April 30, 2006

Catching up on the NYT/taking a hot bath.

I want to read the three newspapers that came while I was away, but I don't want to spend all evening on the task. I've got a podcast to record, and "The Sopranos" and "Big Love" are on tonight. I'm also freezing on this damp, blustery day, in which I had to run around in the wind and rain twice -- once to get to an airplane. The solution is to run a hot bath and page through all the newspapers in the 15 minutes it takes to fill the tub. I'll speed-choose pieces to blog and set them aside to blog once I've soaked myself back to a normal temperature.


1. "Neil Young Is Angry About War and Wants Everyone to Know It" (on line title: "Neil Young's 'Living With War' Shows He Doesn't Like It") by Jon Pareles:
The songs on "Living With War" are straightforward and single-minded, setting aside the allusive, enigmatic quality of Mr. Young's rock classics. "These are all ideas we've heard before," he said. "There's nothing new in there. I just connected the dots."...

"We are the silent majority now, and we haven't done a damn thing," Mr. Young said. "We've stood by and watched this happen. But there's more of us than there is of them, and we have to do something. When people start talking and see they can get away with it, it's going to happen everywhere. It's going to be a landslide, it's going to be a tidal wave. This is just the tip of it."
The tip of the landslide... the tip of the tidal wave... damn... if only I could think of another metaphor...

Those "allusive, enigmatic" lyrics of long ago are far out of reach.

Blue, blue windows behind the stars/Yellow moon on the rise/Big birds flying across the sky/Throwing shadows on our eyes....

Oh, Neil... There are politics and there is art. I'll always love the Neil Young of the distant past.

The chains are locked and tied across the door/Baby, sing with me somehow...

2. "New York City as Film Set: From Mean Streets to Clean Streets," by John Clark:
David Thomson, author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, said: "There's been a sea change. I can remember well into the 70's films where there is the terrific sense of New York as being this adventurous place. Certainly if you go back to the 30's and think of a film like 'My Man Godfrey,' New York is a great, dangerous playground. Those films really had a sense of how jazzy and exciting it was to be in New York. I can't think of the last film I've seen that had that feeling."

Paul Mazursky, the Brooklyn-born director of New York films like "Next Stop, Greenwich Village" (1976) and "An Unmarried Woman" (1978), echoed this view: "I'm trying to think of the last good New York movie." (He's still thinking.)
How ironic that the gentrifiers make the city too beautiful to serve as the backdrop for the art they love, when they love art because it is beautiful.

He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Beneath his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. I love this. New York was his town, and it always would be...

3. "An Adjective for Cakes, but Not for Bill Gates," by Geoffrey Nunberg. I want to blog about this based on the title alone, and I have no idea what the article is about. Oh, it's about the word "rich." Ha, ha:
Asked in 2003 if he felt rich, Bill Gates would say only, "At this point I'm clearly not by some definition middle class."

Unlike "prosperous" or "affluent," "rich" implies a society divided into separate estates, a legacy of the word's origin in the Indo-European name for a tribal king.

People may disagree on exactly how much money it takes to be rich, but that only confirms that it's an absolute threshold, and that those who have crossed it are delivered from the cares that afflict the rest of us. (Nobody who wins the lottery cries "I'm affluent!")
One of my sons, when he was little, used to often ask me, "Are we rich?" There's a feeling we have about what it would be like to be rich. And it always seems as though we'd have to make at least twice as much as we do to have that feeling. Later, if you make that much money, you'll think you need twice that to feel rich. But if you look at yourself from the perspective of the vast majority of people in the world, shouldn't you be ashamed to say you're not rich? So how do you answer the child who asks "Are we rich?"

4. "Films of Infamy," by David Thomson.
... I can imagine a film other than "Munich" or "United 93," a greater film, a film about different kinds of courage. In this film, the courage of the passengers would be shown and honored, but there would be an equal effort to show the courage of the terrorists (without calling them simply "evil" or "insane")....

The really difficult film to make or offer in America will be the one that says no, the world did not alter its nature on 9/11, even if the worst politicians used that event to switch their reality. But on 9/11, we faced the first need to ask ourselves how other people — evil, alien, insane — could be so brave. The history of terrorism — and it includes the independence of this country — is that in the end you have to understand the grievance of the aggrieved, whether you agree with it or not. That film has still to come.
Well, films have shown the perspective of criminals and villains quite often. These characters, if the film is any good, have their motivations, grievances, and, of course, they are bold and daring enough to carry out their evil actions. But how can you think anyone should make such a movie about the enemy before the war is over? Filmmakers aren't cowards for declining to make a show of their own courage like that.

