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Refuge for the rational.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I'm Going Hair-Shirtless Today 

Often, in fits of a rage I can’t quite explain, I will look towards a window and wonder just how much force it would take to shatter the glass. There is something in that sound; I don’t know how to articulate what it is. I don’t do it though—break the glass—and that is because within that brief moment of fury, there is an actual thought process. Not that it’s wrong. Not that it would be expensive to repair. None of that rational and over-rated bullshit: only that I would have to stand there, having just released all of my tension, anger and absolute frustration, red in the face, and explain to whoever it is that I’m arguing with, exactly why I did what I did when there isn’t a reason. There is no reason at all. And it’s terrible to be with someone who doesn’t understand.

Assume what you will from this. It doesn’t happen often, and I’m rather annoyed when it does because most of the time I am at a loss to explain the reasons behind it. I get frustrated sometimes and it can be to the degree that I pull my own hair. But, I had a thought yesterday that is relevant to all of this. Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage. It was a nostalgic moment. I haven’t listened to that album since I don’t know when, but I had another track in my head last night so I turned it on and I realised that I was an angry teenager at a Smashing Pumpkins show at one point, but I hadn’t even bothered to think about what I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.

Well, naturally, I was taken aback. I’m the type of person who watches the news and cries. I lose my appetite when I think about other people going hungry. I get preoccupied constantly with negative shit and I just simply cannot shake it. And yes, I get insulted for being this way—cynical, unhappy and negative. But, guess what? It sucks. It isn’t for show, this is the way I actually feel almost all of the time. Maybe it’s compassion, maybe it’s just viewing the world through shit-coloured glasses, but whatever it is, it sucks. It’s far easier for some people to call it a weakness of character than to accept that I might actually want things to change. But, despite the fact that I feel ill at the thought of someone kicking a dog, it doesn’t change the fact it happened—that things like that happen every day. And I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do with this information.

My family took me to brunch on Easter Sunday. It was an outlandish affair and I sat there with a plateful of fruit, omelettes, prime rib, gourmet sauces, and a creeping neurosis. How could we gorge like this while others had nothing? How could I justify my lust for exotic and expensive meals? I’m still searching for that answer, but what I do know is that all of my anger grows from this same place. I allow things in the outside world to build up inside of me and affect everything in my life. And I sit here and regret those things and complain and write about them, and then check my blog to see if anyone commented on that, and get frustrated if the people who did haven’t much to say. Why? What the hell am I waiting for? For some reason, I seem to have invested a disturbing amount of value in this stupid thing. As if all of my integrity is wrapped up in it. As if the lack of depth and connection I feel in my real-life relationships is going to mysteriously emerge from the shadows of the internet and beacon me inside for a slice of lifelong friendship and a cup of hot soul. I am confused and frustrated right now and I know that there is no way I can change the world. But, I suppose it’s about time I got a start on all those things that are supposedly broken in my own life: try to wipe the shit from my glasses, fix the lack of people in my life and try to retrieve or maintain whatever depth exists with the ones who are. No amount of suffering can fix anything; that requires action.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Quick Question 

What the hell is the point?

Monday, March 21, 2005

How To Be a Snob: A Guide to Letting Everyone Know You Are Better Than Them Without the Crassness of Being a Fucking Cunt 

I’ve noticed a scary phenomenon lately. People who are so utterly desperate to be individuals, to be unconventional, to spit in the face of ‘the man’ that they seem willing to do anything to get attention. A sadly large number of women would call this feminism—exhibitionism, thirst for conflict, and downright bitchiness—and all it really achieves is the alienation of real women and the labelling of feminism as a fucked-up cry for attention from a bunch of women eager for the chance to be exploited. As long as it’s my decision to shake my naked ass on television, I am empowered—Very Classy.

