(It's my morning over at The American Street. Meanwhile:)
Forget the Sunday morning talk shows. We've got informed commentary right here.
Interesting threads developed on a number of recent posts and because a lot of readers skip the comments or don't go back to old posts here's a sampling of some of the commentary.
Responding to my post on John Tierney's NYT column declaring old age an outdated idea and retirement a form of welfare fraud, When I grow too old to dream, Exiled in NJ exploded:
I'm 62, work for myself consulting to others who work for "the man". I had one of those Cadillac policies, fee for service they are called. Cost me 1450 a month in 2001 when wife left this earth; as a single man it cost 1075 this year. Tierney would shake my hand I am sure.
I'd like to punch him in the mouth. Been doing my work for 35 years now and in that time I've seen how the Tierneys of the world have shifted so many burdens onto those who work, while telling them how great the ownership society is. The 401K, 201Ks to many who were working when the market fell apart, took the place of employer pensions. The cafeteria plans took the place of employer paid health care and other benefits....they disguise it by making it 'tax free' but there is no 100% tax bracket, meaning the worker is still paying at least 65% of the cost. Now they want the workers to take on 'high deductible' health plans; next they will be charging for the parking space at the office or plant. Been half expecting some client to tell me the boss has installed coin slots in the stalls in the shithouse. Forgot to mention the other 'benefit' of early retirement: the company hires the worker back as a consultant, after making him or her form a corporation or LLC, and then pays them via 1099 Form, shifting the cost of matching Social Security.
Where is our Dickens to chronicle this age?
And Dutchie said:
Sure, Tierney wants to work until 80 and so do I!
Well, in theory anyway and why shouldn't we? Both of us write for a living and get paid pretty well (but I don't even come close to what celebrity pundits for big media outlets do) we work indoors and largely on our own schedule and enjoy what we do and the influence we have in our respective spheres.
The difference between me and Tierney? I know what it is to work at physical and/or soul crushing work. I don't have to do it anymore but that doesn't mean that I don't recall what it is like and what it does to you or that many other people are still in that particular grind when I am doing interesting work of my heart and meeting with people they see on tv or whose books they read.
Sure, Tierney and I can work until we die but our jobs won't kill us physically or emotionally. We are privileged. The difference between he and I is that I'm not a vicious but vacuous asshat.
In They're still big. It's the pictures that got small, I asked where have all the moive stars gone. Matt thought of one who's right here in front of our eyes, George Clooney.
I immediately thought of Clooney when I read this post. If you're looking for a recent movie star moment, I would suggest that you can do no better than the hotel-bar scene in Soderberg's Out of Sight, which serves as a prelude to a Lopez-Clooney romp in the sheets. The scene is lit and shot beautifully--it's one of the most gorgeous pieces of recent film that I can think of.
The film is also germane to your discussion here because it takes place at a pivotal moment in Jennifer Lopez's career. I think the film provides evidence that she could have been a movie star--if only she hadn't followed the performace by hiring herself out "to lend the cachet of [her] celebrity to the product being sold" -- which, in her case, turned out to be the cultural commodity known as JLo.
Now, as far as Clooney giving up, it seems to me that in recent years, Clooney has resisted glamorized parts in favor of slightly more risky fare like "Solaris," 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" I find it hard to criticize a movie star, in this day and age, for taking on projects that don't have the commercial cachet of the latest Star Wars flick.
And I wonder how much trends like cinema verite and the 70's cinematic fascination with anti-heroes hastened the demise of the prototypical movie star. Breathless is one example of that; Chinatown is another: a movie shot with old school glamor, though this time the hero gets his nose broke real good.
Mrs Norman Maine's favorite is Julia Roberts, and she explained what makes Roberts a star:
Movie stars need to possess a warmth, a willingness to let us in... That's why I wonder if it could be true that Angelina Jolie is the next big thing. She is intriguing, and certainly a great beauty, but it seems to me her calling card is her bad-ass attitude, and I'm not sure that equals true movie stardom.
Julia Roberts has it and Nicole Kidman has it, though we tend to think of the latter as a cool beauty off the screen. Yet she softens, somehow, on film.
I don't agree that George Clooney has given up, and think that the Cary Grant comparisons are quite apt. I think Jude Law has something, although I'd rather see a film starring his friend, Ewan McGregor, but that's a personal quirk.
As you said (I think) probably the best personal definition of a movie star is someone whose movie you would go see without needing to know anything else about the flick.
For example, I admire Renee Z. in general, but I'd need to be interested in the film she's in before shelling out the money for a ticket. On the other hand, I'd schedule my day around a Cary Grant movie if I saw it in the TV listings. I have a fatal weakness for Julia Roberts, and would suffer through most things in order to see that quivery smile.
