A grand and powerful woman I once knew died after two encounters with cancer and a devastating stroke took her from the realm of normal life into the storm tossed waters that surround us all on every side. She’d never been a religious woman and, growing up in a segregated South where so many churches and churchgoers defended a brutal system of institutionalized injustice and cruelty, she was always a rebel against the conventional piety and ritualized religious life she saw around her.
But late in her life when the winds around her howled and the dark waters were rising, she was driven to face the truth behind the illusions and the pretense, and told the person she loved best in all the world that “I’ve made my peace with God.”
That is something we all need to do. It involves a recognition of our helplessness and insufficiency before the mysteries and limits of life. Like the First Step in the Twelve Step programs, it begins with an acknowledgment of failure and defeat. We each try to build a self-sufficient world, a sturdy little life that is proof against storms and disasters — but none of us can really get that done.
Strangely, that admission of weakness opens the door to a new kind of strength. To acknowledge and accept weakness is to ground our lives more firmly in truth, and it turns out that to be grounded in reality is to become more able and more alive. Denial is hard work; those who try to stifle their awareness of the limits of human life and ambition in the busy rounds of daily life never reach their full potential.
To open your eyes to the fragility of life and to our dependence on that which is infinitely greater than ourselves is to enter more deeply into life. To come to terms with the radical insecurity in which we all live is to find a different and more reliable kind of security. The joys and occupations of ordinary life aren’t all there is to existence, but neither are the great and all-destroying storms. There is a calm beyond the storm, and the same force that sends these storms into our lives offers a peace and security that no storm can destroy. As another one of the psalms puts it, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Accepting your limits and your dependence on things you can’t control is the first step on the road toward finding that joy.
Via Meadia hopes that all our readers survived Hurricane Sandy with their lives intact and their property whole. And more than that, we hope that our readers will take the opportunity that a storm like this offers, step back from their daily lives, and reach out to the Power who plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm. Getting the right connection with the highest power of all not only gives you a place of refuge when the big storm finally comes; it transforms daily life and infuses ordinary occupations with greater meaning and wonder than you ever understood.
Hat tip: A
Image courtesy shutterstock / dundanim
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The other day I visited The Oakland Museum, and while I wandered through one of its rooms this scene presented itself to me:
Immediately a thought struck me: This is it — the decline and fall of Western culture is encapsulated perfectly in this one scene.
Let me explain.
In the foreground we have a marble sculpture entitled “California Venus,” in a timeless neo-classical style.
It was carved in 1895 by sculptor Rupert Schmid.
In the background, just a few steps away, we have its companion piece, a sculpture entitled “Pink Lady.”
It was created in 1965 by artist Viola Frey.
In just 80 years, the state of sculpture in America went from beautiful and exquisitely refined to ugly, klutzy and incompetent.
I don’t know whether the curators at the Oakland Museum juxtaposed these two pieces intentionally, or if it was just an accident, but either way they deftly summarized everything that went wrong with 20th century art.
Striving for Beauty — or for Ugliness?
The very goal of art changed radically between 1885 and 1965. Back at the end of the 19th century no one yet questioned the assumption that art was an attempt to capture or create beauty. It had been that way for millennia. Little did anyone know that within just a few decades the very philosophy of art would move away from idealization first toward abstraction, then to realism, and finally to grotesquerie.
By the second half of the 20th century a new paradigm had emerged: art no longer existed to inspire the viewer, but instead its sole purpose was to make the viewer uncomfortable — to “challenge your worldview” or “take you out of your comfort zone.”
It’s not just that Rupert Schmid was a “better artist” than Viola Frey; it’s that his intent was to create something of eternal beauty. (“California Venus” was originally a plaster statue of the most perfectly beautiful woman in California, and was exhibited at the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago; Schmid later spent an entire year rendering the plaster version into marble so that his creation would last forever.) Frey’s goal with “Pink Lady,” on the other hand, was not to create beauty, but to create ugliness — on purpose.
Entire books have been written as to why this disastrous paradigm shift happened in Western culture, so I won’t expend a lot of verbiage exploring the reasons for this change in cultural attitudes. All we need to know is that it happened, and these two sculptures are proof.
The Death of Skill
A side-effect of this artistic shift is that it opened the door to incompetents. Let’s just be frank: Rupert Schmid was simply a better artist Viola Frey. Even if they had worked during the same era and were both informed by the same cultural attitudes, whatever he created would always be superior to whatever she created.
But, you see, that could never have happened, because if someone like Viola Frey had crafted “Pink Lady” back in 1885 and tried to pass it off as art, she would have been laughed out of the gallery. And if someone like Rupert Schmid had created “California Venus” nowadays, he’d be pitied as a pathetic unoriginal throwback from the Unenlightened Ages.
