One of my husband ‘s favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and a pickle on rye. Elvis Presley liked his peanut butter sandwiches with banana and bacon, and Hemingway liked thick onion slices in his. Ninety-four percent of American households have a jar on hand. The stuff lasts forever, so in a nuclear war situation you can always rely on it for sustenance. It can be stored safely unrefrigerated for two years.
I, on the other hand, have a love/hate relationship with it, and if I do ever eat it, I do so in the traditional manner, as a solo spread or with its mate, jelly! At other times, I abhor the stuff and, even when scrounging around for something to eat, will bypass it.
I had always thought that peanut butter was as American as apple pie and mom and was never eaten before we Americans took over from the British. Not true. It was actually an Aztec dish, but eaten as a paste, not a spread. I bet they didn’t eat it with jelly either, or put it into their kids’ lunch boxes.
The modern form of peanut butter was invented by Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal. According to Wikipedia, he was the first to patent peanut butter, in 1884. Peanut flour already existed. His cooled product had “a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment,” according to his patent application. He included the mixing of sugar into the paste in order to harden its consistency.
It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.
Now that the pixel dust has (mostly) settled, we can begin trying to glean some lessons from the sudden crack up of The New Republic.
Since its inception 100 years ago, TNR has positioned itself as the journal of American liberalism, when that word was still synonymous with patriotism, freedom and even a hawkish foreign policy.
The magazine cheer-led for Stalin longer than was seemly and opposed the Vietnam War. However, it was also critical of the New Left’s excesses and, under contentious editor Martin Peretz, became largely pro-Israel.
It may have been “the in-flight magazine of Air Force One” during the Clinton administration but that didn’t prevent TNR from being highly critical of his (and Hillary’s) policies.
So it wouldn’t be entirely fair or accurate to describe The New Republic as a “liberal” magazine, although that’s what a lot of conservative commentators have been doing since this week’s Chernobyl-level meltdown.
In a magazine landscape in which The Nation is unmistakeably far-left, and National Review and the Weekly Standard are clearly “right wing,” The New Republic sometimes seemed… confused — a reflection of the particular passions of whoever happened to be editor at the time.
And many of those editors over the years have been quite young.
That’s why it’s likely that the prospect of having a 28-year-old owner didn’t immediately strike fear into the hearts of New Republic stakeholders.
Editor’s Note: See the first four parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” “Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power,” and “Should You Trust Your Gut or God?“ Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here. Warning: some spoilers about season 3 discussed in this installment.
Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.
Our culture has a seemingly natural distrust of people in power, but that wasn’t always the case. Before November 1963 we put great faith in our political and spiritual leaders. Those pre-’63 figureheads like JFK, Ike and FDR, Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham are still heralded as role models of moral society. Today’s faith is different. We look for hypocrisy and mock it intensely. All spiritual leaders are televangelists skilled in chicanery. Our politicians are now supposed to be our messiahs, and when they fail we as a nation fall into despair and chaos. When did we forget God, and why does it matter that we’ve left Him out of the equation?
Republicans took back Congress by offering solid policy alternatives to the Obama administration’s catastrophic demagoguery. But to take back the culture, we conservatives ought to start telling more fart jokes. Ironically, I’m not kidding about that.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking and writing about dirty jokes from the ancient Greek stage and the modern movie theater. One thing I’ve noticed is that we haven’t come up with a lot of new material over the past 2500 years. Basically, awkward sex and uncontrollable bowel movements are what’s funny. Since literally the birth of Western civilization, audiences have lined up out the door to watch some poor goon crap his pants.
No surprises there.
Who would you like to see added to the collection next? See the previous PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon selections from this year:
Disney in Spring
All 75 of the Silly Symphonies, the Gold Standard of the Era:
- Walt Disney’s First Silly Symphony: ‘The Skeleton Dance’
- PETA Would Hate This 1929 Disney Cartoon…
- Nature Animated to Life
- A Disney Cartoon Set In Hell!
- Getting Drunk With Disney’s Merry Dwarfs
- Summer: The Sixth Silly Symphony, A Sequel to Spring
- Corn on the Cob as Musical Instrument
- A Cannibal-Version of Carmen With Clicking Human Skulls… Made By Walt Disney
- Frolicking Fish Almost 60 Years Before The Little Mermaid
- Mickey Mouse As a Polar Bear
- Toy Story‘s Great Grandfather?
