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 Alex_Wukman
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Blogging while intoxicated: Goodbye and Good riddance to Rick Casey and Steven Thomson

Blogging while intoxicated: Goodbye and Good riddance to Rick Casey and Steven Thomson
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See the man in the white pants: he is the enemy (appropriated under fair use provisions)

By Alex Wukman

Houston media is a small, and always getting smaller, community. It’s not uncommon for Free Press Houston, Houston Press and 29-95 writers to share some words and a drink when we run into each other at a show or a bar. Over the years I’ve tried to remain cordial with my colleagues in the big corporate papers and when they left for greener pastures I felt that some of the things that made this city great had left as well. That is not the case this week. The Houston Chronicle’s “Metro Columnist” Rick Casey will be publishing his final column before heading back to San Antonio to head up a Texas politics based talk show, because they apparently watch those things in the home of the Alamo. In the eight years that Casey has had his name in the Chron he’s been accused of ripping off other journalists and almost always missing the story. I literally cannot count the amount of times I have been stupefied by how Casey completely seemed to miss the most important element of whatever he was writing about and did so in such a profoundly unfunny way that it made me wonder if 8 a.m. is too early to start drinking.

Despite Casey’s shortcomings, he was at least attempting to say something with substance. The same isn’t true for Culturemap’s Steven Thomson who is leaving to do something or other in London, the post wasn’t quite clear. For those unfamiliar with Thomson, and why would you be, he was the site’s assistant editor and wrote the insufferable ‘column’ Trendysomething in SoMo. After being the only person in Houston to A: identify South Montrose as a cultural and geographical area separate from say, the Museum District or the rest of Montrose and B: coin the irritating acronym SoMo to describe it, Thomson’s writing offered an unapologetic, unironic and unappealing look at the life of either a trust fund kid or a $40,000 millionaire. He wrote for, and about, the young town home dwellers who seem to want to take a community and an area of town so well-known that it gave it’s name to a gay bar in South Texas and make it into something that resembles Aspen east or, fuck I don’t know, Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Thomson’s lack of knowledge about the city he chose to live in couldn’t be more apparent than when he described the work of legendary Houston anti-art collective I Love You Baby, as “cartoon meets porn doodles.” It wasn’t just Thomson’s general lack of knowledge that launched much of his writing straight past infuriating to the land of downright insulting; there was also his tone deaf approach to the issues faced by a community he chose rechristen from “the ‘Trose” to the “hipstrict.” The rage inducing aspect of Thomson’s writing came partly from his complete and utter failure to acknowledge the struggles with identity and assimilation that have defined Montrose for 40 years but mostly from his treatment of substance abuse.

Take the April Fools’ joke about “being caught in a purple syrup swirl and sent off to rehab in the Rio Grande Valley.” Yes, because those of us who have lived in your “hisptrict” for longer than two years, and have lost friends to drug addiction and rehab, find the concept of a privileged white boy being hooked on the oh-so-declasse  codeine syrup so fucking funny. I’ll be sure to recount the tale of your fake Shelby Hodge intervention to my friends facing 3-5 years for possession of a gram; I’m sure they’ll find it hilarious. Sadly, his April Fool’s piece wasn’t the one that made want to hurl my laptop out a fourth floor apartment window; that reaction was reserved for a piece published on April 15 of this year.

While the vast majority of Houstonians were slaving over their tax returns Thomson had the gall to describe brunch at Hotel Zaza as “a portrait of post-recession Houston.” Yes, Steven, the recession hit us all so hard that we can now only enjoy our “succulent Alaskan halibut with saffron-braised summer squash” and “brioche French toast bites dipped in vanilla bean maple fondue” as a way of showing solidarity for the “tiny black dress-decked waitresses” who change costumes midway through service into that of “delinquent school girls (cigarette-emblazoned blazer crest included).” Viva la Revolucion! I know when I hear someone say “this Cava is good, but not as good as the winery I stayed at in the foothills of the Pyrenees,” I think about paradigm shifts in Houston demographics, the economic devastation of middle America and post recession culture. Just like when I go out to eat and drink with my friends and wind up dancing on a table I always try to dust off my liberal arts degree and justify the decadence by writing a think piece about how the brunch scene is “an indicator of the city’s zeitgeist.” Methinks someone was reading a little too much Jay McInerny and Bret Easton Ellis while waiting on a mani-pedi, but didn’t get to the part about the emptiness of materialism.

