If You’re Feeling Sinister

Gay, left-handed, and Jewish. Also, awesome.

I am so sick of being told it’ll all work out for the best. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m getting kicked out of my apartment for doing literally nothing. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this hated. There is a lot more to being a nice person than just smiling and making small talk, you know. One of my roommates (not the one who wants me gone, just one who’s going along with the one who wants me gone) has even said that it’s probably better if I talk to him and not to her. Is the one who wants me gone purposely avoiding me? I think she might be.

I’m very proud to be a part of the grad program I’m in. The average age of someone in this program is 25 (at least). I’m 23 and have virtually no background experience in the field I’m studying. As an undergraduate, I majored in English. Now, I’m studying environmentalism. I’m probably not the first person ever to have made such a transition, but I don’t think there are too many who could convince one of the best universities in the world to accept them into such an exclusive program with those credentials. I mention this because on the flip side, not too many people could piss off a prospective roommate so much that they don’t want them around after only a five-minute meeting and a pleasant conversation. I guess I’m just that special. I’m also left-handed.

There seems to be significant evidence for this claim that left-handed people are somehow “different”. I’m not a scientist, but according to what I can pick up, left-handed people die sooner, are more prone to mental illness, and are more likely to be President (relative to their numbers in the general population, anyway.) I don’t think I’m going to be President. At the same time, I don’t think I’m going to die young. I strike myself as the type who leads a long-but-not-too-happy life. I hope I’m wrong about that.

I don’t see myself as smarter, more creative, or more talented than anybody else in my program. I am, however, more left-handed. I guess that’s something. I also don’t normally claim to be better than another person, but in this case, I’m making the call: I’m better than my roommates. Yeah, I said it.

(On another note, I’d like to add I’ve heard, but have been too lazy to check the claim that left-handedness and homosexuality have been linked in lab tests. True or not, I’m not going near that one. And while I’m in parentheses, I’ll say that I have a slightly more concrete idea of how I’m going to pay for my education. For the time being, I’ll just take out another loan. I didn’t want to do that, but with any luck, I’ll accrue enough money through scholarships and grants over the next year that I won’t need all of the loan money that I’ve already been promised. This, like much of what I do, is a short-term solution.)

It would be really nice to make long-term plans for a change, but I don’t even know where I’ll be tomorrow, let alone six months from now. I dare it to suck worse than this. I said it: I’m tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The morning I moved in to my new place, I woke up knowing something was wrong. After a while, I realized that everything felt too easy, that moving into this new place and commencing study at my dream program just seemed too simple. There had to be another wrinkle, another way that God or the cold, indifferent universe would find to drop the floor out from under me. So I’m going to make a challenge: universe, bring it on. I’m dead serious. What are you going to do, give my family cancer? Paralyze me? I dare you to do it. I’m dead fucking serious. I am so fucking fed up with people coming into my life and ruining it for me. From here on out, I will devote all of my energies to giving my troubles as much trouble as is humanly possible. There really isn’t much left of me to take away.

I’ll never forget the feeling I got when one of my current roommates told me to be out of here by Thursday. I was minding my own business, eating dinner while watching The X-Files, when he tapped me and told me that I should really be going soon. How can these people even look themselves in the mirror and pretend to be decent human beings? I’m surprised even one of them can look me in the eye. The two who threw me out (well, it was actually one, but the other accompanied her—I’m sorry if all this is getting confusing) told me this was nothing personal. I think telling someone you don’t want to live with them because you just don’t like the way they hold themselves is the definition of “personal”, and I told her so. It was the least I could do. And I’m not going to beg my next roommate to accept me. From here on out, I think it’s time people started working for my approval. As of right now, there are only a few dozen in the world whom I have the energy to care about. You don’t have to do that much if you want to be on that list. All you have to do is give a shit about me.

American Bigot

Let’s talk about housing for a second. I’ve lived at six or seven addresses in the past year. About a year ago, I moved out of my old apartment and back in with my father. Then I decided I should really get my own place and found a couple friends who needed someone to sublet their place for the summer. So I moved in there. As the summer wound down, I tried (unsuccessfully) to find another place, and when my friends moved back into their place, I was forced to sleep on another one’s floor. That was fun. Then I found a place on Craigslist belonging to a friendly Jewish woman who, shortly after I moved in, discovered she was pregnant and started taking out all of her issues on me. Then I found another place through Craigslist that turned out to be exactly what I needed. Then I ran out of money and had to move back in with my father. Then I left for New York and moved in with a couple of people who I’d met through my department’s Facebook page. After five minutes in my presence, one of them decided she didn’t like me and asked me to find another place. No, really. I’m 3,000 miles from home and I have no money. For the time being, all I’ve got is this room that they’re allowing me to occupy until I find another place. Forgive me if I’m not too enthusiastic about looking.

The most irritating part about moving is updating your address. Back when I received discs from Netflix, I was changing my address every time I went home for a break. Now, I have a shirt coming my way from Teefury and a subscription to The Economist but no idea where to send them. For the time being, I’m going to just tell everyone I live with the people I met through my department’s Facebook page. If they want to get rid of me sooner, they’ll have to be okay with sending a poor college student out onto the street with nothing more than a few positive wishes. Could you do that? I couldn’t.

I was truly speechless when my prospective roommate told me she didn’t think things were going to work out with me. I’d flown all the way across the country under the assumption that I’d have a place to stay, but she was so insecure and judgmental that she didn’t think that I’d fit into the warm and friendly atmosphere of her apartment. She sensed an edge to me that would make living with me difficult. I think she is confusing cause and effect. I meet a lot of people who are like that. New York is an awfully big city. There are a lot of plays around here that I’d like to see. I would have killed to see the revival of Death of a Salesman with Philip Seymour Hoffman, but I couldn’t get tickets. Oh well. With any luck, I’ll be here a while longer.

My favorite part was her repeating, “This is really hard for me.” No, it’s hard for me, you bitch. You still have a place to live.

Other than that, I’m really liking the city. Central Park is pretty, and there are two good bookstores within walking distance of where I live. As a man of letters, my first question upon discovering a new place is, “Where are all the books?” Just after my roommate dropped the bombshell, I picked up a copy of A Sand County Almanac, one of the key texts for anyone who wants to learn about environmentalism. If you haven’t read “Thinking Like a Mountain“, do so. It won’t take you long, and you’ll understand far better what drives me to do what I do.

I’m getting very tired of people telling me that they don’t like my “tone”. With very few exceptions, “I don’t like your tone” is just a coward’s way of saying, “You’re totally right, but I don’t have the balls to admit it.” I am right pretty much all of the time, so it’s understandable that lesser mortals might become defensive around me, but even so, they should have the cojones to recognize that the problem is them, not me. I can’t force this cunt to let me stay in her apartment. But I can let her know what a terrible person she is being.

I’ve been kicked out of or had to leave apartments before. This is the first time I’ve had to leave for doing literally nothing.

It’s difficult to find a home. I’ve been trying for several years now. Every time I think I’ve found the place, it gets yanked away. I’d really like this one to work itself out, for her to realize her mistake and tell me to stay. But I’m not counting on it. I’m not counting on very many things at all. Maybe that means I’m getting stronger. Then again, maybe it just means I’m getting tired. Either way, I’m still in an unfamiliar city with a degree to earn and very little idea how I’m going to pay for it. I need all the help I can get.

What Will Happen When Tomorrow Comes?

“Life is messy. People, generally, suck.” –Christopher Moore, The Stupidest Angel

I’m on a plane as I write this. WiFi is available on this flight, but it costs extra, so I won’t be able to post this until I touch down. Bummer. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to blog in mid-air? I don’t get excited about too many things. People ask if I’m excited to be getting my master’s from Columbia, and I’m not, really. As an undergrad, it was my dream school. I find it humorous that out of the nine schools I applied to (all of which were big names), I got into all of the non-Ivy League schools and was rejected from all of the Ivies. Now, as a grad student, I have been accepted into my first-choice program. That’s pretty awesome, but like the insanely ambitious person that I am, I want more. Why stop with studying at one of the best universities in the world? I want to rule the world. Of course, if I ever accomplish that, I’ll probably set my sights on space. I’m picky that way.

Taking over the world is like solving a Rubik’s Cube, except that instead of a cube, it’s the entire world. I’ve been trying to take over the world since I was a child. It’s really hard. Like, really, really, really, really, really hard. I’m not sure if I can put enough “reallys” in that sentence. Just pretend that it goes on for seven pages and you’ll have a rough idea. I’d be a much happier man if I could just get rid of this pesky conscience. Somebody whose name I am currently unable to look up once said that making a lot of money isn’t so hard if all you want to do is make a lot of money. I’d agree with that. Similarly, if all I’d cared about was getting into a good grad program, I’d be jumping for joy. But we all know that that isn’t what this is really about. I’m hungry. I want to learn everything that there is to know and then some. What’s changed is that now I have some idea where to begin.

I’ve never mentioned this on my blog before, but I’m a regular listener of This American Life. I think Ira Glass is an incisive and fair journalist and many of the stories on that show—fictional and nonfictional—are well worth hearing. There was a controversy a couple months ago when one of the stories—taken from a monologue by Mike Daisey called “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” turned out to be partially fictionalized. It is not unusual for a supposed “nonfiction” story to be somewhat embellished. David Sedaris has been accused of making a good story better on occasion, and while he isn’t an author, Louis CK has admitted to making up parts of his standup comedy. What makes Mike Daisey different? Simple: he didn’t need to do it. For those of you who haven’t heard it, his show details a visit he made to the Foxconn factories in China where Apple products are made. He reported on the abominable conditions that employees were forced to work under and asked just how guilty we should feel for using devices that were made by people who are scarcely better than slaves. It was a powerful hour of radio, and the podcast became the most-downloaded in TAL history. So you can imagine that when Ira Glass discovered he’d been had, he did not respond kindly. He devoted an entire show to retracting the story and, in a long, awkward, and strangely cathartic interview, took Mike Daisey to task for his deceit.

I’m not going to claim that I saw any of that coming. I will say, however, that as moved as I was by Daisey’s monologue, something about it bugged me. It seemed overdramatized somehow, as if he were reaching just a little too hard for effect. Even if it had been presented as fiction, parts of it wouldn’t have been believable. Usually, when outed as a liar, a so-called memoirist, journalist, or other nonfiction writer claims that it may not have been the literal truth, but it was the emotional truth. In Daisey’s case, I don’t buy that. Parts of his story are simply laughable. There is one moment in which a factory employee who has constructed thousands of iPads sees one in its finished form for the first time, turns to Daisey, and says, “It’s a kind of magic.” What happened then, did Freddie Mercury jump out and do a musical number?

The funny thing about my writing is that it is either 100% true or 100% false. I do not muck around with the grey area in between. I wrote an essay in high school about the death of my dog, and while there were no outright fictions in the story, there was a fair amount of collapsing events to make them read more smoothly, polishing the rough edges, and so on. It was one of the best pieces I produced during that era, but I’m not going back down that road again. Even though the feedback was very positive, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. There are many things that I am not sure of, but here is one that I believe as strongly as I believe anything: I will never fabricate. If I say that a story is made-up, that means it’s made-up. If I say that it is true to the best of my knowledge, it means that I went over it with a fine-toothed comb to correct even the most minor and insignificant error. My stories are either mundane or fantastical. There is magic in both.

It’s difficult to compress a real-life story into something that is digestible to an audience. Then again, we do it all the time, telling stories at dinner parties and the like. Try not to get too hung up on the facts. Think about what you want people to take away. If you want them to be entertained, make it entertaining. If you want them to be moved, make it poignant. But don’t try to make them feel guilty. That’s not what they came for.

The Last Waltz

He has something to do with this article. I just don’t know what it is.

I’m tired of nostalgia. If I remember that one episode of Mad Men correctly, the literal Greek definition is “pain from an old wound”. Why do people insist on trying to relive supposedly “happier” times in their lives? I think they just want to go back and do everything differently. Really, what they seem to be looking for is closure, some concrete reminder that an era is ending and another one is beginning. It’s never that neat and even for me. Last weekend, I tried to host a gathering at my house for a bunch of old friends to watch Doctor Who with me before I leave the West Coast for good. Of the five invited, one showed up. Everyone else just had shit to do, I guess. Yeah, I get it—we’ll meet again, and it doesn’t mean they don’t love me. Blah blah blah, yada yada  yada. A couple years ago, I remember taking BART out to the middle of nowhere to celebrate the graduation of a friend who was leaving for India. Attendance for that was more or less mandatory.

