PJ Lifestyle

PJM Lifestyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Plug Friday! What Is Good?

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
No one can tell you which books you'll find tasty.

No one can tell you which books you’ll find tasty.

 

Hi, this is Sarah [Contrary to rumor, yes, still alive. Surgery, Sad Puppies, Social Justice Warrior Attacks, finished a book. The usual] and today we ask “What is good?”

There is more to this than a vague post-modern query.  Though the answer when it comes to art might indeed be post modern.

However, it’s important to ask this question and to answer it because part of the criticism leveled at the Sad Puppies movement to get the Hugo awards out of a tiny set of nominees and voters and broaden it to the entire fandom is that “what you nominated is not very good.”

The premise behind it is that the small, self-selected set of fandom-who-attends-cons, aka truefans according to themselves, who tend to be older, more mature, and definitely richer (they have the money to attend cons,  the time too) than the majority of just-fans who read and watch the genre, also have more “sophisticated” or “better” tastes.

I’ve heard the same notion from editors (not Baen, duh) who say it is their job to filter all the cr*p and put out the best stuff, so they can train the readers’ tastes.

It is easy to dismiss this premise out of hand – normally I use the word Pfui for such a purpose – but we should look at what’s the root of it and examine the merit of that idea.

Is it possible that older, more experienced people are actually choosing “the best” in the field, be it for publications or awards?  Sure.

I mean, your experience of SF/F and how you first came in will change how you perceive quality in the field.  For instance, I have yet to be able to make it through a showing of Star Wars, yes, even the first three episodes, without falling asleep. One of these was the re-release where I managed to fall asleep in a theater, for the first and last time ever.

Part of the issue is that when it came out I was already reading science fiction and had been for years. Also, I’m not particularly visual. So my reaction to the special effects was “yawn” because I see better stuff than that in my mind the whole time and my reaction to the plot was “oh, there are so many holes. And it’s predictable. And using really tired concepts. Also, to be fair, and before the Star Wars fanatics among you send someone to assassinate me, I watch very little visual media. In a continuum of modes of amusement, I’m the grumpy critter stuck at “almost all books.”

However, my brother and my husband, both arguably smarter than I, loved Star Wars and consider it one of the touchstones of their fandom. And my brother, ten years older than I, had read at least as many SF/F books as I had.

So, is it quality or not? Well, for me, not. For the guys yes. Is my taste more valid than theirs? Judging by the millions people worldwide who love the movies, no.

In the same way, it’s entirely possible that editors and “truefans” have better taste, but if so, it’s a taste not shared by most fans, as evidenced by how the print runs keep falling, despite exploding interest in SF/F and geekdom.

I mean, maybe their taste really is refined and rarified. If so, it’s a taste formed in a way no one reading for fun shares.

For my sins, I know what their taste is, and if I share their parameters, I can sort of see it.

For my sins? Well, yes, you see, I have a Masters (a little more, actually) in modern languages and literature.  And while I didn’t attend an Ivy League in the U.S. as most editors and publishers have, I did attend one of the oldest universities in Europe. (We claimed to be the second. All that and two dollars will get you a cup of coffee. I’m too lazy to research the claim.)

And I learned  the same way of evaluating literature that they did. Literature is a way of reflecting the truths of human life. To be more exact, fantastic literature, like SF/F is supposed to reflect back “problems” in modern life and to point out situations that we might otherwise be blind to, and which make our society unjust.

To put it another way, the way they learned to analyze literature was the same way I learned it: literature is supposed to be an utilitarian value, designed to preach (Marxist) values and solutions to society.

Go over any of what is considered “good literature,” especially as reviewed by the “intellectuals” since the early twentieth century, and that’s what you’ll find.

It took me a long time to figure out that this is a load of poppycock. Literature, as appreciated throughout the ages, is appreciated for many reasons, but none of them is stuff like “It talks about racism” or “It points out the heartbreak of the rheumatism of the cleaning woman’s knees.”

It is only in our own time (roughly since early 20th century) that this has become the prevalent way to look at stories. Take Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is not a magnificent work that analyzes the human soul and the interactions of men and women, no. It’s a work designed to point out the plight of women in Regency England.  Or take Romeo and Juliet: it doesn’t perfectly capture the crazy infatuation of teenagers and speak to something universal in the human soul. No, it is supposedly, depending on whom you talk to: a critique of the church, of having your kids raised by nannies, or female oppression (of course) or of armed violence.

Understand, I’m not saying that authors don’t put messages in their stories. Shakespeare was sticking in his marker for kids choosing their partners “for love” (a popular and gaining position in his time, as were most of his positions, actually.) But I very much doubt he was thinking of making it a critique of armed violence. The church? The corrupt friar was a stock character in newly Protestant England.

And that is most of the problem. If we have a way to tell what is good, it is what survives the test of time: what stays with people and speaks to them though language itself change.

And that is highly doubtful of the “good” fiction as picked by the elites today.  As they pound points that have been done to death and their characters are often scarecrows designed only to speak cant to imagined power, it is highly likely that future generations will do what we do and go, “Oh, not that again” as they bounce the book off the nearest wall.

So, what is good?  Well, I can’t tell you what you’ll find good (how postmodern of me) but I can give you some guidelines on how to find it. But it will have to wait for another post.

For now, we have some links to indie books that perhaps you might find good. [Usual disclaimer applies. I haven’t read most of these, and I don’t know if Charlie has. These are books that were sent to us to promote.  Download a kindle sample, and give them a try. Your mileage may vary. Void or restricted where prohibited.]


Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com to be plugged here on PJ Media.

Extra special note for people trying to do PR for an indie author: yes, these rules apply to you, too. And get off my lawn.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like:

TITLE

My Book

AUTHOR

My name as it's on the book cover.

AMAZON LINK

http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

BLURB

no more than about 100 words.


cover

Martian Aria
By L.A. Behm II 

Martian Aria tells the tale of mankind’s first steps onto Mars, the adventures of reaching the red planet, and the thrilling discoveries that awaited humanity’s best and brightest when they got there. A tale of rugged colonists, family, kittens, and those who were willing to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a new land, a new home. There is still another frontier, out in the stars, for those who are willing to grasp for it.


cover

BLACK TIDE
By Patrick Freivald 

Superhuman strength, unnaturally fast reflexes, enhanced senses – Matt Rowley will live with augmentation for the rest of his life.

As cults spring up worshiping the demonic beings freed by the last of the nephilim, the United States calls on Matt to meet the threat. His unnatural powers returning with every passing day, Matt becomes the only weapon able to withstand forces older than time and darker than the blackest sea.

When his family is taken in an attack on his hometown, Matt falls into a vast conspiracy that could destroy his family and his very soul.


cover

How the Mighty have Fallen
By James Schardt 

Short Story. A lawyer witnesses a triple murder while stranded in a rural town. Events quickly escalate. Was it actually murder – or vigilante justice? The local Provost is a former hero turned drunkard in need of redemption. Will they be able to uphold the rule of law and still ensure justice is served?

There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. – F.A. Hayek


cover

Explore Atlas Shrugged
By Diana Hsieh 

Do you want to better understand and appreciate Ayn Rand’s epic novel “Atlas Shrugged”?

“Explore Atlas Shrugged” is an in-depth and newly-expanded study guide by philosopher Dr. Diana Hsieh. It includes over 1400 study questions, plot synopses, character summaries, questions for a book club, and more. (22 hours of engaging chapter-by-chapter podcasts are available online too.)

“Explore Atlas Shrugged” will help you gain fresh insights into the complex events, characters, and ideas of Ayn Rand’s novel — whether you’ve read it just once or a dozen times before.


cover

Harvest Of Evil
By William Lehman 

John Fisher, retired Seal and were-cougar, was having just another day at the office. He is a Park Police officer. His office is a Dodge Durango. The dark legends and creatures have always been around, and after the civil rights movement they’re legal. But when someone uses magic or anything else illegally on Federal land, it ‘s John’s job to bring them in. He will use all his skill, luck and connections inside the Supernatural world to get his man, or were, or vampire, or…


cover

Sugar Skull
By Cedar Sanderson 

Sally, whose full name was Alessandra Padilla Rivera, and who had been raised by a grandmama on stories of El Cucuy, the chupacabra, and the jaguar god who hunts in the night, knows how hard good jobs are to find, and keep. She has a mother to support, and a new job to prove herself at. A couple of problems, though… She is working in a morgue where strange things are happening. The only person she can talk to is her boss, her mother just turns the television volume up, and her friends are grossed out by her job. But Sally is convinced her boss isn’t fully human…


cover

Exophobe
By D. Kenton Mellott 

My life changed forever on a Friday.

Where are my manners?

My name is Enoch Maarduk.

I simply posted a harmless idea on my blog site–electromagnetic (EM) beings that come to Earth.

Geez, just trying to make a buck.

Then this gun-toting, polyester jacketed, guy shows up at my condo, wanting to know where I got my information.

Then some secret organization wants to recruit me. PHANTASM (Preventing Horrors And Nightmares Through Active Spectrum Monitoring). Hmm…

Artificial intelligence, brainwave scanning, black mambas, ergoline peptide alkaloids, Gilgamesh, the Bell-Curve, EM waves, and a few bad puns.

Best to eat light.


cover

Fledermaus Murphy: Tales from Riverville
By Alma T. C. Boykin 

When Fleder Murphy makes a delivery, anything can happen.

Fledermaus “Fleder” Murphy wings and walks through Riverville. Fleder and the Burnt Bean Coffee Shop connect a cast of characters ranging from an aspiring author in search of his mews to a nocturnal landscaper.

Welcome to Riverville, where nothing is quite as it seems, but Murphy’s Law is certain.


cover

The Test
By B.A. Sherman 

As Greg works the mean streets of Denver, a dark feeling inside of him begins to bubble up. This unexplainable thing, which he tries to keep buried, erupts with full force and with some deep dark strength, it now controls him.

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So, Now We’re Supposed to be Outraged by “All Male Panels”

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

This week contemporary feminists chose to go ga-ga over All Male Panels, a Tumblr site dedicated to screen-grabs of all-male panels in a variety of disciplines:

This brilliant Tumblr page points out the lack of women in visible spaces (such as panels) in a way that’s funny, but also quite poignant. The Tumblr page doesn’t just call out panels—it points to books, boards of directors, and academic committees. Overwhelmingly male spaces are obviously prevalent in the world. This Tumblr just makes it even clearer for those who aren’t forced to recognize it every day.

What the Tumblr page fails to do is point out if any of those men happen to be gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, or questioning; if they’ve ever promoted the use of a non-gendered bathroom; if they’ve ever attended or supported a performance of The Vagina Monologues; if they identify as “feminists” because, thanks to Joseph Gordon Levitt, we know guys do; yada, yada yada. Could it be that feminists are just as biased as the guys who they claim run “The Patriarchy”?

The funniest thing about All Male Panels is their use of David Hasselhoff. But, given that Hasselhoff is well known to be the Anti-Christ of the Internet, aren’t they about one step away from employing Godwin’s Law when it comes to their oh-so-sophisticated form of visual argumentation?

The only thing contemporary feminists prove by praising such a simplistic site is that they are just as prone to stereotyping as they are to arguing against it. Shame on you, ladies. That’s no way to act like a grrrrl.

 

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4 Reasons American Crime Should be Called Americans Suck

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by David Forsmark
YouTube Preview Image

If you love picking scabs, then have I got a TV show for you.

Did you make it through 12 Years a Slave? I didn’t. I couldn’t. Life is too short. And I kind of wonder how many of the Oscar voters did. The critics who complained that The Passion of the Christ was torture porn somehow found it redemptive.

12 Years director John Ridley is now the showrunner for American Crime, an almost universally praised new drama on ABC that tries to take a cable-TV style “edgy” look at race and crime in America. But the show is not just relentlessly grim, it is so caught up with its narrative that it forgets to think about how things really happen. It might as well be called “Alternate Universe American Crime.”

In Modesto, CA, a mostly white city with an apparently an all white, uncaring power structure, a recently returned Army vet and his wife are brutally attacked in a home invasion, leaving the vet dead and his wife in a coma.

The vet’s parents are a recovering gambling addict (Timothy Hutton) and his ferociously embittered wife (Felicity Huffman).

The main clue is a distinctive car seen leaving the murder scene, which is soon traced to Tony, a Latino teenager whose overly strict and protective father, Alonzo (Benito Martinez of The Shield), has been restoring the car in his auto repair shop.

