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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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Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 - by Mark Ellis

Editor’s Note: We’re launching some new discussions and debates 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,” and Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and December 2: “My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors.” Learn more about Liberty Island contributor Mark Ellis in an interview with him and read an excerpt from his short story “Temblor” here

If there is an inherent bipolarity between hard rock and heavy metal and the dissemination of the conservative message, social issues–in particular substance abuse–are at the bottom of that dissonance.

It’s a question about how art and politics intersect, and it becomes a question about how readily conservatives will embrace transgressive and even regressive artists in their quest to more integrally impact popular culture.

Whatever our politics, it is human nature to make special exceptions in the name of art. If conservatives want to impact the entire culture, we’re going to need some bad boys, antiheros, lost souls, dark heralds, and musical provocateurs.

I nominate Ozzy Osbourne for inclusion in the conservative counterculture– although I would never want to do anything to hurt his career or jeopardize his sobriety. I contend that if you peel back all the layers of substance abuse, all the layers it takes to survive being a superstar, you’ll find that rock’s Prince of Darkness is essentially a man with core conservative values.

VH-1 recently announced that The Osbournes reality show will be returning in January for a slate of episodes. The scuttlebutt is that unlike last time, Ozzy wants the show and Sharon does not.

Ozzy claims (and who would doubt) that he was both stoned and inebriated throughout the filming of the show’s original iteration. He’s down with the new episodes because he wants to show the world how he functions without the drugs and alcohol.

And I recommend that conservatives watch the show, which premieres in January, with an eye to claiming rock’s Prince of Darkness for the center-right.

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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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7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Last New Year's #Resolution: write down your days more. Write what you want to make happen. Write how you want your #soul to transform. Then set about reprogramming yourself with the mass of word possibilities in front of you.

1. My New Year’s Resolution Fulfilled!

Dear Liberty Island Leaders Adam Bellow and David S. Bernstein,

Above you’ll see the concluding image from my list of resolutions. I’ve planned this all year — to make my 10th anniversary of joining Facebook also my last day using the service. I began weaning myself from Facebook then, removing the app from my phone and iPad and only using it when on my computer, justifying it as a tool for work.

Turns out that November 27, 2004, was when the addiction began — I was a junior in college at the time. One of the many counterculture thinkers I discovered would influence my understanding of culture, technology, corporations, the Bible, media, my own career direction, and now this decision to abandon the internet’s Coca Cola. (On my counterculture books list from 2012 I included several of his titles; more will appear in the expanded, giant-size counterculture conservative canon of books that have shaped and influenced me.) The primary, strongest arguments for why everyone should leave Facebook come from media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, who bailed in 2013. He identifies the prime problems; my case is an expansion of his.

2. The Douglas Rushkoff Reason: The Newsfeed Cannot Be Trusted.

I read this article on CNN from Rushkoff back in February of 2013 when it came out and couldn’t really argue with his reasons for quitting. I tried to in an email to Doug to justify my continued Facebook usage but all I could say was that it was convenient for my work as an editor. Here are two problems with what Facebook does with your data without your knowledge or permission. First, the reality is that now when you send something out to all your “friends” on Facebook, chances are only a tiny portion of them are likely to see it:

More recently, users — particularly those with larger sets of friends, followers and likes — learned that their updates were no longer reaching all of the people who had signed up to get them. Now, we are supposed to pay to “promote” our posts to our friends and, if we pay even more, to their friends.

Yes, Facebook is entitled to be paid for promoting us and our interests — but this wasn’t the deal going in, particularly not for companies who paid Facebook for extra followers in the first place. Neither should users who “friend” my page automatically become the passive conduits for any of my messages to all their friends just because I paid for it.

And second, the new advertising strategy of using your image and your likes to market to your friends:

That brings me to Facebook’s most recent shift, and the one that pushed me over the edge.

Through a new variation of the Sponsored Stories feature called Related Posts, users who “like” something can be unwittingly associated with pretty much anything an advertiser pays for. Like e-mail spam with a spoofed identity, the Related Post shows up in a newsfeed right under the user’s name and picture. If you like me, you can be shown implicitly recommending me or something I like — something you’ve never heard of — to others without your consent.

The essence of the Facebook experience is pulling up one’s newsfeed and scrolling through it to find something that interests us. Since Rushkoff laid out his case, we now know even more: that Facebook has in the past intentionally manipulated users’ emotions as part of an experiment.

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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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What Are the Secrets for How to Transform the Culture?

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

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Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

See also: There’s Something Happening Here: Conservatives Are Catching On to the Culture! and 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture

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5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by David S. Bernstein

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Andrew Klavan is right: Conservatives are starting to see the importance of culture to furthering conservative and libertarian ideas. While the news might not yet have reached inside Fortress Beltway, out in the grassroots people understand that focusing exclusively on the next election cycle is a one-dimensional strategy that is ultimately doomed to fail.

Logic and argument are limited in their power to persuade; since the time of Homer and the Bible, human beings have learned primarily through storytelling. Whether it is our own experience, or the experiences of others to which we can relate, the power of narrative is the ability to change hearts and minds.

To date, the conservative movement has been primarily a “left brain” phenomenon. This July, my colleague Adam Bellow wrote an article in National Review announcing that the long-neglected conservative right brain is waking up and deserves equal support and attention.

Many of these new wave creators understand that it’s not enough to work in isolation. As Kathy Shaidle notes, conservative creators need to master distribution as well as production – in the digital age the two are inextricably linked.