Just look at the structure of each sculpture; you can practically feel the bones and the muscles of “California Venus,” which was self-evidently created by someone who grasped human anatomy and how to render it and honor it. Now look at “Pink Lady”: globular, cartoonish, oddly out of proportion (notice the size of her right hand, for example). The monkey she’s holding has no anatomical structure whatsoever; it’s just a lump of clay with a face. I understand that Viola Frey was trying to fashion something repulsive and grotesque, but I have the very strong suspicion that she couldn’t have created something like “California Venus” even if she had tried (a suspicion that is borne out by other examples of her work, which are equally kludgy).
Whatever Happened to the Model for “California Venus”?
Long after I took these photos I discovered that “California Venus” had a fascinating but tragic story associated with it. As revealed in this newspaper article from October 21, 1902 (almost 110 years ago to the day), the woman whom Schmid chose to represent perfection met a horrifying fate seemingly straight out of the tabloids:
California Venus Dies Most Terrible Death
Shot Down in Cold Blood by Ardent Lover Who Commits Suicide
In a tragedy as shocking as it was unexpected, the life chapter of a woman whose name is well known in this and other States, came to a violent close last night in San Francisco when Marion Nolan, the widely celebrated “California Venus,” was shot down in cold blood while on her way home at about 6 o’clock, by Edward Marschuts, who had long been an ardent admirer of the famous beauty, after a violent quarrel who crowned his crime by taking his own life….”
Real the original article for the full story. In short, a teenage Marion Nolan was chosen in a contest to be the model for a statue to represent California at the 1893 World’s Fair; she subsequently became famous, and was in demand as a “performer” in living tableaux; she parlayed her fame into a marriage with an older millionaire, but the relationship did not last, and she moved to San Francisco in an attempt to become an actress. As her career floundered, an obsessed stalker began harassing her, and eventually he gunned her down (and then himself) when she rebuffed his clumsy rape attempt.
Two statues in a room. So much to think about. So much to learn.
“Keep The Change” is a catchy little Country Rock tune penned by Rayburn, a band hailing from Little Rock, Ark. Recorded at Ocean Way studios in Nashville, Tenn. by Grammy award-winning engineer, Ben Fowler (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rascal Flatts, Hank Williams Jr.), “Keep The Change” is an up-tempo number that perfectly captures the current mood in a moment of our country’s history where change is on everyone’s mind.
This tune punches and tickles at the same time, using upbeat rhythms that drive the song forward while lyrically exploring some very pointed views on the powers that be. With a thought-provoking lyrical take on a certain well-known political slogan, the song contains no objectionable language.
“Keep The Change” gets straight to the point, making use of upbeat rhythms and a catchy hook to drive home its message. The song is available for download for free here. It is also available for download on iTunes.
Keep The Change Lyrics
You got your fingers in everybody’s pocket, and you won’t take responsibility,
You’re dangerous spending all that money, taking away our children’s destiny,
You call your own shots breaking every law, burning down what our fathers built,
You’re a rock star savior to the masses,
A wolf in sheep’s clothing got the world in dark sunglasses,
Your power and your glory paid for by lies and deceit,
Sit high on your throne, it won’t last long, tell me how’s that view staring down at me,
Keep the change – your change is too strange,
Keep the change – your change is deranged,
You don’t get it, division means derision of everything that we hold dear,
We’ve got the answer – answer to your cancer, gonna make it disappear,
The words from your mouth are slick and too proud,
Moving forward ain’t a merry go round – round and round,
Keep the change – your change is too strange,
I said keep the change – your change is deranged,
Take from who’s got and give to who’s not, And take a little more,
we’ll all be poor – poor for sure,
Keep the change – your change is too strange,
I said keep the change – your change is deranged,
Keep the change…keep the change.
The messages contained in this article are the viewpoints of its sponsors and may or may not be the opinion of PJ Media, LLC.
Cee Lo Green is the target of an LAPD sexual battery investigation, TMZ has learned … but the singer is adamant he did NOTHING wrong.
Law enforcement sources tell us … a woman recently filed a police report with the LAPD, accusing “The Voice” judge – real name Thomas DeCarlo Callaway — of a sexual assault.
Our sources say detectives have already visited a restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles in connection with the case and questioned several employees, including the manager. We do not know if the alleged incident occurred at the restaurant.
The LAPD is mum on the identity of the alleged victim, when and where the incident allegedly occurred, and what Cee Lo allegedly did.
Cee Lo tells TMZ he categorically denies ANY wrongdoing.
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The Walt Disney Company announced today it has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm and is planning Star Wars Episode 7 for 2015! In a later conference call, Disney revealed that they are planning a new trilogy starting in 2015 with a new movie coming every other year. They were also asked about “Indiana Jones,” but said that they were going to concentrate on the “Star Wars” franchise for now. This is following such big purchases as Pixar and Marvel Entertainment.
At first blush this sounds like horrible news. Outrageous, even. But giving it a second thought, it’s probably the only thing that can possibly save Star Wars.
George Lucas has absolutely destroyed that franchise. He tinkers with the good ones and the prequels were disasters for the storyline. The only part of it that still holds any interest to me, a Star Wars fan since Han actually did shoot first, is in the games. The Force Unleashed was solid and probably more than half of the LucasArts games have been worth playing. The Battlefront games were pretty good. But the movies…eh. Out of the six, two and a half are still watchable. The prequels aren’t among those.
