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.

THE LINCOLN BOYS – JOSHUA ZEITZ

This is not an easy book to write. In its telling this book suffers from sets of styles (different voices) imposed by the text. There is biography (A. Lincoln, John Hay, John Nicolay, Robert Lincoln).

Next comes autobiography. Maintaining the voice of Hay and Nicolay in the third person, the text becomes a memoir. What was it for each of them to write a biography? How do either of them write? How did either of them write differently? In short texts most writers ignore these personal voices when writing or they incorporate them into the text, and no one knows better. However, the author here tried at the beginning to keep everything separated.

There is a shift from biography when writers put together the story of the documents, events, people involved and other biographers. It becomes more so evident when the text becomes historical. In a short passage Our Ideal Hero Chapter, Zeitz efficiently tells of literary and social efforts to return the South to the United States. He adroitly puts together many of the same facts Mark Twain viewed before writing Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi.

Keeping everything distinguishable, clear and fluid was a challenge for this author. I read hoping everything would be in place. Other than for money I do not know why Nicolay and Hay wrote the Lincoln biography. The writing process for both Hay and Nicolay (the autobiography) was shortchanged.

Why write a ten volume biography of Lincoln? Trying to establish the image of Abraham Lincoln for posterity – was a public relations campaign needed? It might be argued that Lincoln could never be buried. The future of the man was set in stone when he was assassinated: Leader – President who took us through the War – Counseled moderation and a warm embrace to the South without slavery. And next, survivors and posterity discovered speeches to chisel into stone, incredible words. The Gettysburg Address may be the best speech of the century, unless it is superseded by an Inaugural Address.

Without the ten volume biography what might Lincoln’s image have become? Frivolous, goofball and irrelevant as some writers treat it today: Lincoln was a quiet lady’s man, manic-depressive, cold and some say, gay. It is likely that Americans will let these quacks polish their views as much as they can. But Lincoln tells Americans more about themselves, to a human being, than any one has communicated to the country and its people since his death.

LEAVING HOME

Now that Don Trump is President-elect, celebrities can leave the USA.

The biggest obstacle is: Pack the first box.

Some celebrities are Canadian. They never leave North America.

But most celebrities will do just fine, staying:

Politically, Al Sharpton is on the opposite side of Trump. He’s a New Yorker; he has tax problems; he knows the game. He can play his role more fully now than if somebody in the Executive Branch is preempting him. He likely will not be invited to the White House, but he doesn’t make money going to Washington D.C.

Chelsea Handler has released photos of herself on the Internet, just like photos of sundry and various other women. With the election results there will be fewer photos on the Internet. With less diversion and an on-going TV show (hostess is a genuine human female not an ET-Alien), Handler should stay.

Samuel L. Jackson, a premier actor, has seen the good and bad of show business and political jesting. In his work he needs better roles (Snakes on a Plane?????). He is the sort of actor who can insist that scripts and roles be better written. His greatest influence would be in Hollywood procuring excellent scripts, supporting first-class productions and letting his talent reflect that work. Why leave the country?

Did Miley Cyrus really say she would leave the country?

HENCE

Yahoo has an article today entitled, Professor Leaves Racist Note on Student’s Paper. Part of the text of the student’s paper reads,
…..in every four children attending
…..population will more than double
….. on U.S. schools! Hence, the question
…..growth in the United States of
…..those who professionally work in

The professor or Teaching Assistant circled “Hence,” and complained “This is not your word.”
Who owns the word, hence? Hence is like other conclusionary words, to indicate the next sentence is plenty important. One does not need the exclamation point at the end of the prior sentence. “Hence” along with other words and terms like “thus,” “Are you ready?,” “Dummy up. Here it comes!” are inserted into text because professors and teaching assistants will not otherwise understand the text.
[It is like taking the Bar Exam in any state. Underline all legal points in red. Otherwise they’ll be missed.]
The fact that hence appears in a student’s sociology paper should not surprise anyone. Sociology is one of the social sciences where speculation is prized and errant conclusions are accepted. The larger area may be referred to as Social Superstitions – anthropology, parts of economics, sociology, law, some history, folklore, paranormal studies, and on and on. To sink a foundation for any paper, it is necessary to toss in sundry and various conclusions, all marked by words like hence. Any reader who has studied in the social sciences and has never run across the word, hence, stand up immediately – try to tilt the earth from its orbit so it moves and cracks into the moon.
This student at Suffolk University in Boston complains of the comment on her paper: It is racist! Racism is the least of her worries. This sort of sentence sounds like it came from one of the professor’s lecturers. The insert from the paper above suggests the point of a growing population seeking fewer positions in the professions. Americans have seen fewer job-openings in investment banking. California law schools have cut enrollment because there are fewer jobs.
Tiffany Martinez in Boston should not complain about a clueless, flimsy comment. She should be outraged by a University, a Professor and Teaching Assistants who cannot teach her to write.

MEIN KAMPF – Reading & Art

Adolph does not think much of persons who read, ponder, think and conclude. After going through all the words of this book, most of which are forgettable and destined for oblivion, the reader must conclude that Adolph had trouble reading; he did not like to read; he had a reading impairment; he had problems putting together the logical bases so German sentences would make sense. He was never able to take a book (and likely never this book) and distill its arguments into words of his own. Adolph was bewildered and frightened by those who could discuss ideas, and use books and facts as frames and as references to support an argument.

People who read “possess a mass of ‘knowledge,’ but their brain is unable to organize and register the material they have taken in. They lack the art of sifting what is valuable for them from that which is without value, or retaining the one forever, and if possible, not even seeing the rest, but in anywise not dragging it around with them as useless ballast.” [A] “ reader now believes himself in all seriousness to be ‘educated’ to understand something of life, to have knowledge, while in reality, with every new acquisition of this kind of education, he is growing more and more removed from the world until, no infrequently, he held up in a sanitarium or in parliament.” (page 35)

This paragraph suggests that Adolph believes all readers are like himself. Give a book dedication and great study, and the text sits in Adolph’s mind clogging it, and interfering with extraneous superficial chattering and false sentimentalities that Adolph wanted to hear, like eating cream topping pastries sprinkled with sugared cinnamon.

Adolph believes that a human being can be retarded and become a moron. But rather than use knowledge to his best benefit, Adolph derives new terms for being intellectual (the first, six pages earlier didn’t take):
[W]hat a difference between the glittering phrases about freedom…beauty, and dignity in the theoretical literature, the delusive welter of words seeming expressing the most profound and laborious wisdom, the loathsome humanitarian morality – all this written with the incredible gall that some with the prophetic certainty – and the brutal daily press, shunning no villainy, employing every means of slander, lying with a virtuosity that would bend iron beams, all in the name of this gospel of a new humanity. The one is addressed to the simpletons of the middle, not to mention the upper, educated, ‘classes,’ the other to the masses.(page 41)

It appears that Adolph is intimidated by “the glittering phrases about freedom…beauty, and dignity in the theoretical literature, the delusive welter of words seeming expressing the most profound and laborious wisdom, the loathsome humanitarian morality…” Adolph was incapable of reaching those levels in speech, and he was incapable of attaining them by other means.
Remove glittering phrases, dignity, beauty, profound wisdom and humanitarian morality from and language, and it becomes dead. There is no communication.

What became most amazing was the rush to Richard Wagner and a few other immortals expressing German culture [some of Wagner’s folklore was Celtic (Irish/Welsh) origin, a fact lost on Adolph]. Wagner was definitely mad enough for Adolph to love him without much alteration, although one wonders how many Nazi big-wigs actually made it through 4 1/2 hours of Goetterdammerung. Americans are forewarned by Mark Twain, “I’ve heard the first Act of each Wagner opera with pleasure.”

Adolph has failed to advance logic, reasons and conclusions why the finer points of language and writing ought to be neglected, all the while, wholeheartedly, endorsing the lyrical mediocrity of Richard Wagner.

NEW WRITER, OLD WRITER

Young and inexperienced, I once started stories and quickly put down 5-10,000 words (17-35 pages). I would next wonder where to go and how to get there.

Starting a story now might take a month or more to produce 5,000 words. The difference?
Production and enthusiasm depend upon the story, whether the setting, story or character may be emphasized, and how the writer (I) feel about any of it. But the primary difference is in the author’s (my) outlook. Enthusiasm and impulse remain the same today as it was, but I am more deliberate: I know it will be a slog, write every damn word about every perceived point covering each conceivable concept. The first draft is the one time the author has the opportunity to take this overall view: think freely and make every expression idiotic, moronic or nonsensical as well as completely, profound and experimental.
All later work pares the manuscript by rewriting within the parameters of the givens of the story; next comes editing and proofreading.
The slower launch today may mean energy is not marshaled; doubts linger about the quality of the plot and confidence might be fleeting. But confidence will build throughout a writing, doing 1,000 or 2,000 words a day, and feeling content having produced 20,000 words, 50,000 words, a first draft, and the next draft. It is that build of confidence, a building of ego, which allows a writer to finish a writing.

