Note: The following is my daydream of a New York Times editorial a few weeks hence, after the craziness regarding the hurricane and the Republican convention. It is intended to be over-the-top satire that might make you laugh. The point is, though, that things have become so totally bizarre that I wouldn’t rule out something like this happening. [By the way, doesn't it seem as if Obama is running for national student body president, as if all the voters are on campuses? In a sense, I think that reflects a very real belief of him and his cohort.]
Under any circumstances, the appearance of an alien attack fleet would seem to be a cause for alarm. Of course, we are not referring to good “aliens,” the people sneaking across our borders in the hope of getting citizenship and the ability to vote in elections—not necessarily in that order. No, we are referring to the aliens from the star system of Alpha Orionis whose space ships are even now circling our planet.
As everyone knows by now, the aliens have broadcast a threat that unless their demands are met within 24 hours they will start destroying one American state a day, killing all forms of life within its borders. There are those who have wrongly concluded, however, that the president should immediately cease his fundraising activities and that the schedule of the Democratic Convention be altered.
We view this as short sighted, mainly pushed by the far-right faction that has taken over the Republican Party. There is a big difference between an alien attack that bodes ill for the survival of all Americans and a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast. No one would suggest that the president prefers to be partying while Americans were dying horribly. It’s just that doing so is his personal duty, made perhaps less onerous by the fact that some of the specific states that might be wiped out, say Arizona or Utah for example.
I have to admit that Big Hollywood’s John Nolte is a friend of mine. Believe me, if I didn’t have to admit it, you couldn’t drag it out of me with hot pincers. But really, friendship aside, how great is this guy? His takedowns of the mainstream media throughout this political season have been brilliant, devastating — Breitbartian is the only word I can think of to describe them. If you’re not following him on Twitter (@NolteNC), start following him. He exposes and mocks the dishonesty and corruption of our supposed “information brokers” in real time, crushing the MSM with such immediacy it’s like watching Rosemary’s Baby killed in its cradle. That’s a good thing.
Nolte left his beloved North Carolina many years ago to come out to L.A. and try his hand at filmmaking. He actually made a film that won high praise at some festivals, but his Maker (Mattel, as it happens) soon guided John where He wanted him to go. Nolte began commenting on, then blogging for, one of the first conservative film websites, and finally became its editor. From there, he was hired by Andrew Breitbart to start Big Hollywood, the first of the Bigs. He now not only continues to edit BH, he also contributes terrific material to all the other Big sites as well.
I cannot tell you the number of times Breitbart called me to sing Nolte’s praises to the skies. Hiring Nolte, Andrew said repeatedly and lavishly, was one of the best decisions he ever made.
In certain lighting and following a reasonably stiff drink, strangers start to inform me that I look like that actor who had erotic relations with an apple pie. This has resulted in a few evenings of fun for me over the years, as when we notice people whispering “is that the guy?” and pointing in dark restaurants, my wife and I pretend to be having an emotional conversation about a wayward friend named “Stifler”.
After last night’s performance, this is not a person I ever wish to be associated with, even mistakenly. He revealed himself to be a classic jerk, a careless, dehumanizing, misogynist bigot pushing the worst sort of Leftist demonization. Twitchy has compiled the filth to read; I’d rather not repost it here. But you should see it, if only for a glimpse at what a Hollywood Leftist feels he can safely get away with if the target is conservatives or Christians.
My guess is even Hollywood will respond negatively to this — but only for the misogyny. Perhaps Biggs will be needing a new agent by this evening. I’ll be at home, dyeing my hair.
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Recently I was asked by BBC radio to discuss (in three minutes flat) the question of whether morbidly obese children were the victims of abuse by their parents. By coincidence, the Lancet of that week published an editorial on the psychological abuse of children and what doctors could or should do about it.
Nothing illustrates better than child abuse the tendency of ill-defined but nevertheless meaningful concepts to spread beyond their original signification to include more and more phenomena. The evolutionist Richard Dawkins has even suggested that to bring up children in any particular religious faith is a form of child abuse, since the child’s subsequent freedom to choose his beliefs according to the evidence is thereby impaired: in which case the history of all previously existing societies is not that of class struggles, as the Communist Manifesto has it, but of child abuse.
