Monday, April 11, 2005

Gruenwood

Another note on the shopping camp that is Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. What we found most disturbing about the place, so much so that it sort of took the edge off the cheap trousers, was how it ruthlesly reduced the experience to its core of the act of purchasing. The attitude was surely deliberate, one that said that the extras, the act of trying to broaden the experience, was not required given how awesomely cheap the trousers are.

The attitude serves as a kind of compliment to all of the other malls we have encountered in the US, the Somerset Collection and the Houston Galleria in particular. They're hardly temples to culture, but they've adapted to the way America's communities have developed and provide very comfortable and pleasant places to consume. And we're not ones for decrying consumption, what with this being a Rock Pig Blog (not a Thyrin blog, ya hear, Google?).

Visiting Woodbury reminded us of this article in the New Yorker about Victor Gruen, the father of the modern American shopping mall. Gruen was an Austrian immigrant, part of the wave of utopians of the post war years that thought that very ugly structures could cconstitute a force for good in society. Gruen, like many of his peers probably exaggerated the problems of city dwelling, and ignored what their plans did to what was left of the countryside. But we have to say that he meant well, hoping that the centers would bring people together, especially the teenagers who need places to throw Icees over each other.

So most of them still have cinemas, as well as maybe a place to buy a newspaper and hang out. The Somerset Collections, we must stress, is awesome in this regard. Woodbury, on the other hand, has possibly the least well-organised Starbucks ever, no place to buy a paper, and a brutally efficient food-court. In short the shopping experience pared back to its essentials, only spread across a huge area, because land is so cheap. But you couldn't quite see it as a sinister consumerist dystopia when the sun was shining off the mountains.

Anyway, back to getting boiled at NY1, in the form of tech reporter Adam Balkin who was going over a pimped-out Hummer this morning. Balkin's like a sslightly smug science teacher, one who knows about enough about his subject not to look too daft, and too much to be impressed by anything any more. Which is a pity, because some of the stuff he reports on could do with a little more bug-eyed amazement, and Balkin is so concerned with acting like a pro that he blands all of his subjects. Swap him with Roger Clark now.

We'd calmed down a little bit when who should appear but our disgusting hack of an "overlord" Marty "Resign Marty" Markowitz? He has ruined our morning in the service of pimping the excellent Brooklyn Restaurant Week. The urge to parrot Hunter S. Thompson's lines about Hubert Humphrey is overwhelming:

"There is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack [he] is until you've followed him around for a while."

Harsh, overdone, derivative, maybe a tad unnecessary when criticising a Beep who is essentially a tourist officer. Yes, true alll of it, but the man is just an evil, rotten, senseless excuse for a politician who should barely rate the salary of a server at Uncle Louie G. Our intrepid reporter asked Marty whether this idea was essentially a reheating of the Manhattan fixture, not, in our humble opinion, that there's anything wrong with that. Instead of saying "yeah it is, but it's its slightly cheaper, just like everything else here, plus the food's better" like a real trouper, he starts mumbling nonsense like "ey, we're the real center unlike that, er, other "outer borough" Manhattan, hehehe, plus we've got all this diversity, blah blah blah..."

At which point cutesome sashayed in with coffee before we could attack our own eyes with ballpoint pens. The nasty manipulative tinker also set the prix fixe at $19.55 to commemorate some long-forgotten baseball team whose corpse he has robbed in the service of building an NBA stadium over our local. And he held this little charade in the Tuscany Grill in Bay Ridge, the only area that still takes his nonsense, as well as some other nonsense seriously. Most places more prosperous, or less white, tend to treat Marty with the lack of deference and interest this buffoon deserves.

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