(Editor’s note: Seeing as I’m already I’m on my soapbox about hipsters, here’s a post from my homies over at Mission Mission investigating recent shots fired at Mission boys and girls in the local Missed Connections. Also I want to point out that there are like two asian girls to date in the Mission. Total. Time to head over to Russian Hill/Marina. SMH.)
mission girls – m4w – 25 (mission district)
Date: 2010-12-09, 6:54PM PST Reply To This Post
i have lived here for a year now and come to the solemn conclusion that all of you are vapid, carbon-copy replicants of each other. i would try dating someone who lives in my neighborhood, but you all either:
1. are obsessed with feigned nostalgia for a decade you didn’t live through (i’m looking at you flowerchild hippies and soul party crew).
2. have no concept of taste — ‘taste’, for you, is something you merely inherit through reading blogs and trends, not the ability to discern quality. this is, i think, the most parsimonious explanation of how the xx, an overwhelmingly mediocre band, ever got popular. or girl talk.
3. blindly fetishize everything european. i think this is in perfectly ironic parallel with european hipsters… who love American things like classic rock, metal, McDonald’s, etc.
4. can only achieve sexual pleasure through degradation. look, i’m happy if you want me to call you a slut, pull your hair and slap you in the face while fucking you SOMETIMES. i’d like a self-respecting, less violent fuck periodically. (this is why you have more one night stands than relationships and why you only end up in relationships with assholes, in case you were wondering.)
5. love david sedaris, david foster wallace and will try to get me to read gravity’s rainbow, like 20 other girls i’ve met with the same shitty taste in literature as you…
you’re like the homogenized counter-culture alternative to marina girls… except, you know, they have yuppy corporate marketing jobs and probably finished college, instead of aimlessly drifting through their 20′s without any prospect of a career or acquiring any tangible skills beyond weaving sweaters, cooking vegan food and making itunes playlists.
it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests PostingID: 2104799092
mission boys – w4m – 25 (mission district)
Date: 2010-12-09, 9:12PM PST Reply To This Post
i have lived here for a year now and come to the solemn conclusion that all of you are vapid, carbon-copy replicants of each other. i would try dating someone who lives in my neighborhood, but you all either:
1. are obsessed with feigned nostalgia for a decade you didn’t live through (i’m looking at you neon 80s and neo-grunge rockers).
2. have no concept of taste — ‘taste’, for you, is something you merely inherit through reading blogs and trends, not the ability to discern quality. this is, i think, the most parsimonious explanation of how thee oh sees, an overwhelmingly mediocre band, ever got popular. or girls.
3. blindly fetishize everything “street.” i think this is in perfectly ironic parallel with poor people… who love bourgeoisie things like money, iPhones, cocaine, etc.
4. can only achieve sexual pleasure through degrading other people. look, i’m happy if you want to call me a slut, pull my hair and slap me in the face while fucking SOMETIMES. i’d like a self-respecting, less violent fuck periodically. (this is why you have more one night stands than relationships and why you only end up in relationships with bitches, in case you were wondering.)
5. love the smiths, the misfits and will try to get me to listen to “Blonde on Blonde”, like 20 other boys i’ve met with the same shitty taste in music as you…
6. move to this city and then hate on everything about it because you utterly lack social skills, the ability to value people on a personal level and act like you’re better than the people you’ve voluntarily chosen to live among. Get a personality or GTFOH. doesn’t really seem like you’re contributing to society. whatsoever. is it because your mother told you you were special and you were the idiot who believed her? or because she didn’t tell you you were special & now you’re overcompensating?
you’re like the homogenized counter-culture alternative to bros… except, you know, they have yuppy corporate marketing jobs and probably finished college, instead of aimlessly drifting through their 20′s without any prospect of a career or acquiring any tangible skills beyond skateboarding, shitty graffiti and making itunes playlists.
it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests PostingID: 2104939440
A year ago, my colleagues and I started to investigate the contemporary hipster. What was the “hipster,” and what did it mean to be one? It was a puzzle. No one, it seemed, thought of himself as a hipster, and when someone called you a hipster, the term was an insult. Paradoxically, those who used the insult were themselves often said to resemble hipsters — they wore the skinny jeans and big eyeglasses, gathered in tiny enclaves in big cities, and looked down on mainstream fashions and “tourists.” Most puzzling was how rattled sensible, down-to-earth people became when we posed hipster-themed questions. When we announced a public debate on hipsterism, I received e-mail messages both furious and plaintive. Normally inquisitive people protested that there could be no answer and no definition. Maybe hipsters didn’t exist! The responses were more impassioned than those we’d had in our discussions on health care, young conservatives and feminism. And perfectly blameless individuals began flagellating themselves: “Am I a hipster?”
