- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

Plus ca change

“France has always been a fractured (and fractious) territory. ‘All Gaul,’ said Julius Caesar, who did his share of the carving, ‘is divided into three parts.’ …

“Different visions of what France is, or should be, continue to divide Frenchmen. …

“General [Charles] de Gaulle asked, famously, how anyone could govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese. His answer was to be the incontrovertibly biggest cheese. His Fifth Republic made its president an elected monarch who could trump the politicking of those who disagreed with him or dismiss them.

“In opposition, Francois Mitterrand wrote a magnificent polemic … denouncing the Gaullist autocracy. However, when he succeeded to the presidency, Mitterrand reigned, from 1981 until 1995, every bit as grandly as de Gaulle, with the ‘socialist’ addition of allowing his lieutenants to rob the (newly nationalized) Credit Lyonnais.

“[Jacques] Chirac, his right-wing rival, was more modest: while he was mayor of Paris, some of his barons were handed leases on luxury flats and his party (inherited from de Gaulle) benefited from the salaries of non-existent municipal employees. ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’ is the only immutable rule in French public life.”

Rod Kedward, writing on “La Vie en Bleu,” Aug. 14 in the Times of London

Snobbed out

“In some ways … the IPod revolution is a Rock Snob’s dream. Now, nearly all rock music is easily and almost instantly attainable, either via our friends’ computers or through online file-sharing networks. —

“But there’s a dark side to the IPod era. Snobbery subsists on exclusivity. And the ownership of a huge and eclectic music collection has become ordinary. Thanks to the IPod … anyone can milk various friends, acquaintances, and the Internet to quickly build a glorious 10,000-song collection. Adding insult to injury, this process often comes directly at the Rock Snob’s expense. …

“[T]he girlfriend to whom I gave an IPod … promptly plugged it into my computer and was soon holding in her hand a duplicate version of my 5,000-song library — a library that had taken some 20 years, thousands of dollars, and about as many hours to accumulate. She’d downloaded it all within five minutes. And, a few months later, she was gone, taking my intimate musical DNA with her.”

Michael Crowley, writing on “Remastered,” in the Sept. 5 issue of the New Republic

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Gathering moss

“While they were cultural rebels of a sort in the 1960s, the more enduring focus of the Rolling Stones’ career has been riding the latest trends … and dressing it up as rebellion.

“They never rebelled against anything without knowing that there was plenty of wind at their back, whether it was the commercial potential of 1960s youth culture or the lockstep anti-Bushism of today’s pop music community. …

“Now comes ‘Sweet Neo Con,’ which has prompted some nervousness about a backlash against the group in the U.S. Even Keith Richards has expressed reservations, pointing out that he actually lives in the States, whereas [Mick] Jagger does not. …

“It seems unlikely that the Stones’ audience will be put off by Jagger’s boilerplate politics. Fans attend the concerts to hear old songs, not new ones, and if ‘Sweet Neo Con’ causes problems … Jagger will banish it from the set list, if it is included in the first place.

“After all, the Stones … have always been dedicated to giving people what they want, not what they need. Such has been the career of rock’s greatest, uh, rebels.”

Paul Beston, writing on “Sweet Hanger-On,” Aug. 23 in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

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