Remember like 14 years ago? We were all so innocent then. A new President Bush had just discovered secret proof that we were about to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. A new housing market was revitalizing American cities by adding value to what people owned already. A new kind of publication, the blog, invigorated public discourse with its jaunty tone and periodic slander. Everything seemed fresh and exciting, which is weird, because 2003 is actually old. There’s just no way to argue that it’s still happening now. Yet one cannot ignore the feeling that we remain mired in the last decade: fighting the same wars, smugly denouncing a president who could only appeal to idiots, and putting skulls on everything. Today is Friday, and everything old is not so much new again as stubbornly still here. Won’t you survey the leftovers with me?
The President of the United States does not like to read. Back in July, Donald Trump told the Washington Post he didn’t have time to read books. “I never have,” he said. “I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” According to that story, he mostly reads newspaper and magazine articles about himself. It’s hard to grudge him that, since if I were president I would probably either resolve to read absolutely no such coverage or wind up poring over it all the time. But it also seems like Trump is watching a lot of television. Two weeks ago, Maggie Haberman reported that the president gets up at 6am and watches TV until his first meeting at nine. In an alternately fascinating and terrifying behind-the-scenes story this weekend, she and Glenn Thrush found him retiring to the residence around 6:30 each evening to watch TV, tweet, and talk on the phone. If he goes to sleep at 10pm, that’s another three hours of television every night. I sympathize with his complaint that he is too busy for books, but the president appears to be spending 30 hours a week in front of the TV. Even if he only read ten pages an hour, he could use that time to knock off a novel, or at least something by Malcolm Gladwell.
I take issue with Emilie Friedlander’s claim that Kim’s was the snobbiest record store in New York City; that title belongs to Other Music, whose microfine genre shelving distinguished, for example, “trance” from “dream.” But Kim’s was cool, and its employees liked bands and movies that you did not know about. Paradoxically, that made them cool to those of us who prided ourselves on not liking what other people liked. The defining feature of popular culture was that everybody knew about it, and popularity correlated inversely with quality—in tastes, at least, if not in individual works. Except now, thanks to the internet, everybody knows about everything.