Monday, April 16th, 2012

The Horrific Horror of Brooklyn

Today's New York magazine cover story on artisanal Brooklyn is absolutely killing it. It's the best thing ever:

It’s easy to be seduced by the vision: a world, or at least a borough, where thousands of salvaged-teak schooners ply the oceans, or at least the Gowanus Canal, bearing Mason jars full of marmalade made from windfall kumquats. It’s like a child’s dream. The supermarket aisles are lit by Edison bulbs, staffed by scruffy men in butcher’s aprons, and stocked with cruelty-free dog food and hand-pulped toilet paper. But wait: Should the TP come from new-growth forests (more environmentally correct) or old-growth (more authentic)? Those lightbulbs are beautiful, but aren’t they inefficient? If small batch goes global, how will the idiosyncrat perform this pageant of superior taste? (By embracing Wal-Mart-scale production as a “retro” counterculture?) And is there really a mass market for $9 chutney? In other words, can twee scale?

(Sure, yes, yes, probably, not really and "kind of.") One thing that I really like that this piece gets at is the hideously annoying steampunk and Victoriana underpinnings of Brooklyn twee. It's the suspenders on the boy waitstaff at Prime Meats; it's in the beard oil (*gags*); it's the lovage soda from P&H. (What's next, borage soda? Vom! SIDEBAR: I absolutely love P&H Soda and drink it on the regular. So I guess there is a market for $10-bottles of syrup: gay dudes.) More importantly, there's more than one dark side of Brooklyn localism: for instance, once you sell out the tiniest bit, you're dead to your fellow artisans.

62 Comments / Post A Comment

barnhouse (#1,326)

Seems harmless? Also, is this even different from fashion movements on King's Road, Carnaby Street, Melrose Ave.? The principal function of fashion movements = something like a mating ritual, maybe.

deepomega (#1,720)

@barnhouse I think maybe the problem/danger is the association of artisanal nonsense with virtuous nonsense. Nobody claims couture is g good for the environment.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@deepomega Something in that, certainly. You know what is driving me crazy, PLEASE someone tell me what those two photographers from the 90s were called, they were the first ones I remember thinking hmm I wonder if this is a thing. They were handsome, and they didn't have a telephone, or something, and dressed in all nineteenth-century clothes.

djfreshie (#875)

@barnhouse Gilbert&George?

@barnhouse McDermott & McGough. Still around, different trope

barnhouse (#1,326)

@aduncetothemusicoftime it's them it's them it's THEEEEEMMMMM!!! Thank you so much, I was on the point of expiring. Also yay for your username but it is FALSE b/c you are a genius.

@barnhouse so not a genius, just, um, seasoned. I used to live near them in the E.V. Come to think of it, they later moved to a place with gas lights and a horse and buggy in…Brooklyn. So you're the genius–they're the wellspring of BK twee. They are still doing interesting work, btw.

Leon (#6,596)

@deepomega – wish the article had focused on that. I'm a bearded, flannel wearing dude in Greenpoint who works in a barely creative job at a tech startup and spends a lot of my free-time trying to figure out how I can turn my hobby of making sausages, pastas, cheeses and soon bitters by hand into a career. So I get the authors "ick, am I part of this?" vibe a little, but I think its also kind of unproductive and dumb.

There's another side to this artisan thing I wish had been explored: most of us in that "creative crescent" work on computers all day, looking at HTML color codes or relational databases or a CMS or CRM or EBS etc. Most of the people I know who buy or make this twee shit don't dress like Victorian lumberjack pirate bankers, and don't shop only at "exclusively Brooklyn" stores. The ones I know (which admittedly is just one group of them, but as equally valid a group as the ultra-twee profiled) like to engage with small-batch local artisan shit sometiimes because (a)they want to balance out the time spent staring at glowing rectangles with something visceral and (b)a lot of that shit is really delicious.

BadUncle (#153)

the hideously annoying steampunk and Victoriana underpinnings of Brooklyn twee.

Right. Fucking. On. And I'll ad that when you go to a crafty cocktail bar on Smith, you know what you're in for. Still, it's like every bartender aspires to look like Ulysses S. Grant with full sleeve tattoos.

(A caveat: I like ginger syrup, and make my own Dark and Stormies with it. Less sweet / more fulfilling).

Brian (#115)

@BadUncle There's always a caveat! I'd actually like to learn how to strop a straight razor. But otherwise fuck these guys.

@BadUncle I blame Pynchon. A book that sells as many copies as Against the Day is bound to make an indelible mark on a culture.

tomme (#4,473)

@BadUncle What ratio do you use for your syrup, do tell.

BadUncle (#153)

@tomme I'm trying different syrups. But usually two tablespoons in an 80z glass of seltzer works. Then, sweet, sweet alcohol.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

The Terrible Truth: Two consecutive posts from the current issue of New York Magazine? Yipes!

What is the South Beach equivalent to the Brooklyn artisanal movement? Locally grown blow?

You tell me.

BadUncle (#153)

BTW, editing seems to have gone away. So: "I'll add…"

NinetyNine (#98)

@BadUncle Editing is so 20c. Getting it right the first time is authentic.

BadUncle (#153)

@NinetyNine I guess my typing is all about the serendipity.

NinetyNine (#98)

Didn't Portlandia cover this adequately?

deepomega (#1,720)

@NinetyNine The only thing Portlandia covered adequately was the difference between a joke and an idea for a joke.

NinetyNine (#98)

@deepomega I was referring just to this

Is it "twee" just because it's in Brooklyn? In Berkeley they just call it…Berkeley.

Multiphasic (#411)

@Clarence Rosario In Berkeley they call it whatever the hell they want, because nobody can be arsed to spend 45 minutes driving three blocks over from Oakland to figure out what anyone calls anything.

jfruh (#713)

@Multiphasic You could take the BART, though that's really a sort of Mad Men-era futurism retro aesthetic.

iantenna (#5,160)

@Clarence Rosario in berkeley they do it because they actually, mistakenly, believe they're changing the world. in brooklyn it's just an elaborate hunt for tail.

@Multiphasic you're doing it wrong.

Multiphasic (#411)

@iantenna I tried to go to the Lawrence Hall of Science with my best friend from high school over the winter. Crossing the border was like colliding with the world's most passive-aggressive brick wall.

Just a quick word on suspenders …

I have several extra pounds of gut and my trousers are always falling down in front, belly spilling over. That is, until I put on some suspenders — voila, my pants stayed up beautifully!

I don't recommend wearing them with out a jacket, as you really will look like a jerk with them showing. But if you're a man with a belly, I highly recommend giving braces a try when wearing a suit.

Multiphasic (#411)

So here's my real problem with Brooklyn artisanal twee snob dickery: it makes me feel like a fucking tourist even after living there for four years. The only thing that ever made the underground fun wasn't the fact that every aspiring bassist knew more about otter-snot liqueur than you, it's that we were all in this silliness together. Artisanal isn't a communal celebration, it's an individual demarcation, and come on–the only reason ANYTHING is ever sold to us these days is so we can celebrate our Dr. Peppery individuality.

That being said, I still haven't found a mustard as good as My Friends', which seems to be just whole toasted mustard seeds soaked in Sixpoint. BUT OTHER THAN THAT. Gah.

ejcsanfran (#489)

So, I don't live in Brooklyn (but I do live in the Tenderloin in SF – at least it's not the Mission!) and I buy my mustache wax from an actual fireman who makes the stuff with his wife and lives in Flora, MS. Does this make me more or less insufferable?

@ejcsanfran Get. Out.

melis (#1,854)


Tenderloin faugh. Tenderloin forsooth. You have nice hardwood floors and a claw-foot tub. Get out of here with this Tenderloin palaver.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@melis: First of all, the only people who say "Lower Nob Hill" are arrivistes and real estate agents.

Second, per Wikipedia, the Tenderloin "encompasses about 50 square blocks and a conservative description has it bounded on the north by Post Street, on the east by Mason Street, on the south by Market Street and on the west by Larkin Street." (emphasis mine).

Third, nowhere did I imply that the Tenderloin is somehow an inferior neighborhood – and in fact one of it's many charms is that virtually all of the residential buildings in the area were built soon after the 1906 earthquake and are typically appointed with hardwood floors, high ceilings, apron-front sinks and decorative moldings. I love the 'Loin!

melis (#1,854)

Wait, but you didn't emphasize anything? Also the incorrect "it's" completely invalidates your argument, I win, as victor I claim your claw-foot tub, I will be by to pick it up this afternoon.

melis (#1,854)

However, as the editing function seems to be gone (forever???) I will concede that you probably couldn't go back and fix the "it's."

melis (#1,854)

Still taking your tub, though.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@melis: The emphasis was on bounded on the north by Post Street, but I effed up my tags and was not allowed to edit.

As for "it's" that was intentional – a subtle bit of self-deprecation, i.e. "Not only do I live in the nascent hipster 'hood of the 'Loin AND require the use of a specially procured product to groom my mustache, these pursuits have caused me to forget the rules regarding 'its' vs 'it's'"

ejcsanfran (#489)

@melis: Also, you're welcome to the tub. I'm doubtless soon going to break my hip climbing in and out of that thing…

iantenna (#5,160)

@ejcsanfran the tenderloin is nascently hipster only if this is 1976.

synchronia (#3,755)

@melis Your interest in claw-foot tubs and nice hardwood floors is *not* making you sound less like a real estate agent.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@synchronia: She probably calls them "homes" rather than "houses."

ejcsanfran (#489)

@iantenna: I can assure that there was nothing hipsterish going on in the Tenderloin when I moved there at the turn of the century. Bourbon & Branch didn't even open until 2006!

iantenna (#5,160)

@ejcsanfran i think you're confusing hipster with yuppie.

SeanP (#4,058)

@ejcsanfran lol, I've seen that fireman mustache wax, but I actually buy the kind from Oregon! But I live in the suburbs and I do government contracting work, so do I get a free pass on insufferability?

I'm no capitalist and I don't figger I'm much of a Picasso either but it seems to me these folks just ain't creative enough for The Arts and not capable of formulating a business plan enough for The Business.

City_Dater (#2,500)

@My Number Is My Address

Yes, pretty much. Making cheese in the basement of a brownstone and selling it off a table in a parking lot while dressed like Edgar Allen Poe makes a basically uncreative person feel "unique" and entertaining. And it's way easier than learning to play guitar!

Bridget Callahan (#5,234)

I live in Cleveland, and being a 32 yr old "artsy" girl with sort of expendable income, I'm right in the thick of the artisan up and comers. I go to a house party, there's a lawyer trying to sell me bottles of bitters. Every other girl in a cotton skirt has a vegan gluten free cupcake company. When I go to a certain bar, I can request my friend's ginger beer. So reading this article, ESPECIALLY that last little Midwest reference in the last line, hits hard. What's happened here is people are desperately trying to create their own brooklyns in these close to downtown neighborhoods, and there's been a rush on breweries and pop up shops, and it's been mixed blessings. Because it certainly has led to more white people with money moving into those neighborhoods, but it's not doing shit for the existing residents and surrounding neighborhoods, who can't afford to go to these places or buy these things. It's not really gentrification, because there's never enough money in Cleveland for any quick gentrifying, it's all slow and spotty. But my point is, we're not in the middle of an overcrowded super city, we are smack dab at the top of a freakin bread basket. There's more than enough room here for factories, expansion, farms ect. So if the hipsters could just find a way to make themselves accessible and affordable for non-hipsters, they actually stand a pretty good chance of making it!

Multiphasic (#411)

@Bridget Callahan But bear in mind that Cleveland was the new Brooklyn, right after Baltimore and Oakland and right before the Hudson Valley and, uh, Oakland again.

Bridget Callahan (#5,234)

@Multiphasic I'll never be the person who says "we don't want your property taxes, go away", but….there can be such a thing as too many bike shop….and cupcakes shops….though I guess if you ride your bike everywhere, maybe you can just live on cupcakes?

flossy (#1,402)

Obviously it's horrendously annoying, but what is the root cause of the Ye Olde Brooklyndia Hipsterism?

Is it just a retreating reaction to the so-far incredibly disappointing start of the 21st century, as we live through what sure seems like the accelerating decadence of late capitalism?

Or is it a forward-thinking acknowledgement that in order to survive the fallout of the incipient class war, something akin to "survival" skills will be necessary (even if the closest anyone gets is quick-pickling one's own windowsill harvest)?

Joey Camire (#6,325)

This conversation is so boring. Why do we feel the need to shit on these peoples parades? They seem to be having a good enough time. Everyone tries to put on their best progressive faces, but when people do something different, or a little bit weird, all the old people conservative voices come out. The fact that they are selling you all some of their shit, and you love it, gives them at the very least a capitalistic raison d'etre. Stop buying it and maybe they'll shave their moustaches and move to the west village.

flossy (#1,402)

@Joey Camire "Everyone tries to put on their best progressive faces, but when people do something different, or a little bit weird, all the old people conservative voices come out."

I think people started being annoying when mustache wax became the new trucker cap, i.e. not "different" in the slightest.

BadUncle (#153)

@Joey Camire Because the unexamined life is not worth mocking.

Joey Camire (#6,325)

@flossy Agreed, but hasn't that conversation been had a MILLION TIMES… "These kids and they're rock and roll music" etc?

I'd honestly prefer some dude in suspenders quoting some victorian era novel I've never read than some dude in a trucker hat asking about Ashton Kutchers next film. Pretension isn't going anywhere, but if it is atleast attempting to extol something valuable, I'd prefer that kind.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@BadUncle Oh boy! that is like a bumper sticker, there.

SeanP (#4,058)

@flossy I think it maybe depends on where you're living. I work in the defense industry in northern Virginia, and having a big waxed mustache is definitely considered… well, unusual.

Daniel Sargeant (#7,340)

There's four people being snarky about artisanal nonsense for every one doing it. I know, I work next to a store that sells ONLY MAYONNAISE.

mishaps (#5,779)

@Daniel Sargeant my neighbor! Is that store doing any business at all?

Daniel Sargeant (#7,340)

Not sure! Sam Mason from WD-50 is behind it, so it's not quite another mere orphan venture. But still, right?

Daniel Sargeant (#7,340)

@Daniel Sargeant Way to fail the reply button, dude.

This whole conversation would go away if the price points just dropped by about 75%.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

I'm not as much of an expert on other things, but I can tell you that "sweet pipe tobacco" chocolate is bullshit, which would be totally fine by me if I could only get some goddamn Swiss imported Milka somewhere in this fucking city!

@Niko Bellic Oh no! If only I had known you were on this desperate quest before, and now it's late and what if you don't see this?! Oh the trauma!

Enough nonsense. Fairly definitely The Sweet Life on Hester Street and sometimes Economy Candy on Rivington (although I won't swear that's the Swiss Milka) and very sometimes the Red Hook Fairway.

You're welcome.

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