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.

Novgorod

It’s been years since I was a diehard gamer, and I’m finally starting to dip my toe into those waters again. When I was a preteen, they were basically all I thought about. I passed the summer by playing games all morning (after lunch, I would at least try to find something to do) and when I hung out with friends, it was mainly just to play computer games. I never owned a console, but that was just because my parents had some weird prejudice against them even though they were totally okay with computer games. I’m giving Skyrim a try, because I liked Morrowind a lot and thought Oblivion was okay, so this seems like a good place to (re)start. I also downloaded Braid because Steam was offering it for only $2 at one point. I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I guess I just wanted to say that even though I had what, to a child, might have seemed like all you could ask for, I definitely wasn’t all that happy. And it wasn’t my love life, because at the time, I was too young to have sex. No. Something else was going on.

I haven’t yet figured out where the balance between creative and non-creative, geeky and non-geeky pursuits is. There is a part of me that still sees Faulkner as somehow “higher” than Tolkien, and that’s bullshit. But I do find Tolkien more fun to read, so maybe the problem is that I have some internalized prejudice against having fun. I’ve always had this problem of being afraid that if I don’t keep going out of my way to see my friends, they’ll just disappear. Thing is, that’s actually happened once or twice. I have not seen or spoken to one of my best friends from college in over two and a half years, and it’s not because I haven’t reached out to him. I just hung back a little, waiting for him to reach out and ask me how I was doing. And he never did. From what I can gather on Facebook, he is living in Seattle and still hasn’t accepted my friend request. I could delete it, but I choose not to. Because frankly, I think he deserves to be reminded of what he decided to pass up.

It’s funny. I’ve had friends who’ve drifted away, but more often than not, they slam the door in my face (metaphorically). I know that very few people are with you all your life, and even then, I think I could be doing a hell of a lot better than I am right now. I’m digressing a little, but I have to say that while I normally agree with John Green, I think he really misses the mark in this video. He basically says that his success is undeserved and that the reason his bestselling novel has been made into a surefire hit movie is because he’s lucky. I haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars and I probably won’t see the movie, but I think that’s bullshit. The reason that John Green is where he is is because he wrote a book, people liked it, and it all just kinda snowballed from there. Whether or not it’s any good is besides the point (I know some people who liked it, although it doesn’t sound like my thing); what matters is that while “deserve” is certainly a loaded word (and I agree with him that rich people need to stop acting as if they’re where they are because they’re just better than the rest of us), the fact remains that you have to fight for good things if you want them to happen to you. Nobody “just” gets lucky.

It is now time to talk about vengeance. The internet exploded after the latest episode of Game of Thrones, because it contained what is arguably the series’s most gruesome and nihilistic moment yet. I’m getting into spoiler territory, naturally, so navigate away if you haven’t seen it yet.

Essentially, my problem with Prince Oberyn’s death is that it doesn’t make sense. Some have argued that he grew cocky and obsessed with avenging his sister, which caused him to let his guard down and allow the Mountain to strike a fatal blow. I don’t buy that. People let their guard down all the time. Why is it that the only people who are ever punished for doing so in George R.R. Martin’s world are the good guys? Why not include a scene in which the Mountain does something stupid and careless and gets punished for it? People will argue that the cynicism and grimness of the story makes it that much deeper, but this isn’t cynicism so much as nihilism. And it’s obvious that the deck is stacked in the bad guys’s favor. Oberyn didn’t just slash at the Mountain’s heels, he put a fucking spear through the guy’s chest. There is not a single human being anywhere in the world who could survive that, let alone still have the strength to smash their opponent’s skull with their bare hands. Why are there no “good guys” on the show with that kind of strength?

The closest thing to a takeaway that I can find in that scene is that even though Oberyn died, he did get the Mountain to confess his crimes before doing so. That might go a little ways towards shifting people’s opinions against the Lannisters. After seeing what scumbags they are and what scumbags they employ, perhaps other powerful people will be less inclined to ally with them. But philosophically speaking, this series and I have just parted ways. I am not an optimistic person. I do not believe that everything will work out for the best. Sometimes, the bad guys get away with it and life just sucks. And still, I think that the trial by combat scene was so ridiculous as to border on surrealism. Seriously, the Mountain took a fucking spear through the chest. That should have been enough to end him. Yet I will continue to watch and read this series.

People have been comparing Oberyn to Inigo Montoya. Mandy Patinkin once said that vengeance is pointless, and he’s right, but the funny thing about Montoya is that for a guy who has spent the last twenty years of his life obsessed with vengeance, he seems to have turned out alright. At the end of the movie, he has made some good friends, become a master swordsman, rid the world of a truly detestable human being, and might have a bright future in piracy ahead of him. So keep that in mind. Because I liked Oberyn. And it’s not the Mountain who killed him in the sickest and most sadistic manner imaginable, it’s George R.R. Martin.

