Progress

I’ve never made friends very quickly. Wait, let me back up. Let’s talk about movies.

veronica marsI saw Veronica Mars last week. Good movie. It might not hold much appeal for the non-Marshmallows of the world, but speaking as a fan of the show, I really just needed it to not suck. And it didn’t suck. So, good. If it makes a profit (which it might, considering its rabid fanbase and low budget), perhaps we might get a sequel (or a miniseries)? I’m still not tired of Veronica. As far as I’m concerned, the world of Neptune has secrets left to reveal. I also saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was a Wes Anderson-y good time as only Wes Anderson can Wes Anderson. (Not mocking him, just saying: The man lives in his own little world.) This week, I’m thinking I might have to go out of my way to find a theater that’s playing The Wind Rises. I’ve been a diehard Miyazaki fan ever since I developed even a passing interest in film, and I’m lucky to live in an area that has plenty of artsy theaters playing the less-commercial films of the day. It is Miyazaki’s swan song, after all. I feel I must pay my respects.

Okay, now that we’ve talked about movies, let’s talk about the screaming voices in my head. They’re persistent, you see. Every time I prove them wrong about something, they scream about something else instead. Even though they have shown themselves to be wrong about basically everything so far, they insist that this time, I should totally be worried. This, by the way, is why I do not use mind-altering substances. I really don’t want to find out what happens when the voices are amplified by chemical means. I knew one guy who fell off a balcony and died after having a paranoid reaction to some weed he tried at a party. Cases like that are the exception rather than the rule, but still.

I think the problem with anxieties is that you get caught in the trap of thinking that the instant you stop worrying about it, it will happen. Logically, worrying about something has no effect on whether or not it will happen, but that doesn’t mean that attitude can’t affect outcome. To put it another way: I don’t believe that positive thinking holds the cure for cancer, and all of the evidence that I have seen on the topic backs me up on that. But I do think that negative thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you’re convinced that you’ll blow a job interview, the odds that you’ll blow it increase. Because what you’re really scared of is uncertainty, so if you make a negative outcome a certainty, you’ve solved the problem, haven’t you? It’s what happened with my last roommate. He couldn’t bring himself to trust me, but rather than admitting that to himself, he made so many unreasonable demands that my only choice was to get out of there while I still could. He probably just took that as evidence that the whole world is against him. Have I mentioned that he is a dangerous psychopath who should be avoided at all costs?

I find that my tastes grow more obscure as time goes by. This is a good thing. Why watch American Hustle? I know some people who thought it was entertaining, but seriously, why? There are obscure English B-movies from the 50s and 60s that are more memorable. Believe me, I can name a couple. I still see a lot of movies, but the part of me that needs to see every prestige picture dies a little bit more with each passing year. I like animation. I’m excited for Song of the Sea, the upcoming feature film from one of the directors of The Secret of Kells. (Tangentially, I’m glad the Oscars added the Best Animated Feature category, if for no other reason than that it made Hiyao Miyazaki an Oscar winner.) 12 Years a Slave might be the most deserving Best Picture winner since No Country for Old Men. There are those who will call it a “safe” choice due to the seriousness of its subject matter, but there is nothing safe about the film itself. It is every bit as raw and uncompromising in its depiction of a dark chapter in human history as Schindler’s List (perhaps even more so, given that film’s occasional lapses into sentimentality), but more importantly, it is a deeply humanistic film. Slaves may not have led easy or particularly happy lives, but they still found meaning. There is hope in that.

I’ve been reading more of the Bible lately. It’s slow going. There are long and boring passages about people begetting people and plenty of passages that directly contradict each other. Anyone who thinks that this is the inerrant and literal word of God has a lot of explaining to do. What I like about being a nonbeliever is that I don’t have to do any of that. If I come across a passage that doesn’t sit right with me, I shrug and move on. The Old Testament contains all sorts of archaic and unreasonable strictures, but even the New Testament condones slavery at one point. (Jesus forbids divorce, but is silent on owning people. Go figure.) Don’t get me wrong, I think there are profound moral truths in that book. I just think that having to cherry pick the parts that work for you while still explaining how you can believe that Jesus is returning someday takes more energy than it’s worth. For me, it’s just a series of guidelines, written by committee. Make of it what you will.

