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.


Why the Doctor Should Be an Old White Man

Let’s talk about social justice for a second. The term “social justice warrior” has become something of a slur on the internet. I don’t see the shame in it, personally. It’s like using “feminazi” as an insult. Obviously, invoking Nazism to deride someone you don’t like is wrong, but since the real insult there is that somebody thinks women deserve equality, I’m not sure why this is supposed to be offensive. If being an SJW means believing that it is wrong to exclude people based on race, gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, nationality, or what have you, then call me an SJW. Call me a feminazi if it please you. I butt heads with my fellow feminists on certain things because there are times when I feel that taking a stand is somewhat pointless. That, in case you can’t tell, is what I’ve gathered you here to talk about. The Doctor is not the President. He doesn’t have to represent the diversity of his own viewership. It might be nice, but it’s hardly necessary to make him a woman or a person of color. In fact, it’s probably better if we don’t. Here’s why.

Doctor Who has been around for 50 years. Like any other cultural institution, it has a certain value and aesthetic that cannot be separated from the time in which it was created. The Doctor travels around in a police box, something that existed only in a very specific time and place. He travels primarily with young women from contemporary England, and his relationship with them is usually a bit paternalistic, perhaps even a tiny bit condescending. You can like or dislike it, but those elements are hardwired into the DNA of the show. Take them away and it’s not Doctor Who, just as a James Bond who isn’t cocky, cool, and kind of a misogynist isn’t James Bond or a Sherlock Holmes who is warm and fuzzy and a feminist isn’t really Sherlock Holmes. People believe that in order to update the show and make it accessible to the new generation, we need to change its values. But Doctor Who isn’t gay marriage. It’s not your right. It’s not even a privilege. It’s a thing you can watch or not watch. That’s why it’s art: because it doesn’t give a fuck whether you like it or not. If it did, it wouldn’t be art.

I’ve gotten mocked for making this argument before. People say that since Doctor Who is really about change, we should embrace the change and all that that implies. By that logic, the Doctor should be played by a Chihuahua and the show should consist of him driving around in a Porsche and sniffing other dogs’ shit. Don’t give me any of that “that’s not what I meant” crap; it’s what you said, so stand by it or fuck off. You can’t separate the English-ness of the show from the show itself. It’s a shamelessly romantic portrait of an England that hasn’t existed for a long time and probably never did to begin with. If you don’t buy into that, don’t watch the show. You don’t get a vote. This isn’t democracy. It’s art. Part of the reason I have to distance myself from the fanbase is the invidious notion that so many of the entitled fuckwits have gotten into their heads that since they would like to see a female or black Doctor, they should get to see a female or black Doctor. No. It’s not the show’s job to give you what you want.

Doctor Who has disappeared up its own ass in recent years. It’s no longer about pushing forward but about running in circles. Every other episode is about revisiting something that happened in a previous storyline or going back to the Doctor’s childhood or bringing back a beloved old character for one last go-round (until they decide to bring back that character again for yet another go-round). When will this end? Moriarty is in a grand total of two of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Know why? Because once he’s gone over Reichenbach Falls, that’s it. There’s nothing left to say about him once that’s done. He doesn’t exist just to give definition to Sherlock. Sherlock isn’t the center of the universe. Moriarty is a criminal mastermind and when Sherlock foils some of his plans, he decides he has to take Sherlock out. It’s that simple. They’re not destined to be together, and I get so tired of those introspective moments where the villain says “We’re not so different, you and I” while the hero has to wonder if he’s really a good man or not. I think Sherlock is a good man. I think the Doctor is, too. Can we accept that and move on? People change, I know, but it’s the present that matters. At present, I don’t like Doctor Who or Sherlock. So I don’t watch either show. Funny how that works.

In case it’s not obvious, I was pretty steamed when I wrote this. I’m angry about a lot of things right now. I’m also stressed out, because I’ve got a really busy week coming up and I’m wondering how I’ll be able to pay my bills, do my job(s), and still find the time to see my friends. Typical adult stuff, I guess. I don’t want to be a parent. God bless those of you who like kids, but I don’t and I never will. It’s just not for me. I can’t change the fact that Darren Wilson and the dude who killed Eric Garner got off for what was quite simply murder just because people don’t want to face up to the deep and pervasive sickness of racism. And for the Spike Lee fans out there, let me just say that Mookie did the right thing. That anger had to go somewhere. You can’t just watch a cop murder somebody, shrug, say, “That’s unfortunate”, and go home. You just can’t.

