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7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal

Monday, December 31st, 2012 - by Dave Swindle

For 2013 at PJ Lifestyle we’re going to try to organize the seemingly endless abyss of “Lifestyle” topics with a general theme each day. These appear on the About Us page and include links to some of the articles we’ve published this past year:

We try to blog on seven general subjects each week from a variety of perspectives that do not always agree. The topics include:

Family

On Mondays, you can read up on parenting, marriage, interpersonal relationships, dating and romance, motherhood and fatherhood, male/female relations and more.

Practical

Every Tuesday, we post career advice, self-improvement tips, product reviews, and how-to guides as well as blogs on entrepreneurship, disaster preparation, gardening, and self-sufficiency.

Laughter

The middle of the week requires some laughter. That’s why every Wednesday we’ll have humorous pieces featuring satire, viral videos, goofy images and amusing photoshops, cute animals, slideshow galleries and other memes from across the Web.

Culture

On Thursday, PJ Lifestyle is your go-to place for the latest info on pop culture – ranging from movies, TV, novels, music and celebrities – as well as posts about other cultures – like military culture, counterculture, California culture, traditional culture, international culture, odd subcultures, geek culture – and more.

Mind

End the workweek with some brain food. On Fridays, we’ll have posts on science, technology, the future, history, philosophy, and the natural and animal world.

Body

Spend Saturdays finding new recipes and cooking tips, learning about new ways to exercise and stay healthy, reading medical stories, and keeping up with sports and outdoor life.

Spirit

And on Sundays, you’ll find content featuring interfaith dialogue, religion-based commentary, and posts on spirituality, ethics and morality.

One of the most important contributors to PJ Lifestyle this year has been Charlie Martin. His Thirteen Weeks diet and and exercise regimen has been an inspiration. This past fall Charlie has updated us every week on his progress to improve his health and live a long, long life. We’re going to try to provide more content like this — but on all seven subjects. Not just blog posts pontificating on what should be, but articles documenting what we do. Too often as writers and bloggers we forget that these New Media tools aren’t the end. They’re merely the means to whatever end we want to pursue and achieve. And at PJ Lifestyle that end is a happier, more fulfilling, richer life appreciating all the possibilities of what it means to be free.

A book I’ll be blogging about more this year and including on a future update of my Counterculture conservatives book list…

I’ve decided on 7 New Year’s Resolutions this year, each corresponding with one of these themes and inspiring my daily blogging. I invite others to join me and offer their suggestions.

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The 5 Most Underrated Pop Culture Heroines

Monday, December 31st, 2012 - by Leslie Loftis

Recently, I argued that we like heroines who act like men and so writers construct stories enabling women to physically compete. So what about the female characters that don’t act like men?

If writers don’t have a female character fight for herself and by herself, then we typically ignore them. Sometimes we ridicule them. If given the opportunity, we rewrite them. Then, we complain that there aren’t enough of them. There are many, and the comment thread on the last article mentioned a few. These are my favorite five.

5. Princess Buttercup, The Ignored Heroine

In The Princess Bride, Buttercup lives on a farm and falls in love with a quiet and dedicated farm boy. The boy, Wesley, goes off to seek his fortune so he may marry Buttercup, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup despairs for Wesley’s death. Years later, the prince of the land choses her as his bride. Powerless to refuse him, she agrees. Soon, Wesley returns and rescues her and the land.

Targeted by an evil prince for her beauty, but with no physical way to resist him — no superpowers — Buttercup relies on her courage and wits to keep the prince and his henchmen at bay until help arrives. With Wesley’s help she escapes and together they save the kingdom from a needless war. But she got rescued and does not physically fight. She engages in elegant verbal sparring, of which I’d provide a video clip, but I can’t find any of those scenes online. They aren’t popular enough that anyone thought to upload them. I’ve rarely seen Buttercup mentioned as a feminist favorite even though The Princess Bride‘s cult following rivals Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s. Strong-willed and spirited she might be, but she’s just not manly enough to merit much attention.

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Les Miserables‘s Old-Fashioned Values

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 - by Andrew Klavan

I went to see the new film version of the musical Les Miserables on a Boxing Day outing with family members of various ages and different degrees of familiarity with the show. One of us loved the musical so much she literally (and I do mean literally) had it memorized word for word. I’d never seen it and have always disliked the thumping music and standard, soppy lyrics — though (as you might guess) I’ve read the novel.

The results: the younger folks tended not to like the film because of the bad and auto-tuned singing and because of Tom Hooper’s ham-handed, close-up-heavy direction. My wife and I liked it. It’s sentimental and overblown but, as we both remarked, at least it deals with issues of importance: faith, grace, justice, the experience of God through love. Obviously, old Vic Hugo brought these themes — and the rollicking, compelling story — to the table, but the musical doesn’t sweep them aside and they are dealt with honestly and entertainingly throughout. Also, I confess I liked the songs much better when I saw them in context.

Acting-wise, Anne Hathaway steals it. She basically gives an acting class on how to deliver a screen performance of a stage part. I liked Russell Crowe, auto-tuned though he was — but a lot of our party hated him. We all agreed that Hugh Jackman, whom I generally like, was miscast and couldn’t handle the soft tenor singing. Samantha Barks, a third place finisher in some British music contest or other, was also a standout: good actress, adorable to look at and with a strong, pop voice.

In sum: a sentimental, entertaining old-fashioned movie musical that brings Hugo’s classic story to musical life.

