Big Smoke

’cause it’s hard to see from where I’m standin’

Oh god please stop

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It’s not every day that Mother Jones and RedState will agree on something, but both have done just that when it comes to the professional protesters downtown. Compare Mother Jones’ analysis,

So far, Occupy Wall Street has brought out the usual suspects, as well as the odd Internet millionaire and a few ex-Wall Streeters. But it hasn’t drawn in a wide swath of Americans just yet. That may not be entirely its fault: In the midst of a recession, who’s willing to to take the risk and play hooky from their job or job search to camp out on Wall Street? So far, this is more a movement for dreamers than for middle-class Americans trying to make ends meet.

with Teresa Koch of RedState’s diatribe:

It’s been going on for over a week now (yes, really!) – a lovely little temper tantrum being thrown by a bunch of well-fed white kids who fancy themselves as some sort of modern-day, new age revolutionaries.  They study the Communist Manifesto and hate capitalism in all of its forms because it’s … well – evil, ya know?

As it stands, I should be a prime candidate for participating in this sort of hoopla. Consider: I’m recently laid off for the second time in two years. I’ve had to switch career plans twice in the last six years because of how quickly jobs dried up in what I’ve originally been trained for. Like every other lefty, I’ve watched Democrats live up to their reputation for resolute spinelessness against any form of adversity. And, yet…

I blame the hipsters. It feels almost as if they’ve hijacked what is to many a legitimate grievance in order to pick fights with cops. Hell, I hate the idea of hashtag catchphrase as the Call to Revolution. What about the rest of us who don’t give a flying fuck about Twitter (and don’t have time to read your inane crap)? You know what caused the Arab Spring? Not Twitter. But that’s just a minor quibble. I think this protest wont work is because of two observations:

  1. The folks protesting are, well, not starving. It ain’t as bad as it can be – which is why the narrative has reduced to girls getting maced already at the protest instead of why they’re protesting. Yeah, it’s bad. I know it’s bad. We have record corporate profits and yet the middle class is shrinking. I, like a lot of people, am worrying about where rent’s going to come from. But what’s that in your hand, protester? A $400 Apple-branded consumer product? I thought the point was that we were really hurting. I thought the message was anti-corporate. Why are you waving around a consumer trinket trying to catch videos of cops cracking heads? Because it draws attention from the fact that you’re loaded with shit that people – indeed, those poorer than you – will rob you for.
  2. The message comes first, THEN the protest. Nobody has time to wait for you to figure out what you want while you block traffic and beat drums. The message should be so freaking obvious and staggering in its immediate need that it oozes out of every pore. Instead, we get this stultifying return to form over function where these people chant that they need to be heard and then… mumble. What, have you forgotten? See, I’ve marched in a few protests, and the one thing you do NOT need when you stage a demonstration is a confusion over what you’re demanding. If it’s an anti-Iraq War protest, leave the Free Palestine flags at home. If it’s a message for more jobs, don’t waste your breath on capital punishment.

They think they can get this to swell, but the thing is, the original protesters detract as much as they attract, even among people who may agree with their politics. Sure, I want things to be better, but things need to be worse first before people are willing to take to the streets, and when people take to the streets, they need – need – far better spokesmen than the folks currently downtown.

So, please, hipsters… stop it. You’re not helping.

Try-Hards

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It’s gotten to the point where I can’t read articles about biking without feeling some jolt of antipathy for hipsters. And I bike.

Oh, sure, there’s a general good Bloomberg’s effected by lining street after street with bike lanes – even though I believe the bike lanes themselves are somewhat pointless and at times counter-productive – as he’s increased the profile of biking as a viable means of transit, but dear lord is there way too much attention to a certain type of biking that’s quite frankly ridiculous. What I mean to say is that, under a simply pragmatic approach, biking is great. However, biking’s been hijacked as a ‘lifestyle’ that’s hurting its image.

I speak of hipsters.

When the article lists grandstanding ideas like Vilnius’ mayor using a tank to destroy a car parked in a bike line, and compares New York to biking havens like Portland and Minneapolis, I become very cognizant of the fact that I’m reading a lifestyle treatise: A hipster manifesto. It becomes less about a means of commuting as it becomes a definition of self, and that’s quite frankly the wrong way to go. When you start fighting battles against Williamsburg Hasidim and Park Slope yuppies – two disputes that are given no end of column length on the Times and in the Voice – enough to stage demonstrations, when you don’t give that effort to the issues of jobs or education, you become, in hipster parlance, a try-hard.

For instance, this Voice article where page upon page is offered for biographical background of two hipsters who got hit by a car because they were riding erratically at night. Were they any other demographic but what they were, they would have been summarily dismissed as a statistic, but because they’re hipsters, they get to pose the question as to why the whole might of the NYPD isn’t brought to bear in bringing their hit-and-run motorist to justice.

My only response, and I can’t be the only one, is, “sorry, y’ain’t special.”

In fact, the last thing as a biker that I’d want to be is special. The more bikers make the news, the more the police crack down on bikers. The best of all possible worlds is enough bikers to make motorists remember to take them into account, but there’s a fine line between that and making motorists (and pedestrians) resentful of and hostile to bikers. This is why I hesitate to use the term ‘critical mass,’ in case I might summon the try-hards who hoot and holler and tempt the cops to knock them down, cuff and impound them, as the popular backlash just makes people hate bikers the same way they hate professional protestors.

You’re not special for biking; more attention than is prudent is already being given to you, and we are not Portland.

Thinking Too Hard

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Mark Greif is thinking too hard as to why people don’t like hipsters.

It’s simple: They’re educated, they’re moneyed, and they’re not contributing to the betterment of society.

