Friday, July 29, 2005

Positive Thought Vibrations

I went shopping at Urban Outfitters recently, and ended up picking up one of those cheesy Urban Outfitters books that happened to be on clearance for $2.50. (You know the kind I'm talking about -- they're all very tongue in cheek style guides, when you boil them down.) This one's title? "Enough, dammit: A cynic's guide to finally getting what you want out of life."

Forgive me for succumbing to buying a self-help book from fucking Urban Outfitters of all places, but come on, it was only $2.50. I expected it to be something I plowed through once and forgot about, and possibly gave to someone as a Christmas gift, but I have been pleasantly surprised. Blown away, even. The book is divided into a series of "life lessons" based on what the writer describes as "serious, complicated life theories (from Modern Cognitive Psychology, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Sociology, Biology, Eastern Philosophy, Darwinism, Quantum Physics, the Zen of Enchiladas...and then some.)"

Sounds like bullshit, right? Right.


Here's the portion that impressed me:

Life Lesson #6

You recognize there are also spiritual and scientific reasons why negative thinking brings negative life circumstances.

Luckily you can also sum all them up in one simple sentence: Many Spiritual Theorists and Quantum Physicists believe that thoughts are a form of vibrating energy that attract similarly vibrating energy fields (i.e. people and circumstances) accordingly.

Luckily you can also sum all that up in a simple metaphor: Thoughts work like magnets. You attract what you think.

Hence: Synchronicity exists. Nothing is random.

Interestingly, many Spiritual Theorists and Quantum Physicists also believe that if you consistently think positive thoughts you will not only attract more will raise your thought frequency to what some call Spirit Energy...and some call Higher Consciousness...a level so high in vibration that it supposedly connects to the energy of the entire universe...or what Albert Einstein called "Infinite Intelligence"...what Einstein believed to be a humongous invisible thought ocean where all the answers you've ever tried to look for can be found.

Ok, despite the fact that it's irritating that the author chooses to capitalize "Spiritual Theorists" and "Quantum Physicists," HOLY SHIT.

Seriously, think about this for a minute. Yes, it's new age-y. Yes, it sounds hokey. But (and fine, I'm placing my trust in a self help book I bought at hipster ground zero) no less a mind than Einstein bought it.

This was an epiphany for me. One of those moments where you can almost hear the click.

Positive thoughts are good for your life. Not that that's such a difficult concept to grasp, but, um, science confirms this.

I needed a real impetus to stop being so negative. I needed to improve my life. What more can one ask for?

And amazingly, I think it's working. I feel much more content lately. (Although that could just be the positive thinking.) But when it comes down to it, who cares?

Brianlynch, are you reading this?

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Human Girth Scale

My sister and I, we're sick. We're obsessive, hyper neurotic people, and we're also complete bitches. Like most girls, we've been at various levels on the scale and have tried many foolish and not so foolish regimens in sometimes desperate attempts to get to our preferred size. We're so hung up on this shit that on a recent drive across the country (in a covered wagon, but that's for another post) we concocted a system for classifying all humans according to their size, or girth.

There are essentially six stages of human girth on this scale. There are also a few special types, but we'll cover those later.

Stage 1: Skinny
This is self explanatory. We're talking a skin and bones type of person here. A stringbean. A beanpole. Skeletor types, if you want to be mean about it. Keckie insists that I mention that the natural Skinny type will always be skinny no matter what or how much he or she eats. Anorexics don't really count, because they usually pork back up to normal at some point or another.
Famous examples: Kate Moss, Uma Thurman, Martin McFriend

Joey Ramone is a prototypical Skinny

Stage 2: Fit
Essentially this is a Skinny with muscles. Olympians. Shape magazine models. Hot dude soccer players.
Famous examples: The Venus Williams Sisters, Ryan Reynolds, Christian Bale, Britney Spears before she got all white trash up in that bitch (essentially pre K-Fed), the Pressnalls

Ok, these dudes are complete cheesedicks, but check out the abs!

Stage 3: Average
Average, not fat type of people. They can be fit, just not really lean. They might have a figure flaw, like a gut or a big ass, but are essentially in good condition. The Average category encompasses most of you and the people you know.
Famous examples: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Will Farrell, Ryan Adams, Kate Winslet (although she may be a Skinny now)

Looking average, feeling great.

