Category Archives: Uncategorized

Renee Z and the Uncanny Valley: Notes for This Week’s Nose

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Frazer Harrison / Getty Images Renee Zellweger as a 27-year-old on the verge of her big break in 1996, left, and at age 45, right.

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
Renee Zellweger as a 27-year-old on the verge of her big break in 1996, left, and at age 45, right.

From Wikipedia:

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers.

Some version of the uncanny valley phenomenon is tangled up in the national freak-out this week over actress Renee Zellweger’s post-nip&tuck coming out party. Of course, the uncanny valley usually flows in the other direction — from the artificial toward the almost-natural. Cosmetic surgery can work in reverse. We almost recognize Renee. It’s so close — but also indubitably the result of manufacture — that we are unsettled by it. I have a second — otherwise undiscovered — theory about this week’s Zellwegangst. Look at this montage of photos from the Elle event. Am I imagining it or is there, in the words of Jackson Browne, “just a trace of sorrow in her eyes?” Not in every shot, but frequently enough so that we know she knows the way she’s being looked at. And it makes us uncomfortable.

These days, it’s tough to beat Russell Brand at the raw comic commentary game:

That is but one of a series of interlinked topics this week as an all-female panel convenes on the Nose. Featured are dolphin mom Irene Papoulis, Patty Mcqueen and Carolyn Paine.

Men are hard on women. Consider this idiotnik who referred to the Wiliams brothers. Women are sometimes hard on each other. Consider Annie Lennox’s possibly ill-conceived take on Beyonce. Women sometimes exploit little women to trigger an important dialogue. Consider the pink and frilly f-bomb video. (The four of us are split up the middle about it.) And even when you’re 60, 70 or 80 you might still be contemplating the fine line between “getting men off and celebrating women.”  Oh, and does Fox News really have a “leg cam?”   Hot women from outside their ideological framework, however, should not speak up.

Our panelists today. Go ahead. Objectify them. pm ip1 cap1

En Garde!

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The road to the governor’s mansion always leads through the Garde Arts Center in New London.

It’s always the rowdiest debate crowd. It can be exceptional in other ways.

Tonight’s debate was the first to include third party guy Joe Visconti, and he did shake things up a little. I’m not sure how much it matters but Visconti probably outperformed a lot of people’s expectations. It’s a measure of how horrible this campaign has been that the guy who wants to be armed to the teeth, the guy who wants lots of bullets in case he needs to shoot people, came across as far more likable than either of his opponents.

And Visconti had some genuinely good moments, especially when talking about the state budget. He’s not honey-tongued, has a little trouble getting the subject, verb and object lined up, but he makes sense anyway.

The climate change conversation, induced by a question from my colleague Harriet Jones, was probably the headline moment. Visconti was a little hard to follow: there’s a problem, might be a mini Ice Age, human activity is part of the cause but not the human activity you think (then what, twerking?), people should read the book by this guy. Tom Foley just tanked on the question. Part of his pattern is that he often leaves you feeling you don’t know what he would do about a problem and that maybe he doesn’t either. This time he said he wasn’t sure what causes climate change but that it doesn’t matter.  Of course it does. If you don’t know the cause, how can you craft a solution? Malloy just destroyed him on this point, and Foley’s already the Roberto Duran of this debate season.

A good night for Visconti is a bad night for Foley. The numbers just work that way.

Notes for the Nose, Week of of Oct. 17

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Our Friday show, the Nose is coming near. Anti-football fella Steve Almond will join the panel for the first time, along with veterans Tracy Wu Fastenberg and James Hanley. What will we talk about? Steve just came out against high school football. But are a tiny Asian nursing mother and a gay cineaste raised in Britain the right panel for that conversation? (Actually, James has probably seen a lot of football movies. And Wu seems like she’d be pretty nifty at returning punts, if she weren’t lactating.) But maybe Steve has some stories about the current reaction to him as a creampuff enemy of America. Those we could discuss.

Photos by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Photos by Chion Wolf for WNPR


Is this too petty to be on The Nose?  Martha Stewart throwing shade (I just learned that term)  on Gwyneth Paltrow? I can’t decide. It has a lot of things in it, including, yes, the preciousness of people who insist they are “consciously uncoupling” when, in fact, they are just splitting up like everybody else. And why does Martha so dislike Gwyneth? Could it be the universal truth: that we are most bothered by qualities we see in ourselves. Or, more pointedly, are we bothered when we see a younger person indulging certain qualities which, over time, we have striven to rid ourselves of?  But they still get to do it? Asking.

