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Why I Stopped Playing Video Games

Saturday, March 31st, 2012 - by Dave Swindle

In Vertigo’s new graphic novel A. D. D.: Adolescent Demo Division media theorist Douglas Rushkoff invokes a childhood fantasy to unleash a prophetic vision of the future.

The teenagers of the Adolescent Demo Division live inside a media-saturated universe. From birth they prepare to star in their own reality television show as professional video gamers and product testers. They live with the dream that if they perform well then someday they can “level up” and graduate to the real world where perhaps they can meet their birth mothers.

However, this immersion in virtual worlds yielded unforeseen consequences their corporate handlers fail to understand. During the time the A.D.D. spent playing video games and giving their opinions on products they developed the ability to “dekh” new interpretations of reality. Their eyes go blue and all of a sudden they perceive hidden connections behind the media narratives:

This vision allows the A.D.D. to see how empty the video game, hyper-consumer lifestyle is. They realize they are in charge of their own destiny and don’t have to live their parents’ dreams.

Not good for the corporate executives relying on the A.D.D. for their bottom line.

But Rushkoff’s comic isn’t firing shots at corporate America.

Read his nonfiction book Life Inc. for the author’s dissection of corporatism’s infiltration of Western culture and lifestyle. I usually hand this one to my progressive friends when they start ranting about corporate greed and the need for government regulations to save us from Mark Zuckerberg. “Yes, I agree with you that corporations do bad things sometimes,” I concede. “But you’re not going to stop them by passing laws and electing Democrats. You need to change yourself and shift the culture if you want to change the world.”

A.D.D. shows us how this actually works in the real world. And don’t let the science fiction props, new media lingo, and thriller plot fool you. This fantastic metaphor of “dekhing” a new reality — similar to the “grokking” of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land — has basis in reality and Rushkoff’s generation points the direction. The late Andrew Breitbart was only one real life example but there are many more.

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For the Mentally Ill, the Right Kind of Help is the Most Important

Saturday, March 31st, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I read with interest John Hawkins’ informative piece on the Lifetyle blog entitled “7 Ways Wildly Successful People Screw Up Their Lives.” He offers some good advice such as don’t marry poorly. Good idea. However, I had to stop and think about the advice he offered on Howard Hughes by saying he screwed up his life by “Withdrawing into Mental Illness:”

But physical injuries from an airplane crash ruined his health, he began to give in to mental illness, and eventually Hughes withdrew from the world and surrounded himself with “yes men” who did whatever he asked, no matter how weird. Over time Hughes, who was one of the most famous and important men in the country, grew so isolated that many people concluded he was terminally ill or even dead. To the contrary, Hughes declined further into mental illness, paranoia, and quirkiness. In time his wife, supposedly the only woman he ever loved, filed for divorce. She could only talk to him by phone for years. After Hughes died, one of the most admired men of the last century looked so unrecognizable that investigators needed fingerprints to identify him because his 6’4″ frame had withered down to 90 pounds and he had a shaggy beard along with grotesque, long fingernails.

After a bad marriage or a betrayal from a friend, it can be easy to lose faith in people and withdraw to keep from being hurt. Big mistake. You can listen to all the songs you want telling you that you’re a rock, but that doesn’t make it so. Human beings are social animals and we need connections with others for health and happiness.

First, I don’t know that people want to “withdraw into mental illness.” I think sometimes, it takes them over. But I get the gist of what he is saying, reach out and get some help. However, one of the problems with the mentally ill is that the help they need is sometimes hard to find. Reaching out to the wrong friend or acquaintance can sometimes make a person worse, so it makes sense in that case not to reach out to those people.

And okay, to some degree we are social animals, but some of us are more social than others. For example, in books like Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, the author makes the point that a private homelife can sometimes provide comfort and inner peace. I remember in graduate school (at the New School for Social Research in New York), I had one class where we discussed whether it was healthy for people to be hermits. Some people said “yes,” and some “no” but it wasn’t a unanimous consensus that people were social animals. Even the psychologist professor wasn’t so sure. Today, everyone is told to interact with each other because it’s “healthy.” Maybe yes, maybe no, but for those with demons in their head, the wrong kind of interaction may make things worse, not better. The right kind with a person they can trust to help? Usually priceless.

(Thumbnail on Lifestyle blog homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)

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From PJTV: Vodkapundit’s Week In Blogs

Friday, March 30th, 2012 - by Stephen Green

Somehow, despite the paucity of news this week, our Friendly Neighborhood Vodkapundit found something going on in the Blogosphere:

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Here are the links to the items that Steve mentioned in his video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e57i1d-LnYQ

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/03/21/nypd-says-ows-dumped-feces-urine-in-atm-vestibule-and-down-stairs/

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57405100-10391704/eating-lots-of-chocolate-helps-people-stay-thin-study-finds/

http://mrctv.org/videos/rock-vote-depicts-us-army-skeleton-driven-meat-grinder-churning-out-caskets

http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2012/03/25/white-supremacists-conflicted-on-martin-shooting-zimmerman-sounds-jewish-is-hispanic-but-did-kill-a-black-guy/

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/danish-tv-host-mocks-obama-his-rhetoric_634403.html

https://twitter.com/#!/rorycooper/status/185202846935949313

http://campaign2012.washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/biden-mistakenly-refers-dr-pepper/451296

http://www.jammiewf.com/2012/doctor-joe-biden-probably-has-brain-damage/

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/03/25/chart-of-the-week-obamacares-17-new-taxes/

http://dcist.com/2012/03/holy_license_plate_violation_batman.php

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Furry Friday: World Chinchilla Domination

Friday, March 30th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

When people ask me to describe a chinchilla, the best response I have to sum up this crazy little creature is that it’s like a live-action Disney animated fluffy forest thing.

