Monday, February 28, 2011

oscar, party of one

Was I the only area resident who actually enjoyed the Oscars last night? If I am to believe what 400 strangers were telling me on Twitter last night, then yes...

You haters! How can you not enjoy the mere presence of James Franco's likely high, ceaseless squint? He looks like a guy I used to date who, when he met my mother and I for dinner once insisted on ordering nothing but hard liquor -- flaming kamikaze shots, to be exact. But he was Russian and we were in Moscow, so this was totally acceptable and, more importantly, loads of hilarious and awkward fun -- the best kind to have. Oh, what lovely vague early-twenties memories... *sigh*

And so maybe that's why I was able to enjoy last night's Oscars; I wasn't thinking about the show that much. However, in the rare moments I was, Anne Hathaway's ridiculously awesome wardrobe and Randy Newman's acceptance speech satisfied those fleeting moments of attention. The latter item also inspired one of my only two tweets of the evening (the key is moderation) -- "The only way Randy Newman's acceptance speech could've been better is if he shortened it to "Award show speeches can suck my balls." Thank you, I'll be here all night forever, or at least until the next future of technology comes along and we all move on to that one. (In either case, I hope Franco keeps his current avatar, as pictured above.)

But the real treat of the night came after the Oscars, or #oscars, as it were, when WJLA's Arch Campbell popped onto the picture box looking like a total dick...

You know, like a 1940s private eye from a noir film! Like some sort of Philip Marlowe in his detective's fedora! That guy was a dick through and through! But still not nearly as big of a dick as Campbell... For example, last night Arch boasted that he's been able to predict the big winners for two years in a row! TWO WHOLE YEARS! That must be some kind of record! Oh wait, I've been able to do it for three, four every year since the Internet was born. I guess that makes me the biggest dick of all. I EVEN HAVE THE HAT!

And please, just ignore the fact that Arch's breasts are bigger than mine. Neither of us like to talk about it...

But getting back to WJLA's coverage of the Oscars -- lol. That sh*t was hilarious. Campbell somehow deduced that Black Swan was geared toward women (did he see it?), which caused Cynee Simpson, who went in costume as a beauty pageant contestant from 1998, to pause then recover with something like, "Sure. I guess there was a lot of ballet in it." I mean, really, what the hell else can you even say to that?

More importantly, how much more of that can one person watch? Or worse, read about? And so I'll save you the rest (as I saved myself last night by flipping off network television, both with the remote and my finger), and end this post by punctuating it with an YouTube video, which I found through one of my daily must-clicks, This should be a contender for best documentary film next year.

Friday, February 25, 2011

maths. it's hard

You know how people around here love to talk about surveys and things that say things like we're the smartest city in America? Well, that's some bullsh*t. Maybe it's true that we hold more degrees per capita than the rest of the country, but I certainly don't think that makes us smarter. For one, look at me. I'm a huge moron. The only way I'm even able to go about my day-to-day business is with, like, six helper animals. One does the reading, one writes, one handles the finances (which means finding change in the couch), one answers the phone, and two play Settlers of Catan with me. In fact, right now, as one of them writes this, I'm actually asleep in a hyperbaric chamber resting the few functional bits of my mind that are smart enough to know I'm more successful when I outsource my work to a menagerie of farm animals.

But still, I'm not the dumbest. The dumbest person in DC, I'm pretty sure was in front of me in line at the Subway vittles establishment in Dupont Circle attempting to eat fresh on Wednesday. (I was there in a rare public outing being towed in a child's red wagon by my helper horse Sven.) Here's what went down:

Idiot: "Can I get a 24-inch meatball marinara on wheat please?"

Sandwich Artist: "What?"

Idiot: "A 24-inch meatball."

Sandwich Artist: "We don't have 24 inches."

Idiot: "What's that one?"

Sandwich Artist: "Twelve."

Idiot: "I thought it was six."

Sandwich Artist: "It's 12."

Idiot: "So you don't have 24 inch subs?"

Sandwich: "You can get two 12 inches."

Idiot: "What do you mean?"

And no, this wasn't a kid playing a joke, a foreigner getting weened off the metric system, or a drunk and confused hobo. This was a mid-twenties, probable college graduate in a suit. Thank God my helper horse Sven (incidentally, besides wagon-tower, he's also the one in charge of the finances) was able to use a series of neighs and hoof stomps to explain to this fool that 12 + 12 = 24. Hell, even I knew that...

So yeah. We're definitely not the smartest...

No, the smartest, I think, are in Philadelphia. Or at least the smartest vampires.

Eeek! How suspenseful! Don't tell me I was the only one waiting in fear that this would happen. Now time for the weather. Tiffany!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

so, that tbd thing? well...

***UPDATE F*CKING FOUR: This is the blog that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends. Some people started writing it not knowing what it was, and they'll continue writing it forever just because...

***UPDATE TRES: The second Wemple Wesponse is now up for your eyes to gravitate toward. Read, scroll, whatever. You know the drill.

I responded to Wemple's Wesponse. If you've read this whole thing, then scroll down and I trust your literacy will be able to tell you when. If you haven't read any of this, then I suggest you just keep reading and forget the scroll. You'll get there...eventually. Good luck.

TBD Editor Erik Wemple wrote me a long email in response to my original essay on the current happenings at TBD. He said it wasn't off the record, so I cut and paste the whole thing below because it's pretty interesting, at least if you're following this topic. I also labeled it "Wemple Wesponse" because I cannot resist any opportunity to alliterate. But first, here's my original essay:

News broke yesterday, or rather, was squeezed out on Twitter like a kid who has yet to learn how to use the toothpaste tube properly (SO MUCH TWEETING!) that local media start-up was re-appropriating itself into a "niche site on arts and entertainment." Oh, fantastic. And because we're talking about TBD, I might as well do what they do/did best and use Twitter as a primary news source:

Lovely butt joke, Marcus of awesome local music blog True Genius Requires Insanity! Although, sorry, I doubt they're hiring...