To kids, Star Wars is not cool. I don’t know if it was the prequels or the Clone Wars stuff, but kids now just don’t pay the whole thing any mind. I tried watching the Clone Wars series just to see if it was worth my time. It covers an interesting part of the story but the way it’s done is somewhere south of meh.
Can Disney make it any worse? Possibly, but not probably. They want to make money and they’re very good at not wrecking properties that they acquire. If you’re worried about Disney cartoonifiying Star Wars, well, Lucas already did that. He also made it political and ham-handed and kind of stupid. Lucas selling to them at least means that he’ll stop tinkering with everything that has managed to survive his butchery. It also means that we’ll actually get a new Star Wars movie directed by someone who knows how to direct real live people in a couple of years. Maybe Disney will hire Spielberg or Joss Whedon to direct one. Disney owns Marvel, Whedon did The Avengers. It could happen.
So after the initial feeling of outrage wore off,
If Disney fixes Star Wars, great. If not, well, I didn’t sink $4 billion into the swamps of Degobah.
Update: Heh, look who else is buying stuff. Obama is buying ads in Michigan for very different reasons than Disney bought Star Wars.
When I was a young doctor, which is now a long time ago, patients who were close to death were often denied drugs like morphine for fear of turning them into addicts during their last weeks of earthly existence. This was both absurd and cruel; but nowadays we have gone to the opposite extreme. We dish out addictive painkillers as if we were doling out candy at a children’s party, with the result that there are now hundreds of thousands if not millions of iatrogenic — that is to say, medically created — addicts.
An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine asks why this change happened, and provides at least two possible answers.
The first is that there has been a sea change in medical and social sensibility. Nowadays, doctors feel constrained to take patients at their word: a patient is in pain if he says he is because he is supposedly the best authority on his own state of mind and the sensations that he feels. This certainly meant that at the hospital where I worked you could see patients, allegedly with severe and incapacitating back pain, skipping up the stairs and returning with their prescriptions for the strongest analgesics to treat their supposed pain. In the new dispensation, doctors were professionally bound to believe what the patients said, not what they observed them doing.
The automatic credence placed in what a patient says — or credulity, if you prefer — is deemed inherently more sympathetic than a certain critical or questioning attitude towards it. And since it is now possible, indeed normal, for patients to report on doctors adversely and very publicly via the internet and other electronic media, doctors find themselves in a situation in which they must do what patients want or have their reputations publicly ruined. When in doubt, then, prescribe.
A new book from filmmaker Oliver Stone offers a scathing critique of President Barack Obama’s time in office.
Stone, who wrote “The Untold History of the United States” with historian Peter Kuznick, puts forth a liberal interpretation of American history from the turn of the last century to present day. The 618-page book, slated for release Tuesday – a week before Election Day – from Gallery Books, slams Republicans and Democrats alike, and the authors’ assessment of Obama’s presidency is tinged with disappointment.
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Burbank, CA and San Francisco, CA, October 30, 2012 – Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.
Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.
“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”
This is fantastic news! Disney purchasing Lucasfilm is akin to buying a drunk driver’s corvette before he smashes it up again. It looks like Mr. Lucas’s Wild Ride has now concluded.
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While powerful transcanial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the frontal lobe of the brain can alleviate symptoms of depression, those receiving the treatment did not report effects on sleep or arousal commonly seen with antidepressant medications, researchers have found.
“People’s sleep gets better as their depression improves, but the treatment doesn’t itself cause sedation or insomnia.” said Dr. Peter B. Rosenquist, Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University.
The finding resulted from a secondary analysis of a study of 301 patients at 23 sites comparing the anti-depressive effects of the Neuronetics Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy System to placebo treatment in patients resistant to antidepressant medications. These initial findings, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2007, were the primary evidence in the FDA’s approval of TMS for depression.
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Nadya “Octomom” Suleman has checked into rehab for a prescription pill problem, leaving her 14 children in the care of nannies.
Over the weekend, Suleman was admitted to Chapman House Drug Rehabilitation Center in California in order to deal with her addiction to the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
More on drugs and addiction at PJ Lifestyle:
There’s nothing like having the wind of public opinion at your back on a controversial issue. I used to, but the wind changed. Gay marriage will come to my adopted state if voters let stand the Maryland legislature’s recently passed same-sex marriage law. The gradual leftward shift on this, in Maryland and nationally, defies a prediction I made years ago. Mine is no longer the clear majority view – and it certainly never was among my fellow homosexuals. Ignoring the matter as long as possible has been my response. But time’s up. The November 6 vote is near. Having consulted my conscience, I find that my opposition remains.
It would be wimpy to tiptoe quietly to the polls. Not when the “Yes on 6” side is having so much fun mobilizing politically, financially, and even theatrically. Three local stage companies have put on plays intended to boost support for same-sex marriage in the run-up to the election. I decided that, forced to again take up this question, I could at least mobilize myself to enter the civic arena and attend some live theater.
