The rumor is that Harvard Theological Review is now declining to publish Karen King’s paper available here as a draft pdf on the Coptic fragment she calls the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” It’s a rumor that appears to be true, as New Testament scholar Craig Evans writes:
Is the Coptic papyrus, in which Jesus speaks of his “wife,” a fake? Probably. We are far from a “consensus,” but one scholar after another and one Coptologist after another has weighed in pointing out serious problems with the paleography, the syntax, and the very troubling fact that almost all of the text has been extracted from the Gospel of Thomas principally from logia 30, 101, and 114. I suspect the papyrus itself is probably quite old, perhaps fourth or fifth century, but the oddly written or painted letters on the recto side are probably modern and probably reflect recent interest in Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The decision of the editors of Harvard Theological Review not to publish Karen King’s paper is very wise. Perhaps we will eventually learn more about who actually produced this text.
The ultimate source is apparently the great Harvard scholar Helmut Koester.
The academic world is quickly becoming skeptical about the ancient provenance of this fragment. Perhaps more interesting and of more enduring significance than the fragment itself is the role the internet has played in the debate. We have had a draft of King’s paper, photos of the fragment itself, and serious and measured responses from leading scholars all made available to the public, along with the typical professional hysteria in the media and amateur hysteria in the blogosphere.
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I’m going to make you read the text before we get to the video for this one, because it took me a long time to understand why I love this record so much — and maybe I can bring you up to speed in just a couple minutes.
Cole Porter wrote one of the great American songs with “Night And Day,” from Gay Divorce. I’ve never seen the show, but I bet I’ve heard the song more than a thousand times, and by too many artists to count. But none compares to this concert version by Frank Sinatra.
It might seem strange with his extensive touring history, but in 1962 Sinatra had yet to put on a show in Paris, which he decided to make a part of a new European tour. You usually think of Sinatra as the guy easy in front of a massive swing band, but he did something different that year. He put together a band, Sextet, which is exactly what it sounds like — a small jazz combo. None of the six members had ever been part of a band together before, but most of them had played with Frank. That common bond turned them into a real band, instantly. I don’t know how large the concert hall was, but the music and the vocals are as intimate as a candlelit dinner for two.
Sinatra only recorded two other concert albums. Sinatra at the Sands is a still-beloved collaboration with bandleader Count Basie and arranger-conductor Quincy Jones. Can you imagine that much firepower on one stage? It remains one of the great concert albums of all time, even though it consists of selections recorded over a month of concerts, rather than a record of a single show. It was released in 1966 as the second part of Sinatra’s 50th birthday package, which began the previous year with September Of My Years.
The Main Event was Frank’s final concert album, and the less said about it, the better. It sold like crazy, but I find it absolutely unlistenable. Sinatra hits half of the songs with brutal bombast, as if he were trying to fill the whole of Madison Square Garden without the aid of amplifiers. And without any of the tenderness typical to his phrasing. On the other songs he just sounds tired. Good lord, but it’s crap. Anyway.
Although Sinatra & Sextet: Live in Paris was recorded as a single set in ’62, it didn’t get a commercial release for more than 30 years. Fans had to wait until 1994 to hear some of the best concert material he ever recorded. It’s light, it’s breezy, it’s jazzy. It’s fun. Sinatra is clearly playing up his jazz chops, bending more notes than Salvador Dali did clocks.
The concert also shows Sinatra at the peak of his powers: As his voice was settling into an easy baritone, but before it lost its subtleties to whiskey and cigarettes. Frank’s phrasing was never better than it was during this era, either. “This era” running from the mid ’50s through the mid ’60s, from In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning on through to September Of My Years.
Now when I said this version of “Night And Day” was a Sinatra record, that’s not quite right. Really, this is a jazz duet between Sinatra and his longtime guitar player, Al Viola. Did I say “guitar player?” No, that phrase won’t do. Viola here is Frank’s guitar accompanist. These two play off each other exquisitely, resulting in something that makes me stop and listen — really listen — every single time it comes on. Enjoy, then we’ll get to this week’s cocktail.
Every. Single. Time.
For this, we need something Frank himself drank and helped to make famous. It’s a variation on last week’s cocktail, and it’s the Dry Manhattan.
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
lemon peel garnish
Fill your cocktail shaker halfway with ice, pour in your bourbon and vermouth, then hit it with the bitters. Stir, very gently, until well chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass, then garnish. Feel free to have some fun with the garnish, too. I’ve seen bartenders do some crazy stuff with a lemon peel.
Here’s the one I just made.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take another listen to Frank & Al.
It was 1977, and my senior year at Ohio State when my friend Mike invited me to see Queen perform on campus.
Mike and I were both cadets in the Ohio State Army ROTC program. Our friendship developed because we took the ROTC program slightly less seriously than some of our fellow cadets who we had identified as future Army “lifers.” (Mike and I were much “cooler” because as Reserve officers we would have a “real life” outside of the Army.)
As we were walking over to the concert, Mike casually mentioned that he had earned ten dollars that afternoon giving blood so he could afford our concert tickets.
Suddenly I remembered seeing signs posted all around campus advertising ten dollars for blood, but this was the first I had heard of anyone actually doing it.
