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May 22 1998 3:30 AM

Hot Threads


For obvious reasons, "The International Scene" was the hottest thread in "The Fray" this week. The Indian nuclear detonations on the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions. The Indonesian crisis figured prominently all week, with a Jakarta-based fraygrant filing regular. By week's end, the focus had shifted to the IMF's role in the unrest: Does the fund and its "economic groupies have something big to answer for"? Or, as one longtime Asia hand maintains, is "the cause of the present problem in Indonesia not the International Monetary Fund or the cupidity of foreign corporations but Suharto, the living incarnation of Asian Family Values"?

Hillary Clinton's statements on the Palestinian situation also sparked discussion: She "never, ever had any business making policy statements, let alone take part in policy-making" vs. "She certainly has a right to speak without being accused of wearing the pants in the presidency."

A clear signal that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal is atrophying: The "Clinton and the Media" and "Politics '98" threads all but mirrored each other this week. Politics '98 featured Internal Revenue Service and tax reform, missile-guidance systems, school vouchers, and inherited wealth. The Clinton thread, meanwhile, began to feature IRS and tax reform and missile-guidance systems. Noting the similarities, one astute fraygrant suggested restricting more civilized, high-minded debate to "Politics" and reserving "Clinton" for equally important venal, mean-spirited exchanges.

New Threads

Did you know that the average sexual encounter for a bonobo a) occurs with a member of the same sex and b) lasts a mere 13 seconds? This is just one of many interesting facts that surfaced in the new "Gay Life" thread, which has discussed everything from genetics to friendships to prejudice. Is homophobia innate or a repressive cultural construct? Should gays be accorded equal rights by law in all respects, including social practices such as marriage? (According to one participant,"All biological, sociobiological and historical realities are irrelevant to gay rights.") Should the sexual orientation of Allan Bloom, Stanley Kauffmann, or Proust be factored into of their writing? Is it reasonable to assume a person is straight until proven otherwise? Are ménages à trois relatively rare?

David Greenberg's "Of Conspiracies and King" in Slate inspired a new "Conspiracies" thread, with testimonials from "basement wackos" interested in the connections between Strom Thurmond and Scientology and even the nebulous "America Mystica." Participants have kept things real thus far, questioning why secret societies remain secret, what constitutes conspiratorial thought, and what differentiates the aforementioned wackos from legitimate psychodrama connoisseurs.

Art Smart

Slate's review of the Mark Rothko exhibit at the National Gallery of Art raised questions on Abstract Expressionism and nonrepresentational art in general in the "Arts" thread. about art and art history to be able to appreciate a painter like Rothko? Some fraygrants find his colorfield paintings peaceful, others find them oppressive. One fraygrant commented on the nature of art criticism, saying, "I'm not saying that non-representational painting is bad; just that there is more bullshit attached to such paintings than others." Mondrian's later offerings came in for a drubbing, though his early representational work appears popular.