In 2008, I’d just moved from 425 square feet in L.A. to 1,260 square feet in Denver, where I was online opinion editor at the Rocky Mountain News. So I went down to the animal shelter — the Dumb Friends League — to add perhaps a guinea pig (I didn’t add the caucus until moving to D.C.). The staff steered me toward a chinchilla after I’d rattled off some nerdy factoids about their origin and care — I’d always been curious about them, but being close to the coast in L.A. I had no air conditioning other than the Pacific, which means a keep-it-68-degrees creature was out of the question.

The chinchilla had been purchased at a PetSmart and then turned into the shelter by the family. This wasn’t surprising as they’re not kids’ pets: they’re exceptionally soft and cuddly but don’t like to be cuddled, they’re strong and amazing jumpers but have a delicate bone structure that means you can’t squeeze or drop them, and they’re up at night. The shelter staff took us into one of those “get acquainted” rooms, and let the chinchilla out of the carrier. She began zipping circles around the room, ricocheting off walls and making everyone dizzy trying to catch her. I finally cornered the chinchilla under a table with the help of another staffer, and reached out to gently pet her nose. After acting zen for a few moments, she leaped between us but I caught her against my shoulder and held her there. She came home with me. I named her Chinderella because she was clearly a total diva.

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7 Ways Wildly Successful People Screw Up Their Lives

Friday, March 30th, 2012 - by John Hawkins

Success is a journey not a destination. — Anonymous

Many of us act as if success is a permanent state that we’re working to reach. We think, “One day, I’m finally going to be ‘successful’ and then I’ll have it made from there on out.” Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. You’re never going to get to the point where you can just kick back, put your life on cruise control, and enjoy “success.” When you get a chance to meet successful people, you  find this out. Some of them are falling apart. Some are absolutely miserable. That’s no surprise. It’s tougher, in some respects, to be a success than a failure because you have something to lose and everything can fall apart. Here are some examples of how that can happen.

7) Mike Tyson: Spend Money Frivolously.

There are a lot of negative things you can say about Mike Tyson — so many in fact that you could dispute whether he was ever a “success” in the first place. Still, he became one of the best boxers who ever lived, a world-famous, heavyweight champ who earned $400 million. That sounds like such an enormous amount of money that you almost couldn’t spend it if you tried, but Tyson rose to the challenge. He acquired Siberian tigers, paid 6 figures for jewelry, bought multiple mansions, found a way to spend hundreds of thousands on cell phones and pagers, and spent almost half a million on a birthday party. Next thing you know, a man who made what most folks would consider an inexhaustible supply of money was bankrupt.

This can happen to people more easily than they realize because lifestyle tends to expand to fit income — and sometimes a little beyond. Next thing you know, they catch a bad break or have a drop and they find that they can’t roll their fixed expenses back enough to get in the black. Suddenly they’re in debt, getting further behind each month, and heading towards disaster. It happened with Tyson and it happens with a lot of others.

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16 Signs of a Great Mexican Restaurant

Thursday, March 29th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

There is no good Mexican food on the East Coast. I didn’t really know the truthfulness or realize the extent of this adage before, as a native Angeleno, I moved out to D.C. Not only is it shockingly true, but it’s usually the first topic of conversation between California immigrants out here after asking where you’re from. The last California congressman I sat down with complained about nasty faux Mexican food (to which I heartily agreed) before we began talking legislation.

There are food trucks that line the squares at lunchtime, but not to tell tacos al carbon for a buck. There are a few mom and pop joints, but mostly Salvadoran. When I discovered La Loma restaurant near the Heritage Foundation, I thought it was the best find ever, though I realized it would be rated as OK-to-pretty-good Mexican food in L.A. At least you could mix the rice and beans to the perfect consistency, which is a start out here. But is it too hard to put some meat on two corn tortillas with cilantro and onions, with salsa verde and a side cup of spicy carrots?