My immediate thought was blood money to take me to a Queen concert?
Personally, I did not think I was worthy of Mike’s blood, but seeing Queen certainly was!
Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury now considered a rock legend, indeed gave a legendary performance, bouncing all around the stage wearing the same tight white shiny jumpsuit you see in the famous music video above.
Among the songs performed that night was Bohemian Rhapsody from Queen’s 1975 album, A Night at the Opera.
Besides Freddy’s costume, I also remember staring at the big gong on stage and looking forward to it being used for Bohemian Rhapsody’s final note.
Thirty five years later, Queen remains ensconced in my “Personal Pantheon of Classic Rock Greatness.” Their music, much of it sung in a harmonic style known A cappella, is considered by many to be some of the most masterful rock music ever recorded.
Tragically, Freddy Mercury was one of the first celebrities to die of AIDS, in 1991 and his death brought early attention to the disease.
Now what shall we drink to celebrate Queen’s royal greatness?
Ah, let me rephrase that question — What do I have in my refrigerator that I can write about and photograph this second? (I literally get up, look in the refrigerator and see a bottle of La Crema Chardonnay purchased during my last expedition to COSTCO for $20.00. Since my father-in-law’s 90th birthday bash is coming up, I have begun buying some pricier wines for that glorious occasion.)
This fine label is for you if you enjoy a more “upscale” chardonnay infused with oak and citrus. However, after drinking La Crema it is difficult to go back to drinking less expensive chardonnay.
So let’s raise a glass to Freddy, Queen and my ROTC friend Mike, who, the last time I saw him, in late 1977, had actually decided to become a “lifer” and is probably a 3-star general by now.
Thanks Mike for serving our country and for earning blood money so 35 years later I could write this silly column and dedicate it to you.
“There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.” — Thomas Sowell
1) They may believe that learning about something is the same as doing it.
When you’ve gone to school for years, read hundreds of books, and talked to “experts” about a subject, there’s a tendency to believe that you can learn everything you possibly need to know about something without ever doing it. Unfortunately, there are some things in life you can just never understand without personally experiencing them, as this quote from Good Will Hunting explains.
Sean: So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you…. I don’t see an intelligent, confident man…. I see a cocky, scared sh*tless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my f*cking life apart. You’re an orphan right?… You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally… I don’t give a sh*t about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some f*ckin’ book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.
Additionally, as Thomas Sowell has noted, “experience trumps brilliance.” If you had a restaurant, whom would you rather have running it for the next year? A seasoned veteran of a restaurant business with a decade of experience and an average IQ or Nikola Tesla, one of the most brilliant scientists who ever lived? Keep in mind that Tesla used to falsely claim that he had created a death ray, never married because he thought great inventors should remain celibate, and spent the last decade of his life obsessing over pigeons. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame returned to South Korea earlier this week, but his impact is still being felt on American TV and pop culture. A funny office bit aired on “Chelsea Lately” and “Today” ran a segment on September 27 about Psy’s triumphant return to his homeland. On Friday, Psy tweeted that “Gangnam Style” has topped 300M views on YouTube. It’s all great news for the unlikely rapper who continues to take America and the world by storm.
Psy returned to Korea as a conquering hero. Back on his home turf, he immediately hit the ground running and performed “Gangnam Style” to a packed college campus. In a press conference, Psy said that America was very good to him. “Even if they didn’t know the lyrics, they just danced,” he explained on Thursday. Matt Lauer stated in a “Today” segment, “We’re looking forward to having Psy back on the Plaza at his earliest convenience.”
Gangnam is the most coveted address in Korea, but less than two generations ago it was little more than some forlorn homes surrounded by flat farmland and drainage ditches.
The district of Gangnam, which literally means “south of the river,” is about half the size of Manhattan. About 1 percent of Seoul’s population lives there, but many of its residents are very rich. The average Gangnam apartment costs about $716,000, a sum that would take an average South Korean household 18 years to earn.
As the price of high-rise apartments skyrocketed during a real estate investment frenzy in the early 2000s, landowners and speculators became wealthy practically overnight.
The notion that Gangnam residents have risen not by following the traditional South Korean virtues of hard work and sacrifice, but simply by living on a coveted piece of geography, irks many. The neighborhood’s residents are seen by some as monopolizing the country’s best education opportunities, the best cultural offerings and the best infrastructure, while spending big on foreign luxury goods to highlight their wealth.
A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays
A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
A sensible girl like that
I’m a guy
A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy
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When I visited the Pacific island of Nauru in the early 1980s it was populated by the kind of human mastodons who have since become extremely common in the United States and elsewhere. Half of the Nauruans were diabetic, the reason being a combination of genetic propensity, physical inactivity, and a taste for sweet drinks such as Fanta and Chateau Yquem, which they drank in vast quantities. Life expectancy was very low.
A recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine is largely devoted to the relation of sweet drinks to obesity. It reports, for example, a controlled trial in Holland in which children were divided randomly into two groups, those who received sugar-sweetened drinks and those who received non-calorifically sweetened drinks. The children were aged between 4 and 11, and the parents gave their consent, the children their “assent,” to the experiment, which lasted on average 18 months.
