Michelle Goldberg over at the Nation published an excellent article on the #CancelColbert controversy arising out of what she has dubbed the “New Political Correctness”:
It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.
Radicals thrive on crisis. The crises they are generating are evidence of how truly free we are as a nation. Panicking over statuary is as #FirstWorldProblem as you can get. Yet we should not be fooled: The chaos of radicals always has a serious motive.
Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”
Whether it is in a public forum or a private business (as with last week’s case of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich) “no-platforming” is the desired outcome of the radical-induced chaos. Whether it is used against the presumed liberal (feminism) or conservative (anti-BDS) cause, the outcome is the same: a clampdown on free speech and individual expression, marketed as kind-hearted, feel-good social legislation. Orwell would not be surprised.
Corey Feldman just got awesome news – Richard Donner told us he’s making a sequel to “The Goonies” … and wants to bring back the entire cast.
Donner was signing autographs in Bev Hills when he dropped the bombshell … genuinely surprising our photog.
What Donner didn’t say … whether he’ll recast the main characters and bring in Corey, Josh Brolin, Sean Astin and Data for cameos, or if these guys will actually play the same roles 28 years later. A gnarly but interesting thought.
Goonies never say die!
But hold on before you go lining up to be the first to buy tickets. Donner has announced a Goonies sequel a number of times in the last decade. He said in 2010 that a sequel was a “definite thing,” while in 2007 and 2008 he mentioned a musical adaptation as an idea he was “fairly passionate” and “confident” about. Will this time be the charm for a sequel to The Goonies? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Countries in a demographic crash are getting into the babymaking business, often with rather hilarious results. In Denmark, a racy new ad campaign offers an incentive for couples to get pregnant. The Danish birthrate is about 10 per 1,000 residents in 2013, which is not so much a lack of babies as a demographic plane crash. This mildly racy Danish ad offers an incentive of three years of free diapers to couples who get pregnant while on vacation.
In Russia where the birthrate is a terribly low 1.61, Valdimir Putin established cash payments for mothers who have three or more children, assuring them of daycare for their tots so they can “continue in their professional life.”
Japan’s abysmal birth rate has led to only 17 million children in a country of 126 million. The Japanese government is trying a rather pathetic campaign that insists that “It’s fun to have babies!” For Japan, it may be too late to come back from self-extinction.
Germany, Italy, Singapore, and over a hundred other countries all face a birth rate so low that they, too, will cease to exist if their populations don’t start reproducing. Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories have declines in fertility of 50% or more, so the declining birthrate is not entirely a Western problem. China famously instituted a one-child program in 1979 and their fertility rate is now 1.55, well below replacement rate.
I was born in 1988. I do not remember the 80s. I was alive for two years of them, and the only (VERY faint, possibly imagined) recollection I can dredge up from that period is when my family moved to Vermont in 1990, and I sat on my parents’ bed watching the movers place our furniture. But that might also have been a dream.
In fact, I only have fuzzy memories of elementary school as well. I’m no Jean Shepherd. I spent most of my youngest years so firmly ensconced inside my own imagination that I remember the stories I read more vividly than many things that happened in reality. By middle and high school, I was finally participating in the world around me, forming a wide circle of friends in drama club, going to the (small, ratty) mall, driving around at night with the windows down singing along to the radio with my pals. That was in the late 90s and early aughts.
Today, most people who remember being a middle- or high-schooler in the 80s are now in, or nearing, their 40s. Even someone who is 30 this year was only in elementary school by the time the 90s dawned; they weren’t having Breakfast Club coming-of-age experiences in the 80s. So why is it that the people who seem to feel the fiercest, loudest nostalgia for the 80s — college kids who throw 80s-themed parties, twenty-somethings who voraciously consume Buzzfeed listicles on 80s nostalgia — either didn’t live through the 80s, or were too young to remember or care about pop culture at the time?
That’s not a slash fiction premise or a rejected X-Files scenario, but more or less the concept behind the forthcoming NBC crime drama, Aquarius:
Aquarius will be set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, and Duchovny will play a police sergeant whose personal life is more troublesome than his job, [sic] at least it was until he sets his sights on Manson, who at that point was just released from prison and starting to build his Family of easily swayed hippies. (…)
”The twists and turns of a complicated undercover operation will lead Duchovny’s character and his young partner to the brink of Manson’s crimes that will eventually lead to the Tate-LaBianca murders in subsequent seasons.”
