Yesterday, the Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol proposed an intriguing replacement for Gen. McChrystal:
If Gen. McChrystal does step down, there are undoubtedly many able general officers who could replace him. Here’s one unconventional suggestion, though: Ask Gen. David Petraeus to give up his CENTCOM post and take command of the war in Afghanistan.
President Obama announced Wednesday that he has accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and nominated Gen. David Petraeus to replace him, following a scathing article in which he and his aides were quoted criticizing the administration.
While it might just be a coincidence (though if I was Kristol, I’d take credit for it) the irony of choosing the neo-cons favorite military leader won’t be lost on Obama’s more left-leaning supporters.
“The specter of an uprising of reanimated corpses,” says political scientist Dan Drezner, “. . . poses a significant challenge to interpreters of international relations and the theories they use to understand the world.” In his amusing essay for Foreign Policy magazine, Drezner explores how different international relations theories—realism, liberalism, neoconservatism—would cope with an invasion of zombies:
The neoconservative policy response to an undead uprising would be simple and direct. To paraphrase Robert Kagan, humans are from Earth, and zombies are from hell. Neither accommodation nor recognition would be sustainable options in the face of the zombie threat. Instead, neocons would recommend an aggressive and militarized response to ensure human hegemony. Rather than wait for the ghouls to come to them, they would pursue offensive policy options that take the fight to the undead. A pre-emptive strike against zombies would, surely, be a war against evil itself.
When it comes to World War Z, I’m unapologetically in the neo-con camp.
In what is thought to be the tomb of a Roman noblewoman in the Catacombs of St. Tecla, the oldest known images of the Apostles Andrew and John have been discovered.
The find was presented today a a press conference led by the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi.
The images are part of a set of four apostles — Peter, Paul, Andrew and John — surrounding Christ the Good Shepherd. The discovery of Paul, also thought to be the oldest known image of him, was announced last year. There are known images of Peter thought to be older.
The restoration of the images was possible because of laser technology, which eliminated layers of white carbon calcium collected on the images over the centuries. The project was particularly delicate due to the humid, dark environment of the catacombs.
10. A recent report reveals that Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) audits show the organization spent just $657.1 million between 2002 and 2008 from federal government grants and programs, but the abortion behemoth’s own annual reports show that it took in $2.3 billion from government grants and programs during the same time period.
Last week at The Corner, Daniel Foster quoted a reader as saying, “I’m always astonished by the ability of Economist obits to make you miss someone you never knew existed.” That’s the way I felt after watching this brief clip of legendary coach John Wooden, who passed away earlier this month. Because I don’t follow basketball, I never heard much about Wooden. But he seems to have been an incredibly wise and loving man.
His wife died twenty-five years before him, on March 21, 1985. Before his own death, Coach Wooden would honor his wife’s memory by writing her a monthly love letter on the twenty-first day of each month—300 love letters.
Of the 140 houses of worship in Dothan, Alabama—a city of 68,000 residents and the self-proclaimed “Peanut Capital of the World”—just one is a synagogue. Members of that 80-year-old synagogue, the only one in 15 counties, are now offering as much as $50,000 to Jewish families willing to move to Dothan and join their religious ranks. Three couples have already taken the money and relocated. Many others are interested but remain wary about Alabama and the Deep South. “I tell them there’s running water, that we wear shoes, have a Starbucks. There have never been any swastikas on the temple door,” Rob Goldsmith, the director of the resettlement program and the husband of Temple Emanu-El’s new rabbi, told me. “George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door was 50 years ago. Get over it.”
On the 30th anniversary of the cult film’s release, the official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has declared it a “Catholic classic”.
It points out that Jake and Elwood Blues battled police, a psychotic ex-girlfriend, country and western fans and neo-Nazis in order to raise enough money to prevent the closure of the church-run orphanage in which they grew up.
The newspaper, once a dour publication devoted to weighty matters of theology and Vatican appointments, has recently embraced popular culture and devotes an entire page to consider the movie’s meaning and legacy.
It praises the film as an “incredibly shrewd” work which is “rich with ideas”, and recalls “the unforgettable John Belushi’s sneer which remains, three decades after the movie’s release, an icon of cinematography”.
