Tag: Culture

Baltimore Just Got Smaller

It’s alt-weekly, The Baltimore City Paper, will be closed down by the end of the year:

The Baltimore Sun Media Group plans to close City Paper later this year. No official end date has been announced for the alt-weekly, now in its 40th year.

“Like many alternative weeklies across the country, declining ad revenue at City Paper continues to be a challenge,” BSMG’s director of marketing, Renee Mutchnik, said in a statement. “It became clear to us this past fall that we would cease publishing City Paper sometime in 2017. Details about the closing date are still being discussed. This is a difficult decision and we are mindful of how it affects our employees, the readers and advertisers.”

Editorial staffers found out about the news in June during a meeting with senior vice president Tim Thomas, who cited declining ad revenues and future projections for those numbers as reasons for the closure.

City Paper editor Brandon Soderberg offered the following: “This is Brandon Soderberg, City Paper editor reporting live from the deck of the Titanic. Yes, we’re being closed by BSMG/Tronc/and so on. We were told this news last month and there isn’t a clear date but what we’ve been told is no later than the end of the year. We were trying to hold off announcing it because, well, it’s very sad, but also because I’m not sure about how this is all going to play out and I’m half-convinced this won’t be the end of the paper and someone will swoop in and buy us.”

The Sun bought the paper from Times-Shamrock Communications, which had owned the paper for more than two dozen years, in early 2014. In an announcement of the purchase, BSMG’s then-publisher, president, and CEO Tim Ryan praised City Paper’s independent streak. 

(emphasis mine)

That last bit, about The Sun is the most important bit: The fate of the City Paper was sealed when The Sun bought it.

As A. J. Liebling noted in his seminal book The Press, the only way to make money by buying a newspaper is to be a competitor in the market, and the profit comes from shutting it down, which allows the survivor to increase its own advertising revenue.

Even if only 10% of the ads in The City Paper go to The Sun, they will get a non trivial amount of revenue from this.

I think that Baltimore is too large and too dynamic not to have an alt-weekly.

I’m considering starting a crowd funding effort to buy them from the Tribune Company.

Any advice/aid would be appreciated.

You’re an Imbecile

There are not a whole bunch of discussions where I think that the only response is to immediately dismiss its proponents as stupid and engage in no further dialog.

It’s not that my don’t quickly judge others’ intelligence, it’s that generally I like to argue.

But sometimes, something is so f%$#ing stupid that I just wash my hands.

Pretty much any argument that includes the phrase, “Cultural appropriation,” and not only do I stop listening, and simply go all Drax the Destroyer and walk away.

And now the forces of evil have captured Canada, and there is an international effort to criminalize “Cultural Appropriation” which originates from the Great White North:

Indigenous advocates from around the world are calling on a UN committee to ban the appropriation of Indigenous cultures — and to do it quickly.

Delegates from 189 countries, including Canada, are in Geneva this week as part of a specialized international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency.

Since it began in 2001, the committee has been working on creating and finishing three pieces of international law that would expand intellectual-property regulations to protect things like Indigenous designs, dances, words and traditional medicines.

The meeting takes place as concern grows worldwide about the rights of cultures to control their own materials. In the U.S. this week, designer Tory Burch agreed to change the description of one of her coats for women after Romanians protested that it had been described as African-inspired when it actually appropriated a traditional Romanian garment.

The only cultures that do not incorporate the characteristics of of other cultures over time are dead cultures.

What’s more, this whole thing runs counter to the very concept of a cultural commons, which is essential for a living society.  (Of course, it is coming from WIPO, which makes the US Patent Court look like Karl Marx.)

I would also add that the cultures in question are in no way harmed by this.  They still have their, “Designs, dances, words and traditional medicines,” even if, for example, Richard Simmons decides to do an aerobics video using the traditional dances of the Masai.

My apologies for the image of a Richard Simmons doing an aerobics video using the traditional dances of the Masai.

It isn’t pretty, but it needed to be said.

H/t Angry Bear, who is just as disgusted as I am.

You Heard about What Happened in Portland?

I’m not referring to the white supremacist terrorism, I am referring to the giant hissy fit over burritos.

A couple of chefs went down to Mexico to review and recreate their cuisine, and once they did, the Social Justice Warriors immediately started screaming “Cultural Appropriation” and said chefs closed down their food stand.

This is complete crap.

Restaurants steal from each other, both within and across cuisines, and have from time immemorial, and to suggest that there is something wrong with that is to infantilize the surveyors Mexican cuisine:

My thoughts on cultural appropriation of food changed forever in the research for my 2012 book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. One of my personal highlights was discovering the restaurant that Glenn Bell of Taco Bell infamy had cited in his autobiography as being the source of “inspiration” for him deciding to get into the taco business. How did he get inspired? He’d eat tacos the restaurant every night, then go across the street to his hot dog stand to try and recreate them.

Bell freely admitted to the story, but never revealed the name of the restaurant. I did: Mitla Cafe in San Bernardino, which is the oldest continuously operating Mexican restaurant in the Inland Empire. I was excited to interview the owner, Irene Montaño, who confirmed Bell’s story. I was upset for the Montaños, and when I asked Montaño how she felt that Bell had ripped off her family’s recipes to create a multibillion-dollar empire, I expected bitterness, anger, maybe even plans for a lawsuit in an attempt to get at least some of the billions of dollars that Taco Bell has earned over the past 50-plus years.

Instead, Montaño responded with grace: “Good for him!” She pointed out that Mitla had never suffered a drop in business because of Taco Bell, that her restaurant had been in business longer than his, and “our tacos were better.”

