April 25, 2017

Cultural appropriation of “poverty culture” in the Tiny House Movement

Filed under: Media, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ann Althouse linked to this older article by July Westhale on “Poverty Appropriation”:

How many folks, I wonder, who have engaged in the Tiny House Movement have ever actually lived in a tiny, mobile place? Because what those who can afford homes call “living light,” poor folks call “gratitude for what we’ve got.”

And it’s not just the Tiny House Movement that incites my discontent. From dumpster diving to trailer-themed bars to haute cuisine in the form of poor-household staples, it’s become trendy for those with money to appropriate the poverty lifestyle — and it troubles me for one simple reason. Choice.

The Tiny House Movement began in the ’90s, but has only been rising in popularity since the recession. And to be fair, it’s rooted in a very real problem: more and more people being displaced as a result of soaring housing costs, especially in tech-boom areas like the Bay Area.


It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with.

Such appropriation isn’t limited to the Tiny House trend, or even to the idea of simplicity. In major cities, people who come from high-income backgrounds flock to bars and restaurants that both appropriate, and mock, low-income communities. Perhaps the most egregious example is San Francisco’s Butter Bar, a trendy outpost that prides itself on being a true-blue, trailer park-themed bar, serving up the best in “trashy” cuisine and cocktails. With tater tots, microwaved food, and deep-fried Twinkies on the menu, the bar also serves cocktails that contain cheap ingredients, such as Welch’s grape soda. The bar has an actual trailer inside, and serves cans in paper bags, so that bar flies can have a paid-for experience of being what the owners of this bar think of when they think of trailer trash.

Butter Bar in San Francisco (Credit: Facebook)

It’s but one example of an entire hipster movement — can it be called a movement when it’s a subculture rooted not in political consciousness, but in capitalism? — that has brought with it an ethos of poor-culture appropriation and the “re-invention” of things that have largely been tools of survival for poor, disabled, working class, and/or communities of color for decades.

April 17, 2015

QotD: Bitterness about bitterness

Filed under: Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

And if I may insert a personal plea: could the bittermongers please knock it off with the sneers? Somehow, in the collective cocktail consciousness of America’s hipsters, “bitter” has become synonymous with “sophisticated”. Bitter beer is good beer, bitter cocktails are good cocktails, and the louts who like things thin or sweet deserve what they get, which is everyone else at the bar struggling to conceal their bemused smile. Yet there are many of us who hate, hate, hate bitter flavors not because we haven’t been exposed to them, nor because we’re unadventurous slobs who would really rather be hooked up to a glucose IV. Personally, I find bitter flavors like Campari so strong that even a sip is on the verge of being physically aversive, as if you were punching me in the tongue. That’s not a matter of sophistication, but a matter of personal chemistry. There are people who can taste bitter compounds in broccoli and soapy-tasting substances in cilantro that make it completely unpalatable, while the rest of us dig into our veggies and say they don’t know what they’re missing. In fact, we’ve got it exactly backwards: we don’t know what we’re missing — and we’re moralizing our deficits.

Megan McArdle, “Dinner, With a Side of Self-Righteousness”, Bloomberg View, 2015-03-27.

October 21, 2014

QotD: Hipster economics

Filed under: Economics, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Hipster economics are standard economics because hipsters are everything the US economy has ever wished for in one convenient package. It’s a group consisting largely of young, upper-middle class people with very little conviction, who will spend large amounts of money to maintain their own comfort and the appearance of diversity and rebellion. They are activists as long as it’s easy, poor as long as it doesn’t involve dirt or hunger, and selfless as long as they don’t stand to lose anything. They represent the sanitizing of national issues so that they can be discussed without being addressed. And all you have to do to control them is use some reverse psychology. They’re not rebels, they’re not even malicious, because they’re not anything except a bunch of kids playing pretend. They’ll eventually grow up and become bankers, lawyers and politicians, just like their parents…

“Robert” commenting on “The peril of hipster economics: When urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodelled or romanticised“, by Sarah Kendzior, 2014-05-28.

April 23, 2014

LibreSSL website – “This page scientifically designed to annoy web hipsters”

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:24

Julian Sanchez linked to this Ars Technica piece on a new fork of OpenSSL:

OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt has created a fork of OpenSSL, the widely used open source cryptographic software library that contained the notorious Heartbleed security vulnerability.

OpenSSL has suffered from a lack of funding and code contributions despite being used in websites and products by many of the world’s biggest and richest corporations.

The decision to fork OpenSSL is bound to be controversial given that OpenSSL powers hundreds of thousands of Web servers. When asked why he wanted to start over instead of helping to make OpenSSL better, de Raadt said the existing code is too much of a mess.

“Our group removed half of the OpenSSL source tree in a week. It was discarded leftovers,” de Raadt told Ars in an e-mail. “The Open Source model depends [on] people being able to read the code. It depends on clarity. That is not a clear code base, because their community does not appear to care about clarity. Obviously, when such cruft builds up, there is a cultural gap. I did not make this decision… in our larger development group, it made itself.”

The LibreSSL code base is on OpenBSD.org, and the project is supported financially by the OpenBSD Foundation and OpenBSD Project. LibreSSL has a bare bones website that is intentionally unappealing.

“This page scientifically designed to annoy web hipsters,” the site says. “Donate now to stop the Comic Sans and Blink Tags.” In explaining the decision to fork, the site links to a YouTube video of a cover of the Twisted Sister song “We’re not gonna take it.”

February 17, 2014

QotD: Not a hipster

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:33

I listen to the strangest assortment of music.

No, I’m not trying to tell you I’m a hipster, bustin’ a moby at the table saw while only listening to totally deck obscure artisanal free-range amazeballs beats. That would be so midtown. I just find myself interested in odd things.

Sippican Cottage, “I Like Puddles Pity Party’s Early Stuff. You Probably Haven’t Heard Of Them”, Sippican Cottage, 2014-02-16

January 2, 2014

John and Sherlock

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:26

The first episode of Sherlock season three was aired in the UK yesterday. On this side of the pond, we won’t get to see it until later in the year, so we have to rely on media reaction to the show, and Tim Stanley wasn’t over-pleased with the producers’ efforts, calling it a “roller-coaster ride” that “leaves you confused and nauseous”:

Holmes has always been a wonder, but here he is wondrous to the point of smug and irritating. How can Watson love him? Presumably because they are such good friends and one of Sherlock‘s strong points is the genuine chemistry between Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. But even this comes with an irritating postmodern twist. Everyone presumes they’re gay. Because of course if two men spend more than five minutes in each other’s company they’re obviously candidates for some Brokeback-style hot cowboy action in a tent.

One of the saddest things about our culture is the death of brotherhood. Watch any of the pre-Millennium Sherlocks and you’ll be in no doubt that these men would take a bullet for one another. In the excellent Murder By Decree, Christopher Plummer and James Mason’s heroes are so tender that they share a blanket on a carriage ride — Sherlock gently tucking Watson in. When Vasily Livanov’s Holmes “dies” in the Russian version of The Final Problem, Vitaly Solomin’s Watson collapses against a tree and weeps uncontrollably. But no one ever questions their sexual preference. There’s no need to. They’re just friends.

By contrast, contemporary British culture has become so pornified and sex-obsessed that the running gag in Sherlock is that everyone thinks Cumberbatch and Freeman are in a civil partnership. Don’t get me wrong — I’m sure there’s an enjoyable version of Holmes yet to be written in which they’re at it like knives. But the constant snickering that goes on in Sherlock just adds to a sense of the show’s lack of maturity. It’s knowing, clever-clever, hip, ironic, tech-obsessed, geeky, hipster and just about everything else that gets in the way of a sophisticated yarn well told. For that, you have to go back to the Jeremy Brett Sherlock, which was distinctly lacking in action but high on good prose. Most episodes were an hour of Jeremy sitting in the gloom in Baker Street complaining that he’s got nothing to do. Compulsive viewing.

