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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 people 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 US 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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How Bad Ideology Destroys Good TV: Why Glee Crashed and Burned

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 - by Spencer Klavan

So I was watching Glee the other day (yes I watch Glee, okay?!), and man has that show jumped the shark. It’s frustrating, because Glee went down in flames the way a lot of good shows do: it got too busy constructing a leftist fantasyland to tell a decent story. It’s another victim of what I like to call “liberal backslide.”

Bear with me here for a second. I realize Glee was never an elegant allegory of fiscal conservatism. And no one could claim that it ever had an ironclad grip on reality. The show takes place in an underfunded Ohio public school whose auditorium looks like it was sponsored by a generous grant from the Shah of Persia. The band students instantaneously arrange and perform professional-quality backup accompaniment whenever someone so much as walks down the hallway humming a tune. This is obviously not a show about the real world.

But it used to be a show about real people. Glee got its start as a sharp send-up of teenage life in the Midwest, a bubblegum caricature of self-indulgent angst and high school politics. So it spoofed all those kids you hung out with in public school: the pristinely polished cheerleader. The wan, sensitive artist. The befuddled jock. The neat trick was that those well-worn stock characters all had a slightly edgier secret to make things a little less cut-and-dry. The cheerleader cheated on her boyfriend and got pregnant. The artist was straining hard against the closet door. The jock belted out “Can’t Fight This Feeling” in the locker room showers when he thought no one was looking. The whole picture was just a shade more complex and “real” than you expected, one degree more nuanced than a show like Saved by the Bell.

That meant the characters were allowed to have their own beliefs and opinions — more or less the ones they might have had in real life. Mercedes, the choir’s queen of soul, was also the head of the Christian club, the “God Squad.” Quinn, the cheerleader, was in the Squad too. Pretty standard for an Ohio high school: think Youth for Christ. When Quinn got pregnant, she was devastated and terrified, but determined not to abort. Also not impossible to imagine. Kurt, the artsy kid, came out to his dad, a rough-spoken mechanic who wrestled manfully with his prejudices for love of his son. Look, I’m not saying it was Shakespeare, but this was imaginative, thoughtful writing — a glitzed-up version of some distantly plausible reality. Everyone got made fun of, and for the most part everyone got a fair shake.

Fast-forward to the current season, in which the entire architecture of the show has essentially been abandoned in favor of a ceaseless stream of inchoate progressive propaganda. In one recent episode, the glee club alumni march triumphantly back onto their old stomping grounds to save their beloved show choir. To beef up the choir’s membership, all the glee clubbers from conservative backgrounds reach out to their high school’s “Tea Party Patriot Club.” Our virtuous heroes come bearing muffins, and their message is a touching one. Quinn helpfully begins with an inspiring story of personal growth: “before I joined glee club” (i.e., “when I was a conservative,”) “I only hung out with people that were exactly like me.” But it’s all better now, Quinn explains, because getting pregnant out of wedlock fixed all her problems! “Point is, nerds,” says bad boy Noah Puckerman, “you need to take the three-cornered hats out of your loser butts and join [the glee club].”

But for some incomprehensible reason, those ignorant tea partiers (or “teabaggers,” as they’re called in the show, to their faces) aren’t won over by this thoughtful outreach campaign. Their leader, a pencil-necked bigot in a starched shirt, has some kind of crazy hillbilly idea that the Obama administration has been an economic disaster. And for no discernible reason, he isn’t keen on joining a choir whose members just strode heedlessly into the middle of his meeting to openly mock and insult him and his friends. Mercedes nobly scolds the entire club for being a bunch of “ignorant, backwards, lily-white, gay-hating Obama bashing clubbers,” and all the stars march out in a huff, taking their muffins with them. Yay glee club! Diversity! Inclusion!

Glee always skewed left, but it used to have a real sense of humor about itself. Sadistic cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester was the perfect anti-PC mouthpiece, cutting deftly through the show’s self-satisfied über-sensitivity right when it got too saccharine. But season six has been a relentless, tight-lipped progressive tirade against conservatism without so much as a glimmer of mirth from the other side. Needless to say, since progressivism is predicated upon a string of complete fantasies, the show is now utterly disjointed and incomprehensible.

It’s also utterly unfunny. Indiscriminate satire is hilarious. A series-long harangue is not. Take, for example, the storyline in which an all-male a cappella group is blasted for being “sexist and discriminatory.” The debate rages for an entire episode, with barely a mention of the (entirely legitimate) musical reasons for forming a men’s choir. The issue is treated with the kind of ferocious humorlessness that only progressives can deliver with a straight face.

Liberal backslide: it’s happened before. I wrote about it when it happened to the once-brilliant Parks & Recreation. It happened to 30 Rock, too. It’s always the same process: smart, tight, observational humor, slowly abandoned in favor of preachy nonsense. American TV comedies feature some of the best writing around, when the writers just get out of their own way. More often than not, though, they can’t keep their mouths shut, and their untenable worldviews cloud their comedic vision. It shows, too — there’s a reason Glee’s ratings are lower than ever. There’s a reason it’s going off the air. The only thing less funny than politics is stupid politics.

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Jews, Whiteness & the Idiocy of Racial Identity

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Finally, they’re Jew-ing up Downton Abbey. Rose, the troublesome teen who nearly ran away with a black American jazz singer last season, is now falling for Ephraim Atticus Aldridge whose family escaped Russian pogroms. What makes this love affair more acceptable to the Granthams, whose own matriarch comes from Jewish blood? Well, the money and the title help, but the reality is that Atticus is white. Tom the socialist chauffeur worked his way into the heart of the family sans money and title, but could a darker-skinned outcast have done the same? Not in an England where appearances were everything and eugenic theory was at an all-time high. Russian royalty ex-pats won’t accept Atticus as anything but a “Jew” and the jury is still out when it comes to the Crawley clan. Perhaps because, even in today’s England, just because Ashkenazim (European Jews) know how to play the game doesn’t mean they always win.

