Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘New York

Scattered Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Media Problem’

with one comment

Here is what I’ve been reading about Occupy Wall Street. Here are my few observations:

1. There is no meaningful sartorial difference these days between “hippies” and “hipsters.” Just so we’re all clear on that.

2. Most of the people quoted are ridiculous. It almost seems the media coverage is tailor-made to make us hate them, but unfortunately I think the most plausible answer—rather than widespread media conspiracy—is that this is how the majority of these people really are and sound. To speak like a cowboy or a politician for a moment: Let’s call a spade a spade, okay?

2.5 What is funny is that, were this a conservative protest, all parties involved—its participants, its mercenaries, its political cheerleaders—would have the Lamestream Liberal Media to blame, to explain away how uninformed its participants come across. Mainstream liberals can’t really avail themselves of that excuse.

2.51 They could, of course, make a point about how most media is owned by corporations who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo, or the natural biases of reporters and bloggers at traditional (and by that, I mean anything outside the super-lefty indie press) media outlets, even those like Mother Jones and NPR. I find these arguments unconvincing, but they could be made …

2.52 In fact, I feel like a lot of people in the press are going out of their way to *try* and find some coherence, some meaning in all of this.

2.54  It is of course impossible for me or you (providing you are not there) to know whether media outlets really are cherry-picking quotes and protestors to paint a certain narrative picture. If anything, I find it likely that reporters’ natural biases run more against anyone appearing to be a dreaded Hipster (hippie) than anyone appearing to have a legitimate complaint with United States power structures. If there’s one thing we all hate more than Wall Street bankers, or at least that The Media hates more, it’s hipsters. The second more likely bias would be the Bias of the Narrative (in general), I think.

2.55 Luckily, there is a lot of ‘citizen media’ available these days. A cursory glance of said citizen media does not reveal a significantly different narrative than that being reported by corporate reporters.

3. Panning the inane or misguided complaints of uninformed protestors is not the same as rejecting the very premise that there are legitimate complaints to be made about some of the issues they’re allegedly protesting. It is not to say there are no smart, informed people there. It is not to say that even the not-smart, not-informed people there don’t possibly have legitimate reasons for anger. For the record.

4. As much as my 12-year-old heart desired to go back in time and be an establishment-protesting hippie with flowers in my hair, I would have sucked at it. I could have worn those flowers damn well, though.

5. The Occupy Wall Street protestors do not sound any more misguided, insipid, etc., than your average Tea Partier. Their contempts and complaints and scapegoats are vastly different, sure, but no more or less reactionary or vacuous, and certainly no more or less coherent. But—and I am really taking a page from my boyfriend’s blog here on this one, but one of his favorite complaints rings quite true to me here—whereas many not-insipid liberals have criticized these Occupy Wall Street protestors, have in fact publicly cringed at their Greatest Hits of Liberal Demands, their incoherant babbling, their hypocrisy — whoa to the few not-insipid conservatives who did the same with tea partiers! No matter how vacous, rascist, whatever tea partiers sounded, a lot of mainstream conservatives lept to their defense. Maybe not to defend every indinvidual thing they said—some of it needed to be cleaned up a little bit for media consumption, some swept under the proverbial rug. But still, conservative leaders were enthusiastic about framing this as part of a larger story about citizens fed up, citizen uprising, etc. Liberals are not clamoring to do the same with the Occupy Wall Street kids. You can say one is the more desirable position for party mainstreams to take—I could make a case for either position, which means I will not make a case for either. But I think the difference is marked.


