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HBO’s Terror at the Mall: The Right Film at the Right Time

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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As the world’s attention is focused on ISIS, it’s easy for many to neglect the threat posed by their brethren in less-covered parts of the globe.

It’s also easy for many to dismiss the growth of al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa as a regional threat, even as Americans in Uganda were warned by the U.S. Embassy to shelter in place over the weekend because of an imminent threat from Al-Shabaab. “We remain vigilant to the possibility that some of the attack cell could still be at large, but we believe that it is appropriate to rescind the guidance to shelter-in-place,” the Embassy said Sunday. “We urge, however, that all U.S. citizens maintain heightened security awareness and continue to monitor email and news outlets for any updates.”

It could also be easy for some to assume that Al-Shabaab is significantly degraded after a U.S. airstrike on Labor Day killed its leader Godane, instead of noting how quickly they moved new leadership into place and renewed their fidelity to al-Qaeda.

That’s why the HBO documentary Terror at the Mall, which premiered on the cable network Monday night, is so important.

The Westgate mall in Nairobi, with its patrons a truly globalized mix of races, creeds, nationalities, and ages, was a microcosm of the greater al-Qaeda target. On Sept. 21, 2013, Al-Shabaab moved in on their target. Sixty-seven people were killed and nearly 200 wounded.

British documentary producer and director Dan Reed has experience showing the brutality of terrorism: 2009′s Terror in Mumbai and 2003′s Terror in Moscow.

In Terror at the Mall, he painstakingly pieced together footage from more than 100 security cameras around Westgate as well as the still photos of renowned Reuters war photographer Goran Tomašević, who gives the story behind some of his famous photos from that day. We also see him, in full combat photography gear, drift through security camera footage with plainclothes police as the bullets fly.

Reed sits down with some of the survivors seen in the footage, including Niall Saville, who was eating lunch at a patio restaurant when the attack began. His wife, Moon Hee, is badly wounded and he drags her into the restaurant and behind the counter as a security camera looks on. A terrorist eventually discovers the pair and shoots Saville. The couple lay on the ground in a pool of blood, the husband trying to stay conscious as his wife dies.

In the large adjoining supermarket, Nakumatt, we see a heroic man get ripped by bullets for venturing out into the aisles to get a bottle of water for a wounded man. We hear from his savior, who admits he learned how to put life-saving pressure on the wounds from watching movies. We hear the stories of the mothers with children who went grocery shopping that day only to cower behind the meat counter in a last-ditch effort to stay alive. An Al-Shabaab terrorist comes by and sprays customers with bullets as they try to shield their children.

Katherine Walton, who hid her three children under a mall kiosk table, speaks of her immediate realization that as an American, as a Christian, she would be a prime target for the terrorists. Another survivor from the supermarket recounts that one of the Al-Shabaab members asked a Kenyan mother if she was Muslim or Christian; she replied she was Christian and was immediately shot to death.

Some of the terror was out of the reach of security cameras, like the massacre at a children’s cooking competition on the roof of the parking garage. A few of the hostages were released after telling the terrorists that they were Muslim, but Muslims were also among the dead. Radio host Ruhila Adatia-Sood was one of three pregnant women killed that day.

The film also highlights the people who came to help, including businessman Abdul Haji, who grabbed his gun and joined plainclothes policemen trying to rescue survivors in the mall (he admits he didn’t have many rounds that day, but stresses it’s accuracy that matters most). The disorganized response of Kenyan authorities, including soldiers accidentally shooting at survivors and killing Kenyan policemen, underscores the tragedy.

It concludes with Al-Shabaab’s “message to unbelievers”: “God willing, there will be more Westgates. We have hundreds more volunteers.”

Terror at theMall is stark, unflinching, bloody and terrifying. It also couldn’t be a more chilling reminder at a more important time. It’s not about pundit commentary and lets the footage speak for itself. It will stay with you for a long time. And in a terror fight that has seen its share of fair-weather commitment, that is needed.

“We don’t know each other, we all come from different communities,” recalled survivor Valentine Kadzo, who hid under the kiosk with Walton. “But at that time we were one.”

And that’s exactly the approach we need to take in confronting the growth of Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Al-Shabaab.

