Archive for the ‘Modern Culture’ Category
“Today, Spanish society is responding to a group of people who have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, their dignity offended, their identity denied and their freedom restricted,” – Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodíguez Zapatero.
On July 3, 2005, Spain became the third nation in the world to eliminate all legal distinctions between same-sex and heterosexual unions. In 2004, the nation’s newly elected Socialist government, led by the nation’s progressive Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, began a campaign pushing for its legalization, including the right for same-sex couples to adopt. However, unlike its famously liberal predecessors, Holland and Belgium, the ratification of this law did not go unopposed, especially amongst Roman Catholic authorities.
Despite support for the law from some 66% of the population, the Roman Catholic Church continues to be an extremely powerful force in Spain. Many prominent Catholic leaders spoke out against the proposed law, claiming that it weakened the institution of marriage and potentially imperiled the morals of children. Shortly after the preliminary vote in April, the archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Ricard María Carlés Gordó, even went so far as to compare government workers that opposed the law but were willing to enforce it to the Nazis at Auschwitz, who “believed that they had to obey the laws of the Nazi government before their own conscience.”
Demonstrations for and against the law drew thousands of people from all parts of Spain. The day that the vote was held, Prime Minister Zapatero unexpectedly took the floor of parliament with a rousing speech in support of the measure, stating that ratifying the law would, “expand the opportunities for happiness of our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends and our relatives,” he said. “At the same time, we are building a more decent society.”
Impressively, the Spanish measure simply adds one sentence to existing law: “Marriage will have the same requirements and results when the two people entering into the contract are of the same sex or of different sexes.” The laws in Holland and Belgium, by contrast, create a separate category of rights for same-sex couples, which fall just short of full equality on issues like adoption. Only the Canadian same-sex marriage law (passed seventeen days later) is comparably comprehensive.
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Even casual fans of Alfred Hitchcock are familiar with the director’s cameo appearances in his films, a quirk that began in 1927 with Hitch’s fifth film “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” and quickly became a defining trademark in his films. Hitchcock made cameo appearances in 39 of his 52 surviving major films over a 50 year period (from 1927-1976). For a brief moment, he would be seen for example boarding a bus, crossing in front of a building, standing in an apartment across the courtyard, or even appearing in a newspaper photograph (required for the film “Lifeboat,” which otherwise provided no other opportunity for him to appear).
With time, Hitchcock’s cameos became increasingly bold and inventive, and fans of the thriller filmmaker would often make a game out of trying to spot the rotund extra, eventually forcing Hitchcock to make his appearance early to avoid any superfluous distractions to the film. His most ingenious cameo appearances were in films with limited sets, as in “Lifeboat” (1944), “Rope” (1948), and “Dial M for Murder” (1954).
In “Lifeboat,” filmed entirely on a boat (thus making an in-person cameo a bit awkward, to say the least), it’s Hitchcock that appears in a weight loss ad in a newspaper. The director can also be seen in photographic form in a class reunion photo in 1954′s “Dial M For Murder.”
A list of all of Hitchcock’s cameos by film:
THE LODGER (1926): At a desk in a newsroom and later in the crowd watching an arrest.
EASY VIRTUE (1927): Walking past a tennis court, carrying a walking stick.
BLACKMAIL (1929): Being bothered by a small boy as he reads a book in the subway.
MURDER (1930): Walking past the house where the murder was committed, about an hour into the movie.
THE 39 STEPS (1935): Tossing some litter while Robert Donat and Lucie Mannheim run from the theater, seven minutes into the movie.
YOUNG AND INNOCENT (1938): Outside the courthouse, holding a camera.
THE LADY VANISHES (1938): Very near the end of the movie, in Victoria Station, wearing a black coat and smoking a cigarette.
REBECCA (1940): Walking near the phone booth in the final part of the film just after George Sanders makes a call.
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940): Early in the movie, after Joel McCrea leaves his hotel, wearing a coat and hat and reading a newspaper.
MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941): Midway through, passing Robert Montgomery in front of his building.
SUSPICION (1941): mailing a letter at the village postbox about 45 minutes in.
SABOTEUR (1942): Standing in front of Cut Rate Drugs in New York as the saboteur’s car stops, an hour in.
SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943): On the train to Santa Rosa, playing cards.
LIFEBOAT (1944): In the “before” and “after” pictures in the newspaper ad for Reduco Obesity Slayer.
SPELLBOUND (1945): Coming out of an elevator at the Empire Hotel, carrying a violin case and smoking a cigarette, 43 minutes in.
NOTORIOUS (1946): At a big party in Claude Rains’s mansion, drinking champagne and then quickly departing, an hour after the film begins.
THE PARADINE CASE (1947): Leaving the train and Cumberland Station, carrying a cello.
ROPE (1948): His trademark can be seen briefly on a neon sign in the view from the apartment window.
UNDER CAPRICORN (1949): In the town square during a parade, wearing a blue coat and brown hat, in the first five minutes. Ten minutes later, he is one of three men on the steps of Government House.
STAGE FRIGHT (1950): Turning to look at Jane Wyman in her disguise as Marlene Dietrich’s maid.
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951): Boarding a train with a double bass fiddle as Farley Granger gets off in his hometown, early in the film.
I CONFESS (1953): Crossing the top of a staircase after the opening credits.
DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954): On the left side of the class-reunion photo, thirteen minutes into the film.
REAR WINDOW (1954): Winding the clock in the songwriter’s apartment, a half hour into the movie.
TO CATCH A THIEF (1955): Ten minutes in, sitting to the left of Cary Grant on a bus.
THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955): Walking past the parked limousine of an old man who is looking at paintings, twenty minutes into the film.
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956): Watching acrobats in the Moroccan marketplace (his back to the camera) just before the murder.
THE WRONG MAN (1956): Narrating the film’s prologue.
VERTIGO (1958): In a gray suit walking in the street, eleven minutes in.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959): Missing a bus during the opening credits.
PSYCHO (1960): Four minutes in, through Janet Leigh’s window as she returns to her office. He is wearing a cowboy hat.
THE BIRDS (1963): Leaving the pet shop with two white terriers as Tippi Hedren enters.
MARNIE (1964): Entering from the left of the hotel corridor after Tippi Hedren passes by, five minutes in.
TORN CURTAIN (1966): Early in the film, sitting in the Hotel d’Angleterre lobby with a blond baby.
TOPAZ (1969): Being pushed in a wheelchair in an airport, half an hour in. Hitchcock gets up from the chair, shakes hands with a man, and walks off to the right.
FRENZY (1972): In the center of a crowd, wearing a bowler hat, three minutes into the film; he is the only one not applauding the speaker.
FAMILY PLOT (1976): In silhouette through the door of the Registrar of Births and Deaths, 41 minutes into the movie.
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“I’m young, I’m handsome, I’m fast, I’m pretty, and can’t possibly be beat. They must fall in the round I call.” – Muhammad Ali.
Any way you slice it, Cassius Clay-cum-Muhammad Ali was quite simply the best Sportsman of all time. Based on purely objective criteria alone, the man’s got unbeatable stats–three-time Heavyweight Champion of the World, Olympic Gold Medalist and one of the youngest and oldest Heavyweight Champions of all time, to name a few of his victories in the ring. In his stand for religious and racial freedom, for his wit, generosity, braggadocio and deep and abiding physical and mental courage, Ali quite literally had it all. Oh, and did I forget to mention his extraordinary, almost otherworldly, sexual magnetism and physical beauty? In his prime, he was the best argument against the privileging of female beauty as a matter of course. Love him or hate him, he is in a class all by himself.
Thus, it is heartbreaking to juxtapose Muhammad Ali’s current state with that of his “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” self; the Muhammad Ali who dazzled opponents with his blinding hand and foot speed, and the Muhammad Ali who would brag, boast, and proclaim that “I am the Greatest!” Ali has developed Parkinson’s Syndrome, a neurological condition that affects motor and speech control.
