- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

Diva dream

“The song (‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ from ‘Dreamgirls’) is a meticulously crafted diva number, an anthem of pain and loss and indomitable will that goes on and on and on, testing not only its singer’s vocal range but her physical stamina. … A colleague who saw the premiere of ‘Dreamgirls’ on Broadway back in 1981 told me he has long dated the rise of the modern pop diva to this very song, a song meant to prove its singer’s worth beyond doubt or complaint, a song that wears the audience down, forcing even the most reluctant listener to acquiesce to its methodical, bullying ideal of virtuosity. This musical aesthetic has of course been a staple of the diva mills of ‘American Idol’ and, before it, ‘Star Search,’ so it should come as no surprise that, prior to ‘Dreamgirls,’ [Jennfier] Hudson’s great claim to fame was being a finalist on ‘Idol.’

“Indeed the ethos of ‘Idol’ permeates ‘Dreamgirls,’ as the various performers alternate opportunities to knock our socks off with their musical exertions. … [W]hy bother with fancy choreography or set design or camera work when it’ll only distract from how hard, how very, very hard these performers are working to win our approval? All that’s missing is Simon Cowell. Which is a shame: He might have had a few choice words for this talent show masquerading as a motion picture.”

— Christopher Orr, writing on “Dream On,” Wednesday in the New Republic Online at www.tnr.com

Girl gang

“A few years ago, after I wrote a story … on the then-burgeoning Internet-dating scene, timid young editors from ReganBooks began to call to ask if I wanted to write books on various topics. … [Judith] Regan asked me to lunch, and we instantly bonded. To a woman, there’s something enticing about Regan’s anti-plastic surgery, pro-sex feminist stance, mixed with a She-Devil-ish anger at the power men have in the world. … Aren’t you sick of playing by men’s rules, having male editors, writing about what men want you to write about? she asked. She was building her own gang, her own posse, to take on the publishing industry, and I was going to be her capo. We had to make our own group, she said, like the Jews.

“Somehow, this didn’t make me run screaming from the restaurant (I am married to a Jew, for the record). I think I took it as a joke at the time, plus, as many of her supporters have pointed out in the wake of the scandal, she says so many crazy things in conversation that such statements don’t sound like ugly hatemongering coming out of her mouth.”

— Vanessa Grigoriadis, writing in the Feb. 5 issue of New York

Idiot-proof

“How do we limit the power that idiots have over us?

“One solution, that might be traced to the expression ‘philosopher-king’ associated with Plato, is to hand the reins of government to the best and the brightest. Since the late 19th-century, the Progressive Movement in American politics has championed this approach. …

“The other way to avoid having our lives run by idiots is to limit the power that others have over us. This is the approach that was embedded in our Constitution, before it was eviscerated by the Progressives. It is the approach for which Milton Friedman was a passionate advocate. …

“Friedman argued that no matter how wise the officials of government may be, market competition does a better job of protecting us from idiots.”

— Arnold Kling, writing on “Plato’s Republic or Milton Friedman’s Market?” Jan. 29 in TCS Daily at www.tcsdaily.com

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