The Mysteries of Ancient Egypt & the Hidden Roots of Western Civilization

Last weekend April and I saw the King Tut exhibition at the California Science Center. Here are some of the highlights:

This is a definite, must-see exhibit. It’s amazing see objections this old in such beautiful, stunning condition. Continue reading “The Mysteries of Ancient Egypt & the Hidden Roots of Western Civilization”

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9 Authors With Books That Can Transform Your Life

The Andrew Klavan Symposium

Section I – Opening Remarks

Click here for the series introduction and Part 1: “Finding God in the Blood and Guts of Birth and the Big Bang” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 2: “A Search For An Authentic Life” by Alec Ott

Part 3: “Life-Changing Literature” by Chris Queen

Part 4: “To Know The Truth About The World” by Jon Bishop

Part 5: “The Long Road To Becoming An Essential Author” by David M. Swindle

Section II – Dialogue

Part 6: “If You Love Western Civilization, You Will Love God” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 7: “Why God Does Not Want You To Worry About Anything…” by Alec Ott

Part 8: “The Bible As Artist & Author’s Muse” by Jon Bishop

Part 9:

(cross-posted at LibertyIslandMag.com and SmashCut Culture)

Dear Jon, Alec, Fred, and Chris,

Throughout this dialogue you have each referenced other authors who have influenced you and who have reminded you in some way of Andrew Klavan’s work. Alec brought up C.S. Lewis, Fred invoked Thomas Sowell, Jon brought Augustine and monk-poet Thomas Merton into the dialogue, and Chris quoted the prophet Isaiah.

For many years I’ve been in the habit of list-making regarding books, authors, films and all sorts of subjects. And I don’t intend on breaking that habit anytime soon, in fact I’m doing the opposite: encouraging you and other writers to assemble lists too. In particular: who are the authors and books who most inspire you today? Which writers and titles are akin to weapons in your armory? Whose ideas and storytelling techniques do you adapt into your own?

After we conclude this dialogue about Klavan’s memoir with one final post each, I challenge each of you — and all readers are invited too — to submit your lists of key authors and books. (Submissions@LibertyIslandmag.com please.) I restarted this project last year with my “Essential Authors” series at my “Travel, Art, and Book” blog and now I’m expanding the dialogue at Liberty Island. Anyone is welcome to join in the discussions of influential authors and their most valuable books. Who are the essential authors for you and which of their books cannot be missed?

As a place to begin the debate, I present the above image. When we moved into our new home in summer 2015 it didn’t take me long to figure out what items to feature in a display case built into the wall: my collection of autographed novels and non-fiction books. There’s only room for 9 titles to be visibly displayed across the three shelves, but others sit behind them, for a total of 23 books in the case (not all of the titles in my autographed collection, but the cream of the crop…) Here are the authors included in the above photo, with links to highest priority texts, and a few comments about why they are so valuable and inspiring to me.

1. James Wasserman

Recommended Reading To Begin:

It’s now been about 15 years since I’ve been an open mystic, occultist, and quiet practitioner of magickal rituals. During this time I’ve read plenty of books on these subjects and in my humble opinion the very best author alive today writing on them is Wasserman. Nobody is better at presenting the historical development of the mystical traditions with more solid sourcing and better arguments than him. Wasserman is also a key influence in what I’ve described as “Biblical Occultism.”

2. Andrew Klavan

Recommended Reading To Begin:

I initially kicked off this series of highlighting authors with this post here, explaining why Klavan had become such an important creative influence. I recommend his books to all the novelists I work with and am studying his body of work. I also credit Klavan with inspiring my recent passion for Raymond Chandler’s novels.

