- The Washington Times - Friday, April 9, 2010

Other women

“[Simone] De Beauvoir’s fundamental insight, which is now such conventional wisdom that it barely seems like an insight at all, is that throughout recorded history, humanity has been understood as male, with women situated as inessential others. Man is subject, [woman] is object. This asymmetry, de Beauvoir argued, frustrates women’s dreams, deforms their psyches, and alienates them from themselves, while also dooming attempts to form reciprocal, loving relationships with men. …

“But her understanding of humanity can be strikingly narrow, as if extrapolated entirely from the lives of middle-class Western intellectuals. There’s sometimes an audacious recklessness to her generalizations, particularly when it comes to motherhood, a state she regards with barely disguised horror. ‘A mother must have a rare mixture of generosity and detachment to find enrichment in her children’s lives without becoming a tyrant or turning them into her tormentors,’ she wrote, a line which says more about her own life than about the human condition. …

“De Beauvoir didn’t deny basic biological and even erotic differences between men and women, nor dream of an androgynous culture. ‘Man is a sexed human being; woman is a complete individual, and equal to the male, only if she too is a sexed human being. Renouncing her femininity means renouncing part of her humanity,’ she argued. She never figured out precisely how to combine difference and equality, though no one else has, either. We’re all still struggling with the problems she illuminated.”

- Michelle Goldberg, writing on “The Second Sex” on April 6 at Barnes & Noble Review


“What should you do if you are caught sneaking a smoke in an airplane lavatory? a) put out the cigarette and apologize; b) finish the cigarette; c) make a joke about shoe bombs.

“Obviously, c) is not a very wise choice in the nervous, humorless confines of an airplane cabin, even if you are a Qatari diplomat and therefore pretty sure you won’t be prosecuted for your smart mouth. But here’s another question: What should you do if you catch a lavatory smoker who, upon being asked what that smell is, jokes that he was trying to light his shoes?

“a) admonish him that smoking on an airplane is illegal in the United States; b) report him to the air marshals; c) scramble fighter jets to escort the plane to its destination; d) detain all passengers for questioning upon arrival; e) all of the above

“You can probably guess the answer. Refreshingly, one of the detained passengers told A.P. she ‘was angry about having to stay at the airport to be questioned over something so minor,’ saying, ‘He went quietly. There was not a scene. They made this into something that was ridiculous.’ And a randomly selected traveler at the Denver International Airport, where the fertive Qatari smoker was heading, offered words for all of us to live by: ‘I don’t really ever feel as threatened as they think we should.’ “

- Jacob Sullum, writing on “Hand Over the Controls, or I Will Expose You to Secondhand Smoke” on April 8 at the Reason blog Hit and Run

No more ‘24’

“Fox recently announced that this season will be the final one for [‘24’]. I will miss Jack Bauer. I really hope he survives the final season and the door is left open for a 24 movie or two. Jack Bauer is just too good a character to say goodbye to forever. And there is a great need for characters like Jack Bauer - characters that are not perfect, but have the perfect kind of honor and devotion to country that leads them to risk all to keep their fellow Americans safe and free. Heroes like Jack Bauer really do exist. Not the superhuman character that is invincible and can single handedly take out dozens of armed, trained killers and survive deadly nerve agents, but the kind of character that battles evil forces in this world and puts a greater cause ahead of their own personal well being.

“Even with the outrageous plotlines and superhuman qualities of Jack Bauer, ‘24’ has at times been able to present some real life scenarios sparking thought and debate. (There was even a black President in the world of ‘24’ back when Barack Obama was still organizing his community.) For the issues the series has tackled, as well as for the pure, unadulterated entertainment value, ‘24’ will be missed.”

- Lorie Byrd, writing on “I Will Miss Jack Bauer,” on April 7 at the Andrew Breitbart blog Big Hollywood

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