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture 

Related at PJ Lifestyle, from John Boot: 

Les Misérables: The Grand Musical Epic Does Not Disappoint

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2 Biblical Lessons on Foreign Policy and Statism

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 - by Barry Rubin

Whatever your view of religion, the Bible is a terrific source for history and political analysis, often in the passages least quoted today. Here are two examples.

1. Statism

When the Israelites asked to have a king, the prophet Samuel (Chapter 8) told them, at divine direction, that a king would make their sons:

Plow his fields, reap his harvest, and make his weapons and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters as perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He will seize your choice fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his courtiers [crony capitalism!]. He will take a tenth part of your grain and vintage [far lower taxes than today!] and give it to his eunuchs and courtiers [entitlements? Crony capitalism?].

In short, he would make the people “work for him…and you shall become his slaves. The day will come when you cry out because of the king whom you yourselves have chosen [elections!]; and the Lord will not answer you on that day.”

Was that day November 6, 2012? Seriously, though, the idea that excessive statism is extremely dangerous is hardly a new one, especially in a country that was born by rebelling against a king against whom similar complaints were lodged. Of course, the end of the Book of Judges has some remarkable stories that tell of the dire effects of anarchy with the repeated phrase there was no king in those days, so everyone did what they wanted to do. Finding a balance between too much anarchy and too much statism has been the challenge ever since.

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An Iranian-American in Defense of Shahs of Sunset

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 - by Banafsheh Zand
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The second season of Shahs of Sunset started airing on December 2. I know I’ll be the skunk at the Iranian-American garden party after admitting that I love the show. But I’m throwing down the gauntlet and challenging my fellow ex-pats (or anyone else for that matter) to refute any of the important points I’m about to make in defense of the flamboyant Reza Farahan and his Tehrangeles set.

To elaborate, I should explain that numerous Iranian-Americans, who seem to have even less objectivity after 30-plus years in exile, have whined about this show being an insult and/or a misrepresentation of Iranians-Americans: a Kardashianized disgrace, fabricated by the sacrilegious and intellectually challenged Hollywood producers.

In ’79, Iranians just flocked to Los Angeles and turned it into the hub Iranian enclave. They came because there had already been a thriving little Iranian community there since the ’40s; and also because the weather is nice. This is very likely what Iran would have looked like had the Khomeinist hordes not occupied the country. It’s basically Iran outside Iran, Tehran through the looking glass, a non-plus ultra.

In her article in Salon, sociologist Neda Maghbouleh writes:

It turns out that professors — even the ones with the authority to hire other professors — watch schlocky basic-cable programming. And from the Midwest to New England, curious members of hiring committees wanted to know: Does the show, which follows six Iranians in their 30s living in Los Angeles, accurately reveal what Iranian-Americans are really like?

Well, yes. This show offers so much more than just a snapshot of Iranian culture. It offers a glimpse of well-assimilated and prosperous Iranians.

In fact, I don’t see anything in the show that I don’t already know or cannot recognize as pretty darn Iran-American. In fact, some of these people could be my cousins and a perfect depiction of the Children of Cyrus, a man (the Achaemenids in general) who himself paraded his era’s bling-bling, not via reality TV but on bas-reliefs in the family “crib,” Persepolis!

Iranians are hostage to their own set of dizzying dichotomies and paradoxes, and our long history adds a hefty helping of the maudlin and precious. We learn at a tender age to surf Persian social riptides and chart crosscurrents like an art form, deconstructed by a few like Omid Djalili.

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5 Positive Personality Traits Baby Boomer Women Developed While Waiting By The Phone

Saturday, December 29th, 2012 - by Myra Adams
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“It must be him, it must be him, oh dear God, it must be him or I shall die.”

Aging female baby boomers can relate to these lyrics from a 1967 hit song by Vikki Carr entitled, It Must Be Him.

Before the advent of answering machines, and decades before mobile communications and social media, waiting by the phone for your man to call was an ancient mating tradition that single women of all ages thankfully will never again have to endure.

I was reminded of this dating ritual since we are on the cusp of celebrating what is traditionally known as the greatest date night of all, New Year’s Eve.

While wracking my brain thinking of a suitable baby boomer topic applicable to this holiday, it hit me… New Year’s Eve, 1971, when I was a high school sophomore and my boyfriend was a senior.

All that stands out about that evening was my having to wait by the phone for my boyfriend to call to tell me the time he was coming by to take me to a house party (where someone’s parents were out of town).

As 5 pm turned into 6 pm, turned into 7 pm, turned into 8 pm, I became extremely anxious, especially when my mother said, “Would it be so bad if you stayed home?” (Yea mom, how about the end of the world as I know it.)

When Mr. Considerate finally called at 8 pm the trauma ceased. But thinking back upon that 1971 New Year’s Eve, it was how waiting by the phone helped form five positive personality traits that women like me did not even realize we were developing.  Eventually these five traits served baby boomer women extremely well as we made our way through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s taking advantage of all the new career opportunities that the women’s movement afforded.

Here are the five personality traits aging baby boomer women learned while waiting by the phone.

1. Patience

When you were forced to accept someone else’s timetable you learned it was not just all about you. Waiting by the phone developed patience and was superb training for almost any career and life in general.

2. Rejection

This feeling was experienced when you finally realized that he was not going to call after he said (or you assumed) he would. Learning to cope with rejection without feeling like a complete loser was an important life lesson. The key was to think about all your positive attributes that this man was obviously missing. Then move ahead and don’t look back. This concept was easily applied to the professional world, especially if you were a business owner or involved in sales of any kind. Women of a certain age who experienced sitting by the phone waiting for him to call learned how to be resilient in the face of rejection.

