Was your primer of pop music, Mark Jenkins' "The Gist," meant as a joke? I mean, really, are you KIDDING? Who do you think your readers are? Bob Dole?
Why, exactly, is Slate publishing a primer on pop music (see Mark Jenkins' "The Gist")? Is pop music a largely undocumented phenomenon? Certainly not. We wouldn't call it "pop" if it wasn't popular. Surely your intended readers are keen observers of the world, much like you try to present yourselves. Why, then, does pop need explaining? You publish articles on economics, opera, Broadway musicals, and lexicography without cheeky "background" pieces. It's as if you're explaining this facet of low culture to your high-culture audience: "Let's explicate the silly art forms of the masses for our elite readership."
Hopefully, your coming music criticism won't be so pedantic or derisive--or so simplistic and misguided: To imply that Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" is celebrating violence is to admit that you haven't actually listened to the song.
"The Lost Fig Leaf," Paul Krugman's explication of the Republican revolution's collapse, ignores the two main reasons why Clinton will win re-election. First, Clinton cynically undermined the Republican effort--tentative and modest as it was--to take care of the Medicare nettle. His action on this front will remain a model of political sandbagging for years to come. Second, Newt Gingrich and the rest of the congressional GOP establishment were successfully demonized. Newt's no saint and no statesman, but his early conduct as speaker showed promise. He managed to push along more of the Contract With America than most thought he would. He did shoot himself in the foot (e.g., the Air Force One faux pas), but the Democrats and the media have preferred to knife him in the back. All that Clinton-inspired cynicism will, in the long run, breed more contempt among the electorate than familiarity ever did.
So just what the hell was this week's "Readme" column about? Ear irrigation? Say it ain't so! Since none of the staff told you, I will: Don't publish it. It is not: interesting, funny, or newsworthy. It is: disgusting, childish, and unnecessary. I MAY decide to pay for the witty articles and intelligent social commentary in Slate when you start charging. I promise I will NOT pay for this kind of silliness--and I sincerely hope other readers won't, either.
There is one angle I would like to add to David Plotz's "The Gist" on the Kurds. The Kurds have played an active role in terrorizing and killing members of another once-stateless people--the Armenians. It is chilling to read the many firsthand accounts of the massacres of Armenians in the 1890s and during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The Kurds were willing and extraordinarily cruel tools of the Turks: another example of how nobody cares what happens to a group once it is defined as the "other." Now it is the Kurds who are defined as the "other" by Turks, Iranians, and Iraqis.