October 2, 2009 - September 25, 2009
. Disappointment would be too mild a word. The Odd
Couples post wasn't a trick or an offhanded remark. It was a
question. Your relative silence thus far is the answer. I could easily
extend the same idea to novels, poetry, plays, art, architecture,
history, philosophy, and every other aspect of the culture we're now
being forced to defend against thudding collectivist annihilation. When
I offer you a narrow slice of interest -- sci fi, punk rock -- you're
all over it. When I ask you to str-e-e-e-e-e-tch from one pole of
life's dazzling variety of experience to its opposite, you show no
Hmmmph. I'm not letting you off the hook. I'm supposed to be the narrow-minded, bigoted, racist one. God knows I've taken enough heat for it. All I'm asking is that you show me you're not living in the confined slots and boxes the lefty haters say you are.
For example. I started the Odd Couples post partly to make a point, but also to illustrate the extraordinary creativity of the human spirit across time, ethnicity, class, geography, and cultural tradition. Having started, I really can't stop. Odd Couples are not linear at all; they're the integral of infinite human expressiveness. Two points standing in for hundreds, thousands, millions. Because I love my species, I can't get enough. They're like peanuts to me. I want more and more and more. Every connection makes my mind explode and start looking for the field the integral has collapsed to a line.
You? Not so much. Apparently.
So, whether you like it or not, whether you're bored or not, I'm launching Round 2. The same old rules apply.
Ghosts. What does it mean when talent is hidden behind talent? Sometimes it doesn't work. Edmund Purdom. Sometimes it does. Audrey Hepburn.
Honesty. Sinatra. (I can't find any of his truly great stuff on the Internet. Does that tell you anything?) But there's also George Jones.
Abused Women. Ronny took it. Tina did too, but she eventually got over it. America really is about getting better and better...
Crazy Women. They're a constant of life. Ask the Romans, Russians, Chinese, and Vikings. Which leaves us with two tonally different contemporary "superstars." Sinead O'Connor and Courtney Love.
Death. It comes to us all. Sometimes the big men talk about it (or not). But always on their own terms. Jimmie Rodgers (days before his long anticipated death from TB) and Warren Zevon.
Clowns. Antipodes. Leoncavallo and Sondheim.
Breaking the Rules. In completely different ways. But all ways are important. Ravel and Slash.
Cross-Pollination. High and low culture interact. Examples: Glass/Bowie and the technotronic version of Carmina Burana.
Gender Benders. The sexes have played at being each other forever, all the way back to Greek and Roman dramatists. Here are two recent players. Mary Martin and Boy George.
Impossible Stretches. Maybe the biggest thing I'm asking. Can you get from here to there without losing your mind? From Hush Little Baby to Eminem?
Quiet Types. At least I spared you a Chopin nocturne. Satie and Radiohead.
Electronic. The age we live in. It began with Autobahn. It cried itself to sleep, along with all of you it seems, to Porcelain.
Dammit. Life is a fantastic carnival. Buy some goddamn tickets and start riding the rides. And if Eduardo can do half a pair, so can I. Listen all the way through to what starts playing (and, well, the other stuff, too) when you go here. This is not a class war. It's a life war. It doesn't matter where we start from. What matters is where we end up.
I'm not sure whether this is a case of serendipity or
synchronicity. Hence the portmanteau title. But the clever Klavan
monologue certainly anticipates to a tee the disgusting apologetics
we're seeing from celebrities, the mass media, and the western world's
cynical diplomatic corps with respect to the arrest in Switzerland of
If Polanski's fate were the only moral issue at stake here, I probably wouldn't even comment on it. There is no case on his behalf, and outrage at his arrest by any party is as ludicrous as it is loathsome. He pleaded guilty to a repulsive crime, fled the country to escape sentencing, and regardless of his age, is obviously subject to punishment for the original crime and for his flight from American justice. Period.
But this is what liberals so often like to call a "teachable moment." Some aspects of the Polanski affair, whether by serendipity or synchronicity, are curiously resonant with a multitude of other recent events in our national life. Which is why they are worth commenting on. They expose the profound moral corruption of those who claim to have a monopoly on what's best for the American people. Consider all the disturbing echoes, parallels, ironies, and tin-eared hypocrisies in play here.
There's the sudden dramatic confirmation of Klavan's metaphor, proof that celebrities really are an oddball manifestation of the worst of identity politics. The group to which Polanski belongs -- er, Hollywood -- closes ranks around a threatened member without hesitation, freely reorienting the narrative away from simple right and wrong to the grievances and persecutions they pretend are products of their unique status in the culture. An obvious criminal is, in convenient relativist terms, really the victim of establishment bigotry that has nothing to do with his own actions. If he weren't a star, nobody would have thought him worth pursuing, so the pursuit is itself a kind of hate crime.
Which is reminiscent of the furor surrounding the recent return of Michael Vick to the NFL. We saw the same kind of determination to diminish, by omission and misreprepresentation of fact, the crimes that made him a convicted felon in the first place. We were told that he has paid his debt to society in terms that make absolutely no sense to average citizens -- he lost more money than any of you could make in a score of lifetimes, and how dare any of you seek to deprive him of the opportunity to "practice his profession" or "make use of his extraordinary talents" to punish him further for behaviors which his particular ethnic identity made him more vulnerable to than any of you could possibly understand? Never mind that an attorney who commits a felony is automatically barred from practicing his profession or using his laboriously acquired mental skills to return to his prior level of financial prosperity. That attorney is probably a Jew anyway.
Which is another peculiarly illuminating aspect of the Polanski defense. When's the last time you heard a self-professed liberal employ the "victim of the holocaust" defense for any kind of antisocial behavior? It's certainly not permitted to the state of Israel, which is ubiquitously and uniformly condemned for supposed war crimes against a Palestinian population who have publicly, repeatedly, and unmistakably endorsed the exact same genocidal intentions that led to the murder of 6 million Jews under Hitler. In the larger instance, the Jews are the criminals. (It was only days ago, wasn't it, that our president publicly scolded Israel to the U.N. General Assembly for intransigence in negotiating with enemies who have never even conceded their basic right to exist?) In the specific celebrity instance of Polanski, the Jew is the victim. The Jew who drugged, raped and sodomized by force a 13-year old girl. After all, she's 45 now and never won an Oscar.
Which... let me know when you start to see the serendicity... reminds me of the "liberal" outrage when conservatives presumed to mention the name of Mary Jo Kopechne during the hagiographic bathos surrounding the death of Teddy Kennedy. Serious, admired (in some quarters) columnists fearlessly denounced such quibbles regarding the late senator's character and advanced the argument that Teddy's devotion to liberal causes like socialized medicine was, on balance, worth the death of a young woman who made the mistake of fluttering too near the searing flame of Kennedy family destiny.
All this from the people who claim to care the most about the weak, the voiceless, the downtrodden. Michael Vick's football talent outweighs the torture and murder of mere dogs. Teddy Kennedy's senate career outweighs the inadvertent death (negligent homicide) of a young woman he casually seduced and abandoned in an underwater Oldsmobile. Roman Polanski's cinematic gifts outweigh the long ago rape of a child who probably looked older than 13 at the time, has long since been publicly identified (outed?) by the press, and doesn't want another encounter with celebrity.
Oh. And another thing. The Europeans are up in arms about the Polanski case. Specifically, France and Poland. Which is supposed to make us feel small? Aren't these the newly secular cultures whose enlightened take on the role of government in looking out for the defenseless little people, and their healthcare and welfare and all that crap, are driving our new president's agenda to remake America in their image? Aren't they? So. In Europe, drugging a 13-year-old and fucking her in the ass against her will is okay? If the buggerer in question is a "great" movie director? Got it. Democracy and the preeminence of the common man over the aristocratic elites is well and truly dead in the part of the world that raised aristocratic elites to a height that led to the revolutionary establishment of the United States in the first place. Glad that's settled. Just as our president is steering us harshly in their direction.