Alonzo tells his son to cooperate with the police and Tony fingers a scary Mexican gangbanger who intimidated him into letting him use the car for under the table cash. In turn, the gangbanger unconvincingly (to everyone but the law enforcement system) blames a black junkie in love with a white junkie, who seem to be the only people in this story capable of unconditional love. (Because junkies are the least self-centered people, you know.)

Soon, everyone is caught up in a brutally uncaring—and stupid—justice system.

Like Crash at the Oscars, I bet the Emmys swoon over this garbage.

Passive Media after a Racially Charged Crime

A home invasion murder in a decent neighborhood is about as uncommon as crime gets—and would lead local news. The victim being a veteran would make it national news. The fact that a major suspect is an illegal alien gangbanger… well you get the idea.

However, aside from the occasional TV truck and a young, dogged small newspaper reporter, there is no media involvement.

In fact, it takes a white rights group on the mother’s side and a Nation of Islam sister (the usually wonderful Regina King) to the (illogical) main suspect to get even significant local coverage.

Really? THOSE are the relative positions on race in America?

American Crime is clearly trying to make a statement post-Ferguson, post Eric Green, etc. But ignoring the role of constant media drumbeats and posturing makes American Crime seem like it’s taking place in some distant world without cable television.

White Cops Shoot Fleeing Brown People with Impunity

When police close in on the Latino gangbanger in a strip mall parking lot, they quickly cut him off with patrol cars. As he runs toward a store in the strip mall, a white cop shoots him in the leg from behind.

Really? The guy is surrounded, not holding a weapon, and he is headed toward an occupied, open store in broad daylight with a large glass window. There is even a point made with the window, as the bullet passes through the suspect and puts a hole in it—which I’m sure had the director and cinematographer congratulating each other.

This goes unremarked on afterward, save for some whining by the suspect in the hospital.

Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels.

In Modesto, cops also have no BS meter whatsoever. They just grab the first suspect and ignore contrary evidence on the word of a nasty career criminal. Apparently, this is their first encounter with a manipulative suspect.

They are equally insensitive to the victims. The all but faceless white lead detective’s interrogation of the daughter after she awakens from the coma does not exhibit evidence of a triple figure IQ.

The idiotic shooting episode starts at 2:29 in the series trailer.

Cooperative Latino Kid Gets Jailed Anyway

If there was ever a candidate to be released to his father’s custody, it’s Tony, a young, scared boy with a supportive father who willingly cooperates with the police, delivers them their main suspect, and obviously had no idea about any crime being committed. But he is suddenly handcuffed and thrown in jail by uncaring white cops. (See the trailer at about the 2:50 mark.)

Because, I guess, overcrowding isn’t a problem in Modesto, and they have unlimited budgets for juvies and cops to stomp on cooperative witnesses because they don’t want any more to come forward?

The Latino Father Striving for the American Dream is a Sucker

After Alonzo tells the television reporter that illegal gangbangers make all Latinos look bad, La Raza types paint graffiti on his auto repair shop. He tries to paint it over with white paint, then he get some on his face… get it?  Whitewash? Whiteface? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink?

Subtle.

And what did all his hard work get him? Treated with contempt by the system and banned from Sunday mass for ticking off the Sanctuary Movement types.

Alonzo’s ungrateful kids accuse him of wanting to be white, because he works hard and tries to keep them out of the trouble he knows plagues their community.

By the way, I bet you didn’t know that what really pushes kids into gangs is overly protective fathers.

Alonzo is a humorless drudge; and there is not one person in American Crime you’d like to spend five minutes with, much less sit through a whole beer. The theme of American Crime is not just America Sucks, but Americans Suck. We are all just a collection of grievances and resentments, or victims and victimizers. And if you don’t realize it, you’re just a sucker like Alonzo.

Take everything you hated about Crash, double it, and you have American Crime.

Time to go watch a few episodes of The Wire and get this garbage out of my head.

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Feminist Media Ignoring Greatest Thing to Happen to Muslim Women on YouTube…Of Course

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

Nadia Manzoor and Radhika Vaz play Shugs & Fats, short for Shugufta and Fatima, two Muslim women attempting to negotiate their way into Western culture by encountering every feminist trend in the pop culture playbook. Their YouTube series reminds you of what Saturday Night Live could be, if it were still funny. An irreverent examination of culture clash, Manzoor’s experience as a world traveler pairs nicely with Vaz’s impressive improv resume to generate a fearless take on being Muslim and female in New York today.

Although the pair don hijabs, one of their goals is to throw off the culture of shame associated with Muslim women within Islamic culture. Needless to say, they haven’t always gotten a positive response from fellow Muslims. Using comedy as a shield, Manzoor and Vaz explore how Western culture can liberate even the most traditional of Islamic women. So, why the lack of attention from feminist media? Are they afraid that if they support the benign YouTube series they’ll be considered Islamophobes? If so, who exactly are they seeking to empower?

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The Muppet Show Reboot Takes a Jab at Reality TV

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

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

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

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

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How to Save Red Eye (Without) Greg Gutfeld

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by David Forsmark

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

A photo posted by Joanne Nosuchinsky (@jonosuchinsky) on

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

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

Joanne Nosuchinsky

Panelist, A+

Host, B+

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

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

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

 

Andy Levy

Panelist, A+

Host, C+

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

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

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

 

Tom Shillue

Panelist, A+

Host, A

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

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

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

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This Picture Shows You the Shocking Truth of What Happens if You Don’t Exercise for 7 Years

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

As a teenager, I was very much into sports. I loved playing soccer and baseball, and later started doing kickboxing. Now, I was never skinny, but I was in good shape; I could go on endlessly, wouldn’t get tired, and felt energetic.

That was then. This is now. This is what I looked like, age 30, yesterday when I exercised (fitness) for the first time in at least 7 years. Disclaimer: viewer discretion is advised. The photo is extremely shocking, not in the least because I look yellow, without energy, and — oh yeah — as intelligent as a cow.

The picture isn’t exactly flattering, but that’s precisely why I publish it here: I want you to join me on this new adventure to get back in shape. If you haven’t exercised in years, start doing it now. We’ll share our progress with each other and exchange tips on how to get fit faster.

Also read:

Losing Bodyfat or Gaining Muscle Mass: Which is More Important?

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Will The Intern Defy Hollywood, Promote Class and Business?

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Marketers craft movie trailers to sell tickets, not necessarily to accurately portray what the movie will be. With that in mind, the above glimpse of a new film starring Anne Hathaway promises some refreshing themes.

