Saturday, February 25, 2017

Must-Read Picks of the Week

A weekly roundup of articles that caught my attention...

Medieval scribes protected their work by threatening death, or worse.

Just in time for Lent: 40 stories, poems, essays, and books for the 40 days of this season, intended to be literary, not theological; contemplative rather than devotional.

The Grandeur of Old Hollywood Is Gone by Camille Paglia at The Hollywood Reporter

Just in time for the Oscars: The social critic writes that Elizabeth Taylor's 1961 win was "a huge cultural watershed, a prefiguration of the coming sexual revolution," which predated a new generation of "hip, smart and cynical" stars.

Why I'm Breaking Up With Feminism by Kristen Hatten at Chronicles of Radness

"This is the full text of my speech to students at Boots on the Ground TX this weekend in Austin, a joint venture of UT Dallas and Texas Right to Life. The theme of the conference was #Diversity, so I decided to test the limits of that diversity a little bit, and be the most diverse mofo there."

The Virtue of Irrelevance by Roger Scruton at the Imaginative Conservative

"The old curriculum, with its emphasis on hard mathematics, dead languages, ancient history, and classical music, is often portrayed today as “irrelevant,” an offense to modern children, a way of belittling their world and their hopes for the future…"

Cultural Backwash by the editors of The New Criterion

“This is a tale of a celebrity selfie which became an artist’s copy of a selfie, which became a valuable piece of art before it became an artist’s political comment on the copy of a selfie of a celebrity who is now a political figure, who has yet to comment on his comment.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Brave New World of Publishing’s ‘Sensitivity Readers’

Nothing so surely kills artistic expression and the free spirit of the imagination as political dogma. When politics hijacks art the result is propaganda – a blunt instrument of control instead of a vehicle for transcendance.
The Chicago Tribune reports that book publishers have begun making increasing use of so-called “sensitivity readers” to examine manuscripts and to offer feedback in terms of any racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. Such readers sometimes specialize in areas of expertise that an author might lack, such as “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families,” or “transgender issues.”
“The industry recognizes this is a real concern,” said Cheryl Klein, an editor at Lee & Low Books. It’s a concern because, thanks to the politically correct crime of “cultural appropriation,” novelists today are under unprecedented pressure to avoid potential stereotypes and create more “authentic” characters from “marginalized groups” – especially when the author is not a part of that group.
Last year, for example, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling was savaged by Native American readers and scholars for her story called “History of Magic in North America,” which they claim she portrayed Navajo traditions in a way that “perpetuates colonialist perspectives” and “appropriates and erases Native American culture,” as Salon put it. Similarly, young adult author Veronica Roth, author of the bestselling Divergent, caught heat for her new novel Carve the Mark, which was called not only racist but “ableist.”
Dhonielle Clayton, a New York sensitivity reader, told the Tribune,
“Books for me are supposed to be vehicles for pleasure, they're supposed to be escapist and fun. They're not supposed to be a place where readers encounter harmful versions and stereotypes of people like them… [U]ntil publishing is equitable and people are still writing cross-culturally, sensitivity reading is going to be another layer of what's necessary in order to make sure that representation is good.”
Stacy Whitman, an editorial director at Lee & Low, concurs: “Everyone's goal is a better book, and better representation contributes to that.”
But does it make a better book? Is this process shaping better writers or just politically straitjacketed ones?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Must-Read Picks of the Week

Once again I'm going to try to rev up a weekly collection of articles well worth sharing. So here goes.

Don’t miss these must-reads from this week. Just a few this time but at least half a dozen regularly henceforth.

From Culture to Cupcakes by Heather Mac Donald at City-Journal

The once-great University of California at Berkeley continues its descent into victimology.

Prepare to be overwhelmed.

Verse in Adversity: Poetry and Modernity by Joseph Pierce at the Imaginative Conservative

Modern man thinks poetry a waste of time. He doesn’t know the difference between that which takes time and that which wastes it.

It’s past time to ponder the quote from Thomas Jefferson: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What David Beckham Could Learn From Tim Tebow About Humility

Sports reveals character, it’s often said, but sometimes an athlete’s off-the-field actions can be even more revealing – and not always for the better.
Last weekend the Tim Tebow Foundation put on its annual Night to Shine prom experience for a whopping 75,000 people at 350 churches in 50 states and 11 countries. The event is for people ages 14 and older with special needs. “The Night to Shine movement is more than just a prom,” said Tebow. “It is a night where people with special needs shine and they are told that they matter, that they are important and that God has a plan for their life!”
In a promotional video, the former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback (and now a Mets outfielder) Tebow is shown flying to Haiti to kick off this year’s celebration and dance with some of the special needs kids before jetting off to other Night to Shine locations. “I love these kids and celebrate them,” Tebow says of the Haitian children, and you believe him.
Love him or hate him – and wearing his Christianity on his sleeve has earned him many from both camps – it’s difficult to doubt Tebow’s sincerity or joyful commitment to charitable works. In fact, Tebow is better known for his unusually forthright Christianity than his on-the-field achievements. And he almost certainly would prefer it that way. One gets the impression that he is unimpressed by his own celebrity status but uses it to serve others.
Speaking of status, very few former athletes have achieved the degree of celebrity of David Beckham. One of soccer’s all-time greats (though many would consider him a better ambassador for the sport than a player), Becks nonetheless is far more widely-known as an influential style icon and Spice Girl husband with a net worth of upwards of $350 million.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Be Like Library Man

