- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

‘Philistine elitism’

“Why don’t we let rock stars grow up? The pop music domain is like a confederation of Never-Never Land and the Island of Lost Boys, where nobody can ever grow old and nasty behavior is the social code.

“It is some 50 years now since rock and roll began to emerge as a musical style and a cultural phenomenon, originally a piece with the adolescent rebellion against postwar conservatism that the rebelled-upon used to call juvenile delinquency. …

“[W]e tend to prefer our rockers young and angry. We look cynically upon overt demonstrations of creative ambition as over-reaching, especially when popular artists dare to cross the chalk lines of category and genre.

“We dismiss as pretentious their efforts in musical styles positioned about rock on the artistic hierarchy, which is unfair regardless of the fact that [Paul] McCartney’s ‘Liverpool Oratio,’ for example, is indeed pretentious. …

“Many of us of the postwar generation submit to a kind of philistine elitism, rejecting the privilege of an artist successful in an informal discipline to attempt a formal art, because we see the latter as bourgeois and the interest in it as a betrayal of the anti-establishment ethic to which rock and roll still lays claim, decades after it became the music of the establishment.”

David Hadju, writing on “This Year’s Model,” in the Oct. 6 issue of the New Republic

Suicidal span

“Every two weeks, on average, someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the world’s leading suicide location. …

“There is a fatal grandeur to the place. … Dr. Richard Seiden, a professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health and the leading researcher on suicide at the bridge, has written that studies reveal ‘a commonly held attitude that romanticizes suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge in such terms as aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.’ …

“Jumpers tend to idealize what will happen after they step off the bridge. ‘Suicidal people have transformation fantasies and are prone to magical thinking, like children and psychotics,’ Dr. Lanny Berman, the executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, says. ‘Jumpers are drawn to the Golden Gate because they believe it’s a gateway to another place. They think that life will slow down in those final seconds, and then they’ll hit the water clearly, like a high diver.’ ”

Tad Friend, writing on “Jumpers,” in the Oct. 13 issue of the New Yorker

Reality pioneer

“Before ‘Survivor’ Richard Hatch, before the ‘Bachelors,’ before any of those pathetic saps stranded on ‘Temptation Island,’ there was the first true pop-culture reality star: the elegantly jubilant ‘participatory journalist,’ George Plimpton. …

“Plimpton … was most famous for inserting his 6-foot-4-inch frame into improbable situations, such as playing quarterback for the ‘63 Detroit Lions. …

“By present-day ‘reality’ standards, he was a loser. But … there’s a difference between being a failure (someone who can be enlightened by his errors) and a loser (someone who Just Doesn’t Get It). …

“A staunch campaigner for Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 presidential run, Plimpton helped subdue Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, by throttling him. His curt remark to the Associated Press about that? ‘Bad stuff.’

“Plimpton spent the vast majority of his life, however, doing and creating good stuff.”

Ken Tucker, writing on “Fear Factor,” in the Oct. 10 issue of Entertainment Weekly

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