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Popco by Scarlett Thomas

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Page 448: remember the point when we first found out that Santa isn't real

"It's particularly interesting being based in a toy company." she says. "All the bitter ironies are so much clearer here. You think about childhood, and what it is, and it is all lies and contraditions. Mummy or Daddy sits there in their leather shoes going 'Moo cow' while you look at the pretty pictures of cows in a feild. You don't make the connection with 'Moo cow' a couple of years later when you're begging for your Happy Meal toys at the same time. We can sell Finbar's Friends to happy suburban kids who are able to think of toys as somthing Santa makes, not third world slaves. We can sell them fluffy animals that they curl up with in bed. We can sell animals as long as they are pretend. The animals will be loved as long as they remain pretend. We sell the sort of attachment to abjects and sentimentalism that means that a kid will run back into a burning house to rescue a toy rabbit, but Dad won't swerve in the car to avoid a real one. That is the real power of brands, when you think about it. One rabbit has a label on its arse, another one doesn't. You can love the one with the label and everyone accepts that. Risk your life for a real animal and people say you're mad."

[...]

"We all remember the point when we first found out that Santa isn't real, or that meat is dead animal, or that Mummy and Daddy had to hae sex to make you, or that when you buy something in a shop for $4.99 it probably cost something like a penny to make." She smiles at me. "You know when you're a kid, and you suddenly find out all this stuff...? You go alittle bit mad for a while, and then you just accept it. Then you grow up and you find out that there's another level of lies that you hadn't spotted but they're easier to accept, because by now you're used to lies. You realise that if someone invites you to come in for coffe they actually want to have sex with you; that the advertisement that suggests you will be beautiful and thin if you use a certain shampoo is not true; that 'Stupidly Low Prices,' when you go into the shop, doesn't mean that at all; that the guy who e-mails you saying he will give you a share of a few million dollars never will; and whenever you see something adverised as 'free' it just isn't. You just think, 'God, I've geen conned again,' and you eventually get used to it. And that's fine up to a point. But the lies get a lot bigger, and sometimes they're so big that pople don't spot them. They can't."

"Have you heard of cognitive dissonance?"[...]"It's the idea that your brain has trouble processing certain things," she says. "For example, say you belonged to a cult that believed that aliens were going to arrive on Earth tomorrow, and you'd believed that for thirty years. Tomorrow, when the aliens don't turn up, what do you tell yourself? Do you say, OK, I must have been wrong all these years? Maybe ou should, but you can't: you've had such a big investment in the idea that they'll turn up. In fact, your whole identity is based on it. What you experience at that moment is cognitive dissonance, as your brain rejects the idea that your life has been meaningless. To overcome it, you tell yourself a story that you want to hear, You tell yourself, for example, that the aliens didn't come because it was raining. Or that your calculation was wrong and they're actually coming in ten years' time. Well, some radical psychologists have applied this idea to our meat-eating consumer culture. They've found that people tell themselves stories to make themselves feel OK about doing the things we have to do to be 'normal.' People tell themselves that animals have happy lives before they are slaughtered, for example, or that third world slaves are happy. And it's very hard to take those ideas apart, because people have so much invested in them."

Page 347: people simply fight their own, individualistic wars

War. When Hitler was around, it was quite clear who the enemy was. But how, or what, do people fight now? I sense that people simply fight their own, individualistic wars against their noisy neighbours, or drug addition, or the mobile phone receiver in their garden (but not the one in the next town, or the unjust war 1,000 miles away). Perhaps the world seems like too big a thing to try to save, especially when there are so many enemies out there. It's too late! Save yourself! Does that make more sense? I have always felt incapable of "saving" anything: myself, the world, whatever. One person doesn't matter. One person can't matter, unless that person is a head of state. I think about my grandfather and all the small personal battles he fought. He was against greed, and acquisitiveness, and plundering the environment for whatever treasure you thought it might contain. If he received bad service in a shop, he would never confront the assistant. Instead he would come home and write a long letter to the managing director of whatever company it was, complaining about their exploitation of their staff and how, since this company so obviously exploited its staff, and since this led to a bad service, he wouldn't be shopping there again. One time I suggested to him that perhaps the member of the staff was to blame. Surely people should take some responsibility for their actions? If their company was that bad, surely the employee could just leave? "We all have to fight the system," he said to me. "Otherwise no one will."