See, unfortunately, one of the main components of this change is widespread layoffs, meaning only about eight of the original maybe two dozen-plus employees will probably remain. (Sidenote: that totally sucks.) And judging from the rapidity of the site's devolution from supposed leader of the new media to, um, let's be honest, poorly designed blog (I'm sorry, the epilepsy-inducing Belfort furniture ads they've had up the last few weeks killed me), my prediction is that probably within the next eight weeks, TBD will be gone entirely. #realist

But, really, as much as I hate to say it because I have friends over there, can we really say we're shocked? Disappointed, sure. But shocked? I don't know. My suspicions that this would end rather unhappily began even before the project launched last August. Why? Allow me to explain...

After speaking last summer with former TBD exec Jim Brady, who left the operation in November over creative differences, I was seriously pumped up about this experiment. I believed in his vision of an interactive local news source that understood the way a lot of people get their news these days (via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). I was so excited about this new idea that I even applied for a job there. Brady emphasized they were looking for writers with "voices" who could bring something unique and new to the project. Perfect, I thought. I'd been blogging everyday at that time, my readership was at a high, no one else really does what I do in DC. Well, save for Terry the Tourette's Turtle. He does what I do the best, which is why he's The Anti DC's creative director. But the point is, it seemed natural that finally someone would want to pay me (and ergo Terry) for being the asshole editorialist everyone loves to hate to love (I hope it ends there) on the Web.

However, as soon as I sat down in front of TBD editor Erik Wemple and several members of the staff, I learned quickly that that may not have actually been what it was all about.

"What do you see yourself doing here at TBD?" one of them asked. (Forgive me for not remembering who or exact words here.)

"I'd like to do here what I have proven to do best on a daily basis -- really funny features and editorials. Probably some longer form stories, as well."

"Hmm. We're not focusing on features or long-form. We're looking for a transportation reporter. Do you see yourself covering the Metro? "


And that's when my personal expectations for TBD dropped dramatically. What I thought Brady had relayed to me at one of TBD's pre-launch blogger happy hours wasn't matching what I was actually hearing from what seemed like half the editorial staff. Brady wanted innovation, something different; TBD wanted what sounded to me like a standard beat reporter. I was confused and, despite that I got along with everyone (Wemple is hilarious and the other people seemed nice), I left that interview wondering a little bit why I had been called in. I don't want to be a beat reporter. And not to toot my own horn (TOOOOOOOT! Don't worry, that was just Terry's butt.), but knowing what I can do -- the voice and ideas that Terry I could, or at least, I thought I could bring to this brand new proverbial table -- the revelation that they brought me in to interview for a standard beat reporting position seemed silly.

Which is maybe why they didn't hire me. I'm sure I came across as less than enthusiastic. And I'm pretty sure my salary requirements were also probably hilarious to them. And while I admit it stung because, well, who likes rejection? By the time they called back, I had already decided I wasn't going to take it even if it was offered. I mean, honestly, reporting about Metro issues sounds like a Guantanamo form of torture to me.

But they found someone to do it. In fact, they scooped up a lot of talented local reporters, a few of whom I know for a fact were getting paid maybe only half of what they're worth. Later, when a member of TBD's staff pitched their community network to me, I even signed on, joining the likes of other good blogs like WeLoveDC and Borderstan. Despite my doubts, I still had some hope. Maybe I had just gotten a weird impression and Brady's view of things was actually how it would be done. Also, what kind of idiot turns down an offer for free links to Terry's my work? And, indeed, the Web traffic on this masterpiece before you went up. But then...

Well, I don't know what happened. Judging from just the sheer size of the staff, TBD definitely had a lot to work with, but it seems TBD always lacked one very important thing -- a clear, unified vision that would make it truly new, different, innovative. But it just...wasn't.

Obviously, I'm sure naming their brand after an uncertain term didn't really help, but I'm also sure parties outside of TBD, like WJLA and Allbritton, had something to do with the confusion, as well. But no matter the specific reasons, the fact remained that TBD always came off as a sort of dumpster baby love child of DCist and PostLocal. I didn't get it. Actually, no one I knew -- both journalism friends and others -- really got it. It was like a tabloid, wrapped in weather reporting, draped with film reviews, dunked in sports stories, sprinkled with random lists and topped with Amanda Hess. And from what I understand, it seems this confusing (lack of?) identity wasn't just sensed by those of us on the outside...

And so maybe it will be good for TBD (the venture, that is, and clearly not the newly unemployed reporters, for whom I sincerely feel) to narrow it down. Maybe now, with a clearer vision, TBD can finally dump that horribly uncertain name and choose what it wants to be -- a pretty standard A & E outlet. I just hope for the remaining eight it's not just another hole in DC's ass, *ahem*, as it were. I guess time will tell...

And speaking of time, don't you believe it's high time you "like" this blog, The Anti DC, upon which your eyes have fallen? YES! To do so, please, go to this Facebook page and just push the "like" button, hell, even share it with your other e-friends!. Along with updates about posts, you'll also find an array of inappropriate but hilarious links to things I find on the Internet that have yet to weave their way into the prose here. As a sneak peak, here's one I posted just last night, in honor of Paula Deen's appearance on Top Chef. Enjoy!

***Wemple Wesponse, sent via email on 2/24/2011***

Hey Marissa: Read your evaluation of TBD last night. Have no idea why you might think that your take was unpopular [NOTE: When I Tweeted my essay last night, I described my view as one that would likely be unpopular -- M]; it already has many fans here at the offices of TBD.

What I particularly enjoyed was your critique of our mission, our purpose. It probably wouldn't surprise you that this very topic was the source of much soul-searching in these offices. Consider that we started out as a local news operation with a robust staffing level and a TV news operation with a wide reach. So it made sense that would seek to cover the entire region. As the Washington Post and other outlets have discovered, that's a really hard thing to do with any degree of granularity across such a wide expanse of jurisdictions and people.

