The war between the sexes is fought on many fronts, some of them very far away.

There’s a report from one of those fronts in the January 2013 issue of The China Journal. The writer is Katherine A. Mason, billed as “Lecturer in Health and Societies in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Her topic is banqueting, more specifically toasting”€”a key feature of Chinese social life. In a low-trust society such as China’s, “social life” includes all work relationships. Bonds within and between “work units” are formed and maintained by getting drunk at banquets. Only thus, it is believed, can one establish true sincerity“€”a central concept in Chinese life since the Age of Philosophers.

Thus one of Ms. Mason’s Chinese respondents tells her that:

In China, if you want to do anything, you need to talk first. There are a lot of opportunities for talking, but timing is everything…[The] opportune moment is usually when you’re drunk, falling-down drunk…or even losing consciousness, at least when your consciousness is not so good”€”at these times the distance between people is very short. And then when you tell him something, he’ll think, “this is my friend,” and he’ll remember.

“€œYou haven’t made any connection with Chinese culture until you’ve toasted yourself blotto at a Chinese banquet.”€

The toasting ritual is described in gruesome detail:

The host opened by leading a toast of everyone at the table. After a suitable period, the host then toasted the highest-ranking guest for the first time, standing up and saying nice words about their friendship and the bright future of their partnership, and both emptied their glasses. Then the rest of the people at the table toasted the guest. After toasting the guest of honor, each person at the table had to toast each other person at the table individually, usually starting with other important guests, the primary host and other leaders, and working their way to less important guests or colleagues. Once a banqueter toasted someone, that person was then obliged to toast back. If the banqueter toasted the person twice, the other person generally had to toast the banqueter twice, and so on.

As a general rule, in toasting someone else, it was essential to empty one’s glass….

All this is being done with stuff that is, just scanning the excellent selection of Chinese liquor in my cabinet here, from 100 to 112 proof. (Western liquor is typically about 85 proof.) There is a common belief that the Chinese are not great drinkers. This is nonsense. You haven’t made any connection with Chinese culture until you’ve toasted yourself blotto at a Chinese banquet. Then “the distance between people is very short,” true sincerity emerges, bonds of guanxi are formed or strengthened, and things can get done.

Ms. Mason’s problem is that this is all very male. Women have been flooding into the professions in China during the past twenty years. Because of these well-established drinking rituals, they are encountering a glass”€”perhaps that should be “bottle””€”ceiling:

Neither willing nor, in many cases, physically able to imbibe alcohol in the manner of men, women found their ability to advance in their careers and to pursue their own health and happiness to be hampered by the overwhelming imperative to drink.

As in the Wild West, British India, and marriage, the gals are civilizing the men by shaming their male-bonding rituals out of existence:

In the urban centers of the Pearl River Delta, women working in government-affiliated public health work units regularly participated alongside men in banquets and toasting rituals. By drawing attention to the unhealthy and undesirable aspects of banqueting for participants and its negative effects on their work and their careers, however, these women redefined heavy alcohol consumption as a morally deficient act….

Very soon all eyes will turn to Rome and mainstream media will have dissident “€œCatholics“€ bloviating away on the boob tube. They will be “€œvery very disappointed”€ when the cry “€œHabemus Papam!“€ is heard and will dejectedly say, “€œThis selection has put the Church back hundreds of years.”€

I can”€™t wait.

The Church is in a state of sloth from suckling on the state’s teat because most Catholic charities around the world are funded by grants, not the faithful. Priests have disappeared from their confessionals and rectories to hang out in louche leather bars. Lawsuits and inner-city decay have bankrupted dioceses around the world. Folks in Europe don”€™t even pretend the Church exists anymore. So we do not need a black pope, we do not need a pastoral pope, we do not need a friendly pope, and we do not need some smiling old forgettable jackass. We need a son of a bitch pope. We need an unsmiling grumpy old man who says things such as “€œGet your ass to work on corporal works of mercy or you”€™ll go to hell”€ and “Now, therefore, we declare, say, define, and pronounce that for every human creature it is altogether necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff.” If talking-head media libtard gasbags squawk, he can always use the papal form of the old F.U.: “€œI shall remember you in my intentions at Mass.”€