The backstory to the infamous murders certainly gives the folks behind Aquarius some juicy, colorful stuff to work with:
Most people know that career-criminal Manson was also a frustrated singer-songwriter.
He’d pinned his hopes for fame and fortune on his acquaintance with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, who’d in turn introduced him to Terry Melcher, a record producer who happened to be Doris Day’s son.
Melcher also resided at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon — or had, until he made way for new tenants: Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate…
What most people don’t know — because the Baby Boomers who run the world don’t want you to — is that the Manson’s Family were full-fledged players in the California counterculture.
Even after the Tate-LaBianca murders…
If there’s one refreshing thing to be said of the season finale of Girls, it’s that Lena Dunham is not a stereotypical feminist after all.
The series finale of Girls opens with Hannah bumping into Adam’s looney sister who is now living with her equally nutty downstairs neighbor, Laird. Newly returned from a hippie commune, the pair are expecting their first child. Hannah asks and is granted permission to touch Caroline’s womb, which she does so with an expression of both doubt and awe. In the next scene, Hannah walks into her own apartment and she touches her own womb in absent-minded contemplation. She is then quickly distracted by an acceptance letter to graduate school in Iowa.
In her typical selfish fashion, Hannah presents her grad school acceptance to Adam minutes before his Broadway premiere. If it wasn’t so sweetly presented you’d think it was a vengeful move. Consequently, Adam feels that his performance has been thrown off. As a result, their relationship goes into full meltdown at the stage door after the show. Adam is outraged that Hannah presented her success to him before he went live: “Why can’t anything ever be easy with you?” he questions angrily.
The well played plot point mirrored Shoshanna’s own struggle at Ray’s rejection. “If memory serves, you’re the one who jettisoned me a while ago,” Ray comments before Shoshanna interjects, ”I want you back,” explaining, “I made a mistake…this entire year of freedom was just f-ing stupid…you make me want to be the best version of myself, and I just want to pretend that I was never not your girlfriend before.” “You pushed me forward in a lot of ways and I’m eternally grateful for that,” Ray explains before finishing with, “but right now, we’re in two different places with very, very, very different goals.”
In the post-episode commentary, Dunham focused on the idea that “relationships aren’t easy,” but the full impact is smarter than that: The episode that begins with the announcement of a pregnancy ends with Hannah’s excited expectations for what Iowa may bring. Embracing second wave feminist legacy, Dunham’s pregnancy metaphor introduces the next battle in the Children versus Career war, questioning the point of male/female sexual relationships.
Rupert Holmes once penned a beautiful line regarding two characters parting in the series Remember WENN: “This is what happens to love when people are in love.” Love is more than a sexual high, a status symbol, or a comfort zone. Love is required work, firstly on the part of one’s self. In their me-driven environment, second wave feminists created the idea that a romantic relationship, not unlike a commune, is nothing more than the temporal cohabitation of two individuals with shared interests. That ideology gave birth to the “Selfie Generation” of which Hannah Horvath is Queen.
The hypocrisy of the intellectual elite is finally being called onto the cultural carpet. This past Tuesday, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post observed: “There has been so much political turmoil among Republicans that it is easy to lose sight of the intellectual disarray on the left.” PJM’s Ed Driscoll quoted The Daily Beast‘s Lloyd Grove speaking of modern liberals: ”…Think aesthetics as politics, and academic credentials as peerage. Think of a latter-day Americanized version of Downton Abbey—where everyone knows his or her place, and our betters look best.”
It is amazing to see how quickly the liberal/socialist/Marxist wing of the political spectrum has imploded. Only one generation ago they donned tie-dye and preached “Damn The Man.” Today, their Gen-X children (Barack and Michelle included) have embodied The Man to their own damnation and that of the middle class, the working poor, and all those for whom they claim to care so much (at least during election season).
Driscoll cited Grove’s observation that contemporary liberals are living
…a world away from job-craving America, and light years from the mid-twentieth century Democratic Party.
Indeed, this gap gives added credence to Professor Fred Siegel’s critique that “today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy,” …It’s not that the Democrats don’t know that they have a problem with the non-government employee middle class, but it’s just that they really are not bothered by it. As the New York Times framed the issue, “many in the party pay so little attention to white working-class men that it suggests they have effectively given up on converting them.”
