Once in a Lifetime

 

I’ve never made friends quickly. You all should know that by now. At my previous job, my boss told me that I seemed to have put up a shell around myself. That’s not entirely true, but he meant well. I heard recently that he walked out of the store he’d been transferred to because the district manager is a total bitch. I flatter myself that I might have started a bit of a trend by walking out when I did. I wasn’t the first person to walk out, but still. They started a dangerous precedent by pushing good people out, and anyway, I didn’t come here to gloat. I’ve learned by now that what they say about living well being the best revenge is true. It doesn’t mean that the bad guy always gets his comeuppance. Oftentimes, they kinda just drift away. Most of the time, they never learn their lesson. They go on being shitty, and the most you can hope for is that the people around them realize what shits they are and keep their distance. But they don’t ever just go away.

It was a big decision when I decided to be a blogger instead of a vlogger or whatever. I have a very animated speaking style and a rather distinctive voice, but I would prefer not to go on camera. I don’t like having my picture taken. Sometimes I think I might have fit right in in one of those cultures where they believe that having your picture taken robs you of your soul or something like that. Then again, maybe not. I’m not a Luddite (it’s actually a common myth that the Luddites were anti-technology, but never mind); I just try to resist the temptation of going with trends. That’s why I’ve always felt so out of my own time. I know that we all like to think of ourselves as special snowflakes, and that’s great. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t think of themselves as ordinary who, to my eyes, appear rather conventional. I don’t believe that’s entirely subjective. I think that most people are boring, and that interesting people come in all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing wrong with being boring, I suppose. It’s all in what you want out of life.

cybermenIt’s frustrating, working in a medium that doesn’t provide you with any immediate gauge as to what people think. Actually, I think that might be a strength. Facebook has the “like” button, and actually, so does this blog. But it’s not like there are message boards where people discuss my stuff at length. If they did, I probably wouldn’t read it because I need my headspace. That’s the problem with the internet: it’s all just nerds with opinions. I still don’t understand why so many Whovians hate “Nightmare in Silver” so much. I remain convinced that it’s the best Cybermen storyline since “Earthshock”, not that the competition is particularly steep. It’s definitely overstuffed and yeah, the kids are kind of annoying, but it also has some arresting visuals, a great performance by Matt Smith, and some of the snappiest dialogue the show ever produced. (“I trust the Doctor.” “Are you saying he knows what he’s doing?” “I’m not sure I’d go that far.”) For once, the Cybermen act like Cybermen (sort of proto-Borg, although I don’t know if there’s any truth to the rumor that they inspired the Borg) rather than substitute Daleks. Go Gaiman.

There’s nobody I agree with 100% of the time. This leads me to believe that nobody is right 100% of the time except for me. But seriously, I do believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. I believe in subjectivity as well; I just think that while most human beings might, on some level, be more or less the same, that doesn’t mean you have to get along with everyone, and it’s okay to think somebody’s a shithead if they’ve wronged you. I guarantee that there are folks out there who think I’m a shithead, although I think most of them are shitheads too, so I guess it kind of evens out. There’s no bigger waste of time, in my opinion, than trying to make friends with everyone. A lot of my idols probably wouldn’t have much to say to me if they met me. Then again, maybe they would and I just need to get a little bit better at making overtures.

I’ve always believed that endings aren’t bad so long as you get to end things on your own terms. I talked to an asshole on an online dating site just now who couldn’t believe that I choose to work in retail and customer service jobs despite having degrees from two of the best universities in the world. Well, I am a smart motherfucker. Right now, I need my headspace, that’s all. You can’t get back at everyone who has hurt you. Robert, the near-sociopath who screwed me out of my living situation about two years ago, is probably living quite comfortably now. Whether or not he’s happy is debatable. I’m not very happy, but it’s all in how you define happiness, isn’t it?

In case it’s not obvious, I’m signing off here. I’ve cranked out these last few posts in what could be considered a binge (albeit the tamest binge in the entire history of the word) because sometimes, you just want to get it over with. Oh no, don’t take that the wrong way. I’m glad I did this shit. I used to think that you needed to have all your shit figured out before you ended something, but it turns out you don’t. Is death the only part where that happens? I don’t know. But it’s not as scary as it looks. Not that I plan on doing it anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with something silly. I’m still kind of a funnyman despite spending most of my time here sharing Deep Thoughts. See ya around.

