Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn

Curio: 3/5/11

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Later at the Chelsea Piers, alternating between kissing and shouting at each other, the afternoon sun doing the same with the water before us, no one seemed to mind at all that we were occupying a bench spilling tequila all over, and why would they? The city does what it’s supposed to sometimes.

//

I have to believe in love, or something akin to it, for the same reasons Schliemann had to believe in Troy. The stories are there. The architecture is conceivable. And the doubters are less interesting thatn the partisans.

Those are two selections from a weird, lovely little book—the kind of lightweight, whispy little thing you can take with you in your purse or pocket and not feel like an ass reading at the bar while you wait for your friend, or while you wait for no one—called Please Take Me Off The Guest List. It’s a collection of essays by writer/Fresh Kills’ singer/Beauty Bar bartender Zachary Lipez and photographs by Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, designed by Stacy Wakefield and published by Akashic books.

For a different view of Brooklyn, check out City Limits’ “Brooklyn Issue,” which features a 5-part piece looking at “the borough behind the brand.” Or check out Phoebe Maltz’s post, “Of Brooklyn’s old, new and international,” which is the kind of Phoebe post that makes me think yes, yes, yes, this is why I always keep Phoebe in my important g-reader folder. Phoebe laments “the ever-growing canon of travel advice not exactly aimed at hipsters, but that conflates ‘where the hipsters are’ with ‘where one finds local color.'”

The old-as-time popularity of telling people how to find ‘off the beaten path’ restaurants, of how to (as is written, preposterously, on the side of tourist vans near Battery Park City) “Come a tourist, leave a local,” has morphed into a kind of parallel tourist industry, in which there’s an assumption that everyone’s looking for pretty much the same thing around the world, namely the equivalent of Williamsburg or Wicker Park of whichever locale they may find themselves in. This is the real-life travel equivalent to the street-style blogs depicting identically-quirkily dressed 20-and-30-somethings, whose locales one can only discern from their ethnicity. (Naturally platinum blond and in the ’70s-inspired uniform-of-the-moment? Helsinki. Dark hair and a rockin’ post-army bod in the same outfit? Tel Aviv.)

It’s precisely this approach that sends tourists in Paris – Paris! – to the Canal St. Martin area, which is good and well but… the 6th and 7th Arrondissements! The Seine! One doesn’t go to Paris for hipsters who happen to speak French and own a bit more striped stuff. One goes for the beautiful everything, for the 60-ish women who look like a young Catherine Deneuve, for the bichons frises with their own chairs in a café.

Freddie is also being unabashedly Freddie right now on his blog, railing against the “distorting influences” of DC cocktail parties on media and politics. It’s all a bit hysterical, and intense (“every new breed is a purer expression of corruption than the one that came before.,” but sends you wandering strange thought-holes nonetheless, and makes you question your own assumptions about things a bit, or look at your own culpability, or something. It will make you think about something, and that is why one reads Freddie. I think I will have more to say about it in a bit, but—California! How does anyone stay inside here?

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Written by ENB

March 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Coast to Coast

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It’s impossible for me to think about California, at this point in my life, without thinking about Joan Didion. I came to Didion recently-ish—I think it must have been just a little over a year ago, I was on the verge of moving to New York and Conor told me to read Didion’s famous moving to and moving away from New York essay, “Goodbye to All That,” to which I responded:

I adored it. But I wonder—did you feel that way, when you moved to New York? I don’t. I worry I am too old, or too stubborn …

Which just shows you what a pretentious, dramatic twit I can be sometimes, because of course I got swept up in loving it here (and also just, Gawd, you know?). It’s been about one year and one month since I moved here, and I may or may not be as bad as when my then-boyfriend first moved here, moved into the McKibben lofts, and called me at my apartment in DC at 2 in the morning to tell me that the loft building across the street had started blaring and singing “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and then the residents of his building started doing it back at them, and then they were all having a Holland 1945 sing-a-long and wasn’t that just magical and New York the best? Shoot me if I ever become one of those people, I told my DC friends.

And now I live in a house with 13 other members of my creative collective, Goddamn Cobras, and make raw pies and have housemates who play in a band called Zebros in our basement.

