Birds do it. Bees do it. Even teens on the WB do it ...

Sex ed. takes a beating in Minneapolis; Slovenia hires a PR firm; black Sam Spades take the whodunit stage.

By Jenn Shreve

Published May 28, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, May 26 - June 1

"The New Sexual Revolution" by David Schimke

Sex and teens. Violence and teens. You cannot swing a dead kitty these days without smacking up against a journalist or pundit wringing his or her hands over the next generation's sexual behavior, entertainment preferences or AK-47s. And what does this gratuitous public consternation tell us about Generations X, Y and Z? Not a damn, silly thing. Which is why it's a breath of fresh ocean air to read David Schimke's comprehensive and imaginative look at efforts to remove sex ed. from the classrooms and curb the distribution of contraceptives to teens in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. Schimke, you see, nails the real problem solidly on the head: It's the adults, stupid.

Schimke divides his article, which he subtitles, "a political farce," into four acts, looking at the attempts by school administrators, parents, churches and legislators to alter or end sex ed. He opens with a scene from the 1950s scare-tactic film "Innocent Victim" and continues on to present-day school-board meetings that resemble episodes of "The Jerry Springer Show." He attends religious revivals where teens are warned to resist their natural sexual urges until marriage, and speaks with mothers who want a two-tiered sex ed. format: one for the dirty sluts and another pushing abstinence, without the slightest mention of homosexuality or abortion. Because, you know, if you don't talk about it, it doesn't exist.

(For the record: Mrs. Tawagotchi was my sex ed. teacher. If you're out there, Mrs. Tawagotchi, I want to let you know that I have never, ever forgiven you for the following: Flunking me on the STD test for cheating, when I hadn't cheated; poking holes in the demo condoms so we wouldn't use them; kicking me out of the classroom during the key moment in the birthing video; repeatedly telling us to pet our dogs, not our dates; insisting that a hard-boiled egg and bagel made the perfect breakfast; not once explaining the capabilities of the mighty clitoris; and being such a mean bitch in general. Blowing cigarette smoke in your face in the parking lot of Montgomery Ward is one of my happiest memories. Ahh. I feel much better now.)

Anyhoo, here's a thought for Schimke's next assignment: It's time to delve into why youth-obsessed boomer parents can't find a better way to deal with their own aging than by preventing their children from becoming adults with minds and reproductive capabilities of their own. Schimke's current article should not be titled "The New Sexual Revolution." It should be called, "The Antisexual Devolution," though I suppose that's not very catchy.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Boston Phoenix, May 27 - June 3

"Diplomacy for Hire" by Ben Geman

While NATO drops bombs, another front in the Balkan skirmish has been opened up by PR firms. In this fascinating piece, Ben Geman looks at why countries from Indonesia to Germany to Slovenia are hiring American public relations firms to promote their causes in the U.S. media, as well as how PR firms have come to hold so much sway over editorial boards and public opinion. Message to Milosevic: Lose that bitter scowl! It won't sell to U.S. audiences! Perhaps a meandering piece on women's undergarments for Slate will improve your image.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Los Angeles New Times, May 27 - June 2

"A Darker Shade of Noir" by Scott Timberg

Sam Spade has a whole new look these days. First off, he's black -- and he might even be a she. In this well-written essay, Scott Timberg profiles three Los Angeles-based African-American crime writers who are invading the genre once ruled by pasty whites like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. These writers have found fascinating new material in the racial tensions of modern-day police forces, and are enjoying no small measure of market and critical success.