Page 390: Maybe I have some idea of who the enemy is now. Maybe the enemy is me.

[...]people don't think of chinese factory workers in the smae way they think of themselves. I remember a writer I like saying that we sometimes look at old gravestones and see records of babies that have died a six months old, or nine months old--sometimes several in one family--andi we think that these losses are somehow less painful bercause they happened often, and to strangers, and at some distant point in history. We think that these remote people would have "got used to it," and that their pain would be less than ours would be at losing a child. But in doing this, we dehumanise these people. Of course the pain isn the smae. By imagining chinsese factory workers like this, as strange people, pherhaps living four or five to a room, eating mainly rice, living on the scraps thrown to them by the companies that exploit their labour, and by thinking that even this imaginary, exotic version of these people are happy with what they have got...Well, it's the same sort of dehumanisation, surely?

I suddenly remember something else. A saying. Where does it come from? I think that an ex-boyfriend's father used to say it, a long time ago, He said: "Beware of cheap goods. If you buy cheap goods, you a re stealing someone else's labour."

[...]

Probably 95 per cent of the cosmetics have been tested on animals. How much blood, pain, slavery and torture exactly does go into creating all this stuff, which we are told is so frivolous, so much fun? People like us [R&D] are paid vast amounts to come up with the concepts, and then the actual objects are made and tested...where? Somewhere invisible. Somewhere that doesn't matter. Somewhere very, very distant. Of course, we all know that actual objects don't matter any more. What matters instead is the logo, the idea, the lifestyle, the brand. Companies are now required to spend millions of dollares establishing this brand, paying sports stars and actresses to endore it, paying marketing gurus to tell them how to make it "go viral" and so on. How can they compete otherwise? Perhaps there really is nothing left over to actually pay to make the product. Perhaps that's why the people who make it have to live in poverty, and why the materials are substandard and glue shows on even the coolest trainers. They pay only to make the lable, nothing else.

[...]

It used to be that we would joke about the enemy, not really believing that the enemy existed. But maybe the enemy does exist after all. Maybe I have some idea of who the enemy is now. Maybe the enemy is me.

Page 273: Can't people just desire you because of your breasts any more?

[He] happily rambles for the next ten minutes or so about American remakes of japanese independent films, B-movies, anime and old westerns until he seems satisfied that I know what he is all about. He dosn't tell me where he grew up, how many brothers and sisters he has, what he is scared of, whether he likes his toast done well or not, whether his hair colour is actually natural, what he would do to improve the world, whether he believes in God (although I already know the answer to that one, I think), who he would vote for, what his perfect political party would stand for, what items he would take with him if he was to be stranded on a deserted island of anyting at all about this cyber-paganism in which he is supposed to be so interested.

Is this how it works now? Do we just let film-makers create identities for us that we can buy for $12.99? Is that what identity costs? Or is it how you put the units together that counts? Does a zombie film plus and experimental Parisian inner-city heist film make you a different person than two Hollywood romantic comedies do? Would either of these poeple get on with the person who has every series of their favourite SF TV show on DVD, arranged in such a way that their edges make one Picture on the shelf? You can string this stuff into lines of cultural DNA that can be seen without any kind of microscope, until anyone looking at you shelves can use this information to establish "who you are" and whether or not they want to have sex with you. Can't people just desire you because of your breasts any more? Maybe they do, sometimes. But if your cultural DNA can't link up with theirs then they'll fuch you and leave before you wake up, just like everyone said they would. Or you'll do the same to them, because they like alt country music two years after is was fashionable, or they own Titanic on DVD.

