May 1, 2012

The Latest Whitopia: the 1890s

These are the Mast Brothers, two guys from Iowa who make extremely expensive "artisanal" chocolate in Brooklyn. And, yes, they do seem to go out of their way to look like the Smith Brothers on the old cough drop boxes.

Here's Benjamin Wallace's witty article using the Mast Brothers to illustrate what's happening in Brooklyn. 

Now, I can't afford to buy $9 chocolate bars, and my taste buds aren't sophisticated enough to tempt me anyway, but I expect that a decade from now I'll buy something at Costco cheap and delicious that incorporates new flavor breakthroughs invented around now by all the artisanal food maniacs like the Mast Brothers who are currently holing up in Brooklyn, Portland, and other growing hipster whitopias.

But the cultural signifiers ... wow ...

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein launched their fairly amusing sketch-com Portlandia (you'll like it if you don't let your expectations get too high) with a song about how the dream of the 1990s (e.g., grunge) is alive in Portland. It was okay, and you should watch it to get the jokes in this next song, because now they they've topped it with a reprise (via Razib) about how the dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland. 
Remember when everybody was carving their own ice cubes?

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

They racist.

DaveinHackensack said...

A few years ago, the New York Times published an article about the artisan food movement in Brooklyn that mentioned the Mast brothers. I wrote a post about it at the time ("Lessons from Brooklyn's New Economy").

Portlandia is often pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

The article you linked to talked a lot about "New Brooklyn". As a long-time resident of old, unhip Brooklyn, I'm curious about its size relative to the new version. I was called up for jury duty about a year ago. The prospective jurors were all from Kings County (i.e. Brooklyn), presumably a representative sample of it. During voir dire I counted up the percentage of hipsters and yuppies in the room. It was about 10%, much smaller than one would guess from media coverage.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, even more than the Tea Party or NASCAR, that's some heavy-duty "implicit whiteness" as someone puts it somewhere on the net but where i forgot.

Anonymous said...

This guy did it funnier than Fred Armisen: http://brooklynguyloveswine.blogspot.com/2012/04/restaurant-review-taconic-on-bedford.html

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Ever heard of steampunk?

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

I'd always thought that "anachronistic jobs" would have made a decent entry for the SWPL site when Lander was updating the thing. This pretty much captures it.

Anonymous said...

Related:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/our-white-people-problems-problem-why-its-time-to,72974/

They’re using the term as a form of criticism, meant to be dismissive. “That movie looks very white,” or, “That sounds like music for white people,” is another way of saying, “That can’t be any good.” And I do have a problem with that.


!!!!

Anonymous said...

Vanilla dudes making fancy chocolate. For a sec, I thought it was all about Obamacolate.

Ed said...

That area of northern Brooklyn where these guys supposedly are was planned and promoted, about the time of Walt Whitman, as a community where good middle class protestant white people could go and get away from whatever was washing up in Manhattan.

I'm from that part of the world and this was part of the local lore. Though not as well known, it is basically part of the Yankee New England/ Pacific Northwest universe. There are parts of northern California and the northern Midwest that fits in that model.

So in a way, after a period of slumming in the mid-twentieth century, this area is going back to its roots. Its really not better or worse, and shouldn't get more attention, than the other subcultures in the U.S.

Anonymous said...



"George Zimmerman’s crude Myspace page from 2005 uncovered.
While it includes photos of an ethically diverse group of friends, the murder defendant’s 2005 web presence includes disparaging remarks about Mexicans."



Hahaha!! What Arfin said on twitter, what Zimmerman said on myspace. Hahaha!!
Now, I wonder what the No Limit N-word said about people on his facebook page.

Anonymous said...

I live in Brooklyn (not Williamsburg) there is expensive SWPL food everywhere- $9 grilled cheese sandwich food trucks,
on the other hand, I have a (artist) studio in ********* and across the street there is a bogata ran by hispanics for the laborers in the area - and i get a sandwich, soda, and chips for 4.00 (not a typo)

btw steve some day you have do a post about the ultimate SWPL mecca in brooklyn the notorious Park Slope Food Coop

slumber_j said...

Visit Historic Williamsburg.

Anonymous said...

It was about 10%, much smaller than one would guess from media coverage
i have heard - not kidding - that 's about the same % of brooklynites with settler blood (e.g the dutch and early english - direct decsendents)

Anonymous said...

