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5 Rules for Victory in the Culture War

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

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Wars. Everyone loves them. Lately we’ve had the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, and the War on Women. But unlike those wars that come to an end when we defeat drugs, terror, and women, there is an unending war we’re all involved in: the Culture War.

Everyone knows the culture war is important to the future of this country, but the right has been deficient in fighting it. The only reason the right hasn’t been wiped out by the left’s cultural dominance is that the left’s ideas are so screamingly idiotic. But if we want classical liberal ideas like freedom, individualism, and punching hippies to gain ground, we need to go after culture.

HOW TO FIGHT THE CULTURE WAR

1. Consume.

To influence the culture, you have to be a part of it. And you have to know what’s out there and what’s popular. So read books, watch TV or the latest Netflix series, go to the movies, and play video games. And if you still think you don’t understand things, play more video games.And if your wife is like, “Why are you playing video games all the time?!” tell her, “I’m trying to save the country!” Why does she never believe me when I say that?

2. Make something.

And now that you’re part of the culture, you need to make things to add to it so the culture doesn’t suck. That means you need to get to work. Me, I write. You may have noticed that. You’re perhaps reading things I wrote right at this moment. I recently released my first novel, Superego (I may have mentioned it before), and I work at the creative agency making all kinds of cool stuff. But perhaps you don’t write. Maybe you sing songs or draw or something. I think that’s stupid, but run with it anyway. And you can also just blog and tell other people about the good stuff you see out there. Like you could say to other people, “Have you read Frank J. Fleming’s novel, Superego? It’s great!” That’s just an example of the things you can say, but if you want to steal that, that’s fine.

3. Don’t propagandize.

Okay, so you’re making cultural contributions to society. Now how do you use this to influence people toward liberty and free markets and all the good things? My advice: Forget about it.

Goal number one should always be to entertain. That should be your sole focus. If you have principles you truly believe in, that will seep into your work in a natural way. It’s like your principles are this nice curry sauce and the work you produce is this meat, simmering in the curry sauce and taking on the flavor of the spice, and now I’m hungry.

If you try to propagandize, it compromises your work. Like with fiction, trying to make a specific point about politics or something often means making characters act artificially or having one-dimensional villains to use as strawmen. I’m sorry, but no belief is so important that it’s worth bad art.

And realize that a lot of the younger people these days grew up seeing all the partisan arguing and are tired of it. So while some people like the red meat in politics, that never influences anyone, as your targets are all vegans. If you’re righteously ranting, you’re losing.

4. Abandon your favorite words.

So what do you want to promote, anyway? Liberty? Freedom? Rights? What the hell does that mean?

We cling to a lot of words, but things that mean something very specific to us may mean something completely different to someone else. Plus, because of politics, a lot of words and phrases carry a lot of baggage and will get you dismissed as soon as you open your mouth (“That’s just another right-winger ranting about magic ‘free markets’!”).

So abandon all of your favorite words — which only promote lazy thinking — and instead try to get to the core of what you want to promote. What’s another way to say you like liberty? To me, that means I think it’s possible for people to get along without having to constantly point guns at each other and tell everyone what to do. Really, I’m a pacifist. A well-armed pacifist.

5. Forget politics.

So you have all these great principles you want to share that you know will lead to a free and vibrant country. So how do you turn them to crap? Add politics.

Politics is all the principles we hold dear, seen through a glass darkly. Take everything you value and add compromise, tribalism, and power-hungry people until it’s all a bunch of garbage. And yet politics seems to be where all the focus always is, as people try to have the tail wag the dog and think they can drag the public where they need them to go by passing the right law or electing the right sociopath.

Conservatives especially have this idea that they need another Reagan, and everything will change, but it’s a fantasy. There is no Reagan who will fix everything. And there never was a Reagan in the first place. He never existed; it was just a shared delusion on the right. Check Wikipedia, and you’ll find there’s no entry for him.

If we want to make a better country, we need to talk to people and not to politicians. Let the other fools spend all their energy and anger banging their heads against the wall of politics while we put most of our energy into culture and cultivate a people who want freedom and treasure their opportunities, and let the politics follow from that. The reason to fight the culture war is that it is where the main battle will always be. And that’s why I will never stop playing video games. Just don’t tell my wife.

