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No Need to Read Anything Else Because Here’s What Will Happen with the Duggars

Monday, May 25th, 2015 - by Michael T. Hamilton
Photo via Duggar Family Blog

Photo via Duggar Family Blog

Here’s what will happen with the Duggars:

19. Within a month, Josh and dad Jim Bob will issue fuller statements clarifying apparently contradictory narratives among the family’s joint Facebook message, the police report filed by Jim Bob, and other details disclosed by family members and inferred by bloggers and journalists.

18. Within six months, Josh and wife Anna, who will stand by him for many reasons, one of which is that Josh confessed everything to her years ago, will give interviews on Sixty Minutes or Oprah or something, reinforcing the tragedy’s redemptive themes.

17. Within a year, TLC will resume airing 19 Kids and Counting, possibly changing the show’s title (again) to signify a new, wiser chapter in the Duggar family’s very public history.

16. Within two years, Josh will write a book that contextualizes his teenage sins within the dark-hearted rebellious period of a confused, pubescent male in a mildly but increasingly famous, and oddly populous, family led by two parents whose marriage silently screams “SEX,” despite their modesty and monogamy.

15. The book, which will be titled something like What Really Counts, or Counting What Counts, will sell big and prove a key step toward rehabilitating Josh’s image, which for the next 20 years will be even more overtly Christian as he accepts countless invitations from evangelicals to speak on themes such as the gospel of Christ, slavery to sin, secret sin, God’s redemptive plan, and leadership.

14. Concurrently with releasing his book, Josh will found a not-for-profit ministry dedicated to (i) exhorting young men and women to expose hidden sins that are holding them captive by turning to Christ and counseling, and (ii) urging parents, pastors, and friends to be as supportive, firm, and forgiving as Josh’s were.

See next page to find out “Why These Things Will Happen.”

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Fake Show About Reality Shows Coming to Lifetime

Monday, May 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s like professional wrestling. We all know reality television is staged, but fans watch it with relish anyway.

The Lifetime network has a new drama about reality shows in the works. UnREAL premieres June 1st. From Variety:

The show’s co-creator, writer and supervising producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, said she and fellow co-creator and exec producer Marti Noxon are using the show to expose the reality of the reality TV industry.

“It’s a very dark look at the underbelly of a culture that we’ve all become really used to — specifically women destroying other women and what motivates that,” she said. “Another thing we explore is the princess fantasy and the idea of why we are all so attracted to these shows that make us feel really bad about ourselves.”

Perhaps it can lead to the inevitable reality show about a reality show.

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Reality TV Hits New Tasteless Height: ‘What’s Next, Big Brother Auschwitz?’

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Forward picked up the Telegraph‘s report on a new Czech reality TV show that requires participants to live under Nazi occupation:

Just when you think reality television has reached peak absurdity levels, the trashy TV gods deliver something like this. Presenting “Holiday in the Protectorate,” a Czech show that requires a family to live for two-months under World War II-like conditions, Gestapo included.

According to the Telegraph , the lucky three-generations will have to contend with actors playing Nazi informants and soldiers, food shortages on a farm decked out with 76-year-old furniture. The whole thing will play out in period-appropriate clothing and with rare original currency, to add to the sense of terror and uncertainty.

Czech critics are up in arms, threatening to file complaints and questioning what kind of Pandora’s box will be opened thanks to this show. The program’s director responded with the following creepy statement:

“We are aware that it is controversial to return to so turbulent a period,” she continued. “However, we believe that it is correct to attempt to do this, providing that certain ethical rules and historical reality are observed.”

And the Czech Emmy for Most Creative Use of the Term “Ethical” Goes To….

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HBO to Air Political Drama Starring Star Wars’ Oscar Issac

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

From the creator of The Wire comes a new HBO miniseries portraying local political intrigue triggered by a federal order to establish low-income housing in an American city. The project stars Oscar Issac, currently seen stalking halls and abusing robots in Ex Machina and soon to appear in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as the mayor of the city in question. From The Los Angeles Times:

Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin, [Show Me a Hero] also stars Catherine Keener, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, LaTanya Richardson-Jackson, Bob Balaban and Jim Belushi.

[The mayor's attempt to establish public housing] tears the city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.

Anticipate some heavy-handed messaging around racism, and little to no sympathy for property rights or local control.

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Scotch and Soda: TV’s Mad Men Concludes

Monday, May 18th, 2015 - by James Lileks

If there’s one thing you can take away from the Mad Men finale, it’s this: the lipsyncing was really bad in that Coke commercial.

Before the last show ran, AMC played a montage of key scenes with sappy “Do You Remember (the highlights of Your Life)” that drenched the show in tear-jerking awwww sap — even though half the shots they chose were, at the time, underlaid with some sort of unhappiness or doubt. It’s almost as if the show was intended to be one thing, and was received as another. It’s almost as if AMC wanted us to see it that way. Remember when Don and Megan kissed on his birthday at the party? DO YOU REMEMMMMMBER? Yeah, I remember he was mortified by her sexy song.