Hathaway plays the young founder and CEO of a company based in New York. She takes on an intern played by Robert De Niro, who turns 72 in August.

You might expect such a premise to rest upon cheap age jokes. Certainly, those seem to abound. However, the surprising element here is a genuine respect for age, experience, and classy demeanor. The trailer suggests that something has been lost in the past couple generations of men, something which we ought to consider reclaiming.

The trailer also suggests that the film will portray entrepreneurship in a positive light. That’s something rarely found in Hollywood these days.

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Posting Selfies Does Not Make You a Narcissist

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

What do you think of selfies? Wholly negative? Wholly positive? A mix of good and bad? A recent article tell us:

Earlier this year, a pair of researchers at The Ohio State University published their investigation into the relationship between taking selfies and the undesirable psychological traits of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, or a penchant for manipulation. The study analyzed the social media habits and personalities of 1,000 men between the ages of 18 and 40.
The results were what you might have expected: the study demonstrated a relationship between posting lots of selfies and psychopathic and narcissistic traits. Not all selfie-posters are narcissists, but the latter are prone to using selfies as a tool of their self-obsessed personalities. Yawn. I suppose, for the sake of thoroughness, some things just have to be formalized in studies, even though we can already figure out the answers a priori.
Selfie supporters don’t deny that the practice can be self-indulgent, but they highlight how the photographs increase the likelihood for personal connection in an age where social interactions predominantly occur online, as reporter Jenna Wortham did in a piece for The New York Times.

“It’s far too simplistic to write off the selfie phenomenon,” she wrote. “Receiving a photo of the face of the person you’re talking to brings back the human element of the interaction, which is easily misplaced if the interaction is primarily text-based.”

Selfies did not cause the phenomenon of the purely Internet-based relationship. Those were around before selfies became common. (I believe such relationships started during the age of AOL Instant Messenger and got worse from there.) In my experience, most selfies are not sent to an interlocutor directly, but posted passively on social media profiles. When the recipient is a specific somebody, selfies can enhance the humanness and intimacy of an online encounter. When the recipient is “everyone,” however, I think this is where the narcissism comes into play.

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

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

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

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

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

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[VIDEO] The Secret of Happiness Exposed in One Simple Equation

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

In life, our main goal is to become happy. Think about it: why do we work and try to make as much money as we can? Why do we try to spend time with our children and wife? Why do we buy certain clothes and not the other ones? Or in a more spiritual way: why do we go to church/synagogue/mosque/temple (strikethrough whatever doesn’t apply to you)? And why do some people use drugs, while others don’t even want to go near them?

I’ll tell you why: because we believe those things will make us happy. That’s all there is to it. My neighbor stays at home from work as often as he can because he believes spending time in front of the television will make him happy. The other neighbor doesn’t come home until midnight because he’s working overtime, hoping a higher income will result in more happiness for him (and his family).

Ironically, however, many of us fail in our attempt to reach this supposed perfect state of being, this profound happiness, and we’re actually unhappy or even downright depressed.

How is it possible that by striving for happiness, we create the opposite feeling?

In his latest video for Prager University, radio talk show host Dennis Prager explains why that is.

So, how would you like an equation to determine the exact amount of unhappiness in your life?

Well, I am here to tell you that I have developed an equation. It is U=I-R. U is unhappiness, I is image, and R is reality. The difference between the images you have had for your life and the reality of your life is the amount of unhappiness in your life, which gives you an idea of how powerful images are in hurting us.

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As Prager says, we all have an image of what our life is supposed to be like. “I’m supposed to make this amount of money, I have a perfect marriage with an understanding wife and loving children,” and so on. While it’s perfectly natural and healthy to have goals, these kinds of nearly perfect images actually destroy our chances of experiencing true happiness because most of us just can’t live up to them.  Well, perhaps that 0,01% of the population do, but the other 99,99% have to settle for something else. Prager says,

That’s the biggest part of what mid-life crisis is about. Images kill people. Think of anorexia. Some teenage girls and young women have an image of how they want to look, and in some cases, they will starve themselves to meet that image. This is true for whatever images we have in our life. People imagine family life a certain way, they imagine a spouse a certain way, they imagine their children a certain way, they imagine their job a certain way, they imagine a whole host of things, and then those images are very often shattered.

So what’s the solution for this age old problem? Simple: you either “develop a new image and enjoy that, or just celebrate the reality that you now have.”

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The former approach will work in most cases, but the second solution is absolutely bulletproof. By focusing on ‘images,’ we often forget that we actually have a pretty darn good life. By looking at reality and analyzing it, we realize that we have a lot to be grateful for: a spouse who generally supports us (even though we sometimes mess up), children who may cause us stress every now and then, but who are — at the same time — a great blessing, friends that care for us, a roof above our head, a car to go to work with, a job; the list is endless.

Prager is right: we don’t need images. Reality itself is enough to make us happy.

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Sure, the Black Widow Action Figures Are Sexy, But Little Girls Still Want the Princess Fantasy

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

As if Joss Whedon weren’t in enough hot water along with the rest of the Marvel folks for not producing a Black Widow movie series, Disney adds the icing onto the sexist cake by rewriting Avengers: Age of Ultron to promote a new Captain America toy. That heroic motorcycle ride Black Widow took to save the day in the film? Captain America is the spokesman of choice to sell the Cycle Blast Quinjet. So much for the Widow’s most heroic on-screen moment yet.

At least I’m not the only one wondering where the Black Widow action figure is amidst all the Ultron marketing. Thanks to Disney/Marvel’s woeful lack of attention to a major on-screen character, entire websites have been created to “follow the symbolic annihilation of women through merchandise.” The main assertion is that Disney has “never” been good at marketing “non-Princess” or warrior-Princess (think: Leia) female characters through the toy market.

Which begs the question, why doesn’t Disney think female action figures will sell? Let’s not fool ourselves (like the ideologues do) into thinking this is about being anti-feminist. This is about money. If a toy company thinks a product will earn money, they’ll sell it. According to a 2005 MIT study on toys and gender, children prefer stereotyped masculine or feminine toys, a trait that extends to “young nonhuman primates.” An examination of the packaging and marketing of these toys determined that boys preferred aggressive, competitive toys like action figures, while girls aimed towards attractive, nurturing toys like Barbie or baby dolls. In other words, the historical biological roles of hunter/gatherer and birthing/nesting, by and large, still manifest as the preferred respective fantasies of children of both genders.

