- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2003

Romantic rip-offs

“‘Would You Move In With Your Man?’ asks a recent issue of Cosmopolitan. ‘Monica and Chandler did it on “Friends,”’ the editors added helpfully. ‘Daphne and Niles did it on “Frazier.”’ So, apparently, would 84 percent of the magazine’s readers, according to the accompanying poll.

“That figure was striking, even for sex-kittenish Cosmo girls. Presumably — or maybe not — they had read the survey’s warning: ‘Research shows that the rate of divorce is actually higher for those who live together before marriage compared to those who keep separate pads.’

“As cultural historian Barbara Dafoe Whitehead confirms in her new book, ‘Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman,’ cohabitation is the ‘signature relationship’ of modern romance. The arrangement offers a man ‘the benefits of a wife without shouldering the reciprocal obligations of a husband.’ What’s more: ‘Unlike other forms of live-in help, she is sexually available and works for free.’ …

“[T]oday’s single girl gives away her youth to demanding jobs and dawdling boyfriends. She starts to notice that her birthdays are no longer happy — they’re jarring speed bumps in a joyride that has begun to lose its joy. Years of wrong turns have left her running on emotional empty. … The result is a chasm between professional confidence and romantic confusion.”

Jennifer Grossman, writing on “Anarchy In Eros,” in the June/July issue of the American Spectator

The death of theory

“[In April] the biggest names in literary theory convened at the University of Chicago for what was billed as an ‘intellectual town meeting’ about the future of literary criticism and the study of literature. …

“Academic superstar Stanley Fish, in a now oft-quoted statement, declared, ‘I wish to deny the effectiveness of intellectual work. And especially, I hope to counsel people against the decision to go into the academy because they hope to be effective beyond it.’ Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates agreed: ‘I missed the day theory was politically transformative.’ News of theory’s death knell made headlines at no less than the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the New Criterion.

“Looking back at the past few years of literary theory, it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. To quote a dead white male from the phallocentric, imperialist Western canon, the whole conference and the surrounding coverage has been much ado about nothing — for if theory really is dying, it has been one slow and agonizing death.”

Cheryl Miller, writing on “Theorists and Mullahs,” in the June/July issue of Policy Review

Dead right

“The Grateful Dead became one of rock’s most successful acts by giving its music away. Yes, you could buy the tie-dyed band’s albums in stores, but true Dead Heads savored recordings of the band’s countless concerts — taped and distributed free of charge by fans, with the band’s blessing. The Dead sold few records … but it cleaned up on tour. … So-called jam bands … ape both the Dead’s musical style and its give-it-away strategy. …

“Phish, the genre’s biggest success story, started in the northeastern bar circuit 20 years ago. The band toured relentlessly … and turned fans into viral marketers by encouraging them to make concert tapes and swap them freely.

“The band’s most recent album, 2002’s ‘Round Room,’ has sold 200,000 copies — a bust by major label standards. But scalpers commanded $600 a ticket for the band’s sold-out show at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve; the four-piece group can draw 60,000 paying Phishheads to its shows.”

Michael Freedman, writing on “Steal My Music, Please,” in the July 7 issue of Forbes

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