1. "The case for more guns (and more gun control)"
Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic
The past week has seen at least two tragic shootings in the United States: On Tuesday, a gunman (allegedly 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts) fatally shot two people at the Clackamas Town Center in Oregon before committing suicide. And on Friday, a gunman who law enforcement officials identified as Adam Lanza allegedly killed 27 people (including 20 children) at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before turning his gun on himself. The shootings have inspired people to revisit the long national debate over guns in America, weighing the balance between stricter gun control and the right to bear arms. In the most recent issue of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg makes the case that more Americans should arm themselves — but that gun control should also be stricter:
The ideology of gun-ownership absolutism doesn't appeal to me. Unlike hard-line gun-rights advocates, I do not believe that unregulated gun ownership is a defense against the rise of totalitarianism in America, because I do not think that America is ripe for totalitarianism. (Fear of a tyrannical, gun-seizing president is the reason many gun owners oppose firearms registration.) But I am sympathetic to the idea of armed self-defense, because it does often work, because encouraging learned helplessness is morally corrupt, and because, however much I might wish it, the United States is not going to become Canada. Guns are with us, whether we like it or not. Maybe this is tragic, but it is also reality. So Americans who are qualified to possess firearms shouldn't be denied the right to participate in their own defense. And it is empirically true that the great majority of America's tens of millions of law-abiding gun owners have not created chaos in society.
2. "New Zealand's Hobbit trail"
by Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply, The New York Times
On Friday, Peter Jackson's highly-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — a prequel to his critically beloved, massively popular Lord of the Rings trilogy — hit movie theaters across the globe. But the enormous success of the Lord of the Rings films hasn't just beefed up the bottom line of production company New Line Cinema; it's invigorated the entire tourism industry of New Zealand, where both the original Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit movies were filmed. An exploration of how Lord of the Rings has revolutionized the young "movie tourism" movement, and changed the face of contemporary New Zealand:
Movies — ephemeral, imaginary — have a way of sending fans in search of something real. The Sound of Music left such an imprint on Salzburg after filming there in 1964 that tours to see where Julie Andrews played "Do-Re-Mi" on her guitar still attract tens of thousands of visitors annually. In Scotland, tourism skyrocketed at the Wallace Monument following the 1995 release of Braveheart. And in Natchitoches, La., devotees continue to spend $175 a night to sleep in the Shelby Room, where Julia Roberts became a star in Steel Magnolias some 23 years ago. (Yes, it is pink.) But the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which took in over $3 billion at the global box office between 2001 and 2004, changed the film tourism game entirely. To the surprise of almost everyone, it took possession of an entire country.
3. "Worlds apart"
Nicholas Lemann, New Yorker
On Thursday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who was widely expected to succeed Hilary Clinton as the next Secretary of State, formally withdrew her name from consideration. Rice, a longtime advisor to President Obama, had been met with fierce opposition from a number of Republicans, who had criticized her for inaccurate remarks she made shortly after the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. A New Yorker piece written shortly before the 2008 presidential election, which explores the foreign policy philosophies of both Sen. John McCain and President Obama, delves into Rice's role in determining Obama's policies:
Last summer, a small group of prominent foreign-policy Democrats who call themselves the Phoenix Initiative, and who first came together in early 2005 — the link between their name and Kerry's defeat should be obvious — published a report. It had the kind of aggressively bland title that is typical of such efforts ("Strategic Leadership: Framework for a Twenty-first Century National Security Strategy") and got almost no attention... The Phoenix Initiative's report was published with a brief preface by Susan E. Rice, who is one of Obama's top foreign-policy advisers and is almost certain to serve in a high government position if he wins the Presidency. Rice, a brisk, direct woman in her early forties, had worked in the Clinton Administration, first on the National Security Council and then as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and had been part of John Kerry's foreign-policy team in the 2004 campaign. The report lays out a new approach to American foreign policy, and in so doing it implicitly promises that the Democrats might be able, finally, to set the terms on national security.
4. "Golden Globe-award-winning case file #167: Butterfly"
by Nathan Rabin, The AV Club
On Thursday, the Hollywood Foreign Press announced this year's nominations for the Golden Globe Awards. The 70th annual ceremony, which will be televised live in January, is widely regarded as one of the best predictors for the Academy Awards, which are awarded the week after. But the Golden Globes have also long been dogged controversy over concerns that its relatively small voting body, which reportedly consists of around 90 journalists, is susceptible to bribery. The HFPA's all-time most controversial decision came when it awarded Pia Zadora the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in 1982 for Butterfly, awarding a performance universally derided by critics when the film premiered in the United States. Here, a description of the suspicious circumstances behind the controversial choice:
The Golden Globes' always-shaky reputation took what should have been a fatal hit when fabulously untalented newcomer Pia Zadora beat out lesser actors like Kathleen Turner (for Body Heat) and Elizabeth McGovern (for Ragtime) to win the New Star of the Year Golden Globe in 1982. In a shocking coincidence, the same voting committee that objectively determined that Zadora was the top newcomer in all of the world that year (they are the Golden Globes, after all) had previously been treated by the film's producer, Meshulam Riklis — also then Zadora's husband — to a glamorous night in Las Vegas watching Zadora perform, plus a lunch and private screening at Riklis' Hollywood mansion. Bear in mind that when Zadora won the Golden Globe for Butterfly, the film hadn't even been released domestically, so if audiences knew Zadora at all, it was from her performance as a child actor in Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.
5. "On appreciation of Indian classical music"
by Ravi Shankar, RaviShankar.org
This week, legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar, who introduced hundreds of thousands to classical Indian music, passed away at age 92. Shankar was a world-renowned musician and a three-time Grammy Award winner who could count The Beatles among his many devoted fans. But many who enjoyed his music for its beauty may not have known the philosophy that drove it. In a post at his own website, Shankar explains the history of Indian music, and the deeper meaning behind the many ragas he wrote and performed:
In terms of aesthetics, a raga is the projection of the artist's inner spirit, a manifestation of his most profound sentiments and sensibilities brought forth through tones and melodies. The musicians must breathe life into each raga as he unfolds and expands it. As much as 90 percent of Indian music must be improvised and because so very much depends on understanding the spirits and nuances of the art, the relationship between the artist and his guru is the keystone of the ancient tradition. From the beginning, the aspiring musician requires special and individual attention to bring him to the moment of artistic mastery. The unique aura of a raga (one might say its "soul") is its spiritual quality and manner of expression, and this cannot be learned from any book.