- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

Hollywood history
"Popular culture does not think of history as the march of time, one event flowing out of another in a sequence or complete chain. Rather it views history as fragmented, as discrete events that have little relationship to one another. History, therefore, is useful as a potential source of entertainment, for highlighting political issues, and for recognizing the rights of minorities… .
"Popular culture plays with history. A number of movies are almost impossible to place in any given time period. The movie 'The Mask is sometimes 50s- and 60s-ish, and sometimes from the 90s. You cannot be certain. 'Blade Runner borrowed from the noir type of films … of the 40s but was set 40 years in the future… . Some movies even tinker with time and time-continuum paradoxes, either playfully, as in 'Back to the Future, or in a mind-boggling hyper-jump, as in 'The Matrix. Other movies incorporate so many flashbacks and flash-forwards that the confused audience gets lost in time."
—Chuck Smith Jr., from his new book, "The End of the World … As We Know It"

Prison nation

"The United States of America has become, in Christian Parentis words, 'Big House Nation. Prisons are growing in numbers held and are big business. Over 2 million people are in prison… . Another 3 million are doing time today in an outer prison of regimented society, under care of the court system, exposed to unannounced visits from parole and probation officers, mandatory urine tests, home detention, or the invisible tether of electronic bracelets. Just since 1980, the prison population has nearly quadrupled, constituting the largest and most frenetic correctional buildup of any country in the history of the world… .
"Parenti reports that yearly expenses from the correction industry are between $20 and $35 billion annually, with 'more than 523,000 full-time employees working in American corrections — more than in any Fortune 500 company except General Motors. More than $7 billion annually has been spent on prison construction in the 1990s… .
"The phenomenal growth of the prison industry, a Gulag America, is often seen as justified because it allegedly reduces violent crime… . In fact, the buildup is due more to locking up people for more minor offenses, which have little to do with the rise or fall of incidents of violent crime."
—Mark Lewis Taylor in his new book, "The Executed God"

Free love for sale

"[T]he 1968 Broadway musical 'Hair was an important turning point in American culture in very interesting and unexpected ways, especially for conservatives obsessed with the legacy of the 1960s… .
"'Hair was originally billed as the 'tribal love-rock musical, and it was discussed at the time of its opening with the weird, breathless reverence that characterized mainstream discussions of the youth culture. The fact that 'Hair had no plot and was merely a series of vignettes and drug-induced hallucinations experienced by sketchy characters who are all members of a hippie clique living in the East Village was seen as a great leap forward… .
"hile hippie culture may have imagined itself to be anti-capitalist and anti-materialist and anti-war and anti-racist, its participants were all unknowingly part of a massive marketing scheme. The philosophy of free love, which had been bandied about throughout the 20th century by the cultural avant-garde, became a mass-market sensation — the cultural wedge for opening up the marketing possibilities of sex. When the Bloomsburyites were bed-hopping, could they ever have imagined that 70 years later, their chief contribution to world culture would be topless news broadcasts in Russia and late-night soft-core offerings on Cinemax?"
—Jon Podhoretz, writing on "Back to Aquarius," May 4 in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com


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