5. "Outgrowing Jane Jacobs and Her New York," Nikolai Ouroussoff.
The threats facing the contemporary city are not what they were when she first formed her ideas, now nearly 50 years ago. The activists of Ms. Jacobs's generation may have saved SoHo from Mr. Moses' bulldozers, but they could not stop it from becoming an open-air mall.

The old buildings are still there, the streets are once again paved in cobblestone, but the rich mix of manufacturers, artists and gallery owners has been replaced by homogenous crowds of lemming-like shoppers. Nothing is produced there any more. It is a corner of the city that is nearly as soulless, in its way, as the superblocks that Ms. Jacobs so reviled....

The lesson we should take from Ms. Jacobs was her ability to look at the city with her eyes wide open, without rigid prejudices. Maybe we should see where that lesson leads next.
Jacobs as a method, not a conclusion. Subtly and modestly stated.


Now it's time to do a podcast and then settle in for a strong dose of television. I have not watched enough TV in the last four days. It's time.


Elizabeth said...

I haven't heard the new Neil Young album, but wasn't the Neil of the distant past also a political Neil as well? This is nothing new, and no rejection of his art.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm going further back than you are thinking of, before "Ohio." I'm thinking of the album "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere."

Ann Althouse said...

Also, Elizabeth, read Pareles's article. He's talking abou the quality of the lyrics. Artistically written lyrics can be political, but that does not appear to be the case with this new album. That's why I repeated Pareles's phrase "allusive, enigmatic."

knoxgirl said...

"There's nothing new in there..."

Creating something new is the definition of, uh, creativity. Why bother publishing this, if you truly are an "artist"... anyone can vent.

And I guess I must have missed the album where he was so outraged at the death and destruction wrought by Saddam.

Jacques Cuze said...

You can listen to it free right here.

"There's nothing new in there..." ... And I guess I must have missed the album where he was so outraged at the death and destruction wrought by Saddam.

Sometimes it takes an artist to connect the dots for us.

Actually knoxgirl, since Neil Young previously recorded "Let's Roll", so you might wonder what he thinks has been happening in this country since 9/11. Perhaps he has connected a few dots you still cannot see.

But then you are right, since 9/11 had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein.

Check the album, listen to it, and then come back to dismiss it, okay?

Jacques Cuze said...
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Jacques Cuze said...

My life is very rich, because I live on a wonderful planet with lots of things to see, do, and learn, and because you are in my life.

But if by rich, you wonder if we have lots of money, the answer is that we have enough. We may not be able to buy all the things we would like, but we will always have enough to pay the rent and bring food to the table. You is learning, and I will put food on my family.

On the otherhand my child, we would all be much better off if that cretin your mother voted for wasn't in the whitehouse actively stealing your birthright and giving it to his friends. I am hopeful that by the time you are drafted, the radioactive sands of Iran will have cooled down enough for you to seek the WMDs.

The Mechanical Eye said...

...we would all be much better off if that cretin your mother voted for wasn't in the whitehouse actively stealing your birthright and giving it to his friends. I am hopeful that by the time you are drafted, the radioactive sands of Iran will have cooled down enough for you to seek the WMDs.

It's like spittle in text form! I wonder if a robot is writing all this shtick...

As for the snippet from the article on filmmakers not entirely addressing the grievances of terrorists "whether you agree with it not," I can't help but come to the idea that what passes for "nuance" is often just a way avoid an honest conclusion.

It reminds me of what a law professor of mind said about a judge he once worked under. Whenever the judge couldn't come to a conclusion on a particular case and hadn't the foggiest idea on how to rule, he'd call in the attorneys and shower each side with complements, extolling them for their brilliant arguments, and explaining that he needs more time and needs supplemental briefs. In short, the judge was stalling becaues he didn't know where to go. Looking "even-handed" was the best way to appear wise without giving away the game.

The same goes with he sentiment that "both sides" of any conflict must be presented "fairly" - its an excellent way to dodge coming to an intelligent conclusion and saying, rather high-handedly, that you don't need to agree with a bunch of nail-bomb-making thugs or not - just listen to their story, and please avoid all judgments that may pass into you mind...

