The best and the worst come together in Times Square

Did you hear about the massive swarm of bees that descended upon Times Square earlier this week?

From the New York Times:

"Thousands of bees swarmed part of Times Square on Tuesday afternoon, sending tourists and passers-by scrambling before the bees settled on the cart of a very unhappy hot-dog vendor at 43rd Street and Broadway.

The mass of insects was so dense it weighed down sections of the stand’s umbrella. 

The incident lasted all of an hour before the New York Police Department’s own beekeeping team vacuumed up the horde of honeybees and took them safely to a new location." 

This story struck a particular chord with me.

I'm allergic to bees. They kill me dead if they sting me.

But hot dogs are my second favorite food item in the world, and one of my favorite things overall.

Bees and hot dogs. Friend and foe collide. A bizarre, incomprehensible combination of my favorite and least favorite things. 

It almost feels as if the universe is winking at me. Or threatening me. 

The New York Times use of honorifics must end.

I like the New York Times.

I'm an online subscriber to the New York Times.

Despite Trump's insistence that the New York Times is failing, digital subscriptions are at a record high, the stock price is near a 52 week high, and Trump gave a long and damning interview to the paper just last week.

Thanks to the New York Times, we know more about the Trump administration than Trump would ever want the American people to know. They have broken important story after important story. 

I like the New York Times a lot.

But enough already with the damn honorifics.  

In a quaint vestige of a dying era, the New York Times still uses honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. when writing about people in the news section as a means of demonstrating respect for the people on whom they report.

It's time to stop.

There are a few reasons that I want this to stop, but primarily, I want it to stop because using these honorifics is pretentious. Precious. A sad clinging to a bygone day. Unnecessary tradition that certain readers would surely hate to see go, but I suspect that those who would object the most are also pretentious, precious, and a little sad.

And the Time already more than a little pretentious. The way in which couples strive to land their wedding announcements in the Times, as if it's some kind of a badge of honor, is a little pretentious and sad. These pages are dripping with stories of the wealthiest, most privileged people in the world celebrating their nuptials and wanting anyone who is anyone to know all about it and them. And unless there is an Ivy Leaguer or a ballerina or an investment banker or a Dr. somewhere in the bunch, you ain't getting in. 

There are websites dedicated to making fun of these people, and rightfully so. 

When plumbers marry teachers in New York, the Times doesn't care.   

I hate this. And it's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Times pretentiousness.

But my desire for the Times to abandon honorifics goes beyond that. The use of honorifics also creates enormous inconsistencies and matters of questionable judgement. 

Take this piece about Mo'Nique's and Sidney Hicks open marriage. Because Mo'Nique doesn't use a last name, she appears throughout the piece as Mo'Nique whereas Sidney becomes Mr. Hicks.

This inconsistency is annoying and stupid. And it happens all the time. 

The same is done for someone like Meat Loaf, who the Times could refer to as Mr. Loaf but wisely does not. Also Ice Cube. Ice Tea. Snoop Dog. 50 Cent.

You get the idea.  

Then there's the Times' decision to remove the honorific when referring to someone who is considered exceedingly evil, like Osama Bin Laden, but then not removing it for someone like Saddam Hussein. 

The Times has also stop using honorifics on their sports page, because... I guess athletes don't merit the same respect as Mr. Bieber, a entertainer so annoying that he was banned from China this week? Or OJ Simpson? Bill Cosby? Vladimir Putin? 

The Times recently added the gender-neutral pronoun Mx. to their stable of honorifics, which was a good decision if you're going to cling to the needless tradition of honorifics but will surely enrage the kind of Trump supporter who thinks that our cars should be powered by coal, people should only have sex with opposing genitalia, and women shouldn't be exposing their shoulders in the US Senate. 

Actually, I guess that's kind of a good thing,

Still, rather than adding an honorific to obscure sex and gender, how about just removing them altogether.

Mr. only serves to indicate that the person in question has a penis.

Miss, Ms., and Mrs. only serve to indicate the marital status and presence of a vagina. 


The only other thing I like about their rules of honorifics related to the use of the title Dr.

"Dr. should be used in all references for physicians, dentists and veterinarians whose practice is their primary current occupation, or who work in a closely related field, like medical writing, research or pharmaceutical manufacturing."

In the New York Times, a Dr. is a doctor. 

A person who has earned a PhD can also request that the Dr. honorific is used, but only if it's related to their current occupation.

I just like the idea that they have to ask. 

"Um... excuse me. I earned a PhD. in comparative literature with a focus on eighteenth century Lithuanian feminist male writers. Could you please refer to me as Dr. Jones?"

I like the groveling that's required to get that precious honorific in the pages of the paper.  

One of the most remarkable pieces of writing in New York Times history - for reasons that will surprise you

A New York Times piece from July 2009 entitled Cronkite’s Signature: Approachable Authority is truly remarkable. 

It's not remarkable because of the content. The information and insight into Walter Cronkite is interesting but hardly groundbreaking or revelatory. 

And it's not remarkable because of the writing style or particular assemblage of words. It's well written and effective but certainly not Pulitzer worthy.

No, the reason this piece is truly remarkable is because of the two corrections that immediately follow it. Both the size of the corrections (273 words long in contrast to a piece that is 997 words in length) and the particular errors made cause this piece to stand out as one for the ages. 

Read the piece if you'd like, but unless you are a fan of Walter Cronkite, there is no need.

Just read this correction. You will be astounded. 

Correction: July 22, 2009 
An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite’s career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite’s coverage of D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. “The CBS Evening News” overtook “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” on NBC in the ratings during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A communications satellite used to relay correspondents’ reports from around the world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he became anchor of “The CBS Evening News” in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite was the anchor. Because of an editing error, the appraisal also misstated the name of the news agency for which Mr. Cronkite was Moscow bureau chief after World War II. At that time it was United Press, not United Press International.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 1, 2009 
An appraisal on July 18 about Walter Cronkite’s career misstated the name of the ABC evening news broadcast. While the program was called “World News Tonight” when Charles Gibson became anchor in May 2006, it is now “World News With Charles Gibson,” not “World News Tonight With Charles Gibson.”

Two new clinical studies find something that everyone already knew

The New York Times (and many other media outlets) have reported on two new randomized clinical trials published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found that removing sugary drinks from children’s diets slows weight gain in teenagers and reduces the odds that normal-weight children will become obese.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Though sodas, sports drinks, blended coffees and other high-calorie beverages have long been assumed to play a leading role in the nation's obesity crisis, these studies are the first to show that consumption of sugary drinks is a direct cause of weight gain, experts said.

Perhaps these are the first studies to demonstrate these findings because up until now, researchers did not see the need to spend time and money studying something that everyone already knew.

Drinking calorie-laden sodas can make you fat? We needed a government-funded study to determine this?

I’m astounded that two separate teams of researchers found this topic compelling enough to invest time and money in order study, and I’m even more astounded that so many media outlets decided to report on this bit of obviousness.

Couldn’t the researchers simply looked at the nutrition label on a bottle of Coca-Cola and come to the same conclusion?

Wasn’t the mere existence of a product like Diet Coke proof enough that a product like Coke contributes to weight gain?  

Isn’t an standard of obviousness applied before the government agrees to fund a study that answers a question that everyone already knows the answer to?

What’s next? A study to prove that eating cheeseburgers and French fries can contribute to weight gain?