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15 Songs Millennials Must Listen to in Order to Understand the 1980s

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You’ve seen Thriller and heard all about Madonna, but what do you really know about the decade that ushered in the millennial generation? Think the era of scrunchies, boom boxes, pump sneakers and DeLoreans was just a fad? Think again. Some of the 1990s’ greatest pop culture trends were birthed in the millieu of Reaganomics, cable television, and a music video-loaded MTV.

15. Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon”

The ’80s was the decade of John Waters, the B-52s and all things camp coming to fruition. Decked out in eyeliner, lipstick and braids, Boy George popularized the aesthetic of this gay subculture with a poppy little tune about conflicted relationships. As for the music video, where better to set a gay guy’s love song in the ’80s than an 1870s riverboat called the “Chameleon” where a cheating gambler’s karma comes back to haunt him? Dude, it’s the ’80s: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” started here.

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Top 10 Best Animated TV Shows of All Time

Monday, September 15th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Animation consisting of individual, hand drawn panels, photographed and run sequentially as a strip of film has been with us since the start of the film industry beginning with Little Nemo in 1911 and Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914. Using that same technique, the production process quickly evolved with studios of artists working together to produce longer and more elaborate cartoons reaching its climax with Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie in 1928. Soon, almost every movie studio had its animation department cranking out short subjects for display ahead of their main features including Warner Bros., MGM, and Columbia. But it was Disney who took the next great leap by producing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, a feature length cartoon that became a hit for the fledgling studio.

Such was where the state of animation remained until the next breakthrough took place. It happened when MGM animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera figured out a way to make cartoons cheaply enough to be profitable for television. Pioneering limited animation, they cut corners in the production process by reducing the number of cells per movement and using repetitive backgrounds among other techniques. That way, the two were able to come up with the Huckleberry Hound Show for the NBC television network in 1958. It was a success and soon after, the studio expanded its format into half hour shows until shattering another barrier in 1960 with the premier of The Flintstones on ABC. Following up on that show’s ratings success, the studio produced one classic half hour show after another so that for years, Hanna-Barbera dominated the field of TV animation.

But that begs the question: what makes for a hit animated show? The answer is the same as it is for any medium from novels to movies: a solid plot, well-rounded characterizations, and a good story with an identifiable beginning, middle, and end. And in the case of animation, instead of actors who can bring characters to life, good voice artists are a must. With those criteria in mind, as well as longevity, entertainment value, and originality, and a 30 minute format to fully develop those elements, the following list of the top ten best cartoon shows of all time has been chosen.

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116 Articles Exploring American Culture by Chris Queen

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

With Herman Cain

(Chris with Herman Cain at Smart Girl Summit, which he wrote about here.)

Back in May I edited together “10 of Chris Queen’s Greatest Hits,” a collection featuring several of my favorite pieces exemplifying the output from one of PJ Lifestyle’s strongest contributors. Today I offer a broader survey of Chris’s work. Here are links to some of his best articles across many subjects. If you haven’t yet discovered Chris’s thoughtful writing and warm spirit then here’s your place to dive in. Here are pieces going back to 2011. Also take a look at my article from last weekend, an open list-letter to Chris offering ideas in our Walt Disney research: “Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution.”

The South

  1. 10 Bands That Define Southern Rock
  2. What Do Southerners Think of Paula Deen?
  3. Hollywood’s Terrible Southern Accent Syndrome
  4. Smearing the South: First Honey Boo-Boo, Now ‘The Angry Ginger’?
  5. The Southern Tourism War of 2013: Enterprise, AL vs. Covington, GA
  6. Paula Deen’s Turnaround
  7. 3 Great Southern Novels You Probably Haven’t Read…Yet…
  8. Southerners Read The Bible More Than Any Other Area Of The Country
  9. 10 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About The South
  10. 14 Fascinating Inventors and Innovators from the South
  11. The 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the South
  12. The 10 Most Underrated Destinations in the South
  13. 10 Decadent Classic Southern Dishes

