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November 15, 2012

Magazine Features Are Extremely Dumb, Written By Dumb People Who Are Usually Dishonest, So That Other Dumb People Have Something To Talk To Each Other About At Parties of Dummies

First: I saw this on Hot Air and I'm still angry about it. The Daily Beast actually paid someone to write an article which I personally would title, Breaking: "All In The Family" Was Edgy, Controversial Programming. Because that seems to be the News Bomb this cat wants to drop on you.

All in the Family was controversial. So was Ellen and Will and Grace, as it turns out. Can you believe it. Can you. Believe it.

Anyway he had to pay the rent this month so he decided to write 1700 words on Things Which Were Obvious in 1996 but he repackaged what is basically a list of his favorite family sitcoms into an article under the headline "How TV Destroyed the GOP's Family Values" or something like that. See -- topical and relevant.

This is just part of my reason for this post.

There's actually a rule in magazines, Kaus tells me. Once is happenstance -- twice is a trend! That is, any time a magazine features writer sees the same thing twice, he is now authorized to write a stupid article claiming it's a "trend."

Did you know that twice on the same day I saw men wearing colorful Sergeant Pepper style marching band uniforms in Williamsburg? I did. I'm not even lying. Hours apart, blocks apart, completely different guys.

There did not seem to be any reason for this -- they seemed to just be walking to the Post Office or whatever. This seemed to just be something they liked to do, dressing up in gold-buttoned marching band uniforms.

That was ergo a real trend and not one of these made-up trends that only exist in magazine features, which were only published because dumb people like reading dumb things, and which were only written in the first place because dumb people like paying their rent. (Well, they don't like paying it, but they also don't want to be on the street. So they invent "trends.")

I should have written that up. Marching Band Chic, I could have called it. Or Drum Major Faux-Pas about the Don'ts of marching band fashion.

But I do now have two examples of how insanely stupid magazine features are. So now I'm doing a trend piece of my own.

A guy at Slate -- brace yourselves, I'm about to approvingly cite Slate, and suggest you read something on that amateur webzine -- has gone through a bunch of alleged and very dubious "trends" he read about in the New York Times. He kind of suspects the writers are just making stuff up to pay their rent (my words, his implication).

So he went out, Joe Queenan style*, and tried to jump on seven of these trends.

I sort of think that this writer, who's exposing the made-up-edness of magazine "trend" pieces, is himself making stuff up about his exploits in following trends; I would guess he did none of the things he writes about. But I guess that's just a bigger meta commentary about the central falsity of this genre. Or something.

Point is, it's it's pretty funny and it goofs on the New York Times and media vapidness and dishonesty as a general matter.

“Americans Are Barmy Over Britishisms” [linking NYT article with that title]: "What's up?" "You the man." "Take it easy." I use these slang phrases all the time, which is one of the top five reasons I've never been invited back to the Yale Club. According to the Times, British slang is the only slang that a trendy American ought to use: “Snippets of British vernacular—‘cheers’ as a thank you, ‘brilliant’ as an affirmative, ‘loo’ as a bathroom—that were until recently as rare as steak and kidney pie on these shores are cropping up in the daily speech of Americans (particularly, New Yorkers) of the taste-making set who often have no more direct tie to Britain than an affinity for Downton Abbey,” the NYT’s Alex Williams writes.

I was in England earlier this year, and though I spent most of my time being jetlagged and avoiding their hideous breakfasts, I did pick up some slang—words like lorry, as in "I would rather be hit by a lorry than eat another English breakfast." So I figured this would be easy. I boned up on my Britishisms by rereading Brideshead Revisited and consulting the Wikipedia entry on British slang. When Hurricane Sandy knocked out the electricity, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. "Well, this is all to cock!" I cried.

"Your cock?" my wife said.

"No, no, it's all to cock!"

"Alter cock?"

"It's. All. To. Cock!" I said again, gesturing emphatically.

"I don't get it," she said.

My friend Dan came downstairs, looking particularly pleased with himself. "Well, you're a regular Jack the Lad," I informed him.

"What?"

"You're no Joe Soap, sir. You're Jack the Lad!"

Dan paused. “Greaat …” he said.

"Numpty," I said under my breath. “What’s a numpty?” my wife asked. “That’s exactly the sort of thing a numpty woud say,” I snapped.

Later, in need of some light, I resolved to hammer a candle into an empty Coke can to make an impromptu candleabra. But I needed the right tools. "Do we have a Birmingham screwdriver?" I asked. My wife paused before answering: "Well, I'm sure there are some tools around here."

"Yes, but do we have a Birmingham screwdriver?"

"I don't know how to answer your weird question!" she wailed.

I had discovered one of the main problems with being trendy: If you don’t hang out with other trendy people, then what’s the use?

Worth a read, I think.

* Two of Joe Queenan's best known articles contain this schtick. In one, he attempted the various cons and ploys he sees in movies, where they work, in real life, where it turns out they don't. In another, he attempted to Live a Day as Mickey Rourke, dressing as Mickey Rourke, drinking hard like Mickey Rourke, trying to have casual sex like Mickey Rourke, chainsmoking like Mickey Rourke, and speaking almost entirely in movie lines once uttered by John Stamos.

No, uttered by Mickey Rourke. Got bored of writing the name there, thought I'd change it up.

But sometimes you gotta just roll the potato.


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posted by Ace at 06:21 PM

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