- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Witchcraft is real

"Our world is exploding with interest in real witchcraft. Type 'How can I become a witch?' in Google.com and you'll get listings for dozens of related sites. The same query in AskJeeves.com brings up many articles the main one giving a simple eight-step process for becoming a witch on your own.

"In just days, my local Barnes & Noble bookstore nearly sold out its floor display of Teen Witch Kits (complete with paper altars). Furthermore, author J.K. Rowling admits that some Harry Potter readers have convinced themselves that Harry's world is real.

"Rowling has said she gets letters all the time, desperate letters addressed to Hogwarts, begging to be allowed to attend Harry's school. When fantasy produces that kind of reaction, we are naive to assume that witchcraft is merely a harmless, fun literary device."

Jacqui Komschlies, writing on "The Perils of Harry Potter," in the Oct. 23 Christianity Today

Sensitivity police

"Gone is the once idyllic environment of America's universities, where the free exchange of opinion was promoted. At a recent SUNY-Albany student picnic in honor of Jackie Robinson's breaking of major league baseball's color barrier in 1947, a fury erupted. A bizarre debate emerged when 40 students objected to the event being called a 'picnic' a term these students incorrectly alleged emanated from racial lynchings. (actually, the word derives from the French term pique-nique, for a social event where attendees bring the food.)

"Despite the wrongfully placed angst, SUNY-Albany student leaders forbade the occasion from being publicized as a picnic. But the problem did not end there. When the organizers considered calling the event an 'outing,' a homosexual student leader objected, noting the term's use to describe the public attribution of homosexuality. Eventually, the event was publicized without a title.

"SUNY-Albany's Student Assembly Affirmative Action Director Zuheer Mustafa told the Albany Times Union, 'My job is to make sure people from underrepresented groups are heard. Whether the claims are true or not, the point is the word "offended." ' Now this is a curious standard. It means that if somebody considers a word offensive, even if the word is [not] … the authorities are obligated to prevent its use."

Herbert I. London in "The Decline of American Universities" in the November/December American Outlook

Confronting demons

" 'Only nuts are interesting people,' director Roman Polanski once said, referring to the characters in the classic 'Rosemary's Baby.' … That sentiment applies to much of his oeuvre; Polanksi, one of the towering auteurs of the 1960s and '70s, is a specialist in moral decay, not least because of the harrowing circumstances of his life. Born in Paris in 1933, Polanski was raised in the Jewish ghetto in Krawkow, Poland, until his parents were sent to concentration camps (his mother died in the gas chambers)… .

"In 1969, Polanski's second wife, actress Sharon Tate, was stabbed to death by the Charles Manson family when she was eight months pregnant… . Several years later came his masterpiece, 'Chinatown,' a study of political and sexual corruption in 1930s Los Angeles… .

"In 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old and left the States before sentencing; he has lived in Paris ever since… . At 67, the director is still confronting his demons: His current project, 'The Pianist' … addresses the Holocaust."

Andy Webster, writing on "Filmography: Roman Polanski," in the November issue of Premiere

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