In this review, Laura Thompson revels in a biography of Janet Auchincloss and her two famous-for-being-famous daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy and Lee Radziwill.

Jacqueline Kennedy and Lee Radziwill are nothing.  They are nobodies.  They are famous, of course, but the sole reason for their fame is that they were attached to men who did things, who had money and power, and some importance, and who mattered.  Jacqueline and Lee did not matter, did not accomplish anything, and were never important, and neither was their nasty mother, Janet Achincloss.  (Yes, I know that Jacqueline later became a book editor at Viking in New York.  And how did she get that job?  She was hired by publisher Thomas Guinzburg who was her stepbrother’s room-mate in college.  At Yale.  Must have been an impressive interview.)

So,  in the face of the conspicuous fact that you have no accomplishments, no special skills, no talents, and no real achievements, what do you do?  You create an entirely new, fake class of accomplishment, and to conceal the trick you attach language to it that makes it sound important and interesting.

Among Jackie’s sterling accomplishments as a book editor:  a “memoir”– if you want to dignify it with the name– by Michael Jackson, “Moonwalk”.  Vanity Fair, embarrassed by proxy,  wants you to believe that she had to “endure” this task, as if someone chained her to a desk in Michael Jackson’s Foreverland for the duration.)*

 But the magic of Jackie’s aura is imperishable to this day.

This is the kind of absurdity we have to put up with about Jackie Kennedy.  What is this magical aura?  It is the mountain of trashy tabloid interest that create a celebrity who her worshipers believe is incredibly important because there is so much tabloid interest in her.  They don’t realize that she makes the news because the tabloids made her the news because tabloid audiences want to vicariously experience the delusions of the tabloid world: that she belongs to them.  That she suffers for them.  That they appreciate her beauty and grace with the perversity of privilege of the voyeur.  That something in their own mediocre lives can be compared to her mediocre public life, and can be just as noble, and justified, and beautiful.  That fashion and jewelry really matter and that all of us deserve to be the center of attention because we are beautiful and charming and arrived in a limousine.

So consider for a moment this review, by a woman, of a book, by a woman, about three women.  I don’t know if Laura Thompson thinks feminism matters or if women really are anything more than what she “celebrates” in this book, but I know she has contributed towards the uncomfortably persistent idea of there being something magnificent about women who, purely through privilege– absolutely purely through privilege– lead rich and glamorous lives.  And I mean “glamorous” in the best possible way: trivial, inane, inconsequential, vain, vulgar.

As I point out in my piece on Lee Radziwill, in spite of the incredible volume of celebrity press that insists on calling the sisters “beautiful”, neither one of them really is.  They have this glitz and polish that comes from proper breeding, I suppose, and they know how to apply make-up in a Laura Petryish tone of 1950’s chic– or 40’s really.

And it’s a wonderfully illuminating discussion.

Jackie on her job:

It’s not as if I’ve never done anything interesting. I’ve been a reporter myself and I’ve lived through important parts of American history. I’m not the worst choice for this position.

 I”ve written about this kind of bs before.

Vanity Fair does what Vanity Fair does, with Jackie.


[whohit]Ladies: the Very Elusive Charm of Lee Radziwill[/whohit]


There is a movement afoot to make it illegal to require that a victim of sexual harassment sign an agreement requiring her or him to not tell anyone.

But first, some activists have argued that men charged with sexual harassment but who reached agreements with their accusers to not disclose in exchange for money should voluntarily release them from these agreements so they can be named and publicly shamed.

These activists virtually never admit or concede or even acknowledge that since the women/victims were paid a “settlement” in exchange for this agreement, that they should then return the money.  No, they should be allowed to accept a large settlement in exchange for their silence and then turn around and break the agreement for which they were paid, with impunity.

By accepting these agreements– and the money, of course– one might conclude that these women actually facilitated the abuse of other women who might otherwise have been informed about the transgressive behavior of this particular male.  But nobody wants to admit that, so let’s move on.  That would make women complicit.  That would undermine the narrative that it is always men who abuse.

It might also lead to distasteful thoughts about victims who might be after money and who might be willing blur a few distinctions in order to get it.   The CBC allowed three women panelists to insist that there is never any “collateral damage”, in other words, men who might be innocent of allegations made by a woman.  There are no “false allegations”.   This is easily debunked, but the CBC did not present any counter arguments.  In fact, it is ridiculously easily debunked.

So now it is proposed that such agreements should never be made.  I wonder if these activists, including several members of Congress, realize the implications of this change.

In a typical case of sexual harassment– though none are really “typical”– a woman is the victim of inappropriate and harassing behaviours by a male employee, coworker, customer, or supervisor.  Perhaps she complains to a supervisor or an HR staff member about the behavior.   A meeting may be arranged.  The man is confronted with the woman’s account of the incident.

