Friday, May 30, 2003
The execution of the children was the event that established the character of the regime. Yes, yes, regicide was often accompanied by such atrocities, but this was the 20th century. Why, this was the birth of Scientific Socialism. There is nothing so powerful as an idea has time has come!And here's Common Sense's Max Jacobs in response:
But just in case it’s not that powerful yet, let’s shoot the little girls.
When I woke up this morning I didn't think I would be defending the actions of Communists, but here we are. Yes, I will agree that killing children is wrong but you have to look at the historical context of all this.Hmmm. Substitute economic for historical in that sentence and you've paraphrased Stalinist Marxism. No, you do not have to consider any context. Whatever the Romanovs did to Russia, it was not the responsibility of the minor children of one of the more enlightened czars.
These days, all anyone remembers about the Romanovs is that they were the royal family that ruled Russia before the Communists. Some might even remember that they didn't do a particularly good job. The truth of the matter is that the Romanovs were dictators who brutalized Russia for 400 years. And it wasn't just one bad Czar, here and there. They were all guilty of atrocities against their own people. They were cruel despicable despots.Agreed. It takes quite a troll-like brain, though, to believe that atrocity repays atrocity. Imagine an Allied policy to extinguish the second generation of Nazis, due to their having been raised in the miasma Hitler Youth and fascist ideology indoctrination. True, it would have meant a lot more killing than bumping off a couple of Romanov children, but that makes it a difference only of degree, not kind.
Even Nicholas II who was viewed by many as a "kindler, gentler" czar promoted massive progroms agains the Jews and was directly responsible for the death of 2 million Russians by entering World War I. I'm sure just about every Russian had some reason to hate the czar, most likely through a family member being killed or imprisoned due to actions of the regime. So I can understand the emotional need to simply try to wipe that vile and disgusting family off the face of the Earth, especially given the condition Russia was in back in 1918.Understand all you want, fella. As soon as you've pointed to the murder of children and invoked "context" (not to mention explicitly calling your comments a "defense" of those actions), you've proved yourself a barbarian. And "wip[ing] that vile and disgusting family family off the face of the Earth" is a fit goal for setting up a new totalitarianism in place of the old, but little else. Sure you don't want to hunt down some second cousins, thrice removed, somewhere and eviscerate them, hoisting their heads on pikes? After all, they deserve it.
Martin Luther King Jr. is the father of the modern civil-rights era. His movement was one of the great periods of moral transformation that at times sweep through American society. That movement is now in the stage of public-policy life known as diminishing returns.Rolling in Annika, Kant, Title IX, and the goofball in Florida who doesn't want her picture taken for her driver's license, he's still able to get to the point. And it's a good point.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Listen to the truth, ladies: If this show is a success, you should never get into Augusta.
The study asserts that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts or a painful mix of both are unavoidable if the US is to meet benefit promises to future generations. It estimates that closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 per cent across-the-board income tax increase.It's nut-cutting time. I've had it up to here with politicians who give me the "for the children" plea, while they continue to offer vote-sucking entitlement after vote-sucking entitlement to the comparatively wealthy, incredibly powerful, and ever younger AARP crowd, which includes more and more of the baby boomers every day. All of this at the expense of those who will pay the punishing tax rates to make sure that Medicare covers granny's umpteen pills (and the electrolysis to get rid of the moustache the pills give her).
I'm opposed (as you may have guessed) to continuing the charade. It may be "cold" and "heartless" and any number of other things, but it's time for the gravy train to retire to the roundhouse, and for a good portion of the riders to figure out how to run their own goddamn lives. The non-ostrich crowd has known for some time now that the demographic pig in the python was going to balloon the entitlement budget, and that the solution, whenever it came, would involve serious pain. Bush will take a hit for this, and he deserves it. But who will offer an alternative? (I don't envision Dick Gephardt rolling up his health plan and sticking it back into the conestoga: "Sorry, folks. I know I promised frre health care, but -- golly -- looks like we can't afford it. Ever.") And god bless Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party, their principles, and all that crap, but I wouldn't let them run a Star Trek convention, let alone the country.
