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Today's Clips - Riffs and Licks
Today's Clips
David Brooks, the junior member of the minority party on the Times Op-Ed page, had me nodding along in his column about John Kerry this morning. His basic point was that Kerry's Vietnam-era speeches were passionate and full of conviction, but no longer:
Kerry's speeches in the 1990's read nothing like that 1971 testimony. The passion is gone. The pompous prevaricator is in. You read them and you see a man so cautiously calculating not to put a foot wrong that he envelops himself in a fog of caveats and equivocations. You see a man losing the ability to think like a normal human being and starting instead to think like an embassy.
I just keep coming back to Yeats:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Journal had a leader today on independent bookstores that are beating the superstores at their own game, getting larger and larger in order to compete. The spectacular Powell's is mentioned, although the focus of the article is a PA/OH chain owned by a former in-law of the Borders brothers.

What I'd like to know is when we get some of these stores in New York? The city bookstore scene has been declining for years. We have no equivalent to Powell's, or even to Bookman's, the used and new bookstore in Tucson that also features movies, CDs and even "antique" collectible PCs (Mac 128, anyone?).

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Current Music: "Fired Up," Moe Tucker

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bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: August 26th, 2004 09:04 am (UTC) (Link)
It's hard to know whether it's a case of "the center cannot hold" or trying to hold the center. A lot of Democratic strategists believe you can't win a national office without veering right. I am sure, for example, that Bill Clinton is not a creationist, yet I don't ever recall him speaking out against various state Department of Education assaults on the teaching of evolution that occurred during his tenure, even though his administration had an education policy that wasn't merely a Potemkin village.

To paraphrase shunn, from the country's perspective the Democrats have moved to the left. They believe, not without some evidence, that they have to guard their right flank assiduously.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: August 26th, 2004 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am torn between agreeing absolutely, and believing that the country has not really swung to the right. The right, especially the radical Christian fundamentalists, have doggedly out-organized and out-perservered the left. And the right has found a message it's not ashamed to trumpet from the rooftops while the left prevaricates.

Floods of corporate money don't hurt, either, but this country has risen up against the plutocrats in the past (interesting to remember that William Jennings Bryan was a populist who opposed both corporate power and secularism; where would you place him on today's political spectrum?
bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: August 27th, 2004 12:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's an interesting and complicated issue. I think, first of all, that probably "left" and "right" are too few categories to encompass the political beliefs of almost 300 million people (if one assumes infants and small children have political beliefs beyond "my dad is bigger than your dad"). Likewise, that the right has "doggedly out-organized and out-persevered the left" is becoming the conventional wisdom, but I'm not sure it really fits the facts.

I think in some important ways, the country HAS moved to the right since the 1960s and 1970s: creationist ideology, to use but one example, has many fewer outlets than mainstream evolutionary biology, whether you judge that by college courses taken, books sold, or television shows aired. Yet the belief in creationism has increased since the Kennedy administration; the creationist message, it seems, is falling on fertile ears.

The growing social acceptance of gays and lesbians also doesn't fit the thesis that the Right has us out-organized, nor that people's politics can be parsed neatly into right and left. It's true that it's a fucking scandal that, in the 21st Century, the majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, but by all accounts that's a generational issue, and in our (hypothetical) grandchildren's day, gay marriage will be entirely acceptable. Certainly gay culture is MUCH more mainstream than it was even ten years ago, on TV and in books and magazines and film.
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steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: August 27th, 2004 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Compared to Powell's? No way. The Strand is OK as used bookstores go, but it's cramped and crowded, and badly organized. (I remember years ago going to find some books on the Wars of the Roses, and there was a history section. Period. Organized by author. So I looked for a few authors I knew (not there) and left -- how can you browse a shelf like that???

They're also devoting more and more floor space to remainders, review copies in random stacks, and a very narrow selection of discount new books (eg, the various NYC tables they have up front). And some staff are helpful but others are downright contemptuous.

Overall, it's not a bad store, but NYC should be able to do better (and does, in a few cases, e.g. Gotham). Never mind Powell's: Why don't we have an equivalent of Cecil Court in London (a solid block of bookstores just off Charing Cross, which is also lined with bookstores)?

bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: August 27th, 2004 12:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm with Ken on this: the Strand is much less than the best New York could do for a bookstore. I lived near Powells for two years: if I lead an exemplary life, when I die I'll go to Hawthorne Boulevard.
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