Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday News In Review

Even More Health Care News

And here's hoping they aren't banking on boring us into submission because, between you and me, it's working. This week Montana Senator and Chair of the US Senate Committee on Finance Max Baucus had the rare distinction of coming up with one of the worst ideas in the history of American politics. Baucus (who, when talking about this to Laurie, I kept calling Jim Backus) revealed a health care reform plan which... I didn't read, but I did look at the 260-some page summary which is probably more than most professional reporters did, enough to know - flashback: remember when my New York professor friend and I both found ourselves at the point where we decided all we can hope for is that whatever reform they come up with, it won't end up screwing over the poor and uninsured which am us? Well, that's pretty much Baucus' bill. There is no public option in the Baucus plan, but there is some weird health cooperative system being pitched. There are some weird fines for people who can't afford insurance, but lip service meant as reassurance that anyone who can't afford it will get a tax credit, blah blah blah.
Although let me stop right here, because not having read the whole dad-blamed thing I really am not qualified to rail too hard on it aside from noting the utter dearth of support for it. So far the bill seems to have found the support of Max Baucus. In short, it sounds like we really don't need to worry about it because it will either 1) fail, or 2) end up unrecognizable from its current form, which sounds like a description of where I expect to be 5 years from now.

Max Baucus also, according to like five different articles, has accepted over $3 million of campaign donations from health insurance companies over the past few years. I hear all of this and I really hope that this isn't one of those things like,
"Laurie, I went out and bought a pony!"
"No, just kidding. I went out and had a chocolate milkshake and a cheesesteak hoagie."
You know, the one where you say something terrible to pass something a bit less terrible?
Although after all of that, just to make sure everyone understands, I still stand behind everything I've written about health care reform before.

Celebrity Death News

Jim Carroll died this week. Jim Carroll wrote The Basketball Diaries, Forced Entries, and some of the most electric poetry of the past century. He also headed the punk rock band The Jim Carroll Band. It's said that he was at his desk working when he died. The literary world is much much poorer from his death.

Also the fantastic jazz singer Chris Connor, a prolific recording artist who performed with a huge number of the biggest names in jazz through the mid- to late 20th century, died this week after a long battle with cancer. Her "Lullaby of Birdland" was sublime.

Crashing Into Things News

In the manner of Babe Ruth, NASA announced this week that they've decided where they are going to crash into the moon. They are going to crash into crater Cabeus A in the moon's south pole in an effort to excavate frozen water beneath the surface. They also announced that they are dedicating the mission to the memory of Walter Cronkite.

Publishing Decorum News

Paris Hilton has a quote appearing in the new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. The article in which I learned this news odiously stated that she would be "joining the ranks of Oscar Wilde and Samuel Johnson." Not to camp too long on the obvious, but the quality of the quote ("Dress cute wherever you go, life is too short to blend in") screams of an editor saying "Look, she has to have said something quotable so we can put her in the new edition."
Also, this may indicate how out of touch the Oxford Press editors are, as Paris Hilton is really about 10 years ago at this point, isn't she? They may have done better with Lady GaGa.
Immediately I'm thinking of Booth Tarkington who, for those who don't know (which is probably most of the world at this point), was one of the most famous writers in the world about 100 years ago. 100 years later, who has ever heard of, much less read, Booth Tarkington? There's an off chance a handful of you have seen Orson Welles' film adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons which fell into obscurity thanks the the film studio re-cutting the genius out of it while Welles was out of the country. A few of you who are Algonquin Round Table geeks like me may have some 1930ish short story anthologies on your shelves which contain a piece by Booth Tarkington. My point here is that 3 generations ago no one could have imagined that no one would have heard of Booth Tarkington 100 years hence. So, armed with this knowledge and an 80 year old book of quotations, I have to wonder if an institution like Oxford Press might do well to wait a few decades and see if this person has staying power. I have a hypothesis about that in this instance.

Of course, there's precedence for this. Over the past few decades the Oxford English Dictionary has added each year new words, recently including things like "Muggles" and "meh." I wonder why the editors at Oxford think there's all that great of a bleed-over from the Paris Hilton and Harry Potter fan markets and those who patronize the Oxford Press. Actually, I don't really wonder that. I just assume it's a tacky ploy to get the Oxford Press into newspapers.

Also in publishing decorum news, I find myself compelled to pass this little jewel along from @badbanana on Twitter, "The Kindle version of Dan Brown's new book is outselling the hard copy on Amazon. Meaning nobody wants to be seen reading it." And here's a Cliff's Notes version of Dan Brown's new book. You shouldn't need me to tell you that it is doubtlessly utter crap not worth wasting your well earned time and money on; and you really ought to go read Jane Austen (WITHOUT zombies!) instead.

Presidential Decorum News

President Obama used up his one free "publicly call a civilian a cuss word" this week when he called Kanye West "a jackass." Political pundits and the blogs immediately lit up ferociously debating whether or not "jackass" is technically "a swear." This was meant to be an off the record comment, which it would have been had he not said it to a room full of reporters.
Of course, the incident is reminiscent of President Bush who also used his "cuss at a civilian" early when, accidentally in front of a live mic, he called NY Times reporter Adam Clymer a synonym for a "burro burrow" or "cave in which donkeys live." The difference, and remarkably a microcosm of the differences in the two administrations, is that Obama was the one of the two who were actually correct in their statement.

Kanye West News

Look, I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said about this. Also, I could not identify the music of Kanye West, Beyonce or Taylor Swift if my life depended on it (although I imagine I could probably isolate which one has a male voice.) In case there is someone alive who hasn't heard, Kanye West stormed Taylor Swift's award acceptance speech at the MTV VMAs and said that Beyonce's video was the best ever made.
Why am I talking about it?
There is a larger point here and that is the point of decency, which seems to be in a closed system as we all sit back and watch it spiral in faster concentric circles of entropy. I know on one hand, I'm very late to this branch of the conversation; and it is the zenith of geezerhood to speak of the death of public decency. But on the other side of the coin, what about a society with no regard for abject apology? I am not nor ever have been in danger of giving money to any of the artists involved, but I worry about the state of our collective heart when I hear these stories and see how important they are to a large portion of the country. I worry and then I go take a nap.

Classical Music News

Alan Gilbert is taking over as musical director of the New York Philharmonic. This is very good news. He seems to have a strong desire to balance tradition with innovation. He is the first native New Yorker to hold that position. Magnus Lindberg's composer in residence tenure will begin with the new Gilbert season and, in fact, when Gilbert firsts raises his baton it will be to the music of Lindberg.

Also, this coming week sees the release of the new Renee Fleming album. Which would be exciting and not frustrating if we had money in which to buy such things.


  1. Thing is, GWB's "naughty" remarks seemed petty, rude, and defensive.

    Obama calling Kanye Wassname a "jackass" was, well... apt.

    Personally I'm still waiting for Samuel L. Jackson to become president so he can deliver his M--- F--- State of the M--- F--- Union Address.

    One can dream.