Via the New Yorker.
Ted Cruz got himself described as “the new McCarthy” by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker for asking Chuck Hagel about accepting speaker fees from North Korea. Mayer then dug deeper, and disclosed that, two and half years ago at a 4th of July speech, Cruz reminisced about his days at Harvard Law School (1992-1995), observing that Barack Obama would make a perfect president of Harvard’s Law School, which in Cruz’s time had “fewer Republicans than communists.”
Bill O’Reilly and Mitt Romney both also spent time at the little institution on the Charles, and both of them have also recently had critical things to say about Harvard’s characteristic politics and influence.
Well, you can only take so much, and the editors of the Harvard Crimson struck back this week, openly urging conservatives dissenters not even to apply for admission.
If you think Harvard is a revolutionary communist hotbed, don’t apply. If you think Harvard is full of “pinheaded” professors, don’t enroll. And if you think Harvard pollutes the minds of its students, don’t walk out of here with a degree—and certainly don’t get two.
As Daniel Webster might have said: “It’s a bright-red, anti-American school, stuffed to the rafters with bolshies peddling pin-headed, crack-brained ideas, but some love it.”
Risque postcard of nude woman smoking by Julian Mandel.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1936 story, “Thank You For the Light,” was just published in the New Yorker.
Mrs. Hanson was a pretty, somewhat faded woman of forty, who sold corsets and girdles, travelling out of Chicago. For many years her territory had swung around through Toledo, Lima, Springfield, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne, and her transfer to the Iowa-Kansas-Missouri district was a promotion, for her firm was more strongly entrenched west of the Ohio.
Eastward, she had known her clientele chattily and had often been offered a drink or a cigarette in the buyer’s office after business was concluded. But she soon found that in her new district things were different. Not only was she never asked if she would like to smoke but several times her own inquiry as to whether anyone would mind was answered half apologetically with “It’s not that I mind, but it has a bad influence on the employees.”
“Oh, of course, I understand.”
Smoking meant a lot to her sometimes. She worked very hard and it had some ability to rest and relax her psychologically. She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to John W. Brewer.
William Tucker responds to Harvard American History Professor Jill Lepore’s prolix rant in the New Yorker, attempting to trivialize the Constitution and bury Originalism beneath an avalanche of anecdotes.
During the First Congress’s debates over the Bill of Rights, one wise Congressman noted that someone better include a right of men to “wear hats, go to bed and get up when they please,” because someone was sure to come along and say if it wasn’t a “right” specified in the Constitution, it wasn’t allowed. The Congress recognized this problem and attempted to avoid it with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments:
IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.
Conservatives have rightly seized upon the Ninth and Tenth Amendment as the basic concepts underlying the Constitution. It is a document in which the people grant rights to the government, not one in which the government grants rights to the people. Liberals never stop misinterpreting this formula. Bill Moyers once asked a Supreme Court Justice, “When are you going to grant us more rights?” as if we were all beggars huddled outside some royal palace petitioning for an extra slice of bread or another holiday. But liberals like it that way because a “Living Constitution” allows them to write their own preferences into stone as “constitutional rights” rather than achieving them through legislation. Abortion is a constitutional right, the death penalty is unconstitutional, and on and on. In some states the right of public employees to collect their pensions has been written into the constitution. Now how did that ever happen?
When conservatives argue that the Constitution is silent on such issues, they are accused of “Originalism” and forcing us to live in the past. How could a bunch of 18th century white men have possibly anticipated all the problems of the 21st century? But the Founding Fathers weren’t trying to solve our problems for us. They were simply giving us a set of ground rules that would allow us to solve problems ourselves. So far the system has worked magnificently. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash discusses the kind of art produced today for readers of the New Yorker, for the believing-itself-to-be-hip, pseudo-educated urban community of fashion, things like the films of Woody Allen and the novels of Don DeLillo.
There is a certain kind of art made here in America for a lofty but banal purpose: to enliven the contemporary educated mind.
You know: the mind of you and me, dear 3QD reader—the NPR listener, the New Yorker reader, the English major, the filmgoer who laps up subtitles, the gallery-goer who can tell a Koons from a Hirst.
This art is superior to the cascading pile of blockbuster kitsch-dreck-crap that passes for pop culture, but only superior by a few pips.
