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Under Review

Comedian Andy Samberg

The face of awkward America.

MTV Movie Awards

Ah, the MTV Movie Awards in junior high, my friends and I looked forward to them with unbridled enthusiasm, mostly because our parents let us stay up past our bedtime and there was usually a lot of swearing, sexual innuendo, and Johnny Depp. But as we all know, somewhere along the line MTV started sucking big time, as Daria made way for the likes of Undressed and Viva La Bam.

The MTV Movie Awards were no exception, and by the early 2000s the show had arguably reached its nadir (Jimmy Fallon hosted twice). Luckily, this year's installment was, in many ways, a throw-back to the good old days. SNL's Andy Samberg was perhaps an obvious choice to host, but let's be honest: the dude is funny. Although he frightened me by opening his first monologue with a fart joke, he soon launched into a Let Me Clear My Throat-inspired rap performance featuring cameos from Jonah Hill and a dude with no arms, so all was forgiven!

In case you missed it, here are some awards for the best, worst, and most mind-boggling moments of the show:

Best Use of Internet Meme in an Awards-Show Setting Award: Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat (but would it have killed them to actually use him once or twice?)

OMG Guys, They Are Like TOOOTALLY In Love In Real Life Award: Twilight's Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart

Best Use of Will Ferrell Award: Guys Walking Away from Explosions

Most Awe-Inspiring Vocal by an Oscar Winner Award: Forest Whitaker, singing D*ck in a Box

Okay, We Get It, She's Hot Award: Megan Fox

Dont Quit Your Day-job Actually, Yeah, Quit That Too Award: Miley Cyrus, who tried to be funny

Most Fantastically Inappropriate Moment Award: ‘Doubt: Flynn’s Revenge’

Biggest Head-Scratcher Award: Kate Winslet is nominated for Best Female Performance for The Reader, alongside Anne Hathaway in Bride Wars

7 out of 10 celebrities who we probably won’t remember in a year

-Katie Andriulli

Conan and Leno

The one on the left is funnier.

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien

Conan's always been my favorite late-night television host. Its just something about the height of his ginger hair, his Harvard education, the cut of his suits, and his off-kilter, neurotic New Yorker comedy-all characteristics that seemingly run counter to the model-cars-and-sunny-L.A. feel of Jay Leno's Tonight Show. So when Conan made the long-awaited jump to NBC's legendary Tonight Show time slot, I tuned in to watch these two worlds collide.

It was apparent that the shows comedy writers were banking on these differences as well, as many of the jokes exploited Conan being a fish-out-of-water. The opening sketch portrayed the transition beautifully with Conan forgetting to move to L.A. for opening night and being forced to run across the country to make his debut in time. It made for a lot of great sight gags that assured longtime fans that his quirky brand of comedy would remain intact—the Amish folks staring at him, his making time to check out a creepy, Victorian doll museum (“It’s cornsilk!”). But it also visually transitioned New York Conan into Los Angeles Conan, taking him out of the close, tight environment of New York City (and, by extension, the niche-ier audience of Late Night) and into wide-open spaces symbolized by Arizona desert and California ocean.

Though Will Ferrell was a disappointing first guest and the comedic delivery seemed a bit flat, stiff and repetitive, Conan was able to remain himself on a larger, glitzier stage—hopefully a sure sign of success that things can only get better as he settles in for the shows ahead.

7 out of 10 Heeere's… Conan!

-Kate Callahan

Author of the new book Lost in the Meritocracy

Kirns book is worth a read.

Lost in the Meritocracy

Novelist Walter Kirn’s new book, Lost in the Meritocracy, is a memoir about his childhood and his experience as an undergraduate at Princeton in the eighties where, apparently, he learned more about how to bullshit his English papers and try a lot of interesting drug combinations than anything academic or useful. After Kirn appeared on The Colbert Report last month to promote the book—in the process completely slamming the quality or usefulness of an Ivy League education—he was criticized roundly by Princeton students, whose conversations and Facebook posts remarked that Kirn’s critique wasn’t representative of their experience, which was academically rigorous and filled with talented and dedicated students.

