Culture

Lena Dunham Weighs in on Hobby Lobby

By on 7.3.14 | 2:14PM

As a twenty-four-year-old woman with friends on all sides of the political spectrum, I’ve heard quite a bit about the Hobby Lobby decision over the past couple days. I’ve seen a few thoughtful responses, but mostly I’ve been struck by the illogical and factually incorrect criticisms from otherwise intelligent and well-educated friends. If someone looked at my Facebook and Twitter feeds, he would surely think that birth control was banned forever and soon there will be babies everywhere.

The panic-stricken tirades came straight from the top. Feminist actress Lena Dunham tweeted, “Women's access to birth control should not be denied because of their employer's religious beliefs.” Sandra Fluke experimented with different fonts in Photoshop to send the message that “we’re sick and tired of SCOTUS putting corporate interests ahead of women’s rights!” Meanwhile, the writers at the Salon.com office just ran around screaming about Armageddon.

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Boob Tube

‘Orange Is the New Black’ Proves TV is Being Written for Binge Watchers

By 7.3.14

There’s a wonderful subplot in the new season of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black that follows Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat), a cranky, elderly cancer patient. A bit player in season one, she remains a marginal character with whom the show nonetheless elects to spend time. We follow her to her chemotherapy. We learn the story of her youth as a bank robber (she’s still unrepentant). We watch her grapple with her rapidly approaching death, which has become more terrible to her because she’ll be dying alone in prison.

To the other inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary, Rosa remains “that person with cancer” (maybe most memorably demonstrated when somebody misguidedly recommends her The Fault in Our Stars). But because the show is so willing to spend time with a character so peripheral, Rosa is opened up to the viewer in a way she is not for her fellow inmates. She goes from being a joke to being a person. The joke begins to be on the other inmates.

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Sports Arena

Patawomeck Tribe: Snyder Could Rename the Redskins After Us

By 7.3.14

Hail to the Potomacs? If the owner of the Redskins wants to put the controversy over his team name to rest while keeping a Native American theme, he’ll likely have one local tribe’s blessing.

“I was just telling my wife the other day, ‘Why don’t we write to Dan Snyder and suggest changing the name to the Washington Potomacs?” said John Lightner, chief of the Patawomeck tribe of Virginia.

The Patawomecks (or Potomacs), native people of the region, gave their name to the river that flows through Washington, D.C. In the 1600s they belonged to the tribal confederation headed by the great chief Powhatan, from whose war club daughter Pocahontas, legend has it, saved John Smith. (Pocahontas’s mother was a Patawomeck.) Today the tribe counts some 1,500 members, most in Stafford County, Va.

If — and that’s if — the Redskins wanted to style themselves the Potomacs, after the local tribe and the great waterway that shares their name, the tribe likely would endorse the move, Lightner, said.

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On This Day in 1776

By on 7.2.14 | 12:22PM

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed and the door to the United States of America opened even wider. Nobler pens than mine have graced this event with prose, but I think it is worthwhile to reflect that however impossible the American Dream might seem to us today, it seemed a great deal less plausible to the Founding Fathers then. I defer to John Adams, who penned the following letter (shown here in part) to his wife, Abigail, describing the tumultuous events he helped orchestrate.

Adams's view that July 2 would be a day of celebration ever after proved to be in error, but his other analysis is striking for being both prophetic and—238 years out—relevant.

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Americana

Remake ‘Monopoly’ for the 21st Century

By 6.30.14

The venerable king of board games, Monopoly, needs a total makeover. Since 1935, the iconic parlor game has celebrated the excesses of capitalism, allowing players to parlay meager bank accounts and paltry $200 payouts for Passing Go, into massive fortunes in real estate (glitzy hotels on prestigious Boardwalk and Park Place) together with railroad and utility monopolies.