After 18 months, the children who had drunk sugar-sweetened drinks had put on a kilo (2.2 pounds) of weight by comparison with those who had drunk similar quantities of artificially sweetened drinks. Those who had drunk the sugar-sweetened drinks had grown slightly but statistically significantly taller than those who had drunk the artificially sweetened drinks (the Dutch, incidentally, are now the tallest people in the world); when adjusted for the difference in height, the sugar-sweetened drinks accounted for 0.8 kilos (1.7 pounds) of the weight gain.
These results are important for the United States, because the quantities of sweet drinks consumed in the Dutch trial were far lower than those consumed, on average, by American children. They will give some comfort to Mayor Bloomberg in his campaign against sugar-sweetened drinks.
Looper, a clever and action-packed heartland version of The Terminator, may not make as much sense as it should, but as the Bruce Willis character says in a diner, “I don’t want to talk about time travel [crap]. If we do, we’ll be here all day, making diagrams with straws.”
Fine. So: Looper isn’t taking itself too seriously, and nor should we. Rian Johnson’s film, set mostly in 2044 Kansas, is loads of fun, making judicious use of special effects (with its rusty hovercycles and ragged slums it looks more like Repo Man than Blade Runner), and it has some cool twists.
Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the same character at two stages of life. As a man of about 30, Joe is a hired assassin and a junkie who gets high by sprinkling drugs on his eyeballs with a dropper. In 2074, his masters in a massive crime syndicate send him hooded, bound figures that he simply arranges to shoot at a given spot at a given time. Joe owes his job to temporal outsourcing — in 2074, due to tagging techniques, it’s too hard to get rid of dead bodies but Joe is living before that technology exists.
When a friend (Paul Dano) is assigned to kill his own self from 30 years in the future, we learn that these “loopers,” as the hit men are called, are being assigned to “close the loop” by exterminating the future versions of themselves. A mob boss (a quietly scary Jeff Daniels) sent back from the future to monitor these roving assassins convinces Joe that it’s best not to tangle with the crime lords’ idea of how time should play out. Nevertheless, when Willis’s Old Joe, in 2074, manages to alter the circumstances when he is kidnapped and sent back in time for assassination, younger Joe hesitates and allows Old Joe to escape in the cane fields of Kansas.
Also: Check out Ann Coulter’s new book, and drop by PJ Lifestyle next week for Kathy Shaidle’s review…
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Political affiliation has become a bigger deal now than it was during the last election,” says the CEO of Selective Search Inc., which is based in Chicago and has offices in 28 cities. Ms. Adler calls it a “party-line dating trend.”
Gone are the days when a Republican such as Mary Matalin might fall for a Democrat like James Carville, or vice versa.
“We’ve always screened for political views but now more than ever it’s showing up in the searches as a deal breaker if someone has polar-opposite viewpoints,” says Ms. Adler…
And I thought Obama was supposed to bring us all together…
It is an email that will probably make most senior managers squirm in their seats.
An employee at a media agency in London has decided to send a leaving speech detailing his grievances with a company manager to all members of staff.
And worse still – that email has now gone viral after it was posted online, with its hashtag trending on Twitter.
In the email Mr Allen also alleges the manager has jokingly referred to the Paralympics as the ‘Spastic Olympics’ and openly claimed to be proud ‘not to have a drop of Jewish blood in him’.
He claims he ‘regularly made sexist and other bigoted remarks’ and ‘took a female colleague out for a drink on the day he interviewed her, then later took her back to the MEC offices that night and had sexual relations with her in the meeting rooms on the 3rd floor’.
He said the allegations were ‘common knowledge throughout the team’ and said ‘it is hard to fathom that such a man is responsible for the work well-being of over 30 staff’.
Before signing off the message he wrote, ‘I am writing this message in order to expose the failings and protect others in future’ and ‘I am a good human being who treats people with respect.’
‘Not one thing on this email has been exaggerated or made up. This is my truth to you all.
‘No doubt I fully expect the above to be ripped apart but as long as the truth is out there then that’s all I can do.’
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Reading my friend Laer Pearce’s book Crazifornia: Tales from the Tarnished State – How California is Destroying Itself and Why it Matters to America made me crazy. Laer is a wonderful writer with straightforward, prose, a witty sense of humor that doesn’t overwhelm the narrative, and a commanding mastery of facts about California’s politics, business, education, and public policy. In theory, I should have galloped through Crazifornia in three hours. In fact, it took me three days to read.
Why did I have a problem with this fascinating book? Because, when I started I did not know how deep the Crazifornia rot ran in the state, nor was I aware quite how infectious the insanity is when it comes to the rest of America. To keep up with the deluge of evidence proving that California is indeed crazy, I repeatedly stopped reading so that I could scratch out little notes to myself: “California’s all-powerful bureaucrats are an army of Leftist Rube Goldberg’s with guns.” “This is a perfect example of voter credulity and bureaucratic overreach.” “California takes a legislatively created energy crisis and makes it worse with more legislation.” The scariest note I wrote was also the shortest: “As California goes, so goes the nation.”