So, there’s that.

What all of this has to do with California is that, on the official one-year anniversary of my move to New York, I was not in New York but in Ojai, California, shooting a movie and/or camping out in dried out riverbeds and forests and lagoons and farms and mountaintops and beaches. That land is incredible, let me tell you; as a lifelong midwesterner with a splash of east coast, I had no idea how beautiful California could actually be.

But what a weird little place, that state. How can a land so built on frontierism, on lone rangers and outcasts and outlaws (you see, I not so long ago finished both Didion’s first novel, Run River, and her book about California, Where I Was From, and also spent last fall and winter watching John Wayne and Sergio Leone movies, so I have these grand sort of notions about California’s founding) be so … progressive, in all the most negative senses of the word? And why doesn’t someone advertise a medical marijuana shop without using the old tropes of psychedelia? Why do the lemons in California get so big? And how the hell did Los Angeles even happen? Why are there so many car dealerships on the strip between L.A. and Santa Barbara? And how does anyone ever get anything done what with the beaches and the sunsets and the palm trees and all of that? Why did I want so badly to feel some sort of connection to a silly place that was once a different place (in my case, the first studio warehouse and lot, for Keystone Studios, opened by Mac Sennett, in what’s now Echo Park, but what does it matter—I wanted to see a Celebrity House, you know; I went looking for Mabel Normand’s Alvarado Street bungalow, I had to visit Haight-Ashbury)? And why do people in San Francisco pretend like they don’t have the worst weather? Why does California, the Idea of California, draw people, like the Idea of New York City, even still, even now—a highway not just a highway but a California Highway; a sunset a California Sunset … A weird little place, that state.

I hope to visit again sometime.

**********

* I am now reading Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the first Robbins book I’ve even attempted—I tend to lump him in that group of Overhyped Gen X Male Authors I Have No Interest In, like David Foster Wallace and Dave Edgars and I think Thomas Pynchon, though he is probably much older, isn’t he?—because when I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my own, no radio signal, no music of any kind, no visibility much beyond my headlights, all fog and endless bridges—to be saved only by the prospect of Guadalupe, because Jables said I would Love It, only to find the most dismal, empty town, Mexican track housing, and suddenly 56 degrees when I fill up my gas a few towns later—or even during the filming of our goddamn western, when Fanny’s house was all slightly-off-key vintage upright pianos, Bearclaw banging on the keys theatrically (in his full Sheriff costume), and fresh mulberries sunshine outside bathtubs wine and toasts—which of course all made me sad because somehow nostalgia and enjoyment always hit me in reverse, well—I don’t know where it came from, didn’t know the phrase referenced a book, a song, anything at all, all the same it became a bit of a mantra, just a little bit, which is silly–it’s silly, right, okay? I know—but nonetheless it became a bit of a mantra, “even cowgirls get the blues,” that somehow cheered me up (I had been wearing these amazing cowgirl boots as a part of my film costume and now refused to take the boots, or my turquoise jewelry, or my ragged jean shorts, off, you see), so when I saw this old Tom Robbins’ paperback copy in a used bookstore in San Francisco with Rachel for four dollars and 50 cents, I had to pick it up. Even cowgirls get the blues. Only by now, I have owned the book for over two weeks, and I’ve only read ten pages.

It’s hard to like a woman with giant thumbs, and it’s hard to feel like a cowgirl in Brooklyn …

Written by ENB

September 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm

The midwest farmers’ daughters

with 3 comments

It’s impossible for me to think about California, at this point in my life, without thinking about Joan Didion. I came to Didion recently-ish—I think it must have been just a little over a year ago, I was on the verge of moving to New York and Conor told me to read Didion’s famous moving to and moving away from New York essay, “Goodbye to All That,” to which I responded:

I adored it. But I wonder—did you feel that way, when you moved to New York? I don’t. I worry I am too old, or too stubborn …

Which just shows you what a pretentious, dramatic twit I can be sometimes, because of course I got swept up in loving it here (and also just, Gawd, you know?). It’s been about one year and one month since I moved here, and I may or may not be as bad as when my then-boyfriend first moved here, moved into the McKibben lofts, and called me at my apartment in DC at 2 in the morning to tell me that the loft building across the street had started blaring and singing “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and then the residents of his building started doing it back at them, and then they were all having a Holland 1945 sing-a-long and wasn’t that just magical and New York the best? Shoot me if I ever become one of those people, I told my DC friends.

