“For anyone who can remember Bob Dylan in his prime, [Christopher] Ricks’s name has a special significance. It was he who dared — and it did seem daring at the time — place Dylan’s youthful rasp on the same level as the more burnished recollections of tranquillity from centuries past. Have you heard? There is a professor giving lectures on Dylan. At Cambridge. It seemed impossibly audacious, this conferral of academic gravitas on the work of a man who merely claimed he wanted to be bigger than Elvis.
“But Ricks, and his skeptics, were overtaken by events. Dylan became a legitimate topic for serious research, and his lyrics the hapless subject of near-lunatic dissection. …
“Ricks’s strategy — a bold one — is to ignore both Dylan’s music and the way he uses his voice (though conceding at the outset that he is a ‘performer of genius’). ‘It ought to be possible … to attend to Dylan’s words without forgetting that they are one element only, one medium, of his art,’ he urges. I’m not so sure. The problem is not that we forget; rather, that we are too often reminded that some of these lyrics, pulled out of their musical context, seem terribly lame.”
— Peter Aspden, writing on “Don’t think twice,” Oct. 9 in the Financial Times
“A casualty list from the Knob Creek Gun Range, which hosted one of the country’s largest machine-gun shoots this past weekend, would look something like this: Two dozen old appliances. A dozen junked cars. Tens of thousands of rounds of spent ammunition. Zero people.
“Aim: Having a blast.
“These statistics will be disturbing to the myopic antigun crowd, which fails to recognize the millions of rounds fired safely every year, including the tens of thousands fired at this twice-yearly event [in Kentucky]. …
“The special draw here is to be able to go full auto … with some of the most impressive hardware on the planet … everything from a Civil War-era Gatling gun to its modern-day cousin, the minigun, which can spit out 6,000 rounds a minute. Also on display was a bevy of Browning .50-caliber machine guns, as well as M60s, M-16s, Uzis, Browning Automatic Rifles and just about anything else you can think of. …
“For every ersatz Rambo, there was someone dressed in Bermuda shorts and a golf shirt. More important, whole families were here, most of whom see a day at the gun range not as a precursor to Columbine, but as good bonding time.”
— Mark Yost, writing on “Trigger Happy,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal
“A dozen years ago on Oct. 15, Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court barely passed senatorial muster. …
“The Thomas hearings marked the first time in contemporary politics that charges of sexual harassment — or, more correctly, since it isn’t clear that Anita Hill’s claims technically met the legal standard of sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances — were blatantly put in the service of partisan politics. …
“While questions remain about the veracity of Hill’s claims, this much seems certain: Democrats and liberals opportunistically used alleged examples of unseemly conduct as a club with which to beat up on a nominee they already opposed. The charges of improper, crude, and objectionable sexual behavior were not important in and of themselves. Rather, they were means to an end, a strategy by which one political faction might further its cause.”
— Nick Gillespie, writing on “Sexual Politics 2003,” Wednesday in Reason Online at www.reason.com