A television show you’ve never heard of is currently the next big thing in the US.
I know a fair amount about Duck Dynasty, and yet I have never watched a minute of it. I doubt I ever will. But it is part of the cultural fabric of the US and the American-focused web milieu, and my understanding of human culture is more comprehensive for knowing about it.
I learnt about Duck Dynasty from a podcast, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. PCHH saves me a lot of time – one hour a week, and I’m up to date with a range of pop culture references that I would likely never have encountered otherwise. I’m leveraging the critical cultural apparatus of talking heads to diversify my investment in cultural capital.
My tendency to rely on outsourcing a lot of my cultural consumption is not unique. It’s indicative of a wider social movement. We are faced with such an overabundance of content that there is no time to read, watch, consume and participate in everything – and it has always been thus, but not to such a huge extent.
Reliance on review culture is not new, but it is evolving. The depth of review coverage has lessened to a large degree, as the breadth of available content stretches thin our attention. We’re faced with recommendation culture, and have become more discerning about what we consume in full, and what we merely glimpse – like Duck Dynasty.
Now, enough valuable time reading about recommendation culture, let me recommend some cultural recommendation systems.
Slate podcasts – the original and still often the best marker of what has captured the zeitgeist in any given week, these podcasts are discussions covering the most interesting happenings in their designated field – politics, culture, sport. They also have Spoiler Specials and Book Club podcasts, particularly handy for quick and dirty cliffnotes on that movie or book that everyone is talking about.
NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour – a weekly conversation about entertainment and pop culture events, with the podcast hosts sourced from the National Public Radio’s culturally-attuned writers and presenters. PCHH closes every week with a segment called ‘What’s Making Us Happy’, which is useful for cultural tip-offs ranging from the San Fermin album to the newest Broadway adaptation.
Vulture – there are a lot of entertainment news sites, but New York Magazine’s Vulture is frequently the informed, diverse and witty. Not only do they have the most up-to-date pop culture news, insider gossip and review coverage, but the style is playful and often more entertaining than the ‘entertainment’ it covers.
Book Riot – one of the most fun book sites, their tag line ‘Always books. Never boring’ is a succinct but accurate description. Their ‘Critical Linkage’ posts are particularly useful as a concise and amusing round-up of news from the world of books.
Slashfilm – this movie review site, and particularly their podcast /filmcast, features movie nerds talking about films in great depth, with background knowledge and differing perspectives. You’ll never need to see a movie again – but in case you want to, they break their podcast into two segments, clearly signposting the spoiler-laden coverage in the latter half of the recording.
What are your recommendation recommendations? Come tell me on that one recommendation engine to rule them all, twitter @annetreasure.
Anne Treasure is a recent survivor of the book industry.
A man dumped a baby outside a Melbourne hair salon after he realised the infant was sleeping in the back seat of the car he had stolen.
Gassam Chehade, 42, stole the car when a couple left it unattended and with the keys in the ignition outside their workplace in Campbellfield.
Melbourne Magistrates Court heard Chehade realised the baby was in the back seat seconds after he began speeding from the scene.
Prosecutor Karen Argiropoulos said he drove 2.7km before dumping the baby boy, still strapped into his capsule, outside the salon and fleeing in the car in June.
Chehade, of Heidelberg West, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, child stealing and reckless conduct endangering life, but guilty to car theft.
Chehade told police he had initially contemplated returning the baby to his parents but feared they would attack him.
His lawyer Tara Hartnett told his committal hearing he wanted to ensure the baby and his parents would be reunited.
"He does not want to leave the child in an unsafe place, for example by the side of the road," she said.
Chehade left the couple's mobile phone, which had been in the car, beside the baby to make it easier to locate the parents, Ms Hartnett said.
"He made eye contact with the woman behind the (salon) counter who was on the phone, he put the capsule down and pointed to it," she said.
The parents collected their child from the salon about 10 minutes later.
Ms Hartnett asked Magistrate Cathy Lamble to drop the kidnapping charge given it implied force had been used in the offending.
But Ms Argiropoulos argued the act of separating the parent and child constituted force.
"A jury could find that continuing to drive a car with a baby in the back seat away from the parents and without the permission of the parents constituted force," she said.
Ms Lamble ordered Chehade to face a Victorian County Court trial at a date to be fixed.
Decriminalising abortion in NSW will be harder if controversial changes to the Crimes Act, known as Zoe's law, are passed, critics say.
A small band of protesters gathered outside NSW parliament on Thursday, as the bill was debated.
They waved banners emblazoned with various slogans, including "Men against misogyny" and "my body is not your temple".
