Sunday, July 16, 2006

Astonishing superficiality

Eleven syllables in a two word title is certainly not How to Write a Hit Article." But I share Jack Shafer's amazement at the NYT "Shamu" essay and the response to it. I'm not providing a link to the article. As a NYT "most emailed article," if it hasn't gone behind a pay wall, you can find it easily if you're so inclined. With all due respect to my daughter and my sister, both of whom emailed the link to me, don't bother looking for the article. It's a trite story of how the author applied behavior modification techniques to improve her husband's bad habits. As Shafer points out:
"The Shamu story establishes once and for all that men are the new women. You can now use the New York Times to write the most dehumanizing and insulting shit about them and everybody will laugh in recognition."

Shafer's first lesson trumps the rest:
Editors in search of page views should emulate the Times (and Slate) and pimp their headlines to attract attention. As long as the headline is half-honest, it's OK.

The Times article is headlined "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage." Who (besides me) wouldn't want to read about that? Sadly, the article is not about Shamu or a happy marriage, making it even duller than the headline suggests.

I'm always amused by the Google search terms that lead people to this blog. I still get a surprising number of hits (anything more than one would be surprising) from searches for Skunk Cabbage. It's not just Shafer's "Lesson No. 5: Animals, animals, animals. Let me repeat: Animals, animals, animals..." My visitors are searching, not just for skunks but the total skunk cabbage concept. Runners-up in google search terms leading here are: Woodpeckers and Apricots - not among my most profound articles - and China's One Child Policy.

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