[In case you haven't heard, the Mercury stirred up a lot of media attention last week in what we like to refer to as "Tapegate." Sick of selfish people taping off swathes of public sidewalk and claiming it as their own before the Grand Floral Parade, the Mercury and 100 other likeminded individuals got together and cleaned up most of the tape on the parade route. That really pissed some people off (people who think "tradition" trumps "common decency"), but for the most part the community was very supportive. MEANWHILE! Chas Bowie wrote an essay about "hipsters," which elicited a huge response. Thus, we have a super-size Letters to the Editor section this week. Enjoy!]
THE GREAT HIPSTER DEBATE
DEAR MERCURY—When I call someone a hipster, I'm not just calling them an asshole ["The H-Word," Feature, June 7]. I'm saying: You care more about style than substance—you wear an artsy veneer but lack creativity—you act xenophobic but care desperately what others think of you—you struggle to conceive of reactions beyond irony—you are self-involved to the point of blindness—you garner power passive-aggressively through silence and being in the know—and you abandon your lifestyle "aesthetic" when your environment changes. I go to school, work, play in a band, live in NE, hate GWB, drink cheap beer, etc., etc. I would never, of course, call myself a hipster. This is not because I have some affinity for mainstream culture. It's because I've realized that you get way further in life by being open to other people and taking in what they have to offer than you do by trying to live by some fucked, limiting set of rules and allowed experiences. So, to the Portland hipster, I would say: Continue spending your energy making tiny stylistic distinctions if you enjoy it, but open your fucking mind to other people and ideas.
Peppermint von Farid the Ill
DEAR MERCURY—Chas Bowie's article granting amnesty to the most overly used term in the Portland vocabulary—hipster—was long overdue ["The H-Word," Feature, June 7]. As a linguistics junkie and bearer of an English degree (read: barista), I appreciate the facility of our language to turn nouns into adjectives. Bowie posits a definition that lends a concrete image to a term that has been beaten into ambiguity: "By and large, the term 'hipster' is used to point to somebody who enjoys art, good films, and music that you won't hear on most Clear Channel stations." However, I believe that a straw man is being set up when this hipster is pitted against the frat boy or the rich man. The true dichotomy, as I perceive it, exists between the hipster and the hipster-curious squares of Portland's social fabric. I would argue that, in addition to Bowie's, a supplemental definition is necessary to describe the evolution of the word "hipster" from a type of person to the idea it represents, which might read: "Hipster (adj.)—a word used to describe the act of striving toward artistic self-expression and the backlash that this act incites." Because this definition lends a perhaps too noble cause to hipsters, I should clarify, as Bowie does, that some people are just assholes who deserve no defense.
DEAR MERCURY—I was ready to take Chas Bowie up on his offer to have coffee when I read his disdain for Steven Spielberg movies ["The H-Word," Feature, June 7]. First of all, there are many worse director/producers than Spielberg, like Jerry Bruckheimer, Joel Schumacher, Michael Bay, and Tony Scott. Second, while Spielberg has released plenty of schmaltz (The Terminal, Jurassic Park 2, even E.T.), he has also released some damn brilliant movies (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Munich, Jaws...). So in defense of Spielberg, you have many director/producers to choose from that have never made a good film, but Spielberg isn't one of them.
DEAR MR. BOWIE—Thanks for clearing up what it is to be a "hipster" ["The H-Word," Feature, June 7]. You are the first person to actually clear up this definition for me, never mind that I've lived in Somerville, Lincoln Park, Missoula, Madison, Denali National Park. And, thanks for telling us all how cool YOU actually are! It's only "hipster" if you sit there and think about it all the time. It's not a phenomenon; it's LIFE for most people our age. I'm sorry it's your job to sum up "hipsters." Really, WOW. You say you've never worn a trucker hat, but I bet you'd secretly love it.
DEAR CHAS—We at Movie Madness are curious to find out who your Hall and Oates lovin', too-cool-for-you, ironic T-shirt-wearing, smug hipster clerk is! If it is someone from our store, let us know! We won't be mad, we just need to know who wins the pool. By the way, your copy of The Sopranos is overdue!