Despite their silly affectations and undoubtedly liberal politics, I'm all for these guys. They're young (small) businessmen competing in an industry where corporations monopolize what gets to our table. I might not be able to afford their stuff, but if other people can, more power to them. If they didn't dress funny, Bill Kauffman and both candidates would probably hold them up as models of the Good America.

Ed said...

"The article you linked to talked a lot about "New Brooklyn". As a long-time resident of old, unhip Brooklyn, I'm curious about its size relative to the new version. I was called up for jury duty about a year ago. The prospective jurors were all from Kings County (i.e. Brooklyn), presumably a representative sample of it. During voir dire I counted up the percentage of hipsters and yuppies in the room. It was about 10%, much smaller than one would guess from media coverage."

It would be better to specify "Brownstone Brooklyn" when referring to these people and where they live, or "Northern Brooklyn" as I did in an earlier comment that may still pass moderation.

Essentially people like this come from a part of Brooklyn that now consists of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights, the part now called "DUMBO", Fort Greene, parts of Greenpoint and Bushwick, though of course its more complicated. The Yankees, or Hipsters, or Yunnies if you will are pushing south and east past these neighborhoods, while there are still low income pockets within this area. And the parts closest to Manhattan are now really the domain of standard affluent white square people, Mitt Romney (or Michael Bloomberg) types

But all of this accounts for only about a fifth of the borough's population. Once you get beyond convenient subway access to Manhattan, its a very different borough.

slumber_j said...

I agree with one of the anonymites that these guys are admirable in their way, and I'm thinking of ginning up a tasting syndicate to check out one of their bars: we'll field an old-time baseball team at a buck a head. In Bushwick, say.

But no: I actually do want to taste their product and do admire them. More or less.

Anonymous said...

Good point by another (maybe: we'll never know) Anonymous about the Park Slope Food Coop and its byzantine politics--with which I'm mercifully mostly unfamiliar. A perfect subject from what little I understand.

And the same person is right that much of the charm of hanging out in the Outer Boroughs of NY lies in the unbelievably cheap and excellent food you can buy from a lot of people there. Just not these guys.

Anonymous said...

I can afford nine dollar chocolate bars, but I prefer three dollar artisanal peanut butter cups.

Peter said...

Good point by another (maybe: we'll never know) Anonymous about the Park Slope Food Coop and its byzantine politics--with which I'm mercifully mostly unfamiliar. A perfect subject from what little I understand.

Half Sigma and Gothamist have written about the Park Slope Food Co-op. It is essentially an insane asylum patronized by masochists.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Seems like a cheap shot laughing at the Mast Brothers.

I like them, they are committed to what they do, and were I wandering around NYC w/my wife, I certainly would throw down for one of their bars as deliciously sinful small luxury.

I wish all people, including myself, were as earnest, passionate, and ingenious as these guys, would be a lots better world.

Mr. Anon said...

I've often thought that, in very many ways, the 21st century will be a lot more like the 19th century than the 20th century.

Anonymous said...

Essentially people like this come from a part of Brooklyn that now consists of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights, the part now called "DUMBO", Fort Greene, parts of Greenpoint and Bushwick, though of course its more complicated.
I am the guy that made the first park slope food coop comment. SO accept this as a view from 'the street' (though not the only view)
the muslims - as in burka/hajib wearing muslims - are pushing in HARD - they are green card beneficiaries of the 'war on terror' but the joke's on us.
The other odd competitor are the hasidim/other nutty black hats - who destroy old building worse than bloomberg, have little or no oversight from the city and can get away with pretty much whatever they want (they have their own police patrols, publicly funded, allegedly MTA buses, etc)
then you have Bruce Ratner and his backing from Bloomberg- bringing in subsidized high rent (but unmarried young single thus a big tax farm but no burden, or interest, in social services) high rises (the avalon for example)
lastly the quiet purging of blacks from the projects - like the farrogot houses, slowly being replaced by chinese.

Anonymous said...

concerning the Park Slope Food Coop - they recently had a vote on boycutting israel - keep in mind how heavily Jewish the coop is - BLOOMBERG, JON STUART weighed in, (they are not members ) and it was a crisis article in all the NY dailies.
The motion was voted down- the PS food coop is utltra left/pc/liberal/swpl, has no mention of christmas during 'the holdiay season' but has a special passover section , tibetian caldendars..well, you get the picture.

