(Edit: I’ve been told Thursday morning the lede of the blog post in question is “This may be the last time,” not “This could be.” I’m not sure it hasn’t been changed since I posted this; and either way, it’s still a cliche.)
Few things make me quite as furious as lazy or thoughtless writing.
And one or two of the folks at my local media outlets (not all of ’em, mind, just one or two) are champions in that department.
Like the music writer at one of my local papers, who led his blog entry about the upcoming Rolling Stones mini-tour thusly:
If you’ll excuse me a moment, I feel my skin turning green and the buttons popping off my shirt …
JESUS GODDAMN CHRIST ON A BED OF RICE PILAF THAT LYRICAL REFERENCE IS NOT CUTE OR FUNNY OR ORIGINAL AND HAS NOT BEEN SINCE RONALD REAGAN WAS PRESIDENT AND GAS WAS $1.25 A GALLON AND IAN STEWART (YOU KNOW WHO HE WAS, RIGHT? RIGHT?) WAS STILL ALIVE AND PLAYING KEYBOARDS ONSTAGE … AND ANY HALF-ASS SO-CALLED PROFESSIONAL WRITER WHO USES “THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME” IN CONJUNCTION WITH A ROLLING STONES TOUR SHOULD BE MADE TO WEAR NIPPLE-PINCHING CLOTHESPINS UNTIL HE SEES JESUS CHRIST AND IAN STEWART STANDING ARM-IN-ARM SINGING “LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER.”
… whew. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
In fairness, my local inkslinger is not the only professional writer to go with the easy cliche.
A Google search turned up at least a half-dozen examples from the past 24 hours, from such major media outlets as the Associated Press and the Newark Star-Ledger.
And really, it’s not the fault of today’s writers that the cliche about “The Last Time” got flogged to death by credulous writers covering the ’81 tour, or the ’89 tour, or all the tours thereafter. In fact, this is the first generation of writers that is actually justified in using it.
Unfortunately, their lazy forebears ruined it but good. The well is dry; the cliche has been exhausted; but unimaginative or deadline-harried writers just can’t seem to let it go and find something fresh.
People spend a lot of time discussing the decline of traditional media. None of the media scholars will ever study “The Last Time,” but I’d suggest it as a microcosm of a broader slackness and predictability that is one reason for the decline.
(It’s the same kind of predictability that, a few days before Christmas each year, always seems to lead to a story where the reporter goes to the post office and talks to people standing in line. A few years ago, both local papers not only ran their own versions of that story on the same day, but did so under similar headlines about “mailing it in.” People have drowned in less irony than that.)
When we know what we’re gonna get fed, sooner or later we don’t have to check in for it any more. Predictability equals slow death, no matter how much America seems to love the obvious sometimes.
And in that one blog post – in that single line, “This could be the last time” – is a reason why Keith Richards might outlive the American newspaper.