Friday, August 10, 2018
Opening his Australian tour, Dylan reimagines and contemporises his canon, finding different wounds – and new sweet spots – to tap into
By Bob Gordon
8 August 2018
Bob Dylan isn’t like most iconic artists of his vintage: he never will – and infamously never has – pandered to expectations of audience or to nostalgia. You don’t get what you want; you get what he needs.
This has always led to the requisite complaints about set lists, Dylan’s interpretations of his oldest classics and his onstage demeanour towards audiences. All up, the Perth Arena crowd, at about three-quarter capacity, mostly seemed up for the challenge.
Although a Bob Dylan concert is a bucket list item for many, he hasn’t made it too difficult for Australian fans: his current tour is his third visit in seven years. Since his last in 2014, Dylan has released several albums that paid heed to the Great American Songbook: Shadows in the Night (2015), Fallen Angels (2016) and last year’s Triplicate, itself a three-CD opus.
Dylan’s reinterpretations of many swing and big-band standards is canny and well-received, and with his voice seemingly stronger than on past tours, it seems to have played a part in the reimaginings of his own material. Moodily easing into Things Have Changed – a chugging, dark number that featured in the 2000 film Wonder Boys – Dylan and his long-time band settle in like fingers in a glove. Followed by It Ain’t Me, Babe – a heart-string tugger as it was – and Highway 61 Revisited, the blurred lines between old and new begin to indicate it will again all be delivered via his own contemporary filter.
Even songs from Dylan’s most recent album of original compositions, 2012’sTempest, are reconstructed, just like the tunes from way back when. The Fats Waller-inspired Duquesne Whistle opens up as a swinging ramble, drummer George Receli playing around the beat with six-stringers Charlie Sexton (a heartthrob rocker back at the time of his 1986 hit, Beats So Lonely, and one-time Jimmy Barnes band guitarist) and Stu Kimball trading licks over an extended workout in a completely different key. Pay in Blood pays little heed to its original, tighter structure in favour of looser climes, and later on Early Roman Kings delves into a rawer blues.
Picking new sweet spots and different wounds in his material has always been Dylan’s way, but these days those reawakenings dig deeper and perhaps more sentimentally. There are instances on those aforementioned “American standards” albums where Dylan’s croak elicits a new break in the heart of already heartbreaking songs – check out Some Enchanted Evening, for starters – and he now finds these moments inside his own well-known songs. It’s quite something to hear the audience cheer when a trademark phrase or song title is sung, these hitherto unrecognisable, winsome gems being revealed as Tangled Up in Blue, Desolation Row and Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright. In 2018, they all benefit from the treatment.
Perhaps the old man who wrote these versions is answering the young man who birthed them. Sometimes it seems that Dylan – who these days is behind a piano at all times, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing – occasionally roams a little instrumentally, with the band going along, perhaps unsure who should take the next solo. Yet someone does, and the last verse or chord rains down after that possibly off-the-rails end-troduction. It’s real musicians really playing in and of the moment, and Dylan’s chops on the keyboard complement and contrast Kimball’s rhythm guitar quite intriguingly. When he ventures forth on harmonica, it’s as familiar as his own voice and applauded as such – like a singular, brief postcard from the 60s.
The band surrounds Dylan as if in a lounge room scenario, accentuated beautifully by the five vintage Hollywood 5K studio lights hung from above, themselves occasionally lit to emphasise their presence. The band are dimly lamp-lit around the stage confines and the resultant effect speaks to the music, as the band plays for, but never quite to, the audience.
2006’s Thunder on the Mountain turns out to be quite the rock’n’roll romp, with a drum breakdown that references the Surfaris’ hit Wipeout. Following up, Dylan teams his 70s song of faith, Gotta Serve Somebody, with, seemingly, the guitar riff from Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme – and yes, it works. Blowin’ in the Wind and Ballad of a Thin Man then brought this wet August night to a close, the latter more faithful than the former.
If you appreciate the reinventor that Bob Dylan has always been, you’ll be entranced by this show. If not, recall that it’s 52 years since an audience member at the Manchester Free Trade Hall screamed “Judas!” at Dylan because he was holding an electric guitar. As his opening number noted, Things Have Changed – but then again, they’ve always been a-changin’.
• Bob Dylan’s tour of Australia and New Zealand continues through August
By Peter Craven
August 11, 2018
For a lot of people who were young in the 1960s and starting to think of themselves as adults, Bob Dylan was a kind of god. And the funny thing is that this image of him as a sort of dynamised genius, a cross between Shakespeare and Marlon Brando, has never really gone away. We thought of him as a great songwriter who was also a great performer and, in a thrilling way, a great poet. And somehow this atmosphere of awe remains.
Dylan released what is probably his greatest album, Blonde on Blonde, in mid-1966 — 52 years ago — yet on his present Australian tour (his first was, you guessed it, in 1966) a lot of bright young kids, millennials aged 22 or so, who are a bit bored with Shakespeare and a bit vague about Brando, will be there along with contingents of their parents or grandparents.
Rock music is partly a domain of classic fashion and no one is going to shift Dylan’s status because, in its contemporary aspect, Dylan created it. As he said to Keith Richards, that old villain of the Rolling Stones, “I could’ve written Satisfaction but you couldn’t have written Desolation Row.” Is that why they gave him the Nobel Prize in Literature two years ago? The fact he could write a 12-minute rock song that could include lines such as:
And Ezra Pound and TS Eliot Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row
Is it that with Dylan, and especially the Dylan of those great records when the singer went electric (though Desolation Row is plucked out on an acoustic guitar with only the lamentation of the harmonica by way of accompaniment), rock music had thrown up a figure with the courage to trail the greatest artistic pretensions like a cloak?
Think of those mermaids in this long, deliberate monstrosity of a song, so lame with the limitations of musical talent and so grand and sepulchral in the way it overcomes them. Do the mermaids deliberately invoke TS Eliot’s Prufrock (“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. / I do not think that they will sing to me.”)?
Who knows? You could almost say who cares, as the logic of Desolation Row is annihilating because — whether by design or accident — it’s a pop-art replica of Eliot’s The Waste Land. It’s as if Dylan has revised and rewritten Eliot’s poem and turned it into his own.
All of which is weird beyond belief. Dylan is the singer-songwriter with the highest reputation in the history of rock music, if not the whole of popular music, yet this reputation depends pretty absolutely on a few hours of music that he wrote in the 60s — between his second LP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, in 1963 and John Wesley Harding in 1967, where he is already tending towards lean meditations on the bare bones of country music.
The only other album for which the very highest claims continue to be made is Blood on the Tracks,which dates from 1975 and is venerated by many enthusiasts, but which to the diehards sounds a bit like Dylan imitating himself, whatever claims you make for songs such as Tangled Up in Blue and Idiot Wind, and however endearing it is to hear Dylan throw off lines like “Relationships have all been bad / Mine’ve been like Verlaine’s and Rimbaud”.
You can make a case that Dylan is very like Rimbaud — the French teenager who wrote some of the greatest poetry of the later 19th century — not in his relationships but in his relation to language. Like the French adolescent prodigy he took the poetic diction of our tradition — in its further reach, Western civilisation — and remade it in his own image.
So, in one way he’s like Rimbaud because he blazed so young, so briefly and so brilliantly, and lived to outlive his genius. Though it’s odd in a way to think that with Dylan, as with the casualties of rock 50 years ago (such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix), the reputation depends on the early work.
Then again, that’s some kind of norm, isn’t it? Think of how much the Rolling Stones trade on the vigour of what they wrote 50 or more years ago.
The 60s were when popular music upped its ante. Philosopher Raimond Gaita said to me once that before Dylan, anyone at a university was expected to educate themselves in classical music, according to their limits, but afterwards not. It helped of course that Dylan burst on the world in the early 60s with songs such as Blowin’ in the Wind, so that he’s still sometimes thought of as a folk singer and a protest singer.
Poet Robert Lowell, who thought Dylan wrote some great lines though not sustained poems, said he had “a Caruso voice”, and it’s true that he had a voice — and in some sense still does — of such overpowering individuality that it haunts or harrows the soul.
He created his early music by sounding the depths of what he could learn from Woody Guthrie and the blues, but he gave it a grave monumentality that was at the same time radically individual — it sounded like nothing on earth, it didn’t sound like anything that was ordinarily called singing — yet it seemed, too, to speak for the folk, so that when he says in With God on Our Side “The country I come from / Is called the Midwest”, you believe him.
