Douglas Coupland: ‘Glossary of New Terms’ and ‘Radical Pessimist’s Guide to the Next Ten Years’
October 9, 2010 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Double hit o’ 1990s-style Douglas Coupland aphorism and futurism: “Glossary of New Terms”; “A Radical Pessimist’s Guide to the Next Ten Years.”
posted by joeclark (50 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
And here is a brief overview of Coupland's novels.
posted by grobstein at 11:04 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Was Coupland always this much of a half-ass-William-Gibson wanker? I seem to remember a good book or two by him, but this is just awful.
posted by nasreddin at 11:19 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


The inability of humans to create genuinely alienating situations. Anything made by humans is a de facto expression of humanity. Technology cannot be alienating, because humans created it. Genuinely alien technologies can be created only by aliens. Technically, a situation one might describe as alienating is, in fact, “humanating.”


Coupland, "alienation" has nothing to do with aliens. You're an idiot.
posted by nasreddin at 11:19 AM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that was pretty bad.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:22 AM on October 9, 2010


The inability of humans to create genuinely alienating situations. Anything made by humans is a de facto expression of humanity. Technology cannot be alienating, because humans created it. Genuinely alien technologies can be created only by aliens. Technically, a situation one might describe as alienating is, in fact, “humanating.”


Coupland, "alienation" has nothing to do with aliens. You're an idiot.


You don't think he might be, as a writer, playing on the meanings of alien/alienate? You think he really doesn't know what alienate means?
posted by acheekymonkey at 11:24 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't think he might be, as a writer, playing on the meanings of alien/alienate? You think he really doesn't know what alienate means?

Well, if he does know what it means, then I confess I have no idea what that "definition" is supposed to mean.
posted by nasreddin at 11:27 AM on October 9, 2010


Well, if he does know what it means, then I confess I have no idea what that "definition" is supposed to mean.

This seems like an overreach. Call him an idiot for his style or whatever, but not this. The whole piece is a long exercise in word play and portmanteaux. I think it highly unlikely he doesn't know what the definition of alienate is, given that he is well known for this kind of wordplay going back to Generation X and given the context of this particular article. Therefore, not an idiot.
posted by acheekymonkey at 11:34 AM on October 9, 2010


Cab we duct-tape him and Seth Godin together, strap them into a time machine, and set it so it's always at least an hour ahead of right now, so I don't need to know they exist anymore?
posted by dbiedny at 11:43 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are little gems here and there (i.e., everything he says about Ikea) but his particular version of the Grim Meathook Future is just ... ugh.
posted by runtina at 11:58 AM on October 9, 2010


Can we just call link number two "Coupland And The Infinite Externalization Of Mortality"?


oh the future is gonna be fucked up, but fucked up in a way we can;t even begin to conceive
posted by The Whelk at 12:02 PM on October 9, 2010


Dougie needs a hug.
posted by fatbird at 12:10 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


As far as I'm concerned he always gets a pass from me for coining "Unlimited Choice Paralysis"
posted by fullerine at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


18) Untombed landfills will glut the market with 20th-century artifacts

C.f.
posted by stbalbach at 12:21 PM on October 9, 2010


shit i liked it...i must be as dumb as him
posted by lslelel at 12:22 PM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


34) You're going to miss the 1990s more than you ever thought

Jerry Maguire is playing on cable right now. It's 14 years old and exists in a world that's pre-Internet. Recall that the movie starts with Maguire printing out his manifesto late at night at a 24-hour copy shop. The guy behind the counter is impressed at Maguire's drive, and says, "That's how you become great. You hang your balls out there, man."

In 2010, Maguire would have started a blog, and instead of reaching 100 co-workers, he could be hanging his balls out in front of millions. Hell, maybe Maguire could become some insta-guru about marketing and psychology, like Seth Godin or Daniel Pink. Maguire could give his own TED talk about "Fewer clients, less money."

Yeah, I kinda miss the 90s. I miss the earnestness. But I like the present, too.

BTW, if you want to read The Things We Think But Do Not Say, written by Cameron Crowe, it's available.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:31 PM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


You're going to miss the 1990s more than you ever thought

You mean that halcyon decade when Douglas Coupland was respected and famous? Who are you really talking to here, Doug?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:35 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to be Douglas Coupland when I grow up.

(Except maybe the living in Vancouver bit.)
posted by cstross at 12:44 PM on October 9, 2010


He lost it sometime before he wrote JPod, which was also terrible.
posted by w0mbat at 2:22 PM on October 9, 2010


Was Coupland always this much of a half-ass-William-Gibson wanker?

I prefer to think of him as the poor man's Po Bronson.