Speaking at the protest, Labor MP Helen Westwood said the bill would make it harder for pro-choice campaigners to decriminalise abortion, which still comes under the Crimes Act.
"Once you give a foetus personhood, then it is a great threat to reproductive rights, but it is also a great way to control women's behaviour while we are pregnant."
The bill, which is being put to a conscience vote, is named in honour of the unborn baby of Brodie Donegan, who was hit by a drug-affected driver on Christmas Day in 2009.
Under the changes, a foetus that is either 20 weeks or 400 grams would be treated as a living person, allowing someone to be charged for its harm.
It would not apply to anything done with a pregnant woman's consent or during a medical procedure.
But independent MP Alex Greenwich told parliament he believed anti-abortionists could use the laws to prosecute women.
It was "not a given" that abortions would constitute a medical procedure, he said.
"I understand that in an overseas law, recognition in the status of a foetus has been used against pregnant women who have addiction problems," he added.
Liberal MP Ray Williams supported the bill, however, arguing: "Any normal woman would not only feel the pain of the accident that was suffered but also the anguish of losing her child".
The US economy and consumer confidence have taken significant hits from a two week federal government shutdown, economists say, and a major dent to already sluggish American growth is expected.
Even as stock markets rebounded with gusto on Wednesday, analysts said there was clear evidence of damage, and warned that a revival of political battles in January could inflict more pain.
The credit rating agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's estimated that the partial closure of the government from October 1 would slice 0.5-0.6 percentage points from annualised growth in the fourth quarter.
S&P said the shutdown took $US24 billion ($A25.20 billion) from the economy, as hundreds of thousands of government workers stayed at home unsure of getting paid, government contracts were delayed and national parks that drive crucial tourist industries were closed.
Because of that, several economists cut their forecasts for fourth quarter growth to around 2 per cent, barely enough to generate the jobs needed to pull down unemployment.
Many said they expected the Federal Reserve would see the need to keep its stimulus in place through the end of the year, if not longer, to mitigate the drag from the crisis.
"The bottom line is the government shutdown has hurt the US economy," S&P said.
Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics, added: "Even without an extreme outcome being realized, some damage has been done."
Democrats and Republicans in Congress were expected to pass legislation late Wednesday to end the impasse by funding the government for the first part of fiscal 2014, which began on October 1, and increasing the debt ceiling.
The eleventh hour deal soothed worries that the Treasury could be forced to default on payments, including the debt, in the coming days.
Furloughed government workers are expected back at work on Thursday, and will collect back pay for the time spent laid off.
The deal sparked a strong rally on Wall Street on Wednesday, with gains of nearly 1.4 per cent. The markets were helped by still-buoyant profits in corporate America, with the results from the first releases of the third-quarter reporting season beating forecasts on average.
That left the S&P 500 index less than 1 per cent shy of its peak, struck in mid-September.
Even so, the shutdown exacerbated what already appeared to be a weak spot in the economy, with higher interest rates from the Fed's expected tightening of its stimulus beginning to slow activity in sectors such as real estate.
The Fed saw vulnerability when in September it decided not to begin reducing its $US85 billion a month in bond purchases, though it also cited the dangers of the looming shutdown and debt ceiling fight.
But just how the economy performed last month remains unclear, because publication of key government data, especially the job creation and unemployment report for September, were canceled.
The Fed's Beige Book survey of regional economic activity, released Wednesday, showed slowing in some areas since the September 4 report.
In addition, it noted "an increase in uncertainty" due mainly to the shutdown and fears over the frozen debt ceiling.
Most analysts expect a rebound in consumer activity as the country heads into the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season.
But the details of the deal struck in Congress will continue to weigh over markets and the economy. The deal only budgets the government through January 15, and caps the debt again on February 7, opening the prospect for renewed brinksmanship over fiscal issues in Congress.
That could make consumers and businesses more cautious about investment, spending and hiring, holding back growth.
"Many problems remain unsolved," said Mark Hopkins of Moody's Analytics.
"The bill sets the stage for negotiations over long-term deficit reduction by December 13, but previous attempts to achieve such a grand bargain have failed."
S&P said: "The short turnaround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will likely weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed.
"If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they'll remain afraid to open up their cheque books. That points to another Humbug holiday season."
Gently does it is not usually the Cory Jane way.
Yet All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants exactly that when the 30-year-old makes his remarkable return to Test rugby in Dunedin on Saturday.
When Jane wrenched his knee at Hurricanes pre-season training in January, he was regarded an outside chance to return for New Zealand's year-end tour of Europe.