Stage 4: Plumpkin
This is a category for people who have started to creep outside the boundaries of what is acceptable. Like they should probably drop 20, but you can still see a shadow of the fit/average person they once were, so it's kind of weird to look at them because you're still freaked out about that double chin. Let these people serve as a warning to you.
Famous examples: It's difficult to be famous at this level, because it's really neither here nor there. Actually, the current Courtney Love is a textbook Plumpkin. But I bet she'll be back to skinny in no time, or at least as soon as that adderol prescription gets filled. Also maybe Jack Black.

These are Plumpkins. Although one could argue that the guy with the black tanktop is on the Plumpkin/Average cusp.

Stage 5: Blimpus
Now this is where you are when you've officially let yourself go. Blimpuses do not go out for a jog, not ever - they would prefer to eat treats and watch tv. They are the people who buy the pound cake at the gas station. Blimpuses have to lose at least 50lbs to be hot. This is a look that's frequently sported in the midwest, and may not even be a deterrant to getting laid there.
Famous examples: Star Jones, Rosie O'Donnell, Horatio Sanz, Randy Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor

I don't know what this guy's doing, but he's a well formed Blimpus.

Stage 6: Blimp
If you've gotten here, Zod help you because you've passed the point of no return.
Famous examples: that woman who became fused to her couch, Hambone, John Candy, Marlon Brando in his later years

Damn girl. Best lay off the Krispy Kremes.

Any questions?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

This just in: Cheesy people have more fun

I got another terrific response from Bobo in NYC, who had this to say in response to my hipster diatribe:

cheesy people have more fun. i believe this.

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of all of the classifications and definitions that label and segregate us (the hipsters, the artists, the punk rockers, the nerds, the hippies, etc.) i think the cheeseballs have the most fun of all. they're feelers. they express joy and delight in things most of us are to shy to admit to liking because it's not cool. i aim to embrace my inner cheeseball who i know lives within. i am going to feed her all the obvious and trivial and unsophisticated pleasures her heart desires. if she wants to rent Steel Magnolias, i'm not gonna stop her. if she wants to turn up Against All Odds by mr. Phil Collins when it comes on the radio, how can I deny her that when she loves it so - especially when Phil is BEGGING his lost lady love to turn around and see him cry, to take a look at him now, take a good look at him NOW. and if she wants to read that Cosmo article on how to dress 10 pounds thinner on the train home, she's not going to hide the cover under her Time magazine (which she steals from the office - she's cheesy but she's no angel). she's devoted to PBS, but sometimes the cheeseball wants to watch Girlfriends on the UPN. And why the hell not. Why the hell not indeed. Girlfriends is a hoot and a half. It's more fun than her usual diet of WWII documentaries and NOVA specials. And life could stand to be a little less serious sometimes. A little less profound.

Amen sister. Keep on keepin' it real.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Die, Hipsters, Die

Great article ran in the LA Times today about the backlash against hipsters, and I couldn't be more delighted. It appears that in my long running hatred of hipsters I have finally managed to be on the cutting edge of something. (Wow, does it get any more ironic than that? Maybe I really am a hipster after all.)

What this article points out that I've been saying for years is that hipsterism is so clearly rooted in insecurity and a desperate need to belong to something. It's not even about liking things, and music here is the obvious scapegoat, but you could substitute it for vintage clothing or the right haircut or whatever. You just get the distinct feeling that a lot of time these people aren't in it for the right reasons.

Let's face it, we all want to be attractive and cool, because at the heart of it we all just want to be loved (or at least get laid.) And I'm no different. But once you get to the point where you won't acknowledge someone's existence because they aren't aware of something like how to pronounce the name of the band !!!, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I mean for Zod's sake, look at this poor misguided soul. She doesn't look cool. She just looks foolish.

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If it's hip and trendy, they're not interested
In an age saturated with microtrends, some people are turning their backs on cool.

By Christian M. Chensvold, Special to The LA Times

For Melinda Wilferd, nightlife in Los Angeles was a lot like high school. The 35-year-old ran with a crowd that often went to parties in downtown lofts, "where all the faces turn around and look at you, assessing whether or not you're going to fit in the hipster club." Where if you enjoy watching TV, you're held beneath contempt. And where "they talk about music like it's some revelation."

The pretension and callowness finally got to her, and one night "I told my friends I can't do this anymore." She began exploring wine bars and jazz clubs in search of more fulfilling nightlife — and to get away from hipsters. "Now I'm more interested in what pleases me," says the employee of a major cable network. "I just want my little place in this mad, mad world."

The hypnosis of hipsterism is entrenched among many of L.A.'s urban sophisticates, especially those who work in the trend-driven industries of media, music and fashion. But for many twenty-, thirty- and fortysomethings, the appeal of being cool and edgy is rapidly deteriorating. "The last identity you would want to claim now is a hipster," says John Leland, author of "Hip: The History." "It's the worst of insults."

Just what is hip has become nebulous in a digital age of microtrends, when a cultural blip goes from underground to overexposed in one season. Likewise, the original concept of hip as something outside the purview of the mainstream has been replaced by the hipstream: mainstream cool packaged by corporate marketing departments.

The inevitable backlash — not against the bohemian veritas but the sycophantic consumer of cool — is well underway.

"The whole point of being hip in the pure sense of the word is to essentially be oblivious to it," says Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "Now the only thing you can describe a hipster as being is a 'hipster' in quotation marks. Almost by definition a hipster is a wannabe."

If hipness is losing its appeal, it may have to do with how difficult it is to stay ahead of the curve.

In a recent issue of his JC Report, a global fashion and lifestyle trend report, Jason Campbell prophesized "the downfall of the hipster." Staying cool, says the fashion trend forecaster, "has become a bit of a joke at this point. It's a rat race that's really difficult to keep up with, and a lot of people are bowing out."

A fashion-designer friend of Campbell's recently confessed that he was so overwhelmed by the endless barrage of new designer denim brands that he vowed to wear only classic Levi's 501s as a form of protest. "People aren't feeling they need to run out and pick up the latest thing that whatever celebrity of the moment has," Campbell says. "They're returning to things that resonate with them and are part of their personal style."

"I think people are exhausted by trends that have the half-life of a millisecond," Leland says. "You live in a state of perpetual whiplash, in which the minute you're up on one trend it's gone and you should be on to another."

Unlike the beatnik '50s, when discovering some gem of cultural arcana involved real detective work, today getting hip to the latest blog or indie rock band is as easy as logging on to the Internet. "We're in a post-hip era, which means everybody's hip," says Leland. "I can't tell you how many churches I've been in where the pastor has a goatee, tattoos and earrings."

So if everybody's hip, then let's be unhip, and indeed, what a very hip idea. Some people are just fed up with the whole enterprise.

Jane Fontana writes "hard, electronic music" for the entertainment industry and spent 10 years living in Hollywood before turning her back on hipster-infested urban life. Last year she bought a cabin in the Angeles National Forest near Tujunga. Though it's only 35 miles from Hollywood, in an industry where people judge your prestige by your area code, she might as well have moved to Idaho.

"If you connect in the hipster scene, you'll make it in [show] business," she says, "because all the people on the business side never think they're cool enough. The hipster scene avoids the search for oneself in a big way. It's not about finding your voice; it's all about conformity."

Fontana, 42, says that leaving L.A. has brought her peace of mind, boosted her creativity and helped her live more authentically. She recently threw a party at her cabin, where the appeal of getting back to nature — and away from Hollywood — was not lost on the hipster guests. The writers, artists and filmmakers in attendance checked their networking compulsion at the door and engaged in genuine conversation, Fontana says. "They felt like they'd gotten away from what they have to be and could be what they are."

Erica Timmerman realized she didn't care about trying to be hip anymore when, at age 30, her doctor told her she had thyroid cancer. The diagnosis annihilated her ambitions to be a walking pop culture encyclopedia or to cultivate a pose of ironic detachment. Cancer, after all, doesn't respond to wisecracks.

"When you think you might die, you look at your life and realize what's important to you," says Timmerman.

The now 40-year-old Silver Lake resident has felt pressure since adolescence to be considered cool. That pressure, along with her cancer, is now in remission. "And I'm not going to let anyone dictate how I'm supposed to look or act, and stop trying to be something I'm not," says Timmerman.

The satirists

Like Silver Lake, its L.A. equivalent, New York's Williamsburg neighborhood has watched itself go from hipster epicenter to hipster punch line.

Twenty-six-year-old "office slave" and aspiring novelist Brian Bernbaum founded the blog, under the pseudonym Aimee Plumley, while living in Williamsburg. Based on the outcry against his mockery, "you would've thought there was a revolution going on," he says.