If contemporary feminists want to market a Black Widow action figure to girls, they’d better quit grumbling and follow Marvel’s suit in characterizing her as the nurturer and “mother” of the Avengers. They’d also be wise to take a cue from Time Warner’s DC Entertainment and Warner Brother’s Studio, who have paired up with toy makers Mattel and Lego to create a colorful line of attractive teen female superheroes to market to today’s young female toy buyers. Let’s face it: Black Widow’s black jumpsuit is sexy, but hardly appealing to a five year-old girl.

Forget about textbook ideologies. When it comes to sales, the customer is the only one who is always right.

 

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This Might Be the Most Offensive Portrayal of Race Relations That You’ll Ever See

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

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A Facebook friend of mine just set the above image as his profile cover photo. He’s an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement whom I became acquainted with while working on an election issue in my state.

I look at this picture, and the first thing I think is: Wow. That’s… that’s really offensive.

Then I look at it some more. I think about it. Then I realize that for some people, like my Facebook friend, this accurately represents how they perceive the world in which they live.

We can criticize that. We can tell them that they are wrong to view the world that way. We can insist that things aren’t as bad as an image like this makes them out to be. And we may be right. But maybe we should stop and consider how terrifying life has to get for this to become your perception.

What do we do with that? How can we have anything approaching a productive conversation about race relations and criminal justice issues when starting from such divergent perceptions of the status quo?

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Johnny Depp’s Daughter to Make Ghostly Film Debut

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Lily Rose Depp, daughter of Hollywood royalty Johnny Depp, will make her feature film debut alongside Natalie Portman in a forthcoming paranormal period film by French director Rebecca Zlotowski. From Variety:

Although plot details are kept under wraps, Zlotowski told Variety that the film [title "Planetarium"] follows the journey of sisters who are believed to possess the supernatural ability to connect with ghosts. They cross paths with a visionary French producer while performing in Paris.

The political context of “Planetarium” will have a modern resonance with the current crisis and rise of extremism in Europe. The character of the producer is freely inspired by Jewish producer Bernard Natan, one of the biggest French film industry figures of the ’20s and ’30s, who eventually died in Auschwitz.

Depp thus debuts in grand fashion, surrounded by talent with provocative material. But as other father-child relationships have demonstrated, Hollywood nepotism can only get an actor so far. We’re looking at you Jaden Smith. Eventually, the favored child needs to stand on their own merits. We’ll see what Lily Rose has to offer around this time next year.

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Time to Worry: Americans Are Turning Away from Christianity

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

The last several decades, the Left has done its best to change America’s religious landscape. According to a new Pew study, they’re succeeding better than many thought possible:

The number of Americans who don’t affiliate with a particular religion has grown to 56 million in recent years, making the faith group researchers call “nones” the second-largest in total numbers behind evangelicals, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.

Christians are still the majority, but their numbers have fallen from 78 percent to just under 71 percent. The main reason? Increasingly, more Americans consider themselves “non affiliated” with any particular religion.

The good news? This doesn’t automatically mean that Americans have become atheists. There is a large group of people who consider themselves to be “spiritual” and who believe there’s likely a God, but who just don’t have a bond with any particular religion.

Sadly, that’s all the good news I’ve got for today:

Last year, 31 percent of “nones” said they were atheist or agnostic, compared to 25 percent in 2007, and the percentage who said religion was important to them dropped.

In short, there are fewer religious people and those who don’t consider themselves “religious” in the traditional sense are moving towards atheism — fast.

Although the Left will undoubtedly welcome that development, I do not. A society that loses its bond with God loses its morality. And I don’t just mean that as in the Ten Commandments, but in everyday values, too: personal responsibility, the importance of working hard and taking care of your family, and the need for civilized, decent behavior in society. It’s a cliché, but true nonetheless: when religion falls — especially enlightened Christendom — civilization ends.

This increasing secularization has me worried tremendously. One of America’s major strengths is that it is founded on what’s often called Judeo-Christian values. When those values are no longer shared by large parts of the population, the nation’s unity and morality are at stake. It’s of vital importance that religious Americans understand that and try to counter this secularization. The pulpit should be used for that purpose, but conservative columnists, bloggers, and politicians should also have the courage to point out the importance of faith when they share their views on politics and society at large.

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There’s an Enchanted Island Just Thirty Minutes From Upper Michigan Where Time Travel is Possible

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

It takes less than half an hour by ferry to get from upper Michigan to Mackinac Island, where you can go back in time over a century and a quarter to a quieter and more gentle era.

The first sight of this enchanted island in Lake Huron is of a gently rounded shape covered with foliage, wonderfully verdant in the warmer months, and blazing with a multitude of colors in the fall.

Dominating the island on your first sighting is the magnificent white Grand Hotel, standing high on the island, looking much like a decoration on a wedding cake.

When the ferry rounds the curve of the island, the fully restored Fort Mackinac, perched on a hill, comes into view, along with the picturesque pastel one- to four-story buildings of the town itself.

You’ll be struck immediately by the total absence of the noise of motorized vehicular traffic. Instead, as you disembark at the wharf, you’ll be met by the clip-clopping of horse-drawn vehicles and the soft whir of a multitude of bicycles. Your lungs will love it here.

Mackinac is one of the most unusual places in the United States. Motor vehicles have been forbidden here since the end of the nineteenth century! The 8.2 mile highway encircling the island is the only U.S. highway where motor vehicles are banned. It’s an equestrian’s paradise. Visitors to the island can rent drive-it-yourself buggies and horses to ride. Taxis (which are available 24 hours a day) are all via horse-drawn conveyances.

If horses aren’t your thing, you can either bring your own bicycles on the ferry or rent them, and a multitude of different kinds are available. Of course there are your feet as well, and walking around the island is a popular tourist pastime.

The island, though not large, is full of history. Mackinac was a sacred island for the Algonquian Indians. It was also our second national park. Over eighty percent of the island is now state park land and the entire island is on the national historic register.

There are two parallel main streets, Main and Market. Market Street is fronted by historic homes and buildings, including the former headquarters of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Trading Company. The oldest building on the island is the Biddle House, built in the late 1700s. Some of these historic houses can be toured during the summer.

The public horse-drawn tour offers an excellent overview of the island’s history, as well as such unusual geographical features as Arch Rock, an elegant elongated, natural limestone formation that stands 146 feet high.

