March 20, 2010

"Controversial propositions."

With health care politics raging, it's refreshing to debate over something — anything — else, and here, John Hinderaker has just listed a bunch of controversial things he feels like asserting are true. (Via Instapundit.) I'm going to respond to the items that it amuses me to respond to.
* Much as Bob Dylan was the most authentic spokesman for his generation, Taylor Swift is the most authentic spokesman for hers.
Well, that's a trick assertion, since Bob Dylan was never about authenticity:
During the first half of the concert, after singing "Gates of Eden," Dylan got into a little riff about how the song shouldn't scare anybody, that it was only Halloween, and that he had his Bob Dylan mask on. "I'm masquerading!" he joked, elongating the second word into a laugh. The joke was serious. Bob Dylan, né Zimmerman, brilliantly cultivated his celebrity, but he was really an artist and entertainer, a man behind a mask, a great entertainer, maybe, but basically just that—someone who threw words together, astounding as they were. The burden of being something else — a guru, a political theorist, "the voice of a generation," as he facetiously put it in an interview a few years ago — was too much to ask of anyone.
But no, it's not a trick assertion because he said "most authentic." Or is it that we Baby Boomers were raging phonies, and the biggest phony would thus be the most authentic. As for Taylor Swift, she seems like a nice person. Is she bland or am I jaded to find her too bland to care about? Is one more or less authentic when nice and bland?

So, my proposition is: Authenticity is bogus.

Back to Hinderaker:
* The three most desirable actresses in movie history are Paulette Goddard, Anna Karina and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
"Desirability" isn't a good abstraction. Hinderaker likes the brunette gamine. 
* London is the world's greatest city, and Israel is the world's most exciting place.
I can live without that kind of excitement. Have you noticed Indiana?
* America's youth have never been the same since Saturday morning television went from real programming (Fury, Sky King, the Cisco Kid, etc.) to cartoons.
I can't even remember that those shows were on in the morning. When I think about "Sky King," I remember this from Bill Bryson's "Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid": "Even at six years old, and even in an age as intellectually undemanding as the 1950s, you didn't have to be hugely astute to see that a flying cowboy was a fairly flimsy premise for an action series. Sky could only capture villains who lingered at the edge of grassy landing strips and to whom it didn't occur to run for it until Sky had landed, taxied to a safe halt, climbed down from the cockpit, assumed an authoritative stance, and shouted 'Okay, boys, freeze!' — a process that took a minute or two, for Kirby Grant was not, it must be said, in the first flush of youth." Now, I have to admit, I didn't think about that at the time. What I thought about was how it seemed that there was a competition between "Sky King" and "Whirlybirds" and that everyone had an opinion about whether they preferred airplanes or helicopters. I was adamantly helicopterist.

So my controversial proposition will be: The best people prefer helicopters to airplanes. 
* The only good lawyer show in the history of television was Perry Mason.
False. "The Defenders." That was the good one. 
* The smartest person whom most Americans see on a regular basis is Simon Cowell.
Ha. Maybe. I'm going with a corollary: Americans are better able to enjoy displays of intelligence that come with a British accent. And: What seems especially smart about Cowell is that he's willing to come right out and say — quite directly — things that are true. He gets away with doing that on television because he's got a British accent. An American panelist with the same amount of time to express an opinion will need to blow at least half of it on blather intended to make us feel that he is a nice (and normal) person.

That's all I've got to say. Sorry I didn't take the bait on any of Hinderaker's historical propositions — the best and worst characters in history and so forth. Or, no, I can make one very grand assertion: The best and the worst human beings who ever lived were undoubtedly shunned by most people and forgotten soon after they died.


Anonymous said...

Hinderaker is a moron (said somewhat tongue in cheek).

Anyone who says in one breath that London is the "world's greatest city" and who in the very next breath admits he's never been to Paris isn't fit to expound on topics of the day.

rhhardin said...

The point of Sky King was the airplane. Whether the premise was flimsy or not didn't matter. Nobody watched it for the plot.

Though it lost its edge when he went from a Bamboo Bomber to a 310.

Helicopters get no serious audience.

ricpic said...

