I can’t keep up with all the old-media hypocrisy these days, but the trashing of bloggers for taking freebies really makes me snort. The best development in so-called journalism has been the disclosure requirement for online reporters. It’s very liberating to admit you are writing about a friend — in the food coven’s heyday either editors were lied to or everyone danced around the truth. Today, to quote the sheep farmer’s wife we met in North Wales who was responding to Chernobyl denial: “They think we’re stupid.” A few weeks ago I passed a new salon between the C train and the Union Square Greenmarket and saw a sign outside saying something along the lines of “we may look open, but we’re doing an editors’ preview.” Sure as shit, a few days later first the hometown paper had a report on the place. And then the print Faux did as well. And I’m sure magazines will be hair-flogging away soon enough. We all know how the sausage is made. Why not dispense with the opaque casing?
Which makes it all the more obvious that the internets are going to be the death of old media, but not for the reason anyone expected. The more I see the establishment outlets dumbing down, the more I wonder why anyone would pay for the paper products. The NYT now prints online comments that even a small-town paper would properly copy-edit, if not reject outright. And the New Yorker, of all magazines, is running cookbook reviews online that make the Drivelist read like Elizabeth David. (Almost.) I only slogged through a couple, but seriously: 5,000 words on almond paste in a world where you could, you know, look it up? Drone, blather, repeat.
Funny to see a new food site come out with great bluster, only have it feel like 2002 all over again. Nigella as launch star? With “passion” thrown around as the adjective? WTF? Hasn’t Keyboard Cat played that schtick out big time? I guess I’m the only one who remembers how serious style writers used to compare her to an inflatable love doll. And I have the same question I had way back when: Does she really bow to the same shitty contract everyone else is served? Still, I’ve got to give the designers credit for a sense of humor, at least: A headline with a series of photos including the Butter Drinker and Molto using the words “pig out” does make you stop and stare.
Given all the brouhaha over a code of ethics for food bloggers, though, it’s probably worth remembering how the gullible guy with a taste for towel-snapping wound up in such a position of ostensible power: Panic. MSM fill-in had fucked up as restaurant critic while the paper, still in that KK-induced Nigella fog, floundered around trying to replace the author of such unforgettable lines as “give me pesticides and flavor.” And don’t get me started on all the times I tried to point out that the family retainer was stealing the silver. . . The Wild West of cyberspace needs no stinking code. Those who do the dirty are gonna get exposed. While the old world of media continues to deny it has some ’splaining to do.
Anyone with half an organic brain could tell the cyber-scandale over Saint Alice allegedly acting like an ass had to be bullshit of the highest order. But I loved how quickly it evolved into a new blame game. She may have been in Chicago at the time of the crime, but someone resembling her apparently put on a pretty arrogant show before TWC witnesses. So who was that nasty number?
“Journalists” trying to cover the Twitter phenom remind me of the first typosaurs exploring the internets. They need to come back with a story fast, and so they look for the honking neon signs. And miss the story altogether. Sometimes the news is in the food. And sometimes it’s in the brain droppings. I guess I should only be amazed they weren’t snowed by the big snowman who managed all of six Tweets before melting. Meet the old media, same as the old media.
The head that wears the gray crown must be feeling lighter these days, though. How else could his DI/DO editor get away with Tweeting for all the e-world about the mystery meat served in the Glitzateria? I still remember when Mme Ami dissed the food and a Sopranos-ominous sandwich materialized on the section honcha’s desk next day. But I guess they just figure anything that directs traffic to the twitching corpse is good. Either that or the shoeless count has no inkling of that Twitter thing the kids are all doing instead of slogging through nut-graf-free stories in print.
Okay, I’ll admit I feel a bit guilty sometimes knowing a rant will sound directed toward a person and not a person’s work. There is a big difference. Or there should be. But this is the age of the internets. Contradictions count. Or maybe I just need me some interns. And I’m always learning we should be wary of our obsession — I was looking for places to eat near the Target in Brooklyn one day when I was feeling almost brave enough to schlep halfway to hell and back, and Citysearch recommended La Grenouille. If I were more flush, it would almost be worth reserving just to see the reaction when I showed up a borough away with my new laundry basket in tow.
Like every old phart these days, I’m addicted to Facebook. But lately I’m starting to wonder if it’s a safe playground. The people who are being suggested as friends are scaryyyyy. The food world is both fake and incestuous, but I draw the line at pantloads — this guy used to run campaigns worthy of McSame and the Caribou Killer — and I don’t even wanna know who his “friends” are. I’m cynical enough.
On a related topic, it was more than amusing to watch the blowback when one restaurant reporter had the nerve to complain another was playing unfair. The commenters seemed to be in a wild contest to out-ignorant each other. What’s funnier is remembering what a crybaby she used to be when new joints would give their “news” first to the weekly magazines because they ran photos, and in color. Considering the Momofuku frenzy set off by the blogs, I kinda think the days when the likes of Mr. Ko could be extorted are running out.
Almost the best novel I have read since the last Richard Price is “Lush Life,” which I just barreled through in two middle-of-the-nights when dread was lurking right outside the bedroom door. Nobody is as cinematic in drawing characters with dialogue alone. It helped that I was such an aficionada of Schiller’s (and its uneasy neighborhood) way back when, but even a reader who could not conjure the place from memory would be transported by the descriptions of its subterranean side, and of the quotidian realities of running a restaurant in a city where waiter is so rarely a valued profession. Mostly, though, the book made the frenzy over the closing of Florent seem even more ridiculously hysterical. All that weeping and gnashing and rending of garments when the city is changing everywhere in every way by the second, constantly and relentlessly. Not to throw out a spoiler or anything, but I hear the Borgata is looking for a transvestites’ diner. . . .
One of the most talented photographers the hometown paper ever hired had to come in the back door, through the web when the web was the crude and rude cousin of the staid and serious print edition. He was one smart kid, though, because he worked the soft sections like nobody’s business, getting assignments to do anything the other guys already ensconced in their velvet coffins were too comfortable to bother with, and doing them much better. The surest sign of his brilliance is that he managed to get hired on staff, with all those once-lavish benefits, but did not stick around to molder in the velvet. So when he throws out advice, you would think newspapers would listen. He has a long screed up in cyberspace about new media, and one thing he despairs over is a newspaper sending out videographers to cover car crashes simply because those generate the most hits online. What does it profit a publication to attract mega-traffic and suffer the loss of its own soul? Hmmm. Nestle not buying cookie ads? Might be time to review another strip joint. . . .
Thank allah for a long holiday weekend, because the mass hysteria in Blogville over one diner closing was getting pretty scary to watch. Lutece went out with less weeping and wailing, for cripes’ sake. Apparently clogs are just like dead-trees magazines, though: What’s news to one has to be one-upped by the other. It’s like a yardful of Kool-Aid-lapping dogs sniffing each others’ butts. If this keeps up, the two obsessions will have to merge and open Korent to feed the frenzy.
I must have been an elephant in a previous life. I read all the gushing online coverage of a fadeout on Central Park South and could only remember bad stuff: The first time I went, with a bunch of food photographers, and how underwhelmed we all were by the raviolo with egg and how poleaxed we were by the bill. The second time I went, at the insistence of a sommelier friend who comped me lunch, and how astonished I was to be virtually shoved against my chairback by a pissed-off owner insisting he was right and I was wrong about a piece I’d written in the NYTimes magazine about bogus Italian (my editor there, to her eternal credit, later admitted she had read his letter and sent it straight to the trash, do not pass writer). And the last time was truly the anti-charm: A neighbor who happens to move among the lawyer class wanted to indulge for Restaurant Week and I indulged her, only to find ourselves shunted off to some shitty table in the back with contemptuous waiters and fish that was already in Purgatory and really kiss-off desserts and appetizers. Every time I have walked past the place since I have wondered how it has hung on so long when it is truly the antithesis of true Italian (Italy being, of course, the country where I have eaten more often than I have anywhere but the “homeland”). But I do give him credit. He knows how to work the cyber-world. Next he’ll be hooking up with that superhero Ko-Man and banning photography.
Maybe it’s all the gubernatorial sex coverage bringing it on, but the internets have been going wild with genitalia-related weirdness. Slashfood turned up a bizarre teevee story on a mom freaked to find kiddy straws she insisted were shaped like penises. Keep that toddler protector away from cucumbers and bananas. And then there was the case of the cook who punished a customer complaining about an overcooked steak by barding the replacement ribeye with pubic hair. He was canned, of course, but not for grossness, only thanks to his employer’s insistence that “food safety is our number one priority.” I kinda doubt a little taste of hair pie is anywhere near as dangerous as all the genuinely scary stuff breaking out all over — hepatitis A here, Sbarro’s typhoid there, norovirus at restaurants at Great Escapes. Most of those are spread by food handlers who skip washing after shitting, just pull the gloves back on again. And all the hand condoms in the world don’t seem to be doing what good old soap and water once did. Hard to believe Typhoid Mary now looks like a kitchen trend-setter.