Texas Hold 'Em, Tennis Come-Ons: The Week's Best Pop-Culture Writing

The most intriguing articles about entertainment we've come across in the past seven days

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AP / Darron Cummings

Why Do Tennis Players Say 'Come On!' So Much?
John Koblin

Strange customs are starting to grow around come on and its foreign variants. Last month, at the Rogers Cup in Canada, for example, Sara Errani—an Italian—was playing the Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. Late in the second set, Cornet won a point off an Errani error and muttered a quiet vamos. Errani, a workhorse who's known for a cool temper, was pissed. Bad etiquette! A French person should not be saying vamos!

"Why you say vamos?" Errani screamed over the net. "Say allez. Why you say vamos? You never say vamos and today you say vamos."

Errani and Cornet aren't the only ones quarreling over involved points of come on etiquette. The beef between Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams? That started with a come on controversy, too.

Charles Sykes / Invision / AP

The New Inquiry
Can the White Girl Twerk?
Ayesha Siddiqi

When Miley surrounds herself with black men, she stares up at the cameras, ­daring us to voice a reflexive concern. It isn’t just black women’s sexuality she plays with but the men’s as well, hinting at a risk she wants credit for not fearing. Miley never looked more like Billy Ray’s insolent daughter than under Wiz Khalifa’s tattooed arm. When there isn’t a black rapper around to Instagram with, Miley posts selfies in a T-shirt emblazoned sex, drugs, and rap, a trifecta that might just as well have read dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign. In interviews she says “ratchet” instead of trashy and “weave” instead of extensions, self-consciously spitting out the words like cherry pits and seeing how they land.

Aping the styles available in pop culture shouldn’t shock the way it has, but in contrasting so deeply with the “white girl” she’s supposed to be, Miley earns both praise and scorn. If Miley’s new look is acceptable, it requires a tolerance for undermining black women. If it is unacceptable, it means demanding an identity, sweet and unsexed, dictated by the anxieties of white patriarchy. And a country that commodifies blackness compromises its ability to judge those who try to buy in.

AP / Lance Dawes
The whole idea of having [Eazy] resurrected in the same fashion that Snoop and Dre did Pac was warm and welcoming,” says Flesh-N-Bone of Bone Thugs. “After that, we were ecstatic to see Eazy come to life in such a way. This is technology at its greatest level.”

Weisberg and the artists were surprisingly open about their approach, considering the minefield they’re about to walk across. Guerilla Union’s tech squad is relying on an arsenal of special techniques, from strategic mirror placement and green screens to animation and re-mastering of old recordings. On the Wu side, RZA helped design a grand vision for the set, while ODB's mom and widow consulted on everything from clothes to attitudinal authenticity, and his MC son, Young Dirty Bastard, recreated his dad's famously frenetic movements using motion capture methods like in video game programming. On the Bone Thugs side, Eazy's children worked with engineers to incorporate their own voices, swag, and style into a multidimensional metamorphism—Lil Eazy-E is the body; the voice of Baby Eazy-E (also known as E3) is synthesized with the vocals; Eazy's daughter Erin, a spitting image of her pops, provided the facial expressions.

7 of the Most Scandalous Moments in Baby-Sitters Club History
Kate Gavino

Any time the BSC has dealt with social justice issues, a certain level of restraint is present. In this book, the issue (“Racism sucks.”) is presented through the club’s resident fashionista. Claudia has been singled out because of her wardrobe (acid-wash overwalls, anyone?) but never because of her race.Needless to say, she’s shocked by a client who refuses her services because of her “almond-shaped eyes.

Jessi, a character who is often characterized by her “cocoa-colored skin,” gets a door literally slammed in her face and simply rolls her eyes at the Connecticut-ness of it all. At one point, lily white Mary Anne takes the job and mentions Mallory’s sprawling family, the kid says, "She must be Catholic." Stoneybrook, meet Archie Bunker.

AP Images

The Quietus
Landfill Futures: Is the EDM Bubble About to Burst?
Scott Wilson

Further parallels with the 80s US video games industry can be found in Reynolds' idea of "NOW!ism". Due to the finite lifespan of console hardware, games are doomed never to advance beyond a certain point, and brick walls will inevitably be met head-on when developers' ideas outweigh the technology. There is generally very little true progression within individual console generations, with the greatest forward leaps made when new hardware arrives. Licensed properties are a cheap and easy way to bring back that sense of spectacle that becomes dull with age, and nowhere was this more evident than with Atari's E.T debacle. EDM, like a video games console, is a fundamentally closed system; there is no house, techno or dubstep, simply the genre of EDM, into which everything is homogenised, and within which nothing can advance. Of course, it's probably not in the financial interests of people like Sillerman for the music within the EDM industry to evolve, lest it upset those "consumer Internet trends".