Instead, he will start the third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia, having done enough in a game-and-a-half of provincial rugby to convince Hansen he is close to his former status as one of the world's premier wingers.
"He hasn't lost any form while he's been injured. What he has lost is time in the jersey," Hansen said.
"Cory needs to not do everything at 100 miles an hour. Just be patient and trust his instincts particularly, because they're very, very good."
The 43-Test veteran is one of three changes and a positional switch from the side which started the 38-27 win over South Africa at Johannesburg two weeks ago.
Jane's return, made possible by Ben Smith's shift to centre to replace Conrad Smith - who has begun a four-month break from rugby - were signposted by Hansen.
More unexpected are the promotion of lock Jeremy Thrush and hooker Keven Mealamu for their first starts of the season in place of in-form pair Brodie Retallick and Andrew Hore.
Thrush's three bench appearances in his debut international year have totalled just 24 minutes.
Hansen says Retallick was in need of break, while Thrush has the chance to prove himself.
"He's had some little cameos off the bench and done well. It's time for us to find out a little bit more about Jeremy and the way we can do that is by starting him.
"He's earned the right to have a crack."
Mealamu's 108th Test follows five bench appearances this year, with Dane Coles retained as reserve hooker and Hore dropped completely.
Hansen says 34-year-old Mealamu is better-suited to the mobile game of the Wallabies while 35-year-old Hore is ideal against the more confrontational Springboks.
Jane's return and the promotion of Thrush is bad news for Auckland youngsters Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua, who have stood out in their debut seasons but can't make the bench this week.
Three members of a grizzled All Blacks starting pack have played more than 100 Tests, with Mealamu lining up alongside captain Richie McCaw (120 caps) and prop Tony Woodcock (104).
New Zealand are seeking a 10th straight win this year under coach Steve Hansen and a clean sweep of the Bledisloe Cup series after winning the first two Tests in Sydney (47-29) and Wellington (27-16) in August.
All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Jeremy Thrush, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Tom Taylor.
Cuban, 55, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, lashed out at the U.
"Jan Folena, who represents the United States of America, stood up there and lied," an angry Cuban told reporters after the nine-member jury read its decision.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world, and I'm glad I could stand up to them," he said.
Estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of $2.5 billion, Cuban was accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of trading on non-public information when he sold his 600,000 shares in Internet search company Mamma.com - worth $7.9 million - and avoided a $750,000 loss.
George Canellos, the co-director of the SEC's enforcement division, said Cuban's comments were inappropriate.
"Mr. Cubans' comments are without merit and uncalled for. Our lawyers acted in the finest traditions of government counsel and entirely appropriately in strongly advocating the position of the government in this matter," he said in a statement.
The SEC brought the civil lawsuit against Cuban in November 2008. A judge dismissed the suit in 2009 but an appeals court revived the case the following year.
Cuban refused to settle and went to trial, even though he said on Wednesday that he had spent more on fees for lawyers than the possible fines for admitting to insider trading. He could have faced up to $2 million in fines, his lawyers said.
"It's personal. You take all these years of my life, it's personal," Cuban said.
SEC lawyers rushed from the court after the verdict without making extensive comments. The agency later issued a short statement saying it was disappointed by the outcome.
"We respect the jury's decision," SEC spokesman John Nester said in Washington.
"While the verdict in this particular case is not the one we sought, it will not deter us from bringing and trying cases where we believe defendants have violated the federal securities laws."
BLOW TO SEC
The decision in the Cuban case was a blow to the SEC, which was still riding high after it won a blockbuster case against former Goldman Sachs vice president Fabrice Tourre this summer.
The SEC argued that Tourre had committed fraud in a failed mortgage securities deal during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. In August, a jury agreed and found Tourre liable on six of seven counts.
At the two-week trial of Cuban, prosecutors argued that he sold his stake soon after learning from Mamma.com Chief Executive Guy Faure that the Montreal-based company was planning a private placement that would dilute his holdings in the company.
Mamma.com shares dropped 9.3 percent on the morning after the offering was announced. By that time, Cuban had already sold his shares.
Cuban, who rose to prominence before the dot-com crash by selling his company, Broadcas南宁夜生活,m, in 1999 to Yahoo Inc for $5.7 billion, said he did nothing wrong when he sold his 6.3 percent stake in Mamma.com.
Cuban testified during the two-week trial that there were many reasons for selling his shares, including the private placement and Mamma.com's possible association with a known stock swindler.
His lawyers suggested that word of the private placement had leaked into the market because potential investors were being contacted to participate in the private placement.
