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Baked Lettuce, and the Decline of Western Civilization

This is a human weakness.Who cares if the internet is really mad at Nigella Watson?  Detail of Huffington Post sidebar, 17 November 2015.

In the first place, I loathe badly-written headlines, and Huffington Post specializes in that.

There is also the pedantic fact that “the Internet” doesn’t get angry at anyone. Naturally, we get what they mean, but still, it’s a really, really dumb headline, and HuffPo ought to be embarrassed; its editors would probably do the site―and the rest of humanity―some good by filing their resignations.

Additionally, we might offer the following consideration:

People really feel strongly about putting lettuce in the oven.

The Internet wept as they watched Nigella Lawson bake some lettuce leaves and subsequently add insult to injury by placing a fried egg on top.

The chef made her version of a Caesar salad on her BBC show “Simply Nigella” and it did not go over easy with fans. Her recipe consisted of lettuce baked in the oven with anchovies and garlic, all topped with the aforementioned egg. This strays from the traditional formula, which involves fresh lettuce, croutons and a white dressing.

Outraged viewers took to Twitter, decrying Nigella for her offensive, senseless actions.

Speaking of being embarrassed, we can only wonder if writing about people wringing their hands and losing their minds because Nigella put lettuce in the oven is what Samantha Guff had in mind when she undertook her editorial fellowship at Huffington Post. Much like being relegated to penning articles about plot holes in Star Wars, we might wonder if Ms. Guff finds herself enduring those excruciating moments in which she wonders if her parents were right, and she should have skipped journalism for something more useful.

To the other, I was dumb enough to click the lettuce link, and it doesn’t help to suggest I did so fully expecting to write a blog post about it. (No, really, one need not be a scholar to recognize wasted journalism from afar; promoted content is a particular sensitivity of mine, and the Hufffington Post sidebar is particularly odious. Something about dead fish in a barrel goes here.)

Look, bad journalism is one thing. And, yes, HuffPo’s need to suggest godawful content is the sort of thing Arianna owes her readers fiercely for. The age of the internet has brought us tremendous informational resources; unfortunately, our market priorities demand we squander them. Seriously, as much as I might pick on Sophie Bartholomew, Anisa Subedar, Marion Edney, and Danny Beckwith for being hilariously useless human beings, I also acknowledge it’s a thin pretense for wasting my own time. So, you know, let’s blame Samantha. And she, in turn, can point to her editors. And they, in turn, can tell Arianna what a wonderful person she is, and how her shit doesn’t stink. Honestly, who looks at a potentially infinite idea and sets up a business model to waste as much of it as humanly possible?

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Guff, Samantha. “Internet Is Mad At Nigella Lawson For Putting Lettuce In The Oven”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2015.

Literacy in the Time of Facebook

This is what it comes to.

Either Empire viewers are really, really stupid, or Facebook is.  Flip a coin.One of the underappreciated qualities of whatever excrement happens to be “trending” via social media is that we can discern a little something or other about the audience. You know, like a “Most Popular” sidebar in which we discover that for everything else going on, people would rather read about Rhianna going on vaction, or Jennifer Lawrence nude, or, hey, how about Martha Stewart having a threesome.

This is what we do with literacy.

I suppose, then, that while it is easy enough to say we shouldn’t be surprised that the season finale of a popular television series is trending, I’m not certain why the trending aspect is the fact that a finale is a two-hour episode.

But, you know, it’s Facebook, so … right.

Yeah. This is what we do with literacy.

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Image note: Facebook “trending” widget, 19 March 2015, 1:49 PDT. Apparently people who didn’t watch the show need to know how long it was. Wait a minute, that doesn’t work, does it? Why would we care? Oh, dear. That means either Empire viewers are really, really stupid, or Facebook is. Flip a coin.

The Reason Why

Detail of BuzzFeed "More News" sidebar, 23 February 2015, 07:28 PST.Only twenty-seven?

Your number of the day. We did not bother reading the article. No, really, if there are twenty-seven “important moments” from the Oscars, well, where does that fall in the range? Is it a mean? That would make 2,349 important moments from eighty-seven Academy Awards ceremonies, but that projection is probably unfair since our age of mass media means we can increase the number of important things per second.

Still, though, where are we going to fit in all those important things? Arts education is already woeful in these United States, and nobody really seems to like history despite it being both one of the easier courses on the curriculum and also one of the most important a person can learn. Maybe if we cram it into a business education sequence.

Because that, more than whatever twenty-seven things, is the important lesson to learn: Growing the brand. It is why we teach kids math, not so they can grow up to take pretty pictures of the sky. Pretty pictures are pretty and all, but they don’t put food on the table.

And don’t give us any of that excremental hippie line about math and science saving lives. You can’t save lives if you don’t grow the brand.

Priorities, people.

That’s why twenty-seven.

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Image note: Detail of BuzzFeed “More News” sidebar, 23 February 2015, 07:28 PST.

The Less Than Serious Post About Mutant Monkeys

Facebook trending widget, 19 February 2015, 23:40 PST.Yes, mutant monkeys.

Actually, we might take the moment to simply chuckle at the idea. After all, it’s for a good cause, not some supervillain idea that involves friggin’ laser beams coming from their friggin’ heads.

What you’re looking at is familiar enough, though. It is that Facebook sidebar widget, and this is the news it brought on 19 February 2015, around 23:40 PST.

We’ll try to be serious about the content … er … um … later.

For now, just enjoy the prospect that mutant monkeys will save us all.

Mika and the Furries

Mika Brzezinski: 'Morning Joe' host loses composure, runs off camera during segment on 'furries'. (via Facebook, 9 December 2014)Sometimes, you don’t need to see the video. Nor do you really want the story detail.

That is to say, every now and then the capsule summary does just fine.

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Image note: Detail of Facebook sidebar “Trending” widget, 9 December 2014, 1:08 AM PST.

A ‘Double Hufftendre’

An entry from the Huffington Post most-read sidebar, 11 September 2014, reflecting the consumption priorities of the news site's readers.It really is too easy to pick on Huffington Post; the most-read lists on pretty much any given news site can be depressing, amusing, harrowing, or whatever. And for that we generally can’t blame the site per se, but, rather, its readers. In HuffPo’s case, though, that glammed up sidebar is a neverending wellspring of, “Wait, what?”

To the other, we at This Is generally adore double-entendre, bad puns, and the sorts of inside jokes that make us wonder about our own psyches. Psyche. Psyches. I don’t know; depends on which one of me is in on any given day.

We also have a weakness for hilarious names, as cruel and inappropriate as that might be, but it is a burden bestowed by a grandfather who once told the story of the Rev. Perry Winkle. And real life provides so much better comic relief than Asswipe Johnson.

True, it is in that vein of juvenilia that the sidebar headline stands out so much: “These Slits Were Too High For Comfort On This Week’s Worst Dressed List”. Then again, one would hope it’s the anemic play on “slits” being “too high” that ranked the article among the most read; what a sad testament if that many people are actually out hunting for celebrity fashion gossip or the chance to revel in what may or may not be some idiotic excuse for slut-shaming.

Really, I prefer the exploitative joke of an obscure colloquialism for a vagina to the idea that people really do care that much about who someone else thinks is the worst-dressed celebrity in a given week. The fact that there is anything remotely approaching a weekly worst-dressed list is a suggestion that the species will, indeed, amuse itself to death.