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    Transmissions from a Lone Star: These days I get my truth from the tabloids

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    When I first came to America I read a lot of supermarket tabloids. These differ from the notoriously salacious British tabloids in that they contain no politics, preferring to focus on celebrities and weight loss stories.

    When I first came to America I read a lot of supermarket tabloids. These differ from the notoriously salacious British tabloids in that they contain no politics, preferring to focus on celebrities and weight loss stories. Also, everything in them is completely imaginary. Consider for instance the World Weekly News, which regularly reports on the latest doings of the Loch Ness monster, and frequently cites Nostradamus as an authority - marvelous stuff. 

    I was fascinated by the flow of fabricated stories about celebrities, and soon became an expert on the alleged misdeeds of famous people whose TV shows and movies I had never seen. These tabloids struck me as the purest form of anti-literature: joyfully garish and crass, written in the simplest language, perpetually straining after the cheapest sensationalism. I also admired the writers who operated at a level of ego killing anonymity that would put a Buddhist monk to shame. It’s not easy for a writer to kill his ego, but these guys did it.

    Eventually the novelty wore off and I stopped reading them. By this point however I had learned that I was mistaken about at least one of these publications, specifically The National Enquirer, the most famous supermarket tabloid of all. As is now well known, The Enquirer reported on former presidential candidate John Edwards’ affair and love child long before America’s insufferably dull, pompous, sclerotic “serious” press caught wind of the story. Indeed, so good was the paper’s reporting that the journalists responsible were nominated for a Pulitzer. They didn’t win of course - that went to somebody in the “serious journalism” club, whose work was immediately forgotten. But The Enquirer story still resonates in the real world: only last week Edwards was criminally indicted on charges of using campaign money to hush up his affair.

    Anyway, my brain has been a bit tired lately so I have resumed reading The Enquirer. It’s good to know I have the scoop on what is happening in the world long before those poor saps who still read the New York Times. At the same time, I’m still not sure I can believe everything I read, or if it is all entirely relevant.

    Take the last issue for instance, which plastered the headline PLASTIC SURGERY SHOCKERS across the front page. It’s a popular theme for tabloids, targeted like a laser beam at the malice and envy festering in the hearts of their (largely) female readership: “I may be fat and on food stamps but HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THE STATE OF CHER’S FACE!” And indeed, as the Enquirer revealed, Cher does appear to have “crazy crow’s feet” which slant upwards due to her latest facelift. On the other hand it may just be the effect of a bad photo in an unflattering light. Either way, I personally find it hard to get too worked up about these things. She still looks good for 102, or however old she is.

    I do believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child is a big fan of the Terminator movies. But then I could have guessed as much - which teenage boy isn’t? However the Enquirer interviewed his cousin so I am now certain it is absolutely true and not merely a supposition based on a broad generalization about adolescent males. The photos were interesting: young Joseph looks so much like his Austrian dad it’s amazing nobody figured out Schwarzenegger had been a naughty boy earlier.

    The Enquirer also continues to hound the disgraced John Edwards, and this week reported that Rielle Hunter - his babymomma - has finally left him. Apparently she is refusing to testify in his defense. Given The Enquirer’s track record on the Edwards story this could be true. Even so the newspaper’s continued public flogging of a political corpse strikes me as a trifle unseemly. But hey, that’s entertainment!

    Aside from that there was all the usual rubbish about the Kardashians, Justin Bieber and Jennifer Aniston’s latest doomed romance. Just as I was about to write it off as a fairly mediocre week for The Enquirer I noticed a small picture of Osama bin Laden, under the triumphant headline:

    ENQUIRER WORLDWIDE LEADER ON BIN LADEN   

    Apparently The Enquirer was the first to report that Osama had been ratted out by his youngest wife - a story I had dismissed at the time as imaginary - but now, apparently The Times of London is reporting it - or at least that Bin Laden’s two elder wives are accusing the younger one of doing just that while they rot in Pakistani custody. Of course this could just be female jealousy, but, well, since this is The Enquirer, never say never. And if the paper is correct, then soon I will be able to stop reading the “quality” press altogether and get my terrorism news from The Enquirer also.

    OMG! Lindsey Lohan’s bikini top fell off while she was taking a dip on Miami Beach!

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    What does the world look like to a man stranded deep in the heart of Texas? Each week, Austin- based author Daniel Kalder writes about America, Russia and beyond from his position as an outsider inside the woefully - and willfully - misunderstood state he calls “the third cultural and economic center of the USA.”

    Daniel Kalder is a Scotsman who lived in Russia for a decade before moving to Texas in 2006.  He is the author of two books, Lost Cosmonaut (2006) and Strange Telescopes (2008), and writes for numerous publications including The Guardian, The Observer, The Times of London and The Spectator.

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