The Corner

Culture

Our Culture, for Better or Worse

I have an Impromptus column today, which begins with Harvey Weinstein and ends with Gustav Mahler, touching on Trump, Obama, Josh Rosen, and others in between. (Rosen is the UCLA quarterback, known as “Chosen Rosen.”) I’d like to add a few more notes here.

Kevin Williamson’s piece today is about Left, Right, and trade. Highly recommended, of course. I have a note on the subject myself:

These are strange political times, including on trade. At Davos, a Canadian prime minister named Trudeau advocated free trade. Meanwhile, a U.S. president imposed tariffs. Also at Davos, the Indian leader, Modi, said that a protectionist mindset “cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism.”

You see what I mean?

Kevin certainly does, and I bet you do too.

Here on the Corner, I’d like to sneak in a language note. Last night, I noticed something in an Atlantic piece on Paul Nehlen, the Republican politico who ran against Paul Ryan in 2016. He may do so again this year. Last time around, he won the endorsement of such luminaries as Sarah Palin. “Wisconsin, please vote for this man ‘of the people,’” Palin wrote. These days, Nehlen is letting his Nazi flag fly pretty boldly. I expect his endorsements will dwindle. Anyway, I was doing a language note.

The Atlantic article says, “Mocking Nehlen is about as useful as lecturing a circus monkey on manners: His purpose was never to fit into the mainstream in the first place, and he’s better at tricks, anyways.”

My heart leapt at seeing the word “anyways” in print. It is an old American solecism, common in my native Midwest. I believe I’ve written it a time or two, certainly in Impromptus.

And if The Atlantic can print “anyways,” I’m going to be bolder about printing “acrosst,” “heighth,” and other mainstays of my vocabulary.

Finally, a music note. In my column, I speak of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. There were 53 of them, beginning in 1958 and ending in 1972. They were broadcast on CBS. In prime time.

The first of them was titled “What Does Music Mean?” This is the program, or concert, I cite in Impromptus today. The answer is: Nothing, not a damn thing, if we’re talking about music without words. Although composers and others will go to great lengths to convince you (and themselves) otherwise. Bernstein handles this subject brilliantly.

I’ve always resisted the idea — expressed by my fellow conservatives — that the culture is much dumber today. I don’t want to be a fogey and I don’t want to indulge in nostalgia. Plus, we are light years ahead of our former selves in math, science, and technology. At least that is my impression.

But I must say, Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts are from a different planet. Bernstein talks to these children — ordinary New York City schoolchildren — at a very high level. He assumes more knowledge than you can with adult audiences today. He sits down at the piano to play a tune that he assumes everyone knows, and, sure enough, the kids shout out, “Blue Danube!”

Again, this was all on television — CBS — in prime time. Anyways, I will take up this subject at greater length later.

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