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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan 12, 2012/ 17 Teves, 5772

Waging Culture

By Ben Wattenberg

Ben Wattenberg


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | National power and influence are not just shaped by armies and economic strength. A culture with legs provides what Professor Joseph Nye calls "soft power."

Case in point: I interviewed the late, great film director Sydney Pollak, (Tootsie, Out of Africa). I asked him a simple question and I received a simple answer. "What are American movies about?" Not skipping a beat, he answered: "The hero shapes destiny." It took me a while to sense the potency of his answer.

That is probably an unremarkable response to most Americans. They have seen scores of Westerns where the quiet U.S. Marshall single-handedly drives the bad guys out town; they have seen teenagers move on to great things, after tinkering with computer programs in the basement. Americans have seen immigrants and especially their children win Nobel Prizes, start great corporations and advance medicine in heroic ways.

"The hero shapes destiny" --- not very special to most Americans --- but revolutionary to much of the rest of the world where the potential hero is smothered at every turn. The government shapes destiny. The dictator shapes destiny. The political party shapes destiny. The army and the police shape destiny. The unions shape destiny. The corporations shapes destiny. Tradition shapes individual destiny; parents and grandparents make sure of that. See Fiddler on the Roof and note that smart parents understand --- as the good poker players say "you have know when to hold them and when to fold them." Though complaining all the way, Tevye, the family patriarch, gives his five daughters his blessing as they leave the shtetl and begin to live in the new, modern world.

It is not happenstance that America is different in this manner. From its inception America was different. It relished a dynamic blending of personal independence with civil society, modernism with traditions. In his 1833 book Democracy in America Alexis de Toqueville called this "American Exceptionalism."

The instrument that most dramatically shows the world that exceptionalism today is the American movie. Consider what's going on: The data here is from the Motion Picture Association of America. Much of the anecdotal material is from conversations I have had over the years.

The film business is not growing as fast as it once did. And, as ever, premature death knells have been sounded. Why? First off the movie boom in America has apparently peaked. In the five years from 2006 to 2010 dollar revenue soared from $ 25.5 billion to $31.8 billion. The U.S. and Canadian markets grew 15% over that time, but mostly from higher prices, not more admissions. International markets however grew 30% to more than $31 billion. Accounting for this was both higher prices and more admissions.

Item: in most of those foreign markets the majority of the box office admissions are for American movies. Talk about influence: most ticket sales worldwide go to young people --- who often defy the powers that be and seek to shape their own destiny.

What accounts for the popularity of these films? First Pollak's exciting idea about common man heroes shaping their own destiny. But there is much more. Listen to foreign producers and directors mock their own work. "It takes half an hour for one of our films to get started; there is always that artsy introspection. American movies start out with a punch in the nose." There is the stunning fact that for the since the Tower of Babble there is universal language; it is American or if you prefer English. "English as a Second Language" courses remain over-subscribed in schools all over the world. Berlitz and other private language schools are doing great business. A universal common language means that most anyone anywhere can see an American language film with or without subtitles.

Of course, there are some terrible American movies out there --- too violent and sex-drenched. But that is not merely an American situation; the great Greek and Roman playwrights, and Shakespeare wrote plays that were sexy and violent pot-boilers. Notwithstanding, or perhaps because of, many of these have lived on as great masterpieces.

Foreign movie moguls understand something else about American movies. "No one can promote a movie like the Americans." The crowing achievement is the spectacular annual Academy Awards --- a trade show designed to sell movies worldwide and that is carried as news everywhere.

In all, film is a $32 billion industry (not exactly chopped liver), that sows American views and values everywhere.

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JWR contributor Ben Wattenberg has been a nationally syndicated columnist and the author of 14 books. He has just begun writing "The Second American Century," from which some of the material here is drawn.


© 2008, Ben Wattenberg.

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