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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Simsbury, Connecticut has been making news lately with their retro-styled ban against “dirty dancing.”

No, they’re not taking a stand against the Swayze or the Great Grey Schnoz. They are actually talking about the moves the kids do when they’re out on the floor. Students have responded by boycotting previously popular dances – after the prohibition was put into place only three tickets were sold to the next dance.

The AP writes… “Despite the boycotts, school officials have no plans to allow booty dancing, also known as freaking, grinding, or back-to-front dancing.”

That is some serious reporting! That is legitimately the most entertaining sentence I have ever read in a newspaper.

The article details the change of heart experienced by Chris Meyer, Simsbury High’s senior class president. After chaperoning a dance for 7th and 8th graders, he too was grossed out by seeing people younger than him do the dirty.

In case you’re still unclear about what the dirty is, Principal Sullivan details it for you here, in a memo to parents:

In the kind of dancing that we are seeing, the male student stands directly behind the female student…He then places his hands either on his partner’s hips or around her midsection. At the same time, he presses his pelvic region against his partner’s buttocks. As the music plays, the students then thrust or grind to the beat of the music… Sometimes, girls will even bend over as they dance, placing their hands on the floor while their male partner grinds against their backside.

They then get pregnant.

No, but seriously, it is an important omitted fact that we are also talking about so many 14 year-old boners that it is totally fucking disgusting.

In the effort to stop the OOC development of high schoolers’ sexualities, the school is making previously well attended and well chaperoned events obselete…. yes. That is a smart solution. Don’t keep them sequestered within the well guarded corners of the school gym. Send them out into the fields of Simsbury to do it in the back of someone’s old Volvo.

OK, I have in fact chaperoned dances for teenagers and that shit is gross. No doubt about it. But that’s the way it goes. I think we all know that.

The real shining star of this episode is Sullivan’s detailed account of the dance acts. I LOVE IT.

swayze.jpg

Get into me or get over me.

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It is dusk on a Sunday, and bearclaws is approaching a crosswalk, visions of sugarplums probably dancing in her head. Mechanically, she notes that the intersection’s resident electronic crossing guard is wearing his smart white pantsuit, NOT his fiery reddish-orange unitard. To bearclaws, this sign says, “C’mon! Cross over! We live in a civilized republic where it was decided that anarchy -while sexy when you are 15 and hate your parents- is ultimately impractical, so have faith that aforementioned white pantsuit means that you will be safe to get to the other side.” Fault her for not looking both ways – which she admittedly didn’t- but had bearclaws started to cross a moment earlier, she would have been ass over tea kettle, sideswiped by a biker going through a red light.*

Now before all the bikers get themselves into a kerfuffle about how riding a bike has more positive side effects than hanging out with baby kittens, save it. I get it, and I mostly agree with you. Biking is healthy, ecologically friendly, creates less traffic, etc. However, what is NOT healthy is colliding with pedestrians nor scaring the bejesus out of them. I am a proponent of increasing the volume and enforcement of bike lanes, until the next time I get knocked on my ass. Nothing is guaranteed to erode the goodwill of bike-supporters faster than six months of eating food through a straw. Think of it like this; running red lights just because you are on a bike is like having a friend with gills who always brags about being able to breathe underwater. At some point, I am going to try to drown you both in my toilet.

*No bearclaws were harmed during the inspiration for this PSA

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The story is that 4 “thirty-something hipsters…including a well-known illustrator and designer, and a Vogue Australia scribe” bought a building on Bergen between 6th Ave and Carlton that is home to 5 rent-stabilized units. And the people who live there.

The law is that the owners can evict the residents for “personal or family use,” and that’s what they’re trying to do.

The new owners are artists, which has surprised some people:

“You’d think as artists these people would basically have better politics but they’re basically building their dream house on the backs of long-term rent-stabilized tenants,” [Brent] Meltzer [a lawyer for one of the tenants] said. “When they bought the building, they got it for that price [$866,000 in 2006] because it came with five-rent stabilized tenants.”

The comments on this Village Voice article aren’t too surprising – poor people have it easy, poor people have it hard, why would you think artists would have good politics? et cetera.

What seems interesting to me is the value or culpability that gets attached to “coolness”:

Yeah, those damn poor people. They have some nerve paying their rent, with regular rent increases, and living in a neighborhood that no one wanted to live in until Mr & Mrs Yuppie & their partners decided that it was “cool” and bought a building below market rate. And some of those tenants are senior citizens. How dare they not just move out onto the street because a greedy couple doesn’t have enough to satisfy them.

Coolness is a funny thing. Sometimes when something is trendy it is because it is a good thing that can really improve the world (the sustainable food movement?) or sometimes it is trendy because it helps people feel better than other people (remember bling?), and most of the time it’s some of both (um, like both of the above examples).

OK, but what I’m really getting at is the fact that every cultural convention we have started as some kind of cool trend… whether it became cool because it helped people not die as often or as quickly (hygiene, vaccinations, etc.) or because it helped people not be disfigured freaks (not sleeping with your cousin – what’s cooler than that?).

And right now, gentrification is cool. Thirty-somethings are coming of age who were raised by baby boomers. The baby boomers thought the coolest shit was to get rich and move to the suburbs. The thirty-somethings think the opposite is cool. And the baby who is raised wearing Sonic Youth onesies will eventually grow up to be a proper lady.

Gentrification clearly affects peoples lives in a much more serious way than baby fashion. And this type of gentrification is possible because of free-market capitalism and our legal system. The whole way our society is set up means that whoever has the most wealth will get to fuck the most people. And there are way richer people than these artists who have inevitably made these artists feel victimized before… but in this situation the artists are clearly doing the fucking.

And people who’ve grown up poor are obviously the ones who get fucked over and over again by this system. Councilwoman Letitia James was at a block party/rally to protest the attempted evictions. Which is great. Support your electorate.

letitia.jpg

Pic from Village Voice

But it’s hard to be totally into it when the most recent decision to come out of City Council is a ban on metal bats. Not anything about renters, eminent domain, or evictions. In a situation like this it’s really only a change in law that could keep these tenants in their apartments. Or in the next building that this happens to, to keep the tenants in their apartments. And so on…. And what happens when all those yuppie owners/livers are her electorate? That must be a scary thing about being an elected official in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood. Huh.

Because it is a trend, and it seems unlikely that case-by-case advocacy could change that. If it could, would we have ever seen another publicly fucked-up celebrity after 12 year-old Drew Barrymore finished rehab?

youngdrew2.jpg

No.

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Here’s some news that was good to me, but probably bad for Williamsburg (which really just makes it better for me): Galapagos Art Space is moving!

Galapagos has been in Williamsburg for twelve years, during which time the space hosted such notables as Monster Eiffel Tower. They were there when everyone had payos instead of asymmetrical haircuts and kippahs instead of skinny jeans. But it looks like Galapagos gave up on Billysburg, blanching at their landlord’s requested 30% rent increase. Apparently they can’t handle the gentle peaks and troughs of the “radically chic, chicly radical” neighborhood’s real estate market. Pussies.

So, keep an eye out for Galapagos moving into a huge space in DUMBO and making real estate speculators shriek with glee as another incredibly cool, expensive neighborhood grows up around the club.

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This is Peter Petrelli from Heroes. He also has superpowers – though not of the web-slinging or song-writing variety – and bears a striking resemblance to the previous fellows. I’m declaring a new cultural subgroup: EmoHeroes.

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