5 Lessons Learned From Mad Men

With hipster culture’s fascination with vintage, and of course its deep roots in the 1960s’ hippie movement, it seems only inappropriate that Ironic Poncho discusses AMC’s popular television show Mad Men. Please note this is entirely a interesting quasi-analytically extrapolative piece, and not at all an attempted justification of my watching all six and a half seasons over the course of a weekend. So while I’ve spent the week fielding questions like, “Do you have a life?” and “Did you, like, go to the bathroom at all?” you can reap the benefits of my sacrifice by reading the post to learn all the priceless items of life advice I gained from my Mad Men filled weekend. (There might be spoilers, and while I’ve been advised that a “Find the Spoilers” scavenger hunt is not the best way to find them or endear myself to you, too bad, because I ain’t gunna be part of your system!)

Disclaimer: I understand the creators of this show did not intend to present these messages, and if anything intended to promote the opposite of what I say. This is honestly more of a humorous critique of all the 1960s, with Mad Men stuck in the title to shamelessly capitalize on the show’s popularity.

1. I can’t believe I used to think women were equal, intelligent and indistinguishable from men except for certain psychologically unrelated physical characteristics! Thanks Mad Men, for reminding me that women are just like any other object–except you can have sex with them!

2. If you’re not drinking right now, you have one X chromosome too many. Cocktails, bourbon, whiskey, it doesn’t matter if you can’t taste that scotch anymore and’ve thrown up six times. You drink because that’s what men do. 

3. Why work when you have a couch in your office?

4. Taking a long draw on a cigarette before and after anything you say instantly makes what you said 100 times cooler and more intelligent. (Taking a draw on a joint before speaking makes you doubly enlightened, that is until you actually start talking.)

5. Wow, how could I forget our media’s over-dramatization of everything? I knew cigarettes weren’t dangerous. Would tobacco companies lie to me to sell cigarettes? I don’t think so! Keep on smoking kids, that lung cancer is caused by the harmful neurotoxins released by Communists or listening to the Rolling Stones.

In all honesty it’s a fantastic show you should watch, if only so you and that other person who watches it can obnoxiously summarize your favorite episodes at parties.

Why Get Into Vinyl?

Well, why the hell not?

As the aspiring hipster, the iPod or other radio is not sufficient to play your unique music tastes (or obnoxiously present them to your mainstream friends). How do you cover the gaping hole of inadequacy offered by modern music players? Obviously by going back to 1957. That is, vinyl records, LPs and turntables.

Vinyl is making a comeback. If you were born well after the CD, or can’t remember when songs weren’t available instantly on your JavaGoogles for immediate download or whatever you kids do with computers these days, “record players” (the term is turntable) are as current as flint spearheads. But trust me–just like you may see flip phones or hunting wooly mammoths in a nostalgic light (demographics research is all over the place–we’re trying to cover all our bases), many see the turntable in the same way. The sound provides a warmth removed by the sci-fi-esque dominant digital music, possesses a sound quality audiophiles will rant to you about until you question what else you were expecting when you decided to attend an audiophile convention.

Seriously, it’s a better sound. And you don’t have to go to antique stores either — Amazon has a terrific selection of affordably priced turntables and LPs (but for records I prefer Insound as it has a great selection of modern groups cheap.). And with record of the month clubs like Vinyl Me, Please, you can grow your music collection without leaving the house.

The pretentious connotations are so well entrenched that I don’t even need to go there. Although with the rising popularity of turntables, you may want to get really alternative, and get into cassettes.

Ironic Poncho Renaissance

At long last I have returned from my unannounced approximately two month long pilgrimage to India, meaning so too have Ironic Poncho posts returned. If you’re wondering if I found enlightenment amidst the slums and smog-choked cities or by bathing in the Ganges (sacred river and garbage dump? Those Indians sure are thrifty), the answer is no, so in the future interpret any other extended periods without posts as my continued search for spiritual progress elsewhere and definitely not as my ability to now watch seven seasons of a TV show over a weekend. God bless the internet.

Well I hope this was satisfying enough for you after your months of Ironic Poncho withdrawal, because I’ve conveyed everything I needed too. Although now that I consider it, “Yeah I’ll be posting again,” would have saved all of us quite a bit of time.

 

Do you even…

It’s that time of year again. Millions of obnoxious American children find themselves with Christmas money still leftover, even after buying that Lamborghini in the right shade of Pacific Atoll Blue. What to do with the surplus? Invest it? Charity? Give remarkably generous tips? Of course not. That money would be better spent on Che Guevara t-shirts.

