Thursday, December 17, 2009

Frozen at a Green Light (edited "Do Not Enter")

Delia and I are driving to go see this classic movie she has to go to a screening of for this film studies class she’s taking. I think it’s that movie called The Grand Illusion, which I saw when I was taking the same class a couple years ago. When driving to the theater which is over on campus, I’m not really paying attention and I almost drive straight into this area of road that has these two big “Do Not Enter” signs and Delia calls me a moron. I make some comment that it’s probably better that we don’t have the person with the vagina in the car driving. While laughing, she tells me she hates me and I tell her the same, and I can’t help but smile at this.

We get to the theater about five minutes late, but it’s not a big deal because Delia’s professor, who’s also the head of some film restoration society here, is giving some introduction for the movie. After listening to him drone on for another five minutes, the lights go down and the film starts. As the film progresses, I get the sense that Delia is shooting me sideways glances, as if gauging my reaction to the scenes that are unfolding, but every time I get this sense, I quickly look over to her, but she’s just staring ahead at the screen. At one point after I rearrange myself in the uncomfortable seat, I feel my fingers slightly brush against hers, but nothing comes of this, even though I think I feel her tense up next to me, as if something about my touch has made her body temperature drop several degrees in mere moments.
After the film lets out Delia and I are walking together back to my car and she tells me about this party that’s happening on campus tonight at our friend Josh’s place. She asks, kind of tentatively, if I want to hang out until then, and I feel her staring at me as I find myself stalling, looking more than once for oncoming cars as we cross the street to my car. Finally I tell her I have some shit to do, but I reassure her I’ll pick her up before we go to the party later on tonight. She seems a little dejected by this, but soon enough we continue our playfully hateful banter and I drop her off at her house before heading home.

After I get home I get a call from my friend Mark. I tell him about the party tonight and he says he actually was already planning on going.
Dude, I tried to get a hold of you today to hang out, he says.
Sorry man I went to go see a movie with Delia for one of her classes.
Really? He asks this with a sort of tone of amusement.
What? I ask, bracing to defend myself.
Nah, nothing man, I just still find it kinda weird you guys still hang out.
It’s cool, man. She and I are cool.
Whatever, man. Long as you know what you’re doing.
I think I do.
Cool…well I’ll see ya at the party, man.
For sure. See ya.

I get a call from Delia about an hour before I leave. She tells me that I better be ready to have a fucking blast tonight, at which I can’t help but smile. I say to her that I am more than ready and she makes an idle threat that she’ll injure me in some way or another if I don’t. She reminds me that I never used to like going out for whatever reason and she asks me what’s changed. I’m silent for a while before I simply tell her that it’s probably me that’s changed, nothing else. She supposes that I’m right and says that if I hook up with anyone tonight that she’ll fucking kill me, but she laughs as she says it and says she’s kidding. I mention that I find this funny coming from her and she playfully tells me to go fuck myself. We chat back and forth for a little while longer before she tells me she has to finish getting ready and we say goodbye and hang up.
After I pick Delia up we quickly stop by the liquor store on campus to pick up a bottle of whiskey and as we are standing there deliberating on the brand to use, we make it a point to insult our tastes in brand, me laughing as she says that I may as well be one of those people that live under bridges when I pick up a bottle that costs less than ten bucks, her laughing as I tell her that just because I didn’t have parental assistance in every aspect of my life doesn’t mean that I drink like a homeless man. When we go up to the counter to pay for the bottle of middling quality that we selected, I notice this friend of mine named Laura working behind one of the registers so I say hi and we converse briefly as we make the purchase. As we leave, Delia asks, with what sounds less like curiosity and more like vested interest, who that was, and I tell her and she says cool and we head over to the party.
When we get there, it’s about eleven o’clock and the party has a good number of people there, mingling about on the main floor. A lot of people Delia and I know greet us at the entrance of the house with drunken enthusiasm, though I notice a few of them have an uncertainty floating behind their words. Delia sees a group of friends in the kitchen and tells me that she’ll come find me later and we’ll do a shot or something and she goes over to them and excitedly gives them hugs. None of my better friends are upstairs it appears, so I make my way down to the basement where a large amount of people are congregated around a table that has a heated game of beer pong being played. I spot my friend Mark talking to our friend Josh (who’s having the party) near the kegs and I quickly beeline over to them and give them an enthusiastic greeting to which they respond in kind.
How’s it going man? Josh asks, slapping my shoulder.
Oh you know, you know.
Well whatever the fuck that means, you are without beer, he replies and hands me a blue plastic cup and the nozzle from the keg, both of which I take and use.
Thanks man. The party seems to be going well.
Yeah, for sure. Pretty happy about the turnout; no douchebags, no fucking drama or anything. Lotta cute girls here too.
I look around and notice that he’s right, so I nod and say, Yeah definitely, man.
Mark finally says, noticeably already half in the bag, Yeah but it won’t matter since this pussy came with Delia.
Josh gives me a look and says, Dude, seriously? I mean, I knew she was coming, but…uh, why’d you come with her?
I shrug. I dunno, man. I mean, we were hanging out today so it made sense, I guess.
Mark and Josh exchange a quick look before Josh says, Look man, that’s cool, but to be honest she’s probably gonna be trying to get with, uh…what’s his face…?
That one guy Eli, Mark says.
Yeah, Josh replies. He’s this friend of my roommate’s that she’s been talking to and hanging out with a lot lately. Like she’s come over here and smoked up with us a couple times and is always talking to him.
I shrug again. I don’t care, man. I mean, seriously, she and I are cool. I mean, she can do whatever she wants; I can do whatever I want. We’re just friends hanging out these days.
Mark just rolls his eyes and takes a swig from his cup. Josh shakes his head and says, Okay man, whatever. Listen, let’s go play a game of beer pong and you can meet some of these cute girls okay? Won’t be an issue even if Delia’s macking on some guy.
We all do play a game of beer pong and despite Josh and I winning, I find myself pretty drunk, so I call it quits at that point. I talk to some people for a while but the conversation fails to interest me that much, plus I can tell that they are noticing me glancing at the basement stairs frequently, so I make a quick exit from the group when they get wrapped up in their own stories they’re telling each other and head back upstairs.
I go through the throng of partygoers in the living room, looking around, but not seeing Delia. I finally get into the kitchen and while I do see the bottle of whiskey we bought, half gone, sitting on the counter, I don’t see her. I ask one of her friends she was talking to if they saw her and, sounding somewhat confused that I was asking them, tell me she’s probably outside having a smoke or something. I go out onto the porch, but don’t see her, so I go up to the second floor of the house. There’s no one in line for the bathroom, but the door is shut and my stomach starts to tighten, my breath shorten and then the door opens and Delia comes out with this guy I vaguely recognize who must be Eli or whoever and I see her wipe her nose and sniff a couple times and while I have this sort of internal feeling of revulsion I smile and ask her if she wants to take that shot to which she excitedly says she totally would and I offer Eli a shot as well and he too smiles and says he would so we all go downstairs and do so.

Some time later I’m staring at another game of beer pong being played, not really paying attention to it when Mark comes up to me, quite fully drunk at this point, but he seems a bit more solemn.
Look man, he says. You probably don’t wanna hear this, but…I dunno. I guess I just don’t get it…
Don’t get what? I ask him.
Like what you’re doing with Delia still…like, she doesn’t seem like she even gives a shit about you.
Well she’s not using me or anything, I say.
I don’t get it, that’s all, how you guys actually think you’re, like, friends, always insulting each other like assholes, he mumbles and wanders off.
What? I call after him, still knowing what he said, but he doesn’t say anything and goes and passes out on the couch nearby.
I eventually go back upstairs, putting on my coat, ready to leave, looking for Delia. I find her in the kitchen with some of her friends from before, and this guy Eli standing close to her, and she’s in the middle of telling some story that has them laughing. I motion over to her and she tells me to hold on a second so I wait as she continues until finally the story is over and I tell her I want to talk to her and she gives me this look of incredulity and follows me into the living room, her friends and this guy staring for a moment before returning to their conversation. Delia tells me that I’m embarrassing her so I get pissed off and tell her that I just want to leave since I’m tired and I just figured I’d give her a ride and she tells me that she doesn’t need a ride, that Eli or whoever will give her a ride home and that I should just go. She asks me if I have a problem with that, more like a statement, but I just shrug, trying not to look at her, and say I’ll talk to her tomorrow or whenever and she says okay and hugs me goodbye and quickly goes back into the kitchen. I stare after her for a moment before walking quickly outside where I realize I’m probably too drunk to drive, so, despite it being about six or seven miles away and now snowing, I walk home.

