Acculturated http://acculturated.com Pop Culture Matters Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:00:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 50466452 Something Borrowed, Something … Beluga? http://acculturated.com/something-borrowed-something-beluga/ http://acculturated.com/something-borrowed-something-beluga/#respond Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:00:50 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55119

There could be an entire corner of the Internet devoted solely to the misguided people who take animal selfies. There’s Shark Bro, seal selfies, and countless other examples of people wittingly turning themselves into bear bait to get that perfect photo to post to Instagram. Why anyone would need a warning against taking a “tiger selfie” … Continued

The post Something Borrowed, Something … Beluga? appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

There could be an entire corner of the Internet devoted solely to the misguided people who take animal selfies. There’s Shark Bro, seal selfies, and countless other examples of people wittingly turning themselves into bear bait to get that perfect photo to post to Instagram. Why anyone would need a warning against taking a “tiger selfie” is beyond us, but New York state actually passed a law banning such pictures.

The most recent addition to the animal selfie genre involves whales and weddings. And not just any whale, but the rare white beluga whale. That’s right, evidently it’s become a thing to have your wedding photo taken with a photobombing cetacean in the background:

05-whale-wedding-mystic-nocrop-w710-h2147483647

The Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, home to an Arctic Coast exhibit that features beluga whales, has become popular among couples hoping to break the Internet with their wacky and unique wedding photographs. (Take that, Kim and Kanye!) A photo from a wedding at the aquarium went viral back in 2013 when Juno the beluga photobombed a couple posing in front of a large tank. But since then more couples have been making pilgrimages to the aquarium so the beluga can be part of their wedding photo album.

Whale selfies aren’t new, of course. There was the guy who enjoyed a minute of Internet fame after taking selfies with a humpback whale in the Pacific Ocean. And who can forget this clever fellow, who leaped on top of a whale carcass in Australian waters to get the perfect picture, only to realize that the carcass was surrounded by sharks feeding on it, including a great white?

But social media exacerbates people’s tendency to do stupid things when it comes to selfies and animals. When a dead sperm whale washed up in Bali in March, people rushed to take selfies with the creature. As The Daily Mail reported, “when the news spread on social media that the dead whale’s body was lying on the beach, huge crowds gathered to take pictures with some even seen climbing on the animal.”

As for this latest trend, here’s hoping it doesn’t take off. Weddings should be about noble commitments to each other, not harassing some of nature’s most noble creatures. And if that doesn’t convince you to leave the animals alone, consider this: Last year, more people died from taking selfies than shark attacks.

The post Something Borrowed, Something … Beluga? appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/something-borrowed-something-beluga/feed/ 0 55119
How Amazon Brought “Top Gear” Back from the Dead http://acculturated.com/the-grand-tour/ http://acculturated.com/the-grand-tour/#respond Fri, 09 Dec 2016 20:00:12 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55109

Fans of the now-defunct BBC show, Top Gear, which was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond, probably have a favorite episode. Maybe you enjoyed the boys trekking across Africa to find the source of the Nile, stopping only to outfit their vehicles with everything they needed to turn old estate cars into mobile … Continued

The post How Amazon Brought “Top Gear” Back from the Dead appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

Fans of the now-defunct BBC showTop Gear, which was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond, probably have a favorite episode. Maybe you enjoyed the boys trekking across Africa to find the source of the Nile, stopping only to outfit their vehicles with everything they needed to turn old estate cars into mobile hotel rooms and camp kitchens. Or perhaps the most memorable episode for you was Rowan Atkinson’s drive in a reasonably priced car. And who can forget Hammond (a.k.a. “The Hamster”) behaving like an infatuated schoolgirl when Hugh “Lord Grantham” Bonneville turned up? Have phrases such as, “Red and green . . . learn the bloody difference” (from the episode bemoaning cyclists), “It’s the Spirit of the Blitz” (from Hamster’s senior citizens’ concept car episode), or the simple yet powerful “Oh, cock!” (James May—most episodes) made their way into your lexicon? You’re not alone.

The reason the show was so memorable and endearing is that it was a car show that wasn’t about cars; it was about relationships. Yes, there were some positively stunning machines that graced the track, but the cars were only part of the show’s appeal. Clarkson, Hammond, and May took a show geared for petrol heads and did work on the level of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, or No Reservations. They explored humanity—and humanity’s relationship to all sorts of machines that have fundamentally changed the way people live and work.

Unfortunately, producers at the BBC failed to recognize this. Hammond and May resigned after Clarkson was fired by the BBC, bringing the Top Gear we all know and love to an end in 2015 after twenty-two seasons. But the BBC couldn’t let the program go gentle into its final days; instead, it wasted no time in finding “replacements” for Clarkson, May, and Hammond. The result? The show became the Fiat Panda of television: ugly, useless, and predictably boring. (Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc as hosts—really?)