My field trips, about which more below, prompted rumination about plays for the opposition to mount – if so inclined, which of course they’re not – that would cast an approving glow over heterosexual matrimony. Eugene O’Neill? Edward Albee? The more I thought about it, the more obvious it was that a staple of the modern theater has been husbands treating wives perfectly shabbily and vice versa. Well then, what about that old stand-by, Shakespeare, whose comedies end in nuptials? No. He only shows the first moments of marriage. For all we can say, Beatrice and Benedick, Orlando and Rosalind and the others wind up tearing into each other with all the sadistic zest of Martha and George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Despite how they were billed in the newspaper, the three productions I saw — two in Baltimore City and one in Columbia — addressed not same-sex marriage but the past prejudices that brought down upon us the cruel contempt of our fellow citizens. Who could disagree with preachments in favor of toleration? Two out of three so preached, I should say, for “Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?”, being the “edgiest” of the lot, was a total loss. A two-man play, it arrived in 2006 as British dramatist Caryl Churchill’s way of floating her theory that the UK’s close foreign policy collaboration with the United States was rooted in an erotic attraction between Tony Blair and George W. Bush. The piece has been revised to make it less keyed to those individuals and more symbolically about the evils of capitalist-imperialist Uncle Sam. But it was still expressionism, and we were still Baltimoreans. In the Q and A after the show, audience members did not hesitate to share their bafflement.
The other two were staged biographies: “The Temperamentals,” about Harry Hay, founder of the earliest gay rights organization, and “Breaking the Code,” about Alan Turing, the British computer science and artificial intelligence pioneer who played a crucial role in defeating Adolf Hitler. (Turing broke the Nazis’ Enigma code.) The latter drama, which was written by Hugh Whitemore in 1986, was well-acted. It was pitiful and searing to watch a world-historical figure being humiliated by the government he served.
Click to jump to your section of choice in today’s PJ Lifestyle Review of New Releases, Hot Products, and Holiday Gifts:
Tuesday New Releases in Music
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Taylor Swift’s Red proves that with enough hype a contradictory release plan can still produce insane sales results. No, you cannot stream the album via Spotify, yet the album features four teaser singles already racking up YouTube hits. None of that hurt sales in the least. The album should still exceed 1.15 million, without the stimulus of 99-cent downloads on Amazon, Lady Gaga’s weapon of choice while promoting her most recent album.
This week smaller names battle for their moments in the sun, with new albums from the ever-present Cee-Lo “I’ve had one hit and won’t go away” Green, an epic double album from Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and a new effort from country superstar Toby Keith which could quietly dominate them all. Enjoy the less-crowded week, folks … things will get decidedly more complicated as we push toward Black Friday!
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Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory (Mom & Pop Music)
Indie folk’s most interesting songwriter, Bird’s music merges genres generally seen as incompatible. Hands of Glory, the Chicago songwriter’s latest EP, serves as a companion piece to last year’s Break It Yourself, prominently featuring his cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You.”
Black Country Communion – Afterglow (J&R Records)
Calvin Harris – 18 Months (Sony)
Cee-Lo Green – Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment (Elektra / Asylum)
Chad Valley – Young Hunger (Cascine)
Cody ChesnuTT – Landing on a Hundred (Redeye)
Ending People – Fill Your Lungs (Cash Cow Productions)
Flyleaf – New Horizons (Octone)
The last album by these Christian rockers featuring Lacey Sturm on lead vocals. Revolver magazine writes: “New Horizons is emblematic of a band embracing change. Hopefully for Flyleaf, fans do the same.”
Indian Handcrafts – Civil Disobedience for Losers (Sargent House)
Jonathan & Charlotte – Together (Columbia)
Kamelot – Silverthorn (Steamhammer / SPV)
Lulu Gainsbourg – From Gainsbourg to Lulu (MBM Records)
Meek Mill – Dreams & Nightmares (Warner Bros.)
Mixtapes – How to Throw a Successful Party (Animal Style Records)
Neil Young’s latest album featuring Crazy Horse experiments with psychedelia, and with that in mind, he’s opened things up to a lot of sprawl – “Driftin’ Back” comes in at just shy of 30 minutes. If you’ve got the patience, All Music writes, “[Psychedelic Pill] deliver[s] a state-of-the-union garage guitar blast that rivals past landmark albums from the group like Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Rust Never Sleeps and Ragged Glory.”
Parkway Drive – Atlas (Epitaph)
Raindance – New Blood (Animal Style Records)
Sean Price – Mic Tyson (Duck Down Music)
T&N – Slave to the Empire (Rat Pak Records)
The Soft Moon – Zeros (Captured Tracks)
Thrice – Anthology (Workhorse Music Group)
Toby Keith – Hope on the Rocks (Show Dog / Universal)
Hope on the Rocks‘ release date shifted forward two weeks thanks to the rabid reception he’s received from fans while on tour this fall. That’s a smart move on the part of his handlers – Country Weekly calls the album “mature” among his other 15 albums, and for those who can’t stand Swift, Keith’s album serves as the ultimate veteran antidote.
