What Makes A Hipster?

L train J train

You’ve heard the term before and have probably noticed an eruption in recent years of art, various movements of social awareness, reports of pomposity, a retro-chic style of dressing and a rekindling of interest of many things that have long fallen into the realm of nostalgia (including those gentlemanly moustaches that were so two centuries ago). The question “What makes a hipster?” enters the local dive bar of my mind every time I hear the term, and all it does is order PBR’s and talk about its new artistic venture when its there.

The term ‘hipster’ seems to be used more and more today as a derogatory term. Although it doesn’t carry a fraction of the offensive gravity of that of a racial slur, it still isn’t exactly seen as a compliment nowadays. Nobody wants to be labeled a hipster nor do most people who are considered hipsters by other believe that they are, YET THEY STILL EXIST. Whoa dude, that’s like, sooo trippy!

One thing I left out so far is the link between hipsters and gentrification, which although has created many an urban haven of young artists, musicians, writers, etc. it has also uprooted families from low income neighborhoods. Rent for apartments in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, for example (the hipster capital of the United States) has skyrocketed over the past several years due to increasing demand in the neighborhood. The general consensus among long time residents in neighborhoods that have recently transitioned from low income to American Spirit smoking, thrift store shopping 20-somethings is that hipsters are directly responsible for their neighborhoods being gentrified and ultimately is seen as a reason to greet their new stylish neighbors with hostility.

For some, it unfortunately takes a racial angle. Many low income neighborhoods in New York City that are being hipsterized are minority neighborhoods i.e. Williamsburg, Bushwick, South Harlem, etc. Many transplanted, floppy moustached New Yorkers who have recently moved to these areas happen to be Caucasian. Many critics of the hipster culture argue that the entire movement/trend (not sure which word to use there) is based on white privilege and that while recreating a neighborhood into a post-graduate conglomerate of art and dynamic culture may seem to be a beautiful idea, one must consider how this will affect those who already occupy said neighborhoods on a micro-migrational scale.

Well, that escalated quickly.

Ultimately, the hipster culture in my opinion has a good side and a bad side. In a rephrased quote from Chris Rock, I will explain:

“There are bohemians, and then there are hipsters, and hipsters have got to go!”

What I mean is both bohemian types and hipsters usually self identify as artists, but I equate the term ‘bohemian’ to a true starving artist who does not give off the snarling stench of pretentiousness and is actually making his or her own adventure rather then following a trend to be cool. A ‘hipster’ to me would be a cocky, judgemental poser who just wants to be accepted by the reigning ‘culture of cool’ in our present day.

Its hard to tell how long the era of non-prescription, clear-lensed Ray Ban’s and the vinyl record store resurgence will continue, but a word of advice to young artists: be a bohemian, and not a hipster. Nowadays, hipsters are just too mainstream. – RSM

Christmas Eve is like a Christmas Tease

T’was a bright sunny eve of the birth of the Christ,

And Puerto Rican moms are making pasteles

A bit chilly out but so far no ice,

unlike Megyn Kelly’s Santa, Christmas Eve is not white.

If the snow doth fall in the morrow, rejoice!

‘Til the morning commute comes the day to follow,

the season is here to shop ’til you drop, faster

than the prices that you’re chasing after.

Nevertheless enjoy the Christ-mess

of things that come to be.

No matter how much your family annoys you,

have a Merry Christmas Eve. – RSM

Why Ned Vizzini Will Always Have A Special Place In My Heart

When I was 19 I stumbled upon a curious looking novel at the Borders that used to be at The Shops at Columbus Circle. I had never heard of the title or author before but the description and art work really caught my eye. I bought the novel and instantly fell in love with ‘Its Kind of A Funny Story’ by Ned Vizzini.

The novel spoke to me on many different levels. From the spot on ‘teenage New Yorker’ rhetoric to the descriptions of the city, I was taken to a magical new place which in reality I had always called home. The most profound and apparent way that I related to the story was with the main character, 15 year old Craig Gilner. There are two main ways we related, starting with something that I have never stated on the internet:

Craig and I have both been to a psychiatric ward.

