Breathe

Let us talk, for a second, about life.

I’m kidding. That’s far too broad for somebody like me. Instead, let’s talk about sex. Nah, let’s talk about Hollywood. Or maybe literature. Specifically, sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve had a lot going on in my head these past few days. The voices up there have formed an a cappella choir and are now singing gospel hymns and battle marches twenty-four-seven, so forgive me if I get a little self-indulgent. I’m reading at least four or five books at the same time. It used to be that I could pick one and focus on it, but now, that is no longer possible. Now, I start a book, put it down for weeks or months or even years at a time, and don’t pick it up again until the voices in my head have quieted down enough to make room for it. That’s basically how I organize my schedule. Whether or not I do something is dependent mostly on whether I can work up the energy to do it. If I can’t work up the energy, I just spend hours on the internet. Ah, the internet. What would I do without you?

I always seem to make the mistake of giving people what they want in the hopes that they will leave me alone. That never works, does it? Fanaticism, as a great fictional character once said, is forever busy and needs feeding. People will never leave you in peace if they need you to soothe their insecurities. So I tend to push back in the form of taunting bigots. (Not that any of them read this blog, but there is fun to be had in laughing at them.) One of my favorite discoveries of the past half-year or so is this blog, in which an evangelical Christian goes page-by-page through the Left Behind books and explains why they are not just bad literature, but bad theology. I have a bit of a weak spot for post-apocalyptic stuff. Some of my favorite genre literature is post-apocalyptic (A Canticle for Leibowitz, Earth Abides, Y: The Last Man, I could go on). I think what really appeals to me is the notion of having to rebuild civilization and discover what really tied it together in the first place. How would you survive if you didn’t have internet or running water and insane biker gangs were prowling the area? There are infinite possible answers to that one.

You can’t make people who are full of shit stop being full of shit. I have definitely figured that part out by now. Some people just like being contrarians. Of course, I find that aggravating because I often find myself holding the minority opinion, so I get tetchy when I have to deal with someone who clearly just likes telling other people how wrong they are. The best way to deal with that, as far as I can tell, is to just not back down. There is a time for compromise, but I’ve already compromised on quite a bit. You ever find yourself with so much free time that you don’t even know what to do with yourself? That is not exactly how I feel these days. I have Netflix and Spotify. There are so many movies/TV shows/albums that I must listen to, and I’m working through them ever so slowly. Where to begin? And more importantly, where to end?

I can spend an entire day reading the comments section under an online review of an episode of Game of Thrones. (Spoiler: everybody dies.) There are those who feel (actual spoilers here) that the shot of Daenerys crowd-surfing on the freed slaves of Yunkai was colonialist, as it implied that the brown savages just needed a strong white person to civilize them and show them the evils of slavery. I must respectfully disagree. While I’ll concede that the writing for that plotline was a bit simplistic (how exactly did sending three guys into the city incite a slave rebellion that freed all of them?), I kind of liked it anyway. Daenerys doesn’t like slavery, so when she comes to a place where slavery is legal, she frees the slaves, and they are grateful. Who wouldn’t be? The racial elements, for me, are incidental.  After the Red Wedding, it was nice to see one character have a happy moment that wasn’t immediately ruined by wanton slaughter and mayhem. It could take me a while to unpack everything that happened last season, but I think splitting the third book up into two seasons might have been a good idea. A truly ridiculous amount of stuff happens in A Storm of Swords, and given what I’ve heard about books four and five, they could probably condense them into one season anyway.

I should have a job now. I got hired by Peet’s and am still waiting for them to get back to me about which location I’ll be stationed at. They assured me that I still have a job with them, so I hope it won’t be long now. I have debt payments coming up and all that shit. And since I spent about 80% of my time at my last job hoping my managers wouldn’t notice that I was on the internet, perhaps having a job where I have to actually do shit is a sort of karmic justice. Ironically, I don’t drink coffee much myself. I never got hooked on it, having pulled off the miraculous feat of making it all the way through grad school without needing it to wake up in the morning. So now, I just drink mochas occasionally for the taste.

