The week's best in the Fray.

The week's best in the Fray.

The week's best in the Fray.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Sept. 23 2005 7:35 PM

Needles & Threads

The week's best in the Fray.

This week, Houston fraysters transition from volunteers to those in the path of the storm.  Testimonials from them and others grace the boards:

Yesterday was one hell of a day. It hit a hundred degrees and I was cutting to size and then hanging some full sheets of plywood that the neighbor discovered in her garage. It covered her plate glass patio doors. My other neighbor discovered the same in his outside shed. This morning I will cover his living room window with one sheet and then use the other to cover the most vulnerable of our windows. After that, it's even more outside work in another day's worth of three digit temperature.

…At the moment we are hoping to escape the worst of the approaching hurricane and endure only 120 mph winds. We are far enough inland not to worry overmuch about storm surge. As a matter of fact, if any trace of a storm surge hits where we are at then the lower half of the state is doomed anyway. So, no worries mate.

In any event, so far as I have been able to ascertain, every neighbor on our street is staying and hunkering down; many with visiting relatives, who fled lower lying regions. Despite reassurances that delivery trucks would be endlessly streaming into the region, local grocery stores are pretty much stripped.

What panic is noticeable can be seen in impatient or insane driving. Face to face, everyone seems controlled and courteous. As for driving, I have absolutely no intention of moving a vehicle again, except for last minute shuffling for best positions in driveways.

I have noticed that our older cats are beginning to get a bit anxious, but then they might very well be picking up bad vibes from their humans. The two kittens are romping around per normal. I could use some of their wild energy today.

There is something to look forward to, however; if I survive today's marathon work load in 100 degree temperature then I can rest and enjoy watching the roof of my house rip away in the contentment that comes from knowing that one has done one's best. Um – let me rethink that . . . .

Before signing off for now, I would like to add that as frightening as it is to hunker down anywhere near the landing zone of this hurricane, I feel genuine sympathy for the millions of people who fled lower lying areas of the state. Where in the hell are they going to end up? Most of them have no real idea. It's stay and probably die or hit the road and hope for the best as funds gradually drain away. Most of those fleeing the approach of this storm have every good reason to believe that there will be no home to return to after the fact.

--Hauteur, here, from the Houston area, on the rituals of preparation.

Thursday morning. no wind, absolutely still clear morning sky. working half day today, closed tomorrow. came in against traffic this morning, north and west bound freeways completely jammed. neighborhoods empty, quiet roads, I'll go home 'through the neighborhoods' at noon. Next-door-neighbor Evelyn nervous with wheelchair bound father in that big house alone. helped with her windows last night, will finish up this afternoon. probably have them come over tonight and through the worst of it. told her to bring money, wonder if she knows how to play Texas Hold 'em. pets all nervous with the extra activity, maybe they sense the storm already, I don't know. worried most about the roof and also about flying debris. more later.

--MichaelRyerson, here, early Thursday morning in Houston chronicling the calm before the storm

… it seems that a(n important) group of people have been left out of this discussion: those of us who need porn.

I'm an academic who's terrible with women. I try to talk to them, they don't like me. In fact, when many find out I'm a scientist, they end the conversation as soon as possible. And I'm not great looking. Luckily my work is very important to me and I live a relatively happy life doing science. But I'm also a man. I get horny, a lot. It interferes with my ability to do just about anything else. Porn lets me get on with my life. And yeah, I need progressively more aggressive porn because it's all the sex I get. Looking at semi naked women gets boring after a few years. And I'm not alone in this predicament. I know a lot of scientists, engineers, and programming types that … are in exactly the same boat…

And I know what you're thinking. Clearly we all just need to get laid. That's a lot like telling a suicidal person to just cheer up already. It's hard and it doesn't happen. You try, you get shot down 5 or 6 times, it sucks…

It boils down to this. Yes, I got laid a few times in college. Not really for a few years now. And it's not going to happen. Women really just don't go for scientists. Life is miserable when you're horny and porn solves that problem. Come on, we need it! It certainly isn't ruining our sex lives - it is them.

--Apostortwo, here, introducing the personal into an otherwise academic conversation.