That's why we had to make choices---choices about which beats our approximately 12 reporters would cover, choices about how they would cover them, and choices about which areas we'd ignore. Based on your excellent post, you've concluded that we chose poorly. Fair enough. No one here would say that all of the choices were smart, forward-looking, whatever. What I will say is that we worked really hard to survey the local newscape in search of soft spots, places where we could make an impact. The results were varied, but what I will defend till the end is the work we put in toward refining the mission. We tried everything we could in the time we had.

Now to your point about transportation coverage. I don't quite know why you have such an aversion to this topic, but it just happens to be a place where we had considerable success. Don't know if you'd ever read our OnFoot blog, but it has been a big success both in terms of traffic but also in terms of positive feedback from others who cover this area. You also seem to look down on transportation coverage as some lame and boring beat, a take that makes me wonder what news universe you've been living in. Metro, pedestrian issues, buses, commutageddon---all of this stuff is huge these days and will get only huger as the region grows and our infrastructure struggles to get funded. Drama hovers in these corridors, too; we're talking about failing escalators that throw people around, fights on Metro platforms, shouting matches between motorists and pedestrians, and a lot more.

It's just so important. I mean, there's a reason that Greater Greater Washington is moving from a cult forum for smart growth people to something that everyone is catching on to. Even if you sit at home and blog all day, you eventually have to go somewhere. And as environmental consciousness grows, your mode of transportation increasingly becomes an element of your identity. Transportation is about as sexy as it gets in terms of local beats these days. Those are just a few of the reasons why the smaller TBD will stick with this beat.

Anyhow, thanks for coming in and talking to us and thanks very much for taking the time to read TBD. That you wrote such a thoughtful critique of the site can mean only that you read it on occasion, and as editor, I appreciate that.

Feel free to print any or all of this.


For those of you who are still interested in this topic (and if you just took the time to read all of this, then I suspect you are), stay tuned. I will have a full response to the wesponse up later. Right now, however, I have things to do that I get paid for. And no, I don't mean prostitution. It's not nightfall yet.

*five hours later*

Why, hello. I'm back to push this blog post to just about 3,000 words. Good Lord. Anyway, here's the thing about transportation reporting. I generally don't give a sh*t. Why? My commute to basically anywhere I need to get in any given day is a 20 minute walk/10 minute bike ride. I'm lucky. That said, I understand many people do give a sh*t, perhaps even two sh*ts. Hell, if you live out in Falls Church, maybe you give infinity sh*ts. Ergo, I understand the importance of day-to-day transportation reporting or "the transpo beat," as it were (although, is it? I just heard that...). It's necessary in a city with a subway, highways, downtown traffic, etc. And let's not forget cycling. If there's a sector of this beat that is the recipient of my sh*ts, cycling is it. Congratulations, cycling.

Now, on to the specific criticism that I somehow derided not just transportation reporting as a general occupation, but on TBD specifically. I did not. I noted that TBD scooped up a talented bunch of reporters, your transportation guy is included. The OnFoot blog (which I do read on occasion, as I do with the rest of TBD) is good. And I know that if I cared to know, I could always turn to TBD to find out which roads were flooded, where all the goriest accidents occurred, how many people Metro's escalator's killed yesterday, all the "sexy" transportation stories.

But those transportation stories will still more or less be simple inverted pyramid daily journalism stories, which are divine for relaying information, but not so glorious if you're a writer looking for a job doing long-form features, opinion columns and humor essays. Hence, my griping. It wasn't about the job of transportation reporter itself, it was about me unknowingly interviewing for said job. I don't believe I would be professionally fulfilled doing that. Likewise, I also wouldn't be professionally fulfilled as an aerospace engineer, which doesn't mean I think it's stupid -- SPACESHIPS ARE AWESOME! -- but that it's not my rum-spiked cup of tea. So, if in my aforementioned essay, I was unclear and I inadvertently offended any transportation reporters, aspiring transportation reporters, or simple transportation reporter lovers (Erik), I apologize.

Also, I get what you mean about making choices. For instance, there are a lot more things I'd like to complain about in DC than what you simply see on this blog, but alas, I'm only one idiot savant. I can't write a diatribe about every crooked politician or douche in Georgetown, especially now that I have a cat. He's precious and if I'm to learn anything from the Internet it's that people love a good cat video...

But getting back to the point: Since I seem to quite surprisingly have your ear, I'd like to talk about some of TBD's choices. I understand that your resources were not unlimited. What I don't get was why TBD didn't have more meaty, exclusive stories. Certainly, I assume, your reporters could've handled that. I know they could've. So why this inexplicable dearth? I have a theory -- and this will probably be unpopular for real...

There's been a lot of talk around your organization about the "future of journalism." From what I've observed, to the people who like to talk about it the most, one of the main components of this meme is trying to figure out how to use Twitter as a primary source and convincing others they should accept it, you know, because it's the inevitable future or whatever. I don't buy it.

As I'm sure you know, especially since your career has been far more illustrious than mine thus far, what makes good journalism hasn't really changed since the days of storytelling. You need good sources, context, relevant details. Journalists are paid to find out things the average citizen shouldn't be able to just log on to Twitter and follow. That's why I really didn't get things like TBDNight or why one of the main duties of what seemed like half the staff (and, yikes, I think I mean that literally) was making sure everyone knew TBD was on Twitter. And Foursquare. And Facebook. And whatever else is brand new and totally futuristic these days. Maybe I'm oversimplifying things here, perhaps underlying TBD's efforts to ring in journalism's mysterious future was some big master plan that hadn't yet had time to roll out. But I gotta say, to many (and believe me, it's not just me), it just looked like a waste of good resources -- resources that could've been used to give reporters more time to develop their sources and stories or, um, make a more attractive site. I guess my opinion boils down to this: What makes good and readable journalism is more or less the same, it's just the medium that's changed. Hooray, you can publish on the Web now!

Which is exactly what brought us all here. And what I'm about to do so I can wrap this up and go get something to eat. But before I go, I want to say thank you, Erik, for your comments. I can't emphasize how surprised I was that you would choose to speak out on a blog whose mascot is a nonplussed muppet opposed to, say, a media source that people actually read. And to those few of you who have come over here and have stuck through these last one million words, please, feel free to add some of your own. I'm curious of what people think about this whole future of journalism thing. Is it bullsh*t or am I full of bullsh*t?


