This is Week 2, day 3 of my new 13 Weeks Radical Reading Experiment. I keep a daily journal of the most interesting media that crosses my path each day. See or create something I should check out? Email me at [email protected]
1. P. David Hornik Here at PJ Lifestyle today: Tu Bishvat, Israel’s Holiday of Trees
This Wednesday evening and Thursday mark the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat (the name refers to the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat). Also known as the New Year of Trees and as Israeli Arbor Day, it’s a minor, nonbiblical holiday, its source in the Talmud. But quite a to-do is made about it in Israel.
The Talmud specified Tu Bishvat as the day on which the annual agricultural cycle begins. Considering that the holiday falls in January or, at best, February, this—the middle of winter—may seem a strange time for agricultural rebirth. It is, though, the time in the Land of Israel when—amid the cold and damp, but with sunnier intervals—you start to see the first white and pink almond blossoms.
You also see packages of dried fruits (dates, figs, apricots, pineapple) and nuts, especially almonds, everywhere. In the Diaspora, Tu Bishvat was marked by eating fruits of the Land of Israel. In the European Diaspora with its cold winters, that meant dried fruits. Now, back in the Land of Israel, they’re ubiquitous at this time of year.
I admire my Jewish friends for all the holidays in their religion and how diligent they are in celebrating them. It’s a practice that we should all keep in mind regardless of faith or lack thereof — making time to just step apart from the world for a moment and reflect on who we are where we’re going.
Because it’s a dangerous, cruel place out there. Here’s a decadent, crime-ridden collection of headlines for today. Sorry.
3. The Onion: Unemployed, Miserable Man Still Remembers Teacher Who First Made Him Fall In Love With Writing
Sheard, who has reportedly been unable to hold down any semblance of well-paid, full-time employment, constantly struggles to stay financially afloat, has thus far failed to make a living off of writing as a career, and has frequently spiraled into long periods of severe depression and unhappiness. “She introduced me to Faulkner, Vonnegut, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Joyce, and that’s what began my lifelong love affair with the narrative form. Those authors really opened up a whole new world to me, which ultimately inspired me to devote my whole life to the craft of prose. Mrs. Merriman was the catalyst for that; I’ll never forget her.”
For some reason Glenn Reynolds’ book The New School and all those literature and philosophy and religious studies majors all across America come to mind…
4. Chris Hedges at TruthDig: The Trouble With Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been Wall Street’s anointed son for the presidency. He is backed by the most ruthless and corrupt figures in New Jersey politics, including the New Jersey multimillionaire and hard-line Democratic boss George Norcross III. Among his other supporters are many hedge fund managers and corporate executives and some of the nation’s most retrograde billionaires, including the Koch brothers. The brewing scandal over the closing of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge apparently in retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor’s refusal to support the governor’s 2013 re-election is a window into how federal agencies and the security and surveillance apparatus would be routinely employed in a Christie presidency to punish anyone who challenged this tiny cabal’s grip on power.
Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot. He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth. He is gripped by a bottomless hedonism that includes a demand for private jets, huge entourages, exclusive hotels and lavish meals. Wall Street and the security and surveillance apparatus want a real son of a bitch in power, someone with the moral compass of Al Capone, in order to ruthlessly silence and crush those of us who are working to overthrow the corporate state. They have had enough of what they perceive to be Barack Obama’s softness. Christie fits the profile and he is drooling for the opportunity.
The Romney campaign, which reluctantly agreed to Christie’s incessant demands for private jets, ungainly entourages and expensive hotel rooms in return for campaign appearances by the governor in behalf of the GOP nominee, decided against selecting him as running mate because, as the authors write, Romney’s vetters were “stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record.”
Hilarious. Christie is a third-world despot and we need to “overthrow the corporate state.”
The site’s growth milestone marks an all-time monthly high for both unique visitors and page views
TheWrap is pleased to announce that it has achieved its highest traffic month in the history of the site, surpassing both industry trades Variety and Deadline.
According to comScore, TheWrap scored 3.4 million unique visitors in December 2013, besting both Deadline Hollywood (2.6 million) and Variety (2.6 million) by almost 700,000 unique visitors each.
Among the four Hollywood industry news sites, the comScore ranking places TheWrap No. 2 behind The Hollywood Reporter which earned 5.7 million unique visitors in December, according to the ranking service.
Good for them!
6. E.J. Dionne also at Truthdig: Why Chris Christie Is Conservatives’ Worst Nightmare
What is the greatest fear of conservatives when they warn against the dangers of big government? It is that a leader or the coterie around him will abuse the authority of the state arbitrarily to gather yet more power, punish opponents and, in the process, harm rank-and-file citizens whose well-being matters not a whit to those who are trying to enhance their control.
This, of course, is a quite precise description of what happened when Gov. Chris Christie’s aides ordered the closure of some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September. Their motivation was political payback. The result: thousands of commuters along with emergency vehicles, school buses and pretty much the entire town of Fort Lee, N.J., were thrown into gridlock.
Using public facilities for selfish ends is the very definition of corruption, which is why this scandal bothers people far outside the conservative orbit.
7. Recode: AOL Finds a Home — Off Its Books — For Patch
Patch isn’t dead, and AOL isn’t officially done with it. But Tim Armstrong’s big bet on local news has come to an end: The AOL CEO is handing over Patch to investment fund Hale Global, which will run the network of news sites.
The deal is structured as a joint venture, and AOL will hold on to a small stake. But Hale will control and operate the company, and AOL will no longer have to fund Patch’s losses, which Armstrong had promised would stop by the end of 2013 but didn’t.