I considered becoming a vlogger instead of a blogger, but performing–either in front of a camera or a live audience–is just too draining. It’s why I don’t act anymore, either. I do this instead. It’s fun, occasionally, but more importantly, it’s a relief. I scream at the world and occasionally, somebody screams back.

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Can We Talk?

From what I have read or heard from every single media outlet in existence over the past few weeks, I gather that there is a television program called Breaking Bad that is concluding this weekend. I watched the first two seasons, but couldn’t really get into it. No, this isn’t one of those “that thing that you like actually sucks” blog posts where I just smugly laugh at all of you plebeians for having tastes that are less refined than mine. I mean that I just don’t have the same response to the show that its creators seem to intend. Walter White is a piece of shit. He’s not an antihero; he’s a villain. We’ve been over this before. But even though many fans acknowledge this, they will then talk about the show’s moral ambiguity. If the protagonist is an unambiguously terrible person, then doesn’t that create a black hole at the center? It would be one thing if he were conflicted, yet somehow sympathetic, but he isn’t. He’s just…awful, and I keep wondering why everyone hates Skylar so much when all she is doing is pushing back against his terrible-ness.

triumph des willensBefore I go any further, I should admit that I have seen only the first two seasons. Doubtless there are those who will tell me that I have to watch the remaining three in order to get it. To those I say: piss off. If two seasons is not long enough to get an adequate feel for the show, its universe, and its general philosophy, something is wrong with the show. And this show seems intent on glorifying a man even as it chides us for rooting for him. Walter White is given lots of legitimately badass moments (“This is not meth”, to name one), but as it became increasingly clear how selfish his motives were, I found myself having a harder and harder time feeling engaged by that. On the contrary, I pulled away. This comparison is admittedly extreme, but have you ever seen Triumph of the Will? It’s a Nazi propaganda film–arguably the best propaganda film ever made. Watching it, it’s easy to see how people could be seduced by fascism and its glorious (and misleading) vision. The creative team behind Breaking Bad have selected as their main character a man who is soulless and evil, yet film him using all sorts of dramatic camera angles and pounding music that make him look like an avenging angel. If you find this stirring, it tells me things about you that I don’t want to know.

There is a certain point at which I have to stop accepting “That’s the point: you’re not supposed to find Walter White sympathetic” as an excuse for a show’s flaws. I don’t think Breaking Bad is going to age very well. It’s seductive, just like Walter White. He’s a great manipulator and a forceful personality. The show, likewise, is tense and brilliantly acted. But I have the same problem with it that I have with Daniel Day-Lewis (not quite fair, actually–I love Daniel Day-Lewis. I just find him tiring on occasion): it mistakes “intense” for “good”. Time and time again, my friends post on Facebook about how they can barely even bring themselves to watch the show. Is that supposed to be a good thing? I have enjoyed my fair share of grim and depressing movies (Requiem for a Dream, Come and See, I could go on), but at its core, the purpose of art is still to entertain. Breaking Bad, for all of its attempts to explore the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, has failed to come to terms with its own heart of darkness. I wish the show had centered around Pinkman instead. He is actually interesting and conflicted. Telling Breaking Bad from the perspective of Walter White makes about as much sense as telling Sherlock Holmes from the perspective of Moriarty. It just doesn’t work.

the bride

Antiheroes are something of a thing these days. Male antiheroes, to be exact. Female antiheroes are…rare. Besides Beatrix Kiddo, I’m having trouble coming up with any in contemporary pop culture. No doubt there is a long, scholarly essay to be written about that, but since I am neither a TV junkie nor a women’s studies major, I shall have to decline. Instead, I’ll draw my focus to this article, which is a truly ghastly attempt to refute all of the accusations of misogyny that have been leveled at Robin Thicke for his rape-a-licious, chart-topping single “Blurred Lines”. Essentially, the author proves everything she claims to refute. By criticizing a parody of “Blurred Lines” for objectifying men but countering that some women are fine with being objectified, she proves that she has absolutely no fucking idea what she is talking about. The point of the parody (which I’ve embedded below) isn’t that it’s totally okay to objectify men but not women (because that would be a double standard), but that most people are okay with one, but not the other. I’ll leave it to you to sort out which one is which.