Last week, alternative media mogul Glenn Beck announced that he was going to focus on “taking back” American culture through the power of nostalgia:
In the future, Glenn Beck’s focus is going to be more on influencing culture and less on politics and news. After all, news is only “what the culture allows,” he said in a recent interview with National Review’s Eliana Johnson.
…“Beck is nostalgic for an America of decades past, and his cultural projects will aim to resurrect and revive it,” Johnson writes. “It’s an America where duty trumped desire and Americans were bound together by a sort of civic religion created by that sense of duty. ‘I want to impact the culture in the way that people see good again,’ [Glenn] says.”
Beck’s goal is admirable, to a fault. The period he seeks to resurrect was one in which concepts like “good” and “duty” were defined by a Biblical religion, not a civic one. Any history student will tell you that Marx had his own take on the American Revolution; you can show someone Frank Capra movies until you’re blue in the face and they’re still going to see Mr. Smith as the ultimate community organizer if that’s their moral outlook.
As Amy Kenyon notes, there are pitfalls to what passes for nostalgia these days:
…the historical meanings and usages associated with nostalgia were finally mangled beyond recognition until its chief purpose became the performance of sentimentalism, the parceling out of discount memory via television, advertising, heritage theme parks, and souvenir markets, all aspects of what we might call the “nostalgia industry.” As such, nostalgia became kitsch, trivial and reactionary: hardly the stuff of a meaningful engagement with the past or the workings of memory.
Simply put: Glenn Beck needs to do more than embrace the facade of America, circa 1940. Beck needs to dig deeper, to America’s Biblical heritage, to understand what re-taking the culture truly means.
Barack and Michelle are all of our parents now http://t.co/304nAa14MG
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) March 17, 2014
Barack and Michelle Obama are fine parents, they really are. They have two gorgeous and well-behaved daughters, and the Obamas have kept them mercifully free of the spotlight. I can’t say any more about them than that, because I don’t know any more than that — which is exactly how it should be.
But the Obamas aren’t my parents, and they aren’t your parents. But ThinkProgress represents the repressive and reactionary mode of thought that we are wards of the Great Men who rule over us.
We are not their children. Our politicians, left and right, serve us at our pleasure — and it’s high time we reminded them of it.
The most insightful line in this week’s episode of Girls came from guest star Louise Lasser, playing wheelchair-bound senior artist B.D., who observed: ”I hate watching television because all the old women are shells… and it just hurts to be a shell.”
A female artist with a successful career, bemoaning her state in relation to what she sees on a screen: It really is as pathetic as it sounds, this legacy of the second wave feminist notion that sex is the purpose of a woman’s existence, therefore once her looks are gone, she is nothing more than an empty, useless receptacle. Still, it’s an odd statement coming from a woman with a successful career, right?
Perhaps Girls has debunked another second wave feminist myth: “Career” is not permanent salvation from Friedan’s dreaded boredom and emptiness. Take it from famous French actress/bombshell Catherine Deneuve, who recently remarked on the secret to aging well:
“I think it’s different for men and women,” Deneuve said. “I think for men it has more to do with a fulfillment of what they do in their life, their social life, their work. I think for women, it’s more private. It has more to do with a personal fulfillment with a life, love and children, and work also, but not as the first main thing, I think.”
City folk have always looked on their country neighbors with superstition. According to John Podhoretz at the Weekly Standard, this suspicion has carried a clearly political bent since the days of W. His evidence: Scary white dudes, like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Bill Henrickson (Big Love) from middle America invading your TVs.
“In Difficult Men, Brett Martin’s book about the remarkable writer-producers who brought television to new cultural heights, Martin notes that there was something explicitly political at work in the early days of what he calls television’s “Third Golden Age.” Americans “on the losing side” of the 2000 election, Martin writes, “were left groping to come to terms with the Beast lurking in their own body politic.” As it happened, “that side happened to track very closely with the viewerships of networks like AMC, FX, and HBO: coastal, liberal, educated, ‘blue state.’ And what the Third Golden Age brought them was a humanized red state. . . . This was the ascendant Right being presented to the disempowered Left—as if to reassure it that those in charge were still recognizably human.”
…It’s the depiction of the worlds in which they live that is so striking, even more so in the series that have come along since the body politic’s shift to the left, beginning in 2006. The canvas on which these characters are brought to three-dimensional life isn’t a “humanized red state” at all, but rather the red state of liberal horror fantasy.”
