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Comments: May 5, 2008


1. The three features in last week’s issue were each argument starters of a sort—the greatness of a cheesy television show, the harmful effects of shoes, and the difficulties of godless congregating. Which meant that the comments section on was even more of a free-for-all than usual. For pure vitriol, nobody could match the reader who called himself nymagsucks and posted a harangue about Jessica Pressler and Chris Rovzar’s story on Gossip Girl (The Genius of Gossip Girl,” April 28) that described it as “useless, disposable, inane, and superficial ‘journalism’ that mirrors the useless, disposable, inane, and superficial youth culture that keeps this show on the air.” That might have been all we heard from nymagsucks—if only he hadn’t been mocked by other commenters. It all devolved into name-calling, threats of violence, a slur about men with hyphenated last names, and one citation of New York’s penal code. We should add, however, that most commenters expressed an adoration of the show that exceeded Pressler and Rovzar’s—and found their story irresistible. “Absolutely rockstar!!!,” wrote one reader. Another said, “I am a 36-year-old black woman who loves this show! How sick is that?” And Erica Marcus of Brooklyn attempted to enlighten us: “Maybe Jessica Pressler and Chris Rovzar were watching Beverly Hills, 90210 when they should have been reading The Iliad: Helen of Troy was not abducted by the king of Athens. Helen, wife of the king of Sparta, was abducted by Paris, a prince of Troy, precipitating the Trojan War. That’s why she came to be known as Helen of Troy.” True—but also true that as a teenager, Helen was carried away by Theseus, a king of Athens, because he wanted to sleep with/wed a daughter of Zeus.

2. As for Adam Sternbergh’s piece about how shoes screw us up (You Walk Wrong,” April 28), the most memorable comment had to be from this barefoot enthusiast: “I live and work in and around Chicago and have been successfully barefoot for two years without ever contracting anything or cutting myself. Frostbite is a reality and thus I keep shoes around right next to my gloves. I don’t wear either unless I have to. I work in construction and routinely work barefoot. I know—I can hear your gasps from here.” Yes, we did gasp! Comments such as these illuminated an intense, quasi-religious belief in going barefoot, which was strange—but less strange than the intense, quasi-religious outrage that their faith seemed to inspire in others, like this reader: “Wow this is astonishingly idiotic. C’mon people, really? No really? Okay, I’m from Ethiopia and a fairly decent amount of the population walks around barefoot. Their feet are wrecked.” Amid the barefooters and their detractors, one reader tried to make sense of it all: “It seems that many of the people opposed to the idea of going barefoot (a) haven’t tried it, and (b) are kind of angry. Makes me think it’s probably a good idea.”

3. Compared with all that, the debate over Sean McManus’s story about the efforts to organize atheists (If God Is Dead, Who Gets His House?,” April 28) was relatively civil. Which is not to say the word idiot wasn’t thrown around a few times, as well as religidiot. But for the most part, readers wrestled with the major themes of the story—what do atheists believe in, and what is the point of bringing them together? There were also numerous plugs for Unitarian Universalists, many of whom are apparently atheists or agnostics. One reader aptly summarized both the story and the ensuing debate: “This article paints atheists as analogous to Christianity (and maybe other religions) in one interesting way: They can’t agree on much!”

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