And now I live in a house with 13 other members of my creative collective, Goddamn Cobras, and make raw pies and have housemates who play in a band called Zebros in our basement.

So, there’s that.

What all of this has to do with California is that, on the official one-year anniversary of my move to New York, I was not in New York but in Ojai, California, shooting a movie and/or camping out in dried out riverbeds and forests and lagoons and farms and mountaintops and beaches. That land is incredible, let me tell you; as a lifelong midwesterner with a splash of east coast, I had no idea how beautiful California could actually be.

But what a weird little place, that state. How can a land so built on frontierism, on lone rangers and outcasts and outlaws (you see, I not so long ago finished both Didion’s first novel, Run River, and her book about California, Where I Was From, and also spent last fall and winter watching John Wayne and Sergio Leone movies, so I have these grand sort of notions about California’s founding) be so … progressive, in all the most negative senses of the word? And why doesn’t someone advertise a medical marijuana shop without using the old tropes of psychedelia? Why do the lemons in California get so big? And how the hell did Los Angeles even happen? Why are there so many car dealerships on the strip between L.A. and Santa Barbara? And how does anyone ever get anything done what with the beaches and the sunsets and the palm trees and all of that? Why did I want so badly to feel some sort of connection to a silly place that was once a different place (in my case, the first studio warehouse and lot, for Keystone Studios, opened by Mac Sennett, in what’s now Echo Park, but what does it matter—I wanted to see a Celebrity House, you know; I went looking for Mabel Normand’s Alvarado Street bungalow, I had to visit Haight-Ashbury)? And why do people in San Francisco pretend like they don’t have the worst weather? Why does California, the Idea of California, draw people, like the Idea of New York City, even still, even now—a highway not just a highway but a California Highway; a sunset a California Sunset … A weird little place, that state.

I hope to visit again sometime.

**********

* I am now reading Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the first Robbins book I’ve even attempted—I tend to lump him in that group of Overhyped Gen X Male Authors I Have No Interest In, like David Foster Wallace and Dave Edgars and I think Thomas Pynchon, though he is probably much older, isn’t he?—because when I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my own, no radio signal, no music of any kind, no visibility much beyond my headlights, all fog and endless bridges—to be saved only by the prospect of Guadalupe, because Jables said I would Love It, only to find the most dismal, empty town, Mexican track housing, and suddenly 56 degrees when I fill up my gas a few towns later—or even during the filming of our goddamn western, when Fanny’s house was all slightly-off-key vintage upright pianos, Bearclaw banging on the keys theatrically (in his full Sheriff costume), and fresh mulberries sunshine outside bathtubs wine and toasts—which of course all made me sad because somehow nostalgia and enjoyment always hit me in reverse, well—I don’t know where it came from, didn’t know the phrase referenced a book, a song, anything at all, all the same it became a bit of a mantra, just a little bit, which is silly–it’s silly, right, okay? I know—but nonetheless it became a bit of a mantra, “even cowgirls get the blues,” that somehow cheered me up (I had been wearing these amazing cowgirl boots as a part of my film costume and now refused to take the boots, or my turquoise jewelry, or my ragged jean shorts, off, you see), so when I saw this old Tom Robbins’ paperback copy in a used bookstore in San Francisco with Rachel for four dollars and 50 cents, I had to pick it up. Even cowgirls get the blues. Only by now, I have owned the book for over two weeks, and I’ve only read ten pages.

It’s hard to like a woman with giant thumbs, and it’s hard to feel like a cowgirl in Brooklyn …

Greenpoint Block Party

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But when I look around these days, at the bars, at rooftop parties, on the streets and avenues of this still-great city, I see an army of young people out there having a good time. They retain all the optimism of youth. Their prospects may be just as grim as everyone else’s, but they don’t let that affect them. They use their relative poverty to their advantage, creating fun through thrift. They are building the very memories that they will look back on a couple of decades from now and think, “Man, that was the greatest summer ever.”

