Thursday, October 09, 2008

All the News that's Fit to Print

According to Chris “Long Tail” Anderson, Christopher Hitchens wrote in his Letters to a Young Contrarian that he “checks his vital signs by grabbing the front page of the New York Times."

Always sweet and irascible, Hitchens notes, “All the News that’s Fit to Print,’ it says. It’s been saying that for decades, day in and day out. I imagine that most readers of the canonical sheet have long ceased to notice the bannered and flaunted symbol of its mental furniture."

In fact "All the News that's Fit to Print" has been the slogan since some time around the Civil War, which is even more damning, and a lot of folks are keenly aware of the slogan since the paper's an American icon but anyway...

Hitchens goes on, "...I myself check every day to make sure that it still irritates me. If I can still exclaim, under my breath, why do they insult me and what do they take me for and what the hell is it supposed to mean unless it’s as obviously complacent and conceited and censorious as it seems to be, then at least I know I still have a pulse.”

Now, I felt the same in the months/years immediately following 9/11, especially the one morning when a lead column started, "According to the administration...” and the article to follow was about the status of world affairs…. (what administration?! The Bush administration?!).

All that is to say that today my NY Times' HOME section -- that usually is a paean to Martha Stewart and excess -- was today something of a wake up call.

Oh, sure. Hitchens is right, but today I was struck by the NY Times' choice of stories in its titled HOME section. The headlines and images are as follows:

Move Up? Move Out? Families Squeeze In

“Although the poor are most often associated with crowded living conditions, upper-middle-class professionals like Dr. Shaw and Ms. Avery are increasingly choosing to live in a small apartment in Manhattan because they cannot afford to upgrade to a two-bedroom and they do not want to move to the suburbs.”

MASTER ILLUSIONISTS Dina Weiss and Jason Severs have given up the bedroom in their Lower East Side home to their children, Matilda and Sam, to share. Now, they sleep in a former closet.

MAKING IT HOME by Leslie Kaufman

Can the design of a home improve the lives of severely wounded veterans and their families?

And lastly a domestic profile of the Oklahoma City home ofMaestro of the Apocalypse Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips.

The areas surrounding his house are described as "...vacant lots on either side of the main house [that] belong to him as well. In Flaming Lips circles, the ever-expanding property is known simply as the compound."

“It’s our firewall,” Mr. Coyne said, standing under a pecan tree in the fenced-in courtyard surrounded by the houses. “It staves off the crack dealers.”

We are cramped, wounded and crazy in America right now. And apparently, now it's fit to print.


Tom said...

For the past few years, I've been reading the HOME and REAL ESTATE sections of the NYT as fantasy slash satire.

In all seriousness, the story about Homes for Our Troops was a nice shift from the ostentation and shameless exhibitionism that normally fills those pages. It's newsworthy (and truly fit to print) because there are more than 30,000 injured veterans from the war in Iraq.

James G. Leventhal said...

I hope you see that we do agree.

That was the point of my post exactly. I was not kidding at all in what I posted.

I was quite struck at how the three articles reflected a current moment in America -- like an unexpected prose poem of sorts -- of middle-class cramped-ness; great, horrible and wide-spread injury; and a truly wonderful, visionary composer who has written so extremely eloquently about inevitable demise.