Forget bulls, bears and face-palming brokers: Introducing the hooker-underwear ticker

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Today's tabloids, August 10, 2011. ()
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Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

The New York Post: Welcome to the saucy 1940s! It's a world where bland jokes about hookers are funny, women wear their hair in styles that look kind of like paralyzed sea anemones and favor the maquillage of Disney's Snow White, and women's underpants are called "drawers." It's quaint on the cover of the Post today.

"UP, DOWN, UP," reads the main hed at the bottom left of the page, set over a photo of a woman who looks a bit like Mae West goes to Williamsburg or an alternate casting choice for Maggie the Cat or something, as she French-inhales smoke from a cigarette, seated before a mirrored vanity decked with little satiny tasseled atomizers and such. The dek, which precedes the hed and sits above it, reads "Crazy sox like a hooker's drawers …" (If you had made the mistake of thinking they were talking about her dresser, it'd be more like "OPEN, CLOSE, OPEN," which is either gross or a fairly accurate description of the two most important moments in the trading day.

Daily News: But it's not just the Post that seems to be getting nostalgic for the early days of the sexual revolution. The right-hand side of the page is a big black box with knockout-white type that reads "SEX ED FOR ALL." A dek helpfully clarifies that by "all" the paper really means "City mandates lessons for middle, high school students." What is really meant is that the measure of choice schools had in administering their own sex-ed programs and policing them to the community standard is being made more uniform: a one-semester middle-school curriculum and a one-semester high-school curriculum will now be mandatory (though parents can opt out of specific lessons about prevention and birth control).

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Despite the fact that it would make more sense for the News to illustrate the story with an ersatz hooker than the Post, the News decides instead to deliver visual impact with a photo story: A woman leaping from a building in flames into the arms of rescuers during the rioting in London. A picture's worth a thousand words but the News adds a few more: "CHAOS!" reads a small black all-caps headline in condensed type. "Amazing photo of woman leaping to safety as rioters burn London." It's actually kinda blurry.

Observations: If multiple vacations had forced the Post to summon the ghosts of Friars' Club roasters past to staff its Page One meeting we could hardly have gotten a front page weirder than this. It's not just the intentionally off-color joke (which is of the sort in which the off-coloredness substitutes for humor rather than benefiting it) is pretty dumb, it's that the comparison is so wildly off-message for the Post. The stock market is doing what it must, leading the way for capitalism, responding to government inefficiency and self-doubt by expressing with money its lack of confidence. Aren't the hookers all supposed to be in the Capitol building?

But for all that, it will sell more fence-sitters than the News, won't it? And if the whole thing seems inapt, at least it's not a bad sale: "Sex ed for all," after all, turns out to mean sex ed for children of specific ages in schools where they are not already getting it, with opt-outs for parents. If the headline is meant to provoke outrage among the conservative-minded, they will be well dampened by the time the story has actually been read.

Winner: The New York Post.