I wondered if I could guess the root of their pain. It’s a superficial topic, yet it seemed that so much was at stake. Why? Because struggles over taste (and “taste” is the hipster’s primary currency) are never only about taste. I began to wish that everyone I talked to had read just one book to give these fraught debates a frame: “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste,” by Pierre Bourdieu.
A French sociologist who died in 2002 at age 71, Bourdieu is sometimes wrongly associated with postmodern philosophers. But he did share with other post-1968 French thinkers a wish to show that lofty philosophical ideals couldn’t be separated from the conflicts of everyday life. Subculture had not been his area, precisely, but neither would hipsters have been beneath his notice.
He came from a family of peasants in the foothills of the Pyrenees. His father was elevated by a job in the village post office — although he always emphasized that he had attained his position by being neither better nor different. Pierre, as a child, was elevated yet more drastically by the school system. He so distinguished himself in the classroom that he was carried to studies at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. This was the pinnacle of French intellect, the path of Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
Yet Bourdieu chose to make it his life’s work to debunk the powerful classes’ pretensions that they were more deserving of authority or wealth than those below. He aimed his critiques first at his own class of elites — professors and intellectuals — then at the media, the political class and the propertied class.
“Distinction,” published in 1979, was an undisputed masterwork. In it, Bourdieu set out to show the social logic of taste: how admiration for art, appreciation of music, even taste in food, came about for different groups, and how “superior” taste was not the result of an enchanted superiority in scattered individuals.
This may seem a long way from Wellington-booted and trucker-hatted American youth in gentrifying neighborhoods. But Bourdieu’s innovation, applicable here, was to look beyond the traditional trappings of rich or poor to see battles of symbols (like those boots and hats) traversing all society, reinforcing the class structure just as money did.
Over several years in the 1960s, Bourdieu and his researchers surveyed 1,200 people of all classes and mined government data on aspects of French domestic life. They asked, for instance, Which of the following subjects would be most likely to make a beautiful photograph? and offered such choices as a sunset, a girl with a cat or a car crash. From government dietary research, they took data on the classic question: Do you think French people eat too much? The statistical results were striking. The things you prefer — tastes that you like to think of as personal, unique, justified only by sensibility — correspond tightly to defining measures of social class: your profession, your highest degree and your father’s profession.
The power of Bourdieu’s statistics was to show how rigid and arbitrary the local conformities were. In American terms, he was like an updater of Thorstein Veblen, who gave us the idea of “conspicuous consumption.” College teachers and artists, unusual in believing that a beautiful photo could be made from a car crash, began to look conditioned to that taste, rather than sophisticated or deep. White-collar workers who defined themselves by their proclivity to eat only light foods — as opposed to farmworkers, who weren’t ashamed to treat themselves to “both cheese and a dessert” — seemed not more refined, but merely more conventional.
Taste is not stable and peaceful, but a means of strategy and competition. Those superior in wealth use it to pretend they are superior in spirit. Groups closer in social class who yet draw their status from different sources use taste and its attainments to disdain one another and get a leg up. These conflicts for social dominance through culture are exactly what drive the dynamics within communities whose members are regarded as hipsters.
Once you take the Bourdieuian view, you can see how hipster neighborhoods are crossroads where young people from different origins, all crammed together, jockey for social gain. One hipster subgroup’s strategy is to disparage others as “liberal arts college grads with too much time on their hands”; the attack is leveled at the children of the upper middle class who move to cities after college with hopes of working in the “creative professions.” These hipsters are instantly declassed, reservoired in abject internships and ignored in the urban hierarchy — but able to use college-taught skills of classification, collection and appreciation to generate a superior body of cultural “cool.”
They, in turn, may malign the “trust fund hipsters.” This challenges the philistine wealthy who, possessed of money but not the nose for culture, convert real capital into “cultural capital” (Bourdieu’s most famous coinage), acquiring subculture as if it were ready-to-wear. (Think of Paris Hilton in her trucker hat.)
