Surveying four decades of criticism chronicling how SNL has lost its edge, Ian Crouch posits that the Internet has sounded the true knell for the show:

The final death of “S.N.L.” … may coincide with the death of live television itself. “S.N.L.” has faced challenges from other shows in the past, but, now, everything that is funny anywhere, at any time, is a challenge. On television, Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” and “Inside Amy Schumer” can make the sketches on “S.N.L.” look slapdash and tame; the topical sharpness of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” often makes Weekend Update seem meek and scattered; and surreal shows like “Drunk History” and “Nathan for You” produce moments of left-field oddity that rarely make it past “S.N.L.” ’s dress rehearsals.

And that’s just what’s on television, never mind the surfeit of great series and amateur comedy creations on the Web. Many of these are carefully shot and meticulously edited, giving them a polish that surpasses what can be managed on a weekly, live stage show. And, like with “S.N.L.,” we can watch them whenever we want. And so, as fewer people arrange their lives to be on the couch on Saturday nights, the limitations of the live form begin to seem less thrilling, and more like a liability.

Coincidentally, the YouTube ad attached to the above video from Key and Peele featured an old SNL duo:

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Cannabis For Kids

Oct 25 2014 @ 6:34pm

Kate Pickert investigates the world of medical marijuana for children. She focuses on the Stanley family, who began selling “Charlotte’s Web” – a strain high in CBD but low in THC – through their Colorado business after the mother of a girl with epilepsy approached them:

For the girl, Charlotte Figi, the results were remarkable, according to her parents. Charlotte went from hundreds of seizures per day to almost none. Once a writhing, immobile, non-verbal child, she suddenly began walking and talking. … After the CNN documentary [the Stanleys] were featured in [see above] —which is controversial among pediatric neurologists—the brothers were inundated with requests for the drug, which at the time was only available in Colorado, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2000 and where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2013. The brothers, who sell Charlotte’s Web at the same price as [California medical marijuana advocate Ray] Mirzabegian—5 cents per milligram—say they have a waiting list of more than 12,000 families, with many relocating to the state to access the product. Five cents a milligram may sound like nothing, but the 17 acres of the strain they harvested in September are poised to produce $23 million worth of oil. …

Meanwhile, to eliminate a chunk of their waiting list and lower costs, the Stanley brothers have decided to test the limits of existing drug laws. They still sell THC-rich pot through their medical marijuana dispensaries, but are now calling Charlotte’s Web something else: “hemp.” The plant is less than 0.3 percent THC, which meets the federal legal definition of hemp and mirrors concentrations of hemp oil already available in U.S. grocery stores that is imported from abroad. Calling the plant “hemp” means the Stanleys can grow far more of it and, they think, legally ship Charlotte’s Web across state lines, with the first bottles of oil scheduled to leave Colorado in November. Under a federal law proposed in June by Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, making and shipping CBD-rich oil within the U.S. would be explicitly legal. For now, however, shipping domestically produced hemp oil from state to state is, at best, a legal gray area.

A Poem For Saturday

Oct 25 2014 @ 5:34pm


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

Counterpoint Press has just published an important anthology, Modernist Women Poets, edited by Robert Hass and Paul Ebenkamp, featuring the work of sixteen avant garde artists born near the close of the nineteenth century and forging their way in the transformative early years of the next. A number of them are famous still—Gertrude Stein. H.D., Marianne Moore, Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy, and a little less so, Laura Riding. But many have slipped out of view in spite of the consistent or intermittent devotion of scholars.

In her preface to the book, C.D.Wright introduces the group, “Only one was born in the South and stayed rooted in her native state. Only three of them had children. Five of them preferred women to men. Most traveled extensively or relocated far from their origins. Many of them lived long and calamitously and struggled with poverty, disease, divorce, and, in one instance, rape and likely incest. Two died very prematurely, one of tuberculosis and one of scarlet fever ….Within a wide span of intensity and yield, they all felt compelled to write poetry.”

We’ll focus on three this weekend, starting with Angelina Weld Grimke, daughter of the second African American to graduate from Harvard Law School. With the exception of a few years separation, Grimke, born in 1880, lived with her father until he died in 1930. Her mother committed suicide when she was a child. It is said that her father insisted she renounce her love of women in favor of their bond, and the wistfulness of the delicate, deliberate poem below seems to speak of that unfulfilled longing.

“Grass Fingers” by Angelina Weld Grimke:

Touch me, touch me,
Little cool grass fingers,
Elusive, delicate grass fingers.
With your shy brushings,
Touch my face—
My naked arms—
My thighs—
My feet.
Is there nothing that is kind?
You need not fear me.
Soon I shall be too far beneath you,
For you to reach me, even,
With your tiny, timorous toes.

(From Modernist Women Poets: An Anthology © 2014 by Robert Hass and Paul Ebenkamp. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press. Photo by Kitty Terwolbeck)

When NSFW Is Your Work

Oct 25 2014 @ 4:49pm

Now that Facebook, YouTube, and their ilk employ some 100,000 “content moderators” who spend their days on the lookout for gore and porn, Adrian Chen suggests “it’s worth pondering just what the long-term psychological toll of this work can be.” He considers the case of “Rob,” a onetime moderator for YouTube:

For the first few months, Rob didn’t mind his job moderating videos at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno. … But as months dragged on, the rough stuff began to take a toll. The worst was the gore: brutal street fights, animal torture, suicide bombings, decapitations, and horrific traffic accidents. The Arab Spring was in full swing, and activists were using YouTube to show the world the government crackdowns that resulted. Moderators were instructed to leave such “newsworthy” videos up with a warning, even if they violated the content guidelines. But the close-ups of protesters’ corpses and street battles were tough for Rob and his coworkers to handle.

