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Can Feminism Exist Without Institutions of Higher Education?

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Anita Sarkeesian, self-dubbed “social justice activist,” details that, had she not engaged with the sphere of contemporary feminist academia, she would not have become a feminist. A convert to the faith, it was only by adopting the “systemic and institutional framework” depicted by modern feminist writers that Sarkeesian was able to “see how oppression manifests in many subtle ways under the systems of what bell hooks calls white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.”

Sarkeesian’s feminism wouldn’t exist without this systemic framework, a mode of thinking that has caused her to question the individualism she sees inherent within the “neo-liberal worldview.” Therefore, “choice feminism” empowers oppression, because a choice good for one woman isn’t necessarily good for all women.

Sarkeesian believes that “choice feminism obscures the reality that women don’t have a choice.” The real question is, if women refuse to believe in the “systemic and institutional framework” preached by feminist academics, are they free to embrace the reality of having more choices than they’ve previously been led to believe? What would a feminism free of oppression look like? Could it function outside the walls of the academic temple?

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VIDEO: Israeli Sisters Mash Up Yemeni Folk With Hip-Hop Beats

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Need further proof that Israeli Jews are anything but racist towards their Arab counterparts? Listen to the music. A-WA brings the Yemeni folk beats made famous by Ofra Haza into the 21st century with style. They put a new twist on classic Barbie Jeep imagery, and as far as those fez baseball caps? Yes, please.

Read more about A-WA (pronounced Ay-wa, Arabic for ‘Yes’) here.

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VIDEO: Would You Enroll in Preschool for Adults?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Wall Street Journal is covering the latest trend in rejuveniling among the Millennial set: preschool for adults, where “play is serious business.” Six adults pay anywhere from $300 to $1000 to crowd into a Brooklyn duplex on Tuesday nights from 7 – 10 p.m. and participate in everything from nap time to envisioning themselves as superheroes.

Student Amanda Devereux detailed her reasons for enrolling in the Pre-K at Cosmo:

The self-help and goal-setting aspects were new, but welcome. I can use all the help I can get in making it to the gym, even if it means creating a superhero to get me there. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the preschool experience changes me over the next month, and I’m excited to see where Miss Joni and Miss CanCan take us on our class field trip. Mostly though, I’m excited about the snacks.

Is this latest trend in seeking eternal youth another glorified self-help program, or a sign that our traditional cultural institutions aren’t filled with hope and change? Is there a solution to be found in regressive creativity, or is this just another attempt at blissful ignorance? If you enrolled in preschool today, what would you learn?

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VIDEO: What’s More Sexist, Meghan Trainor Singing to Her Future Husband, or JCPenney’s Butt-Firming Jeans for Teens?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You have to admit the retro stylings of YouTube star Meghan Trainor make for some catchy little tunes. But in her latest video, Dear Future Husband, the siren dons pinup-wear while scrubbing the floor of a 50′s kitchen and warning her husband he’d better compliment her every day and buy her jewelry. Contemporary feminists are in an uproar over the classic imagery, but does Trainor have a better grip on the inherent power of her sexuality than the teenage girls who feel the need to buy “butt-enhancing jeans” at JCPenney?

The national department store catalog includes:

The “YMI Wanna Betta Butt Skinny Jeggings” boasts: “With a slight lift and shift and contouring seams, our wanna betta butt skinny jeggings hug you in just the right places to give you a firmer, more flattering look.”

Rewind Smoothie Super Stretch Booty Buddy Skinny Jeans” features “rear-end-enhancing structure” designed to “augment your jean collection — and your backside” and comes in an acid wash finish.

Penney’s isn’t alone. Several online stores including Modaxpress, Hourglass Angel, and even Amazon offer butt enhancing denim to a teenage crowd. Where’s the feminist outrage over a wardrobe enhancement specifically targeted to those vulnerable teen girls suffering all those dreaded body-image issues? Perhaps they’re too busy in Trainor’s kitchen arguing over who gets to make the pie.

 

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VIDEO: Feminism Needs This Disney Princess Power

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Lily James and Kenneth Branagh provided truly thoughtful, eloquent answers to the question of how Disney’s newest Cinderella embodies the reinvention of the princess in a 21st century feminist light.