This brings to mind a list I came up with during my midway stop from L.A. to D.C., at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. From SoCal to the Valley, the central coast to across the border, here are signs of a great Mexican restaurant:

  1. The menu lapses into Spanish without warning
  2. Our Lady of Guadalupe is behind the counter
  3. Tamarindo and horchata are on tap
  4. It’s safer to drink the beer than the water — and Corona is NOT the sole offering
  5. At least two German tourists have accidentally ordered lengua in the past month
  6. The restaurant name is not Chevy’s or El Torito (or, out here, Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican Food)
  7. The mariachi not only plays there, but eats there as well
  8. Telenovelas play on a TV mounted on the wall
  9. The music played includes copious amounts of accordion
  10. The salsa has never and will never come from a jar
  11. The tacos spill on the first bite
  12. There are no “southwest black beans,” just manteca-laden refried beans
  13. The number of tables usually doesn’t exceed ten
  14. The view leaves something to be desired, like an old carburetor shop or tacky mercado
  15. There is no menu item called a “Mexi-melt”
  16. The Health Department doesn’t always leave happy, but the customers do

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Stay Classy: They’re Making a Sequel to Anchorman

Thursday, March 29th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

Knights of Columbus! I was in a glass case of emotion when I saw this last night. A flute-playing Ron Burgundy appeared on Conan to break the big story, about himself.

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EW fills in some of the details:

Will Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, and David Koechner also be returning? Will more than eight years have elapsed in Ron Burgundy’s time-period, or is he still smack in the middle of the 1970s? When will this movie begin shooting or hit theaters?

Like any smart newsman, Burgundy didn’t stick around to answer questions.

EW got in touch with Paramount for some of the details.

Carell and Rudd will definitely be coming back, though all others are still up in the air. Ferrell and Adam McKay will co-write the script, and McKay (who made the original) will be back to direct.

Gary Sanchez Productions will produce along with Judd Apatow Productions, and the movie is expected to get underway toward the end of year for release in 2013.

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The 5 Best and 5 Worst James Bond Theme Songs

Thursday, March 29th, 2012 - by Chris Queen

Fans of the James Bond films look forward to the theme songs as much as anything else. There’s a thrill to hearing a new 007 theme over the movie’s creative, sexy title sequences. The theme songs have set the tone for Bond in 19 of the 22 films in the series.

We’ve seen 007 theme songs that range from the low-key (Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice” in 1967) to the heavy-hitting (Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” in 2006) to the truly bizarre (I’m looking at you, Jack White & Alicia Keys). No matter how good or bad the song, a Bond theme is an integral part of the experience.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, I present to you the five best theme songs of the series, followed by the five worst. A couple of years ago I shared my own personal favorites on my website, but with this list I’m looking at the songs with critical and historical eyes.

5. Louis Armstrong, “We Have All The Time In The World,” from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service stands as a bit of an anomaly among Bond movies. The film marked George Lazenby’s only appearance as 007, and the plot centered around eternal bachelor Bond getting married and becoming a widower. It’s also one of only three entries in the series not to have a song over the opening credits — the other ones were Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Instead, the beautiful “We Have All The Time In The World” plays during a romantic sequence later on in the film.

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Composer John Barry chose Louis Armstrong to perform the ballad, and Barry later picked it as one of his two favorite Bond theme songs, both for the beauty of the music and the pleasure of working with the jazz legend.

“We Have All The Time In The World” has endured as a favorite, especially among the Brits. Artists as diverse as Iggy Pop, the Puppini Sisters, and Michael Ball have covered the song, and respondents to a 2005 poll ranked it as the third most popular wedding song in the United Kingdom. I even read a few years back where some British churches used the song in worship services. The song might not spring to mind as a classic Bond theme, but Armstrong still provided a rare moment of grace.

4. Tom Jones, “Thunderball,” from Thunderball (1965)

The second song to appear over the title sequence of a Bond film has an interesting history. Initially, Barry and lyricist Leslie Bricusse penned a song titled “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” named for an Italian journalist’s nickname for 007. United Artists balked, insisting that the song have the same title as the movie. Barry teamed up with Don Black to rush out a new title song.

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Johnny Cash also submitted a song but the studio rejected it. Check it out here.

Tom Jones gave one of his bravura performances on “Thunderball” but not without paying a price. Jones passed out after belting the climactic high note. Years later he said:

I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.

“Thunderball” continued a new tradition: dramatic title songs that set the tone for the whole film.

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Radio Show on Negative Images of Men in the Media

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 - by Helen Smith


I was on the Brian Wilson show discussing my PJ Lifestyle posts on the negative portrayal of men in the media.

You can listen here.

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Zou Bisou Bisou: Mad Men Returns for Its Fifth Season

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 - by James Lileks
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It’s the season premiere of Mad Men! I’m in my Brooks Brothers suit with a rye whiskey, an unlit Lucky, a dead man’s Purple Heart in my pocket — took some poking around the vintage stores for that one, let me tell you. After Mad Men caught on everyone wanted one, I guess. My wife is wearing a sharp form-fitting dress, and she’s wearing Peggy-style season-1 bangs, and as soon as the show starts we’ll turn off the lamp — the one where the lamp base is a ceramic cat with a long neck — and settle in for the first show in a year and a half.

That’s how you’re supposed to do it, right? Cosplay for web designers? Dress-up fun for adults who want to act like, well, adult adults. Perhaps. Not for me. Please. It’s like watching Twin Peaks with a bunch of people carrying logs or dressed in FBI black, telling each other they’d like a damn fine piece of pie. (Or “Eip fo eceip inef nmad a,” if you’re short and walking funny.) That sounded like hell, too.

