There is a genre of books about politics written by ideologues on both sides of the divide. Their aim is to inform their fellow partisans about the misinformation, misdeeds, and malign intentions of the people on the other side, offering talking points to rally the troops for the next confrontation. The authors are often prominent media figures—Glenn Beck, for example.
Alec Wilder met Lorenz Hart in 1942, while listening to Mabel Mercer at Tony’s on 52nd Street in New York. At the time, Hart was working on All’s Fair, to become By Jupiter, his last show with Richard Rodgers. Years later, Wilder would write:
[Hart] told me that all his lyrics were concerned with character delineation and plot. He considered a lyric that ignored either of these to be unprofessional and untheatrical.
Every Christmas I receive a charming letter from a college friend I’ll call Doug. Because we live far from each other, I have never met his three children. Reading his letters carefully, I could see that one child wasn’t flourishing as well as the others. So this past winter, when Doug and I met in person for the first time in years, I wasn’t surprised when he told me that this son was “special.” On certain tests, the boy is as bright as his siblings, who are racing through honors programs—yet he cannot remember the names of his classmates or teachers.
Last night, President Barack Obama honored singer Carole King with the the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The celebration took the form of a concert, featuring James Taylor, Gloria Estefan, Billy Joel, Jesse McCartney, Emeli Sande, and Trisha Yearwood. It will air next week on PBS stations across the nation.
But the White House has released President Obama's speech to honor King:
Normally I blog about each week's Mad Men episode here. I avoid Slate and Esquire and everywhere else that offers analysis and simply try to reflect on the more interesting aspects of the show. Then I'll go over to the other sites and realize I know nothing. I am reminded of Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor explaining to Otis that "some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe." Consider me the former.
There is no doubt that the American presidency is an imperfect institution and that it has been inhabited by imperfect people. Given these incontrovertible facts, political scientists have long sought ways to improve the presidency. Some want to make it more powerful, others less. Some want us to pursue a parliamentary-style system, while others have argued for allowing more to be done by executive fiat. Professor David Orentlicher of Indiana University has come up with an original but almost certainly unworkable approach: He wants to split the presidency in half.
Demetrius of Phaleron, the eccentric tyrant of Athens in the last years of the fourth century b.c., was the proud owner of a giant mechanical snail. This wonder of artifice led the religious processions for which Athens was famous, spitting up saliva, spritzing (we may guess) the squealing onlookers with cooling water, and leaving a deliciously repellent slimy trail behind to settle the dust.
Of the generation of American poets born in the 1920s, three are preeminent: Richard Wilbur (b. 1921), Anthony Hecht (b. 1923), and James Merrill (b. 1926). This judgment will, of course, be contested by those who are most excited by the high nonsense of a John Ashbery, the manic improvisations of an Allen Ginsberg, or the solemn proclamations of an Adrienne Rich. But for those admiring of “formal” verse—of meter, rhyme, and stanza—the trio named above (one of whom, Wilbur, is still alive and writing) are master practitioners.