Late in the previous century, when the Toronto Star spiked my column debunking Kwanzaa — the editor scolded me for wanting to “ruin other people’s fun” by telling the truth, which in hindsight would make for an apt if ungainly personal motto on my (non-existent) coat of arms — I sent the piece to Canada’s only conservative magazine, the (since defunct) Alberta Report.
Link Byfield, the magazine’s publisher and editor, snapped it up, and asked for more.
I’d been a professional writer for years, but now my career as a right-wing writer had begun.
Byfield died of cancer this week, at 63.
My fellow AB contributor Colby Cosh was and is a libertarian (some might say craggily contrarian) atheist who was nevertheless embraced right out of grad school by the unabashedly Christian so-con Byfields.
Cosh — today, like many former Report writers, a star columnist at a national publication — quickly composed an obituary of Byfield that is, not surprisingly, insightful, elegant and stringently unsentimental.
(The Byfields have a keen eye for talent, if I do say so myself…)
Another longtime colleague, Peter Stockland, attended a tribute to Byfield last September, an event arranged after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Stockland explained Link Byfield’s influence on recent Canadian history with this succinct formula, one that resembles the mnemonic verse British schoolchildren used to learn to keep their kings and queens straight.
No Byfields, no Alberta Report. No Alberta Report, no Reform Party as it was formed. No Reform Party, no [Progressive Conservative Party] collapse. No PC collapse, no [Conservative Party] Harper government.
Some perspective for American readers:
My husband and I attended a lecture about Israel by Melanie Phillips a few years back.
Phillips, while correct on so many issues, remained convinced that Europe’s “fringe” “right-wing” populist political leaders, while anti-sharia, were also racist, anti-Semitic losers and therefore unwelcome allies in the counter-jihad.
Afterwards, my husband took her aside and explained — to her visible surprise – that Canada’s “fringe right wing” populist Reform Party had once been condemned as backward, bigoted and doomed, too; yet one of its founders, Stephen Harper, was now the staunchly pro-Israel prime minister of Canada, having just won a second federal election.
Non-Canadians are, presumably, more familiar with our “free” “healthcare” system, as I call it.
On that topic, Mark Steyn once quoted a fictional Canadian — OK, Quebecois — character’s decision to die a principled death:
Sébastien wants his dad to go to Baltimore for treatment, but Remy roars that he’s the generation that fought passionately for socialized health care and he’s gonna stick with it even if it kills him.
“I voted for Medicare,” he declares. “I’ll accept the consequences.”
But Link Byfield was a real man, not an imaginary one.
That makes what follows all the more notable.
Yet what truly mattered to [Byfield] was having lived out, as far as possible in the midst of a train wreck, a principled reality.
I mentioned an e-mail he sent last summer explaining his choice to forgo chemotherapy because it would not save him, yet would cost taxpayers $100,000.
I said I could not imagine other Canadians who would factor such public policy considerations into their personal health care.
“But that would have been standard thinking among politically literate citizens 50 ago,” he said. “People wouldn’t even articulate it. It would just be something they would think.”
When I asked his source for thinking that way, he said: “Thou shalt not steal.”
As last week’s epically embarrassing “James Taylor” fiasco demonstrated, the Western establishment acts like the Sixties never ended.
All that “peace and love,” “soixant-huitard” stuff comprised but a slender slice of the 1960s, and much of that was bogus, a cynical scam that ruined millions of lives.
“OK,” some of you have said in the comments, “but at least that decade had a hell of a soundtrack!”
Yeah, about that…
Remember after 9/11, when all kinds of bloggers posted that clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark?
You know: The one in which, bored with an Arab swordsman’s show-offy moves, Jones pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead?
Seeing all those posts really cheered me up back then.
“Wow,” I thought. “America is gonna go kick some ass!”
And then those same bloggers and pundits — many of whom I respect mightily — kept repeating the words of some Iraqi guy during the invasion, who was gleefully shouting, “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!”
Those bloggers and pundits were certain that this meant millions of Muslims had been dying (literally) for the good guys to rescue them.
