The Desolation of Robot King



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.


Eyesight to the Blind

american beautyThere’s a good line in the film The Brothers McMullen where a man who is in his early thirties says that it feels like just yesterday, he was in high school, and his wife replies, “No, you’re at least fifteen years too young for a mid-life crisis.” Where did the mid-life crisis come from? Technically, your forties and fifties are only the middle of your life if you’re leading a very long one, but never mind. I’ve had angst over where I’m going over the past year or so, but absolutely refuse to consider that a “quarter-life crisis”. I guess that term springs from the realization that once you’ve finished school and are trying to start a professional life, you are once again at the foot of a mountain. You can chase the brass ring if you like, but even if you do get it, you’ll look around and ask, “Is this all there is to it?” And the answer to that is no, but the real fun stuff is in between the lines. I keep fixating on that stupid Ben Stiller movie from last year, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which might as well have been called Mid-Life Crisis: The Movie, because if your idea of living life to the fullest is jumping out of a helicopter and skateboarding down a mountain, you need to rethink your priorities.

Kirk Cameron is a real asshole. That’s hardly news to anyone who has followed his career. He peaked at eighteen, then decided that rather than mature into a complex, interesting person, he would like to tell other people how to live their lives. It’s sad, and by “sad”, I mean “infuriating”. I’m not sure if he was all that good of an actor to begin with, but then again, he might have had a pretty good career had he applied himself to learning his craft and not spent all his time going on and on about how much he loves bananas. But what’s frustrating is that somebody is continuing to finance what he does. His movies make money, even if the only people who watch them are far-right Christians. How do we reach these people? Do they even want to be reached? I hate Kirk Cameron for many reasons, but the biggest one I can think of at the moment is making Piers Morgan look reasonable.

I’m trying to find the right balance between being outraged and serene. It’s easy to get burned out following the news. That happened to me when I was writing for a political magazine in college, and even though I didn’t want to write about the news, I found ways to write about it, essentially by taking a step back. The thing that’s got me angry these days is the treatment of livestock by our farming industry. Chris Christie plans to veto a bill that is almost unanimously supported by both legislators and the electorate because it might hurt his chances in Iowa, which depends on pork production. What an asshole. It drives me insane that this guy was reelected in such a landslide, because anyone who is even half-awake can see that he is a rude, temperamental, petty bully who cares less about enacting change than becoming president. (And if don’t think he was involved in the closure of the lanes on the George Washington Bridge just because there is no definitive evidence tying him to it, give me a fucking break. Seriously.) He buried his opponent, Barbara Buono (embarrassingly, I had to look up her name) in the last election, but she is a class act.

I don’t know what to do about stuff like this. There are some people who just sit back and say, “The world has enough problems. I just look out for myself.” There are also people who get very angry over the blatant mistreatment of pigs, but don’t have the tact to engage with people who might be sympathetic to their point of view. I can’t be like that. I have no use for purism, as high-minded and idealistic as I am. I do not believe that Barack Obama is a traitor to his base just because he governs from a more moderate and diplomatic point of view than the liberal firebrands like myself would like. I do not believe that the United States is an evil nation just because we kill people with drone strikes, although I won’t attempt to defend that, as it is appalling. All I know is that I have no use for people who complain about this shit constantly while doing nothing about it. Don’t just donate to the cause or whine about it on your blog (oh hi, everyone); get off your ass. I’ll do that just as soon as I figure out what it means.

I think I need to spend a little bit more time writing fiction. I decided a while ago that writing wasn’t going to be my main pursuit, just a side gig. Fortunately, it’s the kind of thing that works well as a side gig. And I keep saying this, but I really do need to get back into gaming. I’ve missed out on it for too long. There is a part of me that’s glad I’m not in college anymore. College is supposed to be a place where you learn shit and try out shit and hopefully get a clearer idea of what you’re trying to do with your life. A lot of kids seem to mistake that for being right about everything. And I probably sound old when I say that, but that’s the kicker: I’m not that much older than most college students. I remember what life on campus was like, and even then, I thought there were a lot of twits around me whose response to any kind of criticism, even the constructive kind, was, “Fuck you, I’ll do what I want.” That’s not even a response. Refusing to acknowledge the needs of others doesn’t make you sassy and outspoken; it makes you an asshole. And nothing is less humble than talking about how humble you are.

I’m trying to push my limits, to figure out just what I’m capable of. I keep meaning to take up a sport, but never get around to it. I’m not an athlete, really, but there’s no harm in dabbling. Just don’t do things because you’re trying to prove anything to the world, that’s all. The reality is that most people can’t and never will be able to play at my level. I can live with that.

