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Think Pop Culture Doesn’t Matter? Visit Sleepy Hollow, New York

Friday, October 31st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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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.

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10 Gods Who Will Mess. You. UP.

Monday, October 27th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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

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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)

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What Did King Tut Look Like?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Daily Mail reports that the image above is our best estimate of the true appearance of King Tut:

In the flesh, King Tut had buck teeth, a club foot and girlish hips, according to the most detailed examination ever of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh’s remains.

And rather than being a boy king with a love of chariot racing, Tut relied on walking sticks to get around during his rule in the 14th century BC, researchers said.

A ‘virtual autopsy’, composed of more than 2,000 computer scans, was carried out in tandem with a genetic analysis of Tutankhamun’s family, which supports evidence that his parents were brother and sister.

The scientists believe that this left him with physical impairments triggered by hormonal imbalances. And his family history could also have led to his premature death in his late teens.

On the plus side, he had a condo made of stone-a.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Was Stalin Crazy or Rational?

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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How, The Atlantic asks, did Stalin become Stalin?

The article’s subhead reveals what even amateur students of history have long known. It reads, “Russian archives reveal that he was no madman, but a very smart and implacably rational ideologue.”

Anne Applebaum has done a job here which I can only describe as “typically damn good,” as I’ve long been a fan of her work. It’s good stuff; read it.

The only thing I could possibly add is my own wonderment that anyone still has any wonderment about supposed “madmen” achieving murderous pinnacles of power. Of course Stalin was an “implacably rational ideologue.” So was his stepfather, Lenin. So was their German cousin, Hitler. And their southeast Asian protege, Pol Pot. And Stalin’s peninsular nephew, Kim-il Sung.

I could go on, but I trust you got the idea years before I started typing these words.

Demented madmen rarely — ever? — achieve heights of power. We might call them, the Stalins and the Lenins and the Hitlers, “demented.” We might wish they were madman.

But no. They were implacably rational. They were ideologues. And they had the tools of all-powerful states at their disposal.

And that is why our Founders saw fit to cobble the State, so that implacably rational ideologues might never grab ahold of all-powerful levers.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit, image illustration via shutterstock / 

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The 10 Biggest Sex Scandals from Mount Olympus

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

In ancient Greece, the gods were the hottest celebrities in town. Mount Olympus, where they lived, was essentially a bangin’ nightclub where everybody who was anybody came to drink, party, and bicker about whose pet army of humans would slaughter more enemies. The Greeks loved to gossip about them — Aphrodite, the iconically gorgeous starlet; Apollo, the dreamboat rockstar; Hephaestus, the misunderstood black sheep. And nothing hit the tabloids faster than a divine sex scandal. The Greeks wrote myth after myth spilling all the raunchy details of their gods’ heavenly escapades, which could have made Paris Hilton look as pure as the driven snow. From least to most outrageous, here’s the dirt on the ten most sinful scandals ever to hit heaven.

1. Zeus and Danae: one way or another . . .

The king of the gods could pulverize mountains, but he couldn’t keep it in his pants. How he had time to chase so much tail while running the universe is among the great mysteries of ancient Greek theology. But he always got the girl. Princess Danae was deadbolted inside a bronze cell, under the freaking ground, but Zeus managed to knock her up anyway. He turned into a shower of gold, then poured in through the ceiling straight “into her womb.” It’s unclear how Danae felt about all this, but it’s a good bet Zeus was pretty pleased with himself.

(Apollodorus, Library 2.4.1)

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Via Wikimedia Commons, Alexandre Jacques Chantron’s Danae from 1891

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What Can We Learn from Last Days in Vietnam?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

In Iraq, ISIS threatens the Baghdad airport. Meanwhile, in the U.S, theatergoers get to watch people frantically scrambling to be on the last flight out of Vietnam.

Not everyone is eager to relive America’s last great foreign policy disaster—even cinematically. But Rory Kennedy’s new film, Last Days in Vietnam, offers a stunning history lesson as it depicts the anguish at the end of a badly waged war. The documentary revolves around the last chaotic days before the fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.

In 1973, under the Paris Peace Accords, the U.S. agreed to withdraw all its combat forces. In turn, North Vietnam agreed to “respect the independence” of South Vietnam.

