Skip to content

Date archive for: July 2011

Is Murdoch the World's McCaw?

I felt like a lunatic. There I was, a perpetually un-rested working mother, wide awake and giddy before sunrise. Sneaking out of bed and tiptoeing downstairs to watch a live feed of (woo-hoo! woo-hoo!) British Parliament. Grinning like a kid on Christmas morning. Giggling like a full-on fruitcake.

My gift: a pointed Parliamentary probe of media baron Rupert Murdoch. Reporters at his now-shuttered News of the World tabloid had for years been illegally hacking into private phone systems and bribing police as a means of news-gathering (read: gossip-mongering). And Murdoch — whose behemoth News Corporation owns Fox News and newspapers from the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier to The Wall Street Journal (as well as Tattoo and Truckin’ Life magazines, which tickles me) — was finally and formally being needled about his knowledge of the corruption. I relished every tense, awkward moment.

Why would I savor the sight of an old man being smacked around for unethical practices? It’s a learned response. I’ve developed a taste for watching arrogant, power-mad, billionaire newspaper owners get called on the carpet.

“He or she who controls the media, controls all,” says my friend Annie Bardach, a local resident and Newsweek reporter-at-large. “Check out what the Berlusconi monopoly did to Italy. That is the cautionary tale for all of us.”

Continue reading Is Murdoch the World's McCaw?

The Brand Canyon

Do you love buying shoes? Are you someone for whom shoe-shopping begets a Zennish euphoria? Yes?

Here’s some advice for you: Don’t do it with a 12-year-old.

My 8th-grade-bound son has long coveted classic Converse low-tops. Last week, we found a pair of lookalikes on sale for \$15. Sweet! “We’ll take ’em,” I bellowed, relishing the rare and unparalleled near-delirium of buying fabulous shoes at ridiculous prices.

“Um,” my son muttered sheepishly, staring at another pair of shoes: The Converse brand. All Star Chuck Taylors. Same color. Same style. Forty-five bleepin’ bucks. “I’d rather have the real ones.”

In my mind, I said this: “Well, I’d rather have a ’57 Chevy Bel Air convertible, yet somehow we’re leaving here in a dinged-up Honda.” But sensing that we were heading into tricky parenting territory, I uttered this instead: “But … they cost three times as much.”

“Yeah,” he said, forcing himself to meet my puzzled gaze.

“And they look … exactly the same.”

“Not exactly,” he explained. “These have a label.”

I had several problems with this situation. First, when pressed, my normally articulate child could not put into words why the brand mattered so much. His stuttered attempt contained the phrases: “important to me,” “make fun,” and, of course, “cool.”

Continue reading The Brand Canyon

In Praise of My Eyebrows

I’m turning 40 soon. Let’s not discuss how soon. It’s a “big” birthday, the official gateway to “over the hill” or, alternately, “the new 18,” depending on whether the person uttering it is under 40 and smug or over 40 and in serious denial.
It’s also a birthday that inspires people to inquire about my mental state. “Wow, 40, huh? How ya feeling about that? You okay with it?”
I can’t say I’m okay with it, no. I don’t relish diving into the very age pool in which my own parents swam when I was in college; I understood then that they were old and I understand now that I am not old, so the logic of the situation makes me woozy. And one should never go swimming when one is woozy.
I’m not thrilled to relinquish my chance at being featured in the New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” issue or even Fortune’s half-as-discerning “40 Under 40.” Anything accomplished before 40, it seems, is miraculous; after 40, it’s about damn time and what took you so long?
Decade-cap birthdays are like utilitarian rest stops on a far-reaching span of highway; you stop obligingly, stretch, pee, and have a look around whether you feel the urge or not. Reflexively, unenthusiastically, you take meticulous stock of your life, inventorying recent gains and losses in the professional, domestic, and — gulp — corporal arenas.
Continue reading In Praise of My Eyebrows

Circumcision: Cut It Out?

Actor Russell Crowe railed against circumcision in a profanity-laced tweet last week, calling the ancient and still-popular practice “barbarism.” This month, Colorado becomes the 18th state (California among them) to stop funding circumcision with Medicaid. And in November, San Francisco residents will decide whether to outlaw the procedure outright when they vote on the “Male Genital Mutilation” bill.

Once the norm in the United States, the practice of slicing off a boy’s foreskin shortly after birth has become less common, and more controversial, in recent years. On the one hand are Jews and Muslims with religious and cultural reasons for making the cut, and statisticians convinced the practice reduces the likelihood of urinary tract infections and HIV. On the other are outraged “intactivists” stumping for “genital integrity,” arguing that lopping off the penile hood violates infants’ bodies, reduces sexual sensitivity, and was only popularized in this Puritanical nation as a (clearly futile) means of discouraging masturbation among naughty boys.

Outside the United States, circumcision is prevalent only in Muslim nations, Southeast Asia, Israel, and South Korea. It’s rare in Europe, Latin America, and most of Asia.

Continue reading Circumcision: Cut It Out?