When I joined the Hillel as a grad student in Texas I was excited to finally not hear the one comment that had plagued me throughout many of my Jewish encounters growing up: “You don’t look Jewish.” Each time I heard the seemingly benign statement from some gorgeous, dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned individual with obvious Ashkenazi roots and a tinge of a New York accent I thought, “Weren’t you in history class when we talked about the Holocaust and the dangers of so-called racial identity?” Our problem with race extends beyond America’s borders. While Israel is the proof that being Jewish has absolutely nothing to do with how you look, Israelis still struggle with “whiteness” and race. The idol of race is a dangerous fence that has to be hacked down if we’re ever to survive as a people.

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Why I’m So Addicted to This New Gangster Show

Friday, February 13th, 2015 - by Andrew Klavan

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Barack Obama’s history of the Crusades, Brian Williams’ war stories and the CBS Evening News are all well and good, but if you want REALLY gripping fiction, try the new Fox TV series Empire. I won’t tell you it’s Shakespeare — and I hate the phrase “guilty pleasure” (it’s not like I’ve got someone chained up in the basement!) — but let’s just call it an addictive entertainment.

How addictive? Consider this. I don’t really do binge watching. No time. I set this show on my DVR and it collected six episodes before I even had a chance to look at it. Since I didn’t seem to be interested, I decided to watch ten minutes of the pilot to get the feel of it and delete the rest. I ended up watching three episodes in a row — it was past midnight when I was done. Another day or two and there were none left. Watching this thing is like eating potato chips salted with crack cocaine.

It’s the story of Lucious Lyon — played by Terrence Howard — who parlayed a hip-hop recording career into a music empire. Lucious discovers he has ALS with only three years to live so he sets his three sons against each other to see who can take over the business. There’s Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), the wannabe gangstah one; Andre (Trai Byers), the buttoned-down bi-polar one; and Jamal (Jussie Smollett), the high-minded gay one. Complicating the game is Lucious’s ex-wife, the boys’ mother, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), who has just been sprung from prison and wants her cut of the business too.

So yeah, it’s Dallas with music and just about as much fun as it’s possible to have watching TV. The acting’s great (Howard has one of the best speaking voices in the business), the girls are beautiful (newcomers Grace Gealey and Serayah could cause a man to spontaneously combust), and the music is softened just enough to make it enjoyable even to an old Bach and Bing fan like myself — which, hey, I appreciate!

You can pick on the show for silliness at times. There are one too many scenes where Cookie sashays uninvited into a meal or meeting to disrupt things with her over-the-top street smarts. But there’s never a dull moment and, frankly, watching this kind of talent go all out to amuse the folks at home is a pleasure in and of itself. If you have a chance to catch this, I’d love to know what you think. Myself, I can’t stop, won’t stop, watching.

******

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

He’s a liar. He admitted it.

The real story: His bosses don’t care.

Sources report that the president of ABC News and news legend Tom Brokaw were talking about Brian of Arabia’s desert adventures for years.

Watching this Sunday’s Meet the Press, you could be forgiven for not knowing there was an issue. They spent more time on the ages of presidents than the Williams’ scandal.

You could maybe understand the fact that the powers that be didn’t want to pull the rug from under their anchor and make a public stink about his excellent adventure being a bogus journey. What is impossible to understand is why they kept letting him run around telling the story.

It’s not like he was just sitting in a bar, telling stories of faded glory over suds and some peanuts.

He recently recounted the story of Brian Hawk Down on Letterman. Admittedly, it was a humble brag, honoring someone else as an opportunity to tout his own bravery. But seriously, there was no one in the hierarchy who could say, “Hey Brian, this is a terrible idea”?

Either no one thought that having their ten million dollar man put out a report guaranteed to make him a target was a bad idea or no one had the control over him to stop it.

I’m not sure which scenario is worse. Either one of them speaks to a media culture that doesn’t even make a pretense of valuing truth.

Indeed, the guilt of NBC and its hierarchy can be seen in how they’ve handled the incident.

Williams gave his mealy-mouthed apology about “misremembering” and relieved himself of duty. This is a double secret suspension that would make Dean Wormer proud. It’s not an admission of doing any wrong and he’ll be back in his anchor chair in a few days.

Not going to work for a few days and coming back with no repercussions?

We mortals have a term for this:

Vacation.

Indeed, Williams’ letter continues in his self-promoting tradition. He’s not stepping aside from embarrassment for being a lying liar. No, he wants to avoid being a distraction.

My God, look at his selflessness. In a few retellings, we will be hearing about how Brian Williams threw himself on a grenade to save his fellow squad mates.

Wait, NBC will say. They’re not sitting on their hands, letting Williams get some sun while the story blows over.

After all, they are investigating!

At this point, the investigation can only make things worse for Williams. It will likely focus on claims that he saw dead bodies floating down the street in the French Quarter during Hurricane Katrina.

Except that the high ground in New Orleans, there wasn’t much flooding in the French Quarter.

Oh yeah, he was also shot at again in New Orleans.

It seems that like cans in Steve Martin’s The Jerk, some people just really don’t like Brian Williams.

Keeping Brian Williams around sends a simple and unambiguous message: The public face of their news organization telling lies is a pardonable sin. Indeed, it may be no sin at all.

This is a time for Republicans to strike.

Not at the low hanging fruit. Indiana Williams and the Helicopter of Doom will become its own punchline. Schadenfreude’s great but with some actual guts and animal cunning, this can be spun into strategic victory in terms of the 2016 race.

Debates weren’t great for Republicans in the 2012 election cycle.

George Stephanopoulos midwifed the War on Women meme in the primaries.

Candy Crowley ran interference for President Obama in his second debate with President Obama.

This means that Republicans have to be pretty darn careful about debates, unless they want them to become battle space preparation for the enemy.

Now, if Republicans simply point out the blatant unfairness of the current system, they’ll just be called whiners.