- A Bug Flying Too Close to the Fire In the Darkness
- Innocence Incarnate: These Smooching Monkeys Will Make You Smile
- Goodbye Winter! Disney’s Playful Pan Emerges to Call In Spring (two cartoons)
- Birds of a Feather Flock Together
- A Cartoon First Released April 17, 1931: Disney’s Mother Goose Melodies
- Dora the Explorer’s Politically Incorrect Cameo in a 1931 Disney Cartoon
- Apparently Beavers Invented the Wheelbarrow Before Man
- A Sweet & Spooky Silly Symphony for Cat Lovers
- Egyptian Melodies Vs. Father Noah’s Ark
- Geppetto’s Original Workshop And Cogsworth’s Great-grandparents?
- When A Cavalry of Horseflies Goes To War Against the Spider
- Drinking Tea Before the Fox Hunt
- How Much Can an Ugly Duckling Grow Up Over a Decade?
- The Marx Brothers As Cartoon Birds
- A Primordial Winnie the Pooh
- A Dog Jail Break at the Pound!
- The First Technicolor Cartoon: Disney’s Still-Amazing ‘Flowers and Trees’
- It’s Amazing What Kinds of Cartoons Were Considered Family Friendly in 1932…
- Bugs In Love Battle a Blackbird in Black and White
- ‘Babes In the Woods’ Vs. The Witch In The Candy Cottage
- What Secrets Do You See Inside Santa’s Workshop?
- The Snake Hypnotizes His Prey
- The Disney Version of Noah’s Ark
- An Oscar-Winning Cartoon That Defined the Depression Era
- Who’s Ready to Open Pandora’s Box?
- Enter Sandman? Where We Go When We Sleep
- If You Don’t Pay the Piper He’ll Just Take Your Children Instead…
- When Walt Disney Imagined Santa Claus In Alliance With The Robot Toys
- The ‘Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil’ Monkeys In Cartoon Form
- ‘Oh, the World Owes Us a Livin’…’
- Among the Easter Bunny’s Secrets: Scotch-Colored Paint!
- Practical Pig Saved Little Red Riding Hood From the Big Bad Wolf
- Donald Duck’s First Appearance
- The Lesson of the Flying Mouse: Sometimes A Blessing Is Actually A Curse…
- Chill Out Today With These ‘Peculiar Penguins’
- Compare and Contrast: The Goddess of Spring With Snow White…
- Slow and Steady Wins the Race?
- What Would You Do If Everything You Touched Turned to Gold?
- A Cartoon To Teach Kids About the Danger of Celebrating Crime
- Dreaming of an Innocent Unity With Nature
- A Fantasy Land Where Everything Is Made of Candy…
- How Did Disney’s Mae West Bird Caricature Compare With Real Life?
- VIDEO: If Romeo and Juliet Were A Saxophone and Cello
- Another 1930s Disney Cartoon with Creepy Racial Stereotypes…
- What Does It Take to Be the Cock o’ The Walk?
- What Is the Fate of Broken Toys?
- Elmer Elephant: Is This the Most Adorable Cartoon in the Whole Series?
- How Kids Can Learn To Defeat Bullies
- ‘I Like a Man That Takes His Time…’
- The 3 Blind Mouseketeers Vs A Room of Traps
- A Country Mouse Discovers the Joys of Drinking in the Big City…
- This Very Cute Video of ‘Mother Pluto’ Parenting Chicks Will Make You Smile
- 3 Troublemaker Kittens Make a Mess in the Garden
- The Dark Secrets Hidden in the Woodland Cafe…
- What Is Animism?
- One of The Classic Breakthroughs In Animation History
- When Moths Fly Too Close to The Flame…
- 3 Babies Fishing For Stars In Dreamland
- Walt Disney Introduces The Farmyard Symphony on the DisneyLand TV Show
- Long Before Spongebob: The Underwater Circus of the Merbabies
- Katharine Hepburn As Little Bo Peep in Blackface
- Practical Pig Delivers a ‘Harsh Interrogation’ To the Big Bad Wolf
- This Ugly Duckling Abandoned By His Family Will Melt Your Heart
Donald Duck’s first appearances:
- “The Wise Little Hen”: Donald Duck’s First Appearance
- “Orphan’s Benefit”: Which Character Do You Prefer: Donald Duck Vs Popeye?
