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The Daily Show With…Trevor Noah??

My, and America’s, acceptance of Trevor Noah as the new host of The Daily Show was certainly not a given. By the end of Jon Stewart’s run, most of us had indeed come to think of him as our “political dad,” as Noah described him on his first episode. But as comforting as having a political dad could be, it wasn’t exactly the relationship I was looking for. You see, when I was in college, the young Daily Show host with the impish grin and adorable giggle (that’s Stewart, you guys) happened to be my political husband. Each evening when I sat down to watch The Daily Show in my bustling living room, I had to shout at my 11 housemates to shut up. “My husband is talking!” He got me through a lot, my political husband—9/11, the war in Iraq, eight years of George W. Bush. But time goes on, and love that once burned bright fades to embers. My respect for Stewart never died, but things got a little stale there toward the end. I knew what he was going to say before he said it. And, I admit, a new man had come into my life. A hilarious, brilliant Englishman who opened my eyes to a world far beyond the well-trod soil of American politics. Since Last Week Tonight premiered on HBO, John Oliver has been my go-to John for satirical news. But that too is about to change. I will continue to watch him weekly, but in many ways Oliver is more like the political stepdad that Noah claimed to be last Monday night. And Noah? Let’s just say I’m open to the possibility of satirically marrying again. After Noah’s first week, here’s what I know for sure: Noah is extremely handsome. His accent is charming. His dimples are adorable. He looks fabulous in a suit, and his smile is as affecting as Stewart’s. This is an excellent start. He’s keeping the classic Daily Show format alive. New correspondents have joined the old ones, and so far all of them—particularly Roy Wood Jr. and Jordan Klepper—have been very funny. True, some jokes fell flat (“aides/AIDS,” for example, and a bit about drugs and Whitney Houston) but many were good-natured and smart and entirely reminiscent of Stewart’s style. I’m starting to understand dear old Dad’s choice of successor. The concluding interview portion is many viewers’ least favorite Daily Show segment, and Noah will have to do better in this arena if he wants to keep folks from tuning out after all the fun parts. This first means choosing interviewees more carefully. Monday’s guest, comedian Kevin Hart, had energy to spare but didn’t seem capable of easing Noah’s nervousness (not that he should have to do so). On Tuesday night Whitney Wolfe—Tinder cofounder with a new dating app called Bumble, which requires women to make the first move—came on the show. While the app sounds like a pretty decent idea, the interview…not so much. Noah seemed bored and uncomfortable, and at the end said jokingly that he was going to join Bumble. When Wolfe asked, “Are you really?” Noah replied, “No, I’m not,” and that was the end. Awwwkwaaard. His biggest guest (wait for it…) came on Wednesday: Noah’s conversation with New Jersey governor Chris Christie was hands-down his best to that point. Christie was focused and genial, and Noah seemed more at ease. The jokes landed (at least one with Christie’s assistance: After Noah accidentally said he’d “never remember” seeing Christie wearing shorts, Christie said, “Probably better if you never remember,” when the host tried to correct himself). Noah gently pushed Christie on a couple of political topics, but he was certainly no Jon Stewart about it. Which is fine. The man has to figure out his own interviewing style, and since he’s a comedian and not a journalist, it’s hardly surprising that he hadn’t nailed it after only three tries. The new Daily Show needs some help, but it’s getting stronger every night. And so is my feeling that this Trevor Noah guy is going to work out just fine. Photo courtesy of Brad Barket

by Emily Burns Morgan

Oct 5, 2015

Nature Abhors a Vacuum, But Everyone Loves a Supervoid

According to fourth-century B.C. Greek philosopher Democritus, “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is just opinion.” But our universe turns out to be slightly more complicated than that, and Democritus’s theory of atomism—the proposal that “atoms” and “void” are the only two components of existence—does not fully account for what we can now observe. In our expanding universe, celestial bodies are drawn toward one another by gravity, forming bigger and bigger clumps of matter, while the areas between them, such as our neighboring Local Void, become ever larger. These empty areas are ruled by dark energy, a repulsive force that scientists have known about only since 1998. Recent measurements calculate that the universe is—somewhat shockingly—72.6 percent dark energy, 22.8 percent dark matter and 4.6 percent atoms, or the known elementary particles. In other words, this elusive, mysterious dark energy fills all the voids of space that lack planets and stars and galaxies. Asteroids_culturemap_sideIn the portion of the southern sky plotted on star maps as the constellation Eridanus lies a supervoid, an inconceivably large area of the universe that contains relatively little atomic matter. This sea of dark energy is associated with a cold spot in the cosmic microwave background (CMB)—electromagnetic radiation generated in the aftermath of the Big Bang. The CMB cold spot is an expanse of space with inexplicably lower temperatures than most of the surrounding space; it was first recorded by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), a NASA satellite active from 2001 to 2010 that set out to map the entire universe by measuring CMB radiation. Some images generated from the WMAP data revealed another anomalous structure near the cold spot, which seemed to suggest that the universe might have an axis. As one scientist-blogger explains, “It’s theoretically very naughty to give the universe any kind of special direction.” This may be why scientists immediately labeled the idea a “cosmic axis of evil.” That devilish axis, it turns out, does not exist—it was an artifact of the data-collection process—and for a while researchers wondered whether the cold spot was the result of a similar instrumental error. But data generated by the European-based Planck satellite confirmed Eridanus’s big chill. Ever since the cold spot’s earliest appearance in WMAP data in 2004, scientists have been trying to understand how an area that is too large and too cold to exist can really be out there. Theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton had an answer: “It is the unmistakable imprint of another universe beyond the edge of our own.” She and her team of cosmologists are proponents of the multiverse theory, which holds that there are multiple universes, maybe billions. The cold spot, their theory goes, is caused by another universe nudging up against our own. While Mersini-Houghton’s group works on interpreting the CMB to find evidence to support their proposal, astrophysicists based at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have come up with a much more banal, and probable, cause. They determined, through the analysis of data collected from the CMB, that the supervoid is responsible for the cold spot’s lower temperatures. Team leader István Szapudi described the void as the “largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.” The Eridanus Supervoid, after all, spans 1.8 billion light-years. Apparently, as radiation enters the vast low-density area of the void, it slows down, loses energy and cools. By the time this radiation exits the supervoid, billions of years after entry, its temperatures have dropped to approximately 2.7 Kelvin, or, in Fahrenheit, 455 degrees below zero. Aristotle is supposed to have said that “nature abhors a vacuum,” claiming that any void in matter is immediately filled in, as water and air fill spaces on earth. Furthermore, he postulated, if a void is a thing, it can’t be nothing. What the Eridanus Supervoid is, or whether it is, remains to be seen. Photo courtesy of nasablueshift/Flickr Asteroids_culturemap_bottom