3. Self worth/Self esteem

You waited by the phone and he did call. High five! You were on top of your game. All your flirting skills worked and you were the master of the feminine universe. (But sometimes you discovered that he was not worth waiting for!)

Later in life this same initial exhilaration was experienced when you landed a new job or a new client/contract/project was won. But you never let it go to your head. One learned early on that you must never be cocky because rejection in love or life could be lurking right around the corner.

4. Diplomacy 

He called, (maybe even weeks after he said he would) and you refrained from telling him that he was an insensitive jerk. But since you were really glad to hear from him you said no such thing. Later in the business world this skill came in handy when “the customer was always right” even if he/she was not.

5. Playing the Game

Once while chatting with some guy friends in my high school classes they admitted to me that often they did not call a girl after they said they would because they did not want to appear “pussy whipped.” (Yes, that was the operative term at the time.) So from this conversation I learned that there was a lot of game playing going on when it came to the timing of “the call.”

As a result, my friends and I would discuss when it was time to stop waiting and time to start living. (However, flirting with his friends was always an appropriate response.) The lesson “stop waiting and start living” developed into positive personality traits that were applicable to many future life situations.

But alas, girls/women today don’t have to deal with any of this waiting by the phone. In fact, waiting is a thing of the past since now there is no stigma attached to calling a boy before he calls you. Girls today will call, text, tweet, Facebook, or email and if that does not get his attention they will have their friends call, text, email, Facebook or tweet. From what I have heard about today’s dating habits, “whatever it takes” to catch the attention of the man of the moment seems to be acceptable behavior.

This behavior is a result of both the instant communications revolution and the women’s movement which generally has made the girls/women of today much more aggressive than my friends or I ever were in high school and college.

Perhaps this more aggressive behavior is cultural “payback” for all the countless hours their baby boomer mothers and grandmothers spent waiting by the phone especially in the weeks leading up to important date nights like New Year’s Eve. For around that time whenever the phone rang, teenage girls and young women were conditioned into thinking, “It must be him, it must be him, please be him or I will die.”

Happy New Year’s everyone!

****

More on generations at PJ Lifestyle:

Dissecting Baby Boomer Liberalism Like a Frog in Science Class

Baby Boomers: The Most Depressed Generation

Young America! Stop Letting Boomers Feed Off You

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13 Weeks: Week Eight — Plateaus and Diets and Goals, Oh My!

Saturday, December 29th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Episode VIII: A NEW HOPE. It is a period of gluttony and excess. The Taubes rebellion, striking back from a hidden base of scientific papers, anecdotal stories, and statistics, has managed to win its first high-intensity battle against body fat and blood glucose, only to find itself stymied by the holiday season, plateauing weight, and coffee cake. Follow Our Hero at PJ Lifestyle and Facebook  as he enters the eighth week of his thirteen week experiment.

Yeah, okay, it’s a little cheesy, but it sure worked for Lucas. So this is Week Eight, and you remember all that stuff about plateaus for the last two weeks? Well, you can forget about it. This morning’s weight was 272 pounds, which is 5 pounds or more off in the last week and within a hair of 30 pounds off since I first had my mortality wake-up call in October. Blood glucose has a bigger variance, so since day numbers aren’t as useful, but my average morning fasting blood glucose for the first week of the experiment was 142; for the last 7 days, it has been 122. This is progress.

Twelve-steppers are told to “trust the process” and it’s good advice, but it sure is a helluva sight easier to trust the process when it’s actually visibly working.

Now that I’m well past the halfway point, however, and the end of this experiment starts to be something foreseeable, people are starting to ask me what my next goals will be. This goes along with the people who ask you what your New Year’s Resolution will be?

My New Year’s Resolution is not to make any New Year’s Resolutions.

As I’ve said a couple of times, the physiology of this whole low-carb eating plan is interesting, but the longer I go into the experiment, the more the psychology of “dieting” and weight loss, and socially-conditioned feelings about diets and weight, and my own personal baggage (two steamer trunks, three suitcases, and an extensive scrapbook) involving all of this has become the most interesting part.

This week, in addition to the sudden weight loss itself, I had what I think has to be described as a therapeutic insight about my weight and that baggage. How I came to that realization would be a long, extraordinarily geeky but eventually boring story involving, of all things, MMORPG computer games, but the upshot is that I realized that in my day-to-day life, when I’m interacting in person with other people, I’ve always — always — had a subconscious awareness that I was fat, and that being fat was disgusting, so therefore I was disgusting.

I suspect this may have had some impact on my confidence in social situations.

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The Worldwide Evolution of Life Expectancy

Saturday, December 29th, 2012 - by Theodore Dalrymple

My father’s life expectancy at birth was 48 years. He survived to be 83, and he was by several years younger at his death than his brothers and sister at their deaths. He and they lived through what has been called “the demographic transition,” from low life expectancies to high.

A recent paper in the Lancet charts the worldwide evolution of life expectancy between 1970 and 2010. Life expectancy has fallen in only 4 of the 187 countries with populations of 50,000 or more, the four being Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Ukraine, and Belarus. In the first two, AIDS was the cause; in the second two, alcohol.

Worldwide life expectancy between 1970 and 2010 rose at a rate of 3-4 years per decade, except for the 1990s, when the rate of improvement was considerably lower. In Asia and Latin America, the average age at death rose by 1 year every 2 years, a startling rate of improvement. But the greatest improvement in recent years has been in sub-Saharan Africa: life expectancy in Angola, Ethiopia, Niger, and Rwanda has increased by 10–15 years since 1990.

According to the authors, two medical interventions account for this: first the availability of anti-retroviral drugs to treat AIDS, and second the availability of both insecticide-treated mosquito nets and artemisin-combination treatment regimes for malaria.

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With Django Unchained, Is QT Devolving Into the Weird Al Yankovic of Cinema?

Friday, December 28th, 2012 - by John Boot
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Despite asinine comments by Quentin Tarantino, who has called our present criminal-justice arrangements “slavery through and through,” and Jamie Foxx, who has boasted that “I kill all the white people” in the Tarantino-directed Django Unchained, the movie isn’t especially inflammatory about race.

The title character, an ex-slave, doesn’t kill all the white people. In fact, his best friend and co-hero is a white, European dentist turned bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar as the dapper but terrifying Nazi colonel in Inglourious Basterds. Moreover, one of the chief villains of Django is played, in a surprise, by Samuel L. Jackson as a house slave who despises Django with a fury that makes him a perfect match for the wicked plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) for whom he works.

Mostly, the movie is an incredibly violent, incredibly long, and often very funny popcorn picture with its roots in both spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s and blaxploitation movies of the 1970s. The quintessentially Tarantino moment comes when racist whites seeking to kill Django and his dentist friend form a posse of rough riders with bags over their heads (presaging the Ku Klux Klan) in 1858. The vigilante group (including former Miami Vice star Don Johnson as an easily outsmarted plantation boss and Jonah Hill in a cameo) falls into squabbling over a dispute about the craftsmanship of the bags. It’s a hilarious disquisition reminiscent of the argument about Madonna in Reservoir Dogs or the details of dining at a French McDonald’s in Pulp Fiction.

Other scenes in the movie may remind you of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Searchers, but the closest resemblance is to…. Blazing Saddles. Just as Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little joined forces as equals and shocked racists in Mel Brooks’ 1972 comedy (which was co-written by Richard Pryor), Waltz and Foxx make for a fine pair of gunslingers who don’t care what haters think of their friendship. They wander the South getting in and out of trouble as they search for Django’s wife (Kerry Washington), who is being tortured at the evil plantation run by Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). Django, a former slave, has received his freedom and a new job as bounty hunter courtesy of King Schultz (Waltz), who needs Django’s help in recognizing three men whom Schultz will receive a hefty fee for killing.

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I Liked Scrooge Better Before: 3 Christmas Movies I Hate

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 - by Kathy Shaidle

I’m not a big fan of Christmas. It requires me to take time off work and venture into the cold to waste time with people I don’t like, and who don’t like me back.

I’ve felt this way as long as I can remember.

As a teenager, I’d start having mini-anxiety attacks around June, anticipating the annual ritual:

Getting dragged to my aunt’s house, where even the toilet seats had “Santa” covers, and a fading twenty-year-old Johnny Mathis Christmas TV special played in an endless loop.

Every year, that side of the family insisted that we all “have fun” by playing games.

Every year, they dusted off the Trivial Pursuit board.

Every year, I won.

(“How can you NOT know the names of The Beatles?! Again?!“)

Every year, they pouted, then whispered behind my back that I was “weird.”

Especially after I pointed out that their quaint “Victorian Christmas” figurines had likely been, in real life, spreading communicable diseases with strange names to vitamin-deficient child prostitutes.

In one of her innumerable memoirs, Shirley MacLaine says the trouble with going to therapy is that you go home for the holidays and instantly realize to your horror that no one else in your family has gone to therapy.

Or, in my case, read a book.

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5 Reasons You Would Never Want To Be a Superhero in the Real World

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 - by John Hawkins

No wonder every kid grows up wanting to be a superhero. The comic books make it sound awesome: your life is exciting, you’re important, you’re famous, and being a hero is part of the description of what you do on a regular basis! It’s like being a celebrity-astronaut-Seal who can lift a car over his head. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Well, maybe YOU wouldn’t once you realized that in practice, it would be about as much fun as being Mark Sanchez’s quarterback coach.

1) It Would Be Impossible to Hide Your Secret Identity.

Most comics only make a cursory attempt to explain how superheroes could hide their identity. Superman just wore glasses. Glasses on, Clark Kent. Glasses off, “Hello, Superman!” Batman wore a mask and disguised his voice, but he was obviously an incredibly wealthy, athletic man with access to advanced technology who lived near Gotham. If you asked the Bat Computer to tell you how many people fit that description, the only answer would be, “Bruce Wayne.” Peter Parker was a photographer who, completely coincidentally, was selling pictures of Spider Man to the Daily Bugle every week. Like no one could figure that out.

It doesn’t exactly take Stephen Hawking to crack the mystery of those secret identities, and the real world is much more sophisticated. You’d have every intelligence agency on the planet trying to figure out your identity, gossip mags offering to pay millions for evidence, statistics junkies mapping every place you’d ever been, tens of thousands of bloggers and journalists trying to figure out who you are, and tens of millions of Internet junkies on fan sites spending hours every day trying to piece together who you are when they’re not writing erotic fan fiction imagining you being seduced by the evil lizard queen of Mars. Eventually, someone would snap a cell-phone picture of you coming out of your lair, some long forgotten cousin would remember you picking up a jeep when you were five, or someone would figure out who you were from the DNA on a can of Coke you drank while you were visiting orphans. Then, you’d have super-villains showing up at your house, people kidnapping everyone you ever said “hello” to in public, and even worse….

Hulk secret identity

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Believing in Christmas from Santa to Christ

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 - by Walter Hudson

I lost the argument with my wife. Should we encourage our children’s faith in Santa Claus? I was concerned that doing so might later undermine both our credibility as parents and our children’s belief in God.

