Subject: Bill Clinton, You're No Kevin Spacey
From: Sean Roche
Date: Tue May 2
I started watching President Clinton's mock-umentary of White House life expecting to see something, anything (besides the Kevin Spacey appearance) that smacked of American Beauty. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
The adolescent mentor? Puhlease. It is a straight, and I mean very straight, rip-off of a commercial for an online trading company, in which the senior-citizen CEO gets an Internet lesson from an overly caffeinated, free-spirit e-capitalist kid. Nothing in this sketch hints at a relationship like Spacey's with the boy next door. Arguably—and it's a real stretch—Clinton's hedgeclipping is meant to evoke Annette Bening trimming the roses. But wouldn't that sort of undo the supposed connection between Clinton and Spacey? Moreover, Clinton doesn't seem alienated like Spacey. In fact, he seems throughout to be remarkably content, just a little bored. And there is certainly not a trace of Spacey's anger, unless you count the vending-machine scene. Risqué similarities to American Beauty? I think not. Woefully attenuated argument by otherwise reliable columnist? I think so.
Subject: Brush Up Your Gibbon
Re: " Movies: Gladiator"
From: Christopher Page
Date: Tue May 2
David Edelstein may think Gladiator's depiction of Emperor Commodus as an occasional gladiator is "absurd," but in strict point of fact, the real Roman emperor of that name was a part-time gladiator, and not once but repeatedly. He likely never fought any ex-Roman generals, true, but to suggest that it's absurd for the master of the world to fight with the brutes in the Coliseum is to ignore the fact that, uh, he did.
Subject: Re: Brush Up Your Gibbon
Re: "Movies: Gladiator"
From: David Edelstein
Date: Wed May 10
But I didn't write that the "depiction of Commodus as an occasional gladiator [was] absurd," I wrote that he acted "like Ernst Blofeld crossed with some psychotic movie mogul ... before absurdly leaping into the arena with Maximus ..." It's the timing that's ludicrously movieish. Given that Commodus was a part-time gladiator, didn't the film miss a big opportunity by not showing him in action until the bloody climax? If anything, they made him a less formidable opponent than he actually was. He didn't die in the arena, either, but that's, uh, another story.
Subject: Saletan's Microsoft Gloss
From: Jack Baltimore
Date: Wed May 3
William Saletan writes that "Americans don't like aggressors and don't trust agents of change." But the American president most closely identified with the introduction of anti-trust was Teddy Roosevelt, beloved of the American people, who set a record in his landslide re-election. Americans love agents of change who they identify as acting in their interest.
None should buy Saletan's rhetorical attempt to reduce the government's case against Microsoft to that of an insurance agent's pitch for whole life instead of term. Yes, trials entail persuasion. But the need to persuade in order to win in court in no way detracts from, or adds to, the actual truth of the case itself. Microsoft management, acting as proxy for its shareholders, broke the law and the public's trust repeatedly, and remains unrepentant. Its shareholders should therefore take the increased risk to their equity a breakup would entail. Now they will know how the investors in STAC Electronics felt when Microsoft squashed 'em like a bug.
A breakup is fair no matter which side you're on. After all, a breakup will not hurt Microsoft shareholders if the company's worth derives solely from the value of its products to customers.
Subject: It's Not a Race Thing, It's a Cultural Thing
From: Aaron Schatz
Date: Mon May 1
For a Jew, marrying within the faith is not about race. It is not about nationality. It is about how we live, and how we raise our children.
Judaism is a religion of the home. Holidays are home-based. You need a spouse who understands the importance of keeping Pesach (Passover), or keeping kosher, or observing Shabbat. You need a house which will be free of Christmas decorations. You need a spouse who will want your children to be brought up being taught Jewish moral values, which contrary to usual belief are not necessarily always the same as Christian beliefs.
This is important, because everyone seems to be caught up in this liberal dream that eventually we'll all be the same. Racially, I could care less. Black, white, honestly who cares? But when it comes to religion, I by no means want my children or my grandchildren to assimilate into the majority culture, to celebrate the birth of someone else's god each December, to forget the teachings of Hillel, or Rabbi Akiva. Now, if everyone wanted to be Jewish, that I wouldn't mind.
Subject: Ballot Box's Foreign Policy Hypocrisy
From: Steven Reynolds
Date: Thu May 4
A doctrine for foreign policy in a post-Cold War world sounds like a good idea, and the sort of thing leaders are conventionally supposed to provide. Foreign policy visions dominated the Cold War. But we don't have such large-scale foreign-policy problems now. We have one small or medium-sized problem after another, problems not too much like one another, that require competence, alertness, flexibility, good judgment, and firmness. There is no slogan or theory that will be applicable to more than half of these problems. But pressure from the foreign-policy press forces candidates to come up with something. They know that a detailed outline will be a bad idea for half the crises that actually arise and that the press will beat them over the head if they don't follow their outline to the letter. So they produce something mushy and unsatisfactory that at least won't tie their hands. Then the commentators, like Ballot Box, point out that it is mushy and unsatisfactory, and look wise without having to know anything.