Podhoretz concludes: “Still, rich Hollywood folk making mincemeat out of poor rural folk is another element of the ongoing American culture war that should not go unremarked.”
Fair enough, although any critical studies grad could tell you that whitey from the sticks, especially them man-folks, have been derided for a long time among the educated liberal elites who fill television’s coveted writers’ rooms. Educated liberal elites, mind you, who are primarily white dudes.
The MSM’s latest fetish, college girls-turned-porn stars for tuition money, smacks of the rotten legacy of second-wave feminism’s “our bodies, our selves” mantra. Take the story of Belle Knox, a Duke University fresh-girl forced to do porn for the tuition money. While her sleaze-bag of an agent attempts to milk her 15 minutes with stories of a poor girl turned out by multimillionaire parents (a story she later changed when chatting with Piers Morgan), Belle Knox views herself as anything but a victim.
The 18-year-old appeared on front pages across the globe and sat down with Piers Morgan for a CNN interview using only her stage name and claiming that she was not ashamed of what she was doing and, in fact, felt ‘empowered’ by her career.
I’m not being exploited. I love what I’m doing and I’m safe,’ insists the women’s studies major.
Women’s studies major. Good thing she’s in porn, considering her future career choices at this point don’t rise far above McDonald’s worker (and we all know how poorly they’re paid). Seriously, though, paying for your women’s studies degree by doing porn? Has anyone stopped being sucked in by the rich-girl lifestyle to consider that glaring irony? Or the fact that her women’s studies major has justified her career choice?
She told her student newspaper in an interview last week: ‘My entire life, I have, along with millions of other girls, been told that sex is a degrading and shameful act. When I was five-years-old and beginning to discover the wonders of my body, my mother, completely horrified, told me that if I masturbated, my vagina would fall off.
‘The most striking view I was indoctrinated with was that sex is something women “have,” but that they shouldn’t “give it away” too soon -– as though there’s only so much sex in any one woman, and sex is something she does for a man that necessarily requires losing something of herself, and so she should be really careful who she “gives” it to.’
The vapid meanderings of Belle Knox illustrate the very scary impact of the second-wave feminist notion that our bodies really are our selves. Beyond our physicality, we have nothing left, no brain, no feeling, to “lose” or invest in a sexual encounter.
Think about how often you find a table at a restaurant with everyone looking at their smartphone instead of conversing. Technology certainly has its advantages, but something is clearly wrong with this picture. The concept of identity creates a different perception for everyone. In today’s culture, much of what constitutes a person’s identity may be channeled through social media. The problem is that some people put so much time into their digital profile that their real-world life suffers.
Undergraduate students in my mass communication class this semester have found one way to combat this. They turn going out to eat into a game where all cell phones are stacked at the end of the table. The first person to reach for his phone pays for the meal. Simple enough, but it gets at the heart of a larger concern. Are we struggling to keep our real lives as interesting as our digital ones?
This week, media scholar Douglas Rushkoff, along with PBS, released an excellent documentary called Generation Like. The film details how current teens create online identities and also shows how they are monetized. Some YouTube celebrities like Tyler Oakley have been able to turn social media followers into dollars. Other users remain simply nothing more than super fans content with millions of followers that justify their hours online. Teenagers today are the first generation to grow up with a fully digitalized culture, and we are seeing more signs of that every day in how they define themselves.
Most folks first became aware of Dr. Benjamin Carson when he dared to speak out against Obamacare in front of the architect himself at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. I had the privilege of meeting Ben Carson about 20 years earlier when my mother handed me his book Think Big. At the time, I was an above-average student who struggled in the public school environment. Despite being intellectually acceptable (but economically unqualified) for entrance into a prestigious private school, my own public institution refused to allow me to skip a grade because they felt I’d suffer socially.
As if being the #1 nerd in the room qualified me to be crowned Prom Queen.
An outcast, I’d spend most of my time feigning illness or sick with stress, looking for a reason – any reason – to get out of going to school. I knew my mother was right; I couldn’t run away forever. But, I didn’t have a reason to care enough to face my battles. What I needed then is what so many young people need now: A perspective greater than their own. They need to learn how to Think Big.
And so my mother encouraged me to encounter the story of Ben Carson, a young African American boy from the projects who rose out of the ghetto mindset by seeking a perspective greater than his own:
“I am convinced that knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.”
