"Britney Federline, I like that. Society probably won't allow me, but I would like to change [my name]." -- Britney Spears, in an interview with Germany's Bunte magazine, on whether she will change her name now that she has married dancer Kevin Federline.
When I was growing up, the person who was considered the icon of pop culture was Madonna, a woman who, for better or for worse, tried to defy every societal convention, even when those conventions were rational.
Today, the person who is considered the icon of pop culture is Britney Spears, a woman who, for better or for worse, tries to conform to everything that society demands from her, even when those demands are irrational.
For people following the U.S. election: An interesting quiz that weighs your views on social, political, and economic issues against Kerry's, Bush's, and Catholic Social Teaching (via the U.S. Catholics Bishops Conference). After taking the quiz, the site will tell you what percentage of your views agree/disagree with Kerry, Bush, and Catholic Teaching.
The site's weakness is that the overall computation doesn't weigh the relative importance that a person may give to individual issues (e.g., equal weight is given to taxation and to abortion).
Nevertheless, it's still an interesting quiz, because unlike some other sites on this topic, it considers many different aspects of Catholic teaching, and not just sexuality and abortion. In that respect then, while the overall percentages ought to be taken with a grain of salt, the site does encourage further reflection on a wide range of issues that American Catholics (and all Americans for that matter) ought to think about as they prepare to vote.
In case you're wondering, according to the quiz, I agree with the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference 82% of the time, with Kerry 23% of the time, and I disagree with Bush 36% of the time.
"EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) -- TV hardly gets much better than this.
"An Oregon man discovered earlier this month that his year-old Toshiba Corporation flat-screen TV was emitting an international distress signal picked up by a satellite, leading a search and rescue operation to his apartment in Corvallis, Oregon, 70 miles south of Portland...."
Yes, believe it or not, I once was a fan of a teen magazine.
But, you see, it wasn't just any teen magazine.
In 1991, I went to the U.S. for a month-long visit. I stayed with my cousins in Chicago for a few days, and they introduced me to Sassy.
Sassy wasn't one of those make-up and blush-on, "how to catch the cute guys," teen magazines. (Though I did read those too, borrowing them from my classmates in high school who could afford to buy the imported ones they sold at Galleria.)
Sassy was a feminist teen magazine, back when the word "feminist" wasn't even in my vocabulary yet. I don't mean "feminist" in a bra-burning sense, but feminist in the sense that the magazine was first and foremost about empowerment, rather than trying to catch that cute guy's eye. It showed that there were many kinds of teenage girls: yes, there were those cutesy-patutesy girls who wore pink, wore lots of make up and smiled out of the pages of Seventeen; but there were also nerdy girls and ugly girls and girls who were smart and not ashamed of it and girls who tried to change the world inasmuch as teenagers could ... and that it was okay to be one of those girls too. Instead of articles on what make-up was trendy, it gave tips on how to write complaint letters to cosmetic companies that did animal testing. Instead of instructing teenage girls about what "being a girl" was all about, it encouraged readers to speak out against sexist remarks. Instead of profiles of models and actresses, the magazine featured stories about women activists who were saving rainforests.
It was sarcastic and edgy and intelligent and didn't talk patronizingly to teenage girls as if they had nothing but cotton candy between their ears.
Oh, and the fiction was terrific.
I was only thirteen at the time, and I didn't yet have the language to name the ideas I was reading, but I felt that this was a different magazine, and I loved what I read. My cousin graciously gave me a few copies to bring home to the Philippines.
Today I found out that Sassy died a most ignoble death only a few years later. It was bought by Teen magazine (yes, one of "those" teen magazines), become about flirtation and fluff, lost its readership, and died.
I wish girls these days had something like Sassy to read.
Related note: I just sent an e-mail to my friends musing about how disturbed I am that high school girls today seem so much more prone to developing eating disorders. (Thirteen-year-olds on the South Beach diet!) It's something however, that they learn at least partly from observation, by seeing how us adults are becoming so obsessed with looking Twiggy-thin. Gosh, I hope that when I have a kid someday, advertising and pop culture in the Philippines will be more cognizant about the different shapes and sizes that people come in.
Kerry's response to the question about abortion helped me to understand his stand a little more. I don't agree with him (I'm very much against abortion), but I appreciate that he gave a reasonable and rational explanation about his stand on it (something like, "I'm Catholic, but as president, I cannot legislate what is an article of faith for me, for all Americans, because I have to represent all Americans"). He didn't directly answer the woman's question about using taxpayers' money for abortion, though, and if I were American I would be extremely bothered (understatement) if my taxes were being used to fund abortions.
Kerry demonstrated the same strengths he showed in the first debate: solid facts, careful name-dropping ("why even this, this, and that Republican agrees with me!"), speaking to Republican swing voters by distinguishing between "bad Republican" (W. Bush) and "good Republican" (Reagan and Bush Sr.). He did lapse into occasional highfalutin verbosity, though (something about Orwellian ideas plucked from the sky).
Something new about Bush disturbed me: Does he have a temper problem? I was surprised at the way he jumped on the moderator and pretty much yelled at him. Is the president of the United States a loose cannon? Is he unable to control his anger? Hmmm, perhaps that would explain his rush to go to war against Iraq.
It might also be argued, however, that Bush's inability to temper his emotions was also his strength during the debate. Bush connected more with the audience on an emotional level, I think. Kerry did quite well, too, remembering everyone's names and addressing them personally. But Kerry's one attempt at humor (the mention of the Red Sox) fell flat, while Bush managed to get the group to laugh several times.
I don't think Bush closed very well, however. He ended the debate by talking about how America was moving forward, how the economy was doing well, etc., and I found myself looking at the faces of the audience sitting behind Bush, half-expecting them to frown and shake their heads. More of Bush's fantasy world.
Substance: Kerry sounded much more credible because he backed up all of his arguments with easy-to-understand facts and figures. He wasn't able to completely shed the flip-flop image that the Republicans have painted of him, but he did succeed in outlining a very clear plan for Iraq and for the war on terror on the whole.
Bush didn't say anything new. He resorted to more of the same rhetoric rather than giving clear answers about his plans for Iraq and for the war on terror. He spent more time trying to defend his past actions rather than describing his future vision, and his responses to Kerry's criticisms sounded weak.
Style: I've seen Bush perform really well on TV before, playing up his strengths, coming across as warm, relaxed, friendly, and an all-around good guy. He performed far far far below expectations in this debate, however. He sounded defensive, fumbled for words, stuttered, and appeared not to really understand the questions nor Kerry's answers. He looked nervous, tired, and lost in his cutaway shots.
Kerry, on the other hand, was at his best: much better than he has done in some prepared speeches. He sounded confident, comfortable, on the ball. He maximized every opportunity to criticize Bush's performance. In his cutaway shots, he smiled at appropriate times, and nodded or shook his head emphatically.