REVIEW: NEW YORK TIMES

Delivered to the house was the magazine WIRED (March 2017). I’ve perused it and have comments.

On the cover is a photograph of A.G. Sulzberger, editor/publisher/owner of the New York Times. He appears to be middle age, is bald, mediocre posture of an undead person, and wearing dark clothes he is ready to conduct funerals. It looks very Nineteenth Century – pose, distant vision, presentation of person, but that’s it. None of that works today, 2017.

Inside Sulzberger says that everyone appear and be normal human beings. Nothing about Sulzberger suggests he is a homo sapiens sapiens. He looks like an android sent from another planet to scout out prospects on earth. He is less threatening than Arnold Schwarzenegger, but looks built by the same machine-owned firm that put Arnold together for those movies. Trying to soften Sulzberger’s image, they have him wearing eye glasses, circa 1935 frames.

There are many problems with the New York Times, the most basic ones are not identified in the article. Indeed, one paragraph in the article presents New York Times’ major flaws:

Four books after the election, Times chief executive Mark Thompson
told an industry conference that subscriptions had surged at 10 times
their usual rate. To Thompson, the likeliest explanation wasn’t that
the times did a bang-up job covering the final days of the election –
like everyone else, they failed to anticipate Trump’s victory – that that
readers were looking to hedge against fake news. He suggests a simpler
reason: “I think the public anxiety to actually have professional,
consistent, properly funded newsrooms holding politicians to account
is probably bigger than all of the other factors put together.” In other
words, the president’s hostility to the press and the very notion of facts
themselves seems to have reminded people that nothing about The New
York Times – or the kind of journalism it publishes – is inevitable.

This passage, page 53, like most most journalistic writing is overwrought. 1) It can be cut: ELIMINATE “In other words” and everything after it. 2) Another explanation (third line) is most likely: Democrats and anti-Trump persons believed they missed something, which The New York Times picked up. They ended subscriptions to other newspapers and started up with the gorilla on the block. 3) The admitted failure of The Times and everyone else to predict a Trump victory suggests a grave issue. The Times was believing its own press, it’s own sources, all its fans, it’s own wave. 4) Journalists are supposed to talk to the other side, which many people, Left or Right, have difficulty doing. One wonders if The Times talks to people on the right, or if their reporters have shut their mouths now that new immigration policies are being put into effect. Polls suggest those are popular measures among Americans. [Remember, don’t conduct any penetrating political polling in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania before the election.]

Other than who is being talked to and reported, what are the facts – misstatements, misconceptions, pure truth. No knows what that is sitting in New York City wondering about an Internet site at the New York Times offices. [This segment is greatly shortened.] All journalism comes from excellent writing, and that is where the Internet and word processing becomes a hinderance. Everything is spelled correctly; words appear to be in the proper order. There are too many words – say eight words where two will do. The Internet has space to waste, not the usual newspaper adage. All those reporters who grew up and got an “A” in eighth grade English, have pyramided that excellence into a newspaper career. They’re still writing at middle-school levels, with the juvenile, horrifying reactions to the unusual, the absurd and the foreign.

Every immaterial, irrelevant reaction part of perceived fad-culture is presented in an article. That is not journalism. What may be journalism is the fact that people believe such temporary moments as important, where as in the long haul, they are not. Newspapers hire journalists for their perspective, but most journalists hooked onto the Internet truly believe in these cultural misunderstandings – it might be 5,000 people without tickets to a concert and they are disappointed. Time to riot. Let’s feel sorry for them? [Is the story about the 5,000 standing around outside waiting for the concert to end? What else is on their mind? Is this the best thing any of the 5,000 can do with time?]

Are journalists trained and do they understand everything? The easiest thing to do is hand them a straightforward story, and learn how many cliches are included in the proffered article. The more cliches, the less understanding.

Keep reporters away from the two-pager in Wired. How to grow your own pot. That will kill initiative, except to cultivate and smoke, and wither away brain cells the user never knew were present. It’s not called dope for nothing.

