Two Letters From The Times

by tristero

The Times has some astute letter writers:
To the Editor:

Re “Once More, With Feeling,” by Maureen Dowd (column, May 30):

Where is it written that the president of the United States should be everyone’s “daddy”?

We elected a president, and this one, for a change, is bright, articulate and coolheaded, and appears to work very hard to understand the troubling problems confronting the United States and most of the world.

This country’s leaders and its people are not participants in a TV reality show or Facebook “friends.” There are many serious issues to be addressed and we do not need a weepy, angry, emotional president “feeling” his way to solutions. It is a dearth of critical thinking, contingency planning and discipline that has brought us to our present sorry state.

Barbara Hood
Louisville, Ky., May 31, 2010

To the Editor:

It’s discouraging to see many calling for the president to “get angry” or show more outward emotion regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What would that accomplish?

The president is not some puppet that must lash out as some in the public might find appropriate. He’s the president. And you know what? He’s acting like one.

Dylan J. Taatjes
Boulder, Colo., May 30, 2010
To those amongst my dear readers who simply cannot abide a blogpost that defends Obama without also dissing him, I"m sorry to disappoint you but these letter writers are, imo, 100% right.

I think I have a pretty good idea of the importance of emotional connections and expression. My "job" composing music - it is hardly that, more like a necessity, sometimes an albatross, more often a source of unalloyed joy - depends upon my ability to express and act upon my feelings. I rely upon gut instincts, hunches, wild experiments, and the fluctuations of my mood - well, actually I'll try anything at all - when I'm composing.

I know many people find this difficult to believe, but leading the United States (translated: the world, at least in the early 3rd Millenium) requires a slightly different skill-set and emotional makeup than composing string quartets. Gut instinct just doesn't cut it: reason does. Emotional lability leads to erratic, bizarre decision making. You really want someone calm, cool, and collected as president. You most certainly don't want a hothead like Bush or - just as frightening - McCain. In short, you want someone smart and in control of his emotions - if not Obama, then someone with equal or greater ability for rational thought and - unavoidably - someone capable of deep political calculation.

Ummmm...Heh, alright. I'll come clean. I was very misleading right now and, in order to set the record straight, I'm going to let you in on a dirty little secret about music, all music making and probably any artistic endeavor, that historical Ground Zero for expressing your feelings.

Emotions have very little to do with it. Don't get me wrong: You absolutely must be in touch with how you feel, but that is the famous 1% inspiration in the formula that emphasizes 99% perspiration. One example:

I've heard stories about the making of The Who's classic albums, of Pete Townsend, John Entwhistle, and Keith Moon rehearsing for hours getting the interplay between the bass drums, the bass guitar, and the guitar exactly right. I've heard stories that even then, Townsend wasn't satisfied and would spend unspeakably long hours in the studio with an engineer, adding bass drum beats or deleting them, to get them to lock together in a way that sounds completely and utterly spontaneous. That's The Who, people, the folks who made a career out of onstage "rage" - it was faked, duh - that ended in smashing their instruments to bits (not fake, but less damage was done than it looked).

I could tell similar stories about every band, every orchestra, every songwriter, every composer. Even jazz, you ask, that has to be, by definition, in the moment? Folks, I met Teo Macero and asked him. I know what went into producing those straight from the heart "free" improvisations on the classic albums. Hint: lots and lots of editing for one thing.

In other words, even in the most emotion-laden activities, high, consistent achievement on a world-class level requires enormous amounts of experience, a tremendous amount of foreknowledge, and a very reasonable head to meticulously parse, examine, and choose among those emotional expressions as coldly as a surgeon.

So these calls for Obama to behave like a Big Daddy to rage and weep are worse than stupid and embarrassing. They're ignorant and dangerous. As I see it, it is to Obama's great credit that he has made a point, since he was president, not to play the populist rabble rouser. Genuine governance is ill-served by some power freak who's trying to tap into America's inner Tom Friedman and goes around saying, and far worse, believing this is the way a president should think:
One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit