- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

Scripted sorcery

“I think laziness is a theme that runs increasingly through our reading of the Harry Potter series. From about Book Four onward, the books have run parallel with movie versions of the story, and the effect of this coexistence must, I think, have diminished the texts and a reading of them. Once depicted on screen, the characters — Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Voldemort, the lot — became concrete images instead of creatures of pure imagination whose contours varied from mind to mind. In every child’s head, now, Harry looks and sounds the same.

“From the moment ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ arrived at a cinema near us, in 2001, we switched from being readers to being consumers of Harry Potter. One can see the effects of this on [author J.K.] Rowling: ‘The Deathly Hallows’ reads as much like a blueprint for a movie as it does a novel.

“[W]hat cinema has done is to wrench the story from the hands of the young and to place it firmly within the grasp of people of all ages. Instead of being a saga that knit together a particular generation, Harry Potter’s yarn became the object of a trans-generational focus that drained the story of much of its allegorical fuel.”

Tunku Varadarajan, writing on “Generation Hex,” July 28 in the Wall Street Journal

Diversity adversity

“It has become increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: Our differences make us stronger.

“But a massive new study … has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam … has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study … found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

“His findings on the downsides of diversity have also posed a challenge for Putnam, a liberal academic whose own values put him squarely in the pro-diversity camp. Suddenly finding himself the bearer of bad news, Putnam has struggled with how to present his work.”

Michael Jonas, writing on “The downside of diversity,” Sunday in the Boston Globe

Rap ‘pathology’

“Through the window that rap opens into contemporary ghetto culture, we can see that the attitudes that first created the underclass have hardened into stone.

… “One of the first notorious gangsta rap songs, ‘Cop Killer’ of 15 years ago, set the theme that’s still gangsta rap’s keynote. … [A]ccording to gangsta rap, echoing today’s racial arsonists and extortionists, the system is still victimizing blacks, through the police.

… “In the rap worldview, as it developed, the police actively set out to murder blacks. … In fact, Tupac [Shakur] raps, if blacks commit crimes, mainstream society bears the blame for inciting them to do so.

… “Rap’s well-known celebration of gangsta behavior is a bad enough message. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis succinctly sums up rap’s main story line: ‘Now you have to say that you’re from the streets, you shot some brothers, you went to jail. Rappers have to display the correct pathology.’ The implicit message, of course, is that the bad environment is to blame for the bad behavior.”

Myron Magnet, writing on “In the Heart of Freedom, In Chains,” in the summer issue of City Journal

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