The Stranger

crosswordI don’t know if I’ve ever completed a crossword puzzle, which is strange, because I’ve tried to do so dozens, if not hundreds of times. Even the easy ones, like the New York Times’s on Monday, still trip me up sometimes. Ever have only one space left to fill in, but you can’t figure out which letter goes there? You cycle through the entire alphabet multiple times and still have no idea what the word is. That’s happened to me many, many times. I have no idea why I’m sharing this now.

A lot of people I know are still getting their education. If I remember right, my father didn’t stop going to college until he decided it was time to have kids. He likes going to school. He’s also boring. Depending on which quarto of the play you are referring to, Hamlet could be anywhere from seventeen to thirty. He strikes me as one of those guys who spends all of his early years doing nothing of interest before deciding to, you know, get on with his life by ending it. So I always did picture him as being in his early thirties. Maybe the reason I’m thinking of this is that I’m tired of people my age acting like they’re already old. There’s a lot of backwards thinking going on with people my age. They think they know how their future is supposed to look, so they reshape everything right now in accordance with what their life is “supposed” to be when they’re older. You can’t see your significant other as representing maturity and your friends as representing the past. The future you envision will never exist.

It’s still hard to get out of bed in the morning. I think of myself as a morning person, but I rarely get up early anymore because there’s no reason to. I get home from work and still need to unwind, but it’s already 11 due to my schedule. No, I’m not going to get a 9-to-5 job, don’t you even suggest it. I need to find more things with which to fill up the rest of my schedule. Maybe I should try getting outdoors more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a hike or anything of the sort. I saw What If, that Daniel Radcliffe romcom a little while ago, and before the film, I saw a trailer for that stupid Hector and the Search for Happiness movie with Simon Pegg. It might as well have been called Self-Help Clichés: The Movie, because the instant the words, “Sometimes in order to find yourself” came up onscreen, I turned to the person next to me and said, “You have to get a little lost” just before those exact words appeared. Actually, I didn’t say it out loud because I have no friends and see movies alone, but you see my point. Talking to people is weird.

I’ve never understood people who are obsessed with fitness. I know working out releases endorphins and shit, but why focus your whole life around it? I guess some people just love that feeling of self-betterment and pushing themselves to see what they are capable of. And on that level, I guess it makes sense. All I know is that I can’t imagine monitoring every calorie I eat and spending three hours in the gym every day. I’m not going to say that I don’t drool over guys with perfect Abercrombie & Fitch bodies, only that having 0% body fat and eating nothing but chicken and eggs is not all that healthy. In the long run, it’s probably better to enjoy the occasional dessert, although that could just be me rationalizing my own vices. I should probably be proud of the fact that even though I don’t go to the gym three times a week like I used to, I still go around once a week or so. So I haven’t completely fallen off the wagon, but getting motivated is tough.

I read something interesting a little while ago. Apparently, the definition of “happy” that Thomas Jefferson refers to in the Declaration of Independence is a little bit different from how it is conventionally understood. Happiness isn’t so much a state of constant positive emotion as it is the feeling of having a pursuit of some kind. I can get behind that. I don’t think you have to be a good person to be happy, and I don’t think you have to be a happy person to be good. The world is messy and complicated that way. But as Tig Notaro said after having a really, really rough year, it’s useful to have something to look forward to. Dr. Joyce Brothers once talked a woman out of killing herself by telling her that she should stick around to see one of her former students (the suicidal woman was a teacher) get married. Of course, when you put all of your stock in your future, it tends to fall through. Life is shitty that way.


I could use a little bit more comfort in my life. I kind of feel like I’ve earned it. Unfortunately, even that has to come on my terms. One thing that I’ve been thinking I should do sometime soon is watch more educational programming. I notice that the original Cosmos and David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds are available on YouTube. So I’ll have to get around to that at some point. Also, because Halloween is coming up, I’ve been watching more horror films. Updates on that to follow. By the way, does anybody remember the Garfield Halloween special? That scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. It’s fun to play dress-up, but I haven’t done that since high school. Maybe someday.

Sleep well, my children.