*****

Image illustration via 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

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5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 - by Becky Graebner

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While living in Washington, D.C., I launched a hobby business at the end of August 2014 on Etsy.com, an e-commerce site focused on handmade and vintage goods.

I realized that my little hobby business made me really happy—and the prospect of growing it into something bigger was really exciting. I formed an LLC in October and, by December, I decided to take the leap and build a full-fledged website which went live Friday, March 6, 2015.

Since beginning this journey last August, I have learned quite a few things…

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 1. Time spent doing “Business Stuff” > Time spent doing “Fun Stuff” 

When I initially envisioned myself owning a business, I saw myself spending the majority of my time designing and producing my product—the “fun stuff.”

I laugh now (but happily).

In reality, most of my time is spent “running” the business.

Besides actually creating my product, I also handle all the financial and legal matters, the management of the website and social media accounts, the creation of some promotional graphics, taking photographs of the products, physically packing and shipping items sold…  The list is long enough to fill up a 5-day workweek…and then some.

(I’m sure you small business owners out there are nodding like bobble heads right now.)

This is the reality of “small business”–but I like it!

2. Read up on State and Local Sales Tax, as well as Use Tax 

Longer explanation not needed—just do it and make sure you collect the right amount.

goals

3. You will spend a lot of time doing little things that nobody sees

Business is a lot like building a house. Although people won’t actually see things like framing or subfloor, you have to spend the money and time to install them–otherwise your house won’t be a well-built house!

Before the “OPEN” sign makes its debut, a lot of time is spent framing the business and completing integral tasks that customers don’t see. For example, setting up accounting software to manage sales, opening bank accounts, weighing products for shipping, etc…

Due to the nature of Wisconsin and its zip codes, I had the pleasure of manually entering 800+ zip codes into BOTH of our e-commerce platforms. It was horrific, but taking the time to enter state sales tax rates correctly was better than the alternative: being penalized by the state or paying the tax myself.

If you take the time to frame your business appropriately, business will run more smoothly once you open–and you won’t have to worry if you cut corners.

4. Even if you are small and just starting out, think about long-term growth

I purchased an accounting software and promptly outgrew it within a few months. Initially, the software was purchased because it integrated with my Etsy.com page. However, once I purchased my own website, I found they didn’t work well together.

If I had been thinking about long-term company goals versus immediate needs, I would have initially bought something that worked with more e-commerce platforms and websites.  It wasn’t a huge hitch in the plan to switch accounting software, but it did eat up valuable time and a little bit of money.

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5. Assign proper value to your work

When I first started out on Etsy.com, my prices were low. I was more focused on offering products at a price-point I thought conservative shoppers (or my friends) would feel comfortable paying versus proper MSRP.

I broke even in two days—so it wasn’t a disaster of a lesson to be learned—but I regret undervaluing my time and my work. If I had priced my products more fairly, I would have a) made a little bit more money and b) had more money to reinvest in my business!

Don’t undervalue your time, effort, and creativity.

*****

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the fourteenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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This Surprising Piece of Advice Could Save Your Life if There’s a Cataclysmic Event

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out. But we’re hopeful someone will come and light the way.

This was the intro to NBC’s post-apocalyptic series Revolution, which painted a bleak picture of how the United States might fare in the event of a massive — fifteen years in the show — power outage. After I recovered from my initial shock at an America gone so wrong that in fifteen years no one could figure out how to generate electricity (Common Core math, anyone?), I began to wonder how long it would take our country to descend into the near-anarchy portrayed in the show — where people panic and the government collapses in the wake of a nationwide emergency.

In his new e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror, James Jay Carafano says there are two crucial moments that determine whether someone will survive a disaster. The first is the “golden hour,” when a seriously injured individual needs to receive emergency medical care in order to survive. The next tipping point is the 72-hour mark. Individuals who can’t get water or are exposed to harsh weather for up to three days will likely die.

But what happens if the crisis is extended and ongoing and the government is unable to provide assistance in the wake of a catastrophic event?

In his book, Carafano, the Heritage Foundation’s leading expert on national security and foreign policy challenges, gives examples of events in the United States that took a tragic turn when a disaster struck, like during a major power outage in New York in 1927 when a cascading power failure produced a blackout. Despite the fact that the blackout only lasted for a day, Carafano says, “In a city already on the edge with sky-rocketing crime, racial tension, and civic unrest, the dark unleashed a night of terror and looting unseen in New York since rioting during the Civil War.”