3. Douglas Rushkoff

Continue reading “9 Authors With Books That Can Transform Your Life”

Our 27 African Art Acquisitions & My Final Thoughts on the Trip…

See part 1, part 2, and part 3 in the series documenting our trip to West Africa in July…

April’s been home now for several weeks, but I’m only just now ready for this final wrap-up post about our trip. It took some time to prepare our new shelves and to set up our art, books, and movies. But now I’m ready to present our findings, most of which April acquired after I flew home from Nigeria and she continued on for a number of weeks into Togo, Benin, and finally Ghana. My post yesterday regarding Camille Paglia’s books linking ancient tribal Paganism with today’s art and popular culture are relevant to the points of this piece — the line between religious icon and art object is often in the eye of the beholder…

First, a mask from Ghana, with two sand paintings from Goree Island in Senegal. Our comedy DVD shelf sits above them:

Two heads from Benin, in between shelves of April’s art books, these also possess two Goree Island sand paintings, one on each side:

Continue reading “Our 27 African Art Acquisitions & My Final Thoughts on the Trip…”

Pop-Paganism: 11 Extraordinary Camille Paglia Excerpts

Essential Authors: Camille Paglia

Two years ago, I joined Liberty Island Media, a start-up book publishing company focusing on genre fiction, as their West Coast Editor and began acquiring and editing novels. I also started writing my own novels and helping other writers develop their stories. Now, in this ongoing series at Smash Cut Culture I’m going to start highlighting the authors who I’ve returned to most often in working with writers. As I’ve studied and met both fiction and non-fiction writers over the years these are the ones with the most depth, originality, and humanity. Reading their books and understanding the ideas that matter to them has helped change my life for the better and I hope it can do the same for you.

On Tuesday Mark Bauerlein at First Things published a thoughtful post on Camille Paglia and the key idea that he sees as distinguishing her from today’s cookie cutter Right/Left ideologues:

She announced it a few months back in an interview with the New York Observer. The very first question asked her about comparisons between President Trump and Adolf Hitler, to which she replied: “‘Presentism’ is a major affliction—an over-absorption in the present or near past, which produces a distortion of perspective and a sky-is-falling Chicken Little hysteria.”

….

Paglia believes there is a causal connection between young Americans’ ignorance of history and their dim view of present conditions. At a conference in Oxford, Paglia stated again, in response to a student who criticized her and others for telling youths not to be so sensitive and snowflaky, “There is much too much focus on the present.” Thanks to the (presumed) sensitivity of modern youth, Paglia says, students have not had a “realistic introduction to the barbarities of human history . . . . Ancient history must be taught . . . . I believe in introducing young people to the disasters of history.” Without that background, she implies, our only standard of appraising current circumstances is current circumstances plus a few utopian dreams. We have so much material prosperity, they think, so why don’t we have more perfect people to enjoy it?

I’ll take Bauererlein’s insight into Paglia’s value as a writer and intellectual a few steps further. Yes, that she analyzes today’s culture through the broad stroke of history, starting in the ancient world gives her arguments greater weight and originality. Where I value her even more though is in the way she connects this grand historical understanding to our everyday pop culture. And what is her key here? It can be summed up in one word: Paganism.

Paglia connects the primitive, religious earth worship of the ancient, pre-modern world, with the secular faiths of today’s postmodern ideologies and celebrity-obsessed culture. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from her book Vamps & Tramps: New Essays, about how what is natural must be overcome and transcended to achieve greatness:

Here are ten more of my favorite Paglia quotes I’ve collected over the years. I hope you’ll find them useful and inspiring. Continue reading “Pop-Paganism: 11 Extraordinary Camille Paglia Excerpts”

The Last Two Legs of My Africa Trip

(Click here for Part One, and here for Part Two.)

Well, I’ve been home for over a week now and between trying to get caught up on work and getting my sleep back in order (apparently jet lag can last awhile) I have not yet done the final post describing the last two countries of my part of the trip — Morocco and Nigeria. Let’s correct that now.

Day 19: Thursday, July 20 — We arrive in Morocco early in the morning (around 8) but cannot check into our hotel until the afternoon (2ish). Apart from that anticipated bump in the road the hotel was nice, among the highlights of our short stay in Casablanca.

Day 20: Friday, July 21 — We take a tour of the Hassan II Mosque in the morning and then explore the markets in the afternoon.

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#Casablanca #morocco

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Continue reading “The Last Two Legs of My Africa Trip”

The Adventures Of Week 2.5 In Our Africa Travels

OK everyone, as I type this it’s Wednesday, July 19, 9:40 PM, and we’re getting picked up from our hotel here in Dakar in about 45 minutes for a drive to the airport (not far away.) Our flight to Casablanca will then take off several hours later and we should arrive around 6 or 7 and make it to our hotel by 8 AM where we’ll cross our fingers that a room will be available and we can get in early before our afternoon check-in.

So as the Senegal portion of our trip comes to a close, now seems a good time to summarize our recent adventures.

Day 7: Saturday, July 8 — a Travel Day from Dakar to Fathala Wildlife Reserve

We left Dakar around 7 or 8 in the morning and the drive to Fathala was supposed to take five hours. It took a little bit longer as the route we took included a trip on a ferry across a lake. But we were very happy with our driver, Pape, who we’d hired to drive us there and pick us up on Tuesday morning.

When we arrived we encountered two ostriches filled with personality:

The accommodations at Fathala are wonderful. The rooms are tents that are very modernized — wooden floors, plumbing, electricity, a small refrigerator, shower, bathtub, and toilet. We also had a porch with two West African Lazy chairs. (We so enjoyed these chairs that later in our trip we decided to acquire some.)

April felt sick for much of the trip, when we arrived she prayed that it would rain and lo and behold it did start coming down and thundering. We sat out on our porch and just took it in all around us while watching the plains before us as animals grazed. Such a peaceful way to end a day of travels.

Days 8 and 9: Sunday July 9 and Monday July 10 — Two full days at Fathala Wildlife Reserve

What Fathala is perhaps best known for is its “lion walking” attraction. That was first on our priority list on Sunday. The two lions have been trained since birth to respect the African walking stick, so each guest is issued one before entering the lion enclosure and walking with them on a set route that includes plenty of spots for picture posing:

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April & I had a blast on the lion walk!

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Here’s some video that April shot of the restaurant/lounge/reception/pool area:

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I'm at @fathalareserve

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For our second day’s adventure we took a tour of the villages nearby Fathala. The highlight was a chance to see and learn about this giant tree, believed to be over a thousand years old:

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#senegal #silkcottontree 1000 years old

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Continue reading “The Adventures Of Week 2.5 In Our Africa Travels”

A New Series, Essential Authors #1: Andrew Klavan

I start a new series today at Smash Cut Culture, the blog of Taliesin Nexus:

Two years ago, I joined Liberty Island Media, a start-up book publishing company focusing on genre fiction, as their West Coast Editor and began acquiring and editing novels. I also started writing my own novels and helping other writers develop their stories. Now, in this ongoing series at Smash Cut Culture I’m going to start highlighting the authors who I’ve returned to most often in working with writers. As I’ve studied and met both fiction and non-fiction writers over the years these are the ones with the most depth, originality, and humanity. Reading their books and understanding the ideas that matter to them has helped change my life for the better and I hope it can do the same for you.

Andrew Klavan has worn many writer’s hats over the years: hard-boiled thriller novelist, Hollywood screenwriter, essayist for The Wall Street Journal and contributing editor for City Journal, longtime new media innovator in blogging, hilarious YouTube videos, podcasting at the Daily Wire, and now celebrated memoirist with The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ.

I’ve known Klavan since 2009 when I started editing full time; I came to know him better from 2011-2015 as his editor for his columns and blog posts. (Not that Klavan ever needed much editing!) See this reflection I wrote about him and the potential of his ideas in 2013. In more recent years I’ve been particularly interested in coming to understand how Klavan’s novels have generated such success for him, and in turn communicating those lessons to writers—and myself.

Read the rest at Smash Cut Culture…

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June 6, 2017, 8:34 AM: Future updates with links, photos, and comments on all Klavan-related writings will go here.