Category Archives: Culture

Best TV Opening Credit Sequences of All Time

alex atkins bookshelf cultureThere are some shows that have title sequences that are just as iconic as the TV shows themselves — remember The Beverly Hillbillies, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Gilligan’s Island, MASH, Star Trek, Cheers, The X Files, and Game of Thrones? As these title sequences demonstrate, there is a real art to the title sequence; however, sadly they have been on the decline since network televisions prefers very short or no title sequence at all, leaving more air time for ads.

Television critic Alan Sepinwall believes that TV opening credit sequences fall into one of three categories (excluding, of course, those lame, unimaginative ones that simply show photos and names of the actors): opening credits as (1) expository device; (2) as explicator of theme; and (3) as setter of mood. Examples of the first type (expository device), like Gilligan’s Island and the Twilight Zone, that explain a show’s premise through a theme song, narration, or image montage. Opening credits as explicator of theme, like Dexter, Star Trek, and Cheers, are short movies that explain what the show is about. The third type (setter of mood), like Game of Thrones or Mad Men, are brief movies that try to evoke the feeling or mood of the show.

According to ScreenRant, here are the top ten TV opening credit sequences of all time:
1. The Simpsons
2. The Sopranos
3. True Detective
4. Cheers
5. Dexter
6. Mad Men
7. Game of Thrones
8. The X-Files
9. Cowboy Bebop
10. Batman (1966)

According to Paste Magazine, here are the top ten TV opening credit sequences of all time:
1. The Simpsons
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
3. The Addams Family
4. Star Trek
5. Cheers
6. The Twilight Zone
7. The Drew Carey Show
8. The X-Files
9. Gilligan’s Island
10. Game of Thrones

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What is the Pinocchio Effect?

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesThere are so many lies coming out of Washington D.C. — each day alternative facts, fake news, misrepresentations, and misstatements are colliding with one another at such a dizzying pace, like atoms colliding, resulting in a spectacular explosion of bullshit that blocks out even the tiniest glimpse of reality. Even seasoned White House correspondents are scrambling for different ways of referring to all this bullshit by using different euphemisms like balderdash, baloney, booty chatter, bull honky, bunk, canard, cock and bull story, codswallop, concoction, crock, falsehood, fib, fiction, fish story, flapdoodle, hogwash, hokum, hooey, horse manure, inveracity, jiggery-pokery, malarkey, misrepresentation, misstatement, moonshine, piffle, pish posh, poppycock, prevarication, prevarication, rubbish, stretcher, tall tale, twaddle, untruth, whopper. Whew! All of this lying would even make Pinocchio’s little wooden head spin.

Speaking of Pinocchio — when discussing lies and lying, psychologists refer to the Pinocchio effect. No, the Pinocchio effect does not refer to the lengthening of the nose described in the famous children’s novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1881) by Carlo Collodi (otherwise most politicians could not fit through standard doorways without turning sideways). In science, the Pinocchio effect describes the increase in temperature around the nose and in the orbital muscle in the corner of the eye when a person lies. In a pioneering study conducted in 2012, researchers at the University of Granada, Emilio Gómez Milán and Elvira Salazar López, used thermographic cameras to measure temperature on the face of human subjects. When a person performs considerable mental effort (eg., being interrogated or lying), the overall temperature of his or her face drops (except around the nose and corner of the eyes); however, when a person experiences anxiety, overall face temperature rises. The researchers elaborate: “When we lie about our feelings, the temperature around our nose raises and a brain element called insula is activated. The insula is a component of the brain reward system, and it only activates when we experience real feelings (called qualias). The insula is involved in the detection and regulation of body temperature. Therefore, there is a strong negative correlation between insula activity and temperature increase: the more active the insule (the greater the feeling) the lower the temperature change, and vice versa.”

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What are the Most Common Lies on Social Media?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureWhile politicians in Washington, D.C. trip over themselves lying just about everything — major issues like climate change, healthcare, or taxation as well as less significant issues like size of crowds at the inauguration or the notorious Bowling Green massacre — people habitually lie on social media. Since the goal of many sites (think Facebook, Tinder, and its ilk) is to make a good impression, there is nothing more helpful than the age-old, seemingly innocuous, itty-bitty white lie. But no matter how you whitewash it, a lie is still a lie. Frustrated with the web of lies on the web, the Reddit community wanted to do something about it — they wanted to unmask all the pretenders out there by revealing the most common lies people tell on social media. Anyone who has seen the documentary Catfish, or the series of the same name, will not be surprised to learn that the most common lie on social media is using a fake photo. Equally surprising is that people seem to be very honest about their age. I suppose the takeaway here is that if a person uses a fake photo, at least it reflects the right age. Kudos, liars (you know who you are). Here are the most common lies people share on social media — remember being forewarned is being forearmed.

Using fake photos: 25.21%

Lying about owning something: 23%

Lying about dating, sex, or relationships: 14.84%

Lying about job, title, or salary: 13.23%

Lying about terminal illness or death: 6.97%

Lying about knowing or meeting someone: 4.95%

Lying about their ethnicity: 4.95%

Lying about weight or fitness: 3.34%

Lying about age: 1.61%

And where do people lie the most? According to the Reddit community, these are the social media platforms where people lie the most:

