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VOICES

Harry Connick, Jr., Special Envoy to the State Dept?

There are a number of ways to become an international ambassador. You can take those crazy exams and slug your way up the ladder at the State Department, or get really politically active and win a nomination by a candidate you help become president. Harry Connick, Jr. took his own route to ambassadordom: he got really famous and went on a crazy Aussie game show.

In response to a misguided parody routine of the Jackson 5 in blackface, guest judge Connick, Jr. rated the performance a zero and went on to explain to a dumbfounded Australian audience that he would not have appeared on the show knowing that this act would be part of the line up.

It was, of course, the right thing to do, though the really laudable act was his ability to maintain his composure in a tense moment and clearly explain the problem with the skit.

"I just want to say, on behalf of my country,” the singer began, “I know it was done humorously, but we’ve spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart."

Ambassadors often take issue with perceived violations, but Harry Connick, Jr.’s actions were particularly notable, both for their spontaneity and the nod of appreciation they gave to the recent advances in American race relations.

10 out of 10 demolished stereotypes.

-Paula O’Sullivan

 

TV

Stargate Atlantis

Once more into the breach, dear viewers.

(MGM)

Stargate Universe
SyFy
Fridays at 9:00 p.m. EST

SciFi (or SyFy—whatever it’s calling itself these days) seems to have found its stride in survival science fiction. That is, narratives in which the main characters—not necessarily all protagonists, mind you—are flung into the depths of space and have to fight to stay alive. First, there was Farscape, then Battlestar Galactica, and now Stargate Universe, the newest, darkest Stargate yet, which premiered last Friday.

Unlike Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, the previous TV iterations of Stargate the film, Stargate Universe does away with lots of the beauty. Not all the actors are really good looking and the set ship on which they perform is old, rusty, and falling apart. It’s a welcome change, as the “everything is glamorous” Stargates were starting to get boring.

The characters, too, aren’t all shining heroes, like Robert Carlyle as Dr. Nicholas Rush, the resident genius whose motivations aren’t quite clear, and Louis Ferreira as Colonel Everett Young, the gravelly voiced, brutish leader of the stranded human squad. There’s real potential in both Carlyle and Ferreira to be likeable but complex characters whose motivations are very human —an ironic rarity in science fiction in general

Eight cautious changes out of ten.

-Daniel Strauss

 

ALBUM

The xx

Half of The xx, unimpressed.

(Young Turks)

xx
The xx
Young Turks
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2009

With its debut record, xx, The xx, a group of four 20-year-old graduates of the Elliot School of London, famous for turning out alumni like Hot Chip, Burial, and John Spencer, has masterfully produced a concept record that plays like a dream. It’s catchy, seductive and sexy, which makes sense considering the whole thing is basically vocalists Romy Madly Croft and Oliver Sim conversing about love—in both its physical and emotional senses.

Throughout, xx is driven by an uncontrollable avoidance of inhibitions, as Croft and Sim go back and forth with ephemeral musings, emotional observations, and defensive assertions. On “Crystalised,” Croft sings that the “glaciers have melted into the sea,” to which Sims replies, “Things have gotten closer to the sun.”

Soon, the romantic episode, swathed in R&B-inspired beats, slow guitars and bass riffs, takes on a life of its own. Track four, “Islands,” finds the two leads struggling to accept the consequences of reckless love, while the fifth, sixth, and seventh tracks see them lamenting their emotional and metaphysical distance, the result of an inability to keep up their frenzied pace.

The love story eventually diminishes into dissonant confusion in “Fantasy,” on which Sim croons sadly amidst weeping guitars, white noise, and a slow, pulsating beat. Croft responds in “Shelter,” earning for some way to make things better.

The ambiguity of the album’s end is unnerving, slyly invoking the ambivalent feelings remaining after the departure of a powerful romance. It’s a smart, thoughtful conclusion, the kind of end too few romantic relationships can boast of.

9 out of 10 excuses to update your iPod

-Delaney Rohan

 

TV

Let's hug it out, bitch

Well, since you asked so nicely…

Entourage (Season six finale)
HBO

For those who don’t watch Entourage, here’s a rundown of what the show is about: nothing.

Plot lines range from “Let’s go to this high school house party” to “Let’s avoid Seth Green while in Vegas.” To love Entourage you need only to enjoy hot chicks and celebrity cameos, which I do—unabashedly.

That said, the season finale ended up digging a little deeper than usual. E (Kevin Connolly) proposed to ex-girlfriend Sloan after professing his undying love to her, Turtle got on a plane to woo Jamie-Lynn Sigler (who plays herself) in New Zealand, and the infamous Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) apologized to his assistant for years of gay jokes. While the sincerity didn’t totally spoil the show, considering the juvenility that led up to it, it felt a bit forced.

Ultimately, the real winner of the finale was Matt Damon, who appeared as a maniacal version of himself to threaten Vince (lead Adrian Grenier) into donating to his real-life charity, OneXOne. At one point, Damon even streamed video of the king of philanthropy, Bono, castigating Vince for his “measly” $10,000 check. “It’s for the children, man,” sneers the rock star.

The emotions of the four regular cast members generally range from nonchalant to indifferent, but in his relatively minor cameo, Matt Damon shows us rational, livid, hysterical, remorseful, and embarrassed. And that’s why he has an academy award.

7 out of 10 celebrity cameos that are better than the show itself.

-Becca Russell-Einhorn

Paula O’Sullivan is an events associate at Campus Progress. Daniel Strauss is a staff writer for Campus Progress and a senior at the University of Michigan. Delaney Rohan is an editorial intern for Campus Progress and a grad student at American University. Becca Russell-Einhorn is a regular contributor to Campus Progress and a senior at Pomona College.

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