Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

Real Time

FOX's breakneck drama 24 has always thrived on the friction between the real and the implausible -- and never more so than in the program's second season, which ended this week. Split into the 24 hours that make up a really bad day in the life of former counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), the show has replaced last year's Serbian villains with U.S. and Middle Eastern terrorists planning to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. The first season's plot to assassinate a presidential candidate has given way to talk of a retaliatory war in the Middle East and the erosion of domestic civil liberties. In much the same way that dreams, with their combination of mundane and fantastic details, help us sift through the detritus of our daily lives, so does 24 offer a lens for reflection on the shocks and ethical dilemmas of our post-September 11, post-Iraq War world. Or it would, if the show weren't quite so ridiculous. We 24 viewers should be used to it by now; the show's...

X Caliber

If one's a nerd, growing up is supposed to be a good thing. One gets to finally leave behind those difficult teenage years: the crying jags, the freakish bodily changes, the days of writing bad poetry and brooding to the sounds of the Cure, Metallica and Sergei Prokofiev's "Violin Sonata No. 1 in f minor." One can also abandon that haunting sense of alienation, that feeling -- half self-loathing and half self-aggrandizement -- that no one can understand the misfit pain of being so different, so weird . . . and (one's unconscious whispers) so special. It can all be forgotten -- unless one is a Marvel Comics X-Man, a mutant whose strange and staggering powers are feared by the rest of society. To be an X-Man is to illustrate that most human of afflictions -- a graceless adolescence -- and that most human of hopes -- to be truly exceptional. Or so I gathered from the first X-Men movie. For all its lumpiness, the debut feature had an unexpected lyricism in the way it cast social...

Scary Tale

"Once there was an average Joe," begins Joe Millionaire -- an apt opening for a reality TV show that draws on fairy-tale conventions. But there's something darker than happily ever after in Fox's latest offering: What happens when the dream prince is nothing but a pauper, when a Cinderella tale collides with real-life lies? The Cinderella story was never great: A girl pined for a prince who carried her goddamn shoe around because he couldn't remember what his true love looked like. But trust Fox's perversion of the Midas touch to turn even the fool's gold that is Cinderella to pure poop. In an interesting twist, the person who gets to experience the rags-to-riches transformation is Evan Marriott, a 28-year-old construction worker. Evan is first seen stuffing his piehole with French fries, just so we know how down-to-earth and average he is. He only makes $19,000 a year, but the 20 women who are vying for his hand don't know that -- they've been led by the show's producers, and Evan...

Housing Project

Perhaps Harvard University professor Samuel Huntington would like Trading Spaces . After all, the home-decorating show's most dramatic moments are the "clash of civilizations" writ small -- battles between the chintzy tchotchkes and blandly pleasant decor of most American homes and the highfalutin excess of the show's designers. The Learning Channel's smash hit has a simple set-up: Two sets of neighbors completely redecorate one room in each other's houses with the help of a designer and a $1,000 budget. Forty-eight hours of hard work boils down to the crucial "reveal," when homeowners get to see their new rooms. Shrieks -- usually of pleasure, but occasionally of pain -- ensue. That sense of thrilling uncertainty worked well in a recent special from Las Vegas, when the reveal was live for the first time. Letting those designers into your home is a big gamble: Will the room be hideous, leaving homeowners trembling in their violated cocoons? Will it be so beautiful that the rest of the...

Mac Attack

The allure of a good party is nearly irresistible, especially when it costs less than $3 to join in the fun. Last week, a fistful of change bought two Big Macs -- buy one, get one for a penny -- during McDonald's 35th birthday celebration for its prize pig of a sandwich. I had never eaten a whole Big Mac before and I figured this special occasion would be a good time to finally take the plunge. So I enlisted the help of lion-hearted Prospect designer Aaron Morales, and we set off to do irreversible damage to our innards. The restaurant chain needed something festive to lift its drooping spirits. It recently got its Ronald McDonald pants sued off for making kids fat (the case was dropped), was forced to shutter 175 restaurants in 10 countries and posted its first financial loss -- ever . But few in the world have much sympathy for the fast-food powerhouse; after all, McDonald's and its pre-fab products have become nearly synonymous with evil American cultural hegemony. Just ask such...

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