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Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Same thoughts on Sam-Sex Marriage

I just got off the phone with a morning show here in town. I called into the host to make sure he knew about this morning’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Essentially the court said it would not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  The ruling doesn’t nationalize it. And it doesn’t signal it will be up to each state to decide what it wants. What it does is allow same-sex couples to marry in states with appeals pending in front of the Supreme Court.  And, according to Anthony Rothert of the ACLU-MO, “it means the decision is binding for for all states within those circuits, so marriage should come very soon to North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.” Rothert also says the ruling may lead to a decrease in states appealing directly to the Supreme Court because they can see the tide of rulings towards same-sex marriage.

Just Friday, the courts here in Missouri ruled in favor of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally wed in other states, where gay marriage is legal.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling was like a stone skipping in water. Its tone was quiet but its effect is anything but. Within minutes, the number of states where same-sex marriage will be allowed has jumped from 17 to 30.

The question is, “What’s next?” Will we see an amendment to overturn the State’s ban on gay marriage? And if so, how will it affect the elections overall? Here in Missouri, our Attorney General (who is running for Governor) is charged with defending the law on the books. It is his job. To his credit, he has said he is in favor of same-sex unions personally. And today, the ACLU announced that Attorney General Chris Koster has indicated to them he won’t challenge SCOTUS’ ruling.

The Republican players have taken a different tack. By not talking about same-sex marriage, some may be hoping to usher in a new day in politics, where voters can agree to disagree on social issues.

Asked about a ballot initiative or amendment, Rothert says, “The better course would be to get the anti-gay amendment off the books. Gay men and lesbians do not want gay marriage – they just want marriage, the same marriage that straight couples enjoy.”

This was the crux of my conversation on the radio this morning. Will Missouri step up to reverse course on a decision it made ten years ago to declare marriage for straight men and women only?  “Somebody’s going to do it,” I said. McGraw said, “Maybe you?” I said, “Well, no one has asked me.”

The most likely advocate, Democrat Jolie Justus, the only openly gay State Senator just retired because of term limits.

Why would someone ask someone like me if I am going to get involved? I’m a heterosexual single Mom with two teenagers, two dogs and a cat and a house that is always just beyond the reach of being well maintained. I had to ask myself, “Should I get involved?” A lot of people will be doing the same thing when the issue comes up, as I have no doubt it will. A core question is why is this important to the mainstream Missourian? For me, the answers are clear.

The truth is same sex couples will find each other, live together and raise families whether there is a ban on gay marriage or not. Can Missouri continue to be a state that allows shame to remain on its books? Do we want to be a state that dials down diversity? Can we recognize that stabilizing relationships creates stable neighborhoods and communities?

I have been blogging for years about the fact that the Republican Party needed to ease up on social issues. I am in favor of gay marriage and the Non-Discrimination Employment Act. To me it shouldn’t be hard to reconcile those views with being pro-business. Being tolerant is good business.

I can’t remember who I said it to but when I first got involved in politics, I remember saying a lot of people in my generation would like to vote Republican but feel pushed out of the tent over same-sex marriage. Shortly later, I applauded when George Bush’s daughter told the New York Times, “I am Barbara Bush, and I am a New Yorker for marriage equality. New York is about fairness and equality. And everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”

My response today? “Same.” Same thoughts on same-sex, that is. What a compliment to be asked whether I would stand up for an issue that is sweeping this country because of what it says about our values as a tolerant society.

 

 

Your First Crush ... Job Crush, that is!

Your First Crush … Job Crush, that is!

I love this article from today’s New York Times on how a first crush can impact a person’s career choice. My first crush, at least as far as I remember, was on David Cassidy from “The Partridge Family.” Like a lot of us, I had the dark blue patent leather purse that had a white silhouette of David Partridge on its front flap and the message, “I Love You, David.” I didn’t wind up a singer but I was one of five kids and did wind up on television. 

The original cast of “Charlie’s Angels,” with, from left, Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith.

By THE NEW YORK TIMES

This summer, a number of New York Times critics are writing about their cultural first crushes — the moments or works that prompted them to write about the arts. A new essay will arrive each week, paired with stories from readers who work within the given discipline about their own cultural epiphanies.  This week, stories from five readers who work in the television industry were selected from a broad range of submissions. In the coming weeks, we will hear from critics — and readers — in the worlds of classical and pop music, dance, video games and more.

