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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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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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What Does It Really Mean to Be ‘Like A Girl’?

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

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Self-dubbed “meninists” have gone on defense after a Superbowl commercial inspired women to proclaim to the world the power of being #LikeAGirl. Ironically, the sexism inherent in their response pales in comparison to the gender bias expressed in defense of the commercial. Once again, gender feminists out themselves as a group bent on erasing gender, specifically female gender, from American culture. The problem is that they are so bloody brainwashed in indoctrination that they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

In an attempt to defend the pride a woman should take in acting #LikeAGirl, gender feminists only manage to uphold the notion that women are weak and oppressed and need public approval in order to be “empowered.” Moreover, in order to gain that much sought-after public approval, women must take on androgynous appearances, hobbies or careers that require them to leave their femininity at home under lock and key.

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How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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“…the stage where Johnny Rotten unveiled his baleful stare has given way to a Harry Potter section.”

The venerable St. Martins School of Art having moved to a new campus, another esteemed institution took over its old building this year:

Foyles, one of the many beloved book merchants that line London’s Charing Cross Road.

Traditionalists grumbled that this new Foyles was altogether too slick, nowhere near as dusty and quaint as the original store.

But when discussing this doubly-historic move, the one talking point almost everyone settled on was revealing.

St. Martins School has, over the course of 150 years, produced a number of distinguished graduates.

Its sculpture department was once called “the most famous in the world.”

Yet headlines trumpeting the famous building’s transformation from respected art school to glossy media megashop were almost all variations on a single theme:

“Foyles to open new flagship bookstore on site of Sex Pistols’ first gig”

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Cat Stevens: Why He Still (Sort Of) Matters

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

Legacy Recordings Yusuf Cat Stevens album cover

In his 1970s prime, Cat Stevens looked like Russell Brand just thinks he does.

Neither fellow is quite forlorn or angular enough to be my type, but I can certainly understand the appeal of the former, if definitely not the latter. (Ugh.)

As Dennis Miller still likes to muse sometimes on his radio show:

Can you imagine how many women were throwing themselves at Stevens back in the day?

(Except not in those words.)

Stevens has been Miller’s bete noir for a while now.

Here’s Miller circa 1989, back when he anchored “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live:

And former folk singer Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, came out this week and said he advocated the assassination of Salman Rushdie. So much for that “Peace Train” crap, huh, Cat? … Yeah, I could see this comin’ years ago on his old album, Tea for the Killerman. You, uh, you remember the big hit:

I’m being followed by a big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim

Big Muslim, big Muslim
Big Muslim, big Muslim

How can I try to explain
When he do I turn away again
It’s hard
But it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right, I’d agree
But it’s them they know, not me now
There’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go

Yeah.

Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world!

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The Feminist Lesson in Mom’s Night Out

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

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

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

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

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How 8 Songs from the ’90s Define Third-Wave Feminism

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Amelia Hamilton

Editor’s Note: See part I here in Amelia Hamilton’s series exploring the transformations in feminist history and ideology: The Relevant and the Ridiculous: A Guide Through Feminist History

The third wave of feminism got started in the 1990s as a reaction against the second wave fought by their mothers (both figuratively and, sometimes, literally). There were some central tenets at the heart of third-wave feminism, and they can be illustrated in contemporary music. Join me on a walk through ’90s music, and the ways in which these songs illustrate third-wave feminist ideals.

1. Third-wave feminism went beyond legal equality for women, but empowered women to fight for other social issues as well.

One key way in which third-wave feminism differed from earlier waves was that it wasn’t just about women. Take, for example, the Third Wave Direct Action Corporation, founded in 1992. One of the founders was Rebecca Walker, daughter of second-wave feminist Alice Walker. In 1997, the group became the Third Wave Foundation, and was not only dedicated to traditional women’s rights issues, but worked to “explicitly connect women’s issues to issues of race, sexuality, class, and ability.” This was bigger than simply legal equality for women.

Arrested Development’s “Mama’s Always on Stage” (1992)

Key lyrics:

Mama’s always on stage

Can’t be a revolution without women

Can’t be a revolution without children

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15 More 1970s Songs Showcasing the Decade’s Wide Range

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Allston

Editor’s note: catch up on the first two installments in this series: 15 Classic 1970s Songs Millennials Should Know and 15 More Classic 1970s Songs for the Millennials.

