Surrender

kveikurI’m never been much for podcasts. I can’t tell if that’s my own biases against being introduced to a new medium or a problem with the medium itself. Did people dismiss early cinema as nothing more than a novelty because they hadn’t yet seen what it could become? It’s quite possible. A lot of podcasts, to me, sound like a bunch of friends shooting the shit. That’s it. I’m sorry, but you need to have more than that if you want me to listen to it. I don’t even have that many friends and I think listening to other people and their friends talk about nothing is boring. Seriously, I don’t get it: What is the appeal of listening to people you don’t know go on random comedic tangents for an hour or more without ever coming to a point? I’m not trying to be dismissive here, but I honestly do not understand why people like some of this crap. This American Life is about people’s lives, and the stories are organized around a theme. Savage Love is relationship advice. WTF With Marc Maron is interviews, although he opens with a story. Even with a podcast, there has to be a point.

Maybe I’m weird, but I like to think of everything as a potential learning experience. Even if I’m just going down the street for a burger, I feel like I’m cheating myself if I’m not looking for a chance to be enriched, entertained, or educated. A lot of new media doesn’t do it for me: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. That probably does have more to do with the fact that those platforms are relatively new, but I don’t particularly like any of them, which means that I’m kind of an old fuddy-duddy even though I’m in my 20s. I’m getting left behind, but admittedly, it is by my choice. Since I’m straying into well-trod territory here, let me shift gears and talk about a story that is constantly updating: LGBT equality. Specifically, let’s talk about the wide world of sports. More and more athletes are coming out, and while very few of them are doing so at the professional level, it’s only a matter of time. I think what’s holding us back is that even though there are parallels between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement, there are some differences, and we have to acknowledge that as well.

There is something very primal about sexuality that race and possibly even gender don’t touch. It’s not something that you can often tell just by looking at someone, and that confuses a lot of people. More importantly, it causes a lot of LGBT people to think that there is something special about them if you can’t tell just by looking at them. Sometimes you can, but that’s not the point. It’s been such a lazy stereotype for so long that gay men aren’t into sports that now that we are learning that some of our athletes are gay, we need to stop acting like it’s that big of a shock. Yes, some gay men love sports. And some straight men love fashion. Could you seriously not have figured that out on your own? It’s ironic that sports are typically held up as a bastion of masculinity, because really, what is gayer than slapping on tight pants and shoulder pads and slamming into other guys for a while? Football’s pretty gay too, come to think of it.

I’ve learned by now that people will never leave you alone if you let them do it on their terms. This does not mean that you have to shut everyone out for fear that they will hurt you, only that you have to own your own words and actions, whatever they are. As I’ve probably said before, I have a million regrets. But I’m not sorry for anything. I just don’t have the time. You can roll your eyes when I say that I’m the greatest human being who ever lived, but as far as I’m concerned, I am, and who are you to tell me I’m wrong? It’s all about living in the present, not that I’m all that good at that. I spend most of my time brooding in my room. The only person I can name who hated humanity more than I do is Bill Hicks, and he died at 32 because he didn’t take very good care of his body. I’ve heard multiple people quote George Carlin as saying, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that leave you breathless.” Bullshit. Carlin didn’t say that. That’s from a chain email that somebody claimed was written by him. He would never have said something so trite and meaningless.

I have decided that there is one thing about California that I’m going to miss when I eventually get out of here, and that’s In-N-Out Burger. There is no other fast food chain that compares to it. It’s not the best burger around, just the best burger you can get for under $10. Double-double animal style, there is no competition. New York has Five Guys, but aside from the fries, there’s nothing too remarkable about them, and I say that as somebody who used to eat there pretty regularly. We all have our fast food, I suppose.

I’m not a very good judge of what will take off and what doesn’t. This blog has never climbed very far about 1,000 hits per month, and even then very briefly. Whatever. What I have to say these days doesn’t quite fit into this format, and maybe that’s for the best. Because I want to push outward. I want to find out just what I can get away with and what I’m capable of. And when that’s done, I want time to watch season two of Orphan Black. I go at my own pace, is what I’m trying to say. Don’t try to stop me.

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The Desolation of Robot King

DERP

Dumbface.