As a true “snob,” (I use this word partly because I am not yet fully comfortable with the use of the word “feminist” in such a general medium due to the stigma that seems to follow it in popular culture—you know: the big ‘D’ word. I realise though that associating “feminists” with so-called “snobs” may also be a distinct error, though in this context I think it is appropriate as a sarcastic transitionary between the bitchiness that is supposedly “feminism” in popular culture and the real empowerment that is also often perceived as inappropriate) I decided it was high time a simple repertoire were laid out for the younger generations who have twisted ideas about real women thanks to the gods of popular media and their shady entourage of whores.

Concept #1: Using people is never cool. There is a word for people who use their sexuality and physical appearances for favours; I really don’t think it’s necessary to type it out. So, if you’re at the bar and a man you aren’t attracted to approaches you with the offer of a drink, what do you do? A polite refusal is all that is necessary to communicate disinterest. Accepting said offer or refusing it with a mocking laugh is disrespectful to one’s self and highlights either desperation for attention or a need to humiliate others out of self-loathing. A snob doesn’t hate him/herself and certainly does not sell out.

Concept #2: Popularity is over-rated. Why are you toting around old acquaintances from grade school? Think about what these people bring to your life. If all you have with someone is history then it’s time to move on. If you wouldn’t confide in someone, then they aren’t your friend. Believe it or not, you can have a life without filling up useful time in your schedule with other people. And I think you can probably make it to the bathroom on your own, you don’t need an assistant.

Concept #3: Know yourself and do it well. Whatever your thing is—music, video games, art, literature, card tricks, miming—it’s your thing. This means you’re well schooled in the subject matter, or you do it damn well.

Concept #4: Have staunch standards about things that are important to you. Indulgence is earned and when it is, it should be genuine. Why do people consume the tasteless Merlot that is put in front of them? Because they are fooling themselves. Merlot is this safe and easy decision for people who simply do not know what they like. It isn’t that these people have bad taste, it’s that they have no taste.

We live in an age where the internet brings us countless opportunities to explore different forms of art, different music, different writing styles, different points of view, but do we really take the time to look at these things, process these things and eventually make a decision about them? Has it ever occurred to anyone that the lyrics to most mainstream music has a vacancy and absolute lack of meaning that verges on vacuous? No, of course not. That would take effort. We consume what is put in front of us with the zest of a newborn in front of flashing Christmas lights without even stopping to consider that the Oscar winners (and nominees for that matter) may not have been the best movies of the year. We fall for it so easily—so easily in fact, that we are willing to pay for the privilege of having advertisements beamed into our living rooms and are even more willing to spend time “relaxing” whilst watching them. We are such a comical race.

I don’t really care if you like Merlot. I really don’t care if you think listening to Cradle of Filth is a good way to be counter-culture and escape all this tripe. The thing is, most of the time I just plain don't believe you--that you think or even have the capacity to like or dislike anything. But that doesn't matter either and it shouldn't matter to you. What it comes down to is this:

Your identity is dependant on making decisions for yourself and not allowing popular media, your parents, your neighbourhood, your “friends”, or the government to dictate your taste in men/women, fashion, sex, music, art, love, friendship, dogs, cats, television, war, peace, food, blondes, brunettes, Swedish massages, cars, abstinence, PETA, toilet paper, crack, toothpaste, corporate America, plants, the Nazis, prostitution, in home theatre systems, your garbage, the CIA, ambient lighting, wine, cigarettes, furniture, cola, posturing, celebrities, madness, living or fucking ANYTHING.

That is your duty as a human being. Not to me, to yourself.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, and just because I can:

HOT (it actually makes me giggle)

NOT (it actually makes me nauseous)

To sum up, Feminism—my brand of it at least—has never been about avenging womanhood and performing castrations or adopting the in-your-face “feminine” sexuality that seems curiously masculine. It is far more about being individual than being vaginal; these are universal concepts and are no longer reserved for housewives who feel they need to be released from the control of a male dominated society. This is about cutting through the stigmas and misconceptions that segregate anyone and everyone; it has always been about respect for one’s self and for other people and about seeing everyone as deserving of the dignities and rewards currently given to a select few. We all have middle fingers and there is nothing about waving them around that is in any way deserving of respect.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Who's Afraid of Carl Jung? 

Earnest and I were out for drinks on a patio in Vienna when our waiter, a brown hare in a blue jogging suit, asked us if we were going to see the fireworks at the mall that night. We hadn’t heard about it, but we decided it would be a good idea if we did go, but only if we could procure some gin and opium to guard against the mosquitoes and malaria. We had to hurry, even though Big Ben was across the street due to the shifting of the continents, because of all the cows in the street. They were sacred cows and the Dalai Lama and all of his cousins were milking the cows and then drinking the milk whilst scantily clad Las Vegas showgirls rubbed oil on their bald heads. By the time we were halfway there, it was dark out and we had to make the rest of the journey by the light of the lamps sitting on the sidewalk. There was a lady tending to them; she had a duster in her hand, but it was actually a miniature peacock and she was changing the light bulbs that were burning out. The peacock kept talking to her and when Earnest asked her what he was saying she said that he was telling her the future. Suddenly, Earnest wanted to go over to her house because he said that he needed to obtain a copy of one of his books to prove to the horses of apocalypse that he had actually written it. So, we had to get a picture of him so that they could match it to the picture inside the cover of the book. The lady, who had since turned into Winston Churchill dressed like a Matadore, offered to paint his picture while I went and looked for the book, but when I was in her study there was only one book on all of the shelves. They were all white with black lettering and they all said “Fascination” but they didn’t have an author so I didn’t know if it was Earnest’s book or not. I continued to look for the book, but there were too many different rooms in the study—the walls kept swinging open into secret rooms and entranceways—and eventually I gave up, but I couldn’t find my way back to Winston and Earnest. Eventually, I found my way to the back entrance and it led to a patio that was overlooking a vast mountain valley where people were tobogganing over the grass and flowers. There were people painting the flowers to match the sky so that the ants on the ground wouldn’t know they were so small. I went down to the grass and I noticed a tunnel that lead to the valley on the other side of the river where there was a farm raising hamsters for the kids who couldn’t have dogs because their houses were made of foam. If the dogs got into the houses they would eat the foam and get sick and probably turn green and plastic and the kids wouldn’t want them anymore. So the farmers were building doghouses too and the fat lady was using porcupine quills for nails and she asked me to hold them but I didn’t have enough time.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

You Have Bad Taste in Music 

Normally I don't post links to other web-sites due to my belief in original material, etc. However, I am making an exception in this instance due to the applicability of these particular links to my post entitled Get Down With the Sickness.

The Ruben Studdard link is especially relevant.

...and of course, just in case you haven't already been exposed to this:

Doesn't Nickelback Rule? No, no they really don't.

I suggest you all go rediscover old Radiohead B-sides. I did and it made me so happy, I had to share my enthusiasm.

Adventures in HTML 

The best way for me to learn is to do. So, I did. And this is the result. Aren't the colours just hideous? Thanks, I picked them myself; at least they're an improvement. The reason for the sudden change is I want to change the entire template, but am so terrified of losing things that I figured I would have to put some time and effort into learning this crap. Three cheers for me.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Get Down With the Sickness 

I hear a lot of talk about the left or right wing bias in the media. Now, I’m not going to argue that it is or isn’t there. All I will say is that when humans are involved it is only natural that their political fluids leak onto the paper once in awhile - sometimes, in mass quantities.

But, this isn’t the type of media that I want to talk about. I want to talk about the entertainment industry. And when we look at this massive sprawling mess of egos, it seems pretty clear to me that the boundaries between left and right have been lost among the foliage of fake plastic trees. Left and Right? They don’t support either! They are a sovereign entity, completely impartial unless outside interaction requires protestation of a specific cause, such as censorship. How can an institution that is emphatically corporate support the supposed Liberal camp, protest the spread of massive corporate influence to the third world and write anti-establishment screenplays and movies? Here’s how: Anarchy. In an industry as cutthroat as this, you have to support who and whatever will help you and sell you. Vegan at breakfast, veal for lunch.