Tracey Thorn – Tinsel and Lights (Merge Records)
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Despite covering much ground in the last few weeks in this column, bands with solid albums still struggle to find wider acclaim. Presenting for your approval: Dr. Dre’s strongest find for Aftermath since Eminem, underground Americana from Iris DeMent and Tift Merritt, and a new album from Heart, which rocks as though the 35 years since “Barracuda” never happened.
PJ Lifestyle plans to continue expanding in many directions after the election — hopefully along with the rest of the economy! Over the coming months we’ll be seeking out new voices to complement our usual team of humorists and cultural critics. (Keep an eye out for future openings for new writers and bloggers.) Today we’re looking for freelance writers with experience and skills to review products.
These are some of the areas we’re looking to fill:
Gadget Gurus and Tech Thinkers.
With the holiday season approaching we’re looking for people who can highlight the must-have gadgets and gifts: laptops, phones, tablets, stereos, cameras, TVs, and all manner of electronics. Can you compare and contrast different products? Rank which is the best to worst TV, phone, or tablet? Also seeking software and video games reviewers.
We’re also interested in people who can look at the tech industry in the broader perspective, arguing not just if you should buy the new Apple or Google product, but whether either company’s new move is good or bad, and what the future holds as the two contend with Amazon.
We’d like reviews of appliances and kitchen products, especially top 10 lists. We’d also be interested in How-To recipe articles explaining which products one needs to go about preparing various dishes. Those capable of supplying their own photographs or custom-made images for reviews are especially appreciated.
We’re interested in both the healthy, organic diet advocates and also the junk food apologists. Experts in Tobacco, Alcohol, and Wine also should apply.
Men’s and Women’s Fashion Experts
From high fashion to the casual and practical, what do we need to know to look and feel good no matter the occasion? And who offers the best deal?
What are the top 5 trends in fashion this season?
Also interested in experts in jewelry, purses, watches, and other fashion accessories.
Best razors? Best deals this week on make-up? Are there new vitamins and supplements we should consider?
We’re interested in reviews of sporting equipment, fitness gear, garden and lawncare supplies, and home improvement tools. Also: survival gear, hunting, self defense, and gun experts.
Please email your resume, introductory letter, and urls of writing samples to PJ Lifestyle’s managing editor David Swindle: DaveSwindlePJM@gmail.com
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Prescient philosopher of the media Marshall McLuhan once famously remarked that “the future of the book is the blurb.” Had he lived long enough to witness the ubiquity of the personal computer and social media, he might have said that “the future of the book is the tweet.”
As both a longtime James Bond fan and a contributor to Acculturated’s symposium on “Language in the Digital Age,” I was amused to read about how author and comedian Charlie Higson recently reduced twelve of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels into 140-character tweets, just in time for the release of the new 007 movie Skyfall.
Here is Higson’s take on Dr. No, for example, the first Bond book to be made into a film, the one in which original Bond girl Ursula “Honey Rider” Andress made her iconic appearance in a white bikini: “Jamaica? Yes. Dead agent? Yes. Honeychile Rider like a naked Venus from the sea? Yes. Steel hands? Yes. Radioactive pool? No. Death by guano”
This is not the first time compressing novels into a single tweet has been undertaken on Twitter. Writers like Tim Collins have boiled down the classics at least as far back as 2009. Here is his summary of The Catcher in the Rye: “jdsalinger: Rich kid thinks everyone is fake except for his little sister. Has breakdown. @markchapman is now following @johnlennon”
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My social media “creds” are all over the place.
All that to say: I don’t think of myself as some kind of “guru,” even though part of my “real” work involves managing other people’s social media accounts.
I certainly don’t have some Grand Unified Theory of online etiquette and best practices.
In fact, my one “rule” is about what you might call expectation management:
Don’t expect anything in return.
That is, whatever you say or do online, never expect or demand apologies, admiration, understanding, cooperation — or overnight wealth, fame, or results.
And that way, as the old joke goes, you’ll never be disappointed.
Bear in mind that right after I post this article, I will go on to violate all my own online etiquette “rules.” If you google hard enough, you’ll be able to dig up all kinds of “own goals” I’ve scored.
What can I say?
I may spend most of my day hooked up to a machine, but I’m still human.
It struck me just a couple weeks ago. I’m 57, weigh 300 pounds, massively deconditioned, verging on type II diabetes if not actually there, and I don’t want to die.
It’d been a hard year. A year ago this week, my mother had a heart attack, and over the ensuring months failed and died, passing away on 11 January, two days before her 77th birthday. Following that, I had a succession of illnesses that put me in the hospital for a day, four times between January and August. One of those times was with pneumonia, and as my friends all insisted on reminding me, “you can die from that!”
