Passing Strange

The internet likes to bitch about things. It especially likes to bitch about movies. Picking apart movies is tricky, though, because how can you really tell if what you’re criticizing a flaw in the movie or something that’s there by design? If a character is being hypocritical, maybe that’s the entire point of the scene, and calling them out on that is idiotic because the filmmakers themselves would agree with you. One of my favorite examples is The Dark Knight Rises, which (spoiler alert, for the few that haven’t seen it) ends with Bruce Wayne/Batman faking his death and knocking off to Italy to spend time with Anne Hathaway/Catwoman. Many have pointed out that it’s ridiculous that a wealthy playboy can just waltz around in broad daylight without worrying that anyone will recognize him, but how many American CEOs can you name? Excluding former and late ones like Gates and Jobs, there’s…I don’t know, Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, and I’m out. Seeing as how Bruce Wayne was only a local celebrity to begin with and spent his later years mostly behind closed doors, the worst that could happen would be the occasional tourist approaching him, at which point all he’d have to do is say, “No, but I get that all the time.” Sorry, that’s been bugging me for a while.

Little things drive me insane. For example, I just ordered a couple of items from Amazon: an RCA cable and an HDMI-to-RCA converter that I will need to hook my laptop up to my TV so that my friends can watch Doctor Who on my TV rather than my laptop when they come over this week. Worrying that the cable would not arrive in time, I considered upgrading the shipping to two-day rather than the standard three-to-five days, but decided against it. Or did I? I just got an email telling me that I did, in fact, upgrade to two-day shipping, which means the cable should arrive in time (the converter is already on its way), but that I’ll be charged an extra $10. I remember clicking on the button that would change my shipping method on my account, but then scrolling back in my browser when I decided against it. I figured I’d have to click on an “Are you sure?” button or something to confirm, but I definitely did not do that, yet my cable is on its way anyway and I’m out $10. This annoys me. To make up for it, I’m going to charge something that I need to my credit card (my dad still foots the bill for that, I’m not totally financially independent just yet) to make up for my own mistake. Don’t argue with me; that makes sense.

Random: Even though it’s been months since I’ve posted a picture of him, random searches for “Taylor Lautner ass” are still leading people to this blog. That’s kind of magical.

Speaking of Taylor Lautner, I revisited “Things I Hate Doing, Part 3”, the post that landed me in hot water all those months ago. Here is the passage that got me in trouble. See if you can tell what I did wrong:

My future apartment-mate has offered to let me stay in his guest room once his visiting family is gone, but for the time being, I have to couch-surf. Not fun. Not fun at all. Sometimes I get up in the morning not knowing where I’ll stay that night. Two nights ago, I didn’t sleep at all due to poor stress management. If this doesn’t improve soon, I will kill everyone.

You think I’m joking, don’t you?

Looking back, it seems pretty innocuous. Honestly, when you consider how many people I’ve wished death upon in the last one year-plus, it seems pretty hard to imagine that anybody read that and thought I was actually going to kill people. It just seems so…mild. How many times have you said, “Oh, I could kill him/her” for some non-murder-worthy offense? Imagine how you’d feel if everyone took you seriously. See what I mean?

I’m not sure what it says about me that while browsing a bookstore several years ago, I stumbled across called The 500 Most Evil People Who Ever Lived or something like that and immediately opened it up and flipped to the part about serial killers. I guess I just have a morbid fascination with people doing unbelievably fucked up shit that nobody else can even imagine. Some of them honestly can’t help themselves. But most of them can. Honestly, being a good person is as simple as figuring out what the right thing to do is and then doing it. It’s just that complications always arise. You definitely shouldn’t kill hundreds of children, then masturbate into their entrails, though. Just FYI.

You know, I’ve been frustrated with Congress over the past few years, but they definitely reached a new low last week. As if their complete and utter failure to provide adequate healthcare for 9/11 first responders weren’t enough, now they took time to address the sequester, focusing only on the part that was preventing them from going on vacation. I’m surprised The Daily Show doesn’t introduce a new segment called “What the Fuck is Wrong With You People?” just for them. Because sometimes, there really are no words. I guess they just think, deep down, that their shit doesn’t stink. Fuck them. The real change is happening elsewhere.