Hawley Smoot

"Never tell the same lie twice." —Garak, after hearing The Boy Who Cried Wolf

“Never tell the same lie twice.” —Garak, after hearing “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”

I got a new job. It’s okay so far. I work at an Italian restaurant. I work the same schedule every week, which is evenings Thursday through Sunday. That is, unsurprisingly, already starting to cut into my social life. I’m not quite sure what to do about that, but I have no intention of quitting my job anytime soon. I dunno, maybe I’ll just have to get used to going out late or something. I don’t go to bars much, but they’re open until 2 or so, so I could always meet up with my friends after work is done. That, or just get used to meeting with them in the morning or early afternoon or on weeknights. There’s probably a solution here, but it will take some tinkering. This place is family-owned, which places it in stark contrast to the last place I worked. It’s a small crew here, which means everything is friendly and informal (they don’t even make me wear gloves when handling food), but it also means that I can’t just take a day off whenever I please. If they can find another person to work as busboy or dishwasher (I’m currently doing both), maybe they’ll be more flexible with scheduling. Until then, I’m working more hours than I did at the coffee shop, which also means I’m making more. I guess that’s progress.

I find myself wondering a lot how much timing has to do with my opinion of somebody. The thing about being in your twenties is that so much of your life feels like a series of missed connections. I like to think that if you really have a connection with somebody, you’ll find a way to make the relationship work, regardless of just what kind of relationship it is. But sometimes my practical concerns clash with my more idealistic ones. My needs are fairly simple, but most of the time, it still feels like my crazy thoughts and desires are just stacked up on top of each other and I’m just a vessel for whatever bizarre ambition has found its way into my subconscious this time. On the outside, I probably look more focuses and stable. Former NBA player John Amaechi’s mother once asked him, “Would you recognize your soul in the dark?” I love that question. Can people ever really change? I maintain that they can, but I acknowledge that the difference between becoming somebody else and simply maturing into a better version of yourself is vague and subjective at best, completely arbitrary at worst.

It happens sometimes that people from my past come floating back into my life. Somebody from high school messaged me on a dating site not too long ago, except his profile was blank, so I couldn’t figure out who he was. I went digging through old yearbooks and shit to try to piece it together, and I have a strong hunch, but I’m only 80% sure. I had a friend in college who basically stopped returning my calls after being very close to me for years. Still hard to explain it, really, but I think what was going through his head was that I wanted more from him than he was willing to provide, and since he had a girlfriend and a nice circle of friends who, when push came to shove, seemed to like him way more than they liked me, he wondered why he even bothered with me at all. So I’m not sure if I’ll ever see him again. I’m not sure if I want to either, but I wonder if he ever grew out of his selfishness. Because it’s still on him, you see. I wanted to be his friend and nothing more. It’s not my fault that he couldn’t go there with me.

It’s been my experience that anybody who excuses their asshole behavior with “I’m a straight-shooter, I tell it like it is” or words to that effect is really just an asshole. I’m a notorious asshole, and even I’ve never said anything like that. I’m actually not confrontational at all; I just don’t see why I should have to explain myself to other people. Because when you get right up in somebody’s face over something, it usually says more about you than it does about them, even if what they said is legitimately offensive.

I’ve seen a fair amount of talk on the internet lately about women and how they are portrayed in the media. Geena Davis wrote a fascinating piece about simple methods that screenwriters can use to level the playing field a little. It’s especially powerful coming from her, as she is a very talented actress for whom roles seem to have dried up once she reached a certain age. Well, I suppose it’s possible that she took time off to raise her family, but there’s no denying that few women in Hollywood ever remain commercially viable for very long past the age of 40. John Travolta still gets work despite being over the hill, but the women playing Tom Cruise’s love interests are typically in their 30s even though he is over 50. Seriously, how does that work? Why the hell are a few facelifts and a hairpiece all it takes to keep an actor’s career strong but not enough for an actress? Geena Davis is still pretty, not that that should be the only thing determining whether or not she gets to have a career. Oh, well. I wish her well in her feminist work.

I noticed something after starting up on season six of 30 Rock: Jenna is absolutely killing it. For whatever reason, I never found her as funny as Tracy until now, even though they’re both stuck-up prima donnas. Maybe I had some deep-seated sexism, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m loving the hell out of it.

Joanna Newsom is really something. I wish she were more famous.


tree of lifeI find that myself thinking less about loan debt the more time goes by. Because it’s not really on me, you see. The costs of education have ballooned to the point where you would have to be either Mitt Romney or a redheaded lesbian Olympic skater in order to get the inheritance or scholarships necessary to get out of college debt-free, so I’m trying not to worry overmuch about the fact that my debt is almost $2,000 larger than it was when I graduated simply due to interest. Seriously, who the fuck has this kind of money? More importantly, who the fuck has this kind of money in their mid-20s? In order to have it all paid off by now, I would have had to spend the last year or so working at least 120 hours a week. And wouldn’t you know it, but good jobs are kind of thin on the ground these days. I have a part-time job that could be a lot worse, but even then, I think my loan providers are going to have to be content with the tiny, tiny amount that I send them each month. At this rate, I’ll have to live to be 200 to pay it all off, so it’s in everyone’s interest to keep me alive that long, right?