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The Angels of Our Nature

I read the final two chapters of The Fault in Our Stars in a bookstore once out of simple curiosity. This is the book that has reduced readers the world over to tears, inspired a blockbuster movie, and as far as teen romances go, definitely captured the cultural zeitgeist. It’s probably a good book. People whose opinions I respect have very positive things to say about it. I guess I just wanted to know if it ended with both of the young lovers dying. (SPOILERS follow.) It doesn’t, which makes sense, because you still have to have somebody to narrate the story. The writing is perhaps a little manipulative, especially the way that Gus describes himself as a “shitty writer” before writing a lucid, eloquent letter that perfectly sums up the story’s main themes. In fairness to John Green, capturing the messiness of colloquial speech, with all of its “likes”, “you knows”, and grammatical errors while staying coherent, is pretty damn difficult. Essentially, the young hero concludes that the only true measure of a person’s life is the other lives that they touched, and that while everybody dies, a person’s lifespan has little to do with the impact that they have. Fair enough. (End SPOILERS.)

I learn that John Green is an Episcopalian and was at one point a chaplain in a children’s hospital. I have heard from other people who have done this that there is no faster way to despair of ever finding any meaning in life or making sense of our cruel, chaotic, capricious universe that to try giving comfort to people (especially children) with cancer. I don’t doubt that. People die having never fulfilled their last wish, be it to meet their hero, fall in love, or even just finish the fucking scarf that they were knitting for their kid as a keepsake. It’s rough. I don’t have any real conclusion there, I’m just saying it’s rough. Then again, do we always have to think of children as such delicate flowers? I think of children as younger people, nothing more, nothing less. It’s probably a bigger tragedy when a teenager dies than a senior citizen, but it’s still death, and that is a fact of life. Maybe the reason I didn’t see the movie when it was in theaters was that I felt like Green was mythologizing adolescence, as if there is nothing in the world as perfect as young love. But I haven’t seen the movie or read the whole book, so what do I know?

Our culture is obsessed with youth. That’s nothing new. It’s why I often feel old even though I am in my mid-twenties and have to force myself to live in the moment and not worry overmuch about my future. There’s the usual factors holding me back: finances, friends (or lack thereof), my complicated relationship with my parents (moving out helped, but it didn’t solve everything, and how could it?), my own neuroses, you get the idea. It’s amazing how much time I can spend obsessing over something that I know perfectly well is a waste of time. That’s the thing about douchebags. It’s not so much that you can’t see that there is something wrong with them so much as that you can’t stop yourself from thinking that if you could get them to listen, they would learn to act a little nicer. I don’t like the divide the world into good and bad people, but there are a lot of people out there who are simply assholes. They’ll die having accomplished nothing of value, and even at their wake, people will be struggling to find positive things to say about them. I’m sorry, but that’s just a fact. I don’t know why.

My roommate spends very long periods of time sitting in front of the TV or doing other shit with it on. I guess he just likes background noise. He’s a painter, so he spends most of his time in the living room painting or watching TV and frequently falls asleep in front of the TV. There are times when I wish he would leave or go to his room so that I could hang out in the living room, but whatever. I’m actually more amazed by his ability to be vegetative for so long than anything else. Seriously, how do you fucking do that? I’ve tried that, but even I can spend only the entire morning playing computer games or something before I think that I should find something else to do with my time. I guess I never learned how to goof off.

There are few things that increase my blogging frequency more than having nothing to do all day. I don’t mind watching TV or reading or doing some other sedentary thing for a while. The problem is that I usually feel like I’m doing it because I have no idea how else to pass the time. I have the good fortune to leave near a shopping center, so I can always go wander around for a while if I need to get out of my apartment. Also, I can walk to work now. It’s not a short walk, but still. And I get a free dinner every night I work, which cuts down on my groceries and means I’m less inclined to go out to eat a lot during the week. Yay. Now I just have to find a second job. Because my bank account is dwindling fast.

It’s no good to sit around all day waiting for the phone to ring. So I try to turn it off or leave it behind when I can. Maybe I will miss a phone call or text, but anybody who can’t wait isn’t worth hearing from anyway, right? Oh well, at least I have other shit with which to distract myself. I feel the need to reconnect with nature.

Games People Play

I have a hard time just uprooting myself and moving to another place. I get too attached to my current place, even if I was the one who was trying to move all along. I’m getting settled in my new place (or at least trying to) and it’s difficult, because I keep going back to my old neighborhood (sometimes even popping by my parents’ place for a little while when they’re not around) just so I can eat at a place I liked or something. Hopefully, that will dissipate with time, because I still go by my old college town semi-regularly and, when I moved from Manhattan to Queens, I kept going back to Manhattan, often just to hang out for a while. (Also to get away from my psychotic roommate. My current roommate mainly just lies on the couch and watches TV, so we’re getting along okay so far.) What I’m saying is: I’m lonely, please smother me with compliments. No seriously, what I’m saying is: Change is hard.

auditionI think part of the reason I’ve been watching more horror movies over the past couple years is that I’m trying to learn my limits. I’m not sure why some stuff disturbs me or just turns me off and other stuff doesn’t. I got through Audition okay. I’m not sure how much I liked it, but I can see that there was craft involved. I really didn’t like Eraserhead. Whether or not that is a horror film is debatable, but David Lynch has never been easy to categorize, so I feel we might as well call some of his films horror. Eraserhead in particular is polarizing. As somebody else said, nobody has ever walked out of that film saying, “It was okay, but…” It’s a movie that tries as hard as it can to nauseate you and make you feel really weird and icky, and it succeeds, I suppose, but I have no idea what the fucking point of that was. Strangely enough, I had no problem sitting through The Lords of Salem and Saw. (I didn’t like Saw, but it wasn’t hard to watch.) I found the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be a well-made film that I have no desire to see again. Its influence is undeniable, but again, what was the takeaway?

Maybe I’m trying too hard to find meaning or subtext in everything. I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t seem to find the time for everything that I want to do. The result is that my brain feels very crowded, which is frustrating, because it means that I have to tell the screaming voices up here that they can’t always get what they want, and they don’t like that very much. It makes them scream louder, which is upsetting to me, because I miss the days where I could wake up, do shit for a while, and then go to bed without feeling as if my gray matter was going to break through my skull and plaster itself all over my wall. Like I said, it’s noisy up here. My mother told me she’s worried that I’m spending too much time alone, which might be true, but her announcing it to me as if it just occurred to her struck me as her trying to take credit for something that I already acknowledged. I still don’t know who reads this thing, but I’ll keep typing as long as anybody cares.

I have a lot of projects right now. I also have a lot of little errands to run and tasks to perform, from changing my address on my Economist subscription to checking on the status of my voter registration. (I was supposed to get a voter’s guide a little while back, but I still haven’t gotten it. Maybe my registration didn’t go through or something? I don’t know. I did it on the DMV’s website. It would be a bummer to miss out on the midterms, because if there’s one thing that drives me nuts, it’s voter apathy. The Democrats benefit when more people vote; the GOP benefits when only their people vote. Which strategy is more sustainable in the long term?)

I am definitely starting to think that there is such a thing as a Red State Liberal. I read a book last year called The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek. It was a powerful, if slightly obvious memoir by a conservative Christian from Nashville who decided to spend a year living as a gay man to see what it was like. Of course, what he realized was that gay people and straight people aren’t all that different, labels don’t matter, blah blah blah, but the point is that even though Mr. Kurek and I probably wouldn’t agree on too many things political or theological, I think that’s just because we’re coming at it from different angles. Red State Liberals (not that Kurek is one, I’m just saying) and I might agree on political or religious things and still have fundamentally different worldviews. With Tim Kurek, it’s exactly the opposite. He wasn’t trying to figure out what it was like to be gay, just to understand why sexuality is such a big deal to some people. Since he had once been a homophobe himself, even calling a gay boss of his a faggot in front of customers, it’s obvious that he’s done a 180 on what he used to believe, and I applaud him for that.

Fall is my second-favorite month. Winter is my favorite. It’s tangential, but I think The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s most underrated plays. I’d put it just below Lear and Antony and Cleopatra. I like romances. This has been your stream of consciousness for now. I’m going to bed.

winter's tale2

Something Just Broke

The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.