I’ve mocked Aaron Sorkin before for being preachy and sanctimonious, and to be fair, the below clip is both. It’s still true, though. I don’t think I’ll start watching The Newsroom anytime soon, however. I’ll start with The West Wing.

I have just one thing to say about a certain big recent event: remember John Amaechi?

Fever Dream

av clubI’m not in a very good mood as I write this. Sort of one of those moods where everything just seems out of balance. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been unusually prolific this past week, and as is often the case when these fits strike, I’ve tried to stop, but just can’t. Usually, my brain turns back just before I pass the point of no return, by which I mean, do something crazy and weird and that I don’t really want to do. You ever hear some creative person say that they’re only truly happy when they’re performing/painting/writing/whatever? I actually don’t feel like that. It’s not really happiness that I’m pursuing, as I think that kind of comes and goes on its own. I kind of just want to feel like I’m in control of my own goddamn mind.

I’ve lost count of the number of times over the past few months that I have gone to bed, tossed and turned for a while, then gotten back up to do one little thing that somehow allows my brain to right itself so that I can move on to the next day. I keep going to bed later and later because I didn’t get everything that I wanted to get done today done, so I can barely even find the patience to sleep. That’s not right. I’ve learned that in some ways, it’s actually harder to say no than to say yes, because there is so much shit going on in the world that you have to pick and choose what you have the time for. One of my favorite websites, the A.V. Club, has just said goodbye to a handful of its best writers. For those who aren’t familiar, the A.V. Club is the entertainment section of The Onion, owned by the same company but not sharing any of the same staffers. It covers comics, music, movies, TV, and pretty much anything that can be considered pop culture with a mixture of snark and genuine appreciation that makes it my go-to spot for time-wasting. I really can’t say enough about it, because over the years, it has become such a staple of my day-to-day life that without so many of its core writers and editors, I don’t know if it will be the same. What made it especially difficult was that they didn’t leave all at once, but one at a time, prompting me to wonder in earnest whether the whole enterprise was just collapsing or if I should just curl up into a ball and break down crying. If you aren’t familiar with it, go there this instant and don’t come back until you’ve spent at least ten to twelve hours reading. Start with My Year of Flops. It’s funny shit.

There are some times when I’m just not sure what to do with myself. I never could have predicted that one of my biggest time-wasters for the past five or six years would lose so much of what made it great in so short a time. I hope that the new project that some of the writers have left for (whatever it is) is something amazing, because seriously where else on the internet can I go for intelligent and literate discussion of all of my nerdy obsessions? I’m trying to refocus my energies into other areas, but it would be nice if I weren’t forced to do so by circumstance.

I’m not sure why, but traffic on this blog has dropped significantly over the past few months. At its best, it averaged 20-30 hits per day, and only once, I think, did the number ever pass 100. So we’re not exactly talking HuffPo-level traffic here. Even so, I’m at a loss to explain this. The quality of my output has not, as far as I can tell, declined. The quantity has declined slightly, but seeing as how I still crank out at least 1,000 new words a week (and usually far more), I really don’t think that’s the issue. Maybe sometimes the tides go in, and maybe sometimes they go back out but it’s unusual, no matter how I look at it.

I have a lot of work to do over the next couple weeks. Graduation is coming up, and farther down the road is my planned move to Brooklyn. (I have yet to figure out which neighborhood. I just know I like it more than Manhattan.) Still, I’m spending my Friday night whining about my workload (there was a little bit of drama earlier with the formatting of some group work, and I had to pick up a bit of someone else’s slack) rather than going out and having fun. Actually, I generally prefer staying in and having fun, but as much as I hate humanity, I’d be lying if I said I never wished someone (interesting) were here to break up the monotony.

Off-topic: Here is a funny parody of a commercial that I posted not too long ago. It’s great, but some douchebags are claiming that the original (which you can see here) is sexist because it teaches women to care only about their looks in order to sell them beauty products. First of all, Dove soap is hardly a beauty product. I use soap, and while I value hygiene and maintenance (manscaping is okay, as long as it’s in moderation), I don’t give a shit about beauty. And second, it’s a commercial. All commercials are meant to sell things. The Dove commercial tried to do so by making people feel less insecure rather than more, and for that, it deserves high praise. And that’s all that I have to say about that.

