Monday, February 01, 2010

That Good Life Just Makes Us Feel So Bad (Boo Hoo)

Up and at ’em and out for a jog on Sunday morning, we saw that the Houston Chronicle, perhaps in the person of Smilin’ Jack Sweeney himself in a packed-to-the-roof Toyota, had pitched thinly wrapped copies of the newspaper’s all-new wham-blam (according to the Chronicle’s master marketeers, anyway) whatsis section, The Good Life, onto the driveways of our neighbors who do not subscribe to the paper, which we’d estimate is at least 80 percent of all residents (margin of error: plus or minus 10 percentage points). Coming home through the neighborhood late Monday afternoon, we noticed perhaps up to half of these copies were still lying in the driveways, now soaked and flattened to near-mush by the rains, despite the sandwich-bag-style wrapping––testament to both our neighbors’ unflagging laziness as well as the desperation of the local Hearst-owned franchise.

After eyeballing the first edition of The Good Life, we can kind of understand why our neighbors might not be inclined to stoop down, retrieve their copies and eagerly rip off the sandwich bags to devour the new section, a reading experience that someone at the Chronicle apparently expects will be so rewarding that the reader will excitedly ring-up the newspaper and DEMAND that his or her home delivery start right away. We suspect that such offerings as “Loving Aspen,” “Parisian Chic” (“It’s springtime in Paris. What fashion looks are ahead?”)* and “Take Comfort in Creole” (the “cuisine,” not the people, that is) won’t have much appeal in our neighborhood, particularly on its northern reaches, a resolutely working-class area where few vacation in Aspen, vehicles sometimes rest on blocks and many adult residents have difficulty speaking English, much less reading it. (Is there no Spanish-language La Buena Vida? ¿Por qué?)

We don’t claim to understand today’s newspaper biz, a business that we devoted a considerable expanse of our relatively worthless life to, but perhaps we never did. We do know that such flailing-away projects as The Good Life leave us feeling a little embarrassed for our former line of work, the way we sometimes feel embarrassed for a Jeopardy contestant who does nothing more than betray the magnitude of his ignorance on national TV. Not that we have any solutions. We suppose hiring lots more good journalists to write interesting stories that people might want to read (and not the dreary set-’em-up, knock-’em-down kind that are indeed contributing to newspapers’ decline) is out of the question, so we shan’t pitch that out as a possibility. Or making people pay for the online content, something like that.

But wait: The Chronicle's Teen Columnist is back, or almost back.

Life is indeed good.

Predictably good.

*If that don’t win the Pulitzer for good writin’ there’s no justice in this sorry world.


The Fishing Musician said...

Where is the next Leon Hale, I ask? The next Sig Byrd?

I had big hopes for Tim Fleck, after reading him for years in the Press and attending some of his Tuesday night soiree's at that Mexican food joint just south of Westheimer on Montrose in the early 90's.

My favorite Chron reporter, I guess was laid off. He just disappeared. Eric Hanson. What a capable and excellent reporter. He landed on his feet, and I never asked him the reason for his departure, because I know from having other friends over the past 30 years that worked there that it could be a suck place to work.

I miss Bert Woodall as well. His deep East Texas liberal-ness was countered by his good nature and common sense. I don't blame him for selling out, and by the time he did sell out most of my favorite writers were long gone from the Public News (Chef Bob, anyone?).

I think it'll be guys like you in the future that give us the everyman commentary and editorials.

Anonymous said...


I don't know who this Fishing Musician is but he/she is obviously a brilliant person.

Eric Hanson

Yeah, I think he lives north of here & is a musician who likes fishin'. I thought for a moment there he might be Eric Hanson, but he forgot to mention how devilishly handsome you are and how you could charm the pants off a bobcat.