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Chummy Photo Spread Reveals: Obama Hangs with Yuppies

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney recently had his home featured in Washington Mom. The typical chummy photo spread revealed what we already knew: Carney is a yuppie.

Considering Obama’s Marxist roots, hippie leanings, and wife’s penchant for designer everything, the revelation that he works with yuppies should come as no surprise. After all, he is the king of the yuppies – er – President, at least.

Soviet propaganda-turned-art isn’t hard to find for sale on the Internet. Hipsters, the love children of Yuppies, have been equally delighted by the graphic design and amused by the slogans for years. It’s far easier to appreciate Soviet art than to tackle the monster of socialist ideology that stifled the Russian intelligentsia for nearly 8 decades.

In a related story, Russia’s hipsters are fearing for their own modicum of intellectual freedom. The Daily Beast reports that as a result of the potential conflict with Ukraine:

The authorities already have closed media outlets, attacked pro-Western theaters and cinemas and adopted laws aimed against any alternative opinions. Invading the rest of Ukraine would turn Russia into a real fortress under siege. That would mean more of [one hipster's] friends fleeing the country or jumping into what’s called “inner immigration,” the life inside a small circle of people keeping distant from the country’s political flow; remaining liberals but keeping their opinion quiet.

…Every day, the free media sphere shrinks, leaving those who two years ago rallied in freezing wind on Moscow’s squares without any information, today, that they can trust. According to a law adopted last week, repeated arrests at protests that haven’t been given permits are punishable by a jail term now, not just a fine.

“On seeing activists sentenced to jail terms, many decided they were not ready to pay that high a price for fighting Putin,” Fedoseyev admitted. Russia without any free media or the right to protest is definitely going to be a more depressing place, but most hipsters speak foreign languages, and they can still read world news on the Web. They are beginning to make do. And the authorities are trying to make life fun for them.

“Fun” includes “beautifully designed” parks and clubs. If there’s one thing Carney’s photo shoot reminds us, it’s that socialist Russian oppression sure looks good. Heck, it can really tie a room – and a country – together.

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Take This Sign and Shove It

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

Take this sign and shove it

I have little to add to John Hinderaker’s analysis of the Bundy ranch standoff, except this: if the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency, thinks it can establish “First Amendment Areas” while it goes about its business, it and the rest of the federal bureaucracy need to think again. First, the moral case for Bundy (who, as Hinderaker correctly notes, doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on):

Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one. When Bundy refused to pay grazing fees beginning in around 1993, he said something to the effect of, they are supposed to be charging me a fee for managing the land and all they are doing is trying to manage me out of business. Why should I pay them for that..?

So let’s have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family. They don’t have a chance on the law, because under the Endangered Species Act and many other federal statutes, the agencies are always in the right. And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don’t subsist by virtue of government subsidies or regulations that hamstring competitors. They aren’t illegal immigrants. They have never even gone to law school. So what possible place is there for the Bundys in the Age of Obama?

Well, this is what you get with gangster government. But, just as in the 1930s, when corrupt big-city machines like Tammany Hall worked hand-in-glove with both politicians and criminals — but I repeat myself — it’s going to take the public to rise up and destroy the rackets. Where is the Tom Dewey of our time, the two-fisted racket buster who sent legions of crooks to the slammer? We’re still waiting.

But a “First Amendment Area“? That’s something every American needs to denounce, as loudly as possible. No federal agency has the right to do this, and in a decent administration, the bureaucrat who thought up the idea and ordered the signs posted would be publicly defenestrated pour encourage les autres. There is, however, no accountability in the Obama administration and its corrupt enablers in Congress, for whom everything is a racket — either a source of personal enrichment or an opportunity to mete out some punishment to the regime’s ideological enemies.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The BLM’s stunt violated every one of the amendment’s proscriptions except the “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses, and Obamacare is working hard on those. For the record, here’s the official spokesdroid’s explanation for the zones:

While anybody can express their free speech any time on open public lands in accordance with the codes and ordinances that exist, there are temporary closures of some of the public lands related to this impound operation and those are in place for public safety. So we identified two areas where the public could safely and conveniently express their opinions without having to go through the codes and ordinance process and apply for permits.

So this is the country we live in at the moment: militarized local cops and weaponized federal agencies, whose bureaucratic whims are enforced at gunpoint. It’s not the country I grew up in, nor one in which any right-thinking American would want to live.

On the other hand, not everything is a plot against the Republic:

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What Dance Was Most Controversial When You Were Young?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

The waltz was once a very controversial dance. Excerpt from Page 284 of Dr. Richard Lewinsohn's A #History of Sexual Customs, page 284 - a fascinating book from 1956 from a German author I'm really liking.