This is one reason why so many bloggers are against the idea of running ads on one's blog, or trying to Make Money Fast by begging your readers to support your hobby after, like Steve Gilliard, you decide to quit your well-paying job and devote yourself to blogging full-time insisting that other people give you money for it. Strange things happen to bloggers once they start taking money for their hobby. Certain blinders crop up whenever their penchant for hyper-capitalism is called into question. And their readers find out things they wish they hadn't, such as Kos' repeated tendency to dismiss the legitimate concerns of half the population.
I've been blogging for almost three years, and I have NEVER SPENT A SINGLE PENNY to blog. Blogger is free. Haloscan is free. Buzzet (to which I post pictures) is free. Nobody needs to spend money to blog; therefore, nobody has any right to ask others for monetary support for their blog.
In my personal experience, for a lot of guys, and especially for a lot of POLITICAL guys, there's a "politics" box and a "women stuff" box, and they don't even consider the possiblity that using those boxes is interfering with the way they think. Try using the phrase "the personal is political" around a policy wonk & watch him turn puce. For a lot of policy wonks, Politics seems to be a way to NOT talk about personal stuff... personal stuff not being something that policy wonks have gotten much enjoyment from... thus the considerable intersection between neocons & rotisserie baseball & Star Wars (the Lucas, not the Teller mythology, err, *also* the Lucas version). Telling a policy wonk of this stripe that he should talk more about his "real life" just irks him with the fear that he should actually HAVE one. Telling him that women should get credit for talking about THEIR real lives only reminds him that women all seem to get "real lives" automatically, which irks him & also reminds him that one of the things he hates about women is this "real life" issue (probably invented by women because they couldn't memorize baseball statistics with their smaller brains!)...
Usually nobody comments on my Scrapbook posts, the quotes from famous writers I post sometimes, but Ratty had something to say on a quote from Emerson in which RWE urged writers to get themselves out into the street to learn their trade (I'm not a man exquisitely made):
Got my ass into the public square today as quickly and for as long as I could (I'd missed two weeks' opportunity from sheer fatigue), and there is nothing so tonic. Guarding and managing your own coop may be your job, but to live and eat with other men - even for a few hours - must remind you that other people are moving house, mourning parents, changing jobs, nursing sick pets, sustaining injuries and smiling. You (and your wards) benefit from that direct knowledge; you are not as alone as you might have thought.
Reading all these quotes pains me as I lost my notebook which was full of Emerson quotes. I was 17 when I first read Emerson in my Uncle's home and I had to cajole, plead, beg and indulge in a bit of emotional blackmail to get his 'Essays' book when I left India to come here. The three things I took care to pack were The Bible, my notebook with the quotes and Emerson's Essays.
The sad part is I lost both the book and the notebook while moving inside America. I cannot keep any kind of quote in mind, be it from the Bible or any book, and I envy you for being able to remember all this.
...reading your Emerson posts have made me open a new notebook to start again.
Most real good this blog o'mine has done.
The post We can have our fear or we can have our lives caused a lot of discussion, not surprisingly. Lots of excellent comments and you really should go read the whole thread. But here are a couple of good ones:
Molly, NYC reports she attended a Memorial Day rally at which the veterans attending had a reaction to the Iraq War that makes perfect sense to any one who cares about the lives of our soldiers and marines:
I went to the observance at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument...It was mostly what you'd expect: Some local politicians, a couple of incomprehensible clergymen, the American Legion and VFW, a lot of seniors (many looking quite sharp in their old uniforms), a surprising number of homeless guys I recognized from the neighborhood. Speaker after speaker got up and talked about the soldiers they remembered: WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf . . .
Then a VFW guy got up and talked about making the rounds of politicians to keep the local VA services from shrinking. Not much satisfaction from them, and he ended by suggesting that if they were going to close the hospital, they should end this war.
And the crowd went wild! Hoots, cheers, applause. Sitting people stood. And thereafter, the speakers took their stands--mostly against the war.
Not to say there weren't any "my country right or wrong" types, and okay, this is the sapphire-blue Upper West Side, not Tulsa. But these folks take their patriotism very seriously and no one (including me) came for anything besides a plain, vanilla Memorial Day service. If this crowd is pissed off about the war, I can only imagine the rest of the country's disgust.
Nola, however, felt that in that post I unfairly classified all New Yorkers as liberals and accused all conservatives and Red Staters of living in fear, and in a couple of comments she took me to task for my prejudice:
I live in NYC and can say with some authority that liberals are not the only people in town who go to museums, Central Park, etc.
"Freedom from fear" certainly doesn't belong to the left. Take a look at the nuts who turn up at moveon.org events or to demontrate at the Republican Convention. You think these people are free from fear? People who buy "Bush scares me" bumper stickers are not my idea of brave, and some of the loonies in this forum must have soiled a few diapers while tapping out their paranoid posts.
Following up, she said:
I've spent many years in both Red and Blue states. Yes, there are people in Red States who hate New York. But I've seen far hostility towards Red Staters while living in NY than I ever saw towards Blue Staters while living in the Deep South. It is an interesting topic for discussion, given the fact that so many NYers come from Red States. But the narrow-minded arrogance I've found in NY tops all.