Contrary to popular culture’s interpretation of sex as power through the crowning of figures like Queen Bey, the star and director of Cinderella each proffer the concept of a feminism that draws its power from a woman’s spirit rather than her body. It is Cinderella’s graceful attitude and her desire to treat others with goodness that is the source of both her beauty and ultimately her power as a woman.

The real question is, in a world full of Dunhams and Kardashians, is feminism ready to go spiritual to find the purpose it so desperately needs?

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Why Israel Is Ground Zero In the War Between Good and Evil

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

We Jews squabble enough when it comes to religion, but when it comes to Israel the gloves are off. Nothing is a greater testament to this than the vehement rhetoric coming from the Jewish Left in the wake of Netanyahu and the Right’s landslide victory in this past week’s elections in Israel. Whether it was Peter Beinart calling on the Obama Administration to “punish – yes, punish – the Israeli government” the virulent musings of Max Blumenthal, the anti-Israel Jewish Left came out in full condemnation, not just of Netanyahu, but of Israel at large.

The Forward jumped on the “Bibi is racist” bandwagon, reprinting Jeffrey Goldberg’s Tweet-condemnation of the slanderous tale embraced by Obama and his minions. If you are Jewish and have friends on the Left, I guarantee it didn’t take you longer than 10 minutes after Bibi claimed victory to get at least one Facebook post or Tweet claiming “he stole the election like Bush.” My PJ colleague Ron Radosh wisely diagnosed both the Obama Administration and the mainstream media as having Bibi Derangement Syndrome (BDS). And unfortunately, we Jews are not immune.

This BDS, with all its sound and fury, has not brought the diaspora one ounce closer to understanding or relating to their Israeli counterparts. In fact, with the Obama Administration trumpeting the effort to turn Israel into another Ferguson, the dual loyalty accusations will be held over Jewish American heads, both Left and Right, now more than ever. But we Jews don’t see that. All we see is Obama versus Bibi, Left versus Right, “hope and change” versus “despair” and whatever other hot air blown into an otherwise lifeless, meaningless campaign. From the comforts of a “two legs good, four legs better” America we don’t have to force ourselves to look behind V15′s green curtain, let alone consider that Israeli Jews may have very good reasons for having opinions that differ from our own.

When I had the wonderful opportunity to march in New York City’s Israel Day Parade a few years back, I did so under the banner of an openly progressive Labor Zionist summer camp. My husband, a third generation member, had worked his way up from camper, to counselor, to business manager. Now as an alum he was excited to show me, his then-girlfriend, what he loved about his summers and give me the chance to revel in my Zionist pride. He’d worked the camp too long not to see past the politics, but had too many fond memories to be jaded by a lack of logic. In the end we were there to celebrate Israel, celebrate our freedom, and have fun with friends.

Or so I thought, until more than one angry parade-goer spat at me. “You are evil! You anti-Zionist pig! You’re killing us! You Leftists are killing Israel!” How were a group of teens and twenty-somethings, most of whom had been to Israel, many of whom were either pursuing or had obtained citizenship, and some of whom had or were serving in the IDF possibly killing Israel? These kids weren’t doing anything more than holding a contrary political opinion, yet that was enough to accuse them of being murderers. “Wait a minute,” I thought, “isn’t that what the Left is always accusing us of doing?”

I smiled at the crowd and wished them love through their gritted teeth and rage. Only two days earlier I’d been called a “conservative pig” by another camp alum who would later growl at me repeatedly, “You need to change your politics.” I came wanting to celebrate Israel. I wound up embroiled in a hot, angry mess.

Israel awakens our passions as Jews because Israel is a reminder of our responsibilities to God and to one another. If Israel fails, Holocaust awaits. No one but a Jew could understand the weight of that burden. Yet, instead of recognizing that we, Left and Right, are motivated by these same concerns and fears we allow the real haters of Israel to craft our opinions about one another. Suddenly everyone is an Obama, a Beinart, a Blumenthal. Anger morphs into rage and crafts summer camp teens into the next generation of hardened, bigoted, miserable adults, some of whom will then be motivated to become the next Beinart or Blumenthal in our midst.

King David writes in the Psalms, “be angry, but do not sin. Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still.”

We’ve never lost Israel to an outside force before first disparaging each other to the point of destruction. I walked away from that parade choosing to shed my ideas of Left and Right and see the political battle for what it truly is: A fight between good and evil. My job, then, is to focus on what God commands me to do: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him without fear. I’m here to help sustain a great nation, not destroy it. It is time my fellow Zionists, Left and Right, see past the propaganda and agree to do the same.