If Casey’s articles made me wonder if 8 a.m. is too soon to start drinking, then Thomson’s writing proves it’s never too early for a shot of whiskey; and that’s not a good thing. And Thomson, since I know you’re reading this because you’re an egotistical wanker, if I see any of this on a book jacket in a few years I will personally punch you right in your smug little face. Now I need a goddamn shot.

  • daniel

    YAWN YAWN YAWN. Socialite writer gets called out for being saccharine and his friends at Culture Map come to comment on his behalf. But let’s be real for a second here: FPH is a newspaper that was started by artists and musicians here in Montrose and has printed an actual newspaper for 8 years or so. Culture Map is a website started by the spare cash of socialites like Becca Cason Thrash.

    Real recognize real.

  • Katie E

    “I’ve been in this business too damn long for childish grudges.”

    Then what’s the basis for this article? You’re obviously trying to stir something up.

    Clearly, you seem like a writer with no grudges whatsoever.

  • Alex Wukman

    @admin

    only if that baby was born 4 months premature and it’s holding a crab apple.

  • admin

    I saw Alex serve as a model for life drawing at the Artery about 6 years ago. Let’s just say he has a babies arm with an apple in it’s hand for a penis. Lets see Thomson match that.

  • Alex Wukman

    @Jennifer

    This must be a common theme around the Culturemap water cooler. Yes, I did apply for Steven’s job but I also applied for hundreds of jobs at publications all across the country from the large, Dallas Morning News, to the small, Long Island News. If I harbored resentment at each and every publication that didn’t hire me for whatever reason they gave (wrong part of the country, not sure about the tone of my writing, overqualified, et al.) I’d never get anything done.

    I’ve been in this business too damn long for childish grudges.

  • RamonLP4

    Wow, to all the defenders of Steven Thompson’s prose. I gotta say…

    You made me curious and so I jumped over to see this voice of a generation and have to say I was pretty much impressed but not in the way you guys obviously are. Honestly, when reading his introduction to his trendysomething blog, my brain seized at this little paragraph.

    “More importantly, public events at art collectives provide free kegs of microbrewed IPA and efficiently consolidate a critical mass of generally attractive pseudo-intellectuals – people like me.”

    I guess he’s trying to be funny but it just comes across as vacuous. I mean, maybe he is speaking for a segment of the Houston community but it’s not a particularly interesting one and because of this his prose is rife with words like “trendysomething” and needless abbreviations like “toho” because he’s trying very very hard to impress you how hip he is.

    The rest of the columns are dull and dim. Take the one on the 4th of July which is nothing more than unfocused rambling that makes Grandpa Simpson seem short and to the point in comparison. The article on the ZaZa is also brutal to suffer through but at least he kind of has a bit more focus.

    Look the thing is, the hacky Press Release inspired stuff he does is neither here nor there, but you would think if he was going to write this column which should reflect him as a person, he’d have something to say and the fact of the matter is, he doesn’t. It’s shallow and soulless work which in turn makes him out to be a tacky boring douche.

    Maybe he’s nice, maybe he’s funny, maybe he’s intelligent, but you’d never know it from reading “TrendySomething in SoMo” and, since he is the Writer and Assistant Editor, the only person who is to blame for his portrayal is himself.

    I could care less one way or the other if he’s rich, poor, privileged, struggling, or whatever – the one thing he owes anyone reading his column is to be interesting and have something to say. He offers neither.

  • Robin

    This is utterly ridiculous — apparently the satirical nature of Thomson’s blogging was lost on you. There’s always one of you sensitive types pretending to be offended by a joke because you knew someone who knew someone that struggled with addiction/ever had something bad happen to them, etc. And yet, there was nothing mean-spirited about Thomson’s writing as there is with yours.

