The Ironical Chronicle

March 7, 2004

Maureen Picks Her Man from His Dating Service Profile

Thanks to ZipZap for the inspiration and Mad Magazine for the faces.

erious business, picking the next dictator. Almost as important as who you'd want to be seen with at the country club or office party or even the family reunion. The only thing missing is his financial profile. She'll just have to take her chances on that one.

This frivolity accords perfectly with the model that US elections are a quadrennial "democracy" pageant. Everybody has a role to play, including the voters. If we screw up our part, as happened last time, the elders step in and determine the outcome and nobody really minds because pageants are, after all, just pageants.

The sociological function of such national spectacles is to counteract briefly the observed fragmentation of communities in modern capitalist states. Capitalism deliberately disassembles the traditional democratically chaotic channels of intra-community communication and reassembles them so that all information comes from a few centralized and capitalist controlled sources. The effect is to create the "capitalist man" with the characteristics the economic system needs. The capitalist political state exists, primarily, to guarantee corporate profits. But it also exists to guarantee the survival of the system itself which means, among other things, to promote within the workers the altruistic sense of national identity which we call patriotism. Symbolic elections are spectacles which promote this sense of national identity. The Nuremberg rallies staged by the Nazis in Germany are a spectacular example of the same process.

March 7, 2004

The New York Times

March 7, 2004

J.F.K., Marilyn, 'Camelot'



Here are five things you might not know about John F. Kerry:

• Like W., he loved "Cats."

• Like his hero J.F.K., he was crazy about the musical "Camelot" and Marilyn Monroe (but only on screen).

• Like that other earnest Massachusetts liberal, Michael Dukakis, he is drawn to the sultry tango. (Then again, tango is called the dance of "vertical solitude.")

• Like Dennis Kucinich, he writes soulful poetry.

• Like my older brother Michael, he never got over the image of Elizabeth Taylor in a white bathing suit in "A Place in the Sun."

It's not often that you get a presidential candidate to recite poetry to you, especially in a year when W. and J.F.K. are going macho a macho.

But there was Mr. Kerry flying from Boston to New Orleans on Friday, sipping tea for his hoarse throat and reeling off T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

"There are so many great lines in it," he said. " `Do I dare to eat a peach?' `Should I wear my trousers rolled?' `Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets/The muttering retreats/Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels/And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells."

Then he started on "Gunga Din" and " `talk o' gin and beer.' "

When I gave George W. Bush a culture quiz in 2000, he gamely struggled to come up with one answer in each category, calling baseball his favorite "cultural experience."

Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, struggled to stop coming up with a cascade of things in each category, rarely settling on a definite favorite.

In what may be an interesting harbinger for their debates, W. raced through his whole interview in the same time Mr. Kerry took to answer the first question about his favorite movie. After he had roamed through 37 movies, ranging from his "Fellini stage" to his Adam Sandler period, from "National Velvet" to "The Deer Hunter" to "Men in Black," Mr. Kerry's aides began to hover.

The Republicans would denounce it as film flip-flopping, no doubt. But in culture, as in policy, the senator and the president proved very different creatures — the complicated versus the concrete, the "insatiable," as Teresa Heinz Kerry calls her husband's interests, versus the incurious.

Mr. Kerry is not a simple brush-clearing, ESPN-watching fellow. Just as he has an almost comically vast palette of aggressive masculine sports and hobbies, with costumes and gear, he has a vast palette of cultural preferences.

He not only reads poetry — "I love Keats, Yeats, Shelley and Kipling" — he writes it. "I remember flying once; I was looking out at the desert and I wrote a poem about the barren desolation of the desert," he said. "I wrote a poem once about a great encounter I had with a deer early in the morning that was very moving." (Sometimes he shoots deer, sometimes he elegizes them.)

Still showing his phantom Irish side, he pronounced Leon Uris's "Trinity" his favorite novel, and said he once explored making it into a movie. Then he tacked on Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and the Hardy Boys — "all those good dudes." Then, remembering he's in an alpha race, he added portentously: "We all were affected by Hemingway."

Dan Rather may have been skeptical in the last debate about whether Mr. Kerry has enough Elvis in him, but the senator said he learned the guitar and played in a band because he loves Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead — not to mention classical, opera and, yes, folk music.

Though he dated Morgan Fairchild, Mr. Kerry has no interest in prime time now: " `Saturday Night Live' 's my favorite show."

Though critics paint him as pompous, Mr. Kerry dares to be corny. He says he's a "sap" for movies like "Miracle on 34th Street," "Top Gun" and "Braveheart," and a "sucker" for musicals like "Les Mis้rables," "Phantom of the Opera" and "My Fair Lady." He says he likes airport mysteries and thrillers as well as biographies of Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln.

The Republicans cast Mr. Kerry as dour and angry, but he likes comedies like "The Blues Brothers" and "Animal House" and old-fashioned romantic epics, like "Scaramouche," "Ivanhoe" and "Indiana Jones."

And finally, dancing. "I can rock and roll," he said. "And I'd love to learn to tango."   


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company