Tag Archives: Slate

Go Ahead, Have that Affair with Fox Mulder

10 Jul

Or, In Defense of Binge Watching

Boy Watching TVYesterday Jim Pagels published an invective on Slate’s BrowBeat blog urging us all to stop binge watching TVPagels argued that binging on TV – watching, say, a whole season in a few days or a series in a few weeks – ruins the TV viewing experience.  He argued that TV shows have multi-layered structures, each of which must be respected.

TV series must constantly sustain two narrative arcs at once: that of the individual episode—which has its own beginning, middle, and end—and that of the season as a whole. (Some shows, like Breaking Bad and The Wire, operate on a third: that of the entire series.) To fully appreciate a show, you must pay attention to each of these arcs. This is one of the defining features of television as a medium and one of the things that makes it great. Continue reading

I’ll have my free cake and eat it, too

29 May

Man yelling at laptop

Today in Slate, I’m mad that free services don’t provide me with free and seamless tech support.  Wait, what?  Yep, that’s it.  Slate’s Farhad Manjoo complains about the level of tech support he gets for Gmail, Mint, and other free online services.  Usually, I’m on the side of the individual consumer against the big, Afaceless corporations, but this article reminds me that the customer isn’t always right.  Continue reading

You Tweet What You Eat

3 May

SocialTimes has an article today (Sorry, You Ate 500 Calories Over Your Limit Today — Foodzy Turns Dieting Into A Game) about Foodzy, a new social media-based app that allows users to track their food consumption and share their successes in their diets with their social network.  According to SocialTimes, “Foodzy rewards you for making healthy choices or fun eating habits with badges.”  I guess this is better than the shaming suggested at the Slate event, but I still don’t think that I want updates about everything I eat going to all of my Facebook friends.  Unfortunately, you can’t sign up for Foodzy yet, so you’re all going to have to wait a while for status updates like “Maggie ate oatmeal with Craisins and way too much brown sugar and half-n-half.”  (Really, everything is better with half-n-half.) Continue reading

Obesity as an Epidemic of Social Networks

21 Apr

Today I attended Slate’s conversation on the fight to end childhood obesity.  (I know, I know, not really a normal thing to do with your vacation…)  The event featured a number of doctors, policy makers, and other experts concerned with the obesity epidemic, each of whom presented their own thoughts on the subject and then joined a panel discussion.  The first session focused on the causes of childhood obesity, the second on the solutions.

Although all of the panelists presented different ideas and statistics, they all came back to the same thing: it’s about culture.  It’s about what we value and what we consider socially acceptable.  Dr. Ezekial J. Emanuel (brother of Rohm and Ari — seriously, were they genetically engineered or something), Chair of Bioethics at the National Institute of Health, spoke about obesity as an infectious disease, saying that research on social networks shows that once someone becomes obese, their friends and relatives are more likely to become obese.

All of the speakers seemed to be good liberal soldiers fighting the good fight, so I was surprised to hear the idea that social stigma could be a useful tool in the fight against obesity.  One of the panelists, David L. Katz, Director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center, talked specifically about stigmatizing behavior instead of stigmatizing outcomes.  The panelists also made sure to say that stigmatization should only be applied to adults, not children.  But, still it seemed wrong…

They talked about the cultural shift to end smoking and how curbing the way that it was viewed as “cool” was a big part in getting people to quit.  But, obesity has never been viewed as cool…  Okay, I guess it has been viewed as a sign of success, though.    Mr. Katz discussed phrases that link food to the ideas of success and money:  “bread winner”, “bringing home the bacon”, “making dough”.  In our culture, the ability to provide food signifies success, protection, and love.  He also said that for most of human history, physical activity was unavoidable and calories were scarce and hard to get and that recently this has been reversed.  In light of this reversal, until we stop associating food with success, we’re going to have a problem.

Back to the idea of stopping the spread of a disease across a social network through stigma…  This reminds me of quarantine and isolation, how we’ve dealt with leprosy (which was I guess effective, but terrible).  And, it’s the exact opposite of how we’re dealing with AIDS (many groups are working to end the stigma against being HIV positive).  This difference in approach to dealing with the threats of obesity and AIDS strikes me as strange, especially as I would argue that AIDS is a much more dangerous disease.

So, is social stigma an okay tool?  I guess it’s effective.  But is it acceptable?  Can we harness the power of our social networks to stop obesity before it starts and prevent it from spreading along those very networks?