Peace didn’t last long.

U.S. President Richard Nixon promised the South Vietnamese government he would rush in support if conflict resumed. But, with Nixon’s resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal, North Vietnam decided to test Washington’s resolve, launching a major incursion into the central highlands. When Congress refused to support additional aid, the invasion expanded rapidly south. By May 1975, enemy troops closed in on the capital.

Wanting to show a brave face of support for the South Vietnamese, Graham Martin, the American ambassador in Saigon, pushed off evacuation planning until the last minute. Even then, the official policy was to remove only U.S. citizens, leaving behind many thousands of Vietnamese officials and their families who worked closely with the Americans.

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Want Great Coffee? Go to Ukraine

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

I am not one of those people who reflexively think European goods are superior to American ones—you know the kind of people I’m talking about—but boy do I sometimes wonder about the coffee in this country. The average American takes his or her daily caffeine in the form of a tepid, mud-like beverage that delis, diners, and commercial chains have chosen to call “coffee.” Is it? It can’t possibly be. Even the coffee at Starbucks, which is supposed to be something special, more often than not tastes like the business end of a drainpipe. It’s a shame so many people have been duped by words like “venti” and “macchiato.”

This dislike of mine has nothing to do with snobbery. I don’t care about price, brand, origin, or other markers of prestige. I know precisely nothing about the agriculture of coffee beans or the chemistry of brewing. I do know, however, that the proof of the coffee is in the drinking, and the motor oil served at most American establishments is barely potable.

I suspect I’m not alone in this judgment. If not, follow me, dear reader, on a mental trip to the beautiful city of Lviv, in western Ukraine—a place where I found some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. This was after I had tried the product of Vienna’s famous Cafe Hawelka. In fact, to imagine what Lviv is like, picture Vienna, only not as well preserved, with extra grit and grime on the buildings, and with occasional glimpses of drab Soviet architecture.

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Is Medical Greed Leading to D.I.Y. Deaths?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

My PJ colleague Walter Hudson published a compelling argument regarding physician-assisted suicide in response to the ongoing dialogue surrounding terminal cancer patient Brittany Maynard. His is a well-reasoned argument regarding the intersection of theology and politics, written in response to Matt Walsh’s Blaze piece titled “There is Nothing Brave About Suicide.” Both pieces are a reminder that, in the ongoing debate over whether or not Maynard has the right to schedule her own death, little has been said regarding the role the medical profession plays in the battle to “Die with Dignity.” Walsh argues:

None of us get to die on our own terms, because if we did then I’m sure our terms would be a perfect, happy, and healthy life, where pain and death never enter into the picture at all.

It’s a simplistic comment that ignores a very real medical fact: Death can come on your own terms. And that doesn’t have to mean suicide.

My mother was a nurse for 20 years. During that time she worked in a variety of settings, from hospitals, to private practice, to nursing homes. Much like Jennifer Worth, the nurse and author of the Call the Midwife series, my mother practiced at the end of Victorian bedside nursing and the dawn of Medicare. As a result, the abuses she witnessed in the name of insurance claims were grotesque. For instance, if a patient required one teaspoon of medication, an entire bottle would be poured into the sink and charged to that patient’s insurance company. This was just the tip of the iceberg of unethical practices that would become priority in the name of the almighty “billing schedule.”

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Why 300 Is More Accurate Than Your Textbook

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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300 is the kind of film that seems too good to be true. It gets us pumped up, but we don’t believe it — not really. The Spartan soldiers in the film stand for Greece’s freedom against Persia’s colossal empire. they do it with elegant nobility and boisterous relish. They lift their spears into the air and charge onward to glory. So most of us in the audience decide it has to be a fairytale. Things as they really are, we think, are rougher around the edges than that. We don’t believe in that kind of slick, glamorous heroism.

But Herodotus, the Ancient historian whose writing is the source material for 300, did believe. He believed the battle in 480 BC at Thermopylae was mythic in its grandeur and titanic in its importance. When he wrote his Histories, that’s what he was trying to preserve: that monumental sense of glory. So even though 300 takes some poetic license, it strikes right at the core of the valor and drama that Herodotus wrote his Histories to convey. That’s why 300, for all of the facts it gets wrong, is more true to Herodotus than any history textbook.

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Why It’s OK to Be Intrigued by Evil Dictators

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

My first memory of thinking about dictators is a day I spent with my grandmother at age six or seven. Staying at her house while my parents worked, I was “reading” my latest edition of MAD Magazine, in which was printed a humorous depiction of such masters of malice as Pol Pot, Augusto Pinochet, Anastasio Somoza, and Hafez al-Assad. I asked my grandmother what this interesting new word “dictator” meant, and she informed me, as best she could to a child, that it was a leader who enjoyed absolute power in a country. Even at that young age, my instincts as an American were strong: I bristled at the idea of tyrannical authority, but naively suggested that the people suffering under these monsters could be free if only everyone agreed all at once not to listen to them.

As the years passed, I learned that I was utterly intrigued by these odd men—all of them bizarre in so many ways, always grotesque morally and usually physically as well.

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The Relevant and the Ridiculous: A Guide Through Feminist History

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Amelia Hamilton
Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management was a guide for women, teaching them to run a Victorian household. Published in 1861, it was considered typical of the kinds of information women were thought to need, while requiring little or nothing else.

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management was a guide for women, teaching them to run a Victorian household. Published in 1861, it was considered typical of the kinds of information women were thought to need, while requiring little or nothing else.

1. Early feminism had a point. There were actual societal changes that needed to be made.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, feminism was fairly easy to understand. It was a movement of those who believed that women should enjoy the same freedoms as their male counterparts. This included access to the same level of education and freedom in choosing what they wanted from life–marriage, family, a career. Early feminists were fighting for this equality of status, to be seen as equal to men and, if married, to have rights separate from their husbands. Much of this was a reaction against the “feminine ideal” in Victorian society, which argued that women belonged in the home rather than in educational institutions or the workplace. Hooray for these early pioneers of equality!

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A Vital Book To Understand How to Create Global Peace

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by David P. Goldman

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Tuesday night I had the honor of sharing the podium with Prof. Angelo Codevilla under the auspices of the Claremont Institute at New York’s Yale Club. He is one of the wisest and sharpest strategic thinkers to come out of the Reagan Revolution, and his new book, To Make and Keep Peace is a must read: if you read only one book about politics (and especially foreign policy) this year, this should be the one.

I reviewed the work in the Claremont Review of Books, and my review has been posted at the Federalist website. It is excerpted below.

To Make and Keep Peace: Among Ourselves and with All Nations by Angelo M. Codevilla. Hoover Institution Press, 248 pages, $24.95.

To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, Lady Bracknell observed in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” but to lose both looks like carelessness. To have lost the peace three times in the past century suggests something worse than carelessness in American foreign policy. Woodrow Wilson set the stage for World War II by making the best the enemy of the good when negotiating the resolution of World War I. Franklin Roosevelt’s naïveté about the Soviet Union set the world adrift into the Cold War. And now a succession of mistakes following the fall of Communism has left America flailing. The overwhelming American majority that favored foreign interventions after 9/11 has melted, yielding isolationism unseen since the 1930s. How did it come to this?

One political party or the other may blunder, but disasters on this scale can be achieved only by consensus. Angelo Codevilla contends that a self-perpetuating foreign policy elite, incapable of taking in abundant evidence about all the things it neither knows nor does well, has steered American foreign policy in the wrong direction for the past century. The shrill partisan debates, he argues, obscure an underlying commonality of outlook among the “liberal progressive,” “realist,” and “neo-conservative” currents in foreign policy. All three schools of thinking derive from “turn-of-the-twentieth-century progressivism.”

All regard foreigners as yearning for American leadership. Their proponents regard foreigners as mirror images of themselves, at least potentially. Liberal internationalists see yearners for secular, technocratic development. Neoconservatives see budding democrats, while realists imagine peoples inclined to moderation…. Different emphases notwithstanding, there is solid consensus among our ruling-class factions that America’s great power requires exercising responsibility for acting as the globe’s ‘policeman,’ ‘sheriff,’ ‘umpire,’ ‘guardian of international standards,’ ‘stabilizer,’ or ‘leader’—whatever one may call it.