Mackinac is also famous for its fudge and sampling of its many varieties is encouraged in the many shops on Main Street.

Among the many in-season happenings is the Lilac Festival (June 5th – 14th) with its five to fifteen daily events. The blooms of hundreds of lilac trees scent the air.

Fort Mackinac, fought over in the War of 1812 (alternating between British and American hands), was built in 1780 and both the grounds and buildings can be toured. Reenactments of soldiers in battle dress firing rifles and cannons are offered and an excellent holographic display comparing and contrasting the diagnosis and treatment of ailments in the 19th century and today can be seen in the infirmary.

The fort affords a spectacular panorama of virtually the entire town and harbor. You can relax and enjoy the view while dining al fresco at the Grand Hotel’s Terrace Tea Room at the fort.

There are many historic places to stay on the island, including the oldest hotel, the Island House, circa 1812, whose interior has been beautifully updated, and the Mission Point Hotel, spread on the eastern portion of the island.

But for historic ambiance, the queen of the island, the Grand Hotel, is a unique institution which evokes the elegance of a bygone, yet nostalgic time. Established in 1887, the Grand is one of only a handful of white pine hotels still standing in the country. It is the largest summer hotel in the world, open from April through October. Its famous porch, at 660 feet, is the world’s longest. You can relax on one of its white, wooden Adirondack rockers and watch the sway of the almost five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere. It’s also a great place to catch the island’s sunset.

In the spring, thousands of tulips bloom around the hotel and during the summer the special Grand geraniums, take their place.

The American flag flies proudly from the porch’s pillars and it’s a delight to watch the flag-folding ceremonies at sunset, done with proper respect to each flag.

Each of the Grand’s rooms is uniquely and individually decorated. Some of the ceilings, as well as the walls, are papered and special geranium soaps and toiletries are found in every bathroom.

One of the last bastions of formality, the Grand is one of the few hotels in the country which still has a dress code for dinner. After six o’clock, on the parlor floor and for dinner, all males over the age of eleven must wear a jacket and tie, and women must be suitably dressed as well.

Stays include breakfast and dinner, and they are delicious multi-course affairs. The Grand also has a restaurant in a forested glen and another on the golf course if the formal dining room doesn’t suit you. Both places offer indoor and outdoor dining (the outdoor dining areas of both restaurants are heated with outdoor heaters).

Music is an integral part of the Grand Hotel stay. An excellent group plays jazz standards during dinner itself, and there is a small dance floor in front of the group for those so inclined. After dinner, in the parlor with its many antiques, a harpist or pianist plays while fruit and demitasse coffees are offered to the guests. After that, a  big band plays dance music in the ballroom, or you can ascend to the Cupola Bar for another spectacular view of the lake and the bridge, also with musical accompaniment. All of the musicians are top-notch professionals and the Grand also sponsors a jazz festival on Labor Day weekend that is so popular it usually sells out.

Swimmers will be delighted here. The Grand’s 220-foot long pool was built expressly for Esther Williams’ use in one of the two movies made on the island (though she never actually swam in it, insisting the water was too cold). On the grounds are several old-fashioned games, like bocce ball.

The pièce de resistance of the Grand is its “Somewhere in Time” Weekend, in honor of the other movie shot on the island, the 1980 Christopher Reeves-Jane Seymour epic, where guests dress up in circa 1912 clothing, the year in which the movie is set. Women wear long dresses and huge feathered hats and men dress up in three piece suits, spats, and derby hats. Several members of the movie come for the weekend, and the movie’s fans flock to the event from all over, including England and continental Europe.

So if you’ve ever had the desire to go back to a gentler, slower era, even for a short time, take the ferry to Mackinac and the Grand.

"Boat race at mackinaw summer 2009" by Lindserr - via Wikimedia Commons

“Boat race at mackinaw summer 2009″ by Lindserr – via Wikimedia Commons

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Andy Murray Wrote Something Amazing on the Camera After Winning the Madrid Open

Monday, May 11th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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From Yahoo Sports:

Andy Murray has continued his incredible run of form since marrying Kim Sears in Dunblane last month, taking his unbeaten streak to nine matches while beating Rafael Nadal to win the Madrid Open in spectacular fashion.

Murray has now secured two consecutive titles on the red dirt since the wedding, having never previously won on the surface, and his comprehensive 6-3 6-2 win over Nadal was as unexpected as it was stunning.

Murray, who punched the air in delight after beating the ‘King of Clay’, proceeded to mark his improbable triumph in Madrid by signing the on-court TV camera, accompanied by the message ‘marriage works’.

“It (marriage) has been nice and a lot of people have spoken about the honeymoon period,” Murray told Sky Sports after the match.

“But we’ve been together a very long time and getting married was the next step,” he said. “I’ve always said if the personal stuff is happy and under control that helps your performance on the court.”

Murray’s fans on Twitter agreed:

 

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Sex Offender Cities: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Monday, May 11th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

Texas Sex Offenders

In the remote cane fields of South Florida lies the City of Refuge, which provides a home for 120 registered sex offenders in a compound consisting of sixty concrete buildings. There’s a need for such communities, the leaders of Matthew 25 Ministries say, because registered sex offenders are not free to live wherever they choose. By law, they cannot live near children and those who are subject to a lifetime registration requirement are banned from federally subsidised public housing. As a result, many convicted sex offenders end up living on the streets, without the benefit of community support or accountability.

Jay Kirk visited the unusual community and interviewed many of its residents. He writes at GQ:

As everybody now knows, sex offenders have a rough time of it after they get out of prison. Because of the registry. Because the state says they can’t live within a thousand feet of a school or a playground or a bus stop. Because they can’t live anywhere children assemble, etc. So they end up living out of their cars, under highway overpasses, or in the woods, like fearful animals, like homeless lepers. You could say they’re lucky to be here, even if it is four miles from anything resembling a town, not much of a resemblance at that, and the “city” (really more of a village) being just a lonely former barracks built by U.S. Sugar for migrant workers in the ’60s. Sixty-one concrete bungalows on twenty-four acres, with 120 resident offenders at any given time, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of sweet, sugary nothing. A couple of dozen older Jamaicans still live here, too, but the sex offenders arrived six and a half years ago when Pat Powers, an offender himself, came and claimed the place in the name of Jesus Christ. They live in this exile, of course, because there is nothing lower than their kind.