- “The Dognapper:” Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck Vs The Dognapper
- Donald Duck’s 4th Appearance Is One of the 1930s’ Greatest Cartoons
- Donald Duck’s 5th Appearance: ”Mickey’s Service Station”
- A World War II Donald Duck Cartoon for Veterans Day
- How to Fish With Chewing Tobacco and a Club
- Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse Take the Orphans for a Picnic
- Donald’s Final Appearance in His Original Duckish Design
Fleischer Studios in Summer
12 Early Betty Boop Cartoons
- Betty Boop’s First Appearance
- Before Betty Boop Was Beautiful…
- Betty Boop as Snow White In A Cartoon For Jazz Lovers
- Your Initiation Into Betty Boop’s Secret Society
- ‘No, He Couldn’t Take My Boop-Oop-a-Doop Away!’ (2 cartoons featured)
- Why You Shouldn’t Try Robbing Betty Boop
- The Betty Boop Approach to Dealing With ‘Silly Scandals’
- Moving Day for Betty Boop!
- A Plus-Size Betty Boop As Kitty From Kansas City
- Playing Chess with Betty Boop & Taking a Mean Shot at Mickey Mouse
- Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions
- Cab Calloway as ‘The Old Man Of the Mountain’ Chases after Betty Boop
22 Color Classics, a competitor to the Silly Symphonies:
- A Redheaded Betty Boop As Cinderella Debuted a New Series
- ‘Joy Like This Cannot Be Bought!’ A Cartoon Variation of Hansel and Gretel
- An Elephant Never Forgets
- Back When Cartoons Taught the Miraculous Power of Prayer…
- ‘Momma Don’t Allow No Music Playin In Here’
- Animal Newlyweds Take Their Honeymoon In Outer Space!
- Seduced By the Black Swan
- An Old Couple Reminisces On Falling In Love…
- Somewhere in Dreamland Tonight
- When a Chick Tries to Be a Duck
- Newlywed Flies Pick The Wrong Hotel For Their Honeymoon
- Greedy Humpty Dumpty Enslaves Nursery Rhyme Creatures To Build His Gold Wall to the Sun
- Two Lovebirds Take a Hawaiian Honeymoon
- Dreaming of a Big Train
- An Eccentric Inventor Saves The Orphans’ Christmas
- The Wedding of Jack and Jill Rabbit
- The Rooster and His Harem…
- Animal Symphony Chaos: ‘The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Astray…’
- VIDEO: A Family of Peeping Penguins Finds a New Home
- A Little Fish Has to Learn His Lesson The Hard Way
- Cute: Little Lamby Eats His Grass With Sugar
- The Vegetable Children Don’t Want to Play With the Little Onion Kid
The Films of Ub Iwerks, co-creator of Mickey Mouse, during his years apart from Disney, studied in the Fall:
Flip the Frog
- Flip the Frog: The First Sound Color Cartoon
- Flip the Frog Hallucinating in the Opium Den
- Flip the Frog Befriends the Ghost Family With Their Skeleton Dog
- Flip The Frog Vs The Mouse
- The Village Barber
- ‘Techno-Cracked’: When Flip the Frog Built a Robot
- Why Were so Many 1930s Cartoons Set in a Sultan’s Harem?
- An Angel Flashing the Middle Finger In a 1930s Cartoon?
- Willie Whopper’s Mexican Gun Fight
- Willie Whopper Steals Neptune’s Crown
- A Very Angry Sun Vs. Old Man Winter
- A Nutty Knight Escapes from the Insane Asylum
- Sinbad the Sailor and His Parrot Enjoy Cigars
- The Tailor Vs The Giant and Everyone Vs The Mouse
- Baby Bear Has to Learn From Jack Frost the Hard Way…
- Simple Simon in the Lion’s Den
- The First Cartoon Version of Aladdin
- Welcome to Balloon Land! Beware of the Pincushion Man!
