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If You Love Your Kids, Kill That Elf on the Shelf

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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I’m not opposed to lying to very young children. In fact, my family considers it one of the finer points of good parenting. The art of storytelling, when done appropriately, can soften a harsh reality and bring it into an easy-to-swallow, child-sized bite. In “6 Lies You Should Tell Your Kids“ I shared a few of our family secrets for doing just that. The Elf on the Shelf, however, is a Christmas tale with a dark side that could produce some unintended character flaws that could show up later as adults. Adults, no doubt, that will be living in a very different world.

Before you dismiss the whole idea as harmless fun, it’s important to understand two basic truths that Christmas traditions, as with all family traditions, are vitally important to children. You are always teaching your child–intentionally, or unintentionally.

The Elf on the Shelf is a cheap looking stuffed doll that looks like it came from a dollar store in China. The elf itself is not what has made it a multi-million dollar success. It’s the story behind it.

That’s where we get into some real life issues.

This elf is placed somewhere in the house to observe the children’s behavior. Apparently, this generation’s Santa can’t really see who’s naughty and nice. He needs surveillance elves. The elf is adopted into a family or classroom, given a name and perched somewhere to observe the children’s behavior. Then he receives his magic. Each night the little snitch flies back to the North Pole to let Santa know if the kid being watching is good or bad.

There are two rules, one for the elf and one for the kid: The elf cannot be touched. If he is, he loses his magic and can’t fly back to the North Pole (hence, no Christmas for the kid, and they’re stuck with just the elf). The elf’s rule is that it can’t say anything– only watch and listen carefully. Not a problem for a stuffed doll, even a cheesy one.

This type of tradition fits this generation of parents well. We all know the NSA is listening in, and it produces some great Instagram shots. By the looks of what a simple #elfonshelf search will uncover, naughty and nice parents are having as much fun with it, if not more than their kids.

So what could go wrong with an Elf on the Shelf?

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Handcuffed or Spanked?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

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The obvious answer is “neither.” Who wants their child, at any age, handcuffed by police – let alone at age 6? Sorry if I misled you with the title; you don’t have the option between spanking and handcuffs. Children are not being spanked in school and obviously not at home. That would be just wrong, right?

Handcuffed for bad behavior? Yeah, that’s happening today.

As the wife of a retired police officer, I have some very strong opinions about the role of the police. This, however, is an entirely different matter. A police officer in an elementary school is not the same as an officer on the street. This isn’t about police. It’s about developmental behavior, abdicating responsibility, and the natural consequences of cultural Marxism.

It’s a given that one or two instances doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s commonplace, although it is an issue that is occurring more often than most of us realize. I defy you to find one story of this happening even in the turbulent years of the ’60s and ’70s.

Believe me, it would have made the news. But back then we had segregated classrooms–average children were in one room, obnoxious kids in the hallway, and autism was one in 2000 students. Most schools never saw one autistic child.

There’s a lot of blame to go around here, so I’m going to narrow it down to a cultural issue that parents need to recognize embedded in how we view the family.

Before I explain that statement, let’s take a look at a couple cases at hand.

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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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9 Ways Pop Culture Gets Childbirth Wrong

Friday, December 12th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

There’s no shortage of media representations of childbirth, between television and movies. The scene, which has played out for as long as babies have been “born” on television, is fairly cookie cutter: the woman’s water breaks and there’s a mad dash to the hospital — otherwise the baby will be born in a stalled elevator. The woman screams in pain, begging for drugs, and then out comes a beautiful, usually clean baby who cries immediately before being wrapped and placed in mom’s arms.

As with all mainstream media representations of real-life events, writers and producers take a lot of liberties with the scene and how it plays out in real life. Since having a child myself, I often wonder if anyone on the writing or producing staff has ever been present for the birth of a child, given how diametrically different these moments are in real life.

The way childbirth is portrayed isn’t just inaccurate, but also fuels a false perception in our society of childbirth as scary, dangerous, and often negative. Several aspects of how childbirth plays out on screen also affect how real life couples may process their own experience in the moment. So what can a couple expect out of the birth of their child? What does the media get wrong? This list is just a start:

1. Babies come out pink 

One of the scariest moments for any parent who has seen enough babies being born on television is the color their child comes out. While some people may be ready for the goop and slime that coat a baby’s skin, the color of their skin usually comes as a total shock, even if intellectually one has been made aware that often babies don’t come out flesh-colored or pink right out of the womb.