Maybe I’m just tired of spending all my time in the arts. I need something to think about other than media representations of various groups of people. Sometimes a show is just a show. And if I don’t enjoy it, I don’t enjoy it. That’s my business. But it won’t stop me from whining about it. In the name of God, I will do my duty.

More Than Human

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEADThere is a difference between mellowing out and losing your edge. Most people mellow out as they get older. That’s natural. Sidley Lumet made a string of good-to-great movies from the late 50s into the mid-70s, from 12 Angry Men to Dog Day Afternoon. His pace slowed after that, but he never lost it completely. His final film was Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, an unflinchingly cynical piece of work that would be impossible to sit through if it weren’t so gripping. A lot of artists have a 10-15 year period relatively early in their careers during which they crank out one classic after the next. Springsteen was like that. So was Akira Kurosawa. John Carpenter, too, although he was a little hit-and-miss even when he was in his prime. Alfred Hitchcock is an outlier. He made two of his best-regarded films, Psycho and Vertigo, when he was pushing 60. I haven’t seen any of his films from the 70s, but I’ve heard some very positive things about Frenzy. If I mellow out, that’s fine. If I lose my edge, kill me. I’m not kidding.

I’ve cried at only a couple of movies in my lifetime. Ikiru is one. If you’ve seen that one, you probably know which scene I’m talking about. Even if you haven’t, the DVD cover gives it away. Dear Zachary is another. It’s one of the most wrenching films ever made, made even more so by the fact that it’s a documentary. The last half hour of that movie will rip your heart out. The most recent one was Mary and Max, a claymation film from Australia. It’s on Netflix, so if you haven’t seen it, hie thee hence over there and watch it immediately. It’s about a New Yorker with Asperger’s who becomes pen pals with a little girl in Australia. As a warning, let me say that though the film is animated, it is not kid-friendly, and it gets dark pretty late into its running time. But it’s worth it. I respond to dark comedies better than most other genres, perhaps because my life is one. That film is hopeful, just unconventionally so. Don’t feel sorry for Max.

There’s a general rule that I’ve observed when it comes to couples. People who are in healthy, fulfilling relationships rarely feel the need to talk about it. You can spend a significant amount of time getting to know them before they say the words, “My girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/partner/whatever….” People who are insecure about their relationship and want to hide behind it as a means of deflecting criticism are the ones who always gush about their partners and how perfect they are. It’s more willful self-delusion than anything else. They want to believe that because of this relationship, they are a totally different person than they were before. This requires that their partner sit still and be objectified to be complicit in maintaining the illusion. It’s a form of co-dependency, an immaturity that tries to pass itself off as maturity. There’s nothing wrong with a little PDA here and there, but if you make YouTube videos consisting entirely of you and your boyfriend kissing and canoodling, I feel justified in saying that your relationship is not long for this world. That is all.

I’ve said before that I never want to work a 9-to-5 job. I’m actually starting to like the feeling of being free when everyone else is at work, even if the flipside is that I often have work when everyone else is out partying. Maybe that’s because I’m a weirdo, or maybe it’s because I like to remind myself that I’m a weirdo. I wonder if other people find me intimidating. Do they hang back from talking to me because I scare them off? As I write this, I’m still doing a slow burn over the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I don’t have the time or the energy to talk about that at length now. But I will reiterate what I have said before: If you are one of those people who insist that this isn’t about race, you’re part of the problem. I hear people tell me that if I were nicer, people would be more willing to listen to me. No, I think the only way I ever get someone to listen to me is by telling them exactly what I think of them. It’s not “I speak my mind, and if you can’t handle it, fuck you” so much as it’s “I speak my mind, and if you can’t handle it, okay then”.

You can’t really get anywhere if you can’t have a discussion. And a lot of discussion gets shortchanged because the instant I say something negative about, say, a movie, somebody says, “It’s just a movie. If you don’t like it, you can watch something else.” That’s…not a response to my criticism, however. Sometimes, I watch/read/listen to stuff that I don’t exactly like. Sometimes I say so just to see what people say back. If all people have to say is, “Why can’t you just let Person X do their own thing and not be so judgmental”, I sorta shrug and roll my eyes at the same time, then walk away. When you put yourself out there in a public forum, you are opening yourself up to criticism. That doesn’t mean you have to like it. It doesn’t even mean you have to listen to it. It just means that you should acknowledge it. Because you can’t make the stuff you don’t like just disappear. And the reason other people exist is not to tell you how wonderful you are.