I have a long way to go before I reach the Promised Land. I don’t know how I’ll get there, but I’m getting a little bit closer as to why.

promised land

Advertisements

Long Take

Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.

~Madeleine L’Engle

Why is it so difficult to find quality representations of faith in fiction? Most of the films I see tend to present characters as Christian, but not too Christian. If faith is relevant to the story at all, it tends to be very watered down. Finding an honest discussion about faith vs. rationality anywhere in the media is pretty difficult, although it does happen occasionally. (I am reminded of that wonderful moment on Lost where Jack says that having faith is taking the easy way out and Locke shoots back, “What makes you think it’s easy?”) This question is inspired in part by that stupid God’s Not Dead movie that seems to be doing quite well at the box office even though nobody whose opinion I respect has anything good to say about it. Let’s see, we’ve got Kevin Sorbo slumming it as a strawman caricature of vindictive atheism and the same persecution complex that has Fox News complaining every time somebody says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. If this is what stands for mainstream Christianity these days, I’m so glad I’m not a part of it.

It seems that religious films are coming back in vogue. There’s that Son of God movie that is also doing quite well even though, let’s face it, it looks like a turd sandwich. Fiction, by nature, requires that the creator challenge the audience in some way. But there is nothing about these films that is even remotely challenging. They are produced, distributed by, and marketed to people who just want to be told what they already know. Even most of the Christians I know have no interest in seeing them, because the Christians I’m friends with, generally speaking, have more than two brain cells to rub together. It kind of drives home the idea (which I still don’t necessarily accept) that there are two different Americas. There is a sizable portion of the population that eats this shit up. And the only time I ever interact with them is when they’re trying to convert me.

I am going to make an unusual prediction and say that the GOP will retake the White House in 2016. I have suspected for a long time that this will be the case, and when I see how smug and complacent my fellow Democrats are about Hillary’s chances, I become even more certain. Hillary Clinton will not be President of the United States. She had a shot at the nomination back in 2008, but whether due to her own transparent bitterness or the general mood of the nation, we went with Barack, and I don’t regret it. I’m not saying she’s not qualified to be President; I’m just saying that a successful career in politics and an instinctive knowledge of how the game is played does not guarantee you the position. The Presidency is fickle that way; the job selects whomever is right in that moment, however unusual of a choice they may seem. Hillary is too obvious. If the Democrats want to win in 2016, we will have to pick someone a little more out of left field. But we won’t, and thus, we have handed the whole thing over to the Republicans.

That doesn’t have to be disastrous, by the way. There are no high-profile Republicans that I like, but there are a few with whom I occasionally agree. Chris Christie is unlikely to get the nomination after the whole bridge scandal, and Rand Paul, grandstanding douchebag though he is, does make good points sometimes. Neither one has any chance of getting my vote, but they don’t need it. Even in landslide victories like Barack Obama’s in 2008 and 2012, slightly less than half of the country went for the other guy. They think differently, those Republicans. But surely they can’t all be assholes?

Barack Obama’s life story is an interesting one. The man came from a background that, a few decades ago, would surely have prevented him from getting anywhere near the White House. Even today, I think it’s kind of amazing that he got elected even once, let alone twice, especially with such sweeping electoral college margins. When my fellow Democrats justify nominating Hillary with, “Who else are we going to get?”, I am struck that such complacency could affect the same people who elected a half-black dude from Hawaii whose middle name is Hussein. America, forgive the cliche, is the land of opportunity. And I like Hillary, but if she were President, she would lead as if it were her right all along. I hate to break it to you, Hill, but the presidency is no one’s right. Just ask Mitt Romney, if you can remember who he is.

Him? Is he rich or something?

Him? Is he rich or something?

I might like to vote for a Republican before I die, even if it’s just for dog catcher. That way, I can say that I don’t always toe the party line. This country has a two-party system, and what has kept both parties afloat for so long is their adaptability. The GOP will adapt to the changing times. It will be long and painful, but look closely and you can see that it is happening already. Every so often, I find myself nodding at a Republican and saying, “Good point.” Until the Syria debate, it had been almost a decade since the last time that happened. Ultimately, what I’ve had to accept in that time is that I do not control the swinging of the pendulum. I can feel it moving, but I don’t know how to stop it. Perhaps that is for the greater good. But I’m still voting for Hillary.

