Culturally Discombobulated

Tag: America

American Notes: White House Correspondents Dinner

WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS DINNER: A cozy affair that has been going on for nearly a century between the White House press corps and the administration of the day. In its current form it acts as a Friars Club roast (only much tamer – so more of a light broiling, really, than a roast) of the sitting President, demonstrating year after year that there is nothing more inconducive to humor than an authority figure in on the joke*.  And who wants to see the press corps chuckling away to the Vice President’s unfunny filmed skits rather than treating the whole event with the disdain you’d hope from seasoned hacks? Just do away with the whole damned thing – and if the press still want to eat out once a year the White House could offer them the choice of a $25 gift card to either Chili’s or Red Lobster. Otherwise this may well be next year’s dinner.




* The exception to the normal toothless satire being the year that Stephen Colbert hosted and, in character, skewered George W. Bush. This, however, was one of those rare, unlikely to be repeated moments  when you had a comic skilled in irony and a President seemingly not in on the joke  Bearing in mind the increasing Hollywoodization of the ceremony, the sitting President almost certainly has to be a Republican in order for the roasting of the Commander-in-chief to have much bite to it



American Snaps #14: Shakespeare in the park


May 2014, Nineteenth-century statue of Shakespeare, Central Park, New York.

Today being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

“In 1843 the curtain of the rebuilt St. Charles Theatre in New Orleans featured an arresting bit of symbolism: it depicted Shakespeare in a halo of light being borne aloft on the wings of the American eagle. Shakespeare was not only domesticated; he was humanized … Nineteenth-century America swallowed Shakespeare, digested him and his plays, and made them part of the cultural body.”
Lawrence Levine – Highbrow/Lowbrow

American Snaps #13: On Hate


Coming across the Westboro Baptist Church after they’ve spent an afternoon picketing a planned Bowie tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. NYC, March 2016.

“As a nation we have chosen a different course – to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.” Justice Roberts on Westboro Baptist Church (Snyder v Phelps)

“I bear the creature no ill-will, but still I hate the very sight of it.”
William Hazlitt – On the Pleasure of Hating

American Snaps #12: Chess in the park


Central Park, March 2016.

“Chess problems demand from the composer the same virtues that characterize all worthwile art: originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity.”
Vladimir Nabokov

“The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the most absorbing of occupations. The least satisfying of desires. A nameless excrescence upon life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us say, a promising politician, a rising artist that you wish to destroy. Dagger or bomb are archaic and unreliable – but teach him, inoculate him with chess.”
H.G. Wells