Friday, August 8, 2008

AdBusters is on the front lines fighting the good fight against nothing.

God, stress is a bitch. Between finding a new apartment (taken care of!) and finding a new job (eh...), I haven't had anytime to do anything remotely interesting. Ok, that isn't true. The lady and I took at trip to Upstate New York, which was nice (although after being whipped around on an inner tube at about 40mph my arms are ready to fall off). I decided to take the day off today to focus on the job hunt. It has obviously denigrated to me complaining about things here.

Which brings us to this absolutely redundant cannonball of a tirade from AdBusters against (wait for it...): hipsters.

I'm sorry, is it 2001 and we're still listening to Peaches and still think Williamsburg is all the rage?

There are a couple of problems with this article. One is the very obvious fact that AdBusters seemed to forget its target audience. That's right, the same hipsters who read Vice and Wallpaper are also reading, you guessed it!, AdBusters.

The second problem is that rather than probe for why it is that "hipster" culture has become the dominant stance of twentysomething counterculture, Douglass Haddow seems only interested in formulating a condemnation of this cultural phenomenon. Rather than attempting to address the reasons for hipsters relative lack of political engagement and tendancy toward debauchery and excess, he seems only interested in pointing out their lack of concern for the world around them and their innate solipsism. Take for example, his truly hilarious description of a "hipster party."

"Perhaps the true motivation behind this deliberate nonchalance is an attempt to attract the attention of the ever-present party photographers, who swim through the crowd like neon sharks, flashing little blasts of phosphorescent ecstasy whenever they spot someone worth momentarily immortalizing.

Noticing a few flickers of light splash out from the club bathroom, I peep in only to find one such photographer taking part in an impromptu soft-core porno shoot. Two girls and a guy are taking off their clothes and striking poses for a set of grimy glamour shots. It’s all grins and smirks until another girl pokes her head inside and screeches, “You’re not some club kid in New York in the nineties. This shit is so hipster!” – which sparks a bit of a catfight, causing me to beat a hasty retreat.

In many ways, the lifestyle promoted by hipsterdom is highly ritualized. Many of the party-goers who are subject to the photoblogger’s snapshots no doubt crawl out of bed the next afternoon and immediately re-experience the previous night’s debauchery. Red-eyed and bleary, they sit hunched over their laptops, wading through a sea of similarity to find their own (momentarily) thrilling instant of perfected hipster-ness."

Was Haddow wearing a fucking pith helmet while attending this party? It honestly reads like an early 19th century travelogue.

Finally, Haddow makes the mistake that all cultural commentators have made for the past 50 years and that is that he assumes that hipsters as a youth phenomenon are inferior because they are the here and now and as a result lack some sort of vetting or authenticity. Hipsters may represent the latest incarnation of youth counter-culture but they are certainly not the end run. He accuses them of merely latching on to other fragments of culture and in turn rendering these fragments (such as the keffiyeh, PBR, fixed gear track bikes, et at al) meaningless. Has this man ever read Norman Mailer's "The White Negro?" White youth culture has been stealing from black culture since at least 1945.

All in all, rather than attempt to offer explanations or even alternatives for hipster culture (maybe, just maybe, hipster culture is a reaction to a world that, in the wake of Bush, Iraq, 9/11, the sub-prime crisis, etc, appears to be falling apart. Similar to what occurred in Europe following WWI), Haddow merely brow-beats their supposed lack of concern for anything. In doing so he offers absolutely nothing new to the dialog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Duly Noted

Brian over at Celebrate the Body Electric goes deep and comes out with a pretty good piece on the resurgence of vinyl in mainstream outlets.

Other than that though its been quiet on the western front here at Oh Shit History. A potentially deadly blunder from the New Yorker ignites a shit-storm of accusations from places like, while the rest of America wonders why they ain't never heard of this fancy-schmancy New Yorker magazine.

And so the job and apartment hunt continues. Some pieces lined up (i.e. yet to be written) that I'll talk more about here when the time comes.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse my high school dean of discipline's church. No. I am not making that up.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gimme Pete Wentz Approved No Age

Two cannonballs into the void today. One a misty-eyed remembrance of financial instability from the founders of Sub Pop, and a fairly upbeat celebration of selling out, err, I mean "buying in" from my friend Brian over at Celebrate the Body Electric.

The back and forth argument over whether or not indie is allowed to make money, and finally pay off those student loans thanks to a nice cash infusion from Outback Steakhouse is one that I'm not particularly interested in joining. And far, far better and more lucid dissections of the debate can be found on Chris Ott's excellent blog, Shallow Rewards (sadly it seems as though fatherhood and other "grown up" responsibilities have prevented Chris from writing lately. The last post is a strong refutation of the Joy Division nostalgia express.).

Both these items bring up an interesting point, which is that Indie is essentially a highly potent marketing term. Bruce Pavitt, in a seemingly incongruous statement for someone who's business plan included at one point "World Domination", notes:

"Indie rock is very healthy, there's a lot of diversity and a lot of creativity, but it does not have the revolutionary spirit of the late-70s punk scene in regards to design and politics and fashion and stuff like that. I really miss that, and I'm looking forward to a youth musical cultural scene that's a little more revolutionary, where indie bands aren't vying for McDonald's commercial spots. I think, politically, the scene's got pretty watered down. There are economic opportunities for many people, but I don't think, artistically, it's as revolutionary as that particular period."

Easy for someone who lives on a small island in the Pacific Northwest to say! Essentially, Bruce is trying to pad his legacy. Sub Pop was, and still is (despite a rather lackluster period in the late 90s) a hugely important force in alternative music, but for them to whine and bitch that maybe the music isn't as revolutionary as it once was is just hitting the broad side of the barn.

Meanwhile, on much more "posicore" note, Brian (who's blog really is excellent and who is a stand-up guy who is totally not going to hate me for calling him out on this) sounds the "can't we all just get along" alarm in a celebration of No Age. At this point, its ridiculous to call No Age an "indie" band, despite the fact that they record for Sub Pop, technically an independent label. But like Interpol before them, No Age are straddling that often uncomfortable line of huge on the coasts, but utterly unknown in between. Still, in a show of "I paid attention in Kindergarten", Brian celebrates the (partial) ascension of bands like No Age and the culture they represent.

"It would be easy to say that the band has been “selling out,” but to use another cliche, maybe more and more people are “buying in.” There is nothing wrong with a band finding success and despite the oddity of finding them featured in a relatively mainstream spotlight, I can’t help but think how cool it is that “alternative culture” is being brought to the front lines. I don’t subscribe to the idea of exclusivity and preserving the underground nature of anything. While it’s nice having things to yourself, wouldn’t you want to share with others? I find that to be so much more satisfying."

Brian also aims for the broad side and scores a direct hit. "Indie", as a both a musical and cultural stance, is dead and gone. The fact is that now more than ever Indie has become nothing more than a t-shirt (or perhaps in this case a pair of skinny jeans) that one wears when one feels inclined. Appropriation and acceptance by the masses is not something to be scorned, but rather celebrated. The sweat and the fear are gone and your parents drive you to the bad part of town to see No Age now. One need only watch (horrified) the BBC series "Switch" to see how much indie and youth culture in general have become codified and stilted.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

First Post!!!

So I started a blog. Again.

I guess this is really going to be more of a repository of random ideas, meals, tidbits, and ruminations than any cohesive whole. And for the two people interested (Ok, ok. Zero people interested), this will be the home of my new adventure in historical writing, "Great Moments in 'Oh Shit!' History."

Also, if you peruse the links to the left you'll be availing yourself of a whole virtual world that is probably far more interesting than anything you'll read here.

To get things started, here is a recent article I wrote for the Dig:

- Times New Viking Reject the Indie Rock Crown

Hooray for shameless self-promotion!