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The Wasilla Frontiersman Vs. Times (London):

The Columbia Journalism Review has the story on the battle, which began with this paragraph from a Times story:

It's a small, unkempt-looking place, defined by a series of out-of-town stores, a huge lumber yard, a ramshackle bar named the Mug-Shot Saloon with Harley Davidsons parked outside, and a lake, by the side of which is Palin's house....

The Frontiersman responds:

It's as inaccurate and unfair as it would be for anyone else to define England by a stereotypical lack of dental hygiene.

Ouch. Plus, special bonus: New stereotypes from the Times about Inuits' capacities to prepare coffee.

John McCall (mail):
Wait, that paragraph is clearly descriptive. I mean, it may be a false description, in which case of course the Frontiersman has a fair complaint. But they can't complain about stereotyping unless they're claiming that the Times didn't actually send someone (possibly an affiliate) out to see the town.
9.8.2008 2:30am
John McCall (mail):
A much better simile would be: "...for anyone else to describe London as a polluted cesspit of Jack the Rippers."
9.8.2008 2:48am
iolanthe (mail):
Can you have a new stereotype? If there were frequent media references to the coffee making abilities of Inuit then this would be a stereotype but I can't recall having seen the subject raised before.

On the whole I thought it was a pretty positive article and can't see why anyone would object to it but I have noticed that Americans seem to get quite annoyed when any foreigner expresses a view on the place, be it good or bad.

It goes without saying that you could refer to the lack of dental hygiene of the English (or any other negative stereotype you can think of) and they wouldn't care. Nor I think would many other countries if they were described in unflattering terms.
9.8.2008 2:59am
ofidiofile:
i wouldn't exactly call wasilla "unkempt", but it wouldn't be unfair to refer to a lot of alaskan towns as "ramshackle". like it or not, it is a frontier state.
9.8.2008 3:23am
one of many:
I must admit the article had a surreal flavor, not a bad job if intentioned.
9.8.2008 3:29am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
While I don't drive anything on fewer than four wheels, I'm told that a crowd driving Harley-Davidsons is apt to be rather upscale, often elderly and fancy.
9.8.2008 3:36am
Shane:
I drove through Wasilla just last week. That particular quote from the Times is pretty much accurate - small, unkempt, and the "ramshackle bar named the Mug-Shot Saloon" is in fact the most notable landmark on the main road. Man-made, at least. That lake they mention is pretty too, but mostly hidden behind trees. And yes, most Alaskans do brag to strangers what large mammals they have recently killed. It's a surreal place - I haven't gotten used to it in the year I've been here.

That being said, it doesn't take a 4x4 to get there from Anchorage - there's a highway between the two cities, and it's like a 45 minute drive.

So no, I think the Frontiersman doesn't have much reason to complain - I'd say that the Times didn't treat Wasilla unfairly at all.
9.8.2008 4:07am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
FWIW, a nice photo of the Mug-Shot Saloon is here.
9.8.2008 4:29am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Winter is tough on buildings, longer and colder winters are tougher.
You just can't do stately homes that far north.
9.8.2008 7:33am
Al Maviva (mail):
That doesn't look like a particularly ramshackle saloon to me; it looks like a typical townie or dive bar that one would find in rural and suburban areas in the northern U.S. and Canada.
9.8.2008 8:02am
M (mail):
As it happens a good friend of mine just returned from a vacation in Alaska and visited Wasilla. His description was that it had a lot of strip malls, no particular character, more or less like any small western town, "a bit like Kuna Idaho but a bit dirtier." When you're used to such things there's nothing to notice about it but it's a bit depressing when you're not.
9.8.2008 8:20am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

When you're used to such things there's nothing to notice about it but it's a bit depressing when you're not.


So the reporter was a 'coastie who's never been to flyover country before, and therefore everything that's not like NYT brings out the redneck narrative. That explains his tack, but it doesn't excuse it. And he's not the only one telling that narrative, despite iolanthe's efforts to refute it by absurdly narrowing it down to specifically Inuit coffee-making.
9.8.2008 9:06am
Bill Twist:
Technically, wouldn't it mostly be Yupik coffee making?