A sense of mortality struck me on my birthday, 57 this year; arithmetic started showing up for me. My father died in 1994, at 69. That’s only 12 years older than I am now. Mom at 77, only 20 years older than I am now.
Now, my Dad weighed in the neighborhood of 450 lbs when he died, and he smoked. My Mom, around 200 lbs and she’d smoked heavily, drunk heavily, and generally been rode hard and put up wet nearly her whole life. I’ve got some advantages, since I don’t drink or smoke; on the other hand, I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was literally 6 years old. You can hear a lot of bad diet advice in 50 years.
The long and short of it is that I want to change this and need to change this, and there’s relatively new science that suggests there are better, faster, more efficient ways to change this. So I’m doing an experiment: for 13 weeks, which I plan to start a week from today, 4 November 2012, I’m going to start an experiment where I’ll be keeping a very low carb, more or less “paleo” diet, and doing “high intensity interval training” and “high intensity strength training” two sessions a week. This scheme has good reasons behind it, biochemically and otherwise.
Then I’m writing about it, and I’m going very public with it, so, frankly, it’ll be too embarrassing to quit.
I plan to update here on PJ Lifestyle every Sunday, but I’m keeping a diary and accumulating notes at a Facebook page, 13 Weeks
The latest Muslim mob violence mobilized by religious clerics over the video Innocence of Muslims was indeed disturbing. However, the more troubling issue that merits true outrage is the uptick of Islamists targeting children with charges of desecration or blasphemy as a means to intimidate local non-Muslims.
The shocking October 9 attack on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani 14-year old girl, sparked worldwide outrage. Islamist militants came to her school and shot her in the head and neck for “promoting Western culture”; several of the girl’s classmates were injured in the attack. Al-Qaeda’s media arm publicized its reasoning for the need to kill Malala, claiming it was not her educational activism, but rather that she “had denounced jihad” and thus insulted Islam. Young Malala was airlifted to the UK for treatment, and for fear of further harm to her and her family.
The zealotry of these defenders of the Muslim faith extends to all who would defame their prophet, including young children. One would think that children, in some cases illiterate, could never be judged responsible for such heinous acts, punishable by death according to sharia (Islamic law) and Pakistan law under Section 295-C. Unfortunately, poor Malala is not alone in being a young child targeted for the crime of insulting Islam.
Perhaps October was “Defile the Quran month,” as a number of cases have appeared recently of non-Muslim children in Muslim countries accused of desecration or blasphemy against Islam.
Did you happen to notice there were 63 million views of this Stairway to Heaven video?
As a loyal reader of this weekly series you know, (even at my advanced age) I am not ashamed of being obsessed with Led Zeppelin, so it is no surprise that Stairway to Heaven is my favorite classic rock song of all time.
When I hear it on the car radio it still “makes me wonder” what is the force that commands me to sit in the car listening to the very end – even after I have reached my destination.
Did you know that Stairway to Heaven has even become a popular funeral song?
But do not expect to hear it played at Robert Plant’s funeral some day because apparently he “loathes” the song.
So why is this 41-year-old eight minute masterpiece with the mysterious lyrics #1 on the “greatest ever” charts?
For starters, unlike most rock songs there is no repeat chorus. Instead the song slowly climbs, like musical stairs, up to an explosive instrumental segment where Jimmy Page shows us why he is Jimmy Page. After which Robert Plant launches into his “rock god” falsetto voice and in the process releases enough raw sexual power and energy to set off a musical “orgasm.”
Maybe that is why generations of young men and women love this song. It symbolizes pure passion without any commitment!
Curious about what my contemporaries now think of Stairway to Heaven I asked two old friends, who both happen to be musically hip aging baby boomers (aging exceptionally well I might add.)
The first, a media consultant who often appears on national cable news shows responded with this pithy one line email: “Stairway to Heaven was the soundtrack to my life in high school.”
The other is a classic rock radio DJ, so I consider his comments about Stairway to Heaven to be “expert opinion.”
He emailed: “Yes, I do like it….it’s ingrained into the fabric of my life!”
Interesting how both these comments reflect a “life” impact.
Then Mr. Classic Rock DJ continues his email with this startling calculation:
I’ve been on the radio for around 34 years….and played Stairway at least once or twice a week…
Let’s look at the numbers… (This is the low ball figure)
Song is about 8 minutes long…
8 minutes times 52 weeks = 416 minutes or 6.9 Hours
6.9 hours times 34 years = 234.6 hours
234.6 hours divided by 24 hours in a day = 9.8 days
10 days of my life have been spent listening to “Stairway.”
That’s just on the air….doesn’t include the amount of times
I heard the song from 1971 (when it came out) to 1978 when
I started in radio!
My takeaway on the song…
“No matter how much opulence she displays on the planet, she still can’t buy her way into the Kingdom!”
Was that the message of Robert Plant’s infamous lyrics? For decades later questions still remain over whether Stairway to Heaven’s music and message was divinely inspired or satanic.
While contemplating heaven or hell may I suggest a nice bubbly to further stimulate the brain.