“€œHandicapping the next pope in the world’s editorial pages has been a predictable banality in mankind’s steady march toward ignorance and auto-genocide.”€ 

Do you think popes can”€™t be anything but cheerful avuncular uncle types? Think again. Stephen the VI was an SOB. He dug up his predecessor and had him tried for heresy and mutilated the corpse”€”twice. For three centuries, each new pope had to state at his coronation that he “€œsmites with eternal anathema the originators of the new heresy, Sergius…together with Honorius, because he assisted the base assertion of the heretics.”€ Honorius is Pope Honorius I and the Roman Breviary contained the condemnation of him on the Feast of St. Leo II right up until the 18th century.

Handicapping the next pope in the world’s editorial pages has been a predictable banality in mankind’s steady march toward ignorance and auto-genocide. The mainstream media trot out the usual dissenting “€œCatholics”€ as the enlightened calls for changes in the Church, but they typically miss the point entirely. Tim Stanley has done excellent criticism of papal news coverage in the Telegraph, and Father Dwight Longenecker has brilliantly skewered the media’s coverage of the papacy. I won”€™t belabor the obvious other than to loudly restate clearly and unambiguously: The Catholic Church is a hierarchical church which tells you what you must believe to have a chance of getting to heaven instead of spending eternity in hell. It is not a soft, fluid democracy where you can write an editorial based on the zeitgeist or your own feelings passed off as thoughts and change dogma or ontological actions.

Pope Sonofabitch the 1st should also bring back all the stuff. Pope Paul VI was the last pope to be crowned with the papal tiara, signifying to paleo Ultramontanes such as myself that he was Emperor of the World. He ruined it all by promulgating the worst Mass ever in any language. Father Flake still flagellates his faithful with the bleating folk farts of its arrhythmias today, despite clear warnings from Rome to turn up the volume on the solemnity and turn off the sophistry. Pope Benedict the XVI brought back the papal cross of Pius XII and a nice red Saturno and has sported an ermine cape and hat. But I won”€™t be happy until Pope Sonofabitch the 1st restores the pomp, the pageantry, and his army the Papal Zouaves and then marches on Italy and says, “€œYou fucktards don”€™t know how to run anything. You are doing it my way now.”€ Italy and Europe need a strong sharp kick in the nuts, and Pope Sonofabitch the 1st is just the guy to do it.

With immigration policy back in the news, I’m reminded that when I was a lad 40 years ago, the cutting-edge wisdom was that rapid population growth was a major problem. (Granted, my parents didn’t let me stay up school nights to watch Johnny Carson, who had Paul Ehrlich, author of the bestseller The Population Bomb, on The Tonight Show about 20 times.) Yet nobody else these days seems to remember the arguments that once struck America’s influential classes as persuasive.

Sure, the doomsayers’ prophecies were overblown, but the notion that moderation in the size of the population has its advantages has hardly been debunked. Nevertheless, the conventional wisdom has simply flipped 180 degrees. That an increase in the quantity of residents isn’t an unalloyed good for Americans is now widely sneered at as some crackpot theory that only hippies on acid would countenance. Everybody knows that a bigger population is Good for the Economy.

In the current immigration debate (if we can call the coordinated marketing campaign we’re being subjected to a “debate”), we are told by Wall Street, academia, corporate shills, and the media that a stable population would be a dire fate. (Not that the US is in terrible danger of that: The number of inhabitants has grown by 34 million in this century.) Thus, illegal aliens are doing us a big favor by coming here to have the children they can’t afford to have in their own countries.

And yet the experts enlightening us about the wonders of a bigger populace don’t seem to be in any hurry for their own communities and colleges to grow. From checking the statistics of elite institutions, you might almost get the impression that the “revealed preference” of people who are good at getting what they want is for very slow population growth.

