Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

The Culture Alliance’s latest in its work fostering a culture of liberty and personal responsibility in America brings readers news, opinion, reviews and excerpts from the world of popular fiction.

On Friday of each week, subscribers to TCA’s Weekly Update will receive the latest in reviews, excerpts, news and opinion concerning the world of novels and short stories. American society is besieged by a plethora of fiction tending to promote the modern zeitgeist – a relativistic, secular, antinomian worldview. TCA’s Fiction Friday is inspired by the idea that a culture of liberty will flounder without a well-nourished moral imagination.

Citing Russell Kirk’s essay “The Age of Sentiments,” Vigen Guroian writes,

Kirk advanced further his thoughts on the crisis of the moral imagination. In this intriguing essay, he argues that the Age of Discussion, which grew from the Enlightenment and earmarked modernity, is all but over. We are entering a new era in civilization, Kirk advises, where sentiments rule—indeed, we are entering the Age of Sentiments. And this momentous shift in mind and sensibility requires new cultural strategies for the nurture of the moral imagination.

Nothing enriches the moral imagination like a good story. T. S. Eliot noted, in his essay “Religion and Literature,”

The author of a work of imagination is trying to affect us wholly, as human being, whether he knows it or not; and we are effected by it wholly, as human beings, whether we intend to be or not. I suppose that everything we eat has some effect upon us other than merely the pleasure of taste and mastication; it affects us during the process of assimilation and digestion; and I believe that exactly the same is true of anything we read.

He went on to note that even what some might consider trivial works of pop culture can be the most significant when it comes to influencing our imagination. “I incline to the shocking conclusion,” Eliot wrote,

that it is just the literature that we read for amusement, or purely for pleasure, that may have the greatest and least suspected influence upon us. It is literature we read with the least effort that can have the easiest and most insidious influence upon us. Hence it is that the influence of popular novelists, and of popular playwrights of contemporary life, requires to be scrutinized most closely.

A few will seek out Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil, etc. for their pleasure reading, but when it comes to reading “for amusement” the majority will get the latest bestseller or mass-market paperback.
Therefore, rather than leaving it to the advertising divisions of some New York publishing house promoting work that meets with liberal sensibilities, we wanted to offer readers some alternatives they might have missed. TCA seeks to shed light on that which the publishing worlds’ powers-that-be neglect because it does not fit their presuppositions. We also want those who desire a culture of liberty and personal responsibility to have a reading list that goes beyond the latest polemics produced by Regnery Publishing, Encounter Books, etc. Perhaps, in time, we may inspire those few houses, like Regnery or Encounter to begin feeding their customer’s moral imagination with some well crafted fiction.

TCA’s Fiction Friday inaugural issue included S.T. Karnick’s review of The Red Right Hand, an excerpt from Richard Doster’s latest novel Crossing the Lines, and links to numerous stories from the world of novels and short stories including:

The following from R.V. Young’s, A Student’s Guide to Literature, included in Fiction Friday’s first issue, notes the central role fiction plays in “the transmission of culture throughout the history of Western Civilization”

A successful poem or story compels our attention and seizes us with a sense of its reality, even while we know that it is essentially (even when based upon historical fact) something made up – a fiction. The most memorable works of literature are charged with significance and cry out for understanding, reflection, interpretation; but this meaning carries most conviction insofar as it is not explicit – not paraded with banners flying and trumpets blaring. “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us,” says John Keats. The role of literature in society is similarly equivocal. It can be explained simply as entertainment or recreation; men and women have always told stories ans sung songs to amuse themselves, to pass the time, to lighten the burden of “real life.” At the same time, literature has assumed a central place in education and the transmission of culture throughout the history of Western civilization, contributing  a sense of communal identity and shaping both individual and social understanding of human experience. The intimate part played by literature in cultural tradition has been a source of alarm to moralists and reformers from Plato to the media critics and multiculturalists of our own day.

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“The measure of a thing’s worth is what you can purchase with it.” “Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Many believe that economics is the dismal science. Daniel Abraham, thankfully enough, did not get the message. In “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” Abraham builds a fantastic tale around a cambist, i.e., one who is an expert in foreign exchange, and a degenerate Lord who destroys anyone unfortunate to fall into the Lord’s orbit. This “fairy tale of economics” takes readers on a memorable journey of exchange and economics so as to discover that which imbues exchange between persons with true value.

Olaf Neddelsohn is the Cambist. His passion is the exchange of foreign currency. He is known, in the city in which he practices his trade, “as a man of few needs, tepid passions, and great kindness.” Olaf lives a modest life, working in the Postal Authority office exchanging currencies from one to the other. His home is a room in a boarding house where he entertains himself with “men’s adventure books.” On days off he visits the zoo, or a “fourth-rate gentlemen’s club that he could afford.” And “[o]n Sundays, he attended church.”

Edmund Scarasso, Lord Iron, could not be more different. Lord Iron’s estate and wealth rivals the king’s. He spends his time in a 200-room home in the city. He lives a debauched lifestyle and destroys lives without a thought. “Violence and sensuality and excess were the tissue of which his life was made.” When Lord Iron learns about Olaf’s exchange practice he decides, on a lark, destroy him.

