An inquiry into social dynamics
Hendrik was a hipster, though technically speaking, he was not a very successful one: other hipsters looked strangely at him when he tried to socialise with them in the cool places in town and they would roll their eyes demonstratively behind his back. The problem was that Hendrik’s sense for what’s hip, cool, hot and funky was so acute that he was into hip things from just about any period in history. And as every Hipster knows, it is absolutely essential to only be into things that are hip right now.
This didn’t bother him at all, though: happily oblivious of this restriction, Hendrik had a great time indulging in a bewildering array of groovy styles, habits, music and clothes.
He had even befriended George, an astonishingly humdrum guy who had moved into the apartment next-door.
George was so much not hip that he wasn’t even aware of the concept of “hip”, let alone that he had any notion of just how intensely it didn’t apply to him.
Still, like Hendrik, George was quite content with himself because he was free to like whatever he fancied without the burden of social peer pressure.
One day, George visited Hendrik. He sat down on a sofa that looked as if it was designed by Picasso in his Fauvist period if he had had one.
“What’ll you have, George?” Hendrik informed, wearing his new Zoot suit, hoping to elicit a response from George.
“Oh, anything … some lemonade would be nice.”
“Dude! Wow! Have I got the hottest thing for you!” Hendrik swivelled quickly around, assuming a fancy pose, pointing at George with the index fingers of both hands and grinning meaningfully, his eyebrows wiggling.
“Yeah, what’s that?” George inquired.
“Waaaassssup! Wanna übercool sizzling refreshener, Mista Neigh-bour ‘X’?” Hendrik droned with his jaws clenched.
“Ah, just a lemonade is fine .. whatever you have.”
Eventually Hendrik brought him a fizzy blue drink, winking maniacally as if desperately trying to convey some hidden message.
George could do little but ignore all that, as it was like trying to understand Sanskrit to him.
“Thanks Hendrik”, he said and took a sip.
“Tastes fine!” he added, though he found the blue goo way too sweet, and he wasn’t too fond of ginger either.
“Dude!” Hendrik rasped with a hoarse voice, sipping from a fashionable Mexican beer, pushing the slice of lemon nonchalantly inside the bottle with his tongue.
“Let’s listen to some music, huh?” He jumped up, inserted a cd and pushed a button. “Dis is what all them hep-cats are really gone about … Bitchin’ Atomic Boom-Clap music, sssueee-weeet!”
A prissy beat filled the room, composed of a stiff electronic hand-clap, alternated with a miffed bass-drum kick, glued together with a swishing hi-hat.
Hendrik, striking a theatrical disco dancing pose, gently rocked to the rhythm.
“Dude. Isn’t this totally mesmerising?” he said.
George listened to the snappy electronic rhythm that accompanied a falsetto voice singing about how someone needn’t be beautiful as long as they gave him a kiss. It sounded to him as if the singer was being painfully pinched in certain places.
He tried hard, but he could not find it very mesmerising at all.
”Hmm”, he said eventually.
“Ha! Maybe a bit too wailing, too hep-cat eh?” Hendrik took a sip while wiggling his hips.
“Maybe a tad too fancy for me”, George admitted, “well, you know me …”
“Now then cock, let’s giv’ yer ‘ead a wobble … ” George looked on, fascinated by the sudden change in Hendrik’s presence, from sophisticated Philadelphia dancer to a square-shouldered working-class Mancunian. Hendrik slapped the CD player and chunky distorted guitars filled the room. As Hendrik ambled up to the sofa, the band took off, shouting in unison: “Rhaaâhrhaâh RHAAAH KILLFOCK *spit* BAHH! …. Rhaaâhrhaâh RHAAAH KILLFOCK *spit* BLAH! …. Rhaaâhrhaâhrhaâh f*ck f*ck *spit* KILL!! …. “ to the rhythm.
“What is it right, someone’s seen their a**e ‘aven’t they … still, they go’ a’ sound point there cock, nah?” Hendrik snorted, gulped down the rest of his beer and burped.
“I say”, George said, neutrally.
The angry band had now reached the verse of their song, in which they promulgated in heavy-handed terms that neither they, nor the listener had a future.
This made George feel a bit glum.
Hendrik, noticing the look on George’s face, jumped up again: “Whoa, whoa, whoa …” he said, “… do I see sad little faces? We can’t be having with that! Come on, let’s cheer up a bit … “
He selected another disc, silenced the contumacious musicians and hit play once again.
He turned to George, now wearing sunglasses that he seemed to have produced out of nothing.
“Groovy, baby! Listen to them vibes …” he played ‘air guitar’ as the music started.
George listened, sipping the blue hipster-nectar, trying to ignore its taste.
