Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Practice Practice Practice…
As I've said a few times recently, this country is becoming more sophisticated in its tastes and manners. Interestingly, I'm not referring to the tastes and manners of Manhattanites. As it stands, what has happened is more of a leveling, and the city I live in has if anything become more provincial. New York is still, perhaps more than ever, a place for foreigners who need or want to escape their homelands: Manhattan for the rich, the outer boroughs for everyone else. But things have changed. I've been to quite a few parties, with people from five or six countries, and been the only American. The thriving neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens are made up almost entirely of immigrants. There are places in New York where you could imagine yourself not only in a foreign country, but in a small western European city. And none of those places, with small cafes and shops, is in Manhattan. New York is now a place for immigrants to come to mingle with each other, if they're poor, or even if they're not.

Self-consciously serious American culture has always been thin. As often as it's based on the transubstantiation of the popular and vulgar, too often it's based on their denial. This is due partly to the nature of our mediocrities. Criticism of the banalities of the bourgeoisie in this country and others is often shaded -with subtlety or not- as a critique of democracy. You can say this about Greenberg, Foucault or Antonin Scalia. It's fascinating to understand just how much the art world, for example, flooded as it is with works that ape popular culture, still needs to posit itself superior to movies and tv. But broad slatherings of irony can not hide the fact that the central theme of the works is envy.

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