It may not be a conversation that most couples have. Then again, must couples don’t include a former Jehovah’s Witness who was raised without holidays. As a child, I absorbed the cold hard truth dispensed from my parents. There was no Santa Claus. Other children’s parents cruelly lied to them. The privilege of knowing the truth served as consolation for receiving no presents.

Though I’ve long since rejected Jehovah’s Witness beliefs, my parents’ reasoning regarding the Santa fantasy lingered. Is there value in believing in something which is not true?

That question deserves careful consideration, and serves as a check against adult beliefs. In our postmodern, politically correct society, we commonly hear ecumenical equivocations like, “There are many paths to God.” While sharing my Christian faith, friends have more than once told me, “That’s your truth.” That rebuke stops short of saying my faith is false, claiming only that it is no more or less true than any other. But if that proves somehow valid, if one person’s faith in a flying spaghetti monster is no more or less true than my faith in Jesus Christ, what value is there in holding to either?

“Exactly!” an atheist might say. “Faith in Jesus is no better than faith in either Santa Claus or the flights of a pasta god.”

In Leonard Peikoff’s The Ominous Parallels, the ardent atheist and intellectual heir to objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand defines faith as the opposite of reason:

“Faith” designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof.

Were this our working definition, I could agree that faith in anything is useless. However, this narrow view of faith does not encompass how the word is used in our culture. When a husband expresses faith in his wife, is he necessarily doing so in the absence of evidence? Or is his faith a bet made on the basis of past experience and intimate knowledge of her characteristics? Either scenario is possible, and surely men and women have been known to invest faith blindly. However, as a friend to a married person, we would not encourage blind faith in the same manner we would that informed by evidence.

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A Christmas Eve Musical Gift of Love

Monday, December 24th, 2012 - by Myra Adams
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On Christmas Eve, gather up your loved ones and to listen to Amy Grant sing Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).

This is my favorite modern Christmas song and one I cannot listen to without tearing up.

The song takes you inside the mind and heart of the person who would become the world’s most revered Jewish teenage mother as she is about to give birth, in the most difficult of circumstances, to a baby she was chosen to bear — the One who will impact the world like no other.

Merry Christmas to all and especially those who truly love this mother and Baby.

 

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The 5 Best Christmas Movie Fathers

Monday, December 24th, 2012 - by Paul Cooper

One of the best parts of the holiday season has to be Christmas movies. There are hundreds of them and a few dozen classics among them. As a father of two, I’m always interested to see how popular films portray dads, so it makes sense to find the best papas in favorite Christmas flicks who can teach us all how to be better parents.

Let’s focus on five who would make Father Christmas proud.

5. Clark Griswold, The Do-Whatever-It-Takes Father

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third film in a series following the hilarious Griswolds. The family patriarch is the lovable goof Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), whose greatest desire is for his family to have the perfect Christmas. How many dads can relate to a guy with Christmas cheer who can’t catch a break in trying to make the season bright? Clark’s frustrations abound as he just tries to give his family a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark forgets the saw when finding the perfect Christmas tree, he can’t figure out how to get his million lights to light up (been there), he can’t make annoying in-laws happy (won’t say I’ve been there), and he buys a huge gift for his family and then doesn’t receive his Christmas bonus to pay for it. He struggles and fails, but he keeps on fighting for that wonderful family Christmas.

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Time rightfully put Clark in their top ten list of perfect movie dads. They praised him as the ultimate example of “determination.” He was always willing to go the extra mile to provide experiences his family would never forget.

Clark makes our list for doing whatever it takes to bring joy and special memories to his family for Christmas. Yes, he fails and sometimes fails miserably, but his heart is in the right place. While many men may ignore Christmas or leave it to others in the family, Clark takes the lead to bring his family the joys of the holiday. I can relate to that and so can countless other fathers. We are kids at heart and want our families to experience the wonders of the holiday season.

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TV Be Gone

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 - by Helen Smith

Have you noticed that everywhere you go now there is a blaring television with the most disturbing news blasting in your ears? I have, and it’s getting really tiresome. I can understand that a sports bar or pub would have a TV for sports or something (though with the PC stuff some of the sportscasters spout on ESPN etc., I sometimes think I am watching the news), but why at every regular restaurant or even just in a store or doctor’s office do I continually have to watch the mayhem and anxiety-producing news that I am going out to escape? Apparently I’m not alone, as others around the web have noticed the trend in recent years. For example, a writer in South Carolina states:

One of my favorite lunch spots in Anderson has a giant flat-screen in the dining room. I hate it, but I love their pizza. So I keep going there. The television is always tuned to a 24-hour news channel. And the volume is loud. So while we diners polish off our pepperoni, we get to hear about a body being unearthed from a serial killer’s basement in Iowa. Or we’re treated to footage of wildfire consuming houses in California. I tell you: It’s not good for the digestion.

A website called the Eater had this to say about TVs in restaurants:

There are a few different ways to consider the TV dilemma, of course, and the first question is: why are restaurants doing this? According to The Dallas Morning News, this trend is brought to you courtesy of “the wired generation,” i.e. young people: “This is a very, very visual demographic…If they’re not watching TV, [they] are on their iPhones.” The goal, then, is to keep your eyes up and moving around the restaurant. Despite the terribly flattering picture this paints of today’s youth, it does make some sense from the point of view of the restaurateur.