- Humpty Dumpty Jr. Rescues His Sweetheart from a Bad Egg
Columbia Pictures’ Color Rhapsodies series
- Little Nell With a Heart As Big as Texas
- The Frog Pond: The Primary Theme of 1930s Cartoons? How to Beat Bullies
- Skeleton Frolics: An Undead Orchestra Rehearses
Terrytoons By Paul Terry
- How Farmer Al Falfa Survived the Drought
- A June Bride: Farmer Al Falfa’s Kitty Elopes With an Alley Cat
- The Dancing Mice Make War on Farmer Al Falfa and His Cat
- ‘Scotch Highball’: a 1930 Terrytoon of Animals Racing
Click here for the next in the series, the fourth commandment.
Earlier this year on HBO’s Real Time, host Bill Maher declared that Islam is “the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will f***ing kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.”
Maher was likely referring to Islam’s “blasphemy” laws, which ban on pain of death any “insult” — as found in a statement, a picture, a book — to Islam and especially to its prophet Muhammad.
While Maher has been criticized for his “Islamophobic” assertion, he and others may be surprised to learn that the similarities between Islam and an organized crime syndicate such as the mafia far exceed punishing those who say, draw, or write “the wrong thing.” In what follows, we will examine a number of these similarities.
We will begin by looking at the relationship between Allah, his messenger Muhammad, and the Muslims, and note several parallels with the relationship between the godfather, his underboss, and the mafia.
Next, we will examine the clannish nature of the mafia and compare it to Islam’s tribalism, especially in the context of the Islamic doctrine of “Loyalty and Enmity.” For example, in both Islam and the mafia, members who wish to break away, to “apostatize,” are killed.
We will consider how the mafia and Islam have both historically profited from the “protection” racket: Islam has demanded jizya from non-Muslims under its authority/territory, and the mafia has demanded pizzo from people that fall under its jurisdiction.
Finally, we will consider what accounts for these many similarities between Islam and the mafia, including from a historical perspective.
Written in the wake of the Kent State shootings, this was an anthem that encapsulated everything – the war, the angst, the protests, all of it. “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming.”
7. Crosby Stills Nash & Young – “Ohio” (1970)
Editor’s Note: Over the spring and summer we launched the PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight feature, highlighting reader suggestions for great songs worth featuring. One contributor’s infectious enthusiasm and good nature won us over. He’s since expanded his music recommendations to a series of list-article-mix tapes. Now in this daily feature we’re going to start drawing from his lists (and growing an archive of them) to discuss the songs and artists included. Who should be included next? What ideas do you have for music or other culture or lifestyle ideas you’d like to see discussed at PJ Lifestyle? Get in touch DaveSwindlePJM AT gmail.com or @DaveSwindle on Twitter. Here’s Allston’s archive so far, but he’s got more list-mix-tapes in the works:
The New War Music Series
- 10 Classic Songs from the World War II Era
- 10 More World War II-Era Classic Songs
- 10 Songs of the Korean War Era
- 10 Songs That Embody the Vietnam War Era
By Artist and Band
- 5 Terrific Tracks from Horace Silver, Jazzman Extraordinaire
- The 5 Musical Periods of the Yardbirds
- Your 6 Song Introduction to Traffic
By Decade and Era
- Alternative 1980s: 15 More Songs Millennials Must Hear
- 15 Classic 1970s Songs Millennials Should Know
- 15 More Classic 1970s Songs for the Millennials
- 15 More 1970s Songs Showcasing the Decade’s Wide Range
- Your 15 Song Introduction to The New Wave Punk Sound That Ended the 1970s
- 15 Early Punk And New Wave Songs Bridging the 1970s to 1980s
- 7 Spooky Halloween Tunes
- Ranking the 5 Most Excellent Bluesmen
Editor’s Note: See the first three parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” and “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.
The idea of Olivia Pope is one of a woman who trusts her gut instinct so implicitly that she bases her every decision on it. As a result she unwittingly justifies a range of crimes, puts her life and the lives of her employees and friends at risk, and helps terrorists escape the country. Sometimes listening to your gut just isn’t good enough. Which is probably why God provides a wise alternative in Torah: the prophet.