So: Happy endings. For everyone!  Well, except for Betty. Roger’s about to learn you can’t cure crazy, but for now it’s fun. (The scene where he stalked out of the bedroom trailing a sheet like a wedding train reminds you how funny the show was, and how much of that humor came from Roger.) Joan is successful, even though you have to wonder what exactly she did except glare imperiously. Peggy found True Love through a charming but not entirely credible sequence. Pete’s starring in a get-up-and-go airline commercial.

All the wounds were stanched and cauterized, and Dick / Don, fused into one happy person, gets one more chance and creates something enduring. If, that is, you believe that he went back. I hope so. If a show that celebrated the mid-century style ended up in a hippie commune where Enlightenment is yours if you just sit cross-legged and polish your peace — it’s depressing, really. It suggests that Don was such an crackled vessel he could be filled with anything when he’d finally drained and patched the leaks. None of the other roles satisfied him. The job, the father, the wastrel, the penitent — all stops on the journey to the hillside where we left him. If you want him to stay, you can believe that he does. If you want him to go back, you can imagine he did. Dick Whitman might want to buy the world a Coke. Don Draper wanted to sell it to them.

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Why We’re Addicted to Nihilism: The Psychology Behind Mad Men’s Empty, Pointless Ending

Monday, May 18th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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Sonia Saraiya, writing for Salon, observes the frustration of many fans in the wake of Mad Men‘s rather un-poignant series finale:

I left this finale believing myself to be disappointed in Don Draper, but I’m really disappointed with myself. Disappointed for this narrative of settling for the modern world—which, along with its many perks, like lower infant mortality and longer life expectancy, comes with a horrifying feeling of emptiness from time to time, as we all seem to strive to live an existence that is not great or searing but just okay, just fine, just good enough to get by. Most of us in the first world don’t go bed hungry anymore—but as Peggy observed to the Burger Chef executives, “you’re starving, and not just for dinner.” Don and Peggy and Joan and Sally can’t really flame out beautifully in “Mad Men” because they are modeled to be people just like we are people, and yes, it is disappointing. Some kind of conflagration, of either the body or the soul, would have been so much more cathartic, so much more satisfying. It would have given voice to the roiling emptiness within. But instead we just get scenes from one more day in the lives of these people. One more day is all any of us ever get, until the day we don’t.

It’s a powerful statement coming from a mainstream media source. Not too many are willing to confront the rampant nihilism in today’s media landscape, let alone admit how personally depressed they are by it. Further case in point: Fox’s Backstrom ends with the lead going into rehab because he knows there’s more to life than misery: the show gets cancelled. CBS’s Elementary, facing a similar ratings struggle, has the lead succumb to his heroin addiction: the show is renewed. “Some kind of conflagration” seems to be the ethos of the day, the way to save a dying show. Give the viewers one more train wreck and they’ll keep staring. Depressing doesn’t begin to describe it.

The root of Saraiya’s complaint is that paradise, perfection, nirvana — whatever you want to call it — has been crafted into a commodity that we buy, sell and trade based on personal need. It’s a lame complaint at best, one that accepts the Marxist demand that world perfection is a human struggle instead of a Divine gift. In pursuing the Divine at a hippie retreat, Don retreats into his advertising ethos. Saraiya turns this into an argument against capitalism and, in doing so, caves to the inevitable reality that fed hippie-turned-yuppie disillusionment: You can’t force everyone to drink the Kool Aid (or, in this case, Coke).

Capitalists didn’t turn perfection into a commodity. Marxists simply took it upon themselves to manifest perfection on earth. Like every other revolution before them, the hippies got stuck in the “struggle” bit and have been caught in the muck ever since. Taking a cue from Burning Man, Saraiya’s wish for conflagration echoes the belief that complete destruction is the only way to start over. Think wacko environmentalists who believe humans are a disease on earth and you get the picture. The Kardashians may not be as extreme, but they’re just as pointless.

The sick truth is, no Mad Men fan was hoping for Don to enter some kind of therapy and exit a repaired human being. That was never the way the show was going to go. Right now they’re standing around their office water coolers relishing in their post-series misery the way one would reminisce about a good one-night stand. It was naughty, and now it’s all over, oh woe is me …I can’t wait to do it all again.

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CBS’s Supergirl: Nothing More Than a Rehash of Pop Feminist Tropes?

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

At best, CBS’s new take on Supergirl is a cross between pop feminist trends and complaints. Pretty blonde girl (guaranteed to be noted as such by intersectional feminists covering the race beat) who spends her time being told by her bosses to get coffee (didn’t Marvel’s Peggy Carter already cover this one to death this year?) learns to embrace her true identity (yes, it’s a gay metaphor – literally) only to have the science of her outfit explained to her by a male colleague (cue the whining about the lack of girls in STEM professions).

You know you’ve read too much contemporary feminist criticism when you can pick apart a TV series preview in 30 seconds or less.

Kara, aka Supergirl, comes off about as bland as a Barbie doll in this preview. Worse yet, she’s constantly seeking approval from those around her for the choice she made to “out” her identity. Forget Superman’s quiet stoicism and rejection of fame in the name of the greater good (and retaining some semblance of a private life). Supergirl is louder and prouder and more demanding of acceptance than a gay pride parade. Except about her name, of course.