Page 396: Scare them before they can scare you. Never appear weaker than them.

My new stratagy for surviving at shool is a constantly evolving entity. At first, I take a jumble of things--images, ideas, people--and pack them for school every day as carefully as my garandfather packs my lunch box[...]I take ideas about imprisonment and freedom from Woman on the Edge of Time. I tell myself that no one's life is as bad a the heroin Connie's life. She is locked in a cruel mental institution despite not being mad. I am trapped in this school but at least I can lock the door when I go to the toilet. On the other hand, Connie has the ability to time travel to a better world. I do not have this ability. But sometimes, when things are really bad, I imagine that I, too, can summon this future up in my head and step into it as easily as stepping through a door. I take this image of another world around with me all the time, folded up in my head like an old map.

Other things I carry around with me, in my head: snapshots of Roxy, of Jasmine, of the blue-haired girl in the clothes shop. They wouldn't take any shit, I know that. (I am using words like "shit" now a lot in my head. This is what happens when you are exposed to so much adult literature before you are even twelve.) Sometimes, if one of the boys says something to me, something designed to hurt my feelings or humiliate me (and there are myriad ways of doing this at shchool, believe me), I say something so horrible back that they leave me alone for a while. When Mark came up to me recently and asked why I don't have any friends, I looked at him with Roxy eyes, and imagined myself with blue hair and said, "Get fucked, Mark." No one says things like this at school, not in the first year. Another time, the other kieds got hold of one of those anti-vivisection leaflets. "Where's your can, Butler?" they kept saying. I didn't know what they were talkig about until they slapped this image down on my desk--a cat with wires coming out of its exposed brain--and said, "We found your cat, Butler. Sorry to say it's not in a very good state." They all laughed, probably imagining that I was about to cry, or wet myself or something. Instead, I looked coolly down at the image and then looked up at them in a confused, grown-up way and said, "I don't have a cat, you morons." I didn't let them see that they had upset me. I have learnt various rules. Cry in the toilets, not in public. Use the scary, dark tiolets on the third floor for this purpose, as no one else uses them. Use swear words that they don't understand. Scare them before they can scare you. Never appear weaker than them.

Page 411: however you play, it's a game you can never win

I was thinking about the SF. The Supreme Fascist. It's what Paul Erdos Called God. It's his verson of the Supreme Being, I suppose. He said that life is a game that you can never win, because every time you do somehting bad the SF gets one point, but every time you do somehting good, neither of you score. The game of life is to keep the SF's score as low a possible but however you play, it's a game you can never win."

Motorcycle, day one:

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I was practicing in a parking lock and tried to make a turn too tight. I realized I was going to hit the curb no matter what I did--atleast with my skill set. So I pulled the clutch and hit the brakes. Less than two miles/hour is what I hit that curb at. Of course my new japanees bike's handle bars immediately snapped in the opposite direction and I slowely went from upright to a position I normally reserve for sleep. Though I rarely nap with a four-hundred pound motorcycle on my ankle, seeing as how uncomfortable it happens to be. I hit the kill switch, pushed the bike off the ground with my left foot and waited for my step dad to park his bike and help push the monster off me. Screw my ankle, thank god my bike wasn't hurt! I rode the 250 for the rest of the day even though I felt more comfortable on my bike. Dad said he thought it was best. I think he just wanted to ride my bike.

The ankle is just taunting me now. I know it'll wait til morning to really punish me. X-rays Monday, since I work.

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'Can't stand em standing around, not lookin me 'n the eye. Tell'n me how good I'm lookin'...I c'n trust you, you won't give me that bull shit.'

'I know dad. You did look like shit Sunday and you look even worse after they give you those damn pain pills. You really are looking better though...relatively.'

'Comin' up later?'

'Yeah, right after work. Three-thirty.' Ha! Trust me huh? What about that lie, 'I'll be up there after work'. Whatta son.