And then before I knew it, Wemple went berserk and sent me 8 million links to TBD features and scoops and meaty bits (ew), oh my!

Wow, more powerful and piercing criticism of TBD. How can I not reply in kind?

On transpo, I understand. My bad for making such an issue of that. De gustibus non disputandum est. So let's close that discussion.

On the social networking front, you seem annoyed that we worked hard on Twitter and 4SQ and other such platforms. Yeah, guilty. We wanted to have a site that wasn't just on the web, but of the web, in the words of former General Manager Jim Brady. To a great extent, I think, it worked, considering that we'd find people on Twitter frequently reaching out to us with questions. Like, "Hey, TBD, why are there 20 police cars in such and such a place right now?" But I'll leave a more complete answer to the social media gripe to Steve Buttry.

Now to the heart of your latest post: To quote you: "What I don't get was why TBD didn't have more meaty, exclusive stories."

Perhaps you weren't reading quite as closely as I thought you were. Let's call in the links.

*From the site's very early days, we did tons of meaty-exclusive stuff. Just sample this rural-crime classic by Molly Ball about a spasm of violence in Virginia.

*Or this heavily reported arts piece by Maura Judkis on how they make Mary Poppins fly. Talking about exclusives: Judkis, as you may know, also broke and then prosecuted like mad the National Portrait Gallery censorship story of late last year. Judkis also did a killer exclusive on a cell phone that went off in a theater, which forced a performer to flub her lines.
More exclusivity, this time on an opera lyricist.

*And while we're talking about reported and original arts coverage, take a look at this Ryan Kearney piece on how Gawker handled a gory photograph. Here's one of my favorites from Kearney, a big story on a Leesburg firm that polices film piracy.

*Think, too, about arts writer Sarah Godfrey. If this piece on the Gray Goose Mansion in Adams Morgan isn't exclusive, what is? Godfrey also did a number of interviews with the families of victims of the P.G. County homicide rash---I think they'd meet your criteria.

*Now we're on the topic of crime and death, so I turn to TBD reporter Sarah Larimer. To me, meaty and exclusive mean weeks of shoe-leather reporting, which is exactly what Larimer poured into this piece about how a Latino man lost his life working at a car wash. That wasn't our most-trafficked story ever; it just happens to be an example of a reporter who cared enough to find out about someone that the rest of the media did a few short sentences on and then moved onto other stories. Let's do some more Larimer here, like this story, in which she managed to get in the apartment of the man who held up a Takoma Park bank and was shot dead by police.

*More on crime, this time with a transpo twist: Will you ever find a meatier, more exclusive take on life, crime, and public transportation than Dave Jamieson's enormous investigation on iPhone robberies? Here. And speaking of following up and developing sources, feast your narrative-starved brain on this more recent piece on the cops nabbing said robbers.

*Sorry, gotta keep going here. If you care about College Park, you probably knew of Turtle, which TBDer Kevin Robillard captured in one (very exclusive) retrospective. For more awesome local biz coverage, try this one by Jennifer Rogers, on a Safeway in Southwest that started checking customers' receipts upon exit. And then there was the TBD investigation of a farm in Virginia that got cited by state authorities for animal cruelty violations (namely, starving its animals). The farm was supplying D.C.-area businesses.

*Care about the intersection of biz and arts? Ally Schweitzer, who does our listings, did an investigative story on how Busboys & Poets compensates its affiliated namesakes (poets, that is).

*On a roll now, I gotta hype Daniel Victor's amazing story on pickup artists [Note: I actually used this story as a jumping off point for my own essay, "Every douche can be undone" -- TheAntiDC] plus Nathasha Lim's great one on why restaurant websites are so often terrible, Sommer Mathis did killer coverage of every little tick and tock of the DC9 story, Rebecca Cooper nailed the definitive, FOIA-assisted series on towing in Arlington, and Elahe Izadi did the exclusive on a raid on the home of a former National Archives employee.

When we weren't producing these exclusives, we were often banging away at breaking news. That's the turf of a fabulous ABC7 assignment desk, headed by dyed-in-the-wool newsies like Dan Patrick and Markham Evans, and TBD news editor Julie Westfall, who kept the fast-moving stories readable and up to date. Those folks worked closely with ace ABC7 reporters---Brad Bell, Sam Ford, Julie Parker, Suzanne Kennedy, just to name a few---to produce all manner of exclusives on local sports figures, the Fenty-Gray race, and on and on.

The recounting here may read as an exhaustive inventory, but it's not. There are many more, even though we've been around only six months.

But here's the thing: Your criticism that we didn't do enough exclusive, original content is by no means yours alone. I see it all the time in comments threads---people hammering us for taking, aggregating, the content of other outlets and not producing our own. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post wrote the same thing---that we do "some" original reporting but our big thing is aggregation.

Maddening, all of it. I am not blaming you of Farhi or all those commenters for somehow failing to notice how much original stuff we did. At some point you can't blame the people. Yet it's still confounding, because TBD stories were widely consumed. Judkis' big piece on the National Portrait Gallery has more than 700 Facebook shares; Victor's dating piece had hundreds; a piece by Jamieson on a Metro fight had nearly 6,000.

Maybe we should have fiddled with our homepage design to give our exclusives longer resting places; maybe we should have pushed stuff on Twitter more, though you suggest we did too much social networking; maybe we should have launched with a companion print edition that would have carried our exclusives to the street---given them more staying power, a la City Paper.

Maybe we just waded into a local news scene that was already saturated to the point that people couldn't really digest any more news, no matter how compelling or original it may have been. Another possibility is that people just like to dump on us because we got all that over-the-top media attention when we launched.

Whatever the case, I just want to point out to you that we did all this stuff and it's there for you, always. Today's enterprise story is right here.


This is the blog that never ends yes it goes on and on my friends....

Being a savant of the idiotic variety, I've had to get good at admitting when I've made an error. This is and isn't that case. Why? Because sure, Erik, you proved with your bajillion links that there's hefty content there, but do I want to read it?

