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Web Monitor

15:51 UK time, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: film characters as role models, the killer of cafe culture and political pawns.

precious_ap_226.jpg• Film critic Scott Mendelson at the Huffington Post thinks there is a pattern to asking if characters in films are good role models. He says the question is never asked of white male characters, and he's sick of it:

"Whenever any movie not primarily involving white males and/or geek-friendly genres becomes a big hit, the moralizers come out in full force about how dangerous or unhealthy said movie is for the target demo in question. Sex and the City: The Movie presents adult women in a terribly materialistic light so it's just unhealthy. And Precious isn't just about one person in a singular situation. Oh no, Precious is about each and every person who happens to be black, poor, female, or overweight, so it's obviously perpetuating one stereotype or another."

• Despite the rise of Starbucks over the past decade, cafe culture is pronounced dead by Michael Idov at the Wall Street Journal. In his history of the coffee house, the killer is the laptop, as people can sit next to each other in perfect silence. He's hoping the recession will get the debate going again:

"Perhaps the economic downturn will untie our tongues and restart the conversation. With rents going down, the next Café Abraco or Café Regular may be able to afford a larger space and have some money left for tables and chairs. And the new Lost Generation of creative strivers is already here to fill these chairs. In Los Angeles, friends report, where the lavish business lunch is no longer the industry standard, the café society is in unexpectedly full swing."

Merrill Perlman in Columbia Journalism Review has got all hot under the collar about politicians' uses of chess metaphors. She says they are abusing the game, starting with the smallest piece, the pawn:

"In chess, it's the piece of the lowest value, and also the most numerous, and its movements are more limited than that of other pieces. A player may decide to sacrifice a 'pawn' without much worry, since doing so often provides an advantage to another piece. Politicians use the term 'pawn' mostly in a pejorative sense, meaning that an opponent has misused something or someone to gain advantage... Colloquially, the lowly 'pawn' becomes someone else's sacrifice, not the sacrifice of the person who controls the destiny of the 'pawn.'"

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