- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

Not so bizarre

“My parents, in a very earnest bid to secure my eternal happiness, have been trying to marry me off to, well, just about anyone lately. In my childhood home near Sacramento, my father is up at night on arranged-marriage Web sites. And the result — strange e-mails from boys’ fathers and stranger dates with those boys themselves — has become so much a part of my dating life that I’ve lost sight of how bizarre it once seemed. …

“I will admit to needing a little romantic assistance. Since moving here a few years ago, I’d hardly describe my dating life as successful. …

“Indians of my mother’s generation — in fact, my mother herself — like to say of arranged marriage, ‘It’s not that there isn’t love. It’s just that it comes after the marriage.’ I’m still not sure I buy it. But after a decade of … short-lived affairs with married men and [Internet dating] flirtations and emotionally bankrupt boyfriends and, oddly, the most painful of all, the guys who just never call, it no longer seems like the most outlandish possibility.”

Anita Jain, writing on “Is Arranged Marriage Really Any Worse Than Craigslist?” in the April 4 issue of New York

‘Pure redneck’

“The rise of great champion Richard Petty and the fall of superstar Dale Earnhardt, whose death in the 2001 Daytona 500 … was witnessed by tens of millions of television viewers worldwide, were but two of scores of seminal moments that raised NASCAR from its Piedmont Plateau roots and its whiskey-hauling bootlegger drivers to international prominence.

“Its origins were pure redneck. Its great early drivers, like Petty’s father, Lee, and Tom Wolfe’s immortalized ‘Last American Hero’ Junior Johnson, learned their craft hauling moonshine across the Carolina hills in souped-up Ford coupes that, for entertainment and a few extra dollars, they raced on Sundays on rutted ovals carved out of the red clay of the Southern cotton field and piney woods.”

Brock Yates, writing on “The NASCAR Red State,” in the April issue of the American Spectator

Cartoon dangers

“For literary critic Irving Howe, the famous creations of Walt Disney conjured up the spectre of the hated Nazi storm troopers.

” ‘On the surface, the Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons seem merely pleasant little fictions, but they are actually over-laden with the most competitive, aggressive and sadistic themes,’ he wrote in Politics magazine in 1948. ‘Often on the verge of hysteria, Donald Duck is a frustrated little monster who has something of the SS man in him and who we, also having something of the SS man in us, naturally find quite charming.’ …

“Comics are now studied in the academy, archived in research libraries and lavishly reprinted in expensive collector volumes. In one Toronto high school, they have been used for the past three years as part of a successful program to boost literacy. And the recent rise of the graphic novel and manga (Japanese comic books), not to mention the recent massive success of Hollywood films based on comics (‘Spider-Man,’ “Spider-Man 2,’ ‘Hulk,’ ‘Ghost World’), has only strengthened the form’s cultural importance.

“Yet surveying the long history of intellectuals and comics, we shouldn’t assume that this current resurgence of praise will be permanent. …

“Perhaps a backlash wouldn’t be such a bad thing. There is value in an art form being perceived as dangerous.”

Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester, writing on “Intellectual Marijuana: comics and their critics,” Sunday in the Toronto Star

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