Maura, Siberian Husky.
In season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen on weekday mornings I juxtapose excerpts from my book readings with a selection of the previous day’s headlines and noteworthy excerpts. The goal is to make fresh connections between the events of the day and the bigger picture of history and humanity’s place in the universe.
Yesterday, this interview at Salon with one of the old idols of my art-house-cinema, film-critic days jumped out at me. Filmmaker Paul Schrader is more well known as a screenwriter than a director. He established himself through his collaborations with Martin Scorsese in the 1970s, helping midwife the tortured masculinities of Travis Bickle and Jake La Motta in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. (In some ways Taxi Driver was semi-autobiographical.) That was about when Schrader’s career peaked. Since then he’s taken the sex-obsessed, disturbed male persona of those scripts and elaborated on it in a series of films about prostitutes, pornographers, and perverts.
Apart from his classic ’70s work, Schrader’s movies crossed my path in 2002 with Auto Focus, a film that played at the art-house movie theatre where I worked in high school and college. The movie depicts the rise and fall of Bob Crane disc jockey, sex addict, actor, and amateur pornographer — best known from his starring role in Hogan’s Heroes.Perhaps Schrader’s and Crane’s careers mirror each other a bit? Starting out doing popular work only to end up filming cheap sex?
His newest movie stars Lindsay Lohan and real life porn star James Deen and was scripted by Gen X nihilist king Bret Easton Ellis of Less Than Zero and American Psycho infamy. In this excerpt from the Salon piece, the interview doesn’t have the guts to ask the question honestly. He has to skirt the issue rather than ask outright, “How come you make movies about men obsessed with sex and death?”
Your career has been kind of varied — what common themes run through your work?
I think it’s true of every artist, and of every single person. We don’t change much. Watch something like “56 Up” — you realize how little people change. Now they’re all 56 and they haven’t changed at all! I don’t think anyone does! You do circle around the same things.
What are those things?
You start with how you were raised. I was raised in a Calvinist community. So you’re dealing with that. I was raised with moral responsibility and the idea that life has to have some meaning. When the fact that it doesn’t have meaning becomes apparent — how do you get out of that conversation? When you realize your life has as much meaning as your dog’s, that’s a conversation that’ll never end.
I can’t help but read Schrader’s comments equating human life with animals in the context of a president who left men to die in Benghazi, the girls tortured for a decade by Ariel Castro, and the disturbing cultural devolutions that have produced rampant criminality and illegitimacy in America’s inner cities.
Tuesday Book Reading:
Literacy changes everything. Heres an excerpt from page 57 from Doug Rushkoff’s Get Back In The Box. Word-based religions are dramatically different than image-based religions.
Wednesday Morning News Round Up:
Lead PJM Stories From Wednesday:
If there is a more convincing case to be made on the why question – why collecting huge amounts of data pertinent to innocent people is essential to detecting terrorist communication patterns – it must be made pronto. Again, reluctance on the part of knowledgeable people to say more than they have for fear of educating our enemies is perfectly understandable, even admirable. But national-security conservatives have to face facts: We are gradually losing this debate. Being right on the adequacy of the NSA programs’ structural safeguards, and being right on the law, will count for nothing if Americans are not convinced – quickly – that there is a real, material, comprehensible connection between the massive data collection and the prevention of terrorist attacks.
PJ Lifestyle Featured on PJ Home Page:
If voters took Bonhoeffer’s biblical principles seriously, we wouldn’t be choosing “the lesser of two evils” election after election. We wouldn’t have to weigh the positive outcomes of a Kennedy or a Clinton presidency against the moral failures that could have put the country at severe risk and behavior that wreaked havoc in the lives of their families and those who covered for them. Immoral men like Weiner would be disqualified from office, not made into celebrities with a shot at becoming mayor of one of the most important cities in the world.
1. Characters that are too good at “being bad”
Southern gentleman Frank Underwood is the first piece of genius in this show. I’ve pointed out in previous posts that no matter what Frank does, you still fall for his South Carolinian charm and charisma. He’s smooth-talking and has a soft side. He has the audience eating out of his hand and then, WHAM, he’s slapped with the title of “murderer.” Oh well, you still love him and you still want him to succeed. You just cannot hate Frank — his quips, smartass dialogue, and honest facial expressions make the audience laugh even in the darkest moments. Frank is the perfect bad guy who continuously baits the audience only to have them coming back for more.
