A note from the Fraymaster: Welcome to the first installment of "Best of the Fray," a weekly column featuring the sharpest posts from our new reader feedback forum. If you'd like to comment on a Slate article, we encourage you to do so in "The Fray," and if it's especially good, we'll excerpt it here (though we may edit it for length). You might also get a reply: Many Slate writers visit the Fray to read the posts about their stories, and some respond there. (For instance, Robert Pinsky, our poetry editor, will be participating in The Fray's " Poem" topic at 12 p.m. PST, Friday, Oct. 29.)--Michael Brus
SUBJECT: Love Diary ... but it's not edgy enough
FROM: Will Juntunen
DATE: Thu Sept 9
This is purely an opinion. I really like reading the diary feature. But I see the writing of high achievers, but I'm not seeing people who are on the edge. For example, you had a great feature on a real estate agent. But she was a very successful real estate person. Likewise, the lawyer who went to China was a very successful lawyer.
Now in the Lewis and Clark diaries, the possibility of disaster always loomed. Could we read the diaries of a man or a woman who is a little closer to the edge?
SUBJECT: Tabloids and Baloney Sandwiches
FROM: King Arthur
DATE: Fri Sept 10
I would like to take a moment to put Tabloids in perspective, and challenge anyone to make a different observation.
My job takes me to dozens of grocery stores, which distribute a great number of these offensive babble-on-ion manuscripts, and where a large number of employees read them in the break room. Not once in my 37 years have I heard anyone admit that they believe in the content.
Why read this crap, then? Well, why read any type of fiction? I believe it is because there is a time for rape, murder, hurricane, political treachery-types-of-reading, and a time to just amuse yourself while you're scarfing down a baloney sandwich-type-of reading.
SUBJECT: Response from the author
FROM: Jennifer Mendelsohn
DATE: Mon Sept 13
Thank you to everyone in the Fray who's taken the time to comment on this month's "Keeping Tabs" ["Enquiring Minds in Slovakia"].
I've enjoyed all your comments immensely, especially Mr. Heaney's suggestions that I am "used to wallowing in this type of pigslop" and that I should return my fee for writing the column. As to the former, while I'll confess that my office is a huge mess, I'll have to steadfastly disagree that it's quite reached the pigpen level; the latter I'll just politely overlook.
There seems to be a huge misunderstanding underlying many of your posts, though, and I'd like to clear it up. "Enquiring Minds in Slovakia" is not meant to be an essay on the socio-cultural implications of the use of the National Enquirer in a Slovakian classroom. Nor is it a serious critique (or celebration for that matter) of the tabloids, or a Hollywood gossip column lazily cribbed from the pages of other magazines. The article you saw was this month's edition of Keeping Tabs, a lighthearted monthly column I write for Slate that sums up--and pokes fun at--what the supermarket tabloids have been writing about for the previous month. (Get it? We're trying to have a little fun here.)
I'm sorry to disappoint all of you who've complained that I haven't done anything but sum up what's in the tabloids, but that's precisely what I'm here to do every month. I don't do any independent investigation of the veracity of the tabloid stories, I just let them speak for themselves, in all their ludicrous glory--hopefully in a way that's as amusing as the tabs themselves. (But that's why I'm not at all surprised that the poster calling him or herself " Too Embarrassed I Read This Crap" didn't find "rumpology" in the dictionary.)
You can read back issues of "Keeping Tabs," which might help give a little perspective, by clicking here. Next month's column, covering the best (and worst) of September's Globe, Star, and Enquirer, will be online around Oct. 5 or so.
Thanks again for all your insight.
SUBJECT: Bradley speech
DATE: Tues Sept 14
Sure, "a young girl's smile, the pleasure of helping someone in need, friendship," etc., etc., may be both hard to measure and extremely corny, but let's not get carried away. There is no doubt that those things are all indirectly but absolutely affected by those who govern, via economic and social policy. If elected, Bradley might even use (unlike Clinton) the bully pulpit to remind us of the critical importance of those intangibles in creating responsible and compassionate adult citizens. It is more than empty rhetoric.
SUBJECT: you think this is a joke?!
DATE: Thu Sept 9
A few things to say about the article ["Trippin' at the GNC"]:
1. If you don't have an illness, say depression or arthritis, why on earth do you expect to feel any effects from a drug which is intended to treat said illness? Side effects, sure, but I would doubt any primary effects would be felt.
2. Depression is a serious illness. Why must you treat anti-depressants as party toys?
3. If you think herbal products are necessarily safer or have less side effects than commercial pharmaceuticals, where do you think those pharmaceuticals came from in the first place? Many, if not most, common drugs were originally a substance that occurred in nature, such as various plant extracts.
4. Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or the placebo effect? The author could conceivably have convinced him/herself that because a product is supposed to make one feel less depressed (and therefore happier??!!), he/she will therefore feel better. The mind is a powerful thing, and sometimes may be as effective or even more effective in treating a physical or mental malady, than pharmaceuticals (herbal or otherwise).
5. Anti-depressants are not meant to make one happier, per se, but rather to make one feel normal and better able to deal with everyday details that most people take for granted. (I suffered clinical depression for several years; I know.) So why should it be a big surprise if a non-depressed individual does not notice any effects from taking an anti-depressant medication?? Put another way, anti-depressants don't make you happy, they just help lift you to a plateau from which you are able to seek your own happiness, whatever that may consist of.
6. Severe depression is not a joke. Why must the treatment of this illness always become one? Don't treat it so lightly unless you've been there.