Other communities Carafano studied handled crises significantly better, in part because members of the church or the community pitched in to help. Carafano notes:

There is a pretty broad consensus that faith-based organizations are among the top performers during a crisis. The tasks they perform, such as supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need, or providing mental health responses for everything from stress and grief counseling to recovery from spousal abuse, can be immensely valuable for communities struggling to survive in the wake of a catastrophe. Being connected to a faith-based organization could well be critical for staying alive when nature or men do their worst.

Carafano is spot on with this advice.

Our family attends a church with about 500 members, representing a wide range of ages, income levels, job skills, and life experiences. We have engineers, carpenters, welders, counselors, lawyers, nurses, business owners, auto mechanics, hairstylists, teachers, farmers, computer specialists, and homemakers. We also have a collection of wise, white-haired men, who slogged through the jungles of Vietnam or marched across Europe during the time they served in World War II. No matter what the crisis, I have no doubt our tightly knit church community would rise to the occasion, beginning on Day One with an enormous pool of skills and talents from which to draw. Moreover, the extensive experience and wisdom in the group could be combined and leveraged to provide leadership and innovative solutions to problems that arise in a doomsday scenario.

According to Carafano, decision-making during a crisis is crucial:

It helps to have a strong moral core to drive that decision-making. … Ethical decision-making helps individuals during stressful situations determine the right course. Further, the more collaboration there is among the right people at the right time focusing on the right issues with the right information, the better are the decisions that get made. That kind of trusting relationship makes it a lot easier to get the right things done.

Churches are well suited to the task of producing ethical leaders with a “strong moral core” in the wake of a disaster. In most churches, the individuals best prepared for leadership in a crisis (qualified in part by their good moral reputation) have already been identified and are likely already serving in the church in some capacity.

But Carafano warns,

Sadly, America is going the way of Europe. According to surveys, the number of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation has been growing rapidly. By some estimates, the percentage has doubled since 1990. The best advice—if you want to up your odds of surviving a disaster—is don’t become a part of that statistic.

Which brings me back to Revolution. Other than a token nod to a religious relic now and then or a discussion between characters about “something out there,” no reference was made to organized religion. It left me wondering how the writers envisioned it. Did the disappearance of the churches in Revolution’s America precede the Blackout and the collapse of the government or was it the other way around? Did the churches die after everything collapsed?

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Learn These Secrets on How to Survive Aggressive People

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Helen Smith

From the description:

Whether an aggressor is a seasoned predator or an irate individual, hostility is almost always preceded by warning signs–if we know what to look for. Surviving Aggressive People dissects the psychology of aggression. It exposes the subtle cues of impending violence and offers timeless methods for transforming a potential disaster into a peaceful victory. Using time-tested methods for conflict management and crisis intervention, this book offers persuasion and peacemaking skills that historically have been reserved for law enforcement, psychologists, and other professionals working the front lines of emotionally charged situations. In today’s world, these skills are a must for everyone. Newly updated, with a special appendix for healthcare workers, the enduring knowledge in Surviving Aggressive People can help deter hostility before it spins out of control. It might even save your life.

The book has some good advice that I have used myself on occasion. For example, the golden rule of violence prevention is “an adversary is less dangerous when he perceives you as similar to himself.” Smith gives some tips on how to reduce this “psychological distance”: Use humor, and employ politeness as a preemptive strike. When I used to see clients for disability claims, some would be angry and distrustful when they walked through the door. I stocked the fridge with Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other drinks that people seemed to like and when someone got upset, I would say, “Would you like a Pepsi or Mountain Dew? Then we can talk about your concerns.” It made people feel welcome and as if they were in a safe environment. I guess the caffeine wasn’t always the best idea but “would you like bottled water or caffeine-free herbal tea?” didn’t have the same ring to it and sounded haughty.

Anyway, you get the idea. The book is full of these helpful hints that may help you to reduce your chance of being a victim of violence and provides a framework for how to avoid it. I recommend the sections for healthcare workers on how to respond to neuro-behavioral aggression. It is surprising how few of them get training on how to respond when a patient gets aggressive. This book will help.

