- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

Diva decline

“Even Judy Garland’s most iconic on-screen ballad performances seem small compared with the last lingering shot of [‘Dreamgirls’ star Jennifer] Hudson, the camera whirling overhead as she blasts out a final ‘You’re gonna love me!’ …

“The term diva has gotten rather watered down in current pop culture usage, to the point where the title is given to any moderately famous actress or singer with an air of hauteur about her and a personal trainer in her employ.

‘But, in the classical musical formulation, Paris Hilton is certainly no diva — and for that matter, neither is Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. Old-fashioned divadom entails not just an imperious attitude and a big voice, but a theme — pain, particularly as supplied by callous men and cruel fate — and a task: to transcend that anguish through cathartic declamation. You know the divas of whom I speak: Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday, Garland, Aretha Franklin, and today’s Queen of Pain, Mary J. Blige. And now, perhaps, Jennifer Hudson.”

— Jody Rosen, writing on “The Greatest Song Ever Filmed,” Thursday in at Slate at www.slate.com

Blog blitz

“The reason for a blog’s being is: Here’s my opinion, right now.

“But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting — the news — already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet, all this is accelerated.

“The blogs must be timely if they are to influence politics. … Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought — instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior. …

“Because political blogs are predictable, they are excruciatingly boring. More acutely, they promote intellectual disingenuousness, with every constituency hostage to its assumptions and the party line.”

— Joseph Rago, writing on “The Blog Mob,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal

Bah, humbug

“The secularist camp, led by Tom Flynn … charges that ‘Merry Christmas’ is used to condemn and exclude non-Christians from the month or so between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, a season that the Christians have hijacked, and with their traditions ‘poisoned the December air.’ Americans, says Flynn, ‘need to recognize that a war of sorts is genuinely in progress, a war to redefine American life … and it is desperately important that non-Christians win.’

“Trying to follow Mr. Flynn’s twisted reasoning is like trying to follow a white line in a snowstorm. Christians, he claims, are attempting to redefine American life, and if they succeed America will be rendered all but unrecognizable. Worse, if the secularists are defeated, no one will be safe from Christmas carolers, Salvation Army bell ringers and Charlie Brown Christmas specials. … Wishing someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ may in fact constitute hate speech, equal in effect to cross burning. …

“Who would have thought that one little phrase, one little wish for happiness and peace on earth would cause such hard feelings, such belligerencies?”

— Christopher Orlet, writing on “Merry Christmas as Hate Speech,” Tuesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

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