Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Notes for the Proprietors of the New NBC4 Website

So, our local NBC TV affiliate has a new website. You go to, and now it bounces you to It's busy. It's boxy. It's hip. Reminds me of The Onion site (and that's not really a good thing for a legit news website, guys.) It's hyped frequently with short, hipster TV commercials in the early morning, during the local news. The ads have hipster graphics, with hipster colors, and even some Iggy Pop-ish hipster rhythms backing up the visuals to attract hipster viewers.

"Locals Only" is the catchphrase. But what I saw today on this website wasn't local. It wasn't necessary. And it wasn't, I hope, representative of what passes for journalism with NBC here in DC these days.

I'm annoyed about what I saw. I'm annoyed that what I read is featured on a website for a legitimate news-gathering and dissemination organization. I'm annoyed, frankly, that someone got paid to write this particular piece of dung.

Here's the deal. A few days ago, I read a very sad story on a UK news website about a 77-year-old woman, Joan Cunnane, with a serious hoarding disorder. Cunnane's mania for shopping and collecting was so bad, she had only a 2-foot-wide path to navigate the space in her home. Tragically, pathetically, a stack of suitcases fell on her, and Cunnane, an elderly - and clearly ill - woman died. When her body was discovered, and the enormity of her disorder revealed, her neighbors and friends were shocked.

Hoarding disorders are serious and awful things. My late sister suffered from this - not at the level of the woman who died in England this past week - but still shockingly bad. I got sick from spending hours in my sister's home, trying to sort, toss, and save (when possible) years of smoke-damaged purchases and bags and bags of clothing and jewelry, many items never worn.

It's not a funny situation. It's a sickness that can horribly damage lives.

But don't try to tell that to the "journalist" who wrote this article that is featured on NBC4's website. This lousy piece of journalism trivializes Joan Cunnane's death, and the author, Lauren Crighton, calls the elderly Cunnane "girlfriend."

As in, the urban use of the word girlfriend.

Here's the quote: "According to the Daily Mail, girlfriend owned 300 scarves and literally thousands of trinkets..."

Did she, sistah?

In describing Mrs. Cunnane's home, the article goes to say "This sounds worse than a New York apartment, which is tough to do!"

Read that over a few times and tell me what's wrong with that sentence. Tough to top, maybe. Although that's crap journalism, too. Did anyone edit this?

But wait - it gets better! Crighton writes: "All that said, the Daily Mail's headline describing her as a "Shopaholic Spinster" might make things even worse. I mean, why not just throw an "old maid" in there for good measure? Sigh."

First, it looks like our writer didn't even bother reading the original, legitimate news story. In the opening to her piece - before calling the septuagenerian "girlfriend" - Crighton says Cunnane is "a girl in the UK." I think 77 is a bit past the "girl" stage, but maybe I'm out of touch. And, Lauren, dear? "Spinster" is a legit word for an older, single woman, babycakes. is your friend.



I mean, jeez louise. I use "sigh" out here from time to time, but I'm a cheesy personal blogger. I'm not writing for the web presence of a major news outlet. I'm not representing the news organization of Huntley, Brinkley, John Chancellor, and Tom Brokaw. (That's David Brinkley, by the way, Ms. Crighton, not Christie.)

Here's the capper (or, crapper, as I'm thinking of it.) Crighton wraps up by writing "As a fitting epilogue, the upcoming Confessions of a Shopaholic movie starring Isla Fisher will apparently run with a disclaimer—no doubt about the risks of said shopping behavior."

The link in that line is not mine. That link is featured in the article as it appears on NBC4's website. It leads to a snarky fashion website called which features the tagline "exclusive invites free shit & smack talk." there, cunnane's story is reduced to two snarky, jokey lines of text and a photo of an actress surrounded by shoes:

"A woman in the UK took a one way trip to that great sample sale in the sky when her closet toppled on to her suffocating her in a 3 foot high pile of unopened boxes.

Confessions of a Shopaholic now being released with a disclaimer and a Law and Order style “Ripped from the Headlines” trailer."

Anyone reading it would recognize that the last line (penned by co-founder Daniel Saynt) is a joke. A joke, kids. Yet, it shows up in the NBC story as something real.

That's just bad.

Really bad.

Look, it would be easy to just rip apart the horrible writing (and apparent non-editing) of this piece. But the real issue I have is with NBC4, and NBC's "Local Media" website.

Is this really how a venerable news entity wants to represent itself? I think they should be embarrassed. A little ashamed of themselves. Is there no editorial control? No fact-checking? Should poorly written, blog-like articles like this have a home on a news organization website?

On my worst days, I could pull a better article out of my ass, frankly. And I would make it more accurate. In a week that sees the wonderful, talented writer and editor Magazine Man out of a job, it infuriates me to see crap not only rewarded, but given a wide audience.

I dunno. Maybe the world is just getting more stupid. Maybe this is how Joe the Plumber wants his half-assed news presented. I'd like to think there is more dignity and accuracy out there. If this article is a harbinger of what passes for journalistic integrity and excellence now, I think we're screwed.

