a few things for you, my invisible internet friends

Two quotes to think about tonight. The first comes from billionaire investor Warren Buffet. The second comes from Dana Gioia, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Here’s a clip from the “Money” article with the Buffet quote:

Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton was all ears at a fundraiser Tuesday evening when famed billionaire investor Warren Buffett suggested ramping up the tax code on big businesses and the super rich….

Buffett said he makes $46 million a year in income and is only taxed at a 17.7 percent rate on his federal income taxes. By contrast, those who work for him, and make considerably less, pay on average about 32.9 percent in taxes – with the highest rate being 39.7 percent.

To emphasize his point, Buffett offered $1 million to the audience member who could show that one of the nation’s wealthiest individuals pays a higher tax rate than one of their subordinates.

“I’m willing to bet anyone in this room $1 million that those rates are less than the secretary has to pay,” said Buffett…

The article didn’t mention it, but I’m pretty sure Mr. Buffet still has his money… And, he’s right about the tax code. The rich should be taxed more, especially on inherited wealth.

And the following is an excerpt from Dana Gioia’s commencement speech at Stanford (by way of Metafilter):

…There is an experiment I’d love to conduct. I’d like to survey a cross-section of Americans and ask them how many active NBA players, Major League Baseball players, and American Idol finalists they can name.

Then I’d ask them how many living American poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, architects, classical musicians, conductors, and composers they can name.

I’d even like to ask how many living American scientists or social thinkers they can name.

Fifty years ago, I suspect that along with Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax, most Americans could have named, at the very least, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O’Keeffe, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Not to mention scientists and thinkers like Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead, and especially Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

I don’t think that Americans were smarter then, but American culture was. Even the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement…

Gioia’s right, of course. The folks on Metafilter were ripping his argument apart, and I think they make good points, but I think it’s hard to deny that pop culture has thrown art, generally speaking, overboard to make more room for celebrity worship. Even when I was young, the talk shows would have on the likes of Norman Mailer and Truman Capote. Andy Warhol probably wouldn’t even make it these days.

And, if you’re still looking for something to read when you’re done with those, you might want to check out this piece in today’s “Washigton Post” on how Cheney is able to keep raping the environment without leaving any DNA behind. Or, if reading’s not your thing, how about some video of Elizabeth Edwards trying to be tactful with Anne Coulter after the adam-appled queen of American hate speech said that her husband, presidential hopeful John Edwards, should be killed in a terrorist attack.

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18 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Last time, you’ll remember, Coulter just called Edwards a “faggot.”

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her negative attention is a good thing, but the Edwards campaign needs the press, and the money.

  2. Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I know that if I ever said that somebody should be blown up by a terrorist, my mother and father would have both yelled at me and told me it was inappropriate. There might have been soap eating and/or a spanking involved. Where is Ann Coulter’s mother and why didn’t she raise her daughter better?

    One of my friends said the same thing as Warren Buffet once and she said they all looked at her as if she had lost her mind. “We make more money, why shouldn’t we pay more in taxes?”

  3. Robert
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    As neo-cons always do, Coulter made every attempt to avoid any real discussion on her offensive and indefensible comments. She was so antsy, she couldn’t stop playing with her hair, and of course she made sure her psycho-eyes stayed well hidden behind her pitch black sunglasses. She wouldn’t want to have to look anyone in the eye who’s she’s slandered.

    Ann Coulter had to talk over Elizabeth Edwards as much as she could because these are the moments which threaten to shatter the delusional yammering of the neo-cons. They can’t afford to be confronted so publicly, because it exposes them.

  4. Dr. Cherry
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad Coulter represents the neo-cons. She’s a foul harpy and they deserve her.

  5. Ol' E Cross
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Edwards scares her since she knows he can win.

  6. Robert
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    My solution to the hard truths Dana Gioia brings up…I make sure I don’t know who anybody is. I don’t know the names of any NBA players, MLB players, or American Idol finalists. I keep it this way out of respect for all the people I should know, but don’t. I don’t know the name of a single living American poet, playwright, painter, sculptor, architect, classical musician, conductor, or composer. I can’t name a single living American scientist or social thinker. So to honor these great individuals I have no clue about, I make damn sure I don’t put any pop culture icons above them by knowing who they are either.

