- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Celeb spotting

“[A] curious form of cooperation one sees in New York is the unspoken ban on staring at celebrities. When you get into an elevator in an office building and find that you are riding with Paul McCartney — this happened to me — you are not supposed to look at him. You can peek for a second, but then you must avert your eyes. The idea is that Paul McCartney has to be given his space like anyone else. …

“This logic is self-flattering. It’s nice to think that Paul McCartney needs us to do him a favor, and that we live in a city with so many famous people that we can afford to ignore them.

“But if vanity is involved, so is generosity. I remember, once, in the early ‘90s, standing in a crowded lobby at City Center Theater when Jackie Onassis walked in. Everyone looked at her and then immediately looked down. There was a whole mob of people staring at their shoes. When Jackie died, a few years later, I was happy to remember that scene. I was glad that we had been polite to her.”

Joan Acocella, writing on “You Got A Problem With That,” in the April issue of Smithsonian magazine

‘Project France’

“The French … know what Frenchness is. It’s an accumulation of their history, thought, arts and food — all wrapped up into a sort of ‘Project France.’ …

“Backed by a myth of magnificence, Project France co-opts most people most of the time, keeping them moving together in broadly the same direction. And — this is the point — culture is vital to the process. It’s not the jam on top; it’s part of what the French think themselves to be. So when they talk of Marivaux or Moliere or ‘l’exception francaise’ — the uniqueness of French achievement — they’re not boasting. They’re surviving. …

“Meanwhile, philosophers — philosophers! — appear on television and mention Voltaire or Diderot without any airhead presenter going: ‘Ooh, get you!’ There’s an assumption that the French will know who these chaps are.”

Anthony Peregrine, writing on “Vive La Difference,” in the May 12 issue of the London Daily Telegraph

Primal fear

“I can still hear the terrified cries of men from across the sea, from England, men scared stiff by the new ‘Sex and the City’ movie premiere, and such cries are cries of warning to men in America, where this evil film will debut in a few weeks.

“One of the first shrieks of woe came from a regular guy named Phil. … ‘I don’t think SATC is just for girls. I am a reasonably well-adjusted bloke and I am looking forward to seeing the film with my girlfriend. I am then looking forward to poking my eyes out with red-hot pokers, burning my skin off, and rolling around in salt for a while.’ — Phil Mann, Newcastle upon Tyne.

“He’s not alone. Millions of men are sick about this movie, based on a TV show about four terrifying, rich, aging, elitist women who whine about sex and men and purchase $700 pairs of shoes to feel better about themselves. What guy wouldn’t love such a movie?”

John Kass, writing on “Because No Man Should Feel the Agony of This Film,” in the May 14 issue of the Chicago Tribune

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