Tag Archives: Recession

The Slack is Back: Why Hipsters Are the New Slackers

It’s said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, and this is true not only in our culture, but in our countercultures and subcultures as well. Your Chop is 31 this year, which makes us just barely old enough to remember the best of the early Nineties. It also means we’re young enough to still be going out pretty often, and the more time we spend in bars and DIY spaces, the more we notice how much today’s Hipsters have in common with the Slackers of yore.

Today’s bright young things of 21-25 are definitely too young to remember most of the 90’s, especially the early part. Sure, they’re happy to ‘curate’ some of the indie touchstones of that period into their own lives; Nirvana bootlegs, Trainspotting, cassettes, eclectic fashion, The Basketball Diaries and organic coffee, but most fail to realize exactly how much they’ve got in common with the grunge rockers who were living in those same shitty apartments and loft spaces 20 years ago.

One of these photos is from a story on Lollapalooza 1991. The other is from a 2010 story on a Brooklyn loft space. You are free to guess which is which.

The ties that bind today’s Hipsters to their Slacker brethren run deeper than their pasty, tattooed skin. Beyond the PBR and the Chuck Taylors- and of course the blatant denials- it’s the things you can’t see with the eye that mark the Hipster as the new Slacker.

>>> An inflated sense of self-worth. Lots of people create art. A ton of people have read Chomsky and Nietzche the poems of Pablo Neruda. Building a bicycle or growing a vegetable garden or knitting a scarf are skills that many people have. They don’t make you special, Hipster. They put you on the level of basic human competence.

>>> A giant sense of entitlement. A job that you love and enjoy is not your due, Hipster. A job in your chosen field is not your due. A job is not your due. Doing something rewarding about which you’re passionate is what you get after you pay your dues. How do you pay your dues? You grind on in an ordinary job until you’ve learned all the things they didn’t teach you in college. If you’re lucky, it’ll take 20 years. Until that happens get off the fucking dole and go to work.

>>> A refusal of sacrifice. Is that iPhone’s unlimited data plan a want or a need? Is that out-of-town reunion show really a one-off must-see event? Is it actually so imperative that you treat Record Store Day as a national holiday? It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve heard anyone say “I can’t. I don’t have the money.” but we’re still often hearing stories of bar tabs and boasts of new purchases, along with complaints about credit card debt.

>>> Political martyrdom. The rise of grunge and Slacker culture in the early 1990’s had a lot to do with the first President Bush and his recession. The prominence of Hipster culture was directly proportional to the G. W. Bush economy of the late 2000’s, the effects of which we’re still feeling today. Combining your part-time service gig with an Etsy shop might seem like an ideal solution, but it fits a sixty-something better than a twentysomething. Believe it or not, cheap rent doesn’t last forever.

>>> Send in the Salvation Army. We will give some credit where it’s due. Slack-sters have always been masters of thrift. An underemployed twentysomething can cut expenses just about anywhere. We’re a great admirer of thrift, but there’s more to it than scoring an advantageous rental agreement, cutting out transport costs with a bicycle and using sales and coupons for groceries. The idea is to do something more productive with the money you’re saving than buying a nice bag of weed. Making ends meet is important, but until you’ve figured out how to make cash flow positive at the end of every month, there will always be a question of whether you own a lifestyle, or a lifestyle owns you.

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House Rules: Free Food for Happy Hour

The Chop is jumping on the Bolt Bus and heading up to New York for a party tonight. As much as we’re loathe to admit that any city anywhere has some advantage over Baltimore, and especially New York City, we can’t deny that there is one aspect in which the Big Apple is thoroughly and completely superior: free food at happy hour.

The tradition of free food at happy hour traces back to some time of yore in some place that we don’t really feel like Googling right now. However it is mentioned in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) in a scene in which Jurgis is low on money and chooses to go to the bar and buy whiskey in order to enjoy the free meal being served with it.

Rudy's in Hell's kitchen has been giving away hot dogs for decades and hasn't gone broke yet. Baltimore bar owners, please take note.

The Jungle is set in Chicago, of course, but we believe the tradition of free food to have originated in Manhattan, probably in bars with specific ethnic clienteles who all enjoyed specific ethnic foods. Rudy’s Bar in Hell’s Kitchen has made itself famous nationwide as ‘the place that gives away free hot dogs all day every day’, and any New Yorker who is hungry or broke or both can easily pull up many lists of plenty of bars which are more than happy to feed customers for free during happy hour. And we’re not just talking wieners here; these bars are serving up everything from dogs and burgers to wings, hummus, cheese plates, pasta dishes and even bagels and brunch spreads on Sundays.

In an era when people are as thirsty as ever and still feeling the lingering effects of the Bush Economy, free food at happy hour makes perfect sense. Baltimoreans are always quick to embrace a deal, and a local bar scene in which taverns compete not on the basis of who can throw the best dance party or tap the most microbrews, but who gives away the best and most food is a winning situation for everyone.

If Baltimore wishes to hold onto its claim of being The Greatest City in America, we need to get our act together on the happy hour food giveaways.

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House Rules: Credit Card Roulette

The Chop is not typically given over to gambling. We used to frequent Pimlico when the horses were running, and we’re loathe to back out of a bar bet if we’re absolutely sure that it was Paul Rodriguez who co-starred in DC Cab and not George Lopez. Aside from that though, we tend to eschew games of chance believing the odds are always in favor of the house.

So it may be a bit uncharacteristic of us to come out and endorse credit card roulette, but endorse it we do, and heartily.

CCR is great for fancy restaurants. Just make sure you don't eat like a horse...

