UNEMPLOYMENT by Aaron Lake Smith

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Punk Rock pessimism best describes Arthur contributor Aaron Lake’s Smith narrative of the anguish of being an aging, unemployed, punk. After receiving a zine written by German squatters titled “Happy Unemployed” Smith is forced to realize that the punk rock fantasy of outsmarting the work-world and eradicating deadtime do not so easily go hand in hand. Unlike the happy squatters, Smith is too old to be a crusty, too ambitious for some sort of career success, and too not-German to suckle off a welfare state.

Published by the zine world’s HarperCollins, Microcosm, Unemployment is formatted in the style of a Jack Chick tract. The story reads nothing like a classic Evangelically-polemic Jack Chick storyline until Smith turns to Crimethinc’s Days of War Nights of Love like the Good Book, and is climactically visited by its messianic author in a dream. The religious turn cements Smith’s pessimism, both for integration into capitalism and the faith that his ideals will deliver anything better.

Perhaps Unemployment‘s thematically closed approach lead Smith to release it as a single issue instead of as a regular issue of Big Hands. The punk zine form reminds us of a collective project underway, while Unemployment is the isolated story of an isolated person that is lacking something far more significant than a paying job. It’s the perfect read for urbanites like myself who appreciate allusions to Black Flag and Nietzsche within pages of each other, drinking black coffee, and waxing endlessly about the ugly confines of civilization.

Buy it from Microcosm press for 2 bucks.

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

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