News and Blog
In today's excerpt - the homogenization of America, the phenomenon that works to turn suburbs and medium-sized cities (large cities are not immune) into placeless places, and comes currently, at least in part, from "new age chains."
"Main Street in our minds - the ideal that many of us grew up with or got from postcards, black-and-white movies, and trips to Disneyland - starts with a brick church at one end of town and a granite bank at the other end. In between, there is a string of two- and three-story buildings, each looking a little different from the other and selling something a little different. All the shops have window displays and half-opened doors. They sell hometown newspapers and Life, penny candy and fresh-cut meat, clothes for Easter and the new school year, and chocolate shakes and Cherry Cokes paired with thin burgers and shoestring fries. The owners know their customers' names, sizes, and fashion sensibilities. In the middle of all of this is a quirky Woolworth's or a J. J. Newberry's - that's it for national stores.
"Sure, there is a heavy dose of nostalgia in these memories, but the downtowns of the past were different from today's upper-end downtowns. From Madison, Wisconsin, to Charleston, South Carolina, to Pasadena, California, you've got chains - not, in these places, McDonald's or Burger King, but 'new age chains,' as the Canadian activist-writer Naomi Klein calls them, like Starbucks, the Body Shop, and Qdoba Mexican Grill - outlets with small yet still distinctive signs, that use natural-looking products and color designs, and talk about community and corporate social responsibility. Along branded Main Streets from Maine to California, Einstein Bros. Bagels stands next to a Barnes & Noble next to a Banana Republic next to a Ben & Jerry's next to a Chili's next to a Starbucks.
"In the next town, there is a Gap (which owns Banana Republic), Cosi, Borders, the Body Shop, and Starbucks. Out on the highway, Applebee's saddles up next to Borders next to the mall with a Gap, Foot Locker, Children's Place, Sunglass Hut, and Build-a-Bear. Inside as well as in the parking lot, there is a Starbucks. Across the highway in another sea of parking spaces are The Home Depot, Petco, and Target with a Starbucks kiosk inside. The next town over has the same strip. It is not like there is one Main Street and then another anymore, or one commercial strip and then another. It is more like there is one single, low-slung, set-back Main Street of branded stores in America, and it gets repeated over and over again like a film trailer in a loop.
"There is a tipping point here, however. Too much sameness alarms, rather than reassures, many bobos (borgeois bohemians, a term coined by David Brooks to describe those who heirs to the yuppies want to be safely different and to be viewed as socially conscious) and creative class types; it cuts into their sense of individuality. '[C]hain stores,' Houston's Thomas L. Robinson lamented, 'have homogenized the landscape so that there are few remaining external clues [to] where you are.' Like others anxious about the most recent spread of 'generica,' Robinson blames Starbucks. This isn't entirely fair. Starbucks isn't the only chain out there, and the predictability it sells wouldn't work if people didn't want it. But Starbucks has grown so rapidly and spread so far, so fast, that is has replaced McDonald's and as the symbol for many of the newest and most troubling wave of homogenization."
Everything but the Coffee, Learning about America from Starbucks by Bryant Simon; University of California Press, 2009
Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.
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Marjorie Corbett, sign maker and painter, asked me to photograph the sign she painted from a photo I took of Ugh, sheep extraordinaire, and to email it to her so that she could reproduce the image on a banner for the stand I want.
After learning that eating sainfoin, but not fescue, was followed by a stomachache, the lambs knew to pick cocksfoot over alfalfa when given the choice in the future. Have no idea what this means? In non-lamb terms, if a pasture legume caused indigestion (thanks to lithium chloride added by the researchers) but a grass found in pastures did not, the lambs, when facing a later choice between a different legume and a different grass, opted for the grass over the legume. In other words, the lambs demonstrated an ability to form a generalization about the relative digestibility of families of plants. (Lest sheep let these findings go to their heads, note that recent research found that some plants communicate with each other to raise defenses against herbivores.*)
Think You’re Smarter Than Animals? Maybe Not Alexandra Horowitz and Ammon Shea, NYT August 20, 2011
*What self-respecting lettuce wants to end up splayed on a plate in a vegetarian restaurant being devoured by a talkative but well-intentioned herbivore.
A pregnant servant maid is momentarily featured and compared to an allegorical figure in a Giotto picture, just as Mme. de Guermantes appeared in a church tapestry. It is noteworthy that throughout the whole work either the narrator or Swann often sees the physical appearance of this or that character in terms of paintings by famous old masters, many of them of the Florentine School. There is one main reason behind this method, and a secondary reason.
