Triumph of the Tabloids

While operations at tabloids have gotten more frantic and data-driven, a lot of their routines are not news to me and I remember how they were a source of astonishment and mild amusement. Headlines could offer timeless example of wiseass/jackass brilliance. And on occasion deathless pop-Surrealism. The astonishment came from the fact that the tabloids relied on impulse purchases at checkout counters. Having one of these printed cooties around the house was beyond my comprehension. And it has got to mean an aging audience these days.

But with a tyrant in charge, the tabloids are enjoying a power grab that no halfway normal person could imagine, let alone desire.

Print Without a Point

By accident, have received the local big paper on Sunday for two weeks now. Key point for me is that The Boston Globe Magazine that I was so proud to write for about Gen. Nelson A. Miles, the UFO phenomenon, the Roches, etc. was … a different publication … than the current edition. Noting it would have no interest in such articles now doesn’t even begin to touch on the transformation.

Guess I could get closer by saying that the Sunday funnies — bloodless skins hanging from tree limbs for the most part — seem to be doing a bit better job at surviving.

Journalism/Criticism/Literature Bucket List Check-Off

My first published review was of Tom Robbins’s debut novel, Another Roadside Attraction. I am proud to say I got it pretty much right, claimed the guy would become wildly popular and have a flashy career.

So when I read that Robbins stated he found his voice when he wrote a 1967 review of a Doors concert for the alternative paper in Seattle, I had to track it down and read it. I mean, a favorite part of my career was spent doing the exact same sort of piece for the exact same sort of outlet!

So this afternoon there it was, in Wild Ducks Flying Backward: The Short Writings of Tom Robbins.

Yes, that would be doors. But, my God, what doors are these? Imagine jewel glass panels, knobs that resemble spitting phalluses, mail slots that glow like jack-o’-lantern lips — and not a welcome mat in sight. Enter if you dare, my children, exit if you can.

The Doors. Their style is early cunnilingual, late patricidal, lunchtime in the Everglades, Black Forest blood sausage on electrified bread, Jean Genet up a totem pole, artists at the barricades, Edgar Allen Poe drowning in his birdbath, Massacre of the Innocents, tarantella of the satyrs, bacchanalian, Dionysian, LA pagans drawing down the moon.

That’s that voice, alrighty.

I like to dream that, had I been Music Editor at the Helix in ’67, I would have had the insight to run that as is — evocative, funny, worthy of Jimbo and the Boys.

My Fondest Memory of CNN

I got the flash when everybody else did — the Gulf War start in 1991. Sure, CNN had been around in the ’80s, but whenever I tuned in, it suggested a dozy news-radio station. The quality of the reporting and the vitality of the channel as a whole went way up.

How the exciting have fallen.

Cable news is rightly damned for their ruinous decline into reporting as entertainment click-bait shouting match. All I will say — and its not really a defense — is that the basics of what CNN used to do best would now be available on everybody’s smart phone.

 

The NY Times’ Freaky Fixation on the Clintons

Charlie provides an invaluable reminder of the weirdest case of journalistic fixation I can think of. Welcome note of what a rodent William Saffire was, too. I though he might be the last of a dying McCarthyite breed, but nooooooo.

The broadest explanation I’ve run across is a regional/cultural disdain that grows ever more repulsive: who do these Arkansas lumps — her with the fumpy dresses, him with the fast-food and shades and saxophone — think they are trying to run a country that’s crowned by Manhattan? They’re too seedy to not be guilty of something. And we’ll find out what that is if it takes 50 years and we have to make it all up.

Yech.

R.I.P.: Robert B. Silvers

The New York Review of Books and the Village Voice were the bookends of my literary fantasies about New York and the East Coast in general, back when I had never been out here. Brainy/wild — lively/civilized … they could make you feel less lonely out in the thickets and ranges. One aspect I most admired about NY Review is that it was thorough.