REGARDING FAUX HIPSTERS—Okay, Chas, we get your point: Hipsters are people too ["The H-Word," Feature, June 7]! But you seem to miss the point, and indeed delimit the essential features of your own "hipster" stereotype, by social profiling what I would term the "Faux Hipster," albeit using a creative, negative-space method of describing what they are not. The True Hipsters are in fact a rare breed who have reclaimed their sovereignty among the hipster hoi polloi by avoiding these childish name-calling antics and social-profiling heuristics altogether. My advice to all those wishing to achieve enlightenment by becoming a True Hipster is to continue seeking your hipster essence, and if deep within you find elements of good taste, and are authentic to those tastes, no matter how unpopular they are, you too may someday transcend mundane existence and become a card-carrying member of our group.
TO MATT DAVIS—The glee you expressed about your juvenile act, as shown on this evening's news, was insulting. Your choice to go out and play anarchy with your spoiled little compatriots, and to impose your will on others reveals you as a narcissistic, self-righteous "thought-Nazi." Way to make little kids cry, big man. With your position at the Merc you already have more of a voice than others; write an editorial, don't act with malicious intent toward others.
DEAR SIR—Don't you think your group was being just as rude by simply pulling up the tape as those who laid the tape down? Could have caused a lot more chaos and confrontations, though luckily it all went well. Might want to put more thought into things before you just take a group willy-nilly down the street like that, or take up a cause and try to make a difference. I do not know how long you've been in Portland, or where else you have lived here in the States, but I really think you need to also think about how it affects EVERYONE when you decide to do something, that whole ripple effect thing.
DEAR MERCURY—Why the hell are you bashing Gresham over this ridiculous taping of the parade? I live in Gresham and could give a s--t about this parade, so be more specific, there are a lot of people in Gresham that don't go to the parade, so why condemn the whole town, you MORON?
DEAR MERCURY—I am a first year college student at Oregon State, but I was born and raised in Southeast Portland and have watch the Grand Floral Parade nearly every year, until this year. I am also the fifth of six kids and can remember how when I was little my father would stake out our spot a day or two before the parade because he didn't have time to sit there and save our spot. So before you go and rip up duct tape tonight, remember this: Some of those spots you are ripping up likely belong to people who for some reason can't sit to save their spot, and it might be because of their young children, who are going to be upset when they don't have a spot tomorrow morning.
DEAR MERCURY EDITORS—As an East Coast transplant, this is only my second Rose Festival. So I'm still trying to understand the Portland habit of "reserving" viewing locations with tape, like some latter-day homesteaders. Back in Philly where I'm from, we have a New Year's Day tradition called the Mummers Parade, which makes the Rose Parade seem tiny. Hearty Philadelphians get up in the frigid early hours to stake out a good spot, thermoses full of coffee and cocoa in hand. Just like the Rose Festival, folks come from all over the region to watch, including families with children. Latecomers have to take what they can get. It's the same at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. The only way this so-called tradition could be fairly preserved is if the city handed out permits for uniform amounts of square footage block by block, with permits granted on a first-come, first-served basis, although I doubt the cost of administration would be worth it. Let Portlanders, who are normally civil to each other over a whole host of contentious issues, learn to peacefully share the streets and sidewalks with their neighbors and with visitors on this one day, just as they do every other day.
Mark A. Santillo
DEAR MERCURY—Hooray for you, you glib, PBR swillin' shit-stains! Here would have been a better idea: Let it be known well in advance that you disagree with the practice, and that you will set out en masse to remove tape... But you took the sissy way out, hiding behind a spontaneous flash mob so you wouldn't get your puny asses kicked. The adrenaline must have been incredible; comparable for you only to the stiffy you get from playing kickball. Your sophomoric act does as much for your cause as "Critical Mass" does for bicycle/automobile relations.
AFTER MUCH CONSIDERATION... Congratulations to John W for winning the Mercury letter of the week! John, if you pipe down for a sec and give us your home address, we'll send you two tickets to the Laurelhurst Theater and lunch for two at No Fish! Go Fish!, where taping off your spot is totally unnecessary.