This art sure ain’t Picasso, or Joyce, or Rossellini, or the Beatles, or even Sondheim. It’s more Woody Allen than Ingmar Bergman, more Joyce Carol Oates than James Joyce, more Jeff Koons than Duchamp, more Arcade Fire than the Beatles.
It does not expand the borders of art or wreck the tyranny of the possible or enlarge our hungry little minds.
It is art of the day to inform the conversation of the day by the people of the day who need to be reassured that their taste is a little more elevated than that of the woman on the subway reading Nora Roberts.
For want of a better label, here’s a suggested honorific for this kind of art:
Urban Intellectual Fodder.
Neither original nor path-breaking, this art is derivative hommage; postmodern commentary around the edges of art.
It is art born of attitude, not passion. It is art that postures but doesn’t grip. It is art created by those who are more passionate about a career in art than about art itself. ...
What distinguishes this art from actual art?
Primarily, this is art that thinks about art. Art of the intellect, not the heart. Art done to bring us the smart, not the art.
The artists of Urban Intellectual Fodder act like art critics doing art—they’re better about their art than with it, better on their art than in it. Their art is done to show their smarts, and that’s primarily what one gets from their art.
Smart art: in America, the land of anti-intellectualism, it’s perhaps inevitable that our art should devolve into a screech against the national celebration of the dumb.
Unfortunately, this art does the smart thing to the detriment of the other things that art can do. It does the soothing, lulling thing, because it is art to make the viewer feel smart. The audience I’m talking about wants only that from art: to be made to feel smart. So they get their art of the brain, for the brain and by the brain. Art that panders with its braininess.
Urban Intellectual Fodder is the prozac of the American intelligentsia.
It’s studiedly smart; it’s properly elliptical; it’s quite self-aware and often very meta; it is extensively footnoted, either actually or mentally; its distance from its material is either ironically remote or uncomfortably close-up; it is intensely minimal or wordy or effects-ridden, in either a refined or extravagant way; it specializes in conceits, and sometimes its conceit is to be devoid of one; and it makes its small points, and sometimes its big obvious ones, in either a very guarded or rather grandiosely ironical way.
Critic James Wood coined a name for it: “hysterical realism.” Dale Peck had a name for it, too: “recherche postmodernism.”
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
Book Reviews, Distinction, New Yorker, Sam Tanenhaus, Sarah Palin, The Elect, The Intelligentsia, The Left
Sarah Palin: crazed hick or naughty child in New Yorker’s caricature?
Back in September, Sam Tanenhaus published a slender book titled, in a note of hopeful optimism, The Death of Conservatism.
Alas! Barack Obama is sinking in the polls, populist critics like Glenn Beck have had a field day exposing the controversial aspects of his appointees, the progressive impetus is faltering in the halls of Congress, and prospects for the kinds of champions of “the civic sector” that Tanenhaus admires are looking dim in upcoming elections.
What Tanenhaus really delivers is an in-print liberal temper tantrum, trashing Palin up, down, and sideways, sinking frequently to the level of the high school “in crowd” savaging the non-cool kid from the not-rich family who got above herself. Carried away by his indignation at the nerd Palin, from the wrong side of the nation’s geography and class structure, daring to sit down at the lunch table reserved for the cultural equivalent of cheer leaders and football players, Tanenhaus openly reveals what liberals really think (in their most secret little hearts): Sarah Palin represents the erasure of any distinction between the governing and the governed.
Unlike our liberal friends, we conservatives think the American Revolution erased that distinction. In today’s America, the successors to Jefferson and Madison and Jackson, the people who really believe in the equality of the individual before the law, the people who believe that people from outside the ranks of the national Establishment may be worthy and capable of holding high office, are Republicans.
Today’s liberals are a strange combination of the Secret Six, the Narodnaya Volya, and every high school’s ruling clique. Like the 19th century radical Abolitionists with whom they explicitly identify, Liberals believe they are morally and intellectually more enlightened than Americans generally, and perceive grave and fundamental sins (retrospectively, Slavery and segregation and other forms of inequality; contemporaneously, the absence of National Health Care and the profanation of the Natural World) blemishing America, which they feel entitled to correct regardless of what any or all of the rest of us happen to think about it. Like the 19th century underground radical conspirators, and despite the Fall of the Soviet Union, they still consider themselves a Vanguard of the Left, empowered by History to bring society as it currently exists forcibly into a Utopian future, characterized by an enormously expanded Statism benificently presided over by an elite intelligentsia (i.e. themselves).