“€œOver the last generation, elite colleges have concentrated upon becoming more elite, not more accessible.”€

A lasting inheritance of the 1960s-1970s is an arsenal of environmental, urban planning, and historical preservation regulations that are used by the rich and intelligent to raise the drawbridge behind them. For example, Greenwich, Connecticut is the home of the hedge-fund industry, which I am told has been doing well. Yet from 2000 to 2010, the Census showed Greenwich’s population inching upward by 0.1 percent.

Over that same decade, Beverly Hills, the centerpiece of the entertainment industry, grew ten times faster: 1.0 percent. (In contrast, the entire country increased almost ten percent, and Bakersfield, California mushroomed over 40 percent.)

What about Cambridge, Massachusetts, America’s academic capital? The site of Harvard and MIT increased 3.8 percent in the last decade. Still, Cambridge is smaller than it was in 1950.

The borough of Manhattan, which has been financially booming since the stock market took off in 1982, grew 3.2 percent over the last decade. Yet Manhattan remains about 30 percent less populous than a century ago.

In the intellectual centers of the Midwest, Evanston, IL (home to Northwestern U.) grew 0.3 percent, while Hyde Park (U. of Chicago) fell 14 percent.

Old-money Palm Beach, Florida declined 20 percent.

Even the trendiest city in 21st-century America, Portland, the subject of countless feature articles and a TV show about youngish white people flocking there for the urban hipster lifestyle (”The dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland”), has grown only about as fast as the national average.

What about Red State America? Surely rich Republicans are practicing what they preach?


Buckhead, “the Beverly Hills of the South,” the north Atlanta neighborhood that was the setting for Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, grew 22 percent in the last decade as Charlie Croker-style developers put up more luxury high-rises. Similarly, the population of affluent Plano, outside of Dallas, rose 17 percent.

Yet the two rich Republican enclaves partially enveloped by Dallas”€”Highland Park and University Park (home of SMU)”€”both lost population from 2000 to 2010.

In 1941, in the plaza de toros of Mexico City, a nineteen-year-old audience member made foolhardy as a result of drinking tequila and reading Hemingway ran down through the stands and leaped into the ring with a half-ton fighting bull. Using his coat as an improvised cape, he managed a few “passes” with it before the matador’s assistants distracted the animal away from him and the police could take him into custody. At this point the crowd complained loudly at the sight of a young man’s courage being punished. The matador, seeing a way to deftly win the crowd’s sympathy before he’d even faced the bull, overcame his natural annoyance at having his bull tampered with and appealed to the plaza president for clemency. The young man was released, and the magnanimous torero invited him, if he had the courage and fortitude, to take a more serious interest and join him for a training session in the plaza the following day.

It’s a dramatic story, yes, but surprisingly familiar to those who know the annals of el mundo de los toros, “the world of the bulls,” AKA el mundillo, “the little world.” It is merely another story of un espontáneo, “a spontaneous one.” (I last saw one in the vast and historic plaza of Seville, La Maestranza, in 2009, when my then-teacher Juan José Padilla was facing the so-called “Bulls of Death,” the Miuras. Since then, I have fought the Miuras myself, and Padilla has gained international fame by losing his eye to a bull, but those are stories for another time.)

“€œBarnaby Conrad was not a man who could ever have written a book like A Farewell to Arms, but he was perhaps all the happier for it, dying at 90 of natural causes rather than blowing his brains out at 61.”€

However, this espontáneo was a little different, being a gringo, an American student from the University of North Carolina in Mexico for a year to study Spanish before transferring on to Yale. It made the newspapers, and he went on to take up the matador”€”in fact a matador de novillos, a novice matador”€”Felix Guzmán, on his offer of lessons in toreo, the word so badly mistranslated into English as “bullfighting.” (The corrida de toros is neither a fight nor a sport of any kind, but a pre-scripted drama with a ritual sacrifice as its final act. The English word was coopted from our own “sport” of pitting dogs against bulls and betting on the outcome, an activity we banned in the mid-19th century, leaving the English with the bulldog as their national symbol just as the bull is Spain’s.)

