Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Internet and Ranch Dressing

The following will be an amalgamation post.  I have several ideas I want to address and they loosely fit together so instead of writing 3 short essays I will attempt to connect them all together into something that appears as a cohesive thought.


I'd like for a moment to revisit a previous post that I wrote about nostalgia. To quote myself: "I want to see the world through an old lens, when thieves and enemies were trusted friends. A filter to distort everything new and soften all of the colors put in view." I am not certain if I aptly discussed the excerpt, actually, I think I just let it sit there and hoped that it would impress upon the reader by its own merit. Now though, I want to dig into it a little bit and describe my perspective.

Even I, the consummate pessimist have a difficult time recording and maintaining sadness for specific events that have occurred in my life. Certainly the bad things that have happened to me have taken their toll and contributed to who I am today (good/bad) but I can't really remember the events with vivid detail. To the contrary and quite unexpectedly I do recall many of the good times in my childhood and formative years, experiences that if you asked me back then I may not have recognized as "good times."

It is no longer a profound thought to say that a vast majority of the best moments/years of our lives go by without much notice. In fact, you/I might have thought that while living through those times that they were some of the worst moments/years of our lives.  While a perspective like this can greatly be attributed to the ignorance of youth, there appears to be a disconnect (at least for me) between the experience of life, and the lasting impression the events ultimately leave me with.

I never gave much credence to the saying "Carpe Diem" probably because of that which I stated above.  I've never quite felt in a standing moment that I was living life to the fullest. Only days, weeks or months after events have occurred in my life, once I have had time to reflect, have I been able to gauge the final value of the experience. Even on the rare occasion where I do find myself enjoying the moment, I rarely if ever am able to predict the final implications of the good feelings.

Allow me to provide some anecdotal evidence to better describe what I am saying. When I was a youngster my family and I would go on long road trips. As individuals the members of my immediate family were fairly caustic but when loaded into a van and forced to travel together for a few weeks we were downright unbearable. Straining to think about it, I can vaguely remember the perpetual yelling/punching/screaming but I can't remember what all the fuss was about.  Vague echos swirl somewhere deep in my brain of my parents trying to wake me up to enjoy the scenery while I ignored them and slumbered in the backseat. Yet I remember with vivid detail the few times that briefly I glimpsed at the long stretches of landscape, reflective lakes and busy city centers.

I think this idea may also hold true to the way that we view past decades on a larger scale. I've read many books and watched several movies where I've thought "boy they really seemed to have it all figured out back then." Back in the pre industrial revolution when everyone was dressed to impress, the men were chivalrous, the women were classy, it just seemed like a better time to be alive. Yet, that type of thinking is similar to the displacement that I described above. When we remove all of the day to day drudgery and choose only to see the best parts of living in the best light, then any time to be alive truly becomes remarkable. The only limitation is that we are entrenched in our current lives and as such are unable to view our lives from a distant softer perspective.  I don't want to seize the day and live in the moment, I want to experience my current life circumstances through the scope of my future self, to alleviate the stresses that encumber me in the moment.


The examined life isn't really worth living either. First and foremost, Socrates is a hero so the following bluster is hereby exempt from your criticism. I cannot argue that in theory the statement "The unexamined life is not worth living" is true.  However, if we examine what the average examined life amounts to you might as well just be ignorant and live whatever bliss it might provide.

The idea of us trying to self actualize and become all that we can be is a noble one. Yet, I would argue that even if we spent our entire lives striving toward the greater good, it would not be worth it for the majority of us. A common misconception is that we are all sheep who are asleep until one day something happens to wake up from our slumber. From that point on (post red pill ingestion) we become empowered architects tasked with crafting the world to our design. It is a nice, simple, easily digestible thought but it isn't entirely true.

In reality, a much larger amount of us have "woken up."  We've realized our parents don't know everything, we know the government does not have our best interests in mind, we're aware of the corporate mindset that has reduced us to rank and file. We have destroyed our gods, found spirituality, lost spirituality. We have found a reason to live while simultaneously losing all hope. And beyond those revelations and life changing moments, most of us remain stuck, unnoticed without real purpose and without power to ultimately effect the living world. Reality is such that outside of the select few (the lottery winners) who are able to escape their caste, a great portion of who we are and what we do is decided without room for our input. To label a mass of people who do not succeed as lazy or untalented is short sighted. There are only so many places to sit in this game of musical chairs and once the music stops, a bunch of equally deserving people are left out.

What purpose then is there to examining your life and suffering the anguish of knowing without the power to change anything? I could argue for my legacy and suggest that people will fondly remember me for my good works, or that 300 years from now someone will discover my paintings in a burnt out garage and I will become the figurehead for a new art movement. However, is there really and solace or more importantly satisfaction derived from the possibility that one day something I've done may be recognized long after I'm gone? For me, the answer is no.

While I intellectually support concepts of of universal "oneness" I don't feel in my heart of hearts directly connected to anything, absolutely. I don't seek out recognition for my works because I want to be admired, my root desire is to compel another to have an intellectual or emotional response to something that I have brought into creation. I want to be verified, to feel that I exist, to believe that whatever I am, connected with something else, if only for a brief moment.

So while I submit to you that the examined life is not really worth living either I suppose it is the only chance we've got. I might modify the statement to read "Life unexamined is not worth living." This phrasing gives the message a more generalized stance and charges us as a collective with the duty to see how far the rabbit hole goes. Moreover, it doesn't guarantee individual supremacy or accomplishment. The phrase only provides the fleeting potential for us to derive a sense of satisfaction for the things that we do. As pessimistic as I am, that is hope, a tiny glimmer of hope.


In Part 2, I painted a fairly grim portrait of life claiming that there is very little hope, you can't change anything and no one really cares. While  I believe this to be a truth, I also recognize that the world that I exist in is vastly different than the world that I was born in to. Flipping through any history book I can look at our human timeline and note the huge technological and cultural differences that each century has produced. Yet, when it comes to my own timeline simply because I am entrenched in it, I find it very difficult to assess the changes as they occur.

In the summer time I was eating an ice cream and the thought dawned on me that ice cream hasn't been around that long. I know it sounds stupid but I have this feeling that anything that was invented before I was born has always existed. Of course I know that cars, Coca-cola and Christmas trees are not traditions that have lasted eons yet I revere them in my mind with an eternal permanence.

I get stuck in the mindset that life is not worth anything, that everything stays the same and only the names change. It is a depressing thought because it engenders a feeling that everything is falling away. Without a role or goal to fulfill I am merely a temporal observer who one day without notice will be digested by the big black sky. Short of a breathtaking sunset or a Fight Clubesque self inflicted tradgedy,  the ability to assess the probable entirety of your being is rather grim, philosophically speaking.

Yet, amidst all of the fear and loathing every once in a while I remember things like the internet and ranch dressing. There is almost nothing I can think of more different than the internet and ranch dressing yet both are equally ubiquitous within American culture. While the internet may have been invented in the 1960's by Al Gore and while ranch dressing may have been invented in the 1940's on a small farm by a housewife, they were not fully expressed until after I was born. Throughout my life I have watched a rapidly increasing number of people throw down fat globs of ranch on their salads, pizza, chicken wings, burgers etc. In that same time I have watched the internet evolve from a refuge for basement dwelling freaks and nutters into an integrated part of every day human life.

The knowledge that there are ideas out there that have yet to be thought of that will change the course of our lives is exciting to me. While the traditionalist in me fears and rejects the future and its necessity to devour all of the things that are familiar, I recognize the importance of it. Without discovery and interpretation of new things, life would have no meaning. Also, without the ability to move beyond a current moment or pattern of thought I would not be able to see today for what it is.  

Nostalgia is a powerful opiate. It has the ability to fill a void in life with a purity and sweetness.  At its root though it is a coping mechanism that dilutes suffering with a temporal moment of unfettered joy. Like with any drug, overexposure or a dependence on nostalgia ultimately inhibits personal growth/progress. Letting go is part of moving forward and moving forward is what gives my life meaning.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Spiritual Theft

In version 1.0 of this blog before it was viciously deleted by  a trigger happy spambot killer I concocted an essay that claimed that Atheists were ugly. The argument followed the same line of thinking as the thought that educated people are generally less attractive than uneducated people. Education, personality and the cultivation of skills are tools that have been used for hundreds of years by "less than beautiful" people in order to be considered desirable mating material. My original thought was that people who arrive at a spiritual place that is contrary to the norm, who are not born into it by default, do so as a result of great struggle. Attractive people do not have great struggles in their lives because...they are attractive and the rest of us willfully give to them in abundance just for the opportunity to be near.  It follows then that people who have adopted an alternative thought system have done so as an act of compensation, and those who compensate do so because they have to.

As you can imagine, the essay was well received (NOT!) but what was surprising to me was who was offended by the essay and why. The overwhelming majority of static that I received for my indirect compliment of Atheists was from Atheists themselves.  It turns out I had grossly misjudged the overall construction of what constitutes a modern Atheist, specifically the default adolescent Atheist who was "born into the faith."  The responses that I received were supremely superficial never engaging with my main points and instead rested on the sting of powerful counter arguments like "Fuck you" and "Ricky Gervais isn't that ugly." While I'll admit that calling an entire group of people ugly is a bit brash I expected at at the very least a few pretentious well thought out retorts from individuals encouraging me to evolve.

Yet, after almost 300 replies not one utterance seemed even remotely intelligent or worth replying to. I had accredited a great deal of respect to Agnostics and Atheists because I felt in some way that they were shouldering the same confusion and fears about life and death that I was, but I was wrong. Sadly it seemed that these Atheists were as stupid if not stupider than the devoutly religious for whom they had made it their life's work to lambaste. Then it dawned on me that somewhere along the way the Atheist movement started to parallel the evolution of rock music. What started as a form of expression so powerful it couldn't be contained or explained through modern day motifs was interpreted and shrunk into a device to indirectly tell your parents to fuck off. In other words, the thrust and importance of the movement lost all of its meaning once it became an accessory to, rather than the foundation of, ones entire existence.  It was because of this thought that I started to believe that that the great majority of Theists/Atheists are guilty of spiritual theft.

The best way I can think of introducing the idea of Spiritual theft is this: Imagine that you and and some guy from 200 years ago want a hamburger. In order for the guy from 200 years ago to eat a hamburger he must first invent the hamburger. After that he must go out, find a cow, slaughter it, chop it into pieces, ground it up, harvest some wheat, (revealing ignorance) then do the next steps of turning wheat into bread, grow some vegetables, cut them up, cut down a tree, get a fire going, cook it up and eat it. For you to get a burger you have to get in your car, drive three miles, yell at someone through a speaker, wait two minutes, eat the hamburger. Both chain of events result in hamburgers being eaten but one is a more complex all consuming process. It wouldn't be fair to say that just because the two of you arrived at the same outcome that you have had the same experience.

Atheism is not a belief, it is a lack of belief. This lack of belief does not manifest because an Atheist is missing something inside of them, rather it is a realization that something is missing absolutely and wondering why. If the Atheist is not pondering then they have subscribed to a belief, a belief that makes them whole and stops them from thinking.  Faith is a belief in something without proof. This notion is acceptable in and of itself, the problem arises when people of faith attempt to moralize as if their faith is fact, which it isn't. If faith could be supported with irrefutable evidence then faith would cease to exist because it would be replaced with fact. Those of us who are handed Atheism are just as guilty as those of us who are handed Religion because it churns out the same dogmatic "I am right, you are wrong, my voice is louder than your voice" creeps.

When we were young we trusted our parents with making all of our big decisions for us, we relied on them in order to survive and thrive. But then we grew up into our adult selves and we moved away. Maybe your parents got divorced and perhaps you asked yourself "Did I every really love them?" or "Did I really know them/ did they really know me at all?" Conversely they may be thinking "Where did I go tragically wrong in raising this idiot kid?" or "I can't believed I spawned a pathetic little shit asshole." When we are young we confuse comfort and security with love and we don't really understand what is what until we test and scrutinize the details.

If you haven't tested it, then you haven't invested in it. The faction of Agnosticism/Atheism that I ascribe to does not reject Religion so that I can delve into my deviant desires without fear of judgement. My thoughts and feelings about existence don't give me the warm fuzzies or any sense of solace. For all intents and purposes, I welcome the love, I welcome the happy ending.  I want to be nestled in the bosom of the universe and hugged for all eternity. Unfortunately, I do not have proof to tip the scale in that direction, therefore I am left with only what I can prove.

The same goes for the religious among us. If you believe because you have always believed, then you have never really believed. You were born into a house that you never left and until you do, your free will is just an illusion. Born again believers en masse have the most transparent agenda of all.  In an attempt to atone for their life of crime or sexual transgressions they double down on kissing God's ass in the vain hope that he will reconsider.  It is my opinion for real faith to exist that it must be tested and cultivated through suffering and sacrifice without guarantee of reward. Any belief system that is weighted in reward destroys the altruistic desire to be good for goodness sake.

Another growing misconception is that belief/philosophy is a team sport. Like the hysteria created when a collection of athletes from different towns get paid millions of dollars to wear jerseys with the letters of cities within 60 miles of the rural pastures from which we were spawned, the process of belief has begun to resemble a franchise mentality. "Yer either fur us or again us!" no questions asked, no explanations desired. The less complex among our human ranks have rendered mans search for meaning down to a simple two party conflict. We are all given hats, foam fingers and rally towels with the expectation that we will scream in delight for the home team and boo/hiss if we see a flash of the visiting teams colors. We claim that the reason we have so much contempt for the opposing team is because they are misguided, uninformed and soulless.  We'll claim that our harsh judgement is rooted in the great sense of sadness and loss that we feel at the realization that a population of people are throwing away their lives. Yet, we are rigid and we refuse compromise, to do so would blaspheme the foundation on which our beliefs have been constructed. Instead we choose ridicule because as you know, there is no better way to persuade others to conform to your way of thinking than through verbal abuse. (Not!)

The most important thing that you'll ever think or believe shouldn't be handed to you based on your geography or the running trend in your familial line. Faith or the lack of it should not be a passive pursuit that you sign on to early on in life without continued evaluation. Salvation, transcendence or scientific supremacy cannot be bought, it must be earned. Further, don't poison the well of free thought with propaganda in order to convert people to your way of thinking. Just because you won the war and left an opposing army's city in ashes does not mean that you changed their minds. Their captured soldiers may elect to fight in your ranks but it is only the threat of maiming or death that binds them to your will. In order to change people's minds you must engage in honest, open conversation. Certainly you can hold the line and stick firmly to your values but at the same time you must truly be open to changing your opinion of yourself and all of existence. Only through communication and mutual respect can we ever hope to get to the nougaty center of how we truly feel and who we really might be.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Television Is Actually Kinda Awesome

Throughout my lifetime and beyond television (or TV) has been cast in a negative light. It has been hatefully referred to for generations as the boob tube and the idiot box. During times of war or political differing the television has been maligned as a propaganda spewing device responsible for making people fat, uninformed, irresponsible lemmings. Further, TV has also been charged with desensitizing us to the point where we no longer have feelings which in turn leads individuals among us to go on killing sprees. What the critics and  pretentious pot stirrers commonly fail to comment on is the reason why television has such a profound effect on our lives, that being that it is actually kinda awesome.

Based on technical merit alone television ranks among the best inventions ever created by humans. There is no denying that TV paved the way for computers and by association the internet.  Some may postulate that technology has had more negative effects on the way we live our lives or that humans were not intended to dwell indoors and be hooked up to machines and blah-dee-blah-dee-blah.  My blanket response to this and all other heinous arguments of the ilk are this: Earth although we like to think of it as a constant is a finite resource. Until a Shaman on a hilltop chants an ancient incantation and releases us from our corporeal form we have to protect these bodies and the bodies of our descendants.  To do that we must develop and refine new information in the name of progress, in order to survive. On a long enough timeline the minor grievances/hidden side effects of a technology will be neutralized in face of the greater good that they create. Television gave us the ability to transmit audio/visual information all over the world almost instantly, that is an AMAZING thing.

Although we like to think of television as an independent force that preys on us, it is actually nothing more than a mirror reflecting our interests. The problem is that most of us are ashamed of who we are as individuals and in order to misdirect ourselves from this shame we retreat to judging to mask the true desires of our Id.  What I mean by this is that most of us are fake, stupid, assholes.  We don't want to admit how petty and shallow our actual level of interest in most things is. We go so far as to create a fake group of people who we imagine watch the Jersey Shore and mock them with disgust. We will say: "Can you believe the people who watch this shit? Look at Pauly D and Vinny and the Sitch, can you believe these assclowns are getting paid to do blow and rub up on skanks all summer long?" We will imagine scores of deadbeat teenagers glued to their televisions sets idolizing these morons and grow more disgusted and fearful of the future of humanity, but the truth of the matter is that Snooki is not watching. We, "the educated" normal life 9-5ers are watching with both hands over our eyes peering through the cracks in our fingers, hanging on every mispronounced word and every incorrect historical reference uttered. 

While we often emphasize the truly horrible side of television we rarely if ever talk about how it equally reflects the best of us. For every crazy gun toting killer that television produces it calms and soothes 10 000, maybe more.  The world can be a cold, misunderstanding and unloving place and while we should be good and caring and loving towards others, most of us just aren't. Some of us may not have access to family/friends who are capable of adequately nurturing us or engaging our minds. Television at its best combines what makes humanity great aurally, visually and artistically.  Because of this sometimes televised moments are superior to real life, healing us, making us feel more connected and gain new perspective on how to live. In a scripted world everything has a meaning, a moral message and a succinct ending.  In a scripted world we get to live through the moments that we missed or flubbed in our own lives, to get them right, to finally be heard. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Before My Success

I realize that in the past I have railed against celebrity as an empty, soulless pursuit.  I am also aware that I have stated or at the very least implied that an overwhelming percentage of celebrities are no talent hacks undeserving of any attention, let alone a wealth of praise and cash from the collective masses.  However, I may have neglected one tiny niche group within the famous, the truly talented.

Although it may take many years longer for a humble self effacing individual to climb through the ranks of stardom, when they do, these individuals possess staying power and leave a lasting imprint on our culture.  Some famous people in the past have tried to sabotage their ascent to the upper echelon by hiding their talents in some tattered folder, in a weathered desk drawer in a dark lonely corner of their own mind. Yet, against all of the self imposed resistance, the societal need for their unique brand of creativity continues to expose their virtue until the would-be celebrity finally gives in and takes their place among the chosen few.

While I am not claiming to be perfectly summed up by the above paragraph I want to set the record straight before my unavoidable success. You know how it is, once an individual graduates to a certain level, they are thrown into a public relations machine that waters down any strong opinion or crass behavior they might have before it's able to escape for human consumption. Not only this but celebrities are regularly force fed fake life events and fake skills in order to have something to talk about when they are pushed out in front of David Letterman to shill the new big budget thriller.

I don't want any of that ambiguity. I want to jot down a succinct characterization of my life so far while I am still teetering on the precipice of fame.  This way when you see me on television (fuzzy bee mascot costume and all) you can compare the me you know now to the me I will be pretending to be then. Also, when I am awash in buckets of money and adoring fans I'll want something to help remember the meager beginnings of where I started. Without further ado, I bring you my story.

I was spit out into a broken home on the poorest neighborhood in the most violent city in the nation. My mother a crack addicted alcoholic of indiscriminate race and my father, a violent criminal of indiscriminate race conceived me out of wedlock in a Winnebago that had been up on blocks for five years in my grandmothers backyard.

Tragically on the day before my second birthday my father a professional philanderer fell off his skidoo while trying to pull a ski-lee (a wheelie in a snowmobile) in an attempt to show off to one of his extra marital strumpets. When word of my fathers mangled body got back to my mother she doused her sorrows with a bottle of Jim Beam. Unbeknownst to my mother my father had earlier in the day laced the bottle with a lethal dose of anti freeze that once consumed would trigger a heart attack that was natural in appearance. As it turned out my father was growing tired of having to go over to "her place" all the time. In the face of my fathers ritualistic abuse and neglect my mother refused to stray from him and was recorded as saying to friends and passers by up until the day she died: "I married him for his butt, but I stayed with him for the free HBO."

Upon my parents deaths my grandmother took full custody and that is when things really started to change.  Evidently a toddler is still worth a fair penny on the black market which grandma soon found out by pawning me off to some hick in the hills with a barren uterus. The last I heard granny was on a bus to Reno to feed the one arm bandits the loot she inherited from fencing me. Thankfully it didn't take that long for child protective services to reclaim me.  Evidently my "new" parents were involved in some kind of religious cult that was one third pyramid scheme and two thirds EXTREME gun hoarding.

By the time I reached 11 years of age I had bounced in and out of more than 7 foster homes. Many people might have been destroyed if they faced all of these early challenges, I not only endured I felt empowered and creatively driven.

12-14 was my experimental phase. I developed a rap name "Guy Smiley" with which I competed in hugely popular unground rap battles.   But the people judged me for being of indiscriminate race and politely implied that my form of verbal expression was not permitted with the confines of the club.  To add insult to injury the kids at school did not understand the inner me and because of this chose to incessantly comment on the outer me and how it hurt the inner part of their eyes.  But, I did not waiver. My self belief was too strong after all, I was an artist of such a unique complexity how could they possibly be expected to interpret the greatness that was me? I just kept working, day by day, week by week. I filled countless notepads with lyrics and filled hundreds of cassette tapes with my hip hop stylings. 

15-18 was my dark period. My self produced album the one I had been working on for almost 3 months was not picked up by a major label, I was devastated. I lost all hope in humanity for a brief moment and it caused me to spiral into a heroin addiction. After six months of being strung out on the junk I was penniless and sleeping in dumpsters. I stole televisions, car stereos and small kids lunch money just to muster up the cash so I could tune out and ride the dragon. But my desire to create burned inside me. Its pull was so great that it drove me out of the gutter and helped me quit heroin cold turkey.

18-21 was my Renaissance period. I wrote a letter to Harvard. I told them that I had learned more on the streets than any school in the world could teach me. I was so convincing that the Dean of admissions had no choice but to grant me entry with a full scholarship. In only 3 years I breezed through a degree partially bolstered by the fact that I wrote 3 plays for the drama department and was quite prolific at producing pro bono art installations on par with anything Michelangelo might have produced. 

21-24 were the pilot years. Hollywood had got word of all of the great plays I was writing for Harvard and flew me out to draft several episodes of upcoming shows. During some of the meetings I was surprised to find out that many of the powerful women on the other side of the table found me to be extremely attractive. As it turned out the physical flaws that the kids judged me for when I was young gave me character, a highly desirable trait in L.A. Before long I was not only writing pilots but starring in them as the main lead. Unfortunately such is my curse, the focus groups were too focused on my stunning good looks that they didn't pay attention to the wry dialog I was writing for my character. Further, those who were able to listen to the dialog stated that coherent and poignant words coming from a face that pretty seemed inauthentic. Sadly, I was cast out of Hollywood for being too good looking. Predictably this lead to... 

24-29 the relapse years.

29-Present day: the blog years. feels good to get all of that out, now I can finally sit back relax and undertake the upcoming burden of being extremely famous. Thanks for reliving the memories with me. I hope that I can still maintain contact with you, the little people after I get called up to the big leagues.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Django Unchained Is Not A Good Movie

I'm in the computer age but I use a typewriter see,
I'm not behind the times it's just more authentic to me,
It's got metal and levers and clanks and zings,
the orchestra of sounds conjures-up all sorts of things,
I write what I think and I think what I say,
you like pretend but it doesn't happen any other way.

