The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'hipsters'
This week, the culturally-capitalised twentysomethings of Dalston got a rude shock, discovering that acclaimed basement music venue Power Lunches was suddenly closing, citing the increasing difficulty of operating in a wealthy, expensive city such as London:
Hi everyone and thanks for your kind messages. Yes I'm afraid we are closing, in the last year it has become financially unviable for us to carry on without compromising the integrity of what power lunches is known and loved for. We all know it it has become increasingly difficult to do good stuff in a city that is so focused on making a profit without much concern for anything else but we've had 4 great years and we hope everyone will remember us fondly knowing we did our best to support independent bands and promoters in London.
Power Lunches currently occupies a shop front and its basement on Kingsland Road, the stretch of the A10 that goes north from Shoreditch and Hoxton, through Dalston, and on to Stoke Newington and beyond. In Dalston, it is not yet the ritziest stretch of road; there, low-end restaurants compete with thrift shops, off-licences and the headquarters of religious groups. Power Lunches itself occupies what looks like it used to be a greasy-spoon caff, and its name is a hipster-ironic nod to this authentically insalubrious background. The space has a bar, with a fridge full of Red Stripe and Swedish cider, and some cafeteria tables; a staircase by the door leads downwards to a cramped, sweaty black-painted box, which is where the gigs, ranging from twee pop to hardcore to various permutations of drone, psych, electro, *wave, *core, hard-* and so on, have taken place. The capacity isn't great, and in the summer it can be almost insufferable, though in its four years, the venue has made a name for itself.
Dalston itself, sometimes referred to as “Dalliamsburg”, has become a hipster colony of sorts, once Shoreditch (the place that held this title at the time of Nathan Barley) was given over to luxury apartments, designer hotels, exclusive bars and/or stag parties from Essex. Still showing signs of grunginess, and having been dangerous in living memory, it gradually got colonised by waves of twentysomethings with arty haircuts and social rituals involving obscure tastes in music, the production of art, and the consumption of pulled pork. Bars playing subgenres of house music opened beneath ocakbasi restaurants; then Jamaican old-man's pubs were taken over and started laying out the craft beer and putting on gigs that definitely weren't lovers'-rock; obtaining a decent flat white became a lot easier; and before long, cult films had displaced Turkish films at the Rio Cinema and, just up the road, a pizza joint themed around 1980s electronic music opened. A billboard around the corner shows gig listings, festivals and the occasional full-sized ad for the new album from a critically-acclaimed underground band. Meanwhile, nestled in the side streets, the Berlinesque concrete space of Café Oto hosts chin-strokingly experimental gigs, from free jazz to electroacoustic minimalism to ; above it, a roof garden screens cult movies in the summer.
Of course, the days of any such a milieu would be numbered, and in rapidly gentrifying London, even more so. The borough of Hackney, in which Dalston and various other trendy areas are located, boasted the fastest rising property prices in London (which is itself a high bar), year over year. As the area's cheap rents disappeared, the typical Hackney hipster became considerably wealthier, as a result of the less wealthy having been selected out. The area still had its cachet, and the free market provided; former family homes were converted by cowboy landlords into sets of subminiature one-bedroom flats (the bedroom slightly larger than a double bed, the kitchen barely big enough for a microwave and a bar fridge, and the “living room” being a slightly bulbous corridor), rented out at a premium to young people, their actual bulky possessions safely in storage in their parental home in Bromley or Cheam or somewhere, wanting to spend a few years living the Hackney Hipster Experience; being in staggering distance of cool bars, arty parties and engaging experiences, before eventually coupling up with someone who started off as a particularly successful Tinder date and buying somewhere together near Leyton. For the richer cool kids with the hefty parental trust funds, there's the chance to buy and ride this thing all the way to the top.
Fast forward by a few years, and luxury apartment complexes start going up, the marketing material has lost the hipster angle and no longer pretends that there's anything “arty”, “funky” or “bohemian” about Dalston; the model aspirational Dalstonite of tomorrow being more Patrick Bateman than Nathan Barley:
These flat developments are being sold to buy-to-let investors in Singapore, with soaring rents and the lack of affordable flats for the poors as selling points.
In a sense, it was inevitable. With the centre of London being bought out by sheikhs and oligarchs, the merely ordinary rich move further out. Elsewhere, the super-rich are knocking down the Arts & Crafts mansions of liberal Highgate and replacing them with tacky palaces behind security gates, changing the character of the area to another enclave of paranoid global wealth. Dalston, the former no-go zone, now home of indie buzz bands, concept bars and greasy late-night kebabs, has caught the eye of the Canary Wharf financial alpha-males, and any semblance of life is likely to be squeezed out of it over the next decade, the grease shops becoming upmarket chain bistros and gallery spaces luxury car showrooms. (In their valedictory message, Power Lunches recommended that patrons cross the Thames and go to a members-only art space in Peckham.) The eventual outcome looks to be the centre becoming wealthy and inert, a sort of Zurich-on-Thames, with a number of fragmentary subscenes existing on the periphery, perhaps in Walthamstow, Watford, Croydon and such, spaced too far apart for much cross-pollination to occur. And Dalliamsburg will be as distant a memory as Swingin' Carnaby Street, and perhaps just as subject to mythologisation into a hipster Eden.
More despatches from the London property boom: The transformation of the London borough of Hackney from a byword for crime, squalor and perhaps an edgy bohemianism to high social status proceeds apace; the ultra-fashionable borough is now the most unaffordable place to rent in the UK, with the average Hackney resident's rent being 59.9% of their income. Meanwhile, the values of houses in Hackney have risen just under £100,000 in the past year, meaning that the average house in Hackney earns considerably more than the average resident.
The same publication, Dalstonist (a journal for the residents of the eponymous hip'n'happening playground of moneyed, well-connected twentysomethings) also has an editorial arguing that it makes no sense to blame the hipsters for rising rents, the main gist being that the typical “hipster” is a young web designer/barista/media worker/miscellaneous “creative” renting a sharehouse and on the cusp of being evicted to Walthamstow or Tottenham or somewhere to make room for finance professionals whose musical and sartorial tastes are more Patrick Bateman than Nathan Barley. Oh, and that there is no such thing as a hipster.
The people who get priced out are those who rent their homes on the private market – who have to shell out more than half their salaries just for somewhere to live. That might be people who’ve lived in Hackney for decades, like the residents of the New Era estate. Or it could be those who moved here more recently. The people who earn too much to qualify for social housing but not enough to buy a house. You know; graphic designers, jewellery makers, photographers, baristas. Hipsters, basically.Of course, that is assuming without question that the typical “hipster” is renting, rather than having bought a flat just off London Fields with the help of their parents, or been given one for their 18th birthday. This is a somewhat questionable assumption, partly because the contemporary hipster lifestyle (itself gentrified from the days of math-rock nerds and fashion refuseniks dressed in cheaply acquired, ironically repurposed thrift-shop clothes) is not a cheap one to maintain; if one really is paying 60% of their rent to a landlord, how much does that leave for the vintage trainers, imported Japanese denim, meticulously crafted hairstyles and other sartorial items that are de rigeur to be seen in?
This malaise is not confined to the hipsterised East; everywhere across London, the city is being reorganised for (often absentee) investors over residents; a case in point is the demolition of the historic Earl's Court exhibition centre, and its replacement with expensive luxury apartments:
The new apartments will – like those in the big new developments and Nine Elms – be aimed at the pockets of investors and speculators, people with deep pockets who have taken advantage of stagnant interest rates to buy up property and then charge eye-watering rents for them. It’s hard to blame them, as economic policy seems designed purely to over inflate London’s property market, but the damage is considerable. Because not only are they building identikit apartments in areas nobody that actually needs housing can afford, they are in the process annihilating anything that could be seen as fun – pub, music venues, sports grounds as well as historic structures like Earls Court. It’s a depressing, dismal outcome that offers the worst of all possible worlds.
It’s also entirely typical of the current state of London: could you possibly imagine a scheme as imaginative and as exciting and beneficial for the public as the conversion of Tate Modern happening today? Not a chance. It would be flattened and replaced by luxury glass apartments. What do we get instead? A bloody Garden Bridge, stupid cable car and shopping centres.One could perhaps blame Boris Johnson for that; or possibly the Tories' (and to a lesser extent, neo-Blairite Labour's) faith in trickle-down economics, to the extent that it's seen as an unquestionable credo that, if one serves those at the top (wealthy investors, property speculators, developers), overall prosperity will rise, and the little people will be served, as amply as they deserve, by the shower of crumbs from the high tables. The corollary to this is, of course, that anybody who questions it is really advocating a return to the Leninist five-year plan and the kolkhoz, the legacy of blood-stained failure and collective misery that bears the name “socialism”.
Also, new statistics reveal that people in their thirties are leaving London in droves, moving instead to regional cities where they can afford to do things other than pay a landlord for the privilege of having an address in a prestigious city; Birmingham seems to be the main recipient of disaffected ex-Londoners, followed by places like Manchester and Bristol. (Presumably Brighton counts as part of greater London.) There is still a net influx of twentysomethings; presumably, while one has youthful vigour, relatively few bulky physical possessions and no dependent family (or, indeed, not yet a long-term relationship), the benefits of living within staggering distance of the venues of a social life outweighs the costs of funnelling 60% of one's pay into a speculator's pocket for a shoebox-sized room. The attrition rate seems to be high, with few holding on into their 30s; presumably once they've got a partner, enough stuff to make sharehousing impractical, an aversion to working long hours and/or a tolerance to mephedrone, London no longer holds its charms, and they drop out, making room for more fresh meat, possibly of a more affluent nature. Meanwhile, the precincts associated with the young and with-it move further out (keep an eye on Newham/Waltham Forest/Barking being dubbed the “New Hackney” in media puff-pieces any day now), being pushed out by the centrifugal forces of hypergentrification. It may be that, in the fullness of time, they will be expelled beyond the M25, and London will, as prophesied by Alex Proud, become a city of rich old people, like Paris or Zurich. (But that can't happen, you say, because London is intrinsically, timelessly cool, before citing Britpop/Carnaby Street/Shoreditch or similar? Zurich, one must remember, was vibrant and edgy once; the Dadaist Cabaret Voltaire (the establishment after which the Sheffield electro-industrial band named themselves) was there in 1919.)
With American Apparel sacking its sexually inappropriate ur-visionary Dov Charney with extreme prejudice, and the recent fall from grace of hipster-porn photographer Terry Richardson, we could be witnessing the twilight of the assholes (or as they call it in Germany, Arschlocherdämmerung) and possibly the end of a vein of ostensibly-ironic hipster misogyny and douchebag chic:
But it’s interesting to think a little bit more deeply about that culture’s gender politics. The hipster aesthetic, such as it was, incorporated plenty of semi-ironic appropriation of the tropes of traditional masculinity: trucker hats, flannel shirts, PBR, beards/mustaches, and so on. I say semi-ironic because beneath the veneer of irony, there was always something deeply conservative and deeply unpleasant about it. Specifically, it was reflective of a wider shift in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s toward the reassertion of traditional alpha-male masculinity.
[t]here’s nothing transgressive about any of this. American Apparel’s aesthetic, for instance, was the most time-worn cliché in the world: using hot girls in various states of undress to sell clothes. Of course, American Apparel’s aesthetic was all about irony, or so it’d have you believe, but really, whether this was done with a sort of knowingly arched eyebrow and sly wink is kinda beside the point; saying “Hey, I know I’m being kinda sexist” doesn’t change the fact that you’re being kinda sexist. The fact that the half-naked girl being used to sell your clothes is in a deliberately flashed-out photo wearing silly glasses doesn’t change that she’s a half-naked girl being used to sell your clothes.Of course, VICE Magazine, which has been intimately connected to this strand of hipster douchebag cool since day one, running American Apparel ads on its back page and keeping Richardson employed shooting their amateur-porn-styled fashion spreads, is still going strong, having recently received investment from both Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and Time Warner. It remains to be seen how close to the edge they keep skating in future.
Alex Proud, who previously wrote about the Shoreditch-modelled gentrification and sanitisation of the down-at-heel parts of London, has a new article about the end state of this process of gentrification and the future of hyper-gentrified London, a homogeneously rich, clean, and dull, place, with all the edginess and excitement of Geneva or central Paris, a city of "joyless Michelin starred restaurants and shops selling £3,000 chandeliers":
Two decades on and you can play a nostalgic little game where you remind yourself what groups London’s inner neighbourhoods were known for 20 years ago. Hampstead: intellectuals; Islington: media trendies; Camden: bohemians, goths and punks; Fulham: thick poshos who couldn’t afford Chelsea; Notting Hill: cool kids; Chelsea: rich people. Now, every single one of these is just rich people. If you want to own a house (or often just a flat) in these places, you need a six figure salary or you can forget it. And, for anyone normal, that means working in finance.
Inner Paris is a fairytale for wealthy people in their fifties (and outer Paris looks like Stalingrad with ethnic strife) while Geneva has dispensed with the poor altogether. As a result, both cities are safe, pretty and rather boring places to live – and soon London will be too.The article is a fine rant, dripping with bons mots like “Bitcoins for oligarchs”, “like Jay-Z as reimagined by someone who works at Goldman Sachs”, and “the bastard offspring of Kirstie Allsopp and Ayn Rand”; the prognosis is not hopeful for London either:
Why? Because the financiers who can afford inner London neighbourhoods are not cool. Visit Canary Wharf at on any weekday lunchtime and watch the braying, pink-shirted bankers disporting themselves. Not cool. Peruse the shops at Canary Wharf. From Gap to Tiffany’s, they’re all chains stores and you could be anywhere wealthy, safe and dull in the world. Rich people like making money and spending it on dull, expensive things. That’s what they do – and they’re very good it. But being a high-end cog in the machine is not cool.
In the short term, our city’s young creative class will continue to move further and further out. Is New Cross the new Peckham? Is Walthamstow the new Dalston? But there are limits to this: there’s not much of a vibe in Ruislip and there never will be; really, the cool inner suburb ship sailed in 2005. So, when you’re stuck out amongst the pebble-dashed semis of Zone 4, miles from a centre that’s mainly chain shops, boutiques for the tacky rich and restaurants you can’t afford or even book, you might start wondering if the World’s Greatest City (TM) really is for you. Then maybe you’ll visit friends, somewhere like Bristol or Newcastle or Leeds or Glasgow. And maybe you’ll discover that there you can buy a house that’s walking distance to a centre full of shops that cater to you, restaurants that want your custom and pubs and clubs whose prices wouldn’t make someone in Gstaad blanch... Perhaps London’s craven fealty to the ghastly rich will finally accomplish what no government policy ever has – it will rejuvenate our provincial cities.Though chances are, the cities with fast links to London will end up hypergentrified as well; Brighton (or “London-by-the-sea”, as some call it) is well on the way to going there, and some speculate that places like Margate (one hour from London along a partly high-speed railway, and already sprouting vintage shops and a modern art gallery amongst the everyday-is-like-Sunday shabbiness) could end up following suit. Birmingham, meanwhile, might jump from never-quite-fashionable to bourgeois luxury for the new-economy elite when HS2 arrives, allowing those who aren't fully-fledged partners to afford somewhere within an easy commute of Canary Wharf.
Proud blames this state of affairs on a system rigged to pander to the beneficiaries of this state of affairs—house-flippers, buy-to-let landlords, ex-Soviet oligarchs looking for somewhere to park their wealth—at the expense of the little people to whom it is made clear that the city does not belong, and who are gradually squeezed further out, towards the periphery and beyond; who still hold onto their shrinking, expensive foothold on the precious land inside the M25, believing that it's stil worth it because of the aura of brilliance surrounding the idea of London; an aura increasingly based in nostalgic delusion, and one which can't last.
Readers of the Guardian or New Statesman will have seen this story numerous times, from different angles and at different points in time, more or less the same, only with the place names moved slightly further out every year. However, part of the message here is in the medium; Proud is writing in the Daily Telegraph, a paper owned by the Barclay Brothers, long associated with the Conservative Party (it's often nicknamed the Torygraph), and one which one might imagine would be perfectly au fait with the ideals of the Thatcherite “property-owning democracy”. When the Torygraph is publishing articles bemoaning how gentrification is hollowing out and sterilising London, then perhaps it is time to be concerned.
I wonder how much this is due to one of the less-often-quited corollaries of the neoliberal/market-oriented mindset of the recent few decades: the idea that anything of value is traded on a market, and everything is a convertible hard currency, this time applied to cultural capital. It used to be that cultural capital and economic capital were separate spheres, and absolutely not interconvertible. There were no cool rich kids, or those who were hid their economic capital. (The word “cool”, in fact, originated with socially and politically disenfranchised African-Americans; in its original meaning, the word didn't mean chic, fashionable or at the top of the status hierarchy, but refered to an unflappability, an unwillingness to let the constant low-level (and not so low-level) insults and aggressions of an institutionally racist and classist system be seen to get you down; as such, it was, by definition, the riches of the poor, the exclusive capital of those excluded from capital.)
Fast forward to the present day; after Milton Friedman declared everything to be convertible goods in a market. Reagan and Thatcher applied this to economic goods, launching the “Big Bang” of deregulation and the 20-year economic bubble that followed. Then the Clinton/Blair era of the “Third Way” coincided with its own Big Bang, this time deregulating the cultural marketplace; starting off with Britpop and going on to Carling-sponsored landfill indie, New Rave, hipster electro (and indeed the recycling of the term “hipster”, originally meaning a habitué of the grimy jazz-and-heroin demimonde of the Beat Generation, now referring to trust fund kids in limited-edition trainers), yacht rock, chillwave and whatever. The old regulatory barriers between the mainstream and the underground were swept away as surely as the barriers between high-street and investment banks had been a decade earlier; the rise of the internet and the cultural globalisation played a part in it, though the mainstreaming of market values once seen as radical would also have had a hand. Soon everything was in a commodity available on the marketplace; 1960s guitar rock and Mod iconography was revived as Britpop, post-punk, stripped of unmarketable references to Marxism, Situationism and existentialist paperbacks and sexed up, as generic NME-cover “indie”, and we were faced with a multifaceted 80s revival that ran for longer than the 80s. Major-label pop producers used ProTools plug-ins to grunge up their protégés, giving them that authentically lo-fi “alternative” sound, while bedroom producers armed with cheap laptops and cracked software made tracks that sounded as expensively polished as anything heard in a Thatcher-era wine bar. Knowing about Joy Division or Black Flag was no longer a badge of being “hip”, as anyone with an internet connection could do the research; the new shibboleths were evanescent memes, like referencing Hall & Oates right down to the facial hair, or reviving New Jack Swing and calling it “PBR&B”, or the whole Seapunk subculture; currents one wouldn't have caught wind of in time without being connected, and whose cultural value became void once the wider world heard of them.