And it will absolutely be true. Two decades from now we will all be bog people living in warring tribes among the marshes of the New Jersey Meadowlands, skinning rats to provide pelts for warmth and eating their chemically-infested flesh for the tiny bits of protein we are able to provide to our bodies. As the kids of today huddle around the tire fires of tomorrow, they will tell stories to their undersized, two-headed children (assuming mankind remains fertile then) about those balmy summer days before the floods and fires when a six pack of beer and a bittorrented rip of the new Arcade Fire were very heaven. It will sound like paradise. [The Awl]

••••••••

My utter refusal to put words to screen around these parts (or any parts of the Internet, for that matter) can be explained in one word: Summer. Summer, darlings! I forgot to pay much attention to it for the bulk of July and early August, but then suddenly The Awl was already writing eulogies, and my Goddamn Cobra compatriots and I were putting the finishing pre-production touches on the western we’ve been planning since last fall, and tomorrow I set off for two weeks on the west coast, one week in the midwest, and holy September it will already be fall by the time I set foot in my beloved Brooklyn again!

So some summer had to be had these past couple weeks, because like a new acquaintance of mine said recently, re: being A Man, “Eventually you have to know when is the right time to be all schooled in the ways of Cusackian “Say Anything” (i.e. open your fucking mouth and share your feelings and express yourself) and when is the right time to get all caveman and slut it up something rough and proper.” Or, like another new acquaintance of mine said recently, “Shit is way fragile, man.” Now is not the time to get all Cusackian about this summer, because this summer is dissolving, fast! And because when we’re all nursing our 3-eyed cucumber babies and eating rat people, or whatever it is, then —well, I think you get the point.

But what I wanted to say—or what I wanted to show you, rather … hell, maybe it’s best if I just paraphrase Eli Cash: Well, everyone knows the kids in north Brooklyn are capable of this short of audacity to enjoy ourselves, this orgy of flagrant optimism. What this block party footage presupposes is … maybe it isn’t just us … ?

*Note: In my quest to simply show the diversity of ages and ethnicities voraciously enjoying this sunny summer Sutton street day … I may have kept in a lot of gratuitous footage of cute kids dancing to hipster DJs playing Lady GaGa … (also, please pardon my poor editing skills, and the occasional oohs and ahhs from Hugh and I in the background).

* P.S. This was my first-ever block party! Whole-street garage sales were the closest we got to block parties in the suburban Midwest …

Written by ENB

August 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm

How I learned to stop worrying and love the zeitgeist

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Conor calls for ‘slow journalism’ over at The American Scene:

I think I saw something about someone wanting to start a Slow Journalism movement. I am on board. Or if no one said that, then I’m doing so now. We’ll wait somewhat longer to write up news and analysis, worry less about news pegs, blog about worthwhile books that were published four years ago and articles that appeared on the Web five months ago, or seven years ago. We’ll lose the morning, every morning, but we’ll win the week. Or the month.

He’s responding to Dave Weigel’s intro over at his new Slate blog, in which Weigel grapples with the speed of the political news cycle In This Day & Age (I do dig Dave’s elevator pitch: So: Who’s running the country, who wants to take it away from them, and what are they all doing wrong? Let’s find out.) Conor says he pays no mind to who publishes first; he gets his news from friends and those established voices he trusts:

The whole of Red State or Big Government could be writing about a story before anyone else, but having concluded that I don’t know when I can trust them, and it isn’t worth the time and effort to fact check their work before writing about it, I won’t see the story until Dave Weigel or Chris Beam or Tim Carney or Mark Hemingway or some other person whose work I follow gets to it.

And I really don’t care if it’s a day later.

