Sunday, November 16, 2008

To Music (and Robert Herrick)

Melt, melt my pains
With thy soft strains;
That, having ease me given,
With full delight
I leave this light,
And take my flight
For Heaven.

Not bad for poetry that's over three hundred years old, eh? Harper's No Comment post highlights Herrick's To Music, to becalm his Fever (ca. 1660) and notes that:

Of the seventeenth century English poets, Herrick’s work has the closest inherent relationship to music. It is melodious, and most of his poems (excepting perhaps the more religiously themed ones) have the character of song about them. Among his contemporaries, in fact, Herrick is called “the songwriter,” and settings of some of his poems survive (unfortunately for him, the poetry is much better than the music.) Still reading this particularly beautiful effort (note especially: “Fall on me like the silent dew, / Or like those maiden showers/ Which, by the peep of day, do strew/ A baptism o’er the flowers.” The construction and language are wonderful), I think immediately of John Dowland’s songs, especially the Second and Third Books. There is an inescapably downbeat angle to them, but they are beautiful, lyrical and thematically very close to Herrick.

Listen to John Dowland’s Lachrymae Pavane as performed by Winston Arblaster in the Bishop’s Chapel, Wells, England—there are no lyrics for this “dance of tears,” so imagine Herrick’s appeal to the curative power of music.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Michael Hirsh of Newsweek writes:

Goodbye, Anti-intellectualism, Brains are back!

After eight years of proud incuriosity and anti-intellectualism, we now have a leader who values nuance and careful thought.

What Obama's election means, above all, is that brains are back. Sense and pragmatism and the idea of considering-all-the-options are back. Studying one's enemies and thinking through strategic problems are back. Cultural understanding is back. Yahooism and jingoism and junk science about global warming and shabby legal reasoning about torture are out. The national culture of flag-pin shallowness that guided our foreign policy is gone with the wind. And for this reason as much as any, perhaps I can renew my pride in being an American.

...after nearly eight years of a president who could barely form a coherent sentence, much less a strategic thought. We can finally go back to respecting logic and reason and studiousness under a president who doesn't seem to care much about what is "left," "right" or ideologically pure. Or what he thinks God is saying to him. A guy who keeps religion in its proper place—in the pew.

One tragedy of the Bush administration is the amount of American brainpower and talent that went unused, the options that went unconsidered, because they were seen to lack ideological purity.

Scott Horton write in the The Daily Beast:

Palin's Mole at The Times

The one and only -- William Kristol!

In October 13, Kristol’s criticism reached the boiling point. “Fire the campaign,” he thundered. “What McCain needs to do is junk the whole thing and start over. Shut down the rapid responses, end the frantic e-mails, bench the spinning surrogates, stop putting up new TV and Internet ads every minute. In fact, pull all the ads—they’re doing no good anyway. Use that money for televised town halls and half-hour addresses in prime time.” Among the McCain tactics that had failed, he acknowledged, were the very ones he had advocated just two weeks earlier.

As I reported previously, Kristol was instrumental in convincing the McCain campaign to select Sarah Palin, and he stood tenaciously by his candidate. He used his position as a media figure—at the Weekly Standard, on Fox News, and in his valued column at the New York Times—to advance his vision of the campaign’s interests.

This raises an obvious question for The New York Times: should Bill Kristol’s contract as an opinion columnist be renewed when it runs up at year’s end? There is no problem with the conservative viewpoint advanced in his pieces—he was after all hired as a replacement for a conservative voice, William Safire. Still, the Times must be concerned about Kristol’s intervention in the campaign he was writing about. Simply put, the pundit meddled in the campaign he was commenting on.

Personal comment: Yes, this is the same Bill Kristol who so expertly predicted on December 17, 2006 on Fox News Sunday, "If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she's going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her ... Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single democratic primary. I'll predict that right now."

Shouldn't be much of a loss for the NYT and maybe the RNC will bar him for life.

Scott Horton again, this time in Harper's:

Something’s Odd in Alaska

It ain't over till it's over. Regarding some odd election results in Alaska --

The more likely answer is that someone has lost track of a very substantial part of the Alaska vote. Moreover, the disappeared votes appear to be disproportionately drawn from the Democratic column. Alaska, as John McCain taught us, has a long record of corrupt politics. Seems that this doesn’t stop with gratis home makeovers and bridges to nowhere.

Obama: America's Putin

Oh. My. God.

Did Charles Krauthammer really say Obama ran "a brilliant general election campaign"? He did.

Which is not to say that Obama did not run a brilliant general election campaign. He did. In its tactically perfect minimalism, it was as well conceived and well executed as the electrifying, highflying, magic carpet ride of his primary victory. By the time of his Denver convention, Obama understood that he had to dispense with the magic and make himself kitchen-table real, accessible and, above all, reassuring. He did that. And when the economic tsunami hit, he understood that all he had to do was get out of the way. He did that too.

And not only that, but Obama is Clinton and Putin rolled into one.

With him we get a president with the political intelligence of a Bill Clinton harnessed to the steely self-discipline of a Vladimir Putin. (I say this admiringly.) With these qualities, Obama will now bestride the political stage as largely as did Reagan.