Culture

7 New Year's Resolutions for 2014 I Invite You to Burgle From Me Bilbo-Style

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWVeZx2IP30

My wife and I flew back to Indiana last week to spend Christmas with the family. We had a ball! Among the highlights was when we all went to see The Hobbit part 2 on IMAX 3-D. The whole family is pretty religious about Tolkien, the movies especially. Dad is the expert, capable of explaining the changes from book to screen while assuring us that Peter Jackson’s changes still make for an extraordinary film without messing up anything major.

Ever since I was a kid first encountering The Hobbit as a cartoon and as my Dad read it during bedtime I loved the scene of Bilbo talking with the dragon Smaug, buried amidst the endless piles of pilfered Dwarven gold. That fantasy of limitless wealth to swim in seems a recurring one from childhood. I loved how Scrooge McDuck had a money bin that he’d dive into and pass through as though it were water:

I kind of imagine myself doing that these past few years editing PJ Lifestyle except instead of gold coins it’s the amazing writing of the PJ columnists, freelancers, and the authors in the books I’m researching. From family advice to tech news to TV and family commentaries to history/religion/ideology debates PJ Lifestyle has been accumulating a diverse range of exciting ideas and cultural challenges. Here was my attempt to organize this some last year via an ever-evolving self-improvement routine inspired by Charlie Martin’s 13 Weeks program:

December 31, 2012: 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal
February 1, 2013: The Plan So I Don’t Waste the Last Year of My 20s
April 10: The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen
May 8: Every American Needs to Read Books to Understand Islam
July 6: We Must Read Tons of Books With A Clear Purpose
October 5: 13 Weeks of Wild Man Writing and Radical Reading
November 17: Half Through 13 Weeks For Radical Readers and Madman Writers, Turning Up the Heat

To give Lifestyle some degree of structure I’ve sought to organize some of the themes each week by day — when the story isn’t a timely, breaking news piece. I’ve applied this also to my daily reading plan, drawing from a different pile of books and shifting subjects to try and make fresh connections for stories to assign to PJ’s writers and work on myself. Here’s my reading plan for the next 13 weeks cycle — join us starting the week of Sunday, January 5 for week 1 — and then how they’re inspiring me to make changes in my own life.

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I tend to hate Game of Thrones for the way it blends cruel violence with soft-core porn and romanticizes sex slavery but this meme is tolerable, I suppose, given its parenting subtext.

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Monday Reading Plan:

I intend to continue focusing on Marxism and Islam on Mondays this year. I’ll wrap up Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa’s memoir hopefully this week (all the books laid on the table are ones hanging around from last season that I think I can focus on and wrap up). From reading Red Horizons and Disinformation I’ve gotten a much better idea of the ideologies, personalities, and strategies that dominated the Soviet bloc after Stalin’s death. I’ve come to see how really in the age of Nikita Khrushchev the battle wasn’t necessarily with Marxists, but rather criminal thugs who just used Marxism to dupe the third world to fight and die for them. So now it makes sense to step further back in history, before the collapse of Marxist thought into outright, naked personality cults post-Stalin.

In 2014 I’m finally going to hunker down and read a book that’s been intimidating me for my focused attention for years — Leszek Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism. I’m also going to read the rest of Robert Spencer’s books on Islam as well as start Daniel Pipes on Muslim history, Barry Rubin on Middle East geopolitics, and Frank Gaffney on national security.

You’ll also note at the top of the stack one of my favorites of last year, James Bennett and Michael Lotus’s America 3.0I’ve decided to give it another read in the context of the Marxism and Islam books because in it I think we find what’s really the biggest, most significant core conflict dividing America today. Both Orthodox Islam and Revolutionary Marxism reject what Lotus and Bennett name as the building block of American economic prosperity and cultural richness: the absolute nuclear family.

Monday Resolution:

I’m going to make an effort this year to start publishing much more content here at PJ Lifestyle that’s just light, fun, apolitical, and upbeat. I want to start putting out more family-oriented cultural content — more universal features like the PJ Lifestyle Sunshine posts. I’ve always preached the Mary Poppins, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” blogging approach to the writers I edit but too often not lived up to it myself. 2014 will be better. Perhaps one of the best ways to defend the family is just to earnestly celebrate the kind of culture that nourishes family life.

Tuesday Reading Plan:

On Tuesdays I’m going to continue reading books about counterculture futurism and the effects of exponential technological growth. The one that I’m most excited to read is not pictured yet, but it certainly will be soon enough. Out next week is Instapundit Glenn Reynolds’ new book explaining how technology will transform America’s educational system, resolving the problems that have been dogging it for decades:

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In other words, what happens when an Army of Davids marches on the school system…

Tuesday Resolution:

I’ll save the out-and-out anti-Facebook polemic for another time. But for now, my intent this year is to gradually extract any data and media from Facebook that I want to keep and then close my account by the 10th anniversary of when I signed up — November 21, 2004. I’d rather spend my social networking time on Instagram and Twitter and then use them as the basis for creating PJ Lifestyle blog posts.

I think the conclusion that I’ve came to is that one social networking account isn’t enough. I’m going to create multiple ones to experiment more with different functions and personas. So far I’ve been exploring defining and promoting counterculture conservatism with this one but I’ve got ideas for more in the future, especially now that Instagram supports 15 second videos…

Wednesday Reading Plan:

Camille Paglia’s great commentary has been in the news a lot lately. This is very encouraging. I’ve been reading Sexual Personae since last year and she’s won me over to her position. It’s not just that our popular culture is like the ancient, primitive nature-worshiping religions that came before the Judeo-Christian tradition. They literally are Pagan. And today people worship them like gods. Why is it today if someone goes home after work and spends 2 hours watching TV we think of them as normal but if they spend 2 hours studying the Bible, praying, and meditating we regard them as a kook?