Paulette Goddard was a nice piece, but the most desirable woman I ever saw was a whore on State Street, Chicago. Of course, the fact that I was seventeen at the time and was standing outside the bus terminal in Chicago for a few minutes - when I saw her walking toward me in the most incredible silky undulating gait - before reboarding the cross country bus totally drunk on life had something to do with it. But she was beautiful. And authentic.

Ron said...

People who say controversial things think they know their ass from their elbow.

David said...

Sky . . . . . . . . . . King . . . . . . . . !!!!!

I much preferred Ramar of the Jungle:

"Aieeeee! It is a big one."

I still get laughs with that line in the most varying circumstances.

David said...

I go for gamine brunettes too but . . . .

Ellen Barkin!

Now that's a woman.

rcocean said...

Hinderaker is a lawyer and his word choices are odd.

"Desirability" is so subjective its not worth discussing. Same with "exciting" - I assume Kabul is pretty "exciting". And London is the "Greatest" is what sense? Pretty much everybody I know likes Rome or Paris better. But "Like" doesn't equal "great".

BTW, Lloyd Bridges caught a lot of criminals wearing scuba gear.

Joe said...

Hinderaker needs to stick to politics.

Reliapundit said...

cowell is converting to islam. now that's smart?

rhhardin said...

Theodore Adorno, "The Jargon of Authenticity."

Google Books, search for Schutze, pick p.74, go back to p.72.

My favorite speech.

SteveR said...

Bill Bryson's "Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid"

Funny Book

What Hindraker said about anyone who uses the word "sustainability" doesn't know how the world works, is true. A meaningless and bogus concept.

Anonymous said...

The three most desireable women in film are Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's, Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Meryl Streep as Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa.

yes said...

""Desirability" isn't a good abstraction. Hinderaker likes the brunette gamine."

The essense of brunette gamine is Audrey Hepburn and he doesn't list her, so I think his criteria are something else, but not sure what.

Alex said...

Yet another vacuous, meandering, meaningless Althouse post

/Alpha Liberal

rcocean said...

Its now official, NewHam is Gay or a women (NTTAWWT)

The three most desirable women were:

Grace Kelly
Ava Gardner
Catherine Zeta-Jones

rcocean said...

Yet another vacuous, meandering, meaningless Althouse post

And yet you commented. Althouse knows her liberals.

Unknown said...

Using the term "authenticity" in any context is disqualifying from the start. Helicopters are fine for short hauls but they can't get on top of the weather and the best people must always get on top of the weather.

Will Cate said...

I though most of the Hinderaker piece was nonsensical. What on earth has Taylor Swift ever said that was of "generational" significance? "Be sure to recycle?"

She must be saying something though, since "Taylor Swift said" (with quotes) pulls 950,000 hits on Google.

Christy said...

I loved Sky King. Daughter Penny was an accomplished pilot. Miss Kitty and Lucy, beloved as they be, were not exactly exciting role models for little girls in the 50s.

Loved Airwolf, but watching it on Hulu these days is cringe inducing. So I guess I'm still airplane girl.

Hineraker's list was amusing.

What is it with guys and lists?

rhhardin said...

I can't think of any celebrity women that have been worth noticing.

What's called glamour is very unmagical. The etymology has been lost.

Bob_R said...

The Althouse and Hindraker comments about Dylan and authenticity are not inconsistent if Dylan's generation is authentically bogus. Definitely arguable.

Are any of Althouse's controversial statements actually controversial? I either agree or don't care at all. At least some of Hindraker's I actively disagree with.

wombat said...

Dylan was genius because he mumbled and wrote rather tuneful disjointed dream sequences.

Clooney mumbles and isn't the dream he thinks he is. (Bobbish non-sequitur.)

All in all, Dylan did his schtik passably well, and thank the Hebrew god there's Google for lyrics.

michaele said...

What about Lassie?
I loved Lassie and Fury. I was always a sucker for stories with animals. I cried so hard at Old Yeller.

Anonymous said...

"or a women."

I might be a woman, but I am definitely not a women.

Youngblood said...


I agree with you that authenticity is bogus. In fact, I loathe the word, the concept, and the use it has been put to (largely by Boomers) in our post-modern era.

With that being said, Dylan was born before the post-war demographic boom. Like many of the performers we associate with the 1960's, he's not actually a Boomer.

