February, 2015

Feb 15

KNOW the Difference between a HIPSTER and a HIP PERSON

Everyone is mocking hipsters, now, just as they once mocked mimes and lawyers. By now someone must have contrasted hipsters (as they are known in the 21st century, and as opposed to how they were known in Lord Buckley’s day, aka hipcats back then) with Truly Hip People, whom we can, if we want to get too cute by half, call Thips. Or–PGH. Pretty goddamn hip. That’d be me. Anyway…

Hipsters, I take it, are those people who used to be known by their soul patches and ironic retro clothing or ironic military jackets, now, perhaps in reaction, have switched to GIANT BEARDS and Superlatively Casual Clothing. Of course, superlatively casual is a contradiction in terms but they’re unaware of that. They’re into the new folk rock which is actually just “emo” played by guys wearing those pullover watch caps, bands who’ve added banjo and at least one woman playing fiddle, but who sing about pretty much the same old emotionally lame whiney bullcrap. Hipsters are also into very trendy music from ethnic cultures, almost entirely for political reasons (though they profess to like it), like when the Gypsy Kings and the Meters were cool, but now it’s whatever’s the new Gypsy Kings or the Meters. Or they pretend to like Tuvan throat singing.

Hipsters are super ironic most of the time but get downright maudlin about some political causes, whatever the latest one is. They trend to latch onto things and declaim in what they suppose to be political science terminology but most of them do not actually know what is meant by capitalism (the most misused word of this period of hipsterism) or socialism. There are hipster sub-currents including the one that seems to imagine that really excessive piercing and those giant pendulating lobe plugs will have no longterm negative effects on them; they get pseudo Maori tattoos or just generally overdo tattoos and don’t seem to realize that tattoos should be about what really matters to them not what they’re excited about that afternoon…Hipsters it is who have rebirthed the board game culture (I don’t mean D&D, but cool funny games from their childhood, largely, or new ones), bringing board games into beer gardens and pubs and parties, because it’s uncool to stare into screens…and THIS I agree with them on. Given a choice between people staring into cell phones with glazed eyes, and board gamers, I’ll take the board gamers, though I have no wish to be forced to play Operation to the late hours.

Hipsters as I have known them from their soul patch days are guys who said glib shit about this or that public figure as if it was gospel. “Well you know The Sex Pistols were created like the Monkees” –which is ENTIRELY FALSE. They were NOT the punk rock Monkees. Hipsters think they know what punk rock was/is…and they don’t. They also disgorge generalizing baloney like, “The Stones stole everything from black bluesmen”. Which is ENTIRELY FALSE. (Hipsters of that sort use the term ‘steal’ or ‘stole’ in a facile, improper way.) They hang around in low-rent gallery openings and loft parties spouting this stuff. “Frank Zappa never paid his band.” ENTIRELY FALSE. “Lou Reed’s song Perfect Day is about heroin.” No it’s not. It just fucking isn’t, you idiot. “All surrealists were actually communists.” Not at all though it’s an understandable mistake, given a certain manifesto.

Now as to Thips or Pretty Damn Hip Guys like me, they KNOW that shit is false, because they ACTUALLY KNOW a lot about those people, they know fake folk usic from real folk music, they have a sense of authenticity, they do not try to evade authenticity by being ironic all the time. The Truly Hip actually know what the Surrealist artists (for one example) looked like, and which is which, and who painted what; they appreciate more ethnic music than is trendy at that moment; they do not dress to trend: if, out of disgust with pop culture, they dress very casually it’s because it’s second nature to them and it’s more like Fuck You than Let’s All Be Casual and Loose Bruh. . .If they wear black they are not being ironic about goth. They wear it because Johnny Cash was fucking right (and they know their Johnny Cash!) Their appreciation for rock music is very qualitative and goes back to its origins. They are not snobs however. And they *really* know what punk rock was and is.

The Truly Hip are usually people with extensive drug experience and they speak with expertise about street drugs and psychedelics, even though many gave them up years ago: they know that drugs are serious business, not toys for fools. As a corollary, the Truly Hip are not found at raves, nor Doing X, except experimentally, for about a minute, to see what the fuck that was about.