The editorial in the Lancet referred to a report on the psychological maltreatment of children by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the general drift of which was that such maltreatment is protean in nature and has bad effects upon children later in life, from mental illness and criminality to inability to form close relationships and low self-esteem. Maltreatment is dimensional rather than categorical: at what point does “detachment and uninvolvement” give way to “undermining psychological autonomy”?
Likewise “restricting social interactions in the community” can be a form of maltreatment, but so can failure to do so, in so far as association with undesirables might “encourage antisocial or developmentally inappropriate behavior.” Parenthood is thus a constant navigation between various Scyllas and Charybdises, and is rarely entirely successful. Surveys show that about one in sixteen people in Britain and America consider themselves to have been the subject of psychological abuse in childhood. I count myself as among the abused.
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“Jersey Shore” is no more.
MTV is ending the hugely successful reality show after six seasons, the network announced on Thursday.
The series’ final edition recently wrapped shooting, and will premiere on October 4.
MTV is planning a retrospective special called “Gym, Tan, Look Back,” which will air prior to the 2012 Video Music Awards on September 6.
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If you happened to read the first installment of this series when my “classic rock credentials” were established and chronicled, it was noted that in 1969 I received an album titled Led Zeppelin as a Christmas gift from my 9th grade boyfriend.
The boyfriend is long gone but his gift began what has been a life-long love affair with Led Zeppelin and its “Rock God” lead singer Robert Plant.
Now, 43 years later, I am a married 57-year-old church-going Republican woman and embarrassed to admit that I still crave the sounds of Led Zeppelin — and further embarrassed to admit that nothing satisfies that craving more than listening to the raw, primal grit of Led Zeppelin’s first self-titled album now known as “Led 1.”
So, PJ Lifestyle readers, when was the last time you actually sat down and listened to this groundbreaking 1969 debut album in its entirety? And how long was your hair at the time?
Listening from a fresh 2012 perspective it becomes apparent that every song on “Led 1” helped develop and define the phrase “classic rock.” Especially noteworthy is the number of “top tier” classics spawned from this one album. Songs like Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, and Dazed and Confused, to name a few.
There’s a new documentary out of Italy that’s making the rounds in film circles, and followers of fashion — by which I mean everyone, because don’t we all need to get dressed in the morning? — should take note. It’s called “Schuberth: l’Atelier della Dolce Vita,” and it’s a charming profile of Emilio Federico Schuberth, a designer of alta moda (high fashion) in Rome during the heyday of Cinecitta.
Active from the 1940s through the 1960s, Schuberth was the “tailor to the stars.” The fashion faithful made pilgrimages to his atelier on the Via Condotti; his creations were worn by Rita Hayworth, Brigitte Bardot, Princess Soraya, Sophia Loren, and Gina Lollobrigida. In a 1954 photograph, we see Lollobrigida chatting with Marilyn Monroe; with its sensuous silhouette and artful draping, the Italian actress’s pink Schuberth dress is infinitely superior to the frankly unimaginative white conical-bra-with-skirt number worn by our brainy, busty blonde.
Now, remember that scene in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita where ellegantly attired models navigate a catwalk, while there at the back, a shy young woman stands with her clipboard, sweetly melting with excitement to be part — even peripherally — of such a stylish scene? That’s a Schuberth fashion show. And today, so many years on, that celluloid parade of poetry in motion still has the power to move viewers to want to pursue a career in fashion.
Even those who were destined to follow fashion as a career, the ones born into garment-business families — like Carla Fendi and Lavinia Biagiotti, who both provide commentary in the film — take on the air of starstruck teens at an early Beatles concert when speaking of Schuberth. At the height of his fame, Schuberth was called the “Italian Dior.” But such is his ongoing relevance that today he invites comparison to designers who rose to fame after him: Gianni Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier.
Today, Schuberth the fashion icon is largely forgotten. Googling the name yields … a German manufacturer of motorcycle helmets and protective headgear for Formula One racers and industrial workers. Everyone’s familiar with Valentino, the designer beloved by movie stars who got his start in fashion at Schuberth’s atelier, as the style sorceror’s apprentice. But Valentino’s first boss was a prescient pioneer, a marketing genius with an ambition that dwarfed his already-small petite stature.