When a show becomes an object of cultish adoration, and the fans assemble to worship together, there’s always that moment when it’s just . . . not as good as you expected. Or hoped. Or remembered. Something’s off; they’re straining to connect with the things they once did with ease. You realize you’re just there for the clichés: a Don Draper Line of Insight (TM), a Roger Sterling moment of nonchalant dissipation. Peggy being the Smartest Bestest Person in the Business, as well as an obtuse and humorless drip. Hey, maybe Sal will come back from the bushes. Maybe Betty will do something so unexpected she turns into an interesting character.

Maybe it’ll even be about advertising again. All right, be back in two hours.

LATER

Nothing happened. Nothing usually does; that’s life. This isn’t a complaint. The soap-opera elements of the show — divorce! infidelity! pregnancy! — aren’t the reasons people watch it. People watch it to see Roger Sterling breeze into the room and announce that the lobby is full of Negroes. Also the clothes.

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Why Do Ads that Diss Women Get Removed while Ads that Diss Men are Funny?

Friday, March 23rd, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I was just reading over at the Daily Mail about a Rebok ad in Germany that was removed due to it’s offensive nature:

A controversial Reebok ad has been removed from display following widespread complaints.

The poster, which ran at a gym affiliated with the brand in Germany, was intended to motivate, with the slogan: ‘Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout.’

Instead, however, it was met with a consumer backlash, and the sportswear firm pulled the ad and acknowledged that it was ‘offensive’.

So, Rebok pulls their ad and apologizes for being offensive to women but men are punched, beaten, abused, have coffee thrown on them and portrayed as stammering morons in the media and that’s okay with consumers or even funny? Jim Macnamara, author of Media and Male Identity: The Making and Remaking of Men did a PHD Dissertation looking at men and the media and found the following:

The study involved collection of all editorial content referring to or portraying men from 650 newspaper editions (450 broadsheets and 200 tabloids), 130 magazines, 125 TV news bulletins, 147 TV current affairs programs, 125 talk show episodes, and 108 TV lifestyle program episodes from 20 of the highest circulation and rating newspapers, magazines and TV programs over a six-month period. Media articles were examined using in-depth quantitative and qualitative content analysis methodology.

The research found that, by volume, 69 per cent of mass media reporting and commentary on men was unfavourable compared with just 12 per cent favourable and 19 per cent neutral or balanced. Men were predominately reported or portrayed in mass media as villains, aggressors, perverts and philanderers, with more than 75 per cent of all mass media representations of men and male identities showing men in one of these four ways. More than 80 per cent of media mentions of men, in total, were negative, compared with 18.4 per cent of mentions which showed men in a positive role.

The overwhelmingly negative reporting and portrayals of men in mass media news, current affairs, talk shows and lifestyle media was mainly in relation to violence and aggression. Violent crime, including murder, assault, armed robberies and attacks such as bashings, accounted for almost 40 per cent of all media reporting of male violence and aggression, followed by sexual abuse (20.5 per cent), general crime (18.6 per cent) and domestic violence (7.3 per cent).

Some people think the negative portrayal is “no big deal.” But it is a big deal. This portrayal of men is dangerous to society as it causes people to stereotype men and see them as dangerous perverts. Men are reacting to this stereotype by going on strike, avoiding interactions with women and children; they no longer work with kids, volunteer as often or get married as readily for fear of a legal or cultural backlash. Many are “going Galt.” These are not positive developments for society. So, yes, negative portrayals of men are a big deal.

Update: You can listen to my interview on the topic of negative portrayals of men in the media with radio host Brian Wilson here.

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Furry Friday: Congressional Cavy Caucus

Friday, March 23rd, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Taking a break to muse about my guinea pigs might seem a far cry from covering Capitol Hill, but not when you consider just who my infamous cavies are.

Back when I worked at The Hill newspaper, an employee in the production department wanted name suggestions for a cute fluffy kitten she’d just brought into her home. With a nod to our coverage, I suggested Sen. Furry Reid (D-Nev.). She opted for a non-smartass name for the fluffy little thing, but there was no way I was going to let that awesome name go to waste. I just had to save it for the perfect pet.

One day I was at a Petco when I saw a little guy in the saddest state: a guinea pig housed in an aquarium-style enclosure, no longer a baby and barely able to turn around in the display case. I got him out of that situation and brought him home. I’d never had a guinea pig before, but this one was surly, whining, and just crying out for the perfect name: Sen. Furry Reid (D-Nev.) he was. Here he is pictured with Ronnie the cat, having a bipartisan meeting over a strawberry in which Furry Reid predictably bogarted the whole thing for himself:

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Yeah, That Russell Brand vs. Peter Hitchens ‘Debate’ Went About as Well as You’d Expect

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 - by Kathy Shaidle

“Thank” isn’t quite the word, so let’s just say I want to “credit” Canadian author and broadcaster Michael Coren for bringing the video below to my attention.

