Linda Holmes

There was considerable mouth-dropping from publications such as The New York Times at initial reports this week that NSA programs are gathering both telephone records and information gleaned from large tech companies like Google and Microsoft. But as those reports have settled in, reactions have gotten more complex.

"Mr. Lashes, 34 years old, is an agent for Internet cats."

Here's a question: If you go to the movies and the scheduled showtime is, say, 7:30, when do you actually expect the movie to start? If you said 7:30, you go to very unusual screenings. If you said 7:45, you're closer to what many experience. If you said 7:50, you're still in range: There's often some advertising other than trailers, the limit for trailer length is 2 1/2 minutes, and theaters sometimes run seven or eight trailers. Eight would add up to 20 minutes.

I hate to break this to you, Men Of The Entire United States (Especially Actors), but The Atlantic has just run a lengthy piece pronouncing you un-charming.

At first, Benjamin Schwarz seems to mean "good conversationalist" when he says "charming." He says:

I hate to break this to you, Men Of The Entire United States (Especially Actors), but The Atlantic has just run a lengthy piece pronouncing you un-charming.

At first, Benjamin Schwarz seems to mean "good conversationalist" when he says "charming." He says:

You may be familiar with the San Diego Comic-Con, a constantly expanding convention for fans that started as a niche event for comic-book nerds and is now a sprawling pop-culture event.

It really only hit yesterday: It's the end of The Office.

After nine seasons, Dunder Mifflin is going dark Thursday night, with an hour-long retrospective at 8:00 and a 75-minute episode at 9:00 that may or may not feature a cameo from Steve Carell. There have been denials of an appearance from him that could be read as emphatic or tiptoeing, depending on whether you focus on the obvious implications of those denials or the technicalities that might allow for wiggle room.

Pop culture does not mean celebrity culture; I have perhaps said this more often than anyone you're going to meet. Who dates, who gets a divorce, who has a tantrum, who has surreptitious photos snapped of him by mangy, grim opportunists — these things are not culture of any kind, popular or otherwise, unless there is something else at stake. They are curiosities, and given that we are curious creatures, their pull is not surprising, nor is it new, nor was it invented by the internet, or television, or Americans.

Monday night was the big night for unusual dresses (you may remember a previous post about Madonna's bunny ears): the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, known as the "Met Ball." It had a loose punk theme (because the costume exhibit it's celebrating is punk-centric), but everyone got up to quite a bit of her own thing.

[CAUTION: This is all about Sunday night's Mad Men. Obviously, if you haven't seen Sunday night's Mad Men and you still intend to, you might hold off.]

It's reductive to conclude that on far too many episodes of Mad Men, nothing happens. Of course something always happens: someone feels something, or learns something, or is locked in a continuous internal struggle with something. A dynamic continues to simmer, a memory comes to the surface, angels and demons battle for somebody's soul.

It's generally understood that something about MTV was revolutionary. Perhaps it was the music video, perhaps it was the short attention span, perhaps it was The Real World, but something about MTV had enough cultural permanency that it made for a fine oral history from Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, called I Want My MTV, in late 2011.

Meet Tony Stark at the opening of Iron Man 3: insanely wealthy, possessed of every toy, and traumatized by an attack on New York that has left him restless, anxious, belligerent, and given to both hunker-down security measures and fate-tempting swagger. He declares his total lack of fear, then builds the fortress walls higher.

Let's step back.

UPDATE, 4:08 p.m.: In addition to the institutions mentioned below, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has announced that admission will be free on Wednesday, April 17.

Any comics fan of any seriousness can rattle off female superheroes who have either had their own books or appeared in other or ensemble books.

But what about ordinary absorbers of culture?

The same people who don't actually read comics but can tell you that Superman is the idealized, square-jawed fighter for good, while Batman is the darker, more conflicted survivor of tragedy and Spider-Man is the scrapper barely concealing an ordinary kid — how many women can they name who have worn capes, particularly ones that aren't superhero derivatives like Supergirl or Batgirl?

You may find a hint to the era in which you were born (as well as your taste in entertainment) in Linda Wertheimer's clarification that on the '80s nighttime soap Dynasty, actress Linda Evans played Krystle Carrington — Krystle with a K, that is. (And, she does not add, an L-E.) If that surprises you at all, you were almost surely not paying attention to the television of the 1980s, when Evans, John Forsythe and Joan Collins made up the wealthiest, nuttiest, most notorious and most rhinestone-covered love triangle ever bedazzled for prime time: Krystle, Blake and Alexis.

As Eyder Peralta reported last night, the National Spelling Bee has made a big change to its rules.

I was out of the house, as it happens, for most of the first half of yesterday's Louisville-Duke game, and when I got home and looked at Twitter, before I turned on the TV, there was a huge stack of stuff to read, and the first thing that caught my attention about the game was this.

For the last couple of weeks, Vulture has been running a "Sitcom Smackdown," a contest between 16 sitcoms of the last 30 years to determine an eventual champion.

If you like Argo (which won Best Picture), the movie Chicago (which made a couple of appearances) and jokes about women (which just kept coming), you probably had a substantially better night than the average viewer, who was subjected to Seth MacFarlane's delivery of one of the worst hosting performances in Oscar history.

As reported on Tuesday's Morning Edition, KRTV in Great Falls, Mont., was apparently the victim of hackers who broke in and broadcast a warning of attacking zombies. The station now says that it was a hoax, fortunately.

Wednesday, Hasbro announced that it was welcoming a new member of the Monopoly-token family. And because it asked the Internet, it wound up with a cat. (For whatever reason, the Internet was not offered Gotye or a bacon cupcake.)

Great blackout last night, right?

It's been clear for some time that substantially more people watch the Super Bowl than have the slightest interest in watching the actual football game. That's why there's such hubbub over the halftime show and the commercials — it gives non-football types something to pay attention to instead of football.

Headlines were circulating last week about how, as Slate put it, "almost everybody" is rooting for the San Francisco 49ers over the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday's Super Bowl. Of course, it turns out that what this actually meant was more like "substantially more than half of the area of the country is included within counties in which more people like the 49ers on Facebook than like the Ravens on Facebook."

Ask yourself this question: How weird would it be if you changed your hair and it was on the news?

No, seriously. Pull back from everything you know about celebrity and pretend it's about you. You change your hair. You decide, "Hey, you know what? It's been long for a while; what if I went a little shorter?" And so you go a little shorter. And then it is on the news.

There's no shortage of food shows on television, from serene instructional content to tourist eye candy to kooky competitions where chefs cook in the desert. There's also The Great Food Truck Race, which is mostly about the finer points of where you should park a food truck.

But while my favorite was once Bravo's Top Chef, with its clearly skilled chefs and terrific judging panels, my new favorite is the Food Network competition Chopped.