I’ve been getting more into classic comic strips lately. Does anyone remember Pogo? I had never read it, but then I found out that my main man Bill Watterson is a fan. So I guess I have some reading to do.


Dance of the Seasons

rodney king

I have a lot to say about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, but I’m not going to say it all now. Because you’ve already heard most of it, and tempers are so inflamed right now that I’m surprised the rioting is, at the moment, contained to one area. But we need to have the conversation. If you are a black male, you could have been Michael Brown. That’s all there is to it. I’ve been stopped by cops before, and while they did seem a little worried about me in one incident, they’ve never accused me of shit. I’m lucky that way. You can tell yourself that what happened to Michael Brown was an unfortunate misunderstanding if you insist on lying to yourself, but a lie is all it ever will be, and fuck you if you say otherwise. You can deny the fact that the spirit of slavery and Jim Crow lives on in our national consciousness, but then you’re part of the problem, and as far as I’m concerned, you can fucking kill yourself if that’s how you feel. Better you than the next Michael Brown. And there will be another.

We need to have a conversation about race in this country. More importantly, we need to prevent it from being sidetracked. I’ve seen it happen where somebody will start off talking about homophobia or sexism or racism and people will divert it because we should be talking about socioeconomic status instead, and isn’t that just as big of a deal for some people. Well, no, it isn’t. Your socioeconomic status is something that you are born into; your race, gender, and sexual orientation are things that you are born with. I do not accept that the real problem here is the militarization of the police force. That’s a problem, but even that is heavily tinted by race. Spare me your rationalizations about how some white dude somewhere was harassed by a cop and therefore the hundreds or thousands of cases of black men being arrested and beaten for no goddamn reason are meaningless. Seriously, if you have a comment about that, don’t even submit it. I’ll shitcan it.

The real problem here is race. No ifs, ands, or buts. Racism is a problem in this country. Cases like the one involving Michael Brown (not even the only recent case of an unarmed black man being shot by a cop in the South) are not isolated incidents; they are symptomatic of a deep sickness that has persisted in this country for a long time. And I’ve had it up to here with this bullshit. So if you want to join the conversation, admit up front that the police officers in Ferguson are racists. Admit that it is not uncommon for police officers to detain, charge, and even assault black people for no reason other than a desire to keep darkie down. They may not admit it to themselves (how often do you hear a racist admit to being a racist?), but that’s what they’re doing. And I’m through arguing about it.

Nobody wants to have a conversation about race. If you turn to Fox News, you will see people insisting over and over that not everything is about race. Funny thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sean Hannity or any of those other assholes admit that something is about race. The only reason my fellow liberals and I keep insisting that stuff is about race is because nobody will ever acknowledge an instance of racism when it’s staring them in the face. To hear the fuckheads over at Breitbart or WND tell it, the only racism that still exists is the “reverse racism” of affirmative action and the like. But the reason that we still need affirmative action is because of all that bullshit that conservatives won’t admit is about race. It’s some deeply torturous and convoluted logic, all so that nobody has to actually do anything about anything.

It’s not a conversation if you insist upfront that nobody is allowed to get offended. I insist that we all admit that racism is a potent force because it is, and if you can’t see it, then I can’t make you, and anyway, you can see it, you just don’t want to. I don’t have the patience to be nice here. I’m not very nice to begin with. This is one thing that makes me even less so. Because periodically, something awful happens. This goes all the way back to the Rodney King trial. King may have been a criminal, but the real question is whether something like that would have happened to a white person who did what he did. To save you the trouble of puzzling that one out, let me answer it for you: No. If Rodney King were white, he would not have been beaten, even after getting pulled over for driving like a maniac while intoxicated and resisting arrest. Glad we got that cleared up.

Some of you may remember the incident in which Jonah Hill called a TMZ “reporter” a “fag”. Being from TMZ, the “reporter” immediately posted the video online as evidence of Hill’s homophobia, and Hill, being an apparently decent human being, apologized. Amazing how much impact a simple “I’m sorry” can have. I don’t think an “I’m sorry” from the police force in Ferguson would set things right, but it wouldn’t be a bad start. I’ve read countless cases of people (usually young black men) being harassed by the cops, and in almost every case, when the police realized their error, they simply let the person go without even so much as a “Whoops”. That’s shitty, and it cannot be allowed to continue. We’ve been building towards this point for a long, long time now, and it’s not all going to be solved overnight. Let us hope that the next time it comes around, we are at least a little bit more prepared.