The original Top Gear trio also wasted very little time reviving their popular show. Instead of arguing with statist television networks, they took their product to the free market, where companies like Amazon and Netflix were able to bid for their talent. Amazon ultimately won the rights to the trio’s latest iteration, The Grand Tour; it’s not a coincidence that both of the companies that vied for the show are disruptors and have a fundamentally different model of how their consumers receive their entertainment.

The state-funded BBC doesn’t turn a profit . . . because it doesn’t have to. It’s largely funded by television taxation. See a problem emerging? The WSJ reports that the aged UK television company is barely breaking even, and may have to levy more fees. Top Gear was once the most widely watched factual show in the world. But the BBC was more concerned with maintaining regulations, procedures, protocols, and political correctness than it was with creating successful television entertainment (recall that Clarkson was supposedly fired for arguing belligerently with a producer for the show, but he has a history of saying outlandish and controversial things, which is part of why the show was so popular).

Netflix and Amazon, on the other hand, are both seeing record subscriptions and profit margins. Why? They both concern themselves with delivering a product that consumers want. And the new iteration of Top Gear is more of what viewers loved about the original. The BBC’s new Top Gear was, by contrast, unable to recreate the original hosts’ magic, and its plummeting popularity with viewers reflected that.

In fact, the new show is better than the old Top Gear in three ways:

For one thing, the boys no longer have the BBC playing Big Brother when it comes to monitoring what they say. (Snark away, gents!) Humor works better when free speech isn’t impinged upon. Secondly, America got something right: competition, fueled in part by media innovators like Netflix and Amazon, lured away some of the UK’s top talent. And lastly, the successful rebirth of Top Gear as Grand Tour does more than illustrate that state-sponsored TV is ineffective. It shows us that friendship is more powerful than bureaucracy or government regulation. How fitting it was to watch the trio reboot their show on an innovative platform and showcase three innovative hybrid supercars. Here’s to another twenty-two years of health, humor, and speed to the boys on this side of the Atlantic. We can’t wait to see what they send round the test track next.

The post How Amazon Brought “Top Gear” Back from the Dead appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/the-grand-tour/feed/ 0 55109
The Left’s Illiberal Coercion Strategy Targets Businesses http://acculturated.com/illiberal-coercion-strategy/ http://acculturated.com/illiberal-coercion-strategy/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:00:58 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55102

What do Anheuser-Busch InBev, Grubhub, New Balance, Kellogg’s, and the HGTV show Fixer Upper have in common? On the surface, not a whole lot—except that, over the past several weeks, each one has been the subject of a political controversy. On October 28th, Adweek reported that Anheuser-Busch InBev was ending its parodic “Bud Light Party” … Continued

The post The Left’s Illiberal Coercion Strategy Targets Businesses appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

What do Anheuser-Busch InBev, Grubhub, New Balance, Kellogg’s, and the HGTV show Fixer Upper have in common? On the surface, not a whole lot—except that, over the past several weeks, each one has been the subject of a political controversy.

On October 28th, Adweek reported that Anheuser-Busch InBev was ending its parodic “Bud Light Party” commercials “a little earlier than expected,” following a significant quarterly drop in Bud Light sales. Many of these commercials—which featured comic stars Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen—delivered liberal political messages on issues like same-sex marriage, gender identity, and the (mostly mythical) “wage gap,” all under the guise of spoofing 2016 election advertisements.

Shortly after the Bud Light ads got yanked, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election—and Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney responded by sending an email to employees that declared, “I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can.” Maloney went a step further: “If you do not agree with this statement,” he wrote, “then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team.”

In case you’re wondering, Grubhub is not a left-wing magazine, think tank, or activist group. It’s an online and mobile food-ordering service.

Around the same time that Maloney fired off his dyspeptic missive, New Balance spokesman Matthew LeBretton told the Wall Street Journal that his company was encouraged by Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. Unlike its major competitors, New Balance manufactures its sneakers in the United States, and the company’s leaders fear the TPP would make this business model harder to sustain. “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us,” LeBretton told the Journal, “and frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.”

His comments ignited a firestorm on social media, with many liberals posting photos and videos of their New Balance shoes being trashed or burned. “I back your stance on the TPP but to support a hate monger like Donald Trump is disheartening,” one critic wrote on Instagram. “I believe I’ve bought my last pair.” Another angry owner—or former owner—of New Balances dumped them in the garbage and excoriated the company “for publicly endorsing a racist, sexist, hate mongering President elect.”

Then things really got batty, with a white-supremacist website calling New Balances “the official shoes of white people.” As the craziness mounted, New Balance posted a statement online:

“New Balance does not tolerate bigotry or hate in any form. One of our officials was recently asked to comment on a trade policy that was taken out of context. As a 110-year old company with five factories in the U.S. and thousands of employees worldwide from all races, genders, cultures and sexual orientations, New Balance is a values-driven organization and culture that believes in humanity, integrity, community and mutual respect for people around the world. We have been and always will be committed to manufacturing in the United States.”

More recently, Kellogg’s announced that it would no longer let its advertisements appear on the conservative website Breitbart News, pointing to its corporate “values” as the reason. “We regularly work with our media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that are not aligned with our values as a company,” Kellogg’s spokeswoman Kris Charles explained to the Washington Post. “We recently reviewed the list of sites where our ads can be placed and decided to discontinue advertising on Breitbart.com. We are working to remove our ads from that site.” According to the Post, the other U.S. companies now shunning Breitbart include Allstate, EarthLink, Nest, SoFi, and Warby Parker. (A number of prominent German companies, including BMW, have done the same.)

Meanwhile, on November 29th, BuzzFeed correspondent Kate Aurthur published an article on Chip and Joanna Gaines, the husband-and-wife hosts of HGTV’s popular show Fixer Upper. Noting that the Gaineses attend Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, Aurthur informed readers that Antioch’s pastor is a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage. “So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage?” she asked. “And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers?” Aurthur did not answer these questions in her initial piece, because she published it without hearing back from the Gaineses’ PR representative or from HGTV.

A few days later, HGTV sent an email to BuzzFeed that said: “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”

What’s the common theme that ties all these stories together? Simply put, liberals are finding it increasingly difficult to separate politics from . . . well, just about everything else.

Some of the examples cited above may seem trivial. Yet it was not trivial when, earlier this year, Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro to protest North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law, or when the National Basketball Association lodged its own protest of the law by moving its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans. And it certainly was not trivial when, in 2014, Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla merely because he had donated money to support a statewide ban on same-sex marriage in California.

If these trends continue, and the political sphere keeps engulfing more and more areas of American life, it will be harder to maintain the type of vibrant civil society that Alexis de Tocqueville identified as crucial to our democracy.

Just to be clear: The issue at stake is not whether, say, same-sex marriage is a good idea or a bad idea. For the record, I happen to favor same-sex marriage. So does writer Brandon Ambrosino; indeed, he is planning his own same-sex wedding right now. Yet Ambrosino also recognizes the troubling implications of what BuzzFeed and others are doing. Here’s what he wrote in the Washington Post in response to the article on Chip and Joanna Gaines:

The minds at BuzzFeed are not naive: They know that the Gaineses and HGTV are going to have to come out with a public statement on same-sex marriage. They also know that if the statement is not 100 percent supportive of same-sex marriage, the network will be pressured to drop them.

Think about that for a moment. Is the suggestion here that 40 percent of Americans are unemployable because of their religious convictions on marriage? That the companies that employ them deserve to be boycotted until they yield to the other side of the debate—a side, we should note, that is only slightly larger than the one being shouted down?

The Left understands that winning ideological victories through cultural coercion is easier than winning through democratic persuasion. Put differently: It understands that delegitimizing people is the quickest way to nullify their arguments.

As Mark Steyn noted after the Kellogg’s announcement regarding Breitbart: “The real target here is not Breitbart so much as the incoming President of the United States, who has appointed Breitbart honcho Steve Bannon as a senior counselor. The losing side in the election wants to ‘de-normalize’ Trump and his administration, by in effect de-legitimizing his voters and their electoral victory.”

The irony, of course, is that liberals previously expressed fears that Trump would seek to delegitimize the election outcome. Instead, they are the ones ratcheting up America’s political and cultural polarization in hopes of undermining the president-elect before he even takes office.

There’s also a deeper irony: The same people who constantly extol the benefits of diversity are now demanding mass conformity on a growing number of public-policy issues. In that sense, they’ve become far more anti-intellectual than the Trump voters they love to scorn.

The scorn and derision backfired on November 8th, and the relentless politicization of everything will backfire too. Unfortunately, it’s already done serious damage to America’s civic health and social cohesion.

The post The Left’s Illiberal Coercion Strategy Targets Businesses appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/illiberal-coercion-strategy/feed/ 1 55102
Why the Left Doesn’t Like Kellyanne Conway’s Message About Work-Life Balance http://acculturated.com/kellyanne-conways-message/ http://acculturated.com/kellyanne-conways-message/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 15:48:39 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55097

Kellyanne Conway recently became the first woman to successfully lead a winning presidential campaign. It’s not the first time she’s been a ground-breaker: Conway started her polling company in 1995 when she was just twenty-eight years old. In different circumstances, she’d be feminist favorite and heralded as a role model. Yet because she’s an unapologetic … Continued

The post Why the Left Doesn’t Like Kellyanne Conway’s Message About Work-Life Balance appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

Kellyanne Conway recently became the first woman to successfully lead a winning presidential campaign. It’s not the first time she’s been a ground-breaker: Conway started her polling company in 1995 when she was just twenty-eight years old. In different circumstances, she’d be feminist favorite and heralded as a role model. Yet because she’s an unapologetic conservative—and even worse, one that helped elect Donald Trump—she’s reviled by the Left, and a target for vicious attacks.

