Do I Want to Be a Hipster?

“I wanna be a hipster,” she says simply, pointing to her biblical tattoo and short-cropped hair in the middle of a conversation about her favorite folk music lyrics. “I’ve decided. I wanna be a hipster!” She is one of my best friends, and I generally respect her taste a great deal. But I don’t know how to react.

Maybe you can relate with her.

Maybe you most certainly cannot.

Maybe you’ve been enthusiastically jabbering on about your favorite band, independent film, art collection, or philosopher, when suddenly your conversation partner shakes their head and says, “Oh, you’re such a hipster.” You stand there in your plaid shirt, lace cardigan, maroon skinny corduroys, and vintage oxfords unsure of how to take this–and even less sure of how to respond. “Do I say ‘thank you?’ Do I shrug shamefully? Do I adamantly deny it?” This last course of action is the most dangerous, because many people believe that the strongest mark of a hipster is the inability to admit that one is, in fact, a hipster.

I felt that a lot of this trouble could be cleared up by settling on a concrete definition of what it means to be a hipster. Of course, no such definition exists. Even less-than-scholarly Urban Dictionary offers about seven encyclopedia-entry-sized explanations of this cultural phenomenon. Even so, this one seemed like a safe place to start:

“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

That doesn’t sound too repulsive, does it? Especially for an Urban Dictionary definition. Those can get grody.

Honestly, I want to be a lot of those qualities described in the above definition. I am a lot of those qualities. I love me some intelligent, witty banter and independent thinking. I’m a huge fan of art and indie music. I keep close tabs on progressive politics. I’m creative. I’m in my twenties.

Am I a hipster? And more importantly, is that a bad thing?

What People See as Desirable About Hipster Culture:

Creativity and experimental fashion

So the style in the hipster world is pretty fly. It’s incredibly diverse and usually an eclectic mix of a variety of other styles–bohemian, punk, preppy, scuzzy lumberjack, etc. I know labels are the worst, but words are what we use to make sense of the world, so deal with it, hipster readers. My point is, their fashion and beauty creations tend to be interesting and refreshing.

Also, this gallery of celebrities re-imagined as hipsters is my favorite thing since Benedict Cumberbatch photobombed U2 at the Oscars.

Refusing to get caught up in fads

I dislike sweeping fads as much as the next person, although a job in marketing basically means I have to make a career out of studying them. So when a chunk of the population says, “No, thanks,” and continues to do their own thing despite social pressure, I enjoy that. I appreciate the courage to be oneself without needing the approval of the masses. I knew a girl in college who got engaged to her boyfriend without a ring because they didn’t see the point. I think that kind of freedom has to feel so good.

A genuine appreciation for the arts

Yes, some hipsters only listen to the music they listen to or watch the movies they watch because no one else does. Others, however, really look for a higher standard of quality when it comes to the media they consume. While the masses are content to watch Transformers, hipsters call BS and curl up with The Iron Giant instead. I also notice that hipsters are more likely to be interested in theatre and visual art. Sure, it can feel like snobbery at times, but I really admire it.

A genuine appreciation for vintage culture and nostalgia

I am all about nostalgia lately. I cry thinking about bygone days when people didn’t take a miniature telephone/computer with them every time they left the house. I like it when hipsters value the past and the simple life. They upcycle grandma’s old jewelry and dad’s old trousers. They ride bikes and tune up old record players. This kind of respect for the things of the past is heart-warming to me.

Enjoying knowledge for the sake of knowledge

This might not be an “official” hipster trait, but it’s something that I’ve noticed. Hipsters generally like to know things about the things they like. They make a hobby of gaining knowledge about their hobby. These are the people who read Bukowksi for fun and study coffee growing and roasting techniques. Fine by me. If you care about something, invest some time and effort into it, I say.

P.S. But remember no one likes a know-it-all.

Frugality and resourcefulness

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with appreciating vintage goodies, but hipsters really are responsible for thrifting being as popular as it is now. No, it wasn’t Macklemore. We were doing it before it was cool.

A desire to discuss important topics

Again, maybe not a hallmark of all hipsters, but it’s a trend I’ve seen. Those I’ve encountered who fit the hipster mold are eager to engage with others about social justice issues like feminism, marriage equality, and human trafficking as well as political and economic topics. I personally find it delightfully refreshing to encounter people who are not only educated about what’s happening in the world around them but who also think and feel passionately about those happenings.

What People See as Repellant About Hipster Culture: 

Refusing to acknowledge genuine talent and quality just because it is popular or “mainstream”

This drives me freaking nuts. Yes, Lady Gaga is an overrated mainstream fame-monger. That does nothing to change the fact that she is a stellar vocalist and an out-of-this-world performer. Just admit it! Millions of people love her for a reason! Why does that deter you from admitting she is good?! I can’t even . . .

Seriously, I have never been able to wrap my head around the “They’re famous now, so I can’t like them anymore” thing. They’re famous because they’re good, for crying out loud!

Condescension or snobbiness

You’ve all felt it–judgment from a holier-than-though hipster who felt the need to inform you that your fedora is actually a trilby or that your Chai tea isn’t fair trade. Nuff said.

Excessively expensive or excessively abnegating lifestyles

These are two sides of the same coin. (Abnegation is a 50-cent word for denying yourself things you want). Both extremes are bad as far as I am concerned. Some hipsters are the style who will blow their money on organic everything and memorabilia signed by the Smiths. Others are the kind who won’t wear shoes or eat chocolate in order to make a statement. I’m not a fan of either.

WORST EVER: Caring about being different more than they care about interpersonal connection

This takes the cake in terms of bad hipster qualities. It’s unfortunately come to be the signature of hipsters everywhere. These people find their sense of self in participating in only aspects of culture that are unknown or “underground.” Often the minute these bands, or anime series, or clothing brands, or whatever begin to become popular, their hipster followers will abandon ship and move on the the next heretofore undiscovered thing. It’s as if the only way they can be truly unique is to like things that hardly anyone else likes.

They form their identity based on the things they enjoy rather than the people they enjoy them with.

The irony? Now hipsterism itself has become popular, so the hipsters have nowhere to go. They’re having a massive identity crisis.

So Who Do I Want to Be?

In light of acknowledging the positive and negative aspects of hipsterism, what can those of us who are “on the fence,” if you will, conclude about who we want to be going forward? I can only speak for myself, but I think I’ve learned some important lessons in studying hipsters.

I want to be myself first of all. And I want to be with people second.

Being myself means that if I do or do not like or care about something, I will be honest about it–to myself and to the world.

Being with people means that I will never let these passions alienate me from those I encounter. I will embrace connection.

hipYes, I occasionally enjoy some obscure and/or unpopular things. That just means I’m all the more delighted when I meet someone who shares that interest. If we have that obscure thing in common, odds are we have other things in common and we’ll probably hit it off! Yes, my style of dress is a little unorthodox sometimes (not so much anymore,) but I do it to feel happy and free about my appearance, not to scare people away. Yes, I value academic intelligence and being politically and socially aware, but why would I want to keep those things to myself by avoiding people who are not “up to my standard?”

I want to love and be loved, and if I can love on someone while we both love on existentialist philosophy, Chvrches, Attack on Titan, matcha green tea, blackbox theatre, pad thai, and Modcloth, that does not threaten my sense of self at all.

Why can’t we all embrace intelligence, activism, resourcefulness, creativity, critical consumption of media, multiculturalism, and other admirable qualities without trying to label such things as being counter-cultural and “hipster?”

Alienating ourselves from others through our cultural identity is unhealthy, but so is mindlessly consuming the pop culture fed to us on a large scale. That’s why I love the fact that hipsterism is not a subculture anymore. Hipsterism is becoming mainstream because people are realizing that they can explore the culture beyond what is readily accessible to them and in so doing encounter others who are also happy to challenge the status quo.

Yes, we are all forming our own identities, but our identities are tangled up in the people we let into our worlds. Let’s fill those worlds with the things we love and trust that they will attract people who we might come to love as well.

For Your Inspiration: Creative Commentaries

Hi all!

Sorry for the absence. I have been darting back and forth between my home in Rochester and the beautiful city of Canandiagua in order to spend time with my extended family who have traveled up from Georgia and Pennsylvania to vacation for the week.There were beaches, boating, cookouts, amusement parks, and only the teensiest sunburn.

I have also had my hands full with two feline bundles of joy who don’t quite sleep through the night. (Apologies to those of you who were offended or otherwise put out by my “baby” joke. I found it humorous.)

Then there’s the whole job-hunting situation. Interviews, meetings, and query-letter-typing have a way of feeling like they have consumed your whole day no matter how long they actually take.

Anyway, excuses aside, I thought that rather than stress myself out with writing a new post for the blog I would link you to some of the best creative fodder I have bumped into online recently.

What is the Shortest Poem?Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 1.21.27 PM

If you have not yet discovered the YouTube channel Vsauce yet, you haven’t lived. Michael may be my  favorite human being on the planet. Watching just a few of his videos will make it clear to you that he possesses one of the most well-rounded brains on the planet. Math, science, art, and the humanities are all one mass of intellectual musing to him. This video is about poetry and artistic brevity.

