Criticism. Essay. Fiction. Science. Weather.
Somewhere in your wardrobe, you've got a slogan t-shirt. I guarantee it. I'm not talking about an athletic tee or a promotional giveaway you snagged in a bar contest. I'm talking about a t-shirt with a terse, quippy statement on it. Whether you're ashamed to admit that you've got one or wear a different one with pride every day, you've got one, and, like me, you may have encountered a few impediments on your way to true t-shirt individuality.
I trace the origin of the modern slogan t-shirt craze -- I differentiate between the sarcastic witticisms emblazoned upon our garb today and the less biting "I'm with Stupid"
forefathers of the seventies -- to some time in the inchoate days of our current millennium. During the precarious early days of the naughties, trend emporia like Urban Outfitters
started stocking tees for every guy and gal, screaming hyperbolic phrases of pride or ironic self-deprecation such as, "The Best Girls Are Canadian!"
and "Italian Stallion." Bonus points to wearers who fit neither of the above descriptions. Statement shirts caught on fast and hard, and they did so because they required us to state absolutely nothing.
With these tees, we could wear our sarcasm, bitterness, pop-culture-prowess, snarkiness, or sincerity on our sleeves -- well, technically our chests. But maybe you're a bit too indie for that. Maybe you've enrolled in enough Post-Modern, Foucault-revering courses to want to achieve esoteric apotheosis. Well, then, step right up, because cryptic, DIY t-shirt sites
are popping up faster than whack-a-moles on an internet near you. Yessir, if you're tired of tearing through the racks of your local fad farm only to find slogans billboarded across every sternum sashaying the halls of the mall, then boy have we got the boutiques for you. Mottos like "Typographers Do It in the Gutter"
and "ANGST - the fifth horseman" are just two of the many submissions to a site that produces tees of the most highly-ranked catchphrases suggested by webophiles. That such sites even exist attests not only to the widespread popularity of personal slogans, but also our insatiable craving for distinctiveness. But if I can purchase it, so can you and you and you, and where does that place me on the spectrum of uniqueness? So, I'm thinking, screw this, I'm getting a Sharpie
and a 3-pack of Fruit-of-the-Loom
The world now knows who Deep Throat was. Fun. Watergate is a hell of a yarn and Bob Woodward's secret source made it all the more tantalizing
. Now we get to look back and put all the pieces together and play with the clues one last time.
Unfortunately, while Watergate was great theater, this latest revelation is a shoddy sequel rushed into production by those who saw the glitz and the glam and the money, decided to ignore an old man's wishes, and "scooped" a reporter who thought Mark Felt was not capable of reneging on his decades old vow of secrecy.
According to his own wishes, we should have gotten this news after Felt died. We could have read a nice fat feature in the Post
about Woodward's dealings
with his most important source. Woodward would have given us insight into what we actually care about: his relationship with Deep Throat.
Pish posh. The identity of Deep Throat is so durned exciting it has instantly overshadowed the source anyway. Well, that's a shame because the Vanity Fair
article that started all this is, to be polite, garbage.
First of all, the author is the wrong man. Mark Felt's lawyer, John O'Connor penned the thing. He is not, I need hardly tell you, Bob Woodward. His tenuous connection to the Watergate investigation and Deep Throat is best summed up in his own bizarrely self-congratulatory parenthetical: "([Felt's grandson] and I were both good high-school athletes. I went to Notre Dame, the University of Michigan Law School, class of '72, then joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, ultimately landing at a highly respected Bay Area law firm.)" Okay. That's fine. You were saying something about Deep Throat...
O'Connor may be a terrific lawyer; his journalism and ethics could use a bit of brushing up. Despite lacking any of his own insight into the story, despite the fact that his "source" is 91, debilitated by a stroke, cannot recall the events in question, and has been shoved into a confession by a Goneril-esque family
, despite all that, he still has some nifty material to work with. All he manages to do is weave together accounts from All the President's Men
and Felt's own memoir, The F.B.I. Pyramid
. This stitch-job is accomplished with leaden and mismanaged sentences like "Felt arrived at the White House to confront an odd gathering" and schmaltz of the highest order: "Felt, having long harbored the ambivalent emotions of pride and self-reproach, has lived for more than 30 years in a prison of his own making, a prison built upon his strong moral principles and his unwavering loyalty to country and cause. But now, buoyed by his family's revelations and support, he need feel imprisoned no more." This is the coda to modern journalism's greatest triumph?
This moment is not about news. It's about theater. The news happened 35 years ago. Yes, the Post
and Woodward and Simon & Schuster would have managed and packaged
Felt's unmasking, but when I take in a play I want an experienced director pulling the strings. Besides, what the hell are we going to do when Felt does die? Will we have to sit through this show again in five months? That should prove equally unsatisfactory. Nice work, O'Connor.