This past weekend, I and other Sun editors traveled to Boston for a conference on, among other things, journalism. It was an opportunity for learning, introspection, and Saturday night memory loss.
Saturday aside, I actually do remember details of my trip. One experience that was especially arresting was my exposure to The Harvard Crimson, their version of The Sun. I had hoped that the trip would provide me with an opportunity to be critical of their arts and entertainment section. But, holding the paper in hand, I was forced to acknowledge just what a piece of shit daze really is. The April 16 issue’s design is actually pleasing to the eye, not to mention coherent. While daze is strangled mercilessly by its own text and blandness, The Arts is smooth and appealing, using large graphics and fluid page structures. The front page is in full color, featuring an enormous, high-resolution photograph of an Iraqi mosque. daze could only dream of such engaging page design. The Arts doesn’t just stand out; it screams at banshee-pitch, demanding to be absorbed.
That is not to say that The Arts is the Sistine Chapel of entertainment sections. Perhaps most glaring is the title. “The Arts” may be utilitarian in concept, but it lacks any degree of creativity, giving daze a clear advantage in that regard. The layout looks an awful lot like The New York Times, and often borders on being a total rip-off. But, while Michelangelo may not be working in the editing room, it stands vastly superior to the look of daze. What remains unavoidably obvious is that, when placed next to The Arts, daze is decidedly inferior. Aside from drowning in its own textual filth, the individual design elements are pedestrian at best. Page 4, in an unoriginal attempt to look like Entertainment Weekly, features a poorly cutout image from Kill Bill Vol. 2. The image is too blurry, and the edges lack crispness.
The content, likewise, is error-ridden and mediocre. One reading of Zach Jones’s Rant should be enough to turn daze into a bottom for your bird cage or a placemat for your coffee. Its rampant self-reference and flea market cheap satire is about as appealing as an elementary school field trip to the city morgue. Turning to page 5, we see Jones again attempting something resembling humor by writing a Viewer Discretion Advised (wow, I wonder where they got that title from) about, unsurprisingly, April 20 and films to watch while on marijuana. Something tells me that this concept has been done before in the past. And, after examining the prose, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones wrote the article after a few tokes off the bong.
The Repeat Button, a great boon to daze before the departure of the peerless and hairless Andrew Gilman, offers another example of poorly contrived criticism. Erica Stein, now of the Opinion section, chooses for reasons that still evade me to review Chan Marshall’s “Devil’s Daughter.” Great, Erica, as if there aren’t enough suicide bombings and genocide in the world, you have to choose another suicidal and histrionic female vocalist to write about. Stein writes, “The result is the aural equivalent of negative space, and every time one of the two chords dies out without a new one being struck there’s the absurd surety that this time there won’t be any resumption of the song but only silence.” Holy shit, someone call David Fricke and tell him someone stole his style!
But the greatest detriment to the issue lies in Alex Linhardt’s review of Prince’s Musicology. First, Linhardt awarded the album four towers. Prince is a god. Anything he touches, including Shiela E, deserves six. Aside from bordering on nonsense, the text features two obvious errors. In paragraph six, Linhardt uses the word “impercofying.” I have terrible news, Alex, but that is not a word in any language. Creating such a misphrase seems like a pathetic attempt to imitate a real music critic and splice nouns, adjectives, and negative markers at will. In the last paragraph, Linhardt writes a sentence that reads, “We younglings are simply.” Does something seem wrong with this sentence? Why didn’t the two editors catch this mistake and prevent it from being distributed in 2500 copies? Journalism requires passion, and I have a feeling that Linhardt and Jones could exercise a little more.
Archived article by Zach Jones
Red Letter Daze Associate Editor