I’ve always been more of a Daily Show person than a Colbert Report person. I guess I just like my humor a little more straightforward. In case anyone has noticed, I’ve tried writing this post several times before, having put something up and taken it down at least twice before. Hopefully, the third time will be the charm. I don’t usually write like this, but these past few weeks have been a bit tumultuous. You ever have those days where you wake up wanting to watch the whole world burn? Yeah, I’ve been having a little bit of that lately. It’s a combination of financial stress, time-management problems, and the interpersonal friction that can happen when you spend prolonged amounts of time around the same group of people. I’m trying to remember the line from that David Foster Wallace speech I’ve posted once or twice: “This is water.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it or check YouTube. I don’t feel like linking to it again.

chris rockI’m having more trouble going to bed lately. I like to think of myself as a morning person, but since I can’t just go to bed after getting home late in the evening, I always need a few hours to unwind, meaning that I typically go to bed around 1 am these days. This needs to stop. I just can’t seem to turn my brain off, and on countless occasions, I’ve gone to bed, then gotten up to watch some silly YouTube video or something that I thought about watching earlier but didn’t get around to. How does something that tiny lodge itself so deeply in your brain? Sometimes that happens multiple times in a night and I overcompensate by staying up until 1:30 or 2 as if to say, “What do you want from me?” I’ve missed one or two shifts at my new job because I keep misreading my schedule and it makes me furious. I need every dollar I can get, yet more than once, I have come in to work only to find that I’m supposed to stay later than I thought (but still have to leave early because I already made plans) or gotten a call from my supervisor saying that I was supposed to come in today. I am very, very careful in copying down my schedule every week, yet somehow, that still happens. What the fuck, universe?

I’m generally pretty reliable when it comes to shit like this. I have locked myself out of my car (once), locked myself out of my apartment (once), and recently locked myself out of my locker at the gym for the first time. (I had to get somebody else to run and get an employee because I couldn’t go running out there in just a towel.) Something is out of joint. I know nobody’s perfect, but there’s a reason I solve jigsaw puzzles for fun and write a blog that’s all about hating humanity: it’s because I’m a perfectionist. Specifically, I’m an INFJ with OCD, and yes, I have used that line before. One on hand, maybe it means that I’ll save the world that day. Because I do see things that other people don’t see. I often tell other people that they are wrong about something despite having less firsthand knowledge of the subject than they do. And you know what? I’m usually right.

My supervisor doesn’t even seem to much mind that I keep screwing up my schedule. That’s not the point. When I was doing theater back in high school and didn’t get a part I wanted, my mother thought I was being a spoiled diva by storming around the house. She didn’t get it, either, which is part of the reason why I keep my distance from her these days. I was angry at myself for not getting a role that I was certain I could have played. It wasn’t my fault; the director liked someone else and there was nothing I could do about it. (The dude did fine in the role, by the way, but I was kind of competitive with him. He’s a nice fellow, but kinda boring. I’m not.) When I turned on my phone today and saw that I had a voicemail, I prayed that it was my mother for the first time ever. Of course, it wasn’t. I’ve had enough of a hassle working with my student loans and trying to get my employment situation straightened out. It might actually be nice to get a message from her saying, “Call me sometime. Bye.” Because I don’t have to worry about that, you see.

I’m going to have to see The Hobbit sometime, probably next week. What I’ve heard about it is that it’s the worst of the three, which is kinda depressing considering the lukewarm opinion I had of the first two. What happened to the Peter Jackson who was both a technical wizard and a strong storyteller? Neither of those elements are on display in these films. They are bloated and overlong, and they look like video games. I guess he just got carried away with himself. Stephen Colbert is, like, the biggest Tolkien nerd on the planet. I love Tolkien, but I don’t feel the need to know everything about him. Colbert’s humor is more “out there” than Stewart’s ever was. When one of his bits flops, I often find myself scratching my head wondering what he was even going for in the first place. Since the news is filtered through the lens of the character he plays, it’s not as grounded. Stewart just reacts to the news; Colbert tries to insert himself into it. It’s funny, though.

I like to think of what I’m going through these days as nothing more than growing pains. I’ve asked a couple friends for financial assistance and we’ll see if I get it. Just don’t feel sorry for me, that’s all. I have enough problems of my own. I can’t carry yours around, too.

