»  Taki's Magazine

October 27, 2010

  Reading the New York Times (So You Don't Have To)

As I may have mentioned, I have a friend who sends me links to pieces from the New York Times she thinks I might find interesting. Those occasional snippets aside, I don't read the Times. Why mess with my digestion, at this time of life?

On Sunday last, however, a friend was giving me a lift from Baltimore to New York. We took a bathroom break at an expressway service stop; and mooching vaguely around the concessions, I thought I'd pick up a newspaper so that I could read out amusing excerpts to my driver when conversation flagged.

As it happened, conversation did not flag, so I arrived home with a mostly-unread copy of the October 24 Sunday New York Times. It's been some years since I held a whole Times in my hands. Curious, I did some random browsing.

Here is my report. Yes, I have read a copy of the New York Times — so you don't have to.

•  Main news section.  "G.O.P. Is Poised to Seize House, If Not Senate" You don't say. This is a news-paper? Something about Iraq: "Private Gunmen Fed Turmoil." The hell with Iraq.

Mexico: "Gunmen burst into a small concrete house in a working-class Ciudad Juárez neighborhood where a family was celebrating a son's birthday and opened fire, killing 13 people and wounding 20 … A 13-year-old girl was the youngest of the dead." Coming soon to a Mexicanized U.S. neighborhood near you.

Haiti: "Fears Cholera Cases Will Spread in the Capital." Hey, we'd better save those people so they can go on producing little Haitians at a Total Fertility Rate of 3.72 (according to the CIA World Factbook), into a land stripped bare of vegetation and with no significant industrial or service sector.

•  Week in Review.  "In Losing, There May Be Winning" — the 127th article I've seen about how a Republican takeover of Congress may be good for Ogabe. Can't bring self to read another one; and is, that, comma, necessary?

Editorials: A big long one preaching the socialized healthcare gospel, a shorter one railing against multinational corporations. Hey, aren't you the one-world open-borders people? Nice to see the spirit of Anthony Lewis still lives, anyway.

Op-Eds: Frank Rich on "the obscene income inequality bequeathed by the three-decade rise of the financial industry." Careful what you wish for, Frank; that's the only industry we've got now. The others all fled to escape the regulators, revenuers, unions, and trial lawyers.

Thomas Friedman on healthcare jobs, which "can be done in a low-skilled way by cheap foreign workers and less-educated Americans or they can be done by skilled labor that is trained …" I think we kind of made that decision, Tom. As for your skilled labor that is trained: silk purse, sow's ear, Tom.

•  Book Review.  I'll admit I'm not well disposed to the Book Review. I've published four books with respectable publishers, and the Times only reviewed one. Furthermore, I've been writing book reviews — sapient, witty, penetrating book reviews — for thirty years, yet the Times has never commissioned one from me. So screw the Book Review.

•  Arts & Leisure.  Oddly, the front page of the A&L section is dominated by a huge black and white photograph showing the cracked, cratered, pock-marked surface of an asteroid. Taken by the Cassini space probe, no doubt … Oh, no, wait a minute; it's actually a close-up photograph of Keith Richards.

The occasion of the article is the publication of Keef's autobiography, Life. Seems a bit odd to name your autobiography after a magazine; but if you must, I suppose Life is at least better than The Weekly Standard.

The reporter, Janet Maslin, has a struggle to come up with anything new to say about a bloke who's been on the public scene for nigh on half a century. A musician, too — double tough. Musicians rarely have anything to say, and are often totally inarticulate. I'd leap the ice floes across a frozen river in flood to have dinner with Samuel Johnson, Winston Churchill, or Mark Twain; but Mozart? Callas? Hank Williams? Bleh.

We do learn that Keef's book is rude about Mick Jagger, but we knew that anyway from previous news stories. What else ya got, Keef? "When Marlon Brando propositioned him and [his girlfriend Anita] Pallenberg, Mr. Richards remembers replying with this: 'Later, pal.'" O-kay.

Second lead: "Taylor Swift is Angry, Darn It." Who she? Can I be bothered to find out? Nah.

•  Sunday Styles.  This section is new since I was a Times reader, which I guess probably dates my loss of interest.

The "Millionaire Matchmaker" Patti Stanger, part Helen Gurley Brown, part Vince Lombardi, brings her take-no-prisoners brand of dating advice to New York. Ready for the new rules?

Not really. I'm an old married guy; and even when I wasn't, I hated the whole dating business. Isn't arranged marriage ever going to make a come-back?

What else? "In a new column, a defense of women's right to long hair, even if it's gray." I can feel my will to live draining away. Let's move on.

•  Metropolitan.  Another new section (to me). The whole thing this week is about the subway. The New York subway! The stinking, deafening, dangerous, rat-infested, over-priced subway, whose employees operate in two modes: snarling and sleeping.

There are so many sins of subway etiquette that it is difficult to rank the effrontery. Are the nail clippers the worst? The people consuming smelly Big Macs? Or how about those who tote their yappy little dogs?

As loathsome as the subway riders mostly are, the worst is the subway itself. Shut the whole thing down and bring in the crew that built the Hong Kong subway. It's clean. It works. It's cheap. You can't eat moo goo gai pan standing in a subway car. And dogs in Hong Kong know that excessive yapping, or the drawing of attention to one's doggy self by any other means, is deeply unwise.

•  Business.  "Should BP's Money Go Where Oil Didn't?" Florida resort owners want compensation, even those who never saw one blob of oil, because tourists were scared off anyway. Should they get it? My answer would be the one Calvin Coolidge gave to farmers who showed up at the White House complaining they couldn't make a living: "Better take up religion."

•  The Magazine.  Whoa, this has totally changed. Where are the ads for military schools and fat camps that used to fill the back few pages? Nothing here but realtors and that infantile quizword. (It's not a crossword, it's a quizword. A crossword has CRYPTIC CLUES and is DIFFICULT.)

The rest is all girly stuff. "Calling Mr. Mom (Why women won't have it all until men do too)" … Melinda Gates, yecch … "How we demonize fun-loving women" (Tr. "Why do men want party-hopping celebrity sluts to go to jail?" Yeah, go ahead, take away even our fantasies) … "Monetizing Motherhood" …

Sorry, I can't separate the pages any more, they're all stuck together with estrogen. Have they killed off all the men in Manhattan?

•  Real Estate, Sports.  Zzzzzzzzz

Hey, wait a minute — didn't there always used to be a Jobs section? What happened to the Jobs section? Oh right — there aren't any jobs.