For several years the only newspaper I have subscribed to has been The Guardian Weekly, an offshoot from what originally was for almost a century the most admired newspaper in the English-speaking world, The Manchester Guardian, which for many years now has been known simply as The Guardian (of London).
The Weekly has recently undergone a metamorphosis into a magazine-style function that seems to have been welcome to most of its readers, although not so much to me. I recently went to an optometrist to find out what was happening to my eyes: he told me nothing was wrong with them, but I could use more light when I read. So now I have a light over each shoulder, and they reflect back a sharp and varying light from the glossy paper on which the magazine is now printed, that makes it even more difficult to read, especially with its extremely small print. But then, as my cancer doctor says, I have to remember the context, by which he means, I am 91, after all.
In other ways, too, I find the new magazine to be that much less than a newspaper in that it now prints more articles of a sociological and scientific nature (or off-shoots therefrom) than I would wish. An advantage of the new format is that it is easy to leave lying around, and just his morning I picked up a copy from April 12, containing an article on a group of apparently unspeakable idiots called “influencers”, who are manipulating the capitalist system in bizarre and profitable (to them) ways, the sort of thing I would normally bypass rather than read about. This article --- I read it in an extremity upon awakening at 5.10 a.m. --- contained some amazing stuff, such as there is a whole industry built around extreme phonies who celebrate online such bizarre holidays as Vlogmas. And that one of the pillars of this industry is Kim Kardashian West, one of these people who are famous for being famous, who, according to Sophie Elmhurst, author of the article, has recently “been extravagantly paid for promoting an appetite-suppressing lollipop to her then 111-million Instagram followers.”
Much as I might have felt like just giving up on capitalism and all its works right there, things hardly got better when I picked up a similarly discarded copy of the magazine dated May 3, which I found contained a similarly missable article about the industrial battle --- I kid you not --- for supremacy between mechanical hand-dryers in public washrooms, and the more traditional paper towels. Why anybody would be bothered to write either article, let alone read them, is slightly beyond my comprehension, but I have to confess: I did read them.
It reminds me of what one of my sons, an omnivorous reader of internet material, is always reminding me. Louis C.K. one of his comedy heroes, apparently has a routine about how false is the indignation of the air passenger who calls the stewardess to complain vociferously when his internet reception is interrupted while he is being transported around the globe at 36,000 feet and flying along at 550 miles an hour.
Or, to give another example, as my son says, there seem to be two major complaints in the city, usually made by the same person, the one being constant bitching about the terrible conditions of city road surfaces, and the other about the endless delays caused by road construction when the potholes are being fixed.
I myself can add an example: I read the article on the cleanliness or otherwise of public washrooms, which emphasized that power-driven hand-dryers send out health-destroying bacteria throughout the washroom (something that never even occurred to me before, and that I still hardly think is worthy of public notice), with an appropriate amazement because I will never forget having experienced the terrors of a genuinely dirty public washroom when, at the age of 23, I roamed the streets of 1951 Bombay suffering from an attack of diarrhoea. The attack itself was unpleasant, but to find myself in a confined space whose walls and the seat of which were completely covered with human feces, was the greater punishment.
As essayist Mark Crispin Miller writes in a satirical comment on a recent vapid article by a journalist, introducing herself to the readers of The New York Times, who reveals that she was brought up in Liberia, and had been attracted to the profession by her delight and interest in all the weaponry of the American forces, leading to her to deliver this remarkable paragraph:
I’ve flown for hours in the co-pilot seat of a B-1 bomber, including during midair refuels. I’ve done the catapult takeoff and abrupt landing on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. I’ve been in Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters over Baghdad, Kabul and the DMZ, on the border of North and South Korea. I’ve been on an American naval destroyer in the South China Sea while it was being shadowed by the Chinese. That part of the job is just pure fun.
As Miller comments acidly, the journalist might be better employed trying to find out where the $21 trillion that the Pentagon could not account for during a failed $900-million audit had gone, and, he writes, that
if (she) were to look into that mind-boggling disappearance, and the Pentagon's decades of stonewalling as to where their money (that is, our money) goes, it could be the "most challenging" investigation of her whole career.
So, to return to my theme, the reiteration of shallow, meaningless articles about shallow, meaningless aspects of capitalist society is as likely to sicken an attentive readership as to delight them. Or maybe even more likely.
But wot the hell! Wot the hell! to quote my mantra.