Tag Archives: Williamsburg

The Starving Artists Gulps Down Konditori’s Swedish Coffee

15 Jul

coffeeMy friends were visiting from DC recently and we popped into Konditori for a quick coffee break while we were in Williamsburg.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while now you know that we Swedes love our coffee. You’d also know that coffee is strongly associated with the culture of the Beat Generation and that I’ve written about Jack Kerouac’s coffee habit. But that one of my all-time favorite quotes is a quote about coffee by Saul Bellow. Of course, Brooklyn is far from the only place with a rich coffee heritage. So, really, is it any surprise that Konditori was on my list of places to check out?

I got the Swedish roast. It cost $2. I had a little mishap and the creamer top fell straight into my cup, so the hipster kid at the counter nicely gave me a fresh cup. I was too scared after that to try to put milk or cream in so I drank it black, which I usually do at home or in the afternoon anyway. I’m oddly not one of those people who takes my coffee the same exact way every time. Strange, I know. Anyway, the coffee wasn’t full and robust, but it did have a lot of flavor to it. I think if I were to go back, I’d try their latte.

What’s your favorite Swedish brand of coffee?

 

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UCLA Prof Blames “Beatniks” for Kristen Stewart’s Poetry

12 Feb

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Kristen Stewart’s poetry has been blowing up the internet. I read a bunch of snarky comments about it on facebook last night, and this afternoon on my lunch break I discovered via Poets & Writers that the venerable Poetry Foundation gave it attention on their blog, Harriet.

I wasn’t going to comment on it, but then I read, via The Poetry Foundation, what Brian Kim Stefans had to say about it:

My own initial post went like this: “The second stanza isn’t horrible. Worst part of the poem are those awful adjectives! Stupid Beats.” What I meant by this was that the words “digital” (applied to moonlight), “scrawled” when linked to “neon” (neon is a much overused word by poets who want to sound like Beatniks) and “abrasive” (applied to organ pumps) weren’t working for me….”

What Stefans doesn’t say and what The Poetry Foundation doesn’t say is that Kristen Stewart played the role of Marylou in the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beat novel On the Road. Part of her training for the film included “Beatnik Boot Camp,” where biographers and Neal Cassady’s son, John Allen Cassady, talked to them about the real-life individuals the novel was based on and the time period. It’s important to state this upfront because the very critique hurled against her work is that it sounds too Beatnik. Whether that’s because her poetry does sound too “Beatnik”—we’ll come back to defining that word in a moment—or whether her association with the Beats fueled criticism of her work is up for debate. Maybe, more than anything, though, the criticism surrounding Stewart’s poetry has less to do with the work itself and more to do with her celebrity persona—which, let’s face it, is similar to how the Beats are reviewed. Even before her poem was revealed, the media has loved to lash out at Stewart.

Actress Amber Tamblyn was also in a Beat-related film—One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur—and has gone on record about being influenced by the Beats. Except Tamblyn blogs for The Poetry Foundations’ Harriet and has published a jazz-inspired poetry chapbook, while Stewart, seven years her junior, revealed her road-trip inspired poem to the women’s glossy Marie Claire. This certainly says something about the difference in the seriousness and literary merit of their work, but it also says something about their celebrity persona and how they are received by the media.

Okay, so now we’re caught up on Stewart. In case Stewart, or you, didn’t know, Stefans makes his authority known at the outset of his open letter:

I’m a poet and professor at UCLA, and thought you might be interested in what some of my poet friends (most of whom also teach and are otherwise very accomplished) and I have been writing on Facebook about your recent poem published in Marie Claire.

I take it Professor Stefans is not a fan of the Beat poetry. That’s fine; to each their own. Stefans is actually quite an accomplished poet, and I particularly respect his postmodern innovations in digital poetry as he bridges the gap between new media and literature. From his UCLA faculty page:

My interests in electronic writing stem directly out of my work as a poet, though it has branched off into any number of art genres that have fallen under the persuasion of digital technology, such as photography, film/video and book publishing. Research interest include creating a “bridge” between the concepts and traditions of various 20th-century avant-gardes — Language writing, the Oulipo, concrete poetry, conceptual art, Situationism, metafiction, etc. — and the various genres of digital literature, including animated poems, interactive texts, algorithmically-generated and manipulated texts, “nomadic” writing, hacktivism and experimental blogs. Presently working on a series of wall projections called “Scriptors” which will appear as gallery and environmental installations in the coming years.

His research and work in electronic literature suggests his open-mindedness toward new and experimental ideas that may not yet be culturally accepted. I would think then that he’d find Stewart’s use of the word “digital” related to his own interests, but perhaps it wasn’t “working” for the Brown graduate who got his MFA in Electronic Literature because it was too obvious of a connection, the word “digital” sounding contrived or outmoded in today’s ever-changing technical world. I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. His forward-searching eye may also be why he lays into her for relying on passé Beatnik clichés and the word “Whilst.” Stefans’ critique of Stewart’s poem is fair and balanced. There is validity to his point about “overused words” in poetry and even Beatnik buzz words.

My contention is with Stefans’ comment “Stupid Beats” and the lumping of Beat literature with “people who want to sound like Beatniks.” Yes, I get that this is a flippant response to pop culture that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, however the cultural knowledge of so-called Beatniks is wrought with so much misconception that it makes me uncomfortable to see a humanities professor at a well-known college perpetuate the stereotype.