No Hipsters in China

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J. David Goodman laments that there isn’t much of a fixed-speed bicycle market in China, and posits that it’s because there’s not too much of a Hipster community to foster such. Consequently he wonders how we might foment such in China.

Two things pop into mind:

  • Fixed-speeds suck. Fixed-speeds are more a scenester thing based on some romanticized vision of 80s New York bike messengers. Slaloming one’s way between cars is a cute concept if one wants to buy into a “underground culture,” (which is about as authentic as the Trust Funders’ “slumming it” sections of Williamsburg) but when the bikes are more expensive than mountain bikes (my preferred mode for actual work) and road bikes while offering less control, support, efficiency or safety than those, what the hell is the point?
  • If one is buying into a “counter-culture” in China, one becomes a punk. If Hipsterdom can be defined as an apolitical reaction to the ever-changing and largely arbitrary fads of an entrenched consumer culture, then there first needs to be an entrenched consumer culture that trumps politics. And quite frankly, let’s hope it never ends up that way: The last thing we need are more yuppies-to-be dictating what color keffiyehs the “radicals” will wear when they twitter their “protests.”

And while we’re talking about connoisseurs of kitsch, let’s get rid of hipsters here, too. It’s funny: In America we went straight from a conformist/non-conformist dichotomy to a universal heterogeneity that’s almost completely meaningless because of a lack of authenticity in how people adorn themselves.

In other words, we cover ourselves in white noise.

The problem with media isn’t so much that there is too much information – anyone who watches network news knows that, more than likely, less actual information is imparted to the viewer than before – but a form of saturation of spectacle has taken effect: Disinformation, advertising and just straight nonsense take equal space and are given equal credence. In a sense, fashion is the physical iteration of just that.

So just as I will probably never buy an e-reader for the fear that actual books – y’know, pure unadulterated sources of information, distilled, from cover to cover – would end up being portioned and chopped up like newspaper articles now, both in print and online, with spliced-in nonsense at every turn, I have absolutely no idea what somebody’s saying when they walk outside with a t-shirt displaying a sports team that doesn’t exist, jeans with holes and other forms of wear that they didn’t themselves put there, and a cell phone that performs its secondary abilities better than its primary function.

They are, quite literally, walking disinformation. They cancel me out, and they’re not even making a political point.

Hipsters!

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NPR did an interview with a self-described hipster over why Williamsburg, Brooklyn has some of the worst return rates of the 2010 US Census, to which it got some choice replies:

Mr. Stark: “…When it comes down to it, nobody wants to fill out like another form that’s just like getting sent to your house that really relatively has nothing to do with your life. I mean people would do if they got like five bucks.”

Ms. Lilly: “You know, on a personal note, maybe some people, they figure what’s the point to be counted if you don’t count for much anyway? If we don’t count, why be counted?”

Of course, the hipster blogs immediately railed against the “unfair” characterization NPR depicted of the hipster community, noting that the significant Hasidic community is also to blame for the low returns.

Now, while it appears that the Talmud has something to say about that issue, it also appears that there are about a dozen loopholes already in place, for without some form of practicality, it’d be hard to live in a larger world. And while religious fervor and paranoia are certainly one set of irrational fears, laziness is on its own level of idiocy.

Da fuck outta heah

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I can’t believe shit like this today gets published in the Times. To paraphrase, “We yuppies, despite being responsible for the gentrification of the neighborhood, are complaining about how more yuppies are moving in and totally destroying its character. Also, our view.” Thankfully, some are pointing out said bullshit.

But then, it’s not exactly new. Any argument on Brownstoner or City Data tends to flow like that, with some especially ripe diatribes between hipsters and yuppies:

hipster: “So sick of these Park slope people . I would rather live in one of these Carroll gardens rentals much closer to manhattan and i feel like this is a tiny village in europe.”

yuppie: “Last time I was in Europe, there weren’t a bunch of goombah’s running around whistling at every chick walking by like they do in CG.”

hipster: “Yea but you keep forgeting about all the french and the other Europeans moving to Carroll Gardens.”

breeder: “Is Brownstoner in decline or something? Why on earth is there a feature about a rental property, for God’s sake? A *rental*! I thought this was a serious blog.”

I’m more authentic!” “No, I’m more authentic!” Fuck the both of you, whitebread yuppie scum! Nobody cares which overpriced realtor’s district has more boutique fusion/sushi bars when you’re paying twice Manhattan rates for the fucking F train.

Or an argument between white folks over which minority is the most dangerous:

whitey: “Project buildings all over the place, random acts of violence, crappy bodegas, thugs hanging out on the corner. Thats what comes to my mind when I think of Spanish Harlem.”

guido: “Not to be rascist [sic] or anything but I always thought the worst of Harlem was the black part…”

bystander: “why would the black sections of harlem be worse than spanish sections? because they’re black?”

guido: “Just my opinion growing up in the west Bronx which houses a large amount of hispanics, the area is poor but the areas with the higher crime are usually more towards the central and south…or predominantly black areas. [...] Washington Heights/Inwood which are Dominican neighborhoods have a lower crime rate than Spanish Harlem which is a Puerto Rican neighborhood (or used to be)

Anybody know why this is the case?”

West Bronx, you say? You don’t perchance mean Riverdale, do you? Honkey.

Or an argument between white folks over how Dominicans and their baby-making are ruining the area:

guido: These are poverty levels in the city… each zip has about a 75% Dominican population. These are the ghetto thats point blank. [...] I had to watch my back everywhere because there were like 1000 kids out.

honkey: Nothing against Dominicans. I have lived in Inwood for about 4 months now and [...] It is just very frustrating to live in America and feel like your being taken over.

Forgetting, of course, that they’ve been there fifty years and you’ve been there four months.

Or to put it another way, you’re all fucking idiots.

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