******
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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What Is the Best Thing About Being Human?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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5 Ways to Avoid Christma-fying Your Hanukkah

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.

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Should We Care When Our Political Leaders Fail?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first four parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” “Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power,” and “Should You Trust Your Gut or God?“ Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts hereWarning: some spoilers about season 3 discussed in this installment.

Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our culture has a seemingly natural distrust of people in power, but that wasn’t always the case. Before November 1963 we put great faith in our political and spiritual leaders. Those pre-’63 figureheads like JFK, Ike and FDR, Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham are still heralded as role models of moral society. Today’s faith is different. We look for hypocrisy and mock it intensely. All spiritual leaders are televangelists skilled in chicanery. Our politicians are now supposed to be our messiahs, and when they fail we as a nation fall into despair and chaos. When did we forget God, and why does it matter that we’ve left Him out of the equation?

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My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Editor’s Note: We’re launching some discussions this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,”  Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and this collection of discussion starters from yesterday: “60 Questions to Provoke Debates About How to Fix Our Popular Culture.” To learn more about Liberty Island and their extraordinary writers see the collection “How To Join This Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers.”

Dear Jeremy Swindle,

I’d like to thank you for inspiring me with your PJ Lifestyle articles this fall. They confirmed for me something I already knew and now take extreme pleasure in bragging to others about: my younger brother has more natural writing ability than I.

You have a lot of potential, Jere, and lots of choices about where you’re going to choose to focus your creative energy and how you’ll refine your craft. In figuring that out I’m going to try to caution you against some of the mistakes that I’ve made over the last 15 years in my wanderings across culture, religion, and political ideology.

Your writing and your destiny is your own and it’s not my agenda to try to convert you to my positions. Rather, I want to try and give you a map of the territory that I’ve explored so far. Some of the books and authors I’ve gone through may be helpful to you as you continue do develop your own style and priorities.

I believe it’s important to study broadly across many subjects. Over the coming weeks and months my goal is to finish the giant-size recommended reading guide that I’m making the first part of my book. I’m planning on 365 books total, organized into 7 lists of 52 each. And as I’m writing each part in epistolary format with a specific reader in mind, for this opening section I’ve decided to write it to you, Jere. I’m trying to assemble an alternative college reading list, a Good Will Hunting, DIY, just-pay-the-late-charges-at-the-library, book-reading education. This is still the most entertaining scene of the movie, isn’t it?

At the core of the list there are several writers I’d direct more attention to than others. These authors are worth trying to take in in full. They range from famous, even legendary, long dead figures to writers only a few years older than you who I’ve worked with for years. All continually inspire me — just don’t assume that I necessarily agree with everything they write or that I’ve read all of their works yet. Here’s the list, I’ve written about most of these authors already and will be presenting the case for each of them. Some, like Aleister Crowley and Ann Coulter, are very misunderstood by many — don’t make the mistake of dismissing a writer just because some of their soundbites might throw you: 

  1. Howard Bloom
  2. Robert Spencer
  3. Michael Ledeen
  4. Daniel Pipes
  5. Kathy Shaidle
  6. Barry Rubin
  7. David P. Goldman
  8. Andrew C. McCarthy
  9. Leszek Kolakowski
  10. Paul Johnson
  11. Thomas Sowell
  12. Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
  13. Stanley Kurtz
  14. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  15. Ben Shapiro
  16. Dennis Prager
  17. Joseph Telushkin
  18. David Mamet
  19. Robert Anton Wilson
  20. Camille Paglia
  21. Weston La Barre
  22. J. Christian Adams
  23. Shelby Steele
  24. Ann Coulter
  25. Adam Carolla
  26. Michael Walsh
  27. William F. Buckley, Jr.
  28. Andrew Klavan
  29. James Madison
  30. Roger Kimball
  31. Theodore Dalrymple
  32. Allan Bloom
  33. Roger L. Simon
  34. Douglas Rushkoff
  35. George Gilder
  36. Hannah Sternberg
  37. Frank J. Fleming
  38. John Waters
  39. Glenn Reynolds
  40. Helen Smith
  41. Ray Kurzweil
  42. James Wasserman
  43. John Whiteside Parsons
  44. Maimonides
  45. Niccolò Machiavelli
  46. Benjamin Franklin
  47. Aleister Crowley
  48. Booker T. Washington
  49. Israel Regardie
  50. Thomas Jefferson
  51. John Adams
  52. Ron Radosh
  53. Victor Davis Hanson
  54. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
  55. Franz Rosenzweig
  56. J.R.R. Tolkien
  57. Michael Barrier
  58. Frederick Douglass
  59. Alejandro Jodorowsky
  60. Lisa De Pasquale
  61. Shmuley Boteach
  62. Abraham Lincoln
  63. Gary Lachman
  64. Sarah Hoyt
  65. Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Jere, I hope to include you on a future version of this list…