That last note is why you should read the book — and give it to friends and family — in the days remaining before the election. California isn’t just a basket case, it’s a proselytizing basket case, with its environmental zealots, community organizers, and wishful economic thinkers aggressively selling their ideas to other states and to the federal government. As Laer demonstrates, while the recession is slowing the other forty-nine states from buying into California’s governing philosophy, the Obama government is an enthusiastic supporter. Another four years of Obama, and California won’t be the only bankrupt crazy place in America.
Unlike the federal government’s swift, Obama-driven belly flop into bankruptcy, California actually has a long and occasionally honorable history of Progressive politics. Crazifornia explains that back in the early years of the last century it was California Progressives who helped bankroll the movement across the United States. These early ideologues were actually fighting some legitimate battles, most notably against San Francisco’s utterly corrupt alliance between railroad moguls and local government. Take away these honorable battles, though, and you learn that the early California Progressives were exactly the same as today’s California’s Progressives: they were the rich and the educated, which meant that they could fund their ideas and pass them on to subsequent generations.
Because California had long been blessed with enormous natural resources and a vital, growing population, it had the wealth to keep the impractical Progressive dream going for decades. It could abs0rb the enormous financial and human losses from almost heroic bureaucratic ineptitude (Chapter 5); laws and regulations that suck the life out of both new and established businesses (Chapter 6); ridiculous educational experiments and an all-powerful teachers union that has little interest in student well-being and education (Chapter 7);* environmentalism run amok (Chapter 8); and public sector unions and pensions that have managed to go wherever one ends up when “amok” is a distant memory (Chapter 9).
Lately, though, things haven’t been going so well for California. Part of the problem is the national recession. The other part is the fact that California’s collection of Progressives, Environmentalists, Educators, and Reporters, whom Laer collectively christens “the PEER axis,” have destroyed the state’s ability to tap into her resources, both natural and human. Take, for example, the Prop. 50 fiasco, which is one of a huge subset of fiascos generated by a California citizen’s right to vote on legislative ballot initiatives.
While chatting with a close friend who is currently on location filming a mega-budget Hollywood movie, he mentioned, as a “good Jew,” he was planning on attending a Yom Kippur service today in a beautiful historic temple.
Yom Kippur, for those who are unfamiliar, is the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
Playfully, I asked him if the rabbi would let loose a scapegoat in the temple but my friend did not understand why I had even asked such a question.
That is when I told him about the Yom Kippur scapegoat, an integral part of the Old Testament account of The Day of Atonement.
Since my friend was unfamiliar with the Yom Kippur scapegoat I thought perhaps others might be as well. So if you are attending temple today and familiar this Jewish Bible story, you are dismissed.
If not, keep reading because this ancient tale is not only interesting, but the word “scapegoat” is derived from it.
Now class, please open your Bibles to Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, after Genesis and Exodus. Those first three books, along with the next two, Numbers and Deuteronomy comprise what is known as The Torah.
Leviticus chapter 16 is aptly named The Day of Atonement. It is a short chapter comprised of only 34 verses which I recommend reading if this piece piques your interest.
Here is the basic story.
While the Children of Israel were wandering in the desert during their 40 year odyssey between leaving Egypt and entering the Holy Land of Israel, God commanded Moses to make an annual atonement for their “uncleanness and rebellion” and “whatever their sins had been.” God then directed Moses to have his brother Aaron, the High Priest, obtain two goats for an atonement ceremony.
The first goat was designated as a “sin offering” and slaughtered for his blood. Then, the goat’s blood was to be sprinkled around the “Most Holy Place” which was inside the “Tent of Meeting” that housed the Ark of the Covenant.
Now, the second goat fared slightly better for it was to be the “goat of removal.” In Hebrew, it was known as the Azazel goat, and later translated to mean scapegoat in the English Bible’s King James Version.
Rather than me paraphrase the fate of the second goat, I will defer to GOD as HE gives Moses specific instructions for brother Aaron to carry out in Leviticus 16: 21- 22. The Bible translation is from the popular New International Version.
He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites –all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
There you have it, the scapegoat as the central figure of Yom Kippur.
The scapegoat’s original meaning was escape goat because unlike the first goat, the second was allowed to escape with its life, though heavily laden with the collective sin of the Israelites.
As you know, the modern meaning of scapegoat is some entity or person who is unfairly blamed or punished for the actions of others, but I would wager that most people are unaware this term is from the Old Testament.
So for those of the Jewish faith attending temple today, you might pause to remember that little goat, released into the desert bearing the sin burden of all your ancient relatives.
Furthermore, click here if you are interested in knowing the Biblical origin of other common phrases like Good Samaritan, a drop in the bucket, a broken heart, a peace offering, or a sign of the times, to only name a few.
The Bible is still the best selling book of all time and continues to be an amazing resource for faith, history, morality and language.
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Andy Williams, whose corn-fed good looks, easygoing charm and smooth rendition of “Moon River” propelled him to the heights of music stardom in the early ’60s, died Tuesday at his home in Branson, Mo., following a battle with bladder cancer, his family announced.
He was 84, and 2012 had marked his 75th year in showbiz. Williams is survived by his wife Debbie and his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian.