Disney: The Man, The Films, The Company, The Theme Parks

  1. The Ten Things You Must Do at Disney World
  2. Walt Disney’s 5 Greatest Innovations
  3. The 10 Best Disney Songs by the Sherman Brothers
  4. Disney’s Rich Ross: The Rise And Fall Of An Entertainment Mogul
  5. The Pixar Canon: 4 Misses And 8 Hits
  6. No Redheaded Stepchild: Brave Innovations Pay Off for Pixar
  7. It’s So Good To Be Bad: What Drives the Disney Villain Fascination?
  8. The Most Controversial Disney Classic You Probably Forgot
  9. 10 Must-Read Books for Disney Nerds
  10. Walt Disney’s Fascinating Political Journey
  11. 5 Examples of the Value of Faith in Disney’s Classic Films
  12. How Disney Culture Values Excellence
  13. 5 Disney Films That Define Key Family Values
  14. Patriotism, Disney Style
  15. Walt Disney’s Optimistic Futurism
  16. Horizons: Walt Disney’s Lost Futuristic Legacy
  17. Forgotten Walt Disney World: River Country
  18. Roy Disney: The Not-So-Silent Partner
  19. Forgotten Walt Disney World: Discovery Island
  20. Forgotten Walt Disney World: If You Had Wings
  21. Walt Disney’s ‘Boys’: Beautiful Music, Brotherly Disharmony
  22. How Interactive Lines at Disney’s Parks Make Waiting For Rides Not So Bad
  23. The 5 Most Underrated Walt Disney World Experiences
  24. The 5 Most Overrated Experiences at Walt Disney World
  25. Disney Parks’ Fascinating Running Subculture
  26. Has Disney World Fulfilled Walt’s Dreams For His Florida Project?
  27. Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse!
  28. RIP, Diane Disney Miller
  29. The Top 5 Christmas Season Traditions At Walt Disney World
  30. The Disney Family’s Real Life Soap Opera
  31. 3 Ways Walt Disney World Can Improve Transportation Around The Resort
  32. Disney’s Tasty, Controversial Turkey Legs
  33. Debunking the Disney Disinformation
  34. 5 Attractions I Wish Were Still At Walt Disney World
  35. How Glenn Beck Wants to Shape the Culture
  36. 5 Underrated Disney World Attractions You Shouldn’t Skip
  37. 10 Books Every Disney Fan Should Read
  38. Disney and the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, Part 1: ‘The Kind Of Service We Can Offer’
  39. Part 2: ‘Something No One Has Seen Or Done Before’
  40. Part 3: ‘I Won’t Open The Fair Without That Exhibit!’
  41. Part 4: ‘At The Intersection Of Commerce And Progress’
  42. Part 5: ‘It Says Something Very Nice’
  43. Part 6: ‘A Living Blueprint Of The Future’
  44. Mary Blair: Unsung Disney Artist
  45. 10 Free Ways To Have Fun At Walt Disney World
  46. The 10 Most Overrated Disney Animated Films
  47. The 10 Most Underrated Disney Animated Films
  48. 10 Ideas For How I’d Build A Star Wars Land At Walt Disney World
  49. The 10 Most Overrated Live-Action Disney Films
  50. The 10 Most Underrated Live-Action Disney Films

TV

  1. Recreating the ’60s: Mad Men and Its Pale Imitators
  2. Five Reasons Why I Love To Watch BBC America On The Telly
  3. Person Of Interest and the Paranoia of the Digital Age
  4. Forgotten Christmas: Five Lesser-Known Holiday Specials
  5. Five TV Shows That Didn’t Get the Chance They Deserved
  6. Reimagining Fairy Tales: Grimm, Once Upon A Time and Their Modern Spin On Fantasy
  7. ‘When The **** Hits The Fan’: The Eccentrics of Doomsday Preppers
  8. How the History Channel Transformed into Conspiracy Theory Central
  9. 5 Scenarios You Can Always Expect on Hell’s Kitchen
  10. Jack’s Back! 5 Reasons to Get Excited About 24: Live Another Day
  11. 6 Contestants To Watch On The New Season Of MasterChef
  12. The 10 Funniest Episodes of Seinfeld
  13. 10 Observations from Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen
  14. 12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Books

  1. Book Review: The Forest of Assassins by David Forsmark and Timothy Imholt
  2. Hope & Change… And Disinformation & Glasnost
  3. Book Review: It’s Kind Of A Cute Story, by Rolly Crump & Jeff Heimbuch
  4. Book Review: Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms
  5. A New Way Of Looking At The Civil War

Self-Improvement

  1. How I Lost 25 Pounds without Having to Run

Movies

  1. Essential Christmas: The 10 Best Holiday Specials And Movies
  2. 5 Reasons Why I Can’t Wait For Skyfall, The New James Bond Movie
  3. Oscar’s Only Human: The 10 Biggest Academy Awards Blunders
  4. The 5 Best and 5 Worst James Bond Theme Songs
  5. 4 Surprises from the Academy Awards
  6. Robin Williams’ 10 Best Performances

Music

  1. 5 Reasons Why I Always Say I’ll Never Watch The Grammys Again
  2. The Civil Wars: The Power of Music and the Hope of Restoration
  3. Meet The Least Likely Songwriter to Have A Top Ten Hit
  4. It’s Time For Christian Music Artists To Step Up Their Creative Game
  5. 4 Quick Observations from the Grammy Awards
  6. What’s Wrong with Country Music Today?
  7. 9 Questions On Music And Faith With Singer-Songwriter Melanie Penn

Exploring the Judeo-Christian Values in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania:

  1. The Spiritual Journey Of Billy Corgan
  2. Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Values in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 1: The Seeker
  3. Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 2: The Name
  4. Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 3: The Dispenser of Wisdom
  5. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 4: The Unfaithful Lover
  6. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 5: Hope From Despair
  7. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 6: Unfailing Love
  8. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 7: Repentance
  9. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 8: The Way
  10. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 9: Faith
  11. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 10: Contentment
  12. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 11: The Lost Son
  13. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 12: In The Presence Of God
  14. Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 13: Freedom

Religion in America

  1. How Far Should Churches Go to Appeal to Men?
  2. The Difference Between Happiness and Joy
  3. Finding Mr. Righteous: A Single Christian Guy’s Perspective
  4. 15 Questions About the Challenge of Finding Mr. Righteous
  5. Sean Astin Opens Up About His Faith
  6. 5 Idols that God’s Followers Allow to Get in the Way of Their Relationship with Him

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10 Reasons Why I Will Forever Love Joan Rivers

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.

10. Joan never grew old or gave up.

At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.

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12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I recently had the incredible privilege of interviewing my all-time favorite MasterChef contestant, Season 3′s Top 5 finalist Monti Carlo. (Yes, Monti’s my favorite even though Season 4′s Jessie hails from my hometown.) She’s a really cool lady and a true inspiration. She dished on her days on MasterChef, the joys of motherhood, and her new show Make My Food Famous, which debuts this weekend on FYI.

1. What can you tell us about the new show?

I’m so stoked to be hosting Make My Food Famous! It’s a competitive cooking show filmed in some of the best restaurants in the country. Three home cooks get to battle it out in a professional kitchen to get their original recipe on a renowned chef’s menu. The pilot airs this Sunday August 31st on A&E’s FYI Network at 10PM ET/PT, though you should check your local listings since air times are subject to change. It was shot in Manhattan Beach, California, at Michelin-starred chef David LeFevre’s incredible MB Post.

Chef LeFevre has worked with some of modern cuisine’s culinary giants like Ferran Adria and Charlie Trotter. To impress this man enough to showcase your creation on his menu is an almost impossible feat. To do it as a home cook is a near miracle. The show isn’t just for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It’s also for people that get a kick out of watching someone hustle to make their dreams come true. It is truly inspirational!

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‘MythBusters’ Drops Kari, Grant and Tory

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Discovery Channel’s lone remaining science series, MythBusters, has lost 60% of its cast. The show announced Thursday night that that episode would be the last to feature Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara.

MythBusters started out with just the two main cast members, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, special effects gurus who used their science knowledge and engineering chops to test common pop culture myths. The show was fine in those early days, but MythBusters really took off when it grew to the current cast. The trio joined the full cast of MythBusters 10 years ago.  They brought a new chemistry to the show, and Byron brought a little nerd sex appeal too.

