dancers rushed onstage, I thought that was the moment. Finally, four shadowy figures emerged from an illuminated stage, and Justin joined them in the center.

I hate to be a spoilsport, but, *NSYNC, you’re tearin’ up my heart. Nearly any millennial Pop lover was either a Backstreet Boy or *NSYNC fan, and I was more of an *NSYNC girl. Nevertheless, when I recently had the opportunity to attend the BSB reunion concert of PNC Pavilion, you better believe I screamed my lungs out with the rest of the crowds of pathetic women. I had to hand it to the ‘Boys — they looked more attractive as 40-year-olds than they did 20 years ago! They were in shape, still had their chops and were really good sports about it. The concert really was a fun time. So when I saw an overweight, wobbling Chris Kirkpatrick struggling to pull his jacket over his tummy, I could not focus on anything else. A single tear ran down my cheek. And why the hell, of all songs to play during this rare moment, would they sing “Girlfriend?!” I still love you, *NSYNC, but reunion wasted, in my opinion.

More stuff:

This picture is NOT the Smith family reacting to that Miley mess I just recounted. This is a still taken during Gaga’s performance and it’s not even an accurate reaction, so stop sharing it, ya losers.

Drake, Bruno Mars, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Kanye also performed, and no one is going to say anything about that. Drake reminds me of a dinosaur and his song was really boring. Kanye performed in a shadow in front of a screen cuz he’s a dad now and he can’t be bothered with camera close-ups, guys.

The camera cut away to reaction shots from Taylor Swift so often, she should be credited as a co-host. Good god.

Katy Perry’s new song "Roar" ended the night with a boxing-themed performance by the Brooklyn Bridge, but it seems like everyone was too busy freaking out about Miley to notice. It was pretty fun, but apparently it sounds a lot like Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.”

In other news, even D-list celebs, Like Dharma & Greg’s Thomas Gibson can get catfished.

Breaking Bad’s Anna Gun (Skyler White) wrote a New York Times op-ed about how everybody HATES her — or at least the character she plays — any how this widespread abomination doesn’t seem to carry over to male characters on television.

Remember "Beauty and the Beat?" In his latest video, my newest hero Todrick Hall takes it to the next level and tells the story of Cinderella using the music of Beyoncé. Rupaul’s Drag Race star Shangela plays the fairy god mother. Naturally!  

 
 
by Jac Kern 08.16.2013
Posted In: Events, Fun, Music, Arts at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Your Weekend To Do List: 8/16-8/18

Most cops discourage partying and street art — not The London Police. The British art duo has been leaving their precision-meets-cartoony signature pieces across Covington throughout the past week and tonight, from 7-11 p.m. at BLDG, The London Police will reveal the sites of their work, which includes several small-scale pieces and one mural. Meet the duo, purchase their work and see them perform live as TLP Dog Singers.

The 25th Annual Midwest Black Family Reunion takes places this weekend, bringing more than 50,000 people to Sawyer Point — making it one of the city’s largest family-focused annual festivities. Events include a parade Saturday, Sunday morning service, food and retail vendors, live music, town hall meetings and much more. Go here for a full event schedule.

As students across the Tri-state prepare to head back to school, you can do your part to ensure safe, accessible sex education is available through Planned Parenthood. The organization’s fundraiser, Summer’s Over – What a Drag…Show features two drag shows with lots of performances Saturday night at The Cabaret, above Below Zero in Over-the-Rhine. The shows — featuring drag queens and kings, including RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Mystique “Bitch, I am from Chicago” Summers — begin at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students, $20 GA or $30 for both shows if purchased online ($5 at the door). All proceeds go toward sex education through Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.

Washington Park will be abuzz this weekend, as per usual. The City Flea sets up Saturday, fulfilling all your quirky shopping needs (plus eats and drinks from local foods trucks and vendors) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Later that night at 9 p.m., it’s Date Night Movie time with Julie and Julia (which sounds more like a Date Night with Mom Movie, but we’re not judging). And Sunday is full of free performances, starting with ArtsWave’s Sundays in the Park. Cincinnati Ballet Second Company will present a free performance and dance-along at 2 and 3 p.m. To really make the most out of your day (without opening your wallet), stick around for Shakespeare in the Park at 7 p.m., where Cincinnati Shakespeare Company will present a free performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

For more art openings, summer festivals, theater shows and other stuff to do this weekend, check out our To Do picks and full calendar.

 
 
by Jac Kern 08.06.2013
Posted In: TV/Celebrity, Movies, Music at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

Think “selfies” were limited to teenagers at the mall food court, drunk girls at bars and an alarming amount of people in bathrooms? Broaden your scope to include law enforcement with Cop Selfies, which sadly also include plenty of toilet shots: