Choosing how to make money

I think a lot about how people choose to spend their time, particularly what they choose to do to make money. How, given the infinite options available to them, do people decide what to do, and then not agonize over that decision every day? Maybe they do. I do.

People seem to fit into three categories: they’re either content with their choice of work, not content with their choice, or don’t really realize they’ve made a choice. Some would argue for a fourth category – not having a choice – but that’s weak talk, in Western countries at least.

For many people a job is just a way for them to get money to make ends meet. They took the first job that was offered to them. It could be any job. When it comes to work, they are totally aimless and have little desire to improve their skills or prospects or become rich or respected. These people can either be happy, unhappy or somewhere in between – it depends on their general joie de vivre.

Others, mainly those in the office jobs it appears, have made a conscious choice and are not happy with it. Often they went to university, got shat out into the corporate system and – even though they are unlikely to admit it – are deeply unhappy with the miserable, fake humdrum of that life. Many have had the crushing realization that they’re useless and providing no real value to society.

The third bunch – usually people who’ve committed themselves to becoming masterful in something that has a positive impact on others – made a conscious choice and are happy with it. Think tradesman, movie directors, or those who dedicate themselves to genuinely helping people in need.

Some people stay in one of these categories their whole lives, some move up to the happy one, some get unlucky and move down. A biological essentialist might argue that we’re all just unconsciously playing our roles in society – roles we were born to act out and can’t escape from. It could be that no matter how big and complex society gets, attributes and predilections are doled out among people by mathematical formulas deep in our collective DNA. The problem with modern society is that the rapid transformation from agricultural to industrial to digital has confused our collective biology.

Anyway, here the blogger Meta-Nomad touches on the ‘any job’ mindset:

“They’re for slaves who adore being told what to do, people who not only take no pride in their work, but take no pride in anything, have no principles or ambitions and wish merely to grind until death.”

And later he analyzes the ‘unhappy choice’ office rat mindset, which he had chosen:

“There I was, dwindling away at a laptop, for all intents and purposes, pissing time away on idiotic nonsense. Creating little bits of bullshit to sell someone a tent, a tent which both I and the consumer have absolutely no idea how it’s made, nor where or who by. It is just a thing which I communicate we are selling. As far as I’m concerned the job was beyond meaningless, it was odd, a surreal experience of life in the office. Hell, to be quite honest. It was a person, sitting in a room, tapping at a small black object and not diverting their attention anywhere else for 8 hours. It was a being, with the potential to learn, help and form a self, dwindling their finite time away into a vortex of modern bullshit. It was, quite seriously, a mind-numbing form of sterilization. A slow death.

Then he writes about the ‘happy choice’ he’s since made:

“Luckily a friend told me of a job going at a joinery place he worked at…I finish, prime, assemble and prepare bespoke doors, windows, stairs etc. for people who’ve ordered them. People need windows and doors and I’m part of that process. At the end of the day I can see the work I’ve done. I feel worked too. And no, I’m not one of these people who believes you should have to feel exhausted at the end of every day. But if you believe it is unusual to feel tired or physically knackered at the end of the day, if you come home and you complain, just one time, of feeling physically knackered, then guess what, your privilege levels are through the roof. You whine about suffering, but once you realize life is suffering then it no longer is. The more you keep it at bay, the more it will haunt your day.”

Not all university-educated men will come to understand why office work is not compatible with genuine masculinity, self-honesty and happiness, but for the ones who do there’s no going back. You either have to suck it up or get out.

Mark Corrigan lives on in David Mitchell's Guardian column

If David Mitchell hadn’t provided the flesh and bones for one of the greatest characters in TV comedy history, I’m not sure I’d be so forgiving of his writing. As it is, my enjoyment of his three books to date – Back Story, Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse and the latest, Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy – has been greatly enhanced by the fact that I involuntarily read them in the voice of Peep Show’s Mark Corrigan (which also happens, obviously, to be the actual voice of David Mitchell).

I am peripherally aware of David Mitchell’s status as a British TV panel show powerhouse, but because a) I no longer live in Britain and b) I don’t want my brain to fall out of my skull, I’ve only seen the odd clip of him on these programs. Thus, my knowledge of Mitchell beelines straight from Peep Show to his books. Back Story is his memoir and Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse and Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy are collections of his Guardian columns.