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Theatremusic-man

A sweet love letter to the theatre from the blog of a personal friend I have had the pleasure of both acting with and directing in the past.

ginabrillion Gina Brillon – First Latina Comedian Wins NBC Stand-Up Deal

I discovered this gal on a channel-flipping encounter with The View. This routine never gets old. I could listen to her do her South Bronx Puerto-Rican accent all day. I’m holding out to see if she has any Spanish language material. I wish this funny girl lots of success.

visualstorytelling13Visual Storytelling: New Language for the Information Age

Maria Popova at Brainpickings is pure brilliance, but this article is more informational and inspiring than anything I have even seen her compose in the past. I especially love the inforgraphics about how to make movies.

kutcher_jobsTrailer for Ashton Kutcher’s Steve Jobs Film

Saw this at the beginning of Now You See Me (which was great). Artsy indie film and technology moguls? I don’t know if it’s Josh or me who is more excited!

Acts of Renewal

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When I was a fifteen-year-old junior in high school, my mom, my aunt, and I made a trip to Roberts Wesleyan College for a preview day. They were both RWC alums, and I was casually looking for a Christian school to attend for my undergrad.

As a part of the preview weekend, I attended a chapel service. I was blown away as chapel consisted not of praise songs and a stodgy speaker, but of an American Sign Language performance to music followed by an amazing drama performance by husband and wife duo Acts of Renewal. The team merged teaching, humor, biblical stories, secular themes, and eternal truths into an eclectic, beautiful, and powerful theatrical performance. I was hooked.

Coming to the end of my Roberts career having been active in drama ministry myself, I couldn’t believe my luck when Acts of Renewal appeared on the chapel schedule in the final semester of my senior year. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip away. Following the equally inspiring chapel performance, I introduced Josh and myself as the founders of Muse Creative Arts Ministry and told them about the impact they had had on me as a young Christian and artist over five years ago.

That was the moment when Jim Shores and Carol Anderson-Shores became my friends.

It was so surreal that the artists who I had idolized as the embodiment of what Josh’s and my theatrical love could grow into as a couple were sitting down to lunch with me and wanting to hear about my life and accomplishments. Jim and Carol were a total encouragement and inspiration. They offered specific advice for projects Josh and I have volunteered to participate in for ministry purposes, and they expressed general excitement that people with similar passions and talents were coming behind them.

I am so blessed to have met them, and hope that Josh and I will have the joy of knowing them for years to come.

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: PUSHing Through

Still image from a summer shoot with PUSH

Okay, so I’ve been fairly vocal on here about the fact that I’m pretty overwhelmed what with all of my classes, my internship, work, Muse, being married, being a sane person, being an at least somewhat nice person, and the like.

Basically I’ve hopped over to Nine to Phive long enough to complain about everything that’s going wrong, all the while being a bit hazy on everything that’s going right.

One of these such things is my simply fabulous internship at the local film studio Envision Productions. Paul, my supervisor, has taken me on all sorts of adventures with him, one of which involves filming a documentary about PUSH Physical Theatre. More on them later, but for now, suffice it to say that I am loving my job. Any day that I get to spend watching them work makes my own work seem worthwhile–and not nearly as exhausting as it could be. These guys work up sweat!

However awesome this crew may be, whenever there’s a lot of sweat, there’s a chance for a lot of awkward . . .

Awkward:

  • I get to work with these people . . . GAAAAAHHH . . . NOT . . . WORTHY . . .
  • I don’t vaccuum. Ever.
  • My hair keeps falling out.
  • The previous two items added together means little red dust bunnies strewn around the living room carpet.
  • Professor No. 1: Read the next four chapters of the book by Thursday. Professor No. 2: Read the last three chapters of the book by Thursday. Oh, and also these two chapters of this other book I forgot to tell you to buy. Me: AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!
  • Making bacon-raisin empanadas this weekend. Don’t knock it ’til you try it. 
  • That stupid Roll-Up-the-Rim-to-Win business on Tim Horton’s coffee cups. I have to use my teeth every time.

Awesome:

  • Even though I “made up my mind” to pursue a degree in communication and an internship in film, I still get to spend time in the theatre. You don’t know how good that feels 🙂
  • Being in the bathroom and overhearing my supervisor talking about me: “She’s great. She knows what she’s doing. She knows how to shoot, how to edit, how to light . . . It’s great.” *Blush*
  • Hosting our first Couchsurfer!
  • The rim-rolling paid off! We won two free drinks. The cup says free coffee or latte, but they actually let you get any drink any size.
  • Theatre dates with my love ❤ Can’t wait to see The Whipping Man in a few weeks.

