Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Old Sincerity vs New Sincerity. Thanks to Lucy, I was reading a most wonderful article about those tricksy po-faced McSweeney's types. I've never read a more brilliant summary of my own shapeless, lurking dislike of McSweeney's and its followers. I have had some abortive fights with Jeremy over his McSweeney's adulation (Jeremy also loves The Believer and various other hip publications). These fights are invariably aborted by me because recently I've realised that fighting over certain topics with certain people makes me feel so sick and angry inside for such sustained periods after the actual argument that it's really not worth it.

For me, the most interesting part of the article was the distinction between Old Sincerity and New Sincerity, which is related to the hipster postmodernism I've railed about here in the past.
Unfortunately, in the nineties I was about as Old Sincere a girl as you could find. I could not lie, and I could not make it through a Hal Hartley film without weeping at its human truth, although I hated that about myself. McSweeney's writers hated their own feelings too, I was sure, but I couldn't do anything to hide mine, whereas they somehow were able to transmute theirs into jaunty little titter-worthy pieces with titles like "An Open Letter to Little Children Who Play in the Alley and Like to Throw Stuff At My Car."

My friend describes their style as "Inside-jokey, Ivy-Leaguey, casually bantery, but referencing every writer of the past three hundred years." In order to participate, you have to have your eyebrow cocked twenty-four hours a day. Or, as another friend says, "It's like they built a cool treehouse in the backyard but required everyone to invent their own cutesy conceit before they'd allow them up the ladder."
McSweeneys people are a particular sort of hipster. The low-culture hipsters (who you might call Vice people) fetishise the detritus of the last 30 years of popular media, yet disavow the pleasure this gives them by claiming only to like it 'ironically'. The New Sincerity hipsters combine a fetish for unfashionable publishing modes, literature and archaic language with a tendency to convey affect in a completely affected, deadpan way.

But I think Calhoun's article is particularly excellent at conveying an all-consuming, devastating, crush-like desire to be hip - a desire that I often feel myself. It begins with excitement - that is so cool! - and quickly overwhelms me - I could get it by doing this and that and going here and knowing them - and finally fills me with despair - oh, but I'm not cool enough! - and loathing - fucking hipsters think they're so cool - and self-loathing - if I was cool I wouldn't get worked up like this!

I am determined that Is Not Magazine will not be anything like McSweeney's or its ilk.

On the topic of hipsterism, what a salve to my fury it is to read that someone is satirising hipster dufuses. (Thanks Glen!) The hipster-hating writer for achingly trendy magazine Sugar Ape is apparently played by one of the guys from the Mighty Boosh. You should also go to the website, ("Dot-cock, right? Registered in the Cook Islands?") which is just too perfect for words ("Hoot your trap off!"). The hipster's hilariously horrifying, amoral approach to pop culture is perfectly illustrated by an animated gif based on that famous photo of a pistol-wielding Vietnamese soldier blowing the guy's brains out. Except here, two soldiers are playing brain ping-pong. You have to see it.

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