Friday, November 9, 2012

“Don’t ever get old…but I guess it’s better than the alternative”

The demands and expectations of the young and old alike are nearly identical.  Both demographics can use their age as an excuse to validate their devious acts and blissful ignorance.  The young use their parents to finance their lifestyles and the elderly live off a combination of the government, their own wealth, and their children’s goodwill.  Young and old people stress about trivial matters that do not have long-term impacts.  Dwelling on wether or not correlation implies causation when applied to the effects of yellow-5 intake and testicle size can hardly be considered a life altering event for a young person.  Likewise, old people only busy their minds with inflation statistics, weather, and the implications of Hi-Def televisions.   Stress, in its most refined form--the kind that can make you prematurely bald, or punch out a Starbucks Barista--is only really felt by people between the ages of 25-65.  These folks work for a living so that they can subsidize the lifestyles of their dependent children and parents. They spend the best part of their lives worrying about everyone but themselves.  As they drink an immense amount of coffee to artificially stimulate their enthusiasm for making money and acting like an “adult” everyday, they ask themselves iterative, ulcer inducing questions like: How is my 401k looking? Is it possible to be TOO diversified? Does it make me a bad parent if I let my children eat McDonalds once a week?  Am I the reason my child was placed in the slow reading group? What are the long-term impacts of drinking soymilk? If my wife were to divorce me right now, would I ever find love again? Am I having enough sex? Should I be prescribed Xanax? How is the economy doing?  Surviving 40 solid years of this mind boggling, selfless purgatory is a major accomplishment in and of itself, and I really do not know how people do it.  The first 22-25 years of your life, you can be as selfish as you want and then suddenly—almost all at once—people start depending on you to be something you have never been before. The next 40 years of life scare the shit out of me and I have begun to realize the closest I will come to being young again….is when I’m old.

“Don’t ever get old…but I guess it’s better than the alternative”

I’ve lived at my grandparent's house for almost a month now and my grandpa finds a way to work this phrase into a conversation almost daily.  Usually the statement follows a long-winded story about how he cannot eat and talk simultaneously because his hearing aid amplifies the sound of himself chewing.   I’ve become fascinated with the context in which he delivers this message, it’s not necessarily the raw meaning of what he says but rather the way he says it.  Generally, he looks out the window at the dawn’s early light where a pack of geese defecate on his kingdom, exhales deeply, and says, “Don’t ever get old Son…but I guess it’s better than the alternative”. He says this in a tone laced with a feeling of deep remorse, leading me to believe that he doesn’t believe what he is saying at all.  It's almost as if his grandpa used to utter this banal platitude in his waning days and my grandpa has since adapted it as his mantra so that he has a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  Is getting old really better than the alternative?  He must ask himself this question everyday.  Watching my grandpa gaze out the window while he thinks (as I fictional his thoughts) about a different time when he had the sonar hearing of a bat, the looks of a Sinatra, and the durability of a European immigrant, all I can think about is this quote from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road:

“The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death.” 