It’s an anecdote I always keep in mind whenever stories of cultural appropriation of food by white people get the Left riled up and rock the food world. The latest skirmish is going on in Portland, where two white girls decided to open up what the estimable Willamette Week called “a concept that fits twee Portland”: a breakfast burrito pop-up located within a hipster taco cart. The grand sin the gabachos committed, according to the haters, was the admission that they quizzed women in Baja California about how to make the perfect flour tortilla.

For their enthusiasm, the women have received all sorts of shade and have closed down their pop-up. To which I say: laughable. The gabachas knew exactly what they were doing, so didn’t they stand by it? Real gumption there, pendejas.

But also laughable is the idea that white people aren’t supposed to—pick your word—rip off or appropriate or get “inspired” by Mexican food, that comida mexicana is a sacrosanct tradition only Mexicans and the white girls we marry can participate in. That cultural appropriation is a one-way street where the evil gabacho steals from the poor, pathetic Mexicans yet again. 


What these culture warriors who proclaim to defend Mexicans don’t realize is that we’re talking about the food industry, one of the most rapacious businesses ever created. It’s the human condition at its most Darwinian, where EVERYONE rips EVERYONE off. The only limit to an entrepreneur’s chicanery isn’t resources, race, or class status, but how fast can you rip someone off, how smart you can be to spot trends years before anyone else, and how much money you can make before you have to rip off another idea again.

When Oberlin (where else?) students accused food services of cultural appropriation for serving allegedly crappy sushi, the REAL issue was not cultural appropriation, it was bad food.

When a friend was saying that dreadlocks were cultural appropriation, because white people could wear them, and black people were told that it was unprofessional, I said, “That’s not cultural appropriation, that’s racism.”

The only cultures that don’t appropriate from others are dead ones.

Cultural borrowing is a fact of life, and it more prevalent in cuisine than almost anywhere else.

I don’t like crappy mass-market bagels, a food of my people, but my problem is not cultural appropriation, it’s that the mass market bagels are complete sh%$.

If you are ranting about cultural appropriation, you are an imbecile.

If you are ranting about how outsiders have gotten a cherished aspect of your culture wrong, you are just like the rest of us.

Quote of the Day

In various times and regions, Jews have belonged to conservative parties like the UK tories or French Gaullist parties, for instance. But they are virtually absent from rightist politics. The reason is clear enough. Anti-semitism is almost inevitably and almost always part of rightist political movements. It is a natural feature. This is not always explicitly so. It is not always that way at first, but eventually it is always there.

Josh Marshall

The right hearkens back to, and attempts to resurrect, a past that never existed, and this past is largely Judenrein.

Jews, and most other minorities, do not exist as human beings with agency in this idealized vision of the past. 

They are either absent, or meek stereotypes.

In Some Ways, India Is Very Much Like the Us

It appears that in response to advance notice of speeches by Indian PM Narendra Modi bars are scrambling to come up with drinking games:

India’s teetotaler Prime Minister Narendra Modi almost fueled a booze binge on New Year’s eve in the nation’s cities.

As his scheduled speech drew nearer, pubs announced Modi-themed drinking games while Indians sought solace through social media humor. The last time Modi had addressed the nation, on Nov. 8, it had ended with him canceling 86 percent of currency in circulation and unleashing chaos in a country where almost all consumer payments are made in cash.

Modi had likened the move to a bitter medicine to help cure tax evasion and graft. Many saw it differently.

“Come get a drink on us,” pub chain Social, which has 15 outlets across the nation, announced on Facebook. “If we’re going down, we’re going down together.”


Social offered a pint of beer or an alcohol shot for 31 rupees ($0.5) each time Modi uttered “mitron,” which means friends in Hindi. That compares with 85 rupees for a pint of Kingfisher beer it normally charges customers. Mobile wallet company Mobikwik — backed by Sequoia Capital — promised lucky users a 100 percent cashback.

I think that Donald Trump, another teetotaler, will be a similar inspiration for bars in the United States.

On the other hand the recent ruling by India’s Supreme Court banning overtures to religion and caste by political candidates is something unimaginable in the us.

Hell, such a ruling would effectively outlaw the Republican Party:

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that politicians cannot seek votes on the grounds of caste, creed or religion.

The landmark judgment came while the court revisited earlier judgments, including one from 1995 that equated Hindutva with Hinduism and called it a “way of life” and said a candidate was not necessarily violating the law if votes were sought on this plank.

Several petitions filed over the years have challenged the consequences of that verdict. “It is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech makes it automatically a speech based on Hindu religion as opposed to other religions … (Hindutva and Hinduism) are used in a speech to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian cultural ethos,” the 1995 judgment authored by Justice J.S. Verma had said.

In its decision on Monday, a seven-judge constitution bench of the court ruled that the relationship between man and God is an ‘individual choice’ and the state cannot interfere in it, Economic Times reported. It added that an election is a secular exercise, and that should be reflected in the process that is followed.

Four judges of the seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur (who retires on Tuesday) ruled that “the constitution forbids state from mixing religion with politics”, Livemint reported. While Thakur and justices Madan B. Lokur, S.A. Bobde, and L. Nageswara Rao formed the majority and hence gave the ruling, the other three judges – Adarsh Kumar Goel, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud – dissented and said that the matter must be left to parliament.

I have mixed emotions on this one, I tend to be absolutist on free speech issues, but the fact that this kneecaps the Indian Fascist party (BJP) is a positive outcome.