Author: James Livingston

These Streets

  I walk these streets thinking of you, as always, I remember what never happened, I’m pitched forward in time, nostalgic  For the moments still unplanned.   You’re with me as I’m walking, as always, You remind me of things that never were, You’re somewhere behind me, speaking  Of events that won’t occur.    I love you for this ability, as always, You commemorate what’s come undone, Don’t be discouraged, you’re thinking Of the catastrophe to...

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Moderation My Ass

A friend sent me a link to The Upshot from April 9 NYT, a poll-driven analysis by Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy of the “silent majority” in the Democratic Party—that is, the stalwarts who aren’t on social media and are unlikely to call themselves progressive or even liberal.  The title is the takeaway: “The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate.”  Yes, the party has moved left, well, duh, but!  Those moderates out there, Joe Biden included, are the base, the rock on which this church must be rebuilt.  I don’t think so.   Here’s what I wrote to her about the piece:   Thanks for this, it’s utterly fascinating, especially in revealing the “vital center” bias of journalists. The so-called progressive wing of the party “clamors” for a Green New Deal—notice, it does not advocate or propose, it “clamors” like children do—while most Democrats identify as moderates or conservatives . . . and yet 48% of “Twitter Democrats” think that political correctness is a problem.  These are anomalous results that need explanation.  Why would progressives be worried about political correctness? And if the pollster doesn’t dig deeper than the broad categories (liberal, moderate, conservative, blah, blah), the survey itself is fatally compromised.  For example, people who identify as conservatives consistently (since the late 1960s) say we should be spending more on health and education.  Right now strong...

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Subway Stories

There I was on the 3 train, minding my own business, reading I Am God, the incredibly funny and polyphonous novel by Giacomo Sartori, and a middle-aged woman sits down next to me, ready to grade papers on her way to Brooklyn.  How do I know she’s bound for Brooklyn?  Trust me.  I can’t help myself, I start reading the papers over her shoulder, or at least glancing now and then, asking what’s going on here, why are these pages so heavy with instructions?   I can’t resist myself, I lean over and say, “Fourth grade, right?”  She’s startled, she grips the essay she’s grading as if it might flee to my arms, but then she smiles and says, “No, this one is 26 years old.  It’s ESL.  I’m teaching them English, and they come from everywhere.  She’s Ukrainian.  You want to read it?”   “Hell yes,” I say.  The question at the top of the page is, Should children have to study languages that aren’t spoken at home?  The Ukrainian woman wrote four pages and never got around to the question until her last paragraph.  It was nonetheless brilliant, and moving (and her script was like they used to teach in grade school, every letter a little boat on a smooth sea).  In the penultimate paragraph, after explaining the intricacies of translation from the Russian, she says, “Parents...

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Bonnie and Clyde Redux

How do you tell the same story, over and over? How do you know you’re a human being? These are the same question. We return to what we think is the origin because we believe that what happens after the fundamental, formative “event” keeps changing, in accordance with our new understanding of human possibility and depravity. Garden of Even, infancy, yesterday?  Same result. Put it another, less pretentious way. How would you retell the story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, the notorious and glamorous outlaws of the early 1930s, when, then as now, the “loss of faith” in American institutions—a contemporary expression, I admit—was so profound that tens of thousands of people attended the funerals of bank robbers, Bonnie and Clyde to be sure, but “Babyface” Nelson, too? Put it another, more pretentious way. How would you step outside the shot-reverse-shot protocol of classic Hollywood cinema and remake the story told in Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” meanwhile commenting on Pauline Kael’s ecstatic review—a landmark in film criticism—of that 1967 movie? Would you have to make a whole new movie, outside the frame of the old, and in view of her plain speech about what made the original so compelling? (Footnote: roughly 1930 to 1960, the movies brought us into their imaginary world with a simple device, shot-reverse-shot, cameras over the left and right shoulders of the speakers...

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Trump’s Triangle

We all know that Trump’s idiocy has meaning–the too-long tie, the compressed facial expressions that amount to an imitation of a bullfrog, call it a frown, even the casual gestures as he approaches or departs the press corps. But does he mean it?  Well, yeah, the tie is “slimming,” he says. But me, the secret psychoanalyst, I keep asking, what’s with the triangle he always lowers to his crotch when the photo op occurs, from family portrait to state occasion, like yesterday with the wife of the pretender to the Venezuelan throne?  Thumb to thumb, always, and what, always...

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