The truly hip are not childish enough to think believing in peace makes things peaceful. They do not imagine that attempts at making jewelry at home in ethnic patterns is art. The authentically hip can become artistically savage, when they’re really engaged creatively, walking the line between chaos and control. They are not about fronting. They have, in their time, actually confronted authority rather than just talking about it. They don’t mind some categorizing, as you can tell here, but they do not take categories too seriously; they are capable of thinking objectively, scientifically, and they almost invariably have a deep respect for science.

They *really* appreciate Bettie Page. They justly sneer at the mere hipster’s appreciation of Bettie Page.

The Truly Hip tend to speak of certainty only where there is certainty; they are more comfortable with nuances, complexity, depth. They also know something about history–with nuances, complexity, depth.

Know your hip person from your hipster!

(Then there are other categories, like the hippie intellectual, I have a lot of respect for–eg, Stewart Brand or Thomas Pynchon, but that’s another rant.)

Feb 15

Is Satire the Hope of Mankind?

Stanley Kubrick, commenting on Dr Strangelove: “A satirist is someone who has a very skeptical view of human nature, but who still has the optimism to make some sort of a joke out of it. However brutal that joke might be.”

— Somehow, it never occurred to me, before coming across that remark, that satire is implicitly optimistic. But it is. It includes, inherently, the suggestion that we can see ourselves through the lens of satire, we can recognize our foibles and absurdities, and, perhaps, thanks to this insightful mirroring, we might have some hope of liberation from them.

Another obvious example is the heavy-handed scene in The Magic Christian when a group of upscale people are swimming through sewage to get at money tossed in with floating feces…money they don’t need. The satire is grotesquely unsubtle but we recognize truth in it. There’s hope in the most brutal satire.

We don’t see ourselves as we are. That blind spot is paralyzing. Satire optimistically offers the mirror, the insight, of mockery…

Feb 15

Va-GIE-nah, oo-kay?

I was waiting in a pharmacy line, saw a thin blond young woman pharmacist talking to a Filipino gent by microphone–he was in his car, in the drive up. “*Who* are you picking up for, sir? Lugpa? Are…are you Lugpa? Your wife? Ohhhh..oh-KAY.” She had a heavy California accent so she said everything like a question. “Ooh-KAY I have to give you these instructions? She has to wash the outer lips of the va-GIE-nah..?.” She had to say this louder, to be heard… “Yes–va-GIE-nah? And she has to insert the applicator to at least thray inn-chez into her va-GIE-nah? Ooh-kay? And she should try to get ALL the gel INTO her va-GIE-nah, ooh-kay? She should wipe any medicine from the OUTSIDE of her va-GIE-nah, ooh-kay?” The Filipino gent at the wheel of his car ogled her attentively, nodded, said nothing, paid as quickly as he could and gunned out of there.

After I left I saw, outside, a young beanpole gangly pimply Asian American guy with his arms full of a just-bought huge white teddy bear and some flowers, clearly for Valentine’s day. He was calling out to a girl who was pulling out of a parking space in a large car, with her frowning in the passenger seat mom beside her. Young guy waved and yelled “I LOVE YOU!” … I went to a shop to get my wife a smoothie. It was a long wait. White teddy bear kid sat outside at a table, looking at his phone, licking his lips, hugging the teddy bear and flowers to him…Looking at his phone…gazing hopefully into the parking lot…He had some notion she was going to meet him there. I left with my purchases, found my car, saw him as I drove past. Looking at his phone, gazing hopefully into the parking lot…

Feb 15


We saw SELMA tonight. We both found the film very moving, and effective. I thought it was reasonable toward LBJ–maybe not entirely fair to him but this was about MLK, not LBJ. It dramatized some of the extremes, not all of them, of southern racism at the time; it dramatized the *struggle for voting rights*. Actual real voting rights. That’s what’s at the core of this and what could be more significant for a time when voting rights are being inched back, nudged back, finally to be rolled back–in Texas, in many places across the USA, Republicans aware that blacks and other minorities tend to support Democrats are putting up new roadblocks to voting.

In this movie we see people beaten to a pulp, even killed, over the right to vote. And yet glib armchair activists declare that it’s meaningless to vote, they “boycott” the vote, they’d rather stay home and share lulz with the other lulcatz, because they do not understand how powerful voting is. If voting is not powerful–why are the Republicans trying to stop it?