Life in Other Cities

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Life in Other Cities

Postby Mad Max » Tue Oct 08, 2013 10:24 pm

If the 1% stifles New York's creative talent, I'm out of here

Rampant inequality is squeezing out the artistic genius that made New York such a vibrant cultural capital. We can't let that happen

David Byrne for Creative Time Reports, part of the Guardian Comment Network


I'm writing this in Venice, Italy. This city is a pleasantly confusing maze, once an island of fortresses, and now a city of tourists, culture (biennales galore) and crumbling relics. Venice used to be the most powerful city in Europe – a military, mercantile and cultural leader. Sort of like New York.

Venice is now a case study in the complete transformation of a city (there's public transportation, but no cars). Is it a living city? Is it a fossil? The mayor of Venice recently wrote a letter to the New York Review of Books, arguing that his city is, indeed, a place to live, not simply a theme park for tourists (he would like very much if the big cruise ships steered clear). I guess it's a living place if you count tourism as an industry, which I suppose it is. New York has its share of tourists, too. I wave to the doubledecker buses from my bike, but the passengers never wave back. Why? Am I not an attraction?

New York was recently voted the world's favorite city – but when you break down the survey's results, the city comes in at No 1 for business and only No 5 for living. Fifth place isn't completely embarrassing, but what are the criteria? What is it that attracts people to this or any city? Forget the business part. I've been in Hong Kong, and unless one already has the means to live luxuriously, business hubs aren't necessarily good places for living. Cities may have mercantile exchange as one of their reasons for being, but once people are lured to a place for work, they need more than offices, gyms and strip clubs to really live.

Work aside, we come to New York for the possibility of interaction and inspiration. Sometimes, that possibility of serendipitous encounters – and I don't mean in the meat market – is the principal lure. If one were to vote based on criteria like comfort or economic security, then one wonders why anyone would ever vote for New York at all over Copenhagen, Stockholm or some other less antagonistic city that offers practical amenities like affordable healthcare, free universities, free museums, common spaces and, yes, bike lanes. But why can't one have both – the invigorating energy and the civic, intelligent humanism?

Maybe those Scandinavian cities do, in fact, have both, but New York has something else to offer, thanks to successive waves of immigrants that have shaped the city. Arriving from overseas, one is immediately struck by the multi-ethnic makeup of New York. Other cities might be cleaner, more efficient or comfortable, but New York is funky, in the original sense of the word – New York smells like sex.

Immigrants to New York have contributed to the city's vibrancy decade after decade. In some cities around the world, immigrants are relegated to being a worker class, or a guest-worker class; they're not invited to the civic table. New York has generally been more welcoming, though people of color have never been invited to the table to the same extent as European immigrants.

I moved to New York in the mid 1970s because it was a center of cultural ferment – especially in the visual arts (my dream trajectory, until I made a detour), though there was a musical draw, too, even before the downtown scene exploded. New York was legendary. It was where things happened, on the east coast, anyway. One knew in advance that life in New York would not be easy, but there were cheap rents in cold-water lofts without heat, and the excitement of being here made up for those hardships. I didn't move to New York to make a fortune. Survival, at that time, and at my age then, was enough. Hardship was the price one paid for being in the thick of it.

As one gets a little older, those hardships aren't so romantic – they're just hard. The trade-off begins to look like a real pain in the ass if one has been here for years and years and is barely eking out a living. The idea of making an ongoing creative life – whether as a writer, an artist, a filmmaker or a musician – is difficult unless one gets a foothold on the ladder, as I was lucky enough to do. I say "lucky" because I have no illusions that talent is enough; there are plenty of talented folks out there who never get the break they deserve.

Some folks believe that hardship breeds artistic creativity. I don't buy it. One can put up with poverty for a while when one is young, but it will inevitably wear a person down. I don't romanticize the bad old days. I find the drop in crime over the last couple of decades refreshing. Manhattan and Brooklyn, those vibrant playgrounds, are way less scary than they were when I moved here. I have no illusions that there was a connection between that city on its knees and a flourishing of creativity; I don't believe that crime, danger and poverty make for good art. That's bullshit. But I also don't believe that the drop in crime means the city has to be more exclusively for those who have money. Increases in the quality of life should be for all, not just a few.