This final most significant point in the Wired New York Times article suggests doom for the newspaper. It’s not that the Ploughkeepsie Times is stealing advertising dollars. It is not competition from the ankle bitters like the Huffington Post take a few bucks. The big player in the room came in a few years ago, new to newspapers but forever familiar with the internet. Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought The Washington Post, lock, stock and barrel, and likely The Post does not have the Internet issues complicating life at the NY Times. Instead, Bezos must only work to cultivate writing and writers, the most important part of any newspaper. If the Internet is presenting a new way at looking at the world (needs color, illustrations, pictures, cartoons), do it! Recognize newspapers are competing against the Super Bowl, World Series, the Best Voice, Great Dancer shows, Wiccan Conventions and every musician to touch a fiddle.

TO MIKE BLOOMBERG

Dear Mike Bloomberg,

This open letter to Mike Bloomberg was necessitated by the recipient having no email and no mailing address. I did not want to make my thoughts public, but here they are.

I write regarding your Television Network which I see in Los Angeles on Charter. Overall and generally your financial reporting is better than found on CNBC and Fox, although not measurably and consistently. I do change channels. Overall, the Bloomberg female reporters are excellent or improving. Bloomberg men seem lazy except the guy with the bow-tie.

In the morning your British crew comes aboard, and some do not speak this language in a “genteel” fashion. They come from Lisen Grove; they could not work in a London flower shop. That has been the touchstone for hiring Britons for 110 years, since George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion.

There are hints of babooism in their field of expertise, television journalism. One frequently calls the 9:30 a.m. open, the “cash open.” How quaint. It might be colloquial. Do you really think no money changes hands on trades before 9:30 a.m.? Occasionally, one of them will say, “Let me ask this question?” or “Do I have a question for you?” I hope all the problems of the world will be solved with the question and answer but never are. Finally, they like to preface questions with a paragraph or two of text to set up a question. This Bill O’Reilly journalism is not acceptable.

Another subject is Bloomberg Magazine TV Show. I suppose the program serves to advertise Business Week. Most of the teasers don’t work.

December 31, 2016. Article on the Chinese Ecological Destruction in the South China Sea when they build their military bases. The reporter came on. The hosts and reporters yuked it up about where the Spratley Islands are. I am reminded of a contemporary who looked at an outline of the Country of Vietnam, and she did not know what it represented or what it was. I mention her failing memory because Vietnam and the Sprately Islands are close to one another.

Same date, the hosts brought on an artist or someone from the art department to explain a puzzle or a game in the magazine. The reason these people excel in a visual medium is they have no facility with words. Like previous interviewees, this artist fellow could not explain much; he gestured toward the graphic. I don’t know if he was aided by any substances. The hosts smiled and laughed. They understood little or nothing except this weekly segment is the joking portion of the Business Week program.

There was a story about Apple. There have been few updates to the Mac hardware for a long while. The reporter looked like he had just left the joint after six months with Buba. He (and apparently the hosts and the article) did not answer the question: Are updates needed? It seems improbable that more than a decade ago people realized hardware did not need updating: Software could take that place. Hence, apps. Did that happen? What are the pitfalls? How is security? Is Apple successful or has it boxed itself in?

I mention the Apple story because Apple may have made a choice, after considering, evaluating judging and concluding. The Mac computer is an old system. Can it survive the way it is, just like can Business Week survive the way it is? The know-how to fix the magazine and its related TV program are well within the human experience. although few would know that today: Someone must demand excellent journalism.

I wish you well in your pursuit of excellence.

RADS, TOM BATES, 1993

This excellent book recounts anti-War and anti-establishment activities at the University of Wisconsin (`1965-1971), including the bombing of the Army-Math building on campus causing one death and five severe injuries. They used a fertilizer bomb costing less than $100.00 packed into an Econoline Van. It was a smaller version of the Oklahoma City bomb in 1995. Divisions of various academic subjects were destroyed including decades of work in physics, mathematics and in other disciplines unrelated to Army Math. Army Math which dealt with a bunch of transitory subjects was inconvenienced.