We are lucky when we're clever, 

when we stand and deliver,
our genius comes in slips and spurts,
and when we have to work too hard oh god how it hurts,
it hurts!

We marvel in dreams of authentic conversation,

that swell up our glasses with insight condensation,
but we are not as bright as we think we are,
just above the bar,
just slightly above the bar.

Let me preface everything I am about to say by stating that I am a Quentin Tarantino fan. In fact, I have directly quoted him in at least one if not more of my previous blog posts.  I hate the thought of people eventually finding this blog post, not reading it thoroughly, and then slamming me for not recognizing the genius of Mr. Tarantino.  So, to be clear Tarantino is a solid movie maker who is very interesting and often highly creative. I love many of his dialogues and I believe that several scenes of his design are of the best ever made in cinema.  In spite of all of my fanboy love my critical and active brain was not able to give Django Unchained a passing grade as a movie much less elevate it to the height of a best picture nominee.   

I could spend all day arguing the relative craptitude of all of the other best picture nominees or the craptitude of the institution of the Oscars themselves. However, I am expecting anyone reading this to be caught up with my rage for society enough to know that the status quo of what people tell you is good, is actually crap. So where could I possibly go with this argument then? If I like Quentin Tarantino and I don't respect the Oscars as a credible source for excellence in film making what is my point?  Well, I am part of society, a society that when all lumped together is stupid and apathetic. The problem with the stupid/apathetic and/or gainfully employed/productive members of society is that they do not have the time to separate the wheat from the chaff in all aspects of their lives.  While "these people" are out living real productive lives their brains are indirectly being crushed by the soulless art that is shoved into their eye holes.

It is my job as a thankless gadfly to make these atrocious oversights clearly visible so that the generic highly unmotivated masses might change their minds ever so slightly and in doing so change the course of our collective human progression ever so slightly. So let's get to it already!

Rule number one: Everyone is capable of making crap.  Creativity is neither linear nor accumulative. As a child I thought I would get to a certain age where ideas about life would come flooding in. I believed that somewhere past the age of 25 everyone graduated into a wise old man/woman and everything in life would start to make sense. Projecting outward from this idea I thought that all success in life fell in line like one might go through the grades at school. All you had to do was keep working hard and everything you did would get better and better, but, this is not the case for art.

As I alluded to at the top of the post "our genius comes in slips and spurts." What this means is that although people may be mulling over the big questions in life trying to develop keen insights on who we are and where we are going in this ocean of chaos we don't come up with this thoughts in a timely or predictable fashion. Sometimes the first album a band makes is their only good one while another band creates borderline cacophony up until their third or fourth effort.  Sometimes we tinker with and try to fix a formula that is not broken and sometimes we have to work through every terrible possibility before something useful bubbles up to the surface.

One of the problems with fanboys/girls of a band/comedian/street performer/other various talent is that our desire to praise the thing that has changed our lives blinds our ability to critically analyze the work of our heroes. This religious-like devotion convinces us of delusions like every song that a band has ever made is their best song and anyone who challenges that idea should be put to death.  A character flaw within many of us (self included) is the hope that there are perfect beings out there, gods among men who are capable of divine creation without flaw. Unfortunately it turns out that idea is bullshit. This narcissistic devotion is an attempt to assert intellectual dominance over the rest of humanity, because we need to feel superior, we need to feel like we saw something that all the others didn't see. We want to believe we have a sacred connection to something outside ourselves.

Tarantino started out by making movies that captured the style/essence of the films of his youth yet they were injected with new age cool and further emphasized with his interesting and punchy dialogue.  Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction created an entirely different genre of film one that has been referenced and mimicked hundreds of times over in past years.  The problem with art is that you cannot be a one trick pony or else you get labelled a hack.  It didn't take the world that long after The Sixth Sense to figure out that M Night Shyamalan is M Night Shamashit.  So it is understandable that Quentin as an intriguing film maker sought to diversify his cinematic expression unfortunately this is where all of the problems began.

At some point post Jackie Brown Tarantino stopped making movies that were infused with influences of the movies of his past and he started trying to make genre films.  The problem with genre films is that by design they only really appeal to people who are in on the joke or late to the party posers faking cool. Further, impersonating a style of film rather than referencing it removes almost all of the artistic integrity behind the work.  The difference is better illustrated through the idea of a band writing and recording a song and then 30 years later another band records a cover of that same song. Even if the end result is better (a very rare feat) all of the final works insight and creativity is attributed to someone else. 

Django unchained is a bad movie because it is an impersonation of a decidedly bad genre of film that leaves us with an ambiguous moral message. Blaxploitation films short of camp (read: point with disgust and laugh value) have no place in the world of cinema. By any other measure we would see Django as a poorly conceived, written and acted movie void of interesting or useful dialogue coupled with an instagram old timey photo layer effect. Seen through the sycophantic Tarantino prism however it's a gutsy, gritty modern day marvel of a film that dares to be different while shaking the foundation of our nougaty existential center. 