Wasilla isn't really in Inupiat (Inuit) territory, which consists of the North Slope, Northwest Arctic, and Bering Strait regions.
9.8.2008 9:16am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Correction: NYC not NYT in the above. Though the other is valid in its own way...
9.8.2008 9:43am
fullerene:
I vaguely remember a story about some guy writing bad things about Wasilla in an Alaska tourism guide or book. The residents would never let him hear the end of it. Given that there aren't many towns in Alaska, Wasilla probably is tired of the constant denigration of its lack of charm. Most towns like it in the U.S. fly under the radar, but Alaska is a big tourism destination.
9.8.2008 9:45am
ejo:
British criticism of an american town. again, that will appeal to the swing voters and get obama elected.
9.8.2008 10:42am
ejo:
maybe, for an encore, MTV should hire a british comedian who looks like amy winehouse on a bad day to tell americans how to vote?
9.8.2008 10:43am
Hoosier:
Al Maviva
That doesn't look like a particularly ramshackle saloon to me; it looks like a typical townie or dive bar that one would find in rural and suburban areas in the northern U.S. and Canada.


You bet it does. Take a ride up Hwy 41 from Chicago to Milwaukee. Hardy BFE. But that place looks like every third building between Waukeegan and Oak Creek.
9.8.2008 11:14am
voter:
What is the contraption above the front door?
9.8.2008 12:01pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Hoosier--
I grew up in Libertyville and now live in Lisle. I agree that building looks like lots of buildings on the drive up to Milwaukee. There are also tons of buildings like that on the drive down to Urbana. (Well... that is tons of buildings if bear in mind that most of the scenery is fields of corn, soy and an occasional farm house.)

I'll be camping in the Kettle Moraine area later this week. I may take photos to show similar buildings!

Quite a few people from the Chicago area visit towns like that on purpose!
9.8.2008 12:12pm
therut:
Oh Please. People who live in cities should just look around. Look how the French Quarter looks in daylight. How about about 2 blocks from the boardwalk in Atlantic City or away from the Capital in D.C. Look at the housing projects in Miami and I could go on and on. Nasty, dirty, crowded, smelly and beggers on your streets. Not to mention NJ.
9.8.2008 12:17pm
egrim (mail):

Nasty, dirty, crowded, smelly and beggars on your streets.


Not to mention, in much of NYC at least, people standing behind folding tables trying to entice passers-by to play some kind of gambling game. (Does not knowing what the game is called or how it is played make me a provincial lout, or not a sucker?)

The presence of bars on the windows and roll-up steel shutters on so many store fronts in Manhattan is also disturbing.

I wonder how iolanthe can miss the sneering tone of the Times piece:


On the whole I thought it was a pretty positive article and can't see why anyone would object to it but I have noticed that Americans seem to get quite annoyed when any foreigner expresses a view on the place, be it good or bad.


Perhaps iolanthe is a sophisticated cosmopolitan and I should defer to his or her judgenent.
9.8.2008 1:01pm
ejo:
manhattan, il has two cut from a similar cloth-no two look alike due to the quality of the craftsmen and when they started drinking that particular day of construction. I have one ten minutes south of me on the way to manteno, il. I could throw in multiple dive bars, even in downtown Chicago, that aren't too much different excepting they aren't made of wood (cactus club, anyone?). a bar is a bar-you'll see the same alcoholics in this one at 11 am that you will see in any bar in america, urban or rural.
9.8.2008 1:02pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Of all the states to which I have been, the one in which I live has the ugliest, most unkempt cities and towns . I can think of only two middle size cities here that would begin to please the eye. Our largest city (Phoenix) and it's surrounding burbs is a nightmare of bad planning and a paean to developers' desires. Wasilla is hardly unique in how it looks, and as was said above it is on the frontier.
9.8.2008 1:07pm
Michael B (mail):
Seems the MSM is redeploying its forces. From the Counterterrorism Blog, Mainstream Media Diverting Terrorism Reporters Into Political Investigations, excerpt:

"... The move away from terrorism investigations started over a year ago as the print media entered into a long-term decline in ad revenues, but the trend has been accelerated in this election year. It is an unfortunate coincidence that true experts, with some of the best contacts and intel in the private CT community, are being moved out of their chosen fields ...

