tales for an accelerated culture
[ douglas coupland ]
Here are the glossary-like items from Douglas Coupland's "Generation
X: tales for an accelerated culture". The terms appear in
the order that they did int he margins of the book. If you like
the Jargon Watch from Wired you should like these. Also, the book
itself is another great psuedo-diary book by Coupland.
As I suspected while reading some of his other books, he does use the same cast of characters. However, the characters are not entirely the same in all of the books. It is more than just a difference due to perception of the "narrator". It is as if these characters are Joseph Campbell arch-type figures. Tyler, the archtype generation X yuppie who I read of first in "Shampoo Planet", is in this book.
A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one.
POVERTY JET SET:
A group of people given to chronic travelling at the expense of long-term job stability or a permanent residence. Tend to have doomed and extremely expensive phone-call relationships with people named Serge or llyana. Tend to discuss frequently-flyer programs at parties.
To live in a period of time when nothng seems to happen. Major symptoms include addiction to newspapers, magazines, and TV news braodcasts.
To live in a period of time when too much seems to happen. Major symptoms include addiction to newspapers, magazines, and TV news broadcasts.
The act of visiting locations such as diners, smokestack industrial sites, rural villages - locations where time appears to have been frozen many years back - so as to experience relief when one returns back to "the present."
The widening gulf between the rich and the poor and the accompanying disapearance of the middle classes.
VACCINATED TIME TRAVEL:
To fantasize about traveling backward in time, but only with the proper vaccinations.
In clothing: the indiscriminate combination of two or more items from various decades to create a personal mood: Sheila = Mary Quant earrings (1960s) + cork wedgie platform shoes (1970s) + black leather jacket (1950s and 1980s).
VEAL FATTENING PEN:
Small, cramped office workstations built of fabric-covered disassemblable wall partitions and inhabited by junior staff members. Named after the small preslaughter cubicles used by the cattle industry.
EMOTIONAL KETCHUP BURST:
The bottling up of opinions and emotions inside oneself so that they explosively burst forth all at once, shocking and confusing employers and friends - most of whom thought things were fine.
An elderly sold-out baby boomer who pines for hippie or pre-sellout days.
Envy of material wealth and long-range material security accrued by older members of the baby boom generation by virtue of fortunate births.
The need of one generation to see the generation following it as deficient so as to bolster its own collective ego : "Kids today do nothing. They're so apathetic. We used to go out and protest. All they do is shop and complain."
The process that decides in-office attitudes and behavior.
SICK BUILDING MIGRATION:
The tendency of younger workers to leave or avoid jobs in unhealthy office environments or workplaces affected by the Sick Building Syndrome.
Leaving one job to take another that pays less but places one back on the learning curve.
The inability of one's job to live up to one's self image.
The tendency of hierarchies in office environments to be diffuse and preclude crisp articulation.
Overcompensating for fears about the future by plunging headlong into a job or life-style seemingly unrelated to one's previous life interest : i.e., Amway sales, aerobics, the Republican party, a career in law, cults, mcjobs...
A youthful subgroup interested in vegetarianism, tie-dyed outfits, mild recreational drugs, and good stereo equipment. Earnest, frequently lacking in humor.
The tendency of young people to live in emotionally demonstrative, un restrained ethnic neighborhoods: "You wouldn't understand it there, mother - they hug where I live now."
A period of mental collapse occuring in one's twenties, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments coupled with a realization of one's essential aloneness in the world. Often marks induction into the ritual of pharmecutical usage.
The fear that id ne is successful, then one's personal needs will be forgotten and one will no longer have one's childish needs catered to.
The belief that there will always be a financial and emotional safety net to buffer life's hurts.
A form of Safety Net-ism, the belief that if a marriage doesn't work out, then there is no problem because partners can simply seek a divorce.
A job taken with the sole intention of staying only for a limited period of time (often one year). The intention is usually to raise enough funds to partake in another, more personally meaningful activity such as watercolor sketching in Crete or designing computer knit sweaters in Hong-Kong. Employers are rarely informed of intentions.
To force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess: "How can I be a part of the 1960s generation when I don't even remember any of it?"
To tell oneself that the only time worth living in is the past, and that the only time that may ever be interesting again is the future.
The mental conversation of flesh and blood loving creatures into cartoon characters possessing bourgeois Judeo-Christian attitudes and morals.
DISEASES FOR KISSES (HYPERKARMA):
A deeply rooted belief that punishment will somehow always be far greater than the crime: ozone holes for littering.
A fascination with extreme situation.
