- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

Empty symbols

“Alfonso Cuaron’s film version of P.D. James’s novel ‘Children of Men’ is not so much a futuristic sci-fi film as a gripping meditation on what we already are. The stunning visual quality of the film provides access to a world much darker, but not completely other, than ours — a world in which humans have been rendered rapidly and bafflingly infertile and hence face the imminent extinction of their own species. …

“[I]n a film from which all Christian referents have been systematically erased, the title itself, ‘The Children of Men’ — a direct quotation from Psalm 90, a prayer in the burial service for the dead — is stripped of all symbolic resonance. … Cuaron’s thesis about our declining ability to read and interpret symbols is sadly confirmed in his own failure to come to terms with a book whose complex symbolism escapes the limits of his own imagination — an imagination deformed by Hollywood’s apolitical correctness.”

— Thomas Hibbs, writing on “The Children of Hollywood’s Deformed Imagination,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Obsolete libraries?

“What are libraries for? Are they cultural storehouses that contain the best that has been thought and said? Or are they more like actual stores, responding to whatever fickle taste or Mitch Albom tearjerker is all the rage at this very moment?

“If the answer is the latter, then why must we have government-run libraries at all? There’s a fine line between an institution that aims to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize the recreational habits of bookworms.

“Fairfax County may think that condemning a few dusty old tomes allows it to keep up with the times. But perhaps it’s inadvertently highlighting the fact that libraries themselves are becoming outmoded. …

“As recently as a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie was opening thousands of libraries throughout the English-speaking world, books were considerably more expensive and harder to obtain than they are right now. …

“Today, however, large bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble and Borders bombard readers with an enormous range of inexpensive choices. An even greater selection is available online.

“If public libraries attempt to compete in this environment, they will increasingly be seen for what Fairfax County apparently envisions them to be: welfare programs for middle-class readers who would rather borrow Nelson DeMille’s newest potboiler than spend a few dollars for it at their local Wal-Mart.”

— John J. Miller, writing on “Checked Out,” Wednesday in Opinion Journal at www.opinionjournal.com

‘However wicked’

“British [Prime Minister] Tony Blair spoke out against Saddam Hussein’s death sentence when it was handed down in November after the two-year trial. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema used outrage over the former leader’s hanging Saturday to urge the United Nations to enact a worldwide death penalty moratorium.

“The two statesmen represent elite European consensus on the subject. The death penalty is thought beyond the pale — abolishing it is a prerequisite for membership in the European Union. The London Economist recently editorialized, ‘capital punishment [is] wrong in itself, however wicked the guilty party,’ even the very wicked Hussein.”

— Jeremy Lott, writing on “Don’t Cry for Saddam,” Wednesday in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org

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