Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reviewing the Reviewer

I was happy to read the opinion of the Local's newest columnist, Len Lear, on the Valley Swim Club Incident. Happy because, up 'til now, I had held my tongue about his work, out of pity. Len has been kicking around the lower levels of Philly journalism since I was a kid, and once came within hailing distance of what might have been called "promise." But that was some years ago. That past , and his innocuous position on the Local, lead me away from some pretty obvious observations.

Another reason is more delicate.

But since Len has now written what is probably the most overt expression of Racial Insensitivity I have ever read in the Local, I get to open him up a little.

Here is where the betting line is set on whether any Hiller contradicts Lens' "Walk a Mile in my shoes, Colored People" tale of the discrimination he has personally observed and experienced.
The morning line is 8 to 5 against. In the Hill tradition, which Len violated, I'll guess complete silence on the subject.

I let Len alone. He has his own little office. He writes what are supposed to be restaurant reviews for a neighborhood newspaper. When I read restaurant reviews in a neighborhood newspaper in which I am (was) a resident, I have two reasonable expectations. One, that the review, being in a newspaper whose readership outside the neighborhood was minimal, would attempt to review restaurants within that neighborhood. And two, that the reviews would try to describe the food being served in that restaurant.

But Len, perhaps hewing to the Hill tradition of thinking that its (his) influence is somewhat larger than it actually is, left the sampling and critique of Hill establishments to some other, imaginary paper. In the last twenty-three Local issues, one Hill restaurant has been reviewed.
Another unorthodox feature of Lens' reviews is the amount of words he actually devotes to the description of the food itself. He typically uses his inches to back story the life and struggles of the owner, usually getting to the food around paragraph twelve, calling the dish delicious, and then finishing off these distracting details in two or three paragraphs. Check the archives. I did. Lens' percentage of column space devoted to the description of the dishes sampled tops out at sixteen percent. The words most often used to describe the food are "delicious" and "tasty."
I always thought I knew why, and Lens latest work convinced me.

Len assumes his writing ability is above the Roget-hunting-for-flavor descriptions that he never seemed to tackle. His talent was in those compelling backstories that we all cared about so much more than finding out if someone served food we wanted to eat.

Lately, Len has jumped into the recession-news-you-can-use- business, taking special care to describe price busting offers at the establishments he writes about. The key point of going to a restaurant for the food, rather than the cost, or the compelling story of its owners has apparently been lost in his haze of two for one specials.

A few weeks ago, he reviewed Applebee's. I can't really add anything to that statement. Yes, I can. Anyone who reviews Applebee's for any reason other than as a case in point for the decline of Western Civilization should have his W-2 changed from food critic to Teenage Hillbilly Asshole.

That he described the food as "Yummy" and the unlimited salad and breadsticks as "quite tasty" makes me want to purge RIGHT NOW.

But now we see Len's ambition. Social Critic and advice giver. To Parents. Black Parents. Take your children to Libraries, museums, and lectures. Because, I guess, Len thinks that they don't do that already. Because Len, as a White Man who has never had children, feels comfortable in telling a Black Parent how to raise children. And that his experience in observing discrimination in 1963 is enough to counter a lifetime as a Black person in America.

It's the Sociological version of telling us that Applebees is "Yummy."

Len might have an issue with self identification, and that's understandable. For if ever he looked in the mirror long enough to know that his color precludes his understanding of this situation in the most profound way, he might notice that the thing on the top of his head resembles no human physical attribute, and that it is a symbol of denial as equally profound as his ignorance on the subject he has addressed.

So my advice to you Len, is to get rid of the bad wig, and devote yourself to writing about local restaurants and figure out how to work the food onto the articles before the twelfth paragraph. As for your taste, I can't help, so here's a tip - Review the Chestnut Hill Grill - It's so close to Applebees, you'll feel right at home. As for the baldness - Get over it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ho, ho! Here's a guy who went for the cheap shot on Buzz Bissinger "wishing for Rich Snowden's death" a couple of blogs ago, WITHOUT TELLING US WHAT BISSINGER SAID AT ALL! Just went for the sensational line, completely out of context! And then came back in ANOTHER blog -- because he can't stand being out of print, no matter how little he has to say -- to finally clue us that Bissinger's whole rap at the Bookfair was characteristically jocular. (But he STILL didn't quote Buzz much, just brown-nosed him and tried to enlist his aid in publishing a book on Snowden!)
And then he criticizes Len Lear for pointing out some inconsistencies in the motives of the Creative Steps leadership, in bringing several lawsuits against the Huntington Valley Swim Club, in the racial media storm surrounding reports of discrimination against Creative Steps kids? Without addressing Lear's criticisms at all?
He should crack on Lear's journalism accomplishments? And his appearance?
Looked in the mirror lately, Big Guy? Better you should take a bath and work harder on your own stuff.

Wed Jul 29, 01:55:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. Plus, he's got it in for old guys like Sullivan, Jews like Lear and Greg Welsh (whom only other Jews like him can "understand" (!), and non-heteros like Snowden. Never a word about the people on his own side of the line -- Mazzaccaro, or the Pizzanos, or the Spaeths, who've prevented him from writing for the Local, or being a member of CHRA (if it ever pulls its act together.)
Another thing: why were Ed's pieces in the Local always more carefully written, better-reasoned, and less spiteful and cynical? He's showing his true nature here.
Len Lear has more character under his fingernails than Feldo has in his whole right arm.

Wed Jul 29, 06:18:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Racism is usually rampant where people are insecure. Why are people in Chestnut Hill defending Lear and therefore insecure? Most people in Chestnut Hill actually HAVE NO MONEY. They are frauds and wannabees,poseurs, the first generation not two steps from the poorhouse or off the boat.

Thu Jul 30, 04:59:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that most Chestnut Hillers have no money, are therefore insecure, and so defend Len Lear. For one thing, Len's not a racist. He's so not a racist that he doesn't feel uncomfortable criticizing blacks if he thinks they've done wrong.

Fri Jul 31, 01:55:00 AM EDT  

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