Oh hell. Maybe I'm just not cool enough to appreciate the New News Order.

In my book, though, NBC's news division jumped the shark. Their reputation has diminished in my eyes.

I'd love to hear a response from NBC4, but I have a funny feeling that's a Cold Day in Hell moment.

Wait - it's going to be something like 11 degrees here tomorrow morning. And we still have a few days left of DC being under the Bush administration. Maybe I'll get my Cold Day in Hell moment after all.

I remain cranky, but all yours,


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Where was I?

Oh yes... 2009. The new year. All that good stuff.

Well, the Crapmobile Mark II died. I mean, really died. You can't drive it for a block without thick choking smoke pouring from under the hood. As a $1200 (minimum) repair is out of my league these days, ye olde Crapmobile sits motionless in the parking lot outside Chez Merde, and I've been doing the gimpy shuffle to the bus stop in the morning. Bus service in my neighborhood is irratic, at best, and MoCo is planning on cutting buses on the route this year. As it is, if you are gimptastic like I am, you're screwed on the weekends; the bus to the Metro does not run on Saturdays and Sundays. This does keep me from doing any unnecessary shopping (she writes, finding the silver lining in a lead- and asbestos-soaked cloud.)

I don't mind taking the bus and the Metro - as long as I get on early enough to avoid the cranky commuters (especially those who hate fat people on public transportation.) I made the mistake of leaving home in the middle of rush hour one day last week and got a lovely - and probably permanent - reminder of why I don't enjoy Metro during peak hours. On the escalator to the platform at my home station, a young businessdude, surely engaged in some world-altering deal on his Crackberry, slammed his briefcase into the back of my left knee and took me clear off my feet. Yup, he knocked me down the escalator. I made a body and bone-shocking landing on the platform, which was covered in black and muddy sleet.

And chipped some of my teeth.

Bastard didn't even stop. He had to have known he knocked me over. Okay, he probably didn't mean to do it. Unless he is a sadist, it was an accident. But still. GET OFF YOUR PHONECALL AND STOP TO SEE IF I'M OKAY, YOU DOUCHEBAG!

Three people halfheartedly tried to stop him as he got on the train. They all reminded me of Gene Wilder in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" as he deadpans his false concern for the children who make terrible choices. "No, no. Stop. Please. Stop."

I went home, took a shower, scrubbed the grit out of my palms, examined my teeth, applied a lot of ice to a lot of places (astoundingly, I came out of this without any bruises on my face!) and made a return trip to the place of my humiliating defeat. Oh, what fun!

Frankly, I look forward to becoming one with the automotive rat race at some point. I know it may not sound green. It may not be my finest earth-first moment. But I'm not sure my spine will still speak to me if I end up getting knocked ass over teakettle down some moving stairs again.

Plus, I have this full-body migraine tonight after waiting a good long time for the last bus home in subfreezing weather.

I know, whine, whine, whine.

Truth is, as always, I'm lucky.

I have a job.

I have a roof over my head.

And I start the year off grateful for friends and family.

The past month has been very tough. I have gotten much better about the random rounds of tears that pop up. I'm incorporating little bits and bobs from my sister's life and home into mine: her old Pyrex bowls, a few pieces of inexpensive jewelry, a wall hanging she bought on our trip to Thailand... it's a simple tribute, but I think she'd appreciate the fact that they've found a good place at Chez Merde.

And now, another attempt at sleep. Last night, I just couldn't get warm, and I flopped all night long. I think today has me worn out enough to get some solid shut-eye.

Here's to warm blankets, peaceful rest, and sweet dreams.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Return of Vince, the ShamWow Guy

Dear lord, why?

Vince is back. And he's no longer simply selling us the amazing ShamWow!

Now, he's selling us a mini chopper called the "Slap Chop." And, this time, Vince's sales spiel isn't just head-mic marketing - it's complete with philosophy and life enhancing aphorisms:

"You're going to be in a great mood all day 'cause you'll be slapping your troubles away!"

(On chopping onions): "Life's hard enough as it is, you don't wanna cry anymore."

"Stop having a boring tuna! Stop having a boring life! ...You're going to have an exciting life now!"

It's also strangely sexual (as if the tuna comment wasn't odd enough):

"You're gonna love my nuts!"

"I can do it with one hand!"

And, WOW! If you buy now, you get the "Graty" cheese grater, too, for FREEEEEE! And, as Vince says, it's great for "tacos, frettucine (yeah, he said "frettucine"), linguine, martini, bikini."

I'm not sure what frettucine is, and I don't think I want anyone to apply a cheese grater to anything covered by a bikini, but hey, Vince, if it works for you, man, go for it.

God bless cheesy informercials and all the underemployed actors who sail upon them. You have to wonder, is Vince actually a Shakespearean actor? And does he finish off a bottle of tequila after filming one of these pop consumerist culture nightmares?

Of course, I wonder the same thing about Drew Carey. Think he climbs into the bottom of a bottle after each Price Is Right taping?

And, for my friends who speak Spanish, God help us all, Vince also sold the ShamWow in Spanish:

Oh, how I love our twisted little culture.