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The 10 Best ’80s Alternative Songs

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Liz Sheld

Next week one of my favorite ’80s movies (and of all time), The Breakfast Club, will return to theaters with a newly restored version for its 30th anniversary. I feel old.

In honor of The Breakfast Club re-release, here are my picks for the top ten thirteen ’80s alternative songs. These songs most remind me of my life in the ’80s so this is hardly a definitive list of the best. Feel free to chime in with your own favorites in the comments.

I tried to pick no more than one song from each band. Here they are in no particular order: (LANGUAGE WARNING ON SOME OF THESE)

1. “Eighties” by Killing Joke, released 1985

Why? It’s called “Eighties!” And it’s a great song.

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 2. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, released June, 1980

This one barely makes it on to the list since it was released in 1980, but it’s important because it appeared a month after the tragic suicide of band member Ian Curtis. (ProTip: watch 24 Hour Party People.)

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3. “Still in Hollywood” by Concrete Blonde, released 1986

This song has such an ’80s alternative beat, you can’t help but want to rock out to it. “She had purple painted cheeks and glitter on her eyes” — it doesn’t get more ’80s that that.

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4. “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult, released 1985

It’s hard to pick one song from The Cult — “Rain” and “Nirvana are close — but “Sanctuary” will always be my favorite. Albums Love, Electric, and Sonic Temple from the Cult will never do you wrong. Also great: “Spiritwalker” off Dreamtime.

Obligatory picture of Ian Astbury:

The Cult in concert at the Fillmore, Silver Spring, Maryland, America - 20 Aug 2013

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5. “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies, released 1983

Yes, it’s sort of obvious that this song would make the list, but really, all I wanted was a Pepsi and she wouldn’t give it to me.

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6. “Desire (Come and Get It)” by Gene Loves Jezebel, released 1985

“I’ve been a ball of fire in your arms desire.”

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7. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” by Specimen, released 1983

Whenever I hear this song, I smell clove cigarettes and Aquanet. No one cared that much about the ozone layer back then.

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8. “Cities in Dust,” Siouxsie and the Banshees, released 1985

I never wore as much eyeliner as Siouxsie, but how could anyone? Best line in the song: “Hot and burning in your nostrils, Pouring down your gaping mouth.”

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9.Blue Monday” by New Order, released 1983

It’s tough to pick one New Order ’80s song and “Blue Monday” is tied with virtually every song off of Power, Corruption and Lies; Low-Life; and Brotherhood.

Here’s the video to the ’88 version. I prefer the version off Power, Corruption and Lies

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10.This Is Not a Love Song” by Public Image Limited, released 1983

What else is there to say other than Johnny Rotten’s got a great voice for expressing teen angst. And just a great voice. PiL is another band where it’s hard to pick just one. Same Old Story is another favorite.

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BONUS SONGS:

11. ”Pigs in Zen” by Jane’s Addiction, released 1987

Jane’s Addiction is one of my favorite bands. Perry Farrell has such a distinctive and beautiful voice. This is another band with many great songs in the ’80s, I could listen to the entire album of Jane’s Addiction or Nothing’s Shocking without thinking about moving on to something else.

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12. “Rise Above” by Black Flag, released 1981

Because it’s Black Flag. Damaged is a great album and so is Slip It In.

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13. “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth, released 1990 (yes, it’s 1990 but really close to the ’80s so I’m going to go with that)

“I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me?/I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls/From male white corporate oppression?”

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So that’s my list — let me know in the comments what songs most remind you of the ’80s.

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VIDEO: Lena Dunham Shows the Late Night Audience How Ignorant Girls Really Are

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Want to see Girls in a PG-13 nutshell? Check out last night’s sketch from Late Night With Seth Meyers in which Lena Dunham portrays her on-screen alter-ego Hannah Horvath working a pitch meeting in the writer’s room of the late night talk/sketch show. She essentially mocks the standard tropes of Girls, horrifying her fellow writers with her weird concepts of sexual humor and turning everything into a form of feminist victimization. Think Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm only not funny. Which is probably why the best line came from a fellow female writer who requested, ”Please do not group my pitch with yours.”

The award for most obnoxious line goes to: ”Aren’t you predominately Jewish male comedy writers supposed to be stuffing your gross faces with bagels constantly?”