Considering how welcoming they are, however, I’m inclined to resist the urge to assume the worst—and anyway, I don’t particularly want to know the specifics of any of their crimes. Society has already exacted its debt, is my thinking.

But despite Kirk’s best efforts to shed a positive light on this community — painting its residents as mostly victims of an over-zealous criminal justice system — he quickly realizes it’s not all sunshine and roses in the land of convicted sex offenders. He talks to one man, Andy, who lives there with his wife and two small children. Andy tells Kirk that he doesn’t associate with the other residents much because “there’s a good number here who got convicted, went to prison, got out, recommitted, got convicted again, often for multiple victims” and he doesn’t want them around his children.

He also interviews Richard, who served time for molesting his twin step granddaughters:

He says he takes responsibility for what happened, he was the “grown-up,” but after eight years in prison, what really rips him is how offenders get stigmatized when there’s so much worse in the world. Seriously, he says, which was worse? Killing kids or just molesting them? Had he killed any children? No. And which was worse for a parent? To have their kids molested but at least alive and still be able to go to therapy afterward, or to have them be dead?…He thinks this bias comes from the skewed way “society” looks at things. It’s irrational. People are irrational. “Having your child molested becomes a personal thing.”

As if any parent of a victimized child ever gets to make that choice.

Kirk said the conversation with Richard left him “addled.” He admires the experiment that has given “an undeniably over-punished group a voice.” Still, he doesn’t know if stigmatizing sex offenders is “fair.”

“What does nag me, however, is the way they advocate for themselves as if the discrimination they suffer is really no different than that of an oppressed minority group,” Kirk writes. “I’ve heard Pat start in twice now about how he really gets the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany because he says he’s seen the sheriff’s office show up in the middle of the night and enter people’s homes without much ceremony.”

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Amy Schumer and Mindy Kaling, Each with Own Show, Lament Hollywood Treatment of Women

Monday, May 11th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

There’s a point at which social activism becomes redundant. Basis for grievance can abate to a point beyond which further protest seems petty.

Recognizing that point may not be an exact science. However, as you watch Mindy Kaling rattle on about her treatment by Hollywood in the above American Express ad, or chuckle at Amy Schumer’s portrayal of twelve angry men deliberating whether she’s hot enough to have her own TV show, eventually it hits you. These girls are chiming in a bit late.

Each is on TV. Each woman stars in her own show. Each woman writes her own material. Each woman lives her life more or less according to her own judgment. No one is holding either of them down.

Below video NSFW:

So, what are they protesting again?

Variety calls Schumer a “genius” for infusing feminist themes into her comedy sketch show. Editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein compares her to Dave Chappelle.

They both made their mark with very socially relevant humor, but while Chappelle explored race in America, it’s gender issues Schumer is mining just as brilliantly.

Ultimately, hilarious and successful as Chappelle proved, his insistence upon rending robes in racial grievance imploded his career. No one told Chappelle he couldn’t continue because he was black. Rather, Chappelle started to take himself too seriously and began to strangely resent the success he had earned.

Personally, I think Schumer is smarter than Chappelle. I think, while she no doubt cares about the way women are treated in the media, she writes more to express the comedy of her experience than to wring hands over it.

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Is Motherhood a Blessing, or a Curse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I Spent 17 Years as a Stay-at-Home Mom and Have Zero Regrets

Saturday, May 9th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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During Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, a controversy arose about the president allegedly funnelling money through his wife’s law firm for state business. When asked about it by a reporter, Hillary Clinton responded in her trademark caustic style:

I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.

This was before her handlers realized that Hillary needed to be kept in a protective media-free zone for her own good, because when she speaks her mind, venom often flows out. Hillary likely thought it was virtuous to derisively dismiss stay-at-home mothers — housewives — who were putzing their lives away wiping snotty noses and baking cookies all day instead of participating in some meaningful paid labor.

The day Hillary made that comment I was at home with a 6-month-old baby. I remember thinking that she was a judgmental elitist who had no idea what I did all day and I was angry that she devalued stay-at-home moms without batting an eye.

When my husband and I got married, we made the decisions that if we were blessed with children, I would stay home with them. We started planning for it from Day One of our marriage — doing our best to live within our means and not become dependent on my income, which we anticipated would disappear once we had children.

It wasn’t easy — there are sacrifices when you choose to live on one income. We drove high-mileage cars (which my husband maintained and repaired), lived in a small, one-bathroom house with a “one butt kitchen,” and shopped for our clothing at yard sales and thrift stores. Things eventually improved as my husband advanced in his career, but there were a lot of Hamburger Helper years in the interim (ground beef was 89 cents a pound back then). I am blessed to have a hardworking husband who joyfully provided for all of our family’s needs over the years and who also made sacrifices so I could be home with our children (the ’68 Mercury Cougar comes to mind).

Of course, this also meant that I gave up having a career of my own. In fact, I was out of the workforce providing unpaid labor as the caretaker of our home and children for 17 years. My husband reminded me recently of a comment I made to him a few years ago as our kids were getting ready to leave home. I told him I was pretty sure I was unemployable after being out of the workforce for so long, but thought perhaps I could get a job as a Walmart greeter. (God is sure full of delicious surprises.)

I’m not here to judge mothers who work outside the home. I am in the “trust parents to make the best decisions for their own families” camp. But I am here to say that I have not — even for one minute — regretted my decision to stay home with my kids. I had the privilege of wiping their snotty noses 24-7 and teaching them to read — spending hours reading to them each day. I taught them to bake cookies, to throw a baseball, and to clean toilets. I homeschooled them and taught them to love learning and be curious about the world around them and to be suspicious of people who sound like they’re selling something. I was blessed to be able to do all of these things at a leisurely pace without having to rush back and forth to daycare or to school while trying to squeeze in all the mothering between dinner and bedtime and on weekends. I had dinner on the table every most nights when my husband arrived home from work and our family enjoyed leisurely meals together.

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Clint Eastwood’s Ten Directorial Triumphs

Saturday, May 9th, 2015 - by Kyle Smith

In his eighties, Clint Eastwood directed the biggest money-maker he has ever been associated with, American Sniper. Modeling himself on his mentor Don Siegel, Eastwood gradually evolved from a meat-and-potatoes genre director to a consummate craftsman and the maker of some true artistic triumphs. Let’s look back at the ten best he’s ever helmed.

