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Vintage Pulp Fiction Cover Art of the Day: Horizontal Secretary

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The Book That Predicted ‘Portlandia’: A ’70s Cult Novel Is Relevant Again

Noah Berger for The New York Times PRESCIENT In Ernest Callenbach’s ’70s book, residents of Ecotopia recycle and eat local foods.

In Ernest Callenbach’s ’70s book, residents of Ecotopia recycle and eat local foods. Credit- Noah Berger for NYT

This article is from 2008, but even more relevant now. I had a flashback today, to a book I read a long, long time ago, “Ecotopia,” that had an influence on my thinking. It was a NYT2008121119154589Cpopular counterculture book at the time (during the post-Watergate Ford/Carter era, I was a typical know-nothing dreamy liberal, barely out of high school) and today I discovered Ecotopia‘s influence was wider than I realized. A quick search turned up this NYT article, exactly what I was looking for.

[Order the classic cult novel Ecotopia from Amazon]

It confirmed my suspicion, that Ernest Callenbach‘s futuristic book did, in fact, accurately predict trends that are flourishing today. Not just in the Pacific Northwest (where the novel takes place) but in other parts of America, too. If you’ve seen Portlandia, and know this semi-obscure cult book, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

For the NYT, in 2008, Scott Timberg writes:

Sometimes a book, or an idea, can be obscure and widely influential at the same time. That’s the case with “Ecotopia,” a 1970s cult novel, originally self-published by its author, Ernest Callenbach, that has seeped into the American groundwater without becoming well known.

The novel, now being rediscovered, speaks to our ecological present: in the flush of a financial crisis, the Pacific Northwest secedes from the United States, and its citizens establish a sustainable economy, a cross between Scandinavian socialism and Northern California back-to-the-landism, with the custom — years before the environmental writer Michael Pollan began his campaign — to eat local.

White bicycles sit in public places, to be borrowed at will. A creek runs down Market Street in San Francisco. Strange receptacles called “recycle bins” sit on trains, along with “hanging ferns and small plants.” A female president, more Hillary Clinton than Sarah Palin, rules this nation, from Northern California up through Oregon and Washington.

Left to Right: Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein - Episode 2: Ecoterrorists -   Photo Credit: Augusta Quirk/IFC

Left to Right: Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein – Episode 2: Ecoterrorists -
Photo Credit: Augusta Quirk/IFC

“ ‘Ecotopia’ became almost immediately absorbed into the popular culture,” said Scott Slovic, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a pioneer of the growing literature-and-the-environment movement. “You hear people talking about the idea of Ecotopia, or about the Northwest as Ecotopia. But a lot of them don’t know where the term came from.”

In the ’70s, the book, with a blurb from Ralph Nader, was a hit, selling 400,000 or so copies in the United States, and more worldwide. But by the raging ’80s, the novel, along with the Whole Earth Catalog, seemed like a good candidate for a ’70s time capsule — a dusty curio without much lasting impact.

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[VIDEO] Red Eye Host Greg Gutfeld Interviews Author Greg Gutfeld

Red Eye Host Greg Gutfled interviews author Greg Gutfeld about his new book, ‘Not Cool.’

[Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You is available at Amazon.com]

Red Eye – 3/26/2014 – YouTube


Pulp Fiction Book Cover Art of the Day: ‘The Man in the Moonlight’ by Helen McCloy

McCloy-Man-in-Moonlight

From Pretty Sinister BooksHelen McCloy would have made a great writer of TV crime show scripts these days. While readingThe Man in the Moonlight (1940), her sophomore detective novel featuring Dr. Basil Willing, I was struck by the abundance of arcane bits of scientific knowledge that made up the clues and evidence in her usual fascinating plot. She introduces biochemistry, anatomy, abnormal psychology, symbology, and even the construction of heating and air conditioning units in to her multi-layered plot. The story of the murder at Yorkville University could easily have been an episode onHouse or Elementary or any of the dozen of shows in which the plot hinges on little known medical, psychological and historical facts.

