- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

'Outlaw' style
"There are no cars on 'Sesame Street.' Cars are an individual thing private transportation. Mobility for the common man. Among the many abiding American themes is the lure of the road. Read Kerouac's 'On the Road' and think Huck and Jim on the raft. Most Americans like the thought of being able to fill it up and take off, without permission, any time they want to, in a vehicle that would give Ms. Claybrook the vapors.
"This is the culture that NASCAR has so successfully tapped into. A culture with mythic heroes from its frontier days Richard Petty, Joe Weatherly, Curtis Turner, Junior Johnson. The roots of racing are in the moonshine business, which is almost philosophically appropriate. Junior Johnson took a lot more chances outrunning the revenuers than he ever did swapping paint with Fireball Roberts at places like Daytona, back when they still ran part of the race in the sand, on the actual beach. Johnson did a stretch in prison but it sure wasn't because some guv'mnt man ever caught him on the highway. That would never happen.
"NASCAR has come a long way from its outlaw roots. But, then again, maybe not. The crowd that will be celebrating the rites at Daytona is descended from that anti-Puritan, fight-for-honor, get-drunk-and-howl-at-the-moon, sin-and-redemption strain of American history and won't be thinking much about the lectures of Cotton Huffington when the voice comes over the loudspeaker Sunday afternoon with that wonderful invocation: Gentlemen, start your engines."
Geoffrey Norman, writing on "Festival of the Car," Feb. 14 at National Review Online

'Really sad'
"I've known the U.S. for a long time. I visit often, I've studied there, worked as a forklift operator for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis and as a soda jerk at Howard Johnson's. I've hitchhiked across the whole United States; I even worked as a journalist and wrote a story for the New Orleans Times-Picayune on the front page.
"I know the U.S. perhaps better than most French people, and I really like the United States. I've made many excellent friends there, I feel good there. I love junk food, and I always come home with a few extra pounds. I've always worked and supported transatlantic solidarity. When I hear people say that I'm anti-American, I'm sad not angry, but really sad.'
French President Jacques Chirac, interviewed in the Feb. 24 issue of Time magazine

Daringly dull
"Almost every comic-book superhero, no matter how convoluted and lame his back story may be, is bound for the big screen. This is not really a problem. Comic books traffic in exactly the kind of stark moral dramas and unjaded boyish enthusiasm at which Hollywood spectacles excel; it's a natural fit. If anything, the comics medium is more serious about matters of life and death, more philosophically and socially engaged, than most of the … movies-by-committee cranked out by American studios. …
"[Director Mark Steven] Johnson's 'Daredevil' is often strikingly pretty, in an abstract, drifty, almost sculptural way. We see Ben Affleck in his beefiest, most impassive mode, brooding above the synthetic Manhattan nightscape like an architectural gargoyle, albeit one clad in a maroon leatherette suit that looks like it was made out of the couch my divorced dad had in his suburban apartment, circa 1977. …
"Presumably, however, Johnson and his collaborators are not pursuing some mock-Warhol vision of avant-garde, celebrity-fueled emptiness. There are efforts to tell a story in 'Daredevil,' but they're pretty clueless, as if the filmmakers were only remotely familiar with the standard techniques of either comic books or movies."
Andrew O'Hehir, writing on "Daredevil," Friday in Salon at www.salon.com

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