An amazing fact was the location of Army Math in a building on campus. There had been protests and riots, some close to the building. Yet, there was no security, except a guard with a time clock. The building was a convenient open target.

The individuals made unrelated events the basis for the bombing in August 1970. The individuals and friends were moronic; no one broke any IQ records. Within 24 hours of the bombing law enforcement had the names and identities of the four suspect. The FBI’s arrogant attitude screwed up immediate arrests which led to manhunts which brought three bombers to trial. It is postulated the fourth bomber was a police informant who either did or did not alert anyone about the bombing. Either decision he made plus the bombing of the building was a death sentence for the fourth bomber.

The three remaining bombers were pleasant, not threatening, socially capable and able to light a joint, take a suitable toke and graciously pass on the remainder before it became a roach. That may have been their most admirable social quality. Intellectually, they knew Castro was in Cuba, Che was bleeding somewhere, Ho had something to do with Vietnam, and Mao was good on Sandwiches. These sorts of persons were par for the course in leftist, youth, culture and riots. No one else in their right mind would suck in that much tear gas and pepper fog emissions.

For good reason the book lacks discussion of a theoretical basis for the bombing. Instead it presents a robotic quality of the trio. These people did not read, ponder, conceptualize, intellectualize theory and discuss it. They heard a cliché and but it into action. These bombers were incapable of doing otherwise. Many Leftists like to supply the theoretical basis which never existed. No one could ever explain why it was reasonable to get the little people, ants, greasers, women and stooges to act.

On a personal note the book returned me to attitudes I once had. Exchange glances with someone, and have a gut reaction: Do I trust that person? NO. I would not trust any of this trio, and certainly none of the leaders who preached hatred, violence and death.

There are reactions to facts in the book. Page 101, “police provocateurs” in Chicago were dressed in “Al Capone suits.” Page 239, meal of “vegetables and brown rice.” In Berkeley add bean sprouts and wonder why more of the boomer generation did not die of arsenic poisoning (the rice) and salmonella poisoning (bean sprouts). Page 220, First Earth Day in Berkeley was set [and upset] on April 22(23?) 1970, not April 18, 1970.

Page 138, Fred Hampton, Black Panther killed in Chicago, December 1969, “denounced the Weathermen as ‘anti-people.'” Hampton agreed with SI Hiwakawa who said, “I can talk to the Black militants; they want to get something done.” It was the white radicals were wanted to destroy everything.

Page 131. “Affinity groups.” In a riot five to seven people would move and act as a unit; they would care and look out for one another. Later in Rads the cops began using “anti-affinity” groups.

My first year at Berkeley I was surrounded by 30 days of street rioting. Occasionally I participated, but usually I was just passing through – going to and from class or appointments. I saw friends and acquaintances in the action. Carrying a book meant I was a non-participant. I have never heard of an “affinity group” until reading Rads.

Page 407. “The visitors reminded [Tom] Hayden of his previous support for Karl [one of the bombers], and for a moment he weakened. “Don’t worry, in public I’ll back Karl to the hilt. I can’t let Jane say anything though.” The “Hanoi Jane” label had become a drag on them both.”

This realization was known to Jane Fonda in the autumn of 1973. Six months before, [Spring 1973] she was in her pride and glory, being quoted about North Vietnamese treatment of American prisoners of war: “Walking through the streets of Hanoi with their heads bowed in front of a woman with a bayonet might be torture.” Daily Californian, April 12, 1973, p. 1; Berkeley Barb, April 10, 1973 for more Jane Fonda statements on the torture of American POWs. See also Holzer, Henry, Mark and Erica, Aid and Comfort: Jane Fonda in North Vietnam, McFarland & Co; Hayden, Reunion, p. 455, “Either Tom Hayden or Jane Fonda said about the time of the 1973 Peace Treaty, ‘the POWS were liars, hypocrites and pawns in Nixon’s efforts to rewrite history.'”
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ONE MAN’S MEAT IS NOBODY’S WRITING