Written by ENB

September 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

Coast to Coast

with 3 comments

It’s impossible for me to think about California, at this point in my life, without thinking about Joan Didion. I came to Didion recently-ish—I think it must have been just a little over a year ago, I was on the verge of moving to New York and Conor told me to read Didion’s famous moving to and moving away from New York essay, “Goodbye to All That,” to which I responded:

I adored it. But I wonder—did you feel that way, when you moved to New York? I don’t. I worry I am too old, or too stubborn …

Which just shows you what a pretentious, dramatic twit I can be sometimes, because of course I got swept up in loving it here (and also just, Gawd, you know?). It’s been about one year and one month since I moved here, and I may or may not be as bad as when my then-boyfriend first moved here, moved into the McKibben lofts, and called me at my apartment in DC at 2 in the morning to tell me that the loft building across the street had started blaring and singing “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and then the residents of his building started doing it back at them, and then they were all having a Holland 1945 sing-a-long and wasn’t that just magical and New York the best? Shoot me if I ever become one of those people, I told my DC friends.

And now I live in a house with 13 other members of my creative collective, Goddamn Cobras, and make raw pies and have housemates who play in a band called Zebros in our basement.

So, there’s that.

What all of this has to do with California is that, on the official one-year anniversary of my move to New York, I was not in New York but in Ojai, California, shooting a movie and/or camping out in dried out riverbeds and forests and lagoons and farms and mountaintops and beaches. That land is incredible, let me tell you; as a lifelong midwesterner with a splash of east coast, I had no idea how beautiful California could actually be.

But what a weird little place, that state. How can a land so built on frontierism, on lone rangers and outcasts and outlaws (you see, I not so long ago finished both Didion’s first novel, Run River, and her book about California, Where I Was From, and also spent last fall and winter watching John Wayne and Sergio Leone movies, so I have these grand sort of notions about California’s founding) be so … progressive, in all the most negative senses of the word? And why doesn’t someone advertise a medical marijuana shop without using the old tropes of psychedelia? Why do the lemons in California get so big? And how the hell did Los Angeles even happen? Why are there so many car dealerships on the strip between L.A. and Santa Barbara? And how does anyone ever get anything done what with the beaches and the sunsets and the palm trees and all of that? Why did I want so badly to feel some sort of connection to a silly place that was once a different place (in my case, the first studio warehouse and lot, for Keystone Studios, opened by Mac Sennett, in what’s now Echo Park, but what does it matter—I wanted to see a Celebrity House, you know; I went looking for Mabel Normand’s Alvarado Street bungalow, I had to visit Haight-Ashbury)? And why do people in San Francisco pretend like they don’t have the worst weather? Why does California, the Idea of California, draw people, like the Idea of New York City, even still, even now—a highway not just a highway but a California Highway; a sunset a California Sunset … A weird little place, that state.

I hope to visit again sometime.


* I am now reading Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the first Robbins book I’ve even attempted—I tend to lump him in that group of Overhyped Gen X Male Authors I Have No Interest In, like David Foster Wallace and Dave Edgars and I think Thomas Pynchon, though he is probably much older, isn’t he?—because when I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my own, no radio signal, no music of any kind, no visibility much beyond my headlights, all fog and endless bridges—to be saved only by the prospect of Guadalupe, because Jables said I would Love It, only to find the most dismal, empty town, Mexican track housing, and suddenly 56 degrees when I fill up my gas a few towns later—or even during the filming of our goddamn western, when Fanny’s house was all slightly-off-key vintage upright pianos, Bearclaw banging on the keys theatrically (in his full Sheriff costume), and fresh mulberries sunshine outside bathtubs wine and toasts—which of course all made me sad because somehow nostalgia and enjoyment always hit me in reverse, well—I don’t know where it came from, didn’t know the phrase referenced a book, a song, anything at all, all the same it became a bit of a mantra, just a little bit, which is silly–it’s silly, right, okay? I know—but nonetheless it became a bit of a mantra, “even cowgirls get the blues,” that somehow cheered me up (I had been wearing these amazing cowgirl boots as a part of my film costume and now refused to take the boots, or my turquoise jewelry, or my ragged jean shorts, off, you see), so when I saw this old Tom Robbins’ paperback copy in a used bookstore in San Francisco with Rachel for four dollars and 50 cents, I had to pick it up. Even cowgirls get the blues. Only by now, I have owned the book for over two weeks, and I’ve only read ten pages.

It’s hard to like a woman with giant thumbs, and it’s hard to feel like a cowgirl in Brooklyn …

Written by ENB

September 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Where Have All the Vegans Gone?

with one comment

I would like to state for the record that I almost never earnestly call anyone a “hipster” (except Peter Suderman, obviously) or describe things as “hip” myself, but editors are always inserting the words into my headlines, subtitles or copy! Sigh. It’s shorthand. It’s a common cultural indicator, I get it. I get it. I just still wish it wouldn’t happen.

But, anyway, here’s a story I wrote for City Scoops NY months and months ago, “Where Have All the Vegan’s Gone?,” that’s finally appearing online:

Picture a restaurant in Williamsburg, or maybe the East Village. The decor is eclectic and artfully bohemian. The clients are youngish, thin, disheveled, and artfully bohemian themselves. In another time, they may have been slinging back soy smoothies, or gobbling down black bean burgers and tofu scramble with tempeh bacon. But this crowd is, instead, ordering the pork-shoulder sandwich, the ostrich-meat sliders, and the salad topped with bone-marrow butter and rabbit paté.

Aside from the “hip” reference, I’m pretty pleased with the article. It was something we began talking about last spring or summer, before it seemed like everybody was talking about the meat resurgence, just because we noticed that most of the restaurants we went to around Brooklyn had been shifting their menus. And it turns out we were right! Plus, I got to talk to Ms. Kathy Kirkpatrick, co-founder of the famed (i.e., in Rent) Life Cafe, who was super-sweet and interesting and gave me some hard numbers about meat and vegan menu-item sales to back up my postulating. It’s always fun when that happens.

Written by ENB

April 2, 2010 at 9:31 am

The “Hipsters on Food Stamps” Phenomenon

with 8 comments

The way the reporter (Jennifer Bleyer) wrote this article itself was like she was just begging people to mock her subjects:

Savory aromas wafted through the kitchen as a table was set with a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice, all of it courtesy of government assistance.

Every descriptive word Bleyer uses is designed to imply maximum offensiveness, or to make very normal things—like vegetables, for goddsakes— seem exotic and luxurious.

So what if some people on food stamps buy more healthy/weird/international cuisine than do others? It’s not like they’re getting extra money to buy this food; they’re getting the same amount as the guy who’s buying fucking Wonderbread and store-brand Kraft singles. And yet …

Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding — and her usual gigs — to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she’s used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.

People are always railing, of course, about how people on food stamps don’t buy enough healthy food. But heaven forbid the food they buy is too healthy, or healthy and also outside the mainstream. It’s absurd. Fresh produce is a luxury? Soy protein (which costs about the same as meat) the height of libertine-ism? Not to mention that things such as Chinese gourd and coconut milk are the very kind of corner-store staples in ethnic neighborhoods that often sell these sorts of foods cheaper than mainstream varieties (at the Asian-run market in my neighborhood, I can get three large hunks of fresh, homemade tofu for $1, compared to $2.50 or $3 for the packaged stuff; the Polish corner store sells an abundance of large, quite good Polish beers for cheaper than domestic varieties).

Now you can argue with whether food stamps should exist in the first place, or at what level, or in what way, and that’s something different entirely. But the folks in this article had to have been at some certain pre-determined level we’d set as the threshold for food stamp eligibility, you know? And as long as we’ve already set that threshold, whatever sustenance one buys with those stamps (and in spite of whatever hobbies/passions/desired-careers they may have) is really nobody’s business.

Says Jessica Grose on XX factor:

I’m not sure that “hipster” food stamp recipients are anything but a fake trend, but it does appear that no article about food purchasing or ingesting can be written without irate and judgemental comments. The twenty- and thirtysomethings in the article are predictably called lazy and overly indulged, for example: “Of course people are going to be pissed that they’re busting their asses every day in real jobs so that some douchebag can satisfy his ‘flexitarian’ gourmet diet.” But even if these hipsters were using their own money to buy their organic food they’d be slammed. Or if they were buying the stereotypical foods purchased with food stamps—which is to say, heavily processed—they’d be criticized for contributing to the so-called “obesity crisis.” Eating is now a major moral issue in America, and whatever choice you make is wrong.

Written by ENB

March 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm

DC v. NY: Food Edition

with one comment

When I return to Columbus, Cincinnati, and Athens, Ohio, there are restaurants I’m always excited to revisit. Already, in New York, I’ve developed a few favorite eateries. But were someone to ask me where to eat in DC, I don’t think I’d have anything to tell them. I can think of restaurants that are passably enjoyable—if you were going there for drinks, or happened to be nearby, then eatingin them wouldn’t be unpleasant. There are even a few places I guess I could say I considered “favorites,” though these—Cactus Cantina, Cafe Deluxe, the Argonaut—have more to do with proximity to places I lived then any spectacularity of cuisine.

I’d probably tell you to have brunch at Red Rocks, though that has more to do with the bottomless $9 mimosas than the decent but unextraordinary pizza. Maybe I’d recommend Granville Moore’s, which does have a good beer selection and, I’m told, great mussels, though I’m no mussel connoisseur; the takeout at Simply Ayzen, if you, god forbid, find yourself in Tenley; or the sweet potato fries at Wonderland Ballroom, which I just tried for the first time my 2nd-to-last week in town when some very drunk girls shared their leftovers with me. And Chef Geoff’s and Commonwealth both serve near-perfect arugula salads.

But overall—I have never thought DC’s food has very much to recommend it, and it’s almost always pricey, to boot.

On my first night in Brooklyn last week, my boyfriend, my future roommate and I set off in search of a late-dinner bite within a few blocks of our house-to-be, and stumbled across a newly-opened place on the corner of Graham Avenue and Meeker called Grandma Rose’s. It smelled good, but didn’t sell alcohol, and after moving all day, we were in the mood for a drink. We turned to leave, and the guy behind the counter said, “Hey, I mean, if it’s beer you want, I’ve got a few in the basement of my own; I can get you a beer.” So we stayed. He led us out into a huge back garden area, where we were the only ones there, and brought us corona and bud light in paper pepsi cups from his private basement stash. We ordered $6 sandwiches—eggplant pamesan, meatball, chicken & broccoli rabe—that arrived about half-an-arm’s length in size and were absolutely delicious. The chef—a charming fat, bald man (“That’s the kind of man I want making me a sandwich,” my boyfriend said) who is the owner (and apparently a former Bear Stearns stock broker) sat down and chatted with us about how everything was cooked, and asked if we had any recommendations, and when I told him it was my first night in town, he brought me free gelato. Cheap, delicious, friendly and rule-bending—had I designed it, I could not have schemed a more perfect first-night antithesis to all that is DC food culture.

[Please do not fear: food is one of the few arenas in which I am really not impressed with DC, and in which I am quite impressed with Brooklyn. But I promise I will not turn into one of those horrible people who move to New York and start immediately saying how much better everything is there. Cross my heart.]

Written by ENB

August 6, 2009 at 11:48 am

Posted in City-Dwelling, Culture, Food

Tagged with , , ,

Homeless Drifter

leave a comment »

That’s me.

I left Washington, DC, last Thursday; dropped my life’s possessions off at my boyfriend’s place in New York; headed upstate for a friend’s graduation party; returned to the city; flew to Ohio with a 6 hour layover in Baltimore; am currently at my little sister’s place in Columbus, Ohio; and head back Cincinnati, Ohio, tonight. I’ll spend a month living with my parents before returning to New York (Brooklyn to be precise, Greenpoint to be more precise) for good in September.

I want to write a grand, Joan Didion-esque reflection of my time in DC, about The Meaning of It, and all that, but I’m already losing the shape of things there. Is DC so forgettable? I guess I’ll see. Maybe it’s just been all the movement. It’s hard to be reflective and highly-mobile at the same time.

