A Leave of Presence

Traffic for the past month has been abysmal. I try not to let it get to me, but that’s a little bit like not going on Facebook. You can hold out for a while, but sooner or later, you lapse. It’s human. These days, I’m lucky to get five page views per day. Five. Seriously, what the fuck? This is the worst traffic I’ve had since…ever, really. I remember a four-day stretch back when I was starting out during which the only page view I got was from me checking the traffic, but this is fucking absurd. Why is nobody reading this thing anymore? Fluctuations in my blog statistics always baffle me. The quality of the content, as far as I can tell, is as strong as ever. I still update regularly, so what gives? The best traffic I ever had was in January of last year, a period during which a lot of shit was happening. But the number of people reading this thing should not be directly tied to what’s going on with me. I have a lot of opinions. I’m not running out anytime soon.

I had something that I wanted to talk about here, but I can’t remember what it was. Fuck it. I’m not asking for pity. I’m not even asking for page views or “likes”, necessarily. I just wish that I had some idea of how what I do affects other people. There were people I knew in high school who are getting married, having kids, and making a hell of a lot more money than I ever have. So what the fuck am I doing here? Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to measure yourself by who wants to be your friend, but you’re missing the point. I work part-time at a job where nobody there seems to much care what I’m doing when I’m not at work and even when I am there, they basically just make small talk. Hooray. I don’t make much money and have no idea how I’m going to get out of my current situation. And I still don’t sleep very well most nights. So I think it’s time to shake things up. I’m not sure what I mean by that, not yet. All I know is that what I’m doing right now isn’t working.

There is a restaurant near where I live at which I have become a regular. It’s nothing too fancy, just a diner where they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They just do it all so well. You could pretty much close your eyes and point to something on the menu. Odds are, it’ll be good. I try not to eat out too often. It costs more than staying in, of course, but since I’m not making that much money and have few prospects for the future, this paradoxically makes me more willing to eat at restaurants rather than staying in. When everything’s going right for you, it’s easy to do the “right” thing. So I’m trying to choose my words very carefully here. I’m not ready to unplug. I’m not going to stop going on social media for the time being, nor am I going to take a very long break from blogging. I’m just taking a step back, that’s all. I don’t want to quit my job and I can’t sever ties with my parents. Maybe I can just put a little bit more distance between myself and them, that’s all. I need the option of retiring from human society to be open if I choose to take it.

I finished the Harry Potter series last month. It was pretty good, but not amazing. If there is one character that I always identified with, it’s Lupin, probably because he knows when to let go. At first glance, his decision to resign because people don’t want a werewolf teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts might seem like a cop-out. But it isn’t, because he knows that this is a battle he can’t win. Yeah, he might be able to tough out the nonstop accusations that he is dangerous and untrustworthy, but then the bigoted parents will start refusing to let their children attend Hogwarts and that, indirectly, will hurt basically everyone he cares about. Change isn’t something you can force upon people. They either accept it or they don’t. I’m not as bitter or miserable as I’ve been at some of the other low points in my life, but I’m not going to pretend everything is wonderful either. The truth is starting to sink in for me that this year, just like every year before it and most likely every year after it, is not going to be The One Where It All Comes Together.

I think I’ve earned the right to feel a little sorry for myself. I think I’ve earned the right to wallow in self-pity. Neither my social life, my familial life, my love life, nor my professional life are anywhere near where they should be right now. And for a guy with some lofty ideals, I still like to think of myself as a pragmatist. So for the time being, I choose not to fight the good fight. I choose not to take up arms against a sea of troubles and set out to change (or rule) the world. For now, I’m going to try to have at least a little bit of fun. Failing that, I might at least gain some perspective. Because there is no one person or thing who can solve all of my problems right now. The closest I’ve got is a rough idea of what they are.

I like the final image, but I don't think this one quite captures it.

I like the final image, but I don’t think this one quite captures it.

Yeah, that's more like it. Truth be told, I probably spend more time hunched over my computer than doing anything else.

Yeah, that’s more like it. Truth be told, I probably spend more time hunched over my computer than doing anything else.