Brian Williams gives them leverage with NBC.

The Republican National Committee should make reasonable demands of the network in terms of format and moderator, for both the primary and general election debates.

If NBC plays ball, fine.

If not, go for the jugular. Point out that NBC News is hopelessly compromised because of how it handled Brian Williams over the years. If they can’t effectively police themselves, they can’t be expected to referee debates.

Freeze them out.

Then, and I know this is a hard thing for establishment Republican leaders to conceptualize, they stay strong.

We live in a media saturated age. With radio, the internet and cable news, telling NBC and its moronic cousin MSNBC to pound sand won’t limit the ability for conservatives to get their message out. More importantly, it will make it easier for them to communicate without fear of that message being warped by their hosts.

Williams and NBC are wounded animals.

Capitalize on it.

Then pivot. With NBC’s scalp, they can use that standard in setting the terms for debates on other networks.

It’s the same principle with how public sector unions got insane compensation packages in California. The first domino falling sets the standard for the rest.

Now the only question that remains is whether the RNC will have the guts to set the whole thing falling.

******

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:

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What Does It Really Mean to Be ‘Like A Girl’?

Thursday, February 5th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Self-dubbed “meninists” have gone on defense after a Superbowl commercial inspired women to proclaim to the world the power of being #LikeAGirl. Ironically, the sexism inherent in their response pales in comparison to the gender bias expressed in defense of the commercial. Once again, gender feminists out themselves as a group bent on erasing gender, specifically female gender, from American culture. The problem is that they are so bloody brainwashed in indoctrination that they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

In an attempt to defend the pride a woman should take in acting #LikeAGirl, gender feminists only manage to uphold the notion that women are weak and oppressed and need public approval in order to be “empowered.” Moreover, in order to gain that much sought-after public approval, women must take on androgynous appearances, hobbies or careers that require them to leave their femininity at home under lock and key.

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Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

kindergarten568

It’s a cute saying but my trigonometry teacher didn’t buy it. According to her, life was a constant learning experience. I certainly learned how to explain to my mom how I brought home the only “C” of my high school career – and why that grade should be counted as a victory.

I was thinking about this because someone recommended The Good Wife to me, specifically asking for my take on how the show portrays the practice of law. In all honesty, I’d been avoiding the show for that reason.

By trade I’m a divorce lawyer and watching legal shows tends to be a form of torture for me because one thought always goes through my head:

Can’t they hire a technical advisor?

Quite honestly, the lawyering in those shows boggles my mind. I give Boston Legal a pass, only because of William Shatner and James Spader. Those flamingos made no pretense of taking themselves seriously and made it an amazingly fun show to watch.

So I went into The Good Wife expecting something akin to being waterboarded but without Dianne Feinstein’s press office to assist me.

And…

I liked it, after suspending disbelief.

That got me thinking:

Other people don’t suspend disbelief. They think in some form, this is how the world actually works.

Sleeping with opposing counsel. Laughing about conflicts of interest.

Those are Very Bad Things. Lose your Bar card, get sued for ungodly sums of money and still have to pay back your six figure student loans while remembering who had the no fat whipped Frappuccino kind of Bad Things.

We live in a complex world, where our modern, urban lifestyle has made people into creatures of specialization. Where people once had to be jacks-of-all trades, we’ve become the masters of one. So while individuals can look at the narrow slice of the world they have a really good handle on, the rest of it can be confusing.

And yours truly gets to spend time explaining to friends and clients why exactly you don’t get to go to trial the same afternoon you hire your lawyer.

But TV rotting our brains actually has real world implications that go beyond annoying those of us that know better.

Take juries.

At one point, they didn’t know what to do with DNA. As one juror from the OJ Simpson case said, the DNA evidence was not important because “we all have blood.”

Now, however, we’ve gone 180-degrees. Juries demand a case that has lots of glitz and science.

They call it the “CSI effect.” In this worldview, a case just isn’t complete without forensics.

Another area impacted is how young people view the world. Gays are approximately 1% of the population. However, in some studies, people think the number is 20%.

A fifth of the population gay?

Maybe one could expect that in San Francisco. But why would individuals think that in the general population?

One just needs to look at television’s treatment of homosexuals. Once, they were the objects of comic mockery, if they showed up at all. Then, slowly, there was positive treatment with the Token Gay Guy, followed by Will and Grace and Modern Family, in which the tokens became main characters. Now, Fox’s heavily-promoted show Empire has as one of its main storylines how a main character is rejected by his father for his homosexuality.

The entertainment we immerse ourselves in shapes our culture. Liberals have known this for decades and have used it for their advantage.

Even more dangerously, police shows and action movies create an expectation in the public that our law enforcement have magic abilities with their guns. Thus, the question when a police officer kills: “Why didn’t the cop just shoot the gun out of his hand?” or “Why didn’t he shoot him in the leg?” Other people nod their heads sagely as if a really important point has been made.

After all, that’s how they do it on television.

No one points out that a leg wound, with its femoral artery, can cause a man to bleed out in seconds. No one points out that shooting a gun out of a man’s hand, especially in a fluid, high intensity situation, would require a miracle.

But still, the question gets asked.

And then there’s this:

cher

I mean, her heart’s in the right place. It’s not like Cher was calling for the terrorists to be tagged and released into the wild. She wanted to hurt the terrorists.

So you can’t condemn the sentiment.

But Cher acknowledges a basic fact: she knows nothing about fighting terrorism. Yet she still thought this plan made enough sense to tweet.

She probably saw it on TV.

*****

image illustration via here.

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:

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People Who Love Magic Shouldn’t Miss This Cool TV Show’s Second Season

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Andrew Klavan

I’m a sucker for magic and especially for sleight-of-hand magic and it just so happens I’m friends with one of the greatest sleight-of-hand practitioners on the planet (no idle boast: they actually test these things and he keeps coming in at or near the top): Gregory Wilson. One of my very fond memories is of a dinner he and I once had during which he absolutely amazed me with nothing but a deck of cards. As we parted ways, he ended by correctly guessing the contents of my pockets (two tarantulas, a rocket launcher and thirty-seven cents). The guy really is brilliant and if you ever have a chance to catch his act, grab it.

