Wednesday, July 27, 2005

friend of hipsters

is, along with 'fire boss,' one of my reigning titles, according to one or two of my closest friends, who aren't hipsters at all, but worry about them. TMN linked to this article on whether owen wilson was the secret key to wes anderson's success. it is worth reading, and so are the two articles linked at the bottom, both VERY astute takes on anderson and hipsterdom. (la, drop everything and read.)

for the rest of this entry i plan to write about my own experience of delight and anxiety as a marginal member of this generation. i may go on for some time. (even this Salingerian qualifier forshadows what will follow. what you do with your time is your own decision. i am rereading Seymour, An Introduction).

Rushmore, if i remember correctly, came out in 1998, during my senior year of high school, when i had recently shunted an all-consuming but doomed crush on a sandy-haired protagonist (see below) in favor of a shitty but real relationship with a spoiled punk drummer who drove a corvette and solved each of his physics problems on one line of college-ruled notebook paper. my best friends at the time were two gals who were big-hearted and big-boned, as they put it, one of them devoutly Catholic. when we all turned 18, we went dancing on sunday nights at brothers, "tallahassee's pansexual nightclub." sunday was 80s night; cover was $2, and it was by far the safest place to dance in town. take that, homophobes.

my two friends happened to see Rushmore before i did but, knowing i would love it, went again with me immediately. they were right. i was, at the time, starved for anything sensitive, witty, and intelligent, and i smiled and i smiled and i smiled in the dark, utter delight. the loving detail, the hilarious deadpan, bill murray's subsumed loose-cannon performance, beautiful olivia became my favorite movie.

at the time, i didn't know the word "hipster," at least not in its contemporary sense; i don't know whether the subculture had yet been truly articulated. fashion arrives late in north florida, which i think is good for the character. when the movie came out on video that summer, i rented it and had a viewing party at my house. my boyfriend didn't come, which did not surprise me, and neither did my old unrequited flame (i don't think i invited him, though, about a year ago, on the phone, he happened to mention that it's now his favorite), but lots of other people did, including these two younger hip guys, josh martin and andy funk, who ate all the brownies i'd made and loved the film. we talked about ben folds 5.

then i went to swarthmore, and, captivated by the funny flyers advertising pizza, found myself at a meeting for Spike, the magazine i eventually co-edited. my editors at the time, however, were lotto, lewis, and shainin (i received a bit of a shock this week when he showed up at sfj, being as i'd found that site ON MY OWN THANK YOU, through various linkages about mashups. but it makes sense, since the first time i read sfj i thought, "this chick reads like christine.") these guys and their friends were the hipsters i befriended, with the exception of lewis, who i "became," the useful dork amidst the drama, "vice-president of everything," as i called myself, perhaps equivalent to:

And let’s not forget that guy you can count on. His star always burned a bit dimmer than yours, but it never burns out. Perhaps he wears glasses, but without irony. There’s something weird about his apartment—it’s nice, not squalid. You may not talk to him much anymore—he’s not in your crowd, not hip enough, I guess, but loyal, and responsible, still holding down the same basically shitty job. He’ll always bail you out or put you up.

one foot in the hip, one in the Dharma, the Transcendental, the neo-Aristotelian, the Classical, the Biblical, the Romantic, the Natural...there are plenty of feet. all i can think is that i am seduced, but only ever partially, by the current aesthetic thrust of my generation, including its criticism. i went to those Spike meetings freshman year and sat laughing my ass off while those boys with their hairdos made funny jokes and gushed over joyce and dropped names (benjamin) that i couldn't wait to look up. then i'd go back to the dorm and kiss my very temporary girlfriend in the bathroom. we listened to the Rushmore soundtrack during crunch time at the magazine; nori didn't get it.