Wouldn’t I be so totally groovy (or whatever the kids are saying these days) in that shirt? No. No you would not be so totally groovy. I’m willing to bet more than half of those who wear the shirt even know his name, even less know when he lived, and close to no one knows his beliefs, and if they did, certainly wouldn’t wear the shirt. Wearing that Che shirt, then, is like imitating a cough of someone else’s cold with the belief that that will make you sick. The high blood pressure I get every time someone attempts to be “counterculture,” is a genuine medical health risk. Therefore, in order to spare the sanity of thousands, and possibly my life, I’ve composed a guide on when it’s acceptable (but mostly when it’s not) to wear a Che t-shirt.

Are you a Communist-sympathiser, or at the very least believe in certain socialist principles, and admire the pragmatic methods Che took to implement them?

You should be embarrassed at thinking of supporting that mainstream capitalist oppression with your consumerist buying of mass-produced t-shirts. 

Do you think Che is his first name?

Might I suggest a plain gray t-shirt instead?

Are you a middle-class American? Do you like to think of yourself as “counter-culture?” Do you pride yourself on a standardized rejection of your parent’s socio-economic mores, without regard to these mores placement or compatibility within  your, “ideology?”

You’re what’s wrong with America.

Do you like his face?

It’s probably okay for you to buy it. 

He does have nice eyebrows...

He does have nice eyebrows…

There–the first comprehensive guide to when wearing an Ernesto Che Guevara t-shirt (note: your learning of his first name in no way qualifies you to wear the t-shirt). Please, the internet’s access to endless world markets, and consequent availability of Che t-shirts, should not be used to endorse quasi-Marxist revolutionaries you know nothing about.

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.

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.

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.

How to Be a Pretentious Hipster

If there’s one thing hipsters are known better for than their sustainably grown food, Goodwill clothing and religious devotion to the “independent” business, it’s for asserting their superiority for being known for that. Yes, look deep within the soul of any hipster and you will find a little man looking down at you from behind ironic eyewear, asking whether you looked at your own soul as much as theirs.  How do you tap into that well of seemingly effortless disdain and pretentiousness when criticized?

It’s not as hard as it seems. When you, the aspiring hipster, is forced to interact with the mainstream and is being questioned/criticized, it is relatively easy, no matter what the charge, to respond with raised eyebrow: “Well I would be like you too, except I’m not a slave to blind consumerism and arbitrary cultural expectations.” Adding a snort or disdainful cough can also help you here.

The trick with this sort of thing is completely blocking the insult and reflecting it back, no matter whether or not the “shield” you used to do so is valid. Showing any signs of flustering or anger will result in their victory; a face of amusement, much as if you were watching a caveman discover a toaster, will generally make them feel woefully inadequate when compared to your “cosmopolitan” and “dynamic” nature. You must vehemently believe, or at least pretend to believe, that you are right, and all the gods of heaven couldn’t shake you from your position.

Of course, such an aloof attitude is bound to garner a  retort, which often snowballs into a full-blown assault on your lifestyle. In this instance, quote the following Buddhist parable.

One day, as Buddha was surrounded by his followers, an angry man came up to him and began insulting him, condemning his teachings and his character. While the attack wore on, Buddha just sat with a little smile on his lips. Frustrated, the man walked away. 

His followers came up to Buddha, asking: “Should not you have done something? He insulted you greatly.” To which Buddha replied: “If someone offers you a gift, and you refuse to accept it, who has the gift?” 

Confused, they replied: “The giver of course.”

“Now you know why I did not respond.”

"Yeah, I make a killing as a Buddha impersonator at  birthday parties."

“Yeah, I make a killing as a Buddha impersonator at birthday parties.”

Not only does the story directly suppose you are like Buddha, infinitely wiser than your criticizer, it also does a wonderful job outlining how aware and explorative you are by embracing Eastern religious/philosophical ideas.

Now keep in mind, you hipster you, to supplement your diet of locally grown produce and organic Javan blends, with situations in which to be pretentious. The ability to turn other’s judgement of you back at them is the fuel to support your expanding hipsterness, allowing you to expand farther from the mainstream and get more criticism, which makes more pretentiousness, which gets you even farther from the mainstream. It’s a self feeding cycle. If such situations are hard to come by naturally, try creating them by going around saying,  “So how’s your carbon footprint these days?” or asking loaded questions like, “How much money did you give to save the Amazon this year?”

Where the criticism gets hard to handle, however, is when you are questioned by other hipsters. Coming from a similar perspective, such subculturally-unique guilt trips will have no effect, and they will already have memorized the Buddhist parable. This leaves our only defense a vigorous self-affirmation, sprinkled with some patronizing laughter and, “I remember when I thought that,” implying your progress down the hipster road is much farther than his.

The only thing that could make this article better (besides improved writing, free puppies, and overall quality) is you. Try out these tactics on your friends and family*, and comment back with your stories. Hell, comment anything. Want to pretentiously (hey, that’s what this article’s about!) judge me for doing this “mainstream blogging thing?” The floor’s yours.

*Ironic Poncho is not responsible for the loss of  friendships and/or being disowned by one’s family through an employment of the content of this post.