Letters from our readers.
Feb. 27 1998 3:30 AM

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Cocktail Catholicism

In "Toward the Wet Martini," Fareed Zakaria writes:

Buñuel makes two common errors. First, he gets the Immaculate Conception wrong, which refers to the conception not of Jesus but of his mother, Mary--it's the Virgin Mary's mother, St. Anne, whose hymen is invisibly pierced by the Holy Ghost.

I imagine (indeed, I hope) that I am one of dozens who point out that Zakaria is also wrong. Buñuel--born Catholic, even if he opted out later--confused the Incarnation, in which the Holy Ghost caused Mary to conceive Jesus, and the Immaculate Conception, which refers to the fact (or belief, if you will) that Mary was born without original sin, although otherwise by the normal biological process.


--Robert M. Johnson

Note from the editors: Fareed Zakaria is indeed wrong; he's even willing to admit it. If only we here at Slate would let him! Zakaria realized his error before publication and tried to amend his copy, but his editors failed to make the change in time (though we have now rectified our slip). Slate thanks the dozens (yes, there were dozens) of readers who pointed out the mistake, as well as the nuns, priests, and lay theologians who gave them such excellent Catholic educations.

Brandy, Capitalist

In "Today's Papers," Scott Shuger points out that Moesha ranked 124th of 139 shows but was nonetheless renewed for another season--yet another instance of the relentless creep of affirmative action. Might I suggest another explanation?


In a Slate article ("Equal Opportunism") just before Moesha's premiere, I reported that African-American viewing patterns bear almost no resemblance to those of other groups. ER was No. 1 for nonblacks, No. 20 for blacks. New York Undercover was No. 1 for blacks but not even in the top 20 for nonblacks. Only Monday Night Football was in both groups' top 10. A capitalist, of whom there are one or two among us, I hear tell, might bear this in mind when targeting malt liquor, fast food, and sneaker commercials.

I have yet to obtain viewership figures for Moesha, but I suspect the show will be in the top three among blacks. Brandy is the sweetheart of black America--she's Whitney Houston before Bobby Brown. Isn't it a little self-pitying to ascribe misplaced guilty liberalism and soggy altruism to the same folks who bring us season after season of formulaic sitcoms, spandexed soap operas, and disease-of-the-week movies? Where's the social purpose in that--affirmative action for lousy actors and worse writers (most of whom, it must be noted, are white)? It might just be that Moesha is about advertising dollars and not about oppressing the beleaguered white man. Just a thought.

--Debra DickersonWashington

The Future of Futurology

Thank you for such a perceptive essay ("The Road Behind,") by Michael Lewis. It astonishes me that so many of the bright people in Silicon Valley are capable of understanding things like quantum tunneling and Boolean algebra but are incapable of understanding history or the future. Forty years ago Arthur C. Clarke wrote a book imagining the future. His specific predictions were pretty good, but his most insightful observation was about the business of futurology and the reason people usually can't see the future clearly. Clarke pointed out that we usually overestimate the amount of change that will happen in the short term and underestimate how much change will happen in the long term. Our own achievements seem to loom so large that we can't imagine what our grandchildren might achieve. Silicon Valley is the clearest possible demonstration of Clarke's theorem. It sometimes seems that working at 1,000 megahertz precludes one from having much long-term memory.

--Jim Quinn North Canton, Ohio

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