Here’s the crux.  The goal of the HR department and the company will be to keep the name of the company from being dragged through the mud, which is typically why they offer money to the woman to go away and keep silent.  In these situations, the perpetrator may be convinced to confess and apologize and acknowledge wrong-doing.   But under the new regime– no “non-disclosure” agreement– the man and the company that employs him have very little incentive to offer a settlement to the woman.  She can go public anyway.

She cannot be asked to sign an agreement that, in exchange for the money, she will not go public.  The perpetrator has no incentive to apologize.  The HR Department has no incentive to pay.  They may take their chances in court instead.

It is possible that some companies will acknowledge fault and offer the woman money anyway, trusting that disclosure of the fact that they offered her compensation will be enough to salvage the company’s reputation.   The alleged abuser may also acknowledge fault and offer to “make it right”.

Or given that there is no possibility of confidentiality, will the alleged abuser choose instead to deny, deny, deny, like Donald Trump and Roy Moore?  And accuse the woman of lying?  And, probably, put a lot of effort into attempting to discredit the accusations?  In a situation in which, otherwise, the woman might have been offered an apology and a lot of money in exchange for her silence?

Would most women prefer this option?  Might they find the prospect of a determined fight distasteful and prefer to just keep quiet about it.  Might they not begin to conclude that it’s not worth the hassle?

The women activists pushing this option might well be convinced that things have changed so much that accusations will always be believed and companies always penalized and the money forthcoming always, easily, and generously.

They can sue instead.  But you can’t sue without the accused having the right to defend himself.  That means he (his lawyers, that is) can cross-examine.  That means you might have to testify.   Many feminist lawyers despise cross-examination in these cases because they seem to believe that the woman should be automatically be assumed to be telling the truth, they way they were all telling the truth about Jian Ghomeshi.  Until cross-examination.  Until the e-mail messages were revealed.   Until it was shown that they lied.





Can We Still Be Friends

Back in the 1970’s, Todd Rungren was dating a young woman– a model and Playboy Magazine Playmate– named Bebe Buell.  Bebe, in the vernacular of the day, “got around”.  She gave birth to a baby girl whom Rungren adored, only to discover, years later, apparently, that the child was fathered by Steve Tyler.  Yes, that baby was Liv Tyler.  Who famously played a psychiatrist in one of the most appallingly dumb movies I’ve ever seen, “Reign Over Me”.  Only in the movies, is a young, sexually attractive psychiatrist compelled to beg her patients to come in, and only in the movies, do they come in when they don’t want to.  That conflict, you see, allows you to feel fabulous about role-playing this scenario out in your head: Liv Tyler wants me.  I know she does.  She will even cancel all her other appointments — which have no existence outside of her appointment book in this movie anyway– and go racing around Manhattan to look for me, because I am just so special.  Cue the glycerin tears!

Anyway, Todd Rungren was dating Liv Tyler’s mother, but it wasn’t going well, obviously.  He wrote a song around that time:  “Can We Still Be Friends”, which sounds a lot like a painful ode to a relationship that had promise but is now disintegrating.

I’ve always thought it was a great song.  Unusual.  The idea of remaining friends is often given a passing slap of the hand in popular songs about failed relationships, but in “Can We Still Be Friends”, it gets the full 3 minutes of attention it deserves.  It’s the opposite of “Don’t Think Twice” and “It Aint me Babe” even though they are both breakup songs.  “You just kind of wasted my precious time” is too much truth for anybody.  “Someone who would die for you and more”.   Indeed.

After I started writing this, I planned to include a quote from the song to demonstrate how acute it was, how poetic the lyrics, how marvelous the insights.  But I ransacked the verses and have nothing that isn’t really kind of a cliche: “memories linger on/It’s like a sweet, sad, old song”.  Yeah, that’s original.

“We awoke from our dreams/Things are not always what they seem”.  Yeah, nailed it.

All right– so it’s not a masterpiece.  I will concede that musically, it is fresh.   The “la-la” chorus fades into echoes of itself, before joining into a large group affirming there is a future for this relationship, if only…

It’s just associated in my mind with a relationship that went bad long ago, and music always tickles us somewhere.


[whohit]Can We Still Be Friends[/whohit]

The Death of Great Audio

At the latest consumer electronics shows, there was not a single headphone with the traditional 3.5mm jack being offered. Not one. But no wireless connection has the sound range of a traditional wired connector. Of course, lower quality didn’t stop the CD, or MP3, or bookshelf speakers, or Radio Shack– so why should it stop Bluetooth?

It should be a bit surprising, given the pace of technological innovation.  We’re all watching HD television now, and a lot of us even have 4K.  And then we buy ourselves a Bluetooth headset.  Because it’s convenient.  Because it’s cool.

Quality is overrated.

[whohit]The Death of Great Audio[/whohit]