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Dirt

Films are made up of many elements. Literary, theatrical, painterly, and musical. But there is something in film that is purely cinematic. When I make films or go to see the films of others, I go in hopes of experiencing this. I’m at a loss to express the quality in words. I hope one day to make a film in which every moment has that power. Until I do I am still only a student.

—Akira Kurosawa

I think my problem is that I’m obsessed with endings. I keep wanting to know how shit will turn out, and thus am always looking for ways to cap off the evening rather than bowing out when it’s time to go. “Productive” is not the easiest word in the world to define. I’m trying not to get too wrapped up in the idea that I have to have done something meaningful in order for the day to have meaning. It’s kind of poisonous, and makes it difficult to enjoy the part that you’re on. Besides, I’m still getting started. A lot of things have gone up and down over the past few years. I would like to find a way to at least make those changes less sudden and more manageable. The rest, I’m afraid, is out of my hands. Or maybe I’m just trying to explain why I love desserts so much.

cocoa

Bill Watterson once said, “It’s surprising how hard we’ll work when the work is done just for ourselves.” I often feel like I need to rediscover my sciencey side. When I was a child, I would have described myself as more of a math and science than humanities person. Somewhere along the line, that flipped, and I’m still not sure why. Maybe I am better at reading people than equations. But even that takes time. I did well in all of my subjects in school, but of all the science courses I took, I did best in physics. Maybe that’s because it’s more intuitive than, say, biology. Physics seems to lend itself to just saying “Figure it out”, and however you get your answer, well, that’s how you got your answer. It’s also the sort of thing where you might spend an hour working on one problem, then check your answer, find out you did it wrong, throw your textbook across the room, kill a puppy, and set out figuring out what you did wrong. Maybe I’m mischaracterizing chemistry and biology, but they just never seemed to work that way for me. I might have made a good physicist or astronomer. It’s a bit late to go into one of those fields. They might be worth studying as a side project or something.

I don’t handle awkwardness very well, and I’m starting to think I have confidence issues. I can barely make it through this video, and it’s basically just a cute demonstration of how people react when a total stranger asks for their phone number.

I think what’s bugging me these days is that so much of what I’m doing right now is uncharted waters for me. I plan on having enough money and enough of a career that I can eventually become completely financially independent from my parents. I’ve never experienced that before. They have literally been with me since I was born, so what the fuck am I supposed to do without them? I can only imagine what I’ll be capable of when my relationship with them exists squarely on my own terms. Some nights, I’ll be baking cookies and watching Doctor Who or something and I’ll think about how awesome it would be to share this with someone. I like desserts, I like cheesy old science fiction, and I like blowjobs. That might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but you cannot seriously expect me to believe that there is not a reasonably attractive twentysomething male out there who would like to go there with me (in that order, preferably). But maybe I just haven’t made the space for him yet. Some people think of themselves as private people just because they don’t like it when somebody touches their stuff. No, having personal space means fighting off a meltdown every time somebody stands too close to you. My personal bubble extends for about 100 miles in every direction. Maybe I can get that down to just five or ten?

Everything feels crammed together in my brain. I want everything, and I want it now. I’m trying to find ways to space things out, but sometimes, my mind just latches onto something, and it’s like having an itch inside my skull. It’s always something maddeningly specific. But talking about it does help a little. I just want to know why I fixate on stuff in this way. But some things have always come more easily to me than others. I guess this is my subconscious’ way of pointing me in the right direction.

I’ve spent the (almost) one year since I finished school trying to build a life for myself. This is different from anything I’ve done before. When I was in school, I was just trying to get through the damn thing. And I won’t say that while I was in school, I wasn’t living in the “real word”, because as far as I’m concerned, everything is the real world, but the fact remains that I am, for the first time ever, basically making it all up as I go. There is no end point here (unless you count death, which is a bit morbid and anyway, I plan on living forever). So what I’m working with here is…dirt. I have to find the fine line between just taking what I’m given and giving something back.

Phooey.

