- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

A kid from Texas

“I was very lucky. I didn’t grow up in a house where my mom focused on appearances. I don’t remember her ever saying, ‘Wouldn’t you be pretty if….’ Or, ‘You’d be so much better if you just did this.’ She never focused on anything beyond wanting me to be presentable — to be a well-groomed kid. She wanted us to take care of ourselves and be healthy. …

“I had a vivid imagination. I daydreamed a lot. I didn’t daydream about being on a set or making Oscar speeches or having people know my name. I daydreamed about different places that I would go, and independence. About having the ability to create a life that involved travel and new adventures, new experiences that were beyond my reach in the suburbs of Houston. I dreamed of being good at something. I knew I had something to do, but I’m still not certain that this is it.”

Renee Zellweger, interviewed by James Kaplan, in the November issue of Premiere

A civilized man

“I have no count, but I sense a dwindling number of people in the academic world who are unclassifiable. Neil Postman, who died [Oct. 5], was one, and now we can say he will always be one. Such figures — with reputation but no real discipline — have a tendency to make people think. Postman had that.

“Everyone who knew Postman — and I include perhaps a hundred thousand who only heard him speak — knew him first through humor, which was the reflection in person of the satire in most of his books, each of which is a pamphlet, an essay between covers. ‘The Disappearance of Childhood’ (1982) was satire about the infantilization in American culture. ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ (1985) was satire about entertainment and what it was doing to us. …

“Postman’s intellectual pose … came down essentially to this: the trials of a civilized man in a century of barbarism. It later softened into the civilized man in a culture of television. But the barbaric that was in television … well, Postman had the eye for that. He would teach you this angry eye, and that was one reason I hung around NYU and got a Ph.D. He knew what to ignore, when to object.

“‘You have to understand, what Americans do is watch television.’ I heard this many times. ‘I am not saying that’s who they are. But that is what they do. Americans… watch… television.’”

Jay Rosen, writing on “Neil Postman: A civilized man in a century of barbarism,” Friday at Salon.com

Born to perform

“To see Sammy Davis Jr. onstage in the latter half of the 20th century was to see … a performer determined to make you love him by main force, who would not let you go until the exhausted crowd capitulated to the exhausted performer. …

“[H]e lived for the audience, for the charge that only they could give him. Nothing got in the way of that. …

“Once, in Atlantic City, he told the audience he didn’t think he’d given a good show and picked up the tab for the 900 people who had come out to see him. That beau geste cost him $4,000. He did the same thing at Harrah’s, years later, and it cost him $17,000. …

“In the 13 years since his death, no one has come along who can do what the show-business machine known as Sammy Davis Jr. could do: lift an audience out of their seats … and do it night after night for 60 years. And no one’s going to do it, either. That school is permanently out of session.”

Scott Eyman, writing on “What Made Sammy Run? A Hunger for Applause,” in the Oct. 9 issue of the New York Observer

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