Well before Halston would make his memorable appearance on TV’s “The Love Boat” in 1981, surrounded, rock-star-style, by model-groupies wearing his designs, Schuberth knew how to make the scene, a pack of live, Schuberth-clad mannequins always in tow. He was a pioneering publicity hound, delighted to appear in countless promotional newsreels and even going so far as to milk his own daughter’s nuptials for maximum attention — engraved on the wedding invitation was the fashion credit “gown by Schuberth,” long before Joan Rivers and an army of red-carpet commentators would focus media attention on award-show attire.
Ann Romney is a valuable asset for the Romney campaign. Not only is she an inspirational wife and mother and apparently a talented speaker, but she’s also a woman who effortlessly draws errors from the Democrats. Last night, Juan Williams felt lukewarm about Ann’s performance and called her a “corporate wife” because her husband has always taken care of her.
To the extent he meant that someone wealthy enough to not have to worry about the price of gas isn’t the most believable person on the plight of the middle class, Williams isn’t way out of line. But after decades of being groomed by feminists not to dismiss women’s opinions, his comment smacks of dismissing the experiences of an entire group of women based on career choice. She hasn’t had to take care of herself financially so her opinion isn’t valuable.
One might think that feminists would come to Ann Romney’s defense, but they beat Williams to the attack months ago. Remember the Ann Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life” comment from Hilary Rosen back in April? Both comments suggest that unless a woman works for money and accolades outside the home, then she has nothing of value to say.
Not only is the notion insulting, it’s also wrong.
Via the band’s Facebook page:
The Decemberists will be appearing as special guests, in yellowface, on an upcoming episode of The Simpsons! Program your TiVo! Fire up the DVR! Rotate your Roku! Keelhaul your Apple TV! You heard that right — The Decemberists on The Simpsons! It’s called “The Day The Earth Stood Cool” and it’ll be unleashed December 2nd, at 8 pm ET, on Fox.
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Every once and a while, a discovery is made that throws previous theories into a cocked hat and sends scientists scurrying back to the blackboard to try and explain the new information and tell us what it means.
NASA’s Kepler Telescope has made such a discovery and our theories of how planets form will never be the same.
Coming less than a year after the announcement of the first circumbinary planet, Kepler-16b, NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered multiple transiting planets orbiting two suns for the first time. This system, known as a circumbinary planetary system, is 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
This discovery proves that more than one planet can form and persist in the stressful realm of a binary star and demonstrates the diversity of planetary systems in our galaxy.
Astronomers detected two planets in the Kepler-47 system, a pair of orbiting stars that eclipse each other every 7.5 days from our vantage point on Earth. One star is similar to the sun in size, but only 84 percent as bright. The second star is diminutive, measuring only one-third the size of the sun and less than 1 percent as bright.
“In contrast to a single planet orbiting a single star, the planet in a circumbinary system must transit a ‘moving target.’ As a consequence, time intervals between the transits and their durations can vary substantially, sometimes short, other times long,” said Jerome Orosz, associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University and lead author of the paper. “The intervals were the telltale sign these planets are in circumbinary orbits.”
The inner planet, Kepler-47b, orbits the pair of stars in less than 50 days. While it cannot be directly viewed, it is thought to be a sweltering world, where the destruction of methane in its super-heated atmosphere might lead to a thick haze that could blanket the planet. At three times the radius of Earth, Kepler-47b is the smallest known transiting circumbinary planet.
The outer planet, Kepler-47c, orbits its host pair every 303 days, placing it in the so-called “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water might exist on the surface of a planet. While not a world hospitable for life, Kepler-47c is thought to be a gaseous giant slightly larger than Neptune, where an atmosphere of thick bright water-vapor clouds might exist.
The reason that this discovery is causing such excitement in the planetary science community is that Kepler 47-B and 47-C defy current theories that tell us how planets form. The standard model for stars like our sun is that a ring of gas and dust called an accretion disk orbits the young star and inside that ring, grains of dust are attracted to each other, gradually forming larger and larger bodies until planet size balls emerge.