Here’s something inspiring.

Holy Mountain

My 21st birthday was pretty low-key. I bought a six-pack and watched El Topo with my roommates. That, for those who don’t know, is a Mexican cult western that, apparently, was beloved by John Lennon, among others. It’s weird, overlong, and very, very pretentious, but I kinda liked it. Years later, I’m wondering if I should seek out other films by the director, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

I said that I was anxious for spring movies to start arriving, and now they have: The Wind Rises, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Veronica Mars are all out in theaters, and I have to see every one of them. I finished season one of Elementary, and the verdict is in: It is officially a better show than Sherlock. The first season of Sherlock was great: entertaining, stylish, and well-acted. The second season slipped a little in quality, glorifying its protagonist a little bit too much, as if everything in the world revolved around him and he could do no wrong. The third season pushed it to a ridiculous extreme, devoting the bulk of an episode to one overlong speech by him and turning his relationship with Watson into one that is more abusive than anything. It’s the sort of thing that makes me retroactively like the previous seasons a little less, as I now see flaws in them that were not so apparent at the time. (Just so we’re clear, I will continue to defend the first two seasons.)

The problem, I think, is that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are a pair of egotistical douchewads. They turn everything they do into one giant fanwank, one big opportunity for the nerds in the audience to feel special and attack anyone who dares to ask if there is not something sinister beneath the romance and adventure. Sherlock can do whatever he wants, and nobody questions him because he is just. So. Brilliant. The Doctor can do whatever he wants, and nobody questions him because he is just. So. Brilliant. How many fucking times has Matt Smith said “Geronimo!” by now? We get it, you’re trying to start a catchphrase. The show gets its title because when the Doctor tells people his name, they say, “Doctor Who?” That used to happen once in a blue moon, except now, it happens in every other fucking episode. And every time it does, the fanboys and girls come in their pants. I want them to die.

Fuck you. So hard.

Fuck you. So hard.

Most of the time, the supposed depth in the series is no more than a load of posturing. I never understood how throwing Kahler-Jex back to the Gunslinger in “A Town Called Mercy” would make the Doctor no better than he is, anyway. Yes, I know the Gunslinger intends to kill him, but seeing as how Kahler-Jex is an unrepentant war criminal, that seems fair, doesn’t it? I’m no fan of capital punishment, but this is not To Kill a Mockingbird. The accused is clearly guilty, and letting the wronged party decide what to do with him isn’t revenge; it’s justice. Try explaining that to the creators of the show, however. Or to any of the fans. Because I’ve tried, and I usually just get laughed out of the room.

It’s funny. When I was in grammar school, I was harassed pretty viciously for liking sci-fi and fantasy. But now, the sci-fi/fantasy crowd has become its own exclusive club. I wouldn’t be surprised to see comics nerds slamming football players into lockers in another twenty years or so. Nothing ever changes in Sherlock or Who (in the last couple seasons, anyway). Sherlock is exiled and then returns four minutes later because England needs him to drug his friends and induce panic attacks in them again. (To be fair, I actually thought that scene kind of worked as an example of the lengths he will go to to find answers. It’s just that Watson forgives him way too easily, that’s all.) And the Sherlock fanbase is kind of terrifying in how fanatical it is. It used to be that Sherlock was just an amusing oddity, a fun little series that took a clever promise and did a lot more with it than just marinate in said cleverness. But cleverness is all it has right now. It’s all Moffat has, when you get right down to it.

Elementary understands its characters and its origins on a level that Sherlock never will. The relationship between Watson and Sherlock is complex, dynamic, and warm. Moriarty, when he appears, has more of a purpose than to just destroy Sherlock. He is upset at having his plans foiled, and just doesn’t like the way that Sherlock keeps getting in his way. (And before someone points this out, yes, I know that not everything in the previous two sentences is strictly accurate. But I’m constructing it that way to avoid spoilers. So please don’t ruin it for the uninitiated.) In my experience, that’s how nemeses work. Even sociopaths have more going on upstairs than a need to destroy everything. They want what they want, and when you get in their way, they do what they have to to eliminate you. It’s as simple as that. I mean, I like watching Andrew Scott chew scenery, but the sheer convolution of Moriarty’s plots on Sherlock is ridiculous. How did he manage to star in a children’s series while being a criminal mastermind without anyone noticing? Anyone? Again, don’t expect answers from Moffat or Gatiss. Moffat has even implied that Elementary might be damaging the Sherlock brand. Fuck you you fucking fuck.

Elementary does a lot of things right. Its gender politics alone are more progressive than most anything else on TV right now. So give it a shot. Sherlock, as far as I’m concerned, can sail off into the ether.

Things I Hate Doing, Part 6

6. Waiting

January and February tend to be the shitty months when it comes to movies. I used to go to the movies fairly regularly. Last year, I saw Thor, Ender’s Game, Life of Pi, Pacific Rim, Much Ado About Nothing, Catching Fire, Upstream Color, At Berkeley, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, GravityBlue Jasmine, 12 Years a Slave, and possibly one or two others that I’m forgetting. What is there to see now? I might see Inside Llewyn Davis if I can find a theater that’s still showing it. I would almost certainly like Her. The Lego Movie is supposed to be good, even if I’m not exactly pumped about it. And then there’s Frozen, which all of my musical theater and Disney friends are gushing about it. I’ll probably see it eventually.

Next month, The Grand Budapest Hotel comes out. Who wants to see that? If you didn’t raise your hand, something is wrong with you. A few weeks later, Veronica Mars comes out. You are not a proper geek if you are not excited for that. And a little after that, it’s Captain America. And while Game of Thrones is not a movie, it starts up again in early April. Fuck. Yes. What am I supposed to do until then? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just keep working my way through Elementary, Deep Space Nine, and The X-Files. There just ain’t much else out there right now, as far as entertainment is concerned.

5. Dealing With People

I’m pretty much always stressed out these days. This is hardly unusual, what with dealing with my employment and housing situation and all that. What’s really annoying is that even though I have so much free time on my hands, clearing enough space to focus on something like health care or just reading a good book remains tantalizingly difficult. So you can understand how much I hate it when people start fucking that up with all of their real world shit. Why, just this week, I was scheduled to work over 20 hours. Then I came into work and found out that my boss had cancelled one of my shifts because a drop in revenue had forced him to do so. For a guy with my limited income and prospects, that’s kind of a big deal. So instead of talking about that, I’ll talk about literature. What I went to grad school to study was essentially the intersection between science and policy. My goal was to become an analyst, so that I could explain heady concepts like climate change to the average Joe so that hopefully, they would be inspired to take action. My literary goals are somewhat the same.

"Penis."

“Penis.”

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the most important writer in the English language. He also loved a good dick joke. Seriously, when I can’t figure out what something in one of his plays means, I just assume it’s sexual. 99% of the time, I’m right. I’ve always had difficulty merging the highbrow with the lowbrow. When I was in eighth grade, I spent most of my spring break watching Shoah, a nine-and-a-half hour documentary about the Holocaust. It was good stuff, but slow and very, very heavy. Some kids made fun of me for shit like that. I liked high art, even as I never forgot the value of a good stoner comedy. But these days, it seems you can be only one or the other: an average Joe, or an elitist. And that’s a problem. Who says you can’t be both?

4. Having Too Many Options

Anyone who has ever had the whole day to themselves knows what this is like. You can watch anything on Netflix, so what the fuck do you want to watch? Spotify has thousands of songs and artists you’ve never gotten around to listening to, so where the fuck to begin? Circling back to the whole discussion about literature, I would like to share with you one of my favorite pieces by one of America’s great humorists, a man who never tried to be anything other than charmingly immature. I am, of course, referring to Dave Barry.

Good title.

Good title.

3. Looking for an Apartment

It looks like I’m going to have to start up on that again, and let me tell you, I am not exactly leaping at the chance. What kind of roommate am I going to end up with this time? A schizophrenic shapeshifter? A mad scientist who keeps severed body parts in the fridge and performs experiments on unwilling prostitutes? A sane, reasonable person who pays rent on time and stays the fuck out of my way? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That last one was a joke, obviously. Boy, sometimes I just crack myself up.

This video has nothing to do with anything.

2. Listening to People

This sort of ties in with #5. The main point here is that I hate people who hear only what they want to hear. One guy at my job just got promoted to shift lead. I’d say good for him, except I don’t like him all that much and everyone else seems to. You know the feeling. He’s friendly and enthusiastic, but kind of an asshole. Even before he made shift lead, he was prone to bossing me around. Whereas my managers and the other shift leaders will ask nicely when they want something, he just tells me to do it, and if I challenge him, then of course, I’m holding everyone up and not being a team player. Eventually, his inflated sense of self-importance will most likely bite him in the ass. It’s not like I never need any of the more-experienced/higher-ranking employees to correct me on shit, only that I prefer it when they wait for me to ask for help first as opposed to jumping in to answer a customer’s question that I actually knew the answer to just because it took me a second to remember. It’s not your store, dude, and I know the customers almost as well as you do. So, you know, show some respect.