You see, earlier this month, columnist Peter Hitchens, comedian Russell Brand, and, from what I can gather, a cast of thousands took part in “a very strange encounter,” as Hitchens put it later, “presented as a debate but in fact not really one, more a sort of combative colloquy, streamed live by Google and Intelligence Squared (…) from a large hole in the ground near King’s Cross Station in London, underneath the offices of the The Guardian.”

There’s an “old Indian burial ground” joke in their somewhere. Surely the locale alone put the curse on the event before it even began?

As the video shows, there were also far too many participants on the roster, all clamoring to be heard on the topic of drug legalization.

Hitchens managed to get a few words in, expressing his skepticism about the disease model of alcoholism (a skepticism I don’t share, for personal reasons, but understand completely, also for personal reasons — AA having been hijacked over 20 years ago by “drum circle,” “inner child” whiners fixated on faddish phobias and neuroses).

Hitchens added — and here Bill W. and Dr. Bob would have agreed, in fact  — that addiction has a moral component.

Need I tell you what happened next? Hitchens continues:

These are perfectly arguable propositions and I think I made the case for them clearly and rationally. The response I received was not rational. It was a form of rage, mingled with incredulity. They thought everyone like me was dead already. How dare I still be alive? (…)

[Russell Brand] responded to my point about selfish rich kids with a tirade of personal abuse and the standard all-purpose false accusation of racial prejudice that is the universal sign of a person who has no good argument, and knows he has no good argument.

As his voice rose to a whine similar to the sound of an ill-tuned hand-dryer, he railed at me for daring to work for a newspaper he didn’t agree with (and which caught him out in a piece of behaviour which doesn’t exactly redound to his credit). It is amusing to be accused of bigotry by someone who fulfils its characteristics himself.

Behold, and brace yourself against cringing:

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I discovered this video at Michael Coren’s blog. (Yes, he blogs, along with writing books – distinguished biographies of literary greats, along with popular Catholic apologetics — and penning a weekly syndicated column and hosting a nightly national TV show.)

Above the video, Coren added his own tantalizing remarks:

I grew up quite close to the fraud [Russell] Brand. Believe me, his accent, his views, his claim to be a football fan, are all part of a carefully contrived persona. Most awful of all, he’s not funny. Here he is being ripped apart by Peter Hitchens, and responding to an intelligent set of criticisms by accusing Hitchens of being personal – he does this by being personal!

Oooooh! Chippy, chippy, chippy! I had to hear more (and express my confusion about Brand’s apparent popularity).

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The New Human Wave in Science Fiction Literature

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 - by Patrick Richardson

Over at According to Hoyt, Sarah A. Hoyt has a series of posts up about a new movement in Science Fiction (yes this includes fantasy as well) we’re calling “Human Wave SF.”

I say we, because — full disclosure – I’m a member of this movement. It’s a simple movement really.

As fans, reviewers, writers and editors we’re sick of grey goo SF. Books where unlikeable characters with no redeeming value wander about doing nothing for 300 pages in a grey landscape without hope or joy.

We are tired of the “message books,” foisted on us by the pretentious literati gits who currently control almost all of the major publishing houses.

We want to return to the sense of wonder and awe we felt when we picked up our first SF novel as children. We want to walk Zarathustra with Pappy Jack and Little Fuzzy. We want to return to Foundation and Foundation’s Edge. We want to ride the ‘stalk with Friday and fight monsters with Owen Z. Pitt. We want to read about the worst Thursday which ever happened and why the universe is much safer if you bring a towel.

In short, we’re taking SF back.

So with no further ado, here is a list of ways you can tell you’re a Human Waver from Sarah:

YOU MIGHT BE A HUMAN WAVER IF:

  • You like to write (or read) stories in which someone wins.
  • You don’t think just making someone white, black, Asian, Hispanic, any other race or sub-race, alien, human, straight, gay, Western, non-western is enough to make him a villain.
  • You don’t think just making someone white, black, Asian, Hispanic, any other race or sub-race, alien, human, straight, gay, Western, non-western is enough to make him a victim.
  • You don’t think the purpose of a story is to deliver a message.  (The story can have a message, but that should be subordinate to the characters, plot, events, and it shouldn’t leave the reader feeling like he just read a very long pamphlet.)
  • You think a great story can touch the core of humanity and the human experience without being relevant to current political events or polemics.
  • You think something should happen in a story.  Or something should have happened, the aftereffects of which are reverberating through the characters.  (It can work for short stories.)
  • You think the writers’ job is to write and sell stories – not to (pick one) educate, elevate, raise the consciousness of the public, change the world, stop a war, start a war or any other quixotic, grandiose and unlikely aim.  (If you achieve any of those, great, but you won’t if you don’t sell.  And if you “just” sell a lot, the Human Wave movement salutes you.)
  • As a writer, you are humbly aware that readers are sacrificing their beer money for your story.  As a reader, you don’t feel you owe a writer and have to read a book that’s a hard slog or no fun at all.
  • As a writer, reader, critique or reviewer, you do not sneer at success.  Yes, in the time when push worked, it was possible that a “mega block buster” simply made it because of distribution and access.  But barring that, if a book is selling, it is because people like it.  Congratulate the writer and move on.  If your wish is to tell people what they SHOULD like for their own good, then you’re probably NOT a Human Wave writer/critic/reader.