Anonymous said...

another park slope food coop drama: Everyone has to work a 3 hour shift every 4 weeks. turns out some swpl were sending their nannies to work their shifts.

stari_momak said...

"Did someone say site 'Steampunk'" .Here's a bit from 'Maker's Faire.

Keep in mind as you look at the crowd and participants that the area it is held is 'majority-minority'.

Anonymous said...

It is essentially an insane asylum patronized by masochists.
i wouldn't go that far. I am a member. Rob Dherer (American Conservative) was a member. Most people want good food, cheap, and there is something to be said about bypassing chain supermarkets. There are plenty of nuts there, i won't deny.
Analogy : you go to uni to get an MBA and have to encounter PC.

FortyP said...

"It's like Marakesh over there"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOxoCi4wCmI&feature=player_embedded

DYork said...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, even more than the Tea Party or NASCAR, that's some heavy-duty "implicit whiteness" as someone puts it somewhere on the net but where i forgot.


You wont find much more "implicit Whiteness" than MotoGp world motorcycle racing. Plus the "blatant sexism" of the paddock girls/umbrella girls.

But it's virtually unknown in America.

Chris said...

"It's like President McKinley was never assassinated..."

I love it.

Anonymous said...

For the 60-100k the nannies get, why not work a co-op shift once a momth as part of the job?

Anonymous said...

It would be better to specify "Brownstone Brooklyn"
bed stuy and crown heights. and a lot of un-swpl neighborhoods have beautiful brownstones, meanwhile the hasidim and bloomberg are tearing them down in SWPL neighborhoods

[enter username here] said...

Hmm, I think I've heard enough about Brooklyn/Williamsburg/Park Slope/Carroll Gardens here & elsewhere in the last 2 weeks to last 1 lifetime. Meanwhile, here's a pitch for hand-crafted gasoline:
http://www2.fredosphere.com/gasoline.html

[enter username here] said...

How did that Onion headline go? "U.S. Dept. of Retro Warns We Are Running Out of Past"

Anonymous said...

Moved to Portland a bit ago. It's everything they say it is. (I'm coming to realize that most places are.)

They call it the most progressive city in America, it really is, only progressive isn't in quotes. Things work like they're supposed to, like nowhere else I've ever seen, because everyone seems to agree not to screw it up.

You go driving around and you can see it in the physical structure of the city, it's like something went different in the late '60s and early '70s and people never abandoned the cities and the working class and intellectual halves of the postwar consensus never split off and took sides against each other and ...oh.

The official history has it that the city was redline segregated into the '90s; there was an officially commissioned study last year that said that it still was. But the city government looked into the nonprofit that did it and pointed out that their work was shoddy (it was) and that they make their money off of the perception of problems to remedy (they do) and recommissioned the project while saying that they'd cast a harsh eye on that group's contracts in the future and that was that.

Portland is the only place I've ever heard anyone actually say "chimpout" in real life, a stylish young lesbian to her stylish young girlfriend at a stylish packed bar.

ogunsiron said...

@anonymous 12:28 :

So you mean that Portlanders are actually conscious of their whiteness and that they're not really ashamed of it ? Every so often there's an article about how Portland is "too white". They don't take that stuff too seriously ?

Wes said...

So is the premise that life will go just fine for regular White guys in America, as long we have those crazy SWPLs kids making up fancy new gourmet products? I don't buy it.

Graham Asher said...

When I look back at the 1890s from my point of view in rural England, not far from London, I start thinking 'what's not to like?'. Population about 30 million - half what it is today, and about right for our medium-sized island, I think, and still enough to rule the biggest empire in the history of the world. Not that the empire affected people round here much, about from indirect ways like free trade; but it gave people a sense of pride. Everyone had the same culture and background and knew how to get along, broadly speaking. The local towns of Dunstable and Luton, now merged into a vast and unlovely conurbation, were separate and were still smallish market towns full of ancient buildings, with hilly countryside easily accessible; much of the countryside has been miraculously preserved but the view from the Dunstable Downs to the east is now of factories and houses for many miles.