This is only the result of an even larger sickness though – the one that has people waiting in long queues wearing tight clothing, grateful for the chance to be humiliated in front of a panel of “celebrity” (a.k.a I want a career do-over) judges. Or, in the case of people with actual ability, the chance to be completely whored around and have no say in the process of their creation. And yet, the positive response to this is overwhelming. People will do anything to be on this show. Having known someone who did PA work for one, I do believe that this is actually true: people will do anything.

While waiting in line, everyone gets a chance to tell their sob story, how they sacrificed their future at university to be here by skipping exams, how they pawned their wedding ring to purchase the plane ticket, how they quit their job and are going to be evicted unless they get a record contract. To the common man, this is the American Dream: incredible effort and sacrifice yield success and recognition. The person who has the most tearful story must, undoubtedly, succeed. Unfortunately, that’s just more than a little twisted. But wait, the stories get creepier! You see, there are stories that don’t get aired, and this was part of my friend’s job - to walk around and decide who got to cry into the camera and who didn’t. One story she told me in particular concerned a skinny, tearful girl with a big entreating grin on her face. She told my friend that she had given birth to a premature infant just a month or so earlier, “a beautiful baby girl”, and that she was so small the doctors were unsure if she would survive. So, instead of staying by her child’s side, she thought that leaping towards some semblance of fifteen minutes of fame would be a better choice. Naturally, the story made both my friend and I feel ill. When I thought about the reasons though, it wasn’t the fact that this mother had abandoned her infant in order to garner some kind of success of her own. In fact, I don’t believe that she saw it that way at all – if she did, she wouldn’t have tried to proclaim the story on air – the vile nature of it lay in the fact that this mother believed that she was doing this for her baby – the way one would light a candle and say a prayer for the health of a loved one – that, if only she signed a record contract and made millions of dollars, the gods of media would grant her child the gift of life. Even sicker than that is the fact that some of you are reading this right now and telling the computer screen I’m just being cynical, that the story is terribly romantic and Oprah should have a go at it.

What the fuck is wrong with us?

At what point did we run so far from reality that life itself became the goat that sheds its blood in the name of Sony? In what kind of warped dimension does no one question this?

It’s a trust issue, I think. People manage to trust the television set and people on it far more than they would a stranger on the street. Some of you will, for instance, say that the people on the talent shows humiliate themselves. It isn’t the show that does that. They show up to audition of their own free will and the rest is what follows. This is sort of how it works, but there is one piece of information missing in that calculation. When auditioning for said show, there are two auditions. The first, weeds out all of the mediocre people. People such as my friend are told that they are to put through only the best and worst singers and that if they laugh or give any kind of indication of their feelings towards the contestants, they will immediately be asked to leave. The contestants who are put through are told that they are to wear exactly the same outfit to the next audition. Obviously, this achieves the desired effect, and the embarrassment isn’t placed on the heads of the production, but on the morons with unconscious dreams.

Despite all this, people still want desperately to be on the show, even if they don’t make it anywhere. Appearance on television grants people some kind of strange power; they become immediately revered, people say hello to them on the street, people do them favours for no reason whatsoever. Take, for instance, our local weatherman, whom, it seems every time I pass the news building downtown is outside doing his weatherman things – and being accosted by each and every person who walks by. Some give him a simple smile and “hello”, some are more obnoxious and act as though they’ve run into their long-lost best friend from high school. It seems like even the most insignificant celebrity, when in the midst of ‘normal’ people becomes something special, and people gawk and stare and I can only imagine it becomes very tiresome. What would you allow a celebrity to do? If Brad Pitt came up to you and asked you if you wanted to sleep with him, would you jump at the chance? I tend to think a lot of people would. I have no idea how to deconstruct this system of knowledge, though when I searched for ‘celebrity fascination reasons’, this article popped up. Everything else was a celebrity fan site.

