Klavan On The Culture

Klavan On The Culture

When Sociologists Go Bad

July 1st, 2015 - 11:50 am

I just finished reading Alice Goffman‘s in-the-field study of Philadelphia’s black slums, On The Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. I recommend it highly. It’s a wonderful piece of reporting. It’s also nuts. It’s worth reading for both reasons.

Goffman — a slight, attractive white girl and the daughter of famous sociologist Erving Goffman — lived for six years in a place she calls Sixth Street in Philly. There she befriended various black drug dealers and gangsters and their girlfriends. Completely losing her objectivity along the way, she actually reached a point where she chauffeured one of these thugs around town while he, his gun on his lap, searched for a man he wanted to kill. She’s lucky he didn’t find him. I don’t think that would’ve been sociology exactly. More like felony murder.

Anyway, Goffman writes well and observes well. She brings these dysfunctional characters and their milieu thoroughly to life. Then she proceeds to explain to us that ”this book is… a close-up look at young men and women living in one poor and segregated Black community transformed by unprecedented levels of imprisonment and by the more hidden systems of policing and supervision that have accompanied them.” Or as they put it in the musical West Side Story:  They ain’t no delinquents, they’re misunderstood.

This is silliness, of course. My City Journal colleague Heather Mac Donald — herself one of the nation’s truly great reporters — takes Goffman’s view to pieces in this excellent article.

Goffman’s own material demolishes this thesis. On the Run documents a world of predation and law-of-the-jungle mores, riven with violence and betrayal. Far from being the hapless victims of random “legal entanglements”—Goffman’s euphemism for the foreseeable consequences of lawless behavior—her subjects create their own predicaments through deliberate involvement in crime.

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Should Prostitution Be Legal?

June 28th, 2015 - 8:31 am

Bill Whittle and I trade notes on hookers:

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JonesFest Shows How It’s Done

June 26th, 2015 - 8:29 am
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Every year on the second Saturday in June, Karen “Snakebite” Jones (@snakebitejones) and her family throw a music festival — the JonesFest — up in beautiful Santa Ynez. The festival attracts musicians and music lovers from all over the country.

This year, the festival’s 20th anniversary, Karen wrote me to tell me that my pamphlet “The Crisis in the Arts,” had had a major effect on how she conceived her mission to do “heavy damage to the idea that conservatives are bigoted crab-asses.” This is enormously gratifying to me, I confess.

Like most of the conservatives I know, I’m not looking for power over anyone. I’m looking only to take arms against the sea of government oppression that rises in human history as regularly as the tide, that tide that seeks to drown individual freedom in the name of some imagined higher righteousness.

The arts forge the conscience of our race. If the arts don’t speak for freedom — if the arts don’t speak for the individual — if the arts don’t serve as an antidote to the induced psychosis of identity politics — no election will matter in the long run. You can get my pamphlet here, but before you do, watch the JonesFest video, listen to the music, see how it’s done.

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Another Nice Review for “Werewolf Cop”

June 24th, 2015 - 11:30 am

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From Book Columnist and philosophy teacher Dan Barnett at the ChicoER, come these kind words about my new thriller novel Werewolf Cop:

“A violent, bloody exploration of supernatural evil that… I couldn’t put down. Here, in the midst of horror, the reader will find ‘mysteries, questions, and possibilities’ and will be shaken to the core.”

You can read the whole review here. And you can buy the book here.

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I wasn’t going to say anything about the murders in Charleston, South Carolina. The light of tragedy shines too bright. Speak a false word and it shows you as you really are. The politicians and commentators use the dead to push their narratives and agendas. In the light of tragedy, they look to me like gnarled gargoyles twisted by the hunger for power and by self love. The journalists search for words to express the depth of the killer’s depravity. We know they’re really saying, “This is what a good person I am. This is how much I hate evil.” In the light of tragedy, they look to me like pathetic beggars at the throne of Virtue. The rest of us? “Our hearts are with them. Our prayers are with them.” It’s fine, I know, but it’s easy compassion too, compassion without a price.

But I have to say a word of thanks to the families of the dead, the ones who went into the courtroom on Friday, who faced the man who shot their loved ones to death and forgave him.

“I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that He can change him and change your ways, so no matter what happens to you, you’ll be okay.” Anthony Thompson, husband of Myra.

The video above shows the scene.

These people have received God’s most terrible gift, the gift of suffering, the gift of his cross. I pray he never gives that gift to me. I’m too weak, too worldly, too addicted to joy. But somehow, these people saw it for what it was: an opportunity to speak Christ’s presence into the broken places of the earth, a chance to remind us that the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord.

“I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul.” Nadine Collier, daughter of Ethel Lance.

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Review: Ex Machina

June 19th, 2015 - 10:00 am
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For a while there, Oscar Isaac seemed to be making a career out of delivering terrific performances in highly praised but mediocre films. This time, in Ex Machina, he does better.

The critics loved Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive and A Most Violent Year. Drive was the best of those, but none of them was really all that good. In each, however, Isaac’s acting was well beyond spectacular in its realism and bristling macho energy. It’s a joy to watch him work.

He’s perfect for his role in Ex Machina. Writer-Director Alex Garland specializes in philosophical sci-fi powered by subtle and not-so-subtle battles for male dominance.  His powerful novel The Beach and his cult flick Sunshine are good examples. I can’t remember if his big hit, 28 Days Later, was also about male dominance battles, but I’m not going to watch it again to find out because zombies can’t move that fast.

