- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2004

Epic ambition

“‘Troy’ has gotten a lot of flak. … Much of the opposition to this film seems to stem from a misunderstanding of the purposes and mechanisms of the ‘Iliad.’ It is unclear exactly how many critics have actually read Homer, but it seems clear that the number who have picked up the book since high school sits perilously close to zero. …

“Brad Pitt makes a great Achilles. … The Achilles of Homer was not ‘noble’ in any sense of the word as we currently define it. His character is petulant and childish, unwilling to yield to any authority other than his own glory. …

“There have been complaints about Achilles’ constant refrain that men must do great deeds so that their names will be remembered. Those familiar with the text of the ‘Iliad’ will recognize this not as a screenwriter’s defect, but a rather good rendition of the Greek epic style. The Greeks’ idea of the afterlife involved a lot of shades moping about in Hades, a far throw from the fluffy clouds of our imaginations. So if you want any part of you to survive the mortal coil, it is rather essential to make sure that everyone remembers, and, crucially, speaks your name.”

Chloe Cockburn writing on “In Defense of ‘Troy,’” Saturday in CounterPunch at www.counterpunch.org

Repeating history

“Not too long ago, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld mentioned that he was finding some comforting parallels with the present day in a biography of Ulysses S. Grant. As is the case today, he observed, many people ‘were despairing’ during the Civil War, but although ‘the carnage was horrendous,’ the final outcome was ‘worth’ the cost. …

“The fact is that while the Union prevailed on the battlefield after four years of struggle, the Old South arguably ‘won the peace.’ Despite 12 years of federal occupation, the states of the Confederacy ended up with a social system not too different from the one that had prevailed before the war. …

“Some would say that this does not bode well for our enterprise in Iraq.”

Mackubin Thomas Owens, writing on “Reconstruction Redux?” Monday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Racist ‘Idol’?

“Elton [John], who had served as a guest judge on ‘American Idol 3’ … [said]: ‘The three people I was really impressed with, and they just happened to be black, young female singers, and they all seem to be landing in the bottom three … and I don’t want to set myself up here — but I find it incredibly racist.’

“We admit that we are mystified why the former Reginald Dwight doesn’t think he ‘set himself up’ with his bleats of racism. For one thing, while Jennifer [Hudson] had been in the bottom three three times in six weeks, ending with her boot, only one contestant had yet to appear in the final three: black male George Huff.

“Among the other contestants, the two other ‘divas’ referred to by Elton John — LaToya London and Fantasia Barrino — had been in the bottom three once before (LaToya, in week 3) and never before (Fantasia). …

“In addition, four of the final seven contestants were black — a percentage far, far out of proportion to the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population. Also, in ‘American Idol 2,’ two of the final three — ultimate winner Ruben Studdard and third-place Kimberley Locke — were black. Thus, Elton John’s charges of racism seem to be motivated by something other than logic.”

Wade Paulsen, writing April 28 on “Elton John calls ‘American Idol’ voting ‘incredibly racist,’” at www.realitytvworld.com

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