    Increased awareness and knowledge would only alienate me from a greater number of my fellow Americans, and I’m a ‘people person.’

  7. Robert
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    It was funny to watch Coulter playing with her hair like crazy while talking over Elizabeth Edward’s confrontation of her.

    I imagine she’ll be doing that with her new parts once the operations are completed.

    It must be very exciting for her.

  8. mark
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    OK, keep me posted about the Shadow Art Fair thing. I you guys think you can line up volunteers, get a laptop, and find a way so that multiple people can register with the same IP address, let me know, and I’ll see if I can make space for you on the literature table… One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of people from Ann Arbor come to the SAF. They also read this site. So, the more I talk about this initiative, the more it probably hurts us. It’s kind of a catch 22. Still, if he comes to Ann Arbor, it’s better than if he goes to California.

  9. Posted July 1, 2007 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I’ve thought about Gioia’s comments…

    I see his point, and we could blame the media, but the media is giving people what they want. The question is, why do people want what they want? And why the difference between then and now?

    Maybe it’s because of what we teach kids in school, placing far less emphasis on the arts than we do math and science.

    Maybe it’s because free thinkers and creative-minded people are more shunned by the mainstream. In order to make a buck these days, most people that would have been artists, musicians, writers, ect. get sucked into working a semi-creative corporate job that pimps the artist into creating into a vision that he/she may not have true passion or belief towards.

    Even though he may have a point, I thought it was a little pretentious of him. What’s wrong with sports? I love sports. What’s wrong with American Idol? I don’t love it, but I find parts of it highly entertaining.

    And what he listed that we should know about: I like poetry; I’m not too into plays, I prefer films; I pay little attention to famous living painters because my eye for art goes towards things other than paintings and things that I can afford to buy that’s original; sculptors same thing; architecture I don’t care enough about to study up on people’s names; and I don’t like classical, but love many other different genres (including jazz which I’m sure he’d find acceptable).

    So what’s his deal? Maybe people’s eye for art and music and culture has shifted. I know that I ended up owning a record store even though I hated the music section of the humanities course I took in high school. We never learned about rock and roll, blues, jazz or roots music.

    I think more kids need to learn about culture, arts, and history that they want to learn about, and they can relate to. And the subjects that he’s mentioned are all a bit high socio-economic based.

    In any event, it was fun thinking about and writing about and rambling on about. My wife needs the computer so off I go.

  10. Posted July 1, 2007 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t go off enough about how wrong he is about sports. Anyone watch the Tigers game tonight? Doesn’t get any better. Marcus Thames two out solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, just the third hit all night, breaks a 0-0 classic pitchers duel, then Jonesy, whio’s been struggling lately, comes in for the save opportunity, the crowd on it’s feet going nuts, throws a 1-2-3 inning to win the game for the Tigers and break a losing streak and save a crucial series sweep against the division rival Twins.

    Now what do I need with a playwright or a sculptor on a fine summer evening that I spent watching baseball? I’ve got all my drama, creativity, passion, tradition, and thrills right there. And you know what? As good as sports are to watch, they’re even better to play.

    So leave me alone Dana. And Go Tigers!

  11. It's Skinner Again
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    How are the arts Gioia mentioned “high socio-economic based”? Classical music was played in churches, schools, park band concerts, on the radio. Poetry was taught in public schools and published in newspapers. Leonard Bernstein and Carl Sandburg were on TV. “Life” magazine did a whole issue on Picasso.

    I don’t know what happened. It does seem as if our culture has been taken over by commercial entertainment directed at teens; I miss other viewpoints.

    Not too long ago, I saw an evening of music movie shorts from the ’30s. I was struck by the sheer variety: dance bands, jazz bands, blues singers, comedy fiddlers, Hawaiian groups, gypsy groups, opera singers, banjo duets, accordion virtuosi, barbershop quartets. I guess all that is still out there, but the mainstream seems much narrower now.

  12. Posted July 2, 2007 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    C’mon Skinner-“American poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, architects, classical musicians, conductors, and composers.” What kind of culture is that representative of? What kind of listener was/is directed towards on the radio station that played/plays classical music? Park band concerts for the poor/working class featuring classical music? In the 50s and 60s? Who would go? You have to understand what I was saying there…And if you read my whole comment, you’ll see that I agreed with Dana and his view of American culture in general. My point was that we need to be more creative and open minded when we teach or introduce arts and culture to today’s youth. Instead of a humanities course on the history of baroque and classical music, why not teach kids about how 40s and 50s rhythm and blues led to the birth of rock and roll? Why not talk about the 60s revolution in America? Why not tie architechural history into the historical preservation of old houses around the area?

    Kids are ignoring the culture that’s being taught because they aren’t interested. They have to be exposed to subjects of interest.

    I agree, the main problem is mass media and advertisers going after the teen/young adult market. They want to consume, consume, consume. Take downloadable music-you get a song instantly, then move on to the next. No more going to the store – carefully selecting a CD, reading the lyrics printed inside, listening to the whole thing, storing it carefully in your collection – that’s all in the past. And some young people don’t even know what a record is, let alone how to work a record player. It’s just clicking and downloading whoever Rolling Stone or MTV says is hot right now. And then 6 months later, you can’t be caught dead listening to that old music, unless that hot artist has a hot new song.

    Some classical music should be taught, but let’s also teach kids about Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Bill Monroe, Lou Reed, Charlie Patton, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Dr. John, Carlos Santana, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, hell – even the Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow or Grandmaster Flash! Let’s teach kids about the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz festival in the early 70s and why it was so important. Let’s teach them about the shorts you watched about music in the 30s and what it was like.

    The youth will continue to rebel if we don’t listen to them and ask what they want to learn about. We need to work with youth, understand their part in this technology revolution, understand the importance of the art of right now, and teach them the truth. Maybe Picasso, Leonard Bernstein and Shakespeare have been taught to death. Maybe it’s time to move on!

  13. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    America’s top scluptor.

  14. It's Skinner Again
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Cousins Vinyl — I think you’ve missed my point a bit. Back in the ’50s, when “Life” devoted a whole issue to Picasso, he WAS a living artist. Now no mass market magazine would devote a whole issue to a living painter. Leonard Bernstein and Carl Sandburg WERE living artists when they were on TV. Now what network would give a living conductor or poet airtime? Populism used to include serious work made for adults, not just commercial teen culture.

    Yes, band and orchestra concerts in the park were common, playing light classical and pop music. Lots of people went. They still do in Europe; here in the US, concert music is stigmatized as “elitist” (which it’s not, of course).

    Where are kids taught about classical music and not about pop music? As far as I can tell, kids are force-fed the Beatles, and never learn about Stravinsky. That’s too bad; he’s worth knowing about. Yes, they should learn about all the artists you mention, but they should be exposed to more than ’70s American pop culture too.

    We do need to move on; we need to move on from xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, and our absurd preoccupation with adolescence. We need a broader outlook!

  15. mark
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I like the Marx Brothers because they walked the line between anti-intellectual and intellectual so well. It’s an art that few seem to have today.

    I could go on and on, but if I sit on this toilet any longer, they’ll have to amputate my legs.

  16. mark
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    (I was just joking. I’m not really on the toilet.)

  17. Posted July 2, 2007 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    That’s right Mark. Teach the youth the Marx Brothers. And Laurel and Hardy.

    Skinner – we need to hang out one day. You bring some classical music and I’ll bring my music. We’ll drink beer and have a good ol’ time. Or better yet, we’ll organize a park bench concert with classical AND roots music, and we’ll invite all the youth (and the elderly – as to not absurdly preoccupy oursleves with adolescence).

    But seriously Skinner – thanks for the debate – I hear you! Much love!

  18. It's Skinner Again
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Cousins — Sounds good to me. And I’ll bring my favorite instrument, the Venezuelan cuatro, so we can get those South American rhythms going too. Cheers!

    Mark — I often hear the complaint these days that the Marxes were “too intellectual.” I’m sorry to hear that you’re not on the toilet. Have you tried drinking more water?

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