"This case should have never been brought to trial," Cuban's defence lawyer Stephen Best said after the verdict on Wednesday in federal court in Dallas.
In addition to his ownership of a professional basketball team, Cuban is one of the stars of the popular television show "Shark Tank," which features financiers analyzing and deciding whether to invest in new products presented by entrepreneurs.
"I know I'm a target," Cuban said of his high profile. "I recognize that when I do things people pay attention."
(Reporting by Jana Pruet; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Editing by Greg McCune, Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker)
Former Catholic priest David Edwin Rapson preyed on vulnerable Melbourne schoolchildren to inflict cruel, sadistic and violent sexual abuse.
He drugged some of his victims with spiked Milo, and on other occasions gave them alcohol and cigarettes, or lured them to him by letting them play computer games.
Rapson, 60, was on Thursday jailed for 13 years for the abuse of eight boys at two Catholic colleges between the 1970s and 1990.
Victorian County Court Judge Liz Gaynor said Rapson's crimes of unrelenting sexual exploitation were an incalculable breach of trust.
"These were dreadful crimes against vulnerable victims who were entirely in your power," she said.
"You have ruined lives."
Judge Gaynor said Rapson had joined a circle of abusive staff at one of the schools.
"You soon became an enthusiastic member of the sexually deviant group of religious operating at the school at the time," she said.
The judge said Rapson had preyed on students who had trusted him, including some with learning difficulties and a boy whose father had cancer.
One boy was so badly abused that he could not walk the following day and needed surgery a short time later.
Judge Gaynor said Rapson used his position as a priest and teacher to avoid being caught.
"It was brazen, it was manipulative and it was heartless," she said.
Judge Gaynor sentenced Rapson to 13 years' jail, with a non-parole period of 10 years.
In a statement read to the court last week, one of Rapson's victims said he had thought about the abuse every single day since it happened.
"It's like I'm always running from him," he said.
"My life would have been so, so different if not for the abuse."
Judge Gaynor said Rapson had been raised by a cruel and alcoholic stepfather, and was sexually abused as a teenager.
Rapson was in 1992 jailed for two years after being convicted of the sexual abuse of a boy at one of the schools.
He was removed from the priesthood in 2004 after the Australian head of his order travelled to the Vatican to personally ask Pope John Paul II that he be defrocked.
Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has urged the states to take greater steps to lower electricity and gas prices for consumers and business.
There is much more that can be done to cut power bills alongside axing the carbon tax, Mr Macfarlane told the Energy Users Association of Australia conference in Brisbane on Thursday.
"There is a real need to address pressures in our electricity and gas markets to ensure these markets operate as efficiently as possible to promote competition and better outcomes for consumers," Mr Macfarlane said.
He will be working with the states and territories to finalise the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) energy market reform agenda.
And the government is in the early stages of a national energy white paper and an east coast gas supply strategy.
However Mr McFarlane reiterated the coalition's opposition to a domestic gas reservation policy.
Work is well under way within COAG on energy market reform to ensure a reliable supply of electricity at a minimal and sustainable cost, he said.
The states were heavily criticised by the previous Labor government for overspending on poles and wires, which has pushed up power prices.
The minister said deregulating electricity prices would improve the market's productivity, as had been seen in Victoria and South Australia.
He encouraged other states to consider a similar move, but acknowledged the Queensland government had made it clear any move to privatise electricity generation would be taken to an election before a decision was made.
"I encourage the Queensland government to follow through with that process," Mr Macfarlane said.
He said the energy white paper should focus on streamlining regulation, improving workforce development and stimulating research and development.
"Our energy policy needs to balance our long-term domestic energy needs and growing our exports of energy products - both unrefined and value added - with putting in place the environmental safeguards the community expects," he said.
Australian skipper George Bailey was philosophical rather than shattered after India produced the second-highest run chase of all time to stun the tourists and level their one-day series.
Set a mammoth 360 for victory in game two in Jaipur, after Bailey (92no) and Phil Hughes (83) fired Australia to 5-359, the task seemed insurmountable.
But India did the unthinkable - cruising to a nine-wicket victory with 39 balls to spare, with Rohit Sharma (141no) and Virat Kohli (100no) scoring spectacular centuries to go with Shikhar Dhawan's 95.
Bailey changed up the bowling, set new fields and implemented every plan Australia had prepared.
But none of it was effective on the docile wicket.
"Some times you just have to take your hat off and say India batted beautifully," said Bailey.
"The full ones were going over our heads, and the short ones were going over the side fence.
"I don't think it mattered where they (bowled)."
