We live in an era of disposable pop culture. All around us we see vapid reality series, uninspired (and uninspiring) music, movies that are little more than retreads of other bad ideas, and starlets who are famous merely for being famous. Of course, this stuff is not necessarily bad in and of itself – in fact, mindless pop culture can make for some great “guilty pleasure” moments.
The truth is, when any form of entertainment achieves excellence, we notice. Television programs like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, music by artists such as Mumford & Sons and Zac Brown Band, and films like Lincoln and Les Miserables attract attention because they raise the bar in their genre.
The idea of excellence as something for which to strive goes back to the Bible. Jewish and Christian believers alike are aware of the admonishments in Scripture to give our all. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon advises:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)
And the Apostle Paul encourages the believers in Colosse:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Walt Disney himself felt the pull to achieve excellence, in part because his name was on every product the Studio created. He once said, “Anything that has a Disney name to it is something we feel responsible for.” He instilled the value of excellence in his staff as well – he once hailed his staff as “the ones who insist on doing something better and better.” A sign on a construction wall from my last trip to Walt Disney World expresses this value.
Over the course of the next couple of pages, we’re going to take a look at how this value of excellence shows up throughout Disney culture.
Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 in Becky Graebner’s dissection of how Netflix’s House of Cards series compares with real life in the political jungle of Washington D.C. And drop by PJ Lifestyle each Wednesday for new installments in the series.
The topic of infidelity isn’t exactly funny—or a subject that many T.V. producers and writers can write into their plots without making the audience completely hate the characters engaged. House of Cards’ writing involving the marriage and unfaithfulness of Frank and Claire is subtly genius and creepy–because the audience doesn’t necessarily come to completely dislike either characters for their moral derailment. This might mean that the writing is so genius, the audience is tricked into not judging the cheating characters, or it might simply shed some light on the moral condition of D.C. and greater society. I think it is a little bit of both.
When people gain power, they start to feel untouchable. And when they think they are untouchable, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. They are also more likely to become a target for those who also seek fame, power, and wealth. Celebrities and politicians frequently fall prey to a false sense of indestructibility, as well as to power-hungry, attention gremlins…and some are lead astray from their marriages.
Infidelity is not a phenomenon specific to Washington, D.C.—it occurs from sea to shining sea–but the sinful game has higher stakes in The District. Due to the nature of the cheating players’ jobs, their environment, and media coverage, unfaithfulness seems to be both concentrated and magnified in D.C. History is full of famous “D.C. wanderings.” It’s pathetic that I have so many to choose from. Let’s start at the top…
Last week’s article: Beating Back the Nazi “Sickness”
Zombies are all the rage these days. AMC’s The Walking Dead reigns as the top-watched drama on basic cable. Films like Warm Bodies, Zombieland, and I Am Legend stand out among recent entries in an enduring horror subgenre. None other than Brad Pitt will headline this year’s World War Z, which looks to amp up its action well beyond the shuffling flesh-eaters of yesteryear.
That’s to say nothing of video games, where the undead continue to suck cash from willing gamers anxious to live out an apocalyptic fantasy. Whether its Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, or downloadable add-ons to Call of Duty, zombie hoards batter down the doors of our collective consciousness. What exactly makes them so popular?
Like the Nazis we considered last week, zombies provide guilt free slaughter. No one feels bad about shooting something that’s already dead. Plus, because zombies were once living human beings, they provide a cathartic release for that deeply suppressed homicidal impulse none of us want to admit to harboring.
Zombies are amoral. They have no agenda, no emotional motivation, no plan. They simply menace. So putting them down presents no moral dilemma. What would be murder were they living becomes a wholly defensible act of survival. The very nature of a zombie marks it for destruction. Since it has no feelings and endures no torment, the acceptable methods for disposing of a zombie are bound only by the imagination of the killer. So zombies enable creative guilt-free violence on a scale limited only by their numbers.