That’s not fair! Charlie got a fan!

Amazon must be stopped. Are you ready to go up into the hills? Wolverines!

Sorry about that. I got a little carried away.

Gamergate burst on the page one of the NYT today. It’s basically ISIS for pasty, pudgy white dudes with no dating history. Deadspin tracks its origins here. 
Oh! Speaking of pasty tech freaks, is the fashionless IT look over?

This is probably not all that talkable but I love this guy’s battle against overweening social media language. 

Do You Believe In Trendlines?

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If you do, Dan Malloy is going to win his election.

The Q Poll dropping today shows Malloy erasing the six-point lead Foley had a month ago. There’s also this week’s PPP poll that showed him with an eight-point lead . Let’s set that aside for now so we can focus on trends in the Q.

A few things jump out:

1. Foley is losing women 47 -36. 2. Foley has a ten point lead among unaffiliated voters, but it’s not enough because of the huge Democratic registration advantage. 3. Visconti’s numbers are still screwy — 9 percent of Democrats and only 6 percent of Republicans. More women than men(10-8). This trend of Visconti’s overall number being the same as his Democratic number is consistent and hard to explain. 4. Malloy continues to have the wrong kind of gap between favorable (41) and unfavorable (51). The number of statewide candidates — in any state — who win with that number has to be pretty small. But in the space of a month, Foley’s unfavorables went up 6 pts, Malloy’s, down 2

How should we interpret all this? It’s possible that Malloy ‘s bad September poll was due to what we might call “distant election fallacy.” When the election is two months away and you’re unhappy with the incumbent, you don’t have to rein in your unfocused petulance. You can say you’ll vote for the other guy. In October, it feels a little different. You really have to be able to picture yourself filling in the Foley circle. Some people are finding that hard to do.

What you’re probably seeing is Malloy winning back voters who should have been locks for him in the first place. This group may include members of his immediate family. And maybe it’s truer to say that we’re seeing Foley losing a lot of low-hanging fruit because he’s running such a dreadful campaign. He should have done well with a lot of 1990 Weicker voters, but, based on strictly anecdotal conversations, he really grosses them out.

Watch the Visconti number.  It almost has to be wrong and probably in a way that’s bad news for Foley. I can almost guarantee Visconti won’t pull 9 percent of the Democratic vote in November, and some of that number will end up in Malloy’s column.

Do you believe?



Dress Like Bill Curry. Win a Fabulous Prize.

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There’s still time to reserve a spot at our Fifth Anniversary Party.

Here’s how. 

If you’re coming, consider entering our Best Bill Curry Outfits contest.

We are prepared to award multiple prizes to people who achieve the Full Curry:  Blue blazer, blue shirt, red (or maybe blue) necktie, khaki pants, brown shoes. Points will be subtracted for originality. Here’s some inspiration.

If you can nail this obverse tie thing, it could be worth something in the scoring.

If you can nail this obverse tie thing, it could be worth something in the scoring.


Clinton would not have won our contest

Clinton would not have won our contest


This looks like a suit. If so, it was undoubtedly purchased from conservative commentator Don Pesci. No kidding.

This looks like a suit. If so, it was undoubtedly purchased from conservative commentator Don Pesci. No kidding. By the way, those aren’t guys who LOOK like Gus Fring and Guido the Killer Pimp. Those are the actors in question — Giancarlo Esposito and Joey Pans. 



Dean Pagani, you are no Bill Curry. That shirt if way too fly.

Dean Pagani, you are no Bill Curry. That shirt is way too fly.

The Week Ahead: Shows, A Party, a Forum

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October is going to be crazy, and this first week is no exception.

Monday: The Scramble

The Scramble is back with Ben Naddaff-Hafrey, musician and music editor at MIC news. He’s excited to be our SuperGuest, after first joining us several months back to talk about Bob Dylan’s Super Bowl commercials. We loved him then and we think you’ll love him now. He’s got some great ideas percolating to share with you– the perils and promise of new media/social journalism, the new U2 album as a paradigm shifting moment in how we think about music, tech and their respective industries, and the history of the War of the World broadcast war of the worldsand its influence on how we think about psychology and media now. As always, we also bring you the latest news from the weekend.

