Entries in brooklyn (4)


A Local economy yes, but only if it's hip

Over the course of what could have been just a routine column about gentrification, transit, and the demise of local manufacturing, Ginia Bellafonte of the NYT takes the argument over the future of the Brooklyn Navy Yards to a very interesting place:

The value of a well-maintained and high-functioning public transit system — vital to people, vital to the economic ecosystem — would seem self-evident; the value of ambitious job creation, equally so. In a sense, another obstacle to these plans is cultural: the romance much of the country still has with American manufacturing doesn’t really hold sway in New York, where love affairs, now, are more likely to be forged with the artisanal pickler, the imaginative sausage-maker, the émigré in Red Hook who would seem to possess a doctorate in mahogany. New York would do well to revitalize (and glamorize) old-school labor; the city should feel more hospitable to working people than it looks.



"Artisanal cheeses. For sale. In our streets."

I probably could not have written The Authenticity Hoax without the New York Times. Week after week for years now, that paper has been obsessively tracking the leading edge of authenticity-seeking, from no-flush toilets in urban lofts to the very latest in ethnotourism. And it was, of course, the editorial pages of the Times that led the campaign against Walmart's decision to carry a full range of organic produce on the grounds that it violated the spirit of organic -- a trumpet blast that historians will remember as the moment the lovavore movement went mainstream.

As goes the culture so goes the Times, and with the cult of authenticity spiralling ever closer to shoving its head its own ass, the Grey Lady of Manhattan has spent the past year obsessing about what's been going on across the river in Brooklyn. A feat that NBC anchor Brian Williams has called "the media story of 2010". This is genius:

Once a day, there’s a story about all the riches offered in that borough. There are young men and women wearing ironic glass frames on the streets. There are open air markets, like trading posts in the early Chippewa tribe, where you can make beads at home and then trade them for someone to come over and start a small fire in your apartment that you share with nine others. Artisinal cheeses. For sale, on the streets of an entire American borough.

Watch the entire video:



30 Rock versus Brooklyn

On last night's 30 Rock, Liz Lemon buys a pair of jeans from a store called "Brooklyn Without Limits", a hipster outlet in a former mental hospital that also has stores in "Gaytown, White Harlem, and the van Beardswick section of Brooklyn". The good news: they make her look like "a Mexican sports reporter". The bad news? The corporate owner gives her more authenticity than she bargained for.

The first three minutes of this video are great. Via Gawker tv.



Conspicuous Authenticity: Handmade Axes

My old friend Samuel Dupéré sends along a piece from the New York Times (where else!), by Penelope Green, about the latest hot conspicuous authenticity item coming out of haut-hipsterdom: handmade axes. I wish this had come out while I was writing chapter four of the book. The whole thing is deep down the rabbit hole of disguised status-seeking,  and it hits all the authenticity plot points.

First, the axes are handmade (ping!) by a Peter Buchanan-Smith, who is a Canadian (ping!) with a Hemingwayesque background (ping!). And unlike the "fake" authentic that is being exhalted from one end of Brooklyn to the other (e.g. "like denim or Prouvé chairs"), these axes are the REAL ANTI-MODERNITY DEAL, the "the ultimate antidote to life on the high-broadband lane.” (ping! ping! ping!).

What comes next in the story? Oh right, the inevitable worry that because the axes are expensive and bought primarily as objets-d'authenticité, they might actually be nothing more than some sort of yuppie status good. After all, "seven of his axes are hanging in the Saatchi Gallery in London. Seth Godin, the entrepreneur and marketing guru, has one, and so do Leonard Lauder, David Lynch and Mike Jones, the president of MySpace."

But no: As attested on the product's website, "Even real woodsmen and -women" apparently use the axes for actual woodchopping. Because you know, it takes a $180 axe to split a log at the KOA campsite. One of these bad boys is just not up to the task.

So where were we? Oh right, the full selling-authenticity business plan:

He’d like to work with a Canadian company to sell its Sou’wester, an oiled-canvas rain hat. He is intrigued by the work of two Brooklyn artists, Gabriel Cohen and Jolie Mae Signorile, who collect tropical bird feathers from aviaries and make arrows out of them. And he has commissioned a designer he met at an art camp in Minnesota to make vintage maps stamped with the Best Made Co. symbol, a bright red cross.

But don't call it a business, because making something for profit is just so... modern. This is all about the purity and innocence of the creative self:

“With the ax, I wanted to do something simple and sweet,” he said. “It was like an invitation to this world I wanted to create. The world of making things where notions of courage and fortitude are associated with it, but also playfulness and levity.”

It's almost like we've heard this story before.