Trend of the Week: Hipster Ubiquity

Q: What do you call someone who looks just like you, who you’ve never met?
A. A stupid fucking hipster.

Yes, the hipster has long served as a convenient scapegoat for people who aspire to be hip without the “-ster”.  Onto them, we project our insecurities about our own superficiality, inauthenticity, and even insecurity itself.  What better way to spackle over one’s embarrassing desire to be cool, then to point at some guy wearing pants a millimeter skinnier than one’s own and say “see that guy?  He’s obviously desperate to be cool.  Sad, really.”  But hipsters aren’t just a collective figment of our neurotic late-capitalist imaginations; they’re also a trend.  Since hipsters are defined by trendiness, this represents a meta-trend, a trend in favor of trendiness itself.  In “The Hipster Trap,” Steven Kurutz grapples with the contradictions and Derridean aporias created by his own internally incoherent mental conception of the “hipster.” Continue reading “Trend of the Week: Hipster Ubiquity”

The Two Stupid Faces of David Brooks: David Brooks Is an Idiot, Part III

Everyone always makes such a big deal about search engine optimization, but I don’t see anything impressive about it.  Search engine optimization is easy.  For instance, let’s say you’re a blogger, and you have a target audience who is interested in a variety of topics, such as “David Brooks idiot,” “David Brooks stupid,” “David Brooks hack,” “David Brooks asshole,” “David Brooks dickhead,” “David Brooks imbecile,” “David Brooks sucks,” “David Brooks wack,”  “worst David Brooks,” “David Brooks waste of organic matter,”  and “fire David Brooks.”  Just create blog posts about those topics, using those words, and internet success will be yours! Continue reading “The Two Stupid Faces of David Brooks: David Brooks Is an Idiot, Part III”

Trend of the Week: British Suits

I typically ignore the New York Times‘ “On the Runway” fashion reporting.  It’s not that I’m not interested in fashion, both personally and as a cultural phenomenon, but rather that articles about fashion shows and other events in the world of haute couture are so abstruse, they might as well be business section news about “On I.P.O, CDW to Fall Short of Boom-Era Valuation” or “S.E.C. to Vote on Proposal to Overhaul Money Funds.”  They might as well be about the N.B.A. draft.  Fashion reporters say things like “there was a bilge of chore jackets” and “Wherever Mr. Jones goes, he never loses sight of Vuitton’s sensibility….What Mr. Jones managed to reserve from the distilled American elements was a casual attitude.”   While conventional trend pieces strain too hard for relevance, high-fashion trend pieces take place in a rarefied world of tastemakers we’ve never heard of and cultural watersheds that have utterly failed to have any effect on us.  But it’s time to get over this aversion.  It’s time to learn what an honest-to-God fashion trend looks like, courtesy of Suzy Menkes’s “In London, All Hail the Suit.”

Continue reading “Trend of the Week: British Suits”

How to Be Perfect

In the past, this blog has perused the New York Times for insights on how to be cool.  Today, we turn to a more weighty topic.  While coolness is of abiding interest to lifestyle journalists, many of the luminaries profiled in the Times‘ pages transcend mere hipness; they are consummate examples of human perfection, without flaws either inside or out.  How can we emulate them?  Let’s find out.

Continue reading “How to Be Perfect”

Trend of the Week: Obsession Obsession

This trend piece comes to us from Teddy Wayne, bestselling novelist and author of one million mildly to somewhat amusing one-sentence articles for McSweeney’s.  (For those not familiar with McSweeney’s, it is an online humor site for people who hate dick jokes and love those Yelp reviews that are in the form of an open letter to an abstract entity, but wish they were a little edgier.)  But he’s not just a disarmingly quirky observer of modern mores; he’s also a concerned and judgmental observer of modern mores.  For instance, one day Wayne was on Amtrak, and overheard four debutantes conversing.  He found their discussion to be humorous, so he began typing what they said and posting it on Facebook for his friends to laugh at.   I know what you’re thinking:  “That’s a really cool story.  It’s a shame that only Teddy Wayne’s Facebook friends got to see those posts, when they should have been made available for everyone to read.  Teddy Wayne is too modest, making fun of teenage girls on Facebook and then trying to get out of taking credit for it.”

Continue reading “Trend of the Week: Obsession Obsession”

Crazy Love III

“The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.” So claimed T. S. Eliot in his iconic essay “Hamlet and His Problems.”  And what’s true of Hamlet is doubly true for the New York Times‘ Modern Love column.  This recurring essay feature aspires to represent emotion in the form of art, but with a 2000-word length limit, plus there’s no sex scenes or cussing allowed.  To put things into perspective, this it what it sounds like when an essayist describes their love story in literal language:  “We went to the beach and swam, held hands at the Fourth of July fireworks, went on roller coasters at Six Flags, ate Thanksgiving dinner with each other’s families, exchanged gifts on Christmas. We cried when I had to leave for long periods of time.”   Fascinating.  No, this will not do:  If you wish to interest the world in your banal tale of romantic disappointment, you must take Eliot’s advice.   You need a metaphor.  You need a symbol.  You need an objective correlative for those ineffable emotions.  Like this: Continue reading “Crazy Love III”

Cookie-Hoarder in Paradise: The Mysteries of the New York Times Travel Section

With summer winding down, time is running out to plan your vacation.  The New York Times travel section can help.  Or it could, if you ever looked at it.  You might never have perused the pages of this section, even if you’ve been a subscriber for years.  With its hundreds of thousands of words a day, even dedicated readers don’t have time to explore the obscurer corners of the publication.  And after all, this is a newspaper that can turn shopping for a stool into an excruciating exercise in status-symbol posturing.  One might naturally be reluctant to find out just how snobbish they can get when the subject is Thai yoga retreats or fine dining in Paris.

The Travel section does offer some helpful, informative pieces, written from a neutral perspective and designed to help the typical traveler find her way.  But this format is difficult for a jaded journalist to pull off, lacking as it does in personality or narrative interest.  And the periodical format’s hunger for novelty makes it inevitable that some scribes would package their experiences as news.  Furthermore, world-weary professional travellers can sometimes lose touch with the mindset of overworked provincials.  Thus the matter-of-fact articles are often overwhelmed by those that try to juice up their subject with trend-piece glamour, or drag it down with angsty moaning and luxury-problem griping.   So, in this, the first in a (very occasional) series on the lesser-read sections of the Times, we’ll explore the most common Travel pitfalls to watch out for.

Continue reading “Cookie-Hoarder in Paradise: The Mysteries of the New York Times Travel Section”