Saturday, August 04, 2007

What would Bart do? And the Baroque violin music of Nicola Matteis

The Baroque violin music of Nicola Matteis (b Naples ?, d London? 1714? Although not much is known about his birth and death, don't feel too badly for him - he came from Italy, married a rich widow in London and retired wealthy from the music scene, which is why not so much is known) is mostly virtuosic and pretty, rather than deep and beautiful. Ornamental and diverting, not profound. On the other hand, the second movement of the suite in A major, Book IV, Nos. 1-11, the 2 minute long Andamento con divisione is so sweet without being overwhelming that it just stops me on the album until I've played it three or four times in a row. There's something about the ostinato in three - very hard to explain except that I can play it over and over. (The Arcadian Academy, on Harmonia Mundi, here.)

Meanwhile, I am sitting here on a Saturday morning deep in the midst of writing my TLS review essay of ... the Simpsons Movie. Knowing that I will be launching something that, although unlikely to encounter too many fanatics among the readers of the TLS, nonetheless will be likely scrutinized at some point by some hard core fan, so I have been online making sure the details are right.

My review is filled with plot spoilers, I'm afraid. Worse, I am committing the (venal) sin of doing a serious review of a fun and funny summer movie, a cartoon no less. I am pairing it with a review of my colleague Angela J. Davis's new, brilliant book on the overwheening power of prosecutors in America, Arbitrary Justice (Oxford UP 2007). I should have included this in my reading post, earlier, but didn't because I knew I'd be reviewing the book - this book is must-reading for anyone trying to understand what has gone so dreadfully wrong with street-level American justice. As regular readers of this blog know, as some sort of libertarian conservative, I am willing to defend many institutions and policies in America that progressives find indefensible - the war on terror, the war in Iraq, not infrequently the Bush administration - but the American criminal justice system is not one of them, and that fundamentally for the reasons Professor Davis says.

Combining the Simpsons and Professor Davis might turn out to be a bad idea, from the craft of review writing point of view - downmarketing Professor Davis's intellectual and legal policy tour de force while making the Simpson out to be more than it is. But while watching and laughing my way through the movie, I kept being struck by the thought: that T-shirt I used to see in the 90s, "What Would Bart Do?" (checking Google, I see you could get the slogan on a thong, too) today should be replaced with "What Would They Do To Bart?"

The latter not as cute and catchy as the former, granted. But in today's world of apparently unconstrained prosecutorial power, possibly more relevant. Godalmighty, what do you say about someone sentenced ten years for consensual oral sex with a fifteen year when he was seventeen and in high school in Georgia - finally, finally overturned by a judge after pretty much every other appeal had been exhausted - except that he was pursued by a crazed and unaccountable prosecutor? And then the butt swatting thirteen year old middle schoolers pursued by a mad, unaccountable, self-righteous prosecutor in Oregon on felony sexual assault charges designed to put the boys, as he said in interviews, on the sexual offenders register for child molesters and pedophiles for the rest of their lives. Life imitates a Simpsons cartoon - without necessarily the happy cartoon endings.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Nicola Matteis, do you know the Chatham Baroque recording of Matteis' music called "The Scotch Humour" on Dorian Recordings (DOR 90256)?

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