Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reza Aslan Bangs Head Against Wall

You may recall that time two summers ago when author Reza Aslan was promoting his book Zealot, and ended up dealing with a particularly dunderheaded Fox News anchor. Well, if Aslan's appearance on CNN yesterday is any indication, Stupid Anchor Syndrome isn't confined exclusively to Fox. For some context, Bill Maher engaged in his usual brand of anti-Muslim invective on last week's Real Time, wherein he called out liberals for not broad-brushing all Muslims for the actions of their most extreme elements. Aslan, who's been a frequent guest for Maher, was brought on to CNN to respond, and well, this is what happened next:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Oliver: How is Ayn Rand Still a Thing?

As I'm sure anyone who reads this site already knows, I'm no fan of the Objectivist philosophies espoused by Ayn Rand, which essentially equate to a moral justification for selfishness. Nonetheless, the late Atlas Shrugged author has a substantial cohort of boosters on the American conservative scene, with former Republican veep nominee Paul Ryan and future presidential contender Rand Paul among them. But as this segment from last night's Last Week Tonight makes clear, Rand's presence at the forefront of conservative thought is a bit of a head-scratcher.

From The Onion...

Woman Worried Student Loans Could Prevent Her From One Day Owning Entirely Different Kind Of Crippling Debt 
PHILADELPHIA—Lamenting that she will spend the foreseeable future paying off her college expenses, local 23-year-old digital marketing assistant Ashley Orlinsky expressed concern Wednesday that her student loans will prevent her from ever owning an entirely different type of utterly crippling debt. “Realistically, it’ll take years or even decades to fully repay $50,000 of loans, which makes me worried that I’ll never qualify for a backbreaking mortgage on a house that I can in no way afford,” said Orlinsky, adding that with $350 in monthly student loan payments, she will likely struggle to even borrow money to purchase a new car that will destroy her credit rating and may one day be repossessed by the bank. “I have dreams of starting my own company at some point in the future, but I just don’t see how I’ll have the opportunity to be saddled for my entire adult life with a suffocating high-interest small business loan if my student debt is following me wherever I go. It’s awful.” Orlinsky was reportedly encouraged, however, after coming to the mistaken conclusion that she could just default on her student loans and have them discharged in a bankruptcy filing.

Stupid But True: First in a Series

From 1989's Batman #429, that time the Joker became Iran's ambassador to the UN. Yeah. That happened.

Recommended Reading

For anyone who's followed congressional goings-on (or lack thereof) over the past few years, you know that Iowa congressman Steve King has become the de facto face of the rampant, unhinged nativism that's helped kill things like immigration reform in the lower house. But as Sahil Kapur's in-depth interview with King demonstrates, King knows exactly which way his crazy crumbles, and he's speaking directly to the voting Republican base.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

False Patriotism

From Thursday's Daily Show, Jon Stewart tears apart the latest cause of controversy on the right:

Nostalgia Theater: The Cosby Mysteries Comes and Goes

Last week, I reminisced about The Cosby Show on the occasion of that show's thirtieth anniversary, so I figured I'd keep the Cosby conversation going this week by briefly remembering Bill Cosby's follow-up to his groundbreaking family sitcom. Unfortunately for the Cos, this one didn't enjoy quite the same pop culture shelf life, and the only real mystery today is that The Cosby Mysteries once existed. Don't believe me? For proof, watch the intro below, and keep reading after the jump!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 55

For this week's show, we pick apart the premiere episode of Fox's new Batman-minus-Batman TV series Gotham. We look at what worked, what didn't, and where we hope things go in the weeks ahead. In addition, I discuss how Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington have cornered the market on "Old Guys Beating People Up" movies via A Walk Among the Tombstones and The Equzalizer. Oh, we also have an exclusive interview with Mike Shoemaker, co-creator of the hilarious Hulu original series The Awesomes. All that, plus listener letters, and the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including word that Matt Damon is set to return as Jason Bourne, and rumors that William Shatner may again don his space suit to play Captain James T. Kirk. As always, please hit up iTunes and Stitcher to write us a review, and drop us a line at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Diffused Congruence: Ayesha Mattu and Ali Eteraz

