Letters from our readers.
Sept. 25 1998 3:30 AM

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No, It Wasn't an Innocent Romance

Seth Stevenson, the writer of "An Innocent Romance," should get a grip. Adultery by one's parents, even überparents like Bill and Hillary, is harmful to the child. It's not necessarily the public disclosure of the adultery, it is the fact of the adultery itself.

Hey, Seth, adultery is generally a good sign that all is not well in the homestead; ergo, the fact of adultery tells us the family is suffering. Therefore, the child is probably suffering (yes, even one 3,500 miles away at Stanford).

Your value-free ramblings, unconnected as they are to any sense of morality or healthy shame, sound a lot like the greatest hits from a sophomore philosophy seminar. Clever? Sure. But of any real value or connection to real people in the world? Definitely not.


--Kevin DillonHouston

Yes, It Was an Innocent Romance

Well done! A hearty thanks to Seth Stevenson for his piece "An Innocent Romance," which is another blow struck for sanity in this war against Starr's sinister attempt to manipulate our emotions. These are potentially dangerous times. This country needs all the sanity it can get.

--Maggie BryanLos Angeles


To Bonk or To Boink: That Is the Question

Recently, in a few articles (such as "An Innocent Romance") I have noticed the use of the term "bonk" to refer to the act of sexual intercourse, especially in reference to the president. I am impressed by Slate's attempt to use hip language, but I'm afraid someone has been lax in his cataloging of the latest terminology. As a college student familiar with all the latest urban lingo, I believe the proper term to be used in these contexts is "boink." Not only does the word itself sound more fluid, but I also think the connotation it has is more appropriate to the meaning Slate intends.

--Theo LeComptePhiladelphia

Government Trash, Nostalgically


David Plotz's reviews of the paperback versions of the Starr report ("Flytrap's Trashy Books") brought back fond memories of The Report of the Presidential Commission on Pornography, a peculiar publication that is now likely to be emulated.

Back during the Nixon administration, Supreme Court decisions permitted some "obscene" materials to be distributed only if they were combined with other matters that had "redeeming social value." The publication of a government document called The Report of the Presidential Commission on Pornography, or something like that, presented an opportunity to sell the smut under an appropriate cover. The illustrated edition included the full government report and garden variety beaver shots, etc. It came out around 1971, I believe, and I may not have the precisely correct title.

I recall that its technical quality was poor, with a mimeographed text and low quality photographic reproductions as well, which didn't match the text very closely. With modern technology, so much more can be done. The video of the president's testimony will also lend itself to interstitial illustration.

Sadly, my copy of the "illustrated edition" was lost in a college dorm long ago and far away. Perhaps one could be found at the Library of Congress?


--Arthur StockClarksboro, N.J.

Roll With the Polls

Bruce Gottlieb's "A Snowball's Chance" ignores the obvious countereffects of polling. It is a well-established fact that people will tend to slant their views and responses to questions so as to better agree with what they perceive to be the majority opinion. The perpetual quoting of Clinton's high job approval ratings helps ensure that his job approval remains high. This phenomenon could unravel in a similar way to that described in the article: As the polls drop a little, the pressure to agree with the majority decreases, and the numbers have the potential to drop precipitously. It would be difficult to determine which of these phenomena is at work without careful study (i.e., without doing more than just watching the polls and guessing).

--Mike HarkavyRichmond, Calif.

Government Gaming

I think Steve Chapman's article "Vice Is Nice" misses the point. Legal gambling is a good idea, since people will gamble in any case. The state should regulate gambling as it regulates other businesses, seeing that the odds are posted, that the games aren't rigged, and that the promised jackpots are paid--and then leaving those who want to do so free to waste their money gambling if they please. But "legal" gambling is not what we have.

What we have is state-sponsored gambling. The government either runs the games, as in lotteries, or sponsors them and takes a large cut of the take, as in casino gambling. By running the games, the state endorses the dubious value of "something for nothing." Worse still, it deceives the people: Instead of emphasizing the truth of the business--the long, long odds--it emphasizes the unrealistic chance of winning big. (The ads for every state lottery prove that point.) The state treats people not as citizens it serves and protects but as suckers it will swindle.

If the states were not the partners of the gambling interests, they would apply the same consumer protection standards to legal gambling that they do to other businesses. As it is, they connive in the deception of the public, because they share the take.

I would like to know if Chapman would favor privatizing gambling, so that anyone who put up proof of the ability to pay off the pot could run a lottery, casino, or whatever. That would take the government out of the gambling business both ways. And I am sure that in that case, the government would make sure not only that the games are honest but also that the people knew how long the odds are.

--Brian Abel RagenSt. Louis

Steve Chapman replies:

I don't disagree with Mr. Ragen on the wisdom of getting the government out of the lottery business, repealing special gambling taxes, and leaving the whole business to the free market. But I would not let the best be the enemy of the good. I think "state-sponsored" gambling is preferable to none at all--just as state-owned liquor stores are a lot better than Prohibition.

The Traveler's New Clothes

Anne Hollander--who wrote "Travel Without Clothes!"--might be interested to know that traditional Japanese inns today provide clothes to travelers. All patrons are offered light cotton robes, which can be worn around the hotel and in the surrounding neighborhood. Heavier robes are provided in winter. Traditionally, the wearer would wear his own traveling clothes to the inn. The clothes would be given over to be cleaned, and the traveler would use the inn's clothes during his stay. When the traveler left, he would again wear his own traveling clothes, which have been cleaned. In this way, people could make weekslong journeys on muddy footpaths with just one set of clothes, which would be washed regularly.

I doubt that hotels are interested in having customers walk off with their clothes, as Hollander suggests. However, it's conceivable that hotels could provide the customer with a set of clothes while he's staying at the hotel. For example, a business traveler could arrive at the hotel wearing a suit. The hotel would provide casual clothes, and also underwear, socks, dress shirts, undershirts, ties, etc. The business traveler would wear his own suit to business events, perhaps paired with the hotel's shirts, socks, and ties. At the end of the trip, the traveler would receive his own clothes back, now laundered, for the trip home or to the next destination. Admittedly, providing women's clothes, which are more complex, presents a slightly greater challenge. But this method would make it possible to travel indefinitely carrying nothing more than a paperback and a credit card. The hotel, which is assured of getting its own clothes back, can offer more than just jeans and T-shirts from the Gap. Wouldn't it be nice to have a closet full of Armani to go with your $400-a-night hotel room?

--Nathan LewisTokyo

A Pubic Mistake

Despite Slate's status as an online zine and all that that implies, (erratic spelling, shaky grammar, much exposure of genitalia), I feel strongly that you should probably aspire to at least adequate copy editing. I'm referring to Scott Shuger's assertion in the Sept. 17 "Today's Papers" that "pubic radio stations have tripled." Perhaps Shuger is simply obsessed, like the rest of you media types, with pubic matters, or perhaps we as a nation have finally entered adolescence, with a concomitant increase in all things pubic. But please consult the Chicago Manual of Style: Any sentence that contains the word "pubic" must also contain either the word "Clinton," the word "Lewinsky," or the word "Thomas." I'm shocked to see such a lapse in a zine of Slate's quality, and was considering canceling my subscription until I realized that to do so would mean that I would not have access to the upcoming "Explainer" on "What Is Oral Sex?"--and that I simply could not swallow.

--Floyd ElliotChicago

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