December 26, 2007

The H L Mencken Page, Talent-Free

The LA Times must have have scheduled December 26th as Old Curmudgeon Day. Opinion sections usually cover issues of significant political or cultural weight, but the Times' offerings today do little but gripe about fellow Angelenos. Two essays even use the word "hipsters", which is two references too many.

First, we have a complaint that LA has gone to the dogs from Will Beall:

Some hipster's English Mastiff, big enough to bring down a cape buffalo, lies athwart the front entrance to Starbucks while his "daddy" is inside hunched over an iBook. So my 4-year-old son and I head for the side door. A spastic Weimaraner tied to a bistro set lunges at us, gets tangled up in the iron furniture and yowls like he's caught in a bear trap. My kid covers his ears. The Weimaraner's "mommy" charges out with her yoga mat slung like a quiver, nonfat soy latte in her hand, and tries to untangle the mess one-handed. The dog gets loose and pees all over another patron's chair.

Then we have Amy Alkon making pseudo-trenchant complaints about cell phones:

Now, maybe you're too timid (or too sane) to do what I do, but please do something. Shush the rudesters. At least glare. Ask restaurants to post "no cellphones" signs.

Peace on Earth might not be doable, but we could try for peace and quiet. For civility, not technology, to be our guide. Perhaps the manners of the future are best informed by our pre-wireless past. Think about it: There's a reason no one installed a phone booth right at table five.

And for good measure, Heather Havrilevsky complains about having to hobnob with people in shopping malls, and instead wants LA to build a stone plaza so she doesn't have to shop to be annoyed:

When I first arrived in Los Angeles from San Francisco, I was tired of bitter beer and bitter coffee and bitter hipsters sneering over their copies of "Might" magazine. I relished the big shopping malls and massive cineplexes and themed restaurants, all symbols of the Southland's unabashed, unironic overindulgence.

But over the years, I've developed a distaste for the fact that almost all of L.A.'s public spaces are commercial spaces, like the Grove, Paseo Colorado and other glorified outdoor malls. We congregate in spaces designed not for citizens but for consumers.

Take a good look at the topic selection here. Dogs on leashes sounds like a great topic -- for the weekly freebie throwaway newsletter that pollute the mailboxes. Being a native Angeleno, I can vouch for the fact that the last thing the greater LA Basin needs is another square inch of concrete on what used to be natural ground. And hadn't everyone written a "I hate cell phone users" column by 2002?

These "wordsters", all professional writers, have given the Times' editors an opportunity to rethink the entire business of editorial pages. Why use them to promote debate over the issues and as a platform for policy development? In fact, six weeks out from California's primary, why waste ink on politics at all? Let's turn the editorial page into a place where disaffected elitist snobs can add "-sters" to a noun and believe themselves witty and erudite.

Of course, once the Times does that, they no longer have an op-ed section but an expensive blog -- and not a very compelling one at that.


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