View Full Version : Something to ponder

07-04-2003, 02:07 PM
Martha Stewart Fantasizing

Martha Stewart has been indicted, Martha Stewart has resigned from the chairmanship of her company, Martha Stewart is in disgrace. But Martha Stewart, Incorporated -- or, more precisely, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. -- lives on. Late last week the company quietly announced it will begin publication of a new magazine, Everyday Food, with an estimated distribution of a mere 900,000. According to Sharon Patrick, the new CEO of Martha's company, the experimental issues of Everyday Food were not hurt at all by Martha's indictment. The company, she says, "is not skipping a beat."

If she is right, and if the company does recover, that will not only provide a shot of optimism to legions of other companies with disgraced executives, it will also prove that the Martha Stewart phenomenon, as I have long suspected, is far more resilient than anyone previously thought. The fuss surrounding her is often inaccurately described as an ordinary celebrity cult: Much has been made, in recent days, of Martha Stewart and her allegedly perfectionist personality, of Martha Stewart as the focus of envy or admiration. Not nearly enough, in my view, has been made of the peculiar fantasy niche that Martha Stewart Living (the magazine), "Martha Stewart Living" (the television program) and marthastewart.com (the Web site) have managed to fill, none of which have much to do with Martha Stewart (the woman) herself.

For like J.K. Rowling or Oprah Winfrey and her book club, Martha Stewart, accidentally or on purpose, stumbled upon something missing from pop culture and supplied it. Children want to read something darker and scarier than the earnest, "educational" literature written for them these days -- hence the Harry Potter phenomenon. Adults want to read something that speaks to them more deeply than airport romance novels, but don't know what -- and that's why Oprah's recommendation has just turned "East of Eden," an almost forgotten John Steinbeck novel, into a runaway bestseller.

The explanation for Martha Stewart's endurance lies in a slightly different direction. There are, after all, plenty of other magazines containing recipes and home decorating tips. But the Martha Stewart magazine didn't merely tell you how to cook, it told you how you could live a completely different sort of life, one in which you had an infinite amount of squanderable free time. The first issue I read contained a long, loving description of how to make your own Valentines, using family photographs, bits of tin foil, stencils and waxed twine. Valentines! I hadn't given out Valentine cards in 25 years, let alone made them from scratch. I read on -- and a whole alternate universe unfolded before me. There were clear instructions on how to make and use a pastry cone. There were advertisements for kitchen utensils I hadn't known existed. One-cup bundlette pans! Cherry pitters! Ice-shavers! Heart-shaped pancake molds!

It has never occurred to me, not even once, to actually use any of them -- or to make pastry, or to poke around in flea markets looking for oddly shaped bits of ceramic -- or, for that matter, to feel inadequate because Martha says I should. For I can't imagine many other women actually do all of these things either, although I'm sure many purchase the cherry-pitters and the stenciling kits anyway, fervently believing that one day they will. What working mother, non-working mother, or indeed working non-mother could possibly have the time? Millions keep reading the magazine nevertheless, just to fantasize about what the world would be like if they did have time -- oceans of time. If I had absolutely nothing else to do, I might well enchant my children by making red-white-and-blue paper wind streamers for the Fourth of July, or spend my days painting wicker chairs that perfect shade of robin's egg blue, or treat my friends to homemade apricot tarts, served with homemade vanilla ice cream on placemats I'd woven myself.

Or I might not, but it's riveting to imagine life in that parallel world. Besides, every era has had its quintessential daydream, and this is ours. The practical Victorians dreamed of medieval romance and pre-Raphaelite maidens; we dream of having no planes to catch, no phones to answer, no forms to fill out, no babysitters to call. This may well be the source of our peculiar, amazingly enduring and otherwise inexplicable national obsession with Martha Stewart, and it could be the clue to her company's future survival -- or failure. For if Martha's company can't find a way to keep supplying us with this particular fantasy, then someone else's company will.

07-04-2003, 02:10 PM
Antonin Scalia is raging against the coming of the light.

Scalia's dissent from last week's epochal Supreme Court decision striking down Texas's anti-sodomy statute confirms Ayatollah Antonin's standing as the intellectual leader of the forces arrayed against equality and modernity in the United States. In establishing the deep historical roots of anti-gay sentiment in America, for instance, Scalia took pains to note the 20 prosecutions and four executions for consensual gay sex conducted in colonial times. He noted, approvingly, that even today, "many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools or as boarders in their home."

Actually, back in 1978, a California electorate far more conservative than today's massively repudiated an initiative seeking to ban gays from teaching school, but this inconvenient fact -- and other evidence of a massive shift in public sentiment on gay rights -- doesn't have quite the legal majesty of those four colonial executions. (Scalia is uncharacteristically short on detail here. Were they hangings or burnings?) Scalia's justifications for discriminatory conduct sound terribly familiar. Change "homosexual" to "Negro" and Scalia is at one with the authors of Plessy v. Ferguson's mandate for "separate but equal" schools, and the judges who upheld anti-miscegenation statutes. Indeed, of the 13 states whose anti-sodomy statutes were struck down last Thursday, 10 were once slave states of the South. In what has always been the main event in American history -- the battle to expand the definition of "men" in Jefferson's mighty line on who's created equal -- these are the states that have had to be dragged along kicking and screaming.

More immediately, 12 of the 13 states with sodomy laws on the books were states that George W. Bush carried in the 2000 election, and the 13th -- Florida -- was the one that Scalia and company handed to him. The culture wars over legal equality for gays -- save on the question of gay marriage -- are pretty much settled within the Democratic Party. It's the Republicans who are split on the question of equal rights for gays.

And in this battle, Scalia has no shortage of allies -- the recent and current Republican congressional leadership first and foremost. From Dick Armey, who referred to gay Democratic Rep. Barney Frank as "Barney Fag," to Rick Santorum, who equated consensual gay sex to "man-on-dog" fornication, to Tom DeLay, who's declared that the United States is and ought to remain a "Christian nation," to Trent Lott, who pined for segregation, the recent and current leaders of the Republican Party in Congress have compiled an impressive record of industrial-strength prejudice.

So where's the outrage? Lott, to be sure, had to step down, but for the rest, it looks as if gay-bashing is not only accepted in the highest Republican circles but actually a prerequisite for leadership. Just this Sunday, Bill Frist took to the airwaves to tout a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Frist looked mighty uncomfortable in the part; his statements were almost incoherent, and he conveyed the sense that he was speaking less from personal passion than from partisan duty.

Of course, plenty of Republicans welcomed last week's decision (beginning, I suspect, with Vice President Cheney). Plenty of Republicans are appalled when the United States votes in international bodies with Saudi Arabia and a handful of fundamentalist states against women's rights, reproductive freedoms and contraception distribution programs. Plenty of Republicans sicken at the hatreds expressed by their legislative leaders. But plenty or not, try to find a national Republican who speaks out for equality of sexual orientation or condemns the expressions of bias.

It's way past time for a prominent Republican to give a Sister Souljah speech. In a period when the United States finds itself threatened by an international network of religious intolerants fuming at modernity and equality, you'd think some GOP notables might step up to condemn the like-minded intolerants in their own ranks -- indeed, atop them. Is there no decent Republican with the guts to note that his party could do better than be led by a rats' nest of bigots?

07-04-2003, 03:00 PM
A word to the wise, ma'am. Make your point and sign off. Bulky posts like these will run off your readers in a hurry. Many of us have a little list of posters we always skip over, and often it is for this reason. Try to be a good poster whose comments we will be glad to see.

I doubt that I will agree with you most of the time, but I will read your stuff anyway, if you don't make it a chore.

07-04-2003, 03:13 PM
This is not his stuff. It looks like he is quoting someone elses work.


07-04-2003, 03:25 PM
I sure am not going to wade through all that. Especially if there is no point to be made. Just "something to ponder"? I got enough sh*t to ponder. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

From what direction will Qtec attack next? How will eg8r parry the thrust? hehehe.