But a circumbinary system was thought to be too unstable an environment for the dust to eventually form into planets. The likelihood that one of the stars would act like a bowling ball, careening through the accretion disk scattering any nascent planetary bodies thus not allowing the planets to coalesce makes the Kepler discovery something of a mystery:
“The presence of a full-fledged circumbinary planetary system orbiting Kepler-47 is an amazing discovery,” said Greg Laughlin, professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the University of California in Santa Cruz. “These planets are very difficult to form using the currently accepted paradigm, and I believe that theorists, myself included, will be going back to the drawing board to try to improve our understanding of how planets are assembled in dusty circumbinary disks.”
The Kepler Telescope has already revolutionized our notions of extra-solar planets. Kepler was “specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.” It’s a remarkable scientific instrument:
The Kepler instrument is a specially designed 0.95-meter diameter telescope called a photometer or light meter. It has a very large field of view for an astronomical telescope — 105 square degrees, which is comparable to the area of your hand held at arm’s length. It needs that large a field in order to observe the necessary large number of stars. It stares at the same star field for the entire mission and continuously and simultaneously monitors the brightnesses of more than 100,000 stars for the life of the mission—3.5 or more years.
The telescope is able to determine the size and orbit of a planet by observing its transit across the face of the star, measuring the infinitesimally small decrease in brightness — likened to being able to measure the brightness of a firefly flying in front of a spotlight from 2,000 miles away.
So far, Kepler has confirmed the existence of 116 new planets in 67 systems with thousands of candidate bodies still being looked at. Several planets have been confirmed to orbit in the habitable zone — where water can exist as liquid. Kepler-22b is a little more than twice the size of earth and represents the best candidate body found so far where life could exist.
The Kepler Telescope is expected to be in operation through 2015.
Monsignor and Father Jim, thank you for your inspiring words.
From the Marines, Lt. Commander Abdo, and from the Navy, Corpsman Ruddich, Commander Bock, Senior Chief Matthews, Chief Hall, Chief Petty Officer-Select Jennifer Duarte, Chief Baney, Chief Select Dilloway, Chief Select Blake, Petty Officer Englehart and all other uniformed personnel, you honor Keith and us with your presence. We also thank Commander Gerald Olin and Master Chief Michele Curtain of the U.S.S. Independence for their kindness and assistance.
Steve, we thank you for that motorcycle escort last week. We also thank the people of Delphos for their human wall of support.
Likshio, welcome to Ohio and thank you for making the long trip from Tijuana.
I am the brother of Keith’s mother Susanne and Keith’s Godfather. I’m here to tell you a few stories that hopefully illustrate the true character of Chief Petty Officer John Keith Bemis.
His full name was John Keith Bemis, but since we already had so many Johns in the family – my mother’s father, her brother, my father and my brother, we all called the first son of Sue and Tony Bemis “Keith.”
As you may remember, Arnold Schwarzenegger was Keith’s favorite action movie star. When he moved from making action films to California Governor, Arnold’s favorite habit was to describe everything – a movie he did, a campaign he won or a weightlifting record he set – as “FANTASTICK.”
I’m going to borrow Arnold’s favorite word and apply it to Keith – he really was fantastic. He was simply a good, good kid: A loyal son, a loving brother, a dedicated sailor and my closest nephew.
The first thing Commander Olin told me after expressing his condolences was that he wanted to emphasize what a tremendous asset Keith was to the US Navy. What stood out from Commander Olin’s tribute to Keith was that he was always willing to help out and that’s how I remember him. He was always there for everyone.
I knew Keith from the moment he was born, but I really got to know him in the late 1990s when he would come to stay the summer in Santa Monica to train for football season. Every day we’d go over to the Santa Monica College Track to either run or lift weight or sometimes both. There were also some USC players training there and they showed Keith a few pointers including something called a “Navy Seal push-up,” an 8-part exercise that combined push-ups, sit-ups, squat thrusts and chin-ups. When Keith first started training, he could only do about 15 or 20. By the end of the summer, he could do over 100.