A cellphone video recently uploaded to YouTube, which has been viewed over 750,000 times as of this writing, proves that heroes don’t always wear capes. Sometimes they come in button-down shirts and nerdy eyeglasses.
The video opens on a band of University of Washington student protesters gathered in the school library, reportedly about an hour after President Donald Trump’s inauguration earlier this month. Led by a woman wielding a megaphone (as if one were necessary in the quiet space) they begin chanting, 
“Who’s got the power?” “We’ve got the power!” “What kind of power?” “Equal power!”
A little uninspired as chants go, but anyway, just as the wannabe revolutionaries are finding their groove, we hear a lone voice off-camera shouting for their attention. The camera pans to a studious-looking, young Asian gentleman in button-down shirt and glasses, glaring at them in disapproval. “Hey… hey ... HEY!” he interrupts. The protesters, probably unaccustomed to being shushed, quiet down in confusion.
“This is library!” he scolds in accented English. Then he stalks away with a stern backward glance, clearly because he has work to do and no more time to waste on this motley crew. The protesters are left in stunned silence, although one woman among them lobs a feeble comment at his back suggesting something about him going back to Beijing – not a very inclusive or multicultural comment for a college protester demanding equality.
It's unclear if the young man actually works at the library, simply wanted to study in peace and quiet, or felt compelled to reprimand the protesters on behalf of others who were there to study, but in any case he swiftly became the subject of internet memes; the funniest is a video where he is Photoshopped into the famous scene from the movie 300 in which King Leonidas roars “This… is… Sparta!” before booting a Persian enemy into the abyss.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kermit Gosnell, America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

Masked by innocuous language like “pro-choice” and “reproductive care,” and protected by a media conspiracy of silence, the grim reality of abortion rarely surfaces in our cultural awareness, as it did with the recent undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s moral vacuum. But a new book about the chilling crimes of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, America’s most prolific serial killer, highlights that ugly reality in an even more horrifying but compelling fashion.
Part true-crime investigation, part social commentary, part courtroom drama, and part journey into the banality of evil, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer was written by investigative journalists and filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, well-known for their controversial documentaries FrackNation and Not Evil Just Wrong, as well as a play called Ferguson drawn entirely from testimony about the shooting of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. The husband-and-wife team have also miraculously crowdfunded a feature film based on the Gosnell story (it raised more money than any film project in Indiegogo history), directed by conservative actor and Twitter gadfly Nick Searcy (Justified), with the screenplay written by novelist and political commentator Andrew Klavan.
McElhinney begins the book with a confession that she had “never trusted or liked pro-life activists”; she resented the “emotional manipulation” of their demonstrations – until she began researching the Gosnell story, a process so “brutal” that at times she wept and prayed at her computer, not only over Gosnell’s evil but over “the reality of abortion” even when it’s performed properly and legally. Writing the book changed her dramatically, and it’s not an overstatement to say that reading this book will have the same effect on many readers as well.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell might still be butchering babies today if it weren’t for the dedication of a Philadelphia narcotics investigator named Jim Wood who followed up a lead about Gosnell’s lucrative illegal prescription scheme. The lead led to a raid on Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society abortion clinic in February, 2010, where investigators discovered shockingly unsanitary conditions and incompetent, untrained assistants, as well as improperly medicated post-abortion patients sleeping or sitting together under bloodstained blankets, a few in need of hospitalization. The procedure room was even filthier. Fetal remains were found throughout, in empty water and milk jugs, cat food containers, and orange juice bottles with the necks cut off. One cupboard held five jars containing baby feet, which Gosnell apparently severed and kept for his own amusement.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dads Are Parents Too

Shortly after the birth of my third daughter I took all three girls into a supermarket where a woman observed me wearing one child on my chest in a baby harness and pushing the other two around in a shopping cart. “Wow, Dad doing the shopping and the babysitting!” she marveled. Sigh. She was well-meaning but perhaps unaware that for many fathers, that kind of comment – which suggests that Dad is just a placeholder for Mom – is at least as frustrating as it is complimentary.

Granted, this was an atypical outing for me and the girls. The vast majority of the time my wife is the one out shopping with our kids. Mothers from time immemorial have been the primary rearers of children partly by nature and partly as a consequence of a logical division of family labor. But thanks to a rise in the number of stay-at-home or work-from-home fathers such as myself, as well as a growing desire of men to do more hands-on parenting, more men are sharing childrearing tasks that once were perceived as solely the domain of women.

Society hasn’t entirely caught up to this changing reality – hence, moments like the one I experienced above. Part of the attitude I encountered in the supermarket stems from the lingering stereotype of emotionally reserved traditional dads of yore, who may have been responsible heads of the household out in the workforce but who were uncomfortable with, or averse to, the more domestic side of childrearing. In addition, pop culture has helped perpetuate the perception of dads as comically inept with children. Think of the movie Three Men and a Baby or Homer from The Simpsons. So it seems noteworthy when men demonstrate that they can be actual, capable, involved parents.

This is not to say that dads like Homer Simpson don’t exist, of course, but fathers who are more fully engaged in parenting chores are now beginning to resent the misperception and to push back against it.