Each time I put one of these up it acts as a sampling of what you might’ve heard on any major radio station during that particular decade. Needless to say, the genres and songs will vary. I’m deliberately trying to not be too systematic about it, save by year. Although I may at some future date post some articles on the specific genres of this time – funk, southern rock, pop, etc. If any of you think that might be a fun idea, please let me know.

I suppose it would be fair to say that in songs such as this, early on, are the roots of progressive rock. Certainly this doesn’t fit the mold of end-’60s rock.

1. Genesis – “The Knife” (1970)

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Alternative 1980s: 15 More Songs Millennials Must Hear

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by Allston

Recently, Susan L.M. Goldberg posted this aforementioned list. It is a good list, don’t get me wrong, but I politely disagree that these songs typify the sound and feeling of the 1980s generation, as it is only one narrow “slice” of them (and a very “top 40 Pop” one at that). So here is an alternate list of our music for the millennial. Disclaimer – I am a member of this ’80s musical age group, so I am biased in this. Sue me, I got’s nothing.

To correct a misnomer, many people of my age-group generally do not hear Bruce Springsteen and connect with him. He is, and always was, far too generic, raspy “Pop” Rock for our tastes, background noise in a sea of great tunes. Remember, a big part of the thrust of this genre was to stake out a musical claim that was different than our recent forebears, not just copy them.

If we wanted to listen to 80s “Rock” done our way, we’d probably listen to something like this. These guys are basic and generic, yes, but they were ours -

1. The Smithereens – “Only a Memory” (1986)

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10 Ways Not to Land Your Dream Job

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Sure, you know how to write an assertive cover letter and you have a wardrobe of freshly pressed black and navy blue suits. But, just because you’re doing everything the manual tells you doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make a mistake in your job search. From my other life working in human resources, I give you the ten best mistakes applicants have made in pursuit of a job.

10. Want to include the fact that you taught an adult education course on photography on your resume? Don’t dub yourself “Adult Photography Instructor.”

Language matters. In the age of social media and Google, applicants should understand that lying on their resume isn’t an option. Just be sure you aren’t getting so creative with your wording that you make yourself sound more qualified for porn than a professional environment.

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15 Songs Millennials Must Listen to in Order to Understand the 1980s

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You’ve seen Thriller and heard all about Madonna, but what do you really know about the decade that ushered in the millennial generation? Think the era of scrunchies, boom boxes, pump sneakers and DeLoreans was just a fad? Think again. Some of the 1990s’ greatest pop culture trends were birthed in the millieu of Reaganomics, cable television, and a music video-loaded MTV.

15. Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon”

The ’80s was the decade of John Waters, the B-52s and all things camp coming to fruition. Decked out in eyeliner, lipstick and braids, Boy George popularized the aesthetic of this gay subculture with a poppy little tune about conflicted relationships. As for the music video, where better to set a gay guy’s love song in the ’80s than an 1870s riverboat called the “Chameleon” where a cheating gambler’s karma comes back to haunt him? Dude, it’s the ’80s: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” started here.

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On September 11th and Generational Blindness

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

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I was in seventh grade, and it happened at lunch. I don’t know what we were eating — chicken nuggets, most likely.

I wasn’t aware of it right away, but already there were whispers:  something happened in New York City, at the Twin Towers. Was it an accident? Or was it a malevolent act?

We’d find out later. My English teacher told us that planes had struck both lead towers of the World Trade Center. Another had hit the Pentagon. Strangely, I didn’t think anyone had died. I assumed the buildings were damaged and that they would later be repaired.

At the end of the day we were called down to an assembly and we were told that the whole thing was an accident. They gave us the usual spiel: talk to your parents; we’re here if you need us; it’s okay to cry.

I went home and turned on the news and stayed glued to it. They kept replaying the crash and the carnage: the explosions, the screaming. I was horrified.

This, of course, was no accident.

Obviously, I knew that what took place was a terrorist attack. But I couldn’t decipher the motivations.

And this led to something funny, perhaps darkly so: I recognized immediately that the Twin Towers were the two tallest buildings in New York City. So instead of viewing the attack as a Huntington-esque “clash of civilizations,” I assumed al-Qaeda wanted to destroy large buildings.

Our middle school was, I thought, the tallest building in town. Were we next?

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13 Reasons to Fall in Love with Lana Del Rey

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

13. She has discovered a close kinship with George Costanza.

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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!”

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10 Reasons Why I Will Forever Love Joan Rivers

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.

10. Joan never grew old or gave up.

At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.

