Sunday, April 24, 2005

Biographical Bob

“In 1964 Bob Dylan issued an invitation to his literary exegetes that roared out a warning. ‘Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen,’ Dylan famously urged in ‘The Times They Are A-Changin.’ He later added a clause to ‘mothers and fathers throughout the land’ that the writers and critics might have heeded: ‘Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.’ Go ahead and write about me, sang Dylan, but do so at your peril. The writers and critics prophesizing with their pens have accepted his invitation, but did they take his advice?

“Dylan has given an excuse for many critics to sound off, with an influential rock critic’s bravado, a distinguished academic’s throat-clearing and an impassioned politico’s plea. … In the near future Dylan will be the subject of a Martin Scorsese documentary, an authorized Todd Haynes biopic in which he will be played by seven actors (including an as-yet-to-be-cast African-American woman, possibly Oprah or Beyonce), and a Twyla Tharp dance spectacle (his idea — really). And he will continue touring the world, sublimely wheezing through his back pages while apparently writing and recording a new batch of songs. He’s still busy being born, and so, apparently, is the industry of Dylan books, his own the most salient among them.”

David Yaffe, writing on “Tangled Up in Bob,” in the April 25 issue of the Nation

Rome and Mecca

“Now that John Paul II has been buried, Catholic voices are sounding the alarm about the coming Islamicization of Europe. …

“Misjudging the impact of Islamic immigration upon Europe may have been the signal error of John Paul II’s reign. Against the bitter opposition of Catholic traditionalists, John Paul II visited mosques, kissed the Koran for the news cameras and held more than 50 audiences with Muslim representatives. The late pontiff saw Muslims as prospective allies against secularism, and believed that the popular piety of Islam offered something of a bulwark against the soulless direction of the modern world. In particular, John Paul II seemed impressed by the fact that the Koran acknowledges the Virgin Mary, a point emphasized in the Second Vatican Council’s ecumenical statement, ‘Nostra Aetate.’”

From “The Crescent and the Conclave,” Thursday in Asia Times Online at


“Environmentalism is the ideal cause for the famous: Attractive people look good in spectacular natural settings, and there’s nothing like a resonant, well-modulated voice to remind you that your great-grandchildren will be crawling across a parched and baking desert, competing with cockroaches for the remaining shreds of edible plant life, and that there’s not a whole … lot you can do about it.

“A new four-part series [narrated by actor Ed Norton] about the ‘unsettling transformations’ taking place in the environment, PBS’ ‘Strange Days on Planet Earth,’ begins … [with segments] on the effect of ‘invader’ plant and animal species … [and] global warming. …

“‘Strange Days on Planet Earth’ is a scientific achievement on par with Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ when watched alongside MTV’s ‘Trippin,’ … a new half-hour series that accompanies Cameron Diaz and her celebrity friends on feel-good junkets through endangered yet photogenic spots like Honduras and the Chilean rain forest. ‘Trippin’ is about ecology in the same way that ‘Charlie’s Angels’ is about feminism.”

Dana Stevens, writing on “Eco-Tourism,” Wednesday in Slate at

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