Pretty Much Pop #3: CONFORM with Yakov Smirnoff

Is media trying to brainwash us into being ALL THE SAME? Are the excesses of the mob scaring us into conformity? And does this in turn keep us from being actually creative, with healthy relationships?

Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt muse on cultural homogenization and a few sci-fi takes on forced sameness and then bring out our first celebrity guest, beloved comedian and now psychology Ph.D. Yakov Smirnoff, who tells us about growing up in a repressive society and his fears that political correctness and a lack of appreciation for the "reciprocal opposites" necessary for authentic communication is leading us in that direction. We conclude with a bit of host-ful response.

We touch on Cat's Cradle, Aladdin, Rosanne Barr, The Twilight Zone, Brian's wearing a Cubs hat in Missouri, and performing comedy in the U.S.S.R. as well as various sensitive audiences here. Will you not join us and dress as Devo every day?

Here's that article that comes up on Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s terms "karass" (voluntary, organic grouping) and "granfalloon" (inherited, basically meaningless grouping).

No, we are not a politics podcast, but sometimes when we reflect on the dynamics involved with our being entertained,  politics is hard to avoid! You may enjoy listening to The Partially Examined Life (Mark's philosophy podcast) discuss Adorno on the Culture Industry, or perhaps their discussion of the world of technological unemployment.

Get more at prettymuchpop.com. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is produced by the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network.

Follow Yakov:  @Yakov_Smirnoff. Not enough Yakov? Well, of course there are scads of YouTube clips and other podcast appearances that he's done that you can check out with a mere web search, but if you want to hear EVERY SINGLE WORD he said to us, we did post an entirely unedited version of the interview for $5 supporters at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.

Pretty Much Pop #2: Binge Watching

This post continues Open Culture's curation of a new podcast series about popular media and how (and why) we consume it. You may wish to listen to the introductory episode first.

What counts as binge watching? Why do we do it? Is it bad for us?

Mark, Erica, and Brian reveal their watching habits (growing up and now) and marvel at crazy-high stats about how much people watch. We think about what people get out of this activity, what shows work do and don't taste good in bulk, and whether watching is best done in solitary despair or as a bonding experience as you waste the precious hours of your life sitting next to another person.

We touch on many shows including The Office, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica (by way of Portlandia), Jane the Virgin, Pretty Little Liars, Arrow, CSI, and Chernobyl (which we'll devote the whole of Ep. 5 to).

Articles we bring up:

"I like to watch, Erica. I like to watch."

This episode includes BONUS CONTENT that you can only get by becoming a $1+ supporter at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is produced by the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network.

Introducing Pretty Much Pop (A Culture Podcast): Episode 1 – Pop Culture vs. High Culture

What is pop culture? Does it make sense to distinguish it from high culture, or can something be both?

Open Culture is pleased to curate a new podcast covering all things entertainment: TV, movies, music, novels, video games, comics, novels, comedy, theater, podcasts, and more. Pretty Much Pop is the invention of Mark Linsenmayer (aka musician Mark Lint), creator of The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast and Nakedly Examined Music. Mark is joined by co-hosts Erica Spyres, an actor and musician who's appeared on Broadway and plays classical and bluegrass violin, and Brian Hirt, a science-fiction writer/linguistics major who collaborates with his brother on the Constellary Tales magazine and podcast. For this introductory discussion touching on opera, The Beatles, Fortnite, 50 Shades of Grey, reality TV, and more, our hosts are joined by the podcast's audio editor Tyler Hislop, aka Sacrifice MC.

Some of the articles brought in the discussion are:

"The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow" by Noah Berlatsky from the Pacific Standard (2017)

"Pop Culture's Progress Toward Tragedy" by Titus Techera from the National Review (2019)

Read more about the 1895 silent film that featured a train coming right out of the screen, sending people screaming in terror. Here's more about the opening of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" at which spectators rioted. You may also enjoy episode 137 of The Partially Examined Life about the tastes of social classes that analyzes Pierre Bourdieu. Also see episode 193 on liberal education and the idea of a "canon" of essential, high-culture works. The opening music is by Mark (guitars, cellos, djembe) and Erica (violins). The podcast logo is by Ken Gerber.

The ending song was written by Mark just for this episode. It's called "High Rollin' Cult," and features Erica on violin and harmonies.

For more information on the podcast, visit prettymuchpop.com or look for the podcast soon on Apple Podcasts. To support this effort (and immediately get access to four episodes plus bonus content), make a small, recurring donation at patreon.com/prettymuchpop

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