- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Eager for the spotlight
"Every once in a while, Shania Twain will munch on a carrot stick, whip her curly hair over her shoulder and issue a modest decree. It is worth paying attention to these pronouncements, even though Twain, who is Canadian and thus constitutionally averse to star trips, never quite means what she says. On a brisk October night, with the bleat of Paris traffic in her ears, the Twain fiat is this: she is going to stop singing in public. 'I never burned to perform, and I don't care if I ever perform again,' she says. 'I have no need to do that.'
"First in line among the things she has no need to do is 'Star Academy,' a French reality game show in which marginally talented young aspirants live in a house and vote one another out on the basis of their progress in becoming slick professional singers. (Imagine the cheese factor of 'Big Brother,' 'Survivor' and 'American Idol' in French.)
"But just a few hours after her edict about performing, Twain, 37, is singing her signature ballad, 'You're Still the One,' in a duet with Jeremy, a young Frenchman whose penchant for accidental key changes augurs poorly for an extended stay at le 'Star Academy' chateau. As Jeremy bludgeons the first verse, Twain closes her eyes and sways in a convincing facsimile of joy."
Josh Tyrangiel, writing on "Shania Reigns," in the Dec. 9 issue of Time

SUV lifestyle
"Not surprisingly, most SUV customers over the past decade hail from a group that is the embodiment of American narcissism: baby boomers. Affluent, and often socially liberal, baby boomers have embraced the four-wheel-drive SUV as a symbol of their ability to defy the conventions of old age, of their independence and 'outdoorsiness,' making the off-road vehicle a force to be reckoned with on the American blacktop.
"But as [Keith] Bradsher declares in his [new book, 'High and Mighty: SUVs'], this baby boomer fetish is considerably more harmful than the mere annoyance of yet another Rolling Stones tour or the endless commercials for Propecia. In their attempt to appear youthful and hip, SUV owners have filled the American highways with vehicles that exact a distinctly human cost, frequently killing innocent drivers who would have survived a collision with a lesser vehicle.
"Bradsher quotes auto execs who concede that the self-centered lifestyle of SUV buyers is apparent in 'their willingness to endanger other motorists so as to achieve small improvements in their personal safety.'"
Stephanie Mencimer, writing on "Bumper Mentality," in the December issue of the Washington Monthly

Getting it wrong
"Many profilers and pundits, prodded by interviewers, plunged into a din of speculation, much of it wrong. Certainly no one predicted the eventual suspects would be two black men, the elder, John Allen Muhammad, 41, a father figure to the younger, John Lee Malvo, 17. No one envisioned Malvo as a Jamaican immigrant or Muhammad as a drifter born in Louisiana many of the profilers said they were local. Nobody anticipated that SWAT teams would apprehend the unemployed, homeless pair asleep in their blue Chevy Caprice. Far from sharpening the public's comprehension, the incessant speculation may have exacerbated people's confusion and frustration and, perhaps, hampered the search for the snipers.
"At times, the predictions appeared as haphazard as the selection of victims. 'He's probably Caucasian. He's probably in his 30s,' forensic psychologist N.G. Berrill told ABC on October 8.
"Bo Dietl, a retired New York City homicide detective and chairman of a security and investigations company, said he believed two white teenagers, brainwashed by video games, had styled themselves after Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold."
Rachel Smolkin, writing on "Off Target," in the December issue of the American Journalism Review

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