Punk With a Microphone

The hardest thing in the world to do is start again from the beginning. That’s why it’s always difficult to get people to abandon their long-held values, even when those values are clearly outdated. In my last post, I talked about marriage equality and what reasons people might have for opposing it even when they can plainly see that the tide of history is turning against them. I’m not much for judging historical figures in a modern context. So what if Jimmy Stewart turned down the role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird for being “too liberal”? He might have come around to a more progressive way of thinking in his later years. Then again, maybe not. Either way, I’m not sure if we can lay all of the blame for the slow progress of civil rights on people like him. What’s tricky about social movements like that is that they are so heavily rooted in communication. The old saying that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but apathy, goes a long way toward explaining the persistent ignorance of much of the American public. What’s more dangerous–a person who thinks gay people are inferior, or a person who doesn’t care much either way? We are talking about changing the way that we do things, in this country, but we have to acknowledge that they started out that way for a reason. It may not be a good reason (at least, not anymore), but that’s how you move forward–at least, in my experience. Knuckle-dragging bigots are, in my experience, pretty rare, and almost anyone can be convinced to relax or finesse their views, given time.

I’ve talked before on this blog about an incident in which one of my best friends from my undergraduate years turned his back on me. It wasn’t much, really, he just decided that he didn’t want to host the Doctor Who screenings that were so important to me after doing it for nine or ten months. He told me that he wasn’t getting into it, but I remember looking over at him during the screenings and thinking that he was either enjoying himself or doing a marvelous job of faking it. Maybe he was subtly trying to tell me that I should really start hosting these things myself. Which is what I’ve done since then, and I suppose it’s going a little better. At the very least, the people who show up seem to be doing a little bit more than just humoring me, so that’s nice.

I’m still not entirely sure why I decided to pursue a degree dealing with environmentalism and politics as opposed to anything else. I think it’s because I grew tired of being a humanities person after a while. If you’d asked me whether I preferred math and science or humanities when I was a little kid, I would have told you that I preferred math and science by a country mile. Somewhere along the line, my allegiance changed, and after four years during which I was very proud that I did not take a single hard math or science course, I figured I should go in the opposite direction for a while. There is an intersection between humanities and environmental science, and it comes with figuring out how to present the message in such a way so that people will care. A rather interesting article I read recently cited a study that found that people will typically refuse to eat a piece of fudge shaped like shit even when they can plainly see and smell that it is not shit. At a certain point, they don’t care whether or not what you’re saying is true, only whether you can say it without disrespecting their intelligence. This is why I have an aversion to people who tell me that I should really listen to them, because deep down, I know they’re right. Actually, I don’t, and even if I did, there are times when I am perfectly willing to do the wrong thing just to spite somebody I don’t like. It’s not petty, it’s just human.

I’ve been trying for a long time to figure out why the Doctor’s traveling companions are predominantly female. He travels with men sometimes, but he clearly prefers women, even though his relationship with them is strictly platonic. (In the original series, anyway. The new series keeps giving him companions who have feelings for him that he doesn’t return, which I find boring and repetitive.) Maybe it’s because he is so quick to jump headfirst into whatever problem confronts him that he naturally needs somebody more cautious to save his ass. That person doesn’t have to be a woman, but it’s telling that my favorite male companion in Who history is Jamie, a highlander from 18th-century Scotland whose headstrong, impulsive nature contrasted nicely with the 2nd Doctor’s more indirect approach to problem-solving. He was kind of like Robin to the Doctor’s Batman, and both actors cited it as a high point in their careers.

(In case there are any Whovians reading this who wonder what I think of Rory: he’s fine. Amy is kinda bland, but Rory is likeable enough. So, yeah.)

I think people have to accept that there is a little bit more to giving advice than just telling the other person what you think they should do. Just as being a critic is about a little bit more than having opinions, it’s important to remember that if your idea of giving a suggestion is to make the person feel guilty for doing otherwise, shut your mouth. I don’t normally tell people to do that, but sometimes, it’s good advice. Don’t confuse advice with criticism, and definitely don’t think that claiming not to be judging anybody is the same as being non-judgmental. I’ve run into people who believe that before, and there are few things more aggravating than somebody who keeps “othering” you, insisting that they’re not like all of those other bullies who do exactly the thing that they just did, but aren’t as good at dressing it up as something else. It’s useless to point out that they’re not following the Golden Rule, because their existence revolves around making sure that nobody ever can treat them the way they treat others. I try not to mistake being tolerant for putting up with people who don’t give a shit about me. Tolerance and patience are not the same thing, after all. Unless you’re a Dalek, in which case, the distinction is irrelevant, as both are signs of weakness.