It sounds a bit like a vote for “epistemic closure” (am I using that phrase right, boys? I willfully ignored that whole debate; Slow-Journo street cred, score 1 me …?), but I more or less agree. It fits the theory that the only currency journalists have In This Day & Age (god, I love that phrase; all the moral panic it breathlessly implies!) is their name, and they can contract that name, that voice, out to different publications, different sites, but they better maintain control of it, because it’s really their only card. Publications have been and will continue to rely on and invest in recognizable “voices” or “brands” rather than “the news,” per se. It’s why, in attempting reinvention, AOL snapped up name-brand political writers; or why it perplexes me that in Atlantic.com’s site revamp, it reorganized content away from a voice/blogger-centric layout (not that I doubt it had very good secret reasons).

And this is all reminding me of Clay Shirky’s latest book, Cognitive Surplus, which I am reading (slowly) right now. This is my favorite point so far:

The old choice between one-way public media (like books and movies) and two-way private media (like the phone) has now expanded to include a third option: two-way media that operates on a scale from private to public. Conversations among groups can now be carried out in the same media environments as broadcasts. This new option bridges the two older options of broadcast and communications media. All media can now slide from one to the other. An e-mail conversation can be published by its participants. An essay intended for public consumption can anchor a private argument, parts of which later become public. We move from public to private and back again in ways that weren’t possible in an era when public and private media, like the radio and the telephone, used different devices and different networks.

The point he makes is so simple, but it struck me, still; that is the root of so much of what we talk about when we talk about journalism, the Internet, writers, authors, amateurs, user-generated content, social media, social networks, email privacy, influencers, news … Everything (Dave Weigel’s Journolist emails; your facebook profile; a photo a girl from third grade found in her parents’ attic, the electronic love letters you really meant to keep between you and your intended, the rough cut of the song you send a few folks to preview) is public media. Which is why it makes sense that, amid this, you know, little social shift wherein a good portion of the world’s conversation became public media, trustworthiness is one of the few viable, remaining currencies.

Or something like that.

Anyway, Conor, count me in! Because I’d like to write about Georges Simenon mysteries and what sense, if any, can be made of Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights. I want to hear your and everyone’s thoughts on this 2001 Nerve essay, and not feel silly blogging about this New York Magazine article on soldiers and YouTube even though it’s over 2 weeks old. Because, I tell ya, getting out of DC helped give me a little perspective. It can be paralyzing when your drinking buddies are among some of the most well-known political or cultural bloggers. It can make you feel like there’s no point in writing a thing if you didn’t get there first, or don’t have a perfectly unique take.

Now Brooklyn provides its own kind of weird (everything you and/or your friends do ends up a sort of product that is very palatable for certain media types, I guess, but then again, sometimes you ask for it). But I don’t feel as paralyzed by the news cycle here. Sometimes, the whole business seems like a cross between a research experiment I might have set up in grad school (as it was, my thesis tried to discover some sort of ideological metamorphosis in U.S. celebrity-tabloid coverage based on our changing political & cultural atmosphere between 1996 and 2006. um, yeah) and a private game being played solely by those with the power, or misfortune, to believe in it. Or worse, to think they don’t.

But maybe that’s just me.

Written by ENB

August 6, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Hipster Wizard Spotted Harassing Asian Girls at McKibben Rooftop Dance Party As Early As 2008

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I posted a photo of the ‘hipster wizard’ harassing an Asian girl before posting about the hipster wizard harassing Asian girls was cool

McKibben rooftop dance party circa 2008

I’m sorry; I just couldn’t resist.

Written by ENB

July 19, 2010 at 8:50 am

Posted in City-Dwelling, Culture

Tagged with

High-brow & low-brow gentrification defenses …

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I happened to read both this review from the June issue of the Atlantic (“Gentrification and It’s Discontents”) and this op-ed on BushwickBK.com (“In Defense of ‘Hipsters’ and the Controversial Practice of Moving to a City Not of One’s Birth”) last weekend, and found the parallels kind of interesting & amusing.