Is that the end of our (not so) brief? No. There's one final point, a last act to the drama that might actually make sense of it all. (Pay attention, AllahPundit: here's a hint about the consequences of your tedious, feckless cheerleading for secularism.) What precisely is it that makes Roman Polanski such a cultural aristocrat that he should be exempt from the criminal justice system? His movies, right? Well, let's take a look at them.
Rosemary's Baby. A young woman manipulated by her husband and his friends into being raped by the devil and then forced to deliver the Antichrist. She ultimately consents in her role as the mother of all evil. Chinatown. A movie that hinges on the dark secret that an incredibly powerful man forced his own daughter into incest and has like designs on the child of that perverted union. The Ninth Gate. A quest for Satanic power whose surprise ending turns the supposed hero into the inheritor of the evil omnipotence the audience assumes he's been attempting to prevent. Such movies may be well crafted, brilliantly shot and edited, masterfully directed, but that doesn't make them great. Content matters.
I don't know what happened in Roman Polanski's youth. I don't presume to judge that. What I do know is that his movies do not illuminate anything other than the extraordinary darkness of his soul. For that he may deserve our sympathy, apart from his real world victims, but he does not deserve our admiration as the kind of artist who inspires his audience to live up to the best that is in them. Rather, he has fulfilled the destiny of doomed artists in every age: he has mapped for us, exposed to us, the pathologies that have twisted and destroyed his own life.
There are at least two lessons to be drawn from the fiasco that is Roman Polanski's existential plight. First, there are always unintended consequences, even in the world of "art." We will never know what process of serendicity made Sharon Tate the victim of the Manson family. The damnably pesky problem is that her horrific murder is so esthetically consistent with the entire life and "oeuvre" of Roman Polanski. Is that coincidence? Or some sequence of cause and effect that all of us, including him, can only guess at? We can only, and mostly sadly, wonder.
Second, the tone-deaf defense of this sexual offender by elites in show business, the media, and other centers of power should serve as a warning to the rest of us that the rational utopia being plotted for us by the most gifted, intelligent, and highly educated among us is a post-modern nightmare almost beyond imagining. Kind of like The Ninth Gate. Is this really the nature of the illuminated elite we're being asked to defer to and trust?
Whatever they say, and no matter how eloquently and persuasively they say it, the elites who are so convinced they know better than we do how our lives should be lived, regulated, and confined lack a true moral compass. Their decisions on elementary questions of right and wrong change depending on who the subject of consideration is, not what the applicable principles of morality and justice might be to the ancient legal standard of the "reasonable man."
Which... yeah, I know... reminds me of the ACORN mess. ACORN employees
calmly discussing ways of setting up houses of underage illegal alien
prostitutes are cause, among the elite liberals, for investigating the
wicked journalists who entrapped them and made them, uh, what's the
word?, "victims." Not that there's any pattern here. As Andrew Klavan
scrupulously points out in his video.
Right and wrong are defined by who you are, who's asking, and,
sometimes, by what color and ethnicity you are.
Welcome to the Brave New World. Let's all pray for the freedom of Roman Polanski from all possible personal responsibility for the decisions he's made in his life.
Amen. Not that we believe in a higher power or anything disgusting like that...
P.S. I'm not planning to pepper this post with hot links to individual voices in the controversy. However, if enough of you don't know what all I'm referring to in current media, let me know, and I'll go back and give you the links.
. Sorry about the downtime. The whole punk crew got
watch the U.N. circus last week and fell deathly ill. We're blaming it
Schweinfurt Flu (and, we believe with good reason -- it attacks the
'T-punkt' cells, as Google
Anyway. Can't even comprehend the lunacy of our beloved president's latest foray into international diplomacy. Hell, when even the French president thinks you're a naive, appeasing wuss, you've got big problems.
But, a little harsh, don't you think? Anyone with half an Ivy
League-educated brain (that's "Just-a-Pinch" of brain in normal humans)
can see that the Iranians don't really
want to nuke Israel. It's
all just over-the-top rhetoric designed to drive a harder bargain.
Because Islam is, at base (and we do mean base) a religion of, um, peace.
Wasn't there a row of burkha-clad women sitting behind you at your last
Columbia-Yale football game? They seemed to be enjoying it... sort
didn't they? A little?