“We can’t call her that. She has to be Super Woman.” Snore. Didn’t the Spice Girls cover that one over a decade ago? They did, which is why Calista Flockhart (90′s feminist du jour Ally McBeal) was recruited to play the angry boss who reminds Kara how great it is to be a grrrl …in that b*tch sort of way. (Cue feminist whining about female corporate stereotypes …now!)

The bottom line that will make or break the show will be the writing. If they can make 3-D characters out of 2-D comics, they’ll have television gold, as Arrow, Gotham, and The Flash have proven (along with their Marvel competitors). Let’s hope this Supergirl doesn’t fall into the Venus Flytrap of contemporary feminist tropes. Up, up, and as far away as possible from that train wreck, indeed.

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The Muppet Show Reboot Takes a Jab at Reality TV

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

There will forever be one timeless classic following Gen-X and their Millennial crossover counterparts to the grave: The Muppets.

The new ABC prime time series promises to be a satirical take on reality television. It didn’t take long for ABC to green light the show revived by Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady. Granted, the original Muppet Show played off the era’s popular vaudeville variety format, so the reality TV style is a plus when it comes to packaging. And we’re still guaranteed all those awesome guest star moments. What will be new? Getting into the backstories of our favorite Muppet characters. Apparently this audience is finally old enough to get the juicy details behind all those Kermit/Miss Piggy double-entendres.

Still, the show appears to target former kid fans, not current ones. So, are ABC and The Muppets cashing in on the rejuvenile trend? Will the show, like most children’s entertainment, be geared towards young and old alike? Or is it a smart way to attract a prime time audience that already houses their core fan base?

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How to Save Red Eye (Without) Greg Gutfeld

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by David Forsmark

I'm hosting #RedEye on FNC tonight at 3amET! #tbt to the early days as a guest :)

A photo posted by Joanne Nosuchinsky (@jonosuchinsky) on

If Fox wants Red Eye, the satirical politics/culture late late late night talk show, to survive without founding host Greg Gutfeld, they need to act fast. Sure, they have regularly won the 3 a.m. time slot—but it’s the 3 a.m. time slot.

Fox has bigger plans for Gutfeld, but they should let Red Eye be a launching pad for their next witty star. The experiments at guest host have yielded wildly different results. Here are the grades so far of the most likely suspects:

Joanne Nosuchinsky

Panelist, A+

Host, B+

When JoNo first joined the Red Eye cast, it took me a while to realize her act was… an act.  I really thought she was ditsy, but funny, and mostly there for eye candy.

Once she settled into her role, she has proven to be no-such- insky. In fact, she has already given me more “I wish I’d said that” moments than Kimberly Guilfoyle has in all her years on Fox News; and she hosts competently.

Verdict:  Joanne Nosuchinky is essential to Red Eye, but not ready to be in charge… yet.

 

Andy Levy

Panelist, A+

Host, C+

“TV’s Andy Levy” is the other essential element of Red Eye.  His dry wit and libertarian sensibilities, along with his ability to make fun of himself, make him the ultimate straight man and the perfect complement to Greg Gutfeld—or any outgoing and smart host.

However, when he hosts, the show just drags. Pauses are not only pregnant, they come to full term. He’s superb at reacting, but too dry for initiating or jumping in when the pace drags.

Verdict: Andy must stay with Red Eye and, along with JoNo, anchor the panel. But if he becomes the permanent host, the show will die.

 

Tom Shillue

Panelist, A+

Host, A

If Tom Shillue and Greg Gutfeld did a road tour, it would come across as a conservative Smothers Brothers—two really funny guys you know were the dorky crowd in high school.

Shillue’s monologues, “A Moment with Tom,” are the closest thing to Gutfeld’s “Gregalogue” and he is a smooth, quick and affable host. He also has enough of a show-business background to bridge the show’s equal emphasis on politics and pop culture.

Verdict:  Shillue is the closest thing to Greg Gutfeld as a permanent host as Fox is likely to find.

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It’s Not Even Funny How Wrong John Oliver Is About Paid Family Leave

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

John Oliver, HBO’s version of Jon Stewart, decided to celebrate Mother’s Day by using his late night platform to argue for federal paid family leave in America. It was a compelling, heavy-handed report loaded with half-truths meant to support an ideologically beautiful, yet economically unfeasible concept. Based on my years administering FMLA in New Jersey, here is the list of Oliver’s myths that need to be debunked if we’re going to take the argument for paid family leave seriously.

1. Selena Allen, whose baby was born 6 weeks premature. Oliver presents her as only being able to take a total of 4 weeks off of work, which indicates that Oliver is oblivious to the disability period associated with giving birth. According to the Department of Labor, pregnancy is viewed as a temporary disability the 30 days prior and 30 days after birth. That post-birth time frame automatically increases for women who deliver via C-section. The disability period can always be extended in either direction with a doctor’s note. While this may be considered an unpaid leave by your employer, you are entitled to run your sick time concurrent to the leave, and you may also pursue temporary disability payments from your state or private disability insurer. Allen should never have returned to work the week following giving birth. Whether or not she was correctly informed of the law is not included in Oliver’s story.

