Pop Culture Happy Hour

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Is Everything Worse Than Ever? And A Gift Guide!

A drawing of two clinking martini glasses.
NPR

You can't fill your end-of-the-year season with nothing but good cheer, or you'll turn into a candy cane. (That's science.) So we chose to tackle a slightly darker topic this week: Is everything worse than ever?

That may sound tongue-in-cheek, but what we're talking about is the frequently heard cultural argument that film is dead, fiction is dead, television is dead, rock and roll is dead, and basically everything has fallen apart and now it's all Elvis' hips and Honey Boo Boo. Specifically, we've been watching a debate about film culture that most recently brought a very thoughtful piece from A.O. Scott at The New York Times, who takes the position that "Film Culture Isn't Dead After All." That's in response to things like David Denby's book Do Movies Have A Future? and a piece Andrew O'Hehir wrote at Salon about whether cocktail parties are ruined. (Hey, it really is kind of what he says.)

This takes us into a broader discussion of whether culture is really worse than it's ever been and the fundamental problem that you can't really know whether culture is objectively worse, because you can't evaluate your own biases with regard to the passage of time very well at all. And that, in turn, leads to a discussion of the larger problem of critics trying to evaluate Where We Stand when we don't even stand in the same place, let alone have the skills to separate our experiences from our opinions. (And, some of us would argue, why would we want to?)

Because we enjoy turning on a dime, we next shift our attention to the giving of gifts, which a lot of people do around this time of year, and while we wish we'd done it a little sooner, there's still time to get some of your gifts on time and some of them perhaps only a little late.

Glen recommends a couple of movies, including one with a long-obscured ending you can finally see for yourself, and one starring Roddy Piper. He also notes some additions to the Criterion Collection (especially this one) and a pricey chance to see a pretty lady in pants. Trey wanted him to add this one, while we were doing recommendations.

As for Trey, he'll be giving these books, and he also encourages you to consider the gift that keeps on giving in jazz hands: theater tickets.

Stephen has already picked out a gift for himself, but he further recommends an old friend as well as some books that his kids can't get enough of.

As for me, I recommend this stunning (but pricey) set if you're looking to go big, this book (again) if you're planning to go medium-sized, and an experimental creative project if you're planning to go small.

We then talk, as we like to do, about what's making us happy this week: Glen finds another podcast, Trey finds another essay on film (which includes a reference to this), Stephen finds a year-end bundle he's enjoying, and I cannot help sending you right back to this — and to my favorite single tweet about it.

Now, as we've mentioned, what's making all of us happy is that we'll be taping a special year-end show at NPR HQ during tomorrow's day of Sale-A-Bration (woo-hoo), so if you want to swing by at 2:00 (or maybe a little before if you want a good spot to stand where you aren't getting poked by too many mugs and hats), we'll be there for you. Handing out buttons! Our first swag ever!

In the meantime, keep in touch with us — you can find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter: me, Trey, Glen, Stephen, Jess, and our producer emeritus and music director Mike.

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