This coincided with the dismantling of free education, the rise in income inequality, and the gentrification of “cool” areas full of the young and creative, and soon it was a good thing that having economic and social capital didn't bar one from cultural capital, because having a trust fund was increasingly a prerequisite. If Mater and Pater bought you a flat near London Fields for your 18th birthday, and if you had a reserve of money to spend while you “found yourself”, and the likelihood of being able to land an internship on a career track in the media once your Southern-fried-hog-jowls-in-katsu-curry food truck failed or you got bored of playing festivals with your respectably rated bass-guitar-and-Microkorg duo, then you had the freedom to explore and develop, and that development could take a number of forms; travelling the world's thrift shops, picking up cool records and playing them at your DJ night, spending the time you don't need to work for money getting good at playing an instrument (and recent UK research shows that people in wealthier areas tend to have better musical aptitude), or just growing a really lush beard. With the rolling back of the welfare state and the "race to the bottom" in wages, these quests for self-actualisation are once again the preserve of the gentry; it's rather hard to develop your creative voice when you're on zero-hour contracts, and spend all your time either working in shitty jobs, looking for work, or commuting from where you can afford to live. And so economic capital has colonised cultural capital, and what passes for “cool” now belongs to those with money. It's not quite like a Gavin McInnes troll-piece about the coke-addicted bankers' scions who form the Brooklyn scene or a Vice_Is_Hip parody tweet about the coolest bar in the Hamptons or the latest sartorial trends from Kuwait's hippest princelings, but those are looking less and less unbelievable.
The question is, what happens in the end? Will cultural capital converge with economic capital, and “cool” be redefined to be a sort of cultural noblesse oblige, a manifestation of wealth and status, or will, as Proud suggest, the whole thing collapse into a cultural low-energy state of tidy tedium?
The latest thing in Williamsburg, the ground zero of the modern Hipster subculture and its gentrification, is facial hair transplants, for men who lack the ability to grow a luxuriant urban-woodsman beard otherwise:
"I get a lot of detail-oriented people — artists, architects," the doctor said, noting that beard-centric neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, Bushwick and Park Slope have each delivered four to five clients to her practice in the past year.
In addition to beardless hipsters, doctors said their clients include men who have struggled since adolescence to grow a beard, those undergoing a gender transition from female to male, men with with facial scarring and Hasidic Jews who hope to achieve denser payot, or sidelocks. A greater awareness of facial hair transplants has also fueled the popularity of the procedure, doctors said.The procedure involves transplanting follicles from the scalp to the face and costs $3000 to fill in a section or $7000 for a full beard; though given that Hipster is not a subculture for the unmoneyed, that should be no object. Perhaps, as Hipster gentrifies further, the next phase will be facial hair in naturally improbable places, as an unfalsifiable peacock-tail-like demonstration of both financial means and subcultural commitment
Writing in the Torygraph, Alex Proud (of Proud Galleries) bemoans the “Shoreditchification” of London, the process by which the phenomenon of hipster culture (by now, heavily leveraged with marketing) seizes rundown areas of the city and forcibly makes them over, raising rents, replacing local shops with gimmicky bars catering to affluent 26-35-year-olds, and ultimately leaving them open for the bankers and Foxtons to take over; sort of like the Shock Doctrine, only with ironic facial hair and upcycled furniture:
You find a previously unnoticed urban neighbourhood, ideally one that’s a bit down on its luck. Pioneer hipsters move in and coolhunters ensure it starts trending on Twitter. A year later, the mainstream media notices and, for the next 12 months, the neighbourhood is byword for urban cool. Soon property prices soar pushing the original residents out, the bankers (always a trailing indicator) begin to move in and a Foxtons opens. Finally, the New York Times runs a piece in which it “discovers” the area and the cycle is complete. The last hipsters move on and find a new neighbourhood to play with.Shoreditch, Proud asserts, is long past the terminal phases of this phenomenon, being a “cold-climate Aiya Napa”, frequented by stag-party tourists from Essex. Dalston, the hipster haunt of recent years, is past it as well (despite there still being completely unhip and unironic Turkish restaurants alongside the basement DJ bars and Giorgio Moroder-themed pizza joints; never mind, though, by the time Kanye West and Kim Kardashian open their matching fashion shops in Dalston and the Essex stag parties start negotiating the Overground in to take in its lad-mag-certified cool, it will doubtlessly be as dead as a doornail), with Peckham being about to be jettisoned for somewhere further out; possibly even, Proud reckons, Croydon.
Which more or less makes sense, until Proud posits a counterexample of “sustainable cool”: Camden.
So, what is the solution? The solution is to treat places like proper neighbourhoods rather than Apple products with a two-year upgrade cycle. Here I hold up Camden as an example. OK, I know I have a vested interest, but Camden was cool in 1994 (and even 1984) and it’s still cool in 2014. It has, dare I say it, sustainable coolness. True, at no point in time will be it be as achingly “now” as a speakeasy in a repurposed public loo in Camberwell selling dirty cocktails in jam jars, but that’s the point. Sustainable cool knows which bandwagons to ignore.Which is quite ironic, given that Camden seems to be as much a spent force, as far as any sort of living counterculture goes, as swinging Carnaby Street or the King's Road of Malcolm McLaren's day. Camden, of course, had been ground zero of Britpop, that third coming of Mod, that time as a hidebound and flag-draped back-to-basics conservative backlash. (In his book The Psychic Soviet, rock performer and cultural critic Ian Svenonius drew parallels between Britpop and the Southern Rock movement of the 1970s, in that both took a genre which had been free-wheeling and countercultural and remade it in the image of a flag-waving, reactionary traditionalism. More recently, Britpop has again been in the news, as Tory-affiliated cheesemonger Alex James has announced that he is registering the term as a trademark for a line of sugarwater.) And while Britpop might not have had the oversized folkbeards, mason-jar cocktails or overuse of the word “artisanal” that have made Hipster™ an easy target for jokes over the past decade or so*, Camden circa the mid-90s was pretty much the definition of “achingly “now””.
Britpop may not have started in Camden, but it gained critical mass there, in places like the Good Mixer; the resulting chain reaction sucked all the oxygen out, leaving behind pure marketing cranked up to 11. Camden these days is about raking through the rich seams of Britain's (and, to a lesser extent, the globalised Anglosphere's) history of post-rock'n'roll subcultural cool and producing tables of manufactured tat. Go to Camden Market, contend with the thronging masses of what William Gibson termed the Childrens' Crusade, and you will see what is essentially a meat market of dead subcultures, where well-preserved cuts of Punk, Goth, Emo and Belieber are served up to wide-eyed teenagers from smaller places all over the world, alongside the ubiquitous pirated T-shirts extolling the virtues of poor impulse control in series of three badly-drawn pictographs, identical to the ones in any Hot Topic in America or any tourist market in Thailand.
* One could, however, make the case that the two-stroke Italian motorscooters that became fashionable with the Mod-revival-revival phase of Britpop are, in today's time, a far more ridiculous affectation than the fixed-gear bikes beloved of the stereotypical “Shoreditch hipster”.
Rupert Murdoch, the patriarch of the Right in the English-speaking world over the past few decades, has bought 5% of VICE, the hipster magazine/record label/documentary producer:
Fox, which was spun off from News Corp earlier this year, confirmed the $70m (£45m) deal, which marks the latest stage in the evolution of Vice from an off-beat Canadian magazine into a global brand frequently dubbed the hipsters' bible.One does wonder what Murdoch's motivation is: is this a purely business decision, that of the last of the old broadcast-age newspapermen seeing his original world's time running out and trying to break into the new paradigm, either from scratch (the ill-fated Daily iPad magazine) or by buying his way in (MySpace, and now VICE)? Or is it Murdoch, the quintessential right-wing ideological warrior, responding to a different shift—namely, the political Right's electoral and opinion-forming base being set to shrink as the scared old people eventually die and their ranks aren't replenished by younger people who aren't sufficiently scared of gays, boats, gays on boats, atheism, socialism, uppity sheilas or brown people to pick up on watching FOX News or agreeing wholeheartedly with the Rush Limbaughs and Andrew Bolts of this world that everything's going to hell. (And if they agree that everything's going to hell, they'd be more likely to pin the cause on being neoliberalism and regulatory capture by sociopathic elites than foreigners, feminism or the decline in traditional values, which is not quite the message Murdoch and his ilk would approve of.)
As such, what if the purchase of a stake in VICE is the first stage in creating a means of selling the values of the Murdochian Right to the sorts of nominally socially progressive trend-seeking young urbanites—let's call them “hipsters”—who typically regard the Tories/Republicans with disdain, or if that's a bridge too far, of instilling a cynical contempt for leftist idealism, that places it behind the (obviously uncool) old Right among those in the know.
The positional good of Cool that is the currency of hipsters and the readership of VICE has a number of paradoxical properties, which emerge from it being not an absolute quest for truth or an ideal for living, but a positional good in the marketplace of status. One of these properties is that anything that's too obviously right on, and thus must, to a novice, be obviously cool is not really cool. (Imagine, if you will, a provincial teenager from a small village somewhere obsessively studying the classics of cool, and then, one day, moving to the big city and gravitating to the epicentre of hipness they have read about—say, to Dalston or Williamsburg, Newtown or Neukölln, or the equivalent in your city of choice. He spends some weeks hanging around bars, posing in his meticulously styled clothes and hairstyle, looking dishevelled and insouciant in precisely the right way, before being noticed and getting invited to a warehouse party. At that party, another hipster (about the same age, equally sharply styled, though having been in town for six months longer) asks him what music he's into, and as he reels off a curriculum vitæ of classically cool and credible bands—say, Joy Division, the Velvet Underground, the Smiths, Neutral Milk Hotel—you can almost hear her eyes rolling back, over the sound of the DJ segueing from Hall & Oates into a hard-wonky mashup of an old Michael Bolton track.) So for cool to function as a peacock-tail-style proof of connectedness, it must be disconnected, at least to some extent, from anything objectively inferable from first principles, and consist at least partially of arbitrary conventions, and furthermore, it must not be possible to fake knowledge by merely going by what is commonly known to be cool and reeling off a list of the classics.
One side-effect of this is that cool is not intrinsically connected to earnestness or principles, whether it's the inherent authenticity of post-punk guitar rock or the principles of the New Left; it can ride with such principles while they're outside of the mainstream (and function as a shibboleth in themselves), but no further. Sooner or later, major recording labels will discover grunge rock and “alternative music” and flood the market with authentically rough-sounding bands; soon after that, the hipsters will cede that territory, abandoning the equation of roughness with authenticity and look elsewhere, an then we get electroclash, Yacht Rock and new waves of Italo-disco made by hardcore punks. The same can go with ideals, no matter how lofty. The cool kids were all vegans who boycotted Nike sweatshops once, but once vegetarianism and anti-sweatshop campaigns went mainstream, they're more likely to be artisanal carnivores with meticulously curated vintage Nike collections. Conspicuously boycotting meat and sweatshop-made trainers is like showing up at a loft party in Bushwick and enthusing about this awesome band named The Pixies whom you've just discovered.
Assuming that someone like Rupert Murdoch wants to sell right-wing politics (or at least cynicism of, and disengagement from, the ideals of the progressive Left) to hip urbanites, the help of VICE Magazine could be indispensable. The wilfully contrarian tone VICE has often adopted is not too far from downward-punching conservative humorists like P.J. O'Rourke and Jeremy Clarkson, and with a bit of guidance could be put to use against overly earnest progressives. Granted, actually selling membership to the Conservative Party (or its equivalent) would be a stretch too far, though it's conceivable that, with a few strategically dissembling attack pieces, a Murdoch-guided VICE could, for example, hole the Australian Greens (whom Murdoch has said must be “destroyed at the ballot box”) below the waterline amongst crucial inner-city demographics. (A piece about how the dreams of “leftist utopians” like Stalin, Mao and Guevara have caused vast amounts of suffering, with an insinuation that that's what the Greens would have in store if they ever came to power, may be enough; similar calumnies have worked remarkably well among older demographics in the Australian.) In Britain, meanwhile, while saying nice things about David Cameron may be a dead loss, subtly building up Boris Johnson could be doable, as could attacking the critiques of Bullingdonian privilege often brought to bear against blue-blooded Tory politicians. Indeed, a sort of “hipster Bullingdonianism”, a celebration of privilege à la Vampire Weekend and rejection of the by now mainstream idea that soaring inequality is bad or dangerous, could be not too far from a Murdochian Vice.
I think the record is the equivalent of an honest, expressive film or novel…something people can spend a bit of time inside. I know it’s good. But those are not the kind of attributes that a lot of the Pitchfork side of indie culture values. They mostly want clever abstraction of a good idea or aesthetic from the past. Which is like the same thing say… a trendy clothier does. Presented by skinny young white people whenever possible. Which is also what a trendy clothier does actually. I mean all artists explore what’s been done before, that’s WHAT ART IS, but ideally on top of a foundation of intention, something with a bit of warm blood in it. Music like DIIV seems to just aggregate other good records and blur the meaningful bits that aren’t quite as easy to ape. Youth as the best car commercial ever. VICE on the other hand just promotes what I call ”transgression tourism”. Nothing entertains rich kids quite like the fucked up things poor people, or better yet, poor people of color do. But beyond that, people aren’t really looking to take chances with what they expose. Thus you get coverage for a whole label, with the same publicist whom essentially do the same thing. Honestly, soon we will only be thinking in 7 second intervals and real art will be something exchanged in the shadows like cigarettes or Levi jeans in the 60s Soviet Union.
So our plans are to try to get people to give a listen, and our dream is to be part of a wave of groups that starts a discussion about the state of ”overground” music in the boutique subculture. Capitalism has finally alienated us from our music. Rock n’ roll was actually one of the success stories of capitalism in the 20th century. But no longer. We need to demand poetry.
A look at China's emerging youth counter-culture, the wenyi qingnian (文艺青年), or “cultured youth”, a term which is roughly cognate with the English word “hipster”:
Like hipsters, wenqing stridently resist labeling themselves as such. The term “cultured youth” can divide Chinese audiences, alternately attracting admiration or derision. A perfect example recently emerged on Sina Weibo, one of China’s popular microblogging sites, with this post entitled, “Photos of Shanghai ‘cultured youth’ girls aboard a subway reading poetry.”One difference between the wenqing and stereotypical hipsters in the West is their sincere passion for their countercultural pursuits and values outside the mainstream of material status; not having lived through the betrayals and commodifications of subcultures from the hippies to the punks and beyond, they have not developed an armour of ironic detachment and nihilistic apathy. That, however, is the preserve of a different Chinese youth counterculture, the “2B qingnian” (二逼青年), or “dumbass youth”, who appear to be more like Nathan Barley-esque nihilistic pisstakers:
By contrast, China’s wonderfully sincere “cultured youth” lack the irony and apathy integral to hipsterism, characteristics which nonetheless can be found in China’s “2B youth.” These are young men and women who have nothing much going on in their lives (or, in some cases, their heads). As the photo collage suggests, “2B”ers like to engage in pointless and deliberately self-defeating behavior, all, it sometimes seems, for nothing more than the “lulz.”Note the graphic at the bottom of the page, which shows a range of activities performed in the normal, Cultured and Dumbass styles.
Or, in perhaps more appositely Marxist terms, the wenqing repudiate economic capital for cultural capital, whereas the 2Bs reject cultural capital as futile and mock it. Which suggests that, were one to shoehorn Chinese countercultures into American terms, the wenqing are a counterculture with the dynamics of, say, the Beats, though using the technology and symbols of the global late-capitalist hipster, while the 2Bs are (perhaps precociously) grasping at the nihilism of 1990s grunge slackers, anticipating that it will all turn to shit.
William Gibson talks about how the internet changed the idea of “bohemia” by eliminating the scarcity and locality of subcultures and scenes, instead replacing it with everything, everywhere, all the time:
(If punk emerged today:) You’d pull it up on YouTube, as soon as it was played. It would go up on YouTube among the kazillion other things that went up on YouTube that day. And then how would you find it? How would it become a thing, as we used to say? I think that’s one of the ways in which things are really different today. How can you distinguish your communal new thing — how can that happen? Bohemia used to be self-imposed backwaters of a sort. They were other countries within the landscape of Western industrial civilization. They were countries that most people would never see — mysterious places. You’d pay a price, potentially, for going there. That’s always cool and exciting. Now, where are they? Where can you do that? How are people transacting that today? I am pretty sure that they are, but I don’t have that much firsthand experience of it. But they have to do it in a different way.Meanwhile, Justin Moyer of the band El Guapo writes about the Brooklynisation of indie music, and how a vaguely Williamsburg-flavoured global hipsterism has displaced the myriad different, wildly divergent local scenes that used to exist, literally or metaphorically “over the mountains”:
Regional music scenes differentiate Hill Country blues from Delta blues and New York hardcore from Orange County hardcore from harDCore. RMSes draw lines between KRS-One and MC Shan, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, Merseybeat and The Kinks, Satie and Wagner. RMSes are why I would almost never play a show that wasn’t all ages in D.C., but would only play Joe’s Bar in Marfa, Texas. RMSes make you think differently.
Like accents, RMSes are disappearing. Sure, record stores and record labels are dead or living on borrowed time. Sure, smart clubowners can’t afford to book a show for an unknown, out-of-town band instead of an ’80s dance party. But money’s not the problem—or, at least, not the only problem. RMSes are disappearing because everyone is starting to sound like everyone else.The opposite of the regional music scenes is the globalised Brooklyn, based loosely though not entirely on the real Brooklyn, a place where the sheer concentration of hip, creative young people and potential collaborators absorbs talent from other areas, absorbing it into a melting-pot monoculture where everything is linked to everything else and there are no secrets:
Do not confuse Brooklyn with, well, Brooklyn—the New York borough that sits about 230 miles from Washington on the southwest end of Long Island over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge off of I-278. There are many Brooklyns. Los Angeles is Brooklyn. Chicago is Brooklyn. Berlin and London are Brooklyn. Babylon was the Brooklyn of the ancient world. In the 1990s, Seattle was Brooklyn. Young Chinese punks challenging Communism risk prison to make Beijing the Brooklyn of tomorrow. Some Brooklyns aren’t even places. MySpace is Brooklyn. YouTube is Brooklyn. Facebook is Brooklyn. Spotify and iTunes are perversely, horribly, unapologetically, maddeningly Brooklyn.