For the uninitiated, credit card roulette is a game played by a group of friends out dining or drinking. When the bill comes, all parties at the table produce a credit card, which cards are then shuffled and one is picked at random, usually by a waiter or busboy. The owner of the card picked is then gracious enough to pick up the entire check, while everyone else’s card finds its way back into their wallets unswiped.

Credit card roulette is not new, per se, as the earliest reference to it we found in a quick Google search was 2006. It is however new enough that it has yet to gain much in the way of popularity. Despite a few mentions here and there on TV and in the movies and print media, many people have still never heard of it, and those who do know about it often balk. With the great recession taking hold in mid-2007, most people out there were lucky to be eating at all, let alone in restaurants, and that’s to say nothing of picking up the whole table’s bill. We’re slowly crawling out of that mire though, and we hope that 2011 will be the year that CCR really takes off as a social phenomenon.

Granted, it’s not for everyone. For those who go out often enough though, and who tend to go out with the same groups of friends on a regular basis, the rewards easily outweigh the risks. Hell, we endorse paying the bill out of sheer generosity if you can swing it. The reaction to a surprise check pick-up can range anywhere from genuine gratitude to outright awe. If you’ve never felt this from your guests (and at this point they are your guests), you owe it to yourself at least once. Even as a winner (loser) of credit card roulette though, a hearty round of thanks and appreciation are still your due.

Another great aspect of this game though, and the main reason we endorse it with so much gusto is because of the social bonds it can create and nurture. If nothing else, it’s an inducement for the loser to invite everyone else back out for another meal in the hopes of getting back to breaking even. After a few meals are exchanged and it all evens out (and maybe a few new marks get to pay once in a while) the whole thing becomes more of a gentlemen’s society and rotating supper club than anything else. And hey, who doesn’t like a free meal once in a while.

What about you? Have you played credit card roulette before? Won? Lost? Was the loser a sport or did they get all huffy about it. would you try it again? Let us know in the comments.

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Downright Dickensian

This is the Chop’s first Pop-Up Picture Post! All of the links in this post go directly to photos of the things they are. Example: When you see teapot linked, it’ll show you a picture of a teapot. Its fun!

As you may know, the Chop recently spent some time in Germany, and we’ve been so busy since we got back there’s scarcely been time to recount what we found there.

And what we did find was sad, my friends. It was heart-wrenching stuff, straight out of Dickens or Les Miserables. If you think the recession is bad here, its so much worse in Germany.

Everywhere we went we saw Orphans. Some of them live out on the street,
while other are lucky enough to get into the orphanages or the home for wayward girls. The situation has grown so dire there that there are whole streets of orphanages, where the poor dears knock on the windows and beg for attention.

There are some hard-working orphans in Germany.

Oh its bad, Gentle Reader. These orphans are so neglected that they actually dance on tables, hang all over the place, and even jump up in your lap and call you daddy. Some of them even sing for their supper in the public houses. We thought that never happened anymore, but those who can’t sing are out on their own. These orphans are so poor, most of them barely have enough clothes to cover themselves, and lots of them are all skin and bones.

The Chop hopes that things improve soon, because History has already shown us that when things go bad in Germany, they can get out of hand.

But while the Chop is usually a generous philanthropist, we kept it (our wallet, that is) in our pants, which was especially coldhearted around Christmas time. Shame on us and our cold, black, American heart.

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This Is Why You Don’t Deserve A Raise.

As you’re beginning to figure out, The Baltimore Chop is always on top of its game. We do what the hell we say we’re going to do, and when we say we’ll do it. Of course, our timing is always impeccable, and our attention to detail unimpeachable.

So we’re very disappointed when others fail to meet their obligations. We’re not one to lose our cool, but we are highly vexed by those of you (and you know goddamn well who you are) who wait until Friday afternoon to contact the parties with whom you do business, and say in effect:

‘Oh, remember that thing you were depending on me for? Well, I didn’t get around to it, and I need something else from you, and by the way I’m already mentally checked out since I’m leaving the office early today and going away for the weekend and probably taking a ‘personal day’ on Monday.’

This is entirely unacceptable. Don’t do this.

It seems the Chop has been running into these sort of people Every Friday since about the beginning of the recession, when everyone basically stopped caring and was paralyzed by fear. This Friday in particular, its the sales staff at Value City Furniture in White Marsh, who failed to deliver the sofa we had ordered. Normally this would be a mere minor detail, except that the Chop had already arranged for the Louisville Slugger to come all the way from the New York City this weekend, and we had offered him a couch on which to sleep. We won’t have our friends laid out on hardwood floors.

In related news, the Chop had a second date tonight with a very charming young lady whose father had the ill-manners and poor timing to have himself a small heart attack or some such thing, and managed to land himself in a Pennsylvania hospital. Needless to say the date is canceled, and probably wouldn’t be much fun if it happened under those circumstances anyway. We wish our (very remotely possibly) future father in law a quick and comfortable convalescence.

So while we’re tempted to do the call-around, The Chop is going to take this as a good excuse for some quality ass-to-seat time in our new armchairs (which actually were delivered), and probably make our way into Hampden for Bar Bacon Comedy IX at the Golden West.

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Bar Bacon IX is at the Golden West tonight. 10pm. $7.

The Chop feels like we might well be behind the curve having let eight of these things go by, especially since we’ve heard nothing but good things. Jimmy “Valentine” Meyer even won a Best of Baltimore award for best comedy night, although the competition probably wasn’t all that stiff. Still and all, that’s even more reason to respect and support something like Bar Bacon. Any asshole can pick up a guitar and form a band, but there are far too few people willing to try their hand at comedy, and to give it the treatment deserved by the serious art form that it is. So the Chop is excited to finally hear the Bacon for ourselves, and we hope Meyer will keep cracking wise for a good long time, inspiring others to do likewise.

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