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Bill Maher For Tolerance?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 - by Jehuda

Professor Jacobson, blogging at Legal Insurrection, has caught Bill Maher reaping what Media Matters has sown: “What goes around come around, and Bill Maher is feeling the heat.”

Media Matters, Think Progress, et al. obviously forgot about Alinsky Rule 4 when they went all out to target Rush; but that’s par for the course for the Leftie noise machine. I suppose it’s easy to do so when all you care about is silencing dissent.

That aside, it’s hard to tell how much heat Maher is actually feeling over all this. HBO experienced serious subscriber declines last year. Their situation improved soon after, adding 190,000 subscribers during the last quarter of 2011.

I don’t know what their current numbers look like. We probably won’t know till later this year. The economy has hit the pay TV industry hard, but I have the feeling the number of angry conservatives who used to be HBO subscribers has to amount to several thousands. And that can’t be good for HBO.

Given that HBO has become the non-news equivalent of MSNBC (and have they ever!) I can only see the ideology-fueled subscriber flight continuing. I mean, it’s not like HBO is done with programming that skewers conservatives…or Sarah Palin.

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How Many Negative Images of Men Do You See on TV in 10 Minutes?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I was watching the show House Hunters last night on HGTV and noticed that, even with such a neutral show, in the space of ten minutes I saw two commercials that were abusive to men. In one commercial, a woman was angry at a man at work and dumped a cup of coffee on him. In another, a man was in the grocery store aisle anxiously trying to decide whether his wife (or girlfriend) wanted the sweetener Stevia or real sugar. He was terrified that if he bought her sugar, she would be angry as she was off sugar that week, but he was also afraid that she would get mad if he bought her artificial sugar as she would think he thought she was fat.

Another commercial showed a woman powerfully riding around on a lawn mower. I wish I could just peacefully watch a show without the constant message that says men are wimps, perverts, idiots, or must live in constant fear of women and the simultaneous message that women are powerful. They climb big rocks while their boyfriend looks at them with admiration. Have you seen that Citi commercial?   These commercials may seem cute to some but they are destructive when they treat men as accessories to women rather than as human beings. Why not treat both sexes as worthy of some dignity?

Do you have a least favorite of these “males are idiots, predators, or wimps” commercials? If so, drop it in the comments as I am working on a section for my upcoming book on why men are on strike in the U.S. and could use some tips.

Update: Listen to my discussion with radio host Brian Wilson on negative images of men in the media here.

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The Most Nauseating Movie News of the Day

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 - by Jehuda

Got an air sickness bag handy?  You may need one when you learn the details of who’s behind a film adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 that may be coming soon to a theater near you:

George Orwell’s seminal literary work 1984 could be getting a new movie adaptation.

Imagine Entertainment, the production house run by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, and LBI Entertainment, the banner run by Julie Yorn, are teaming up to develop a new take on the 20th century classic.

Shepard Fairey, the street artist perhaps best known for creating the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, was instrumental in bringing the project to Imagine and LBI and might take some sort of producer role once the deals shake out.

Imagine and Fairey were pursuing Orwell’s estate for the rights to 1984 and discovered that Yorn was simultaneously pursuing the rights. The two companies then decided to pair up.

That’s right: we may soon see in screens big and small a movie that could very well be advertised as “From the Dishonest Propagandist Who Brought You the Obama ‘Hope’ Poster.”

There’s something very fitting about a dishonest propagandist pushing for a whole new 1984 movie, but coming from Obama booster Ron Howard and Shepard Fairey, this project might amount to – if it’s ever produced – a version of 1984 that would make George Orwell spin in his grave.

Who knows?  Maybe Orwell, forward-thinking as he was, would do no more than shrug and say “They’re Obama supporters.  What did you expect?

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The new iPad: The VodkaPundit Review

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 - by Stephen Green

Not an Actual iPad

It took me a few days of heavy use before I finally “got” the new iPad. I was an early adopter of the original model, so much so that my laptop hasn’t once in two years left the studio desk where it runs my teleprompter. When the iPad 2 came out last year, I never even considered upgrading. Sure, it was faster and thinner and weighed less and had better graphics and it could take pictures and make video calls — but it still didn’t really do much of anything my old one didn’t do.

So here’s the new iPad. It’s a little thicker and a littler heavier than the 2, although still thinner and lighter than the 1. It sports even faster graphics, albeit wedded to the same-speed CPU. And both the front- and rear-facing cameras, which I will almost never use, are much nicer.

So why am I so completely jazzed about the new iPad?

It comes down to just one thing: That screen. That gorgeous, lickable, touchable, incomprehensible screen. Every time I see it, I feel like David Bowman in his own personal orbit around Jupiter: “My God, it’s full of stars!”

Apple took the acceptable 1,024 x 768 screen of the previous iPads, and doubled the linear resolution to 2,048 x 1,536. That’s four times as many pixels. It’s 50% more pixels than your 50- or 60-inch HDTV musters. At that density, it’s simply impossible to distinguish individual pixels at a typical reading distance. Perhaps just as important, color saturation is increased almost 50%.