I really wouldn't want to have a beer with a Dalek. For one thing, how would they hold the bottle?

I really wouldn’t want to have a beer with a Dalek. For one thing, how would they hold the bottle?

I have to go do my laundry now.

Advertisements

I Talk About Bronies

Roddenberry warned me that I had no idea what I was getting into with Star Trek. Someone should have warned me about My Little Pony! Egads!–John de Lancie, acto

Roddenberry warned me that I had no idea what I was getting into with Star Trek. Someone should have warned me about My Little Pony! Egads! –John de Lancie, actor

The internet is a fascinating place. There are creeps and sociopaths to be found, but the people who really pique my curiosity are the ones who go online to find people who are into their obscure area of interest. You know, like tentacle porn enthusiasts or 9/11 Truthers. I try not to be judgmental, although sometimes, the reason so few people like something is because it’s really, really weird. Take furries, for example. No, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with…that, only that it’s kinda weird. And yes, “weird” is a relative term, and what might seem normal to one person might seem freakish and bizarre to another person, but I still think Scientology is stupid. Even by the rather generous standards of organized religion, the origin story here is almost mind-numbingly idiotic. And while most religions have a message of self-affirmation and the pursuit of happiness, Scientology, as far as I can tell, is about giving your whole life over to a shady, power-hungry hierarchy and alienating everyone who tells you your superiors are full of shit. It’s so easy to manipulate people when you tell them that dissent in any form is a sign that they don’t believe in the cause. That’s a story that has repeated throughout history, from Richard Wright’s stint as a Communist to whatever other examples I remember from my English classes.

My blogging has slowed down ever so slightly over the past few months. I used to update at least two or three times a week, and now update about twice. Between my job, my career search, and of course, all this fucking schoolwork, I can’t seem to find as much time to whine about my life here as I used to, because it used to be that the time found me, even when I was borderline homeless and trying really, really hard to adjust to the demands of a new semester. Now, I feel like everything gets backed up in my head over the course of a very busy week, then let out in a rush towards the end. Last night, I had a celebration for my birthday, which occurs roundabout this time of year. I spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday catching up on schoolwork then, when I got home Wednesday evening, had no choice but to bake the cake. I didn’t get around to eating dinner until, like 9:30. So I guess it’s nice to have something of a social life. Unfortunately, the internet tends to function only as a simulacrum of the real thing.

Any of you who are on Facebook almost certainly saw dozens or even hundreds of your friends changing their profile pictures to a red and white equals sign in solidarity with the marriage equality movement, which had two big cases heard in the Supreme Court this week. Obviously, I care deeply about this issue, but something is bugging me here. Social media is about declaring your individuality in an electronic medium, isn’t it? So am I the only one who sees something just a little bit eerie about not being able to tell his friends’ profiles apart just by glancing at the thumbnails anymore? What good does changing your profile picture to an equals sign actually do? I still remember logging onto FB the day after Proposition 8 passed and seeing that I had received no less than five group invites asking me to stand against the resolution. If your first move upon finding out that discrimination has been made part of your state constitution is to make a Facebook group about it, perhaps you should start stepping a little bit farther out of your comfort zone. Try talking to people who are still on the fence. Don’t just say, “We’ll get there”, think about how we’re actually going to fucking do that, and where we’ll go from there. If you honestly think that legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states will mark the end of homophobia, you are unbelievably naive. Yes, any rational person can see that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, but what about the people who still aren’t sure if they can support a policy that they do not personally agree with–you know, the ones who say, “I love my gay friends and family, but the Bible condemns homosexuality, and I can’t separate my morals from my politics”? It’s a little bit harder to penetrate that kind of bigotry. It requires a subtler approach.

There is a reason that I grow tired of being surrounded by liberals sometimes, and it’s not because I don’t think conservatives are full of shit, because I do and they are. I especially like mocking libertarians, as libertarianism is something that sounds great in theory, but never works in practice. Look at Ron Paul. Half of what he says is the sort of honest straight talk that neither Republicans nor Democrats seem very motivated to discuss, the other half is bugfuck insane. He cracks me up, that man…oh right, I was talking about the internet. Living in an echo chamber is never healthy. In the midst of building a community for yourself, remember to include at least a few people with some truly out-of-left-field beliefs. Part of the reason that I idolize Christopher Hitchens is that you never could predict what he was going to say next. He changed his mind a lot, even contradicting himself sometimes, but I’ll be goddamned if he was ever boring.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of a God who is both omniscient and omnipotent, but can still be fooled and almost overthrown by Satan. The only way I can make sense of it is to think that even though God knows what you’re about to do before you do it, he lets you do it anyway because until he sees it with his own divine eyes, he can’t really believe it. Having belief in God means believing absolutely in a massive paradox, which is why I don’t bother with that. To me, any real godlike being would have to be either bored with their own power, like Doctor Manhattan, or so childish and petty that they have to amuse themself by fucking with mortal creatures, like Q from Star Trek.