What this essay is saying: In Brooklyn, there is too much input.
What this essay is saying: If music wasn’t better before Brooklyn, it was, at least, weirder.
What this essay is saying: In Brooklyn, music comes too cheap. (Please note: “too cheap” doesn’t refer to price.)
What this essay is saying: A melting pot is not an aesthetic. Neither is a salad bar.
What this essay is saying: There is a tidal wave of generic, mushy, apolitical, featureless, Brooklynish music infiltrating the world’s stereos.
What this essay is saying: Beware what you put on your iPod. It might not be dangerous.
(via The Secret History)
Exhibit A: a free-range pig farm in Berlin has a website allowing the public to see the profiles of the pigs their sausages and meat products are made from, and vote on the next pig they'd like to eat:
Mr Buchman selects the pigs from a free-range farm near Berlin, photographs them and then places the pictures online with descriptions of the animals. He also updates the website with the latest information detailing the lives of each pig so people can follow their progress.Exhibit B: this.
The Quietus, an online journal of music and culture, looks at contemporary "folk" culture (you know; the intersection of the improvised and rough-hewn, the spontaneous and "authentic"; ukuleles, beards, peasant skirts, artisanal food, that sort of thing) and argues that contemporary indie-folk culture is essentially a bourgeois, conservative phenomenon; you see, only those comfortably well-off (and sufficiently well connected to the establishment to feel confident) can allow themselves to indulge in a spot of faux-rustic reverie or fantasise about that old canard of "a simpler life". If those who are not unmistakably comfortably middle-class or better do it, they might get mistaken for the actual underclass and treated with the contempt Anglocapitalist society reserves for its lower orders. (Hence the well-documented phenomenon of class anxiety in England, where every class tries hard to draw a sharp line between itself and the class below, with the exception of the very top and the very bottom, who have the luxury of not caring.)
Shortly after the riots, a photograph was taken that let slip pop's complicity in this subterfuge. Alex James, a man who has spent the last few years protesting too much about how organic food production is infinitely more gratifying than the life of a touring rock star, gave consent for his Oxfordshire farm to be used to stage Harvest, a boutique food and music festival. Playing the garrulous country squire, he was snapped deep in conversation with both Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson, the avatars, respectively, of compassionate Conservatism and PC-baiting, speed camera-hating Little Englanderism. Harvest, it appeared, was an ideological interzone for disparate trends within modern Toryism.
During the mid-2000s, forward-thinking tendencies in rock were suddenly overwhelmed by a glorification of spontaneity: it didn't matter what the music sounded like, so long as it could be knocked out at short notice to a crowd of thirty-six slumming private school kids in a Bethnal Green bedsit.
Presumably the "private school kids" part comes from the fact that, in today's Austerity Britain, those not born with a silver spoon in their mouths these days are too busy holding down two low-wage McJobs to pay their tuition fees to get in much in the way of spontaneous ukulele-strumming, the places in urban bohemia they reluctantly dropped out of to survive having been taken by the slumming scions of the gentry, taking a break from playing tennis and skiing to play at doing whatever (they imagine) common people do. Much in the way that a significant proportion of Brooklyn hipsters these days are one-percenters from the Hamptons (see also: Vampire Weekend, Lana Del Rey).
In this similarity, one can perceive a fundamental truth about the cultural logic of Big Society. When it did locate compliance in popular music, Thatcherism gave rise to an aspirational, future-oriented strand of New Romanticism: Cameron's Conservatism, by contrast, finds a less direct mode of expression in sham enactments of 'folk' autonomy. The organic, 'real' provenance of movements which affirm the ideological status quo is offered as proof that challenges to that dominant order are regarded by the majority of the nation's population as undesirable and inauthentic.Meanwhile, the comedian Stewart Lee is the latest to be faced with the agony of having one's favourite art defiled by the approval of the political centre-right; specifically, he is throwing away his Gillian Welch CDs, after the alt-country singer failed to display the integrity to prohibit David Cameron from liking her music, as Johnny Marr did with The Smiths.
Why was Cameron there anyway? Welch's music is not the music of library closures and the stoppage of disabled babies' free nappies. Great art ought to be incomprehensible to the dead-hearted politician. But then Ken Clarke comes along, with his brilliant Radio 4 Jazz Greats. Were his real parents bereted beatniks, who abandoned him as a baby in a golf club toilet to be raised by Tories?
It is inappropriate of Ken Clarke to love jazz, and cruel of David Cameron to attend a Gillian Welch show, or indeed any live event except sport, which is of no value. It must be obvious to him that the majority of fans of anything good would despise him and that knowing he was in the room would foul their experience.
There's an article in the New Yorker about the US television show Portlandia, a sketch comedy show satirising the foibles of White People in bourgeois-bohemian enclaves (like the titular Portland, Oregon, which seems to be the Berlin of America or something), and the relationship between the two creators of the show, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (better known to some as a member of the legendary Pacific Northwest riot-grrl band Sleater-Kinney):
“Portlandia” presents a heightened version of the city’s twee urbanity: a company sells artisanal light bulbs, a hotel offers a manual typewriter to every guest, and a big local event is the Allergy Pride Parade. The mayor, played by Kyle MacLachlan, becomes an object of scandal when he’s “outed” as the bass guitarist in a middle-of-the-road reggae band. (The real Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams, who is openly gay, plays MacLachlan’s assistant on the show.) Armisen and Brownstein, wearing anthropologically precise wigs and outfits, portray most of the main characters: bicycle-rights activists, dumpster divers, campaigners against any theoretical attempt to bring the Olympics to Portland, animal lovers so out of touch that they free a pet dog tied up outside a restaurant. (“Who puts their dog on a pole like a stripper?”) Many characters recur, and, because they often seem to know one another, their intersections from sketch to sketch give the show the feel of a grownup “Sesame Street.” This childlike vibe has an edge to it, however; as an Armisen character explains at one point, Portland is “where young people go to retire.”
But the most palpable affection onscreen is that between Armisen and Brownstein, who have an unusually devoted platonic relationship. They met in 2003, when Sleater-Kinney was playing in New York City, and Armisen invited the band to an “S.N.L.” after-party. When Brownstein showed up, she found him wearing a Sleater-Kinney button with her picture on it. Their paths had probably crossed before: Armisen started out his performing life as the drummer in a Chicago punk band called Trenchmouth, and he was married for six years to the British singer and songwriter Sally Timms, from the Mekons. Brownstein says that she and Armisen likely slept on some of the same couches when both were touring. (“If you were in an indie band in the nineties, you slept on a lot of couches.”) After that party in New York, Brownstein and Armisen began building a friendship, but, given that they were living on opposite coasts, they decided that they’d have to work on something together. As she put it, when you’re not dating somebody, “it begins to seem kind of weird if you’re flying around the country to see him.”
Armisen and Brownstein text each other every night before bed. Brownstein says of their friendship, “Sometimes I think it’s the most successful love affair either of us will ever have.” Both claim that it wouldn’t work if they were romantically involved. “It would be colder, because we’ve both treated our romantic relationships in a cold way,” Armisen says. “Carrie and I are more romantic than any other romantic relationship I’ve ever had—that sense of anticipation about seeing the other person, the secret bond. But things don’t become obligatory. I’m not thinking, I’m doing this because you’re my girlfriend; I’m just thinking, I love Carrie.”
An interview with underground comic author Daniel Clowes, in which he talks about a number of things, such as the pitfalls of hipster parents trying wrongheadedly to introduce their kids to interesting culture (and, in the process, making it deeply uncool):
I think about that a lot with my son. I don’t want to inflict the stuff I like onto him. He’s only eight, so right now I could get him to like anything, pretty much, but when he’s a few years older I really don’t want him to respond to anything because I like it too much or not enough. I want him to sort of find his way into his own stuff, so it’s something I have to constantly modulate. I don’t want him to associate this music with me, I want him to discover it on his own and then I’ll go like, “Well, I happen to have all their records!”In short, you may be hip and credible, but once you have kids, your position as a parent will, in the eyes of your kids, be like antimatter to all the cred you have carried forth from your bourgeois-bohemian extended adolescence. And so, a generation is produced to whom Black Flag and Pavement will be as naff as, say, Engelbert Humperdinck or something. Or, in the post-loungecore, post-Yacht Rock age after irony has folded in upon itself, perhaps it's the act of having opinions about music that will carry a patina of daddish uncool, with record collections and discographies being inherently cringeworthy; perhaps, to the hip kids, music will be, as Jarvis Cocker put it, like a scented candle, a ubiquitous low-value commodity beneath caring about.
And now is the era of the Cool Dad. I know lots of parents who I just think, like, “God, if my parents had been like that I would’ve been into all this cool stuff.” Luckily they weren’t, so I discovered all that stuff on my own and they sort of disdainfully shook their heads at the stupid stuff I was interested in. But there are a lot of things that I don’t respond to. I’m not into video games, so I can just see my son becoming, like, a video-game tester as his job or something. Developing video games.Clowes touches on the mainstreaming of comic-book/nerd culture:
When I was in high school, if I’d gone up to a girl and said, “Would you like to go read some of my Thor comics with me?” they would’ve just thought I was the lowest form of human life. That would’ve been so unimaginable. I was actually on the subway in New York and saw this, like, Attractive Teenage Couple, and the guy was like, “Hey, wanna go see Thor tonight?” and the girl was like, “Yeah, yeah.” And I just thought, that is just blowing my mind that that is happening right in front of me.And touches on the way that, by reducing the amount of friction required to discover something, the internet has reduced the value of merely knowing about cultural products as badges of belonging:
I could tell you right now about some obscure filmmaker and you could know more about him by midnight than I would’ve been able to find out in 10 years when I was your age. But I don’t know that it would mean much to you unless you really connected to the guy and kept following it and doing more and more research. It’d just be like, “Yeah, I know about that guy,” and then you’d move on to the next thing. There’s something about having it be like a mystery that you have to solve and figure out that really connected you to this weird culture back then.
It also used to be like, you’d buy an album by a recording artist and there’d be one or two good songs on it, and there’d be all the rest that were just kind of to fill up the album, and you’d work your way through that and learn to like the other songs after a while, and then you’d wait till the next album came out. And now it sort of feels like everything is all the greatest hits. You learn about a musician and you immediately can figure out what their 10 greatest songs are, and you just listen to those and you don’t experience the full breadth of their failures and mishaps and all that stuff. I feel like that’s how all culture is. And I’m as guilty as anybody else now—if I hear about an author or something I go straight for their most well-known book and read that first, and, you know, I don’t have that experience of kind of building up to that. You don’t wanna read the rest of their books after that because you figure, “Well, I’ve already read the best one. It’s not gonna be much better than that.”The interview also touches on the settings of Clowes' works, the aura of alienation in his characters, and his aesthetic formative experiences having been a reaction to the cultural upheavals of The Sixties:
As a kid I loved the look of the early ’60s, kind of the pre-hippie era, just the haircuts and clothes and the way women dressed, it was really appealing. And then all of a sudden people started wearing, like, filthy clothes and messy hair and stuff. That seemed really hideous and horrible to me. It definitely relates to what was going on in my life at the time because, as with many kids who grew up then, my family was just disintegrating while all that stuff came in, so it represented this chaos that was entering my life. But I still have an affection for that pre-1968 look, that kind of saturated Technicolor look. That seems like the real world to me, or like the way things should be.
There's a piece in the Guardian's Bike Blog on the subculture of cyclists affecting the style of a bygone aristocracy (minus the unpalatable bits, of course):
Browsing some of the increasingly popular retro bike designs recently, I came across the Old Bicycle Showroom ("Purveyors of Fine bicycles to Nobility & Gentry"); and I met Pashley's owners' club of "jolly chaps", who look more Friedrich Nietzsche than Fausto Coppi. Then there is the Tweed Run, issuing its dress code like a public school prefect: "Now look here, proper attire is expected"; and Rapha, with its series of Gentlemen's Races, and clothing for gentlemen.The irony that the article points to is that the golden age of aristocratic cycling is only slightly less fantastic than steampunk, with cycling having been a largely proletarian phenomenon, at least until the age of high-tech materials and the (distinctly modern) bike snob (not to mention of ubiquitous car ownership):
Seventy early cycling clubs were named after the campaigning socialist paper The Clarion (founded 1891), with its ideal of fellowship. The brief aristocratic fad for cycling petered out when the bike became too popular to be posh. It has, as Tim Hilton's memoir One More Kilometre and We're in the Showers relates, "belonged to a lower social class" ever since. Until, that is, the recent popularity of cycling among wealthy men persuaded some marketing departments to rewrite the history of cycling. But does this retelling make any sense?Or, to quote from one of the commenters: "Mummy, why is daddy dressed as a racist?"
This article looks at the malaise in indie/hipster culture, and places the blame squarely at the feet of 1990s proto-hipster Beck:
The two most common characteristics of the “indie” persona these days, at least in North America, are an aversion to overt seriousness and the ability to find everything “awesome”. These characteristics often intermingle and feed off one another, creating the voracious indie devourer who is able to simultaneously enjoy every kind of music while at the same time not particularly caring about anything. They are the ultimate consumer, willing to embrace and discard bands at a moment’s notice while never questioning what led them to lose interest in one band and embrace another. Awkward inquiries about almost any subject can be dealt with in a detached and deliberately ironic manner — following trends is awesome, selling out is awesome, being shallow is awesome, sweatshops are awesome. When it comes to fashion, trashiness battles against both vintage store retro and American Apparel chic as the dominant form, and everyone thinks that everybody but themselves is a hipster. How this persona was birthed is a relatively straightforward tale, as suburban America fell in the love with the vulgar commercial product of its youth. An ironic approach was already somewhat popular but something, or in this case someone, happened in the ‘90s to turn what was a mere aspect of American culture into the dominant personality trait of American teenagers, twenty-somethings and, at this point, thirty-somethings. That someone was Beck.
Cinema in the 90s reflected this shift in taste, with the ultra-violence of Quentin Tarantino’s movies creating a detached, cartoonish reality that allowed the viewer to feel unconcerned as to the repercussions of the savagery on screen. The character’s brutal transgressions are played out for entertainment and amusement rather than illustrating any kind of painful struggle. Tarantino’s movies were also filled with pop culture references that allowed the viewer to feel like they were part of the director’s insular self-congratulatory world. If America in the 70s wrestled with moral dilemmas and a diminished sense of individuality and reach, then pop culture mavens in the 90s merely wanted to be in on the joke. To music fans who imagined themselves to be more alternative in their approach, Beck fulfilled this need. His music basked in the mindset of trash culture and knowing irony, of sneering at seriousness, of adopting hip-hop beats to play up the now utterly commonplace “look at me I’m a nerdy white guy rapping about ridiculous things” persona that has managed to all but reduce hip-hop to a comedy sideshow for those who need an occasional break from their Arcade Fire or Vampire Weekend albums.The ironic stance, the article argues, was a false victory, delivering the counterculture straight into the arms of the consumerist mainstream. After all, you can buy more crap if you're doing so ironically:
Consumerism thrives on people getting excited about, and buying, things that they ultimately don’t care about. In this sense the ironic persona is the ultimate gift to consumerism. Mainstream music revels in easy sentiment and soul-crushing banality and can only truly be enjoyed by not paying attention to the lyrics. Beck’s meaningless babble trained a generation of young ears to seek out amusing sound-bites over articulate content and in doing so helped break down the last vestiges of ‘alternative’ music by making it as equally meaningless as, and therefore all but identical to, mainstream drivel.I'm wondering whether the rise to dominance of the stance of ironic detachment and the tendency of musicians and bands to define themselves publically by catalogues of their influences ("we're kraut-punk meets Afrobeat meets New Jack Swing") could not both be symptoms of a more abstract shift from directness and immediacy towards mediation and referentiality, an addition of levels of abstraction to the processes of culture, a tendency to see and do things from one step removed.
Melbourne Restaurant Name Generator; uncannily accurate:
Mister Tango: A basement roastery with an abbatoir boning room atmosphere. Operates as a barber shop on weekends and public holidays.Melburnians reading this will probably pick out some of the actual eateries and laneway bars referred to.
An art exhibition in Berlin involves a hall divided into two parts, each of which containing six reindeer. One half of the reindeer are (possibly) fed fly agaric mushrooms, fabled by Lapp shamans to give their urine hallucinogenic properties. In the centre of the hall there is a hotel-like suite, which may be rented for €1,000 a night; the suite contains a minibar, which is stocked with bottles of urine collected from the reindeer; however, the bottles are not labelled as to which reindeer they came from. The title of this show is Soma, though an alternate title is "how to make hipsters pay €1,000 to drink piss".
Pabst Blue Ribbon is the main sponsor.
Dorothée Brill, the museum's lead curator, says: "As far as we can tell, nobody's done anything they shouldn't have." Staff at the restaurant, however, report that some guests "drink the minibar dry".
Charles Bronson in "Killing Hipsters"; or, if you saw someone today who looked like a mugger or back-alley lowlife from 1970s New York, they'd probably be a trust fund kid who runs a DJ night and makes video projections for bands.
Also killing hipsters: Jhonen Vasquez, the author of the 1990s comic Johnny The Homicidal Maniac (the one underground comic broadly associated with the goth subculture which wasn't cringeworthy). Now he has turned his murderous attention from the darklings to those of the American Apparel persuasion, in this music video for a band named The Left Rights. It starts off pretty stereotypically, but keep watching.
Veteran music critic Everett True has a column in Something Awful (that was one of those troll/griefer forums before /b/ took over that market, leaving only the respectable trade in content), in which he plays the Grumpy Old Man and calls bullshit on the more-special-than-thou stylistic posturing of privileged white college kids, from the point of view that only a cranky old guy can have. In the first one, he demolishes Animal Collective:
None of us like to be associated with those chicks with their tits hanging halfway out of their bra-straps, teetering down the Valley on four-inch white high heels. So we can't be caught liking what they listen to (probably Lady Gaga or Britney). None of us want to be seen hanging with the lads who think it's a laugh-riot to see how far a wall can splatter blood. So fuck their taste (probably Chili Peppers or Nirvana). Your parents, they're old. They like songs that have melodies and structures and stuff (probably Weezer or Blondie or Beck). Crap, how '90s. Secretly, in your heart of hearts, you want to keep listening to Radiohead's OK Computer but you know that your beard-growing college chums would despise you if they knew, even though they all feel exactly the same. Really, all you want to do is have a few brews and chill out, and not have anybody freak you out with loud noises.