If he's the authentic voice of any generation, it's not the Baby Boom.

Is one more or less "authentic" when nice and bland? Like I said, I reject the "authenticity" as the term is used today, but if Swift's generation is largely bland and inoffensive, then she'd make a decent representative or spokesperson for it.

I mean, maybe after the radicalism of Dylan's generation, the introspective self-centeredness of the Boomers, and the aggression and self-loathing of Generation X the kids these days are looking for something a little more bland, nice, and more or less middle of the road.

Maybe the lack of interest that Boomers have in someone like Swift isn't a bug, but a feature to the members of that generation.

Unknown said...

Cyd Charisse

wv: guali - My opinion of Cyd Charisse.

Kirk Parker said...

"So, my proposition is: Authenticity is bogus."

I think you have it backwards. It should be: bogosity is authentic.


Sorry, must totally disagree w/r/t Out of Africa. There were big warning signs all over that babe. As my wife once summarized the story, "Rich woman makes a mess of her life, in a beautiful setting". Why get any of that on you???

Quaestor said...

How can anybody watch "American Idol" and expect smart? It's a talent show, ferchrisake. Cowell is just another talking head with strong (and typically boneheaded) opinions.

I caught a few episodes of "Sky King" on TVU. It was mostly get in the plane, taxi and take off, fly around and yak on the unicomm to local law enforcement, then land and go to a room and yak to local law enforcement. Over an over. What a bore. A much better series from that era was Ziv's "Men Into Space"

Perry Mason was never a show about lawyers. Mason was a detective with a law degree, and the scripts owed more to detective pulps than to Blackstone.

If one must make a list of the most desirable brunettes, then please allow me nominate the BEST BRUNETTE EVAH: Hedy Lamarr. Now there was a woman of class.

Quaestor said...

michaele wrote:
What about Lassie?
I loved Lassie and Fury. I was always a sucker for stories with animals. I cried so hard at Old Yeller.

I never liked "Lassie," that kid Timmy had a repulsive cuteness which made me root for the bear, the cougar, the old abandoned mine, or whatever the weekly menace turned out to be.

"Fury" appealed to me. I used to fantasize the show was about me.

"Old Yeller" came close to scarring me for life. Wow. Uncle Walt did have his dark side, eh?

Greybeard said...

Hollywood gets nothin' right...
Helicopters, airplanes, the military, auto racing...
(And my 42 years of flying indicate the news media is worse.)
I have never researched it, but friends in the industry have told me Hollywood was killing an average of one helicopter pilot a year in stuff like "Airwolf", "Blue Thunder", and "Magnum P.I.". (If you watch closely in the opening sequence of "Magnum" you'll see the Helicopter come dangerously close to hooking a skid while chasing a car on the road... something no helicopter pilot would ever do in real life.)
Helicopters are amazing machines just doing what they do, but the general public is interested in entertainment, not education.

Beautiful women today?
Jessica Alba,
Salma Hayek,
and I'll go along with Zeta-Jones.

Ann Althouse said...

"Dylan was genius because he mumbled..."

He sings the words very clearly. One reason his stuff worked is that we could understand what he was saying. It was weird, but we heard the words. The polar opposite "Louie Louie."

F said...

As a flight instructor (non-helicopter, I must admit) I should tell you, Ann, a common definition of a helicopter: "masses of corroded aluminum revolving around an oil leak." Helicopters certainly have their place in this world (ask anyone who has taken a life flight ride in a helicopter), but to your average fixed-wing pilot they're a bargain with the devil. And to a glider pilot (as I consider myself, although I fly power planes too), a helicopter is a noisy way of traveling somewhere while a sailplane is poetry in motion. A fellow soaring pilot signs all his correspondence: "if flying were the language of man, soaring would be it's poetry." Nice sentiment that captures the essence of our sport. F

newscaper said...

Live action Satrurady morning was before my time -- I was in elementary & middle schol thru the 70s -- but another decline was by the mid 70s when all the more dramatic action or superhero cartoons added laugh tracks and cutesy sidekicks in an early effort to quash 'violence' on TV.

Cedarford said...

Althouse: "So, my proposition is: Authenticity is bogus."

