Jennifer Lopez goes to the dentist

Neat little piece in the New York Times today, discussing how paparazzi photographers are enjoying phat times — since an exclusive shot of Jennifer Lopez or another star caught in daily life might be worth $200,000.

Now, obviously, I enjoy celebrity-spotting as much as the next somatic consumer of mass capitalist culture, but really … what in god’s name is going on here? Does the shot of a star taking out the trash really give us a sufficiently deep insight into the existential pain of life that major corporations should be shelling this sort of coin for it?

But whatever. One of the reasons I love, love, love reading the business section of the New York Times is the moments when the writers try to describe mass culture. Since they’re writing (theoretically) for an audience of biz execs who rarely look up from their abacuses, Business Day assumes its readers will know almost nothing of the pop world. Thus, the descriptions of what’s going on out there frequently read like dispatches to Martians. The result is cultural commentary so wonderfully dry it almost catches fire:

The most valuable images build the illusion of intimacy with stars by intruding into their everyday lives. People magazine, a checkout champion with average newsstand sales of 1.4 million, features articles about real people doing extraordinary things and unreal people — A-list celebrities — doing normal things.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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