Let’s Talk About Piracy

spotifyWhen I was in high school and college, I used Limewire for all of my music. I’m not proud of that, but I justified it to myself by saying that if I really liked the music, I would buy it on CD anyway. These days, I use Spotify for the stuff I kinda like and pay actual money for the stuff that I really like, which seemed reasonable until I discovered that Spotify pays the musicians whose work they stream almost nothing, which I really should have suspected, as the whole thing seemed too good to be true. The worst part is, now I’m agreeing with Taylor Swift on something. What is the world coming to?

In all seriousness, I can understand the conundrum that up-and-coming artists face when dealing with something like this. If you’re an international superstar like The Beatles, you can afford to say no to making your work available on Spotify (or iTunes, which they also refused to do at one point). But if you’re a nobody, you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth allowing your stuff to be licensed by a service that will pay you $0.0005 for every time somebody streams one of your songs on the off-chance that that the increased exposure will lead to more lucrative deals down the line. In that position, I would probably say yes to Spotify. But I’m not a musician, so what the fuck do I know?

The inescapable reality is that if we want our artists to keep producing, we are going to have to pay them at some point. You can justify torrenting to yourself in any way you like, and it’s not like my hands are completely clean either, so I’ll withhold judgment for the time being. My father said once that after paying for something on vinyl and cassette, he really didn’t feel like buying it a third time, but then again, he has the disposable income to buy whatever the hell he wants, as long as it’s not a sports car. I don’t think downloading movies/TV/music/books/whatever on the internet is a crime in the same way that stealing a wallet or a car is. It exists in a sort of weird gray area. The ethics of ownership as they extend to electronic media are still being hammered out. It’s illegal to share one’s HBO GO password, although HBO doesn’t seem to mind. I use my cousin’s boss’s Hulu Plus password and feel no shame about it. Because at that point, you might as well just tell people they can’t lend books to one another.

HBO isn’t really helping matters by saying no to any streaming deals with Netflix, for that matter. I guarantee that if the network offered a limited subscription package, wherein one could pay for one HBO show and not the whole thing, they would make a fuckton of money. There is one HBO show that basically everyone watches. You’re already humming the theme song, aren’t you?

B&N is to bookstores what Starbucks is to coffee.

B&N is to bookstores what Starbucks is to coffee.

I’m lucky enough to live about a half hour away from a Barnes & Noble. I preferred Borders back when it existed, but it folded, and these days, I’m glad just to have an actual brick-and-mortar store that sells books, even if they also have toys, puzzles, DVDs, and other random shit. I can wander down there and browse when the howler monkeys in my head get especially noisy, and once or twice, I have stopped in and read a book cover to cover that I didn’t want to buy and couldn’t or was too lazy to get from the library. I’m not hurting anyone, am I? I have issues with Amazon, but I don’t begrudge them their success. There is definitely something to be said for being able to order something online that you can’t get from the store. Even then, a lot of good stores can order stuff for you anyway. I did that at another bookstore and got it in two days for less than I would have paid at Amazon. Yippee!

I wouldn’t mind paying to use Spotify. I already pay a monthly fee for Netflix, and their selection is sadly lacking when it comes to more artsy-fartsy stuff. (Of course, Spotify Premium already exists, but I’m still too cheap for that. I’ll start paying for my music when they make me pay for my music. I’m not perfect.) As is often the case, technology might be making things more convenient for some people, but don’t expect the old ways to go away entirely. Some people still have landlines. Some people still listen to the radio. The military still uses the Morse code for some messages, doesn’t it?

I need a conclusion now, and the best I’ve got is that when it comes to the stuff you consume, you get what you pay for. Usually. It’s not necessarily wrong to take advantage of an opportunity to get it for free, but whether it’s legal or illegal, it can’t last forever. I knew a guy once who justified torrenting by saying that he didn’t believe in intellectual property. Well, I don’t believe in property, so I’ll just come into your house and take your stuff. How would that make you feel? If it’s an inconvenience for you to shell out some of your hard-earned money for something or leave your house to go buy it, that’s because it should be an inconvenience. It’s an inconvenience to sell and market the thing, so why should the consumer get off the hook? I see a lot of entitlement in people who say that artists should be grateful to just to have their work seen or heard. Those same people will often criticize musicians for letting their music be played in commercials. Look, not everybody can be an artiste, okay? Not everyone wants to be. There has to be a give-and-take, that’s all I’m saying.

