Tuesday, May 28, 2002
But of course, this cognitive dissonance is exactly what half the population--the female half--has dealt with for hundreds of years, and recent attempts to inject some balance into society, i.e. the women's lib movement, are still not as far advanced as to prevent the awkwardness a woman faces in the milestone of marriage: changing such a foundational symbol of your identity simply because women were second-class citizens for all of human history, and in many ways still are. As an article at the wedding site The Knot, in a useful treatment of this issue, says: "The evolution of women's roles aside, society still expects you and your husband to have the same last name." As I wrote recently in the Det. Free Press, my wife and I are facing a lot of weird old-fashioned ideas as we scrape out a more balanced view of family in the 21st Century. It can be disorienting for the man as well as the woman.
What 'Friends' has to offer lit professors, from the Chronicle of Higher Education:
If magazines are any indication, masculinity is in crisis, says Andrew Sullivan in The New Republic:
We're past the age of heroes and kings. If we can't make up stories about ordinary people, who can we make them up about? ... Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it's up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting. It's a rare life so dull that no crisis ever intrudes.
Monday, May 27, 2002
Fiske keeps up with several Japanese veterans. He has asked their forgiveness, and they have asked for his. Last week, at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, the 80-year-old bugler lifted the mouthpiece to his lips and blew taps one more time. "I believe in defending the United States," he says, "but if you think war is going to solve anything, it isn't." And he's right. Taking pride is good. But Fiske knows this: On Memorial Day, the best way to honor those who have died in wars is to scratch away at the hatred that starts them.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
And although it would be sure to make the veep grumpy, I'm tempted to go see Second City's latest gag when I move down to Chicago--it's a spoof on post-9/11 corporate greed, in an attempt to hail the return of irony.
Despite its name, there is nothing especially original about President Bush's Initiative for a New Cuba,....Longtime Cuba watchers will recognize it as the old U.S. policy dressed up to look new....It is time for the United States to acknowledge that the embargo has failed to budge Mr. Castro and that it has little chance of doing so. It is way past time for the United States to seek to trade with Cuba as it does with other Communist countries, such as China and Vietnam, in the warranted belief that economic interchanges can foster political change.
Another useful editorial on a supposedly urban-conscious proposal for a Wal-Mart in Dallas, and one more on ill-fated Edison Schools Inc. in Dallas.
Thursday, May 16, 2002
Howard Kurtz, in his Media Notes, points out that it has taken quite a while for people to get mad at the government for being, if not asleep, at least drowsy at the wheel before September. The political correctness of terrorism's aftermath squelched a lot of criticism, probably unhealthily so.
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Good Time cover piece by Joel Stein, albeit overstated, on Spider-Man and movies as our only remaining national conversation:
Monday, May 13, 2002
Sunday, May 12, 2002
Thursday, May 09, 2002
I said in the article I don't criticize Hughes for doing what she felt she had to do. That's her call; I'm not running her life nor wish to. What irked me, as I said at the beginning, is how American culture in the 21st Century still accepts the recent assumption that such a move is logical for a woman but not for a man. Why are only women expected to make these kind of moves? Why is it seen as natural for a man to put his career over the kids, but not for a woman to do so, and not for a man to put kids over a career (I say this expecting to be a full-time Dad at some point in my life, so don't accuse me of being numb to family).
Of course, in a truly balanced world, society would function so that neither career nor kids loses out much more than the other, and neither man nor woman is expected to have unique responsibilities inherent to their gender. As for parental sacrifice, America should be much more tolerant of the need for it in a healthy society, and the Church should be much more tolerant of those who feel they are called to serve in certain jobs that may require them to sacrifice some or all of their family capacity. In the meantime we need to change the conventional wisdom that men should worship careers and that women are ineligible for one at all. And here I guess it is relevant to point out that Hughes will still be pulling it major dough as a part-time consultant to the President. Sitting in the family room with phone in hand, the bucks piling up...maybe she's found an effective balance between work and family after all.
A lament for the death of pre-modern classical architecture in skyscrapers, with the post-9/11 outlook for the skyscraper looking very foggy:
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
Here's the lengthier piece from my student newspaper, Chimes:
And, once again, the relevant paragraph from Peter Perl's profile of Tom DeLay in Washington Post Magazine:
For all of Tom DeLay's public espousal of Christian values, particularly his deep commitment to family, he privately has nursed a terrible estrangement from his own mother and three siblings. After the 1988 death of his father and the rise of his career in Washington, DeLay cut off contact with all three siblings, and seven years ago he stopped attending DeLay family gatherings. He has not seen or talked to his mother, Maxine, in two years, even though she lives about 10 miles away from Sugar Land; or did he invite any of them to his daughter's 1999 wedding or even mention his mother in the published wedding announcement.
I spoke with Perl by phone yesterday. He keeps in regular contact with DeLay's siblings, and says nothing has changed in the year since his piece appeared.
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
Th' newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th'ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward.
The afflicting scoop:
Monday, May 06, 2002
A) any professional organization has its subculture and social norms, so the presence of unspoken assumptions and political correctness (partisan, class-wise, or otherwise) makes the media elite a normal organization (as much as they brag to have superhuman powers of objectivity), not a sinister conspiracy. No organization is as good as it needs to be at overcoming its institutional routines and worldview to empathize with as many people as it needs to. The problem is the media's flaws are most visible, since their job is to communicate to us about how they see the world. In the case of the media elite, the norms are the product of homogenous educational background, unimaginative professional routines, self-censorship, etc. Yes, the norms do include Democratic voting. But that is not the full story of what is going on here.
- Most conservative critics refuse to demonstrate noble objectivity or even balance in their critiques. They slap the liberal label on everyone who isn't them, even though profound political differences exist across the left half of the political spectrum. I'm saying this as a Nader voter, but I can make a good case that Al Gore does not equal Al Sharpton; the difference between these men, though, is negligible to most conservatives. Meanwhile, conservatives disallow liberal complaints about the media--its corporate homogenization, its reinforcement of old-fashioned gender and family norms, its pre- and probably post-Enron under-covering of corporate crime, etc., etc. To say that only conservative critiques of the media are valied is simple-minded and, yup, biased.
Stephanie Salter puts it well in the SF Chronicle:
From where I sit -- a grouchy member of mainstream journalism for 30 years - - it looks like a dozen giant, for-profit conglomerates now own most major print and electronic news outlets. The day that their agenda is to pander to welfare moms, labor unions, peace and affirmative action advocates, environmentalists and enemies of unbridled capitalism -- well, that's the day I'll be the happiest damned liberal in the whole global village.
- Second, conservatives can't gush enough about the human capacity to overcome social environment when it comes to poverty and crime, affirmative action (which I actually oppose), and so forth. And yet they so broadly deny most reporters' capability to do just that--to overcome certain supposed social influences to be liberal and slanted and instead do a professional, balanced job. The vast majority of reporters are far more interested in doing a professional, balanced job than they are in political activism. When they fail, the possibility that they are bloodthirsty party hacks is only one among several more likely explanations.
In my humble opinion, the most important problems in the media are 1) overall dumbing down and poor writing quality of news stories, 2) the warped interest in entertainment stories as actual news, 3) presenting almost all political news as a jockeying of runaway egos, not discourse about policy (which politics, defying the odds, sometimes actually is), 4) presenting foreign and urban news as little more than a record of violent events void of context... and then maybe political slant. If political slant were the biggest problem in the media, the media would be a heck of lot better.
Below is the useful point-counterpoint in the SF Chronicle, followed by a thorough critique of bias-crying columnist John Leo in the, yes, liberal Daily Howler:
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