Today’s op-eds: irrelevant, hackneyed, out-of-date

It’s bad enough that daily comic strips like Doonesbury and Mallard Fillmore run two weeks behind the political times. Reading them is like watching the Daily Show on a malfunctioning Tivo, except that the jokes are even staler than the news. But Globe columnists like Jeff Jacoby turn irrelevance into an art form. A good week after the MoveOn “General Betray Us” debacle, Jacoby finally got his outrage machine cranking.

Another op-ed in today’s Globe took newspapers to task for trying to compete in the blogosphere: “Speeding up the metabolic rate of news consumption, and giving it the glib gloss of the blogosphere, will do nothing to solve [newspapers’] essential crisis. If anything, it will diminish the intellectual patience and empathy upon which honest brokers of news depend.” Steve Almond writes as if this were something new for newspapers. But today’s column by Jacoby demonstrates how kneejerk, regurgitated ideas have become standard fare on the op-ed pages.

Jacoby shows that ample turnaround time is not sufficient to ensure relevant reporting and deep analysis. The real problem is his prurient interest in the flash and noise of politics rather than the real substance. It’s maddening enough when Trudeau and Tinsley run gags that are both hackneyed and out-of-date. But as Jon Stewart would point out, the Globe, and its paid columnists, should do better than aim to match the aspirations of comedians.

Red and Rover can keep roving

Dear Boston Globe:

I voted for it (like there was a choice), but Red and Rover is gone, and good riddance. Inauthentic fan letters notwithstanding, the strip is nothing more than a marketing ploy, fine-tuned to hit two notes (baby boomers and their children) in cynically calibrated harmony.

The strip is set in the 1950s, featuring tin can phones, afternoons watching “Leave it to Beaver,” and nary a Negro in sight. Yes, this is America idyll, back when boys were boys, girls were named Mary Lou, and people who owned cats were obviously queer. Do we really need to feed Baby Boomers more pre-adolescent fantasies that, yes, they grew up in a utopia and went on to become the Best Generation Ever?

But let’s put aside content for a moment here and talk about the comics business itself. Brian Basset is already author of yet another demographic smart bomb, “Adam,” a paean to caffeinated X’er parenting in the culturally-inert exurbs that runs daily in the Globe. So if for no other reason than fairness to other comic artists trying to catch a break, let’s not let this marginally competent comic artist take up two slots when he’s hardly demonstrated his worthiness as the author of one.

20 years later in Bloom County

Flipping through my copy of Billy and the Boingers Bootleg (thank you, Harvard Bookstore basement!), I ran across a plotline in which the Anxiety Closet offers up a vision of Michael Binkley as he’d be in twenty years. I checked the book’s publication date and, yep, “Billy and the Boingers” was printed in 1987. So what did old Berke Breathed predict would be in store for 2007?*

Prediction: Binkley will be balding, married to Lizzie “the Lizzard” Blanchard, and has a daughter.
Reality: In fact, Binkley became a eunuch Tibetan monk after a disaterous first kiss.

Prediction: “Dolly Parton” and “Rambo” will be popular names for daughters and dogs, respectively.
Reality: Dolly who?

Prediction: Bruce Springsteen would be President.
Reality: Could that be worse that what did happen?

I wonder if Breathed himself could have guessed that in 2007 he’d be putting out a beautiful, if somewhat retro-quaint, Sunday-only strip.

* The strip itself ran in the papers before its republication in book form. Details, details.