So were the videos that documented misery just for the sick thrill of it. “If someone was uploading animal abuse, a lot of the time it was the person who did it. He was proud of that,” Rob says. “And seeing it from the eyes of someone who was proud to do the fucked-up thing, rather than news reporting on the fucked-up thing – it just hurts you so much harder, for some reason. It just gives you a much darker view of humanity.”

Mental Health Break

Oct 25 2014 @ 4:20pm

Get some cleaning done this weekend, if you can:

Introducing The Reality Novel

Oct 25 2014 @ 3:38pm

We used to work through social problems with novels, writes Tim Parks, but what if we’ve now entered the era of “reality fiction”?

Readers have become so canny about the way fiction works, so much has been written about it, that any intense work about sexuality, say, or race relations, will be understood willy-nilly as the writer’s reconstituting his or her personal involvement with the matter. Not that people are so crass as to imagine you are writing straight autobiography. But they have studied enough literature to figure out the processes that are at work. In fact, reflecting on the disguising effects of a story, on the way a certain set of preoccupations has been shifted from reality to fiction, has become, partly thanks to literary criticism and popular psychology, one of the main pleasures of reading certain authors. What kind of person exactly is Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, and how do the differences between their latest and previous books suggest that their personal concerns have changed? In short, the protection of fiction isn’t really there anymore, even for those who seek it.

Parks goes on to consider the thoughts of David Lodge, who wrote recently in Lives in Writing that “as he gets older he finds himself more interested in ‘fact-based writing’ than in fiction and goes on to offer an account of the lives of eleven writers, most of them novelists”:

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A Natural Subject

Oct 25 2014 @ 2:32pm


Antonia Wilson praises Patterns From Nature, a new collection of “largely unseen, kaleidoscopic and abstract works” by the 20th-century photographer Horst P. Horst:

The book draws from the original 1946 publication of the same name, along with presenting a larger selection of unpublished images from the photographer’s archive. The series is distinctly set apart from the high glamour that his is predominantly known for, as a revered figure of the fashion industry, who worked for Vogue and House & Garden for sixty years, documenting couture, celebrities and interiors. …

The original book presented a series of straight, close-up, black-and-white shots of botanical specimens, including plants, shells, and minerals, naturally lit and often experimental in composition … “For the most part, the pictures found here [are] of common objects daily passing before our eyes. Nothing has been added to enhance them. They are photographed without artificial arrangements and special effects, in their own setting and in their paper light. Direct or diffused sunlight coming from above caresses their surface and in some instances dew or rain brings relief into their fine texture,” Horst writes.

Meanwhile, Ben Pentreath revisits a different side of Horst’s work, reviewing his 1965 volume, Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People:

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Octo-Blog Of The Day

Oct 25 2014 @ 1:29pm


Jonathan Crow’s Veeptopus is everything you could want from a portrait series of US Vice Presidents being mauled by cephalopods. (Above is Charles W. Fairbanks, second-in-command to Teddy Roosevelt.) Katherine Harmon Courage, octo-blogger extraordinaire, recently interviewed Crow about the project:

KHC: Why the veeptopus? By that I mean, why vice presidents—not presidents, baseball commissioners, or Swedish royal family members? And why with octopuses—not giant moths, sloths, or cuttlefish?

JC: The Vice Presidency is sort of an absurd job. It bestows all the pomp and import of the United States Government—the most powerful political body in the world—but the job itself, as defined by the Constitution, is vague and poorly defined. All it requires is for the veep occasionally preside over the Senate and check on the president’s health. Basically, the VP spends his term struggling to define himself while waiting for death. How existential can you get?

I added the octopuses because I thought they were funny. I could say it’s a metaphor for the morally corrosive nature of power or Capitalism or something like that. But the real answer is, I just think they’re funny. And they also drape so much better than wombats.

KHC: I love that each octopus seems to approach the role of headpiece with a very different attitude. How did you decide what the positioning would be? Was it partially dictated by the veep’s legacy?

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Looking Back At Berryman

Oct 25 2014 @ 12:38pm

On the centenary of John Berryman’s birth, Daniel Swift reflects on his poetic legacy:

Berryman has not been canonized, quite; he has not continued to receive the respect, even awe, accorded to his great contemporaries Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. This may be because he appears a little less serious than them. He is certainly funnier than they are, constantly mirthful about the process of critical celebration and literary canonization. “[L]iterature bores me, especially great literature,” complains “Dream Song 14.” “Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes / as bad as achilles,” it continues, and the joke is only half that Henry [the "sad man" character in his collection The Dream Songs] is no Achilles. It is also in the mismatch of classical literature and teenage ennui, balanced by the voice.

Swift goes on to argue that Berryman’s eventual suicide shouldn’t overshadow his work:

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The View From Your Window Contest

Oct 25 2014 @ 12:00pm


You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts. Be sure to email entries to Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book or two free gift subscriptions to the Dish. Have at it.

Browse our previous contests here. Also, regular players adept at using Google Earth or Satellite View should check out Yousuke Ozawa’s effort to collect an alphabet made entirely from overhead views of buildings.