It’s funny. I’m not a very happy person, yet I seem happier than my parents these days. They’re mad at me, but they can’t even articulate why. I’ve been looking for an apartment for almost two months now. I’ve been looking for a job since January, although I was filling out about one application every two months in the beginning. So no, I do not get up every morning and respond to every single Craigslist post that even remotely applies to me, but neither do I sit around all day patting myself on the back for taking advantage of my parents’ endless generosity. They seem to think simultaneously that I don’t want to leave and that I’m prickly and unpleasant to live with. Sort of like how Barack Obama is a weak, ineffectual leader and an imperialist tyrant all at the same time. If the only criticism you have for someone is that they could be working harder, you’re wasting time. And I really don’t owe them all that much anyway.

Because I’ve already spent God knows how much time talking about my finances and problems with my family, I’ll switch gears here and talk about movies. Basically everyone is telling me to see Boyhood. Some reviewers are even calling it the greatest American film of the past few years. That’s saying a lot when The Tree of Life is only three years old. (Yeah, I like Malick. Suck it, haters. And in case anyone is wondering what he did in the 20 years between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, read this. Turns out he didn’t disappear or anything; he just had projects in mind that he couldn’t get off the ground. While I’m in parentheses, I think we need to distinguish between being media-shy and a recluse. Thomas Pynchon once quipped that to the media, “recluse” just means “someone who doesn’t like to talk to reporters”. Bill Watterson, from what little I can gather, is basically just a quiet dude who likes oil painting and riding his bike. He’s not a hermit; he just doesn’t care for the spotlight. I respect that.)

Before Sunrise is not actually that great of a movie. Yeah, I said it. I liked Dazed and Confused an awful lot and thought School of Rock was fun, but I think Richard Linklater’s problem is that he tries to make movies where nothing happens like it does in the movies. Alfred Hitchcock once said that movies are life with the boring parts taken out. Our lives are rarely as dramatic as the movies, but the keyword is “rarely”. For example, less than two years ago, I was borderline homeless and got help only when I jokingly threatened to go on a shooting spree and some people took that threat seriously. Less than a year ago, my roommate burst into my room at nine or ten and night and screamed that if I didn’t do what he wanted right now, he would “fucking kill” me. Sound like something you’d see in a movie? I’m still reeling from at least one of those. But Before Sunrise is, to use a decidedly uncritical word, boring. I just don’t give a fuck about these two assholes, which is interesting, since I’m roughly the same age. It’s a will-they-or-won’t-they where it’s obvious from the first five minutes that they will. I like to get that out of the way early on, then see how well we click otherwise.

I’ll probably like Boyhood when I eventually see it; I’m just saying that I don’t really feel the pull. It’s been almost a year since I moved back to California, and the last twelve months have been pretty quiet. I’m really not sure how else to describe them. It’s the longest I’ve ever been out of school, which means that for once, I’m not living according to any predetermined structure. The hard part is finding a way to work within that structure so that the micro is interesting even if the macro is predictable.

If you've seen the movie, you'll get why this is in here.

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get why this is in here.

Because I felt like it, I watched Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem recently. That man…has a vision. If you don’t like horror movies or have a low tolerance for nasty, vile, sadistic shit, avoid this movie at all costs. I once made the mistake of watching Re-Animator with my mother in the next room. That film has a scene in which a severed head goes down on a woman who is tied to a table. My mother told me not to watch “that crap” around her again. If I had watched The Lords of Salem with her in the house, she would probably have disowned me. It’s a moody, atmospheric film that looks great given its budget and is about as good as a film can be while still failing on a storytelling level. It really isn’t bad—on the contrary, it has a sort of campy, intentionally cheesy charm that offsets the balls-out nihilism that marks the last 20 minutes or so. It’s the sort of thing that is so twisted and provocative that it almost crosses back over into just being fun.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s what’s on my mind these days. There is a lot of worthwhile media out there, and it occurs to me that even if I were working more hours or had a boyfriend or more than two friends, I would probably still spend most of my time doing shit like this. I plan on traveling and learning archery and shit, but I’ll have to make space in my head first. Daniel Radcliffe is amazingly cute.