2. Oliver argues for paternity leave by pointing out that Major League Baseball fans didn’t appreciate one player taking off 3 games to attend the birth of his child. What Oliver doesn’t mention is that fathers are just as eligible to take advantage of FMLA to bond with their newly born, foster or adoptive children. You do not need to physically give birth to be entitled to FMLA.

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Is Motherhood a Blessing, or a Curse?

Sunday, May 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Women have innate superpowers. Thanks to a century-old patriarchal system of doctors, politicians and insurance companies, women have been fooled into believing they have no power. What’s worse, thanks to a cadre of covert female agents, women today willingly hand over their unique powers to the hands of government agents who control the “threat,” either through a strict drug regimen, surgical procedure or both.

Women who refuse to relinquish their power face fear and intimidation tactics: You will be in pain; you will lose your figure; your partners will leave you; no one will employ you; you will be alone. Who ever thought the power to bring forth new life would be so damned scary?

Despite our overwhelming biological urge to reproduce, young women today are told to push off pregnancy or avoid it entirely. The women who don’t fall for this charade, the ones who take the leap into pregnancy and motherhood, are punished with promises of horrific labor pain and traumatic birthing experiences. Think about it: When is the last time you saw a peaceful birth recounted on television? Walk into a new-parents-to-be class at your local hospital and you’ll find out the number one reason young women are attending: “I want to know how not to be afraid of the pain.”

Mother of modern American midwifery Ina May Gaskin has made natural birth a feminist crusade, and rightly so. The myth that women need to be strapped to a table and drugged in order to give birth (a common practice from the 1920s through the 1960s) has led to generations of women entering birthing classes out of sheer fear that their bodies will fail at exactly what they are designed to do best. Pregnancy fear is the culmination of a cultural obsession with obtaining the perfect female body. Gaskin explains:

Remember this, for it is as true as true gets:  Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine.  The Creator is not a careless mechanic.  Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.  Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.

And yet, we live in a culture that correlates birth to illness, babies to growths that must be removed, and childbearing to disease. When is the last time a sex-ed curriculum didn’t lump in pregnancy with chlamydia as an unwanted, avoidable side effect? Is it any wonder, then, that the reproductive power of women is treated as a threat to the State to be feared and controlled?

This Mother’s Day it’s time to rethink the way we view mothers and motherhood in America. Fostering healthy pregnancies should be one of the top priorities of the feminist movement, as should supporting all mothers, whether they have given birth or given their hearts to an adoptive or foster child. Mothers are the providers and caretakers of life, the sustainers of a great nation. As Gaskin observes, “When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.”

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HBO’s Silicon Valley Mocks Sexism in the Tech World

Monday, May 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Season 2 of the already-renewed HBO series finds the Pied Piper start up funded and ready to hire. Two of the employees, Dinesh and Gilfoyle, recommend a coder they met through a local tech network: Carla Walton. Jared, the business nerd, immediately jumps at the chance for Pied Piper to “diversify” by hiring a woman. The rest of the guys balk: “We’re all in agreement that we should hire the most qualified candidate.” Mike Judge-patented hilarity ensues.

“It’s like now we’re the Beatles and we just need Yoko,” Jared brightens.

“Dude, that is like the worst metaphor ever.”

But it’s the perfect one for affirmative action hiring. Jared goes about creating a harassment policy and forcing embarrassed company head Richard to review it in a “group meeting”. Adding yet another layer of humor to the plotline, new (female) hire Carla uses the affirmative action game to crack a few jokes of her own. “I have a friend named Kunti,” she details, “If I can’t call Kunti “Kunti” then I’m not going to want to have Kunti over at all, which I feel like kind of violates my rights… as a woman.”

Are the critics dubbing Carla’s actions “subverting the male-dominated system” missing the point? Was Carla mocking hi-tech’s lack of female employees, or the affirmative action demands to hire based on gender? Will the tech world, let alone HR at large, actually get Judge’s point when it comes to hiring based on qualifications, not demographics? How long will it take before the GamerGate chicks are up in arms?

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The Downton/Star Wars Mash-Up You Have to See

Friday, May 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Actor Rob James-Collier plays the evil butler Thomas on Downton Abbey, but in real life he must be quite the sweetie. He wrote and shot an entire Downton/Star Wars mashup on his iPhone in order to raise money for MS research. Episode One is available for free, but to watch more you have to donate to his cause at evilbutler.com.

What makes the idea so genius, apart from it being a mash-up of two mega-hits produced by a big star? Quite frankly, it’s funny. It’s also a bit nostalgic for us Gen-X/Millennial crossovers who spent their weekends making camcorder movies with friends. To his credit, James-Collier made the most of his pocket digital technology, even being sure to hold the camera correctly to avoid that awful Apple-trademarked rectangle framing that drives any film aficionado mad. Be sure to watch for the occasional boom mic or PA dropping into frame. The off-camera giggles are a great reminder that Thomas is really a fun guy after all. And, in the end, it’s quite the cute handcrafted production, offering fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the sets and the actors spoofing a beloved pop culture sensation, just like one of us.