I Hate the Internet

captain americaYou might have seen that idiotic video that is being passed around on Facebook and shit in which people apply for “the world’s toughest job” and find out that the world’s toughest job is…being a mother. Fuck you. What a load of cynical, pandering, tearjerking claptrap. Did you fall for this crock of shit? Go jump off a cliff. Maybe I’m not totally serious, but it’s hard for me to put into words just how deeply this video offended me. I’m not even going to link to it. It basically said that no matter how difficult your life is, you can take comfort in knowing that your mother still loves you. No, you can’t. When I’m broke, unemployed, and desperate for a leg up, I don’t need to be reminded of whose vagina I was pushed out of, I need a fucking job. Wasting the time of people who were so in need of work that they would respond to that ad is only fair if you follow it up by writing them a big, fat check and landing them an interview for a high-paying job for which they are totally qualified. Something tells me the numbnuts who made this video didn’t do that. No, they just wanted to make a viral video that would make the people who sob at Hallmark cards and buy Thomas Kinkade pantings feel good about themselves. Fuck the world. I hope you all die.

I think what really pisses me off here is the implication that having a job and being a mother are the same thing. No, they aren’t. My mother had a job in addition to raising us. My father was a stay-at-home dad for my first couple years, but as soon as that was done, he fucking started work again as well. It is possible to have both a career and a family, and I think it’s telling that this video is about mothers and not fathers. Women, as we all know, are all warm and nurturing and shit. Dads go to work and bring home the bacon, just like in the 1950s and the minds of Fox News pundits. We need to stop revering parenting as if it is the highest aspiration that anyone (especially women) can have. I don’t plan on having children. I have friends and colleagues who do. Good for them. But I can’t stand the little bastards.

What do applying for a job and being a mother have to do with each other anyway? I fail to see how the two are even connected. It makes no more sense to me than if I ordered something from Amazon and they sent me an empty box with a note inside saying, “Think of all the wonderful things your mother bought you!” No, I’m not going to do that. I ordered a thing, why didn’t you send it to me? If I ever see someone get violently raped, I’ll tell them to think of all the hard knocks their mother took in raising them rather than calling for help. You think I’m taking this too seriously, don’t you? No, I’m not. There is a deep undercurrent of misogyny to this whole thing. I can no more endorse it than I can listen to “Blurred Lines”.

I am sometimes asked how I define empowerment. For me, it is not about endorsing everything that every woman does. It’s about asking people if they’re doing something because they really want to, or because they think it will make people like them. The internet feeds on our insecurities. Social media makes us obsessed only with how many likes, shares, or whatever else that we get. This is not news. I am not breaking new ground by saying this shit. But every now and then, you have to unplug and go do something that doesn’t involve looking at a screen. So I’m going to do exactly that and write the rest of this when I’m good and ready.

I’d like to throw my lot in with the people who say Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the best Marvel movie yet. The Avengers is one of my favorite popcorn flicks of the past ten years, the first comic book movie I’ve seen that actually looked like a comic book, and Winter Soldier, through its use of human drama, slam-bang action, and not-too-heavy-handed contemporary political commentary, surpassed it. The biggest reveal—the identity of the Winter Soldier, which is hardly a spoiler since all of the marketing reveals it—was already ruined, but otherwise, I went out of my way to learn as little about the film as possible, not even the basic premise. If you haven’t seen the film already, see it immediately. I’m already wondering if I should wait for the DVD or see it again in theaters.

I’m not opposed to optimism, but you have to understand that even positive outcomes still have consequences. If your solution to a problem is to return everything to the way it was before somebody else changed it, you have nothing to contribute and should really just retire from human society. Change happens for a reason, and there is a difference between reminding people that sometimes there is a better way out and just blind ignorance. And it all has to do with the takeaway. Don’t just say, “It’ll all work out”; take steps to make that a reality. And when you’ve said everything you need to say, move the fuck on already.

In case you can’t tell, this whole thing has been a stealth rant about Doctor Who. Because I really have hated the last few seasons that much. And I’m not ready to let go. On the contrary, I want to murder Steven Moffat with my indifference.

