DRDB! 9: Oh Baby You, You Got What I Need

Comforting Crime-Solving Cats, the Political Minefield of Being a DA, and Mark Zuckerberg Killing a Goat

Remember when there were three major television networks? ABC, NBC, CBS. A person could realistically keep up with television. It was easy to keep track. Each one made roughly the same television as the other two. You might’ve preferred Letterman to Leno or Dan Rather to Tom Brokaw but the differences weren’t huge. Then came cable, which at first was full of low-rent syndicated programs and oddball programming all produced on the cheap to fill airtime. You didn’t have to keep track of cable because it was all broad filler, until all the cable networks started producing either “prestige TV” or reality shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race or the occasional “most popular thing with kids” cartoon. Suddenly there was FX, AMC, TBS, TNT, Comedy Central, USA, HGTV, ABC Family, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, ESPN, Food Network, Discovery, The CW, History, SyFy, Ion, Bravo, FreeForm, and, sure, the Game Show Network. All of them somehow producing television deemed culturally relevant by the cognoscenti. Now we have Netflix, Hulu and the hulking ethical dilemma that is Amazon piling more and more television on top.

I’m not going to say this new situation is worse. If I ever turn into that “things used to be better in the old days” guy, you have permission to slap me. I bring this all up to say two things. One is a larger point about modern culture. The other is just me tired of feeling awkward shame for not watching The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones or The Americans whenever they come up in conversation.

1) The Monoculture is dead. Before, we had the same general pool of TV to watch. Now there’s media for everyone. It’s no longer one simple collection of cultural happenings to keep track of. There’s too much for anyone to keep track of. “Hip” is dead. “Popular” is relative. “Mainstream” doesn’t mean anything anymore. Another big shift is that “alternative” or “underground” or “avant garde” stuff that was created in response to the “mainstream” is now just… more stuff. The context of its creation is gone. On the one hand, it’s great for many folks because now they have television and media that feels personal, close to them, even if it’s not well-known. On the other hand, this same mess has played out in news and journalism and social media, creating a morass of so much information and commentary that it’s often hard to tell what exactly is happening. This is where I tell you that Fox News is by far the most popular cable channel in the US.

2) We don’t have to keep track of hip, popular TV anymore. We’re free. There’s too much for any one person to cover. We can relieve ourselves from the worry of being caught up, because it’s impossible to catch up with everything. Feel out of touch? We are all out of touch now. There’s not enough time in our brief lives on this rock to even scratch the surface of everything there is to see, and that’s all fine and normal now. PHEW.

  1. We live in the first draft of an eco-dystopian novel called like “We The Remaining Handful” (Popula)
    “As a person who likes to put things in boxes and then talk about them a lot, it’s a relief to be reminded that the world is a profoundly inscrutable place and that language is no match for the mystery of human nature. I am speaking, obviously, of Jack Dorsey’s story about Mark Zuckerberg killing a goat with a stun gun. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever encountered, and so, so, so, so funny, and so terrible, and I don’t know what any of it means.”

  2. What Is "Traditional" Soju?: A Spirited Debate (Serious Eats)
    Jinro is the most popular brand of liquor in the world by sales. It outsells the second most popular brand, Smirnoff, by more than double. It’s soju and I couldn’t tell you what that means beyond it being Korean and alcoholic. Bourbon, for example, must be made of at least 51% corn and aged for however long to produce a certain kind of whiskey. Scotch has all kinds of strict regulations. Soju, by contrast, is totally undefined. This writer tries to figure out what “traditional” soju means, and does not get far.

  3. Crime-Solving Cats and Cozy Mysteries Are a Publishing Juggernaut (Vulture)
    “‘Cozy mysteries’ share an unspoken mission — to lull readers with snug, idyllic settings; to offer murder and treachery without gore or shock; to wipe away that glaze of trauma with which traditional detective stories leave us slicked.”

  4. "You’re probably using the wrong dictionary" (jsomers.net)
    A simple case for using older, more richly-written dictionaries over the mechanical modern-day editions. The example that convinced me was pathos, a word I’ve never been confident in defining until now. The modern Webster’s definition: “a quality that evokes pity or sadness.” The 1913 definition is much richer: “1. The quality or character of those emotions, traits, or experiences which are personal, and therefore restricted and evanescent; transitory and idiosyncratic dispositions or feelings as distinguished from those which are universal and deep-seated in character; — opposed to ethos. 2. That quality or property of anything which touches the feelings or excites emotions and passions, esp., that which awakens tender emotions, such as pity, sorrow, and the like; contagious warmth of feeling, action, or expression; pathetic quality; as, the pathos of a picture, of a poem, or of a cry.

  5. GIFs of Cats in Space with Food (giphy/tumblr)

  6. Kamala Harris’s controversial record on criminal justice, explained (Vox)
    There’s an old assumption in politics that anyone coming out of city/state politics in New York won’t be able to succeed on the national stage because New York politics are too corrupt, too messy, and too much of a minefield. I’d submit that trying to be a District Attorney or Attorney General before switching over to national elected office is even harder. Also I learned that Kamala is pronounced like “comma-la.”

  7. “Learn to Code”: The Meme Attacking Media (The Ringer)
    “‘Learn to code’ is not a viral phrase that’s being spammed to out-of-work journalists; it’s a targeted attack disguised as a meme.”

  8. It’s So Cold Out! Where’s the Global Warming?! (Kottke.org)
    Don’t like the cold? Well, it used to be colder more often. Global warming is here now.

  9. “Facebook Moves to Block Ad Transparency Tools — Including Ours” (ProPublica)
    Facebook doesn’t want groups like ProPublica to know how their ad targeting systems work. What are you hiding, Zuck?

  10. Coaching legend Gregg Popovich gave a completely-negative media statement about his team after a WIN (SB Nation)
    “It was a pathetic performance, and Phoenix got robbed.” He’s an icon.

  11. Finally, here’s the song Biz Markie sampled in “Just a Friend.” The drum beat is way ahead of its time and the whole song slays.