- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Carson and the id

“With his small eyes, modest features, and boyish face, Johnny Carson … looked like a prototype for Tom Brokaw. … Carson and Brokaw both hailed from the Midwest, and Carson’s heartland decency, his All-American Everyman quality, had everything to do … with his popularity. …

“Carson’s distillation and refinement of averageness, his seeming modesty and good will, had a lot to do with the warmth with which, for 30 years, Americans welcomed him into their homes before hitting the sack. … Part of his currency is the lingering electronic bedroom intimacy of that face. Part of it is that television caters to our pleasure; that is to say, to our appetite for pleasure, which is ruled by our id, which — as Freud said — exists in an eternal present. Popular culture is our eternal present, our illusion of deathlessness. Its constant recycling has about it the tinge of a religious thirst for the eternal. We don’t really mourn the death of a pop-culture icon. We use his extinction to resurrect his life. In America, the death of an American star is really the occasion for a garrulous, obsessive, round-the-clock denial of death.”

Lee Siegel, writing on “Hit Man,” last Monday in the New Republic Online at www.tnr.org

Epic Ayn

“To call Ayn Rand, the high priestess of the human will, a mere force of nature would to her have been an insult as well as a cliche. But how else to describe this extraordinary, maddening, and indestructible individual? Born a century ago this year into the flourishing bourgeoisie of glittering, doomed St. Petersburg, Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum was to triumph over revolution, civil war, Lenin’s dictatorship, an impoverished immigrant existence, and bad reviews in the New York Times to become a strangely important figure in the history of American ideas.

“Even the smaller details of Rand’s life come with the sort of epic implausibility found in — oh, an Ayn Rand novel. On her first day of looking for work in Hollywood, who gives her a lift in his car? Cecil B. De Mille. … Frank Lloyd Wright designs a house for her. Years later, when she’s famous … a young fellow by the name of Alan Greenspan becomes a member of the slightly creepy set that sits at the great woman’s feet. Apparently he went on to achieve some prominence in later life.

“To Rand, none of this would really have mattered (well, the fame was nice). To her, an intensely Russian intellectual despite everything, it was ideas that counted. They were everything.”

Andrew Stuttaford, writing on “A Strangely Important Figure,” Wednesday in the New York Sun

‘Un-American’ abortion

“Abortion is un-American. It baldly violates the first principles of the country, cracking the foundation on which all rights for Americans rest — the right to life. Unless the right to life is inviolable, none of the rights that presuppose it are inviolable either. The Founding Fathers could not have imagined that the most perilous place in America would end up being a mother’s womb. …

“[The Jan. 24] March for Life served as a reminder that for all our renewed rhetoric of freedom, America, 32 years after Roe v. Wade, continues to deny freedom to unborn babies. The fire of freedom of which President Bush spoke [in his inaugural address] still hasn’t illuminated the shadows and penumbras under which more humans are aborted each day in America than were killed on 9/11.”

George Neumayr, writing on “Abortion Is Un-American,” Tuesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

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