The gringo’s name was Barnaby Conrad and he was soon gored sufficiently that he not only had to give up”€”temporarily”€”toreo, but he also failed the medical which, like that other bullfighting aficionado Ernest Hemingway before him, kept him out of a World War, in his case the second one. (Hemingway went on to enlist in the ambulance service, which was how he received his wounds and decorations for valor. Conrad was turned down for that as well.)

So Conrad found himself, as his friends lined up to die in Europe and the Far East, entering the diplomatic service. As a man from a family with good connections”€”he listed in his memoir Fun While It Lasted relations from George Washington to the first Governor of Puerto Rico”€”he ended up as Vice Consul in Seville and other cities in Spain from 1943 to 1946.

It was there that he came under the taurine tutelage of Juan Belmonte, a torero often credited as the inventor of modern toreo. For where the antique matador ducked and dodged around the plaza in a display of courage and athleticism, his post-Belmonte counterparts stand stock-still, feet planted in the sand, summoning and sending forth the charging animal using only a piece of red cloth draped over a wooden stick in a ballet that matches wit and nerve against bulk and fury.

It is the aesthetic contrast between the bull’s thundering dynamism and the man’s statuesque form and immovability that provides the artistic content which is the corrida‘s sole raison d’être today. (It is for this reason that the spectacle is on its way to being made a thing of protected “cultural interest” by the Spanish government, having last week passed through the Congress by a landslide of 180 to 40 against, with 107 abstentions. Polls in Spain may usually find the majority of the populace has “no interest” in the bulls per se, but a similarly sized majority also polls against it ever being banned.)

Belmonte was the foremost matador of the period when this stylistic shift occurred in Spain’s fiesta nacional, alongside his friend and rival Joselito, until the latter’s death on the horns of the bull Bailador in 1920, which brought to an end the “Golden Age” in the plazas of Spain. However, while Belmonte”€”along with the aforementioned Mexican torero Guzmán who had been killed by the bull Reventón in 1943″€”supplied his taurine inspiration, it was another famous matador who supplied his literary one.

The Twittersphere got itself into a lather this week after the venerable American parody newspaper The Onion ran an unusually nasty Tweet mocking the Oscars:

Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quevenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?

The Internet”€”never a place that’s far off from a good group tantrum at the best of times”€”immediately exploded with outraged comments and demands for apologies, boycotts, and worse. Some were angry that the joke seemed to target a nine-year-old child. Others were angry that the child in question happens to be black. Some were angry at the mere usage of what newspapers demurely insisted on referring to as “the c-word.”

Then the weird part came”€”after ignoring the rising tide of faux outrage, The Onion issued an apology. Or at any rate, their CEO did:

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive”€”not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

“€œWe live in a world where people on one side understand satire, and on the other side are those who scream in all caps about the difference between SATIRE AND EVIL!!!”€

Then came the even weirder part:

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire. The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

What mistake was that”€”making a joke about the vacuous nature of celebrity gossip culture that was actually kinda funny? Or just generally being in bad taste? Because if either of those are considered a “mistake” by Onion staffers from now on, the magazine will pretty much cease to exist, or else it will become a storage space for the kind of cutesy, inoffensive, neutered PC humor that the magazine generally avoids.

First off, let’s get a few things straight, at least for the hapless souls out there who need to have jokes rigorously explained to them in exhaustingly pedantic detail before they can decide whether they should be allowed to find them funny or not:

1) The joke was not at the expense of Quvenzhané Wallis.
Contrary to what every outraged anonymous commenter shouting for the joke’s writer to be drawn and quartered in the public square seemed to think, the joke was not an “attack” on the nine-year-old actress, it was a joke implicitly at the expense of the People magazine/Perez Hilton mentality of endless catty, infantile jibber-jabber about celebrities. Had the comment been posted in earnest by a private citizen on their Twitter feed the matter might be different, but it was posted in a satirical magazine, hence even the most witless reader should understand that the comment was not meant as a serious attack.

2) Nobody cares if you found the joke funny or not.
Many who demanded the apology insisted the problem resided in the joke not being amusing enough for their tastes, and even Onion CEO Steve Hannah made a point of apologizing for the joke being “humorless” (although I think he actually meant to say “unfunny”). This sort of disingenuous and evasive response is not unlike the intellectuals who declined to defend Salman Rushdie’s right not have his head hacked off with a scimitar because they didn’t really feel that The Satanic Verses was his best work. Not really the point, guys.

