Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Catch of the Day

Okay, it's a cheap shot, but Matt Yglesias gets the Catch for his tweet: "If you want to know what’s wrong with US conservatism, read this from @richlowry," and links to Lowry's hyping of the Paul Harvey ad from the Super Bowl.

It's a tweet, so I'm not sure what in particular got to Yglesias (there's so much!), and, yeah, it's not everything that's wrong with US conservativism...but it's sure a mess.

The spot stuck out for how thoroughly un–Super Bowl it was. It’s a wonder that CBS didn’t refuse to air it on grounds that it wasn’t appropriate for the occasion. It was simple. It was quiet. It was thoughtful. It was eloquent. It was everything that our celebrity-soaked pop culture, which dominates Super Bowl Sunday almost as much as football does, is not.
This is...well, it's about as wrong as you can get. Super Bowl Sunday is totally soaked in the kind of hokey Americana that Paul Harvey was so good at! Yes, sometimes that's noisy, but Super Bowl Sunday does quiet, too -- think of decades of Clydesdale ads, for example -- or (kitschy) thoughtful and eloquent, as it did in last year's Clint Eastwood ad. "The Farmer" couldn't have fit in better with that side of Super Bowl Sunday...it's just pseudo-epic enough, just detached enough from the reality of US 21st century agriculture.

As for celebrity-soaked pop culture: sorry, Rich Lowry, but some of us still think that Paul Harvey was a celebrity of no little renown. And on Super Bowl Sunday, once a celebrity, always a celebrity -- whether it's Paul Harvey, or the pathetic remains of The Who, or whoever shows up in those Snickers ads. Surely Paul Harvey knew that a lot of what was appealing about him was his Paul Harvey act. Which, I should say, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Lowry then moves to an attack on Beyonce, which is at least the second NRO attack on the halftime show so  far. I can't say I've been a dedicated Beyonce fan, but I thought the show was first-rate...not the music spectacular that we got with Prince, but better than most of the washed-up nostalgia acts (many of whom I'm a fan of) that we often get.

(Okay, that's not entirely fair to some of those older acts. Really, the only one I remember that was embarrassing was The Who).

At any rate, I don't know that we're supposed to call Beyonce's show "Americana," but anyone who couldn't see that it's a perfect fit with Paul Harvey really doesn't understand American show biz (and I'd include in that some who I've seen bashing Harvey and the Harvey ad, by the way). Or, you know, the Super Bowl.

After all, both Beyonce and Paul Harvey were totally over the top, weren't they? Each, to be sure, within their own particular style and idiom. But both certifiably Super.

Oh, and: nice catch!


  1. Something very appropriate about a conservative pundit celebrating the vision of America presented in a car commercial. After all, advertising is designed to manipulate the viewer through blunt emotional appeal, short-cut rational deliberation, and present a simplified, morally unambiguous version of reality (hard to commodify a world of actual complexity!). It's sort of the model for the contemporary conservative worldview.

  2. I agree on the "The Farmer" ad.

    I happened to be switching channels looking for the game. I stopped when I saw that ad, and even said "This looks Super Bowly". It was.

  3. The Paul Harvey ad stopped me in my tracks, as I was headed out of the basement for more refreshments - I stood there and listened to the whole thing. It was fantastic. Paul Harvey was probably the most talented radio personality who ever lived.

    But until just now, it never occurred to me that there was anything un-Super Bowl-ish about it.

  4. To be fair to Rich Lowry, that was the reaction the ad's creators were hoping for. Not so much that it's un-Super Bowl-ish, but you're supposed to watch it and go "Oh, I was so wrapped up in football and Beyonce I must remember to be grateful for this country's blessings." The ad is very much in line with the "hokey Americana" of the Super Bowl's ethos. But... On the other, and by design, it's supposed to repudiate the sheer spectacle the comes before it, thereby engaging you, the viewer. It's not new, and the Clint Eastwood ad last year worked the same way. So did the "Oprah's Tribute to the Troops" ad, which, mysteriously, has not been commented on as much (perhaps because it's just a less effective ad?).

