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The Periodical Table: Sex, Craps, Mickey Rourke and the Great American Meltdown

An occasional look through the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Teen Scream
Sociologist Mike Males pretty much rules. Every journalist in America ought to get a lecture from him to find out why nearly everything they write about teens, for example, is wrong. The great thing about Males is that A) he bases his conclusions on hard facts and B) he doesn't perceive teenagers as irrational aliens.

In the New Yorker, Males responds to an article about teenage pregnancy with a letter to the editor that opens this way:

"Margaret Talbot, in writing about teen-age pregnancy, focuses on sex and abstinence education, religion and media messages ('Red Sex, Blue Sex,' November 3rd).

"The main reason that the United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy among comparable nations, however, is that youth here suffer the highest rate of poverty."

As usual, he has the research to back him up, which, curiously enough, is far more dependable than the ready-made narratives of journalists projecting their own family problems on their readers.

Electoral Math
Christopher Browne of Brooklyn - and the editors of the Times magazine - doesn't take into account that the voting-age population grew by an estimated 10 million people between 2004 and 2008. Just sayin'.

(For example, consider: Al Gore won 50,999,897 votes in 2000; John McCain won 59,778,537 votes in 2008. The important numbers are per capita.)

Dice Man
"For the gambler, dice have long been the best machine with which to turn a small amount of energy into a large amount of uncertainty," Mattathias Schwartz writes in Harper's. "For the philosopher, there is no handier piece of rhetoric with which to evoke the foggy relations between God and universe, universe and man, or man and his own affairs. And so as I watched two members of the Golden Touch Craps team construct a dice pit in a windowless conference room of the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, I could not help but feel as though I were witnessing the creation of a universe, a green, felt-covered, racetrack-shaped cosmos where the dice are subject to the will of man and the men, therefore, are gods."

I can't afford to gamble much anymore, but when I am in Vegas, craps is my game.

And like many others, I once found myself at a table with Dennis Rodman. He was on a hot streak and we were all doing quite well until he rolled a six. That was his point. "Give me a Pippen! Give me a Pippen!" he screamed. Scottie Pippen's number was 33.

Rodman crapped out and it was over. Good times, though.

Mickey's Slip
"By the late 1980s, in [Mickey] Rourke's second act, he was a famous leading man in a string of bad movies that continued through the '90s," Pat Jordan writes in the Times magazine. "What makes Rourke's choices astounding is knowing what movies he is said to have turned down: 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, Pulp Fiction, Platoon, Rain Man, The Silence of the Lambs, Top Gun, Tombstone."

Wow. And you think you have regrets . . .

Freak Show
"Two teams of extrasolar planet-hunters report that they have achieved a long-sought milestone: obtaining the first undisputed images of planets orbiting stars beyond the solar system," Science News reports.

I don't know how we live each day knowing that there's a huge unknowable universe out there. It freaks me out, man.

Celebrity Rehab
"Wonderland charges forty-eight thousand dollars a month for a shared room and fifty-eight thousand dollars for a single room, and does not take insurance," the New Yorker reports.

Got Milk?
"Milk is a rowdy anthem of triumph, brought to an abrupt halt by Milk's personal tragedies and the unfathomable moral chaos of Dan White," David Denby writes.

White served only five years in prison; he committed suicide two years after he was released.

Anatomy of a Meltdown
"It is now evident that self-regulation failed."

As it has throughout human history.

But even the regulators who were in place failed; John Cassidy's much-talked about account of how our economy fell off a cliff does not flatter Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who seemed mostly in the dark about both the roots and scope of the crisis. Alan Greenspan, too, is a stunning combination of naïvete, stubborness, and ideological rigidity.


"Well, we did it again," Henry Blodget writes in The Atlantic. "Only eight years after the last big financial boom ended in disaster, we're now in the migraine hangover of an even bigger one - a global housing and debt bubble whose bursting has wiped out tens of trillions of dollars of wealth and brought the world to the edge of a second Great Depression.

"Millions have lost their houses. Millions more have lost their retirement savings. Tens of millions have had their portfolios smashed. And the carnage in the "real economy" has only just begun.

"What the hell happened? After decades of increasing financial sophistication, weren't we supposed to be done with these things? Weren't we supposed to know better?

"Yes, of course. Every time this happens, we think it will be the last time. But it never will be."

Blodget's article is titled "Why Wall Street Always Blows It," but he says we're all to blame.

I'm not, though. I mean, I didn't do anything wrong. So I'm not sure what he means by "we," but I suspect he means dumb typical American drones. In other words, "the people."


Posted on December 5, 2008

MUSIC - Riding Illinois' Storm Out.
TV - How White Republicans See BLM.
POLITICS - Car Wash Workers Finally Win.
SPORTS - Cubs Screwing FO - And Themselves.

BOOKS - How Comics Make Sounds.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Illinois Caverns Reopening After 10 Years.

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