While the award for most ignorant observation goes to: ”Seth lets a woman or person of color host a late night talk show for the first time ever, because that’s never happened and that’s f’d up!” Tell it to Joan Rivers or Arsenio Hall. Although this line proved the most instructive of how small Dunham’s bubble truly is.

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VIDEO: Camille Paglia Dubs Contemporary Feminists ‘Stalinists, Fascists’

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Camille Paglia sits with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to discuss the failings of contemporary feminism, specifically in relation to the contemporary feminist obsession with gender politics which Paglia dubs “gender myopia.” Tagging the culture’s current obsession with viewing the world through the lenses of “race, class and gender” (what Gillespie titles “the holy trinity”) as a “distortion of the 1960s,” Paglia, a self-described atheist, explains that “Marxism is not sufficient as a metaphysical system for explaining the cosmos.”

The powerful dialogue should be required viewing for all college freshmen and women, of course. A general in the culture wars, Paglia continues to be the only academic unafraid to conquer Marxist ideology and its subsequent theoretical fields on its own turf.

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VIDEO: Would You Get ‘Married at First Sight’?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A&E’s “docuseries” Married at First Sight had its second season premiere last night. The theory: arranged marriage cultures have a radically lower divorce rate than non-arranged marriage cultures. Therefore, a group of four experts (a psychologist, a sexologist, a sociologist and a spiritual advisor) conduct thorough testing to match up couples who will literally meet each other at the altar.

With a 66% success rate in its first season, the matchmaking panel appears to have a lower divorce rate than America at large. In the era of Tinder-generated fruitless casual sex, is trusting your romantic future to a pre-arranged scenario a logical alternative to a series of dead-end one night stands?

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VIDEO: How Feminism Becomes a Religion on College Campuses

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Melissa McGrath, an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, was invited to participate in her college’s TEDx Talk, because, although not in possession of a doctorate, McGrath has  “a valid story to tell, and (she thinks) that will shine through.” Her thesis: Feminism proffers salvation.

Her “valid story” plays like a tent-revival testimonial about how feminist theory, reinforced by college professors, informed her that it was not her fault that she was sexually assaulted on campus. Avoiding the details of her assault, McGrath instead focuses on feminist liturgy as a method for teaching “intersectionality” that is, how the human race is tied together in a Marxist state of oppressor and oppressed.

Pulling all the approved contemporary feminist buzzwords from “white privilege” to “rape culture” McGrath weaves the kind of soap box narrative trademarked by the best faith-based snake oil salesmen (and women) of the 20th century. Her’s is a speech proving that feminism isn’t just ideology, but idolatry; a religion whose places of worship are in university classrooms, whose holy texts are available at your nearest bookstore, and whose icons live on “Pinterest boards” and social media outlets.

Cover image “Female Jesus” by Juno.

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VIDEO: What Lena Dunham Doesn’t Want to Know About Sex

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In last night’s episode of HBO’s Girls, Hannah’s father came out of the closet.

Blah, blah, blah, right? At least until the end of the episode when Hannah confronts her father and says, gay or straight, she doesn’t want to know about his sex life.

Wait a minute? Is there something slightly traditionalist about Ms. Dunham after all?

No kid in her right mind wants to consider that her parents have sex. Yet for Ms. Dunham, who grew up around a considerable amount of father-generated sexual art, scripting a character who makes such a pedestrian proclamation is actually out of the ordinary.

Where is the line drawn in the progressive mind when it comes to loved ones and their sexual exploits? Could it be that the Queen of Sharing doesn’t want to share so much after all? Or is it more like others aren’t allowed to share as much as she does?

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Inside the Millennial Mind: How Wikipedia Users View the World

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

*****
Image illustration via Shutterstock /

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VIDEO: Is Social Media Turning Girls into Drag Queens?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Wayne Goss is a 37-year old makeup artist with 15 years of experience and nearly a million YouTube followers. Lately he’s been receiving a lot of requests from female clients to make them up drag queen style, in large part due to the popularity of the drag queen look on television and social media. As Goss illustrates, drag queens use makeup to create the feminine look already inherent in female faces. Essentially, he’s been asked to mask natural femininity with a false face, leading him to question how we interpret the female look and concepts of natural female beauty.

What have shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race done to redefine the feminine mystique? How has gender feminism contributed to a world where being feminine ironically means wearing a man-made mask?

