- - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sex bo-ring

“Furthermore, despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, [Lady] Gaga isn’t sexy at all — she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticized android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? Can it be that Gaga represents the exhausted end of the sexual revolution? In Gaga’s manic miming of persona after persona, over-conceptualized and claustrophobic, we may have reached the limit of an era … .

“Gaga has borrowed so heavily from Madonna (as in her latest video, ‘Alejandro’) that it must be asked, at what point does homage become theft? However, the main point is that the young Madonna was on fire. She was indeed the imperious Marlene Dietrichs true heir. For Gaga, sex is mainly decor and surface; shes like a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture. Alarmingly, Generation Gaga cant tell the difference. Is it the death of sex? Perhaps the symbolic status that sex had for a century has gone kaput; that blazing trajectory is over …

“Marlene and Madonna gave the impression, true or false, of being pansexual. Gaga, for all her writhing and posturing, is asexual. Going off to the gym in broad daylight, as Gaga recently did, dressed in a black bustier, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels isn’t sexy — its sexually dysfunctional.”

Camille Paglia, writing on “Lady Gaga and the death of sex,” on Sept. 12 at the Sunday Times of London Magazine

Muslim precedent?

“At the same time, loud voices proclaiming that Islam and democracy are incompatible remain in Turkey, and, of course, are not limited to it. Their pronouncements are reminiscent of what many secular liberals in nineteenth-century Europe had to say about democracy and religion, though with an important and instructive twist: back then, Catholicism was deemed an insurmountable obstacle to liberal democracy. Leading French Republican Leon Gambetta famously exclaimed “Le clericalisme, voila lennemi!” in 1877. In fact, far into the [20th] century, prominent politicians and social scientists asserted that Catholicism explained the persistence of dictatorship in Latin America and on the Iberian Peninsula. …

“And as with Muslims today, Catholic citizens were suspected of maintaining transnational ties and ultimate loyalties to spiritual institutions elsewhere-a suspicion that still mattered in John F. Kennedys election campaigns.

“Yet during the second half of the [20th] century, Christian — which mainly meant Catholic — Democratic parties emerged and flourished in Western Europe and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. These were — and in some degree remain — moderately religious parties. They advance political programs infused with select doctrinal values while firmly upholding democratic structures and respecting the separation of state and church.”

Jan-Werner Muller, writing on “Making Muslim Democracies,” in the November/December issue of the Boston Review

Brotherly love

“For 10 years, Tennessee Williams poured his soul into ‘The Two-Character Play.’ It was the longest he ever spent working on one play, and it would prove to be his most overtly personal expression. ‘The Two-Character Play’ is the story of a hopeless brother and sister — she riddled with substance abuse and delusions, he with despair — a dark fantasy of Williams relationship with his sister Rose, who was probably schizophrenic and was lobotomized against his wishes.

“Rose’s fate haunted Williams all his life. He admitted intense guilt for failing to save her, and, more privately, confessed to friends that ‘I fear that end for myself.’ Her presence insists throughout his canon: in the blighted Laura of ‘The Glass Menagerie,’ the notoriously high-strung Blanche of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ even ‘The Night Of The Iguana’s‘ marginalized virgin, Hannah.

“But while ‘The Two-Character Play’ has a more explicit relationship with the reality of Williams’ life, its also marks a shift away from the poetic realism of the major plays, towards a style influenced by Beckett and Ionesco. In Gene David Kirk’s taut production, the cast are confined in an uncomplicated black box that might be Sartre’s Hell. Brother and sister, Felice and Clare, are a down-on-their-luck pair of actors performing to an audience as elusive as Godot, and their gradual immersion into an alternative reality could come straight out of Pirandello.”

Kate Maltby, writing on “Theatre: The Two-Character Play,” on Nov. 9 at the Spectator arts blog Touching from a Distance

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