With 17 gold and three platinum records to his name, Williams enjoyed his golden years playing golf and dividing his time between La Quinta, Calif., and Branson, where he appeared at his Andy Williams Moon River Theater since 1992.
It was on the stage of that theater, in November 2011, Williams announced he had bladder cancer. At the time, he assured fans the disease was no longer a death sentence and that he had every intention of being a survivor.
I grew up in music — family had a music store, my father and two of my siblings played professionally, I roadied a bit (for example for Roger Miller the country singer, among others) and, after setting the World Indoor Record for Number of Years In a First Year Piano Book, rather late discovered I could sing and did a little bit of that professionally, or at least for money. Like most really musical people, my family listened to everything, from Medieval music to Classical to “easy listening” to jazz and rock. In particular, we religiously watched Andy Williams’s TV variety show. and played his Christmas album at least 500 times between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.
The show always included duets with guest stars, and on many occasions, these turned into examples in music theory lessons from the other people who worked at our music store — I learned about chord changes, improvising as a singer, and how you can often get away with an improvised harmony by just picking one note from the chord and singing it while the guest takes the lead. This was something Williams did regularly, and if you think of it, it’s a pretty generous thing to do.
He hasn’t been signing and performing much in recent years, but thanks to the wonders of technology, you can still listen to him at his prime. Clean your ears of the “easy listening” bias and give it a try. That’s the best way to commemorate Andy.
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[I'm not sure a film like The Master actually has spoilers, but if so: spoiler alert.]
Near the beginning of The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s much-acclaimed new film about an L. Ron Hubbard-style cult leader, alcoholic WWII vet Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix, takes an ink blot test and sees penises and vaginas in every image. By the end of the film, director Anderson is doing pretty much the same thing.
The brilliantly acted and well-made film, though watchable through its more than two hour running time, has left even its admirers baffled. Reviewer after reviewer heaped the film with praise while admitting they did not really know what it was all about.
Personally, I thought it was about less than meets the eye. In following Quell’s fascination with cult leader Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anderson has presented us with a dated, not to mention worn out, vision of humankind. The film struck me as a final helping of late modernism, with a dollop of reductionist Freud on top. Thanks, but we’ve had enough.
As I read it, the film seems to say that reality is so harsh that people will drink anything from rocket fuel to paint thinner — and will likewise follow even the most completely implausible savior — in order to avoid “taking life straight.” Only by freeing oneself from such drugs and illusions can one set sail masterless on the trackless sea of meaningless existence and thus achieve the ultimate goal of human spiritual development: getting laid. Quell’s journey takes him through several sexual stages: from a masturbatory encounter with a sand-castle dream girl; to a sexless, subservient relationship with a “Dad” who seems to him to hold the key to sexual power; to a final acceptance of the loss of his real dream girl (now hilariously named Doris Day); and a courageous break with Dad that frees him at last to put his penis in the vaginas of real, live women he meets in bars. Um, huzzah.
My last piece, “The Poor Get Poorer: 3 Character Traits That Undermine Prosperity,” received a mixed reception, at least if some of the comments are any indication.
If I can address just one persistent theme:
A few commenters raised the “problem” of “the homeless,” which only ever seems to be a “problem” when a conservative is in office, be it at the national level or a municipal one.
Just as it’s been said that it used to cost a fortune to keep Gandhi living in poverty, in like fashion, the “homeless” have made not a few people — professional fundraisers and “community activists” – if not rich, than certainly quite well off.
This is particularly amusing, in a grim way, because the “homeless” have never really existed in the numbers their advocates claim, particularly the “homeless veterans” without whom Hollywood producers and Law & Order writers would be unemployed themselves.
Goodness, even during “Tulipmania,” at least the tulips were real…
In any event, by sheer coincidence, Mitt Romney’s comments about “the 47%” made headlines around the same time, inspiring a national debate — actually, more like a barroom brawl — about poverty.
I don’t pretend to have a Grand Unified Theory on the topic.
However, all the statistics and theories and studies folks can throw at me can’t detract from my lived experience, and my observations of individuals — rich and poor — over the course of almost half a century.
In a surprising intersection of pop culture and avant-garde art, a scene from AMC’s hit television series Mad Men centered on a painting by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko in a 2008 episode. In the scene, word gets around the Sterling Cooper advertising agency that eccentric co-founder Bert Cooper has bought an outrageously expensive painting for his office. A few employees decide to sneak a look.
A secretary calls the painting’s colored rectangles “interesting.” Accountant Harry Crane, panicked that this might be Cooper’s way of testing his employees’ aesthetic acumen, decides to search the office for “a brochure that explains it.” The agency’s art director, Sal Romano, immediately recognizes the artwork as a Rothko and admires it. But only account executive and part-time writer Ken Cosgrove seems to feel it.
KEN: I don’t think it’s supposed to be explained.
SAL: I’m an artist, okay? It must mean something.
Sal’s on the right track. Rothko himself said, “There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.” But Ken instinctively grasps that the artist intended for viewers to feel an intimate connection to his often huge canvasses, to be “enveloped within” the work, in Rothko’s words.
