God, or those who claim to speak on His/Her/Their behalf, has had a busy week.
In Rowan County, Kentucky, an elected official named Kim Davis, apparently misremembering that she is paid to render unto Caesar,cited “God’s authority” as the reason she has defied the law of the land and refused to grant marriage certificates to same-sex couples. She’s been held in contempt of court and, as of this writing, is in a county detention center.
Meanwhile, “Hand of God,” a new original series from Amazon, is available for streaming today. I’ve seen only the trailer for the nine-part series, which the New York Times’s Mike Hale called “a California neo-noir thriller” and which centers on a judge (played by Ron Perlman, whom you may remember as Hellboy) who believes he can hear the voice of God, but I can’t help imagining the fictional Judge Pernell Harris meeting the real Ms. Kim Davis in court.
And “Hand of God” isn’t the only deity-themed entertainment in the news. Cast thine eyes on this holy-ish trinity:
Gee, it seems like only last week that I brought you tidings of “family” and “museum” being used as verbs. Hang on – it was last week! And now I can make it a trifecta: the cable network TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has launched a new ad campaign that verbifies “movie.”
A new brand campaign for Turner Classic Movies not only puts the emphasis on movies, but turns the word into a verb.
With the slogan “Let’s Movie,” the channel is urging people who love movies—not just the classics—to tune in.
Watch the 60-second spot, which contrary to the mission statement does in fact spotlight classic movies like Casablanca and Ben-Hur, and whose narrator coos, “Let’s live. Let’s love. Let’s go. Let’s movie!”
And mark your calendars: September 19 is Let’s Movie Day. “Hopefully that will get a little buzz,” TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian told B&C, a little plaintively.
By the way, “Let’s Movie” is not to be confused with “Let’s Move,” which is First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity.
If you’re joining us late, here’s how the game is played: The name must consist of “Mister” or “Mr.” plus some generic noun (or, occasionally, verb). “Mister Smith”—a business owned by John Smith—wouldn’t make the cut, but “Mister Blacksmith” would, if the company manufactured, say, horseshoes or wrought-iron fences.
Access to both of my recent columns is free and unrestricted, so share away. Here’s an excerpt from the Pluto column:
Mordor, Cthuhlu, Meng-Po’o, and Tombaugh Regio. What sounds like the title of a Jorge Luis Borges short story is in fact a partial list of informal names for newly discovered features on Pluto and Charon. (Formal names must be approved by the International Astronomical Union, but as one project scientist tweeted, “Cannot just say ‘that dark spot.’ ‘No I meant that dark spot.’”) Many of them are drawn from “your darkest imaginings,” as the science blog i09 put it—and consistent with the established names of Pluto’s moons, including Styx (in Greek myth, the river of death), Cerberus (the three-headed hellhound that guards the underworld), and Nix (the Greek goddess of night). The new names depart from classical mythology and enter fictional realms: The dark area at Charon’s polar region, for example, has been tagged Mordor, from the wasteland in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. On Pluto itself, an area originally dubbed “the whale” is now called Cthuhlu, after the fictional deity invented by H.P. Lovecraft; and Meng Po’o is the Buddhist “lady of forgetfulness.” An exception to the pattern is the Tombaugh Regio—literally “region of Tombaugh”—which honors Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh. For a long list of Plutonian names suggested by the public, see the Our Pluto discussion forum.
Randall Munroe of xkcd offers his own nomenclature for newly identified Plutonian features. I especially like Debate Hole, “where we’re putting all the people still arguing about Pluto’s planet status.”
Billennial: A member of the “millennial” generation—born between the 1980s and early 2000s—who is fluent in two languages, usually Spanish and English. A portmanteau of bilingual and millennial. Also an adjective (“billennial generation”).
The Texas-based Spanish-language television network Univisionused billennial to describe its 2015-2016 programming, introduced in May at the industry event known as “upfronts.”
Linear TV: A television service that requires the viewer to watch a scheduled TV program at the particular time it’s offered, and on the particular channel it's presented on. Synonyms include time-and-channel based TV, appointment-based TV, and traditional television. (Source: ITV Dictionary.) Non-linear TV comprises on-demand formats as well as programs that don’t emanate from a network channel, also known as web TV and digital media.