I don’t have the space to refute every stupid, dumbfuck thing the braindead imbecile I’ve linked to above makes in that article. I literally groaned out loud while I was reading it. If you seriously think Thicke is being selfless by “liberating” the woman (with his penis), I don’t know what to say to you. You’re beyond my help, and deserve to get raped. (No, you don’t. No one deserves that. But I very much doubt that many rape victims would agree with you.) But to criticize people for comparing the lyrics of the song to the things that rapists say to their victims by saying that rape is a serious issue, and we shouldn’t go talking that way about a pop song is the stupidest, most illogical thing I’ve heard in weeks. Rapists rationalize their actions by saying that they’re not the kind of person who rapes people. But if you rape somebody, then you are the sort of person who rapes people. If Robin Thicke writes a song that contains rape-y lyrics in which he couches up his own lust and desire for control as some selfless desire to “help” the woman in question, then he is propagating rape culture. I hate to break it to you, but rapists are all around us, and until you face up to the potential for evil that exists within you, you will never keep it in check.

It’s not a double standard to claim that all of this good girl/bad girl nonsense in the song is just Madonna-whore bullshit. It’s been my experience that most “bad boys” are just douchebags with no respect for authority. I don’t like them anymore than I like the idea that within every good girl is a bad girl waiting to get out. I’m pretty straight-edged. I went out for Japanese recently and decided to give sake a try. It was the first time I had had a drink that wasn’t in a social setting in my entire life. Few things drive me nuts more than the notion that I’m just repressing my inner party animal. No, I really don’t like drugs or getting shit-faced and waking up naked in a ditch with no idea what you did the night before. I’m not judging; it’s just not my thing.

I’ll conclude this overlong blog post with an anecdote. I encountered my arch-nemesis a few years ago, a man who took all of my best qualities and twisted them into a force for evil. One of the more obnoxious things he told me was that I should not feel uncomfortable when people ask me questions like “When did you first know you were gay?”, apropos of nothing. I can’t control my feelings, dude, and I’m certainly not going to open up about the most intimate details of my life just because somebody asked me to. If spilling the beans about something like that is what is required to win the fight for gay equality, then the fight isn’t worth winning. If I did talk about my private life in spaces where I preferred not to, I’d be giving the homophobes exactly what they wanted. If you think they’re telling the truth when they say that they find gay sex repulsive and don’t want to hear about it ever, you should ask why they spend all their time making it into a political issue. Go on, think it over. And when you figure it out, don’t call me. I have other things to do.

Let the Right One In

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles on the internet lately about what it’s like to be a twentysomething. The good ones tend to strike a balance between tough love and pep talk. I’m all for both of those things, but I don’t think any of the articles I’ve seen quite hit the nail on the head. That, of course, is because none of them were written by me. It’s time that we amended that.

High schoolers tend to be full of angst. Twentysomethings, in my experience, tend to be riddled with anxiety. There’s a difference. Most of us go through that Holden Caulfield stage when we’re fifteen or sixteen where we’re convinced that everyone is a phony and that nothing is “real”. There’s nothing wrong with that. The world is full of phonies, and it’s perfectly natural to look around at this fucked up world we live in and get bitter and cynical. I am bitter and cynical. I was bitter and cynical when I was in high school, and now that I am older, I’m still bitter and cynical. All that’s changed is that I have a bit more perspective. Sometimes, it’s actually a bit scary. It used to be that every time something bad happened, I panicked. Now, I tend to think, “What the hell, I can handle this.” Perversely, something seems wrong with that. I can’t handle everything. I am unbelievably amazing, but the world is vicious and cruel. I know that because I just finished season three of Game of Thrones and if you don’t know what happens at the Red Wedding, I’m curious as to how you’re reading this blog since you apparently live in a place without the internet.

Anyway, I’m getting really tired of people talking about young people like we’re all a bunch of entitled brats. I’m also tired of people talking to me like I just need to learn to love myself and I’ll get everything I want. This is the part where people start to settle into a groove–or at least, they try to. People I went to high school with are getting married to other people I went to high school with. I have officially reached the age at which I hang out with married people and their married spouses. Everyone is getting married on Game of Thrones. Oh yeah, and there were those SCOTUS rulings about marriage equality. No, I’m not fixated on this. Why do you ask?

