A Year of Thanks

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Sunday, funday: otherwise known as a day of New York Times takedown June 29, 2014

Filed under: books and reading — courtsbrogno @ 12:48 pm

Sundays. My favorite day of the week. I crave every single Sunday because I have a ritual. I wake between 6 and 6:30 am, throw off the covers, pull on a pair of shoes and a sweatshirt, and drive to Starbucks to pick up a cup of coffee and the Sunday New York Times. (Note: I apologize for going to Starbucks, but it’s the only place that carries the New York Times) (Note, part 2: The Sunday NYT cost $6. Some may say that’s a ridiculous price, but I disagree. That paper is worth every penny. Plus, I like to think I’m helping print media stay in business).

So my routine: I read the Review first, then the Business Section (Ok, I scan), then I flip through the Travel Section (which I barely read because it just makes me mad and jealous), then onto Style (because who doesn’t love Modern Love?), then onto Sports (I only read the human interest stories, which are quite good), then Arts and Leisure (I skip anything about Opera–boring!), then the Book Review (which should be renamed Book Review of mostly non-fiction), and finally the Front Page. Then, for desert, the always amazing Sunday New York Times Magazine.

If I make it through the entire paper in one day, it’s a miracle. Usually it takes me most of the week, and I actually have a pile of papers in the living room that I promised myself I’d get through by the end of summer.

But this morning, something interesting happened. As I was reading, I picked up a pen from my nightstand, and started making notes. I must be missing grading essays on some subconscious level (The horror!!!) because I wrote comments like I would as if the articles were student essays. Actually, when I looked back at my comments they were pretty harsh, so it might be more fair to state that I wrote the comments I usually think in my head about student essays. Considering the NYT hires professional writers–for the most part–I’m sure they won’t mind my sometimes biting marginal comments.

Thus, I thought I’d share. Consider this Courtney’s Sunday Review Cliff Notes:

Page 1:

“Why Teenagers Act Crazy:” Basically, now I have to say “Maddie, your prefrontal cortex is grounded rather than Maddie, you’re grounded.”

“Inequality is Not Inevitable:” With quotes like “The American political system is overrun by money,” and “Justice has become a commodity, affordable by only a few,” I have learned nothing new. And by ending the article with the proposal of “It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America, and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge. It is not too late to restore our position in the world and recapture our sense of who we are as a nation,” led me to have good laugh. Are you really that naive? Please. Take off those rose colored glasses and come up with a better proposal. You might as well have ended with “Fuck yeah. Go America!”

Page 2:

“Quick History:” Interestingly, this rather new part of the Review attempts to sum up the week’s news in about 1/2 a page. This has been obviously stolen from The Week. Well played, NYT. Well played. Also, with news summed up in 1/2 a page, I don’t know how we’re to accomplish the proposal from “Inequality is not Inevitable.”

“Download: Dale Chihuly:” This glass sculptor is incredibly boring. Thanks for letting me know that you’ve been eating foie gras torchon. Now go do something worthwhile with your life.

Page 3:

“Britain’s Strange Identity Crisis:” No one cares. At all. The only part of this article that was even slightly engaging was the sentence: “And let’s not get started on England’s humiliation in the World Cup.” There, Scotland, you have your reason to leave in May.

“Who has the World’s Best Colleges:” Not us. Despite the common knowledge that the U.S. has a terrible K-12 international reputation we seem to believe our colleges are exemplary, as Obama was quoted as stating, “We have the best universities.” How do people figure that a terrible K-12 education will thus lead to a not terrible university education? Whatever. Finland beats us again.

Page 4:

“How the Terrorist got Rich:” Now this IS interesting: “The ISIS publication Al-Naba (The News) has kept donors informed about the progress of specific operations, while Twitter feeds are updated with body counts and photos of the equipment and territory fighters now control.” Wait a second. The ISIS is on Twitter? Does Washington know about this? How come no one can control these militants? My God.

“Life in Iraq Grinds on, Whoever is in Charge:” This quote stands out, “Engineers had recently learned that the Akkas oil and gas field beneath the Anbar desert was far large than previously known.” Well, that’s awesome. When will we learn that if we get off big oil not only will the environment improve but so will the political environment in the Middle East. Whatever , though, as the title suggests,  life in Iraq will just grind on. As will life in America, I guess. Keep rocking on Finland

Page 5:

“When Civil-Rights Unity Fractured:” an uninspiring history lesson (and I’m all for civil rights).

“What Nurse Jackie gets Right about the E.R.” I guess I learned that nurses are drug addicts (Woo hoo. Who doesn’t know that?) and that can be a problem. Thanks. I feel more informed already.

Page 6:

“China’s Threat to Wild Tigers:” This is kind of a misleading title since most of the article is about farmed tigers, but this article wins best quote of the entire day: “A real estate developer identified as Mr. Xu, pleaded guilty to consuming three tigers in 2013. A prosecutor said he had ‘ a quirky appetite for eating tiger penis and drinking tiger blood.'” AMAZING.

