- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009


“For [author Kenneth] Whyte, the founding editor of Canada’s National Post, [William Randolph] Hearst was nothing less than a genius. Whyte wants to recast the terms of the debate: The job of a newspaper publisher is to sell newspapers; Hearst did that spectacularly well. Hearst, Whyte writes, mastered the now ‘almost forgotten arts of attracting readers and building circulation against established competition’ … .

“Whyte says nothing about the present moment, but his book is a stark reminder of how timid and dreary so many newspapers have become, and of how the newspaper industry has, of late, squandered the pre-eminent place it once held in the lives of its readers.

“Journalism Hearst-style could be extreme and over the top, but it was also supremely entertaining and bold. Hearst came at the reader with a relentless style; he made reading the news an event unto itself. There may be nothing that can save the newspaper industry from the crisis it faces today, but the drab entities that own most American newspapers, corporations with bland names like MediaNews Group, have been their own worst enemies, producing colourless papers lacking in style and spirit - the very things the dynamic Hearst delivered daily.”

- Matthew Price, writing on “Stacking Paper,” on Feb. 6 at the National newspaper of Abu Dhabi


“This hypocritical two-facedness about cinematic violence was very much a feature of the cultural and historical moment when [Clint] Eastwood first became a star - a time in the late 1960s, during which the fashionable pacifism spawned by the Vietnam War existed side by side with the new visceral excitement provided by movies no longer bound to the restrictions of a Production Code and thereby free to portray sex and violence with an entirely novel graphic realism.

“So, on the one hand, you had protestations about the evils of violence, and on the other, you had audiences flocking to see Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway turned into Swiss cheese at the end of ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’

“One classic line of dialogue from the amazingly weird ‘Billy Jack,’ the enormous box-office hit of 1971 about an alliance between a bunch of hippies and a saintly Native American zen master just back from Vietnam who must deal with a bunch of land-grabbing rednecks, summed up the New Hollywood perspective. ‘He was a war hero who hated the war,’ someone says about Billy Jack - a pacifist, but one who knew how to kick five yahoos in the teeth for disrespecting the flower children.”

- John Podhoretz, writing on “Violence Hurts,” in the Feb. 9 issue of Gran Torino


“There are detailed and well-informed discussions of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, porn, gambling and guzzling, and such recreational drugs as [Ecstasy], plus thumbnail sketches of dissolute figures from Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars to Elvis Presley, Errol Flynn, Janis Joplin and the 17th-century libertine Lord Rochester.

“While arguing that boredom ‘reveals more about the person than it does about the world around them,’ [author Paul] Martin wheels on such troubled if delightful souls as the late Peter Cook to suggest that the pursuit of self-destructive pleasures can, for some, prove the only alternative to dying of boredom with the quotidian banality of life.

“Sleep and dreams are granted a high place amid life’s unavoidable pleasures. But less obviously harmful delights such as reading, dancing, sport, opera, game-playing, conversation get short shrift amid Martin’s concentration on the links between pleasure and pain - the latter of which, ironically enough, prompts one of the book’s best passages. What he gives with one hand, he invariably takes away with the other. Without sex, we wouldn’t be here. Without drugs, many showbiz celebrities still would. But [Samuel Taylor] Coleridge wouldn’t have written ‘Kubla Khan.’ ”

- Anthony Holden, reviewing “Sex, Drugs and Chocolate: the Science of Pleasure” in the Jan. 28 issue of the (London) Daily Telegraph

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