Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Holiday Clean-Up

To mark the Memorial Day holiday, NPR last night broadcast a splendid oral history program on World War I veterans, who of course are fast disappearing, given that the war took place about 90 years ago. One statistic brought the story home with particular force: At the beginning of 2007, 24 American veterans of World War I were still alive. Today, less than six months later, that number is 14. You can learn more about the program here.

Somehow I Seemed to Have Missed This...in the original coverage of the Tyco corruption case, which sent former CEO Dennis Kozlowski to jail. At the infamous birthday party he threw his wife, the party which the public company Tyco famously paid one million dollars to throw, guests were treated to the spectacle of an ice sculpture of Michaelangelo's David, with vodka spouting from its penis. Oh my. Thanks to conservative columnist Mark Steyn, writing recently in the National Review, I now know this essential bit of corporate trivia.

GQ Tentatively Returns to Small Bits of Real Journalism. Despite its silly name (the full name is Gentlemen's Quarterly, despite its being a monthly) and decades-long reputation for being aimed solely at clotheshorses (JFK was even once moved to note aloud that he had always assumed it was a magazine for gay men), GQ was once a journalistic and even literary powerhouse. Under the late, longtime editor Art Cooper, it was stuffed with wonderful writing by a thicket of wonderful writers. Like its Conde Nast cousin, Vanity Fair, the silly crap (fashion ads and other ads dressed up as articles) paid for a not-insignificant amount of serious reporting and writing. But a few years ago, the Newhouse family that owns the magazine decided it was tired of having its lunch handed to it on the advertising side by the downmarket Details magazine, and it too decided to go downmarket. Out went the real articles, and in went a bunch of shallow, superficial pages pretending to be journalism (publishers of downmarket mags like to call it "service journalism"), but which in fact were really more buying guides for gadgets, clothing and anything else the advertising might be hawking. The new editor, who looks about 23 years old, was photographed in his monthly message upfront, looking studiously disheveled, with wild hair, open collar and impish grin. This month, I note he's combed his hair, and even sports a tie. And good Lord, there are actually TWO real articles worth reading (two more than would have been the case in recent years). One is this splendid profile of Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who famously refused to shake Bush's hand. It's written by the talented former New Republic staff writer Ryan Lizza. The other piece worth reading is on a puffier subject, the actor George Clooney, but it too is well-written, and takes a serious look at the movie star's retro tastes. Does this mean the old GQ is back? Hardly. But if they begin publishing just one more good article a month, I just might be forced to subscribe again.


At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously if John attended the Kozlowski party his favorite drink would be vodka on the rocks. mfh.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Not sure I would have imbibed anything from that source. But I sure as hell would have loved to have caught a glimpse of that spectacle. But for future reference, as long as you're buying, my drink is vodka and tonic with a lime.

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

I've been reading and admiring Mark Steyn's obituary writing in the Atlantic for quite a while now. It's one of the first things I read when I get the magazine. I hear he has a book out now, too.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Miles, like all good writers, you have sharp eyes for good writing. I've noticed the same thing (plus his columns, distributed in this country by the Chicago Sun-Times), and while I rarely agree with his conservative politics, I always admire the way he expresses things. I did notice his new book only yesterday at the bookstore, but haven't yet flipped through it. I plan to sometime soon. If anyone else has read it, please let us know how it is.


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