Zombies also serve an adaptive narrative purpose in storytelling. While they more often than not simply lurk around the corner as boogeymen, the nature of a zombie can be tweaked to represent certain themes. In George Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, the film which birthed the modern undead flesh-eater, zombies were implied to be the fulfillment of biblical revelation. Writing for The Washington Post, commentator Christopher Moreman expounds:
The zombie apocalypse is often equated with the wrath of God and biblical end times. Though the origins of zombie outbreaks usually remain indeterminate in the genre, most zombie narratives indicate that we brought this upon ourselves. Whether corporations, the government, or the military are to blame, the average person also bears fault for participating in a corrupt system, just as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were collectively responsible for God’s wrath.
Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead took the theme a step further, assigning a decisively anti-capitalist overtone to the narrative. The undead converged upon a shopping mall, retracing the routines of their former lives.
I grew up in a small town and went to college in the Midwest, got my first “real” job on the east coast, and moved to Washington, D.C. I’m sure the Washingtonians could smell fresh blood the moment I stepped out of the car. Although I have been here for a few years, I always find Washington, D.C. hard to describe—it isn’t a normal city and it doesn’t play by normal rules. Manners are rare and the smile exotic. If the district had a “state” song and a “district” animal… it would be “Money” by Pink Floyd and the indestructible cockroach.
Yes, Washington, D.C. is gorgeous and a lot of good people work and live here; the picturesque bridges over the Potomac river, the utopian dream that is George Washington Parkway, and constant influxes of young, bright-eyed people who want to change the world. However, despite its white, marble buildings and shining waters, D.C. is not all that it seems. Rules have been suspended within the 68.3 sq miles of The District. In fact, D.C. becomes a sort of alternative universe compared to the rest of the country.
A lot of television shows are set here, most recently, the political-thriller House of Cards (HoC). Why is D.C. a popular “show” location? Probably because any ridiculous plot line can work here—anything can happen and be believable. As a Washingtonian watching HoC, it is easy to say that its “fiction” is more similar to reality than one would like to admit. Be afraid. The following are three HoC characters you would meet in D.C.—Washingtonians know them well.
SPOILER ALERT: for those of you who have not seen all of House of Cards, season one, be warned.
Bitter Clingers Have Taken Over Your Television, or How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Duck
Did you hear that? The shotgun blast heard ‘round the world? It happened when A&E Network’s hit reality TV show Duck Dynasty reached over 8 million viewers in its season premiere.
Like any gunshot, it got my attention. I tuned in to see what all the fuss is about and am now hopelessly hooked on this revolutionary bit of televised perfection. I quickly discovered that Duck Dynasty has very little to do with ducks or duck hunting, and everything to do with traditional American values and the current American condition.
Like all great television, Duck Dynasty works because it follows a proven formula. In the case of Duck Dynasty, that formula is the roadmap to realizing the quintessential American dream. Have a clever idea. Sacrifice. Work harder than the next guy. Make it happen. Earn your wealth the old-fashioned way. Pass the business and its blessings along to your children and grandchildren. Have fun. Never forget where, or what, you came from. Give thanks to God. Repeat.
Like most rednecks and hillbillies, the starring members of the Robertson clan of West Monroe, Louisiana, are as clever as the proverbial old swamp fox. And so are the development execs at A&E. With Duck Dynasty they’ve struck more than ratings gold. They’ve struck a vital nerve in contemporary American culture. And I think they know exactly what they are doing.
Each week millions think they’re tuning in to watch the crazy and entertaining antics of a bunch of rich rednecks with beautiful wives, powerful trucks, bountiful firearms, a knack for explosives and avoiding the drudgery of work, and an endless supply of homespun one-liners.
So, you want to pitch a TV show – a sitcom no less! Or maybe you’re just an armchair TV enthusiast, a mental writer playing out episodes of the ideal sitcom in your head. Whether your concept is ideal or idyllic, if you want to get it off the ground, you need to get your head out of the clouds and start viewing your human reality in terms of numbers – good numbers. Take a tip from Seth MacFarlane: Be sure to include an African American, a disabled character, and an Asian Reporter if you want to stand a chance in TV land.
In other words, start counting your minorities.
