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Photo: Bon Appétit/Youtube
Perhaps the most surprising media success story of the last couple of years has been that of Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel, the rare pivot to video that actually worked. What was once a series of cooking tutorials has blossomed into an extended universe that, like similarly structured franchises, has a fan base of dedicated stans, who run meme accounts for their favorite chefs. Peeking into the Bon Appétit test kitchen is like watching a sitcom set at a bar, where personalities mix and mingle and overlap with each other as they each go about their business.
On Jezebel earlier this week, Bobby Finger wrote that, “In a television landscape where cooking shows feel as old-hat as the traditional three-camera sitcom, this slight deviation from the formula — focusing on a large and increasingly diverse group of chefs as opposed to just one with a single point of view — feels like a whole new world.” A VIP ticket to Bon Appétit’s recent Best Weekend Ever event, where fans could rub elbows with their favorite YouTube chefs, cost $500.
There’s Claire Saffitz’s show Gourmet Makes (trying to recreate mass-produced snacks), or Carla Lalli Music’s Back-to-Back Chef (teaching a celeb how to cook something using only vocal instruction), or Brad Leone’s fermentation-focused It’s Alive. It’s Alive is a fitting name for Leone’s show, because like Victor Frankenstein, he too has brought something back from the dead.
The past weekend, my friend Abe (probably the best and most serious cook I know) told me about this new knife he bought: the Lamson eight-inch Chinese Santoku Cleaver/Slicer with Rosewood Handle. Abe bought the knife due in large part to Leone’s own use of it. According to him — he texted me a detailed recounting of when and how Leone has wielded the Lamson in his videos — the knife first appeared in a video in which Leone made giardiniera, an Italian condiment.
“My new favorite knife,” he says. “I found it in the —” but before we can find out where he found it, Leone cuts himself off, noticing that Bon Appétit’s editor-at-large is standing right behind him.
Over the phone, Leone told me, “I found it years ago in a bin with a bunch of abused knives that people had just kind of abandoned. It was all chipped up and stuff.” So he sharpened it up and it’s been useful ever since. “It’s a fantastic knife,” he said. “It’s probably my favorite knife that I own, and I own a lot of knives.” He complimented the height of the blade, which makes it easy to scoop up chopped veggies.
It appeared again a couple of weeks later in a video in which Leone made beet kvass. Leone revealed that the knife was made by a company called Lamson, but paired this revelation with an apology: The knife had been discontinued.
This was in the middle of last year and for months fans clamored for the knife. They craved the knife. On the r/chefknives sub-Reddit, fans posted screenshots of the knife, hoping to identify it more precisely and buy one of their own. A previous eBay listing for the knife shows it sold for $247. Other asking prices hover between $250 and $300, though the exact sale price for certain listings are unknown. (The seller accepted a bidder’s best offer.)
“I have learned a significant amount of information from Leon and his shows, especially about fermentation and food. He was starting to do it right when I was starting to think about it,” Abe said. “And he was super down to earth. It was goofy; it was funny; it was super informative. Seeing him use the knife, I was like, That’s an interesting knife that I don’t have.”
Over at Lamson’s headquarters in Massachusetts, customer-service rep Nelson Walton began fielding an increasing number of requests for a knife that the company didn’t make anymore. Getting requests based off of popularity on YouTube is a relatively recent phenomenon for the cutlery manufacturer, which was established in 1837. Most of its knives are standard fare, and the initial failure and subsequent interest in Leone’s knife are explained by how unconventional this particular model is: It’s cleaver-shaped like a Santoku knife (with the curved front) and toward the handle, the blade curves backward slightly, letting the chef get their fingers more directly on top of what they’re chopping.
“At first it was one or two every two or three weeks. Then probably around the end of July , it started to pick up where we were getting two or three a week about it. And probably around September or October, it was six a week,” he recalled. A lot of users sent links to Bon Appétit videos or screenshots they’d taken.
In early 2019, Walton said, “I made enough noise that they decided to shut me up and make the knife.” He started notifying fans who had made requests that the knife was coming back. “Brad’s fans never quit and finally I barked up the right tree,” he said. In this case, that tree was executive vice president Les Edelstein. Before the initial run of 300 knives had come off the manufacturing line, more than 270 of them had been sold for $59.99 (“The best $60 you’ll ever spend,” Leone said). Lamson doubled the next production run.
