- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

Boss Inc.

“For all the po-faced mythic resonance that now accompanies Bruce [Springsteen’s] every move, we can thank Jon Landau, the ex-Rolling Stone critic who, after catching a typically seismic Springsteen set in 1974, famously wrote, ‘I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.’

“Well, Bruce Springsteen was Jon Landau’s future. Over the next couple of years, Landau insinuated himself into Bruce’s artistic life and consciousness … until he became Springsteen’s producer, manager and full-service Svengali. Unlike the down-on-their-luck Springsteens of Freehold, N.J., Landau hailed from the well-appointed suburbs of Boston and had earned an honors degree in history from Brandeis. …

“Rock music was transcendent, Landau believed, because it was primitive, not because it could be avant-garde. … Bruce’s musical vocabulary accordingly shrank. By [the 1978 release of the album] ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town,’ gone were the ‘West Side Story’-esque jazz suites of ‘The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle.’ In their place were tight, guitar-driven intro-verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus songs. Springsteen’s image similarly transformed. …

“The message was clear: Springsteen himself was one of the unbeautiful losers, flitting along the ghostly fringes of suburban respectability.

“Thirty years later, and largely thanks to Landau, Springsteen is no longer a musician. He’s a belief system.”

Stephen Metcalf, writing on “Faux Americana,” Monday in Slate at www.slate.com

Online youth

“American teens and young adults already spend less time watching television than they do online, and the people with the most experience using the Net spend several hours fewer each week watching TV than do their less-wired counterparts.

“But the way we watch TV programming has also changed. …The TV may be on as background while we surf the Web, but only as one more pane to [skip through] to as we graze in our pixellated pastures. …

“Mechanisms for more precise choice in programming, like TiVo, are caught in a feedback loop … with smarter, more sophisticated and more intellectually demanding viewers. It’s now common to find whole seasons of popular shows offered on DVD soon after they’ve aired; that means it’s less necessary to hold viewers’ hands through each episode.”

Julian Sanchez, writing on “A Shrinking Wasteland,” April 29 in Reason Online at www.reason.com>

AWOL clergy

“As Terri Schiavo’s life ebbed, an expected army of pro-life foot soldiers turned up AWOL. … For a movement that has built itself on sidewalk activism, the no-shows were notable. Who was missing? A serious and coherent Roman Catholic presence, for one thing. Three Franciscan monks, however passionate and well-spoken they may have been, could hardly make up for the conspicuous absence of any leaders from the St. Petersburg Diocese.

“Not a single priest showed up, in spite of the Schindler family’s reputation as loyal, practicing Catholics. Last year, the local bishop is reported to have prohibited the mention of Mrs. Schiavo in area churches; he yielded finally to allow such mention — but only in prayers. …

“Also missing were any big-name, high-profile evangelical leaders. Christian talk radio and Internet outlets were abuzz for weeks about the Schiavo crisis. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh devoted hours to it. Yet no prominent Christian leader showed up in Pinellas Park.”

Joel Belz in “Turnout Burnout” in the April 2 issue of World magazine

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