Life is filled with transitions that make us question our learned identities and force us to become something else.  At each of these touch points we lose something within ourselves.  As we learn, and become exposed to adult themes and consequences, we lose our sense of curiosity.  As we begin to fear failure, we abort the youthful method of trial and error, positioning ourselves to exert effort only when we know we will succeed.   The most painful transition is when we reach the realization that there is nothing left to lose and begin to question if we ever had anything to lose at all.
As I walk into my grandparent’s house, it is clear to see that they gave up on modernization around the time that my grandpa retired.  Every room is stocked with at least one—if not two—pullout couches that are as uncomfortable folded up as they are pulled out.  Manual “tick-tock” clocks line the hallways and general living spaces.  On the hour—every hour—the clocks gong with precise unity.  In the basement, my grandma has a sewing room where she spends countless hours assembling an array of quilts, novelty holiday sweaters, and crocheted dog beds.  Between them, they have assumed traditional gender roles that would have modernist clamoring for female empowerment.  My grandpa refuses to let my grandma drive anywhere, driving is a man's job.  The other day my grandma called my grandpa and I into the kitchen for dinner.  To my grandpa’s surprise, his wife had already cut the roast she had been baking all day.  You would have thought she had slaughter his first-born son the way he reacted.  Throughout 60 years of marriage, his job as a man has always been to cut his wife’s roast.  Any change—even in the slightest—threatens his stability and understanding of his role in the world.  
As a casual observer of his lifestyle, I have developed an internal laundry list of ways that I could make his life easier and more efficient with the application of technology and modern logic.  A smartphone could alleviate the stress of looking at a map while driving, likewise, applying simple scientific reasoning could free up hours of worshipping a false deity.  However, he is always resistant to change.  The question is why?  The simple response is stubbornness but that does not even begin to provide legs to a legitimate answer.  The real answer is fear—fear of having more free time.  He fears that evolutions in efficiency will leave him with long mundane pauses where he is left to contemplate existence and his place within it.  It's not like he has an infinite queue of activities that he has been putting off because of time constraints.  Because of this, I have refrained from asking him "what did you do today?" because I know it is just as painful for him to answer that question as it is for me to listen to it.  When we are young, we are always looking for ways to make things easier.  As things become less strenuous, we have more time for our kids, our hobbies, our deepest desires, and ourselves.  When we age, time is no longer a constraining resource--although it is certainly finite--but there are less dependencies vying for our attention….which I’m sure is met with an ambivalent feeling of liberation and depression.
I’ve had this theory for sometime that there comes a point in every man’s life where he becomes frozen.  Frozen in the sense that he is no longer willing or even able to adapt with the world changing around him.  His thoughts become as stagnant and archaic as his wardrobe.  My grandpa has long been the structural foundation for this theory.  Like most people during his era, my grandpa retired at the age of 55 in 1985.  Retirement on the surface seems rewarding, a luminous opening at the end of a dark tunnel.  Finally, all of the hard work he put into providing for his family and achieving financial freedom would materialize into copious amounts of free time to do the things he neglected for so long.  However, it was at that point that he gave up on being an adaptive human being.  What was left for him to accomplish?  He worked hard and excelled at each transition from college, to employment, to marriage, to raising children, to watching his children obtain a similar continuum of material success.  A man can only play so much golf and vacation before he reaches a vegetative point of no return.  Work—as much as I hate to admit it—forces a person to be engage and challenged on a daily basis.  The workplace is essentially a holding tank filled with people of various demographics, ideas, creativity, and technological advancements.  When my grandpa retired, he was no longer obligated to be around the complicated fabric of a workplace ...which is perfectly fine, retirement is suppose to be a time for relaxation—an escape from the hustle and bustle. Now, the only way my grandpa is able to think about the present is to contrast it with how it is not like the past.  His brain is filled with a finite amount of stories about the musings of his life and he finds it very difficult to make or enjoy new memories.  At some point his ability to do this stopped completely.  
