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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Time Magazine's Year-in-Review: No Longer Timeless



    You knew it was coming, but the reality of it is still no less shocking. No, I'm not talking about the travesty of Donald Trump and his dubious-at-best Cabinet choices–That's a whole other story. No, I was at a Wal-Mart earlier today, and I had a chance to check out the Time Magazine end-of-the-year retrospective, and I saw where they omit mention of Keith Emerson, Glenn Frey, Christina Grimmie, Paul Kantner, Garry Shandling, and Leon Russell(he died at the same time as Leonard Cohen, and yet the latter got a not small mention) in the deaths section. This more than EXEMPLIFIES why I no longer buy that expensive dish rag of a retrospective. They mentioned Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore, and yet several of the far more famous names–household names, even–get passed over. Oh, but Muhammad Ali(In their only solid move, he was placed at the front of the pack and given the bitter-sweet distinction of being the understood biggest death of 2016), David Bowie, the aforementioned Cohen, Prince, Gene Wilder, and such get their mandatory half-dozen/dozen or so paragraphs. What a complete waste!

    More can and will be written by me as it regards the subjects behind the sticking points(Particularly ELP, Frey, and Grimmie), but I'll stick to the matters directly pertaining to Timeless Magazine. The reason I used to buy the Time end-of-year retrospective was because of their exhaustive, thorough reports on the year's news events & deaths. I once scoured the release from the end of the year 2001 when I was really young, and was impressed with all that was covered. Indeed, it even greatly expanded my then-quite limited horizons(Reading about the late former Beatle George Harrison at the very end of that issue planted a seed in my head that changed my life, for better or for worse). All those released last decade were exemplars in solid reporting. Now, it’s all opinion, the reins of the articles long-ago having been passed over to the likes of Ezra Klein talking about 'personal significance,' as opposed to talking strictly about 'life and times,' which is what Timeless used to do. And their reporting on this past election was...a little shoddy, incomplete, and otherwise haphazard, to say the very least.

    The really interesting, perhaps one could even say jarring, paradox about this is that the weekly magazine issuance is actually, with Rolling Stone, one of the only worthwhile things on the non-musical portions of the news-stand. With a healthy mixture of on-the-front-lines reportage and and opinion editorialization, the magazine makes for easy, informative enough reading when I'm de-compressing at a Bojangles or a Burger King. One assumes that different standards are employed in the assemblage of a single issue, weekly magazine as opposed to an end-of-year/looking back piece–Sort of like the difference between assembling a studio album and a compilation record(in some cases, a compilation of re-recorded hit pieces). Key structural differences aside, it would seem that similar principles of reporting should be applied regardless of the nature of the magazine issue. No playing favourites!

    This year, I’ll buy a Time retrospective from 2003 to round out last decade’s selections–Selections from an era when Timeless was actually Timeless. 2001's retrospective, as it ultimately turned out, was the foundational document for a lot of where all I've gone in life, whether in a musical, political, or personal regard. The 2002 edition gave a nice blurb to Who founding member and Bass player John Entwistle after his cocaine-fuelled death earlier in the year. Had he lived long enough to die this year, his memory and earthly contributions would have probably been discarded in much the way fellow rocker and 1944 birth-mate Keith Emerson's was. 2005's retrospective gave the greatest of final send-offs to such giants as Johnny Carson, Pope John Paul II, and Peter Jennings(they missed Bob "Gilligan" Denver, but nobody's perfect and I really don't demand perfection), as well as an able re-capping of Hurricane Katrina. 2008 quite well re-capped the election, my very first as an observer of politics. The others up until the turn of the decade(was it a change of management, or a merger, or what have you?) were quite solid in their own respective ways. For about five years, they've been on that unmistakable glide path towards fully jumping the shark.

    Nowadays, it's all just a bunch of ‘reports’ and selections chosen by agreements made in the meeting of Beltway, Hollywood, and Rockefeller Plaza elitist windbags. The media being the media, they sheepishly go along with it, refusing to even give the time of day to those who didn't make the gilded list. Granted, though, it must be stated that the only group worse than the masked media literati behind these profligate retrospective issues are that certain group of hard-core rock group fans who will go unnamed–That group which seems to get really stuck up and militant when one dares express disagreement with the more-than-slightly unqualified greatness of the band's 'Big 2.' Still, it's a shame to see such a vaunted institution rot away, not to mention all the significant names left off their lists. I miss old-time real reporting(the aforementioned Peter Jennings got several paragraphs etched into the 2005 edition, Ed Bradley in the 2006 edition, Tim Russert in 2008, Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt in 2009, and Mike Wallace presumably in 2012's retrospective), the type that actually got just a little into the weeds and informed you.

    Long live Erin Burnett and Jake Tapper!