Your Life is a Lie (well, some of it.)

You’ve cemented yourself as a hipster within your community of friends and coworkers, and are contentedly lapping up their mixture of scorn, admiration and envy. But contentedness is mainstream. You don’t plateau — you always keep going up and up until your run out of sky and end up in space, and then you can’t stop even if you wanted to, doomed to spend the rest of your days floating in black void praying some passing meteor will hit you and put you out of your tortured existence. And they say I’m not good with analogies.

But anyway, you may feel like you’ve exhausted all potential areas in which to be hipster. Whether this makes you elated as being some kind of king hipster, or depressed that you can’t find new areas in which to pretentiously judge others, you’re wrong either way. There is one area, one sacred alcove to which no one but the most dedicated go. One place that lurks in the beautiful mysteries of the mind, an alternative sanctuary that can only be whispered lest its hidden wonders should vanish. A place of intense psychological revelation so severe many question its reality. It is an arena in which no one would play, an end to complacency and an end to plateaus. It is…pencils, of course.

We are taught that pencils pale in comparison to the might of the modern pen. We are taught the pain and labor of sharpening a pencil is all for only to have the pencil scratch across the page before breaking. In an age when mass produced ball point pens are preferred over pencils, when, on the rare occasion, pencils are used, Ticonderoga is considered “luxury,” and–screw the rest of these cinematic-trailer builds. Let’s face it: you use pens in your life. Most likely those cheap black pens that are already half chewed and you’re only using out of desperation. Even with the wretchedness of such a writing utensil, you still feel guilty about brutally using it and then routinely discarding it in the trash, like a one-night stand (which is a companionable atmosphere, kids, in which two people enjoy good conversation and then say goodnight with a hearty handshake) that leaves the pen emotionally torn-up and scarred. You don’t want to live like that.

Buy Blackwing. Save a pen's life.

Buy Blackwing. Save a pen from psychiatric care.

Thank God, there’s a solution: Palomino Blackwing pencils. Did you know pencils could be as, “smooth and sinuous as a saxophone solo?” These can. As any Amazon reviewer will tell you, these are not just your ordinary Ticonderoga Number 2 pencils (they’d probably add a derisive snort and a pretentious flip of the scarf). Seriously, reading the Amazon reviews, you’d never think they’d be talking about something as ordinary as pencils. Indeed, one reviewer suggests this pencil is not palpable for the masses, but is instead for those who are:

brave enough to think outside the box of all the zombies of the world, that is, all the followers who never think for themselves and simply believe what they were told and never question their cherished and most likely outdated beliefs.

Pictured: Ticonderoga pencil user.

Pictured: Ticonderoga pencil user.

Try replacing the word “pencil” in this one with Cuban cigars, whiskey, or absinth (if you’re into that):

This is my guilty pleasure. These pencils are beautiful, smooth and luxurious. If you want to spoil yourself, give these a try. Just don’t get addicted 😉

If random internet-goers aren’t enough to convince you, what about a man who invited strangers into his trailer to drink alcohol with him? I’m talking, of course, about John Steinbeck, known pencil aficionado. In writing East of Eden, he used over 3oo pencils. On Palomino Blackwings he had to say:

I have found a new kind of pencil—the best I have ever had. it is black and soft but doesn’t break off. I think I will always use these. They are called Blackwings and they really glide over the paper. And brother, they have some gliding to do before I am finished.

While that last line sounds somewhat like a bizarre sexual innuendo, it still seems ridiculous for anyone to have such strong opinions on pencils. But I’ve used them (at first just out of pure curiosity. Who the hell spends $4 per pencil?), and now I understand. I could tell you about how they enhanced everyday, made my life a little better, helped me create beautiful things, formed an earthly paradise, but that would be a lie–they caused me to transcend the physical world and enter Nirvana (spoiler alert: it doesn’t smell like teen spirit). From a position of experience, I can assure you that the expensiveness, the look, and the firm belief in superiority of these pencils is plenty to expand your hipster realm into the area of writing utensils, and put you ahead of those obnoxious, narcissistic Ticonderago users.

The days of your egotistical lies are over.

The days of your egotistical lies are over.

