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Jul. 29 2010 — 3:25 pm | 151 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

The Truest Slant of All…

It's a tragedy for me to see the dream is over

Well, gang, it’s been fun. This is the last thing I’ll write for True/Slant, and I want to thank everyone who read me and emailed me and offered to name their children after me. (This one goes out to you, little Briana Sanchez.) When I was first approached to write for True/Slant I thought no one would read me and the site would only last a few months. Turns out, True/Slant thrived for several years and was eventually bought by Forbes, so…one out of two ain’t bad.

Seriously though, I had a great time at the T/S and hope to cross paths with these good looking gentlepersons again soon. A hearty high-five to Coates Bateman, Michael Roston, Andrea Spiegel, and Lewis Dvorkin. Great to work with, for, and about. People who let you curse out an entire country for no reason are good people to know.

If you’d like to keep reading me, please follow my Twitter: @b_donovan. I’ll post links and news there about my upcoming work for other sites, TV shows, and fast-food restaurants. As of August 1st, I will begin writing for the good people at ThoughtCatalogue.com, and may be turning up at other sites you’ve certainly heard of – so stay tuned!

Happy Christmas to All, and To All a Good Night

-Brian



Jul. 26 2010 — 9:54 am | 872 views | 1 recommendations | 7 comments

What Men Think When They Watch the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Trailer

Eat, Pray, Love is a pop culture phenomenon. It was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for 57 weeks, so now, of course, it’s a movie. The film has three things that will kill with women: the beloved book; Julia Roberts; and the creator of Glee, Ryan Murphy, coming on to direct. But if it’s gonna make the big money and become a Hollywood smash, it’s going to have to play to men as well. At least a little bit. How’s that going? Well, let’s see what men think when they watch the Eat, Pray, Love trailer.

That could’ve gone better.



Jul. 22 2010 — 9:03 am | 1,408 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

Is ‘Louie’ this generation’s ‘Seinfeld’?

Don’t you love it when journalists…OK, bloggers…throw out preposterous headlines in the form of a question, just to get you to click on the article and find out, inevitably, that the answer is a simple “No.”? Like “Is the Airbag the Most Dangerous Part of an Automobile?” No, no it isn’t. But thanks for making me think it might be and tricking me into reading two lame paragraphs. Or “Is Harry Potter Actually Communist Propaganda?!?” Nope. Just a book about wizards. But good effort. Well, you might think that comparing FX’s new show Louie, starring comedian Louis CK, to the historic brilliance of Seinfeld could easily qualify as one of these headlines. But…you’d be wrong.

Promotional Cast Photos: Decidedly Not Post-Modern

Seinfeld was the definitive sitcom of the 90’s, both in ratings and style. The dominant mode of the period – and yes, this is gonna sound snooty for a second – was post-modernism, and Seinfeld had that in spades. Irony, detachment, lack of meaning, collage, non-linear storytelling (think Pulp Fiction) – all post-modern. And all Seinfeld. I mean, they had a backwards episode for crying out loud. If that doesn’t show a disregard for meaning and the rules that came before, I don’t know what does. And writing a show that is proudly “about nothing”, well that’s post-modern, but to say that it’s about nothing while the characters are making their pilot Jerry, the show within the show that is actually a play on the show itself and is ALSO a show about nothing, well that might be the most post-modern thing ever.

Louie of course does none of these things, which is why the two shows are so alike. As Seinfeld typified the style of 90’s, Louie does the same for this period we’re in now…whatever the hell that is. It’s dark, a little sad, alternately extremely truthful and totally absurd, and hilarious. In fact, just about the only thing it has in common with Seinfeld is that its built around the greatest stand-up of its time. If you don’t know Louis CK, well then, you really should. He was the head writer of The Late Show with David Letterman during its prime and an original writer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. And his stand-up is vicious. As evidence, watch his epic “Everything is Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” piece on Conan.

