Sunday, April 03, 2005

Clubbing with the New York Times

"Honey, I was punny tonight!" You think any of the headline writers at the Times ever drag themselves home and greet their spouses that way?

Reading William J. Broad's front page story about the dangers of aging nuclear warheads (specifically W-76) you find something a little deeper than the punny headline "Aging Warheads Ignite a Debate Among Scientists." [That's the print headline, online users get the more substance based "A Fierce Debate on Atom Bombs From Cold War."] Just tossing that thought out there as something to consider while your friend drags you from one club to another.

Moving on. You realize you've hit the frou-frou, chi-chi, upscale club scene as you hear Somini Sengupta work in the word "ennui" while doing a poor job of concealing a self-satisfied smirk. (The headline writer merely apes her lead with "Fear, Ennui and Doubt Underlie Calm in Nepal's Capital").

Sengupta, baby, stick to the art galleries when trying to score with impressive vocab, okay? Striving for tome poem, but coming off like fourth rate Cole Porter ["Come to the Supermarket (In Old Peking)"], Sengupta offers such passages as:

On a recent Sunday afternoon,
as the market women sat on their haunches hawking cabbages,
and the riot police milled about with eyes darting this way and that,
Nepalis revolting against their king's emergency rule decree
straggled up the narrow alleys in ones and twos.

Walk on. Walk Note the poster art as you're dragged to the next club while you give it up to Angela Jimenez and whomever decided her photo was just the thing to accompany Andrew Jacobs' "AIDS Fighters Face a Resistant Form of Apathy." Apathy. AIDS. Even more deadly new strain.

Does it bring to mind two bodies pressed tightly against one another? Does your mind conjure a framed crotch shot in some sort of hommage to the Rolling Stones album cover Sticky Fingers? Well in the minds of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" Angela Jimenez and the editor/s it conjures up exactly that. Like drunken revelers at karaoke night doing the stiff-neck-head-jerk while singing/slurring "She like to par-tay all the time," I doubt either Jiminez or the editor/s realize how much they've embarrassed themselves. Flee the club quickly before you're tainted by association.

En route to the next club, remember that Jacobs didn't help his own case for being taken seriously, in this non-economic theory article, by referring to a "laissez-faire attitude" towards safe sex. Snort, "He should talk!" While Keesha notes that "The picture and the article combine to scream out the apparent new attitude: 'Step, you muthers! Grey Lady be letting her hair down!'"

Not content to merely toss a new weave, Jacobs also gave his props to fellow peeps such as
the Anne Robinson wanna' be & look alike Ed Needham who, while nearly destroying Rolling Stone magazine in his brief tenure as editor, still managed to create one "trend story:" "bug chasers." Damned if Andy Jacobs don't give it up for his peep Eddie Need-HAM with a shout out to the questionable and undocumented "bug chasers." (But could it have really been a "trend story" if it was based on heavy documentation or if, in fact, it hadn't been questioned by sources quoted in print just as hit the streets?) Can I get a uh-huh?

Standing in line at the hot new 'in spot,' note the Times' apparent "New Attitude" (Keesha says "the whole thing simply screams of Patti LaBelle's eighties hit") with the in-your-face title of Peter Applebome's "A Meditation on Taxes, and Bad Karma." Full of insta-classics like this sentence striving to be a riddle but far less amusing than Peter's own last name:

So if the question is: What's the sound of one hand flipping land? The answer here is: the howls of local residents fed up with seeing more land taken off the tax rolls.

Destined to be the boy forever left on the wrong side of the bouncer, pithy observations like that ensure Applebome will always remain roped off from the club looking in. But toss him a sympathetic glance as you step into the club -- today's decidedly post-teen, aspiring eggheads may be tomorrow's clock tower snipers so you never know when you might need a little mercy.

Continuing in the "all the news that fit to toss around while you try to close a booty call," you register Hassan M. Fattah strutting off the dance floor, reeking of Jovan, while approaching the bar to toss out "Limits Set for Boy Jockeys in Emirates' Camel Races." Fattah's spent almost as much time shaping this anecdote as grooming the hair.

Feel like the odd one out stuck at the table with two losers as Scott Shane and David E. Sanger state the obvious -- repeatedly -- in "Daily Intelligence Briefings Are Vague, Officials Say." Try to catch the eye of the friend you came with to signal that you're leaving before Shane and Sanger move from verses of "Love is like, you know, it's . . . hard, man, it's really tough, but it's like this, this thing I saw on the Discovery channel about the life cycle of the fruit fly . . ." and break into choruses of, "Dude, you gave her everything!" and "I tried to, man, I really tried to!"

Failing to catch your friend's eye, scream at Shane and Sanger, "Cut this male bonding crap and get a room!" Then try to escape to the safety of the bathroom only to be stopped enroute by
the dreary duo of Jim Yardley and David Barboza who open with:

The pipeline that pours young, eager workers into China's manufacturing juggernaut begins in the country's interior at vocational schools like Hunan Top Software.
[. . .]
For Wu Dongshan, the job placement coordinator at Hunan Top, the most obvious sign of change is that factory recruiters now come to him, a reversal from three years ago, when he would make the long drive to Guangdong with busloads of students desperate for work.

"Punchline, please!" you hiss, while wondering if you're some sort of asshole magnet? Pressing their grinning faces too close your own, Yardley and Barboza leer, "Help Wanted: China Finds Itself With a Labor Shortage." Roll your eyes as they high-five and head butt.

Finally making it to the shelter of the bathroom, you quickly find yourself confronted by little Associated Press, hopped up on God knows what, chattering away, using lots of words but saying very little in "Schiavo's Remains Cremated as Autopsy Becomes Part of Feud." Reassure Ass Press, for the fourth time, that those jeans do wonders for the butt, silently curse your friend for dragging you along and get the hell out of there before Ass Press's eyes start tearing up again.

Hail a cab, and half-way home, realize that cabbie Kate Zernike's yammering on in some value-void, fact-void manner that's possibly worse than anything you heard inside the club:

Across the country, efforts to expand or establish laws allowing concealed handguns have been fueled by the horrifying shootings in the last month - of the family of a federal judge in Chicago, at the church service in Wisconsin, at courthouses in Atlanta and Tyler, Tex., and the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota.

Interrupt her spiel on "Shootings Fuel a Drive to Ease Gun Laws" with, "Yeah, that's what we need, a country of armed vigilantes! Can you just drive? Thank you."

While your eyes water and burn, the morning sun creeps across the sky. Turn the key, open the door and crawl into bed. But as you do, say a prayer for poor Craig S. Smith.

After a week long, mad party spree, full of coverage of the wild and wacky Kyrgyzstan's non-revolution, he wakes with a killer club hangover to announce a "malaise" (whether he's a club child of the late 70s or just a current club child nostalgic for the Studio 54 NYC failed to provide his generation with I don't know) has settled "over this country" and apparently around his temples. In "Kygrystan's Shining Hour Ticks Away and Turns Out to Be a Plain, Old Coup" he announces, possibly between hurls into the toilet bowl, that "we all got it wrong!" That's more than last night's booze he's tasting, it's also the jagged edges of his (and the press corps) tattered image having bungled coverage of the third "revolution" this year. So say a prayer, say a prayer.

The Five Stairsteps told us:

Ooh Child, things are going to get easier
Ooh Child, things'll be brighter
Ooh Child, things are going to get easier
Ooh Child, things'll be brighter
Some day we'll get it together and we'll get it undone
Some day when the world is much brighter
Some day we'll walk in the rays of the beautiful sun
Some day when the world is much lighter

Leafing through this morning's New York Times, one can only hope.

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[Words & music to "O-O-H Child" by Stan Vincent. I used the Nina Simone version, available on the album Here Comes the Sun (1971), for the lyrics above. On The First Family of Soul: The Best of the Five Stairsteps and on Laura Nyro's Spread Your Wings and Fly: Live at the Fillmore East May 30,1971 the song is listed as "O-o-h Child."]

[Note: Post corrected and "tightened up." Thanks Rob. And to correct Scott Shane's last name which was wrongly listed, by me, as "Shange" in the third mention.]