There are a great many things I enjoy about my Sunday New York Times. The front-page blast of shoe-leather journalism never fails to enthrall. The crossword puzzle gives me enough of a mental workout to justify the nine hours of couch-bound vegetation that inevitably follows. The Real Estate section now makes me feel upper-lower-middle-class rather than poor, while Arts & Leisure has gone three whole weeks without mentioning Philip Glass or Lou Reed.
Then there's T: The New York Times Style Magazine. My God, has anyone besides the pricey-pants advertisers who keep it solvent taken a look at this thing lately? Perhaps at one point the mag was a smudgier, slightly more articulate Vogue, but it has long since passed Monocle on its way down the inadvertent-satire food chain. Basically, T has become Zoolander: The Magazine.
The price of entry for anyone who appears in it: Alps-high cheekbones. The price of entry for readers: a superhuman tolerance for prettify-or-die affectations ("Yes, we're painfully aware of how important it is to maintain structure in our lives, especially these days. But what about the boredom that comes with it? Fortunately, loosening up doesn't mean you have to look like a slob"). It appalls and saddens me that the marketplace chose this overstyled piffle over the Times' recently deceased sports mag Play.
The spring 2010 issue of T, delivered last weekend, focuses on the advertiser catnip that is men's fashion. What this means: Puffy pants! Meticulously unkempt facial hair! Sideburns, sideburns, sideburns! We're treated to a refresher course on "scuba style" -- snorkels are so 2009 -- and are introduced to "Nouvelle Vague" fashion, which revels in plaid pants that leave little to the anatomical imagination. Do I need to tell you that taxidermy accessories (http://www.rpencore.com/ -- click on "collections" and then "pigeon wing hair comb") are hot? I do not.
When it briefly turns its attention away from anorexic male models, T takes us inside a "retro-modern home" that is "part chalet, part spaceship" and asks Josh Brolin about acting. We're introduced to Matthew Herbert, a musician (at least I think he's a musician; the accompanying article doesn't make this entirely clear) who "vents his frustration with capitalism by destroying a television at the Pompidou Center in Paris." Anger and pretentiousness can, happily, go hand-in-hand.
It doesn't help that T has never met a pun or dated cultural reference it couldn't spin into a headline or caption. The photo spread on desert-themed garb gets dubbed "The Chic of Araby," while the one-pager on glow-in-the-dark watches is tagged with a "Go With the Glow" and "watches that glow with the flow" tweaked-cliché double shot. Occasionally the magazine dispenses with making sense altogether: a compilation of bright, striped shirts is accompanied by the subhead/caption pairing, "Linebackers: Tackle the future in Technicolor." Okay.
On the other hand, as affected and unwittingly self-parodying as T may be, it looks like a marvel of artistic reserve compared with the mag's fledgling web presence, particularly its "exclusive" videos. In February, online-T unveiled "The Park," a series of five super-short films in which New Yorkers wander around Central Park, revealing stark truths about themselves and, like, you and me. In one, two teenage pals banter passive-aggressively over betrayals that involve poking, ostensibly of the Facebook variety. In another, an out-of-work dad doesn't realize what really matters until his curly-haired rascal of a scamp of a ragamuffin of a son hands him a comic book. Characters delight in their seeming freedom and their perfectly draped scarves; one explains her admiration of a far-off building by noting "it's so... pointy."
My only questions after having viewed all five miniflicks: What possible relevance does this have to style, fashion or art? And who's paying for this? Leave the student films back in the dorm, where they belong.
There's more. In "The Last Poet," billed as an "elegiac new fashion video," the artiste inflicts "her brand of sinister glamour" (is there any other kind?) upon us. This mostly involves from-above tracking shots of pedestrians and girly-girls reading on rooftops during windstorms. In another clip -- "Strange Attractors," also billed as an "elegiac new fashion video" -- a performance artist tells us something about the human condition by clanging around in a poorly lit space and donning a string of oversized donuts. I had to check my browser multiple times to make sure I hadn't accidentally clicked over to a "Saturday Night Live" digital short.
Some people would label "Strange Attractors" a bold, evocative protest against the fractiousness and mutability of modern-era ethnoculturalism. Those people would be morons. But Derek Zoolander would totally hit on them at the after-party.