I wanted to share two articles with our readers. While I suppose they are thematically similar in that they both deal with a form of inflating things to make them seem bigger than they are, mainly I just think they are hilariously crochety. If anyone is charting the unlikely migration of the content of USIH from a site of intellectual and academic concerns to an Andy Rooney style grouch-fest, mark today’s date!
In the first, Leon Wieseltier grouses in The New Republic about how we elevate our contemporary culture by comparing it to past works of much greater stature, as when Bono sees his efforts on the new Spider Man musical as reminiscent of the work of Rilke. The New York Times reviewer just named that show “among the worst” ever to play on Broadway, a judgment that might irritate Walter Rodgers, the writer of the second piece I’m highlighting here. Rodgers, writing in the Christian Science Monitor a week before the Super Bowl, vents his spleen on the widely prevalent phenomenon of overused hyperbole that he associates with that annual rite. This tendency, he argues, has leaked from sports into news and politics, and has infected our ability to think clearly and make distinctions. (A soldier, he suggests, should need to do something that all other soldiers didn’t do, in order to be called a “hero.”)
I don’t really have a dog in the fight raised by either of these two columns. (OK, that’s not totally true. I have long made the point raised in the second, even championing the phrase “linguistic inflation” to invoke the lost effectiveness of words like “awesome.” But that’s not my point in mentioning them here.) I merely suggest them to any readers who enjoy the occasional piece of dyspeptic humor.