Readers grapple with hyphens and surnames.

Readers grapple with hyphens and surnames.

Readers grapple with hyphens and surnames.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
March 17 2004 12:50 PM

Iron Maiden

Readers grapple with hyphens and surnames.

Hyphenate Warfare: There's some good work in Culturebox Fray tackling the to-keep-or-not-to-keep conundrum discussed in Katie Roiphe's "The Maiden Name Debate." TeeCee leads the board in responses for her remark here:

Isn't the logic of keeping the maiden name a little silly in this day and age? Rodham after all isn't some self-created feminist cypher for Hillary; it's her father's name. And Chelsea isn't Chelsey Rodham-Clinton, though some parents use the hyphen. It's going to get cumbersome when hyphen-named named boys and girls start getting married.

A last name identifies a family unit, not a bond of service. Keeping my maiden name seems like a self-righteous protest against convention, not an original statement of who i am.

Several Fraysters allude to Spanish tradition (and BrainyPirate even goes Icelandic here, and Zerruballah provides us with an excellent primer in Arabic naming here) as a more gender equitable solution, though Jester2459 points out the pitfalls of present-day compromises:

If the wife keeps her maiden name then the kids become the point where the name of one parent is given preference over the other's. And if we adopt the Spanish method, then it is at the level of grandchild that the surnames of grandfathers finally trump those of grandmothers. Neither solution answers the fundamental question of equity; it just makes all of our names a bit more unwieldy.

I don't mean to be critical of those proposals in particular. In the end, it is simply an intractable problem. There is no way to have family names indicate a relationship (e.g., ancestral lineage, or which kid is yours when you show up at the elementary school) in a standard fashion that can be interpreted by the rest of society as you encounter it while still maintaining perfect gender equity.

And JackCerf claims that:

The Spanish practice is regular though still male-centric; the father's family name is the principal one for the children, while the mother's family name is the secondary one. The father's family name continues, while the mother's is passed down one generation.

Elbee here and akermitj here like this solution for the naming of kids:

Let the gender decide. If we have a daughter, she'll get my wife's last name; a son gets mine.

Here, for Joe_JP

Ms. Roiphe is being a tad to disdainful about this whole matter. Names have for a long time had a certain sort of power and prestige, and being able to control their use depending on the situation is a weighty power indeed. Just how "shallow" is being able to not be known as "Mrs. Smith" in many contexts, if one doesn't want to be? Being able to play with your name depending on the particular role you wish to play is a quite important matter of personal identity. The fact it can be altered underlines, not belittles, its importance.

Here, Kassandra agrees, as does SpringWillBeSoon here

Fray etymologist Auros-4:

One other slightly patriarchal aspect. Consider the dictionary definition of "maiden", then consider what "maiden name" implies.

Consideration should reply to Auros here

Magnificent Mileage: Waxing nostalgic, run75441 recalls his days as a teenager in the shadows of the edifices that would become the gothic and deco treasures of Chicago:

I spent part of my summers working North Michigan Avenue mostly on the Wrigley Building with its huge clock. We would rig the building using manila hemp rope and wood scaffolds with a 2 x 4 rail to keep you from backing off it. Pulling the scaffold up the building would numb the arms. Each summer the building was washed and it would take on a new white appearance standing out amongst all the other buildings as you looked northward up Michigan Avenue.

In response to the proliferation of right angles and shimmering box towers in the skylines of Manhattan, the Gold Coast and the Wilshire Corridor, run, the stone mason's son, pleads:

While I would not recommend building another Wrigley Building, I would hope there would be more imagination put into play in the appearance of newer buildings. No more boxes please!

While John Portman and like-minded postmodernists certainly don't have a fan at Fraywatch, the Modernist boxes of R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra nearly perfected space forms.  We space freaks thank them — and FLW — for it. 

In Defense of Kaus: Brian-1 appeals to fellow Fraysters on Press Box Fray who lumped Kausfiles with Wonkette and Gawker:

Work with me, people. If you seriously confuse Wonkette and Kausfiles I have to seriously challenge you to prove you are not mentally disadvantaged. Kaus is a real wonk (who wonks the wonk as it were), Wonkette (aka Ana Marie Cox) is a gossip fiend who covers politics because she lives in D.C. There's no substance, and zero debate of any issue, in Wonkette

let's face it, most if not all of the bitching is from Lefties who find it terribly inconvenient that Kaus is spotlighting Kerry's (significant) flaws in a liberal publication…

Any one Kaus piece is necessarily light on substance because his format is more stream of consciousness...taken as a whole, he provides interesting left-of-center commentary that is unique for not coming out of the DNC hivemind. I've long believed that every publication needs a quasi-apostate like this to check its biases and blind spots (too much of Slate suffers from having so many biases and such enormous blind spots). It's always depressing to encounter partisans who strenuously assert that the party line must be parroted by all.

