Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In Which Simon Expresses Displeasure with the New York Times

Chris Matthews put me in a rotten mood by belittling women, so now I'm ultra-sensitive to any and all possible affronts by the media. WHY HELLO, NEW YORK TIMES.

I just read the second-stupidest of two stupid articles the Times published this week. The first-stupidest was about some jerk searching Brazil for new runway models, and the article was vaguely but not overly interested in the racism and chauvinism intrinsic to such an exercise. The subject matter was pretty horrifying, but it was not an opinion piece so I can't complain about the writer not sounding as enraged as I wanted. I should probably be grateful for his mild attempts at irony.

The second article was about a shoe. A 5,500-year-old shoe just discovered in a cave in Armenia. It is apparently part of a very significant find that also includes many other artifacts including food, evidence of religious rituals, and human remains -- with brain tissue.  So what headline did they give the article? "This Shoe Had Prada Beat by 5,500 Years."

I'm just going to quote this bit directly from the article:

"While the shoe more closely resembles an L. L. Bean-type soft-soled walking shoe than anything by Jimmy Choo, 'these were probably quite expensive shoes, made of leather, very high quality,' said one of the lead scientists, Gregory Areshian, of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles. It could have fit a small man or teenager, but was likely worn by a woman with roughly size-7 feet. (That, according to, would be slightly roomy for Sarah Jessica Parker, whose Manolo Blahniks are size 6.5, and a tad tight for Sarah Palin, who, during the 2008 campaign, sported red “Double Dare” pumps by Naughty Monkey, size 7.5.)."

Are you KIDDING me, New York Times? What the hell kind of science reporting is this? The article on the misogynist was better and more seriously written than this drivel. I'm not saying science writing has to be dry. I'm just saying, there's a huge window between being boring and/or unintelligible, and treating your readers like they actually are Carrie Bradshaw. This article does not seem to be aware of that window. Moreover, the preoccupation with designer shoes seems weirdly targeted toward women, as if women aren't interested in anything unless Prada is involved. I just don't understand why anyone, given this assignment, would think, "Hmm. I'd better go with the shoe angle. That will make this dull sciencey story hott."

Even the archeologists come off as dopes. One compares the find to Pompeii "except without the burning." Oh, ha ha ha. Another says the people who lived in the cave were probably there to provide "valet parking" for all these important objects. Presumably he uses this analogy because he's just referred to the people in the cave being the most well-off in their society, and he thinks we're stupid and we need a modern comparison. But the modern comparison is absurd and misleading. In the very same article we're told that these people may or may not have invented the wheel yet, and their tools are made of obsidian, which they had to fetch from sixty miles away. ("Perhaps why they needed shoes, Dr. Areshian suggested," quips the article. Yes. Perhaps. I'd like to see the writer of this article walk sixty miles to quarry obsidian and bring back a whole lot of it without knowing how wheels work, and see if she still wants to make light of the necessity for shoes.) In short, even the richest and most waited-upon of these people were likely not living a life of luxury. The valet parking metaphor does not clarify, it confuses. And in my case, annoys.

Maybe it's my grumpiness (I didn't even mean to watch that clip of Hardball, it was an accident, I was aiming for Rachel Maddow), but it seems like this article is all about how cute it is that people used to wear shoes, when it isn't cute at all. Cute diminishes the find, the people working on it (when they're not diminishing it themselves for the benefit of the layperson), and the people who left it behind five and a half thousand years ago. It is remarkable. And the New York Times has managed to handle it with less dignity than it gives to a man who's one step away from being a eugenicist.

Usually, I save news-story rants for Simon P., but I didn't have anything else to post about. I'll try to work up something less irate for Friday, but only if the Times agrees not to commit any more atrocities against my intellect.


Anonymous said...

The NY Times writer has obviously lived in NYC too long which has a way of bending the mind. After a while residents begin to believe that Carrie Bradshaw is real, actually represents the average woman, and that Prada shoes have some importance to life on earth. No normal person uses or even thinks about valet parking, let alone uses it for comparison. Pity the NY Times writer - she lives in a weird unnatural place and has lost touch with life outside TV world.

Simon said...

Thank you for agreeing with my lunatic rant. I believe you are correct: pity is the best response for this article.