Frank Talk About Livestock

The birds and the bees… and the beasts.

With the official arrival of summer, the staff here at Fraywatch is finding it hard to keep our focus trained on the heavy topics of recent headlines. In our last several items, we’ve offered hard-hitting coverage of such hot-button issues as Paris Hilton, marijuana, and Angelina Jolie. All this high-minded punditry creates a very real risk of burn-out in lesser lights such as ourselves.

So, while we cool our temples in Pacific coastal waters, we’ll be phoning it in this first weekend of summer. According to the yellow pages, there are only two critical steps to phoning in a column: (1) rip off an idea from one of the Fraysters; and (2) talk about animals. Today’s victim of idea theft is topazz, long-time author of a delightful semiregular game entitled “Overheard on the Fray“—a cute little smorgasbord of out-of-context quotes culled from hither and thither. Today’s theme is, of course, animals:

Monkey see, monkey do: “I once worked with a signing chimp who had a fetish for hats. He would demand that you put one on as soon as you entered his environment and start masturbating while looking at you.”—Ciarda tells a workplace story in the Human Nature Fray.

Nothing compares:“Because apples are red or green with a thin skin and a dense core where the seeds are concentrated and oranges are, well, orange with a thick rind and seeds spread throughout the pulp?”—vnk dares to compare in the Fighting Words Fray.

Ink from the pigpen: “What is hogwash anyway? Do modern factory farms ever bother to wash their hogs?”—bubba_barry wonders aloud in the Press Box Fray.

Dancing the beeline: “I have never kept bees, only been backstage as a musician, and my only sense of dance is that it is a controllable form of vertigo.”—Bratsche confesses to the Poems Fray.

Be very afraid: “Any idiot knows a tiger shark can live in the clouds for weeks if needed for a cold front to make it across from the west coast to Kansas.”—meridiantoo spreads the alarm in the Explainer Fray.

Eye of the beholder: “Living creatures should never be used as ‘art.’ That includes those creepy photos of babies dressed as hedgehogs and bumblebees that my weirdo coworker has all over her office.”—SWR delivers a manifesto to the Medical Examiner Fray.

A rosé by any other name: “My taste buds have elevated the standard wine tasting mantras to an even more intrinsic awareness of the flavor, aroma and body of a good wine: ‘Tastes like chicken.’ “—Sonnaille provides some tasteless criticism in the Drink Fray.

Step one: “Shave your dog and give it a jail-house tattoo in the shape of a Taco Bell logo.”—Instructions from Zeitguy to the Sandbox Fray.

No contest: “The 4th installment in the The Fantasticks franchise, ‘the franchise that never was where they are now,’ pits strength against fiction, love against pain, and lesbians against giant pits of diseased alligators.”—switters the agonist, in the Best of the Fray.

All’s well that ends well: “Eventually , the stable had more cats than horses; but, no one went inappropriately ‘potty’ anymore.”—bubbuh from the barn, in the Explainer Fray.

Truth be told, you should really spend some time this weekend at a barbecue. If that won’t be feasible, pull up a lawn chair and enjoy our virtual alternative. We’ll be serving flame-roasted text all weekend, right here in the Fray (bring your own skewers). GA3:30pm PDT

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tabloid news masquerading as serious journalism—this seems to be the offense committed by Esquire in its recent profile on Angelina Jolie. Ron Rosenbaum’s attack on the all-too-cozy relationship between celebrities and the media finds more than one sympathetic ear in the crowd here and there, but the basic thrust of his argument strikes many as hardly revelatory. From faux expressions of moral outrage against our celebrity worshipping madness to playful speculation that the Esquire piece is nothing more than an entry in the “Marrying Celebrity to Seriousness” Contest, reader sarcasm runs thick as molasses in The Spectator Fray. The Chemist, for his part, finds the object of criticism hard to identify in a “web article about celeb article about an actress in movie about a reporter who was decapitated by planner of 9/11 terrorist attacks while reporter was in country invaded because of 9/11 attacks…”

With her do-gooder résumé and pretension to moral gravitas, Jolie is perhaps not the best case study in celebrity journalism gone amuck, though Eigenvector is unimpressed with her humanitarian credentials. ProudInfidel and Svenkemom ratchet up the polemic a few notches in suggesting that Jolie’s elevation to saint-like status by a compliant media reflects our misplaced priorities as a nation.  

Meanwhile, K.N.A. weighs in with a passionate defense of the author in question, “one of the best, most original, innovative glossy mag writers” out there. topazz inveighs against egomaniacal interviewers who interject themselves into the interview. SlateReader smells a whiff of hypocrisy emanating from a magazine that criticizes celebrity journalism while using the alluring Jolie pic as cover art for its own spread. And as Lid points out, is it not counterproductive for a critic to spill four pages of ink complaining about all the attention Jolie gets?

nomdevdt waxes nostalgic for an era when the press took more of a critical distance between itself and its subjects, in contrast to “the current field of sub-prime writing inundating the magazines and … zero-thought value of common celeb profile writing” as lbclbclbc harshly describes the sorry state of the contemporary media. Present company excluded, of course. AC4:30pm PDT

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Anti-marijuana ads by stoners and for stoners? Bud-blazer Seth Stevenson gives the latest weed-whacking ads an “A” for effectiveness, declaring the newest campaign The Best Anti-Pot Ad Ever. He lauds these ads for steering away from the alarmism of previous spots, and sticking to the more modestly realistic claims that pot can cause aliens to steal your girlfriend or maybe disappoint your dog. Color me dubious that the same primal fears which sell toothpaste and deodorant—getting dumped and making a poor impression—will have any special cachet with the stoner set.

The merits of this argument, however, get lost in the haze of smoke rising from Slate’s basement apartment, The Fray. Legions of readers seem to be lit up over the mere concept of opposing marijuana use. Rather than discouraging stoners, the ads have only incensed them. Buried among the tirades for legalization, there are some rather astonishing testimonials—one poster claims to have risen from his wheelchair and surfed the swells of hurricanes under the curative powers of the magic herb. I’m not saying he didn’t … but his story lends credibility to mnloft’s harrowing tale of a teenage son literally gone psycho under the influence of weed. Doesn’t every stoner know one kid who couldn’t quite hack it?

Amid all the swirling color, some actual discussion of the article and the ads has taken place. First-time Frayster eek223 provides a fairly representative reaction to the ads from a teenage perspective—apparently, low-budget isn’t “hip” with the upcoming generation. bluebird makes a solid point that all such commercials inspire the inevitable adolescent question: “Who’s ‘The Man’ behind the curtain?” (If this point interests you, check out this post from Melvyl.) Based on her personal experience, queentutt figures mass-media might as well be broadcasting from the dark side of the moon, given how poorly it connects with contemporary kids. In a reasonably fair critique of Stevenson’s article, figgyforcurt worries about short-term memory loss among anti-drug advertisers:

This article would’ve been better written if it explored the dilemma of sending mixed messages to kids by drastically changing “brand messaging.” Think about it. One year ago, an anti-marijuana ad tells kids they’re going to get high and kill a toddler, and the next year, an ad tells them they’ll be uninteresting. If I were a teen and I’d seen both sets of ads, I’d dismiss both, because I’d see through the fact that a thinking man on the other end of the ad is trying to tell me why something is bad but can’t figure out why exactly it is bad. This is the “fundamental mistake” this writer made in writing this article, dismissing the fact that those old ads do exist, and have impacted teens. Failing to consider that no matter how effective these ads appear, they must be considered as inconsistent in the larger framework of the anti-marijuana ad context. 

Personally, I’d hope the best way to scare cynical teens straight would involve showing them the perils of earnest drug culture—NORML parties. In the meantime, responsible adults would be welcome in the Ad Report Card Fray. If you don’t show up, someone’s kids will be getting the unchallenged word on drugs from folks like this.—G.A.3:45am PDT