- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006

Realism?

“Saudi Arabia has long thought of Iraq as its buffer against Iran and for this reason opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein and would not allow its soil to be used for the operation. Saudi princes and officials have long been worried by the state of opinion among the Shiite underclass in Saudi Arabia itself, because this underclass … happens to live and work in and around the oil fields. Since 2003, there have been increasing signs of discontent from them, including demands for more religious and political freedom.

“In 1991, which is also the year when the present crisis in Iraq actually began, it was Saudi influence that helped convince President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker to leave Saddam Hussein in power and to permit him to crush the Shiite intifada that broke out as his regime reeled from defeat in Kuwait. If, when reading an article about the debate over Iraq, you come across the expression ‘the realist school’ and mentally substitute the phrase ‘the American friends of the Saudi royal family,’ your understanding of the situation will invariably be enhanced.”

— Christopher Hitchens, writing on “The Real Sunni Triangle,” Dec. 18 in Slate at www.slate.com

Chinese capitalism

“Zhang Yimou’s ‘Curse of the Golden Flower’ is a huge hit in China; its four-day take of $12.3 million in four days was the highest ever for a domestic movie. But now other distributors are complaining, claiming that ‘all other films were blocked from being shown in 200 digital cinemas in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou,’ and that cinemas have made promises to show only ‘Curse,’ leading other companies to worry about their films’ upcoming release dates.

“Nonsense, says [the movie’s] distributor. ‘If the digital cinemas choose to screen only “Golden Flower,” it is the choice of the market,’ says the promotion director of the company behind ‘Curse.’ See, people? It’s just the ways of the free market. Get with it. What are you, communists?”

— Bilge Ebiri, writing on “Who Lost China? Well, Apparently Nobody,” Thursday at www.nerve.com

Bohemia Inc.

“Feeling pretty gloomy about the cultural scene, [Lee Siegel of the New Republic] mounts a sweeping indictment of his contemporaries [in his new book, ‘Falling Upwards’], dismissing along the way a generation or two of artists, writers and critics. … Bohemia is just another subsidiary of the Very Big Corporation, Inc.; its motto: ‘Get your own, and get it fast, and do it behind a virtuous appearance and with an optimistic air.’

“The obstacles to unfettered imagination are everywhere: reality TV, memoirs galore, novels propped up by historical ‘research’ (‘The Da Vinci Code’) — all examples of a culture afflicted by a pernicious ‘art-suspicion.’ …

“His complaint is not new: ‘It seems harder and harder to make a work of art that does not conform to the dictates of the trivializing media,’ he fumes, ‘or that does not follow the lead of marketing experts in direct consultation with gallery owners and book and magazine editors.’ Enough of that, he declares: ‘The critic’s passion should be to expose the shams, the false consciousness, the cleverly accommodating patter that are turning expedience into culture.’ ”

— Matthew Price, writing on “The Critic as Pugilist, Champion of High Art,” in the Dec. 25 issue of the New York Observer

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