10 White Hunter, Black Heart (1990). One of Eastwood’s stranger offerings was this project about the making of The African Queen and its director, John Huston, who in the film is fictionalized, called “John Wilson” and played by Eastwood. Eastwood’s attempts to recreate Huston’s peculiar lockjaw are mixed, but White Hunter is a worthy inquiry into the nature of obsessive artistry and the relationship between an artist’s personality and the caliber of his work.

9. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). Eastwood began to explore his sensitive side with his portrayal of an honest farmer and family man who turns into a ruthless desperado after the murder of his wife and child. Classic Eastwood motifs such as barroom showdowns and wickedly barbed one liners (such as “Buzzards gotta eat too,” said over the body of a dead man who doesn’t deserve a burial) are laid over an unusual political foundation, about the pointless savagery at the end of the Civil War, when marauding bands of pro-Union “Red Legs” lay waste to civilian homes. Josey Wales explains in his climactic parley with a Comanche chief that despite dealing death for most of the movie he believes in tolerance, his “word of life.”

8. Sudden Impact (1983). Eastwood rejuvenated the Dirty Harry franchise with this fourth entry, in which Callahan tangles with a gang of rapists yet has an uneasy relationship with one of their victims (Sondra Locke), who shares Harry’s approach to violent criminals. Although some of the film’s themes were approaching cliche at this point, it’s still a highly entertaining action picture that deserves to be remembered for more than its signature one liner (cited by President Reagan in the course of promising to veto tax hikes), “Go ahead, make my day.”

WATCH: Clint Eastwood’s “Go ahead, make my day scene:”

7. The Gauntlet (1977). A Phoenix cop (Eastwood) sent to Las Vegas to bring back a “nothing witness” — a prostitute (Sondra Locke) — is slowly revealed to be a witty reversal of Dirty Harry. This cop thinks he was hired because he was the only man who could do a tricky job. In fact he got the nod because he’s perceived to be dumb and incompetent, a lazy drunk who is not expected to survive a battle with the Mob and corrupt cops in both states who want the hooker dead before she can testify against them.

6. High Plains Drifter (1973) A very Eastwood-y twist on High Noon: An entire town is culpable when a lawman gets whipped to death while the residents look on, and the entire town will suffer the consequences. Eastwood plays a mysterious stranger, a ghost or an avenging angel of the dead man, who rides into an Old West village and is hired to take down the three outlaws who murdered the marshal and are about to get out of jail. The apocalyptic touch — the Stranger orders the town literally painted red, with a sign reading “Welcome to Hell” posted to greet the returning desperadoes — gives the film a stern, pitiless sense of evil that must be punished.

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Book Review: Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers

Friday, May 8th, 2015 - by Ed Driscoll

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“For many artists, nothing inspires more existential terror than actually making art. The fear that we’re not good enough or that we don’t know enough results in untold numbers of creative crises and potential masterpieces that never get realized,” electronic music composer/producer Dennis DeSantis writes at the beginning of his new book, Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers.

In the old days of pop music, bands like the Beatles, the Stones and Led Zeppelin worked hard to avoid making their minimalist bass, drum and guitar instrumentation sound as varied as possible. These days, anyone who owns decent home recording software such as a digital audio workstation (DAW) and software synthesizers like Propellerhead’s Reason effectively has access to the timbres of all of the world’s instruments. And access to some of the world’s best players: it’s possible to purchase drum loops professionally recorded by Mick Fleetwood, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, and Joe Vitale, who played drums behind so many of Joe Walsh’s hits, for example. And then via applications such Celemony Melodyne, completely fine-tune and even entirely reshape our sounds into tight, perfectly-tuned notes and riffs.

That’s some rather amazing power, which the Beatles and George Martin would have killed for when they were recording Sgt. Pepper. So why is it, after we boot up our computers and load our DAW software, staring into a blank recording template before starting a new project often feels even more terrifying than a writer staring at a blank piece of paper or Microsoft Word file? What can be done to reduce this fear?

In Making Music, DeSantis, who holds music composition degrees from multiple universities, looks to break the home recordist’s version of writer’s block. As DeSantis writes:

Think about something you consider a hobby, something (besides music) that you do with your free time. Maybe you run marathons, or brew beer, or take wildlife photographs. Whatever it is, have you ever even considered doing it professionally? Probably not. And most likely this isn’t because you’re not good enough (and whether you are or not is probably irrelevant to your decision), but rather because the very fact that it’s a hobby means that it’s something you do that isn’t work. Instead, it’s a chance to spend time on something fun and fulfilling that doesn’t saddle you with any outside pressure to succeed, earn a living, etc.

Electronic musicians, more so than musicians working in other genres, seem to have a more difficult time simply engaging with music as a hobby. Perhaps this is because tools like DAWs are fundamentally designed around a recording mentality. Think about people you’ve met who own an acoustic guitar. Just pulling it out and playing it for a few minutes while sitting on the couch may be the extent of their musical aspirations. And they don’t see this as failure. They’re not lamenting their inability to get gigs or write more music or get record deals. They’re having exactly the relationship with music that they want. In fact, they’re usually not even recording what they play; once it’s in the air, it’s gone.

By definition, being a professional means having to spend at least some amount of time thinking about the marketplace. Is there an audience for the music you’re making? If not, you’re guaranteed to fail. Amateurs, on the other hand, never have to think about this question at all. This frees them to make music entirely for themselves, on their own terms.

Whatever your interest in home recording, whether it’s as a songwriter, an instrumental-oriented electronic dance music composer, or simply as someone looking to record your own instrument and maybe overdub a solo or two, we all know that feeling of writer’s block or producer’s block.

Or “artist’s block” as Julia Cameron, the former wife of Martin Scorsese dubbed it in her best-selling 1992 book The Artist’s Way.  From a big picture point of view, Cameron’s book can provide some inspiration to break through artist’s block in general. She stresses that if the artist concentrates on quantity, then quality will come in time as well, as his craft improves through work, process and repetition — provided that cold feet don’t arrive along the way. As one of the many lines I highlighted in my Kindle edition of her book notes, “We usually commit creative hara-kiri either on the eve of or in the wake of a first creative victory. The glare of success (a poem, an acting job, a song, a short story, a film, or any success) can send the recovering artist scurrying back into the cave of self-defeat. We’re more comfortable being a victim of artist’s block than risking having to consistently be productive and healthy.”

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