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Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
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Click to check out “Murder at CPAC” by Jamie Wilson.

A year or more ago I heard about this project called Liberty Island, supposed to give those of us whose politics make us pariahs with most of traditional publishing — though not Baen Books — a haven where we could meet our fans. I keep meaning to contribute to them, but of course, the last year I spent more time sick than well, and consequently I’m so far behind on books and contracts, I can practically see myself around the corner.

Well, they are up now (and have a story by Frank J. Fleming). And I’ve secured an interview with Adam Bellow, Liberty Island’s publisher and CEO. Bellow is a longtime nonfiction editor, currently running Broadside, the conservative nonfiction imprint of HarperCollins. He is also the author of In Praise of Nepotism, a lively contrarian take on an eternally divisive topic.

And, yep, sure, as soon as I get a weekend to pound it out, I’ll do a novella for Liberty Island.

Sarah Hoyt: I heard of Liberty Island back when it was in the planning stages.  I understand it is an online magazine-cum-community center for writers and readers on the right side of the spectrum.  Is this true?  What do you want to tell us about Liberty Island?

Adam Bellow: We started Liberty Island to help the new wave of conservative storytellers connect with their natural audience. Even before launching the site we’ve discovered dozens of new voices on the right that you won’t find anywhere else. These are talented and creative people who have previously been excluded from mainstream culture because they hold the wrong views and didn’t go to the right schools or attend the approved writing programs. This just confirms our hunch that something like Liberty Island is desperately needed.

SH: Who is the audience for Liberty Island? What is “conservative fiction”? Shouldn’t good stories just stand on their own?

AB: Great literature stands on its own, but the productions of popular culture often carry a hidden freight of ideology that reflects its authors’ biases. Sometimes not so hidden — the evil conservative businessman is essentially the default villain in Hollywood these days. But think about what happens when great stories are told from a conservative perspective: you get Tom Clancy, or Brad Thor, or James Patterson, or Vince Flynn. Mega-bestselling authors with a huge following. Our audience is anyone who loves great pulp writers like those guys. At Liberty Island you will find dozens of stories like these, in genres ranging from humor to thriller to SciFi. These writers aren’t heavy handed in the least – their conservative outlook is sometimes explicit but just as often merely implied or completely submerged. Besides, a case can be made that traditional pulp genres are inherently conservative.

SH: In what way do you intend to distinguish yourself from other online magazines?

AB: Liberty Island combines a magazine, a free range self-publishing platform, and a community of readers and writers who share a commitment to the values of freedom, individualism, and American exceptionalism. It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.

SH: What made you think of the project – and commit to it and work so hard for it?

AB: Two things: first, an impulse to carry the culture war into the field of popular culture. And second, the writers themselves. In 25 years as an editor of nonfiction books I’ve watched the conservative intellectual project thrive and flourish. But like others on the right I’ve been dismayed by the slowness of conservatives to challenge the liberal dominance of popular culture. It’s not enough to carp and criticize the frequently substandard and offensive crap that liberals produce. As Andrew Breitbart used to say, we have to make our own—and it has to be good. But recently we began to notice an exciting development: hundreds, indeed thousands of conservative and libertarian writers were seizing the opportunity afforded by new digital technologies to produce and publish original works of fiction. Others were making music, video, graphics, and other forms of entertainment right on their laptops at home. These were ordinary men and women all over the country, working in isolation, doing their best to hone their art and find an audience. Yet no one seemed to know that they existed. So we started talking about what we could do to help them. Liberty Island grew out of those discussions.

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Interview: L.A. Street Artist Behind the Ted Cruz Bad Boy Posters Speaks Out

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Last weekend mysterious posters of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared in various locations around Beverly Hills. The posters featured an image of Cruz’s head — complete with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth — photoshopped onto a heavily inked torso. The headline on the posters read, “Beverly Hilton: Ted Cruz’s So-Cal ‘Blacklisted and Loving It’ Tour.” Cruz was in California last weekend to speak at the Claremont Institute’s Churchill dinner.

The story went viral, appearing in media outlets as diverse as Drudge, Breitbart, Time, and Huffington Post. Most of them applauded Cruz’s sense of humor when he tweeted: “Saw this, but noticed an error. So I wanted to make one thing clear: I don’t smoke cigarettes.” Cruz later signed a poster that turned up in his dressing room before the Churchill dinner with “The fight for liberty never ends.”

By Saturday morning the Twitterverse was demanding to know who was behind the posters — where could people buy them and would there be t-shirts?

We now have answers to these questions and in an exclusive interview with PJ Media, Sabo, the artist who created the Ted Cruz bad boy posters, tells the story behind them and talks about using street art as a way to take political messages to those who won’t traditionally listen to the Right.