By the way, I like the new Weezer album. It could be their best since Pinkerton.

Time Enough at Last

There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.

—Sherlock Holmes, “The Naval Treaty”

I’m trying to put more of a distance between myself and politics these days. I can’t stop following them; I’m too attached to the whole thing for that. But just as I have a tendency to think of having a boyfriend as the go-to thing that will make my life better, I need to stop thinking of everything in religious and political terms. When I was in college, I noticed that I had a tendency to do that when analyzing Shakespeare. The fun of Shakespeare is that you analyze it from virtually any angle, be it gender politics, historicization, metatextual elements, you name it, it’s probably there. But if you get too deep into politics, it just becomes depressing. I knew the Republicans were going to sweep the midterms. And without even bothering to read the commentary from right-wing pundits and politicians on it, I know that they’re going to talk about how they’re “taking back America” and all that other stupid shit they said when the same thing happened in 2010. There’s nothing I can do about it, and that’s that. Because change takes time. And their victory has more to do with the public’s disillusionment and their own gerrymandering than anything else.

People talk about how quickly high school flies by. Or college. Or life. The thing is that it’s always easy to say that about something once it’s over. Just as it’s easy to become attached to your money because every amount is small after you’ve spent it, every length of time looks short after it’s over. But four years is a significant length of time. It doesn’t just fly by, and the people who say it does are looking at it through the lens of nostalgia. These days, I’m just trying to make a living and hopefully have something resembling a healthy social life. It’s funny. Ten years ago, I felt like I was slamming my head up against a brick wall. I kinda felt that way four or five years ago. Depression has that way of shrinking your worldview so that all you can see is how shitty everything is and how difficult it is just to get up and shower and eat breakfast and shit. So I can’t really say “It gets better”, because my social life, romantic life, professional life, and various other aspects are nowhere near where I want them to be. But I want to see the next ten, twenty, thirty, or 200 years if I can.

I’m looking for a second job now. My savings and my income from my current job will hopefully last me up through December, but after that, it’s hard to tell. I’m hoping to make it back to New York for a week or so sometime in January so I can see old friends and visit old haunts, but that would require both getting a week off work and saving up the money. God, I miss NYC. People say they’re going home when they visit their families; New York is home for me. I applied for a job this week and didn’t get it. No biggie, I guess. It’s the same store that sells kitchen utensils and appliances at which I interviewed several months ago. I gave a great interview, but they gave the job to someone else. They don’t necessarily look for people who want the job and are qualified, do they? They told me that I could reapply for a temporary job during the holiday season. I took this to mean that they would keep me in mind for that, but obviously, they didn’t. I should know better than to get my hopes up by now.

I try not to let things get under my skin, but sometimes, I can’t help it. I got into an argument with some dbag not too long ago who called me an “insufferably pompous dudebro”. Wow, that got personal fast. And all I said was that I hate Taylor Swift. I guarantee you that I did not say anything half as harsh about this person, but I think what drives me nuts about these people is that they seem to think that because there is nothing stopping them from doing something, that means they should go ahead and do it. I don’t get that. I don’t understand why hating Taylor Swift makes me a misogynist rather than a misanthrope, and I don’t understand how applying the misanthrope label to myself makes me a faux-edgy dudebro. I guess the reason I’m fixating on this is because I could tell that a lot of people sided with him. The internet baffles me sometimes. Taylor Swift once countered a criticism made of her by Tina Fey by saying that there’s a special place in Hell reserved for women who don’t support other women. Because being a feminist means agreeing with every other woman about everything, and hating an individual woman, even in a tongue-in-cheek way, makes you a misogynist. Got it.

Most of the people I argue with seem to think that it’s wrong to act like people are different. But people are different. That doesn’t mean you should treat them differently. It’s offensive to tell other people that the labels they apply to themselves are meaningless because if you see it as a part of your identity, then anybody who tells you otherwise is robbing you of your individuality. Please do not act as if the key to recognizing everyone as an individual is to tell them that all labels are meaningless. Because then, you’re acting like everyone is the same. And you don’t get to decide for me what makes me me. If I believe that my astrological sign means something (I don’t, but bear with me), then that’s my goddamn business. I like Italian food. There, that’s a label that I’ve chosen for myself. And it means something, because not everybody does (just people with good taste). Am I making sense here?

