Anna S. (eliade) wrote,
Anna S.
eliade

microserfs

I might have mentioned a while ago that I was reading Douglas Coupland's Microserfs. I'm still reading it. It's my workplace, lunchtime book, so I read about 20-30 pages a week, in a good week. I'm about four fifths done. I'd started off feeling a bit dubious about it--I felt it was a crapshoot, it could go either way. About halfway through I decided I really liked it. It grew on me, a cumulative reading experience, byte by byte. It has all these little chunks of thought scattered through it, clever, interesting, funny, a chex mix of cultural observations, the mental doodles of grad students, chat-room wibbling, and the sort of what-ifs your brain mumbles to itself in precocious adolescence.

So I thought I'd paste some of my favorite bits into LJ, because yeah, that's what lame single women *do* on Friday nights. I suppose that, excerpted, some of the quotes are at risk for sounding pretentious or grandiose--in the book itself, they seem rather random in context, and the effect is a bit like reading the more cerebral or wingnutty parts of DeLillo's White Noise.



We did spoons for a while, and then she said, "I remember being young, in school, being told that our bodies would yield enough carbon for 2,000 pencils and enough calcium for 30 sticks of chalk, as well as enough iron for one nail. What a weird thing to tell kids. We should be told our bodies can transmutate into diamonds and wine goblets and teacups and balloons."




Karla, still low energy from the flu, broke in: "You know, Mrs. Underwood, I think all tech people are slightly autistic. Have you ever heard about dyspraxia? Michael is an elective mute."

"No."

"Dyspraxia's like this: say I asked you to give me that newspaper. There's no reason on earth why you couldn't. But if you had dyspraxia, then you'd be blocked and you'd just sit there frozen. Dyspraxia is the condition where you become incapable of initiating an action."

"Then everybody is dyspraxic, dear. It's call procrastination."




What would happen if TV characters continued their theoretical lives in our linear time...Bob and Emily Hartley, in their early 70s now, would be living in their brown apartment, wrinkled and childless. Or Mary Tyler Moore, now 60...surely bitter, alone, sterile...

Prozac!




"....So what makes you different from me? Him from you? Them from her? What makes any one person any different from any other? Where does your individuality end and your species-hood begin? As always, it's a big question on my mind. You have to remember that most of us who've moved to Silicon Valley, we don't have the traditional identity-donating structures like other places in the world have: religion, politics, cohesive family structure, roots, a sense of history or other prescribed belief systems that take the onus off individuals having to figure out who they are. You're on your own here. It's a big task, but just look at the flood of ideas that emerges from the plastic!"




[On Toys-R-Us] "The aisle--it was pink--I mean, the entire aisle was this shocking, moist, Las Vegas labia pink color, and it was a big aisle, Dan. Tens of thousands of Barbies gazing vapidly at me--this wall of mall hair--of unsustainable desire. Their necks thicker than their waists; sparkles; an incitement to eating disorders--"




Michael said something cool today. He said something remarkable and unprecedented has occurred to us as a species now--"We've reached a critical mass point where the amount of memory we have externalized in books and databases (to name but a few sources) now exceeds the amount of memory contained in our collective biological bodies. In other words, there's more memory 'out there' than exists inside 'all of us.' We've peripheralized our essence."

He went on:

"Given this new situation, the presumption of existence of the notion of 'history' becomes not necessarily dead but somewhat beside the point. Access to memory replaces historical knowledge as a way for our species to process its past. Memory has replaced history--and this is not bad news. On the contrary, it's excellent news because it means we're no longer doomed to repeat our mistakes; we can edit ourselves as we go along, like an on-screen document. The transition from history to memory on the periphery may prove to be initially bumpy as people shed their intellectual inertia on the issue, but the transition is an inevitability, and thank heavens we have changed the nature of change itself--the prospect of cyclical wars and dark ages and golden ages has never particularly appealed to me."




Rants are the official communication mode of the '90s.

Karla asked Dusty what she thought of Lego, and this triggered a mega-rant:

"What do I think of Lego? Lego is, like, Satan's playtoy. These seemingly 'educational' little blocks of connectable fun and happiness have irrevocably brainwashed entire generations of youth from the information-dense industrialized nations into developing mind-sets that view the world as unitized, sterile, inorganic, and interchangably modular--populated by bland limbless creatures with cultishly sweet smiles."

("Minifigs" are what the tiny Lego people are called--Dusty must learn the correct terminology.)

"Lego is directly or indirectly responsible for everything from postmodern architecture (a crime) to middle class anal behavior over the perfect lawn. You worked at Microsoft, Dan, you know them--their lawns...you know what I mean...."




Cap'N Crunch:
Reason this cereal is decadent:
a) Colonial exploiter pursues naive Crunchberry cultures to plunder. b) Drunkenness, torture, and debauchery implicit in long ocean cruises.




We also figured that Gap clothing isn't about place, nor is it about time, either. Not only does Gap clothing allow you to look like you're from nowhere in particular, it also allows you to look as though you're not particularly from the present, either. "Just look at the recent 'Khakis of the Dead' campaign," Bug said. "By using Balanchine and Andy Warhol and all these dead people to hustle khakis, the Gap permits Gap wearer to disassociate from the now and enter a nebulous then, wherever one wants then to be in one's head...this big place that stretches from Picasso's '20s to the hippie '60s."




FISHER PRICE minifigs versus LEGO minifigs

Fisher Price Minifigs:

Plus: limbless figures give children
a feeling of helplessness

Minus: faces resemble those of beloved
but unfunny cartoon characters
in Family Circus

Plus: generic, Gap-like outfits

Minus: height/weight-disproportionate
bodies imply eating disorders:
bad role model for millenial
youth yearning to be functional

Lego Minifigs:

Plus: interchangeable, unisex hairdos

Minus: clawlike hands are scary and
potentially traumatizing

Plus: bodies can be incorporated into
architecture

Minus: bad fashions




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