eventually, this bittersweet straddle came to describe everything: i wrote great articles for the magazine, but they weren't funny. shainin went home mid-spring to work on his film thesis and left lotto and lewis to pick up the slack while jon, i think, in the end, picked up highest honors. they handed the magazine to christine, jeanne, and i, but i learned later that lotto hadn't wanted to, and surely his doubt was in me, and maybe he was right. from one side of the glass, i was a bone fide theory-reading, glasses-wearing, irony-gulping literary fiend. from the other, i was a lyrical poet who'd wandered into the wrong room and was too clueless to excuse herself. though it was my transcript that took the beatings of end-of-semester all-nighters in the publications office, and my name that got ripped off on the Daily Jolt after i responded to anonymous posts about the magazine.

but i digress, i think. Rushmore, and, more recently, Lost in Translation, and even more recently, Me and You and Everyone We Know, are all prime hipster territory, but they also share a border position between indie and mainstream that i have, since i started thinking about all this, counted as my little razorblade duchy. they are smart and emotional and eccentric and conducive to cult followings, but you don't have to be in the cult, or get all the references, to enjoy them. i actually never get the references, though i can often intuit when a reference is being made. people at either end of the culture extreme -- deep mainstream, or deep obscurantism -- won't touch these films. if you want to, you may accuse them of being an unholy edgy/bourgeois blend, which gives some people hives. i swim in it.

it is more interesting to call Anderson and Coppola's films racist, and to let them get off as "postracial" is, i think, exactly that. here's the relevant paragraph:

But come on, Anderson and hipsters are too self-conscious, too postmodern, to be racist. Hipsters, though, they may be mostly white (and rich) welcome minorities to their ranks. In fact they get worried if their aren’t enough colors on the social palette; you could hear something genuinely troubling when the Moldy Peaches used to sing, “I’m running out of ethnic friends.” This all seems resonant with a theory I have heard spouted (though never read) by and about young people today—that growing up in “diverse communities” with friends of every color and creed, they are “postracial.” It follows that they make racist jokes without malice, as a way of rebelling against the tyranny of political correctness. Perhaps this is true, and maybe it’s not even such a bad thing: racism isn’t racism anymore it’s just breaking of taboo. We can poke a little fun at Filipinos and Sikhs and Arabs and Germans and people from Kentucky, and then all listen together to the ebony-skinned Brazilian man on the deck of the Belafonte singing “Ziggy Stardust” in Portuguese.

perhaps "postracist" is more appropriate. it is very very easy to watch a black person on a screen sing a song or make a joke; to have a few ethnic friends is not much harder. but to accept a mixed racial aesthetic is different from accepting a mixed racial ethic, with its harsher material sacrifices. i'm not saying i'm doing a good job of this. but i'm willing to admit that i'm not doing enough to not manifest racism and to question my aesthetic conditioning. my recent ex hates anything that smells of this kind of hypocrisy, and i learned a lot from him. i think it's an excellent moral opportunity to love something and find it offensive at the same time, and to keep loving it, and to heal the offense. we can't just abandon what's already ours.

at the end of the other hipster article, wilder concludes (as one must, with a punch), calling for a return of the hemingway-style "Bruiser":

I can only pray some hibernating Bruiser--Don DeLillo, say, or Robert Rauschenberg--will spring from his cave, tear LBSB's Saint-Exupéry scarf off his pencil neck, and show him how it's really done: art-making revealed as high-wire act, fire-eating contest, bare-knuckle barroom brawl.

i can only pray that these extremes are not the only options we've got -- hypermasculine or emasculated. can't you guys fulfill your sex without caricaturing it until you destroy yourself with self-hatred or hiding in the presexual cave of nostalgia? you see, i am working on this, too, trying to accept the continued presence of the little girl as well as all these changes that have flown through. i have this hunch that the culture of 20-something self-destructive boredom has very much to do with not knowing how to engage the task of self-acceptance.

i have got to go. i have already exhausted my lunch break and i have not eaten anything. crap!

p.s. wes anderson's women have gotten less and less convincing as he's gone. miss cross was lovely and was given the crucial task of bursting max's bubble. gwyneth, in the RT, was a walking fetish: fur coat, baby doll dress and barrettes, exoticizing eyeliner, missing finger. cate, in LA, was a boring as hell love-interest with Quirky Girl Things stuck to her: bubblegum, pregnancy. angelica houston? the fulfilled matriarch (twice), who is curiously irrelevant.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Poem: "Internet Research"

We can't
I'm sorry
We can't
Do this
I have to work

The torrid romance--
Mental objects

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

visions of sugarromeos

frank rich's rhetoric is so good that it scares me. he manages to transform even the flabbiest of political mayhem into espionage-thriller-shoot-em-up-awesome. oh, go find it yourself.

dknapp left me a message hazarding a guess that "the time we are going to DO IT is nigh. nay. nigh." how long can you base a friendship on jokes about sexual tension? then i dreamt i was dating leonardo dicaprio. we were outside. i started my day with a trip to a post office in the ungentrified neighborhood north of fairmount around 19th to pick up the latest issue of cabinet. i waited for the belated 33 for 20 minutes in the always already cruel sun of 9:30am, thinking about my blind date tonight, my decade-long infatuation with sandy-haired protagonists. boys.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

missing woodstock

yay! i have signed up for a week-long meditation intensive (sesshin) for aug 22-28 at zmm!

now taking bets on whether 8 hours/day of zazen is easier or harder than 8 hours/day of work.

clearly i have an unusual idea of "vacation."

Monday, July 11, 2005

between loving the internet and hating it, i am too busy to do any work

second postcard from monday.

i can't stand these idiots

"When her fellow second graders did not understand a math lesson, she recalled, she would jump up and yell, 'I can't stand these idiots,' prompting her teacher to send notes home."

another good line from this weekend, in "The Name of the Rose": "Adso, if I knew the answers to everything, I would be teaching theology in Paris." now he'd teach theory, but really it's the same.

and lying sleepless in the middle of the night, i came up with: we feel contempt for weaknesses that are not our own. there was another good one, too, but i lost it. must have turned over one too many times. i did have a sudden clarity about my intellectual passions these days, that i think i am trying to advance and synthesize the four classes i was taking senior spring: aesthetics, art and society, french critical theory, and the poetry workshop. the foundation is in the poetic, shot through with paradoxes of literature and ethics, representation, epistemology, ontology, all cast in, what shall we call it, the weary (and wary) anxiety of this late historical moment?

and then there is a sort of shadow question, the question of whether it makes a difference to the fate of our culture, our hearts, and our minds, whether we accept the reality of the sacred. i think i once penned this question as St. Francis vs. The Good Life. but that may disguise the question as being about the necessity of renunciation, or suffering, or may leave the inquiry too conventionally within the christian. as i mentioned to am and la last night, for a long time, i was happy to resolve the question of the sacred as a part of human life, and so real enough for me. even imagined or imaginary, the axis orients us. but i have the impulse to push this question as far as possible, to, i think, look at the nuts and bolts of the ethical and ask how it is it functions, what it rests on, how to take care of it.

oh! i remember, my other good line from last night was, you can't make people believe in goodness, but you can show it to them.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


you know about london. sfj writes, on the nose as usual, "Our prayers are with our friends, and our enemies, too. And if you can tell the difference between the two, you're a step ahead of me." lots of good stuff on his site these days, what with the genius kid and all.

today i went looking for information on The Lost Meeting, a hip, theory-laden installation up at Abington Art Center. in my opinion, deleuze, guattari, and quakers make strange bedfellows, but maybe that's a good thing. certainly the lynx (new spelling) were gratifying: collaborator j. morgan puett's website has updated turn-of-the-century erotica that is the hottest thing i've seen all week. also, spurse, one of those silly-named conceptual collectives, recently conducted this, i think, very apt project on sustainability.

even more successfully making mischief in the art/activism sphere, and being funny at the same time, are the Yes Men. have they been on the Daily Show yet? if not, why? also, can i marry them?

in conclusion, i have a cellphone. i'm going to go home and figure out how to use the thing.