YOUTH, END OF THE TETHER

Joseph Conrad

Not enough kind, superlative and complimentary words can be accumulated to praise and recommend these two short stories. Each takes one side of a sailor’s life, Youth(20 years old) and End of the Tether (Sea captain in his mid-sixties).

The Youth has his whole life before him. His ship becomes wrecked. The master is unlikeable. It is a struggle to get off the wreck and find a life boat. No one knows where they are. They don’t know where land is. They are hungry and thirsty. But he navigates the boat to land and to safety. With the hardship and having no money, does the Youth want to return home [in Europe]? And miss Eastern Asia!

The story is told in narration. The teller is either or knows the Youth. Conversation is a very effective way to tell this story.

End of the Tether is about a Captain who saved, owned his own ship, has a daughter in Australia who needs his financial help and remains well-regarded. The corporation in which his retirement is invested slides into bankruptcy. There is no recovery. He sells his ship.

Although he is frail and his faculties are fading fast, the Captain returns to the sea to earn money to help his daughter, He knows he can be the Captain of a ship if anyone will hire him, and he has a trusted crew. The ship’s owner and chief engineer is a man disliked by all that meet and know him. He does not like the arrangement forced upon him by the Captain. That sea dog seems immune from the many harsh criticisms, empty threats and bad words coming from the shipowner.

The Captain simply does his job. Late in the story the reader learns the Captain is blind. Unaware, the owner plots to send the ship off course; it will be wrecked at sea and sunk. The insurance will be paid. As it happens, if the Captain had his sight, he would have uncovered the plot. But the ship sinks. Everyone including the owner but not the Captain abandons ship. If the Captain is saved he loses his reputation; he was responsible for losing the ship – he was blind!

The jumble of influences, events and circumstances coming at the Captain play out well. For both stories the vim and vigor of youth carrying through to middle age’s vinegar – knowledge, thinking and reflection – drop off in later age to consideration, judgment and wisdom. As an elder the Captain knows what to do, but he has neither the mental nor physical abilities to undertake the effort. He is alone; no one can help.

It has been a while since I’ve read Joseph Conrad. I’ve gone through many of the novels. But this reading – I know I have to find more Conrad to continue reading excellent literature.

HOCHSCHILD’S MISREADING

On March 18, 2016, Second D, page 5, Adam Hochschild ventured into an area where he lacks expertise, knowledge and imagination. He described why Mark Twain’s Life On the Mississippi need not be read in its entirety. Being familiar with Twain’s work, I am surprised. I’ve read works from historians competing with Hochschild for readers, and I now wonder if I ought to read his books. The world is more multilayered than Mr. Hochschild appreciates. Regarding Life On the Mississippi he has two grand oversights.

Hochschild stumbled upon the fact that Life On is a companion book to Huckleberry Finn. That novel is firmly set in the 1830s. Life On presents contemporary observations which were added to Twain’s previous publication of Old Times on the Mississippi (@1875).

In 1882 books and basic knowledge of the Mississippi River Valley were scare. Twain had written about 25 chapters of the novel but needed a refresher course about locations and the sense and feel of the South, and the river. In 1882 he traveled up the river, noting events and occurrences, present time to 45 years before. Not much had changed.

Life On came from Clemen’s notebooks and scrapbooks. Prior to William Faulkner’s observation about the past in the South, Clemens realized in the South that nothing was ever the past. In 1884 he told the world that in Life On.

The second point is what the South did with its history, this time and subject is described by a prominent American historian who quotes Life On the Mississippi from a late passage. SPOILER ALERT! Hochschild’s fans should stop reading NOW!

…Colonel Marshall graphically described the scene demonstrating Lee’s
posture and his forward wave of the hand as Jackson rode away.The
movement became the subject of a painting completed in 1869…Mark
Twain studied the original in New Orleans and reflected on the importance
of explicitly telling people the retrospectively defined meaning of what they
they see when one offers them a historical representation…Unless the
painting were properly labeled Twain said, it might readily be taken to
portray “Last Interview between Lee and Jackson” or “First Interview
between Lee and Jackson” or “Jackson Reporting a Great Victory” or
“Jackson Apologizing for a Heavy Defeat” or “Jackson Asking Lee for a
Match.” “It tells one story and a sufficient one; for it says quite plainly and
satisfactorily, ‘Here are Lee and Jackson together.’ The artist would have
made it tell that this is Lee and Jackson’s last interview if he could have
done it. But he couldn’t, for there wasn’t any way to do it. A good legible
label is usually worth, for information, a ton of significant attitude and
expression in a historical picture.”
Royster, Charles, The Destructive War, Knopf, NY, 1991, p. 203-204.