From Hyperpower to Hyperventilator

It isn’t just that the emperor has no clothes: the empire has no tailors. In the decade since President George W. Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech, America has gone from hyperpower to hyperventilater. The Obama administration and Republican leadership quibble about the modalities of an illusory two-state solution in Israel, or the best means to make democracy bloom in the Middle East’s deserts, or how vehemently to denounce Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, everything that could go wrong, has. Europe’s frontiers are in play for the first time since the fall of Communism; Russia and China have a new rapprochement; American enemies like Iran have a free hand while traditional American allies in the Sunni world feel betrayed; and China has all but neutralized American sea power within hundreds of miles of its coast.

America’s credibility around the world is weaker than at any time since the Carter administration. American policy evokes contempt overseas, and even more at home, where the mere suggestion of intervention is ballot box poison, while the Republicans’ isolationist fringe wins straw polls among the party’s core constituents. In 2013 the Pew Survey found 53 percent of U.S. respondents considered America less important and powerful than a decade earlier, the first time a majority held that view since 1974, just before the fall of Saigon. And four-fifths of respondents told Pew that the United States should not think so much in international terms but concentrate on its own problems, the highest proportion to agree with that proposition since the survey began posing it in 1964.

How War Is Like Pregnancy

Codevilla offers a bracing antidote to stale, wishful thinking. A professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, he is one of our last sages, an actor in the great events that brought down the Soviet empire during the 1980s, as well as a distinguished scholar of political thought. Among the modern-day classics he’s authored—including “War: Ends and Means” (1988, with Paul Seabury) and “The Character of Nations” (2000)—“To Make and Keep Peace” is his “Summa,” a tour d’horizon of American and world history crammed with succinct case studies of success and failure in war and peace.

Read the whole review here.

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cross-posted from Spengler

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4 Amazing Archaeological Finds in Israel This Past Year

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

The eight-day Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) holiday, which begins on Wednesday evening, commemorates the Israelites’ 40-year trek from Egypt to the Promised Land. As God commands (Lev. 23:42-43):

Ye shall dwell in booths seven days….

That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the Land of Egypt….

Today, many generations later, sukkot—makeshift, decorated huts—sprout all over Israel for the holiday, recalling the ancient Israelites’ rude, temporary dwellings in the desert.

But Sukkot is also an autumn harvest festival, and very much tied to the Land of Israel itself. It occurs in early fall, a wonderfully warm-cool time of year with clear nights, perfect for gazing up at the stars through the thatched roof of a sukkah.

Sukkot is, then, a good occasion to look back at some of the archaeological finds from the Land of Israel over the past year (on the Jewish calendar, running from September to September). I’ve only chosen some of the most striking, since in any given year there is intensive archaeological activity throughout the land and numerous finds. These discoveries link the ancient past to the present and reinforce Israelis’ rootedness in an archetypal landscape.

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Oscar Wilde, Superstar: The First Post-Modern Celebrity

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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Oscar Wilde’s 1882 journey to America continues to fascinate, and why not?

Everyone loves a fish out of water story, so the true saga of a Victorian dandy roughing it on the wild American frontier, hanging out with (and winning over) rugged coal miners and cowboys is pretty irresistible.

(That Wilde’s garish velvet get-ups clothed a beefy 6’3″ Irishman perfectly capable of beating up bullies no doubt surprised and delighted his new admirers.)

It’s a tale that’s been told many times: in books, of course, but also in plays, movies and on television shows.

Now a new book revisits Wilde’s visit to the New World, but with a twist.

David M. Friedman’s Wilde in America presents his subject as the proto-Kardashian:

That is, as the first post-modern celebrity — one who, to borrow Daniel Boorstin’s, well, famous concept, is “famous for being famous.”

If that seems unfair to the acclaimed playwright, essayist, poet, children’s author (and gay movement mascot), Friedman reminds readers that when Oscar Wilde stepped off the ship onto America’s shores, he was, in fact, none of those things.

Yet.

