The Corner


Stephenses, Simpsons, and Others

Characters from The Simpsons pose for photographers at the premiere of The Simpsons Movie in Springfield, Vt., in 2007. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Bret Stephens, a columnist for the New York Times, is my latest guest on Q&A, here. A superb guest he is. Before moving to the Times, he was for many years an editor and columnist at the Wall Street Journal. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary — eminently deserved. When he was practically a youth, he was the editor of the Jerusalem Post. And, speaking of youth, he grew up in Mexico City (all-American though he is).

In our Q&A, we talk about Mexico, and about Latin America in general — including Brazil, which has just elected a strongman, or would-be strongman. We further talk about the Middle East, including Israel, including Saudi Arabia. Is Saudi Arabia truly necessary as an American ally? Bret says that the game has changed, and he can sum up the change in one word: “fracking.” Beautiful, important word.

We also get into China, Russia, populism, nationalism, and other pressing issues of the day. We even touch on an issue past, though still fresh: the Kavanaugh nomination (and confirmation).

I’ve known Bret Stephens for a long time, and he is one of the most pro-American, most patriotic people I know. We end our discussion with America and its future. He says that his faith in the country is “limitless,” and that we have great “regenerative powers.”

His wife, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, is Bret’s fellow Timesman, a classical-music critic. His tastes run toward Zeppelin rather than Zemlinsky. In any case, let’s go to the opera for a second. It’ll be painless.

Yesterday, I had a review of Carmen, performed at the Met. I ended this review with a couple of pop-cultural references. Do yourself a favor and click on the Simpsons link, will you? Best thing I ever saw, almost.

So, another night, another Carmen. What a masterpiece, by the way — unstalable. I said to a young friend, “Did you ever see The Bad News Bears?” This was a 1976 movie, starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal. Its soundtrack was Carmen. Many — millions? — learned the opera that way, or at least heard some of its music.

My friend countered with, “How about The Simpsons?” He meant this — which is great. Immortal.

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