Reveal

Criticism and insecurity form something of a feedback loop. By responding to criticism, a person opens themself up for more. It’s something that I can’t help but notice with all of the time I spend on the internet. So many comment sections, message boards, and blogs consist of nothing more than people criticizing somebody they don’t like to the point where you honestly have to ask if they have anything better to do. (This is, of course, coming from a guy who blogs at least once a week about whatever is bugging him this week, but hey, if bitching and moaning on the internet provides you with some kind of catharsis, have at it. I’m just doubtful that, for some of the armchair critics out there, this is really the case.) To quote one of my favorite movies, “Not everyone can become a great artist. But a great artist can come from anywhere.” All I mean is that it’s fine to criticize. Just make sure you’re doing a little bit more than venting.

I’m trying to figure out why some people are so brazen in their douchebaggery. See, I don’t get comments on this blog very often (usually, I’m lucky just to get 30 hits in a day), but when I do, I definitely shitcan the ones I don’t like. So if you think I’m displaying sociopathic tendencies, stop typing and go do something else. If you don’t like my writing style because my paragraphs are too long for your hyperactive attention span, at least take the time to read what I wrote before posting a comment plugging your own blog. (Yes, some asshat actually did that.) I can be an asshole, but I try not to go too far out of my way to do it. I like to think that I do it for understandable reasons, even if what I do isn’t always right (and it usually is). See, I blog in order to temper my misanthropy, not exacerbate it. Don’t push me any closer to the edge.

I’m getting very tired of explaining myself. I don’t think that the best way to deal with one’s problems is to just wait for them to right themselves. It’s part of the reason that I detest that new agey self-help crap about attracting positive things to you by thinking positive thoughts. There is something to be said for keeping one’s chin up and maintaining an optimistic outlook no matter what, but I draw the line at telling people not to think negative thoughts at all. I know the feeling of losing something (or someone) that you care about. You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut, like the world just shifted under your feet and you want to just spin it the other way like Superman so that everything can go back to the way it was five minutes ago. It takes time to right oneself after that, to really accept that yes, that thing (or person) that you thought you could count on is really not so reliable. But you move on, if you’re strong enough. Inspirational rhetoric isn’t useless, it’s just best taken in moderation. Sometimes, shitty things happen. Sometimes, the bad guys win. Sometimes, life just sucks. Pretending that it doesn’t is what we call denial. It’s a passive way of dealing with something that can only be dealt with through action.

Do you want to lose weight? Start dieting and hop on a treadmill, you fat, bloated thing, you. Do you want a nice job? Start applying for them, dammit. And buy a nice suit for interviews. Trust me, it’s worth the investment. Then accept that at a certain point, this shit is out of your hands. That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Accepting that the cute girl you’ve had a crush on for ages might turn you down even after you’ve worked up the courage to ask her is not easy, never has been, and never will be. The best you can hope for when that happens is that the next girl you ask will see that you’re a decent guy who doesn’t think of sex and intimacy as his divine right and say yes. Or not. I know, it’s rough. Don’t stop masturbating, is what I’m trying to say.

It drives me nuts that so many of the bad things that happen to me happen because I didn’t say “no” hard enough. An evangelical Christian came up to me not too long ago and when I told him that I was not interested in what he was preaching, simply stared at me and repeated his last question. When I told him that I had shopping to do, he said, “What’s more important: shopping, or your soul?” At that moment, the most important thing was getting away from him! He even asked me for my phone number, and when I declined, he gave me his. I’d be flattered if the hot tattooed guy from the “Call Me Maybe” video did that, but this dude, not so much.

I used to check my email and Facebook page only once per day. I’d like to get back down to that level of frequency someday, but for now, I just can’t, and believe me, I’m trying. My anxieties are still too intense, my workload still a bit too heavy for me to handle it the way people who don’t spend all of their time anchored to their computers seem to. Once or twice, I’ve gone to the gym, then had to leave in a hurry just to get to a computer and check my email because I was so worked up over…something. This needs to end.  Until then, I really, really love watching Archer.

