Leonardo DiCaprio, cub reporter
BY JONATHAN V. LAST
Am I the only one who doesn't see the big deal with Leonardo DiCaprio interviewing President Clinton? The fact that DiCaprio isn't a professional journalist doesn't in itself mean that he's incapable of asking our president a few questions. If you think about it, DiCaprio is a trained professional in the arena of behavior in a journalistic setting, solely by virtue of the fact that he's been at the center of so much press coverage.
While DiCaprio obviously lacks the journalistic credibility of, say, Peter Jennings or Barbara Walters, is he really any worse than some of the vapid airheads who interview people on MTV and the morning news and talk shows? God knows I'd rather have Leo lob questions at me than someone like Kathie Lee.
Clearly the issue here isn't about DiCaprio's lack of credibility, but rather journalists who are worried -- rightly so -- about their futures in a world where celebrities are allowed to assume their previously sacrosanct job duties.
-- Jeff Kirk
What a laugh. Does the ABC news staff really think that the public doesn't see them as entertainers? They are marketed, groomed, dressed and no doubt taught how to read the news or ask questions with charm and vivacity. Why shouldn't Leonardo, a very good entertainer, ask a few questions of the president on a subject about which he is passionate?
-- Manuel Lomba
As the machinery at Disney/ABC slowly grinds on, most semi-conscious media watchers are hoping for the best and expecting the worst.
Even from its earliest days, Disney has been a litigious, power-/money-hungry juggernaut. As most companies across industries consolidate to increase the "synergy," I regard this move as Disney simply keeping up with its peers. Why on earth would Disney spend billions to acquire a news outlet and not want a little revenue reward? Corporations are not altruistic.
Although Edward R. Murrow is rolling in his grave, news has become regarded as a cash cow, not a public service. To wit, I expect to see many more DiCaprio-president-type incidents from not only Disney/ABC but from most news outlets.
-- Jennifer L. Fuller
What Social Security crisis?
BY MERRILL GOOZNER
In 2037, when Goozner says Social Security will go insolvent, I will have reached 77 years of age (my parents are both in their 80s, and their parents also lived into their 80s, so I think I have a good chance of reaching 77. At 39 years of age, actuarial tables show my current life expectancy is 83 years). At that time, my Social Security checks will suddenly stop arriving, I suppose. Why should I not look on this possibility with grave concern? I appreciate the good news, but Goozner has failed to eliminate my worries on this matter.
-- David Chaffin
It's nice to see that many people have decided once again that we've found a permanent cure for the business cycle and that we can be assured of permanent high growth. That notwithstanding, the reason for using really conservative estimates for Social Security is that there's no reason to think the boom cycle will go on indefinitely.
I'm extremely optimistic about the economy over the next year or two, and even rather optimistic about the next five years. But what about after that? What about after the computer industry is as mature and saturated as the auto industry? There are possibilities for new growth, but over the 30- to 40-year horizon required for Social Security, there are no guarantees. If we fall into another Great Depression, the last thing we need to worry about is having to raise taxes to cover growth shortfalls. So it's a very good thing to keep Social Security just as conservative as it is now, and to keep pushing the solvency horizon out even further.
-- Andrew Norris
My heart aches for what I can't have
BY CLEA MACALLISTER
This has got to be the most self-obsessed, depressing, daughter's-joy-stealing and saddest thing I've ever read. What did MacAllister think she was doing? If this story is true, she should have had the grace to keep it to herself -- not for her own sake, but that of her daughter.
Sharing this with her daughter was quite simply cruel. Though I'm sure she wouldn't tell her daughter so, I'm sure she's sapped some of the joy of this love from her. Now the girl is left with the bitter guilt that she might actually have something in her life that she wishes her mother has/had. Nice move.
If your life sucks, if you're unhappy in your marriage, it is up to you to make it better. Lusting after your daughter's boyfriend is just another way for you to claim your victimhood.
-- Leslie Burns
Clea MacAllister admits to feelings and emotions that have traditionally been considered a middle-aged man's malady: Call it midlife
crisis, call it loneliness, call it wistful longing for a spent youth, call it what you will. Coupling creatures are supposed to be attracted to the healthiest, most reproductively potent of their species. Ask any 40- to 50-year-old man eyeing a 15- to 20-year-old girl.
That a woman's physical yearnings are directed at young men is not surprising, but what any rational, sensible, judicious and not to mention moral person must realize is that developing the kind of obsessive love-fantasy
that MacAllister has -- especially one she shares with her daughter about her daughter's lover -- is incredibly unhealthy for her, her daughter and their relationship. This is Jerry Springer territory! Does she want to saddle her daughter with the fear that her mother
will covet every man she loves?
As a 43-year-old man who admires much-younger women, I share her taste for tender fruit, but understand that an age difference of greater than 10 years makes serious relationships very problematic.
-- James Nesom
The fools' guide to history
BY EUGENE FINERMAN
I appreciated the Seven Blunders of the World item. Nicely
done, but you forgot to mention the idiot who successfully
convinced the management that it was time to make the
"new Coca-Cola." I would be interested to know what happened
to that guy.
-- Dana Roy
I wonder if an Eighth Blunderer might be considered?
King Pyrrus of Epirus, circa 318-272 B.C., spent his kingdom into penury "winning" dubious wars. He has been reincarnated, of course, as Gen. Barry McCaffrey.
-- Frank Smith
Brave new e-books
BY CRAIG OFFMAN
Interesting article, but you focused primarily on the e-pubbers who have lots of money to throw around and can afford to lose it. You didn't mention any of the smaller yet better-known-to-serious-readers folks like Alexandria Digital Literature or Mind's Eye that have been selling mostly short stories by well-known authors like Robert Silverberg, Greg Costikyan and Spider Robinson for some time now and have been doing quite well for themselves.
To a lot of the serious e-readers and writers who congregate on SFF Net's Usenet-style discussion boards to talk about these things, the King book is a bright flash in the pan, a publicity stunt that draws attention simply by dint of being by one of the bestselling authors ever. As much a publicity stunt for King himself (vis ` vis the originally serialized publication of "The Green Mile") as for e-books, it could be considered sadly insulting to all the other people who've worked so long and so hard to turn e-books into a viable platform with hardly any recognition at all. How about doing a piece on the original e-book project, Project Gutenberg?
-- Chris Meadows
As the parent of a teenage daughter who has to carry heavy and
clunky books to school, I'm wondering why no one is thinking about
the e-book market for textbooks. Once we can get the readability
factor dealt with, there's a market out there of tens of millions
of students. Besides reducing the number of back injuries to kids,
it would be a great way to introduce them to technology. Plus, you
wouldn't have the problem with missing pages that you do when the
same textbooks get used year after year. Just a thought.
-- Dave Graf
I'm a first-time novelist about to publish through iUniverse and I found your piece very timely as well as satisfying. There is a tremendous amount of skepticism, and even fear, among traditional authors who made it under the old, restrictive model. My book is a very long technothriller that attracted two very good New York agents' attention (ironically, one at John Grisham's old agency). Both said the quality of the writing was fine, but the length would preclude any major house taking the financial risk on a first-timer. Both recommended major cuts and a general dumbing-down. Instead, I'm publishing the story I want to tell through iUniverse. I realize I won't make as much (perhaps no) money, but I didn't want my name on the book those agents told me would clear economic hurdles. The emerging technologies provide writers like me options, and in a competitive world that's a good thing. Hope you keep telling the story as this new segment of the industry continues to evolve.
-- Steve Bartman
author, "The PaxAm Solution"