    So I don't really fault conservative thought here, I just think Rich Lowry really, really fell for the ad like any common sucker. It's easy to pick on Rich, but I think a lot of people - especially viewers who grew up with Paul Harvey and don't think much of Beyonce - felt the same way. Which is what the advertiser wanted.

    What bothers me more is the way Rich extols the virtues of farmers, when he himself wouldn't be caught dead working on a farm. Again, not necessarily the fault of conservatism, but I can't stand it when its pundits pretend to speak for people they themselves are not a part of. It's one thing to advocate for certain groups of people, but Rich writes as though he "gets" farmers in a way others don't. Bill Kristol acts the same way about servicemen, and I find all of it infuriating.

    1. Nobody likes a chickenhawk, eh?

  5. The Rich Lowry article was great Yglesias bait. It had all of the things he hates about the conservative movement: rural nostalgia, anti-modern trends, plus an undercurrent of racial nostalgia.

  6. Hey, I have most of the SB's on tape and watch them sometimes in the offseason, what was so embarrassing about the Who's performance?

    I just saw Madonna's show the first time last week, it was well executed but her music isn't very listenable.

    1. Jonathan hates classic rock (q.v. Led Zeppelin).

    2. Not even close -- I've written in support of Quadrophenia, and I'm not sure you can get more classic rock than that. But that band isn't around any more, whatever we may wish.

    3. Huh? Yeah, the leaders are getting old and a couple have kicked off, but they had the original drummer's son working with them, and you're also dis-regarding Pete Townsend's often overlooked excellent solo albums. Plus if you've ever tried to cover their songs, you quickly realize that Townsend is the most complex music writer among rock demi-gods, it's not the case of just three chords going on.

      Anyway, IMHO, most of the SuperBowl acts have given it their best, U2 was superb, McCartney pushed it, Springsteen was fantastic, even the Black Eyed Peas did a credible job, Tom Petty was the one you're thinking of who embarrassed himself.

    4. I'm not overlooking Townsend's solo stuff; it's not relevant to whether The Who is still what they used to be. Nor is how good the original music was. The fact is that two of the three guys who played that music are gone, Townsend from what I understand isn't really up to playing live shows at the level he used to, and Daltry certainly isn't up to the level he used to be at.

      What they were at the Super Bowl was a nostalgia act, not a working band, and certainly not *that* band.


  7. That's Rich Lowry inveighing against the spectacle of glam and shallow glitz at the Super Bowl. Rich "starbursts through the screen" Lowry. When his half-term heroine fled Juneau, poor Lowry, he the final arbiter of seriousness and gravitas, had to reconcile the (Beyonce-ish?) glammy, shallow spectacle of Palin's career.

    He did. Well, sort of. If you click through to the article, you notice he spends three paragraphs seeming to criticize the Pit Bull Hockey Mom, but then he veers to a lengthy justification based on her fame and glitz and ability to take over the world by her, uh, Beyonce-ish-ness.

    That's why Lowry hates glam and glitz. He wouldn't know the successful versions of it if they smacked him across the face with a white glove.

    And the thing that sucks about conservatism is you're kind of forced to nod along with Lowry, against his empirical idiocy and your own common sense.

  8. Today I was irritating my co-workers by talking about how San Francisco desperately needs parking garages everywhere, and when my boss walked in the guy next to me said,, "We're talking about politics or something," and my boss was like "what did you guys think of that awful Republican ad for farmers?" And everyone had a stupid opinion about it, no one listened to my genius opinion about it ("machines + an assembly line of migrant laborers = the more efficient replacement of farmers"), and the conversation made me really disgusted. You know what's more important than whether or not farmers are magic? Not being able to park in San Francisco. But no one wants to talk about public policy. Everyone wants to talk about magic farmers.

  9. The spot stuck out for how thoroughly un–Super Bowl it was.

    Has Lowry forgotten that every Super Bowl opens with the national anthem? Or doesn't that count? I mean, almost everything he says about Harvey's piece could be said about most performances of the anthem, and yet he doesn't call that out as un-Super Bowl.

  10. Surprised no one mentioned it(the farmer ad) was a copy of a clip on youtube. Not sure if it was srolen or bought,still hated the ad.


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