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Should You Trust Your Gut or God?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first three parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” and “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The idea of Olivia Pope is one of a woman who trusts her gut instinct so implicitly that she bases her every decision on it. As a result she unwittingly justifies a range of crimes, puts her life and the lives of her employees and friends at risk, and helps terrorists escape the country. Sometimes listening to your gut just isn’t good enough. Which is probably why God provides a wise alternative in Torah: the prophet.

Biblical culture believes that God speaks to human beings. Sometimes this is done in a group setting, like when the Israelites entered into a covenant with God on Mount Sinai. Other times this is done on an individual level, as when God called out Abraham, spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and when God speaks to His prophets. Given that God spoke to His priests through the long-ago destroyed Temple, Rabbinic Judaism tends to view prophets as the stuff of biblical history, despite the prophecy of Joel:

And afterward [after the restoration of Israel], I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

The Spirit of God in prophecy, known in Rabbinic Judaism as the “bat kol,” is highly regulated by Rabbinic law and culture:

In any event, the consensus in Jewish thought is that no appeal to a heavenly voice can be made to decide matters of halakhah where human reasoning on the meaning of the Torah rules is alone determinative. In non-legal matters, however, a Bat Kol is to be heeded. …In modern Jewish thought, even among the Orthodox, claims to have heard a Bat Kol would be treated with extreme suspicion and dismissed as chicanery or hallucination.

But is it really wise to always trust your gut?

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A National Call for Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Lately my editor, David Swindle, has been encouraging me to develop a series describing my own out-of-the-box Jewish faith. It’s this mish-mosh of biblical proverbs, Torah adages, stories and songs tightly woven together by my American colonial heritage and intense Zionist pride. There is no one perfect word to describe my Jewishness beyond biblical in nature. Orthodox, Conservative, even Reform I am not. Reconstructionist or Renewal? Forget it. But I find commentary from all denominations (“streams” we call them in Judaism) interesting and acceptable in a “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” kind of way that gives me the liberty to define my Judaism in a way most of my compatriots are simply afraid to do. Which is probably why David finds my approach so fascinating. It’s rare to find a Jew who isn’t somehow fettered by the chains of guilt.

So I begin at the beginning, with Thanksgiving, the quintessential Jewish and American holiday. Traditionally Jews celebrate the idea roughly 1-2 months earlier during Sukkot, a festive fall harvest holiday in which we humble ourselves before the God who brought us out of bondage, not because we are perfect, but because He loves us and wanted to dwell with us. (Sukkahs, as in “tabernacles,” as in “the Lord tabernacles with us.”) When you understand the story of God and Israel as a passionate love story, the struggles are contextualized as are the prophecies, into tough tales with happy endings. When you understand the metaphor of God and Israel as a greater metaphor of God’s love for humanity (we’re just the physical reminders) you open your heart to the immense, overwhelming love of God. And there is nothing more you can do as a human being than reflect on that truth with awe-filled gratitude.

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The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:

This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.

In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.

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Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See Part 1 of Susan’s ongoing series analyzing the connections between ABC’s Scandal, current events, and Western values: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.

Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.

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People Treat Me Like an Adult and I’m Too Polite to Correct Them

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I was reading Dalrock’s blog and saw a post from a mom blog about a woman who is upset because she is treated by others like a child:

When I was a little girl, adults would often brush aside my viewpoint or do things for me because of my age. I couldn’t wait to grow up and take control over my own life. Fast forward a couple decades later. I’m a mom in my 30′s, but I still find myself being treated like a child by other adults and I can’t figure out how to stop it from happening without being rude.

