?

Log in

Bono replaces Momus at the New York Times - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 10:12 am
Bono replaces Momus at the New York Times

Back in April I ran an amusing piece on Click Opera entitled The Sting. It detailed a request -- one I was convinced at the time was a hoax -- for me to write a weekly column for the New York Times. For The Moment, the blog of their style magazine T, to be more precise. As I wrote at the time, I proposed a regular slot called The Post-Materialist. The American economy was sliding into recession, I reasoned, and soon the kind of bling featured on The Moment -- rooftop pools, watches as expensive as houses, a wine review column about perfume -- would be painful to read about. It would have people jumping off roofs rather than bathing in rooftop pools. Instead, I said, why not stress eco and ethical design, and make cheapskate lifestyles look glam? That way, people could lose everything and still feel they were gaining.



My analysis proved uncannily prescient -- five months later the American economy melted down more suddenly and catastrophically than anyone had expected. Ironically, the advent of real austerity made it increasingly difficult for the cash-strapped New York Times to afford a column of austerity chic. In late December they proposed halving my weekly fee. I said thanks, but no thanks. As a result, yesterday's column, A Pattern's Math Magic, may well be my last for The Moment. (You can read all 37 Post-Materialist columns -- on subjects from virtual water to the Large Hadron Collider -- here.)

The effect of real austerity on austerity chic wasn't the only irony involved in writing for The Moment. There was also the fact that the more I wrote about sackcloth and ashes, the better I could personally afford to splurge on Wii machines and Technics turntables. The more post-materialist I was in my writing, the more materialist I was able to become in my life. I didn't earn enough writing the column to be able to afford the kind of glitzy celeb lifestyle other columnists (paid better, or just masochistically "aspirational"?) described, but I was certainly able to make my apartment as nice as the shabby-chic ones seen in excellent interiors magazine Apartamento, which I covered in June.



Scrapping my Post-Materialist column just when post-materialism seems most relevant is a bit like being a staunchly Democratic op-ed columnist booted out when Obama comes to power -- there's something perverse about it, but also something logical. Post-materialist values are no longer oppositional, and may have lost some of their contentious glamour. By early December -- when I wrote to my editor wondering if we should hit the column on the head -- I'd begun to feel I was moving in ever-decreasing circles. There was a month or two when everyone I covered for The Post-Materialist turned out to be a friend of Mark Borthwick. I also felt that I was writing way too much journalism, and began to prioritize the design press, which pays about a dollar a word, over newspaper blogging which... doesn't.

The final irony -- reminiscent of the fact that Oasis signed to Creation literally a day after I was dropped from the label -- is that tomorrow Bono will start writing a regular column for the New York Times. In an article not entitled Bono replacing Momus at New York Times? the U2 singer is quoted as saying "I've never been great with the full stops or commas. Let's see how far we can take this."

Asked how much Bono would be paid, New York Times op-ed editor Andrew Rosenthal is quoted as saying "nothing". The moral of the story? No, it's not that those hungry Irish navvies will always undercut you on price, the bastards. It's -- surely -- that the New York Times, in Bono, have found a true post-materialist -- someone just too damned rich to give a damn about money.

45CommentReplyShare

rhodri
rhodri
Rhodri Marsden
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 09:20 am (UTC)

This doesn't bode well - I mean, have you seen Bono's blog?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 09:24 am (UTC)

Ha, you jest, fellow columnist! This is Bono's real blog (and his real hair).


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
apartamento

attenzione Nick: apartamento is Spanish/Italian. Francesco


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 10:54 am (UTC)
Re: apartamento

Of course it is, Francesco, my mistake! I was getting it mixed up with the feature I wrote on Sede, which is from Argentina.

See, this is why I have to stop -- it's all blurring in my head into one big feature.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
Re: apartamento

I've just ordered a copy of this to see what it's like - you should get a commission if I become a permanent subscriber


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Re: apartamento

I recommend it highly -- it's the only interiors magazine I'm even remotely interested in at the moment.


ReplyThread Parent
olamina
olamina
blackgirlgenius
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)

Lessons from New York Times Mistakes

I'm sorry to see your column go!


ReplyThread
eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)

*sits and thinks about "dollar a word" for a while*

that sentence = lunch

A relatively nice sit-down lunch too

Dear me, perhaps I should go to art school - that's where the money is

On another topic, I like this post an awful lot. The last paragraph in particular reminds me of your old digital fop persona.