Inglourious Basterds gave us Hitler and his henchmen and presented them in as foul a light as possible. The audience (us) needed to hate Ze Germans so that when they were pummeled with baseball bats or cut in half with large caliber bullets we felt no sympathy for them getting their just desserts. Americans could harmonize with the idea of exacting bloody revenge on an unprompted enemy who sought only to maim and murder their loved ones. In this instance the conclusion was satisfying because the evil was distinct and at the end a sense of order was restored. 

Django Unchained attempts to apply the above formula with less desirable results. While building to it's crescendo the movie provides proficient fodder to engender a fiery hatred for the bad guy slave owners. We the audience are supposed to be okay with dogs mauling humans, overt racist taunts, mandingo fighting and whipping because in our minds we know that the evil doers will get their comeuppance. However, when the pay off finally does arrive and a bevy of racist white men lay in a pool of blood at Django's feet we don't get the same feeling of relief.

The reason for this I surmise is that even though the film is a fun, poppy, blaxsploitatious look at racism it inadvertently plays like a form of visual reparations. Americans both black and white are supposed to cheer for the black hero Django and through our cheering reveal that we have defeated racism? Yet in the end the hero was not rewarded with respect from white people or given equal footing. 

Unlike Inglorious Basterds Americans are unable to detach and objectively view the enemy because the enemy is still in many ways present within us.  It is like the difference between a stranger abusing you or your grandfather abusing you. In one respect you can compartmentalize, work through the feelings and move on. In the other instance you are encumbered by feelings of family, love and confusion. No matter how much you try to compartmentalize, the abusive relative is still very much a part of you thus there is no solace in seeing them punished for abusing you.

 The indirect effect of the movie then is that it increases tension and hostility between whites and blacks under the pretense of a feel good ending.  Like a seven year old boy who's dad let's him grab hold of the steering wheel, he feels like he's driving but ultimately his dad still has full control over the vehicle.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lowercase Capitalism

This is not a political post. As far as American politics are concerned I am content with the existing Archetypes that you're either a selfish idiotic asshole or a tree hugging pussy. I don't want what I am about to say to be construed as  post-election hidden agenda propaganda attempting to lobby a few votes for my preferred  party. What drives my cursor across the screen this evening is a much greater overall comfort with life.

I won't argue the fact that Capitalism is the most successful of all the "ism" systems that have been implemented.  I only choose to take issue with one small part of the whole shebang and that tiny of tiny parts is a much used refrain: "Capitalism breeds competition." Naturally where there is competition there is a requirement to "best" the competition in order to be successful and we the consumer benefit by getting products that are the cream of the crop. However, just because something is more successful does not mean that it is wholly and absolutely better. Please allow me then to prattle on about the few hidden side effects brought to the surface in the wake of competition.

1) Technology

Technologically speaking, being the first to market is likely the chief concern. I get it, to be in the electronics field you have to be on the cutting edge. You have to be able to see the down the road and develop ideas that will be implemented in five to ten years.  Nobody wants a 60 pound PC hardwired to a wall outlet when they can have the freedom of an Ipad. What this forces everyone in the industry to do is to abandon all of their old technology and instead work feverishly on a clone of the new hotness. Often times an under researched company like Microsoft is better funded and because of this can produce an under developed product faster than a more advanced group of techies. The end result of this is that  incomplete technological devices go to market and they don't work properly...if they work at all.  Ironically the superior product that may have worked right is ignored by the general public and regarded as a clone should it ever make it to the assembly line.

2) Adversarial customer service.

It used to be that the customer was always right and that businesses were interested in accommodating all transactions from cradle to grave. They wanted the customer to feel special with repeat business in mind and they wanted people to tell their friends about the product/service. Today the picture is vastly different.  We've all been put on hold on the phone and forced through an unending maze of button pushing prompts that never quite match up with our questions and concerns. We've also encountered people who speak an artistically abstract version of our native tongue. But these two things are only symptoms of a larger and more deceptive framework.

Every time I go into a store and decide to gamble on asking an employee a question it is as if I approached someone who just walked in off the street the only difference is that one of us is being paid to not know anything. This happens because like a casino the big wigs don't want you to find exactly what you are looking for, purchase it, and immediately leave. In fact, they would rather that you walk around and buy several things that you don't want while searching for the things you do. Should you accidentally buy the wrong item they know that 9 times out of 10 you will be too embarrassed/forgetful to return it in time and they will have made multiple sales instead of just one.