Bernbaum was inspired by what he viewed as a pose adopted by hipsters to deliberately obfuscate human interaction. "I felt people wouldn't level with you, that they were giving you their résumé of cool. You could never really get anything out of people that seemed like normal social interaction." Conversations at clubs and parties became "a one-upmanship of pop culture encyclopedias."

Any hip community eventually becomes a parody of itself, says Robert Lanham, author of "The Hipster Handbook" (2002), which many perceived as a marketing gimmick put out by corporate media but which was, in fact, a skewering of Williamsburg hipsters by the 34-year-old humorist and co-founder of, a neighborhood blog and culture guide.

Lanham's follow-up, last year's "Food Court Druids, Cherohonkees, and Other Creatures Unique to the Republic," takes the parody a step further and includes a chapter on "cryptsters," or aging hipsters. "There's also this new breed of pseudo-bohemians or fauxhemians," says the author, "a facade of hipsters trying to play the bohemian role, but their parents are paying their rent."

Dropping out of the hipster scene has made Bernbaum use his time in more personally fulfilling ways, he says. "And it's a lot cheaper." The downside is that he's floating in social limbo. "The youth of New York is geared toward hipster things. I've just withdrawn from the people I didn't feel it was worth my time hanging out with. But I haven't really found an alternate world of people."


Adrienne Crew stops short of using a term such as "new sincerity" but says she's noticed a growing interest among young urbanites to simplify their lives. Crew, a 40-year-old attorney and "brainiac" writing a novel on African American geeks, is the founder of, a blog and calendar listing of intellectual events around L.A.

"I'm seeing these youngsters who are really looking for expressions of unmediated experience, fun that's not created by consumer culture," she says. A growing trend she sees as a reaction to hipsterism is "granny chic," or social groups centered around archaic hobbies. Stitch and Bitch and The Church of Craft are two Los Angeles-based examples of groups that gather to work on quilting, needlework, paper craft and lace making — in unabashed earnestness.

Crew also cites the Machine Project, a group that combines performance art with science, hosting workshops on such topics as how to build a radio. Says Crew, "Every two days I get these e-mails that go, 'Hey, kids, we've got this goofy thing we're going to be doing, so bring anything you want demagnetized!' "

For Leland, cultivating one's inner garden is the perfect antidote to the overexposure of hip. He suggests nourishing "secrets" or "private knowledge" one keeps to oneself, like a diary locked with a key, rather than a blog for the whole world to see.

Bernbaum wonders if conservatism from the heartland may be infiltrating hipster-heavy metropolises, "making people seek out something more meaningful" in their lives.

In hipster and media-driven Los Angeles, it's easy to forget that most Angelenos ages 25 to 40 don't wear checkered Vans with distressed blazers or go to downtown gallery openings or Echo Park dive bars., once an underground website for hipsters seeking jobs and apartments, now boasts an activities section packed with people seeking irony-free social connections in such humdrum activities as chess, badminton, lacrosse, foreign language study, outrigger canoeing and the Hermosa Beach Lawn Bowling Club.

Best get involved now, before they become hip.

I got a Hippo from Harpo whose appetite’s hungry

Well shit. Maybe Oprah really is evil.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Soul Meets Body

1. Some great downloads today on the music blogs. I highly recommend each of these, so get 'em while they're hot.

New Death Cab (Via Welcome to the Midwest)

New Nada Surf

Okkervil River (Via Welcome to the Midwest)

The National (Via Largehearted Boy)

Magnolia Electric Company (Via Welcome to the Midwest)

Also check out the Brendan Benson song on stereogum. Great stuff.

2. I mean, maybe they don't quite have their terminology right, but I've said it before, I'll say it again. Nerds are cool.

3. My sister and I spotted Lindsay Lohan shopping at the Grove on Saturday. I'm happy to report that she looked much more like a normal teenage girl and much less like a 40 year old crack whore.

4. Happy 24th to Moady/Moe Rock/Moe Busy/Sweet 'lil Moady/The Angry Youth/Moadus/Mokel. Come over and see us sometime, big boy.

Coming soon: The Human Girth Scale

Stay tuned.