They wanted the same things we wanted. George Bush said so in his Second Inaugural.
I wanted to believe. But I wasn’t so sure.
Any more than I was as certain as these bloggers that the future lay in the latest cool gadgets, and how cameras and computers were getting cheaper all the time, and Bush just got reelected and hey, Who’s going to the Rose Bowl this year?
Maybe because I’m Canadian.
Maybe because I’m a girl.
Maybe because I was raised Catholic.
Maybe because I’m naturally contrarian.
For whatever reason, all this boyish bluster, I thought, didn’t bode well.
Last year I read three books that challenged the mainstream view of the 1960s.
(Herewith I’m employing the folk definition of “The Sixties” as that stretch between the Kennedy assassination in November 1963 and the May 1975 fall of Saigon.)
I say “mainstream” because I haven’t entertained many illusions about what really happened during that overlong Baby Boomer idyl since I was a kid.
In the first place, I grew up “soaking in it,” in the dishwashing liquid commercial catchphrase of the era, and I hated almost every minute.
In the second, as an adult, I discerned certain disruptions in the official “peace and love” narrative.
Being a bratty pest by temperament, I’ve made a minor career out of helping debunking the myth of the selfless hippie, the noble white liberal, the enlightened radical, the powerless housewife and the era’s other stock characters.
(I’m also rather fond of rehabilitating the laughingstocks of the age.)
This year, I read three books that, to various degrees, reinforced my view that what we call The Sixties — an allegedly Edenic era that canny progressives continue to evoke when crafting 21st century policy — was a Potemkin village of the imagination, or, in the words of the narrator below, “a mass hallucination”:
I’ve been the de facto “Canadian correspondent” for PJ Media for awhile now.
No doubt some readers wonder why they have one, given the old “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative” joke and all.
They still have an old-fashioned “Canuckistan” view of the Great White North, even though our economy and other leading indicators place us ahead of the U.S.
Anyway, here’s a roundup of the Canadian stories I’ve covered this year, starting with everyone’s new favorite crack-addict big city mayor now that Marion Berry is dead:
If you haven’t heard much about Ford lately, that’s because Toronto has a new mayor, a sort of anti-Ford/Mitt Romney type who’s too boring to make the news, even up here.
Following a stint in rehab over the summer, Ford ran for re-election, but pulled out of the race after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. (That didn’t stop him from running for, and winning, a city council seat.) His brother Doug ran in his stead, but Doug isn’t Rob.
The old political cliche “it was just time for a change” has rarely been so apt.
Word has it that Ford is responding well to treatment (even though he doesn’t look it). He may even run for mayor again five years from now, but I have a feeling his time has passed.
Now that the pixel dust has (mostly) settled, we can begin trying to glean some lessons from the sudden crack up of The New Republic.
Since its inception 100 years ago, TNR has positioned itself as the journal of American liberalism, when that word was still synonymous with patriotism, freedom and even a hawkish foreign policy.
The magazine cheer-led for Stalin longer than was seemly and opposed the Vietnam War. However, it was also critical of the New Left’s excesses and, under contentious editor Martin Peretz, became largely pro-Israel.
It may have been “the in-flight magazine of Air Force One” during the Clinton administration but that didn’t prevent TNR from being highly critical of his (and Hillary’s) policies.
So it wouldn’t be entirely fair or accurate to describe The New Republic as a “liberal” magazine, although that’s what a lot of conservative commentators have been doing since this week’s Chernobyl-level meltdown.
In a magazine landscape in which The Nation is unmistakeably far-left, and National Review and the Weekly Standard are clearly “right wing,” The New Republic sometimes seemed… confused — a reflection of the particular passions of whoever happened to be editor at the time.
And many of those editors over the years have been quite young.
That’s why it’s likely that the prospect of having a 28-year-old owner didn’t immediately strike fear into the hearts of New Republic stakeholders.
The “Christmas single” phenomenon is unknown in the U.S., unless you’ve ever watched Love, Actually.
