samedi, juillet 12, 2008

Vampires, porn stars and virgins

If you haven't heard of the Twilight series, then you probably either are a guy or don't have a teenage daughter.

The novels by Stephanie Meyer (I had no idea Ms. Meyer is a Mormon mom) focus on the unconconsummated love affair between a teenage girl and a member of the undead.

My daughter has riffled her way through the first three and can't wait for the fourth.
The phenomenon came to the attention of the NYT Gail Collins, who drew some larger conclusions (linked above) in her Saturday column.

In preparing the column, Collins spoke to the writer of a book titled Full Frontal Feminism. Stephanie Valenti argues that young men have so much access to Internet porn that they really aren't that interested in relationships with women their own age.

"This sure sounds like trouble to me: A generation of guys who will settle for nothing less than a porn star meets a generation of women who expect their boyfriend to crawl through their bedroom window at night and just nuzzle gently until they fall asleep."

News flash: it's not just young guys who aren't interested in the hard slogging needed to make it through the challenging times in a relationship. (see Peter Cook below). Our access to the Internet has feuled the fantasy that we can short cut intimacy, or manage to avoid it altogether.

The availability of pornography and a more permissive culture have enabled a whole group of women to proclaim their liberation through casual sex and access to the stimulation men used to find in magazines they hid in their closets.

I remain agnostic on whether this is really liberation...I tend to think that, in this case, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

Village people

Caveat emptor-I'm going to try to give an anthropological spin to a subject trash feeders like the National Enquirer and gossip mags like People (as well as the much more respectable ezine Slate) are covering with such zeal: the Peter Cook-Christie Brinkley divorce.

Will I be able to pull it off? Judge for yourself, gentle reader.

The Cook-Brinkley train wreck has been in the papers a lot recently. Much of the coverage has centered on the four-times-married Brinkley's choice to publicly battle it out in the courts.

This clearly didn't work to Peter Cooks advantage.

The middle-aged Hamptons denizen was portrayed as a slimeball who paid for thousands of dollars of porn a month and dated teenagers while married to Brinkley. Not surprisingly, Brinkley got full custody of the kids, with Cook allowed alternate weekends and Wednesday nights.

Today (Saturday) the N Y T website had a story on the whole repulsive battle. But because they are so hoity-toity, they took a different tack. The reporter chatted with local residents, and discovered, amazingly enough, that everyone had an opinion. Although guys had some sympathy for Cook (huh??) and women for Brinkley, women and men polled both felt that her choice to drag Cook through the courts was bad for the couple's thirteen and ten year old kids.

I have recently covered a dispute over a big development plan for my township. One of our large landowners wants to build a spa resort here, with close to 300 English manor style homes. I'm not going to argue the pros and cons here, except to say that while we live in a lovely area, it's an astonishingly audacious idea for a village 40 miles from the city.

But faced with a challenge to local custom, we do the same thing as the villagers in the Hamptons-we gossip. We attempt to develop consensus. We try to come up with a moral judgement. We form factions. We create intrigue and spread rumors.

Effective use of the grapevine may be the the only thing we have in common with the Hamptons right now. But just give us a little time

vendredi, juillet 11, 2008


The Republican top dogs can't seem to get it right. The latest gaffe came from former Senator Phil Gramm, who said we were in a "mental recession."

Does that mean this is a bad dream?...does he believe we will wake up to oil under $100 a barrel, gas at the pump the $3.00 a gallon it was less than a year ago, milk that isn't sneaking towards $5.00 a gallon?

I'm not poor. I don't constantly have to measure the cost of what I feed our family against what I need to put in our ancient Volvo. Many folks in our nation are facing suffering that Senators Gramm and McCain and even Obama really can't imagine.

But the shocking increase in food prices and gasoline is a sign to the middle class that we are in a real recession.

Of course, it may only be shocking to some of us because we are used to paying prices that are extremely low, relative to the way many others live.

When I first heard Gramm's comment, I thought the Senator was attempting to figure out the cause of our national malaise-how had we become the world's bargain basement?