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Christian Toto Reviews Gutfeld’s New Book ‘Not Cool’

Breitbart.com‘s Christian Toto writes: Greg Gutfeld can see through the oh, so cool veneer of today’s celebrities, progressives and statists. And he’s had more than enough.

Not Cool, the New York Times Bestselling writer’s latest tome, calls out the merchants of cool for being anything but hip. not-cool-coverIt’s alternately blistering and riotous, a full-on assault against those who embrace values that are the antithesis of cool.

[Order Greg's book "Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You" from Amazon]

Gutfeld slashes moral relativism writ large and stands tall for virtues which should be considered Fonzie-level cool but sadly aren’t. Every page has at least one gut buster, lines so ripe you’ll want to recycle them at the next cocktail party. Just be wary who you tell. The recipient might be the sort of faux cool merchant Gutfeld has in his sights.

The Red Eye standout begins his journey, where else, in the fifth grade. It was there he got his first lesson about both cool and the purposes of summoning it in public.

“Fifth grade had just discovered the velvet rope. And it was held by lowbrow illiterates with snot on their sleeves,” he writes. The stakes were low then. Not any more. Read the rest of this entry »


Before the French Revolution Devolved into Madness, Executions, and Terror, it was a Revolution of Ideas…

‘The Tennis Court Oath, 20th June 1789’, by Jacques Louis David (1791)  ©Bridgeman Art Library

‘The Tennis Court Oath, 20th June 1789’, by Jacques Louis David (1791) ©Bridgeman Art Library

Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre, by Jonathan Israel, Princeton

Duncan Kelly writes:  In August 1793, four years after the fall of the Bastille, the Tennis Court Oath and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and just seven months after the execution of Louis XVI, a democratic constitution for France was proposed. It represented a flowering of Enlightenment rationalism, balancing radical ideas of popular sovereignty with a pragmatic recognition of the need for a system of representative government.

Yet by October, with enemies all around, the constitution had been set aside as the French government declared itself “revolutionary until the peace”; a warrant was put out for the arrest of the Marquis de Condorcet, a philosopher and mathematician who had been one of its principal engineers. He would take his own life around five months later.revolutionary-ideas

[Download  "Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre" from Amazon]

After Condorcet’s Girondin faction was pushed aside by the Montagnards, the Revolution took a different course into Terror, with the “incorruptible” Robespierre ruling through the Committee of Public Safety until the coup of 9 Thermidor (or July 27) 1794. Thermidorean reaction would see Robespierre executed the next day, and a new period of rule established under the Directory. Five years later, Napoleon’s dictatorship took power. France’s democratic experiment was over – and yet nothing would ever be the same again. Read the rest of this entry »


Amtrak Opens The Door To Writing On The Rails

amtrack-writers

I heard this in the car the other day, great story.

For NPR, Leah Binokovitz reports:  On Twitter, some writers started asking the same question: Wouldn’t it be great if Amtrak offered “residencies” to writers, so they could ride the rails and write? And Amtrak said: Let’s try it.

[Listen to the story: Download]

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: Things can take off fast on Twitter. And that’s what happened when a couple of writers expressed how much they like riding trains, Amtrak specifically. It started with an idea: Wouldn’t it be great if Amtrak would offer writers a chance to ride the rails for free and do some writing along the way? Soon, the idea was being tweeted and retweeted, and Amtrak replied: Sure.

NPR‘s Leah Binkovitz explains.

LEAH BINKOVITZ, BYLINE: Alexander Chee had been thinking about this for a while. He’s a novelist working on his second book. Last year, the literary organization PEN American Center asked him in an interview: What’s your favorite place to write?

ALEXANDER CHEE: I said that I like to write on trains and that I wished Amtrak had residencies for writers.

BINKOVITZ: His comments started a conversation amongst friends and writers on Twitter. The idea seemed to take on a life of its own.

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[VIDEO] “We Used Up All The Weird”: Author P.J. ORourke Talks About ‘The Baby Boom’

Featuring the author P. J. O’Rourke, H. L. Mencken Research Fellow, Cato Institute; with introductory remarks by David Boaz, Executive Vice President, Cato Institute.

