Even before the rise of Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill warned of the danger of the Nazis, only to be fought at every turn by the British government. What Churchill had foreshadowed became reality as one by one Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and France had fallen under Nazi control. In the spring of 1940, Britain was the last one standing, the last barricade to all of Europe being under Hitler’s full control. The man leading Britain onto the battlefield was Churchill, who had been prime minister all of six weeks. As the threat of invasion encroached from a Nazi-occupied France, Churchill, on this day 73 years ago, gave what historians have called one of the greatest speeches -- the “finest hour” speech of June 18, 1940 -- ever delivered in the English language.
Bill Maher, the obnoxious, execrable and unfunny “comic” who hosts a talk-show on HBO called “Real Time,” is inexplicably one of the most successful and popular television celebrities in the United States. His rise to the top presents yet another example of how mediocrity, vulgarity (and, of course, luck) are far more important in determining the quality of contemporary pop culture than such quaint and forgotten qualities as talent and integrity. Like many of his dubious contemporaries -- including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Moore, Spike Lee, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, among numerous others -- Maher has become a “brand,” a brand that is meticulously marketed for the sake of maximizing profit. Maher does not engage in reasoned debate, nor does he really care about the validity of his viewpoints. Having identified the demographic he wants to target (that is, upscale urban liberals), he simply ladles out what they want to hear.
Last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision about the limits of obtaining patents on human genes was somewhat personal for me. Like Angelina Jolie, I, too, had that BRCA gene test. Unlike Jolie, my test results were good. I feel very fortunate to have been able to afford the test. If it’s made widely available, it would be beneficial for thousands, if not millions of women. To use a poker analogy, with the BRCA information, women will have more knowledge of how their cancer deck is stacked. For me, it started with a genetic counselor giving me a questionnaire during my annual breast exam: Did my mother have breast cancer? Answer, yes. My maternal grandmother? Yes, again. Did I ever have cancer? Yes, colon. It was decision time: Did I want to know if I had the BRCA gene or not?
Why do we pretend we're shocked when photos of young fast food workers engaging in disgusting, unhealthy acts hit the web? First there was the Taco Bell shell licker, now we have the Wendy's guy supposedly chugging a Frosty straight out of the machine. When workers are paid -- many of whom are in their undiscerning teenage years -- hourly rates at or near the minimum wage, as most fast food joints do, we can't pretend that we expect them to take their jobs seriously.
“Man of Steel” opens nationwide this weekend, and with it, Zack Snyder has given Superman Hollywood’s standard 21st-century makeover. The suit has gone from bright blue and red, to muted gray and rust, and the boxy chin has been replaced by sallow cheeks and a heavy scowl. We can only assume his soul is even heavier. Yes, folks, Superman has gone dark. The world’s first comic book hero is following in the footsteps of every comic book hero before him. It’s a stale trend that the entertainment community has been milking for far too long. In addition to dark superheroes over the last 12 months, we’ve dark fairy tales (“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” “Snow White and the Huntsman”), dark prequels (“Oz the Great and Powerful”), and more apocalypse and zombie movies than we know what to do with.
The niceties -- gripped hands, bared teeth, and high-school style backstabbing -- that characterize the United Nations Security Council may be shaping into an honest-to-goodness battle as the United States has announced it will provide firearms to “moderate rebels” in Syria. In response, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is asking Russia to step up its support of the government. The Syrian civil war, which was once a part of the Arab Spring, exemplifying the American ideals of democracy and self-determination, will become a proxy fighting ground for two world superpowers to flex their muscles while still smiling at each other across the boardroom, and while civilians die all around them. Both will claim the mandate of “stopping the bloodshed.” Both will, in all likelihood, prolong it; this is now not only a battle of ideals, but another standoff between old enemies who will be damned before they let the other one win.
Just when I thought I couldn’t like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie more, this bit of pure awesome happened. Christie appeared on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” on Wednesday night to “slow-jam the news.” Bobbing his head to the music of the “Late Night” house band, Christie talked about his controversial call to hold a special election on Oct. 16 to replace the recently deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg. There was also mention of whether he will run for the presidency in 2016 and, of course, his size, despite his recent weight loss. Calling the governor “Christie Crème Doughnut,” Fallon sings that when “the Love Gov sits around the House of Representatives, he really sits around the House of Representatives.” Christie trying not to laugh throughout is delightful.
George Orwell’s “1984” has recently made it onto Amazon’s bestsellers list -- with sales booming -- and the credit belongs to our government. “Thanks to the ongoing National Security Administration surveillance scandal, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is enjoying a surge in popularity, landing at No. 4 on Amazon’s list of ‘Movers and Shakers,’” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Sales of Orwell’s classic have risen an astonishing 5,771% as of Tuesday morning, with a current sales rank of 213, up from 12,507 just a few days ago. A different editing has even made it onto Amazon’s top 100 bestsellers list. It’s a nice birthday present for the 1949 novel, which marked its 64th anniversary on June 8 amid revelations that made Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ seem more relevant than ever.” I suppose readers need the reminder that, as Orwell wrote, nothing is your own “except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.”