Conway’s latest sin is her candid remarks about why she decided not to accept a top White House job. According to Politico, here’s how Conway described explaining her decision to male colleagues:

I do politely mention to them the question isn’t would you take the job, the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House. The question is would you want your wife to . . . Would you want the mother of your children to? You really see their entire visage change. It’s like, oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.

Slate‘s Suzanne Monyak bristles at Conway’s thought experiment and—surprise, surprise—finds a way to read an implicit insult of other working women into Conway’s remarks. In her piece entitled, “Kellyanne Conway Suggests that Women with Kids Shouldn’t Take Jobs in the White House,” Monyak writes:

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said that mothers should not accept high-powered career opportunities—a standard that does not apply to fathers, in Conway’s opinion . . .

The problem with Conway’s comments is not that she values her family or spending time with her young children. It’s that she seems to believe that it is the onus of the woman in a family to sacrifice her career opportunities so that her husband may have his. Even more troubling, Conway implies that no good mother should take on such a job—an attitude that feels ripped out of Mad Men.

Yet that’s not what Conway said at all, and it would be bizarre if she did offer such sweeping pronouncements about what constitutes a good mother. After all, Kellyanne has been running a major polling company the entire time she’s been a parent. She’s just spent the last several months leading a round-the-clock presidential campaign. This is hardly June Cleaver lecturing other women not to lean in.

Rather, what Conway dared to do was to describe honestly how most married couples approach major work-life decisions without the politically correct caveats that the Left wants people to use. If that had been her style, she might have added: “Of course, there are women who would jump at the chance for a West Wing job and they could still be wonderful mothers, and there are some husbands who would happily cheer them on. That’s great for them!” Or, “Certainly plenty of women, upon hearing that their partners are considering such a time-consuming job, would forcefully object. Men have balancing acts too!”

But she didn’t bother with that. She spoke about her own experience and her desire to be the hands-on parent, which she knows is also how many women approach such decisions. We can debate endlessly why women disproportionally assume the primary parenting role, if it’s nature or nurture or some combination thereof, and how it might possibly change. Yet that’s reality today, and Conway simply has the sense and candor to put it out there.

President Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett encouraged Conway to reconsider: “I encourage Kellyanne to try it . . . You can always leave. You can always leave if it doesn’t work out.” And that’s great advice—especially for those of us who would like to see Kellyanne Conway in a leading role in the next administration.

But Jarrett isn’t the only woman who’s had something to say about the experience of balancing work and family life while working in an Administration, even under a supposedly in-tune-to-women’s-needs boss like President Obama. Anne Marie Slaughter, who had been the director of policy planning at the State Department, wrote “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in The Atlantic after quitting her job because she felt she had lost too much time with her sons. Slaughter wrote that she’d been told, “You can’t say that!” when she described her plans to write the article, but she did write it. Naturally, Slaughter (a liberal feminist in good standing!) was mostly applauded for her piece, especially since she intoned about how the work world should change to make it easier for parents (but particularly women) to balance powerful jobs and family life.

Conway recognizes that such demanding positions aren’t easy to reshape, even when people are committed to helping working women balance their work and home lives, as Conway says the President-Elect is. She also knows she’ll have a role to play the next four years, but is waiting to make sure that whatever position she accepts fits her goals, both professional and private. Good for her. She’s not discouraging other women from pursuing their dreams; she’s showing how a powerful woman doesn’t have to settle and can instead shape the life she wants. Isn’t that what feminism is supposed to be about?

The post Why the Left Doesn’t Like Kellyanne Conway’s Message About Work-Life Balance appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/kellyanne-conways-message/feed/ 3 55097
Finally, a Movie that Gets Romance Right: “La La Land” http://acculturated.com/la-la-land/ http://acculturated.com/la-la-land/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2016 21:00:32 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55076

The new movie La La Land is hoovering up nominations this awards season. Critics are cheering its stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and it’s an event whenever Hollywood makes another movie musical. But that’s not why people should rush out to see it. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) delivers the most unabashedly romantic movie in … Continued

The post Finally, a Movie that Gets Romance Right: “La La Land” appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

The new movie La La Land is hoovering up nominations this awards season. Critics are cheering its stars, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and it’s an event whenever Hollywood makes another movie musical.

But that’s not why people should rush out to see it.

Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) delivers the most unabashedly romantic movie in ages. By romantic, I mean the story is full of courtship rituals, moist-eyed glances, and the longing that comes from separation. It’s PG-13, and aside from some mature language, you won’t cringe while watching it with your impressionable teens or your grandma.

It’s the kind of movie Hollywood once delivered with alacrity. Today, the rom-com is all but dead. We’re more likely to see movies featuring “friends with benefits” than a simple tale of boy meets girl. These days, it’s more like boy meets girl, girl spins some wild tale in order to lure him in, he, in turn, sets up this elaborate prank to get her attention. . .