“We’re often silly, and we’re spoiled by any measure of history…At the same time we made the world a better place — just not necessarily in the ways we set out to.”

– Author P. J. O’Rourke

In his first book of all new, previously unpublished material since 2007, best-selling humorist P. J. O’Rourke bab-boom-imgturns his lens on his fellow post-war babies. In “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way” O’Rourke draws on his own experiences and leads readers on a candid, laugh-out-loud journey through the circumstances and events that shaped a generation.

[Get P.J.'s book "The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way" (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again) at Amazon]

At this Cato Book Forum, he will tackle the big, broad problems stemming from the generation that, for better or worse, changed everything.

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Barbie B.S. and Bossy B.S.

barbi-averageThough these two articles aren’t directly related, they share a common theme: “Girl Power”!

First, commenting on the real vs. unreal-proportions Barbie debate, is author , in an essay provocatively titled called ‘Average’ Barbie Is Just as Fake’, Postrel begins with reflections drawn from her own childhood experiences with dolls:

“When I was a little girl, my favorite dolls came from Mattel and had wildly inhuman proportions. To me, they were magical and special and didn’t look the least bit strange…”

Then gets into the business with Mattel:

“…As a mass-produced product, a doll represents a single version of female proportions. Taken as a role model, any single standard excludes those with a different build. Celebrating “average” doesn’t solve the problem. Instead of trying to create a plastic role model, it’s both kinder and more honest to treat a doll as an object of escapist fantasy – a plaything.

Barbie’s popularity is waning, a fact Lammily boosters rarely fail to mention. But Mattel is in the business of selling play, not social commentary…”

Like most guys, other than G.I. Joes (and nobody really talked much about the Joe’s body image) I have no experience with dolls (honest!) and defer to thinkers like Postrel for insights. Put those dolls away and read the whole thing.

[Check out Postrel's book "The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion" at Amazon]

ban-bossyThe second article involves the recent “Ban Bossy” campaign — featuring the comments of a author Jonah Goldberg, who I’m sure would agree is equally knowlegable discussing Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, or Foghorn Leghorn – and who also draws from personal experience.

“…It seems patently untrue that a) Bossiness is the same thing as “leadership,” b) That bossiness is a gender-specific issue for kids, c) That girls are falling behind in leadership nationally or in schools. Some of my views are based on the fact that I am the father of a little girl and some of it is based on informed common sense…”

And questions the premise that girls are disproportionately disadvantaged in the first place:

“In every conceivable way women are doing better and better. Sheryl Sandberg is herself proof of that. No rational or objective person believes that things aren’t getting better for women in the workplace or the executive suite.

Read the rest of this entry »


Darwin in Arabia

darwin-arabia

From The Book of Animals of al-Jahiz, Syria, fourteenth century

From The Book of Animals of al-Jahiz, Syria, fourteenth century

For the Times Literary Review, Robert Irwin writes:  The title Reading Darwin in Arabic notwithstanding, most of the men discussed in this book did not read Charles Darwin in Arabic. Instead they read Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Huxley, Gustave Le Bon, Henri Bergson and George Bernard Shaw in European or Arabic versions. They also read popularizing accounts of various aspects of Darwinism in the scientific and literary journal al-Muqtataf (“The Digest”, 1876–1952). The notion of evolution that Arab readers took away from their reading was often heavily infected by Lamarckism and by the social Darwinism of Spencer. Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859, but Isma‘il Mazhar’s translation of the first five chapters of Darwin’s book into Arabic only appeared in 1918.

Marwa Elshakry
Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950 (Hardback) (and Kindle Edition at Amazon) 448pp. University of Chicago Press. $45.978 0 226 00130 2

For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new 9780226001302twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”. “Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”. When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”. Darwiniya entered the Arabic language. Even ‘ilm, the word for “knowledge” acquired the new meaning, “science”. With the rise of scientific materialism came agnosticism, al-la’adriya, a compound word, literally “the-not-knowing”.