Television

Teresa Bruce, a writer and former PBS station news director

I can thank “Charlie’s Angels” and apartheid for wanting to write for television. It was 1976 and TV was finally coming to South Africa. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs called TV “the devil’s own box for disseminating communism and immorality.” Since all the programming would have to come from places like America, it would depict “racial mixing” and make (nonwhite) Africans “dissatisfied with their lot.”

To a little girl in rural South Africa, Charlie’s Angels were brave and independent women. In the stories I created with my paper dolls, they could do and solve anything. Maybe the Minister was right; TV did make me dissatisfied with my lot.

Later I became the youngest female news director of a PBS station in America’s rural South, but the responsibility didn’t sink in until I took part in a culturally diverse programming initiative. I had written “God’s Gonna Trouble the Water,” a documentary about Gullah culture. It won lots of awards; I felt pretty special.

But suddenly I was working with talented people writing from poverty, religious persecution, undocumented immigration status, medical barriers, even life assigned to the wrong gender. Guess what? In discovering our own voices and documenting what made us different, TV illuminated the values, hopes and fears we have in common. It is a universal medium, capable of moving huge audiences along a continuum of understanding from fear and ignorance to tolerance, acceptance and ultimately equality.

Ben Joseph, a screenwriter at the Walt Disney Company

When I was a child, I only wanted to watch cartoons. I remember being extremely disappointed when the animated opening of “Bewitched” gave way to boring, live-action actors on a boring, live-action set. Around the age of 9, though, this predilection caused me problems: Everything animated suddenly seemed too easy, too obvious, too childish.

Then, one night at a friend’s house (as it had to be, my mildly puritanical parents kept me on a strict diet of Disney, PBS, and 2 percent milk), I found my new favorite show.

I remember the exact joke. Lost in the woods, father Homer sets a snare trap for a rabbit, confidently describing his process to his son, Bart, as he does. The rabbit approaches the trap, sniffs the bait, the rope tightens … and immediately launches the rabbit far into the distance. Perfect setup, perfect reversal of expectations, perfect visuals, a joke that was simultaneously smart enough for an adult but completely accessible to a much stupider adult and/or child. I wanted to create moments like that. If I could trick people into giving me money to do it, even better.

Sixteen years later, I had the opportunity to freelance a script for my favorite show. It ran as part of Season 23 and was titled “Beware My Cheating Bart.” Currently, I write cartoons full-time for the Walt Disney Corporation. I’m still trying to create a moment as sublimely funny and perfect as that one.

Van Williams as “The Green Hornet.”
ABC, via Associated Press

Van Williams as “The Green Hornet.”

 

Anthony Mason, co-host of “CBS This Morning: Saturday”

I began “working” in TV when I was about 8 years old. I created an imaginary network. I mapped out the programming in a school notebook and named my flagship station (WGHB) after my favorite super hero (Green Hornet Broadcasting). My newscasts were delivered from an anchor desk that was in fact my parents folding card table, and I looked into a cardboard camera that I fashioned from a Saks Fifth Avenue gift box. (The lens was the center tube of a role of paper towels.)

It was the mid-1960s, before video cameras and cellphones, of course, and all I had was my imagination. But almost everything I played at as a child, I was mentally broadcasting.

<nyt_headline version=”1.0″ type=” “>Your First Crush

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At school I found a kindred spirit who taught me how to carve rubber erasers into mini TV cameras. (We cut up paper clips to make the tripods.) Toy soldiers manned the cameras whenever we played with our miniature cars. That all became a TV show in our minds, too.

 
Arts & Entertainment Guide

A sortable calendar of noteworthy cultural events in the New York region, selected by Times critics.

I’m not sure why my friend and I were so drawn to television. It was not any one show or broadcaster. (We loved the behind the scenes action as much as what was happening in front of the camera.)

Today he is the entertainment reporter for WABC-TV in New York. (Yes, the Sandy Kenyon you see in the back of NYC taxicabs.) And I have spent 30 years at CBS, where I now host CBS This Morning: Saturday.

But every time I get in a cab and see Sandy, I have to pinch myself and remember how we really started.

Rachel Wilke, a marketing manager for a cable television network

Buffy Summers died.

As I was finishing my freshman year of high school, the most fearless girl on TV was dead. Buffy was a social outcast to her peers, but her quick-wit, vulnerability and expertise in killing vampires made her a champion for us underdogs.

Buffy, who got me through the awkwardness of middle school, was abandoning me just as I was getting my footing in high school. As I read her gravestone (“BUFFY ANNE SUMMERS; 1981-2001; BELOVED SISTER; DEVOTED FRIEND; SHE SAVED THE WORLD; A LOT”) the last shot in the episode I called my friends freaking out about the seemingly-morbid fate of Buffy.

Buffy was supposedly moving from the WB to UPN as a result of a bizarre dispute between Fox and the WB. To mislead us naïve teenagers, the WB was dubbing “The Gift” as the show’s “series finale.” Angry and confused, I began my descent into learning more about this crazy industry that was threatening to simultaneously cancel yet revive my weekly escape.

Twelve years later, I’m now managing experiential and partnership marketing for a top cable network. Although I’m not directly deciding the fates of television series, I am championing programming to consumers, trying to make them as devoted to it as I was to Buffy Anne Summers.

Hulk Hogan
NBC

Hulk Hogan

 

Sean Hetherington, a reality television producer

I was inspired to work in television by watching WWE as a kid. The superstars of professional wrestling had it all: drama, athleticism, improv comedy and real characters who are not afraid to live out loud. As a reality TV producer, I find myself tapping into all of those aspects of entertaining TV when I’m producing docu-series, game shows and talk.

What TV can do for a young person is often overlooked. I grew up feeling lonely. I wasn’t athletic. I was kind of weird, and no one understood my Hulk Hogan humor. Weekly WWE programming, magazines and pay-per-view were like phone calls with a friend.

The pageantry of “Wrestlemania” fireworks and the ornate costumes would inspire me to move to Hollywood to work with bigger-than-life talent to take them to the next level. Meanwhile, watching the up-and-comers grow from their two-minute enhancement matches into, say, the Rock built a sense of the importance of nurturing young casts on shows who could go on to become household names with their own brands of perfume.

My dream is still to one day work for WWE to create the excitement I loved as a kid. But until then, I live the thrill of pro wrestling every day by making meaningful, interesting TV for the next generation of people who look to feel less alone in front of their Samsungs.

 

Black and White Proms?

 

curtis thumbnailMary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C., has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3

Was the play list at the segregated “white prom” for Wilcox County High School in Georgia scrubbed of any Beyonce or Rihanna? Was Drake dropped? And what about Justin Timberlake? The superstar credits black artists as role models for his music and moves. Since he’s white, I suppose cuts from his hit “The 20/20 Experience” could pass, as long as they didn’t feature a guest vocal by Jay Z.

 Students from Wilcox County High School who fought to have an integrated prom. (Screengrab from a video by WSAV)

Actually, if I could have scored a ticket to that private, invitation-only event, I’m sure the aural experience would differ little from that at the school’s first “integrated” prom last weekend, organized by a diverse circle of friends. The four young ladies – two black and two white — were frustrated by the color line drawn years ago and maintained for the sake of tradition, according to those who continued it year after year and defend it even now. Those defenders say separate proms for blacks and whites are not about race at all, but different tastes in music and dancing.

Wayne McGuinty, a furniture store owner and City Council member, who is white, told theNew York Times he had donated to fund-raising events for separate proms in the past. He said they don’t reflect racism, just different traditions and tastes, and he used as an example his own 1970s high school years, when separate proms featured rock or country music. “This whole issue has been blown out of proportion,” he said. “Nobody had a problem with having two proms until it got all this publicity.”

But that’s not true. The reason it got publicity was that people did have a problem with the situation, young people who socialized together and didn’t see any reason to split up on this important evening in their high school lives.

If parties were based on musical tastes alone, as McGuinty’s rather shaky excuse maintains, race wouldn’t enter into it, unless he’s saying a black person is not allowed to like a little Blake Shelton now and then and a white kid must abhor Usher. Considering viewers regularly watch the two men spar on NBC’s “The Voice,” along with Shakira and Adam Levine, I’d say McGuinty and other “white prom” supporters are living in a past that never really existed – one where races and culture remain pure and separate. It’s hard to believe McGuinty never attempted his own version of the electric slide at a wedding reception or boogied down to a disco medley.

Pop culture in America has always broken rules and crossed lines authorities created to keep races apart. Jazz, a uniquely American art form, could not have been created without a fusion of cultures. There has been pushback, too, with denunciations from 1950s adults who saw racial subversion and contamination in Elvis’s hips and Little Richard’s shouts, and their grown-up children who just don’t “get” hip-hop.

It’s “those crazy kids” in Wilcox County who led the way. Though some dissenters ripped down posters advertising their all-are-welcome event, the publicity about their efforts, which included a barbecue to raise money, drew attention, financial support and volunteer disc jockeys from Atlanta and Texas. They no doubt spun a variety of tunes with a beat that was easy to dance to.

