(this is annie)

Thinking about inking

Almost five years ago, and after about as much time making what I thought were empty comments about wanting a tattoo, my mother waltzed into an East Village tattoo shop and had a fleur-de-lis put on her inner wrist. That location was not her first preference; she had initially wanted the design placed on the part of her hand where thumb meets index finger. Todd, Trevor and I just barely managed to convince her that this was a bad idea. Today, while talking on the telephone, my mother and I had this conversation.

Mom: And you thought I was drunk when I went to King Billy's!

Me: Well, you were not completely sober. [This is true.]

Mom: I only had two and a half drinks! I was fine! Remember, you were clucking about how your father wasn't going to like this [also true] and you worried about the tattoo parlor being sanitary [again, true]. I still don't see why you made such a fuss about where I wanted the tattoo. I think it would have been nice to just look down and see it whenever I wanted. And YOU said I would have looked like a gang member.

Me: Well, you would have. You should be glad we were there to stop you.

Mom: I don't look like I'm in a gang. Besides, I'm sure a lot of nice people have tattoos there.

Me: Yes, and most of them are gangbangers and prisoners. Or former prisoners.

Mom: They are?

Me: Yes.

Mom, doubting me: Nooooo.

Me: YES.

Mom: Do you think maybe they were gangbangers who got the tattoos in prison?

Me: It's possible.

Mom: I don't buy it. Johnny Depp has one! He has the number three, right there on his hand!

Me: That may be the case, but I think people know Johnny Depp isn't in a gang.

Mom: Well, maybe Johnny Depp doesn't care if people think he's a gangbanger!

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Milo's 15 minutes

"Enjoy the internet fame," I told Milo. "It fizzles quickly." (Ahem.) He doesn't listen to me, of course, because he's a cat, and cats don't understand much beyond the smell of canned tuna. But I'd like to think that he's been parading around the house with his head held a little higher because he was featured on the flickr blog yesterday. What's endearing about it is that he's pictured alongside Beibei, the Munchkin who first inspired me to adopt Milo. Beibei is the "I made you a cookie but I eated it" cat, and yes, I realize how pathetic it is to namedrop a lolcat.

Although I like snappin' pictures, I'm not a fantastic photographer (though I tend to date shutterbugs, oddly enough). So I know that the people who commented on the Milo photo were doing so because of his inherent short-legged cuteness, not because of any great lighting or composition. It brought me an unexpectedly large amount of happiness to think of Milo making hundreds, even thousands of people smile. I think it's important to always have something small and simple that makes you immediately happy, and for me, it's usually the cats or squirrels. Milo brings me so much joy that it feels unfair to keep it to myself, and now he's spread it around through pixels. That, too, makes me immediately happy.

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It is painful to watch newspapers die, not only because they're dying, but because they're dying so awkwardly. Readers aren't picking up the newspaper anymore, so what does the Chronicle do? It adds more colored ink — not more relevant, localized reporting — to its pages and makes that the big selling point. That's akin to NBC rolling out a set of commercials touting its color teevee. (Would have been smarter to invest in revamping the 2001-era style website in the way the NYT has created a fantastic online presence.)

And then, in a facepalm marketing moment, the paper does a big ad campaign featuring "full, vibrant color" photos of its... white columnists. When I look at the ad, I see more of the same yawn-inducing, passionless, who-cares headlines that keep me reading the NYT instead of local newspapers. (It's also an ineffective ad because those headlines are obtuse. Nothing about "For a good time, skip the first item" commands attention or explains what the column is about.) I also see a bunch of white, middle-class people, and while there's nothing wrong with being a WMCNPerson, I keep wondering how other people see themselves and their experiences reflected in the paper.

Sometimes when I can't sleep, I think about what I'd do if I were in charge of a newspaper. Right after shitting my pants in fear, I'd make radical editorial changes. Here's the thing: The people who don't buy newspapers are not going to buy newspapers. The people who do buy newspapers do so for the news. So why do many papers go after the American Idol crowd instead of going after the NPR crowd? It makes no sense. Pour fewer assets into celebrity "news" and hire smart, hungry reporters who crave community-focused journalism. Hire highly opinionated, love-them-or-hate-them columnists. (It's not expensive. Journalists are paid a pittance.)

If you have fascinating stories, relevant articles, must-read op-eds, then the readers will come. Maybe even some of the Idol crowd, if you're good at it. When your paper is dying, you might as well set it on fire. I understand the daunting situation editors and publishers are in, but I don't understand why more don't take risks as their product suffers. Playing it safe hasn't worked. Time to rage against the dying of the light. (Yes, I know I'm rambling.)


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    it's anniet at gmail.


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