Long Live the Sunday Papers

Will this....
Will this ….
... seem like this?
… seem like this?

We are down to one daily paper and two Sunday papers from a high in 2005 of two dailies, two weeklies and two Sundays. I bore my children every week by announcing a sampling of the papers that flowed through our house when I was growing up: The Daily Record, the Waterloo Courier, the Des Moines Register, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, L’Osservatore Romano. That expanding¬†concentric circle of news and the priority placed on reading it (no phone nor idle conversations before 9am, ever) was as formative an experience as morning Mass and Sunday dinner. Recalling how frustrating this could be from a kid’s point of view, I have to try very hard not to hide behind the paper each Sunday. I don’t always succeed.

Even though I have read all the major stories online by the time Sunday morning rolls around, I still look forward to sitting down and seeing what I’ve already read in print and the delight of going through each section to read things I know I would missed on any device. Color funnies and Personality Parade (even though it is terrible now)? On paper, only, thanks. Regional news? Still on paper, all week long (I don’t want my kids to ever ask me “What’s a newspaper like?” That would kill me). I set magazines and book reviews aside carefully so that if I don’t get to them they don’t get recycled prematurely. I still keep the front pages from momentous days, good and bad, on my desk upstairs, where they will eventually make their way to a file box in the attic. You can’t pull out a bookmark of a webpage to show children and grandchildren. NY cover same sex marriageI still subscribe to the print version of The New Yorker, and in a nod to marital harmony and environmental consciousness, I save only the covers (an interesting family exercise: pull out a random New Yorker Cover and see if we can figure out what happened that week just from that piece of art – the stories we make up are just as interesting as the real explanations).

I could go on and on…but I need to go finish reading the paper.

Do We Get It Now? The Joker is Real and Batman is Not.

Begin rant.

I have had it up to my eyeballs with superheroes. They were invented for 12 year olds to ease them into and out of adolesence, not to keep society perpetually in adolescence. We have the technology to do the harm that the villains do – and we use it. We don’t possess the super powers the heroes have and we largely ignore our own capacity to do good in favor of sitting, mouths agape in service to the glorified high provided by gratuitous violence and rampant disrespect for human life and dignity. Batman, as I recall, does not have super powers – he is mortal. He, nor anyone like him, came to the rescue when the Joker came to call in Colorado.

Are we learning anything yet?

I understand parables and fables and the constructs of fiction and I like special effects. I love movies, have always loved movies, have found tremendous solace and wisdom in movies. Movies are not an escape, though, if they don’t feed all the parts of your mind, and if you don’t do anything beyond the screen that comes from thoughtfulness. I realize the need for escapism borne of a poor economy and a real world punctuated by war and senseless violence. Back during the Great Depression the folks we now call The Greatest Generation turned to movies that shared their pain and lifted their spirits (The Grapes of Wrath, It Happened One Night, Public Enemy, 42nd Street, Top Hat,¬†Red Dust, Rebecca), not sociopaths and explosions that stoked their anger and underscored their impotence. We have some lovely movies out now (Moonrise Kingdom) but they are not the ones that have PR budgets in tens of millions, midnight showings and top grosses (pun intended). We set Hollywood’s priorities with our ticket money and our internet hits – what are we telling them?

Yes, our leaders in government, politics and religion are failing us (and some of them are stoking our anger, too, with their politics of divisiveness, class warfare and hate), but maybe if we gave them the same level of attention we do these overwrought, overviolent and oversexed films they might have some incentive to get some work done. It’s not enough to weigh in about the latest cable news brouhaha – we need to ¬†understand what is actually happening. It’s work. It’s important. It’s the kind of thinking that makes you mad in a good way. We desperately need heroes in real life, and we will not find them at the movies. We will find them in the mirror.

End rant.

Addendum: Ross Douthat from The Times weighs in.

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