Sabo, an articulate and in-your-face 46-year-old street artist, former Marine, and self-professed Hollywood Republican, grew up in Texas and Louisiana. His Twitter profile says, “I am not a Left-Wing-Zombie-Artist. I am on the edge, the only true rebel artist in LA.” According to his website, UNSAVORYAGENTS (where he’s currently selling Cruz posters), Sabo believes the Right has a great message, but he is frustrated that the Republicans refuse to counter attacks from the Left. He thinks those on the Right are not very well-educated or equipped in fighting back. “A lot of times we simply can’t because they own so many platforms. I find that frustrating,” said Sabo.

He is aiming to change that, one poster at a time.

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Awesome! Jackson Pollock’s Mural Now On Display at the Getty

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

April and I are definitely going to go and see this exhibit soon. We need to go to the Getty more often.

The painting’s creation was dramatized in the 2000 biopic Pollock, directed and starring Ed Harris:

Alas, real life is less exciting than fiction, as the LA Times reports, many layers of the painting would have made a single night’s creative burst impossible:

Doubts that Pollock painted the 20-foot canvas in one sustained burst of all-night creative fervor, which was central to the artist’s myth promoted by his widow, painter Lee Krasner, had been growing for some time — most cogently in the work of Pollock scholar Francis V. O’Connor. As I wrote on Monday, Getty conservators have now laid that myth to rest, showing through careful scientific and other analysis how it was virtually impossible.

I can’t wait to see it for real.

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Who’s Afraid of the Denver Airport’s Fiery Blue ‘Devil Horse’?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Planning on traveling through my closest airport hub, Denver International Airport? Keep an eye out for the gigantic sculpture of a bright blue, anatomically correct, rearing stallion complete with glow-in-the-dark red eyes. Called “Mustang,” this 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture is notorious both for its demonic appearance and the fact that it killed its creator.

The sculptor, Luis Jimenez, died when a portion of the Mustang fell on his leg, severing his artery. The artwork was completed by Jimenez’s son and erected at the entrance to Denver International Airport in 2008. The stallion has gathered notorious nicknames such as “Blucifer” and “Devil Horse” and some say it is haunted. Whoever could think that?

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George Clooney Didn’t ‘Save Puppies from Nazis’ In Monuments Men

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

In spite of the fact that the new WWII flick The Monuments Men is peppered with Hollywood royalty like George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon, its idealism and patriotic tone has induced mental vomiting among the cultural elite.

Case in point is Philip Kennicott’s scathing criticism of the film in the Washington Post titledGeorge Clooney saves Puppies from Nazis.“ Ironically, Kennicott misses the point of the movie and then uses the same point to argue his case against it.

In yet another twist of fate, our new series exploring the works of Ernest Becker beginning with The Birth and Death of Meaning sheds a different light on the movie, Kennicott, the Allied Forces and Hitler.

Let’s start with Kennicott, who writes:

“If you care about art, you are obliged to loathe the film “The Monuments Men,” a star-studded history drama that purports to tell the story of American efforts to rescue and repatriate art stolen by the Nazis in World War II…“Monuments Men” is so bad I will save you the trouble and expense of seeing it with the following summary. To make the film a bit more coherent, I’ve substituted the word “puppies” for art.

Over in Europe, the Second World War is raging, and Clooney is very worried about the puppies. He takes this concern directly to Franklin Delano Roosevelt… He explains to the President of the United States the basics of the allied invasion of Germany. He uses a big map with arrows on it, with the Russians coming in from the east, and the allies moving in from France and Italy. Caught in the middle of these armies are a whole lot of puppies. Clooney says he doesn’t want to live in a world without puppies.

Roosevelt tells Clooney to go save the puppies and there ensue several derivative scenes in which Clooney rounds up a rag-tag gang of misfit puppy lovers who all agree to help him return the puppies to their rightful owners.”

His opening with, “If you love art you are obligated to loathe the film” should give you your first whiff of a fermented ideology. The basis of his argument begins by informing us of our obligation to accept his emotions and condescension as the standard of righteousness, and our allegiance to art. Then Kennicott proceeds to obscure the gravity of the facts by replacing it with warm fuzzies–then ridiculing the absurdity.

Like a fresh gulp of air in a stale room of smoke and mirrors, this film is based on American history not yet rewritten–even in Hollywood.

And that alone makes it worth a closer look.

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Fifth Beatle Brian Epstein’s Unsung Revolution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

fifthbeatlecover

Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.

This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatlereleased by Dark Horse Comics.

What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.

Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.