Unsaid, of course, in the convoluted reasons justifying two proms in 2013 is the notion that kept school social events separate long after Southern classrooms integrated. Some of the denunciations in the 1950s, as well as before and after, were about blacks and whites not only dancing to the music but also dancing together, and what that could lead to.

Well, with a president of the United States– with one black parent and one white parent–now in his second term in the White House, that’s an issue that’s settled, as well.

 

curtis thumbnailMary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C., has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3

One writer’s opinion of where Obamacare stands right now

By David Brooks of the New York Times

It was always going to be difficult to implement Obamacare, but even fervent supporters of the law admit that things are going worse than expected. Implementation got off to a bad start because the Obama administration didn’t want to release unpopular rules before the election. Regulators have been working hard but are clearly overwhelmed, trying to write rules that influence the entire health care sector — an economic unit roughly the size of France. Republicans in Congress have made things much more difficult by refusing to provide enough money for implementation.

By now, everybody involved seems to be in a state of anxiety. Insurance companies are trying to put out new products, but they don’t know what federal parameters they have to meet. Small businesses are angry because the provisions that benefited them have been put on the back burner. Health care systems are highly frustrated. They can’t plan without a road map. Senator Max Baucus, one of the authors of the law, says he sees a “huge train wreck” coming.

I’ve been talking with a bipartisan bunch of health care experts, trying to get a sense of exactly how bad things are. In my conversations with this extremely well-informed group of providers, academics and former government officials, I’d say there is a minority, including some supporters of the law, who think the whole situation is a complete disaster. They predict Obamacare will collapse and do serious damage to the underlying health system.

But the clear majority, including some of the law’s opponents, believe that we’re probably in for a few years of shambolic messiness, during which time everybody will scramble and adjust, and eventually we will settle down to a new normal.

What nobody can predict is how health care chaos will interact with the political system. There’s a good chance that Republicans will be able to use unhappiness with what is already an unpopular law to win back the Senate in 2014. Controlling both houses of Congress, they will be in a good position to alter, though not repeal, the program.

The law’s biggest defenders will then become insurance companies and health care corporations. Having spent billions of dollars adapting to the new system, they are not going to want to see it repealed or replaced.

The experts talk about the problems that lie ahead in cascades. First, there is what you might call the structural cascade. Everything is turning out to be more complicated than originally envisioned. The Supreme Court decision made the Medicaid piece more complicated. The decision by many states not to set up exchanges made the exchange piece more complicated. The lines of accountability between, for example, state and federally run exchanges have grown byzantine and unclear.

A law that was very confusing has become mind-boggling. That could lead people to freeze up. Insurance companies will hesitate before venturing into state exchanges, thereby limiting competition and choice. Americans are just going to be overwhelmed and befuddled. Many are just going to stay away, even if they are eligible for benefits.

Then there is the technical cascade. At some point, people are going to sit at computers and enroll. If the data process looks like some 1990s glitchmonster, if information doesn’t flow freely, then the public opinion hit will be catastrophic.

Then there is the cost cascade. Nearly everybody not in the employ of the administration agrees this law does not solve the cost problem, and many of the recent regulatory decisions will send costs higher. A study in California found that premiums could increase by an average of 20 percent for people not covered by federal subsidies. A study by the Society of Actuaries found that by 2017 costs could rise by 32 percent for insurers covering people in the individual exchanges, and as high as 80 percent in states like Ohio.

Then there is the adverse selection cascade. Under the law, young healthy people subsidize poorer, sicker and older people. But the young may decide en masse that it is completely irrational for them to get health insurance that subsidizes others while they are healthy. They’ll be better off paying the fines, if those are even enforced, and opting out. Without premiums from the young, everybody else’s costs go up even higher.

Then there is the provider concentration cascade. The law further incentivizes a trend under way: the consolidation of hospitals, doctors’ practices and other providers. That also boosts prices.

Over all, it seems likely that in some form or another Obamacare is here to stay. But the turmoil around it could dominate politics for another election cycle, and the changes after that — to finally control costs, to fix the mind-boggling complexities and the unintended consequences — will never end.

Regulatory regimes can be simple and dumb or complex and sprawling. When you build complex, it takes a while to work through the consequences. 

 

David Brooks of the NYT on the Republican vs. Republican Problem

Liberals are furious, but the gun issue will not significantly damage the Republican Party. Sure, it looks bad to oppose background checks, which have overwhelming popular support. Sure, the Republican position will further taint the party’s image in places like the suburbs of Philadelphia and Northern Virginia. Sure, the party looks extreme when it can’t accept a bill sponsored by the conservative Senator Joe Manchin and the very conservative Senator Pat Toomey.