Kirn’s book is an autobiography, not a comprehensive study, and so perhaps he shouldn’t suggest that his experience over 25 years ago represents a problem with all elite universities, even today (though, as a Princeton student, I did find that some of his observations ring very true at today’s Princeton). But this is not entirely Kirn’s fault: publishers of university-related books like to exploit class consciousness and cultural fascination with the Ivy League; the book’s design (in Princeton’s school colors with a picture of a modern college sweatshirt on the cover) and its jacket copy (which speaks in general terms about the American education system) don’t help to set the tone of autobiography.

However, don’t let this detract from Kirn’s writing: it’s engaging and funny, and filled with vividly over-the-top anecdotes. The Princeton setting adds a layer of absurdity to what would otherwise be a fairly typical college experience of parties and girls and student theater. Aside from the axe Kirn continues to grind, Lost in the Meritocracy is a tale of the confusion of adolescence to which plenty of folks, whatever their educational background, could relate.

-7 out of 10 vacuous hipsters

-Emily Rutherford

Team Fortress 2

What a ridiculous, addictive waste of time.

Neurological Phenomenon

Officially speaking, I'm done with video games. I rescued the princess numerous times, collected all the Triforce segments that needed collecting, spent hours trying to find rare gear underneath Tristram, and traversed the treacherous, collapsing Black Mesa research facility. Those days are behind me! I'm an adult!

Once in a while, though, I get pulled back in. Most recently, I made the mistake of buying Team Fortress 2 during some weekend when Valve's incredible Orange Box package was deeply discounted.

That's where the trouble began. TF2 is an intense first-person shooter; in short, you run around with your online teammates trying to accomplish some goal that usually doesn't involve measured diplomacy. When I play the game, within a few hours of going to bed—and here's where I begin to sound like a crazy person—my brain still feels like it's playing it. I get the same sense of pseudo-motion, of momentum. But without a screen in front of me, with my eyes closed and my body trying to wind down, the effect is jarring and thoroughly insomnia-inducing.

Turns out I'm not crazy or, if I am, I have some company. People have noticed this effect since at least as far back as Tetris, and it seems to be quite common. What annoys me is that I'm far from a TF2 fanatic—the most Ill ever play is a couple hours at a time.

Well, there's a simple solution to all of this, isn't there? No more video games. I'm 25, my aging brain can no longer handle the sharp turns and breakneck pace of a virtual environment, and it's time to move on anyway. So that's it: No. More. Video. Games.

Oh, crap.

0 out of 10 brains evolved in a pre-technological world

-Jesse Singal

An audience of Muslims

They have reason to be skeptical.

President Obama's Address to the Muslim World; June 4, 2009

Please stop asking me what I thought of Barack Obama's speech in Cairo. I'm sure it was amazing, but I didn't watch it. Lately I've had better things to do with my time, like growing a network of progressive student publications and planning three days of conferences featuring prominent journalists to train their staffs.

I've come to care less and less about Obama's speeches because of the huge disconnect between his words and actions. Our president talks of turning the page on George W. Bush's illegal imprisonment programs, all the while authorizing their continuation in Bagram, Afghanistan. He talks of his faith in the American court system, all the while advocating that Congress permit him to indefinitely detain anyone he wants. He talks of leading the most open government in our history, all the while refusing to release photos showing how we treat our prisoners and even supporting legislation to change the law because it doesn't permit the secrecy he desires.

The campaign for the White House is over, so it's time to stop getting excited about rhetoric while ignoring the president's actions. I'll celebrate when Israel and the Palestinians make real steps toward peace, when a reformist candidate defeats Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, and when Afghanistan and Pakistan show at least some signs of stabilizing.

Until then, let's talk about policy and actions to achieve those goals, not words and promises that make us feel good but actually accomplish little.

10 out of 10 protesters chanting Talk is cheap!

- David Spett

Kate Callahan is communications and advocacy intern at Campus Progress. Jesse Singal is an associate editor at Campus Progress.

Katie is the Communications and Outreach Manager for Campus Progress.

Emily is a staff writer for Campus Progress. She attends Princeton University.

David Spett is the Journalism Network Associate at Campus Progress.

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