- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2010

Adult-ery

“AMC’s dramas define ‘adult’ somewhat differently than other cable channels. … The word has been mishandled and devalued. The word ‘adult’ shouldn’t be about visual or aural content so much as themes and psychology. It shouldn’t mean ‘blood and boobies,’ but ‘situations that kids aren’t mature enough to understand or care about.’

HBO’s shows have often prided themselves on being R-rated, sometimes borderline X-rated, and featuring copious amounts of profanity, sex, nudity, drug use, spectacularly brutal violence, or some combination. … But the great HBO series balanced prurience with literary and cinematic ambition. AMC is doing the same thing, but the emphasis is more on the second half of the equation. …

“AMC’s shows just don’t have the same ‘Let’s see how far we can go’ ethos that seems to have driven HBO and its blatant imitators in the ‘00s. That’s partly because they’re a commercially supported channel; it also seems to be an aesthetic choice. … The attitude toward sex and violence is just as measured. Violence is rare on ‘Mad Men,’ and when it happens - as in the lawnmower episode - it’s more shocking because it’s not normally a part of that world. Sex is mostly implied. And when it’s shown, it’s R-rated in physical frankness (you’re never in doubt as to what acts are being performed) but PG-13 in terms of how much skin you see and how long the scene typically goes on.”

- Matt Zoller Seitz, writing on “The extraordinary rise of AMC,” on Nov. 23 at Salon

The more things change …

“Every young Jewish schlemiel who aspired to some sort of masculine ideal has devoured books like ‘The Jewish Boxer’s Hall of Fame’ or ‘When Boxing was a Jewish Sport.’ In the beginning of the 20th century the sport was especially popular among Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants. … At this time, boxing was the second most popular sport in America, after baseball, the national pastime.

“With the rise of Joe Louis, African Americans began to achieve prominence in the sport in greater numbers. After WW2, Jewish participation in boxing fell off dramatically, though other white ethnics, especially Italians, continued to succeed, most famously Rocky Marciano. … By the 1960s, however, Blacks dominated most weight classes. This began to change, though, as Latinos earned championships, especially at the lighter weights. …

“In the 1990s, many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, along with Puerto Ricans and Cuban defectors, entered the ranks of boxing’s best. Boxing in the United States remained an immigrant sport, but the immigrants had changed.”

- David Weinfeld, writing on “The Great Filipino Hope? A Brief History of Race in the Ring” on Nov. 21 at Ph.D. Octopus

… they stay the same

“I finally bought the nine out-of-print [Laura Ingalls Wilder ‘Little House’ books] with their famous Garth Williams illustrations on eBay two years ago. At first I found what I had expected; happy tales of semi-autobiographical childhood pleasures based on family bonds and the seasons: a corn cob for a doll, sugaring parties after the maple syrup had been gathered, a house and life made entirely by their own hands - Pa even made his own bullets; only the nails were ‘boughten.’

“Appropriately enough, the first book, ‘Little House in the Big Woods,’ was a great success in 1932, marketed as ‘the book the depression couldn’t stop.’ In the epilogue to The First Four Years, the ninth and final book in the series, Wilder wrote: ‘In the seventh year a mysterious catastrophe was worldwide. All banks failed. From coast to coast the factories shut down and business ceased. This was a panic.’ There is a current credit-crunch vogue for Manhattanites to rediscover the Little House books with their own apartment-dwelling daughters.”

- Samira Ahmed, writing on “Spirit of the Frontier,” on Nov. 26 at the Guardian

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