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.



shelterThere is something to be said for comfort food. I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog criticizing certain YouTubers, along with various films and other pop cultural artifacts that I feel portray the LGBT experience in a sanitized light. My churchgoing, progressive Catholic mother really liked Dallas Buyers Club, a film that takes an important story about AIDS and prejudice and filters it through the perspective of a straight character whose real-life counterpart was almost certainly bisexual. She also liked Shelter, one of those sweet coming-of-age dramas that makes coming out seem like simultaneously the most important thing a gay person can do and not that big of a deal. I suppose in a sense it is. But that doesn’t make the film any more true-to-life. Would that all of our coming out experiences could be spurred by meeting a handsome, slightly-older gentleman who is already out and inexplicably attracted to us. Thing is, it’s all I can do not to watch that movie over and over.

You can’t really convince people that they’re wrong. All you can convince them is of is that whatever they want from you, they’re not getting. Sometimes that’s enough. Alec Guinness said that people should strive to be useful rather than happy, as true happiness is the sort of thing that you’ll experience no more than a handful of times in your life. I agree with that sentiment. I’m not very good at being happy-go-lucky, nor am I any good at convincing people. But I am good at work. And I have a lot of it to do.

I find that blogging is useful for tying together the disparate strands of my thinking. In that sense, it’s therapeutic. I don’t have very much to distract myself. When I was in grad school, I hung out with a grand total of two friends over the course of a five-week winter break. That’s a pretty long time to be all on your own, even if you’re seeing family in there, too. My mother worries that I’m spending too much time alone. She doesn’t seem to realize that I’m only doing that because I don’t have any other options. And it’s not like time spent with her and Dad is an improvement. But you can’t make people who are intent on seeing you one way see you the other way. People won’t learn. Unless you make them.

I used to hate myself for needing to check my FB and email constantly. These days, I’m starting to realize that it isn’t my fault. What the hell else am I supposed to fill the gap with, exactly? I’m not usually proud of myself for not doing things, but I am proud of myself for not owning a smartphone. My father has offered to buy me one multiple times and when I went to buy a new cell phone after stupidly allowing my old one to go through the wash last year, the salesman told me that even his grandmother has a smartphone. I’m so glad I don’t. I’m also glad that there are no nude photos of me, although I am not for a minute judging people who take nude selfies. Sometimes I leave my phone behind when I go out. Technology is fine, but mostly from a distance.

There is a YouTuber I’ve been following for a while now who baffles me. He’s a gay marine who, about a year ago, broke off his engagement upon finding out that his fiancé was cheating, took down all the videos that they had done together, and disappeared from YouTube for several months. A few months after returning, he had a new boyfriend and was making videos with him. When that ended, he swore he wouldn’t let that get him down. Back in April, he posted a FB status saying that he was going to focus on himself for a while and let his love life take care of itself. Not three months later, he had moved in with his new boyfriend. We all know someone like this, don’t we?

I’m starting to think that there are differences between Red Staters and Blue Staters that run deeper than mere politics. Russ is a liberal atheist, but he’s a kid from rural Indiana (I think), and as such, there is something parochial about his thinking that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully wrap my head around. I roll my eyes when I hear people say that they don’t have a problem with the gays but don’t trust Obama and his socialized medicine. It’s the 21st century, guys. Get with it.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to make myself into, but I’m very convinced that it’s different from what I am and what people believe me to be. Somebody will have to trust me, not just support me. But whether they do or don’t, I’m not going to change.

That probably sounded like a conclusion, but it wasn’t. I have one more thing to say: I can’t remember where I first heard that when you catch up with old friends, the years just melt away. Turns out that’s true. When I saw a bunch of my high school friends recently, it was amazing how quickly we fell into our old rhythms. I’m really not a theater person anymore, but any good cast, as the cliché goes, will eventually develop a sense of family. And you can’t ever completely outgrow that. I haven’t seen a show at my high school since everybody I knew there graduated. I have no intention of returning anytime soon. If they want to give me an award for being a distinguished alum someday, maybe, but that’s about it. Right now, I’m trying to get better at being idle. Even then, I’m still fairly productive.

Down in the Valley

It’s been said by a million people before me that M. Night Shyamalan is a better director than writer, and that’s more apparent in his bad films than his good ones. Take this scene from Lady in the Water, for example. Never mind the context. Paul Giamatti has a big monologue that brings the whole film together. The movie surrounding it is a total mess—dull, unfocused and pretentious. But this scene works. It’s not that it’s not corny, because it is. It’s just that Paul Giamatti—a legitimately great actor, in my opinion—pours his heart and soul into it. Shyamalan wisely elects to shoot the scene in a static close-up. Because that’s how you film a big monologue. You don’t rely on fancy camerawork or unnecessary reaction shots to convey the drama. You plant the camera in the actor’s face and let them do the rest. I could go on and on about all of the things wrong with The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Last Airbender (about which the less said, the better). But something tells me that in thirty or forty years, we will still be watching The Sixth Sense and possibly Unbreakable. Shyamalan’s first feature, a little-known film called Wide Awake, is pretty sappy. But it contains a surprise twist (of course) that is actually surprising. Shyamalan hides it in plain sight the whole time. On that count, at least, the film is a success.

Something happened at work that bugged me. My boss pulled me aside to let me know that if somebody asks me to do something when I’m not on duty, I should do it anyway. Call me lazy, but I don’t think that’s fair. Oh, I’ll do it anyway. But if he’s bringing it up, it’s most likely because somebody complained. I can’t imagine myself complaining to the manager of a place because an employee told me that as he was on break, he could not refill the toilet paper in the bathroom. I guess some people think that way. My point of view is that you should show up on time and do what they fucking tell you to do, but everything after that is extra credit. When I’m off the clock, I don’t have to do my job. It’s that simple. My boss says that if I do something for a customer when I’m not on the clock, he’ll make sure to add it to my timecard. Okay. But I’m wondering: Where does this stop? If I run into a customer on the street and don’t feel like chatting with them, can they call him up and complain? I don’t go out of my way to be a dick to people (unless they deserve it); I just value my privacy. A lot.

Up until now, I would have said that the customers at the coffee shop were awfully nice. Most of them are, I suppose, but I’m starting to think that they’re a pretty entitled bunch anyway. Seriously, why is it so fucking hard to just find somebody who is on duty and ask them to be your bitch instead? You do understand that I am a person, right? I have a life outside of serving coffee. I am not obligated to fetch you anything you want anytime you want. So I’ll do what I always do: complain. This blog, at least, is my blog and no one else’s. I don’t have the patience to be anything less than completely candid. I just don’t.

Something else is bugging me. You see, I’ve complained many times before about the need so many in the LGBT community have to be as inclusive as possible. This is a good thing, at least at first. There is a certain point at which trying to be open-minded crosses over into accepting viewpoints that necessarily exclude each other. And that is simply unacceptable. To put it another way, I know that bisexuals often face discrimination from both straight and gay people because monosexuals believe that they just need to “pick a side” or some such bullshit. That is wrong. But I have heard some bisexuals turn it around and say things like, “I don’t fall for somebody because of their looks or their outer packaging; I fall for who they are on the inside. Fuck. You. First of all, that implies that we monosexuals see everyone else as nothing more than their genitals. Second, it gets bisexuality wrong. The bisexuals I know don’t claim not to see genitals; they just acknowledge that some days, they’re in the mood for cock, and some days, they’re in the mood for pussy. If they fall in love with someone, they are falling in love with their cock/pussy, too. So no, bisexuals are not just a more evolved form of humanity. And anyone who neglects to point out the self-righteous cuntiness of that statement is a coward.

Pictured: somebody whose outer packaging I like quite a lot.

Pictured: somebody whose outer packaging I like quite a lot.

A couple months ago, I saw a play about coming out and other gay stuff. It was okay—howlingly funny, but preachy and sadly misguided in its belief that coming out is, all by itself, enough to sustain a feature-length narrative. But it was also at least 30 minutes too long. Intermission included, what should have been 90 minutes tops ran well over two hours. At first, I thought that the writer/director had fallen so in love with his own creation that he could not bear to cut it. Then I realized that he just didn’t care. That pisses me off. It’s as if for some people, the message matters more than entertaining people. But people are more likely to think if you can engage them first on another level. Your entire life is not a political statement, is what I’m trying to say. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

This is a piece that we played for my orchestra in middle school. I don’t know why I’m thinking of it now. It’s pretty, that’s all.

The Garden

I’m thinking of taking the next week off of blogging. It’s no big deal, really: I’ve just decided that maybe the best way to get the voices in my head to quiet down would be to find other shit to do. Normally, I update at least once or twice a week, which is more than a lot of bloggers do. Unsurprisingly, I still have so many opinions that I’m not even sure what to do with them. I feel that I should watch more German films. The best way to learn a language is to just go to the native country and speak it, but I think I need to build up a little more confidence before I’m ready to do that. My brother forgot all of the German he learned in high school. I kept with it in college and can still remember a lot of it. So there’s that.

I find that the more time goes by since I last acted, the less I miss it. I also find myself getting farther away from the friends that I made in that time. That’s probably not a bad thing. I like plays a lot, musicals a little less so, but my championing of theatre as an art form has more to do with its marginalization than any personal preference I might have. There was a time when a renowned stage actor could be a national celebrity. Not any more. Everyone knows who Tom Cruise is, but stop twenty people on the street and ask if they’ve heard of Audra McDonald and you’d be lucky if even one or two said yes. And that’s a shame. She really is phenomenally talented.

One musician I knew once told me his dad had quipped that both Rogers and Hammerstein knew, deep down in their hearts, that “Climb Every Mountain” is a bad song. I don’t know if I agree, but it is a bit sentimental. I have a musician friend who troubles me a little. He is constantly talking about how depressed he is, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who won’t stop talking about how depressed they are. On the other hand, he’s always talking about how he’s here for anyone if they need someone to talk to. You need to pick one or the other. If you’re feeling shitty, work through it. If you’re in the mood to talk, contact someone else and ask them how they’re doing. It kind of feels like he’s trapped in a cycle where he can’t feel truly happy or truly sad. The Zen Buddhist in me sees this as a problem. In between my frequent bouts of uncontrollable rage, I occasionally experience something resembling inner peace. I still haven’t figured out how to make that last.

I seem to have lost my ability to get to bed on time or to get out of bed in the morning. I used to sit in bed with my laptop open only on mornings when I woke up too early feeling like shit, but that is gradually turning into a habit. I get into arguments on the internet sometimes, but the more I do it, the more I realize how few people agree with me on certain things. I know I’m not crazy. If the world thinks I’m crazy, that’s the world’s problem. But sometimes, I feel like other people are making exactly the same mistakes that I constantly try to avoid making myself. In a way, that makes me feel less alone. And in other ways, it just reminds me that I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING.

Too much of my life has been spent realizing that something that has always been true is true, then fooling myself into thinking it just happened. That’s paranoia. It’s also the stuff of hypochondria, which I have had many struggles with in the past. You know, you find a mole that you didn’t know was there and before you know it, you’ve convinced yourself it’s melanoma. It doesn’t even matter if there’s nothing weird about the mole. Or maybe there is something a little weird about it, but since it’s always looked that way, so what? I’ve seen one or two dermatologists, and from the sounds of things, it’s not that hard to tell when something’s not right. It just looks funny, that’s all. I haven’t been seriously ill since I ate too much and threw up a couple times one night back in middle school, but I was at school the next day. All things considered, I’m probably more reliable than most; I just don’t see it that way because I have a goddamn marching band playing in my head twenty-four seven and no idea what to do about it.

It’s been said by a lot of self-help gurus and shit, but people really aren’t very good at seeing themselves from the outside. Everyone focuses in on blemishes and shortcomings so minor that other people likely don’t even notice, much less care. The funny thing is that sometimes people do notice, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not that actually means anything. Because if you can’t love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

It's a similar sentiment.

It’s a similar sentiment.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that if you really believe something, you believe it. Period. If you can convince others that you are sincere, maybe they’ll come around to your side. But it does take a leap of faith. You have to let it go and see if it comes back. And it might not. But sometimes it does, and when that happens, it’s usually because you’ve both been through so much that you’re finally ready for it.

