Busking on the London Underground was once an illicit activity conducted through wit, guile, community and negotiation. For more than a decade however, the practice has become radically professionalized.
No matter the tangled path I take to get there, the end result is always the same: a few hours later, I’m sitting in front of my laptop with three tabs open on serial killers, violent paraphilias, or fast-moving infectious diseases.
In TV commercials vast and angry crowds march to demand that same great taste, but now with no calories. Retailers don’t just exhort us to buy their stuff, they want us to join their movement and read their manifesto.
From the alliance of Foghorn Leghorn and KFC to the pig mascot of the BBQ restaurant chain Famous Dave’s, chirpy animals consistently seem intent on selling dead parts of their brothers and sisters with a smile.
There’s a Virginia Woolf quote that’s really stuck with me this year—something like “Never to be yourself and yet always.” That’s part of the goal and that’s something I’ve thought about a lot—I want to be surprised by what I do so that it’s interesting to me. I want to not recognize what I’ve done.
It’s a notion that resonated deeply inside me; that we are moving through life oblivious to so many tiny yet essential details. It was such a persistent, haunting and panic-inducing thought, I was sure the resulting urge to pay attention would remain near the surface, as if tattooed on my psyche.
For George Saunders, crisis is often a foregone conclusion, a reality of everyday life. Social mores and idealistic principles prove flimsy, as disaster and defeat become the glue that increasingly holds people together.