This is not to say that true art cannot make mention of the complications of war. It is unavoidable. But it is rather maddening to see such over-thinking and over-parsing of current, modern Islamic terorrism.

paul a'barge said...

"since 9/11 had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein".

Of course, no one ever said such a thing. What was said was that Saddam was supportive of terrorists, and that the lesson learned from 9-11 is that we are no longer going to wait until the next terrorist event is imminent.

Apparently, that's just too, oh what's the word, "nuanced?" for some of the more dense folk walking upright on two legs out there.

And, speaking of walking upright on two legs, I'm waiting for Neil to walk upright on his two legs back to Canada. He can't get out of our country fast enough to make me happy.

chuck b. said...

I don't know if robots write for quxxo, but they must be writing for Neil Young. Kos commentors write with more flair.

War rhymes with door (twice!), "Breaking every law in the country"? (yeah, he's breakin' every law in the fuckin' country, man!), the subtextual comparison between al Quaeda hijackers and Bush "hijacking our religion"--I don't even know what that is--oh, and then the ironic ending. Always vital, never boring.

At least Neil Young's rich enough to give it away! Tho' maybe it's better not to quote the lyrics as an enticement to listen.

Neil Young as a conclusion, not a method.

Mary said...

"The history of terrorism -- and it includes the independence of this country -- is that in the end you have to understand the grievance of the aggrieved, whether you agree with it or not. That film has still to come."

You ask, "But how can you think anyone should make such a movie about the enemy before the war is over?"

I think the answer can be found in those same words: "Until we can understand the grievance of the aggrieved, whether you agree with it or not", this war (on terror) won't ever be over.

That's what is slowly becoming clear: we don't really understand our enemy in this fight, and overall our actions to date have not been effective on any longstanding terms.

Mary said...

"You is learning, and I will put food on my family."

Is that the "eat it or wear it" tough love approach for picky eaters??

Barry said...

So how do you answer the child who asks "Are we rich?"

If you're rich, you say so.

If you're a college-educated American with a professional job, you say something like, "By the standards of the community we live in, we're about average/pretty well off/doing great, but by the standards of the world, we're rich beyond the dreams of avarice."

P. Froward said...

If you're the kind of idiot who looks to Neil Young for political philosophy, or for information about current events, you'll get exactly what you deserve. He's not a logician. He's not a journalist. He's not a deep thinker. He's the guy who toured with a plastic palm tree.

Anyhow. Neil's been in good form more recently than "long ago": Silver and Gold (2000) is a pretty decent record. It's sort of a Neil Young record about being a grownup. He'll never make another Tonight's the Night, but it's genuinely worth listening to.

When people start talking and see they can get away with it...

Uh, Neil? People have been saying what you're saying for years. Everywhere. Loudly.

It's kinda pathetic that he's this far behind the rest of the world, and so out of touch he thinks he's out ahead of everybody. Uh, kids? Don't do drugs.

Anyhow, what's the big news? Neil Young Does Something Different! Pictures at 11! So what? He's been doing something different every eighteen months since he left Buffalo Springfield, at least. Remember when he endorsed Ronald Reagan? Remember Everybody's Rocking and Landing on Water?

Besides, this "protest singer" schtick may be dumb, but I'm sure he'll carry it off better than "Let's Roll" thing. I'll give him points for trying, but he should've had better sense than to release that godawful embarrassment.

Mary said...

You could explain "richness" in many ways to a child if you have provided him with any type of religious background. Not religion as dogma, necessarily, but as cultural history.

There are many good stories in the Bible, both new and old testaments, about earthly riches and measuring your own worth. And I think if you had time, it would be easy enough to discuss such things on a child's level if he repeatedly questioned your answer.

Then again, you could just pull out a stock portfolio or bank statement... (kidding!)

SippicanCottage said...
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CB said...

Neil Young has become something of an embarassment--a cruel parody of his former self: the fate of almost every rocker who neither burns out nor fades away. Don't let it bring you down, though.

CB said...

Cinnamon Girl: the best one-note guitar solo since I Can See For Miles

Joan said...

Ah, Sippican quotes my 2nd-favorite Neil Young song, my most favorite being the Live Rust version of "Like a Hurricane." It's a mess, mostly, but I love it anyway.

My kids are 5, 7, and 9, and I've fielded the "Are we rich?" question many times and expect to do so many more times before I'm finished. My answer: yes, we are. We're rich enough that I don't have to work and put the kids in daycare after school. We're rich enough to buy good food and nice clothes and live in a nice house and drive a nice car. But I also tell them that "rich" means different things to different people. Money is a tool, you have to use it wisely. You can be happy without being fabulously wealthy. All my kids can sing along with "Money Can't Buy Me Love."