For this episode of the show, Parvez and I shine a spotlight on Muslim authors who've successfully broken through into the mainstream. First, we chat with Ayesha Mattu, co-editor of Love, Inshallah and its new sequel Salaam, Love about how the two books came about, what the reactions have been, and what she's learned from her audience. After that, we have a conversation with Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust and the upcoming Falsipedies and Fibsiennes. You can download or stream below, and also listen at iTunes (don't forget to leave us a review!) and Stitcher Radio. Feel free to send any comments or questions our way at diffusedcongruence@gmail.com or via our Facebook page!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Cosby Show Turns 30!

"Hey, don't give me your sob story. I'm the guy who passed on The Cosby Show."

Per author Bill Carter in his book The War For Late Night, that quote was uttered by former ABC exec Lew Erlicht after being approached by a homeless person seeking help. And while Carter couches that anecdote as likely apocryphal, the truth behind the probable fiction is that Erlicht did indeed (much to his regret) reject a pitch by producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner for a family comedy centered on comedian Bill Cosby. He passed, the show was picked up by NBC prexy Brandon Tartikoff, and the rest is TV history.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: XX Years of The X-Files

Three decades of history, in fact. In news that's sure to make a lot of folks of my vintage feel positively decrepit, last night marked thirty years to the day that The Cosby Show premiered on the Peacock, introducing America to the upper-middle class Huxtable family, headed by doctor dad Cliff (Cosby) and lawyer mom Claire (Phylicia Rashad), with four (later five) children. On its journey the '80s, it  revived the sitcom format, changed the playing field for African-Americans on TV and, depending on the telling, rescued NBC, which had spent the better part of the last decade on-the-ropes, from insolvency.

Here's one of my fave bits from the very first episode:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Key & Peele on Aliens & Racism

Key & Peele have figured out how to identify the alien invaders in our midst. Here's a clip from next week's season premiere:

From The Onion...

I think this was me last month, when I visited Chicago.
Man Visiting Hometown Amazed To Find All His Childhood Insecurities Still There 
MANSFIELD, OH—While walking through his old neighborhood, Mansfield, OH, native Peter Grogan, 37, was reportedly surprised Thursday to find that each and every one of his childhood insecurities remains in his hometown. “I was heading down Marion Avenue, where Jeff Bilderman used to pick on me every day, and noticed that my old anxieties, fears, and constant sense of shame are all still here,” Grogan told reporters, marveling that the dozens of uncertainties that plagued him throughout his adolescent and teenage years were still thriving exactly where he left them. “I haven’t been back for long, but it doesn’t seem like my timidity and self-doubt have changed even a bit. And it looks like my feelings of inadequacy are still going strong, judging by the fears of rejection that came flooding back when I walked past my old high school. It’s all exactly the same as it was almost 20 years ago.” Grogan added that the one difference he could identify was that walking through his hometown now fills him with newly established insecurities regarding his financial situation, relationship with his parents, and own impending mortality.

Recommended Reading

Jonathan Chait looks at the peculiarities of polling coming out of Kansas, and how changing political winds could be blowing against the state's deeply-entrenched Republican establishment.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Getting to the Core of Filmation's Journey to the Center of the Earth

This is another show that I shouldn't really have any memory of, given that it was cancelled more than ten years before I was born. Nonetheless, thanks once again to Saudi TV being more than a decade out-of-date, I got to see Filmation's Journey to the Center of the Earth during the early '80s, when I was exactly the right age for both the show and the concept to become permanently imprinted in my frontal lobe. The series took its name and inspiration from Jules Verne's classic adventure novel, but it clearly owed more to the 1959 feature adaptation starring James Mason and released by 20th Century Fox (which also produced the 'toon). For an overview of the premise, look no further than the intro below, with narration by the late, great Ted Knight:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Craig Johnson Talk The Skeleton Twins

From the moment they joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2005, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader set about creating an impressive roster of memorable characters and unforgettable impressions that made both performers an indispensable part of the sketch-com's ensemble right up until their departures, in 2012 and 2013 respectively. And though both have found ample opportunities to continue cracking up audiences in their post-SNL careers, we get to see their dramatic chops with this weekend's release of writer-director Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins.