The city is a body and a mind – a physical structure as well as a repository of ideas and information. Knowledge and creativity are resources. If the physical (and financial) parts are functional, then the flow of ideas, creativity and information are facilitated. The city is a fountain that never stops: it generates its energy from the human interactions that take place in it. Unfortunately, we're getting to a point where many of New York's citizens have been excluded from this equation for too long. The physical part of our city – the body – has been improved immeasurably. I'm a huge supporter of the bike lanes and the bikeshare program, the new public plazas, the waterfront parks and the functional public transportation system. But the cultural part of the city – the mind – has been usurped by the top 1%.

What, then, is the future of New York, or really of any number of big urban centers, in this new Gilded Age? Does culture have a role to play? If we look at the city as it is now, then we would have to say that it looks a lot like the divided city that presumptive mayor Bill de Blasio has been harping about: most of Manhattan and many parts of Brooklyn are virtual walled communities, pleasure domes for the rich (which, full disclosure, includes me), and aside from those of us who managed years ago to find our niche and some means of income, there is no room for fresh creative types. Middle-class people can barely afford to live here anymore, so forget about emerging artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, journalists and small business people. Bit by bit, the resources that keep the city vibrant are being eliminated.

This city doesn't make things anymore. Creativity, of all kinds, is the resource we have to draw on as a city and a country in order to survive. In the recent past, before the 2008 crash, the best and the brightest were lured into the world of finance. Many a bright kid graduating from university knew that they could become fairly wealthy almost instantly if they found employment at a hedge fund or some similar institution. But before the financial sector came to dominate the world, they might have made things: in publishing, manufacturing, television, fashion, you name it. As in many other countries, the lure of easy bucks hoovered this talent and intelligence up – and made it difficult for those other kinds of businesses to attract any of the top talent.

A culture of arrogance, hubris and winner-take-all was established. It wasn't cool to be poor or struggling. The bully was celebrated and cheered. The talent pool became a limited resource for any industry, except Wall Street. I'm not talking about artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians – they weren't exactly on a trajectory toward Wall Street anyway – but any businesses that might have employed creative individuals were having difficulties surviving, and naturally, the arty types had a hard time finding employment, too.

Unlike Iceland, where the government let misbehaving banks fail and talented kids became less interested in leaping into the cesspool of finance, in New York there has been no public rejection of the culture that led to the financial crisis. Instead, there has been tacit encouragement of the banking industry's actions from figures like Mayor Bloomberg. The nation's largest financial institutions are almost all still around, still "too big to fail" and as powerful as ever. One might hope that enlightened bankers might emulate the Medicis and fund culture-makers – both emerging artists and those still in school – as a way of ensuring a continued talent pool that would invent stuff and fill the world with ideas and inspiration, but other than buying blue-chip art for their walls and donating to some institutions what is, for them, small change, they don't seem to be very much interested in replenishing the talent pool.

One would expect that the 1% would have a vested interest in keeping the civic body healthy at least – that they'd want green parks, museums and symphony halls for themselves and their friends, if not everyone. Those, indeed, are institutions to which they habitually contribute. But it's like funding your own clubhouse. It doesn't exactly do much for the rest of us or for the general health of the city. At least, we might sigh, they do that, as they don't pay taxes – that we know.

Many of the wealthy don't even live here. In the neighborhood where I live (near the art galleries in Chelsea), I can see three large condos from my window that are pretty much empty all the time. What the fuck!? Apparently, rich folks buy the apartments, but might only stay in them a few weeks out of a year. So why should they have an incentive to maintain or improve the general health of the city? They're never here.

This real estate situation – a topic New Yorkers love to complain about over dinner – doesn't help the future health of the city. If young, emerging talent of all types can't find a foothold in this city, then it will be a city closer to Hong Kong or Abu Dhabi than to the rich fertile place it has historically been. Those places might have museums, but they don't have culture. Ugh. If New York goes there – more than it already has – I'm leaving.