(Generation X and Shampoo Planet still charm me, Microserfs will remain a period curiosity, and I stopped reading Coupland after that, but, yeah ...)
posted by octobersurprise at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2010


Ah, the Inconvenient You-Have-To-Buy-Chicken-Because-Pork-Isn't-On-Sale Future.
posted by No-sword at 3:42 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I loved Douglas Coupland in the late 90s.

Then I grew up.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:47 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing about Doug Coupland is that he's a good enough writer and storyteller who has been chronically, debilitatingly depressed his whole life. And, he's from West Vancouver. Growing up on the North Shore gives you a seasonally-depressive kick in the teeth right from the start, so that's some pretty solid depression.

His 15 minutes revolved around projecting his own depression onto the collective post-modern suburban existence. That's about it. You can only write so many books about that. He hit his peak at Girlfriend In A Coma, I think - as a 24-year-old I really enjoyed that book. Then, freefall. Miss Wyoming was unreadable.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:00 PM on October 9, 2010


I'm kind of a weird age to be a Douglas Coupland fan, all of 26, read Microserf's long after that world vanishes, read JPod and was annoyed, but I always liked his writing, maybe because of the persistent depressive outlook or the oppressive pop culture tics or cause I, at 13 thought he was kinda hot, but whatever. It's like authors and creators and artists and actors and everyone is told to find a niche, find a character, role to play and then when they do that it's all well they always do that. How annoying.
posted by The Whelk at 4:18 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the 90s I always got Douglas Coupland and Douglas Rushikoff mixed up.
posted by Yakuman at 4:30 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


And, he's from West Vancouver. Growing up on the North Shore gives you a seasonally-depressive kick in the teeth right from the start, so that's some pretty solid depression

Hmmm? West Vancouver, the wealthiest community in the world's 4th most livable city. That makes it what? Maybe the world's tenth best place to live?

Can't speak for Doug but I did grow up (two years his senior) maybe a mile from him. Sure it rained a lot but man, you've just got to have a little imagination in those "off" months. In this regard, the plethora of local magic mushrooms that always popped up right when the rains came (ie: now) definitely helped. Which, by the way, has long been my Coupland-theory. The guy probably never did psychedelics. No wonder he seems so forever hung up on the overwhelming reality of things.
posted by philip-random at 4:40 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're going to miss the 1990s more than you ever thought

I already do, but that's only because I was very briefly a fashion plate.

I met him at a signing in Miami, and he seemed as nervous to meet his fans as we were meeting him. When he signed my autograph jacket, he notice David Foster Wallace's signature and asked me what he was like.

I do remember that I bought my copy of Generation X just after starting college in NYC. Right after that, I bought a bunch of food at a Korean deli and sat in Union Square Park reading and eating.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


6) The middle class is over. It's not coming back

Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day?

That's where all the other jobs that once made us middle-class are going – to that same, magical, class-killing, job-sucking wormhole into which travel-agency jobs vanished, never to return. However, this won't stop people from self-identifying as middle-class, and as the years pass we'll be entering a replay of the antebellum South, when people defined themselves by the social status of their ancestors three generations back. Enjoy the new monoclass!


This is true.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:08 PM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day?

I see more travel agents in malls now than I remember seeing growing up. Yes, the majority of them are FlightCenter, but there's still a lot of smaller shops.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:28 PM on October 9, 2010


Travel agents morphed from the only game in town for everything, to selling resort vacations and running Expedia.com for companies that couldn't even trust their employees to do it themselves, to contain costs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:33 PM on October 9, 2010


"He hit his peak at Girlfriend In A Coma, I think"

That was the last Coupland novel I enjoyed. It was like listening to a friend with perfect recall talking about high school.

jonmc, that autograph jacket is fun! I just looked at my copy of Girlfriend in a Coma and it's signed! Yay!

philip-random: I remember looking for shrooms on the dewy soccer and elementary school fields in North Van!
posted by acheekymonkey at 6:43 PM on October 9, 2010


I suspect he's sort of right about the weather getting weirder and the economic landscape getting less pleasant for a lot of people whose jobs are at the mercy of the Internet and how incredibly annoying everything is going to be once Facebook finishes eating our entire culture, but that was still pretty bad.
posted by brennen at 6:44 PM on October 9, 2010


For an article about the future, penned by someone with a reputation for being a zeitgeist-pulse-taker, doesn't it seem like way old news that "Nowadays, there are Goths, emos, punks, metal-heads, geeks and so forth"? Other than the new definition of "emo" that emerged in the last decade, the rest of those characters are 30 years old.
posted by Beardman at 7:59 PM on October 9, 2010


Couldn't get two pages into a Coupland book, because I'm too old for that crap. Still, I really liked "A glossary of new terms for a messed-up future".

But this entry seems unecessary:

Proceleration: The acceleration of acceleration.

