- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Freak show

“Following the Michael Jackson trial is not an enterprise for the weak of stomach. …

“Being sickened by the scandals and spectacles of the Michael Jackson trial can be a full-time proposition.

“So much about this trial is strange and disturbing and freakish that you might think someone in Jackson’s seemingly endless coterie of hangers-on … would whisper to him that he’d be well-served over the next few months by just attempting to be normal. …

“Enter Michael Jackson, with the surgeries and the personal zoo and the all-boy slumber parties; a man who defies every classification system known to man, living as he does at the interstices of male and female, black and white, man and boy. Why has no one leaned over and murmured in his reconstructed ear that he should maybe tone it down for the coming weeks? His life, either as a free man or as a pop icon, is at stake after all. …

“Is a trial about whether or not a man can control himself around children best presented by showing a man who can’t control his public behavior or image? If ever there was an opportune moment for Jackson to manifest some understanding that he resides in the real world and understands its rules, one would think this would be that moment.”

Dahlia Lithwick, writing on “Never Can Say Goodbye,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

A dog’s life

“The PetsCell cell phone isn’t on the market yet, but PetsMobility, the company that developed it, already has a Web site showing the little phone collar that your dog will wear so that you can reach him 24/7 or even track a bolter down, if you pay for a GPS version of the device. And if you’re worried about Rover dying, you can bank some of his DNA with Genetic Savings & Clone, which has already sold cloned kittens and expects to offer cloned puppies this year. …

“[W]hy are the rest of pet owners suddenly on such a huge spree? …

“For sure, the answer has to do with baby boomers and their empty nests. They also have a lot more disposable income than their parents had. …

“[W]hen pet-product manufacturers try to anticipate the next fad for animals, they increasingly look first at what people are buying for themselves. Which suggests that as much as we love Fido, the urge to humanize him has a lot to do with gratifying ourselves.”

From “Reigning Cats and Dogs,” Friday in the Wall Street Journal

Scaring academia

“It has been 45 years since I came to Harvard as a graduate student and 39 years since I joined the faculty. At that time, there was just one female tenured full professor, Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin, an astronomer who filled the singular Radcliffe chair designated for a woman. …

“No one serious has called [Harvard University President Lawrence] Summers a sexist. … Which is appropriate, since sexism had nothing to do with his controversial statements. What led him to wonder whether there might be small genetic variations between men and women in quantitative capacity, I suspect, was his genuine surprise that women have not risen in the fields of physics, engineering and mathematics as fast as he thinks they could and should. …

“Summers’ ‘problem’ is that he submits every argument with a grain of evidence behind it to serious and scrupulous scrutiny. And this scares our supposedly daring academic culture, which lives in fear of what it refuses to know.”

Martin Peretz, writing on “Body of Evidence,” in the coming Monday issue of the New Republic


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