David Edelstein and Nell Minow

David Edelstein and Nell Minow

An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 27 1998 1:57 PM

David Edelstein and Nell Minow

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Good morning, David! I am thrilled to be sharing a virtual breakfast table with one of my favorite film critics--not many can catch a Ghost and Mr. Chicken allusion! I hope to sneak in some movie stuff along with the day's headlines, if we can.

But here in Washington the top story is still the shooting that took place at the Capitol on Friday. The Washington Post's above-the-fold front page story is the inevitable interview with the parents of Russell Weston, Jr., sounding understandably dazed. Later this week I predict another inevitable story--a review of security at the Capitol and proposed additional measures and later million-dollar plans for additional barricades and street closings. It really rankles me that out of this tragedy will come yet another boneheaded result. The mentally ill, who are the least able to speak for themselves, protect themselves, or control themselves, are victimized by both liberals and conservatives, whose dogmatic advocacy of their "rights" completely ignores reality. Those on the left insisted on de-institutionalization, which might have made sense had there actually been anything resembling the promised follow-up services. According to the Post, Weston was involuntarily committed in 1996, following a letter to the White House accusing Clinton of sending CIA agents to kill him. He was released two months later on the condition that he continue his treatments. But no one made sure he did, and when his prescription ran out, he stopped.

Meanwhile, those on the right continue to insist that the solution is more access to guns, not less. Let's watch and see if Charlton Heston has the nerve to argue that if more of the tourists in the Capitol had had guns, Weston would have been stopped sooner.

A couple of other items from the Post: I promised myself I would not follow up on the most prominent theme from last week's Breakfast Table, but I can't resist--Jonathan Yardley, the Post's sublimely thoughtful and literate book critic, confesses that....he has not read Ulysses, and that "For me, as doubtless for millions of others, Ulysses is a monument not to literary greatness but to mystification." An interesting sidelight is that Yardley's uncle had an appreciation for the book that was historic--he was the judge who issued the decision permitting its publication, back in the days when people tried to stop books on the basis of alleged pornographic content. Meanwhile, yesterday's Post featured another kind of challenge to another kind of book. The publisher of a series of books explaining how to pick locks, build disposable silencers, make bombs, and kill people is being sued by the family of people killed by the purchaser of one of his books, titled Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors. My favorite part of that article described the author of the book, Rex Feral. While the publisher's catalogue lists him as a killer for hire, the Post reveals that "he" is a divorced mother of two who never owned a gun, got all of the ideas from television, friends, and her karate instructor, and wrote the book because she needed money for taxes and her novel had been rejected.

Over to you!

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. Nell Minow's reviews of movies and videos appear on her Movie Mom Web page. Her book The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies is forthcoming.