Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A break from rambling again

A story that I did recently. I'm actually kind of proud of it.

All the Black Is Really White

There were a lot of things about him that stick out to me now but I really remember the exact moment that drove me to try to get to know Anton Ensam. For the first few weeks after I moved into my new apartment, I would go down the stairs to the back of the building to take out the trash and/or recycling and somehow I'd always catch Anton dropping off his trash and/or recycling as well. He always brought out two bags: one full of folded boxes of Count Chocula with the back-of-the-box activities all filled in and the other full of empty bottles of Red Stripe Jamaican beer. He looked to be pretty young, around my age, and as far as I knew, he had no friends or family living with him and he was always wearing one of those Russian winter hats with the big earflaps, even when he was only in his pajamas, usually covered by this long, ratty bathrobe. Needless to say, I wanted to get to know this guy.
It took me a good couple weeks of observing Anton in his routine before I actually said anything to him. I'm not sure why I talked to him the particular morning that I did. I guess I didn't want to break the cycle he seemed to be living that kept me so intrigued. And maybe it had something to do with the fact that my girlfriend Azalea had walked out of my bedroom without any intention of ever returning. I don't know. She had left on other occasions and I had too, but this new apartment was the first place I lived without her for over a year and she wasn't exactly happy about that. Regardless, when I talked to Anton, the conversation was remarkably brief and really all that I learned was his name before he hurried back inside. It seemed more like he was just surprised that anyone was talking to him at all, rather than being annoyed about it. I don't know what it was that kept me so interested in this guy. He just had this way about him; he was closed off as hell, sure, and seemed to have this eccentric streak, but he just didn't seem like he gave much of a shit. At the time, it was just so damn magnetic and I didn't want to pass something like that up.

I didn't see him again for another couple of days. I was pretty pissed off that particular Friday evening since all of my friends had decided to pull a Harry Houdini on me and become impossible to reach, so I was in the hallway outside my apartment searching my phone's library in vain for someone to call. Something about the way the names looked up at me made me feel like I was being mocked. That combined with the fact that my battery died at that moment caused me to profess loudly that the phone was a piece of shit and to chuck it into the wall, causing it to break into two neat pieces on the carpet right in front of me. A silence hung in the air for a moment before I realized that someone was staring at me from down the hall, and that someone happened to be Anton. I looked over at him.
"Little pissed off?" he asked me.
I kind of smiled and said, "Yeah…could you tell?" I stared at the remnants of the phone in front of me, thinking for a beat before asking, "Okay, like…you ever get the feeling that you're being snubbed, y'know, left out by your friends?"
Anton laughed now, a lot heartier than I expected out of him, saying, "See, that sounds like a perfect description of heaven, actually. That's really all friends are good for, you know? Pissing you off and abandoning you." This cynicism just appealed to me so much at the time. A thought occurred to me.
"Hey what're you up to, man?" I asked. His look changed and seemed awkward all of a sudden as he jabbed his thumb behind him, gesturing.
"Oh, I was gonna go check out the movies playing down at the Lagoon actually," he said, "I mean…" He stopped, thinking. "I mean…I guess I've seen everything there already, though."
"Well, you should come down to the bar with me, man," I said. He still looked uncertain, but like he was actually considering his options. "C'mon," I said almost like I was daring him.
He sighed, looked at the opposite wall for a brief moment and said, "Okay. Hold on, lemme get my boots on." He went back into his apartment, leaving his bag full of beer and ginger ale bottles next to the door.

We went down Lyndale Avenue a couple of blocks to get to the CC Club and got there at about ten or so. After saying hey to the ID-checker that I knew, we grabbed a spot at the bar near the end with the taps.
"So whattaya drink, man?" I asked him, adding, "I don't think they got Red Stripe here."
This made him laugh a bit before he said, "Well honestly, if it fucks me up, that's good enough, y'know?" I nodded, laughing.
"For sure." I ordered us a pitcher of Summit before asking, "So what do you do? Like for a living?" The bartender plunked the pitcher and two glasses in front of us, so I started filling them up. "You still go to school or something?" I asked.
"Nah," he replied, "graduated from Madison about three years ago. Kinda moved around the Midwest for a while before I ended up back here."
"You from here?"
"Sadly yeah." He smiled, more to himself.
"Cool, man." I finished pouring the glasses and gave him his. "So where you working, anyway? Using your major?"
Anton let out a loud "ha!" before taking a swig. "Well I majored in cultural studies and filmmaking so naturally I'm working at a shipping warehouse."
"Hey man, don't worry about it. I get to work in the bullshit development office for the University here, so my psychology major is getting put to excellent use. Doesn't matter; I kinda bullshitted my way through school, you know?" I paused before asking, "So what made you move around, anyway?"
"Well I guess I tend to move a lot," Anton replied, "I usually get to a place and after some time goes by, the hangover that is life sinks in and I usually have to go."
Amused by this, sipping my pint, I said, "'Hangover that is life.' Whattaya mean, though?"
Anton shrugged. "Well, wouldn't you say that a hangover is a reminder that things that were so great the night before came at the price of having horrible gut rot the next day? Life is a hangover, man."
I smiled, processing this. "Yeah I get that…I really do. I'll have to use that." I paused then said, "That's kinda what happened with me and this girl I was dating. She just realized that I wasn't worth spending her time with anymore or something. I dunno. The hangover of life set in for her, I guess." Anton nodded, taking a quick gulp of Summit. I continued, "I dunno…that and shit with my friends not being around or whatever…you know how they're supposed to be there for you when that kinda shit happens? They always seem to suddenly disappear when you need them most." I shrugged, taking a sip of beer, kind of laughing to myself. "Basically took it out on my phone, as you saw. I think I need a hiatus from them or something."
"Honestly, that's kind of why I came out here tonight," he said, smiling. "Anyone with random violent tendencies like that has to be cool."
I chuckled at this and replied, "Well, cheers to that, man," I held up my glass. Anton rolled his eyes.
"Goddamn, I hate cheering anything…" He looked at my outstretched glass for a second before picking up his and saying, "But fuck it."
The conversation continued on like that for a bit, the whole "getting to know you" kind of thing while we finished our first and second pitchers. We ended up shooting a game of pool, arguing the finer points of what aspects of pop culture pissed us off most (mine being unfunny sitcoms and his being "that unconscionable abortion of reality TV, Tila Tequila"), worst girlfriend stories (mine: probably the last one, his: "some bipolar member of the fairer sex whose hobbies included complaining, partying, and blowing other guys"), and our favorite albums of the previous year (mine: "Cross" by Justice, his: "Year Zero" by Nine Inch Nails). The moment I decided that this guy was one of the more clever people I had met in a while was when some girls started talking to us and when it became abundantly clear that they were just flirting for the sake of flirting, Anton proclaimed loudly that he needed to get home to check up on his World of Warcraft game and wondered if they would like to come see how his Level 48 Paladin was doing. They said no.
About three hours later or so, we stumbled back to the apartment, joking around about one thing or another. As we got to the door, he stumbled over one of the steps and I made the mistake of pointing out his level of intoxication and he stepped back a couple inches and jabbed his finger into my chest claiming that he "wasn't as think as I drunk he was," something that made us both laugh with enough timbre to incite the rage of the old woman living near the entrance. Ignoring her, we went upstairs to our hallway. Anton started fumbling for his keys, eventually grabbing them from his pocket. Looking at my watch, realizing what time it was (only midnight or so) and not feeling particularly tired or too drunk, I asked:
"Hey man, wanna keep hanging out?" Anton stopped fiddling with his lock and turned and looked me slowly with what can only be described as a look of utter horror and disgust on his face. There was a beat of silence that hung in the air for a good few decades before he finally said, expression unchanging:
"Dude…I'm not fucking gay." This phrase clung to the pervading silence that I all of a sudden didn't know how to break except to laugh nervously. His expression remained unchanged for another beat before he turned, opening his door and slamming it behind him. I stood there for a beat in complete disbelief before turning and walking down the hall back to my apartment. Then Anton's voice hit my departing back:
"Hey." I turned and looked at him hanging out his now open apartment door, holding a Red Stripe bottle in one hand, a maniacal grin on his face before he started laughing.
"You're a fucking douche-bag, man," I said, grinning.
"No man, I fucking rule," he replied, "Wanna help me kill some actual douche-bags in Team Fortress 2?" He tossed the Red Stripe directly at me, which I caught and followed him inside.
We took turns playing and when I played, Anton started making hilarious commentary about the other team and whenever some kid started talking into his headset which could be heard on our end, he would grab his off the floor and proclaim them some sort of cheater, and tell them that he would literally hunt them down and shame them in some way. After playing the game for a while, it became abundantly clear to me that this guy was intriguing me and entertaining me more every second I was around him. Like I said, it was just magnetic. It was when I saw the look on his face when he was playing this game; he had this look of complete and serious immersion but behind this look I could tell that there seemed to be this sense of wonderment; we were both playing the same game, but he seemed to see it differently. That was when I decided that I needed to be friends with this guy.
We went on like this, having a few more beers, listening to some music in addition to playing for a while until I realized it was almost two AM and I was starting to get tired. I turned to Anton who was playing a Capture the Flag match and I poked his arm to get his attention and said, "Hey dude I think I'm gonna head home." He didn't say anything and kept playing, his expression unchanging for several beats before I got up uncertainly and said again, "Okay well, I'm gonna head home I guess."
"Whatever, man. I heard you," Anton replied, not even looking up. I didn't know how to react at the time so I just stood there for a moment and Anton looked over at me and asked, with an icy tinge to his voice, "Well? Aren't you leaving?" and turned back to the game. I frowned uncertainly and said, "Yeah…well dude, let's hang again soon."
"Sure."

I awoke the next day at about eleven AM, my head spinning from a slight hangover, to a phone call to my landline from my friend Julia. She sounded way too chipper for her own good so I tried to wrap the conversation up as quickly as possible (especially after she assumed that I hung out with Azalea the night before), not really feeling the need to talk to her or anyone else that blew me off the night before. I got up and went about my day and that night, I went by Anton's place, thinking maybe he felt better or something, but he didn't answer the door. Since I wasn't really in the mood for going out, I stayed at home and rearranged parts of my living room area. A couple friends came over at about eleven and we hung out, playing some games on my X-Box 360 for a bit, and while I didn't really mind the company, I just wasn't having that much fun, so I called it a night and they left.
It was about 2:30 AM and I was standing in my pajamas and brushing my teeth when I heard a knock at my door. I turned around and leaned out of my bathroom, some Crest foam dripping onto my bare foot, and I heard it again. Dreading the sight of Azalea with tears on her face, saying sorry, et cetera, I hesitated to go open it, but I spit out the foam, rinsed, and opened the door to see Anton standing there in his long, ratty bathrobe and Russian hat, so naturally I started laughing in surprise.
"What're you doing up, man?" I asked him, still laughing. He shrugged, staring at the floor for second before smiling and asking:
"I dunno, just wanted to see if you wanted to hang out or something." I looked at him in a bit of disbelief.
"It's like, two thirty or something," I said.
"Yeah, man…and you're still awake. Wanna hang out?"
I shrugged, saying, "Sure, man. Uh, whattaya wanna do?"
Anton shrugged as well. "I just got Rock Band 2, so I figured we could try that out for a bit." My eyes lit up.
"Hell yeah!" I said, "I've been meaning to check that out."
We played about half the songs till around 4:30 or so, occasionally ratcheting up the difficulty whenever Anton made some comment about how we would never be real, actual rock stars if we kept playing on easy or medium, while taking sips from bottles of Red Stripe, smoking the occasional cigarette, and having the typical witty banter that seemed to be becoming established (such as Anton claiming that his ability on Rock Band 2 was reflective of his real music ability if he "was a retarded Republican," which didn't make much sense but the way he said it with such mock conviction just killed me).

It went on like that for the next few weeks. I would occasionally get called by another friend of mine like Julia or whoever, but I just didn't feel the need to spend time with them. Instead Anton and I would hang out some evening, and then I wouldn't see him for a small stretch of time, but sure enough, as soon as I thought about stopping by his place, he would come by mine at any time between midnight and three in the morning to hang out. I'd like to think that it was just a sort of strange sixth sense we both developed. I occasionally would walk down the hall to his place and knock on the door to see if he would answer. Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn't, but when he didn't, he usually came by about an hour later, explaining that he "had a massive shit or a website full of pornographic material that had needed my undivided attention." Eventually, knocking became unnecessary if our doors were unlocked, so it essentially boiled down to us learning the other's schedules (his never seemed consistent). Occasionally friends of mine would call while we hung out to see if I wanted to go out and party with them, but I usually just quickly told them I was too tired or something and go back to hanging out with Anton. A couple times I asked him if he wanted to go out with them when they called, but he always just snorted in contempt, to which I found rather amusing at the time.
It was when Julia called me to invite me to a party she was having on Halloween that I realized that I needed to cease this hiatus from my friends, so I invited her over. It was then that she met Anton when he came barging into my apartment, ranting about "this incompetent boob who didn't seem to understand the fundamentals of looking where he dropped a box" and almost seemed to stumble to an abrupt stop and actually stammered upon seeing her sitting there.
"You okay, man?" I asked, laughing.
"I, uh…yeah," he started, looking at me, occasionally glancing back at Julia who was smiling as this unfolded, "like I was saying, this guy, um, he just, he was just, uh, stupid."
"Did he drop a heavy box on your foot or something?" Julia asked him, smiling.
"Oh, uh…yeah," Anton replied. Pause. Then, "It sucked."
"I can imagine," Julia said, smiling at him.
This seemed to loosen Anton up a bit and he smiled nervously and he sat down on the other couch diagonal from the one Julia and I were on, sighing.
"This guy," he began, shaking his head. "This guy is the living embodiment of Homer Simpson. And I mean literally. The man looks, sounds, and sadly, acts like Homer Simpson."
"Please tell me he says 'd'oh' or something like that," I said. Anton shook his head.
"That would be too fucking creepy for its own good."
"So did he just not look or something?" Julia asked. Anton glanced over at her for a second and then nodded, smiling.
"Yeah, this man could not have been more incompetent. And he didn't even seem to realize that that might've, oh I dunno, fucking hurt. Just looked at me blankly and said 'sorry' like it was a question. Fucking moron. Who the hell says sorry in the form of a question, anyway, especially when it concerns a fifty-pound box connecting with a foot?" He paused, shaking his head again and then continued, "Oh, and steel-toed boots? They don't protect shit." This tirade was quite amusing to us, which just seemed to get Anton more and more worked up, ranting about one thing or another, getting quite into it, almost like he was a stand-up comic. Following his rant, he ended up leaving pretty quickly with very little explanation, but he seemed to have made an indelible impression on Julia.
"So who was that?" she asked me.
"Oh that's this guy I've been hanging with lately; name's Anton. Real character, right?"
"For sure," she said, "he's really cute too…how come you never mentioned him?"
I shrugged. "I dunno. I only met him about a month ago, like right after Azalea and I broke up. He's the kinda guy that just shows up at the right time, you know?" I paused and smiled to myself. "Lets you forget about the hangover that is life."
"Well," she replied, "you should tell him that he should come to the party on Friday."
"Oh Jesus," I said in response, "I somehow doubt that's gonna happen. Not really a people person, it seems."
"Why?" she whined at me, "tell him I want him there. Won't that be enough?"
"Well…he does seem to like you okay," I replied, thinking. "I'll try."
"No, no, make him come," she said, laughing. "Just tell him it won't kill him to be around people for one night. It'll be fun, seriously!"
"Okay, okay," I said, "he'll be there, whether he wants to be or not."

The next day, I went over to Anton's place and as I entered, I called out:
"Okay man, we're going to a party on Friday night."
"Okay man, fuck that," Anton replied, imitating my tone, from his kitchenette, the sound of the microwave's finishing ding following.
"C'mon," I said, sitting on his couch, "it won't be that bad. Julia's having it. It'll be fun." Anton came around the corner and sat down next to me, eating a Hot Pocket, a Red Stripe in his other hand.
"Well," he said, his mouth full, "lemme ask you a question."
"Okay."
"Will there be people there?" I looked at him, laughing with confused disbelief.
"Uh, yeah, man. It's a party."
"Then it won't be fun, I tell you," he proclaimed, washing down his bite of Hot Pocket with a swig of Red Stripe. I laughed, knowing he would say something like this.
"Well," I said, "truth is, Julia told me to tell you that you had to be there. In other words, she wants you there."
"So?" Anton replied, eyes fixated on the TV and the person he was killing on Team Fortress 2. "You think that's gonna get me to go?"
"Uh…I thought you liked her?" I asked, confused.
"Well I don't dislike her…I mean, she's cool—fucker!" He shot a sniper with a rocket, killing him. "She's cool, I guess, but that's not gonna get me to go to some dumb college party." I rolled my eyes.
"C'mon man, it really won't be so bad. Seriously, it actually might be fun. It's over on campus, yeah, but there'll be good people there. I mean, you won't even have to talk to any of them. I don't think Julia will mind if you just spend the night talking to her." I laughed. "I doubt she'll complain." He didn't say anything and kept playing. For some reason, this just caused any built up frustration with this guy to emerge, so I said:
"Okay dude, what the fuck? It's just one goddamn night and there's a really cool girl who really seems to like you wanting you there. You should just get over whatever insecurity or bias you might have about 'college parties' and try to enjoy yourself. I mean, it's not that bad, is it?" The sniper Anton had killed earlier shot him through the head and he growled an obscenity under his breath and tossed the controller at his feet and sat back, rubbing his eyes for a moment. Still pissed, I continued:
"I mean, what problem do you have with my friends? Or people for that matter? I mean, you never wanted to go out when they invited us out."
"Invited you out," Anton replied. "And you didn't ever want to go." I was silent for a second, knowing he was right. But I sighed, still kind of angry, continuing:
"Doesn't matter, man. You don't even know that you wouldn't like them. So—"
"Fine," he interrupted with an air of defeat. There was a long pause. "Fine, I'll go." He didn't say anything else, his eyes shut. I looked over at him, confused.
"You okay, dude?" I asked.
"Yeah. Don't worry about it."
"You sure, man?"
He opened his eyes and glared at me. "I said I was okay. Jesus…" He took another swig of Red Stripe and said, "Your turn," gesturing at the TV.

The week went on and I didn't really see Anton until that Friday in the morning, making his usual deposit of recycling outside while I was out there smoking a cigarette. We chatted for a bit and then both went off to work, planning to meet up that night after we both returned. When I finished getting ready that night, it was about ten o'clock and I still hadn't heard from Anton so I went over to his place. The door was unlocked so I went inside and immediately saw Anton sitting on his couch in the dark, playing his PlayStation 3.
"Hey," I said, "what's the deal? You coming?"
"Yeah," Anton replied after a moment, not taking his eyes off the television. He didn't move for several moments before I said:
"Hey man, are we going?"
"Yep," he replied, tossing his controller onto the couch next to him, picking up his coat as he stood.
We got to the party at about eleven or so and there were already a good fifty to sixty people there, something I could tell was just digging into Anton, which, admittedly, gave me a sense of sadistic pleasure. If he was going to mope, it wasn't my problem at this point. We got there and immediately Julia, very drunk already, saw us and screamed in delight. She ran up to me and gave me a big hug before she turned to Anton and kissed his cheek.
"I am so fucking glad Silas got you to come!" she yelled over the din of the party at Anton who shrugged, kind of smiling. Julia finished the big bottle of Summit in her hand and continued, "Oh shit, so you're gonna have to meet some of my friends. They're gonna love you, I swear." She took Anton by the hand and led him away from the entrance toward the center of the house through the party. He looked back at me with a look that spoke the words, "I will fucking kill you for this," and I waved cheerfully at him. Rolling his eyes, he disappeared into the crowd. Laughing, I followed behind them to the area where the kegs were, grabbing a red plastic cup along the way.
Throughout the course of the party, I would intermittently see Anton surrounded by Julia and friends of hers. He seemed to be pleasant enough, occasionally smiling and even having them all listening to one of his stories, to which they all seemed amused by. I figured that he was okay by himself after about fifteen minutes. I realized, as I moved through the party, that it was good to finally be out, seeing old friends and meeting new people, and I ended up talking to this girl for a while that seemed interesting enough until Julia came up to me asking where Anton had gone off to. I had no idea, so I asked the girl if she would wait a second and began searching for him. I eventually got out of the living room area to the hallway that connected it to the kitchen and went down the stairs into the basement where the kegs were. There were at least twenty people in the small, cramped space and the noise seemed to intensify and press in around me as I descended and almost immediately, I saw Anton plastered against a wall, beer in hand, staring around him. When he saw me, he didn't show much emotion, but raised his cup in greeting. I weeded my way through the crowd next to him and shouted over the noise:
"Hey man, Julia was looking for you." He shrugged.
"How much longer are you planning on staying here?" he asked. I shrugged.
"Till whenever, I guess. Dude, why aren't you talking to Julia? She's looking for you."
"I know, you already told me," Anton replied, still looking around at the crowd, something behind his eyes I couldn't pinpoint. Exasperated, I said, noticing I was kind of drunk as I did:
"Dude, like I said, she's into you. You could actually have a good time tonight if you talked to her more--" Anton threw his head toward the ceiling in disgust.
"What, are you my fucking pimp now? Jesus Christ." He swigged down the rest of his beer and tossed the cup off to the side and stormed upstairs, leaving me to stand there in surprise for several moments, not really sure of what just happened. I went back upstairs then, still taken aback, looking around, not seeing him anywhere. I went into the living room, seeing Julia sitting in an armchair, talking to some friends of ours. I went up to her.
"Did you see Anton come through this way?" I asked. "I somehow pissed him off, I guess."
She nodded. "Yeah, he came up here and when he saw me, he came up to me, kissed my cheek and said something like 'I'm not worth it' or something like that and then he left." I nodded, but I was confused, and told her I'd be back, and that I was going to go find him.
I found him standing out front, smoking one of his Lucky Strikes, staring at the street and the people passing by, going to other parties in the neighborhood. I came up to him and said:
"Hey, man, I'm sorry about all that shit back in there." He said nothing. I said, "Look, dude, if you wanna get outta here, let's get outta here. I'm sorry I pushed this shit on you, or whatever."
"It's cool, man," he said finally, tossing out the remnant of his cigarette. "The hangover that is life seems to be kicking in, you know?" he said after another pause. He looked off into the distance to our right.
"You know there's some train tracks over there?" he said. "Pretty cool stuff, I guess."
"Cool," I replied, following his gaze. "Wanna go check 'em out or something?" Anton nodded, not saying anything.
"Well c'mon man," I said, starting on my way. "Let's go."
About two blocks down there was a hole in the fence that Anton seemed to know about that was next to the steps going up to a foot-bridge. We squeezed through here and as soon as we did, I noticed the large freight cars stopped on the tracks in front of us.
"Dude, we should totally smoke up there," I said, looking up at them.
Anton shrugged. "Sure."
We climbed up the side of the car, using the ladders in place, eventually getting to the top where we walked to the end, sitting at the edge, so we could see down the dark expanse of track, the footbridge towering above us, our feet dangling over the edge of the freight car. I produced the joint I rolled before coming out tonight and lit up, taking the first hit and then offering it to Anton who just shook his head. I shrugged, taking a few more hits, letting the silence set in, minus the sounds of nearby parties. Finally, I asked:
"So, uh…what're we doing over here? I mean, this is like, cool, and shit, but--"
"I was listening to this song by Nine Inch Nails today," Anton said suddenly, still staring down the expanse of track. "And I can't…get these lyrics out've my head." He kind of laughed.
"Which ones?" I asked, sucking in on the joint.
Anton paused, thinking. Then he said, "'and the sky is filled with light / can you see it? / all the black is really white / if you believe it / as your time is running out / let me take away your doubt / you can find a better a place / in this twilight.'" I sat there for a second in silence, and then kind of laughed.
"You remember all those?" I asked. "I mean, that's like, cool…but why'd you remember those?" Anton shrugged.
"I dunno…just did. They're not important. They're just…good, I guess, since I remembered them." I nodded, inhaling on the joint again, but coughing, causing me to laugh a little.
"Sorry, man," I said, as soon as my coughing fit was over. "I'm just too high and drunk right now." I blinked a couple times. "But I hear what you're saying," I added. Anton kept looking down the stretch of tracks, then down to his shoes, before saying, kind of laughing:
"It's cool. Don't worry about it."
Nothing much else was said at that point and we eventually got down off the car and walked back to the party. Neither of us talked much, him because he was off in his own world, me because I was high as hell. Or maybe because there wasn't much else to say at that point. We got back to the party and it still seemed to be going strong, but at this point I had about as much desire to keep partying as Anton did, so I ran in, said bye to Julia, telling her I'd call her later and Anton and I walked to the nearest bus stop and transited back to Uptown. At the apartment, we got up to our floor and when we got to Anton's first, he just turned, fumbling with his keys and opening the door, saying nothing. I watched him for a second and said, "I'll come on by soon, okay? We'll play some Team Fortress 2; drink some beer, the usual. Sound good?"
"Sure," Anton said, turning, nodding. "See ya." He went into his apartment and shut the door, leaving me alone in the hallway. I walked down the hall back to my place, where I popped in my copy of Eyes Wide Shut into my DVD player and fell asleep on the couch.

I didn't see Anton again for a few days after that. He never stopped by and I got the sense that he didn't really want anything to do with humanity after the party, so I decided to give him some space for a day or so. I didn't really wonder about where he was or what he was doing, though, since he kind of pissed me off that night and made me feel like an asshole. After about three days passed I got sick of waiting and left my apartment after returning home from work and went down the hall to his. I knocked on his door out of courtesy, but I tried the knob and of course, it was unlocked as usual, so I went inside. The first thing I heard when I went in was the television playing some college football game, the volume turned pretty high up. Anton wasn't watching it (though I didn't know why he would in the first place) so I called out, "Hey man, what's up, it's Silas. Just wanted to stop by and say hi." He didn't say anything, and I noticed the bathroom door was shut, its light coming out from underneath, so I smirked, realizing that he was shitting and probably wasn't too happy about me being present for that. I went over closer to the door.
"C'mon, Anton," I said, "sorry I came in when you were taking a shit or whatever, but you shouldn't leave your fucking door unlocked when you're doing it." He still didn't say anything, so I just shrugged.
"Well, dude, like it or not, I'm gonna stick around till you're done," I called back to him as I walked back down the short hallway to the living room, noticing how clean his apartment now seemed. "I'll just play some Team Fortress for a bit and we'll talk when you're done." I plopped down on his black couch, switching on his PlayStation 3 and loading up the game, starting with a Capture-the-Flag match. I played for about twenty minutes before I realized that Anton was still shitting or ignoring me or whatever, so I shouted, "Dude, c'mon, I'm sorry about the fuckin' party, but I haven't heard from you in a while. What's the deal man, c'mere!" I rolled my eyes and paused the game just as my Medic character got shot and got up and walked back down the hall.
"You better've eaten some shitty leftover curry or something, man," I called through the door, knocking on it. Still no answer. I got this weird feeling as I waited for a beat and realized that he might not even be in there, so I opened the door. I first noticed the floor was wet and that Anton wasn't sitting on the toilet and then I saw that the bathtub right adjacent to the toilet was full to the brim with red water and Anton was sitting in it. He was fully clothed, but I could tell from the one arm that wasn't submerged, sitting up on the edge of the tub, with the black hoodie sleeve pushed up to the elbow, that the exposed wrist was completely hacked open, its contents long gone. A small steak knife sat next to the tub on the floor in a pale red puddle of water. I took this all in almost instantly before I realized what I was looking at and exclaimed, "Oh Jesus fucking--" and backed up against the wall where the sink was, not taking my eyes off Anton. For a second, I thought he might not be dead, that it might be an attempt, but his skin was too pale and there seemed to be a slight foam build-up on his mouth. Aside from that, he looked exactly the same as the last night I saw him when he walked in his door. The same dingy black hoodie. The same t-shirt with a band on it. The same work boots he wore every day. The same disheveled short black hair. The same everything. It was as if he had frozen in time. I stared at him for an uncertain amount of time, my breathing becoming shorter and faster and eventually I collapsed onto the wet floor, shaking, saying "What the fuck?" over and over again, tears trying to make their way to the surface for what seemed like a decade before they finally did. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to will the image of Anton sitting there away, but when they opened he was still there, continuing to stare into the crack in the bathroom wall in front him.
The paramedics hauled him out of the bathtub about an hour later. As they packaged him up in one of those long black bags with the zipper down the middle, I sat on the couch, staring at the pause screen of Team Fortress 2, half-answering questions directed at me by the police officer standing nearby, holding a small notepad. I eventually stopped saying anything and when he asked me if I needed a moment, I just asked him if I could go. He said okay.

The memorial service happened about five days later. There were more people than I expected, most of them from Anton's family, but it wasn't a large service. Julia came with me and we showed up just as the service was starting, so we sat in the back. I didn't want to sit close to the front anyway. She started crying at one point, silently shaking next to me. Some people, mostly family members, went up and spoke about some aspect of Anton's life and when it was open to anyone to speak, I thought about going up for a moment, but I didn't, just staring straight ahead at the church's hymnals and Bibles, my mind blank.
There was a reception of sorts afterward in the church's basement cafeteria, but Julia and I didn't stay for it. We left out the front doors and on the front steps she gave me a long hug before she went off to her car. I breathed in the autumn air for a moment before lighting up a quick cigarette, taking a few drags, staring at the neighborhood. After a couple moments, I noticed another person on the steps; this woman in her late forties or fifties, also smoking a cigarette. She saw me and said hello and I noticed she had deep red rims around her eyes, moisture built up as if it would never go away.
"You knew Anton?" she asked me. I paused and then nodded, taking a drag, saying nothing. She nodded.
"I'm his mom," she said, almost sheepish, smiling awkwardly, dragging on her Camel.
"Oh," I replied. "I'm Silas." She nodded, not saying anything, and went back to staring straight ahead.
"He never really mentioned anything about his family," I said off-hand. She sighed, looking down.
"I can't imagine he would," she replied. Another silence.
"When'd you last see him?" I asked.
"Oh…I couldn't even tell you," she said, looking skyward for a second, thinking. "I tried calling him. It was…maybe a week ago?" She stopped, wiped her eyes, sniffing. "He told me that he couldn't talk and even if he could, he wouldn't and that he had to go meet his friend. And he just hung up." She paused for a beat before continuing, "And…the funny thing is, I didn't care that he hung up on me. I mean, it wasn't the first time, but I just focused on that last part." He eyes welled up, her lip quivering. "Anton, he…he never really had friends. Not since he was a kid, you know? Never suited him, I guess." She kind of laughed, looking down, ashing her cigarette, before looking up again, finally at me. "Was he talking about you?" she asked.
I looked down, studying my shoes for a couple seconds before shrugging, saying, "Yeah…" There was a pause. "I'd like to think so, I guess."

After that, life essentially went on. Julia and I didn't really talk about it because there really was nothing more to say. I didn't really bring it up with any of my other friends, and while some of them knew and offered awkward apologies as if they were the ones who did it, it just never came up or became an issue, probably because I never let it. Somehow Azalea heard about it but when I picked up my phone and heard her voice I just let her linger for a moment before I hung up and unplugged my landline.

A couple months passed. Obama won the presidential election. Thanksgiving happened and I avoided the subject with my family. Julia finished up her final semester at the beginning of December and she, some friends of ours and us went out to celebrate at the CC Club. We put at least ten bucks into the jukebox and played songs by Gogol Bordello, Dillinger Four, VHS or Beta, and Flogging Molly, drinking good beer and shouting festively amongst ourselves, smiling, laughing. I got a promotion at work as well as a Christmas bonus, which surprised me since I didn't think I had been doing anything to deserve it, but I didn't complain. Christmas came and went; gifts, hugs, and well-wishings exchanged. Then Julia and her housemates had a huge New Years Eve party, gathering up a good eighty people. We all drank good Summit from the keg and exchanged stories from the past year, leaving things about the earlier fall months out. I met a girl at the party who thankfully wasn't too drunk and at midnight we kissed and after talking to her for another hour or so, she gave me her number and told me to call her, and she went off to find another party she was invited to. The party wound down at about three AM and I passed out on the couch in the living room for a few hours, hearing the thumps of people passing by, leaving, intermittently.
I woke up at roughly seven or eight AM. The dawn light was peeking its way through the blinds and I blinked a couple of times before I got up to go to the kitchen for a glass of water, trying not to trip over a sleeping couple who were huddled together under a blanket on the other couch next to me. In the kitchen, after pouring myself a glass of water, I sat down at the small table, waking myself up, blinking again. When my eyes refocused, I noticed a bottle of half-drunk Red Stripe sitting in front of me. I stared at it for a few moments, a lead weight building up in my chest until I couldn't take it anymore, so I downed my water and returning to the living room, putting on my jacket and boots and leaving, trying not to wake up anyone else downstairs.
When I got down the street to the wooden footbridge going over the tracks, I was somewhat relieved to see that the hole in the fence was still intact. I climbed through and looked in both directions down the tracks for a few moments, my breath floating out of my mouth like smoke. I noticed about fifty yards down there was a set of freight cars, waiting to be picked up for later delivery. I walked over the snowy tracks to them, not really sure what I was doing or hoping to accomplish, but I climbed up on top of them anyway. I slowly walked to the end of the last car and stood at the edge staring down the tracks in front of me, the sun's rays poking over the trees into to my left, the cold air grazing across my face on my right. For a second I thought I could see a moving train, disappearing into the distance down the dark expanse of tracks, but when I looked again, there wasn't anything there.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Legend of Greyhound Hollow

Okay that subject may be a tad sick considering the circumstances, but so be it. It seems rather appropriate. I should have written about this in a more timely way but I just have not been compelled to write lately. I haven't been "feeling" it, if you will. I must mention this: writing up research reports for studies performed is probably the most unfun writing imaginable, so it's quite understandable that I have felt at least somewhat burned out on it. Keep in mind that not indenting by 0.5 inches on the second and any subsequent lines per reference cited on the references page is VERBOTEN. The APA can suck a chode.

So moving on to this light topic (hah, oh boy), I read the most fucked up headline in the longest time (if not ever) last Friday morning at about 6:15. I had just woke up from my alarm and had had about five to six hours of sleep, not normally bad for me, but needless to say, I basically had a scowl crossing my face and I couldn't open my eyes much further than a Clint Eastwood-like squint. I opened my internet browser to check my email and naturally my iGoogle pops up since its my homepage and I glanced at the headlines, expecting "John McCain blasts Obama for this" or "Miley Cyrus in new controversy for showing some of her thigh" but instead I'm treated with the following:

"Man beheaded on Greyhound bus"

In my barely awake stupor I thought that I had somehow stumbled upon the Onion's website or something equally unreal, but I read the story out of curiosity and while I was fascinated I actually felt physically sick. Basically these two guys, never knew each other, were sitting next to each other on the bus and all of a sudden with what was described as "a combination of a dog yelping and a baby screaming" there was this terrible yowl from their area when the older gentleman, some Asian guy, started stabbing this young (apparently carnival worker) with this big-ass hunting knife. Of course everyone panics and gets off the bus but later on when some people with makeshift weapons got back on to try to subdue the dude, he turns around and presents this young guy's severed head like a fucking trophy. After they got back off the bus, he started cutting up the body more. The most disturbing part is actually that there was no previous altercation: the guy just pulled out the knife and started stabbing "like he was a robot" a witness said. Didn't feel a goddamn thing.

Now I'm pretty sure that the media coverage of this, especially since it has dwindled some, will be minimal at this point. Which is good. But since this guy who did this is older, they probably won't try to blame any outside source like video games, music, or whatever. And as entertaining as it would be to see some "moralist" pundits (or as I like to call them "antiquated dinosaurs who want it to be 1953 again") will try to connect this to Grand Theft Auto IV or the new Nas album, it's refreshing that they have kept silent. They're just too concerned about that amorphus and nebulous innocent and pure creature known as "the children." As the late and great George Carlin said in response to this concern over our little ones, "Fuck the children!"

I'm hoping true experts in the field of clinical psychology will be around to figure this guy out. What made him snap like that? Did he have history of homicidal or at least violent behavior? Was he abused as a kid? Will he turn out to be simply a psychopathic sexual sadist (most likely) who was born this way and simply developed into the fucked up dude that decaptitated a carnie? In short, I wouldn't hold my breath to have these questions answered, but I hope there is at least some effort to report them. That's why I am going to keep a vigil over crimelibrary.com over the next year because hopefully an entry will be made about this "Vince Weiguang Li" character. Yes this is a horrific (jesus fucking christ yes it's horrific) tragedy, but this is the kind of shit that needs to be understood. And not enough effort is made to look into this stuff.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tequila is vile and makes me vomit

I literally would like nothing more than to see Tila Tequila mauled to death by a pack of diseased rabid dogs. Okay, that may be a bit excessive (what? me, excessive?). But every time I see that rat-like face appear on TV (don't ask me what I'm doing browsing MTV) or Myspace ads or wherever, I can feel the vein in my temple protrude forth just a little bit further and twitch three or four times.

But the fundamental question is this: how did Ms. "Tequila" get famous, anyway? Of course, the primary way many young American women today attain that coveted Fifteen Minutes of Fame: by being a shameless whore in some form or another and because she happens to have funny-lookin' eyes and supposedly likes to munch carpet every now and then. Yes, the two most coveted fetishizations in white American male culture, thank you very much Escape Ultra Lounge and Girls Gone Wild. Read my lips: spare me.

But racial and sexuality fetishizations aside, she essentially became famous, relatively speaking, as early as 2003-2004 when she amassed an army of Myspace friends numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Keep in mind that this is when there were only about 500,000 people even on Myspace. I remember getting the friend request one day my senior year of high school and upon seeing it, I paroused her pictures for a couple hours (RESEARCH GODDAMN IT). But in all seriousness, I went to her profile and was aghast that someone could have over 100,000 friends, let alone over 300,000. It was astonishing. I thought that maybe she was famous, that she had done something worth mentioning. I couldn't find anything; I guess she was a model or something. I didn't know, and I still don't. Next thing we know, we have a retarded TV show (one of the multitudes of competitive dating shows...oh but WAIT...there's men AND women...oooohhh ssssscandalousssss!!) starring this abortion of celebrity culture and music that sounds like children being raped and tortured in a dark and dank Eli Roth-esque warehouse (though hearing Emily sing it is hilarious and awesome).

In case you couldn't really tell, Tila Tequila just makes me mad. Yeah, I know that life is too short to get worked up over shit like that. I honestly don't care. It's how I vent. Tila Tequila makes me angry because she is the umpteenth young woman in America to use that dark and dank Eli Roth-esque space between her legs to get famous. Now I realize that she might not be that stupid and is being an opportunist and is cashing in on these fetishizations that exist today and for that I'd have to say congratulations. Good for her. But what makes me so angry is that she just happened to be the first person to do it. It would have happened either way. And that inevitability, at the core, is why it gets me worked up.