In past columns, I mentioned my fondness for Prosecco (Italian Sparking Wine) which is growing in popularity because of its light pleasing taste.
Today, I recommend a brand called LaMarca priced at $15.00 or less.
So now, with a glass of LaMarca in hand, let’s toast to the greatest classic rock song of all time and sing some familiar lyrics to which every aging baby boomer can contemplate and relate.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.
I wonder if someone will remember to play Stairway to Heaven at my funeral many decades from now. (I hope.)
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Today, October 27, is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. Whether you are for pits or against them, it’s important to remember, in this election season, that these dogs were once a proud symbol of American virtue and valor, appearing in World War I propaganda posters as an emblem of our country’s courage.
All month long, dog advocates have been working hard to get the word out that at many animal shelters across this country, as many as 90 percent of the deserving dogs awaiting adoption are all-American pit bulls or pit mixes. And yet too often these dogs are overlooked or given a wide berth because potential adopters are so terrified by horror stories about pit bulls they’ve heard in the mainstream media — which, as we’ve seen before, doesn’t spill much ink on, or give much air time to, pits who perform heroic deeds or spread cheer at hospitals and nursing homes; sensational stories about dog attacks are deemed more “newsworthy.”
Surprisingly, one major mainstream media player has taken a huge step to help raise awareness of pit bulls: Hugely popular, handsomely compensated Sirius XM talk-show host Howard Stern, one of the MSM’s most powerful players (if not its MVP), leveled criticism at Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and convicted animal abuser Michael Vick over Vick’s decision to acquire a pet dog (the type and gender of which has not been revealed).
Here are some choice excerpts from Stern’s rant:
“Well, when I saw the news I was dumbfounded. It baffles the mind, really. Here’s what you gotta think: Everything has calmed down for this guy, he’s got his career back on track … things are quiet. So, instead of keeping things quiet, the way he should, he decides he’s going to get a dog. I mean, what the [expletive] is that all about? It’s like if somebody is convicted for being a child molester then moves next door to a playground — you don’t do it…. Michael Vick should never own a pet.”
“This is no different than Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown. You sit there and go, What kind of crazy move is this?”
“Get the dog away from him. There should have been something written where he could never own a dog. You know, it’s like if I was convicted of taking five Koreans and locking them in my basement and making them sex slaves, then I get out and the first thing I do is move a Korean in with me.”
“Isn’t there someone in his life that says, ‘Listen, Michael, You’re a dopey guy, you’re a big, dumb [expletive] jock. You’re a football player. Let me think for you. You cannot have a dog. You can’t have a cat. You can’t have a hamster, you [expletive]! You blew it. If you really want a pet, it’s not in this lifetime. And your kids when they get older can get one.’”
“I mean, no one sits this guy down, from a p.r. standpoint? This [expletive] guy should not be around dogs. He’s got a hostility to these dogs. I don’t know what happened in his life, but he shouldn’t be allowed to be near a … it’s crazy.”
“I mean, why would he stir this up? He’s insane. This guy’s insane, that’s all. Of course he’s insane. Who could look at a little dog and kill it? That [expletive] maniac.”
Stern was, of course, responding to the outrage felt by many of this country’s animal lovers, who were appalled to learn — via a Twitter photo of Vick’s young daughter doing her homework at the family kitchen table, an image that was quickly photoshopped to redact a telltale box of Milkbone biscuits in the background — that Vick is now a dog owner again, despite having pleaded guilty, in 2007, to the federal felony of dogfighting. Among Vick’s more heinous acts during his stewardship (if such it may be called) of Bad Newz Kennels was — by his own admission — hanging, electrocuting, drowning, and savagely beating dogs to death.
I’m no fan of Michael Vick, as I’ve made clear before. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I distinctly recall Howard Stern singing a distinctly different dog tune back in 1988 or 1989, long before he signed his famously lucrative 2006 satellite deal, back when his base was the radio station WXRK.
Last month in “Why This Election Year America Is Carmela Soprano” I lamented that in The Sopranos, one of the most celebrated TV shows of the era, the main characters remained as broken at the end as the beginning. Tony Soprano spent six seasons going to therapy to, supposedly, treat his psychological problems. It’s all for naught since Tony never grapples with the evil acts he commits and the suffering they cause for others. His wife Carmela also remains trapped in his criminal world, unable to grasp that while she lounges comfortably in a luxurious New Jersey suburb, others lie dead, their bodies hidden and forgotten as a result of her husband’s Mafia-style perversion of the American Dream.
I feared that voters would take a similar approach this election, ignoring the evil men who we now know shaped Barack Obama’s ideas and the bloody reality of their implementation. For all of the summer and into September I operated with the mindset of the 99%. With the legacy media cleaning up his messes, and the economy still not bad enough for most to really feel the pain, there was about a 99% chance of Obama winning the election. And polls aside, the mysterious variable of voter fraud weighed heavily on my mind with every new J. Christian Adams story.
