- - Sunday, August 15, 2010

No Irish, please

“On ‘Any Questions’ I apparently told a joke so offensive that it had to be censored by the BBC. I say ‘apparently’ because I wasn’t even aware I’d told a joke, let alone one worthy of censorship, till I discovered that the BBC had cut it out of the Saturday lunchtime repeat of the program.

“The ‘offensive joke’ was something I’d said while prefacing some remarks about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I referred to the Irishman who, when asked for directions says: ‘If you want to get there you don’t want to start from here.’

“I suppose if I’d considered it a joke, I might have essayed an Irish accent … but as far as I understand it — as, indeed, I believe most sane people understand it — is that it’s one of those old sayings, more often than not told by the Irish themselves, to illustrate a kind of perverse, quirky, counterintuitive streak that makes the Irish way of thinking so comically, lovably Irish. … The fact that the BBC is so foolish enough to believe otherwise speaks volumes about the culture of political correctness, hypersensitivity and gratuitous offense-taking in which we now live.”

— James Delingpole, writing on “How the BBC censored my monstrous, hideously offensive ‘Irish joke’,” on Aug. 14 at the Daily Telegraph

No French, please

“All this indicates that if there is ‘a crisis in French cuisine’, it has to be interpreted as a sign of some very wide-ranging social, political and cultural changes … [author Michael] Steinberger doesn’t set out to criticize modern French society, but he winds up doing it anyway. (The U.S. edition of ‘Au Revoir’ has a different subtitle, possibly designed to tap into whatever remains of anti-French sentiment whipped up by the Bush administration: it is ‘Food, Wine and the End of France.’) What’s wrong with French haute cuisine is what’s wrong with France, and this is where Steinberger’s nostalgia for a lost French way of eating begins to look very Anglo-Saxon indeed.

“Here the villain of the story is not Bocuse but the dirigiste French state. In Steinberger’s story, innovation in haute cuisine, and probably haute cuisine itself … flourish in a free enterprise system, and so his critique of French cuisine moves smoothly into a celebration of capitalist entrepreneurship and a condemnation of anything that stands in the way of the entrepreneur: restrictive labor laws, crushing VAT burdens, mountains of forms and government inspections.

“Steinberger’s purpose is the preservation of fine food and fine dining, but the rhetoric comes straight out of Thatcherism and Reaganomics: ‘France’s government seemed determined to take a hammer and sickle to free enterprise, to punish the striver rather than the slacker, and to micromanage the economic life of the nation down to the last cream puff, and the results, if not as catastrophic as what befell the Soviet Union, were pretty dire all the same.’”

— Steven Shapin, writing on “Down to the Last Cream Puff” in the Aug. 5 edition of the London Review of Books

No 3-D, please

“Personally, my own week-to-week reaction to 3-D has been that I simply notice it less and less. After I finished writing my review of ‘Toy Story 3,’ I realized that I’d written the entire thing without once mentioning the word ‘3-D.’ I hadn’t even bothered to say that the 3-D didn’t add much; at that point, that was almost a given.

“Right now, the dirty secret of 3-D may well be that ‘Avatar,’ the movie that more or less single-handedly put 3-D on the map in the 21st century … may well have raised the bar so high that almost every other 3-D movie is destined to pale by comparison. ‘Avatar’ may have made 3-D hot and doomed it at the same time.

“Every so often, of course, you see a movie that makes canny use of the technique, like ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ with its dizzy-exhilarating, surround-your-eyeballs flight sequences, or even a piece of teen dance pulp like ‘Step Up 3D,’ in which the break-dance moves don’t just pop — they vibrate. But having said that, I now, at last, have to raise the specter of the F-word: Are occasional movies like these two enough to make 3-D more than a fad?”

— Owen Gleiberman, writing on “3-D: Where do you stand on it now?” on Aug. 5 at the Entertainment Weekly blog The Movie Critics

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