But where will I go? Join the expat hipsters upstate in Hudson?

Can New York change its trajectory a little bit, become more inclusive and financially egalitarian? Is that possible? I think it is. It's still the most stimulating and exciting place in the world to live and work, but it's in danger of walking away from its greatest strengths. The physical improvements are happening – though much of the crumbling infrastructure still needs fixing. If the social and economic situation can be addressed, we're halfway there. It really could be a model of how to make a large, economically sustainable and creatively energetic city. I want to live in that city.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/new-york-1percent-stifles-creative-talent


The person who linked to this on facebook had to say "come to Detroit".
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby frank - up in grand blanc » Wed Oct 09, 2013 8:08 am

That read like an angry drunk's after-work bar rant. You know, missed dinner and doing the kids' homework, Good and liquored up and emboldened to stop holding down the lid on the red-nosed egocentric inside who sees all, knows all.

I know that this wasn't really the writter's point, but NYC is very good to the creative class, and my only slightly unscientific read is that Detroit is in the top-five US markets which provide opportunity to the same. To the artistic man or woman who wants to mope around all day and be sad or complicated & deep I don't know what to say. Go out and get some valium or get unstuck from yourself, maybe. But for the person who wants to earn a living wage while sporting a goatee, square-toed shoes, and ironic eyewear then a place hosting a ton of entertainment, design and/or advertising agencies is the place to be. Detroit has two of the three.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby Sterile Whites 48313 » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:02 am

frank - up in grand blanc wrote:That read like an angry drunk's after-work bar rant. You know, missed dinner and doing the kids' homework, Good and liquored up and emboldened to stop holding down the lid on the red-nosed egocentric inside who sees all, knows all.

I know that this wasn't really the writter's point, but NYC is very good to the creative class, and my only slightly unscientific read is that Detroit is in the top-five US markets which provide opportunity to the same. To the artistic man or woman who wants to mope around all day and be sad or complicated & deep I don't know what to say. Go out and get some valium or get unstuck from yourself, maybe. But for the person who wants to earn a living wage while sporting a goatee, square-toed shoes, and ironic eyewear then a place hosting a ton of entertainment, design and/or advertising agencies is the place to be. Detroit has two of the three.


And I work with 70% of them. God help me...
Just another run of the mill suburban white devil, with an "Assault" weapon. Molon Labe.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby Ansel Rakestraw » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:56 pm

Despite a booming economy, great weather, great location... a history as the Buckle of Bible Belt and a shit ton of bankers kinda makes

Image


much like a gigantic


Image
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby Mad Max » Tue Jan 07, 2014 5:23 am

Image

Scrambling the Politics of Mass Transit in San Francisco

Positively or negatively, mass transit is often viewed as a social leveler. Rich and poor alike ride the subway in New York, London and Berlin. Atlantans of all economic and social backgrounds make use of MARTA’s facilities, as they do in many other American cities where public transit is the most efficient way of navigating the inner cities. Of course, these are public systems, funded by fares and taxpayer money.



They fulfill the transportation needs of a wide segment of the population, and they generally give the same level of service regardless of income or status. In areas that aren’t as densely urbanized as the aforementioned examples and where car ownership for city dwellers is a more practical proposition, mass transit usage tends to skew towards a less affluent demographic. As a political football, mass transit can thus be kicked in many directions depending on ideological necessity. However, the underlying assumption for either end of the political spectrum remains the same: mass transit is an equalizer. But what happens when this typical political equation is turned on its head? Could riding the bus be considered a show of affluence instead of equality or penury? Protestors in the San Francisco bay area seem to think so.