Greg is part of a very cool SyFy show fronted by Penn and Teller (themselves no slouches in the magic department). It’s called Wizard Wars. It’s sort of American Idol for magicians. Its second season begins January 29th. If you love this stuff anywhere near as much as I do, set the DVR. Here’s the first season trailer:

Here’s more from the website.

And here’s more from Greg’s website.

******

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

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If, in 2002, your television viewing habits were dominated by Fox News, The Osbournes, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, you may have missed out on the highlight of Adam Carolla’s early television career. He left Comedy Central’s The Man Show in 2003.

Similarly, if you scrupulously avoid any relationship advice from Dr. Drew Pinsky as if it were a visit to the Ebola Bridal Shoppe, you missed another post-millennial Carolla enterprise. Carolla left Loveline in 2005.

There’s been a slew of Carolla projects in the interim, but if you’re like millions of baby boomers whose mental image of the word “podcast” conjures primarily a plaster replica of the seed pods from 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you may have lost all track of Carolla, and rediscovered him as a guest on the O‘Reilly Factor.

While you’ve been passively forgetting, patently ignoring, or ardently following Adam Carolla, he’s been working full time, outside of what passes for the usual show business gestalt. Like Charlton Heston, Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammar, and Wayne Newton before him, Carolla has made his conservative/libertarian values known. Only this time, unlike with those illustrious examples, the conservative is outside of so-called mainstream culture.

If there is such a thing as a conservative counterculture, I think you have to put Carolla on the ground floor. Bear in mind though—Carolla says he’s not really all that conservative; it’s just that the culture has driven him rightward.

Whether delivering irresistible cuties bouncing on trampolines, dispensing relationship advice Doctor Laura would scarcely have approved of, or the tearing off an improperly installed roof, the comedian, author, radio personality and #1 national podcaster always brought the fun.

Carolla hilariously worked his take on Eros into the Loveline script. The Man Show was like a frat house micro-burst around feminism’s ankles.

Lately, if you work in construction, you don’t want Carolla’s Catch a Contractor crew rolling up on your job site. Carolla’s home improvement sting operation on Spike TV has just been renewed for a third season.

When one contractor cornered says to Carolla, “You’re a standup comedian, right?” Carolla responds, saying, “No joke I ever told is as funny as the work you performed here.”

Carolla’s atheism is something that places him outside preconceptions about how conservatives’ reckon humankind’s place in the universe. Unfairly or not, we associate the right more with established belief systems, traditional religion, and the left more with secularism—within a larger context of the atheistic state.

Carolla’s, or anyone’s, atheism, strikes a discordant note with a statistical majority of the conservative base demographic. Thou shalt not judge is the guiding principal, but for true believers, atheism alone will put Carolla in a counterculture.

Also to be accepted is his pro-choice (while being assailed as a misogynist), pro-same-sex marriage (while being decried as a homophobe), and pro-marijuana legalization positions in the bargain.

At the entertainment website My Damn Channel, Carolla responds to criticisms about remarks he made on race that some characterize as racially insensitive.

What about this conservative counterculture? Alice Cooper has got to be some kind of emeritus standard bearer. Greg Gutfeld, Vince Vaughn, and Kid Rock?

Writer P.J. O‘Rourke has a hand in this. If you aren’t worried about coming across as pompous, a case can be made for making Dennis Miller the honorary godfather.

And who doesn’t love Wayne Newton?

Will the term “counterculture conservative” someday be remembered like “Tea Party?” the lexicon of a movement assimilated, like the Tea Party itself?

In the culture war, that might be progress.

Or will the conservative counterculture remain its own thing, and perhaps someday be sent-up in a counter-culturally conservative version of The Monkees?

Whatever happens, performers like Adam Carolla will provide the reality check, but one possibility cannot be ignored: Carolla may reject the whole idea, and someday spew forth with a rant and drill it a new one.

******

See more of PJ Lifestyle’s coverage celebrating Adam Carolla over the past few years, led by Kathy Shaidle:

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:

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5 Must-See TV Shows for Skipping the State of the Union

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

Consider the president’s track record. He’s told us that Libya was a triumph, al Qaeda was dead, the war in Iraq was over, the war in Afghanistan was won, relations with Russia have been reset and China is our friend. Given those credentials, it’s fair to conclude that Mr. Obama has about as much to tell us about foreign affairs as the Syfy channel has to say about science.

So where can you find some truly educational television tonight? Here’s some alternative programming that can teach us some important lessons about how to keep America safe.

5. Marco Polo

The Netflix series tells the story of famed adventurer at the court of Kublai Khan. Bloodthirsty, ruthless, cunning barbarian at heart? Yes. Presidential material? No. On the other hand, the great Khan was a strategist who understood the wisdom of China’s greatest military philosopher,

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer. … If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Compared to a White House that even seems to struggle at parsing friend and foe, this entertainment is refreshing fare.

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Thank God for Marvel’s Agent Carter Feminism

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Don’t let the stereotypical G.I. lunks distract you with their butt-smacking, “don’t you need to file something” portrayal of 1940s masculinity. Marvel’s Agent Carter is far from your oh-so-played-out second wave feminist portrayal of manhood – and womanhood, for that matter. Which is why it’s the best show going on television for feminism today.

For every lunk there’s a hero, Carter’s colleague Agent Sousa being one of them. One brilliant expository exchange sets the tone, demonstrating exactly how appealing real men find Carter’s fearless independence:

Carter: “I’m grateful. I’m also more than capable of handling whatever these adolescents throw at me.”

Sousa: “Yes, ma’am. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Carter: “Well that’s another thing we have in common.”

