- The Washington Times - Friday, July 8, 2005

Che Inc.

“Che Guevara, who did so much (or was it so little?) to destroy capitalism, is now a quintessential capitalist brand. His likeness adorns mugs, hoodies, lighters, key chains, wallets, baseball caps, toques, bandannas, tank tops, club shirts, couture bags, denim jeans, herbal tea, and of course those omnipresent T-shirts with the photograph, taken by Alberto Korda, of the socialist heartthrob in his beret during the early years of the revolution. …

“The metamorphosis of Che Guevara into a capitalist brand is not new, but the brand has been enjoying a revival of late — an especially remarkable revival, since it comes years after the political and ideological collapse of all that Guevara represented. …

“In April 1967, speaking from experience, [Guevara] summed up his homicidal idea of justice … ‘hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine.’ ”

Alvaro Vargas Llosa, writing on “The Killing Machine,” in the July 11 issue of the New Republic

Scientific hits

“There are areas of human interest that seem to warrant and reward statistical analysis. … But pop music? What benefit does it promise? A really killer mixtape? Yet, bringing the rigor of science to the study of the pop song is precisely what a California technology company called Savage Beast has done. …

“Employing an army of rigorously trained music analysts, most with degrees in music theory, Savage Beast has dissected ‘the vast majority’ of music that has appeared on the Billboard Music Charts since the mid-1950s, as well as large swaths of jazz and indie rock. Each song has been coded according to a proprietary list of 400 music attributes. … The point of all this fuss is to produce the ultimate music recommendation system.

“As the Savage Beast Web site points out: ‘In an industry where less than 3 percent of all releases currently account for over 80 percent of all revenue, Savage Beast is ideally positioned to unlock an enormous lost revenue potential.’ ”

Martin Edlund, writing on “The Madonna Code,” Tuesday in Slate at www.slate.com

Mini Romeo

“Occasionally convincing in darker dramatic roles, [Ben] Stiller is a peculiar star for romantic comedy, one of his box-office staples since ‘There’s Something About Mary.’ The problem isn’t just that responding to others isn’t his forte; he’s also the shortest Hollywood dynamo since Mighty Mouse. When he acted opposite Cameron Diaz, you couldn’t help being reminded of a cork standing next to a champagne bottle. That’s why it’s odd, but maybe explicable, that Stiller’s most noticeable tic is his physical vanity. He cast himself as the world’s most famous male model in ‘Zoolander’ and played a superfit gym guru in ‘Dodgeball,’ and while both parts were send-ups, preening clearly turns him on. … [H]e’s never tired of mocking hot-looking dudes, who may be entertaining targets but aren’t my idea of the repository of all evil. Not so incidentally, this lets him keep posturing as one himself while acting ostentatiously superior to the breed.”

Tom Carson, writing on “The New Kings of Comedy,” in the July issue of GQ magazine

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