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The Excuse for Everything

We’ve all been there (maybe we all haven’t. What’s important is that have) – standing in front of some item in a department store, an item somewhat controversial to the existing social order within your group of acquaintances or perhaps society in general. You worry not so much about the price or its practicality, but with how friends, strangers, and Jim the Walmart greeter will judge you if you suddenly showed up one day with such an item. Maybe you bought the item and were judged horribly, exiled from society, and  forced to move to Lhasa and become a Buddhist monk. Thankfully, in these advanced times, no one will ever have to endure a lifetime of chanting sutras and cold heads in the high Tibetan Plateaus because of a salesman assuring you that that plaid jacket and leather pants “just look terrific!” on you.

Are you kidding? Corsets are definitely in right now.

Are you kidding? Corsets are definitely in right now.

How can this be?! you ask, wiping a joyful tear from your eye. With irony. Now, whatever decision you make that would otherwise incur ridicule and shame upon you and possibly merit complete banishment from civilization can be handily explained by the sentence: “I’m doing it ironically.” Stripes and plaid? Irony. Cat with Buddy Holly glasses t-shirt? Irony. Mass human sacrifice? Irony.*

*Warning: “I was doing it ironically” is not a valid alibi in court for slaughtering thousands to make the sun rise.

Calm down haven't you ever seen irony before?

Calm down haven’t you ever seen irony before?

The convention of doing things “ironically,” is essentially a deliberate engaging in an either commonly scorned, overly popular, or ridiculously outdated custom, fully aware of the negative opinion associated with it, in an attempt to showcase one’s complex and vibrant personality, to let free the true individual struggling to escape the confines of their self-doubting soul, through….wearing leg-warmers, apparently. Anyway, regardless of its actual meaning, the socially awkward can capitalize on the phenomenon and free themselves from embarrassment with that magic excuse: “I’m doing it ironically.”

Examples of irony are abundant in modern culture. Take those Buddy Holly glasses I mentioned earlier (the uncultured fool would call them “nerd” glasses). Now these big-rimmed, thick glasses have, for decades, been

It's okay kids. There'll be other dreams.

It’s okay kids. There’ll be other dreams.

associated with nerds, so much so that even a polo-playing, billionaire with a British accent with such glasses could never get a date. But now modern culture has adopted these glasses into the mainstream, almost erasing their original, less-desireable associations along with the hopes and dreams of thousands of would-be Buddy Holly look-alikes. Will this new popularity, and consequent non-ironicy, force Buddy-Holly-glasses wearer into a more drastic representation of the nerd? Will people be encouraging acne, total knowledge of ever Lord of the Rings character, and lack of athletic ability? If so, I’ll be very popular in the next few years.

P.S. – There’s only one thing that cannot be excused with that wonderful irony: crocs. I don’t care if your great-grandfather on his deathbed gave them to you. Crocs are not okay.

Are You a Hipster?

Judging from their faces, I just lost my key demographic.

“‘Incapable of understanding?’ So we’re stupid? You just lost your Uzbekistan audience.”

The first rule of being a hipster is: Don’t talk about being a hipster. For those who haven’t seen Fight Club: “The first tenet of being a hipster can be explained with Scripture, for it is written: “They shall know you are hipster by your subscription to vinyl of the month clubs.” Certain portions of my demographic (namely, southwest Uzbekistan) are incapable of understanding either of those references, so I’ll state it bluntly: You are not a hipster if you say you are. In fact, the true hipster, that shining model of alternative perfection, that god of vinyl, that king of pretentiousness, will never once utter the  self-description of hipster. It just doesn’t happen. Indeed, they’ll even deny it vehemently, waving whatever they were pickling last in anger.  It’s not that the entire city of Portland is in denial. No, 93.78% (the percent has a decimal, so you know it’s true) of the real hipster population is well aware of their hipsterness–they just won’t admit.

I was told there'd be organic coffee?

I was told there’d be organic coffee?

The trouble is, if you admit you’re a hipster, you admit that you are part of a relatively large subculture; a fact which inherently contradicts your individualism (your individualism basically is a carefully subscribed to set of rules defined by said subculture, but shh). However, if someone else describes you as one, you aren’t saying you’re a part of some arbitrary societal paradigm: they are. If you are “hipsterized” by someone else, then you’re only “falsely” grouped into that hipster paradigm by a product of mainstream society, a victim to the thoughts of the “totez un-deck” majority, but not a martyr-by-suicide like you would be if you  classified yourself as such.