That, by the way, is what this post has to do with My Little Pony. That’s all for now.

Misunderstood (And Other Emo Thoughts)

The more Mad Men I watch, the more convinced I become that Pete Campbell is one of the most misunderstood characters on the show. From a moral standpoint, he’s arguably one of the best of the main characters, but he gets little respect from his colleagues because he’s such a lousy communicator. Sound like anyone you know? He really doesn’t help his case by being so whiny and oblivious, but I’m on season four right now, and the outright condescension that he receives from Roger Sterling is simply contemptible. On a lot of issues (such as civil rights in season three), he’s not only right, but ahead of the game. Also, not that it has anything to do with anything, but I keep wishing Sal would come back. He was great, if extremely conflicted.

To be fair, Pete does have a very punchable face.

To be fair, Pete does have a very punchable face.

My spring break sucked. I didn’t do much except go to work and (unsuccessfully) look for a job, so I guess it could have been worse, but I really didn’t have much fun. For me, that’s basically par for the course, though. I have so much shit on my plate right now that I don’t even know what to do with it. It’s like all of the pressures that I’m facing have twisted into a hard knot inside me. I wish I could just reach in there and remove it, but there’s no way to do it without ripping out something that I actually care about. Last night, I stupidly spoiled one of the key plot twists in the third Song of Ice and Fire book by venturing into the spoiler section of an article about the second season finale. I don’t know why I did that–I think I just wanted to have a vague idea of what would happen, but not an overly specific one. Instead, I stumbled across two words that basically gave away what I’m guessing is the final scene in the book. It’s not completely ruined–I’m still not entirely sure why this Red Wedding that I’ve heard so much about is so important, nor do I know why George R.R. Martin said it was the hardest thing he ever wrote–but the oddest thing about my unfortunate discovery was that the instant I made it, I wanted to read the plot summary on Wikipedia so that the whole thing would be ruined for me. I resisted the urge, but it’s hard for me to do anything halfway.

I guess what motivated me to do that was anxiety. I have a lot invested in this story and these characters, yet I can never quite catch up with all of the fans who have plowed through the whole series multiple times. Yeah, I know: It’s important to live in the moment and all that. But this moment, for me, could be a whole lot better. And I’ve only had a handful of truly outstanding moments in my life, yet would like to experience many more before I die. I’ve been on Earth for close to a quarter century, and I still can’t escape that feeling so many young people have of thinking that everyone has it figured out except for them. I want to plan for my future, but since I don’t know what that will be, the best I can do is just sit around and fail repeatedly. By the way, if you’ve come here looking for a nice, inspirational pep talk, you should probably go somewhere else before I talk you into killing yourself.

Mad Men holds special appeal for me because I am drawn to the sight of people struggling against forces they don’t fully understand. The world of the 1960s was a heavily repressed one, and when it started to shake off that repression about midway through, it did so with a vengeance. There is a constant feeling on the show that the characters are miserable, and have honestly no idea why. Times are changing, but who is changing them? Some people, like Don Draper, benefited from the old ways, and others, like Peggy, benefit from the new ones. Without realizing it, they square off, and as one rises, the other falls. (As I said, I’m only on season four right now, so maybe that will change soon. I’m just describing what I see so far.)

I don’t usually talk about this, but my dreams have gotten even more intense lately. I lie down and the voices in my head scream nonstop for hours on end. Again, this is nothing new. It just sucks, that’s all. I’m trying really, really hard to gain some sort of control over the constant howling, but so far, all I’ve managed to do is take the edge off of it. A little. And it keeps coming back. I had a birthday at some point in the recent past. (Or maybe I’m having one in the near future. I’m not going to say.) Normally, I try to avoid getting reflective about what the last year meant and what I hope the new one will bring (I already avoided talking about that back on New Year’s), so I will say only that I hope I am still sexy, funny, and cool in another twelve months. Nothing else is constant, so I might as well hold onto that.