So what's left? Do we continue our incremental march toward unaffordable, birth-to-dirt-nap government goodies -- and end up a leveraged to the eyeballs, third-rate nation insearch of an economy, like Sweden (only with subsidized NASCAR tickets instead of ballet tickets)? Do we return to a more robust, shall we say, incentive for personal responsibility, like starvation? Or do we pretend, like the Europeans and the DLC, that there is some kind of hybrid third way that can give us the social benefits without the fiscal nightmares, as long as we remember to refer to spending as investment and taxes as contributions? God, I need a beer.
More: Stephen Moore says federal spending should all be subject to a five-year "sunset" provision. It's a start.
Still more: John Derbyshire:
If a group of 100 farmers got together to petition the government to give them $10 million, the benefit to each farmer is $100,000. The cost to the rest of the country is about 4 cents per person. Who is more likely to form a lobby, them or us? Multiply this example by thousands and you understand the central problem of American democracy today.
There may come a time when we elect a president at age 45 or 50, and then 20 years later the country comes up against the same kind of problems the president faced before ... People would like to bring that man or woman back but they would have no way to do so.You know who he, deep down, really thinks that "man or woman" is. (Link via Drudge.)
That's not what I meant to bring up though. What I meant to bring up was that this storage thing makes for a lot of fun surprises. Example: Freedy Johnston's This Perfect World. I pulled this one out recently with a batch of discs to stick in my car. Jesus, he should have called it This Perfect Album, if he could stand the immodesty. There isn't a moment of filler, there isn't a single song that isn't dead-on brilliant. His writing is so solidly singer/songwriter that it takes a couple of listens to realize that the stories are all quite dark and (presumably) fictional, and he uses the "voice" of the singer/songwriter to lull the audience a bit into taking it all at face value. (I could be wrong. Johnston may know all about murder, suicide pacts, domestic abuse, dalliances with Lolitas, and the accidental death of a lover from first-hand experience. If so, my apologies for thinking it fictional.) I remember playing the crap out of the disc years ago, then it went into the cabinet and collected dust, waiting to be rediscovered.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Note, in the same story, the upset win by up-and-comer Ashley Harkleroad (over 9 seed Daniela Hantuchova). I predicted a couple of years ago that she'd be America's answer to Anna Kournikova. I was right and wrong. Wrong: Ashley can actually play tennis. Right: "When Hantuchova sailed her final shot wide, Harkleroad squealed, dropped her racket and sprinted to the stands for a celebratory hug from [wait for it, folks] her agent."
Trade, not aid. Phase out agricultural subsidies and tariffs in the U.S. and Europe (you might add textiles to that, too). And, most certainly, allow foreign investment to get in on the ground floor in the Eritreas, Ethiopias and Malawis. Yes. That means sweatshops. That means feel-good Westerners are going to have to swallow the idea that multinationals might reap huge profit margins from cheap African labor.How hard is that? You know how the left says that globalization means going to find cheap labor, exploiting it, and then leaving when exploitation is no longer possible? Take a wild goddamn guess why they're no longer exploitable. Because too much of that country is middle class, educated, and bidding for our outsourced software jobs.
At least the bill contains a provision that half of the cost be privately donated. But why not all of it? You want to memorialize slaves? Great, pony up. My family ponied up in 1863.
At any rate, Roland Garros will continue to be a place for the European clay-courters to triumph, and for the American hard-courters to skip in favor of Wimbledon practice, which makes it feel like a second-rate sponsor stop, rather than a slam event.
