January 07, 2010
The Beatles: Rock Band Guitar Hero When smug old children of the 1970s such as my friends and I get together, we play a game. We talk about the bands we loved when we were kids; we trade grumbles about the fact that music no longer seems to dominate youth culture, as we nostalgically recall the role that rock had in our past; and we try to guess what happened. I call this a game and not a discussion, because really it is diverting silliness that boils down to a competition to reach an agreed-upon goal--that is, to prove our generation’s superiority to our successors.
The Case Against Awards
October 16, 2009
Last month, rapper Kanye West interrupted an MTV Video Awards ceremony to protest the selection of Taylor Swift for “Best Female Video.” So widely did the fallout from this episode spread that President Obama soon weighed in against West (“He’s a jackass”). Obama himself would soon become the subject of a similar award-related imbroglio, when he was bizarrely chosen as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
June 07, 2004
After Theory By Terry Eagleton (Basic Books, 231 pp., $25) I. When I attended Cambridge in the mid-1980s, "theory" was sickly ripe. What looked like its fiercest flush of life, the red of its triumph, was in fact the unnatural coloring of fever. Paul de Man had just died, Harold Bloom was preparing his second career as a weak misreader of Clifton Fadiman, Roland Barthes was gone, the Yale gang of deconstructionists was breaking up, and much postmodern silliness among the signifiers was just around the corner.
April 22, 1996
Marjorie Garber, Kenan Professor of English at Harvard, was lost in arcana. Squinting analytically, and fiercely puzzled, she began to split hairs. “May I add a transgressive note?” she asked the lecturer. “As somebody who has appeared on them, there does seem to me a difference between talk shows such as ‘Donahue’ and ‘Oprah’ and, say, shows like ‘Jenny Jones.’ It may only be the difference between modes of Protestant confession and Catholic confession, of course....” The two-day conference on “Dirt,” organized by Garber’s two Harvard departments, English Literature and the Center for Literar
I. I just got back from Hollywood, where I had breakfast with Ricardo Mestres at the Bel Air Hotel. Mestres shot from Harvard to the head of Disney’s Hollywood pictures, only to release a string of flops so unremittingly horrible that finally, after a deathwatch that seemed to go on for years, he lost his job. But there he was, with a spanking new title, dressed with casual confidence in khakis and a plaid shirt, working on his second breakfast of the day. The head of Warner Brothers’ film division sat across from us, the new chairman of Disney in the corner.