November 21, 2013

How Obama lost young voters

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:46

Nick Gillespie looks at the remarkable way Barack Obama transitioned from cool to square for one of his key supporting demographic groups:

Back in 2008, Barack Obama seemed like the coolest cat to hit the national scene in a long time, almost scientifically engineered to appeal to idealistic young Americans. He was the perfect combination of a dream dad and an older brother who could run you ragged up and down the basketball court, wink and nod about smoking dope, and hip you to some older but still cool music, you know? In 2008, the Pravda of youth culture, Rolling Stone, slathered the future president with praise for being so with it that he even knew how to use…an iPod. We were all pretty sure that his eventual Republican challenger, John McCain, had stopped listening to music when Rudy Vallee went electric or Stephen Foster released his Chris Gaines record or something, but there Obama was, listening to Bob Dylan, Yo-Yo Ma, Sheryl Crow, and even Jay-Z. “I have pretty eclectic tastes,” Obama told Rolling Stone. He even went on to invoke “Maggie’s Farm,” Dylan’s classic song of generational defiance and opting out. “It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric,” explained.

Yeah, well, it’s all over now baby blue. Like Bush before him — and in many wars, even worse than Bush before him — Obama has personified the failure of leaders to speak plainly, honestly and directly and to enact simple, effective, financially responsible policies that speak to Americans’ hopes and dreams. The great political continuity in the 21st century is one of transpartisan failure and the continuing flight from party affiliation by more and more Americans.

Beinart and others like him are right to note that Obama’s and the Democrats’ decline in popularity is not automatically the Republicans’ gain (though get a load of this: Ken Cuccinelli won the 18-24 year-old vote against Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race). But just as there’s no reason to expect the problems with Obamacare to be fixed anytime soon, there’s no reason to think that youth disaffection with the president is going to get better over the remainder of his second term. He’s failed with younger voters not in spite of his policies but because of them. Along the way, he transmogrified from a hipster dad into a near-total drag whose control is as absolute as his inability to get anything right.

In terms of basic demographics, the future belongs to Millennials because they are young. For good and ill, they will inherit the world their elders made for them. In terms of politics, the future belongs to leaders and parties who not only agree with the record-high percentage of Americans who think the government has too much power but actually propose to give some of it away.

October 3, 2011

Occupy Wall Street activists fail to persuade

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:12

Brendan O’Neill says that the “teenage moralism” of the protesters makes him “ashamed to be Left-wing”:

Occupy Wall Street, the gathering of angry actors, graphic designers and various other hipsters in the financial districts of New York City, might just be the most degenerate Left-wing movement of recent times. Its weird demands, plastered across tongue-in-cheek placards and on super-cool, self-pressed t- shirts, capture the descent of the modern Left into the cesspool of victimology, conspiracy-mongering and disdain for mass society and its allegedly dumb inhabitants. Far from representing anything that I, a Leftie, would recognise as progressive and humane, this gaggle of rich kids spouts little more than snobbery and fear, seemingly incapable of deciding whom they loathe the most: greedy fat bankers or the dumb fat public.

Occupy Wall Street claims to be a mass workers’ movement, but it’s nothing of the sort. It is in fact a tiny, self-selected group of self-righteous, mostly middle-class activists who have failed to win over large sections of the American public to their “cause” — which isn’t surprising when you consider that on the rare occasion that these trendy banker-bashers talk about the American public, they do so with a metaphorical peg on their snouts. An article on the Occupy Wall Street website claims “the working class in this country has been brainwashed by MSM, Fox News and the Right-wing propaganda machine”. It says everyday Americans, being stupid, do not understand what socialism is, because “they have been emotionally brainwashed against it”. And so it falls to the cool, fashionable, oh-so-enlightened activists of Occupy Wall Street to help “de-programme people against the brainwashing they’ve experienced”. That is, the oiks must be re-educated by the hipsters. The little people must have their minds cleaned out by their moral and fashion superiors. Occupy Wall Street mashes together the outlook of Kim Jong-Il with the politics of Susan Sarandon, giving rise to a weirdly hippyish yet authoritarian gathering of slackers-cum-elitists.

November 29, 2010

Winter fashion conscious? Here’s a site for you

Filed under: Europe, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:23

By way of Tim Harford’s Twitter feed, a blog devoted to what the current street fashion is in Helsinki:

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