And it’s not just restaurants, it’s doctor’s offices, stores, planes, and everywhere the public goes. Even my gym is inundated with TVs that show one catastrophe after the next. I thought people were watching less TV, but maybe this is at home where they have the choice. Or are people just turning to other gadgets and devices to give them something to do constantly? Is it too much to ask just to be able to sit quietly, ride the treadmill without the mayhem, or just read or stare into space in a public place? Apparently so. I often think about getting one of those TV-B-Gone remote controls that allow me to turn those darn things off. They give me a headache.

Am I the only person left in America who doesn’t want a running negative news report everywhere I go?

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Jesus Is The Reason For The Season But He Influences Us Daily

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 - by Myra Adams
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With over 40 million views, this video captures the essence of the article you are about to read.

A funny thing happened “on the way” as I was contemplating writing this piece. While listening to a Christian radio station the announcer said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

At that moment this very familiar phrase hit me like a thunderbolt. For not only is “Jesus the reason for the season,” but Jesus is the reason our world, nation, history, culture and society are the way they are.

So regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, practice another faith, or are devoid of faith, Jesus has impacted you by virtue of the fact that you are alive.

For no person has affected mankind – past, present and future –more than this Jewish teacher who lived over 2000 years ago, whose birth we will celebrate with great fanfare.

Although Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were the impetus behind His followers’ establishing Christianity, the world’s largest religion itself is only the starting point for the influence Jesus spawned in countless non-religious venues as people over the centuries were moved and motivated by Him to express themselves in a multitude of ways that we continue to see played out everyday across the planet.

With so many examples of Jesus Christ’s effect on mankind it is impossible to even mention them all in this short piece — the purpose of which is to not only enhance your celebration of “the reason for the season” but to also increase your awareness of just how much Jesus impacts the world around you every day of the year.

If after reading this piece you are moved to delve deeper into this topic, I recommend a book published in 1994 that has since become a “modern classic,” What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, co-authored by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and the still very much alive Jerry Newcombe.

This book had a profound influence on me as it oriented my thinking about Jesus in ways that I had never contemplated.

So here in alphabetical order is only a short, incomplete list of the most obvious “non-religious” aspects of how Jesus Christ has impacted the world.

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Choosing Life in the Face of Death: Victoria Soto’s Last and Greatest Lesson

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Victoria Soto, the Sandy Hook Elementary teacher slain in the Newtown massacre is being praised the world over as a hero – and rightly so. But is America being taught the true lesson of Soto’s sacrifice?

The reactions to the massacre in Newtown do not illustrate our culture’s value of human life so much as our desire to engineer the society in which we live. Whether the call for more gun control or less, the root of the argument is the same: human beings can create a perfect society through government, despite the fact that history has repetitively shown the exact opposite to be true.

Social engineering, an outgrowth of the industrial revolution, values human beings as assembly-line manufactured cogs in a wheel. Designed for a specific task, these human cogs are trained through government programming to follow bureaucratic blueprints for the creation and maintenance of a perfect society. This Marx-meets-manufacturing perspective may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it continues to emerge over the course of human history. Ideas that sound innocent in theory are enacted with deadly results. Take, for example, one of the most grossly influential theories of social engineers in the late 1800s: Eugenics. This mad “science” that sprouted from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution posited that human beings could be determined “inferior” or “superior” based on their genetic makeup. This racial theory had as much influence on Margaret Sanger as it did Adolf Hitler. Both sought to engineer a “perfect” society and whether abortion or Holocaust, the result has been the same: A deadly lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.

It took less than an hour after we first learned about the events in Newtown for commentators to begin pontificating about gun control laws. We were never given an opportunity to mourn the dead. Those murdered were not valued as human beings, but as cogs to be used in the mechanical argument over the definition of a government-created perfect society. Even later arguments regarding mental health services were voiced under the auspices of government-funded programming more so than removing the stigma from, and promoting treatment for mental disease. Little to nothing has been said about the violent video games the shooter played, or the fact that his mother was a “Doomsday Prepper” like those seen and mocked on reality television. I wonder, when those comments finally make their way around the round tables, will that conversation also be guided by the advocacy of greater government regulation on media as well?

In the meantime, a nation mourns in silence, taught by example to channel their emotions into angry demands for government action, leaving little room for the comprehension — let alone teaching — of personal responsibility for the life of another human being. The real lesson of Newtown is the one that is being missed: Individuals are responsible to make the choice to value the sanctity of human life.

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Les Misérables: The Grand Musical Epic Does Not Disappoint

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 - by John Boot
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After a quarter of a century in development, the big-screen version of the Broadway musical Les Misérables is finally here. Will it sweep away audiences like the stage show? Put it this way, at a screening I attended I overheard two women discussing how they’d worn waterproof eye makeup to prepare for the inevitable deluge of tears.

The musical film, which is sung virtually all the way through like an opera, is directed by Britain’s Tom Hooper, who won an Oscar for The King’s Speech just two years ago. If Les Mis wins Best Picture, as seems possible given the sweep and majesty of the story, Hooper would match Francis Ford Coppola’s feat of winning the top prize twice in three years.

Hooper makes sure all of his actors give big, bold performances; playing things subtle is not the way to approach this epic, two hour and 40 minute story about freedom, love, sin, redemption, justice, poverty and revolution. Hugh Jackman leads the cast and does great work as Jean Valjean, the prisoner who, when paroled, initially falls back into his thieving ways but then after an encounter with a kindly bishop he has robbed resolves to start his life anew. Under an assumed identity, he rises to the rank of mayor of a French town and becomes wealthy as a factory owner.