Biblical culture believes that God speaks to human beings. Sometimes this is done in a group setting, like when the Israelites entered into a covenant with God on Mount Sinai. Other times this is done on an individual level, as when God called out Abraham, spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and when God speaks to His prophets. Given that God spoke to His priests through the long-ago destroyed Temple, Rabbinic Judaism tends to view prophets as the stuff of biblical history, despite the prophecy of Joel:
And afterward [after the restoration of Israel], I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
The Spirit of God in prophecy, known in Rabbinic Judaism as the “bat kol,” is highly regulated by Rabbinic law and culture:
In any event, the consensus in Jewish thought is that no appeal to a heavenly voice can be made to decide matters of halakhah where human reasoning on the meaning of the Torah rules is alone determinative. In non-legal matters, however, a Bat Kol is to be heeded. …In modern Jewish thought, even among the Orthodox, claims to have heard a Bat Kol would be treated with extreme suspicion and dismissed as chicanery or hallucination.
But is it really wise to always trust your gut?
For the past two weeks, I’ve been digging through the gutter of ancient Greek and Roman comedy to find the grodiest jokes and weirdest plots from the classical world. Turns out, the founders of Western culture had dirty, dirty little minds just like we do in the good old US of A. But we can definitely give the Greeks and Romans a run for their money — the past few decades have been a golden age of gross-out gags. One name in particular has become synonymous with outrageous laughs. Whether he’s writing, directing, producing, or just making fart noises in the corner, Judd Apatow has become the face of a certain brand of smut. The funny thing is, a lot of his movies would have been right at home on the ancient stage. So here, ranked from least to most hilarious, are five of my favorite Apatow films — and the ancient plays that look a lot like them.
1. Celebrities in Hell: This Is the End and Frogs
Apatow mentored Seth Rogen as he filmed this 2013 apocaflic, in which a bunch of showbiz blockheads get hurled into hell on earth. Rogen and his stoner buddies (Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, etc.) get passed over by the rapture because their lives have been empty and debauched. So they have to fight to survive while the earth is plagued by molten brimstone, ravenous demons with grotesquely large genitalia, and Emma Watson. Only by demonstrating some kind of meaningful altruism can they get tractor-beamed up to heaven, where everyone gets a Segway and the Backstreet Boys are back together.
Aristophanes’ Frogs is also about a bunch of self-obsessed artists messing around in the pits of the damned. Dionysus, the showbiz god, descends past “forever-flowing crap,” an undead fiend who wants to rip his junk off, and a she-devil “with a bronze leg . . . and the other made of cow-poop,” in search of a writer worth his salt. The one playwright whose material has more substance than a shopping list gets tractor-beamed back to earth. Finding someone in show business who’s not too vapid to justify his existence turns out to take a worryingly long time.
(Aristophanes, Frogs 145 ff.; 475 ff.; 294 ff.)
Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice the confusion laced within a holiday message. When it comes to Christmas, the confusion is on overload. Somewhere along the way a religious message got smacked with a load of pop culture overtones to create a holiday lush with semiotic excess, too much for the brain or heart to process. So, allow me from my seat on the sidelines to create the How To guide so you can enjoy the perfect pop culture Christmas.
12. Shop early and shop often for things you’ll never need that are on sale at bargain basement prices.
Christmas really begins on Black Friday, or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. The holiday is about buying to your heart’s content and making sure everything you and your children have ever dreamed of is stacked up under that decorated tree. The bruises and broken limbs you get in pursuit of those awesome sale prices will be well worth it. Who needs teeth when they can have stuff?
Lately my editor, David Swindle, has been encouraging me to develop a series describing my own out-of-the-box Jewish faith. It’s this mish-mosh of biblical proverbs, Torah adages, stories and songs tightly woven together by my American colonial heritage and intense Zionist pride. There is no one perfect word to describe my Jewishness beyond biblical in nature. Orthodox, Conservative, even Reform I am not. Reconstructionist or Renewal? Forget it. But I find commentary from all denominations (“streams” we call them in Judaism) interesting and acceptable in a “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” kind of way that gives me the liberty to define my Judaism in a way most of my compatriots are simply afraid to do. Which is probably why David finds my approach so fascinating. It’s rare to find a Jew who isn’t somehow fettered by the chains of guilt.
So I begin at the beginning, with Thanksgiving, the quintessential Jewish and American holiday. Traditionally Jews celebrate the idea roughly 1-2 months earlier during Sukkot, a festive fall harvest holiday in which we humble ourselves before the God who brought us out of bondage, not because we are perfect, but because He loves us and wanted to dwell with us. (Sukkahs, as in “tabernacles,” as in “the Lord tabernacles with us.”) When you understand the story of God and Israel as a passionate love story, the struggles are contextualized as are the prophecies, into tough tales with happy endings. When you understand the metaphor of God and Israel as a greater metaphor of God’s love for humanity (we’re just the physical reminders) you open your heart to the immense, overwhelming love of God. And there is nothing more you can do as a human being than reflect on that truth with awe-filled gratitude.