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Does Being Jewish Mean Going to Temple, or Going to Israel?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Last week I expounded upon why my husband and I have chosen not to join a synagogue. The backlash I received, oddly enough primarily from Christian readers, essentially boiled down to accusations of selfishness on my part and an unwillingness to contribute to a community. My question in response is simple: What exactly defines “community” in terms of being Jewish? A reader by the name of Larry in Tel Aviv wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly with every one of your points and you could add a few more! Such as one wouldn’t know the first thing about anti-Semitism in the world today, the nature of the threats Israel faces and related, from the rabbis and synagogue politicos. In fact you wouldn’t know anything important about anything that matters, not from synagogue, not much from Hebrew School neither (even Hebrew is largely poorly taught, with exceptions).

Which prompted me to ask myself: Do Jews in America know how to be Jewish without institutional backing?

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Based on some of the comments I received from Christian readers, it would seem that religion in America requires some kind of institutional affiliation in order to be legitimized. Whether it’s a church, temple, or yoga studio religious folks of all stripes need a facility through which to connect to one another in order to establish and reinforce their religious identity. Historically speaking, Mordecai Kaplan emulated this concept when he reconstructed the idea of synagogue as community, the physical center of Jewish life in Diaspora America. Why don’t Jews necessarily need this institutional bond today? The answer is simple: We have Israel.

As I mentioned in my last article, one of the reasons why my husband and I have elected not to join a synagogue is that we’d rather spend the money going to Israel. Some of those reasons include the reality expounded on by Larry in Tel Aviv. If you want a solid geographical, cultural, historical connection to being Jewish, you find it in Israel. If you want to understand that being Jewish is both secular and religious at the same time, you learn that in Israel. If you want to know how to establish a lasting Jewish identity, you figure it out in Israel. We were not a group of popes and monks called upon to cordon ourselves off behind incensed walls in medieval monasteries. We were and are a nation and a national identity requires more than just a religious makeup in order to thrive.

Everything is more honest in Israel. The rabbinate openly functions as a political entity and the population treats it as such. As many Jewish Israelis that don’t attend synagogue do profess faith in God. When they talk about religious freedom it has nothing to do with the Almighty and everything to do with the almighty rabbinical overlords who abusively claim heavenly authority to determine who is and isn’t Jewish, who can and can’t marry and divorce, and who should and shouldn’t serve in the military.

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Is This the Most Bizarre Bar Mitzvah Video of the Year?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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There’s a subset of Jewish culture that has so much money to blow on their kids that celebrations like Bar Mitzvahs turn into outrageous, television-worthy affairs. If you want the full story in the form of a cute, thoughtful comedy, check out Keeping Up with the Steins. If you want to skip straight to the awkward horror of the real-life version, watch the video above, posted by the UK Jewish News with the one line comment:

Usually, we’d write something here, but we are a little speechless.

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7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Don’t let the appearance of Rainn Wilson fool you. Everett Backstrom is no Dwight Schrute, nor is Backstrom yet another take on the Sherlock trend. This smart, funny detective series walks into dark territory to examine the human desire to look toward the light. It goes against formula and against the grain manipulating authority and questioning politically correct cultural norms in pursuit of truth, justice and, even more intriguingly, redemption from evil. Here are 7 reasons why Backstrom is trendsetting, essential counter-culture conservative television that demands a place on the air.

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The Case Against Synagogue: 4 Reasons My Jewish Family Doesn’t Go

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A few years ago my husband learned that the cantor who had supervised his Bar Mitzvah was forced into retirement. More than one member was floored that the now elderly man who survived the comings and goings of countless rabbis would be sent out to pasture because he didn’t fit the board’s “youthful” marketing strategy. Over five years later that same “out with the old” synagogue is struggling for membership. Every once in a while we’ll see signs in yards throughout our area offering an inclusive experience for Jews (“especially intermarrieds!”, often code for desperation) who want to find a “synagogue home.”

For us, the irony of the cantor’s story is one of the many elements that arise during the yearly “should we join a synagogue” discussion. Inevitably, we reach a series of conclusions common among Gen-X/millennial crossovers like ourselves. However, contrary to the popular opinion that money is the bottom line, our reality is that we don’t need to affiliate with a synagogue in order to live Jewish lives. And apparently we aren’t alone.

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What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

See the previous installments in Mark Ellis’s exploration of Adam Carolla. From January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?. And from February 6: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism.

Submitted again for consideration, Adam Carolla, born as his very cohort, Generation X, was beginning in 1964.

Joining him in this chapter is writer Chuck Palahniuk, born in 1962, another prominent Gen X cultural figure.

Consider now, as the swath of humanity that followed the boomers reaches full majority, in fullest possession of its powers, how variant Carolla/Palahniuk countercultures confront what we see on the horizon. How will the legacy of Generation X be written from this point forward?

How will a generation’s power-players and cultural icons impact, for example, policymaking on healthcare, strategies for dealing with the radical Islamist threat, and the social landscape that the millennials following them will inherit?

In September 2013, PJ Lifestyle editor David Swindle, riffing on Strauss and Howe’s Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, laid out his self-described “oddball” take on generational theory. Swindle argues for more detailed time-frame specifications in generations, recommending five year break-downs in place of the usual twenty — “boomer-leaning Gen-X-ers,” “Millennial-Gen-X blends,” “Gen-X-leaning Boomers,” “Millennial-leaning Gen-Xers” and so forth.

However you want to slice and dice the decades — for the sake of this discussion, Carolla and Palahniuk are instructive examples of the reactions, rebellions, and disillusionments of a generation shaded by oblique pathos.

On the earliest cusp of X, Carolla is part of the generation that inherited a choice between three ideological frameworks: progressivism, reactionary traditionalism, and unaffiliated rebelliousness.

Palahniuk predates the official kick-off of X, but is arguably too young for the boom. He served as a transitory figure, a harbinger of Gen X‘s devastatingly critical, tribal quest for definition.

Adam Carolla and Chuck Palahniuk, an unlikely duo but for their Gen-X lineage, hold claim to tributary subcultures that were natural responses to the boomer counterculture that rejected button-down corporatism and neo-Victorian social mores.

Where Palahniuk twists culture to his visionary fictional ends, Carolla goes hammer and tong to make sense of it.

My first adult experience with Gen X came primarily from two sources. First, when I met younger parents from across the socieo-economic spectrum in my children’s schools. Second, when I hired or began to compete with young guys coming up in the paint-contracting trade.

Something I noticed about both cohorts right off: Gen-X cynicism on the subject of national pride, a rejection of the reflexive patriotism that I had been inculcated with since birth.

We said the Pledge of Allegiance, with God and without irony, every morning at Hillview Crest Elementary School in Hayward, California. This ritual recitation was not yet under assault when Carolla and Palahniuk were schoolchildren in the late sixties and early seventies, but criticism of the Pledge on grounds of church/state separation was coming.

Another noticeable difference I discerned between my fellow boomer kids and many in the generation supplanting mine was a devolved sense of the wisdom and integrity of the elders. Though we’d rebelled against parental and societal units, they were intact units for most of us, and thus recipient of residual respect.

X was rebelling against the failure of the units. Who can blame them for skepticism about narratives handed down in the midst of social transformation?

Another striking thing about the Gen-X parents with millennial children: they were having fewer kids. At least in my neck of the woods—white suburbia around Portland, OR. Gone were the large families I remembered from the grade schools of my youth, with three, four, and even five children. There were lots of single moms in the mix, many with only one child.

Even as Gen-X emerged from the flatlands of generational history, predecessors found the crop coming up to be at a vague, not-immediately-readable disadvantage. There was the sense that despite the boomer legacy of conformity as fifties children and upheaval as sixties teens, somehow the squarely situated boomer-kids had it better than their children.

Palahniuk summed things up in Fight Club, when antagonist (if the term even applies here) Tyler Durden says,

Our Generation has had no Great war, no Great Depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.

Though Palahniuk’s theme of alienation and purposelessness can be extrapolated universally, Durden’s morose dictum is understood to most apply to the generation stuck between the boomers’ long fade and the heel-snapping millennials.

The Greatest Generation had Pearl, the boomers had JFK. September 11, 2001, belongs to all of us, but history bequeaths it to the millennials.

Applied mythos for Gen X doesn’t focus on any history-making date.

Their crisis moment is like Palahniuk’s depression, which moves from functioning to acute. They came from broken homes, the first, true Children of Divorce.

Tyler Durden again, “a generation raised by women.”

Divorce and the ascendancy of feminist theory combined toxically in the era’s primordial soup; norms which boomers only dipped their toes into, Gen-Xers became immersed.