New at PJ Lifestyle on Wednesday:
Most often when we feel stuck it’s because we aren’t really open to all the options around us, because we tell ourselves they’re crazy or unacceptable or beneath us, or simply because they never occurred to us. If you feel like tearing your hair out every day you work in front of a computer, try hunting down some non-office jobs. Some of them might pay less, but if you took advice #2 above, you might have an idea of how little you’re willing to make, in exchange for preserving your sanity and happiness.
If you feel like you can’t spend the rest of your life doing marketing/sales/research/computer programming/accounting/fundraising, then don’t. Even if it means “starting over.” If you have less than five years of experience, you don’t exactly have far to fall. And while you might even step down in salary too, you have decades to climb back up and surpass where you were. Even if you don’t, you mind find you mind less when you’re doing something you love.
Kindler’s attack on Carolla is much longer and more vicious than early reports indicated.
I’d like to apologize to everybody here, and everybody in America for going on Adam Carolla’s terrible, terrible podcast. I really had no idea. I just thought he was The Man Show, and he was — I didn’t know he was a terrible human being. I thought he was slightly amusing and kidding around. I had no idea that he’s a bigot with a capital NAZI. (…)
By the way, you know a white person is leaning toward racism if they start all of a sudden complaining about how much taxes they pay under Obama. (…)
By the way, anybody who goes on Celebrity Apprentice. You’ve got to either not know what’s going on, oryou’ve got to be a racist.
New at PJ Tatler on Wednesday:
There’s no use discussing anything with this administration. It’s the most callous and dishonest government this nation has ever had.
I’m not one who hates on McDonald’s. You go there, you get what you want at a reasonable price and the product is consistent from coast to coast. Overseas, McDonald’s adjusts to its environment, so in Tokyo you can get a teriyaki burger (and they’re awesome). You can’t beat their price for ice cream sundaes.
The strike for $15/hour to flip burgers is stupid. Working the line at McDonald’s was never intended to be a full-time career. It’s an entry-level job at low wages to gain experience to help advance to the next, better, job. Obama’s wretched economy is forcing many Americans into underemployment, though, where benefits are scarce and wages are low.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said today that military and intelligence personnel are not receiving permission to chase down solid leads in bringing the perpetrators of the Benghazi attack to justice.
Graham noted that CNN recently interview Ahmed Abu Khattala, head of Ansar al-Sharia, and asked him about the attack on-camera, “but nobody from the FBI, the Libyan government has ever talked to him and he’s a person of high interest, according to our government.”
“CNN found him within two hours. Apparently we can’t find him. Maybe we need to contract out to the media to go get these suspects. But this is a pathetic effort to bring people to justice,” Graham said this morning on Fox.
The senator said he’s had “special forces operatives and intelligence community personnel come up to me over the last two months and say they’ve got great leads, know where other members who planned the attacks are located in Libya and can’t get approval to go after them.”
“This is not a phony scandal. This is a pathetic effort to bring people to justice. I think if you’ve got these folks, you would find out how terrorist-centered this attack was. It was not based on a video. Maybe they’re still looking for the guy from the video and that’s why they can’t find these folks. I don’t know. But my belief is the people who killed our folks are wandering around Libya in the wide open and we aren’t doing a damn thing about it,” he said.
Also Around the Web Wednesday:
On it, she tells the 42nd President: “Since I know you will be alone tomorrow evening, I have two proposals for you, neither of which is you not seeing me.”
Lewinsky then orders the leader of the free world to use his secretary, Betty Currie, as a go-between and plan the presidential schedule so they could covertly meet without a formal record of her visit.
“Now the first thing that has to happen is that you need to pre-plan with Betty that you will leave the office at, I don¹t know, at 7, 7:30 so that everyone else who hates me that causes me lots of trouble goes home,” she tells Clinton.
“Then you quickly sneak back and then in the meantime I quickly sneak over and then we can have a nice little visit for, you know, 15 minutes or half an hour. Whatever you want.”
Lewinsky also bemoans how their previous “60 seconds” encounter “was just not enough even though you did look very handsome.”
Embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner and an attorney in the Federal Election Commission’s general counsel’s office appear to have twice colluded to influence the record before the FEC’s vote in the case of a conservative non-profit organization, according to e-mails unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee and obtained exclusively by National Review Online. The correspondence suggests the discrimination of conservative groups extended beyond the IRS and into the FEC, where an attorney from the agency’s enforcement division in at least one case sought and received tax information about the status of a conservative group, the American Future Fund, before recommending that the commission prosecute it for violations of campaign-finance law. Lerner, the former head of the IRS’s exempt-organizations division, worked at the FEC from 1986 to 1995, and was known for aggressive investigation of conservative groups during her tenure there, too.
The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.
“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as theirmetadata.
Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.
The first example in Welch’s piece, of course, was Chris Christie, who was heavily courted by the interventionist right in 2011 and 2012, when they hoped very much that he’d run for president. “I haven’t given any thought to foreign policy,” Christie told them. “Don’t worry about that,” said Henry Kissinger.
Having not given much thought to foreign policy in the past, Christie has now been given thoughts on foreign policy. Those thoughts are why he is suddenly talking like Lindsey Graham. And it’s working! “Is Christie the GOP’s best 2012 candidate?” Rubin asked a few weeks ago. (Her answer: yes.) Yesterday, in a post that still has an unfortunate stray apostrophe in the headline, Rubin again singled out Christie for praise, positioning him as the electable and acceptable alternative to those awful isolationists.
I’m not particularly looking forward to the ideological battle over the next few years between neoconservative GOP establishment ideologues and postmodern Paulastinian ideologues. A pox on both their houses. There’s a third option on foreign policy for conservaties that eschews both utopian nation-building in the Muslim world and the Pauls’ naive, neo-isolationsist surrender-mongering. It’s called Augustinian Realism and it’s defined in David P. Goldman’s book How Civilizations Die. See also Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy, the keepers of the flame of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy philosophy of “Peace through Strength.”
We can be pro-military and pro-intervention when necessary and above all HAWKISH. There are evil people in this world and they need to know that America is not to be F-ed with. The strategy for global peace is simple: attack us and we obliterate you. Not, attack us and we do nothing while CNN interviews you. What a global embarrassment this president has made of us — or rather, we have made of ourselves by electing this fraud twice.
Is it exhausting to continue to make works that are nihilistic?
I think “Auto Focus” is a hoot! I just sort of love those kind of characters! And the closest I came was the Elmore Leonard thing ["Touch"]. That was a comedy about a [person with stigmata] so I guess it’s not really a comedy. If I actually thought these things were dark, I don’t think I could make them. And I think everyone feels the same way. You talk to Bret, or Philip Roth, and they’re having a good time!
What has shifted so much?
My generation — we thought we could make a difference and make the world better. Bret’s generation thought they could make money. I don’t think that this current generation has any real aspirations. They’re making money, but I don’t think they’re that crazy about money. The characters make movies and they don’t like movies that much. They’re hooking up and they don’t like that much. The difference is, my parents and I always believed life would be better for the next generation. The current generation believes life is going to be worse for the next generation. It’s such a change for the future of humanity — the future is not something, now, that guarantees a better life.
It’s no surprise that Adam Carolla thinks his formerMan Show co-host and current best friend Jimmy Kimmel is poised to dominate the late night landscape. Appearing on HuffPost Live Tuesday, Carolla praised Kimmel and predicted he would be the “king of late night for the next 20 years.”
At The Blaze:
“Aslan is not writing a book slamming Jesus because of his Muslim beliefs. He’s not writing it because he’s an amazing historian who uncovered incredible new facts,” Beck asserted. “Make no mistake, he is a progressive radical above all else. He wants to change our understanding of history and our relationship to God to create social change.”
Beck continued: “His goal is to cause doubt in believers of Jesus and ultimately have them leave the faith like he did – so progressives will have more devoted followers who do whatever their hearts desire…Change our history, change our traditions — that’s what this is really all about, and the good news for Reza, he’s not trying to do this alone.”
At The Huffington Post:
In 2008 I started Straight Guise, a website and blog open to all who wish to read, post comments and have a dialogue about men who have sex with men. It explores the many reasons that men have sex with other men, only some of which have anything to do with homosexuality or bisexuality.