An electric guitar was played in a fast soulful rhythm that was being picked up in the background by a line of people whooping and clapping their hands in a very bright and upbeat manner. George did like this record, nodded approvingly and tapped one foot to the beat while Hendrik was completely absorbed by his air-guitar act, yelling things like “Whoo-Hoo! Fun-kee, ma brudda, fun-kee!”
Then, the guitar-player on the record switched on a wah-wah pedal and started to work it furiously, alternatingly dampening and loosening the strings while quickly strumming them. This produced a most curious sound, somewhat biological in nature, which slightly unsettled George, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on the reason why.
The frantic kooka-bakkada-kooka-wakkah pushed the music to the level where things got seriously funky – this cat played the wah-wah guitar like a gatling gun!
Poor George didn’t know where to look: he felt like a nun at a gangsta rap convention; but Hendrik was completely freaking out, venturing into realms of elated funkiness where no man had gone before.
Then the doorbell rang. Hendrik was way too absorbed to notice, so George tried to establish waving contact with Funky Town.
*Drrrraaaiïïïnngggg….!* the doorbell persisted.
George shouted: “Um … Hendrik?”, waving both his arms, but he didn’t stand a change as Hendrik was wailing “whoohoo, mama!!” ookoodobâkkahdabâkkada-wâw “riiiight ON!” wâh wâh-wakkadawakkadawakkada … – etcetera.
George sighed again, got up and opened the door to three men, somewhere in their twenties or thirties.
They seemed to have dressed carefully to give the impression that they couldn’t possibly care less about their looks; wearing identical sunglasses, red trucker caps and short beards.
One took a sip from a can of beer.
For a split second, they looked a bit puzzled, but quickly recovered.
“Dude. Where’s Hendrik”, one said.
“Good afternoon gents”, George said, to whom the idea of giving up polite manners had never even occurred, ”what can I do for you?”
The three curled their lips in obvious disgust, as if he had offered them a plate of chopped liver.
“We’re here for Hendrik”, one said.
Hendrik’s ecstatic whooping was clearly audible.
“Oh, he’s home”, George said, “… but he’s rather … preoccupied at the moment, as you can hear. I’ll fetch him.”
The three glanced at one another ever so slightly and rolled their eyes demonstratively.
One pressed his sunglasses higher up his nose with his index finger, as George went inside.
One took a sip from his beer.
Half a minute later the barrage of funkiness that emanated from the living-room was cut off and a visibly excited Hendrik appeared, wiping his forehead.
“Whew! That was …. *pfew!* grooooovy, baby! Far out!”
He beamed at the three visitors: “Well, bend my brow! The Screening Board of our beloved Hipster Society! Do pray tell, what’s the happy occasion?”
Hendrik spread out his arms in a theatrical welcome gesture.
The three curled their lips outwards and sideways, their eyes opened wide behind their sunglasses.
“Dude. Can we come in for a sec”, one said.
“Of course! Come in …. please, do come in. After you …”
Hendrik stepped aside as the hip threesome sauntered through the door, leering at Hendrik’s flamboyant Zoot suit while exchanging unintelligible hissing noises.
They sat down on the retro-avantgarde sofa in carefully chosen nonchalant poses, displaying a crumpled, laid-back kind of ironic detachment.
“Ok!” Hendrik said, clapping his hands together, “Yo’ gate, what’s the word from the herd?”
“Or wait!” He audibly slapped his forehead, “Never no crummy, chummy! Where’s my manners … as if I’m short of a deuce of blips!
Let’s first get a bit mellow before the jivin’ starts, or whaddyasay, cats?”
He jumped up and landed in a duck-walk pose with his thumbs stuck in his ears, waving his fingers around in a comical way.
“Never mind that”, George said, who stood in the door-opening leading to the hallway,
“He does that all the time … it’s basically his way of asking whether you’d like a drink.”
He took another small sip from his blue nectar.
Again the three curled their lips in ironic disdain, an expression that George didn’t understand and hence attributed to the three having some sort of neurological tic.
Hendrik didn’t get the message either.
He still wiggled his fingers in anticipation: “… well …?” he asked.
The three turned out to have a can of beer in their hand that they presumably had kept somewhere in their attire.
“We brought our own”, one said, opening his can.
Hendrik swivelled around, rocking left and right on his legs like a swaggering 1970’s glitter-rock guitarist.
“Whatever you want, oh dude, oh dude. Shoot.“
The middle hipster leaned back, legs akimbo, his arm draped over the sofa’s back.
“Let’s deal with it. You obviously want to hang out with us hipsters.”
“That’s one helluva sure thang, brotha”, Hendrik said.
