02 September 2008

You Are On My List Now, Mr. Chris Ayres, I'll Be Keeping an Eye on You.

UPDATE: Someone who seems to be Chris Ayres left a comment here, I respond in this post (also a small correction below)

Chris Ayres, writes the LA Notebook for the Times of London. He is also either, a poor fact checker, or an out and out liar, haven't figured out which, yet.

Let's check his last 3 columns and one news article, August 12th he has two whoppers of tales that strain credulity.

Here's the first paragraph from that 'report':

Chances are you didn't pay much attention to a story in last week's edition of the Albuquerque Journal regarding the Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the Manhattan Project in the Second World War. It revealed that after 20 years and $350 million, scientists at the vast 40 sq mile atom bomb factory in the New Mexico desert finally plugged in and switched on a brain-meltingly complex new X-ray machine known as the dual-axis radiographic hydrotest facility (DARHT, for short). Instead of doing what it was supposed to - scan the vast stockpile of nuclear warheads at Los Alamos to see if any of them need repairing - the contraption somehow X-rayed itself, causing part of it to blow up.

First, the tone is snide, and ridiculous, complicated machinery doesn't always work as designed, failure is part of progress, plus there's the bit about it being in the New Mexico desert, thing is, it's not, it's in nice wooded hilly part of New Mexico. Turns out, New Mexico isn't one big vast desert, whodathunkit?

Same column, different bit of nonsense:

Speaking of job losses, I fear Los Angeles is having a hard time coming to terms with the new post-crunch economy. I was driving through Hollywood the other day and pulled up behind an incredibly handsome-looking sports coupé whose badge declared it to be a Hyundai. After a couple of red lights spent admiring the vehicle's powerful rump and twin exhausts, I made a resolution to find a Hyundai dealership the very next day and inquire about the exact same model.

There was only one problem: when I overtook, I realised it wasn't a bloody Hyundai at all. It was a brand-new $200,000 Bentley Continental GT, the owner of which had ripped off all the official badges and replaced them with Hyundai ones, presumably in an effort to diffuse the envy of other motorists. If this is LA's idea of slumming it during a recession, I heartily approve.

I call shennanigans on this. I can't prove this is made up, but I seriously, seriously, seriously, doubt the veracity of his statement. I can assure you that conspicuous consumption in Los Angeles is far from dead, and most likely Mr. Ayres needs his eyes examined.

Moving on to August 19th's column:

Everything else you need to know about him was summed up by a list of favourite restaurants he recently submitted to the Los Angeles Times. Amid the collapsing economy, the Mayor of the People chose as his No1 spot Patina, where a meal for two can easily cost $400 (parking alone is $8). “I always get the foie gras,” he wrote. “It's great.”

No a meal for two at Patina can't "easily" cost $400. The most expensive entree is $49, and the most expensive appetizer (the aforementioned foie gras) is $28. Even if you go for the 11 course tasting menu option, that'll run you $150 per greedy gut. With wine that could run to $400 per couple, but that's certainly not a normal night out, and you can easily get out of there for less than $150 for a couple if you share an appetizer and each get a modest plate (which, really, why the hell would you want to pig out, anyway?). Also, $8 for parking is 'hoity toity'? Ummm, I've seen event parking at Staples run as high as $150 for valet service, so $8 really ain't so bad in downtown L.A.. Ayres doesn't tell an outright lie there, but he stretches the truth to make his point, and what point is it? That the mayor of L.A. likes good food, the horror, the horror. Sorry, Chris, most folks here don't care one way or another how their public officials choose to spend their off time, so long as they do it on their own dime. (I'm really pissed at Ayres now, he forced me to defend Mayor Villaraigosa, uggghh)

On to the August 26thSept 2nd column: (correction, wrote the wrong date, had the right link, right article, but wrong date, sorry 'bout that, and see, when I correct a mistake, I leave a record of the original text so as not to make my readers think they're crazy and saw something that wasn't there, unlike some larger internationally renowned news websites that shall remain nameless)

It's tempting to see all this as part of the Vast Liberal Media Conspiracy. But that would be wrong. Hollywood is much shallower than that. Hollywood likes Obama because he is movie-script material, an underdog endowed with supernatural photogenicism (“manorexia” as it's known in the business) and faultless oratory skills. Let's face it, Obama's biopic would clean up on Oscars night. John McCain's biopic would go straight to DVD - before being picked up for syndication by the History Channel.