Never, never, even upon pain of death, admit to being a hipster. The second you do is the second you no longer are one. To conclude, please enjoy the wisdom of that great Canadian sumo wrestler Oscar Wilde*:

“I want my food dead. Not sick, not dying, dead.”**

*fact checker on honeymoon.
**quote relevancy checker is the fact checker’s wife.

How to Succeed in Screenwriting Without Really Trying*

*any allusions to a certain Broadway show, even those deliberately meant to be allusions to that certain Broadway show, are entirely coincidental. Please don’t sue me.

Bad news for you: I’ve decided to abandon blogging in favor of a promising career as screenwriter. I have no “experience” in the traditional sense, but I did watch all the Rocky movies, which has to count for something. It doesn’t? Regardless, the following will cement me in the ancient and respected annals of the Screenwriter People Club-Thing.

1. Non-Linear Narrative Format. Sure the script is, at best, a community-theater-like amalgamation of cliches, filled with capitalization on  current humorous cultural events for cheap laughs, and awkward use of slang in an attempt to seem “modern” and “down to earth.” But the ending is the beginning? What? And the middle isn’t always in the middle? My God we need to invent awards to give it. So if I were to rearrange that script to be: capitalization on current humorous cultural events, awkward use of slang, and then a community-theater-like amalgamation of cliches, what would happen?

Yep. That would happen.

Yep. That would happen.

2. Modern Relationships. It doesn’t matter if it’s essential to the plot (the non-linear plot, of course), references must be made to the effect of, “we have an open relationship,” or, “it’s not serious,” or at the very least, should the protagonist’s partner be long-term, have him/her vigorously reinforce that, “we don’t need a piece of paper to know we love each other.”  These lines work even better in non-contextual situations.

"Hey how's you sal-" "Yeah so we're just keeping it open."

“Hey how’s your sal-“
“Yeah so we’re just in an open relationship, ya know?”

3. Using characters as  tools for espousing personal political beliefs. Has your Congressman angrily replied to all your letters? Voted out of Town Hall? If you feel powerless in expressing your highly opinionated voice, take up screenwriting. Abandon all effort at actually writing a good movie, and put the work into having your characters be ardent, text-book supporters of your cause, while portraying the villain or ignorant characters as the opposite of your beliefs. Why? Cause democracy.

4. Title Puns. If 500 Days of Summer taught us anything, it’s that you can disguise a mediocre chick flick with only a title pun and a cute line at the end with a breaking-fourth wall smile.

But is the glamorous life of a screenwriter, going to expensive parties and deep-sea diving and carrying messages to Tehran (I’m not really sure what screenwriters do), better than sitting at home in pajamas blogging, drinking coffee, and laughing at my own jokes? No. No it is not.

If Facebook is the Roman Empire, Is My Grandma Alaric?

Pictured: Mark Zuckerberg.

Pictured: Mark Zuckerberg.

Ever since Facebook became cool around 2006, there’s been a glut of social media networks trying to swim profitably in its wake. Now Facebook is dying, and new networks are rising in what soon over the next few years could be a tumultuous and anarchical life for the online socially inclined. Who is the new Rome in this chaos caused by Facebook’s gradual decline? And, as a hipster, how do you realize who this new Caesar is early on so you can be disenchanted with it after it, “totally sold out,” and became popular? Why am I using ridiculous analogies to explain remarkably simple concepts? For the answers to these questions and more, continue reading this humorous* article for free.
*Humor sold separately.

When considering this new arena of social media (assuming the entire world hasn’t collapsed into a 24/7 reenactment of Mad Max from the gaping societal hole Facebook’s death created), there are numerous other options or, “personal brands,” as the marketing majors might say, you can employ.

1. The Soloist: Pick one outlet, be it Twitter, Instagram, whatever. It doesn’t matter if it’s mainstream; just hold a haughty devotional superiority to it and the result will be the same.

2. The Classic Hipster: Keep up a small scale Instagram account, and continually float around with Google+, Whyd, and whatever else no one uses. Be sure to complain about every Instagram update for weeks afterwards.

3. The Writer: Medium is a new platform for longer pieces of writing, set to be shared and read around the world. Disclaimer: Account does not come with pipe, whiskey or Hemingway beard.