Sadly, the answer is no. And while the answer to why that is may be partly because I don't really care about what happens in College Park, as you introduced one of your above links, that's not the biggest reason. If Malcolm Gladwell can make an article about ketchup interesting, anything can be interesting. The thing about Gladwell, though, is that he always approaches subjects with a cool angle. Unfortunately for me, TBD's longer articles often didn't. To be more specific, I'm a sucker for the sociological, human angle. I want to be able to picture the people, the settings, the soul. I want to feel something when I invest in a longer piece. While that happened with some longer TBD pieces (Daniel Victor's pick-up artist article, Ryan Kearney's Gawker piece), it didn't with many others...

I'm not going to pick out individual stories to pick on, especially since many TBDers are looking for jobs now and Google lasts forever, but more than one lacked not only that angle I love. Even more so, several also lacked a certain flow I look for in long-form features. That, I think, is what I was implying when I noted TBD's lack of "meat." Of course, comparing the New Yorker to TBD is pretty unfair of me.

For one, TBD is primarily a daily news organization (I think, although we'll get to that in a moment). The New Yorker is not. Also, having known a New Yorker writer, I know each article is tweaked and edited for months before it sees the light of day or ether. Assuming first that the reporters at TBD have the goods for feature writing, they certainly do not have the luxury of time. From what I'm told, they're responsible for churning out roughly six stories a day. In my opinion, just getting anything out that goes deeper than a dateline and a couple of facts is commendable and if any of those reporters happen to be reading this right now, allow me to pause, allude to impresario of life Charlie Sheen, and say, you're all winners.

But content aside (which, by the way, is totally subjective), there's probably a bigger issue all the links you've brought up present. The bizarre design of TBD's Web site. Not only is it fugly, but judging from the fact that so many of the links you listed were new to me, a daily reader of TBD, I must conclude something was wrong with it. (Either that or I'm stupider than I thought, which believe me, I still have not discounted.) Were all these stories buried past the scroll? Did I need to click through 10 pages to find what I didn't even know I was looking for? I don't know. All I know is that more often than not, the lead story on TBD's front page would scream tabloid and I'd leave. Really, there's only so many days in a row a person can read about someone's horrific death. (Today's occurred in a tunnel.) It's numbing.

Worse than that, after clicking on some of the above stories, I've noticed that no matter how interesting the actual story, the headline is usually not. It's usually an SEO-heavy mess. (Although I imagine most people who are reading this know what SEO means, in case you're lucky and you don't, it stands for Search Engine Optimized, meaning you write inane, uninteresting headlines so people can easily find you via Google. Gene Weingarten, who's grown on my like an awesome cocaine pinky nail, has a pretty funny take on SEO headlines.) So, maybe these stories weren't buried after all, but they were just disguised with the most ugly SEO masks around.

Now, as far as the social networking ideas at TBD go, it's not that you're working hard on Twitter, but it seems like you're working hard chasing it, as if it's a viable source for stories other than revolution. (I've mentioned this before.) This article about the Oscars, well, I don't mean to be rude, but it was totally worthless. If I cared what strangers tweeted about the Oscars, I would've read my own Twitter feed. Also, although I'm sure the reporter has a good excuse (like having to write 18 gazillion stories in a 12-hour block), not watching the very thing she was charged to write about was probably not the best idea... And, no, this assessment doesn't mean I think Maura Judkis is a bad writer. Quite the contrary, actually, her flying Mary Poppins article that you linked to by her was fantastic, but this Oscars piece? Perhaps it's suitable for a random personal blog, but TBD? This is where I get confused about the vision of the entire operation. Is TBD a news organization (in which case, shouldn't you make sure every one of your articles includes some actual reporting -- cutting and pasting tweets doesn't count) or are you a supersized blog? Like, are you competing with the Post or me?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

shambles p.i.: the next generation

Unlike the 1980s, kids have it hard these days, at least when it comes to fashion. To be cool they have to dress like blind 1920s hobos or even whip their hair back-and-forth while looking like tiny rodeo clowns. Gone are the days of kids fighting for their right to wear sweatsuits to church or no pants everywhere else. And yes, gone it seems are the days of kids being able to wear homemade jorts, paired with pirate shirts and denim vests inherited from their older brothers who got it in 1979. Farewell we must say to those Peter Pan moccasins we procured in our kindergarten play when a random drawing earned us the lead over other people's acting skills. Indeed, let us hold hands, sing Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days" together and mourn these times...

But wait. What's that? A bird, a plane, a tiny Village Person? Me in 1985?!?!?! THERE IT IS! MY DREAM OUTFIT OF 1985! Complete with a stance that says, "Hey mom and dad, if you don't get me a boombox for my birthday this summer so I can listen to this awesome Wang Chung tape on repeat [I really had a thing for Wang Chung...], I swear to Oliver North I'll shart my pants right here, in public, in front of all your jazzercise friends!"

It's like H&M read my mind 26 years ago (Sidenote: Holy sh*t...) and sharted this right into their store windows. Really, it's the Wang Chung of outfits. My Holy Get-Up Grail. My Perfect Denim Storm. I would totally dress a kid in this. And that kid would hate me.

See, judging from the likes of what one sees on television and magazines today, it seems most kids these days wouldn't be caught dead (or at least listening to Justin Bieber) in my dream 1985 ensemble. Take these kids, for example:

Arlo Weiner, 9, GQ's "Most Stylish Kid in America"

Willow Smith, 10, pop star

Arguably, these are the prototypes of today's youth, the Corey Feldmans or their generation. These are the kids other fashionable kids aspire to be like, meaning if my 6-year-old 1985 self showed up today in my little denim ensemble, I'd be cast out immediately. Or perhaps, it wouldn't be the outfit so much as my rolling up with a purple boombox blasting "Everybody Wang Chung Tonight." No, Wang Chung doesn't make you friends like it used to...

