- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

Phone drama

“Some time ago, I was watching an old Humphrey Bogart detective movie and it struck me that the fictional jobs of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe would have been a lot easier if they had cell phones. In fact, a lot of those great old plots don’t make any sense at all in the age when you can reach just about anybody at just about any time. It used to be that filmmakers could keep characters in the dark and build dramatic tension just by taking them away from telephones. An actor could pick up a phone and say, ‘The line’s been cut,’ and you knew that ominous music would follow automatically.

“Cell phones, of course, have made that staple scene a joke, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve all learned to use this new technology to its best advantage. …

“The response by Virginia Tech authorities to the shootings last week makes the point even more clearly. The proof is that, minutes after the shootings began, blogs started posting information sent by eyewitnesses who used text messaging cell phones and other mobile devices. Many students, however, didn’t learn about what was happening until hours later, and then through a less modern technology — the bullhorn. This was, sadly, a crisis response from the era of black and white movies, not the age of the Internet and IM.”

— Fred Thompson, in an ABC Radio commentary April 24

‘Hysteria’

“Global warming hysteria — a boon for the ethanol and other biofuel enterprises — has boosted demand for crop-based fuels worldwide. …

“The cost of food has jumped over 10 percent in India over the past year, and 6 percent in China, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is partly due to the diversion of corn to biofuels. …

“Meanwhile, European demand for biofuels to replace gasoline is fueling plans for massive clearing of rain forests for palm-oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. …

“As long as global warming is hyped as the world’s most important environmental problem … it will be virtually impossible to rationally evaluate other options in dealing with climate change, or confront the unintended consequences unleashed by global warming hysteria.”

— Indur M. Goklany, writing on “Unintended Consequences,” in the April 23 in the International Herald Tribune

Habit-forming

“People look cool when they smoke. …

“That’s why movies show people smoking. …

“But a group of decidedly uncool people — people at Harvard — want to get rid of smoking in movies. A report delivered to the Motion Picture Association of America by the Harvard School of Public Health advised that studios ‘eliminate the depiction of tobacco smoking from films accessible to children and youths.’ …

“Not everything a character does is meant to be positive or desirable. Even if smoking looks cool, it doesn’t necessarily make you want to do it. …

“Even amid the teenage consumption of coverage of Paris and Lindsay and Britney’s partying, getting rid of smoking in movies might have some effect in signaling that smoking is socially unacceptable. But even if Leonardo DiCaprio’s chain smoking in ‘Blood Diamond’ causes kids to try cigarettes, that’s the price of liberty.

“Art is empty propaganda if it just shows the world as we want it to be. The Harvard report states that ‘most smoking in movies is both unnecessary and cliched.’ But most everything in movies is unnecessary and cliched.”

— Joel Stein, writing on “Harvard huffs as the stars puff,” April 20 in the Los Angeles Times

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