On December 20th, demonstrators blocked the paths of two private buses (operated by tech firms Google and Apple) in a protest action. In Oakland and in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, protestors held up the buses when they stopped to collect employees. This was the second such action in two weeks. Previous protests were peaceful, but in Oakland things got ugly. The Google bus had a window broken and tires slashed; protestors dispersed after police were called, with no arrests or citations issued. Before they left, protestors harangued bus riders and handed out copies of this supremely classy flyer. Many of the largest tech firms with headquarters in the area run private bus lines that ferry workers from the city to the suburbs. This sort of anti-Levittown arrangement has led to simmering tensions between employees of the tech giants and other city residents.

So what’s driving these protests? In a word, gentrification. The expansion of tech firms on the city’s outskirts and general economic recovery since the Great Recession has driven up rents enormously within the city. The median rental rate for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is now almost $2800 a month, a 27% increase since 2011. Protestors blame new arrivals to the city for skyrocketing rents, a new wave of evictions, and overall social unrest. They claim that Google, Apple, and other tech companies are turning older neighborhoods into bedroom communities for their employees. This is done, they say, with little regard for the impact on long-term residents, many of whom live in rent-controlled apartments. The bus services are the most obvious manifestation of this trend, and have thus become a target for protestors.

Tech companies offer shuttle service between the city and their suburban campuses as an employment perk. These unregulated private buses often use public stops to pick up and drop off employees, without paying anything to city. This has generated complaints about congestion and obstruction of public buses. Some metro San Francisco buses have been forced to stop short or to let passengers off in the middle of the street, undoubtedly an irritating circumstance. The city is currently in negotiations with Google and other tech companies to institute a fee system for use of public stops, and to prevent congestion. But it’s clear that frustration with the situation has already transcended bureaucratic dialogue.

One can sympathize with the concerns of protestors about the upheaval in established neighborhoods and the misuse of public facilities. Forking over the better part of three grand a month for a one-bedroom apartment seems insane anywhere outside of Manhattan or Tokyo. But attacking the workers responsible for a city’s economic renaissance is surely a self-defeating strategy. New construction may help alleviate housing pressures, as thousands of city apartments are scheduled to become available within the next several years. Until then, the city’s longtime residents and the architects of the new tech boom will have to learn to live with each other. In this case, riding the bus divides citizens rather than uniting them.

Image

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http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/scrambling-the-politics-of-mass-transit-in-san-francisco/#more-686034

There are still plenty of ghetto neighborhoods for all of those whiny hipsters to move to.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby The Beav » Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:06 am

Maybe they all should smash their iPads and MacBooks in protest.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby middle aged female » Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:27 am

You know every damned one of them would kill the others to get a job there.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby The Beav » Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:30 pm

What I can't believe is that there are folks claiming this is already happening in Detroit.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby Mad Max » Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:02 am

Why this 'Shoreditchification' of London must stop

It’s not particularly clever or novel to hate Shoreditch.

In fact, I’m sure if you spoke to half the people on the streets of Shoreditch, they’d tell you that they hate Shoreditch and are only there as some sort of ironic exercise in nostalgia slumming.

But bear with me here. What I hate more than Shoreditch itself is the idea of Shoreditch and the way that so many of London's neighbourhoods have been Shoreditched, are being Shoreditched or will be Shoreditched.

Of course, I do hate Shoreditch in the straightforward, obvious way too. I hate the stupid beards and skinny jeans. I hate the “dirty burgers” and the knowing appropriation of 1980s icons that were never any good to begin with. I hate the fact that every venue looks the same. And I wish every single hipsterpreneur who dreams of opening a pop-up restaurant (backed by Pop's money) would just pop off.

But, as I say, Shoreditch is just a metonym for all those unlucky pieces of real estate that have had the hipster formula applied to them. The real problem is hipsters themselves. That global tribe of urban 20- and 30-somethings who, in their quest to be different, have wound up virtually identical. Go into any hipster venue and you'll see. From the microbrewery ales and ironically-drunk mass-market lagers to upcycled furniture and jumble-sale '70s suburban art, they’re all cool by numbers. The people dress the same, they eat the same and the conversations sound the same.

Shoreditch is a formula, a brand. It’s as much a part of mainstream consumer culture as iPhones and Sky TV and as global as Starbucks. So, let’s look at how an area gets Shoreditched.