Carson’s illiterate mother required her 2 sons to turn into her 2 book reports a week. This practice turned Carson into a habitual reader, classical music listener, and Jeopardy! aficionado. His love of learning and imaginative fascination with science developed into the desire to become a neurosurgeon:
First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over. Second, not only can we not overload our brain – we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use saying that “The brain acquires everything that we encounter.”
It took 3.5 seasons, but finally I found something culturally relevant in Girls.
The latest episode, Free Snacks raised barely a blip in the world of Girls criticism, most likely because it played more like a Woody Allen movie than your typical Girls episode rife with awkward sex and lunatic meltdowns. In fact, for the first time ever the few sex scenes featured in this episode were actually relevant to character exposition and development. I’ve thoroughly criticized Dunham for being a sacrificial goddess on the altar of pop culture, but this episode has left me hoping that perhaps Lena Dunham isn’t that kind of girl after all.
The episode opens with Hannah quitting her job at Ray’s coffee shop to become an advertorial writer at GQ. Thrilled after her first day’s success, she arrives home to find that Adam walked out of another audition because he didn’t like the direction he was given. The moment foreshadows the following day, when Hannah is confronted by the fact that her co-workers, who are more accomplished writers than she, turned their backs on their “spiritually fulfilling” writing for corporate jobs with steady salaries, health benefits and perks. Hannah’s nervous breakdown moment is priceless: Dunking her head under the bathroom sink, she walks her wet head into her boss’s office, responding to the compliment “you remind me a lot of myself,” with “I quit.”
When her boss doesn’t fight for her to stay on, Hannah rethinks her decision and asks to stay on. By this point, her boss brushes her off: “Email me when you make a decision.” Later that evening Hannah arrives home to find out that Adam, who stuck to his guns, crushed an audition and is one step closer to fulfilling his career dreams. Now it’s Hannah who has compromised herself for her dreams. “I’m going to write for 3 hours every night, no matter what,” she explains to Adam before passing out on the couch, exhausted.
No meltdowns. No emotional crises. No meandering self-obsession. And Hannah managed to convey a range of emotion without once getting naked. She also confronted a totally relevant issue that every 20-something college graduate is forced to face: The earth-shattering compromise of career dreams with economic realities. This theme resonates with Hannah, who realizes that the joy in paying her bills may come at the price of her personal writing aspirations. Yet, it is also relevant to Shoshanna in an emotional sense when she begins to believe that her ideal mate is a whim to be sacrificed at the altar of “relationship”.
Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.
This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle, released by Dark Horse Comics.
What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.
Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.
(God, I hate that word…)
This week back in 1972, the stunt was described in less lofty terms:
It’s hard to come up with a contemporary parallel, since nowadays, the permanent daytime hosts are already “John and Yoko”:
Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopie Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres and their colleagues reflexively dole out that week’s trendy received liberal wisdom, normalizing formerly taboo topics and opinions.
You see, that week in 1972 is usually remembered as “historic” and brave and radical — a laudable if inevitably awkward attempt on everyone’s part to bridge the “generation gap.”
That the voting age had just been slashed from 21 to 18 energized millions of young people, and no doubt frightened some of their elders.
(Who had nothing to worry about: That year, with the Democrats running radical anti-war candidate George McGovern, and the hippie movement supposedly ascendant and crushing everything in its cultural path, Nixon won anyhow. That didn’t turn out so well, of course, but it proves once again that the eventuality you’re most worried about is usually nothing compared to whatever actually occurs…)
We’re also informed that John and Yoko’s chosen guests were rarely seen on American television, and that Mike Douglas was a good-natured if bewildered old fuddyduddy throughout.
You know what’s coming next…
Beatles-themed sensory overload: That is how to describe The Fest for Beatles Fans in New York City, held from February 7-9 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. What’s it like roaming a Fest that fills four floors of a New York hotel with musicians, historians, artists, authors, yogis, meditators, the famous and well over 8,000 fans from 40-odd states and five continents? Take a look at a day in the life of The Fest.
Beatles author and historian Bruce Spizer opened Saturday with a presentation on how the Beatles conquered America, no thanks to Dave Dexter, Jr., the Capitol Records guy who rejected hits like ”Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” because they had “too much harmonica.”
Dear Prudence Farrow spoke about her spiritual journey in India with the Maharishi and the Beatles before leading an introductory transcendental meditation session. The room, dubbed the Ashram for the occasion, was so packed that more chairs had to be brought in for the standing room only crowd.
