The American Consternation

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:20

    Interesting piece, though.

    Jeff Tidrick, Evanston, IL

    The American Consternation I've been laughing at Russ Smith's continued frustration with his Talk subscription (10/13). He can't seem to understand why its publisher has been so lackadaisical about its subscription sales. Well, let me shed a little light on this. When I was an editor at MagazineWeek back in the early 90s, it was common for Hearst?and apparently still is?to test the viability of new magazines by putting them on the newsstand to see whether the public would snap up copies without much paid promotion. Hearst thought it made no sense to invest massive sums in subscription circulation?with all the attendant costs for second- and third-class mail?if the public didn't show a strong propensity for buying the magazine, unprompted, off the newsstand first. If the mag failed totally on the newsstand, so went the argument, better to kill it early and not throw good money after bad.

    My guess is that the approach to Talk is no different.

    To quote from Animal House, Hearst is keeping Talk on "double-secret probation." You just happened to notice.

    Richard Thau, Manhattan

    Russ Smith replies: I haven't been frustrated by Hearst's apparently slip-shod approach to Talk's circulation, just observant. Obviously, Hearst has a number of options in its contract with Disney/Miramax to sever its relationship with Talk; my bet is that one of those will be exercised soon.

    Soup Bones Talking about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, George Szamuely says that there is something profoundly wrong about trying to limit the nuclear club to a handful of supposedly responsible states ("Taki's Top Drawer," 10/20). And what's wrong is that those states aren't any more responsible than anyone else: "There is no evidence whatsoever that there exist certain countries that are inherently more 'responsible' than others." Well, I'd certainly say that by any reasonable standard the U.S., for example, is more responsible than Iraq under Hussein, wouldn't you? Libya under Qaddafi? Reasonable standard I mean, not your standard. Your mistake is to think that since U.S. foreign policy is not perfect, the U.S. is no better than anybody else. Of course, to hear you tell it, everything the U.S. does is by definition evil. The overall intent of the CTBT is to inhibit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. What's wrong with that? You are free to agree or disagree with how the treaty goes about that, but it's hard to see how the world would become a better place if every country had the bomb. Not all governments are as stable as the one you're fortunate to live under and criticize.

    You say the treaty is dishonest because the U.S. can run simulations and those constitute tests. Well, you're just wrong. They don't; they're just meant to replace tests. Anyone is free to run simulations. This certainly is not "yet another instance of international law that applies to everyone but the United States."

    You know, George, I'll tell you something. Countries push for things that are in their own interest. That's not hypocrisy; it's reality. U.S. foreign policy does not look out for India and Pakistan as a primary goal; they're big boys and they can take care of themselves. Occasionally weaker nations get squashed and that is regrettable, but that's the way the world works.

    Only an hysteric like yourself would assert that "if more than two bombs had been available in August 1945, other Japanese cities would have been hit." Evidence, please? The two bombs accomplished their purpose; there is no reason to think that more would have been dropped had they been available. Your propensity for making wild statements like this makes it difficult for me to take you seriously.

    You seem to think that since the U.S. has already used nuclear weapons, it is hypocritical for them to oppose their use by other nations. That is a very foolish and dishonest view. In 1945 nobody understood A-bombs. Truman doubtless thought of them as essentially very powerful conventional bombs. It took some time before it began to sink in to people that they were fundamentally different and should be taken off the table. Truman had ample reason for using them given his understanding at the time and I don't think he can be criticized for that.

    Your arguments always seem to be coming from the "four legs good, two legs bad" level of thinking, with no appreciation for shades of gray, and your mindless anti-Americanism is really tiresome. Can't you give it a rest for a week or two and write about flowers or bunnies or something?

    Joe Rodrigue, New Haven

    Hairdresser Sid A few thoughts on "Publishing" (10/13): 1) Let's establish that in a better world, washed-up has-beens would realize at the very onset of their artistic decline that they've shot their wads and should now use their royalties to start either a production company or a laundromat chain instead of foisting more unnecessary product on an innocent marketplace. Shouldn't the cutoff point be when their music starts to blow, as opposed to when their gum lines start to recede?

    2) Yes, rock began as and is still primarily "a distillate of youthful energies, youthful innocence..." etc. It is also, after more than 40 years of existence, just another subdivision of mainstream popular music. Isn't it to be expected that musicians well past their teenage years would utilize it as one of many familiar styles?

    3) As for the definition of rock that you and Joe Carducci espouse?music made by people who get together because "they just gotta rock"?what the fuck is that? Please, all but the most extreme variations of bass-drums-guitar adhere to the pop convention of verse-chorus-verse anyway, so it's pretty useless to start separating most of the music you cite into two distinct categories.

    4) As to your claim that being rich and successful isn't most rockers' "original and primary reason" behind doing what they do, please just stop. If it weren't, they'd be perfectly content performing at taverns and block parties, with absolutely no need for a record contract or exposure beyond their circle of friends.

    5) Labeling "anything that comes out of the UK recording system" as "by definition pop music that is often mistaken in America as real rock" (emphasis added): please, please stop. Now. This bald-faced, jingoistic stupidity is made no less silly by support from Will Self, an actual Brit. Would you seriously contend that because the roots of rock are American, the English didn't time and again create stuff that was far better than our own? (And if the Sex Pistols weren't a punk group, than neither were any of the New York bands they supposedly bit from.)

    6) If you're threatening to make this topic a major theme of your next book, here's a word of heartfelt advice: don't. It barely made for a coherent column, and expanding it to book length would hardly make it any more sensible or convincing.

    7) Calling Susan Sarandon an embarrassment: I don't know why the hell she was making stupid jokes with Gavin Rossdale at the MTV Video Awards either, but at what point in time was she ever considered a "sex idol"? Personally, I think her appearance and demeanor have usually been pretty tasteful and attractive, but "sex idol"? Even she'd have a problem with that one.

    Are you sure this isn't because she's a heavy-handed liberal? Just curious.

    Steve Egan, Manhattan

    Sins Against Saint Strange that Matt Zoller Seitz, in his interview with Eva Marie Saint ("New York City," 10/20), quoted Saint as saying, "nearly all my leading men are gone." Obviously, the actress has had a slight memory loss. Yes, Cary Grant is dead, but he died 14 years ago. While George C. Scott died earlier this year, and Richard Kiley in the mid-1990s, most of her leading men are very much alive. We won't include here Montgomery Clift, who died in 1966, since Saint had to share leading credit with Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County. However, Brando is still around. So are Anthony Franciosa, Paul Newman, Warren Beatty, Alan Arkin and Gregory Peck. Also, Seitz says that Saint is 75 years old. No way. She was 28 in 1959, when North By Northwest hit the theaters. That would put her at age 68 in 1999. Look at her face up on the screen in On the Waterfront. Saint doesn't even look 21, much less 30.

    Richard de Thuin, Manhattan

    Matt Zoller Seitz responds: I don't know how to respond to the first complaint, about Saint's use of the word "nearly," except to say that when a legendary screen actress is fondly recalling great leading men who are no longer with us, my inclination is to cut her some slack when it comes to adverb choice.

    As for Saint's age, the letter writer is incorrect. Every source I consulted while writing the article, including the Internet Movie Database, David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film and the 12th edition of Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, lists her birth year as 1924.

    Karen Enuf CNN's Christiane Amanpour has finally shown her true self. A while ago she appeared in a glossy magazine looking more relaxed than usual. Remember: she wasn't hosting a tv broadcast (CNN special) approved by the Clinton administration to justify the bombing of innocent people in Iraq, Sudan and Serbia. My memory fails on the photographer's name, but whoever it was deserves to be awarded for making her look nicer, more relaxed, while standing next to a blurred picture of a small boy?a refugee, without any doubt?coming from a tv screen. Cynicism has become America's favorite pastime and Amanpour is a perfect example of that. She was offered a photo shoot that would launch her as a hero and she couldn't refuse to play along with it. Neither could she refuse?as the little kid's picture shows?to exploit the suffering and misery of those caught in the line of fire.

    Karen Finley is to art what Christiane Amanpour is to journalism: a propagandist who, whenever the opportunity presents itself, seeks to cash in with her shock-value statements. I wish more people realized?as John Strausbaugh has ("Publishing," 10/6)?the damage done by Finley's antics during her anti-censorship crusade. As he notes: "It says a lot more about the political imbecility of late 20th century American artists than about the moral bankruptcy of the repressive powers that be that such an incredible nitwit and dipshit became such a well-known standard-bearer for free expression." Finley won't have to worry anymore about her struggle in the search for a epitaph: Strausbaugh has done her a great service and she should be thankful for his support.

    Amaury Rodriguez, Bronx

    Smoke Up, Donnie MUGGER: I must question the following line in your 10/6 column: "But what struck me as especially weird is that Trump says he's never had a drink, cigarette, any kind of drug or even a cup of coffee. That inherent lack of imagination is frightening for a potential presidential candidate, wouldn't you say?" How does a willingness to not use drugs indicate a "inherent lack of imagination"? I would personally prefer to think that it was a moral choice.

    Martin G. Cohen, Frankenmuth, MI

    She Agrees MUGGER: A few thoughts after reading your 10/13 column. I agree with about 80 percent of it. I don't think John McCain's campaign is fraudulent. He is sincere, patriotic and very appealing when he talks about campaign finance reform. What a change from the present administration. Dorothy Czarnecki, Philadelphia