    It’s also laughably pretentious whilst critiquing pretentiousness. Your complaining about him having fancy brunch whilst Houstonians “were slaving over their tax returns” and your indignation that someone would dare speak ill of artwork all reek of fake populist rage.

    Congrats on using a bunch of big words to say a lot of nothing!

  • admin
  • ruben perez

    All I gotta say is the FPH articles are CRAP!! From what used to be great journalism has gone to bitterness and narrow-mindedness. The Entertainicle even has better articles that yours! Yours just plainly suck and the best you could do is be the proverbial Hater. FPH as a newspaper has gone downhill. Which is why nowadays, all you see is advertisements from the same source (its providers – Fitz/Pegstar). If I would have known that the FPH was just going to turn itself into a super-sized flyer, i’d pick it up just for that reason only. The articles are stale and lack any kind of imagination and if anything all the do is just criticize the unfairness of other things that are not in their control. Grow up and raise the bar for yourselves. Do kill yourself like KTRU did.

  • Jennifer Patterson

    I’m all for being snarky, but this was hateful. I thought we bloggers and small publication writers stuck together.

    Your take on Thomson is hardly credible (or even funny) considering you applied for his job and were not hired. You sound like a heartbroken 16-year-old bashing an ex-boyfriend in the lunchroom.

  • http://millsmccoin.com/ Mills-McCoin

    @Michelle I know I’m a complete fool for responding to your comment because in no way could you possibly be an actual person. It must be nice for you to live “regardless of price point”; however, it makes it impossible to believe that you possess the appropriate ability to identify the Portrait of Post Recession Houston. Upper Class anything eating opulent meals and drinking champagne, again, “regardless of price point” will never be the Portrait of Post Recession Houston.

    But it’s nice to know you get your “positive outlook on life” from Hotel ZaZa. Tell me, how many pairs of blinders come standard with the Hotel ZaZa Positive Outlook package?

  • Steve Thompson, Jr.

    Michelle,

    If youre the girl with the huge bombs in the attached picture of Steven in this article, please feel free to get in touch with me.
    I will be everywhere but Zaza and Cava.

    Thanks,

    all x’s no o’s
    Steve

  • Christine Cha-Sartori

    This is one hell of a petty tantrum. You want irony? Because bitterly bemoaning the lack of substance and good journalism in Houston through this public cry fest is pretty funny to me.

  • Alex Wukman

    @Fayza, @George

    I fail to see the problem regarding ethics and integrity in a series entitled Blogging While Intoxicated that is clearly labeled as satire. The intent is clearly defined, i.e. this is not to be considered a piece of fact based reporting but more a piece of humorous opinion writing. The problem here is in your interpretation of the execution–as in you don’t find it funny; and it is your right to find it offensive, sophomoric and low brow.

    Although this does bring up a more interesting issue relating to perceptions about journalists and their writing. Specifically can a journalist expand his or her repertoire within a news based publication without running into the issues of reader perception?

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the answer would have been yes. After all, Stephen Crane’s short story The Open Boat was first published as a supplement to his Spanish American War reporting in the New York Herald and Ernest Thayer worked as a sports reporter and humor columnist for the San Francisco Examiner before penning Casey at the Bat, which first appeared in the same paper where Thayer reported on exhibition baseball games featuring Boston Beaneater Hall of Fame player Mike “King” Kelly. And those games informed Thayer’s experiences enough to allow him to pen his most famous piece of writing.

    However, since the role of the journalist has now been reduced to little more than a stenographer dutifully recording both sides of a dispute before throwing his or hands up in the air and exclaiming “you decide;” most media consumers think that journalists can’t have an honest opinion or a fresh approach to language.

    Now before someone comes along and calls me pretentious for comparing myself to Crane or Thayer or insinuating that a piece of writing in which I threaten physical violence to someone, whom I’m sure is a very nice person and just happened to write a series of articles that I found to be rather irritating, is in the same league as masterpieces of both dramatic and humorous American literature; I say that I was using them only as examples of the diversity of content and roles that used to be afforded to journalists by American media. A diversity that was lost as newspapers became more and more serious about their duty to the public.

