[the palaverist]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

[are suburbs the new bohemia?]

The New York Times reported recently on the decline of gay enclaves. Places like San Francisco's Castro District, New York's West Village, West Hollywood and Key West are gentrifying. High real estate prices and a changing ethos are transforming these neighborhoods from bastions of wild nightlife to comfortable places to raise kids, and there is attendant hand-wringing over the disappearance of a vibrant culture, along with soul-searching about whether there's even a reason for gay neighborhoods anymore.

There is a long discussion to be had about the mainstreaming of homosexuality in America, the consequent coming out of a more diverse group of gay men and women, and the ongoing debate over gay assimilationism. But I'd rather talk about hipsters and real estate.

To understand what's happening to America's gay neighborhoods, it helps to look at how they were formed. America's gay community more or less began with the Stonewall riots and their aftermath. Though usually not presented as such, these events were part of the larger 1960s embrace of counterculture and individual freedoms. It's no accident that both hippies and gays were into free love, drugs, leftist politics and bikers (though the fascination with bikers remains something of a mystery). Like the hippies, the founders of America's gay communities tended to be white middle-class baby boomers, and they colonized many of the same neighborhoods (the Castro is just blocks from Haight-Ashbury).

The changes in America's gay enclaves mirror the changes in formerly bohemian neighborhoods that are not specifically associated with gay life: it's not just the Castro and Greenwich Village that have seen skyrocketing housing prices, but also the East Village, SoHo, the Mission District, SoMa, and pretty much every other patch of once-hip ground in America's major cities. For the first time in memory, there is no bohemian frontier in Manhattan.

This connects with another recent Times story, this one noting the discovery by bohemian types of Staten Island's North Shore. I've long believed that the best way to tell what's going to be incredibly fashionable in three to five years is to look for whatever is most egregiously unhip now (which means, among other things, that you should be preparing to grow your hair out and unmothball your flannels) , and it's hard to think of anything less cool than the suburbs.

But will hipsters who are priced out of the city really start moving to little houses in Jersey and Staten Island? Hard to say at this point, though I will raise the possibility that a generation raised on Facebook and Craigslist may feel less compelled to form hipster neighborhoods than their forbears. What made the suburbs so awful was isolation, and the Internet provides a way to overcome that isolation without spending $1300 a month to live with rats and roaches. And there is much ironic fun to be had in a lifestyle that embraces garden gnomes.

I now live in a perfectly nice neighborhood that has yet to be discovered by hipsters. Down in Bay Ridge, we have trees, houses, lower rents and safer streets than in Bushwick, and I can still get on the subway and go to Manhattan. Am I part of a vanguard, or just out in left field? Time will tell.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Recently I had a conversation that turned to politics: specifically, we began to wonder exactly how Mayor McCheese achieved his mandate.

Well, now I know. And it's not pretty.

Based on this commercial — a rare look into the Hermit Kingdom that is McDonaldland — it appears that the McCheese regime went through the motions of an election, sort of the way the old Soviet Union used to do, and with about the same sense of fair play. Mayor McCheese seems to be running unopposed, but even so, the Hamburglar is busily stuffing ballot boxes. And the real power behind the throne, of course, is Ronald McDonald, Father of the Nation, who tells McCheese what to say, counts the ballots and announces the results.

Actually, this bizarre pastiche of banana-republican politics is one of a series of old McDonald's commercials that are all deeply bizarre and well worth viewing (via Slate).

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

[living alone]

The other night I came home from work, went into the kitchen, noticed that the sink was empty of dirty dishes, and felt a wave of gratitude to the person who had washed them all. This was followed by a fleeting instant of panic over who had washed them all, because no one else should have been in my apartment. Then I immediately realized that I had washed them all.

It was maybe another fifteen seconds before I realized that I could still feel gratitude to the person who had washed the dishes.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

[gowanus + art = agast]

It's once again coming to that wonderful time of year when the leaves fall into the toxic soup we know and love as the Gowanus Canal, and the artists in the neighborhood open their studios to share their fume-inspired creations. This is the Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour (AGAST), of which I am a devoted fan. The tour is actually a really cool opportunity not just to see lots of inspired and interesting art — everything from conceptual installations to marble sculpture to a stained-glass studio — but to get inside those weird, funky, fascinating old industrial buildings that dot the landscape. Plus, you will surely consume your fill of Goldfish, mini-KitKats and cheap

The tour will be taking place from 1 to 6 on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21. As usual, I'm going to try and visit as many of the galleries as I can. Hope to see you there!

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

[nuclear progress]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

[korea? i hardly know ya!]

Last week was a hectic one here at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN. A quiet lull, during which most of our staff seemed to be out at JFK to meet Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, gave way to an unusual burst of activity, as I spent the better part of a week going back and forth with the Minister's team as we revised and refined his statement to the General Assembly, as well as his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. At one point, I was even invited to a breakfast meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Whether all this work resulted in anything worthwhile, I leave it for you to judge (PDF/webcast), but I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of it.

Now that the Foreign Minister has gone home, things have settled down considerably, though there's still plenty of work to be done. Tonight, though, we'll have our annual reception in honor of Dangun, the legendary founder of the Korean people, whose heroic act is mysteriously commemorated according to the Gregorian calendar. What this means for me is free hors d'oeuvres tonight, as well as an opportunity to check out a bunch of ladies in hanbok, and then the day off tomorrow for what is officially termed National Foundation Day.

Labels: , , ,

Previous Posts

[things i'd like to write about but haven't]
[drop the red lantern]
[how not to apply for a job]
[pop is the new alternative]
[what does it all mean?]
[national fears]
[lies, damn lies, and sound effects]
[our pakistan moment?]
[how to fail like an olympian]
[cold winters]


July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
April 2010
January 2011
February 2011
July 2011


New York Buddhist Gcal

Please Donate

[Seva Foundation]
[Médicins Sans Frontieres]


Robin's group blog.

Bits of Bliss
Things to be happy about. Add your own!

Blissfully Emparadoxed
T's personal blog.

Kate's l337 Journal
All you ever wanted to know about lung transplants and Star Wars.

La Roja Viaje
A blog about training ESL teachers in Kuwait.

Blog of journalist Miriam Joyce.

Pagan Mom
The trials and tribulations of raising Josh's Pagan godson.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Polenbergs, ever.

She Changes Everything She Touches
Rebecca's personal blog.