Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From Chance the Gardener to Joe the Plumber

Today in Slate, I argue that Hal Ashby’s best movies—culminating in his masterpiece, Being There—are deeply political.
Unlike Network—made four years earlier and based on the fear that one man could amass enormous influence on the airwaves—Being There suggests that television's real threat is the way it scatters our attention among random stimuli. As Eve says in the clip above, we now have too much information, and it's all become "a muddle." Which is precisely why Chance—mistaken by Eve's husband for an economist named Chauncey Gardener—can rise to prominence by obliviously spouting platitudes like "as long as the roots are not severed, all will be well" and "growth has it seasons." Soon the president of the United States is echoing his remarks, and Chance himself is invited to share his wisdom on the talk show circuit—a trajectory that, at this point, feels sadly familiar.
Read the rest.

(Above, Chance the gardener watches television.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bruce Springsteen, 1975

Over at the Barnes & Noble Review, I consider Louis P. Masur's new book, Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen's American Vision:
In May of 1974, Jon Landau saw a little-known band open for Bonnie Raitt in Harvard Square, then went home and penned perhaps the most famous line in all of pop music criticism: "I saw rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." That's as gutsy as reviewing gets: personal, uncompromising -- and also pretty wide of the mark. The future of rock and roll was punk and heavy metal, followed by indie rock and its offshoots. Springsteen, who turns 60 in a few weeks, is an incredible talent, and 35 years ago he had a great career ahead of him. But his music, his lyrics, and his public persona have always had much less to do with the future than with the past.
Read the rest. By the way, the house in New Jersey where Springsteen was living when he wrote Born to Run is currently on sale for $299,000. This is the house that Bob Dylan might have been looking for as he wandered alone through the rain a few weeks ago.

(The postcard above was produced for ten shows Springsteen played at the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village to promote his forthcoming album to New York's rock cognoscenti.)