4. The Extreme Hipster: Social Media? Over it.

5. The Ironicist: First of all, if that’s not a word it really should be.  Second of all, there is no second thing. Third of all, if none of these interests you, don’t worry. In a few years, when Facebook (Rome, for those of you following the analogy at home) loses the mainstream’s affection, having one would be cool in “like, an ironic way.” Supplement your sardonic diet with a MySpace account, maybe make yourself a Homepage, and be sure to silence your pager during movies.

Have more niches the disillusioned Facebook user can fulfill instead? Comment and help your Brother in Irony out, and also me by fabricating the illusion of an insightful post by maintaing a creative discussion.

Have you heard of…

First, watch the video. Am I attempting to increase your enjoyment of this post with no comedic effort of my own but by merely appropriating the works of others? Yes. Now watch the video.

I can’t bring myself to classify these interviewees as “intelligent,” especially considering they agreed to have their faces shown on national television, but they provide a beautiful example of how not to feign connectivity and awareness. Now it is possible that in your extensive studying of Pitchfork’s archives and top alternative charts going back to ’05, you will have missed some groups. Because of this crucial unknown, it’s my advice that should you find yourself in a position like those in the video, or even just conversing with friends (who may be false-namedropping to bring your aloof alternative self down to their level of non-organic coffees and factory made goods), do not pretend you know who they are. Merely offer, “Oh no sorry I haven’t heard of them…you see I listen to good music.”

“If you haven’t heard them yet how do you know they’re bad?”

“Well, for one thing you listen to them.”

If you don’t feel like being that unkind, you can opt for a different strategy: internalized self-discovery. Just say “no,” as if your own personal, endless journey of musical enlightenment has not taken you in such directions yet, and are in fact extremely doubtful that that sacred road you walk would ever lead to such a low standard of “music.”

So go! Go with pretentiousness to reassert the hipster brand as knowledgeable and aloof, not the college drop-out, probably high one presented by the interviewees.

Quick Tips for Hipsterizing Your iPhone

Lots of people have iPhones, including you. But you’re not part of that mainstream consumerist culture! So what that you waited hours in line for its release — you were there ironically. Then how do you prove to the world your iPhone is an extension of your personality and not that of a predetermined boxed corporate image like everyone else’s is?

1.Change the time to military. Not only will be people be confused when they borrow your phone for the time, they’ll also start seeing you as “counterculture” and a “mysterious outsider.”

What could be more ironic than no case at all?

What could be more ironic than no case at all?

2. Buy an ironic case for your iPhone (if you don’t have an iPhone, make getting one step 1.) Examples of these ‘ironic’ cases include: the back of an iPhone, a cassette tape, a cat with glasses, and a triangle, preferably with some sort of starry/galaxy background or wilderness.

3. Whenever in public, make sure someone sees you checking Pitchfork.

4. Never use Siri.

5. Don’t have any of those, “mainstream” apps like Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is okay, but not as required anymore.

6. For the more advanced, consider strategically timing reminders like: “remember to pick up artesian soaps from Sal” and “finish making your artesian guitar picks and grab your locally made, artesian guitar to play at an auction supporting the preservation of the Amazon and the Artisans of America organization.” Note: it doesn’t matter if you actually do these things, or are even acquainted with someone named Sal. What’s important is people think you are.

Follow these simple tips and in no time your iPhone will escape the masses of its standardized, conformist brethren, and you along with it will undergo a deep, meaningful and revealing personal growth that stemmed from buying cases imported from Shanghai on Amazon.

Unlocking the Llama Herder Within You

As much as I wish this was a self-help article for finding a propensity within your character to breed and maintain light South American pack animals, it is, unfortunately, only a pathetic ploy to attract your average Peruvian expatriate feeling isolated and lonely in America to click.

It's like a mirror to your inner self.

It’s like a mirror to your inner self.

Have no fear, though, you little lost ancestor of the Inca! This article contains far more stereotypes of your culture for you to laugh at. Well, maybe. I’ve always felt South America is such a large resource that has never been tapped by bigots for hurtful stereotypes, they instead opting for the cliche semi-racist ones of today. It shouldn’t surprise me that bigots aren’t creative.

But if this post isn’t about discovering your inner shepherding abilities, what is it about? One word: ponchos.

