- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Beyond ‘Beavis’

“Who’d have thought that Mike Judge, previously best known for ‘Beavis and Butthead,’ would come up with such a deeply humane family sitcom as ‘King of the Hill’?

“Even when the perennially exasperated paterfamilias Hank Hill is being ridiculous, the writers’ sympathies are clearly with him — especially when he’s running up against wan, New Agey schoolteachers or vegetarian hippie chicks … protesting at a campground. And the show regularly takes potshots at Hollywood dilettantes who venture into rural red states for the scenery.

“‘Hey, there’s an old white-haired fella to the north who looks like he’s spent some time working outdoors,’ said Hank in the season premiere, trying to round up help for a cattle drive while visiting his wife’s family’s ranch in Montana.

“‘Larry David?’ snorts a cowboy. ‘Good luck.’”

Catherine Seipp, writing on “Red-State TV,” Nov. 17 in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Icon of idiots

“Brazilian director Walter Salles’ ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ demonstrates that those who indulge a nostalgia for charismatic leaders of the past are often taken in by cheap icons. …

“[Che] Guevara has been packaged by the Marxist faithful as a communist saint. … The iconic photo of Guevara taken by fashion photographer Alberto Korda in 1960 still adorns walls, T-shirts and beer cans. … With his unshorn locks escaping dramatically from under his red beret, his wispy beard declaring his eternal youthfulness and his large, liquid eyes looking soulfully into the middle distance, Che has proved an irresistibly beautiful icon. His death at 37 clinched his celebrity among the cadre of useful idiots who are always with us. …

“Reportedly sensitive in youth, Guevara grew up to be a cold-blooded, ruthless revolutionary whose hatred of the middle class from which he sprang and of the United States, the bastion of bourgeois democratic success, led him to call for a thousand Vietnams. … He was an idealistic brat whose desire to reform society curdled into self-righteous cruelty when his benevolent intentions met resistance. Hell hath no fury like a revolutionary punk rebuked.”

George McCartney, writing on “Nostalgia’s Rearview Mirror,” in the December issue of Chronicles

How does he know?

“‘I Am Charlotte Simmons’ is … thoroughly disarming, a breeze to read, even thrilling. Yeah, there’s a devil’s deal in it, but once you make that deal … this novel’s got the enzyme that makes you crave it. … It’s really working the whole Tom Wolfe soothsayer thing, present in the … thick descriptions of things like moving in to a freshman dorm; parents’ fearful interaction with your roommate and her parents; the boring and sexual atmosphere of a dormitory Common Room late at night; uncomfortable hours spent with bland, unlikable freshman ‘friends’; the fudging of facts and tone involved in letters home; the drudgery and ecstasy of fraternity parties; the appearance of a shared hotel bathroom on a college road trip. …

“From a few data points — derived in this case from his fact-finding college tour — he supplies connective material and nuance until he seems, as I live and breathe, to be talking to the dead…. [E]ven as I fought to keep my head clear, I found myself thinking, on the brink of tears, ‘How does he know this about my college life? It was just like this!’”

Virginia Heffernan, writing on “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” Nov. 17 in Slate at www.slate.com

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