Good Ol’Freda Kelly, secretary to Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, and president of the original Beatles fan club, is signing autographs! Quick, get in line!
Still down to earth after all these years, Freda hates being the center of attention but enjoys being with the fans. Her grandson, a toddler, was happily drawing next to her. “Would you like Nile’s autograph?” she casually asked, to which I happily agreed. Good Ol’Freda is the Queen of Beatles Fans: regal, royal, lovely. Her documentary Good Ol’ Freda is a must-watch.
Fifty years ago tonight, as a nine-year-old girl living in a Boston suburb, I — along with 73 million Americans — watched the Beatles perform on the popular Ed Sullivan Show.
After watching I knew (as much as a nine year old was capable of knowing) that I had witnessed a MAJOR cultural and historic event.
How did I know this?
How could I NOT have known?
President John F. Kennedy famously said in his 1961 inaugural speech that “the torch has been passed to a new generation,” and on that night the Beatles became the musical torch.
Upon the show’s conclusion, I distinctly recall my father saying with complete confidence that “the Beatles are just a passing fad.”
His prediction was totally expected from someone born in 1922, but I knew otherwise. For the Beatles had a sound that was so unique, engaging, modern, young, hip and vibrant, I knew right then that my world was going to be radically different from that of my parents.
Sunday, February 9, 1964, was when a “cultural earth mover” began digging the divide that would later be called “the generation gap.”
Monday on the school bus my friends and I yelled Beatles’ songs out the window. When we arrived in our third-grade classroom there was talk of nothing else. How could there be when clearly something monumental had happened the night before?
All of us were emotionally affected but not capable of articulating exactly what happened. All I remember talking about with my friends was which of the four Beatles was the “cutest,” but instinctively we knew it went much deeper.
Now, viewing the Beatles’ performance through a 50-year historical, musical, cultural and celebratory lens, I ask myself, “Was I exaggerating the importance of the evening?”
That question demanded answers. Fortunately, “valid” scientific research was just an email away and about to be provided by a good friend.
My friend was also born in 1955, just a month before me. (He is well-known in media circles and asked that his name be withheld.)
Furthermore, he grew up clear across the country from where I was in Boston. So, for all those reasons, I was keenly interested in comparing our impressions, which I’ll do on the next page.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in two parts in May and June of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
Then the rest of the week to come up with the rest.
For someone who is as cohort-sensitive as I am, who rages constantly about “kids these days,” and who feels most comfortable socializing almost exclusively with other X-ers, I found this assignment surprisingly daunting.
I used a HighLowBrow post about Gen-Xers to try to kickstart my brain.
That site calls us “Recons” and counts those born between 1964-1973 as members of that generation.
The article features a labor-of-love list of famous Recons/X-ers that was invaluable in helping me put together this column.
Predictably, I take issue with their chosen start date, however.
It’s a weird definition of “Generation X” that excludes the guy who popularized the phrase (Douglas Coupland, 1961) or the fellow who wrote our “national anthem” (Gordon Gano, 1963):
You know that article that’s been going around, about how we should stop throwing bridal showers and baby showers, and throw more parties to celebrate women when they get promotions, travel somewhere cool, or pass an educational milestone?
If you’re asking “which one?” it’s because that seems to be all the internet can talk about lately: the Non-Traditional Female Achievement Shower, or how women should be celebrated more often for all the stuff they do before getting married and starting a family.
The argument is, roughly, that women have been feted for centuries for getting married and having babies, but if we want to encourage female achievement, we should throw women Promotion Showers and New Job Parties instead. One blogger even argues she should get a party for backpacking across Asia.
This is in the name of equality (because, as you know, men have been getting special parties all along). Oh, you haven’t recently attended a party to celebrate the fact that one of your male friends completed a backpacking trip? Maybe because that’s not a thing. Okay, it is a thing, and that thing is called a “welcome home party,” and I’m only going to throw you one if I haven’t seen you in, like, five years. I’ve successfully returned from vacation many times without mourning the lack of a party to greet me.