Regularly now, The Washington Post, as always concerned with fairness and balance, runs a blog called “Right Turn: Jennifer Rubin’s Take From a Conservative Perspective.”

The blog tells us what the Post regards as conservatism.

On Monday, Rubin declared that America’s “greatest national security threat is Iran.” Do conservatives really believe this?

How is America, with thousands of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, scores of warships in the Med, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, bombers and nuclear subs and land-based missiles able to strike and incinerate Iran within half an hour, threatened by Iran?

Iran has no missile that can reach us, no air force or navy that would survive the first days of war, no nuclear weapons, no bomb-grade uranium from which to build one. All of her nuclear facilities are under constant United Nations surveillance and inspection.

And if this Iran is the “greatest national security threat” faced by the world’s last superpower, why do Iran’s nearest neighbors—Turkey, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan—seem so unafraid of her?

“Why has our Lord Protector not manned up and dealt with Iran himself?”

Citing The Associated Press and Times of Israel, Rubin warns us that “Iran has picked 16 new locations for nuclear plants.”

How many nuclear plants does Iran have now? One, Bushehr.

Begun by the Germans under the shah, Bushehr was taken over by the Russians in 1995, but not completed for 16 years, until 2011. In their dreams, the Iranians, their economy sinking under U.S. and U.N. sanctions, are going to throw up 16 nuclear plants.

Twice Rubin describes our situation today as “scary.”

Remarkable. Our uncles and fathers turned the Empire of the Sun and Third Reich into cinders in four years, and this generation is all wee-weed up over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“For all intents and purposes, (Bibi) Netanyahu is now the West’s protector,” says Rubin. How so? Because Obama and Chuck Hagel seem to lack the testosterone “to execute a military strike on Iran.”

Yet, according to the Christian Science Monitor, Bibi first warned in 1992 that Iran was on course to get the bomb—in three to five years! And still no bomb.

And Bibi has since been prime minister twice. Why has our Lord Protector not manned up and dealt with Iran himself?

Answer: He wants us to do it—and us to take the consequences.

“With regard to Afghanistan, the president is pulling up stakes prematurely,” says Rubin. As we are now in the 12th year of war in Afghanistan, and about to leave thousands of troops behind when we depart in 2014, what is she talking about?

“In Iraq, the absence of U.S. forces on the ground has ushered in a new round of sectarian violence and opened the door for Iran’s growing violence.”

Where to begin. Shia Iran has influence in Iraq because we invaded Iraq, dethroned Sunni Saddam, disbanded his Sunni-led army that had defeated Iran in an eight-year war and presided over the rise to power of the Iraqi Shia majority that now tilts to Iran.

In the otherwise forgettable movie Betsy’s Wedding, the chichi event planner swoons over a cake sample: “It’s so subtle you can’t even taste it!”

That line sprang to mind this week after CNN’s Christiane Amanpour wished Robert Mugabe a happy birthday on Twitter.

Amanpour’s response to the inevitable outbreak of confusion and outrage? She informed her detractors with an almost audible sigh that they had an “irony deficit” that rendered them unable to appreciate her brilliantly witty and supposedly obvious “scorn” for the African dictator.

And indeed, how could we have missed it? Her exact words”€”“Happy Birthday, President Mugabe””€”are fairly dripping with double, nay, triple entendre, no? Remember that time Marilyn Monroe sang to JFK because, as anyone could clearly see, she totally hated his guts?

It’s no secret that cable news is broken. Along with all its other problems, it has a severe problem with humor. Consider MSNBC’s recent round table discussion of “race jokes.”

“€œIt’s no secret that cable news is broken. Along with all its other problems, it has a severe problem with humor.”€

This segment pissed off everyone, left and right, for all the wrong reasons:

“Can you imagine if Fox News had aired this?” “Race is no laughing matter!” “The host clearly hates white people!” “The host’s mother is white, dude!”

