Surrender

kveikurI’m never been much for podcasts. I can’t tell if that’s my own biases against being introduced to a new medium or a problem with the medium itself. Did people dismiss early cinema as nothing more than a novelty because they hadn’t yet seen what it could become? It’s quite possible. A lot of podcasts, to me, sound like a bunch of friends shooting the shit. That’s it. I’m sorry, but you need to have more than that if you want me to listen to it. I don’t even have that many friends and I think listening to other people and their friends talk about nothing is boring. Seriously, I don’t get it: What is the appeal of listening to people you don’t know go on random comedic tangents for an hour or more without ever coming to a point? I’m not trying to be dismissive here, but I honestly do not understand why people like some of this crap. This American Life is about people’s lives, and the stories are organized around a theme. Savage Love is relationship advice. WTF With Marc Maron is interviews, although he opens with a story. Even with a podcast, there has to be a point.

Maybe I’m weird, but I like to think of everything as a potential learning experience. Even if I’m just going down the street for a burger, I feel like I’m cheating myself if I’m not looking for a chance to be enriched, entertained, or educated. A lot of new media doesn’t do it for me: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. That probably does have more to do with the fact that those platforms are relatively new, but I don’t particularly like any of them, which means that I’m kind of an old fuddy-duddy even though I’m in my 20s. I’m getting left behind, but admittedly, it is by my choice. Since I’m straying into well-trod territory here, let me shift gears and talk about a story that is constantly updating: LGBT equality. Specifically, let’s talk about the wide world of sports. More and more athletes are coming out, and while very few of them are doing so at the professional level, it’s only a matter of time. I think what’s holding us back is that even though there are parallels between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement, there are some differences, and we have to acknowledge that as well.

There is something very primal about sexuality that race and possibly even gender don’t touch. It’s not something that you can often tell just by looking at someone, and that confuses a lot of people. More importantly, it causes a lot of LGBT people to think that there is something special about them if you can’t tell just by looking at them. Sometimes you can, but that’s not the point. It’s been such a lazy stereotype for so long that gay men aren’t into sports that now that we are learning that some of our athletes are gay, we need to stop acting like it’s that big of a shock. Yes, some gay men love sports. And some straight men love fashion. Could you seriously not have figured that out on your own? It’s ironic that sports are typically held up as a bastion of masculinity, because really, what is gayer than slapping on tight pants and shoulder pads and slamming into other guys for a while? Football’s pretty gay too, come to think of it.

I’ve learned by now that people will never leave you alone if you let them do it on their terms. This does not mean that you have to shut everyone out for fear that they will hurt you, only that you have to own your own words and actions, whatever they are. As I’ve probably said before, I have a million regrets. But I’m not sorry for anything. I just don’t have the time. You can roll your eyes when I say that I’m the greatest human being who ever lived, but as far as I’m concerned, I am, and who are you to tell me I’m wrong? It’s all about living in the present, not that I’m all that good at that. I spend most of my time brooding in my room. The only person I can name who hated humanity more than I do is Bill Hicks, and he died at 32 because he didn’t take very good care of his body. I’ve heard multiple people quote George Carlin as saying, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that leave you breathless.” Bullshit. Carlin didn’t say that. That’s from a chain email that somebody claimed was written by him. He would never have said something so trite and meaningless.

I have decided that there is one thing about California that I’m going to miss when I eventually get out of here, and that’s In-N-Out Burger. There is no other fast food chain that compares to it. It’s not the best burger around, just the best burger you can get for under $10. Double-double animal style, there is no competition. New York has Five Guys, but aside from the fries, there’s nothing too remarkable about them, and I say that as somebody who used to eat there pretty regularly. We all have our fast food, I suppose.

I’m not a very good judge of what will take off and what doesn’t. This blog has never climbed very far about 1,000 hits per month, and even then very briefly. Whatever. What I have to say these days doesn’t quite fit into this format, and maybe that’s for the best. Because I want to push outward. I want to find out just what I can get away with and what I’m capable of. And when that’s done, I want time to watch season two of Orphan Black. I go at my own pace, is what I’m trying to say. Don’t try to stop me.

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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.

