Tag Archives: work

the chicken or the egg


I don’t think most people work jobs that are, in and of themselves, fulfilling. On any less than pleasant journey to work, it’s not uncommon to see people enveloped by any piece of technology that can provide some escapism. But even while people are working they’ll sometimes try to enhance what can feel a bit stifling. There’s everything from the usual water cooler talk about pop culture, and then occasionally you might hear the musings about how some trope from escapist TV would fit into the day. “Hey, what if a pack of mutant bikers just came and started circling the place?”

Between the life that one populates with pretend scenarios to make easier, or the TV that we let act as the window to vicarious lives — what comes from what?  


Tuning in to tune out

Original illustration by Robert Pinero.

Original illustration by Robert Pinero.

Commercials for a certain top of the line brand of headphones are my latest pet peeve.  Leave it to some of the most manufactured personas in music to capitalize on escapism by branding their product as its most vital “option” . . . And okay, while that is essentially what all branding is about, it’s always sad when something that used to be not so branded becomes heavily so.  Sad as watching as it happen to a cow’s butt (and I don’t even like cows).   There had to have been a time when sneakers were just sneakers.  Some brands were known for their relative quality, and some weren’t.  But then advertisers linked sneakers to professional athletes and their “god-like” quality of being victorious¸ and then, in the period after that, to fashion.  The wardrobe-matching potential of footwear and anything electronic/portable have obviously been a boon to their respective brands.

So the appeal of headphones is no longer just about music; it’s about music in the context of being surrounded by people, either to drown them out, or so they can notice the status-marker you have that happens to play music.

Lately I’ve had more sympathy for people who keep their heads glued to head- or smart phones in between everything — except for people who do such behind the wheel or while trying to cross the busiest of crosswalks.  If you’re not lucky, society hasn’t made getting to and from anything easy.  There’s less breathing room, less of everything, and the world asks more of you to get that.  (Always worth noting that note less of everything exists because of someone else’s greed.)

I was talking the other day to someone who suggested that, without smart phones, one would be actively trying to avoid making eye contact if you weren’t in a place you felt comfortable.  Some people are oddities wherever they go, and avoiding the awkward social component of that has to be appealing.  One of the reasons we listen to music, in the first place, is because it can make the world feels like it’s not such a mess … except for jazz, which some people maybe like because it’s a “brilliant” mess.  Yeesh, I say.

Anyway, if you’ve got headphones on, maybe you’re tuning in to something that makes the world seem less uphill.  Of course, people are also — and perhaps more frequently — trying to stay in tune with the latest flickering idol of a non-existent attention span, or validate their stupider tendencies.

Now they’ve got headphones perfect for the person who wants the world to be in sync with his or her own usually loud and abrasive soundtrack.  ‘Cause while someone may be disenfranchised from the things that society says really matter, one can loudly play music that suggests he or she is some kind of big wheel.

Ah, headphones, keeping you distracted from life — and depending on the brands you like, another stylish component of the image of the multi-media show that is “life” itself.

Labor Day and John Henryism

John Henry statue

At the heart of Labor Day is the idea that if you work hard enough you’re awarded with sales so incredible they can only be a reward from Cthulu — the happiest shopping deity of them all … No, wait. In this day and age Labor Day may actually be stranger than that. Oh, right. It’s supposed to be about appreciating workers — labor workers, in particular — for the accomplishments they made in this country.

There was a slow change-up from the backbone of the economy being slavery and indentured servitude to workers who could demand better treatment (and be accommodated in the slightest). Even if it wasn’t uncommon for some of these workers to only want such for people who looked like them, their ideas helped form any notion of decent working conditions we have today. The shift of jobs to places where people can be paid much less for their hard work has had a hugely detrimental effect on the morale in this country, including the way it seems to be milked to blame other people for this — instead of people who wanted to and could maximize profit.

When connections and being on the right side of red lines add up to more opportunities, it’s easy to wonder sometimes what hard works adds up to outside of that. There’s a condition called John Henryism in which people who are denied opportunities work twice as hard to make something of themselves — at the expense of wrecking their bodies. If you’ve ever lived in a crowded neighborhood that isn’t upwardly mobile, you’ll likely be familiar with older people who still get out despite the fact that it’s quite hard on them physically. It’s both bittersweet and inspiring, just like any solid notion of work.