And the one I hate most:

“Those jokes weren’t even funny.”

It’s not that the jokes weren’t funny. It’s that they weren’t actually jokes.

OK, there was one. Even with a professional comedian on the panel, only the host, Melissa Harris-Perry, told a joke”€”a Jewish mother-in-law gag, no less.

The other panelists”€“well, the crew of the Pueblo looked more relaxed and certainly made their points more effectively. These MSNBC guests served up meandering word sequences without punch lines, all of which limply mocked”€”you’ll never guess”€”white men.

So much for those brave, iconoclastic, ever-so-clever progressives, who insist ad nauseam that on top of everything else, they’re funnier than conservatives, too.

A scant ten years ago, here’s what a televised “race joke” panel looked like. Note that the funniest, most outspoken participants are non-liberal white males. (PS: The show was quickly canceled.)

How we have fallen. Politically correct “comedy controversies” now occur with menstrual regularity. (Last week it was Lisa Lampanelli Tweeting the word “nigga”.)

Ever since childhood I”€™ve heard that the blacks were good entertainers. As I lurch deeper into adulthood, I confess that I find few things in life more entertaining than the names black people give themselves and their children. Besides basketball, I think we can all agree that coming up with creative names is a craft at which blacks are superior to all other races. When people say there haven”€™t been many black inventors, they ignore all the great names that black people have invented.

Having said that, I also feel that American blacks would be better served were they to channel their abundant creative energies into other fields such as engineering and microbiology. I also feel that by consciously giving themselves ever-blacker names over the past generation or two, black people are practicing a form of linguistic segregation that may be impeding them from living up to their full potential in this society, whatever that potential may be.

Now that singer Jermaine Jackson”€”brother of Michael, Janet, La Toya, and the eternally rotund and underappreciated Tito”€”has legally changed his name to Jermaine Jacksun, I think it’s high time to talk about American blacks and the ridiculous things they do with their names. Yeah, sure, right, well, OK, the “€œJacksun”€ thing sounds like an incredibly insignificant news story, yet somehow I feel it embodies everything that’s wrong with our culture right now. This was the tipping point for me. This was the one that broke my back. This was the one that made me feel that something must be done, that compelled me to finally speak out after years of smoldering silence. This is the Jermost I can take, and I can”€™t take any Jermore.

“€œWhat does it say about our world when Slappy White and Nipsey Russell suddenly seem like reasonable names?”€

He was born Jermaine LaJuane Jackson, as if that wasn”€™t sufficiently ridiculous. After a 1989 conversion to (what else?) Islam, he started also calling himself Mohammad Abdul Aziz. And as of last Friday, he is now legally Jermaine Jacksun. He says he chose the name for “€œartistic reasons”€ and hinted he wanted it to reflect “€œa sunny day in California.”€

Jackson’s lawyer Bret D. Lewis said, “€œIf Prince and P. Diddy can do it, why can”€™t and shouldn”€™t Jermaine?”€

Well, first and foremost, above all else, because it’s stupid, that’s why. The question we should really be asking is why the hell Prince and P. Diddy do it, too.

I mean, it’s not bad enough that Jermaine already has a kid named Jermajesty? (At press time, rumors that he has sired an illegitimate child named Jermonkey with a woman named Jermima appear to be false.) When is a ridiculous black name too ridiculous for the proper functioning of a sane society? Personally, I think we”€™ve reached Peak Black Name and it’s time to start dialing it back a tad.

It wasn”€™t bad enough when Prince, who at least was born Prince Rogers Nelson, changed his name to a symbol and then back to Prince, rendering him The Artist Formerly Known as Prince But Who Is Now Known as Prince Yet Again?

It wasn”€™t sufficient when Snoop Doggy Dogg, born Calvin Broadus, Jr., shortened his name to Snoop Dogg, then threatened to change it to Niggarachi before recently upgrading it to a more Jamaican-flavored Snoop Lion?

When Russell Tyrone Jones kept changing his handle from Ol”€™ Dirty Bastard to Big Baby Jesus to Dirt McGirt, why didn”€™t anyone in the black community stand up and say, “€œPeople, we need to have a talk”€?