Morpheus

There’s a line in Mad Men where a woman whom Don Draper has just spurned tells him that he “only likes the beginnings of things”. I said once that the hardest part of anything is getting started, but the flipside of that is that it’s also the most intoxicating. Everything is new, which gives it a heady rush that the follow-up can never quite match. I try not to be one of those people who is always seeking the next big high, but that also means that I take a long, long time to get warm. I’ve recently started watching The Fall, a psychological police drama that stars Gillian Anderson as a criminal psychologist. I like Gillian Anderson. Part of what I like about the show is that it is not afraid to let her look her age. She looks great for a woman in her forties, but the show doesn’t shy away from the fact that her character is a woman of a certain age with no husband or kids (that we’ve heard about so far, anyway). This is not a role for a young starlet, and that’s to everyone’s benefit.

I’m coming up on one year since I moved back in with my parents. My first week back, I did almost nothing, and I don’t regret that. Some mornings, I didn’t get out of bed until rather late, and for much of it, I just watched YouTube videos and whatnot. It was fun, but of course, you can’t do that forever. I hear that unplugging appliances when you’re not using them saves electricity, but I don’t know how much. If you leave your laptop unplugged, then plug it back in when it’s down to about 10%, you get the thrill of watching it charge back up. But you can’t do that forever, and some people probably prefer to just leave their laptop plugged in all the time. It’s easier, and clears some space for you to think of other things.

I’m finally starting to understand the expression that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. It’s good to save something up for when you’re ready, but you can’t hold off forever, as I keep saying. I have books that I got for Christmas years ago that I still haven’t read. In that case, it creates a weird sort of anxiety, as if I’m somehow disrespecting my friends and family by not reading the book they got me. But you can’t read a book just to have read it. That’s idiotic. A great Zen master used the example of a cat watching a mouse hole to illustrate mindfulness. It’s not that you aren’t aware of what else is going on, just that you have your eyes on the prize. I have a vague idea of what the prize is, but I have no fucking idea what else is going on around here. Does this mean I’m doing alright?

Also, Richard Attenborough just died, which is why I feel like kind of an asshole for posting this.

I find myself looking forward to eating breakfast and eating dessert more than eating anything in between, which is odd. Why are the bookends the only parts that fascinate me? In order to explain this, I am liable to get a little bit scattershot.

One of the most important names in the world of environmentalist literature is Aldo Leopold. His book, A Sand County Almanac, is a must-read for anyone with any curiosity about the natural world. I’ve been working my way through it lately and hope to finish it by the end of the month. I don’t read as often as I used to, but that’s the problem with me these days: my attention span is so short. I start watching a movie, then pause it ten minutes in to check my email. Then I watch five more minutes, and decide to break for lunch. Except that by the time I’ve made lunch, I might have remembered a YouTube video I wanted to watch. Or something. This is not unusual. I know plenty of people who have crashed their computers by opening so many windows that they can’t focus on one. I just wish that I knew how to sit down and watch a fucking movie like I used to. I still have that ability buried somewhere within me, because when I go to the movies, I don’t have any trouble paying attention. But of the stuff I’ve streamed on Netflix or Hulu, anything longer than half an hour usually has to be watched in chunks, sometimes days or even weeks apart. My mind is disorganized, but I’m stuck living in it.

I’ve noticed that my blog traffic seems directly tied to how much I have going on elsewhere. That’s encouraging, but the problem is that whenever I’m in a slump, it feels like I can’t catch a break elsewhere. This slump is taking me a long, long time to pull out of. There’s just nothing to grab onto, and seriously, I’ve never had an apartment search drag on for this long before. Maybe it’s because I’m pickier now and don’t want to move in with a total psycho? Maybe that’s progress, but it’s hard to see it when you’re in the thick of it.

Ayn Rand said that people act in their own self-interest most of the time, and that even when people act altruistically, they’re really just doing it to feel good about themselves. That’s not exactly true. It’s not altruism to do something for somebody else, and it’s not selfishness to do something for yourself. You should do what’s best for you and others. Because there are greater forces at work here.

