Sunday, November 18, 2012

Steal This Blog

You tell me you are going to Fez
Now, if you say you are going to Fez,
That means you are not going.
But I happen to know you are going to Fez.
Why have you lied to me, you who are my friend? - Moroccan Saying

Don't trust anyone over 30." - Jack Weinberg 1964
Cafe Wha? MacDougal Street, Manhattan
I have to admit that I only, just today, discovered the true meaning of the word "hipster".

I like to think this is because, true to my generation  that ever since I heard the phrase in the late sixties, I "don't trust anyone over thirty".

Then today I read an excellent piece by thirty five year old Christy Wampole who is is an assistant professor of French at Princeton University.

Ms Wampole's How to Live Without Irony explains that hipsters are people, mostly young, who hide their true beliefs and tastes behind "a mantle of irony".

"The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness .... The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He studies relentlessly, foraging for what has yet to be found by the mainstream. He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves."

Of course, as Ms Walpole points out,  things to be nostalgic about eventually run out - at least in our modern western throw-away culture, and one can only go far in scavenging  "vintage stores" to find clothes to mock at. Next in line are the clothes of  "ordinary people". Like those of pre-pubescent girls who like Justin Bieber, or of long haul truck drivers. And thus the cartoons accompanying Ms Walpole's article showing side-by-side the uncool and the hip - Justine Bieber tshirts or "Long Haul" inscribed baseball caps can be cool or uncool depending upon who is wearing them.

To put it bluntly, if you can't make it, make fun of it. And if you want to be REALLY cool, make fun of making fun of it. As in "The Life Organic" by Dom and Adrian.

Very funny actually. I like the bit where Adrian orders an egg and bacon roll, with no aole and instead of aole some oregano, and instead of bacon a field mushroom, and instead of egg, avocado. Ending with, "And can I get no roll?"

Although I didn't really know what a hipster was until today, I  realize now that I HAVE met some, mostly in foodie restaurants in Melbourne.

I like the way they take things literally. I suppose this is because they spend so much time on concepts and memes being one-removed from being one-removed. It can be very confusing. Like the old Moroccan saying from circa 1500 quoted  at the beginning of this blog. The existence of which goes to show that  hipsters have been around for a very long time!

Taking things literally  An example. I was in the weirdly named restaurant "Denches" in North Fitzroy with my daughter last September and we were amused to find "Deconstructed Eggs Benedict" on the menu. "Can you tell me what that is?" my daughter asked the waitress with a laugh. The waitress took the question literally and went on to explain the meaning of 'deconstruct' and that the eggs were not on the muffins and the hollandaise sauce was in a cup on the side.

A DYI eggs benedict....

Then last week when I was on the phone to my health insurer I spent several minutes getting the customer service man to understand the spelling of my name. He was obviously a hipster. My last name is Juliff and even though I was spelling out, ending with  "f as in Fred" he kept thinking I was saying 's' and asking me what "Fred" had to do with it. At last I explained the NATO phonetic alphabet and why we have it ... "You know," I said, "B as in bravo, C as in Charlie ..."

I thought he'd seen the light, "I know," he almost shouted in awe of his own enlightenment. "X as in Xray."

"Right," I sighed.

"So it is "Juliff" with an 'X' as in Xray," he answered.

I give up! It is just too hard being a baby boomer. Maybe I don't understand hipsters at all.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Shades of Gray

As I get older the past seems to flood in more and more.
We are all wounded and flawed and it helps to admit that. - Tim Juliff, June 2009
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were. - from "The Way We Were", Marvin Hamlisch

Shades of Gray - View from my Living Room
I am twelve thousand miles away from what I am remembering. My brother Tim.

I saw his smile two days ago. Sitting on a cross-town bus on the northern part of the island of Manhattan. Below 39th Street our New York world's a mess. Flooded. Powerless in all senses of the word, wet, sad, gray.

We had more spirit in the aftermath of nine eleven.

I have my own refugee here. She's camped in the living room. Her apartment still has no power and it's been almost a week since Hurricane Sandy hit.

We went downtown yesterday to check it out. Guards opened the door to the apartment building and showed us where the water level had been. The security card system wasn't working. There was no heat, limited power, some water. A smell of dankness filled the lobby. Outside a tree up-ended by the storm showed its root system - bared to the gray Manhattan sky. The local deli had a few packets of cheese and some salami on its otherwise empty shelves.

Stuyvesant Town, New York
I've been all into New York this past week. The news, the internet, the people waiting for buses, lines of people holding cans for gas. The wreck that is Staten Island. Faraway Rockaways. It is as if a shell of gray surrounds us New Yorkers - living in our own little gray-encased world.

On the phone to OZ, people seen perplexed. "What do you mean, food shortage?" "Why didn't she fill the bathtub up with water?" And on Facebook, "At least you aren't in Haiti!" "At least YOU aren't in Haiti!" I snap back.

And so on the cross-town bus, I sat, immersed in my city, New York. No other place existed. Then I looked across the aisle. And saw my brother's smile.

The woman across from me sat reading. She'd looked up briefly, annoyed at some one's ringing cell phone, and caught my eye. She had my brother's gray hair, my brother's mouth and sixtyish wrinkles. As she caught my eye she smiled. It only lasted a minute, but was enough.

Woman on Crosstown Bus
I was transported back to Melbourne, Australia. To  a thousand different rolling-on-the-floor-laughing nights before emotions were acronyms. To the blue skies and white beaches of Wilson's prom when we were Dylan-listening teenagers. To Tim's sarcasm. To his deep love of his children. To visiting his first-born son in a Melbourne hospital, and picking baby Sime out immediately. Through the hospital nursery glass there were some twenty babies. All in hospital white. And there in the middle was Sime, all dressed up in hippie-purple.

Where was I? The bus jolted me back to reality. It had stopped on Central Park West. A heap of German tourists had ascended with all sorts of high-tech collapsible tubular steel mounted necessities for modern life. "Excuse me!" I had to get out.

I climbed over collapsed strollers, squeezed through the barricades of backpacks. Onto the busy New York street.

My brother's smile was fading. As it blurred into the grayness I remembered where I was.

In New York, New York.