Many types of men engage in same-sex relationships, for a variety of reasons, which I will identify for you. Here are a few of them:
- Acting out early-childhood sexual abuse: This is also known as “homosexual imprinting.” These heterosexual men are not homosexually oriented. They do not sexually desire, nor are they aroused by, other men. However, they compulsively reenact childhood sexual abuse by male perpetrators through their sexual behaviors with other men. If a basically heterosexual boy is molested by a male relative, he may keep “returning to the scene of the crime” to defuse his emotional pain or desensitize himself to it. When his original trauma gets cleared up, the “homosexual” behavior he’s reenacting ceases. This isn’t about gayness; it is about sexual abuse.
At the Daily Mail:
Pornography producer Justin Ribeiro Dos Santos agrees: ‘As an industry, we have a massive influence over how men feel about their bodies.
‘Porn is now watched by so many people that, along with other media, we are changing how people feel about themselves.’
This could be said to be reflected in the increasing number of men going under the knife.
‘When I first started doing surgery around 10 to 15 per cent of my clientele were men,’ London-based cosmetic surgeon Dr Grant Hamlet told Alex.
‘But over the past six or seven years, it has grown to 60 per cent.’
The 24-acre community was built in the 1960s to house sugar cane workers. In 2009 the late Dick Witherow, a pastor with the Christian group Matthew 25 Ministries, began making housing available to sex offenders.
Witherow came up with the idea for the village largely because of a Florida state law that prevents offenders from living within 1,000ft of a school, park, day care centre or playground.
Some cities and counties have extended that to 2,500ft.
The village does not allow offenders who are convicted of violent sex crimes against strangers.
Jerry Youmans, the intake coordinator for the ministry who is also a registered sex offender, told the BBC: ‘We try not to accept people with a history of violence or drugs, or to take any diagnosed paedophile – that is, someone who can only become sexually aroused by a child.”
3. “No, I’m not an anarchist… OK, maybe I am.”
At CNN via Real Clear Religion:
1. Jesus was a violent revolutionary
Many scholars have argued that Jesus was a political figure. After all, he was crucified by Rome, and crucifixion was at the time a punishment for political offenses. But these scholars often claim, as John Dominic Crossan did in “Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography,” that Jesus was a nonviolent revolutionary.
Aslan portrays Jesus as a man of war who worshiped the “blood-spattered God of Abraham, and Moses, and Jacob, and Joshua” and who knew full well that “God’s sovereignty could not be established except through force.”
2. Jesus’ kingdom was worldly
In the Gospel of John, Jesus famously says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Aslan begs to differ. Jesus’ kingdom was neither purely nor predominantly spiritual. He preached “a physical and present kingdom: a real kingdom, with an actual king that was about to be established on earth.”
The state of Ohio is planning to build the Holocaust memorial pictured above on statehouse grounds as a most appropriate, poignant, and vital reminder to “lawmakers and those who work in and around government of the important role and responsibility they have in speaking out in the face of hatred, anti-Semetism and genocide” because “The Holocaust did not begin in concentration camps in the ovens with smoke stacks and mass graves. It began in the halls of government with the passage of laws that targeted Jews, taking their properties, their businesses, their home, their freedom and ultimately their lives.”
But I am aghast, livid, embarrassed, ashamed, and offended to report to you that Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has written a letter opposing this memorial under the false charge that it is exclusionary and violates the principle of the Separation of Church and State simply because it features the Star of David on government property and (only allegedly but not actually) omits other victims of the Holocaust. And David Silverman of the American Atheists has gone on FOX News also to attack this memorial on the same grounds.
At National Review:
At PowerLine Blog:
I would like for neither to be president. Christie seems, on balance, only slightly right of center. Maybe that’s a function of being governor of a Blue State; maybe not. But his embrace of President Obama in the final, decisive days of the 2012 presidential campaign still disgusts me. I would have to hold my nose to vote for Christie in a general election.
Paul’s views on foreign policy and national security are largely antithetical to mine. He’s also agrandstander, a clown, and maybe worse. I’m not sure I could vote for Paul in a general election even holding my nose.