But enough about these generational differences. After all, kids are kids, no matter how they dress, right? Don't believe me? Take another look at the three photos and I'm sure you'll see a similarity. That's right, whether they choose to look like the coolest 6-year-old in 1985 or one of today's more fashion-forward children (dressed either like a midget newsie or gay MC Hammer) they're all doing the shart stance. It works like a charm. I still have that boombox.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the men at wapo are beliebers

While it may be just fine for Taco Bell to use only 36 percent beef in their delicious wares, or for American pop artists to survive on just 36 percent music (although don't expect to win a Grammy. WHOISARCADEFIRE?!), I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around the Washington Post's 36 percent news policy.

OK, that may be a little harsh. As an avid reader of the Post, I have actually come to depend on it for very important international news, like this:

Yeah, I was being #sarcastic. But for the record, at least that link goes to Ezra Klein's blog, which is better than, say, a legitimate article that would have a danger of showing up in the print edition. But still... The fact that Mr. Klein, one of the most recognizable names at the Post saw it fit to even mention this Bieber nonsense can only mean one thing -- THE POST'S BEEN INFECTED WITH THE BIEBER FEVER!

And perhaps, if Mr. Klein lived in Canada, he'd have been able to cure his case without having to be up to his Bieber-bowl cut in debt. But instead, it seems he did nothing... AND THE FEVER SPREAD! OH MY GOD, POST EDITORIAL WRITER JONATHAN CAPEHART HAS IT TOO! He writes:

"Just the sight of Justin Bieber elicits an eye roll from me. I mean, what's up with that hair? And he has a 3-D movie about his life? He's only 16! But it's his political comments in the latest Rolling Stone that have my eyes rolling so hard I can hear my mother saying, "Keep it up. Your eyes are going to stay that way."


Or maybe not. Perhaps, instead, it's just the beginning -- the beginning of the Post's inevitable transformation into The Onion. (Side note: That would be AWESOME!)

See, besides the original Rolling Stone article where Justin Bieber, political wonk, first appeared (I imagine the reporter asked these questions in the first place in an attempt to relive "the kid who doesn't even know what German is" moment), the only other outlets latching on to Bieber's bungles (now there's an SEO term!), are gossip sites such as the always funny Dlisted, which appropriately sandwiched it between O.J. Did Not Get the Beat Down in Prison and Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry Have Put Down Their Shanks.

The Washington Post, though? Come on, you're supposed to be a news generator, not a non-news re-reporter!

The New York Times didn't comment. The Boston Globe remained hush. I couldn't even find a reference to it in the freaking L.A. Times. Now, I don't mean to call up NAMBLA and have them send the male editorialists at the Post applications to join their organization, but I find it a bit odd that not just one but two adults at what was once a news institution have found the rather baseless and innocuous political quips of what seems like a rather dimwitted teenage boy not only important enough to mention in passing, but in the case of Capehart, important enough to actually analyze. ("Surely all that Oh, Canada flag waving and talk of Americans being 'evil' will enrage the conservative parents of Bieber's screaming teen girl (and more than a few gay teen boys) base...")

But take heart, future members of the National American Man/Bieber Love Assocation, at least you have each other and, hopefully, a sense of humor.*

*That is to say, don't sue me! I don't really think you have a thing for young boys! (Hey, after the Snyder situation, you can never be too careful...)

Monday, February 14, 2011

komi and get it

I wish I could say, "You probably know it's Valentine's Day, unless you were born in the USSR," but um...

Yeah. Unfortunately, nowadays it seems the entire world is making itself sick from overexposure to Red #40 and the ugliest shade of pink known to man.

Sike! Who am I kidding! I love this time of year! And not just because I get to send love notes to Vladimir Putin. I love it because this year I got to dine at Komi (the restaurant, not the Russian Republic), which is arguably the best fancy food venue in DC. And when I say "fancy food," I mean we're talking about a menu that comes in one variety -- tasting.

Tasting menus are great. Not only does this take the pressure off the customer from making a poor decision and ordering something he or she might regret when his or her companion orders something better (seriously, I'm the worst orderer known to man), but tasting menus leave you directly in the chef's hands and in the case of Komi, that's probably where you want to live.

I have nothing bad to say about this place. The service matched the phantasmagoria of the food. The waitstaff whizzed around explaining ingredients, keeping water glasses full, helping in wine selection. And when my napkin fell off my lap onto the ground one server swooped in to pick it up and a second flew by right after him to offer me a new one. It was a like a freaking Chagall painting in there. People were floating.

As far as the food, well, I touched on this initially -- it was fan-f*cking-tastic. I won't go into detail, as I think it's better to come here and be surprised (they don't tell you any details before a plate arrives), but I can say with almost 100 percent assurance that you won't be disappointed. Hands down, this was the best food experience of my life. And while I wouldn't want to eat this way every day (if that were the case, even Chagall wouldn't be able to make me look light), I plan to definitely come back again one day. Maybe in a year...Komi's also not cheap.

But alas, today my mind is still in a dream state. But don't worry. The second I bite into one of Taco Bell's 36 percent beef tacos I'll crash straight back into reality. I know where I usually live.

And speaking of lack of beef, it's nothing but love when it comes to my cat and his crush, Maru, the most famous cat in the world. Here's my Valentine's Day gift to the world in viral video form. Enjoy!

PS -- Arcade Fire won Album of the Year at the Grammys? Pigs must be flying to the tune of the fat lady in a very chilly hell today. Clearly, the world as we have come to know it is now over. Poor, poor Justin Bieber...but if 36 percent beef tacos can survive so can the modern American popstar's brand of 36 percent music. I'm a Belieber!

Friday, February 11, 2011

predicting dan snyder's future

YES! Hearing (and reading) the season of spring is going to pop in this weekend makes me feel like this:

...Says the woman who just booked a ticket to Iceland in March. What can I say? I'm an idiot. Or maybe I'm just adventurous. Lord knows I love a good volcano.

But like I said, that's not until March, which means talking about all the Bjorking fun I'm gonna have is a bit premature. Instead, let's talk about something a little more current, and also a little more idiotic. Let's talk about Dan Snyder, whose recent decision to sue the Washington City Paper over a three-month old slightly amusing niche article, has not only made him an even bigger laughing stock to football fans, but a new source of ridicule for those of us who never heard of the guy until now.