At first I found myself becoming frustrated with my grandpa's complacency.  How could he possibly be satisfied?  Everyday my grandpa wakes up at 5 am to read the Chicago tribune.  At 630 AM he joins me for breakfast where he shares stories about his past or societal observations that bother him about the present.  In the last 3 weeks, he has told me about the time he went to a Cubs World Series game in 1945 for $1.50 at least 10 times...but I never have the heart to tell him "Hey! Granps you told me this exact same thing yesterday."  I thought he might be senile, but I have since ruled that out.  I'm convinced that he tells me these things over and over again not because he is crazy but rather because he can...and I have to listen because his mere' longevity commands respect.  He does not have to be anybody except for who he wants to be at this point.  Isn't that purest form of happiness?  When we no longer have to change to the demands of the world around us or alter our personalities to assimilate to the expectations of others?  When we reach that final frontier the anxiety that greets us at every other transition point is no longer present.  I can't wait to reach that plateau where I can just be content and completely comfortable in my own skin.  
If i've learned anything over the last few weeks it’s that my grandpa speaks a different language than my peers. Sure it’s English, but he speaks with sincerity rather than sarcasm and irony. I've spent the last six years of my life building friendships and relationships by speaking with a snarky ironic tone, which is a tool that is imperative for survival in my generation. Being sincere and direct is not only ridiculed with the label of "uncool" but it’s almost a sign of weakness. From my skewed lens of the world, interacting with people is a constant negotiation. You are trying to see what is on my piece of paper and vis-versa. If I tell you directly, what I have to offer then I give you all the leverage. Irony is a powerful weapon that I use to protect myself from exposing the raw nerve of vulnerability. I feel like everyone around me is constantly being ironic. Has our generation entered a tipping point, in that we spew more sentences laced with irony than without? If the use of irony becomes the implied expectation of every conversation then doesn't the very definition of irony fold on top of itself? Is it now ironic to be sincere? Think about the last time you chewed a piece of Bubble Yum and you bit your tongue by accident--it fucking hurt. You feel that pain, and anguish from your brain to your bowels. Now sink the tips of your canines into your tongue as hard as you can, the reaction isn't nearly the same. In fact, you could probably chew on your tongue all day until it became a bloody mess but the pain would still feel relatively numb. Why? Because you've consciously conditioned your brain for what is to come. That sharp pain? That is what irony used to be. It used to cut deep and make you feel something.  Now, here we are...we have all become figuratively numb tongue'd users of flippant language, where we never really mean what we say or confront what we mean. Now, I'm not removing myself from this equation by any means. I've built my whole persona on irony.  Honestly, I want my wedding song to be "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one your with" By Crosby Stills and Nash. Not because I feel that way about my bride but because if she can appreciate the irony and humor of this, then I've probably found my soul mate.
Anyway, my grandpa is a living artifact. He is a relic of a generation that is no longer embraced by the masses. Soon, to the grave he will take with him...sincerity.  His value in the world—though he may not be consciously aware of it—is to prolong a lifestyle that will soon be scrubbed clean from humanity.  At some point, I, like my grandpa, will become a man frozen in time.  My children and grandchildren will nag at me and try to force me to adapt.  They will guise their disgust for my obsolescence with "thoughtful" Christmas gifts filled with the cutting edge technology of time that I will subsequently store somewhere in the basement, unopened.  They will role their eyes as I tell the story about my white eyebrow for the 100th time at Thanksgiving.  I will undoubtedly resist them like an index finger wrestling its way out of a Chinese finger trap, but my hope is that they come to the realization that I have in the last month, that even though my bones are brittle, my take on social progression is a little too conservative, and my ironic tone seems presence has value, because soon I, and the micro-culture that I inhibit, will cease to exist.
Without fail, my mind forces me to perpetually contrast the ways I see my grandpa dealing with his destiny with my own transition.  I’ve been working a real job for exactly three weeks now and I feel like I’m being forced to relearn my identity.  Every morning I dress in a way that I never have before, as I meet and greet my superiors with banal pleasantries so that I am perceived as a diligent worker.   Sure the structural elements of my personality remain, but I am in a foreign place where I am forced to adapt.  My "go to" crutches of sarcasm and irony that have carried me this far in life are useless in a corporate setting.  However, in my work environment there is a silver-lining…if I stand up and prop myself on the tips of my toes, I can see out a window that over looks highway 294.  I look out this window and let my mind wander to another place and another time.  A time when I was not necessarily happier, but different, less inhibited, the word reckless comes to mind.  And, even though I am content with certain aspects of my current surroundings, I wish I could reach back into my past and stay up until dawn drinking, laughing, and clinging to the metaphorical night that is my dwindling youth, or accelerate thru the next 40 years of stress.   In the midst of this bizarre nostalgic/futuristic reflection, I exhale, think of my grandpa, and say to myself “I may be getting older…but I guess it's better than the alternative”.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Black Keys and Will.I.Am Form Super Group: Black Eyed Keys