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Andrew Bird’s Flights of Fancy

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

The first poet I fell in love with was E. E. Cummings. In elementary school we read his poems about springtime and childhood. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered his poems about love and sex, mortality, war, and much more. There aren’t many recent poets who have captured my imagination like E. E. Cummings does. Part of the problem is the difficulty of finding good contemporary poetry — fewer and fewer magazines carry it, and only a few specialty publishers collect it into books. I haven’t tried very hard to look for it, though, because my new favorite poets are working somewhere else entirely — the stage of a local music venue.

My new favorite poet is Andrew Bird. I’ve been following him for five years now. If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably been as a violinist and alternative musician.

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Bird’s lyrics roam from ancient civilizations to a whimsical post-apocalyptic paradise. Some of his songs hint at a story that ended just before he started singing; others sound just like Bird is enjoying playing with words, the way an abstract artist explores form and color. Like the poems of E. E. Cummings, Bird’s lyrics spring to life when the listener learns to focus less on meaning and more on atmosphere.

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Andrew Bird is one of those rare artists who doesn’t just write music — he creates worlds. But despite his lyric-writing ability, I have wonder if calling him a poet fully sums him up. If I only read his lyrics, I might have been reminded of E. E. Cummings but I wouldn’t have been swept away in quite the same way. The music is part of the poetry. He builds delicate castles with piccolo and rhyme — the sum is greater than the parts. I can’t call him a poet because he’s more than that.

So, my hunt for great contemporary poetry is still frustrated. But I can’t say Andrew Bird has let me down.

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Play It Yourself: Tabs and Lyrics

Tenuousness

Scythian Empire

A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left 

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How To Make Your Book Cover Step-By-Step

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
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This is the cover of my upcoming novel from Goldport Press. The novel is regency fantasy (alternate world.) The background painting is by John Atkinson Grimshaw, a painter who infuses his paintings with an eerie light. The dragon and the man in the foreground (originally a photograph) are both from dreamstime. Both man and dragon were run through Filter Forge’s oil-painting filter, then tweaked to fit in with the colors, etc.

Now, this is a cover that will work for today’s Amazon KDP and frankly, all online sites, and also for Create Space printing.  (Yes, I need to tweak that tag line, and there’s too much white showing around the space under his arm, but that’s blendable.)

However, the standards weren’t always so high, and the covers I (and others) put up when KDP was young are borderline offensive to the eye now.  Which probably explains why so few of my old stories that are up there sell.

So, we’ll take one — The Blood of Dreams — because I’ve never liked it, and also because I happened to see it the other day and find it offensive.

The Blood of Dreams is a vampire short story set in post-Soviet Russia.  It was published in The Secret History of Vampires, where the conceit was you had to use and historic figure.  (I was invited to contribute and had to come up with something.)  The rights have reverted to me.  So I put it out, I think over a year ago.  And this is what the cover looks like:

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Is this the most horrible cover I have out there?  Not even close.  And that’s me, and my covers were never the MOST horrible ones out there.  (They were pretty close, though.)  However, seriously, no one could mistake that for a professional cover, either.  Let me count the ways:

It’s two photoshopped together (not convincingly) photos.  The lettering work is Times New Roman, I think.  It’s not even centered.  And it doesn’t in any way signal genre.

In fact, if you considered this as a traditionally published book, you’d expect it to be “my experiences escaping the East in the eighties” or something.

So, let’s give this much abused story a new look, shall we?

So, first I go to Morguefile and let my fingers do the walking (if I can find something in morgue file I don’t need to pay for it.  So I’d like to at least get the background in morgue file.)  My first search term is Russia.  I’m looking for something (like that background) identifiable as “Russian.”

This is the photo I decided on:

It’s by fmfm166 at morguefile.

While I’m running it by Filter Forge, I’m going to look for a photo of a woman. Last resort, I’ll go to Dreamstime.com but the problem is that this limits how much I can show you.  (I.e. picture of a woman pre-manipulation is right out, and in fact, I shouldn’t show you anything but the finished cover. It’s a license thing.) Look, the story involves a woman and vampires, and Moscow and Lenin and Stalin. I could, I grant you, use a drawing of Lenin or Stalin, but a woman on the cover will sell better.

If I go to dreamstime I won’t be able to put the raw picture here, because dreamstime is a specific license, though.  I will put the transformed picture of the background, and then the full cover.  But meanwhile let me look other places.

Success. Wikimedia commons has a photo of a painting by Ferdinand Keller which, since he died in 1922 is fair game.  It’s a highly dystopic looking painting, so perfect.  (It is by the way, photographed by Hampel Auctions.)

 

Since the image is an oil and in a certain style, it restricts what I can do with the background, too.

