The dumbest things I’ve read … recently

By selecting to read this piece, you are going to have to read three paragraphs that will amount to nothing more than a clever introduction.  The author wishes that he didn’t have to write such an intro, but it is now considered mandatory to any piece of literature, or televison production, placed on the market today.  The next three paragraphs are loaded with irrelevant material designed only to tease you into reading the relevant material below on the basis that these first three paragraphs are so clever.  If you decide to skip these paragraphs to get to the meat of the article, you will receive empathy from the author, but again it is now required.

The author has deemed ESPN’s Sportscenter to be almost unwatchable in real time for just this reason, but he knows that it’s become mandatory for them.  To watch Sportscenter now, in real-time, you will have to endure a one-minute, high-dollar production laden intro.  This will be followed by about ten seconds of the cameraman creatively narrowing focus onto the announcers while they pretend to shuffle papers around. Once the focus is narrowed, the announcers will then take about thirty seconds to properly introduce themselves, and they will then engage in some clever wordplay that accounts for about thirty more seconds, and all of this will be followed by a portion of time that ESPN has allotted in their budget for laughter or more clever wordplay between these bosom buddies.   In these high-production intros, you’ll often see memorable clips that enhance the theme of the show, tiny explosions on the screen, the main announcer doing something that appears zany, and enough colors to initiate seizures in the more unstable hemispheres of the brain. They spend millions doing this, inviting you in, catching your eye to prevent you from changing the channel with the assurance that something explosive is about to happen in the course of the show, until it reaches a point where some of us will now only watch these shows on delayed DVR entries that allow for fast forwarding. Singling Sportscenter out may be a little unfair, as high-production intros are now required in almost all visual mediums, but Sportscenter is the most blatant.

Most magazine articles have similarly become almost unreadable, until you learn to skip the first couple of paragraphs that display the writer’s clever wordplay designed to introduce you to the piece’s topic. It’s all about teasing in these clever introductions, it’s all about hooking you in, and competitively separating themselves from the others that engage in high production, high word count intros.  It’s also about kissing the subject’s tailbone to ingratiate the interviewer with the interviewee.  This may be done out of idol worship, to further the journalist’s career, or to simply leave you with the belief that they are one hell of a writer.  In place of the flashy visuals you’ll see in the Sportscenter intro, you’ll read some flashy, multisyllabic words in a magazine intro.  Nothing impresses their peers more, and nothing bores us more.  These intros are less about you, the reader, and more about the writer and the subject.  If you decide to read them, that’s high caloric, tasty, but otherwise useless gravy.  So, if you decided to skip my three introductory paragraphs to get to the meat, we will all understand, as long as you understand it’s required.

In 2003, Britney Spears said something dumb about then President George W. Bush:

Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.” {1}

Ms. Spears received flak, massive amounts of flak, from every in-the-know commentator on TV for this comment. She was naïvely trusting, they said, and representative of the naïve people in this country. She was also called dumb, and representative of the dumb in America. Although I found Bill Maher’s show on HBO unwatchable by that point, I’m sure he devoted an entire episode to it. It was a foolish comment that elicited as much laughter from Republicans as it did from everyone else. Republicans agreed with the premise of the jokes that suggested that it’s almost un-American to blindly trust what any of our representative leaders say or do. Even though Republicans found it funny, they also considered it a little embarrassing, and most of us attempted to distance ourselves from this mindset in every way possible.

Democrats, to my knowledge, did not make any of the same attempts to distance themselves from Chris Rock’s comments.  When Chris Rock was asked for a comment on President Barack Obama, last month, he said:

The President of the United States is, you know, our boss. But he is also, you know, the president and the first lady are kinda like the Mom and Dad of the country,” Rock said. “And when your Dad says something, you listen. And when you don’t, it will usually bite you in the ass later on. So, I’m here to support the president.” {2}

I’m sure that Maher, Jon Stewart, and every late-night talk show host imitated Ms. Spears annoying habit of using “you know” to separate clauses in 2003, but in this particular quote she only “you know’ed” once, and Chris Rock “you know’ed” twice to separate clauses. Rock also confused tenses in the second sentence of his idolatry. If Ms. Spears had committed this faux pas that would’ve been added atop the pie. When Rock did it, we couldn’t even hear crickets chirping about it. The two celebrities offered similarly blind, loyalty statements of their respective presidents, but only one said that the president and his wife are “kinda like our Mom and Dad”, and yet I’m quite sure that none of those listed above said a word about Rock’s naïve, blind trust of his favored, elected leader. Rock, you see, is considered an in-the-know commentator, and Britney Spears is considered a blonde bimbo, ditz by in-the-know commentators. Rock is a cool kid, and Britney is a joke.  As a result of their relative standings in the “in-the-know”, cool-kid community, Republicans were the only ones consistently laughing at both “naïvely trusting, and representative of the naïve, and dumb,” comments.

Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt (Republican from Kalama) said that riding a bike is bad for the environment. As a result of this, he said that bike riders should have to pay a tax to help maintain the state’s roads.