Carter is a fully empowered female. Sousa knows it, respects it, and likes it. And Carter likes him for it. This kind of His Girl Friday exchange gets equity feminism the screen time our culture so desperately needs. Unlike her Avengers’ counterpart the Black Widow, Agent Carter isn’t squished into slicked up body suits and forced to perform gymnastic feats in order to intrigue her male audience. And unlike gender feminists, Carter draws authority from her sex and uses it to save the day.

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The 10 Best British TV Shows You Should Watch No Matter Your Nationality

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Karina Fabian

America may seem to have the monopoly on entertainment, but British TV has produced some spectacular successes that have entertained viewers worldwide and even snuck into American culture. Improvements in special effects have resulted in even better shows, but the Brits have always had the lead in wit, and the overall quality of acting has improved, too. Here are ten from the past and present that represent some of the best Great Britain has offered.

1. Dr Who

Premiering in 1963, this science fiction adventure stars The Doctor, the last survivor of an alien race who travels in time and space, getting into trouble and saving worlds with the help of his human companions. Brilliant, funny, courageous yet sometimes lacking in manners or (it seems at first) common sense, the Doctor is such a fascinating character that he will draw you into his adventures.  But why watch it? TARDIS, Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels… Dr. Who has a way of making alien monsters scary without being terrifying, and the adventures are always exciting and fun.

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5 Reasons Why Lost Is the Most Underrated TV Show of All Time

Saturday, December 27th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

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Lost is the most underrated show of all time.

Yes, I know this flies in the face of its critical reception. Most people would say: “Uh, hold on. Just about everyone loved the show. They debated it, wrote essays about it, said it was one of the programs that began a television renaissance.”

But I’m not talking about the critics. If you bring up Lost in conversation, you’ll hear this: “Oh, isn’t that the show with the polar bears? I stopped watching that after, like, the first season.” And when you try to tell people otherwise — that the writing was superb, that it had more in common with literature than with television — they’d, pun not intended, tune you out.

Culture counts, and so how the average viewer thinks about the show will matter more than what, say, Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe does.

So, listen up, people who thought the show with the island somewhere in the South Pacific was too much:  You missed out.

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The Complete He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon

Here is a list of the previous cartoons featured this year:

Disney in Spring

All 75 of the Silly Symphonies, the Gold Standard of the Era:

  1. Walt Disney’s First Silly Symphony: ‘The Skeleton Dance’
  2. PETA Would Hate This 1929 Disney Cartoon…
  3. Nature Animated to Life
  4. A Disney Cartoon Set In Hell!
  5. Getting Drunk With Disney’s Merry Dwarfs
  6. Summer: The Sixth Silly Symphony, A Sequel to Spring
  7. Corn on the Cob as Musical Instrument
  8. A Cannibal-Version of Carmen With Clicking Human Skulls… Made By Walt Disney
  9. Frolicking Fish Almost 60 Years Before The Little Mermaid
  10. Mickey Mouse As a Polar Bear
  11. Toy Story‘s Great Grandfather?
  12. A Bug Flying Too Close to the Fire In the Darkness
  13. Innocence Incarnate: These Smooching Monkeys Will Make You Smile
  14. Goodbye Winter! Disney’s Playful Pan Emerges to Call In Spring (two cartoons)
  15. Birds of a Feather Flock Together
  16. A Cartoon First Released April 17, 1931: Disney’s Mother Goose Melodies
  17. Dora the Explorer’s Politically Incorrect Cameo in a 1931 Disney Cartoon
  18. Apparently Beavers Invented the Wheelbarrow Before Man
  19. A Sweet & Spooky Silly Symphony for Cat Lovers
  20. Egyptian Melodies Vs. Father Noah’s Ark
  21. Geppetto’s Original Workshop And Cogsworth’s Great-grandparents?
  22. When A Cavalry of Horseflies Goes To War Against the Spider
  23. Drinking Tea Before the Fox Hunt
  24. How Much Can an Ugly Duckling Grow Up Over a Decade?
  25. The Marx Brothers As Cartoon Birds
  26. A Primordial Winnie the Pooh
  27. A Dog Jail Break at the Pound!
  28. The First Technicolor Cartoon: Disney’s Still-Amazing ‘Flowers and Trees’
  29. It’s Amazing What Kinds of Cartoons Were Considered Family Friendly in 1932…
  30. Bugs In Love Battle a Blackbird in Black and White
  31. ‘Babes In the Woods’ Vs. The Witch In The Candy Cottage
  32. What Secrets Do You See Inside Santa’s Workshop?
  33. The Snake Hypnotizes His Prey
  34. The Disney Version of Noah’s Ark
  35. An Oscar-Winning Cartoon That Defined the Depression Era
  36. Who’s Ready to Open Pandora’s Box?
  37. Enter Sandman? Where We Go When We Sleep
  38. If You Don’t Pay the Piper He’ll Just Take Your Children Instead…
  39. When Walt Disney Imagined Santa Claus In Alliance With The Robot Toys
  40. The ‘Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil’ Monkeys In Cartoon Form
  41. ‘Oh, the World Owes Us a Livin’…’
  42. Among the Easter Bunny’s Secrets: Scotch-Colored Paint!
  43. Practical Pig Saved Little Red Riding Hood From the Big Bad Wolf
  44. Donald Duck’s First Appearance
  45. The Lesson of the Flying Mouse: Sometimes A Blessing Is Actually A Curse…
  46. Chill Out Today With These ‘Peculiar Penguins’
  47. Compare and Contrast: The Goddess of Spring With Snow White
  48. Slow and Steady Wins the Race?
  49. What Would You Do If Everything You Touched Turned to Gold?
  50. A Cartoon To Teach Kids About the Danger of Celebrating Crime
  51. Dreaming of an Innocent Unity With Nature
  52. A Fantasy Land Where Everything Is Made of Candy…
  53. How Did Disney’s Mae West Bird Caricature Compare With Real Life?
  54. VIDEO: If Romeo and Juliet Were A Saxophone and Cello
  55. Another 1930s Disney Cartoon with Creepy Racial Stereotypes…
  56. What Does It Take to Be the Cock o’ The Walk?
  57. What Is the Fate of Broken Toys?
  58. Elmer Elephant: Is This the Most Adorable Cartoon in the Whole Series?
  59. How Kids Can Learn To Defeat Bullies
  60.  ‘I Like a Man That Takes His Time…’
  61. The 3 Blind Mouseketeers Vs A Room of Traps
  62. A Country Mouse Discovers the Joys of Drinking in the Big City…
  63. This Very Cute Video of ‘Mother Pluto’ Parenting Chicks Will Make You Smile
  64. 3 Troublemaker Kittens Make a Mess in the Garden
  65. The Dark Secrets Hidden in the Woodland Cafe…
  66. What Is Animism?
  67. One of The Classic Breakthroughs In Animation History
  68. When Moths Fly Too Close to The Flame…
  69. 3 Babies Fishing For Stars In Dreamland
  70. Walt Disney Introduces The Farmyard Symphony on the DisneyLand TV Show
  71. Long Before Spongebob: The Underwater Circus of the Merbabies
  72. Katharine Hepburn As Little Bo Peep in Blackface
  73. Practical Pig Delivers a ‘Harsh Interrogation’ To the Big Bad Wolf
  74. This Ugly Duckling Abandoned By His Family Will Melt Your Heart