From my terribly cursory analysis of Bloomberg (mostly informed by the NY Post), he seems like a chickenshit Napoleon. He wants to have the law-and-order rep that Rudy had, but he's afraid to tackle anything larger than jaywalking and cigarettes. Giuliani, love or hate him, was never afraid to take on a big issue -- and often, on these issues, was like the bull who carried his own china shop with him. But Bloomberg, far from horrifying and and angering New Yorkers (which, don't kid yourself, they love), is just going to annoy and kvetch them to death.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
[Graham] Hall, a British journalist, was kidnapped at gunpoint in October 1999. The letters ''ALF,'' 4 inches high, were burned into his back with a branding iron. An ALF spokesperson's comment: ''People who make a living in this way have to expect from time to time to take the consequences of their actions.'' Hall's ''crime'': He made a video documentary critical of ALF.Extremists? PETA supports them.
They have a theory of getting them while they're young ... The right try to instigate polarization so that it looks like the right wing is the alternative to the left. This is what happened to me.Poor David! He was just sucked in by the Moonies, er, Satanists ... um, who was it again? Goths? Oh, yeah -- those awful Young Republican folks with their terrifying rituals, like going to church and doing their homework. (If David Brock has a single shred of credibility left -- to anyone other than the NYT -- no doubt Leonard Nimoy is digging it up for the next "In Search Of ..." special.)
And on and on. These kids have "fallen under the spell" of Reagan. And get this:
Many of those Reagan-era conservatives announced their politics on campus with their dress and grooming, the men sporting aggressively conservative Clark Kent haircuts, blue blazers, red ties, loafers; the women tended to wear skirts and heels -- openly adopting the uniform of the Youth for Reagan army. Today, most campus conservatives who hope to be effective won't dress like George Bush or Dick Cheney. The idea is to dress like a young person ... These days, the interest groups [whom the NYT pegs as the "they" in that "They have a theory" quote from Brock, above] encourage a hipper look.I don't think orders are coming from party central on hip dress. And if they are, let's hope Buckley isn't behind this advice: Trade in your rep tie for something more in-your-face. Paisley, perhaps.
Oh, well. Read the article. It's mainly about Bucknell.
Saddam didn't have Castro's pedigree of international showmanship; he didn't luck out like Che and get croaked before he could prove himself another typical socialist sellout to power (memo: that arc is as inevitable as the sun across the sky) . He was more like Stalin: never the romantic-hero type, despite his attempts to create a rather transparent cult of personality (the Uncle Joe persona); a fairly obvious and cold-blooded climber from the get-go; a rube from the sticks who rose steadily and brutally through the party machinery to finally wield its power, and brutally. Few get misty about this type.
Friday, May 23, 2003
"The In-Laws," starring Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks as mismatched fathers whose children are getting married, is essentially the same as the 1979 comedy it's a remake of, starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.I'm so happy. Does that make me a bad person? Ah, who cares. The In-Laws (the original) is very likely the funniest movie ever made. Unlike other comedies, it gets funnier each time I see it; there's always a quip I missed last time (usually because I was laughing too hard to hear everything). What the hell made anyone involved in this remake think they could improve in any way on the original?
There are a few minor differences: Brooks plays a nerdy podiatrist; Arkin played a nerdy dentist. Douglas, in the role of secret government agent, drags Brooks' character to France; Falk, in the role of secret government agent, dragged Arkin's character to Central America.
Then there's the main difference: This new film isn't funny.
Sucks to the morons in Hollywood who tamper with perfection because they can't think of anything new to do.
If she wanted to, Sorenstam could withdraw from the Colonial on Friday morning, pack up and fly home, because she already has done what she came here to do. She wondered if she could compete at the top level of the game of golf. She now has her answer. She most definitely can.This is what I was referring to yesterday, the silly boosterism, the victory-no-matter-what feminism of the whole thing. My biggest beef is that this is turning into a consolation prize for the feminist flame-out at Augusta. What exactly is Annika proving? That the best female player in the world can compete with some male professionals in a second-tier event? Golly. Who'd a thunk? I would guess that a few of the top women's tennis players could compete with some of the top 150 men. But what does it mean? Nothing, in fact, other than that the spectrum of ability among male and female professionals has a certain amount of overlap. Again, not news, not a "victory for women," not deserving of the hype and distraction. Sorry.
