05 January 2012

[pdx_liff] Passing The Cool Torch To Pittsburgh … Or Are We?

2742.My friends, my fellow adopted- and lifelong-Oregonians and Portlanders, I have great news: 'The List', that ever-so-adept (and never-incorrect) arbiter of what's now cool and what was cool, has deemed Portlandia no longer teh hottness … and has wrenched away our cool badge and given it … horrors … to … Pittsburgh? 

Good god. Next thing you know, Salem will get its own Trader Joes.

Oh, you mean it has?

Oh, my.

The piece celebrating this epochal event, written by a Washington Post writer expatriate of Pittsburgh, Maura Judkis, is a thoughtful, considered piece, going into depth about the shallowness and superficiality of determining social trends and community qualities through surface styles and trendy notices in the press. Further, it delineates that despite trends, the qualities of community that made Portland so fashionable didn't spring up overnight but grew and developed in time over years; indeed, Portland's uniqueness is a quintessential quality that was here before we got fashionable, and will linger here long after fashion changes.

Well, sorry, I tell a lie there. That's just me being Portland-style ironic, or sarcastic, or something. Actually, the Judkis piece spends so much time doing the we're-cooler-than-Portland happy dance it fails at its modest goal of even scratching the surface. The deep, thoughtful article that should have been written was written but … wait for it … a Portlander, Brian Libby:
Instead of reading the tea leaves of decades-long socio-economic urban trends that have emboldened Portland and Pittsburgh, or any number of smaller cities around the world, this article and others before it - particularly those covering the Portlandia TV show - have instead confused them with trite, fickle pop cultural cache. The notion of 15 minutes of fame was of course coined by Pittsburgh-born Andy Warhol, but the mentality shown here is less that of a visionary art provocateur than of a TMZ or E! reporter genuflecting or scoffing at a Kardashian depending on the time of day.
The whole thing should be a required read for anyone who thinks Judkis made a point here. Including Judkis.

In the meantime, fashion and fame being the chimera so stipulated, it's notable, as Judkis herself points out, that Portland is the home of Portlandia, and I would add, two other series, one which even relocated its setting to Portland after pretending it was set in Boston for the past several seasons. whereas Pittsburgh, not to be too nebby here, is still, even now, only subbing for other locales.

If 15 minutes of fame is, as Pittsburgh-originated Andy Warhol dubbed it, nothing more than a duration of freshness rather than a tart commentary on the insipidness of the fame-culture then, sorry to say, Yinzers, Portlandia's clock still has a few minutes left to run. Don't get too impatient. You'll get your turn. Maybe.

Predicting what's next is a bit like betting where lightning will strike.

And no matter what happens, we'll still have our unicorns. You can't take that away from us.

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