Tuesday: Dancing the Night Away: Connecticut Dance Halls

We’ve wanted to produce a show on Thrall Hall for several months and we’re finally ready to do it. We’ll share the poignant story of Windsor resident Ed Thrall’s effort to build a square dance hall as a place for his daughter to have fun. Ed spent decades meticulously building his exquisite dance hall from scraps of building materials recovered from the demolition of Hartford buildings bulldozed in the urban renewal programs of the 1960’s. The floor’s intricate design was created by his wife Flicka and supported by tires that gave extra bounce to the dancers. Most of all, it was a source of pride and love for Ed. But, the story took a dark turn when Ed and the town of Windsor clashed over zoning regulations that thwarted Ed’s dreams, straining relationships between Ed, his family and the town. Executive Producer Catie Talarski, shares this heartbreaking story of lost dreams, betrayal, and redemption.


Next, we explore the legacy of Connecticut’s Shaboo Inn, a legendary 1970’s and 1980’s blues and rock concert dance hall that attracted top artists including Bonnie Raitt, Miles Davis, The Police, Aerosmith, Tom Waits that was located in a former silk mill in Mansfield, Connecticut. David Foster, owner of Shaboo Productions and manager of the Inn, shares stories that you won’t believe.




colin-5-year-face-book (2)

Tuesday night: Our Fifth Anniversary Bash. You’re invited. Make sure you sign up on the eventbrite page, as opposed to RSVPing on Facebook.



Wednesday: Forget the Movie, The Trailers Are More Fun


Trailers give away all the good parts in the movie, including the jokes and best narratives. For most of us, trailers are either a pain or a pleasure and don’t always reflect the tone of the movie. For example, the trailer for Academy Award-nominated “Nebraska” was particularly bad, because the pace and tone of that movie are antithetical to the way mainstream trailers lure us to watch. It said QUIRKY. OFFBEAT. LOVABLE. Yet, the movie received critical acclaim. Among the best trailers was “Batman Returns”. The movie itself was an overrated shamble —a really terrible piece of storytelling— but even Tim Burton’s worst movies have enough good images and set-pieces to entice. The founder of an advertising company that specializes in film trailers, a contributor to the web series “Trailers From Hell”, and The Culture Dogs join us for a look at the past, present, pain, and glory of movie trailers.

This show is a lot of fun, and we’re re-airing it to give us a gulp of air between the party and Wednesday’s night forum on teaching and learning. You’re invited to the forum at 7 p.m. and the casual dinner that precedes it at 6 p.m. All the details are here. 

Thursday: The Science Behind Our Soul

the soul

For centuries, philosophers have pondered what constitutes the soul. Is it an intricate dance between our mind, consciousness and self-perception, God-given and beyond our control, or something more ethereal and fleeting, hard to pin down, yet the essence of who we are. Increasingly, scientific discovery is blurring the relationship between the soul and the brain. Patricia Churchland, philosopher, neuroscientist and author of Touching a Nerve, The Self as Brain, believes the soul and all that goes into it–morals, free will, feelings of love–are mere products of neurochemical reactions. Today, we explore theories of the soul.

Friday: The Nose

After a much-needed vacation, The Nose panelists are back to pore over this week’s latest culture news, picking the choicest bits for your consumption.

Just Teach

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What if a teacher’s only priorities were the kids looking back at him or her from their classroom seats? What if they threw out the policy talk, and said, “We’ll teach. You learn. That’s it.”

What would school look like then? Oct. 1 (Wednesday evening) at Watkinson School, I’ll gather a group of exciting thinkers and talk about teaching and learning. (You may notice I’m avoiding the “e-word.” It seems to have lost its original meaning and become instead a policy matrix.)

Before I tell you about the panel, here’s information on tickets and on our whole series, which benefits three local nonprofits. If you buy the whole series, tickets are really cheap and — get this — include a really nice, informal buffet dinner in Watkinson’s lovely dining room beforehand. Gotta be the best deal in central Connecticut. (This year, you get to go to the diner even if you don’t subscribe to the whole series.)

OK, here’s the panel. Ron Wolk, a heavy hitter from several positions. It’s really just best to click on that link, because if I mention what he’s famous for, I’ll have to use the “e” word. Tom Moore, West Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools and, back in the day, a legendarily dynamic teacher. Terri Schrader, the new Head of School at Watkinson. And Jaime Allesandrine, a teacher with experience in both urban and suburban schools. Do not show up at this forum and claim you had laptop problems, because she does not accept that. 

(Photo via Watkinson School.)