Moreover, Democrats never made a compelling case that the bill would have been effective, that it would have directly prevented future Sandy Hooks or lowered the murder rate nationwide. Even many of the bill’s supporters were lukewarm about its contents.

The main reason the gun issue won’t significantly harm Republicans is that it doesn’t play into the core debate that will shape the future of the party. The issue that does that is immigration. The near-term future of American politics will be determined by who wins the immigration debate.

In the months since the election, a rift has opened between the Republicans you might call first-wave revolutionaries and those you might call second-wave revolutionaries. The first-wave revolutionaries (the party’s Congressional leaders) think of themselves as very conservative. They ejected the remaining moderates from their ranks. They sympathize with the Tea Party. They are loyal to Fox News and support a radical restructuring of the government.

These first-wave revolutionaries haven’t softened their conservatism, but they are trying to adjust it to win majority support. They are trying to find policies to boost social mobility, so Republicans look less like the party of the rich. They are swinging behind immigration reform, believing that Hispanics won’t even listen to Republicans until they put that issue in the rearview mirror.

The second-wave revolutionaries — like Rand Paul (on some issues), Jim DeMint, Ted Cruz and some of the cutting-edge talk radio jocks — see the first-wave revolutionaries as a bunch of incompetent establishmentarians. They speak of the Bush-Cheney administration as if it were some sort of liberal Republican regime run by Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits. They argue that Republicans have lost elections recently because the party has been led by big-spending, mushy moderates like John McCain and Mitt Romney and managed by out-of-touch elitists like Karl Rove and Reince Priebus.

The second wavers are much more tactically aggressive, favoring filibusters and such when possible. What the party needs now, they argue, is an ultra-Goldwaterite insurgency that topples the “establishment,” ditches immigration reform and wins Hispanic votes by appealing to the evangelicals among them and offering them economic liberty.

The first and second wavers are just beginning their immigration clash. A few weeks ago, I would have thought the pro-immigration forces had gigantic advantages, but now it is hard to be sure.

The immigration fight will be pitting a cohesive insurgent opposition force against a fragile coalition of bipartisan proponents who have to ambivalently defend a sprawling piece of compromise legislation. We’ve seen this kind of fight before. Things usually don’t end up well for the proponents.

Whether it’s guns or immigration, it is easy to imagine that the underlying political landscape, which prevented progress in the past, has changed. But when you actually try to pass something, you often discover the underlying landscape has not changed. The immigration fight of 2013 might bear an eerie similarity to the fight of 2007.

The arguments that might persuade Republicans to support immigration reform are all on the table. They came on election night 2012. The arguments against are only just now unfolding.

It is just a fact that the big short-term beneficiaries of this law are not generally Republicans: the 11 million who are living in the shadows; the high-tech entrepreneurs who will get more skilled labor. The short-term losers, meanwhile, are often Republicans: the white working-class people who will face a new group of labor-market competition when they try to get jobs in retail; the taxpayers who, at least in the short term, will have to pay some additional costs.

In the past, Republican politicians have had trouble saying no to the latest and most radical insurgency. Even if they know immigration reform is eventually good for their party, lawmakers may figure that opposing it is immediately necessary for themselves.

It would be great if Republicans can hash out their differences over a concrete policy matter, especially immigration, which touches conservatism’s competing values. But if the insurgent right defeats immigration reform, that will be a sign that the party’s self-marginalization will continue. The revolution devours its own.

The Next Frontier in Gun Control is Mental Health

Moms are very resilient. And that’s a good thing given the huge whiff of air being let out of the balloon around gun control. It isn’t just President Barack Obama feeling like he got sucker punched by the U.S. Senate’s vote to consider expanded background checks. Which, according to this article in the New York Times, was just a gesture to begin with.  Click here for the full article http://nyti.ms/13jPSCx. It’s the general sense that something needed to happen but didn’t.  A sense that Moms were fed up and ready to engage to keep their kids safe. And who can blame them for feeling defeated when close to 90% of Americans support expanded background checks for gun shows and online sales and yet, at the end of the day, special interests and lobbyists held more sway than they did. Not even Gabbie Giffords, a gun owner, a second amendment advocate, a public servant who was shot in the head by a deranged voter, could sway the conversation. 