Exhausted yet? Then you haven’t seen How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or anything with Kate Hudson, for that matter. Heck, When Harry Met Sally, the pinnacle of the rom-com genre, is more than two decades old, and we still haven’t found decent replacements for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as America’s sweethearts. Movie romance circa 2016 is raucous sex featuring foul-mouthed superheroes or comediennes. (Sorry, Deadpool and Amy Schumer. We love you, but it’s just not the same).

This is why La La Land is such a revelation, above and beyond its ebullient dance numbers and irresistible set design. If you’re a single guy, walk, don’t run, to take a date to this movie.

The story follows Mia (Stone), a wannabe actress who keeps flunking auditions. She repeatedly bumps into a jazz pianist named Sebastian (Gosling), who is aching for his own break. . . but on his own terms. They fight—and flirt—and before you know it they’re walking around a studio lot opening up about their deepest dreams. You know, having a real conversation between young adults.

They don’t “hook up” or have meaningless sex. Nor do they wisecrack about their romance with a gratuitous, generic “best friend” character. They start a courtship process, the kind that seems hopelessly old-fashioned and wonderful at the same time.

Perhaps the most romantic moment comes (spoiler alert!) when Sebastian reaches out for Mia’s hand in a movie theater. Their fingers hesitate and then intertwine. It’s simple, but beautiful.

Of course, we’re also treated to some sumptuous musical numbers that capture the experience of falling in love in ways no other medium can. Chazelle ingeniously channels what made the era of great musicals wondrous without forgetting we’re in the 21st century.

Stone and Gosling surrender to the concept. They don’t offer ironic winks or suggestions that they’re too cool for a movie musical. They’re in love with the format as much as the characters are with each other. The movie is similarly in love with Los Angeles, making the City of Angels look like the most wonderful place for romance. (Not a small feat if you know Los Angeles).

We’ve seen flashes of old-school movie romance in recent years. I recall an audience literally swooning when Scott Eastwood’s character brings flowers along on his first date in the 2015 The Longest Ride. This year’s New Life lacked the cynicism permeating most romances. The recent Oscar nominee Brooklyn offered romance from the indie film ranks.

Will La La Land provide an overdue course correction for movie romances?

That may depend on whether or not crowds embrace the musical format. It’s Oscar season, and the competition is fierce across the board. There’s also a lot of competition for audience’s attention during the holiday movie season. Couples may line up to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and figure they’ve hit their allotted theater time.

That would be a shame. A fine movie romance like the one portrayed in La La Land deserves all the love it can get.

The post Finally, a Movie that Gets Romance Right: “La La Land” appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/la-la-land/feed/ 0 55076
Why Don’t More People Teach Manners? http://acculturated.com/why-dont-more-people-teach-manners/ http://acculturated.com/why-dont-more-people-teach-manners/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 18:00:10 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55070

As I was walking out the door of a CVS last week, a woman walked right into a man standing in place and kept going without a word. The man was visibly perturbed, and finally after a few seconds asked with exasperation, “Could you please just say ‘I’m sorry?’” He sounded desperate, as if in … Continued

The post Why Don’t More People Teach Manners? appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

As I was walking out the door of a CVS last week, a woman walked right into a man standing in place and kept going without a word. The man was visibly perturbed, and finally after a few seconds asked with exasperation, “Could you please just say ‘I’m sorry?’” He sounded desperate, as if in search of just one remaining relic of common decency in society.

I don’t think he is alone.

My own husband frequently laments the demise of the words “Excuse me,” both when someone has bumped into you or when someone would like to get past. I’ve noticed the rise of a new phenomenon in the aisles of various stores and markets in Washington, DC, in which, rather than just utter those words, a person will stand and stare at you, sometimes for a weirdly long amount of time, rather than just say, “Excuse me.” And I’ve noticed that when I find myself needing to get past someone and they can’t see me and I cheerfully exclaim the pleasantry, I get looked at like I just said something like, “Cancer is awesome.” People actually give me dirty looks for saying, “Excuse me.”

Then I sit down at night and watch Netflix’s The Crown and wonder what the deuce happened in just a handful of decades?

Seriously, what happened to manners? I get that the days of hat-tipping and curtseying are long gone, but yesterday a man belched in my face and didn’t even look embarrassed. Is it all over? Is civilization on course to become a modern-day Zootopia?

I don’t exactly know what happened, but one British couple in Florida has set out to change things. They’ve started offering “etiquette lessons” to kids from toddlers to teenagers, teaching “vital skills such as how to behave at dinner, maintaining the correct posture, how to set a table and learning how to politely respond to questions and look people in the eye.” According to the older couple, they want to help equip these children for something pretty basic: the ability to “socialize.”

“[O]nce they learn these skills it stays with them their whole lives,” one of them told the Daily Mail.

They make an important point. Manners are not just some fanciful tradition. For starters, they are about treating others with respect, a word we never seem to hear the end of in the post-liberal P.C. world. But manners are also like a little tool-box that helps you function as an adult. Without manners, children will grow into adults with major handicaps when it comes to dating, working, and simply maintaining meaningful relationships. Like feeding kids a decent diet and giving them an education, teaching kids manners is rightfully considered a basic part of helping them to thrive.

And our British friends in Florida are not the only ones to figure this out. The New York Times featured the rise in manner classes for kids, the men’s blog “The Art of Manliness” features a post on table manners as an “essential skill for men,” and manners guru Emily Post and her daughter wrote a book called Mr. Manners, attributing Barack Obama’s ascendance to the Oval Office to his polished etiquette.

As another accomplished American statesman, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once put it, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”

We can’t all be rich, beautiful, smart, or charming, but we can all have good manners, if someone is kind enough to teach us.

The post Why Don’t More People Teach Manners? appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/why-dont-more-people-teach-manners/feed/ 1 55070
Are We Overusing the Word ‘Hero’? http://acculturated.com/overusing-the-word-hero/ http://acculturated.com/overusing-the-word-hero/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 15:00:40 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55064

In the 1994 Robert Redford-directed Quiz Show, professor Charles Van Doren confesses in testimony before Congress that he had knowingly participated in the rigging of a TV game show which led to a shocking national scandal. The charming Van Doren, played by Ralph Fiennes, is so sincere and humble in his mea culpa that the … Continued

The post Are We Overusing the Word ‘Hero’? appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

In the 1994 Robert Redford-directed Quiz Show, professor Charles Van Doren confesses in testimony before Congress that he had knowingly participated in the rigging of a TV game show which led to a shocking national scandal. The charming Van Doren, played by Ralph Fiennes, is so sincere and humble in his mea culpa that the investigative committee members are won over; one after another commends him for his “soul-searching fortitude” rather than holding him accountable for the deception he helped perpetrate against the American public.

That is, until one Congressman has the moral clarity to point out to Van Doren that “an adult of your intelligence should not be commended for simply and at long last telling the truth.”

I thought about this scene as I read a recent interview that appeared in the UK with actor Tom Hanks and director Clint Eastwood, who teamed up for Sully: Miracle On the Hudson. The movie is based on the real-life heroism of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who piloted a stricken passenger plane safely into New York’s Hudson River in 2009, saving the lives of all 155 people onboard. (The film has already left theaters here in the States, but it opened in the UK just this past weekend).

Eastwood said that Sullenberger deserves the label “hero” but that it has otherwise been devalued thanks to political correctness. “It’s certainly different to when I grew up,” said Eastwood. “It’s all in this sort of politically correct thing where everyone has to win a prize. All the little boys in the class have to go home with a first place trophy. The use of the word ‘hero’ is a little bit overdone but I don’t think so in Sully’s case. He went extra and beyond what was expected.”

Hanks, who played Sully, agreed. “The textbook definition of a hero is someone who voluntarily puts themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of others.”

Spot on, Tom. Personal sacrifice in the act of service to others is the essential ingredient of modern heroism (as opposed to the classical notion of heroism, which was centered on great deeds undertaken in the pursuit of personal glory). “That happens on occasion,” Hanks continued, but today “hero” is “ridiculously overused” and has become “a shorthand for accomplishment.”

“Not all accomplishments are heroic accomplishments,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just people doing the right thing and you don’t necessarily deserve kudos for doing the right thing”—precisely the point the Congressman made to Charles Van Doren in Quiz Show.

Doing the right thing is not always easy and indeed, sometimes the consequences are painful. But it should be the baseline for our behavior. It should be the standard by which we live our lives, decision by decision, moment by moment. Doing the right thing is honorable but not necessarily heroic.

Among CNN’s Top Ten Heroes of 2015, for example, were: a woman in Surinam who has rescued, rehabilitated, and released hundreds of mammals back to the rainforest and created a conservation nonprofit organization; a Native American woman whose nonprofit helps members of a South Dakota Sioux reservation with employment, safe housing, and healthy food; and an orthopedic surgeon who treats patients in Chicago’s troubled neighborhoods, regardless of their ability to pay.

These people clearly and admirably have dedicated themselves to serving others; they unquestionably are making the world a better place. Are they heroes in the strictest sense of sacrificing for others, of putting their lives on the line? Their CNN profiles don’t indicate so.

This is not in any way to suggest that CNN “Top Ten Heroes” have not sacrificed, accomplished remarkable things, and earned our praise—only that we must be careful not to devalue the word “heroism,” which should require an element of extraordinary risk; it should be considered the highest level to which we strive to rise when dire circumstances demand it.

Tom Hanks acknowledges this distinction. Asked whether he drew on any real-life near-death experiences when filming Sully’s harrowing landing scene, he refreshingly admitted to being no hero. “I’m a pussy, man. I’m an actor. I haven’t done anything that’s near death. Once I had to swim in the open ocean in Cast Away. Oh, jeepers. Terrible. Crazy. I’ve never experienced anything remotely like this.”

