Wednesday, October 1, 2008

McCain hero

“Matt Welch’s recent book ‘McCain: The Myth of a Maverick’ is better-researched, and more evenhanded. It is particularly strong on how [Sen. John] McCain’s military background made him a rebel. In that regimented society, breaking petty rules and challenging superiors is a sign of esprit.

“There’s also a fascinating discussion of McCain’s favorite book, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.’ McCain discovered Hemingway in his father’s library when he was a 12-year-old, looking for a heavy volume to press a four-leaf clover. Instead, he found a literary hero: Robert Jordan, who defies the orders of a cautious commander by blowing up a bridge, at the risk of his own life.”

-Edward McClelland, writing on “Who is the real John McCain?” on Sept. 29 at Salon

Beggar lifestyle

“People’s generosity encourages the begging. About four out of ten Denver residents gave to panhandlers, city officials determined several years ago, anteing up an estimated $4.6 million a year. Anecdotal surveys by journalists and police, and even testimony by panhandlers themselves, suggest that begging can yield anywhere from $20 to $100 a day - though police in Coos Bay, Oregon, found that local panhandlers were taking in as much as $300 a day in a Wal-Mart parking lot. …

“In Memphis, a local Fox News reporter, Jason Carter, donned old clothes and hit the streets earlier this year, earning about $10 an hour. ‘Just the quasi-appearance of being homeless filled my cup,’ Carter observed. …

“Carter prepared for his stint on the street by surfing the Internet, where a variety of [Web sites] dispense panhandling advice. NeedCom, for example - subtitled ‘Market Research for Panhandlers’ - offers tips … on how to hustle.”

-Steven Malanga, writing on “The Professional Panhandling Plague,” in the summer issue of the City Journal

‘It’s tragedy’

“It would be much more surprising if a poet or professor could be found to denounce such pop cultural comparisons. Yet the British press runs the same story every few years, as The Times itself reminds us. The last time was in 2001 when a lyric of the Bee Gees was used to comment on the nature of tragedy. Professor John Kerrigan of St John’s College took the occasion to observe that ‘the line in the Bee Gees song where he sings, “The feeling’s gone, and you can’t go on,” is a fair summary of the end of King Lear.’

“As it happens, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees was also in the news recently for complaining that he and his brothers weren’t taken seriously enough and making an implicit comparison between them and Mozart. Now there’s an exam question for you: What’s the difference between the Bee Gees and Mozart, or their lyrics and King Lear? The answer would once have been thought too obvious to be interesting … That the sufferings of Lear are sublime and those of the Gibb brothers or Amy Winehouse are banal is a truth to which every bosom but the most callow must surely return an echo.”

-James Bowman, writing “In Defense of Snobbery” in the July/August edition of the American Spectator

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