- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

Apes rule?

"Welcome to Earth, sometime in the not-so distant future. The planet has grown into a primordial world of jungle, swamp and forest, navigable only by a mesh of long swinging vines and moss-ridden branches. …

"Exiled to the margins, living in makeshift colonies in the mountains, are what remains of the human race. Flushed from their hiding places and run out of the forest by the physically and mentally superior apes, the humans are regularly herded into caged vehicles and transported back to the city to be sold as slaves. …

"Pierre Boulle, of course, was the first to imagine such a world in his classic novel 'Planet of the Apes.' The scenario has become one of the most recognised and provocative concepts in science fiction. But could it happen? Do apes possess the characteristics necessary to become Earth's ruling primates? …

"Anyone interested in the 'cultural' expressions of humans and apes, and how they stack up against each other, will be delighted by Boulle's 'Planet of the Apes' and the movies it has inspired. Here we have a topsy-turvy world in which the apes are superior and we poor humans do everything to prove that we are smart, that we deserve good treatment at the hands of our hairy rulers. …

"This is what makes 'Planet of the Apes' so unique: instead of making fun of the apes, it makes fun of us and puts us in the role of trying to prove that we are less stupid than we look.

"All of this is not to say that I would love to live in a world dominated by apes like everyone else, I prefer to be on top."

Emory University primate researcher Frans B. M. de Waal, writing on "Man versus Ape," in the Aug. 5 Sunday Times of London


The fate of music

"At a time when the Walkman is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the entire recording industry is in recession. The classical music labels' share of a stagnant market shrank from 7 percent in 1987 to 2.9 percent in 1996. Not even the Philadelphia Orchestra, the first (in 1917) to make a classical recording, has a standing contract. Government arts funding is under suspicion. People organize such dubious events as the Congressional Sing-a-Long for the Arts (in February 1999) with Edward Kennedy and Peter Yarrow leading a few hundred NEA supporters in song on the Capitol steps. …

"Orchestras appeal to a minority of Americans. There are expanses of American landscape, topographical and cultural, where classical music has little or no acknowledged impact. At a runout concert in Carthage, Texas, an older man approached the conductor of the morning's educational session to say that he had never even heard an orchestra before. From his point of view, the orchestra had always seemed a coterie thing, Eastern, elitist. …

"The fate of orchestras cannot be isolated from the movement of the culture as a whole."

Lionel Basney, writing on "Who Killed Classical Music?" in the September/October issue of Books & Culture


'Emotional holocaust'

"In February 1976, just a week after Kurt Cobain's ninth birthday, his mother, Wendy Cobain, informed her husband, Don, she wanted a divorce. She announced this one weekday night and stormed off in her Camaro, leaving Don to do the explaining to the children, something at which he didn't excel. …

"To Kurt, it was an emotional holocaust no other single event in his life had more of an effect on the shaping of his personality. He internalized the divorce, as many children do. The depths of his parents' conflicts had been primarily hidden from him, and he couldn't understand the reason for the split. 'He thought it was his fault, and he shouldered much of the blame,' observed Kurt's maternal aunt Mari Earle. 'It was traumatic for Kurt, as he saw everything he trusted in his security, family and his own maintenance unravel in front of his eyes.'"

Charles R. Cross, writing on "About a Boy," in the October issue of Spin


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