Tags: Redeployments, MSM/Dem Strategic Alliances, MSM Intifadas, Military/Industrial Complex, Political/Technological Complex
9.8.2008 1:20pm
Kevin C. (mail) (www):
Voter:

What is the contraption above the front door?


Do you mean the satellite dish, seen almost end-on? Being this far north, our satellite dishes all point south at fairly shallow angles in order to be aimed properly.
9.8.2008 2:08pm
DiverDan (mail):
I have to agree that, judging by the picture, the Mug Shot Saloon hardly looks "ramshackle" to me - Yes, its made of wood, but nicely painted, all the lines are straight, the Sign is fully upright, no letters missing or hanging sideways, and lights in the window. OK, so the Big Satellite Dish outside the Front Door detracts from the lines, but how else is the Owner going to get TV - I doubt that Warner has laid cable to Wasilla. If he put it up on the roof, it would be impossible to keep clear of snow &ice during the winter. Frankly, I've seen many more "ramshackle" saloons in places like Demont, South Dakota, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, Peoria, Illinois, Brooklyn, New York, and even Dallas, Texas. The Mug Shot Saloon looks a LOT better than the little place on the South Side of Milwaukee where Joe McCarthy used to hang out for a shot &a beer (you didn't think McCarthy got elected for his politics, did you?), and to me, at least from the outside, looks like a pleasant place to while away a Saturday evening -- as were all of those places in Delmont, S.D., Beaver Dam, Wis., Peoria, and Dallas (the Brooklyn place looked a little scary to me, so I never ventured in).
9.8.2008 2:08pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Our largest city (Phoenix) and it's surrounding burbs is a nightmare of bad planning and a paean to developers' desires.
Well, maybe, but for the most part it is organized in one mile square grids, with the major streets on the section lines and strip malls with grocery stores on most of the corners. Subdivisions are, of course, on the inside of those squares. Elementary schools and fire stations are strategically placed, with one of the later within a couple of minutes of every house. It is the only place I have ever lived that wherever I lived there, I was within a half mile walk of a grocery store (ok, this wouldn't be novel if the city were vertical like NYC, but it is almost completely horizontal).
9.8.2008 2:19pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
What I remember of Alaska, esp. outside Anchorage, is that there were invariably a lot of "junk" all over the place. Broken down vehicles were often on the lots, along with a lot of other stuff. I see this same look throughout the less settled parts of the west. I traveled a bit this summer throughout Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington, and outside the bigger towns, you see the same thing.

My guess is that this frontier look is just outside the experience of our British brethren. Instead of having had the homesite recently cut out of the wilderness, some of, for example, London has been settled for maybe two millennium. This may be extreme, but England lost its frontier long, long ago.
9.8.2008 2:25pm
dearieme:
"My guess is that this frontier look is just outside the experience of our British brethren." Hah, just visit the Highlands.
9.8.2008 2:47pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Bah. It wasn't even funny. Now THIS is funny:

"Palin Dodges Tough Questions About Existence of "Alaska"

By Elizabeth Bumiller, New York Times, Wednesday, September 3, 2008; A1

Media Bubble, Sept. 2 — Embattled former beauty queen Sarah Palin* continued to wilt yesterday under the pressure of numerous fair, evenhanded media questions regarding the alleged state of "Alaska."

Palin has claimed to be "governor" of the legendary northern land mass, which, while heretofore undiscovered by explorers, was once rumored to contain vast expanses rich with oil, gold, and "eski-mos." Palin first made the "Alaska" claim during an Aug. 29 public appearance alongside elderly, mean-looking cancer victim John McCain.

McCain, a white man with even whiter hair, has long publicly blocked efforts by Barack Obama, a youthful black man with a certain indefinable aura about him, to move into Obama's new house. Palin, also white-skinned, has been linked to the McCain offensive.

