- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

With dozens of magazines providing extensive coverage of the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, newsstands are basking in a somewhat religious glow in the early days of May.

Another topic, though, is looming large.

The merry month of May will mark the release of “Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith,” the much-anticipated sixth and final segment of the “Star Wars” odyssey, arriving in theaters May 19. We have bountiful coverage, including a cover story in Time; another cover story in GQ (titled “Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen: The Reckless Youth of Darth Vader”); and a major feature in Wired on the film and its creator, George Lucas.

The feature on Mr. Christensen (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader) has the young Canadian actor clad in a collection of macho (albeit designer) gear — such as a pair of ripped jeans in pale blue from Italian style setters Dolce and Gabbana that you, too, can add to your wardrobe for a mere $850.

On the other hand, Wired’s “Star Wars’ ” coverage leaves no stone unturned, supplying enough detail to satisfy the curiosity of even the most dedicated fans with Steve Silberman’s piece “Life After Darth.”

The subhead offers an accurate preview of the story’s content: “George Lucas was born to make underground films. Then a little movie called ‘Star Wars’ lured him to the dark side. Can the father of the blockbuster really rediscover his avant-garde soul?”

The focus on films continues in a double issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated April 29 and May 6), which serves up a summer preview of 136 movies scheduled for release through August. Its cover features the new Batman (Christian Bale) in full Caped Crusader regalia alongside smaller photos of Mr. Christensen in “Star Wars” and Tom Cruise in “War of the Worlds” — highlighting two films that will surely be among this summer’s blockbusters.

Hollywood also has a berth in the spring issue of The New Atlantis with writer James Bowman making a strong, articulate case against what he perceives as the libertarian reign in popular American culture and Tinseltown in particular.

His essay, titled “Bioethics at the Movies,” cites the films “Kinsey” and “Million Dollar Baby” as recent prime examples of conventional morality being turned on its head.

“In morality’s place we have the ‘normal,’ and ‘Kinsey’ is a hymn to the normal.”

As for “Million Dollar Baby,” Mr. Bowman says it won four of Oscar’s major awards — best Picture, best actress, best supporting actor and best director — only because it had come under attack from some conservatives.

“Hollywood’s own libertarianism and dislike of traditional religion moved the Academy to rally around it,” Mr. Bowman writes.

• • •

Conde Nast, which owns a vast collection of big-time publications including Vogue, is rolling out a new magazine, Domino, this month. Described on its cover as “the shopping magazine for your home,” it offers to take the mystery out of home decor by sharing the trade secrets of editors and stylists.

The general idea is to “revolutionize” the way women shop for their homes. The very handsome magazine has an initial circulation base of 400,000 and will be published five times this year and 10 times in 2006. Many of Domino’s layouts are gorgeous and designed to make most of us think about likely makeovers … no matter how small.

• • •

Archaeology features the “Treasures of Tanis,” whose riches rival those of King Tut but have remained virtually unknown to the present. Part of the reason is that they were uncovered during World War II by French archaeologist Pierre Montet after 11 years of excavations. Ultimately, Mr. Montet brought three intact royal burials to light.

The story by Bob Brier, a senior research fellow at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University and a contributing editor to Archaeology, is a fascinating read. It details how — because of the pressure of the war — Mr. Montet had to clear one of the tombs in two weeks, a task that normally would take at least two years.

The color photographs featuring some of the exquisite gold and silver treasures from the tombs are remarkable.

The same issue of Archaeology also features a recent dig in France of a 6,000-year-old Neolithic tomb, which, in itself, is quite an intriguing read.

• • •

Finally, with the end of May marked by Memorial Day, it is well worth noting that the American Spectator has devoted the cover of this month’s issue to the observance with Shawn Macomber’s feature “The Arlington Ladies: American volunteerism at its most moving.”

Mr. Macomber tells the story of the volunteer women who attend every funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. An average week at the cemetery has 80 to 100 burials, so no soldier is ever laid to rest without someone in attendance.

As I can personally testify, their presence at military burials is both discreet and welcome. The idea for the Arlington Ladies was conceived in 1948 when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg’s wife saw a funeral for an airman with no one in attendance, according to a link on the Arlington Cemetery Web site. The Navy followed suit in 1985.

The Marine Corps does not have a contingent of Arlington Ladies, but a representative of the commandant is present at every funeral.

A companion story in the American Spectator tells of the 1,000 soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, who spend nearly five hours placing the American flag in front of the more than 260,000 graves at Arlington on Memorial Day.

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