That said, I hope she makes the cut. I'll agree that it's fun to see her out with the boys, and I'm glad she's playing well. But honestly, let's stop pretending that this "means" something, that it's proving a bunch of neanderthals (like me) "wrong" in some way. It's childish, really.
More: Just read your take. We seem to be in agreement, and I too have said my piece. I'm ready to "move on" as they say -- particularly since I already know that you don't even consider golf a "sport." After this weekend, I'm thinking you may be right.
I don't think this is the total win for Bush that the GOP is claiming. Sure, he had the Dems crushed. What the hell did Tom Daschle have to say about this issue other than "Please don't hurt me"? But then Bush lost to his own party on this bill. Coming off a popular and successful war, with sizable job approval boosts and an apparent sackful of political capital, Bush's own party said no to him. He still gets to brag that he got a tax cut, and it will still play well in the campaign since the Dems generally opposed any tax cut that affected actual taxpayers. But having the votes to walk all over the opposition and having your own party hold you back? That's gotta sting.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Well, well, Annika didn't embarrass herself or women's golf. One over ain't too shabby, but if she doesn't improve tomorrow, she'll be trunk slamming like a real journeyman(woman?) This is a bit of a sideshow, no doubt, but it's not like they invited some ex-jock amateur who might break par at his country club on a good day. No, that was done a few years ago when Mark Rypien got an exemption into a tourney in Virginia. Fact is, the sponsors run the show and for the money they put up, they ought to have that right.I think this is correct. If you're giving away exemptions to your sponsors, you deal with what they come up with. Rypien, according to the USA Today, missed the cut by 36 strokes. Annika couldn't hold up traffic that badly with one arm in a sling. Still, better to do away with exemptions altogether. Golfer continues:
She didn't take a spot from someone who legitimately should expect one and it brings a lot of attention to a great tournament getting lost in the Tigerless stretch between the Masters and the U.S. Open ... Yeah, I wish she would have gotten in by qualifying like a man, but I can live with it.I suppose I can live with it, too. Like I said, Vijay took it too far, but I understand how he feels.
At this point, given what little I know, I find the result highly questionable.
According to Boris Luis Garcia, formerly a molecular biologist with Cuba's Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Castro wanted to shrink cows to the size of dogs. Castro's idea was to get around the scarcity of milk in the cities by providing Cuban families with miniature milk cows they could keep in their apartments. According to his plan, the miniature cows would graze on grass to be grown in drawers under fluorescent lights.An idea, Fidel: Turn the milk over to a free market mechanism and leave it alone. I'll bet you three dog-sized cows (and maybe a badger-sized sheep or two) that the scarcity doesn't return.
On another level, this has a whiff of the contrived situation, meant to be a "symbolic victory" no matter the outcome (the only kind of situation feminists seem to like). In that respect, it trivializes not just the men doing this for a living, but also the women. It reminds me of the hullabaloo in professional tennis that pleads to give women the same prize money as the men. Now, I don't particularly have a problem with that, as long as the women step up to a best-of-five-set format. They're professional athletes -- they're not going to drop from the strain. (Look at Serena Williams's physique, for heaven's sake!) Anyhow, to give an athlete any honor that she hasn't earned (like equal prize money for an easier match, or a place in the PGA without having to qualify) is contrary to the very spirit of competition.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
USA Today's 5-day format makes it too "lightweight." The Wall Street Journal is a weekday paper, and WSJ is a paper of record in it's own right.
The op-ed page is "anemic." Amen. Part of the problem with the Times is it's crusader image, believing its own propaganda. When a USA Today editorial takes a stand on an issue, the adjacent column almost always offers a contrary opinion. Besides, opinion journalism in big media is, as the blogger's lament goes, an echo chamber. Op-ed is one part of a paper that could stand to be cut back.
Arts coverage is slim. Yeah. And pedestrian. More American Idol, anyone? There's no getting around this objection. Not to sound snobbish, but raising the quality of the arts section is not something that will play in Peoria.
