Archive for the ‘Culture’ category

Susan Boyle — don’t change

April 24, 2009

By now it seems everyone near any electronic communication has seen and/or heard Britain’s Susan Boyle. But from the beginning, the story line has been how her appearance and “sophistication” have been at odds with her voice. Much of our world is, of course, obsessed with looks so it’s not surprising, though still disappointing.

And, on its face — pun intended — it is proper to be concerned about appearance. People should present themselves well. Boyle did that. But just because Simon Cowell, probably a millionaire a few times over, and the other “sophisticated” judges, and much of the audience, perhaps thought otherwise is on them, not her. Now, that she has gotten her hair done differently and changed her wardrobe a bit is fine. But please, Susan, don’t let the world change you from what I saw in you.

My first thought when she began to sing, besides acknowledging the strength of her voice, was to recall the memory of my mother, also from England. It wasn’t how she sang, though my mom had a good voice. It wasn’t how she looked; mom had a bit more flashy way about her. But how I took Susan’s voice was as a bridge from today to the past and how Susan represented that classically British stiff-upper-lip determination that has gotten them through so much over the years. In particular, as regards to my mother’s time, WWII.

If you knew my mother, you would have realized the serious mistake Hitler made in attacking England. She lived through the dreaded buzz bombs, narrowly missing death when one bomb fell near her air raid shelter but failed to detonate. They lived on little during the war. She often talked about eating blood sausages — yeah, they’re as they sound. But, despite the deprivations and tragedies of war, her brother was killed near the end of it, she joined her friends and family many times when they would get together to go dancing, exemplifying the indomitable British spirit.

That’s Susan Boyle. You saw it in her eyes when she was almost daring you to doubt her. I think, too, you saw this realization of what Susan represents in Simon Cowell’s reaction. His eyes gave it away while he listened and when, after her performance, he called her a tiger. I think he saw in her the reason, as it has been said, there will always be an England.

Some have speculated this has been a setup, a publicity stunt. I certainly hope not. But if it was, then shame on them, just like it was on the judges and the audience in their initial reaction to Susan Boyle. But for now, I will not allow cynicism to take away from the moment. Here’s to Susan and all the Limeys — a term used with affection. To them, as my mother would say as if in a toast, “Hold your glasses high!”

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Too big not to fail

March 27, 2009

As noted below (in December, on an earlier version of this blog), I was in favor of helping GM get through this mess, within limits. GM and the country have reached that limit. Throwing at it the amount of money it probably needs, on top of the ridiculous amounts of money the government — that is, the taxpayers — is or will be tossing around, is just too much. It will be tough for GM to reorganize under bankruptcy but it will be tougher in the long run for all of us if we go into even more debt as a nation.

And while we’re at it, if we’re going to regulate anything, let’s ban the phrase “too big to fail.” It’s truly become an excuse to not face the market music. This is not a slam on GM or any other company. Sometimes a company can make all the right moves and still fail. But just as a business can ride high on the market (I’m assuming good products and services here), it must accept the consequences when the market changes. If it is unable or unwilling to adapt, so be it.

“Too big to fail” has essentially become “too big to care” or “too big to change.” What it means today is that a company became, in effect, too big to succeed. It lost its way, for whatever reason. Companies let employees go when they are unproductive and/or unaffordable. The taxpayers have to do the same for companies.