ONE MAN’S MEAT, E.B. White

If the author sounds familiar, he authored Elements of Style. At a library sale I found this paperback book and put it into my dollar bag. Hence, the cost was perfect, $.03, plus inside the cover was a bonus, a note from girlfriend to boyfriend: “Dear Dayton [wonder if he races cars] – I enjoyed this very much this summer. White has a way with words! Merry Christmas! Love, Sally”

The book had been read once; there were pages turned down. I wonder if Sally did anything cheesy like give Dayton the copy she had read over the summer. She uses entirely too many exclamation points. If so, I don’t think he read it. I wonder if Sally and Dayton ever married. Probably not. The book was given after 1978. They would be in the late fifties now, and this book would be a keepsake. Divorced? Probably not. Dayton or Sally probably would have removed the note. It’s easy; it’s in there with scotch tape. Dayton had the book, never read it and this year gave it to the library.

Most of the book is properly written, but it is not well written. There is no sense the writer knows how to dramatize a point, an event or a description. He is a poor journalist. Of 304 pages about 30 are engaging and a few are excellent. The remainder is dull, a lot of the writing is about seed crops and animal husbandry (the animals have no names). Examples: 

1) “Removal” is about moving. White’s line should be, “I didn’t like the old mirror. Each time I looked at it, I appeared tired.” INSTEAD, White described his toils trying to rid himself of the mirror and ended the paragraphs with: “A few minutes later, after a quick trip back to the house, I slipped the mirror guiltily in a doorway, a bastard child with not even a note asking the finder to treat it kindly. I took a last look in it and I thought I looked tired.”

2) “Progress and Change,” an article about the El Sixth Street train removed circa 1938. White describes veterans and visitors’ reactions to the train coming into a station. EB mentions the suddenness of the training stopping, and the visitors always being unsettled. But EB does not write it: EB’s spotlight is on the New York City residents who feels superior because he does not wince, but he does not give enough facts to allow the reader to understand why wincing is not necessary.

3) White had very bad hay fever, throughout his life. He went to the New York World’s Fair in 1939 while suffering a bout of hay fever. He wrote, “When you can’t breathe through your nose, Tomorrow seems strangely like the day before yesterday.” Tomorrow is the theme of the fair, but “seems strangely” is a seemingly strange verb and adverb combo. White should complete the simile with a direct verb – “is”, “smells”, or since he’s a mouth breather that day, “tastes.” 

I’ve read most of George Orwell’s essays; they are impossible to remove from my memory. I will say EB White’s writing about totalitarianism is wrong and childish. He reveals he is absolutely ignorant, and poorly read and out of step with thinking and knowledge. Before his death in 1935 Will Rogers told America about Hitler, We’re going to have to watch this guy. ON THE OTHER HAND, White is engaged by The Wave of the Future, Anne Lindbergh, circa 1940. The Lindberghs were pro-Nazi until the United States had to declare war on Germany on December 10, 1941; they then shut up forever. The Lindberghs received medals from the Nazis; they overlooked Crystal Nacht; they disregarded reports of plunder and murder in recently German occupied countries in Europe. Nothing the Lindberghs wrote was worth reading, yet White devotes an article to Anne although is slightly uncomplimentary. In 1941, White gets around to reading Mein Kampf. 