Archer Tumblr

The Greater Good

“Make good art.” –Neil Gaiman

I’m going to talk about gun control in a minute, but before I get there, I’d like to talk about bad art. See, I’m a diehard Trekkie, and out of all the Trek episodes I’ve seen (and I have yet to see them all), easily one of the worst has got to be “Sub Rosa”, a Next Generation episode that manages to be bad on a level that even “Spock’s Brain” couldn’t quite touch. The plot is bad on its own, but was apparently ripped off of a trashy Anne Rice novel (a redundant phrase, but bear with me), meaning that the writer of the episode not only couldn’t come up with anything good on their own, but couldn’t come up with anything bad either. It’s a sleazy romance set in space, one that centers around a supernatural lover who comes to life when an antique candle is lit and makes love to (basically, rapes) the successive generations of women in Dr. Crusher’s family as the candle is passed down. When Dr. Crusher sorts through her dead grandmother’s belongings, she finds a diary talking about her encounters with the lover, then, while having a chat with her friend, Enterprise counselor Deanna Troi, says, “I did fall asleep reading a particularly erotic chapter in my grandmother’s journal.” I’m quoting that line directly as a measure of how depraved “Sub Rosa” is. That Deanna does not respond to that statement by bludgeoning Dr. Crusher to death and calling it a mercy killing is baffling. It’s what I’d want my friends to do, anyway.

Violence, you see, is acceptable only as a last resort. More importantly, it’s much better to prevent the instigation of violence than to mow down the perpetrator like John McClane. This is why I have conflicted feelings about Quentin Tarantino movies. Oh, I’m not squeamish–the blood spatters and severed limbs and heads don’t offend me in the slightest. I just wonder why violence is Tarantino’s preferred vehicle for making social points. Ask him why he made a movie about a vengeful former slave, and he’ll tell you that he wanted to give oppressed black men somebody to look up to. Ask him who should see Kill Bill, and he’ll tell you young women should, because they’ll feel empowered. Ask him why his method of empowerment involved graphic violence, and he’ll turn angry, rude and defensive. Oh, I’m not saying that the woman in the interview I linked to with the Kill Bill remark wasn’t being a cunt, and I think it’s silly to assume that a young person who sees a violent movie will then commit acts of violence, but I also think that when you make films about real life tragedies or with messages about standing up for yourself, saying that the extreme gore is there just “because it’s fun” is a little bit irresponsible.

I want to reiterate that I’m not blaming action movies and first-person shooters for mass killings. I just think that movies, games, and other media give people an unrealistic idea of what violence is really good for. Did you know, for example, that a car door will not stop a bullet and that shooting a propane tank will not cause an explosion? I didn’t know that until I saw it on Mythbusters. Everybody knows that James Bond is not a real person, but not everybody is aware of just how much training and presence of mind it takes to successfully use a gun to stop a home invasion. I know people whose reaction to the Newtown shooting was that it was said, but since more people die in auto accidents, it’s not that big of a deal. On the same day as the Newtown shooting, a man in China entered a school and stabbed 28 children. Zero died. At Newtown, all 20 of the children shot died. You couldn’t design a more perfect experiment in a lab. Some issues are complex, but this one is simple. Fewer guns = fewer dead children. Gun nuts are addicted, and should be forced into gun rehab.

When I argued with a friend on Facebook about this, he (or a relative, I can’t remember) said that gun suicides shouldn’t count towards overall gun deaths because anyone who is truly suicidal can find a way to off themselves whether or not they have a gun. By that logic, the number of annual gun deaths in the U.S. is zero. We’re not talking hypotheticals, numbnuts, we’re talking facts. Michael Moore caught flack for staging the scene in Bowling For Columbine in which he started an account at a Michigan bank and was handed a free gun. True, he would have had to drive several hours to a vault to pick up that gun otherwise, but since the bank was still handing out free guns, I think his point holds. Don’t jump on any excuse to discredit a pro-gun control argument, is what I’m trying to say. There are people who will do anything to avoid the problem that is staring them right in the face. Because nobody understands them like their gun Vera.

I’m not psychologist enough to break down everything that underpins our fascination with guns, but I do know that sometimes, the problem is just an object that needs to be kept farther out of reach. Maybe for some, violence is a way of papering over masculine insecurities. For others, it just looks cool. But it’s never good.

