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PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!

ON THE COVER

PW: Noisemakers of the year! For New Year’s Eve! Get it? It might sound like I’m making fun, but really, I think this is a pretty clever catch-all for area notables. The music and philosophy of John Cage aside, though, many folks would see “noise” and those who produce it as negative, but this is largely an operation in offering laud and honor. Still, there’s a particular segment of the awardees that seem equally hard both to like and to ignore. Bykofsky, for example.

 

Daily News veteran Stu Bykofsky spent 2010 ruffling feathers and rattling Philadelphia’s frequently obnoxious bicycle enthusiasts by ragging on http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5207/5266577699_7709e4c60e_o.jpgthem and dismissing bike lanes. City Council, the Democratic Party, the police, BRT and PPA have been repeated and “delicious” targets as well. As can be expected, Byko gets the usual—often ageist—browbeating in the comment gallery (it is after all, Philly.com, once described by Byko as “where cowards, haters and the deranged can leave anonymous droppings.”) Yet he presses on, even seven years after he publicly stated he was tired of writing his column because he had to “deal with too many assholes.” Seems every year, more doo-doo hits the fan: Most recently, Bykofsky was nominated by Philebrity.com to be “cast out like a demon,” alongside corrupt megalomaniac-sexual harasser Carl Greene and the toad that played tonsil hockey with Christine O’Donnell. Does Byko give a shit? Of course not: “I am semi-humbled to be nominated for an award I have never heard of and I have no chance of winning because my current (award-winning) column is neither as vacuous nor popular as my previous gossip column.” May he piss off more people—and generate more conversation—in 2011.

Elsewhere, there’s the standard mix of surprising facts — there’s an American Dog magazine? — and puzzling omissions — our “Daddy Warbucks,” Gerry Lenfest, also funded the new building for the Curtis Institute of Music. I know I’m sure to pay more attention to Councilman Bill Green in the new year: “brash and blunt and you never know when he’s going to take a swipe at someone.” Sounds like my kind of guy!

CP: The Book Quarterly, for everything that’s bound between two covers. The main story, on cookbooks and the adventure of trying out new recipes, sets out to explain, at least in part, one of the titles of the books it covers: What to Cook and How to Cook It. It starts out strong, with an interesting and compelling first sentence, and grows from there.

The first wrecked dessert was probably our fault. It was Nigella Lawson’s grasshopper pie, intended to play the role of a birthday cake, and it wasn’t until after we’d rescued the filling with an extra cup of whipped cream that we discovered the melted-marshmallow base needed http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5168/5267172002_52508f3364_m.jpganother hour to absorb the crème de menthe and coagulate into a gel. The second dessert, the very next day, was a buttermilk chocolate cake — Craig Claiborne’s, from the huge Essential New York Times Cookbook (Norton, Oct. 25) — that just collapsed like the Sixers in the third quarter. Not sure the three sticks of butter in the frosting saved it, but also not sure what we could have done differently.

These are the dangers of a new cookbook, especially at the beginning of a long winter, which this year, in our house, is a season that includes four birthdays, a graduation and a major holiday, each celebrated with a dinner or at least a cake, a couple of drinks or a bottle of wine, a circle of friends and family around a full table. But the benefits outweigh the dangers: A new sharp-cornered cookbook, bound and illustrated, united by a particular voice or a curatorial vision of a particular kind of cooking and eating, isn’t easy to replace with a sheaf of Google-searched recipes or an impulse-buy smart phone app.

Cookbooks also stand up better to sticky crème de menthe stains than iPads.

According to Mark Bittman, there’s a problem with the way Americans cook that’s only tangentially related to melted marshmallow goo and three-stick-of-butter frosting. Fundamentally, it’s that Americans don’t cook. “I was in the press box while the American diet underwent huge changes,” he writes in the introduction to his Food Matters Cookbook (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 21), “few of them for the better. Restaurants were booming and people were cooking less and less, while waistlines — and the health problems that accompany excess weight — were growing exponentially.” His remedy is conscious consumption, understanding what you’re eating; this begins with the way you cook, and the things you cook.

Paying attention to what goes on your plate doesn’t end there; elsewhere, a historian unearths the stories of our Founding Foodies and their impact on American cuisine. Local authors are brought into the fold as well, with Dangers of a Confessional Mind and other works by Rich Hillen and a whole raft of others. There are some complain about receiving books as presents; those people, of course, are cretins. Go forth and edify them — and yourselves, dammit!

INSIDE THE BOOK

PW: The unforgettable fired. 77-year old woman threatens journalist, integrity of democracy. Fuckin’ ICP: How do they work?

CP: Curry-ing favor. All’s Phair in the music industry. Urban farming: Stick a pitchfork in it. If you asked me, “panicked blogging, the obsessive Googling, the manic Tweeting” doesn’t require a free agent signing.

WINNER: Sorry, book-lovers: For giving credit where few thought it would be due — Byko? Michael Vick? — and awarding it so eloquently that it made us believe it was richly deserved, PW takes it this week.

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