Bailey admitted the loss was deflating, but insisted his team was capable of picking itself up off the canvas in time for the third clash in Mohali on Saturday.
"It's deflating, absolutely," Bailey said.
"We don't have time (to worry). There's five games left.
"We've just got to jump back on (the horse). There's a lot to like still.
"That's two games in a row we've batted beautifully. We've bowled beautifully in one game.
"And it's one-all.
"I don't think there's too much consoling that needs to be done.
"New wicket, new conditions ... you bounce back. That's what you do."
At the halfway mark, everything pointed to Australia taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Every member of Australia's top five passed 50, the first such instance in one day international history, as the score ballooned to their equal sixth highest international total.
To that point it was also the highest ever score at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
What happened next was something Australian cricket fans are becoming increasingly familiar with, having now conceded the four highest one-day chases of all time - and all since 2006.
The same favourable conditions which eased Aaron Finch, Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell past 50 soon turned against the Australians.
And India pounced, blazing a 176-run opening stand between Dhawan and Sharma.
That was to be outdone by Sharma and Kohli, who piled on 186 at nearly 11 runs an over to close out the game in devastating fashion.
The tourists rued a missed opportunity to remove Dhawan when he was on just 18 - with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin grassing the chance.
A leading edge flew so high Haddin had enough time to reach square leg to field it - but he made a meal of it and the ball bounced out of his gloves.
It proved costly, with Dhawan making the Australians pay an extra 77 runs after Haddin's error.
The Australian vice-captain appeared to have redeemed himself with a brilliant stumping with Dhawan on 42, quickly whipping the balls off after Xavier Doherty (0-70) sent a faster one wide outside off stump.
Replays showed the decision could not have been closer and after three minutes of deliberation the third umpire ruled Dhawan not out.
Perhaps an extra frame would've worked in Australia's favour.
But by then, the tide had turned and the momentum was firmly with India.
Not even Dhawan's dismissal to James Faulkner (1-60) could stem the tide, with Virat Kohli joining the onslaught with a ruthless 52-ball innings that included seven sixes - one so large it nearly left the ground.
Kohli's was the fastest ODI century by an Indian, and comfortably the fastest ever scored against Australia.
Between both sides a remarkable 23 sixes and 75 boundaries were hit on the day.
Earlier, Hughes and Finch again got off to a flier, while Watson foreshadowed the fireworks to come by stepping up the tempo in true Twenty20 fashion when he arrived at the crease.
In another change forced by a rash of injuries, goal-kicking centre Christian Leali'ifano was replaced in the number 12 shirt by ACT Brumbies team mate Matt Toomua, who made his own debut at flyhalf against the All Blacks in this year's Rugby Championship.
Flanker Scott Fardy's eye injury forced another reshuffle in the back row, with Ben McCalman coming off the bench at number eight and Ben Mowen switching from the back of the scrum to the blindside flank.
Scrumhalf Will Genia, stunningly dropped from the starting line-up by McKenzie during the Rugby Championship, will win his 50th cap.
His halfback partner Quade Cooper will start at flyhalf against the country of his birth for the first time this year and is also expected to assume kicking duties.
Like Cooper, Betham was born in New Zealand and Saturday's start at Otago Stadium caps a remarkable rise for a player who was by no means a guaranteed a starter at the New South Wales Waratahs at the beginning of the season.
A powerful and dynamic runner, Betham was called up on Tuesday after injuries to Joe Tomane, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Nick Cummins and was the only fit specialist winger in the squad.
"The reality of rugby is that most players get an opportunity at the misfortune of one of their team mates, but it's about what each individual does with that opportunity that counts the most," McKenzie said.
"That doesn't just apply to Peter but to a number of guys who are receiving a chance this week. There is no better way to make your mark than by playing well against the All Blacks."
Australia ran in seven tries to hammer Argentina 54-17 in their last outing two weeks ago but have not beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.
The All Blacks also earlier retained the Bledisloe Cup for the 11th successive season by beating the Wallabies in the opening two tests of the Rugby Championship.
"The All Blacks are the most consistent team in world rugby and their record proves just how formidable they are when playing at home in front of their fans," McKenzie said.
"It was pleasing to see us take a step in the right direction against Argentina, but the test for us now is to produce that form week-in and week-out."
Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Peter Betham, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Ben Mowen, 5-James Horwill (captain), 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-James Slipper
Replacements: 16-Saia Fainga'a, 17-Benn Robinson, 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Sitaleki Timani, 20-Dave Dennis, 21-Nic White, 22-Mike Harris, 23-Bernard Foley.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)