It’s sort of the “Black Friday” of the British music industry. Since so much music is sold (or, at least, used to be) during the holiday season, having the #1 song on the charts during that time gives one lucky record company a financial boost.
After Slade took the top spot in 1973 with their “Merry Xmas Everybody” — beating out “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard — “an emotional attachment to the Christmas countdown has developed, and for many [in the United Kingdom], it is part of the fabric of their childhood.”
So I doubt many American readers care that there’s a campaign to get Iron Maiden’s old chestnut “The Number of the Beast” to the top of the charts in time for Christmas, “for a laugh.”
What’s really funny (sort of) is that, during the early 1970s, such a campaign would have been denounced on the front page of every British tabloid, and remarked upon within American newspapers’ “entertainment” sections, at the very least.
Because culture-watchers would see it as yet another sign of the satanic takeover of the culture, and the world — the one I wrote about last week.
In the summer of 2008, Ezra Levant was between jobs.
His magazine — the first in Canada, and one of the few in the world, to publish the notorious “Mohammed cartoons” — was now defunct, the result of his fight with the Alberta Muslim who’d taken him to a “Human Rights” court for printing them.
So Levant travelled to British Columbia to live-blog author Mark Steyn’s court case on similar “hate speech” charges; in this instance, three Muslim law students (nicknamed the “Sock Puppets”) had charged Steyn and Maclean’s magazine with “Islamophobia” for printing an excerpt of Steyn’s book America Alone.
On June 3, 2008, Levant blogged about the testimony of one “Sock Puppet,” Khurrum Awan.
Again and again, Levant called Awan a “liar.”
Fast forward to 2014, and Ezra Levant and Khurrum Awan were in a courtroom together again.
Awan had sued Levant for libel.
Last week, a judge found Levant guilty and ordered him to pay Awan $80,000.
The New Republic magazine celebrates its 100th anniversary with a special section called “100 Years, 100 Thinkers.”
Unfortunately, the categories into which these “minds who’ve defined our century” are helpfully slotted are almost parodically First World, elite-uptown-liberal:
“Architecture.” “Environmentalism.” “Songwriting.” “Diplomacy.”
And of course, “American Civil Rights.” (Zzzzzzzz….)
Unless you count “Medicine,” no hard sciences were deemed worthy of consideration.
An alien browsing this section would be forgiven for assuming that man never set foot on the moon.
But who cares when someone named Alice Waters “made (local) lettuce sexy!”
(And besides, The New Republic assures us that “Martians need only watch one of [Richard Pryor's] concert films to best understand the human species in the shortest amount of time.”)
Naturally, there’s a “Sex” section, and Alfred Kinsey comes out on top (as it were.)
The Drudge Report remains one of the most accurate barometers of what’s happening right now.
But can we augur near-future trends by sifting through that site’s headlines?
Lately, Drudge has posted lots of news stories about “the devil” and “exorcism”:
Camera captures exorcism performed on shrieking woman “possessed by devil:
Church Turns to Exorcism to Combat Suicide Increase… Archbishop: “Satanism has spread among young people”
BILLY GRAHAM: In Our “Lawless and Wicked Age We’ve Taught Philosophy of Devil”
Aside from the uptick in stories like these, I’m not sensing a resurgence in interest in all things diabolical, a new version of the “occult” fad that helped make the 1970s so miserable, and led to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s that was almost as bad.
Peter Bebergal doesn’t agree.
According to him, “we’re currently experiencing ‘an Occult Revival in rock music and popular culture.’”
He’s penned one of the year’s most talked-about books, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.
“My argument is that the spirit of rock and roll — the essential rebellious instinct of rock and roll — is certainly social and sexual and political, but it’s also a spiritual rebellion,” Bebergal explained. “And the way in which it expressed that spiritual rebellion was through the occult imagination.”
That “occult imagination” conjures everything from Ouiji boards to Christian and Jewish symbolism to LSD trips to “alternative spiritual practices.” Bebergal says it ultimately helped rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath save rock from sounding too poppy, sappy and mainstream.
In the past few days, liberal extremists have launched a full-scale attack on the Duggars, demanding that The Learning Channel cancel the Duggars’ popular reality TV show.