Happy news for the day:

Boy tasered at John McCain Speach. 
                         -Apparently he forgot to raise his hand.

Black Water inc. kills eight civilians.
                          -Relegated to Green Zone by Iraqi leaders.
                          -Ambassidores mad that they'll have to rely on the American and Iraqi army's for protection.

Angry Mother's speach cut out by Fox during Emmy speach.
                  
-
Who was that crazy lady who wants to end this profit making war
                   -She must not own stock.

from shahman

1. Go to Career Cruising, http://www.careercruising.com
2. Put in Username: nycareers and Password: landmark.
3. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questions.
4. Post the top twenty results
5. Put the careers you have seriously considered in bold

1.
Genetic Counselor (um...what?)

2.
Psychiatrist (haha, me and all the crazy women of the world handing out meds)

3.
Sport Psychology Consultant (aka douchebag)

4.
Humanitarian Aid Worker (aka doormat)

5.
Psychologist (me and all the creepy men of the world)

6.
Rehabilitation Counselor (Let's just say I'm not one to throw stones)

7.
Mediator (sure, why not?)

8.
Marriage and Family Therapist (hahahahah)

9.
Foreign Service Officer (wtf does that mean?)

10.
Naturopath (sounds like some Adult-Swim cartoon)

11.
Mental Health Nurse (hahah call me, "Mrs. Ratchet")

12.
Social Worker (Oh god, kill me now)

13.
Addictions Counselor (Never have to look for a dealer again!)

14.
Licensed Practical Nurse (no go. Though I do fancy the latex outfits from some movies)

15.
Plastic Surgeon (fudge no)

16.
Surgeon (let me get this right, I'd be better at plastic surgery than just plain ol' surgery?)

17.
Audiologist (I do have both ears)

18.
Anesthesiologist (I practice in my time off)

19.
Botanist (not interested, my plants would agree)

20.
Computer Support Person (Hello Howwww may Iee elp ju?)

21.
Veterinary Technician (aka poop scooper/dog killer)

22.
Gerontologist (aka poop scooper/grampa anti-killer)

23.
Stationary Engineer (I have no problem sitting in one place)

24.
Pharmacologist (Ah, we're on to something)

25.
Millwright (Wrong!)

26.
Biologist (vagina technition)

27.
Chemical Engineering Tech (aka explosion fodder)

28.
Chemist (aka rave salesman)

29.
Power Plant Operator (I don't think anyone would lack the brains to offer me this job)

30.
Industrial Machinery Mechanic (see twenty nine)

31.
Nurse (ass wiper)

32.
Prosthetist / Orthotist (I'd joke constantly and then go kill myself)

33.
Marine Biologist (I hate water--those fish pee in there)

34.
Office Machine Repairer (hmm, I'd do more harm than good)

35.
Electronics Engineering Tech

36.
Electrical Engineering Tech

37.
Occupational Therapist

38.
Cabinetmaker (I'd like this the most...would I have to be good at it?)

39.
Biological Tech

40.
Zoologist

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

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I'm a huge Ruff fan and if anyone else is too, the best advise I could give you would be: Don't Read Reviews or The Synopsis on the back of the book. It totaly ruined the book for me. Also, the first edition is twenty bucks new and I'm all for supporting authors and yet I felt cheated for buying a two-hundred page novella that isn't even a hard cover.
 

On the road for my generation.

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Page 13:
"...I signed up with a municipal program designed to get poor teens off the street and into jobs. Two of my friends had already been hired through the program to hang out in city parks and paint park benches green. Upon signing up, I expressed my desire for the bench-painting dream job. Apparently, my passion for bench painting was overshadowed by the program's need for lifeguards. I was assigned to the swimming pool at the neighborhood boys club--even though I didn't know how to swim.

At the beginning of each shift, I stood poolside in my street clothes and announced to the kids in the water that if any of them planned to drown, they'd be better off waiting till my shift ended. If need be, I could throw in a Styrofoam lifesaver but I wouldn't be getting in the water no matter what the emergency."

