- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Politics by other means

"Other countries have all kinds of disagreements and problems with one another. They are dealing with one another constantly, making treaties and trading currencies and whatever else it is they do.

"The World Cup is mildly entertaining because you get to see them sublimate their little issues by kicking a ball at one another, sort of like watching your children backyard wrestle. Senegal beats France, and the Senegalese throw a huge party venting their anger over two centuries of French colonialism.

"Imagine how much fun it is for anyone to act superior to the French, and multiply that by Senegal. And last Friday, England and Argentina got to work out whatever their deal was with those islands.

"The problem for us, however, is that it's really hard to work up that much antagonism when you're a superpower with a short history and friendly borders. Last week, we pulled off a huge victory against Portugal. It didn't make us feel that great because there's not much Portugal is better at than us, other than making sweet wine and salted cod. This is a country that has been in decline since 1494."

Joel Stein, writing on "The Rest-of-the-World Cup" in the June 17 issue of Time

Real reality TV

"It's the loose ends, however along with the alarming verdicts and scary diagnoses that distinguish these stories from their fictional counterparts. As the homicide detective points out after arresting a man suspected of murdering and decapitating his brother, murder cases are tougher than they appear on TV As for burrowing into the perpetrators' psyches for psychological motives: 'You'd have to dig Freud up from the grave and ask him.'

"It's cracks like the Freud one that make 'Boston 24/7' feel fresh compared to the spate of high-end dramatizations that make up most network prime-time lineups. Almost to a person, the subjects approach their jobs with a sense of humor and, at times, a fascinating wry detachment.

"The result is that the series is mercifully light on professional histrionics and heavy on great lines. In the forensic examiner's office to inspect some bloody socks that were used to tie up a rape-torture victim, prosecutor Mary Kelley remarks, 'I would be so skinny if I worked here, because I'm telling you, all I'm having for lunch today is a Diet Coke.'"

Carina Chocano, writing on "They Care a Lot" on Salon.com, posted June 6

Bad ticket-splitting

"Of course the appropriation of [George] Orwell as an English icon by such as John Major was absurd. Or perhaps one should say by his speechwriters: Had our 'unknown prime minister' ever read the Orwell essay he misquoted as 'old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist'? What Orwell actually wrote in 'The Lion and the Unicorn' wasn't a limp invocation of Olde Albion but one of his most astute passages:

"'The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries in the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pin-tables in the Soho pubs, old maids biking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn mornings all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?'"

"Although [Christopher] Hitchens sees this, and just about [recognizes] Orwell's combination of radical principle and conservative disposition, he has little temperamental affinity with it, or with the Orwell who was patron saint of the fogeyism of the Left (still found lurking in the Guardian, 'Radicals for cricket, railways and real ale'). We live at a time when it has been truly said that the Right has won politically, but the Left has won culturally; Orwell would have preferred it the other way round."

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writing on "Saved from Friend and Foe," in the June 8 issue of the Spectator

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