Snippy, Snippy

Esquire magazine can be a smarmy place sometimes -- between the "Women We Love" articles 7and the endless ruminations on cigars and martinis -- but now it has gone too far.

The December issue isn't on the stands yet, but in a Houston Press exclusive! (Hey, this sweeps-month stuff is easy!) that shows how we are On Your Side or that we've Got Your Back or whatever, we've gotten an advance peek.

Restaurant critic John Mariani does his annual piece on "The Best New Restaurants in America." He writes: "It's embarrassing how many steak houses have opened in Texas, not because they aren't top quality, but because they indicate a near breakdown of sophisticated dining in the state."

Ouch. Mariani says, though, that one new restaurant here has "broken the mold": some place called Scott Chen's, in the Tanglewood area. He rambles on about the "wonderfully inventive" food and ends with this paragraph:

"The Mayor Giuliani Award for Hick Journalism: 'The menu will make a New Yorker wince: foie gras for $22.50, shrimp with risotto for $16.50....Most dinner entrées cost more than $20' -- Alan Truex, restaurant reviewer, Houston Chronicle."

Double ouch. We don't know who this "Mayor Giuliani" guy is, but this Mariani dude sure is treating us Houstonians like we're unsophisticated rubes.

Not to mention that he picked the wrong paragraph to cite from Truex's April 23 review of the restaurant. We prefer this one: "The worst thing about this [parking] lot is that it's often full. Unless you want to drive and walk, you're left with valet parking -- turning over one of your most precious possessions to a stranger."

We hear you, Alan. Them valet parkers wouldn't know how to sit on rich Corinthian leather if it killed 'em. And just try using a two-for-one coupon in one of these highfalutin places.

Truex didn't respond to a request for comment.

How-to Journalism

Television news operations these days are slaves of focus groups and media consultants. What all that research is telling them, apparently, is that their audience consists of drooling idiots who need to be reminded to breathe.

We haven't yet seen a three-part series on "Bad Trips: Making Sure Your Shoes Stay Tied," but we're getting close.

We had Channel 2's Ed Laskos recently offering the perennial tips on staying safe while doing your holiday shopping: Don't flash cash, stay in lighted areas, etc., etc.

"These are all obvious," Laskos said, helpfully informing viewers that his piece lacked a point, "but experts say the best rule to remember is the easiest one: Keep your eyes open."

Hey, a bunch of obvious rules, and then an "easy" one that isn't at all blindingly obvious. Now we're ready to shop safely!

Laskos doesn't even take the honors in this category. We came across the last part of a Channel 13 report November 10 that seemed to be a searing exposé on waiting in line at fast-food restaurants.

Reporter Nydia Han was in a McDonald's with a queue of people behind her, and we swear she said this: "Experts say to pick the line that looks shortest."

Experts? How does one become an expert in fast-food lines? Of course, if the sum of that hard-won knowledge is "pick the line that looks shortest," perhaps all of us are more expert at this than we realize.

We don't know how many "experts" Han interviewed to come up with her consensus -- there were maybe a dozen bored-looking ones behind her -- but we soon found out that she knows no bounds when it comes to research.

A spokesman for McDonald's, she reported, told her they try to serve people within 60 seconds; a spokesman for Taco Bell "said simply they try to give customers good food and convenience" (that insight, to give credit where it's due, is a Channel 13 exclusive); Han then reeled off several other chains, such as Burger King, who did not return phone calls on this burning question.

All in the Family

Sweeps month usually means some "up close and personal" stuff with a station's staff -- for instance, Channel 2 has offered a long piece on a leotard-wearing Dominique Sachse working out -- but Fox has taken the concept to new heights.

The station ran two reports on how one of its employees was subject to a "pit bull attack" while jogging in her neighborhood. She got a few dog bites, and we're sure she was scared, but we're also pretty sure she isn't the only person bitten by a dog in Houston lately. There was no broadening of the story to look at trends in pit bull attacks, such as they are; it was just a straightforward report on one woman getting bitten not too badly.

The station's second report on the incident featured what an anchor described as a "chilling" 911 call. The call, though, seemed to consist of a not-very-excited guy laconically relating how there was this woman outside yelling and there were some dogs around her.

Somehow no other station picked up on this, and the next day's Chronicle also completely dropped the ball. Chalk up another exclusive for Fox!

Quote of the Week

From the ever-so-delicate sports section of the Chron, a quote from Seattle Sonic Vernon Maxwell, expressing his displeasure to Scotty Pippen: "Stop [complaining]! You better not be guarding me when you come out here 'cause I'm gonna bust your [butt]. You ain't in Houston and you're still crying like a [girl]!"

Okay, "[complaining]" we can pretty well guess is a euphemism for "bitching." And "[butt]" is a more acceptable term for "ass," we suppose. But "[girl]"? Did Maxwell say "bitch"? Or "pussy"? Or what? What word did the Chron editors decide was a synonym for "girl"? Should all girls be offended?

We don't know. We sure do like the thought of the sports desk sitting around discussing the matter, though.

He's bad. He's out there. And he appreciates your help. E-mail the News Hostage at should the spirit or our local media so move you.

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