By failing to keep up with the terms of his parole, though, Valjean makes himself a fugitive who is endlessly pursued by the tireless policeman Javert, played by Russell Crowe. Both Jackman and Crowe have been singing professionally for years (Jackman is experienced in musical theater, while Crowe fronted a rock band back in Australia). But Jackman’s rich baritone voice is better suited to this Broadway piece than Crowe’s surprisingly light and reedy tenor, which sounds nothing like his husky speaking voice.

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13 Weeks: Week Seven, In Which We Whine

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Yeah, I’m doing a Taubes-inspired low-carb diet and high-intensity training, and this week I’m not particularly happy about it. So there. Follow me here at PJ Lifestyle or at the 13 Weeks Facebook page and see if “bah, humbug” is a weight-loss strategy.

So, it’s week seven, past the half-way mark in my 13 week experiment. Let’s hit the objective data first: my weight loss continues. I hit 275 this week for the first time in quite a while, and I’m settling down to very exactly 1.33 pounds a week. My glucose also continues to improve with a linear best-fit trend of about 1.5 mg/dL per week — which means, practically, that my glucose is often near normal even early in the morning when it seems to be highest. I could wish the weight loss was a little faster, but honestly the eating plan I’m on has really been very benign, very easy to do. In general, but I wasn’t going to whine until the next paragraph.

Okay, it’s the next paragraph. As you may recall, I was set to have a colonoscopy last Monday, and yes, thank you, everything came out all right. I don’t have to do another one for ten years. Starting back on Friday or Saturday, though, my big toe started to hurt. Right in the metatarsophalangeal joint, which is to say, where it meets the foot. It got inflamed and swollen, with a distinct red patch right over the joint. Monday, did the procedure; toe was still hurting, but I was, how you say, impaired. Finally thought about it, looked it up and decided I was having a gout attack, my first. Started taking the official jungle medicine cure for all things orthopedic: 800mg of ibuprofen 4× daily. And called the doc because, after all, I’m not a real doctor.

Went to the doctor, told him my history, said I thought it was gout, and how I was treating it.

He said, “you’re right. Fifty dollars, please.”

If it keeps recurring, there’s more stuff to do, but a lot of times it doesn’t. Gout basically is caused by uric acid precipitating out in a joint, and I’ve been on a high protein — and therefore high uric acid — diet, plus I was dehydrated from the prep. (When I said “everything came out all right”, I meant everything.) Still, it’s Friday night and my foot is basically healed.

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The Sleep-Deprived Doctor Saving Your Life

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 - by Theodore Dalrymple

Doctors of the old school tend to be rather proud of how hard they worked when they were young, and to attribute their current enormous technical competence as well as the magnificence of their character to the long hours that they then endured. They were not much fun at the time, perhaps, but it made them what they are.

I remember those long hours well, and how at the end of a forty-eight hour shift my head felt as if it contained nothing but lead shot, as if it might just fall off my body. Leaving the hospital was like leaving prison after a long sentence; the starving man dreams of food, but the sleepless man dreams of bed.

It has long been suspected that such exhaustion cannot be good for patients; no one in his right mind would wish to be flown by a pilot who had gone two days without sleep, for example. Why should doctors be immune from the normal effects of fatigue on performance?

A study in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association attempted to demonstrate the effects of a protected sleep period on interns and residents when they were obliged to work shifts longer than 30 hours. On some such shifts they were given five hours, between 12:30 am and 5.30 am, when they could not be interrupted except by the direst emergency, and when they were given the opportunity to sleep. This might not be what most mothers would call a good night’s sleep, but it was better than what was normally available to such interns and residents.

The subjects of the experiments acted as their own controls: half the time they had protected sleep periods, and half the time they hadn’t. Unsurprisingly, they got more sleep (about an hour more per night) when they were given such a protected period rather than when they were not. They were more alert, both subjectively and objectively, when they had slept 3 hours a night instead of only 2. Three hours is hardly enough to make one feel fully rested, but slugabeds know that even a quarter of an hour of extra sleep can seem the most luxurious thing in the world.

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Victor Davis Hanson on the Love Lives of History’s Great Generals

Friday, December 21st, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle History

Alexander the Great

via A Short History of Amorous Generals | Hoover Institution.

“You’re a very bad man.
” So yelled Dorothy at the Wizard of Oz, once the imposing, larger-than-life face on the screen was revealed to be a mere projection of a tiny old man behind a curtain fidgeting with levers and knobs.

“No, my dear.” The embarrassed all-too-human wizard answered back, “I’m a very good man.
 I’m just a very bad wizard.”

Given the lurid allegations about Gen. David Petraeus with Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley—many of them still unproven but perhaps with still more to surface from an FBI investigation—is the wizard Petraeus now revealed as a “very bad man”? Or is he just a “very bad general”—or both, or neither?

All we know for now is that Petraeus has confessed to a single extramarital relationship with his biographer Paula Broadwell. And he insists that the affair developed after he left the Army, during his directorship of the CIA. Under convoluted circumstances, the tryst became known to the FBI and, shortly after, to the Obama administration, leading to Petraeus’s resignation 72 hours after the 2012 presidential election. But what has all this got to do with any assessment of Petraeus as a military commander in the field?

Most Americans remain ambivalent about the personal lives of their politicians—how could they not be given the legacy of Bill Clinton? But even in the past, they seemed to have put up with infidelity and did not consider the affairs of a Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or John F. Kennedy as referenda on their political effectiveness. But there were important qualifications: The lapses should not involve illegality and be kept largely out of the newspapers—which stand in stark contrast to the public scandals that ruined the reputations of John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eliot Spitzer, and others.  It helps also to be effective politicians. They weather personal scandals far better than do mediocrities, whose fall from public life is rarely missed. Schwarzenegger’s sexual failings were well known—and dismissed—when he ran for California governor in a wave of popular goodwill, but came back to haunt him only when as a two-term ineffective governor, his tryst with his housekeeper became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back of voter forgiveness.