I'll still give my vote to the WSJ, but USA Today is a paper I thoroughly enjoy. It is McPaper, by analogy the news equivalent of McDonalds. But when was the last time you didn't enjoy McDonalds?
He's blessed by incumbency, for two reasons. First, it's good for a small boost across the board. (Contrary pundits point to Bush 41's loss, but the Perot effect was an anomoly. For the first time in modern presidential elections, it was a real three-way horse race, and Perot drew nearly one in five votes, despite public flake-outs, such as withdrawing from the race.) Second, Bush doesn't have to spend a primary season defending his right flank. He can position himself as the centrist from the start. But here's the tricky bit: he may have to run right anyway. His pollsters will quickly determine whether there is any erosion in base support. If there is, he'll need to step out of the centrist role and into the minefields of, say, abortion.
Moreover, I think Americans feel good about Iraq, about what we did, and Bush's opportunity is to use that to make his new mandate. This is something his father didn't do, didn't even understand. Perhaps he thought it was unbecoming for a president to use his war popularity domestically, but young W knows it's fair game. He'll keep the terror threat high on the radar, of course, since it's a big issue (and a vote getter, I bet). But look for him to appeal to America's can-do spirit. Look for him to make implicit comparisons that parse like this: "If we can do what we did in Iraq [What did we do? Let's leave that vague.], then we can certainly do [insert tax reform, entitlement reform, vouchers, etc.]." Bush is going to run as the guy-on-a-streak candidate. He may have to concede that we're not winning the game yet, particularly if consumer confidence doesn't leap, but he can at least argue that he's had a hit at just about every at bat lately.
Lack of transparency makes it difficult to say how much money changes hands, but the sums are huge. Mr Venturi reckons that a big manufacturing conglomerate might spend the equivalent of up to 25% of gross sales on “trade promotions” of one form or another. Measured from the other perspective, a typical big European retailer might extract the equivalent of 10% of its total revenues via trade spending. For an individual retailer that often means a sum measured in hundreds of millions. At an industry level billions are at stake.
"Lack of transparency" makes it impossible to say what is going on. Hmmm, where have we heard this before? This lack of transparency is what makes the SEC a necessary evil in our country, but what's worse, is that even with the SEC, it is usually only reactive, not proactive. A band-aid on the femoral artery.
So the article says that the WHO is aiming to "[break] a habit that kills nearly five million people a year." This figure is later explained in this sentence: "The U.N. health agency says 4.9 million people die each year from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions linked to smoking ..." What a nightmare of a sentence. (Reuters, like many other news agencies, seems to be staffed by illiterates.) So 4.9 million people die a year from diseases linked to smoking? Does that mean that scientists believe that these diseases often have tobacco use as a contributing factror, or does it mean that doctors have determined that tobacco use was a contributing factor in each of the 4.9 million specific cases? It's a big difference. (And go read Balko on MADD and RWJ Foundation and their method of "linking" alcohol and car accidents. Same kind of pseudo-scientific crap in the service of the lifestyle police.)
Actually, the fault for the lack of clarity doesn't lie entirely with Reuters. Any branch of the UN knows how to play the vague-press-release game. What does it matter what the "link" between smoking and disease is (never mind the ever-weakening link between second-hand smoke and disease) as long as the bureaucrats get their budget increase every year?
Monday, May 19, 2003
Friday, May 16, 2003
Thursday, May 15, 2003
By the way, SARS isn't technically a syndrome anymore; it's been proved to be a virus now. When can we expect a name change?
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Herein lies the root of the problem. If the only unifying force in the Democrat party is to remove Bush, the cause is already lost. Removal of Clinton was the only thing for the Repubs in 1996 -- see how well that worked? ... Right now the Dem's vision for the future goes no further than November 2004. That just won't cut it.File this under Beinart's Lieberman lessons. The nominee will have to run against Bush, but will have to get the nomination against other Democrats. Kind of a pointless exercise, then, for them all to run as the Not-Bush Clones, eh? Lieberman has the best chance to stand out on principle. And, I suspect, Bush versus Lieberman might turn out to be a more decent race than we're accustomed to (in both senses of the word "decent").