KEN: Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you’re just supposed to experience it. Because when you look at it, you do feel something, right? It’s like looking into something very deep. You could fall in.
Mark Rothko, born 99 years ago today, September 25, persevered through various stages of artistic development to find a way to relieve modern man’s spiritual and creative emptiness.
The National Football League issued a statement today confirming what anyone who’s not a Seattle Seahawks fan and who wasn’t masquerading as a professional football official already knew; Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate committed blatant, obvious, and criminal interference on the last play of the game that cost the Green Bay Packers the contest.
As for the other egregious error by the Pop Warner officials — the sure interception by Green Bay cornerback M.D. Jennings — the league stood behind the decision of the referee who decided that one hand by Tate on the ball constituted “simultaneous possession,” despite the fact that Jennings was clutching the ball to his chest and clearly had sole possession of the rock.
For those who missed it, a brief summary:
On the final play of “Monday Night Football,” Russell Wilson heaved a 24-yard pass into a scrum in the end zone with Seattle trailing 12-7. Tate shoved away a defender with both hands, and the NFL acknowledged Tuesday he should have been penalized, which would have clinched a Packers victory. But that lack of a call cannot be reviewed by instant replay.
Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings then both got their hands on the ball, though the Packers insisted Jennings had clear possession for a game-ending interception.
“It was pinned to my chest the whole time,” Jennings said.
Instead, the officials ruled on the field that the two had simultaneous possession, which counts as a reception. Once that happened, the NFL said, the referee was correct that no indisputable visual evidence existed on review to overturn the touchdown call.
That’s nonsense. Replays clearly showed Jennings in possession of the ball before Tate managed to get a hand on it. By the time the referee sauntered over to take a look-see, Tate had wrapped both hands around the ball — while it was still glued to Jenning’s chest.
In a perfect metaphor for the abysmal officiating that has plauged the games this season, the referee raised both arms to signal a touchdown for Seattle while the line judge, who was actually closer to the play, waved his arms to stop the clock — a signal for a change of possession. Here’s the pic:
Chinese hospitals are introducing a new machine which can extract sperm for donors.
According to China’s Weibo social platform the automatic sperm extractors are being introduced in a Nanjing hospital, capital of Jiangsu province.
The pink, grey and white machine has a massage pipe at the front which apparently can be adjusted according to the height of its user.
Speed, frequency, amplitude and temperature are also controllable.
It has a small screen on the top which plays films for the user to help them with the extraction process.
The director of the urology department at Zhengzhou Central Hospital said the machine was being used by infertility patients who are finding it difficult to retrieve sperm the old fashioned way.
A website which is selling the machine for $2,800 promoting it stating ‘it can give patients very comfortable feeling.’
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
In the recent debates here at PJ Lifestyle about what swimsuit styles were acceptable for women trying to look sexy but inappropriate for little girls heading for a fun day at the beach, one of the commenters wanted to know why I thought more in terms of a future daughter rather than a son (he also assumed I was a reincarnation of Andrea Dworkin):
You are very persistant in wanting people to “show me a swimsuit that you find objectionable and would not want your daughter wearing”. I’ve told you what my daughters liked. Now I must tell you what I wouldn’t get them? Why? Why is knowing that so important?
Finally, are you planning on raising your children(you keep saying ‘daughter’–you’re very focused on the notion that your child will be a girl, why?) in the San Fernando Valley? Do you think your one man crusade on PJM will change the Valley in the next ten or fifteen years?
If you’re thinking, “Master of what?” the answer is “Master of filmed images,” and that virtuoso is Paul Thomas Anderson, the writer and director of Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love who is justly acclaimed as one of the most singular and fascinating talents of his generation. Only moments into The Master, Anderson is already spellbinding as he presents strange moments from the life of Freddie Quell (a first-rate Joaquin Phoenix), a mentally disturbed sailor who is goofing around on an unidentified Pacific island in World War II when the war ends. Quell has a strange sexual obsession he shows when he, bizarrely, cuddles up next to a sand sculpture of a nude woman, and throughout this long, engrossing but at times repetitive, static, and frustrating film Anderson will refer back to this odd episode without ever furnishing much of a clue as to what it means.
Quell is a drunk and a n’er do well who has seen combat, though what horrors he experienced also remain a mystery to us. After the war, he gets a job as a photographer in a department store (in a scene Anderson, typically, turns into an amazing fantasy set piece scored to dreamy music of the period) but loses that gig in a moment of unexplained rage, then is forced to work as a farm hand until he is literally chased out of the fields when his secret moonshine (made with paint thinner) causes the death of a fellow worker.
Wandering by a docked boat where a group of swells are having a party, he climbs aboard and wakes up with a hangover, a new life, and a new guiding light: charismatic Lancaster Dodd (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman), better known to his family and followers as the Master. The sci-fi-inflected self-help gospel he preaches is simply known as the Cause, and as Freddie is allowed to stay aboard for a voyage from San Francisco to New York, he is gradually attracted to and subsumed by this cult. In perhaps the most arresting scene of several intensely dramatic ones in the film, the Master interrogates Freddie about his past with a series of rapid personal questions until the younger man starts to break down and slip into a hypnotic state in which he confronts his crushing secret: He left a sweet girl named Doris back in Massachusetts and all he wants is to get back to her. If he can ever deserve her.