I used to make an effort to watch all of the notable movies that came out every year, although I’ve started to slip lately, just as I no longer see all of the Best Picture nominees. Actually, I still saw Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi (that was with friends), The Hobbit, Les Miserables, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Brave, Cloud Atlas and probably one or two others that I’ve forgotten about in theaters, so compared to most, I’ve probably been a fairly consistent moviegoer. But I also skipped LincolnThe Master, Holy Motors, and several other critically acclaimed films that a younger version of me would have rushed out to see. The two that I was absolutely itching to see but didn’t get around to were Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom. I find that Wes Anderson films can feel a bit airless and repetitive, but still have little moments here and there that will take your breath away. Ultimately, they might help to relieve some persistent tension. That’s pretty much all for now.

Don’t go away.

I’ll be back soon.

Let’s Talk About Foreplay

Before I begin, I just want you to know that the content of this post will not be anywhere near as saucy as the title. In all honesty, it is only tangentially related to sex. So here goes:

I’m getting tired of the way that my life seems to proceed in hills and valleys. When I moved to New York, I was terrified of so many things: starting a life for myself on the other side of the country, making new friends, changing my career path, etc. But now, strangely enough, I’m not so worried about it anymore. Graduation is, as I have mentioned in the last 50 or 60 posts, coming up, and not only am I not worried about it, I’m not too worried about finding a job afterwards. Should I be? Some might say so. Occasionally, I end up proving everyone else wrong. All I know is that I figure I should have enough marketable skills by now to get something better than a cashier job at Walgreen’s. Even if I wait until May to start applying, I should still have enough money to cushion me for awhile, and if worst comes to worst, I can always ask my parents for help. They are unlikely to refuse. I mean, not that I want to. I’m just saying that worse things have happened.

I’m not sure I can adequately express how rough last semester was. I lost track of the number of times I wondered if I should just fly back to California and leave all this shit behind. To top it off, I had my worst semester ever by a country mile. And please don’t think that life is all sunshine and rainbows now. I’m still single. And my friends are all out of town for the break or scattered about the country. That’s part of what sucks about being my age. You don’t know where you’re going to end up, neither do you know where half of your friends are going to end up, so it’s really hard to gather too many people in the same place. Really, most things suck. Mostly, I just hate the feeling of knowing that yes, you can do that thing you wondered whether or not you could do, and now you just have to finish it. Going downhill is easier than going uphill, but it lacks some of the flavor. But I don’t think it has to be that way.

People used to tell me I had good instincts. That drove me insane, because whenever I began to rely on my instincts, I inevitably failed. I would get a very positive feeling about something, then act on it and discover that my confidence was completely misplaced. Is it really so hard to understand why I’m so bitter? The Robot King might have good intuition, but intuition is not something that one can carry around in one’s back pocket and consult like a GPS. I mean, I know that I’m always right, but how to convince others of that?

There is more to life than being right, I have discovered. As it happens, “right” and “good” are not the same things. There are some people who are so aggressive in their need to be right that they forget to care about whether the person they’re talking actually, you know, gives a damn. And if that’s all you care about, you probably aren’t even right. My sister dated a guy for a while who once said, “Just because you’re right doesn’t mean I’m gonna listen to you.” That’s, um, unexpected. It sounds kind of corny, but I can figure out a lot of things: math, art, politics, and the like, but the one thing that continues to baffle me is people. I still can’t figure out what they’re going to do next, and I’m not sure if I ever will.

The funny thing about this blog is that the more people read it, the more scared I am that something I post will piss somebody off and have real-world consequences. To be fair, I shit-talk a lot of people around here, but I really hope that anyone who knows me who reads something negative about them will understand either that I used to think that but might not anymore (if it’s an old post) or not waste my time by demanding that I answer for what I did. If I say it here, it’s probably because I couldn’t find a better forum. Really, what better place to air all of your personal grievances than on an anonymous blog? My goal is really just to have a safe space, as much as I normally roll my eyes at that term. Nothing drove me crazier when applying for summer jobs than the stupid tests they had me take–you know, the ones that ask you to agree or disagree with obviously-loaded statements like, “A person who is being rude should be told off.” Under some circumstances, that would be acceptable, but in a customer service environment, it’s generally a bad idea. Of course, what they wanted me to say was that it’s never okay to talk back to someone, because employees, as we know, aren’t people. I especially hated it when they put nearly identical questions almost back-to-back on the test in hopes of catching me in a contradiction. In theory, it sounds like a nice idea, but in practice, it’s just an insult to the applicant’s intelligence. Why were they wasting my time by asking me to answer exactly the same question a mere page later? I started out by being somewhat honest on those tests, then progressed to outright lying. I didn’t enjoy it.