Disagree? Spar with Brian hereKA9:45 a.m.

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Monday, March 15, 2004

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Glass Houses, Stones, Pots, Kettles: Press Box Fray can be best summarized as a collective "you've gotta to be &*@%^# me!" since Jack Shafer published his takedown of Wonkette and Gawker last week. Take lxanth's post here:

All too often (and especially where national politics is concerned), Slate is little more than a repository of inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom, dressed up in just enough knee-jerk contrarianism and gratuitous snark to look "edgy." Seeing a Slate writer getting all huffy about the nastiness of a couple of blogs that never pretended to offer anything more than a little guilty pleasure is more than a little...if you'll pardon the expression...ironic.

…or SwingingMeat's diatribe here:

Jack, you never bust the balls of your fellow scribes or media figures, do you? You're never gratuitously mean in your take-downs, are you? You and Kaus are all sweetness and light, right? Tim Noah is a "We are the World" kind of guy, just like Suellentrop and young Mr. Ballbuster who spends his days trashing what's in other people's magazines. Not to mention all those folks who excerpt the dirt from people's books and pepper their excerpts with puerile comments. Maybe you wanna stop over at McSweeney's snarkwatch site and rat out these evil people to Heidi Julavits, Dave Eggers and company.

To Shafer's point that most web outfits are "generally written by one person on a tiny budget and not produced by a team of professional editors, reporters, and artists; and that the Gawker/Wonkette design is to conquer the blogosphere, not recapitulate the journalistic values of a dead magazine," doodahman pshaws on behalf of prolific Fraysters:

Oh, how we here dream of having hours to produce copy; to have a budget, or editor, or even creds. Seems like if there's really going to be a free market place of ideas, as well as a full and frank exchange of information, the number of stalls would be pretty vast. There's got to be someone on the outside fringe. There's always somebody pushing the envelope. How could it be otherwise? The fringe isn't supposed to fit in with the rest of your bullshit world. "Journalistic values" huh?-- the last refuge of a lap monkey.

Several readers — such as Iron_Lungfish, here — take the opportunity to heave a salvos at Kaufiles:

All of the above and more certainly applies to Kausfiles — including bumblebee attention span, toddler-level complexity, and Ahabesque obsession (of late) to top it off. At least as gossip goes, Gawker and Wonkette are unpretentious and damn entertaining - the gossip-blogger in Jack Shafer's own backyard is borders on the depressing, and seems to have mistaken himself for an actual journalist.

TheNewSnobbery explains the phenomenon of cross-pollination between "big media" and blogging spitballers here:

Maybe it's proof that the net still doesn't have enough gravitational pull to exert a true influence without hanging onto the apron strings of the old media. If you talk about the big boys they may just talk about you in return, producing a sense of equivalence in the process.

The whole phenomenon is a little like the relationship between a radio talk show host and his favorite, witty caller. It's not that there's no dialogue but you can't ignore that the power of agenda setting runs one way only.

But are Gawker and Wonkette anything more than satire? CaptainRonVoyage opines here. And here, ScottStock feels that a Drudge or Spy parallel is anything but an "unfavorable comparison":

[F]act is this kind of cheeky commentary has a "Made ya look!" factor that's irresistible. In the olden days, it would be High Satire. Now that nearly everyone has mastered crude irony, perhaps it's currency is worth less. But it's still fun.

Shafer has at least one defender in Press Box Fray — Zerruballah here.

The Fray's Roger Baldwin Prize Goes to: … We have co-winners! Sissyfuss1 for his defense of Jeffrey Dahmer:

Early in his life, Dahmer became heavily influenced by the writings of Gandhi and Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful". He was convinced that death was a commodity more suited for cottage industry rather than mass production. Imagine our collective benefits if his insights were known before the world wars, or even Vietnam. He ran into trouble with the law because experimentation on human subjects was still taboo. Today, he would be sitting on half a dozen NSF grants.

Sissyfuss' submission launches a modest thread about creative serial killing. Installments can be found here and here.

