November 28, 2007
Good Grief, Grendel
To solicit from a medievalist a review of Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf is to pick a quarrel unlikely to be evaded. The eminent Cambridge classicist Richard Bentley famously put down Alexander Pope’s translation of Greek epic with a single sentence: “It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.” “Pretty” is not the first adjective I would choose to describe Zemeckis’s Beowulf. Fantastic, amazing, preposterous, corny from springing leaf to ripening ear, technically brilliant perhaps, enjoyable after a fashion--but “pretty,” no. This Beowulf is all about the animated monsters.
Thompson Campaign Death Watch, Ctd.
You know it's bad when Michael Medved disses you this persuasively: On Wednesday, Senator Thompson spent a half hour answering friendly questions on my radio show. If you read a transcript of his remarks, they’ll look perfectly credible, articulate and astute. But if you listen to the tape of the actual interview, it’s startling to note how disengaged, bored, flaccid and tired the Senator sounds. Instead of relishing the opportunity to connect with several million listeners, Thompson came across like a guy forced to complete a necessary but onerous chore.
The stream of news about the three days of riots that have overtaken the suburbs of Paris is unsettling. In echoes of the 3-week urban war of 2005, the pot is still boiling, and this fight may not yet have reached its climax. The mainly black and Muslim rioters are still aggrieved about the perennial barriers of race, class and religion that govern their lives in France. Like the first uprising, the death of two local youths sparked the violence.
November 27, 2007
There is a doomsday scenario looming in Iraq, and it is not one that has to do with sectarian strife or Iranian hegemony. It is the possibility that a 65-foot wave could burst forth from the Mosul dam, some 250 miles north of Baghdad, unleashing a trillion gallons of water from the Tigris River and, within hours, drowning half a million people as well as two of the country's three largest cities. It would be the Hurricane Katrina of Iraq, only orders of magnitude worse--a shocking story of negligence by the U.S. government.
The Thunder from Down Under
WASHINGTON--Kevin Rudd, Australia's new prime minister, combines iron discipline with a puckish sense of humor, political toughness with a reflective spiritual side, and a youthful disposition with an old pro's skill at divining where a majority lies. The triumph of Rudd and his Australian Labor Party holds lessons for Democrats and other center-left parties. John Howard, the conservative incumbent swept from power after 11 years in office, had presided over record prosperity.
Kentucky swings the other way.
Today, the United States will convene a large international gathering to re-launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. With this, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has followed through on her commitment, made early this year, to help usher in a time of peace for these two historic enemies.
Don’t Feed the Humans!
The reaction of America’s leading “obesity” experts to the latest study on the issue demonstrates yet again that our current definition of the word “overweight” makes no sense.
November 26, 2007
Roger Cohen Vs. Bernard Lewis
There was an inadvertent debate this morning between two op-ed pieces: one in the New York Times by Roger Cohen (he, of the priestly caste among the Jews); the other in the Wall Street Journal by Bernard Lewis (a scholar of titanic stature but a Jew as ordinary as the rest of us Israelites). The two essays of roughly a thousand words each appear to be addressed to the outcome of tomorrow's conference at Annapolis. They are not. They are different ways of reading history...or, of one of them, not reading history at all.
Door Buster [Foon Rhee, Political Intelligence]: "Since anyone can submit a video to YouTube to pose a question for the Republican presidential debate this week, Democrat Chris Dodd is taking advantage to ask about protecting the Constitution." PAC-man [Greg Sargent, Talking Points Memo]: "Earlier today the Hillary campaign opened up another front in the battle with Barack Obama, accusing him of breaking FEC law over a report in The Washington Post that said that Obama's PAC had been spreading donations around to supporters in the early primary states." In it to Spin [Patrick Ruffini, Town