[Robert Irwin is the author of "Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of the Arabian Nights" (Studies in the Arcadian Library) and "Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, mystics and the sixties" both available at Amazon]

[The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or, the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (The Works of Charles Darwin)]

Theories about evolution had circulated widely in Britain and France from the late eighteenth century onwards. In the nineteenth century the work of Georges Cuvier on the reconstruction of creatures from fossil remains and of Charles Lyell on the geological evidence for the great age of the world and its slow transformation had prepared the ground for consideration of Darwinism.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why Is It So Hard for Women to Write About Sex?

typewriter-masterbation-erotica

Female lust is normal: Now that the consensus is finally established, we’ve been hit by a tidal wave of confessional sex memoirs…

Claire Dederer writes:  Maybe you remember the old joke: “Why do dogs lick their balls? Because they can.” Here’s a new one I just made up: “Why do women lie about sex? Because they can.” It’s not really funny, I admit, but it does have the benefit of being true. Women are anatomically secretive. Our stuff is neatly tucked away, and the obvious signs that connote female arousal—arching, gasping, and so on—are secondary and unreliable. They might be genuine, or they might not be.

script-sex-female-reclining

Image source: turnbuckleblog

Men are all evidence. A character in Sophie Fontanel’s new memoir of celibacy, The Art of Sleeping Alone, succinctly describes the male dilemma. Carlos has ended his marriage because he no longer wants to have sex with his wife. Fontanel asks him whether he has told his wife the true reason he left. Carlos replies: “How could I have lied to her? With love, you can always get out of a bind because you can’t see it, but getting a hard-on, or not, you can’t wriggle out of that; might as well be frank about it.” When your hard-ons are invisible, there’s room for lots of wriggling.

[Claire Dederer's book, "Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses", is available from Amazon]

By now, of course, it’s difficult to think of female desire as in any way hidden. The cultural speculum has been firmly inserted for a good look around. Women have long since learned all about how our tucked-away stuff works, with pioneers of second-wave feminism as our guides: Our Bodies, Ourselves was practically standard-issue along with the dorm-room furniture when I arrived at my very liberal college in 1985. Meanwhile, female lust has been thoroughly documented (or at any rate, endlessly and theatrically depicted) by the adult-film industry. How would porn get along without horny females? Science, too, has lately been busy substantiating the existence of girl lust. In his recent tour of burgeoning research into female desire, What Do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner reports a current verdict: women are at least as libidinous as men.

“…I read Nin in college, and more than a few of you probably sampled her unforgivably arty, but also truly dirty, prose too…”

There it is. We can finally all agree that women want to have sex. Variously portrayed in the past as tamers of men and tenders of children, we’re now deemed well endowed with horniness. But does that mean we experience desire in the same way that men do? My lust tells me we don’t. Mine, I confess, isn’t blind or monumental or animal. It comes with an endless internal monologue—or maybe dialogue, or maybe babel. My desire is always guessing, often second-guessing. Female lust is a powerful force, but it surges in the form of an interrogation, rather than a statement. Not I want this but Do I want this? What exactly do I want? How about now? And now?

Read the rest of this entry »


The Community-Organizer-in-Chief, Part One: The Alinsky Ethics

Saul_Alinsky

“A radical is one who advocates sweeping changes in the existing laws and methods of government.” 

- Hillary Rodham (Clinton) in her 1969 thesis “There Is Only The Fight : An Analysis of the Alinsky Model”

As voters stagger through the long hot summer of the 2012 Presidential campaign, activists who want to defeat President Obama are fighting an uphill battle to help their fellow citizens get an honest assessment of who Barack Obama is and what he believes. The mainstream media are certainly no help in vetting Obama, having proven themselves both as slippery and as shallow as a puddle of bacon grease.

Obama’s past matters because it isn’t just his past. As author Stanley Kurtz shows in his upcoming book Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, the President’s background past is relevant today because it leads directly to his wealth redistribution policies and other radical plans to reshape America.