Their reason? Michelle Duggar openly opposed an extreme ‘transgender’ bill in Fayetteville. The bill would have given biological males who say they are women the right to use women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other female-only facilities!
As of this writing, that petition has over 80,000 signatures, and is growing fast, with media like the Huffington Post leading the charge! We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values.
Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family.
The real extremists are those who are demanding that a TV network penalize America’s beloved family because they support the truth about family, which they have always expressed in a loving, compassionate fashion.
I haven’t watched 19 Kids and Counting in years. It just fell out of my usual television viewing rotation. That doesn’t mean I want to see it become the next victim of toxic progressive pitchforking.
The next target may be your favorite show.
LifeSiteNews’ counter-petition has just under 20,000 signatures as I write this.
You can read it here and sign it if you agree.
See Part 1 in Kathy Shaidle’s series exploring punk rock here: How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It
Let’s get this out of the way:
Randal Doane is an assistant dean at Oberlin.
Politics aside (and he doesn’t shove it up your nose), this means you’ll trip over academic, culture-critic jargon — “codes” and “gestures” abound; “Eros” crashes the party — while otherwise enjoying his new book, Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash.
And there’s a lot to enjoy.
Stealing distills one fan’s decades of wide reading, deep listening, and just plain thinking into a multi-faceted gem.
In the hands of a less skillful writer, this book would feel like an out-of-your-league sexual pass, an awkward attempt to squeeze too many topics — the evolution of punk music (along with the etymology of the word); the rise and fall of AM and FM radio; the underground scenes in New York and California, to name but three — between only two (virtual) covers.
Somehow, though, Stealing works, distinguishing itself from similar titles by piling on plenty of original insights; for one thing (a bit like the recent How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll), this book explores how the medium changes the message — that is, how the technology we employ to consume music alters music itself, along with the culture at large.
(To cite a particularly cliched example: The LP made it easier to have sex to music, as one didn’t have to leap up to change the record, or worry that a radio DJ might ruin the mood with the wrong selection. How many children were conceived as Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers spun away on the other side of the room– besides me, that is — I couldn’t begin to guess.)
Doane also demonstrates, in pointillistic detail, how a tiny band of now-forgotten local DJs championed (today we’d say “curated”) punk, and “broke” The Clash and other English bands in America.
In doing so, he reveals what we lost when that free-form radio format was killed off.
(P.S. — A note about audio that follows throughout: These interviews with Joe Strummer were recently uploaded to YouTube by HazyRock.com. While the date is unknown, they seem to correspond roughly to the “early days” period Doane focuses on in his book.)
First off: I’m a longtime fan of Crowder, for what it’s worth.
But sometimes we conservatives are a little too eager to be “Not Progressives™,” and his new “catcalling” video — made in response to the real one everyone’s talking about — is an example of this phenomenon.
Second, just to preempt any, well, shouting by strange men in the comments:
I am 50 years old and have probably been genuinely catcalled about six times in my life.
I’ve been more apt to be called ugly and/or a lesbian, or — because I have “bitchy resting face” — ordered to “Smile!!!”
The last time a strange man shouted something complimentary to me was about 18 months ago, when a construction worker (no less!) said, “I like your shirt.”
I was wearing my red “It’s Not Racist If It’s True” tee — on the streets of downtown Toronto in broad daylight, I’ll have you know.
He made my week.
But that wasn’t catcalling.
And neither are the actions Crowder portrayed in his video:
“…the stage where Johnny Rotten unveiled his baleful stare has given way to a Harry Potter section.”
The venerable St. Martins School of Art having moved to a new campus, another esteemed institution took over its old building this year:
Traditionalists grumbled that this new Foyles was altogether too slick, nowhere near as dusty and quaint as the original store.
But when discussing this doubly-historic move, the one talking point almost everyone settled on was revealing.
St. Martins School has, over the course of 150 years, produced a number of distinguished graduates.
Its sculpture department was once called “the most famous in the world.”
