Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock, Babies, Guitars, Republicans (2 of 4)


I was born just six days before Woodstock — though why anyone would want kids remains baffling, life being difficult enough as it is without having parasitic, ignorant dwarves* attached to oneself (and not just in the metaphorical sense of having to pay taxes to subsidize the homeless and the investment bankers).

Still, it’s nice to see anyone who does have extra mouths to feed doing well, and since Daniel Radosh’s third child is on the way, it’s a good time for him to be hired as a writer for the Daily Show (a perfect choice on their part) and for him to have the New York Times Magazine cover story today, about the making of the new Beatles version of the game Rock Band.

Disturbing as it may be to some to see guitar-playing turned into an electronic-pantomime activity for the unskilled — akin to karaoke — I think the electric guitar rock traditions bequeathed to us in part by Les Paul (who passed away on Thursday) are strong, varied, rich, and broad enough to have space for this curious, dilettantish niche, just as Mt. Everest and indoor rock-climbing walls each have their place (or Grandma’s recipes and a cookie from Starbucks).

But then, I’m a tolerant, diversity-loving sort of guy (like Ronald Reagan) — and more so, in many ways, than some of the people who most think of themselves as heirs to the spirit of Woodstock. Witness not only some of the thuggish 60s incidents recounted in the previously-mentioned Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties by Jonathan Leaf but also the anecdotes about socializing with liberals in City Journal contributing editor Harry Stein’s recent book, I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican.

But for all the griping each of our two major political factions can do about the other side not being nice to them, it’s also worth pausing every once in a while, in this hypersensitive, don’t-marginalize-me, the-senator-said-a-bad-word culture to remember that the real argument against the other side’s positions should not be that they are shrill, too often heard, or arrogantly delivered but that they are wrong. When their positions aren’t wrong, in fact, you should strongly consider adopting them (an early indicator that the Gingrich “revolutionaries” had little interest in actually changing things was when they began whining all the time about Clinton “stealing” their positions, as if they were trying to hold onto the secret formula for Coke, not persuade a nation). The intolerant-rhetoric stuff is mostly etiquette, not policy. Stay focused, people.

*Spelling note: “Dwarves” is a Tolkienism, by which I mean I assume the dwarves are black.

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