The best article White has in at the beginning, “Removal,” and only part of it: (Written in 1938)

“…Radio has already given sound a wide currency, and sound “effects” are taking the place once enjoyed by sound itself. Television will enormously enlarge the eye’s range, and, like radio, will advertise the Elsewhere. Together with the tabs, the mags and the movies, it will insist that we forget the primary and the near in favor of the secondary and the remote. More hours in every twenty-four will be spent digesting ideas, sounds, images – distant and concocted. In sufficient accumulation, radio sounds and television sights may become more familiar to us than their originals. A door closing, heard over the air; a face contorted, seen in a panel of light – those will emerge as the real and the true; and when we bang the door of our own cell or look into another’s face the impression will be of mere artifice. I like to dwell on this quaint time, when the solid world becomes make-believe, McCarthy corporeal and Bergen stuffed, when all is reversed and we shall be like the insane, to whom the antics of the sane seem crazy twistings of a grig”

White is entirely correct that television has contributed to depersonalizing human society, and that it will allow broadcasters and governments to be and promote dishonesty: “…sights may become more familiar to us than their originals.” One would expect that human beings with less intelligence would have the most difficulty determining what is “the real and the true,” and what “will be of mere artifice.” HOWEVER, White himself {Ivy League, Eastern Establishment} amply demonstrates in One Man’s Meat that he is completely befuddled. He is dwelling “on this quaint time,” but neglecting to use his powers to examine it. 

White quotes excellent passages from Somerset Maugham, Summing Up, about the weaknesses and annoyances of the spoken word, but upon reading Mein Kampf, White writes and quotes in “Freedom,” 

“…it is not the written word but the spoken word, which in heated movements moves great masses of people to noble or ignoble action. The written word, unlike the spoken word, is something which every person examines privately and judges calmly by his own intellectual standards, not by what the stand standing next to him thinks, ‘I know,” wrote Hitler, ‘that one is able to win people far more by the spoken than the written word…’ Later he adds contemptuously, ‘For let it be said to all knights of the pen and to all the political dandies, especially of today: the greatest changes in this world have never yet been brought about by a goose quill. No, the pen has always been reserved to motivate these things theoretically.'” 

White properly reports what others have said about the spoken versus the written word, but where is the further analysis from the  Eastern Establishment, Ivy League great mind? White says of himself in the same article, “Luckily, I’m not out to change the world…” The best that could be said of White is he is lazy and vacuous. The worse justifiable conclusion is, White is intellectually dishonest. He complains about mass media changing human behavior and society, yet he is unable to cope with the confusion, so sticks his head in his salt water farm on the Maine coast.

 

 

LIFE AND FRIENDS

When Fat Man in the Middle Seat came out, I was interested. I liked Jack Germond. I saw him on TV, and he always tried to be honest. The viewer knew where his opinions were. A friend at the time (1999) said the book wasn’t very good. That friend, no longer, was not well read but politically oriented. He was and is living a life I really don’t understand. But a few weeks ago I found Fat Man in the Middle Seat at an estate sale and bought it.

It is of interest especially for persons engaged in medias and newspapers before then. There are human beings in this world destined to become newspaper people. The public doesn’t see them today because journalistic standards have changed for the worse. However, Jack Germond tells of these standards, of suggestions, of compromises, of agreements in form and now somewhat the lack of oversight by news organizations. Frequently, today there is no pretense to abide by journalistic standards – choose any cable TV news channel. The two thousand words from a reporter or an anchor will rearrange the one thousand words from a picture.

After Jack Germond got on TV, he had the following experiences,

“College students stopped me in airports and asked earnestly how I could stand being on the same panel with that fascist [Robert] Novak. And when I would explain that, despite our different views, Novak was one of my closest friends, they would walk away in disbelief.”

That was published in 1999, and perhaps today the country is more divided. A neighbor may not lend a tool next door because that person is a Democrat. Or the neighbor may not ask for its return, getting a profuse apology and a smile and an offer to help with the garbage or a pile of yard waste due to political differences. If that is happening today in America, we are in trouble. Republicans forget to return stuff too. Sometimes it’s hard to tell because neighbors don’t declare party affliction. 

Society, acquaintances, friends cannot be formed solely among the 100 percent agreeable, more likely to be toady subordinates or placating minors. Yet that is what the youth challenging Jack Germond believed. Live and see “only your own people.” Everyone else makes me tired; everyone else is challenging; everyone else makes me think. Seeing “only your own people,” is the first step to having no friends at all.