Someone once wrote to me that "A fellow I know once stated that the Animal Collective are at the apex of what he termed the 'skipping-CD Beach Boys meets the Lion King soundtrack' age. Recently he informed me that era was finished, and the 'record your girl-group songs in Pro-Tools then add distortion to make them lo-fi' epoch was now upon us."And here, he tears apart the entire NPR Top 20 of 2010 for its lily-white beards-and-sweaters indie homogeneity:
1. Gorillaz: Plastic Beach. My son listens to Gorillaz. He has a good time listening to Gorillaz. He likes to shoot a few dance moves, talk about what the cartoon characters get up to, and make the scary chuckling noise when we least expect it. My son is five years old. I'm not saying you should be embarrassed of sharing your taste with him - he also loves The Specials, Mary Poppins and Ben 10 - and I'm not saying that Gorillaz haven't uncovered a brand-new 'mature' (i.e. downbeat) sound on their new album, but just when were you thinking of growing up?
14. Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma: Ah, the obligatory non-indie record in the Top 20 - so NPR's listeners are open-minded after all. Oh, no, wait, that's not Thom Yorke I see lolloping over the horizon, eager to add his unshaven whine to the squiggly electro beats? Oh fucking fuck, it is.The exact proportions in the abovementioned writings of righteous, insightful debunking of stale bourgeois convention, cheap shots at straw men, and grumpy-old-man kvetching about how music these days is all shit, unlike back in the good old days, is left as an exercise to the reader.
The New York Times (registration required) has a convincing essay by one Mark Greif on what the word "hipster" actually means in a social/cultural context. It's a largely pejorative word nobody will admit to applying to them, though many of those using it derogatorily to refer to others look suspiciously like the stereotypical description of a hipster. The key, it seems, is in the writings of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, whose thesis was that taste (in everything from diet to dress to the various arts) is neither arbitrary nor objective, but correlates rigidly to one's social stratum, and serves a competitive role in jockeying for position in the social hierarchy. And this is where hipsters come in.
According to Greif, what people might classify as "hipsters" are three different groups: upper-middle-class, university-educated "culture workers" (i.e., Richard Florida's "Creative Class"), upper-class "trust fund hipsters", the scions of the aristocracy seeking to convert financial capital into cultural capital, and the old-guard, lower-middle-class hipsters, wearing thrift-shop clothes they acquired before they became expensively trendy, serving the aforementioned two categories in dive bars and boutiques and then repairing to crappy bedsits or borrowed couches. These may be the most authentic, but are looked down upon by the others for their lower standing, with only their unpurchased cultural authenticity giving them a form of superiority which doesn't afford them economic mobility. These three categories use the H-word as a weapon in an ongoing cultural jousting match, to knock each other down, belittling each other's cultural standing by denying its authenticity:
All hipsters play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world. Yet the habits of hatred and accusation are endemic to hipsters because they feel the weakness of everyone’s position — including their own. Proving that someone is trying desperately to boost himself instantly undoes him as an opponent. He’s a fake, while you are a natural aristocrat of taste. That’s why “He’s not for real, he’s just a hipster” is a potent insult among all the people identifiable as hipsters themselves.
I recently read an interesting article in the September issue of Exberliner (though not on the web site yet, it seems) about the state of the music industry in Berlin. According to it, the clubs of Berlin still draw in the "Easyjet set" who fly in for weekends (apparently a significant proportion of Berlin's clubbers are tourists), though the club market is saturated, to the point where door charges have dropped dramatically. Meanwhile, gentrification is threatening a lot of long-established clubs, as apartments are built next door, yuppies move in, and the clubs' licenses are not renewed due to the newly bourgeois, residential nature of their environs. (Which all sounds familiar.) Though, according to the article, the real area of growth in Berlin is not so much clubbing or music performance as music technology; the article pointed to the growth of Berlin-based music software firms like Ableton and Native Instruments, and also mentioned SoundCloud's Swedish founders having relocated to Berlin to establish the firm. Which seems to tie in with what I've heard elsewhere about Berlin being Europe's IT startup hub these days.
Anyway, while that article is not online, here's an earlier one about the rise of "place consumers" and "post-tourism tourists", foreign "hipster nomads" who move to Berlin temporarily to enjoy and participate in the lifestyle before moving on.
"The internet's completely over. I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it.... Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."
Kenny G says if the Internet is dead "then I must be dead, too, 'cause I use it all the time." He adds with a laugh: "Maybe I've got a sixth sense, and I only see dead people. I don't know."Actually, Kenny G being considered "cool", in the post-Yacht Rock world in which Hall & Oates and 1980s R&B acts are cooler amongst the hipsters than any new-wave/post-punk band (that entire lo-fi/angular/jangly type of music having been overexposed by youth-oriented marketing campaigns until it has as much cachet as the Ray Bans and leather jackets worn by breakfast cereal mascots, and so those in the know are embracing the smooth, leaving post-punk to the clueless arrivistes) is not that far-fetched. Granted, Mr. G's oeuvre is still a bit too recent, though in a few years' time, the hippest of the hipsters may be spinning him at their art parties. (Tracks from his new album, "the R&B-flavoured 'Heart and Soul'", according to the article, may well end up in DJ sets between glo-fi/chillwave tracks and neo-italo-disco jams made by former noise-punk bands.)
Hipster is a global phenomenon, but there are certainly cultural differences. What's special about German hipsters?And here it is in German.
They are very "German" at it. Meaning that they take themselves very, very serious. Everybody is gravely determined to show how free and relaxed their life is. Like young people all over the world, Germans want to break free from the limiting world of their parents - where it only matters that you have the bigger house or nicer car than your neighbors, but all they seem to be able to is get themselves entangled in a different hierarchy that's even more limiting: Who had the wildest night out, who knows the most authentic Chinese restaurant, who has the biggest vinyl collection, who is the first to open a clandestine art gallery near Ostkreuz. Young Germans stopped using their built-in engineering skills to construct better cars, and channeled these skills into building the most impressive, delicately engineered hipness-hierarchy of all.
Data visualisation of the day: Locals and Tourists. Location data was harvested from geotagged photos on Flickr and plotted on maps; the points were colour-coded: blue if the poster was a local (i.e., had been in the city for more than a period of time), red if they were tourists (recent visitors with no prior history), and yellow if it was ambiguous. Here, for example, is London, with the Thames and the West End ablaze with red and the East End blue (which means that there are fewer tourists but still plenty of photographers, think Hackney art hipsters and/or kids with iPhones):Paris; tourists flock to the obvious parts (the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees, the Seine and the Île-de-Cité), whereas the locals who tend to post photos gravitate to the east, around the Bastille and such; the affluent, conservative southern arrondisements are largely a wasteland, photographically at least. In Berlin, meanwhile, tourists fill the city's broad central boulevards, the Tiergarten and Alexanderplatz and Karl-Marx-Allee, and visit the East Side Gallery, but there's a lot of local photography happening around Kreuzberg/Neukolln.
In fact, one could use the frequency of non-tourist photography for an area as a predictor of cultural vibrancy. Areas where a lot of photos are taken by people who live in the same city and not by tourists could be the kinds of broad areas where local scenes form, and the kinds of people who engage in cultural activity beyond passive consumption (sometimes referred to as "hipsters") are more likely to be found. This is borne out by other maps: Melbourne (there are specks of blue around the inner north, while the sprawling suburbs are largely empty). In New York, meanwhile, Manhattan glows with tourist activity but Brooklyn is veined with blue.
Of course, the amount of blue space on these maps is considerably larger than any nexus of cultural activity would be; it'd cover the areas where events take place, where the participants live and work, and spaces in between. However, it does make one wonder whether one could data-mine the buzz of a city by correlating Flickr photo geodata or other indices of participation with other data; possibly transport routes?
Ich Werde Ein Berliner is a Stuff White People Like-style blog only purporting to unmask the hidden rules of being a member of the "Elite German People" (the word "German" is used there in the way Christian Lander uses the word "White") who populate the hipper parts of Berlin, ostensibly for the benefit of the numerous auslanders moving to Berlin for its creativity, edginess and bohemianism. The blog presents a tour of the various hipster leks, arms races and balancing acts for demonstrating one's cultural bona fides as a Berliner (and that one is not one of the Wrong Types of Germans), subtly underscoring the contradictions and absurdities beneath their surface.
There are, for example, entries on personal transport (summary: two wheels good, four wheels bad), techno music, obsession with
Japan China, the 10% of (mostly bourgeois professional) Germans who model themselves on Americans, café culture (one thing one can't argue with there) and the semiotics of soft drinks, audio-visual media (apparently not having an interest in it is considered by Berliners to be a sign of deep sociopathy), the precarious balancing act of Berliner irony and Berliners' relationship to other German cities (apparently Cologne is not so much a mecca of underground electronica as a boringly bourgeois provincial town inhabited by orange-tanned, Ed Hardy-attired "guidos"; Munich, meanwhile, exists solely so that Berliners can slag it off for its conservatism and boringness) and the inevitable ordeal of family Christmases ("One good rule of thumb is - the more artiste, urbane, and bohemian a German person appears, the more remote and redneck his family background will be. For example, all those cross-dressing, Ketamine-addicted, full-body tattooed gay skinhead minimal-techno deejays (so, roughly 20% of the population of Berlin), stem from (remote rural towns in south-western Germany).")
(via Ian W.)
As parts of its Why We Fight column, exploring the cultural flashpoints of (for want of a less loaded word) hipsterdom, Pitchfork has a piece charting the rise and metamorphosis of irony, and exploring the significance of knowingness. The timeline it posits looks like this:
Or, in other words, if this theory holds, Gen Y aren't only the first generation of digital natives, but also the first generation of ironic natives (or perhaps post-ironic natives, though that title might apply more to GenXers who came out the other end and made an accommodation with sincerity via their McSweeney's subscriptions). That is, for values of "first" meaning "since the mid-20th-century".
- Americans born from the late 50s to mid-70s grew up in a world where a lot of old certainties about society, work, family, and life had been eroded-- by big social changes in the 60s, by economic decline, by lots of things. And yet these people were still raised on culture full of old "certainties" that suddenly looked really, really false and corny. Elvis-impersonator corny, After-School Special corny. So they developed a kind of irony and skepticism, floating around smirking but rarely committing to anything. Some of them were good enough at it that, by the late 80s, it'd become an actual cultural aesthetic, a sort of slacker knowingness that could get as mainstream as, say, "The Simpsons".
- Those were Gen Xers, mostly. But even as people slightly younger than them grew up, through the 90s, on a steady diet of that attitude, some folks started to notice a kind of futility in the whole thing, a defensiveness, an emptiness, an inability to embrace anything-- at which point you could suddenly read thousands of words of David Foster Wallace on how damaging it might be, how much we needed to tap back into the kinds of "basic human verities" that actually helped us lead meaningful lives. Some people even started predicting the rise of some "New Sincerity."
- In fact, some of the people who spent the 90s trading in exactly that knowing, snarky sensibility recanted, and started going around bug-eyed, warning everyone about leaving it behind-- raving about climbing out of the hole they'd fallen into, somewhat oblivious to the fact that younger people weren't in the hole with them. Younger people knew how to be ironic and sincere both, and were digging themselves entirely new holes to deal with.
(Other Why We Fight essays on Pitchfork include: why Joanna Newsom is seen as pretentious and Lady Gaga isn't, and the aspirational qualities of shifting musical taste as a sort of hipster arms race.)
In an entirely different negotiation between irony and sincerity, Czechs trying to balance nostalgia with unease for the Communist regime that was imposed on them can now holiday in authentically preserved Communist-era holiday resorts, albeit with better service and a measure of ironic detachment (in the form of singing, dancing Lenin impersonators):
She is upset because I've asked if she was bothered by the bust of Stalin in the hotel lobby. "It's our history and it's inside us," she continues, still brandishing the sausage.
Some recent random posts related to urbanism, urban planning, architecture, transport, infrastructure and such:
- The World's Strangest Housing Communities. Includes Chinese replicas of American suburbia, sadly derelict futuristic pod cities in Taiwan (alas, now destroyed), and rumours of midget villages in rural America. Not to mention Alphaville, the chain of high-security gated cities in which Brazil's professional élites live behind electrified fences, guarded by a private army and entering and leaving only by helicopter (and which inspired a Jean-Luc Godard film of the same name),
- A Berlin-based street artist calling themself EVOL uses photographic prints to convert utility boxes and planters into miniature replicas of decaying tower blocks:
- A piece on hand-drawn maps, and the situations in which they are particularly useful, when subjective psychogeographic experience is more important than objective accuracy.
- A piece in The Economist about Portland, Oregon, a city which "looks to Amsterdam, Helsinki and Stockholm for ideas" and is touted by some as a model for a more sustainable America (though also mocked for being the cultural epicentre for hipsters and White People.
- Another possible alternative for living: Inhabited balloon cities perched atop high-altitude wind systems.
The Graun has an interview with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, in which he talks about, among other things, the mechanisms of "cool" and pretentiousness:
"I actually want to write a treatise in defence of pretension," he says. "I think the word pretension has become like the word ironic – just this catch–all term to distance people from interesting experiences and cultural engagement and possible embarrassment. Pretension can lead to other things. You know, the first time I read Gravity's Rainbow, I did so because I thought it would make me seem cool. That was my original motivation. But now I've read it six times, and I find it hilarious and great and I understand it. You can't be afraid to embarrass yourself sometimes."
New York Magazine has an interesting piece on tensions between hipsters and hasidim in Williamsburg, which began when hipsters started moving to the staunchly Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Brooklyn in the 1990s and came to a head with a dispute over a bike lane which, the hasidim complained, funnelled a steady stream of immodestly-clad nonbelievers through the core of their devoutly observant community:
But after a while, says one Hasidic real-estate developer, “People started talking to the rabbis—‘Hey, something’s happening, all these young white people are moving in.’ ” When the Satmars realized that the Artisten—the Yiddish name they used for the bewildering newcomers—were there to stay, something like panic set in. Rabbis exhorted landlords not to rent to the Artisten, builders not to build for them. One flyer asked God to “please remove from upon us the plague of the artists, so that we shall not drown in evil waters, and so that they shall not come to our residence to ruin it.’’ Rabbi Zalman Leib Fulop announced that the Artisten were “a bitter decree from Heaven,” a biblical trial.While there is an element of conservative-old-timers-vs.-offensive-newcomers to the story, it is (as most things are) more complex than that. Most of the property rented out to the artisten was done so by Hasidic owners, who have mostly kept the hipsters out of the core of their community. Meanwhile, there is more interplay between the ultra-conservative community and the newcomers, with some fence-sitters putting a foot in both camps:
For South Williamsburg’s Hasids, Traif Bike Gesheft functions as a semi-secret window onto the larger world and a clubhouse of mild transgressions. Herzfeld rents bikes to Hasids at no cost, just to get them to venture beyond the neighborhood. (Among Satmars, bicycles are not specifically disallowed but are considered taboo nonetheless.) Inside the shop, otherwise righteous men let down their guard. Tongues loosen. “The men, they don’t know how to have a conversation with a woman,” Herzfeld explains, talking a mile a minute. “Whenever they come to the bike shop, the first thing they ask me to find them a prostitute. I tell them, look, you’re searching for answers. You’re not going to find them in the vagina of a woman you’re paying $200 an hour. If you want to meet somebody, you need to step outside of the community, you need to get a hobby. Come over, and I’ll teach you how to fix a bike. So the bike shop is a kind of outreach program.” A friend of Herzfeld’s also uses the shop to slip Hasids traif books like The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby.
If hipster Williamsburg has a social architect, it is Schwartz. His first project, in 1999, became the mini-mall that redefined Bedford Avenue. The retail collection he developed was both a parody of the American mall and a startling improvement on it. It housed an artisanal-cheese shop, a wine store, a bookseller with Guy Debord window displays, a Tibetan tchotchke store, a vinyl-heavy indie-record emporium, a Mac-friendly computer shop, and, of course, a coffeehouse. Many of these businesses later grew to take up their own storefronts on what became the hipster side of Bedford. Schwartz followed it up with Opera House Lofts, another ambitious development targeted squarely at the Artisten. His latest and largest project—Castle Braid, a 144-unit complex so named after the factory in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—is borderline hipster pandering. The game room has foosball and air hockey. On my arrival, the PA system in the lobby was softly playing Beck’s “Nobody’s Fault But My Own.” The building holds its own film festival (the first prize is six rent-free months) and a tenant-compiled library with Erotica and Gay-and-Lesbian sections. “It is totally kosher,” explains Schwartz, a devout Hasid. “I’ve been joking that I do this to make sure the Artisten stay on the other side!”
(via Ian W.)
Acclaimed Melbourne street artists/underground illustrators Miso and Ghostpatrol have released a downloadable, printable map of inner Melbourne (or, as some would argue, the parts of Melbourne White People like). The map consists of two sheets, covering the CBD and Fitzroy, and showing the locations of cafés, bars, art spaces and art supply shops; it may be downloaded from here.
The choice of the CBD and Fitzroy suggests that gentrification doesn't seem to have affected the north/south divide. North of the Yarra is hip and culturally rich, whereas south of the Yarra is merely trendy, a shallow, consumeristic imposter for actual cool; St. Kilda (once the crucible of punk—blah blah blah Nick Cave blah blah Seaview Ballroom— but now, as The Lucksmiths so appositely worded it, home of bright-eyed boys in business suits, tourists where once were prostitutes) and Prahran (which committed the cardinal sin of getting house music and T-shirt boutiques a decade before Fitzroy) don't rate a mention in the psychogeography of cool in Melbourne. And while Fitzroy real estate prices approach South Yarra levels, there is still enough of a cultural legacy (not to mention tram routes from more affordable areas) to maintain the area's claim to cultural vitality.
In Williamsburg, tensions between hipsters and Hasidim have erupted in conflicts over bike lanes. Some Hasidim want them removed to keep fast-moving, indecently-clad cyclists out of their neighbourhood, whereas the cyclists want their direct route to Williamsburg Bridge, and are willing to repaint removed bike lanes to get it:
Many of the hipster cyclists wear too little clothing for the Hasids, who are not supposed to stare at members of the opposite sex and wanted the enticement removed.
The latest addition to the "Things ___ Like" genre is Things Bogans Like, looking at the common Australian bogan.
18 – Petrol Consumption as Recreation(Bogans, for those unfamiliar with them, are sort of like the Australian equivalent of chavs (except without the quasi-civilising influences of the more drugged- and/or thugged-out sides of Balearic rave-techno and hip-hop) or rednecks (only without the religion and guns). The MetaFilter thread explains it better than I can:
13 – Misspelling Their Kids’ Names
11 – Ruining Music Festivals
6 – Prefacing Racist Statements With ‘I’m not racist but…’
Bogans are just bogans. You don't really get the equivalent overseas. Take the awkward upward social mobility of a chav, mix in the fierce anti-intellectualism and tribalism of your redneck, the utter lack of self awareness of the frat boy, baste it in cheap beer and abandon it on a prison island, hidden in the summer for a million years. They're nice, very unusshual, verry unikwe.
