A love letter to “Almost Famous” on its 20th anniversary

“Almost Famous” (2000)

There are songs that attach themselves to us with a sticky, uncomfortable permanence. They stick to us like splotches of chewing gum along a sidewalk you once vandalized with chalk. They play on repeat like a ballad you first slow-danced to.

For a generation aimlessly searching for meaning in the early 2000s, Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” is that song. Correction: “Tiny Dancer” is one of those songs. There are others, like the ghostly tambourine from The Shins’ “New Slang” transferring from Natalie Portman’s headphones into our ears in Garden State (2004). (“New Slang” is at least born and raised in…


One writer’s attempt to explain Lana Del Rey’s “question for the culture”

(C Flanigan/Getty)

Lana Del Rey is the type of pop star (and feminist) that Liz Phair said she hoped to inspire when she challenged the male establishment in 1993. Del Rey defined her feminism as, “a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.” But things are more divided today. The division that exists between Del Rey and her critics isn’t driven by gender politics per se, but a complicated philosophical struggle between the aesthete and the activist. To her critics, Del Rey is not feminist enough; her music videos and song lyrics are “problematic” and “disempowering.”

Del Rey’s decade-long…


A study of the racial humor contained in one of America’s most compelling family sitcoms

Center: Frank Murphy of “F is for Family” (Image by Art Tavana)

Every character in F is for Family occupies a room inside America’s tragicomic psych ward of gap-toothed bullies, racist pancake houses, chauvinistic action stars, and dads with enough emotional baggage to crash airplanes.

The result is absurdist humor that studies the sewage that once spewed across suburbia’s fumigated landscape. Like one of its progenitors, Married… With Children, F is for Family’s audacious willingness to turn trauma into satire produces the effect of looking at the funny pages during Bible study, or recalling your abusive father living vicariously through the faux-mojo of action TV stars.

This sort of colorful incongruity flickers…


In his new special, the comedian speaks up and draws the ire of his critics

Dave Chappelle in Los Angeles (September, 2018) | Credit: Vivien Killilea (Getty)

According to Nietzsche, maximum nihilism is reached in the overthrow of old systems by actions that amount to total destruction; to be nihilistic, one must lack the capacity to go beyond obliteration. This is one interpretation. At least since Lenny Bruce’s obscenity trial, this has been the role of the comedian: to search, destroy, and savage establishment institutions the bourgeoisie views as sacrosanct—usually without concern for progress or collateral damage. The problem is that we’re so polarized today that defining the establishment (especially in comedy) has become a dizzying affair.

For example, is Hannah Gadsby anti-establishment or part of the…

Art Tavana

writer & author (“Goodbye, Guns N’ Roses”) writing a novel about the doomed teens of the psychedelic ’90s. MFA, UC Davis 🐴 Newsletter: CALIFORNIA

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