- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

TV's influence
"One of the most influential people in American culture today is a TV comic who cannot even manage to win his time slot. That is just one of the many ironies swirling around CBS late-night host David Letterman. Cool and composed, indirect and innocent, Letterman says just the opposite of what he means, boomeranging his put-downs by making them sound like grandiose compliments. In doing so he not only slams his target but also spikes phony sincerity and with it, the whole culture of Sucking Up to Get Ahead.
"Over the past 20 years, this brand of sarcasm has become the primary element of American dialect, and Letterman himself drew it out. No other entertainer in the modern era has had such a profound effect on the way people conduct such a basic element conversation of their daily lives.
"What Letterman would eventually do came to reflect this: politics and national affairs are just more silly celebrity stuff, a phantasmagoria of goofy personalities and silly pronouncements."
Michael Long, writing on "Letterman's Last Laugh," in the fall issue of American Outlook

Tolerance matters
"[T]his 11 September, across the continent, millions of pupils, from kindergarten to high school, will be studying such central questions as whether the stereotyped images on 1942 War Bonds posters made German-Americans feel uncomfortable. Evidently, they made German-American Dwight D. Eisenhower so uncomfortable that he went off and liberated Europe. But I don't suppose that's what the NEA had in mind.
"I don't think the teachers' union are 'Hate America' types. Very few Americans are. But, rather, they're in thrall to a kind of enervating cult of tolerance in which you demonstrate your sensitivity to other cultures by being almost totally insensitive to your own.
"The NEA study suggestions have a bit of everything in them: your teacher might pluck out Roosevelt's 'Four Freedoms'; on the other hand, she might wind up at the discussion topic about whether it was irresponsible for the media to show video footage of Palestinians celebrating September 11 as this allegedly led to increased hostility toward Arabs. Real live Arab intolerance is not a problem except insofar as it risks inflaming yet more mythical American intolerance."
Mark Steyn, writing on "The War Bush Is Losing," in the Aug. 24 issue of the Spectator

Superficial 'City'?
"So far, this has been a marvelous, melancholy season of 'Sex and the City,' in which the women have stayed close to home, excepting one field trip to Atlantic City, and I've been with them for every plucky minute. The show's themes now seem less consumerist (less hay is made of shoes), and its jokes are less strident.
"I keep meaning to ask friends in San Diego or Denver if they like 'Sex and the City' at all, but I'm afraid to hear the answer. I assume that these friends with houses and children think that the loose, merry quartet are whiny and superficial. But what do they make of the glossary of New York terms the show is perpetually providing in order to add credence to the show's somewhat forced thesis that everything is different in New York? Do they find it tantalizing, comical, obvious, irritating?
"The effect of 'Sex and the City,' like 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' is dizzying, with its heroine always improvising, harmlessly stumbling, and then suddenly getting very lucky which is true to anyone's youth in a city.
"It wasn't until this season that I was totally won over by 'Sex and the City.' Now I love it: The midcentury Technicolor look of the show; the repertory ease of the performances; the small drama of female friendship; the glee; the life-goes-on charge the show provides all of it makes me smile."
Virginia Heffernan, writing "Breakfast at Empathy's," posted Aug. 22 on Slate at www.slate.com

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