Rochester Theatre Is Not ‘Next to Normal’

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It’s much better than that.

In fact, Rochester’s Geva Theatre Center is the premiere professional theatre in New York state outside of Manhattan.

That’s saying something, isn’t it? Basically, aside from the sky-high prices of Broadway, the best theatrical bang for my buck within a 300-mile radius is right in my own backyard at Geva. Josh and I have been to plays at Geva before, but my birthday gift of going to see Next to Normal was our first musical there . . .

And we . . . were . . . floored.

The following is an article I was commissioned to write by our campus newspaper. I came just short of saying this in the actual article because it sounded unprofessional and un-journalisty, but I’ll say it now:

Geva’s performance was better than the one I saw on Broadway.

Read the following article to find out why:

The world is full of families that consider themselves “normal,” but the families of which this is true are not the ones with award-winning rock musicals composed in their honor.

When the curtain opens on Scott Schwartz’s production of “Next to Normal,” it is apparent almost immediately that this family is trying a little too hard to claim such coveted normalcy, a charade of perfection tainted by mother Diana’s ongoing battle with bipolar disorder. Throughout the course of this electrifying musical sensation by Tom Kitt with book by Brian Yorkey, the Goodmans will find that while being normal is out of the question for them, they may find peace in being something “close enough to normal to get by.”

The family of Diana and Dan Goodman and their teenage children Natalie and Gabe is headed up expertly by stage veteran Catherine Porter, who stood in for the role of Diana in the Broadway production of the show. Her soulfully cynical voice remains crystal clear and poignant whether whispering gripes about her family life or warbling her most affecting solo, “I Miss the Mountains,” that all of her mind-numbing medications have made her miss out on her own life. The performance of Diana’s loyal husband Dan, played by Bob Gaynor, requires a certain fragility and jadedness; and the silver-voiced Gaynor achieves the feeble tension that results when Dan’s role as the rock of his family means that he must deny and silence many of his own needs.

Lindsey Ricketson, a natural in the role of sixteen-year-old daughter Natalie, is unafraid to cast off the allure of conventionally “pretty” vocals and instead embraces a beautifully brash and angst-filled belt more befitting her character. She is especially striking in “Superboy and the Invisible Girl” as Natalie bemoans living in the shadow of her older brother, Gabe. Cary Tedder shines both as Gabe and as a powerful hallucination that haunts Diana and thereby her entire family. Tedder is at one moment the picture of sweetness and devotion, and at the next a palpably seductive force drawing the Goodmans deeper into their dark past.

The ensemble of “Next to Normal” is rounded out by Googie Uterhardt in the roles of both of Diana’s psychologists as well as by Jordan Craig who plays to quirky perfection Natalie’s stoner sweetheart, Henry. Uterhardt is at his best while bringing to life Diana’s hilarious fantasies of her new therapist as an intense rockstar figure. Craig, as Henry, is a flawless foil to Lindsey Ricketson’s meticulous Natalie. Their awkward romance is honest, humorous, and touching.

Director Scott Schwartz actively involves all of his actors in each scene with creative, often symbolic blocking and choreography (by Michael Jenkinson). Particularly memorable are a cast-wide dance with glowing pill bottles in “My Psychopharmacologist and I” as well as the dramatically staged “Wish I Were Here” in which Diana climbs on hospital equipment and is hoisted above the heads of other actors in a hallucination brought on by a medical treatment. The show’s set is much more elaborate than its minimalist Broadway equivalent. The stage is enveloped by the Goodman’s home, a suburban house both typical and ominous in its dark details. With the help of skillful set designer Kevin Rigdon, Schwartz achieves a gritty realism that, like the show’s 30-plus expressive songs, feels seamlessly consistent with the grueling emotional journeys of the characters.

“Next to Normal” has a stirring finale, but no storybook finish. As its characters learn, real families don’t always find happy endings; but one thing the audience will learn thought this symphonic adventure is the revelation that “you don’t have to be happy at all to be happy you’re alive.”

Final Scene from "The Chains"

This is the stage interpretation of “Let My People Go,”a spoken word poem that concluded Muse Creative Arts Ministry‘s production of “The Chains” a couple of weeks ago.

The combination of this piece and the monologue right before was incredibly powerful. The man on his knees as the piece starts is portraying Spartacus, the former gladiator turned slave revolt leader who delivers his speech to us from the cold shores of the river Styx–from death.

Originally, we were planning on ending on a somewhat positive note, saying “even if you fail to break free from the chains that bind you, all that matters is that you try.” My co-director (also the actor playing Spartacus) suggested a better idea:

“If you try alone, you will fail. And failure sucks.”

That’s a direct quote.