“This girl does anal, that’s for sure. You can tell just by looking at her.” —Best YouTube comment ever

Wilhelm Scream

Having four years ago gone through Stage 3/4 cancer, my experience has been that within pain, there is usually a nugget of evolution of a new consciousness. See whatever you’re going through as something that can be about your enlightenment as opposed to a pointless horror. —Eve Ensler

I’m thinking of deactivating my Facebook account, if only for a week or so. I notice a lot of my friends are deactivating or even deleting their accounts, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it, at least not yet. There are still people on there whose phone numbers I don’t have and who I would like to see in real life again someday. It used to be that I stayed on Facebook because it was impossible to get rid of and organizing events tends to be easier on Facebook than anywhere else, but that’s not true anymore. Now, I stay on because I still don’t think I’ve built up enough of a social life that I can do without it. Hopefully, I’ll get there someday.

I find that I am spending more and more time on Netflix these days. That’s probably a good thing. I have this subscription, so I might as well use it. One thing I notice is that I have a weird anxiety about my queue. Since my subscription is streaming-only, it shouldn’t matter how long my queue is or what order the stuff is in. And yet I do worry about it a lot, which is weird. The fact that I’m even making use of this thing that I pay for is a good thing, but now I worry that I’m neglecting it whenever I watch something on Hulu or wherever else. It’s weird. (Somebody is probably saying “first world problems” to themselves, to which I respond: Where do you live, Uganda? By the way, there is a really good documentary about homophobia in Uganda called Call Me Kuchu on Netflix. Check it out.)

It takes energy to do more than just sit around and be useless all day. Even getting up to grab the remote takes at least a small amount of motivation. So even if all I get done in a given day is reading a couple of New York Times articles or leaving a message for a friend that they don’t return, I do consider that a better use of my time than lying in bed and watching YouTube videos. I really would like to get a second job, but finding places that are hiring, then winnowing them down to places that will hire somebody who is available only part-time, whose schedule at his other job changes every week, and who does not own a car, can be a bit difficult. So be patient with me, everyone. I still have flashbacks to that night when my psychotic Queens roommate threatened to kill me. I still wake up at 5 am feeling nervous for no goddamn reason. And of course, I’m single. Have I mentioned that enough?

Thing is, when I don’t have the energy to engage with someone, I don’t have the energy. My mother typically calls me about once a week. After our fight a little less than two weeks ago, I haven’t taken any of her calls. Is that really so bad? From her messages, I get the impression that it’s wearing on her. But how is that my fault? I have friends who live within driving distance of me who I have not seen in months. I ask them when they’re free, and they don’t get back to me. I kind of feel like if I could just get my mother to fret a little bit less about whether or not I’m talking to her, my friends might be able to find the time to see me. So yes, I am somewhat blaming my parents for the fact that I’m single. I don’t want to turn out like them. I’m not the spitting image of either, nor am I half of one and half of the other. I know people who take after their parents in ways so obvious that you could guess they were related even if no one told you. I don’t feel like that’s me. And if it is, it means I’m doing something wrong.

I was never a huge fan of the American version of Queer as Folk, but there was one episode that I found moving. Michael discovers that his real father was not, as his mother had told him, a war hero, but a drag queen whom she had dated as a teenager when he was still in the closet. When Michael visits the drag queen, the queen tells him that the only truth that matters is the one he chooses to accept. So Michael decides that as far as he is concerned, his real father was a war hero. It makes sense to me.

I spend a lot of my time snarking at shit on the internet. It’s fun, and it gives a sense of perspective. 90% of the internet is porn; the other 10% is nostalgia. We can’t spend all our lives reminiscing about our childhoods. Mine wasn’t even that much fun to begin with. So I do somewhat believe that life gets better as you get older. But I don’t necessarily believe that the years go by faster. I think it is possible to age at exactly the speed that you want. I just haven’t figured out how.

I’ve had Skyrim sitting on my desk for about five months now. I think I should just play the damn thing already.