Hilarious, sure, but also great cultural criticism. Basically, as good as it gets. And it looks like his new FX show could be a weekly 30 minute installment of that goodness. It’s a little uneven at the moment, but it’s just finding it way – much like Seinfeld did in its first season. But – and this where the two shows meet – Louie has our national voice nailed. We don’t what the fuck is going on, the world is a mess, the economy is in the toilet that toilets use when they need to go to the bathroom, and we’re fighting, I think, six wars right now? Or, sorry, seven? But also, in all that, there’s hope. There’s the potential for improvement — an optimistic new President, and universal agreement that we’re all getting really tired of being in the crapper. We recognize things suck, and we’re really hoping for a turnaround. That’s Louis CK’s show, in a nutshell. Of course, he’s talking about trying to get laid even though he’s overweight and balding, about trying to raise two kids post-divorce, about trying to get his Doctor to stop joke diagnosing him with AIDS. But the style, the attitude, the voice, it’s all 2010 America.

That’s what our sitcoms should be now, because that’s the times we’re in. Complicated, sad, funny, and truthful. Frivolous, disposable comedy just doesn’t seem quite right anymore. Seinfeld was the show for that era, and hopefully, if FX gives it enough rope, Louie can be the show for this one.



Jul. 19 2010 — 9:49 am | 508 views | 0 recommendations | 29 comments

Banning Burqas: Well-Intentioned Racism

In case you hadn’t heard, France is well on their way to banning the Burqa from all public places, and Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands may not be far behind. A nice idea, if it wasn’t so unjust.

The plan in these countries is to keep their female citizens from having to wear a full veil Burqa anywhere outdoors. Because, as the Justice Minister of Spain says, it’s “hardly compatible with human dignity.” And what happens if you’re caught wearing one? The woman is fined 150 Euros (almost $200) – which makes a ton of sense if this law is designed to protect women. That would be like fining a slave 200 bucks for being seen in public with whip marks on his back. How can you give someone a ticket for being oppressed? Now, if a man is found guilty of forcing his wife to wear a Burqa, he can spend up to a year in jail, which would be great if it wasn’t almost impossible to prove. Unless you get an eyewitness to a Burqa argument between husband and wife, you’re basically talking about a “he said-she said” where the she is already dominated and perhaps physically threatened by the “he”, and has little incentive to speak out against him. Good luck with that.

An Al-Amira Hijad. (I think)

And all of this assumes that a Burqa is in fact an artifact of personal oppression. Look, it sounds bad to me. It sounds, honestly, somewhat inhuman. But it’s not my culture. I was on the subway a week ago in the middle of New York’s most recent heatwave, known more commonly as “July”, and two women walked on wearing a more liberal, party version of the Burqa known as the Al-Amira. It was so hot that day that I instantly felt terribly sorry for them, and hated the man that followed them in. He walked aboard, wearing his own stifling headdress and they all took a seat. Then something strange happened – the women took off their veils. They apparently wanted to get the full benefit of the MTA air conditioning, so they pulled it off and each popped open a cold drink. Their male companion left his covering on, but also enjoyed, I think, a diet 7-UP. Why were these women allowed to do this? I have no idea. And neither do you. And neither does any legislative body in France or Belgium of the Netherlands. THIS ISN’T OUR CULTURE. We don’t get it. We Westerners don’t understand the rules, we don’t understand the tradition, and we don’t understand how it feels to be a part of that tradition. So why are we trying to dictate what it should and shouldn’t do? Burqas seem entirely inappropriate to Western society, but it’s not our decision to make.

Does this look comfortable to you?

To me, there’s a line. And that line is physical pain or damage. If a societal practice causes serious physical pain, then it’s our duty to stop it. Until then, I believe it’s hands off. I see Orthodox Jewish women on the train every day in wool skirt and jacket suits, thick stockings, and heavy synthetic wigs as dictated by their culture. I’m sure that’s extremely uncomfortable and good bit dehumanizing to put on every morning, should that be illegal? What about their male counterparts, who are expected to grow their hair and beards as long as possible, add long peyas sideburns, hats and thick suits? I’m quite certain by the B.O. meter that these guys are usually setting off that this tradition results in oppressive body heat. And, during sabbath when they’re forced to only walk and not use electric comforts like fans and air conditioning, that this heat can likely become physically dangerous. But no one would ever think to make the Jewish traditions illegal, so why Burqas? The argument, I imagine, is that women are forced by their husbands to wear Burqas, and that’s not right. Hey, I completely agree – but I’m pretty sure many Orthodox men and women feel forced by their culture – parents, siblings, spouses – to follow similar rules. And plenty of other people in plenty of other strict as well. Why is that OK? Plenty of women across the world, and indeed here in the US, are still openly told by their husbands that they can’t get a job and must remain a housewife. That’s sexist, unfair, and humiliating, where are the laws against that? But Islam is different. Islam has a connotation of evil nowadays, of backward fundamentalism, so we feel like it needs to be reformed. Which is certainly a nice intention, but when you’re declaring the customs of one particular group illegal while ignoring similar ones from other cultures – that sounds like racism to me.