A philosophy whereby one reconciles oneself with diminishing expectations of material wealth: "I've given upwanting to make a killing or be a bigshot. I jut want to find hapiness and maybe open up a little roadside cade in Idaho."
Using an object with intellectual or fashionable cachet to substitute for an object that is merely pricey: "Brian, you left your copy of Camus in your brother's BMW."
The tendency to visualize oneself enjoying being the lat remaining person on Earth. "I'd take a helicopter up and throw microwave ovens down on the Taco Bell."
A nonsexual friendship witha member of the opposite sex.
MENTAL GROUND ZERO:
The location where one visualizes oneself during the dropping of the atomic bomb. Frequently, a shopping mall.
CULT OF ALONENESS:
The need for autonomy at all costs, usually at the expense of long-term relationships. Often brought about by overly high expectations of others.
Lurid thrills derived from talking about celbrity deaths.
THE EMPEROR'S NEW MALL:
The popular notion that shopping malls exist on the insides only and have no exterior. The suspension of visual belief engendered by this notion allows shoppers to pretend that the large cement blocks that thrust into their environment do not, in fact, exist.
Hypochondria derived from not having medical insurane.
A small rule for living, bordering on a superstition, that allows one to cope with everyday life in the absence of cultural or religious dictums.
The almost obsessive nedd to live in a 'cool' architectural environment. Frequently related objects of fetish include frame black-and-white art photography (Diane Arbus a favorite); simplistic pine furniture; matte black high-tech items such as TVs, stereos, and telephones; low-wattage ambient lighting; a lamp, chair, or table that alludes to the 1950's; cut flowers with complex names.
The most frequently offered interior design aesthetic used by rootless career-hopping young people.
BREAD AND CIRCUITS:
The electronic era tendency to view party politics as corny - no longer relevant or meaningful or useful to modern societal issues, and in many cases dangerous.
The attempt, however futile, to register dissent with the current political system by simply not voting.
After Giorgio Armani: an obsession with mimicking the seamless and (more importantly) controlled ethos of Itallian culture. Like Japaneese Minimalism, Armenianism reflects a profound inner need for control.
The ralization that one was a better person when one had less money.
The act of classifying music and musicians into pathologically picayune categories: "The Vienna Franks are a god example of urban white acid folk revivalism crossed with ska."
The tendency to pick apart, often in minute deatil, all aspect of life using half-understood pop psychology as a tool.
An X generation subgroup that believes in the myth of a yuppie life-style being both satisfying and viable. Tend to be highly in debt, involved in some form of substance abuse, and show a willingness to talk about Armageddon after three drinks.
ULTRA SHORT TERM NOSTALGIA:
Homesickness for the extremely recent past : "God, things seemed so much better in the world last week."
The tendency in one's youth to avoid traditionally youthful activities and artistic experiences in order to obtain serious career experience. Sometiimes results inthe mourning for lost youth at about age thirty, followed by silly haircuts and expensive joke-inducing wardrobes.
A life-style tactic similar to Status Substitution. The nonownership of material goods flaunted as a token of moral and intellectual superiority.
To espouse a philosophy of minimalism without actually putting into practice any of it's tenets.
The inclusion of advertising, packaging, and entertainment jargon from earlier eras in everyday speech for ironic and/or comic effect: "Kathleen's Favorite Dead Celebrity party was tons o' fun" or "Dave really thinks of himself as a zany, nutty, wacky, and madcap guy, doesn't he?"
Describes the false sense of community esperienced among coworkers in an office environment.
Discomfort inflicted on young people by old people who see no irony in their gestures. Karen died a thousand deaths as her father made a big show of tasting a recently manufactured bottle of wine before allowing it to be poured as the family sat in Steak Hut.
The practice of participating in recreational activities of a class one perceives as lower than one's own: "Karen! Donald! Let's go bowling tonight! And don't worry about shoes... apparently you can rent them."
The self-conscious enjoyment of a given conversation precisely for it's lack of intellectual rigor. A major spin-off activity of Recreational Slumming.
Taking a job well beneath one's skill or education level as a means of retreat from adult responsibilities and/or avoiding possible failure in one's true occupation.
ANTI-VICTIM DEVICE (AVD):
A small fashion accessory worn on an otherwise conservative outfit which announces tothe world that one still has a spark of individuality burning inside: 1940s retro ties and earrings (on men), feminist buttons, noserings (women), and the now almost completely extinct teeny weeny "rattail" haircut (both sxes).