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Why Offending People Is Suddenly Okay (As Long As Those People Are Jewish)

Monday, April 20th, 2015 - by Spencer Klavan

Some weeks ago, Trevor Noah was named as the next host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. And as usual whenever anything happens ever, a bunch of people got outraged. This would be an utter non-event except for how marvelously it demonstrated the hypocrisy of the progressive Thought Police. You’ve really got to love it.

Noah is a South African comedian just obscure enough to preside over the show as it hurtles into irrelevance, which it will inevitably do once its current host, Jon Stewart, leaves. But this is 2015, which means even the most meaningless and unremarkable occurrence isn’t complete without its attendant outburst of overblown political hysteria.

The announcement of Noah’s selection was swiftly followed by an equally uninteresting kerfuffle in which people with very little to do spent their astoundingly abundant free time digging up off-color tweets from Noah’s past. Turns out he’s made jokes about punching women and hitting Jewish kids with German cars. The resultant outrage was as unreasonable as it was predictable. People talked about boycotting the show. They wanted Noah dropped from the contract. “How dare a comedian make jokes?” They tweeted furiously.

 

Yawn. By now this stuff just feels like we’re following a script — everyone watching at home was setting a timer for the tearfully insincere apology that we all felt sure would follow like clockwork.

Except then something happened that isn’t in the script. High-profile talking heads rallied to Noah’s defense. Stewart and Comedy Central announced they would stick by their man. The comedian Patton Oswalt wrote a 53-tweet Twitter-screed mocking the absurd progressive insistence that comedy “should not be . . . privileged, misogynist or anti-trans, . . . or offend any feelings the joke listener may or may not have or have ever experienced in the past.” The Daily Beast published an article lamenting “the toxicity” of the Twittersphere’s hyper-sensitive “callout culture.” Suddenly, from out of the blue, well-connected people started defending Trevor Noah’s right to be an insensitive dipstick.

It’s worth stating the obvious fact that they were absolutely right to do so. Noah’s jokes were in poor taste, there’s no question. They were also crushingly unfunny. But this idea that comedians — or anyone, for that matter — should be forbidden from making fun of people is of course utter nonsense. It’s like saying carpenters should be forbidden from cutting wood. There’s a growing mob of ultra-progressive online commentators who sit around just itching to boycott even the most mildly distasteful opinions. They have been long overdue for a good, old-fashioned roast. Theirs is a mockery of an ideology, and it deserves to be mocked. It’s about time, in fact.

 

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You Are Living in the Twitter Dictatorship

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

It is far from the first time Twitter has taken to policing the Internet.

Recently Twitter deleted 10,000 accounts suspected of being linked to ISIS—in one day.

ISIS is fighting back—making death threats against Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

Twitter argues it is trying to be a good citizen online. But, does it makes sense to tee-off terrorists and Game of Thrones zealots in the same week? Probably. Otherwise the government will want to take over the job–then there could be a real information dictatorship.

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Will the New Daredevil on Netflix Erase the Bad Ben Affleck Memories?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Variety has reviewed the new Daredevil television series, which will premiere exclusively on Netflix on April 10. When it comes to the nocturnal adventures of the vigilante-by-night, attorney-by-day Matt Murdock, the verdict is good.

Compared to Marvel’s experience with “Agents of SHIELD” for ABC, operating in Netflix’s pay-to-view world is clearly liberating, in much the way animated direct-to-DVD titles enable the comics companies to cater to knowledgeable fans without needing to worry too much about luring the uninitiated into the tent. And the binge prospect should be helpful in getting people hooked on the overarching adventure, complete with Russian mobsters and feuding crime factions building toward the inevitable Daredevil-Kingpin showdown.

The big winner here is Ben Affleck, whose 2003 turn as the character left a sour taste in audience mouths. The new series may displace our memory of that atrocity, wiping the slate for Affleck’s next big superhero role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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The X-Files Returns with New Episodes, Here Are the Top Five to Watch on Netflix to Prepare

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Liz Sheld

The buzz is out there over the six-episode return of the hit TV series The X-Files. In honor of the forthcoming tenth season of the show, it’s time for me to revisit my favorite five episodes of the series.  The reboot will be captained by series creator Chris Carter so any worries the show might get hijacked by a disloyal opportunist should be assuaged.  (ProTip: Chris Carter also created Millennium, staring Lance Henricksen. Go watch that.)

I have limited these episodes to the “freak of the week” episodes– those episodes that aren’t part of the grand arc of the show.  They are stand alone episodes for the most part and are easy to watch if you want to get into the series.

Here they are in nor particular order:

1. “Soft Light” episode twenty-three, season two

Most notable: Tony Shalhoub is the star of this episode and what’s better than Monk in an episode of The X-Files? Almost nothing.

The plot is great, Shalhoub plays physicist Chester Ray Banton. Due to an unfortunate accident his lab, Banton’s shadow acts as a black hole and vaporizes any one who it touches.  The episode ends with Banton locked up in a government facility where scientists are running tests on him.

2. “Home” episode two, season five

Most notable: The creepiest, most disturbing X-Files episode ever. Possibly the most disturbing thing that has ever been on TV.

We follow Mulder and Scully to Home, Pennsylvania where they are investigating the corpse of deformed baby found in a sandlot. We meet the three Peacock brothers (irony!) who are deformed siblings that never leave their house and breed with their quadruple amputee mother who lives under the bed.  Seriously.

3. “Duane Barry” episode five, season two

Most notable: The discovery of microscopic implants with bar codes in Duane Barry’s body.  Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy forced a two-part episode where Scully is abducted by aliens or not if you don’t believe.

Escaped mental patient and alien abductee Duane Barry takes hostages, his psychiatrist among them, and Mulder is brought in as a hostage negotiator. Barry is tricked into being shot and Mulder finds that Barry was telling the truth about his alien implants. The actor who plays Duane Barry, Steve Railsback, is terrific. Duane Barry talks about himself in the third person.

4. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” episode four, season three

Most notable: Clyde Bruckman tells Scully how she is going to die. This episode won several Emmy Awards.

Clyde Bruckman is a psychic that can see the details surrounding the deaths of people and because of his talent, he becomes a suspect in a murder as he knows information surrounding the murder only the killer would know.  Although Scully is skeptical of his psychic abilities, the two become close and he tells Scully how she will die. I won’t spoil the ending, but I teared up.

5. “Millennium” fourth episode, seventh season

Most notable: Crossover with Millennium series, a sort of closure to the show since Millennium was cancelled. (Really, go watch Millennium)

Mulder and Scully are called into examine one of four FBI agent’s graves that have been exhumed. All four FBI agents had committed suicide and their graves were surrounded by goat’s blood after exhumation. If there’s weird occultism mixed with biblical prophecy, it obviously involves the FBI spin-off Millennium Group.   Assistant Director suggests Mulder and Scully talk to Frank Black (Henriksen) who was part of the now-defunct Millennium Group. Black is, where else, but in a mental hospital.

Those are five of my favorite The X-Files episodes, tell me what episodes are your favorites or why you disagree with me in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

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VIDEO: Lena Dunham Shows the Late Night Audience How Ignorant Girls Really Are

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Want to see Girls in a PG-13 nutshell? Check out last night’s sketch from Late Night With Seth Meyers in which Lena Dunham portrays her on-screen alter-ego Hannah Horvath working a pitch meeting in the writer’s room of the late night talk/sketch show. She essentially mocks the standard tropes of Girls, horrifying her fellow writers with her weird concepts of sexual humor and turning everything into a form of feminist victimization. Think Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm only not funny. Which is probably why the best line came from a fellow female writer who requested, ”Please do not group my pitch with yours.”

The award for most obnoxious line goes to: ”Aren’t you predominately Jewish male comedy writers supposed to be stuffing your gross faces with bagels constantly?”

While the award for most ignorant observation goes to: ”Seth lets a woman or person of color host a late night talk show for the first time ever, because that’s never happened and that’s f’d up!” Tell it to Joan Rivers or Arsenio Hall. Although this line proved the most instructive of how small Dunham’s bubble truly is.

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VIDEO: Would You Get ‘Married at First Sight’?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A&E’s “docuseries” Married at First Sight had its second season premiere last night. The theory: arranged marriage cultures have a radically lower divorce rate than non-arranged marriage cultures. Therefore, a group of four experts (a psychologist, a sexologist, a sociologist and a spiritual advisor) conduct thorough testing to match up couples who will literally meet each other at the altar.

With a 66% success rate in its first season, the matchmaking panel appears to have a lower divorce rate than America at large. In the era of Tinder-generated fruitless casual sex, is trusting your romantic future to a pre-arranged scenario a logical alternative to a series of dead-end one night stands?

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VIDEO: What Lena Dunham Doesn’t Want to Know About Sex

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In last night’s episode of HBO’s Girls, Hannah’s father came out of the closet.

Blah, blah, blah, right? At least until the end of the episode when Hannah confronts her father and says, gay or straight, she doesn’t want to know about his sex life.

Wait a minute? Is there something slightly traditionalist about Ms. Dunham after all?

No kid in her right mind wants to consider that her parents have sex. Yet for Ms. Dunham, who grew up around a considerable amount of father-generated sexual art, scripting a character who makes such a pedestrian proclamation is actually out of the ordinary.

Where is the line drawn in the progressive mind when it comes to loved ones and their sexual exploits? Could it be that the Queen of Sharing doesn’t want to share so much after all? Or is it more like others aren’t allowed to share as much as she does?

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The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

See the opening of today’s series here: ”What Is the Future of Religion?” by Frank J. Fleming

Science is a good thing. It’s given us things like vaccines, cars and incubators.

I live in Southern California and was born a premie, with Apgar tests so low that the doctors advised my parents to institutionalize me. That means all of these innovations are near and dear to my heart. I have a more than healthy respect for science.

The thing is, though, science isn’t enough to keep a society going, at least not one we’d want to live in. What’s gotten humanity to this point is religion, specifically, the Judeo-Christian religion and its moral precepts that allow the freedom of Western civilization.

Three aspects of Judeo-Christian philosophy have helped define the free world: equality under the law, a firm grasp that we cannot build heaven on earth, and an objective for morality.

The dual, complementing nature of Judaism and Christianity, cannot be understated, especially as the Bible discusses equality. Many might think that the followers of Christ departed from their Jewish brethren but Christ himself reminds us in Matthew 5:17 that he “ha[d] not come to abolish [the Torah laws] but to fulfill them.” Thus he carried forward the truths given to Moses.

The first of these truths was the Jewish revelation of a single deity who created all of mankind and laid down laws establishing our fundamental equality.

When Gandhi engaged in some pseudo-deep drivel about an eye for an eye leaving everyone blind, he ignored the fact that this law was actually a command that punishment be proportional to the crime. Gandhi also suggested that Jews accept Nazi abuse, so it’s little wonder that he got other things wrong too.

Indeed, for all of the secularist focus on the wrath of the Old Testament God, the Torah serves more as a reminder to His children of their fundamental equality. After all, Leviticus 19:15 warns that “[y]e shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”

So the rich don’t get any special favors and, in a blow to the Occupy folks, neither do the poor.

Holy crap, that’s equality. And God laid it down.

Christ walked the earth and fulfilled that law of equality. That law led William Wilberforce to inspire the greatest power of his age – Imperial Britain – to war against slavery. That same law led the descendants of slaves, with the Rev. Martin Luther King, to claim their seat at the table.

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The Judeo-Christian ethic teaches us the importance of respecting the individual and his liberties.

Judeo Christianity also teaches us to accept the world we live in.

Stalin’s Soviet Union. Mao’s China. Pol Pot’s killing fields.

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These were all the secular attempts at utopia. Again, the blood of millions soaked the earth in these failed experiments.

Along with equality, the Judeo-Christian philosophy teaches us a simple truth: As fallen humans, we cannot build a utopia in this world. Perfection is beyond us and attempting to rush it along is a fatal conceit.

This holds true even in the personal life.

There is nothing more human than wanting to create the perfect life for you and your family. Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife is a perfect example of this. She strives to be the perfect mother, wife and lawyer. And on the surface, she looks successful, rich. She is the captain of her own ship.

Alicia is also an avowed atheist who finds her success to be of little comfort when her one-time lover, Will, is killed in a courtroom shooting. Thus mother must turn to daughter, whom the show portrays fairly respectfully as coming to faith, in order to try to find comfort.

Alicia was smart but she was not wise and hers was a utopia of tears.

One thing that assists in avoiding the siren song of utopianism is maintaining a constant moral lodestone, as laid out in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

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PJ Lifestyle contributor Walter Hudson wrote how “Atheists Can Be Moral Too.” However, in arguing that the natural world provides guideposts for human behavior, he disproves his own argument. After all, the natural world is the strong preying upon the weak. This is the morality of the dictatorship.

Indeed, Nazism and Communism saw themselves as the pinnacle of social evolution. Their inferiors, whether Jews or kulaks, were subhuman and thus fair game.

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This is the morality of a world without a true north. The compass spins out of control and we follow a path to chaos. The great irony is that by no matter what glorious end those without transcendent morality attempt to serve, they can never find it.

Who was to tell these technologically advanced barbarians they were wrong, if there was no definition of wrong that transcended society? After all, Hitler won an election. The Communists inspired fellow travelers throughout the world.

It is telling that the troika of Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II who defeated Communism in the 1980s came from strong traditions of faith.

Indeed, they showed that the three gifts of Judeo-Christian philosophy served as legs for a stool we call wisdom.

That wisdom is the reason religion serves a more fundamental role for society than science.

The Nazis and Soviets were capable of immense scientific accomplishments. They then put those accomplishments towards slaughter of unspeakable scale.

The Tuskegee experiments surely developed scientific data, but only through a monstrous experimentation on unknowing innocents.

Even now, we play with artificial intelligence which luminaries such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk warn could destroy humanity. Fertility experts toy with the creation of children with the genetic material of three people, a technology that could redefine families in a way that not even advocates of same sex marriage could dream.

Science, without the moral foundations of religion to constrain it, could mean the end of society as we know it or even the extinction of our specials

It was science that told my parents I should be put in an institution.

It was wisdom that kept me from such a fate. Although since I turned out to be a divorce lawyer, some people might think the doctor was right.

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Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the tenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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image illustraions via herehere, here, here and here

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7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Don’t let the appearance of Rainn Wilson fool you. Everett Backstrom is no Dwight Schrute, nor is Backstrom yet another take on the Sherlock trend. This smart, funny detective series walks into dark territory to examine the human desire to look toward the light. It goes against formula and against the grain manipulating authority and questioning politically correct cultural norms in pursuit of truth, justice and, even more intriguingly, redemption from evil. Here are 7 reasons why Backstrom is trendsetting, essential counter-culture conservative television that demands a place on the air.

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The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

I turned 36 this week, with thoughts that Netflix and Kevin Spacey conspired to give me a present: House of Cards, Season 3, went live on Friday.

I just happened to give myself that day off from work. I assure you, it was just pure coincidence. It also had nothing to do with the fact that my fiancé never got into the show, so it was best to binge as much as possible before torturing her.

Unfortunately, it seems that with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his equally manipulative wife Claire (Robin Wright) at the pinnacle of success, they don’t know what to do. Indeed, that feeling permeates the entire third season, as if its directors and producers were lost even as their show has become a major success.

Again, the season started with promise when we finally got to see Underwood. How can you go wrong when the Machiavellian main character starts off urinating on his father’s grave?

After communing with his dearly departed dad, the show lets us know that Underwood has terrible approval ratings and is fighting both houses in Congress after proposing the elimination of entitlements to pay for America Works (AmWorks), a massive jobs program. Amusingly, no one points out that it’s just a new entitlement program.

Indeed, that reality exposes a great cognitive dissonance on the part of President Underwood when he famously tells the American people that they “are entitled to nothing!” It was rousing rhetoric. It’s the sort of thing we would love to hear from Republican leaders. Hearing it from a fictional Democrat was even more interesting.

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But this domestic policy debate offered a great backdrop to see how the ruthless president would fight some of his old adversaries. Mix that in with the addition of a global adversary, Putin clone Victor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), and you have the makings for some great conflicts.

However, the execution was weak. Indeed, one can say that weakness is the theme of this season and it makes absolutely no sense.

Here you have Francis Underwood, a man who schemed his way into the White House by manipulating the sitting president to appoint him as Vice-President and then forcing that Chief Executive to step down by engineering a battle between the President, an American billionaire and a Chinese princeling. However, in Season 3, he is the constant beggar, coming hat in hand to men he handily manipulated in Congress and getting dismissed.

Perhaps, in dealing with Russian President Petrov, a different power dynamic could be understood. After all, it’s not like Underwood can murder a Russian strong man like a drunken congressman or meddlesome reporter. But again, here is the opportunity for the sort of Great Powers gamesmanship this role was designed for.

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Net Neutrality: 3 Reasons It’s Time for the Ron Swanson Internet Warriors to Fight Back

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Nathan Lichtman

“I enjoy government functions like I enjoy getting kicked in the nuggets by a steel toed boot.” So sayeth the mustachioed libertarian prophet of Parks and Recreation.

It cannot be a coincidence that net neutrality passed the FCC and that Ron Swanson’s character was aired for the last time, within a week. I mean, the universe plays some funny jokes on us from time to time… but this is too much!

Ron Swanson instilled a healthy distrust of government in everyone who watched NBC’s sitcom. He liked doing nothing to advance the government bureaucracy (that he worked for), because he recognized that government, more often than not, gets in the way.

But the very week the final episode of this wildly successful show was on the tube, already people across the nation are assuming that “net neutrality” is a thing to be celebrated. The Daily Dot even ran a story with the subtitle “Victory.”

So let me explain why I’m bashing the “net neutrality” thing that just passed the FCC in a landmark vote:

First, the FCC is the same group that will let you call someone a “bitch” or an “asshole” on the air, but God forbid you say the word “s**t.”

Aside from the stupidity of what constitutes a George Carlin “bad word,” let’s just register the fact that the FCC already regulates speech. Unless you have a HAM radio license (like I do), the only time you’ve ever heard of the FCC before is when they’ve fined a television network or radio station for saying a “bad word.” So my first objection is that, inevitably, the FCC will decide what the bad things to say on the internet are, and regulate them. Censorship—it’s what they do.

Secondly, I want people to embrace their Ron Swanson-ness (a term which he would probably dislike).

The articles I’ve read that are pro-”neutrality” claim that the greedy internet companies need regulation. That otherwise they will place heavy rates on the consumer, or charge companies for faster service. So shady. But, what is the largest and greediest company in the world? That’s right, Ron Swanson Jr., it’s the U.S. government. They have a monopoly on everything they do, and they inherently do things with the goal of taking more power and tax money for themselves — especially for an unelected body like the FCC. So why would we trust the government to oversee corporations?

And finally, the idea behind this new regulation is to make the internet into a public utility.

Public utilities are the worst. At least in internet and cable, I have had competition when choosing my plans. I could get my television from DirecTV or Time Warner, and I could get my internet from several entities as well. I made my choice because of the speeds to price ratio. And I chose to pay a little more to get higher internet speeds. I do not have the same choice with water and power. In my community, it’s a public utility — the same public utility that fines me if I take a “too-long” shower, that charges me extra to use a dryer at 9pm, that posts billboards all around telling people to not wash their cars or water their lawns. So what’s next? Well, “We have a drought of internet speeds because too many people are watching Netflix, so we are going to have to ask you to only use the streaming services you’ve paid for between the hours of 6am to 8am”?

Under the label “neutral,” the FCC board has created anything but. Please, everyone, embrace you inner Swanson-ality (a term he’d like even less) and stop posting this #NetNeutrality thing like it’s good. It will spell the end of freedom of speech as we know it, and I’m not hyperbolizing.

Sorry, Leslie Knope.

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