Boomers stopped buying current music when they started having their own kids. Most, not all, are stuck in a music listening time warp. What came after the "60s but disco and who doesn't want to forget that? Then punk, which only rattled or bored Boomers who were too preoccupied pressing their power suits to pay attention to anything not harmonious with their own self-image.

New Wave may have pricked up their ears, if only because their kids or someone else's kids were listening to it … Then came grunge and what did Boomer advertisers do but glom onto it as a marketing ploy?

Every new music that comes along, they use it for something other than its intent. How many more times do we have to endure Caribbean Cruise commercials using Iggy Pop's "Lust of Life" before we figure out that most of Dylan's early listeners died about the same time he crashed his motorcycle?

There exists no other generation so intent on glorifying itself as forever young even while relying on soundtracks from its long-gone youth and commercials showing them as still young in their pursuits. Boomers want to hear Dylan when he was young, but not now, when he sounds like – gasp! – a man their age.

Please. Enough. Get off the teat of Dorian Gray. Listen to Time out of Mind or Love and Theft if you've got the honesty to. Otherwise, you're not a real Dylan fan.

--Spelendid_IREny, here, as distraught as Fraywatch is over Madison Avenue using Zeppelin to sell Cadillacs.

I've been thinking a lot about letting go lately. It's been a hard couple weeks.

We've had a death at school, and it's cast a pall on the girl's whole school. I don't have any details - the girls weren't particularly close to her. Shared some classes and a couple birthday parties. Not best friends, but neighbors. I haven't even seen her since school got out last year, but I'm pretty upset. It's hard to field their questions and be there for them when I don't know what is going on but I understand why they don't tell people. They say it's "natural causes", but I fail to see how anything natural can take a seemingly healthy 14-year-old girl as she's getting ready for school one morning. The girls keep trying to think of things, and I can't give them any answers. This is hard on the "Mom knows everything" rep, and you feel like such a dope. I feel so awful for her parents.

My eldest is turning 18 in two months. I'm not ready. I won't say inane stuff about "where did the time go" because I know bloody well where it went. I was here for it all, I assure you. But even with 18 years of warning I'm still not ready. It's amazing how proud of them you can be and how terrified for them you can be at the same time. I AM proud of him. He's really stepped up to the plate here these last six months, and while it doesn't allay any of those worries that ferment in my head if I let myself think too hard I'm fairly confident he'll at least go out and make his own mistakes instead of some festive variations on mine and his father's.

My mom had surgery. They removed a tumor, and they've been testing it to find out if it's cancerous or not. We've been through a two month roller-coaster-ride to get to that point, and waiting for the verdict this last week has been really hard. We've both been really scared. We spend most of our efforts trying to pretend we aren't to each other, though. I'm really far away so all I can do is call her incessantly and drive her crazy. She's got her sister there to do that in person much better than I'll ever manage it, though. I try to let the local talent handle it as much as I can and keep it to myself but it's hard. I just got off the phone with her and they say now for sure it's not cancer, but they think she needs a hysterectomy anyways. We can handle that. After all the rest of it that seems like a blessing, rather than a problem. Thanks be to a gifting God…

--MsZilla, here, on letting go

…Perhaps Al can be a more electable Dean. He did win a majority of the popular vote. That doesn't say much for his strength as a candidate, as Bush the Elder won a landslide in a similar situation, and Gore had to scramble. But the myth that he wuz robbed and should have won gives him more electability cred.

He is capable of unleashing the occasional stem-winder of a speech, deploying the Southern Baptist pulpit presence that goes down so well with the voters. His convention speech was very good indeed, though most are.

Debates are a trouble spot. He was great as the attack dog against Quayle and Perot, but that same aggressiveness made people uneasy when running for the top job.

He's certainly the strongest threat Hillary faces … I wish him well, as the talk shows will positively revel in the long-suspected Clinton-Gore feud.

--Urquhart, here, getting onboard Gore '08 — Doin' it Nixon style!

Hurricanes and Homosexuality, Deception, Fray Addictions and the Un-dead...Can you name the posters who said the following?

1. "Lesbians just have more thrilling sex. We're out there in the trenches where you should be, rather than discussing how Venus and Mars are actually two different planets."

2. "Omy Heck..Has Some one lied to others?"

3. "What do you guys wear (if anything) under those robes? Leather thongs is the rumor I've heard."