The local trades were agriculture and making straw hats. London, 30 miles away, must have seemed remote. There was an agricultural depression, so things can't have been very good for some people, I admit. But I (with no justification other than nostalgia) like to imagine myself a monied gentleman of that time.

My house was then the vicarage, and the vicar travelled round his parish by pony-trap, I believe (there used to be stables at the end of the garden). The roads were largely empty in those days before cars, and if I had lived then I would have been able to take a pleasant walking holiday, as many people did, just by walking out of the house with a rucksack and putting up at inns along the way, using the open road or footpaths as my fancy took me. If I'd wanted to travel faster, trains would have taken me quickly to any part of the kingdom; in many cases, faster than today's schedules. To go abroad all I would have needed was a train ticket and a boat ticket - no passport was required.

Anonymous said...

About Portland, SWPL's know whats make a good city.

Anonymous said...

Steve -

There is a powerful luddite/anabaptist theme at work here.

M Night Shyamalan nailed it in The Village [NO SPOILERS PLEASE!!!] and a similar sentiment was toyed with [although ultimately rejected] in 1986's The Witness.

Bottom line: Even if they are coming out of a lifetime of inculcation in atheist-nihilist SWPL culture, these hipster types can sense that there is something terribly wrong with modernity.

They probably lack the character to work their way completely out of the underlying nihilism [the measure of that would be the ultimate Total Fertilty Rates that they achieve], but something is certainly tugging at their hearts, trying to pull them away from the nihilism.

Anonymous said...

That's whiskey on the right, Whiskey Mast and his brother Bourbon.

Gilbert Pinfold

Anonymous said...

I wish these guys well.

It's not just Brooklyn that has growing hipster neighborhoods. The south Bronx has small pockets of hipsters, even in the still rough Mott Haven area. Mott Haven was the original south Bronx, the part of the Bronx closest to Harlem in Manhattan. In the 1940s and 1950s, when white locals referred to the "south Bronx", they meant Mott Haven, a small, nasty, mostly non-white neighborhood that they avoided.

The large areas north of Mott Haven, areas that would soon become part of the south Bronx was still white working class at this time.

It is disturbing to look at a map of the Bronx to see how small of a neighborhood Mott Haven is, and how quickly the blight spread from there, expanding several miles northward by the late 1970s. Even areas adjacent to the "south Bronx" are as bad as if not worse than the south Bronx.

This makes me wonder if the gentrification will follow a similar route. Blacks are leaving the city; at its periphery, the south Bronx has the Bronx Zoo, NY Botanical Gardens and Fordham University, institutions that served as oases of civilization in an otherwise 3rd world landscape.

Anonymous said...

For the 60-100k the nannies get
i doubt they get half that. As for the coop every member is supposed to work 3 hours. only a family member can sub, not 'hired guns'

Anonymous said...

It's like President McKinley was never assassinated...

Are any of you guys aware of just how central the McKinley assassination is to our current dilemma?

The assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was a disciple of the Scots-Irishwoman, Emma MacGoldman, who, in turn, was a disciple and lover of the Scots-Irishman, Alexander MacBerkman, who himself had attempted [along with MacGoldman] to assassinate Henry Clay Frick.

It was one of the great mistakes in this nation's history that MacGoldman was not executed [as an enemy agent] for her role in the McKinley assassination - a really singular, colossal, suicidal blunder.

Anonymous said...

They probably lack the character to work their way completely out of the underlying nihilism [the measure of that would be the ultimate Total Fertilty Rates that they achieve], but something is certainly tugging at their hearts, trying to pull them away from the nihilism.

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that the most they will probably accomplish will be to recreate some sort of a caricature [or a mockery or a facade or just a shadow] of an imitation of 1890s WASP culture - without the underlying antinomianism & gnosticism as a foundation, this movement will die on the vine [as does every other silly endeavor that these nihilists attempt to amuse themselves with].

But I guess there's no reason we can't root for them to succeed [even if we fear that the whole thing is doomed to failure].

Again, though, the ultimate measure of their success will be the Total Fertility Rate that they achieve [or fail to achieve].

Mr. Anon said...

"Now, I can't afford to buy $9 chocolate bars, and my taste buds aren't sophisticated enough to tempt me anyway,..."

