Wednesday, June 18, 2008

some bull about bohemia

Get this: Philebrity is channeling Christopher Hitchens -- a life of kings favorite whose Slate columns we've linked to since Day One -- by wondering where the real Philly Bohemia is. Anyone else sense a whiff of hypocrisy in this? Anyone? Anyone? Philebrity -- in case the name didn't give it away -- is a blog site dedicated to listing "cool parties" and "shows" at which everyone flaunts how different they are by looking remarkably similar to everyone else, that makes fun of tourists in "Mom Jeans," that sneers at any kind of music you might have heard of, and that (occasionally) passes off pedestrian, knee-jerk political insight as "progressive." [Interesting that Philebrity describes it has a "man-crush" on Hitchens, considering he's arguably the most vocal supporter of the invasion of Iraq and its subsequent occupation out there. But whatever.] Yes, I know what you're thinking: Why do you read that site, then? Curiosity, for one, gentle reader: It's informative about certain items of interest, and it's written in a snarky, smart-ass sort of way I often find appealing. Besides -- and let's face it -- hipster girls are hot. But to think Joey Sweeney and his Band of Badasses even thought to invoke Jack Kerouac in this little dispatch, complete with a famous photo of Jack from a Beat poetry reading in the 1950s? I mean, come on. Look, I'm second to no one in my admiration for Kerouac, but there's no doubting the so-called Beat Mystique has taken on a life of its own in the last 50 years, to the extent that its cool-outsider aura has been transformed into just another clique of misguided slackers living off the bounty provided by the great material wealth of this country, if not also their parents, many of whom were more likely to have worked for (gasp!) a multinational corporation than some co-op that recycles its receipts for the good of Gaia. I mean, without Daddy's trust fund allowance, how else can Joe and Jane Cool afford that phat loft in NoLibs while spending days that end in "y" thinkingthinkingthinking about the next turgid short story they're going to write while shopping at H&M and running up a ginormous credit-card tab at Standard Tap? The funniest part is, many of them know nothing of Jack Kerouac other than that he wrote On the Road or Dharma Bums, which, you know, many of them never quite got around to finishing, either, and how's that for stereotyping, anyway? Heck, no less than The Village Voice has weighed in on what has become Kerouac, Inc., based on the sorry way some have actually attempted to cash in on his legacy. But so what? If I'm following the logic here, we want to gentrify bad neighborhoods until somebody else does, too, at which point it's just not Bohemian enough anymore. Bottom line: Capitalism isn't perfect, but it is a good thing. To paraphrase what Winston Churchill had to say about democracy, it's the worst economic system there is, except for all the others. Are there excesses? Sure. Is there crassness, consumerism and lots of crap being bought and sold out there? Yup. But it's also the reason Web sites like Philebrity can thrive and exist, and that kids with otherwise nothing better to do can debate where they can confine themselves to talk about continuing to do nothing. That's not to say there's no place for art, or for places where good art can be created and cultivated by good artists. Just that those doing the creating should shut up, do it and please spare us their holier-than-thou pontificating about everyone else who doesn't quite measure up to such rigid standards of non-conformist conformity. We don't much like you, either.


mike said...

this post is bullshit. you're so quick to point out contradictions in others, even going so far as to illustrate those contradictions with gross generalizations, yet fail to fully acknowledge your own. i'm not denying there are annoying, full-of-shit trust-fund hipsters out there; probably just as many as the trust-fund yuppie republicans that populated our high school. i just don't get why you seem to take it so personally.

and i also don't get where you're coming from with this post. you make small concessions that "good" art & "good" artists need to have their place somewhere, but then get bristled and practically offended of the instances of these places and people in the city where you live today. and its not because philebrity and its ilk are not elitist pricks, because most of them probably are; its because you revere tradition and accepted culture more than something that is new and tries to stick its neck out in expressing its take on the world. i'm 100% willing to wager that had you sauntered into cafe wha? in the village in 1961 to snap your fingers to some hip shit you would have made a sour face and wondered aloud "who's this nasally redneck who can't keep a rhythm or make a rhyme?" but 5, 10, 15, 20 years later, yeah, bob dylan is cool, he's even great, he's even a marketing opportunity for our new product, he's so ubiquitous and safe.

to point out your own contradiction: this whole post boils down to this quote- "hipster girls are hot." and you're not getting any from them right now. with that in mind, a site like philebrity is a way that you conduct research in the world they live in and the lives they lead. i'm also willing to bet that you wouldn't be boo-hooing hanging out in fishtown or northern liberties if it meant you'd be getting some in one of these neighborhoods' bedrooms later that night. hell, you might even contemplate moving there yourself for a little while ;)

and DO NOT even get me started on the whole "shut up with the speeches and play you guitar" argument. because, gentle reader, if a song or a poem or a story or a movie, etc has never moved you enough to question the reality around you and inspired you to move beyond your own shortcomings and misgivings about said world, then i would say you've never experienced "good art." it seems to me you're much more comfortable with art/culture that supports the worldview you have already rather than anything that would challenge that worldview in any way. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, just call it what it is and realize that may be one reason you feel like an outsider to this whole hipster world, and feel moved enough to launch into unprovoked diatribes against it.

and this is all coming from someone who owns a bunch of clothes from H&M (because they don't make me look like a douchebag) and has never finished On the Road (because i-gasp- didn't like it).

just chill out with the gross generalizations and think about treating all hypocrisies as being what they are- equal.

the life of kings said...

Mike, you missed the irony here: It's precisely the sort of snarky condescension expressed by Philebrity that I find so unnerving, and that causes me to take this so personally, and to respond in kind, even if I do enjoy reading their site. Do I like good art? Has some of it changed my thinking, or my worldview? Yes and yes. It took me a while, but it has happened. I sometimes wonder what I might think like had I been capable of doing this sooner, but the fact is, I'll never really know.

You also missed my point about who has read On the Road. My broader point is that less art, music and literature has actually been consumed by those who often claim to have consumed it. OTR was just the example I used, since Philebrity cited JK. But I could have cited Dylan, or Iggy Pop, or the Sex Pistols, and made the same point. In conversations with arts types, I'm no longer struck by how uninformed they seem to be about things with which they claim familiarity. The moment they're questioned even a little beneath the surface, they buckle and fold. THAT was my point.

The difference with me is, I'm WILLING to entertain other viewpoints and ways of looking at things, which is often more than can be said for a lot of them. In fact, I rarely encounter an arts person who is truly committed to anything of any substance beyond what satisfies their own self-absorption and narcissism: So much of what they do is about them and how it ultimately makes them feel. Are there exceptions? Sure. But there are also good capitalists, no? The arts crowd also tends to stay within its own circle, and expresses nothing but revulsion and disgust at ANYTHING that might in any way question or doubt its delicate sensibilities, which in that way makes them not much different from most of the yuppie-Republican types that once ostracized them. The difference, to me, is that the arts types profess to actually having an open mind. And THAT's why this is personal to me.

Overall, I plead guilty to over-generalizing, but I did so to make a point by throwing some of Philebrity's own condescension back at them. I'm also not the one, like the alt-weeklies, lecturing others about poverty in the same issue in which I also highlight hip fashions and restaurants most people working at a non-profit could never afford on their own. Bottom line, if my worldview seems consistent with some of the more conservative viewpoints I've expressed for years, well, let's chalk that up to having lived in the real world -- where there are real responsibilities -- for several years.

mikesielski said...

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