Judging Generals as Generals

Are generals, however, to be judged under different rules? Unlike most politicians, they operate under more stringent codes of personal conduct and are often in harm’s way with responsibilities for the lives of thousands under their commands.

History offers some rough guidelines to the real men who wore masks of command. In a word, many of the best were as pursuant of women as they were of the enemy—and the former did not seem to impair the latter. Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus, and Plutarch have as much to say about Alexander the Great’s alcohol-driven sexual liaisons as they do about his brilliance on the battlefield. The court biographer Suetonius related that Julius Caesar—the finest general that Rome produced—was alleged by a critic to be, “Every woman’s man, and every man’s woman.” Cleopatra seduced both Caesar and Marc Antony when they deployed to Egypt.

Read the whole thing.

And check out VDH’s newest at PJ Media:

Modern Wisdom from Ancient Minds

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More at PJ Lifestyle on books and history:

The 7 Creepiest Serial Killers in American History

Dissecting Baby Boomer Liberalism Like a Frog in Science Class

Dostoevsky’s 6 Nightmare Prophecies That Came True in the 20th Century, Part One

Race, Revolution, and Robespierre

23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards

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What Are the Best Technologies of 2012?

Friday, December 21st, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle Tech

via iPhone 5, Workflowy, Google Voice Search: The eight best technologies of 2012. – Slate Magazine.

In March, just after Apple announced what many people called a slight upgrade of its tablet—adding a high-definition screen and faster cellular networking—I called the iPad “unbeatable.” I argued that, in the same way that it had dominated the market for music players with the iPod, Apple was improving its product, lowering its prices, and broadening its lineup just fast enough to keep its rivals in the dust.

Then, in the fall, Apple strengthened my argument. Not only did it launch a fantastic, smaller, cheaper iPad—the Mini—to capture the low end of the market, it also put out a new, faster, regular-size iPad. In a year of intense competition in tablets, with better devices from Google, Samsung, Amazon, and Microsoft, the iPad remains by far the best on the market, especially if you take into account its dominant App Store. If Apple keeps doing what it’s doing, it’s hard to see how anyone can catch up to the iPad now.

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Related at PJ Lifestyle:

 Where Does the iPad Mini Line Up Amongst Apple’s Other Offerings?

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Your College Kid Home for Christmas)

Friday, December 21st, 2012 - by Paula Bolyard

Congratulations. You survived the first semester of college! You made it through the first two weeks of sitting in your son’s empty bedroom with a box of tissues, wondering how the time flew by so quickly and how that little boy you used to rock to sleep in this room grew up and moved into a dorm three states away. Pat yourself on the back for not being the stalker parent who calls three times a day and instead settling for creeping on his Facebook page and watching for Twitter updates! You’ve been marking off the days on the calendar until Christmas break, planning all sorts of family activities—a whole month of family togetherness! It’s going to be just like old times!

Before you carve those plans in stone, take a few minutes to read through some of the common mistakes parents of college students make and consider how you might avoid them:

Mistake #1 —  Assuming he will want to do….anything…

Most likely your son spent the last two weeks in a sleepless blur, sustained by coffee, energy drinks, and cold pizza. If he’s a decent, conscientious student he hunkered down in the library or his dorm room writing papers and studying for finals until all hours of the night.

On top of that, he attended Christmas parties and tied up loose ends with his extracurricular activities and athletic commitments and squeezed in some last -minute quality time with his new “family” at school. When he arrives home with his duffel bag full of rancid laundry, don’t be surprised if he shows up on the verge of a complete crash or even a meltdown. He may be an emotional wreck from all the pent-up stress he’s been experiencing or he may simply be dog-tired and ready to sleep for three days straight. As a parent, if you can anticipate this possibility and allow some time for your student to unwind and recharge, everyone will be happier and the holidays will be much more pleasant. Manage your expectations and be sensitive to his feelings and energy level. If you expect your child to walk in the door and immediately jump into the flurry of family activities, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and adding to the family stress level during the holidays. It’s best to maintain a flexible schedule, at least for the first few days of Christmas break.

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Everybody Ready for the Mayan Apocalypse?

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle Spirit

via Bookworm Room » The Mayan Apocalypse and the end of the world . . . as we know it.

According to the much sneered at, and much feared, Mayan Apocalypse, tomorrow marks the end of the world. I’m inclined to believe this is true. I don’t, however, expect the earth to explode into a giant ball of cosmic dust or some plague rivaling the Black Death. What I do see, however, is change on a massive scale, greater even than that which occurred when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The changes we’ll see began four years ago and will now accelerate. They relate directly to Barack Obama and the three defining characteristics of his presidency: fiscal irresponsibility, weak world leadership, and a realignment of American interests in Europe and the Middle East.

On the economic front, what we can expect in the future is continued American decline, with Americans expecting and accepting a constantly lower standard of living. The Progressives have us on the road to regression: little houses; little, unsafe cars; empty store fronts; increased homelessness; product shortages; and, of course, the social unrest the inevitably follows upon economic instability or decline. In other words, the end of the American world as we know it.

Read the rest at Bookworm Room.

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Image courtesy shutterstock / TijanaM

Related at PJ Lifestyle:

Why You Should Take the 2012 Apocalypse Seriously

Doomsday Preppers Week 6: Escape From New York

Dostoevsky’s 6 Nightmare Prophecies That Came True in the 20th Century, Part One

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