The family drama stars Wiig and Hader as titular twins Maggie and Milo, reunited in adulthood due to extenuating circumstances and forced to deal with the repercussions of two lifetimes of questionable choices. I had opportunity to chat with Wiig, Hader, and director Johnson last May for the film's San Francisco premiere, and what follows are some of the highlights from the hilarious roundtable discussion, which often dissolved into spontaneous comedy routines from the two stars:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The MovieFilm Podcast: Episode 54

For our first episode of the fall season, the MovieFilm Podcast is proud to present a roundtable interview with actors Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and director Craig Johnson, about their new film The Skeleton Twins. After that, we dive into the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including our thoughts on the newly-revealed Batmobile from Batman v. Superman, word that Sylvester Stallone may be getting ready to strap on the machete and play Rambo one last time, and some new rumors about what to expect from Star Wars: Episode VII. After that, it's onto the main event, as we continue our annual tradition of looking back at the just-concluded summer season's spate of releases, from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, offering a post-mortem on what worked, what didn't, and why. It's loose, it's fun, it's under two hours, and you can stream it below or download at the link! As always, please hit up iTunes and Stitcher to write us a review, and drop us a line at our Facebook page to tell us how we're doing!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

From The Onion...

Man, ain't it the truth.
Puzzled Nation Can Remember Name Ferguson, But Not Sure From Where 
WASHINGTON—Reportedly racking their brains in an attempt to figure out how they knew that name, a puzzled American populace admitted Monday that while they definitely remembered hearing the word Ferguson, they could not quite put their finger on where. “Ferguson, Ferguson—God, I know that word from somewhere. It’s right on the tip of my tongue,” said Virginia Beach resident Mark Brown, one of millions of citizens nationwide who reportedly paused during the day and furrowed their brows in bafflement, before venturing guesses that the familiar-sounding term might have been a thing from TV or someone they heard a friend talking about. “Yeah, that definitely rings a bell. Hmm. Boy, I’m drawing a big blank on this one. Oh, well.” At press time, each citizen agreed that wherever they had heard the name Ferguson, it probably wasn’t worth any more of their time trying to remember.

Recommended Reading

The New Yorker's Lawrence Wright on twenty-eight missing pages in the the congressional inquiry into 9/11. Those pages were excised at the behest of the Bush Administration, but it's the "why" that's at issue.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Run, Joe, Run -- It's The Fugitive With a Dog

Run, Joe, Run was a live action Saturday morning series that aired on NBC and premiered exactly forty years ago today, September 7, 1974. Seeing as how it preceded me into the world by a few (five) years, there's really no reason I should have any memory of it all, except for the fact that they showed it in Saudi Arabia, where pop culture was ten years behind at any given time. Even so, those memories are so fleeting and jumbled that I had to do some Googling to figure out what the heck the thing was even about, as most of my recollections center on the theme music, which you can hear in the intro (and outro) below:

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Recommended Reading

Tom Englehardt lays out the long and winding trail of foreign policy tears -- stemming from our own ill-advised foreign policy decisions -- that led to the creation of ISIS.

"Wealthy Choice"

From Tuesday's Daily Show, it looks like Eric Cantor has managed to find some gainful (and then some) employment following his Tea Party-led ouster from the House last June:

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Recommended Reading

Former Yale professor William Deresiewicz explains why our nation's current concept of higher education and what it's pursuit has come to represent has created several generations of "excellent sheep."