Friday, November 30, 2001

Sensitive war
“Are you a Western leader of the Judeo-Christian or Agnostic-Atheist persuasion? Want to issue a public statement on how much you respect and value Islam as a peaceful religion of moderation and tolerance? Take a number, pal. The Queen’s spoken of her respect for “the Islamic community,” so’s the Pope and Tony Blair. President Bush does it at least a couple of times a day. A week ago, he hosted the White House’s first ever Ramadan dinner not a banquet, that would have been insensitive, and the whole point of the administration’s ‘Ramadan public relations offensive’ is, according to The Washington Post, to ‘highlight its sensitivity to Islamictradition.’
“This is the most sensitive war in history. The president has recommended that each American schoolchild get a Middle Eastern pen pal, though, with the current anthrax scare, I don’t suppose the U.S. Postal Service is especially eager for a lot of envelopes with childlike handwriting from Mullah al-Mahrah’s fourth grade at the Sword of the Jew-Slayer Elementary School in Kandahar. Last time round, FDR interned Japanese-Americans. Not only has Bush no plans to intern Muslim Americans, it wouldn’t surprise me if he interned himself, just to ‘send the right message.’
“Do you find our language too insensitive? Fine. Let’s make ‘Koran’ ‘Quran,’ or better yet, ‘Qu’ran’ whatever you want, the more the merrier.”
Mark Steyn, writing on “The most sensitive war in history,” Monday in the National Post

Dangerous ‘Buffy’
“There are still people out there who will refuse to believe that a show called ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ created and written by a guy named Joss Whedon, could possibly deal with anything remotely sophisticated, let alone some of the darkest, most deeply recessed sexual fears and longings of the soul. In fact, it’s rare to see sex dealt with so bracingly even at the movies. With the exception of David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive,’ I can’t think of a recent movie that dealt with the emotional risks and dangers of sex in such a startling and affecting way.
“‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ has always been a show that takes chances, but it seems to be headed in a direction that’s more daring than ever. In a culture where sex is supposedly all around us and yet true, intense sexuality is in desperately short supply, the show’s openness its willingness to face up to the messiness and potential danger of sex is glorious and revelatory.”
Stephanie Zacharek, writing on “Buffy’s will-to-power,” Wednesday in Salon at

Ho-hum Harry
“[‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’] eventually drags through the air rather than flies; at some two and a half hours, it’s one long game of heroes-and-challenges. By the time Harry faces the evil Lord Voldemort, ‘Harry Potter’ tilts, overloaded with fact at the expense of magical fiction. Still, this is an engineering problem that ought to be correctable. ‘It’s really the wand that chooses the wizard,’ Mr. Ollivander tells Harry when the boy receives his special stick, with which he will learn to do wonders in years (and sequels) to come. [Author J.K.] Rowling’s writing stick is naturally sharp, steeled with wit; [director Chris] Columbus’ wand made in America of modern Hollywood materials is naturally soft.
“But surely there’s a magic Hogwarts potion somewhere that can be ingested by the filmmakers before ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ comes out next fall, isn’t there? That, at any rate, is what this fan sees when she looks into the Mirror of Erised, which, as Dumbledore explains, ‘shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.’”
Lisa Schwartzbaum, writing on “Hogwarts and All,” in the Nov. 23 issue of Entertainment Weekly

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