Back in 2009, on the day before Barack Obama’s inauguration, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen chose to mark the occassion with a truly awful rewrite of “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” A sample:
ACT UP, Infinite Jest, O.J. Part Two, Johnny Depp
iPhones, Federer, Who Let the Dogs Out?
Halle Berry, cloned Dolly, and another Kennedy
Jon Stewart, American Psycho, tsunami, Danger Mouse
I’m not sure which is lazier: the fact that he didn’t even try to put things in chronological order, or the fact that he padded the length by reprinting Billy Joel’s chorus six times. In any case, I was inspired to create the Golden Phone Award, for great achievements in the field of phoning it in.
Today, we have another winner. May I present a piece from the October 18 edition of the Old Grey Lady, “It Was Real, Cradle to Grave. Or Was It Just TV?” Already, the title is swinging for the fences.
The best I can figure, this is supposed to be a humor piece, in which an entire life story is retold via titles of reality shows. A sample:
She said yes, and then she said Yes to the Dress, a bare-midriff number that made her look a little trampy, but so what? At least she was no Bridezilla. Sure, she was a former Playmate, but I was willing to overlook that as long as she would overlook the fact that, without my Kiss makeup on, I was kind of a schlub. In any case, we cashed in the Family Jewels to pay for our wedding.
We’d hoped it would be catered by a Top Chef, but we had to settle for some Hairy Bikers, who served sausage hors d’oeuvres made from river rats they had shot earlier in the day. We took a Cash Cab to our honeymoon suite but didn’t stay long; we had to find a place to live.
This goes on for 1,100 words. I repeat, MORE THAN A THOUSAND WORDS. It’s like some sort of summer camp rainy day activity that happens to have been published in a major newspaper.
Confusingly, the author chooses to break his story up by days of the week, but they have no connection to the actual days the TV shows air on. The above passage happens on “Sunday,” but we all know that Say Yes to the Dress is on Fridays and Top Chef is Wednesdays. It wouldn’t make the article better if the author had made this accurate, but it would have made it a more impressive pointless feat, like a man who attaches clothespins to his face just to see how many he can fit.
And so Neil Genzlinger, I’m happy to award you this jpeg of a phone I found via Google Image Search. I would have put your name on it, but we don’t have an art department out here in the Real World. Ooooh, see what I did there? Can I have a column now?
Remember “Candy Wrapper Song” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0lk14moOus ) or Kip Adoddta’s “Wet Dream” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l1GvDWtccI ). This was called corny and relegated to Doctor Demento and yet they require infinitely more skill. Is it a sign of the Times?
Belinkie, thank you for inventing this award, and most especially for the line “It wouldn’t make the article better if the author had made this accurate, but it would have made it a more impressive pointless feat, like a man who attaches clothespins to his face just to see how many he can fit.” I read the actual NYT article before the jump so I could keep up with your references, and was immediately very glad I had not read it (the NYT article, not your post) on one of those Diana Feels Stabby days.
I would like to propose that you add categories and make it a whole journalism/media awards week on OTI. Any of the NYT’s many “Wealthy People Continue to Buy Things That Are Expensive, with Money” articles (see the Style section as well as Real Estate) would, for example, go in the Repackaging Accepted Truths to Make a Deadline category, as would any “Things That Are Bad for You Are Bad for You” article in a health publication such as Prevention. Lamest Narrative Logic in a Holiday-themed Article (“For many, Halloween is a wake-up call when it comes to the importance of proper pet etiquette…”) would yield a goldmine of contenders.