- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Falling in love again

“There was an obscure early [Allen] Ginsberg poem, however, that obsessed me - ‘The Blue Angel.’ …

“The title refers to [Marlene] Dietrich’s breakthrough 1930 film, ‘The Blue Angel,’ where she plays a cabaret femme fatale. The poem begins: ‘Marlene Dietrich is singing a lament / for mechanical love.’ Ginsberg portrays Dietrich as ‘a life-sized toy, / the doll of eternity.’ She is a streamlined objet d’art: her hair is ‘shaped like an abstract hat / made out of white steel.’ But her face is ghoulishly ‘whitewashed and / immobile like a robot,’ with a ‘little white key’ protruding from the temple. Her eyes, with their ‘dull blue pupils,’ are ‘blank / like a statue’s in a museum.’

“The Dietrich doll … represents the artificial projections of Hollywood, the studio-created stars whose machine-made images infatuated audiences around the globe. White-blonde Dietrich is a modernist abstraction, an idea of sex removed from the sensory. She is eternal because her celluloid image will never age. …

“Related questions: is Dietrich, with her ‘lament / for mechanical love,’ a personification of random, anonymous gay sex, with which Ginsberg was perhaps feeling fatigued or disillusioned? As a gay male icon at the time, was Dietrich a symbol of gay men’s own enforced, artificial construction of self? Is Ginsberg implying that gay male love is a flight from real women - a jailbreak toward male identity and freedom?”

Camille Paglia, writing on “Final Cut: The Selection Process for Break, Blow, Burn” in the fall issue of Arion

No more vets

“Once again, history is not kind to the soldiers of America’s least popular and most divisive war. This election may have closed the book on a Vietnam veteran ever being elected president.

“Barack Obama’s win over John McCain marks the third straight defeat of a candidate who served active duty in Vietnam. The electoral dynamics may have been very different in 2000 and 2004 than they were in 2008, as were the war records and even the political parties of Al Gore, John Kerry and McCain. But each of them lost to men who never served in Vietnam. …

“In the end, the only men who came of age in the 1960s to sit in the Oval Office will be Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, neither of whom served in Vietnam. Opponents portrayed Clinton as a draft dodger. Bush’s time in the Air National Guard was marked by accusations that he used his father’s influence to avoid active duty, and that he failed to fulfill his commitment. Still, these two baby boomers, one a studious but self-indulgent liberal, the other a swaggering conservative from a politically connected family, have led the nation for the past 16 years.”

John Zogby, writing on “The End Of Vietnam In American Politics” on Nov. 7 at Forbes

Not so noble

“But if you believe black people are not just receptacles for bigotry, not just automatons programmed by centuries of racism, if you believe they consume oxygen like the Irish, that they ingest solid food like the Italians, that they enjoy a good drink like the denizens of Appalachia, that they like to party like gays of any color, that they like to dance like white women, then you understand that no group, anywhere, ever was ennobled by oppression. …

“Groups of people who end up on the bad end of history aren’t heroic, they aren’t better for it, they’re just down - and, in most cases, they’d put the victors down if they could. What’s the old saying? Black folks didn’t object to slavery, they objected to being the slaves. Heh, we don’t regret the Middle Passage, we regret the Sahara Desert. We regret not having guns and ships. We regret not being first. And so it is for most of humanity. It’s true that individuals sometimes draw wisdom from suffering - but nations tend to be all about the zero-sum.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing on “More on Prop 8” on Nov. 6 at his Atlantic blog



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