Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Good Life: It’s Still Bad, In Case You Were Wondering (Updated)

Readers who’ve kept up with their daily dosage of ginko biloba will recall that it was only last Monday when we wrote, in an uncharacteristically derisive tone, of the Houston Chronicle’s new The Good Life section and how that misguided effort at content delivery, or whatever it’s called, had contributed to the scenic blight in our neighborhood. We intended to say no more on that subject, ever, at least until the “Looking Back” retrospective we’re planning to commemorate our 10,000th posting, but subsequent to that trenchant examination of The Good Life we were contacted by someone claiming to be a Ms. Kyrie O’Connor, who in an initial emailing identified herself as “deputy managing editor/features” of the Chronicle. (Having never had the pleasure of meeting her in person, we can’t of course say for sure that the human with whom we communicated was indeed Ms. O’Connor, so we must hedge a bit; if it were some prankster-imposter we’d like to apologize to the real Ms. O’Connor here and now.) Ms. O’Connor, or the Ms. O’Connor impersonator, claimed that our handiwork of Feb. 1 was rife with what she called “wrong facts,” a not-too-clever formulation she attributed to an anonymous co-worker. In a follow-up phone conversation of seemingly unending duration she scolded us, quite mercilessly, for failing to open the sandwich-baggy-like wrapping of which we wrote and inspect a copy, or copies, of The Good Life that were pitched on the lawns of non-Chronicle-subscribing residents of our neighborhood, which she described as a whole ’nother product, or sort of a whole ’nother product, or in some way kinda-sorta different, a little bit, than the one that was home-delivered that Sunday to paying subscribers such as yours truly (and possibly non-paying ones). We explained––or tried to explain, as we found it difficult to squeeze in more than a desultory defense here and there during the wide-ranging conversation––that we are not a thief, at least not anymore, and that making an unauthorized entrance into a sandwich bag to retrieve a Good Life from a neighbor’s yard might constitute theft under Texas law. We did not add, for we did not feel the need to, that in our neighborhood many residents possess not only BAD DOGS but loaded firearms that more than a few probably leave lying around the living room with the safeties off. (In fact, our next-door neighbor, who is recently returned from a spell in the V.A. Hospital after suffering a serious stroke, within the past year or so failed to follow the rules of handgun safety when he drunkenly waggled what he described as a “loaded” .357 magnum in our presence, though not directly at us, while supine on his bed near the open window where he passed most of his hours, pre-stroke. It was just 2 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, and at the time we had not even thought of stealing his The Good Life, nor, most likely, had the Chronicle’s master marketeers brainstormed it into existence.)

Anyway, as Ms. O’Connor surely understood from her close reading of our posting, we were not moved to throw down on The Good Life until we noticed so many copies still lying on our neighbors’ lawns late Monday afternoon, which by that time had been turned to gelatinous wads of newsprint mush by the heavy rains, thus rendering them extremely difficult to read (although we fully understanding that “reading” The Good Life is not the point of The Good Life). After many minutes of pleasant exchanges with Mr. O’Connor––we hate to be so formal, but for some unexplained reason Ms. O’Connor refused our request that she tell us how to say her first name, and we’d feel uncomfortable referring to her in print by a name that we might mispronounce aloud––we established, solely on what we believe to be Ms. O’Connor’s good word, that a story we may have suggested was in the yard-pitched non-subscriber copies of The Good Life, a story having something to do with vacationing in Aspen (which we cited, among others, to suggest that the newspaper’s marketeers were overshooting the demo in our zip code), appeared only in copies of The Good Life that were tucked into subscribers’ home-delivered Chronicles. (Are you hanging with us here?) After more pleasant repartee with the deputy managing editor/features, we further established––again, based on Ms. O’Connor’s good word, as we still have not screwed up the courage to steal a sodden week-old copy of The Good Life, although many are still available hereabouts––that the other two stories we cited, having to do (we think) with Creole cookin’ and Parisian couture––were indeed in both (that is, presumably, all) versions of The Good Life, subscriber and non-subscriber.

Also on Mr. O’Connor’s short bill of non-particulars was the allegation that we somehow had mischaracterized the commercial imperative behind The Good Life by suggesting that this episode of legalized littering apparently was meant to spur subscription sales.* In retrospect we see how stupid this conjecture of ours was, because obviously the last thing a daily newspaper needs these days is more paying subscribers. (What The Good Life is aiming to do, you see––and once again we rely solely on Ms. O’Connor’s expert testimony.––is simply to serve as a much-needed vehicle for the delivery of ad content to non-subscribers. Pure genius, no?) Additionally, Ms. O’Connor seemed disturbed, or pretended to seem disturbed, by our jesting suggestion that The Good Life had been hand-delivered by Chronicle publisher Smilin’ Jack Sweeney, although after some moments of intense palavering we believe we were able to wring from her the admission that she well-knew we were only playin’.

Ms. O’Connor had a whole lot else to say, most of which we did not commit to memory because it did not seem at all relevant to the matters at hand, although we do recall her bald and somewhat unscientific assertion that, and we quote, “Your blog is crap.” We took exception to the declaration but did not argue the point at length, since it is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. (Mrs. O’Connor at one point also mocked, or tried to mock, our vocal mannerisms, which we sort of let pass because we were multitasking at the moment; we did, however, verify the attempted mimicry by asking whether she was “mocking” us, to which she replied: “Yes, I’m mocking you.”)

The deputy managing editor/features seemed overly het-up about the entire matter, which had the effect, perhaps the intended effect, of making us equally het-up and forcing us to retreat from our backyard to the interior of our domicile so as not to disturb our neighbors with the increased volume (we’re thoughtful that way). Oh yeah, we almost forgot: To illustrate the egalitarian impulse behind the standalone yard-pitched version of The Good Life, Ms. O’Connor informed us, possibly with a straight face, that a big story in the upcoming edition had something to do with a “$7.99 ring you can buy at Target.” To our joshing query as to whether Target had “paid” for the story Ms. O’Connor seemed to take serious umbrage, and later, in reeling off a long list of our various sins of commission and omission, she claimed that we had accused her, personally, of taking a “bribe” from Target. (After sobering up, however, it seems clearer to us that the pimping of a purchase, no matter how small, from a major advertiser is––and we’re being polite here––a tad unsavory and possibly in contravention of the ethical standards of Sigma Delta Chi, if not the Geneva Convention.)

Alas, the conversation, after not advancing especially far, reached an impasse, with Ms. O’Connor accusing us of a (her word) “Birther”-like solipsism (our word) for our steadfast refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing or malfeasance. Mrs. O’Connor, whose own solipsism rivals that of our sitting governor––and we hope she understands what we mean here, and it’s not altogether a bad thing––remained similarly unyielding in her professed belief that The Good Life is NOT mere crap and that a story on a “$7.99 ring you can buy from Target” rises to the level of “journalism,” broadly defined.

We do, though, occasionally acknowledge the validity of others’ realities, in addition to being an open-minded and big-hearted sort, so very early this morning we gave The Good Life another shot, reading (sort of but not really) not only the one in our home-delivered edition but discreetly “borrowing” one from a slumbering neighbor’s yard under cover of darkness (which we’re returning shortly, FYI). Here’s what we found:
Our 8-page Good Life: Two travel stories on Big Sur and snuba-ing in Honduras not in our neighbors’ dowdy downscale edition, as well as a tout for some beer from Southern Star Brewing Co. of Conroe (at least it’s local, but, hey, did they pay for that?) and some personal-fitness shinola.

Our purloined 6-page Good Life: All, or most all, of the rest of the schizz in the subscriber-only version, plus a Parade magazine, several ad inserts (coupons!) and––check it out––a very large advertisement for Carter's Country, where one of those Glock Model 27s can still be had for only $559.97 (maybe the Chronicle's better at the demographic fine-tuning than we thought). Cover "story" is “Hello Sailor!”, which, contrary to the headline suggestion, is not about port-side prostitution but enjoins readers to “Get nautical this spring with stripes that will take you to the yacht club” (for your job clearing tables, we guess). This appears to be the story involving the $7.99 ring from Target of which Ms. O’Connor pridefully spoke.
Sad to say, but we must conclude, oh-so-predictably, that The Good Life, in however many permutations it may be available in our expanding universe, is still crap. Yet we hope this fact-opinion, empirically verifiable though it may be, will not present an obstacle to our remaining a fast and loyal Facebook buddy of Ms. O’Conner, and she of us, until this good life draws to its inevitable close.

