- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Glamorous

“After C-SPAN reran a 1999 BookNotes interview about my first book, I received an e-mail from a disappointed viewer. He was chagrined to hear that I was editing a Web site called DeepGlamour instead of writing ‘more serious nonfiction.’ Glamour, he implied, is a trivial subject, unworthy of consideration by people who watch, much less appear on, C-SPAN.

“To which I have two words of response: Barack Obama. In an era of tell-all memoirs, ubiquitous paparazzi, and reality-show exhibitionism, glamour may seem absent from Hollywood. But Obama demonstrates that its magic still exists. What a glamorous candidate he was — less a person than a persona, an idealized, self-contained figure onto whom audiences projected their own dreams, a Garbo-like ‘impassive receptacle of passionate hopes and impossible expectations,’ in the words of Time’s Joe Klein. …

“Now, of course, Obama is experiencing glamour’s downside: the disillusionment that sets in when imagination meets reality. Hence James Lileks’s recent quip about another contemporary object of glamour, ‘The Apple tablet is the Barack Obama of technology. It’s whatever you want it to be, until you actually get it.’”

Virginia Postrel, on “A Power to Persuade,” in the March 29 edition of the Weekly Standard

Tolstoy’s Obama

“I have read other novels where the controlling idea of the story came to serve as a lens through which I viewed my days, but never has this happened quite as thoroughly as it did with War and Peace.

“Tolstoy’s intellectual agenda in the book was to expose the meagerness of historical accounts of the War of 1812 that tried to reduce the world-remaking conflict to a finite and knowable set of causes. Instead, Tolstoy wanted to depict the war in all its complexity and contingency, to show that the outcome rested at least as much on the decision of an individual soldier to charge or not as it did on Napoleon’s machinations, and that both the soldiers and the Emperor were controlled equally by forces larger than themselves.

“It’s an expansive idea and one that finds ready application in almost any facet of one’s life. I thought of Tolstoy when reading about climate change (he probably would have been a skeptic) and when assessing President Obama’s leadership on health care (I think, based on his favorable depiction of General Kutuzov, who abandoned Moscow to the French in order to preserve the Russian army, that Tolstoy would have endorsed Obama’s decision to forego the public option).”

Kevin Hartnett, writing on “Reading War and Peace: The Effects of Great Art on an Ordinary Life,” on March 16 at The Millions

No nostalgia

“[‘Hot Tub Time Machine’] is soulless because as you’re exiting the theatre you realize it’s not about anything other than four narcissists getting everything they want. The story’s emotional center is only about achieving pleasure, not happiness, and obtaining wealth, sex and drugs are portrayed as worthy goals. If there’s any kind of moral, it’s to stick with and enable your loser high school buddies no matter how degenerate and immature they are. …

“The pervasive ugliness that emanates from the film’s every pore is largely the result of that cynical, hip, smarter-than-thou attitude that infects way too many movies these days. It’s a lazy way for filmmakers to avoid the hard work of pulling off sentiment but it also reflects a rancid Hollywood culture trying to sell their own sense of nihilism as some kind of virtue. This may be the first movie where our protagonists travel back to their youth and never once experience even a moment of wistful nostalgia. The film sneers at everything 1986, from the fashions to the metal bands. And naturally the story’s rich preppie bullies all worship ‘Red Dawn’ and see communists ‘round every corner.”

John Nolte, writing on “Cynical, Strained ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ Hates the 1980s,” on March 29 at the Breitbart site Big Hollywood

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