August 13, 2007

Isn't it pleasant to get up in the morning? The New York Times is there. You can read it.

I love when summer ends. I love when it begins. Warmth is good, and all this unstructured time. But it's been too hot, and too many structureless days have melted into each other. So it feels good to get up at 5 a.m. and see that it's still dark. It reminds me of winter. Not that I'd put on a sweater or even long sleeves, but the air coming in through the window by the dining table feels cool.

Do I dart outside in my bare feet to pick the New York Times up off the front walkway? No! Today is the first day of my canceled subscription. I'd maintained that subscription since 1984 when I moved from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin. How happy I was back then to learn that you could get the Times delivered here.

In my favorite movie, "My Dinner With Andre," there's the moment of great relief when -- after an hour or so of Andre Gregory's rambling tales of avant-garde theater in strange places around the world -- Wallace Shawn finally asks if Andre would like to hear his response to all of that. And Wally's idea is that it doesn't make much sense to do all these unusual things in search of real life, because real life is right where you are in your real life. He says he can't imagine anything better than living with his girlfriend (Debbie), reading a book (specifically, the autobiography of Charlton Heston), and getting up in the morning to find his old cup of coffee (and it's pure bonus that no cockroach has died in it overnight). He exclaims:
Isn't it pleasant just to get up in the morning? The Times is there. You can read it.
And for all these years that I've had the New York Times delivered, I've thought of that line, that line that expresses the joy of ordinary life: "The Times is there. You can read it." But now, the NYT is not here.

It's here on line. And the truth is, I've been doing nearly all my reading of it lately on line -- often with the still folded paper right next to the laptop. But this symbol of real life, the paper, is gone. The coffee is real. It's not on line. The news is real. It was never in the paper. "What's in the newspaper?" is a funny expression. Or is "the news" only the human expression about things observed in the world? If something happened and no one reported on it, would there still be news? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Do we need that tree mashed into pulp to make paper to print the news for the news to be news? I think the news must be reported for it to be news, so, in fact, the news really is in the newspaper, but the newspaper doesn't need to be paper.

So I'll be reading on line now. Ironically, what pushes me over the edge to canceling the subscription is moving back to New York City. But I'm not in New York yet. I've got my keys to the apartment, but I'm still here in Madison, Wisconsin, where it's light out now, and life is real.

It's not 1984:

13 comments:

Meade said...

psilocybin?

P. Rich said...

For a moment there, I thought you might have come to your senses and stopped reading the NYT. sigh

"I think the news must be reported for it to be news"

So then some semi-intelligent leftnick-journalism-school graduate living inside an insular homogeneous "newsroom" bubble should be deciding what's best for us to be told, what's better suppressed and how we should think (It's called opinionated reporting, which the NYT has become notorious for.)? Not. Did you seriously consider that statement before as wrote it? Or is it that you read the NYT in much the same way you would read a pulp comic?

And OBTW, "If something happened and no one reported on it, would there still be news?"

Yes: If you are a thinking, rational person.
No: If you are a dedicated NYT reader who credits the deteriorating rag with some pathetic vestige of integrity and impartiality.

Ann Althouse said...

P. Rich, I didn't say the NYT had to report on something for it to be news, just that some one did. That would include bloggers, neighbors gossiping, etc.

P. Rich said...

I stand corrected on a technicality, while you evade the principal point and continue without clarification to read the NYT, thus cluttering your cognitive faculty with distortions which will subsequently affect your worldview. Do you regularly ingest toxic waste? That would be an equivalent habit, just less insidious.

Anthony said...

I'm still having difficulty wrapping my head around the idea of someone wanting to move from Madison to NYC. . . .

Maxine Weiss said...

I can envision Althouse wearing white gloves when she reads the paper, so as not to get print stains on her fingers

Dewb said...

Here in Boston, the Globe has been running ads where a bunch of talking heads, supposedly subscribers, gush about how much they enjoy their Globe subscription. One lady says, and I'm paraphrasing, but this is quite close:

"I don't know of any better feeling in the world than waking up and finding the Globe on your doorstep."

They should have used the My Dinner with Andre formulation -- it's believable.

Kev said...

"Not that I'd put on a sweater or even long sleeves, but the air coming in through the window by the dining table feels cool."

That's quite a contrast from Dallas, where--after a mild, wet summer up to this point--we finally had our first 100-degree day on Saturday. (Needless to say, a lot of us down here are wearing shorts.)

NSC said...

I didn't see My Dinner With Andre when it was released but I now enjoy watching it over and over. I even introduced it to my oldest son who is a film buff but for some reason had never seen it.

Just a really excellent film and perfect for a cool fall Sunday.

cokaygne said...

The NYT gets a bad rap. Its editorials are silly and provide plenty of fodder for columnists. Many of the NYT's columnists are saps who haven't had an original idea in years. However; in its news pages the NYT really works at trying to uncover and track new things. They miss a lot of the time because their reporters are isolated in an Upper West Side cocoon; but not always, and at least they are trying to inform readers about something other than the latest round of partisan charges and counter charges in DC. Sure, the NYT's news pages are biased - what news pages are not; but the NYT generally acknowledges its biases, and there is craftsmanship there.

cokaygne said...

One more thing. I also read the Boston Globe on line as well. Sadly, since its purchase by the NYT, the Globe has gotten worse rather than better. The Globes editorials are even sillier than the NYT's, and its columnists are even hackier. Both Maureen Dowd and Ellen Goodman relentlessly play the woman as victim card, but Dow has a residual sense of humor, while Goodman has no sense at all. The NYT has no one like James Carroll who is so wracked with guilt about is white, male, Irish, Catholic, son of a soldier background that he ought to do the world a favor and take a long walk on a short pier.

The Globe's failure and the NYT's success (in my estimation if not in circulation) are related to audience. The NYT's audience is a national collection of fashionistas, policy wonks, and play-date moms, and the NYT unashamedly caters to that audience. The Globe does not understand that it is a local paper and caters to that same audience. The small number of Bostonians who would like the NYT already read it. They don't need the NYT-lite offered by the Globe, and it has nothing so say to the rest of its local audience.

Lisa said...

I live in Dallas and have subscribed to the NYT for years, as our local newspaper is unreadable. Unfortunately, the NYT had serious delivery problems nearly every week (wet paper, partial paper, no paper at all) and I finally canceled my subscription when they could not correct them.

Now I read online for free Soon, even the columns that were once protected by the Wall of Times Select will be available for free access.

Trooper York said...

Back in the early 70's Toots Schor fronted a restuarant near the garden....it wasn't the original one but a pale imitation...so my dad and I went in to get a bite before the Knick game...and who did we see but Bruno Sammartino and Chief Jay Strongbow having a couple of coctails....now that was in the days when wrestling was only on Chanel 47 and there was no such thing as cable...well we were schocked to see them in the flesh and we bought them a few drinks and started bullshitting back and forth and we ended up having dinner and missed the game...they were great guys and had a lot to say about the nature of fame and what is really worth...although Bruno was kinda quiet...but ever since that day....I always thought of it as my Dinner with Andre the Giant....