The Cost of Living

The problem with life is that there is nothing to compare it to. My parents think I’m not working hard enough because they think they’d be working harder in my situation. Well, actually they wouldn’t. But it’s so easy to say shit like that when you’re on the outside. I don’t know why I’m so goddamn tired all the time. One of my coworkers told me I never seem tired, which is amazing, because I’m almost never well-rested. I have only recently become aware of the fact there is already a name for the generation after the Millenials: apparently, they’re called Generation Z. It’s kind of arbitrary to lump people together based on when they were born, but as far as I can tell, the cutoff date for Millenials is somewhere around the mid-90s, so odds are that if you’re old enough to hang out with me, you’re a Millenial. I don’t know what’s going on with kids these day. Frankly, I’m not sure I care.

I’m feeling ever-so-slightly more active these days. I applied to a job recently for the first time in, like, three months. So yes, someday, that second job might eventually become something that I actually have instead of something that I talk about here. My mother does not like her job. Apparently, they pay her a lot for doing very little, which sounds like the dream job of everyone on the planet except for her. She also mentioned something about her position being terminated in September, which might result in her moving back in with my father. I intend to be gone by then. If I have to sell my body on the streets in order to pay for some ratty apartment underneath a nightclub where bass notes shake the walls and threaten to bring the ceiling down on my head while I sleep, I will do it because there is no fucking way—and I mean absolutely no fucking way whatsoever—that I will ever live with both of my parents again. Just so we’re clear.

I finally finished season five of Deep Space Nine not too long ago, and season three of The X-Files shortly before that. It feels good to finish something that you’ve been working on for ages. Sometimes weeks would go by without me watching those shows at all. That’s not the end of the world; it’s just annoying, because I like to finish what I start. It’s not uncommon for me to start reading something, then put it aside for months or even years before picking it up again. Usually, I do finish it, eventually. It’s never useful to get locked into this idea of closure as if everything needs a nice, neat ending. But I have a very hard time following anything in a straight line. I’m starting to realize that I might be unusual that way. Most other people have an easier time of it than I do. I wonder if they have any idea what it is like to be me.

Things that are groundbreaking never present themselves that way, and things that present themselves as groundbreaking almost never are. That’s a rule of thumb for me: if you really are something, you don’t usually need to say it. I like to think of myself as sexy, funny, and cool, but except for just now, I try not to say so very often. Because nothing is more annoying than somebody who tries to convince themselves that they are something they aren’t. I’m in my mid-twenties. A lot of the people I work with are a few years younger. That’s not that big of a deal, but it is a bit of a contrast from grad school, where I was one of younger ones. I’m not sure what I’m trying to get at here. It’s not like I want to go back and relive my teen years. I wasn’t very happy then. I’m not much happier now, just more used to being rejected. I just take a long time to get started. My freshman year of college, I made, like, two friends, and kept in touch with none of the people who lived on my dorm floor. Sophomore year, something changed. I started forming tight bonds with the people in my dorm and lived with a couple of them my junior year. I’ve lost touch with most of them, too, but at least we were friends for a while even though I was a year older. So forgive me if I still feel like I’m one step behind everyone else. It may not be true, but I can’t just wish it away.

I felt like an old man even when I was in middle school. I watched movies and read books that most others my age had little interest in. You could say I was one of the “gifted” kids, but that doesn’t quite cover it. Some people really do seem to view me as an alien (or a robot, if you will). I don’t really know how to get what I want, and sitting and waiting isn’t going to do it. I believe, as has been said by some folks before me, that the best cure for loneliness is maturing into the sort of person other people want to be around. They’re still not beating down my door, so I guess I have work to do.

You can’t always play the long game. Sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns, as the expression goes. I can’t survive on my memories. I can’t just bask in all of the shit that I’ve done (and I have done a fair amount so far, if I do say so myself), but I have to work through my insecurities to the point where I can actually enjoy myself rather than just worrying all the time. I’m getting closer, I suppose. Very, very slowly.

The Devil’s Advocate

firefoxA question is not a question if there is only one answer. That’s all I have to say about the firing of Brendan Eich. Okay, some of you are bound to point out that he resigned rather than being fired, which is a little bit like saying that Richard Nixon resigned rather than being impeached. It’s technically true, but misses the point. I can’t reason with you here, people. If the knowledge that the CEO of a company whose product you like contributed to a cause you don’t support so offends you that you demand that he renounce his action and throw himself at your mercy, so be it. But you can support gay marriage and still eat at Chick Fil-A. I think you can oppose gay marriage and still make a decent chicken sandwich. The one thing you don’t have the right to do is drag politics into a realm where it is not relevant. Saying you oppose gay marriage when nobody asked for your opinion on the matter and they would rather just eat your sandwiches is fucking stupid. Last time I checked, Firefox is a web browser and not, I don’t know, a goddamn marriage service or something, so why Eich opposes gay marriage is completely irrelevant. Brendan Eich was not going to marry his gay employees. He apologized to those he hurt (and it wasn’t one of those “If anyone was offended…” bullshit non-apologies, but an actual apology) and pledged to honor his company’s anti-discrimination policy. That should have been enough.

It’s rare that I find myself taking my fellow liberals to task for something, but this is one instance where I think my people are guilty of a bunch of bullshit posturing. Yes, I hear all your arguments about how a CEO is not just an administrator, but the public face of a company and a symbolic leader blah blah blah. But—and I know I’m going to get shit for saying this—these arguments all seem eerily similar to the ones that homophobes use for firing gay teachers. “I don’t have a problem with gay people,” they always say. “I just don’t think that sets the right example for our children.” I hate the argument so many of them employ that we are being intolerant of their intolerance by telling them to shut up, but that’s what’s crazy: Brendan Eich did not state his opinion publicly. People asked about the donation, and while he apparently has a few beliefs that I find repellant (he donated to psychotic bigot Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 1992), I fail to understand what any of that has to do with his ability to run a fucking web browser. Being a homophobe (if indeed he is one) did not stop him from inventing JavaScript. So, you know, there’s that.

Refusing to support somebody’s work because you do not like them as a person or disapprove of their personal or religious beliefs is a dangerous road to go down. I have made this point before. Roman Polanski is a child molester. Orson Scott Card is a racist homophobe. Kanye West is just a pompous douchebag. I continue to consume their art because, whaddaya know, it’s still pretty fucking good. I’m not sure I see what Brendan Eich’s supporting Prop 8 has to do with anything, and I say that as somebody who was living in California when it passed, and remembers the feeling of waking up and realizing that his state had just made discrimination part of its constitution like it was yesterday. So don’t give me any of that “You don’t know what it’s like to have your rights taken away” horseshit, because I know it very fucking well. You don’t speak for me.

If we are going to move forward on this issue, we must accept the existence of moral ambiguity. We must accept the possibility that there might be otherwise good people who still haven’t thought this one all the way through. My close friends and immediate family all support gay marriage. But as for my acquaintances and extended family…I’m not so sure. I can’t write them all off just yet. Yes, on principle, opposing gay marriage is the same thing as opposing interracial marriage, but the world we live in still refuses to acknowledge it. You cannot strong-arm people into agreeing with you. You have to—I can’t believe I’m saying this—at least try to be diplomatic. Maybe that sounds hypocritical coming from a guy who is always talking about demanding respect and standing up to the folks who oppress you. But you know what? Fuck you.

It is shocking to me to see so many people I normally respect talking nonsense. But that’s exactly what it is. Spare me all your idiotic babble about how “I don’t see the problem, we didn’t force him to step down” because yes, you do, and yes, you did. Essentially, you’re trying to stall the conversation by saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” We can. But you have to change first.

I love it when people say things that others have been saying for ages as if it just occurred to them. If you think social media and the internet are driving us apart rather than bringing us together, I have a book for you that will blow your mind. Nobody has all the answers, so don’t act as if your revelation is something that applies to everyone else except you. Slightly over 50% of the country supports gay marriage, which also means that slightly less than 50% of the country opposes it. They can’t all be assholes. For that matter, don’t take somebody’s opinion on gay rights as sacrosanct just because they are gay. Gays can be assholes, too.