Games You Can’t Win

I find it depressing that we categorize entertainment by the age demographic at which it is targeted. I suppose it makes sense to call The Hunger Games a young adult novel. Certainly I can see how its themes would resonate with teenagers (and teenage girls, specifically). But whenever I hear someone refer to the Looney Toons or Rocky & Bullwinkle as kids’ stuff, I am reminded of the great Maurice Sendak, who, when asked why he wrote for children, said, “I don’t. I write and somebody says, ‘That’s for children’.” When I visit bookstores (which I do quite often), I frequently find myself wandering over to the kids’ section so I can read Sendak or Dr. Seuss. Seuss’ stuff holds up really well. The Butter Battle is a powerful allegory for nuclear war that scared me even before I understood what it meant, The Sneeches is a sweet story about tolerance and overcoming prejudice, and I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew is a really funny book about learning to face your problems instead of running from them. And then there’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, which was the last book he wrote and is a popular gift for young graduates. I will say no more about that one.

When I was in college, I read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, figuring that if I read one book for pubescent girls in my lifetime, it should be that one. I did feel a little weird checking that one out from the library, but I think we tend to shelter our kids a little bit too much these days. I recall an incident when I was a child in which I was trying to cross the street. It was rush hour, so even though I lived in the suburbs, I couldn’t really find a gap in traffic large enough to fit through. So I sat down on the curb and started crying. Within one minute, a woman pulled over, asked me what the problem was, then held my hand as we crossed the street. I never saw her again. Would that fly today? We talk to kids so much about stranger danger that you’d think everyone who doesn’t have kids is a pedophile. I don’t have kids, but I’m pretty sure I’m not John Wayne Gacy.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. When it comes to the media I consume, I just don’t think very much about who it was made for. I’ll watch How to Train Your Dragon and Stranger by the Lake (an erotic gay French thriller) one after the other if I feel like it. It’s the nice thing about being an adult: you don’t have anyone telling you what to do. Yet I still know people who would return to their childhood if they had the chance. That makes no sense to me. I was not a happy child. I’m not much happier now, but I am freer.

Customer service is a good way to learn to hate humanity. I had a guy complain the other day that he had to wait four minutes for his americano. Wow. Four whole minutes. Then when I gave it to him, he complained that the water had gotten cold because I let it sit on the bar while I made the drinks for the people in line ahead of him and pulled the shots. So it dropped from 180 degrees to 170? Geez, I feel so sorry for you! It’s almost like coffee shops get really busy in the mornings or something. But seriously, you have to at least try not to let shitheads like that one get to you. Let’s face it, most of the people you interact with when you’re doing that kind of work aren’t the sort that you would want to talk to outside of work anyway. One of the regulars started complaining about Asian drivers and how they don’t belong here the other day. I said nothing because, um, what I really have to say to that would get me fired. Just take your drinks and leave, dude. Nobody wants to hear it.

There is a reason I’ve never even been considered for any kind of management position even though I’ve been working at this place for a little less than a year, and that’s that I don’t have the patience to fake it with people who get on my nerves. If you want to be a dick to me, I’ll still get you your coffee. But I won’t apologize to you because you had to wait less than five minutes for it. I just won’t.

Currently, I have so many balls in the air that I just can’t seem to focus on anything. I’m in the middle of, like, six books right now. I’m splitting my time between various movies and TV shows on multiple streaming services, and I still don’t have as much of a social life as I’d like. (That said, I went to a farewell party for a friend who was leaving for grad school over the weekend and met one very pleasant couple who pretty much single-handedly made all of the other shit that happened that week worthwhile.) It’s funny. I can feel some of my old friends pulling away from me. I guess that’s just the way of things. I can’t seem to find my center. My dreams are still frantic and jumbled, like a kaleidoscope of my own life. Sometimes they’re really, really intense, reminding me of shit I’ve been trying to bury for years now. I feel like the universe is going to have to meet me halfway sooner or later. But I have a sick feeling that there is a lot more pain in my near future.

Someday I think I’ll have to travel through the red states. I’m getting tired of hypocritical liberals who voted for Obama but skip to the other side of the street if they see a black dude in a hoodie coming their way. But tempers will have to cool a little bit first. I’m still angry as hell. And I’m going to take it…well, a little bit longer, maybe. But not too long. I think there are far too many people who pride themselves on what they aren’t. And all of them, it seems, are on the internet.