Yet headlines trumpeting the famous building’s transformation from respected art school to glossy media megashop were almost all variations on a single theme:
“Foyles to open new flagship bookstore on site of Sex Pistols’ first gig”
Telling us that his thinking had “evolved” on the issue, President Obama finally admitted last year what most of us — left and right — knew all along.
He was in favor of “gay marriage.”
The very idea that progressive icon and idol Barack Obama could be a “homophobe” seems almost laughable, but the folks at OPECHatesGays.com aren’t smiling.
If you wouldn’t shop at a store with a “No Gays Allowed” sign in its window, why would you buy your oil from OPEC?
After all, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria have atrocious gay and human rights records.
Meanwhile, Canada is widely recognized as a gay rights haven.
Check out OPECHatesGays.com and tell Obama to “stop propping up OPEC regimes of hatred.”
Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriend and Blondie co-founder Chris Stein has just released a photography collection, featuring his lifelong muse.
And why not? No less an authority than rock photography guru Bob Gruen famously said, “You can’t take a bad picture of Debbie Harry.”
Unfortunately, Stein marrs the collection with a stunningly multi-level-stupid comment, regarding his famous picture, above.
UK tabloids don’t push the limits of credibility any more than their American counterparts, but in a way they got there first. Here, Debbie is reading about sexism under the ayatollah.
Get it? Decades of well-documented, sharia-inspired violence against women in Iran was probably exaggerated, according to Stein, because it was reported by a lower class “red top” English tabloid back in the 1970s.
Stein further ingratiates himself with his British host by slagging stupid, hysterical American “yellow journalists,” too, for no apparent reason.
Factor in the word “sexism” as his mealy-mouthed synonym for “rape, torture and murder,” and it’s quite breathtaking how much smug “enlightened” ignorance Stein managed to squeeze into two just sentences.
Especially the same week that Iranian authorities executed a woman for killing her rapist.
All this from a man I feel safe in presuming voted for Obama twice, and whose views on every subject are reliably, predictably “progressive.”
But of course!
In his 1970s prime, Cat Stevens looked like Russell Brand just thinks he does.
Neither fellow is quite forlorn or angular enough to be my type, but I can certainly understand the appeal of the former, if definitely not the latter. (Ugh.)
As Dennis Miller still likes to muse sometimes on his radio show:
Can you imagine how many women were throwing themselves at Stevens back in the day?
(Except not in those words.)
Stevens has been Miller’s bete noir for a while now.
And former folk singer Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, came out this week and said he advocated the assassination of Salman Rushdie. So much for that “Peace Train” crap, huh, Cat? … Yeah, I could see this comin’ years ago on his old album, Tea for the Killerman. You, uh, you remember the big hit:
I’m being followed by a big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim
How can I try to explain
When he do I turn away again
But it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right, I’d agree
But it’s them they know, not me now
There’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world!
My PJ Media colleague Allston has just launched his call for your “greatest rock drummers.”
(Be sure to add your nominations in his comments.)
Allston will annoy a lot of people by saying that Keith Moon wasn’t a good drummer.
I’ll leave it to actual drummers and other musicians to fight that out.
Even Moon himself acknowledged his technical limitations by joking that he was “the best Keith Moon type drummer in the world.”
But I wanted to get in on Allston’s round up early, by nominating someone who other drummers say was highly skilled technically.
Surely being called “underrated” for 20+ adds up to The Clash’s Nicky Headon — “the human drum machine” — qualifying as one of the best?
Why, yes, Mark Steyn does mention me in his new book, thanks.
But leaving aside pages 228 and 409 for a moment:
Why (else) should you read The (Un)documented Mark Steyn?
Because a “greatest hits” collection — and that’s what Steyn’s new book is — is an ideal way to either introduce yourself to an artist’s work, or have all the “good ones” in one convenient package.
So no more having to google “Martha + Stewart + coxcomb + topiary” when Christmas rolls around.
If you’re looking for that pithy Mark Steyn quote that you just know will be perfect for your next best man speech or poli-sci 101 term paper, you’ll probably find it in here.
The hippies started small:
That guy who invented Earth Day killing his girlfriend, hiding her body in a wall and taking off for France.
(Remember: More people died in Ira Einhorn’s apartment than at Three Mile Island.)
The stupid Weathermen succeeded mostly in blowing themselves up.
Then it eventually dawned on hippies (probably during some pot-fueled rap session):
They needed to think big, like their totalitarian heroes — Mao, Che, Castro.
Forget this penny-ante nihilism and creative destruction.
Sure, the Bible might be mostly b.s., but that stuff about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was trippy:
Pestilence, War, Famine and Death.
Making fun of Al Gore, Michael Moore and Tom Friedman is getting stale.
Those liberal hypocrites are all so… ten years ago.
Luckily, veteran English fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has stepped into the breach, providing us with a brand new clueless, tone-deaf progressive do-gooder millionaire to make fun of.
Westwood first rose to fame in the 1970s, when she and then-husband Malcolm McLaren opened the King’s Road boutique Let It Rock.
Under various names — Sex, Seditionaries — the shop became one of two where British punk germinated, the other being Don Letts’ Acme Attractions.
Westwood created the rude, ripped, rubbery clothing forever associated with the movement, while McLaren tended the musical side, cobbling together a house band to publicize the store. (Hence the name Sex Pistols.)
As the group’s lead singer, Johnny Rotten (ne Lydon) recalled:
Malcolm and Vivienne were really a pair of shysters: they would sell anything to any trend that they could grab onto.
Fast forward to 2014, and imagine, say, Jimmy Swaggart getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That’s how weird it should be that Vivienne Westwood was named a Dame of the British Empire by the queen in 2006.
But no one seems to think it odd at all that “shyster” Westwood remains a powerful cultural force, having switched sides from pseudo-rebel to Establishment figure.
Or, to put it more accurately, for being both things at the same time.
I tried — and failed — to prevent Cat Stevens from getting in.
I cheered when KISS (finally) made the ballot, and won.
And here we are again:
Time to scream at each other about the latest nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Once again, you can vote on a pre-selected short list of nominees over at the Hall’s site — in between yelling “What???” “Who???” and “Wait: Isn’t he in there already?”
That short list is — brace yourself:
- Green Day
- Nine Inch Nails
- The Smiths
- Lou Reed
- Paul Butterfield Blues Band
- Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
- The Marvelettes
- The Spinners
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Bill Withers
Oscar Wilde’s 1882 journey to America continues to fascinate, and why not?
Everyone loves a fish out of water story, so the true saga of a Victorian dandy roughing it on the wild American frontier, hanging out with (and winning over) rugged coal miners and cowboys is pretty irresistible.
(That Wilde’s garish velvet get-ups clothed a beefy 6’3″ Irishman perfectly capable of beating up bullies no doubt surprised and delighted his new admirers.)
Now a new book revisits Wilde’s visit to the New World, but with a twist.
David M. Friedman’s Wilde in America presents his subject as the proto-Kardashian:
If that seems unfair to the acclaimed playwright, essayist, poet, children’s author (and gay movement mascot), Friedman reminds readers that when Oscar Wilde stepped off the ship onto America’s shores, he was, in fact, none of those things.
Peeping Tom airs on TCM this Saturday (October 4), as one of this month’s “Cult Films.”
I imagine this will provide many viewers with their first opportunity to view this infamous 1960 Michael Powell movie.
Interestingly, TCM is broadcasting Peeping Tom at 3 pm ET. This British picture’s contemporaneous, and condemnatory, critics might never have believed that, over half a century later, this movie would be beamed, unedited, into homes on a weekend afternoon.
At the Daily Express, Len Mosley wrote, “Neither the hopeless leper colonies of East Pakistan, the back streets of Bombay nor the gutters of Calcutta — has left me with such a feeling of nausea and depression.”
The most famous pan was penned by Derek Hill at the Tribune, who declared:
The only really satisfactory way to dispose of Peeping Tom would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer.
However, viewers hoping for (or dreading) an exercise in raw cinematic gore based on those old reviews will be surprised.