I think this happens often- when your mind changes, the network of ideas that supported your previous worldview crumble a bit, and it becomes a little bit harder to earnestly work out why the old idea was so convincing. The new idea is just so obvious.

This blog has helped by acting as a repository for cached ideas and transition fossils from older ideas.

Today’s post is scattershot.

I. Twee/Infantilization

This bizarre article was recently shared with me, about “Cupcake Fascism“. There are a couple of interesting ideas in it, and my sharing is not advocacy, but it brought to mind this thread I never published and thought I would now.

As a person who has studied games and heard far too many lectures on them, human neoteny is a pretty common starting point for rambling about play behavior and its innateness to our species.

But recently, I’ve been thinking about the invention of the teenager, and the much ballyhooed infantilization of millenial young-adulthood.

From Teenagers: A 1944 Photo Essay on a New American Phenomenon:

There is a time in the life of every American girl when the most important ting in the world is to be one of a crowd of other girls and to act and speak and dress exactly as they do. This is the teen age.

Some 6,000,000 U.S. teen-age girls live in a world all their own — a lovely, gay, enthusiastic, funny and blissful society almost untouched by the war. It is a world of sweaters and skirts and bobby sox and loafers, of hair worn long, of eye-glass rims painted red with nail polish, of high school boys no yet gone to war. It is world still devoted to parents who are pals even if they use the telephone too much. It is a world of Vergil’s Aeneid, second-year French and plane geometry, of class plays, field hockey, “moron” jokes and put-on accents. It is a world of slumber parties and the Hit Parade, of peanut butter and popcorn and the endless collecting of menus and match covers and little stuffed animals.

I wonder, though, if the target demographic for “Young Adult” media is going up every year (by, say, a year). Am I being crotchety? Snobbish? I don’t mind graphic novels or cosplay or cartoons or YA novels or any of that, and I think people of all ages can appreciate those things. But something about the mainstreaming of children’s media in the (non-parent) adult world disturbs me. Bronies are the tip of the iceberg. Something is amiss here.

Maybe it’s a related problem to our obsession with nostalgia (was it always like this?). My childhood neighbors, babies who are now highschoolers, post “that feel” pictures about things that happened two years before. It’s got to be a parody of something that I must think is actually important but for the life of me I can’t articulate it. 

I came across this, which is comedy from a neurotic persona but I couldn’t stop nodding.

How bizarre would it be if the longer the lifespan a society can support, the longer the child-phase is allowed to continue? One would think the most productive phase would get the better cut of life: the late phase of “adulthood” stealing from the post-work phase of “elderly” life. Maybe people would delay childbirth into the “unnatural” range and do the 20’s thing for a decade longer. Maybe we’ll get pop ballads about the joys of being 32. Probably, though, we’ll just get freelancing or un(der)employed young adults and too-old-adults as an increasing chunk of the workforce and cultural focus.


II. Dreamlogging


III. “All Work is a Crime”

This interesting article on “Liberation through Laziness” was a source of a lot of conversation, but I never got around to posting about it.

Boredom is a modern concept. Just as people had gay sex before modern notions of homosexuality were around, this does of course not mean that premodern people never experienced states that we would now characterize as boredom. Rather, it means that boredom “in the modern sense that combines an existential and a temporal connotation” only become a theoretical concept and a problem in the late 18th century—in fact, the English term boredom emerged precisely in that moment, under the combined impact of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. As Elizabeth Goodstein puts it, boredom “epitomizes the dilemma of the autonomous modern subject,” linking “existential questions” to “a peculiarly modern experience of empty, meaningless time.”(23) Boredom became a crucial notion for the 1960s avant-garde in different ways. On the one hand, the Cagean neo-avant-garde (Fluxus) embraced boredom as a productive strategy; on the other, the Situationist International attacked boredom as a disastrous symptom of capitalism.
In the late 1960s, Situationist and pro-situ slogans such as “Boredom is always counter-revolutionary” and “there’s nothing they won’t do to raise the standard of boredom” made the term a battle cry, though it is not particularly prominent in Debord’s writings. Boredom for the SI was a symptom of the inhuman nature of capitalism. As Raoul Vaneigem put it: “We do not want a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation is bought by accepting the risk of dying of boredom.”(24) Boredom is a kind of byproduct of industrial labor that creates new markets for entertainment, for while boredom during working hours is unavoidable and can only be alleviated in part by half-hearted measures (playing music to the workers), boredom also infects “free time,” where various leisure activities and the products of the entertainment industry are ready to help—if only, as the slogan has it, “to raise the standard of boredom.”

This piece is also reasonable introduction to the concept of chronopolitics, which honestly I saw for the first time only a few months ago, in Jordan Peacock’s paper “Cartographies of Power“.

From Jordan:

Chronopolitics and thermopolitics are closely related, in that both are tied to economic concerns; respectively, the expense of time and energy. Given a limited amount of time and energy, possibilities are necessarily constrained, leaving decisions to the fate of playing near-zero-sum games. Chronopolitics is at work in the strategic just-in-time scheduling that Wal-Mart and other major retailers use to suppress worker wages by maintaining many employees at below full time, but fragmenting their schedules enough that holding down second jobs become next to impossible. In another domain, thermopolitics is expressed in the grueling gauntlet put forth by some bureaucracies (notoriously, insurance companies) that, while not technically making a given action impossible, restricts access to only those willing and capable to exert the effort necessary to jump through all the hoops presented them

The idea of chrono/thermopolitics fits well with the states-of-matter metaphor that I was flinging around just about everywhere, late last year.

Somewhat related- I was at an event at my alma mater last week, and I was reminded of a rule my roommates and I coined some three years ago, The Law of [Dorm] 514: “There is no amount of hard work that can’t be emulated with a little ingenuity.” Not making t-shirts out of that one.