“Will.i.amsburg”: or The Day the New York Times Officially Became an Internet Troll

This is the Times version of Wheres Waldo.

  • Casey Kelbough c/o nytimes.com
  • This is the Times’ version of “Where’s Waldo.”

I’m going to start off by saying that I get what the Times was trying to do with its article “Will.i.amsburg.” I get that one of the results that the Times was trying to achieve was the furious clickety-clacking of a thousand MacBook keyboards, as bloggers all over Brooklyn profess indignation and just flat-out disgust at the “humorous” exploration of Brooklyn done by Henry Alford in today’s Styles section. So, in that sense, well-played, New York Times. “Will.i.amsburg” will undoubtedly be linked on many other websites (including, obviously, this one) and blog post after blog post will marvel at the new nadir that the Times has reached in what they might claim is an attempt to be funny, but what is really just an attempt to generate buzz. And, speaking of buzz, I will honestly say that I can’t wait for the Times to discover BuzzFeed because you just know that a newspaper that makes a Black-Eyed Peas pun in a headline will have its mind blown by what’s going on over there.

But before the Times attempts to send Henry Alford back to the 90s or get his take on gifs of animals hugging babies, let’s talk a little bit about why this particular piece is proof that Alford is the Times’ answer to Andy Borowitz. Which, that’s not a positive comparison. Anyway, the following things are the cultural reference points that Alford mentions in a “middle-aged avowed Manhattanite” attempt to “educate himself” on all things “hipster Brooklyn.” And they are all indicative of why, ultimately, this article is successful only as blogger bait, not as anything even approaching humor.

1) The Wythe Hotel: “I had fallen into conversation with the affinity marketer (beard, plaid flannel shirt, vintage work boots) in the lobby of the Wythe hotel in Williamsburg…”

2) Beards: “Leave me alone during this awkward period of beard growth.”

3) Nose-piercing:”a beehive of instrument-bearing musicians, nose-pierced locals and twentysomethings who use the word “ridiculous” in nonpejorative contexts…”

3) Kale: “this middle-aged avowed Manhattanite checked into the Wythe and spent a long weekend trying to educate himself, canvassing Kings County’s artisan-loving, kale-devouring epicenter.”

4) Girls: “I wanted to see what the demographic behind nanobatched chervil and the continually cited show “Girls” could teach me about life and craft cocktails. “

5) Rooftop farming: “So I decided to embed myself among the rooftop gardeners and the sustainability consultants and the chickeneers.”

6) Portland: “Portland is the Lorna Luft to Brooklyn’s Liza. We’re thinking of you, Lorna.”

7) Mumford & Sons: “When a scruffy, ponytailed salesman in his 20s approached, I told him: ‘I’m going for a Mumford & Sons look. I want to look like I play the banjo.’”

8) Locavores: “I picked up a pair of argyle wool socks from a nearby wicker basket and asked, ‘Are your socks local?’ The salesman self-consciously said no.”

9) Mustaches: “Enjoy the ’stache. Honor the ’stache.”

10) Bicycles: “On a ‘fixie,’ you see, you can’t coast or backpedal, you’re always moving forward: the shark of the bike world…It was, as the kids say, totally ridic.”