The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'vice magazine'
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.
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.
A piece in Vice Magazine on odd and unfortunate things from the world of fashion, from the obvious (the ever-escalating arms races between shock value and desensitisation, iPhones as dandruff magnets, the increasing ordeal of air travel during the Long Siege taking its toll on sartorial standards) to the more unusual (fake human flesh is apparently a fabric these days):
And then there are the military applications. What happens if the Taliban or the armed forces of Iran or Kim Jong-il’s Korean People’s Army gets hold of SkinBag’s URL? Any military force outfitted in human skins would make the Old Norse berserkers pale in comparison. Could any country on earth face down an army of Ed Geins?
A German website now offers the “Get Naked Bikini”..., a two-piece water-soluble swimsuit that allegedly falls apart after three minutes of swimming... Although this combination of polymers is found in most water-resistant swimsuits, the dubious product has still managed to enrage many sensible Europeans with its overtones of male revenge fantasy (the comparably priced men’s “Get Naked Pants” haven’t yet made the news).
Vice Magazine is somewhat of a mixed bag, often throwing in an interesting article or two next to a lot of sophomoric cleverness, hipster self-indulgence and deliberate 'ditchtwat offensiveness. However, the most recent issue, which is film-themed, is a treasure trove of interesting articles. Such as, for example, interviews with Werner Herzog, Dario Argento, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch and Spike Jonze, an article on how the BBC's Play For Today changed British cinema in the 1960s, pieces about spectacularly goodbad Nigerian religious thrillers and low-budget Mexican crime/exploitation films and photographer Ryan McGinley's list of top 10 art films.
In the recent fashion issue of VICE Magazine, the inimitable Lord Whimsy has an article about bizarre and grotesque fashions from throughout history. While it's not written in the same ornate style as his Affected Provincial's Companion, it is, as one would expect, a veritable wunderkammer of the outré, containing not only the obvious examples (foot-binding, scalping, German duelling scars, the various status arms races among idle aristocrats), but a number of more obscure and peculiar practices:
Some fashions were the result of indifference. A good example of this is the Polish plait, which was a crusty, oily mass of filthy, matted hair. Often as hard as a helmet, it was a tangled mess held together by dried blood, dirt, dead lice, and pus. Generally, Polish plaits were the result of neglect, but they could also be brought on by particularly nasty lice infestations, in which spent eggs would act as a kind of mortar.
High-ranking Italian noblemen of the 14th century took up the fashion of wearing tunics short enough to reveal their testicles. Those who felt insecure about their heft would often wear a leather falsie known as a braquette. It’s doubtful that this was intended to fool anyone. It may have been done for the same reasons female pharaohs wore false beards: It was a symbol of power and potency. Like a crown, but hairier.Wasn't the Scottish sporran originally intended to achieve the same effect?
In many societies, it was (and in some places still is) fashionable to intentionally contort the body into strange shapes. Perhaps the most notable example was the surprisingly widespread practice of head binding, which involved wrapping an infant’s pliable head in a tight cloth or between two boards until it elongated and assumed a conical shape, which was deemed very attractive, as well as a sign of intelligence. The brain would simply adapt to the shape of the skull, so apparently no damage would occur, but it does make one wonder whether changing the shape of the brain case also changed the way that the brain functioned. Did it affect vision? Memory? The ability to think about wide objects?
Some fashions compensated for disfiguring medical conditions. Eighteenth-century Europe was a time of unprecedented artifice in fashion—people in the upper classes were essentially ambulatory theater sets, dripping with props. Makeup was caked on to smooth out their smallpox-ravaged faces. They would even try to smooth out their features from the inside as well: Most people lost their teeth at a shockingly young age, and as a result their cheeks would cave in. To counter this, they used small lumps of cork, called plumpers, which were stuffed into their cheeks. This affected the way they spoke, which soon became fashionable, even among those who still had teeth.Could this be how various accents typically considered to be "posh" or aristocratic came to be? One could imagine, for example, the sorts of rarefiedly aristocratic English accents one only typically hears on stage or in old films having come about as an imitation of wearing bits of cork in one's cheeks.
John Birmingham puts forward the case that the political right pretty much has a monopoly on humour, with the left having become too puritanical and politically correct to laugh, with the voices that dare to be outrageous being predominantly right-wing, from shock-jocks and reactionary bloggers to institutions like VICE Magazine (infamously offending the uptight by pejoratively calling things "gay") and the creators of South Park and Team America (who skewered Hollywood liberals and left-wing sanctimony alike).
Of course, this relies on a rather broad definition of "right-wing", as anything that goes against a doctrinaire liberal/progressive view of propriety and "political correctness". By this token, one would classify Coco Rosie as a right-wing band, placing them in the same ideological milieu as Pat Robertson and Little Green Footballs, because one of their number attended "Kill Whitey" parties. And while VICE's Gavin McInnes claimed in American Conservative to represent a hip new conservatism (a view he later retracted, claiming he was joking/being ironic), the cocaine-snorting, nihilistic libertinism epitomised in the magazine, as much as it may offend "liberals" (or straw-man caricatures thereof), hardly fits well with the canon of conservatism and its emphasis on values, tradition and authority. However, it does fit in with the recently noted shift towards Hobbesian nihilism and radical individualism.
On a tangent: some American conservatives are concerned about FOXNews' alarming slide to the radical left; the channel, once the shining beacon of all things Right-thinking, has been compromising its Fair And Balanced™ reputation by running programmes on topics such as global warming. Pundits blame the influx of liberally-inclined ex-CNN reporters, the staffers having spent too long in Godless New York, away from the Biblical certainties of the Red States, or Murdoch not really being "One Of Us", but rather a cynical opportunist.
And finally, a study on the neurology of political belief has showed that True Believers of both stripes are adept at ignoring facts which don't jive with their beliefs, and experience a rush in the reward centres of the brain when they do:
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."
The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say. Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.
It looks like the rerelease fairy had been busy recently, with a goodly number appearing on the horizon. First of all, Stereolab's 3CD+1DVD retrospective Oscillons from the Anti-Sun, is coming out in just under two weeks (a few days before OSX Tiger). I'll probably pick it up, it having a decent number of tracks I haven't got, as well as the videos.
Meanwhile, a month after that, there's a Belle & Sebastian singles compilation coming out, wittily titled "Push Barman to Open Old Wounds", with a decent number of singles and B-sides up until I'm Waking Up To Us.
And then there are those Cure rereleases, all lovingly remastered and packed with extra CDs of bonus tracks, live recordings and demos, all from back when The Cure were interesting. Or, as VICE Magazine (which, incidentally, gave the three rereleases 30/10) put it:
He wrote these in his early 20s. He thought he'd be dead by 27. Creatively, he kind of was.
Anyway, it's good to see a version of Carnage Visors coming out that's not a badly encoded MP3 of a well-worn 3rd-generation cassette recording.
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!
From the pages of the most recent VICE Magazine: a hand-made "PowerBook", made of a grey garbage bag, some issues of the Village Voice, and a hand-painted Apple logo in White-Out; apparently fashioned by a crackhead with a PowerBook box and shrinkwrapping machine, and sold to an unsuspecting student for US$200. Perhaps junkies read Something Awful as well...