- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2002

Republican icon
"So, does Eminem get to do the Super Bowl halftime show? I mean, what's left besides a White House drop-by? Which might not be all that far-fetched, given the warmth of the mainstream's embrace of Mr. Mathers.
"There are precedents: Gun-toting Elvis' visit with Nixon, Michael Jackson's photo op with Reagan. And the Eminem story or the movie version that unfolded in '8 Mile' is an echt Republican story, one about pulling yourself up and overcoming your circumstances while your pathetic single mom waits around for a handout.
"Anyway, Eminem is the pop-music story of 2002, isn't he? Who since Nirvana has had a year like this? I guess that's the place to start. Me, I'd like to thank him for helping to re-establish music as a really popular art form (9 million units sold domestically this year and counting), and for dropping two of the year's knockout singles 'Cleanin Out My Closet' and 'Lose Yourself.'"
Gerald Marzorati, writing on "The Year in Music," Tuesday in Slate at www.slate.com

Quality control
"Clinical definitions tell a woman a lot about what is happening to her but do not give her much help in connecting these events with any larger scheme of meaning. Medicine might happily concede the point on the grounds that spiritualizing pregnancy falls outside its job description. Now that women look primarily to doctors for explication of pregnancy, though, it is not entirely clear where else they might look. And there are deeper concerns that proceed from our practice of entrusting pregnancy to medicine. We have learned to expect doctors to provide a healthy baby. That way of thinking, however, can encourage both doctors and patients to do things they should not in order to get a healthy baby.
"Prenatal care includes batteries of tests blood pressure, blood sugar, weight gain, and so forth aimed to check whether mother and child are progressing normally. Tests for genetic abnormalities are now offered alongside these. For mothers in their 30s, alphafeto protein screens and amniocentesis are on their way to becoming standard. Even when no one forces her decision, the very fact of genetic screening pressures a woman to have the tests and, if defects are detected, to consider ending the pregnancy. Childbearing is so founded on choice, and medicine so firmly established as the means to a good outcome, that a 'quality-assurance' mentality can be hard to avoid altogether."
Agnes R. Howard, writing on "What Else to Expect When You're Expecting," in the January issue of First Things

Caffeinated fears
Like every other business in the world, Starbucks has a specific clientele to which it appeals. For whatever reason, Starbucks is attractive not to all Arabs but rather to a particular sort of Arab. This is why [civil society professor Ben] Barber's imagined threat of monocultural, chain-driven sprawl across the face of the planet will never materialize. For anything like that to happen, there would have to be homogeneity of taste and thought. Starbucks will never assimilate the entire human race until we all have exactly the same wants and likes. In short, Barber has it backward. Material culture such as a Starbucks store doesn't create cultural conformity. It is cultural conformity ideas and beliefs accepted individually, then shared by a group of like-minded individuals that creates material culture.
What those worried about monoculture really fear is cross-cultural contamination: the dilution of foreign cultures by contact with America. But no culture is truly indigenous or untouched by others.
Jackson Kuhl, writing on "Tempest in a Coffeepot: Starbucks invades the world," in the January issue of Reason

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