The Breakfast Table

Swingline Staplers and Cultural Warriors

Good morning, Melinda,

I think it’s safe to say that your critical grasp of White Christmas—homoerotic sub-themes and all—is far more nuanced than mine. My major memory of the film is how scarily thin Vera Ellen looked. So gay or straight, I don’t blame Danny Kaye’s character. She makes Sarah Michelle Gellar look zaftig.

As for Kim Cattrall, I’m sorry to hear that. While everybody talks about Sex and the City, I personally think her career peaked when she played the treasonous Vulcan officer in Star Trek VI.

While you are right about Italian women, I should be careful about where I go with this. From my vantage point, it’s more than a matter of their beauty and stylishness. It’s their ability to look good even under duress, or when around small children. Any contact with our kids and I can usually count on scuff marks on my pants, residue of indeterminate nature on a freshly laundered shirt, etc. But when I pick the kids up, I see these women looking as perfectly put together at 5:30 as they did at 3:30. How do they do that?

On vouchers, we’re not far apart, but E.J. Dionne is as usual the voice of reason in this morning’s Washington Post. He rightly calls them “a form of cheap grace for those who want to pretend they care about poor kids even as they evade the cost of fixing the deep inequities built into our educational system.” He thinks they’re worth trying in big cities where there are extensive Catholic school systems as an alternative, but that they are no substitute for a serious effort to fix the public schools.

I also recommend three other pieces this morning. David Segal, in the Washington Post “Style” section, asks what’s happened to all the American culture warriors at a moment when the music charts are filled with violent and offensive lyrics from Eminem and the like. The answer? It may have always been a bogus problem to begin with, though it played well with the press and politicians during more secure times. Bill Bennett says he’s now “more interested in whether my country is going to survive.” But the kicker, says Segal, is that while no one is paying much attention anymore, the Eminems of the world still regard themselves as cultural pariahs.

The other two stories are in the Wall Street Journal. Geoffrey Fowler has a great piece about how a little-remembered 1999 movie has turned the Swingline stapler into a must-have personal accessory. And while I’ve essentially checked out of the Martha Stewart story, there is a wonderful bit in Matthew Rose’s story this morning about her damage control efforts. When she was doing her regular spot on the CBS Early Show, Jane Clayson asked her about the ImClone trade. “Ms. Stewart chopped a cabbage and tried to change the subject: ‘I just want to focus on my salad.’ “

Back to you, Mrs. Turque.