- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Normal problems

“As the world has recently learned, even Tom Cruise has problems. Not just movie-star problems, such as disappointing reviews or annoying tabloid reports, but normal-person problems. To wit, it has been 10 months since Cruise filed for divorce from his wife of 10 years, Nicole Kidman, and four months since the divorce was finalized. The news stunned everybody, even those who never really cared about Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in the first place.

“After all, this was Tom and Nicole, who were never apart for more than two weeks at a time; Tom and Nicole, who groped each other like a couple of kids, at least when there were cameras around; Tom and Nicole, who starred together in Stanley Kubrick’s difficult movie about sexual jealousy ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ and came out, they said, only more bonded to each other. Tom and Nicole, the one Hollywood supercouple, with two kids, who knew how to make it work.

“Kidman has scored higher in the bid for public sympathy.”

Evgenia Peretz, writing on “Being Tom Cruise,” in the January issue of Vanity Fair

Art of innocence

“[Artist Norman] Rockwell not only showed us people in situations with which everyone was familiar, he showed them as having the feelings that go with being in those situations. We can criticize Rockwell for causing feelings or for the feelings he causes but it is there that what makes him distinctive as an artist must be found.

“Consider ‘After the Prom’ (1957). A young couple sit at a counter, which they share with a man in a work leather jacket and a sort of aviator’s cap. The couple are in prom clothes. She is showing her corsage to the counterman, while the boy looks on with pride. The couple embody an innocence that contrasts with the counterman’s feigned but well-intentioned wonder. It contrasts as well with the somewhat down at the heels decor of the diner. The couple have brought the freshness of this moment of their lives into the stale air of ordinary life. The couple are bathed in the halo of their own innocence.

“The figure of innocence is a central device in Rockwell’s best paintings.”

Arthur C. Danto, writing on “Age of Innocence,” in the Jan. 7/Jan. 14 issue of the Nation

Progress, no

“Stop the presses. Put down the guns. Prepare the olive branches. [Yasser] Arafat has made a speech in which he has agreed that the regular killing of innocent Israeli men, women, and children is bad for peace, and should even stop. The speech on Dec. 16 was supposed to be a historic intervention in the midst of a disaster the momentous eruption of an official Palestinian conscience about Palestinian terror.

“The required words of conciliation are there ‘I reiterate the declared cease-fire,’ Arafat said and so were the words that the Western governments were keen to hear ‘to totally stop all actions, including the suicidal attacks that we have condemned, and [we] will pursue their sponsors and organizers.’

“Progress, yes? Progress, no. Arafat’s allegedly golden words were set in a context of alibis, extenuations, and affirmations of precisely the mentality that the speech was supposed to delegitimate.

“This great address against the politics of martyrdom began this way: ‘Brothers and sisters, my fellow citizens and striving brave Palestinians; mothers, fathers and brothers of the martyrs; you who have sacrificed the dearest of our children for the sake of victory and freedom, and for the sake of the holy city of Jerusalem.’ Not a castigation of eschatological violence, exactly. And the speech ended this way: ‘To all my beloved fellow brave citizens in Palestine and in the exile, I greet you all and call on you to plant an olive tree on each martyr’s grave.’ Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Bomb, bomb.”

from “Wrong Address,” an editorial in the Dec. 31 issue of the New Republic

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