The main reason is of course that for Proust art was the essential reality of life. The other reason is of a more private kind: in describing young men he disguised his keen appreciation of male beauty under the masks of recognizable paintings; and in describing young females he disguised under the same masks of paintings his sexual indifference to women and his inability to describe their charm.
Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov 1980
Denim is unique in it's singular connection with one colour. The warp yarn (that running the length of the fabric) is traditionally dyed with the blue pigment obtained from indigo dye. Until the introduction of synthetic dyes, at the end of the 19th century, indigo was the most significant natural dye known to mankind, linked with practical fabrics and work clothing. The durability of indigo as a colour and it's darkness of tone made it a good choice, when frequent washing was not possible. In 1870 BASF in Germany, originally suppliers of natural indigo had started the search for a synthetic substitute, in 1894 the process was perfected.
Birgit Lohmann Designboom, 2000
From Proust Reader by Jim Everett, August 14, 2011
But perhaps to hear music this intensely requires an altered state of mind. Swann’s barren life had eroded his ability to feel deeply. The little phrase changed that and Proust created some of his most startling metaphors to describe Swann’s new musical faculty.
There was a deep repose, a mysterious refreshment for Swann–whose eyes, although delicate interpreters of painting, whose mind, although an acute observer of manners, must bear for ever the indelible imprint of the barrenness of his life–in feeling himself transformed into a creature estranged from humanity, blinded, deprived of his logical faculty, almost a fantastic unicorn, a chimeaera-like creature conscious of the world through his hearing alone. And since he sought in the little phrase for a meaning to which his intelligence could not descend, with what a strange frenzy of intoxication did he strip bare his innermost soul of the whole armour of reason and make it pass unattended through the dark filter of sound! (I, 336-337)
As though the musicians were not nearly so much playing the little phrase as performing the rites on which it insisted before it would consent to appear, and proceeding to utter the incantations necessary to procure, and to prolong for a few moments, the miracle of its apparition, Swann, who was no more able to see it than if it had belonged to a world of ultra-violet light, and who experienced something like the refreshing sense of a metamorphosis in the momentary blindness with which he was struck as he approached it, Swann felt its presence like that of a protective goddess, a confidante of his love, who, in order to be able to come to him through the crowd and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised herself in this sweeping cloak of sound. And as she passed, light, soothing, murmurous as the perfume of a flower, telling him what she had to say, every word of which he closely scanned, regretful to see them fly away so fast, he made involuntarily with his lips the motion of kissing, as it went by him, the harmonious, fleeting form. (I, 494)
Swann's Way Volume I; In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, translated by Moncrieff and Kilmartin, revised by Enright. The Modern Library Edition.
They make me make up names for them and they make me make up songs to sing them—isn't that what a muse does.
This week we're adding the garlic we grow on the farm to a recipe called, naturally enough, Fresh Garlic Lamb Sausage; the seasonings will be our garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika (Hungarian smoked), fresh chives and red wine in a sheep casing.
Then next week we're doing a sausage that is quite unusual, a Lamb-Bacon Lamb Sausage with our lamb & our lamb bacon (ground) plus these seasonings: black & red pepper, savory, marjoram and again garlic grown on the farm in a sheep casing.
And we sample Lamb Sausages, sizzling hot from the BBQ grill, at the Union Square Greenmarket almost every Saturday from 9 AM to 11 AM.
The government thinks if major supermarkets open stores in blighted areas and stock affordable healthy food options (that American's will eat more healthily). But not everyone shares...(this) optimism; in fact, some critics say opening new stores and markets in so-called food deserts will have little or no impact on how people eat.
... Many Americans have little experience eating or preparing broccoli, asparagus, and other produce; in fact, only 26 percent of the nation’s adults now eat three servings of vegetables a day. The poor, in particular, have become so accustomed to salty packaged foods and sugary beverages that they find fresh food bland, strange, and off-putting. “It’s simplistic thinking that if you put fruits and vegetables there, they’ll buy it,” said Barry Popkin, author of the UNC study. “You have to encourage it, you need advertising, you need support.” Changing Americans’ diets, in other words, won’t be as simple as telling them to eat their peas.
“You have to encourage it...", marketing becomes education.