The New York Weeklies Review
Discard the rabidly pejorative cartoons, and there are some weeks in which the Village Voice is as good a free newspaper as you could expect in a big city. Features of interest for iJamming! readers both near and far this week include:
“The movement against Wal-Mart”
In which New Yorkers decide the best defense against the mega retailer is attack. To which end hipsters have been out petitioning pedestrians in my part of Brooklyn: the photo in the paper was taken on 5th Avenue just round the corner from my house. I’m not sure that Wal-mart is a threat to Park Slope itself: if America’s biggest corporation (as measured by sales) can make it into the 5 Boroughs it will likely be in a suitably undeveloped area with copious cheap land and a large supply of local poor people to target as employees and customers.
Then again, look what developer Bruce Ratner has already dumped on the cross-sections of our many thriving neighborhoods – two of the ugliest malls in the history of NYC replete with almost all the minimum-wage big box retailers you could fear. Bar the obvious one. Meantime, all the petitions and protests possible seem to have made no difference to his proposed mini-City over the Atlantic Yards. And talking of Eminent Domain…
In which it’s noted that the new New York Times building on Eighth Avenue won’t be renting its excess space to companies that might attract people without appointments. Your initial reaction should be, So what? Isn’t it the Times’ business alone who they want to do business with? Well, no, not when the land was gained through the exercise of Eminent Domain, which was intended for local governments to use only in extraordinary circumstances that would serve a “public purpose.” The Voice story rightly questions what “public purpose” the Times building serves. It also notes, as I have done several times here, that the developer of the new New York Times building is none other than Bruce Ratner. Do you start to see a pattern here? Thought so. Do you expect to see the Times taking an impartial position on Ratner’s use of Eminent Domain down in my neighborhood with the Atlantic Yards Project? Thought not.
In which Joy Press interviews Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, a man I’ve often quoted for his sensible opinions on the Muslim world, the terrorist threat and the Bush Administration. Because of his unique status – a foreign-born Muslim who is clearly pro-American but does not take a partisan political position – Zakaria has been courted far and wide. He’s a regular guest on almost every political show you could mention and now hosts his own Saturday morning foreign affairs program, Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria, shown in NYC on WNET at 10am Saturday mornings. Asked about his competition, he replies, “What competition? There’s literally not another show on American television that deals only with foreign affairs—you know, the other 95 percent of humanity.”
“Less Than Hero”
In which Bret Easton Ellis discusses his new novel Lunar Park, and whether its protagonist – a writer called Bret Easton Ellis – is fictional. Or factual.
The New York Press, meanwhile, runs a two-page attack not on yesterday’s bad boy Easton Ellis but on author du jour Chuck Klosterman, who has turned a gig at music magazine Spin into a career as pop culture’s best-selling everyman. Following the success of Sex Lies and Cocoa Puffs, his latest first-person hit lit is entitled, Killing Yourself To Live: 85% Of A True Story, in which Klosterman visits the death sites of American rock stars to write, primarily (so I understand, having not read the book myself) about himself. This drives some people mad, including Press writer Mark Ames, who titles his piece Please Kill Me – a reference to Klosterman, it should be noted, whom he labels “the Little Man’s Art Fag” among other niceties.” Ames concludes that
Klosterman is a reflection of the most grotesque, ill-thought-out urges in America, urges that manifest themselves in different masks with each generation, but always with the same result: a nation of hopeless fools.
Of course, he could just be jealous.
Far kinder and gentler is a major Press piece on a subject close to many of our readers hearts: the Campaign For Real Ale. In America. The kind of campaign that could only be waged by a real ale-swilling Brit. And preferably one who, having married a Yank, now calls Park Slope home. (Don’t worry, it’s not me.) Kudos to Alex Hall for encouraging and enabling New York pubs to pour cask-conditioned draught beer in place of (or as an alternative to the) pasteurized mass-produced carbonated stuff from Bud, Coors and co., whom Hall rightly if a little obviously castigates for their “propaganda marketing bullshit.”
Brit readers might know Hall for hosting a three-day festival in Glastonwick. (Presumably, to be confused with Glastonbury.) Brighton-based Brit readers may know him from working the cellars at The Evening Star, that coastal city’s “famed brewpub.” And Brooklyn-based beer-drinking readers may know him for hosting a Cask-Ale Festival here at Atlantic Avenue’s Brazen Head. I don’t know Alex from Adam. But I wish Hall well.
I have to take Press journo Joshua M. Bernstein to task, however, for painting an inaccurate picture in which he intimates that the British laze around all day drinking… (no, wait I haven’t finished) “real ale,” whereas the lazy ignorant Americans willingly swill industrial carbonated fizz because, well, they’re lazy and ignorant Americans. (And probably fat, too.)
Any one who’s visited all but the most famous real ale pubs in the UK knows full well that the British long ago turned their back on their country’s tradition of fine ales and instead drink lager – almost all of it made by non-British companies – like it’s going out of style. Hence the need for CAMRA to begin with. The Americans, meanwhile, have created a burgeoning market for micro-brews which can be proven in almost any visit to any supermarket, where the number of relatively small brewers campaigning for shelf space alongside the megabrew giants has to be considered encouraging. (Check my piece the other day about Evans Ales of Albany as an example.)
And finally, Hall, it transpires, worked for British Rail for many years. No surprise that he used his job as an opportunity to drink real ale all over the UK. But the observation that Hall’s passion for real ale is “as unstoppable as one of his old British rail trains” could be considered in poor, um, taste, given those “old British rail trains”‘ crash rate in recent years.