The tricky part about progress is that the closer you get to your destination, the scarier the ascent becomes. You look back at all of the shit the world has thrown at you and wonder if the worst is still to come. (Hint: it is.) And that’s frightening. I’ve met a lot of shitty people in my lifetime. They all think I don’t get it, that I just don’t understand how the world works, but I know better. When I was a kid, a lot of adults told me that life had a way of sanding the edges off of your dreams, of making you realize that you should stop trying to change the world and just try to live in it. I think that’s bullshit. My ambitions are so lofty that they border on megalomania, and you might think that having to move back in with one’s father for the third time and get a job at a coffee shop to pay off $400,000,000,000 in student loans might crush one’s spirit, but make no mistake, I still intend to conquer the world someday. Maybe I’ll just have to serve really good coffee. All I know is that you will kneel before me I can do better than this.

I don't know why I thought of this guy. Moving on...

I don’t know why I thought of this guy. Moving on…

I don’t really have the time or the energy to feel sorry for anything I’ve done. That’s why I’m wary of all of these “20 Things I Wish I’d Known in My 20s” articles or whatever they’re called. They’re all written by people in their 30s and 40s who think they remember what it was like, but are really just using hindsight to gloss over the parts that made that period interesting. Are we really that different from the Baby Boomers or the Generation Xers? I keep hearing about how young people think they’re going to live forever, but I spend most of my time trying to forget that I’ll never be this young again so that I can fucking enjoy myself. I have a vague idea of what I want. It gets clearer every day. And I will get it or die trying.

I think what it really boils down to is Facebook. Social media has instilled in us that desire to put on a front, to use every drama into an excuse to make passive-aggressive swipes and fish for compliments and use every triumph as an excuse to glamorize our own life more than it probably deserves. Hey, I’m not saying you shouldn’t go on there. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t treat people on social media any differently than you do anywhere else. I hate it when I call somebody out on an offensive or racist comment they made and they respond by saying that I shouldn’t get into arguments with people on the internet. Fuck you. I’ll get into arguments with anyone anywhere and anytime I like. I’m not trying to change your opinion; I’m just trying to understand why you feel the need to drag gun control into a discussion about gay rights.

One more thing before I go: I keep hearing a lot of talk about how “friendzone” is a sexist term, as it implies that a man (it’s always a man who gets friendzoned) is entitled to sex from a female friend just because he doesn’t slap her around or anything. That’s how the term is often used, but not, I think, how it was intended. I’ve known nice guys who have gotten into friendships with self-destructive women, then had their feelings hurt when she rebuffs them for being “too nice”. To their credit, they took no for an answer and, realizing that the woman in question didn’t have the self-respect necessary to recognize a genuinely decent guy when she saw one, sought out love elsewhere. There are some women who are just manipulative shrews who want someone wrapped around their finger so they can run to them when their bad boy boyfriend does something bad, and there are misogynistic douchebags who think not being a serial rapist is the same as being a good person. It cuts both ways, people, is what I’m trying to say.

That’s all for now. This video sums it up, really.

Absence of Desire

I’m not sure what it is about me that seems to draw abusive people to me. One of my best friends growing up was an abusive asshole. I haven’t spoken to him in years. He was fun to be around when he was in a good mood, but if I dropped by his house when he wasn’t in the mood to see me, he would literally slam the door in my face. I’ve mentioned that before. My recently ex-roommate was a bit like him, except he didn’t seem to enjoy himself as much. Really, the only thing that I learned from the experience was what mental illness looks like up close. It ain’t pretty.