As for The Good Life, the newspaper section: We predict its end will be coming within the month, two at the outside. But we could be wrong!

*After posting this entry, which surely will be a finalist in the Pulitzer competition for Superior Blogurbatin', we were returning the contents of The Good Life sandwich bag for re-delivery when we noticed that it included a flier offering "complete Sunday Chronicle delivered for $1.00 a week!" Ms. O'Connor stands corrected.


Cory said...

I will say this, at 8 pages the Good Life section makes terrific BBQ kindling. Not as bulky as the Star section (not enough air flow) but with more fuel than the almost non-existent business section.

That colored ink is good fuel as well.

George C. Costanza said...

Damn. DAMN!

Kyrie said...

This post, like the last one, demonstrates only a passing acquaintance with truth or accuracy (or good spelling). But no matter. I am sorry to have taken your bait. I'll try not to repeat that mistake.

Kevin Whited said...

It's always surprising that some Chronsters seem to have so much time to play whilst the ship at 801 Texas Avenue is taking on so much water. You'd think there'd be so much more actual work (Journalism, even, with a capital J!) to do than obsess over some of the local blogs.

Especially when some of the reporters seem so overworked (I'm thinking of Brad Olson, who seems to cover like six beats or so) and some local beats so undercovered.

But hey, at least they have the user party pics covered, so that's a plus!

Slampo said...

Awww, K of C, WHO DAT yankin’ my chain while all of America is still baskin’ in that Saints’ victory? As I tole ya on the tellyphone, I wuz hopin’ we could go deeper with this, maybe establish a long-term relationship based on mutual respect and/or loathing. But I guess not.

As for “accuracy” and “truth,” you would know neither if it jumped up and bit ya on the behonkus. We could start with your faulty assertion that I somehow “baited” you, “bait” meaning an offering to “lure someone/something into doing something they eventually regret doin’,” like a hooked fish or a rube at the carnival. As you’ll remember---and this was only a couple days back, so hopefully you do--it was YOU who contacted ME, ostensibly to inform me (I guess) of alleged multitudinous errors in my estimation of The Good Life, upper case, and to tell me of your availability should I in the future desire "accurate" information regarding the Features Department (CQ caps) of the Chronicle. After using my admittedly dull machete to chop through the thick undergrowth of our conversation, including my contributions, I believe it was conveyed to me that a “story” I suggested was in the non-subscribers’ Good Life was not actually there. Otherwise, there were no “wrong facts” visible to the eye. And I moved to correct that “error,” although upon re-reading what I wrote I see that I never directly said that story was in the non-subscriber version, so I coulda weaseled, which I’m not above doing. I have it on very good authority that this would not rise to the level of a correctable offense these days at your newspaper. Check around.

Speaking of which, I saw two GLARING fact errors in the Sunday edition of your newspaper, and I didn’t even spend much time with it, nor was I looking for them (errors). As a person in a high-level supervisory position that takes 4 words to describe, you should get busy rectifying those mistakes, pronto.

Now I have reached the outer limit of my attention span, at least for this particular subject, and will henceforth maintain an imperious silence.

stainles said...

“Your blog is crap.”

Odd. She seems to have you confused with Laurence Simon.

Anonymous said...

By the way, her first name is pronounced "Keer'-ee," which rhymes with eery, leery, kind of skeery and seriously wackopotamus.

Rorschach said...

Slampo, maybe you can pick up the printing plant for a song at auction when the paper finally implodes from the overwhelming case of the Peter principle that exists there. I got $5 bucks, wanna go in halvsies?

Slampo said...

Rorsch, I can scape up a fiver, but only on the condition that we keep Ms. O'Connor in some masthead capacity. The Good Life's gotta go, though.

Rorschach said...

Senior editor in charge of Horoscopes maybe? They're useless drivel anyway, so she couldn't do much damage there....



Anonymous said...

Let me assure you that this blog is funnier and more relevant than anything published in the soft sections of the Houston Chronicle in decades. The fact that this witless editor felt compelled to respond to your trenchant observations about the utter foolishness of the "Good Life" only serves to confirm their biting truth. Keep up the good work.

Slampo said...

"Behonkus." It's French for buttocks, right? I probably spelled it wrong--maybe it's beehonkoos. (?)