Thursday, November 13, 2008

Idling: The Windsor View

The Lance, a paper I penned some of my first reviews for a decade or so ago, has featured the Idler's Glossary in its current edition. See below.

Glenn, Boston-based journalist and scholar, examines the etymology and history of hundreds of terms and phrases used to describe idlers and the act of idling in his new work, The Idler’s Glossary. In doing this, Glenn looks to clarify the misconceptions about idling and introduce a new way of thinking about working and not working.

Glenn examines why work time—slaving away in a cubicle, factory, or elsewhere—is more valued than free time in today’s society.

Alongside Glenn is Mark Kingwell who contributes an introductory essay to the glossary.

Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto and also well known for his appearance in The Corporation. His involvement in the project stemmed from a longstanding online friendship with Glenn, who had edited a magazine called Hermenaut out of Boston, MI. Kingwell became interested in the magazine and donated money when it was strapped for cash. The two became long distance friends that only met offline for the first time earlier this year.

An early version of The Idler’s Glossary, which appeared in The Idler Magazine in the U.K., caught Kingwell’s eye.

“I thought it would be a great standalone book. Around the same time I had been talking to Dan Wells at Biblioasis who was looking to start a pamphlet series, and I thought this is the perfect kick-off project for that series,” said Kingwell.

Seth, the pen name of Gregory Gallant, a Canadian comic book artist and writer, has a keen sense of design that contributed greatly to the look and feel of The Idler’s Glossary. The raised print on the cover accented in gold along with the old-timey feel of the graphics gives the reference guide a unique look.

“As soon as we had the package together we knew that if Seth could make time to be a part of it, it could really bring it to another level,” said Kingwell.

As for what Idler terms he can best be described with, Kingwell opts for flâneur. “I like to spend a lot of time walking and specifically walking in cities and the flâneur is an indication of that sort of idling where you’re not going anywhere particular you’re just kind of drifting through the streets and experiencing the variety of stimulants a city has to offer,” explained Kingwell.

Recently, Kingwell released a collection of essays called Opening Gambits, which he says is kind of related to The Idler’s Glossary because “it looks at art and philosophy as forms of play. A lot of what we talk about in Idler is really a kind of play.”

Furthering the concept of The Idler’s Glossary, Kingwell and Glenn are currently in talks of possibly working on a sequel.

“We’ve found so many words even since this book came out that are interesting and relevant,” said Kingwell.

The focus of the glossary this time around would be more on the words that characterize the working world.

“Some of them are already in this glossary, but there are a lot of terms on the edges of the working world that we didn’t really think about, and that could make another book,” Kingwell explained.

The big misconception about idling is that the term is interchangeable with slacking. Not so, according to Kingwell.

“Slacking is avoiding work and it’s closely related to procrastinating. True idling is to set yourself free from all those worries about what you should be doing instead and live in the moment of not doing anything in particular,” he said.

The definitions are funny, but only because they’re true. One of the definitions that sum up the idlers versus slackers debate pretty well is Asleep at the Switch: “Why demonize those unfortunate souls who lose focus and zone out while on the job? No matter how focused their caffeinated colleagues may be, aren’t they sleepwalking through life?”

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