Within this self-contained ecosystem of music denoted by its sameness, EDM DJs need onstage gimmicks to stand out. Huge stage shows incorporating flashy visuals and pyrotechnics are used to attract attention around the comparatively tiny head of the DJ witnessed from the back of a vast arena. As competition grows fiercer, and more money is thrown at making the spectacle larger, the cost of tickets for punters to attend these shows increases in turn, and the outcome of financial collapse seems increasingly likely. Atari's primitive E.T. game may look laughable in the face of Swedish House Mafia's seizure-inducing visuals, but the principle is the same - promotion of the spectacle in order to disguise fundamentally mediocre content.


Looking Back at The X-Files on Its 20th Anniversary
Brian Phillips

The X-Files was probably the first great TV show to be galvanized by the Internet and the last great TV show to depict a world in which the Internet played no part. Its fan culture found a home online early in the series' run, but though the role of computers became both more central and more realistic as the show progressed, it was possible at least through the fifth season or so to see the Web as a distraction, something with no important bearing on anyone's life. Remember when you could turn it on and off? We often credit the Internet with the disintegration of the old American monoculture, because it liberated us to be absorbed by our own interests, to spend our time downloading obscure anime, say, rather than caring about Madonna or ABC. But the Internet also created a new type of monoculture: It made every place accessible to every other place. We could no longer assume that the peculiarities of our own environments were private. Our hometown murders might appear on CNN.com. The world of small-town X-Files episodes is still that older world of extreme locality, where everyone in town grows up knowing that the rules here are different and we handle it ourselves. Children vanish or trees kill people or bright lights appear in the sky, but there is no higher authority to appeal to and it has nothing to do with what goes on 10 miles down the road. In my hometown we knew that the spillway by the lake was where you painted a memorial if your friend was killed in a drunk-driving crash. It's the same thing. Here is here. And this, it goes without saying, is just the opposite of the here-is-everywhere world inhabited by the conspiracy, which is global in scale, utterly connected, and ruled by pseudonymous men whose flat-affect, no-eye-contact meetings were almost the personification of a chat window.

Flickr / jagaland

It's Just a Cassette
Nick Sylvester

My reasons for coming around on cassettes are entirely personal, vaguely mathematical, probably nonsensical. The grad students among you will be disappointed to find no discussion of a “living, breathing medium that deteriorates with every play.” Digital has the cassette beat on portability, sharability, durability, ease of recording, etc. Vinyl-- looking past the conspicuous consumption aspect, or the fact that record plant people are largely unreliable assholes-- whups the lowly cassette on nearly all things sonic, speaking personally. The ritual alongside vinyl, of sitting down for the sole purpose of listening to a record, that’s a special thing too.

But there’s no format more human than the cassette. No format wears our stain better. I have not encountered a technology for recorded music whose physics are better suited for fostering the kind of deep and personal relationships people can have to music, and with each other through music. This sounds like nostalgia-- or like a hipster Mitch Albom-- but I don’t think it is. I’m talking about new music, on cassettes, in 2013. No audio format keeps me more focused on listening to the thing itself, without the distraction of having a web browser right in front of me, without the baggage of an ersatz music news cycle, the context upon context, the games of the industry. Music released on cassettes doesn’t feel desperate or needy or Possibly Important. It tends not to be concerned about The Conversation. It resists other people’s meaning. That’s what I like about the cassette. It whittles down our interactions with music to something bare and essential: Two people, sometimes more, trying to feel slightly less alone.

Texas Hold ‘Em Heads Up Poker

The New York Times
The Steely, Headless King of Texas Hold ’Em
Michael Kaplan

The machines, called Texas Hold ‘Em Heads Up Poker, play the limit version of the popular game so well that they can be counted on to beat poker-playing customers of most any skill level. Gamblers might win a given hand out of sheer luck, but over an extended period, as the impact of luck evens out, they must overcome carefully trained neural nets that self-learned to play aggressively and unpredictably with the expertise of a skilled professional. Later this month, a new souped-up version of the game, endorsed by Phil Hellmuth, who has won more World Series of Poker tournaments than anyone, will have its debut at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. The machines will then be rolled out into casinos around the world.

They will be placed alongside the pure numbers-crunchers, indifferent to the gambler. But poker is a game of skill and intuition, of bluffs and traps. The familiar adage is that in poker, you play the player, not the cards. This machine does that, responding to opponents’ moves and pursuing optimal strategies. But to compete at the highest levels and beat the best human players, the approach must be impeccable.