William F. Buckley, Three Years Passed

Good interview by Kathryn Lopez here with one of the compilers of a recent anthology of William F. Buckley’s work, Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations: A William F. Buckley Jr. Omnibus.

Lopez: What does George Will mean when he writes that Bill helped “unmake history”? Do you agree?

Bridges: He was talking about History, the concept invented in the 19th century to mean that the world is controlled by vast impersonal forces, and that there is very little that individuals can do about it. George Will is saying that individuals can “make meaningful choices” — as Bill did in founding National Review. And speaking, as we were a minute ago, of making your argument vivid, here is what Will writes in the Preface: “When he, in effect, rolled up that first copy of National Review and swatted History on its upturned nose, he was saying: You are not all that you have been cracked up to be.” Wish I’d said that!

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Alveda King: ‘The Most Dangerous Place for an African-American is in the Womb!’

A prime example of the level of free speech tolerance on the left. They can’t stand to see faces associated with their slaughter of the innocents.

“CNN reported on Friday that Lamar Advertising, which owns the billboard, decided to take down the message after people who opposed it threatened workers in the building located next to the billboard.

The Rev. Al Sharpton had reportedly planned a protest at the site of the billboard on Saturday and pro-abortions groups had also complained about the pro-life message.

Mary Alice Carr, vice president of communications for NARAL Pro-Choice New
York, said in a statement that the billboard was “attacking women for choosing abortion while simultaneously destroying family planning.”

But King said the billboard should have provoked a different kind of outrage.

“Black people in New York and all over the country should be outraged at the numbers of black babies we lose every single day to abortion,” King said. “An astonishing 60 percent of African-American pregnancies in the five boroughs of New York City end in abortion.
“That’s unfathomable,” King said.”

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The River: 30 Years On

Thirty years ago this week Bruce Springsteen released The River. It’s the album most representative of his live shows in showing the breadth of styles mastered by Bruce and the E Street Band and that by virtue of the number of songs makes it an automatic contender for a Bruce desert island album. A couple of things making the album special to me personally is that it was the first new release by Springsteen after I had been converted to devoted fandom, and it was the first Bruce release after I had begun working for The Record Bar.

In 1980 it had been two years since a new Springsteen album, a pretty long time between releases then, if not as long as the three year wait between Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. Anticipation had built for the next album with Bruce’s already legendary 1978 Darkness tour, and by his participation at the No Nukes concert the following year. The concert had produced a movie of the same name, containing the first official live releases on film and album of Springsteen and the E Street Ban with the band represented on the LP in a collaboration with Jackson Browne and by their show closing Detroit Medley. On film the songs represented were Thunder Road, Quarter to Three, and a melancholy new song that would become the title track of the next album, The River.

Springsteen has rearranged the title song of The River several times since that Madison Square Garden performance. Some of the re-imaginings work better than others. But none of the subsequent performances has provided the chill factor for me that hearing the opening, mournful harmonica strains and “I come from down in the valley/Where mister, when you’re young/They train you up to do/Like your daddy done’ in the theater at Carolina Circle Mall in Greensboro did. I returned to see the film, I believe, twice more to see the excitement of the live ‘Thunder Road’ and “Quarter to Three’ as well. But I would have gladly done the same if ‘The River’ had been Bruce’s only song in the film.

So it was with the knowledge of that one song, a fandom fed by bootlegs and Dave Marsh’s biography, and anticipation for what might be next that accompanied the unpacking of The River on that new release day at Four Seasons Record Bar. And from the chiming guitar chords and Max Weinberg’s crack drum shot at the beginning of tha album’s opener, ‘The Ties That Bind,’ I don’t think any album by anyone over the last 30 years has fulfilled the hopes and lived up to the promise that The River had for me in 1980.

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Joseph Sobran, R.I.P.

During a week that was marked by the passing of several notables (Tony Curtis, Arthur Penn, and Greg Giraldo among them), the death of Joseph Sobran was relatively overlooked-even at the magazine where he made his reputation, National Review. The remembrance linked here and quoted below is the best I have read.

Calling Sobran a forerunner of Ann Coulter isn’t far off the mark, though Sobran’s skewerings were generally more refined. In the 1970s as I read and slowly found my way from the muck of liberalism to the firmer ground of conservative thought, Sobran along with his mentor Bill Buckley, the writers at The American Spectator, and George Will were bright lights pointing towards right thought (in all senses of the words). Sobran’s later years were marred by a famous disagreement with Buckley (with whom he eventually reconciled), and with some questionable associations. Those later controversies fail to negate his earlier, brilliant writing. He is too soon gone, and is missed.

“…as Sobran frequently lamented, “the U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.” A president who tried to govern according to the Constitution would probably be impeached. We’ll see how much better the Republicans not named Ron Paul running for Congress this year will fare. “Most Americans aren’t the sort of citizens the Founding Fathers expected; they are contented serfs,” Sobran wrote. “Far from being active critics of government, they assume that its might makes it right.”

Though Sobran died something of a Catholic anarchist, he was no libertine. He understood, for example, the reality behind the euphemism of “choice” in the context of the unborn: “After tens of millions of ‘procedures,’ has America lost anything? Another Edison, perhaps? A Gershwin? A Babe Ruth? A Duke Ellington?” he asked, concluding, “As it is, we will never know what abortion has cost us all.” “

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Hawaii Five-0

To quote Libertas: “• Hawaii Five-O beat out The Event in the ratings, albeit only by a nose. Hooray hot Hawaiian chicks fighting terrorists on The Big Island! Boo pro-Obama/anti-CIA propaganda!”

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Red Riding Trilogy: 1974, 1980, 1983

Good review here of the Red Riding Trilogy, a superlative group of British crime dramas based on the novels of David Peace, that have as their center the crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper. Made for original showing on the BBC, there’s no US crime film of recent vintage in their class. There are particularly strong performances by Sean Bean and Paddy Considine.

“The Red Riding Trilogy is a series of films produced for British television and based on a series of novels by David Peace (The Damned United). The novels chronicle crimes spanning a decade in the Yorkshire suburbs in Northern England. An ambitious film project, it ropes in three different directors to tackle three of Peace’s four books (1977 was dropped), creating a stylistically similar yet distinctive cinematic trio. Each film stands alone, but they also inform each other. Characters come and go, and events are shared between them. An incident in one movie may not have repercussions until another movie, illustrating the long-term effects of crime and the way corruption roots itself into a community and how long it takes to pull it out….

The Red Riding Trilogy is the kind of rich serialized storytelling that only TV can really afford us right now. American movie studios would never invest in something like this, something that requires a commitment and that is unrelenting in its grim outlook. It’s akin to watching three compact seasons of a good cable television series. Naturally, given how barren the Hollywood idea farm is these days, Red Riding has already been optioned for an American remake, with Steve Zaillian and Ridley Scott, the team behind Hannibal and American Gangster, attached to write and direct. This joins The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and Let the Right One In as part of a current trend of remaking foreign films for American audiences. Apparently, it’s not just subtitled movies we won’t see now, it’s also ones with accents. Like those other two films, the idea of another version of Red Riding is a colossally bad one. There is no improvement needed. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that the great innovation the U.S. producers will come up with is to compact it even further, to turn 1974 and 1983 into one narrative.

Don’t wait for this to happen. Get the story now, in its original form. You know they won’t do it right. Hell, they probably won’t even keep the great soundtrack of old soul songs.”

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‘Our Boys’ remains a hit

I can’t give this book any greater praise than to say that reading it gave me the same feeling that watching the TV series Friday Night Lights does. What’s remarkable about Our Boys is that it’s a true story. The book covers the 2008 season of the Smith Center Kansas Redmen, and the paperback edition brings it up to date and makes the original even better with a new afterword and interviews with Coach Roger Barta and writer Joe Drape. This article follows up on the Redmen a year after first publication of the book.

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‘Bob Dylan in America’ by Sean Wilentz

Sean Wilentz’s new work, Bob Dylan in America, is a fascinating hybrid of a book. Combining biography, history, literary criticism, and music criticism while using significant events in Dylan’s career as jumping-off points, the book is one of the more interesting and enjoyable in the library Dylan’s life and work has inspired.  There’s good commentary here about the book at the fine Dylan-centric blog RightWingBob.com.

“I greatly enjoyed my reading of it and I think that it belongs in the top tier of books on Bob Dylan, as I rate them, because it is that kind which can expand and enhance one’s enjoyment of his music, rather than merely passing the time or weighing you down with trivia. It’s also well known that critics and biographers can sometimes come to hate their subject, even if they came in at the start with interest and affection. Anyone looking for some kind of cynical or demeaning take on Bob, however, will be disappointed by Wilentz’s book.

In some places it’s being called a biography, but it isn’t really; or if it is, it’s the better type of biography to do of an artist, and that is one which focuses on his or her work, and only reflects on events-in-the-life where they are pretty obviously relevant to the art. But in any case Wilentz’s goal is clearly not to be so comprehensive, or to say the last word on anything. His look at Dylan is at a cross-section of Bob’s career, focusing on areas where the author feels he has something to add to the discussion. These may or may not always match with a particular listener’s areas of fascination, but I do think he has plenty to add.”

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Bring the troops home

A good, thought provoking piece, ‘Dissention in the Ranks,‘ by Tony Blankley. It’s time to institute the policy of not putting mass amounts of troops in harm’s way unless the United States is directly threatened.

“Last November, with the Johnson presidency in mind, I penned “An Exit Strategy to Die For.” In that column, I argued that we are better off bringing our troops home now than to ask them to risk their lives fighting for time until July 2011 rolls around and a politically expedient withdrawal commences.

Over the last year, events have persuaded me that this view remains correct. The coalition of the willing is winnowing as allies, convinced of the inevitably of a U.S. pullout, race us for the exits.

American casualties are now higher than in 2001. The chronically unstable Karzai government faces a fresh financial crisis, beseeching bailout-fatigued U.S. taxpayers to keep the Bank of Kabul solvent. Meanwhile the Taliban, burrowed into the towns and villages and biding their time in mountain fastnesses, patiently await the expiry date of Obama’s necessary war.”

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Book review: ‘Savages’ by Don Winslow

The tale of Orange County’s underbelly is a propulsive yet meditative read.

Don Winslow is among the best dozen or so suspense novelists writing today, and in my rankings would be near the top of the list. Due to some reading already in my queue, and a honing of his prose style I wasn’t ready to engage with yet, I was a bit late to this latest Winslow novel, Savages. It’s in production as a film by Oliver Stone and, in fact, brief portions of the book are in screenplay format. However, once you get used to the stylistic conceits Winslow uses in Savages, they never keep the book from being less than a propulsive, engaging read. Not sure I would recommend it as an introduction to Winslow’s work as Sarah Weinman discusses in this fine review of the book, but it is a worthy addition to his bookshelf.

“The real break point Winslow describes… is the one between an all-too-American “religion of narcissism” and the inevitable implosion caused by outside forces. The drumbeat strikes a little loudly, but the impact of the late-act narrative soliloquy is no less damning: “We reinvented ourselves every day, remade our culture, locked ourselves in gated communities, we ate healthy food, we gave up smoking, we lifted our faces while avoiding the sun, we had our skin peeled, our lines removed, our fat sucked away like our unwanted babies, we defied aging and death.”

What, then, are we left with when we only have ourselves to worship? “Guys dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and the headlines are about Anna Nicole Smith. Who? Exactly.” The cultural references change but the juxtaposition never does. It’s easier to care about having a good time or justifying one’s behavior until you’re in a standoff and you’re not sure if your gun works. Or else, there’s Chon’s philosophy: He “has always known that there are two worlds: The savage/the less savage.” Or, put another way: “You can spend fifty thousand years practicing meditation or you can buy a gun.”

As worldviews go, “Savages” runs all the bleaker because we didn’t know it would end up that way. But all is not lost for Ben, Chon and O: Loving themselves is not enough, but each other, the world? That might be the real path toward enlightenment, not any others prescribed in O.C. territory.”

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