"In Space, No One Can See Your Breasts by Peter Gilstrap

In a Los Angeles suburb far, far away (sorry, couldn't resist) the "creatives" at Danni's Hard Drive, a click-rich porn site, were about to debut a one-hour, soft-core "Star Wars" satire, "Bra Wars," when Lucas Films Ltd. delivered a double-Death-Star-sized blow in the form of a cease and desist order. Peter Gilstrap, who is fast and furiously becoming one of my favorite writers, reports on the humorous fallout. "Goodness knows, in the galaxy of adult fare, mainstream entertainment parody is commonplace. With titles over the years like Rambone: The Destroyer, White Men Can't Iron on Butt Row, Eight Is Never Enough, and Beaver and Buttface: Porno Rules, can Episode I -- The Phantom Anus be far behind?" Gilstrap writes. (The man is funny, I tell you!) Will Boob Starknocker and Happy Areola win their battle against the Lucas menace? Stay tuned for Episode II.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Salt Lake City Weekly, May 27 - June 2

"Arming for the Cause" by Christopher Smart

More proof that parents and school administrators are complete and total idiots: Administrators at the Jordan School District in Salt Lake City are cracking down on a violent passel of no-good hooligans: vegans. Apparently forgoing meat and dairy products will not only banish teens to the culinary hell of soy-milk-soaked granola, but publicizing the fact on a T-shirt will get them labeled as gang members and sent home, where they will presumably be forcibly educated about the joys of red meat! Christopher Smart drenches his report in a heavy layer of sarcasm, which is appropriate though perhaps not helpful to ending this asinine violation of First Amendment rights.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 26 - June 1

"Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!" by Nina Luttinger and Gregory Dicum

Bad alternative journalism 101:

1. Write a headline that beats your readers over the head, like, say, "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee [you smug readers who know nothing and are really bad people]!"

2. Lead with a really cheesy generalization: Gosh, seems like everything's bad for you these days! Sweat shops! SUVs! What's a consumer to do?

3. Let people know that something that makes their lives worth living -- coffee, for instance -- means death, destruction and poverty for someone, somewhere.

4. Come up with a ridiculously simplistic solution that not only doesn't account for the financial, educational or cultural backgrounds of the readership, but could spell unemployment for the already miserable someone, somewhere: Buy extremely expensive, cruelty-free "sustainable coffee."

5. Make sure your liberal guilt-trip has a capitalist destination by providing contact info for a list of companies happy to overcharge you for the easing of your overburdened conscience.

6. Tally up the number of trees killed to make your point, realize you are a hopeless hypocrite and become a PR rep for Guatemalan coffee growers.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Village Voice, May 26 - June 1

"Tell-Tale Hearts" by Athima Chansanchai

Here's some news to fan the flames at militia barbecues and conspiracy theorist cookouts for years to come: At this moment, big corporations are testing technology that would replace clunky passwords used in ATM transactions and elsewhere with iris scans. What does this mean for civilization? Unfortunately Athima Chansanchia's not-too-critical-so-far article is cut off due to some lousy link coding, so if she has anything to say about it, we'll never know.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

San Francisco Weekly, May 26 - June 1

"The Red Menace" by Jack Boulware

If you've ever found yourself pondering the fate of Sammy Hagar, look no further than this smart and funny "where is he now?" piece by Jack Boulware. (May I also recommend to you, Former Child Star Central.) If you don't give a shit about Sammy Hagar's life in the bucolic hills of Marin County, Calif., congratulate yourself and move on.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

In honor of Mrs. Tawagotchi's mandate to treat our canine friends to a good rub now and then and my ex-boyfriend who lived on a pet cemetery, where on doggy graves we wilfully ignored Mrs. T's silly rule, I present some tales about dogs:

The Bark This remarkably funny and well-written zine is devoted to literate dog owners who wish to creatively and intellectually explore man's (and woman's! sheesh!) connection to his (or her ...) best friend.

Puppy Prozac You no longer have to sullenly leave that unmanageable dog at the pound. Antidepressants for dogs are available at a veterinarian near you!

"Dead Dogs Walking" Dogs sentenced to death for violent crimes? Dogs with attorneys? This is ridiculous!

"Dogstronomy" Astrological projections for your pet.

Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

MORE FROM Jenn Shreve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Crime Fiction Pornography Star Wars Teenagers