I like my friends because they have and use talents that are apart from mine, and they perform those activities well. [Not everyone tells of every failure.] When they talk they are articulate and interesting. They enrich my life and provide outlooks that I would otherwise not have. In short they stimulate me to think beyond my experiences and to enjoy their perceptions vicariously.

I have a chance to meet a woman from my high school class. I hadn’t talked to her for decades. I introduced myself; she knew my name and said, “Of course. Hello.” Someone came up and asked her, “You went to the Galapagos [Islands], didn’t you?” This woman’s response was, “Yes, and I next went to Machu Picchu.” No more about the islands; I was amazed. This was someone not to know. What was the segue from Galapagos to Machu? I walked away thinking the next sentence would give her next itinerary destination, Rio. Obviously the highlight of her trip would be the fourth stop in the fourth sentence, “In the Amazon I saw a villager being devoured by piranhas.”

By in large friendship depends upon the person you are. Are you comfortable with achievement and life. In one way,  friendships help individuals get along in life. It was Socrates who said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” This year I’ve had someone I know say that she wouldn’t change  a thing about her life – past, present or presumably the future. She is financially successful, but is she perfect or has she shut down and is coasting? If perfection is the answer to meditation, introspection and reflection, she is not doing that correctly. Perhaps she should take a class to understand life. Perfection is a boring existence. Friends bring energy, activity and insight.  They bring humor and perspective to push a person off the pedestal of perfection – nothing I’ve done, nothing I’ll do will ever need changing. I can’t imagine a more boring human being, one thoroughly insincere and utterly incapable of understanding any other human being.

So why were Jack Germond and Robert Novak friends? Each man recognized himself in the other – stubborn, articulate and intelligent. What did friendship do for each of them. They were contemporaries; they had reason and opinions. Sometimes it’s good to listen. They kept one another honest, not just with each other but within each man. There are few people in the world any one person will meet who is capable of engendering such honesty, who is willing to take the time and whose communication will let a person grow from the experience and hearing.

For me it is difficult to imagine strangers at an airport coming up to Germond and walking away disillusioned: He’s friends with Novak. What were these people thinking? What sort of human beings have they become since 1999?

 

TELL THE TRUTH OR BE LAZY

Today’s news: Matt Lauer says media is lazy about Ann Curry firing. 

Unwittingly, Matt Lauer has identified and responded to his own complaint, The Media is lazy. Duh! The Media has been lazy for a long time, and Matt is at the head of the pack. He’s so slow he fails to realize the truth is the only way to clear up his “troubles” (psychological, popularity, professional).”

Journalism once had standards. They’ve been lowered over the decades. It once was if a journalist didn’t acquit herself to the standards, she’d be gone. Today it is easy to observe the standards are not there. Few journalists are quick and intelligent. It is easy to tell they were once “C” students in high school, always talking in class, running around collecting gossip, and vying for the inside secrets which they never got but they passed off any gossip as gospel.

Enter Ann Curry. She was presentable and competent when doing serious news, go out, interview people, tell what happened in sixty seconds, smile. She could also read the news. Smile. But give Ann Curry the freedom of an interview show, and her attitude changed. Her voice changed. She believed he had to be empathetic and sympathetic with everyone, except those she despised.  She would fawn over guests and their problems – get the story from the patient because doctors don’t know crap and can’t explain it. And there were ridiculous episodes:

“Your goldfish went for a swim in the New York City sewer system?”

“Yes.”

“Did you ever get them back?”

“No.”

“You must have felt horrible.”

On the Today Show Ann Curry became an entertainer suited for a sit-com waiting for the laugh-track to kick in or for violins to fill the moment.

To be fair Diane Sawyer had the same temperament and style, pleading personality, looking with doggy eyes wanting a treat, please give an answer dripping with emotion so we can cry together. But Diane had an advantage. She never cried. She had experience, being in broadcast TV. She met Richard Nixon once when he was president and never kicked him around.

So Matt Lauer was unable to fess up and say this is why Ann was canned. He’s lazy.