- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008

Kvetching

“Bagelmania hit the ground running in this country with chains opening up all over the place, replacing, to a certain extent, the doughnut shops of the earlier part of the 20th century. … It is my suspicion that bagels became so popular because, unlike Mexican burritos or Chinese egg rolls, they don’t taste ethnic. They weren’t marketed as Jewish and weren’t sold in kosher sections of grocery stores.

“To the bread- and sandwich-loving American population, the bagel was simply another bun with a bite - different enough to satisfy a craving for innovation, but not different enough to appear exotic. …

“Bagels are clearly no longer specifically a Jewish food. At some point in the middle of the 20th century, their position from the Jewish bun to the American breakfast bread shifted. The exact moment is unclear, but one moment stands out in my mind.

“In 1998, when I was first filming my PBS television series, “Jewish Cooking in America,” Lender’s, which by then had been bought and sold numerous times, was one of our sponsors. For this cooking show featuring kosher food, they sent us an underwriting spot depicting a perfectly toasted bagel with Swiss cheese and ham! Oy! I almost plotzed. To me, that moment was the ultimate assimilation of the bagel into American life.”

- Joan Nathan, writing on “A Short History of the Bagel” on Nov. 12 at Slate

Everybody equal

“Mark Pearson, the head of the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s] social policy division, has identified something he calls the ‘Hello! magazine effect’ whereby people now compare themselves with the most successful members of society, thereby increasing their insecurity and sense of deprivation. … A person’s social background may still affect their life chances, but it no longer plays such an important role in determining their attitudes and aspirations, particularly towards those higher up - and lower down - the food chain. …

“To put it another way: a profound increase in economic inequality has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in social and cultural equality. … In this free-for-all, it is high culture that has been the loser, with most educated people under 45 embracing popular culture almost exclusively. As a student in the mid-‘80s, I was proud to call myself an ‘Oxbridge Gooner’ - one of several dozen students at Oxford and Cambridge who regularly attended Arsenal games - and such groupings are commonplace now.

“The rich and the poor no longer live in two nations, at least not socially. Economic divisions may be more pronounced than ever, but we support the same football teams, watch the same television [programs], go to the same movies. Mass culture is for everyone, not just the masses.”

- Toby Young, writing on “Lulled by the Celebretariat” in the December issue of Prospect magazine

All ‘bigotry’

“It’s useful to comprehend the gay activist community’s reaction to the Prop 8 win … There have been peaceful protests, and there have been acts of vandalism, chiefly against Mormon churches. One particularly frightening episode occurred [Nov. 14] in San Francisco’s Castro district, when an enraged gay mob set upon a small group of Christians peaceably praying on a street corner. Riot police had to extricate the Christians from the scene. …

“You can see this in the remarkable unwillingness of many gay-marriage defenders to grant their opponents any moral standing. To disagree with them is to reveal yourself to be a ‘bigot’ (I heard a married, straight young Republican in Texas use that word to describe those who voted for Prop 8; he was far from the only one).

“Bigots are by definition people whose prejudices are irrational. Bigots are moral cretins who can’t be talked to, only coerced. One is under no obligation to compromise with a bigot, only to smash him. … Protest is not about convincing the other side of the rightness of one’s cause; it becomes an exercise in stoking the emotions of one’s own side to prevail in raw power politics. That’s what we’re seeing now in California.

“How are defenders of traditional marriage supposed to have reasoned discourse with people who insist that there is nothing to talk about except the terms of our surrender?”

- Rod Dreher, writing on “The Manners In Which We Live” on Nov. 19 at the Culture11 Web site

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