That sounds nice on paper, but does it really mean anything?

That’s what I wondered, too, the first two or three days I used mine. Then, I changed the lock screen wallpaper to a Colorado landscape shot I made a few years ago — and something magical happened.

Before I tell you, I want you to take a look at the picture. That’s up at 11 Mile Reservoir on one of those perfect Colorado spring mornings — when the winds pick up and the clouds suddenly roll in.

It’s a very pretty shot. Now I want you to click on it, because the file I’ve uploaded has been cropped and resized to match the iPad’s screen. You will probably have to click on it twice to view it full size, because unless you’re running a massive 30-inch monitor, this picture is bigger than your desktop computer screen.

This picture — the whole thing, all three million pixels of it, all in one glance — fits perfectly in the palm of your hand on the iPad’s 9.7-inch Retina Display. And unless your monitor has a pricy, LED backlit screen that’s been professionally calibrated, then even the colors look deeper and more true-to-life on the new iPad.

The magic of it is, anything you can put on that screen, whether it’s a photo or a game or a productivity app — can look as sharp and as colorful and as breathtaking as a high-quality, glossy photo print. There’s even an illusion of depth, as icons scurry across the screen, which Hollywood has yet to match with all its million-dollar 3D movie projectors.

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John Carter Headed For $200 Million Loss

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 - by Rick Moran

For those of us who are fans — and always will be fans — of the marvelous Edgar Rice Burroughs series John Carter of Mars, the news that the film version will lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million is depressing. The BBC critic Mark Kermode summed up the movie’s major problem:

The storytelling is incomprehensible, the characterization is ludicrous, the story is two and a quarter hours long and it’s a boring, boring, boring two and a quarter hours long.

The film cost a staggering $250 million to make and another $100 million to promote.  A Disney spokesman confirmed to the Daily Mail the bad news, saying, “In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter, we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200 million.”

What went wrong? One of the most beloved sci-fi series of all time is set to become the biggest financial flop in Hollywood history.

Some critics point to the director and producers as being in over their heads. That’s one of those criticisms that is impossible to prove, but sounds like the critic knows something about making movies. In fact, the director, Andrew Stanton, was no stranger to blockbuster projects, and treated the source material with respect — even reverence.

But I agree with this notion from Rick Liebling,the Creative Culturalist at Y&R New York:

Indiana Jones on Mars? Sequels and theme park attractions? That’s why movies like this (or just about any other “blockbuster”) suck. They are viewed as franchise vehicles or cross-promotional, money-spinning opportunities. I’m not opposed to those things by the way, but when they are the raison d’etre, well all you’re going to get is a steaming turd.

Beyond the Hollywoodisms and other inside-industry explanations, there is the cultural chasm between the world in which John Carter was originally created by Burroughs and the less literate, less imaginative, more realistic world into which the film was released.

Chris Queen did an excellent job of fleshing out the history and background of the John Carter novels for PJ Media prior to the film’s release. In 1911 when the first story appeared in in the pulp magazine The All Story, the Civil War had been over less than 50 years. Almost everyone knew a veteran from that war, or saw them during parades and other patriotic events. The war was still alive for kids and young adults at that time, making the character John Carter live in ways that we can’t even imagine.

While Burroughs’ time was more literate, it was the imagination that forged a connection to the stories and characters and created such a powerful hold on our affections. In an age before film, before TV, before radio, there was only the reader, the written word, and however we imagined the world being created by the author. Burroughs’ prose could be turgid at times — to our ears anyway –  but the compelling way in which he described his world of Barsoom far surpassed any attempts we might make today to translate the author’s imagined adventures to the screen. There are simply no cultural touchstones that connect the world of Burroughs with our world today. A young boy living in pre-World War I America imagined Barsoom far differently that I did in the 1960s. And it is likely that most kids today hadn’t even read the books, waiting instead for the video game.

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A Backstage Look at Saturday Night Live’s Corporate Counterculture

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 - by Ed Driscoll

Otto von Bismarck, the father of the welfare state, is often credited — apparently erroneously — as saying that “Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made.” Often, that’s also the case with books about show business. Very often, the finished product is inversely proportional to what bastards the artists who produced it were.

For as Woody Allen — of all people — once told his biographer about five minutes before he became synonymous with the name Soon Yi:

“Talent is absolutely luck,” he said one day while talking about his early fear of performing. “And no question that the most import thing in the world is courage. People worship talent and it’s so ridiculous. Talent is something you’re born with, like Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] is born tall. That’s why so many talented people are shitheels.”

And there were plenty of artists who inhabited the original edition of Saturday Night Live who fit both halves of that equation, combining varying overlapping degrees of talent and schmuckiness. Which is why the book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad, first published in 1986 and recently made available on the Kindle (and selling for under six bucks as of the time of this article), is sometimes reminiscent of Woody’s and Otto’s warnings. In a way, Hill and Weingrad’s book works on a similar level as movies like The Godfather, Scarface, or Goodfellas. In modern-era gangster movies, as long as the cameras keep the audience within the point of viewer of the mobsters, they seem sleek and cool. It’s only when you consider the damage done to the innocent people just off-screen that you begin to appreciate the level of brutality the mob inflicts.