In fact, as “the unwashed phenomenon, the original vagabond” — as Joan Baez, his one-time lover and very beautiful vocal interpreter once called him — Dylan crisscrosses the US. But in his work from the mid-60s — in particular in the great songs on Blonde on Blonde such as Visions of Johanna(“Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet? / We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it”) — he sings in a New York accent.
It’s the voice of the greatest of urban metropolises that enunciates that great line from Just Like a Woman — “I was hungry and it was your world”.
How could he dare to write with that kind of plainness and that kind of grandeur? And how could he create such an opalescent, allusive and elusive thing as the side-long, 11-minute Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands? Perhaps it’s an image of the eternally mourning woman, widowed by life: “And your magazine-husband who one day just had to go” — as much a transcendence of the popular culture it plays on as the very greatest of Warhol.
And that’s the trick with Dylan: he inhabits the form of an idiom he is re-creating. He sounds grounded in the deepest folk tradition yet the inimitable voice is the voice of something that a lifetime ago was a form of rock ’n’ roll. Think of the stately ravaged opening of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues: “When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez / And it’s Easter time, too / And your gravity fails / And negativity don’t pull you through …” It sounds pretentious to say this sounds like Baudelaire, but it does.
Dylan’s idiom — a language that was at once streetwise and capable of literary reference — also had extraordinary emotional range. Think of the blistering invective of Positively 4th Street and then place it against the lyricism of Love Minus Zero/No Limit (“My love she speaks like silence / Without ideals or violence / She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful / Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire …”) There’s a dazzling simplicity in that but the juxtaposition of “ideals” and “violence” is completely new in the world of popular music.
The times were a-changing and there’s a symbolic sense in which Dylan changed them. Quite early on he could write a song such as The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll that had as its refrain “But you who philosophise disgrace and criticise all fears” where “philosophise” is used in the sense of rationalise but the upshot has a Shakespearean effect; it’s as if Dylan bypasses ordinary literary language to create a kind of sung poetry shorn of artifice.
And it’s there in the most lushly romantic and dreamy of Dylan’s songs, Mr Tambourine Man, perhaps the clearest example of why he is such a great songwriter, why he was once such a dazzling singer and why he is a poet.
In Ballad of a Thin Man Dylan derides someone who has been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books and is described as having discussed lepers and crooks with great lawyers.
I once discussed Dylan with one of the world’s great literary critics, Christopher Ricks — the man who did the knockout edition of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and who wrote the knockdown defence of Milton against his modernist critics. Ricks is one of Dylan’s most formidable admirers. He believes that when you put Dylan’s words together with music, he is an extraordinary maker of worlds out of words.
Dylan created for the rock music of the baby boomer generation a poetic language equal to its hubris in thinking it could discover a new heaven and a new earth, that it could encompass a radical new politics and some kind of derangement of the senses that might open up a new spirituality.
It may be that all these things were delusions or potential traps, but the language he used to shape and shade them has outlasted its occasion. That’s why it speaks to the millennials. That’s why they’ll be there in droves to see the grand old man of rock who is also so much more.
Dylan changed the language in which we think and feel.
Decades ago I gave up rock music and tried my way with classical music. But Dylan’s words and music have never left my mind.
When we shore up the ruins of what we have made Western civilisation, how could he not have a high and mighty place? Who do we think could compare with him?
By Amil Imani
July 30, 2018
When I read Robert Spencer's new masterpiece, The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS, it was as though George Orwell had summed up Robert Spencer and uttered his famous words: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
It is true: Islam has been imposing its oppressive, intolerant, and deathly dogma without let-up. This archaic, primitive belief of over 1,400 years' duration has been and continues to be at war with valiant people the world over who refuse to bend their necks to its yoke. What Spencer has done is turn on the lights brightly for all to see.
Spencer is one the most erudite American authors who understands Islam, perhaps better than 90% of Muslims around the world. He has constantly faced the vilest of attacks from both liberals and Muslims for simply telling the truth. I'll add a footnote here: "When one hears the truth, one can only be silent or join the cause."
There are few Islamic scholars out there who are able to write such convoluted subject matter with such clarity. The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS clarifies how it happened, why it happened, and what the civilized world should do in order to survive this ongoing jihad. Spencer gets to the root of jihad and beautifully explains why and how a jihadist surrenders totally to the religion of surrender in exchange for blanket security.