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What We Owe Rockwell, Orwell and the God of Creation

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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I met Norman Rockwell in Nashville last week.

Throughout my life, I’ve brushed by his artwork and admired it just like countless other Americans. However, his delightful mixture of realism and caricature are nothing short of captivating on their original massive canvases. I don’t think I could have appreciated him more as a person or as an artist if he were alive and standing in the midst of that exhibit. His lifetime of artwork left behind footprints pooled with deep, reflective waters.

Our trip to the Norman Rockwell Exhibit at the Frist Center started out to be this week’s “Artist Date” as prescribed weekly by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. It turned out to be more than just looking at the work of a master illustrator; it caused me to consider what it means to love your work, and what impact our creativity has on the world around us.

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If Fatherhood Falls in a Forest…

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

TheParisReviewFatherhood has been undergoing a dramatic redefinition in recent years, amply covered by journalists, scientists, and sitcoms. That’s why the Tweet I saw today (“Do fathers make good writers? Do writers make good fathers?“) was clickbait I eagerly lapped up.

The article I wound up reading, “The Pram in the Hall,” revealed more about its author, Shane Jones, than it did about writing or parenthood. Jones is admittedly image-obsessed, and that’s evident when he spends most of this article talking not about the unique challenges parenthood poses to writing, but about the challenges it poses to his carefully cultivated personal and professional image.

He writes, “In our culture, fatherhood means baggy khakis and cars with side-impact airbags—it’s something of a joke.”

I don’t see how that’s something of a joke — I just see a comfortable man in a safe car. And people in the book world aren’t known for their glamorous good looks and fashion sense, either, so I’m not sure how any of that is a threat to his career. Have you been to a publishing trade show lately? Clint and Stacey would have a heart attack.

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I Love that J. K. Rowling Wants to Break Up Ron and Hermione

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Harry Potter fans were outraged this weekend to learn that author J. K. Rowling regrets pairing up Harry’s buddies Ron and Hermione. She told readers that she stuck with the pairing because it was part of the plan all along, but looking back at how the characters evolved, she realized that Ron and Hermoine might not be the best for each other’s long-term happiness.

I love this news.

For an author, having two characters end up in a mismatched or potentially unhappy romance shouldn’t have to be a cause for regret. After all, fiction would be very dull if every character made the right choices and loved the right people. In fact, many authors gleefully torture their characters for their bad decisions, or just for plain fun (I’m looking at you, George R. R. Martin). Making bad things happen to your characters is necessary to advance an interesting story, no matter how painful writing those things might be for the author. And they can make for a deliciously addictive tale (I’m still looking at you, George R. R. Martin).

But I like how, despite that, J. K. Rowling still wants the best for her characters. She admitted that Ron probably wouldn’t be able to make Hermione happy. I don’t think that’s the credibility issue she says it is (people wind up in mismatched, unhappy pairings all the time in real life) but I do think it’s refreshing that she seems to care about whether her characters will wind up happy.

It reminds me of Stranger Than Fiction, the movie in which an author’s fictional creation fights to defend himself from the author’s plans to kill him at the end of her novel. More recently, Cabin in the Woods seemed to be Joss Whedon telling horror-movie creators, “How would you feel if the horrible things you did to your characters happened to you?” Both movies imply, at least a little, that some creators are getting tired of stories that treat characters like props to make The Author’s Big Point, or objects that exist to titillate.

Why is this important? Because audiences do want to engage with characters as if they were real. And when creators dehumanize characters, that attitude gets carried away from the theater or reading chair, and contributes to the dehumanization of people in real life. The more callous we become about the unhappiness inflicted on characters, the more callous we become about real people’s unhappiness.

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for caring so much about your characters, even when it lets down a few fans. Treating characters like real people can introduce some much-needed positivity into a pretty nihilistic arts landscape.

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Music for My Dad’s Guitar

Friday, January 31st, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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This Christmas, my brother and I were stumped. My gift ideas for our dad had fallen through, and I’d run out of gardening stuff to give him. (He’s the kind of guy who only really needs a trowel and a bucket — and after feeling clever, giving him a wrap-around-the-bucket trowel carrier last year, I realized I’d exhausted the only possibility in that field.)

But then I saw my dad pick up the guitar I’d brought home with me, and realized that he remembered more from when he played 30 years ago, than I’d learned in nine months of studious* practicing. My brother and I impulsively bought him a guitar just before the holiday overtook us.

Now my dad has added a songbook of classics and is asking me to send him tabs for more current songs that he could play along with me when I visit home. My parents often remind me I’m their conduit to the hottest new music, while I try hard to pick PG-50 tunes for them.