After four days of telling silence from the McCain camp, Palin finally deigned to reappear in public yesterday. In a followup press conference, Palin, who is a girl, lashed out at the media. "Listen to me: Alaska. Is. A. State. Seriously. The 49th state, in fact. Way up north there. What, did somebody go around your newsrooms and hide all the maps underneath the ethics manuals? Or are you idiots just completely insane?"

Shaking her head in a transparent attempt to feign exasperation, Palin — who is perhaps not as pretty as she thinks she is — then left the podium without answering followup questions regarding her plagiarism of CBS's Northern Exposure. Internet reaction to the unfit mother's unhinged rant was swift. Andrew Sullivan, right-wing blogger for The Atlantic, saw Palin's comments as a major misstep. "She's working the refs. This is what they do. Sure, blame the media. Is it their fault she's too chicken to back up these suspicious claims? "Look, I'm willing to entertain the idea that there really is a place called 'Alaska.' We've all heard the old wives' tales, and I've dreamed about such a rugged, outdoorsy paradise since I was about 13 or 14. But why is she so afraid to give us some proof? I mean, I've never been there, have you?"

Yukon Cornelius could not be reached for comment.

Update: After consultation with the Association of American Geographers and several DC-area kindergarten students, the Times can now report that many current world maps contain a small area in the northwest corner of North America labeled "Alaska." Palin's relationship with the mapmaking industry is currently under investigation."
9.8.2008 3:14pm
hattio1:
Okay,
A couple of things. I've drank in the Mug-Shot. It is ramshackle...delightfully so.

Richard Aubrey is VERY incorrect, you can build stately homes in Alaska.

Neither the Inuit or the Yupik would have been indigenous to the Wasilla region of Alaska. That would be the Athabascans broadly, and more specifically the De'naina if I'm remembering right.
9.8.2008 3:29pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Bruce Hayden said:

Well, maybe, but for the most part it is organized in one mile square grids, with the major streets on the section lines and strip malls with grocery stores on most of the corners.
Now if you think that makes for an attractive city you need to take Esthetics 101. Phoenix is a grid of commercial development infilled with housing. I believe that the housing is there only for the convenience of the developers. "Got to be able to generate sales and sales taxes so the cities can get their slice" Phoenix is and has been over-retailed for years which is a result of it's economy being driven by real estate development. We have malls that are dead or dying; the same with grocery stores, strip malls, small retailers and the like. The city fathers always say that they want to build the manufacturing base, but the base employment force is insufficiently educated to attract skilled jobs. So we get call centers, explosive growth, sprawl, and grocery stores that are ONLY one half mile apart with strip malls in between. Sorry to say Bruce, but it has resulted in an ugly city no matter how you slice it.
9.8.2008 3:41pm
Dave N (mail):
Thomas Holsinger,

THAT was classic--and VERY funny.
9.8.2008 4:31pm
egrim (mail):
Thomas Holsinger,

Yes, very good.
9.8.2008 5:01pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Hattio1 - if you can describe a dive bar as "delightful" you need to turn in your access pass over in the corner, by the passed out guy, and stick to places with ferns, at least for the foreseeable future.
9.8.2008 5:47pm
hattio1:
Places with ferns????


Jeez, and you wonder why so many "Heartland America" types think the big urban centers are effete cultural wastelands.
9.8.2008 8:08pm
one of many:
Hattio1 - if you can describe a dive bar as "delightful" you need to turn in your access pass over in the corner, by the passed out guy, and stick to places with ferns, at least for the foreseeable future.

Wow, do fern bars even exist anymore? I don't drink (well not that much) anymore, but I thought those had become extinct by the end of the 1990's. I've been in more than few dives (both urban and rural) in the past and they vary immensely in character, and several I would describe as delightfully ramshackle. It may depend on what delights you though, I find a dive in which there is solid sense of pride of place to be delightful.
9.9.2008 1:23am
Hoosier:
one of many:

If it can be described as "delightful," the it is a fern bar.
9.9.2008 12:06pm
Bill McGonigle (www):
I'm pretty sure fern bars are for apple martinis and Mug-Shot is for bud-in-a-bottle, and you can't get either at the other places.

When it comes down to it, both hostages and vegetarians want a cheeseburger when they 'come back', and neither pains for foie gras.
9.9.2008 7:20pm