Atlantic editor Benjamin Schwarz reviews two recent urban-ecology books—Michael Sorkin’s Twenty Minutes in Manhattan and Sharon Zukin’s Naked Cityin what more or less amounts to a takedown of Jane Jacobs acolytes, and one that had me chuckling out loud a few times at that (which may be more of a reflection on my sense of humor than profound hilarity). Schwarz writes:

Even if Zukin and Sorkin bemoan the city’s deindustrialization and are wistful for the higgledy-piggledy way manufacturing was scattered throughout New York (diversity! mixed use!), they’re compelled to make clear that they don’t miss the sweatshops and the exploitative, horrible life that went with them. And recall that the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, in the heart of the Village on a block fronting Washington Square, burned in the second decade of the 20th century […] Which means that even hazy melancholy for the New York of regular Joes with lunch pails returning after a good day’s work to their neighborhoods of kids playing stickball and corner drugstores dispensing egg creams can only evoke scenes pretty much limited to the years of the LaGuardia administration.

And:

Thanks to the profound influence that The Death and Life of Great American Cities has exerted, the West Village circa 1960 has come to epitomize—really to be the blueprint for—the urban good life. But in its mix of the new and the left over, in its alchemy of authenticity, grit, seedy glamour, and intellectual and cultural sophistication, this was a neighborhood in a transitional and unsustainable, if golden, moment.

He goes on to explain how the same cycle—industrial to bohemian to yuppie (or insert whatever adjectives make sense to you)—played out in SoHo, Tribeca and the East Village, and is currently playing out in parts of Brooklyn, and he mocks the authors’ romanticizing the precise moment on that spectrum that confers the most benefits on people like themselves:

… it’s clear that they pine for—and mistake as susceptible to preservation—the same sort of transitional moment Jacobs evokes in Death and Life, when an architecturally interesting enclave holds in ephemeral balance the emerging and the residual. Such neighborhoods still contain a sprinkling of light industry and raffish characters, for urban grit, and a dash of what Zukin calls “people of color,” for exotic diversity. Added to the mélange are lots and lots of experimental artists (for that boho frisson) and a generous but not overwhelming portion of right-thinking designers, publishing types, architects, and academics, and the one-of-a kind boutiques and innovative restaurants that will give them places to shop and brunch.

Zukin declares that she “resent[s] everything Starbucks represents,” which really means that her urban ideal is the cool neighborhood at the moment before the first Starbucks moves in, an ever-more-fleeting moment.

Bushwick (a neighborhood in north Brooklyn butting up against both Williamsburg and Greenpoint, along with Bed Stuy and Ridgewood, Queens) is at that fleeting moment, or is at least as close to that fleeting moment as the city has right now, as far as I know (do any people in Queens or Harlem dispute me?); Greenpoint already has one Starbucks, and Williamsburg has just kind of lost the PR battle. In a column on BushwickBK.com, Barrett Brown complains:

… we have some great number of more irregular readers who really, really, enjoy our Bushwick Chic feature because they spend literally hours each week obsessing over “hipsters,” a catch-all term that has come to refer to anyone who moves to Brooklyn from somewhere other than Puerto Rico or some awful Balkan country. Most such commenters come to BushwickBK by way of Die Hipster, the increasingly popular website with an editorial stance to the effect that hipsters should strongly consider dying.

So, this article also made me chuckle out loud. But that’s not where the similarities end! Because Barrett also demonstrates how silly it is when “gentrification’s discontents” idealize any particular point in the urban neighborhood life-cycle:

Certainly there are some great number of douchebags, pseudo-intellectuals, and no-talent “artists” among the many over-educated young people who have moved to Bushwick over the past decade. Certainly there are a number of locals who are fine, capable people — but whatever that number is, it’s not so high that Bushwick natives are able to fill the various creative jobs that always need filling, which is why Bushwick, like all of New York, must continually import talent to fill them, even in such cases as nativity would provide a significant edge in the carrying out of such work.

In a subsequent response, Barrett defends himself against commenters who call him racist:

Although the stereotypical characteristics of the “hipster” don’t apply to many Puerto Ricans, the objections based on the simple of act of moving to Brooklyn from somewhere else and the real and imagined effects this has on those who already lived here would seem to apply, yet such objections are only made against a subset of those who move here: whites in general and youngish whites in particular. Somewhat related is the bizarre belief that non-whites are somehow more “genuine” than whites, and thereby entitled to live in certain places that whites are not. Ironically, many whites of the sort that the anti-hipster crowd like to mock — and rightfully so — also hold this belief, which is not only unfair to whites, but also patronizing of non-whites, who are regarded thereby as somehow above the criticism reserved for other “transplants.”

