Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE BLANK [CHECK] GENERATION:
In the Age of Self-Important Microcontent Conformity, Hipster Couture Wallows in a Sea of Dull Wit

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- Four young women and three young men, all upperclassman hipsters at the threshold of college graduation, huddled together in a dismal corner of a dark bar.

The bar is foreign territory for me, outside of my normal comfort zone. But, well, every once and a while a guy just needs a little change of scenery, away from bars filled with diverse mixtures of college undergrads and Townies, miscreants and stoners and saints, former high school football heroes and occasionally starving artists (tattoo or otherwise.)

I'd already finished my business in the place, my party long gone, as younger folks tend to do here, on towards the next bar on their pub crawl. I'd noticed the rather strange group because, well, they generally appeared more interesting - and out of place - than my 30-year-old ass.

In between boisterous laughter over strange inside jokes, choreographed awkwardness, and savage critiques of the "cattle" that supposedly makes up the remainder of the student body, each hovered over iPhones and mobile Wunderspielzeug, texting and emailing digital snapshots and Googling and checking e-mail.

One would Tweet along an update to Twitter, another would upload shots directly into Facebook, Tumblring and Digging and downloading annoying indie rock ringtones. And then, as puppies do when they realize they can roll in their own shit, the group would check each others' electronic communications, crack jokes about their supposedly hip and witty microcontent.

I joined them for a moment and attempted conversation, but, well, they were just too wound up in their own self-contained bubble to be even remotely interesting. They'd been discussing their various artistic and literary endeavors, which, at first had sounded intriguing. Instead, it turned out to be merely a self-important microcontented circle-jerk.

* * * *

Jesus Fucking Christ, I thought, If there's one thing worst than scenesters, it's a technosnob scenesters...

Such is life, alas, amongst the Millennials, particularly within a subgroup of that generation I've come to think of as a Black Check Generation - a group of American and European kids who exist as if one can buy the spirit of art and literature, cultural dominance and sophistication, by playing the role of the misunderstood genius, as if the Muse sings through electronic toys or college degrees or IQ tests.

Everything in their conversation revolved around cultural superiority through their sarcastic deployment of SMS data into the World Wide Web, their superior musical prowess thanks to this torrent site or that piracy site, how they couldn't live without RSS feeds or TMZ or any media, well, that pretty much supported their very restricted worldview.

Technology, the arts, media, and a steady stream of condescending dull wit directed at the Fratboys, the Sorority Sluts, the Preppy Kids, the Rednecks, the Trailer Trash, the Townies...

I mean, I can be an arrogant bastard at times and sometimes, yeah, I fall into my own limited perception of couture du monde, but I try to at least maintain some connexion to the rest of humanity... ... Try at least to understand the organic wholeness of things, the egalitarian nature of life, maintain a sense of awe at the differences and my own cultural limitations...

... I fucking hope...

One even mentioned my blog and how, yes, in an unsolicited literary critique, I should all-out condemn the supposed stupidity of supposedly 90 percent of the uncultured "sheeple" that attend the Local U.

Sheeple? I said to myself, Did this kid just say fucking sheeple?? Well, pour me a Frappuccino, slap a Wes Anderson flick into the Blu-Ray, and color me Espresso Bar and Sushi Bourgeois ...

* * * *

Another kid - an aspiring performance artist who, well, hasn't ever really performed anything before anyone outside of the group - asks about my favorite writers. When I answer that, well, literature-wise, I have too many to name, he INSISTS that every serious writer or poet MUST have a Top Five that includes Jack Kerouac and Chuck Palahniuk.

"Look, I don't rank authors, and right now, I'm sorta on a political science and early 20th century history kick..."

Besides not being even remotely interesting, the group, I've noticed, has been tying up a table in this crowded bar for four hours. They weren't really really drinking - and from what the bartender said while I'd ordered my beer earlier, they weren't tipping shit, either.

I can understand the cheap beer - when I was a student myself, I was fond of a libation called Lucky Lager, the sweetest elixir then available to Pacific dwellers with a hankering for suds and no money.

But in bars, even when broke, I tipped. I had friends, raging alcoholics, who would tip out before buying that blackout drink, starving writers who'd order only a cup of coffee at all-night diners just because, as well, they just wanted to make sure the cute waitress ended up with their last dollar...

No sense, I figured, in pointing out to the table of hipsters that, well, not tipping is the ultimate sign that they are not writers, not artists, not even remotely talented beyond maybe a job at a bookstore...

...Or as shushing librarians, maybe small, empty art gallery owners, as curators of shitty metropolitan museums, perhaps?

That, certainly, made me chuckle. The kid who'd inquired about my favorite authors thought I was laughing at some crack about a kid from the local trailer park's neck tats.

Well-read, dressed in prefab distressed, faded clothing, beards strategically unkempt, but their attempts at looking like starving artists served as nothing more than a reinforcement of their packaged suburban rebellion.

* * * *

I found an excuse to make my exit. The bartender "who'd been rude" was waving me over - he had a question about library hours and printing policies. Discussing work at two in the morning on a Saturday. Beat the hell outta dealing with culture snobs.

And I seriously considered letting Mister Neck Tat know that there was this scrawny, mop-topped literary critic, in that dark corner over there, homes, who'd just called him an Eminem wannabe who probably couldn't read anyway...

And, actually, Mister Neck Tat enjoys Edgar Allan Poe and reading about the U.S. Civil War. And he fucking loves the film version of Fight Club, too.

- # # # -

4 comments:

coyotemike said...

I can't stop laughing. I don't see quite as many of these folks as I'm sure you do, but there are a few. Oh, we have the techno-twits here, no doubt about it. My students are always surprised when I kick one of them out of class for texting.

I don't know that I would consider someone who thinks literature begins and ends with Kerouac and Palahniuk as "well read". But then, I don't know that I consider ANYONE to be well read . . . there is just too much out there for any one person to read.

I sometimes fear I am in danger of being swollowed into some of these activities. I know I spend too much time online, and not nearly enough of it is what I would consider to be productive.

But then, I don't cringe at the thought of turning off my cable/internet connection.

I might even catch up on my reading.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

CoyoteMike says it well for me, I don't cringe when I have to turn off the connection. And I find myself doing that, especially in the evenings. TV is kind of blah. You can only read so many feeds on an RSS reader. And while my blogging has slowed down a bit, it is still going strong. But I find myself reading more. Not sure I will catch up on the reading, so to speak, but I am making the effort to make a dent in it.

Funny stuff in your post.

Best, and keep on blogging.

Alex said...

Thanks for your recap of the tweeting twits who imagine themselves as the new captains of industry.

Three cheers for Mister Neck Tat and Fuck the narcissists!

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