Tila Tequila's fame pisses me off. Now Flavor Flav's continued fame through his show...that just depresses me. I would rant about that, but thinking about it, I just cannot stop weeping and pining for the days when "Yeahhh boooiiiii" was part of the hip-hop lexicon and not some nonsense catch-phrase we associate with a show where a bunch of horrifyingly unattractive hoochies compete for the affection (read: The All Mighty Dollar) of a wrinkled, washed-up, ex-member of one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time. Thank Christ it isn't Chuck D.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Two Girls, One Cup, and a Fabulous Piece of American Culture

I think I would be quite hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't at least heard of the now-infamous sapphic erotica-turned-fecal delicacy viral video sensation that swept the internet last year known as "2 Girls, 1 Cup." I remember my first viewing of as I am sure many in my situation seeing it do: the minute that soft-serve poo came forth from the dialated sphincter of one of these women, I screamed in fright with a smattering of sickened and shocked laughter interspersed. It didn't take long (around the point where vomit was introduced as the new cast member) for a wave of nausea to hit me (the three MGDs I had in my stomach certainly not helping; don't ask me why I was drinking that bear piss), and I had to turn and stagger away as my other friends nearby cackled with evil glee. To this day, I still haven't watched the video in its entirety.

So why has this piece of viral culture even become a piece of viral culture? What made this become part of the cultural internet lexicon in the first place? What made it become this online sensation and since when has it even been a "sensation" to watch two women smear shit all over each other and give each other these excessive Roman Showers? "2 Girls, 1 Cup" is the current three-legged dog, or train wreck, if you will (better yet, it can also be seen as the new "Dancing Baby" video from the internet's days of old). Despite it apparently now costing money to view this video (which apparently is only a TRAILER for the film Hungry Bitches...I can't even imagine what the whole video is like), I somehow doubt its momentum and popularity will slow anytime soon. This has made me wonder where the appeal came from in the first place; I wondered this quite literally seconds after it was over and even posed the question to those with me who forced me to watch it. The mix of responses mostly boiled down to "'Cause it's fuckin' awesome!" As Chuck Klosterman says in his essay on internet porn and its recent proliferation, pornography is "the place we go to see what we don't admit to wanting." Does that mean that on an unconscious level we are all a group of depraved, mangy coprapheliacs? Of course not (though I obviously can't speak for EVERYONE who's seen this video). But being exposed to taboos is something that we seem to pathologically seek out. It's quite similar to this recent glut of horror films that have been lovingly dubbed as "torture porn," such as the Hostel or Saw films, which have grossed absurd amounts of money for, what many people have said to me, films that are simply about disgusting the audience. But this is very telling when you look at the box office grosses for these films (the first Saw film, made for 1 or 2 million dollars grossed over 100 MILLION DOLLARS worldwide!); we clearly WANT to be disgusted. Look at Youtube when you search for "2 Girls 1 Cup": there are over 16,900 videos, most of them devoted to people's reactions to the video, a lot of them with many million views. One of my favorite trends in a lot of these videos of people reacting is the response that comes from some of them, which is to cover their mouth and nose with their t-shirts, as if the most foul, rank stench has emitted from the computer they're watching this on. But a lot of them continue to watch.

Most people, before the proliferation of "2 Girls, 1 Cup", probably didn't even think (or want to think) that there were people out there with a love for doo-doo-smearing/eating. What was so amazing and important about the way this video was spread was how whenever someone would be told that they "really needed to see it," they were never actually told what it was that they would be soon watching. It was this unspoken certainty that people wouldn't want to watch this if they knew what it was beforehand. Now this is true, and at the same time untrue. They were told (eventually, at least) that what they were going to see was going to be revolting, but they were rarely told exactly what it was, and that is what made it so sensational. The mystery of what could possibly be so disgusting to warrent all of this attention is what drove people to watching it, ultimately. But I think that we'd have watched it even if we had been told what it was. I think this because I get this sense that my generation is a generation of boasters; we want to say that we've seen something, or heard something, or done something, so we can essentially be "in on it." It can be seen like referential comedy, like Family Guy: if you haven't experienced what it is they're referencing, you won't get the joke. In this case, if you haven't seen "2 Girls, 1 Cup", you won't be in on the viral sensation sweeping the country. Plus, we like to shock ourselves, as I was saying before. When you put these two factors together, it is perfectly understandable why it's appealing to watch to women smear shit and vomit all over themselves. It's a matter of being able to say you did it. Even people who got angry/sick from watching this video still sat through it because they can now say that they not only saw one of, if not THE most revolting thing on the internet today, they saw "2 Girls, 1 Cup", and therefore, they are in on the sensation.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Tom Cruise Dilemma

Upon recently watching Magnolia for the first time in at least a year, I came to the conclusion that all of this tabloid-errific kerfuffle on Tom Cruise is, without a doubt, complete garbage. In Magnolia, Cruise plays a very detestable character. He flashes that multi-million dollar smile quite frequently, but you almost expect a serpentine tongue to come snaking out from between his teeth as he pontificates his theories on life (which somehow connect to his mantra "Respect the cock and tame the cunt"). This character is reprehensible and thouroughly dislikable. But he has depth and you even feel bad for him by the end of the film, thankfully due to the amazing job P.T. Anderson did when writing this film and specifically this role. It's a very complex character and it needs to be remembered that Tom Cruise chose to do this role. Now you look at this film and then you look at say, Vanilla Sky or The Last Samurai, films that critics and viewers have over-zealously and cynically referred to as "vanity pieces" for the versatile and charismatic actor. I just need to first of all say that if Vanilla Sky was a vanity piece for ANYONE, it was a vanity piece for writer-director Cameron Crowe, since when you watch the behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD, he never seems to shut up. Now moving on. The term "vanity piece" is a cheap cop-out for critics and viewers to use when they are made uncomfortable by the stardom onscreen. Is it jealousy? I don't know. What I do know is that no one seems to be pinning this claim of "vanity piece" on people like George Clooney for Michael Clayton or Matt Damon for the Bourne trilogy, when those movies so clearly focused on their respective stars. Also, this claim for Tom Cruise taking on "vanity pieces" didn't seem to truly surface until semi-recently, and selective amnesia seems to have taken hold over everyone when movies like Magnolia are mentioned. So I beg the question that sounds just as ridiculous as it actually is: why is everyone picking on Tom Cruise?

To address this fundamental question of the ages is not difficult, but I must rhetorically ask, where did the Tom Cruise from the days of yore (read: the Days of Thunder) disappear to? What happened to America's 1 male star of the 1990s? People clearly haven't gotten tired of his movies; in 2006, Mission: Impossible III made a good $47,743,273 in its opening weekend alone, and over $133,000,000 dollars overall. He also hasn't negated his range as an actor, evidenced by another pretty dislikable turn in last year's underrated Lions for Lambs as a Republican war-mongering senator. The Tom Cruise that everyone loved for a very long time disappeared with the first bounce on Oprah's couch.

Now we've been seeing Tom Cruise chew scenery for years. Though he doesn't do it with the intensity and, well, Pacino-ness of someone like Al Pacino, he does noticably do so, like in the aforementioned Magnolia or in Jerry Maguire. He is not known for being a minimalist actor; in sum, he is quite intense. But for some reason, seeing him be just as intense and crazy in a so-called "real-life situation" (because being on Oprah's show is basically an uncontrolled, unbiased extension of reality), just did not sit well with the American public. For some reason, the people couldn't handle it and there was a tabloid explosion across the country about these "couch-jumping antics." It was forgotten that he was a phenomenal actor and America simply lost touch with what mattered. His career took a backburner position to a tabloid-influenced perception on what his personal life was.

This has indeed happened to many actors, usually when they have become "washed up." In other words, (perceptions of) their personal lives become a lot more important and vital to the cultural zeitgeist than the impact their performances have had on the movies that they have been in. However, like I said before, people clearly do not perceive Tom Cruise as washed up. He makes money for studios, clearly. But Paramount "let him go." All the press releases in the world can say that it was about this or that, but at their bases, they simply were put off by this new and out-of-control Tom Cruise that was making headlines everywhere. So since he clearly was not washed up, what put everyone off about him, anyway? When watching the infamous Youtube sensation that was his 10 minute diatribe about the perfection of his religion, the question need not be asked any longer.

At the end of the day, it boils down to people being put off by his beliefs. Yes, it is indeed his own fault by being so publically vocal about his opposition to prescription drugs, Brooke Shields, and the like. This nonsense about the aforementioned video being "leaked" was most likely just a publicity stunt, sure. That's not the point. What matters is that people have been put off by Tom Cruise's religion; it really is that simple.

However, how could they not be? Scientology, at its base, carries beliefs involving extraterrestrial aliens dropping billions of humans around volcanoes 75 million years ago and dropping H-bombs on them, making their souls cluster together and stick to the living bodies, which is who we are, as humans, today. On top of that, on a personal level, I find it insulting that anyone condemns prescription psychiatric medicine. I do indeed feel that America is incredibly over-medicated, especially for things like anxiety and so forth, but it's absurd to consider that schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder can be recognized by some device called an "E-meter" and that medical care is not needed for people with those conditions (unless of course it's in the vein of Scientology). It's regressive to believe otherwise and if we all lived in a world like that, it would be almost as if frontal lobotomies would be commonplace again. Calling Scientology an "alternative to psychology" is not bullshit, not in the slightest. But to say it's a better alternative is. Clearly, I have my reservations about this religion, and so does a good majority of America.

However, look at the beliefs involving the extraterrestrial beings scattering our souls and whatnot (I forgot to mention that the aliens were led by the leader of the Galactic Confederacy, Xenu). It is obvious that these beliefs are a little more than a tad ridiculous. But...I must express some confusion here. Isn't it...JUST as ridiculous to believe that there was a man who parted the Red Sea with merely a wooden staff and the with assistance of a magical man in the sky? Or what about that one guy who walked on water and professed love and peace and brotherhood until he was nailed onto two pieces of wood to die only to be resurrected a few days later? Seems to me that these stories are just as absurd as those of Scientology. However, we don't see people like Martin Scorsese, a well-known Catholic get ostracized. Hmm...I wonder what's going on here...

The goal of Scientology is to have "a civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights." (Wikipedia). One cannot exactly argue against a goal like that and nor can they with the (unperverted) goal of Christianity, one of basically the same fundamentals of being kind to one another and supporting one's fellow man, et cetera. To break off with a short editorial (not like I ever do that...), that is my problem with religion. Why do we need all these tenets and writings and speakers to tell us to be good people? The goals are somewhat unrealistic and become at odds with human nature to nasty and brutish (not to sound overly Hobbesian), so it's understandable why they are there, but it doesn't make me any happier than we as a people need these structures of belief to essentially keep us in line. It simply paints us as animals capable of making abstractions...but maybe, at the end of the day, that's all we are. That is a discussion for another day, once the vein in my forehead has ceased protruding.

It's easy for America to discriminate. We're extremely good at it; it's been our area of expertise since 1607 when we fucking landed here. And in this day and age, the celebrity has become the shining flagship of our culture and we typically follow their lives more closely than our own leaders. They are who we hope to become in a lot of ways; they are also who we look up to. But when one of them, one that we have adored for many years because of his movies, betrays us by showcasing what he believes in (which goes against the general consensus and is only weird because our own weird beliefs are the majority), we instinctively smite him from his public adoration.

So all this being said, my final plea for the American public: please lay off Tom Cruise.

Monday, May 19, 2008

CC

All right so the first order of business: a comment on cynicism.

There are many people that will lay claims on being cynical, but they sadly do not have the grasp of cynicism that is necessary to function with it. What they lack is the ability to laugh at what makes them cynical. Lucifer himself was the ultimate cynic: he was the first to laugh at God's infallibility. If one can attain that, then they are a true cynic.

Yes, you heard it right: I am saying that in order to be cynical, one must strive to be like Lucifer. Ahem. Moving on.

Now there is a place that I truly enjoy. I never thought I would. It's a little dive bar on 26th St and Lyndale Avenue called the CC Club. Absolute dive, but it's been growing on me like a tumor as the months have gone by since my first visit there.

My first foray into the world of the CC Club was, shall we say, unpleasant? I got the service that a chimpanzee might have provided: few words exchanged, a glare, my beer basically tossed like a grenade onto my table, and excrement thrown all over me...okay, that last part didn't really happen, not literally, but figuratively, most definitely. I left the bitch a 25 cent tip and felt good about it.

But as time passed and more visits accumulated, I started to develop a taste for the sticky, dank, dark environment that was the CC Club. I would attend with friends such as DQ, Benji P, and so on, and it simply started appealing. I have compiled a number of reasons why this place appeals so:

1.) Always a boisterous attitude when you enter amongst those already imbibing spirits there, excluding the aging, almost geriatric individuals near the front.

2.) You are bound to meet some type of character there, whether you know them or not. Take, for example, this guy who came up to me and a friend of mine whilst we sat at the bar and proceeded to rant about some great punk-esque band, concur on my observation on Dillinger Four being astoundingly awesome, make a googily-eyed expression at my friend (female) and walk off, never to be seen again.

3.) The mix between gutter punks (*shudder*), old losers (*blech*), and yuppie scum (*UGH*) somehow is incredibly appealing. You can see some interesting confrontations if you wait long enough.

4.) The prices aren't obscene. That's never a bad thing.

5.) THEY HAVE FOOD TO EAT, but...

6.) It is remarkably close in proximity to an amazing deli across the street. They have everything there, from good 2-for-1 deals on cigarettes, if that's your thing, to some amazing gyro sandwiches, if you're simply famished and didn't want any CC food. Or a bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos and XXX Vitamin Water that you bought for no particular reason other than it looked tasty. And it was.

There are many reasons to love a dive like the CC Club. There are also many reasons to hate it. But I see it as a very integral part of our city life here in Minneapolis. It is a good place for the young to congregate, whether or not they want to consume large amounts of intoxicant. It's been around for many, many years and has been sang about by bands like The Replacements or Motion City Soundtrack. Truly an awesomely awful place on many levels. You know that a place is a place fit for kings when it has the ability to bring down the lofty and raise up the lowly in the way that the CC Club does.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Too Much Love

So in the spirit of writing more accessible and less pretentious (a better term for them actually: bullshit) works in this measly blog, I am returning to my roots (from six or seven months ago...yeah, eons, I know) of simply dissecting and disseminating aspects of this city I call home for the time being. So, to begin, I should give you an idea of what occurs on a Saturday night for many people (sometimes it seems a tad too often?). This is a little something known as Too Much Love.

It began in early 2007 as a pet project of Peter Lansky, known by many as DJ Sovietpanda. Like or hate the kind of music he does, you must admit, this local celebrity of sorts knows how to project himself and his parties quite effectively and has definitely been reaping the (at least social) benefits for the last year or so. The music is a mix of hopefully danceable tunes; electro (the fixture many of the frequent attendees cling to and call home, musically), techno, hip-hop, and general pop/rock remixes of songs that you've forgotten about since you stopped listening to them in 1998. Sometimes things are shaken up a bit by guest DJs, such as my personal favorite Naughtywood, whose music just makes me feel like I'm permanantly stuck in that hotel I've bitched about where everyone's fucking except you. However, in this case, this tension isn't bad, since it just compels you to dance a tad harder. This being said, the VIP room is also accessible to those who are little more hardcore/purist in their fandom of electronic music, and offers some more specified types of music, and seems to perpetually reek of ganja. Going to this institutionalized carnival-esque event has become somewhat of a ritual for many and one can generalize it all they want, because the stories deviate very little from a set path.

It usually begins at one of the people in your group's house/apartment with a pre-game event of sorts that can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. This is an 18+ event after all, and frankly, it's quite difficult for anyone to have a good night at this dance club without being inebriated in some fashion or another, mostly due to the palor of our skin, those of us who frequent this place. Plus it also distracts us from any pain we might feel from seeing mismatched clothes or from the occasional horrifically and monumentally terrible mash-up/remix of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

So once the imbibation of fantastic spirits has concluded, the (most)sober person will sardine everyone into their car so tightly that you can't move much short of your little finger on your right hand. The music, usually in the same vein as the music you're about to hear and be dancing to, begins to play loudly on the car's stereo (unless you're lucky enough to be riding with someone who likes to blast Slayer as they careen down Lyndale Avenue at break-neck speeds), and you drive off into the night, ready to, in the parlance of our times, "get your drink and dance on."

You eventually pull into the nearby parking ramp just down the street from Minneapolis' beloved club First Avenue where the festivities are about to take place and quickly find a place to park. Sometimes, some of the people you're with will take some quick swigs of some sort of alcohol to further their buzz that seems to be inexorably slipping away from them like it's on a down-graded ice rink. Others will get out of the car immediately and light up some cigarettes if they are so inclined. Everyone congregates, throwing their jackets into the car, and they begin their brief trek to the black-brick den of revelry.

You get to the door area of First Avenue with your friends, sometimes having to wait in line, seeing countless people that you know and are good acquaintances with, saying hello, what's up, et cetera. At the door itself you're carded and if you're lucky enough to be over the magical number of 21 in age, you get no big black Xs on your hands and are bestowed a magical colored bracelet that provides you access to any of the five bars in the club. Now here's the tricky part: getting in for free. It's quite a complicated process, but there are two ways about it. You can either rich into your pocket/purse/whatever, and produce that nice shiny University of Minnesota, MCTC (or whatever college you attend) I.D., and show it to the nice girl behind the counter who will smile and nod you through, or you can rack your brain for the magical phrase for a moment (but not TOO long; they might realize you're trying to pull one over on them; they are a crafty bunch, those folks working the door at First Avenue), and finally say, the words emitting perfectly from your lips, every nuance perfectly enunciated, "I saw the ad in the City Pages," and sure enough, that aforementioned nice girl behind the counter will nod and let you through. Now I realize that these processes are quite complex, but with practice, in no time, you will no longer be shelling out three bucks every weekend that you go!

So now you're in the club. The music overtakes you, but you have not consumed enough vodka cranberries, PBR Tallboys (2 bucks only before midnight, remember!), and massive bottles of Summit EPA. You can't dance in this sober state, let alone look at all of these people in the eye for more than four seconds. As you're about to go upstairs, you are confronted by at least 24 people that you know in one way or another, you say your hello's, goodbye's, give your hugs, complex urbanified handshakes, and whatnot, and you are off on your merry way to the bar again.

Now if your fortunate enough, the guy serving at the bar (whom I call "The Machine") will working there. This guy moves like Data in Star Trek. One who is a cynic might assume that he is just hopped up on dexies or blow, but this guy must operate on pure energy and enthusiasm. He knows the patrons want to get drunk and they want to get drunk NOW, so he operates on that mentality, churning out at least four dozen drinks in a 15 minute span of time. So you order your drink, be it mixed, canned, or bottled, and you have it in less than 30 seconds. Pure magic. So you and your friends get and consume your drinks, getting into the mood, sometimes getting stopped by people from the City Pages to have your photo snapped, possibly to appear in the next issue or issues to come, sometimes shouting a hello to familiar face across the room who comes over to greet everyone. You make a run to the ATM, vowing not to spend more than the amount you extract for the rest of the night and return to your friends, some of which, usually the ones who began to emulate Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa back at your place, are getting antsy to go dance. Everyone brings their drinking to a close for the time being and file down the steps and onto the main floor where the lights are flashing in such as a way that would be detrimental to anyone with epilepsy.

Dancing occurs, of all types (bad, good, sexy, frightening, bat-shit insane), amongst you and your friends and others you may (or may not) know who make it a point to congregate with your group. The songs change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. In the case of it being for the worse, one of your friends suggests more drinks should be purchased and you, of course, wholeheartedly agree, feeling the music here stripping your buzz off you like it was your skin. Soon you will care very little (at least you hope).