That having been said, Hanks may have overstated the point when he said, “Heroism is rare as lightning storms.” While dramatic examples of heroism like Chesley Sullenberger’s miracle water landing may be few and far between, there are less celebrated heroes who move among us every day—in police uniforms, military uniforms, and firefighting gear, for example—ready and willing to put their lives on the line for others. And all the rest of us at least have the potential to rise to the occasion—even Tom Hanks, I suspect.

The post Are We Overusing the Word ‘Hero’? appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/overusing-the-word-hero/feed/ 1 55064
The Virtues of Christmas Music—Even When It’s Played 24/7 http://acculturated.com/virtues-of-christmas-music/ http://acculturated.com/virtues-of-christmas-music/#respond Wed, 07 Dec 2016 18:00:12 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55040

For many Christians, the quiet promise of Advent has given way to a mourning and gnashing of teeth more befitting Lent. The cause? The annual lament over crèches disappearing from public spaces and society’s insistence on wan “holiday” concerts and greetings. But in focusing on skirmishes lost, Christians overlook ground they hold firmly: the message … Continued

The post The Virtues of Christmas Music—Even When It’s Played 24/7 appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

For many Christians, the quiet promise of Advent has given way to a mourning and gnashing of teeth more befitting Lent. The cause? The annual lament over crèches disappearing from public spaces and society’s insistence on wan “holiday” concerts and greetings.

But in focusing on skirmishes lost, Christians overlook ground they hold firmly: the message of the season, as expressed in Christmas music.

Christmas music is the ultimate crossover vehicle; after all, the takeover of secular radio stations by Christian music now lasts nearly two months (one-sixth!) of the year. Amy Grant and other Christian performers are regularly lambasted by believers when they dare tread onto secular turf, but when Christian hymns begin blaring on pop stations—in some cases, as early as late October—the religious “nones” meekly retreat. They can’t complain; the programming is too profitable for their media overlords.

In this, Christmas music is a David wreathed in holly, his slingshot aimed at the secular Goliath. And sorry as I am every time a manger disappears from a public square, if given a choice between the loss of a ceramic Jesus next to a plastic menorah or Christmas carols on public airwaves, I’ll take the music, thanks very much.

“Carols and hymns are amazingly succinct theological statements. There is more theology in a few words of poetry than you can possibly imagine. You can have a whole sermon in four lines,” Wesley Theological Seminary professor Eileen Guenther told Kim Lawton, managing editor of Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly, last year.

True, much of the music that fills the airwaves at this time of year is rubbish (“Last Christmas”) but it is mercifully balanced with more dignified fare. “O Holy Night” is currently in Billboard’s holiday contemporary Top 20, a bigger miracle than any kid scrounging for money for his dying mom’s Christmas shoes, which is what happens in “The Christmas Shoes” song.

The magnitude of this is dismissed by some who do not share evangelist Larry Sparks’ belief that carols on the radio are evidence of the supernatural power of Christmas itself. One writer for Al Jazeera America called holiday programming “one of radio’s most profitable gimmicks.”

If so, the Church itself should bring on the gimmicks.

At random times over the past week, I’ve turned on a secular radio station in Boston and heard these words:

“Tell all the world, Jesus is king.”

“Thy son shall be Emmanuel as seers foretold.”

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining/’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

“Glorious now, behold Him arise/King and God and sacrifice.”

And yet nobody pickets.

Amy Grant, who knows a little bit about crossing over, told Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly that “music is bigger than the people who write it,” a truth known by anyone who’s ever been to a performance of “Messiah,” which Handel is said to have written in twenty-four days. (Which should cause all of us to ask ourselves every month what we have accomplished in the past twenty-four days.)

Of her childhood, Grant says, “I cannot remember one sermon, not one. But the songs—I had memorized probably a hundred Christmas hymns by the time I was ten years old. To me, that’s how we learn and remember, how we get the story.”

So the next time Christians are tempted to despair about Christmas lost (or, worse, last), rue not George Michael, for he drives a certain demographic to the airwaves, and like it or not, they will also hear there a message that some of us believe is of eternal import.

Peace on earth, good will toward iHeartMedia, Cumulus Radio, and all the other stations broadcasting Christmas music this season. In their quest for profit, they accidentally spread the Gospel. Let heaven and nature sing.

The post The Virtues of Christmas Music—Even When It’s Played 24/7 appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/virtues-of-christmas-music/feed/ 0 55040
How Fiona Apple Stole Christmas http://acculturated.com/how-fiona-apple-stole-christmas/ http://acculturated.com/how-fiona-apple-stole-christmas/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:30:02 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55046

Remember Fiona Apple? She was a late-1990s alt-rock heroine who has continued recording and touring sporadically over the years (she once infamously canceled part of her tour because her dog was sick). Well, she’s back—just in time to spoil the holidays with a little narcissistic political posturing. According to New York magazine, a weird video has … Continued

The post How Fiona Apple Stole Christmas appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

Remember Fiona Apple? She was a late-1990s alt-rock heroine who has continued recording and touring sporadically over the years (she once infamously canceled part of her tour because her dog was sick).