On his last Sunday of training, we were over at the field and this handicapped kid named David was trying to kick extra points. Keith played on Special Teams at St. John’s and went over to teach him how to kick properly. David would miss the ball and say: “sorry Kevin.” We’d say his name is Keith and then David would miss the ball again and say: “sorry Kyle.” We’d remind David that the name was Keith. Poor David must have missed 20 kicks and called Keith 20 different names that began with K, including girls’ names like Kim, Kathleen and Karen. Finally, Keith got David to kick an extra point that was good and we all went home laughing about the missed names. And of course, that fall, Delphos St. John’s supplied a happy ending by winning the State Championship.
From my friend Emily Esfahani Smith over at Acculturated, a new group blog that’s providing engaging cultural commentary week after week with one interesting piece after another, “Is the Hook-Up Culture “Empowering”?:
In 2010, Hanna Rosin wrote a pretty devastating feature article in The Atlantic titled The End of Men, which argued that women are outpacing and outperforming men in the postindustrial economy. That article has since been transformed into a book by Rosin that will be coming out next month.
Her most recent article in The Atlantic, Boys on the Side, is adapted from this forthcoming book. In the piece, she takes up what are, to her, the merits of the hook-up culture. That the hook-up culture is thriving on college campuses–thanks, in large part, to the women who drive it–is another sign that women are replacing men as the alphas of society. So Rosin’s argument goes.
But this analysis [Caitlin Flanagan's in Girl Land] downplays the unbelievable gains women have lately made, and, more important, it forgets how much those gains depend on sexual liberation. Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s, the same age as the women at the business-school party—are for the first time in history more successful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.
(AP) Researchers have identified a mysterious new disease that has left scores of people in Asia and some in the United States with AIDS-like symptoms even though they are not infected with HIV.
The patients’ immune systems become damaged, leaving them unable to fend off germs as healthy people do. What triggers this isn’t known, but the disease does not seem to be contagious.
This is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn’t spread the way AIDS does through a virus, said Dr. Sarah Browne, a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
She helped lead the study with researchers in Thailand and Taiwan, where most of the cases have been found since 2004. Their report is in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
“This is absolutely fascinating. I’ve seen probably at least three patients in the last 10 years or so” who might have had this, said Dr. Dennis Maki, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
It’s still possible that an infection of some sort could trigger the disease, even though the disease itself doesn’t seem to spread person-to-person, he said.
The disease develops around age 50 on average, but does not run in families, which makes it unlikely that a single gene is responsible, Browne said.
Image courtesy shutterstock / Sebastian Kaulitzki
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When Stephen Hunter’s fictional hero Bob Lee Swagger came to bookstores with the 1993 novel Point of Impact, most of the critics attributed the character’s success to Hunter’s vivid writing style, especially as applied to the lore of the gun. As much or more than any other writer alive, Hunter understands that firearms and the men who wield them, what he calls the American Gunman — though not in the pejorative sense — constituted a major cultural theme in the history of the United States. He is Shane riding into a frontier town, or John Dillinger wreathed in Thompson submachine gun smoke, or Audie Murphy holding a battalion of Nazi infantry at bay. The American Gunman was a figure of myth at par with Achilles and his nodding plumes and Hunter hit the mother lode in depicting him.
But what set apart Bob Lee Swagger in 1993 was something else. He was more than just another portrayal of that myth. In Bob Lee Swagger, who we first find holed up in a trailer in Arkansas with nothing but his wits, rifle and vague unease, Hunter had created the perfect symbol of a generation betrayed. Swagger in his beginnings was really all those Vietnam vets whose superlative skill, sacrifice and prowess had been wasted by the self-appointed Best and the Brightest, sent to their doom for reasons that were too clever by half and which even the puppeteers had themselves forgotten.
So when Bob Lee Swagger is set up as a patsy for the assassination of a left-wing, Third World clergyman by Ivy League covert operatives pursuing their own doubtful agenda in Point of Impact, the reader feels the betrayal anew. When Swagger takes apart his opponents in the finale ,you can imagine a certain demographic of readers were not only reading a story, but cheering as they took vicarious revenge for the outrage perpetrated upon their idealism and youth.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Swagger’s success came shortly after the popularity of the Rambo movies. It was a time when the public was beginning to realize that mainstream media Vietnam and Cold War narratives were not exactly the real story. And Swagger was the beneficiary of that growing awareness.