That my friends, is a bogan.
Of course, they tend to have broad senses of humour, strong loyalty to friends and family, no matter what the friends and family do, and a certain code of honour that you do not break. Don't fuck with kids or old ladies, share your hospitality, and help folk out if they're in trouble. A bogan may start a fight, but they'll often break them up, too. They may have their rough sides, but most bogans are okay people.And here is a retort from the bogan side, slagging off the "inner-city tossers" who go to Laneway music festivals and bars with retro furniture, travel to obscure countries, spend their weekends reading newspapers, browsing independent bookshops and having deep, depressing conversations, typically using unnecessarily large words. Alternatively, here's Stuff White People Like: the Melbourne Version.
(via MeFi, Lachlan)
The Portland (that's Portland, Oregon, btw) Mercury's Chas Bowie looks at the amount of vitriol focussed at "hipsters":
The truth is, it's all too easy to conjure a mental image of what people mean when they use the word "hipster" derisively. We likely imagine someone overly concerned with fashion, possessive of a condescendingly dismissive attitude toward everything outside their insular realm, a sheep-like trend follower, and an infuriatingly non-individualized personality who likes whatever band Pitchfork tells them to and whose shoes cost more than a day's wages. When I think of the worst end of the hipster sliding scale, my mind goes straight to the too-cool-for-me guy at my video store, who's always too involved in watching the collected music videos of Hall & Oates on the overhead TV to make eye contact while I rent my movie. He's always wearing lame ironic T-shirts, and his attitude reeks of smug... hipsterness. There's no other word for it. And if I perceived the city to be overrun with hipsters like him, I'd be an angry, I, Anonymous-writing citizen, too.
But the truth is, what rubs me the wrong way about this guy has nothing to do with his relative level of hipsterdom. The fact is, the guy is a self-absorbed narcissist who's overly vain about his wardrobe and hairstyle, and is generally unfriendly. As evidenced by sororities, law firms, sports teams, country clubs, sewing circles, and virtually every other social group the world over, this is by no means an exclusively hipster phenomenon. The fact remains that every demographic is composed of roughly 10 percent assholes. BuddhistsBowie then looks at the "hipster" stereotype (or rather, the "hipster" stereotype minus the "narcissistic asshole" stereotype), as described in a book titled The Hipster Handbook, which suggests that a hipster (in the US, at least) is someone who studied liberal arts, does not vote Republican, and has eclectic tastes in music:
By and large, the term "hipster" is used to point to somebody who enjoys art, good films, and music that you won't hear on most Clear Channel stations. They are generally uninterested in climbing corporate ladders and would instead rather work somewhere that allowed them the freedom to pursue creative endeavors, like their band/crafts/activism/MP3 blog/whatever. They're probably down with recreational drug use, prefer bikes to cars (at least ideologically) and have more interesting homes than decidedly suburban non-hipsters. As it stands right now, we have no term to designate this group of individuals, except for the word "hipster."If I ask somebody what a bar is like, and they tell me it's a hipster bar, instead of recoiling, I figure there will be good music, as well as a lot of people who share my interests. I won't expect it to be full of BMW-driving fatcats with McMansions in the West Hills, or guys who want to chug beers and yell at the football game on TV. If I'm crashing on a friend-of-a-friend's couch out of town, and I'm told in advance that my host is a hipster, I'll breathe a sigh of relief that they'll probably have a good record collection, a lot of books, and a healthy hatred for George W. Bush. If it turns out he has a serious attitude problem and acts like he's the king of Williamsburg, then the problem isn't that he's a hipster, but simply that he's another generic fuckface.He comes to the conclusion that, while the term "hipster" has been bandied about and abused so much that the only thing that any two people labelled as "hipsters" have in common is "a general distaste for mainstream popular culture" (well, that and a hatred for George W. Bush, though that's more or less moot nowadays). By which token, hating on hipsters looks more like the atavistic herd mentality of bullies, the tendency to reflexively strike out and attack difference, on the gut feeling that difference threatens group cohesion or "values".
Bowie then signs off with:
I'm sure this essay will prompt plenty of emails calling me a hipster (or the charming variation "hipster fag"). So preemptively, I say to you finger-pointers: "Sure, I'm a hipster. Call me that all you want. In the meantime, enjoy your Olive Garden, your Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill show coming at the Rose Quarter, the Da Vinci Code, Rachael Ray, bloomin' onions, your middle management job that you'll probably die with, the new Rod Stewart box set, and Renée Zellweger's upcoming movie with Hugh Grant. I'll be back here in the middle of the city with my hipster friends talking about art and books, going to see live bands, searching for new experiences, and drinking better coffee than you. Signed, Your Hipster Friend, Chas Bowie".
Christian lander, author of the Stuff White People Like blog (and book) visits Melbourne, pronounces it to be "white":
'MELBOURNE is definitely whiter than Sydney," says Christian Lander, before taking a sip of organic Fair Trade coffee. "In Sydney, most people seem to spend their days jogging around large bodies of water," he adds. "Melbourne is more chilled. If I lived in Australia, I'd live here."And the "whitest" part of Melbourne is apparently North Fitzroy, my old 'hood:
We're in North Fitzroy, huddled over a small table in a trendy cafe-slash-grocer. It's the sort of place that sells organic vegetables, bio-dynamic meat and expensive pots of jam. On weekends, it's overrun by couples with babies on their chests and The Age under their arms. It's the perfect place to begin our search for Melbourne's Whitest Spot.
We leave the cafe and wander down Scotchmer Street and St Georges Road. "This place ticks all the boxes," Lander says excitedly. "Organic bakery! Cafe with retro furniture! Vintage clothing store! Authentic Thai restaurant! And old-school pub! Another organic bakery!"
But then we encounter a pub with — oh no! — pokies. "Everything about this place is problematic. It's definitely not white. But, paradoxically, it makes this suburb even whiter because it reminds everyone that working-class people still live here, which makes it more authentic."Lander has some other observation on the "whiteness" of Melbourne:
We hop on a tram and spend the next three hours strolling around Brunswick and Fitzroy. Lander asserts that Smith Street's grungy vibe makes it slightly whiter than Brunswick Street. But Gertrude Street, with its record shops, handmade toy retailers and natural cosmetics stores, is the whitest of the lot. It is here his wife Jess buys a funky koala doll for a friend's baby. "That koala was made by someone who lives in Fitzroy," the assistant tells her. Big white tick.(Smith St. is "whiter" than Brunswick St.? I'm guessing that he hasn't encountered its significant Aboriginal community. Or is Brunswick Street by now gentrified and suburbanised and changed to a different colour (perhaps pink, after the SubGenius usage)?)
Of course, by "white", he undoubtedly means "creative class" or "bourgeois bohemian" or somesuch, with an undertone of opprobrium, a hint of latent racism or sharply wielded and insufficiently atoned-for privilege. Note: merely having the privilege of not having been oppressed for one's skin colour doesn't seem to qualify one as "white"; otherwise, why is having a preference for organic food, vintage clothing and authenticity any more "white" than, say, NASCAR racing or country music, or the default option of honestly vegetating in front of a suburban plasma screen with a bucket of KFC? Lander seems to be identifying whiteness as the hypocrisy of pretending that one is something other than an oppressor whilst maintaining privileges derived from oppression. At least people who drink instant coffee, listen to commercial radio and get their clothes from K-Mart are honest, he seems to say.
Landers doesn't put the case directly in this fashion, and doesn't actually level a serious accusation. Instead, he asserts that "white people" here are "hipsters". Which brings us to the question of what is a hipster. Originally it meant a jazz enthusiast in the 1950s (and, coincidentally, Norman Mailer described the hipster as "the White Negro", in reference to their embrace/appropriation of African-American culture). Now it seems the word is used in several ways. It is used by people of low cultural engagement saying "those people are weird, I don't get them, heh heh", sometimes in a pejorative sense. On the other hand, you often get people who are engaged in creative cultures self-describing as "hipsters", in quotes, because it saves having to explain themselves, and in the next breath using the word pejoratively for superficial fashion victims (or perhaps those whose subculture they don't get).
When the word hipster is used in the pejorative sense, at its harshest it becomes synonymous with pejorative uses of the word "gay"; an aggressive assertion of the metaphorical homosexuality of the subject.
Incidentally, this is not the only parallel between hipsterism and homosexuality. Richard Florida, author of The Rise Of The Creative Class, pointed out a correlation between locales with gay scenes and locales with creative activity. As such, Lander's "whiteness" could be a repackaged form of "gayness", and if one can argue that being a "hipster" is latent racism, one could also argue that hipster-bashing is latent homophobia.
The BBC has an article about a French dance craze named Tecktonik, which appears to break new boundaries in the commercialisation, monetisation and wholesale stripmining of subcultural fashions. Tecktonik appears to be a local evolution of the electro/new-rave/fluoro meme complex, born among predominantly white middle-class Parisian kids and hard-partying, style-conscious young professionals. Much like the French language (and unlike Anglo-Saxon equivalents), it has an official, codified repertoire of moves. Oh, and Tecktonik's creators (who include a Merrill Lynch investment banker) had the foresight to trademark their creation, and the arguable judgment to milk the licensing for all it's worth:
Switch on the television and you'll see kids dancing Tecktonik in adverts for mobile phones. Go to the supermarket and you'll find Tecktonik playstation games and Tecktonik school bags. And the Tecktonik company opened its first boutique and hair salon in Paris in November.Of course, not everyone's happy with their subculture becoming a mass-market commodity. After all, coolness is what economists call a positional good (i.e., its value depends on its scarcity; if everyone's into something, it loses its value as a signifier of coolness; which is OK if you're talking about something with other, more practical, measures of utility, but trendy dance styles don't generally fall into this category).
"When you're young, you dance to tell your parents 'I'm a free man! I've got my sexuality, my desires and they aren't yours!' You dance to express your freedom! But, here, it's not this kind of dance. Because it's a commercial dance. It's a safe dance. No sex, no drugs, no alcohol… It's anti-rock 'n' roll! It's a Sarkozy dance!"Curiously, the article closes with this paragraph:
Down at that Tecktonik Killer night, one of the star Tecktonik dancers, Lili Azian, tells me the movement has got so commercial she just never buys anything with the Tecktonik label. And now, in any case, she prefers a new dance - the Melbourne Shuffle.The Melbourne Shuffle? I'm guessing they're not talking about the Melbourne in Florida or Derbyshire here, but rather of the Stockholm of the southern hemisphere. Which brings to mind the question of what the Melbourne shuffle is, and whom they got the idea from. (Architecture In Helsinki? Midnight Juggernauts? Corey Worthington? Some random bunch of coolsie electro kids on YouTube?)
England's largest Morris dancing body, the Morris Ring, has warned that Morris dancing could be extinct within 20 years. The problem is that young people apparently consider it to be a bit naff for some reason and stay well away from it, and the population of active Morris dancers in England is rapidly aging and dwindling.
Though I wonder whether they just haven't been marketing it in the right way. Take a walk around Hackney or Dalston, and you see hip young men with woodsman beards. (You know they're hip, rather than terminally uncool, because they're typically riding fixed-wheel bicycles, wearing vintage Japanese Nikes or mashing up video on their MacBooks in a dive bar or somesuch.) Meanwhile, folk music is huge among hipsters and bohemian types, with folk-inspired bands like Animal Collective and Fleet Foxes dominating what-they-used-to-call-"indie"-before-it-meant-commercial-rock playlists, bands covering centuries-old ballads, and variously folky festivals like End Of The Road and Green Man doing a roaring trade. The organic, rootsy and, yes, even slightly "naff" aspects of folk traditions are "in". (This is perhaps a reaction against the slickness and polish of commercialised, commodified cool, where the skinny-legged, electro-striped Vince Noir new-wave-indie-glam image has jumped the shark and joined the leather-jacket-and-Ray-Bans 1950s Rock'n'Roll Cool Dude look in the museum of eye-rollingly laughable kitsch; it's only a matter of time before we see breakfast cereal mascots donning the oversized black glasses, thin ties and Chuck Taylors of Indie Cool, but I digress.) Traditional crafts have also made a comeback. All these people writing songs about birds and horses for laptop and ukulele and embroidering their own messenger bags; surely some of them would be interested in Morris dancing, no?
Perhaps the mistake they're making is in expecting them to join existing, traditional Morris troupes (which are damned not by tradition but by the aforementioned aura of stagnancy that hangs over them)? Why not, instead, encourage the formation of new, hip Morris troupes, based in areas like Bethnal Green and New Cross, and advertising their presence at arts nights and ukulele jams? (Apparently the Women's Institute has done something similar and has chapters around Shoreditch and similar areas consisting of subversive riot-grrl crafters who probably wouldn't be seen dead in the more bourgeois environs of their more traditional chapters.) Then again, perhaps even that won't be necessary; if punk rockers can join Masonic lodges en masse, surely it's not too implausible to imagine hipsters joining Morris troupes, with varying degrees of irony.
Your Scene Sucks, a set of sketches of contemporary (US) youth subcultures:
this guy is single-handedly responsible for the commercialization of your favorite bands, childhood television shows, and quirky indie movies. his other favorite shirts include such witty sayings as... "i saw your mom on myspace," "the voices in my head are telling you to shut up," and "can't sleep... the clowns will eat me!"
like most in his scene, he doesn’t know the first thing about politics aside from what his father brings to the dinner table. he has a strong stance against fascism, racism and sexism even though he has no idea what any of those terms truly mean. this punk firmly believes in anarchy, but this does not stop him from posting all day on the rupert-murdoch-owned myspace.com.
Also, LOLHipsters, which is like LOLCats crossed with VICE's "Do's/Don'ts" page.
two years ago, he had blonde hair and an abercrombie-wardrobe, but that all changed the second he first heard my chemical romance playing on a random myspace page. from that moment on, his entire existence could be summed up with just three words: "i'm not okay."
(via mrsmalkav, M+N)
Adbusters takes a hatchet to the "hipster" culture (think VICE Magazine/Nathan Barley/American Apparel/Kill Whitey/cocaine/MacBooks/fixed-gear bicycles/Lomography/Palestinian scarves), denouncing it as "The
Rise of the Idiots Dead End Of Western Civilization", a culture whose more-ironic-than-thou detachment strips it of any potential for subversion or originality:
Lovers of apathy and irony, hipsters are connected through a global network of blogs and shops that push forth a global vision of fashion-informed aesthetics. Loosely associated with some form of creative output, they attend art parties, take lo-fi pictures with analog cameras, ride their bikes to night clubs and sweat it up at nouveau disco-coke parties. The hipster tends to religiously blog about their daily exploits, usually while leafing through generation-defining magazines like Vice, Another Magazine and Wallpaper. This cursory and stylized lifestyle has made the hipster almost universally loathed.
Punks wear their tattered threads and studded leather jackets with honor, priding themselves on their innovative and cheap methods of self-expression and rebellion. B-boys and b-girls announce themselves to anyone within earshot with baggy gear and boomboxes. But it is rare, if not impossible, to find an individual who will proclaim themself a proud hipster. It’s an odd dance of self-identity – adamantly denying your existence while wearing clearly defined symbols that proclaims it.I suspect that that's because the term "hipster" (or, indeed, the Australian cognate, "coolsie") is often one used to describe one whom one considers more pretentious/less authentic than oneself. If one is a chav, bogan, redneck or similar individual, a hipster is probably anyone who listens to music one hasn't heard of, isn't into football or cars or whatever the acceptable things to be into are, and thus is probably gay and deserving of a beating. (Of course, since the people doing the categorising here are by definition not known for their sophisticated world-views, and, in fact, probably consider having sophisticated world-views with suspicion, they use terms interchangeably; in provincial towns in England, they may call them "goths" or "moshers", in Latin America, they're "emos" (or sometimes "pokemones"), whereas in 1980s Queensland being into music got you classified as a "new waver", as Greg Wadley will attest.) However, if one goes to art events in Shoreditch, Williamsburg, Fitzroy or your local equivalent, the word "hipster", used pejoratively, only refers to the more poseurish end of the continuum; the solipsistic-nihilistic fashion victims who are too busy being disaffected and "over" everything to care about anything. One oneself is never a hipster, though one may be a "hipster" (in that someone would call one that). Though hipsters, we are told, are fond of ironic quotes:
The dance floor at a hipster party looks like it should be surrounded by quotation marks. While punk, disco and hip hop all had immersive, intimate and energetic dance styles that liberated the dancer from his/her mental states – be it the head-spinning b-boy or violent thrashings of a live punk show – the hipster has more of a joke dance. A faux shrug shuffle that mocks the very idea of dancing or, at its best, illustrates a non-committal fear of expression typified in a weird twitch/ironic twist. The dancers are too self-aware to let themselves feel any form of liberation; they shuffle along, shrugging themselves into oblivion.And it's all doom and gloom from here:
Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.
An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.There could be hope, with the folk trend among hipsters; when sleazy glamour and electro/fluoro fashion became thoroughly suburbanised and commodified, the hipster precincts became full of skinny young men with rustic-looking beards and girls in hand-sewn dresses. And a few of them apparently did take the folk message seriously, beyond plinking ukuleles into their MacBooks and singing tunelessly about their folkier-than-thouness; I recall a New York Times article a while ago about former Brooklyn hipsters now moving to the countryside and doing the hard yards of running farms (all organic, of course). Others, of course, put their woodsman beards and newly-acquired rootsy authenticity in ironic quotes, and the cycle began again.
Here is the Metafilter thread dissecting the article, which makes some interesting points, such as this one from "nasreddin":
Hipster self-hatred is the return of the repressed appeal to authenticity. After all, hipsterdom incorporated into itself all of its predecessors. The self-hatred, then, is the condemnation of everything it stands for by the value systems it inherited--which provide the only semblance of a normative content hipsterdom can ever manifest. This means hipsterdom is constantly at odds with itself, unable to resolve the contradiction between its countercultural heritage and its thoroughly capitalized rejection of authenticity. Authenticity, within hipsterdom, is a zombie--dead, yet unkillable, and always threatening.