At one point in his fight with Christie, Paul said “it’s not smart” for Republicans to be attacking Republicans. He then proceeded to twist the knife, suggesting that the New Jersey Governor “forget[s] that we have a Bill of Rights, forget[s] about privacy and give[s] up on all of our liberty [so] that you have to live in a police state.”
Did I mention that Paul is a grandstander and a clown?
Hat tip Kathy Shaidle:
You had one trip to the salad bar. So dammit, you had to make it count.
In China, Pizza Huts are either take-out only or somewhat upscale sit-down restaurants that even serve steak. A while back, it became a fad of sorts to build enormous fruit and vegetable structures at Pizza Hut salad bars. The reason was that customers only got one plate and one trip to the salad bar, so they wanted their visit to be worth it. And was it ever.
Does anyone read anymore? I mean, besides tweets from Anthony Weiner?
During his otherwise excellent commentaries on race in America, Bill O’Reilly, host of the No. 1 cable news show, claimed on Tuesday night that the one person who tried to help African-Americans more than any other was … Robert F. Kennedy!
No one laughed. I guess that’s what they’re teaching these days at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. (I can’t wait to hear how Ted Kennedy helped eradicate drunk driving!)
According to O’Reilly’s Bizarro-World history, Bobby Kennedy was “the guy who was really concerned about African-Americans” and “who really DID SOMETHING. … He went in with the federal government and he cleaned out the rat’s nest that was abusing African-Americans in the South.”
Although this myth has been polished to perfection by the Kennedy PR machine (requiring all Kennedy stories to illustrate either courage or adorableness), it is simply a fact that helping blacks was not the Democrats’ priority. Even the ones who wanted to, such as Bobby and John Kennedy, couldn’t risk upsetting the segregationists, more than 90 percent of whom were Democratic.
The job of actually enforcing civil rights and desegregating Southern schools fell to Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
Black Americans may say hosannas to Bobby Kennedy, but they would have to wait for Richard Nixon to become president to win the promise of Brown v. Board.
Within Nixon’s first two years in the White House, black students attending segregated schools in the South declined from nearly 70 percent to 18.4 percent. There was more desegregation of American public schools in Nixon’s first term than in any historical period before or since.
Thursday Dawn Book Reading:
Is there a connection between Ayn Rand’s rejection of Plato’s “mystical hole” and her advocacy of absolute self-worship? Pg. 98 of William F. Buckley Jr.’s novel Getting It Right
See the first three and a half weeks’ round-ups:
- Week One
- 1. Monday, July 8: “We Ought to Defeat Capitalism With Its Own Weapons, Comrades…“
- 2. Tuesday, July 9: Can We Just Fast Forward to 2040? Please?
- 3. Thursday, July 11: Researching the American Family’s War to Beat Death…
- Week Two
- 4. Monday, July 15: Turning On Mankind’s Magical Machines To Battle Mother Earth’s Cruel Monsters
- 5. Wednesday, July 17: ‘So, You Know How You Felt on 9/11? Yeah, That’s How We Feel When It Comes To Race.’
- 6. Thursday, July 18: ‘… And There We Can Still Maintain Our Mysterious and Dreadful Freedom.’
- 7. Friday, July 19: ‘Evil Always Takes Advantage of Ambiguity.’ – G.K. Chesterton
- Week Three
- 8. Monday, July 22: ‘His Father Urged Him to Study Marxism, But Valentin Preferred Science.’
- 9. Tuesday, July 23: ‘Perhaps The Final Secret of the Illuminati Is That You Don’t Know You’re A Member Until It’s Too Late to Get Out.’
- 10. Wednesday, July 24: Is Anthony Weiner a ‘Deviant’ or a ‘Normal’ Male?
- 11. Thursday, July 25: ‘The Most Ancient Conflict in Western Culture, Between Jew and Egyptian, Continues…’
- 12. Friday, July 26: Weiner’s Wild Women: Are Sydney Leathers and Huma Abedin His Succubi?
- Week Four
- 13. Monday, July 29: Malcolm X: ‘The Jew Cries Louder Than Anybody Else If Anybody Criticizes Him.’
- 14. Tuesday, July 30: ‘My Father Was a White Man.’ – Frederick Douglass, the Archetypal Anti-Slavery Republican
- 15. Wednesday, July 31: Why Is It Evil to Murder Unwanted Children?