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May 17, 2003

Amazing Day at the Times

Friedrich --

I don't know about you, but I take it for granted that the NYT is in the business of peddling the usual media-leftist myths. So imagine my surprise this morning on finding three pieces in today's paper that speak straightforwardly about life as it's actually lived. (Two of them in the Arts and Ideas section!) What's the world coming to?

* In an op-ed piece here, Samuel Freedman discusses what he sees as the demise of the special relationship between Jews and blacks: "[The] black-Jewish era, in many ways, is over. It can be studied and celebrated. But for reasons of demography and politics and the mere passage of time, it should be retired to the realm of history or mythology." Shockeroonie: I don't know if I have it in me to handle such frank talk coming from the Times.

* Alessandra Stanley has a lot of malicious fun reviewing the new PBS series "Race: The Power of an Illusion" here. I generally think of the Times and PBS as two branches of the same PC tree. But check out these passages from Stanley:

...its larger message is overpowered by the intellectual timidity of the messenger...The series could more aptly be titled 'PBS: The Power of Self-Delusion,' a study of how a publicly owned television network with a mandate to challenge the mind can instead put even the most caffeinated brains to sleep ... Like the character played by Bill Murray in 'Groundhog Day,' PBS keeps reliving the horrors of slavery, segregation and discrimination without advancing to the more politically and culturally sensitive issues of race relations today.
Hey, that's the kind of thing we Blowhards might have said! Actually, we have said similar things, here. Lordy, now we have the Times breathing down our necks. Who said it was easy being a Blowhard?

* And here's a good piece from Gregory Jordan about the state of creative-writing programs that's full of up-to-date and useful information. (It's also -- shiver me timbers -- free of the the Times' usual moral grandstanding on literary matters.) It turns out that the creative-writing-school industry is booming these days: last year, 20,000 people applied for 4000 spots. (Jordan reminds us that while in 1967 there were only 13 creative writing programs in the US, today there are 330.) A surprise is how much of this is driven by Hollywood money, or the possibility of it anyway. Alice ("The Lovely Bones") Sebold is quoted saying, "I was stunned at how students talked about movies when we went out to dinner, when I was expecting them to talk about novels. There is big money in Hollywood, and it lures away really good minds." Another source tells Jordan, "Thirty years ago, students probably wanted to be the next great novelist. Now many want to write the next great screenplay." It's helpful as well to be reminded of one of the important reasons why universities are so enthusiastic about these programs. It's because -- what with their high tuitions and tiny overheads -- they're cash cows.

The Jayson Blair scandal? Yesterdaysville. These three pieces made me forget all about it.



posted by Michael at May 17, 2003


Michael Blowhard:

Hearing that students are still hot to go out to Hollywood and write the next big screenplay is rather depressing. It almost makes me nostolgic for the late 1990s, when the boom seem to have dethroned Hollywood as the destination for the young and the ambitious. Kind of makes one wonder just what it is about Hollywood that makes it such a fantasy destination. It can't actually be the movies that come out of it; intelligent, creative kids must notice how tired and formulaic most of them are. So it must be something about having the vast resources of the modern movie studio placed at your command (along with the ready availability of physically desirable members of whatever sex interests you)--and all in the service of realizing a version of one of your daydreams! Is that the real thrill behind the Hollywood dream--getting paid (lavishly) for your masturbatory fantasies?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 18, 2003 12:49 PM

Always thought a certain type is attracted to screenwriting for the same reason that this certain type is attracted to stand-up comedy - because screenwriting is a way to get into the show business without good look or even the most minimal musical ability. Have assumed that these screenwriting hopefuls aim to be producers, just as the stand-up hopefuls aim to get a sitcom deal.

Posted by: j.c. on May 19, 2003 9:57 PM

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