As we move towards a near future as threatening as any that contemporary observers have seen, what is the result of the experiment?

Irony in Carolla’s generation has always aspired to an intellectual gravitas out of proportion to its value as an assessment mode for the human condition. Humor, in the hands of either Carolla or Palahniuk, is internally targeted, at an irremediable state of disenchantment, a diaspora of disillusionment bred by failing social institutions into their very bones.

Though boomers were concurrent in history with social upheaval and the erosion of traditionalism, such counter-ideology had not yet become ingrained into the culture. Boomer kids with positive associations to traditionalist America benefitted from a durable connection, which proved decisive for many with the Reagan Renewal.

But too many Gen X progeny approaching adolescence and young adulthood in 1980 missed the Gipper’s wave. Raised by culturally progressive parents and academic liberals, they flocked underneath the nanny state’s skirts.

Palahniuk’s associations to visceral fear–violence versus ennui, terminal support groupiedom, soap-rendering from fat, corporatism as the ultimate evil–are different from what boomer kids feared in their gut.

Nobody at Hillview Crest Elementary School got divorced. Parents stayed together, for the kids, and we liked it.  Crawling under elementary school desks and lore about Khrushchev’s hammering shoe sat heavily in our stomachs. Boomer kids inherited the potential for being incinerated thirty minutes after war broke out.

Carolla and Palahniuk were born into that, but the possibility of death from above peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Threats from within domestic body-politic were coming home to roost. Gen X could still be atomized by the Russians, but were more imperatively left with the fallout created by existential threats to the pillars of society: marriage, faith, the social contract, industry, and national sovereignty.

There is no generational exactitude. Generations flow; there are overlaps, demographic choke points, trail scouts, and cave fighters. The decimations of disease and war skew the transitions. But there comes a point in life when a person realizes that generational culture has overtaken them.

Songs that boomers lauded as visionary Gen-X anthems are now twenty years old.

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10 Songs From the Early ’70s To Improve Your Snow-Covered Week

Friday, February 20th, 2015 - by Allston

“American Pie” was written as a paean to the sudden demise of Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in 1959.  At that time, McLean was a boy, delivering newspapers, hence the line, “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”. Otherwise, he’s been remarkably cryptic about the exact meaning of the lyrics, but has said he will finally reveal their true meaning when the original manuscript for the song goes on auction next month.

1. Don Mclean – “American Pie”:

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Are Boys the Target of a Feminist Gendercide Campaign?

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Last week social media jumped on the story of a woman who supposedly decided to have a late-term abortion specifically because she found out she was having a boy. Based on a near-anonymous comment posted on an Internet forum, the story is highly questionable at best. Nevertheless, both pro- and anti-abortion advocates pounced on the missive. The dialogue generated took on a life of its own, inspiring the following comment from feminist site Jezebel:

“The virality of this story is sort of a nice reminder about confirmation bias: when something fits our preferred narrative just a little too snugly, it’s probably time for skepticism,” wrote Jezebel’s Anna Merlan.

How, exactly, does gendercide “fit our narrative” in the West, especially in relation to boys?

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Fifty Shades of America’s New Dark Ages

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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This year you could spend your Valentine’s Day in a theater full of middle-aged women oozing over a hot-bodied twenty-something whipping his blindfolded secretary to the point of striking blood in the name of “love.” Daytime television loves to play up to the Soccer Mom demographic (a title first dubbed to describe Clinton fans, ironically) seeking fantasy fulfillment in the form of sexual fiction. It was corny enough when shirtless Fabios graced the covers. Now that the most popular sex trilogy focuses on a woman who willingly allows herself to be sexually abused, is pop culture humoring those bored housewives too much?

While the majority of Fifty Shades fans are typical middle-aged marrieds dissatisfied with their partners (or even themselves), anywhere from 5-25% of Americans “show affinity” for BDSM (Bondage/Domination-Discipline/Sadism/Masochism) in the bedroom. On an issue that poses a particular sexual threat to women, feminists are split 50-50 between being against sexual abuse and for a narcissistic “if it feels good, do it” sexual ethos. Hence, a pervert who trolls Fanfiction.net (the original home of Hobbit-inspired Elvish/Dwarf porn) can turn her twisted sexual fantasies into an overnight sensation. After all, it’s all about love in the end. Or is it?