For many YouTubers, the ability to move merch is a primary revenue source, thanks to on-demand printing and drop-shipping. In almost every case, however, they’re hawking their own products or ones that they are paid to endorse. But what an influencer on social media chooses to pitch to their followers is almost beside the point. Anything that enters the frame and isn’t explicitly denounced ends up being implicitly endorsed, which is how Lamson ended up flooded with requests for a knife that they didn’t think anyone wanted.
“People have asked me about my clothing, or my watch comes up a lot,” Leone noted. “My hat — people freak out. People want to know where I get my hat from. But I don’t tell because I don’t want them to wear the same hat as me.”
How Bon Appétit YouTube Videos Brought Back This Weird Knife
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Tonight in Berlin
Photo: Fireworks erupt over the Brandenburg Gate during celebrations on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 2019 in Berlin. From 1961 until 1989 the Berlin Wall, built by the communist authorities of East Germany to prevent people from East Berlin fleeing into West Berlin, divided the city. Its opening in 1989 quickly led to the collapse of the East German communist government and the eventual reunification of Germany in 1991.
The darkness in the heartland
In farm country, mental health experts say they’re seeing more suicides as families endure the worst period for U.S. agriculture in decades. Farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies are rising, calamitous weather events are ruining crops, and profits are vanishing during Trump’s global trade disputes.A 2017 study found that farm owners and workers were three to five times as likely to kill themselves on the job compared with other occupations. Researchers studying more recent data have not yet determined if farmer suicides are increasing, but leaders and social workers in rural America say that, anecdotally, they’re seeing more of these deaths. Calls to suicide hotlines around farm country have risen, prompting new federal and state programs targeting farmers’ mental health, including support groups, public awareness campaigns and funding for counseling.The Agriculture Department is setting up the first $1.9 million phase of a farm and ranch stress support network to expand emergency hotlines, training and support groups for farmers and ranchers. In addition, the department started a $450,000 pilot program to train some of its workers in how to help farmers in extreme distress and make mental health referrals for them.
30 years later.
The values on which Europe is based — freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, safeguarding human rights — these are anything but self-evident. They must be experienced and defended anew again and again. In times of far-reaching technological and global change, this is more relevant than ever. …The Berlin Wall is gone and that teaches us that no wall that excludes people and restricts freedom is so high or so wide that it cannot be broken through.
—German Chancellor Angela Merkelin a speech at the Berlin Wall memorial on Saturday
Bloomberg to Follow the Not-So-Successful Giuliani Strategy in the Primaries
By Ed Kilgore
Like Rudy, Bloomberg is a poor fit for his party, pursuing a doomed strategy, unless he just wants to damage Sanders and Warren.
Another flip-off for asylum seekers, Dreamers, and permanent residents
The Trump administration on Friday proposed an unprecedented series of new fees for asylum-seekers and immigrants hoping to stay in the US, aiming to become one of just four countries in the world to charge for an asylum application. …The US has never before charged for asylum and, if enacted, the proposal issued Friday would make the country one of only four in the world to do so, joining Iran, Fiji, and Australia. It appears to be the latest move by the Trump administration to overhaul the asylum process and the immigration system itself, a focus of the president’s since taking office. …Specifically, the rule would add a $50 fee for those looking to apply for affirmative asylum applications filed from within the US. There is currently no fee to enter an “affirmative asylum” application. The new fee would not apply to those who claim a fear of persecution at ports of entry or those who apply for the protections while in deportation proceedings. There would be no waiver for those who cannot afford to pay the $50 fee.One USCIS official told Buzzfeed that it would cost more to collect the fees than they would earn. More from the Times:The rule, which will be published on Thursday and will have a monthlong comment period, would increase citizenship fees more than 60 percent, to $1,170 from $725, for most applicants. For some, the increase would reach 83 percent. The government would also begin charging asylum seekers $50 for applications and $490 for work permits[.]It would also increase renewal fees for hundreds of thousands of participants of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. That group, known as “Dreamers,” would need to pay $765, rather than $495, for a renewal request. The fee hike comes days before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the validity of President Trump’s justification to terminate DACA.