This same method is also applied to fast food. People who do not speak your language and people who are not intelligent enough to evolve beyond serving fast food for a living render the same eventual effect. Every combo has been assigned a number to increase efficiency yet the employees without fail always fail at completing a basic order. You would think that all of the money/time spent by customers coaching their servers through their orders would negate any gains that their implemented system was intended to yield. However, the fact that the system remains in place suggests that someone crunched the numbers and decided that the cost of education, training and benefits was an infinitesimally greater number allowing the current system to prevail.  You'll also note that they rarely if ever accidentally give you an extra Big Mac. What they do constantly is short you food/condiments/napkins/straws, a crime that you will only discover if you pullover and do a complete inventory of your order. Every hamburger or ketchup packet that they can short you is another dollar in their pocket. But the real business genius occurs should you go into the store to complain.

In most retail big box stores the first line of defense is the aforementioned idiot block. If you have a question or complaint about a service or a coupon not working a moron is strategically placed there to shrug his shoulders and give you a "what are you gonna do?" response. The initial store gatekeeper has no authority, training or common sense. His necessity is to absorb all of your questions and complaints and destroy your will to the point where you give up on humanity and leave the store without resolving your issue. He is not expected to conjure up potential solutions for you he has merely been implemented to say: "I can't do that" and "It's not our policy." The majority of us give up at stage one because we have lives and we don't want to get our hands dirty with a petty grievance to the tune of 10 dollars. However, some of us choose to dig in whether on principle or because we sadly can't afford it. Step two in the adversarial customer process is asking for a manager.

A manager is composed of the same DNA as the first guy the only difference is that he has a few more keys to a few more doors than guy #1 and he gets paid about two dollars more per hour. The manager is highly trained in the skill of pretending to listen, he also possesses the added skill of feigning looking something up on the computer. Ultimately however when push comes to shove the manager will spout the same two answers that the first guy does "I'm sorry sir I don't have the authority to do that" or "It's not our policy to "
___(fill in the blank)

As your blood pressure begins to rise you will ask "Who then has the authority to fix this error?" To which the manger will say "All of our issues are handled by our central agency and can be reached  by phone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific at 1-800-EAT-SHIT.  So you dial 1800EATSHIT (which isn't just a complaint line for truckers) and after wading through the aforementioned phone maze you finally get a living person to talk to and you quickly restate your issue to them. After many minutes of back and forth they will conclude that it is not their policy to help you with your matter. They will apologize for the inconvenience and explain that if you were a new customer they would be able to issue a refund immediately and with a bonus but since you are a loyal customer of over ten years who has made every payment on time that there is simply no possible way that they could make an exception to their policy on this one occasion.


3) The Applebee's Effect

You may think that you like Applebee's but sadly you are mistaken. When I speak of Applebee's I am not limiting it to a single franchise, I am speaking to an entire genre and more importantly their effect on society. We all want to have a good time. Actually, I'd argue that we all like to have a good time as much as possible.Unfortunately in our part-time-no benefit-minimum wage-rotating schedule world we hardly have the time or resources to party down as much as we'd like. If you're lucky you can afford to go out for dinner on your birthday and one other miscellaneous occasion in a given year. While you are sitting down chomping away on your surf and turf in a classy privately owned restaurant you may lament the fact that you don't get to have "special occasions" very often. Well never fear, Applebee's is here! With their 2 can dine for $19.99 (dessert not included) specials a couple can have a nice sit down meal in a classy friendly joint...or so that is what they would have you believe. Applebee's preys on the lower classes and exploits their desire to celebrate like people of a more financially stable stature. We are promised the opportunity to have more fun more often, the only compromise is that we enjoy ourselves less and that we expect a significantly lower caliber of dining.  Number crunchers have once again decided what the mathematical equivalent of mediocrity is and built a restaurant franchise a few notches below that. Once a month the soulless masses march out to eat microwaved turds systematically slung out by apathetic servers in a milling bee hive of ghetto/white trash/broken dream sports enthusiast men. We call it a night out and we learn through repetition to expect less from society and less from ourselves.

Applebee's, Walmart and stores of the same ilk are lowering our self esteem as a society and because of their superior business model they are getting away with it. Ultimately we vote with our dollars and the misguided beliefs implanted in our minds by their "fun" oriented advertising and low prices lead us to inadvertently drive all higher quality, higher priced businesses out of town. Eventually we are left surrounded by businesses that we hate but are obligated to go to because they are the only ones that remain. Further, these companies end up employing and under paying our local townspeople who are consequently forced to perpetuate a system of sub par shopping and living that in no way enriches their lives.

So what's the conclusion to all of this? What's the solution that ties it all up in a neat little bow.  Sadly, I am brave enough to say that I do not know. On one hand I don't like living in a world where I know that every person I meet is a parasite trying to hustle me out of my last dime so that they can afford more toys of excess. However, I am also not content with the alternative of being given one pair of rubber boots and 13 rolls of toilet paper per year with which to pat my privates.  What I believe I suppose is that there is a logical compromise whereupon we can live quality lives AND aspire toward a brighter more intelligent future. Some may say I'm a dreamer.