Because of the Fourth Estate Fail, it’s incumbent on conservative activists and citizen journalists to do the job of explaining to voters the truth about Barack Obama. This article is the first in a series that uses Kurtz’s Spreading The Wealthas a jumping off point to lay out in stark detail how President Obama has practiced distinct brand of Chicago-style politics has had implications for every aspect of his policy, from Obamacare to the housing crisis.

The plain truth is that President Barack Obama has operated in a manner completely consistent with his political roots as a Alinsky-style community organizer. That simple assessment is accurate but useless as an explanation. Most voters have no idea who Saul Alinsky was or even what being a “community organizer” means. Ironically, this ignorance is especially acute among liberals.

The good news is that understanding Alinsky and his profound impact on Obama’s policies & political operation can be simple.

Alinsky’s manifesto Rules For Radicals lays out the principles of community organizing and the blunt, modern language makes it an easy read. Yes, it’s evil–but it’s seldom pedantic.

However, I think an even better place to start is the astounding, in-depth interview that Playboy magazine did with Alinsky in 1972. The entire interview at the link is from a political website and there isn’t a NSFW photo anywhere.

Read the rest of this entry »


What Happens when Governments Go Broke?

Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian Dick and Gloria Shafer, pictured with their 9-year-old son, John, run an excavation business in Elgin. They are so frightened of drug violence, especially after a triple homicide at their town, that they say they sleep with handguns close at hand. Gloria Shafer keeps her 9 mm gun under her pillow.

Dick and Gloria Shafer, pictured with their 9-year-old son, John, run an excavation business in Elgin. They are so frightened of drug violence, especially after a triple homicide at their town.  - Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian

Josephine County isn’t a monster, it’s just ahead of the curve

 writes:  On the evening of Oct. 30, 2013, a car traveling down a highway south of Cave Junction struck and killed Jarred Houston, 21, and Robert Calvin, 41. Four months later, their case remains unsolved.

A week after the hit-and-run, Aaron Clouser, 39, was stabbed to death and left in the middle of the street. His case remains unsolved as well.

“Who else is going to protect you when your government can’t?”

The murders have left the small town seething with anger, but there are barely any detectives around to work the cases.

astoria-screwdriver

[Related: Astoria Oregon Woman attacks police car with screwdriver]

Economic woes have forced county governments in rural Oregon to slash law enforcement budgets to the point where police are almost non-existent. In Josephine County, where Cave Junction is, there are two patrol deputies tasked with covering 1,600 square miles.

[More: Drugs leave trail of ruin, fear in rural Oregon]

The sheriff’s office issued a warning last year for those in “potentially volatile” situations, such as those protected under a restraining order, “to consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services.”

[See Also: Another armed citizen group starts patrolling Josephine County]

The Oregon State Police have shifted resources to the area to try and fill in the gaps. Some citizens have banded together into armed watch groups.

The rural areas in southern Oregon are lawless.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ed Driscoll Interviews ‘Bachelor Pad Economics’ Author Aaron Clarey

clarey_bachelor_pad_economics_cover_2-21-14-1Ed Driscoll writes:  “Bachelor Pad Economics,” Aaron Clarey tells me about his new book in our latest podcast interview, is focused upon “maximizing your amount of time on this planet to spend on you and leisure and not be slaving away eighty hours at the office and just so you can afford that big mansion in the suburbs or the BMW SUV.”

Clarey stresses the importance of minimalism in his financial planning…

Transcript here 

[Be cool and get the book "Bachelor Pad Economics: The Financial Advice Bible for Men" from Amazon]

(18 minutes and 51 seconds long; 16.5 MB file size. Right click here to download the interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 3.10 MB lo-fi edition.)

“I’m the biggest capitalist there ever was.  But truthfully, the only thing that really matters, the true source of happiness is other humans.  And the great thing about humans is they’re free.”

Is it possible to enjoy America’s decline from your swank bachelor’s pad, knowing that you’re financially prepared to ride out the worst of the remaining years of the Obama era?

Read the rest of this entry »


Vintage Pulp Fiction Book Cover of the Day

sorority-girls

The Sorority Girls | Pulp Covers

[Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On (Remastered w/ Bonus Tracks) at Amazon for $4]


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