Now the era of five hosts busting multiple myths per show is over. And it sounds like money is at the root.

“I guess you guys are finding out the news right about now. After a decade of theMythBusters, we are no longer with the show,” Kari said in a series of tweets. “Thank you to all the fans who have supported us. The show is taking a new direction. It was an amazing run. I learned so much about myself and the world. I love you all @MythBusters. I am sad for an ending but there will be exciting new adventures for us.”

Chances are, budget cuts are to blame. Discovery Channel has all but dropped science programming in favor of reality shows about gold and cars, bogus documentaries about sharks, along with its survival hit Naked and Afraid. The reduced MythBusters probably isn’t going to last long now.
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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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How Big Government Ruined Parks and Recreation

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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It’s official: Parks and Recreation’s love affair with big government has ruined the show. Over its six seasons (which I admit I binge-watched like a strung-out coke fiend), Parks and Rec has devolved from incisive comedy into aggressively unfunny propaganda.

When we first met her, the show’s central character, Leslie Knope, was a masterpiece of observational humor, a lonely career bureaucrat with delusions of grandeur and a fetish for protocol. She was over-the-top, but at the same time anyone who had ever navigated the infuriating upper echelons of the DMV or city hall had met someone exactly like her — chipper, litigious, and maddeningly disconnected from reality.

The fun they made of her was genius. The pilot’s opening scenes showed her shoving a sleeping drunk out of a playground slide while declaring, “It’s a great time to be a woman in politics.” Her bright-eyed interviews were expertly undermined by intercut depictions of the meaningless drudge work that defines a job in small-town government. Poehler’s humorless smile, her expressions of officious solemnity, were masterfully executed — mockumentary at its finest.

Then slowly, slowly, the creative team let their inchoate political theories eclipse their comedic sense of truth. The creators had started out with fly-on-the wall research at real-life city council meetings, insightfully mocking the morass of self-importance and illogic that results when people get together to plan other people’s lives for them. But as that experience faded from memory, the writers replaced it with a dogmatic fantasy world based on the unexamined conviction that everyone needs a hyper-attentive government mommy. That’s when Leslie Knope became a hero, and Parks and Rec became about as entertaining as a health code referendum.

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10 Observations from Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I’ve been a fan of Hell’s Kitchen from its first season. There are certain elements of the show that viewers can see coming from the start – and perhaps those elements lend a comforting familiarity year in and year out — but the mix of personalities keeps the show fresh and fun.

This season, the show’s twelfth, was the best and most interesting yet. The producers must have chosen to focus less on outsized characters and more on genuine talent, because we saw less of the tabloid drama to which we’ve grown accustomed over the last few seasons.

Here are ten observations I’ve made about this season, and each of them play a role in why I love Hell’s Kitchen so much. Check them out…

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10. The Chefs Struggled With Even The Simplest Dishes.

I’d love to see the bill for how much food goes to waste on Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay has such exacting standards that he has no compunction about throwing food away if it doesn’t meet those ideals.

This season was no exception, as it seemed like the chefs struggled with even the simplest of dishes. Overcooked scallops, raw halibut, ruined Beef Wellingtons, unseasoned risottos – one by one, these disgusting dishes went into the trash bins. As the season went on, the condition of the food barely got better.

One would think that, after a dozen seasons, the chefs would bone up on Hell’s Kitchen staples before going on the show. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and we witness the same mistakes year in and year out.

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11 Lessons About Religion I’ve Learned from Pop Culture Polytheism

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.

Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.

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Robin Williams’ 10 Best Performances

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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The world mourns the passing of one of the truest talents of all time – Robin Williams. The Juilliard-trained comedian and actor won an Oscar, two Emmys, five Grammys, and — dearest to me — became a Disney Legend in 2009. Williams made his struggles with depression and addiction public, yet he was unable to overcome them. But here at PJ Lifestyle, we’re going to celebrate his life. Here are Robin Williams’ ten best performances. I hope you’ll take as much comfort in these wonderful moments as I have.