While reading the latter over the past couple of days, it occurred to me that if I were not reading his columns in my imagined context that it was Mark Corrigan writing them, I likely wouldn’t have given them the time of day. See, Mitchell has fashioned himself as a whiny political commentator. Writing for The Guardian, he is of course the kind of whiny political commentator who lacks a strong enough comprehension of reality to say anything of genuine worth. He is textbook liberal, thinly read and subsisting on a mainstream BBC information diet, and this gives his political writing that familiar crazed leftist tinge. He despises Trump, Boris and ‘racism’, and he likes equality and mindless prioritization of public services. He is skeptical of political correctness, though not enough that he disagrees with the Advertising Standards Authority on banning ‘gender stereotypes’.

And that’s why I like his books. Writing an exasperated, pedantic, behind-the-times Guardian column is exactly what Mark Corrigan would have done if Business Secrets of the Pharaohs had found bestseller-list success and he’d then somehow managed to schmooze with the right media contacts. So I think of Mitchell’s Guardian columns as a sort of Peep Show spin-off, a continuation of the eternally-lovable character Mark Corrigan in a different format to keep the fans happy.

In fairness to Mitchell, he is a genuinely capable writer, and one of few who has actually made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions using mere words on a page. True as well is that not everything he writes is political. Mitchell is at his best when he’s doing observational commentary on the minutiae of British life, digressing with his trademark awkwardness into an over-exacting faux-mania. This happens to be when he sheds the guise of the aggravated, dogmatic Corrigan and actually becomes an assured, whimsical David Mitchell.

What makes him far less insufferable than the typical Guardian opinion writer is that he’s painfully aware of his status as a pretend political commentator. He’s a comedian, a fact he references several times in his latest book, and would probably agree as much as anyone that publications aspiring to respectable seriousness like the Guardian shouldn’t be hiring comedians as political columnists. He even acknowledges in the book’s foreword that he’s offering up a “trite manifesto”.

Nonetheless, without perhaps him or the Guardian editors realizing it, David Mitchell’s column is a perfect parody of the shell-shocked liberal in a post-Trump, post-Brexit world that’s far more cruel and complex than they were led to believe. He’s so sure of his virtue that the thought of diving into deeper political theory that might snap him out of his comfy left-wing BBC indoctrination has not occurred to him. And why would it? If he started saying things that strayed from the Guardian narrative, which at times he even seems to take pains not to do, he would no longer have a handsomely-paying column.

This turned out more negative than I expected. I really do like David Mitchell (though I’m not exactly sure how much that has to do with him being Mark Corrigan). So take this as constructive criticism; I believe that if he expanded his mental horizons beyond leftie orthodoxy, his writing would have much more to offer the world and possibly be of much longer-lasting significance. Surface-level red-faced spluttering about Trump and bigotry suits Mark Corrigan, but David Mitchell can do better.

The systematization of customer service

This little observation is not about chatbots and self-checkouts, but the lesser-discussed roboticization of actual human customer service agents.

Not too long ago I received a nasty surprise in the form of a $200 phone bill, way above the usual $50. Upon inspecting the bill, I realized I’d been screwed by a predatory technicality in the fine print.

I got on the phone with the mobile company to complain about the “unfairness” of the extra charges. It wasn’t that I believed the money was wrongly taken from me – after all I’d blindly signed the T&Cs – but rather that it’s always worth trying your luck if you think there’s a chance of wrangling some money back.

To my surprise, the agent didn’t argue back by holding me accountable for my lack of attention to detail. Instead, she offered to waive $17 from the bill. Curious, I asked how she’d arrived at that figure. It was ‘the system’ that calculated the amount, she said.

Unsatisfied with 17 measly bucks, I went back to complaining about the “injustice” I’d been served. Before long, the agent asked me to wait a second, and then said ‘the system’ had adjusted the refund to $36. It was then that I figured out what was going on.

“The more I complain, the higher the refund goes, right?” I said.

“I… I… I’m just going by what the system tells me,” the agent said.

“How does this ‘system’ work?”

“The computer tells me the refund amount I can process. It is now saying I can offer $54.”

“Why does it keep going up?”

“I’m just going by what the system tells me, sir.”

“If I keep complaining, will ‘the system’ eventually offer me a full refund on the overage charges?”

The agent let out a barely perceptible giggle. “That is correct, sir. But this is the highest refund I can offer.”

“OK, well I could keep you on the phone all day until the system says I can have all the money back. And I could start shouting at you and getting angry, just to speed things along. Or threaten to cancel my contract – I bet that would bump the refund up a few levels. But I can’t be bothered with this anymore, so I guess I’ll settle for the $54.”

“OK sir, the refund will be added to your account.”

After getting off the phone, I briefly reflected on this strange and amusing interaction. I imagine ‘the system’ is a drop-down box that calculates a customer’s refund in percentage increments of the amount they’re complaining about based on their level of irateness. 1 – mild complaint, 5 – customer is extremely angry and abusive. Evidently, I reached level 3, probably listed as something like “persistent complaining”.

I don’t know how long this company has hidden behind ‘the system’, but presumably its previous strategy was to have a trained customer service agent weigh up the threat of the customer cancelling their contract in anger and make a call based on that. The initial response from the agent would have been that I should have read the fine print, and a semi-adult debate about corporate ethics and customer loyalty might have followed, resulting in a carefully-considered customer retention refund if you were lucky.

Now, it’s immediate deferral to the system. Training and paying skilled customer service agents to manage individual cases must have been more expensive than hiring monkeys to hand out refunds based on the system’s drop-down box. Most people probably don’t get past level 2, so the amount the company pays out using this ‘instant refund’ model is less than having trained agents deal with long-winded disputes. Soon it will be chatbots doling out the auto-refunds, with the bonus that they’ll better understand your true psychological state. Twenty-first century global capitalism at its finest. Enjoy.

Alex Jones, national treasure

The other week I watched the 1990 film Pump Up The Volume, an ode to free speech that Hollywood wouldn’t make today. In the film, a young Christian Slater runs a pirate radio station from his parent’s basement, speaking his mind and enthralling his schoolmates. When the powers that be figure out what’s going on, they throw everything at tracking him down and putting an end to his thought crimes.

Thirty years later, Alex Jones is the real-life thought criminal the elites are intent on crushing. He’s been kicked off all their social media platforms, and Google has carefully engineered its search results to show only mainstream news stories that either mock or smear him. The average Reddit or Twitter user, having obediently gulped down the Alex Jones blue pill, foams at the mouth at the mere mention of his name.

Meanwhile, the Alex Jones red pill is that he is and will be remembered as the greatest comedian of our generation. Like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce before him, Jones is willing to risk being censored and having the book thrown at him to make us laugh. He operates outside the bubble of political correctness that has comedians like Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr putting out milquetoast Netflix-approved material that’s aimed at people with no sense of humour.

There is no one remotely like Alex Jones in media today. He combines humour and passion with a fierce intellect and an encyclopedic knowledge of history in a way that makes him endlessly listenable, hilarious and fascinating. Jones subtly brings you in on “the joke” and invites you in to his refuge from “the bad guys” (globalists, etc.). It’s a warm feeling – enhanced by that raspy voice – that keeps you coming back for more and more.

Visiting feels like an act of rebellion, a celebration of freedom, liberty and other strong moral values. I love that they can’t take him away from us, no matter how hard they try. I love the idea of them being aggravated by us accessing his content. I love how they think they’re laughing at dumb Infowars fans, when in fact we’re laughing at them.

The tragedy is that the average person in the West today is so stupid and confused that they can’t just sit back and enjoy the show that is Alex Jones. In a mentally healthy, pure society he’d be heralded as the national treasure that he is. Instead, the elites have had a field day in convincing people he’s evil, just because he’s slightly inconvenient to their narrative.

History tends to be kind to heroes, however, and I’m confident Jones will earn his rightful place in the record books as one of America’s greatest comedians. Those in control of feeble minds get to shape the opinions of the present day, but the free thinkers who love Jones will be celebrating his legacy long after the elites have moved onto their next smear and censorship campaign.

P.S. check out Alex’s character Fentanyl The Chicom Dragon for a good chuckle.

Why you can't stand Adele and Ed Sheeran

The healthy reaction to seeing the faces or hearing the music of Adele or Ed Sheeran is simmering rage, and the similarities between these suspiciously-successful pop stars don’t end there.

Until now I hadn’t given too much thought to why these two pop stars irked me so uniquely. After digging a little deeper, it started to make sense, and I also realized I instinctively despise them for pretty much the same reasons.

You may have observed that there is a sort of political incorrectness to voicing your aversion to these particular pop stars. Do you dislike Adele because she’s a strong, independent ‘larger’ woman? Do you dislike Ed Sheeran because he’s a gentle, emasculated nice guy with a friendly smile?

It’s true that their identities are based on a grim sexlessness, one pioneered by talent show ogre Susan Boyle in 2009 (both Adele and Sheeran released their debut albums two years later in 2011), but this exploitation of repulsiveness-as-a-selling point is not in itself what makes them insufferable.

Their ugliness is in fact only one aspect of what are cleverly-manufactured mass market products that represent the modern-day pinnacle of art-as-business. Mixed in with their ugliness is an ordinariness, an inoffensiveness, a safeness, a predictability and a polished veneer which, in both cases, ensures these products deliver consistent profits as if their songs were cars coming off an assembly line.

Britney Spears, to pick an example at random, is a pop star who was manufactured to be sexy and exciting. Her songs were designed to be fun and cheesy, and you were under no pressure to appreciate her as a great artist. With Adele and Sheeran, who were created by the same corporations, we are expected to applaud them as genius artists whose magnificence saw them succeed despite their physical limitations. This, instead of sex appeal, is the product that best sells to today’s ‘empowered’, ‘sophisticated’ consumer.

Adele and Sheeran were presented to the world as down-to-earth, normal, ‘real’ people, and this is just what happened to sell like hot cakes at a time when the consumer had become fatigued by pop’s hyper-fakeness. The narrative created for the product Adele is that she “writes her own songs” about “real-life heartbreak.” She is an “amazing singer” with a “powerful voice.” Sheeran as a product is “that shy, quiet ginger guy” who can just pick up a guitar and play you a beautiful song.

In reality, they are ruthless businesspeople masquerading as artists. Sheeran in particular has made no secret of his primary focus: “Adele is the one person who’s sold more records than me in the past ten years,” he said. “She’s the only person I need to sell more records than. Once the creative product is out, there is a race to the finish line.” Sheeran is a “notorious figures hound”, noted The Guardian, who “delayed the release of [his album] to avoid clashing with potential competition.”

Meanwhile, claims of plagiarism are mounting up against him as he repeatedly uses the artistry of others to produce high-selling records. And even though he steals songs, the “calculating soul” within Sheeran’s music renders it lifeless, reeking of, “for those not enthralled by his algorithmic songcraft, the sharp stench of a salesman’s cheap cologne” (The Guardian again). The very same criticism can be levelled at Adele.

For a while now the idea that pop music is being reduced to a science has been gaining ground. “Much of today’s pop music adheres to a pretty standard, formulaic approach to tempo, harmonics, song structure, and even lyrics,” reported Mashable. There’s even a Hit Potential Equation: Score = (w1 x f1) + (w2 x f2) + (w3 x f3) + (w4 x f4), etc. Each ‘w’ in the equation represents song features like length, loudness and tempo, as well as “more intricate measurements like MFCCs, zero-crossing rate, bark coefficients and tempograms.” Using the formula, researchers could determine with 60% accuracy if a song would make the top five, exposing the major labels’ scientific recipe for monetary success.

Adele and Sheeran are the major labels’ response to being found out: scientific pop music packaged up as if it were organic, unpolished art. This response was extremely effective in hoodwinking the public and critics alike; Adele and Sheeran get to reap the financial benefits that come from scientifically-composed pop music and also enjoy being thought of as genuine artists. They’ve had their cake and eaten it too (I’m not mean enough to make a joke about Adele here).

