- - Thursday, November 25, 2010

A star is born

“[Sarah] Palin has ‘star power,’ the real thing, rather like Ronald Reagan or Princess Diana did (and Bill Clinton, on a good day, still does). It is what Paul Newman had when the camera lingered on him: It didn’t matter whether he was acting particularly well. It is a quality that causes people to sit up and take notice — and even to feel a bond.

“‘Substance,’ here, is beside the point, and this enrages a certain spectrum of the intelligentsia. As for Barbara Bush, her husband had not one iota of star power; her son had a little, but his qualities — non-eloquence, an Everyman outlook, a red-state appeal — are Sarah Palin‘s, too … a closeness that may embarrass Barbara Bush more than a little, and really sting. …

“Since Palin’s political attraction isn’t immediately comprehensible to the ruling class, she terrifies that class, for whom there is no torture worse than not being able to comprehend. I’m convinced that her run for the presidency is her way of baiting these people — her enemies. In effect, she’s a strong, beautiful, ungovernable woman who is scaring the pants off a whole lot of people — scaring the pants, to be sure, off Frank Rich, and off dear old Barbara Bush.”

Tunku Varadarajan, writing on “Palin Paranoia Decoded,” on Nov. 23 at the Daily Beast

The perfect child

“Last year, a friend of mine sent a shipment of green rubber flooring, at great impractical expense, to a villa in the south of France because she was worried that over the summer holiday her toddler would fall on the stone floor. Generations of French children may have made their way safely to adulthood, walking and falling and playing and dreaming on these very same stone floors, but that did not deter her in her determination to be safe. This was, I think, an extreme articulation of our generation’s common fantasy: that we can control and perfect our children’s environment. And lurking somewhere behind this strange and hopeless desire to create a perfect environment lies the even stranger and more hopeless idea of creating the perfect child.

“Of course, for most of us, this perfect, safe, perpetually educational environment is unobtainable; an ineffable dream we can browse through in Dwell, or some other beautiful magazine, with the starkly perfect Oeuf toddler bed, the spotless nursery. Most of us do not raise our children amidst a sea of lovely and instructive wooden toys and soft cushiony rubber floors and healthy organic snacks, but the ideal exists and exerts its dubious influence.”

Katie Roiphe, writing on “Modern Parenting” on Nov. 21 at Slate

Really, Sherlock?

“True, the food-police killjoys at the Center for Science in the Public Interest haven’t yet taken aim at Mom’s stuffed turkey and candied yams. But they do target restaurant meals they think should be off limits. This year’s edition of the CSPI’s annual finger-wag, Xtreme Eating 2010, cites such familiar villains as The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s, the D.C. burger mecca (and Obama favorite) Five Guys, and other chain restaurants for offering high-calorie menu items.

“Thank God for the CSPI! I mean, without this helpful list, how would Americans know that making a habit of consuming a Five Guys burger with fries and a non-diet drink might be bad for them? How would simple-minded Americans begin to understand that something called the ‘Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake’ might be a little heavy on calories and fat? I mean, without the CSPI, people might mistake The Cheesecake Factory’s cream-and-bacon-laden Pasta Carbonara for health food.

“As my eleven-year-old niece would put it: Duh!”

Julie Gunlock, writing on “The Food Police Take Aim,” on Nov. 24 at National Review

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