Mickey Mouse:

  1. ‘Plane Crazy’: Mickey Mouse at the End of the Silent Era

Donald Duck’s first appearances:

  1. “The Wise Little Hen”: Donald Duck’s First Appearance
  2. “Orphan’s Benefit”: Which Character Do You Prefer: Donald Duck Vs Popeye?
  3. “The Dognapper:” Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck Vs The Dognapper
  4. Donald Duck’s 4th Appearance Is One of the 1930s’ Greatest Cartoons
  5. Donald Duck’s 5th Appearance: ”Mickey’s Service Station”
  6. A World War II Donald Duck Cartoon for Veterans Day
  7. How to Fish With Chewing Tobacco and a Club
  8. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse Take the Orphans for a Picnic
  9. Donald’s Final Appearance in His Original Duckish Design

Pluto:

  1. Pluto Wants Some Turkey Too

Fleischer Studios in Summer

12 Early Betty Boop Cartoons

  1. Betty Boop’s First Appearance
  2. Before Betty Boop Was Beautiful…
  3. Betty Boop as Snow White In A Cartoon For Jazz Lovers
  4. Your Initiation Into Betty Boop’s Secret Society
  5. ‘No, He Couldn’t Take My Boop-Oop-a-Doop Away!’ (2 cartoons featured)
  6. Why You Shouldn’t Try Robbing Betty Boop
  7. The Betty Boop Approach to Dealing With ‘Silly Scandals’
  8. Moving Day for Betty Boop!
  9. A Plus-Size Betty Boop As Kitty From Kansas City
  10. Playing Chess with Betty Boop & Taking a Mean Shot at Mickey Mouse
  11. Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions
  12. Cab Calloway as ‘The Old Man Of the Mountain’ Chases after Betty Boop

Popeye

  1. Popeye The Sailor’s First Animated Appearance
  2. Which Character Do You Prefer: Donald Duck Vs Popeye?

22 Color Classics, a competitor to the Silly Symphonies:

  1. A Redheaded Betty Boop As Cinderella Debuted a New Series
  2. ‘Joy Like This Cannot Be Bought!’ A Cartoon Variation of Hansel and Gretel
  3. An Elephant Never Forgets
  4. Back When Cartoons Taught the Miraculous Power of Prayer…
  5. ‘Momma Don’t Allow No Music Playin In Here’
  6. Animal Newlyweds Take Their Honeymoon In Outer Space!
  7. Seduced By the Black Swan
  8. An Old Couple Reminisces On Falling In Love…
  9. Somewhere in Dreamland Tonight
  10. When a Chick Tries to Be a Duck
  11. Newlywed Flies Pick The Wrong Hotel For Their Honeymoon
  12. Greedy Humpty Dumpty Enslaves Nursery Rhyme Creatures To Build His Gold Wall to the Sun
  13. Two Lovebirds Take a Hawaiian Honeymoon
  14. Dreaming of a Big Train
  15. An Eccentric Inventor Saves The Orphans’ Christmas
  16. The Wedding of Jack and Jill Rabbit
  17. The Rooster and His Harem…
  18. Animal Symphony Chaos: ‘The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Astray…’
  19. VIDEO: A Family of Peeping Penguins Finds a New Home
  20. A Little Fish Has to Learn His Lesson The Hard Way
  21. Cute: Little Lamby Eats His Grass With Sugar
  22. The Vegetable Children Don’t Want to Play With the Little Onion Kid

The Films of Ub Iwerks, co-creator of Mickey Mouse, during his years apart from Disney, studied in the Fall:

Flip the Frog

  1. Flip the Frog: The First Sound Color Cartoon
  2. Flip the Frog Hallucinating in the Opium Den
  3. Flip the Frog Befriends the Ghost Family With Their Skeleton Dog
  4. Flip The Frog Vs The Mouse
  5. The Village Barber
  6. ‘Techno-Cracked’: When Flip the Frog Built a Robot
  7. Why Were so Many 1930s Cartoons Set in a Sultan’s Harem?