On the series Parenthood, which, unsurprisingly, has seen quite a few births over the course of the last six seasons, the youngest son of the clan, Crosby Braverman, had a daughter with his wife Jasmine. She came out looking like this:

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The very first moments a baby comes into the world, before they’ve had an opportunity to get oxygen into their bodies, a baby’s skin tone, regardless of race, is often a deep shade of purple, which can be petrifying if unprepared, which most parents are. Those first fleeting moments are usually forgotten in the haze of new parenthood, but it’s a shame that most first-time parents find themselves scared for their child’s safety and well-being before the cord has even been cut. Better images would go a long way in changing our image of brand new human beings, highlighting what can be normal in healthy childbirth.

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3 Top Lessons from the New Republic Implosion

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Now that the pixel dust has (mostly) settled, we can begin trying to glean some lessons from the sudden crack up of The New Republic.

Since its inception 100 years ago, TNR has positioned itself as the journal of American liberalism, when that word was still synonymous with patriotism, freedom and even a hawkish foreign policy.

The magazine cheer-led for Stalin longer than was seemly and opposed the Vietnam War. However, it was also critical of the New Left’s excesses and, under contentious editor Martin Peretz, became largely pro-Israel.

It may have been “the in-flight magazine of Air Force One” during the Clinton administration but that didn’t prevent TNR from being highly critical of his (and Hillary’s) policies.

So it wouldn’t be entirely fair or accurate to describe The New Republic as a “liberal” magazine, although that’s what a lot of conservative commentators have been doing since this week’s Chernobyl-level meltdown.

In a magazine landscape in which The Nation is unmistakeably far-left, and National Review and the Weekly Standard are clearly “right wing,” The New Republic sometimes seemed… confused — a reflection of the particular passions of whoever happened to be editor at the time.

And many of those editors over the years have been quite young.

As have the magazine’s writers.

That’s why it’s likely that the prospect of having a 28-year-old owner didn’t immediately strike fear into the hearts of New Republic stakeholders.

Ooops.

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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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VIDEO: How Leaders Should Celebrate Diversity

Monday, December 8th, 2014 - by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Rick Lynch

See Part I in this ongoing series about applying leadership principles to the big problems our nation faces and to our every day lives: “Leaders See Opportunities, not Obstacles.” Also pick up the book Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles from an American General.

I continue to find myself worried about the future of our Nation. The current situation in Ferguson, Missouri and other parts of our country is of great concern. Unfortunately, there are elements in our society who want to emphasize divisiveness over diversity. They want to drive a wedge between us. I saw this in Iraq during my service there. Folks there committed specific acts of terror to inflame tension between the Iraqi Shias and Sunnis. We can’t allow that to happen here in the United States of America.

I argue continuously that families, communities and organizations should celebrate diversity.  They must move beyond simple tolerance and truly embrace and celebrate diversity.  If they do that, everyone will flourish. All indicators of success will dramatically improve. We will be exponentially more effective. The US Military is a case in point.

In 1948 President Truman issued an executive order that it was his policy that all members of the armed services of the United States be given equal opportunities regardless of race, religion, color, or source of national origin. Today the US Armed Forces celebrate diversity. We embrace the concept that different folks bring different strengths to the table. We judge a person not based on their color, but on their character, competence, and contributions. We are far from perfect, but we in the military are quantum leaps above the rest of society when it comes to celebrating diversity.

Why can’t we as a Nation do that? Why is it necessary to stereotype someone based on his or her color or religion? Why can’t we celebrate the differences, and use everyone’s contribution to improve our society and make America better place for all to live and flourish?  It can be done.

I am convinced that our Nation is in imminent danger from terrorists of all types, including domestic terrorists. There are folks among us who want to incite fear and inflame riots and demonstrations for the sole purpose of establishing divisions between us. They want our Nation to be broken into subgroups as opposed to emphasizing our diversity.  We must put an end to this.

The solution to this problem will not be found in Washington DC, but rather in our own homes and communities. Let’s look closely at how we are living our lives, make appropriate changes, and truly embrace and celebrate diversity. Our children and their children will thank us for that.

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Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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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.

Why?

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.

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Why You Should Visit California’s Wonderful Dark Place, Borrego Springs

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi

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While driving on a desert road in Borrego Springs, California, if you see a massive undulating serpent whose tail is waving in and out of the sand on one side of the road you’re driving on, with the rest of him, including his fearsome almost two-story head, sticking out of the sand on the other side, you are not having a desert hallucination. The three hundred and fifty foot serpent and other fanciful and realistic metal sculptures, including scorpions, spiders, dinosaurs, wild horses rearing their heads, and an array of human like figures doing human-like activities, dot the landscape near the town of Borrego Springs, and the historic La Casa del Zorro Resort. In fact the artist, Ricardo Breceda, who sculpted these surreal creations, has his studio at one end of the resort’s 42 acre property.

