Saturday, October 27, 2012


Prescient philosopher of the media Marshall McLuhan once famously remarked that “the future of the book is the blurb.” Had he lived long enough to witness the ubiquity of the personal computer and social media, he might have said that “the future of the book is the tweet.”

As both a longtime James Bond fan and a contributor to Acculturated’s symposium on “Language in the Digital Age,” I was amused to read about how author and comedian Charlie Higson recently reduced twelve of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels into 140-character tweets, just in time for the release of the new 007 movie Skyfall.

Here is Higson’s take on Dr. No, for example, the first Bond book to be made into a film, the one in which original Bond girl Ursula “Honey Rider” Andress made her iconic appearance in a white bikini: “Jamaica? Yes. Dead agent? Yes. Honeychile Rider like a naked Venus from the sea? Yes. Steel hands? Yes. Radioactive pool? No. Death by guano”

With Friends Like These

When Barack Obama first ascended to the Presidency, his American supporters exulted: now that the hated Dubya Bush was out of the picture, the world would finally “like” us again! It’s as if they were all in junior high school and considered the United States a Facebook page, and nothing was more important than having the whole world click our “Like” button. Now that the end of Obama’s tenure approaches, it is abundantly clear exactly which world leaders “like” him and why they want him to have a second term.

After four years of apologizing for American arrogance, alternately either bowing to or embracing Islamic fundamentalists, insulting our oldest and closest allies like England and Israel, and driving other allies out of power altogether, Obama has indeed won over a certain sector of the world – the sector comprised of the most America-hating dictators on the planet. And they “like” Obama because he has diminished, if not crippled, American economic and military might, and because his goal conforms with theirs – to move us into a post-American world in which we are no longer the lead actor on the world stage. In short, he has alienated our allies and embraced our enemies.

Case in point: Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who at the end of September publicly announced his support for our Saboteur-in-Chief’s reelection bid. “If I were American, I'd vote for Obama,” Chavez said in a television interview. Of course he would – Chavez is a power-mad socialist. He’s certainly not going to get behind capitalist Romney and his Ayn Rand-inspired running mate Paul Ryan. The America-bashing, Hezbollah-supporting thug also pronounced Obama to be “a good guy” and speculated correctly that if Obama were Venezuelan, “I think... he'd vote for Chavez.”

"Atlas Shrugged II" Hits Theaters

Thanks to Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan, America’s curiosity about philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand has peaked – just in time for the recent release of the second installment of a trilogy of films based on one of her gargantuan novels of ideas, Atlas Shrugged.

“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person,” Ryan once said, “it would be Ayn Rand.” A potential vice-president inspired by Rand’s unequivocal, hyper-capitalist, hyper-individualist positions has galvanized the right about Romney’s campaign and terrified the collectivist left.

When Atlas Shrugged, Part I opened last year bearing its unapologetically right-leaning message, it unsurprisingly took a hammering from left-leaning mainstream movie critics, who either eagerly pounced on the flick or gave it the silent treatment so as not to bring any attention to it, even the negative sort. These are the same critics from whom seldom is heard a discouraging word about movies with heavy-handed progressive messages, such as Matt Damon’s action flop The Green Zone or Sean Penn’s preachy, sanctimonious Fair Game, both of which were made only to push the tired leftist propaganda that we went to war in Iraq on the basis of a Bush lie.

"Arrow" Hits the Mark

A bow and quiver of arrows have become the sexiest, coolest, weaponized unisex accessory in show biz. From Katniss in The Hunger Games, to The Avengers’ Hawkeye, to the spunky teen princess of Pixar's Brave, to the survivors in NBC’s new post-apocalyptic Revolution, to the animated anti-hero of the spy parody Archer, archery is hot (actually, the raunchy Archer has nothing to do with archery, but it goes to show that even as just a name, “archer” is cool). Now comes the latest and bow-and-arrowest of them all, the CW network’s Arrow.

Based on the DC Comics superhero Green Arrow, Arrow centers on young billionaire playboy (Holy Bruce Wayne, Batman!) Oliver Queen who is shipwrecked on an uncharted island for five years, during which time he mysteriously acquires impressive proficiency in martial arts, languages, parkour, and especially archery. He is rescued and returns to his unnamed metropolis, where he proceeds to wage vigilante justice in an Occupy-style hoodie against the corrupt rich who have oppressed the city’s 99%. He transfixes the bad guys with both a steely gaze and impossibly precise shooting of specially-tipped green arrows.