Although Adele and Sheeran are presented to the consumer as ‘real artists’, designed to give the unsophisticated listener the feel-good impression that they’ve developed the ability to discern raw talent coming from ugly ducklings, really they are just the Britney Spears of this era. It’s their carefully-maintained image that sells, in a time when the image of ordinariness and authenticity happens to sell better than sexiness and pristineness.

The Calendar Conspiracy

I have a conspiracy theory of sorts: the regular holidays and events in a given calendar year are strategically spread out by the ruling class to minimize depression and revolt among the proletariat while keeping economic productivity at a sustainable maximum.

Let’s take a look at Ontario, Canada’s calendar as an example.

Jan 1: New Year’s Day: A recovery day for those who drink to excess to ‘celebrate’ the restarting of the Gregorian calendar. A chance to set intentions for the 365 days ahead; for many a day of quiet optimism mixed with a potent cocktail of nagging anxiety, sadness about the Christmas period being over, and the dread of returning to business as usual.

Feb 14: Valentine’s Day: Those who make it through the cold January nights without killing themselves are rewarded with a novelty celebration to lift their spirits at this harsh time of year. A spot of shameless indulgence permitted here for those with partners, but a day that carries the risk of further isolating incels.

Feb 18: Family Day: A new holiday introduced in 2007 that gives the proles a much-needed day off halfway between the long, dark January to April stretch. I’m not aware of anyone who has actually used this day to celebrate ‘family’, but I’d be interested to see some stats on how well it’s served as a pressure relief valve for the downtrodden populous.

Mar 17: St. Patrick’s Day: People love an excuse to get wasted. Here’s one strategically placed between Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Apr 19: Good Friday, Apr 22: Easter Monday: Research has shown that, contrary to popular belief, suicide rates “spike in the light of spring, not the darkness of winter.” So what better time for a 4-day chocolate-filled, family-oriented relief period?

May 12: Mother’s Day: Keeping the momentum up after Easter with a feel-good Hallmark holiday. A reminder for those thinking of ending it all that it wouldn’t make mommy very happy.

May 20: Victoria Day: Random holiday neatly wedged between Easter and the good weather starting. If it’s a nice day, people enjoy firing up the BBQ and getting wasted.

Jun 16: Father’s Day: Another Hallmark holiday to distract people from their crushing loneliness and depression as we head into the summer period.

Jul 1: Canada Day, Aug 5: Civic Day, Sep 2: Labour Day: A whopping three holidays spread out monthly during the summer. A great way to stop people who are wasting their summers sitting in a 15th floor air-conditioned office from jumping out of the nearest window.

Oct 14: Thanksgiving Day: The sun’s power is waning, the long winter is coming. But don’t worry about that, here’s a feel-good family feast.

Oct 31: Halloween: I know you can’t go outside anymore and you’re already showing signs of vitamin D deficiency and seasonal affective disorder, so we’ll send some cute kids in costumes to your door and permit you a night of stuffing sugary treats down your throat.

Dec 25: Christmas Day: The big boy. The promise of this single day carries many proles through from November 1 to December 24. Many become so swept up in the “spirit of Christmas” that they barely notice the brutal decline into the dead of winter. Christmas is so powerful that workers successfully use it as an excuse for “winding down” (zoning out) throughout the whole month of December and maybe even the tail end of November.

Dec 26: Boxing Day: Because Christmas can’t just be one measly day off after all that build up and excitement – far too depressing.

Dec 31: New Year’s Eve: An excuse to get wasted so you don’t have to reflect back on another year of wasted life, or indeed think about having to go through it all over again.

There does seem to be a correlation between how miserable people are in their lives and how much credence they give to holidays and annual events. Notice how people who hate their jobs can’t wait for their vacations, too.

As depression, loneliness and anxiety continue to rise, people will latch onto these little distractions more and more, a phenomenon we’re seeing, incidentally, with the explosion of #InternationalXDay on Twitter (although I realize this is primarily a marketing tactic).

The powers that be have, over time, balanced the calendar year quite expertly to keep the proletariat just on the very edge of despair and rebellion while maximizing labor productivity. As ever, it’s in your interest to detach yourself from their schemes.

The CD

The CD is 1 hour, 16 minutes and 32 seconds long. I know this because I once started the timer on my phone when the disc restarted and stopped it when it ended.

I work 8 hour shifts, so I’m in the store for 6.27 rotations of the CD. I work 5 shifts per week, so I hear the CD 31.35 times per week. From the time corporate sends down the order to start playing the CD on November 1 to the time I go home on Christmas Eve, I hear it in its entirety around 250 times.

I heard a rumor that a shop floor grunt once asked the store manager if he could just turn the CD down slightly, because he had a headache, and after his shift no one saw him again.

Me, I’ve never so much as acknowledged the existence of the CD to my colleagues. When Sally, Monique or Latisha exclaim some variant of “yay, I love this song!” or “this song makes me feel so Christmassy!” I respond with a Mona Lisa smile or turn my attention to a customer. Inviting accusations of Grinch of Scrooge is a death wish in this game.

Track 1, Frosty the Snowman. Track 2, Let it Snow. Track 3, Santa Baby. Track 4, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Track 5, Jingle Bells. Track 6, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Track 7, All I Want for Christmas Is You… apparently they’ve done studies that found people buy more stuff when that song is playing. Perhaps something to do with them looking at the item they’re considering buying and thinking “all I want for Christmas is you” (the item). Or it could be that the song is so annoying they just want to get out of the store.

Either way, the CD is played non-stop for a reason, the reason being to sell more stuff.

There are 28 songs crammed onto the CD. The average song length is 2 minutes and 44 seconds. The newer songs tend to be longer, while the older ones often come in at around 2 minutes. I usually schedule my bathroom breaks around the longer and most annoying songs. I once went a whole shift without hearing a single note of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, which is 4 minutes 50 seconds long.

Track 17 is the Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé version of Baby It’s Cold Outside. Last year, when there was some controversy about the song’s lyrics, corporate sent down an order to skip the song. The store manager trained Monique to twice tap the next track button on the stereo as track 16, Wham’s Last Christmas, faded out. On one occasion she was busy helping customers and the track wasn’t skipped until after the lyrics had started. The store manager demanded an explanation for why none of us had covered for Monique. Corporate were apparently planning to buy a new CD which didn’t include the song, but the controversy blew over before they got around to it, and this year they didn’t even ask us to skip it.

It was a buddy of mine who got me the job here. He doesn’t work here anymore, he went back to school. I asked him if he remembers the CD, and he said all he remembers is they played Christmas songs at Christmas time like all stores do, and that I should just “block out” the music if it bothers me so much. I wish it were that easy.

Even when I’m not on shift I can hear the songs. They run through my mind like translucent ghosts, choruses and melodies appearing as if out of nowhere into my consciousness. They are the sinister soundtrack to my restless dreams, the haunting score of my nightmares.

It’s a strange and sorry quirk of modernity that us service workers are forced to memorize every note of songs we despise. I dislike most pop songs, but at least there’s a broader selection to hate between January and October. A brand new ‘hit’ I’ll hear a couple of times per shift, then after a month or so just once, and after two months it’ll fall out of rotation. The song will be burned into my brain, but at least I don’t have to listen to it anymore. Thus, I don’t think I could reasonably accuse the company of torture. But the CD is different. The CD is cruel and unusual punishment of the most twisted sort. The CD, it could be argued, is a flagrant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I need this job, so I can’t take my complaint to corporate. What I can do, however, is start a petition online, anonymously, which is exactly what I’ve done. So far, after 6 days, my petition ‘Retail workers unite against Christmas music‘, which calls for an end to our suffering, has 4 signatures and 17 comments. 12 of the comments are “BAH HUMBUG”. The rest tell me to stop complaining and get in the “festive spirit”.

I’m not losing heart – these things take time, and I don’t see anyone else stepping up for our rights. Yesterday I set up a fake email account and emailed corporate, asking politely if we could play regular music in between the CD and citing respectable studies that show too much Christmas music can damage our ’emotional well-being’. The response I got back this morning: “Thank you for your message. Our nationwide corporate policy dictates that festive music be played in store from November 1st to December 24th of the calendar year.”

Someone on Reddit suggested I download a white noise app to my phone. He said he did it when he worked retail and it did a decent job of drowning out the music, plus none of his colleagues noticed the sound or at least didn’t mention it. I’m on shift later today. I’ll give it a try.