Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hot or not?

RIP, "hot." And "cool." Maybe even "buzzworthy." ("Edgy" may have to go, too. But I kinda hope not.)

These words are the trucker hats of contemporary prose. Bad writers think such terms are shortcuts to cultural authority: By deploying the modern lingo, they imply that they're "down" with the kids today.

But come on, nobody who uses "hot" et al is ever as plugged-in as they pretend to be. Witness notorious "cool" abuser Joan Steffend (aka "La Steffend"), host of the addictively misconceived HGTV show "Decorating Cents." You can base a drinking game on the number of times she applies the term to some disgraceful "Trash to Treasure" creation.

OK, so it's a long way from La Steffend to the Reader. But not as long as it should be. This week the Reader relies on "hot" to explain why we should read its cover feech: "In the studio with hot local designers Christopher and Daniel Streng."

What makes them "hot"? They designed a washer-dryer for Whirlpool and a sink for Kohler. Their stuff has appeared in "Surface" magazine, was exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and can be seen at "Mod" in Wicker Park. Also, they're good-looking. And stubbly.

Maybe all this adds up to "hot"-ness. (Though I can't say the same for the observation that "in early May, Christopher addressed an audience at the National Kitchen and Bath Association Convention.") But how about putting that info up at the top of the story? Instead of cramming it under a lead-weight rehash of the Strengs' childhoods, complete with the revelation that "like a lot of kids, they made Halloween costumes, forts for plastic cowboys and Indians, and rubber-band guns"?

Or, for a really radical twist, they could come up with a headline that's actually compelling. If you're drawn in by the claim that these guys are "hot," you're probably "not."


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