You find a previously unnoticed urban neighbourhood, ideally one that’s a bit down on its luck. Pioneer hipsters move in and coolhunters ensure it starts trending on Twitter. A year later, the mainstream media notices and, for the next 12 months, the neighbourhood is byword for urban cool. Soon property prices soar pushing the original residents out, the bankers (always a trailing indicator) begin to move in and a Foxtons opens. Finally, the New York Times runs a piece in which it “discovers” the area and the cycle is complete. The last hipsters move on and find a new neighbourhood to play with.

This is where poor Shoreditch finds itself now. Its alternative crown was lost years ago to Dalston which, in turn, had it snatched by Peckham. If you head to Shoreditch on a Saturday evening these days it really is as “bridge and tunnel” as its detractors (and one-time champions) claim. A roiling, boiling mass of fight-ready designer-labelled out-of-towners smashed on sugary cocktails and bad cocaine, a cold-climate Ayia Napa. Notting Hill doesn’t know how lucky it is to have merely become a ghetto for bankers.

Of course, you could argue that being Shoreditched is nothing new, that it’s just a hip form of gentrification. In the early noughties, the American urbanist Richard Florida coined the phrase “the Creative Class” to describe the young, trendy and creative who regenerated previously run-down inner city areas. But what Florida missed was the relentless churn and accelerated neophilia of Shoreditch-style gentrification. The gap between Notting Hill and Shoreditch was a decade. The gap between Shoreditch and Dalston, a couple of years. Peckham was declared pretty much over before the first Korean taco van had a chance to park.

Now, the bearded seers of gentrification are turning their gaze to Crystal Palace and Streatham, Walthamstow and Tottenham. Doubtless these suburban nowheres will have their six months in the sun before they’re chewed up and forgotten, with only a few boarded-up “dirty food” restaurants and doubled house prices to remind residents that, sometime in the mid 2010s, they were written about (then sneered at) by Vice journalists. A few weeks back, I heard someone joking about Croydon being the next hipster destination and found myself a) thinking that it really could happen and b) wondering if pop-up KFCs could become “a thing”.

So, what is the solution? The solution is to treat places like proper neighbourhoods rather than Apple products with a two-year upgrade cycle. Here I hold up Camden as an example. OK, I know I have a vested interest, but Camden was cool in 1994 (and even 1984) and it’s still cool in 2014. It has, dare I say it, sustainable coolness. True, at no point in time will be it be as achingly “now” as a speakeasy in a repurposed public loo in Camberwell selling dirty cocktails in jam jars, but that’s the point. Sustainable cool knows which bandwagons to ignore.

So, what is the special sauce that makes sustainable coolness? The answer is in one neighbourhood that has managed to go from nothing to something that’s still cool 15 years later. This is the London Bridge area – and, like Camden, it has a unique attraction: Borough Market. And herein lies a lesson. The people that set up the retail market in the 90s did so when the area was a dump, the ancient wholesale market was in decline and Jamie Oliver was a sous chef. Although Borough Market in its current incarnation seems to have appeared, fully formed, sometime around 2003, it took ten years of dedicated hard work, most of it with no obvious reward, to get it to that point.

True, it’s is a lot harder than getting 10,000 Twitter followers for your pop-up cold-war-themed speakeasy. But people will still be coming to SE1 and NW1 in 2024. Whereas the hipsters will be down in Croydon (AKA Shoreditch 6.0), Instagramming pictures of McDonald’s cartons and wondering if that lairy-looking group of blokes are the most ironic dressers ever or a group of local chavs about to beat them up very unironically.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10561607/Why-this-Shoreditchification-of-London-must-stop.html



In defence of the 'Shoreditchification' of London

Yesterday, Camden cabaret magnate, Alex Proud, took to the these pages to slate the 'Shoreditchification' of London’s decaying urban neighbourhoods. The process he described is the same one seen in areas of East Berlin and New York: crack houses get turned into gluten-free vegan microbreweries and knife crime is replaced with sneering at people who shop in Urban Outfitters. In other words: the hipsters take over.