In Ex Machina, the philosophy is about artificial intelligence, and the antler butting takes place between a young programmer played by Domhnall Gleeson and a great computer genius played by Isaac. The prize is a hot android played by the likewise hot Alicia Vikander. Isaac’s guy calls in Gleeson’s guy to Turing test whether Vikander’s bot has real intelligence or just apparent intelligence. And, of course, since Vikander’s bot is Vikander, Gleeson’s guy becomes attracted to her. Gleeson and Vikander are both great, by the way, but Isaac is so unbelievably real and nuanced and alive that he commands every scene he’s in.

And the picture is good, far better than anything else Isaac has done for my money. More a play than a movie really. In fact, if it had been a play, with the right special effects, it would have been one of the great evenings in the theater. As a movie, it’s small but still intelligent and gripping.

It’s still in some theaters but it comes out on DVD next week.

More High Praise for “Werewolf Cop”

June 17th, 2015 - 11:00 am

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My friend Mark Tapson has written a very kind review of my new thriller Werewolf Cop over at FrontPage Mag:

[Klavan] writes page-turners of unusually high literary quality, bursting with grand themes and big ideas but centered on sympathetic characters. He will carry you into dark depths but with a surprisingly comic touch, and the ride is always gripping and entertaining. And that has never been truer than with his latest book, Werewolf Cop.

Don’t make the mistake of passing on this book because you’re not into novels with an element of horror and the supernatural. Give it a chance – the mystery, the harrowing action, the fully-drawn characters, the sexual and spiritual tension, and the skillful prose will draw you in.

Read the whole thing here. Then buy the book here. Really.

The Democrats Are Gollum

June 14th, 2015 - 9:45 am

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The Democrats are Gollum and the press is their ring of invisibility. Or maybe I should call it the presshussss.

I don’t know whether J.R.R. Tolkien was inspired by the Ring of Gyges legend when he wrote Lord of the Rings, but a scholar of his quality would have known his Plato well. In Plato’s Republic, Plato’s brother Glaucon tells the story. A shepherd Gyges found a magic ring that made him invisible. Because he could no longer be seen, he discovered he could commit any crime without consequence and so ultimately murdered his way to becoming king of Lydia. Glaucon concludes:

No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men.

Socrates doesn’t fully agree with this and, in fact, in Tolkien, the invisibility ring seems to have some added power of seduction and evil that strips the wearer of his will to justice. But the point remains the same: man’s nature is twisted; broken. Hidden from society, protected from punishment, we are all very likely to descend into evil.

Thus the Democrats, and the left in general.

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Good Stuff on TV: “The Whispers”

June 12th, 2015 - 11:57 am

It’s been more than forty years since the head of the FCC called television a “vast wasteland.” Today, it’s the center of our storytelling culture. Some of it (and yes, I do mean Game of Thrones) has achieved the level of high art.

Summer TV used to be the worst of the worst. Not just a wasteland, but a wasteland of reruns. Now, though, the outlets use summer as a short season, an opportunity to air off-beat shows they’re not quite sure of, or mini-series with a distinct beginning, middle and end.

The Whispers is one of those latter, and it’s really good. From a network too — ABC — which is not usually where you find the best stuff. It looks like a network show, unfortunately. Too bright, the lighting too flat, the actors all too beautiful, the characters more fantastic than real. (She’s a perfect mom, but she’s also a full-time FBI Agent? Eh, no.)

But as entertainment, it’s terrific. It’s because of the story and writing mostly. Creator credit goes to Soo Hugh who worked on the Stephen King project Under the Dome.  It’s got a great premise: some unseen force is enticing children to commit crimes by whispering to them in the guise of an imaginary friend named Drill. It’s got expert plotting: the excellent twist at the end of the first episode actually took me completely off-guard, not easy to do. And it’s got a sense of scope and urgency. Hugh knows where she’s going and how to get there. None of which is to take away from the appealing cast, led by the very appealing Lily Rabe and Kristin Connolly.

The other interesting what-the-hell-is-going-on-here summer thriller is over at Fox: Wayward Pines. The premise is kind of unwieldy and unbelievable, but it’s got great performances by the wonderful Terence Howard and Melissa Leo, not to mention my old One Missed Call pal, the beautiful Shannyn Sossamon, who’s also doing an excellent job. The writer Chad Hodge made the highly intelligent decision to put the big reveal in the middle of the ten-part series. (The show is based on a trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch.) I’m not sure if Hodge can work out all the wrinkles, but he’s got me interested enough to stay on to the end to find out.

In both cases, good kick-back summer entertainment, a lot more original and involving than what’s in the theaters.

The Dreadful Wages of Feminism

June 9th, 2015 - 7:29 pm

Just an amazing piece in the New York Times last weekend and really one of the saddest I think I’ve ever read. In an article headlined “What Makes a Woman?“ feminist journalist and documentarian Elinor Burkett objects to trans-sexuals like Caitlyn Jenner calling themselves women.

They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails. They haven’t suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts or woken up after sex terrified they’d forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before. They haven’t had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners’ checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists.

Look at that list: suffering; terror; blood; humiliation; fear. That’s her experience of womanhood? No heights of joy? No depths of love? No miracles of creation or nurturing? No sense of life a man can never know? No wonder she’s a feminist. She seems to have missed the experience of being an actual woman.

She argues — against all science except feminist “science,” which is no science at all — that women’s and men’s brains aren’t different. Really? How fascinating that left-wingers elevate evolution to the godhead when arguing against Genesis, but when arguing for feminism, they make the whole logic of evolution disappear. What interest has evolution in womanhood beside child-bearing and mothering? None. And does she think this great natural machinery has passed over the 10-thousand generations of her gender without shaping them to its purposes? It’s ridiculous.

The whole article testifies to a life lived in self-deception and unhappiness. But that’s feminism in a nutshell, isn’t it? Why would anyone be a feminist when they could simply be an individual?

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