The Washington Post did a pretty good job today explaining how with this lawsuit Dan Snyder sh*t his pants then instead of changing them decided to keep sh*tting them over and over again. In fact, at this point it seems there's probably so much No. 2 in Dan Snyder's slacks, it's hard to imagine he's even able to move. And actually, maybe he can't. Not only must the load be too heavy to maneuver, but now it's started to drip down his leg. Ick. (Isn't this blog just a pleasure to read around lunch time?!) There's not a Shamwow big enough in the world to clean that mess up...

But enough with the poop allusions (you're welcome). Now, I wish to speak directly to Mr. Snyder about his rather dismal-looking future. *ahem*

Dan, are you there? It's me, Marissa another future defendant. I just want to give you some helpful advice. First off, don't pull a Hosni here. Go out with grace, and for you we'll define "grace" as "anything, as long as you just go away." See, just like Egypt doesn't want Mubarek anymore, Washington doesn't want you. You're smelly. And before you sue me for "general damages," let me be clear: Until we meet and I can confirm you deodorize on the reg, I mean that you solely give off a pungent and unplesasant odor metaphorically. Because, seriously, I'm getting the bad vapors from all that proverbial poo in your pantaloons, sir...

Of course, this is all wishful thinking. For one, judging from your latest 'tard-fueled antics, it seems you'd probably be the type to "forget" to put on deodorant. And also, lest we forget, we live in a crazy, mixed up world, a world where, I must remind you, this once happened:

In other words, sh*t be f*cked up.

Dan, I hate to be the millionth one to break it to you, but you're heading straight for Noltedom, or -- and this is very hard to say to a stranger -- even worse. At least Nolte had Prince of Tides. What will you have? Go ahead, I'll give you a moment to let the ugly truth sink in...

Has it sunk yet? OK, let's just save some time here and spit it out -- YOU'RE GOING TO BE A BUSEY!

Good luck, asshole.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

going up?

No. No you're not. At least not if you're trying to use the escalators in any of the Metro stations lately. In fact, I'd put the odds of that at about 50 percent. And while that might not be an official statistic (they're probably worse...), it's the number I noticed the last time I ventured into the Metro a couple of weeks ago. What the f*ck?

See, I'm usually lucky. Everywhere I need and want to go on a daily basis (*ahem* the liquor store) is within walking/biking distance to me. So, when I make the rare trip to somewhere I need to Metro to, I would hope my random test of the system would go smoothly. But when it doesn't (and, let's face it -- it never does), I start to suspect there's a larger, more systemic problem going on. It's like the Metro has AIDS.

OK, I'm sorry, that's a little AIDS. After all, there's drugs to help keep that in check. But the Metro? We have to rely on human skill for that and if past experience has taught the world anything, it's that humans are the major cause of most mucking up of works. But instead of just one mothermucker, it seems there are several when it comes to the Metro. It seems systemic, and according to the Washington Post, who just wrote about a new Metro report:

Metro is falling far short of its own standards, complying with its maintenance schedule only 40 percent of the time.

In other words, Metro is doing its job just 2/5ths of the time. Two. Fifths. No wonder there's been some major injuries along the way. I mean, can you imagine if gravity was only doing its job two-fifths of the time? The Internet can, and it's not pretty.

Look, I'm already scared of going to Virginia for fear of death by freak peanut avalanche. Now, must I also fear for my life whilst just trying to get there?

And what the hell? Humanity has somehow figured out three different methods for hypnotizing chickens, yet we still somehow can't perfect a viable way to ensure the functionality of a Metro escalator? I don't get it. While I understand the moving staircase is a complicated mechanism, we've had almost 150 years to perfect it. That's right, the ancestor to today's escalator was invented in 1859. EIGHTEEN FIFTY NINE!

And if my all-caps exclamation didn't convey my thoughts enough, here's an additional sentence: That's a f*cking long time ago. I mean, seriously, we invented a goddamn airplane and perfected it enough to send a freaking man to the moon since then! How have we not perfected a means to safely transport a human 50 feet by escalator? IT'S NUTS, I TELL YOU! DEATH BY PEANUTS NUTS! IT'S INSANITY! It's stupid. It's really dumb...for real. Find a cure. Fix it.

This post is dedicated to those brave souls risking their lives today. Good luck and Godspeed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

every douche can be undone

Not to keep harping on bad advertisements I've spotted around town, but this morning I found this one:

Now, I'm not sure about you, but I personally don't see the connection between a buxom, bosomy blonde bouncing on a breadmill (just let me have my alliteration!) and home refinancing. Do you? Maybe I'm missing something.

Or maybe I'm just not the target audience. See, I saw this seemingly ineffective advertisement this morning floating next to an article on about a pick-up artist seminar taught by boys with stupid nicknames. (I'm regretfully e-looking at you, "Maven.") Taking that into account, I think this ad may actually be incredibly effective if its specific aim is at horny dudes who spend their money on stupid things. In that case, kudos to the marketers at TBD.

But on the other hand, ew. Who are these dudes? It amazes me that corny pick-up artists can make a living off of charging desperate men $300 a pop to learn how to now be both desperate and creepy. This is truly a disservice to society, and to women in particular. And while I could probably now charge $300 for the counter-advise I'm about to dole out, after reading about the "technique" offered up by some weirdo named "Speer," I feel like it's my civic duty to do the world a favor and correct the errors of their ways for free. So, let's remove those rape-goggles, shall we? (And judging from the typical fashion sense of one of these PUAs, I'm sure I mean that literally.)

1) NEVER try to pick-up a woman while she's shopping for underwear. There is no way for that NOT to come off as creepy. Especially if she's 16.

2) NEVER be that old guy in the college bar. You're already weird for being 49 and thinking you can date 22-year-olds.

3) NEVER try to guess a woman's bra size. Do I really need to explain this one?

4) NEVER stick your tongue through your fingers pretending it's a vagina when introducing yourself. For an example, see Vince (if you dare).