My point,” Orcutt added to clarify, was that by not driving a car, a cyclist was not necessarily having a zero-carbon footprint.” Orcutt claims that he was attempting to defend car drivers that are forced to pay for bicycle paths. He wrote that bike riders have an “increased heart rate and respiration, and that the act of riding a bike “results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.” {3}

Orcutt’s point was presumably to illustrate the dumb taxes passed on automobiles by proposing dumb taxes on bike riders, but with Obamacare and other legislative behemoths on the horizon, local legislators probably shouldn’t give federal legislators any ideas on how to raise enough revenue to pay for their legislative disasters, because they will pursue the dumb if they have to.

On Alec Baldwin’s radio show, NBC News host Brian Williams said that he believes his political opinions have been “cleansed” from his reporting.{4}

Fawning, celebrity magazines can’t help but write dumb things when they review a high profile celebrity’s work.  These magazines trip all over themselves to fawn over that person in a manner that makes objective readers cringe. The fawning, celebrity periodical, called Rolling Stone, recently reviewed Thom Yorke’s new project Atoms for Peace. Atoms for Peace’s album Amok is yet another electronica piece of laptop schlock that Yorke/Radiohead fans have come to expect from Yorke lately. While I’ve only listened to samples of the Atoms for Peace album, it appears to be as relatively boring and largely forgettable as the last few Radiohead albums … and Yorke’s previous solo effort. Amok appears to be so forgettable that if Yorke decides to do another Atoms for Peace album, you can bet that that album’s reviewer will say that it’s much better than Amok. The reviewer from Rolling Stone decided to give this relatively boring, and largely forgettable, project four stars to provide further evidence of the magazine’s irrelevance in this regard. While reading this review, one has to imagine that Yorke, and his people, got final approval on the review. One also has to imagine that any reviewer that dares to review a Thom Yorke album gets an explicit, or implied, threat: “Give him a negative review and you’ll likely not see Mr. Yorke providing your periodical an interview any time soon.”

That having been said, the reason Simon Vozick-Levinson’s review qualifies for this dumb list is that it’s just loaded with sycophantic sentences. Thom Yorke is a forty-four year old rock star. I write the word “rock star” here, because we’ve all grown accustomed to the fact that rock stars have to have long hair to fulfill the image of being a rock star. If Yorke, for instance, decided to go with a more clean-cut, Lance Armstrong style haircut, he would probably be laughed out of the business, and we probably wouldn’t take his music serious any more. If Yorke, or any avant garde rock star, were to go with a short hair look—as Yorke has—he had better go with a non-bathing, unshaven, “street bum that looks like he just rolled-out-of-bed” look, if he wants us to take him seriously as an artiste. For this album, Yorke opted for what Levinson terms a “long-hair-don’t-care ponytail” hairdo to increase his rock star image. As I said though, Yorke is forty-four now, and the “long-hair-don’t-care ponytail” hairdo now makes him look like an old man in the midst of a middle-aged crisis, clinging to whatever vestige of youth is still available to him. An objective, non-fawning reviewer might even say that a ponytail on a forty-four year old is equivalent to a comb over or a poor dye job, but to the piglets at Rolling Stone it’s a hip, young, and “still relevant!” statement. Let’s just hope HOPE! that Yorke gave Simon some kind of thumbs up for his effort here.

Another line that causes objective readers to think that Yorke, and his publicist, got final approval on the album’s review that Mr. Levinson wrote is:

“(Yorke) hates being predictable more than anything except maybe climate change.”

This line recalls, for older readers, lines that used to introduce corporate sponsorships of cartoons.  “If there’s one thing Superman hates more than crime it’s tooth decay, and to fight tooth decay Superman uses Crest.”

One has to imagine that even an apparent sycophant like Mr. Levinson loathed writing such a line, but that he was compelled by Yorke’s people, or his editor, in a memo that stated something along the lines of: “Mr. Yorke wants it known how socially conscious he is. He doesn’t want to simply, or only, be known as a rock star.  He wants your readers to perceive him as a high-minded and socially conscious intellectual, so if you could find a way to work one of his causes into your review that would be much appreciated.”

On another note, any time a reviewer writes something absurdly obvious along the lines of: “One thing Amok makes very clear is that Atoms for Peace are a band, not just hired hands backing a star,” {5} you know that this project is most likely a one-off that contains hired hands backing a star. Why would the reviewer include such a statement if it weren’t the case? Do one-off projects, such as this one, fare poorly when it comes to commercial sales? One can be assured that Amok won’t sell as well as a Radiohead album would, but the reviewer was probably instructed to give the impression to Yorke and Flea fans that Yorke and Flea took this seriously, so you probably should too.

Anytime there is an album review of a Yorke, Springsteen, Dylan, Petty, or Clapton album, you know without even reading it, that Rolling Stone will give it four stars. You also know that the reviewer is going to be required to work some fawning recitation of the rock star’s most famous lyrics into the review. The thing that’s not immediately clear is if the reviewer genuinely likes the album, based on the fact that one of the elite rock stars did it, or if they just want to be in good stead with the rock star to … presumably get invited to their parties or receive a ‘thank you’ phone call from the rock god, or to attach themselves to the rock star’s legacy in some small, sycophantic way.  Whatever the case is, none of those rock gods listed above have come out with anything worthy of four stars in about ten years, but they have supposedly earned the right to have four stars attached to anything they do by Rolling Stone based on their legacy.







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