Craig and I were both depressed at age 15.

The story I was reading felt so much like my own. To this day, ‘Its Kind of a Funny Story’ is my absolute favorite book of all time ever in the history of words, not just for its funny anecdotes, unlikely romance and motley crew of characters, but because it helped me let go of so much anguish and guilt that I had kept from my experience.

I mustered up the courage in the summer of 2009 to e-mail Ned Vizzini, just to tell him I appreciated his work.

To my surprise, he responded. I was elated to find a genuine reply in my inbox a few days later from a successful author, what I aspire to be. I told myself I would have to meet him one day. After my study abroad trip in early 2010 I attended a Young Adult Fiction event at the New York Public Library on 6th Avenue and 12th Street. There were several authors there, but I went just for Ned.

I got there early and saw him walking around the room, just wandering like I was. I was talking to a fan of another author and she encouraged me to introduce myself. I walked up to the Average Joe-looking writer who wrote the book that changed my life and asked “Excuse me, are you Ned Vizzini?”

We started talking and I mentioned our email conversation from the previous summer. He remembered me and said he was glad to meet me. I felt on top of the world as I discussed literature, particularly my favorite book, with the author of the book! It was a dream come true. I asked if he could offer any advice about writing, and I’ll never forget what he said:

“Don’t focus right away on writing a book. If you do that it will never get done. Try writing longer and longer stories to build up. Also, read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King.”

I bought ‘On Writing’ a few days later. I left the event with an autographed copy of his novel ‘Be More Chill’ with a dedication to me which read “Ruben, I’m sure you don’t need a squip!”

To top off the day, I got to take a picture with him. Here I am with Ned Vizzini, in all my overly eager fanboy glory:

Image

He posted it on his blog a few days after we met. Our acquiantanceship didn’t stop there. I came prepared that day and asked if he could critique a short story I had written about a night I had in Rome. A few months later I got a sloppy hand written envelope in the mail, bearing my name and address as well as his. He wrote a handwritten critique of my work. I challenge you to find any succesful author who would do all this for just one fan. The review came with my original copy of the story with his notes, which were very positive, along with his favorite quote highlighted via brackets written in with black ink.

I emailed him again earlier this year, asking him to read my article ‘The Millenial Latin American Identity Crisis Of The United States’. He read it, said he really enjoyed it and even shared it on his news feed on Facebook. I recall him telling me his favorite sentence from my article, which was “We are emigrating to, and reproducing in the United States like a giant herd of nomadic rabbits.”

Given all this, I was completely heartbroken to find out that Ned Vizzini committed suicide on December 19, 2013. His family lost a father and husband, the world lost a great author, and I feel like I lost a friend. My condolences go out to his family, friends and fans. I will always remember his warmth and kindness when he could have just brushed me off as just another kid who read his book. I will more so remember his best novel in my opinion, for changing my perspective of certain life events of mine from what I considered the worst times in my life to, well, kind of a funny story. Rest in peace Ned. -RSM

Solace.

A mind’s quiet place amongst the everyday hustle

of the gritty billboard ridden city,

I pity the ones who lack a fortress of solitude.

Be it ever so humble,

there is nothing like a long morning after a wild night,

listening to jazz and drinking raspberry tea

while admiring the sun and other random objects that shine over me.

It seems as if silence is a treasure

observed only by those who have heard the ambience

of their A to B commute for a bit too long

and strive to prolong the routinely inevitable.

Meditation of a sort, a sect of tranquility; a table for one.

-RSM

Mario Kart 64 Horoscope

We all have heard of the Age of Pisces and Aquarius, the Mayan calendar, the Chinese Zodiac, Ms. Cleo, etc. but let’s be real. If there’s any way to tell what kind of person one is and how one will fare in life, it’s this:

mario kart 64 home screen

That’s right, friends. No matter how the planets align or what your moon sign is, most personality traits can be deciphered by what character one chooses while playing one of the greatest video games of all time, Mario Kart 64.

mario kart 64 characters

Some are speed demons, some are middle of the road, and some just like to push others into molten lava – all in the name of a virtual trophy and living room bragging rights. But hey, I mean isn’t that what life is all about anyway?