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The 10 Wildest Stories From Herodotus Left Out of 300

Saturday, October 4th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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Zack Snyder’s 300 is a heart-pounding, jacked-up action thrill ride about an epic battle that actually happened. In the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, a tiny ragtag band of Greek freedom fighters faced down a colossal onslaught from the tyrannical Persian empire. Now, there are some parts of the film — “soulless” Persian super-soldiers, mountainous beast-men, glittering eight-foot-tall monarchs — that can’t have been real. But stretching the truth wasn’t Snyder’s idea. Herodotus, the ancient historian who recorded the wars with Persia, loved insane legends — the more implausible the better. When Snyder filled his film with outsized heroes and mythical beasts, he was taking his cue from Herodotus.

In fact, 300 doesn’t even scratch the surface. Herodotus’ book is massive, and it’s crawling with bizarre creatures and impossible dramas. Most of them aren’t relevant to Thermopylae, so they didn’t even make it into the movie. From barely believable to downright nuts, here are the 10 craziest stories from the book that got left on the cutting room floor.

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10 More Movies Projecting the Jewish Experience on Film

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Daniel Deronda

A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.

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The 5 Coolest Quotes from 300 and Their Inspiration in Herodotus

Friday, September 26th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

If you’ve never seen Zack Snyder’s 300, do yourself a favor and drop everything to go pick it up right now. It’s the story of a tiny coalition of Spartan rebel fighters who make a heroic stand against the massive Persian hordes threatening to enslave them. With unflinching courage, the soldiers battle valiantly and die nobly for the freedom of Greece. The best part? It’s all true.

Well OK, some of it is. Snyder based the film on a graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. But the comic book is a stylized retelling of the battle of Thermopylae during the Persian War of the 400s BC, as recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus. If 300 seems too epic to be real, it’s because Herodotus fudged a lot of details himself. But he got the outline right, and most of all he captured the feeling of one of the West’s most spectacular triumphs. Some of the most intense moments in 300 are lifted right out of Herodotus’ Histories. Here are the five most fist-pumping quotes from the movie, from awesome to awesomest, along with the true(ish) anecdotes from Herodotus that inspired them.

5. “SPARTANS! WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION?!”

Marching into battle, our Spartan heroes run across an army from another Greek district. The rival general turns up his nose at the size of Sparta’s ranks — they’re no match for an unstoppable Eastern empire. With a knowing look, the Spartan King Leonidas stares down the Arcadian fighters and asks them, “What is your profession?” One by one they answer: potter, sculptor, blacksmith. But when Leonidas turns around and bellows, “Spartans! What is your profession?!” his troops instantly respond with a resounding war cry. Leonidas grins. “You see old friend,” he growls, “I brought more soldiers than you did.”

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Two Thumbs Up! Victor Davis Hanson and the Greatest Generation

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

It’s a generational thing.

Distinguished historian Victor Davis Hanson was born in 1953, part of a generation that understands the importance of World War II every bit as much as “the greatest generation” itself.

Baby boomers—the sons and the daughters of those who had fought in Normandy and Iwo Jima, or served on the home front tending victory gardens and riveting B-17s in Seattle—were raised on black-and-white television. Selection was limited. There were only a few channels, and “content” ran heavily to old movies. World War II classics like Flying Leathernecks and Guadalcanal Diary were daily fare. Many of the new TV series—from The Gallant Men to Combat! to, yes, the small-screen version of Twelve O’Clock Highplayed up World War II themes.

The boomers were old enough to remember President Dwight Eisenhower, and to know that he was the same “Ike” who had led the great crusade across the battlefields of Europe. The war may have ended before they were born, but it was nevertheless a visceral part of modern memory for Hanson’s generation.

Professor Hanson’s passion for World War II history drives a fascinating, entertaining and enlightening six-part video lecture from PJ Media’s Freedom Academy. (View the first installment here for $9.90.) The series covers the story of the war that shaped the modern world from its origins to its aftermath.

Engaging scholarship and polished delivery combine with judicious multi-media that enrich rather than overwhelm the story. Three hours never seemed so short.

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10 Ways World War II Affected Disney’s Filmmaking

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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This is Part II in an ongoing series exploring cultural changes by decade. See last week’s first installment here: 10 Disney Cartoons From the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit that Survived the Great Depression.

