Posts Tagged ‘NY Times’

Connecting the dots

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

You Are What You Buy . . .

America’s embrace of this belief is a major cause of the nation’s current economic, social and political predicament. When did we first adopt this way of life? The answer is there was no single moment; the seduction was gradual. Yet if you were to go searching for markers along the path to our present baleful state, one way station might be the event mentioned by Deborah Solomon in her review of two books about Pop artists Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist, in today’s NY Times:

“It is probably relevant that in July 1959, the so-called kitchen debate was held between Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon. Staged in Moscow, in a faux suburban house constructed expressly for the occasion, the encounter offered Vice President Nixon the chance to demonstrate the everyday comforts and conveniences of American life, from Pepsi-Cola and Betty Crocker cake mixes to Cadillacs and G.E. dishwashers. The debate was seen around the world and redefined America virtually overnight as a consumerist utopia where the goods you stored in your kitchen cabinets were as much a symbol of cherished values as the bald eagle and the flag.”

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kitchen debate

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Better Thought Next Time, No. 3 (Joel Stein)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Joel Stein, humorist and frequent contributor to Time magazine, where his pieces are often the best thing between the covers, is a very funny fellow indeed.  True, his humor is mostly adolescent, and if you’ve been reading his stuff for years, like me, you may be wondering, when is this guy ever going to grow up already?  The answer, I suspect, is never, not ever.  Because on that day he’d have to find another line of work.

Joel Stein has a blog.  Let me correct that:  he had a blog.  Let me correct my correction:  he has a blog but it’s been defunct for nearly three years.  He stopped posting after a final entry dated September 6, 2006.  And from what I saw of his other posts, well, let’s just say abandonment was a mercy.  His heart wasn’t in it (translation: there was no money in it, and as Dr. Johnson said, no one but a fool ever wrote except for money).  Foolishly, I have a blog, and my most recent post is the one you’re enjoying this very moment.  Or it could be that my most recent post is an even newer one, and though hard to believe, the newer post might be even more of a joy to read than this!   

So the question I’m asking is, who is smarter, Joel or me?  And who has more endurance when it counts?  (This may come down to a split decision.)

Before my theme becomes completely stale, I wanted to mention an article by Stein that appeared in the April 16, 2009 edition of Time.  There Joel ruminates at great length on his and other guys’ penises.  He does so  under the guise of examining the great circumcision debate (“Joel Stein Contemplates Circumcision (For His Son),” here).  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Joel thinking and writing about his or other people’s genitals.  It’s a potentially humorous subject and Stein is a funny guy (or did I say that already?)  But the article contains one very odd thought, actually a strange thought accompanied by a strange image, that occurred to him in the course of comparing Americans and Europeans.  Stein writes:

“Our penises are clean and sleek and new like Frank Gehry skyscrapers, while theirs are crumbling, ancient edifices inhabited by fat old men in hats.”

Let’s pause for moment.  (You wanted to catch your breath anyway, right?)

OK, then.  Someone’s got to step up to the plate — and I volunteer to be that someone — and ask whether Mr. Stein has even the teensy-weensiest bit of familiarity with the architectural designs of Frank Gehry’s skyscrapers?  Not Gehry’s sprawling horizontal buildings, like the Experience Music Project, with their shiny smooth expanses of titanium and stainless steel, but his skyscrapers.  I’m asking the question rhetorically.  Non-judgmentally, too.

Consider Gehry’s proposed plans for a skyscraper in lower Manhattan:

gehry-skyscraper-lower-manhattan-2006

 

gehry-skyscraper-lower-manhattan-20091

Sleek?  In these photos do you see anything “sleek” (a word that requires smoothness)?   Hardly.  “Wrinkled-looking [with a] distinctly bumpy silhouette” is how the Gehry skyscraper was described by the NY Times.   Are there really a lot of folks out there who long to stroke this form? (Note to self:  Avoid eye-contact with J.S., lest his hand be raised.)

To read an author is to enter her mind.  Or in the case of Joel Stein, his mind, whenever he’s not stealing thoughts from her.  (I make a little joke, no?)  The consistently clever views that seize Stein’s mind, when put in English and down on paper, make me laugh.  But my message is this:  We can’t trust him with architecture.   He needs to bone up on it.

Now, food — food he knows about, as he’s shown here, here, and most squeemishly here.  I bet if Mr. Stein were to come across the items below (items introduced to my local Safeway some time ago) he would stop and stare and stare some more – and then come up with some funny way to mention this in a column.  Something I’ve been trying to do for weeks. 

spotted-dick-21

 

They say Joel likes to Google his own name from time to time, something we all like to do.  But he adds this twist:  To protect his fragile ego he sets the search parameters to find only those articles in which the author of the piece writes that Stein is really “funny” and repeats that adjective at least five times within the article.

Hi Joel !