- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Red-carpet romance

“Nothing Demi Moore has done in her long career has delighted Americans … as much as her alleged romance with MTV icon Ashton Kutcher. The red-carpet spectacle of Demi (40 going on 22) canoodling with Ashton (25 going 16) has been delicious fodder for the tabloids and unbeatable publicity for the couple. Demi, assisted by the best 40-year-old body money can buy and her comeback role in ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ has re-established herself as a sex symbol. …

“America’s obsession with celebrity romance dates to the beginning of the film industry. Hollywood manufactured our first true national stars and the publicity machine designed to promote them. Early on, studio bosses and gossip columnists recognized the value of a great real-life love story, understanding that fans lived vicariously through their movie idols. … [T]he bosses … fabricated fake dalliances and exploited real ones. …

“With the breakup of the studio system, actors and other celebrities have become free agents. Today, no boss can order Demi and Ashton to do his bidding. But celebrity romance has not changed radically, because celebrities have become so savvy about their own images that they do what the bosses used to.”

—David Plotz, writing on “Celebrity Dating,” July 3 in Slate at www.slate.com

Deadly envy

“Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all. Sloth may not seem that enjoyable, nor anger either, but giving way to deep laziness has its pleasures, and the expression of anger entails a release that is not without its small delights. In recompense, envy may be the subtlest — perhaps I should say the most insidious — of the seven deadly sins. … It may also be the most endemic. Apart from Socrates, Jesus, Marcus Aurelius, Saint Francis, Mother Teresa, and only a few others, at one time or another, we have all felt flashes of envy, even if in varying intensities, from its minor pricks to its deep, soul-destroying, lacerating stabs. …

“Most of us could still sleep decently if accused of any of the other six deadly sins; but to be accused of envy would be seriously distressing, so clearly does such an accusation go directly to character. The other deadly sins, though all have the disapproval of religion, do not so thoroughly, so deeply demean, diminish, and disqualify a person.

“Not the least of its stigmata is the pettiness implicit in envy.”

—Joseph Epstein, writing on “The Green-Eyed Monster,” in the July/August issue of Washington Monthly

Ash heap of history

“Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Ceausescu, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Salvador Allende, Mengistu, Castro, Kim Il-sung: the list of murderous communist leaders is long, diverse and profoundly multicultural. Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Angola, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba: the list of countries that have attempted to create communist societies is equally broad.

“Looking back over the 20th century, it is stunning, in retrospect, to think how far and how fast communist revolutions spread, in such a relatively short period of time. It is no less stunning to think that the ideas of an exiled German philosopher, a failure in his own country, were put to the test over and over again, in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, in Christian, Buddhist, Confucian and animist societies. …

“Invariably, communism succeeded wherever there was a large population of recently displaced peasants, who had been yanked out of their traditional villages, and thrust into a bewildering and apparently valueless industrial world. Communist ideology thrived on the sense of disorientation that people experienced when deprived of older belief systems. At least for a time, it successfully explained the world to people who found it inexplicable.”

—Anne Applebaum, writing on “Why the reds flagged,” July 2 in the London Daily Telegraph

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