Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stray Thoughts: Serious and Light

Senator Ted Kennedy has died, and is being saluted as an effective liberal politician, someone who achieved a lot of good legislation and embodied significant public values, as a man who had personal flaws but faced and grew beyond them.

There has been another recent report about the murder of an investigative Russian journalist: some people still believe you can kill the truth, or kill knowledge, by killing a person.

The spirit-killers are evil but think they are good. The spirit-killers are ignorant and worse but think they are wise. The spirit-killers act out of hatred, selfishness, stupidity, but imagine themselves heroic, pious, sacrificing. The spirit killers want us to give up art for mundane duties, to give up brave fellowship for prejudice, to give up individuality for witless conformity. The spirit-killers speak words of poison and call that concern, duty, pride. The spirit-killers may be male or female, of any skin color, religion, or class. The spirit-killers may seem young but they are old, as putrid as death. The spirit-killers- destroy but cannot create. The spirit-killers’ true energies are envy and resentment—and time reveals their evil.

With the recent economic turmoil in the United States, there has been severe criticism of capitalists and capitalism to an extent that would have been suspect years ago, in better times (methods and morals have been questioned). It makes you wonder, Why wasn’t honest criticism of the financial system tolerated before its recent crisis? Why didn’t the financial press do its job? (I did some work for a financial news service years ago—and met incompetent and immature people there, so probably should not bother with that last question.) Why is it that when people steal out of want, out of sheer greed, they are not despised, but when people steal out of need, out of a desperate attempt to survive, they are despised?

A lot of people are chauvinists of one kind or another, but I have been struck again by the chauvinism of certain black male intellectuals: they define themselves in ways that suggest racial, gender, and sexual prejudices, ways so deeply rooted that those ways seem to be beyond the criticism if not awareness of those intellectuals. Some have commented on the president as if he were an ordinary street fighter (not understanding why he doesn’t talk tough and use power, instead of collaboration and diplomacy, to get his means). They judge other artists and intellectuals similarly: not understanding the complex goal, the subtle strategy.

I have been enjoying pianist and singer Judy Carmichael’s NPR radio program “Jazz Inspired,” in which she talks to creative people about their work: she asks terrific questions, full of importance and insight. (Sometimes I have liked Herman Fuselier’s radio program on zydeco music on KRVS as well.)

Streisand has a new album (scheduled for September 2009 release: Love is the Answer); and she is being featured in Parade magazine, the article available online.

I have received and have begun to “look at” Marc Robinson’s study of American theatre, The American Play (Yale, 2009). In recent days, I have read two novels, Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence and Roberto Bolano’s The Skating Rink. (I am thinking of developing a web log devoted principally to the reading of, and commenting on, literature: the Garrett Reader.)

Bliss, a Turkish film I saw last year at a special screening in Manhattan and raved about, has been playing in the city again as part of a regular screening and getting good reviews!