I learned in physics class that acceleration of acceleration is called impulse. Which is why Captain Kirk is always firing up the impulse engines on the Enterprise. Coupland should know that.
posted by telstar at 8:01 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


we still got travel agents in Japan! come to think of it, there are many things here that are like North America in the 90's...
posted by ameca at 10:22 PM on October 9, 2010


I learned in physics class that acceleration of acceleration is called impulse.

Jerk. Rate of change of acceleration is jerk. Impulse is the change in momentum when a force is applied to an object.
posted by Justinian at 12:30 AM on October 10, 2010


The Microsoft Internal Library stocks copies of Microserfs, available for checkout.

That always amused me.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:08 AM on October 10, 2010


Jerk. Rate of change of acceleration is jerk.

"Jerk engines" would sound kinda...creepy.


there are many things here that are like North America in the 90's...

what else?
posted by telstar at 3:35 AM on October 10, 2010


12) Expect less - Not zero, just less.

Words to live by. The future's just starting, and a lot of people are simply not prepared to do without.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:16 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do like the idea of rapture goo.
posted by showmethecalvino at 7:29 AM on October 10, 2010


I love it when embittered grad students and other failed writers rail against insightful and intelligent people like Coupland. Talk about envy of another's relative professional success, which these angry people will never experience in their own lives. How sad.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:13 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hm, I must be a simpleton but I actually really liked "The Gum Thief" and "Generation A." Maybe not as much as "GenX" or "Girlfriend in a Come" (which I fucking loved), but enough to have ordered his latest "Player One" two days ago without thinking twice.

Everything Coupland touches isn't turned into gold certainly, but I still think he's a solid author with flashes of brilliance. His glossaries I could probably do without, but the rest I often enjoy quite a bit.
posted by Glee at 2:27 PM on October 10, 2010


..."Girlfriend in a Coma," rather. "Girlfriend in a Come" was terrible.
posted by Glee at 2:31 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love it when embittered grad students and other failed writers rail against insightful and intelligent people like Coupland. Talk about envy of another's relative professional success, which these angry people will never experience in their own lives.

This is the kind of thing I might be guilty of thinking, but I'd never actually say it. Not around here anyway.
posted by philip-random at 3:50 PM on October 10, 2010


I love it when embittered grad students and other failed writers rail against insightful and intelligent people like Coupland.

I wouldn't want to be him, but I appreciate that he's doing a good job of being him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:38 PM on October 10, 2010


I love it when embittered grad students and other failed writers rail against insightful and intelligent people like Coupland. Talk about envy of another's relative professional success, which these angry people will never experience in their own lives. How sad.

Wow, really? "Failed writers"? I'm rarely surprised when toxic bullshit comes out of your mouth, Blazecock, but this is especially pathetic.
posted by nasreddin at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2010


He instilled a vague longing for Vancouver in me at a young age. I don't know if I should thank him or hate him for that.

I can't hate the man, even as I don't read him much anymore.
posted by emjaybee at 5:07 PM on October 10, 2010


I *loved* Coupland back in high school. Microserfs was the first book of his I read (still my favourite) and I devoured everything else, which definitely influenced my own early writing.

I went to a talk followed by a book signing for All Families Are Psychotic. I was 16, nervous as hell, meeting my idol. I had rehearsed my stupid little speech about how much his writing had meant to me. I finally got to the front of the line, took a deep breath, and *Douglas Coupland!* said:

"I like your nail polish. What colour is it?"

"S-slate," I stammered."

"Slate, huh? I like that. Maybe I'll have a character in my next book wear slate nail polish."

I managed to briefly tell him that I loved his writing before he finished signing my book and moved on. My eloquent speech, totally crushed. I thought, I met my favourite writer. And we talked about...nail polish.

...You know what? I'm pretty okay with that, actually. But I'm still waiting for that character with the slate-coloured nails.
posted by ilana at 5:59 PM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember getting my hands on Generation X when it came out, and I was a Vancouver boy and I was the right age and I was writing for Discorder and living the kind of life that my booze-soaked literary heroes lived, as much because I loved the booze as I wanted to be like them (come on kids and be like us! sang No Fun), and all of the wordplay marginalia excited me at least as much as the actual novel did, and I thought I saw a way lit up ahead to write the kind of book I'd been wanting to write.

Never did finish that book.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:59 AM on October 11, 2010


I love it when embittered grad students and other failed writers rail against insightful and intelligent people like Coupland. Talk about envy of another's relative professional success, which these angry people will never experience in their own lives. How sad.

I don't need your pity.

I need your love.

*weeps quietly, crushed by his broken dreams and BP's trenchant and insightful analysis*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:24 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love it
when embittered MeFites and other failed intellectuals
rail against insightful and intelligent people
like ME.

no disrespect to BP; I just liked the rhythm
posted by philip-random at 11:04 PM on October 11, 2010


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