The Fray was up for personalities this week: Cornel West, Cynthia McKinney, and William Bennett were much discussed. McKinney had a lot of support in the Fray—see the notes at the end of this "Assessment"—the others, less so: Publius said he would "pay good money to hear the conversations between West and Princeton's Amy Gutmann about his prostate."
Subject: Connecting the Unconnected
Re: "Assessment: Cynthia McKinney"
Date: Fri Apr 19 2:41 p.m. PT
Conspiracy theories are a good way for those who are not connected to political power to understand how politics works. Most Americans feel powerless in relation to the government and the corporate sector, do not vote in most elections, and do not pay close attention to the mainstream media. … Their theories often constitute "good guesses" concerning dimensions of political life that the mainstream media refuses to address.
Subject: Watch on the Whine
Re: "Chatterbox: Cornel West Whine Watch"
Date: Wed Apr 17 3:01 p.m. PT
This is a promising start, but it confines nominations to one egotist's small world. Why not generalize the Whine Watch to self-absorbed narcissists more broadly? So many await recognition: worthies with egos so galaxy-sized they risk gravitational self-collapse into neutron stars. Any Sunday morning's television offers up a journalissimo or two who fits the bill. And don't get me started on failed presidential candidates.
Subject: Self-Help Library
Re: " Culturebox: Oprah's Book Fatigue"
From: The Bell
Date: Tue Apr 16 8:44 a.m. PT
Oprah's selections followed repetitive themes … because she seemed intent on recommending only those books that she herself might have written. … I do not believe this was a case of egotism so much as Ms. Winfrey's desire to have only products of a particular quality associated with her name. She was not performing a particularly useful editorial role in the purely literary sense. Indeed, Oprah was never running a book club so much as providing her endorsements for a self-help library that, as it turned out, contained about 70 volumes provided to the reader at the rate of one per month.
Subject: Hypnosis Hypothesis
Re: "Culturebox: Songwriter Savant"
Date: Wed Apr 17 11:29 p.m. PT
I'm convinced that the capacity for self-hypnosis is the key to many high-performance endeavors, whether they be sporting or artistic. The little, unconsciously performed rituals of baseball batters, the breathing rituals of weight lifters, the repetitive visualization exercises of free-throw shooters, the rhythmic lyrics and movements described in the article all seem indicative of an individual entering a state of extremely focused attention concurrent with a slightly altered state of mind: the feeling of being "in the zone." What is that outside force generating lyrics, melodies, or multigame hit streaks? It's our insides! It's what the mind can do when we let it, but we need to train ourselves to get out of the way.
A destination Fray: The board on Cagle's "Cartoon Index" is very busy these days, with input from Daryl Cagle and great discussions on what is appropriate and acceptable in cartoons. Visit it here.
Adam Masin is running a weekly feature in Best of the Fray called the "Worst of the Slate," in which he critiques our output, to the accompaniment of much comment from other posters.
What were the best Fray posts after 9/11? History Guy is looking for suggestions as part of a larger project, which he explains here. It's a chance to preserve some Fray posts in hardcover.
The Fray Fiction experiment is finished and makes for a fun read. The whole Fray novel—written a chapter at a time by different Fraysters—is contained in this thread, and it was also helpfully reposted in large chunks by NoStar, starting here. The Fray team was asked to come up with a name for the book and has miserably failed so far, but we are willing to judge other entries. We liked the suggestion Big Toolbox.
The return of Michael Lewis to a regular spot at Slate brought out some Fray history: Scroll to the end of "Dad Again" for reminiscences of the fabled "I See France" Fray.