- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Hopeless 'Harry'
"It says something about 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' something not good that its most memorable moments involve inanimate objects.
"Apologists for director Chris Columbus's dispiriting and endless movie have been describing it as faster-paced, darker, and more frightening than the first. Frightening? Please.
"Might all this affect or scare seven-year-olds? Possibly, but then you can still terrify a seven-year-old by saying 'Boo.' It's not much of an accomplishment to frighten them. It is an accomplishment to stir their imaginations and infuse their bedtimes with a sense of wonder and excitement. That's what J.K. Rowling has managed to do with her triumphant series of novels.
"The two Harry Potter movies, by contrast, are plodding and dull and dutiful."
John Podhoretz, writing on "Harry Potter's Things," Wednesday in National Review Online in www.nationalreview.com


Even in Kabul
"Human nature does not, except in certain extreme circumstances like when you try to abolish the family, or something like that, run up against a clear limit. In other respects a lot of behaviors and norms are in fact historically conditioned within the limits human nature provides, and I would say that modern consumerism, for example, is not a natural behavior.
"Human beings evolved as hunter gatherers, in conditions of total scarcity. On the other hand, it does seem that when you are faced with an opportunity to enter a consumer society, to improve the standard of living of your family, to engage in what Adam Smith called 'gain,' doing so is a fairly universal characteristic.
"It was quite revealing in Afghanistan after the Taliban were defeated that the first thing the people in Kabul did was to do dig up their VCRs and television sets and watch these corny Indian soap operas. You can't say that watching cheesy Indian movies is a universal characteristic of human beings, but beneath that there are certain tendencies that are given by nature, and if you try to restrict them too much you are going to run up against some real political problems."
Francis Fukuyama, interviewed on "Back to Human Nature," in the September-November issue of Policy

Thug life
"The intensifying exploitation of slain rap artist Tupac Shakur highlights the sick, shameless show-business tendency to glorify violent and self-destructive black thugs.
"Shakur, who perished in 1996 at age 25 in a hail of Las Vegas gunfire, has achieved even greater popularity after his death than he did in his brief, troubled life.
"Of course, it's a stretch to depict Shakur as an innocent or incidental casualty. The Los Angeles Times investigation suggested that the undeniably talented star precipitated his own murder when, a few hours before his death, he encouraged his bodyguards to attack a member of the rival Southside Crips gang in a bloody beating in the MGM Grand casino.
"The Los Angeles Times reported that rival rapper Notorious B.I.G. paid $50,000 (of a promised $1 million) to Shakur's assassin, only to perish himself in a similar shooting some six months later.
"The unquestioning acceptance of the pop-culture association between violence and African-Americans by those with 'enlightened' opinions unwittingly recycles assumptions of yesteryear: writing off blacks as doomed and dangerous and, therefore, exempt from the standards society applies to others. The relatively harsh reaction to white celebrities accused of criminal behavior (think Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder or Robert Blake) offers a stark contrast to the outright veneration of Shakur as a 'victim of violence' despite his far more extensive criminal record."
Michael Medved, writing on "Glorification of rapper Shakur degrades African-Americans," Tuesday in USA Today


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