Thank you.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Chalk one up for Indie 103

So I was listening to Jonesy's Jukebox on the way home from work the other day (I ran out of cds to listen to) and Billy Corgan was playing an acoustic set. I caught the tail end of him playing "Now and Then" from his new album (which is actually not bad from what I've heard), and after he finished Jonesy said "that sounded a bit like America." Billy Corgan was horrified. Then Jonesy mumbled and backpedaled a little and was like (of course you must imagine this in a thick british accent), "no, no, it was more like Bread." Billy: "that's even worse!"


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Candy is dandy...

You know it's a good day when the Wall Street Journal tells you it's ok to drink, and that it in fact may make you a better and richer person. I've been a teetotaler lately for a variety of reasons, but I think this is a clear indication that my course of action has been misguided and downright detrimental to my mental, emotional, and (most importantly) fiscal well being.

Drink More, Earn More (& Give More)
By Arthur C. Brooks - July 13, 2005

W.C. Fields once recommended, "Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake." Traditionally, practical rationales for drinking were unconvincing, at best. More recently, however, alcohol's reputation has improved as new benefits from drinking have come to light. Best known are the studies showing the health benefits of moderate alcohol use. It is now so well established that it is almost a cliché that red wine lowers the risk of heart disease. A new study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute also claims that drinkers may have a lower risk of lymphoma than nondrinkers.

Economists assert that benefits from alcohol are also financial, showing that moderate drinking is associated with higher earnings. If two workers are identical in education, age, and other characteristics except that the first has a couple of beers each night after work while the second is a teetotaler, the first will tend to enjoy a "drinker's bonus" in the range of 10% to 25% higher wages. (Don't get carried away with this information, though. Research also shows that beyond about two drinks per day, wages start to fall.)

While it is clear that drinking and prosperity are related, the reasons why are still obscure. Some economists believe that the health benefits of moderate drinking make for greater productivity. Others argue that alcohol is a social lubricant: People who drink together get along better, and make deals. Another possibility is that people who enjoy professional success tend to experience pressure, and so "self-medicate." Whatever the reason, a little drinking might seem like a pleasant way to invest in one's career.

Recently, while toasting the drinker's bonus with a friend, he asked me whether drinking might not be related to virtuous behavior as well: Are moderate drinkers more likely to give to charity? A worthy question, so I did a bit of analysis and found that, indeed, moderate drinkers tend to be more charitable than nondrinkers. For example, 54% of nondrinkers contribute to charity each year, giving away an average of $1,100. In contrast, 62% of those who take one to two drinks per day have an average annual giving level of $1,200. The alcohol effect has diminishing returns, however: Just 40% of people drinking five or more drinks per day are donors, and they give only $230 per year on average. (So once you get past two or three, you have to stop claiming you're "doing it for a good cause.")

The only exception to the pattern of "charity drinking" is the case of giving to religious organizations, which sees a negative impact from alcohol use. For all other types of donations -- to the poor, hospitals, schools, the arts, international aid, etc. -- drinking pushes giving up.

Perhaps you are thinking that this is just a side-effect of income or education differences between moderate drinkers and abstainers. After all, teetotalers have lower average incomes than social drinkers, which might explain why they give less away. But the matter is more complex. Compare two people who are the same in terms of income, education and even religion, but where one drinks moderately and the other doesn't: The drinker will give between $50 and $100 more to charity each year.

Shakespeare's Pericles warned that, one sin "another doth provoke." In the case of booze, however, the good news is that one sin a few virtues doth provoke. So what's the practical advice in all this? As summer broils you, pour yourself a cool drink and raise your glass to your favorite charity. But stop at two and don't forget to write the check.

Monday, July 11, 2005

L.A. Scavenger Hunt

(Pilfered from Vice Magazine's Guide to LA, which is actually pretty decent despite the requisite (and by now cliched) misogyny and general trying-too-hard to be irreverant Vice style)

How many of these people do you know?

Also be sure to check out the bars listed and the suggestions for non-drunks. Good stuff.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Have they perfected human cloning yet?

If so, can someone make me a Stephen Malkmus of my own?

He dislikes hippies, he loves Herman Melville, he's all about grace under pressure. (Me too.)

Choice snippet from what seems like a very off the cuff (sans publicist) interview with the man:

Given the opportunity to choose, how would you like to die?
Age 90, with a cigar and a steak and in a very manly way holding my cane across my legs.