young bohos

Never Never Land

I'm writing a piece about human rights imagination for a New York University journal right now, and I'm mulling over questions of art and liberation.

Then you come across articles like these on the web, in which authors expound on tales of female success as "modern myths". Fairy tales, if you will.

They're funny, and that's not funny. The blog The Hairpin has a smart piece up called Six Fairy Tales for the Modern Woman. Check it out, and check out why it got 136 resonant, exuberant comments.



Nighttime in Washington

During the nighttime in Washington, people ask, "Really now...really?"

Big thoughts stand on very small heels, or rest comfortably in leather loafers. Why isn't AID investing more in South Sudan? When are the Dems going to get it together? When is that deal going to come through? When is he going to commit? When is your next spinning class? What did your boss say? How is kundalini, anyway? How do you like your new apartment? How do you like your new Droid? 

What are you planting in your garden these days?
What is it that you do, exactly?
And, I'm sorry, where did we first meet, exactly? 

Nighttime in Washington is women adjusting their skinny jeans while their date asks for one more mojito. Calamari is the local currency, while the lone violinist on the corner of 22nd and Q whines a sorrowful tune to nobody.

The Rainbow Effect

Pop culture right now is all about Play. Apparently, Rainbow Bright was a Material Girl, and the little girls who grew up playing with her haven't forgotten that.
The look of artists like Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Lovefoxxx (below) is Rainbow Bright, but with a decidedly...erotic twist.
This stuff is an aesthetic sugar rush, a hipster fantasy cracked out on agave syrup. It's excessively sweet, and excessively excessive. Decked out with jobs, adulthood, and real responsibilities, maybe the Rainbow Bright generation just really misses playtime.

Occupy Wall Street's Unexpected Successes

Is Occupy Wall Street a real-life version of Rage Against the Machine's song "Bulls on Parade?"

I recently published an article through about how Occupy Wall Street has shaken up the activist exercise. In less than a month, it has brought about the following results: 1) It created an unexpected coalition between liberal whites and activists of color; 2) It changed Americans’ understanding of history and class; 3) It illuminated the failures of the Professional Left; and 4) It showed the shortcomings of traditional political strategy. Read the full article here.

Whatever its long-term results are, Occupy Wall Street has brought people out onto the streets, and put (Wall Street) bulls on parade.


On Gentry, and Gentrification

The Fenty vs. Gray mayoral race here in Washington, D.C. has brought to light old feelings about the g-word. That word that every city planner, journalist, and city resident cringes at: gentrification.

The big-G banks on the idea that Gentry - folks with new Masters degrees, a new job, and a big checkbook - will line up to buy condos that cost as much or more than a home would, all for the charm of living in the city. It banks on all of the Gentry choosing not to move into or in some cases moving out of the suburbs into inner cities and in doing so transforming (read = eradicating) either poor or struggling neighborhoods.

The idea sounds gross, and the practice is by and large gross. But it's also more complicated than we think.

The Gentry that the fancy new "multi-use" housing developments are built for don’t really exist. None of those structures have offered a return on the investment needed to build them; hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into them, yet development upon development lays unoccupied. Half-finished. Failed.

And that’s because middle class people - not the upper class Gentry - are the ones moving into big cities across America. These people are assumed to be Gentry, but they're not. The Left howled and whined when the new commercial development in Columbia Heights was built here in Washington, D.C., claiming that the area's residents, mostly Latino, couldn't afford Target, a gym, Best Buy, or...Payless. That turns out to be untrue; that Target (the Macy's of the masses) is the only store in the District that is actually diverse in terms of race and class, and that Washington Sports Club is the only one in the District to have a sizable amount of Central American immigrants as members.

While it was well-intentioned, the Left's argument there was actually a racist one; Latinos are seen as "disadvantaged" American consumers only because they are assumed to be so. But when businesses come to their area, Latinos participate like any other consumers.

And so works the "invisible hand" of the market:  the consumer base for Target is large, as Target is low-priced, but the consumer base for half a million dollar lofts is very small. And amongst the young hipster adults moving into cities, it's even smaller. I mean, let's face it: hipsters are broke as f***. They make property values go up as people move in to try to live like them, but they themselves can't keep up with those prices.

What made a dirty port city known for manufacturing, shipping, and schlepping into the "New York City" of Carrie Bradshaw-awe are the broke-ass artists and writers who defined Broadway, the Village, and Brooklyn from very small, rented rooms. The big new lofts of Williamsburg, NY and the Arts District in Downtown LA were built for (hipster) Gentry, but the hipsters who create work there can't afford them. (And if they can afford a $400,000 condo, then they're not hipsters. They're attorneys in skinny jeans.)

I have friends in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C. who had to get on affordable housing lists to buy a "gentrified" condo because "people like them" (read = college grads) were assumed to be able to make those price points, but in real life, "people like them" who work in non-profits make less than plumbers and elevator repairmen.

Plumbers and elevator repairmen buy homes in the suburbs whose prices aren't over ninety percent dependent on subsidies, loans, or the kind of ballooned mortgage structure that caused the housing collapse in the first place.

So while the Gentry do gentrify, loft by loft, they don't in the kinds of large numbers needed to make the policies of people like Mayor Fenty even work. When Fenty catered to those he thought wanted to improve the city by "gentrifying" it, he was actually catering to nobody. The Gentry bought cheap in quiet ol' Virginia, and those who vote early and often in the District live along the Anacostia River.

Where We're From

The Digable Planets are back in style. Why do we miss the 90’s when they were only uh…10 years ago?

Angelenos move to New York to experience where the Diggable Planets are from. To experience the Brooklyn of Biggie Smalls, the late 80’s and early 90’s East Coast rap that preceded the TuPac stuff we grew up on.

Likewise, New Yorkers move to Los Angeles to get away from a continually gentrified metropolis, and experience a groaning, growing city in all of its discomfort, its dirt, and dysfunction.

But what about the places where, to quote the song, kids don’t “be reading Marx” or “dig some sounds coming from a jeep”? Doesn’t it get exhausting to always be on the lookout for the epicenter of cool?

Beyond where we’re from, let’s just be…where we are.

The Animal Kingdom

I've been seeing a lot of deers everywhere. And like, not real ones. Like taxidermied deers. Or cartoon ones. Or deers made of frosting. 
And goats! (Went to a bar called The Surly Goat the other day. Nice spot.)
Hipsterdom seems to be fascinated with the taxidermied past. The real. The bucolic. The just-killed. Which is weird for a bunch of vegetarians (okay, sorry, sometimes vegans.)
What is that? The Do-It-Yourself culture of Hipsterlandia compounded by its #1 love: Retro. The deer fascination takes us from the 21st century to the 19th, back to the times when one had to not only cook one's own food but hunt it and kill it. Our urban backyard gardens are no replacement for a forest-y past; maybe city dwellers yearn for some woods? (And not just woodsi-ness?)
Well, here's the upside: this fetish is more environmentally friendly than its predecessor. After all, if a deer is made of frosting it doesn't have to die before going still...