On a more mundane level, like any high school clique, they feel entitled to rule, and they demand deference, on the basis of status. Tanenhaus refers to “distinction,” which he summarizes as consisting of skill, experience, intellect but, as we saw in the 2008 campaign, in which the record of the most popular and successful governor in the nation was compared disfavorably by every liberal evaluator of “distinction” to a candidate whose only meaningful accomplishments were a (possibly ghost-written) post-Law School memoir and the campaign then still underway, that skill, experience, and intellect tend to be qualities varying greatly in the eye of the beholder. A captious critic could easily observe that the election of Barack Obama proves just how easily the top lunch-table clique can be seduced by such superficialities as glibness and a good announcer’s voice.
Lizzie Widdicombe, in this week’s New Yorker, describes the beautiful people taking in the Bactrian Treasure Horde (fresh from darkest Afghanistan) at the Met, nibbling mutton at La Grenouille, and lamenting still another of Darth Cheney’s enormities.
Elisabetta Valtz-Fino, the exhibit’s curator, led a tour of the treasures, which included tiger, dolphin, and ram designs (the nomads loved animals). There was a jeweller in the crowd—Tim McClelland, of McTeigue & McClelland jewellers, which helped sponsor the event—and he studied the back of a collapsible gold crown. “This is the Hubble space telescope of jewelry,” he said. Adrianne Dicker-Kadzinski, a former Morgan Stanley investment banker, said she had done a stint in Afghanistan, in 2004, with the U.S. Army Reserve. “Kabul itself was very sad,” she said. “The whole country is like a moonscape—brown, brown, brown.”
Afterward, there was a lamb dinner at La Grenouille (“I feel very Afghan eating this,” the writer Ann Marlowe said) and a raffle: all the guests received little keys; one of them opened a treasure chest containing a special gold-and-lapis bracelet made by McClelland. (The winner was a J. P. Morgan asset manager named Sophie Bosch de Hood.)
As excited as people were to have seen the Bactrian jewels, a sadness wafted over the evening: because of security concerns, the hoard can’t be displayed in Afghanistan. “I’m so mad at Dick Cheney,” said Caroline Firestone, an eighty-year-old philanthropist, who has known the former Vice-President for a long time. “I once gave him my house in Wyoming so he could stay there at Christmas. And he never let me come and talk to him about Afghanistan.”
Wouldn’t a poison dart from a blow gun be more to the point? Shouldn’t they be asking to be allowed to shrink Jared Diamond’s head?
Two New Guinea tribesmen described by The New Yorker magazine as vengeful, bloodthirsty killers are settling their score with the venerable publication the nonviolent, American way: with a lawsuit. ...
In an April 21, 2008, article on blood feuds by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond… a hired thug shot Isum Mandingo… in the back with an arrow, leaving him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. ...
When media watchdog group stinkyjournalism.org sent a team of fact-checkers to New Guinea to check the article’s veracity, they found Mandingo, who disputed reports of his paralysis by walking on his own two feet.
“No matter what The New Yorker says and what Diamond says, the fact is that he is not paralyzed and is not confined to a wheelchair,” said Rhonda Shearer, the site’s founder.
“It seems The New Yorker was so naive as to think that this article would not reach these supposedly primitive people in New Guinea.” ...
Mandingo told the researchers he had no involvement in any blood feuds. In fact, he’s a peace officer in his village. Neither Diamond nor the magazine reached out to him for confirmation, he said.
The entire article is “untrue,” Mandingo told the group.
Barry Blitt’s controversial cover
Andrew Malcolm, at the LA Times, seems amused.
New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza, whose long, long article on Barack Obama’s early political days in Chicago’s ward politics (available here) was the reason for the magazine’s controversial cover by Barry Blitt depicting Obama as a Muslim, has been barred from traveling with Obama on his foreign field trip this week.
The elitist magazine claimed the cover’s depiction was satirical of a Muslim Obama fist-bumping with a militant wife Michelle armed with an AK-47 beneath a portrait of Osama bin Laden while they burn a U.S. flag—in the Oval Office.
Initially, the Obama campaign and John McCain’s spokesman denounced the cover.
Later, a cooler Obama dismissed it as a weak attempt at satire amid much more important things to discuss.
More than 200 media folks applied to fly in Europe with the freshman senator. But, alas, the Obama campaign said it simply was not able to find a seat for Lizza.
Now, that’s Chicago politics.