Willie Whopper

  1. An Angel Flashing the Middle Finger In a 1930s Cartoon?
  2. Willie Whopper’s Mexican Gun Fight
  3. Willie Whopper Steals Neptune’s Crown

Comicolor Cartoons

  1. A Very Angry Sun Vs. Old Man Winter
  2. A Nutty Knight Escapes from the Insane Asylum
  3. Sinbad the Sailor and His Parrot Enjoy Cigars
  4. The Tailor Vs The Giant and Everyone Vs The Mouse
  5. Baby Bear Has to Learn From Jack Frost the Hard Way…
  6. Simple Simon in the Lion’s Den
  7. The First Cartoon Version of Aladdin
  8. Welcome to Balloon Land! Beware of the Pincushion Man!
  9. Humpty Dumpty Jr. Rescues His Sweetheart from a Bad Egg

Columbia Pictures’ Color Rhapsodies series

  1. Little Nell With a Heart As Big as Texas
  2. The Frog Pond: The Primary Theme of 1930s Cartoons? How to Beat Bullies
  3. Skeleton Frolics: An Undead Orchestra Rehearses

Terrytoons By Paul Terry

  1. How Farmer Al Falfa Survived the Drought
  2. A June Bride: Farmer Al Falfa’s Kitty Elopes With an Alley Cat
  3. The Dancing Mice Make War on Farmer Al Falfa and His Cat
  4. ‘Scotch Highball’: a 1930 Terrytoon of Animals Racing

 Warner Bros in Winter

  1. Porky Pig’s First Appearance
  2. “Plane Dippy”
  3. What Are the Origins of Daffy Duck?

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5 Ways to Avoid Christma-fying Your Hanukkah

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.

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17 Reasons Why I Enjoyed Summer TV More than the ‘New Fall Season’ on Broadcast, Part III

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 - by David Forsmark

5. Life is Beautiful: Dr. Who

Before they brought Holmes and Watson into the 20th century in the excellent personages of Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman, the Sherlock team first produced this marvelous update of the ultimate geek cult classic, Dr. Who.

For the uninitiated, The Doctor is a time-traveling alien, last of his species which was known as Time Lords, who generally is incarnated with some sort of accent from the British Isles, and travels through time and space in a blue time capsule that looks like a blue British police call box circa 1963 (when the series debuted on the BBC.)

The Doctor is of an undetermined age, and regenerates every so often with a new body and slightly different personality. This season, he is played by Peter Capaldi and is, to his initial consternation, an older and grouchier, Scotsman. In the most recent seasons he has been played to great effect by Christopher Eccleson, David Tennant and Matt Smith.

The Doctor travels with an appealing and adventurous sidekick, generally a young and pretty British woman.

Like The Doctor himself, this show has heart to spare, generally with the characters saving some civilization from extinction. While Dr. Who is consistently life-affirming, the show recently aired one of the most blatantly pro-life episodes in the history of television.

Forget wondering if a baby might ruin one’s career, in this case, the dilemma was whether to kill the last of an alien species in utero, even if letting it hatch meant risking the future of Earth itself.

Utterly whimsical and completely addictive, Dr. Who has a sense of wonder and humanity that is unique in modern television.

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VIDEO: How the Genius TSA Thwarts Al-Qaeda Attacks

Friday, December 12th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Viral Videos

hat tip: Ben Shapiro

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17 Reasons Why I Enjoyed Summer TV More than the ‘New Fall Season’ on Broadcast, Part II

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 - by David Forsmark

Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 in this 3-part series.

11. How I Learned to Love the Bomb: Manhattan

WGN, the Chicago version of Atlanta’s TBS that never quite made national superstation status, makes a big bid for relevance with Manhattan, a terrific soap opera set in Los Alamos in 1944, as scientists feverishly race their Nazi counterparts in the quest for a workable nuclear bomb.

While most treatments of this subject focus on the supposition that people working on the project would be consumed by the guilt of constructing something that could kill millions of people, this series refreshingly pushes those considerations to the background.

The makers of Manhattan remember that it is set in wartime, where everyone knows someone who has been killed by the bad guys—and that the bad guys themselves are working on creating such a weapon.

Instead, Manhattan’s focus is on two things—the professional competition and jealousies created among the scientists who have competing theories about how to create a bomb; and the stress—and boredom—of people forced to live with their families in a super-secret military camp out in the middle of nowhere.

A very good cast of character actors you have seen elsewhere, sharp writing and an authentic feel of time and place make Manhattan top flight—and informative—entertainment.

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Should We Care When Our Political Leaders Fail?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first four parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” “Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power,” and “Should You Trust Your Gut or God?“ Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts hereWarning: some spoilers about season 3 discussed in this installment.

Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our culture has a seemingly natural distrust of people in power, but that wasn’t always the case. Before November 1963 we put great faith in our political and spiritual leaders. Those pre-’63 figureheads like JFK, Ike and FDR, Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham are still heralded as role models of moral society. Today’s faith is different. We look for hypocrisy and mock it intensely. All spiritual leaders are televangelists skilled in chicanery. Our politicians are now supposed to be our messiahs, and when they fail we as a nation fall into despair and chaos. When did we forget God, and why does it matter that we’ve left Him out of the equation?

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17 Reasons Why I Enjoyed Summer TV More than the ‘New Fall Season’ on Broadcast

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 - by David Forsmark

This year, one of the shows that generated critical buzz was Fox’s Red Band Society, which is about a children’s ward for children with serious-terminal illnesses. The result was a Breakfast Club for disease, narrated by a kid in a coma with a penchant for platitudes. I bailed during the second lecture by Coma Boy.

Ugh.

Of course, I had a clue how dreary the fall could be when this was the list of “anticipated” new shows on broadcast TV this year according to USA Today’s estimable critic, Robert Bianco.

Then it struck me. I went to my DVR and counted 16 shows I enjoyed on cable this SUMMER, and one genial network offering. Summer? Superior original TV?  Since when?

Since now.

So let me offer anyone with cable that offers a good On Demand, a personalized TV schedule for the fall. Add these to the few network shows worth your time: The Good Wife, Modern Family, The Middle, and Elementary; and the two new network shows with promise: Gotham and Black-ish, (and, of course, Showtime’s thoroughly revived and gripping Homeland) and you will actually have a TV schedule worthy of the Golden Age (actually better).

This should at least last you until January, when we get the return of Justified, The Americans, and the rest of the first season of Amazon Prime’s nearly perfect adaptation of Michael Connelly’s great noirish cop novels, Bosch.