Voter Fraud and the Most Important Election in History

It’s a cliché to say that an upcoming presidential election is the most important one of our time. But sometimes a cliché is justified; in fact, I’ll up the ante by asserting that the presidential election two weeks away will be the most critical in U.S. history. The choice is between America’s irrevocable ruin under Obama or the road to recovery under Romney. This election also may be one of the closest, a possibility that brings the issue of voter fraud to the forefront. The last thing anyone wants to see, in this or any election, is courts and lawyers intervening in the process as in the Bush-Gore Florida recount of 2000.

Senior editor at The American Spectator John Fund’s books Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens our Democracy and Who's Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk (co-written with Hans von Spakovsky), for example, are replete with evidence of voter fraud. Former comedian Al Franken, to name a prominent example, wouldn't be a senator without it.

But Democrats, immovably locked in the ludicrous mindset that racist Republicans just don't want blacks to vote, claim that concern about voter fraud is simply another rightwing dog whistle, and that instances of voter fraud are rarer than being struck by lightning. So instead of insuring that fraud is eliminated altogether, Democrats hammer on this talking point that voter ID laws are nothing more than a scam to ensure that only Republicans win political office and that impoverished minorities are excluded from the democratic process.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Wisdom of Trashy Books

There has always been a perceived divide, and even a sort of rivalry, between lowbrow bestsellers and highbrow literature. Novelist Graham Greene  even separated his own works into those he considered serious literature and what he referred to as his “entertainments.” Two events in the book world last week highlighted that chasm.

On Thursday it was announced that Chinese novelist Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, beating out heavyweight competitors like Haruki Murakami, Thomas Pynchon and Bob Dylan (yes, Bob Dylan). Besides the obvious prestige, the award also bestows a $1.2 million purse upon the winner. Sweet.

But not nearly as sweet as the publisher’s advance won earlier in the week by HBO’s Girls creator Lena Dunham. The twenty-something Dunham will be cashing a check from Random House for $3.7 million for her first book, tentatively titled Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Learned. Mo Yan’s prize, by contrast, is for his entire oeuvre (I always swore I would never use “oeuvre” in a sentence, but it just slipped out). Her book will supposedly be in the style of comedienne Tina Fey, whose own advance for Bossypants was a staggering $5 million.

Obama’s Global Epic Fail

In the first presidential debate of the 2012 election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama handily in a takedown of the President’s devastating domestic policies. Foreign policy wasn’t addressed, but all Romney need do to brush up for a victory in that arena is study Bruce Herschensohn’s new book.

Herschensohn has a long and distinguished career in political analysis: senior fellow at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, former Distinguished Fellow at the Claremont Institute, Fellow at the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom,  and former Fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics. He has authored such books as An American Amnesia: How the US Congress Forced the Surrenders of South Vietnam and Cambodia, Above Empyrean: A Novel of the Final Days of the War on Islamic Terrorism, and now Obama’s Globe: A President's Abandonment of US Allies Around the World, a concise and hard-hitting indictment of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy.

Obama was elected in large part on the promise that he would make the world “like us” again after the supposed “cowboy diplomacy” of the Bush era. Our allies would feel valued again, and our enemies would be pacified. This promise turned out to be as empty as his assurances that he would close America’s racial divide and heal the oceans.

Defending "Homeland"

No matter how far backward Hollywood bends over to placate our Islamic overlords, their foot soldiers among the leftist media still complain it isn’t far enough. Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor at Britain’s left-leaning The Guardian and The Observer, wrote an editorial this weekend about Showtime’s terrorism drama Homeland entitled, “Homeland is brilliant drama. But does it present a crude image of Muslims?” Guess how he answers his own question.

The show centers on a U.S. Marine, missing and presumed dead in Iraq since 2003, who is rescued and brought home to Washington D.C. where he rides his war hero popularity all the way into a Congressional seat and a possible vice presidential nomination. The twist? This supposed patriot is a Muslim convert here to carry out a plot spawned by a terrorist mastermind.

As readers of FrontPage know well, political correctness and moral equivalence reign in Hollywood, and Homeland is no exception. The show suggests, as Hollywood always does, that the Islamic terrorism is mere “blowback” – justifiable retribution for America’s imperialist foreign policy and CIA ruthlessness. Hollywood never acknowledges that our enemy might be motivated, as it has been for 1400 years, by the supremacist imperatives of Islam itself.