Spring Cleaning

When I look at all of the shit that needs to get done in the next few months, I can’t even work up the energy to cry. The voices in my head aren’t just screaming; they have somehow acquired instruments and are playing marching band music 24 hours a day. I haven’t even been able to follow much of the news lately, which is sad, because I gather that some very interesting stuff has happened in some New England town not too far to the north of here in the past week.

I said in my previous post that opponents of gun control are defensive and insecure. But it’s not their guns that they’re afraid of losing, because if they really opposed gun control, they wouldn’t mind me handing a loaded Uzi to an infant and would support the sale of tanks, bazookas, and nuclear warheads to ordinary civilians. No, I think what they’re scared of is change. It’s been this way for too long. It’s time to get off your asses and do what’s right. If your kid died in Newtown, you’d be singing a different tune (that, or you’d be a total sociopath). Like Senator Rob Portman, who opposed gay marriage until he learned his son was gay, it’s time for the far right to understand that the only reason they believe what they believe is because they’ve never been hit where it really hurts. For their own sake, I hope they realize their folly before somebody else gets hurt.

I should take some time to talk about my time management skills. See, I spent the bulk of my afternoon working on an assignment that requires decent spreadsheet skills. If mine were good, it would have taken me about 30 minutes. But since mine aren’t, it took me fucking hours. And it was only the first part of a much larger assignment. I wish I were good with computers. I wish I were tech-savvy. I wish I at least knew how to work a damn spreadsheet. And learning to do those things is, I have discovered, tedious and kind of painful. I guess that serves me right for not going to the recitations. And there was so much else that I was thinking about doing today. Oh, well. Also, my mom didn’t call, which is unusual for her. (FYI, I’m writing this part on Sunday, even though it likely won’t be published for another day or two.)

I’ve fallen behind on my reading. I was trying to read A Storm of Swords, but haven’t gotten very far since starting over a month ago. And since it’s hard for me to pay attention, I am now splitting my time between two audiobooks rather than one. The problem is just that no matter how much I get done, I still have moments where I’m just sitting around trying to figure out what to do next. I don’t get out all that much, honestly. It’s not just that I can’t find the time to do a lot of shit, but I’m not really sure if enough time even exists. As always, I can almost hear the older and wiser amongst us saying that of course there is. All I know is that I haven’t checked some of my favorite blogs in ages and have applied for only a couple of jobs.

It has nothing to do with anything, but David Cross has done a better job explaining why “literally” is the most misused word in the English language than I ever could.

While I’m at it, I should say that for some reason, I’ve had this inexplicable desire to watch more Hollywood blockbusters lately (as opposed to the art-house shit I normally see). I’m really excited for the upcoming Star Trek movie. Many purists feel that the new movies are too watered down and action-oriented, and while there is some legitimacy to that, it doesn’t bother me all that much. The characters are basically the same, so for my money, it’s still Star Trek. Watching the new trailer, however, I was reminded of one smartass who quipped, “It’s a relief to see Star Trek, at long last, returning to its roots as a dour exercise in British dystopianism.”

Justin Bieber said something really stupid lately. The response from the offended party was surprisingly classy, but Bieber is still kind of an ass. I’m waiting for him to crash and burn. Not hoping for it, but let’s face it, how long do you think his moment in the sun will really last? He thinks it’s all about him, but it isn’t. He’s a product, nothing more, nothing less.

There is nothing more annoying than lying awake trying to get some sleep. Whether it’s early in the morning, late at night, or even in the middle of the afternoon, it always sucks.

Carlos Mencia is unique in that he is the only comedian I know of whose work makes me so angry that I actually want to do harm to him. How anyone can even speak to him without punching him in the face is beyond me. Jeff Dunham is racist, kinda, but since his humor is so dumb, it’s hard for me to care either way. I find the old guy dummy kind of funny, though. The Blue Collar Comedy tour is fairly lame, but Ron White is pretty funny.

I don't think Jack looked much like this.

I don’t think Jack looked much like this.

I’ll get around to talking about the whole terror Boston thing soon. There’s so much to unpack. One thing I will say is that true psychopaths are difficult to spot. They don’t sit at the back of the bus muttering to themselves. They seem friendly, but have a smile that is a bit too wide. Something just seems…off. It’s hard to tell right now, but I think that’s what these guys might have been. Bye for now.