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Archive for December 2004

Thanks Aaron Brown

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Big let down from Aaron Brown tonight on CNN. Thought he was actually going to grow some guts for a minute, but nope – false alarm.

Here’s why I was momentarily hopeful – the teaser at the top of the show.

BROWN: Tonight we look at truths and untruths and exaggeration coming from teachers to kids on the subject of sex.

Kind of sounds like he mightly be slightly critical of the abstinence folks, right?

Look, there are two main problems with abstinence programs.

First of all, while they may or may not reduce teenage sexual encounters, it is fairly clear that these programs definitely do increase the incidence of unplanned pregnancy and STD transmission for those kids who do have sex. This isn’t all that hard to understand, is it? When you incessantly assert that the birth control pill is a losers bet, and that condomns are so ineffective that you might as well forget them, it’s no wonder that when the adolescent red-staters fall from grace, they fall hard.

Secondly, and perhaps just as importantly – isn’t there are serious question about what effect these scare tactics have of the developing sensibility about sex in general, a sensibility that will stay with these kids forever, in one form or another. Might it not be a little hard to get up for good old conjugal variety when all you’ve been told is that sex is extremely dangerous, a health risk not unlike smoking, and not what the cool kids are doing…

Anyway, Brown folded when he got to the segment, and the talking head Ob-Gyn that they pulled out from under a rock somewhere in Texas. We get, instead of reason, lots of stuff like this:

BROWN: You know, part of the — there are so many, I think, as a
parent, complications in all of this. But can I offer a thought here,
which is that no matter what you guys teach or those guys teach, what I
teach and my wife teach to my kids probably more important than any of
it?

Thanks for the PSA, but that’s not really what we’re talking about, is it Aaron?

(By the way, for some fun, search the transcript for Dr. Texas’s (mis)use of the words "accuracy" and "inaccuracy." Somebody’s a little confused… But not too confused to save our kids from themselves…

Here’s the stupid transcript.

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December 3, 2004 at 12:43 am

Posted in Television

Nicely Played

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Chris Matthews kinda made Falwell’s head explode a little bit on his show recently. OK, good. Now just repeat this move eleven thousand times and maybe we’ll make some progress…

From Slate: Cable News Cretinism – Jerry Falwell’s straight story. By Dana Stevens.

Matthews: Did you choose to be heterosexual?

Falwell: I did.

Matthews: You thought about it and that was your choice?

Falwell: Well, put it this way, I was taught as a child that that’s the right way to be.

Matthews: But did you feel an attraction toward women?
Falwell: Oh, of course.

Matthews: But when people are born and they find themselves having an attraction to somebody from the same sex, do you think that’s a choice?

Falwell: I think you can experiment with any perversity and develop an appetite for it, just like you can food. […] I don’t think anybody is born a bank robber […]

Matthews: How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?
Falwell: Oh, I don’t remember that.

Matthews: Well you must, because you say it’s a big decision.
Falwell: Well, I – I started dating when I was about thirteen.
Matthews: And you had to decide between boys and girls. And you chose girls.

Falwell: Well, I never had to decide, I never thought … (laughter)

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December 2, 2004 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Television

Quick Question – Bitterish

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Is there any public figure who more tellingly exudes that particular brand of stupidity cultivated in the greater New York area than Bernie Kerik?

(Not that the New York brand is any worse than that of any other area of our great nation – quite the opposite. But you know what I’m talking about… I’ve been changing the channel for years now whenever his balding, drawling orb appears on the screen, and now we get to see him in front of the amazing technicolor terror forecast board).

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December 2, 2004 at 11:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Cost of Living

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OK – as pop culture goes, it’s a pretty high end addiction. I like to watch Location Location Location on BBC America. Set the DVR to tape it, freak out just a little when it’s a repeat (happens more and more often – though tonight I had a great one from Glasgow to watch…)

Home for Thanksgiving, discovered mom to be a huge fan of the American version of the show, HGTV’s House Hunters.

I’ve seen mom’s show before, and found it just as unbearable watching it with her (while my wife and dad couch snoozed in the other room in from of some sort of Seinfeld retrospective…) as I had in the past.

Of course, it’s in large part my NYC urban snobbery. Can’t bear the friggin McMansions, faceless, hideous. Whereas Location, Location, Location generally features hip apartments (like) and crumbling country houses (like not so much).

But it’s more than that – the gaping difference between the shows is that the British version tells you the prices of the apartments / what the lookers are wanting to spend, whereas the American version leaves out that crucial bit of information. (Often, Househunters even leaves out the city, ahem, sprawling suburban wasteland where we’re looking…)

Since I’m firm in the believe that television always brings us exactly what we want (OK – that "we" is a little bit troublesome, but bear with me), what does it say about the trans-atlantic gap that "we" will tolerate a house-buying show with no prices.

Or is it more awful? The wild disparity between red state and blue state home prices would alternately gross out half the viewership or make the other half keel over in bedazzled laughter… Is that the problem? The Oklahoma housewife seeing the $900,000 1 bedroom in Chelsea and/or the Brooklyn bourgeois bohemian viewing the $75,000 3 bedroom ranch in Missouri?

Something to think about anyway…

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December 2, 2004 at 12:50 am

Posted in Television

“As democracy is perfected”

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Another great one from William Gibson‘s blog.

How seldom, in our study of literature, do we come across evidence of a genuine prescience.

"…the larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, the first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide…the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre… The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people… On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a moron."
–H.L. Mencken, writing in The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Me again: How many of us have had the chilling feeling of late that things aren’t so much falling apart as perfecting themselves?

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December 1, 2004 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Politics

Guardian Weekly

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I’ve been trying to cut down on the magazine / newspaper subscriptions of late. Motive: cost-cutting, focusing in on the work I’m supposed to be doing, the usurpation of blog-reading-time upon print-reading-time, and most importantly, a general effort to reduce the intellectual clutter around the house. Unread materials – whether books or ephemerals – make me feel wasteful and lazy.

But, try as I might, I’ve sent my credit card number in to the Guardian Weekly. Including the extra credits for a monthly translation of Le Monde Diplomatique.

With a little dilligence, could have read it on-line, right? And there are perhaps more important things to do with my time than page through this tabloid every Saturday afternoon.

What turned me around? Think it might have been a single factoid in the "We Haven’t Heard From You Yet" materials they sent day after day:

Apparently, Nelson Mandela had a subscription during his years on Robben Island.

Who the hell am I not to take out a subscription?

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December 1, 2004 at 1:05 am

Posted in Personal

Kinsey (The End of Sex)

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In the car today, was treated to a fantastic interview of Bill Condon, director of the new film about Kinsey, on Terry Gross’s show on NPR. Sounds like a true fellow traveller, this Condon. Kept twisting the knife about Kinsey’s atheism, for instance…

(You can listen to it here: NPR : The Man Behind ‘Kinsey’: Filmmaker Bill Condon.)

But all this Kinsey stuff got me thinking: if Kinsey had gotten his way, liberated humankind from the shackles of religious superstition and cultural prohibition on sex, what would "sex" have been like? Can "sex," and the interest that it holds for us, be separated out from repression? Can good clean fun be fun?  (C.f. the end of the first volume and the start of the second of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, of course…)

(This is one of the central questions that I take on in my work on literature – except it doesn’t have to be sex… Is "interest" inextricably linked to inequality? What sort of art would we have in a perfected world? What sort of literary plots after the "end of history"? Might seem like questions of purely historical import at this point, after the failure of the modernist utopias, but I’m not so sure… Not so sure that we’re not, right here and right now, verging on some sort of bizarre and unexpected tipping point, saturation, terminal equilibrium of interest a la the "heat death" that kept the late Victorians up at night…)

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December 1, 2004 at 12:49 am

Posted in Culture