Page 104:
"My co-workers were planning a huge after-hours Thanksgiving dinner to be held right there in th e restaurant. My presence was expected.

'C'mon dude, you don't have any family in New Hampshire,' Danny said. 'Ya gotta come.'

But I didn't gotta and I didn't go.

If indeed I was a member of this restaurant family, then I played the same role in it that I did in my own. I was the quiet and disappointing son who gladly stuck around for the free eats but who didn't stick around any longer than he had to."

Page 122:
"Restaurant managers sought enthusiastic deperation in their applicant, a 'please hire me' expression on their faces. In my case, whenever my application was reviewed, I usually slouched in a chair and yawned and scratched. Not even the creative list of referenceson my application--a circus midget, a retired pederast, a future astronaut and even the southern Indiana judo champion--caught their attention."

Page 174:
"Lying atomp a refrigerator was a grease filter--a screen that usually sat in the hood above the stove to catch grease, I had picked it up and started carrying it to the sink when a moving brown mosaic came to life on the screen. I'd interrupted a cochroach feast in progress and immediately dropped the screen. It hit the floor with a thud. Dozens of cockroaches bounced off the screen and landed across the kitchen floor. In shock, I looked at them. Far a second, they looked back at me. Then they started to scatter. Without thinking, I grabbed a spatula, swung wildly and flattened cockroaches left and right. With every blow, I was betraying my neutrality in the vermin wars. But because the pests kept running, I kept chasing. Until Suzy grabbed my arm.

Through clenched teeth, she said, 'Non in front of the customers!'

On the other sde fo the counter, several diners stared in disbelief.

...Afterwards, when my bloodlust dissipated, I granted immunity to the survivors and resumed my neutral stance."

Page 221:
" I failed to understand what was so enviable about having a position [Management] that a pack of phonies sucked up to. Dishwashing suited me because nice people were nice to me and assholes were assholes to me, yet no one ever sucked up to me. Usually, just as I liked it, I was ignored."

Page 288:
"'You seem to have a real bond--a deep connection -- with dishwashing,' she said. 'is it spiritual for you?'

'No, ' I said. 'Just something I do.'

'But don't you find washing dishes to be zen?'

'Not really,' I said. 'Seems like if it were zen, it wouldn't hurt my back and arms so much.'"

Page 330:
' As a doctor stood over me and tweeazed the gravel out of my head and sewed up the gash, I lay there in a daze. Wht the lamp shining in my face, I admired his work. It must be nice to be skilled, I thought. If someone had come to me with a nasty head wound and asked me to help him, I'd be confounded. If he'd bloodied his dishes in the process, then I could wash those. Otherwise, he'd be shit out of luck.
...
Maybe it was the concussion, maybe it was the Percocet, but I couldn't stop thinking about how these people were actually making a difference in the world. Meanwhile, what was I doing with my life?"

Page 335:
I didn't know what answer he wanted to hear. Would my owning up to dishwashing journalism scare him off or would it win him over? The odds seemed fifty-fifty.

'Yeah,' I answered coutiously. 'Yeah, I am.'

'Great!' he said. ' We'll get you all set up!'

Wow, I thought. Who knew that being honest when applying for a job could actually be beneficial?"

The whole book is filled with these pearls of wisdom. I wish I had read this while younger. It could have helped.

Heart problems.

"So, what brings you in to see us today?"

"I was teri'fied!...I saw a spider."

"Ok...I'm going to take a picture of your chest, alright?"

"It weren't no bitty one either!"

"Ok...I'm sure it was very terrifying. Did you have a fall or any physical injury?"

"No, sure did scare me though."

"Yes, spiders can be very upsetting."

Chart says 'chest pain'. That I can believe--since she weighs over three-hundred pounds. I stifle the urge to mention her slight size advantage. I assume that the spider lived to tell the taleof the mammouth screaming pig woman. Hell, maybe it had a heart attack too.

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