This article recognizes the prevalence of this trend, but it doesn’t give many reasons for it to be such a widespread social phenomenon. A few obsessive people are always going to exist – who hasn’t had the experience of someone liking them just a little too much – but this particular affliction seems to be widespread. It probably has something to do with the familiarity of seeing them constantly and hearing about the trivial details of their lives. This doesn’t, however, explain the treatment that people who aren’t all over tabloids are getting: take the ‘normal’ people on reality shows for instance: bankers from Florida, salon owners from Des Moines, strippers from Chicago. Normal, or as normal as it gets, I guess. However, the moment they hit the television screen, something incredible happens. People in their hometowns become addicted to the shows, the individuals acquire stupid nicknames and if the nicknames make them enough of an issue of controversy they may even reach celebrity status and be seen with someone even more controversial. I might understand this hero-worship if only the people in question had any obvious attributes. That means talent. But, sadly, most of the time, they don’t.

Let’s face it people, Brittany Spears cannot sing. And, not only that, she is probably the most average-looking sex icon I’ve ever seen – yes, even if she were standing next to Ron Jeremy - so who cares? She isn’t the only one though; the talentless masses abound in Hollywood. But, this is an old argument, and I think we’re all familiar with the complaints about real vs. false art. Just because it’s old, it doesn’t become any less real – but still, I will try to keep it short.

I believe that art is important and yet I constantly see it being demeaned by a profusion of model ‘actresses’ and people who woke up one morning and decided they wanted ‘music’ careers. How trite. The thing that amazes me the most is the number of people who fall for it – it being the television shows they watch and the music they accept just by listening to the radio. We accept these things without questioning whether or not they’re even worth a listen. Most of the time, they aren’t. Look at the award shows. Honestly, Green Day has been writing the same songs for ten years, they weren’t good then and they aren’t good now. Do they really deserve an award for throwing a few simple power chords together and dressing like dysfunctional teenagers? I should think not. Some of the people with good taste are o.k. with this: keep it underground; keep the masses away from it; I’m special because the music I listen to is obnoxiously obscure – well, that’s ridiculous, and the reason for that is that those artists are struggling because of their obscurity. I want to be able to turn on the radio and hear my favourite song, or at the very least something interesting. And in those rare instances when I need to vegetate in front of the television, it would be nice if my brain didn’t have to do so as well.

The point of all of this is that we accept things that the television throws at us, and we accept it with a trust that goes unchallenged in our everyday lives. Are our lives so uninteresting? Are the people close to us so unimportant? My theory as to why this would be is simple. There is both a definition and a lack of one at work here. Celebrities are undefined creatures whom we catch brief glimpses of in movies and in tabloid newspapers. Most of the time they appear happy. Most of the time they are with other people. Most of the time they are well dressed in expensive clothing. In movies, they take on the human characteristics that the newspapers don’t capture. Out of these brief experiences a definition arises. Catching one glimpse of something one finds desirable or familiar may be enough to make the less conscious connection “hey, that could be me” or even “I could have a relationship with them”. The mystery remaining leaves enough of a blank slate for donated characteristics, assumptions about the person and their lifestyle that make them even more desirable than they likely are. Because of all this, the television or the silver screen become places where a person can enter into that realm. All of your good characteristics are displayed behind a heavy layer of concealer. People only see you when you’re happy, trendy and rich; seeing you act sad or sing about heartbreak is ok because it isn’t real. This is what has blurred the lines between reality and fantasy. Nothing is real anymore. We walk around with our incognizant American Dreams and reality only comes into our eyes when we leave the audition room and realise that our wedding rings are gone and our babies are dead.

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