Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Kids Hug Mike Tyson (and Frank Rich probably left the New York Times)?

I read a lot. I subscribe to way too many magazines and I know it (despite my pleas that I have been cutting down like a smoker delaying the inevitable). Still, my justification is that I truly try to read them all in a timely manner. Despite the growing pile on a daily basis, certain new deliveries always skip to the top (besides the obligatory action of skipping weeklies ahead of monthlies so they don't get outdated in my mind). The weekly that always jumps to the head of the pile is New York Magazine.

A hole developed inside of my reading soul for approximately 6 months as I allowed my subscription lapse due to the (not really) prohibitive cost that New York was asking for in their renewal notice. The innate Jewry in me insisted, "Wait it out, they will come down to your price." Magazine pricing disease is a dreary part of the internet era of price comparison. You know you've seen it cheaper before so you refuse to pay the price they are asking if it's not as cheap as the subscription that got you hooked in the first place. In this case that previous price was free as part of some offer somewhere that I can't recall. Free magazines make me think of drug dealers who give you a taste to get hooked and then ratchet up that price tag when you can't live without it. I guess that is the basis of any business where you are able to provide samples, legitimately run or not.

There's a point here somewhere. Flipping through the latest issue of New York Magazine, it is obvious to me why a popular New York Times columnist would leave. To join New York Magazine is to join something less time consuming and more vibrant. The Atlantic Wire has a whole list of the reshuffling at the "Paper of Record," but it's not a joke that newspaper, even those held in high esteem, are quickly becoming unnecessary, especially to those whom advertisers covet the most, the young and wealthy. I'm sure really wealthy people have time to sit down every day and peruse a whole newspaper full of stuff they don't want to read to get to things they do want to read. New York Magazine is almost always full of a perfect blend of well thought out pieces side-by-side with snarky fluff that informs while making you chuckle. Does the New York Times make you chuckle? To be honest, I don't know but I doubt it because I am young(ish) and don't have a subscription and I never actually go to a newsstand to "pick it up."

Let's take a small sampling from this week's issue as an example starting with what could be the most goldmine-ridden one page profile in history. I have read plenty of stuff on Mike Tyson. The man was Charlie Sheen way before Charlie Sheen was the Charlie Sheen that now everyone can't stop talking about. (Very quick aside: Who watches Two and a Half Men? What is the country coming to when this is the number one comedy on TV by ratings?) Tyson did the drugs, the hookers, the blowing of money years ago as well the crazy face tattooing, the exotic pet collecting and the pummeling of men into oblivion. He bit a off a chunk of Holyfield's ear. He has that ridiculous voice and rarely has a censor blocking him from saying things he should never say. If you've got about nine minutes, here's a fantastic recap of his potent quotables:

Note to self, Tyson loves the word fornication. Focus! "81 Minutes With Mike Tyson" was the subject of this issue's recurring short time frame interview piece. If you didn't know, Tyson is so interesting that he was able to sell the ambigously titled "Taking on Tyson" called to Animal Planet about his true passion, pigeon racing. I'm sure the show wasn't picked up because this man is walking, talking, idiosyncratic train wreck full of sound-bytes. Look no further than this piece by Geoffrey Gray which, in a matter of 800 words, will force you to set your DVR.

On his family friendly show, Tyson opines, :“Isn’t it crazy?...I go from being this horrible guy, this rapist, this psycho-man walking the streets … and now when I see these young kids on the street, they give me hugs … Ain’t that some shit?”

Don't forget to ask Tyson which animal he thinks he would be. The answer is not pigeon.

“I’d like to be a lion, but I think I’m a wolverine ...They’re like big giant rats. They’re about 50 pounds and fearless. They fight to the death. They don’t move fast. They walk slow because they’re not afraid of nothing. That’s how I think. And they can be a little reckless... I’d like to be a lion and have lion status: to make other people do my work and get the credit for it.”

And Mike the sage, aged philosopher can't neglect to espouse some contemplations on life: "You realize when you get older that life is not about acquiring shit, it’s about losing shit,” he says. “You lose your hair, your teeth, your loved ones.”

Illustration by Andy Friedman (from NY Mag)

Turn the page and you have a sports column by Will Leitch entitled "Cashman's Burden" that will never grace the pages of the Grey Lady. The topic, Brian Cashman - GM of the Yankees, would be covered but the style is left for alternative opinion sources. Anyone who knows me knows I hate the Yankees and would most likely skip this piece if it appeared in any other location. After a standard opening section, Leitch turns up the humor. "Unless Cashman suddenly has a psychotic break and starts dropping truth bombs about the past 25 years of his life, we’ll never know what sort of hoops he had to leap through to survive two and a half decades in the Yankees organization."

Writing about the difference between the stark supporting cast difference between Cashman and Boston GM Theo Epstein, "Epstein can walk down the hall and talk to Bill James; Cashman is stuck running into Hank Steinbrenner on his smoke breaks." Cashman gets to talk to a rich money counter and son of a belligerent a-hole of an owner while Epstein bounces ideas off of Bill James, a statistician who basically created modern theories of how to build a baseball team through the widely preached world of sabremetrics.

Then Leitch comes up with my new favorite line to describe the mentality of baseball's Evil Empire. "Overpaying for expensive older free agents is their birthright." I don't think I could say it better myself.

Turn the page again and you are treated to a long feature going into the interesting, yet well covered history of Broadway's newest playwrights/ South Park Creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone. The hits just keep on coming. Sure there is a skip-worthy piece here and there. I am no fashionista and don't care about dresses or the newest restaurants (since I am poor and a vegetarian which are not usually the target for a new restaurant looking to succeed.)" No rag is perfect except maybe the The Believer (if they banished that recurring "Real Life Top Ten" column that I can't stand.)

The Believer's 2011 Film Issue (cover art as always by Charles Burns)

Oh New York, how I've missed you and am so happy to caress you in my hands again. Looking forward to reading your new columnist, I hear he's good.

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