Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I wish I could hang out with more Trotskyists

Ross Douthat is interviewed on National Review Online about his book "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class". It looks good - finished Tom Wolfe's "I am Charlotte Simmons" and I really enjoyed it - so much so I don't want to read factual accounts of American university life, the fictional world of Dupont was too mush fun - but Douthat seems wittier than most.
"There was very little of the kind of political-indoctrination horror stories you often hear about on college campuses, and insofar as there was pressure to conform politically, it was soft pressure, the pressure that comes with being surrounded by a campus where liberalism is the default position (the 'conservative' position, in a sense), and some kind of quasi-Marxism is the only approved form of political dissent. Today's elite universities are surprisingly depoliticized places, which sounds like a good thing after the excesses of the last few decades until you realize that they are depoliticized because everyone, students and faculty and administrators alike, are primarily concerned with careerism and the bottom line, rather than with the older ideological debates. There were times at Harvard when I actually longed to hang out with a few more Trotskyists, rather than yet another set of future consultants and investment bankers. At least the Trotskyists cared about the important stuff."


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bruce Heaven

Came home last night on such a high I couldn't even contemplate getting my laptop out of its cosy bag and posting on the concert - absolutely superb.
Went with my sister and 2 massive Bruce fans who have seen him about 50 times between the 2 of them....
My sister complained about the "lack of fast songs" where I love Bruce at his slowest most soulful from-the-heart falsetto and roots genius - so I entered heaven on earth the second Reason to Believe started (around 825pm in the Point)
With all due respect Chris from alt tag - but she is plain wrong on this. She described it as foot stomping, distorted vocals version was truly frightening! Like something out of a horror movie. I was beginning to regret my money spent - did not need to see genius finally tipping over the edge of sanity!
I love my music and love evocative lyrics that I can really relate to and my emotional involvement in a song reached its zenith with Reason to Believe. Using Tom Waits type vocal distortion and harsh mouth organ accompaniment, Bruce transported my soul to a Depression era Mississippi church with a wizened preacher demanding relief from the dead dogs and hard earned days (not that I've ever been to Mississippi and at 22 years of age didn't get must Depression action!) His shiny worn cowboy boots raising dust from the plank of wood as he stomped in perfect time was just amazing. I felt like I was involved in some American Gothic Flannery O'Connor novel.....I had a reason to believe after this song and could have left the Point fully sated.....but I didn’t!
The other highlights for me were The River with his “almost a love song” introduction followed by Real World from Human touch which I have unearthed again this evening - re-record this version Bruce please! (And include Reason to Believe version too)
Part Man, Part Monkey got into my head the first time I listened to Tracks and then I got sick of it – this version has resurrected it for me. Intro funny but evolution is a non-issue in this country. We got the humour but he didn’t need to go on and on about it.
Nebraska was amazing – I was a-twirling my baton in my head for this one praying it wouldn’t end (or least that he would play some Youngstown/Ghost of Tom Joad which he didn’t). Spaced out a little for certain bits of Reno before Racing in the Streets - got a 69 Chevy – I was in bits – it was fantastic.
Jesus was an Only Son was accompanied by a brief synopsis of Bruce’s lapsed Catholic spiritual journey. I really identify with this song – the natural impulses of Mary’s maternal protective spirit, the moments of atheism in Jesus’ life . Loved the bit where Bruce talked about how mourning for the choices you didn’t make gives weight to the actions you take – I find this message very counter-cultural. We are led to believe that choice is the ultimate value, the most important freedom in our lives – so much so that we coast along cushy materialism choosing “lifestyles” afraid to choose the option of substance and sacrifice. Making 1 choice and sticking to it with integrity is considered restrictive and oppressive. Between that and the last verse “Now there's a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you'll never find in another's face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached
Well Jesus kissed his mother's hands
Whispered, "Mother, still your tears,
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared."”
I was ready to sign up for the world according to Bruce church!
My sister’s fast song fetish was fed with Ramrod, a Bruce song that I don’t like. But this version, toned down with full acoustic guitar was great.
Land of Hope and Dreams is such a horrible song – I really hate it – so what, we’re all on train going to a land of hope and dreams. The E Street Band weren’t there so I don’t see why he felt the need to play it. I’m On Fire complete with slightly off key whistling provided my girly song portion of the night (I class 3 Bruce songs as “girly” – Tougher than the Rest, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Sad Eyes for no reason other than I find them incredibly romantic – don’t ask me why!)
But any anger at wasted setlist spots was dispelled by the Promised Land. Amazing – he used the guitar as a drum while playing the chord on the beat – it was fantastic – the Utah desert never seemed so close!
He finished with a cover of Suicide’s Dream. Don’t ask who Suicide are - some 70s band. My sister had tears in her eyes at this stage. I just had a list of possibilities for that spot…..but that’s Bruce and I would pay any money to see that concert again.
The 2 Bruce fans didn’t even have criticisms except for Reason to Believe – but I’ll gladly carry that torch alone!
I didn’t mean for this post to be this long but I just got carried away!


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Proper Order

From Overheard in Dublin which is well worth checking out. Some really funny stories.

"I was on the dart one day and these two girls were talking about one of their friends. Apparently she was walking through town one day and saw some guy wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. She looked at it and says, "oh! I have his album!""

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Kevin Myers Revisited

I haven't been blogging much recently due to exams and family crisis (let's just say I've too much personal experience of the recent spate of family hostage taking robberies).

Kay Hymowitz writes excellent social commentary in City Journal and this article from the WSJ revisits the terrority that Kevin Myers got slated for. Hymowitz reports research into the mindset of young poor women who embrace teen motherhood. It seems to be a vital piece of research that need to be examined in light of the growing trend of teen motherhood both here and in the UK.

"According to the authors, motherhood promises an enduring human connection in a world where trusting relationships are rare, and it gives women a social role whose value is only heightened by their difficult circumstances. In the minds of female ghetto dwellers, 'the choice to have a child despite the obstacles that lie ahead is a compelling demonstration of a young woman's maturity and high moral stature.' Many say that the birth of their child persuaded them to give up drugs or to stop 'running the streets.'"

Thursday, May 05, 2005

That Glittering Instrument - The Human Soul

Currently studying for exams (tommorrow!) - instead of studying per se I'm surfing the net.
This story is a such a hopeful story! Fireman's recovery stuns doctors - after being in a coma for 2 months and then spending the next 10 years blind and unable to speak or recognise anyone, Donny Herbert, a fireman who was injured severely in the course of his work has started talking to his family again.
The video clips of his family with him during his illness are so humbling and inspiring - his young sons interacting with him so naturally despite his many impairments is testament to the human spirit.
Again instead of studying I was re-reading East of Eden by Steinbeck at the weekend - this paragraph struck me for the first time and seems very appropiate -
"And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed—because "Thou mayest.""