It may well be. I think people see authenticity as someone who is faithfully serving a role.
But neglect that the person serving the role may well wish to be doing something else everytime he or she thinks about it - but accept that for the time being that what they do is it for now - even if they don't believe what they do is what they really want to do and much of what they say or do is compelled of them, not voluntary.


1. We see the firefighters of 9/11 as brave and heroic. But we know from their biographies and recorded conversations that many hated being firefighters and dreamed of doing something better. many saw themselves in absolutely no danger that day until moment of death.
2. Simon Cowell is called authentic because he is an "honest critic" telling many hopefuls that they suck - but says that is not really him, but the "product" he developed calls for that role to be played out.
3. We find years later that many "authentic" things we saw in a politician were just acts. See John Edwards "Two Americas"....
4. Critics and such who gush over how authentic a painter or Mississippi Delta Bluesman is tend to be disappointed when the painter states he had many other styles he preferred but eventually had to go with "the stuff that sells and puts food on my table". THe Great Bluesman confesses he only began playing because he couldn't read or write and heroin and guitarwork beat the stuffing out of 14 hour days sharecropping cotton..but adds his 6 children were 2 college grads, 2 locked up on felonies, and 1 in the music biz, 1 welfare momma - but all 6 could read and write..

Authenticity is or is not bogus. It may be what the person really is - or may be that person faithfully playing what other people see them as and wish them to be.

Dylan likely is in the latter category, BTW..

PDG9 said...

What Ann said. Dylan never mumbles the words on record (live is another story). He sings clearly and his vocals are up in the mix - rarely even provides a lyrics sheet, because he wants the listener to hear what he's singing, not read it.

Paul Kirchner said...

Other people's lists of "who's the most attractive woman" are always pointless. What's to argue about?

Glad you brought up "The Defenders" because I was trying to remember that actor, E. G. Marshall. He has been in my thoughts lately as the kind of person I'd like to have as our next president. A balding, uncool, middle-aged white guy who acts like an adult, is intelligent and serious, and doesn't feel our pain while diddling the interns or dedicate himself to opening our borders while nation-building in the Middle East or promise hope and change while wrecking the economy. Someone who would look at the mess we're in and start figuring out how to get us out of it.

A meaningless fantasy, I admit.

And no, he doesn't have to be a white guy. I just don't want stunt casting like we did with the current president. A Barbara Jordan type would be fine. I want a serious president for a change.

exhelodrvr1 said...

"The best people prefer helicopters to airplanes. "

That's a no-brainer!!

wombat said...

Ann: "[Dylan] sings the words very clearly."

I stand corrected. Just my bad hearing.

Chris Arabia said...

i gave my love a chicken, that had no bone,

i gave my love a cherry, that had no stone,

i gave my love a story, that had no end,

i ga--

[bluto being bluto]


wv: ascreman. titus probably knows it better than i.

Adventurer said...

Not ready to name Dylan the Great Enunciator.

Live, given. How about:


And, Ann, Louie, Louie is a poor example... everyone knows only the title words are even in English. The rest is Swahili.

Wombat has my support here.

Gary Rosen said...

C-fudd is a bogus gen-Xer but an authentic boomer.

Ann Althouse said...

Snopes on "Louie Louie."


As for Dylan in concert these days... I agree he's not all about getting the words across.

Michael Haz said...

The best people prefer helicopters to airplanes.

Not after Stevie Ray Vaughn died.

Mike Smith said...

Sky King was a great show that inspired a lot of people to look at aviation as a career.

Anonymous said...

"Not after Stevie Ray Vaughn died."

Buddy Holly didn't fair much better in a fixed-wing conveyance.

Beldar said...

Bob Dylan is and has always been awful, the opposite of music.

Bill Harshaw said...

The Defenders!! Those liberal bleeding hearts? Fortunately for you libertarians are too young to remember, or they'd immediately disbar you from the movement.

RR Ryan said...

Perry Mason was the best lawyer on television because the show was about the cases and not Perry, Della or Paul's personal lives. It's one of the reasons Law and Order works so well. I don't want to know what they do when they go home, although they did throw some of that in and handled it well. That's the reason both shows can be watched over and over. It sounds perverse, but I find I'm so enjoying the interplay between the leads, that I tend to forget the plot.