- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

Out-gambled

“Thanks to the stunning growth of new gambling dens like Foxwoods in Connecticut, new investments in Atlantic City, N.J., and the proliferation of Indian casinos all over the country, gamblers no longer have to trek to the desert to [lose] their hard-earned money. As the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority notes, there ‘are more than 440 high-stakes casinos in the United States, and further expansion is expected over the next 5-10 years.’ …

“The American gambler is getting pinched like other consumers. And with more gambling closer to home, fewer tourists feel the urge to splurge in Nevada. That doesn’t mean Las Vegas is over. It just means the city could finally be graduating from its state of perpetual rowdy adolescence into a calmer adulthood.”

Daniel Gross, writing on “Avoiding Las Vegas,” Monday in Slate at www.slate.com

Nobel ‘jackasses’

“Some — by now perhaps all — cultural prizes have had the shine rubbed off them by having been given to undeserving people, an ample number of serious jackasses among them. Everyone knows that the list of writers who did not win the Nobel Prize — Tolstoy, Proust, Henry James, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, W.H. Auden — is much more impressive than the list of those who have. Moreover, there is something about winning the Nobel Prize in literature that makes one posthumous no matter how much longer one goes on to live. Since he won his Nobel Prize, for example, I no longer feel the need to read V.S. Naipaul. …

“All this prize-giving has made the field of culture rather like one of those progressive preschools where, on graduation day, even the most hopeless child is given a prize for not actually maiming his classmates. …

“The Nobel Prize in literature is often — and fairly persuasively — accused of being awarded on the basis of a writer’s politics. This year’s award to Harold Pinter, who is quite out of control in his hatred of America, is a vivid example; since Mr. Pinter has done little of note in recent years, his Nobel seems aimed less at honoring him than at attacking the U.S. for being in Iraq.”

Joseph Epstein, writing on “You’re a Winner,” Monday in the Wall Street Journal

No gung-ho

“For decades, war films have been a Hollywood staple. From the gung-ho exploits of John Wayne to the druggy morass of Vietnam in ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Platoon,’ the heightened moral tests and physical endangerment of the battlefield have long enticed filmmakers wishing to pose larger questions about human existence. …

” ‘Jarhead’ seems imminently concerned with both its place in the war-film canon and the pull war movies exert on current conflicts. Just as the gangsters in ‘The Sopranos’ are endlessly discussing ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘The Godfather,’ desperately trying to both break away from and live up to their filmic heritage, the soldiers in ‘Jarhead’ watch Vietnam films … and wonder how their battles will measure up to these war-film legends. …

“With language brimming over with enough four-letter epithets to make Quentin Tarantino blush and constant displays of brutish sexual braggadocio, the level of coarseness — especially sexual — is meant to be somewhat appalling. The film wants to knock soldiers from their distinguished place in society, or at least question the validity of honoring those who engage in such unseemly behavior.”

Peter Suderman, writing on “Desert Dissatisfaction,” Tuesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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