“Middle-class society is being strained to the breaking point not, as Marx predicted, by ever-increasing misery but by ever-increasing affluence.” — Eric Hoffer
“Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.” — Victor Hugo
It goes without saying that it’s better to be rich than poor. However, that doesn’t mean that affluence doesn’t have its own perils. People instinctively recognize this on a personal level. That’s why fabulously wealthy villains are a staple of TV and movies. It’s why we mock spoiled, rich celebrities like Meghan McCain, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan. It’s why many Americans, fairly or in most cases unfairly, tend to assume that the rich don’t understand what life is like for ordinary Americans. Of course, this bring to mind the following question: Why is it that so many Americans can recognize this when they see it in front of them with individuals, but fail to see the same things happening on a national level?
1) We’re forgetting how we got rich in the first place.
America is like a family that inherited a profitable business from a rich relative. Unfortunately, only some of the family members understand how the business works, while most of the rest just see a big cash machine that’s going to keep printing out money forever. This is not how the world works with companies or with nations.
Most Americans have no clue how exceptional the nation we live in is compared to the rest of the world. Depending on which source you use, America possesses somewhere between the 6th and 8th highest per capita income of any nation in the world. The nations ahead of us are all tiny little countries that range from under 100,000 people to a population of roughly 5.5 million. (Admittedly Canada, which benefits from trade with us and having us defend them militarily, has almost caught up). These tiny countries get by on tourism, natural resources, or small, highly educated populaces, and none of them could even come close to matching the success in a nation like ours which has almost 312 million people.
This country has been such an economic success for a number of reasons, including geographic isolation from Europe during its world wars, mineral resources, a Puritan work ethic, and lack of corruption — along with small government, low taxes, minimal regulations, a comparably small social safety net, and a pro-business atmosphere. Many of the factors enabling this country to grow so successful are eroding away, year after year, and that is sapping the vitality of our economy. Our “cash machine” slows down because so many Americans have no idea how to maintain it.
It’s the end of the summer, I’m about to leave on vacation, I’m under several deadlines at once, so I think I’ll spend these last few blogging days with briefer posts — though I will try to address the really important issues of the day.
For instance, the ten macho films every man must see. This is a Popular Mechanics list I found through the never-ending miracle of Instapundit. And not a bad list either. It actually does include several films that you must see if you’re a man and which, if you haven’t seen them, you’re probably not. Not that there’s anything wrong with not being a man, you understand. Unless, of course, you are one. Then you should be. But if you’re not, feel free to wear perfume and walk around in high heels. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. As long as you’re not a man. If you are, don’t.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the Pop Mech list isn’t bad. But it includes a couple that I really have to question. Possibly with a truncheon. I mean, The Wrath of Khan? Get a grip. Stone Cold? I don’t know, bro. And while I’ll accept Machete as macho despite its absurd politics, if you don’t want to watch it because of that, you definitely get a man pass.
To replace those three?
Not long ago, I took my dog Shiba for an afternoon workout at our town beach on the Ottawa River, a lovely crescent of yellow sand and shade trees patronized by visitors from as far away as Montreal. A pure Siberian husky packing the energy of the Big Bang in her muscles, Shiba looks forward to these outings when she can entertain herself swimming furiously toward the horizon after lobbed twigs and tennis balls. With her striking white pelt, blue eyes, children-loving temperament and dolphin-like swimming motion, she is generally the center of attention and has made many admiring friends among the company of beach-goers.
Not everyone, however, is appreciative of Shiba’s playful and rambunctious presence. As I was about to launch another tennis ball for her to retrieve, I was approached by two attractive, deeply tanned young women who objected to Shiba’s performance, or, rather, to Shiba herself. They demanded that we cease and desist. When I inquired why I should comply, I was informed that dogs were unclean creatures and that Shiba prevented them from bathing since the water would be polluted by her thrashing about.