I am part of Mr. Proud's problem. He directs his frustration at the beards and pop-up restaurants that are flooding into London via the Shoreditch sluice gates. Well, that's me. I'm proud to be part of the millennial creative class that's apparently colonising the city. 'Shoreditchification' is becoming a dirty word, so allow me to defend its merits.

It is easy to satirise hipsters by painting us as a militia of irony-drunk re-decorators, contracted by Foxtons to seduce hedge fund managers and their property portfolios. A scourge of flannel-clad apocalyptic horsemen, riding upon the backs of fixed-gear bikes, we leave a trail of loft conversions and organic street food in our wake. While this is generally the case, it incorrectly suggests we make areas desirable for fun before cycling off to victimise another postcode for jokes. Not true. Young creatives flock to crime-ridden neighbourhoods because we can’t afford to live elsewhere. It's not a nefarious or sinister decision, just simple financial necessity.

The problem comes when our brand of 'cool' gets colonised. In Shoreditch, Dalston, and Hackney, an influx of bankers has raised our rent beyond our means, while weekend commuters from Essex, dressed like a Supreme collaboration with TOWIE, kill our vibes by re-enacting Brits Abroad in Hoxton Square.

There are two victims in this process. The first are the indigenous communities to the area, who get squeezed out by social gentrification. The second? Us lowly-paid creative types, who can no longer afford to live in the area we've made our home.

Sure, I get it, people hate hipsters. But what’s the alternative? I’m curious to hear how many of the naysayers spent weekends in Hackney 12 years ago, when it was reportedly more dangerous than Soweto. And if you’re that bothered by designer fried chicken shops, Edmonton’s still as authentic as ever. Just don’t forget your stab vest.

In his article, Mr. Proud held up Camden and Borough Market as examples of enduring cool, breaking my computer’s sneer button as a result.

As a Southwark native, Borough Market is a place I associate with Bridget Jones, hordes of Spanish tourists, and the Ginger Pig (purveyors of pork so expensive I’d need multiple payday loans to become a customer). Camden on the other hand was last culturally relevant in the mid-2000s, when people still read the NME and promoters remembered Razorlight.

So without the east London axis of irony, what do we have left? The West End is a buffer zone protecting Londoners from tasteless tourists, while clubs in Chelsea are about as accessible and cool as David Cameron’s Cabinet.

I would love for people to heed Alex Proud’s advice and stay away from anywhere me or my friends would consider going out, but unfortunately, this is the curse of cool, our ethically sourced crucifix. And more than anything, cool is about exclusivity: everybody wants it, but it’s a scant resource.

We hipsters have turned ourselves into self-gentrifying urban Bedouins, eternally popping-off then popping-up where ever is cheapest, and we take a lot of flak for it. But just thinking of the alternatives is enough to make my beard go grey.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10571976/In-defence-of-the-Shoreditchification-of-London.html
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby The Beav » Mon Jan 20, 2014 8:55 pm

Urban Bedouins? This phrase is enough to make me hate hipsters more than I already do. I guess portraying oneself as a victim is the new urban chic.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby thunderstruck » Tue Jan 21, 2014 1:09 pm

The Beav wrote:Urban Bedouins? This phrase is enough to make me hate hipsters more than I already do. I guess portraying oneself as a victim is the new urban chic.

I had no idea that hipsterism was transoceanic. The description from the first essay were spot-on and could have been written by any Yank about our domestic version.

I really hope it's replaced by something less annoying by the time my kids are young adults.
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Re: Life in Other Cities

Postby Megatron » Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:05 pm

The real problem is hipsters themselves. That global tribe of urban 20- and 30-somethings who, in their quest to be different, have wound up virtually identical.


In college i refered to this as conformity through non-conformity. at that time it was applied to Marylin Manson fans who shopped at Hot Topic....How original can you be buying a shirt from a store that sells the exact same shirt at every mall in America?
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