It’s all in the spirit of being fair that we view people based on their color, class, gender, or physical ability. Not only is it fair, it is super easy to follow the 4-step program for crafting your perfectly pitch-able TV sitcom.
So, get out your calculators and get ready for a math lesson in how to write a situation comedy for television!
Throughout this series I’ve questioned where the line is drawn between reflecting and affecting when it comes to the media’s relationship with real life. Either way, the determining factor is relatability. You aren’t going to imitate something unless you can relate to it, and if you can’t relate to a show, chances are it isn’t anywhere near a reflection of who you are.
So, in the interest of all things entertainment, let’s take a simple quiz to determine your relatability factor when it comes to the portrayal of “traditional family” on television using two popular prime-time family-themed shows: Family Guy and The Middle.
Family Guy: The show is apathetic, even nihilistic at times, mocks the same politically correct values it thrives on, and typifies men and women in terms taught best in Gender Studies 101. The Middle is one of a handful of shows to make it to the air that depicted exactly what its title intimated: a middle -lass, middle-of-the-road family living in the middle of nowhere, America. As working middle class as the Griffins, the Hecks are a family of five that mirrors the demographics of the Quahog clan: father, mother, two sons with a daughter in the middle.
So, what’s your relatability factor? And how does your relatability compare with the ratings? Take this simple five-question quiz to find out!
Poor Seth MacFarlane. The guy sings one song about boobs and suddenly he’s #1 on the Hates Women List with a Steinem next to his name. (That means if they capture him, she gets to rag on him incessantly. Who wouldn’t want a bullet after that?)
It’d be too easy to join the chorus singing, “MacFarlane hates women.” As a woman, I despise the cop-outs women often take, chiding every man as being both the desired master of her universe and the despised crafter of her fate. If we really believe in Girl Power, what’s our responsibility in all of this? Are we allowing the fate scripted by guys like MacFarlane to come true?
It took about 10 minutes to pull video for the following five most common stereotypes about women portrayed in Family Guy. The sad news is that it took about 15 to pull five examples of the same behavior from the most popular Girl Power reality television show out there: The Kardashians. Praised by some feminists as career women comfortable in their own skin, it has been observed that “50 years ago, the Kardashians could never live the way they do. It’s all thanks to the Feminist movement that they are who they are – and they embrace every benefit from it fully.”
So, culture judges that you are, tell me: Is the evidence compelling? Is MacFarlane a He-Man Woman Hater, or do the Kardashians prove that girls finally busted through the glass ceiling in the tree house and joined the club?
DirecTV is about to enter the world of provider-creating original programming pioneered by Netflix. Its debut series is Rogue, a psychological cop drama that will launch on DirecTV’s Audience channel beginning tonight at 9 pm eastern.
Thandie Newton stars as Grace Travis,
“a morally and emotionally-conflicted undercover detective, is tormented by the possibility that her own actions contributed to her son’s mysterious death. In her quest for the truth, Grace finds herself striking out on her own and falling deeper into the city’s most powerful and dangerous crime family. As Grace struggles to become the wife and mother her family now needs, her life is further complicated by a forbidden relationship with crime boss Jimmy Laszlo. In order to stay alive, Grace needs to help Jimmy find the traitor in his midst, while knowing he may have played a part in her tragedy.”
That’s what the publicity campaign says about the show’s central character and driving plot. Unfortunately, that’s about as good as the writing gets across the show’s two debut episodes. The whole production looks stylish but has a lazy heart.
Early in the first episode, Grace does turns as an undercover cop trying to get inside gangster Jimmy Lazlo’s (Marton Csokas) empire, and mom who never sees her kids. Her husband (Kavan Smith) is a tattooed, muscular Mr. Mom whose outward appearance hides a big softie. In real life it’s hard to see how a police investigator as tough and courageous as Grace could put up with such a whiny man. By the end of the second episode, that problem seems well on its way to being solved. Body builder husband and bad boy Lazlo are equally implausible cardboard characters. Why Grace would bother tearing herself up over either one is never answered. Mobster or marshmallow: Why bother making that call?
Watch out, ladies in the dating world: Family Guy’s prized demographic is totally Petarded.
According to the show’s creator, Family Guy’s target audience is men ages 18-34. This happens to be one of the most desirable demographics for advertisers and women looking to eventually get married and settle down.
Who hasn’t dreamed of a life with Peter Griffin?
Obviously, not all men between the ages of 18 and 34 are going to find the humor of Family Guy appealing. Yet a growing majority of them do. I long ago learned as a woman not to attempt to comment on the male psyche; why these men find Family Guy so appealing is not in my realm of interest. However, the message Family Guy sends about masculinity is so apparent that I can’t help but laugh at this not-so-subtle irony: Most women looking for men, the ladies trolling the clubs and hitting Happy Hours at the bars, are the ones who tend to stereotype men exactly the way they are portrayed on the show.
After reading about a newly published scientific book titled The Mystery of the Shroud, which attempts to prove that the Shroud of Turin actually dates back to the time of Jesus, I planned on writing what you are about to read.
Then, an hour before my scheduled writing time, I “just happened” to notice a Facebook post that read:
Christmas was the promise — Easter is the proof.
That phrase truly resonated with me because of the word “proof.”
But do believers really have proof that Jesus was resurrected from the dead?
After twenty years of reading about and studying the Shroud of Turin (and even viewing it in 2010), I have all the “proof” I need. Although let me state emphatically that my faith — and the faith of most people who are celebrating “Resurrection Sunday” today — does not depend on any physical proof whatsoever.
For we know that Jesus is alive and His Spirit lives in us; that is all the proof we need.
Still, physical proof of Christ’s resurrection would be useful, especially when one tries to convince loved ones to believe in what more than a billion people around the world believe today.
So what if this new Shroud of Turin scientific study really does prove conclusively that the Shroud cloth dates back to the time of Jesus? Does that mean mankind finally has the proof it needs to believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead after dying on the cross?
We are certainly getting close to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” and here are some reasons why this is happening now.
Part 1 of a 4 Part series Deconstructing Family Guy
When Seth MacFarlane sang about boobs at the Oscars, I’m pretty sure he was referring to his own fans.
Most of the time it is taken for granted that we recognize the latent moronic nature of most television programming today.
Then again, do we?
If we agreed as a culture that television programming like Family Guy is so moronic, why would a collective cheer rise up at the sight of another Emmy win? Would we be told by media commentary royalty to worship Seth MacFarlane, the show’s creator, as fascinating? Not only does the guy have mega street cred in the pop culture universe, the primetime structure he’s so wholeheartedly mocked is singing his praises. In fact, it could be said that Family Guy’s seemingly counterculture humor has been legalized by the mainstream.
What’s more, like a bad addiction, Family Guy is the drug that has turned a generation of Boob-Tube addicts into junkies. So, what are the signs, Doctor? How do you know when a co-worker, a friend, even a loved one has become a total Boob? Let’s play MediaMD as we examine the 5 most common side effects of watching Family Guy.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “_____ and _____ are worried about an economic collapse.” National Geographic should simply change the name of their hit show from Doomsday Preppers to Surviving Obama and be done with it.
Where was I? Oh, I remember.
Brad and Krystal are the parents of three near Tulsa, Oklahoma, and worried about an economic collapse. They’ve been preppers for several years, and have amassed enough food stores that they are beginning to overwhelm their 2,000 sq. ft. home. Their closets and rooms are overflowing to the point that just to get into bed Krystal has to climb over Brad; her side of the bed is packed with canned food.
Moments after we are introduced to the family and shown around their warehouse/home, we shuffle off to the shooting range, where the family is intent on introducing their youngest son, six-year-old Carson, to shooting.
Putting a six year old in charge of a firearm sends up a big red flag to many people, whether they are shooters or not. In the end, it is a call that the parents and instructors have to make: is this specific child mature enough to follow instructions to the letter? Is the environment controlled, with limited distractions? Are all the basic safety rules being followed, and is that child’s exposure to the firearm tightly supervised, and restricted to the firing line? Is there a need/way to restrict the muzzle of the firearm so that it can only point downrange?
