I love living here. The weather's great. I like the tolerance for
eccentricity (though I often wish people would just get on with being
all tolerant and everything without having to make such a big deal
about how great it is that they're so tolerant, and how you don't find
such top-notch tolerance just anywhere, and how you haven't really
experienced true, cream-of-the-crop tolerance till you've seen it in
action amongst the best people in the Greatest Place on Earth.) I
probably couldn't survive anywhere else. But there is a drawback, and
that is that everyone is so self-impressed. The narcissism in the air
is so thick and plentiful that it's sometimes hard to breathe normally.
2) Frank skewers the humorless dolts at Alternative Tentacles whose knickers are in a twist over the possibility that a former member of the Dead Kennedys may have sold the rights to the band's cover version of "Viva Las Vegas" to American Idol. (Got all that?) Tongue firmly in cheek, Frank writes:
Needless to say, it is absolutely vital to protect the legacy of the
Dead Kennedys' joke version of a novelty song owned by Warner Brothers.
This is particularly true when the co-opting is being done by
Amerikkkan Idle, a popular show that the better sort of person rightly
holds in contempt, and on a network like Fox, which will, of course, be
the first network up against the wall when the Revolution comes.
The man is fighting the good fight and entertaining in the process.
Terry Teachout has a wonderfully contrarian critique of Arthur Miller in today's Wall Street Journal. Obituary writers have been falling all over themselves in their rush to sing Miller's praises, but Teachout resists the urge to beatify Miller and puts his life and work in a larger context:
I wonder how much attention would now be paid to Miller if he hadn't married [Marilyn] Monroe, and if the House Un-American Activities Committee hadn't made the mistake of subpoenaing him in 1956 to testify about his Communist ties (which were extensive, though he always denied having been an actual party member), thereby bringing about his citation for contempt of Congress when he refused to "name names." The one made him a pop-culture footnote, the other a liberal icon.
The irony is that the smartest critics of Miller's own generation, virtually all of whom shared his left-wing views, held his plays in a different kind of contempt. Back then he took his roughest beatings from the likes of Eric Bentley, Mary McCarthy, Kenneth Tynan, and Robert Warshow, who found him heavy-handed and preachy. Tynan, for instance, wrote that "The Crucible" "suggests a sensibility blunted by the insistence of an outraged conscience; it has the over-simplification of poster art." Bull's-eye.
Zing! Having suffered through "The Crucible" along with millions of other high school students, I applaud Teachout's takedown, and if it makes even one 11th grade English teacher rethink her syllabus, the world will be a slightly better place.
But in a larger sense, I wish we would take a closer look at the mid-century artists and cultural figures, like Miller, whose work revolved around a critique of capitalism and the West, who tacitly or explicitly supported Communism, who faced the wrath of HUAC as a result, and who consequently emerged as lions of the left. In 1956, the year Miller was dragged before HUAC, the Soviets invaded Hungary, using tanks against nationalist rebels who fought with kitchen implements and gasoline.
I don't condone the repressive tactics of the McCarthy Era (and I'm disturbed by the resurgence of such tactics today.) But Miller and his compatriots were naifs, fools or villains, and to laud them for their "principled stands" is to ignore what happened to the people who actually had to live under those same principles.
In my book, sports and politics don't mix. I root for the home team, especially when US athletes are going up against Belorussian boxers or Russian wrestlers. But I'm still pissed at Jimmy Carter for boycotting the Moscow Olympics in '80. It was a well-meaning gesture, but it didn't do diddly to get Soviet tanks out of Afghanistan.
That's why I'm fully down with Carlos Delgado's refusal to stand for the national anthem before games. (Sam Borden of the NY Daily news has a well-written update.)
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it made sense to express our collective feelings at mass gatherings, including sporting events. But I'm not sure what purpose is being served today by turning games into quasi-patriotic rallies.
Don't assume that my endorsement of Delgado's actions means that I endorse his views on the war. I disagree with most of what he has to say, although I can't condense my full perspective down into a blog entry.
But ultimately there's no real connection between what's happening in Iraq and what's been happening on our football fields and baseball diamonds. Protest the war, or support our troops--exercise your right to free expression. Just keep it out of the games.