Page 8:

“Be not Afraid of My Body:” a young man comes to grips with his sexuality by reading Walt Whitman, but the young man/now writer just has to end his article with the most overused  line of Whitman: “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Ugh…D- for being so cliche.

“The Right to Write:” Haha. Clever title. Just kidding; it’s not at all. But let’s explore what this writer wants to know: Do novelists have the right to tell any story they want or should they be marginalized to their own gender, race, culture? OH. MY. GOD. Are we rally even pondering this question? What part of fiction don’t people understand?

Page 9:

“My Father’s Dead Dialect:” I don’t even understand the purpose of this essay. I’m assuming the Times was low on content this week.

Page 10

The editorial section that no one I know reads.

Because it’s that boring.

Page 11:

“‘Jane’ Didn’t get the Help She Needed:” A human interest story that relies too much on pathos, but reminds readers that the criminal justice system is flawed, especially for foster kids, like ‘Jane.’ Fascinating. Too bad the solution lies in the obvious: “It would be economically efficient, as well as humane, to invest in interventions from the beginning of life that reduce delinquency.” Paging Finland again. Can someone get over there and see how they do it? And then maybe implement something? Probably not. We can just keep reading the same reused ideas in the paper. By the way, in paragraph 17, you actually wrote “robust research.” What the hell does robust research even mean?

“Arsonists and Firefighters:” The Middle East is seriously caught in a never-ending cycle, but thanks Friedman for the interesting metaphor.

“Stopping Campus Rape:” Now here’s a article with some solid proposals. Too bad all of them are terrible, with even the writer stating, “Probably none of them will happen.”  That’s because they’re ridiculous. Solution #1: Lower the drinking age to 18. That’s a problem because it’s not the age limit that keeps people from drinking and doing stupid things, it’s the American culture’s relationship with alcohol. I know plenty of adults who blackout drink and they’re not driven underground by an age limit. Ever been to an AA meeting? You should go. The people there would be happy to tell you that American culture has a BIG problem with drinking in general, and lowering the drinking age will not sole this problem (Hey, how does Finland do with alcoholism? Someone might want to investigate that). Solution #2: College administrators need to break the ties they have with “the on-campus party scene,” including Greek life and sports. Haha. You’re so funny. As if this were to happen, all problem drinking would stop. As if college students wouldn’t just go OFF CAMPUS to drink. Solution #3: colleges need to separate the sexes and supervise social life. This gave me the biggest laugh. Creating hurdles for predators will not necessarily work since most campus rape victims and perpetrators aren’t even necessarily aware that what they’ve done is wrong, something your article alluded to.  But hey, I have an idea. How about a mandatory freshman seminar in which a variety of common campus issues were taught in a way that was truthful, engaging, and not condescending: binge drinking, rape, healthy eating, depression, anxiety, stress, meditation. I know, I know, that 3-4 unit mandatory class might get in the way of graduation rates. Whatever, we’ve still got the best universities. Oh, wait a second. WE DON”T.

Page 12:

“The Trauma of Parenthood:” I swear to God if I have to read one more article about parenthood being so difficult, I’m going to explode. Most of this article focuses on parents who are depressed because, well, they have kids, and kids take a lot of work, takes a “toll on your relationships,” and  then the article notes that the overall level of satisfaction in parents’ lives goes down. No, really? Whoever thought parenthood would be easy? Did your parents make it look easy? For Christ’s sake, suck it up and quit whining (note: unless you do have postpartum depression–then please get help.)

Public Editor: “Covering New War, in Shadow of Old One:” This is one of my favorite parts of the Review because it’s the public editor noting the faults of the Times while simultaneously noting how awesome the Times is. This can be seen in these few sentences: “The coverage of the Iraq war was the cause of much soul-searching for The Times. Afterward, a stronger policy on anonymous sources was put into place, and an extraordinary editors’ note acknowledged reporting that lacked rigor and skepticism.” Did she–a well-respected journalists– just use the words “soul-searching” and “extraordinary”?   Why yes, yes she did. See what I mean? Highly amusing.

“The Power of a Deed:” Probably my favorite article of the whole Review because I’m a sucker for a good human interest story. The article focuses on Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson–usually called Rebbe–who’s been dead for 20 years. What makes this man so remarkable, at least according to the article, is how much good he did in his lifetime. He was tolerant, participated in dialogue that fostered community engagement, did not conform to his religion’s agenda, taught kindness, and showed humility. It seems to me that most of the problems we face today could use more thinking from men and women like him. Oops, there are my rose-colored glasses slipping on.


Well, that’s the end of the Review Cliff Notes. Although I didn’t find this week’s Review very interesting or even well-written, I will say this: You’ve got me NYT. And my $6. Every Sunday.

I just can’t help but love you.