—Cormac McCarthy, “Blood Meridian”

The new season of Doctor Who has started up, and with it, plenty of opportunities to talk about how much I hate Steven Moffat. Except there’s not much that I can say about him that I haven’t already said. If you read this blog, you know that I have literally thousand of words’ worth of opinions on Doctor Who and, to a lesser extent, Sherlock, but there are folks out there who think Steven Moffat is one of the greatest minds currently working in TV, and if you believe that, you believe that. What I will say is that while I like Peter Capaldi plenty, I do feel like the 12th Doctor is sounding a little bit too much like either the 11th Doctor or Sherlock so far. Moffat has always had a bit of a tendency to turn his characters into interchangeable dispensers of wit (and his monsters into interchangeably faceless entities—those ticking clock dudes from the premiere reminded me way too much of the clock dudes from “The Girl in the Fireplace”). The 12th Doctor is darker than his previous incarnation, but only a little. It’s like they changed things up just enough to make people think they were witnessing something new, but not enough to challenge them. And the Matt Smith cameo was pure fanservice.

The 6th Doctor’s image has been revived somewhat in the past few decades. Almost everybody agrees that his first season was a low point for the entire series. “Trial of a Time Lord” was an improvement, but only an incremental one, and “The Twin Dilemma” remains one of the most excruciating viewing experiences I have ever had. That said, Colin Baker is markedly better on the Big Finish Audio Adventures. Not good enough to bump him up in my rankings, but good enough that I recognize that it wasn’t really his fault. He played the character to the best of his abilities. But nothing worked about “Timelash”. The writing, directing, production design, and yes, acting were all execrable. And bad Doctor Who is like a bad acid trip: queasy, nightmarish, and downright painful to sit through. So I still can’t say that I’m much of a fan of the 6th Doctor. Instead, I’ll say that good Doctor Who is about more than just who plays the Doctor.

We all like to believe that we are special snowflakes, but I wonder if my individuality runs a little bit deeper than it does for most other people. Or maybe it’s just that what I want out of life is somewhat unconventional. These past few weeks have been very stressful. I can’t go into detail yet, except to say that whatever the consequences, I choose not to be a rat racer. I wonder if part of the reason that I’ve fought with roommates, teachers, and various authority figures over the years is that they can sense that I don’t like them. They’ll ask me to do something and I’ll do it, but they can tell from the look on my face that I’m doing it only to get rid of them. That doesn’t excuse Psycho Queens Guy for barging into my room at ten at night and threatening to kill me, but it does place his behavior in some context. People are baffled by the idea that the person they live with/work with/get coffee from would rather they just left him alone. And you either learn to live with that or you don’t.

I’m trying very hard to adapt a Zen attitude towards the shifts that are occurring in my life right now. It’s tempting to fall back on comfort food, and to an extent, that’s what I’ve been doing lately, rereading some of my favorite funny articles on the internet and watching the TV shows that I already know I like. But a part of my brain is pushing back against that. It believes that now is the best time to be setting out and trying new and radical stuff. Maybe there is some truth to that. The hard part is setting a balance. When I’m under a lot of stress, everything goes to shit. I want to eat either too much or not enough, I have trouble sleeping, and when I was living with Psycho Queens Guy last year, I started having diarrhea like, twelve times a day. (I went home for a few weeks and it cleared up almost immediately. Funny, that.)

If I could synthesize everything that I’m complaining about here into once coherent point, I would say that what I’m going through is not my fault. It’s just the world, and I’m trying to push back. If I could externalize everything I’m feeling, I would, but some people just want control, and it’s all I can do to tell them that they can’t have it. So with that out of the way, I’ll talk about something that makes me feel a little bit more hopeful: I started watching “The Enemy of the World” not too long ago, and it’s really good so far. That, for those who don’t know, is a 2nd Doctor storyline that was lost for years before being rediscovered. Very few of Patrick Troughton’s serials still exist in their complete form, which is a shame, because he’s one of my favorite Doctors. So it’s a relief that this one not only turned up again, but is really good. I watch one episode at at time to mimic the way that people watched it when it originally aired. It’s better that way.

There’s no rationalizing what you feel.

 

Be ye not afraid.

Be ye not afraid.

A Pain That I’m Used To

I’m having pretty mixed feelings right now. On one hand, the agency that I just applied to for housing rejected me, which means I’m back on the market. Oh, joy. And yeah, I suppose there is shit happening right now that isn’t 100% horrible, but since this blog is not for me to bask in things that are going well, I think it’s time for me to talk about the shit. And man, is there a lot of it.