I wake up the next day, my room feeling frigid since I kicked the blankets off at some point in the night. I look at my cell phone to see if I have any missed calls or text messages but I don’t so I lay my head back down on my pillow, hoping I can just go back to sleep, but I can’t, so I get up. I grab an apple from on top of my fridge in my kitchenette and as I’m eating it and watching TV I get a phone call and it’s Delia. She sounds really tired on the phone, like she just woke up, giggling at things and making little groans like she’s stretching. She tells me that she and her friends ended up staying at Josh’s the night before, making it a point not to say if Eli stayed or not. She asks me if I drove back last night, saying she was worried since I was drunk, but I tell her that I just took a cab home, so she says that I should come back to Josh’s and she and I can go drive and get breakfast somewhere. I don’t really want to at first but I don’t really have anything else to do and she whines that I shouldn’t be such a lame-ass, so I give in, kind of laughing.
I take the bus back over to campus and get to Josh’s place after about an hour. When I arrive, I notice that a good dozen people had passed out at his place the night before and despite it being almost two in the afternoon, there were still people sleeping in the living room. I find myself looking to see if Eli is among them but I don’t see him. I find Delia in the kitchen by herself, drinking a large glass of water, looking a little frazzled and when she sees me, she gives me a smile and a hug and tells me laughing that a little bit after I left, some friend of Eli’s came by and pretty much everyone who was still there bought some E from him and they stayed up till almost ten in the morning listening to music and dancing. I nod and smile and say that it’s awesome despite feeling full of resentment and frustration at myself for not staying, even though I know that I wouldn’t have had a good time if I had. Delia finishes her glass of water and gets her coat and we leave.
After we locate my car, we end up going to this little breakfast place on campus and as we’re waiting for our meals to arrive, Delia talks what seems like nonstop about how cool the night before was and I’m nodding, agreeing, and listening, but not really contributing to the conversation, sipping on a much-needed cup of coffee. At one point she looks at me and I look up, meeting her gaze, and she smiles at me in a sort of serene way and tells me that she’s glad we’re still friends. I nod, trying to smile, but she can tell that I’m not in the best of moods so we end up arguing about the night before. She drags it out of me that I didn’t really have a good time and I drag it out of her that she had been doing coke in the bathroom and making out with that Eli guy and she drags it out of me that I am just insecure about her moving on and I drag it out of her that she fucked Eli early this morning and she drags it out of me that I was just jealous and when try I drag it out of her that in some ways she sometimes enjoys seeing me jealous, she tells me I’m full of shit, but I can tell she doesn’t fully believe what she’s saying. We go silent for a while and eat our food that’s just arrived at our table, avoiding looking at each other. Eventually I tell her I’m sorry and she says the same, and I can tell she’s trying not to cry for a moment before she kind of smiles and calls me a pussy. I don’t really want to, but I sort of laugh, trying to forget that I’m screaming at her inside my head.
I drop her off at home about an hour later and I go home myself. I don’t really have anything to do since I don’t work until Monday and it’s Saturday so I just turn on the TV and flip through channels for a while. Nothing good is on, so I switch it off and drift off to sleep on my couch. When I awaken to the sound of my cell phone on the coffee table ringing, I realize for a moment that not only did I not dream but that I haven’t dreamt in what feels like an incredibly long time. I shake off this notion, waking myself up, and answering my phone. It’s Delia and she asks me if I want to go to a dance night at one of the clubs downtown tonight with her, just me and her, no weirdness like last night. The entrance fee is cheap and I have nothing else do so I agree and she comments on how we haven’t danced together in so long as if it’s some sort of miracle, according to her. I agree to pick her up about an hour beforehand and when we hang up all I want to do is go back to sleep and actually have a dream for once.

After I pick her up, I can tell that Delia is trying to be nice to me, a little more than usual, and has made it a point to look nice tonight. She’s changed her hair a little and when notices me glance at it, she touches it, smiling, and asks me if I like it to which I say it looks like fucking shit with a smile on my face and we both laugh and I nod in confirmation to it looking nice. The ride downtown isn’t as silent as I expected it to be and the conversations we have are actually quite pleasant. As we park the car, Delia makes a comment that I never used to dance at all and that it’s cool that I’m coming out of my shell or something like that and that she’s really looking forward to seeing me on the dance floor, making a complete ass of myself, she adds, laughing. I tell her to fuck herself and claim that I’ve danced before and she just doesn’t remember. She mentions that Josh said he was coming out here tonight with some people, but quickly adds with reassurance by grabbing my arm that Eli won’t be there and she kisses my cheek giggling and I can’t help but kind of smile, rolling my eyes.
There’s already a large amount of people at the club and we have to stand outside in line in the freezing wind for a few minutes but when we get in, it warms up considerably. The music from the impressive sound system is pumping against the inside of my head within moments of our entrance and both of us have to shout every time we want to say something. We eventually make our way to coat check where we find Josh standing there with a couple girls and some guy from the party last night that I had played beer pong with. We all give boisterous greetings to one another and Josh tells us that they’ll meet us upstairs at the main bar after we check our coats.
After we go upstairs to the main bar and get some drinks, Delia sees some friends of hers, a few of which that were at the party last night including a couple guys, so I just roll my eyes and nod when she says she’ll come find us later. Josh notices this and leans in closer to me so I can hear him over the music.
Yeah, sorry about last night man, he says. I mean I know it was weird.
It’s no big deal, man, seriously.
Yeah well I mean, I let her stay and she fucked that guy Eli, so I dunno…I just feel bad. Didn’t want to step on your toes or anything, man.
It’s really no big deal. She and I talked about it and we’re cool.
He nods and then he introduces me to his friends that he came with, this guy Remy from the night before and these two girls, Tamara, who smiles at me when I shake her hand, and Katie, who’s apparently dating Remy. After the introductions are exchanged and the conversations continue for a while, Remy, Josh, and Katie all go downstairs to dance and it turns into just me and Tamara talking and I can tell that she has at least some interest in me, so when she finishes her drink I buy her another and myself one. The conversation continues to go well with her laughing at the jokes I make, seeming interested in my opinions, but I don’t really find myself finding what she has to say all that interesting. I occasionally glance around the room, looking for Delia but I don’t see her, though I get the sense that she’s watching from somewhere and this makes me feel all the more satisfied when Tamara and I finish our drinks and she suggests we go downstairs and dance before I can, I go without hesitation.
We weave through the crowd, the music pumping against our chests and I feel Tamara take my hand in hers and she’s leading me over to an area that’s not so clusterfucked with a large throng of people we begin to dance together. At one point, the DJ throws on a remix of a song that I absolutely love that apparently she does too and we’re both jumping and cheering and laughing together and as the song peaks toward its climax I realize that she’s pressing her lips against mine, something that I am, while surprised, completely happy with. After a moment of kissing I look at her and I guess I have a look of surprise or something because she starts giggling and kisses me again and suggests that we go get another drink and that this time she’s buying. As we leave the dance floor, Tamara holding my hand again, I notice Delia standing by a table with a couple girls she’s friends with and she gives me a half-hearted smile at me and I smile back. I feel part of myself wanting to go talk to her, but I’m feeling too pleased with myself as Tamara and I go up to the bar, still holding hands, her kissing my cheek, and knowing that Delia is probably still watching.
The night continues on and we all end up hanging out as a group up by the main bar again, Delia now with a couple of her friends. While she seems to be civil enough, I notice she’s ignoring the things I say for the most part and merely giving one-word answers if I actually direct anything at her while if anyone else says something to her, she responds normally. When Josh and I suggest that we all go back downstairs and dance more, we all concur with excitement, but Delia says she’s going to go to the bathroom. I ignore this for now and return to the dance floor with everybody else for a while.
Eventually, I realize that I have to go to the bathroom myself and I return upstairs and find Delia coming down. I try to stop her and talk to her but she tries to brush past me before I grab her arm and she tells me that she doesn’t want to talk to me right now. Somewhat drunk, belligerent, and persistent, I ask why and she gives me a look of incredulity and tells me that if I’m really asking that then I really am stupid. I pause for a moment before I call her a complete hypocrite and say that if she actually meant what she said about being glad that we’re friends then she shouldn’t even care that I’m talking to or flirting with or making out with another girl. She responds by forcing a theatrical laugh, rolling her eyes, shaking her head, saying that I’m full of shit and that I’m the hypocrite for being pissed off earlier today and that I can fuck whoever I want and she doesn’t even care and she storms off and without even thinking, anger pumping through my body now, I tell her departing back to fuck herself but I don’t know if she can hear me before I turn and go upstairs.
I don’t see her again for the rest of the night. I try to have a good time, despite my bad mood, but I quickly forget it whenever Tamara kisses me or even just touches my face. When 2 AM rolls around and the lights come up, blinding all of us, a very drunk Josh suggests that we all go back to his place and party some more. I agree and tell them I’ll drive us since I brought my car and since I’m not really drunk. As we’re leaving, Josh nudges me.
Where’s Delia, man?
I shrug and say, I dunno. Not with me.
I leave it at that and Josh shrugs and we all walk back to my car and I drive us back to his place. There, we all drink some more and I end up sleeping with Tamara at about 4 AM in Josh’s room since he mumbled something about us being allowed to do that and to not fuck up his sheets before he passed out on his couch. Tamara falls asleep almost right afterward, her hand on my neck feeling warm and nice, and I stare at the crack in the ceiling for a while before I too pass out.

The next day, Tamara is gone, but she’s sent me a text saying that she had to go to work early and that she’d call me later this coming week. I get up and get dressed and go downstairs to where I find Josh still passed out on the couch but that guy Remy watching TV on the other couch. I plop down next to him as I put my shoes on and say what’s up.
Hey man, he says.
How long’ve you been up?
Eh, about a half hour. Fuck, there’s nothing good on TV on Sunday…
Heh, you’re right about that one.
He’s silent for a while, flipping through the channels on Josh’s TV before finally settling on some dumb movie that’s playing on Comedy Central.
So, he says, what happened with that girl you came to the club with?
What do you mean?
Where’d she go?
I dunno. Home? Left with some guy? I dunno.
Oh, okay. He pauses and then says, I thought you guys were dating or something.
I let out a slight laugh and say, No, man, no we’re not together. I mean we used to be, but not anymore.
He nods and says, Good thing that you guys can still be friends or whatever. I sure as fuck couldn’t do that. Not many people can.
I shrug and say, Well I guess she and I can make it work.

As I drive away from Josh’s place, I give Delia a call. She doesn’t pick up the first time, so I call her again and she picks up, sounding tired. The first thing I tell her is that I’m sorry for fighting with her the night before and that I’m sorry I left with some girl but she just says whatever and that she really didn’t care. I ask her how she got home and she just says that she cabbed home because she didn’t want to see me make out with some chick all night just to piss her off. We end up arguing for a while and it gets kind of heated until a silence passes between us and we both end up apologizing and I agree to come pick her up so she and I can go get breakfast again and talk about it, if she wants. I suggest that we go see a movie together. She says that that would be a good idea and there’s another long pause before I break the silence saying that I really do want to be friends and she says she does too and says that it’s just hard sometimes. I agree and there’s another pause before I say I’ll be over at her place within 15 minutes or so and I hang up. As I pull up and stop at a red light at the next intersection and look to my right I see the theater Delia and I saw the movie at the other day is there. I notice that there’s a guy up on a ladder taking down the sign for The Grand Illusion, throwing the letters into a pile below the marquee, and I realize that I’ve been sitting at this green light, trying to remember the movie, but I can’t.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Denial is, as a character in a movie I saw once said, the human being's most predictable of responses. That may be so, but sometimes it is shocking that such a thing could exist about certain subjects that have been proven time and time again.

I'm taking a break from work (not too long of one you understand) to express contempt (and not a new thing for me, I know) for not just this person but the entire subset of people in this country and in the world that believe that the Holocaust was a fabrication and that over 11 million people didn't perish in unthinkable ways. How fucking dare they.

Seriously. How dare they? It is almost 20-fucking-10. Countless documents and testimonies from the surviving victims AND perpetrators were taken over 60 years ago. What gives these people this warped and perverted notion that none of these things are reality? They must think that when they watch The Matrix movies, they think they're watching a fucking documentary; that is seriously the only explanation I can think of, to describe their persistent mindset of repulsive hatred and bigotry and, most importantly, denial. What possessed them to reach that point of ignorance? That's what I want to know. I wish I could somehow know these things; why do these people still exist? Not the old anti-Semitic senile farts that exist; I have no quarrel with them, as they will be worm food soon enough (if they're not already). It is the younger generations that deny these truths. How can they possibly and realistically and even morally cope with the notion that the most monumentally evil event in human history never actually took place? As I have said twice now, how fucking dare they? Sadly the answer is most likely as simple as their denial (putting aside an anti-Semitic household they were likely brought up in): they are ignorant. And ignorance is fundamentally the most attractive mindset in a country based on free-speech (as well as many other things); it is easy to be ignorant and only agree with one side of an argument and to be uneducated and to look down upon the intellectual minority. And sadly, therein lies my problem with the notion of free speech.

Free speech is great; do not get me wrong. It is what makes living here amazing (and lets me say the fucked up and, yes, hateful things that I say). The issue is that the wrong people make reprehensible use of free speech; I have made jokes that the stupid and the ignorant should not be aloud to vote (check out the Sarah Palin rally videos on Youtube from last year's campaign). But when I see a comment on the message boards for a news story that deny the Holocaust (and not just deny it; making a well-worded "explanation" as to what the Final Solution was, something far more disturbing to me than an all-caps rant involving the words "kike" and "heeb." Remember, the anti-Semites that should create concern are not the ones that said Hitler was right, but the ones that say Hitler was stupid), I think to myself the perils of free speech and cannot help but feel that a dictatorship in the name of things just and rational would solve all our problems where the stupid and ignorant simply have no civil rights if they wish to propagate their lies and ignorant thoughts into the public sphere. Then my rage subsides and I remember that these people are indeed on the so-called fringe and they do believe in the veracity of The Matrix (and possibly Star Wars). However, the fact that people like this still exist is no less disturbing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Note On Religion

As odd and remiss as it may seem, I have no interest in writing a blog dedicated to religion and my general disdain for it. I figured I would write a letter to the very nice elderly lady who dedicated her time near the end of her bus ride to proclaim that I should not say the name of Jesus Christ unless to honor him (understandable as I had used him as an epithet accentuating my point I was making to my friend as I so often do), therefore (and to her credit, unknowingly) dedicating her time to propelling me all the more closer to the rage-induced aneurysm that will ultimately bring upon my untimely demise someday. I simply told her I was not interested in having a religious debate across the bus aisle. However, since then, this event has been driving minuscule needles of annoyance into my prefrontal lobes, so I feel, like I said, that I must address this woman. Ahem.

Dear Old Woman on the 6U,

I would love to take into consideration your concern for my usage of the name of your so-called "Lord." However, as I do not believe that this Jesus figure was a "lord", let alone MY lord, I feel that I have every right to tell you to go fuck yourself. Why the strongly worded response, you ask? Because you have done what so many thousands of people do on a daily, if not hourly basis all around the world. You have made it your duty to shove your superstitious, self-righteous, and frankly, quite tawdry symbol of your laughably sophomoric belief structure down my gullet. You have placed yourself on an ill-advised (by your own narcissistic inner voice) pedestal; an infantile moral high-ground because, if you'll permit my saying so, you're afraid. You see, I still have my youth, so I can empathize. Maybe when I'm 116 and have the cholesterol of a beluga whale like you, I will have a better sense of my own mortality and the frailty of life itself. Maybe then I will fall to my knees and praise your so-called lord, admitting my own weakness and utter subservience to the awesome power of your Lord God and His Son. But that is not today and, now that I think about it actually, it will not be tomorrow, nor 50 years from now because I have something that some like to call brain activity. The contempt and revulsion I have for you and people like you is absolute on a gargantuan level and I find it very telling that my generation is increasingly atheistic, as well as intelligent, pragmatic, and generally curious about what we don't understand (as opposed to fearful), much more than yours. We see the world in a light you will never understand and if you weren't so arrogant in your silly beliefs, I would possibly have a shred of pity for you. All I can wish you is the best (which is more of a lie than whatever church you're part of has told you).

Sincerely, Alexander Rader von Sternberg.

Oh and p.s., fuck you for calling me "sweetie", you geriatric cunt. Only my mom is allowed to do that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Arrogant Prick

I'm a very arrogant person. No, it is quite true. I take no issue with that assertion that is certainly made about me, whether it is to my face during a session of critical debate or after I've walked away from a group of people, beer in hand, smug smile on my face, at a party. But lately I've been thinking about the topic of arrogance, especially in the context of morality and culture. Uh oh.

We are first taught in elementary school that "tolerance" is the name of the game. Arguably, teaching tolerance and liberalism (read: freedom) is a very beneficial tool for youngsters to grow up with. It's what I was taught with and it is most likely what everyone I know was taught with; tolerance is king apparently. But I charge that tolerance is not what really is important. Tolerance isn't even a good word when you think about it. You always hear someone speaking "on behalf of" homosexuals with the language of "tolerance" and then of course there is thunderous applause (American liberals love applauding, almost too much...probably one big reason why they fucking bug the hell out of me). But do these people applauding even know WHAT they are applauding? They are applauding the idea of putting up with these people. That's what tolerance is; the last thing it means is embracing and accepting a lifestyle that is actually quite common. It means you're putting up with something you hate. Now of course a rebuttal would be along the lines of "well it's not realistic to have full acceptance." Why? I agree that humans by nature are intolerant, indulgent, and narcissistic creatures of habit, but that doesn't make usage of the word tolerance acceptable.

Now, arrogance. I posit that it is simply morally wrong to subject someone to the label of tolerance, just as it is wrong to torture and beat a young man to death since he was a filthy and morally defunct faggot. People who claim tolerance for homosexuality, for example, would probably be stricken with revulsion at the actual prospect of spending quality time with a gay man or lesbian woman, at least that is what I can imagine if all they are is tolerant. Anecdotal evidence is high here too: too many people I know that are quite liberally-minded, good people, express complete disgust at the mere CONCEPT of a transgendered individual. Sure, it can be seen as strange. But it shouldn't be tolerated. It should just be accepted. To say these things makes me sound arrogant, yeah? Sure. But wrong? No.

The issue I take with tolerance of homosexuality is a little gray, I must admit. Hate crimes do appear to be down in number, so maybe tolerance works. I personally think as gays have come out of the closet, it's become progressively more accepted. It certainly became popular with the Fashion of Bisexual Girls Movement (my term) that seemed to spike up again when I was in high school. Who knows. But I still take my "arrogant" viewpoint that tolerance is overrated. Tolerance leads to nothing constructive, especially when it involves another culture that truly is doing something wrong. Tolerance leads to, and I cannot stress this enough, apologies for atrocities, and that is something that no one with a steady, truly moral head on their shoulders can abide by. Like the invisible armor that is "religious belief" the phrase "that is their culture" becomes an impenetrable shield used by "tolerant people." So this must conclude with me asking is it arrogant of me to say that it is wrong when a woman in Afghanistan is discovered to having been raped she is subject to stoning for being the goddamn Whore of Babylon? Or is it arrogant of me to say that it is wrong for an Orthodox Jewish rabbi to circumcise an infant boy in the traditional way by taking the infant's penis in his mouth after making the incision to take off the foreskin, the rabbi thus possibly giving the infant any type of venereal disease he may be carrying (there are recorded instances of this). Or is it arrogant of me to say that it is wrong for those primitive cultures near the cradle of civilization to circumcise their (very) young women with a sharp rock and then proceed to sew her birth canal shut only to be broken by her husband on their wedding night, God knowing whenever the hell that might be? Or is it arrogant of me to say that it is wrong for the some of the people on the island of New Guinea to engage in rampant and frenzied acts of cannibalism? Or is it arrogant of me to point out anything that clearly tips the balance of anyone's moral compass (provided they actually have one) into one of shock and revulsion, as being wrong? I claim the negative. One could very easily make the argument that in the case of the examples I laid out that their primitivism and barbarism is due to Western exploitation and subsequent neglect, thus holding back these cultures from evolving past their primordial instincts and practices. Maybe. It sure didn't help. I also must remind anyone with that response that correlation, no matter how strong, never equals causation and this does not stop the fact that these things that are clearly wrong are still happening. Today.

I would hope anyone can recognize wrong-doing when it's right in front of their face, despite the filter of tolerance that may be in place. And I recognize I'm doing very little by talking about it, but to be honest, nothing can be done for cultures that are engaging in such backward practices. If they ever find themselves on the brink they will change (for that is the nature of humanity as well), but that day is not today, and I feel I will be hard-pressed to see changes for the better in my lifetime. In the meantime, I will continue to get pissed off by claims of tolerance and I will continue being called arrogant. But if the price I pay for recognizing what is right and what is wrong is being called an arrogant prick then I just say this in response: guilty.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Show-DER? Show-DER?! It's CHOWDAH! Say it right!

"They create illusions and call them facts, and between what they are said to be and what they are falls the shadow of all the useful words not spoken, of all the actual deeds not done."
- Gore Vidal, from his essay, "The Holy Family" (1967)

"Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts."
- Memento (2000)

I do have to apologize for the excessive use of quotations, but I feel that they are worth saying, especially in light of the death of Teddy Kennedy, the final member of the Court of Camelot.

The Kennedys are a fascinating phenomenon in American political history. Despite being staunch Democrats, they have what can only be described as traditionally modern Republican qualities, specifically being their ability to win elections (at any cost in some cases) and an innate confidence (read: arrogance) in their own actions combined with an inability to truly understand consequences of said actions. The issue I take is not directly with Ted Kennedy; to be honest, out of the whole family, he pisses me off the least. He actually accomplished quite a bit (killing a young woman notwithstanding), especially in his early career, including amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (banning poll tax) and the Immigration and Nationality Act, also of 1965, ending that bullshit quota system for immigration that we had in place for over a hundred years. That being said, he is still a part of that family, so therefore once the trumpeted fanfares and inspiring speeches from both sides of the political aisle began erupting, it caused another meteoric rise in my hostile feelings toward this American dynasty.

The free-wheeling corruption of the Kennedy family is well-known, I would like to think. But it never seems to be addressed in a serious manner, which is a problem. Sure, making jokes about JFK's most likely very fun, yet cadaverous trysts with Marilyn Monroe is easy and enjoyable (almost as easy and enjoyable as joking about our last president's IQ level), but at the heart of it all was a very self-absorbed, fascist-sympathetic, overloaded-with-wealth, mafia-involved, bootlegging, tightly-knit Irish Catholic family that could only see what they considered to be the veritable crown jewels of the United States of America: the presidency, and therefore the seat of power of the globe.

My issue is not necessarily that this family had many instances of and individuals in it breaking the law. My issue is that it is NOT remembered, especially by, for lack of a better term, liberal thinkers (or non-thinkers as I would rather condescendingly refer to them as). The presidency of John F. Kennedy is one of the poorest-remembered presidencies in modern US history, yet most people with even the slightest inkling about our country not only know WHO Kennedy was, but they somehow inexplicably like him. But really, seriously, how could they not? He was charming, handsome, and knew how to get everyone to want to be around him; men wanted to be him, and women wanted him. This was and is well-known. He was, in effect, President James Bond (a hero of JFK's, something I could not make up). And here's the thing: I've seen/read interviews with JFK and goddamn it, I love the guy. That is the general reaction to the sight of a Kennedy or the sound of their South Boston-esque drawl. But what is remembered is not fact. It is very easy to forget about a president that was responsible for what can best be described as campaigns of murder in Cuba in 1961 or the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam, or for that matter the continued ignorance of and arrogance about Vietnam itself and the inception of arguably one of the most disastrous wars in United States history (whose gruesome combat would have continued to propagate whether or not the man had been shot through the head); it is very easy to forget about these irrefutable facts when such a pretty face (and powerful family he is still attached to by the umbilical cord) is involved. This is what is the problem, or, as my compatriots in the CSCL department here like to say, what is at stake.

The Kennedy family has always been especially good at PR. Think about this: if after Chappaquiddick, it was revealed that the driver of the car was, for the sake of argument, a Nixon administration/cabinet member, what would have been the reaction? If it had been anyone else, actually, for that matter, Democrat, Republican, Whig, Socialist, whatever, what would have been the reaction? Would it be the forgiveness and compassion that was eventually granted upon Teddy Kennedy (and especially after his death)? I doubt it. Americans do love stories of redemption, and Teddy Kennedy was a good example of that; he was an already likable member of an already likable family, and this family, whose masterful handling of damage control was in a perpetual state of high-gear thanks to fun-loving, now-dead older brothers, was ready to turn little Teddy's story into one of the aforementioned redemption. Now should we shame him or the rest of his family for being likable? Of course not. That would be like telling a gorgeous girl who asked you out on a date no because she's too pretty and charming. What I am saying, in light of the final Kennedy's death, is that I would hope that we don't lose sight of facts like we have with the other brothers' deaths. Americans are especially good at thinking with our amygdalas rather than our prefrontal lobes when it concerns death and that has always been what has concerned me. Tragically, we shall most likely fall into line with that very routine, as it appears that we already are, evidence mounting ranging from the speeches being given by McCain or Obama to the Facebook updates about how Teddy should rest in peace. Hopefully we can pull ourselves out of this entropic state of mourning and eventually come to realize Camelot has finally fallen, and it may not have been for the worst.

Friday, July 31, 2009

All the Black Is Really White (Chapter 1 sample)

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. It was the beginning of the summer after I had graduated from the University of Minnesota (after a not so unceremonious five year tenure) and I had just moved into a new place. For the first few days after I moved into this 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 seemed to always bring 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 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 was an early and strangely frigid mid-June morning, a Saturday at around 7 AM when events became set into motion without any intention of ceasing. I awoke staring at my ceiling, shivering since I had left the window open last night, so I pulled my blanket up to my neck, attempting to blink the sleep out of my eyes. I looked to my right and noticed that Azalea, my recently-made ex-girlfriend (whom I of course was still sleeping with on a nightly basis) was no longer lying down next to me. My secret celebration in my head ceased immediately when I looked down to the end of my bed and saw her sitting there, her pale bare back well-defined by the angle of the light peeking in through the window, facing away from me, staring at quite possibly nothing, and my self-loathing resumed. She must have heard my movements (or my presumptuous sigh of relief) and she turned, giving me a slight smile.
“Morning,” she said. I blinked the sleep out of my eyes one more time and reached over for the half-smoked joint from the night before on the nightstand next to my bed, lighting up.
“Hey,” I replied, exhaling smoke skyward, as I lay my head back down, trying to will her out of my apartment. A silence pervaded for what felt like far too long, most likely because it probably was.
“So…” Azalea began.
“I don’t know if my self-respect can take another nightly visit from you,” I said. Azalea turned back away, continuing to stare at nothing. She muttered something. Without thinking I asked:
“What?” She shook her head. I persisted, raising my head to see her better:
“What’d you say?”
She turned to me, her eyes filled with the all-too-familiar resentment. “You are such an asshole.” I lowered my head back to my pillow, taking another hit, closing my eyes.
“Guilty,” I replied. She didn’t say anything else at that point. The only noise then was her looking for her clothes that had been discarded all over the room the night before in our fit of forced, cadaverous passion. As she picked up her purse she gave me one last look of the familiar resentment and said, “Yeah, as if you aren’t the one who invites me over,” and she left me to the sounds of her shoes thumping down my hallway and of my door slamming.
I lay there for several minutes, continuing to stare at my ceiling, the cold air again blowing through my open window, causing my motionless ceiling fan to rotate a few times before falling completely still again.

It was that particular morning that I decided to say hello to Anton. To this day I’m not really sure why I did it; maybe it did have something to do with the fact that my ex-girlfriend had just walked out of my apartment about thirty minutes before without any intention of returning. I don’t know. Regardless, after Azalea had stormed out, I was taking out the two bags of recycling that I had since I had very little else to do and sure enough, Anton was out there doing the same, and I suddenly felt compelled to make my presence known beyond the nodded hello we would occasionally granted each other. It did strike me as somewhat odd that it had taken me a long time to even say hello to the guy, but I guess I was so enamored by his perceived eccentricities that I didn’t want to break the cycle he seemed to be living that kept me so intrigued. As I put down my bags of recycling in one of the blue bins near the dumpsters of our building, he was coming outside in his usual morning attire and I raised my hand.
“Hey how’s it going?” I asked. He didn’t jump, but the look on his face suggested that he didn’t expect anyone to ever talk to him.
“Hey,” he replied and didn’t say anything as he placed his beer bottle- and Count Chocula box-filled bags into another blue bin. I watched him do this for a beat before I outstretched my hand into his path.
“I’m Silas,” I said, “I just moved in a couple weeks ago, actually. I mean, since you’re pretty much the only person I’ve seen since then, I figured I’d say ‘hey’ or whatever.”
“Oh,” he replied and he took my hand as if it would attack him at the slightest provocation. “I’m Anton.”
“Nice to meet ya, man,” I said, smiling.
“Yeah, you too,” he replied, giving a weak smile back, and quickly walked back inside, leaving me with a quizzical smile on my face for a few moments.
“Weird,” I said to myself, still smiling.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This will only hurt a little...

We really are a stupid people.

"Study: Tanning beds can be as deadly as arsenic" reads one of the many top headlines circulating the interwebs, televised news, and most likely printed publications as the week goes on.

Apparently THIS WEEK tanning beds and other sources of UV radiation were moved by cancer experts into the upper echelons of carcinogenic agents. Did I mention that this was confirmed THIS week? As in within the last 72 hours or so? As in, not long fucking ago when it had been pretty goddamn apparent for many, many decades that someone sporting leathery brown skin one could light a match off of didn't look healthy? Look, I am not saying having color is bad (believe me I wish I could join the ranks of those that are blessed with complexion not that of a sheet of paper); healthy, non-prolonged exposure to sun is obviously fine. We've lived thousands upon thousands of years knowing this at some level or another. But we need a study in Two-Thousand-goddamn-NINE to tell us tanning excessively is BAD for us? I mean seriously: I cannot say anymore than what I have already said. I'm just too pissed to try to go on a more lengthy rant about this so I end on the following note and a nice photo to go along with it:

How. Fucking. Stupid. ARE WE?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The REAL Ugly Truth

I recently watched He's Just Not That Into You (don't ask why I did that; the best explanation I can come up with is the one I had for seeing Twilight) and have seen the trailer for The Ugly Truth for forty-eighth time and upon hearing the wild shrieking laughter, mostly for The Ugly Truth trailer, the vein in my forehead protruded once more. They are capitalizing on one of the things that has bothered me for the longest time, essentially since I first became interested in the fairer sex. What they are capitalizing on is this notion that there are distinct differences between what men want and what women want; who men are and who women are. If these films reflected reality in any way, men would all be boorish clowns that only have fucking and sucking on the brain and women are conniving vixens that really just want intimacy and love and all of those sweet things that you can only find with the One Guy.

Now I want to say that there has been a recent scourge of films of this nature, but in reality, these films have been around forever. Comedies (if you can call them that) have ALWAYS capitalized one the differences between men and women. But as the years went by, these films became less and less attached to reality and the simple humor OF the differences speaking for themselves and ended up actually CREATING the differences. That's what is so goddamn unbearable about these asinine films: they have essentially created these notions that men are this and women are that. I hate getting trapped into one of those inane conversations where, for example, some female friend of mine will inquire "what does this mean when a guy does this?" or "why do guys do that?" or a male friend of mine will ask "why are women so needy?" or "why do women think this matters?" and I just want to smack them out of their little one-dimensional perspective on gender differences.

If I have learned ANYTHING, be it through extensive time in psychology courses or simply spending an afternoon with a lovely and charming female, it's that we cannot separate the two sexes into distinct categories based on cultural memes. I mean Jesus H. Christ, I know plenty of women who have sex on the brain more than I do (and if you don't detect pent up sexual tension in me, then you don't know me at all). I hate to break it to people who would love to believe otherwise, but women love sex just as much as, if not MORE than, men do and they think about it just as often. Hell, a lot of them don't even think love matters when banging a guy (oh NO; that simply CANNOT be true!). And guess what! Women can be just as jealous if not MORE jealous than guys. Oh and get this: sometimes all men want is to be loved and have intimacy! And contrary to popular belief, women will drop a deuce from time to time. Apart from our differences in posture when we piss, there's absolutely NO WAY AT ALL to actually generalize between the two sexes.

As humans, we have a tendency to generalize; I recognize that. But it has become, as far as I'm concerned, an infectious cultural disease in so many ways, this not being the least of them. Sure it can provide a good larf now and then when going to the cinema, but it's simplistic thinking. This is infectious because, like an infection, it spreads. Films like these reinforce these absolutely retarded notions of gender difference where there is none and end up getting pushed along down the cultural ladder until we end up babbling, generalizing morons...oh wait...maybe we're too late.

Look I know men and women are different. But did people ever stop to think that maybe it's PEOPLE that are different? That maybe, perhaps, POSSIBLY, we are all individuals, and generalizations and categorizations about behavior and personality based on what hangs or doesn't hang between our legs aren't real or relevant? I'm almost 23 years young and I've come to learn something fundamental about life, the REAL Ugly Truth, if you will. The only real generalization we can ever make is this: we all eat the same, we all shit the same, and we all die the same.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pipe down you rowdy liberal!: A response to Transformers

I found myself offended recently. This, needless to say, shocked me. Aren't I usually the one doing the offending (or irritating, depending on who one talks to)? Look, I am all for trying not to say anything TOO offensive, but at the end of the day, my tolerance for offensive material is astronomically high. Why else would my favorite shows on television be "It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia", "Californication", "South Park", and "Real Time with Bill Maher"? As far as I am concerned, I was created by the seeds for trees that sprout jokes about retarded infants, abortion doctors, and 9/11, planted by a cantankerous old man with no teeth who is a self-proclaimed "Aristocrat" (see this movie, for Christ's SAKE, if you have not already).

But ANYWAY, I was offended recently. And, as per usual it was by a movie. And, as per usual, it was a summer blockbuster that has made a veritable Noah's Ark-full of cash. And, AS PER USUAL, it was a Michael Bay picture. Yes, I am talking about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Now here's the kicker: I wasn't offended by how awful a film it was (and it was THAT, no contest). I didn't expect it to be great, let alone passable. Hell, I even thought it looked pretty good (Bay's films, for all of their horrible characteristics, usually do). But to get to the point, there were two transformers, members of the Autobot side of this epic robot war that wreaks havoc on Shia LeBouf's relationship with Megan Fox. These two transformers were, despite being robots, very obviously black. Or "urban" if you will (since in some limousine-liberal circles, "black" is apparently a dirty word). These two characters, one complete with a gold tooth, quite literally shucked and jived their way through the movie. Now I initially felt that this wasn't too offensive; it was typical studio marketing bullshit. In other words, they throw in a little "urban style" to the predominantly Anglo cast to tow in more minority ticket-buyers (as if minorities or ANYONE would actually pay mind to the race of the characters...unless they were Spike Lee). These were clearly dumb, black-based robot characters placed in the film for comedy relief; this was nothing new. But there was a line about mid-way through the film that burrowed its way through my titanium-strength Shell of Offensive Content Tolerance. Shia LeBouf has alien-language inscriptions running through his head because he was exposed to a special artifact that--okay it doesn't matter. He shows these two shucking and jiving robots the inscriptions and asks if they can read it and one of them says, I shit you not, "Man, we don't read! Who you think we are?!" Or something to that effect. My mouth was agape.

I let this stew for a while after the film was over. I told people about it, had some laughs, but after a little while, it really got to me. Now I am all for free speech. Write what you want in your film; that's fine. But do not expect me (or anyone else with moderate intelligence) to not notice something like this and say something. But that is not what this is about. This is about the misinterpretation of generational theory and casual nihilism of executives handling projects worth millions of dollars.

You see, my generation (that is, Generation Y, those born after 1978 or so), is widely considered to be essentially "post-racist." This is not to say that we are blind to racism (that bullshit conceit of "color-blindedness"), the mistaken idea that allowed this kind of so-called humor to still be around. We are not blind to racism. I feel that we are very much aware of the racism that swirls around us daily, but we have no interest in discussing it and writing speeches about it as if it is 1965. The key difference between my generation and my parent's generation, when it comes to this, is (I'd like to think) that my generation accepts that some things don't change (in this case, prejudices) and most likely will not change in our lifetime and antiquated conceits such as affirmative action end up doing more harm than good in maintaining the divide between the so-called "races" of humanity. I'd also like to think that the best way to deal with these prejudices is just make efforts to ignore them; to realize that at the end of the day they don't matter. The more we dismiss them as unimportant, the more likely it will be that they fade away over time. If this sounds avoidant, allow me to reiterate: one cannot avoid prejudice. It is a part of human nature, as we have a tendency to categorize essentially everything, which of course leads to generalizations at the unconscious level. It is how our brain works. It is not right nor is it wrong. It simply is. This is not to say fighting against prejudicial TREATMENT and INJUSTICE is futile; that is not. But fighting against prejudice itself is fundamentally futile. ANYWAY the question, no doubt, must now be asked is this: what the fuck does this have to do with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?

As I said, there was what can only be described as either a.) a misinterpretation of that aforementioned generational theory, or b.) the filmmakers and studio execs simply not giving a shit. To be honest, it is probably a little from column A and a little from column B. Generational theory is essentially an idea created by marketing departments. They look at surveys and "studies" and develop these theories to describe generations' ideals, behaviors, and beliefs in a very general form. What happened with these characters is, to at least somewhat of an extent, the people in the marketing department at Dreamworks figured that they needed to net as many people into the audience as possible so there was a push for the "urbanization" of these characters and since they most likely study generational theory at an almost microscopic resolution, they figured that they could be as cheerfully offensive as possible since my generation, the primary audience for this film, is (as they saw it) "color-blind."

Now I don't necessarily think there was that much thought put into this and there is, of course, no way I can prove (nor disprove) this theory. At the end of the day, studios do not care about such matters. And they really don't have any need to; this business is about making money, especially when it comes to films like this. A more liberal-minded critic of this film's offensive and racist qualities would of course claim that much more is "at stake" (I really hate this term; I was essentially drowned with it while minoring in Cultual Studies) because this film is a blockbuster and will receive a massive audience turnout. But think about this for a moment: more than 3/4 of the audience probably will not notice it. The aforementioned line lasted literally about 2 seconds and nothing was made of it afterward. The key demographic for this film is not post-college grads who over-analyze every piece of culture they are exposed to and write silly blogs about it in order to intellectually masturbate themselves into oblivion.

Nothing is at stake here. I'm not going to pretend that this is more important than it actually is, as nothing will come of this. Remember: this began as a self-centered observation about how I was shocked that I was actually offended by something, and that is exactly what it is. But I never said I didn't like to blow things out of proportion with overly-wordy rants before bringing them back down again to their bare elements.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The King is dead. Long live the King.

So Michael Jackson, the crowned King of Pop, is dead. And I laughed at the news. Loudly I might add. Is this wrong? Is it in poor taste? Sure, definitely. I am the last person who is going to dispute that. But nevertheless, it was an honest reaction. But it got me thinking about the mortality of the celebrity, the concept as well as the literal deaths.

[I want to note that this DOES suck for the family; I will not pretend that that does not matter generally speaking. But considering no one I know who reads this KNOWS the family, it is an irrelevant aside.]

Now why did I laugh when I heard old King MJ was found dead in his home? Well firstly because his last album was called "Invincible." (If you're easily offended, I hope irony is lost on you). But also because, as much as I hate to admit the King of Pop was this, he had degraded into nothing more than a punchline. Lewis Black said so himself and that was in a comedy special recorded four years ago. But he nailed it. "Michael Jackson. That's all you have to say." True, sir, very true. I mean, how could one NOT consider Jackson a punchline, especially at that point? I worked with a guy named Mike Jackson who seethed with an inner volcano of rage whenever somebody, merely in jest mind you, referred to him as Michael Jackson. But seriously, Jackson became SUCH a punchline that making jokes about him GOT OLD. They felt dated, for Christ's sake. So let's now jump in the Way-Back Machine and go to the year 1982 when Thriller was released (awesome album). Jackson WAS the King of Pop, through and through. His albums went Platinum (multiple times, no less). He was loved by all (and didn't look so fucked up). I think the explanation is becoming more obvious. As the years ticked by, it became more and more apparent that despite all of his successes and all of his brilliance in creating pop music that was very danceable and original, that this so called royalty of music was quite possibly the most insane creature ever to be dubbed a celebrity (minus the cannibal in Japan). As his skin got paler, as his nose got less and less existent, and as the scandals became increasingly damaging to his already plummeting career, it became quite clear that Jackson had lost "it" and entered the realm of Punch-Line Land, be it for his supposed child molestation or for his aforementioned non-existent nose.

Now look at that description (obviously a bit truncated). But the point I'm trying to make is that at the end of the day, that is one of the most tragic stories of pop culture. It is a complete and utter tragedy. If it were made into a movie (and at this point it is almost assured), there could literally be no happy ending. It is what I like to call "pure tragedy." This is Romeo and Juliet-level tragedy. So tragic that, as I am trying to explain, it is funny. Pure tragedy is the most over-the-top style of storytelling that there is and in our increasingly cynical culture, it is literally impossible for anyone keyed into the cynicism (who? ME?) NOT to hear about Michael Joseph Jackson's death and not let out a yelp or two of laughter.

Or maybe it's as simple as me wanting to shock people. Or perhaps me reacting to the discomfort I feel about death. I don't think I will ever know.

When icons die, we react as a culture. Understandable, no? But what is so fascinating to me is that no one can honestly say they don't care when a celebrity dies (unless they literally did not know who that person was). But the news today was quite enormous: it was two 1970s icons died today actually, Farrah Fawcett being the other. But as I was saying, when a celebrity dies that we know even somewhat of, let alone love and appreciate or hate viciously, we react in one of two categories. Category A, as I will call it, is populated by people who express genuine grief (e.g. sobbing uncontrollably, reminiscing nostalgically for the first time they were exposed to whatever it was that celebrity did that made them an icon [I cannot wait for Paris Hilton to kick the bucket]). And Category B, as I will call it, is populated by people who express scorn, ridicule, and laughter (e.g. making off-color jokes in the 72 hours following said death, explaining why the celebrity was a piece of shit for whatever reason, or writing some blog related to it). It is important to note that it is always people from Category B that tend to be the kind of folks that explain (at length) why they don't care that said celebrity is dead. People have reactions to things and need to man up to them is one of my theses in life. But I don't want this rant to be too general here, so let's move on.

To finish this up on a less offensive note, I will just say this: in defense of Category B people like myself, I need to say that none of us really knew him. So there is no use getting incredibly upset over his death. As I said, it is indeed tragic. But what did people love so much about him anyway? His personality? His friendliness with children (read either way)? Of course not. People loved the music. It is not as if he was making anymore music, so not much was lost in that respect. And last time I checked, the great music he made will always be there to listen to and love (if he is your cup of tea). That is really what matters in the end and when it comes to celebrity death, I think we really lose sight of what actually matters and why it actually impacts us at all. Wouldn't expect it to be any other way though, considering where we live.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why oh why: A response to Twilight (and return to ranting)

"Why do I do this to myself?" I find myself asking repeatedly. Be it due to an association with a member of the fairer sex, use of a dangerous yet fun recreational drug, or a trip to White Castle, I tend to ask this every so often. But never has the need to make this query to myself been so apparent as it was last night at 2 AM, as it seemed many of you who may read this already noticed. About 30 minutes before posting my agonized status update, I had concluded watching quite possibly one of the worst films I've seen since Pearl Harbor or Little Miss Shit-stain (and if you know me, you know that that is quite a statement), also known as Twilight, the first in a series of most likely oh-so-horrible films based off a series of oh-so-horrible books.

Never mind the fact that it is a disturbing metaphor for the "benefits" of abstinence written by some crazy Mormon (I could not make this up). It's horrifying. It is absolutely horrifying how bad this movie is. From its insufferable and neverending moments where the unrepentantly smoking Kristen Stewart stares into the eyes of the admittedly very handsome Robert Pattinson with a seriousness and longing, to the sparkles that appear when the vampires stand in direct sunlight (dear GOD), to the incredibly awkward ending that is supposed to pass off as "sexy", I could feel portions of my brain temporarily fuse together and atrophy. Thankfully it was over in less than two hours. But those two hours I will never have back. With this in mind and the film's quality sinking in, I departed the auspices of my friend Grant's house and returned home. Upon my return I began asking the eternal aforementioned question: why did I do that to myself?

Now I did not think it was going to be a good movie. I didn't even think it was going to warrant that ever-present "guilty pleasure" label (though I've been finding myself recently distancing myself from that term since I see it as basically dishonest to what your tastes are). But I guess I thought I was going to be entertained somewhat. I'm not sure. As I said before, the principle stars are very good looking and while many would not like to admit it, at the end of the day, we watch a lot of movies simply because the people in them look good. But that still was not enough, since a part of me knew I was probably going to regret the forthcoming two hours. Upon reflection I realize that I wanted to simply understand the hype and buzz.