The mayor from the minors
As Mr. Buttigieg, the millennial mayor of a town smaller than a New York City Council district, rises in the polls, he has struck a nerve with his Democratic rivals.Many of their campaigns have griped privately about the attention and cash directed toward Mr. Buttigieg. They say he is too inexperienced to be electable and that his accomplishments don’t merit the outsize appeal he has with elite donors and voters. His public punditry about the race has prompted eye rolls from older rivals who view him as a know-it-all.And in a field where most candidates find themselves strapped for cash, they snipe at his ability to raise more than anyone else in the primary field except for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.More than a dozen participants in the Democratic campaign — including rival candidates and campaign aides — spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their views about Mr. Buttigieg candidly. They conveyed an annoyance at the McKinsey consultant certitude with which Mr. Buttigieg analyzes and makes pronouncements about the primary.
Before long, they’ll probably add Hillary Clinton to the list as well
House Republicans plan to call Hunter Biden, the Ukraine whistleblower and a range of other witnesses to testify in the upcoming public Trump impeachment hearings, according to a witness list obtained exclusively by Fox News.It is unclear, at this point, how many of the Republicans’ proposed witnesses will be approved by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the Democrats, because the newly-approved resolution governing the impeachment inquiry give the approval power to the chairman and the members of the majority.There was also this bit of theatrics from Nunes on Friday:The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has formally requested that the panel’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., testify in a closed-door setting as part of the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. … A GOP source told Fox News this week that it’s unlikely Democrats would go along with the efforts to call Schiff – who is essentially leading the impeachment probe.
The Senseless Death of Deadspin
By James D. Walsh
Dramatically shifting the website’s priorities didn’t make sense from a business perspective. Was something else going on?
Could Biden Lose Iowa and New Hampshire — and Still Win the Primary?
By Benjamin Hart, Ed Kilgore, and Eric Levitz
Intelligencer staffers discuss how rocky the path to the nomination might be for the former veep.
This does not exactly sound like a foolproof strategy
Bloomberg will not contest first four states in Democratic nominating process. “If we run, we are confident we can win in states voting on Super Tuesday and beyond, where we will start on an even footing,” says Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson.
Nate Silver unconvinced that Bloomberg will have much of an impact
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A *partial* list of candidates who, if they entered the race at the last minute, would probably have more impact than Bloomberg:Michelle ObamaSherrod BrownStacey AbramsAndrew CuomoAlso all of the past nominees (Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Kerry, etc.)
Can Anti-Abortion ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ Snag Federal Family-Planning Funds?
By Ed Kilgore
One branch of the anti-abortion movement is trying to rebrand itself as pro-contraceptive, just like Republican politicians.
How Bon Appétit YouTube Videos Brought Back This One Weird Knife
By Brian Feldman
Fans inundated the manufacturer with so many requests that they put it back into production.
Ya don’t say
On Fox, former President George W. Bush calls this an “unsettled period” for the country.
Michael Bloomberg’s Ego Is an Agent of Socialist Change
By Eric Levitz
The longer the Democratic Establishment refuses to accept that Joe Biden is their only hope, the better Sanders and Warren’s chances will be.
Three Years Later, Trump Has Lost the Element of Surprise
By Ed Kilgore
Memories of the shock of Election Night 2016 could become a strategic asset for Democrats, who sure won’t get over-confident in 2020.
Ahead of impeachment, Republicans get their best (?) man on the case
BREAKING: “Leader McCarthy Appoints Jim Jordan to Intelligence Committee”
Andrew Sullivan: This Is No Ordinary Impeachment
By Andrew Sullivan
It’s a deeper reckoning. It’s about whether the legitimacy of our entire system can last much longer without Trump being removed from office.
Gordon Sond-who now?
Trump on Gordon Sondland: “I hardly knew the gentleman.”!!!
And we’re off: “There’s nobody I’d rather run against than little Michael,” Trump says of Bloomberg.