I think we all fall victim to our own skewed ideas about “authenticity” from time to time; everyone has their Jane Jacobs utopia in some form or other. A few months ago, I was talking to a friend who had grown up in Greenpoint. He mentioned that, at one point, there was talk the neighborhood was getting a Wal-Mart. Wouldn’t that have been terrible?, I immediately thought

“I was really excited,” he said. For a boy who’d grown up with “mom-&-pop” corner stores and cramped, catch-all home goods outlets run or staffed by the area’s Polish, Hispanic or Italian residents, the bright, cheap, convenient plasticity of a local Wal-Mart sounded like a good deal.

Written by ENB

June 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm

The “Hipsters on Food Stamps” Phenomenon

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The way the reporter (Jennifer Bleyer) wrote this article itself was like she was just begging people to mock her subjects:

Savory aromas wafted through the kitchen as a table was set with a heaping plate of Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice, all of it courtesy of government assistance.

Every descriptive word Bleyer uses is designed to imply maximum offensiveness, or to make very normal things—like vegetables, for goddsakes— seem exotic and luxurious.

So what if some people on food stamps buy more healthy/weird/international cuisine than do others? It’s not like they’re getting extra money to buy this food; they’re getting the same amount as the guy who’s buying fucking Wonderbread and store-brand Kraft singles. And yet …

Magida, a 30-year-old art school graduate, had been installing museum exhibits for a living until the recession caused arts funding — and her usual gigs — to dry up. She applied for food stamps last summer, and since then she’s used her $150 in monthly benefits for things like fresh produce, raw honey and fresh-squeezed juices from markets near her house in the neighborhood of Hampden, and soy meat alternatives and gourmet ice cream from a Whole Foods a few miles away.

People are always railing, of course, about how people on food stamps don’t buy enough healthy food. But heaven forbid the food they buy is too healthy, or healthy and also outside the mainstream. It’s absurd. Fresh produce is a luxury? Soy protein (which costs about the same as meat) the height of libertine-ism? Not to mention that things such as Chinese gourd and coconut milk are the very kind of corner-store staples in ethnic neighborhoods that often sell these sorts of foods cheaper than mainstream varieties (at the Asian-run market in my neighborhood, I can get three large hunks of fresh, homemade tofu for $1, compared to $2.50 or $3 for the packaged stuff; the Polish corner store sells an abundance of large, quite good Polish beers for cheaper than domestic varieties).

Now you can argue with whether food stamps should exist in the first place, or at what level, or in what way, and that’s something different entirely. But the folks in this article had to have been at some certain pre-determined level we’d set as the threshold for food stamp eligibility, you know? And as long as we’ve already set that threshold, whatever sustenance one buys with those stamps (and in spite of whatever hobbies/passions/desired-careers they may have) is really nobody’s business.

Says Jessica Grose on XX factor:

I’m not sure that “hipster” food stamp recipients are anything but a fake trend, but it does appear that no article about food purchasing or ingesting can be written without irate and judgemental comments. The twenty- and thirtysomethings in the article are predictably called lazy and overly indulged, for example: “Of course people are going to be pissed that they’re busting their asses every day in real jobs so that some douchebag can satisfy his ‘flexitarian’ gourmet diet.” But even if these hipsters were using their own money to buy their organic food they’d be slammed. Or if they were buying the stereotypical foods purchased with food stamps—which is to say, heavily processed—they’d be criticized for contributing to the so-called “obesity crisis.” Eating is now a major moral issue in America, and whatever choice you make is wrong.

Written by ENB

March 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Behind the Scenes: Cobra Den Invitational With Wakey! Wakey!

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We shot a lovely two-song session with Wakey! Wakey! this past weekend, in what will hopefully be the first of many for the Goddamn Cobras‘ “Cobra Den Invitational” series. I’m trying to teach myself to use Final Cut Pro, so I shot some footage on my little digital camera while we were setting up, and edited it into a ‘behind the scenes’ clip. Enjoy!

