- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

Vintage Village

“One of the least-understood of [Bob] Dylan mysteries has to do with influences: His music seems to come from everywhere, and from nowhere but him. You can listen to endless droning folk balladeers, and you can listen to Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams. You can read Milton and Keats … but … Dylan’s works are best considered as songs, not poems.

“So where does it come from, the whole Dylan carnival: the comic surreal characters, the recurring cryptic femme fatales, the ecstatic ironies, the declamatory cadences and the insinuating sneers? The unmistakable Dylan voice. Yes, he invented himself, but not out of nothing.

“That’s where ‘Chronicles, Volume One,’ Dylan’s memoir, is most illuminating. … He makes it clear that what made Dylan, Dylan was New York, New York. Specifically, the New York of [Greenwich] Village — more explicitly the Village when it was still The Village, and not a theme park for bohemia. The Village and all that talk, all those hopped-up riffs, epic espresso-fueled denunciations and appreciations. He found a way to distill the attitude … and turn New York talk into song.”

Ron Rosenbaum, writing on “Dylan Brings It Home,” in yesterday’s issue of the New York Observer

Darwinian dead end

“‘As time marches inexorably on, human society … evolves.’ So explained Judge William L. Downing in striking down the state of Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act [on Aug. 4], ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry.

“Indeed, evolution seems tightly bound to the gay marriage agenda. … Columnist Ellen Goodman called the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s late 2003 ruling that homosexuals have a right to marry ‘as evolutionary as it is historic.’ …

“This celebration of gay marriage as a step forward in evolution is curious. Classic evolutionary theory, as crafted by Charles Darwin, focused in the end on ‘reproductive success.’ Since homosexuality was, by definition, sterile, the behavior stood as an obvious biological dead end: a ‘genetic aberration,’ Darwin labeled it. …

“In the name of evolution, the campaign for gay marriage openly mocks the religious heritage of Western civilization. It ignores the hard-won lessons of history. And it rejects the techniques of scientific inquiry, relying primarily on sentiment to make its case.”

Allan Carlson, writing on “Playing with Evolutionary Fire,” in the August issue of the Family in America

No respect

“[Rodney] Dangerfield admitted that he never felt happy, even in his most successful years. He never expected to, he said. It was a saddening but revealing moment. …

“One of the great things Dangerfield will be remembered for … was his interest in helping young comedians make a name for themselves. He knew how hard the enterprise was, and he was also smart enough to know that his success, such as it was, would be short-lived. Because of him comedians like Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Kinison, Roseanne Barr and Bob Saget felt confident about forging ahead into a pool of razor-toothed sharks. Comedy was something he had to do, and he recognized others who deserved a shot. …

“In the end, he may still be low-brow in some people’s opinions, but he wasn’t low enough to accept table scraps from an increasingly impotent establishment that was too closed-minded to understand his comedy.”

Adam Baer, writing on “Respect,” Thursday in the New Republic Online at www.tnr.com

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