It wasn”€™t enough to forever shame the entire black race from ever calling themselves anything ridiculous again after Sean Combs morphed to Sean “€œPuffy”€ Combs to Puff Daddy, then P. Diddy, then Diddy, then Swag, and is now threatening to call himself Sean Combs again? That wasn”€™t a series of teachable moments?

I”€™m not talking about stage names, which are liberally utilized by celebs of all hues. Nor am I trying to allege that only blacks give their children ridiculous names. But what seems to be a predominantly black phenom is the ostentatious, high-profile, mid-career name change, one that occurs after they”€™ve already become famous with another name of either genuine or contrived origin.

In an ongoing attempt to cast off their so-called “€œslave names,”€ black Americans have drifted away from Anglo-sounding names ever since emancipation. At first the names were still rooted somewhat in Western tradition”€”many a black American male was named after a biblical figure or a Roman emperor”€”but as the 1960s kicked in, black American naming traditions more and more resembled a collective middle finger to white America.

Islam was a strong early influence in the renaming process and was felt with special cultural force in sports. Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. Lew Alcindor morphed overnight into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One of the more absurd name switcheroos in sports was when NBA hoopster Lloyd B. Free changed his name to World B. Free in 1981. Intentionally or not, this was mirrored in 2011 when basketball player Ron Artest, known largely for being a violent hothead, changed his name to Metta World Peace.

Perhaps the most egregious case of African American name-changing retardation in pro sports came in 2006 when football player Chad Johnson changed his name to Chad Ochocinco, mistakenly thinking that was the Spanish word for his jersey number 85. (“€œOchocinco”€ means “€œeight five”€ rather than “€œeighty-five.”€) He then announced that he was again changing his name to Haichi Go, which is Japanese for, again, “€œeight five”€ rather than “€œeighty-five.”€ Last July he legally changed his name back to Chad Johnson, claiming he “€œwanted to reconnect with his former self.”€

A roundup of news items from last week (and a few tidbits from the week before).

The White House Press Corps whined about having “€œabsolutely no access”€ to Barack Obama. Less than a day after The New Republic called for a boycott of the annual correspondents”€™ dinner, the president found enough time to hold an off-the-record meeting with top White House reporters. The New York Times Company is selling The Boston Globe, and the conservative weekly Human Events is also for sale. Ann Coulter appeared on Stossel and told his audience that most people think “€œlibertarians are pussies.”€ A reporter at the New York Daily News admitted that he started the “€œFriends of Hamas”€ rumor while conversing with a Republican congressional aide. A pro-gay-marriage group edited video footage of the Bush family into its national advertising campaign, which recently aired on CNN and MSNBC. Former First Lady Laura Bush requested that she be removed from the advertisement, as she had not given any permission to use her likeness. The Associated Press revised its rulebook to approve the journalistic use of “€œhusband”€ and “€œwife”€ when referring to same-sex marriages. A Florida state prosecutor got canned after flashing his badge at a strip joint to evade a 15% surcharge on credit cards. The city of Baltimore paid outside consultants nearly $600K to produce a study instructing the government how to save money.

“€œThe city of Baltimore paid outside consultants nearly $600K to produce a study instructing the government how to save money.”€

Sen. Lindsey Graham told a roomful of constituents that US drone strikes have killed 4,700 people in the Middle East since 2007. Graham’s number is about 1,200 victims higher than averages compiled by Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. The CIA and Pentagon have kept their casualty estimates under close wraps. A spokesman clarified that Graham, who sits on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, was citing independent analyses and did not inadvertently reveal any official record. An Iranian graphics company was caught Photoshopping “€œproof”€ of Ahmadinejad’s newest fighter jet. The Australian Electoral Commission filed Julian Assange’s application to run as a Senate candidate. Assange says that a victory in September will compel the US to drop its espionage investigation. He will run under the WikiLeaks Party. The Ecuadorian government, which granted Assange asylum last year, tapped convicted American hacker Kevin Mitnick to secure its elections. Mexican drug lord Joaquín “€œEl Chapo”€ Guzmán was resurrected after reports of his death in a shootout proved baseless. Murder suspect Oscar Pistorius was granted $113K bail by a South African magistrate who deemed the double amputee not a flight risk.