ReplyThread
lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)

My thoughts exactly. I knew this "computer science" thing was a dead end.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)

I don't want to disillusion anyone, but the work you have to put into a dollar-a-word design feature is fairly ferocious. It's not just a case of sitting down and writing it and seeing dollars pop up. In the case of the assignment I'm working on just now, for instance, the process is:

1. Commission comes in to interview designer I know nothing about.
2. Research this designer, decide I like his work, agree.
3. Chase designer by email and phone, trying to schedule interview.
4. After some negotiation on dates (involving my schedule, his, and print deadline), agree date.
5. Arrive at designer's studio, find him charming but busy, interview him.
6. Get home and transcribe lengthy chunks of video (a really horrible job).
7. More internet research, following up on what designer has said.
8. Write story. More research. Rewrite story. Decide it reads okay.
9. Submit story to editor and designer. Editor comes back with requests for rewritings and clarifications in several areas.
10. More research, as I answer editor's questions.
11. Re-submit piece.
12. About three months later, after the print magazine has appeared and the story has run, invoice publication for a dollar a word. Receive money several weeks after sending invoice.

And remember that while all this is going on, you're working on about six other writing assignments as well, each involving some step in the same process, and most paid at a rate much lower than a dollar a word.


ReplyThread Parent
lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)

sounds fun! where do I sign up? :D


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)

Well, you can be my assistant for a while and see if you like it. We'll start you off transcribing DV60s, each containing about 10,000 words, about 100 of which will make it into the final piece. I'm afraid there's no pay.


ReplyThread Parent
lazy_leoboiko
lazy_leoboiko
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)

Seriously? Because I know it's a joke, but you shouldn't fling such offers at frustrated would-be writers. I'd accept it, you know.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)

It's a kind offer, but I can just see the other writers hissing Bono-style barbs when they see me in the bar:

First journalist: Oh, there's that rock star who blogs for The Times. He doesn't even transcribe his own interview tapes, you know.

Second journalist: Really?

First journalist: No, he sends the tapes to Brazil and gets someone to do it for him cheap.

Third journalist: Screw "cheap", I heard he uses sweatshop slave labour! Doesn't pay a dime! So much for all those concerned "ethical" articles he writes!


ReplyThread Parent
drywbach
:-Þ
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)

Do you ever use speech-to-text? I find it quite useful for transcription.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC)

I was expecting that, but oh well --at least God or the devil can't blame me for not trying.

Just you wait, one of these days my debut will take the art world by storm! Yeah...


ReplyThread Parent
eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)

It was at one point my (paying) job to transcribe video, and yes, it is an utterly awful thing to do.


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)

So, are you relieved mind-wise not needing to write as much as you did last year?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)

YES!


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)

It's probably for the best. I can say with relative certainty that you probably weren't reaching anybody through that venue. Of course, a paycheck is a paycheck, but to cut that in half and have your work fall on deaf ears? Not worth it.


ReplyThread
xyzedd
xyzedd
xyzedd
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
Good riddance?

Well, I've always been ambivalent about the Old Gray Mother, anyway. She aided and abetted our war with Iraq, didn't she, and generally helped lower us into further regions of Bushian hell. Not that money isn't money.

(Personally I hate it when Yankees say things like "Have you read The Times?" To which I always answer, "Which one--Los Angeles? London? etc." The same way they'll say "the City" and assume you know they mean New York City, not Boston or anywhere else.) Besides, what's a paper without comics? (And without Momus, now they're truly without comics.)

Maybe you should charge each one of us a dollar a word just to read them!


ReplyThread
krskrft
krskrft
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Good riddance?

(Personally I hate it when Yankees say things like "Have you read The Times?" To which I always answer, "Which one--Los Angeles? London? etc." The same way they'll say "the City" and assume you know they mean New York City, not Boston or anywhere else.)

Man, those are some stupid Yankees. Don't worry, virtually American outside the NYC metro area would get that kind of lingo either.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Good riddance?

New York sure makes you angry


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
Re: Good riddance?

ack, i have it even worse. a washington dc native living in nyc, i still regularly read the washington post in print and online. you wouldn't believe the nasty looks when i mention a great article i read in "the post". people look at me like i'm giving an emotional standing ovation to an adam sandler movie.


ReplyThread Parent
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)

"I've never been great with the full stops or commas. Let's see how far we can take this."

I love his confidence. But he is right. After all, not being much good with the singing and dancing has never held him back in his other career.


ReplyThread
xyzedd
xyzedd
xyzedd
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
Celebirty outsourcing

I've just had a brilliant idea! Why doesn't The New York Times outsource all its writing and editorial tasks to celebrities who'll do it "for fun" or "to reach the little people"? They won't ask for a cent, get some kind of tax write-off, and the NYT gets to seem even more prestigious and charitable, as well as a lot more "hip" and "cool." A good way to win back those kids frittering away their time on Wii games and Twitter updates.

