- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

Star-struck

“After the Oscars last year, the ABC television network did some research that it later shared with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The network … gathered viewers in groups of 20 to ask them a few questions. For starters: How many members of the focus group had seen all five films nominated for best picture? No hands went up. OK, how about four out of five? Again, nobody. This continued … until the researchers discovered that most of them hadn’t seen any of the nominated films.

“This is rather at odds with the academy’s idea of what its annual ceremony is all about: The bestowing of ‘awards of merit for distinctive achievements’ is supposed to be prestigious, dignified, honorable and devoted to the art of cinema. … [I]t hardly seems likely that viewers are cheering on their favorites or waiting in suspense to see who will prevail if they have not even bothered to familiarize themselves with the contenders. ‘They may see the movies after the awards, or rent them, or watch them on cable,’ [academy executive director Bruce] Davis said. ‘But they’re more interested in seeing the stars.’”

Rob Walker, writing on “Saving Oscar,” in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine

Brand-name babies

“Names, the emblems of a person’s identity, used to mean something. ‘Abraham’ means ‘father of a multitude.’ …

“In the Middle Ages, children born on a saint’s day were named for that saint, giving them their patron saint. Puritans started naming their children after virtues, such as Faith and Prudence. …

“As the pop culture — the world of entertainment and commercialism — drives out traditional culture … it shows up, too, in the names people choose for their children. … Soap-opera characters … are a major influence on the names of real babies.

“A new trend in baby names, however, takes the pop-culture influence to a new level. Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Nebraska’s Bellevue University … found that many children today are being named after consumer products.

“Twenty-two girls [in 2000] were named ‘Infiniti.’ … There were also … five girls named ‘Celica.’ …

“There were 298 girls named ‘Armani.’ There were 164 named after the more casual ‘Nautica.’ Six boys were named ‘Timberland.’ …

“Twenty-one girls were named ‘L’Oreal,’ after the hair dye. …

“Nine girls were named ‘Chianti.’ Six boys were named ‘Courvoisier.’ …

“Are children being seen in the same terms as consumer products or other possessions?”

Gene Edward Veith, writing on “Brand names,” in this Saturday’s issue of World

The new Bob Hope?

“Since 2001 … [Kid Rock] has been a sort of unofficial successor to Bob Hope, playing USO shows for troops stationed in Europe and the Middle East. Last summer, he joined a group of entertainers (including Wayne Newton and Alyssa Milano) that visited Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq. …

“[The singer says U.S. troops are] ‘kids, man — you can’t imagine how young they are. I still think I’m young sometimes, and I’m 32. But these kids are 18, 20, 22. They don’t understand that even people in Hollywood are saying, ‘We’re not for the war, but we still support the troops.’ They think, ‘Man, they’re just … down on us.’ What a godforsaken place to be without thinking people support you.’”

Dave Itzkiff, writing on “Rock Is Dead; Long Live Rock,” in the December issue of Spin


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