Both groups, meanwhile, look down on the couch-surfing, old-clothes-wearing hipsters who seem most authentic but are also often the most socially precarious — the lower-middle-class young, moving up through style, but with no backstop of parental culture or family capital. They are the bartenders and boutique clerks who wait on their well-to-do peers and wealthy tourists. Only on the basis of their cool clothes can they be “superior”: hipster knowledge compensates for economic immobility.
All hipsters play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world. Yet the habits of hatred and accusation are endemic to hipsters because they feel the weakness of everyone’s position — including their own. Proving that someone is trying desperately to boost himself instantly undoes him as an opponent. He’s a fake, while you are a natural aristocrat of taste. That’s why “He’s not for real, he’s just a hipster” is a potent insult among all the people identifiable as hipsters themselves.
The attempt to analyze the hipster provokes such universal anxiety because it calls everyone’s bluff. And hipsters aren’t the only ones unnerved. Many of us try to justify our privileges by pretending that our superb tastes and intellect prove we deserve them, reflecting our inner superiority. Those below us economically, the reasoning goes, don’t appreciate what we do; similarly, they couldn’t fill our jobs, handle our wealth or survive our difficulties. Of course this is a terrible lie. And Bourdieu devoted his life to exposing it. Those who read him in effect become responsible to him — forced to admit a failure to examine our own lives, down to the seeming trivialities of clothes and distinction that, as Bourdieu revealed, also structure our world.
Om Nom Nom: As we began to shy away from eating primarily fruit, leaves and nuts and began eating meat, our brains grew. We developed the capacity to use tools, so our need for large, sharp teeth and big grinders waned. From left, a cast of teeth from a chimpanzee, Australopithecus afarensis and a modern human.
Our earliest ancestors ate their food raw — fruit, leaves, maybe some nuts. When they ventured down onto land, they added things like underground tubers, roots and berries.
It wasn’t a very high-calorie diet, so to get the energy you needed, you had to eat a lot and have a big gut to digest it all. But having a big gut has its drawbacks.
"You can’t have a large brain and big guts at the same time," explains Leslie Aiello, an anthropologist and director of the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York City, which funds research on evolution. Digestion, she says, was the energy-hog of our primate ancestor’s body. The brain was the poor stepsister who got the leftovers.
Until, that is, we discovered meat.
"What we think is that this dietary change around 2.3 million years ago was one of the major significant factors in the evolution of our own species," Aiello says.
That period is when cut marks on animal bones appeared — not a predator’s tooth marks, but incisions that could have been made only by a sharp tool. That’s one sign of our carnivorous conversion. But Aiello’s favorite clue is somewhat ickier — it’s a tapeworm. “The closest relative of human tapeworms are tapeworms that affect African hyenas and wild dogs,” she says.
So sometime in our evolutionary history, she explains, “we actually shared saliva with wild dogs and hyenas.” That would have happened if, say, we were scavenging on the same carcass that hyenas were.
But dining with dogs was worth it. Meat is packed with lots of calories and fat. Our brain — which uses about 20 times as much energy as the equivalent amount of muscle — piped up and said, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
Carving Up The Diet
As we got more, our guts shrank because we didn’t need a giant vegetable processor any more. Our bodies could spend more energy on other things like building a bigger brain. Sorry, vegetarians, but eating meat apparently made our ancestors smarter — smart enough to make better tools, which in turn led to other changes, says Aiello.
"If you look in your dog’s mouth and cat’s mouth, and open up your own mouth, our teeth are quite different," she says. "What allows us to do what a cat or dog can do are tools."
Tools meant we didn’t need big sharp teeth like other predators. Tools even made vegetable matter easier to deal with. As anthropologist Shara Bailey at New York University says, they were like “external” teeth.
"Your teeth are really for processing food, of course, but if you do all the food processing out here," she says, gesturing with her hands, "if you are grinding things, then there is less pressure for your teeth to pick up the slack."
Our teeth, jaws and mouth changed as well as our gut.
A Tough Bite To Swallow
But adding raw meat to our diet doesn’t tell the whole food story, according to anthropologist Richard Wrangham. Wrangham invited me to his apartment at Harvard University to explain what he believes is the real secret to being human. All I had to do was bring the groceries, which meant a steak — which I thought could fill in for wildebeest or antelope — and a turnip, a mango, some peanuts and potatoes.