At Liberty Island, where I’m chief operating officer and editorial gadfly, we’ve made it our business (literally) to identify, distribute, and promote the best conservative creators—smart people who know how to tell a great story, produce awesome music, or otherwise inspire the mind and the imagination.

Here’s a short list of some under-the-radar creators working across a wide variety of mediums who you’ll be hearing from a lot more in future. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments, I’d love to know who I’ve missed.

1. Big Dawg Music Radio 

Big Dawg is a virtual record label for conservative musicians, complete with a 24/7 streaming radio channel, bookings (including providing all the live music for CPAC last year), a social media platform, and a showcase for folks to post their music.

Big Dawg puts out a retro, underground vibe that fits perfectly with its counter-cultural mission. At a time when the music business is undergoing rapid and radical change, these guys are taking a fresh look at distribution and promotion of independent musicians to the conservative market.

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Time to Re-Define the F-Word

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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This past week a group of scientists from the European Space Agency landed a spaceship on a comet. Contemporary feminists commented on the happening, but not for the reason you’d think. Screw science. One of the guys on the team talked about the major breakthrough in an on-the-spot interview while wearing a shirt with barely-clad, busty women brandishing guns. Social media chaos ensued. The scientist cried out an apology over the Internet. Apparently the rather clever hashtag #shirtstorm is the real reason why Obama cancelled the space program.

And you wonder why Lana Del Rey would rather spend her time talking about Space-X and Tesla instead of associating herself with the pioneering movement for women that has turned into a forum for Dunham-loving yuppie nags. Celebrities are distancing themselves from the f-word because so-called feminists think the greatest thing they can do for womankind is to complain about a scientist’s tacky shirt. I’m sure that really inspired a teenage girl out there to forego joining ISIS and join in the fight against… dudes bearing busty broads?

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Punching Your Inner Hippie

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Frank J. Fleming
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From PUNCH YOUR INNER HIPPIE by Frank J. Fleming Copyright © 2014 by Frank J. Fleming. Reprinted courtesy of Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

So I was working with someone who was really trying to tap his full potential, but his inner hippie kept pulling him down any time he tried to succeed. I think he was an accountant or something—all these people complaining about their problems just blend together. Anyway, let’s call this man “Bob,” as that’s what I called him. I told him, “Bob, if you want to get anywhere in life, you first need to defeat your inner hippie.”

“But I don’t know how,” he said. “It’s not like I can just punch myself.”

“Well, I can punch you,” I said, “and I will, because I like to help. But I won’t always be there. Instead, we need to find a way for you to really lay the smackdown on your inner hippie to silence its call to failure, and doing that will take some extreme measures. Come with me, Bob.”

“My name’s not Bob, by the way.”

“I don’t care. Come along.”

I took Bob to the zoo after hours and headed toward the gorilla pit. “See that gorilla, Bob?”

“Wow,” Bob said, “he’s massive.”

“Pretty intimidating, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Is that gorilla anything like a hippie?”

Bob thought for a moment. “Not really . . . except he probably doesn’t bathe regularly.”

“Correct. A gorilla is nothing like a hippie,” I said, “and yet here is the thing: I want you to go punch him.”

“What?”

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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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What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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My editor, David Swindle, has a penchant for assigning me to review what I’d consider some pretty nasty stuff. It started with HBO, Girls in particular. He tried getting me into Game of Thrones, but after the whole Red Wedding thing I just couldn’t take it. Now, David has me watching Scandal. It’s more palatable in the network sense (nowhere near the gratuitous nudity and graphic sex levels of HBO), but it’s still as dark. Nothing beats watching a show about a team of lawyers who don’t care a whit about the law. In fact, they go to great lengths to break the law in order to serve the gods of public opinion.

Only four episodes in, I consulted with my PJ colleague April Bey, a big fan of the show, for her opinion. “Everyone is evil, but that’s okay because we’re all evil,” she explained. Her observation was ironic, disturbing, and thought-provoking. Despite an apparent thread of cynicism regarding religion and morality, the struggle between good and evil remains the stuff of blockbuster hits like Scandal. Because our stories reflect our cultural psyche, it should come as no surprise that the word “evil” is beginning to carry serious weight in intellectual circles. Ascribed with more power than a petty adjective (i.e. early 2000′s “evil” George W. Bush), evil is now being discussed as a theory and a reason for contemporary political, legal, military and indeed cultural failings.

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Think Pop Culture Doesn’t Matter? Visit Sleepy Hollow, New York

Friday, October 31st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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If you’re still operating under the false notion that pop culture doesn’t have a real impact on everyday life, take a look at America’s oldest example, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

When Washington Irving penned The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820 under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon, he probably had no idea that his short story would inspire the beloved town of his youth to turn itself into a living homage to his tale. Settled in the late 1600s, the village was originally an agricultural and manufacturing zone of Tarrytown, New York. Nicknamed “Sleeper’s Haven” by early Dutch settlers, Washington Irving picked up on the Anglicized version of the name, “Sleepy Hollow” when staying with family in the area as a boy. Eventually millionaires like John D. Rockefeller would build mansions around the industrial zone that would become known as North Tarrytown at the turn of the 20th century. But it was Irving’s story that proved eternal when, in 1996, the village voted to rename itself Sleepy Hollow.

