Well-meaning but inept New York Times columnist Frank Bruni is living proof that being a newspaper columnist is harder than it looks. As a normal newspaper writer and food critic, he seemed like a smart, erudite guy; as a columnist, he has proven to be remarkably free of insight or interesting ideas of any sort. Say, did you catch Frank Bruni's column Sunday entitle "The Land of the Binge?" If not, allow us to sum it up for you.
"Food... politics... something... similar about them, somehow. Americans? Eating. The internet." Frank Bruni likes to write about food. He is expected to write about politics. He spends his time mostly browsing the internet. Why not smush all these things together into a single, vapid whole? This, young journalism students, is a sterling example of the valuable journalistic technique of Mashing Together Disparate Generalities About Your Own Pet Topics and Drawing a Conclusion With no Intellectual Value whatsoever. People these days—they sure are doing lots of stuff a lot, aren't they?
AROUND the time that Netflix released an entire season of "House of Cards" at once, so that viewers could gorge on all 13 episodes, a friend sent me a plaintive e-mail about the way that foodie-favored restaurants give her no option other than gorging.
Please take a moment to marvel at that lede. In a single sentence, Frank Bruni has managed to definitively establish that he was so desperate for a column idea that he is forced to draw on A) what he was watching on Netflix this week, and B) an email from a friend. Please, tell us more. *Hands on chin*
"It's all or nothing," she wrote, flagging a dichotomy: cooking in trendy restaurants has never been fattier, while the trend of "cleansing" with a severe regimen of liquefied fruits, vegetables and nuts has never been hotter. Feast or famine. Binge or beet juice.
I turned from her lament to the front page of The Times.
Frank. FRANK. Free advice from someone who has written his fair share of bullshit "think pieces:" when, tired and desperate for content, you decide to simply invent an idea out of whole cloth from the flimsiest of anecdotal evidence, you have to at least disguise this fact a bit. Weave a story out of it, you know? You can't literally narrate each hilariously meaningless source of information that you are browsing to cobble together 800 words of pap. "I watched some Netflix; I got an email; I read the paper; I wrote this shitty column." You're giving away the game, Frank. Conceal the bullshit a little.
In order to construct his theory that Americans Like to Binge on Stuff These Days, Frank Bruni goes on to cite the following:
- The X games.
- The weather.
- Campaign spending.
- Working out hard.
- Political web sites.
- Juice cleanses.
- A " a porky meal I ate in early 2009 [that] included foie gras on a biscuit doused in both maple syrup and pork-sausage gravy."
"Moderation. Remember that?" asks Frank Bruni, tiresomely.
"I blame the internet." -sentence that also appears in this column without apparent irony.