Category Archives: things that bug

No (TV) News Is Good News

I’ve had it.  I just can’t watch television news any more. 

I tune in each morning to get the headlines and the weather.  Instead, I get  newspeople who are more consumed with their own fake laughter, dumb banter, less-than-witty repartee, and projecting phony moral outrage than they are in giving me the headlines.  It’s not about news, it’s about events and personalities.  So instead of getting information I can use, I end up shouting at the screen and spilling my coffee.

Like Cardinal Ximinez, I stupidly keep giving the news channels three last chances, hoping I’ll tune in tomorrow and things will be better.  They never are.  It’s too much about ratings and winning time  slots than providing the news; consequently, it’s all about the outrage, not the coverage. And don’t try to talk me down, as I am no longer prepared to be rational about my annoyance.  I’m to the point where everything bugs me.

First up, there’s the new spin on the old “if it bleeds it leads” policy, focusing on some completely random incident and how it might just possibly kill you and everyone you love.  My favorite:  “Coming up, the latest on spontaneous combustion of wood chips at a local playground, and what you can do to keep your family safe.”  This report is immediately followed by incredulous stares and oh-so-objective handwringing from the anchorpeople that the government is doing nothing to regulate the use of wood chips on playgrounds.  And I wish I was making that up.

Next, it’s a panel of “experts” called in to debate the economy, or foreign policy, or health care, with a panel composed wholly of . . .  journalists and other newspeople.  I have nothing against journalists, but just because you’re a reporter who’s beat includes the local police station doesn’t mean you’re an expert on public safety.  I don’t mind having a round-robin discussion in which everyone gives their opinion on the chosen topic, but these talking head sessions are too often presented as providing viewers with the facts — which, to make the circle complete, then get reported by other media outlets as such.

And, of course, there’s the the endless rounds of dumb banter as reporters transition between stories, injecting unfunny commentary in the name of witty repartee, and then laughing waaay too hard at anything anyone says.  Worse, though, is the editorializing that is often almost casually dropped in following a story, as the anchors discuss the issue for just a moment among themselves (why they do this, I have no idea). 

In this department, the last straw for me was a moment on the increasingly vapid Morning Joe on MSNBC (yes, Joe, we know you were a Congressman, and cast LOTS of tough votes, and ran successfully for reelection, and defied your own president and yadda yadda.  And we know so because you tell us at 26 minutes past every hour, every day). 

Immediately following a piece on waterboarding, Scarborough engaged Meet the Press moderator David Gregory in a brief discussion on the letter of the law.  Here’s Scarborough’s outro on the piece:

…history has shown over the past seven years that actually it [waterboarding] is very, very effective. Let’s tell the truth. Let’s talk about what information we got with waterboarding and then we can debate it  . . . It’s effective but is it worth it . . . Maybe it would have been better for a couple of other cities to burn . . . um . . . instead of waterboarding and we can have that debate.  If you’d like Washington DC and Los Angeles to be obliterated by a nuclear blast I certainly respect your opinion and I think we should just talk about it.

(Video of this conversation is here.  Joe’s rant starts at about 3:10.)

Forget the politics of the issue; that was just a plain dumb and irresponsible thing to say. And it’s dumb because Scarborough was just riffing, channeling Michael Scott from The Office and not really thinking about what was coming out his mouth even as he was saying it. 

That sort of casual badinage might be the way things work now, but it’s not working for me any more, any where. 

I’m done.

Joe The Writer

Anyone catch the reference to Joe The Plumber’s search for a book deal, as reported on last night’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann? In case you missed it, here’s a bit from Keith Olbermann’s related blog entry over on Daily Kos:

I just managed to drop this in to tonight’s “Campaign Comment” and there aren’t a lot more details to be had, but I learned during Countdown tonight that Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher is now seeking a deal to write a book about his campaign experience.

This is from an unimpeachable source in the publishing industry, past whom very little in the field, gets. Good old all-American Joe, who has no motive whatsoever but keeping the electorate informed, who is the salt of the earth and the definition of America (now that Governor Palin isn’t, any more) is hoping to cash in.

So, my fellow writers . . . most of whom have been writing for years, working hard to secure representation, and striving to perfect your craft to persuade an agent to take you on and/or a publisher to invest in your work . . . politics aside, how ya feelin’ now?

Me, I’ll be putting a sign up in my yard offering my services as a plumber. It’s only fair — because, after all, anyone can do that, too, right?

Booze Up and Riot!

In no particular order — and for no particular reason (I’m not even in a bad mood!) — here are Things That Bug Me:

* Child Actors Who Shout Their Lines.

Shouting your dialogue does not make it funny or more entertaining. Yes, I am talking to you, Cole and Dylan Sprouse from The Suite Life of Dumb and Dumber. It didn’t work for Larry Mathews from The Dick Van Dyke Show, nor for Christopher Olsen from The Man Who Knew Too Much. Cut it out.

* Debit Card Readers That Ask Too Many Questions

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve waited in line at CVS for twenty minutes just so you can buy a lousy Coke Zero. You get to the register, swipe your card in the card reader, and punch in your four digit code.

Want cash back? the machine asks.

You push the button for “No.”

>Total is $1.59. Is this okay?

Yes.

>Are you sure?

Yes.

>Are you REALLY sure?

YES.

>Cuz I can do this over again. Want to start over?

NO!

>Are you sure?

YES, GODDAMMIT.

>Is that, ‘Yes, I’m sure I want to start over?’ or ‘Yes, I’m sure I don’t?”

Wait, what? CANCEL! CANCEL! *mashes keys with palm*

>HA HA HA CARD READING ERROR PLEASE SWIPE AGAIN

Repeat.

* Learning That Wonderfully Crappy 80s bands like Loverboy, A Flock of Seagulls, Bananarama, and Men Without Hats, are “Back In The Studio Working on a New Album.”

Trust me, Haircut 100, no one is really all that excited about your new songs or a new album. Just sing “Love Plus One,” collect your check, and move on.

* Getting DVDs From Netflix That Skip

This is happening more frequently as Netflix gets more and more popular. Really, there can’t be that many people renting The Pacifier, can there? Then why does each disc show up looking like it’s been used in an Ultimate Frisbee competition? And why does every defective disc seem to stop working right as the movie approaches its denouement? I need closure, darn it.

* The Phrase “Whole ‘Nother.”

The word you want is “another.” That’s it. You say, “that’s another topic,” and not “That’s a whole ‘nother topic.” I know, I know — it’s sorta dropped into the vernacular. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me crazy.

And while we’re on the subject . . .

* Talking Heads Who Repeatedly Use The Phrase “Drank The Kool-Aid”

I’m not a fan of this phrase to begin with, but Anderson Cooper must have said it 200 times during the Democratic convention — and the more he used it, the more his co-anchors followed his lead and dropped it into their own comments. Enough already. After ten references, it just sounds dumb.

* Those Weird Infomercials That Use Sets Resembling Larry King Live

Have you seen these yet? They’re usually for get rick quick schemes or dietary supplements, and the producers of the infomercials have very cleverly decorated the set to resemble a somewhat generic Larry King Live set, complete with the colored dot map in the background, the curved interview table, and the big microphones. Like we’re gonna be fooled into thinking Larry King wants to discuss the value of coffee enemas on his show.

Oh. Wait.