Sunday, February 5, 2012

ObMag Preview: Intro to Issue #5

Warning: 
Oldster Rant Ahead

by Rich Dana

This year, I’m going to be 50. Yes, 50. It doesn’t bother me.  I swear. I am soon going to be 50, which entitles me to be offended by young people. I am. But I am only offended by the fact that I am not offended by them. That is ironic.  Those creative people younger than me- Hipsters- are supposed to be all about the ironic.  So... I guess it’s working.

I know that the hipster thing is over.  O-V-E-R. Declared dead in 2008 (by hipsters, ironically). Hipster bashing is old hat. But they just won’t go away. Some have gotten jobs and been redefined as “Creatives”, but I’m still not buying it. The wholesale re-purposing of past cultural ephemera, without reexamination or personal reflection, is neither hip nor creative.

To be honest, I feel ripped off. I feel like hipsters are ripping off my thing- our thing- our old, 50 year old thing- the thing that came before their thing- which they don’t really have. They need to get their own thing. Recently, a New York graphic designer redesigned classic 80’s punk rock gig posters (Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, etc) in the style of  Swiss Modern design, cleverly tagged “Swissted”. They come off like ads from a 1960s issue of Look Magazine. Although the designer is said to love punk rock and swiss modern design,  to me they are more about the designer’s love of the software and fonts that allowed him to create the posters quickly and thoughtlessly.

Hipsters need to stop trying to be “ironic.”  They need to start by looking up the word “ironic”, because they aren’t. Ironic, I mean. They are robbing the word ironic of it’s irony.  I’m like my mother, who loved gay people, but hated the fact that they had ruined the word “gay”. That’s ironic. Sarcastic is something else. It’s a much blunter instrument, and implies a certain amount of contempt- and maybe even some self-loathing.

Christian Lorentzen of Time Out New York wrote “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic” elements of all of the “fringe movements of the postwar era—beat, hippie, punk, even grunge,” and draws on the “cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity,” and “regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity.”

“Winking inauthenticity” is not irony.  It is laziness. Hey, you- wearing the Linda Richman glasses- You never watched the Brady Bunch. You never played Atari. If you had, you wouldn’t be wearing that shirt. “My dad grew up in the 70’s, and all he brought me was this stupid shirt” might be a more appropriate. That’s sarcasm, “BTW”, not irony. But enough hipster bashing.  

At 50, I was born into a fairly narrow demographic. I see it bracketed by 2 factors; the end of the American military draft in 1973, and the advent of the mass-produced personal computer  in 1977. Those who were too young to be drafted to go to Vietnam were born after 1953. Those who are too young to remember a time without personal computers were born after 1973, generally. This leaves a two decade spread of late baby-boom to early gen Xers that don’t fit into either group. A “Blank Generation”, so to speak. We grew up with the Middle East Energy Crisis and the fear of Mutually Assured (nuclear) Destruction. We grew up lacking either the unification of the anti-war movement or the hive mind of the internet. We are the last of the analog dinosaurs, a merry band of angry loners and misfits.

I feel fortunate, though, to be a part of this small cultural segment. This is where punk rock was born, the indie music scene that turned its back on the corporate record industry. This is the generation that hit the road in a van, playing house parties, trading cassettes and xeroxed fanzines. This is the generation of phone phreaks and hackers and cypherpunks that blazed the trail for Anonymous and  LulzSec. Cyberpunk,  Splatterpunk and the other various “punk” literary genres influenced the “look” of the 21st century. Blank Generation artists put their images on stickers, on flyers, on clothing on record sleeves- on subway trains, dumpsters and cars.  DIY, as a movement, was born of the punks, all of the various flavors shared that Do-It-Yourself aesthetic.

This issue of OBSOLETE! is dedicated to all of my Blank Generation brothers and sisters out there. Keep writing- keep rocking, keep making art. Until they find their own voice, the hipster generation needs you to show them the way. And I guess...I guess that’s what getting old is all about.

illustration by Don Rock