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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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Lying Pervert Alfred Kinsey Makes The New Republic‘s Top 100 List

Saturday, November 29th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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The New Republic magazine celebrates its 100th anniversary with a special section called “100 Years, 100 Thinkers.”

Unfortunately, the categories into which these “minds who’ve defined our century” are helpfully slotted are almost parodically First World, elite-uptown-liberal:

“Architecture.” “Environmentalism.” “Songwriting.” “Diplomacy.”

And of course, “American Civil Rights.” (Zzzzzzzz….)

Unless you count “Medicine,” no hard sciences were deemed worthy of consideration.

An alien browsing this section would be forgiven for assuming that man never set foot on the moon.

But who cares when someone named Alice Waters “made (local) lettuce sexy!”

(And besides, The New Republic assures us that “Martians need only watch one of [Richard Pryor's] concert films to best understand the human species in the shortest amount of time.”)

These “100 Thinkers” include an unsurprising number of charlatans whose sinister influence continues to toxify the body politic (Al Gore) and even kill people (Rachel Carson.)

Naturally, there’s a “Sex” section, and Alfred Kinsey comes out on top (as it were.)

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My Cup Runneth Over

Saturday, November 29th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
We live in a time of magic (even without flying cars.)

We live in a time of magic (even without flying cars.)

It seems appropriate, this being the week of thanksgiving, to make a list of everything that I – hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m a writer.  I’ve tried to give it up, but … oh, heck, not very hard – am thankful for as a writer, living in this, the early decades of the twenty first century.

First, let me pile on to register my disapproval with the lack of moon colonies, spaceships to Marsh and, oh, yeah, flying cars.  No, I don’t really care if they’re impractical, I want them because cool.

Turned out, though, the future didn’t look like we expected.  It didn’t turn out glitzy and superabundant.  Perhaps it never will, since we’re humans and the question is always “abundant with what?”

I mean, very few among us are starving (looks down at waist. We could use a little more starving around here) but very few of us in this economy are exactly well off or unworried, either.

And yet, with all this, the future also did not turn into the rusty and decaying future so beloved of seventies leftist writers and other dystopians. We’re not all sweating in factories, skulking amidst the rusting remains of the past, and living at the mercy of the state.  Okay, maybe that last, but even then not the way they expected.

Because you see, on their way to taking over the institutions, the left ran into the obstacle they never saw coming: technology.

I grew up in Europe and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the essential industries to take over when communists (or the feared Soviet invasion) took over a country: News, entertainment, communications, education.  The military, of course, would have to be co-opted or defeated.  But those other industries?  Once you had them you could co-opt the military, or give the impression of a “popular revolt.”  You could change people’s minds, or if not, you could make everyone who opposed you feel like they were lone nuts and people of no account.

For those who are looking at that and saying “but that’s what happened here!”… Yep.  The left has only one playbook, and it involved the long march through those essential industries, the ones that told people what the world was like and allowed them to create an image/ideal of how it should be.

Note technology is not among those fields.  Oh, I know that a lot of computer technicians (but not all) are left.  Most of all, the firms are left, since being on the left has become a way of signaling class (high class) so executives all make the appropriate noises.

But there are still no-go zones, and those are the ones where technology is created.  Engineering, technical work, the harder sciences.  Those were left untouched by the long march, because math and physics are immune to both bullsh*t and guilting to “give the other side a chance.”  Calculations are either right or they aren’t.

And ignored by the left, the sons of Martha were building structures that replaced the ones that the left had taken over.  (Something the left doesn’t seem to realize is that they have the Mierdas touch.  Everything they touch turns to offal. They’ve managed to take the magic out of movies, the creativity out of books and the news out of the news business.)  With official structures in crisis, the unofficial is superseding them.

I know right here, in the belly of the beast, it doesn’t look like we’re doing much. But look back just ten years, and you’ll see the difference.

So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for the sons of Martha who created the structure that allows for blogs and communication among peers; for e-tailers; for indie publishing; for online schools.

I’m thankful that we can save ourselves from the wreck being wrought upon us by our so-called elites.

Yes, they still have some sway and some of the technology is not quite there to supersede things like Hollywood.  But it will be. It’s a matter of time.

Don’t allow them to have their Brave New World. We know it’s not a how-to. Build under, build parallel. Ignore their corrupt structures and make your way.

We live in the future, and the future belongs to us.


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Deadline 70 AD
By Jim Lion 

The day John Salmon graduates from college, he thinks his turn has come to go out and conquer the world, but instead the world comes to conquer him. At the campus chapel, he encounters an attractive young woman named Jill. She warns him to walk away from a mysterious stranger who will soon arrive offering adventure and world travel. But why would he listen to her, a complete stranger herself? She exits in a hurry, frightened even, but leaves behind a curious device resembling a wristwatch.

John finds he can’t walk away from Cyrus, the mysterious stranger, and this decision casts him into the dark places of history, racing against that damnable clock.

The clock keeps ticking, counting down, running out…


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Chosen of Azara
By Kyra Halland 

Juzeva, the princess who sacrificed everything to try to stop a war, and instead found herself caught in a web of evil and deceit…

Sevry, the last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, tasked with finding Juzeva’s secret, the secret that can bring Savaru back to life…

Lucie, a sheltered young noblewoman, unaware of her true heritage and the power she has to restore a lost land…

Then a mystery from the past becomes real and sweeps Lucie away to adventure, danger, and a love that will change her life and the lost land of Savaru forever.


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Crossing the Naiad
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

Ancient, cold, and perilous.

Its truth forgotten in the mists of time, the old bridge harbors a lethal secret. Neither marble statues awakened for battle nor an ancient roadbed grown hungry, something darker and more primal haunts the stones and the wild river below.

Kimmer knows the stories, but she doesn’t know why the crumbling span feels so fraught with menace. Her way home lies across the ruin. Dare she take it? Or will horror from the lost past rise up to claim her, when she does?


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Perilous Chance
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

If only Mama were well. If only Papa were . . . not like this.

Clary needs a miracle, but wonders rarely step forth to solve life’s problems. While her mama lies wearily abed and her papa spends the day . . . elsewhere, Clary struggles to look after her younger sister and their baby brother. And longs for more than making do. If only.

Then, one spring morning, Clary and Elspeth visit the old bramble-grown quarry to pick wild cabbage leaves. Hidden within the rock’s cleft, Clary’s miracle awaits. But this miracle sports razor-sharp talons, world-shaking power, ravenous hunger, and a troll-witch to guard its sleep. When it cracks the egg, will Clary survive?

Something wondrous this way comes!

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12 Steps for a Perfect Pop Culture Christmas

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice the confusion laced within a holiday message. When it comes to Christmas, the confusion is on overload. Somewhere along the way a religious message got smacked with a load of pop culture overtones to create a holiday lush with semiotic excess, too much for the brain or heart to process. So, allow me from my seat on the sidelines to create the How To guide so you can enjoy the perfect pop culture Christmas.

12. Shop early and shop often for things you’ll never need that are on sale at bargain basement prices.

Christmas really begins on Black Friday, or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. The holiday is about buying to your heart’s content and making sure everything you and your children have ever dreamed of is stacked up under that decorated tree. The bruises and broken limbs you get in pursuit of those awesome sale prices will be well worth it. Who needs teeth when they can have stuff?

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A National Call for Gratitude this Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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A Radical Ranking of Disney’s 8 Best Animated Features

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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You may remember my experience last week where I received the strange basket of apples with a cryptic note from Valerie. I ate one of the apples and fell into a deep sleep, after which I received the strangest ideas for how to improve Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and my editor posted them here.

Well, I decided to try a second apple from the basket. One bite of this next apple, and I passed out again. I woke up with the inspiration to rank some of Disney’s best cartoons. Get ready, because I guarantee you that you’ve never seen Disney’s films in this light…

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8. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Just picture it: a large, virile character roams the world, and though people see him as a bad guy, he’s really good inside, and in the end, he saves the day!

Am I talking about Wreck-It Ralph? Of course I am, but in reality I’m talking about the man whose life I’m convinced the movie is a metaphor for: our wonderful ally Vladimir Putin. Just think about it.

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Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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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.

The author outlined his book’s thesis to NPR:

“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.

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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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The South’s Church Culture and Its Dangerous Problems

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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One of my favorite things about being on staff at a church is that I get to engage in discussions about faith and spiritual life with other men and women who are passionate not just about their relationship with God but also about helping others to deepen their relationship with Him.

Last week, I was brainstorming with our creative arts director and the student pastor at one of our campuses about improving one particular element of our services, when the student pastor remarked about how he knew people who thought of our church as light on doctrine and substance, largely because we don’t engage in activities like “altar calls.” Near the end of that part of the conversation, I remarked that Christianity in the South is more of a culture than a relationship with God.

In a now-famous quote, Flannery O’Connor once said, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.” She may have been more right that she realized, because the dominant Southern Christian culture concerns itself largely with seeing and being seen, with church attendance as an end to the spiritual journey rather than a beginning, and with safely sheltering families from an increasingly messy world.

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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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Save ‘The Duggars’ from Transsexual Bullies

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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The invaluable LifeSiteNews has launched a petition drive to counter yet another example of transsexual activist bullying:

In the past few days, liberal extremists have launched a full-scale attack on the Duggars, demanding that The Learning Channel cancel the Duggars’ popular reality TV show.

Their reason? Michelle Duggar openly opposed an extreme ‘transgender’ bill in Fayetteville. The bill would have given biological males who say they are women the right to use women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other female-only facilities!

As of this writing, that petition has over 80,000 signatures, and is growing fast, with media like the Huffington Post leading the charge! We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values.

Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family.

The real extremists are those who are demanding that a TV network penalize America’s beloved family because they support the truth about family, which they have always expressed in a loving, compassionate fashion.

I haven’t watched 19 Kids and Counting in years. It just fell out of my usual television viewing rotation. That doesn’t mean I want to see it become the next victim of toxic progressive pitchforking.

The next target may be your favorite show.

LifeSiteNews’ counter-petition has just under 20,000 signatures as I write this.

You can read it here and sign it if you agree.

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Please Stop Worshiping ‘Bad Boys’

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

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.

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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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An Alternative History of Rock’s Most Iconic Photograph

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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See Part 1 in Kathy Shaidle’s series exploring punk rock here: How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It

Let’s get this out of the way:

Randal Doane is an assistant dean at Oberlin.

Politics aside (and he doesn’t shove it up your nose), this means you’ll trip over academic, culture-critic jargon — “codes” and “gestures” abound; “Eros” crashes the party — while otherwise enjoying his new book, Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash.

And there’s a lot to enjoy.

Stealing distills one fan’s decades of wide reading, deep listening, and just plain thinking into a multi-faceted gem.

In the hands of a less skillful writer, this book would feel like an out-of-your-league sexual pass, an awkward attempt to squeeze too many topics — the evolution of punk music (along with the etymology of the word); the rise and fall of AM and FM radio; the underground scenes in New York and California, to name but three — between only two (virtual) covers.

Somehow, though, Stealing works, distinguishing itself from similar titles by piling on plenty of original insights; for one thing (a bit like the recent How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll), this book explores how the medium changes the message — that is, how the technology we employ to consume music alters music itself, along with the culture at large.

(To cite a particularly cliched example: The LP made it easier to have sex to music, as one didn’t have to leap up to change the record, or worry that a radio DJ might ruin the mood with the wrong selection. How many children were conceived as Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers spun away on the other side of the room– besides me, that is — I couldn’t begin to guess.)

Doane also demonstrates, in pointillistic detail, how a tiny band of now-forgotten local DJs championed (today we’d say “curated”) punk, and “broke” The Clash and other English bands in America.

In doing so, he reveals what we lost when that free-form radio format was killed off.

(P.S. — A note about audio that follows throughout: These interviews with Joe Strummer were recently uploaded to YouTube by HazyRock.com. While the date is unknown, they seem to correspond roughly to the “early days” period Doane focuses on in his book.)

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7 Ways to Radically Improve Walt Disney World

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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The basket of apples appeared on my door step. At first I wasn’t sure where they came from until I saw the note card that read VJ’s Organic Co-Op, Washington, DC. The note inside the envelope read:

Dear Chris,

Try these apples. I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like them.

Love, Valerie

Valerie? I wasn’t sure who this Valerie was, but I figured organic apples couldn’t be all that bad. I made sure to wash one of them thoroughly, and I took a bite.

Whoever Valerie was, she was right. It didn’t taste like any apple I’d ever eaten, and soon after the first bite, I fell asleep, right there on the kitchen floor!

When I woke, I had all these ideas in my head on how to improve my favorite place on the planet — Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and here they are:

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7. An Updated CircleVision 360 Film For China At Epcot

Epcot’s China pavilion does a wonderful job celebrating the rich history of its home country, but there’s very little mention of the successes of the last sixty or so years. Wonderful triumphs like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and defeating those pesky students in Tiananmen Square don’t get the mention they deserve at Epcot.

To remedy that problem, I propose that Disney replace the current Reflections of China film with an informative and interesting documentary I’ll call Forward: China from Mao to Now. The film will look back at the great history of the People’s Republic of China from the earliest days of the revolution to China’s bright future.

Of course, such a short film would not have time to delve too deeply into certain aspects of the nation, so concepts like human rights and economic freedom would probably have to go by the wayside. But I think a CircleVision 360 movie dispelling the myths about the People’s Republic would be worth seeing, don’t you?

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