Sunday Morning! “Rat Bohemia” by Sarah Schulman

Rufus F.

Rufus is a likeable curmudgeon. He has a PhD in History, sang for a decade in a punk band, and recently moved to NYC after nearly two decades in Canada. He wrote the book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (2021).

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26 Responses

  1. Slade the Leveller
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    Currently reading Andy Weir’s (The Martian) Project Hail Mary. I can see this one on the silver screen. The main character of the new novel is a lot like the main character in The Martian.Report

  2. Michael Cain
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    I’ve read Charlie Stross’s posts about the huge difficulty of writing while he was dealing with his parents dying. In addition to writing, as my wife disappears down the dementia hole I’m finding it difficult to stick with reading anything. Fiction has to grab me quite quickly or I abandon it and look for something else. The Starless Crown has managed to catch me right now. I’ve had to give up on non-fiction of any length.Report

    • Slade the Leveller in reply to Michael Cain
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      Have you read anything of Emily St. John Mandel? Everything she’s written has been impossible for me to put down. Her latest, Sea of Tranquility, is beautifully written. Her prose is absolutely magical.Report

  3. Saul Degraw
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    The ultimate problem for someone like Moss is that the preferred solution requires a genie wish. In the meantime, Bohemian NIMBYs end up shooting themselves in the feet by opposing new buildings for aesthetic and cultural considerations. The icky normies that they despise so much are not moving away. Objecting to new buildings just is going to be more displacement down below. But people like Moss would rather be righteous and lose than change and have a city too.

    I just don’t understand this view especially because today’s yuppies would largely consider the “joke” you listed above disgusting. I think people like Moss guce their own proof for the Horseshoe theory of politics. Moss yearning for the East Village of yesteryear is reactionary in a way that rhymes with MAGAs yearning for the age when it was perfectly acceptable to tell homophobic and racist jokes in the office.

    I don’t understand wanting to return to either world even if it means a more scruffy, exciting, and romantic downtown New York. The return of Danceteria and CBGBs is not worth the return of open and casual homophobiaReport

    • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw
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      I think this is an insightful point, Saul, we take the good and the bad in any place and era. I also think we would all do a little bit better to work on taking yes for an answer when it’s presented.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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      A couple of our class mates from suburbia have expressed visible disgust to me, after they had decent seized families, of ever moving into suburbia.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw
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      Honestly, I’ve never read Jeremiah Moss. Is this something he does: opposing new buildings? I’m not sure if you’re talking about “people like Moss” or something Moss wrote. If I’m going to be totally honest, I’ve never even looked at Vanishing New York.

      Since he’s a trans man, I doubt he’s keen to return to casual homophobia. But, like I was saying in the post, I don’t get why people who remember the East Village in the 70s don’t pinpoint what it was they loved about that era and replicate *that* in whatever city hasn’t got the highest rents in the country.

      I’ve actually got some friends who did just that- moved to a nowhereville in Northern California and formed an art collective and are basically doing all the stuff older people in New York wish they could still do in New York. It’s possible to take inspiration from the past without romanticizing its grosser elements.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F.
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        The shtick of Vanishing New York is romanticizing all those, for lack of a better word, low rent petit bourgeois businesses and similar stuff as being the real true New York. And yes, he does seem to oppose new construction as a way to prevent gentrification despite no evidence that it works.Report

  4. DensityDuck
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    It is quite striking to watch the movies from the 80s and see just how casually homophobia was incorporated as humor. Quite often it was as basic as “see that guy? He’s GAY! That’s it, that’s the joke.”

    Even into the mid-90s, the mere existence of queerness was seen as humorous, just “that girl? REALLY A GUY!” or “haha, that girl wants to be a guy” was the entire joke.Report

    • KenB in reply to DensityDuck
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      When I was in high school in the early 80s, jokingly implying that someone was gay comprised probably a third of our humor. We were a pretty liberal crowd so there was always an unspoken “not that there’s anything wrong with that” assumption, but I do remember us feeling rather awkward about it a few years later when one of our crowd came out.

