As Seen on TV
An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 2 2002 12:03 PM

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Bill,

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You know E.J. is my role model, so how can I argue? He just said it better.

Otherwise, this seems like a particularly Venus-and-Mars kind of day: I don't care about staplers; you don't care about Martha Stewart. I do care what kind of music gets made, but it's no wonder people can't get too worked up over Eminem with bombs falling on that wedding party in Afghanistan, the Middle East in such a crisis that you keep thinking it can't get any worse, and who knows what facing us in Iraq.

Also, I think at some point you just get tired and try to pick your culture battles more carefully. I know I am so much more lax as a private duty culture cop here than I was at home and have a much harder time shielding the kids from violent TV and objectionable advertising. Before we moved to Italy, it was not only PBS only, but I actually had some problems with the way the kids spoke to each other on Dragon Tales, remember?

Now, we're sitting in the little family-friendly trattoria across the street, in the middle of the day on a Saturday, and the kids look up at the television the owners have on and see an explicit sex scene followed by a shot of a bride in her flowing white gown slitting an animal's throat. Naturally, the owners scurried to change the channel, but I'm not thrilled that you can stumble across that stuff at any hour of the day on television here. "Why would a bride do that?" Della kept saying.

Then I read in the Herald Trib today about how frequently rape goes unpunished in rural Mexico and think how lucky we are to be living in a place where television is more frightening than real life.

I have to disagree with the recent Slate piece on the Herald Trib, by the way. The critic called the paper "strange and archaic," with its black-and-white photos, but that quaintness is one of the things I love about it. It's hardly our only news source, but I am very happy to have the best of the NYT and Wash Post, the analysis and features in particular, in a form I can hold in my hands and take with me to the dentist's office. And slamming Flora Lewis' column in the Trib on the week she died, I'm sorry, is what my Kentucky grandmother would have called beyond the beyonds.

I know I shouldn't, but can I add just one more thing about the former vice president? I'm not saying he would win if he ran on the environment. I'm saying that since he seems determined to run—and anybody would be, in his position—he ought to do it in a way he would never have to apologize for. I'm saying that if he ran on an issue he cared about, as he purports to care about the environment, and used the campaign to put that issue in front of the American public every single day, the way John McCain did with campaign-finance reform, then even if he didn't win, I can think of worse ways to go out.

Melinda

Melinda Henneberger, a former New York Times reporter, is writing a book about a lost da Vinci fresco. Bill Turque is a former correspondent for Newsweek magazine and author of Inventing Al Gore: A Biography. They live in Rome with their 6-year-old twins.