COMMONPLACE BOOK: What I'm Reading
"America is a glory of a country, and a glorious idea for a country, and we would be saved now by the love of it if the idea of the love of it hadn’t been strip-mined and left ugly.” (George W.S. Trow)
“... Already, Trow was toying with the themes that animate his masterpiece, “Within the Context of No Context”: the decline of the intellectual elite, the rise of a fame-based hierarchy, the end of adulthood.
“.... Trow told us that we had “a third parent—television.” And that the function of television is “to establish false contexts and to chronicle the unraveling of existing contexts.” Television is neutral, it is the referee, not distinguishing between the war against wrinkles and the war in Iraq. Over time, Trow suggested, this would scramble people’s brains and lead us to our current situation: “Of all Americans, only they”—celebrities—“are complete.”
(Ariel Levy, “The Last Gentleman”)
“What is loved is a hit. What is a hit is loved.” (George Trow)
"No one, now, minds a con man. But no one likes a con man who doesn't know what we think we want." (George W.S. Trow)
“[George] Trow's talent lay not in sustained, logical argument but in startling insights and metaphors. But the overall thrust was that television and mass media, and the "ironic," endlessly self-referential culture they fostered — in his 1999 book, "My Pilgrim's Progress," he compared it to the proliferation of useless weaponry at the Pentagon — robbed America of psychic self-sufficiency, unembarrassed adulthood, and a willingness to make judgments.”
(Brendan Bernhard in
The New York Sun )
“Journalists ought to make of themselves a prideful guild. (The Newspaper Guild used to stand for a little something.) Stand a little apart from this troubled world of ours. Identify the stories which will affect the lives of our children. And cover them.” (George W. S. Trow)
“He [George Trow] was talking about the world, a civilization, coming from a society you're not ashamed of, not conspiring with bad things just for your own gain and self-importance.”
(Jamaica Kincaid, in the interview above)
"You have to have a huge sense of humor and a small ego. There are some people who are born to do it and some who learn to do it, and there are some people who really shouldn’t do it."
JASON LEVY, a principal in the Bronx, on the challenge of teaching middle school. (NY Times)
“Mr. D'Souza may be conveniently vague about exactly what it is we are supposed to do to our lifestyle to win over our putative Muslim friends in waiting (Ban the bottle? Bring the burqa to Berkeley?), but he does find plenty of room for the grumbling and raving of one Sayyib Qutb. Poor, peculiar Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian philosopher whose writings have been a major inspiration for many of today's Islamic radicals, was disgusted by the "animalistic behavior" he claimed to have witnessed on a visit to America. That disgust clearly played a part in shaping his increasingly fundamentalist worldview, and Mr. D'Souza naturally sees this as important evidence in support of his case. In fact, it's the opposite. Qutb's visit to America took place in the Truman era, a time not usually remembered for its wild abandon. The event that appears to have shocked him the most was, wait for it, a church social. You see, Dinesh, there really is no pleasing some people.”
(ANDREW STUTTAFORD on "The Enemy At Home" by Dinesh D'Souza)
“Walking back through the mall to the exit nearest our part of the parking lot, we passed one shop which sold computers, printers, software, and games. It was packed with teenagers, the kind who wear wire rims and know what the new world is about. The clerks were indulgent, letting them program the computers. Two hundred yards away, near the six movie houses, a different kind of teenager shoved quarters into the space-war games, tensing over the triggers, releasing the eerie sounds of extraterrestrial combat. Any kid back in the computer store could have told the combatants that because there is no atmosphere in space, there is absolutely no sound at all. Perfect distribution: the future managers and the future managed ones. Twenty in the computer store, two hundred in the arcade.”
(John D. MacDonald, Cinnamon Skin)
“I know I speak for a generation of people who have been looking for dark-matter particles [axions and neutralinos] since they were grad students,” [Juan Collar] said one wintry afternoon in his University of Chicago office.... A negative result from an experiment might mean only that theorists haven’t thought hard enough or that observers haven’t looked deep enough. “It could very well be that Mother Nature has decided that the neutralino is way down there,” Collar said, pointing not to a graph that he taped up in his office but to a point below the sheet of paper itself, at the blank wall. “If that is the case,” he went on to say, “we should retreat and worship Mother Nature. These particles maybe exist, but we will not see them, our sons will not see them and their sons won’t see them.”
(New York Times)
“Rock 'n' roll is suffering from that old progressive school fallacy that says if what you write is about your own feelings, no one can criticize it. Truth telling is beginning to settle into a slough where it is nothing more than a pedestrian autobiography set to placid music framed by a sad smile on the album cover. This is about as liberating as thinking typecast movie stars are "really like" the roles they play. In many cases, though, this has come to be true in rock 'n' roll: singers have dispensed with imagination and songs are just pages out of a diary, with nothing in them that could give them a life of their own. A good part of the audience has lost its taste for songs that are about something out there in the world that the singer is trying to make real--usually by convincingly assuming the burden of that reality; replacing such songs are tunes that desperately deny the world by affirming the joys of solipsism.”
(Greil Marcus, MYSTERY TRAIN)
"Everything that these [comics] companies do is in complete isolation from true market forces. They are not now, nor have they been for 30 years, part of the mass media," says [Peter Birkemoe] the co-owner of Toronto's most discerning comic shop, The Beguiling. "Companies run by fans with comics drawn by fans rarely think of catering to anyone but themselves, which unfortunately means comics aimed primarily at adult men who still want to read comics featuring characters suited to children's entertainment."
“If they're truly unable to recruit younger readers, superhero comics are destined to whither and possibly die within a generation or two. It is entirely possible that our grandchildren will know of Spider-Man or Batman only through other iterations, like Hollywood, cartoons, or video games.
“Leopold Campbell, a 34-year-old vice-principal and die-hard superhero fan, has an easy solution: write better stories. Campbell, who has been reading comics since he was "a working-class black kid" in Toronto, says comic fans of all colors get hooked on them for one reason, the addictive nature of serialized storylines – many of which involve complex plots and take years to resolve.”
(Brad McKay in The Toronto Star)
“Maximilien Robespierre led the phase of the French Revolution called the Terror. It lasted a little over a year. He gave the orders that resulted in beheading, drowning, shooting, or burying alive about 20,000 men, women, and children. Mao Zedong ruled China between 1949 and his death in 1976. During his tenure, his followers murdered, on a low estimate, 20 million people. ...
“Both Robespierre and Mao seized control of and radicalized revolutions that they did not start. In each case, the revolution destroyed the previous corrupt regime and replaced it with hell on earth. Instead of their predecessors’ venality, Robespierre and Mao sought ideological purity, and they had a cold impersonal hatred of those whom they suspected of not sharing their crazed theories. This hatred brought them to murder people indiscriminately, not for what they did but for what they were. Innocence was no part of Robespierre’s or Mao’s vocabulary; the notion that punishment should be for real crimes, both men thought, was subversive of the grandiose project of achieving happiness for all. Their ideologies dictated the only way to reach that lofty goal; those who disagreed with their ideologies became enemies of mankind, deserving only extermination.
“.... Robespierre’s ideology derived from Rousseau, Mao’s from Marx. They borrowed what they could from these thinkers, treated their derivative beliefs as incontestable truths, never questioned themselves, and ignored readily available criticisms. Robespierre and Mao were monsters, but they exacerbated their monstrosity by sophistical self-righteousness.”
(John Kekes, “Words to Die By”)
Posted by Michael Fountain: Blood for Ink