As a rifle-shooting instructor, these are some of the concerns that ran through my mind when I heard they were going to put Carson on the firing line, and it turns out those concerns were well-grounded.
The family can’t even get out of the house without serious safety violations, such as when their kids walk out the front door holding uncased firearms by the stocks, and young Carson is pointing the muzzle of his .22LR singe-shot at his sister’s ankles and their concrete driveway. Oy vey!
Most Overrated: The West Wing
I have to confess I didn’t watch much of this show, after the first episode featured a group of antisemitic “conservative” teachers (as though that’s a bigger problem with conservatives) and President Martin Sheen, I mean Josiah Bartlett, telling a bunch of conservative pastors (in real life, Israel’s best friends) to “get your fat asses out of my office.” That easy, clichéd slander was enough for me.
This show was constant liberal wish fulfillment throughout its run, like any production from the much-overrated Aaron Sorkin that directly deals with politics. Knock down straw men that represent liberal nightmares about conservatives, then be all self-congratulatory for taking on the “tough issues.”
In 2002, President Bartlett’s campaign was against the typical Republican candidate, a stupid, Southern right-wing governor, so it was an easy victory — despite the fact that the most recent president was someone that Hollywood considered a stupid, Southern right-wing governor. And a year after 9/11, the central issue seemed to be green energy; and, of course, liberal goodness and farsightedness won the day because the president had the good sense to embrace it.
In 2005, the show presented the “ideal” Republican candidate. The one that liberals supposedly fear the most. A pro-choice moderate played by… wait for it… Alan Alda!
His most triumphant moment is his refusal to go to a conservative mega-church and a declaration against religious tests. But, alas, he is a Republican, so of course he is most afraid of a dynamic Latino candidate on the Democrat side, the idealistic Jimmy Smits, and uses immigration as a wedge issue to hurt him in his own primary, leading to this slapdown by a close aide:
But aside from the constant liberal fantasy, there are two things that anyone who has ever worked for — or even with — government has to find laughable. First, the idea that government at any level doesn’t move with the speed of a glacier.
And second — adding to the ponderous pretentiousness of the show — did the White House not pay its light bill? The noirish atmosphere may be dramatic, but government buildings are anything but dimly lit, and their favorite type of lighting tends to be fluorescent.
During the run of The West Wing, every successful Republican for president in a generation had run as a conservative, while every successful Democrat had run disguised as a moderate. Of course, 2012 changed all that…
GRADE: The Show Overall — C, the Campaign — D
It’s nearly impossible to review a show on the fly, so I’ve relied on DVRing each new episode of Doomsday Preppers, and reviewing it the next day. This worked great until last week, when for whatever reason episode 14, “A Fortress at Sea,” didn’t record. I chalked it up to there being a mid-season re-run (they happen), and didn’t know otherwise until a reader asked my why I didn’t review it. Oops.
So, this week we’re going to do the best we can and condense two episodes “A Fortress at Sea” and “Let Her Rip” into one post. Call it “Ripped at Sea,” which is what I’m going to wish I was after doing a twofer.
Ready? Here we go!
Kevin and Annissa Coy live in Washington atate and were impacted by the explosion of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Along with their children and grandchildren, they are preparing against the threat of another eruption from one of five active volcanoes within striking distance of their home, including the country-killer, Yellowstone.
They have multiple vehicles to bug-out in, including a truck towing a 5th-wheel RV, a converted Greyhound bus, a 27-foot sailboat on a trailer, and a rollback wrecker to tote a micro-house in case the worst happens. They’ve got livestock (chickens, pigs, rabbits, etc), a year’s supply of food for the entire family… and problems.
Prior to the show, their efforts, while generally well thought-out, had been hypothetical. When it came time to put the theory into practice, that hit several serious snags. The truck that they had to pull the livestock trailer was jacked up too high to connect to the trailer, so they were forced to leave most large livestock behind to die in the hypothetical ash cloud (sorry, Porky). The chickens and rabbits ended up shoved into the luggage compartments of the bus, and I frankly think they stand a decent chance of dying of carbon monoxide poisoning since those aren’t very well-ventilated.
The micro-house Kevin built for Annissa, sadly, wouldn’t load up on the flatbed. Presumably, they need a better skid system under it.
The show’s experts at Practical Preppers dinged the Coys pretty hard for not having adequate water filtration figured out (if someone knows of a volcanic ash-/sludge-rated water filter, please let me know) and for security preps. I was a little uncertain about that, but since the only firearms showed on their segment were a bolt action .22LR and a scoped-deer rifle, it might mean they didn’t have sufficient firepower and/or numbers, since it is rather difficult to drive and shoot. They give them 11 months of survival time.
Ed Schultz, the bombastic host of MSNBC’s The Ed Show, has been dumped from the network’s weekday lineup and exiled to the weekend.
I suppose if screaming at the camera and conjuring up bloodthirsty deaths for your political opponent is your thing, you will probably miss Mr. Ed and his strident, take no prisoners liberalism.
For the rest of us, relief that we can remove the cotton from our ears that we used when listening to his show.
Allah captures exactly the right mix of haughty disdain and astonishment at Schultz’s reaction to the humiliating demotion:
Rarely will you see a crap sandwich devoured with the sort of gusto displayed in the video below. If prior media reports are accurate, this is not a guy who’s reacted well in the past to seeing his profile at MSNBC lowered. Last November, when the whispering began that he’d soon be replaced, he handled it … predictably. And yet there he was last night, practically ready to high-five the cameraman over his banishment to the Island of “Lockup” Re-Runs. If he’s feeling bold, he should end tonight’s show with the clip of Ian Faith talking about Spinal Tap’s appeal becoming “more selective.” Have fun with it!
Dylan Byers at Politico:
Like former MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, Schultz suggested that the move was his choice: “I’m very proud of the work our team has done here at 8 PM, but sitting behind this desk five nights a week doesn’t cut it for me,” he said. “I want to get out with the people and tell their stories. This show has been a show that has been a voice for the voiceless. That really was my mission when I came here and it remains.”
Sources at MSNBC told POLITICO that that was a very generous interpretation of events. Schultz was pushed out to make way for new talent, they said.
Media Decoder points out that the real reason for the decision was demographics:
The change is predicated on the belief that MSNBC can win a wider audience with Mr. Hayes than it did with Mr. Schultz, a champion of the working class whose bluster didn’t always pair well with Ms. Maddow and the channel’s other prime-time program, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” Mr. Hayes, on the other hand, is just as wonky as Ms. Maddow and Mr. O’Donnell, and is a regular contributor to both of their programs.
“Chris has done an amazing job creating a franchise on weekend mornings,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC. “He’s an extraordinary talent and has made a strong connection with our audience.”
Mr. Hayes, 34, will be the youngest host of a prime-time show on any of the country’s major cable news channels, all of which seek out youthful viewers but tend to have middle-aged hosts and a core audience made up of senior citizens. Of Mr. Schultz’s one million viewers last year, for example, only 249,000 were between the ages of 25 and 54.
At least when Hayes savages conservatives he does it quietly. That will be a huge improvement from Schultz who now gets to exercise his vocal chords on a virtually empty stage over the weekend.
It was a long time coming: Netflix users in the U.S. can now reveal their viewing habits and tastes to their Facebook friends.
Netflix announced today that its U.S. members will be able to connect to Facebook and agree to share favorite TV shows and movies on Netflix. The company will be turning on the feature “over the coming days” and expects that all U.S. members will have access to the social feature by the end of the week.
“By default, sharing will only happen on Netflix,” Cameron Johnson, director of product innovation at Netflix, wrote in a blog post. “You’ll see what titles your friends have watched in a new ‘Watched by your friends’ row and what they have rated four or five stars in a new ‘Friends’ Favorites’ row. Your friends will also be able to see what you watch.”
Worried that your friends will now know you’ve got a thing for the lesser works of Sylvester Stallone or the outre offspring of the racy Russ Meyer? Netflix wants to reassure you that that doesn’t have to happen.
Picked this up from USA Today.