Here’s a little Beat 101 refresher course:

  • Jack Kerouac coined the term “Beat Generation” during a conversation with fellow novelist John Clellon Holmes, in which they were riffing on the Lost Generation and their own generation.
  • Holmes went on to write “This Is The Beat Generation” for The New York Times Magazine in 1952.
  • Six years later, journalist Herb Caen coined the term “beatnik” in an article for The San Francisco Chronicle. An amalgamation of the word “beat” and “Sputnik,” the word, as conceived during the Cold War, was derogatory.
  • In fact, “The Examiner had a headline the next day about a beatnik murder,” reported the SF Gate. Note that this had nothing to do with David Kammerer or any of the writers associated with the literature of the Beat Generation.
  • In the column in which Caen coined the term “beatnik,” he was eye rolling at how Look magazine was doing yet another photo spread on the San Francisco Beat Generation scene, saying “250 bearded cats and kits were on hand.” So right there we have it that he wasn’t commenting specifically on Kerouac, Holmes, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and the specific poets or poetry associated with the Beat Generation. He was talking about the scene, man.

Let me put this into more current context. Caen used the word “beatniks” the same way people today use the term “hipster.” Think of the way people in the 2000s equated the Williamsburg hipster with the eccentric trust-fund kid wearing aviator sunglasses and skinny jeans and making really bad “art.” That’s the equivalent of a “beatnik.” They’re both pop-culture fads that aren’t wholly indicative of the art, literature, and music that loosely inspired these “scenes.”

Consequently, saying Kristen Stewart was writing in the vein of bad beatnik poetry could be a worthwhile critique and even a very interesting one if the critic were to delve into more specific examples like the use of the word “neon” (HTML Giant questions if “neon” is solely beatnik; I apparently already have a tag for “neon” because I used it for light sculptor Stephen Antonakos … was he a beatnik??), discuss the appropriation and disfiguration of Beat ideas and style (Stefans mentions a colleague who posted a response to Stewart’s poem that suggests an evolution of Beat literature: “If it’s ‘beat’, it’s more Bolinas or young Bernadette than hortatory elder beat.” [hyperlinks mine]), and analyze the cultural phenomenon of beatniks.

Saying “Stupid Beats,” though, is akin to saying “Idiot Pre-Raphaelites,” “Dimwitted Transcendentalists,” or “Insipid Oulipo.” It’s negating an entire body of literature that has resounding cultural importance.

You can read Stewart’s poem “My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole” on IndieWire’s blog, The Playlist.

Hipsters Hate Driving

3 Jul

I knew I was getting old the day I saw a car commercial where the driver was clearly younger than I am.

So here’s an interesting bit of news: Generation Y doesn’t like to drive. According to Reuter’s “America’s Generation Y not driven to drive,” the Millennials think driving is more of a hassle than it’s worth.  A California think tank analyst, Tony Dudzik says instead of a driver’s license, a cell phone is the new rite of passage for young adults.

The article points to a few different reasons why Generation Y may be less interested in driving:

  • Smart phones make it easier to know public transportation schedules
  • More Gen-Yers are riding bikes
  • People are more concerned about saving the planet
  • Car-sharing services are making it easier not to have to own a car

From a cultural perspective, this makes total sense.  Gen Y is the hipster culture.  The kids in Williamsburg who listen to low-fi indie music on their hi-tech iphone, knit water-bottle cozies that they sell on etsy, ride their bicycles to work, buy their clothes from Buffalo Exchange, spend their weekends at the food coop, brew their own craft beer, and vlog on YouTube. If they drive, they drive hybrids. Because they’re all about the i-this and the i-that, they seek out community more intentionally. Who needs a car, if your friend or parents (they also happen to be the Peter Pan Generation, living at home after college) have one?

I personally fall somewhere between Gen X and Gen Y, making me part of Generation Flux.  Generation X refers to people born between the early 1960s and 1980s, while Generation Y refers those born between the late 1970s and the 2000s.  I know when I was growing up, there were a lot of cultural arts programs in the school about saving the rainforest and saving the whales, we studied acid rain and the ozone layer, and we joined KAP: Kids Against Pollution.  In drivers ed, they pretty much terrified you with statistics, photos, and videos that suggested it was likely you were going to die if you got behind the wheel. The shows that were popular when I was a teen were Mad About You, Seinfeld, Friends, Will & Grace, and Sex and the City, all of which were set in New York City.  Other popular shows like Ally McBeal, Frasier, and ER were also set in cities. Our stars didn’t drive.  They took cabs and rode the subway. Is it any surprise that we moved into the city and followed suit?

So will a generation who grew up watching Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Snooki getting arrested for driving under the influence and/or crashing their cars, a generation coming of age during the Great Recession, a generation who doesn’t care about driving, embrace the 1950s road trip adventure of On the Road when the movie comes out and the novel by Jack Kerouac it is based on?  Well, here’s another interesting twist: Jack Kerouac didn’t like driving either. If you read his novel, you’ll see that most of the time, the character based on him in the novel is on the bus or in the passenger seat.

How do you feel like the era you grew up in influenced you?

Now you can “like” Burning Furiously Beautiful on Facebook!

Clip: BOXHOCKEY!!!

14 Jul

Forgot to mention that Burnside posted by Boxhockey!!! article.  Don’t know what Boxhockey is?  It’s awesome, that’s what it is.