I hope that whatever job I find in the near future is one in which I can be honest. Wish me luck.

Off-topic, but here is all I have to say about a certain recent development: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Dragonslayer

The dragons here are metaphorical, in case it's not obvious.

The dragons here are metaphorical, in case it’s not obvious.

A couple years ago, I read a rather interesting article that suggested that summer vacation is a dated concept, that it only exists in the first place due to some dated ideas about medical limitations or something like that. So I pose a serious question: What is summer actually good for? It’s a nice breather, I suppose, but so long that by the time school resumes, you’ve usually forgotten half of what you learned. I often complain that young people spend too much time in school these days and not enough time out in the world actually doing stuff. (It took a lot of convincing to get me to pursue another degree after getting my B.A. in English.) Including residency, doctors train until they’re thirty or so, then spend the next thirty, maybe forty years doing what they’ve between the first third and first half of their lives studying for. I understand that if somebody is going to cut you up and give you a new heart, you want them to know what they’re doing, but I can’t help but feel that we could shave a few years off of that time if we really tried. European doctors train for far less time than do American ones, yet they are, to my knowledge, about as good. So what gives? I’m sick of people treating education as if it’s only useful if it’s training you for your profession, yet I can’t help but thing that something is wrong with spending so much time dicking around before, you know, actually getting productive.

To be fair, “productive” is something of a loaded term. If I spend all day blogging and watching stuff on Netflix, I might consider that productive, whereas another might see that as merely loafing. I decided not to pursue a Ph.D. in literature even though some told me I might make a good professor because I didn’t want to spend my entire life on a college campus. Sure, I could stay in school until I’m 35, then move to a small town in the middle of nowhere and make $35K a year telling everyone I’m smarter than they are, but that lacks a certain something. Mainly, I think most people want to avoid feeling railroaded. Pleasant surprises are nice when they happen, although the surprises that happen to me tend to be mostly shitty.

Because I don’t feel that I have said enough about my Doctor Who obsession lately, I feel that I should expound on it thus: I like Doctor Who enough that I seek out stuff that my favorite Doctors were in just to see more of them. I was so let down that Eccleston stuck around for only one season (apparently, he didn’t get along with some people, see Personal Quotes) that I watched Cracker (a detective series in which he was a supporting player), Let Him Have It (a politically charged drama that was his breakthrough film), and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (which was not good, but it was about as good as you could expect a film with that source material to be). I’ve had Heroes in my Netflix queue for quite some time (he guest starred in season one), and since he has said that he prefers stage acting to film acting (again, see Personal Quotes), I hope someday to make it London’s West End to catch him live (apparently, he doesn’t do Broadway). As for Patrick Troughton–who, like many English actors, had countless TV and film appearances, but rarely anything in a major Hollywood production–I’ve begun to track down some of his guest starring roles on TV and watched the original version of The Omen a summer or two ago, in which he played the priest who warns Gregory Peck that his son is the Antichrist. A bit off-topic, but I liked Patrick McGoohan so much as the Prisoner that I’ve sought out his guest spots on Columbo. He was a notoriously reclusive actor, having apparently turned down both Dumbledore and Gandalf (although that could have just been for health reasons). Everything that I learn about branches outward into about a million other topics–which is nice, as it reminds me that knowledge is infinite, but is kind of daunting at the same time. I have other shit to do, after all.

Oh, and I didn’t mention that Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor, played Radagast in The Hobbit? Well, that almost makes up for the ridiculously bloated running time. Maybe. I suppose.

I don't care if there are birds nesting in his hair and it has exactly the color and consistency of bird shit, THAT'S MOSS ON HIS FACE, OKAY?!?

I don’t care if there are birds nesting in his hair and it has exactly the color and consistency of bird shit, THAT’S MOSS ON HIS FACE, OKAY?!?

I think the problem with being on your own is that you keep looking for ways to break up the monotony. It’s not that hard once you get used to it, but have you ever realized just how shortened our attention spans have become? I know people who open up a dozen windows every time they use their computer just because they like having all this information at their fingertips. That seems to me like kind of a depressing way to live. Social media thrives because people can’t do work without looking for something extra, something just a little bit more to give them a boost. It’s like the real world just isn’t real enough, or something like that, as I’m through with most of my deep thoughts for the day. I have a lot of work to do. And I’m not sure if blogging away like this really counts as work.

That said, sometimes I do wish the work felt a little bit more like blogging.