I can’t count how many times I’ve had the following conversation with my 20-somethings friends:
“So I learned recently that there is a connection between [type of exercise or diet] and [health concern I didn't use to worry about but now worry about a lot].”
“Oh, yeah, I read about that too.”
“New York Times health blog?”
The New York Times is pretty much my only source for health news (except the occasional random Wired article). Thanks to the NYT, I feel better about drinking coffee, feel guilty that I don’t do more crosswords, aspire to do more interval training, and carry the burdensome suspicion that there are 1,000 things I need to do to prevent my joints from collapsing and my attention span and memory from going to shit, and I’m only doing 4 of them.
It looks sinister if you stare at it long enough.
Which leads me to this realization:
If the New York Times wanted to kill thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of middle and upper-middle class people between the ages of 22 and 42, they totally could. All they’d need to do is slip the deadly advice into their health articles.
I recently read a NYTimes article recounting Herman Cain’s recent mystifying comments about Obama’s handling of Libya. The following part caught my eye:
J. D. Gordon, Mr. Cain’s spokesman and national security adviser, said the candidate had not been at his sharpest in Milwaukee because of a lack of sleep amid a long day of traveling.
“We were all going on four hours sleep, so he was tired,” Mr. Gordon said in a telephone interview. “When he got the Libya question, it took him a while to get his bearings on it, but he got the answer right.”
The Yankees should sign Mr. Gordon as a pitcher, for how much desperate spin he can generate. But that aside, I find this refreshing. The reality television show that is the GOP Presidential Nominee race may actually be lurching our nation, in a roundabout fashion, towards a more reasonable expectation of our national political figures.
From what I can tell, Cain and Rick Perry have committed so many mystifying public gaffes and startling changes of direction that they are starting to own them. Rather than apologize, they dismiss their behavior as inconsequential to their qualifications for the Presidency. This tactic is parroted by their campaigns and their media cheerleaders.
This forces their critics to hone in on what we should be talking about, which is the merits of their ideas and other ways to measure qualifications. In races past, a candidate’s ability to be consistent seemed to matter as much, or more, than his underlying qualifications to do the job. In races past, candidates were usually too afraid to admit they had ever been wrong about anything. In order to be President, you had to be a granite pillar of immutably correct opinions. As Stephen Colbert put it, George W. Bush believed on Wednesday what he believed on Monday, no matter what happened on Tuesday.
Cain and Perry are blowing these benchmarks out of the water. The harder conservatives rub their eyes and try to see someone besides Mitt Romney as a viable president, the farther they go to absolve clowns like Perry and Cain of their gaffes and reversals. Which in turn drops both gaffe-making, and previously advocating for positions now deemed to be incorrect (known outside the Beltway as “admitting your mistakes”), down the list of hazardous materials to a candidacy. What rises up the list may be (oh god please may it be) the merits of one’s ideas.
19,045 followers are busy at 4 pm
(Click for bigger view, if you want to be briefly bored).
Really? Hasn’t that tweet just given me all the information I could possibly glean from this story?
I guess it must be a real slow news day. Quick, an on-the-spot, top-5 list of things that might have happened Monday morning to push this story off the NBC programming schedule:
- Three dogs fell down a sewer and were saved.
- Really great lunch special being offered somewhere delicious in Philadelphia.
- President Obama said anything.
- Roy Halladay said something resembling an opinion on something other than pitching.
- The NBC Philadelphia Twitter guy overheard a sentence in the elevator that was kind of funny out of context.
This Philly.com article caught my attention for the peculiar way in which it began:
A teenager found his grandparents just where he might expect to find them yesterday on a balmy, summer morning – grandma was in the kitchen and grandpa in the shed, according to police.
But the state in which he found them is something no one should ever have to see.
He found both dead of gunshot wounds to the head in what police said was a murder-suicide.
This, of course, made me think of other ways that one could creatively or luridly write lead-ins to ordinary news stories. Perhaps:
Tom Hinkshaw returned from lunch around 2:30 pm Thursday afternoon, much like he had every day that week. His tongue sought out remaining particles of his reuben sandwich still caught in his molars. He said hello to Diana, his secretary, who returned his greeting and reminded him of an afternoon meeting he had scheduled at 4:00 pm.
Tom sat down at his desk, glanced at his computer screen, and his jaw went slack.
“Diana,” he said softly, “cancel that meeting.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 230 points Thursday in reaction to weaker-than-expecting job reports…
I see this as applicable to every section of a newspaper.
If you don’t know the activist wasn’t a doctor, this headline and lede seem a little unsettling:
From today at 3:00 pm
With a nod and a smug smile, I point out that The Onion and I have made the same joke. Back on November 16th, I wrote about Republicans trying to repeal Obama’s fantasy football victory. Today, from The Onion: Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth. Solid piece, quite funny, but it’s the same joke, fellas. Maybe include a little more research time in the ol’ production schedule, mmmkay? Google search ”republicans+to+repeal+obama+fantasy+football” and there is my piece, first result. Hard to miss, really. One ounce of diligence can save one pound of embarrassment, guys.
But it’s cool, The Onion. We’re on the same side here. Screw those obstructionist dirtbags.
The Nazis are the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood action movies, but they were a pox on American political conversation in 2010. I don’t know if there are awards given for rhetorical devices, but maybe Hitler and the Nazis should have accepted one for 2010.
On this subject:
I’ve long felt that the Daily Show’s ability to find obscure video clips containing very specific details or references is just short of magical. Hell, it is magical. Anyhow, Jon Stewart recently paid his staff tribute while simultaneously pointing out, yet again, that FoxNews is a morally-and rhetorically-bankrupt rage dispensary. It’s beautiful viewing.
In case you’re not familiar with this great law, Godwin’s Law is a wonderful internet-age adage worth familiarizing yourself with. I love that message boards have been around long enough to generate such hilarious and depressing observations on human behavior and discourse.
This XKCD comic is where I first learned about Godwin's Law
I’m not a fan of celebrity media. In fact, I kind of loathe celebrity/pop culture magazines. It’s “reading” in the same way that Twinkies are “food.” However, I was pleased to read a NYTimes article about a website I had never heard of, JustJared.com, which is apparently the nice guy among celebrity news blogs. Its founder, 28-year old Jared Eng, passionately and obsessively blogs about celebrity news, but does so without the negative, bring-down-the-famous bent of most paparazzi-fed outlets. In return, he’s been embraced by celebrities, who are happy to talk to him and give him tidbits which in turn feed his site’s popularity and impressive ad revenue.
Here’s the Times article, published January 19th, about the site and Mr. Eng.
Celebrity news is empty reading calories, but I’m glad to see there is a popular site out there that doesn’t traffic in negativity and scandal. Always nice to see friendliness and positivity gain traction in an atmosphere dominated by hostility.