Knowing what we now know of the culture wars that began in the mid-sixties, there’s a sense of that in A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, though it’s sometimes only tacitly referenced, in this otherwise extremely well-researched book. It’s an excellent read — as the Associated Press noted in a blurb from the book’s original edition, “It reads like a thriller and may be the best book ever written about television” — and based on the quality of writing here and the research and interviews that went into it, that’s not exactly hyperbole.

Don’t Trust Any Boom Operator Over 30

To understand how SNL changed television, it helps to understand the era before its debut. Hill and Weingrad explore that extensively from the point of view of late sixties and early seventies underground comedy. But as far as the TV industry itself, the best source is likely Ben Shapiro’s 2001 book Primetime Propaganda, which has a lengthy section that charts the history of the growing leftward tilt of the television industry in the 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s safe to say that by the mid-1970s, there probably weren’t a whole lot of Republicans left at NBC, and certainly not in the more prominent roles at the network. We know that much of the on-air talent on its various shows, such as Johnny Carson, James Garner, and news readers such as Tom Brokaw and Bryant Gumbel, were liberals to one degree or another. The union crew members who built the sets, manned the cameras and aimed the lighting rigs were likely majority Democrat as well. But they were of the old-school middlebrow left, where a classy and polished product was still the goal. And as Hill and Weingrad demonstrate, there was a hard culture clash between the old school liberals who worked at NBC in the mid-1970s, and the young radicals who made up the production staff and on-air talent at Saturday Night Live.

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Man Flies By Flapping Wings

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin
YouTube Preview Image

Want.

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Marx Madness On FTRradio.com

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 - by Stephen Kruiser

As everyone’s NCAA brackets began imploding during just the first weekend of March Madness, my good friends at FTRradio.com began cooking up a political diversion. Thus, Marx Madness was born.

Four differently themed “regions” of sixteen competitors each have been chosen and seeded for a tournament that will crown an MVP (Most Vile Progressive). Yours truly was part of the seeding committee and I will be on FTR tonight at 10 PM EDT for the big Selection Show. The tournament will open up to the public after that. Votes will be cast on the station’s site and should be almost as much fun as watching Duke lose early.

I did not agree with some of the final seeding choices so I may very well have to spend some time searching for votes in a Minnesota car trunk somewhere.

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A Food for Our Times: The Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

Taco Bell debuted in Downey, California in 1962. That was back when you could actually establish a new business in the people’s republic without being regulatorily hammered to death or run off to Texas.

Frito-Lay launched its Doritos tortilla chips in the 1960s before releasing Nacho Cheese Doritos into the wild, in 1971. The majority of Americans alive today never knew a world that did not include both Taco Bell and Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Put those dates together and one thing becomes clear: The world should have had cheap greasy hard shell tacos with a nacho cheese flavored patina available in every nook and cranny of this great land a very long time ago. Why it took so long is a mystery.

For lunch today I decided to end my lifetime of doing without, by taking on three of these new fusion tacos. They come in two versions, the Doritos Locos Taco, and the Doritos Locos Taco Supreme, the difference being that the Supreme includes tomatoes and sour cream. I like my tomatoes but don’t care for sour cream on a taco, so I went for the purer version. Straight, no sour cream chaser.

Be forewarned: You will get dirty eating the Doritos Locos. There’s no avoiding it. Tacos by themselves tend to be messy. Then add the orange dusting your fingers get when you munch Nacho Cheese Doritos. Try not to think about what the whole concoction is doing to your insides. If you did that, you wouldn’t be at Taco Bell at all.

The Doritos Locos is a very good Taco Bell taco. How could it not be? The nacho cheese dust around the outside just makes sense. They could tone down the nacho cheese flavor a little bit, but the whole idea works. It’s a combination of two of the best worst foods Americans have ever come up with.

If it succeeds, the Doritos Locos is probably a sign of things to come. Doritos debuted as a simple tortilla chip, but has since become a cuisine all its own. Doritos’ web site lists 18 flavors. There have actually been more than 100 varieties of Doritos released on an unsuspecting but grateful world. Taco Bell and Frito-Lay can take their time, going through the flavors and releasing taco versions of them every six months or so or maybe in complementary pairings. Some of the most exotic, like Coconut Curry and Crispy Salmon, never saw action in the US and are unlikely to work at all. But Fiery Jalapeno? Habanero/Guacamole? Cool Ranch?

Oh yes. Bring ‘em on. Bring. Them. On.

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Nike+ FuelBand Real World Review

Monday, March 19th, 2012 - by Tania Gail

Nike+ Fuel Band

This isn’t your grandma’s pedometer.

I’m not a celebrity spokesperson given a FuelBand in order to hype this product.  I am a runner training for the 2012 Philadelphia marathon and this is my real world review of Nike+ FuelBand.

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