Republican president won’t campaign against Republican candidate
Trump says he won’t campaign against Sessions, per pool report from South Lawn. “I’ll see how it all goes. We’ll see what happens. He’s got tough competition.”
11/8/2019the national interest
the national interest
New GOP Ukraine Defense: Trump Was Just a Patsy for Sondland
By Jonathan Chait
“There is no direct linkage to the president of the United States.”
Matt Bevin Was Unpopular Because of His Policies
By Sarah Jones
Matt Bevin was a uniquely unpopular governor. It’s important to understand why.
The Next Fight for Cory Remsburg, the Wounded Veteran Obama Made Famous
By Terence Szuplat
In 2014, a White House speechwriter made a brain-injured soldier a symbol of resilience. Now he finds the story didn’t end so neatly.
A second person has accused Representative Jim Jordan of ignoring their report of sexual abuse
A professional referee says in a lawsuit filed Thursday that disgraced doctor Richard Strauss masturbated in front of him in a shower after a wrestling match at Ohio State University, and he reported the encounter directly to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was then the assistant coach.“Yeah, that’s Strauss,” Jordan and then-head coach Russ Hellickson replied, according to the lawsuit, when the referee, identified in court papers as John Doe 42, told them about the incident. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Ohio, implies that Jordan’s response to the incident, which the referee said happened in 1994, was essentially a shrug.John Doe 42 is the second person to say he told Jordan directly about either being approached or molested by Strauss, who was found by independent investigators to have sexually abused 177 male students over two decades.
Buttigieg has put out a new economic plan
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled a plan Friday to make tuition at four-year public colleges free for families earning up to $100,000. The move is part of a package of new economic policies aimed at boosting the fortunes of middle- and working-class Americans and positioning Buttigieg as a clear alternative to more liberal candidates.While Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have proposed making college free for everyone, Buttigieg is taking a more targeted approach of giving free tuition only to families he considers middle-class and lower. His new policy calls for reduced tuition at public universities for families earning $100,000 to $150,000 and no tuition for those below that threshold. Like several in the Democratic field, Buttigieg also proposes expanding Pell Grants to help low-income students pay for housing and fees and investing $50 billion in historically black colleges.Buttigieg’s new economic plan includes proposals for universal prekindergarten, greater college access, major expansions of affordable housing and job training, and a bigger tax credit for the working poor. He plans to fund the $2.1 trillion worth of new expenditures over the next decade by hiking taxes on the top 1 percent of earners.
Another classic from Donald Trump Jr., least self-aware man in America
President-elect Trump and the new first family were at Arlington National Cemetery, where Trump was to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns.“I rarely get emotional, if ever,” Trump Jr. wrote in his new book, “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” “Yet, as we drove past the rows of white grave markers, in the gravity of the moment, I had a deep sense of the importance of the presidency and a love of our country.”He also had another revelation as he watched his father standing in front of the tomb, surrounded by more than 400,000 graves, listening to the Army Band bugler playing taps: The Trump family had already suffered, he recalled thinking, and this was only the beginning.“In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we’d already suffered as a family, and about all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed — voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals to avoid the appearance that we were ‘profiting off the office,’” Trump Jr. wrote.
A new clue about the identity of the anonymous Trump op-ed writer: he really admires John McCain
Besides, everything in the text of “A Warning” suggests a dyed-in-the-wool establishment Republican. There’s the typical talk about American exceptionalism and national security. There’s the eternal complaint that President Barack Obama was “out of touch with mainstream America.” There’s a wistful elegy for “our budget-balancing daydreams.” Yes, Anonymous is happy about the conservative judicial appointments, the deregulation, the tax cuts; what rankles is the “unbecoming” behavior, the “unseemly antics.”A big tell comes early on, when Anonymous reveals what “the last straw” was. It wasn’t Mr. Trump’s response to the right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when a white supremacist killed a woman and the president talked about “the violence on many sides.” It wasn’t even the administration’s separation of migrant families at the border. These examples might have left Anonymous appalled, but the truly unforgivable act was when Senator John McCain died last year and Mr. Trump tried to hoist the flag on the White House above half-staff: “President Trump, in unprecedented fashion, was determined to use his office to limit the nation’s recognition of John McCain’s legacy.”
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