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.
The “Christmas single” phenomenon is unknown in the U.S., unless you’ve ever watched Love, Actually.
It’s sort of the “Black Friday” of the British music industry. Since so much music is sold (or, at least, used to be) during the holiday season, having the #1 song on the charts during that time gives one lucky record company a financial boost.
After Slade took the top spot in 1973 with their “Merry Xmas Everybody” — beating out “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” by Wizzard — “an emotional attachment to the Christmas countdown has developed, and for many [in the United Kingdom], it is part of the fabric of their childhood.”
So I doubt many American readers care that there’s a campaign to get Iron Maiden’s old chestnut “The Number of the Beast” to the top of the charts in time for Christmas, “for a laugh.”
What’s really funny (sort of) is that, during the early 1970s, such a campaign would have been denounced on the front page of every British tabloid, and remarked upon within American newspapers’ “entertainment” sections, at the very least.
Because culture-watchers would see it as yet another sign of the satanic takeover of the culture, and the world — the one I wrote about last week.
1. My New Year’s Resolution Fulfilled!
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.
The Drudge Report remains one of the most accurate barometers of what’s happening right now.
But can we augur near-future trends by sifting through that site’s headlines?
Lately, Drudge has posted lots of news stories about “the devil” and “exorcism”:
Camera captures exorcism performed on shrieking woman “possessed by devil:
Church Turns to Exorcism to Combat Suicide Increase… Archbishop: “Satanism has spread among young people”
BILLY GRAHAM: In Our “Lawless and Wicked Age We’ve Taught Philosophy of Devil”
Aside from the uptick in stories like these, I’m not sensing a resurgence in interest in all things diabolical, a new version of the “occult” fad that helped make the 1970s so miserable, and led to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s that was almost as bad.
Peter Bebergal doesn’t agree.
According to him, “we’re currently experiencing ‘an Occult Revival in rock music and popular culture.’”
He’s penned one of the year’s most talked-about books, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.
“My argument is that the spirit of rock and roll — the essential rebellious instinct of rock and roll — is certainly social and sexual and political, but it’s also a spiritual rebellion,” Bebergal explained. “And the way in which it expressed that spiritual rebellion was through the occult imagination.”
That “occult imagination” conjures everything from Ouiji boards to Christian and Jewish symbolism to LSD trips to “alternative spiritual practices.” Bebergal says it ultimately helped rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath save rock from sounding too poppy, sappy and mainstream.
In one of his most memorable roles, as the eponymous character of Tim Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands, Johnny Depp plays a semi-human manboy with shears for fingers, stuck in eternal youth as those around him wither. I thought of this film last week, as I watched a fifty-something Depp, drunk and clad in his usual get-up of randomly placed crosses and scarves, stumble to the microphone at a televised awards show and deliver a slurred “speech” in which he giggled, cursed, rocked, and swayed his way through a painful two minutes. Here was another manboy on display, albeit one lacking the charm and innocence of Burton’s creation.
It was a shame to see Depp, a genuinely talented and by most accounts kind and gentle man, reduce himself to this display. He is well into middle age—not that any age is an appropriate time for public drunkenness. I suspect his career won’t be dented much, if at all, by the episode. This is not just because he is a celebrity. One can’t imagine, say, Morgan Freeman stumbling onto the stage, delivering a gin-soaked introduction, and walking away with his career totally intact. No, it is Depp’s enduring “bad boy” image that affords him the extra latitude. Those crosses and scarves go a long way. If you can set yourself up as some kind of outsider, those on the inside will start to think they’re caged animals and become desperate for your kind of freedom. The bad boy’s appeal comes from nonchalantly scuffing the social rulebook with his cowboy boots and daring us not to like him because of it.
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?
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?”
“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.”
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.
Anime is a very divisive medium, to say the least. It elicits rabid joy in some, but can bring out ire and revulsion in equal measure. Why is this? What is it about anime that drives people away? Is it a cultural xenophobia from the West, or is there something deeper? While it may be easier to attribute this reluctance to ignorance and a skewed view of cartoons, it is not the correct answer. There are a few constant trends in anime that have become the face to the general public. In this article, I will highlight and explore them. What do they offer, and why are people repelled by them?
Dragonball Z, Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach. These series are by far some of the most well-known in the west, reaching into even non-anime viewer bases. However, while these shows attract new viewers (especially children and adolescents), there’s a problem. The shiny gloss of action and goofiness wears off, and the viewer is left with nothing but dull filler.
“Filler” refers to episodes of anime that have nothing to do with the main plot. The shows mentioned above are infamous for meandering through filler episodes at a snail’s pace, taking time to sniff the roses, while everyone is waiting to move on with the ride. After a while, people get tired of wasting time on a show that stagnates, and abandon it. These people are left with a sour taste in their mouths, and you can’t blame them — once bitten, twice shy.
Filler comes with a series that runs too long. As time progresses, the characters get old, and don’t change in any way. However, in order to pad out episode numbers, the producers do whatever they can for as cheaply as possible. Whatever keeps the golden goose laying eggs.
Editor’s Note: PJ Lifestyle’s Commenter-In-Chief and classic rock guru Allston has been developing an extraordinary series chronicling the best songs by era. Get caught up on his previous installments: “Alternative 1980s: 15 More Songs Millennials Must Hear,” “15 Classic 1970s Songs Millennials Should Know,” “15 More Classic 1970s Songs for the Millennials,” “15 More 1970s Songs Showcasing the Decade’s Wide Range,” and “Your 15 Song Introduction to The New Wave Punk Sound That Ended the 1970s“
I have great memories of this period in time. It seemed you just could not turn on the radio without hearing yet another incredible song. “New Wave” was now mainstreamed, increasingly accepted as a valid “sound.” Yes, a lot of it was a bit cheesy, but some great tunes came out of this brief period of time.
I threw in this 1976 proto-Punk gem because, well, Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Do I require a better reason, I ask you?!
1. The Runaways – “Cherry Bomb” (1976)
LONDON – Thirty-five years after her last concert appearance, Kate Bush is back live, and it’s like she never left the stage.
Bush rocketed to the top of the charts in 1978 with “Wuthering Heights,” a lush, love-it-or-hate-it, penned at the tender age of 18, based on Bush’s loose interpretation of the Emily Bronte novel — naive, heady romanticism in distilled form that only a teenage girl blessed with genius was capable of summoning.
The out-of-nowhere smash launched an eccentric, much-lauded career spanning 10 studio albums and inspiring unusual devotion among a fan base that treats her like a white witch. As the records stopped coming she came to be unfairly tabbed a recluse, which explains the shock and joy that accompanied her announcement of her current London shows.
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:
48. Yellow Submarine
47. Dark City
45. Dog Star Man
41. The Two Towers
38. The Avengers
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:
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
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.
There’s more fallout from the Ray Rice domestic violence incident and the turmoil it has caused for the NFL – CBS and Rihanna are splitting up.
The network said Tuesday it was permanently editing a song featuring Rihanna’s voice out of its Thursday night NFL telecasts – after the singer issued a profane Tweet about it.
CBS issued a statement saying that it was “moving in a different direction” with different theme music.
The song was one of a handful of elements CBS cut out of its inaugural Thursday night football telecast. At the time, CBS Sports president Sean McManus said Rihanna’s own history as a victim of domestic violence was one part of the decision but not the overriding one.
Had the NFL kept the song in rotation, they’d have been torn apart on Twitter and elsewhere for “bad optics.”
(There’s a “broken occipital bone” joke in there somewhere…)
The league is currently in full hair-shirting mode, pantomiming “outrage” and “concern.”
But of course, some will now scream that the NFL is “punishing the victim” by “silencing a battered woman’s voice” or something. (See below.)
Dear Adam Bellow,
I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle – with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”
I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.
I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:
What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.
In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.
I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:
The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.
So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:
My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:
My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.
Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):
I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.
Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.
But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…
(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)
13. She has discovered a close kinship with George Costanza.
Sure, she may come off all serious in her videos, but Lana Del Rey has a seriously good sense of humor. According to Rolling Stone, Lana Del Rey ”has a George Costanza-like plan for the future.”
“I’m really specific about why I’m doing something or writing something,” she says. “But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve learned that everything I’m going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction.” She’s surprised to learn that George tried this approach in an episode of Seinfeld. “Oh really? That’s awesome. Me and George Costanza! Oh my God!”
15. Everything you know about the social stratosphere is wrong…
College is nothing like high school. You understand this in theory, but have never experienced the kind of social freedom you will in college. There are no cliques. There is no lunch table. Welcome to the world of being an adult. For the first couple of weeks you’ll attend pre-arranged mixers, usually orientation events or annoying team-building activities your RA spent all summer training to lead. These awkward moments are helpful for one reason: Discovering who has a car. As a freshman, be aware that the parties you crash at frat houses aren’t for making friends, they’re for getting drunk and hooking up. You’ve been warned.
Even in an epic poem, some scenes are more epic than others, and a few scenes just blow the top of your head clean off. The Iliad is packed with those scenes, and this week I’m bringing the five greatest hits to a theater near you. This is part two of my five-part series dusting off the awesome in the Iliad — last week I laid out the poem’s ten nastiest deaths. This week, I want to dig in a little more and think about one of the poem’s core ideas: heroism. What makes a hero? It’s a question we’re still asking, but Homer knew better than anyone what turns a man into a legend. So here they are: the Iliad’s five most intense scenes (each with my own translation, which you can read by clicking on the title), and some comments on the image they carve out of what it means to be awesome. Get out the popcorn.
When the gods go to war, you get your sorry self out of the way. Ares especially is the jacked-up juggernaut of them all, a bristling mountain of rusty bronze blades and throbbing muscles fueled by a raw thirst for carnage. But the Greek hero Diomedes charges full-tilt into Ares’ onslaught — an unheard-of and suicidally ballsy move. When the dust clears, Diomedes has done the unthinkable: he’s scored a hit and drawn divine blood. In the standoff that follows, Ares stares down the human who dared to stand up to him and retreats into the darkened sky.
The adjective “iconic” is criminally overused, particularly by enthusiastic but historically illiterate youngsters.
However, for many old fogeys, the photograph above actually deserves that designation.
Just check out that badass Rasta, striding fearlessly, even casually, toward a line of (probably) white London cops.
He’s alone, but this is his neighborhood, not theirs, so why should he cower, despite the menace hovering in the air?
Surely something has exploded, gone horribly, fatally wrong — or is just about to — beyond the frozen boundaries of this picture, which seems to be holding its breath, like an enjambed line of poetry.
Although this photo was taken in 1976, it seems weirdly timeless, yet timely, especially in the wake of Ferguson.
And it is, except not for the reason one might expect.
See the previous installment in Susan’s Dudeism series: How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps
Warning: Given that the f-bomb is dropped in The Big Lebowski over 200 times, some of these clips will most likely be NSFW.
10. Abiding is a science as well as an art.
Patience is an inherent aspect of abiding. Other definitions include “to endure without yielding,” “to accept without objection,” and “to remain stable.” In the world of the Internet and social media technology, abiding is an anachronistic action. We have been shaped by our media to function at rapid speeds. One of the biggest goals of Common Core is to increase the speed at which students mentally process information. Not study, analyze and comprehend, but process and regurgitate the way they would like and share a Twitter or Facebook post. Abiding flies in the face of today’s high-speed reactionary culture.
10. Watch The Big Lebowski a minimum of 3 times.
The first time you watch Lebowski, encounter the film fresh and unfettered. Invite a friend or two over. Make it a casual affair and, if you can, do a double feature. Watch The Maltese Falcon beforehand so you have some understanding of how incredibly screwed up the plotline is going to be. The second time you watch Lebowski, do so with a Caucasian in hand. Immerse yourself in the experience, not as a moviegoer, but as a key aspect of the mise en scene. Discover your favorite quotes. By your third go-round, call in sick, lounge in your bathrobe, and when your friends say, “You wasted a sick day on that movie?” respond with, “Well, that’s like, your opinion, man.” Be sure to obtain the collector’s edition and review the special features for complete immersion.
Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.
10. Harry Potter
When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),
Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.
Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.
10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…
Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.
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 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:
And his political posts at the PJ Tatler:
And his interview and story excerpt at PJ Lifestyle:
image illustration via shutterstock / Kiselev Andrey Valerevich
I’m sick of this post. Not the specific post, “The Stay At Home Mom Conspiracy Theory,” but the gist of the post: career woman goes home and is shocked to find that motherhood is more intense, boring, messy, fractured—difficult, than she thought. That the details and difficulties of motherhood surprise career women is a commonplace complaint that hasn’t quite settled on a cliche to describe it.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard?” she, and countless others, ask. We tried, or at least some of us did. But during their office days, women don’t like to hear about stay-at-home motherhood. First, career women rarely listen to anything that contradicts what they think they know. Second, most stay-at-home moms, when faced with the vacant stare mask of disapproval, stop telling the truth. Much like the author did. (Oh, the confidence gap is not so much a gap as a canyon with many caves and crevices.)
Usually I have more sympathy for women surprised by realities—elder women do withhold a considerable amount of information from younger women—but failure to acknowledge and express some regret about past complicity in the silencing of stay-at-home moms buries my sympathy in annoyance.
I am not one of the SAHMs who stop telling the truth. (I blogged as An American Housewife precisely because I refused to perpetrate the notion of a “mere” or any other “no really, I’m smart”’ adjective modifying “housewife.”) So I offer some truth for after the shock: motherhood doesn’t have to follow the covered-in-spit-up-with-no-time-to-shower format that typically sees women run screaming back to the office in avoidance or plunging into motherhood in full submersion. It can be sane. But to get to sane, women have to stand against conventional wisdom and peer pressure. To use the Mommy Wars analogy, sane is walking though the crossfire and ignoring the bullets as they wiz by. (Don’t worry, they’re blanks.) In my experience, fewer moms want to hear about how to do that than want to listen to facts about motherhood.
There isn’t so much a conspiracy as a crisis of confidence in which women hide behind assumptions or seek safety in numbers. Nothing gets solved. And the same posts get written again, and again, as if it is all a surprise.
image via shutterstock / Gladskikh Tatiana