Monday, November 14, 2011

Custom Knock Offs

"So you see plays based on reviews."
"Have you read the play?"
"Did you read the novel?"
"But it's a classic of world literature."
You can't read everything.
"But it's a classic."
(Repeat with dead-eyed stare) You can't read everything.
"Maybe you're a critic yourself."
No (finish drink.)  Enjoy the show.

- Last night's conversation, in the bar at The Manhattan Theatre Club before the start of Venus in Fur, with the snottiest theatre patron I've encountered in memory, demonstrating what is, however, a common misconception of conventionally educated consumers of 'culture' that 'culture' consists of a checklist to be gotten through, a shelf of products to be consumed (Waldorf School educators and their unfortunate former students, for all their nonsense to the contrary, are among the worst offenders of such unreflective cultural elitism, which misses the point of culture--or at least, the kind of culture I give a damn about--altogether.)  

The day before, I walked into a small store in The West Village that sold various items handy for travel, shoulder bags, notebooks, easy-to-wear shirts. I choked on the prices:  $250 for a tasteful small notebook similar to a moleskin.  $500 for a tasteful cloth messenger bag.  Etc. I was assured these were all "one of a kind, custom designed" items, not to be confused with "mass produced" products of similar utility, though these were utility items, custom designed or not, indistinguishable from their mass-produced cousins--in fact, certainly knock offs of the mass-produced originals (knock offs of knock offs!) but somehow... better?

Do these moments have anything in common?

I'll let you infer the obvious, but one thing, among others:  I usually only run into this kind of wackiness in NYC, the home of all manner of unhinged striving and social fetish.

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