Holy Mountain

My 21st birthday was pretty low-key. I bought a six-pack and watched El Topo with my roommates. That, for those who don’t know, is a Mexican cult western that, apparently, was beloved by John Lennon, among others. It’s weird, overlong, and very, very pretentious, but I kinda liked it. Years later, I’m wondering if I should seek out other films by the director, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

I said that I was anxious for spring movies to start arriving, and now they have: The Wind Rises, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Veronica Mars are all out in theaters, and I have to see every one of them. I finished season one of Elementary, and the verdict is in: It is officially a better show than Sherlock. The first season of Sherlock was great: entertaining, stylish, and well-acted. The second season slipped a little in quality, glorifying its protagonist a little bit too much, as if everything in the world revolved around him and he could do no wrong. The third season pushed it to a ridiculous extreme, devoting the bulk of an episode to one overlong speech by him and turning his relationship with Watson into one that is more abusive than anything. It’s the sort of thing that makes me retroactively like the previous seasons a little less, as I now see flaws in them that were not so apparent at the time. (Just so we’re clear, I will continue to defend the first two seasons.)

The problem, I think, is that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are a pair of egotistical douchewads. They turn everything they do into one giant fanwank, one big opportunity for the nerds in the audience to feel special and attack anyone who dares to ask if there is not something sinister beneath the romance and adventure. Sherlock can do whatever he wants, and nobody questions him because he is just. So. Brilliant. The Doctor can do whatever he wants, and nobody questions him because he is just. So. Brilliant. How many fucking times has Matt Smith said “Geronimo!” by now? We get it, you’re trying to start a catchphrase. The show gets its title because when the Doctor tells people his name, they say, “Doctor Who?” That used to happen once in a blue moon, except now, it happens in every other fucking episode. And every time it does, the fanboys and girls come in their pants. I want them to die.

Fuck you. So hard.

Fuck you. So hard.

Most of the time, the supposed depth in the series is no more than a load of posturing. I never understood how throwing Kahler-Jex back to the Gunslinger in “A Town Called Mercy” would make the Doctor no better than he is, anyway. Yes, I know the Gunslinger intends to kill him, but seeing as how Kahler-Jex is an unrepentant war criminal, that seems fair, doesn’t it? I’m no fan of capital punishment, but this is not To Kill a Mockingbird. The accused is clearly guilty, and letting the wronged party decide what to do with him isn’t revenge; it’s justice. Try explaining that to the creators of the show, however. Or to any of the fans. Because I’ve tried, and I usually just get laughed out of the room.

It’s funny. When I was in grammar school, I was harassed pretty viciously for liking sci-fi and fantasy. But now, the sci-fi/fantasy crowd has become its own exclusive club. I wouldn’t be surprised to see comics nerds slamming football players into lockers in another twenty years or so. Nothing ever changes in Sherlock or Who (in the last couple seasons, anyway). Sherlock is exiled and then returns four minutes later because England needs him to drug his friends and induce panic attacks in them again. (To be fair, I actually thought that scene kind of worked as an example of the lengths he will go to to find answers. It’s just that Watson forgives him way too easily, that’s all.) And the Sherlock fanbase is kind of terrifying in how fanatical it is. It used to be that Sherlock was just an amusing oddity, a fun little series that took a clever promise and did a lot more with it than just marinate in said cleverness. But cleverness is all it has right now. It’s all Moffat has, when you get right down to it.

Elementary understands its characters and its origins on a level that Sherlock never will. The relationship between Watson and Sherlock is complex, dynamic, and warm. Moriarty, when he appears, has more of a purpose than to just destroy Sherlock. He is upset at having his plans foiled, and just doesn’t like the way that Sherlock keeps getting in his way. (And before someone points this out, yes, I know that not everything in the previous two sentences is strictly accurate. But I’m constructing it that way to avoid spoilers. So please don’t ruin it for the uninitiated.) In my experience, that’s how nemeses work. Even sociopaths have more going on upstairs than a need to destroy everything. They want what they want, and when you get in their way, they do what they have to to eliminate you. It’s as simple as that. I mean, I like watching Andrew Scott chew scenery, but the sheer convolution of Moriarty’s plots on Sherlock is ridiculous. How did he manage to star in a children’s series while being a criminal mastermind without anyone noticing? Anyone? Again, don’t expect answers from Moffat or Gatiss. Moffat has even implied that Elementary might be damaging the Sherlock brand. Fuck you you fucking fuck.

