Entries in new york times (4)


The Agony of Authenticity, or the impossibility of gift-giving

This is pretty much self-explanatory:

Part of the anxiety of gift-giving in New York at this moment in history arises from the fact that you can’t merely buy a gift; you must supply a narrative, and the narrative must be in some sense homespun, which then positions you in tasteful opposition to the vulgar excesses of the 1 percent. Fulfilling this obligation ultimately demands that you go to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, no matter the inconvenience, because Williamsburg has made the greatest strides in creating a retail experience that feels like Iowa circa 1950.

That's from Ginia Bellafante, the world's foremost po-faced chronicler of conspicuous authenticity. 


The End of Authenticity

All of a sudden, the authentic is on the outs. The first intimations came last summer, when a major marketing magazine declared that authenticity has lost its cachet. Then USA Today ran a piece pointing out that if Starbucks can call its breakfast sandwich “artisanal,” and if Tostitos can say the same thing about its corn chips, then maybe artisanal is just a synonym for mass-produced. But the last hand-forged nail was driven into the reclaimed-wood coffin recently when the New York Times published a long feature under the title, “All that authenticity might be getting old”...

That's from my latest column for The Ottawa Citizen.


Authenticity Watch: VHS 

From - where else -- the NYT.

Technological slumming -- check:

“You just don’t get the same feeling in a pristine print of a DVD,” Mr. Kinem said. “With VHS it’s like I’m experiencing an old grind-house movie theater. I would never watch them on a computer.”

Old-timey small-town slow-ism -- check, check, check:

“VHS represents a period when you could walk into a mom-and-pop video store, and what you could rent was limited to what was right in front of you,” Ms. Davis said. “There were these amazing illustrations on the big boxes, and no one had any idea what the movie was. You were taking a gamble. It’s the opposite of instant gratification.”

Nostalgia for manual labour -- check.

“VHS is cumbersome,” said Mr. Husney (who was creative director of Intervision before moving to Drafthouse). “You have to maintain it. It has to fit on a shelf. You may have to dust it off. But you also get to interact with a piece of art on a personal level.”

Thanks to Simon Cott.


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.