- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

Demographic death

"In the series-ending episode of 'Murder, She Wrote,' star Angela Lansbury and the writers of the show played out their swan song with a hint of bitter irony in an episode titled 'Death by Demographics.' The plot, which revolved around a murder at a radio station seeking to draw a younger audience, was a thinly veiled dig at CBS' cancellation of the popular Sunday evening show. Despite having finished in the top 10 for nine seasons in a row, the show was top-heavy with older viewers and weak among the 18-to 34-year-olds coveted by advertisers. The ax fell on the show in 1996.

"Such is the fate of many television programs which fail to draw young viewers. Advertisers and the networks that depend on them have long sought out the 18-to-34 group as the El Dorado of marketing demographics. This is in large part due to the view that younger consumers are more flexible in their brand preferences, and can be more easily persuaded to try a new brand or product."

David J. Lipke, writing on "Pledge of Allegiance," in the November issue of American Demographics

Potluck faith

"Food plays many roles in white mainline Protestant church life… . Food calls attention to our senses and to our bodies and it plays a central role in church life. Protestants eat before church, after church and occasionally during church. They feed their infants in the nursery and their elderly at midweek luncheons. Almost every church in the country includes a kitchen, large or small. If you ask American Protestants why they go to church, they're likely to say that they go not for the doctrine or the ethics but for the community a community usually built and sustained around food… .

"The official church pays little attention to food. For theologians and church bureaucrats alike, it's off the map. Instead, food and food events are part of popular Protestantism, the unofficial part of church life. They are the concern not of the theologians or of the clergy but of the laity most often the women in the kitchen.

"These dedicated Christians devote their time to preparing gallons of coffee and hundreds of cookies in church kitchens all across the country, and see it as an important part of their lives as Christians. It is hard to imagine popular American Protestantism without food… . The potluck supper or the coffee hour are part of a folk culture unique to North America."

Daniel Sack, from his new book, "Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture"

Forgotten blood

"Fifty long years have passed since Communist China came into being, and there is still no sign that Communism is on the way out. The blood of Tiananmen Square has been forgotten… . Chinese leaders are sought-after guests in the United States and elsewhere. On their visits, they speak of many matters, but one thing they make absolutely clear is that they have no intention of altering the Communist system of authority. On this point, they meet with little if any resistance from their hosts… .

"It is not that Americans who think and write and plan about China endorse dictatorship; it is rather that they discount the possibility of democracy, and prefer the familiar to the unknown. Many of them also believe that, when all is said and done, China is fundamentally on the right track… .

"The trouble is, however, that China will not be able to play the role that has been assigned to it unless its domestic situation is truly in order which is far from being the case. The USSR, about which we entertained similar hopes in the late 1980s, collapsed suddenly and with a terrible thud; and … the impact of its collapse still reverberates 10 years later. To suppose that China can avoid a similar fate is to blind oneself to reality."

Arthur Waldron, writing on "A Free and Democratic China?" in the November issue of Commentary

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