Jimmy Neilson is secretly Gunther from “Friends”
Jimmy Neilson is secretly Gunther from “Friends”
A perfect storm of questions hit me this weekend. It occurred to me that there’s not enough time or brain space to appreciate all the aesthetics that are out there for you to experience, so what’s worth following and what’s not? I’m not going to answer that question in the next paragraphs, I don’t have an answer. But here’s some topics I’m mulling over:
There are “Experts” in Everything
This question hit me while listening to Freakonomics podcast about how wine snobs may not have any idea what they’re talking about. And then my mind bounced right to the XKCD cartoon above — that if you follow anything intensely enough, you’ll eventually develop a more developed opinion of it. So… what’s worth knowing, what’s worth discarding, what’s worth devoting time to?
The Lowest Common Denomenator Theory
I touched on this a little on A Dead Kid post a while ago, suggesting that the more obscure your passions, the less connected you are to the rest of the world. I feel that a healthy understanding of popular culture, though potentially mind-numbing, is really important. I don’t want to be lost in dinner discussions about The Bachelor, or silent (verging on looking snobby) when the bar topic du jour is about Katy Perry’s relationship status. Crap culture is the new Weather — everyone experiences it, you can’t avoid it, and everyone has an opinion about it so it’s a perfectly fine topic to bring up when you have absolutely nothing else to talk about. Would you want to talk to someone who responded to your weather comment with, “Oh, yeah, I’m not really into the weather.”
What’s Worth Your Time?
How long does it take to watch a movie? Eat a meal? Read a book? I ask, because, in the last 10 years a new time-sucking phenomenon has appeared — the serial TV drama. Chuck Klosterman and Bill Simmons chatted a bit about this on Monday. Long-form TV drama is everywhere, and they take forever to get through. There was a time when someone would ask, “Have you ever seen <movie>?”, and you would say “no”, and they would be like “I can’t BELIEVE you haven’t seen <movie>.” You would then rent that movie (or borrow that CD or go to that restaurant) and experience it — that would take about 2 hours… even a book, which I would consider a real commitment, takes anywhere from a week to a month to complete. Serial cable TV shows are the extreme of commitment. They last for months; often years if they’re doing well. They are recommended by others who have no real idea how they will eventually end.
People don’t recommend albums based on the first two tracks of an LP, restaurants based on appetizers, or books based on prologues, but they do this sort of thing all the time for serial dramas. Every serial show is an insane commitment with no guaranteed satisfactory conclusion (hi Twin Peaks, Lost). Everyone is probably guilty of recommending a show that you, yourself won’t know how good or bad it will wind up being. I know I am. I told my friend a decade ago to get into Desperate Housewives. There are still people watching Grey’s Anatomy because, I can only imagine, that they’ve put too many hours into McDreamy to give up on it now. Anyway. I digress. I just dread dedicating that much time to one thing and watching it just… suck.
My uncle once said he wouldn’t buy a good sound system because he doesn’t have the ear that could recognize the difference between an good sound system and an excellent one. I could imagine the same goes for tastebuds, and any other sensory experience as well. This is logical. But it make me wonder who gets to appreciate the most things, and perhaps then determine what’s “the best” themselves — those fortunate enough to experience the most? Does a variety of experience from somone with no real taste trump the limited experience of someone who has incredible taste?
Art vs Necessity
Last section, I promise. This is the old form/function argument. I’ve read that if an art serves any real function, it ceases to be art. My questions is then, what happens when a basic necessity is elevated to something greater? When it comes to things like architecture, fashion, or cuisine — shelter, clothing, and food if we’re going Maslov here — are post-modern buildings, high fashion, or molecular gastronomy the epitome of art because they’ve transcended their functions, or are they invalid because they are objects that fail to meet the requirement of their initial reason to exist? Are foodies and fashionista’s kidding themselves, or are they following the most logical path?
I heard once, and now I forgot where, that hipsterism is officially dead: All hipsters have just become foodies.
That’s the kind of sweeping statement that begs to be analyzed (see: The Atlantic article on such things). It’s the kind of hyperbole you just have to sink your teeth into. Anyway, after thinking hard about it for maybe two minutes, I have to disagree.
I can say, with all confidence, that food is not the next bastion of hipsterdom — it is, quite obviously, sports. Think about it — if you were to to unfairly generalize hipster character traits the top of the list would have to be a love of irony, unapologetic geekiness, a carefully cultivated appreciation of pop culture, and a finely-tuned sense nostalgia. All of these things, to me, point directly to sports.
Here is a group of three names: Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Eggers, and Chuck Klosterman. If someone told you they were collaborating on a project together, what would you think it would be? A youth literary fundraiser? A roundtable on the plight of self-awareness in literature? A celebrity somolier app for your iPad? All these things seem more likely than the truth, which is that they are all editors at Bill Simmons’ ESPN-backed sports blog Grantland. Gladwell, Eggers and Klosterman — THE TRIUMVIRATE OF COFFEESHOP NAMECHECKING — all with a profound passion for sport. Also, check out Simmons’ recent podcast with John Walsh that focused solely on another hipster idol /sports fiend, Hunter Thompson.
Hipsters strive to let you know that they appreciate something you love on a much deeper level than you do — doing so validates that their passion is more authentic than yours. They also like to geek out. This is why hipsters love sabermetrics — it’s an way to say, “Yes, I enjoy this too, but my enjoyment of this is considerably deeper and more rewarding than yours.” This same argument has been made about everything from The Velvet Underground to The Muppets. And don’t get me going about Moneyball, or the fact that Moneyball was adapted by Aaron Sorkin. Everybody was jazzed about that one. The only bigger announcement for the hipster world would’ve been if Noah Baumbach directed a rotoscoped version of Kafka on the Shore.
Nostalgia is the lifeblood of the hipster. Everything you find in the attic that was packed up as a kid — it is now gold. Because the past = youth = innocence = authenticity. Sun-faded photos of kids on big wheels are the stuff of indie EPs! Parent’s gigantic plastic reading glasses are urban fashion de rigueur. That old replica jersey of Will Clark?! YES! Do you have that Dream Team T-shirt? That shit is TIGHT. It is FOR REAL! Wear it to LOLLA!
Okay. I doth protest too much. I like sports. I like Moneyball. I listen to Bill Simmons all the time. I may talk about football on this blog more than anything else. That said, I welcome the emergence of sports fanaticism as something that both jocks and art kids can love. Could I just throw out there that I even tried to start an Indie Rock fantasy league? True Story.
I figured tracking my fantasy football stats would help me make some good choices by end-of-season playoff time, i.e. now. Ummm, yeah. This graph just demonstrates how I’m definitely going to make the wrong choice this week….
I was in a brief discussion about how a lot of Mel Gibson movies seem to have Christ-like figures, or Christian messages in them. They also have lots of ‘splosians. Here’s a diagram so you can keep them straight.
Yeah. It’s the new buzz term. Any band you may have heard for the last three or so months has probably been called “chillwave”. Based on the description of said genre, a large amount of bands you may have liked for the last 5+ years may also may now be looped into the descriptor of “chillwave”. Nothing is beyond it’s grasp. Do you like Ariel Pink? Best Coast? Panda Bear? Boards of Canada? Beach House? m83? The Avalanches? Deerhunter? Broken Social Scene? Fennesz? Well my friend… you like chillwave.
“Wait,” you say, “all those bands existed years BEFORE this newfangled term.”
Yes, but all of that is irrelevant now. The wave is upon us.
I’m writing a few little posts about it, the first one is up now.
Also, I’ll post stuff here still, promise.