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Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 - by Mark Ellis

Editor’s Note: We’re launching some new discussions and debates this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,” and Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and December 2: “My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors.” Learn more about Liberty Island contributor Mark Ellis in an interview with him and read an excerpt from his short story “Temblor” here

If there is an inherent bipolarity between hard rock and heavy metal and the dissemination of the conservative message, social issues–in particular substance abuse–are at the bottom of that dissonance.

It’s a question about how art and politics intersect, and it becomes a question about how readily conservatives will embrace transgressive and even regressive artists in their quest to more integrally impact popular culture.

Whatever our politics, it is human nature to make special exceptions in the name of art. If conservatives want to impact the entire culture, we’re going to need some bad boys, antiheros, lost souls, dark heralds, and musical provocateurs.

I nominate Ozzy Osbourne for inclusion in the conservative counterculture– although I would never want to do anything to hurt his career or jeopardize his sobriety. I contend that if you peel back all the layers of substance abuse, all the layers it takes to survive being a superstar, you’ll find that rock’s Prince of Darkness is essentially a man with core conservative values.

VH-1 recently announced that The Osbournes reality show will be returning in January for a slate of episodes. The scuttlebutt is that unlike last time, Ozzy wants the show and Sharon does not.

Ozzy claims (and who would doubt) that he was both stoned and inebriated throughout the filming of the show’s original iteration. He’s down with the new episodes because he wants to show the world how he functions without the drugs and alcohol.

And I recommend that conservatives watch the show, which premieres in January, with an eye to claiming rock’s Prince of Darkness for the center-right.

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Should You Trust Your Gut or God?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first three parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” and “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The idea of Olivia Pope is one of a woman who trusts her gut instinct so implicitly that she bases her every decision on it. As a result she unwittingly justifies a range of crimes, puts her life and the lives of her employees and friends at risk, and helps terrorists escape the country. Sometimes listening to your gut just isn’t good enough. Which is probably why God provides a wise alternative in Torah: the prophet.

Biblical culture believes that God speaks to human beings. Sometimes this is done in a group setting, like when the Israelites entered into a covenant with God on Mount Sinai. Other times this is done on an individual level, as when God called out Abraham, spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and when God speaks to His prophets. Given that God spoke to His priests through the long-ago destroyed Temple, Rabbinic Judaism tends to view prophets as the stuff of biblical history, despite the prophecy of Joel:

And afterward [after the restoration of Israel], I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

The Spirit of God in prophecy, known in Rabbinic Judaism as the “bat kol,” is highly regulated by Rabbinic law and culture:

In any event, the consensus in Jewish thought is that no appeal to a heavenly voice can be made to decide matters of halakhah where human reasoning on the meaning of the Torah rules is alone determinative. In non-legal matters, however, a Bat Kol is to be heeded. …In modern Jewish thought, even among the Orthodox, claims to have heard a Bat Kol would be treated with extreme suspicion and dismissed as chicanery or hallucination.

But is it really wise to always trust your gut?

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12 Steps for a Perfect Pop Culture Christmas

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice the confusion laced within a holiday message. When it comes to Christmas, the confusion is on overload. Somewhere along the way a religious message got smacked with a load of pop culture overtones to create a holiday lush with semiotic excess, too much for the brain or heart to process. So, allow me from my seat on the sidelines to create the How To guide so you can enjoy the perfect pop culture Christmas.

12. Shop early and shop often for things you’ll never need that are on sale at bargain basement prices.

Christmas really begins on Black Friday, or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. The holiday is about buying to your heart’s content and making sure everything you and your children have ever dreamed of is stacked up under that decorated tree. The bruises and broken limbs you get in pursuit of those awesome sale prices will be well worth it. Who needs teeth when they can have stuff?

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The 10 Wasted Women of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

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Editor’s Note: this article compiles the opening essay “Why Star Trek: The Next Generation Is Great in Spite of Being Mostly Terrible” and all 5 parts of Ash Freeman’s recent series dissecting how and why one of science fiction’s most influential shows failed to give its female characters adequate attention. Jump to your favorite neglected heroine below or dive in first with Ash’s explanation for why he still enjoys TNG even though its shortcomings now show more glaringly today.

1. Tasha Yar

2. Deanna Troi

3. Dr. Beverly Crusher

4. Dr. Katherine Pulaski

5. Guinan

6. Ro Laren

7. Lwaxana Troi

8. Alyssa Ogawa

9. K’Ehleyr

10. Sonya Gomez

Star Trek: The Next Generation is, undeniably, one of the greatest sci-fi shows in the history of the genre.

But it wasn’t perfect. So when did it start to slide in quality anyway?

It didn’t start out that good — let’s be real.

Like many productions, TNG stumbled in its early seasons, regularly. As the show found itself, it began to consistently display the storytelling and endearing characters it would be known for even today… at around Season 3. Hell, the most famous episodes of the series, “The Best of Both Worlds” Parts 1 and 2, ended said season. But before that? It was hit or miss, and often the latter.

Season 1 is especially egregious, containing the worst good-to-mediocre/terrible ratio in the entire series. Yes, that is including the often (justifiably) maligned Season 7, generally the point where most shows have definitely passed their high point anyway. What set Season 1 apart from arguably more inferior seasons is the sheer volume of crap they had to crank out before they hit their stride.

No, seriously, it was pretty terrible in the beginning

The Big Goodbye.” “Datalore.” “Conspiracy.” Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe “Skin of Evil.” Maybe.

That’s four (possibly three) episodes that could be considered great, at least by the standards of Season 1.

Out of 26.

Not off to a great start there, were they? Fans at the time certainly didn’t seem to think so, and their opinions are justified. Season 1 has its share of stinkers, and most of them appeared right out of the gate. The second episode, “The Naked Now,” was more or less a rehash of an original series episode. After that we got what is thought to be by many, including principle cast member Jonathan Frakes, as the most embarrassing episode in the entire run– “Code of Honor.”

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