- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

Cruise control

“Despite what any of us may think of Tom Cruise, we’ve all had to get used to seeing him two or three times a year. At first because he was in those big hit movies that you went to because everyone else did (‘Risky Business,’ ‘Top Gun’), then because he was working with directors and actors whose work you wanted to see.

“Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Color of Money’ marked the beginning of Tom Cruise’s being taken seriously. Without that movie, he very likely would have never worked with the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Stone or Stanley Kubrick. …

“At a certain point — maybe because I stopped expecting anything from Cruise — he stopped seeming so annoying. …

“Cruise is, of course, hugely famous and popular and rich, but to those of us for whom the word ‘star’ still connotes something both mysterious and identifiable, Cruise has never seemed like one. He’s a virtual star, a cipher star.”

Charles Taylor, writing on “How does Tom Cruise rate?” Thursday in Salon at www.salon.com

Core culture’

“America’s core culture has primarily been the culture of the 17th- and 18th-century settlers who founded our nation. The central elements of that culture are the Christian religion; Protestant values, including individualism, the work ethic, and moralism; the English language; British traditions of law, justice, and limits on government power; and a legacy of European art, literature and philosophy. …

“Subsequent generations of immigrants were assimilated into the culture of the founding settlers and modified it, but did not change it fundamentally. It was, after all, Anglo-Protestant culture, values, institutions and the opportunities they created that attracted more immigrants to America than to all the rest of the world. …

“Protestant beliefs, values, and assumptions … continue to pervade and shape American life, society, and thought. Protestant values have shaped American attitudes toward private and public morality, economic activity, government and public policy.”

Samuel Huntington, writing on “One Nation, Out of Many,” in the September issue of the American Enterprise

Marble marvel

“Greece made a $7.5 billion bet that hosting the [Olympics] would revive its tourist industry in the face of growing competition from Turkey and Spain. Now, though, visitor numbers seem likely to fall a bit, not rise: Greeks are blaming poor marketing but most of all terror about terror, as visitors hesitate to spend big bucks for the possibility of witnessing or participating in a nightmare.

“The low demand for tickets is made worse by the many barrels of euros shoveled into building projects with a life expectancy of two weeks. That goes hard in a country with long-shelf-life treasures like the 3,000-year-old gate at Agamemnon’s Mycenae.

“The Athenian architectural marvel that has lasted almost as long is the stunning Parthenon. Dedicated to the goddess Athena, it sits on the rocky Acropolis, for centuries the most important religious center of Athens.

“When the Persians seized the city in 479 B.C. , they destroyed an existing Parthenon and other Acropolis buildings, but Athenians drove out the Persians the following year. Three decades later, under the leadership of the famous Pericles, they voted for a rebuilding program and designated their top artist, Phidias, to direct the work.”

Marvin Olasky, writing on “Glorious Greece,” in the Aug. 7 issue of World

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