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Drink for Idlers

Posted by Joshua Glenn  June 5, 2008 11:24 AM

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Nine years ago, I published an "Idler's Glossary" -- an alphabetized collection of work, slacking, and sleep-related terms, each of which I'd defined and glossed -- in a British magazine called The Idler. At the encouragement of the Globe's columnist and napping expert Alex Beam, I recently put out the word that I was interested in expanding the Glossary into a stand-alone pamphlet, and... hooray! Biblioasis, an independent Canadian publisher of top-quality editions of fiction and nonfiction, took me up on the idea.

The pamphlet, which will include a brilliant introductory essay by the Toronto-based philosopher, Harper's essayist, and cocktail aficionado Mark Kingwell, is due to appear in Canadian and US stores this fall. Gregory Gallant, a well-known Canadian cartoonist better known as Seth, is supposed to do the cover illustration.

Here is Seth's cover for Mark Kingwell's recent book, "Classic Cocktails":


PS: Kingwell also has an excellent new book out, in the US, about the Empire State Building.

Anyway, I was amused and delighted to read at a Village Voice blog yesterday that Drank, an "anti-energy beverage" reportedly popular among African Americans in Houston and elsewhere throughout the South, is making its way north.


Drank, which in its original, alcoholic form supposedly contains codeine, is a carbonated, grape-flavored beverage spiked with melatonin, valerian root, and rose hips, according to the Voice's Sarah DiGregorio.

So what does this relaxation beverage do, exactly? It helps "slow your roll," according to the can. In other words, it helps you chill -- which is not the same thing as relax, according to the "Idler's Glossary":

CHILL: Slang term meaning to “calm down.” Popularized by the pioneering 1979 hip-hop song “Rapper’s Delight,” which helpfully instructed as that there’s “a time to break and a time to chill/To act civilized or act real ill.” So true! See: CHILLAX, RELAX.

CHILLAX: Is “chill” a synonym for “relax”? Apparently not, since the American vernacular now boasts a portmanteau word combining the two terms. This confirms the paranoid definition of “relax” which appeared in a preliminary version of this glossary nearly a decade ago: Chilling is something we all need to do, once in a while; relaxing, however, is strictly for laborers, and ought to be regarded as part of one’s labors. See: CHILL, RELAX.

FREE TIME: Free time, in the sense of “freedom to,” is electrifying and beautiful. Free time in the sense of “freedom from,” however, is merely restful and relaxing. Freedom-to time, if you will, is what all idlers seek; it is a true state of leisure, in which actions are performed entirely for their own sake. Freedom-from time, however, is merely a vacation or a recess; i.e., it’s a scheduled (and mandated) period during which we androidized humans can recharge our batteries. See: IDLENESS, LABOR, LEISURE, RECESS, RELAX.

RELAX: To relax [from the Latin for “loose,” which also gives us “languish” and “slack”] means to recuperate, i.e., from the stress of your job. We relax, that is, in order that we can return to work refreshed. As comedian Keith Allen says, “‘relaxation’ is a load of cack, it’s just shit... I’m that relaxed all the year round, you understand?” See: FREE TIME.


I want to try Drank! Drank publicists, send me a case of it, willya?

But... can Drank take off, in the North?

Do you remember that F. Scott Fitzgerald story, "The Ice Palace," in which Sally Carrol, a Southern belle who is too laid-back even to yawn, because that would mean raising her chin from the window-sill, marries a brisk fellow from an unnamed Northern city (obviously Fitzgerald's hometown of St. Paul, Minn.)? A professor of literature that Sally Carrol meets there informs her gloomily that Northerners are "righteous, narrow, and cheerless, without infinite possibilities for great sorrow or joy." Her fiancé, meanwhile, tells her that Southerners -- black and white alike -- are lazy and shiftless. Will Sally Carrol ever be able to bridge the North-South culture gap?

SPOILER: No, she will not.

Find out more about Drank at its MySpace page. Its official website -- SippinSumDrank.com -- seems to be broken.

MORE IDLENESS: The Idler's Glossary (by Joshua Glenn and Mark Kingwell, published October 08) | Media Diet: Tom Hodgkinson (I interviewed Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson for Utne Reader, 11/1/95) | The Death of a Situationist (I wrote about Guy Debord for Utne Reader, July/August 95) | The Sweetest Hangover (I wrote about hangovers for The Idler in 1996-ish) | Idler Stationery (I wrote a column on idler etiquette for The Idler; these three items on specialized stationery appeared in 1996) | Ludditepalooza (Utne Reader, July/August 96) | Hermenaut of the Month: Oscar Wilde (I wrote about Wilde for Hermenaut in 1997) | Idle Idol: Henry Miller (I wrote about Miller for The Idler in 1997) | Whatever Works, Sucks (I reviewed Meredith Bagby's "Rational Exuberance: The Influence of Generation X on the New Economy" for Hermenaut in 1998) | Hermenaut of the Month: Baudelaire (I wrote about Baudelaire for Hermenaut in 1998) | Lin Yutang (I wrote about Lin Yutang's idler philosophy for Feed in June 1999) | Meet the Hermenauts (Scot McLemee calls Hermenaut the "slacker Salmagundi" in Lingua Franca, July/August 99) | The Idler's Glossary (a preliminary version of the one published in October 2008; this version appeared in The Idler in 1999) | Against Time Clocks (I was a regular contributor to Feed.com; this item appeared in December 1999) | Payload (I reviewed Bruce Tulgan's "Managing Generation X" (Hermenaut.com, 3/28/01) | Our Hives, Ourselves (I wrote about the metaphorization of bee colonies for The Boston Globe, 6/19/05) | Back to Utopia (Boston Globe, 11/20/05) | The Slacktivism of Richard Linklater (Slate, 6/27/07) | Slacker Comedy (Brainiac, 2/21/07) | Slacker vs. Idler (Brainiac, 2/24/07) | Idler Flicks 1 (Brainiac, 2/28/07) | Idler Flicks 2 (Brainiac, 3/1/07) | Idler Lit (Brainiac, 3/2/07) | Salon's Ask the Pilot calls me a slacker Svengali (Salon, 9/28/07) | The Original Generation X: Slackers vs. Idlers (Brainiac, 1/10/08) | Generation PC: Idlers vs. Slackers (Brainiac, 1/22/08) | Drink for Idlers (Brainiac, 6/5/08) | Wordle version of The Idler's Glossary | The Idler's Glossary -- sneak peek at cover by Seth (8/19/08)

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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