This contradiction lies behind the most familiar elements of hipster culture. Pabst, high-school sports T-shirts (until recently?), Bruce Springsteen, old vinyl, trucker hats--all these are the paraphernalia of a world where authenticity could be easily and unproblematically assumed, the earnest and unpretentious vanished world of the blue-collar male. Of course, this is ironic: in searching for authenticity hipsterdom once more encounters only its superficial, external expressions. (This was Derrida's point, in a way. The hipsters are looking for authenticity, "presence," but can only seem to reach it by constructing a "supplement," which seems like a pretty good facsimile of the real thing until you realize that it never resolves the aporia, the gap between the authentic and the fake, which made it necessary to begin with.)And here is Momus' take on it. Not surprisingly, he disagrees, equating anti-hipsterism with a brutal anti-cultural atavism:
Haddow seriously seems to be suggesting that carrying rocks rather than cameras would make these kids better and more advanced, rather than worse and more neanderthal. Smashing things is apparently what we're put on the planet to do. "Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society." Oh really? Is that why we're still mostly wearing jeans and listening to rock music, just like people fifty years ago? Maybe this "smashing" has always been mostly gestural. Maybe it's a blood-red herring, and maybe glorifying it is a kind of pointless machismo.
Hip subcultures have come into existence, it seems to me, mostly for the purpose of creating art, and of getting the more creative kids in any generation laid (the geeky ones tend to be the ones who need to rely on culture rather than mere nature when it comes to luring attractive partners into bed).
Not only does Haddow fail to see that hip subculture is a big machine for creating sex and art, he fails to see that being hip can be a sort of code of honour, something sadly lacking in the cultural mainstream. The spiritual sloth Haddow accuses the hip subculture of is actually much more prevalent in the general population, which schlepps about in jeans and listens to shapeless, floppy music and sleepwalks through shapeless, floppy jobs. People in the hip subculture are more likely -- like chivalric aristocrats -- to pay attention to what they're wearing, to experiment, to innovate. As for the value of what they come up with, that brings us back to the hands-on prac crit the Adbusters article avoids, desperate to stay arm's-length.
MP3 blog Stereogum (who are on a similar wavelength to Pitchfork) has assembled a tribute album to Björk's Post, with individual tracks covered by indie/hipster/futurefolk bands like Dirty Projectors, Xiu Xiu, El Guincho and Final Fantasy. It's available for free download in MP3 format, but only until the licences run out, after which it'll be streaming-only and impossible to legally obtain, like their OK Computer tribute album from last year.
(via International Pop Underground)
The latest trend for American punk rockers, indie-rock hipsters, Mod scooterists, hardcore straightedgers and such seems to be joining Masonic lodges. Freemasonry, which was once at the centre of Enlightenment radicalism, and later exerted untold influence over the business, political and legal worlds (not to mention wacky hijinks in 1920s America), had recently ossified into a stodgy, conservative institution, seemingly comprised of a dwindling number of old men. Now the lodges' ranks are being swollen with members of youth-oriented subcultures looking for camaraderie and networking opportunities.
“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take,” said Dave Norton, drummer for Victory at Sea and The Men. He believes his membership in the fraternal organization will be especially rewarding when he tours Europe later this year.Of course, Masonry has its critics. Traditional lodges only allow men to join (though there are womens' auxilliary lodges, and even mixed ones), atheists are not allowed to join (unless they're hypocrites and/or flexible with interpreting what a "higher power" is), and the institution has become somewhat conservative over the years. It could be that punks and/or hipsters joining Freemasonry is a sign of the conformism of countercultures (or perhaps of some countercultures; vide Jello Biafra's denunciation of punk's devolution into a conformistic fashion cult). Though, in part, it could also be the latest instance of the rustic/archaic tendency in indie-rock adorning itself in increasingly anachronistic symbols.
(via Boing Boing)
US author Benjamin Nugent has written a book titled "American Nerd", about how the nerd/geek stereotype was adopted as a badge of hipster identity:
Being sixteen, I thought to myself: How do I rebel against this? How does my generation do something new? How do we construe this epoch as a rotting husk adrift on dark waters, so thatwe can make our own creative endeavors seem romantic? One answer is purism. When eclecticism is your parents’ thingyou revisit old genres and deliberately maintain their integrity (these genres may have once themselves been considered hybrids, but a really long time ago). Freak folk is the rock-criticism name for my generation’s exploration of folk music. New garage means my generation’s take on mid-1960s guitar rock. Nu wave means my generation’s take on early punk and new wave. In these albums, there is no hip-hop or jazz or Texas swing or house or any of the other flavors previous generations loved to mix. The sort-of-true clichés about what hipsters like—trucker caps, mustaches, Pabst Blue Ribbon, mullets—play with the idea of old school. They connote sophistication and cosmopolitanism by screaming, “We are not cosmopolitan! We are not culturally sophisticated!” This is an anti-Bobo trend, and one aspect of it is the flowering of nerdiness as an aesthetic.Nugent cites Norman Mailer's The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster, and posits the analogy between the Afro-American stereotype of the 1950s and the nerd stereotype of today. Part of this is as a sort of Rousseauvian noble savage, unsullied by sophistication, and thus all the more valuable for sophisticates to appropriate the identity of. Part has to do with the treadmill of commodification, where things that were once signifiers of being on the cultural forefront get marketed to the mainstream and become ubiquitous, and those genuinely at the forefront have to do something different to differentiate themselves from the suburban consumers wearing their old costumes, hence adopting outsider identities. The fact that the outsider identity is considered deeply uncool by the mainstream (consider all the hipsters with rustic-looking beards making primitive folk music on their iBooks, when the trendies are into angular, skinny-legged indie rock that sounds like The Clash or whatever and the mainstream are into thugged-out commercial hip-hop) also helps; and it also has a useful peacock-tail effect, demonstrating one's fitness through an act of stylistic bravado, and essentially saying "I'm so with-it that I can afford to do this", or perhaps "I know something you don't":
Dressing like a punk was not a solution. Everyone knew that aesthetic was helping to move twenty-dollar Warped Tour tickets. There was no reason to even consider hip-hop; nobody who lived in a city with cable television and billboards could doubt that was a movement working in collusion with business culture to sell suburban teenagers stuff, even if was admirably forthright of rappers to dress like gay Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton executives and sing about how purely commercial their motives were. Of course in all of these movements, hip-hop included, there were artists in garrets, making music for the music, but nobody wanted to run the risk of being mistaken for one of the kids who fell for the marketing.Of course, the idea of hipsters and trendies adopting the "nerd"/"geek" identity (which, apparently, consists of wearing prominent spectacles and cardigans) does sound somewhat absurd; a bit like that article from some years ago that said that the "intelligent" look was in in Los Angeles, and consequently the glamorous people were buying books and carrying them around, unread, as fashion accessories. Or will the behavioural trappings of nerdiness become de rigeur amongst the cool set? Will Dungeons & Dragons or vintage video games become essential subjects to mention to enhance one's coolness, much like krautrock or Donnie Darko? Will we eventually see replica Curta calculators for sale alongside Lomo cameras at hipster lifestyle accessory shops?
Momus' latest New York Times Post-Materialist blog post is about fixed-gear bicycles, the latest hipster must-have after turntables and Lomo cameras, and, like them, a translation of lo-fi into the realm of physical transport, and a refusal to capitulate to bourgeois practicality:
The fixie cult demonstrates that limitations are what give a thing flavor, and that stubborn simplicity can be a sort of charisma. People love these bikes because of what they can’t do as much as for what they can. In that sense they join analog synths, vinyl record players and Lomo cameras as lovable retro lo-fi must-have. In addition to the charm and fashion kudos these bikes deliver, there are other advantages. Not only do they run cleaner than cars, you don’t even have to park them when you reach your destination. Just hang them on the wall and call them art.Even more interesting than the article is Momus' blog entry about it, which elaborates on some of the points:
Code of honour: I often find myself defending as new forms of honour things that others dismiss as fads. What do I mean by that? I think it's already encoded in Alin's self-portrait. His accident, here, isn't just a random misfortune. He "wears his wounds with pride". Like a soldier wounded in a battle fought in the name of a just cause, he feels there's something more important in life than mere safety. In fact, you could almost see cycling, and its attendant aesthetic, as "something worth dying for". The New York Times actually removed the phrase "to die for" from my text, replacing it with "must-have". But I wasn't just making a gruesome joke about cycling being dangerous. I really meant that it was important that fixie cycling -- like skateboarding -- is both difficult and dangerous. To understand why, you really have to go to non-Western places, places where Being is more important than Having, and where people -- including scary people like suicide bombers and kamikaze -- place higher values on certain ideals, certain codes of honour, certain loyalties, certain aesthetics than on life itself. Or you have to go to the chivalric codes of the middle ages. Cycling is, after all, a mechanized form of chivalric equestrianism.
Viral ecology: There's a danger that making people ecologically-conscious can end up preachy and worthy. What you need is something viral, something viscerally compelling, something cool as fuck, which is also something green. And fixie bikes are that: viral ecology with the urban credibility of skateboarding and the rebel cool of smoking combined. No more sermons! On yer bike!
Distinction strategy: We were talking earlier this month about shifts in graphic design style as a sort of distinction strategy, a game of catch-up in which one set of designers keep throwing wobblies, keep embracing ugliness and absurdity in order not just to "make it new", but to put a comfortable distance between themselves and the client-pleasing coffeetable hacks who hobble along behind, copying and pasting. The fixie trend is also a distinction strategy. It's a way for hipsters to say "I'm not just another suburban bozo with a car". But it's also a way for the West to say to China: "Okay, you all have cars now. Well, we're onto something else: bicycles." Which is ironic, since the West used to laugh at China for wobbling around, in its billions, on bicycles.
Yiddish spam titles. (Well, Yinglish, to be precise, but still amusing:)
If they have the internet in the world of The Yiddish Policemen's Union, the mailboxes would probably be full of subject lines like these.
Do shiksas heckle your schmeckel?
XXX ... Yenta noshes on pisher's trayf blintz! Hot!
Take this and you'll need another bris!
Also in McSweeney's Lists: Brews to Accessorise the Modern Hipster ("I Don't Really Like This but I'm Drinking It to Get Back at My Parents and/or Friends With an Overt and Crass Display of Being Cultured Lambic", "Rummage Sale Pale Ale"), and Phrases Commonly Used By 1950s Housewives That Were Often Misinterpreted As Blatant Requests For Sex.
The Guardian's latest blogger is the 19-year-old son of a travel writer, who looks like a character from Nathan Barley and will be writing up his gap year holiday to India and Thailand.
At the minute, I'm working in a restaurant with a bunch of lovely, funny people; writing a play; writing bits for Skins; spending any sort of money I earn on food and skinny jeans, and drinking my way to a financially blighted two-month trip to India and Thailand. Clichéd I know, but clichés are there for a reason.
I'm kinda shitting myself about travelling. Well not so much the travelling part. It's India that scares me. The heat, the roads, the snakes, Australian travellers. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited. But shitting myself. And I just know that when I step off that plane and into the maelstrom of Mumbai - well, actually, I don't know how I'll react.
Anyway, I've had to get malaria tablets, purchase travellers' cheques, sort out travel insurance, try and find a universal bloomin' plug, buy a backpack, get iodine drops (whatever they are) and enjoy dozens of injections off a nurse who was grumpy and trying to get me to pay a hundred quid to minimise the after-effects of being bitten by a monkey. I still fancied her though. She was a nurse.And in the comments, mayhem has ensued as the Graun's peanut gallery takes him to task for being upper-middle-class/derivative/a smug twat and having only landed this job by virtue of nepotism; some people speculating that Chris Morris and/or Charlie Brooker are responsible.
Here's an idea, Max. Instead of setting off on yet another inane, identikit trip around Asia before you take up your place at Oxbridge (or wherever), why don't you leave your family's Highgate mansion FOR GOOD, cut yourself off from your father's allowance, move into a council estate in Salford, STAY THERE, and then consider writing a blog about your experiences.
As for skinny jeans , Max if ever you eat from the street you may wish you had something a little more baggy and easy to remove, alternatively you could take some nappies. I'm not sure that the street vendors take Amex though.
You can have your first ladyboy experience in Thailand, but maybe you won't journal that one, just look out for the adams apple.
Dear the Guardian, I spend my money on conventionally shaped trousers and other types of equally conventional clothing, food and beverages. My other outgoings include: mortgage, heating, electricity, sundries and entertainment. I commute to work, an experience which I sometimes find amusing but for the most part find an unpleasant grind which I attemt to ignore by listening to music or reading. I'm reasonably fortunate in that I can take about three weeks of holiday a year which I spend either visiting family or travelling abroad. Going abroad sometimes makes me nervous, as do many new experiences as I get older.
Can I have a blog too?
Hey everyone, I'm Max's friend and he's a real genuine guy and a dude with a passion for travel writing and writing in general. So go easy on him until you hear what he has to say. I guarantee you'll be impressed. And who knows, you might want to visit some of the places he's visited because you heard about it from this blog.
So what if he wears skinny jeans? All us kids do these days, don't hate us because you're old!
Oh, and he co-writes Skins, so he's obviously a real talent. AND he doesn't take any money from his parents at all, he shops at charity shops and everything.
My names Peter Getkahn, at 19 I got a job in a Meat Factory to help pay for my Education. You can't follow my career on a blog, because my Dad doesn't work for the Guardian.
He'll definitely find himself, every 'traveller' he meets will be exactly like him.
Art hipsters rejoice: someone has finally designed a digital camera without a screen or viewfinder:
Designer Sungwoo Park's prototype Eazzzy! camera consists of a USB stick with a lens and one button, and offers "the feeling of not knowing how your shots turned out à la analog film" with the convenience of USB transfer; not to mention a groovily ironic, retro-styled shape in several bright colours. And you can undoubtedly expect the images to turn out fashionably lo-fi, as you'd get that with anything of that size.
Though I wonder if it'd be just standard cameraphone lo-fi or whether they'd put an artfully crappy lens on the thing (as with cult film cameras such as the Lomo and Diana). They could, of course, program the firmware to oversaturate the colours, or overexpose the centre of the image and vignette the edges, though that would run against the cult of authenticity from which the lo-fi fad stems, thus being the photographic equivalent of alternative rock recorded for major labels in expensive studios, with special ProTools plug-ins thrown in to make it sound grungier.)
YouTube video of the day: Jeffrey Lewis - "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror", a nice exemplar of New York hipster antifolk:
Jona Bechtolt of YACHT (and formerly of The Blow)'s latest venture (with partner-in-crime Claire L. Evans): making MacBook Air laptop sleeves that look like manila envelopes, like the one Steve Jobs pulled the Air out of at MacWorld. For people who also have a Banana Phone.
If one had a MacBook Air, that would look either cool or cheesy, depending on the execution. Though I'm not tempted to buy one; given that I use my Mac for music and video, I couldn't justify buying one with only one USB port and no FireWire.
The latest word in fashion on the Australian streets is "bogan chic", i.e., upmarket knockoffs of flannelette shirts, skinny blue jeans, ugg boots and other things traditionally worn by young working-class heavy-metal fans from the wrong side of town (or bogans, as they're known. Only they're now being worn by young professionals in Prahran and Darlinghurst.
"There are a lot of men who are willing to pay a lot of money to look like they've spent no money," says Leadbeater, whose collection features skinny jeans for $200, biker jackets for $260, and $80 printed T-shirts, including one emblazoned with an old Ford Falcon that reads: "Let's get the Falcon out of here."
While you could pick up a similar outfit for a fraction of the price from op shops or discount stores like Savers and Dimmeys, Pollitt says you wouldn't get the quality.This is the same sort of thing as happened with America with trucker hats. The underclasses are ahead of the cutting edge of fashion, precisely by their naïvete thereof. "Cool" is about differentiating oneself from the mainstream, and the hipsters on the cutting edge appropriate "anti-fashion" styles from the underclasses. Once these have been sufficiently popularised, the trendies further down the food chain (or should that be further up?) take notice and start wearing them, and designer labels start churning out premium-priced equivalents, for sale along Chapel Street.
Meanwhile, the bogans move on; not out of any conscious quest for cool but out of lack of concern for purity or image. (To them, after all, it's not a pose.) While the classic ugg-boots-and-Ackadacka bogan look may now belong to the coolsies of Prahran, today's bogans are just as likely to take their cues from gangsta hip-hop as from classic rock/metal.
The Graun writes about The Pitchfork Effect, which is sort of like the Slashdot effect, only rather than overwhelming web servers, it propels obscure indie bands to fame and critical acclaim, on the strength of a single review in one of the new generation of independent music websites like Pitchfork and DrownedInSound. These sites can now make or break a band by word of mouth, not because they are read by many music fans, but because they reach the few passionate enough about new music to be high up the opinion-forming chain; by the time a band filters down to corporate mass media dinosaurs such as NME, and the millions of teenagers of all ages who buy their "indie" uniforms through the mail-order ads in the back hear of a band, it's overexposed and the Pitchfork coolsies have moved on to the next new thing.
But websites flourish precisely because they don't have to worry who to put on their covers, a factor that still makes or breaks magazine sales. They feel more fearless in the face of the music industry because they're not part of the system, says Schreiber. "Publications obviously seem to feel they need to watch their step and not alienate the label or the artist or the publicist or the advertising department, but that means sacrificing a lot of how you wind up feeling about a lot of the records you have to cover. We don't have to do that."
Travis buys plenty of albums from Pitchfork's recommendations, because he believes its reviews. "I trust them because Pitchfork has more independence. It's like the NME used to be, back in the day. These days it has more of an agenda. Like when Conor [McNicholas, editor of the NME] said on national TV that the NME wouldn't put Antony [of Antony and the Johnsons] on the cover after he'd won the Mercury Music Prize - because he was 'too weird'. It's staggering to hear that."Also in the Guardian: a piece on the recent wave of Balkan/Gypsy-influenced indie music.
Two CDs I picked up in the past week or so and have been listening to a fair bit:
- West End Girls, West End Girls Go Petshopping. West End Girls are a Pet Shop Boys cover band consisting of two teenaged Swedish girls. And they don't only perform covers of PSB's songs, they actually pretend to be Neil and Chris, emulating their respective personalities in their public appearances and posing in videos and photos looking bored with dogs and architecture and such. Goes Petshopping is an album of their covers of various songs from PSB's career, from early ones (West End Girls and Love Comes Quickly appear) to later ones (there is a rather good version of You Only Say You Love Me When You're Drunk). The music itself is vaguely eurodancey in production, though not excessively cheesy (though the version of It's A Sin does sound slightly too reminiscent of the Crazy Frog to be entirely comfortable with; the rest, however, is better). Standout tracks: Domino Dancing, Being Boring.
