I have been daydreaming about it and listening to the music and watching the black-and-white movies right along. Now, at the age of 43, I find myself in the midst of this swing craze and in a lot of respects it's fabulous because you can find more and more good bands to listen to, but when I go to a dance and I am singing along with the music I get strange looks and comments. A lot of kids are just dancing, but in defense of some swingers, they do appreciate the swing roots and the era. I have met a few (thank heavens) who really know who Betty Grable is and what a pinup girl really looks like.
I could go on forever, but will end with thanks for the memories, even if they aren't really mine!
The Weekly's slobbering love-letter to the so-called "vintagely correct" appalled me ("The Vintage People"). What we have here is not a significant cultural movement, but yet another generation of spoiled white children playing dress-up -- most likely to mitigate socialization tragedies that scarred them in high school.
What's worse, the precious scenesters have the gall to indict the so-called Lindy Hoppers and grunge types, as if their expressions of self are any less culturally valid. This isn't about "cultural authenticity"! It's about getting trashed, getting laid, finding a scene, and fitting in. These are the four factors that draw any hipster to any music-based subculture, be it swing, grunge, hip hop, Britpop, or whatever.
While well-written, the article was a journalistic disappointment insomuch that it failed to press the vintagely correct on the purity of their worldview. Did any of these nouveau-retro hipsters join the volunteer force to combat Slobodan Milosevic and his campaign to swallow the Balkans? Wouldn't that be the vintagely correct thing to do? After all, in a simpler time, their cultural models enlisted to fight Hitler, right? And how do the vintagely correct explain away Jim Crow, lynchings, and the communist witch hunts? Or are these questions of little relevance to spoiled white children with too much time on their hands?
And for that matter, how come I didn't see any African, Asian, or Latino sources quoted in the article? Could it be that people of these ethnic heritages are vintagely incorrect in the small scheme of things?
Finally, I have to question the depth of the author's reporting. I am familiar with one of the featured sources, and see him about town quite frequently. Yet I have never, ever seen him in vintage clothing, only jeans and modern mall fair -- the very clothing he so ardently criticizes. Perhaps for some scenesters, vintage purity is just for drunken boozing at the DeLuxe.
Techies Are People, Too
Jack Boulware tackled a hard subject and did something useful in turning the wit of an old social critic against a new crop of millionaires ("Revenge of the Leisure Class"). It's good to see someone writing about Veblen and lamenting the "rampant excesses" of consumption today.
But the writer lost me when he went off on a rant against the PalmPilot computer. If he needed a status symbol to attack, he should have chosen a genuinely useless item, a trophy rather than a little machine that's two parts tool and three parts intellectual challenge. The appeal of this item to the geek community -- the reason it developed a cult following in the first place -- has everything to do with its programmability. Programmers buy the machine not to show how rich they are (older models sell for as little as $150), but to pit their skills and ingenuity against the constraints of a hand-held device. Whatever its ancillary, status-enhancing uses, the PalmPilot rose to fame on a wave of hands-on, unaristocratic, do-it-yourself geek energy.
Which brings me to my main point. In writing about the new computer-based wealth and attendant cultural phenomena, it's important, I think, to distinguish between the money people and the technical people. While the two groups may overlap -- inventors of new technologies do sometimes found companies and become, ultimately, more concerned with business than with hardware or software -- the groups really do have distinct belief systems and distinct codes of conduct. It's misleading to lump the programmers in with the "suits" (even if the so-called "suits" are wearing khaki and some programmers are generously paid). I suspect that if Veblen were writing today, he'd be making a finer-grained (and therefore more biting) analysis of Silicon Valley culture.
Gourmet, Gourmand, S.F., L.A. What's the Difference?
In [the July 28] edition of the Weekly, I notice at least two uses of the word "gourmand" -- one in Dog Bites: "And have you noticed, as Dog Bites has, that every activist in this town is also a gourmand? Why, even Kevin 'Nestor Makhno' Keating is fond of Basque food, albeit at Fringale."; the other in the first paragraph of your feature article, "Revenge of the Leisure Class," referring to the Black Diamond as "a truffle so precious that gourmands will pay up to $500 a pound for it."
I am wondering if "gourmand" has become the fashionable word to use at LA Weekly [sic], replacing the once overused and abused "gourmet." While studying French, it was pointed out to me that a gourmet and gourmand are different and the Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary (which is the only available one where I work) agrees. In France, the word "gourmet" is used as a word of respect, while "gourmand" is used derogatorily in specifically referring to a glutton, and this is reflected in the dictionary definition of the word: "gourmand n. [ME gourmant, glutton; OFr. gourmant] One who delights in eating heartily and well. usage: A gourmand is one who loves good food and drink and sometimes partakes of them to excess; a gourmet or an epicure, on the other hand, has discriminating and cultivated taste in food and wine."
My point is that it would appear -- at least in the article on the truffle -- that the word "gourmet" would be the one to choose, since truffles are used by discriminating eaters and by necessity in small portions, considering their high prices. The argument for using "gourmand" or "gourmet" in the Dog Bites article could swing both ways, depending on the writer's intention. The word "gourmand" would be a much more clever slam, since it might expose the would-be gourmet for what he or she might really be.
The credit for a photograph appearing with the Aug. 4 Night Crawler column was incorrect. The picture of mikl-em as Hugo Ball was taken by Colin Fahrion.
A photograph that appeared with the July 28 story "Revenge of the Leisure Class" was incorrectly identified as Thorstein Veblen in old age. The picture was actually of Veblen's father.
SF Weekly regrets the errors.