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is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Saturday
Oct112008

In Which If The Elephants Have Past Lives Are They Destined To Always Remember

We Couldn't Know

by Alex Carnevale

It was, improbably, the 1990s. It was not quite the 1990s, and then it became the 1990s. I wrote down the year at the top of my paper that first day of the new decade. We were not entirely assured it was a new decade, but the evidence pointed that way.

 

The day my house got Prodigy, I went online. "What is this world?" I thought. The AOL chatrooms were another place to go in the world in which you lived.

I grew up, but the world didn't grow up.

In 1996, I read Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, about people starting a new tech company. They could not conceive of how many people the Web would one day employ for no real reason.

These were years of utter happiness when viewed in retrospect. On my first day of high school economics, I marveled at a pie chart showing exactly what kind of nation we were. How a nation subsist when it consisted almost entirely of a service economy?

"How can it work?" I recalled asking, "when it doesn't make anything. When it doesn't do anything?"

There was one sketch on Friends that reminded me of this. After a group meal, the friendlies decide to split the bill six ways. "But you have more money than us," Phoebe whined on behalf of herself, Rachel and Joey, perhaps not understanding she'd be starring in a web series about fifteen years later.

 

Joey was a struggling actor who became a successful soap opera star.

Monica was a waiter-caterer-chef.

Chandler was an account.

Ross was a paleontologist.

Rachel had no job skills, and went to work in fashion.

Phoebe was a psychic/folk singer/masseuse.

 

This country now has too many accredited colleges and universities to count, few of which teach any marketable job skills. Many have argued, including myself, that not every person needs a university education: to live in a small room with other confused young people, and share sexual diseases.

Now there is considerable question as to whether we even need universities. Perhaps the wealthy will continue sending their children there, and perhaps inexpensive state schools with massive federal support and huge endowments that don't have to show actual results will benefit. Terrific.

America's system of higher education is pathetic and outmoded. In European countries the educational system is designed for more flexibility and more specialization. It has proven itself a superior approach. Why on Earth would you think everyone requires the same education?

This prolonged adolescence is an undeniable feature of American life. People live longer, so they might have well have multiple financial dependents. Chandler wasted time with Janice - he should have checked her credit history. Ross got married and divorced so many times the loss of income became a cry for attention.

The America I knew is dead. We have no job skills, thus we have no job security. We have South Park, but The Office is unwatchable. I can't watch people make and sell paper, not in these times.  The 1990s are the good old days, and they'll never come again. We couldn't know.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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Reader Comments (7)

Great post, Alex. Who would have thought that the otherwise unwatchable Phoebe birthday dinner scene would years later represent a veritable microcosm of modern economics?

I might have.

October 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterArjewtino

Why on Earth would you think everyone requires the same education?

We all have to learn basic math every year so everyone will magically decide to become scientists and build nuclear weapons so we can beat the Communists.

October 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey

so no one told you life was gonna be this way

October 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMolly Lambert

brilliant piece.

October 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterryan

Your job's a joke, you're broke

October 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeannet

[...] are far too buddy-buddy with our children. When you are as rich as the characters on your favorite sitcom, you can afford to be flip. When you grow up in the hood or on a farm, the stakes are [...]

What a great post. I love Coupland's novels, even though I know they're pretty shoddy, sometimes. For instance, about half of JPod is almost unreadable, yet it's one of my favorite books. I've read it, I don't know, about five times. It's like the 'Reality Bites novel' of the late 90s (even though it came out in the 00s). Since so much historical apprehension (all of it) comes only under closer--the owl of Minerva right--that it's hard to make sense of anything until, like, it's already too late. It's like deep, I know. Anyway, I just wanted to indicate that I liked this piece and that our useless universities could one day (or, likely already are) teaching a class featuring Friends and Coupland novels on the syllabus.

May 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterb michael

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