Jan 15, 2009

Scott Brown Leads a Guided Tour of the Most Awesome Depression Ever

"I sink into a trashed Aeron chair, pull out my trusty ax, and click out "In the Great Big Google Mountain," a rueful utopian ditty about a fanciful wonderworld in which "aquacultured catfish feed the masses," and "electric cars cut greenhouses gasses," and "more transparent global markets function semi-rational-la-la-la-ly." The song brings tears to my eyes. Sure, it could be from drinking far too much bathtub Red Bull. Or maybe I'm weeping because this guitar is just so awesomely depressing to play when it's not actually hooked up to an Xbox."

By Scott Brown Email 12.22.08

Illustration: Julian Pablo Manzelli

Another Great Depression! Hardly are those words out when vast images straight out of Walker Evans trouble my sight: Hoboes! Okies! Hoovervilles! Women who resemble Harry Dean Stanton! It's all so very... 75 years ago. Our go-to icons of abject, debilitating American poverty are so nostalgic, so sentimental, so analog. Our recurrent national nightmare deserves an upgrade. Let's face it: Flat broke and rattling a mug full of pencils, we'll still be the same wiki-addicted, diversion-craving exhibitionists we are now. Of course, I'm no futurist. Just a hysteria-prone pessimist. But I don't want to live through another Great Depression. I want to experience the Awesome Depression: classic destitution with a whole new interface. I believe the Children of the Petabyte are perfectly capable of reviving classic Depression-era pastimes—train-hopping, bread-lining—while making them uniquely our own. So climb aboard as I, your neo-hobo guide, unfold a day in the life of the future unfortunate.

It's a typical morning in 2011: I start my day by bumming a few joules off a pal's bicycle generator to power up my BlackBerry and surf over to FoodTube, where starving viewers like myself salivate over clips of the "carbo-rati" noshing on hoarded snacks. (I try not to read the comments: "omg she is such a ho for eating that Combo!" "shup azz! u go girl! eat dat Combo!") One stray click and I'm rickrolled, prankishly diverted to the now-familiar footage of Rick Astley being devoured by a pack of London cannibals.

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