In The History of Jihad, Spencer delves into why the great majority of jihadists emanate from the ranks of those born into the religion of Islam, and why they are the ones who are most thoroughly indoctrinated and influenced by Islamic dogma in their most receptive early years. He also has perfectly detailed the earlier Islamic wars and conquests, including the prophet Muhammad's participation. This book clearly explains that Islam is tantamount to violence. Violence is the lifeblood of Islam, and it has been ever since the time of Muhammad in Medina, by Muhammad's own edict and conduct.
The History of Jihad is a one-of-a-kind book that discusses how Islamic jihad took over country by country and started forced conversion. It discusses the Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (who have almost been eradicated), as well as the Hindus and others. The prophet Muhammad, during his Mecca years, was ridiculed for his confused sayings by his own tribe of Quraysh. He was called "shaeron majnoon" – crazed poet.
The death of his first wife and wealthy employer Khadija left Muhammad even more vulnerable to the ridicule and harassment of the Meccans. He fled from Mecca to Medina and, in the relative safety of that city, with a large tolerant Jewish community, Muhammad found more people willing to join his clique.
Once in Medina, Muhammad hit on a most powerful formula for success. He justified everything by claiming that Allah wanted it this way. And Allah was nothing to trifle with. He held the key to the most magnificent paradise, as well as to a dreadful Hell. The duty of every good Muslim became unquestioning obedience to everything that Muhammad said and wished. Muhammad became Allah's gatekeeper to paradise and Hell.
Muhammad's formula worked magic with the Bedouins of Arabia, who thrived on robbery and killing. His religion spread like a pandemic in no time at all, via jihad against the infidel.
Notably, as Muhammad gathered more and more followers, he turned on the Jewish community of Medina, killed the men, plundered their belongings, and captured their women and children as slaves. That was the birth of "jihad." Be meek and deceptive first, until you gather enough power, then unsheathe the sword. It worked then and it is working today.
In no time at all, the barbarians of Arabia, fascinated by the win-win promise of Muhammad – you kill, you get the booty from your victims in this world (you get killed, and your abode will be the unimaginably glorious sensuous paradise of Allah), sword in hand, sallied forth to lands near and far.
I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to know the history of Islam and its conquests through jihad. Order two or more, and send one to your elected representative. You owe it to your yourself, your children and your country.
By Paul Sperry
August 8, 2018
As vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been investigating allegations of President Trump’s “collusion” with Russia.
But now we learn Feinstein may be the one compromised by a foreign power.
Turns out that Communist China had a spy in her office. A 20-year employee of Feinstein’s, the agent had been reporting back to China’s Ministry of State Security for well over a decade before he was caught in 2013, according to the FBI.
A Chinese-American who doubled as both an office staffer and Feinstein’s personal driver, the agent reportedly was handled by officials based out of the People’s Republic of China’s consulate in San Francisco, which Feinstein helped set up when she was mayor of that city. He even attended consulate functions for the senator.
Feinstein says she took the staffer off her payroll “immediately” after the FBI informed her five years ago that her office had been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence, and agents had identified the mole in a briefing. In a statement, the Democratic senator insisted he had “no access to sensitive information” and that he was never charged with espionage.
In June 1996 — after the staffer had begun working for Feinstein — the FBI detected that the Chinese government was attempting to seek favor with the senator, who at the time sat on the East Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees US-China relations. Investigators warned her in a classified briefing that Beijing might try to influence her through illegal campaign contributions laundered through front corporations and other cutouts.
The warning proved prescient.
One Chinese bagman, Nanping-born John Huang, showed up at Feinstein’s San Francisco home for a fundraising dinner with a Beijing official tied to the People’s Bank of China and the Communist Party Committee. As a foreign national, the official wasn’t legally qualified to make the $50,000-a-plate donation to dine at the banquet.
After a Justice Department task force investigated widespread illegal fundraising during the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign, Feinstein returned more than $12,000 in contributions from donors associated with Huang, who was later convicted of campaign-finance fraud along with other Beijing bagmen. The DNC and the Clinton campaign had to return millions in ill-gotten cash.
Still, Beijing got its favored trade status extended — thanks in part to Feinstein. In speeches on the Senate floor and newspaper op-eds, she shamelessly spun China’s human-rights violations, as when in 1997 she compared Beijing’s 1989 massacre of hundreds of young demonstrators to the 1970 Kent State shootings, calling for the presidents of China and America to appoint a human-rights commission “charting the evolution of human rights in both countries over the last 20 to 30 years,” that “would point out the successes and failures — both Tiananmen Square and Kent State — and make recommendations for goals for the future.”