If I had to choose a spirit animal, I’d go with snake. I’m weird, I know.

snake

Orlando

I’ve been reading John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, for a couple years now. It’s a good blog, but there is something, I don’t know, provincial about John Scalzi’s worldview. Maybe it’s because I’m young, but I really can’t let go of this notion that no matter what age you are at, you should be striving to learn new things and have adventures and shit. Scalzi will do that, but only if it doesn’t rock the boat too much. Please don’t read this as a takedown. I think Mr. Scalzi is an engaging writer and a fine human being; it’s just that when he writes stuff to the effect of, “This life is all we get, but I have my family and my friends and my work, so I’m happy”, I find myself agreeing with each individual point, but somehow not liking his conclusion. On one hand, his desire to accept the limitations of his own existence and live in the present has an almost Zen quality, but on the other hand, it seems like a cop-out. Who wouldn’t like to live forever? Who wouldn’t like the thought of an afterlife? I’m not saying I believe in one, only that I have to admit that the thought is rather seductive. And there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of etc., etc.

I think for a lot of people, the need to believe in a Kingdom of Heaven or whatever is less about getting to take what they have with them than it is about contextualizing this life. There are so many Big Mysteries and shit that it seems almost a shame to live so short a life and barely even scratch the surface. As Christopher Hitchens once said, the discussion about what is good, noble, pure and true is the only conversation worth having. So I try not to obsess too heavily over the meaning of life and shit. Because it’s been my experience that all that stuff about God and infinity has a way of working itself out. But of course, that’s only conditionally true. There are no preordained conclusions, only what you have the power to make happen. And honestly, it can be such a relief to let go of something that you thought you needed, but now realize that you can live without.

It’s funny: I don’t consider myself a believer, yet in debates, I often find myself more sympathetic to the Desmond Tutus than the Richard Dawkinses. It’s not so much that I believe that Jesus rose from the dead or disagree with Dawkins about how preposterous and silly that is, only that I don’t understand why he, Bill Maher, and their ilk are so intent on seeing religion as the enemy rather than fanaticism. I’m not sure if there are too many isms that I would consider inherently evil (maybe fascism, but that is definitely the exception that proves the rule). My worldview is fundamentally about how we are all one but not the same (and yes, I did just borrow my philosophy from a U2 song), so it seems like kind of a waste of time to argue that it’s impossible to separate a person’s religious views from their professional life, even though we all do that to some extent. I’ve worked in a coffee shop despite not drinking coffee myself. Why is it so much harder for a creationist to study evolution? Sam Harris’s latest book is about separating spirituality from religion. I feel like he’s coming at it from the wrong angle. I respect his goals; I’m just not sure if those two can be separated, at least not completely.

There are some changes coming my way right now. I just found an apartment and am coordinating the move-in details with my prospective roommate. He seems okay. The hardest part of moving (I might have said this before) is finding my places. Where do I go for sushi? Where do I go for a burrito? Where do I go if I just need to get out of the house for a while? There’s a shopping center not too far from the spot, and due to its convenient location (it’s right next to public transit), I’m taking the place even though rent plus utilities comes to slightly more than I make on my current job. I guess I’ll have to find a second job soon and live off of my savings until then.

crispI heard a story once about the writer Quentin Crisp. Crisp was an effeminate gay Englishman who was an actor and storyteller in addition to writing. The story goes that he would talk to anybody who called him up, even if they were calling to wish death upon him. I guess he was just curious about what made them tick. He could have gotten an unlisted number or screened his calls, but he decided not to. I feel that no matter who or where you are, you have to be willing to engage with the people whose lives are completely alien to your own. Saying, “Oh, my time is limited, I have to focus on what’s really important” is one thing, just don’t confuse that for leaving everything the way it is. And acknowledging the existence of something transcendent and divine does actually mean admitting that you have had religious experiences. If you want to say that you believe in a higher power, but you don’t think it’s God, fine, just don’t argue that everyone who identifies as a skeptic or a humanist is by necessity an atheist. I had to put aside The God Delusion because that’s all Dawkins did for the first chapter or two. What an insecure man.

Most things exist on a spectrum: race, gender, sexuality, and apparently, religious belief. It’s wrong to force people into dichotomies, but it doesn’t mean that the labels are themselves meaningless. We are, after all, only human.