Friday, October 12, 2012

No Heroes, No Villains: Homeland’s Moral Confusion

Showtime’s terrorism drama Homeland is the television king of the hill. For its inaugural season it recently took the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, and Best Actor and Best Actress awards for its two leads. The final episode of season one was the most-watched finale of any rookie Showtime series, and it just kicked off its highly anticipated second season. But underneath its polished production values and top-notch writing is a moral muddle that may undermine its dramatic impact in the long run.

For those who haven’t been following – SPOILER ALERT – the show centers on a U.S. Marine named Brody (actor Damian Lewis), missing and presumed dead in Iraq since 2003, who is rescued and brought home to Washington D.C. to a lot of CIA self-congratulation and media fanfare. He rides his war hero popularity all the way into political office, and by season two he is a Congressman being courted for the presidential running mate.

But that’s not all he is. CIA analyst Carrie (Claire Danes​) rightly suspects that Brody is a sleeper agent here to carry out an attack from terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). That makes Brody a rather unique protagonist – “a whole new breed of lead character,” as the Los Angeles Times put it, “neither antihero nor villain.” Nor hero.

How the Left Keeps Blacks in Line: The Stacey Dash Chapter

Last weekend black actress Stacey Dash ignited a firestorm of racist hate from supporters of President Obama when she dared to step off the Hollywood plantation and endorse a Republican presidential candidate. She posted a picture of herself on Twitter with an American flag and the accompanying tweet, “Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future.” The Twitter response was swift and ugly.

Ms. Dash is best-known for her supporting role in the 1995 movie Clueless and more recently a leading role on VH1’s Single Ladies. In the last election she voted for Obama, but “it’s different this time,” she tweeted. Kudos to her for having her own mind and for being willing to rethink her political stance, rather than falling for Obama’s laughable excuse that he needs another four years to clean up the mess he “inherited” from George W. Bush. Kudos to her also because she works in Hollywood, where anything short of open contempt for conservatives, much less open support for one, can get you disinvited from all the right parties and even hinder you from getting further work.

The totalitarian left demands absolute fealty from their black constituency, and ruthlessly punishes independent thought. So after the former Obama voter’s pro-Romney tweet, some twitterers cut right to the chase and urged Dash to kill herself. The next time progressives demonize the right as “American Taliban,” perhaps we should remind them that it is the intolerant left who wishes death upon those who dare question the orthodoxy.

Others on Twitter railed at her for being a “house Negro,” “Uncle Tom,” “race traitor” and “Oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside). Remember that these racist epithets are from other blacks. WARNING: The following examples are almost incoherently ungrammatical, which speaks volumes about the left’s self-proclaimed intellectual superiority; but in addition, some of them are shockingly vile – and I didn’t even include the most disgusting ones.

Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Generation

David Horowitz has established himself as the radical left’s foremost intellectual nemesis, certainly in part because he used to be one of them and understands their mindset and strategies so intimately. He has attacked progressive ideology in book after book, including Radical Son, Destructive Generation, Left Illusions, The Party of Defeat, The Art of Political War, and Unholy Alliance, to name a few. His new book Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Generation, however, is less of an analysis of their ideology than personal reflections on a handful of people who have embraced that ideology.

The book’s six chapters each profile a different radical figure or figures: enfant terrible Christopher Hitchens, Marxist feminist Bettina Aptheker, black celebrity academic Cornel West, domestic terrorists like Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg, feminist essayist Susan Lydon, and last but certainly not least, the radical left’s favorite mentor, Saul Alinsky.

The “destructive passion” of the title is the left’s utopian fantasy of human perfection, which “becomes a desire to annihilate whatever stands in the way of [that] beautiful idea.” This “fantasy of a redeemed future has repeatedly led to catastrophic results as progressive radicals pursue their impossible schemes.” And thus Horowitz begins the book reiterating a theme common to all his dissections of the left, and common to the radicals profiled here: “It is an enduring irony of the human condition that the urgency to make the world ‘a better place’ is also the chief source of the suffering that human beings have inflicted on each other from the beginning of time.”

Bond, Music and Gender

My earliest movie theater memory–in fact, one of my earliest memories at all–is of sitting with dropped jaw, thrilled by the brassy, guitar-driven theme song that opened Dr. No, the first in what would become the longest-running film franchise in history. The Bond theme is still my favorite movie music.