The 1980 comedy may get a thumb’s up from the Vatican critics, but parents should be warned that the movie is rated “R” for profanity.
A student pursuing a degree in the humanities can expect to run through 1,000 books before graduation day. A wealthy family in England in 1250 might have owned three books: a Bible, a collection of prayers, and a life of the saints—this modestly sized library nevertheless costing as much as a cottage. The painstaking craftsmanship of a pre-Gutenberg Bible was evidence of a society that could not afford to make room for an unlimited range of works but also welcomed restriction as the basis for proper engagement with a set of ideas.
The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.
One thing that would hurt the probability of Christianity for me would be if skeptics could come up with a halfway convincing story about how Christianity arose. Swoon theory? Come on. Jesus stripped on 100 pounds of grave clothes, pushed that gigantic stone out of the way, and put a flying tackle on the Roman guard, after being left for dead because of a crucifixion? Hallucination theory? Lots of problems. The disciples stole the body? Why? So they could get martyred for something they knew was false. Legendary development? Why does Luke know so much about all the city governments in the Mediterranean world? Jesus never even existed? How come nobody has come up with the theory that Socrates never existed? Jesus’ evil twin took over after he was crucified? Getting desperate aren’t we?
Forget the oil spewing out of the bottom of the Gulf, we should be worried about the type of oil that spews out of the bottom of cows. Spilled milk, says the EPA and environmentalists, is an environmental hazard:
Having watched the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, dairy farmer Frank Konkel has a hard time seeing how spilled milk can be labeled the same kind of environmental hazard.
But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is classifying milk as oil because it contains a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil.
The Hesperia farmer and others would be required to develop and implement spill prevention plans for milk storage tanks. The rules are set to take effect in November, though that date might be pushed back.
“That could get expensive quickly,” Konkel said. “We have a serious problem in the Gulf. Milk is a wholesome product that does not equate to spilling oil.”
Note to South Carolinians #1: You may want to skip this one.
Note to South Carolinians #2: No offense is intended by the posting of this clip. I am very fond of your state. In fact, I used to live in SC and my daughter was born in Beaufort. Nevertheless, I have to ask: What in the world where ya’ll thinking?
[Note: Every Friday on First Thoughts we host a discussion about some aspect of pop culture. Today’s theme is opening credits to TV shows. Have a suggestion for a topic? Send them to me at email@example.com.]
One of the most undervalued formats in television is the opening credit sequences. Within just a few minutes that set the tone for a series that last for years—even decades. They can reveal a backstory in a song (Gilligan’s Island, Green Acres), create a aural hook (Peter Gunn’s theme for Mission Impossible, Quincy Jone’s music for Sanford and Son), or simply create a comfortable familiarity for the viewer (Friday Night Lights is currently one of the best examples).
But sometimes—on very rare occasions—they can become more; sometimes they can become their own miniature masterpieces. Even when a television show isn’t worth watching (see #2, 6, and 7 on this list), a creative intro can stand on its own as a minor work of art.
Here are eleven examples of opening credits that transcend their humble genre:
At Slate, Rosecrans Baldwin notices that novelists are quite attuned to the sound of a dog barking in the distance:
Novelists can’t resist including a dog barking in the distance. I’ve seen it happen across the spectrum—Jackie Collins, William Faulkner, and Chuck Palahniuk: “There was no more rain, just an eerie stillness, a deathly silence. Somewhere a dog barked mournfully.” (American Star) “She did not answer for a time. The fireflies drifted; somewhere a dog barked, mellow sad, faraway.” (Light in August) “This is such a fine neighborhood. I jump the fence to the next backyard and land on my head in somebody’s rose bush. Somewhere a dog’s barking.” (Choke)
Having heard the dog’s call, it seemed like I couldn’t find a book without one. Not The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Not Shadow Country. Not Ulysses. Not Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men, or Monica Ali’s Alentejo Blue, or Steven King’s It or Christine. Not Jodi Picoult’s House Rules. If novelists share anything, it’s a distant-dog impulse. Picture an author at work: She’s exhausted, gazing at her laptop and dreaming about lunch. “[Author typing.] Boyd slammed the car door shut. He stared at his new condominium, with the for-sale sign in the yard. He picked up a pistol and pointed it at his head. [Author thinking, Now what? Gotta buy time.] Somewhere a dog barked. [Author thinking, Hmm, that'll do.] Then Boyd remembered he did qualify for the tax rebate for first-time home buyers, and put down the gun.” If a novel is an archeological record of 4.54 billion decisions, then maybe distant barking dogs are its fossils, evidence of the novelist working out an idea.