In conversations with friends, I referenced more how we should prepare for Obama’s second term impeachment, rather than putting our hopes in the GOP establishment to avoid a repeat of 2008. And while my respect for Mitt Romney had grown considerably, I still doubted his campaign’s competence. (The yielding of Obamacare!) But a few unknown unknowns remained on the horizon as October began:
Obama bombing that first debate. Benghazi. Two weeks of trying to disguise a terrorist attack as a “spontaneous” response to a YouTube video.
A lot can happen in a month.
Last Sunday, on the eve of the last presidential debate, my wife April and I finished our successor show to The Sopranos, the third season of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. By then my assessment of the president’s reelection chances had dropped to 66% — where it still remains today. The Romney campaign leaped to life as a shot of reality hit the American people in the heart. But is it enough to fully awaken America from the haze of a four-year hopenchange high?
Edie Falco, who played Carmela on The Sopranos, stars as Jackie Peyton, a 20-year veteran of the Emergency Room at All Saints’ Hospital in New York City. She’s a fighter, eager to battle hospital bureaucracy and push others to do what’s right for patients. In an age where we’ve all experienced the packed doctor offices often filled with indifferent staffers, a Super-Nurse Warrior like Jackie makes for an appropriate hero. Jackie’s greenhorn coworker, a Millennial named Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever), sees her as such, declaring her a saint and her role model.
But Jackie knows her sins well. She might be the superhero in the ER but behind the scenes she’s addicted to prescription pills, sometimes steals to support her habit, and carries on an affair with Eddie the pharmacist. She also neglects her husband and their two daughters, both of whom have started acting out in response to her workaholism.
And in every episode new saints and sinners stumble into the ER and Jackie struggles to balance the scales, pushing ethical boundaries and soothing her guilty conscience with the thrill of saving everyone else’s life except her own.
And the statues of the saints watch on as Jackie retreats to the hospital’s chapel — her Temple — struggling to find a way out of the new problem brought courtesy of her expensive drug addiction.
Noah was a drunk. David was an adulterer. Jackie is both.
Not yet mentioned in the series, though somewhat implicit, is that Jackie probably has some variety of psychological disorder. The same biochemical combination in her head pushing her to risk everything to save a life also drives her to risk her marriage with an affair. Sometimes the gambles pay off, other times they explode in her face. One moment she’s flying high, the next she’s crashing and burning.
Where have we seen this recently?
The Nation of Islam’s historic role as a bridge between American blacks and Islam ended in 1975 when W. Deen Mohammed followed his father, Elijah Muhammad as leader of the Nation and immediately disavowed his father’s folk religion, bringing his followers to normative Islam, the Islam of the Middle East. From then on, despite the theatrics of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation has been in a long downward trajectory. Now comes evidence, thanks to Eliza Gray writing about “Thetans and Bowties” in The New Republic, of a jaw-dropping turn by Farrakhan, 79, to Scientology; as her subtitle puts it, “America’s two weirdest sects join forces.”
The connection goes back seven years:
the story of how Farrakhan came to embrace it concerns a Nation minister in Los Angeles named Tony Muhammad. In 2005, Muhammad was beaten by the LAPD at a prayer vigil he’d helped organize for a young man killed in a drive-by shooting. The incident plunged him into an agitated, depressed state. A concerned friend introduced him to Scientology, which he credits with saving his life. When Farrakhan later met with Muhammad, he was amazed by the transformation and, as Muhammad tells it in an audio clip posted on YouTube, exclaimed: “Whatever you’re on—I want some of it.”
Five years later, things moved into high gear:
The first large-scale introduction of Scientology to Nation members took place in August 2010, when hundreds of believers from around the country traveled to Rosemont, Illinois, near the Nation’s headquarters, for a seminar in Dianetics, a foundational belief system of Scientology. There, they were guided through auditing sessions—a kind of hybrid between hypnosis and confession—in which a Scientologist purges painful experiences from his subconscious in the presence of an “auditor.” At the end of the seminar, Farrakhan told the group he wanted everyone in attendance to become a certified auditor.
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Are people stilling buying into the whole 2012 Mayan Doomsday thing, you may ask yourself? The answer, we can report from a well of near-infinite sadness, is yes, because many people are stupid. Now, an alliance of Mayans in Guatemala is demanding that the government’s tourism agency halt a planned celebration of the end of days on December 21st, saying that the festival twists and bastardizes the beliefs of a community in a shameless grab for tourism dollars. No word yet on how the tourism agency has responded, though we assume it will be something along the lines of ”Um, yeah — that’s what tourism agencies do.” Which, in all honesty? Pretty fair.
The group said in a statement that popular readings of the end of this cycle of the Mayan calendar as heralding a doomsday scenario or the end of the world twists the meaning of the original Mayan in the interest of putting on a bunch of big stupid parties and producing a number of big stupid films and documentaries. In a statement, the group pointed out that a more accurate reading of the Mayan calendar entering a new time cycle “means there will be big changes on the personal, family and community level, so that there is harmony and balance between mankind and nature.”
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