Last week the Forward covered a “trendy Jewish spoken word” happening in the trendy neighborhood of Park Slope in the trendy part of trendy New York City known as Brooklyn. If the E! network hasn’t made you wary enough of the word “trendy” this article surely should. Basically, it’s about a doctoral student and an app techie using grant funding to study what makes Judaism trendy with millennials. And if that doesn’t set off any alarm bells in your head, let me be very clear: the title “Sermon Slam” shouldn’t fool you. Despite the religious-themed location, if God was invited to join in the party it was to sit and be talked at, not about let alone with.
For those of you unfamiliar with Judaism or hip lingo: Instead of reading the Torah portion, and perhaps even the Haftarah portion, then wrestling with the meaning of the portion through a discussion involving comparative texts, the Sermon Slam for young adults involves attacking the weekly Torah portion with a style akin to a poetry slam – rough-edged spoken verse rooted in the performer’s emotions and personal (potentially uneducated) perspective:
“Spoken word poetry has become increasingly sexy. …When you synergize that with something that sounds boring, like a sermon… it’s an ancient tradition that we’re now embracing and making our own. It’s for the people, by the people. That feels exciting to those of us in our 20s and 30s.”
I’m far from Orthodox, in fact I don’t identify as a Rabbinic Jew (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist) at all. But this self aggrandizing hyperbole annoys me more than black hatters arguing over sleeve length ever could. Seriously, is Judaism so desperate for adherents that we’re getting grant funding to make the Torah “sexy”?
It gets worse. Apparently making the Torah “sexy” doesn’t involve actually reading the Torah as much as it involves creating a postmodern pastiche of Biblical words and pop culture lingo:
References to iPhones and to Facebook popped up in the same sentence as “Kiddush.” And the hallowed Hebrew names of God, “Adonai” and “Elohim,” were uttered in the same breath as “s–t.”
And now you know why I avoid obnoxious hipster Judaism like the plague. With its goddess worship of Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham and its conversion of New York into the New Zion, this religion has nothing to do with God and Torah and everything to do with Judaizing the kind of liberal self help ethos already prolific within the New Age and Buddhist movements. What’s next for Sermon Slam, a Chopra-esque two-hour fundraising featurette on PBS?
As the world mourned the loss of Soviet evangelist Pete Seeger last week, I encountered stories of real Soviets who found God, not in the hammer and sickle of the USSR, but in the smuggled bootleg lyrics of the Beatles.
How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is a fascinating narrative detailing Soviet Baby Boomers’ covert love affair with the Fab Four. Interviewing a variety of Russian Beatlemaniacs, including many post-Communist music scene movers and shakers, over the course of nearly two decades, British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead discovered that The Beatles were much more than a band in the U.S.S.R. For many Soviet teens, The Beatles were a glimpse at independence, freedom, and even God.
The idea that a rock and roll band could provoke the understanding of the intertwining of God and freedom, let alone inspire a search for the divine, is one that is largely lost on an American audience. After all, as Soviet teens risked Kremlin hellfire to listen to Beatles tracks, their American counterparts in the Bible Belt were throwing their records on bonfires, forced by a religious hierarchy that saw John Lennon and his band as a threat to Christ. Rock music then became the stuff of hippies, the class that scoffed at religious institutions and, like The Beatles, sought divine encounters and self-empowerment through eastern religions.
Arguably, the advocates of Beatles burnings did more to harm Christ’s reputation and following than John Lennon ever could. After all, as he explained, his ironic quip about Jesus was more of a warning than a declaration:
“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”
Ironically, it’s a warning that post-Soviet leaders like Vladimir Putin have heeded with their own political purposes in mind.
Fatherhood has been undergoing a dramatic redefinition in recent years, amply covered by journalists, scientists, and sitcoms. That’s why the Tweet I saw today (“Do fathers make good writers? Do writers make good fathers?“) was clickbait I eagerly lapped up.
The article I wound up reading, “The Pram in the Hall,” revealed more about its author, Shane Jones, than it did about writing or parenthood. Jones is admittedly image-obsessed, and that’s evident when he spends most of this article talking not about the unique challenges parenthood poses to writing, but about the challenges it poses to his carefully cultivated personal and professional image.
He writes, “In our culture, fatherhood means baggy khakis and cars with side-impact airbags—it’s something of a joke.”
I don’t see how that’s something of a joke — I just see a comfortable man in a safe car. And people in the book world aren’t known for their glamorous good looks and fashion sense, either, so I’m not sure how any of that is a threat to his career. Have you been to a publishing trade show lately? Clint and Stacey would have a heart attack.