My mother just moved back in. I’m not going to detail all of my grievances with my parents. If you’re not aware of that yet, browse the archives, because I’m just not interested in talking about it anymore. No, they don’t beat me or emotionally terrorize me. I just don’t like being around them. The whole atmosphere is stifling. I need my own goddamn place. I’m tired of having dinner with them just because you’re supposed to have dinner with your family, and are you really going to say no to this nice meal Mommy cooked for you? At this point in my life, I almost can. Up until recently, I thought I could be out within a few weeks. But not anymore.

I don’t like apartment hunting. I don’t like responding to Craigslist ads, commuting to the place, shaking hands with people you met on the internet and then trying to convince them that you’re better than the other people who are looking. Guys, I am what I am. If you don’t feel like giving me the place, there’s just nothing I can do about that. And I really am an awesome roommate. Hell, even Psycho Queens Guy told me that, and he’s a psycho! (That same night, he threatened to kill me. Long story.) I’m pretty sure the reason I got rejected for this last place is that I don’t make enough money. See, they want somebody who is respectable and hard-working, not some lowly barista. It wasn’t even my prospective roommate’s decision, but the landlord’s. Fuck him.

I’ve had shitty roommates. I’ve had more shitty roommates than most people have had sex partners. And I’m getting really tired of it. I’m getting tired of getting passed up for people who are less responsible and less tidy than I am just because, I don’t know, maybe they’re better than talking the talk. I’m trying not to let this get me down, trying not to hold onto my anger. But I really had high hopes for this place. And I’ve been looking for a while. At one point, I even tried responding to the same ad twice from two different email addresses because the place looked like such a perfect fit. Guess how that turned out?

Maybe housing is a seller’s market right now. Maybe maybe maybe. I don’t care. Some people want to be in a relationship just to escape the dating scene. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It sucks, but it doesn’t. All I know is that I feel like I’m getting sandwiched. I have freedoms I never asked for (now we have a second car!) and don’t have freedoms that I would very much like, such as the ability to use the kitchen whenever I want. It’s frustrating, and don’t pretend you can’t figure out why. It’s amazing how oblivious people can be to something that is staring them right in the face, and no, I’m not just talking about my parents there.

I started reading The God Delusion recently but had to put it aside because I find Dawkins’ tone insufferable. He’s one of those people I find myself agreeing with and wanting to smack at the same time. At one point, he says, “Pantheism is sexed-up atheism.” Fuck you. Einstein was a pantheist, more or less. He did not believe in an interventionist god, an immortal soul or the power of prayer, but considered order and beauty of creation to be, in a sense, godlike. If you believe that, you’re not an atheist. It really is that simple. If there is anything that you believe in that you consider divine or that invokes spiritual feelings, you are not an atheist. Because that’s not what atheism means. I am not an atheist. If the only two boxes are “Believer” and “Non-Believer”, I check the latter, but if there is one thing I want people to understand here, it’s that “Do you believe in God?” is not a yes-or-no question. I find religion in any conventional sense to be unconvincing, which is why I spend more time listening to Tim Minchin than The Newsboys (although I will admit that “Entertaining Angels” is a damn catchy little tune). It’s not that I hate religion, just that I think that most of what passes for spiritual belief these days is a vast oversimplification. So I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of The God Delusion.

(Tangentially, I would like to say that while there are many who would say about Hitchens exactly what I just said about Dawkins, I don’t agree. Hitchens was a funny motherfucker, and he always threw in just enough self-awareness or even self-deprecation to keep me on his side. So I will probably read god is Not Great at some point. Also, did you know that Hitchens was good friends with Francis Collins? Fucking crazy.)

It’s a dangerous thing to say, but I think there is such a thing as atheist posturing. I say “dangerous” because I know there are folks who will take that to mean that non-believers don’t really not believe and that we are all just lost and confused. Bullshit. But since “atheist” is a dirty word to so many people, I think that there are some folks who say that the Bible is a load of fairy tales just to piss people off. (I do think it’s a load of fairy tales, but I also don’t see why I should care if somebody believes it’s not.) It’s not all random, you know. Just mostly.