• Elvis' '68 Comeback. The other day I ran into a clip of the thing. Every time I do my reaction is the same: "Huh?" He amphetamined himself into a Naugahyde suit and proved, conclusively, that at age 33 he still remembered the words to his old songs. I believe he squeezed the filming of the thing in between making Speedway, where he played a rock-n-rollin' race car driver, and Charro!, where he essays a rock-n-rollin' cattle driver. That isn't a comeback. It's a couple hours of sobriety in between gutter-creeps.
It's not my intention to rag on Elvis, but on the remarkable public wish-fulfillment orgy that has reworked the thing into some career resurrection instead of the official televised start of Elvis: The Nostalgic Vegas Lounge Act. Elvis' fans rob him of his most interesting characteristic--his genuine and profound tweekiness, literal and figurative--just because it interferes with their cardboard image of the Second Valentino.
• The Fall of the Wall. This weekend my wife went to a going-away party for her German exchange student and gave her three pieces of the Berlin Wall (my wife's parents were in Germany when they were being mined). It was reportedly a big hit, which is fine; it's part of her history. But the American excitement escaped me. It seemed based on a proprietary sense of Cold War, but the people who'd overthrown Soviet Communism were the citizens of the Eastern Bloc countries themselves, and its collapse--which even hard-core Reaganauts attribute to economic factors--underlined the contrived nature of the Great Manichean struggle and the needless expense of billions, if not trillions of dollars in its pursuit. There was the kind of giddiness over the thing usually reserved for hometown fans following a national championship. Why? Because it's easier to get all sweaty over a symbol than over a complex set of circumstances which aren't all in your favor? Plus, we had to listen to that song over and over and over, and "Watching the world wake up from history" may be the worst line ever not written as a Sir Paul McCartney/Bernie Taupin collaboration.
• Fareed Zakaria, who was just on The Daily Show (again! and with no book to peddle). Okay, he's a bright and charming guy, plus he's some vague species of beard-free Muslim, which gives him cachet provided he says what Americans want to hear. Which he does. And does. And does. Zakaria is a constant reminder that we're not lacking for bright boys here, just wisdom and judgment. Sure, he was among the first of the "liberal" war floggers to recant--to some extent--but he had the previous year to figure out that we weren't going in with 400,000 troops and we weren't bothering with any coalition building. (By the way, earlier in the week Jon Stewart asked Ted Koppel why we couldn't try sending in 500,000 troops now. Astonishing. I know it's a fake news show, but sheesh, he might have well asked why we weren't publishing the Iraq-9/11 connection.) Zakaria is always identified as a "centrist", which means that while he's someone who's still wrong for all the wrong reasons, those reasons aren't quite as wrong as the extremists'.
Sure, sure, God bless TDS an' all, but why are Zakaria, Hitchens, Dennis Miller and Brian Williams allowed to be repeat offenders?
• Fighting "al-Qaed" in Iraq. And it's not even "al-Qaeda in Iraq" anymore, it's just "al-Qaeda". You'd think that at least the New York Times would be a little sensitive about taking government stenography, but no. Either that or "al-Qaeda" has become a synonym for "Sunni" without my noticing. It doesn't even rise to the level of argument disguised at fact. No one could possibly believe it. Even quoting the military saying it without a [sic] raises questions about your judgment at this point.