My friends in the South, regardless of their political leanings, did not traffic in the ugly stereotypes of NYers, while so many people in NY are open in their disdain for people and places they know little about. The funny thing is that this snobbery is most rarely encountered among cops, firemen, bus drivers, etc. - people who voted for Bush. Make of that what you will.
The fact that I, or any other NYer, have decided to live in the city and enjoy it without fear does not make our political opinions any more valuable than someone in Minnesota who - gasp - shops in a mall. And bloggers are entitled to take a favorable view of our current foreign policy whether or not they live near prime targets for terrorism. Living in fear and fearing another attack are certainly not the same things.
Nola and I still have a couple of points to contend, but we agree about one thing. Neither of us likes the mall-ization of the City. Nola grumped:
These days the stores in NYC are often the same ones you find in malls. Of course there are lots of exceptions but you have to seek them out, at least if you live in my neck of the woods. Just stay away from Chuck E. Cheese (no Lileks jokes, please).
I think newyorker says it all about New Yorkers, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, Molly and Nola:
As someone who has gone to school, lived, worked and raised a family in NYC over the last 40 years I offer these observations re: New Yorkers.
a) Fearless: If you are afraid you wont be able to cross the street. The cabbies smell fear and will run you over if you allow it.
b) Careful: Stand back from the edge of the subway platform. There could be a nut standing behind you.
c) Rude: Who you calling sucker, sucker?
d) Self reliant: Everybody you run into is trying to make a living. There are 8 million stories in the naked city.
e) Cynical: No, I do not want to buy a bridge. I dont care that it will take me to Brooklyn and back.
f) Entrepeneural: Walk Canal St from 6th Av to the Manhattan Bridge. Chinese, Africans, Middle Easterners, Greeks, Cubans, Eastern Europeans, South Americans, Asians, etal. All selling something. All trying to make a living.
g) Helpful: Take the "A" or the "E" train to Chambers St. Ground Zero is right upstairs.
h) Brave: Over 200 firemen died on 9/11. They ran IN when everyone else was running OUT.
I cried like a baby on 9/11 knowing that those evil SOB's (Al Quaeda) targeted New York because it is the Greatest City in the World. Their victims were of every race, religion, or economic status that make up New York.
I still tear up when I think about all the victims and their families. People who set out to make a living, but ended up dead.
We wanted our leaders to hunt down Al Quaeda and kill them. But instead we are off on GW's excellent adventure in Iraq, while Bin Laden cannot be found.
Soon however, like most New Yorkers, I realized that "ain't nothin' happening but the rent".
Life goes on. New York City will always be a magnet to the rest of the world. We will always build and re-build.
So, if you are fearful, New York City is not the place for you.
When we were in Boston I posted about how having to share living quarters with a couple of cats was threatening to ruin the vacation for me. Cats are evil, I wrote, and the proof is that they love me. They know I'm allergic and the seek me out to inflict suffering while pretending to be giving affection. Jill Bryant explained that I'm wrong about this. The cats really did want to be nice to me.
I feel I must speak up for cats.
Cats sense illness and distress and will try to comfort you through it. They interpret the dislike of cats as distress and so will come to you to help out. They probably sensed Lance's and went for him and as he's been getting worse they've really seen their work is cut out for them. Okay - I don't know if it is true or not - can't even remember where I read it - but I liked the interpretation. 'Course, it doesn't help Lance one bit.
She was right. It didn't help. Didn't convince me either. Cats are evil.
Back in May I wrote a post, Perspective, about a little boy I met who could barely contain his excitement about going to see Revenge of the Sith that night. I finished the post with a quote from Peter Pan. "How do you get to that galaxy that's a long time ago and far? Second star on the right and straight on to morning."
Here's Ratty again:
Heartless little bastard, Peter - and those final passages can squeeze you like a sponge if you're over 18. Barrie was a true weasel when it came to tapping sentimentality about childhood. It should be resisted.
What's thrilling to me about the 4th grader's excitement is that it's so full of awe before an aesthetic (not to put too fancy a label on it) experience. He's all hope that it will be great (and, George, don't you let him down!) - but even if it's only up to decent in his later memory, he should hold on to that wide-openness. Expectation is not preconception, and nothing kills clear sight, honest judgment or joy faster than carting second-hand attitudes and opinions along with you. For him as a movie-goer (or reader, or whatever...), I say Keep Hope Alive.
One last thing. I was serious about my cheesecake and beefcake calendars idea, Women of Blogging and Men of Blogging, but so far, although there have been promises made, no pictures have shown up in my email. Kathy Flake says that cheesecake shots are for her a meterologically limited possibility:
Swimsuits? Do you realize I live on the 51st parallel? The best I can do is a light jacket and gloves.
That's enough for now. Not a quarter of all the interesting and insightful comments that have been posted lately. You should go read the rest on your own. Much more fun than the Sunday talk shows and more honest and knowing than the New York Times has been.