country club

My mental image for the rest of his life goes something like this: Eventually, he’ll get a nice job, the kind that allows you to drive a cool car, join a country club, and treat everyone who’s not at your income level like shit. Then he’ll get caught for embezzling funds. He’ll think he can get out of it, but since he’s not quite rich or powerful enough to beat the rap and his friends won’t help because they’re just glad he got caught and not them, he won’t. Then he’ll go to jail and hang himself in his cell. Or something like that. Of course, there’s a good chance he’ll never even reach that level. Right now, he’s just a musician in his early thirties with a crappy job who lives in a relatively nice apartment and is struggling to get permanent resident status so he can stay in the U.S. If he can find an American woman who is desperate and insecure enough to marry him, he might be able to stick around. Since he seems to like nice things and having everything just the way he wants it, maybe he will climb to a “respectable” social standing someday and have a very picturesque life. But it won’t last. His asking me for the broker’s fee was literally criminal, and the only reason that I’m not suing him to get my $500 back is that the logistics of that might be difficult when we live on opposite sides of the country. He’s a terrible person, but more to the point, he doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions. And that’s going to bite him in the ass someday.

I saw Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives recently. To give you a brief summary, it’s a about a bunch of unhappy (white, upper-middle class Manhattanite) married people. There’s Woody, a college writing professor who is irresistibly attracted to self-destructive women; Mia Farrow, his passive-aggressive wife; Sydney Pollack, his selfish and capricious best friend; Judy Davis, Pollack’s shrewish wife; and Liam Neeson, Farrow’s handsome single coworker who might be the perfect match for Davis now that she is getting divorced. I’m going to spoil the story for you, so here goes: Pollack moves in with a sweet-but-empty-headed younger woman who believes in astrology; Davis dates Neeson, then backs out when she realizes that he has stronger feelings for Farrow; Farrow and Allen divorce; and Allen ends his relationship with a much younger student when he realizes that she really is bad for him after all. Davis and Pollack reunite, Farrow and Neeson get married, and Woody is left all alone. None of the characters are particularly likeable, but they’re not supposed to be. Interestingly, Woody is the most sympathetic of them all.

There are some people who just want to be in a relationship. Judy Davis and Sydney Pollack don’t particularly like each other, but they decide that they’d rather been stuck in a loveless relationship than alone. Neeson and Farrow are slightly more relatable. They aren’t all that nice either, but at least they seem to like each other. And Woody…well, there are echoes of his personal life in the character, except that he’s been with his much-younger wife for two decades now. (Not that it matters, but she wasn’t his stepdaughter, just his girlfriend’s adopted daughter that she had raised with her husband before falling in with Woody. So that’s a little better.) In the film, he does something admirable, deciding that as much as he likes this woman, she just isn’t right for him, and backing out before things turn ugly. Good for him. He might not be happy, but he’s free.

I saw Blue Jasmine about two weeks ago. It’s a good film, but very bleak. It starts out looking like a comedy, but as Woody begins to heap more and more misery upon his protagonist, it becomes apparent that she isn’t going to change. She’s a terrible person, and by the end of it, also destitute and deeply delusional. I saw it because I heard it was good and I love Louis C.K. (he’s in, like, ten minutes of it). A few days ago, I was in a bookstore and picked up a book by Tucker Max. I always knew he was a douchebag, but even though I read only about half a chapter, I feel like I got some insight into why he does what he does. He just wants to chill with his bros and bang random skanks. If the skanks enjoy it, who’s getting hurt? Well, for one thing, I’m not sure if the skanks are enjoying it. For another, I’m not sure if Tucker is. He just wants to put one more notch on his bedpost. They just want to say they’ve fucked Tucker Max. Where’s the fun in that?

Louie is one of my favorite shows on TV right now. (When is Netflix gonna add season three? It’s been over a year!) In one of my favorite episodes, a suicidal friend tells him that the worst part of losing his erection while inside the last three women he slept with was realizing that he didn’t want it to come back. Depression is like a weight that just presses down on you all the time. When you lie down, it tickles your feet. When you try to sleep, you’re restless. You can’t make it going away by being hedonistic. There are a lot of happy selfish people out there, but even they have to live with a degree of integrity. You have to know what you want. Then you have to pursue it, knowing full well that you might never get it. Truth be told, you probably won’t.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that depending on the kindness of strangers is a really bad idea.

