Sunday, May 16, 2010

All over the place

-I fully approve of Helen's post about restaurants that use "Market" in the name, and was especially amused by the inclusion of a dingy pizza place down the street from my office, about as far from rustic as you can get. I'd go further than she does and say that the problem's not just in the names, but in the trend of restaurants acting as though the mere fact that they serve food made from fresh ingredients ought to be celebrated. Ideally, this would be assumed at anywhere but McDonalds, but at any rate, the inclusion of a word like "market" in the restaurant name (or of the names of the farms the ingredients come from on the menu) only makes patrons all the more aware of dishes not tasting quite as fresh as ideal. My only slight difference of opinion is about Markt - the name sounds market-like to anglophone ears, but according to my translator means both "market" and "town square" in Dutch, and so might be about farmstands but could also be something along the lines of "Union Square Café".

-Commenter Matt hates bangs. This slideshow may make him change his mind.

-I've been semi-following the anti-NYC-centrism discussion (see here, here, here) and am half-wary of responding, for fear of contributing to the problem, what with the inevitability of my commenting from the standpoint of someone from and currently living in that city. But only half, so here goes, in list form because I'm feeling just that articulate:

1) My first reaction was to think, oh no, not this again, and that we were once again witnessing a Palinesque anti-coastal-elites populist-xenophobic mood. Because the city - as in, urban areas, not just New York - represents diversity, etc., etc. But it turns out the issue really is, why does NYC get so much more attention than other major US cities. Which is a different issue entirely from urban-versus-rural.

2) Or is it? We've certainly moved past the era when in polite society a person could be referred to discreetly as 'so very New York' and this was a way of saying, 'ugh, Jews.' But to many, New York still represents the foreign, the dangerous, the not-really-American, so even if the targets have (partially) shifted, there's a certain continuity in anti-NY discourse. (And yes, whenever I read anything about an entity that might be confused with Jews and how they "dominate American media, finance, and letters," the light bulb goes off, but again, I think Conor really does mean New York and not just one ethno-religious subset thereof.)

3) But! New York "tyranny" is very real, and very much experienced even by New Yorkers, the very people for whom it's natural to think more about this place than elsewhere. As Amber correctly notes, this is most egregious in sitcom settings and on TV more generally. As offensive as the overrepresentation of the city may be to the rest of the country, it's awfully irritating to those who do live here. There's the apartment-size issue, but also the fact that anything approximating a typical life in this city can't be depicted, because it wouldn't be relatable. (I blathered on about this in Amber's comments and so will shift slightly...). So it's not just that upper-middle-class white TV characters said to live in NY don't correctly represent upper-middle-class white New Yorkers. It's also that the city's so often presented as only consisting not merely of this already-specific demographic, but of, well, socialites, celebrities, investment bankers, and other not-so-relatable demographics. Yes, such people live here, but so, too, do people with less glamorous lives, in worlds less prone to narcissism. (Are grad students prone to narcissism? Sure, but of a different, non-location-specific, kind.)

4) Speaking of narcissism, on a personal note, I find it kind of bizarre that I still live in New York. People I meet often assume I returned because four years of Chicago had taught me I couldn't live anywhere else, but the fact of the matter is that this only exists in New York. I'm here, odd as it may seem, because of the Dreyfus Affair; Uniqlo's just a plus. Which is lucky, because the likelihood I'll still live here after grad school is slim indeed.


Matt said...

I wouldn't so much say that I "hate bangs" as that I don't like the sheep-dog look. That's like this:

It's possible to have bangs without looking like that, as many of the women in the slide-show do. Some slip over into the sheep-dog look, though, and that seems to be the hippster style of bangs these days, as from the photo you linked to the other day, and some adds I've seen around (from Macy's or something? There are other things wrong with those women, but the hair in the eyes look is a real problem for one of them.) Anyway, I'm happy to say it's a matter of taste and I don't think this is the sign of some dark trend of women being unable to take care of themselves because they can't see where they're going or some other thing of significance, but it's not bangs as such (though they are not my favorite) but just the sheep-dog look that I think is really dumb.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Ah, a response to the most substantive part of this roundup post!

I think you're confusing the natural result of a woman finding it boring/expensive to get frequent bang trims with a new, popular hairstyle you're referring to as "sheepdog." Sheepdog just kind of happens if you have bangs, so if you're anti-sheepdog, you're anti-bangs except for women who are extra-vigilant.

"There are other things wrong with those women, but the hair in the eyes look is a real problem for one of them."

By "wrong" I assume you mean not to your liking? Because "wrong" sounds rather harsh! Everyone has their preferences, but it's a slideshow of pretty women, styled according to the trends of their day.

Matt said...

Oh- I meant in these Macy's adds that used to be up at 30th st. Station in Philadelphia until a few days ago (and probably elsewhere- I just don't go a lot of places where I'd see them or watch TV, so I don't know), not the slide-show. Most of those women were reasonably pretty, some very pretty. The Macy's add women looked like they might have been mal-treated by photoshop in some of the adds, making them look even more like aliens than is typical for fashion models. That's what I meant by having something "wrong" with them.
(The sheep-dog look, though, is often on models these days, and I assume they have exactly the hair-cut they are supposed to have. I just think it looks terrible.)

Matt said...

Also, it seems completely unsurprising to me that NYU would be a good place to study French lit/culture/language. Even though I know basically nothing about the top places to study things French, I do know that NYU made a concerted effort several years ago to build top programs in those areas that didn't involve big capital outlays (that is, things other than most of the sciences) so, their law school went from pretty good to top 5, and their philosophy department is one of, probably the, best in the country. I suspect something similar is so for other humanities, so that it's good for French seems to me perfectly reasonable.

Sigivald said...

Is "market" really a rustic marker?

I mean, markets are town and city things, historically.

The bigger the city, the bigger and more important the market.

Probably just my medieval studies hobby keeping me from seeing things the way everyone else does.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


In cities today - can't speak for the Middle Ages - the word that comes before "market" in the context of food is either "super" or "farmers'", and it's the latter that these restaurants are referring to. Markets, in this fantasy, are where the country meets the city.

Jeff said...

Which is lucky, because the likelihood I'll still live here after grad school is slim indeed.

Driver's License, Phoebe. Make it a priority. Three years from now, you'll be living in Stillwater, Oklahoma and the C Train will be nowhere in sight.