The term 'mental recession' seemed apt for a nation that has become complacent, much less interested in incentivizing innovation in our globalized culture than in shaking a big stick and trying to create democracies in former dictatorships.

What predictable hubris.

There's something so tedious about pondering the rise and fall of empires, and wondering where we fit. As I said in an a post back when I started this 'blog- as a historian's child I think it's all been said before, and likely said more eloquently.

At the least, we are in a moment of crisis-there's nothing fantastical about that. Unprepared, we have an awful lot of work to do if we are to emerge as we went in-a leader in a world evolving in a direction we cannot control...

jeudi, juillet 10, 2008

Falling in love with words

Mr. C is taking a writing class for two weeks. "Young writers and readers" is held in West Chester, around 45 minutes from here.

It's made for a rather insane schedule. Drop S off at her drama camp, held at a local repertory theater. Then find something else to do for three hours, because it doesn't seem sane to drive home, when home is so far from her camp.

In other words, mom doesn't get home much on the days when she is a chauffeur, most weekdays.

Nor does she get her hair cut, her laundry done, or the writing she needs to do to pay the bills.

There are times the route can be very stressful.

But at day's end, I'm thrilled.

C is excited about writing. It doesn't scare him. I've heard so many adults approach writing with fear and loathing, but for C it is fun.

He comes home and sits down at our living room computer, ready to write another chapter in his fantasy. After oh, about each ten sentences, I get called into the room to read what he's written.

Watching him learn, having him ask me questions or demonstrate his new knowledge of literature or science or history, has got to be one of the big pleasures of my life. I'm not sure why that is-I sometimes wonder if its in part because his sister is a more recalcitrant learner.

Today, I don't care. I'm just over the moon that he's allowing me and his dad into his world. I hope he continues to keep that fabulous door open for us-as we try to keep it open for him.

mardi, juillet 08, 2008

Ain't misbehaving

I don't have a lesbian bone in my body. Not that you asked.

The lifestyle, biological or chosen, doesn't tempt me. But I gotta tell you, it would be so convenient to love women instead of guys.

Or maybe that's fantasy, also. Everything I hear from guys tells me women can mess up badly, too.

But being "one of them," on the far side of the male-female divide, I often find guys, their particular fetishes and insecurities, almost impossible to comprehend.

Sometimes I think of that Quarterflash song-"I've felt this darkness over and over and over again, around your heart. I've felt its sharpness, cutting and hiding the fear that I'm trying to bring to the light..." ...the darkness of addiction, or grandiosity, or troubled relationships with kid, or simply the weakness we can't allow to see the light.

Light is the beginning of a cure-but in some cases, fear of the cure is more powerful.

Fortunately I've sensed the darkness in time to avoid meeting them and getting caught up in it. That doesn't mean I haven't stumbled dangerously close.

I don't know what the "darkness" is-perhaps it is self-deception-or distance from a beloved community (remind you of anything?). I think of C.S. Lewis and his description of perdition for those who chose distance from God. There are people who choose distance from truth.

If I don't got a jones for women, perhaps celibacy is the next best thing.

Not yet. I guess, in some place in my soul to which I rarely admit, I'm seeking a man I can trust.

One would be more than enough.

dimanche, juillet 06, 2008

Did you feed me?

"In the last year, the price of corn has risen 70 percent; wheat 55 percent; rice 160 percent. The World Bank estimates that for a group of 41 poor countries the combined shock of rising prices of food, oil and other raw materials over the past 18 months will cost them between 3 and 10 percent of their annual economic output. "

New York Times, Sunday July 6

What is behind the food crisis? One factor is fear: countries are stockpiling food in case of a shortage. Another is the ethanol insanity. There is not that much evidence that corn fuel is better for us, or even particularly cheap. It is something American farmers can produce easily, and so we give them subsidies to grow it. The whole subsidy system in the United States is a scandal-it's not usually the smaller farmers who glean the money, but large agribusinesses. We are really confronting a systemic issue here and what we do has global consequences.

Time for us to lead ,follow or get out of the way.