Needless to say, I was initially taken aback. After all, Shiba was a community favorite who posed no threat to anyone. Moreover, the women were not local residents but visitors from the big city. Additionally, my municipal taxes paid for the upkeep of the beach, which they enjoyed at no cost to themselves. The plain fact was that they had no stake in the matter and were, to put it somewhat wryly, completely out of their depth.
But, as my readers have surmised, they were of the Islamic persuasion. True, they were not garbed in traditional dress and seemed for all intents and purposes to be “modern” young women; yet they had no compunction against affirming their traditional and, indeed, alien values, which they attempted to impose as of right. I did my best to remain polite, but could not resist suggesting that they find some other beach to visit and that Shiba, whose license I had also paid for and who was more of a resident than they were, was far more entitled to the privilege of the river than interlopers from elsewhere.
Last week my friend Mark Tapson published a thoughtful contribution over at Emily Esfahani Smith’s Acculturated Symposium on Language: “How Technology Democratizes and Degrades Writing. Here’s his conclusion:
Once we lose the ability and desire to convey an emotion in our own words, not with a one-size-fits-all lol or plug-in emoticon, then we no longer express ourselves truly and clearly and beautifully. My middle school students didn’t see the value in the demanding mental exercise of meditation, organization, and precision of language that good writing requires. In the long run, their apathy and fascination with the rapid-fire ephemera of the digital realm will surely erode their ability to express themselves fully as individuals, even to think deeply.
The late John Updike claimed to write his nonfiction on a typewriter but his fiction with a pencil because it provided the intimacy necessary to bring his characters to life. Surely this must seem inexplicable and comically quaint to today’s youth. But they’d be better off unplugging occasionally and connecting with those “slow conventions of narrative” of the pre-digital era.
Read the whole thing for more of Mark’s insights on his time teaching a less literate generation and the power of technology to transform how we use language.
Updike typing nonfiction vs writing fiction in longhand reminds me of a tip I passed on to one of PJ Lifestyle’s contributors when he lamented his writer’s block to me a few months ago: take a step backwards, buy a journal, and pick up a pen again.
I’ve kept a hand-written journal off-and-on for the last 18 years — since I was in fifth grade. After experimenting with a variety of shapes and sizes I’ve settled on the extra large Moleskine plain notebook, a gift from my wife this year. Some of the neat benefits of the Moleskine: very sturdy binding, elastic snap that wraps around to keep it sealed shut, large pocket for loose papers in the back, and the classy black cover.
For journaling I’ve come to appreciate the larger size journals — the extra space gives more room for doing the kinds of writing tasks where the non-virtual page still triumphs. You have plenty of space for sketching and diagramming or pasting in notes.
And it’s that kind of experimenting that we need sometimes to push ourselves to think outside of the box and come up with new ideas that we’re excited to write out and share with the world.
More on writing at PJ Lifestyle:
Kathy Shaidle: Talent Isn’t Everything: 5 Secrets to Freelance Success
Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the Jordan Belfort memoir THE WOLF OF WALL STREET began shooting this month in New York, which opened the doors for a hefty number of shots to be taken of the film’s star, Leonardo DiCaprio, rocking his dapper look as the titular “wolf” of the film. A number of script reviews for the film have surfaced of late, highlighting the many “Scorsese-friendly” sequences, including quick cut flashbacks and the mentor-student relationships that oftentimes find their way into his work. The script by Terrance Winter (Boardwalk of Empires) seems to be a snug fit for the famed auteur, featuring lines like, “Be aggressive. Be ferocious. Be telephone f***ing terrorists.”
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Last summer, a former schoolteacher from Georgia named Besse Cooper became the world’s oldest living human. She was 114 years old—the same age at which nearly everyone earns the distinction, and an age that only a few titleholders ever surpass. Exploring that apparent age barrier in a Slate piece at the time, I wrote that “if historical trends hold, (Cooper) will likely be dead within a year.”
But historical trends did not hold. In defiance of the odds, Cooper, who was born in 1896, was alive and smiling on Sunday to celebrate her 116th birthday. She became just the eighth person in human history to verifiably reach that age.
More at PJ Lifestyle on living longer:
A friend, Todd Sharp, passes along this snapshot he took as he passed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory exit today: