The problem with reporting on pop culture is that you’re really only reporting on your personal pop culture experience. If you see, for example, an article in New York Magazine about the new chick-lit book Brooklyn Girls,* you are forced to decide whether the “Brooklyn girl” is a real trend or just something Yael Kohen used to pitch a feature to her editor. This question is impossible to answer. Presumably there is a set number of people out there who are familiar with the concept of the Brooklyn girl and believe it describes real humans, but that number is unknowable. The trend writer is therefore forced to either risk reporting a specious trend as actual, a la the New York Times, or to present the new trend as a fake trend, ironically undercutting it even as she perpetuates it. Guess which option Jezebel chose?
Because I am very old, I read the New York Times in order to keep up with various social trends. It’s a little like reading Madeleine L’Engle to keep up with developments in contemporary physics: one encounters compelling stories, if not reports of, you know, this world. Tuesday, the Times turned the tables on its old adversary reality with this article about icing, which suggests that the trend—of which actual evidence exists, for once—may itself be artificial. It’s a Times trend piece in reverse: the people doing it believe in it, and the newspaper thinks it’s made up. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The reader not wearing flip flops and a khaki visor may ask, what is icing? To which I reply: take a knee, bro.
Cheapshots (and Beer,) arguably the best bar in New York—and all subjects become increasingly arguable the longer you stay in there—has been closed by order of the city for “illegal activities.” According to Allison L Arenson, the attorney prosecuting the case, “The community has severely suffered, and continues to suffer, as a result of the illegal activities…interfering with the health, safety and well being of those who live, work and visit in the surrounding neighborhood.” I don’t want to be unnecessarily negative, here, but there is no way we’re going to win this one. The attorney for the plaintiffs obviously has a made-up name, and chances are Cheapshots will never see trial. It’s just going to wake up in a basement somewhere and see Bernard Kerik with a car battery and three feet of lamp cord and confess to everything.
He’s been wrong before, but when David Brooks says you’re a nationwide movement, you’re either Soccer Moms in the 2004 general election or a real thing. In Monday’s New York Times, Brooks alleges that the Tea Party movement is the latter. After opening with his usual overview of the prevailing sociopolitical winds for the last thirty to 100 years, he gets to the money shot. “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year,” he writes. For the moment, Brooks has declined to enumerate which instruments he uses to measure the popularity of ideas, but he at least sounds right. “The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise,” he says. “The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.” Those committed to responsible argument will object to Brooks’s questionable use of the word so, which makes his theory the cause of his evidence, but as and statements his list still draws an unsettling connection. When Brooks points out that the Tea Partiers are defined by what they are against, and that most of what they are against can be grouped under “the concentrated power of the educated class,” he introduces a framework as useful as it is terrifying.
It’s Friday, November 20th, and it is on such crisp, bright autumn days that our nation should pull on its jodhpurs, bundle itself in its most worsted wool, hike to the crest of the nearest hilly meadow and take a long, hard look at what pussies we’ve become. Mammograms, books, movies about vampires, books by vampires—one look at the news of the day tells us that the whole country is beset by dandyism. If we’re not debasing ourselves with effeminate pursuits like reading and getting cancer screenings, we’re shrieking in outrage at the latest public perfidy and then doing absolutely nothing about it. Ours is an era in which scoundrels run roughshod, and the righteous must content themselves with their indignation. Some might call it a more civilized society, but I—having left my mountain fortress for temporary lodgings in the comparatively urban Castle Faswell, where I am dogsitting—know that the company of strangers is not an obligation to be borne, but an opportunity to be seized. Strangers are morons, as all polls and YouTube comments sections indicate, and they must be corrected. What does Stringer Bell Faswell, excitable labrador, do when he is confronted with a stranger? He leaps into the air and licks him on the inside of his gaping mouth, or bites him on the ear, depending on the quality of his character. No dandy Stringer Bell, and the rest of us fops might take a lesson from him. When a fat morning radio DJ who has found Jesus and therefore gets to be on television gibbers lies from his greasy lips, must we simply press our handkerchiefs to our mouths and swoon? Or can we draw our rapiers, which we presumably have in this analogy although the time period is kind of fuzzy, and challenge him? The truth is in fashion no matter how ruffly our shirts, and I, for one, demand satisfaction. In the meantime, though, I guess I’ll just keep doing the blog.