Gahrie said...

I teach comparative cultures to poor, suburban, mainly minority, 7th graders, and the main theme of my course is how rich we are when compared to global and historical standards.

Mary said...

One more:
I remembered this line, "Richer than I you can never be -- I had a Mother who read to me". It's a poem by Strickland Gillilan:

I HAD A MOTHER who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

dick said...

As to the gentrifiers making the city too beautiful, maybe these artists should realize that the city is not there for them to use as a backdrop for their art. It is there for the people to live in and it is far easier to live in this city now than it was 30 years ago when it was so dirty and crime-ridden. Maybe they need to take a look at the art they want to produce before they decide that it is not right that the city should be so cleaned up.

As to the comments about Ms Jacobs, if you read the quotes she wrote she was talking about the people creating the life in the neighborhoods by their interaction and their living in their neighborhood on the streets. The relationships that people create and the way of life that people make up is what made the city vital to Ms Jacobs. What these people are complaining about is when the celebrities follow the artists to the neighborhoods and then price the artists out and then install all their little boutiques. If you go out into the neighborhoods like mine where you do have the little shops on the streets and the people out there shopping and none of the big stores and fancy boutiques, you have what she was talking about. It is when you get the celebrities and their ridiculous lofts and their demands for their little boutiques close by that you lose the neighborhoods. It is possible to gentrify without that but you have to keep the celebs out if you are going to make that grade.

Elizabeth said...

Ann, I'll have to listen to the album eventually, but I get the point. I think we have a slight age difference, and that your more distant memories of Young are more sharply defined than mine. Unlike some others here, I expect to hear more beauty from him down the road; I don't think he's lost his art.

rhodeymark1 said...

#2) Requiem for a Dream
#4) What, wasn't Paradise Now empathetic enough for him, or just the wrong protagonists/victims?
Getting an early start on your Soprano synopsis - I hear that in a future episode AJ drives the Stugots II while Tony waterskis behind... somewhere near Amity Island. That show is losing me, but quick.

Yep said...

What!!!!???? I would call your attention to the movie "The Seige" with Denzel Washington & Bruce Willis. Granted, the movie was not well made. The story line was confusing and the ending made no sense.

But the whole intent of the movie, apparently, was to make us ponder the motivations of terrorists and the secret cabal of government heavyweights that make the siutation worse.

The ending. What a joke. A cell of terrorists is blowing up New York so the FBI arrests the one Army general who is actually protecting us. Were we supposed to laugh? Was this movie actually a comedy?

"Understanding the terrorists' motivations" is not the most useful exercise. As I have watched, their stated motivations seem to change with the winds. They must be scanning the headlines for new incidents of Islamic offense.

They want the world to suffer under their loon-bat definition of Islam. Human rights be damned. They would kill us as soon as they could for simply thinking that our way of life is acceptable.

I appreciate the mindset and sentiment that we not rush to judgement on a group or religion. But I have long ago lost patience with the idea that we do not understand the Islamic terrorists. We do not need a movie that probes the issue of terrorists' motivations. We need more Toby Keith songs.

reader_iam said...

Are we rich?

My son has asked this, of course, as kids do.

I point out to him that by the time he was three (largely thanks to grandma and aunties), he had substantially more toys and "stuff" than my brother and I collectively had our entire growing-up lives. (I'm not saying this is a good thing.) And my brother and I never spent a day in our lives worried about where we would sleep or where our next meal was coming from.

Hell, yeah, we--and the majority of Americans--are rich and richer by any objective international and/or historical standard.

Our relative status (not affluent, largely because I dropped out of full-time, employee-based work years ago) within this country is beside the point, IMHO, in terms of teaching my son.

Elizabeth said...

We do not need a movie that probes the issue of terrorists' motivations. We need more Toby Keith songs.

Oh, I pray there are other choices.

Robert R. said...

Here I thought Neil Young's last good album was Prairie Wind, released all the way back in 2005. The Demme concert film of that album has gotten very solid reviews. Granted, it's not a rocking album, but it certainly has something to say about Neil's life, especially since he was looking at serious surgery when he wrote most of the songs.

We'll see about the new album. I prefer the more enigmatic Young too, but he's been anything but washed up.