Saturday, May 12, 2018

Folio of Decay

Three slices of The Atlantic's degeneration.

First we have a highly technical issue, regarding life and death from 1981.
It has politics, but not party politics.
He asked me my opinion [about the specs requiring ball powder] after the fact. In other words, this was rather an odd meeting. … I looked at the technical data package and he said, “What is your opinion?” and I said, “I would advise against it. …”
I asked, “So what is going to happen?” And he said, “Well, they already decided this is the way they are going to go,” meaning the committee. I said, “So why are you asking me now?” and he said, “I would have felt better if you had approved of the package.”
And I said, “Well, now we both don’t feel so good.”
It has references to technical issues, requiring the reader to keep track of the difference between .30 calibre ammo and .22, the 3250 fps muzzle velocity, chamber pressure, and mentions exact measurements for rifling twist. Not that it abjures human interest; there are snippets of letters written by the rifle's end-users, who are more accurately called its victims. As far as I can tell there are no pious lies in this piece.

I would have liked it to mention that Army Ordnance clearly preferred the .30 because larger things are manlier and thus higher status, while actually defeating your enemy is at best a distant second. "The soldiers want lighter gear? What are they, little girls?" However, explicit status-awareness is dark knowledge and habitual explicit status-awareness is newer than '81 in any case.

This is a Spartan writing about Athenian effects on Spartan issues, with an Athenian outlook.

Next up, from 2008, something almost purely in the human-interest style. (It's written by a lit professor, after all.) It deals with an important decision that affects all aspect of life, and can easily make the difference between successful retirement and working until your health fails.
It has poignant asides.
Some of the young guys, the police-officers-to-be, have wonderfully open faces across which play their every passing emotion, and when we start reading “Araby” or “Barn Burning,” their boredom quickly becomes apparent. They fidget; they prop their heads on their arms; they yawn and sometimes appear to grimace in pain, as though they had been tasered. Their eyes implore: How could you do this to me?
It mentions but does not enumerate the monetary costs borne by students and the symmetric windfall received by the university. While today I think every reader will instantly identify which political party this piece is a flag for, the author shows little awareness of the button's hotness, and clearly resides on the other side of the aisle.

This is an Athenian writing in Athenian style about how not everyone is an Athenian.

Finally we have the most recent issue, which decided the best use of some Atlantic column-inches was to pontificate about how vowely are babby's names. They can't keep politics out of even the fluffiest pieces. "Unites America." It's letter-choice. Letters. I wouldn't call this Athenian. This is Genovesi pretending to be Athenian, and not particularly well.

I can't help but notice multiple articles seem to be straight from Twitter; either directly invoking #MeToo, in a rather transparent attempt to say, "Pay attention to me, too!"; or referencing Kanye West's recent stunts. Oh, and this: "Oprah to Graduates: Vote! Vote! Vote!" Thank you for that profound commentary. Oprah is of course famous for her novel insights, worthy of deep analysis in prestigious periodicals.

I don't believe it is a coincidence that the length of the articles is dropping monotonically within my sample.


Serendipity handed me this one. More are planned but don't hold your breath.