Food whose enjoyment stems not from flavor but from a complex mixture of class connotations, nostalgia signals, and packaging semiotics : Katie and I bought a tub of Multi-Whip instead of real whip cream because we thought petroleum distillate whip topping seemed like the sort of food that air force wives stationed in Pensacola back in the early sixites would feed their husband to celebrate a career promotion.
Morals used in everyday life that derive from TV sitcom plots: "That's just like the episode where Jan lost her glasses!"
Quelle fucking drag. "Jamie got stuck at Rome airport for thirty-six hours and it was, like, totally QFD."
Quelle fashion mistake. "It was really QFM, I mean painter pants? That's 1979 beyond belief."
A search by an individual, in the absence of training in traditional religious tenets, to formulate a personally tailored religion by himself. Most frequently a mishmash of reincarnation, personal dialogue witha nebulously defined god figure, naturalism, and karmic eye-for-eye attitudes.
Hypersensitivity to littering.
A multisibling sensibility derived from having grown up in large families. A rarity in those born after approximately 1965, symptoms of Bradyism include a facility for mind games, emotional withdrawl in situations of overcrowding, and a deeply felt need for a well-defined personal space.
An X generation subgroup best known for their possession of almost entirely black wardrobes.
Where Black Holes live; often unheated warehouses with Day-Glo spray painting, mutilated mannequins, Elvis references, dozens of overflowing ashtrays, broken mirror scupltures, and Velvet Underground music playing in the background.
Having children to make up for the fact that one no longer believes in the future.
The most common X generation subgroup and the only subgroup given to breeding. Squires exist almost exclusively in couples and are recognizable by their frantic attempts to recreate a semblance of Eisenhower-era plentitude in their daily lives in the face of exorbitant housing prices and two-job life-styles. Squires tend to be continually exhausted from their voraciously acquisitive pursuit of furniture and knickknacks.
Financial paranoia instilled in offspring by depression-era parents.
PULL-THE-PLUG, SLICE THE PIE:
A fantasy in which an offspring mentally tallies up the net worth of his parents.
The tendency to almost invariably side with the underdog in a given situation. The consumer expression of this trait is the purchasing of less successful, "sad," or failing products: "I know these Vienna franks are heart failure on a stick, but they were so sad looking up against all the other yuppie food items that I just had to buy them."
2 + 2 = 5-ISM:
Caving in to a target marketing strategy aimed at oneslf after holding out for a long period of time. "Oh, all right, I'll buy your stupid cola. Now leave me alone"
The tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none.
A price paid for becoming a couple; previously amusing human beings become boring: "Thanks for inviting us, but Noreen and I are going to look at flatware catalogs tonight. Afterward we're going to watch the shopping channel."
A Squire tradition: baby showers to which both men and women friends are invited as opposed to only women. Doubled purchasing power of bisexual attendance brings gift values up to Eisenhower-era standards.
The tendencyof parents to move to smaller, guest-room-free houses after the children have moved away so as to avoid children aged 20 to 30 who have boomeranged home.
Feelings of jealousy generated in the young and the disenfranchised when facing gruesome housing statistics.
To know the difference between envy and jealousy.
The tendency to make flippant ironic comments as a reflexive matter of course in everyday conversation.
A life-style tactic; the refusal to go out on any sort of emotional limb so as to avoid mockery from peers. Derision Preemption is the main goal of Knee-Jerk Irony.
FAME INDUCED APATHY:
The attitude that no activity is worth pursuing unless one can become very famous pursuing it. Fame-Induced Apathy mimics laziness, but its roots are much deeper.
The tendency when looking at objects to guesstimate the amount of time they will take to eventually decompose: "Ski boots are the worst. Solid plastic. They'll be around till the sun goes supernova."
The first decade of the new century.
An inability to perceive metaphor.
The unwillingness to gracefully allow one's body to show signs of aging.
The practice of peppering daily life with obscure references (forgotten films, dead TV stars, unpopular books, defunct countries, etc.) as a subliminal means of showcasing both one's education and one's wish to disassociate from the world of mass culture.
A condistion common to people of transient middle-class upbringings. Unable to feel rooted in any one environment, they move continually in the hopes of finding an idelized sense of community in the next location.
The secret belief that technology is more of a menance than a boon.
A travel destination choosen in the hopes that no one else has choosen it.
Pretending to be a native when visiting a foreign destination.
When arriving in a foreign travel destination one had hoped was undiscovered, only to find many people just lilke oneself; the peeved refusal to talk to said people because they have ruined one's elitist travel fantasy.
Migration toward lower-tech, lower-information environments containing a lessened emphasis on consumerism.