You can buy a german or swiss or italian chocolate bar for $3-4. In the long run, you'll save money. After having real chocolate, you won't be able to stand that artifical waxy brown substance that passes for chocolate in America, so you'll eat less overall.

Anonymous said...

SWPLs are mostly 1-2 sigma whites. Their rules ideas would make decent sense if society was all 1-2 sigma whites. It's not surprise that a city full of SWPLs working under SWPL rules isn't so bad.

candid_observer said...

I'm afraid the Mast brothers lost me at the part when they mentioned their plans to transport their beans from the Dominican Republic by sail.

What's the secret ingredient baked into their chocolate?

Bullsh*t.

Bill said...

Steve, you should check out the "Art of Manliness" blog. Very popular, successful blog, and totally 1890s.

Made in Oklahoma.

Anonymous said...

they mentioned their plans to transport their beans from the Dominican Republic by sail.
not as crazy as it sounds up until the outbreak of wwii 'windjammers' transported grain from austrailia - the gist was this - slower times, but fuel savings thus lower cargo prices. thus lower grain prices.

Anonymous said...

MacGoldman was not executed [
macgoldman was not only not executed but she is glorified and cannonized by other scots-irish.

Anonymous said...

art of manlineness is good.
i think part of the popularity of retro, especially with web design, is it's in public domain.
If you have a monetized blog, each picture you provide has to be either public domain or licensed.

Anonymous said...

who himself had attempted [along with MacGoldman] to assassinate Henry Clay Frick.
one wonders why MacGoldman & co didn't try to assassinate, oh, I don't know, Jacob MacSchiff or some other scottish bankers.. oh wait, I think MacSchiff funded ..oh never mind....

David said...

Someone in the peanut gallery screamed at Mittens today: "You're racist!" fourteen times. Perez Hilton dishes.

Anonymous said...

What fascinates me about all this Portlandia video, in part, is all the talk about the hardship of the 1890s.

The Neo-Victorian "steampunk" movement was set off in sci-fi and fantasy in 1990s-2000s and has filtered down through art and videogames.

Infuential works like Perdido Street Station and The Diamond Age were already showcasing the brutal hard Victorian world (although of course, we know that in many respects these Victorian people were improved, in quality of life, to the peasantry of the vast, wide world).

It's now come more to fruition in affecting the real world in fashion and culture (like cyberpunk and videogames, another example of why not to bet against male White (and South/East Asian) nerds as a major factor, upstream, in what fashion and art will look like, downstream).

But the focus on the hardship is something absent in the early 2000s filter down - whatever was in the original source novels, what the early 2000s got were all fluffy, fanciful Rube Goldberg machine things, elaborately decorative Gothically crenulated versions of Victorian (and late Georgian and late Victorian) aesthetics, all running off the "aether".

This is a steampunk for a generation that knows the world is hard, and that it is going to be, in some ways, closer to the 1890s.

It's a Neo-Victorian that has no patience for the fat years and a focus on authenticity.

NOTA said...

Somehow, this whole topic makes me think of the perfectly applicable Weird Al song

candid_observer said...

slower times, but fuel savings thus lower cargo prices. thus lower grain prices.

I'm thinking that if you're charging 10 bucks a bar, it's not lower prices that you're touting.

Anonymous said...

candid_observer said...

I'm afraid the Mast brothers lost me at the part when they mentioned their plans to transport their beans from the Dominican Republic by sail.

What's the secret ingredient baked into their chocolate?

Bullsh*t.

Friend of mine tried this with coffee. Actually I think maybe Dominican Republic also. So yeah I can confirm it's "Bullsh*t" he gave that crazy idea up.

Anonymous said...

NYC nannies routinely get paid 60-100k/year. What's mythical is the idea that the norm is 20-30k/year for full time childcare in a place where status-driven parents bid up everything else but mysteriously not childcare.

Anonymous said...

NYC nannies routinely get paid 60-100k/year.
no, most of them are poorly paid immigrants.

Mr. Anon said...

"candid_observer said...

I'm afraid the Mast brothers lost me at the part when they mentioned their plans to transport their beans from the Dominican Republic by sail."

With modern materials and methods, we probably could build some really damned good clipper ships nowadays. It might even make economic sense for certain cargoes.

Anonymous said...

Sure they are, if 60k/year off the books and 80-100k on them is poorly paid.