Wake Me When It’s Over

jon stewart2I’m thinking I should stop watching The Daily Show. That’s a pretty big decision for me. I haven’t missed an episode in years. I started watching Jon Stewart when I was barely even a teenager, and for the longest time, I considered what he does to be not only refreshing, but vital. Now, I’m not so sure. There are other factors as well, but mainly, this has to do with his coverage of the Anthony Weiner “scandal”.

I should add, before I continue, that there are plenty of reasons to dislike Anthony Weiner. I like him. Sure, he’s kind of an asshole, but I think New York could benefit from having a mouthy asshole in charge. And who cares if he has dick pics floating around the internet? We’ve all done stupid things in the name of getting off. I hate to break it to John Oliver, but telling a woman, “I want to fuck you so hard your tits hit you in the face” doesn’t make him a “freak”; it makes him human. But if you feel that after all of that bullshit we went through with him denying that he’d sent out the dick pics, then claiming he’s a changed man, then doing it again, then denying it again makes him untrustworthy, whatever. I have never noticed much of a correlation between politicians lying about their sex lives and lying about policy, but fine. We can agree to disagree. I like him because I admire his outspokenness and feel that he is a true progressive. Everything else is incidental.

I actually kind of agree with him here.

I actually kind of agree with him here.

I started literally screaming at my TV after watching Wednesday night’s Daily Show. The top story of the night was Bill de Blasio winning the Democratic mayoral primary in NYC. After that, Stewart could have talked about the Republican candidates or Christine Quinn or anyone except Weiner. Instead, he talked about Weiner, a man so low in the polls that even his supporters (and believe me, if I were still living in NYC, I would have happily voted for him) were expecting him to lose. Because Anthony Weiner flipped off the press, see? And he (giggle) gave an interview on Lawrence O’Donnell in which he (rightfully) told O’Donnell that all of this nonsense about his dick pics was nothing more than a distraction. And he–wait, did we mention this?–SENT OUT PICTURES OF HIS PENIS TO WOMEN WHO WEREN’T HIS WIFE. Like, oh my God, isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard if you’re under the age of ten and have no fucking sense of perspective?

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I feel stuck. I watched Stewart kiss FOX News’ ass over the Benghazi/IRS “scandals” back in May, and now, I’m starting to wonder if I’ve changed or if he has. He’s never been a radical. (Whatever you think of Bill Maher, you have to admit he has balls. Remember that comment about the 9/11 hijackers being brave that got him fired from Politically Incorrect?) Stewart has always embraced a fairly middle-of-the-road form of liberalism. He believes what he says, but he also wants to get along with the guys on the other side of the aisle. That’s admirable, but when you’re asking a fuckheaded, piece-of-shit, dyed-in-the-wool bigot fuckface like Mike Huckabee on your show so that he can tell you why oppressing gay people is more important than helping the poor, fuck you. I’m too old liberal for this shit.

Seriously, would it have killed Stewart to devote maybe one nanosecond of time last Wednesday to talk about Christine Quinn? I like her too, but to hear Stewart tell it, Anthony Weiner was the only Democrat running for mayor of New York until Tuesday night. After cracking a few jokes about de Blasio’s admittedly interesting family, he immediately shifts gears to focus exclusively on Weiner, as if his loss was the only news story happening anywhere. At the start of the show, he joked that he would cover Obama’s speech on Syria before switching topics, but I kind of wish he’d stuck with that. I know he is not and has never billed himself as a news anchor, but comedy has to be grounded in truth to work. Stewart is turning into exactly the sort of thing that he mocks. I might be alone here, but I never found the Carlos Danger jokes all that funny to begin with. The show is failing on the one level on which it absolutely needs to succeed.

I’m not sure if I’ll stop watching The Daily Show anytime soon. There are other sources of satire and other sources of news. There’s Rachel Maddow, for example. I’ve always liked her. I just know that it’s never productive to sit around waiting for somebody to change. If Stewart wants to bring back the Carlos Danger jokes even though there is literally no reason to do so, he’ll do it. It’s not like he gives a shit what some whiny blogger is saying. Someday, he might, though. Because I can guarantee that I will keep talking shit for as long as I have a mouth. If Stewart wants to learn from his mistakes and get back on track, I’ll be there. For now, I have to move on.