Feinstein also led efforts to bring China into the World Trade Organization in 1999, which gave Beijing permanent normal trade relations status and removed the annual congressional review of its human-rights and weapons-proliferation records.
Feinstein, still among the Senate’s most influential China doves, travels to China each year. Joining her on those trips is her mega-millionaire investor husband, Richard C. Blum, who has seemingly benefited greatly from the relationship.
Starting in 1996, as China was aggressively currying favor with his wife, Blum was able to take large stakes in Chinese state-run steel and food companies, and has brokered over $100 million in deals in China since then — with the help of partners who sit on the boards of Chinese military front companies like COSCO and CITIC.
China investments have helped make Feinstein, who lives in a $17 million mansion in San Francisco and keeps a $5 million vacation home in Hawaii, one of the richest members in Congress.
Feinstein has insinuated that Trump is compromised by a foreign power. But it’s clear Feinstein has an alarming blind spot when it comes to China and national security.
Training camp for child terrorists has chilling connection to top Democratic Party operative.
August 10, 2018
Thursday, August 09, 2018
The Canadian psychology professor’s stardom is evidence that leftism is on the decline—and deeply vulnerable.
CAITLIN FLANAGAN https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/why-the-left-is-so-afraid-of-jordan-peterson/567110/ August 2018
Two years ago, I walked downstairs and saw one of my teenage sons watching a strange YouTube video on the television.
“What is that?” I asked.
He turned to me earnestly and explained, “It’s a psychology professor at the University of Toronto talking about Canadian law.”
“Huh?” I said, but he had already turned back to the screen. I figured he had finally gotten to the end of the internet, and this was the very last thing on it.
That night, my son tried to explain the thing to me, but it was a buzzing in my ear, and I wanted to talk about something more interesting. It didn’t matter; it turned out a number of his friends—all of them like him: progressive Democrats, with the full range of social positions you would expect of adolescents growing up in liberal households in blue-bubble Los Angeles—had watched the video as well, and they talked about it to one another.
The boys graduated from high school and went off to colleges where they were exposed to the kind of policed discourse that dominates American campuses. They did not make waves; they did not confront the students who were raging about cultural appropriation and violent speech; in fact, they forged close friendships with many of them. They studied and wrote essays and—in their dorm rooms, on the bus to away games, while they were working out—began listening to more and more podcasts and lectures by this man, Jordan Peterson.
The young men voted for Hillary, they called home in shock when Trump won, they talked about flipping the House, and they followed Peterson to other podcasts—to Sam Harris and Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan. What they were getting from these lectures and discussions, often lengthy and often on arcane subjects, was perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives.
That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. All of these young people, without quite realizing it, were joining a huge group of American college students who were pursuing a parallel curriculum, right under the noses of the people who were delivering their official educations.
Because all of this was happening silently, called down from satellites and poured in through earbuds—and not on campus free-speech zones where it could be monitored, shouted down, and reported to the appropriate authorities—the left was late in realizing what an enormous problem it was becoming for it. It was like the 1960s, when kids were getting radicalized before their parents realized they’d quit glee club. And it was not just college students. Not by a long shot.
Around the country, all sorts of people were listening to these podcasts. Joe Rogan’s sui generis show, with its surpassingly eclectic mix of guests and subjects, was a frequent locus of Peterson’s ideas, whether advanced by the man himself, or by the thinkers with whom he is loosely affiliated. Rogan’s podcast is downloaded many millions of times each month. Whatever was happening, it was happening on a scale and with a rapidity that was beyond the ability of the traditional culture keepers to grasp. When the left finally realized what was happening, all it could do was try to bail out the Pacific Ocean with a spoon.
The alarms sounded when Peterson published what quickly became a massive bestseller, 12 Rules for Life, because books are something that the left recognizes as drivers of culture. The book became the occasion for vicious profiles and editorials, but it was difficult to attack the work on ideological grounds, because it was an apolitical self-help book that was at once more literary and more helpful that most, and that was moreover a commercial success. All of this frustrated the critics. It’s just common sense! they would say, in one arch way or another, and that in itself was telling: Why were they so angry about common sense?