I’m a day late here, but happy 60th, Mr. Costello. I first discovered his work when I was not too far out of high school. Since then, “Veronica” and “Oliver’s Army” have become two of my all-time favorite songs. He’s a charming fellow.

costello

Anticipation

isle of the deadI spend way too much of my time thinking about death. Technically, everybody dies, but if you’re like me, you spend most of your time trying to straighten out your issues so that you can live, then realize that by the time that happens, you’ll be dead. So I guess you have to live in the meantime, or something. I am trying to master that Buddhist idea of mindfulness, of being aware of things without letting it get to you. I just hate it when people say, “Cherish every moment. It all goes by so fast.” No, it doesn’t. My memory is a jumble these days. I can’t distinguish between two years ago, two weeks and two decades. So I’m trying to get it straightened out. Because nothing is more annoying than meeting somebody and knowing instantly how your relationship with them will proceed. It’s nice to have surprises. Most of the ones I get are of the unpleasant variety, and I’m hoping that changes eventually.

I had a minor realization as I was making drinks recently. It’s hard to put into words. It wasn’t so much that I decided that I would have to move on eventually as that I figured out that I was almost ready to take on a little more. I’m not just talking about a second job, nor am I talking about getting my own place. I’m not graduating from anywhere, so as far as I’m concerned, I can keep doing this shit for as long as I like. Most of my jobs so far have ended either when I was fired, the summer ended and I had to go back to school, or my term as a student employee ended. For once, I might be able to end things on my own terms. But that shouldn’t be for a while now. We have a pretty high turnover rate where I work, and being a better barista no longer feels like the only thing I’m working towards.

I think the reason I like the It Gets Better campaign so much is that it doesn’t pretend that everything will be wonderful once you come out. Too many of the movies I watch on Netflix have that message. I watched an awful one called Geography Club a few months back that, like so others, was about a bland everyman protagonist who realized that being gay doesn’t have to be that big of a deal. Of course it’s not that big of a deal, that’s why you made a whole fucking movie about it. The one moment of truth came late in the film, when his closeted jock boyfriend says, “I don’t want to be gay. I want to be normal.” I think everyone can relate to that. Even if you’re not gay, you have surely had to deal with the feeling that you don’t fit in. Why the movie was not about the jock instead of the boring everyman, I have no idea. I watched another one just now called Edge of Seventeen that was actually decent. It didn’t sand the edges off of the experience the way so many others do, but still gave us a cypher of a protagonist who, instead of coming out so he can be with his boyfriend, basically comes out so he can have lots of sex. I wish like hell the movie had been about Lea Delaria and her queeny old friends instead. Those guys must have stories to tell.

I hate it when people say that the anticipation of something is more fun than the thing itself. If you’re a little kid who is too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve, maybe. But there is a truth that runs parallel to that with which I wholeheartedly agree: that having something to look forward to is a great motivator. Some might say it’s the best. It doesn’t have to be something really exciting, like a wedding or holding your first child. It can be something simpler, like a social gathering, a date, or even a job interview (provided that you actually want the job). I haven’t been to the movies in a while. I used to go more frequently. I’m thinking of seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2 because I like animation and I like dragons. For whatever reason, none of the big blockbusters that have come out in the past month or so have really drawn me, although I hear Edge of Tomorrow is much better than the ads made it look.

There has never been a point in my life at which I was absolutely pumped to start the day each morning. That’s why I rail so hard against the mythologizing of childhood. People talk about how happy and carefree they were. It seems to me that they are looking at the whole thing through rose-tinted glasses. I keep moving forward because all I have is the blind hope that whatever I’m working towards is better than this. I have to keep moving. People I went to high school with are getting married and having kids. I know it’s stupid to compare yourself to other people, but seriously, when do I get to conquer the world?

I find that my interests are getting more and more specific and nuanced. I keep wondering if I should take up role-playing games again, either tabletop or on the computer. When I was a child, my entire day revolved around computer games, usually either RTS or RPG. I miss those days, but only a little. I would spend the entire morning playing games, then go do other shit for the rest of the day because even I could see that you couldn’t do this all the time. If I’m out to recreate that experience now, it’s only to figure out what to do after I’m done playing games for the day. Because nobody can live a fantasy all the time. Even if you escape, you can’t live that escape more than once.

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.