Sunday, June 24, 2007

Passages: Lauck Slings Jacket Over Shoulder and Strolls into Fog; Cultural Coach Hangs Up Cleats; New Master of Irony Debuts at the Chronicle

“Short appreciation of Dan Lauck” was near the top of our blogging to-do list for many months, but something or other---our real-life to-do list, chronic lassitude, forgetfulness … forgetfulness … something---always intruded. Now we learn that Lauck has Parkinson’s and filed his last story as a regular for Channel 11 on Friday (as first reported here), so we best get it on. In honor of Lauck, we’ll keep it terse: The guy was one of the only (if not the only) local TV newshounds with an actual voice, a distinctive style of presentation (understated, laconic, ironic … Hemingwayesque!) that set him far above most of his peers. He could write---we weren’t surprised to learn upon his departure that he had reported at Newsday and The Washington Post before coming to Houston---and his stories were invariably interesting, usually telling us something about Our Town that we didn’t know. We always paid attention when he was on-screen.

Good luck to him.

Now for the happy news: next Friday apparently will mark the last appearance of the “Cultural Coach” in the Houston’s Chronicle’s baleful Star section (formerly “the women’s section”). The coach, whose column, best we can tell, appeared only in the Chronicle and the Fort Wayne Star-Sentinel (Houston=Fort Wayne w/good restaurants), opened her penultimate offering (not available from the newspaper's Web site, for some reason) by claiming to be on some “conservatives’ hit list” (an “uncomfortable and scary place to be,” she solemnly relates, sans adult editorial supervision) and then recounted the story of a “self-described conservative” named Lance Somebody or Other from Fort Wayne (natch) who, through sustained and respectful dialogue with the Coach, came to a greater understanding of other cultures and peoples. The Coach reported that she and Lance “are learning how to create an American family” (hmmm … there’s books you can buy with pictures, if you need a shortcut) before announcing that she was pulling the plug and moving her column to the Web “so I can provide in-depth answers and offer guest commentaries.” No explanation of whether the plug-pulling was voluntary.

The Coach’s columns were a perfectly realized expression of the diversity racket---almost everything she counseled boiled down to common sense and good manners, the stuff a reasonably well-raised 10-year-old could tell you but for which corporations pay $5,000 so self-styled diversity consultants can torture their employees for a half-day.

We especially enjoyed the letters the Coach allegedly received seeking counsel, usually attributed to some well-meaning but benighted white person in “Fort Wayne” or “Houston” who wondered why, for example, the black people at the Cineplex are always talking so loud and ruining the picture show for everybody else, or why the illegal Mexicans are always parking their 6 cars in the front yard and ruining the neighborhood for everybody else (oh, maybe we haven’t sent that one yet). A casual textual analysis of these letters suggested a striking stylistic resemblance to the Coach’s own prose … anyway, good luck to her.

But if you think the Coach’s departure signals the reassertion of some intelligence by the Chronicle brain trust, as our friend Banjo calls it, forget it. No sooner had the Coach announced her bowing-out than the newspaper, as part of its ceaseless effort to make customers out of people who can’t or won’t read, hustled a brand-new columnist into the Star section, a person named Whitney Casey (no relation to sabbaticzing Rick, we presume) who hosts a local TV show we have not seen called Great Day Houston. Casey’s charge, apparently, will be to give advice about relationships. Her debut was accompanied by a front-page plug and a typically gooey Star section profile, wherein “Whit” allowed that she counts Maureen Dowd and Peggy Noonan as her favorite columnists.

Whit’s first effort was devoted to the news that there are Web sites that young people can frequent in search of relationships, or maybe just to get laid (who knew!). You can read it here, if they have Internet access in the Texas prison system, but we feel duty-bound to call attention to this choice paragraph:

You won't find any BBWs or SSBBWs on the Web site The site accepts only thin, fit, good-looking members and promises "no ugly, unattractive, desperate fatsos." It also notes: "Charles Darwin was a genius, but unfortunately very ugly." It is ironic that he wouldn't be able to join! Snap!
So whadaya think: Dowd or Noonan?

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