Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was written in 1984 for the back side of an album ultimately rejected by that performer’s label.
“Hallelujah” began being covered in early 1990s by Jeff Buckley, a young singer-songwriter performing in the East Village, who recorded it on his only album in 1994, three years before he drowned, getting caught in a boat wake, in a river in Tennessee. Buckley’s version was considerably more emotional and his voice more sympathetic than Cohen’s. Buckley’s early and romantic death brought attention to the song, and one thing led to another.
Today, “Hallelujah” is one of the most-frequently-performed rock songs and a staple routinely used elegiacally in movies and television shows. It has been covered by large numbers of renowned performers, including Bono, Bob Dylan, U2, Justin Timberlake, Rufus Wainwright, and k.d. lang, and is used as a kind of secular funeral hymn around the world.
You are rich, immortal, a century old vampire who has all the learning and experience of very long human lifetime, the opportunity to live anywhere you choose and do anything you like, but a personal need for privacy, anonymity, and—of course—routine access to prey.
Naturally, you select the rural, 3,000 population town of Forks, Washington over Paris, London, Shanghai, and New York, attend high school and become romantically (and non-predaciously) involved with a 17 year old girl, and you dine on deer.
It was the high school part that gave Karen and myself the most serious problem. We both felt strongly that, were we vampires ourselves, we would consider high school in the upper rank of the same category of undesirable things as garlic, stakes, and crucifixes.
Karen and I actually read several volumes of the Twilight young adult series a few years ago when it began attracting wide attention. We found the novels readable enough, at least in the early portion of the series. The energy and marginal plausibility of character motivation and behavior seemed to weaken significantly in later volumes, and we quit reading before the series reached its conclusion.
As everyone knows, vampires have become a favorite theme in popular culture, offering the female audience male leads combining power and sophistication with melancholy complexity. The vampire is, of course, the bad boy par excellence offering an otherwise unequaled opportunity for any girl to give him the special understanding he needs and then to redeem him by her love.
France is just a little further along the same path of progressive statism we ourselves are headed down.
Dominique Poirier (our European correspondent) forwards a recent item from the London Times demonstrating that the ambitions and the potential scope of a state regulatory regime are limitless, as well as humorless.
Country and western has become so big in France that the country’s bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control.
The French administration has moved to create an official country dancing diploma as part of a drive to regulate the fad. Authorised instructors who have been on publicly funded training courses will be put in charge of line dancing lessons and balls.
The rules, which come into force next year, come after the rapid spread of country and western in France, where an estimated 100,000 people line dance several times a week. Jean Chauveau, the chairman of the country section of the French Dance Federation, said: “It’s growing at a crazy rate. There are thousands of clubs and more are springing up all the time.”
He said the French shunned the square dancing that is popular among country and western fans in the United States because it involved physical contact. “They don’t want to take anyone by the hand or anything like that,” he said. But they were passionate about line dancing, where participants follow the steps without touching anyone else. “I think this corresponds to the individualism of our times,” Mr Chauveau said.
Village associations boast dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of members; competitions are flourishing, and a country music festival is expected to draw 150,000 people this summer, he said. “Britain caught the line dancing bug a long time before us, but now we are really going for it,” Mr Chauveau said. “It’s complete madness here.” ...
In a peculiarly Gallic approach to the phenomenon, French civil servants say line dancing should be submitted to the same rules as sports such as football and rugby. This means imposing training courses for line dancing teachers and a state-approved diploma for anyone who wants to give lessons or run clubs.
Amateur instructors will have to take 200 hours of training under the new rules. Professionals will get 600 hours, including such subjects as line dancing techniques, “the mechanics of the human body” and the English (or at least Texan) language. They will also learn how to teach line dancing to the elderly.
The cost of the courses, about €2,000 (£1,570) for the professionals and €500 for the amateurs, will be largely met by taxpayers. Mr Chauveau said the regulations highlighted the French state’s obsessive desire to organise all public activity. “France is the only country in Europe apart from Greece where sport is controlled through the state,” he said. “Line dancing is now considered a sport, so it is being controlled, too.”
General Petraeus has received a lot of the sort of service awards which senior officers accumulate simply as a result of having occupied important posts, but he has also been awarded the Bronze Star (with “V” device signifying it was awarded for valor), presumably in connection with his leading the 101st Airborne in the 2003 drive on Baghdad.
Members of the United States Marine Corps are wont to comment negatively on the abundance of badges and awards displayed by US Army personnel. References to alleged prizes for spelling and deportment are not unusual. But when the kind of badinage normally occurring in the context of interservice rivalries starts coming out of the mouths of liberal sissies who probably flunked their physicals for the local cub scout pack, it is time to be outraged.
First, Matthew DeBord, best-known as a wine writer, in the LA Times, has the temerity to offer General Petraeus fashion advice on how to wear the uniform when delivering testimony to Congress:
Gen. David H. Petraeus may be as impressive a military professional as the United States has developed in recent years, but he could use some strategic advice on how to manage his sartorial PR. Witness his congressional testimony on the state of the war in Iraq. There he sits in elaborate Army regalia, four stars glistening on each shoulder, nine rows of colorful ribbons on his left breast, and various other medallions, brooches and patches scattered across the rest of the available real estate on his uniform. He even wears his name tag, a lone and incongruous hunk of cheap plastic in a region of pristine gilt, just in case the politicians aren’t sure who he is.
That’s a lot of martial bling, especially for an officer who hadn’t seen combat until five years ago. Unfortunately, brazen preening and “ribbon creep” among the Army’s modern-day upper crust have trumped the time-honored military virtues of humility, duty and personal reserve.
This civilian wine expert is obviously unacquainted (probably because the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was too upsetting) with the fact that the correct uniform and the display of medals and decorations for various occasions are prescribed. Soldiers do not, in fact, while dressing in the morning, get to reflect, “I’m a bit out-of-sorts today, and don’t feel like getting all dressed up. I think I’ll just wear my fatigues.”
Superannuated television personality Dick Cavett (famous back when the Beatles were the coming thing) emerges from the assisted-living home to bring his 1960s perspective to the matter.
I can’t look at Petraeus — his uniform ornamented like a Christmas tree with honors, medals and ribbons — without thinking of the great Mort Sahl at the peak of his brilliance. He talked about meeting General Westmoreland in the Vietnam days. Mort, in a virtuoso display of his uncanny detailed knowledge — and memory — of such things, recited the lengthy list (”Distinguished Service Medal, Croix de Guerre with Chevron, Bronze Star, Pacific Campaign” and on and on), naming each of the half-acre of decorations, medals, ornaments, campaign ribbons and other fripperies festooning the general’s sternum in gaudy display. Finishing the detailed list, Mort observed, “Very impressive!” Adding, “If you’re twelve.”
There are regrettably some people in this country, so self-obsessed and so utterly removed from reality, that they are able to believe that their own third-rate careers in the entertainment industry place them in a position to sneer at men who have devoted their careers to defending their country, and who have on occasion placed their lives in hazard to preserve this country’s freedom and institutions. If military service and its symbols fail to impress the likes of Mort Sahl and Dick Cavett, that is a reflection on them and not upon the soldiers they have the unmitigated indecency to mock.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
Dean Barnett, in the Weekly Standard, notes that John Kerry did himself a lot of political harm with Packer fans when he spoke of “Lambert Field.”
Barnett clearly thinks that Howard Dean should have identified Stairway to Heaven as his favorite song, instead of Jaspora, an esoteric piece of Haitian reggae by Jean Wyclif.
Imagine what a candidate could get done if he achieved fluency in pop culture. Picture a candidate who could effortlessly segue from paying homage to Dale Earnhardt’s #3 to saying how much High Noon has always meant to him. Conjure up a contender who could unashamedly admit that if owning every George Strait record makes him a square, so be it, and then quickly pivot to the many times tears welled in his eyes when sports heroes like Curt Schilling or Willis Reed rose above pain to perform in an almost super-human fashion.
That guy wouldn’t just have a lot of admirers who wanted to have a beer with him. He’d also eventually be known as Mr. President.
That’s not pop culture. That’s rural Southern culture. Nascar. The opiate of the good ol’ boy masses. Gary Cooper. A great movie, but hardly au courant. George Strait, gawd help us.
Between Clinton and Bush 43 we’ve been ruled by Southerners for the last 4 presidential terms and Barnett wants to foist yet another good ol’ boy on us. Not that there’s anything wrong with Southerners, per se, of course. But maybe it’s time to let a Yankee city boy have a chance?
Personally, if I wanted to choose a President based on his or her fluency with pop culture (which is about the dumbest criteria I’ve ever seen anyway), I’d look for somebody who:
Can effortlessly segue from paying homage to Merlot Clone #3 to saying how much The Matrix has always meant to him. Conjure up a contender who could unashamedly admit that if owning every Bruce Springsteen record makes him a left-leaning pinko, so be it, and then quickly pivot to the many times tears welled in his eyes during the second quarter of Super Bowl XLI.
And proposes the following instead:
Knows which wine to match with the foie gras-stuffed quail being served at a state dinner
Won’t wink at the Queen
Doesn’t hunt, fish, or go with girls who do
Is sometimes accused of having a metrosexual streak
Only drinks beer with foods that would score at least 10,000 on the Scoville scale
Can credibly debate the relative claims of The Matrix, Star Wars, Bladerunner, and Star Trek II to be the greatest science fiction movie of all time
Can credibly debate the relative claims of The Who and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band to be the world’s greatest rock and roll band
Came from a state that didn’t secede
Can recite at least one Monty Python skit from memory
Can credibly debate the relative claims of Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein to be Mel Brook’s best movie, while explaining why Spaceballs is a candidate for the worst movie ever
Has never sat through an entire Woody Allen movie, an entire Nascar race, or an entire Dixie Chicks concert
Wouldn’t camp out 5 days to get Garth Brooks tickets even if s/he was camping at the time
Went to Germany on vacation because s/he couldn’t find a highway with high enough speed limits in the US
Prefers football to basketball to baseball to soccer
Doesn’t play golf
Has no kids to foist subsequent generations of politicians on us
Tim Cavanaugh, at Reason magazine, reviews three titles discussing Zombie cinema and the role of zombies as political metaphors.
The conservative blogger Tim Hulsey sees the undead as a Randian nightmare vision, a mobocracy in which “weak and incompetent corpses band together and achieve a dominance over the living minority that they could not otherwise attain.” For Hulsey, “when the zombies attack, their arms are outstretched toward the victim, as if they were begging for something. Which, in a manner of speaking, they are.…The idea of being overwhelmed by stinking masses, of being forced into a way of life (or death) we would not choose for ourselves, lies at the maggot-infested heart of the original Dead trilogy.”