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10. The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)

One of the most underrated television series of the past season paired Williams with Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter partners in an advertising agency. The Crazy Ones featured a terrific ensemble, sharp writing, and plenty of space for Williams to let loose. Williams had his best moments on the show when he had the chance to blend his trademark humor with sweet sentiment (as in the clip above). He couldn’t have a much better alter ego than the character of Simon Roberts — he and the writers even made recovery from addiction a huge part of the character. The Crazy Ones showed such promise, and it’s such a shame that CBS didn’t see fit to give it a second chance.

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The 10 Most Important Life Lessons I Learned from Mork from Ork

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

As a Gen-X/millennial crossover, I was fortunate enough to first meet Robin Williams as Mork from Ork on the sitcom Mork and Mindy. A comedic powerhouse, Mork’s colorful wardrobe and loud laugh were the first things I imitated as a child. As I grew up, I would look back and realize the many character lessons I learned at home were reinforced by a supremely acted alien outsider with a predilection for sitting on his head. In virtually every role he played, Robin Williams taught his audience a life lesson. As a young kid there was no one more fun to hang around with and learn from on TV than Mork from Ork.

10. Old people rule.

Mork marvels at the way the elderly are ignored and maligned on earth. On Ork, old folks are revered as the wise, experienced ones to learn from. “The Elder” is called on to remind Mork of his Orkishness. His was an early lesson in the importance of respect and reverence for the elders in your life and how very important all people are, no matter and, perhaps, especially because of their age.

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The Top 10 Gods of the Pop Culture Pantheon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.

10. Harry Potter

When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),

Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.

Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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New Trailer: Will SyFy’s 12 Monkeys TV Show Live Up to the Cult Classic Film?

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

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10 Reasons to Give Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a Chance

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a lot of flak, even before it premiered. PJM’s own Scott Ott declared “no interest” in the series despite loving its source material. I confess to holding my own doubts regarding a superhero show without superheroes. However, unlike Ott, I was willing to give the series a chance. After watching the first season in its entirety, I’m glad I did. Here are 10 reasons to take a look at Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

10. Cinematic Action

Certain shows have come along in recent years to demonstrate that the small screen can nonetheless explode with cinematic action. Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica comes to mind, a genre show which looked better than many films from past years.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a similar case for the possibilities of televised entertainment. In essence, it’s an international spy thriller, much of which takes place in the enormous aircraft our heroes call home. The special effects, while lackluster here and there, largely do justice to their Marvel cinematic pedigree.

Now if we can just get a live-action Star Wars series, life will be good.

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What TV Shows Were the Most Ahead of Their Time?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?,” Tuesday’s question: “Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?,” Wednesday’s question:What Are the Top 5 Episodes of The Prisoner? and Francis Poretto’s great essay. “Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner.”

Andrew X, yesterday:

You want “ahead-of-its-time”? “Ahead-of-its-time???

Take a look at this episode list for ‘Max Headroom’.

Max Headroom [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom_(TV_series)]

When the show debuted in 1985 (UK), the computer mouse had been on market just one year. Windows, in so far as it existed, was a DOS interface. Few knew what a modem was, and a standard one would probably load this web page in about six hours. Cell phones for millionaires were the size of a brick. (Cue ‘Wall Street’ beach scene ref.) The Internet was eight years away.

Read that list, then let’s talk about “ahead-of-its-time”.

MaxHeadroom_Comp_anim

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What Are the Top 5 Episodes of The Prisoner?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?,” yesterday’s question: “Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?“ and Francis Poretto’s great essay Tuesday: Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner

“The Chimes of Big Ben”?

“Many Happy Returns”?

“Hammer Into Anvil”?

Here’s a full episode list via Wikipedia

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Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out yesterday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?” and Francis Poretto’s great essay today: Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner

Other potential out-there shows that might top The Prisoner?

Is Twin Peaks better?

What about Lost?

Or is The Prisoner without peer?

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Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by Francis W. Porretto

Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, a 17-part serial of which he was the star and one of the writers and directors, is one of the great cultural legacies of the late Sixties for several reasons:

  • Its portrayal of “The Village,” a synthesis of the ideal English seaside resort with the total-surveillance nightmare of Orwell’s 1984;
  • The varied and ingenious series of trials of his intellect, his ingenuity , and his integrity to which McGoohan’s unnamed protagonist was put;
  • The exceptional quality of the scripting and acting throughout;
  • The care put into retaining the key ambiguities, which was apparently one of McGoohan’s priorities.