Black Keys and Will.I.Am Form Super Group: Black Eyed Keys

 The Black Keys are just about everywhere these days.  It is impossible to be coaxed into a buying a car, a meat-lovers pizza, or a soft drink without Dan Aeurbach cramming a bluesy guitar rift down your throat. Gold on the ceiling….it’s just matter of time before you drive a Kia.  In a generation where music listeners have gravitated towards synthesized pop and ringtone rap, Dan and his drummer Patrick Kearny have become nostalgic representations of what Rock Stars used to be. Unfortunately, there is no room for Rock Stars on the radio anymore unless they have been vetted by a 6-month American Idol stint.  Although widely successful, the Black Keys have an insatiable thirst for more exposure—a thirst, that cannot be quenched with a 30 second Sprite ad during March Madness.

In dramatic fashion, the duo has decided to merge with the Black Eyed Peas to form a transcendent super group called the Black Eyed Keys.  “Dan and I have always been about the music and looking good in a way that says we don’t give a fuck.  We always liked the idea of being understated and content with an anarchist approach to our style and music.  Of course, not giving a fuck has limited our ability to achieve crazy success…we can’t get the radio to play our shit! Then I saw the 2011 Super Bowl halftime show and I looked at Dan and was like this is it.  This is what we need. Fireworks. Shoulder spikes. Glitter. Lots of fucking glitter. It was at that moment we realized that the Black Keys needed a makeover that only BEP could provide. The merger will push us into the U2 zone, both in terms of ticket prices, and ability to cure AIDS first. The race is on Bono” Patrick said in an interview with Rolling Stone.

In 2009, the Black Keys won a VMA for their song Tighten Up and MTV mistakently sent them a trophy embossed with BEP’s name on it.  “At first I was pissed.  I wanted to beat the braids of Will-I-Am with it but then I realized it was not his fault.  MTV needs to stop pretending to be in the music business and stick to glamorizing birthing children as teenagers.  I have nothing but respect for Will-I-Am’s talent” Auerbach said in response to the mix up. 
Will.I.Am will be working full-time with both Patrick and Dan to improve their image and ability to captivate the attention of the masses. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to turn a seedy grunge band like the Black Keys into a global sensation.  With the right amount of theatrics, songs with onomatopoeia instead of lyrics, and my maternal relationship with Oprah, I believe this will be a lucrative opportunity for the both of us. Watch out world! Boom Boom Pow!” said Will-I-Am about the group’s merger.  The Black Keys have long been plagued by Auerbach’s misogynistic lyrics about heartbreak, which has alienated a potential female fan base.  Nevertheless, a timely appearance on the Harpo network or perhaps a private concert for single mothers ailing with lupus could be the cure all. The intangible value of having Oprah on speed dial cannot be put into words.
Fergie could not be reached for comment and it is unclear at this time if she will be a part of the project.  Regardless, the music world has changed forever.  The Black Eyed Keys self-titled album will be released this coming fall.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Male Tandem Floats Down Wolf River Unscathed. Bro-mantic Triumph.

Male Tandem Floats Down Wolf River Without Being Brutally Mauled!

NEW LONDON—Historically, New London, Wisconsin is known solely for its disproportionate cattle-to-citizen ratio but the editors of their Wikipedia page will need to rewrite the opening paragraph to include the heroic act of two 23-year old males on June 16th.  Unknowingly, Brett Scarbok and Michael Bradford made history yesterday, as they became the first male-tandem to float down the Wolf River without being brutally mauled--both physically and verbally--by the packs of traditional tubing groups.

Lazy river tubing at its best involves a co-ed caravan of young adults drinking an excess amount of libations until everyone loses enough inhibition to partake in an impromptu skinny dipping session, leading to some questionable underwater indiscretions.  Worse case scenario, no girls show up and the event turns into a bi-lingual bro-fest with lots of beer bongs, misogynistic chanting, and homoerotic activity, all of which is permissible because of memory-altering BACs.  Brett and Michael evaded the wrath of these common lazy river participants, breaking the status quo.

“I sent a mass feeler text the night before, hoping to get a large group of people together but Michael is the only one who responded.  We grabbed a thirty of Key Stone Ice, hopped in my ford focus and went to the river.  The decision was simple—it was hot out and we wanted to drink and float” said Brett on how the event came together. 