Reddit: 44.36%

Facebook: 26.22%

Others: 20.07%

Twitter: 4.52%

Tumblr: 2.98%

4chan: .99%

YouTube: .95%

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Reading Outrageously Bizarre Books on the Subway

alex atkins bookshelf booksWhat would people do if you were riding the subway and reading a really bizarre book? And I don’t mean books with a silly title, but rather a truly weird, in-your-face, politically-incorrect title like Mein Kampf for Kids or The Joy of Cooking Meth that would elicit a double-take, as in “did I really just see that?” Inquiring minds want to know. Enter Scott Rogowsky, creator and star of the hilarious internet series “Running Late with Scott Rogowsky.” Each week Rogowsky and his camera crew roam the streets — and subways — of New York to capture man-on-the-street segments that capture New Yorkers being… well, New Yorkers. For his segment “Fake Book Covers on the Subway” Rogowsky sat in a subway car, minding his own business, reading a fake book with an outrageously bizarre title — and keeping a straight face — while a colleague surreptitiously filmed the reaction of fellow subway riders. It’s hard to say which is funnier: the books titles or the reactions from fellow New Yorkers, ranging from shock and and disgust to chuckles and hearty laughter. And naturally, since we live in the social media generation, many people had to take a photo of Rogowsky immersed in his book to post on Facebook or Instagram with the “can you believe this shit?” emoji. Here are some of the bizarre fake book titles that Rogowsky featured in the videos:

How to Hold a Fart In: The New Rules for Career Success by Don Henderson
The Joy of Cooking Meth by Walter White
101 Penis-Lengthening Tips You Can Do at Home, the Office, or on the Go by Scott Rogowsky
Slut-Shaming Your Baby: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacker
Definitely Not Porn: So What Are You Looking At? Mind Your Own Business by Regular Guy
Gone Girl 2: Even Goner by Lillian Flynn
1,000 Place to See Before You’re Executed by Isis
Getting Away with Murder for Dummies
Mein Kampf for Kids by Adolf Hitler
Ass Easting Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for New Boyfriends by Nancy Mohrbacker
If I Did It: How I Would Have Done 9/11 by George Bush

Why Women Deserve Less by Porter Brandelle
How to Fake Your Own Death by Prince
Hiding Your Erection From God by Deepak Chopra
Math for Non-Asians: A Skill-Builder and Reference Guide for the Genetically Challenged
Great Vaginas Through History: An Encyclopedia

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A Mashup of Minds: Kim Kardashian and Soren Kierkegaard

alex atkins bookshelf cultureWhat happens when you mashup the thoughts of Kim Kardashian, the poster girl of superficiality, narcissism, banality, self-promotion, and consumerism, with Soren Kierkegaard, the poster boy of existentialism, Christian ethics, and Christian love? You get the humorous and insightful tweets of KimKierkegaardashian, a parody account. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition on so many levels: Kardashian the iconic beautify gracing countless magazine covers, with an insatiable thirst for publicity (and more than 51 million Twitter followers!); as opposed to Kierkegaard the pensive, withdrawn hunchback, who preferred being alone with his thoughts. Despite these dramatic differences, they both have something to say about the human condition. However, in the twitter universe the beauty or value of those ruminations is with the beholder. Here are some sample tweets that make the Danish philosopher relevant again and add a hint of intelligence to Kim’s vacuous tweets:

When I was very young, a barb of sorrow was lodged in my heart. I wanted everything short and low-cut. My look’s a little sleeker now.

New merch available now. Because you are like children, Christianity permits you for the time being to enjoy these early things.

What our age lacks is not reflection, but passion. And so my leather legging addiction continues.

Glamour, menswear, top hat… I stick my finger into existence and it smells of nothing.

Each individual fights for himself, with himself, within himself, in order to free himself before God. I’m gonna be sooo sore tomorrow!

God grant me peace from my foolish earthly desires, my wild longings, the anxious hungers of my heart. I’m craving fro yo so badly.

Just got the best spray tan! There is indescribable joy which glows through us unaccountably.

I scarcely recognize myself. My mind is  like a turbulent sea. I was testing new mascara!

The unhappy person is one for whom the content of life lies outside the self. Can’t wait to go to Miami this weekend!

Why bother detoxing? You bring to your asceticism the same passion for minute trivialities that guided your addiction to pleasure.

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How Do We Spend Our Time During a Lifetime?

alex atkins bookshelf triviaTo paraphrase John Lennon’s famous lyric from “Beautiful Boy”: Life is what happens to you while you are busy doing routine or mundane tasks. Considering that the average lifespan of a person is 78 years, ever wonder how many of those years are devoted to real living — pursuing your dreams? Using statistics from the World Bank and the Bureau of Statistics, the clever folks at Daily Infographic have created an infographic showing us exactly how we spend our time during a lifetime — and it isn’t pretty. One could argue that most of our time is squandered — we spend most of our time sleeping (about one third of one’s life!), working, and watching television and playing video games. Ultimately, the “life” that Lennon is referring to accounts for only 9 years out of 78 years (11.5%) — not much time to find true fulfillment and happiness. To borrow from Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, one of protagonists from the popular film The Shawshank Redemption: you better “get busy living or get busy dying.”

Here is the breakdown of how much the average American spends on various activities during his or her lifetime of 78 years:

Sleeping: 28.3 years
Working: 10.5 years
Television, video games, social networking: 9 years
Doing chores: 6 years
Eating and drinking: 4 years
Education: 3.5 years
Grooming: 2.5 years
Shopping: 2.5 years
Child care: 1.5 years
Commuting: 1.3 years
Living to accomplish personal goals: 9 years

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Be Grateful for What You Have; Don’t Focus on What You Don’t Have

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Oprah Gail Winfrey (born 1954), former host to the highly-rated The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986-2011), currently chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions and the Oprah Winfrey Network, major owner of Weight Watchers, is considered one of the wealthiest and greatest African-American philanthropists. Forbes has estimated her net worth at $3.0 billion. Winfrey transformed the talk show genre by focusing the discussions around literature (she introduced the Oprah’s Book Club which revolutionized the book industry), self-improvement, and spirituality. Winfrey consistently appears on lists of the “most powerful or influential women in the world.” She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 and has honorary doctorate degrees from Harvard University and Duke University.

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