For awhile now the ‘poncho,’ i.e. a big sweater with a half-hearted attempt at cutting the sides, has been floating around female fashion, not quite alternative, but not exactly mainstream (and not quite a poncho either). However, it’s my firm belief that this is changing, or at the very least is at a supreme point to do so.

And not just in female fashion — the true poncho (not just a big mutilated sweater) is one of those rare, quality garments that can be unisex without also destroying the gender of the person. This opens its potential wearers to a perfect 100% of the world population.

The fashion industry, much like history (well, exactly like history), repeats itself over and over again. Like cardigans and old-style dresses, the poncho, too, is making a comeback after waiting 442 years since that awful when Francisco Pizarro made ponchos “totally passé.”

But wait! you say. Ponchos were never really a part of American or even Western culture, so it’s not really making a comeback as much as it just being introduced. Right? No, it’s making a comeback.  Why? Because I’m writing the blog not you, and they don’t just give blogs to anybody.

Regardless of terminology, the poncho is one of those garments that has the potential to become mainstream, as the gentle beauty of my well-crafted, completely logical arguments will softly guide you to see.

Reason Number One: It works in many climates, especially the “hip” and “trendy” West Coast cities. It’s breathable and open enough so as not to overheat you on warm days, but encompassing and thick enough to fend off a chill in the air or a brisk breeze. People won’t wear things if it’s a huge inconvenience, and the poncho is the antithesis for the western United States (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, etc.) Now is this poncho ideal for states like my own Wisconsin? Not exactly. But the prospect of spicing up a mundane, Packers-dominated existence with the latest fashion from, to use again the only adjectives the media knows how to use in situations like these, “hip” and “trendy” cities is worth losing all your digits to frostbite.

The new face of fashion.

The new face of fashion.

Reason Number Two:  It’s infinitely customizable. Want your poncho bright orange with a picture of your uncle Dan on it? Why the hell not. By virtue of the poncho’s form, it has wide open spaces in which you can put just about anything. And not just pictures of your relatives (why would you even consider that, you freak). Stripes, plaid, geometric designs, ironic triangles, what have you. Fashion designers can have a potential field day.

Reason Number Three: In science, when theories are competing for supremacy, there is a logical tendency to opt for the simpler of the choices. This simple theory is called, “elegant.” In a world where coats are filled with zippers, hidden pockets, hand warmer compartments and detachable hoods, left beside it is the simple poncho. As Demetri Martin explains, with scissors and a blanket he’s two minutes away from a poncho. Yeah, so the poncho is a blanket with a hole in it. But according to science, this makes it better than that newfangled Thinsulate and not-dying-from-hypothermia technology.

Watson & Crick's model of DNA pales in comparison to the elegance of the poncho.

Watson & Crick’s model of DNA pales in comparison to the elegance of the poncho.

Reason Number Four: That one guy you know who bikes everywhere and asks if you like to make children suffer just so you can wear Nike shoes has one.  So many currently fashionable trends were borne from the hipster movement (most notably, faded, torn jeans), and this mainstream appropriation of hipster clothing won’t stop soon. So be ahead of the trend! Buy a poncho, and take pictures of yourself holding dated newspapers so you can prove to your friends later you liked them before they were cool.

Pre-Columbian? Oh, so it's vintage.

Pre-Columbian? Cool–vintage.

Reason Number Five: I don’t have a reason number five, but the Chinese think four is unlucky, and it’s a scientifically proven fact that any culture that invented the wheelbarrow is always spot on with its superstitions.

But if the reasons above don’t convince you, let me change your mind with possibly the most persuasive one: I have a poncho. Yes, I, obvious fashion guru (credentials: sometimes I wear jeans, with an untucked dress shirt), and author of Ironic Poncho, is sporting a poncho whilst he meanders the aisles of Whole Foods, looking for a fair trade organic South American blend coffee. So get yourself a poncho, even if the blood of the Andes doesn’t course through your veins as deep and clear as the waters of Lake Titicaca. When you get one, I suggest re-reading this article in the same way I wrote it: with your favorite coffee in your hand and poncho majestically donned, amusedly shaking your head between sips at the thought of those poor, poncho-less masses who aren’t nearly as cultured and current as you.

January’s Poll of the Month