Given a seemingly impossible task, to exchange notes that have no recorded monetary value, Olaf provides Lord Iron with a lesson in economics. Daniel Abraham’s description of how currency exchange works is masterfully brief and instructive. It is a pleasure to read the exchange between the simple cambist, devoted to his vocation, and the wretched nihilist, devoted to his animalistic passions. Unfortunately, it puts Olaf in Lord Iron’s sights and forces the mild postal authority employee to prove the exchange between things that should never enter an exchange system.

The story reminded me of Wilhelm Ropkë and Wendell Berry, and what Ropkë called the “Humane Economy.” It is an incredibly engaging tale that explores how market economies work, how value between disparate goods is determined through the interaction of one individual with another, and, in the end, how wealth is generated. The stories depth, however, comes from its exploration of the human persons engaged in trade and the “wealth,” or lack thereof, their individual trade generates. The final “exchange” moves the reader beyond the mundane trading of one good for another and into the realm wherein one discovers that which invests the most important “object” a person has with value.

The story can be read at the link above or it can be listened to at PodCastle.org. It is not often that one finds a story about economics imbued with such affection for vocation, a simple life, that which provides ultimate value. Please read or listen to the story and, above all, share it with your friends.

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Who says debate on embryonic stem cell research has to be either dry, boring academics going point – counterpoint or overheated pundits yelling and casting hate at each other?

Dream Theater has found another way to make a point.

For the literal minded, the lyrics are below the fold. (more…)

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hammer-and-tickleBecause it’s easier than working. … [enter rimshot sound effect here]

Did you hear this one:

A man walks into a café and say, “I would like an order of borscht, a steak, a coffee and a copy of Pravda.”

The waiter says, “Certainly, sir. I’ll bring you those things, but I have to tell you, sir, there isn’t a Pravda anymore. That was available only under the Communists.”The waiter goes away and, after a few moments, brings the man his borscht.

The man savors his borscht and then tells the waiter, “Now bring me my steak and my copy of Pravda.”

The waiter says, “Sir, you don’t seem to understand. There isn’t any Pravda, the Communists are gone.”

The waiter brings the steak, and the man enjoys it. Then he says, to the waiter, “Thank you, now bring me my coffee and bring me my copy of Pravda.”

The waiter getting annoyed and visibly angry now says, “Look, how many times do I have to tell you! Pravda is gone! The Communists are gone! It’s all over!”

The man says, “Yes, but I like to hear you say it.”

I heard those jokes watching “Hammer and Tickle“, an excellent documentary about the role humor played in bringing down Communism, produced by that notoriously Right-wing media organization BBC4. This documentary was produced in 2006, so I figured three years after it was made it would certainly be available at Netflix. Nope. Nothing there. Blockbuster, perhaps? Nope, not there either. How about a DVD copy from Amazon?  No DVD has been released either, just like  “The Path to 9/11”. It seems that there are some DVDs the Media Elite would rather people don’t watch.

Thank goodness for YouTube, where the entire documentary was broken down into 10 parts and posted for public perusal. I’ve linked them all below the fold, to make it easy for folks to watch. I think this is an important documentary both to shed light on the history of International Communism and provide some insight current events. It is important to understand the role of satire and comedy, in a context of university speech codes censoring some voices and the reluctance of many comedians to find nothing funny about Pres. Obama.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not think people will be sent to slave labor camps because the made a joke about bureaucrats in Washington D.C. I do not think that someone will spend 9 months in prison, 6 of those months in solitary confinement, for mocking Nancy Pelosi, Harry Ried or Barney Frank. People have lost or had their jobs threatened because they made a joke someone didn’t like. Students have been threatened with expulsion from colleges and universities because they mocked the wrong person. Serious repercussions follow if you say the wrong type of joke to the wrong person.

Please watch these videos, share these videos. (more…)

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Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson

Frankenstein by Bernie Wrightson

NRO’s indominatable Kathryn Jean Lopez is dropping little nuggets from Bill Bennet’s list of books every High School student should have read before he or she graduates. The list should not surprise anyone familiar with great literature. I do wonder, however, if there are teachers out there with the spine it would take to get their male students to sit down with Jane Austen’s Pride an d Prejudice.

John J. Miller could make me develop a man-crush, however, with his brief list of Science Fiction books every boy should read. Orwell’s 1984 makes Dr. Bennet’s list, but that is the only work of speculative fiction that is on the list.

Miller notes several SF books he would like to see boys read, includeing Frankenstein, Brave New World, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Fahrenheit 451, and Enders Game. He also gives a nod to The Lord of the Rings. I would love to see a list of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror books that folks think every High School student should read. Think of it as giving these kids Dessert after the necessary eating of Lima Beans and Brussell Sprouts.

I do not think that Dessert can come without the Main Course. I have to confess to skipping far to many of the Main Dishes that Dr. Bennet lists. I know that my love for the written word came not from reading Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, but from reading H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. Might one be more likely to entice young men with Dickens and Hawthorne if these lads know that these Gentlemen of Letters wrote ghost stories?

Something to think about.

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