The night continues on until last call, drinks drank, dancing had, and festivities abound. You understand that this is a completely pointless and fruitless practice (unless you are the type to come to this to, as the boys from A Night At The Roxbury, refer to it, score), but you got to socially immerse yourself in an aspect of Minneapolis night life. You and your friends get back to the car (unless of course you go to an afterparty somewhere else downtown, something that seemed to happen a little more often in the fall of 2007) and you all make your ways home. Love or despise Too Much Love, this is a key part of Minneapolis' youth culture today; it is indeed pointless, but it has become ingrained in our minds as something to do on weekends.
So what did you accomplish by going out to First Avenue tonight? You may wonder this to yourself, especially if you're excessively introspectual. So what happened? You drank. You were merry. What more could you want? What did you have to lose? Well, aside from the mysterious $7.50 that you spent at some point in the night, as evidenced by the crumpled receit in your pocket that you find the next day and question in the midst of the worst headache and gut-rot in the history of time itself.

The Family Guy Nation

Now I've been thinking, especially since earlier today I watched the thrilling and hilarious conclusion of the Cartoon Wars episode of South Park. You know, the one where Cartman takes on Family Guy and Kyle rushes to stop him and then the shocking truth about the writers of Family Guy comes out, with a little cameo appearance by America's original animated bad boy to spice things up on the side? That one. Anyway, this episode got me thinking about the nature of Family Guy and South Park and how, while quite similar, they both represent the crucial distinction between pastiche and parody.

I must first admit that yes, I am admitting that I got influenced by a South Park episode, as embarrassing as that sounds. But yet, at the same time, I have always felt this way about Family Guy. I do find Family Guy to be a funny show; it amuses me in all the right ways. But what it has in its ability to make us recall parts of pop culture (or not), it lacks in the ability to be subversive, which is something I wish comedy would strive to be more. Family Guy represents what has become of what we find funny in this day and age of Youtube clips and soundbytes. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with that, because that stuff is still indeed funny in its own way. But it's meaningless, and since we are a people who love to find meaning in things (like it or not, we do), it's slightly disturbing to see subversive edge being lost. On top of that, it's arguable that by partaking in this exchange of references, these knowledges, is a very isolating and, at worst, alienating process. The more you know about pop culture, the more you can participate in its referencing. The less you know, well, you get the idea. Last time I checked, and after taking an entire semester on the nature of comedy itself, comedy was supposed to be unifying, not alienating. However, that's not to say that this referential style of humor is totally alienating; we can indeed come together and enjoy the references together as a group, but what's disturbing, at least somewhat to me, is the loss of meaning and, like I've been rambling about, the subversive edge.

How does Family Guy work, at its base? This South Park episode nailed it. Normally, South Park will go for the satirical and over-the-top parody of something to make it funnier, but in this case, Parker and Stone were restrained and simply showed Family Guy for what it was: completely arbitrary references drawn away from their original context and simply being presented as is. This relentless intertextuality can be quite wearing on a person, especially someone who seeks subversion in his entertainment. *Cough* So anyway, it makes these ahistorical references through observations of popular culture that carry little meaning in terms of narrative, context, and just plain, straight-up fucking coherence. Family Guy's humor boils down to this: either you get it or you don't. Obviously, that's how a joke works, but at this level, it is as simple as, "if you haven't seen an episode from that show Northern Exposure, you're not gonna get it." That's not humor, that's what can be called a giant, empty fuck room. There's nothing there. It's like the way we all watch Youtube videos. Some of them are funny based on the physically comedic aspect to them, like the kid falling out of the car and smacking his face against a parked one (classic), or simply referential, like showing clips of Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in all the moments where he says "Junior." Is this what's funny today? Sure. I'm not pretending that I don't find this kind of humor funny; like I said before, I laugh at Family Guy. It's a funny show. But I just find it remarkable how many of us find stuff like this funny and how it has coursed its way through our culture so much so, that that is usually what we think of when we think of comedy.

I get this feeling that Trey Parker and Matt Stone felt the same way, since this South Park episode I've been yakking and yammering like a group of middle-aged women at Starbucks about, at the end of the day, comes across as so damn deeply political; so much so that it is NOT pastiche like Family Guy and becomes an honest-to-Christ parody. Now that's not to say that South Park, like Family Guy, is not intertextual as hell; it is. However, it handles the intertextuality in a much different way: Family Guy, like I said, just shows random pop culture references strung together, and South Park does the same thing, but they tie it into a larger point or sometimes even their narrative. In other words, they typically think about what they are writing before they produce it for the screen. This being said, Family Guy's dirty little secret (at least in South Park's world) is that the show's writing staff is populated by manitees that simply nudge random pop culture references into a tube that randomly organize them into a, you guessed it, random reference. And sure enough, it actually, in its nonsensical way, makes sense: you could do it yourself, as could a manitee. Honestly, the hilarity and yet also the truth of this joke South Park put forth, for me, was staggering; I nearly shit my pants laughing.

But now to the heart of the matter. Humor has indeed become very (Jesus H. Christ I hate this term, but for lack of a better one...) "po-mo." It's randomly assembled and it lacks coherence and it constantly references itself. At least parts of it have. Family Guy can be seen as representative of this; it is the epoch of post-modern humor and even social order; it repeats the randomness over and over again, and in reality, there is no new joke there. Sure there are cosmetic differences, but it's simply the same thing, perpetuated endlessly. Now South Park takes a lot intertextuality and so on, but it subverts these things (god, I love the sound of that word) and plays with them from the inside; it uses this intertextuality as a frame, and instead of becoming acontentextual and meaningless, it creates a genius parody. However, this all being said, what was it that caused Parker and Stone to see the Family Guy sense of humor as important to devote two of their episodes to? One could believe, and this may be a stretch, that they were saying that Family Guy is representative of the way we think today as a people. We are the Family Guy Nation: all we understand anymore as a people is references to things we've already created and nothing historical is in our cultural mindset or even lexicon.Think of it this way: it is understandable that the one nation with absolutely no sense of history or context in the global sense, and only a sense of its popular culture, gets attacked by groups that were AFFECTED by this generalized ignorance of the rest of the world.

Now I have raised the stakes on two cartoon shows that I enjoy immensely so astronomically high, I want to projectile vomit all over the screen. But I gotta say: intellectual masturbation like this is incredibly addictive sometimes, especially when it seems to make a large amount of sense. What can be said ultimately? Nothing, really. These shows are both immensely funny in their own ways and nothing is actually WRONG with finding humor like that of Family Guy funny. There's nothing wrong with being cued into popular culture; it is indeed a way of life for all of us, especially those of us in the younger age group bracket. The only sad thing is that it seems like the majority is ONLY cued into popular culture, and sadly, I get this feeling that we all reach that point when we just get way too worn the fuck out to deal with the real world and its problems.

Miley Cyrus

I've found myself reading celebrity gossip more than I would be ready to admit recently. My so-called integrity has been extinguished long ago, so I don't feel too ashamed to write about it, and honestly, it is what interests people in my age group the most. Now this isn't calling Miley Cyrus a "stupid underage whore" because she clearly is not. She has made some at least semi-cogent claims that she will never stoop to the level that Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, and others of their ilk have of late. I must first say that she should be careful what she promises.

If I recall, it was Spears who claimed she would stay a virgin until marriage (at least her younger sister was more honest than that). But look at when she is making this promise: she is fifteen fucking years old. For Christ's sake, I made so many promises and claims when I was fifteen that I may or may not have had any intention keeping, that I definitely did not live up to later on in life. You can't make claims about who you are as a person when you don't even fucking know who you ARE as a person! She has her parents and her gargantuan network (not to mention her many, many legions of fans) dictating who she is. She is being defined by culture itself and when she gains a sense of autonomy she may break away or may stick with it. I just think that with the nature of the business she has become part of being a glaring factor in this Hollywood story, it is more likely than not that she will become the next sex-tape gossip case with such-and-such boyfriend of the given week.

So what happened? Apparently, Ms. Cyrus (as the New York Times would refer to her as) recently did a photo shoot for Vanity Fair with none other than Annie Leibovitz, one of the greatest rock and roll photographers and modellers of our time. There were some photographs that depicted Cyrus wrapped a bedsheet, her BACK exposed. Naturally, reps from the Disney Channel went ape shit, as did Cyrus and her family, because 15-year-old girls don't EVER get undressed and to imply that she might not be wearing any clothes is not only a carnal sin, but it's indecent and disturbing. Through her publicist, Cyrus claims that she, quote, "had no idea any of this was going to happen" and that she was deeply sorry to her fans who she "cares so much about." See, her fans are young girls, mostly (but also including a nice percentage of my 19-22 year old female friends), and I can't remember the last time I saw an eight-year-old girl pick up a Vanity Fair and page through it, let alone having a moral epileptic seizure when they saw a photo of a girl with her BACK exposed.

Oh and it didn't stop there. Reps at Disney went on to say that it was a "manipulation of a 15-year-old" in order to sell magazines. That may be. But I kind of find it hard to believe that people over at Disney and Cyrus' family are that out of touch that they don't have any idea of what to expect in a photo spread from Vanity Fair. Not only that, it is very interesting that this becomes an issue all of a sudden. Her parents were present. They and Cyrus looked at the photos after they were taken. Cyrus herself said, quote, "I think it's really artsy...it wasn't in a skanky way. Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought that was really cool. That's what she wanted me to do, and you can't say no to Annie." (quote taken from Yahoo news article). Then all of a sudden there is a reversal of opinion in the Cyrus camp and Vanity Fair becomes the Basin of Sin that is all things morally vacuous and indecent.

What's the point here? There is an undeniable influence from Cyrus' network, the Disney Channel and propping her up to be this virginal, all-things-innocent, "good" girl. Now it is most likely a fact that there are many readers of Vanity Fair who happen to be perverted, sick, and twisted 40-something men who fondle themselves imagining Miley Cyrus doing unspeakable things to them with hot wax and fuzzy, pink handcuffs. That's fine. That's sick, but fine, since they're not doing anything more about it; they're keeping it private (one should hope, of course). To show Cyrus like this in an aesthetically pleasing, dare I say artistic setting, as a young woman beginning to "bud," if you will, is not tasteless or obscene. Creating an image of her being pure and virginal: THAT is obscene. What is the image of virginity made for? At the end of the day, to be taken away. By creating that image, you make someone into a fetishized object and that's really what's being thought about when the aforementioned perverted old men see her now. THAT is what is being marketed. Disney is marketing her so-called innocence that, I hate to break it to you, is not going to last forever. Either way, her image will be defiled in some way, but it's a little less obscene and disturbing when it's being shown in an honest manner. I find it disturbing that the virginal image is not seen as obscene, but rather, ideal, and that Cyrus' parents and Cyrus herself are taken in by this definition Disney has afforded them. But that's belief structure for you.