by Amy K. Hughes

Oct 2, 2015

JBJs: Bill Belichick

The year was 1999. After head coach Bill Parcells retired, assistant coach Bill Belichick was offered the position. He held the job for a full day before calling it quits. And yeah, that’s Belichick holding one of the four Vince Lombardi Trophies he’s won with the New England Patriots since 2002. New York fans sure dodged a bullet there. 7 BillBelichick Photos courtesy of AP Images

by Mediander Staff

Oct 1, 2015

Coming Full Circle With Jack Kerouac

Every Kerouac fan has a story about when she first discovered him. At this point, he’s part writer, part American legend; his drinking is as infamous as Hemingway’s, and his books are even now inspiring epic cross-country road trips. I’m far from immune to Kerouac-mania: At 15, I read The Dharma Bums ; by 17, I was immersed in the Beats, devouring the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder; and just before my 19th birthday, I traded undergraduate life at Johns Hopkins for a bus ticket to San Francisco. For all the dreaming and freedom Kerouac’s life on the road signifies, that road ends in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he died in 1969 of internal bleeding due to his alcoholism. One story described his esophagus detaching from his stomach, which means that he drank until alcohol burned a hole in his body. Journey to St. Pete today and you’ll find a boarded-up house; a few blocks away, the Flamingo Sports Bar, Kerouac’s old watering hole, has hung a haunting picture of his face in the window. Florida is where Kerouac went to live with his mother, support the Vietnam War and renounce the “pilgrims” who appeared on his doorstep, eager for the wisdom of the Beats. Florida, it seems, is where Kerouac went to die. Jack_Kerouac_connects_sideBut travel 100 miles east to Orlando and you’ll find a different story of Kerouac’s time in Florida. There, on a quiet street in the College Park neighborhood, a huge oak tree strung with Spanish moss stands in front of a humble, single-story house. This was Kerouac’s home from July 1957 until the spring of 1958, a tumultuous time that saw the publication of On the Road . This is also where Kerouac wrote the follow-up, The Dharma Bums , over 11 days and nights. But the house at 1418 Clouster Avenue is a far cry from the freight trains his alter ego Raymond Smith hops. In photographs published by Time magazine, you can see the 35-year-old Kerouac sitting on the side steps—he and his mother rented the tiny back apartment—surrounded by oranges and cats. In the pictures he looks distrustful and sad, or maybe just hungover. “My current theory is that he represents a sort of Kokopelli archetype for the modern age,” says Summer Rodman, president of the Jack Kerouac Project of Orlando. The Kerouac Project bought the house in 1996 and transformed it into a residency program that hosts four writers a year. “Or perhaps like the tarot Fool,” she adds. “He was an adventurer but got caught up in the role his success handed to him.” So, while all of what happened in St. Pete is certainly part of it, maybe we should understand Kerouac’s legacy in the spirit of a trickster god, a storyteller who represents the spirit of music and who announces his good intentions as he travels through lands using his gift of language. How else can we explain—and understand—the enduring fascination? [caption id="attachment_9199" align="aligncenter" width="600"]OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Photo courtesy of Wikimedia[/caption] Bob Kealing, who discovered the details of Kerouac’s history in College Park, told USA Today that the residency program “is the idea of not only celebrating Kerouac’s history in Florida, but also creating a living legacy to him.” The writers-in-residence who participate in the literary scene of Central Florida (locally dubbed “Litlando”) also help to create it. They read at open mics at Infusion Tea, conduct writing workshops in the living room through Mad About Words, guest lecture at Trinity Prep and appear on John King’s Drunken Odyssey blog. Or they can choose instead to “channel [Kerouac’s] manic energy during their three-month residency,” as the organization describes in its mission statement. I was awarded one of the residencies a little over two years ago. Before I arrived at the house, I found myself dreaming of Kerouac, or sleepless and thinking of his death. Maybe his ghost was haunting me. One day in the house on Clouster Avenue, I heard a knock at the door, and when I opened it a crack, I saw two college students on their way home from spring break. “Is it true,” one asked, “that Jack Kerouac lived here?” “Come on in,” I said, and opened the door. Feature photo courtesy of Wikimedia Jack_Kerouac_connects_bottom

by Monica Wendel

Oct 1, 2015




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