Nothing quite brings home the uniqueness of the series as powerfully as that last point, which is heated to a rolling boil in Episodes 16 and 17, co-starring the immortal Leo McKern.

McGoohan once said that the key theme of The Prisoner is that “Freedom is a myth”:

Interviewer Warner Troyer: This is a kind of banal question I guess, but if you could leave one sentence or phrase or paragraph in the head of everyone who watched The Prisoner series – the whole series – one thing for them to carry around for a while when it was over, what would it be?

McGoohan: Be seeing you.

This was an invocation of The Village’s relentless surveillance of Number Six, for whom The Village was putatively created as a place of confinement and trial.

McGoohan’s perspective on freedom-as-myth partakes critically of the concept of purposeful self-command as the negation of freedom. This is underlined by contrast: through the condemnation, in the final episode, of Number 48 — “uncoordinated youth; rebelling against nothing it can define,” — and Number 2 (Leo McKern) — “an established member, turning upon and biting the hand that feeds him.”‘ For all revolts against control will be either thematic or unthematic. In the former case, the rebel defies an external locus of control; in the latter, there is none. The sole unaddressed alternative is internal control: self-command in obedience to values and priorities one enforces upon oneself.

In this regard, let us hearken back to episode 16, in which McKern’s Number Two strains to break Number Six’s will at long last, and pays dearly for it:

Number Two: Why did you resign?

Number Six: For peace.

Number Two: What peace?

Number Six: Peace of mind.

It seems that McGoohan, in couching the line that way, was emphasizing that the point of Number Six’s resistance was merely to reaffirm his will to resist: a rebellion against external control whose aim was solely to break that will. The theme is freedom and only freedom… but Number Six’s self-command, which he has asserted throughout and against which he will not rebel, remains in place.

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Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

An email received on Sunday from one of the most thoughtful commenters at PJ Lifestyle:

A friend and I were just debating this – is the television show The Prisoner actually the continuation of the show Secret Agent Man?  We both finally decided, yes it is.

Regards,

Allston

We’re going to talk more about The Prisoner, one of TV’s most innovative cult classics, this week at PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates. What are some more of the mysteries and questions about the show you want to discuss?

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The 10 Funniest Episodes of Seinfeld

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

10seinfeld-cityroom-superJumbo

Twenty-five years ago, a sitcom pilot titled The Seinfeld Chronicles debuted on NBC. A year later, the network gave the show, retitled Seinfeld, a try. Unlike what usually happens today, NBC nurtured the series and let it build a following. Today many critics and fans see Seinfeld as a high-water mark in television comedy, and in honor of its 25th anniversary, here are the ten funniest episodes.

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10. “The Puffy Shirt”

By its fifth season, Seinfeld was at a bit of a crossroad. The fourth season had raised the bar creatively (one of the show’s writers referred to it as “our Sgt. Pepper year”), and the show was more popular than ever. Could they top themselves? After an uneven debut, the season’s second outing, “The Puffy Shirt,” showed that the team had plenty of creativity left in them.

In this episode, Jerry politely agrees with Kramer’s “low-talking” fashion designer girlfriend, not hearing what she said. Next thing he knows, he’s stuck wearing one of her creations on the Today show – a ridiculous pirate-inspired puffy shirt.

Naturally, Jerry embarrasses himself on national television, and the design goes nowhere. But in between are some memorable moments – Jerry whining, “But I don’t want to be a pirate”; Bryant Gumbel’s incredulous reaction to Jerry’s shirt; and two homeless men in the final scene wearing the shirts that have been donated to charity. “The Puffy Shirt” proved that the series still had plenty of life in it.

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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…

Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.

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The 10 Most Obnoxious, Overrated Alien Cultures in Star Trek

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. The Romulans

What exactly do the Romulans have that justifies their defining quality, their arrogance? They’re among the most boring species in all of Trek, the kind of evil twin to the Vulcans, known for their deceitful and warlike nature.

Their only redeeming feature seems to be how cool and genuinely intimidating their warbird ships are:

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