4. "[new technique: I'm going to do all my top-posts mid-thread, to protest the truncation of the Fray front page. Power to the people. Solidarity! Soup.]"

5. "Most people just masturbate, but I guess Adam needs the whole courtship ritual first."

6. "As a gay man, Jonah, I want the world to know that I stand ready to take in a few gay refugees from Hurricane Rita. My only requirement is that they be between 21 and 35, and have been to the gym at least twice a week for the last two years." "Courage."

7. "Rarely will you be treated to a more patronizing criticism, so lets leave it at that for now. Toodles."

8. "I can barely juggle the 7 nics I currently use, not to mention holding down a job and getting dinner on the table every night."

9. "I'm sorry I was such a poor husband. I'm sorry I posted on this effing forum so much, wasting time at work when I could have come home earlier."

10. "Friday morning, wide band of high clouds running southwest to northeast, local freeways cleared out, many vehicles abandoned, out of gas, our preparations complete, now the calm before the storm, literally and figuratively."

--topazz (and a bevy of others), here, with this week's installment of "Overheard in BOTF."



Wednesday, September 21, 2005

There's an appealing combination of pathos and resignation in TimmyG's response to the Book Club symposium on Pornified and Female Chauvinist Pigs. As Laura Kipnis states in her Tuesday entry, "Both [books] describe the dire effects the rising cultural acceptability of porn has on male-female relationships and on female self-esteem." After confessing that the entire conversation is getting him hot, Timmy starts out with a market defense of porn:

I do not understand what [women] are looking for from men. A result of female empowerment is the lessening of men's responsibility. If a man chooses to pay straight cash for internet porn that is his valid consumer decision. He has no obligation to anyone else as long as he has no children to support.

He adds:

For men, the reality is that the golden ring is unattainable. This is true in all respects. Throughout the education process, there are smarter men, more athletic men, more charismatic men, and these men get the most desirable women. Isn't that as it should be? The added humiliation of eating humble pie from a woman in school is a treasured and liberating experience…

The traditional role of educated men as providers, husbands, fathers, etc., had been judged negatively and somewhat immorally. What was there to do? It didn't matter. The responsibility was gone. I was in fact liberated.

So when I read three letters by three women worrying about the rapacious sexual appetites of men and the negative effect on women, I feel nothing. I have been taught that I have no right to comment on this subject publicly. I have no right to judge women from my obvious paternalistic and domineering perspective as a male.

I am grateful for this. It save me a lot of involvement and worry.

After offering a similar market disclaimer/defense, Mangar asks, "How 'cultural' is porn?' His answer:

…it's folly to try to look at cultural trends as a cause, and an effect, for sexual trends that have been with us for recorded history (and beyond). I would say that Internet porn is so prevalent because it's good at easily filling an existing desire, not because it has awoken some previously unknown appetite. Men have always pursued as many women (real or imagined) as their circumstances allow. Don't think that porn is the be-all-end-all of imaginary sexual activity. Looking at women and imagining them naked beneath their clothes is quite enough, thank you, to kick off a spirited round of easy-sex-in-the-mind-of-the-male-with-no-foreplay-or-consequences through the miracle of sexual fantasy.

Koplaw offers an interesting cultural parallel:

think porn is a logical extension of a fast food culture. Traditionally, the act of eating, or feasting, involved a whole host of ritual and human intimacy. Putting aside the family and community effort to hunt, grow, or gather the food, there was the rituals involved in eating and sharing a meal with others. Fast food eliminates that whole process and reduces it to the most basic element, fulfilling the need for instant sustenance.

For a more personal testimonial, check out baltimore-aureole's post here exploring porn's effect on her relationships. Demosthenes2 feels that:

It seems to me that perhaps we need to draw a distinction between the mechanics of biological sexual function and intimacy—it has always been the case that the two can exist together or separately…It is for this reason that I think that Laura Kipnis, Meghan O'Rourke and Wendy Shalit may be conflating the two a bit.

For comic relief, Diogenes_Bob writes with his signature pithy style:

Whenever anyone gets into a tizzy about the depiction of humans copulating, it reminds me that it is only the tizzying that made anyone even bother to "depict" it in the first place.

On a similar note, Annoyed groans that, "People allow their fear of being labeled a puritan to trump their disgust."

And for another good laugh on the increasing availability of porn, see TheNewSnobbery here:

Elementary-school boys are getting porn from libraries.

Shocking. Back in my day, it was the video store. Or the 7-11.

Or grampa's closet. Because he'd never call you on it and he was too lazy to move the cassettes, even when it was relatively clear that we'd been shuffling things around.

The library sounds so cold and impersonal. I really can't imagine popping my own cherry in the library, but maybe kids today really are total psychos.

Apparently, this isn't a problem at DukeKA11:20 a.m.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005


NK TK: Analysts, including Fred Kaplan here, maintain that yesterday's agreement with North Korea marks the beginning—not the end—of our diplomatic contortions. Is the Bush administration's willingness to negotiate an earnest attempt to diffuse the enduring conflict between the two countries, or just a CYA gesture to ensure that critics can't play the exhausting-all-diplomatic-options card if push ultimately comes to shove with Pyongyang?

J_Mann questions whether it's moral to negotiate with K.J.I.:

Is it really moral to buy ourselves safety at the cost of extending the current NK government's rule? How many decades of Korean suffering is it worth to have two or three fewer bombs in the world?

I've heard the antiwar people complaining to no end how the US supposedly "created" Saddam and Bin Laden, and how we are supposedly responsible for the governments in Syria and Egypt. Is it really ok to be complicit in the continuation of one of the two or three worst states in the world?

It seems to me that it would be much more moral to say "we'll talk about your nukes some other time, but if you want food and energy assistance, we demand the following human rights reforms . . ."

That J_Mann, one of the Fray's more articulate neocons, frames the question as a moral one is curious, given the practical tack taken here by Condi Rice. Considering the events of the last several months, is it possible that the president is shedding his neoconservative skin in favor of the realpolitik of his father? 

Lowbrow Freeze: Fraywatch didn't get around to highlighting it last week, but MonsterDog's lowbrow rebuttal to David Amsden's heady retrospective of the Slurpee deserves a read:

While the wretchedly vapid Manhattanites may contemplate the social significance of 7-Eleven's signature frozen ice thingee, those of us who do not live in Manhattan … grab a Slurpee and a bag of Doritos, and bask in the Nevada sun secure in the notion that life gets better the less you think about it.

That's what 7-Eleven's always been about, insanity of its marketing team notwithstanding. What the eggheads call "nostalgia" I call not letting silly notions of responsibility or "grow up, boy, you won't be a kid forever" cloud the point of life, which is to have a little fun.

Think about it. It's Saturday afternoon. You're enjoying one of your sixty-four consecutive hours away from the Corporate Machine. What better way to celebrate the downtime than with a brainfreeze that's wretched for your health? If you contemplate the calories, you're missing the point.

There's still room in this world for frivolity chilled to a headache-inducing degree. Sometimes a brainfreeze is just a brainfreeze. Oh, thank heaven.

Just don't tell it to these guys

How I Spent My Summer: In the felinicide department, Thugs-Ma sees Emily Yoffe's Goldie and raises her "a pretty Siamese mix from the pound named Tuff Guy":

I really didn't like this cat, but I put up with her, because ... well... it was an emotional thing. I felt beholden to her.

Then I got pregnant. As a single mom, trust me, I didn't have the ability to abide this cat -- who wasn't all that friendly and kept my house untidy --requiring more time than I had to spare to constantly clean. I'm sorry, but all relationships are give and take. And I was doing all the giving. Life is too short to spend with a pet that doesn't like people. Life is too short to spend with a pet you don't like.

So I did what a responsible person would do. I put her down myself. I grew up on a farm, where life and death issues, while not taken lightly, are day to day things, and where a responsible person doesn't dump their animal on the Humane Society to anesthetize or board (for endless months until the animal gets wacked anyway). It wasn't a pleasant task. I'm not some psycho.

I saw it as ultimate respect.

If so desired, direct your outrage here …  KA1:40 p.m.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Man in the Noir Robe: Supreme Court confirmation hearings as pulpy Los Angeles crime novel? Here, not_abel explains:

The frustration Democratic Senators express with Robert's answers, especially as channeled here by Dahlia Lithwick, reminds me a little of the frustration expressed by the homicide detective interrogating the murder suspects in Joseph Wambaugh's The Onion Field:

"...Brooks could easier forgive a cop killer than (a suspect)...Who simply would not buy what a homicide detective is selling: a trip to the gas chamber".

If Roberts is playing a game, it's a game whose rules the Democrats in the Senate are as responsible as anyone for establishing. It came into full flower as a result of the Bork hearings, and has been being polished ever since. By now, the rules are pretty simple.

The administration must find a candidate without enough of a paper trail to justify hanging him on the written evidence. It helps if there are "worse" nominees waiting in the wings. Then, the opposition party in the Senate gets to spend a week or two inviting the candidate to buy a ticket to the gas chamber. Refuse the invitation, and get confirmed.

Its hard to have much sympathy for people who are being outplayed at a game that they themselves bear so much responsibility for establishing.

After his flashy candor during the Condi Rice confirmation, Joe Biden had emerged as the liberal internationalists' choice for '08. But has he hurt his prospects this week? That seems to be the consensus in the Fray. EarlyBird weighs in:

Yesterday's performance was just appalling. Biden kept asking Roberts about right-to-die issues, and asked Roberts to just give his own personal, emotional view of pulling the plug on a comatose, Schiavo-like loved one to the panel. He asked Roberts to speak to him "as a father," not as a judge. Biden consistently came back with these scenarios where, "my father," or, "my mother" would want to pull the plug on him, Joseph Biden, and whether or not Roberts would stand in the way of that very difficult, complex "right" as he put it.

…If Biden was serious and really wanted to get into Roberts' head about his stands on this stuff, which he had every right to do, he would have asked Roberts to extrapolate on his opinions in regard to how "right to die" state laws intersect with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Serious stuff. Instead Biden showboated, as is typical. He can't help himself…

Roberts very politely explained to Biden that he was a complete idiot, that his job as a judge would NOT be to insert his own personal feelings into interpreting the law, that it is up to lawmakers to MAKE GOOD LAW IN THE FIRST PLACE, so that they don't require judges to uphold a bad law. Roberts did this beautifully, without raising his voice or running up to the dais, pulling Biden from his seat and pounding his head into the table.

…I hate the kind of pandering and emotionalism represented by Biden's kind of "questioning." He's an ass. Whenever I start thinking of him as a Democrat who I could possibly stomach as presidential material, you grandstand and give that arrogant shit-eating grin of yours. You're not that cute. You're no Bill Clinton.

Though William Saletan maintains that John Roberts is "no more committed to a right to privacy than Robert Bork was, SpinDoctor believes that Saletan's suspicion is "overstated": 

I disagree with Saletan that Roberts does not view the right to privacy differently than Bork, Thomas, or Scalia. He admitted that he agreed with Griswold and Eisenstat.

These cases created the foundation for Roe, Casey, and Lawrence - the three big privacy cases that followed. He might disagree with the results of these cases but it seems he would have to undo the precedent back to Griswold to firmly overturn the big 3.

I don't see him as that activist. He will accept more restrictions on abortion but I don't see him overturning Casey's basic premise (a woman has a right to abortion before viability). The right to abortion can be whittled down considerably without actually making it illegal and this is probably what will happen.

The_Bell offers an exegesis on the "Specter of Roe." As always, pun intended. 

Pledge Drive: IOZ gets to the heart of it:

Although I object to the inclusion of "under god" in the pledge for the sake of fun conversation, I object far more to the pledge itself, and the rat-cowardly substitution of near-mandatory civic idolatry for any actual civic society, which the US lacks to a degree usually reserved for plutocratic ex-Soviet republics and failed Islamic theocracies. It goes hand in hand with the old conservative bugaboo of flag-burning, which sends the local Elks into the sort of tribalistic conniptions that they claim to so despise in the urban underclass. No confident nation substitutes such a faux-secular sacrament for an actual state religion. If we wish to worship the flag, then we ought to just make it mandatory and dispense with the nonsense. The North Koreans have Juche; we could call our own Old Glorism, though it sounds like a Muppet or an unpleasant dermal eruption.

Coercive—even rote—expressions of patriotism are onerous in themselves, with or without our endless need to reassure God that we really dig him. As someone who attends 60 MLB games (which, by and large, feature Dominicans) and 30 NBA games per year, is my humming of the national anthem and saluting the colors truly a more profound demonstration of my patriotism than, say, forking over thousands of dollars to sustain these hopelessly American institutions

In Memoriam: The Fray lost sandalphon, a lively and loved participant, this past week. Fraywatch extends condolences to friends and family … KA1:20 p.m.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In 500 Words or Less: Ann Hulbert spent a weekend this summer coaching low-income students in the increasingly hellacious college admissions game—the personal statement/essay portion of the application, in particular. She writes about the experience in Sandbox:

Where cosseted kids (and their parents) pull strings and open wallets to arrange essay-worthy experiences, kids like Assita tend to need prodding to share dilemmas right there on their doorsteps. Mostly from fraying families as well as ill-equipped schools, they're afraid that their woes—having a father in prison or a mother on crack, or getting slashed at school—are evidence of weakness, which was the last thing anybody on my team wanted to betray. They're startled to find writing coaches hanging on their words—and then taken aback to see, when they finish, that they have a story that isn't just grist for what I overheard someone call a "pity party" but that actually shows their grit.

Hulbert suggests that the "grit" embedded in these kids' life stories is compelling fodder for admissions committees that are under increasing pressure to enroll more economically disadvantaged students. But PhilSandifer resents Hulbert's implication and sympathizes with the teenaged girl—Assita—in the piece who is initially reluctant to milk her hardships for an admissions committee:

I find it frustrating that what poor black children apparently really need is to write essays about overcoming adversity, and that this process reveals the tough, dedicated people inside. It seems like that's the only narrative of success we offer black children - rising above the adversity of a poor background/racism by secretly being tough/brilliant/dedicated.

What I find really frustrating about Hulbert's piece, though, is that she seems to take some kind of personal triumph in the students' acquiescing and defining themselves in these generic terms - and not just a triumph in the fact that this will help them succeed. She seems genuinely happy that now Assita and Marc and the rest know how to eloquently tell their stories of adversity.

In which case Assita was exactly right - why should she want to write about overcoming adversity? It's not who she is. It's who the spoiled rich world that Hulbert is at once attacking and a part of wants her to be, because it's the only view of success they can conceive of for an underclass black kid.

Is there a strain of liberal paternalism in Hulbert's piece? You decide here

Punch & Judy: In the words of Tony Kushner, Christopher Hitchens is throwing darts at Jell-O this week taking on the clownish George Galloway—whom he'll be debating publicly in New York Wednesday night—in his Fighting Words column. MarcEHaag pshaws:

listening to these guys fight is like finding yourself stuck in a certain kind of London pub at closing time when the lights come up and all the loudmouths are standing around in pairs, arguing, haranguing, clutching their lager in one hand while sticking the forefinger of the other hand in their opponent's chest, just for emphasis . . .

Or it's like a particularly feral session of communal self-criticisms amongst a bunch of doddering old (ex?)Trotskyists. It's a good bit and if anyone can find it, I'd be most appreciative. I'd especially recommend this reading to anyone with a ticket for the Baruch College rantathon Wednesday eve. Just to steel yourself.

MutatisMutandis adds:

Seldom has a pair of men be found, so able in abusing logic, making non-sequitur arguments, and dressing up their prejudices in the disguise of reason. Galloway's silly paranoia on Western Imperialism is matched by Hitchens' abject horror of organized religion.

Sane people should resist the temptation to "watch the fun"…

Out of sheer pity I am willing to come to Hitchens' assistance with some pertinent and inspirational lyrics by Flemish singer Jan de Wilde:

slappe stalactiet, suffe klussenklooier,
stijve zwartepiet, hobbelpaard van Troje,
boskoe, aasgarnaal,
emoe, bergkwabaal,

Any attempt at translation would do injustice to the spirit of the song. And besides, I am not willing to be THAT helpful :-)

A little help from our Flemish Fraysters, please? 

For a Brit's take on the debate, check out JGCross here

Caucus Room: JurisFraysters have been slow to file on the Roberts confirmation hearings, but ClaudeScales rightfully calls bullshit on Chuck Schumer, his guy … KA9:00 a.m.