24 August 2012

What Is This Shit?

In an infamous review from perhaps 1968, Robert Christgau opened his screed directed at Dylan’s Self-Portrait with the question, “What is this Shit?” I don’t think he enjoyed the album very much, though over time he may have come to some appreciation of it. Of course, Christgau’s rhetorical question as the opening of his review lacked sophistication and indicated that there would be here no indirection to find direction out. And indeed, the tenor of the review never improved; to some extent, the review was worthless except to the consumer whose faith in Christgau’s judgment would incline him to purchase the album or not.  As for me, I was apt to purchase any Dylan’s new production sight unseen—and I am still so prone. The vinyl copy of Self Portrait lies still in the bin of vinyl copies of my collection, and I am forever interested in autobiography. Perhaps Christgau’s statement spoke to his disappointment with Dylan’s product more than it spoke to the product itself, but that is neither here nor there, nor do I mean it as the topic of this blog.
Which is:        
For reasons beyond my understanding, I have been receiving subscriptions to magazines  to which I have not subscribed. For a number of years I would find the unpurchased Rolling Stone in the mailbox, and I was content to peruse the latest news of my rock n’ roll heroes and glance cursorily at its upcoming stars. But lately I have been overwhelmed with unsolicited magazines: Reader’s Digest, Parents, Redbook, Oprah, The Handyman (my personal favorite since I don’t own a hammer or screwdriver), and Newsweek. The latter is the topic here: I look at the last two covers of Newsweek magazine and I say, “What is this shit?”
The cover story of the special double issue August 13-20 identifies the 101 Best Places To Eat in the World, the list chosen, we are told, by 53 of the (I suppose) world’s finest chefs. I am certain I cold not afford to dine in any of the 53 best places to eat, and so despite the fact that the magazine was sent to my house it was not meant for me. Further, I recall Newsweek not as a magazine primarily concerned with life styles, and certainly not those of the rich and famous. I recall Newsweek as a news magazine and somewhat left of center at that., despite the comments of George Will in the back of every issue.  In this revamped version of Newsweek , (now owned and published by the Daily Beast (or is it the other way around, I don’t quite know) the editors appear to have modeled Newsweek in the style of People or Entertainment. There is in this latest incarnation no news this week: only glossy pictures, gossip and entertainment. What Newsweek displays in fact reveals what has occurred to news in the 21st century: it is no longer news but entertainment.
Finally, to my main point: in this edition, across almost the entire bottom half of the cover is the supine profiled face of a clear skinned white woman. Her face is visible only from below the eyes: she can be seen but cannot see. Her lips, painted a deep red, are slightly parted and her upper teeth are in shadow visible. Above her lips are two stalks of bright green asparagus in an image that hardly disguises the phallic nature of the event portrayed on the cover. Whether she is about to perform fellatio, or her lips represent the vagina awaiting penetration, this cover belongs to the culture of Playboy and Hustler and Shades of Grey and insults the legacy of Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite, Severeid or Murrow. If the magazine were Playboy or Hustler I would hide it beneath the mattress of my bed and away from the eyes of my daughters.
            The next week’s cover offers an image of the President with a jacket slung over his left shoulder and his face peering backwards. The photos reminds me of the cover of Sinatra albums, though it is only the top third of Obama’s body that is shown. And the caption on the cover reads, “Hit the Road Barack,” the title of the cover story by Niall Fergurson, whose harsh critrique of President Obama’s first term calls for his ouster.

Fine with me. I don’t agree with Fergurson, and I do hold to John Stuart Mill’s opinion that “Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.” He can say what he wants: but Fergurson’s article is not news and does not figure as a cover story in a magazine titled Newsweek. His opinion isn’t news.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This shit was a desperate act to sell magazines. Newsweek announced today that they will publish their final print edition on December 31 of this year. Tina Brown, indeed.

18 October, 2012 12:06  

Post a Comment

<< Home