I’ve suddenly become a lot more invested in the Super Bowl.

Don’t Answer Me

Why is youthful romance so difficult to portray in an interesting way? I know people who absolutely hate Romeo & Juliet, although the whole point of that one is that the main characters are just nitwits who think they’re in love, so if you read it as a satire, it’s pretty good. The Tempest is a great play, but easily the most boring aspect of it is Miranda’s romance with whatshisname, whom she falls in love with, literally, at first sight and marries after knowing for about one afternoon. Jesus. Not surprisingly, my favorite Shakespeare play is Antony & Cleopatra, which is about two flawed, complicated people who realize that they share something and decide to have a go at it anyway. I see a lot of plays, movies, and books about meeting that special someone. I would like to see more about what you do once you’ve met that special someone. According to The Winter’s Tale, you immediately become paranoid that they’re cheating on you and fuck everything up royally. It’s ironic that even though Shakespeare’s men are terrified of being cuckolded, the only example I know of a woman actually cheating is in King Lear. Draw your own conclusions.

I saw a play not too long ago. It was an erotic gay comedy about coming out and finding love. I’m not going to name the play or where I saw it because this is not a review, and I don’t want people to think I’m bashing it when all things considered, I had a pretty good time. It was really funny. An old theater friend of mine was in it, and she was great, too. But with that out of the way, I have to ask: Why is so much gay fiction about coming out? Coming out, as Harvey Milk said, is the most important thing any LGBT person can do, but it’s hardly the most interesting. The play started, we were introduced to the nice couple, then it flashed back to how they met, and I realized that that flashback would be the whole play. I would have rather seen what life was like for them after 20 years.

Adolescence is difficult for anyone, so dealing with a sexual awakening on top of the realization that you are part of a persecuted minority is a lot to take. That’s why it can take so long to get over it, if “get over” is the right term, which I don’t quite think it is. So much of the world is still hung up on this shocking fact that yes, some men like other men, and some women like other women. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. The evidence that a child’s sexuality is determined when they’re still in the womb is piling up, and to top it off, the factors that control for it are so numerous and variegated that we couldn’t engineer a child’s sexuality even if we wanted to. (Well, some do, but I don’t.) Clearly, God (or nature, if you prefer) saw homosexuality as part of the divine plan, and did not want anybody to tamper with it. It’s here to stay, is what I’m trying to say, and so deeply wired into people that it’s there long before they even know it. It can take a long time to get used to that, which is why, again, coming out can be so damned difficult. Even if everyone already knows and is just waiting for you to say something (and you know they know), it’s scary. And some experiences stick with you no matter what.

At the same time, there is a sense of entitlement that can come with being accepted by everyone around you. Part of the reason that I never got seriously involved with any of the LGBT organizations in college (well, there was one, but I was only semi-involved) is because they are all primarily geared towards helping people accept their own sexuality/gender identity, then helping others accept that fact about them. That’s important, but there’s more to it than that. It’s about building up a cultural and political identity as much as it is about accepting that you like cock (if you’re a guy, which I am). That does not have to mean watching Mean Girls over and over again (funny movie, but seriously!). It’s subtler than that.

brokebackThe message, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” is relevant and somehow a bit trite at the same time. I want to know what happens once people have gotten used to it. Paradoxically, that might help some of us get used to it. We have to walk a fine line between recognizing that it was not so long ago that homosexuality was still classified as a mental disorder and the thought of gays getting married was, at best, a distant dream, and understanding that even then, it wasn’t just about which team you play for. Brokeback Mountain is one of my favorite modern-day love stories, but depending on how you look at it, it’s not really a gay movie, is it? There’s nothing overtly political about it, and it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a film that has the same basic plot points but features, say, a ranch hand who falls in love with the rancher’s daughter but can’t have her because of classism or something, Okay, so it wouldn’t be quite the same movie, but it’s easier to picture than a straight version of Weekend.

I don’t want to sound like a crank here. The Daily Show had a great segment about this a few years ago that I’ve probably linked to before, but will link to again just to make a point. If I had to boil this down, I would say that while it is important not to be defined by one’s sexuality or gender, it is important to not completely not be defined by it either. Think about it.