Walt Disney’s phone rang on the afternoon of December 7, 1941. His studio manager was on the other end to let him know that the Army was taking over the sprawling campus of the studio. The nation was already in shock at the bombing of Pearl Harbor just hours earlier, and Disney would cohabit with the United States military for the duration of the war.

The federal government commissioned hundreds of projects big and small for Disney, ranging from insignia design to training films to propaganda pieces. World War II changed the way the Disney Studios made films — from their efforts to support the Allies to anthology cartoons made for quick turnaround to new techniques to get their own products into the market, Disney emerged from the war a different studio than when the Army marched in on December 7, 1941. Here are ten examples.

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10. “The Thrifty Pig” (1941)

Even before the United States became involved in World War II in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Hollywood was willing to engage in helping “the war effort.” Our northern cousins in Canada commissioned a propaganda piece from Disney to sell war bonds.

“The Thrifty Pig” relied on the familiar footage from “Three Little Pigs” from nearly a decade before, with some noticeable changes: the Big Bad Wolf is now a Nazi, and the third pig constructs his house out of Canadian War Savings Certificates.

The aim of the cartoon, of course, was to encourage Canadians to “invest in victory” by buying the certificates. It was an early test of the effectiveness of Disney toward the efforts to defeat Germany and Japan – and it was a success.

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The 5 Most Underrated Heroes of the Iliad (and their Battle Stats)

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the headliners of the Iliad — star players like Achilles and Odysseus who are first off the bench and always get screen time. But I can’t let this series finish without giving a shout-out to the underdogs. These are the five top B-list team players who, in my opinion, just don’t get the street cred they deserve. This one goes out to the guys who work too hard for too little recognition: here are the most unsung heroes of Homer’s war poem, ranked from the most to the least underrated.

1. Diomedes

Handle: “The Machine”

Kills: 35

Weapon of Choice: Spear

Why He’s So Underrated: Diomedes is a no-drama kind of guy. He has no dog in any of the petty fights that make up the poem’s main plot: he doesn’t care about Agamemnon’s cheating wife or Achilles’ wounded pride. He just keeps his head down and does his job. So while the divas are bickering, Diomedes quietly schools them all, racking up the most kills of anyone in the poem. The result is thirty-five dead Trojans — the second-place Greek finisher (Patroclus) doesn’t even come close to that. But no pats on the back for Diomedes — it’s all in a day’s work.

His Fifteen Minutes of Fame:

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Book five is Diomedes’ virtuoso performance. After pages and pages of total obscurity, the gentle giant gets kicked in the pants by Athena, and suddenly he cowboys up big time. From out of nowhere, the nice guy nobody’s ever heard of becomes the unbeatable machine everyone’s talking about. Diomedes rips unforgivingly through ten Trojans in a row, and as an afterthought on the way casually wounds two gods — Love and War. After humiliating an entire army singlehandedly and drawing blood from two unthinkably powerful immortal beings, he jumps back into the action like nothing ever happened. Classic Diomedes.

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10 Disney Cartoons from the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit That Survived the Great Depression

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend and editor David Swindle published an open letter to me dividing the history of Disney animation into ten eras and encouraging me to explore the history of Disney through the same frame of mind. Here is the first in a series looking at the eras of Disney history.

As the United States slid into the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s, Disney’s output grew tremendously in quality and quantity. Walt and his team of animators and writers released plenty of entertaining product, but they also experimented, honing existing techniques and developing new ones. A struggling nation loved what it saw and couldn’t get enough.

Disney’s output during this time period reflects a uniquely American can-do spirit, one that helped this country survive the Great Depression in both determination and innovation. Here are ten great examples.

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10. “The Golden Touch” (1935)

The 1935 cartoon “The Golden Touch” carries a special significance not because of any achievement but because of its failure – and because Walt himself directed it. The short, which tells the story of King Midas, has more of the feel of an episode of the Twilight Zone than a charming Disney animated cartoon.

Walt took control of “The Golden Touch” after a period in which he had criticized his directors repeatedly. He had not directed a cartoon in five years. The short, with only two characters, ran long on time and budget. The characters lack the appeal and much of the humor of typical Disney characters, and the story takes a dark turn with little of the typical Disney optimism at the end.