Street signs are orange and black, as is one of the village’s fire trucks. The Headless Horseman is the school mascot who, dubbed the nation’s “scariest high school mascot”, runs through every football game at half-time. Police cars and fire trucks also bear the Headless Horseman logo with pride. Halloween is celebrated throughout October with haunted hayrides, street festivals, a parade encompassing both Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown’s main streets, several ghost tours and performances of the Washington Irving legend. The Great Jack O’Lantern blaze puts Christmas light spectaculars to shame and Horseman’s Hollow turns a 17th century Dutch mill into a gory homage to the headless Hessian.

The Old Dutch Church, Ichabod Crane’s presumed safe haven, stands guard over a vast “garden cemetery” designed to allow Victorian families to picnic with their dearly departed. Tours of the cemetery can be taken both day and night and feature stops at the graves of Washington Irving and those who inspired characters in his tale. A fair runs every weekend alongside the cemetery, providing tour groups with the opportunity to walk the grounds with alcohol in hand. The gas station on the other side of the infamous bridge hawks t-shirts and other assorted Headless Horseman souvenirs. And if you’re hungry, there’s always The Horseman Restaurant, a hole in the wall diner that promises you’ll “lose your head” over their milkshakes.

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The Feminist Lesson in Mom’s Night Out

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Twenty-four percent of married couple families with children under 15 have a stay-at-home mom. Ninety-nine percent of stay-at-home moms in the movies get a really bad rap. Search “Best Movie Moms” and you’ll get lists that include Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Shelly Duvall in The Shining, and more than a few mentions of Psycho. The majority of movie mothers are either widowed or divorced, careerists or working class, alcoholics or impregnated by UFOs. The closest you’ll get to a stay-at-home mom in post-1940s cinema is Kathleen Turner playing the psychotic Serial Mom or Michael Keaton taking on the role so his wife can pursue her career in Mr. Mom.

In fact, outside of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side there hasn’t been a truly admirable middle-class, white, stay-at-home mother on the silver screen in over 50 years. Which is probably why Mom’s Night Out received such a negative critical reception when it premiered last spring. We have been acculturated out of believing in the power and purpose of stay-at-home moms. Yet, the criticisms leveled at Mom’s Night Out for its “depressingly regressive” spirit and “archaic notions of gender roles” were not applied to a similar film about a stay-at-home mom released only two years prior. This Is 40 received mixed reviews, but praise for yielding “…some of [Judd] Apatow’s most personal observations yet on the feelings for husbands, wives, parents, and children that we categorize as love.”

So, what made This Is 40 palatable in a way that Mom’s Night Out wasn’t? Is there, perhaps, a culturally acceptable way to be a stay-at-home mom?

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What 2 Retired Whores Can Teach Slut-Walk Feminists

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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A story about two old Jewish ladies is making the rounds in the Jewish press, but not for the reasons you may think. Sure, they’re bubbes. They’re children of a Holocaust survivor to boot. But the real reason they’re attracting so much attention is that they happen to be retired professional whores.

Dutch twins Louise and Martine Fokkens (probably not their real last name, since “Fokken” is a Dutch term for “old whore”) have become international celebrities since the 2011 release of their biographical documentary Meet the Fokkens. Women’s magazines like Cosmo picked up on their story shortly after the film’s release, publishing quick little details like:

Louise and Martine (mothers of four and three respectively) became prostitutes before the age of 20 in order to escape violent relationships.

It’s an interpretation that, at best, qualifies as a half-truth. Louise was forced into the sex trade by an abusive husband. Martine, however, became a prostitute out of spite:

Martine followed her sister into the trade, working first as a cleaning lady at brothels before she began turning tricks herself. “I was angry at how everybody around us shunned Louise,” Martine said. “I did it out of spite, really.”

Both women eventually divorced their husbands, whom they now describe as “a couple of pimps.” But they continued working in the district “because that had become our lives,” Louise said.

“Our life in the business became a source of pride, a sport of sorts,” Louise added.

In retrospect, both women say they regret becoming prostitutes.

Reading their story, one can’t help but wonder if mainstream feminist advocates for slut walks and “Yes Means Yes” legislation would condemn the pair for regretting the life they chose. After all, their body, their choice, right? They took control of their bad marriages, divorced the husbands they referred to as “pimps” and chose, fully of their own volition, to remain in the sex trade after their exes were fully out of the picture. Martine and Louise, it would seem, are the originators of the Slut Walk.

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Ross Douthat Loves Lena Dunham for All the Wrong Reasons

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has declared his love for Lena Dunham. It hardly comes as a surprise that a New York Times writer, even one who dwells to the right of the aisle, would find the Girls prodigy appealing. What makes Douthat’s devotion disturbing is that he has managed to transform a goddess chained to a slew of liberal causes into a sacrificial lamb for conservative culture. In his struggle to do so, his misses the mark in what could have been one of the most culturally relevant critiques of Girls to date.

The critic defends Dunham’s showpiece Girls, writing,

She’s making a show for liberals that, merely by being realistic, sharp-edge, complicated, almost gives cultural conservatism its due. 

It’s a seemingly ironic observation, based in the idea that Girls “often portrays young-liberal-urbanite life the way, well, many reactionaries see it…” That is, a subculture on the verge of self-destruction due to excessive amounts of what sociologist Robert Bellah dubbed, “the view that the key to the good life lies almost exclusively in self-discovery, self-actualization, the cultivation of the unique and holy You.”

In other words, as Gawker so simply put it:

He likes watching the show because it allows him to feel superior to Dunham and her fellow sluts.

By employing a rote, traditionalist perspective, Douthat argued himself into a hole, turning his love into judgement and burying his point in poorly-worded theory and equally bad theology.

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Walt Disney’s 7 Most Radical Ideas From His Last Decade on Earth

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
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Walt on the set of The EPCOT Film in October 1966

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how Disney and its productions reflected, and sometimes influenced, the times. We’ve seen how Disney mirrored the can-do spirit of the ’30s, how the studio overcame the challenges of World War II in the ’40s, and how Disney changed with the times in the ’50s.

By the time the 1960s rolled around, Walt Disney appeared to have done it all. He had elevated the cartoon from an opening-act short to a feature-film art form. He had conquered live-action movies and embraced television, and he even revolutionized the theme-park experience. But Walt wasn’t done — in fact, it looks like he saved his most radical and powerful ideas for the last years of his life. And here are seven examples to prove it.

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7. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969)

After a seven season run for Disneyland on ABC, Walt wanted to explore different options. His greatest desire was to broadcast a show in color. Even though ABC had broadcast the show in black and white, Walt insisted on filming most of the segments in full color because he believed color would add long-term value to his productions. Rival network NBC had begun to promote color series heavily since parent company RCA made color television sets, and, after a brilliant sales pitch from Walt, the network bit.

Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color ran for eight seasons before undergoing a retooling and title change. During those seasons, Walt took advantage of the new and exciting world of color programming when few producers were willing to branch out, especially in the earlier years. Once again, Walt willingly blazed a trail, and once again his pioneering spirit paid off.

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

Friday, September 19th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Click here to start reading Part I of this list-letter to the CEO of Liberty Island with ideas for his team of creative counter-culture writers drawn from my years practicing “pop culture polytheism,” the worship of the images in mass media today.

Dear Adam Bellow,

As this series of films continues I’ll expand the opening index to include links to each of the films that have come before it. Here are links to the first titles I discussed, establishing the paradigm of celebrating both mainstream, big budget films and also more obscure titles that more traditionally conjure up the idea of counter-culture:

50. Disinformation: The Complete Series

49. Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson

48. Yellow Submarine 

47. Dark City

46. By Brakhage, An Anthology: Window Water Baby Moving

45. Dog Star Man

44. Mothlight

43. The Dante Quartet

42. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

41. The Two Towers

40. Return of the King

39. Dick

38. The Avengers

37. Watchmen

I was nervous when publishing the first installment of this series, knowing that I was leaping off into the unknown again and certainly not going as detailed as I’ll need to when explaining these ideas in my book someday. A few commenters pushed back, with criticisms I anticipated — too long, all over the place, titles insufficiently “counter-culture” — and that are partially justified:

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How do I defend such a broad understanding of “counter-culture” that the term can include both experimental shorts with moth wings taped to the film and hundred-million-dollar blockbusters? The fourth title from my list of ”23 Books for Counter-Culture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards” remains my favorite definition and general history:

 

4. Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House by Ken Goffman and Dan Joy

Publication Date: September 13, 2005
Official Description:

As long as there has been culture, there has been counterculture. At times it moves deep below the surface of things, a stealth mode of being all but invisible to the dominant paradigm; at other times it’s in plain sight, challenging the status quo; and at still other times it erupts in a fiery burst of creative–or destructive–energy to change the world forever.

But until now the countercultural phenomenon has been one of history’s great blind spots. Individual countercultures have been explored, but never before has a book set out to demonstrate the recurring nature of counterculturalism across all times and societies, and to illustrate its dynamic role in the continuous evolution of human values and cultures.

Countercultural pundit and cyberguru R. U. Sirius brilliantly sets the record straight in this colorful, anecdotal, and wide-ranging study based on ideas developed by the late Timothy Leary with Dan Joy. With a distinctive mix of scholarly erudition and gonzo passion, Sirius and Joy identify the distinguishing characteristics of countercultures, delving into history and myth to establish beyond doubt that, for all their surface differences, countercultures share important underlying principles: individualism, anti-authoritarianism, and a belief in the possibility of personal and social transformation.

Ranging from the Socratic counterculture of ancient Athens and the outsider movements of Judaism, which left indelible marks on Western culture, to the Taoist, Sufi, and Zen Buddhist countercultures, which were equally influential in the East, to the famous countercultural moments of the last century–Paris in the twenties, Haight-Ashbury in the sixties, Tropicalismo, women’s liberation, punk rock–to the cutting-edge countercultures of the twenty-first century, which combine science, art, music, technology, politics, and religion in astonishing (and sometimes disturbing) new ways, Counterculture Through the Ages is an indispensable guidebook to where we’ve been . . . and where we’re going.

Why Counterculture Conservatives Should Read It:

The key insight in reconciling counterculture and conservatism comes when we define the term historically, beyond just the caricature of the 60s hippie counterculture.

A counterculture is just any group of people who choose to reject some aspect of a dominant culture and then live peacefully in opposition to it. The Jews were a counterculture. So were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. So were the Christians in ancient Rome. So were the Pilgrims. And the Transcendentalists. And the Mormons.

Counterculture Through the Ages presents an alternative way of understanding the West: what if “Western Civilization” was actually just the compilation of all the best countercultural ideas that worked? What if Western Civilization wasn’t really about places or people or things but about a process to understand ourselves, one another, and our purpose in the world? And how do we figure out what that purpose is?

So yes, I admit it — my list was a mess, and so it shall be going forward. (I can only un-messify Aleister Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson and their basis in Kabbalah and Tarot so much! Learning how to jump from mess to mess is kind of the point. God hides in the spaces between the letters and in the connections between the cards, in the invisible gap between my mind and yours.) Counter-culture is messy — it’s a big muck mixing and gurgling together. But that’s no excuse. I’ll employ the new media tool highlighted in the last segment in an effort to cut down on the word count in this and future installments. Here’s a basic start, as I’ve progressed through writing the list I’ve begun exploring new ways to utilize Instagram, Hyperlapse and other tools:

(I will try to improve the handwriting in future hyperlapses. Over the course of this list I experiment with a number of different configurations improving on that early one. I think for the next round I’ll pick up a white board and dry erase markers…)

In trying to define Western Civilization in broad we have to confront that WE are a mess. Americanism, the idea of the West — we are a mess of conflicting ethnic, religious, and philosophical traditions all crammed together.

But we must overcome our primitive tribal nature. Unfortunately some of film’s most glorified filmmakers rose to prominence through glamorizing and glorifying their tribal identity, building whole careers on mythologizing their tribe, obscuring the ugly truth of their primitive ideologies. The next three titles on the list are by filmmakers I once idolized, though now look at with skepticism. However, each still has a film in their canon that runs counter to their usual output and offer useful lessons for counter-culture crusaders.

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136 Kathy Shaidle Articles That Expand Your Appreciation of Life and Culture

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

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Back in April I assembled this collection featuring “10 of Kathy Shaidle’s Greatest Hits.” Now today I present this collection organizing more broadly my favorites of her articles and blog posts by subject.

A realization dawned today: Kathy is the writer I’ve worked with the longest. We’ve had occasional breaks here and there as projects have shifted but it’s been five years now, with the last 3 at PJ. And Kathy has consistently churned out one memorable piece after another in service of a very substantive media and cultural critique. She’s become one of my biggest influences and inspirations on new media and culture. When young writers ask for suggestions in developing a writing career in today’s new media world I hold her up as a prime example. Her articles and her approach are filled with wisdom.

Get caught up on the pieces you may have missed below and don’t forget to follow Kathy on Twitter and visit her indispensable blog Five Feet of Fury:

Movies

  1. Make Way for Movies for Grown-Ups
  2. Movies for Grown-Ups, Part 2: Dodsworth and the Shame of Age
  3. Movies for Grown-Ups: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  4. Movies for Grown Ups: Seconds (1966)
  5. Art, Lust, and Doing the Dishes: The Controversy of Scarlet Street
  6. 5 Reasons Star Wars Actually Sucks
  7. God Bless America? Remembering 1993′s Falling Down
  8. Talk Sixties, Act Fifties: The Ice Storm
  9. 4 Ways My Moviegoing Habits Changed After I Grew Up
  10. Nurse Ratched, My Hero: 4 Female Movie Villains I Love
  11. The 3 Most Poisonous Movie Clichés of the 60s and 70s
  12. I Liked Scrooge Better Before: 3 Christmas Movies I Hate
  13. Special Effects Unplugged: Movie Magic Before Computers
  14. Yippie-Kay-25th-Birthday Die Hard
  15. I Was a Communist for the FBI a Half-Century Later
  16. Will Roger Ebert Biopic Be a Big Bust?
  17. 10 Movies Millennials Must See to Understand the 1970s

Music

  1. 6 Reasons The Who Is Better Than That Stupid Band You Like
  2. Vengeance Is Mine: The 5 Best Revenge Songs
  3. 6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing (Part One)
  4. 6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing (Part Two)
  5. The 5 Most Overrated Male Musicians, Part One
  6. The 5 Most Overrated Male Musicians, Part Two
  7. The 3 Most Overrated Female Musicians
  8. The Other Bono: Remembering Sonny (and the Pre-Crazy Cher)
  9. Keep Cat Stevens Out of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  10. Give ‘Em Enough Rope Turns 35 (Part One)
  11. Give ‘Em Enough Rope Turns 35 (Part Two)
  12. The Once-Unimaginable Occurs: David Bowie Turns 67
  13. Neil Young Doubles Down on the Crazy
  14. Never Mind the Beatles: America Met the Clash 35 Years Ago This Week
  15. The Top 3 Myths About Beatlemania
  16. Rock Around the Clock: How 2 Movies Made Musical History
  17. 10 Obscure Songs That Should Have Been Hits

TV

  1. Why David Letterman Has (Almost) Always Creeped Me Out
  2. The 3 Best Monty Python Sketches (Aren’t Necessarily the Funniest)
  3. Lessons on Being a Grown-Up from… Vincent Price?
  4. Murdoch Mysteries: The Un-Breaking Bad
  5. Michael Palin: Monty Python Would Never Mock Islam
  6. TV’s 3 Most Admirable Post-Modern Cartoon Characters

Books

  1. Grown Men Don’t Read Comic Books: Here’s an Alternative (That Might Just Save America)
  2. Grown Women Don’t Read Twilight: Here’s an Alternative (That Just Might Save America)
  3. 3 Reasons Higher Education Is Broken — and How To Fix It
  4. ‘That’s the Ultimate Race, Poor People’: In Praise of Adam Carolla’s Brutal Honesty
  5. Ann Coulter’s Mugged: A (Mostly) Frank Monologue About Race — Part 1
  6. Mugged and Ann Coulter Derangement Syndrome, Part 2
  7. 5 Controversial Ways to Enjoy the Decline of America
  8. Conrad Black Still Loves You, America (In Spite of Everything)
  9. Conrad Black Still Loves FDR (In Spite of Amity Shlaes)
  10. Conrad Black, Nixon, and the Red Scare: The Flight of the Eagle Concludes
  11. The 11 Best Ideas in Adam Carolla’s Hilarious New Book

Punk Rock and Counterculture

  1. Kinkos Goes To College: University of Iowa Acquires Zine Collection
  2. The BBC Sex Scandals and the Birth of Punk
  3. Farewell, Pussycat: Remembering Cult Movie Actress Haji
  4. Takin’ the Freight Elevator to the Incinerator: Joe Strummer and 9/11
  5. Vampira: Beatnik, Goth, Punk
  6. Altamont: When the Hippies Were Expelled From the Garden
  7. Miley Cyrus: Punk of the Year? Almost. (Seriously.)
  8. Patti Smith: The Paula Deen of Punk?
  9. When John and Yoko Took Over the Mike Douglas Show
  10. Hitchcock’s Rope and Gay ‘Rights’
  11. Happy 59th Birthday, Nina Hagen
  12. What Is Your Damage, Heathers?
  13. A Life Based on ‘Crossing the Street’

Crime and Death

  1. Mommie Dearest, Brothers Grimm: Thinking about Cleveland’s House of Horrors
  2. Raining on the Nelson Mandela Parade
  3. Sound Familiar? Rapist-Murderer Complains He’s Misunderstood
  4. Is Death Still a Great Career Move?
  5. Dead Celebrities Pitch Beer, Chocolate, and Bad Taste
  6. ‘Hurricane’ Carter: Fact vs. Fiction
  7. If Jack the Ripper Was Jewish, Does It Matter?

Religion

  1. ‘This Would Be Heaven For Me’: An Evening with Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla
  2. Catholic Nuns: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone?
  3. The Imaginary Rabbi and the Dead End Kid: Another Evening with Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla
  4. Yelling at Each Other About Robin Williams, Ann Coulter, Death, and God

Stand-Up Comedy

  1. George Carlin Wasn’t Funny: The Top Five Most Overrated Liberal Comedians
  2. ‘Long Story Short’: Colin Quinn’s 75-Minute History of the World
  3. That’s Not Funny: The 5 Biggest Comedy Taboos
  4. Del Close Marathon Ignores Improv Guru’s Occult Obsessions
  5. Carolla vs. Kindler: When Jealous Losers Attack
  6. Sam Kinison Biopic Back on Track With New Star
  7. Stand-Up Comic vs. Air Force Colonel: Who’s the Real Joker?
  8. Behind the Scenes: Jerry Lewis’ ‘Holocaust Clown’ Movie
  9. Dave Chappelle and Heckling as the New ‘Racism’
  10. ‘Comedy Gives Back’ Proves People Can Make a Difference — But Not the Way They Expected
  11. Dean Martin Roasts: Remembrance of Zings Past
  12. Finally: A Comedian Who Refuses to Apologize
  13. BREAKING: Stand-Up Comedians Are Crazy

Relationships and Gender

  1. Mean Girls: Why Are Women Turning Against Tina Fey?
  2. How Women Ruin Romance by Talking Too Much
  3. 3 (Conservative) Reasons to Admire Helen Gurley Brown
  4. Shoes, Sheetrock, and the Skipper: 3 Surprising Things That Make a Man Sexy
  5. Meet Matt Graber, Your New Leftwing Heartthrob!
  6. Confessions of a Failed Slut
  7. How to Be the Perfect Wife in 3 Easy Steps

Life Reflections and Career Advice:

  1. Why Skipping College Was One of the Smartest Decisions of My Life
  2. Talent Isn’t Everything: 5 Secrets to Freelance Success
  3. In the Future Will Everyone Really ‘Have To Become an Entrepreneur’?
  4. I Kid You Not: The Top 4 Reasons I Don’t Have Children
  5. No One Is Ever ‘Just Kidding’
  6. If I Were Queen: My First 3 Acts Upon Becoming Your Beloved Empress For Life
  7. The Poor Get Poorer: 3 Character Traits That Undermine Prosperity
  8. The 47% Solution: Yes, If You’re Poor, It Really May Be Your Fault
  9. Jobs Are for Suckers: How to Be the Boss of You
  10. No One Who Works Indoors Needs a Union
  11. We All Wondered What Happened
  12. 50 Is the New Crappy
  13. 3 Things Getting Lupus Taught Me

Tips on Writing, Technology, the Internet, and New Media Success

  1. Steve Jobs: The Other Man in My Marriage
  2. 3 Rules for Handling the Online Trolls, Bullies, and Crackpots
  3. 3 Turning Points in the History of Blogging
  4. Gravity Doesn’t ‘Card’: Cyber Bullys and the Laws of the Universe
  5. The ‘Me’ in Social Media: The ONLY Online Etiquette Rule You’ll Ever Need
  6. 3 Tips for ‘Owning’ Your Name on Google’s First-Page Results
  7. How To Boost Your Blog By Going ‘Under the Hood’
  8. Know Your (Copy)rights: Tips for Writers and Bloggers
  9. The Chestnut Diet: How To Cut Cliches Out of Your Writing
  10. The 5 Best Security and Privacy Tools for Your Mac
  11. 3 Pro Secrets to Double Your Freelance Writing Income in 2 Years

Travel

  1. Kathy Shaidle’s Guide For Your First Visit to Israel
  2. New York City: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Canada

  1. 3 Weird Things About the U.S. This Pro-American Canadian Doesn’t Get
  2. Dispatch from Canada: 146th Birthday Edition
  3. Justin Trudeau: Canada’s (Future) Pothead PM?
  4. Canada Asks Muslims: When Will You Stop Beating Your Wives?
  5. An Unlikely Canadian Hero’s Tale of Non-Violent Defiance
  6. So I Guess I Have to Talk About Rob Ford, Huh?
  7. Economic Freedom: Canadian Province Beats Out All 50 States
  8. Father of the Canadian Flag Dies, Aged 96
  9. Is Canada Becoming the Proving Ground for Eco-Terrorism?