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

God Save the Queen, or at least the monarchy

19 Apr

Today my blog got picked up on Freshly Pressed (“The best of 398,060 bloggers, 444,336 new posts, 429,604 comments, & 109,230,100 words posted today on WordPress.com.”) and featured on the front page of WordPress.  I had no idea that this had happened until I logged in to check my stats for the day (I usually get about 40 hits/day) and saw that I had over 1700 hits as well as a bunch of comments awaiting moderation.  Now I feel internet famous.  Obviously, this puts a lot of pressure on this next post…

Before my newfound fame and fortune (I made $75 for participating in a market research study today.  That counts, right?), I was going to write about the Royal Wedding and how we as Americans are “above it”, but obsessed anyway.  And how we as feminists are “beyond it”, but obsessed anyway.  (Although I’m going to duck away and obsessively hit refresh on my stats every few minutes, I’ve decided to stick with the topic.)  I’ve seen so much coverage from people who “don’t care” about the wedding, but keeping writing about it.  Really, I think I’ve seen more articles from “disinterested” writers than from those that actually own up to caring.  I’ll come clean from the start and say that I, personally, am stoked about the wedding.  I’ll be on vacation with my Mom on the 29th and plan on forcing her to wake up ridiculously early to watch it with me.  (By the way, Harry Potter’s riddikulus spell has completely ruined my ability to spell ridiculous or any version thereof.  Thank God for Spell Check.)

In “Beware the In-Laws”, Slate’s Christopher Hitchens spends most of the piece talking about how the royal family is an irrelevant (“A hereditary monarch, observed Thomas Paine, is as absurd a proposition as a hereditary doctor or mathematician. But try pointing this out when everybody is seemingly moist with excitement about the cake plans and gown schemes of the constitutional absurdity’s designated mother-to-be.”) and outmoded (“Together, Margaret and Charles set the tone for the dowdy, feckless, can’t-stay-married shower of titled descendants with whose names, let alone doings, it is near-impossible to keep up.”) institution.  But, Mr. Hitchens, if they’re so irrelevant, why are you writing about them?  To write a 1,000 word piece on a subject (Thank God for Word Count), I assume you have to care at least a little.  (No, things written for eHow don’t count.)  I love Slate, but I realize that its pretty guilty of creating search engine bait articles.  So, clearly someone at Slate thinks that their readers (or at least the Internet hoi polloi) care, too.

Bitch Magazine’s blog has a whole series (The Wedding March – unfortunately the series isn’t linkable, but their all linked off here) on the topic throughout which they make all kinds of snipes about the royals (Ex. “Prince William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, was an illustration of what happens when the fairytale ending fails to satisfy” and “Now that tuition fees have rocketed, fewer people from underprivileged backgrounds can afford university, and the much-vaunted social inclusion that allowed a girl from a reasonably well-off family to meet and marry a boy from an incredibly well-off (if deeply dysfunctional) family is at an end”).  Although I’m not too pleased with the series overall, I really liked one part of the last post:

“So is this wedding just the last hurrah, a decaying institution relishing its final moments of cultural relevance, or does the Windsor-Middleton union herald a renewed love of all things regal?”

As an American (and a feminist), I think I’m supposed to hope for the former.  But, I love the majesty of the whole thing.  Maybe it’s because I’m an American, but I’m fascinated by the pageantry, the history, and the drama of it all.  I loved my British history classes and have even been known to read a Phillipa Gregory novel or two.  (Don’t judge.)  The history of the British monarchy is a great story and I don’t want it to come to an end.  I know that it’s a story that’s jumped the shark a few times and that none of the original cast of characters (or even any direct decedents thereof) remains, but I still love it.  At this point, it’s kind of like a really bad soap opera.

Yes, I recognize that comparing the House of Windsor to a bad soap opera is a terrible defense of the institution.  (Hey, it’s the same reason that I enjoy Sara Palin’s personal brand of crazy and I stand behind that strange fascination, too.)  But, actually, I think the pageantry of the royals has social value in and of itself.  Because we lack royalty in America, we focus on the first family and the perpetual first family, The Kennedys.  (They are called America’s Royalty for a reason.)  We follow the President on his vacations and comment on all of the First Lady’s dresses.  Think how much time and effort the White House must spend dealing with our entertainment.  It’s not really how I want the President and his staff spending their time.  I want them fixing the economy and getting us a budget, not worrying about the politics of the First Lady’s dress choice.

Having a monarchy takes this pressure off British politicians and let’s them focus on work.  One of my friends from college (of course I forget who), suggested that we instate an American monarchy.  It would have no power and would serves purely as paparazzi fodder.  It would provide people to attend ceremonial functions and ribbon cuttings so that the President could work on work.  Watching (okay, reading) the Royal Wedding coverage, I’m thinking that this is a pretty great idea.