The Drudge Report remains one of the most accurate barometers of what’s happening right now.
But can we augur near-future trends by sifting through that site’s headlines?
Lately, Drudge has posted lots of news stories about “the devil” and “exorcism”:
Camera captures exorcism performed on shrieking woman “possessed by devil:
Church Turns to Exorcism to Combat Suicide Increase… Archbishop: “Satanism has spread among young people”
BILLY GRAHAM: In Our “Lawless and Wicked Age We’ve Taught Philosophy of Devil”
Aside from the uptick in stories like these, I’m not sensing a resurgence in interest in all things diabolical, a new version of the “occult” fad that helped make the 1970s so miserable, and led to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s that was almost as bad.
Peter Bebergal doesn’t agree.
According to him, “we’re currently experiencing ‘an Occult Revival in rock music and popular culture.’”
He’s penned one of the year’s most talked-about books, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.
“My argument is that the spirit of rock and roll — the essential rebellious instinct of rock and roll — is certainly social and sexual and political, but it’s also a spiritual rebellion,” Bebergal explained. “And the way in which it expressed that spiritual rebellion was through the occult imagination.”
That “occult imagination” conjures everything from Ouiji boards to Christian and Jewish symbolism to LSD trips to “alternative spiritual practices.” Bebergal says it ultimately helped rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath save rock from sounding too poppy, sappy and mainstream.
Some jokes are always funny. Then again, after 2500 years, some jokes are just really, really gross and weird. The ancient Greeks and Romans may have laid the foundations of the Western world, but — and this is weirdly comforting — they loved fart gags. The comedies they put onstage were about as mature and sophisticated as a Judd Apatow movie, and just as filthy. So if you were sure sex was invented in 1963, hold onto your petticoats: this is a tour through the deepest gutters of the ancient world, ranked from naughty giggles to outright smut. Read on for a sampling of, quite literally, some of the oldest jokes in the book.
The Greek comedian Aristophanes loved big, dumb, gross-out gags, but he also loved political satire with more of a bite. In Wasps, he put them together. In the play, a father and son are arguing for and against Cleon, Athens’ political hotshot. The dad, Philocleon, basically has the hots for Cleon — Philocleon is Greek for “love Cleon.” The son, who thinks Cleon’s a dirtbag, is called Bdelycleon — which means either “disgusting Cleon,” or, more appealingly, “fart Cleon.” Essentially it’s as if Rush Limbaugh changed his name to “Obama-is-a-fart.” Which, come to think of it, would be hilarious.
On November 9, 2006, as the free world celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demise, an 83-year-old man died in a peaceful slumber at his home in the German capital city. The man was Markus Wolf, who during the Cold War led the foreign-intelligence section of East Germany’s secret-police apparatus: the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit), known colloquially as “the Stasi.” The Stasi’s most renowned spymaster, he controlled thousands of agents, whose purpose was to infiltrate important Western institutions and government positions. Often mistaken as the inspiration for John le Carre’s shadowy Karla character, Wolf for years remained a mystery to Western intelligence services, who didn’t even have a picture of him until the late 1970s—several decades into his career. Historians have marveled at his success in leading the Stasi’s foreign wing, known as the HVA, or Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung. Perhaps his most well known accomplishment is having one of his agents, Gunter Guillaume, become a trusted aide to Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor.
Seven years after Wolf’s death and twenty-five years after the Wall’s, the West still doesn’t appreciate the breadth and depth of the Stasi’s brutality. (The KGB still reigns in the popular imagination as the ultimate secret-police force.) Formed after the Second World War in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany, the Stasi grew to become the most potently effective Eastern bloc intelligence organization. They possessed a more impressive informant network than even the KGB. When East Germany crumbled, the Stasi employed upwards of 190,000 unofficial informants. By 1989, approximately one out of every 90 East German citizens was a Stasi informant. Referred to as inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (“unofficial collaborators”), most were simply ordinary German citizens, tasked with reporting everything they could about possible (real or imagined) anti-regime activity, as well as details about family and friends. Even children were involved in spying on their parents.