 

THE REAL APPLE

When the Constitution was ratified in 1788 and by each state since, was Apple’s right to possess a chip, a software program, a means of communication in the document? NO. Does Apple have anywhere among statutes or constitutional provisions, a means to prevent the government armed with a warrant to serve and require Apple to hand over information? NO.

Yet, Apple claims it has extra-judicial, extra-legal, over-the-top exemptions from the language of the Constitution, whereas the remainder of Americans are fully bound and must adhere to the document and its interpretation.

Apple claims no court should ever issue warrants to learn communications between terrorists or among criminals; only Apple itself has the discretion and the wisdom to view those notes, as violent as they be. Apple believes it has a right to privacy, so it never has to deliver information in its possession that may keep the United States safe.

In essence Apple makes itself complicit in the actions of the perpetrators; the longer Apple dithers the deeper it sinks into the conspiracy. Should criminal liability attach to Apple for interfering with an investigation, resulting possibly in obstruction of justice charges?

Readers may believe they saw this scenario played out on TV, but the real-time, reality component of daily events reveal a rotten core.

What Apple and all monster American information gathering companies want to protect is their own collections of data. Every company knows when users are on computers, asleep, eating, using the pot, and which appropriate advertisement should be sent for specific activities. The time of day is taken into account because the advertisement for toilet paper does not appear when sitting on the big white phone. That ad comes in the grocery store – hurrying to buy a package and avoiding embarrassment at the check-out counter. (The full mobile experience.) Our lives are controlled by computers and their memories, and no one cares about the privacy of Americans!

It is that administered boatload of personal information breaching the privacy of every American, obtained without consent or warrant, that Apple and corporations of its ilk want to protect and keep absolutely secret, until sprung on the victims, unwitting Americans.

ANSWERED PRAYERS – Truman Capote

This unfinished novel has three subjects and two styles. The first chapter (the longest, “Unspoiled Monsters”) is mostly chronological and has brilliant, captivating passages and remarks about writing as a career, the mind set of a writer and marketing forces. For a magazine editor/publisher the writer spreads his cheeks, a casting couch into publishing.

The second chapter (39 pages, “Kate McCloud”) happens in Europe and is chronological. Without much money the character tags along with rich people. Comments about writing disappear, but those overseas New Yorkers and East Coast Establishment mucks are superficial and empty.

The Third Chapter (41 pages, “La Cote Basque) presents a change of style – stream of consciousness, Virginia Woolf foibles come to mind through paragraphs of endurance, nothing to follow, little to comprehend but phrases interspersed here and there and a story of meandering words which come to nothing. It is a form of writing exercise, an experiment. Chapter 3 was published in the mid-1970s and was not well received. There was little effort to conceal or camouflage who the many characters were – although in East Coast fashion they said little of consequence and nothing significant. After its publication in Esquire magazine, Capote’s rich friends ended contact with him.

The changes of style and substance produce varied work in this three chapters. The first chapter is well-written, although it fails to present a story. It is a series of colorful antidotes, adjectives and description adding character to sentences (and not necessarily to human beings written about). There are not many thoughts and ideas transmitted, instantly but not throughout the 90 pages. Hence, any conveyance of theme is absent.

The second chapter also becomes antidotal with adjectives, and overlong sentences. It is fun and funny to read but takes the reader no where. It is like watching TV. The third chapter is the worst from the standpoint of writing, in contribution to the craft and in explaining itself. It seems there are inside jokes and inside knowledge. It was written and published first. The targeted readers apparently discovered themselves. Capote may have chosen the stream of consciousness, or overlong sentences in paragraphs covering a least a page to conceal his intentions. He was mislead by style and substance. He did not define the characters and give them much action. He labeled characters within sentences by describing them – this lumpen mass sits on her couch all days and eats bon-bons. A writer must be much more discrete.

Reference points can be made to another novel, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald refused to include party conversations, or intelligible dialogue which is Capote’s forte. Every party scene in Gatsby could be supplemented by dialogue from Answered Prayers. If it were the purpose to define New York Citiers and the wealthy as they phonies they are, Capote only had to set out their conversations: empty, unconnected and coarse. On page 74-75 the character Aces Nelson is a doubleganger for Nick the Narrator in Gatsby.

In another writing I criticized Fitzgerald for using rioters for roisters at the Yale Club in New York City (Gatsby, page 57) However Fitzgerald may have property used rioters [shorthand for gay, circa. 1925(?)], as Capote describes a gay encounter in the Yale Club. (Answered Prayers, 94)