Saturday, 22 August 2009

Something Rotten in Obamaland

You know Obama is in trouble when a lefty stalwart like Paul Krugman finally says, enough! After months of reflexively promoting and defending the new US president, the Nobel laureate and NY Times columnist has thrown the gauntlet down, exhorting the erstwhile Kid Dynamite to take off the gloves, kid gloves though they be. For Mr. Krugman, it's a trust problem. Obama's need for compromise and consensus has cost him his progressive base and only whetted the appetite of his enemies on the implacable right. And the author is right as far as he goes. But as many of the posts on his article point out, it's not just a matter of trust. It's a matter of thrust. Writes Krugman: "The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it’s also a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach." The operative word here is fight. What the author doesn't see and what most of Obama's supporters never have seen is that the Kid never did have much of a punch in him. There's always been something strangely Hamletesque about the man. Is it his fatherless background? A marriage prone mother? His speeches have an almost soliloquizing air about them. He's "all abstractions," as Buchanan has noted. He comes across as someone for whom, "the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, /And enterprises of great pith and moment /With this regard their currents turn awry,/ And lose the name of action." "Present" became his signature style of casting a vote, rather than take a defining stand on the issues. I'm sure Hamlet would have approved.
Liberals always give the active man short shrift. That's why Hamlet is their favorite play. Forever extolling someone like Obama for his intelligence, his oratory and his cool, they overlook the need for some kind of animating fire underlying things. Since most lefties seem to worship ideas instead of deeds, it follows that they distrust leaders who emphasize force over theory. Most elections come down to a choice between candidates that evince either action or reflection, deed or word, fire or ice, in defining their character. Last time around McCain took a drubbing for being hot headed, while his cool opponent was portrayed as essence of suave. McCain had fight. Too much! Four years earlier, however, force was in and reflection, again, not too much, please. And in the primaries, even committee queen Clinton couldn't outdo the One when it came to emotional control, try as she might. Now the question starts to emerge: is there any emotion there to control? Hillary got another faceful last week when they began asking, "Still angry after all these years?" But Mr. Cool must be scratching that clever little cranium of his and wondering of late where he, too, might get hold of some of that exotic political elixir called anger. Not, he may be sure, out of a book. Much less off a policy statement. And never from a committee.
Nations on the rise or seeking to consolidate their empires will always favor forceful leaders. Those undergoing contraction will tend toward the reflective type, the better to rationalize their loss of heat and hegemony. Not for nothing have the Americans reversed the usual coloration of politics so that conservatives garnered the flaming red state designation while their opposites were assigned the passive and contemplative blue. Not for nothing have the former controlled the White House for the vast majority of the time since the last World War. And not for nothing does Obama now sit in that same White House contriving ways to control the climate, dispose of the sick, and get his mojo back.

Qualms Away! As Obama Bombs Out, Will Children Die?

One maxim of presidential politics always valid: when polls head south, bomb your way out. Americans love their "democracy" and abhor "militarists," (scare quotes for scary concepts) but their ballot box is strung directly to the levers of a B52. Nothing rouses the bipartisan in the Yankee like standing shoulder to shoulder with his leader once the bombs start falling. So Reagan bombed Gaddafi, Bush I bombed Iraq and Clinton bombed Serbia, and Bush ll bombed - well, you name it! The only CiC in recent memory that failed the drop test was Carter, weak Jimmy Carter, who paid a heavy price for his light hand. And though he's been called JC redux by his enemies, nothing indicates that Barack Obama will opt to join Dhimmi Jimmy in that one-term wilderness to which America consigns its wimp-out Commanders in Chief. Like pols everywhere, Obama's primary cause is himself, and as we all know, self-love conquers all, especially when abetted by Bomber Command. His greatest challenge will be winning over the so-called conservative base, that mad amalgam of town hallers, birthers, Zionists, racists, free marketers, born-againers, American firsters, borders in orderers and, well, just about everyone, in other words, who believes that Obama has pussied out on America. But bitch as they might about health care, debt and death panels, if he'll only shout bombs away! and give them a reassuring scent of cordite in time for the holidays, they'll all be purring like kittens in catnip. I think the only question is not if but who ends up getting it. Present bets are on Pakistan (or Scotland!)

O children of the planet, please watch the sky,
And put by your light-hearted laughter and games;
For when presidents start sinking the bombers shall fly,
And soon your young bodies must go up in flames.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Unless You Dare

Beauty is exuberance. - William Blake

I see that Terry Black, "teen sensation of the sixties," died recently. His obits are mostly marked by the same hype that lifted this pleasant and good-looking but basically talentless individual from obscurity in the first place. Red Robinson tries for a little perspective when he remarks that "Terry was a most sincere, humble guy who had the pipes to sing but not the management to make it happen." But to paraphrase Churchill, Red, the guy had a lot to be humble about.
Although he won the Maple Music Best Male Vocalist for 1965, he did so by remaining virtually unheard of, or more exactly, unheard, where I lived, in his own North Vancouver. True, the Vancouver media were all over the guy, big time. He was the product of that DeeJay culture that at one time seemed to count for so much among the so dumb. It is the culture of spin: spinning discs and spinning heads. The Buddy Clydes, the Red Robinsons and Fred Latremouilles were spinning him as the new Elvis just about the time the Beatles and Stones had effectively buried the old Elvis under an avalanche of fresh sounding and interesting music. I remember seeing Black for the first and only time on a local TV venue, the same Dance Party where he was "discovered." Let's see: a singer gets discovered on a TV dance show while dancing to records. Right! So Fabian was famously "discovered" lounging about on his front porch one Saturday afternoon. But let's give Fabian his due, he really could lounge.
Black, on the other hand, didn't really dance all that well, was a so-so singer and was a total bomb when it came to lounging. In that day, it was a law that pop idols had to be "good looking." But Black's handlers thought this meant that this was all you had to be. From today's perspective he looks and sounds rather pathetic, a nice youngster who liked to dance, pushed into the limelight by calculating adults trying for a quick buck off a static construct. Although he tried for a movie part playing Presley's kid brother, his only perceivable kinship to Elvis outside of his looks was the naive trust which he reposed in his managers, who vied with the notorious "Colonel" in professional obtusity by feeding him safe, i.e., dull, material and over-managing his fragile image. His one "international hit," "Unless You Care," is about as mediocre a pop song as you'll ever hear. The words are sappy, the (studio) band humdrum (Glen Campbell on guitar notwithstanding), and the delivery indifferent. It sounds in fact like Black doesn't care, as if he was afraid to hit a head note lest its unwonted intensity should shake free one of his impeccably managed hairs. (Ironically enough, it turns out that tidy Terry eventually landed a part in a Canadian production of Hair. Now that must have been humbling!)
Black's carrer, such as it was, and ending as it did in the year of Susan Boyle, was a testament to the limits of spin. I mention Boyle because in a way she represents the opposite of Black: no looks, zero spin, all talent and drive and dedication. I wonder what the aging and disillusioned former teen sensation, by then resigned to making his way by doing beer ads, thought when he saw her performance, that extraordinary act that turned the judges on their heads and won the audience and the world by the sheer power of voice and emotion. Beautiful! If he cried with rest of us, I hope he saved a tear or two for himself and what might have been if only...
Terry Black now sings with the angels where that sincere and sinless face of his always said he belonged. RIP. The deejays have spun out, the judges have been judged, and all we can really ask of our young and talented is to stand up and go for it. Aphorism of the day: the ones who break the mirrors are often the same ones who break the molds. Contrary to Red Robinson, talent conquers all, kids. Dare to be hot!

Unless You Care Dare

For Terry Black

Don't ever let them say you've got talent and flair,

Cause failure's too much to bear,

It's all just air, uh huh uh,

Unless you dare.

Don't dream of stars in heaven

If you don't belong up there,

It's all just air,

Unless you dare.

Terry, if you only knew

How safe and dull you sound!

You got the breaks,

If you'd got what it takes,

You'd have been world-renowned.

So don't dream of bright lights and fame

If singing jingles is no shame,

It's all just air

Unless you dare!

(See original here)