Hale specializes in turnaround projects and “special situations,” and normally that would mean that many of the 900 Patch sites would be shuttered — especially since that’s what AOL said it was going to do last summer. But AOL and Hale say all of the Patches will remain open.
8. My friends Mark Tapson at Acculturated: Nymphomaniac: Artistic Courage or Humiliation?
I’ve avoided writing about Danish director Lars von Trier’s upcoming arthouse movie epic Nymphomaniac for two reasons: one, such blatant titillation is boring, and two, I didn’t want to give publicity to a film I feel certain will be a degrading experience. But the recent revelation that actor Shia LaBeouf secured his role in the movie partly because he sent pictures of his penis to the filmmakers has compelled me to comment.
If you’re not familiar with von Trier, he’s the provocateur behind such disturbing flicks as Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist, Dogville, and now the sexually explicitNymphomaniac – which, as the title suggests, isn’t exactly a Disney movie, and which is notable mostly for its unusually creepy marketing campaign consisting of posters of the actors in mid-orgasm. If you have ever found yourself wondering what The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo bad guy Stellan Skarsgaard looks like during sexual climax, well, now you know. As Midwestern storyteller Garrison Keillor once put it, “If it feels good, it probably doesn’t look good.”
I saw a whole lot — too many — of these “explicit sex in dramatic feature” independent and foreign films back in my film critic and art house movie days a decade ago. Most of them are really very, very boring. The only narrative films with explicit sex that seem to be able to work are comedies where the sex is for goofy shocks. Pink Flamingos and Shortbus come to mind which chuckles. “Kill everyone now!”
My conclusion: pornography and art are opposite in their purpose and effects. Art is Apollonian, pornography is Dionysian. One challenges you to rise up, to transcend your base nature; the other encourages you to dive down and wallow in your animality. The erotic — the mysterious, the transcendent — is where one gets beyond the false dualism. Erotica and pornography are not synonymous. The most erotic part of a woman’s body is her face. Example, from Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Marjorie Cameron, widow of notorious rocket scientist/occultist Jack Parsons, as the Scarlet Woman:
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"She is what you call a powerful woman." – #KennethAnger commenting on self-proclaimed witch Marjorie Cameron, widow of legendary occultist and rocket scientist and naive fool Jack Parsons… #magick #occult #scarlet #babalon #scarletwoman #goddess #pagan #hermetic #thelema #aleistercrowley
I’ve had Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty on the brain today in my ongoing Disney studies. Perhaps she’s another example of this persona that Camille Paglia writes about? Think it’s a coincidence that the seductive demoness’ role in the story is to break up a family for 16 years? To divide a father from his daughter? (Yes, analyzing Disney culture through Paglia’s cultural approach seems a good approach for this year…)
But really all of this is nothing new. The cultural decadence has always been with America, it’s just more in the open now. But the old dirt is creeping out too…
9. Daily Mail: Jackie Kennedy ‘had an affair with ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev and so did Bobby Kennedy’, new book based on interviews with Jackie’s ‘closest confidantes’ reveals
‘I am the sexiest man alive,’ he told a Danish newspaper before his death from AIDS in 1993. ‘Just ask Lee Radziwill. Just ask Jackie Kennedy. And if you don’t believe me, ask Bobby and John-John Kennedy. Nobody can resist me. Everyone who has gone to bed with me has fallen in love with me,’ he added.
The book details the lives of playwright Tennessee Williams and two of Jackie’s closest friends, authors Truman Capote and Gore Vidal.
‘I think Rudi systematically plans to seduce every member of my family, even my son when he grows up,’ the book says Jackie confessed to Capote.
Capote was also said to be shocked to learn about Nureyev’s affair with Bobby Kennedy, whom the writer had long suspected of being a deeply closeted homosexual,’ says Globe.
An outraged Jackie only ended the relationship when she saw the dancer paying too much attention to her son, JFK Jr., writes Porter.
The truth about the Democratic Party is that it’s really just the political wing of a sex-and-death worshiping cult. Read Michael Walsh’s Encounter Broadside on the Party’s criminal history and origins if you haven’t already.
10. Daily Mail: Full-nude strip club loses license after allowing 13-year-old victim of a sex slave ring to dance on stage
The Miami strip club that lost its license in the wake of allegations that a 13-year-old sex slave had been forced to perform under the stage name Peaches has filed an injunction to get re-opened.
Miami Beach city manager Jimmy Morales suspended Club Madonna’s business permits for six months on Friday, while police investigate the circumstances around how a 13-year old girl was able to get a job dancing at the fully nude strip club.
But club owner Leroy Griffith has refused to take the decision lying down and on Tuesday went to federal court to file an injunction against the city.
That’s right. “Club Madonna.”
The three people accused of forcing the young runaway into a life of sex slavery after scooping her up off a Miami Beach street last month are Vilbert Jean, 36, Marlene San Vincente, 22, and DeWayne Ward, 18.
The trio forced her to have sex for money on at least one occasion, before forcing her to strip at Club Madonna on the South Beach Strip, according to an affidavit cited by the Miami Herald.
Slavery still exists in this world. But one day more people will recognize what evil is, where it comes from, and how we must fight to overcome it. And we will. And someday our descendants will look back and find it strange the way publications once flourished where stories of brutal crimes appeared next to cute Siberian huskies. (Apparently the Daily Mail and the Blaze are also doing husky videos, a perhaps necessary pick-me-up when confronted with the horrors of what humans will do to each other…)