Unbelievably, it’s been a point of controversy over whether or not Ali’s Parkinson’s-like affliction was the direct result of his boxing career. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those in the “maybe he was born with it” camp also happen to have a vested economic interest in protecting the reputation of the sport.
Trying to sugarcoat boxing is like…. putting lipstick on a pig (I never thought there would come a day when I would quote Sarah Palin).
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Gary Trudeau, the undisputed cream of the “controversial cartoonist” crop, first published his Sunday cartoon strip “Doonesbury” in 1972. The strip follows the ups and downs of a diverse group of characters of various ages, professions and backgrounds, from the President of the United States to the title character, Michael Doonesbury, a middle-aged, remarried father. The name “Doonesbury” is a combination of the word doone (prep school slang for “someone who is out to lunch”) and the surname of Charles Pillsbury, Trudeau’s roommate at Yale University.
Frequently political in nature, “Doonesbury” has been harshly criticized from the get-go by conservatives on account of its unabashedly liberal outlook. Not one to pull his punches, Trudeau’s column began attracting the ire of conservative folks shortly after it began running in “The Abilene Reporter-News”.
In an early controversy, Trudeau’s permanently blissed-out hippie, Zonker, was asked to entertain a boy at a daycare center. He obliged with the tale of a “gentle freak named Douglas” whose kindness to rabbits was rewarded with a weekend in Nirvana. There, the gods gave him “his weight in fine, uncut hashish.”
As soon as the strip appeared, complaints poured in by the truckload.
Shell-shocked by the vitriolic response engendered by the episode, the editor of “The Abilene Reporter-News” wrote, “I have seldom experienced such an angry reaction on anything in my 20 years as the chief editorial executive of this newspaper.” Only a year or so later, Trudeau cemented his fame (and notoriety) in a 1973 strip, which declared that Watergate conspirator John Mitchell was “Guilty, guilty, guilty!!”.
“Doonesbury” continued to push the buttons of uptight types throughout the ’70s and early’80s: his characters “come out of the closet”, commit adultery, and unashamedly consume illegal drugs and copious amounts of alcohol. In 1975, the Editorial Cartoonists’ Society passed a resolution condemning the Pulitzer Prize committee’s decision to award Trudeau the prize for Editorial Cartooning, despite the fact that it was the first time that a cartoonist had won the prestigious award. After confirming that the award could not be revoked, Trudeau famously (and mockingly) supported the resolution. In a famous 1985 incident, the distributors of “Doonesbury” begged Trudeau to withdraw an episode that eviscerated the anti-abortion film “Silent Scream.” True to form, Trudeau shrugged off the entreaty and published it in “The New Republic” instead.
These episodes burnished Trudeau’s reputation and built his audience; for every editor who refused to run them, another two picked up the strip. Sometimes the figure being satirized even issued an angry public rebuttal. The original George Bush, in his vice presidential days, declared that “the American people are going to be speaking out, and we’ll see whether they side with Doonesbury or the Reagan-Bush message.”
Impressively, Trudeau’s inkwell has still not run dry: “Doonesbury” is currently syndicated in approximately 1,400 newspapers worldwide.
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“ Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in–by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.” – Lyndon Johnson
Affirmative action is the nation’s most ambitious attempt to redress its long history of racial and sexual discrimination. The term generally applies to policies that take factors including “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.
These policies target a wide range of areas, including employment, education, public contracting and health programs. However, since President John F. Kennedy’s inception of these policies by Executive Order in 1965, affirmative action has had its share of detractors, most notably from the right.
An increasingly assertive opposition movement argues that the battle to guarantee equal rights for all citizens has already been achieved– and that favoring members of one group over another simply goes against the American way. However, defenders of affirmative action say that the playing field is not level yet – and that granting modest advantages to minorities and women is more than fair, given hundreds of years of discrimination that benefited whites and men.