So, I’m opening the field. So far, I’ve sent him the tab for “Mountain Sound” by of Monsters and Men. If you read my gardening post yesterday, you know of Monsters and Men is my jam this week.

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Meanwhile, I’ve been practicing my left-hand agility with the introduction to Muse’s “Plug-In Baby,” which sounds like a baroque practice piece when played on an acoustic guitar.

What are your recommendations for good beginner’s rock songs on an unplugged guitar?

 

*I apply a very generous definition of “studious” here.

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Want to Kill The Dragon That Ate Your Dreams and Your Socks?

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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The dragon ate my week. It’s gone, along with my left sock. There’s not a trace of artwork and very little actual writing to be found; nothing was left behind but a few crumbs of productivity scattered around my office.

In the very first chapter of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron details two indispensable tools for creative recovery: morning pages and the artist date. I am happy to report that together with my daughter, Emily, we have managed to integrate both practices into our daily lives over the last couple weeks. That’s how I discovered the dragon.

Every morning I’ve gotten up, poured my coffee and sat down with pen and paper to produce the assigned three pages of “stream of consciousness writing.” The theory is that by doing so, you drain off the daily debris of life, thereby clearing the pipeline into the deep resources of your creativity, even spirituality. (There’s also the added benefit of improving your penmanship.)

My morning pages have been nothing short of life changing. From them have emerged the critical missing element in a book I’ve been developing for years. With several major projects nipping at my heals, I’ve been productively immobilized–the literary version of a deer-caught-in-the-headlights. Over a three-day spread of pages, the answer and clear direction surfaced.

Most shocking however, was the unexpected creature that also came crawling out into the light and found its way onto my pages –the aforementioned dragon living in my house. Skeptical? Evil is real.

This dragon follows me. The creature obscures my vision, eats my time and steals my productivity. In the War of Art Steven Pressfield calls him “Resistance.”

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

Although I can’t kill him, as he is reborn with every sunrise, I did learn how to render him toothless.

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Mix Soviet Posters with American Pin-ups, Get 2014 Olympics Calendar

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 - by Oleg Atbashian
Andrei_Tarusov_2 (1)

Andrei Tarusov

When a young illustrator from Moscow, Andrei Tarusov, decided to picture how the Winter Olympics might have looked in the old USSR if the erstwhile Soviet government hadn’t been so zealous in suppressing the sexuality of its citizens, he let his imagination run wild. The result was an off-the-wall calendar that creatively combined Soviet propaganda poster art with vintage American pin-ups: scantily clad retro-babes in classic pin-up poses but with Soviet enthusiastic fire in their eyes, engaging in winter sports with athletic equipment from the 1940s and 1950s. The pictures were accompanied by rhymed slogans, written by the artist’s friend in the traditional propagandistic style with a new, ironic twist.

Tarusov contacted the Olympic Committee hoping it would sponsor his project in promoting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Whether the committee was protecting its reputation or it feared attacks from feminist groups, the answer was a definitive “nyet.” That’s when the artist decided to go solo with “crowdfunding” and posted the calendar, stripped of any official Olympic trademarks, on the Russian version of Kickstarter.com. His goal was to raise 120,000 rubles (USD $3,554) to cover the printing costs, but the result exceeded his expectations: donations from 1,493 people totaled 1,453,900 rubles (USD $43,060).

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#WashingtonDC: Moments of Beauty Chronicled by Instagram

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

Washington, D.C. isn’t everyone’s favorite town….but you have to admit it is beautiful.

Here are some Instagrams of our picturesque capital, Washington, D.C. (most were taken in the last 24 hours).

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2 Indispensable Tools For Blocked Writers and Closet Artists

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson
Wilbababber2

Meet Willbababer. He thinks he has to hold his breath under water.

“Artist” is one of those words that can mean one thing by the speaker and then transform mid-air into something completely different for the person hearing it. For example, in my corner of the world, around Nashville, when one speaks of being an “artist” they seldom mean it in the traditional sense of drawing, painting or sculpting. It’s usually a safe bet to assume they are talking about a recording artist.

In the book The Artist’s Way the author Julia Cameron is referring to all art forms but her specialty is the blocked writer. The heart and soul of writing, as it is in the creation of all artwork and music, is creativity. The point of conception of a brainchild is deep within the human spirit.

If we are made in the image of God, the creator of the universe, then creativity is part of our DNA–our spiritual DNA.

Cameron writes,

“For most of us, the idea that the creator encourages creativity is a radical thought. We tend to think, or at least fear, that creative dreams are egotistical, something that God wouldn’t approve of for us. After all, our creative artist is an inner youngster and prone to childish thinking. If our mom or dad expressed doubt or disapproval for our creative dreams, we may project that same attitude onto a parental god. This thinking must be undone.

