So I've been reading this book by a local Toronto author by the name of Hal Niedzviecki, who might actually be familiar to some of you by virtue of Broken Pencil, a zine he publishes on the Canadian zine scene. If not, you might want to check it out.
Mr. Tragically Unpronounceable Last Name speaks at great length in his book 'We Want Some Too' on the topic of 'lifestyle culture' and the creative crisis it has created (to be alliterate about it). I appreciate his learned aptness at making a point, obviously coming from years of zine ranting, which neatly avoids the temptation to allow whatever point he might have to be swallowed in a grangeous tumour of academic discourse the exact way your typical Philosphy/English double major cultural theorist masturbates to at night, while dropping enough timely pop cultural references infused with ironic, sarcastic wit to keep it lively, contemporary and relevant.
Though his critics seem to let their weariness for those enthusiastic literary constructs be the stage for their meandering dismissal at large of what he's saying, he does make some damn good points. Or more accurately, he does exactly what the Scrabble.com Word of the Day academics reaching completion over in the aforementioned masturbatory indulgences of their own writings only WISH they could, but fail so miserably at: he provides a VOCABULARY to describe the otherwise rather vague sense of disillusionment and confusion that's slowly driving us to do things collectively as a society like take hostages at sporting events because no one cares anymore about our clown wig.
One of these newly-named-but-formally-on-the-cusp-of-my-own-awareness phenomenons is that of the Stupid Job.
More and more, he makes the point that as awareness of our own futility in the greater cause of the corporate 'cog in the wheel' prospect grows, combined with the urgings within most of us to somehow be the masters of own pop cultural domains, we want to make shit. Or do shit. And doesn't matter if said shit is appreciated, but just that shit is done in some form that manages, however insignificant-seeming, to transcend the meaninglessness of the corporate slavery.
Thus, more and more people are pouring their souls into endeavours which, on the surface appear as a waste of time at best, or just completely insane (such as in the more colourful example of the man who is the proud owner of 40,000 pieces of Tarzan memorabilia). His primary example (not surprising, given his own involvement) is the world of zines.
So i mean, if nothing else, some of you might appreciate the content simply on the basis that it not only justifies CoN's existence, but pretty much paints it as the wave of the future.
The Stupid Job comes in when people slowly realize that their 'hobby' is actually more important to them than their so-called 'career'. In the peachy Utopian memory of the 1950s and before, the career was supposed to be a man's 'purpose' in life as much as raisin' barns or shooting Nazis was before that. Get an education, get a job, live your life doing that job until you can't do it anymore, then retire and wait to die. Right?
Well, ever since some people have begun wising up to the rather pointless ant-like mechanically cyclic nature of this, they've decided they don't want to be a part of it. Or even when they honestly TRY, they are intensely dissatisfied. so then they start registering their dissatisfaction through relatively harmless, but nonetheless subversive tactics of on-the-job sabotage: the email forwards sent on company time over the company wire, taking an hour and 10 minutes for lunch, arriving at 9:45 am instead of 9:30, etc... I mean, its to the point an entire subculture has developed around producing and circulating FUNNY, POINTLESS SHIT:
rathergood.com, b3ta.com, All your base, every anti-war/anti-Bush Flash animation ever created, along with literally thousands of lame-but-funny Photoshop photo edits circulated daily. I pretty much keep a certain Hotmail account open specifically to receive crude and offensive forwards from friends (the best ones come with pictures!!)
You don't need to be the Philosophy/English double major cultural theorist to see the trend here.
However, it goes further, as he points out... those dissatisfied with just the passive act of harmless sabotage go a step further... they become the CREATORS, not just the critics (or 'consumers' of this information, depending on how you view it...). So now you get the zines and the blogs and the community sites like B3ta that put a face on this stuff and bring it together.
But it goes further still.
Even without any kind of measurable 'success', sometimes the creators are encouraged enough by their efforts from the pure, unsolicited satisfaction it gives them, that they seek to do their hobby in a more 'full time' way. but they still need to pay the bills... so finally, THIS is where the Stupid Job comes in.
The Stupid Job is the simplistic, low-responsibility job that requires little more than physical presence, specifically CHOSEN by these creators for these qualities. The Stupid Job provides income, while keeping the brain free to secretly keep investing more time into the 'hobby' of creation.
At this point, it IS important to note the key difference between the Stupid Job and the Shitty Job. The Stupid Job, more or less, is voluntary. I know this is a particularly important point for some of you because I'm sure you don't take it lightly to be forced to work a low-paying demeaning job just to make rent when your talents are far better suited for something vastly more important, but the reality might be there isn't immediately anything else at the moment.
So... feel free to slap me for my naivety now, but having just finished school and supposedly receiving the coveted 'university degree' (whatever that means for humanity as of May 24, 2004), I am facing that crossroads. I've ranted about, lamented over, reasoned for and again, argued with, and even feigned acceptance for the seeming inevitability of having to "get a real job", but having done all that now... I can honestly say that I believe my best move right now is to find myself a Stupid Job. Right now I have a freelance gig which is paying some bills nicely, but it also requires a fair amount of thinking and pressure... and some of that university training I got.
While I don't want to be looking a gift horse in the mouth, I'm also not entirely happy that I can't be devoting more time to those pursuits I SPECIFICALLY thought I'd be doing "after I graduate".
I'm trying to cut that tendency to atrophy into the working life off at the pass and actually DO something about it.
If i want to be a starving artist, then... shouldn't I get to work on that starving bit?
My problem is... I have a ship to jump off on, but not any water to jump INTO. I don't really have a pursuit, or... an 'art', per se... I've spent the last four years becoming a Photoshop technician, which is great for branded business payrolls and Halogen-lit office jobs, but doesn't exactly do much for my ability to self-express.
So I'm trying to figure that one out.
In the meantime, I admit it would be nice to still be moving forward to my goal of eventually buying a plane ticket to get the fuck out of Dodge (I have a destination in mind but still, I require $$).
Hence the Stupid Job.
So after great length here, here's my question....
What, if anything, immediately come to mind? I'm looking for the kind of job that involves one or several of the following characteristics:
The test I have in my mind is, could I read a book on the job? If the answer is yes, the job is probably perfect. I DID have one like that at the school--I worked as a 'lab monitor,' running prints for people maybe twice an hour, the whole other time just reading or sleeping or playing on the computer.
Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.
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