1. Letting Go

I’m talking about revenge, which, unfortunately, most of us don’t get to exact. Steve Martin has the right idea, though. I mean, yes, forgiving and being nice is all well and good, but why try that when you can take over the world?

Life During Wartime

Lately, I’ve been rediscovering the joys of watching TV on a TV. Since moving back in with my father, I’ve caught up on Game of Thrones and Doctor Who, kept up with Bill Maher, and am thinking about watching Looking, that HBO series about the gay guys in SF. (It’s by the same dude who did Weekend, which is one of my favorite movies of the last couple years. So you can see the appeal.) There is something about watching it on my laptop that isn’t the same, and I’m not just talking about screen size. Not only are the sound and picture clearer on the TV, but it’s just so much easier to relax when you’re sitting on your couch and the TV is on the wall, isn’t it? Even reclining in my armchair with the laptop on my lap feels more cramped, less communal. It’s probably like the difference between reading e-books and reading the real thing. The text might be the same, but the overall experience is vastly different.

I had a friend in high school whom I haven’t spoken to in years. She was a conservative Catholic, one of quite a few that I knew in those days. She was also one of the first people I came out to, largely because I knew perfectly well she wouldn’t have a problem with it. I think there needs to be a bit more dialogue between Republicans and Democrats in this country. A few years ago, such dialogue seemed impossible. I’m not going to play the false equivalency game and say that that was everyone’s fault, as it was mainly the Republicans’, but I think the shell might have cracked ever so slightly since the election. If you have a minute, read this article. It’s by a Central Florida liberal who gets to know his conservative friends and neighbors and discovers that they are not as stupid or narrow-minded as he had assumed. A lot of what is holding the GOP back right now is simply ignorance. People don’t understand that you cannot have a functioning democracy and not provide healthcare for your citizens, and that the rights of non-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexuals matter, too. Of course, some Republicans are just assholes. But we have to learn to tell one from the other.

Here’s something funny about me: I generally don’t go for walks just to go for walks. Sometimes, my mind is so disorganized that I’ll leave my house and wander around for a bit, but that’s not the same thing. If you ask me what I’ve been doing, I almost never say, “I was out walking.” But if I have somewhere to go and it’s within walking distance, I am inclined to go on foot even if I have a car. So I suppose I am very practical even when it comes to the more contemplative aspects of my life. All I know is that it is good to know where you’re going. Sometimes, you don’t know where you’re going until you get there. But once you know the taste of forward momentum, there is no turning back.

I’m starting to hateread Buzzfeed. I used to read it occasionally, like when people would share shit on the Book of Faces, and it is mildly amusing sometimes. A lot of the time, I don’t even agree with it. Look at this one, if you have a minute and hate yourself. It’s so full of generalizations that I don’t even know where to begin. I’m in my mid-twenties, and surprisingly, the older I get, the more things I discover that my parents were wrong about. Oh, they were right about a lot of things, too, but a lot of that was shit that I kind of always knew to begin with. God, the internet is so full of this stuff: shallow comfort food, designed for the sole and express purpose of being shared on social media so that everybody can hit the “like” button and talk about how it’s just so true. Fuck you. Some of us knew drinking five nights a week was bad even when we were eighteen. But I agree that getting to make a living doing what you love is a rare treat.

sherlock russianI got a couple of good Christmas gifts. One was a DVD set of a Russian adaptation of Sherlock Holmes from the 80s. This was produced in the Soviet Union, so I imagine that a lot of people who watched it didn’t have access to Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, or any of the other Holmes adaptations out there. So it’s a good thing that the Russians did such a good job with this one. (Only problem with the DVD is that the subtitles suck. They even misspell the characters’ names in places. How hard is that to fix?) I’m fascinated by Russia. It’s a country with a rich history and many great cultural accomplishments, yet to the outsider, it appears so cold and brutal, and I’m not just talking about the climate. Surely Russians, when you get right down to it, aren’t that different from us? Apparently, the Russian Sherlock is kind of a big deal over there, because when some Russian show did a Sherlock parody, they made fun of Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, and the Russian dude from the 80s.

They say living well is the best revenge. I’m trying to believe that. I’ve met so many awful people in my lifetime, and the frustrating thing is that even when you lay out what makes them an objectively horrible person and explain, in no uncertain terms, what they would have to do to redeem themselves, they always find some way to misunderstand you. They don’t get it. They don’t really want to. So you mock them. Because it’s the one thing they can’t do back.

Seriously, who could have guessed Utah would make gay marriage legal before Oregon?