What we are talking about is an induced–or invited– spiritual experience… We undertake certain spiritual exercises to achieve alignment with the creative energy of the universe.”

We are all gifted with it. The problem is that many of us became creatively paralyzed at some point in our formative years by harsh criticism or discouragement. Then again, many of us simply succumb to the demands of adult life, and our creative spirit becomes crippled under its weight, its voice becomes too weak for us to hear.

The author offers two essential tools to begin your “creative recovery.” This week my daughter Emily and I began using both; they have become a vital part of our lives.

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13 Weeks: Finding My Way Back To Creativity, And The Heart of My Daughter

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson
ChelseaandHannah

The only surviving remnant of my artwork.

Growing up in California just minutes away from Disneyland left an indelible mark on my life.

Each week Walt Disney himself sat in our living room, on primetime television, introducing us to The Wonderful World of Disney. He always captivated me. Then of course there was the Mickey Mouse Club, to which, in my imagination–I belonged. To this day what strikes me so deeply, is not the Disney empire itself, but the creativity that oozes out of every crevasse and permeates the air. It made me long to be a creator.

Although I was born with a pencil in my hand, it was Disney that made me want to be an artist–their artist.

That’s it. That is all I ever wanted to be while growing up. I had little use for anything that did not further that ambition (such as math or spelling). My parents fed that monster by using me for party entertainment. They would have me sit and draw a characterization of their guests, just like the street artists in Disneyland.

Becoming a Disney cartoonist faded long ago with my childhood.

Then once again in the early eighties I found my creativity. Photorealism portraits in graphite and charcoal rekindled my desire to create. Who needs Disney now? I had beautiful children to draw.

My first (and last) art show was in 1983. That date is etched in my memory because of two significant events that came to light during that show.

First, there was the brief encounter with a woman that set the bar for what I wanted my art to achieve. This unnamed woman, meticulously groomed and tailored, with a briefcase in one hand and a clipboard in the other, whisked by me and my display. Her stride was long and as swift as her spike heals would allow. It took her about two extra steps past me before she could come to a complete stop. Then she pivoted, took those two steps back and stopped. For just one moment she gazed at one of my drawings. Her face softened as a quiet “Awe” slipped out. Then off again she went.

It didn’t matter that she didn’t buy my work. What she gave me for it was priceless; the highest compliment I could receive as an artist–it stopped her in her tracks. The demands of the day bowed for just a few seconds to enjoy a moment–it touched her.

From that day forward, I wanted to give all of my art that same “Awe” quality.

The second thing that came out of that art show ended my art career, and set a new course for my life.

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 13: Freedom

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 - by Chris Queen

wildflowers

Well, here we are at the end of our series exploring Judeo-Christian ideas and themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 album Oceania. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them, Throughout this series, we’ve dug into the concepts of the seekerthe sacred Name of Godwisdomunfaithfulnesshopeunfailing loverepentancethe wayfaith, contentment, and the parable of the Lost Son. Last week, we delved into Track 12, “Inkless,” and the notion of being in the presence of God.

This week to close out the series, we’re looking at the album’s 13th and closing cut, “Wildflower.” This song has a subdued, hymnlike quality – vocals and strings dominate, along with a lead guitar line. The image of a wildflower itself conjures up ideas of a certain type of freedom, and the lyrics suggest freedom in their own way as well:

I trim the wick so fine
To carry forth your light
Comfort me
What will leave will leave

[...]

Wildflower in the wilderness outside
Take your chance with love and laughter
And every word I write, yeah

Of course, the concept of freedom shows up throughout the Bible. The Old Testament book of Exodus tells how God gave the Israelites literal physical freedom from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. Centuries later, God allowed other nations to subdue Israel and take His chosen people into exile as discipline for their disobedience and turning away from Him. However, He released them from exile and paved the way for their return to the land He promised them.

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5 Golden Rings: A Gift Guide for the Crafty and Artistic

Friday, December 20th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Friday, December 20, 2013.  If we were counting down the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “five golden rings” today.

There are only five days until Christmas!

Here is a gift guide for some of the most creative people on your list!

51zQo1g-qGLThe Painters and Sketchers:

Drawing Paper: Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper Pad

When creativity hits, you can never have enough of these pads.

Watercolor Paper: Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor Paper

Essential for any water-colorist.

Acrylic Paints: Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set

I personally recommend these paints. They are a little pricey, but they are smooth and high-quality.

Mediums: Golden Introductory Gel Mediums and Modeling Pastes Set

Great intro set for painters seeking to add dimension or texture to their work. I highly recommend these mediums.