Still. Ahdumjihad's speech was when we all unaccountably developed overwhelming symptoms of nausea, vomiting, bug-eyes, instantaneous outbreaks of Tourette's Syndrome, and those totally unexpected four-hour erections. (Maybe it's time to lay off the brandy and CialisTM cocktails that seemed like such a good way to cope with America's international apology implosion. At the time. As in, "peace in our time.")
Sorry. We're mostly feeling much better now. Except for recurring nightmares like this:
Thanks for asking. Not that any of you did. We're feeling better
. Right before the lights went out, we were having a
discussion with some commenters about punk music. But there's a lot
more than punk music in the world, and so we decided to do something
completely different. The idea is, we show you how to do it, and then
you give us YOUR nominations for what we call odd couples. There are
too many in this list to show all the actual videos, but the links are
good. Take the time to work through the list, then feel free to comment
and make your own suggestions. What we're not going to do is explain
our pairings. That's your job. Explain them to yourselves and/or to us,
as you see fit or outraged enough to do so.
The idea is not intimidation. It's conversation. There's something moving about every pairing we've selected. If you can't see it or find it, maybe the fault is in you. But maybe it's in us, too. Nevertheless, we think someone who listens to all of these works will not come away unchanged by the experience. Human beings are a marvelous, incredible, beautiful species, and that's a fact. Don't be coming at us with any objections to that perspective. Got it?
Guitar. Ry Cooder (sorry about the kid actor, but the sound is true) and some classical dude.
Forgiveness as Harmony. Mozart (be patient; it gets great) and the Rolling Stones. (You know I had to.)
True love. The Blind PBS Dude and Nat King Cole.
The Clarinet. Mozart and Artie Shaw.
The Trumpet. Pure genius and impure genius. (Spare me your Miles Davis spiel. Make your own list.)
The Female Heart. Un Bel Di and Ozzie's Harriet (plus a bonus to soothe your rattled soul).
Piano. The transcendant Glenn Gould and the tormented Bill Evans.
Prayer (More than one kind there is). The Lord's and Tom Traubert's.
The Violin. Isaac Stern. Period. And then Mairead Nesbitt. Which one makes your heart sing?
The Stage. A Cool Cat and a little cat.
Divinity. Suo-Gan. And, oh yes, Halleluiah. (Screw Allahpundit and the horse he rode in on.)
Americans. By choice and by voice.
American Romance. Elvis and Judy.
Blues. Country and Country.
Sorrow. Solo and Chorale.
I know that more than one can play at this game. Nominate your own odd couples, and I'll post as many as I can. Promise. Think of this as a way we can all get to know each other better -- beyond the jousting and sparring we do over ideas.
We've entered a time when we need to build such bonds.
UPDATE. All right. I'll bite. Beckoning Chasm says Robert Fripp is "the guitarist's guitarist, the man who knows music theory, notation, harmony, how it should all work together..."
He didn't give me a song to link to, so I linked to the top one at YouTube: Starless.
And here's Brian Eno (same process): An Ending (Ascent)
Work with me, people. This isn't a trick. There has to be music that actually moves you, speaks to your lives and loves...
UPDATE 2. Told you I'd faithfully post the pairings of those who wanted to participate. Here's an offering from Eduardo:
Courage: Catholics have the best hymns. Deal with it. And this may not be a hymn, but it's still inspiring (it builds to the last minute; helps to know the context, too).
Loss: East meets West edition. Please ignore everything peripheral about the "East" selection and just focus on the music.
Out of reach: Couldn't find the version I wanted of this song, but I found one that's almost as good. And here is a song that keeps things on the same island.
Hollow: Nothing beats a supposed French song sung by a Filipina. Here is the Country vibe.
Finally, I couldn't think of any pairing
for my last video that would not be insulting to Paco. This song truly
deserves a listen anyway. It is absolutely fantastic.
That last one breaks the rules, but we'll let it slide this one time because Eduardo was
first. Not again, though. Odd Couples or nothing.
This one's from Alfa (onesies are perfectly fine too):
btw, am I crazy or is the violinist in the Wagner clip a certain
ex-governor of Alaska?