As we slice up the turnip and put the potatoes in a pot, Wrangham explains that even after we started eating meat, raw food just didn’t pack the energy to build the big-brained, small-toothed modern human. He cites research that showed that people on a raw food diet, including meat and oil, lost a lot of weight. Many said they felt better, but also experienced chronic energy deficiency. And half the women in the experiment stopped menstruating.
It’s not as if raw food isn’t nutritious; it’s just harder for the body to get at the nutrition.
Wrangham urges me to try some raw turnip. Not too bad, but hardly enough to get the juices flowing. “They’ve got a tremendous amount of caloric energy in them,” he says. “The problem is that it’s in the form of starch, which unless you cook it, does not give you very much.”
Then there’s all the chewing that raw food requires. Chimps, for example, sometimes chew for six hours a day. That actually consumes a lot of energy.
"Plato said if we were regular animals, you know, we wouldn’t have time to write poetry," Wrangham jokes. "You know, he was right."
Tartare No More
One solution might have been to pound food, especially meat — like the steak I brought. “If our ancestors had used stones to mash the meat like this,” Wrangham says as he demonstrates with a wooden mallet, “then it would have reduced the difficulty they would have had in digesting it.”
But pounding isn’t as good as cooking that steak, says Wrangham. And cooking is what he thinks really changed our modern body. Someone discovered fire — no one knows exactly when — and then someone got around to putting steak and veggies on the barbeque. And people said, “Hey, let’s do that again.”
Besides better taste, cooked food had other benefits — cooking killed some pathogens on food.
But cooking also altered the meat itself. It breaks up the long protein chains, and that makes them easier for stomach enzymes to digest. “The second thing is very clear,” Wrangham adds, “and that is the muscle, which is made of protein, is wrapped up like a sausage in a skin, and the skin is collagen, connective tissue. And that collagen is very hard to digest. But if you heat it, it turns to jelly.”
As for starchy foods like turnips, cooking gelatinizes the tough starch granules and makes them easier to digest too. Even just softening food — which cooking does — makes it more digestible. In the end, you get more energy out of the food.
Yes, cooking can damage some good things in raw food, like vitamins. But Wrangham argues that what’s gained by cooking far outweighs the losses.
As I cut into my steak (Wrangham is a vegetarian; he settles for the mango and potatoes), Wrangham explains that cooking also led to some of the finer elements of human behavior: it encourages people to share labor; it brings families and communities together at the end of the day and encourages conversation and story-telling — all very human activities.
"Ultimately, of course, what makes us intellectually human is our brain," he says. "And I think that comes from having the highest quality of food in the animal kingdom, and that’s because we cook."
So, as the Neanderthals liked to say around the campfire: bon appetit.
“Writing is physical for me. I always have the sense that the words are coming out of my body, not just my mind. I write in longhand, and the pen is scratching the words onto the page. I can even hear the words being written. So much of the effort that goes into writing prose for me is about making sentences that capture the music that I’m hearing in my head. It takes a lot of work, writing, writing, and rewriting to get the music exactly the way you want it to be. That music is a physical force. Not only do you write books physically, but you read books physically as well. There’s something about the rhythms of language that correspond to the rhythms of our own bodies. An attentive reader is finding meanings in the book that can’t be articulated, finding them in his or her body. I think this is what so many people don’t understand about fiction. Poetry is supposed to be musical. But people don’t understand prose. They’re so used to reading journalism—clunky, functional sentences that convey factual information—facts, more than just the surfaces of things.”—Paul Auster
Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene I hardly paid it any attention. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that 18 years later I would recall it in such detail. I didn’t give a damn about the scenery that day. I was thinking about myself. I was thinking about the beautiful girl walking next to me. I was thinking about the two of us together, and then about myself again. I was at that age, that time of life when every sight, every feeling, every thought came back, like a boomerang, to me. And worse, I was in love. Love with complications. Scenery was the last thing on my mind.
This is what we do, humans. We tinker and change and endlessly imagine a more perfect future. And, at the same time, we idealize the past. So, we’re trapped. Progress’ constant companion is nostalgia for the way things used to be.
The thing we forget about progress: there is no master plan. It lurches forward, in the dark, accidentally, and you’re never sure where it’s taking you. There’s no going back, whether it wants to or not.
”—Ira Glass, This American Life Television Series: Season One, Episode: Pandora’s Box