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Comments: Week of July 20, 2009

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1. Since the implosion of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, condemnation has rained down hard on both him and his wife, Ruth. However, Sheelah Kolhatkar’s breakdown of Mrs. Madoff’s predicament (Poor Ruth,” July 13) tugged at the heartstrings of more than a few commenters on nymag.com. “Not many of us would have been able to handle what she’s had,” wrote one. “From all accounts she has been a very generous woman, and while what her husband did is horrific and has destroyed many lives, I think that we have to accept that Ruth is his first and last victim.” Another supporter chimed in with “Her husband has deceived her in the worst possible way and now left her humiliated and demoralized to deal with his mess alone in the full glare of the global spotlight.” Some were even strident in their defense of her: “This witch hunt is getting ridiculous. Her life is ruined, what more do you people want?” One commenter went so far as to justify Madoff’s many attempts to squirrel away her assets, arguing that “trying to hold on to as much as she could is only a natural human response.” However, it was this desire to hold on to her ill-gotten gains that also stirred the anti-Ruth crowd. Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com’s Broadsheet took stock of the grievances: “We’ve all heard about how Ruth allegedly made a colossal bank-account withdrawal shortly before Bernie’s planned public confession, conspired with him to ship $1 million worth of their jewelry to relatives for safekeeping, and then fought to retain a none-too-modest portion of her thieving hubby’s plunder. Judging Mrs. Madoff on those terms isn’t sexist, it’s called treating her like a big girl.” Commenters echoed that scolding, noting, “The money that her husband socked away for their common use was money he stole from other people, and that money must be repaid. If Ruth Madoff had a conscience, she might be taking that position herself instead of trying to squirrel away assets from retirees and charities.” Or, more succinctly: “Poor Ruthie my ass!”


2. While the teenage cast of Bravo’s new show NYC Prep aren’t quite as reviled as Ruth Madoff, the subjects of Vanessa Grigoriadis’s story (The NYC Reality Freak Show,” July 13) earned their fair share of opprobrium. The article prompted several New York City high-school students, and recent graduates, to air their own opinions on the show. “I am a recent Brearley graduate, and I know that none of my friends would be caught dead appearing on this show,” wrote one. “In all seriousness, I think the whole thing is just a bit of fun, and however exploitative it may seem, I think (I hope) that all the participants are truly aware of what is going on around them.” One commenter deemed the entire show hyperbole: “I am a boomer, and attended private schools. My Xer daughter is the same. These are not real New Yorkers. They are rich aliens, just like anywhere else. She and her friends think they are a sad joke.” Others claimed to find hints of verisimilitude: “As a former NYC private schooler, I see the glimpses of truth in each of the characters. My friends and I would have never appeared on something like this, but to say that the stories portrayed are completely inaccurate and contrived is misleading.” Another school-age commenter supported that, saying, “When it comes down to it, every private-school kid in NYC is messed up.”

3. Restaurant criticism can be a bruising sport, as we were reminded this week when Josh Ozersky, erstwhile writer of nymag.com’s food blog Grub Street and now the force behind Citysearch’s blog the Feedbag, chose to attack his former colleague, our restaurant critic Adam Platt, for what he deemed to be his overly harsh assessment of the new haute seafood joint Marea (Seafood Imperial,” July 13). Admitting that he is “besties” with the restaurant’s chef, Ozersky unleashed a lengthy treatise on the etiquette of gastro-criticism, among many other things. “Platt is powerfully biased against fine-dining restaurants,” alleged Ozersky in a post entitled “After Reading His Marea Review, It’s Clear: Adam Platt Is Out of His Mind” (yes, there’s an obvious dangler there, but never mind). “If Platt has one theme of themes, it’s that white tablecloths are over, that today’s diner is impatient with ‘frippery’ and haute refinements, and that the whole genre of fine dining is about to pass into history. … Maybe he’s right, but he too often uses this observation as a bludgeon.” After the Feedbag comments section exploded with vitriol directed at Platt, Ozersky realized he’d allied himself with the crazies and issued an apology: “Platt is one of the best critics the city has ever had. He’s also a friend, and I sort of stabbed him in the back by letting loose with that Roy Cohn–like diatribe.” Platt was too busy eating to comment.

4. Speaking of Grub Street … This week, nymag.com’s food blog goes cross-country, adding outposts in the five cities beyond New York where our sister site MenuPages.com has operations—Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia. The Grub Streets will update multiple times daily with the latest local food news and restaurant recommendations. We’re also launching a new national home page, grubstreet.com, which will feature the best stories from each city, plus 500 videos, 683 recipes, and 27,000 menus from MenuPages. Go there now to watch a slideshow of more than 200 of America’s best burgers; discover the five toughest reservations in America; find out what the top five cash-cow dishes in New York are; and get the inside story on Mr. Chow’s epic lawsuit battle against Philippe.

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