- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2004

Musical mirror

“[T]he golden age of musical comedy lasted for only about a quarter-century. Except for ‘Show Boat’ (1927) and ‘Porgy and Bess’ (1935), no American musical written prior to 1940 has had a consistently successful life in revival … while ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ … the last of the indisputably ‘classic’ musicals, opened in 1964. …

“[Leonard] Bernstein observed in 1956 that the musical was ‘an art that arises out of American roots, out of our speech, our tempo, our moral attitudes, our timing, our kind of humor.’ It is, in short, a kind of cultural mirror, one in which we see a reflection of the American national character. …

“[W]hat one might call the ‘ideology’ of the classic American musicals reflected the attributes of a common culture that no longer exists — at least not in Manhattan, the cultural capital of Blue America and the crucible in which the musical has historically been smelted.”

Terry Teachout, writing on “Is the Musical Comedy Dead?” in the June issue of Commentary

Beauty on demand

“Once the province of strippers and porn actresses, breast implants eventually became popular among Hollywood celebrities. Today, it is middle-class American women who scrimp and save to achieve the figures they’ve always wanted. …

“Breast implants are a good example of some of the ironies of our pragmatic, democratic approach to cosmetic surgery. Women who get them to feel more sexually attractive are making a strange bargain. In the process of looking more sexually appealing, they rob themselves of several uniquely female experiences.

“Women with breast implants frequently report a loss of sensation in their breasts, eliminating a site of natural sexual pleasure. They cannot breastfeed their children, eliminating both the bonding and health benefits of this practice. They must, on average, have their implants replaced or adjusted every 10 years, and rippling, hardening, and significant movement of the implant and surrounding tissue are common.”

Christine Rosen, writing on “The Democratization of Beauty,” in the spring issue of the New Atlantis

Shocked, shocked

“Politics is a cruel mistress. If Jack Ryan were a masochist instead of an exhibitionist, he might be having the time of his life right now. The 44-year-old Illinois Republican is the latest politico to taste scandal’s lash, and it’s left the poor guy battered and bruised. In fact, the multimedia drubbing has cost the Harvard-educated aspirant and millionaire his senatorial bid. …

“His ex-wife, ‘Boston Public’ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ actress Jeri Ryan, 36, alleged … that during their eight-year marriage, Mr. Ryan took her to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris. Ms. Ryan claims her then-husband encouraged her to engage in sexual activity with him while another couple watched. …

“For such a sex-obsessed populace, Americans are oddly prudish when it comes to politics. We’re always shocked, shocked to hear some libidinal blip from Washington. … Given the abundance of evidence to the contrary, it’s hard to believe we cling so tightly to the mutually agreed-upon fiction that the power of politics remains beyond the reach of the power of sex. …

“How political can a personal life become? How long until every politician’s ISP records are dredged up, and every visit to … www.gigglytoplessteens.net is counted up and trotted out as political fodder? … It’s as if the Patriot Act and the Meese Report got together and had a nosy little baby. Boy, I’d hate to see this monster when it grows up.”

Lily Burana, writing on “The rise and fall of Jack Ryan,” Saturday in Salon at www.salon.com

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