What’s even more interesting than this phenomena is that Baldwin was able to recognize it in so many different types of novels. Anyone else have a favorite example of this novelists’ crutch?
Since it is intent on the formation of a more accountable and more restrained government that will better serve the interest of all Americans: Is the Tea Party movement a social justice movement?
When I asked this question of my beloved liberal friends, they were mortified. There may be no quicker way to help a food-poisoned progressive empty the contents of her stomach than to suggest that the Tea Party movement is just as much a “social justice” movement as are living wage or immigrants’ rights movements.
The reason for their response is simple. For many religious progressives, “social justice” has eclipsed the old God in whom they no longer quite believe. The hope of a socially just world has not complemented and enriched (as it should) but impoverished and occluded their hope of eternity with God. Thus, for them, social justice is the final refuge of the transcendent, the one pure act that remains in a tarnished world, the last vision with the power to stir the graying embers of their religious devotion.
Even religious progressives who still believe in an eternal relationship with God tend to see social justice as holy in the Hebrew sense, as that which sets them apart — apart from the fat cats and the country clubbers, to be sure, but also apart from those Christians, the Christians who live in “Jesusland,” attend megachurches, and wear flags on their lapels: the very same conservative Christians who might be found at a Tea Party rally. Thus, to suggest that the Tea Partiers are engaged in a social justice movement is not only to soil their sacred ideal with the grubby fingers of the bigoted Tea Partiers, but to suggest that progressive Christians and conservative Christians are not separated so much by the presence or absence of love for the poor but by their sense of the policies that best serve the poor and the rest of society.
At the Washington Post‘s On Faith section, Mark Judge argues in “Lady Gaga is no Madonna” that his fellow conservatives don’t understand pop music. He starts out making a defensible case before attemping a bizarre contrarian interpretation of pop-star Madonna’s infamous “Like a Prayer” video:
Madonna’s video for “Like a Prayer” is an intelligent and even devout meditation on grace, love and conscience. Lady Gaga’s is lazy trash.
As I will explore in my forthcoming book “A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Madonna’s video is actually a powerful depiction of the vitality of the Catholic saints and their ability to intercede in our lives and give us gifts of courage. In the video, Madonna witnesses a black man falsely accused of a crime. Terrified of the racists in the town, she flees into a church, where she prays to St. Martin de Porres, a black saint. She falls asleep and in her dream the statue of the saint actually comes to life, becoming her lover. She wakes up filled with a new bravery. She fingers the real criminals, and ends the video jubilantly dancing with a gospel choir.
When “Like a Prayer” was released, it was completely misunderstood by conservatives. A bishop condemned it. So did Donohue. On the other side, liberals mindlessly defended Madonna without understanding the message of the video. The only truly coherent analysis came from Fr. Andrew Greeley, a liberal Catholic priest. “Like a Prayer” was blasphemous, wrote Greeley in America magazine, “only for the prurient and the sick who come to the video determined to read their own twisted sexual hang-ups into it. Only for those who think that sexual passion is an inappropriate metaphor for divine passion (and thus are pretty hard on Hosea, Jesus, Saint Paul, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Teresa of Avila).”
Judge claims that comparing Madonna to Lady Gaga is ” yet another sign of the pop culture (and even religious) illiteracy of the right.” But it’s Judge who appears to be confused about religion. I’m not a Catholic so I may be missing some essential nuance, but I don’t think that in the history of the Church saintly intercession entailed sexual intercourse. There is a profound differnce between using sexual passion as a metaphor and a saint actually having sex with a petitioner. I’m not sure if it’s blasphemous to depict Madonna fornicating with Martin de Porres on a church pew—but it is certainly disrespectful to the memory of a man who was not only a devout Christian but a life-long practitioner of celibacy.
I agree with Judge that conservatives need to be more well-informed about pop culture in order to provide more relevant criticism. In turn, Judge would do well to become more well-informed about the Christian faith.
There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Human trafficking is occurring in every nation on earth—including the U.S.:
The 373-page “Trafficking in Persons Report 2010″ says some 12.3 million adults and children are in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world. Only 4,166 trafficking prosecutions were successful last year, according to the report.
The United States listed itself in the report’s top tier of compliance with minimum standards set forth by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, but it is nonetheless “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution,” according to the report. Twenty-seven other countries also were listed in the Tier 1 category for compliance.
At the State Department on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about human trafficking cases found in American communities.
“In some cases, foreign workers, drawn by the hope of a better life in America, are trapped by abusive employers,” she said. “And there are Americans, unfortunately, who are held in sexual slavery. Some find themselves trapped through debt to work against their will in conditions of modern-day bondage.”
Over the past fifty years there has been a population explosion within third world nations. With millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world, the “supply” of potential slaves today makes them cheaper than theyve ever been in the history of the world. An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90. Because they can be had so cheaply, they are of little value to the traffickers. If slaves get sick or injured or merely outlive their usefulness they are often dumped or killed.
What can be done to end this global tragedy? Ken Bales, a sociologist and expert on modern-day slavery, believes that human trafficking could be eliminated within a generation if three things were to happen:
Touchdown Jesus, more properly known as King of Kings, was one of southwest Ohio’s best known — and biggest — landmarks: A fixture at the Solid Rock Church by Monroe, Ohio since it was completed in 2004, it had a 42-foot span between its arms and a 40-foot cross at its base. But Touchdown Jesus is no more: Last night, the statue was struck by lightning, leaving only a grim-looking metal skeleton behind.
Political journalists called 1992 “the year of the woman” because so many female candidates won Senate seats that year. With the rise of female candidates who oppose abortion, next year may be, says Ramesh Ponnuru in the Washington Post, the year of the “pro-life woman”:
The Gallup organization recently concluded that “abortion polling since the mid-1970s finds few remarkable distinctions between men’s and women’s views on the legality of abortion.” It has found that 48 percent of American women consider themselves pro-life, while 45 percent consider themselves pro-choice.
There are many millions of pro-life women, but there are only 13 in the House. The Senate has no pro-life women. Even Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican who votes with pro-lifers on many issues, says she favors Roe v. Wade. All of the women who have served on the Supreme Court have supported Roe, too.
Pro-life women have not even found representation among Republican first ladies, all of whom in the post-Roe era have been pro-choice. One reason that Sarah Palin’s nomination for vice president in 2008 was so immediately polarizing is that she instantly became the most prominent pro-life woman American politics has ever produced.
Q: One of your more startling arguments in Nomad is that Christian churches should proselytize in immigrant communities to try to convert Muslims.
A: Look at the amount of money Saudi Arabia spends on coming into Muslim communities in America and Europe, building schools and also taking leaders and training them in Mecca and Medina, then replanting them. It’s surprising that no other group of people is targeting the same communities. If you look at Western civilization, at the institutions [and movements] that were engaged in changing people’s hearts and minds—the Christian Church, humanists, feminists—they are doing next to nothing in these Muslim communities. When I was in Holland [recently], I heard about a Christian mission that had been proselytizing in Morocco. The government kicked them out and sent them back to Holland. I thought, “You don’t have to stop proselytizing—just go to the Muslim community in Amsterdam west and carry on there.” But of course there, they’re not only going to face the radical Muslims as opponents, they’re also going to face the multicultural opponents, saying they’re not supposed to be telling people to leave their religion.
Q: So how would they do it?
A: Next to every mosque, build a Christian centre, an enlightenment centre, a feminist centre. There are tons of websites, financed with Saudi money, promoting Wahabism. We need to set up our own websites—Christian, feminist, humanist—trying to target the same people, saying, we have an alternative moral framework to Islam. We have better ideas.
(Note: For several years on Evangelical Outpost, I compiled a weekly roundup of thirty-three links, quotes, and other intriguing tidbits I found around the web. When I turned that site over to the folks at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute, they kept the tradition going. I’ve decided to steal the idea back for a recurring weekend feature (though to compensate, I’ll include a link to EO’s roundup in every week’s post). In the future these post will run on Saturday, but I thought I’d launch this new series with a Friday afternoon preview. Let me know what you think.)
Before we were influenced by Mies van der Rohe or Frank Lloyd Wright, before we had seen the visual delights of Ronchamp, Pompidou Center and the Bauhaus school in Weimar, we were driven by a greater force of design inspiration. More primal and immediate than any of the previously mentioned examples, it was couch cushion architecture that established the basic building blocks of our design logic.
We greatly admire the use of coffee table as lateral moment-frame in this application. The solution is both formal and fun, offering the users a sequence of experiences beginning with the entry to vaulted ceiling to raised deck. Grade A-
As his career grew, David Byrne went from playing CBGB to Carnegie Hall — a serious (and tricky) change in venue. He explores how context has pushed musical innovation, from bird calls across savannahs to urban car stereos.
3. Quote of the Week: “Confronted with the real world, the reflex reaction of philosophers is to ask about possible worlds.” – Robert Paul Wolff
Two weeks ago, I was watching my neighbor meticulously patch his lawn after spending a half hour edging the sidewalk.
I thought, “If he spent that much time and care on a vegetable garden, he could feed his family all summer long.”
Then last week on my son’s preschool field trip, the instructor showed the kids a photo of a lawnmower and asked what tool did that job 100 years ago on the farm. The scythe was the answer, and I thought, “That wasn’t for cutting grass, it was for field work.” I was struck by the fact that farmers 100 years ago didn’t have lawns. They didn’t have time for them, nor did they probably see the point.
[Philosopher A.J. Ayer] taught or lectured several times in the United States, including serving as a visiting professor at Bard College in the fall of 1987. At a party that same year held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson harassing the (then little-known) model Naomi Campbell. When Ayer demanded that Tyson stop, the boxer said: “Do you know who the [expletive] I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world,” to which Ayer replied: “And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.” Ayer and Tyson then began to talk, while Naomi Campbell slipped out.
[Note: Every Friday on First Thoughts we host a discussion about some aspect of pop culture. Today’s theme is animated films. Have a suggestion for a topic? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The first movie I ever watched in a theater was the animated films, Bednobs and Broomsticks (1971). Nothing I had seen in my four years on earth had prepared me for such a incredible display of imagination. I was instantly hooked on movies. In the 39 years since then I’ve wasted far too many hours sitting in theaters trying to recapture that magical experience. For all the regrets, though, I never lost that initial fascination with works of animation.
Unfortunately, like every other genre in cinema, most animation falls along the range of “unmemorable, but passably diverting” to “a colossal waste of time.” Of the 103 animated movies I’ve watched over the years (see full list below), there are only about 25-30 that I could recommend and only fifteen that I would consider essential.
While I’m not much of a soccer enthusiast, I’m a loyal fan of the sport of trash-talking. Worthy matches are hard to find, but an email exchange between the British Embassy in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in London about the upcoming America/England World Cup match reveal that the foreign service chaps are world class gasconaders:
What can nonbelievers learn from religious art? Quite a lot, says Aaron Rosen in an article in The Humanist:
This is not simply to say that all religious expressions are artistic. But what religious symbols can do, more powerfully than any other, is reveal a horizon of meaning towards which art aspires: the ability to make ontological claims about “the way things really are”. To come back to some philosophical language from Gadamer, religious symbols perfect the “intricate interplay of showing and concealing”. And among other things, it seems to be this tantalising capacity that has kept modern artists, even those with no doctrinal connection to Christianity, returning to fundamental religious images like the crucifixion.
For the non-believer, perhaps focusing on this “poetical teaching” can offer a way of engaging with religious art in a manner beyond merely cultural or aesthetic appreciation; one which begins to dance, albeit gingerly, along the perimeters of the theological. What we experience in religious art, ultimately, doesn’t have to lead us into heaven. In Botticini’s “Assumption”, the disciples gather around Mary’s tomb, only to discover an assortment of lilies has taken the place where her body should rest. Uncomprehending, they look around in bewilderment. If looking at religious art can leave us similarly stunned, perhaps for some that’s more than miracle enough.