Archive for the culture Category

Rumblings

Posted in culture, news, other on August 31, 2010 by Jonathan

A major German banker is making headlines for some controversial comments ahead of the release of the latest entry into the literary genre that could be known as The Decline and Fall of Europe:

Thilo Sarrazin told the Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag that “all Jews share the same gene” and that Muslim immigrants across Europe were not willing or capable of integrating into Western societies.

Yesterday at the launch of his book, Germany is Abolishing Itself, which warns against the effects of Muslim immigration, Mr Sarrazin denied he was a racist and insisted on his right to freedom of speech.

As of this morning, Mr. Sarrazin’s book is at #1 on Amazon Germany’s bestseller list.

UPDATE: It’s also quite popular in Austria:

Sarrazin’s book sold out in Vienna immediately after reaching bookstores at the start of the week and has dominated newspaper front pages and editorials.

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Boundaries

Posted in arts, culture, entertainment, movies on August 7, 2010 by Jonathan

Fun question: What if the following scene had been written in the 1940s?

To be honest, I don’t know what’s more offensive, the gratuitous use of the f-word or Robert DeNiro’s sunglasses.

For the record, I’m not one who thinks that movies need to be wiped clean of profanity. Sometimes those words are necessary. I am, however, of the belief that boundaries, for the most part, force one to be more creative, which is why whenever I turn on Turner Classic Movies I’m thankful for those restrictions that both the movie industry and the culture at large imposed on filmmakers. The movies were better because of them. (For proof, check out this video of the 100 best cinematic putdowns, and try to find any of the more modern ones that top the line Bogart gives to Peter Lorre in Casablanca.) A lack of boundaries doesn’t automatically make a work of art or entertainment worse, but it doesn’t automatically elevate it, either.

Manly men vs. modest men?

Posted in culture, news, other on August 6, 2010 by Jonathan

I once heard a pick-up artist give his opinion on why women favor jerks over nice guys. After years of approaching numerous (ie, thousands of — this guy was experienced) women, he concluded that in fact women don’t desire jerks. What women want is a guy who is strong, and too often nice comes across as weak. The lesson, therefore, is for men to learn how to be nice while exhibiting a backbone. (Or, to put it neatly, to emphasize the man in “gentleman.”)

Now comes a British study that says that women find modesty in males to be a sign of weakness. The first line of the Telegraph article:

Research suggested that females have found the rise of the “more feminine man”, or “metrosexual”, a big turn-off.

Now, you could argue about whether or not modesty automatically excommunicates one from the ranks of manly men. I’m not sure it does. (For instance, how modest are we talking about? Excessive modesty, or just a hint of it? At which point does it become “a poor character trait?”) Still, despite the questions I have over the study, the gist of its findings seems to substantiate what that pick-up artist learned years ago: Women want men to be strong. It’s refreshing to find evidence that females in the 21st Century cosmopolitan West find feminized guys to be such a drag.

[HT: Dr. Helen]

The next Great Awakening

Posted in culture, gay marriage, marriage, politics, religion on August 5, 2010 by Jonathan

My gripe with the Reagan Revolution of the ‘80s was that it focused on politics and not the culture, putting all its energy toward the former while ignoring the latter. In truth, politics – the politicians, policies, judicial rulings, etc. – is a result of what is happening in the culture. For the last several decades, there has been a strong and tenacious movement within the media and the classroom to eradicate the pillars of Western civilization, pillars which are incompatible with the left-wing worship of equality. That movement had one of its victories yesterday. As much of the public expresses outrage over the presence of a mosque near Ground Zero, a far greater wound to the soul of the country was carried out in a California courtroom as one judge, in regard to the biggest issue of any society – the definition of marriage – overturned the will of around 7,000,000 voters, all of whom in the brave new world of progressives are now considered bigots. Had conservatives and traditionalists kept their eye on cultural institutions – on movies, television, books, music, schools, universities, churches(!) – the idea of transforming marriage, and therefore gender relations, wouldn’t have the momentum it has now, and we wouldn’t be on the road to a pre-Leviticus world. Now we are. Let the next Great Awakening come.

Despicable Me

Posted in culture, movies on July 30, 2010 by Jonathan

I haven’t taken too many trips to the multiplex this summer, and therefore can’t respond to the inimitable Joe Queenan, who claims that this could very well be the worst movie year ever. I did manage to catch Despicable Me, and thought it creative, witty, fun, and fun. Great title, too. Even though it’s being shown in 3-D, you lose nothing when seeing it like I did in reliable 2-D. In fact, 3-D is kind of a distraction — a sentiment being shared increasingly by more and more people, it seems.

Taken

Posted in culture, movies on July 30, 2010 by Jonathan

Finally saw the movie Taken, in which Liam Neeson plays an ex-CIA operative who rescues his daughter from sex slavers in France. Not only is the movie a primer on how to pace an action story — the whole thing’s over in under 90 minutes — but on how to be unabashedly, gleefully politically incorrect: the bad guys are Albanian Muslims, and their bodies litter the various floors Mr. Neeson stands upon. Leave it to the French (as this was a French production co-written by Luc Besson, who previously defied his fellow artistes by saying the unsayable: that Roman Polanski isn’t above the law) to make such a movie.

Tick, Tick, Boom (or, A Swedish Rock Band and the End of Europe)

Posted in culture, music, news, other with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by Jonathan

A few years ago, the Swedish garage-rock band The Hives released a song called “Tick Tick Boom.” Like most bands of the genre, they weren’t concerned about being deep, or even understandable, with a chorus that went:

It’s too late
It’s too soon
Or is it tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, boom?

Again: garage rock, not the stuff normally written about beyond the pages of Rolling Stone. But with the specter of the demise of the euro, and the specter of the demise of the European Union not far beyond that, and the specter of the demise of Europe itself not far beyond that, these lyrics, from a band best known for its black and white wardrobe, take on a more prescient tone. Is it too soon to sound the warning bell for Europe, as doom-and-gloomers like Mark Steyn have been doing on a regular basis? Or is it too late, and we are indeed witness to the final tick, tick, ticks of Europe’s doomsday clock?

In the Sixties, if you were to tell people that the Berlin Wall would come down two decades later, you’d have been met with laughter. Everyone knew that the Berlin Wall, like the Soviet Union, was always going to be there. But then it wasn’t. Similarly, the EU, many erudite men and women on both sides of the Atlantic put forth, is always going to be there, centralizing a continent that for centuries refused to be centralized. But given the fact that Germany may no longer want to be the go-to nation that bails out a bunch of less-industrious neighbors who can’t handle their money, and that France may not want to be the next go-to nation should Germany pull out, one day the EU too might not be there. Soon after, we’ll be treated to footage of the various MEPs leaving Brussels as they’re sent back to countries where euros are being traded for lire or deutschmarks or pesos. Not as exciting as footage of reunited Berliners tearing down the Wall, but still significant.

Forget for now the euro and the EU. Even if these two are kaput, surely the secular-progressive, post-Christian Europe of today will always be there, exporting its sophisticated politics and worldview to the gun and liberty-drunk cowboys in the United States? Well, no, not where the trends are headed now – trends that have to make those who’ve steadfastly promoted the European model as the ideal more than a little nervous. The main trend in the news is the economy – turns out that the lavish welfare state that lets you retire in your fifties or early sixties isn’t the easiest thing to prop up – but the real trend, the one being talked about behind closed doors in desperate tones, is the population. The religious are more likely to populate than the non-religious. Thus, we have the present phenomenon of secular Europeans dwindling to make room in the future for the children of pious Muslims. If the Muhammads begin, or in some cases continue, to outnumber the Jacques or the Williams in cradles across the continent, then the advocates of today’s Europe are one-third right: Europe will remain post-Christian. It just won’t be secular or progressive.

But if these are the last ticks, what will the boom look like? Will it be civil war between Muslims and non-Muslims? Partitioning? A resort to tribalism, as is seen with the rise of parties such as Hungary’s Jobbik? Or will it be complacency – a population too sedate with benefits, too glued to the latest issue of Vespa Digest, to deal with the falling apart of their world? Different countries will most likely resort to different things – Italy, say, will be more open to partitioning than the Netherlands or France. Spain might return to the days of civil war. No one will notice Belgium.

The music video that accompanies The Hives’ song takes place in the Liljevalchs Konsthall museum in Sweden. The band is depicted as an art exhibit; at one point the musicians break free and, this being rock and roll, go about destroying the various galleries in anarchic exuberance. It ends with a scene outdoors: a mother and her two daughters smiling and waving at a home movie camera, a happy moment, when the museum behind them suddenly blows up – the final boom of the song. (Mom and children are thrown to the ground from the explosion.) Perhaps a decade or two from now we’ll see reenactments of this across Europe, with citizens smiling and waving at their own home videos as the background goes up in flames. Or perhaps it will be a slow, steady crumble, not as dramatic but still destructive. Either way…

Boom.