I should start by saying that I’m not a particularly small or helpless person. Sure, I’m 5’4″ in sneakers, but I’ve always been athletic and loud, by no means a shrinking violet. My peers have never felt the need to baby me, in fact, when I was in college and on vacation with my sorority sisters, they once told me that in the event of a burglary, I was the one they would turn to for protection and a plan of attack. But those older than me treat me like I wander through life with my shoes untied and a teddy bear dangling from one arm, and I can’t seem to get them to stop.

The author of the piece goes on to complain that people do too much for her and provide with help and assistance:

Bosses have refused to let me walk a city block alone at night to the parking garage, even though my coworkers go without being questioned. I’ve been passed over for assignments involving incarcerated individuals lest I get hurt and given assistance I didn’t ask for with boxes or files. Whenever I have voice my distaste for being treated like I’m an incompetent toddler, people get offended and tell me they are just trying to be nice, and I feel like an evil witch.

I have always had the opposite problem. People have always treated me like adult as long as I can remember. I am not that tall or large –around five foot six and 120 pounds, but people always think I am taller and much larger than I am. I have rarely been given assistance for much, walked alone in NYC without so much as an escort, and usually was the one people asked for help, not the other way around. I have worked with incarcerated individuals for years and lifted my own boxes and files without assistance (unless I asked my wonderful husband!). In short, I have been treated as a competent adult for most of my life–and maybe it’s because I acted like one or maybe it has to do with one’s facial appearance or a combination of physical and psychological attributes.

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8 Reasons Why Jews & Christians Should Re-Think Celebrating Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.

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Would You Survive a Horror Movie?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

Those with long memories will recall that Wes Craven’s Scream, which came out way back in 1996, was praised for its hip “self-awareness,” coming as it did in a particularly “meta” era of ’90s postmodernism, full of overrated cult fare like Pulp Fiction and Clerks. The film’s edginess consisted in banging on the fourth wall without quite breaking it. In one scene, for instance, a horror-movie fanatic and video-store clerk (remember: 1996) played by Jamie Kennedy tells his fellow teenagers about the “rules” of surviving a slasher film.

One of these “rules,” which is now common knowledge, is that in order to survive one mustn’t practice the carnal arts. Those who do it always get it. What the less eloquent might call “c*ckblocking” is an established horror-movie tradition. In the first Halloween film, Michael Myers ruins one couple’s tryst by stabbing the guy and then assaulting his teenage girlfriend—which might sound like a standard Friday evening at Roman Polanski’s house, but for an audience of 1970s suburban teens it was genuinely frightening. Come to think of it, every horror movie has a boyfriend character, football letter jacket and all, who gets his head caved in while fetching a few beers from the fridge. Each series has its own tropes. The Friday the 13th movies rely on the obligatory sex-in-the-woods scene: two camp counselors set up a tent, and before long Jason shows up with his machete for an especially kinky threesome.

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10 Ways to Avoid Regretting Your Wedding

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The average wedding in America costs roughly $30,000. Egged on by countless wedding TV shows, magazines, and websites, people throw what appear to be pseudo star-studded events that aim to rival the kind of blow-out parties you only see in movies. In the end you wind up with one night of clouded memories, a ton of photos, and a group of hungover people hovering over breakfast in the hotel lobby the next day. The bills may last you months, even upwards of a year. And for what? To make your grandmother happy? Because you really liked that episode of My Fair WeddingYou can have a great, regret-free wedding without sacrificing yourself to the Wedding Idol. Here’s how.

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10 Ways Not to Land Your Dream Job

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Sure, you know how to write an assertive cover letter and you have a wardrobe of freshly pressed black and navy blue suits. But, just because you’re doing everything the manual tells you doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make a mistake in your job search. From my other life working in human resources, I give you the ten best mistakes applicants have made in pursuit of a job.

10. Want to include the fact that you taught an adult education course on photography on your resume? Don’t dub yourself “Adult Photography Instructor.”

Language matters. In the age of social media and Google, applicants should understand that lying on their resume isn’t an option. Just be sure you aren’t getting so creative with your wording that you make yourself sound more qualified for porn than a professional environment.

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The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle
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Dear Adam Bellow,

I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle – with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and  David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”

I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.

I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:

What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.

In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.

I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:

The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.

So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:

My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:

My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.

Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):

I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.

Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.

But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…

(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)

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15 Tricks and Tips for Getting the Most Out of College

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

15. Everything you know about the social stratosphere is wrong…

College is nothing like high school. You understand this in theory, but have never experienced the kind of social freedom you will in college. There are no cliques. There is no lunch table. Welcome to the world of being an adult. For the first couple of weeks you’ll attend pre-arranged mixers, usually orientation events or annoying team-building activities your RA spent all summer training to lead. These awkward moments are helpful for one reason: Discovering who has a car. As a freshman, be aware that the parties you crash at frat houses aren’t for making friends, they’re for getting drunk and hooking up. You’ve been warned.

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‘Don’t Go to the Movies with Strangers’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Lisa de Pasquale’s memoir of life and love in Washington, D.C., Finding Mr. Righteous.  Her honest, sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking tell-all about dating life in the conservative world struck a few chords with me, so I asked her some follow-up questions. Keep reading to find out how she’s dealt with people trying to figure out who’s in the book, the current status of her dating life, and the latest steps in her spiritual journey.

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5 Life and Relationship Lessons from Finding Mr. Righteous

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Lesson #5: Everybody’s human. Very, very human.

I once heard a guy tell a story about a disastrous first date he went on. He was ultra-liberal, and didn’t realize the girl he’d asked out was a libertarian. They discovered their differences soon enough, and their debate was so fierce she left in tears. It didn’t end there, though; he followed up with links to articles and documentaries she had to see, to correct her point of view. She participated as well, sending him material from her own side. But it was clear there was no romantic possibility between the two of them — instead of finding love on a blind date, they found hate.

He asked, “What do you do? When you meet up with these DC vampires who are just dead set on destroying the world?”

I told him the first thing you do is stop denying their essential humanity by calling them monsters. Then, give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they hold their views because they want to make the world a better place, too — or, at the very least, not because of some desire to burn it all down. I wish now I could have just given him a copy of Finding Mr. Righteous, the romantic memoir by conservative activist Lisa de Pasquale.

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8 Things I Learned Running a Ragnar with No Training

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

I was bored and restless the Wednesday I saw a friend post on Facebook that he knew a Ragnar Relay Race team that needed an extra member. That Friday, I was in a van full of camping equipment on my way into the mountains of West Virginia, wondering what the hell I’d just gotten myself into. I was about to break one of the cardinal rules my mother gave us in childhood: “If you can imagine William Shatner talking about it on Rescue 911, don’t do it.” My only comfort was that if I blogged about it, I might be able to write the trip off on my taxes as a business expense.

By Saturday night I had run 14.8 miles in three parts. I learned a lot about myself and bears that weekend. I also learned about the glory of human endurance, though I still haven’t learned exactly what foam rollers are for. And now, in the name of tax deductiblity, I will share those lessons with you.

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5 Ways to Avoid Dating Jerks

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
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I’ve heard it plenty of times before: friends tell me all men are jerks and they just can’t seem to find and keep a good guy. Maybe part of it is fate, but a much bigger part is your picker — your internal sense of who’s a suitable companion for you. If more of my friends (and anyone else out there who bemoans the infestation of jerks in their dating lives) followed these simple rules right at the start of a relationship — in the choosing phase — they’d discover that the problem isn’t that all men are a**holes, but simply that too many of us choose to date someone who’s wrong for us for too long, making ourselves unavailable when the right guy comes along, and building resentment and bad feelings toward each other along the way. These rules go both ways — any man can (and should) follow them if he feels he often dates women who don’t behave well toward him. Since most appeals for advice on this subject that I’ve received have come from straight women, I’ve assigned gender pronouns accordingly — but the ideas are universally applicable. Check out these five mind-bogglingly simple steps to avoid your next dating disaster.

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10 Easy Ways to Make Your Apartment Look Grown-Up

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Millennials are growing up fast, but are their apartments? There’s a certain point in your life when you wake up and realize you don’t want your home to look like a college dorm anymore. But sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly how to make a place look grown-up, while still retaining your unique sense of style. Having a grown-up looking place doesn’t mean you have to lose all of your own flair; there are a few general ideas that you can put your own twist on, whatever your taste. It all boils down to having an apartment where you can make people comfortable. Here are ten steps to get started.

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