But why stop there? Britney Spears could come 'round to do my laundry. Tom Cruise would be handy cleaning your house and doing a little yard-work. Beyonce could answer overworked mothers' correspondence, and so on. As we've seen on TV, a lot of celebs just love to cook and decorate, so they'd be welcome any hour of the day, in any room! We'll all have more free time and more money to spend. It's a win-win. Obama, are you listening? Let's all try this exciting new method to jump-start our economy.


ReplyThread


(Anonymous)
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)

"It's all right--I'm a doctor."


ReplyThread Parent
robinsonner
robinsonner
the maven
Sat, Jan. 10th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)

Is that Nick playing Lassie O'Shea?
I always wondered if Python did their own laugh tracks as they are on their own oddly hysterical.


ReplyThread Parent
pay_option07
pay_option07
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC)
If Beyonce could answer!

I sympathize with the Scot's plight which reminds me of the doctor that went to confession to soothe his conscious about having sex with a patient.
He went on and on about it not really making him a bad doctor if it only happened once , so that placated the doctor's ego slightly, however at the end of it, he told the priest that he would try to become a better veterinarian.

An analogy could exist in all this about working in the commercial sphere.


ReplyThread Parent
stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)

the brand juxtaposition was awkward anyway


ReplyThread

imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)

That URL just brings up a blank page on my screen.


ReplyThread Parent


(Anonymous)
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 09:55 am (UTC)
mom you must read this! OFF TOPIC*

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_skorea_blogger_arrested


ReplyThread
krskrft
krskrft
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
Re: mom you must read this! OFF TOPIC*

Wow, that's pretty crazy. One of my students was telling me about this "Minerva" guy back when he was an internet darling (he apparently achieved quite a bit of notoriety as an anonymous economic Nostradamus ... at one point, the government was trying to find him, not to put him in handcuffs, but as an economic consultant).


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)

By the way, I just want to add here that I get a certain satisfaction from knowing that my "shabby chic" column for The Moment bagged the most expensive thing that blog will ever cover: the Large Hadron Collider, a bling accessory without any particular purpose which cost six billion dollars. The pictures made it look like jewelry.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
I feel sorry for them, but...

as David Byrne said so...
http://journal.davidbyrne.com/2008/12/121808-no-more-news.html

I feel sorry for those but anyhow I can still read you here, and here

http://www.playgroundmag.net/

at least not everyone is as dumb, though I know that doesn't pay your non-post-materialist lifestyle dear Momus.

but as good kid eating with mom beside threating, I would say.

http://www.fotolog.com/ohsombra/17944492


hugs

ciao ciao


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)

your analysis? don't make me laugh, pipsqueak.

too bad about losing the column though, too bad.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Jan. 11th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)

Ooh goody, do we get to use offensive words to each other here on the internet? All right then, I'm going to call you a... a... spunktroll.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 12th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)

ooh, touchy touchy. if you get to talk like you come up with your own ideas, i get to take the piss, nob-rot. seriously though, bad luck.

what's next on the agenda? oh yes, 'the book of other people's jokes' getting savaged on whatever little blog actually bothers to review it.

at least you'll have no cause to take it personally.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 12th, 2009 04:10 am (UTC)

You... you... meanieweenie!

(I can't believe I'm allowed to do this on the internet!)


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 12th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
Post The Post-Materialist

Nick,
It was a pleasure working with you. It is clear that your column on the Times site will be missed. As I mentioned before, I'd love to have you write again any time. Maybe you'll reconsider when your Wii gives up the ghost! We should do a retrospective post before you go... I'll never forget your "5,000 Years of Chairs in 5 Minutes" video. http://tinyurl.com/9t9olc
All Best,
J.P.
The Moment
http://themoment.blogs.nytimes.com


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 15th, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)
Re: Post The Post-Materialist

Thank you, JP, the pleasure was mutual -- I think you were the most tactful, considerate editor I've ever worked with! I'd love to come by the new Times building when I'm in New York in May (it looks like I have an art show in Chelsea).

Now I'm going to try and find that Bono piece in Sunday's paper -- perhaps he really can write (I know for sure that you guys can edit, even if he can't)!


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jan. 15th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
Re: Post The Post-Materialist

Hmm, Bono's column read better than I'd expected, a cross between a James Joyce short story and a 1980s UK weekly music press feature. Which is exactly what you'd expect Bono's style to be, in a way.

Plenty of name-dropping ("Things Frank Sinatra said to me") but then a rather big clunky error, where he thinks Nelson Riddle arranged My Way, when in fact it was Don Costa. Whoops!


ReplyThread Parent