But I would like to say to all of you resilient Moms out there, don’t give up just yet. There is an effort underway that was crafted by a Republican and a Democrat working together. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are pushing for better intervention for the mentally ill as a way to curb school shootings and other senseless gun slayings. The two have been looking into access and funding with an eye to identifying the shooters before they explode. The lone wolf who is in pain and whose actions seem to be the result of some sick and twisted – and tragically delayed – cry for help. Their ideas are not without controversy. A sure sticking point will be how to protect patient privacy laws around mental health while identifying and intervening to help the Adam Lanzas and James Holmes’ before they strike.  

Here’s an article worth reading, http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/293941-stabenow-urges-colleagues-to-support-mental-health-amendment

Also worth looking at today are both the President and Sen. Blunt’s recent press announces on gun reform. 

President Obama calls defeat on background checks shameful 

Sen. Blunt pushes better mental health intervention 

 

 

Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette

By NICK BILTON for the New York Times 

 
Some people are so rude. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says “Thank you”? Who leaves a voice mail message when you don’t answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?

Don’t these people realize that they’re wasting your time?

Of course, some people might think me the rude one for not appreciating life’s little courtesies. But many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.

Take the “thank you” message. Daniel Post Senning, a great-great-grandson of Emily Post and a co-author of the 18th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” asked: “At what point does appreciation and showing appreciation outweigh the cost?”

That said, he added, “it gives the impression that digital natives can’t be bothered to nurture relationships, and there’s balance to be found.”

Then there is voice mail, another impolite way of trying to connect with someone. Think of how long it takes to access your voice mail and listen to one of those long-winded messages. “Hi, this is so-and-so….” In text messages, you don’t have to declare who you are, or even say hello. E-mail, too, leaves something to be desired, with subject lines and “hi” and “bye,” because the communication could happen faster by text. And then there are the worst offenders of all: those who leave a voice mail message and then e-mail to tell you they left a voice mail message.

My father learned this lesson last year after leaving me a dozen voice mail messages, none of which I listened to. Exasperated, he called my sister to complain that I never returned his calls. “Why are you leaving him voice mails?” my sister asked. “No one listens to voice mail anymore. Just text him.”

My mother realized this long ago. Now we communicate mostly through Twitter.

Tom Boellstorff, a professor of digital anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, said part of the problem is that offline and online communications borrow from each other. For example, the e-mail term CC stands for carbon copy, as in the carbon paper used to copy a letter. But some gestures, like opening an e-mail with “hello” or signing off with “sincerely,” are disappearing from the medium.

This is by no means the first conundrum with a new communication technology. In the late 1870s, when the telephone was invented, people didn’t know how to greet a caller. Often, there was just silence. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor, suggested that people say “Ahoy!” Others proposed, “What is wanted?” Eventually “Hello” won out, and it hastened its use in face-to-face communications.

Now, with Google and online maps at our fingertips, what was once normal can be seen as uncivilized — like asking someone for directions to a house, restaurant or office, when they can easily be found on Google Maps.

I once asked a friend something easily discovered on the Internet, and he responded with a link to lmgtfy.com, which stands for Let Me Google That For You.

In the age of the smartphone, there is no reason to ask once-acceptable questions: the weather forecast, a business phone number, a store’s hours. But some people still do. And when you answer them, they respond with a thank-you e-mail.

“I have decreasing amounts of tolerance for unnecessary communication because it is a burden and a cost,” said Baratunde Thurston, co-founder ofCultivated Wit, a comedic creative company. “It’s almost too easy to not think before we express ourselves because expression is so cheap, yet it often costs the receiver more.”

Mr. Thurston said he encountered another kind of irksome communication when a friend asked, by text message, about his schedule for the South by Southwest festival. “I don’t even know how to respond to that,” he said. “The answer would be so long. There’s no way I’m going to type out my schedule in a text.”

He said people often asked him on social media where to buy his book, rather than simply Googling the question. You’re already on a computer, he exclaimed. “You’re on the thing that has the answer to the thing you want to know!”

How to handle these differing standards? Easy: think of your audience. Some people, especially older ones, appreciate a thank-you message. Others, like me, want no reply. “It is important to think about who the relationship is with,” Mr. Senning said.

The anthropologist Margaret Mead once said that in traditional societies, the young learn from the old. But in modern societies, the old can also learn from the young. Here’s hoping that politeness never goes out of fashion, but that time-wasting forms of communication do.

E-mail: bilton@nytimes.com

Republicans need to court Swingles

Republicans need to court Swingles

Swingles, or single women voters, now make up 20% of the electorate, according to the New York Times. That is a huge voting bloc that needs to be recognized and addressed. The Times notes that married women still favor Republicans but single women tend to be much more sympathetic towards President Barack Obama and don’t necessarily blame him for the ailing economy.  For the record, I’m still voting for Romney. But this is an important area where the Republicans have an opportunity to remind single women of the many ways that they are affected. One of the most obvious ways is that the unemployment figures for this group are 11%, which is higher than the national average. The Republicans need to make the connection clear to those who can least afford it.

NY Times report on why married women voters favor Romney

 

Social issues create confusion for the Republicans

Social issues create confusion for the Republicans

The Republican Party is in the midst of change. It is seeking to define itself which could be one reason for the wild swings in these primaries. It didn’t help Mitt Romney to bank right and try to woo social conservatives in the 3 state primaries yesterday. But was it a set-up by the White House during an election year? Did the Democrats put the issue of mandated coverage of contraception out there because they were waiting to see if Romney would use it to try to court social conservatives? According to today’s Washington Post, the Obama campaign might have set Romney up so they could paint him as a flip-flopper since Massachusetts offered similar coverage while he was Governor. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels considered running for President but reportedly opted out after saying he hoped the party wouldn’t lose sight of pressing economic issues because it was so easily sidelined by social ones.  Hopefully, Romney wasn’t tricked into getting sidetracked or sideswiped yesterday. There was a great article in the New York Times today about how the culture wars have played a big role in the race so far. Our advice is stay moderate, Mitt! Because it will be the moderates who define Election Day. 

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/the-persistence-of-the-culture-war/?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fopinion%2Findex.jsonp

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/white-house-gives-romney-a-social-issues-death-hug/2012/02/08/gIQAH94PzQ_blog.html

The Mom Vivant / Get Stuffed

From Sandra Ballentine of the New York Times /

I was intrigued (make that wildly excited) when I heard there was a fancy hotel in Switzerland where I’d be forced to eat meat, frites, cheese and chocolate and drink red wine and Champagne in order to lose weight. Was this a publicity ploy or a miracle?

Whatever the case, the timing was exquisite. I’d had just about all the juice cleanses, freaky fasts and detox diets I could stomach, and was ready to bite off something I could actually chew. So, armed with an appetite and a copy of Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Blood, Bones & Butter,” I set off for the sleepy city of Lausanne, which has stunning views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps and one of Europe’s grandest grande dame hotels — the Beau-Rivage Palace.

Since opening in 1861, the hotel has hosted the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Coco Chanel, who reportedly buried her pampered pooch in its doggie cemetery. These days, its biggest draw is Cinq Mondes, a sprawling, state-of-the-art spa, complete with indoor and outdoor pools, a hammam and an arsenal of exotically named treatments and “slimming rituals” like “Gommage Aromatique aux Épices” (an aromatic scrub with spices) and “Crème Minceur Udvartana” (a blissful anti-cellulite massage and body wrap).

Sybaritic slenderizing treatments aside, the spa’s real weight-loss weapon is Patrick Leconte, a respected Geneva-based nutritionist who extols the virtues of chrono-nutrition, that most French of diet plans. Conceived in 1986 by Dr. Alain Delabos, a well-known Gallic diet guru (his best-selling book, “Mincir Sur Mesure,” is in its second printing), chrono-nutrition is a carefully calibrated system of weight and shape management that allows you to eat and drink virtually anything you want as long as you do it at exactly the right time. The timing is pegged to when your body secretes hormones and enzymes like insulin, lipases and proteases.

My own experiment didn’t get off to a very auspicious start. I arrived at the Beau-Rivage late on a Friday night, starving and in dire need of a cocktail. The restaurants and bar had stopped serving, so I went up to my room and ordered a large cheese plate from room service and devoured the whole thing, as well as a crusty baguette. Oh, and two glasses of a local Swiss red, which was quite good. Then I smugly polished off the chocolate on my pillow. All on the plan, I assured myself.

Well, not exactly, as it turns out. During our morning consultation, Leconte informed me that I had committed a cardinal chrono-nutrition sin. Cheese, bread and chocolate are forbidden at night. Instead, you should have the cheese and bread in the morning and the chocolate as an afternoon snack. We wake up secreting plenty of the enzymes that handle fats and protein, he explained, so breakfast can be a hearty, greasy affair. (Think full English fry-up: eggs, cheese, whole-grain bread, butter, bacon, ham, sausage, sautéed mushrooms, etc.) Lunch should include meat or fish (or fatty vegetarian options like avocados and olives) and eight tablespoons of pasta, rice, potato or legumes. The most important part of the diet is the late afternoon “gôuter,” or snack, which consists of 30 grams of dark chocolate, or a small bowl of dried fruit, unsalted seeds or nuts, or two glasses of unsweetened fruit juice. The gôuter is critical, as it satiates you in advance of a light dinner of fish, shellfish, lean poultry or rabbit and eight tablespoons of green vegetables sprinkled with a little rapeseed oil (for its omega-3 content).

Cakes, cookies, pies and pastries are chrono-nutrition no-nos, but you do get two “joker” (splurge) meals per week. Oh, and the best part (for me, anyway) — you can have a glass or two of red wine or Champagne per day. White wine, rosé and spirits are off-limits, as they contain too much sugar. “It’s about a balanced diet, not dieting,” Leconte said. “I give you what your body needs, not what it wants. But you still get pleasure. There is no deprivation. You feel good.” Did I mention j’adore the French?

According to the nutritionist, the regimen not only helps people shed unwanted pounds, but it also transforms your physique by targeting problem areas and cellulite. If you have, say, an overly ample derrière, that’s what will melt away first. “I also advise my clients with cellulite not to eat vegetable soup,” he said. “So many women eat ‘lightly’ — yogurt, fruit, soups and salads, and don’t understand why they have cellulite, and why they don’t lose weight.” (I didn’t understand his explanation of the soup-cellulite connection — something to do with salts, sugars and water — but I now eye minestrone with deep mistrust.)

Armed with calipers, tape and scale, Leconte took my measurements and calculated my body-mass and body-fat indexes. “You’re monastique,” he announced. I assured him that I leaned more toward decadence. “No, your body morphology,” he said. “You tend to gain weight in your tummy because you eat too many carbohydrates, like a monk. But your hips, arms, buttocks and breasts are well proportioned. You have a very good morphology.” Then the bad news: he said I was dehydrated and about 10 pounds over my ideal weight. “But if you follow the eating plan I will give you for six to eight weeks, you will be perfect.”

Since my deadline couldn’t wait so long for perfection, I decided to ask a Parisian acquaintance about her experience with the diet. Adrienne Bornstein, a 30-year-old art director, lost seven pounds of summer holiday weight in two weeks of chrono-eating. “It seems very logical at the end of the day,” she said. “It’s taught me how the body works in the most basic, animal way.” For breakfast she alternates between a baguette with cheese (“Easy in France!”) and scrambled eggs with ham. She takes a homemade lunch to work every day. “I try to vary them as much as possible — petit salé aux lentilles, blanquette de veau, steak frites.” A sugar fiend, Bornstein found that the most difficult part is waiting until late afternoon for chocolate. But it’s worth it, she said. After a month on the plan, she said, her body shape began to change, and her weight redistributed itself more evenly. “My stomach is much slimmer.”

If only I could have stayed at the Beau-Rivage Palace for a month of ministrations by Monsieur Leconte (not to mention the hotel’s haute chrono-cuisine), but instead I returned home with a battery of instructions, which I followed to the gram of cheese (and glass of Champagne). I lost four pounds in one week, surprising even myself. It’s the most pleasant diet I’ve ever tried, but I still might go back to my monastique ways. I need to save a few pounds for the next story.

Swiss precision The pool at the Cinque mondes spa, a modernist addition to the Beau-Rivage.Swiss precision The pool at the Cinq Mondes spa, a modernist addition to the Beau-Rivage.

ESSENTIALS LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND

BEYOND THE BEAU-RIVAGE PALACE (PLACE DU PORT 17-19; 011-41-21-613-3333; brp.ch; doubles from about $580; chrono-nutrition consultations from $450), plenty of attractions in Lausanne dovetail nicely with a weekend of chrono-nutrition.

For authentic French cuisine (read: meat), go to Au Chat Noir (Rue Beau-Séjour 27; 011-41-21-312-9585), and for traditional Swiss fondue and raclette, Café Romand is the spot (Place Saint-François 2; 011-41-21-312-6375; cafe-romand.ch).

The best gruyères are at La Ferme Vaudoise, which also sells handmade yogurt, sweets, spirits and produce from the Vaud region (Place de la Palud 5; 011-41-21-351-3555; lafermevaudoise.ch).

In a country practically synonymous with chocolate, Durig is known for organic truffles (Avenue d’Ouchy 15; 011-41-21-601-2435; durig.ch) and Blondel for old-school confections like nut barks, dipped truffles and candied fruit (Rue de Bourg 5; 011-41-21-323-4474; chocolatsblondel.ch).

Get your red-wine fix with a tasting at the Lavaux vineyard Domaine du Daley, which produces wines from Swiss varieties like gamaret and pinot noir (Chemin des Moines; 011-41-21-791-1594; daley.ch).