As a direct result of the failure of “The Golden Touch,” Walt learned to trust his talented directors, and he allowed them to continue to create, which of course allowed him to oversee the company that would change entertainment forever.

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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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Why Everyone Isn’t Special, as Told by the Iliad

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan
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From God of War

For the past three weeks, I’ve been dusting off the one of the West’s oldest thrill rides: the Iliad. I’ve looked at the best, the worst, and the bloodiest parts of what it means to be a hero in the legendary war stories of Homer. This week, I’d like to put it all together and see if I can’t find some of Homer’s heroism wrapped into the ideas that made this country, our country, what it is. In short, I’d like to make the case for why democracy is the government of heroes.

The Greeks invented democracy, but their bible was a poem about kings. To read the Iliad, you’d think the common man shouldn’t be trusted to tie his own shoelaces, let alone make complex political decisions. Homer composed the poem in the 700s BC, and it’s about a war between bronze-age monarchies. In it, kings are the god-appointed rulers of men. Everyone else is born to obey. That’s what the Athenians were reading when, for the first time in Western history, they handed the government over to the people. So where on earth did they get that idea?

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When the Grandchildren of the Atom Bomb Wake Up, There Will Be No More 9/11s

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

See my previous years’ 9/11 reflections. 2012: “9/11 Rewrote Our Lives in Ways We Are Only Beginning to Comprehend“ and 2013: “On 9/11 and Benghazi’s Anniversary, We End Conservative Pessimism and Right-Wing Apocalypticism

Last week, against my better judgment, I decided to do a PJTV show and argue some pretty kooky, outlandish positions. The subject in the video embedded above is speculating on the future of warfare in which robots might do the fighting for us. Scott Ott, Bill Whittle, and Glenn Reynolds took a more skeptical approach while I argued my overly optimistic, “Singularitarian” perspective, embracing Ray Kurzweil’s idea that in our lifetimes we’ll have robots with consciousness, be able to gradually merge our minds and bodies with intelligent machines, and eventually evolve into new hybrid species until we become pure energy (the Singularity).

See the film Transcendent Man for an idea of where I’m coming from:

In the meantime, on the road to getting there, I anticipate that in our lifetime wars will be fought between terrorist organizations and nation states primarily with drone assassins, rather than Phantom Menace robots or Terminator 2: Judgment Day-style exoskeletons running around.

I feel morally compelled at a serious personal level to call for and defend the development of weapons of overwhelming power and sophistication and then to call for their employment against all nation states and ideologies currently waging wars against any liberal democracy. Yes — an explicitly pro-war stance, counter to the sentiments of the idolized former Congressman and conspiracy theory peddler Ron Paul today. My reason goes to my very being: I’m in the same boat as three commenters who responded on Monday when we featured the new Prager University video, “Was It Wrong to Drop the Atom Bomb on Japan?.” War made us.

LakeMary:

My father was stuck in the Philippines waiting on Operation Downfall to become reality. There’s a good chance he and his buddies would have been casualties, maybe KIA’s. Which means I wouldn’t be writing this comment.

I don’t regret being born and don’t regret that we dropped that bomb so my dad could come home. End of story.

and Over50:

No it was not wrong to drop the atom bomb on Japan. My father was flying B-29 missions and my father in law was in the infantry in the Pacific. Given the the anticipated casualties for invading Japan, if not for the bomb, I guess there’s a fair chance me or my wife and our kids would not exist.

and Robbins Mitchell:

Those who claim it was “immoral” or whatever for the US to nuke Japan are clearly unaware that Japan was also working on its own atomic bomb…named the “genzai bakudan”…they were receiving uranium oxide from the Germans and had a working reactor on the Korean peninsula….had we waited till fall to invade the home islands,that would likely have been long enough for them to perfect their own nukes and they would have most assuredly used them against the invasion force…which would have included my own father who was with a US Navy occupation team on Okinawa at the time

How many Atom Bomb families are there today who only got a chance to exist because President Harry S. Truman made the correct moral decision? A similar question could be asked regarding his role in supporting Israel’s creation. From “23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards“:

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