- CSS, Cansei de Ser Sexy. CSS (whose name translates as "I'm tired of being sexy") are a bunch of Brazilian kids who look like American Apparel models and/or Vice Magazine "Do's" and make a sort of edgy electro-tinged fashionpunk with a touch of Peaches-style rap, and tongue firmly in cheek. In a sense, this is to the whole electrocoolsie milieu what Wolfmother is to cock-rock: it takes its glamour and shallowness and name-dropping and hypersexuality and coked-up over-it attitude, exaggerates it, takes the piss out of it, and has a damn good dance whilst doing so. (Sample song titles: "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex", "Meeting Paris Hilton" (which probably merits a discussion of its own, for the way it sends up and comments on the celebrity-obsessed media culture through the combination of sexual desire, sneering contempt and consumeristic excitement in its lyrics), and the classic "Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above", which is perhaps an anthem for our times.) Standout tracks: a lot of them; the ones mentioned above, for three, and This Month, Day 10.
The New York Times has discovered that, in clothing and accessories, the skull is the Happy Face of the 2000s:
"This is such a huge gripe of mine," said Voltaire, a musician in New York and the author of "What is Goth?", a kind of "Preppy Handbook" for the living dead. "Throughout hundreds of years of history, what the skull has communicated is, 'I am dangerous.' That's where the irony is. You can buy dangerous for $11.99 at Kmart."
For years Voltaire was the happy owner of several skull-motif sweaters hand-knit by an eccentric Englishwoman. He recounted that a woman stopped him the other day on an East Village street to admire the one he was wearing. "She said: 'I love your sweater. Is it Ralph Lauren?' Then I found out that Ralph Lauren has a whole store that sells skull stuff."From what I gathered, the trajectory of the mainstreaming of skulls was: they started with variously scary misfit cultures (outlaw bikers, hot-rodders, or even actual murdering pirates if you go far back enough), then they were gradually adopted by less scary cultures (like metalheads and goths, both of which tend to be more amusing than intimidating). Then the Vice-twats and electrocoolsies (or "fashion goths", as Momus calls them) picked them up ironically, and soon every coke-snorting trustafarian in Williamsburg and Hoxton was wearing stuff with skulls on it. Then, of course, the cool hunters picked up on it, and soon H&M was selling socks with skulls on them and commercial pop bands soon had the full complement of skulls and lightning bolts on their cover artwork.
(via Boing Boing)
Meet the Partridge Family Temple, a parody religion/bunch of hipsters/creepy religious cult in Portland, Oregon, who dress in flamboyant 1960s fashion, hang around in bars, and seem to be partial to a spot of the old ultraviolence.
Although the idea of basing a religion on a sappy 1970s sitcom sounds like a joke, Fairlee insists he's serious. As he explains it, The Partridge Family was, in fact, the living embodiment of religious archetypes which have echoed through humanity from the earliest days. Shirley Jones is the virgin mother earth goddess; she had children, but no father was ever mentioned in the show. David Cassidy was the satyr or male sex god, a fact supported by his legendarily large phallus. Danny Bonaduce, the constant trouble-maker, was the loki or devil character. And Bobby Sherman, a one-episode guest, was the grim reaper, driving a hearse in his own spin-off series, "Getting Together."Incidentally, Shaun Partridge appears to be part of the same vaguely Satanistic hipster-misanthrope hate-is-great milieu as Boyd Rice and Jim Goad.
The latest social pastime for privileged kids in Britain are chav parties, where they dress up as stereotypes of unruly proles. Apparently even Prince William (he's the sensible one who doesn't go in for Nazi uniforms) has gone to a few.
There were various things on display," he says. "Pictures of rugby teams, of parties and discos. But the one that really jumped out was of a chav-themed school disco: all these rosy-cheeked, foppish-looking public schoolkids dressed in baseball caps and Adidas tracksuits. It looked a bit pathetic; at first I suppose I felt slight pity for them. But then I thought about it another way: here were the most privileged kids in Britain pretending to be poor people."(See also: trucker hats, "Kill Whitey" club nights, "bogan rock" nights in Prahran, Vice-twats ironically drinking cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon)
What is the 90s? What does it represent? What was its zeitgeist? This is the tricky part. See, hipsters in the 90s thought that they'd figured out a way to position themselves as the first generation ever which wouldn't, in retrospect, look as ridiculous as previous generations. They thought they'd secure their place by ironically fixating on 70s retro (thus sparing themselves from having to create too much of their own destined-to-be-dated material) as well as adapting the language of a hyper-conscious, self-aware man-outside-of-his-time, narrated as glibly as possible, as a way of ironically distancing themselves from their own stances.The list itself starts off with "Authenticity" (and also takes in "Smog" and "Wobbly Camera As Authentic/Gritty Device") and ends with "Bare Midriffs", and includes the likes of "Generation X", "The Greatest Generation", "Grrls" (not to mention "Straight Edge", "Reclaiming The Night" and "Reclaiming Our Bodies/Empowerment"), several variants on "Aggrieved White Males", "Madonna-ology", "lower case spelling", "Wiggers", "Nerd Chic", "Misogyny Chic" and "Blue Collar Chic":
33. The End of Heroin Chic
The Shame: One of the few genuinely intelligent, smart trends in the mid-90s was the belated recognition that heroin is a good drug, overturning decades of hippie oppression and prejudice. We have Kurt Cobain and Trainspotting, a movie whose mediocrity is less important than the positive message it sent, to thank for that. Sadly, some people - we won't mention any RIVER PHOENIX names here, but a few LAYNE STANLEY guys couldn't handle CHRIS FARLEY their shit, making it tough for the rest of us, while other KATE MOSS people, again names THE EXILE we won't mention, functioned RUSH LIMBAUGH just fine while floating on the great poppy. Sadly, a combination of weak-willed celebrities, Ben Stiller's Permanent Midnight and 9/11 ended this brief dawn of reason. Now we are back in the Dark Ages of cocaine chic. Frankly, we'd rather drink beer than do coke.
The Sham:In the ultra-segmented scene of the 90s, being fat, ugly and socially retarded wasn't an impediment to being hip. You just had to wear lots of layers of black gauze to hide the blubber, get some prominent piercings and paint spider webs on your eyelids and, voila! You were a scary, alienated Goth! A whole bevy of bands competed for your attention, including Pretty Hate Machine, NIN, and Marilyn Manson, and the evening news might even do a segment featuring people who look just like you and the decline of American values or the dangers of Columbine - even though Klebold and Harris hated Goths.
63. Being Gay
The Sham:In college, most American girls of the 90's went through their obligatory BUG (bisexual until graduation) phase, which segued for more daring ones into their stripper phase. Gays became so big that even one of the Friends' star's mother had a lesbo tryst, and everyone had to have a gay neighbor to spice up their lives. Clinton made promoting gays in the military his first priority - and his liberal agenda was essentially destroyed by that. No matter, gays went bourgeois anyway, they didn't really need most of the liberal stuff anymore, not the help-the-poor/minorities crap anyway. Then 9/11 happened. A source who lives in Noe Valley told the eXile that within a year of 9/11, Noe Valley was transformed from the Dyke Quarter of San Francisco to the Baby Stroller Capital. Who'd-a-thunk.
73. Missing Children
The Sham:According to the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, guess how many are "long-term" kidnapped by strangers every year? 20,000? 10,000? It's gotta be a lot, considering all the alarmist attention it gets. Welp, we got news for you: only 115 children are kidnapped in America each year, out of a population of 300,000,000. And about 100 children are kidnapped and murdered each year. In other words, NO ONE WANTS TO SOCKET-FUCK YOUR HAIRLESS CHILD'S STRANGLED CORPSE. Does that disappoint you? Statistically, your child has an infinitely higher chance of growing up to be a convicted sex offender than he does of getting kidnapped and killed by one. But you don't want to believe that your child, or you, are doomed to a life of never being stalked. So instead you'll pamper and protect your child and instill him with so many worries and complexes that when he grows up, he'll have this weird, tingly feeling every time he sees a vulnerable, hairless child left alone beside a car wash...
The Sham:Back before Live Journal gave every bored office worker in America a soap box, zines were the only outlet for folks who wanted to write something that nobody but friends would ever read. Made by Kinko workers working the graveyard shift and distributed to the local revolutionary bookshop, they were hailed as authentic samizdat. Except that there was a market for samizdat, and risk involved. Zines were just another way to convince grrls that you were authentic, so you could bang 'em.
89. Blue collar chic
The Sham:Middle class guys picking up garage mechanic uniforms with cursive names sewn into the breast pocket at the local thrift store and slumming it. Then, while downing cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for a buck a pop at the local hipster dive, peopled with other indy hipsters wearing Confederate hats or T-shirts and scraggly beards, they'd talk about this art instillation they've got planned for their studio in Williamsburg.
90. Bare Midriffs
The Sham:Will someone please tell American girls to cover their lower hips? In the last 10 years, girls' hips have grown wider and wider, expanding like in some bad 80s horror film...and yet, for some reason they have no shame in showing these wide loads to the whole fucking world. All we can assume is that no one has the courage to tell them how bad they look. We're the types who, if we had a booger hanging out of our nose while talking to you, we'd want you to tell us. So we're doing the right thing and telling you: hide your hips, and while you're at it, tie a sweater around your ass. Note: This does not apply to Russian girls AT ALL.
Apparently, the founder of one of the original non-heterosexual indie nights in London, Popstarz, which provided gay indie kids one of their first chances to come out of the I-don't-like-disco closet, has passed away. No Rock&Roll Fun has this to say:
Hobart recognised that there was a massive unsatisfied market of gay and bi people who wanted to dance with their fringes over their eyes instead of their shirts off their backs. The feeling was that gay people had been liberated from the hell that theyd been in for most of their teen to adult lives, he said. So many people said to me it was like coming out of the closet for the second time.
The success of Popstarz led to a sudden blossoming of other non-straight indie club nights around the country, most notably in the form of Poptastic, although the lack of a large geographic catchment area meant a lot of the original bright-eyed provincial nights started to water down their indie policy: first Kylie would edge out the Mudhoney; then Sonia would start to take over from the Kenickie, until at some nights it could be difficult to remember you'd turned up on the promise of an alternative. Actually, that's not so very different from most straight indie nights, now we come to think of it.That is true. These days, indie kids are largely over indie music. They know about it, for sure, and can quote Pavement discographies chapter and verse and make allusions to Johnny Marr and Jarvis Cocker and such, but in a knowing, over-it way. Sometimes you may hear some obscure twee janglepop or what have you, but step into a night frequented by indie kids and you're more likely to hear old-sk00l Michael Jackson (if one were to compile a Coolsie Top 40, "Gotta Be Startin' Something" would be near #1) or crunk booty anthems or Eye Of The Tiger or something. Indie music serves its purpose, as the gatekeeper to the scene, but once you pass the test, you can put your Kindercore compilations back on the shelf, crack open a Pabst Blue Ribbon and get down to enjoyable top-40 cheese, knowing that everyone else in the room is as hip and knowing as you. The only people who still listen to indie music seem to be nostalgic thirtysomethings reliving their anxious adolescence.
Then again, the word "indie" is going the way the word "alternative" went in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nowadays it refers mostly to hype-led, ultra-derivative new-wave/garage-rock copyists, who, if not signed to major labels, are pimped by multinational corporations like Coors/Carling and Clear Channel and have multi-million-pound advertising campaigns on the same scale as Robbie Williams. (See also: "new wave" and "art rock".) Perhaps it's time for a new term, one which deemphasises the problematic concept of independence (i.e., who is more "indie": Pulp (signed to Universal) or Bloc Party? Did Primal Scream and the Boo Radleys stop being "indie" the instant that Sony bought Creation?) and talks about the æsthetic and philosophical distinctions between the artists and music in question and the commercial mainstream. Perhaps "intelligent pop", or "art pop"?
And now something for all the moronic-cynicist fashion-goth hipsters in the audience: How to embroider skulls on your iPod socks. Because as everybody knows, skulls are, like, totally hardcore, especially when they're on iPod socks. Then all you have to do is make sure the iPod is full of Death From Above 1979 and LCD Soundsystem and post-post-ironic coolsie disco-rock.
(via bOING bOING)
Among the hipsters of Williamsburg, New York, the next step after freely using the N-word in the knowledge that one's postmodern ironic detachment automatically gives one the level of enlightenment to get out of any accusations of racism is having parties parodying the illest crunk thugged-out sex-nasty excesses of black culture in a safe (i.e., all-white, all-hipster) environment:
What that means, precisely, is debatable, but it has something to do with young white hipsters believing they can shed white privilege by parodying the black hip-hop life. In this way, they hope to escape their uptight conditioning and get in touch with the looser soul within them.
Of course, it's arguable whether it's not just privileged white kids poking fun at (a parody of) black culture for a laugh, reaffirming that they're above it because they can don it as a costume and then take it off, and then going back to their privileged white lives, smug in the awareness of their superiority; much like hipster appropriations of working-class culture (trucker caps and redneck paraphernalia), only with an added racial dimension. The counter-argument would be along the lines of the hipsters in question being sufficiently enlightened, by virtue of their postmodern upbringing, to be exempt from accusations of racism, which is a rather debatable proposition.
A few months ago, 29-year-old Sharda Sekaran was hitting dance spots with friends when she stumbled into a Kill Whitie party. "There was a bunch of white people acting like a raunchy hip-hop video," she said. "I don't get why that wouldn't be a characterization of black people for the entertainment of themselves."
Casady was raised in Santa Barbara, Calif., but quickly notes her worldliness by listing the cities where she has lived along the trail to Brooklyn. A regular Kill Whitie partygoer, she tried the conventional (that is, non-hipster) hip-hop clubs but found the men "really hard-core." In this vastly whiter scene, Casady said that "it's a safe environment to be freaky."
His street fliers come emblazoned with the words "Kill Whitie" across a woman's backside. Another flier offers free admission to anyone with a bucket of fried chicken.It's not just New York's hipsters either; I seem to recall hearing that some of the Melbourne Shake Some Action coolsies were getting really into the booty-bass thing a year or so ago.
It looks like there's a Nathan Barley DVD coming out in late September. (It's only Region 2, btw; I have no idea whether this series has made it outside of Britain.) I wonder what extras it will have.
The latest sartorial innovation from the hipsters of San Francisco is the banana-shaped cell-phone cozy, shown below modelled by the CEO of its manufacturer, Nanaco (wasn't he also one of the writers for SugaRAPE Magazine?):
Note: coolsie afro and ironically mocking attitude not supplied and must be provided by the user; otherwise, you're not a hipster, just the sad berk in the office who desperately wants to be liked and probably has the Crazy Frog ringtone as well.
And this handy guide to urban survival:
(Btw, should you find yourself at The Foundry, I recommend the "Eco-Warrior" organic pale ale.)
I just watched an episode of Nathan Barley. It's rather amusing; a sitcom set among a bunch of obnoxious coolsie wide-boys in some trendy part of London. They run in-your-face web sites and magazines (there's one named RAPE, which may or may not be a reference to Vice, present employers of Jim "Answer Me!" Goad), rap Streets-style over distorted beats, either take lots of drugs or act like it, wear ridiculous clothes and generally go around being insufferable twats to all concerned. It's written by Chris Morris, who also did controversial satirical TV series Brass Eye and wrote the lyrics to Stereolab's Nothing To Do With Me.
Via the ads on Pitchfork (where else?), this company (based in Brooklyn, NY) makes custom coolsie hipster apparel, printed with the name of your hometown, in various fonts, and various icons (soccer numbers, skulls, hearts, and such). The order form lets you select neighbourhoods from various cities across the world, or enter free text of your own choosing; interestingly enough, Melbourne is the only Australian city in their database.
Wearing his design-commentator hat, Momus dissects VICE Magazine's Design issue, peeling back the magazine's hipster-nihilist façade:
Here's where Vice's real agenda begins to peep through the scatology, like a seam of lace under a crumpled Kleenex; behind the affectations of hoodlum and white trash style, the glorification of rural teenage delinquency and the cheap shots at NYU students, Vice is a magazine written by and for urban sophisticates, people who know quite a bit about art, photography and design and are actually highly invested in aesthetics. Vice's photo editor, seen holding a fake iBook in the iHustle feature, just happens to be Ryan McGinley, an American Photo Magazine Photographer of the Year and, at 25, the youngest artist ever to have a solo show at the Whitney. Could it be that behind the sophomoric, mischievous, dismissive, even nihilistic style, Vice is the voice of a twentysomething generation clearing the decks for a new aesthetic? Is the magazine's iconoclasm pure destruction or preparatory work for a new definition of the 'iconic'? Is the disgust directed here at design actually disgust at its co-option by consumerism, its low aspirations?
The Vice Design Issue is not an anti-design tract, but the championing of an aesthetic that's already quite well-established, already wowing museum curators -- a casual, trashy, porno-party style that celebrates tack, lo-tech and the good old bohemian values of sex, drugs and rock and roll. This salon des refuses, populated by people in their twenties, is well on its way to becoming a salon tout court.
What, VICE is run by a bunch of educated middle-class yuppies? All the nihilistic rants, casually homophobic epithets and keeping-it-real articles about prison life and street violence and ultraviolent musical subcultures and guest contributions by the likes of Jim Goad and such are just the affectation of a bunch of privileged scions of the cultural elite slumming it before they join the establishment proper? Say it ain't so!
Don't throw away your old, featureless mobile brick phone: sell it to a hipster at an over-inflated price.
Formulaic music isn't just for the teeny-boppers and pissed-off teenagers. Computer scientist and songwriter Loren Jan Wilson develops a system to analyse Pitchfork music reviews, finding which words have the most positive connotations, and then using that to write two songs, scientifically designed to appeal to the coolsies who write for Pitchfork.
There are positive values for "rough" and "primitive," and negative values for the words "shiny" and "polished." This points towards a preference for lo-fi recordings, which are usually associated with lower-budget independent music. This falls in line with the Pitchfork reviewers' dislike of capitalism, which I talk about a bit in the other interesting results section below.
The "sadness" group is by far the highest-scoring mood, beating the next mood ("dark") by over 1100 points. As a response to that, I've tried to make these songs as sad as possible.
The songs, Kissing God and I'm Already Dead are provided with MP3 form, along with detailed descriptions of how the analysis guided his creative decisions. The songs, as you'd expect, combine gloomy lyrics, lo-fi guitars, choppy beats and layers of effects.
It'd be interesting if he had gotten Pitchfork to review these songs before revealing their origin, if only to see whether he'd have been critically lauded as the next Radiohead or whatever.
