Contemplation of the Grift.

April 18, 2009

The spectacle of the Hipster Grifter is pure candy to me, and I’ve sought out dozens of stories about her, even though they’re all the same: Korean girl with ultra-Williamsburg-irony tattoo that says “I Love Beards,” stole money in Salt Lake City, lied to series of roommates and quasi-boyfriends that she had cancer, rooked the illuminati at Vice into giving her a job.
I feel guilty about it–it’s prurient, weirdly sadistic and crypto-pornographic. The actual crime, in SLC, is barely mentioned in any of these pieces–how many stories have I read and I still don’t know who she stole the money from?–they’re mostly about how she picked up a dude by handing him a note that said, “I want to give you a handjob with my mouth.”
The NY goss blogs are capitalizing on salacious anecdotes about a sexy, tragic Asian girl, and that’s it. New Yorkers vilify hipsters, despite the fact that most of us are textbook hipsters–sour-grapes-ing, due to insecurities rooted in high school cafeterias. So we’re all enjoying her public humiliation as a liar, and the $60K she stole is an excuse–now, in the blog-o-lanche, little more than a footnote. However fucked up it is to tell people you have cancer so they’ll be friends with you, it’s sick, not criminal.
Didn’t everybody know somebody like this in high school? A pathological liar. I have to admit, I was a teenage fabulist myself, mostly because the circumstances of my life didn’t reflect my interior turmoil the way my invented life did, I wanted to express it, I wanted to impress people with a made-up portrait of myself that in a way was a truer portrait. One theory of mine is that those of us predisposed to grow up to become hipsters are also predisposed to youthful fabulism–maybe there’s some self-loathing being channeled by the HipGrift’s vultures.
Hipsters have a thing for Asian girls, and artsy peoples have always had a thing for little-girls-lost. How bitter it is to read’s headline “Did ‘Hipster Grifter’ Play On Loathsome Hipster Asian Fetish?” and know that many of us clicking on it are doing so to read about a hot Asian girl.
My favorite baffling j’accuse thus far, from “She claimed she was a vegetarian, but wasn’t upset when one of the roommates accidentally gave her a dish with meat.”
This girl might, in fact, be a sociopath. But she’s smart. She signed an email to Gawker, “Without Wax, Keri.” Which I immediately took to be an obscure sexual reference. Though Gawker didn’t comment on that, a commenter named Sarcastro explained:
When Roman sculptors executed their work they would occasionally crack the marble. The crack would be sealed with wax. In Latin, “sine” means “without,” and “cera” means “wax.” The sculptures that were made out of whole, unbroken stone were marked, “sine cera,” or “without wax.” The term evolved to apply to anything that was “true” or unadulterated. In English, “sine cera” is rendered, “sincerely.”
I had this really mindblowing lesson in mediocrity the other night. I went to see this show that was one of the most beautifully designed and staged things I’ve seen recently–and the show itself was boring. I would see something and go, “Wow, that actress is really charismatic, what a great voice,” and two minutes later be hoping that my girlfriend would let us leave at intermission.
I’m working on a record now, and it’s such a vital lesson–you can come up with a hundred thrilling ornaments, but if the song’s no good, it’s no good.
There was this guy in Portugal, when Scrap and I were touring there two weeks ago, who was hired to drive us from city to city for the gigs. We coudn’t quite figure out how to pronounce his name in Portuguese, so we called him Bimmy.
Bimmy was this little guy, and he had almost no English, but we found weird ways of communicating. He was playing Jimi Hendrix in his car, and after a half hour of uncomfortable silence, he said, “Hendrix! The best!” and I said “Bom!” which means “good” (at least I think it does/hope it does). Our next conversation was him saying the names of 70s rock drummers, doing a-cappella versions of their signature drum fills, and saying, “The best! John Bonham, the best!”
Bimmy had a Deicide CD, a death metal band (Speed metal? Thrash metal? I’m not up on my subgenres), and seemed shocked when I put it on. “Deicide, the best! From Tampa, Florida!” It was so hilarious, seeing this tiny Portuguese metal guy say Tampa, Florida that we burst out laughing, and this became the basis of our bond. Any time there was a moment of silence, he’d go, “Tampa, Florida!”, assume a metal guitar stance and a-cappella chug chug chug guitar sounds.
He also loved Elvis, and sometimes would say “Graceland museum in Memphis!”
Scrap’s dog is named Foxdog (because after they got her out of the shelter, a kid pointed to her and said, “That’s a Foxdog!”), and Foxdog does this thing where she comes up to Scrap and puts her paw on him, kinda like, Hey man, you doin’ OK? Scrap calls it the Foxdog Wellness Check. So when Bimmy assumed the rock stance and said, “Tampa, Florida!” that would be the Bimmy Wellness Check.
We got literally three hours to sleep after the gig in Guimaraes, then Bimmy drove us at 4 am to Lisbon for our flight home. See you later, Bimmy. “Tampa, Florida!”
On the subject of death metal: I tracked down the legendary death-metal-band-logo designer Christophe Szpajdel online, and he did a Mike Doughty logo! It’s very metal looking–it looks like scary trees! He also did one Art Deco style that he’ll be putting in an exhibition of his.
I’ll be printing up shirts of it to sell online shortly.
So I’m recording Sad Man Happy Man, and it’s sounding great, but there’s this one song that I kept trying to make good, but it’s just not good. What bums me out is that I love the lyrics, my faves on the album, but the song is just a non-starter. I’ll probably put it up on iTunes or something as a bonus track, along with a bunch of covers that I recorded lo-fi up at Yaddo.
I was looking through some photographs of yours today
I saw your drunken friends laughing, party favors there
Two people kissing in the corner bring their hands together,
Leads him towards the bedroom, where the coats are, hear them whispering
I sang the wrong, sang the wrong, sang the wrong song
I know this song’s not the song you want
I made my plans, made my plans, made my plans
I know my plans, they are burned and gone
Ecstatic sadness is the stylish pleasure of the day
I’m in my headphones on the bridge, the cars are rushing by
The barges is spinning in the bay below me,
And your love is the snow that’s falling slowly
I sang the wrong, sang the wrong, sang the wrong song
I know this song’s not the song you want
I made my plans, made my plans, made my plans
I know my plans, they are burned and gone