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Archive for May, 2006

Quite a Surprise

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 27, 2006

Paul Simon’s newest album, entitled Surprise, was released Tuesday, May 9. His first major studio release in six years, the album features ten new songs plus the previously-released “Father and Daughter” from the Wild Thornberries Movie soundtrack. (“Father and Daughter” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2002, but lost to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.) Simon, who helped pioneer the singer-songwriter and worldmusic traditions in American popular music, integrates synthesizer and electronic effects into his new tracks with the help of Brian Eno, who co-produced the album. Eno co-wrote three of the new songs and lends his distinctive electronic style throughout. Amazingly (but not unexpectedly) the combination works, and the result is clever, interesting, fun, and—typically for Simon—profound. After my initial listening, I particularly like the songs “How Can You Live in the Northeast”, which mocks/observes the way we bicker about geographical, political, and religious differences, and the smooth and soulful ”Wartime Prayers”, in which Simon comments on how humans react to adversity, expresses dismay at the state of spiritual discourse in the post-9/11 world, and admits (somewhat self-referentially) that he doesn’t have all the answers.

It is hard to believe that the man who sang “I started to think too much when I was twelve / going on thirteen” (on the album Hears and Bones in 1983) and had a top 50 hit (with Art Garfunkel) when he was still in high school is now 64. Although his range is somewhat reduced, he compensates for it well, in part by adding half-spoken lyrics and more complex instrumentals.

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Salman Rushdie: Talk Show Host?

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 26, 2006

Apparently, TV journalist Charlie Rose became ill in late March and was forced to undergo open-heart surgery. During his recovery, his interview show has been hosted twice (on April 27 and May 12) by Salman Rushdie. Yes, that Salman Rushdie, the notoriously reclusive author whose controversial novel The Satanic Verses has brought him death threats, as well as a fatwa by the late Ayotolla Khomeini calling for his assassination. Rushdie is known for ducking even loyal fans and allies, mannerisms that have been parodied on an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer believes he saw Rushdie in the sauna. Rushdie and Rose became friends after Rushdie appeared on Rose’s program in the mid-1990s, so Rushdie volunteered to be a guest host when he learned that Rose was having surgery.

The episodes of the Charlie Rose Show hosted by Rushdie are available on Google Video here and here. The interviews are interesting (particularly the May 12 show) but I find the novelty of Salman Rushdie as a talk show host to be fascinating (as well as amusing and/or unsettling) in its own right.

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J.S. Mill Bicentennial

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on May 20, 2006

Today, May 20, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Stuart Mill. I’m sure that I don’t need to extol the greatness of Mill to this audience, but we should all take the opportunity to learn more about the philosophical inspiration for Mankind Minus One [the now-defunct group blog to which I previously contributed].

In honor of the occasion, Catallarchy has a series of essays on Mill. Roger Scruton, willfully disregarding the history of economic and political thought, attacks Mill in this op-ed, as he believes that Mill’s defense of minority rights and opposition to senseless traditions paved the way for the greatest excess of the sham “liberalism” of the Twentieth Century. Andrew Sullivan offers a terse and insightful response here. Finally, at the Library of Economics and Liberty, Professors David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart have written essays discussing the leading role of Mill and other classical economists in the British antislavery and anti-racism movements.

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