Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gentrifork: Pitchfork reviews of SF gentrification articles

(An occasional series.)

Tech overkill destroyed the loveliest, liveliest city on the West Coast

Adrian Weckler

Irish Independent, 2015


Finnegans Wake, perhaps the crowning achievement of Irish literature, begins "a way a lone a last a loved a long the / riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."  Lovely, no?  This piece of Irish literature, "Tech overkill" etc. by Adrian Weckler begins by trodding on more familiar ground: "A friend of mine pays $5,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. To buy it, she says, would cost $1.4m."  Perhaps more comprehensible, but so done.

Since Gentrification Work (just "Gent" now, amirite?) splintered into its various subgenres like Bitch House and Teslawave, Dumb & Boring has become one of my favorites; hell, I've dabbled in it myself.  But slipping past the forgettable first track here, "Friend With Laughably Expensive Apartment," I'm afraid Weckler brings nothing new to the table.  Indeed, he's gentrifying the genre itself, kicking out more interesting ideas for sad, sick, familiar passages.  Just check this out, from "This City Shuts Down Early" (a track, I might add, that can trace its lineage back even to the pre-Gent days of Wish This Was New Yorkism):

They may all be responsible, hard-working people. But as I walked the streets of the city 10 days ago, I was struck by how everything was quiet by 11pm. It seemed that anyone staying up after that was working on some start-up project or teleconferencing with an office in China.

How droll.  Did you perhaps poke your head in for a quick “nǐ hǎo” or are you just guessing? But yeah, I guess the one block on 2nd you based this entire story on doesn't have any bars open past 11.

Things don't improve in the next track, "Everything Used to Be Better":

This is a relatively recent thing. The first time I travelled to San Francisco I was 19. It was a magical place, unlike any other US city I had been to. There was a pulsating artistic atmosphere about the place.
Today, San Francisco is still physically beguiling. But culturally, it's now a chilled out version of Manhattan without the legacy. The tech boom has pushed out local character and imported people who look, talk and act the same.

Translation: Nobody offered me molly this time.

Homeless Mentions are the Twitter parody accounts of Gent: everyone's got one, and they're all terrible.  Weckler gamely rises to the bait:
The city has retained enough of a liberal ethos to tolerate a (very) large number of homeless people, where other cities might be more harsh. (This is striking: there are small armies of homeless people lining streets in San Francisco.)

There you go.  The homeless are either a symbol of the Lost Heart of a Once Great City or a small army between us and the beautiful vistas.

I remain convinced that D&B still has a lot to offer.  I'll throw on a masterpiece of the genre like Nellie Bowles' "The 2,500-Person Tech Mixer That Was Not a Party" sometimes and just let the uuggggghhhhhh wash over me.  Weckler's got a long way to go, and multiple references to Slack won't take him there alone.


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