The hook for Shapiro’s story is Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s new documentary about the Church of Scientology, which will have its premiere March 29 on HBO. (Shapiro said the film aired “last week.” Maybe for critics, but the rest of us will have to wait.) The film is based on the book of the same title by Lawrence Wright; the book was published in the U.S. in 2013 (and was short-listed for a National Book Award), but has not yet been released in the U.K. There have also been “serious challenges” to the release of the film, Shapiro reports, “because Britain does not have the same free speech protections as the United States.”
The libel tourism coinage is credited to the British media lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who cited “the menace of libel tourism” in a 2010 opinion piece for The Guardian. The term had already been in circulation for at least a few years by then. It appeared in a January 2008 article by Doreen Carvajal in The New York Times about a Scandinavian case:
You’re an investment bank in Iceland with a complaint about a tabloid newspaper in Denmark that published critical articles in Danish. Whom do you call?
A pricey London libel lawyer.
That is called libel tourism by lawyers in the media trade. And Britain remains a comfortable destination for the rich in search of friendly courts, which have already weighed complaints from people who consider themselves unfairly tarred with labels like tax dodger, terrorist financier or murky Qaeda operative.
Russian oligarchs and Saudi billionaires have also found refuge in British libel law, Carvajal writes. Her succinct explanation:
Britain is a legal refuge because of defamation standards rooted in common law. They essentially assume that any offending speech is false and the writer or author must prove that it is in fact true to prevail against the charge.
In the United States, with its First Amendment protection for free speech, the situation tilts in the opposite direction: To succeed, libel plaintiffs must prove that the speech is false and published with a reckless disregard for the truth.
The expanded Dictionary.com entry brings us up to date:
After several high-profile libel suits filed in the U.K. against U.S. authors resulted in judgments against the authors—lawsuits that, in the opinion of many jurists, probably would not have held up in a U.S. court of law—Congress in 2010 passed the SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) Act. The title of the act speaks volumes: foreign libel judgments are no longer enforceable in the U.S. unless they meet the same high legal standards in libel matters as required by U.S. law, including that they do not violate the First Amendment right of free speech of an American author.Thus the tourist must return home.
SPEECH is a masterly example of the bureaucratic backronym.
Besides libel tourism, there are a few other examples of the “X tourism” formula.
Birth tourism, also known as maternity tourism, is travel to another country for the purpose of giving birth. Reasons for the practice, according to a Wikipedia entry, “include access to the destination country's healthcare system, circumvention of communist China's one-child policy and (in countries that recognize jus soli) birthright citizenship for the child.” According to a CBS News story published February 9, 2015, the number of Chinese women giving birth in the United States “more than doubled to about 10,000 in 2012.”
Medical tourism is travel to another country for health care, often for economic reasons. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has estimated that 750,000 U.S. residents travel abroad for medical care each year; a CNBC report put the 2013 figure at 900,000, and noted that the worldwide market is $20 billion to $40 billion. Websites such as MedicalTourism.com (“Your Passport to a World of Options”) and PatientsBeyondBorders.com (“The Most Trusted Resource in Medical Travel”) provide information and patient accounts; companies like Planet Hospital (“A New Way to Care”) handle the logistics.
A subset of medical tourism is surgery tourism, and a sub-subset is plastic surgery tourism, which New Yorker contributor Patricia Marx touches on in her “Letter from Seoul,” published in the March 23 issue. Her subtitle: “Why is South Korea the world’s plastic-surgery capital?” Her answer:
“Surgery tourists” from abroad make up about a third of the business in South Korea, and, of those, most come from China. One reason is that, throughout Asia, the “Korean wave” of pop culture (called hallyu) shapes not only what music you should listen to but what you should look like while listening to it. Cosmetic transformations can be so radical that some of the hospitals offer certificates of identity to foreign patients, who might need help convincing immigration officers that they’re not in the Witness Protection Program.
Some of the clinic names Marx spotted on her visit: Small Face, Magic Nose, Dr. 4 Nose, Her She, Before and After, Reborn, Top Class, Wannabe, 4 Ever, Cinderella, Center for Human Appearance, and April 31 Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Marx’s translator explained “Small Face” to her: “Koreans, and Asians in general, are self-conscious about having big heads,” he said. “This is why in group photos a girl will try to stand far in the back to make her face relatively smaller.” Also popular in South Korea: the “Bagel Girl” look—bagel being a portmanteau of “baby-faced” and “glamorous.”