Speaking of streams of consciousness, I have wandered from my humility. I apologize. Perhaps I'll try David Foster Wallace, who by all reports is the grandpappy of this style. Hell, if you're going to drink the effluent of a disposable society anyway, you might as well drink from the fire hose.
Anyway, progressive tax rates keep the government in business. Barring a real revolt at the polls, I don't see anything happening with the tax code (other than more additions, deletions, revisions, credits, loopholes, and targeted rollbacks -- all of which guaranteed to make life hell for taxpayers). But as long as we're stuck with the monster code, maybe we could sneak something in to cap the system. Bush drew his line in the sand in 2001 (anything over 33% is confiscatory) and then promptly signed in a rate of 35% that takes 10 years to kick in, then goes right back up to 38% the next year, all after he's comfortably out of office. Profiles in courage, dude.
On Saturday night George Stephanopoulos asked all the Democratic candidates at once whether any of them would "rule out raising taxes as president of any kind." There followed an awkward pause. No one wanted to be dishonest--but certainly no one wanted to be Walter Mondale, either. Suddenly Howard Dean, always the most impetuous of the bunch, threw up a hand. Down at the end of the table, John Kerry looked at Dean and followed with something that looked like a hand-raise of his own. Only it wasn't quite that. Kerry lifted his forearm halfway up, then left it suspended in an tentative gesture of ambiguous meaning. It was as if he were Dr. Strangelove, wrestling his own arm as his political and intellectual impulses clashed internally.Also good: Easterbrook destroys Lieberman's energy proposal.
Plus: Atrios hates it.
In any case, he would be the best one to put up against Bush. He's the least priggish of the crowd, the least liberal -- at least in a way that's easy to caricature. Kerry can be tied to the tax-and-spend post. Dean is looking less and less thoughtful everyday, though I think he'll still strip enough of the activist base from Kerry to be a minor spoiler in the Northeast. If it all goes well for Lieberman, his only big challenge will be Dick Gephardt, who is looking mighty fresh for an old warhorse. I don't think his health care plan will sell in a general election, but he's hitting the right primary buttons. What's your take from the position of a potential primary vote to be captured?
Polls over the past ten years have consistently found that the majority of Americans think that no family in America should have to pay more than 25 percent of its income in taxes. As the Wall Street Journal has pointed out in reviewing these polls, the 25 percent cap includes all taxes: sales taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, income taxes, cigarette taxes, business taxes, car taxes, you name it. The government is not welcome to more than 1/4th, no matter whether we are talking about Bill Gates or the janitor who cleans Bill Gates's office at night.What would you say to that? The Fed takes a flat 17%, the state takes a flat 8%, and nothing else need be said. No property tax, no "estate" tax, no sin tax. (One additional thing I would allow is a user fee for road usage, either as a toll or as a gasoline tax, but only with the provision that it could never co-mingle with general revenue. General revenue funding of roads is a sop to the trucking industry, just as railroads were to rail tycoons in the 19th century.) Plus, a constitutional provision that taxes could never be raised. Congress would have an incentive, all of a sudden, to get its fat ass out of the way and really let the economy hum, since rising budgets would be tied to a growing economy.
I think there's something to this.
Monday, May 12, 2003
I have to say that I don't mind that Eggers has fun with a story that is, at its root, about tragedy and recovery. This is a topic worth having fun with, since sappy tragedy stories are a dime (at most) a dozen. In the end, though, the book becomes too much an exercise in stylistic deconstruction (e.g., about playing reliable narrator tricks and then copping to them in the next breath) and gets lost in its own maze. It's worth finding the characters in the book, for they are occasionally rewarding to find. Would've made a good long-essay piece.