The term that I’ve come up with for the religion that I used to practice without even knowing it: pop culture polytheism. For so much of my life I devoted myself to the details of TV shows, movies, books, and all manner of pop culture and political celebrities. No more. Today in America fascination with culture isn’t just a hobby — it’s an all-encompassing obsession. I’m done with it. Our popular culture needs to be mocked and trashed much more and with greater intensity. There’s nothing in it that’s sacred.

I’m going to read the rest of Paglia’s books and then more examples of the nature, image, death, and sex-worshiping facets of our popular culture.

Wednesday Resolution:

I’m going to start being more aggressive in attacking the idols of pop culture — and encouraging the other PJ Lifestyle regulars too also.

Thursday Reading Plan:

Last week I named my controversial choices for The 10 Best Conservative Columnists of 2013 with Ann Coulter, Thomas Sowell, and National Review writers making up the bulk of the list. This year I’m going to read the rest of Coulter’s books, make a bigger dent in Sowell’s, and some National Review titles. I want to get my head around Frank Meyer’s contribution and start to study William F. Buckley Jr.’s approach in addition to Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, and Rich Lowry.

Thursday Resolution:

The image and the so-called “meme” (those combinations of images and text floating around social networks) are the medium of power today. I’m going to start making more of them and encouraging the other PJ Lifestyle contributors to also make this leap. We should draw from the polemical approaches of previous generations in this digital arms race.

Friday Reading Plan:

Walt Disney has been the subject of study at PJ Lifestyle by my friend Chris Queen and me for over a year. We’ve made some fascinating discoveries through using the Radical Reading Regimen of seeing across subjects. In particular, Pacepa’s Disinformation reveals how the Soviet Union used cultural warfare to smear powerful Judeo-Christian leaders as secret Nazis, racists, and antisemites. A play, The Deputy, was created by a Soviet Disinformation campaign for the purpose of dividing Jews and Christians through promulgating the lie that Pope Pius sympathized with the Nazis.

In researching the biographies of Disney I’ve discovered how in some of the less reputable — but nevertheless popular and influential — the same smear patterns appeared. Around about the time that Disney started opposing the Communists that’s when the claims of antisemitism emerged. And who was the animator responsible for accusing Disney of frequently attending Nazi meetings? An admitted progressive agitator who had a personal bone to pick with Disney, Arthur Babbitt was the only one to ever go on record with the claim, one that he made as late as 1990 in Marc Eliot’s anonymous-source laden Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince. (I read it last year — absolutely worthless. Eliot rarely sources anything he claims. You can’t verify just about anything he says. For all we know even the Babbitt quote is an exaggeration or fabrication.)

Now history repeats itself, again theatre targeted at a high brow audience is used as the vehicle for anti-American disinformation. A novel appeared a few years ago entitled The Perfect American that supposedly depicts a fictionalized version of the end of Disney’s life. And the angry Nazi sympathizer caricature is employed. The cover with a Hitler shadow following Disney Peter Pan-style makes the intention clear enough:

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And now it’s been transformed into an opera by Stephen Glass:

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In continuing my research into Disney I’m going to read the smear novel and more books about Disney, including another Disney biography that I have a feeling may be the best of the bunch, Michael Barrier’s The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney.

Friday Resolution:

Usually when I’m working I have some combination of talk radio and Songza/Pandora on in the background. Now I’m going to replace the music with Disney films, cartoons, and documentaries, immersing myself in everything until I feel like I’ve really gotten a handle of the repeating themes and style.

And yes, I do intend to Tweet and Instagram out pics, quotes, and observations, in following with my New Year’s resolution #1 of more family-friendly content…

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Why, hello there… #cute

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AMAZING!!!! MARY POPPINS ON BLU RAY!!!!

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Saturday Reading Plan:

One of my friends has agreed to read Maimonies’ The Guide of the Perplexed and dialogue with me about it this year. The Shlomo Pines, Leo Strauss translation is regarded as the best, with volume 1 being a steep $23.42 for the Kindle edition. I’ll use the Amazon gift card that I got for Christmas on it:

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Anybody else want to join us in blogging through it? (Likewise I know at least one other PJ Lifestyle writer plans on diving into Main Currents of Marxism this year. If anyone else wants to explore Kolakowski they are invited.)

This will be the foundation of a general research into Jewish mysticism, theology, philosophy, lifestyle, and culture.

Saturday Resolution:

In continuing to steal ideas from my Jewish friends, I do intend to continue to drift toward a Kosher Lifestyle. I still struggle with diet and eating and wonder if more Jewish attitudes could help.

Sunday Reading Plan:

I’ve still got a whole lot of Paul Johnson and Victor Davis Hanson history books in my weekend history reading stack…

Sunday Resolution:

In studying history–from the founding fathers all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and Israelites–I have come to see writing as the most powerful technology of all. It’s a tool for reprogramming ourselves to become whatever we want.

If you want to do something you write it down. This year I’m going to continue to try and be more disciplined about using the Pomodoro timer and my handwritten journal to organize my time and schedule in productive ways.

Anybody have any resolutions they’d like to share?