Written by ENB

August 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Dedicated to 2009

with 4 comments

dscn0157Well, hello blogosphere! I have been having a mighty fine time without you these past two weeks. I spent long, lingering mornings over the breakfast table with my mommy and daddy. I played many games of Parcheesi with the descendants of my mother’s sisters. I visited nearly every bar in Reading, Ohio, with a ragtag assortment of relatives, high-school friends, lesbians, thugs and cowboys. I was not, this year, kicked out of the strip club behind the public library for daring to enter with an out-of-state I.D. I stayed up too late in Columbus, learning about college friends’ sex lives and job aspirations and Christmas gifts while stomping the old grounds and such. I returned to DC for one night of Old Bay and Ravenry. I spent a regrettable amount of time on buses. I rung in the new year with my oldest friend (we met circa ‘Floppy Was a Bunny,’ courtesy of The Studio’s pre-K ballet program, somewhere between left and right hop) and a gaggle of other transplanted Cincinnatians and Floridians amidst the warehouses and Polish corner stores of Greenpoint. I donned Dan-Deacon-glasses and moonboots to co-co-co-star in what has to be the best New Year’s Day lip dub ever made by twenty sauerkraut-, pineapple-champagne- and black-eyed-pea-bellied 20-somethings this side of East River. I met a gutter punk turned Party Monster named Ross, who trash-dived a drum and carried it the whole 10 or so blocks to the show space called something that sounds like Princess Sparkle Pony, wherein Austrian men in bearded bunnycat costumes played Theremins, to my dismay. I slept in late. I paid for coffee with change. I did not know all the words to ‘Graceland’ around the campfire. I left my phone charger and my heart in Brooklyn (well, the parts of it not already left in Reading, Columbus, etc.) and, sans telecommunication, resolved last night to stop being so practical in 2009, to be full of youth and potential again, and to most definitely possibly quit smoking in February.

So. That’s where I’ve been.

For auld lang sign, my dears. And for times to come.

Written by ENB

January 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Posted in My Life, Story-Telling

Tagged with , , ,

L.E.S. Quotes

with one comment

And then you got the kids that, it’s like they’re in Rent but they have credit cards. So they don’t have to say, “Ooh, light my candle.” They’ll go to Restoration Hardware and buy a fucking lamp.”—Novelist Richard Price in NYMag on the inhabitants of the Lower East Side

Written by ENB

October 2, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Posted in My Life, Travel

Tagged with

DC v. NY

with 6 comments

Rooftop DJIt was around midnight Saturday in the (somewhat infamous and somewhat despised) McKibben Lofts in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and I was with a small group gathered in the living room of unit 1G. Downstairs, in the loading-dock-come-bedroom-and-stage-area, a Japanese opera-singing party was in full swing (hosted by G roommate Mariko, a costume designer who’s also some sort of spokeswoman for American Idol in Japan), but upstairs it was just a handful of roommates and neighbors, slightly tired and slightly bored. There was talk of a party on the third floor of the neighboring warehouse/loft, but no one seemed too enthused. Someone popped on Anchorman. Someone took a shower.

I went upstairs to the roof to get some fresh air and muse on the situation. My friend that lives in McKibben likes to tease me about DC’s lack of “youth culture,” and taunt me with tales of Brooklyn’s manic possibility, its energy and depravity. I was feeling a little smug. Sure, last night’s Knyfe Hyts/NinjaSonik/Team Robespierre show at the Death by Audio show space in Williamsburg had both lived up to hipster stereotypes and been one of the best shows I’d seen in a long time (who knew live music was so much better when everyone is filthy, sweaty and drinking from 40s and keg beer in a graffiti-covered un-air-conditioned basement shithole with a toilet to rival the one in Trainspotting and people who are either too fat or too skinny taking off their shirts?—to say nothing of the amazing, frantic energy of the bands), but look at tonight. Everyone was tired from being at Coney Island all day, and now they were just taking it easy, casually drinking, not doing much of anything. Whatever, McKibs, whatever Brooklyn, I was thinking. You’re not so different than DC.

And then a massive DJ-party broke out on the roof.

Bushwick’s finest, under the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ENB

July 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm