Things I Enjoy Doing

3. Confronting Bigots

I’ve met my fair share of terrible people. In fact, you could say that they flock to me. Something about me just rubs people the wrong way. I can’t tell you how many times someone has pulled me aside to tell me that they don’t like something about me. I can’t make them go away. I mean, sure, I could murder them, but I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in some states. What I really want them to do is say whatever they want to say to me into a mirror. Usually, the problem is that they haven’t confronted their own prejudices and realized that the problem is not me, but their inability to give me a fucking chance. It takes a while for that to sink in, however. In the meantime, I have to find all manner of creative ways to tell them to fuck off. Sometimes, I ignore them. When that’s not possible, I just tell them that they’re wrong as many times as I have to before they shut their ignorant little mouth. I don’t think there’s anything narrow-minded about that; to sit down with someone and tell them that they don’t understand how things work around here is to predicate an entire conversation on the assumption that they’re just not getting it. But I do get it. It’s everyone else who doesn’t get me. So if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll just continue being an asshole. It’s not fun, exactly, but it is something of a relief.

2. Obsessing Over Meaningless Bullshit No One Else Cares About

Those of you who know me know I don’t have the same idea of “fun” that most people do. Some people like to party. Others like to get drunk, and/or abuse other substances. Most people like to do both. I don’t care for either. I’d much rather spend an evening watching cheesy English science fiction. I’ve mentioned this before, but I had a friend for a while with whom I would organize viewing parties for Classic Doctor Who. Some people think that the older Who is cheap, slow, and borderline unwatchable. I think they’re fucking morons. Classic Who is richer, more textured, and just more real than the newer stuff–which is slick, pretty, and utterly phony. But that’s beside the point. The point is that after close to a year of hosting those parties, my friend said no to having another one. Just like that. He told me that he wasn’t getting into it, which is interesting, because he hadn’t complained the last time we’d watched it together. In fact, if I know my friend (and I like to think that I do, or at least, did), he seemed to be having a jolly old time. He laughed at the low-rent production values (which are bad enough to make the original Star Trek look like Star Wars), admired the high-spirited adventure of the whole thing, and told me several times how much he loved me. Sound like a guy who’s enjoying himself? Then one day, he simply got tired of me. I waited by the phone to see if he’d call, but he never did. It’s been over nine months since I’ve talked to him. He passively shut me out of his life, then forced me to move on. Remember how I said that I rub people the wrong way? Most people don’t turn their back on someone that suddenly. But when you convince yourself that what this is really about is whether or not old English telly is your thing (I’d have watched Swedish gay donkey porn with my friend if I thought he wanted to watch it with me), it’s easy to walk away. I don’t do that, mainly because I have so few friends left to walk away from. I am, however, getting quite used to whiling away the hours in my room alone. Sure, I could go out, but I don’t want to. Care to join me sometime?

(I should add, in case anyone is curious, that if you’re looking for a good place to start with Classic Who, it’s hard to beat The City of Death, a funny, well-written serial with a story by Douglas Adams and starring Tom Baker, everyone’s favorite old-school Doctor. It’s available on Netflix and is just over 90 minutes long. Chop chop!)

1. Having Sex

Unfortunately, I don’t get to do this one as often as I like, so I’ll just talk about something else: having a sick sense of humor. Have I talked about that before? I don’t care. I don’t condone rape; I just think it’s hilarious. Most of my favorite jokes deal with rape, and those that don’t could definitely be improved by its addition. Why did the chicken cross the road? I don’t know, but rape rape dead babies child abuse! I’m only partially being sarcastic. Really, Daniel Tosh crossed a line when he talked to that one woman whose friend wrote a blog post that everyone read and immediately started talking about. It was a great opportunity for self-righteous A-holes to shake their heads and pontificate about how comedy may be good for making light of some matters, but rape is far too serious to be a subject for comedy. Bullshit. I raped someone last night, and I’ll be goddamned if I didn’t guffaw heartily throughout! But seriously, it’s not up to anyone, not even the victims of rape, to rule something out of bounds for the rest of us to talk about. I’m getting tired of all this talk about whether or not it is “too soon” to make a joke about something. It’s never too soon to ridicule someone who deserves it. And an insensitive joke is insensitive no matter how long you wait. So let me explain something to those who are wondering where I’m going with this (most of you, I’m guessing): a joke about rape itself is never funny. A joke about the rapist, maybe. Perhaps even a joke about the way that we perceive rape victims can be acceptable, given the circumstances. But the act of raping someone is, yes, off-limits as a subject for humor. That’s not something I say lightly.

By all means, though, let’s make fun of James Holmes. He’s a dick, and should be regarded as such.

From nohope.org.

Also, I don’t have a vagina, but if I did, I would definitely want to see how much government I could fit up there.

About a Boy

I discovered the AFI’s list of the top 100 films when I was fourteen and looking for something to do. It was summer. Most kids went outside and played. I just stared at the wall. During the school year, I was deeply involved in my schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but even then, I didn’t really have anything to work toward. All of that changed when I discovered movies. Suddenly, my life had meaning. I began to schedule all of my activities around what movies were on TV that day. (This was in the days before DVR.) It didn’t matter that, as any proper movie buff will tell you, that list kind of sucks. It’s been updated since then, and that list kind of sucks, too. Like the Oscars, it plays things a little bit too safe. So many of the movies on one list, the other, or both are just not great films (Dances With Wolves, Forrest Gump, I could go on), and there are about a zillion brilliant movies that didn’t make either list. (Seriously, where the fuck is Night of the Hunter?) The point is that if you’re curious about movies and looking for a place to start, you could do a lot worse. There aren’t many films on the list that are flat-out awful. Most are comforting and entertaining without being transcendent. A good example of that is Yankee Doodle Dandy. It features a performance by James Cagney that may be one of the best I’ve ever seen on film, but I don’t think I’ll need to watch it again.┬áIt just doesn’t demand repeated viewings.

It didn’t take long before I began to branch out. I discovered foreign filmmakers like Kurosawa and Fellini, and before long, my goal was to see every good movie ever made. That, of course, is impossible in the course of a single lifetime, but I was determined to try. I watched everything from cult movies to French New Wave films to big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. It didn’t take me long to discover that no matter how hard you try, people never stop looking at you and saying, “What you’ve never seen [insert movie here]?” There was no way around it. There were too many movements, genres, subgenres, and eras to work through. Basically, I got a crash course in most of those. That’s pretty much all I found the time for.

These days, I watch about one movie every week. I’m trying to branch out, trying to educate myself on TV, music, and of course literature. All of those present their own unique challenges, but movies hold an appeal that no other medium quite does. Or something like that. I guess they still hold a special place in my heart, and I can’t stop watching them until I feel like I’ve seen enough, if not for a lifetime, then at least for the time being. Since I know more about them than just about anything else, I know how many great films I have yet to see. My literary education, despite my English degree, is still in its infancy. I know about the towering masterpieces and little else. I can’t debate obscurities and underrated gems like I can with the cinema. Even then, I know people who have seen more movies than I have. But very few of them can debate with me. I know how to talk, is what I’m saying. That’s why I have a blog. I discovered a long time ago that I don’t have the energy to perform anymore, which is why I don’t have a vlog or a podcast. Writing is easier to walk away from, harder to lose myself in so completely that I forget who I am.

I’m not sure what to make of this movie. It’s based off of a book that I dearly love, but I’m not sure how it will translate to film. For anyone who hasn’t read it, Cloud Atlas tells six loosely connected stories, each with its own setting, style, and characters. Collectively, they convey the message that no matter the time or the place, people are basically the same. How one condenses that into several hours, I have no idea, but Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis are determined to try. Personally, I feel that this film is more likely to be an ambitious failure than anything, but I’ll probably see it either way. If nothing else, it will give me something to think about.

I don’t buy the notion that criticism can be “objective”. You like what you like. Likewise, I don’t distinguish between “best” and “favorite”. I do understand the need to distinguish something that’s truly brilliant from something that just makes us feel good, however. The title of this post is a sentimental favorite from my childhood. For those who’ve never seen it, it’s probably the best film Hugh Grant ever made–a touching, funny, if occasionally sugary tale about maturing through finding people who care about you. At the time I saw it, I was at a place in my life all to similar to Nicholas Hoult’s character. So it spoke to me. I’ve seen a lot of great films over the years. But they don’t always stick with me the way that I feel they should. Personal taste is funny that way. Movies are as individual as the people who watch them. And the only way to know how any two will go together is to put them in the same room and just see what happens.

Love you, Roger. Don’t ever change.

Let’s Talk About Gun Control

My dreams are getting sarcastic. I’m not going to go into detail, but I’m pretty sure that my subconscious was actually mocking me a few nights ago. It reminded me of this one Calvin & Hobbes in which Calvin gets brain surgery from a robot that imbues him with the knowledge he needs to test out of school and spend the next twelve years goofing off. (I tried to find it online, but Google Image didn’t help.) The difference, of course, is that I’m not six years old. I’m ostensibly an adult, and I’ve spend the last few years desperately trying to get everyone to treat me like an adult. Even my brain thinks that’s funny.

There was a segment on The Daily Show a couple years ago about whether Fox News was stupid or just evil. I think the scales are tipping towards the latter. Spewing misinformation is one thing, but declaring a topic off-limits after a national tragedy just because it serves your agenda is simply wrong. I wonder how any of their reporters can sleep at night. If now isn’t the right time to talk about gun control, what is? (You’re probably wondering what my first paragraph has to do with any of this. Bear with me; I’m getting there.)

I’m getting really tired of meetings. As I write this, I’m in between two classes. Tomorrow, I have at least three meetings for various assignments and projects that I’m working on. I really wish I could take a day off, not of classes, but meetings. Now, back to gun control…

I’m not really sure what to make of the old trope, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Yeah, but…guns kinda make it easier, don’t they? Consider this: what’s a more effective murder weapon, an AK-47 or a banana? Sure, if you’re a total idiot, you could choke on a banana, but they’re so squishy that I have to imagine you’d swallow it eventually. An AK-47, by contrast, is much easier to choke on. Also, you could get a major head injury if someone drops it on you. Banana peels have the edge when it comes to cartoon slapstick, however. It’s much harder to slip on an assault weapon. I’m pretty sure even the NRA is running out of privileges to lobby for. At this point, you can carry a gun basically everywhere except on an airplane, and I think bananas might be forbidden there as well.

I’m not sure I understand why people are so defensive of their guns. I had friends in high school who were gun owners, and while I proudly support their right to own rifles and use them responsibly, I never could get a straight answer out of them as to why guns were so damn important to them. Sure, bearing arms is a constitutional right, but so is the right to avoid having troops quartered in your home, and I didn’t see Charlton Heston making any bold pronouncements about that. They didn’t care about wanton slaughter in Darfur, global warming, or class warfare, but God help you if you ever came after their guns. That’s not to say that they never thought about those issues, just that they weren’t as passionate about them. Is there anything wrong with that? Well, I guess not. I just don’t understand, that’s all.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the issues that affect me directly are not necessarily the ones that I care about the most. There is one social justice issue in particular that has a very strong impact on my life, and while I’ve talked about it plenty, I try not to place it front and center on this blog. It has a way of swallowing up every other aspect of the conversation once it’s said aloud. I try to focus on the issues on which I can present some unique perspective or knowledge. There are sides of the global warming debate that no one has properly addressed yet, ideas that cut right to the heart of humanity’s relationship to the natural world, and I think I just might be able to bring them to people’s attention, given time. I’m not going to get up here and pontificate about how dearly our country needs to learn to treat everyone equally, because any clear-thinking person knows that already. There is much to be said that hasn’t been said yet on that issue, but I’ll leave that to the ones who don’t mind waving the rainbow flag. I did that for about ten minutes as a teenager. It got boring pretty quickly.

I’d like to continue, but unfortunately, I’m running out of time. One of my favorite musicians once sang, “Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us.” Maybe that’s true, but I have far too much homework to worry about whether or not anyone has actually been convinced by this article. The only request I have for anyone who is thinking about buying a gun is that they take a good, long look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’re responsible enough to use it without hurting innocents. It’s good advice under most circumstances, but especially helpful when using a device whose intended purpose is to kill people.

In case anyone is curious, I’ve never even held a gun. Whenever I want someone dead, I send my robot minions after them. Just sayin’.

Why I Don’t Play Video Games Anymore

I used to play them obsessively. As a child, they were my reason for getting up in the morning and what I thought about as I went to bed that night. When I got angry at them, my parents told me to do something else. As if it were that simple. The next time your mother or father complains about their job, tell them to find a new one and see how that goes over. To children, our hobbies are our jobs. We don’t really have much else to live for. That’s why it’s never helpful to tell a young person that what is consuming their life is petty. To you, it might look that way. To them, it’s their whole world.

Whenever I hear gamers talk about the state of gaming, there is a weariness in their tone. It sounds like gaming has regressed as they’ve grown older. Still, the women in games are sexualized to the point of offensiveness, and like Hollywood, the gaming industry seems to have internalized the prejudice that every protagonist (or at least, the vast majority) must be a square-jawed, straight white man. There are games that have pushed the envelope of what can be done in their medium. Bioshock, in addition to being a fun shooter, was a critique of objectivism. Then again, is that really necessary? I stopped playing about halfway through. It wasn’t bad; it just didn’t grab me the way that, say, Zelda did. I’ll probably return to it someday. All I know is that modern games, to my ancient twentysomething eyes, all look the same. I haven’t played that many, but based on the screenshots, I couldn’t possibly tell them apart. And if all of the complaints I’ve heard about DRM are true, it’s getting harder and harder to feel like you actually own the game. Why go through that much trouble to play something that you fucking paid for? I’d play the classics, except that they don’t run on this computer. I’m really up shit creek.

Video games find themselves straddling a widening gap. On one hand, they have to work harder to please the people who think the medium should be “art”. I do not view games as an art form. To me, they are a hybrid of sports and entertainment that do occasionally contain elements (good music, a well-written cutscene) that can be considered art. Did Super Mario 3 concern itself with deep, immersive storytelling? It was bright, fun, and addictive. Nobody wanted to know more about Mario’s backstory. He never even spoke. Yet there are people who insist that games should be evaluated the same way as books, films, and the like, and who get very defensive when somebody implies otherwise. I really can’t say that I understand their feelings. Their arguments seem almost self-defeating. David Wong, a writer I respect (and whose novel John Dies at the End is a breezy horror-comedy that I heartily recommend), complains that games, despite being around for 40 years, still haven’t progressed to the level of storytelling that movies had by this point in their development. Could the problem be that games aren’t meant to be a storytelling medium? A game without a story is still a game. But a game with only cutscenes is a movie. There is nothing demeaning about saying that games are not art. Chess is not art, but it is still beautiful. I greatly enjoy gymnastics, yet I doubt any of the athletes I admire (and, if I’m completely honest, masturbate to) would call themselves artists. I love games, yet I genuinely do not understand why gamers are so angered at hearing that games are not art.

Maybe the problem is the stigmatization that comes with game-playing. Growing up, I got picked on a lot. I liked Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons and made no effort whatsoever to hide it. Even though nerdiness is becoming mainstream, what with the current superhero movie craze and everything, it’s still a rare thing to find a kindred spirit. I bitch and moan a lot about how fans of the new Doctor Who series have no appreciation for or curiosity about the classic series, and while that’s true, it’s only a symptom of a much more pervasive illness. We all know Captain Kirk. Most of us know Captain Picard. What can any of you tell me about Sisko? Some of you probably have watched Deep Space Nine. That’s great. If you haven’t, that’s fine too. My beef is with people who just want to feel like they’re a part of something. Games used to be more of a specialty interest. Now, they’ve gone mainstream. Call me a prick, but if you only play games because you like shooting at stuff, maybe you should go outside. You’ll leave more room for me, Jaheira, and Khalid.

When It’s Over

He doesn’t have much to do with the article. I just think he’s awesome.

One of the weird things that has changed as I’ve gotten older is that I’ve started to make friends with people not in my age bracket. As a child, I made friends with other kids in my grade and that was about it. As a teenager, I started to make friends with some of my parents and even teachers, but it’s not until now that I’ve started to party with people who are at completely different stages in their lives than I am. Some of the people in my grad program are married. At least one has kids. I feel so weird talking to them. “I have a wife and a career,” they say. “Terrific,” I say. “I have a DVD collection.”

I’ve learned by now that the only way to truly get to know someone is to sit down, eat dinner with them, and then build up trust over a period of time. At the same time, I can’t help but feel a little out of place on occasion. A couple weeks ago, one of my professors called me into her office to tell me, in veiled language, that I wasn’t pulling my weight around here. I told her, as politely as I could, to go fuck herself. That helped, but what I’m concerned about is the subtle contradiction in some of what people say to me. At orientation, we were assured that we would be fine, that these next eleven months or so would fly by, and so on. When my professor asked to talk to me, she told me that she found this to be a very friendly environment, and she hoped I’d be able to fit in. Is it just me, or is that incredibly passive-aggressive? I don’t work to fit in. As far as I’m concerned, any environment in which one is constantly fighting to be understood is not a healthy environment. Which one is it–am I going to be fine or not? I’m not going to beg and plead just to be a part of this “friendly” atmosphere. If I fail to make it through (and I won’t), it’s the fault of the people around me, not me.

I’ve been following the controversy surrounding Daniel Tosh’s rape jokes from a distance. I’m not going to throw my hat in the ring with this piece, mainly because there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already, and also because I never followed his career and honestly don’t give a shit what happens to him in the first place. (I found these three articles pretty enlightening, though.) All I’ll say is what Louis C.K. said about it: basically, that everyone needs to relax. (I’d embed the video, but I still can’t figure out how to do that for Daily Show videos. If you’ve got a couple minutes, however, click on the link. It’s a great interview.) I tend to butt heads with my feminist friends due to my horrible sense of humor. The stereotype that feminists can’t take a joke has a basis in truth. If I make jokes about dead babies or puppy torture, they laugh it off. If I make a joke about bulimia, they forget everything they know about my sense of humor and assume I’m serious. What’s more, everyone else cheers them on because they’re the embattled, beleaguered Women standing up against chauvinist pigs like Me. It accomplishes nothing except to make self-righteous dicks feel good about themselves. More importantly, it makes me feel like shit. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my feminist friends, it’s that it’s never a good idea to tell somebody that their feelings don’t matter. They may be getting offended for good reason or out of hypersensitivity, but either way, we do have an obligation to shut the fuck up and listen until the whole situation is sorted out. For the sake of assholes making rape jokes everywhere, let’s all agree to at least hear the other side out before tagging them as a bunch of bigots. It’s the least we can do.

It’s been my experience that most of the time, when somebody says “How could you possibly understand how I feel?”, they’re just putting themself up on a pedestal. There are certain things that you can’t understand unless you’ve gone through it yourself: coming out of the closet, being pregnant, kicking a drug habit, and so on. But it would be pointless not to try. No, I have never been raped, but I have been both stalked and physically harassed. If I’d been a little less assertive, I might very well have been raped. So even though I am not a woman, I am at least partially qualified to speak about the culture of objectification that they have to deal with every day. Not every woman is. Some enjoy being objectified. Some blind themselves to it. “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” said feminist Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (about whom I know nothing except that she said that, because I heard the quote somewhere and Googled it just now for purposes of this post). That’s true, but there is a certain point at which one really needs to shut the fuck up and let the men say their piece. Usually, it’s when the men show a willingness to listen. Straight men of the world, please don’t be afraid to speak your minds. Odds are that what you have to say is valid. You run the world, but you also, as Dan Savage said, run the 7-11s. You get the power. We get to have fun.

For purposes of anyone who is curious, I’m going to describe what it feels like to come out of the closet as best I can. Virtually everyone has to stand up to their parents and teachers at some point, telling them that they’re not into sports like their macho father wants them to be, that they don’t believe in God like their deeply religious community wants them to, or maybe even that they do believe in God despite having a totally secular upbringing. Whatever the circumstance, everyone has to decide for themselves who they are, and throwing off the yoke that has been around their neck up until that point is never fun. Coming out is simply the most extreme form of that. There are few things more primal than one’s sexual urges, so admitting to same-sex attractions in a deeply heteronormative community is something that no one should have to go through. The upside is that you only have to do it once. So how about it, straight men? Come out of the closet and tell us what you really think.