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Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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For hacks of a certain vintage, the name “Rod McKuen” served as a effortless go-to punchline ingredient, the way “Sarah Palin” or “Justin Bieber” does today.

Zillion-selling author and lyricist McKuen was the Thomas Kinkade of poetry.

His death last week left me decidedly unmoved, except that I was quite distressed to learn this, from Mark Steyn:

And yet it is a melancholy fact that Frank Sinatra, a singer with matchless taste in music, nevertheless recorded more songs by Rod McKuen than he did songs by, to pluck at random, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Fields, Noel Coward, Bacharach & David, Leonard Bernstein, Vincent Youmans, Cy Coleman, George Gershwin… He recorded as many songs of Rod McKuen as he did of Jerome Kern – 13 apiece. And he never made an entire album devoted to Kern (or to Porter or Berlin or Rodgers) as he did to McKuen.

Heartache.

That was the only obit I read, so my next weird discovery was purely accidental…

I continue to pickax my way through a massive, eclectic “mix tape” sent to me by a longtime reader, and recently alighted upon tunes from a compilation called Las Vegas Grind Vol. 3. (Think of the slightly raunchy, faux jazz music you hear in 1950s and 1960s B-movies.)

One song caught my ear. Wait a minute: That’s…

It was listed as “(I Belong to) the Beat Generation” (1959) by Bob & Dor.

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But I knew that melody — played on this record, stubborn rumor has it, by no less than Bill Haley and the Comets — from another source:

“That’s Richard Hell’s 1977 hugely seminal ur-punk song (“I Belong to) the Blank Generation,” I thought. What the…?

Now, I’ve always been far more enamored of British punk than its American — more specifically, New York City/CBGB’s — iteration.

So that’s why I’m the last to know:

Not only did Hell lift his punk anthem directly from McKuen — the “Bob” of the ’59 duo — but he didn’t even share the writing credits (and therefore royalties, puny as they probably were) with the old guy.

Naturally, Hell dumped McKuen’s satirical lyrics — Beatniks being so easy to spoof by “squares” that there were probably more ersatz ones about in the fifties than living specimens — and substituted his own:

They’re a cry from a typically tortured, self-pitying but precociously gifted adolescent, if Pete Townshend’s “Jimmy” had read Baudelaire.

What always struck me about those lyrics was the first line’s “As I was saying…” flavor, as if the spirit of punk had been in the womb or in a coma and had finally reawakened or been born, unaware of how long it had been in stasis.

This sensation is more acute now that I’m aware of the song’s lineage.

Anyway, maybe McKuen found the whole thing too flattering or funny to sue over. And yeah, he was rich anyhow.

So what? you ask. Well, this:

[Malcolm McLaren] had already spotted Richard Hell, a New York poet and musician, who had been in the groups Neon Boys and Television and would go on to write the punk anthem “Blank Generation”. “I just thought Hell was incredible,” he recalled. “Here was a guy all deconstructed, torn down, looking like he’d just crawled out of a drain hole, covered in slime, looking like he hadn’t slept or washed in years, and looking like he didn’t really give a **** about you! He was this wonderful, bored, drained, scarred, dirty guy with a torn and ripped T-shirt. I don’t think there was a safety pin there. This look, this image of this guy, this spiky hair, everything about it. There was no question I’d take it back to London. I was going to imitate it and transform it into something more English.”

And so he did.

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Does American Jewish Survival Rely on the Holocaust?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

For a while now, my editor David Swindle has been plaguing me to start a series on Jewish identity. Like any good family we disagree with each other about practically everything, cultural and religious identification included. I can’t think of one Jewish setting in which I wasn’t directly or indirectly accused by fellow Jews of being a “bad Jew” for some mundane reason or another. One incident involved the infamous “pepperoni pizza at a Hillel event, for or against” argument. (Truly the greatest Jewish American struggle of our time.) Joseph’s brothers beat him up, threw him in a ditch, and not much has changed since, attitude-wise. Need further proof? Check out the latest argument over how Jewish Americans relate to the Holocaust.

Apparently 73% of us rank the Holocaust as our top-rated “essential” to being Jewish. This disturbs renowned academic Jacob Neusner who’s made a career out of entwining himself into the vines of the Ivy League. Neusner’s argument boils down to the concept that American Jews have no real sense of or connection to their own identity. Therefore, they need to go outside the geographical box to find themselves, either through the Holocaust or Zionism.

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