      On a similar topic (humor and cultural change), I often think about a particular joke in Isaac Asimov’s Treasury of Humor from 1971 — it was about a couple of women’s-libbers who were arrested, and after one expressed her fear about the situation to the other, the reply was “Have faith in God — She will protect us”. That was the joke, that God was referred to as “She”. If my kids who grew up in our very-liberal church read that out of context, they wouldn’t even recognize that it was supposed to be a joke.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck
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      My favorite example of this is Lenny Bruce’s classic “Thank You, Masked Man” routine. The punchline is, essentially, “the Masked Man’s a fag!” who lusted after Tonto. Any dirty dirty-minded 14 year-old boy (a massive redundancy, I know) sniggered over what the Lone Ranger and Tonto got up to during chilly nights on the prairie. Back in Bruce’s day, simply acknowledging that was transgressive and funny. Now, it would have to be the premise of a joke, not the joke itself.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to DensityDuck
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      Since I’ve been watching quite a few lately, I find there are a handful of ubiquitous jokes in 80s comedies that land kind of weird today:
      1. See that guy? He’s GAY!
      2. Oh boy! That kid’s spying on an older girl (often his sister) while she’s UNDRESSING!
      3. Listen to that guy talk? He’s ASIAN!

      To be honest, I still remember making some “gay” joke when I was about 11 years old- so mid 80s- and an older friend saying “I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with gay people,” and thinking “Wait, of course there isn’t!” and it also being a big revelation because I’d never heard ANYTHING like that before.Report

  5. DensityDuck
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    I also remember someone writing about how the big come-up of lesbians in early-to-mid-90s America was mostly enabled by every other form of queerness dying of AIDS.Report

  6. LeeEsq
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    says:

    Saul is right that what Moss and others like him want is impossible to achieve. They want the cities to be places for the down and outs and other people on the margins of American society while the normies live in the suburbs and only go to cities for work and entertainment and best. Otherwise the normies need to stay in the suburbs. They do want the generous suburban tax subsidies though. This isn’t going to happen politically.

    It was also only a few cities during the grit era that managed to achieve this type of down and out playground status. New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco are probably the big three examples. Other cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and St. Louis just entered into a long bad phase without much of a hip artsy bohemian scene. Portland and Seattle remained relatively normal cities with a wide class base. New York also had a lot of normies in it because there were seven to eight million people and down and out Bohemians and other marginal groups were just a small number of them.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to LeeEsq
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      One of the movements in late-90s cinema (that got derailed by 9/11) was the big meditation on gentrification; on the way that cities were moving from “catering to Banished Queers and white-ethnic criminals” to “catering to yuppies who grew up in Suburbia”.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq
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      Guys, I’m really skeptical that anyone living in the real world has any dreams of keeping “normies” out of big cities by 2022. The “normies” are at least 95% of the people in Manhattan, and anyone living here would really have to have come to terms with that by now.

      Nevertheless, I think it’s understandable that people with roots here might figure their own days in the city are numbered now that the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is $5,000 a month and rising every year. The most common question I hear from “old New Yorkers” is “Who the hell is going to live here in a few years?” On the other hand, maybe a speculative real estate market will collapse and we’ll be back to the 70s. Sort of a pyric victory.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F.
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        So where does this leave the people who want to move into the city? How is this difference than a xenophobe complaining about immigrants destroying the real true nature of their culture?Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq
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          Me: It’s understandable that people who’ve lived in a place for decades and set down roots there would worry about being evicted from their homes because their income hasn’t kept up with market-rate rent inflation.

          Someone on this site: Those people are basically bigots. How are they not bigots?

          Every fishing time.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Rufus F.
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        [Sweating Spaceman GIF]:
        Side With Lower Income People As Social Justice
        vs.
        Eliminating Urban Crime and Decay As Bourgeoisie Values

        But in the end, its really a false dichotomy. The fact that poor people have no other easily available rental units is the problem.

        Once you discard people whose objection is in fact rooted in some kind of bigotry, you’re left with a sizable number of people who really are justifiably distressed about having to move out to some uncertain and precarious future.

        And we’ve talked about this quite a lot here, where almost everyone agrees that any solution has to include some form of massive increases in building, along with wages commensurate with rents.

        FWIW, I’m not impartial here- I live in a recently renovated old historic building on the edge of Skid Row. I don’t romanticize the urban ills.

        But I’ve also seen that gentrification, in the absence of a massive building program, becomes a driving factor of urban ills. People often think that gentrifying an area “solves” the homeless and drunks and scofflaws but they just drive them to other areas, and create more of them.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          The main problem is that most gentrifiers and anti-gentrifiers do not want a massive building program. An actual massive building program is only people with a small number of liberal and libertarian YIMBYs. Most other people don’t want it regardless of their race or political orientation because they want where they live to remain the same as possible.

          This is also the real big problem with post-war American suburbia. They were designed not to change but that is impossible. Previously a hamlet could turn into a village a village into a town and a town into the city. From the 19th century to the present, cities could become mega-cities of millions of people. Post-war American suburb by design and law is basically static even if the population grows. It remains suburbia because of strict zoning laws and autocentric transportation policies.Report

  7. LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    I think Kimmi might be back under another name.Report

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