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The 10 Most Important Life Lessons I Learned from Mork from Ork

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

As a Gen-X/millennial crossover, I was fortunate enough to first meet Robin Williams as Mork from Ork on the sitcom Mork and Mindy. A comedic powerhouse, Mork’s colorful wardrobe and loud laugh were the first things I imitated as a child. As I grew up, I would look back and realize the many character lessons I learned at home were reinforced by a supremely acted alien outsider with a predilection for sitting on his head. In virtually every role he played, Robin Williams taught his audience a life lesson. As a young kid there was no one more fun to hang around with and learn from on TV than Mork from Ork.

10. Old people rule.

Mork marvels at the way the elderly are ignored and maligned on earth. On Ork, old folks are revered as the wise, experienced ones to learn from. “The Elder” is called on to remind Mork of his Orkishness. His was an early lesson in the importance of respect and reverence for the elders in your life and how very important all people are, no matter and, perhaps, especially because of their age.

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The Top 10 Gods of the Pop Culture Pantheon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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.

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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50 Is the New Crappy

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

I just got back from the mammogram I don’t believe in.

In the spring, my doctor handed me an envelope decorated with a cluster of bright balloons and the words “Happy Birthday!”

Alas, this deceptively cheerful package concealed the usual tips on diet and exercise, plus requisition forms for all the annual medical tests I’d be getting from now on.

The mammogram is bad enough. I got my first one before having my doubts about the procedure confirmed, and now I’m stuck in the “Ontario Breast Screening Program” because “free” “health” “care.”

But now I also have to get blood work for cholesterol (how 1970s!), glucose and a bunch of other things, plus an ECG.

The worst part: I need to send little swabs of poo* through the mail. (Although it could be worse: it could be my job to open those envelopes. And a special shout-out to my Facebook friend for sharing her “float a Chinet dessert plate in the toilet” trick.)

It’s all part of the splendor and pageantry of turning 50.

(* As you can see from the video below, which my tax dollars helped pay for, “poo” is the actual scientific term!)

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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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.

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The 10 Most Underrated TV Comedies of All Time

Friday, June 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Sullivan and Son

This working class comedy executive-produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley is fraught with all the non-PC ethnic and sexual humor you’d hear in a working class, Irish-Korean, middle-American bar like the one in the show. Created by Korean American actor/comedian Steve Byrne and Cheers writer Rob Long, the TBS sitcom reminds you that some jokes are still OK to crack. The stellar cast features Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) and comic genius Brian Doyle-Murray, along with Christine Ebersole and Owen Benjamin, who portray the drop-dead hysterical mother-son dependent duo Carol and Owen Walsh. 

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Who Is the Gen-X Woody Allen? Linklater Vs. Smith Vs. Baumbach

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. For this week’s debates we’re going to focus on individual filmmakers with inflated reputations. Monday’s question: What Is Oliver Stone’s Worst Movie?, Tuesday’s question: Who Is Today’s Most Overrated Filmmaker?, Wednesday: What Are Stanley Kubrick’s Greatest Films?.

Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: Geeks In Love: 8 Questions To Spark Passionate Debates About Video Games and Chick Flicks5 Questions To Figure Out What Makes Some Adaptations Succeed and Others Fail5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

Who are the most gifted filmmakers who capture the experience of the generation now starting to enter their 50s?

Is Kevin Smith overrated? Is he more his generation’s junior George Lucas – a gifted marketer – rather than a serious filmmaker? Or is there merit to his best work?

Which Richard Linklater movie is his greatest triumph? Is the third one in his Sun series worth watching?

What about Noah Baumbach? Do his recent films live up to the promise of The Squid and the Whale?

Do any of them have the potential to have a cultural impact comparable to Woody Allen, who had several of his films included in Kyle Smith’s best of the 1980s list today?

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The 10 Most Cringe-Worthy TV Flops

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

We’ve all heard of the horrors of Cop Rock and Manimal, but after receiving a reader tip on one of their worst TV shows of all time, I did some digging and uncovered these utterly classic samples of bad television that would make great material for Joel McHale or the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

10. Bucky and Pepito (1959)

Produced by Sam Singer, “The Ed Wood of Animation,” Bucky and Pepito was a typical story of an “ambitious” white cowboy and his “lazy” (literally, they sing about it in the theme song) Mexican buddy trolling the old west on a zero budget. According to Toonopedia, “Cartoon historian Harry McCracken once said the pair ‘set a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass. They were great at what they did, which was being bad.’” Thanks to Bucky and Pepito, cartoonists have debated creating a Sam Singer Award for truly bad animation.

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