- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Cartoon saga
"'The Simpsons' continues to dazzle and fizz amid a prime-time landscape damp with so many flat sitcoms. 'The Simpsons' is not life, but as the show arrives at its 300th episode Feb. 16, it's certainly a useful way of thinking about … The Way We Live Now.
"There are reasons why the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. Rowan Williams, has praised 'The Simpsons' as 'surreal, but there are good, strong Christian morals there, too.' There are reasons why the U.S. poet laureate, Billy Collins, told me 'The Simpsons' is 'the only reason I own a TV.' While maintaining its closest focus on a fractious family, 'The Simpsons' has constantly expanded, to create in the town of Springfield, USA, a vast community of neighbors and public servants (Chief Wiggum and his cohorts), of business people both grand and larcenous (nuclear-plant greed-head Mr. Burns), or small and larcenous (price-gouging Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu), of workers and layabouts, as well as one red-haired career criminal (Kelsey Grammer's grand voice-performance as Sideshow Bob is Frasier pickled in arsenic). It thus presents a broad, vivid, exciting, hilarious, and troublesome portrait of society. 'The Simpsons' is, to be sure, the product of multiple authors. … But this voluminous saga coheres as The Great American TV Show in the same way we used to speak of The Great American Novel."
Ken Tucker, writing on "The Family Dynamic," in the Feb. 7 issue of Entertainment Weekly
Diversity myths
"Racial preferences disaffirm the abilities of minorities both as a group and as individuals. The common belief that the average black person must struggle through crippling, inner-city poverty in order to achieve academic success is actually not true: Only one in five black persons is poor and lives in the inner city. The common belief that all black people … suffer from racism to such an extent that it hampers academic achievement cannot be fully confirmed or denied using simple statistics. …
"Some black people are still in poverty and still subject to a combination of class- and race-based disadvantage but affirmative action seems ill-suited to help these individuals. Because the black community is economically diverse, those who are most likely to suffer racially based disadvantage and those who are most likely to benefit from racial preferences are different people. [Professor John] McWhorter notes that the black students populating his classes at the University of California-Berkeley were from the middle class and not from the ranks of the poor, whose plight is often invoked in support of affirmative action."
Prisca Shrewsbury, writing on "No qualifiers needed," in the Feb. 1 issue of World
Architectural symbol
"Daniel Burnham's legendary exhortation to 'make no little plans' deserves to be trumped by even pithier architectural advice: 'First, get the job.' That was the barely suppressed subtext of the seven public presentations of designs for the World Trade Center site given in New York a week before Christmas. Despite the problematic aspects of all the proposals, it was a good day for the idea of architecture, if less so for the realities of urban planning. …
"What is desired here above all is a tangible symbol of undiminished American power in a dangerous new world order, of New York's indomitable spirit, of optimistic faith in the face of a worrisome future. The symbolic aspects of all skyscraper design from the very beginning of the form more than a century ago cannot be underestimated. Though we are taught that the skyscraper inexorably emerged from the financial pressures of building on land so valuable that the only place to go was up, the truth is that most iconic high-rises have had no such economic basis at all."
Martin Filler, writing on "Back to Babel," in the Feb. 3 issue of the New Republic

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