Generational Theory

  1. The Truth About The Greatest Generation
  2. The 3 Most Destructive Members of the ‘Greatest Generation’
  3. The 3 Biggest Myths About Generation X
  4. Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: 6 Gen-Xers I Can Actually Stand (Part One)
  5. Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: 6 Gen-Xers I Can Actually Stand (Part Two)
  6. Gen X Dream Girl Phoebe Cates Turns 50

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

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

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:

Here's the new book my wife has been obsessed with lately.... I'm going to try reading it. Americanah, a novel about a Nigerian #woman coming to #America. She says that it has a lot to say of value on the subjects of racial identity and cultures, which I am researching for my book.

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:

"What I've noticed being here is that many #English people are in awe of #America but also deeply resent it," Obinze said. Page 273 of #Americanah, a knock-you-on-your-ass great novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. #literature #culture #Africa #England #UnitedStates

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:

No wonder my wife loves the hero of this book so much. She's a #naturalhair #counterculture activist too. Page 13 of #Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, a Gen-Xer from Nigeria who is an astonishing writer. Almost done with first chapter. She also writes like my wife does with long, flowing sentences and wry observations...

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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What Is the New Counterculture? Part 2

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 - by Liberty Island

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Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerptsClick here to see our collection of 24 so far. We’re going to continue periodically introducing new contributors but now we continue a new series featuring many of these writers talking about their upcoming books and dialoguing about this question: 

“Liberty Island has identified itself as the home of the new counterculture. In what ways does your book exemplify this?”

To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Bellow’s new cover story at National Review, is also out this month: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.” Finally and importantly, support Liberty Island’s crowd-funding efforts here where you can pre-order the upcoming novels and learn about other incentives.

See Part 1 with Michael Sheldon’s answer here.

With daily examples of a once great culture circling the drain, it becomes increasingly hard to imagine that things could be different. But let’s try. What might a society that celebrated beauty, excellence, and community instead of slowly strangling those things look like? How would it feel  to live in a society whose people were worthy of one’s best efforts? And what would such people be like?

I envision such a society in Steam Pointe, a series of linked stories that Liberty Island will soon be publishing. Technology can’t hide any decline in the island nation of Steam Pointe. It’s a place that has taken 19th Century industrialism to its steampunk zenith, even as the rest of the world has forsworn airships, Tesla coils, and steam engines for airplanes, computers, and internal combustion.

When international terrorism arrives on his country’s shores and Steam Pointe’s own domestic supervillains begin staging attacks in America, detective Hiram Speer finds himself partnered with FBI agent Mackenzie Hoff. Yet chasing killers beneath Steam Pointe’s zeppelin-blotted skies, the two find their cultures in conflict: manly versus feminized, confident versus declining.

The Pointers’ manners, machines and esthetics are like something out of a Jules Verne-fever dream. Yet this is only the outward manifestation of their alienation from the contemporary United States — the nation their ancestors fled. For its part, America increasingly regards this bizarre place of technological apartheid and traditional gender roles as little better than a rogue regime.

With both their nations and their world views in opposition, will Speer and Mackenzie be able to work together to stop a common threat? Does either one of them even want to save the other’s homeland? And what are their respective nations’ agendas in this cultural cold war?

The fictional Steam Pointe is a culture counter to our own. The Steam Pointe series then is part of a growing counterculture that looks at the present order and asks, “Does it have to be like this?”

It doesn’t. And it won’t always be. As we look forward to the prospect of a re-forged society, come to Steam Pointe and get a feel for what it might be like to live someplace built on beauty, excellence, and community. Enjoy a terrific adventure while taking added pleasure in committing an act of cultural sedition.

****

See Stephen’s PJ Lifestyle post:

Comic Book Tropes That Need to Die, the First in An Occasional Series

And his political posts at the PJ Tatler:

Learning to Love Cloward-Piven

Tougher Than HYDRA

And his interview and story excerpt at PJ Lifestyle:

‘Long-Term, I’d Like to Hire Others to Produce More Content Set in This Shared Universe…’

 

***

image illustration via shutterstock / Kiselev Andrey Valerevich

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What Is the New Counterculture? Part 1

Monday, June 30th, 2014 - by Liberty Island

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Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerpts. Click here to see our collection of 24 so far. We’re going to continue periodically introducing new contributors but today we start a new series featuring many of these writers talking about their upcoming books and dialoguing about this question: 

“Liberty Island has identified itself as the home of the new counterculture. In what ways does your book exemplify this?”

To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Bellow’s new cover story at National Review, is also out today: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.” Finally and importantly, support Liberty Island’s crowd-funding efforts here where you can pre-order the upcoming novels and learn about other incentives.

Before completing The Violet Crow, I was having dinner with a woman who teaches English lit at a branch of University of Washington. When I told her my novel was a detective story, she dismissed it in four words: “Detective stories are normative.” I had never heard this choice bit of academic wisdom before, but, before we get to that, let me describe the premise of my normative tale.