The critics knew the book was a bestseller, but they couldn’t really grasp its reach because people like them weren’t reading it, and because it did not originally appear on The New York Times’s list, as it was first published in Canada. However, it is often the bestselling nonfiction book on Amazon, and—perhaps more important—its audiobook has been a massive seller. As with Peterson’s podcasts and videos, the audience is made up of people who are busy with their lives—folding laundry, driving commercial trucks on long hauls, sitting in traffic from cubicle to home, exercising. This book was putting words to deeply held feelings that many of them had not been able to express before.
It's hard to think of a best-selling self-help book whose author has not appeared on the classic morning shows; these programs—Today and Good Morning America and CBS This Morning—are almost entirely devoted to the subject of self-help. But the producers did their part, and Peterson did not go to their studios to sit among the lifestyle celebrities and talk for a few minutes about the psychological benefits of simple interventions in one’s daily life. This should have stopped progress, except Peterson was by then engaged in something that can only be compared to a conventional book tour if conventional book tours routinely put authors in front of live audiences well in excess of 2,500 people, in addition to the untold millions more listening to podcasts and watching videos. (Videos on Peterson’s YouTube channel have been viewed, overall, tens of millions of times.) It seemed that the book did not need the anointing oils of the Today show.
The left has an obvious and pressing need to unperson him; what he and the other members of the so-called “intellectual dark web” are offering is kryptonite to identity politics. There is an eagerness to attach reputation-destroying ideas to him, such as that he is a supporter of something called “enforced monogamy,” an anthropological concept referring to the social pressures that exist in certain cultures that serve to encourage marriage. He mentioned the term during a wide-ranging interview with a New York Timesreporter, which led to the endlessly repeated falsehood that he believes that the government should be in the business of arranging marriages. There is also the inaccurate belief that he refuses to refer to transgender people by the gendered pronoun conforming to their identity. What he refuses to do is to abide by any laws that could require compelled speech.
There are plenty of reasons for individual readers to dislike Jordan Peterson. He’s a Jungian and that isn’t your cup of tea; he is, by his own admission, a very serious person and you think he should lighten up now and then; you find him boring; you’re not interested in either identity politics or in the arguments against it. There are many legitimate reasons to disagree with him on a number of subjects, and many people of good will do. But there is no coherent reason for the left’s obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson. What, then, accounts for it?
It is because the left, while it currently seems ascendant in our houses of culture and art, has in fact entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable. The left is afraid not of Peterson, but of the ideas he promotes, which are completely inconsistent with identity politics of any kind. When the poetry editors of The Nation virtuously publish an amateurish but super-woke poem, only to discover that the poem stumbled across several trip wires of political correctness; when these editors (one of them a full professor in the Harvard English department) then jointly write a letter oozing bathos and career anxiety and begging forgiveness from their critics; when the poet himself publishes a statement of his own—a missive falling somewhere between an apology, a Hail Mary pass, and a suicide note; and when all of this is accepted in the houses of the holy as one of the regrettable but minor incidents that take place along the path toward greater justice, something is dying.
When the top man at The New York Times publishes a sober statement about a meeting he had with the president in which he describes instructing Trump about the problem of his “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric,” and then three days later the paper announces that it has hired a writer who has tweeted about her hatred of white people, of Republicans, of cops, of the president, of the need to stop certain female writers and journalists from “existing,” and when this new hire will not be a beat reporter, but will sit on the paper’s editorial board—having a hand in shaping the opinions the paper presents to the world—then it is no mystery that a parallel culture of ideas has emerged to replace a corrupted system. When even Barack Obama, the poet laureate of identity politics, is moved to issue a message to the faithful, hinting that that they could be tipping their hand on all of this—saying duringa speech he delivered in South Africa that a culture is at a dead end when it decides someone has no “standing to speak” if he is a white man—and when even this mayday is ignored, the doomsday clock ticks ever closer to the end.
In the midst of this death rattle has come a group of thinkers, Peterson foremost among them, offering an alternative means of understanding the world to a very large group of people who have been starved for one. His audience is huge and ever more diverse, but a significant number of his fans are white men. The automatic assumption of the left is that this is therefore a red-pilled army, but the opposite is true. The alt-right venerates identity politics just as fervently as the left, as the title of a recent essay reproduced on the alt-right website Counter-Currents reveals: “Jordan Peterson’s Rejection of Identity Politics Allows White Ethnocide.”