After Freddie becomes a fully paid-up member of the Scientology-like “Cause” and functions as virtually another son to the Master (who is obviously modeled on the sci-fi novelist and founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard), he takes to proselytizing on the streets and slugging anyone who dares question the faith. At a fancy party in New York, the Master’s hypnosis party trick and disquisition on the importance of recalling details from past lives earns derision, and the Cause packs up and moves to Philadelphia. It won’t be the movement’s final move.
I like reading college newspapers to get a feel for the culture on campus. Today, I was reading The Stanford Daily and an article on the front page caught my eye. The article, “Groups react to sexual batteries” under “crime and safety” reminded me of how advice from politically correct women’s groups can actually be harmful to women. Unfortunately, I could not find the article online but I will summarize it for you.
A male suspect has been groping and attempting to sexually assault women — two of whom were in public places and another who was on a foot path. The police believe the same man may have perpetrated these three incidents and recommended that pedestrians be more aware of their surroundings and “women jog in pairs or small groups whenever possible.”
Good advice, right? “No” according to the Stanford Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) office: “To suggest that someone can employ certain tactics to ward off an offender–particularly when caught off guard during blitz attacks such as these–can be victim-blaming.”
This office goes on to encourage students to do whatever makes them feel “safe and empowered in public spaces and behind closed doors, but prefer not to give advice on self-defense.” The director of the Women’s Community Center at Stanford stated “We don’t advocate using self-defense as a prevention measure for a sexual assault or rape or relationship abuse because it’s not prevention.”
Huh? The woman attacked on a secluded foot path struggled out of a bear-hug by a perpetrator. Is that too much self-defense for these damsels of political correctness? They would rather a woman not use or learn self-defense to protect herself because to do so would somehow be victim-blaming? Do they really think the perp doing this is going to stop himself and say “no, this is wrong?” Perhaps if these sanctimonious women would come out of their cocoon long enough to join us in the real world, they would realize that the police officers’ advice is sound. There will always be people in the world, both men and women, out to harm others. You cannot wish that away, no matter how much you may wish to do so.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, most physicians are arrogant. Some are so downright arrogant that they make Obama look humble.
The Wall Street Journal recently had a two-page article from a Dr. Marty Makary (“How to Stop Hospitals from Killing us.”) This self-righteous yellow journalism article went on to regurgitate the Institute of Medicine’s 20 year old review paper claiming that there were 98,000 deaths a year from medical errors. Before I respond to Dr Makary, I need to repeat what I wrote here on PJ and elsewhere a short time ago:
We hear much about the number of deaths from “medical errors.” This narrative began when an Institute of Medicine article stated that medical errors cause up to 98,000 deaths a year in U.S. hospitals. This received huge play in the mainstream media. While any medical error is bad — and sometimes tragic — they do not occur to the extent reported. The original report relied on a study from 1991. Only a small subset (27%) referred to negligent or substandard care. That still leaves the number of medical error deaths at a staggering 27,000, but the remainder of these adverse events were normal complications of medical and surgical care, such as infection and post-surgical bleeding. There we go again with “complications” equaling malpractice.
The other neglected point: how many “complications” were due to care in a teaching institution or training program? This study also failed to consider the quality of outpatient facilities or private medicine.
The problem with yellow journalism is that it is based on a little truth, and then it runs wild with speculation. Dr Makary does just that.
First, he makes the assumption that no other doctor but himself was capable of improving health care outcomes. Thank you Dr Makary. The Institute of Medicine paper is more than 20 years old. He assumes that we physicians have stood still for 20 years. There have been incredible advances in the treatments of cancers, spinal cord injuries and more. Umbilical cord blood stem cell therapies are about to revolutionize medical therapies.There has also been tremendous strides to improve and limit any complications from surgeries, re-admissions and the like. While any complication is a horrible occurrence, it does not happen anywhere near the rate that Dr Makary claims. He should know better than that. He is using 20 year old data — and faulty data at that.
“Mom, how come that guy’s poster says God hates me?”
I unbuckle the toddlers for Mass while my oldest children jump from the van and stare at the neon-colored signs. Once a month the Westboro Baptist’s hate campaign targets our parish and I spend the last minutes of the Sunday-scramble assuring our toddlers that God loves them while my husband distracts the pre-teens from a woman wearing a shredded, filthy U.S. flag.
After Mass the signs are gone and the kids talk doughnuts, but it’s hard to forget the other children, those who spent their morning happily singing about our death. Unlike my son and the people of Topeka who find Westboro followers incomprehensible, I don’t need to ask, “Why do they do that?” I know. As a former member of a cultic organization, I inhabited the same Gnostic universe and remember exactly what it felt like to stand in opposition to society, thinking my group alone held the key to salvation, that we had the blueprint for Utopia and the mandate to transform the world. Different messages are scrawled on the signs, but all cult members share the same mental mechanism, a way of thinking that holds them in a true prison.
