Plenty of Hilarity at the November 20 Democrats’ Debate

I again chose to Live-tweet my reactions to the Democratic debate, illustrated by Rick and Morty gifs and others. This is what blogging has become today. Social Media rules.

I hope you enjoy:

Continue reading “Plenty of Hilarity at the November 20 Democrats’ Debate”

My Counter-Islamist Grid Work So Far: 30 Articles, Photo Essays, and Reports

Here is a collection of events I’ve covered and the articles I’ve written in my work as the Southern California associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid, an initiative to monitor and counter Islamist influence at the local level.

*August 12, 2019 Update: Now expanded with some new pieces and a few I’d forgotten to include previously*

*September 25 Update: Now updated with 2 more CIG articles and 2 other recent, related pieces, one for Campus Watch and another forIslamist Watch, my first article as a fellow for the project.

* November 21 Update: My second Islamist Watch article since I began as a fellow is now included, as are two more CIG articles: my first reporting on the Institute of Knowledge’s recent convention (there are more to come…) and an article about what I saw when a group of Kurdish activists protested CAIR’s Los Angeles branch for being sponsored by Turkish Airlines.

* December 5 Update: Just added a new Daily Wire piece on another Islamist leader in Southern California whose influence is rising. Now up to 25 articles this year between the Counter-Islamist Grid, Islamist Watch, and Campus Watch.

* January 3, 2020 Update: A new article for Islamist Watch about Islamist security forces potentially receiving taxpayer money now published at the Daily Wire

* January 16, 2020 Update: A new Counter-Islamist Grid article published at PJ Media about a misguided Muslim comedian supported by Islamist influence group MPAC, and a report at the CIG website featuring expanded interviews and photographs from the Kurds’ protest against CAIR.

*January 29, 2020 Update: On my 36th birthday a new article at the California Courier revisiting the counter-Turkey protests

*February 5, 2020 Update: My first article at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), the organization of leading Muslim Reformer Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. Continue reading “My Counter-Islamist Grid Work So Far: 30 Articles, Photo Essays, and Reports”

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”

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”