P.S. Lead singer Michael Grubbs and the rest of the band were super nice. When I listen to their music on Wakey! Wakey!’s MySpace page, it doesn’t really grab me, but in person it was just delightful. Goddamn Cobras will be putting out our recording of the shoot sometime in mid-February – just in time to correspond to Grubbs’ next big moment on One Tree Hill, OMG.

[x-posted to brooklyn home companion …]

Written by ENB

January 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm

The Internet is a Weird Place, Brat Pack Mashup Edition

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A few months ago, my friends made a tribute to this Brat Pack Mashup of Phoenix’s ‘Listomania’ that was posted on YouTube. Now, a group of Phillipino kids has made a tribute to their tribute, complete with footage from my friends’ video of the New York City skyline spliced in and re-creations of the Brooklyn kids’ mistakes (a hat falling off, one of the boys falling down).

Globalization at its strangest?

Written by ENB

November 4, 2009 at 11:10 am

Department of Half-Formed Ideas: Carnivore Cool?

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One of the things we’ve been noticing for a while now is that there’s been a move away from the interesting/hip/cutting-edge/talked-about/whatever restaurants in Brooklyn serving an array of vegetarian and vegan options, and much more of a focus on meat, meat, all things meat. I’m slowly forming a grand unifying theory/article pitch about this in my head, but I want to know if anyone else outside of Brooklyn has noticed similar things in their cities?

Written by ENB

October 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Department of Half-Formed Ideas

with one comment

One of the things we’ve been noticing for a while now is that there’s been a move away from the interesting/hip/cutting-edge/talked-about/whatever restaurants in Brooklyn serving an array of vegetarian and vegan options, and much more of a focus on meat, meat, all things meat. I’m slowly forming a grand unifying theory/article pitch about this in my head, but I want to know if anyone else outside of Brooklyn has noticed similar things in their cities?

Written by ENB

October 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Dystopian-Society-Mobile in Hasidville

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This is what’s going on outside my boyfriend’s window in South Williamsburg right now:

The sound is coming from speakers attached to vans that are circling and circling the block. I think it has something to do with local elections, but for all I know, they could be telling me the world is going to end, or selling very intimidating ice cream.

Written by ENB

September 15, 2009 at 2:06 pm

DC v. NY

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Rooftop DJIt was around midnight Saturday in the (somewhat infamous and somewhat despised) McKibben Lofts in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and I was with a small group gathered in the living room of unit 1G. Downstairs, in the loading-dock-come-bedroom-and-stage-area, a Japanese opera-singing party was in full swing (hosted by G roommate Mariko, a costume designer who’s also some sort of spokeswoman for American Idol in Japan), but upstairs it was just a handful of roommates and neighbors, slightly tired and slightly bored. There was talk of a party on the third floor of the neighboring warehouse/loft, but no one seemed too enthused. Someone popped on Anchorman. Someone took a shower.

I went upstairs to the roof to get some fresh air and muse on the situation. My friend that lives in McKibben likes to tease me about DC’s lack of “youth culture,” and taunt me with tales of Brooklyn’s manic possibility, its energy and depravity. I was feeling a little smug. Sure, last night’s Knyfe Hyts/NinjaSonik/Team Robespierre show at the Death by Audio show space in Williamsburg had both lived up to hipster stereotypes and been one of the best shows I’d seen in a long time (who knew live music was so much better when everyone is filthy, sweaty and drinking from 40s and keg beer in a graffiti-covered un-air-conditioned basement shithole with a toilet to rival the one in Trainspotting and people who are either too fat or too skinny taking off their shirts?—to say nothing of the amazing, frantic energy of the bands), but look at tonight. Everyone was tired from being at Coney Island all day, and now they were just taking it easy, casually drinking, not doing much of anything. Whatever, McKibs, whatever Brooklyn, I was thinking. You’re not so different than DC.

And then a massive DJ-party broke out on the roof.

Bushwick’s finest, under the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ENB

July 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm