- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

The new vampires

“The vampires in the popular TV series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ … are all evil — except one named Angel. He is a vampire ‘cursed with a soul.’ In other words, he does the same evil things to defenseless people that all vampires do, only we are supposed to accept him because he feels bad about it. What a moral quagmire pop culture can be these days.

“In other hands, the vampire has, from being the perfect symbol of evil when Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ appeared in 1897, become sexy, attractive, and able to laugh in the face of God and man — and even, as in the novels of Anne Rice, sensitive and tragic. …

“Today’s vampire is all the more dangerous for existing in a fictional world that has neither good nor evil in it. One sees a hint of sympathy for the demonic in the revised versions, suggesting a reaction against religion rather than simply a change of taste. …

“Stoker based his vampire upon the genuine superstition of the mountain people of Romania. It had grown up among people who knew that evil … is inherently weak and unreal. It is not sexy or attractive.”

Robert Hart, writing on “No Dread of the Undead,” in the July/August issue of Touchstone

The new French

“[T]he aging demographic of Europe is making it harder and harder to be a believer in the extensive system of benefits and programs that constitute a modern European state. …

“In the week preceding Bastille Day, when le president de la Republique is called upon to speak to his lowly citoyens by way of a TV interview, more than 70 percent of them, according to Le Figaro, wanted [Jacques] Chirac to explain how he proposed to fix the pension problem. …

“Chirac couldn’t quite bring himself to admit that it just can’t be done. In order to keep afloat their full barge of benefits, France needs many more Frenchmen. While the French are genius at making more French bureaucrats (38,000 new ones last year alone, said Le Figaro), God knows the French can’t make actual Frenchmen very well anymore. So they import them from Algeria, and Algerians apparently have no problem making many more Algerians, who become the new French.

“Something like two percent of French Christians attend church on any given Sunday, but almost 100 percent of them practice birth control and ‘family planning,’ a euphemism for having a family that includes more cars than kids. Natural law … is easy to disregard. But you break the law, you pay the price.”

Denis Boyles, writing on “EuroPress Review,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

They are a-stealin’

Bob Dylan’s illustrious and prolific career has been built on clear influences and antecedents, and it’s up to listeners to decide whether he has transformed those influences into something better. But it’s clear that his songs have frequently spoken eloquently, metaphorically, perhaps even prophetically of the times in which they were written. …

“The discovery last week … that Mr. Dylan may have lifted as many as a dozen lines for his remarkable 2001 album, ‘Love & Theft,’ from Japanese writer Junichi Saga, and his 1989 book ‘Confessions of a Yakuza,’ is a nonstory. …

“From the very beginning of his career … Dylan has cut and pasted bits and pieces of history, literature, cinema, musicology, folklore, the Bible, nursery rhymes, fables and half-heard conversations into an innovative and kaleidoscopic tapestry. …

“Don’t get me wrong. Plagiarism is serious business, and in some areas — scientific research, academia and journalism, among others — it’s important to be scrupulous in crediting one’s sources. But art is different.”

Luke Torn, writing on “Artists Don’t Steal, They Synthesize,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal

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