Another week, another ConservativeHome gossip column from Iain Dale in which he, once again, sets about attacking the conservatives within Britain’s Conservative Party. Dale, who failed in his pursuit of elected conservative politics, appears to be setting himself up as Westminster's Bête Noire, resolute in his assault on the strongest opponents to the now farcical Same Sex Marriage Bill, making threats that Conservative Parliamentarians who didn’t support it would be "outed," and publishing books with concerning content about rape. In politics, it is said that enemies should be more carefully chosen than friends. As such, Dale is a rare gift, thrust upon a movement such as ours that desires to shift the conservative debate away from the epicene gossip of the Westminster bubble, to core ideas and principles.
Unusual events occur in New York’s Union Square all the time, and this past Thursday and Saturday were no different. An exhibit took place on these days in which black women posed as hair models donning signs that read: “You can touch my hair”; an invitation to all people, but especially white people, to come and touch black hair of different types and textures, including relaxed, natural and loc’d. The aptly named event, “You Can Touch May Hair,” hosted by Antonia Opiah, founder of Un-ruly.com was a social experiment intended to open a dialogue between black people and non-black people about the mysteries of black hair. ...
In a fantastic wrap-up outlining the underlying resentment behind Turkey's protests, The Economist addresses what it calls "The New Young Turks." More than the razing of a tree-lined park in Taksim Square's Gezi Park to make way for a shopping center, Turks are discontent with an increasingly oppressive status quo. Many have noted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's -- and his Islamist rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP -- infringements on personal liberties -- from his restrictions on alcohol, to a ban on red lipstick for flight attendants, to stifling the press, etc., etc.
The city of Philadelphia, Penn., may be 10,000 miles away from Bangladesh, but as soon as I heard about the building collapse in the city of Brotherly Love, I immediately thought about the disaster at the garment factory in Dhaka in April, which claimed more than 1,100 lives. Yes, the scale of the tragedy in Philadelphia was far smaller -- six dead and about a dozen people injured -- but as hard as it might be to believe, parts of Philadelphia and the impoverished Third World country of Bangladesh have much in common.
Many large-market teams have had early exits in the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
The Ethicist responded the other day to a really interesting letter: A student had been given two assignments with enough overlap between them to be able to submit the same paper to both. Was this cheating, he asked? After pulling back from his knee-jerk reaction, he decides this is not, in fact, cheating.
A Cheerios advertisement ignited controversy this week after a slew of racist comments erupted on the brand’s YouTube page. The vitriol came in response to a 30-second commercial showing a mixed-race family. It got was so bad comments were disabled. YouTube is no stranger to discriminatory comments, but this video content was as prosaic as it gets. Who’d have thought cereal could get so serious? As a biracial American, I was excited to see this advertisement precisely because it’s so dull. As commercials go, this one can’t get any more conventional: cute kid, sunny day, happy family, banal humor. But it’s got everyone talking about Cheerios, myself included. Smart move by Saatchi & Saatchi, a marketing and communications firm that counts General Mills (NYSE:GIS) as a client.
A spate of school sexual molestation cases in China have been uncovered recently by the media there. Over a 20-day period, eight cases of schoolkids being sexually molested by faculty or government officials have been reported, bringing forward the very important issue of child abuse in the nation. As a result, a new Weibo campaign was born out of the disgust and outrage over the young children who had become victims of assault by adults who are in a position of trust or power. Chinese citizens have taken to their accounts to participate in "social activism" against such crimes telling principals and other would-be assaulters to “get a room with me, let go of your students!” and giving their contact information.
As protests continued to rage in Istanbul and smaller cities across Turkey on Monday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has heaped blame on “extremist elements,” “looters,” and even social media as the supposed root causes of the ongoing unrest that has gripped the usually quiet nation for the past week. He is unwilling to take even a modicum of responsibility for inspiring the revolts, blaming them on pretty much everyone but himself, his minions and the developers he has helped to enrich during his decade of rule.
Roy Hibbert should not have been fined $75,000 for using the term "no homo" because it is a nebulous term that others including LeBron James have used in the past without being punished.
Comic book movies are bigger than ever, despite the fear a few years ago that the bubble would burst. With the billion dollar successes of “The Avengers,” “Iron Man 3” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” what once was the property of geeks now belongs to the masses. Despite the larger audiences welcoming embrace, the original home of these characters, the comic book, is getting left behind. That’s not to say comics will die, as artists and writers will always find a home at Marvel, DC Comics, Vertigo and other imprints. Instead, comic books will become even more of a niche genre while geek culture thrives around it. Marvel Studios has been incredibly successful of late, thanks to the “Iron Man” franchise and the incredible success of “The Avengers,” while DC Comics proved Batman could be taken seriously by a mainstream audience even though Batman had been “serious” and “gritty” since the 1980s.
Dear Anyone Who Cares About Plagiarism -- including perpetrators, victims and everyone else in between: Earlier this week, I wrote a story about how some Sony employees chimed in on a Twitter-based PS4 anti-DRM campaign in the wake of the confusion surrounding the recently revealed Xbox One’s always-on requirements. A day after my article went up, I noticed that a similar-looking article was picked up by N4G, a video game news site that allows almost anyone to submit articles to them. I clicked on the article, which you can read here. Check out the screenshots below as well.