1. Mario

mario

Moderation, balance, self-control is the name of your game. You powerslide along sharp turns like an stunt driver in Fast & The Furious : Tokyo Drift and keep things moving at a swift, yet manageable pace. You can handle the rough and tumble of playing with the big boys and although you’re not the fastest driver in town, you’ll probably be the only one who gets the girl in the end. Know yourself, and trust your judgement. Remember, you are everyone’s hero, but if you don’t trust yourself, no one else will either.

2. Luigi

Moderation and self-control is also your bag, baby, but for some reason you can never shake this feeling of being outdone or overshadowed.  You’re a middle of the road kind of driver and have great handling down the stretch. You can be a leader when needed, but are not used to the role due to a close friend or relative who is accustomed to holding the reigns.  Be patient, and run your own race. You may find yourself with a mansion of your own one day.

3. Peach

Some may consider you to be a bougie, spoiled diva, an archetype you continually reject. You move fast and don’t look back, regretting the days you waited for a significant other to rescue you from a time in your life that felt like you were trapped in a castle with a giant lizard as your oppressor.  You strive to assert your independence and are not afraid to bump fenders with the bigger riders. Even though the big boys might make you might spin out, the effort you make to be known as your own person is satisfaction enough to go for the gold time and time again.

4. Toad

You’re the happy go lucky type. You’re very agile on the pavement and get along with just about everyone. When life throws you a curve you powerslide into the storm, using your speed and nimble maneuvers to find the best way through any challenge. Don’t be intimidated by those who may want to push you around on the road of life. You may be small, but the wisdom gained through courage and conviction will be so great it may even seem that your head will eventually begin to resemble a mushroom.

5. Yoshi

You’re the fastest racer on the track without a doubt. Bigger and smaller racers alike make you laugh as you wiz past your competitors.  You’re just as bad at self-control, however as you are good at pushing the pedal of life to the metal. Don’t let the fast life get the best of you. Don’t be afraid to stop and smell the roses amidst all of the glitz and glamour of your epic journey.  Also, remember that moderation is key; it’s easy to gun it while your tank is full, but not so much when you’re running on fumes and and you’re lost without GPS. Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.

6.  Donkey Kong

The original Nintendo bad boy. You have a big name to live up to on the road of life and are not afraid to get your wheels dirty, nor your cart dented by bumping other riders off the track. Just remember that what goes around comes around (especially on a looped road)  and at the end of the day you’re not the biggest bulldozer plowing over fellow racers.  You like to push the enevlope, but have a big soft spot for your family.  You tend to be a loyal, gentle giant to your close friends and family. Everybody else can run into a coconut tree for all you care.

7. Wario

You’re the mischeivous one in any given situation. You pride yourself to be at the right place at the right time to wreak havoc on your unsuspecting competitors. Be careful; all work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but all play and work doesn’t do much, except for polishing your skills in Mario Kart. Not exactly a skill to put on a resume. Play hard, be crazy, random and awesome, but always strive to work harder than to just cause mischief. Remember, life is not one big practical joke. P.S. Nice moustache, hipster.

8. Bowser

Big man on campus. No one tells you what to do, and you like to be in charge. When someone tries to be a hero, you remind everyone just how bad of a villain you can really be.  From NES to N64 and well beyond, you have left a legacy of domination and frustration over anyone who tried to go against you. Despite the fact that you enjoy your alpha-lizard ways, it may find you in a bind one day. You may not want to spit fire on everyone who comes your way. Who knows, you may find yourself in a relationship where your beautiful princess leaves you for some charming plummer. Be a little nicer, dull down your spikes a little bit and you’ll be amazed at how much better you will be received.

-RSM