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Culture Briefs

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fragmented

"James Brown, like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and the Grateful Dead, was and remains a cultural icon. Those performers and others of their era had broad cultural currency; they had meaning for people who did not like or even listen to their music. Is there any figure who has emerged recently in popular music of whom that can be said? ...

"What we have long considered to be mass culture has increasingly become a collection of niche cultures. That is true for media in general, as the three broadcast television networks became the 100-plus channels of digital cable or satellite, and mass-circulation magazines like Life gave way to special-interest periodicals, both in print and on the Web.

"In popular music, the decline of a genuine mass audience has meant that it is harder and harder for a performer to attain recognition beyond his or her niche. ... One could argue that the term 'popular music' itself has become outdated because no style of music reaches a broad enough audience. ... As a result of this audience fragmentation, popular music and its performers have lost the cultural centrality they once enjoyed, and that means that fewer people are interested enough to pay for the product."

David Shumway, writing on "Where Have All the Rock Stars Gone?" in the June 22 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Biological urge

"Women get pregnant because they want to have babies. As Kay S. Hymowitz, author of 'Marriage and Caste in America,' puts it, 'There isn't really a bright line between wanted and unwanted pregnancies.' There are plenty of women who become careless about birth control on purpose. Whether they're suburban professionals with two sons who really want a daughter or poor inner-city women who hope their boyfriends will stay around if there is a child in the picture, women will often subvert their better judgment to fulfill a biological urge.

"This is not the sort of sentiment that sits well with feminists — or with anyone, for that matter, who believes women are the ones thinking with their heads instead of their hormones. But according to the Guttmacher Institute, there are about 3 million unintended pregnancies in the U.S. every year, and six in 10 U.S. women having abortions are already mothers. ... These ladies know exactly how one gets pregnant, and how one does not. ...

"Education, it seems, can do only so much."

Naomi Schaefer Riley, writing on "Sex Education: Can't We Read The Cliffs Notes?" June 1 in the Wall Street Journal

'Hideous blot'

"[T]he Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to murder and oppress its people. ...

"North Korea is a hideous blot on the international community. ...

"The West's ability to influence the DPRK is limited, and America's most important goal is to dissuade Pyongyang from amassing a nuclear arsenal. Keeping the Korean peninsula nuclear-free will be hard enough; convincing Kim Jong-il to dismantle his dictatorship is well-nigh inconceivable.

"Nevertheless, the U.S. and its allies should never forget the nature of the regime with which they are dealing. ... It is in everyone's interest, but especially that of the North Korean people, that the DPRK tyranny pass away."

Doug Bandow, writing on "New Cruelties From an Old Despot," Friday in the American Spectator Online at www. spectator.org