  • Michelle

    Dear Alex,

    It sounds to me like your life isn’t quite as fabulous as Steven’s, and you might be a tad bit jealous, and that’s okay.

    But it’s only a little bit okay.

    It’s alright if you aren’t a trust fund kid, and if perhaps your current salary does not afford you the simple luxuries Steven chronicles, but it is not alright to disparage someone you probably barely know.

    Personally I loved the April 15th article. I really did think it was a portrait of post recession Houston. Drinking Cava with Sunday brunch?

    Pre-Recession, Cava (regardless of the price point) was reserved for makeshift mimosas or spontaneous picnics while studying abroad. Sunday brunch used to be strictly Perrier-Jouet. At the least.

    That’s why we don’t call it a “cava brunch.”

    Perhaps, CultureMap can send you a gift certificate to ZaZa so you too can experience Sunday Brunch. It will give you a more positive outlook on life. It sure does for me.

    xoxo
    Michelle

  • RamonLP4

    Oh man, Alex, I’m still wiping tears from my eyes from laughing so hard. Damn that was awesome. Glad I never read this guy’s crap, I’d likely have tossed my laptop off a four story building as well.

    And George,

    when you say “This article is borderline unethical for a ‘journalist.'” you may want to remember this is an editorial, not a news story. Maybe you should clarify why you think Alex’s expressed opinion is unethical. Perhaps you should explain where he is emprically wrong first or where his opinion is not backed up by the material he is discussing so as to help us understand where you are coming from? Maybe you do have a point – though, I seriosuly doubt it – but your thin attempt at to chastize Alexis so vague that we’ll never know.

  • Ed

    FPH slogan for 10 years has been ” Feel free to take us seriously”. We are not constrained and pigeonholed by mythical semblances of journalistic integrity. We want to be the local scumfuck bulletin board and are proud of it. But strange thing and real question is, why does this bulletin board of poorly educated, and outright poor people manage to cover more serious and socially relevant topics than an org like Culture Map that is rife with impressive diplomas, ideals of journalistic integrity, and tons of money and resources. Then why are you clowns always covering such stirring topics as the royal wedding, bikinis in season, and Alaskan halibut? As far as journalistic integrity goes, I feel If a media org has resources like you motherfuckers clearly do, you have a Goddamn moral obligation to be a voice of the voiceless.

  • George Heathco

    This is precisely the kind of crap that made me quit taking FPH seriously in the first place. This article is borderline unethical for a “journalist.”

  • BMoney

    @Fayza, good thing Culturemap is nowhere approaching journalism …

  • kristen

    Fayza’s comment screams “Burrrrrn”. I don’t know any of you. Continue the madness. I shall watch.

  • http://millsmccoin.com/ Mills-McCoin

    Uh oh, someone just dropped a crabcake in the Junior League’s Tea Room. Fayza, hurry, this could be your big break!!!

  • Fayza

    I seem to recall a few exchanges between you and I about integrity in journalism. This, my friend, wouldn’t make the cut.

  • Steve Thompson, Jr.

    I cannot tell you the super awesome time I’ve had being confused with Steven Thomson, the culturemap “writer.” Two different people at my high school reunion told me they’d recently read an article of mine on gay nightlife.
    I CAN tell you, as a straight man trying to hack it as a humor writer in this city, I found it much worse for my diction, wit, and syntax to be confused with his than I did the subject matter with which he assaulted Houstonian eyes for the last two years. It’s like being confused with the screenwriter from Sex and the City 2. “More like… Lawrence of my labia!” Ha.
    No.
    Adios.

  • ipodlesley

    Are you trying to say that Rick Casey is an alcoholic? Or that his column drives you to drink? I can’t comment on CultureMap but I for one wll miss Rick Casey’s column. At least he seldom if ever had the innumerable typos and grammatical mistakes for which your paper is famous. Tacky tacky tacky.

  • http://brandonmoeller.com/ BrandonMoeller

    Sounds like Thomson was worthless. Good riddance, indeed.

  • John Seaborn Gray

    A stinging, well-phrased send-off. Well done, Alex. What a pair of jizzbuckets.