I never get nostalgic for the outstanding moments in my life. I’ve only had a couple, but they were so satisfying that I feel no desire whatsoever to return to them, as they are fine on their own. Nostalgia is for people who can’t move on, who can’t shake the feeling that they’ve done something wrong and if they could just go back, knowing then what they know now, it would somehow be even more awesome. I don’t buy that. Nostalgia, for me, is more about perceived missed opportunities than real ones. Most of the things that haven’t gone right for me seem to have done so in spite of my best efforts, not because of them. That’s why I’ve never had much use for anything that portrays children as innocent. Children are younger people. They have desires, insecurities and weaknesses just like everyone else. They are complicated. I really don’t think that, deep down, they want to be coddled. They’re curious. They want to know what lies beyond their cul-de-sacs and white picket fences. Don’t tell me you’re still a child at heart. That’s nonsense. Children are adults at heart.

I don’t have most of what I want. I’m learning to live with that. My life is shitty, always has been, and mostly likely always will be. What has changed since my childhood is that now I have (slightly) more control over just what shitty things happen to me and how I deal with them. Honestly, little else has changed. There, that’s my contribution to the It Gets Better project.

Earlier today, I revisited my college town. It was nice, but nothing super-special. That’s probably for the better. I didn’t need a fireworks show to feel like I was getting an appropriate send-off. Just the knowledge that five or six people will give a shit that I’m gone is enough. That said, if anyone would like to give me a check for a million dollars, a date with Taylor Lautner, or maybe just a bit of traffic, that would be nice. I don’t think I complain enough about how few hits this blog gets. I know there are a million jackasses out there with WordPress accounts, but few are anywhere near as awesome as I am, and none of them can work Taylor Lautner and Doctor Who into a touching, bittersweet essay about letting go and moving on. (Incidentally, “Doctor Who” is by far my most popular tag, edging out “LGBT”, “masturbating”, and “Ayn Rand”. If it becomes any more of a part of my thinking, it will eclipse sex.)

A couple weeks ago, I watched The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 with Rifftrax. Rifftrax, for those of you who don’t know, is the website offering downloadable commentary tracks by most of the people responsible for Mystery Science Theater 3000, one of the greatest TV shows of all time. If there are any movies more deserving of endless mockery than the Twilight films, let me know so that I can start mocking them. The experience was, in short, a gut-buster. These films are absolutely godawful. Setting aside their icky gender politics, horrid acting, plotting, and characterization, they’re just boring. Without the Rifftrackers to remind me of how desperately padded they are, I would probably have thrown my computer through my window. With them, I can marvel at what a talentless fraud Stephenie Meyer is in peace.

Someday, I will read Wuthering Heights. I mention that because Stephenie Meyer apparently labors under the delusion that Twilight heroes Edward and Bella are the Katharine and Heathcliff of their generation. That may be true, but only because they’re such horrible people. The main characters in Wuthering Heights, from what I’ve heard, are either sociopaths, bipolar, or the spawn of Satan. That’s why I can’t wait to read the book. By sucking so hard, Stephenie Meyer has indirectly turned me on to the magic of great literature. Thank you, Twilight.

I don’t care much for inspirational rhetoric, so I’ll close with something that I find inspirational. It takes a while to recover from abuse, but the nice thing about abusers is that once you see through them, there is nothing more that they can do to hurt you. One of my best friends growing up was a truly terrible human being. He was selfish, manipulative, and fickle to the extreme. His family wasn’t much better, with a mother who was basically a Stepford Wife and a father who, while genial and good-natured, let her have way too much control over other people’s lives. I haven’t spoken to any of them in years. Someday, I might write a book about a family based off of that real-life one. Until then, I’ll live with the knowledge that while I may have spent far too much time and energy trying to turn my friend into a decent human being, he will have to live with being a terrible one for the rest of his life. Don’t be too distraught by the fact that Kim Jong-Il never had to face punishment for his crimes and we still don’t know who Jack the Ripper was. They lived, died, and wasted their lives. With any luck, you won’t.

The Meaning of Life

I love Monty Python. I’ve only seen a couple episodes of Flying Circus, but I’ve got the movies practically memorized. It seems to be that way for a lot of fans. Monty Python and the Holy Grail could be one of the most quotable movies ever made. It also ranks up there with The Princess Bride as the one that I’ve probably seen the most times. One thing that I’ve learned from Monty Python is that cross-dressing is funny. I’m not sure why. I think it has something to do with debasement. Comedy is all about humiliating oneself, about making oneself look like an idiot so that one can point the finger at somebody else and mock them relentlessly. What’s more humiliating than a man who needs a shave putting on a wig and dress and speaking in a slightly higher register? The “women” in most Monty Python sketches couldn’t be mistaken for the real thing at fifty yards by Helen Keller, but they’re still funny. For whatever reason, I don’t find homosexuality to be inherently funny the same way that I do cross-dressing. So much modern comedy is based on taking two men from popular fiction and showing them cuddling. Some of it is funny—I’ve seen stuff featuring C-3PO and R2-D2 that was kind of amusing—but most of it is hackneyed. No, the mere idea of two men loving each other is not a joke all by itself.

I was part of a student sketch comedy group as an undergrad. Some of my work was a hit, and some was a bit too dry and intellectual for a crowd that really just wanted cheap dick jokes (and was also likely intoxicated.) I revisited my alma mater last year to see one of our shows, and lo and behold, there was a scene featuring a gay male (it’s never female) relationship as the main joke. See, what if the prince from The Little Mermaid were actually gay? It’s funny because then we could show him swishing around wearing flamboyant colors and nuzzling noses with a guy! I should note that despite the ridiculous amount of nuzzling that this scene contained, there was no actual kissing—you know, that thing that people do when they’re in love? Because while two men acting swishy is the funniest damn thing in the world, making out is just icky.

I’m not going to come down too hard on this scene. I can’t remember who wrote it, but odds are good that I’m at least friendly with them. How sophisticated can you really expect something that was written, produced and performed by college students to be anyway? All I’m really angry about is a lack of maturity on the part of the general public. Someday, we’ll all grow up and get bored with this shit. I’m bored with it already. In the meantime, there’s Cat Stevens. A couple years ago, I was in a scene with the aforementioned comedy group that required me to go insane. That is, I was playing a psychopath and got a little bit carried away. Grabbing the arm of my costar during rehearsal, I gripped too hard and gave her a bruise. Throwing a book offstage during a performance, I missed hitting her in the head by about six inches. After opening night, I had to go home and listen to Cat Stevens for at least an hour. It was around that moment that I realized that maybe I shouldn’t devote my entire life to acting.

Spirituality is difficult to incorporate into comedy. Mike Myers tried it with The Love Guru and made a movie so bad that I refuse to even watch it to find out how bad it is. No, I don’t think I’m being judgmental. Look at the poster. The tagline, for those of you too lazy to click on the link (most of you, I’m guessing) is “His karma is huge.” What in the name of Satan’s gooch does that mean? Karma, unless I’m gravely mistaken, is not quantifiable. It can be good or bad, but not big or small. Shouldn’t the man who spent over a decade developing this character and studying Eastern philosophy know that? Yeah, I get it: it’s a dick joke. Ha ha, that’s hilarious. But it’s not a double entendre, which might make it funny. It would have been funnier to just change the stars’ names to Anita Lay and Alpha Kenny One.

Comedy doesn’t have to be intelligent, although there’s nothing wrong with it if it is. What is has to be is funny. Listening to Weird Al Yankovic again after falling in love with him as a preteen, I’m shocked by how well most of his work holds up. He probably appeals more to prepubescent boys, but that’s just because he is so cheerfully unpretentious. In fact, he has shown more longevity than many of the artists he parodies. His career is still going strong. What has Coolio done lately? So many stars burn out young. Which of the current crop of big names in the music industry will still be standing in 20 years? The ones who fare best, in my experience, tend to be the ones with a hint of self-awareness. That doesn’t guarantee success, mind you. But it certainly helps in telling a good story.