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

In which Slate validates my TV obsession

18 Apr

I’ve always been someone that’s gotten hooked on pop culture.  (When I was twelve, I told my Dad that my only goal in life was to meet the Spice Girls.  Don’t judge.)  Once I ventured outside of the realm of AOL into the big bad scary Internet, I found that there were many other people that shared my strange obsessions.  So, even though no one in my family wanted to hear about the greatness of the Spice Girls, people on the Internet were more than happy to let me browse their fan sites and to promptly ignore mine.  (True store, my first website was a Spice Girls Geocities page.  It had brightly colored Comic Sans MS font and tiled picture backgrounds.  It was awesome.  Too bad Geocities went down permanently last year – such a sad day – or I would link to it.)

Directly after Spice Girls, my next obsession was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  (My IM name was Slayer8062.  In now recognize that that’s pretty creepy and that a lot of people probably didn’t get the connection that I was making.)  No website that time, sadly, but I found fan forums and spoilers for the first time – and they were great.  Who knew that there were thousands of other people who wanted to talk about if Angel was really evil?  And so I became a TV fangirl.  I trolled Geocities and the like and kept bookmarks of the best links pages.  (Of course I read fanfiction, but that’s a whole post of its own.)  Then I found Television Without Pity, and other semi-professional TV recap sites; it was the Internet home that I’d been searching for.  Scene by scene recaps, analysis of inside jokes and winks at the fans, active forums – what more could I want?  (As Slate’s Josh Levin says, “Week-to-week coverage reflects how people actually watch their favorite shows—we rehash the best lines, parse the meaning of weighty moments, and anticipate plot twists. At its best, new-school TV writing is brainy and inquisitive, thoughtful commentary borne out of a fanatical attention to detail.”  No wonder I loved it.)  But the time that I spent on TWOP was a guilty pleasure.  It wasn’t until college that told my friends about it, only to find that many of them had been doing the same types of things.  (I’ve come a long way – now I’ll publicly declare my love of Battlestar Galactica and fight you about it if you tell me it’s lame.  It’s not.  Kara Thrace is awesome!)

That was a long roundabout way of telling you that I’ve always been a fandom junky, but secretly.  It definitely qualified as a guilty pleasure.  Now Slate tells me that there’s nothing to be ashamed of and that being a TV fan is just as legitimate a pass-time as being a sports nut.  Comparing TV recappers to sports commentators, Josh Levin says, “We read television recaps for the same reason we read about last night’s game. We want to relive what we’ve seen through the eyes of an expert—someone who recognizes a callback to Season 2 or spots a parallel with the 1967 Red Sox.”  His piece on TV criticism, and the fan community that devours it, makes many more comparisons between TV and sports viewing.  No one’s afraid to wear their team jerseys or feels the need to hide their sports knowledge.  So get ready, maybe the next time I see you I’ll be wearing a Buffy or Harry Potter (my other fandom love) t-shirt.


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on Freshly Pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Scream 4 – Campy, but Awesome

17 Apr

Earlier today I veered into politics, now I’m going to go really low-brow with the culture coverage.

Today I saw Scream 4 with a friend of mine and it was like high school all over again.  (Of course, in high school we weren’t allowed to watch them until we were 17, which we didn’t do… ever… I promise…  Don’t you believe me?)  We watched all the movies (over and over again) in high school and have had plans to see this one together since we heard it was coming out.

We went early this afternoon and were the only ones in the theatre.  Normally, this is a bad thing and doesn’t bode well for the quality of the movie that you’re going to be watching, but today it was awesome.  (Apparently horror movies aren’t the standard choices for Sunday matinees.)  Scream 4 is the perfect movie with which to scream and laugh along.  We made our predictions about who the killers were (in Scream movies there are always two killers) as we went and had a wonderful time doing so.  Somehow I don’t think fellow movie goers would have enjoyed our predictions as much as we enjoyed making them.

Of course, we were completely wrong and didn’t figure it out at all.  To be honest, I would have been kind of disappointed if we had.  The movie was funny and just a little scary.  It self-referentially riffed on itself (Dewy not knowing what meta meant – classic) and gave us another chance to see our favorite characters back in action.  There was even a garage door scene a la Rose McGowan.  Don’t believe me?  Slate agrees.  Check out Josh Levin’s review.

Now I’m looking forward to the possibility of Scream 5.  Nothing official yet, but in his interview in today’s NY Times, Wes Craven says of Scream 4, “It’s a continuation with the characters, but this film ostensibly is the beginning of a new trilogy.”


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

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