When I was a kid and first fell in love with dinosaurs, they were lumbering, cold-blooded beasts who died of stupidity. So much of the past keeps changing:
Carrying around an exoskeleton of bony armor is hard work. But armored ankylosaurs figured out a way to shoulder the load and stay cool. These Cretaceous dinosaurs had “Krazy Straw” nasal passages that helped them air-condition their brains, according to a new study.
“These heads are just covered with bone they just look like rocks with eyes. And yet, when you look inside, they have these noses that go all over the place,” said Jason Bourke, a doctoral student at Ohio University who presented his findings on ankylosaurus noses Nov. 8 at the annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology in Berlin.
It gets better:
The airway discovery is interesting, Bourke said, because most modern mammals and birds have their own method for warming air headed to the lungs and for cooling exhaled air: They have respiratory turbinates, or blood-rich structures in the nasal cavity that warm and humidify the air coming in.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to show that an animal that doesn’t have these turbinates found another way around heating the air up or cooling it down, just by making the airway superlong and then curling it around,” Bourke said.
Duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs, have similarly loopy noses, he said, which have been linked with helping the dinos create resonant bellows. It’s very likely that, in both hadrosaurs and ankylosaurs, the structures served a dual purpose: warming and cooling air, and amplifying sounds, Bourke said.
I’d like to see one of these skulls 3-D printed into the world’s biggest, loudest conch shell.
“…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:
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”
To know where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve come from. We’re all the result of decisions made by previous generations. But everything has to start somewhere, even political arguments.
Yuval Levin has done a great service to political junkies everywhere, then, with his recent book The Great Debate. It’s an attempt to trace today’s liberal vs. conservative divide back to its origins. As he explains in the subtitle, Levin finds the roots in the differences between Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke.
The only problem is that, while Burke is certainly a suitable (and often celebrated) figure on the right, Paine’s ideas don’t translate well into modern liberalism.
To begin, consider Paine’s views on intergenerational relationships. “Every human individual in every generation has the same relation to society as every other person in every other generation,” he thought, according to Levin. “The political actions, decisions, rules, and achievements of past generations do not constrain the present or define it.”
Well, that’s actually the very opposite of modern liberal thought.
I can be a little hard on feminists sometimes, but that’s because the brand has been so largely destroyed by the bizarre priorities of those using that moniker from the 1960s to present. As time has gone on, it has just gotten worse. Don’t get me wrong, however — I have a lot of respect for the women who got things done in the beginning.
Here are some women who really made a difference.
5. Susan B. Anthony
Susan Brownell Anthony worked for social reform in America on several fronts. Like other women working for equality, she was passionate about abolition, collecting anti-slavery petitions at age 17. She went on to become the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.
When she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, they joined forces. Together, they began the American Equal Rights Association, campaigning for the rights of women and blacks. They began a newspaper in 1868, The Revolution, which went into issues of women’s rights. The next year, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Unfortunately, women’s suffrage had yet to pass when Anthony went ahead and cast a vote in 1872, and she was arrested. Six years later, Anthony and Stanton worked for Congress to be presented with an amendment granting women’s suffrage, and it was finally passed in 1920 as the 19th Amendment.
Susan B. Anthony was the first woman (after a representation of Lady Liberty) to be featured on a U.S. coin.
For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been running updates on the Hot Gossip from Heaven – feuds, fights, and sex scandals from Mount Olympus, ancient Greece’s mythological celebrity nightclub. This week, we’ll push the clock way forward to see how much our own celebrities have in common with the A-listers of Olympus. These are my top five: the sexiest stars and starlets from the ancient world, and the modern mega-celebs who could easily play them on TV. They’re ranked (of course) from hot to hottest – so read on for the good stuff.
1. Persephone: Miley Cyrus
Persephone was the original good girl gone bad. It wasn’t her fault: in her younger days she was “the girl with a face like a blossom,” blushingly beautiful and demure. But that’s exactly why Hades, the slime-bag god of death, wanted to get his grubby hands on her. He kidnapped her, trapped her in the underworld, and force-fed her magic fruit so she’d have to stay down and become his captive wife. From then on she was a dark terror, the “dreaded” queen of death who fulfilled the curses of the gods. To say she went Goth is an understatement. (Homeric Hymn 2.8; Homer, Iliad 9.457)
Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriend and Blondie co-founder Chris Stein has just released a photography collection, featuring his lifelong muse.
