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This Week in Magazines: Drive-Through Mastectomies and Glenn Beck Gives Us Some Tongue

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One doesn't quite associate Internet sex with the august and high-brow New York Review of Books. But the Sept. 24 issue at least gives us sex and the internet.

In "Men and Boys," we're quickly reminded that, "From antiquity to the present, nothing has given admirers of the Greeks so much embarrassment and caused so much downright revulsion as the widespread Greek practice of men making love to young boys," writes G.W. Bowersock, a Princeton University emeritus professor of ancient history.

(Hey, who needs Dan Savage when one has the New York Review of Books?)

Bowersock proceeds to spin a terrific analysis of the practice as he reviews two books on the topic, even chiding one of them for "its total exclusion" of pederastic images that do not appear on painted Greek pots. My goodness! Anyway, cutting to the sensual chase:

"The sexual life of the ancient Greeks was as variegated and inventive as its resplendent culture. It was neither consistent nor uniform. To this day it stubbornly resists all modern ideologies and prejudices, and yet it had its own principles of decency. In sex, as in so much else, the ancient Greeks were unique."

Given this site's namesake, it not only seems fitting to touch upon the legacy of the Greeks but also the impact and future of the internet, or at least its obvious challenge to the state of mainstream media and journalism. Michael Massing's "A New Horizon for the News" does that, avoiding much of the hand-wringing that's prevalent among old newsies like myself but also offering appropriate cautionary notes about the flowering of creativity found as many new endeavors try to fill new holes.

He lauds the surfacing of "fresh structures" amid the retreat of old-guard corporations and conglomerates, in particular citing some of the new forays in the form of local websites and investigative journalism combines. Will foundations, wealthy individuals and news consumers help out by funding them and their offspring? He's not sure, while also fretting that the opening for real change "won't last forever." Media giants might just get their acts together and "finance a new oligopolistic push on the Web."

This issue is excellent elsewhere, with Philippe Sands raising doubts about former Joint Chiefs of Staff boss Richard Myers essential defense of American practices in the war on terrorism, notably interrogation strategies, as detailed in Myers' new book. And Garry Wills' "Conservatives: The Tanenhaus Taxonomy" is generally rather critical of Sam Tanenhaus' new effort on conservatism ("The Death of Conservatism") but finds what he deems some saving graces, notably the author's ravaging of George W. Bush's unceasing claim to being a true conservative.

---October Vanity Fair's best add to the growing, impressive literature on our financial debacle and the Bush administration's well-intentioned stumbles. "Good Billions After Bad," by Donald Barlett and James Steele, the Ferrante and Teicher of investigative reporters (I now egregiously dated myself as a product of the pre-internet, pre-electric typewriter age), underscores in impressive detail, culling lots of records, what observers of the mess sort of knew, namely that a whole lot of money went to folks who didn't need it and weren't going to use it for very noble purposes.

Then there's Todd Purdum's "Henry Paulson's Longest Night," a generally sympathetic, inside inspection (based on a series of interviews the writer agreed to hold back until Paulson left office) of the former Treasury Secretary, who was clearly a fish out of water in the Washington shark tank. Paulson's surprise at much of the duplicity in the culture, especially from Congressmen, comes off as naïve, though it's interesting that he justifiably gives Rep. Barney Frank a distinct shout out for brains and candor (and skips his seeming adoration of his own voice). And, please, don't miss the photo of a young Paulson 36 years ago, on the beach somewhere, holding a fish and looking like one of the hunky docs on Gray's Anatomy.

And if you are looking for internet sex, or, sadly, internet depravity, check out Maureen Orth's "Killer@Craigslist," a look at accused killer Philip Markoff and the "cyber-brothel" (as one cop puts it) unintentionally created by Craigslist. And, notably, Orth concludes by citing Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act, which says internet sites can't be held liable for what third parties post. She quotes the chief executive of a web-video-syndication company as saying, "There is an entire virtual world that exists without boundaries. They're creating cities without police forces, because if you don't police it, you can't be sued, because you are not responsible." Craiglist disagrees.

---It's perfectly fitting that cable shouter Glenn Beck stuck out his tongue for the Sept. 28 Time cover, "Mad Man." David Von Drehle nice captures the intellectually- underwhelming, angst-ridden media phenomenon who tags his shtick as "the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment." The fact that he surely reveled in looking like a jerk is revealing. It's all part of the game.

---Sept. 28 Newsweek includes Fareed Zakaria's "A Return to Reality: Missile Defense Wasn't the Answer," a reminder that sometimes we all need a firm grasp of the obvious:

"By canceling plans to station antiballistic-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, President Obama has traded fantasy for reality. Keep in mind a few facts about missile defense. Since the 1980s, the United States has spent well over $150 billion to develop such systems. That's more than the total cost of the Manhattan Project or the Apollo mission to the moon. Yet in 25 years the program has not produced a workable weapons system, something unprecedented even in the annals of the Pentagon's bloated budgets. A group of leading scientists, including 10 Nobel laureates in physics, wrote a letter to Obama in July, arguing that the Polish and Czech interceptors "would offer little or no defensive capability, even in principle." That's why the Bush administration proposed deploying the system only in 2018, by which point, it hoped, the thing would actually work."

---October O, namely Oprah's magazine, checks out the stupidity of "drive-through mastectomies," namely the reality that in many states insurance companies mandate that you scram within 24 hours of such surgery. "The Bookworm" profiles Los Angeles public radio's Michael Silverblatt, who is one of the dwindling number of hosts who actually interview authors but is himself now in jeopardy due to the financial cutbacks afflicting all media.

---In for a dime, in for a dollar, I guess, with breasts, so check the useful October Women's Health look at actress Christina Applegate's confrontation with breast cancer, replete with tips for young women on how to try to avoid a disease which can be far more aggressive with the young than older women. In sum, stay at a decent weight, exercise, don't go overboard with booze, eat vegetables, know your family history, get checked and even mull genetic testing.