This isn't as cynical as it sounds. Hollywood is a company town, and company towns like to elect politicians who fit in with the corporate culture. Why else would it have helped to dump the former Democratic Governor, Gray Davis (old, spindly, boring), to replace him with the more Tinseltown-friendly Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who once professed his love for Richard Nixon?

Uh, yeah, and ahhh, hell no! Where to begin? First, "Hollywood" was not interested, or helpful in getting Schwarzenegger elected. There's a big difference between a few of his friends (Leno, Tom Arnold, and Danny DeVito) saying nice things about him even though he's a Republican and Tinseltown helping to 'dump' Gray Davis. He simply doesn't know what he's talking about, or he does, and he knows he's lying, but doesn't care because it fits his narrative. And ummmmm, ahhhhhhh, about those "faultless oratory skills", has Mr. Ayres heard Sen. Obama speak off prompter before? Yes, he delivers a written speech well, but to earn the appelation orator, I believe one (even The One) should be able to speak well extempraneously as well. And ummmm, ahhhhhh, Oooooooobbaaaaaammmmaa hasn't done too well in debates, forums, or unfriendly interviews (all things which he avoids as much as possible). Orator? Hardly. Watched Leno on Friday, and they had a fake Obama on, he didn't look a thing like Obama, but most of their impressionist don't look like the folks they are impressing, but what he did capture in a very exaggerated way was the ummmmmm, aahhhhhh, looooonggggg paaauuuuussseeeess, annnnnnddddd draaawwwwwwwnnnn oouuuuuuuutttt syllables at the indicative portion of sentences, and the overly emphatic consanants at the enddddddddd. Also, the impressionist captured the aloofness of The Obama tone, and the dismissive attitude towards questions. It will be interesting to see if SNL will be as pointed in their impressions of The One, or will they wimp out like everyone else? (sorry, I meant to bury Ayres, not give Leno faint praise).

Almost over (for now), here's another bit of questionable narrative (and one outright factual boner) from Chris Ayres, this time from an article meant to introduce British readers to potentially the next VP of the United States:

At the age of 10, Sarah Palin got her very own bunny rabbit. Which means to say that she crouched down in the grass outside her family home, aimed her shotgun and blew its furry little head off. That's how things work in Alaska. You kill stuff. You freeze it. You turn it into stew.

Great anecdote, except, so far not corroborated anywhere else, and is entirely inconsistent how a hunting family would introduce their child to hunting. The way he framed it, the family went to a pet store, picked out a domesticated bunny, plopped it down in the backyard, and told young Sarah to fire away. Her first hunt very well may have been for rabbit, but wild rabbits are common in Alaska, and they go through cycles where they are scarce and other times when they breed like, well, rabbits, so culling their numbers is an important part of helping to maintain a proper ecological balance. Plus, they're tasty. Also, I doubt they started her out with a shotgun, a .22-caliber rifle is much more likely.

That's not so bad, but here's a bit from the same article that's plain bizarre (which they've changed, finally, it was wrong for a good 24 hours, I'll show both versions, the fixed, and how it originally appeared as best as I can remember it):

Mother of five (one of whom is named Piper Indy, after the Polaris Indy snowmobile).


Mother of five (one of whom is named Polaris, after a snowmobile).

Damn, they caught his mistake, doesn't mention the correction anywhere, that's not just a word left out or a spelling mistake, that's a serious error, and given that the names of all five of her children are relatively unusual, you'd think there'd be enough material there to make his point with out making it wrongly.

So, Chris Ayres, I'm talking to you, buddy, Los Angeles is my city, even if it's your beat for the Times of London, get crap wrong, make stuff up, exaggerate things for effect, and I'll be noticing, I won't be able to do much about it, or get you to fix it, but I'll be noticing.


Outis said...

Orator? Hardly.

I can't imagine Obama holding up well at a dinner party with Calvin Coolidge, much less a speaker of Winiston Churchill's quality. To qualify as a fine orator one simply MUST be able to hold one's own in a dinner conversation with interesting company.

Chris said...

"I can't prove this is made up"? Well, you could always Google 'Bentley' and 'Hyundai' (as I did, because I couldn't believe my own eyes) and this would be the result: http://www.autoblog.com/2007/07/05/cruel-sick-joke-bentley-continental-badged-as-a-hyundai/ Likewise, with the bunny story, you could buy Palin's biography and turn to page 17. Patina is surely among the most expensive restaurants in LA, and if Obama isn't a good orator, McCain is a Yupik Inuit. My bad on New Mexico and Polaris.