Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Shedding His grace

“[Ronald Reagan] could tell a story or a joke or deliver a speech like no one before or since. And Ray [Charles] could make a song his own. They were both great stylists. Both had phrasing that was like no one else’s. Both understood America — both had oceans of soul.

“There were plenty of times the Old Cowpoke brought a lump to our throats in his speeches. And Ray could do the same with one of the songs he owned — ‘America the Beautiful.’ I remember seeing Ray on the tube once at some open air concert. … I can’t remember what the event was, but it was hardly a venue for working up much in the way of emotion. But then Ray cut loose with ‘America.’ When he was done there wasn’t a dry eye in the place and probably not many out in TV land either. God indeed shed a lot of grace on Ray.

“I’ve been a Ray Charles fan since high school days — those innocent days when Ike was snoozing in the White house and all our parents had to worry about was whether we were somewhere dancing to ‘What’d I Say.’ How much of a ripple could ‘She knows how to shake that thing’ cause now?…

“Ray couldn’t see with his eyes. But he could surely see into our hearts.”

—Larry Thornberry, writing on “God Shed His Grace on Ray,” Friday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

‘He can’t say that’

“Reagan not only held a deep distrust of the accepted cargo of American governance — Ivy League education, intimate and long familiarity with Washington and New York, and intellectual pretension — but also deliberately tried to avoid the usual language of diplomatic prevarication. His reduction of complex and nuanced problems into simple equations involving right and wrong infuriated the elites, not only because he was necessarily wrong, but precisely because he was so often right and thus called into question the prerequisites of political sagacity. Reagan’s habit was to reduce a dilemma to an easy choice between principle and expediency. His rhetoric was memorable precisely because it flew in the face of conventional wisdom and drew responses like, ‘He can’t say that.’ But of course he could — and did — because ‘that’ was so often true.”

Victor Davis Hanson, writing on “The Psychological Effect,” in the June 28 issue of National Review

Fat cat

“Aspiring cultural juggernauts could not have asked for a better how-to guide to world domination than ‘Garfield: The Movie.’ … The film is an example of the kind of product that ‘Garfield’ creator Jim Davis likes to attach his product’s name to: Predictable, unfunny, and eminently forgettable. …

“And that’s exactly how Davis wants it. … He knows that the flip side to building almost any mass-market culture-industry icon — think Mickey Mouse or McDonald’s — is intense loathing by the minority who will despise it. Davis’s genius is that he’s created the most widely syndicated comic strip in history … and yet, through careful brand management, he’s largely managed to deflate the naturally occurring cultural counterattack. …

“Davis makes no attempt to conceal the crass commercial motivations behind his creation of ‘Garfield.’ … Davis looked around and noticed that dogs were popular in the funny papers, but there wasn’t a strip for the nation’s 15 million cat owners. Then, he consciously developed a stable of recurring, repetitive jokes for the cat. He hates Mondays. He loves lasagna. He sure is fat.”

Chris Suellentrop, writing on “Garfield,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

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