The Bush Game is a very well done propaganda piece for the John Kerry campaign in the form of a fashionably pixelated Flash game, referencing 1980s kid culture that's the height of ironic retro hipness with the Generation X/Y crowd. It's a politically-incorrect arcade beat-em-up game, in which hip retro characters such as Mr. T, Hulk Hogan, and He-Man, along with the likes of Mike Moore, Jessica Lynch, and, of course, Democratic Party heroes like John Kerry and Howard Dean, battle evil hordes of porcine crony-capitalists and end-of-level bosses (the entire Bush Cabinet, as well as the likes of Paris Hilton and Janet Jackson's robo-breast). Along the way it shows presentations about Bush's depredations of social security funds, redistribution of wealth to the ultra-rich, and collusion with the likes of Enron, in a fairly easy-to-grasp way -- and then claims that the Democrats will fix everything if they get elected. (via everyone, it seems)
The Coolsie Paradox: daggy 80s top-40 (like, say, Prince or Cyndi Lauper or whoever did Eye Of The Tiger) is cooler than things like The Cure or The Smiths or the Jesus & Mary Chain; that's because everybody knows that the Smiths were cool, and so being "into" them carries little coolness points; whereas, the more daggy/trashy something is, the bigger cojones (or more highly developed sense of hipster irony) you're showing when you admit being into it.
Many years ago, I first discovered The Cure via a borrowed cassette copy of Standing On A Beach: The Singles. On its B-side, after A Night Like This, it was padded out with Phil Collins songs; a shocking faux pas.
I wonder how long until Phil Collins is officially cooler than The Cure.
How to make a trucker cap out of garbage, or, more precisely, paper plates and beer can rings. I fully expect home-made trucker caps (though possibly pastel-coloured ones with glitter and googly eyes) to start appearing at Architecture in Helsinki gigs, if not at the actual merch stall.
Also on the same site: how to make pruno; or, more precisely, how to turn perfectly good fresh fruit into foul, toxic rocket fuel, prison-style. (via jwz)
First online porn sites started driving old-fashioned paper porno mags out of business, and now they're getting into the articles business. Case in point: SuicideGirls.com (I believe they're one of those n3kkid-goth/raver-chicks-with-piercings/emo-glasses sites) has an article section, mostly consisting of interviews with hip, edgy celebrities, including Susannah "Invisible Cowgirl" Breslin, Neve Campbell (who apparently was a teen-slasher-movie star or something; anyway, the interview is there on the grounds of her being a "Goth" icon) and Jewsploitation-movie star Adam Goldberg. (via bOING bOING)
Local live-music-scenester site mono.net is shutting down its forums permanently, after an infestation of trolls (or "coolsie chats" as they call them, for some odd reason).
Also on Rocknerd: a good review of Apple's Garageband music-making tool for OSX. It comes off looking quite decent; apparently it can use arbitrary AudioUnits (and presumably VST plugins with the AudioUnit wrapper). However, it appears very CPU-intensive, and requires a DVD drive to install. (I wonder if it'd install off an IDE DVD-ROM in a FireWire enclosure.)
Something Awful gores indie's sacred cows, i.e., Joy Division, The Smiths, Pavement and My Bloody Valentine. (via Graham)
Everyone who considers themself a hipster should take note: name-dropping Pavement isn't going to win you any merit badges in my scout troop. You'd be a fool not to see that even the bands that everyone loves are just as terrible as the bands that everyone makes fun of. The only difference between Nickelback and The Smiths is that Smiths fans dress slightly better and don't beat their girlfriends as hard.
I hypothesize that if Ian Curtis had continued to live and exert his gothic influence over the band, they would have eventually sounded like Siouxie and the Banshees except with a terrible singer. I also hypothesize that Ian Curtis would now be fat.
They're dead-on about Loveless, btw:
Its one of those rare albums that really sounds like the album cover looks: its an indecipherable blur of noise and distorted guitars. It boggles the mind that so many goofy hipsters are so in love with an album with so little to offer. All of the songs sound basically the same, and you really have to pay attention to figure out where one ends and the next begins. The lyrics are so incomprehensible that they might as well not even be there at all. Although there are certainly noises on this album that have never been made before or since, none of them are particularly interesting noises. In most cases, its the sound of several guitars playing a couple of chords with a few layers of grinding and feedback in the background. Sure, it probably took quite a bit of time and money to make those sounds, but are they particularly interesting? No, not really; when its all put together, it just sounds like a waterfall of sludge running through your speakers.
This is part of the Your Band Sucks section, which also includes articles about bands like Radiohead and Coldplay (though, granted, there's no challenge there).
I finally got around to seeing Kill Bill part 1 tonight. My thoughts:
- It was spectacularly violent, as one would expect from Tarantino, The violence had an over-the-top quality about it, much like a Road Runner cartoon, only with blood everywhere. The blood flowed like water from a burst main, and I was expecting pretty much anybody who entered the screen to transition from person to blood-sack. The violence was quite stylishly done, often in the form of exquisitely choreographed martial-arts sequences, whose machinelike neatness would only be tempered by the spurting geysers of red, red krovvy that inevitably ensued.
- It was also extremely stylised. The sets and costumes, the props (the Pussy Wagon, for example), the colours (the use of bright yellow, for example), the editing (there was a transition from colour to black and white in the middle which could only have been as a hip reference to a genre of martial-arts films), and of course Tarantino's trademarked banter.
- Parts of it, of course, beggared plausibility; from Thurman's character having made a full recovery in the first place to the rather sporting one-at-a-time martial-arts sequences, where thugs would take turns to attack and be dispatched by our heroine, and would carry out elaborate little dances to themselves as they waited for their turn.
- The incidental music was great; very atmospheric. I wonder how much of that was done by RZA and how much was borrowed from old film scores (as Tarantino admitted to doing).
- The overall impression I got was of extreme coolness; not cool in the subjective this-is-good sense but coolness as an attitude, an objective stylistic feature: dry, wry, too-hip-to-care, and yet with layers of references and even more layers of callow, almost nihilistic ironic detachment.
All in all, I rather enjoyed it. Not the best film I'd ever seen, but a lot better than the overly long and laboured affair that was Jackie Brown.
(Talking point: Kill Bill is to hipsters what The Crow was to goths. Discuss.)
Today's Cat and Girl ties in nicely to the chip-tune/authenticity debate previously mentioned:
"Guitars are bourgeois, OK? They're expensive and the skill they demand is elitist!"
"We should be making music with computers! They're the populist medium of today!"
Mind you, computers are bourgeois and expensive too; the iBooks that all the inner city hipster kids have certainly are. Though maybe it's more authentic if you shlep along a battered beige box that looks like it was stolen out of an office and souped up numerous times, running Windows 98 and AudioMulch (or better: Linux and some home-brewed audio software; it's not going to sound as slick as Cubase, but slickness is bourgeois). Having to lug that and a 15" glass bottle to see what's going on bespeaks punk authenticity and commitment to one's art, in a way you can never get with an Apple PowerBook.
(Of course, there's no way you could carry a PC/monitor to gigs on a bicycle. Then again, real proles drive, usually battered Mazdas or Holden panelvans. Cycling everywhere is a bourgeois affectation, like vegetarianism. Discuss.)
(Btw, Graham: any ideas on how one could combine tracker modules and live performance? Perhaps a tracker with keyboard-controlled mutes/cuepoints/sample triggers could be useful for that...)
Memewatch: The ironic-trucker-cap meme seems to be fizzling out; MX (the free wire-story/press-release/celebrity-gossip paper in Melbourne) had a 1-page feature showing 12 caps from brands like FUBU, Freshjive, Stussy and Mambo. In the time that the meme took to arrive to Australia, it seems to have jumped right over the ironically-slumming hipster contingent (other than one or two Architecture In Helsinki fans, I haven't seen any hipster types wearing trucker caps here), lost its irony and gone to the Chapel St. designer-label crowd. And now that MX has covered it, its days are probably numbered. (Then again, didn't Justin "J-to-tha-T" Timberlake wear one on TV or something?)
The new big thing among New York's hipsters is hating Radiohead: (via VM)
"You have to have a very concrete opinion about why you like or dislike Radiohead, and maybe a lot of people are afraid to say they dislike them because they're afraid that their only answer is going to be 'it seems too smart for me.' "
"Hating Radiohead is the hipster's dirty little secret," says Franzman, the entertainment guide editor.
"There's definitely now a symbolic value to saying you hate Radiohead - even Kid Rock makes a big deal about hating Radiohead. He even has a video where he's literally using toilet paper with the word 'Radiohead' embossed on it."
Hang on; if Kid Rock is leading the I-hate-Radiohead bandwagon, could it be that the hip thing is ironically hating Radiohead, in much the same sense as wearing a mesh trucker cap?
Hipster Bingo; funny, the ironic trucker caps don't seem to have made it down to Melbourne yet.
Also, Australian hipsters seem to be a bit more low-tech than the American variety. While the hipsterati of New York and San Francisco have photoblogs and futurephones, many Australian hipsters draw the line at using Hotmail and are more likely to snap pictures with a Lomo than a digital camera (let alone a futurephone). (via bOING bOING)
Via LHB, a pictorial guide to indie-rock hairstyles. The "bowlie" meme doesn't seem to be around (though the "Spock" may be a degenerate version of it), and even more curiously, none of the boys there has visible sideburns, let alone oversized ones. (Surely massive sideburns go naturally with the ironic Boy Scout T-shirt, no?)
The author's right about the girls though; one thing I've noticed is that the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne are full of girls (of ages ranging from teens to late 30s) with the same 3 or 4 short haircuts. Cute, maybe, but not exactly easy to distinguish between.
Fun activities for post-ironic hipsters: pretending to be student journalists and infiltrating Scientology offices. (via The Antic Muse) Maybe the Hipster Scouts should have a "winding up Scientologists" badge.
Indie Rock Pete, a (story-driven) web comic poking fun at indie scenester pretentiousness. (It seems a little sparse on indie/hipster iconography though; no button badges, ironic hot-rodder shirts, black-framed glasses or Converse sneakers or such.) (via Largehearted Boy)
An article from the Age about the resurgence of rock in the trendy clubbing precinct of Prahran. Venues best known for more types of house music than you probably knew existed are now putting on rock bands, because rock patrons drink more.
Of course, in the super-stylised $80-logo-T-shirt heartland of Prahrahran, the rock that's displacing some of the dance music is, as you might expect, the stylised back-to-basics rawk of The Strokes/Vines/Datsuns/whatever. There it's another label to wear; sort of like the "bogan rock nights" some club there had a while ago, where all the thirtysomething designers and advertising types put on their $120 designer-label flannelette shirts and went to get shitfaced to some Ackadacka with their fellow young professionals.
This is classic: serial masturbator arrested at Sleater-Kinney show. Make your own joke about wankers at indie-rock shows here:
So not only is this guy Seattle's premiere alleged indie-rock show masturbator, he's a snobby indie-rock show masturbator who will only choke his chicken to certain bands! Classic! (In a completely disgusting sort of way, of course.)
Why Hipsters Suck. Heh. (via If Then Else)
This evening I crossed the Yarra and went to Revolver to see Kevin Blechdom and supports; meeting up with Cos there. First up was the obligatory DJ (given that it's in Prahran, I believe there are council zoning requirements mandating DJs in all venues there), playing various electro, including some new Death In Vegas, some Takako Minekawa, a Kraftwerk remix and such. Next up, local Dadaistic hip-hop collective Curse ov Dialect went up, attired in various costumes (as in robes, face paint and a jester hat; no gangsta bling-bling here), running around the stage, rapping and talking over prerecorded beats, in between running into the audience and grabbing glasses off tables. They were quite good; conceptually more original and innovative than most Australian hip-hop (which tends to consist of knockoffs of Afro-American urban culture, down to the beats and samples, with the token Australian accent and slang terms thrown in).
Next up were The Sailors, who appear to be three post-ironic inner-city hipsters doing Detroit-style rock (with a bit of Beastie Boys thrown in for good measure); either that or one of those New-Saviours-of-Rock bands whose names all start with The. Stylistically not in the same bag as Kevin Blechdom, but similarly fond of innuendo (only of a more homoerotic nature, cf. their Stooges-style opus "Y.C.M.A.", which has nothing to do with the Village People). Perhaps one could classify them as an indie-rock Down Town Brown.
Finally, Kevin Blechdom came on. (For those who aren't aware of this, she is female, and Kevin is not her real name.) She started off by playing banjo, solo or over loops from a Macintosh laptop behind her. Later she picked up a home-computer MIDI keyboard (adapted into stage gear by the clever expedient of gluing a strap onto it) and started playing that, triggering some Casio-like buzzy warbles whilst singing. She finished with her exquisitely bootywhangular chair-dance to her electropop cover of Tina Turner's Private Dancer, at one stage falling off the chair but soldiering on. Alas, my digital camera ran out of batteries at the time; had it not, I'd have a video file to show for it.
I'm not sure what to make of Kevin Blechdom. On one hand, some of her lyrics are a bit daft (some choice examples: "use your heart as a telephone, and you'll never ever be alone, you see, you'll be with me", "I don't think you understand, bad music is grand -- like a piano!", and a song about breasts exploding in flames which had a schoolyardish puerility about it), and she overacts more than a little, giving the impression of watching an enthusiastic amateur in a talent show. Though judging by her content, I suspect that that may be a deliberate aesthetic choice. OTOH, she's more entertaining than watching some bloke making burbling noises with a PowerBook, or the sort of dull, pretentious twaddle that makes up a lot of "experimental electronica".
20% of Area Man's Income Spent Ironically (the Onion)
You are so indie it hurts. You hang out with the coolest people in your city. It doesn't even bother you that none of them know your name. You know lots of bands personally, you know a couple of guys from We Hate The Mainstream Records, and you blag your way into getting almost everything for free. That fanzine you write gives you extra kudos. You probably don't even care that non-scenesters think you're a pretentious fuck.
Which is rather amusing, if totally, er, mostly incorrect. (Shut up, Graham.)
Anyway, writing a blog is apparently nowhere near as cool or indie as writing a photocopied zine, because blogs don't have the cachet of the scarcity/obscurity factor. (cf: mp3.com sites vs. 7" split singles. Any suburban bogan can put something on the web, but only the hippest of hipsters actually have stylishly crappy-looking bits of photocopied paper with twee-looking drawings on the front in all the right shops.)
Before blogs and the web, the hip young mutants were publishing zines; the late 80s and early 90s were an explosion of zine culture, with the likes of bOING bOING (it wasn't always a blog), Ben Is Dead and Pagan's Head arising out of Generation X slacker/hipster ennui and spreading their memes widely. It was a subculture in which ideas, rather than clothes, social hierarchy or animal magnetism, were the arbiters of cool. Now there's a book on zines, which has articles and interviews with the leading lights of the zine wave. (via bOING bOING (the blog))
Last night I went to the band night at Pony. It was organised by the Eaze people, but was a change from the usual poets, video makers, interpretive fire-twirlers and miscellaneous beatnik types one associates with Eaze, instead being more of an indiekid crowd. You know the sort; black-framed glasses and striped sweaters and canvas sneakers and checkered shirts and dark blue work shirts and ironic T-shirts and kiddie paraphernalia and fur-lined parkas and anti-haircuts and girls with short hair and boys with oversized sideburns and such; mostly clustered three-deep around the bar talking with people they know from either bands or sharehouses they were in.
Anyway, the music: By Ferry Or Steamer played some nice instrumentals, as did Chinless Kings (in a rather minimalistic sort of way). Ruby's Arms were a bit too country-&-western for my liking (what is it with country music and inner city indie types; is it something ironic, like wearing vintage summer-camp T-shirts?) At Sea consisted of two blokes with an acoustic guitar and an acoustic bass guitar, the latter of whom ranted into a microphone whilst playing. Towards their last piece (a lengthy number), they began to sound like an acoustic Mogwai (not a bad thing, IMHO). Finally, Midstate Orange came on. Their sound is a combination of power-pop, wall-of-noise shoegazer endings, false endings, and 1960s retro-kitsch (in places they sounded like The Monkees or The Banana Splits or someone).
"It's just a twisted mass of black-frame glasses and ironic Girl Scouts T-shirts in there.": 37 Record Store Clerks Feared Dead In Yo La Tengo Concert Disaster in Athens, Ga. Rescue workers are still sifting for the wreckage for copies of Magnet, heated debates over the definition of emo and other signs of life.
I didn't realise that Guru Adrian was American; I thought it was one of those ABC/JJJ yoof-programming things. (I could have sworn I saw his grinning mug on some ABC yoof publication in the 80s or early 90s; and given the anti-American streak of the trendy-leftie set there at that time, I'd have placed him as the creation of a punk-squatter-turned-graphic-designer in Melbourne or Sydney somewhere, and not from New York...)
Cute: In an attempt to help cult indie band Guided By Voices break into larger markets, some journalists tested their music with a focus group from one of the largest music-buying demographics: 10 and 11-year-olds:
Zoe C.: "They look dirty in all the pictures."
Zoe S.: "They need more style: rings, earrings, and colorful clothes."
Tony: "Colorful clothes, baggy pants maybe, and matching outfits."
Cody: "They need a name that catches your attention. How about the Shining Stars? Now that's catchy!"
Lena: "The songs are mysterious, but definitely too weird."
Cody: "I could make this up just as good by making up three words."
The future is already here: it's just not evenly distributed: Companies have been hiring the service of cool hunters , who are sort of like upmarket yuppie anthropologists, to tell them what the trendy urban hipsters are doing, thinking and identifying with; the theory being that the twitchily hip urban fads of today will be the next big hit of tomorrow's mainstream; a view Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point put forward.
When not receiving facials or having their toes dipped in Bollinger Grande Cuvée, trendsetting teens claim to be experimenting with digital filmmaking, vintage computers and "geometric prints from the '60s and '70s." Mainstream teens say they're having sex, "rolling up my jeans" and "going to college." Asked about the "newest thing your friends are doing," the mainstreamers, in a sudden burst of Eisenhower-era conformity retrograde even by their standards, cited "getting married," "working on cars" and "going to nudie bars." Trendier types mentioned "freestyling" and "drunk bowling."
The cool-hunting consultancies, of course, charge hefty fees for these vital tips. (An annual subscription to the L Report will set you back $30k.) Mind you, they're now discovering a corollary to the Tipping Point hypothesis; namely, that most cutting-edge trends are too rarefied to trickle down to suburban mainstream consumers to the point of being marketable; leading to missteps such as marketing guarana-laced soft drinks and male makeup kits to the Wal-Mart crowd, with predictably underwhelming results. (via rebecca's pocket)