And Cid_Hamete_Benengeli's "In Defense of Cain" earns a piece of the award:

Anyone out there the oldest child? You know what I'm talking about – for a brief shining moment you get to the only one, the center of attention, and the apple of your parents' eye, then all of a sudden have a new little squirt comes along. Mom and dad forget all about you except when something goes wrong, and meanwhile this new kid can do no wrong.

Ok, now imagine if God's also getting on the action. Yeah, he's picking favorites too. This is the OT God we're talking about, and you're the only four people on earth, the Big Guy has plenty of time to micromanage. 

For a chuckle, Cid offers a very brief defense of Yoko Ono hereKA10:10 a.m.

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Friday, March 12, 2004

I Ate the Sandbox: Traditionally, articles addressing gay issues bring out the worst in Fraysters. But Ann Hulbert's "The Gay Science" on the questions surrounding gay parenting elicited quality — if only a few — posts. Post_hoc_prior posits this, which dovetails with Judith Stacey's differences-don't-have-to-indicate-deficits premise:

[U]pon which side does the burden of proof devolve? Are gays obligated to furnish proof that they are equally capable at childraising, and to surrender all claims if they are unable to do so?

Or is, er, the other side obligated to prove that gays are not capable of raising children properly, and to concede freedom of activity in this arena if *they* are unable to do so?

My personal take is that the burden of proof always must fall upon those wishing to restrict freedom of activity.

While bing agrees with php's "burden of proof" thesis here, he challenges the overreaching argument that gays and lesbians are equally capable of raising children:

The freedom of activity of which you speak is that freedom of gays to raise kids… The problem then arises, that in the long run, greater freedoms of activity than that one of which YOU speak, will be restricted due to the lesser ability of gays to successfully raise children…

that proposition is supported IN PART ONLY, by the observation that nature didn't set things up so that children are procreated by homosexuals (though nature COULD have, but didn't). This would give a heterosexual the freedom to be as "nature intended."

In response, php here:

Er... Nature didn't set things up so that primates are faithful by nature, either. Hence the institution of marriage. Nature didn't design eyeglasses and false teeth; is it sinful to use these prosthetic devices?

CaptainRonVoyage suggests, "Maybe science doesn't really enter into this debate?" CRV expounds here with these hypotheticals:

I'm sure someone could find a study somewhere indicating that children adopted by black households "have more problems"--does this mean we should deny adoption rights to blacks? (I know some would argue that this already happens as a de facto practice, but work with me). How about Scientologists? How useful can "scientific evidence" be in this type of debate?

Want a primary source? Click on Willigula's post here for a testimony from an adult son who grew up with lesbian parents.

They're Money: The armchair — and presumably a handful of professional — economists in Moneybox Fray have been lighting it up in recent weeks. Credit Dan Gross for a steady diet of grist for the Fray mill, but the regular posters have been weaving threads like a knitting group on speed. PhilfromCalifornia comments on Robert J. Gordon's social security fix here vis-à-vis productivity projections. For his contributions, Phil earns a star this week. Moneybox champion run75441 has been running point on the board for a while now, sustaining top posts with cogent replies (see RMolineux on Warren Buffet and the trade deficit here.). Want a primer on the trade imbalance? Click on Scott_TOO — another new star — here. Given the complexity and thoroughness of the aforementioned posts, Fraywatch will refrain from excerpting mere morsels.

Fray Notes: A new version of the Fray should be up and running in the coming days. Fraywatch, with the assistance of Slate's crafty technical team, will be briefing the Fray … KA7:10 p.m.  

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Daley Show?"I agree with the skeleton of your remark," writes Speldid_IREny to Chris-4, "but, as you did not make your point better, I will do so here."

The skeleton of Chris-4's remarks in response to "You Say You Want a Revolution" by Ted Widmer:

Great, more talking about how amazing things were when the boomers finally came of age.

SI's elaboration:

The baby boom generation does focus on its successes and failures, political and cultural and social, to an agonizing degree. And, since most of the (at lest established and respected, not underground/new/alternative) television/print media is run by those of the baby generation, those of us in the following generation - that ever-lowering Generation X gap - get treated to stories of protest days of yore.

Speaking as someone who likes to know my country's history, there's a necessity to listen to boomers when they're discussing the '60s. Just, as I listen to my grandmother talk about the Depression. You get what I'm saying here?

To Chris' charge that "the first truly stupid President we have ever had is a boomer," Certain responds:

I give you Warren G. Harding, and spot you 15 IQ points. GWB is still smarter than WGH.

Referencing WGH's penchant for "whores, gambling and graft," lordgoon asks Certain here:

Aren't you confusing stupidity with venality?

For Certain, the mere question encapsulates "why I love the Fray," because ...

In my workaday life it's so hard to find someone willing to defend Warren G. Harding.

In this spirit, Fraywatch asks users to submit the most improbable defense of a person or institution to Fraywatch Fray. The winner will receive the Fray's prestigious Roger Baldwin prize.

Department of Parks & Procreation: Gtomkins1 pens an interesting post here contrasting the actions of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Some have offered a parallel between Newsom's recent flouting of California law by issue marriage licenses in San Francisco and Moore's defiance of a federal order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments:

Newsom's action is often wrongly characterized as civil disobedience. Even people sympathetic to gay marriage often speak in these terms, comparing the act of issuing the marriage licenses to Rosa Parks defying segregation law. But Rosa Parks, and Judge Moore, were defying settled law, laws that had been tested through litigation for their compatibility with the Constitution, and other laws, and been found constitutionally sound ...

Newsom, in contrast, finds himself faced with a new law against same-sex marraige, the result of a recent voter initiative, that seems to him to be in conflict with the California state constitution that he is sworn to uphold. This is not an area of settled law. It is perfectly appropriate, and involves none of the law-breaking which is the essence of civil disobedience, for officers of government, who typically swear to uphold a state, or the Federal, constitution, upon assuming office, to refuse to uphold laws of dubious constitutionality.

So far as Moore's wanting to empower Congress to limit judicial power (rather than amending the Constitution), Nemo offers a word of caution here.

Thread o' the Week: ... goes to Juno here for the eschatological "Is Death Necessary?" header ... KA9:00 a.m.

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Monday, March 8, 2004

Grand Unified Theory? Kausfiles Fray generated heavy traffic this morning in response to Mickey Kaus' politico-quantum theory of John Kerry in an attempt to break down the essence of the Kerry flip-flop. Arkady gets things started:

the "Kerry Flip-Flops" meme is "Gore Lies" part two.

According to Arkady here, "Back in 2000, the meme that was being pushed hard by the Rove war machine was that Gore was a compulsive liar." Arkady continues by contending that the characterization was built upon any number of dirty tricks, such as "a willfully libelous misquotation ("I invented the Internet") ... an actual fact mischaracterized as a lie (working on his father's farm as a youth) ... an innocent and understandable mistake …" 

What's Arkady's take on Kerry's shifts?

If anything, an honest examination of these supposed flip-flops will leave a person with much more respect for Kerry, since, to the extent a minority of them do represent a migration of his beliefs, they point out that he's someone who takes his positions based on the dictates of his heart and mind, based on the available evidence, not based on blind adherence to a dogma written into stone by his party (Hello Mr. Bush.)

This dovetails a bit with William Saletan's piece from last Thursday. JustMe comes back hard at Arkady here, launching an active ping-pong dialogue between the two. 

Publius takes on the Unified Kerry Theory's Vietnam combat component. Kaus works from the premise that a gutsy soldier turns tentative and expedient in the political arena. Read Pub's full extrapolation here, where he reasons that the UKT "is a theory without its supposed foundation."

"As a Democrat who considered Al Gore to be a disastrously bad candidate in 2000," ShriekingViolet "can sympathize" with Mickey Kaus' deep distaste for John Kerry. But she frames the question to Kaus this way:

the time has come for Mickey Kaus to ask himself a tough question: What the hell am I trying to accomplish?

During the primary season, Mickey's Anti-Kerryite rants possessed a sense of purpose: convincing Democratic primary voters to support candidates other than Kerry. But now the purpose is considerably murkier ...

Arlington still sports the Dean icon and believes that Kerry is

not the actor Bill Clinton was. In fact, he's a bit stilted and wooden, to dredge up old Al Gore adjectives.

In spite of my intention to vote for him, I think Kerry will lose the debates and lose the election.

GaryWModerate brings up a salient point here. If Kerry is an unreformed flip-flopper, then how can he be the most intractably liberal senator? Doesn't prevaricating, by definition, require staking out positions all over the political spectrum? And if a voting member of the Senate is casting yeas and nays without regard to any ideological conviction, wouldn't he compile scorecard ratings in the middle-third of the scale? As GWM asks, "Which is it?" … KA 7:15 p.m.