5) NEVER...mind...

This isn't even worth it. If you're dumb enough to think any of the above is seductive, let alone acceptable behavior, you probably have Asperger's or, worse, you really are a rapist. Honestly, the D.E.N.N.I.S. System is probably more effective than what these a-holes are teaching...

But I guess it's one thing to follow these rules if you're just trying to have one-time short sex with the kind of woman who likes one-time short sex. It's another, however, to boast that these PUA rules can actually help these poor dudes get girlfriends. I mean, really, think about your friends who are in successful and meaningful relationships. Is there ever a guy named "Cuisine"? Does he wear a sparkly silk scarf and obnoxious chunky jewelry? Does he have a bikini wax on his face? Does he get weird in a bad way on a regular basis? Is he listed or does he seem like he'd be listed on a sex offenders database? Or are your male friends with cool girlfriends all well-adjusted, funny, socially capable guys, with compatible interests to their significant others? More importantly, have these guys displayed genuine sincerity in their actions? I would venture to guess yes.

One of the most disturbing things about the sausagefest of the pick-up scene is the idea that dudes need to put on some sort of act to impress women. Look Read, women are not idiots. We're not stupid and unless you're Ed Norton, James Franco or someone else with a penchant for method acting, we will not believe you. That is, when you roll up to a group of girls at, say, Lucky Bar and randomly ask them, as it was suggested, "Why is this place called Lucky Bar?" we will ALWAYS recognize that as a stupid come-on because it's not sincere. Worse yet, you're probably interrupting a decent conversation. Worst yet, you're at Lucky Bar...

But don't let your poor choice of bars deter you. You're in DC, after all, you must make do. However, allow me to ask, what the f*ck ever happened to lingering eye contact? You know, you're at one side of the bar, that potential special someone is at the other. You're both giving each other googley eyes. Done deal! And if one party isn't interested, all she needs to do is look away. It's so simple! Why is it commonplace these days for weirdos to think it's necessary to approach an entire group of women and engage in so much unsolicited awkwardness?

Or what happened to asking a woman to dance? Asking to buy her a drink?

And if you're not in a bar (and definitely not in a women's lingerie shop), there's a possibility to be just as straightforward. What happened to striking up a conversation about something apropos to the situation? Something you notice you both have a common interest in. You notice a woman reading the same book as you on the Metro. Strike up a conversation about that! (If you're on the red line, chances are you're gonna be sitting there for the next two days anyway!) Hey, there's a girl ordering banana peppers on her sandwich! You love banana peppers, too! Seriously, "come here often?" is a better way to go about things than "clever," bullsh*t "openers."

And I could go on. Unfortunately, I don't have the time. However, I could have the time for the low, low price of $300. I'll include a trip to the mall and the barber's for a makeunder and un-teach you all the ways tools have taught you to be a tool over the years. Don't you worry, the motto here at The Anti DC is every douche can be undone. You can too. Just believe.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

the metro will ruin your life

If it wasn't for chili, I'd probably be a recluse. Really, along with getting out of town (both physically and colloquially), it's one of the few things that can tempt me enough to occasionally leave my hobo lair. It must be the beans....*sigh*

Anywho, where I was going with that terrible introduction was advertisements. Well, no, first I was going to segue into the Superbowl (not to by confused with Segway Into the Superbowl, a documentary I plan on making one day after I convince the league to introduce various gyroscopic modes of transportation to the game). More specifically, I was going to talk about a party for the Superbowl, where all the delicious chili will be. (As far as the Superbowl goes, Go Team Without Rapists On It!) Then, after talking about the Superbowl party, I was going to mention all the high-level advertisements one is likely to see. (I hope Betty White is in all of them this year.) Then, of course, I would finally get to the point of this essay -- Metro advertisements. In three words, they are terrible. In more than three words, here's an example of what I'm talking about, an advertisement that chilled me to my bean-fortified bones because that's what happens when you photoshop a demon kid, holding a conductor's stick, dangling measuring spoons on his big toe, and, of course, sprawled out in tipped over buckets of flour, sand, eggs and dead plants onto a single ominous page.

I don't know about you, but I've never seen a more terrifying ad for shilling an online database for home buyers in my life. When I see a child from the corn (or would that be cornstarch in this case?) involved in a baking project gone very wrong, it doesn't make me want to search for the perfect home so much as it makes me simply want to cover my own in in salt, dip it in garlic and, according to, burn some herbs, which I'm pretty sure is just code for smoking weed because, yes, it seems even ghosts get annoyed by stoners. But beware -- this sage advice doesn't come without risk.

Hmm, starting a fire would seem to defeat the whole purpose, but does it really? Or are there more diabolical forces at work here?


Let's face it. This ad will do wonders for the sea salt industry, garlic growers, and marijuana distributors of the world. If I wasn't wise to the conspiracy theory I'm about to slap down before you, I'd probably already be at GW searching out the kid with the most bloodshot eyes. But I'm not. I don't have to because...


It's all coming together now. First, we have an ineffective ad for home-buying, but a very effectual ad for home-fortifying against demon-children. No one wants evil spirits around, especially a pint-sized one who's going to f*ck up your kitchen. So, you google ways to avoid ghosts and -BOOM- suddenly you're "burning some herbs." These herbs may make you lazy, careless, tired. So tired that -WHOOPS- you dropped the burning herbs on your chartreuse shag carpet during a Steakums-induced coma and -WHOOSH- your demon-filled home just went up in flames! Now, what? You may have just defeated the purpose of smoking out your ghosts by smoking out yourself, but now you've fallen into a trap!


Well, look at that. Now you need a new home in a pinch. And where will you look? That's right, we're back to the demon-child ad again. You think, "Didn't I see an ad not long ago for a home buyers database?" And that cues the resulting mobius strip: demon-child ad, ehow article, "herbs," house burns down, demon-child ad, ehow article, "herbs," house burns down, demon-child ad, ehow article, "herbs" and heroin (if your house burns down three times, let's face it, you've moved on to the hard stuff), house burns down. And the cycle continues. Thanks, Metro...