Playboy plans to release its first iPhone app this winter. In alignment with the puritanism at Apple, all content will be nudity-free. The porn industry hopped on the viral bandwagon with its personal rendition of the “€œHarlem Shake,”€ featuring eight naked starlets and an overly confident pizza-delivery man. Donald Trump’s Twitter feed read, “€œThese hoes think they classy, well that’s the class I”€™m skippen,”€ but Trump claimed the account was hacked. Hackers also targeted Burger King’s Twitter feed, adding a McDonald’s logo to its biographical section with a message asserting that the company had been sold “€œbecause the whopper flopped.”€ Czech student Karel Bílek packed all of The Pirate Bay’s content into a single 75MB file that users can download as a backup in preparation for the website’s potential shutdown. The Pirate Bay is threatening to sue the Finnish organization CIAPC for using similar information in a recent anti-piracy campaign. Internet daters are angry that the math majors behind OkCupid are selling sensitive data to advertisers through its new venture Combosaurus. Georgia Rep. Earnest Smith proposed legislation prohibiting the electronic imposition of someone’s face “€œonto an obscene depiction.”€ Reddit had a field day imposing his face onto obscene depictions. The White House pointed at LulzSec as a threat to national security for conducting “€œeconomic espionage”€ against the US.


This evening is the annual Academy Awards telethon for Harvey Weinstein, and the Academy has again decided to nominate every dull, derivative, and overly melodramatic film appearing in theaters the past twelve months.

There have been over three hundred films about Lincoln. Dozens for the French Revolution, even in song. The same for token films about impoverished empowerment. Endless are the entries of “based on a true story” terrorist capers. In fact, everything else nominated is either passé or redundant.

The following is a guide to a few films of merit the Academy ignored.

John Carter is an excellent picture. It was, however, considered a colossal flop and is expected to be a $200-million loss. At its premiere the movie was shown in 3D, IMAX, and ordinary versions.

When I finally viewed it on the small screen it was exhilarating: imaginative and interesting yet with dramatic action. It is no great philosophical film but is quite fun and enjoyable all the same, much as Raiders of the Lost Ark was before auteurs raised it to ridiculous cult status.

“€œAll these films are highly entertaining and at some points brilliant.”€

It features a handsome brave hero, a beautiful intelligent princess, and a clever resolution which rewards nobility. While there are plenty of green Martians in the film, few other minorities appear.

Years ago a disgusted executive said of The Rocketeer (also produced by Disney) he never wanted to hear another parent complain they couldn’t take their children to the cinema for a pleasant afternoon because when they had the opportunity absolutely nobody went.

No, there is not intelligent life on Mars (at least not now). But the fact that so many patrons turned up their affected noses at the prospect of a little nostalgic diversion is a good indication there isn’t much intelligence left here on Earth, either.

Mad Cow (misnamed Branded in English) was also universally derided by critics. In a cursory reading of comments some of the most common derogatory phrases were that the movie was “illogical” and “difficult to understand.” Given the plot revolves around late-stage communism colliding with late-stage capitalism and the counterintuitive (often counterproductive) actions endemic to modern society, this would seem to validate a viewing.

The central story concerns a young man from Russia maturing into adulthood during the first post-Soviet generation. Anyone who experienced this transition can attest it was decidedly a mixture of hard reality and surreal fantasy, which the film expertly captures. Far from being “pretentious,” as certain detractors claimed, it conveys the absurd dichotomy of heavy drama and light fare at a pace that can produce vertigo.

Cloud Atlas was another poorly rated but well-made film, though its plot is somewhat difficult to dispassionately assess. The movie is absolute and undiluted propaganda of the highest order. Mostly it deals in the sorts of dogma intelligent people disdain”€”all races are of equal ability in all things, every social degeneration is actually societal evolution, and the only distinguishable factor in humanity is separating people with “bad” souls from people with “good” ones.