And why not? No less an authority than rock photography guru Bob Gruen famously said, “You can’t take a bad picture of Debbie Harry.”
Unfortunately, Stein marrs the collection with a stunningly multi-level-stupid comment, regarding his famous picture, above.
UK tabloids don’t push the limits of credibility any more than their American counterparts, but in a way they got there first. Here, Debbie is reading about sexism under the ayatollah.
Get it? Decades of well-documented, sharia-inspired violence against women in Iran was probably exaggerated, according to Stein, because it was reported by a lower class “red top” English tabloid back in the 1970s.
Stein further ingratiates himself with his British host by slagging stupid, hysterical American “yellow journalists,” too, for no apparent reason.
Factor in the word “sexism” as his mealy-mouthed synonym for “rape, torture and murder,” and it’s quite breathtaking how much smug “enlightened” ignorance Stein managed to squeeze into two just sentences.
Especially the same week that Iranian authorities executed a woman for killing her rapist.
All this from a man I feel safe in presuming voted for Obama twice, and whose views on every subject are reliably, predictably “progressive.”
But of course!
If you’re still operating under the false notion that pop culture doesn’t have a real impact on everyday life, take a look at America’s oldest example, Sleepy Hollow, New York.
When Washington Irving penned The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820 under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon, he probably had no idea that his short story would inspire the beloved town of his youth to turn itself into a living homage to his tale. Settled in the late 1600s, the village was originally an agricultural and manufacturing zone of Tarrytown, New York. Nicknamed “Sleeper’s Haven” by early Dutch settlers, Washington Irving picked up on the Anglicized version of the name, “Sleepy Hollow” when staying with family in the area as a boy. Eventually millionaires like John D. Rockefeller would build mansions around the industrial zone that would become known as North Tarrytown at the turn of the 20th century. But it was Irving’s story that proved eternal when, in 1996, the village voted to rename itself Sleepy Hollow.
Street signs are orange and black, as is one of the village’s fire trucks. The Headless Horseman is the school mascot who, dubbed the nation’s “scariest high school mascot”, runs through every football game at half-time. Police cars and fire trucks also bear the Headless Horseman logo with pride. Halloween is celebrated throughout October with haunted hayrides, street festivals, a parade encompassing both Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown’s main streets, several ghost tours and performances of the Washington Irving legend. The Great Jack O’Lantern blaze puts Christmas light spectaculars to shame and Horseman’s Hollow turns a 17th century Dutch mill into a gory homage to the headless Hessian.
The Old Dutch Church, Ichabod Crane’s presumed safe haven, stands guard over a vast “garden cemetery” designed to allow Victorian families to picnic with their dearly departed. Tours of the cemetery can be taken both day and night and feature stops at the graves of Washington Irving and those who inspired characters in his tale. A fair runs every weekend alongside the cemetery, providing tour groups with the opportunity to walk the grounds with alcohol in hand. The gas station on the other side of the infamous bridge hawks t-shirts and other assorted Headless Horseman souvenirs. And if you’re hungry, there’s always The Horseman Restaurant, a hole in the wall diner that promises you’ll “lose your head” over their milkshakes.
Last week in the divine tabloids, we saw the stars and starlets of Mount Olympus get frisky. For this week’s issue, we’ll watch them get deadly. Celebrity firefights on Twitter are minor tantrums compared to the way the Greek gods could throw down — if you were stupid enough to get in their way, you were in for a world of hurt. From goofy to gruesome, starting with minor mayhem and ramping up to all-out war, here are ten gods who could make you wish you’d never been born.
1. Artemis: no boys allowed
Artemis was the goddess of the hunt: she’d gore you with an arrow as soon as look at you. She’d also sworn off men. This was bad news for Actaeon, a hapless little doofus who went hunting and wandered randomly into a grove where Artemis was taking a bath. There she was, full frontal, and Actaeon accidentally got a glorious, extremely forbidden peek. Artemis turned him into a stag, and “his own hunting dogs feasted on their former master,” ripping Actaeon apart and devouring him alive. When it came to the whole “vow of chastity” thing, Artemis didn’t kid around.
(Callimachus, Athena’s Bath 114-5)