Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Hey There Delilah: Shirt Happens

Cable news giant CNN appears to be testing a new feature that will allow you to order a T-shirt emblazoned with a headline from its web site. The beta site is already attracting the derision of bloggers. I was prepared to heap abuse on poor CNN myself, but then I paused. Why shouldn't people be able to order a T-shirt that has a CNN headline on it?

The gleeful scorn with which some bloggers met the CNN T-shirt news is unseemly for a few reasons. The first is that most of these bloggers who are calling the CNN shirts lame already wear lame T-shirts. They probably have drawers-full of 100 percent cotton Hanes Beefy Ts with lolcatz, "Zero Wing" and other ironic sayings on them. Second, the underlying premise of the Internet--the one most vigorously embraced by most bloggers--is that you can do anything. You can find anything, post anything, download anything. The web is ancient Rome, baby, and we're all Caligula. You want to pirate "Silver Surfer," upload a video clip of your roommate barfing, sleep with your sister and make your horse a consul, go ahead! But let poor CNN dabble with a T-shirt and suddenly it's "the death of broadcast journalism."

If CNN goes through with this--and it appears that some of its beta T-shirt web site has already been taken down--I can guarantee you that first in line to buy the shirts will be spittle-spewing bloggers who will defend their purchases by arguing that they wish to wear their chemises in an ironic, post-modern way.

Pest in Show
Some of the bloggers say the shirts will be lame because CNN.com's headlines are lame. Okay, there's something to that. But all news web site headlines are lame. They're designed to be read by machines, not humans, an attempt to achieve maximum Googlage and linkage. I was told that to increase traffic to my blog I should use straightforward headlines. But simple, boring headlines leave me so cold that I opt instead for inscrutable ones like today's, which will guarantee no one but adolescent girls and dyslexic "Forrest Gump" fans find me.

Anyway, everyone knows the best news headlines are on tabloids. The New York Post's "Headless Body in Topless Bar" and the Sun's "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" are classics of the genre.

The British are also good at writing "news bills," those advertising signs outside of news agents and tobacconists. Here's one I snapped this morning:

The problem arises when you don't put the sign in its holder correctly:

An "ex pest?" Well what's the problem then?


mark from alexandria said...

Thanks for explaining one of the great mysteries of our time. In my case it is Comcast's homepage headlines that baffle me...often incorrect, often corrected, often apparently partisan to an annoying degree. Now I understand its the cyborgs who are in charge.

Candadai Tirumalai said...

Here is a hoary old headline, usually cited as an example of English self-assurance and insularity: "Fog over the Channel, Continent Isolated."

Henry said...

"ex-pest" on this sign should read "rex pest", a reference to our royal prince leaving court following charges of shooting endangered species, wearing Nazi uniforms, and wasting taxpayer money.


amberfireinus said...

Hi John,

My husband just found your blog.. being an American who lived in England for 20 years it will be a pleasure to read your thoughts. I wish I would have thought of it.

My husband writes the reverse of your blog. So Im sure you two will have plenty of banter back and forth. The Brits are indeed NUTS!

wiredog said...

Did you know the shirt link is hackable?

From here, we get this.

FABC said...

What about, 'Australian warship shoots itself', after the RAN blasted away a bit of its own rigging.

John Kelly said...

Boy, Henry, you are really cruising towards a beheading with this blatant anti-royalism, or at least a stint in the Tower.

@wiredog: Funny. Though you have to look quick at that second link before it's swept from your screen. CNN has some kind of controls in place.

@amberfireinus: YEs, they're nuts. But then again we're all nuts in some way or another.

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