UNEMPLOYMENT by Aaron Lake Smith


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.

Chambo's Internet Activity Pages for August 24, 2009

• AFRO SCI-FI: Sci-fi author Nnedi Okorafor is talking with all of her pals about whether or not “Africa is ready for science fiction” as a guest-blogger on the Nebula Awards website and it’s chock full of clever anecdotes about creating sci-fi that appeals to non-Western audiences. As Notre Dame professor Naunihal Singh puts it, “Bring the Terminator to West Africa, and he’d stop running in a day. He’d sit there and glitch. It’ll be hard to make people afraid of a future where computers take over the world when they can’t manage to keep the computers on their desk running.” There’s also lots of great jumping off points for exploring other African sci-fi writers and absolutely bonkers-looking Nollywood B-movies like Across The Bridge; that’s the trailer up top there, sample line: “Are you willing to suck the breast of ever-flowing milk?” [Nebula Awards via Harper’s]

• ATTN NEW WELFARE QUEENS: If you spend a lot of time reading Rushkoff’s commentary here in Arthur on the current death throes of American laissez faire capitalism, you probably know that when the unemployment numbers go down it’s often ’cause people STOP looking for work, rather than b/c they got jobs. But that doesn’t matter right now, ’cause “California’s jobless rate reached a fresh post-World War II high in July, climbing to 11.9%,” as the LA Times reported last week. WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN DOLE, you deadbeats. Here’s a great blog that’ll show all you n00b unemployees how to work it: UNEMPLOYMENTALITY has all the tips, tricks and hacks you’ll need to navigate California’s EDD. E.g. If you’d like to quickly bypass the robots and talk to one of the live drones, call the Vietnamese language line. BRILLIANT. [Unemploymentalitiy]

• MORE LIGHTNING BOLT NEWS: Did you know that lighting sometimes strikes up? See images of a “gigantic jet of upside down lightning” over at the Nature blog. [The Great Beyond]

• MINIMALIST CHRONICLES OF WESTERN DECADENCE: Do you guys read Texts From Last Night? It is a website where American exhibitionists offer up short form narratives about their bad trips, pregnancy scares and a super gross thing called “sharting.” On the one hand it’s as dumb a time-waster as LOLCats, but on the other it is like Ayman Al Zawahiri’s darkest fantasies of Western Decadence rendered in minimalist text-messaging prose, the area code from whence said texts were typed being the only identifying detail. [TFLN]

(813): I think dad’s getting high again. His last google search was “awesome ping pong shit.”

(323): The idiot babysitter thought my dildo was a teething toy and gave it to our child.
(1-323): Did you put it in the freezer again?

• AWESOME PING PONG SHIT: As it happens, that “high dad” had the right idea, Googling “awesome ping pong shit.” Case in point, the John McEnroe-caliber table tennis antics seen below:

Trust the Government: DAVE REEVES in ARTHUR MAGAZINE No. 21

originally published in Arthur Magazine No. 21 (March 2006)

Trust the Government
by David Reeves

I know your career isn’t going so good right now because it takes a great artist time to get his game together enough to overthrow the dominant bladdy blah…but face it, you’re unemployed.

Join the Army. I’m serious. It would totally legitimize you, your art and your tattooes. You love shitty dive bars, “found art” and thrift stores. Army bases have all of that in spades.

If you rank as one of hardened hipsters who are unafraid to waltz the avenue of Echo Park, where at least three gangsters have been gunned down in the last month then, please, for the sake of freedom, get down to the recruiter and join now before the big rush.

With the cost of gas, outsourcing and downsizing, economic conscription isn’t just for Mexicans anymore. Our great country has been mismanaging the current “White Man’s Burden” by sending the high school football squad instead of the best of the breed.

Which is why the Iraqis are so pissed off. They were expecting the Americans from the “OC” television show to liberate them. When the real teens of Orange County showed up blaring Pantera and sneaking peeks at the ankles of their women, they felt duped.

It’s a sensitivity issue and obviously Oprah is too busy to get involved so, now more than ever, America needs those coffeehouse radicals who were brave enough to gentrify Brooklyn into Williamsburg.

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