Well, she’s back—just in time to spoil the holidays with a little narcissistic political posturing.

According to New York magazine, a weird video has surfaced of Apple singing an anti-Trump version of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.”

The video, which features a messy-haired Apple staring down into the camera and a dog barking in the background, is not exactly family-friendly holiday fare. It begins with Apple singing, “Trump’s nuts roasting on an open fire” and goes downhill from there, with lyrics painting Trump as a pedophiliac “creepy uncle.” At the end of the song, after singing “Donald Trump, f**k you,” Apple channels Sinead O’Connor’s infamous stunt and rips up a photo of Trump.

Imagine, if you will, that a conservative singer had made a similar parody song about Barack Obama just after his election. It’s unlikely she would have been met with the swooning comments Apple got on New York magazine’s site (“She’s a goddess!” one wrote. “Thank you thank you thank you!” says another). A writer for Mashable even praised Apple for her “fresh take on a classic sentiment.”

After a difficult election season, and with the holidays approaching, one would think that celebrities, of all people (cocooned as they are from the troubles of the real world and able to cancel lucrative tours to nurse their pets), could set aside their political partisanship and just enjoy Christmas. No such luck. As the New Year begins, and Trump is sworn in as President, remember stunts like Apple’s when the liberal celebrity mainstream is calling on Trump to be nice and civil. If celebrities want live in a kinder, gentler, more tolerant culture, they should start by practicing what they preach.

The post How Fiona Apple Stole Christmas appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/how-fiona-apple-stole-christmas/feed/ 2 55046
Leave Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” Alone http://acculturated.com/chip-and-joanna-gaines/ http://acculturated.com/chip-and-joanna-gaines/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 15:00:38 +0000 http://acculturated.com/?p=55035

One of the most popular, enjoyable reality shows on television these days can be found on Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. on HGTV. Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines of Waco, TX, is a wholesome, hour-long program that finds people who are in the market for a new home and has them work with … Continued

The post Leave Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” Alone appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>

One of the most popular, enjoyable reality shows on television these days can be found on Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. on HGTV.

Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines of Waco, TX, is a wholesome, hour-long program that finds people who are in the market for a new home and has them work with the Gaines’ to purchase a house that needs renovation; viewers then watch the property’s transformation throughout the episode.

Season 4 premiered last week:

Being the nose-to-the-grindstone, respected journalists that they are, BuzzFeed chose to piggyback off of the Fixer Upper premiere with a story about the church that Chip and Joanna Gaines attend in the Waco area:

The Gaines’ are also, as they detail in The Magnolia Story, devout Christians — Joanna has spoken of and written about her conversations with God. (God told her both to close her store to spend time with her children, and then to reopen it a few years later.) Their church, Antioch Community Church, is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. And their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as “dear friends” in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.

So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers?

You might remember the author of this hard-hitting blog-post, Kate Arthur, from such Pulitzer-worthy pieces as, “CBS’ New Shows Feature a Whole Lot of White Guys” and “9 Things You Need to Know About Anderson Cooper’s Documentary With His Mom.”

Ms. Arthur’s approach to journalism involves recounting the numerous politically incorrect sins of the evangelical pastor and church that these reality TV show stars are linked to in Waco, TX. She parses old sermons, provides in-depth exegetical analysis of the church’s mission statement, and prompts her readers with leading questions that can only mean one thing—Chip and Joanna Gaines must hate gay people!

Chip and Joanna Gaines have been on television for three years. They have given numerous high-profile interviews on programs like The Today Show. They’ve even released one of those I AM SECOND videos in which they candidly discuss their Christian faith. No one had a problem with the Gaines’ or where their family went to church until Fixer Upper’s popularity increased. Now, apparently, it is fair game to begin the witch-hunts, and Chip and Joanna must be held accountable for not disclosing the full scope and breadth of their pastor’s theology to us sooner.

The popularity of Fixer Upper is rooted in the likable personalities, warm-hearted Southern hospitality, and experience-based creativity of the show’s co-hosts. The Gaines’ ooze authenticity and charm. Their passion for their family, their work, and the homeowners they partner with is contagious. Chip is a goofy, lovable contractor who doesn’t have a bad word to say about anyone. Joanna is a strong, confident mother of four who also runs her own home decorating company.

Fixer Upper isn’t a cause-oriented show. Chip and Joanna Gaines are not preaching from Scripture in between scenes. Despite what BuzzFeed or Lena Dunham might tell you, it is still legal to simply watch something on TV for pleasure rather than to hear political complaints. Fixer Upper is a welcome respite from a culture currently in the grips of angry political disagreement.

Can we give it a rest for a minute and get back to watching Chip eat cockroaches on a dare?

The post Leave Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” Alone appeared first on Acculturated.

]]>
http://acculturated.com/chip-and-joanna-gaines/feed/ 1 55035