In part 1 of this series, “Cults: The Mind Enslaved,” I defined the essence of cult membership as a replacement of normal thought processes with blind adherence to an irrational doctrine revealed through controlling leaders. Most cult analysis begins with a taxonomic classification based on exterior characteristics. Warning signs and red flags circumscribe the domain of manipulative organization. This approach is limited because invasive groups can be deemed safe if they appear normal or lack the stereotypical, pop-culture features usually associated with cults.
Organizations such as Scientology, Jim Jones’s People’s Temple, or fundamentalist Mormonism have rigid behavioral structures that render individuation practically impossible. Many true cults lack such a physical control over members. In more fluid cults, members might pick and choose which aspects of dogma or behavior they will actually implement, giving them a sense of complete freedom. To accurately evaluate the cultic nature of a group, we must see if the organization facilitates the development of the Gnostic mental process in members who actually implement the ideology.
“The Mind Enslaved” summarized that human beings gain knowledge through sensory information from which we derive general principles upon which we base meaning and behavior. We also learn from adults and peers who share their acquired wisdom. The cultic mind bypasses reliance upon the senses and logical analysis. Instead, members accept the worldview — theology or philosophy — and code of normative behavior presented by cult leaders, even when all these fly in the face of evidence and reason.
As seems to be a growing trend with the rise of Netflix and DVR, these days my wife and I watch few shows as they’re broadcast. We prefer to A) watch at our own pace as per our schedule, and B) avoid wasting any more of our lives watching dumb commercials for products we don’t want.
So for the past couple years we’ve plowed through whole seasons of shows like Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, the new Battlestar Galactica, The Wire – many others can probably rattle off the usual list. Last week we finally finished The Sopranos.
Seem strange that we waited so long to watch it? A show so acclaimed and legendary? Perhaps the show most responsible for bringing in this hard-edged revival of TV drama? That was intentional.
I’d tried watching The Sopranos several times over the past decade and could never get into it. I probably attempted the first episode three times over the years. It was only now — as we’ve finished some of the other “top shelf” HBO and Showtime offerings — that I decided to grit my teeth and give the Soprano family another shot. Maybe if I waded a few episodes in then I’d find aspects of the show to enjoy and we’d be off for another 6-season TV epic. And how nice would it be to finally be up to date and to understand what the big deal was about the show in the first place?
I should have paid attention to my initial gut instinct.
*** SPOILER WARNING FOR NEXT PAGE **** If you haven’t seen the last episode of The Sopranos yet and intend to then click here to jump to page 3 of this article, avoiding the spoilers of the last episode and my explanation for why we should have just skipped The Sopranos altogether.
A decade ago, in one of my earliest reviews of a software-based recording program, I dubbed it “Abbey Road in a Box.” That may seem slightly hyperbolic at first, but today’s digital audio workstations (or DAWs for short) are incredibly sophisticated programs, combining the ability to record music digitally, then add built-in and aftermarket effects, and layer in a variety of software synthesizers and prerecorded loops as well. In short, they leave the stone knives and bearskins-level technology the Beatles had available to them in the 1960s in the dust.
But a DAW can seem as overwhelming at first as walking into a physical recording studio. As producer Brian Eno said of an actual mixing board 35 years ago:
Most people see a large mixer, and they’re completely bewildered because there are something like 800 or 900 knobs on it. Actually it’s not so complex as it looks – it’s the same thing repeated many times. Since you’re dealing with 24 tracks, everything has to be multiplied by 24; it’s not a very complex system. Each track from the tape recorder plays back on one channel of the mixer. Each individual channel has a whole set of controls that duplicate the other channels; that’s all.
But what do those knobs do — and more importantly — what can you do with them?
In other words, Abbey Road is just a series of acoustically-treated rooms and electronic gear without the skill of the engineers and producers who know how to make it work. Paul White’s The Producer’s Manual, published by British electronic music house Sample Magic and written by the editor of Britain’s long-running Sound on Sound magazine won’t turn you into the second coming of George Martin alone. But at over 350 full-color, heavily illustrated pages, with a glossary defining of all of its jargon, it’s an excellent guide to unlocking the power of the recording software and equipment you may already own. And what to look for when shopping for your next piece of kit.
If you already own a DAW, it may well have many of the digital tools that White describes in The Producer’s Manual. But how to make the most of them? What physical equipment do you need? What sort of sound card do you need? How do you choose which microphone for which application? Which speakers to ensure your mixes still sound the same beyond your basement? Are the acoustics in your recording room up to snuff?
And then there actual recording techniques — which is what you’ve assembled all this gear for, in the first place. What if you need to record an acoustic guitar? A chorus of background singers? How do you mic up a drum kit? Or heck, what if Christina Hendricks drops by and wants you to record her accordion playing?
OK, White doesn’t specifically mention Christina Hendricks — but he does go into how to record an accordion, along with all sorts of other instruments. And then how to edit, assemble, and master their parts — and how to salvage things afterwards if a session goes haywire. These are but a few of the topics that White explores. Beginners will learn much — I sure wish this book had been around a decade ago when I first made the leap to digital music recording after a decade toiling with cassette four-tracks. But those with plenty of experience in the brave new world of DAWs will find much to learn in this highly recommended book as well.