In this week's magazine, the long-shanked Adam Platt takes his appetite to Irving Mill, a new haute barnyard venue that seems to take more than a few pages from Danny Meyer’s book. Platt doesn’t outright dismiss the place for lack of originality, but he’s keenly aware of the joint’s “carefully calculated” vibe, with a menu that’s “worthy and competent without being particularly daring or new.” In the end, he single-stars the Mill, noting that the “stolid cooking and the warm and cozy atmosphere” make up for the uninspired menu.
Not a glowing review, but not a total rip, either. You might think only the most feverish members of the Greenmarket cult would find any real offense in Platt’s assessment — that is, until you check out the lively comments section, where something becomes very clear: The flacks hath been offended! To wit, a sampler of telltale phrases:
A very strange thing happened today. Things started out quite normally: We got our coffee, read our headlines, wrote some stuff, tackled the in-box — and then we got to Andrea Strong's The Strong Buzz, a cheerful foodie e-mail filled with her musings about the usual food-blog fodder. But something was very wrong. Her latest newsletter was — and this is quite rare — angry. About swag, of all things:
This afternoon I received a box from UPS so large I thought it might contain one of those mini refrigerators I used in my college dorm room. It was so massive a box and so heavy that I had to get my brother to bring it upstairs for me. I had no idea what it was since I had not ordered a small refrigerator, or a compact car. Inside I discovered a ridiculous number of those Styrofoam “Esses,” (which stuck to me with static fervor) that concealed a large green wooden treasure chest (locked). When I figured out how to open it (the key was also secreted) I found that this massive blue wood box the size of a mini-fridge contained one bottle of tequila. I screamed. One bottle of tequila and all this waste? And that’s when I sat down to write.
Like most journalists, we are fairly regularly inundated with PR materials for various products, services, and, especially, books. Like most journalists, we give these things a quick once-over, realize they have nothing to do with anything we ever write about, and promptly toss all the packing, and all of the press releases, and all of the accompanying background material, and the sturdy folder all that paper came in, into the trash — or, if we're feeling responsible and industrious, into the recycling. Sometimes we hang on to the product itself, often we toss it on a free-stuff table, and occasionally we throw it out, too. Which we were about to do yesterday with a set of books that arrived unbidden and irrelevantly on our desk — until we noticed the titles: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Composting, Water, and Energy. At which point we laughed a little bit, and then we threw them out.
Let's say you're a faceless capitalist entity that's put in a bid for an enormous, subsidized apartment complex. The bid is kind of accepted, then it's rejected. The press rakes you over the coals, the locals are wary, politicians literally race each other to the site to dispense "not on my watch" sound bites, and you mull over suing your own broker. You're done, right? Not if you're David Bistricer of Clipper Equity. If you're Bistricer, you then:
1. Promise the residents "ironclad proof" that their apartments will stay subsidized. (Instead of redeveloping the towers, Clipper now simply wants to build more.)
2. Hire two lobbyists: one at home, with Spitzer connections, and one in D.C., whose brother used to be Bush's chief of staff. Have the latter set up a meeting between you and the federal Housing secretary who had rejected your application.
3. Personally meet with the federal Housing secretary.
4. Do so while flanked by two influential black ministers.
5. Make sure one of the two influential black ministers is a fraternity brother of the secretary.
If nothing else, watching Bistricer 2.0 at work is a master class in PR. To be continued, we're sure.
Aspiring Buyer of Starrett City Is Back Onstage [NYT]
Earlier: Daily Intel's coverage of the Starrett City sale.
Amazon sales rankings are a great democratizing tool so it was a terrible idea to hand it to writers, a shrewd and narcissistic bunch. Behold the shenanigans, enumerated in today's Wall Street Journal:
1. Pony up $15,000 to Ruder Finn, a PR firm that then pays "big names" (like the Chicken Soup For the Soul guy) to blurb you in an e-mail blast to their all-obedient fans. Voila: demi-glace for the narcissist's soul.
2. Directly solicit your readers, fledgling-band-on-MySpace style, to flood the zone and drive you to victory. Isn't that what Nabokov did when Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago overtook Lolita in best-seller lists?
3. Lose all professional shame. The rankings include used-book sales, so price those babies at a penny and buy a hundred yourself. Presto, you’re outcharting James Frey while enjoying at least as clean a conscience.
As a result of this kind of behavior, of course, the ratings are so volatile (some books rise and fall 75 percent daily) as to make the entire exercise meaningless. But you do get to print out the day's chart, with your name on it, and hang it in your office.
A Few Sales Tricks Can Launch a Book To Top of Online Lists [WSJ]