Culture Briefs

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Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

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Too normal

“[Six-Million Dollar Man Steve Austin] is thrust into numerous situations where he’s forced to rescue kidnapped Americans or look for missing persons. All nationalities, all belief systems, all people are equal in Steve’s eyes: He’s just trying to understand them all, regardless of whom they are or what they do. In ‘The Last Kamikaze,’ Steve grows to admire a kamikaze pilot from WWII for his unwavering sense of honor and even begins to understand women better in ‘The Peeping Blonde,’ where Farrah Fawcett, at the time married to [show star Lee] Majors, plays a reporter that wants to be respected for her work, not her looks (‘People want to help me because I’m pretty,’ she says, to which he responds, ‘What’s the matter with that?’).

Steve was positioned as a man of the people, even if the show milked Majors’s sex-symbol status to death: As the years went on, the zippers on his track suits continually lowered, as if they had a mind of their own. And most of the time, Steve didn’t even use his super powers to fight bad guys, but rather to do mundane nonsense like changing a tire with his bare hands or straightening out the handlebars on a child’s bicycle. If the proof is in the pudding, then six million dollars can’t buy very much in the way of a hero.

“And that’s basically why the show is so boring: ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’s creators did everything they could to make the fantastic seem commonplace, even downright boring.”

- Simon Abrams, writing on “The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection” on Dec. 1 at Slant

Too sexy

“Do we even need these graphic interludes in an era which has made sex and its availability in all forms not only permissive, but pedestrian? asks [critic Rhoda] Koenig. Modern literary battles are no longer fought by publishers over sex, as they were by Penguin in 1960. One wonders whether D.H. Lawrence would see sex, such a disposable currency today, as the same potent gift to literary fiction. …

” ‘Nobody needs it anymore,’ says Koenig. … ‘If you were too young or poor to buy pornography or instruction books and had to go to the library, it was a lot less embarrassing checking out Lady Chatterley than a sex manual.’

“In her introduction to the Penguin’s 2004 edition of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover,’ Doris Lessing pokes gentle fun at the timidity of the sex scenes that caused such moral approbation in pre-1960s Britain. To us now, the book is not nearly as ‘explicit’ as it once was, with its opaque descriptions … but how it is still useful is in serving as ‘a report on the sex war of his time.’

“Yesterday’s sex might be today’s schmaltz, but Lessing appears to present a simple yet convincing argument in its favor. What such scenes capture so vividly is a kind of social history of the bedroom that deserves a rightful place in literary fiction.”

- Arifa Akbar, writing on “Bad sex please, we’re British: Can fictive sex ever have artistic merit?” on Nov. 19 at the Independent

Too healthy

“In the United States, health has become a commodity and an industry. We spend vastly more than any other country on health care, and increasingly our health is our wealth. Even in our down economy, health-care spending continues to grow. In 2006, Americans spent about $35 billion on diets and diet services, in large part under the illusion that they were improving their health. Yet we consistently fall behind Britain, not to mention France, in every measure of public health. Some place American public health just ahead of that of Slovenia.

“We may be nearing a point where institutions of public health and the commercial interests that surround it, including the media, do more harm than good to the nation’s health. The official version of health peddled by our current system is not only venal but potentially noxious. In some instances, public health has been transformed into a kind of iatric disease, a medically induced assault on the health of society …

“To be against health is to be critical of the myths and lies concerning our health that are circulated by the media and paid for by large industries. It is to demystify their hidden moralizing and their political agenda. It also means expanding the idea of iatric disease to include the moral and physical harm that is done to the public by particular nostrums of public health, especially those that impose constraints and privations ‘for your own good,’ as the saying goes.”

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