- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

Muscle-car revival

“Auto shows are always studded with flashy futuristic designs…. But this year saw the revival of an old-school classic, the brawny American ‘muscle car,’ like the 1968 green Ford Mustang driven to such tire-squealing effect by Steve McQueen in the gearhead classic ‘Bullitt.’ …

“Proving that even Detroit can hear its customers sometimes, the pinup of this year’s auto show … was the Ford Mustang reincarnated. Back are the pointy, predatorial lines of the late 1960s, a classic grill, red leather seats and a big round speedometer and tachometer. It’s a fetching combination of retro muscle a big raw V-8 and information-age refinement. …

“Auto buffs are understandably in a show-me mood, given the recent abuse of lusty names. GM is modeling a revived GTO equipped with a 5.7-liter V-8, but lovers of the classic early 1970s nameplate aren’t getting their hopes up yet. The old GTOs were ‘scary fast in a straight line,’ [auto enthusiast David] Getsie remarked, but ‘the latest version smells like Pontiac trying to capitalize on past glory by slapping a sexy name on a Grand Prix.’”

Collin Levey, writing on “The Return of the Muscle Car,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal

Anti-elitism

“Pop vocalists pose as opera singers. Important art museums exhibit installations that the cleaning staff mistakes for trash. Obscenity-riddled recitations, imposed over rhythm tracks, are reckoned to be music.

“Laugh at (or otherwise criticize) these bad jokes and you’re likely to find yourself anathematized as ‘elitist,’ a common hazard for professional critics. But just what is an elitist, anyway? And when did having standards and expertise become a bad thing? …

“Carew Hunt … wrote in his 1957 work, ‘A Guide to Communist Jargon,’ that Lenin’s ‘party elite’ was supposed to ‘have a more highly developed class consciousness’ that ‘enables it to see further than those among whom it works.’ In other words, the in-group was supposed to be smarter and better than the stupid proles that it led.

“This sort of attitude has resulted in the perfectly reasonable unwillingness of many in democratic societies today to trust the authorities, who are seen … as a self-selecting group of insiders. …

“Unfortunately, this skepticism has metamorphosed over the decades into a determination that no one with special knowledge or experience is worth listening to. If Rembrandt were alive today, he’d be reviled by art students who don’t know how to prepare a canvas. Beethoven would be booed by experimental composers who couldn’t identify the key of C major on a bet, while Duke Ellington would be denigrated by rappers who couldn’t pick out a simple melody.”

Sarah Bryan Miller, writing on “In our democratic age, experts are scorned as elitists,” April 20 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Movie mythology

“For all the lip service paid to ‘70s American movies, their grappling with social circumstances and moral issues is rarely practiced and even more rarely appreciated. One of the lessons of the ‘70s era was that filmmakers could use disreputable genres ‘Easy Rider,’ ‘The Last American Hero,’ ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Chinatown,’ ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Carrie’ to pursue social truths and thus transform thrillers into enlightenment. That’s all gone now. As Francis Ford Coppola observes … today’s movies ‘are like selling tranquilizers and Viagra.’ …

“It’s easy to look back on the ‘70s with hindsight certainty that Coppola, [Robert] Altman and [Martin] Scorsese were kings when, in fact, ‘Blazing Saddles,’ ‘Jaws,’ ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Star Wars’ were more popular.”

Armond White, writing on “Straw Myths,” in the April 23 issue of New York Press

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