All of which is to say that it doesn’t reflect the current economic downturn and ongoing uncertainty that plagues the markets. Players should be able to mortgage their properties with toxic, sub-prime loans, which could put the banks in distress bordering on failure. The Chance cards should continue to feature the familiar “Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200,” but the charges should be upgraded to massive stock fraud, wire fraud, and insidious Ponzi schemes—updated crimes for our twenty-first century characterized by abject greed and rank corruption.

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Culture Vultures

The Lazy Machines Kill Literacy

By 6.27.14

To put an end to the spirit of inquiry that has characterized the West it is not necessary to burn the books,” Robert Maynard Hutchins wrote in the introductory volume of The Great Books of the Western World. “All we have to do is to leave them unread for a few generations.”

An examined life has never been the aim of more than a fraction of any population, and intellectuals have always been rightly hated. But America certainly boasted a more literate citizenry fairly recently. More than sixty years ago, the Encyclopedia Britannica published the fifty-four-volume Great Books of the Western World. Whereas giving away the series today might be next to impossible, door-to-door salesmen—another relic (killed by enterprising door-to-door rapists) of a mostly forgotten age—sold more than a million sets at a starting price of $298, when $298 went a long way.   

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Hard-Bitten Competition in the World Cup

By on 6.25.14 | 4:09PM

The pageant of the World Cup continues. Yesterday’s heart-stopping news was Uruguay’s super-star striker Luis Suarez taking a bite out of the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini (played by Chico Marx).

Suarez, who attended Transylvania State on a Mike Tyson scholarship, could be in big trouble, as this is the third time he has run afoul of soccer’s strict but often-ignored anti-cannibalism rules. It’s now up to FIFA—which stands for the mellifluous Federation Internationale de Football Association—to decide whether Suarez should be suspended, or simply lectured on proper eating habits. My sources in Natal inform me that Suarez’s attorneys and his agent will attempt to get the charges reduced to following too closely.

Suarez’s coach, Oscar Washington Taberez, who has been in the game many years, demonstrated how central proper and honorable conduct are in the world’s favorite sport when he commented on Suarez’s tactics and the reaction to them after the match. “This is a World Cup—It’s not about cheap morality,” he said. He complained that the media like to pick on Suarez. I can’t imagine why.  

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Media Matters

George Will Meets the Clerisy Media

By 6.24.14

The Clerisy Media strikes again. This time the target is longtime conservative columnist George Will, who was dispatched by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over a column on rape. But before that? The Los Angeles Times refused to publish letters to the editor from what the paper called “climate change deniers.” The Arizona Daily Sun has done the same.

A while back it was National Public Radio firing Juan Williams for comments made on Fox News about Muslims.

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Americana

Tonto and the Washington Redskins

By 6.24.14

Those of you who follow my writing will know that my taste in music is decidedly retro. The same can be said of my taste in TV programs. Give me The Bionic Woman over Mad Men any day of the week.

A few months ago, I began spending late Saturday and Sunday nights watching episodes of The Lone Ranger. I had not seen The Lone Ranger since the early 1980s when I lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I would watch it as part of the Matinee Money Movie that aired weekdays after school on the ABC affiliate based in Duluth, Minnesota.

I must confess that when I was younger I preferred John Hart’s portrayal of The Masked Man over that of Clayton Moore. But looking on it now, Moore’s interpretation resonates far more with me. Meanwhile, no matter which man led, Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto, stayed true.

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Flick Story

Disney’s ‘Maleficent’: Another Ho-Hum Gritty Reboot

By 6.24.14

My initial reaction on hearing that Disney was remaking Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of Maleficent was, “Oh God, not another one.” Batman, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White: Must everything get a gritty reboot? I'm surprised the recent My Little Pony show wasn't called “My Little Pony: Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death.”

And the villain's-eye view is also really played out. Grimmed-up, self-pitying tales of misunderstood outcasts are everywhere these days, simmering with Nietzschean ressentiment. It's like watching two hours of rationalizations: Other people never gave me a chance, you'd be like this too if you'd suffered like I have, I am secretly better than everyone.

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