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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.

“The Interpreter”
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.

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Discussion

5 Comment(s)

  1. 18 August, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    That Klosterman piece was actually a part two. Like it wasn’t big enough the first time they had to spread it over issues. Isn’t there some sort of saying that if you ignore something it will go away. I’m sure most people, especially those not into current cultural writting, don’t even know who Chuck is. All Ames (Mark, not Jonathan) is doing is making Chuck another famous Chuck, like Chuck Taylor-converse high tops, Chuck Norris- num chucks, and Chuck and Buck- suck and fuck.

  2. 19 August, 2005 at 9:18 am

    Tony our next tete-a-tete should be at the Brazen Head.

  3. 20 August, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Country superstar
    Garth Brooks has signed an exclusive multiyear contract with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

    No details of the agreement were released by Wal-Mart officials Friday, but Billboard and the Los Angeles Times reported the deal will make Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and their online outlets the only places where Brooks’ music will be commercially available.

    Brooks, among the all-time best-selling recording artists, retired from performing in 2001.

    “We understand the Wal-Mart customer and know that bringing them Garth Brooks exclusives in the upcoming years is something that’ll excite them as much as it excites us,” said David Porter, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for Wal-Mart, a leading retailer for country music sales.

    Brooks’ hits include “Friends in Low Places,” “Shameless” and “Longnec

    If Wal Mart doesn’t come to Brooklyn than where will all the people buy thier Garth Brooks cds?

    Shameless indeed. Anyone remember when Brooks played Central Park? It was like a southern country fair in the middle of Manhattan.

  4. snotty moore

    23 August, 2005 at 8:00 pm

    Beer with food- that’s the way forward, Tony. I need to lose a few pounds and a gottle o’gear fills me up faster than a couple of glasses of wine. I’m halfway decent at drink trendspotting, and believe me, this one is coming soon.
    In wine news, I picked up a couple of bottles of Capel Vale 2001 Riesling from Western Australia for a stupidly cheap £4.49 at Sainsburys (It’s being delisted, but it was good value at £7). I’m planning on sitting on them for a year or two.

  5. 24 August, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    Thanks for all the comments. I like seeing this section used like this.I don’t have too big an opinion on Klosterman – I don’t have time to read books, at least not for now. I’d totally forgotten the Garth Brooks show in Central Park, which is of course the beautiful thing about musical fashions – what was once the biggest thing in the world can become yesterday’s news in a very short space of time. But WalMart certainly found the right artist to tie in with…

    Snotty, not sure I get which way you’re going on the ‘beer with food’ bit. I’m always laboring under the impression that beer is more fattening than food – not too many people go round with a ‘wine gut’ after all. I may not be right on that one, but are you saying you’re moving towards beer with food? There’s going to be a wine backlash some point soon – I’m on it now with the prices being charged at the local eateries and bars, not all of which is their fault: us Europhiles have been hammered by the falling dollar and rising Euro.

    Enjoy your Riesling…

    Tony

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