Elementary does a lot of things right. Its gender politics alone are more progressive than most anything else on TV right now. So give it a shot. Sherlock, as far as I’m concerned, can sail off into the ether.

No Reaction

The Onion has my number.

The Onion has my number.

People who see me at parties are often surprised to learn how much I abhor human contact. I show up on time, stay for a while, and talk to everyone I can while I’m there. Thing is, that is frequently the only social interaction I will have for the whole month. I’m starting to understand why I’m single. It’s because falling in love turns a lot of people into douchebags, and I don’t want to be a douchebag. I had a friend blow up at me for a stupid joke I made on his Facebook page. He claimed he didn’t want his girlfriend’s grandmother (really, his girlfriend) to see it. I feel no remorse in talking about him like this here. If he wants to get mad about this, he can cry and shit his pants, because fuck him. I’ve made any number of stupid jokes around him before. But now that he has a ladyfriend, he doesn’t want me to be myself in front of her. I guess he thinks his girlfriend’s grandmother has never heard of sex or something.

It has been six months or so since I have gotten multiple full workouts done in a single week (I think). Normally, I hop on the treadmill, then lift weights. I used to do that three times a week. Now, I do it once a week, and even then, I tend to do cardio on one day and weights on another. I just don’t have the energy to do any more than that. Maybe I need something more challenging to do at work. I’ve got the hang of working the register and most of the other stuff, but I still need work when it comes to making drinks. It’s the final frontier, or at least the next one. Others seem to have learned it faster. Maybe they just have more initiative. I tend to hang back unless prompted to join in. Some people have no shame.

I had a problem a few years ago where I couldn’t stop checking the mailbox to see if a check from a publication that I had written an article for had arrived. (The article was never published, but I still got the money. I guess that’s a sweet deal.) Every single day, my schedule revolved around checking the mailbox to see when it would arrive. I was flat broke. I needed to ask my father for money just to buy a burrito. So I couldn’t help but obsess over this $1,000 check that was coming my way. But it took a while. From the time I first asked when I would be receiving payment to the arrival of the check, about one month elapsed. That’s a long time to wait. And all I wanted to do was buy a fancy pen with my own money. That’s it. So imagine my impatience when I discover that some of the publications that I send stuff to can take two to three months or even more to get back to me. The sad part is that every single published author I know of talks about how many rejection slips they had to get before somebody finally said yes. Then what is the point of those first few dozen submissions, I wonder? Has any writer ever gotten accepted within their first two or three (dozen) tries? I’m being forced to wait a long time to hear the word “no”.

I really don’t know where I’m going with this one. I was thinking of taking a short break from blogging after my last post, but the nice thing about whining blogging is that it doesn’t matter whether anybody listens; you can just keep doing it until your throat is sore (or fingers, if you’re typing). Being in a relationship requires the consent of both parties. Blogging requires only an internet connection and basic language skills (actually, some people seem to make do without that one). So…hi. I complain about not being able to get motivated sometimes. I think part of the problem is that I can’t seem to see myself from the outside. I saw some internet thingy a while ago about how everybody has their best qualities taped to their backs or something, so that you can see what’s best about other people but you can’t see what’s best about yourself. I think there is a lot of truth to that. I have, in the past, managed to convince myself of some truly ridiculous things, but then I just went on living my life. Eventually, I realized that what I had accepted (because I lacked the strength to fight back) was never true to begin with, and the tipoff was that it never affected my life one way or the other.

I believe that everyone should be the person that they want to be. I might even go so far as to say that everyone has the power to find that middle ground between the person that they see themselves as and the traits that they were born with. You just have to know what you’re willing to compromise on, that’s all. There is a lot that I believe, or at least suspect, but don’t have the courage to say out loud for fear of being contradicted. Some people just don’t get it. But I refuse to believe that I am a freak, or even that there’s even anything all that unusual about me (besides my incomparable brilliance and stunning good looks, of course). I just don’t want to have to go that far out on a limb to find what I’m looking for. God knows I’ve failed enough already.