Reading: JPod by Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland has been revered in parts of the MSM (mainstream media) as a chronicler of the zeitgeist for the last 10 or 15 years, starting back in 1991 with his novel Generation X: Tales for an accelerated culture.

While I always had a certain curiosity about what the man had to say, there was something that slightly riled my born-and-bred Gen X 90s flannelette shirt wearing slacker sensibilities about having my culture dissected and demographised. So I left him and his subsequent works on the shelf.

I noticed his new book JPod the other day though and there was something about the backcover blurb that grabbed my attention - maybe because of my growing interest in game design or maybe I was just in the mood for a bit of zeitgeisty po-mo pop culture.

In brief, it's the story of a bunch of young folk working as game designers in Vancouver - all smart, oh so cool and all with far more interesting lives than you or I. One guy is trying to live the perfectly statistically normal life after growing up on a lesbian hippy commune, another's mum has a major hydroponic grow-op in the basement and on it goes.

Coupland cleverly mixes in some interesting text/graphical snapshots of modern life into the pages (e.g whole page text blocks of the ingredients in a pack of corn chips) as well as getting the characters to mix up the styles a little by having them write eBay postings of how they would sell themselves and saucy letters of seduction to Ronald McDonald.

He even brings himself into the story, which doesn't turn out as wanky as you'd think. It's an entertaining look at modern life that doesn't take itself too seriously and I think I may even go back and dip into the man's earlier works.

Here's an extract, taken from the rather funky book website at http://www.jpod.info/

(Evidently, this book is also in the process of being made into a tv series)

Never Mess with the Subway Diet

"Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel."

"That asshole."

"Who does he think he is?"

"Come on, guys, focus. We've got a major problem on our hands." The six of us were silent, but for our footsteps. The main corridor's muted plasma TVs blipped out the news and sports, while co-workers in long-sleeved blue and black T-shirts oompah-loompahed in and out of laminate-access doors, elevated walkways, staircases and elevators, their missions inscrutable and squirrelly. It was a rare sunny day. Freakishly articulated sunbeams highlighted specks of mica in the hallway's designer granite. They looked like randomized particle events.

Mark said, "I can't even think about what just happened in there."

John Doe said, "I'd like to do whatever it is people statistically do when confronted by a jolt of large and bad news."

I suggested he ingest five milligrams of Valium and three shots of hard liquor or four glasses of domestic wine.


"Don't ask me, John. Google it."

"And so I shall."

Cowboy had a Jones for cough syrup, while Bree fished through one of her many pink vinyl Japanese handbags for lip gloss—phase one of her well-established pattern of pursuing sexual conquest to silence her inner pain.

The only quiet member of our group of six was Kaitlin, new to our work area as of the day before. She was walking with us mostly because she didn't yet know how to get from the meeting room to our cubicles. We're not sure if Kaitlin is boring or if she's resistant to bonding, but then again none of us have really cranked up our charm.

We passed Warren from the motion capture studio. "Yo! jPodsters! A turtle! All right" He flashed a thumbs-up.

"Thank you, Warren. We can all feel the love in the room." Clearly, via the gift of text messaging, Warren and pretty much everyone in the company now knew of our plight, which is this: during today's marketing meeting we learned we now have to retroactively insert a charismatic cuddly turtle character into our skateboard game, which is already nearly one-third of the way through its production cycle. Yes, you read that correctly, a turtle character—in a skateboard game.

The three-hour meeting had taken place in a two-hundred-seat room nicknamed the air-conditioned rectum. I tried to make the event go faster by pretending to have superpower vision: I could see the carbon dioxide pumping in and out of everyone's nose and mouth—it was purple. It made me think of that urban legend about the chemical they put in swimming pools that reveals when somebody pees. Then I wondered if Leonardo da Vinci had ever inhaled any of the oxygen molecules I was breathing, or if he ever had to sit through a marketing meeting. What would that have been like? "Leo, thanks for your input, but our studies indicate that when they see Lisa smile, they want a sexy, flirty smile, not that grim little slit she has now. Also, I don't know what that closet case Michelangelo is thinking with that naked David guy, but Jesus, clamp a diaper onto him pronto. Next item on the agenda: Perspective—Passing Fad or Opportunity to Win? But first, Katie here is going to tell us about this Friday's Jeans Day, to be followed by a ten-minute muffin break."

But the word "turtle" pulled me out of my reverie, uttered by Fearless Leader—our new head of marketing, Steve. I put up my hand and quite reasonably asked, "Sorry, Steve, did you say a turtle?"

Christine, a senior development director, said, "No need to be sarcastic, Ethan. Steve here took Toblerone chocolate and turned it around inside of two years."

"No," Steve protested. "I appreciate an open dialogue. All I'm really saying is that, at home, my son, Carter, plays SimQuest4 and can't get enough of its turtle character, and if my Carter likes turtle characters, then a turtle character is a winner, and thus, this skateboard game needs a turtle."

John Doe BlackBerried me: I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS

And so the order was issued to make our new turtle character "accessible" and "fun" and the buzzword is so horrible I have to spell it out in ASCII: "{101, 100, 103, 121}"