Now this all being said, I personally think Miley Cyrus is unattractive and her dimples need to be deflated by several inches.

Music

First off, I must have probably the most important disclaimer I could possibly write: this is not me condemning music in the slightest. On the contrary, music has provided me more inspiration than anything (film, television, video games, books) ever could and it will continue to do so in the future I am sure. Music is fundamental to artistic expression all over the world and many of my friends and those close to me embrace music either directly through making it or indirectly through using it as, like myself, inspiration. I can say what I will about screamo being "a musical abortion" or Nine Inch Nails being the greatest band of the 1990s, but at the end of the day, one must give the necessary props to anyone with the balls to get up on a stage and make something that they (hopefully) believe in. Now I am sure there are exceptions, but for the sake of argument, let's just stick with this statement. It's the most positive you'll ever see me be. Now, moving on.

So recently I've found myself unable to listen to music. I'm not sure why. It just strikes the wrong chords within my head, no pun intended. There is just something about music right now that just is not sitting well with me. There is no explanation, at least not necessarily; if there is, that is something for my therapist to help me figure out. But I find myself having the most intriguing reactions when listening to music these days. The way certain genres of music sit with me are the following:

Techno/Other Electronic Music: Techno and most other types of electronic music (with certain exceptions), works off of this notion that there is a build and release. If Freud were to hear techno, he would quite possibly shit his pants in ecstasy with the orgasmic symbolic nature of it. A good techno song is like amazing sex (for a girl at least since the musical equivalent of a male orgasm is a song by Melt Banana); its intensity and complexity builds, builds, and builds on itself until it finally culminates with multiple beats that make you want to move your body, no matter how inhibited you may be. Putting a friend's assertion that he "shits on techno" in the garbage where it belongs, it is the most effective dance music out there. That said, I can't listen to it right now. I can dance to it, of course, but I can't put on my ear buds and listen to it on my iPod. When listening to techno, industrial, electro, etc, I just get this uncanny, well, tension that I don't know how to deal with. It feels like you're walking through a hallway of a hotel, dorm, or apartment, and every room is occupied with couples, and whether you know them or not, you know they're all fucking and having the time of their lives, and it just reminds you that you're not one of them. So this, in turn, makes me uncomfortable, and that in turn, makes me angry, so I press and hold down the Play/Pause button on my iPod as fast as I possibly can.

Hip-Hop/Rap: I don't normally listen to very much hip-hop or rap music, but I do have enough on my iPod that it's substantial enough of a genre worth covering. For me, listening to (hopefully good) hip-hop music usually is a nice liberation from the influx of indie, punk, and industrial that I usually listen to and it provides me with this sense that maybe I do understand the black community a little...okay, that was bullshit, but in all seriousness, it reminds me that there are other genres out there worth exploring, especially when they have roots in other genres you like. However, when I have turned on some Brother Ali, or Ill Bill, or whatever lately, I get this overwhelming sense of feeling incredibly fake and, dare I say it, self-righteous. This one is pretty damn obvious why I probably feel this way. Does it even need to be said? But the root of it since it's part of this epic issue still escapes me.

Punk/Pop-Punk: Yes, I do have some pop-punk, but in order to sound like a "true fan," I must rush to add that it's outnumbered and overshadowed by my "classic" punk collection. That being said, punk music is sadly an outlet that I've usually used when I've gone through periods of having difficulty finding pleasure in aural stimulation, but no longer is it effective. Punk is just one of those genres of music that works on a level of nihlism that is infectious, at least for me. Yes, some of the bands involved in punk have a kind of/sort of (or downright) political sensibility, but that isn't really why anyone listens to a punk band, at least on the onset of liking them. Punk is listened to for its catchy power-chords, its brisk, 2-3 minute-max songs (that's why "Frankenchrist" by Dead Kennedys never really sat as well with me as their earlier and far superior "Plastic Surgery Disasters"), and its brash attitude. It's hard to deny that, especially after a couple of beers, at a punk show, you have difficulty not nodding your head vigorously with the angry, yet bitterly and ironically peppy beat of the particular band performing. Pop-punk, though not even coming close to the aforementioned infectious nihilism of classic punk, still has that happy, ignorant sensibility with those incredibly easy-on-the-ears power-chords. However, I recently have had difficulty listening to any punk music without wanting to drive a pencil into my eyeball and twisting it six or seven times. I've been feeling like my IQ drops 60 points whenever I hear "Anarchy in the U.K." or "D4 = Putting the 'F' Back in 'Art'", as much as I love those songs. I feel like I haven't graduated high school yet and I should be made fun of for my acne-pock-marked face. In short, the annoyance I feel when punk music enters my ears has, as of late, been staggering.

Acoustic/Folk/Indie/Sad Bastard Music: Now this makes me feel bad that I've had trouble listening to this genre lately, but I guess it can be understandable in some cases. However, this set of music is my bread and butter when I'm taking time for myself, which I have been doing a lot of lately (compared to usual...so that's not saying much, but I digress). This is the good stuff that gets in your head and usually in its lyrics, it notes and even explores the idiosyncrasies of the human condition in (hopefully) an effective and moving way. This is the kind of stuff you want to hear in a movie to heighten the emotion the characters onscreen are feeling. This is the stuff that inspires me that absolute most when I'm writing something, especially that of the "sad bastard" variety. But, but, but, as I am sure one can guess, there ha been a problem with it lately, and it's actually quite simple. It is so oppresively weighty and saddening to listen to it these days. It's quite telling that you can't listen to something as amazing as "Between the Bars" by Elliott Smith or whatever for more than the first 10 seconds because you've switched to Lewis Black for humorous respite. However, there are no direct reasons why music of this variety makes me feel so oppressed and down; the sound of an acoustic guitar or sensitive lyrics being sung on my iPod is just too moving to handle, I suppose.

Now I have gone through a very general list of genres in my music library that have provided me with some difficulty lately. One has not, and that is the one of stand-up comedy. It's pretty obvious; since it's funny, I want to listen to it. It's also very direct; it brings up no lingering emotions, tension, or underlying issues or whatever, it just tickles me, pun very much intended in this case. Now I am sure that I can only listen to Bill Hicks for so long and I am equally sure that I will find some desire to listen to music again in the future. It is just one of the more odd things that has happened to me in recent years and for the life of me, I cannot understand why. Maybe I've just become so disillusioned with music that the only thing I will be able to stand hearing within six months will be the sound of air being blown into a jug. However, I feel optimistic that something will snap me back into enjoying it, because honestly, a life without concerts, trips to Cheapo to buy CDs, iTunes browsing, and simple sitting-and-listening sessions would be pretty damn empty, and I don't think anything could substitute that.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Atheism (first ramble)

"They don't have enough energy to have faith, for fuck's sake."
-Lewis Black

This is definitely true. Now, I've been relatively inactive in my atheism for the last several years. I'm not completely sure why, but I'm thinking that it might have something to do with the phrase, "I don't believe in God" is met with a response akin to something like having leprosy. It's an incredibly polarizing statement to say that you don't believe God; I mean come on, atheists are one of, if not THE most distrusted groups in America. I didn't want to be part of that group, or at least have it known that I'm part of that group. I think it's one of the most beautiful (and crushing) ironies in life that the group of people who admit they know nothing about the world and prefer solid facts over fantasies and tales of magic powers changing the world are the ones most distrusted. Now I'm not saying that all Christians don't believe in facts; most Christians that I know do believe in facts and some even have somewhat of a rational bone in their body in believing that the Big Bang happened, but that it was caused by a higher power. My problem is not necessarily with them. I'm going to be quite condescending in saying this, but it is how I feel: the belief in God or some higher power is nothing more than a crutch for our fear of the great unknown. It's such a sadness to see people reduced to weeping grandmothers because they can't seem to wrap their heads around the concept of the finality of death. It's impossible for some people to understand this. Sure, it's nice to think that we'll have a groovy time after our expiration date, but it's irrational. It's unhealthy. Humans cannot live up to their potential as people fully until they understand that this is all we got.

Now I clearly have problems with religion, but it is much larger than that. My problem goes beyond the irrational concepts; my problem is with belief structures themselves. Granted, I am stating a belief. Everyone has them. But when we structure them and especially institutionalize them, that is when problems arise. What was the Holocaust, considered by many to be the epoch of the cruelty of man, based upon. A belief structure. The Spanish Inquisition? A belief structure. The forcible relocating of Native Americans resulting the deaths of millions and the loss of culture? A belief structure. The Crusades? Many belief structures. "But beliefs are what hold humanity together, Alex," is what many would no doubt retort to me. Uh, yeah, I am very well aware of that. That's what I'm saying. Humanity is flawed, however. That is what the problem is. Of course it is what holds people together, but it's doing it in such a questionable way, I find it difficult to believe that it is even working. This is not me saying we need to find an alternative, because that won't happen. It can't happen. We can't wrap our heads around an alternative because we've been living this way for millions of years. We don't have any other options and I'm not pretending that I know any. I just feel that this is the root of all problems. So I just hope that we'll make it to a point in our evolution where we won't believe in things that divide us anymore.

I know by stating this, many who read it will pull away and even get offended by what I'm saying. Of course they will; they're getting offended by what they perceive to be me attacking their, well, BELIEFS. My point proven thusly. When we get offended by something as trivial as that, it can lead to horrible things, such as destroying one another. When there no beliefs to be attacked, no sensibilities to be offended, things may well work themselves out. Will that happen? Like I said, give it time, and yes, it probably will. Will we be around to see this glorious time? Well ironically enough, our beliefs and our separation and contesting of them will probably keep us from actually getting there.