As many people know, the Twilight Saga, as it is known, is huge. It is, for lack of a better comparison, the next Harry Potter. It has always disturbed me due to its very archaic metaphorical message, but I wasn't (and still am not) going to go on some tirade against it for that alone, especially without exposing myself to it. I picked up the Twilight book on my last visit to the Barnes and Noble at the Mall of America and read the first paragraph. I promptly dropped the book on the floor and walked away. The movie was released in November of last year (why this was released then and the The Road was pushed back a year is beyond my comprehension) and made a killing at the box office ($35.7 million opening day here in the US). South Park semi-recently did a spoof episode on it (which was one of the funnier episodes of last season). Half the people I worked with saw it. Since the reading material ideal for my former job was gossip magazines like Us Weekly and People, I would see references to the movie and its stars for many months following its release. There were sprinklings of references throughout pop culture for the last few months and in the last few weeks, a trailer for the follow-up coming this fall was released, and it basically all came to a head in the form of my masochistic curiosity last night when I had the opportunity to view it for free. I wanted to understand what the big deal was.

Now I think I somewhat get it, at least what the appeal of the characters are. They're a lot like comic book superheroes (aside from the super-powers) in the sense that they embody what the creators would want out of themselves if they could overcome their shortcomings (example: the author Stephanie Meyer looks like Jabba the Hutt, so she made her protagonist beautiful...okay that was just a lame jab, but seriously...). Who wishes they could go back to high school and date the hottest, most untouchable guy or girl and be the most envied individual around? I can guarantee you that that is why many people who still ARE in high school love this story: because they want to be part of this fantasy.

Now this isn't to say WHY it's bad. I just didn't like it. Wait, scratch that. I just HATED it. And to be honest, there ARE people who like, nay, love this movie and, well, they're wrong. Their taste is bad. I know that is arrogant (who, me? arrogant? no...), but it really is that horrid. But anyway, I should admit here that I lied. I thought about all of this, about why people loved it and how I wanted to understand why, and I ultimately realized that while that was one reason to watch it (to understand the buzz), I think that I just wanted to be able to say that I hated this movie. I knew full well what I was getting myself into, at least at a subconscious level. I wanted to have license to bitch, in other words. And I wanted to be part of the buzz. Who likes feeling left out of the loop? I sure as hell don't and I think that might be the ultimate answer to my self-directed question. I don't really understand masochism, but I'm thinking that at some level, maybe a cultural one, I am a masochist. Why else would I want to be in on something that I know is going to make me devote a good twenty minutes to writing a blog about it?

Another tale about a little shadow

Out of Focus

Somewhere in the 4 AM fog that hung over the city, a young man stumbled out of the loft space where he had been partying with friends for the last six and a half hours. The bass of electronic music pulsated behind him, pounding into the back of his head like dull strikes from a mallet. The drugs and alcohol had long since worn off and he realized how long he’d been awake. He wasn’t sure why he felt the need to stay awake and partying over the course of most days after he graduated from college, but he told his friends and acquaintances that he was celebrating and he smiled when he said it but his eyes expressed an unnamable feeling burrowed in deep. As he walked down the street that early morning, inhaling on a Parliament, he felt as if he was deflating, slowly but inexorably. Thoughts from over the course of the last six years of his life floated in and out of his mind until he reached the underpass of a westbound highway where he stopped, staring at a dead bird that lay directly in front him in the middle of the sidewalk. He stared at it for several beats before he realized he was crying.

The minute I arrive at the party across campus after getting dropped off by my roommate, I am greeted by an acquaintance from the political science class I took three years ago (that I attended two lectures of throughout the course of the semester) screaming with surprise at my presence, holy shit, man! How’s it going? I respond in kind, shaking his hand, patting his arm, smiling, telling him it was great to see him; the usual pleasantries. We converse for a few minutes before he runs off to go to the bathroom or something and it hits me that I don’t even remember his name, though I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
The party is packed by this time with about eighty people, and the music is thumping and booming out of large, waist-height speakers in the main living area, some guy I vaguely know DJing behind them, a sea of people, mostly drunk and coked up/rolling on ecstasy, dancing amongst themselves. I join them for a while when I see a couple of my friends up near the front, but I’m just not really feeling it right now and I’m not sure why, so I go outside to smoke. I end up conversing with some guys a bit younger than me who are friends with my cousins. I marvel at the coincidence before returning indoors and rejoin the party, taking the first PBR offered to me from one of the guys who lives there. This night isn’t ending anytime soon, I think to myself, now smiling as I take a couple gulps.

I pass out at about 3 AM after getting a ride home from one of my friends that I saw and hung out with at the party, who was probably too drunk to drive, but I get home safe anyway, and I dream about the world ending. I’m standing on the edge of a river on a beach of white sand on the western side and I’m standing with a group of my friends and my father, staring at the water which seems to be rising. The sky is dark and overcast, the clouds blotting out the faint traces of the sun and eventually the clouds turn black, the wind picks up, and all of my friends are shouting at me, running away. I turn and look at my father who isn’t saying anything, just looking out over the water as it rises rapidly toward us. I shout at him, using his first name for some reason, and he doesn’t respond right away, but he eventually turns and looks at me, giving a faint smile before I automatically turn and begin to sprint up the hill back to the parkway above us, the dark churning waters of the river biting at my heels, and I’m not letting myself look back.

The days churn on with me waking at 11 AM or later, never feeling truly relaxed. The weather, for some reason, remains gray, wet, and cloudy without ever actually raining. Usually, I wake up and eat a bowl of Grape Nuts before I trudge into the living room and plunk down on the semi-broken sofa and play video games. My roommates are scarce most of the time, one of them usually hanging out with her boyfriend, my other one busy with summer school and work. I get a phone call from any number of friends by early evening, notifying me of a party or a bar-going experience which I readily give the affirmative to. This seems to be my life and I never question its value.

Mid-way through June on an eventless Thursday morning, I wake up quite early, despite having been out at a bar where some DJ I knew was performing and a following after-party downtown until 5 AM. I’m resting the back of my right hand on my forehead, blinking the sleep out of my eyes, staring into my white ceiling and crack right above my head for about a minute after waking when I get a phone call from my father. The last time I’d heard from him, he had set up a job interview for me the week after graduation and notified me via a hastily worded email ending with the words, you’re welcome. I didn’t bother going. But besides that, I hadn’t seen him or heard from him in quite a while, so I ask:
How long has it been? It feels like at least a year.
No, no I think it’s been since your winter break. Christmas?
Yeah, I think it was Christmas. Christmas Eve. We had dinner.
Oh yeah.
Well. That’s why I called actually.
Yeah, I thought we should get dinner again. Since you’ve graduated.
Yeah I did.
Did you go to commencement?
Yeah it wasn’t very great. Took too long.
Ah. Well we can catch up later. I have to get back to work.
Back to sitting on your ass attempting to be inspired to write your next New York Times Bestseller? I wish to myself that I say this.
Okay, I tell him. Dinner, then.
Yes, yes how about next Saturday night?
Perfect. You remember where I live?
Ha-ha. Of course.
I figure that I should email him my address anyway but I decide to meet him at the restaurant and I tell him this and we hang up.

Since it’s still relatively early I walk a couple blocks west to a nearby coffee shop the Overexposure. I rarely went there during my tenure at school but as per usual it was full of summer session students furiously trying to cram for their tests. With a book in hand I go up the counter and order a large coffee a sit down at the only empty table there and begin to read slowly. I’m not really enjoying this book and I keep getting distracted by nothing in particular.
I love that book, a feminine voice says at me. I look up and to my left and slightly in front of me a pretty girl with long dark brown hair and grey-blue eyes is looking at me and the book, smiling.
Really? I ask.
Yeah he does a really good job and emphasizing nothingness.
I laugh. Yeah? I ask. You majoring in Cultural Studies? She laughs.
I did. I finished this year.
Me too.
In what?
Oh a double major in Creative Writing and Journalism.
Yeah I figured that I’d make good use of it by reading books in coffee shops. She laughs.
I would say the same for me but I’m a little too addicted to playing my DS.
She holds it up to show me and says, I’m way too into the new Zelda game for my own good, honestly.
I smile at this, not sure of what to say.
You seem out of place, she says suddenly, appearing to be studying me.
You mean here? I ask, feeling challenged, looking around Overexposure.
No, no, she says. Like you’re lost or something. Like you’re just kind of waiting for life to show up, you know?
You sure you didn’t major in psych? I ask her, kind of smiling. She laughs.
No I mean I don’t wanna sound narcissistic or anything but usually guys always try to talk to me more than you do.
I shrug and say, I dunno. I’m having an off day I guess. She smiles at me again and puts down her DS.
You don’t believe in higher powers, do you?
I shrug again and I laugh and she does too.

I go to a party that another DJ I know is having in his loft downtown that night and I bring the girl from Overexposure with me. She doesn’t know any of my friends or anyone else there and this just seems all the more amazing to me. We go over to the keg and both take generous gulps from our blue plastic cups that we fill with expensive Belgian ale and I introduce her to my friends and it’s all very exciting and there are a number of flashes of photos being taken by a friend who’s going through a compulsive photography phase. He comes over to us and shows us a picture that he took of me and the girl standing by the keg. It looks like she’s laughing about something but for some reason, despite it being a very high-quality digital image, I’m completely out of focus. The guy who took the photo laughs, commenting on how weird this is, and for some reason, as I look at the photo, I feel kind of sad. When the DJ starts his set at 12 AM and the lights go down except for the colored lasers he has shooting outward from behind him and the girl and I dance together and eventually we kiss until one of the lasers peeks through the space between our eyes and we’re both temporarily blinded, causing us to laugh.

I hang out with the girl again the next day and evening and I take her to a local sushi bar where a few of my friends who were at the party the night before and a few she hasn’t met yet so I smile and introduce them and we all drink expensive beer and eat good food and listen to the cool electronica playing on the speakers surrounding us. I can tell that the she wants to go do something else, but I don’t want to ditch out on my friends so we stay for another hour or so before leaving. As we drive back to her place I tell her stories about crazy parties I’ve been to with those friends and the sort of trouble we may or may not have got into. She says very little but whenever I look over at her she smiles at me. When get back to her place we have sex for the first time and it seems pretty good even though neither of us say much afterward.
During the course of the next week the girl and I hang out together frequently. We go get food together a couple times while she’s on her lunch break at work and she tells me about how much she hates her boss at the bank she works at and how wishes she had just said screw it and found a job she actually liked. I frequently remind her that she’s lucky she got a job after college since it’s been so hard to find a job and when at one point she asks me if I’ve been looking I just laugh and tell her I have money saved from my student job. She seems to have an opinion on the matter but she keeps it to herself.
That Friday we hang out again and even though she doesn’t seem as enthused as last weekend, I take her to another party that was at the same place I was at a couple weeks back near the beginning of the summer. They have a good set of DJs playing and we dance with some of my friends who came there from the sushi bar and then I converse with a couple of people I haven’t seen in a while. The music pumping out of the speakers makes it slightly difficult but I don’t think it matters since most of the people there are on some type of drug. The girl seems to be bored but at this point I’m having too much fun to care. I make eye contact with her at one point and smile and she gives me this weak smile back, and shrugs. I go over to her and she tells me that she’s not really in a party mood and she wants to go home. I’m annoyed but I try not to let it show and I drive her home and even though we chat occasionally, it’s mostly silent. When I drop her off, she doesn’t show much interest in inviting me in, so I say goodbye to her and tell her that I’d like to see her again tomorrow, but she sounds uncertain and just tells me she’ll call me. She gives me this funny look before heads up the steps of her place that I can’t read but it looks like she’s sorry or something.
There’s not much else for me to do except go back to the party. When I get there, I find my buddy that usually has drugs on him and I buy a pill of E off him for the hell of it and after I take it I’m bobbing my head if I’m not dancing for the next four hours and when I see the faint traces of light peeking through the blinds on the left side of the room, I feel a strange need to leave and I depart quickly without saying bye to anyone, driving home across campus trying to beat the sunrise.

I wake up the next day at 5 PM and the day seems to be rainy and overcast again but I don’t really care so I listen to some music and read more of my book, but I keep getting distracted. I’m not really in the mood and when 7 PM rolls around and I get a call from my father saying he’ll be at the restaurant in an hour I curse myself after hanging up for forgetting our plans and I get dressed and drive over to the restaurant across town to meet him.

I arrive at the restaurant and my father is already seated near the pianist playing some number by Chopin. When he sees me, he gestures, his mouth full of breadstick and I sit down across from him, buttoning my shirt up one more notch. We say hey and exchange the usual pleasantries and I order a glass of wine from the waiter who comes by.
You sure you want that? my father asks me, smirking.
I glance at him with a brief look of incredulity that I hope he catches before I say, I’m going to have spaghetti. He chuckles and looks at the menu and orders two plates of spaghetti from the waiter. He takes a sip from his gin and tonic and says after a beat of looking at me, So how are you? How’s life since getting the diploma?
I shrug, taking a tentative bite out of a breadstick. I mutter, I should be collecting unemployment. My father lets out an audible, HA and says, shaking his head.
Well you should be getting my monthly checks.
I nod and say, I do.
Well have you been looking? he asks me.
No one’s hiring.
Well that’s the way things are going these days I guess.
There’s a silence that passes as the waiter puts down my glass of wine and we both chew thoughtfully on our breadsticks. My father sighs.
Look I know you didn’t show up for that interview I set up for you.
I didn’t see the point.
Another silence passes before my father shakes his head, saying, I don’t think you even realize how that made me look. How you seem to like to make me look, on what feels like a regular basis.
Maybe I didn’t want some random job you hooked me up with. I mean, I guess I didn’t realize this was about you.
No, it’s about you. And you reflect on me, like it or not. Now I’d actually like to enjoy what’s left of this dinner, so let’s talk about this later.
We get our food and the pianist finishes the Chopin number and my father claps, a little too loudly and my spaghetti seems a little less appetizing. As my father digs in he makes small talk about his last trip to Europe and I nod asking occasional questions until it gets quiet again and I’m not completely sure why I thought getting dinner was a good idea, especially when there’s probably a party or some type of event I can go to. I remember hearing about something about a party from one of my friends and I make a mental note to get the details after I leave here. To break the silence I ask my father, How’s the book coming?
Ah the eternal question, my father replies, his mouth full and he laughs at his own statement. He shrugs, swallowing his bite, and makes a more-or-less motion with his right hand, saying, Well it’s coming. It’s going. It’s a bit all over the place, but I expect it’ll hit shelves by the beginning of next year.
I nod, twirling my spaghetti not really caring. The next number the pianist is plunking away at begins to crescendo through the brief silence.
Well you don’t have to ask if you don’t really want to know, my father says, tearing into a chunk of sausage in his marinara sauce. I look up at him for a beat, lasering holes into his forehead before looking down at my food again and taking a small bite. After another silence my father asks me, Any girls these days?
I shrug and say, Kind of. She’s pretty cool.
That’s good.
Yeah, it is. She’s nice.
That’s good too.
More silence. My father sips at his gin and tonic and I stare at my wine, which is now not looking very appetizing either.
Any more solid plans for the summer? my father asks.
I shake my head and say, Nothing definite. Maybe a road trip or something.
Where to?
I dunno, just sort of an idea.
Do you have the money?
Probably not.
There’s another silence that passes between us before he finally says, I’m going to talk to my agent and try to get him to set up an interview for you at his agency or some other agency or just somewhere, and since you’re going to need the money…
He stops and laughs, more to himself, and continues, Since you’re definitely going to need the money, I think it’s something worth actually taking seriously.
I don’t say anything, and I realize that my spaghetti has gotten cold and looks rather dead.
That sound good? my father asks, the expectation of me saying yes floating behind his words.
Fuck you dad, I reply.

When I get back to my car, I call the girl I’ve been seeing but she doesn’t pick up. I sit in the car silently with my iPod turned off for five minutes before calling her again, muttering her name to myself, hoping she’ll pick up but she doesn’t, so I drive home.

I end up going to the party I heard about downtown near the westbound interstate about an hour later. When I get there, before I go in, I call her again and this time she answers and sounds like she’s pretty distracted. I tell her about the dinner with my father and she sort of expresses sympathy and when I ask her if she wants to join me at this party she says she doesn’t think she can make it and doesn’t really give a reason and says that she’ll call me later so I agree and hang up. I look back down the stairway to the street level and stare at the doorway and its glowing red exit sign for several beats, the muffled music from the party vibrating against me, before I go in.

In the faded blue light of a mid-May morning a young man walked home from a party he was just at with one of his roommates and a couple of friends and they were all laughing amongst themselves. The young man, with the help of his roommate, recounted a story from a party he was at a couple years earlier that ended with an amusing climax. More amusing anecdotes were shared and when they get to the nearby all-night Perkins where they were the only customers, they all squeezed into one of the empty booths and ordered some coffee and when they received it, they all cheered to the beginning of the summer and to their graduation commencement which they had later that day. “Thank god it’s over finally,” the young man said and they all laughed. He looked out the window at the passing cars of the early commuters and then back at his friends, smiling, and said “Got a lot to look forward to.”

I have another dream. This time the world has already ended and I’m wandering through a foggy city between rows of skyscrapers that tower above me and I can’t see anything except the empty shells of cars on either side of the road and the occasional road sign that tells me where I am. I try to open the doors of some of the buildings but they’re all locked and I can’t see anything inside them. I think I see a small boy running away into the fog and I shout after him but he doesn’t stop running. I run after the boy as fast as I can but I can’t keep up and he finally disappears completely, his footsteps making tiny plodding sounds into the distance. The only sound after that is me shouting for him to come back but I don’t think he can hear me.