Is there still good, solid reporting to be found at the Times? Yeah, I guess, but there is at the local daily in Bangor or Des Moines or Abilene, as long as you aren't the type to sniff at provincialism. Which brings us back to New York, the most provincial of the provinces. To a Times reader, it's that old New Yorker cover where, once across the Hudson, the country is foreshortened into caricature. In order to buy into the importance of the Times, you have to buy into the importance of New York, and therefore the importance of Importance. It's a worldview that is not entirely without merit, but one certainly couldn't call it a priori pre-eminent. A certain amount of the blogger world is all about puncturing that sensibility: it's a group of well-read, smart, even hip people -- bloggers and readers alike -- who are tired of the talking points, the recieved wisdom of The Times.
Which brings me to my final point, which was also my point in mentioning the Post above: The Times is generally a humorless paper. News, to them, is made and reported with a grim mien. When there is humor, it's often startlingly trite and revelatory of the insularity of the Times staff. The Post, on the other hand, is a big, meaty dish of news, full of weirdos, straphangers, pervs, and all the wonderful Post-isms that only a seasoned reader doesn't need explained (e.g., "Beep to Hizzoner, PA on Wrong Track in Bx" or some other juicy shorthand like that).
By the way, if I ever blog about newspapers again, I'm skipping the italics. (You'll notice I didn't get them all. Screw it. Even an editor gets tired of this crap.)
Friday, May 09, 2003
High art versus pop culture is no longer a matter—let me switch metaphors here—of fancy French restaurant cuisine versus mom’s home cookin’ or a juicy cheeseburger at the corner diner. High art’s opponent is the equivalent of 10 billion tons of ersatz potato chips made from a petroleum derivative, flavored with a green “sour cream and jalapeno” dust manufactured in the same vat as the latest hair regrower, and served in little silver bags through which not one molecule of air will penetrate until 2084.If this is so, it is only because, for so many years, high art accepted -- nay, cultivated -- the elitist attitude Plagens shows when he says
High art is elitist. Only a relatively few people have the educated taste for it, the patience to enjoy it and, frankly, the ability to get it.This assumes, of course, that high art means that there is something to "get." I think that this is true of modern art (in which it is, in fact, only an affectation) but not necessarily of high art. Do we suppose -- in a culture that sports rising literacy, sophistication, and disposable income -- that erstwhile museum-goers have slowly been slipped the Folger's Crystals of pop culture instead of the "real" thing? Plagens obviously does, based on that first quote, though the second quote is off the mark on the wherefores. First, modernists (and their children, the post-modernists) brought pop-culture into the high arts, blurring the distinction. Second, as the distinction was blurred, the elite artists felt more of a need to segregate -- via ironic detachment and an ever increasing resort to "shocking" an anaesthetized public -- those who "get" it from those who don't. In other words, don't create art that is intentionally about "getting" some ephemeral obscurity ("Oh, I love how you deconstruct the prevailing paternalistic meme by transgressing the implied phallo-yonic dialectic so prevalent in the classical still life!" -- as she looks at a textureless sea-green and dun smear) and then bitch because "Mr. Harry Twelvepack," as Plagens patronizingly paints him (people who get it drink wine -- get it?), would rather not pony up $35 for the exhibit -- only to be told, if he questions, that he doesn't get it.
Look a little closer: What is there to "get" about Beethoven? Nothing, it seems, that isn't somehow present in human nature. What is there to "get" about art in general? In it's power to move us, art is anti-elitist, anti-intellectual. The Arnolfini Marriage doesn't require any particular need to "get" in order to appreciate its beauty, despite the "hidden transgressives" that pop up. That is to say, the intellectualized bits, interesting as they may be to scholars, are not what make art. A great example is Dickens, who was an incredible sell-out -- in both senses of the modern word. He was popular, beloved, widely read by all classes. There was nothing to "get" about it. Art invites one in. Let me say that again: Art invites one in. The "get" is simply the burden that modernists have put on art, the sign that says, "Stay out, you don't get it."
More: By chance found this on Lileks's site: "Real art has to be explained, patiently, like the dangers of a hot stove to a small child." Goddammit! Why can he say in one line what it takes me a page to vent?