“Again that tic”, George thought to himself, as the three made no visible effort to hide their feelings of disgust at the display of such enormous uncool outdatedness.
“Dude.” The middle hipster flashed a brief quasi-weary grin, as when explaining something screamingly obvious to a very obtuse person for the fifth time. He gestured with his hand, fingers spread out, palm down: “There’s some … concerns.”
“Ow? Concerns, concerning moi?“, Hendrik pointed to himself with mock incredulity, “… you pops surely send me here … c’mon, lay your racket ’cause this cat ain’t latching on just yet!”
“Whoa. Whoa. Whoa“, the hipster produced, holding out his hands in a calming gesture in order to buy some time in which to figure out what Hendrik meant.
“C’mon, what’s your story? Ain’t the joint a barrelhouse frolic pad? Look, when I collar me a cubby to get in there fruitin’ around and I see you cats in there, friskin’ your whiskers with some mighty fine dinners getting ready for some kopasetic gammin’, I ain’t gonna blow my top if it ain’t a freebie ’cause I got my boots on as well, you dig? So what’s the line on latchin’ on the jitterbug?”
The three hadn’t moved a muscle, feverishly trying and failing to decode Hendrik’s hep-cat jive. The middle one, apparently the hippest hipster of the three, was the first to recover and tried to save the situation: “Whoa. Whoa. Whatevs. Chillit dude. Whoa.“
He regained his arrogant posture and too a sip from his beer.
“… thing is … some think you’re a fin poser with all that rekt talk.”
“Rekt talk? C’mon there buddy ghee, you mean this yer cat’s jive is capped?”
“Dude. You talk like your own grandfather”, the middle hipster made a dismissive gesture while the other two flashed a superior ironic sneer.
It did not, however, the devastating effect they had expected.
Hendrik took off his sunglasses, carefully put hem in a breast pocket and turned towards the beer-sipping hipster delegation on his couch.
“George”, Hendrik said from the corner of his mouth, “… I think it’s best if you sit down, too.”
Without a word, George sat down on a nearby chair, curious what Hendrik was up to.
Though he hadn’t understood one syllable of what either party had said, it was clear enough which direction the situation was heading towards.
The threesome, inebriated as they were from having established their definitive superiority, merely wondered when Hendrik would fall on his knees and beg them to be admitted to even the lowest ranks of hipsterdom.
Then Hendrik turned towards his visitors on the couch and snapped his fingers.
The lights dimmed, shutters closed behind the windows; a black-light tube flickered on and several coloured spot-lights centred on Hendrik, who assumed his theatrical disco pose.
Lastly, a disco ball started spinning around slowly, casting hundreds of coloured flecks of light all through the room.
Amazingly, all this took barely five seconds.
“Yes. I talk like my grandfather indeed”, Hendrik said. “How else could we understand one another?”
Thunder rumbled in the distance, and by some ingenious lighting trick it was as if he was a few inches taller than before and seemed to tower over his guests, who were looking like stunned bearded fish, their eyes and mouths wide open.
“It’s …. Dr. Disco!” they gasped in unison.
“Dr. who?”, George asked, apparently not noticing anything more extraordinary than he was usually used to with Hendrik.
The hipster closest to him pointed at Hendrik and stuttered: “That! He! I mean, dude, him! He’s Dr. D-Disco!“
“Why yes, sometimes he is”, George said, leaning back, finishing he last sip of his blue drink. “Like now.”
“Dude, no, I mean, don’t you see he’s the legendary Doctor Disco a.k.a. The I-incredible Hipster!” the Hipster pointed with a trembling finger.
“Dude! He won’t know that!”, one of his brethren-in-coolness added.
“He’s the legendary Interdimensional Cosmic Guardian of Cool! He travels through Space and Time in his D.I.S.C.O.!”
“What’s that? George asked, spotting the acronym.
The hipsters hushed together for a moment.
“Dimensional Inter-Spatial Coolness … *ehm* … Occupator …?”, one said.
“Oozifier” Hendrik said, relaxing his pose.
“It’s Oozifier, gentlemen, though I think the word’s poorly chosen.
But yes, I am indeed Dr. Disco (no acronym), or, more correctly, the current one. It’s a job, not a name.
I’m from Galactic Cool Central; we Guardians of Cool travel through space and time, always on guard for Coolness Corruption and … ‘Licensed To Correct’ if deemed necessary.”
He flashed a colourful ID card. “It’s good honest work”, he added.
“And it seems I’ve been away from this place a bit too long this time … ” he stared at the three, who by now looked like schoolboys caught drawing a naughty picture on the blackboard.
“Er. Dude. Yes, we missed you”, one said.
“So it seems.”