Opponents of affirmative action do have a point- many qualified applicants are pushed aside for less deserving students on the basis of “affirmative action” admission policies, albeit not usually in favor of the minority applicants that conservatives rail against. Instead, a large share of students gain admission to top-notch institutions through their ties to powerful people, with alumni, donors, faculty members, administrators, and politicians topping the list.
So why aren’t “legacies” opposed with equal vitriol by opponents of affirmative action? Thoughts?
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“There is no fun in Islam.”- Ayatollah Khomeini.
In 2008, Iran’s Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi, called for a crackdown on Western toys, alleging the popular items have damaged the morals of the country’s children. In a letter addressed to Iranian Vice President Parviz Davoudi, he railed against the evils of Western imperialism, stating, “the displays of personalities such as Barbie, Batman, Spiderman and Harry Potter… as well as the irregular importation of unsanctioned computer games and movies are all warning bells to officials in the cultural arena.”
This response is nothing new: the increasing popularity of Western cultural icons has been causing concern in Iran’s clerical establishment for years. In 1996, the head of a government-backed children’s agency called Barbie a “Trojan horse” sneaking in Western influences such as makeup and revealing clothes. Authorities launched a campaign of confiscating Barbies from toy shops in 2002, denouncing the un-Islamic sensibilities of the busty American doll. But the campaign was eventually dropped later that year, when Iran introduced its own competing dolls — the twins Dara and Sara — who were designed to promote traditional values with their modest clothing and pro-family stories. Suffice to say, it seems that only the clerics took to the wholesome twin dolls, and the demand for all things Barbie only grew stronger.
In the hopes of appeasing the impossible to please clerical establishment in the Middle East, Mattel has recently launched its “Arabia line” with a Burkha-clad Barbie named “Fulla”.
At Toyland in Kuwait’s huge Marina Mall, a prominent display is devoted to the Barbie-sized Fulla and six separately packaged outfits. The basic doll comes in her “outdoor fashion,” the black head scarf and long black abaya, or robe, that many Muslim women don in public. Befitting Fulla’s upper-crust status, both abaya and scarf are trimmed in gold. Fulla is 11-1/2 inches tall, like Barbie, and has long black hair with dramatic burgundy streaks. But her look is more demure – a few mascaraed lashes frame big brown eyes and a hint of fuchsia tints her dainty mouth. She’s also noticeably less bosomy than her Mattel counterpart….
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“I feel I have been accepted as a leader in the international sphere – the field in which they said I would never be accepted.” – Margaret Thatcher after her first meeting with President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, 1975.
“If you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman” – Margaret Thatcher, 1965.
Prime Minister of England for 11 years, six months and 24 days (1979-90), Margaret Thatcher holds the distinction of being both the first female head of state in Europe and the longest-serving head of government in Britain in the 20th century. Perhaps more impressively, she has inspired more admiration, disapproval, support and opposition than any other British politician in recent history.
Variously referred to as, ‘Atilla the Hen’, ‘The Blessed Margaret’, ‘The Iron Lady’ and ‘The handbagger’ by the British public, Thatcher was not afraid to court controversy in the service of pushing her political agenda. She ushered in an era of painful reform, privatization, deregulation and tax cutting. At first inflation and unemployment rocketed, and many businesses were driven bankrupt by her tough economic policies. However,—”the lady’s not for turning”— and her resolve eventually jump-started the ailing British economy of the 1970s.
Thatcher is famous for her Herculean work ethic: she allegedly only slept four hours a night, mastered dense briefs in minute detail and was wholly intolerant of “woolly” thinking. In fact, her ambition was such that she took elocution lessons during her childhood, because, she said, “One’s voice is so important”.
Those elocution lessons certainly paid off: Margaret Thatcher’s speeches were released as a Three Disc box set in 2004, and proved to be a chart-topping hit. The Compilation, called “Margaret Thatcher: The Great Speeches,” includes many of her “serious” speeches and some “bonus material”, including the former premier’s appearance in a Yes Minister sketch and the mixing of her words to acid house music…
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