The tricky thing about having a democratic society is that it occasionally forces you to allow things that you instinctively despise. Would it be easier to make the Klu Klux Klan illegal? Yep, but they’re a protest group and we practice freedom of speech. Same with skinheads, neo-Nazis, and people who still find Two and a Half Men funny. They’re idiots, but in America – and France, Belgium, and Spain – you’re allowed to be an idiot. To legislate against just one culture, especially a culture that’s been associated with so much fear and difficulty, well that’s not what progressive nations are supposed to be about. And frankly, it’s exactly the sort of thing that would happen in the very cultures we’re so desperately trying to change. Just because it seems ugly does not mean it should also be illegal.



Jul. 13 2010 — 3:25 pm | 157 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

A Red Sox Fan Says Goodbye to George Steinbrenner

I hate the Yankees like poison. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Andy PettitteĀ  — they make me sick. But the man who paid for them, the guy whose image they were created in, the one who demanded their excellence – George Steinbrenner – he always puts a smile on my face. Because you can hate the Yankees, but deep down you gotta love The Boss.

If you were making a movie tomorrow and had to cast a villainous sports owner, you’d call your producer and say “Get me a Steinbrenner!” I mean, the guy could be a real bastard. In 2002 he got angry about the new collective bargaining agreement that would eat into his 1+ Billion dollar empire, so he fired a slew of elevator operators. That didn’t provide enough savings, so he canceled the dental benefits for all the secretaries in Yankee Stadium. The dental benefits! After being mocked by the media for a few weeks, George reinstated the coverage, but you could tell he was still pissed about it. And at every turn, every moment, he would stick it to my beloved Red Sox. He’d steal our players, he’d block our acquisitions, he’d make us look stupid – and you know what I say? Who cares.

What’s Othello without Iago scheming around his every move? A really boring play about a black soldier who falls in love with a white woman. “An Officer and a Gentleman” meets “Jungle Fever.” Yuch, no thanks. Or Sherlock Holmes without Moriarty? A guy solves cases in unlimited amounts of time and under no physical danger or pressure of any kind. Basically, Encyclopedia Brown in a funny hat. I’ll pass. Heck, what’s Garfield without Nermal and Mondays? Just a sarcastic cat who loves lasagna…which is basically what Garfield is with Nermal and Mondays, so scratch that one. Bad example. But what will the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, or even all of baseball, be without George Steinbrenner? Honestly, a bit of a bore. His sons have taken over the Yankee reigns, but it’s clear already that they’re hopelessly sane. Hank Steinbrenner showed some early promise by calling Red Sox Nation “complete bullshit”, but then brother Hal stepped in and shut him up. Which is precisely no fun. You could never shut up George, even if you beat him, mocked him, or had him banned from the game. The Boss always found a way to bounce back, a way make a life a little bit more fun. He’s not bouncing back from this one though, and I’m shocked to say I’m gonna miss him.

Still hate ARod though. And don’t even get me started on Jeter…


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    About Me

    Twitter: @b_donovan

    I am a writer, actor, and North Korean Dictator. Over the years though I've written for everything from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to Fox News to Chapelle's Show, and can be seen frequently on Vh1 making snide remarks at the expense of others. Recently I was the Head Writer of "Fair Game", a news and comedy show from Public Radio International. My interests range from news to sports to entertainment, so this blog should read kinda like the evening news, except funnier and with less Brian Williams. Fuck Brian Williams.

    Contact: NewsCastAside@gmail.com

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    Followers: 124
    Contributor Since: January 2009
    Location:Brooklyn, NY