Bonnie Franklin was best known for her series “One Day At A Time”, playing a divorced mother of two girls, played by Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli. I remember the series fondly, mostly because I thought all three of them were hot. The show was known for all sorts of dumb firsts, starting with first sitcom based around a divorced woman, but really worked because Franklin, Phillips, and Bertinelli played real, warm, flawed people. Franklin was also an accomplished musical performer, with lead roles in Broadway musicals.
She died today of pancreatic cancer, and is survived by her mother and stepsons.
Thanks to my mother’s English heritage, and her dedicated preservation of it, I may be one of the few non-British viewers to have seen the original House of Cards long before the American remake. Having just “binge-viewed,” as Netflix no doubt intended, the remake – now the talk of the chattering classes and the entertainment industry – I wonder if this was a disadvantage for me. I was left constantly comparing the two, and while the American House of Cards is good television, beautifully made and surprisingly addictive, it is nothing compared to the BBC’s 1990 masterpiece.
As many readers likely now know, 2013’s version of House of Cards features Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, a skilled but utterly amoral House Majority Whip who, refused a major cabinet post by the new president, schemes his way to the top over the bodies of his rivals. Along for the ride, consciously or not, are his mistress, an ambitious reporter played by Kate Mara; a troubled congressman Underwood ruthlessly uses and discards; and the one person he never truly betrays, his loyal but conflicted wife.
It has its virtues, no doubt. Spacey is brilliant, as he always is when he plays monstrous but charming and fascinating anti-heroes. The machinations of both press and politicians seem far more realistic than on such idealized shows as The West Wing. And under the supervision of talented film director David Fincher, the show looks extraordinary, with cinematography and production design that easily surpasses most current feature films. Nonetheless, it doesn’t quite work; and likely because it either ignores or consciously throws aside everything that made the BBC House of Cards a landmark and a legend in the history of British television.
PJ Media had the opportunity to interview The Amazing Kreskin of TV talk show fame about being a real-life mentalist and guru of predictions. But our time with Kreskin included discussions ranging from the psychology of mobs, the modern American entitlement class and much more. PJ Media also obtained four predictions about the future of America from Kreskin and spoke with him about his new book Conversations With Kreskin.
PJ Media: What is your new book about?
Kreskin: This is one of the most exciting delights I’ve done in my life. I’ve written 19 books and this is one is like a dream. It has behind the scenes of my record 88 shows with Johnny Carson and other hosts. The middle part has 8 pages of a comic by Joe St. Pierre of the first incident in my life that defined what I was going to do with my life. One of the passions of my life is to make predictions. This includes predictions based on the power of human suggestion.
I’m not a psychic; I’m not a fortune teller. But I predicted the outcome of the presidential primary election one year and four months before the election. I’ve done 71 interviews about it. I wrote out who I thought would be picked by the Republican Party for Vice-President a year in advance. I picked Paul Ryan. I’ve been asked endlessly how I did this. I jogged the night before my prediction and this name kept popping in my head. I knew the Democrats were going to win in November and I knew the person who would be picked for Vice-President.
PJ Media: You do lots of shows around the world, what is your wildest in-flight experience and did you know how it would end?
Kreskin: I’m on a plane, I’m flying to Sacramento from NBC in Los Angeles. It’s an hour after we should have landed. The flight attendant tells us we can’t get the landing gear down and might have to foam the runway. I went to the back of the plane to use the restroom. Back in my seat, I hear grinding noises and they announce that the gear was finally put down.
I’m the first to get off the plane, and at the bottom of the steps are the pilots. They thanked me. They said that the nervous passengers saw you walking around the plane and figured that if you were calmly walking around, that they knew the plane would be fine.
Ah, lucky 13. We’ve hit the 13th episode of Doomsday Preppers, Season Two, and what have we learned so far?
We’ve developed an understanding that the single most common reason for prepping is the imminent collapse of the economy and the ensuing chaos that follows such an event. We’ve learned that the producers of this show — and to be fair, the producers of almost every “reality” show — have an eye for the eccentric and the absurd. The more outlandish and unhinged the prepper, it seems, the better chance they stand of getting on the show. That allowed, there have been some very ingenious preppers who have made the cut this season as well and impressed even the most grizzled critics with their ingenuity.
Craig Compeau lives in southeastern Alaska, the “last frontier,” with his wife and teenage daughters. The owner of a boat sales company, Craig fears an economic collapse and popular revolt that leads to martial law.
Should that eventuality come to pass, Craig intends to get his family out of Fairbanks fast and into Alaska’s rugged interior where limited government forces aren’t likely to try and chase down individual families in the bush.
For the time being, Craig’s family is split up. His wife and older daughter are in a different part of Alaska pursuing medical degrees, while he keeps the home-fires burning and the preps, er, prepping. This isn’t easy on his younger daughter, Emily, who, like most teens, thinks her parents are nuts.
True to form for the show, Craig wakes Emily before dawn and takes her on on a forced retreat to their bug-out location.
In southeastern Tennessee, Doug is known as the “Rockman.” No, it has nothing to do with his passing resemblance to retired WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels, who was part of a tag-team called “The Rockers” in the 1980s, when Doug last cut his hair. Instead, Doug is called the Rockman for a far more direct reason: he finds, excavates, and sells rocks. Boulders, to be specific, of the visually appealing kind that find their way into carefully designed landscaping projects for commercials and residential clients. It takes a discerning eye, and not a small amount of brute force.
Like tens of thousands (if not millions) of Americans, Doug is worried about an economy he sees faltering and on the cusp of failing. This has become the most common recurring theme pushing people into prepping nationwide, both on and off the show.
In order to have something as a trade good after the expected collapse of paper dollars, Doug has come up with an interesting way to “prospect” for silver, at his local bank. Doug exchanges his paper money for roll after roll of half-dollar coins, and takes them home to crack them open. Once opened, he looks only at the edges of the coins, quickly discarding those that show copper, to single out older coins that might be made of silver. In the 2,000 half dollars he picked up during this bank run, 12 of them were older coins made with varying amounts of silver. The $6 of coins are actually worth more than $100 in silver. Doug will keep these for barter, while rolling the rest and shipping them back to the bank for their face value. One day soon, he’ll repeat the process again.
The Dallas Sci-Fi Expo wrapped up on Sunday, February 10. We snapped photos of some of the best, most creative and most disturbing costumes of the show. Click on a thumbnail below to view photo galleries. They’re divided into Girls, Groups, and Guys.
You can see more costumes from the Dallas Sci-Fi Expo here.
We interviewed Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer, here.
And ran into MickeyDeadMau5Trooper here.
John and Kelly Taylor are retired firefighters from Florida who have moved to the mountains of Virginia to live on a 41-acre homestead.
What led them to leave the Sunshine State?
Former emergency responders, they’ve been on duty during hurricanes and other natural disasters, and they’ve seen how thin the veneer of civilization can be when the infrastructure holding our society breaks down for even a little while. They’ve seen mankind go primal, and they want to insulate themselves from the social unrest that will follow what they feel is a coming economic collapse. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah.
They invested all of John’s retirement into prepping. The little income they do have of $4,000-$6,000 a year comes from their solar panel array, which not only provides all the power they can use, but generates enough energy that they sell the remainder to the power company.
Between their crops, animals, and honey bees, the Taylors have managed to “check out” of the normal monetary economy, rendering them largely immune to the direct impact of the financial collapse they fear must come.
Of course, what they can’t do is isolate themselves 100% from the sort of social unrest that would presumably follow such a collapse, and so they’re taking steps to defend what they’ve built.
In the event that they are forced from their homestead due to invaders, they have supply caches in the hills nearby, and have a desire to protect them. Their solution? Conibear traps. I don’t claim to be an expert on trapping, but I’ve heard the stories of body traps such as these designed for possums and beavers killing family pets, and I find it both unethical and possibly illegal to set such traps and leave them unattended as they seem intent on doing. It’s also incredibly stupid. Do they really think a trap designed for a small animal is going to stop even the blind man that doesn’t see the shiny metal traps, or it is just going to tip invaders off that something nearby is worth taking?