Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The new post-cute age defined

There has been a lot of confusion since my initial announcement of the post-cute movement about the nature and goals of this groundbreaking new force of history (not that history actually has forces), and I acknowledge that this is largely my fault. It's difficult when first articulating a new unifying theory of the world to attend to all the little details. But people often approach me on the street, and after getting my autograph, ask me for clarification about this aim of post-cuteness or that. Eventually, it just became more economical to answer all the questions at once. So here we go: What is post-cute?

Let's begin with what post-cute is not. It's not about dirt or grunge; we're not trying to reincarnate the Middle Ages or early '90s Seattle. It's not exactly about a return to the pre-cute age either. Or maybe it is, in which case it will be a fundamentally conservative revolution seeking to reestablish old rights that will instead result in a completely novel state, a la the American Revolution in Arendt's On Revolution. (I said Arendt was the official philosopher of the new age, didn't I?) It's not reactionary, although I've never understood why reactionism is actually bad except that it always sounded like a terrible sin.

What characterizes cute? Cute is a word which is fundamentally stupid. It doesn't signify anything serious; something cute is not beautiful, wise, true, good, noble or any other such pretentious Platonic state. It is "almost" one or more of these attributes, but it never gets beyond almost. To continue in this pretentious Platonic vein, we can say that what is cute is in a perpetual state of becoming, and is valued for precisely this quality. In other words, you only like your crocs for their unseriousness, and they cannot by definition be a respectable combination or it would cease to be crocs. I know I said that Arendt was the official philosopher of post-cute, but you'll have to pardon a little Platonic pomposity. I dedicated a lot of Reg hours to being able to apply Plato to the absurd.

Cute is also ironic. To aim for cute is to eschew either the possibility or the desirability of attaining something better than cute. In the first case, one becomes a nihilist, in the second, a cynic. Or maybe one is a nihilist in both; I never understood Nietzsche. Anyway, both decisions imply the embrace of irony. One is aware that cute is somehow substandard, but one opts for it, even strives for it anyway. The whole thing is kind of a joke. What the hell is Hello Kitty? Is she a feline that says Hello? A breed of cat called Hello? She doesn't mean anything, and everyone knows she doesn't mean anything, but people still buy crap with her misshapen body on it. It's ironic. It's cute.

So post-cute is an attempt to kill Hello Kitty and crocs, among other things. It's also anti-branding and commodifying stuff that is too important to brand and commodify and it's anti-historicism (why not?). It's pro-education reform. It's neutral on abortion. It wears glasses. Ok, maybe not.

Most importantly, it's a revolution, and as such, it's an action. Hannah Arendt says that the consequences of actions are unpredictable (it really sounds a lot less obvious than that when she says it). Therefore, it's up to you (you who google "post cute" and find this blog when you were probably looking for cute posts) to figure out the rest and march forth bravely into the future, comrades.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lessons in not caring

The downward spiral of workplace motivation, in weekly stages:

Week 1: Shower, wake up at 7 am, straighten hair, put on makeup, wear suit jacket and painful pumps, arrive 10 minutes early every day, get assigned work, work diligently, take exactly one hour for lunch, bring work home

Week 2: Dump suit jacket and exchange painful pumps for less painful sandals, spend first 40 minutes of work checking email and reading blogs, no new work assigned, finishing up boring old work semi-diligently

Week 3: Makeup is starting to cause breakouts--stop wearing it, hair-straightening becomes optional, wear flip-flops to and from work, begin using work time to look at people's facebook pictures, resent official "projects" like "Rent me a cell phone, Rita."

Week 3: Increase time spent tooling around online to three out of 10 hours, stop tucking in blouses, take off shoes when at desk, forget hair straightener entirely, forget jewelry, purchase "formal flip-flops," take several short lunch breaks during the day, stop timing them

Week 4: Beg for real project, get it, realize motivation is too low to actually complete it, fail to complete it, spend seven out of 10 hours tooling around online, stop minimizing facebook/livejournal/blogger/xanga when important people walk by, discover Gmail chat

Week 5: Start waking up at 7:10, no longer arrive early, stop brushing hair, stop matching clothes, use extra time not spent tooling around online to work on fake novel, start taking really short lunches out of guilt at fact that all day is basically lunch, stop being assigned work of any kind, leave immediately after boss when boss leaves early

Week 6: Washing hair and other hygiene becomes optional, sometimes fail to take off informal flip-flops upon arrival at work, start looking for possible job openings in other industries, spend as much time talking to coworker as entire time spent being productive (that is, 15 minutes), get new boss and new assignment, get inspired and actually do assignment promptly, lose inspiration immediately afterwards

Week 7: Start waking up at 7:30 and arriving 5-10 minutes late every day, stop doing laundry, start listening to music online while at work, consider calling people to talk on the phone at work, refuse to do assigned work, redesign magazine website at work, take short naps at computer

Week 8: Arrive 15 minutes late, leave 20 minutes early every day, spend entire day editing one sentence of assignment at rate of five sentences per week, do nothing, dress like a total schlub, leave probably one day before I would otherwise be fired