The Violet Crow begins when the students of Gardenfield Friends School enter the Quaker Meetinghouse for their weekly half hour of silence. They find instead the lifeless body of a ten-year-old girl. Because there are no clues, and no grieving parents come forward to claim their daughter, the police are pressured into taking an unusual step: They hire a psychic detective.

The idea is to show the press and the politicians that the Gardenfield cops are seriously trying to find the murderer and restore order to this normally safe and self-satisfied community. However, Bruno X, aka Joey Kaplan, is a bit more than anyone bargained for. He has genuine psychic talent, but it’s inconsistent. People always assume that psychics are fakes. And when confronted with suspicions, Bruno counters with Mad-Magazine-Yiddish invectives and recycled Borsht Belt routines.

The Violet Crow offers readers a tight plot, lots of suspects, weird science, and some surprising historical connections. There are also elements of magical realism as Bruno’s psychic ability moves up and down a scale that ranges from coincidence to intuition, luck, and the occasional bit of sorcery. Finally, if you dig deep into genre categories, The Violet Crow is technically a “caper,” because it’s a crime story that’s also humorous.

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Do Celebrities Owe Their Fans Free Meet and Greets?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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If you love movies and everything about them, you owe it to yourself to follow AMC Movie Talk, a daily web show headlined by AMC Movie News editor John Campea and a rotating cadre of entertainment experts. As marketing moves go, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better way to develop brand loyalty for a theater chain than feeding fans a steady stream of incisive commentary about every movie news tidbit that comes across the wire.

More than that, what I really appreciate about AMC Movie Talk is the insight consistently offered into the business side of the industry. Campea and company are fans like you and me, and that comes across in how they regard the films they discuss. But they are also industry professionals, and therefore bring a perspective to the process that most people lack.

The above clip highlights one such moment. A viewer writes in to ask the AMC Movie Talk crew why celebrities charge fans for personal appearances, autographs, pictures, and the like. The emailer writes:

Most of them have millions of dollars already from their work. I don’t see why they charge their fans to meet them, because it seems like it’s done out of pure greed. [Punctuation added.]

The response from around the AMC table lands right on point. Campea cuts to the chase, noting that actors and other celebrities take time and attention away from other activities which they value in order to meet fans at public appearances. “Everybody who’s not a millionaire thinks that people who have money should do everything for free… But if we’re really rational about it, I don’t think that’s the case.”

Film director Jon Schnepp points out the folly of assuming that every celebrity must be a millionaire. Even considering the few that are, does their wealth grant fans some claim upon their time and attention?

Commentator Miri Jedeikin adds that these public appearances where celebrities interact with fans factor into their job. It’s an aspect of their profession for which they ought to be compensated, provided the demand exists to pay for their time. In fact, charging for meet and greets helps control the demand. “Imagine if it were free,” Jedeikin says. “The line would be five days long.”

It’s one of those interchanges which demonstrates that Hollywood proves far more conservative and rights-affirming in their daily practices than in the fashion of their expressed politics. The emailer’s angst at celebrities getting paid for meet and greets jives well with the rhetoric of the radical left who believe people with ability ought to work for free in the service of perceived need.

If you watch AMC Movie Talk long enough, you’ll encounter this kind of stealthy, countercultural conservatism on a regular basis. It may not be intended as such by Campea and company. But it proves immensely satisfying nonetheless.

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How 10 Esoteric Secrets Hidden in Joss Whedon’s Best Movie Can Change Your Life

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

This week Walter Hudson joined the pop culture debate and expressed his concerns about DC’s attempt to catch up with Marvel on the movie front, concluding in “DC Vs. Marvel: Why This DC Fanboy Believes Marvel Already Won“:

After Man of Steel’s 143 minute run time, I’m left with little idea of who any of these people are or why I should care. The project rarely stops for breath, has scant humor, and takes itself far too seriously. The Nolan narrative style, skipping back and forth through time, works better when utilized by Nolan himself than by the frantic and unfocused Zack Snyder.

If that’s how we’re going to get introduced to all these characters, to Batman and Wonder Woman and Cyborg, than I fear a Justice League adventure will never be as fun as The Avengers. And that’s sad. Because it easily could be. DC has a rich history to draw from with decades of stories to mine and refresh. These characters deserve the same focused, nuanced, yet lighthearted treatment that Marvel Studios has given its mightiest heroes.

Hannah Sternberg also joined the discussion, declaring her allegiances in the pop culture debate to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly as superior franchises to Star Trek and Star Wars in her post “The Bible of Buffy“:

I’m going to bounce this one back to the committee. Dave, Walter, other PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island writers, — did Joss Whedon change your life, or simply stunt it?

Perhaps this wasn’t the answer that Hannah was anticipating but Whedon’s impact on my life is very different from hers. I never “got into” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, or Serenity. While recognizing their significance to geek culture and respecting the fact that Whedon operates at a level of sophistication well above most creators in the sci-fi/fantasy world, it was another of the writer-director’s works that resonated with me.

Back in January of 2013 I published “10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film.” In the piece — which I’ve decided to republish today — I argued that the movie’s success came from its ability to reinvent classic mythological themes and archetypes.

What do you think? Is The Avengers as good as I claim it is? Should it stand as a model for those aspiring to make big, bold, profitable, mainstream popular culture infused with good values? Would DC striving for a Justice League film end up just a pale imitation of what Whedon already mastered?

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