Hendrik sauntered around the couch, hands on his back, like a schoolteacher ready to scold a class of blockheads.
The hipsters looked very ill at ease now.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, you know”, Hendrik said.
“Um. Well. Do we”, one said.
“Do we?” Hendrik repeated from behind their backs, “… do we? Do we need to be ashamed of ourselves when we don’t share and enjoy the abundance of Cool but nitpick a laughable set of recent gunk and rubber-stamp that as ‘hip’ instead?”
“Dude. You gotta be wi-“
“Silence!” Hendrik snapped, causing the three to visibly bounce upward.
Thunder rumbled again, and the disco ball lights turned an ominous shade of purple.
“And shouldn’t we feel like a bunch of Dreckhamsters when we deploy our Vibes only to form deplorable cliques of … how should I call it … hipster-Borg-drones?
Have you looked at yourself? You all look identical! You use the same in-crowd buzzwords! You wear the same lame clothes! You drink the same beer wearing the same ironic caps at the same stupid time! You listen to the same music! You call THAT cool?”
There was no answer, just the awkward silence of shrivelling ego’s.
Hendrik shook his head and resumed his pace.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you! It’s indeed as if you’re turning into some kind of Borg, though without their aggressive … inclusiveness and those cool laser-implants.
I should talk to Dr. … whatsisname … “
“Dr. who?”, George asked, his hand cupped behind his ear.
“I can’t think of his name, that’s exactly the problem …”, Hendrik frowned, pounding his left hand with the fist of his right hand: “… there’s Dr. Boo of Scary Services, Dr. Choo-Choo of Transport. Dr. Loo of Expansion Control, Dr. Two of course, Dr. Gnu of Springbok Services … and Dr. True and Dr. Clue of the Ministry of Puzzling Affairs, Dr. Red-Hot-and-Blue of the Cole Porter fanclub … and, er… yes, Dr. Achoo and Dr. Flu of the Sneezing Squad, Dr. Shoo of the Embarrassment Institute, Dr. Toodeloo of the Office of Properly Saying Goodbye in Various Cultures, Dr. Poo of you-know-what … Zonking Zebedeus! I should take it a bit easier with those weekly Cool Central house-parties.”
He halted, thinking for a few seconds.
“Ah well, it doesn’t matter. I’ll look it up.”
“You guys”, he said, turning to the now definitely meek-looking ex-hipsters, “… for now I’m going to have to disable your Coolness – best make that planet-wide – …”
Hendrik walked over to what George had thought of as an aluminium cupboard, but which turned out to be a control panel for the D.I.S.C.O.’s Cool Central machinery.
He hesitated for a while, then pressed a few buttons. A buzzer sounded with a cool funky rhythm, and a row of indicator lights blinked.
George, nodding approvingly, pressed some other buttons, turned a few dials and punched in some keys in rhythm, eliciting a catchy tune from the buzzers and beepers in the panel.
George turned around.
“That should take care of that”, he said.
“All over the world, hipsters will now turn into very, eh, regular people. At least until, er, Dr. … Wossname has figured out where that weird Borg-like group behaviour comes from. I hope it’s nothing serious.”
“What could it be?” George asked.
“Dunno”, Hendrik shrugged. “Could be anything from a virus, to those darned Pullulating Lords of the Pug Nebula up to no good again. Or maybe it’s a design flaw.”
He turned towards the three ex-hipsters.
“You’re free to go”, he said. “You’ll feel a bit unusual first, being both an individual and without your Cool, but you’ll get used to it.”
They got up from the couch, already visibly more different from one another, looking rather pale and shaky.
They nodded, picked up the sunglasses and empty beer-cans they had dropped and left.
After the door had shut, Hendrik snapped his fingers again, and the D.I.S.C.O. morphed back into Hendrik’s regular room again.
“Well, well. That was interesting”, George remarked.
“Wasn’t it?” Now Hendrik looked puzzled, for as down-to-Earth as George was, he had surely expected him to be a bit more bewildered than that.
“You didn’t find it … unexpected in any way?” Hendrik probed carefully.
“No … should I?”
George snapped his fingers and quickly swivelled around with a dramatic swishing sound.
Before Hendrik there now stood a figure clad in an impressive uniform, with an embroidered badge showing the entwined golden letters D and R.
“Dr. Regular!”, he exclaimed. “You really got me there …. George!“
George grinned. “It’s all in a day’s work for Dr. Regular from the Galactic Office of Quality Control and Meta-Matters”.
He produced a small notebook and made a few scribbles.
“Good job there, Hendrik. You showed remarkable restraint with those three brats … I would have made them swallow those horrible caps!”
He put the notebook away. “Have they invented pizza’s on this planet already?”