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August 29, 2014

sam kass thought the tree was mad at him

There's a paragraph that caught my eye in this profile of White House chef and friend-of-Barry Sam Kass by Jennifer Steinhauer.  (Which is a very nice profile of an interesting fellow who I guess talks to the plants in the White House garden?)  Paragraph follows:
At the same time, he has helped to popularize a way of eating embraced by moneyed urban foodies. Just as the first lady's fashion choices and toned biceps permeate the consciousness of the country, Mrs. Obama and Mr. Kass have taken organic gardening and the whole-wheat-ification of grilled cheese sandwiches mainstream.

Hmm now.  There's a bit of a backhand in the phrase "moneyed urban foodies" but let's think about that for a second.  Obviously, our relationship to cooking and eating has evolved in the past fifteen years or so.  And yes, from my (urban) perspective, there is a particularly focused sort of person that has become prevalent enough to become a stereotype — one that I call a gastrohipster.  But is this phenomenon restricted to just the moneyed (which means what exactly?) and just urban areas?

I don't get out of the city much, but on the other hand, I read a lot, and a lot of what I read is what you would call food journalism.  From the national monthlies like F&W and Bon App to the estimable journal Lucky Peach to whatever bloggy thing I can get my hands on.  And from this I do know that, while there may be a certain expense to entrĂ©e into the gastrohipster world, it is by no means limited to urban areas.  There are the back-to-the-earthers and the new-distillers and the reclaimed-barn-restos and they are scattered across the land.  The whole-wheat-ification is not limited to Brooklyn and its rivals.

But now, is this a case of causation on the part of Kass?  I mean, can you argue that the rise of the gastrohipster is because Kass popularized new cooking/eating trends, as did Jackie Kennedy for pillbox hats?

I have to say, I don't think so.  Whatever the polite term is being used for this Gastrohipster era, it is generally agreed that, while its roots go back to Alice Waters in SF, the inciting incident was David Chang opening Momofuko in 2003, which is well before Kass ascended to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  More likely Kass is a product of this lifestyle change, or even that everything is related and happening simultaneously without any knowledge of the other.

And for the record, even though I'm a bit of a dick about pretension and preciousness that can happen sometimes in cuisine, the more that take care in what we eat, the better it is for everyone.  So thanks to Sam Kass for his efforts in any event.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:05 AM

August 28, 2014

what do you think zombies eat

I have a crazy neighbor.  He lives on the same floor as I do.  We call him Gilligan, because he is spindly and wears a roll-up bucket hat.  He hides in the stairwells like Gollum.  He has been known to threaten dogs with tiny crowbars.  And sometime overnight, he taped xeroxes of this note up and down my floor and the floor below.  I'm transcribing it for your edification:

WHAT DO YOU THINK ZOMBIES EAT.

[Illustration of some stairs and a bathroom door.]

DEAR LADY, WHEN THEY BUILT THAT, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING.  YOU EITHER GET IT OR YOU DON'T.  IF YOU DO, TELL ME.  IS ANY APARTMENT SO LARGE THAT A DOG CAN ESCAPE THE DENTIST DRILLING OF WINDOW SILLS.&NBSP: MAKE SURE DOORS TO ALL APT. ROOMS ARE OPEN.  HOW MANY CATS WILL HAVE THEIR LIVES SHORTENED.  DID THEY GIVE A MINUTES THOUGHT TO A METHOD THAT WOULD NOT HURT THE DOGS.  PITY THE STAY AT HOME PUPS.  THE DEMOLISH AND BUILD NOISE IS EXCESSIVE.  THEY MAY HAVE BOWEL TROUBLE.

This is not his first public notice (the last one was more focused on the bowel trouble, adding the additional symptom of "sex-death" for the doggies), but I really think he's finding his voice.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:17 AM

August 27, 2014

after ferguson

Call me crazy, but this NY Times where do we go now? concerning the neighborhoods surrounding St. Louis is not only totally harrowing but also does not need the backdrop of the murder of Mike Brown to make it so.

And guess what?  It's totally a story about race:

In Maplewood [thirteen miles from Ferguson], according to a 2013 report by the state attorney general, black motorists were searched or arrested during stops at more than twice the rate of whites. Yet searches of whites and blacks were almost equally likely to turn up contraband. Messages for the police chief in Maplewood were not returned.

In the city of Hazelwood, blacks were twice as likely as whites to be searched during a police stop, and nearly three times as likely to be arrested, while searches of whites were about one and a half times as likely to yield contraband.

An inconvenience, you might say to yourself, or, if you're one of those law & order types, you might even say, the innocent have nothing to hide!  But these traffic stops are more than harassment.  They are actually funding the municipalities.

When a person fails to appear and pay [a routine traffic ticket], here as in many other places, a warrant is issued and that person's license is suspended. In the hodgepodge of cities that make up St. Louis County, some drivers may have multiple warrants. In Ferguson, more than one and a half warrants have been issued for every resident. And as the warrants stack up, so do the fines: Not showing up to pay a $90 taillight violation means a failure-to-appear warrant with its own fee of $100 or more; each successive failure-to-appear warrant adds to that; and if there is a stop, there are incarceration fees and towing fees.

In the end, said Brendan Roediger, an assistant professor at St. Louis University Law School, a person who had trouble coming up with $90 might owe a jurisdiction well over a thousand dollars.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story "The police aren't actually pulling people over to find contraband," he said. "They're pulling people over to see if they have warrants. And they always do. If you run a system that ultimately makes every black person in your town have a warrant, then racial profiling does work."

I know that debtor's prisons are basically back and ruining communities by criminalizing poverty, but this is exponentially worse because these St. Louis County towns are taking the modern-day concept of the debtor's prison — death by a million fines, penalties and service and handling charges — and injecting a racial element into it.

So in places like Maplewood and Hazelwood and Ferguson, not only is it a crime to be black and poor, the sick people in charge found a way to fund the municipalities off it.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:04 AM

August 26, 2014

awards shows

Since I don't have any particularly useful thoughts at present, let's talk about awards shows!

This may well be a symptom of encroaching senescence, or just a projected crankiness, but I don't like those awards shows, no, not one bit.  Ordinarily an awards show would come and go without me even noticing, but now that I effectuate a portion of my human interaction over the Internet, the awards shows are impossible to miss because they crowd your feed like tribbles on the third day.  So there I am trying to mind my business, and then I get the one-two punch of the VMAs and then the Emmys.  On consecutive nights!

OK, here's the thing: these shows are nothing but self-congratulatory cynical displays of obscene wealth and privilege.  The Emmys, for the TV industry.  The TV industry is a remarkably remunerative profession, and not just for the actors.  It's really hard to get into, and once you get into it, you're largely set for life.  You get to buy a house!  Maybe think about private school for the kids!  And again that's the non-cast.  Actors, especially the ones that are up for awards, make unimaginable piles of money.  Really, TV acting is becoming more lucrative than movie acting.  And sure there are varying levels of skill at all of these positions, and maybe someone is the "best" at something each year.

But why the fuck should we care?  Oh sure we love our TV shows, and we love our constellation of celebrities, but how self-loathing is it to actually celebrate these people for having really nice careers?  I'm not saying that within the industry there shouldn't be a night of such a ceremony, but it kind of breaks my heart to see the amount of public bandwidth being devoted to multi-millionaires who pretend for a living patting each other on the back.

And the VMAs?  What the fuck if "video music" any more?  Sorry, doesn't exist: MTV can't even be bothered to retrofit its glitzy cash cow into proper current context.

I just think that there's something very Stockholm Syndrome about the whole thing.  And I'm sure I'll revisit this at a future date.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM