Monthly Archives: February 2011

A cool superpower

would be the ability to pause conversations while they were going on, so you could think about what you were going to say. I feel like most people would be about 60 percent wittier and kinder if they just had an extra second or two to think before they spoke. I know I would.

1 Comment

Filed under Random

Every Generation Throws a Hero Up the Pop Charts

This NYTimes Magazine profile of the hipster mayor of a Rust Belt small town is really interesting.

Here was a guy in biker boots bringing the Park Slope (Aspen, Marin, Portland, Santa Fe) ethos — organic produce, art installations, an outdoor bread oven — to the disenfranchised. “What was Braddock like before we took office? Braddock was a notorious community that was steeped in violence. But as of — knock on wood — today, we are now 27 months without a homicide.” The audience began to clap and didn’t stop for a long time.

The piece ends up revealing that the mayor doesn’t have any actual political power, and the only people he’s managed to attract to the city are big-city runaways who want to live as cheaply as possible, and have little interest in contributing to the betterment of the city. In sum, it’s an indictment of the idea that bringing fixie bikes, Barcelona chairs and PhDs to downtrodden areas is a recipe for upward mobility.

James Smith, a 32-year-old Braddock native, often hangs out in the dollar-store parking lot with a group of friends. A graduate of the local high school, Smith can find only temp work, like cleaning Heinz Stadium after Steelers games. The weekly farmers’ market in Braddock is O.K., Smith says, but even if he wanted to shop there, he couldn’t afford it. Jobs and public transportation to get to them remain in short supply.

Nothing that was happening in Braddock — not the green roof on the old furniture store, not the screen printing studio run by members of a socially-conscious arts collective, not beehives, not the Shepard Fairey art installation on a nearby wall, not the Levi’s ad campaign — has changed the most essential facts of his life: he is poor and without prospects.

When I was in Taipei, I randomly came across a copy of Tom Wolfe’s 1973 anthology The New Journalism. Since all the pieces were written in the ’60s, most of them are accounts of hippies and other lefty counterculture types.

I was really surprised at how moronic the hippies seem, reading about them 40 years later. The overall goals of racial and gender integration, breaking oppressive social mores and letting your hair touch your collar and beyond all sound great from far away, but not every  hippie thought deeply about these ideas and their implications.

One of the stories (the totally great ‘Charlie Simpson’s Apocalype’) follows some antiwar kids in the aftermath of one of their number killing four cops with a machine gun in the middle of a Missouri town square. The ‘longhairs’ refuse to condemn their compatriot, and offer lame defenses like ‘he’s fighting the system, man!’ It’s shocking to hear a bunch of pacifists (the good guys, dammit!) defend the murder of cops and citizens in cold blood, and about halfway through the article you realize these people are idiots.

I have to admit I had a somewhat similar reaction reading the Rust Belt mayor piece. I mean, what was this chick expecting, exactly?

Morrison grew up a few towns over and moved to Braddock from Brooklyn in 2008 after learning about its progressive mayor. Morrison, who is 33, was showing me the colossal bank building she bought almost three years ago for $125,000. At the time, Morrison wasn’t sure what she was going to do with it but figured it didn’t matter. She’d come to Braddock, and the spirit of the place would move her. Not long after that, the roof sprang a massive leak.

It’s sort of reassuring that our ideological fads are just as palsied as our parents’. I feel like they deliberately didn’t warn us, just so they could watch.

Leave a comment

Filed under America, Serious

If I was a journalist I would have a calendar

that I would fill with the objectives and completion dates of various government programs. And then, as they neared expiration, I would write pieces like this.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, Serious

Defending The Nutella Lawsuit

In the kind of news designed for talk-show monologues, a woman is suing the makers of Nutella for claiming that the chocolate-and-hazelnut goop is good for you.

There’s a tendency to look at these stories and have a kneejerk reaction against the woman filing the lawsuit. How the hell didn’t she know that Nutella is bad for you? Look at it! Taste it! Read the label! The comments on the article are almost exclusively of the ‘give me a break!’ variety.

But do we really want to live in a country where a product that is less nutritious than a milkshake can be marketed as a reasonable breakfast food for children?  The government in this case failed to do its job of preventing a company from lying to its customers. This woman, and this lawsuit, are trying to fill that gap.

This is not an isolated incident. As Marion Nestle’s always pointing out at Food Politics, food companies are allowed to say all kinds of bonkers shit on their packaging. This cereal, for example, is at least one-third composed of marshmallows:

The fact that Nutella lied and that this woman is an idiot are not mutually exclusive. In cases where an ignorant individual is fighting against a dishonest corporation, though, I think our contempt should go first toward the one doing the lying, rather than the one who believed what they were told.

1 Comment

Filed under America, Food, Serious

Underneath the journalist-ese

this is disturbing and hilarious.

via

Leave a comment

Filed under Serious

I did it like this, I did it like that, I did it with a whiffle ball bat

I haven’t listened to The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill since I stole the cassette tape from my babysitter’s car in 1994. It’s still good!

Leave a comment

Filed under Music