If you think that a backlash to the kind of philosophy that resulted in The Nation’s poetry implosion; the Times’ hire; and Obama’s distress call isn’t at least partly responsible for the election of Donald Trump, you’re dreaming. And if you think the only kind of people who would reject such madness are Republicans, you are similarly deluded. All across the country, there are people as repelled by the current White House as they are by the countless and increasingly baroque expressions of identity politics that dominate so much of the culture. These are people who aren’t looking for an ideology; they are looking for ideas. And many of them are getting much better at discerning the good from the bad. The Democratic Party reviles them at its peril; the Republican Party takes them for granted in folly.
Perhaps, then, the most dangerous piece of “common sense” in Peterson’s new book comes at the very beginning, when he imparts the essential piece of wisdom for anyone interested in fighting a powerful, existing order. “Stand up straight,” begins Rule No. 1, “with your shoulders back.”
Wednesday, August 08, 2018
August 7, 2018
Stan Mikita in 1967 (Neil Leifer/SI)
A legend died Tuesday.
Stan Mikita suffered from dementia for several years, so his death at 78 was not unexpected, just delayed.
But the imprint the wondrously talented Blackhawks center left on hockey as a player and an innovator will live forever.
The curved stick. Mikita invented that.
The helmet. Mikita became the first superstar to wear it proudly and didn’t care what anyone in a vicious game said or thought.
The helmet. Mikita became the first superstar to wear it proudly and didn’t care what anyone in a vicious game said or thought.
The ability to change his style six years into the NHL and extend his glorious career to a 21-year run that landed him deservedly in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
He was a lesson in greatness.
A member of the 1961 Hawks team that produced the organization’s last Stanley Cup until Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews decided enough already, Mikita still reigns as the Hawks’ all-time scoring leader. His 1,467 points, for perspective, are 639 more than Kane. He finished with more than double Toews’ career total so far.
Mikita also reigns as the franchise’s all-time leader in assists with 926 , more than Kane has points. Like Kane, Mikita was a magical stickhandler. He could bring the old Stadium to a roar with those slick hands, deftly dishing the puck to a linemate who might not have known he was open.
He also scored 541 goals when he wasn’t looking for his teammates.
And speaking of those hands, the 5-foot-9, 169-pound Mikita used to be a fierce and willing fighter. Three times in his first six full seasons, Mikita rang up at least 119 penalty minutes and recorded 97 and 94 in two of the others.
And then it stopped. He stopped fighting. He stopped the stick-swinging. He just stopped the nonsense.
After a season of 154 penalty minutes, he went down to 58 and then 12 and 14. In those last two seasons, he played hockey and played it so well that he won the Hart Trophy awarded the league’s MVP, the Art Ross Trophy that goes to the leading scorer and the Lady Byng Trophy that is given to the most gentlemanly player, the kind of magnificent hat trick that not even Wayne Gretzky could match.
It was during that time that Mikita changed the game with the curved stick and the helmet.
Wearing the helmet was an act of survival. He was only 5-9, after all, and he wasn’t dropping the gloves much anymore. Helmets became mandatory less than two decades later.
The curved stick was an accident. Mikita told the story that he broke his blade slightly during a practice and didn’t feel like going to the bench to swap it out. He continued practicing, and suddenly the puck was flying everywhere, most notably at Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall’s head. This was different. Something was happening.
Afterward, Mikita jammed one of his new straight sticks under a door, shoved some books under the blade to bend it, and came back the next day to find it a weapon that would alter the game’s look forever.
He brought the stick to practice, and now the puck was really ammunition. Bobby Hull wanted in on whatever the little Czech kid had going. It was so crazy, Mikita told me, that Hall left the ice one time.
The whole league got in on it, and man, you should’ve seen some of those banana blades. The NHL finally put a limit on the size of the curve, but the curve wasn’t leaving, and still hasn’t.
Another thing about the man: He had a mouth as sharp as his shot. During the unveiling of a sculpture celebrating the Hawks, Mikita saw me walking to the ceremony and, knowing I’d written some hard words about the franchise and its ownership, said, “They let you in here?’’
Years before his death, Mikita was recognized with a statue of his own, the captain’s C on his sweater, the puck on his stick, his head up, his body ready to make a move. The sculpture captures Mikita. And it doesn’t. A sculpture couldn’t possibly capture all of that man.
A legend died Tuesday.
READ MORE: Blackhawks great Stan Mikita dies at 78: 'He was hard-working. He was unselfish. He was a superstar.' »