Culture postsMonday August 05, 2019
‘How Did Any of Us Walk Away Unchanged?’
In the wake of the mass murders in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio this weekend, Joe Posnanski wrote the following poem and posted it on his site, where he usually writes about sports. This piece is called “This Isn't Sports.” It begins this way:
Didn't a little piece of you die in Newtown?
A little piece of me died there.
They were just babies.
Cut down like wheat
Six and seven years old
Still learning how to read and write
Big block letters
Unicorns and baseball cards
Jumping in front of a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle
A Glock 20SF handgun
Hoping to save one
How did we not all die in Newtown?
How did any of us walk away unchanged?
It's that last line that got me. How did the NRA/GOP get away with it? They evoked Hollywood (“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun...”), whom they also attack. They also made asinine suggestions like arming teachers. There's this thing that kills people, see, so the way to reduce the killings is to make sure more people have this thing that kills people. It's Illogic 101.
Yet they got away with it. We let them get away with it.
Joe goes on to mention other places now marked as places of mass murder: Tucson, Vegas, Virginia Beach, Chippewa Falls, Sebring and Aurora. He goes through Yountville and Paintsville and Nashville and Asheville. He ticks off so many places, so many tragedies, for which we did nothing. Half of them I'd already forgotten. That's how often it happens here:
In Cleveland and Chicago and Detroit
Just as in Lutcher and Gravette and Ascension Parish
In a Pittsburgh Synagogue
And a Charleston church
And a Sutherland Springs church
And an Annapolis newspaper office
And an Orlando nightclub
And Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
And an El Paso Wal-Mart
And just outside a Dayton Bar
How do any of us walk away unchanged? Yet bit by bit we are changed. For the worse.
Greatest Banksy Ever
OK, maybe a close second to the one at the end of this 2010 review.
Just came across this. From a week ago Monday. Classy tribute.
Neil Simon was a clutch hitter. When we needed the punchline on Your Show of Shows he delivered. He also delivered 32 plays and over 20 movies. He was one of the sweetest & least jealous writers you could ever work with. For all who knew him, this is a truly sad day.— Mel Brooks (@MelBrooks) August 27, 2018
My Impossibly Snobbish Salon Piece
The “Seven Samurai” photo Salon used confuses the issue, but I like the old “Jaws” paperback cover. This was everywhere in the summer of '75.
While I was in Rochester, Minn., last week I had another article on Salon: “Lost in translation: How often does Hollywood turn a great book into a great movie?” It's a piece that grew out of a Facebook conversation. As for my answer to the question in the subhed? I'd go with “Grapes of Wrath,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” but mostly throw up my hands. The bigger point is that it doesn't happen often.
The piece generated a lot of comments, which I thought it would, since most people have an opinion on the subject. What I didn't see coming but should have? The commments inspired by this graf:
I was a bit thrown by the second category of answers because it's not what I had in mind and it's not in my wheelhouse. They're great genre novels that have been turned into great movies. Think sci-fi/fantasy (“The Lord of the Rings”; “Blade Runner”), westerns (“Shane,” along with two Coens: “True Grit” and “No Country for Old Men”), and crime (“L.A. Confidential”). I don't really read genre novels, so you can assess for yourself the greatness of those books.
I was saying “I don't really read genre novels” with a kind of shrug, not to mention laziness (I didn't want to read all those books just to write the piece), but that's not how it was interpretted. Here's the first comment, from a dude in Chapel Hill:
“I don't really read genre novels.” Reminds me of the woman on an episode of the '60s classic The Dick Van Dyke Show, who says snootily: “I don't own a television machine”.
Others piled on. It's kind of fun reading through them: “The snobbish dismissal of...” “This article is impossibly pompous...” Etc. etc.
Here's the sad part: These people don't know they've won. The movies they're championing, “Lord of the Rings” et al., are everywhere in the culture, while great authors like E.L. Doctorow and Norman Mailer are nowhere. We've become a candyland culture. If I'm snobbish, if I'm dismissive, it's because I think this is a problem.
Your Olympic Moment
From George W.S. Trow's “Within the Context of No Context,” about American culture/pop culture, which was originally published in The New Yorker in November 1980:
The most important programming deals with people with a serious problem who make it to the Olympics. It is the powerful metaphor of our time—babies given up for dead who struggle toward national life and make it just for a minute. It's a long distance to come. People feel it very deeply and cheer the babies on.
That's dead on, prescient even, since coverage of the Olympics was fairly straightforward back in 1980. One wonders, though, if this Olympic moment is still the most powerful metaphor of our time. In some ways, it's been usurped by Simon Cowell and the “X's Got Talent” showrunners, who play down their talent, let it stand before Cowell's withering gaze, and then let it shine (and watch Cowell melt, with dollar signs in his eyes). The most famous of these is Susan Boyle. The most extreme version is probably from “Korea's Got Talent”: the homeless boy, abandoned at an orphanage at 3, who fled the beatings there at the age of 5 and lived on the streets, selling gum, and now doing manual labor; he makes the pretty lady judge cry with his western opera. It's a long distance to come.