A few years ago I did a review of The (Sydney) Magazine that came every month with The Sydney Morning Herald. It was basically an awful advertising vehicle - the first eight pages, and every second page after that, were all ads. Due to some publishing edict from on high, the staff writers all had a habit of beginning their articles like this:
We know Sydney is a great city...
Sydney is a wonderful place to live...
Of course, we're all wonderfully privileged to live in Sydney, one of the most beautiful cities in the world...
Sometimes, they would employ a lyrical non-sequitur, for instance:
Dogs make me sneeze. Isn't Sydney a great city?
But usually, brute repetition of the words 'Sydney', 'great' and 'city' seemed to be the thing. Those quotes above are all paraphrases, but I'm not really exaggerating the content of the magazine, which was just the usual yuppie clap-trap, all 'lifestyle' columns with neither life nor style. I filled several lines of my review by just repeating these quotes from the magazine.
Anyway, I got an eerie sense of deja vu when I opened a copy of The Age this morning. The cover of their arts section, (which is sold, in another bizarro editorial decision, separate from the rest of the paper) is titled - wait for it - Winter Reigns: Why Melbourne is the queen of cool. And gets worse from there:
'A2 celebrates all that is great about midwinter Melbourne'.
'In Melbourne we already know this, because winter is the season for festivals...'
'People in Melbourne pretend they like nice, pleasant, calm, don't-rock-the-boat, balmy, sea-breezy weather...'
'Our natural state is winter and Melburnians are so desperate to embrace the cold that even at the height of summer... they rush to Pellegrini's to wrap their icy paws around a steaming flat white.'
'Melburnians love winter fashion because every body gets to wear it, writes JBB.'
The headlines themselves range from cliched and meaningless:
Bleak is the new black
To the downright snobbish:
Peasant food for the time-rich.
What is it about these big newspaper publications that makes them give in to this kind of crass, meaningless pride? Is it a kind of displaced patriotism (patriotism being a bad word now amongst many of the people who regularly read these papers)? The only difference I can see between The (Sydney) Magazine and the arts pages of The Age are that, while the former displays the worst kind of oafish egotism, the latter has a more inward-looking vanity. The Age is like that irritating cousin who constantly talks about what they did and what they're doing and what they will do, but somehow never get to talking about you. The Age affects self-knowledge, but it's all really quite simple and arrogant self-display: they talk about what all of Melbourne is doing and what everyone in Melbourne likes.
Basically, they're huge liars. But they haven't let it stop them yet.
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