Brushes: Royal Langnickel Gold Taklon Brush Set

A brush pack that is compatible with any type of paint.

Watercolor Pencils:  Staedtler Karat Aquarell Premium Watercolor Pencils

A new twist on watercolors!

5573351The Quilters, Sewers, and Knitters:

Essential Pattern Book: Complete Dictionary of Essential Stitch Patterns

400 patterns for advanced and beginner knitters.

Stitch Counter: Clover Knitting Stitch Counter

This gizmo will keep you on track.

Hat Pattern Book: 15 Animal Hat Patterns to Knit

Keep your head warm with a hand-knit hat!

Mats: Alvin Professional Cutting Mats

Double-sided and suitable for all types of blades.

Cutting: OLFA Ergonomic Rotary Cutter

Equipped to handle your heavy-duty projects.  It’s also suitable for both Left and Right-handed people.

51E7aMK1cdLKits for Crafty Kids:

Beads: Melissa and Doug Bead Bouquet

220 wooden beads that are easy to string.

Beginning Sewing: Singer Beginners Sewing Kit

All the basics for sewing-newbies in one kit!

Spool-knit Animals: Colorbok Spool Knit Critters Kit

A cute and easy craft for kids.

Skrinky-Dinks: Do-it-Yourself Wear! Shrinky Dink Kit

Pre-cut shapes, magnets, colored pencils, and key-chains are all included in this fun, retro activity kit.

Sewing Craft: Creativity for Kids Sew a Sock Kitty

Great craft for young, beginner sewers.  (Kit includes EVERYTHING you will need)

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10 Truths Mainstream Comic Books Evade to Promote ‘Muslim Superheroes’

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Bosch Fawstin

The Muslim terrorist is a cliché. But only in real life. And in post-9/11 comic books, “Muslim superheroes” are becoming a cliché. As a cartoonist and as a recovered Muslim working on an anti-jihad graphic novel called The Infidel, featuring Pigman, I’ve identified certain truths that Marvel and DC Comics have to evade in order to shove their “Muslim superheroes” down the throats of their readers.

Before I move on to my list, I want to add that I put “Muslim superheroes” in quotes because Marvel and DC Comics want to promote “Muslim superheroes” without promoting Muslim superheroes. They want to promote their fantasy version of what they would like Muslim superheroes to be, not Islam’s version. As I’ve argued in my work, a good Muslim by our standards is a bad Muslim by Islamic standards. Therefore, a true Muslim superhero would be a Muslim supervillain.

1. We Are At War.

9/11/01 was 12 years ago, yet those behind the attack are still undefeated. The greatest state sponsors of terrorism on earth — Saudi Arabia and Iran — operate as if 9/11 never happened. And we’re still not ready to identify Islam as the enemy’s motivation. Can you imagine American comic book publishers during World World II publishing Italian, Japanese and German superhero comic books? That would have been unthinkable back then. Almost as unthinkable as it currently is to see Marvel and DC create anti-jihad superheroes. While Marvel and DC are presenting Islam to us in the most politically correct possible way through their comics, in the real world Muslims are on the warpath, killing non-Muslims Every. Single. Day. These “Muslim superheroes” are in the end a way for liberals to deny the reality that an entire part of the world is at war with us, while we do everything we can to focus on Muslims who are not at war with us, as if they’re the true representatives of a violent religion like Islam.

The victims of September 11, 2001.

911 victims for PJ Media

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 12: In The Presence Of God

Sunday, December 15th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Presence of God

Here we are in Week 12 of my series exploring Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ album Oceania. Over the last 11 weeks we’ve explored the concepts of the seeker, the sacred Name of Godwisdomunfaithfulnesshopeunfailing loverepentancethe wayfaith, and contentment. Last week we looked at Jesus’ parable of the Lost Son in Track 9, “Pale Horse.”

Track 12, “Inkless,” is the shortest song on the album, and it is the one that sounds most like the Smashing Pumpkin’s 1990s output. The title conjures up images of a blank page with plenty of possibilities – or, to better suit our purposes, “Inkless” sounds like a description of someone whose sins have been washed away by a sacrifice. Some of the lyrics suggest a journey with God:

The stars are out for us
And what you feel for me rides beside you
Just take me home, take me home

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But drive me home the right way
We’ll uncover there’s no other faith but us
A faith in love unseen
Trace the face of love unseen
Don’t shadow up what we mean
Uncover what were meant to be
And come unlace your light
The stars are out tonight

Throughout the Bible, we read about different people who experienced God’s presence directly. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve encountered God directly in the Garden of Eden, but their sin drove God to separate mankind from his perfect presence. In Exodus 33, Moses had direct conversations in God’s presence:

8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

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