Dr. No was released fifty years ago today. In celebration of Bond’s golden anniversary, today is “Global James Bond Day,” the program for which includes an online live auction charity event organized by Christie’s, and a film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, no less. All of this precedes the upcoming worldwide premiere of the 23rd Bond flick, Skyfall, starring the rugged Daniel Craig as the current Bond.

Also kicking off today is the release of the film’s theme song; for each Bond flick this is something of an event unto itself, and being chosen to perform it is a coveted musical honor. The Bond theme songs set the tone for the movies. They are almost always sung by women (past exceptions include Paul McCartney and Tom Jones) who can deliver a bold, femme fatale sexuality in the vocals–a quality that resonates with both men and women in the audience.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Read a Banned Book

Two years ago when the controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn Korans, I had a passionate argument with a friend who strongly supported the gesture as a protest against the ideology contained within its covers. While I supported Jones’s right to burn the book as a protected act of free speech, I was (and remain) adamantly opposed to book burning as a way to resolve the clash of ideas. Whether it’s the Koran or Mein Kampf or, ironically, Fahrenheit 451, censorship never works and smacks of intellectual Nazism. Controversial books shouldn’t be burned or banned–they should be read and debated.

This is the thirtieth anniversary of Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates our freedom to read and that tries to draw national attention to censorship. The site notes that schools, bookstores and libraries have received “challenges” on more than 11,300 books since the event was initiated, 326 last year alone. Among the ten most challenged titles of 2011 were popular works like The Hunger Games trilogy and the Gossip Girl series; surprisingly, old classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Brave New World are still on the list.

Imagine the loss to our cultural heritage if censors had succeeded in eliminating from our shelves books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Brave New World, Catcher in the Rye, Native Son, The Grapes of Wrath, Leaves of Grass, Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This is not to say that every “challenged” book is necessarily a classic or that the ideas contained within are not reprehensible; but better to let those earn our condemnation based on their own (lack of) merits than to simply be denied to anyone, which only fuels interest.

The Culture of Cheating

The New York Times recently reported on a culture of cheating at Stuyvesant, one of New York City’s most prestigious public schools and the alma mater of four Nobel laureates. In interviews, dozens of students, alumni and teachers said that an episode this summer, in which  nearly 80 juniors were caught exchanging answers to exams via text messages, might be rare at the school, but cheating on a smaller scale was a daily occurrence.

The school’s paper conducted a survey of 2,045 students in March; 80 percent said they had cheated. Usually it takes the form of homework answers copied or tip-offs from classmates who took an earlier exam. They use sophisticated modern methods, like Googling facts on an iPhone, sharing notes on Facebook, or sharing cell phone pictures of exams. “Writing on your hand, that’s kiddie stuff,” said one senior. The school has anti-cheating measures, like checking for cellphones, but sympathetic teachers dispense light punishment or none at all.

The students say the social currency at Stuyvesant is academic achievement. It’s a demanding environment, but surprisingly, the cheating takes the form more of collaboration than competition. A school newspaper editorial described it as “an act of communal resistance” to a system they feel is designed to grind them down. “I’m sure everybody understood it was wrong to take other people’s work, but they had ways of rationalizing it,” said a 2010 graduate. “Everyone took it as a necessary evil to get through.”

The Celebrity Left’s Obsession with Obscenity

As the election draws near, President Obama’s celebrity supporters are stepping up their political presence in pop culture – and in the process, exposing their bizarre, immature predilection for spewing obscenities.

Foul-mouthed purported comedienne Sarah Silverman, for example, recently fired off a controversial, unsurprisingly unfunny question to Republican candidate Mitt Romney on Twitter, in which she asked him, “Quick Q: Do you eat p**s? Need to know asap. Thx.” Hilarious. And such a useful contribution to the political discussion in the most critical election of our time, if not in all of American history.

You may remember, if you keep up with the juvenile antics of Hollywood’s out-of-work D-list comics, that Silverman recently posted an online video address to Republican billionaire and Romney supporter Sheldon Adelson. In that mercifully short clip, she proposes to Adelson that he give his millions to Obama instead, in return for which, “I will scissor you, wearing a bikini bottom, through to fruition. That means until you c*m”:

Do you know how many Republican billionaires are giving money to Romney? All of them. How many of them are getting scissored by a bikini-bottomed Jewess with big naturals?

Then she attempts to demonstrate said scissoring with a very unwilling and mortified-looking dog on a couch. Classy. And why that doesn’t qualify as animal abuse, I don’t know.