Wolf River Campground owner Lenver Westwood has managed the property and tubing service since the late 90’s.  “Oh boy, since we started recording police calls and property damage in 2004 no male tandem has made it safely to the end checkpoint without a punctured tube or a deflated sense of self-confidence.  I don’t know what it is…the alcohol, the sun, or a combination of both but these kids are brutal to each other.  They throw stones, chant obscenities, and at times, assault one another.”  Recently, Westwood has begun posting signs in the rental areas that discourage tandem male tubing.

Bro-mances have always been thumbed at with snarky suspicion.  Two males cannot enjoy a recreational activity like sharing a mo-ped ride to the local CVS, taking a tandem bike for a jaunt in the park, or splitting a much to large for one entrĂ©e at Chili’s—no matter how practical or functional—without being ridiculed in some way.  On the heels of president Obama’s decision to publicly support gay marriage, perhaps an unintentional paradigm shift has occurred in the collective consciousness: same sex relationships—physical or plutonic—are progressively becoming more accepted. 

Jerrod Tinsley, a fellow river go-er offered up another opinion “Really?  I remember seeing that group but there was definitely a girl with the taller man.  She had long hair, a pair of shades on, and asymmetrical breasts that she—for some reason—felt comfortable exposing.  If I would have known they were dudes, I would have swam over to them and punctured their tubes with my bottle opener in the name of heterosexuality. Its called MAN-ifest Destiny for a reason bruh.”

Was the brave quest of Michael and Brett the biggest victory for bro-mantic relationships since the country begun to accept Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong’s insatiable thirst for running shirtless down Venice Beach and subsequently showering the sand out of each other’s crevices…. or was it merely a coincidence?  The result remains to be determined.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Tommy Pickles Existential Crisis

Tommy Pickles: I don’t know what to tell you Dr. Lip Schitz, I cannot escape this feeling.  I look at myself in the mirror every morning and I feel like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.  There is an idea of Tommy Pickles, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real “me”—I am simply not there.
The other night I spotted this beautiful girl at the bar.  She was wearing a pair of jeggings that perfectly captured the voluptuous contours of a collegiate body that was bound to lose its appeal within the next five years.  A modest t-shirt limited my ability to gauge the size of her milk mounds, but the screen-printing on her shirt was all I needed to fully understand her degree of sexual promiscuity.  The front of the t-shirt said “4th Floor Hutch Hunnies” and the back boisterously stated “We like it on top”.… I’m sure her parents would be proud to know that their baby daughter explicitly advertises her preference to be the pace-setter during missionary sex. 
Anyway, I approached her with some cheeky humor, filtering her responses for intelligence/socio-economical status in hopes of making a superficial connection that I could capitalize on.  I overheard her talking about the Hunger Games Trilogy with her friend, so I used that as my entry point—women love thinly veiled romantic fiction, especially when compartmentalized into trilogies.  Remember that Doc.  Our conversation exponentially blossomed from there.  Because she was the most attractive girl at the bar, every meathead wearing a hemp-necklace approached her with the fury of a soon-to-be neutered golden retriever….I felt her interest in me waning.  At this point, I was faced with a scenario that I have become all too familiar: fuck or flight
Honestly, I try to develop relationships with women and friends based on the merits of my personality, but when my efforts fail, I always have a smoking gun—I’m Tommy fucking Pickles.  Anyone who possesses a cable connection and a birth certificate from 1987-1993 knows who I am.  When I expose this celebrated attribute, all the girls want to see my “pickle” and all the dudes want to know what it is like to bathe with Angelica. 
I’ll spare you all the monotonous sexual details that led to the climax of my identity crisis Doc, but basically I went home with this broad.  Naturally, she assumed the “on-top” position.  I gazed longingly into her vapid eyes as she moved up and down…but then my brain was struck with a vision that crippled my ability to enjoy the act of fornication.  Suddenly, I saw myself from the third person perspective as if I were an audience member watching my own reality show.  The past, present, and future all began to meld into one central feeling of despair. Whenever I have sex, my abs ache the next day as if I had put my body through a rigorous sit-up routine at the gym.  Every time I move, or flex my torso, I feel a strain in my stomach.  It is not a painful feeling but rather, a welcomed feeling of triumph—a relic of my sexual conquest.  Historically I am a fan of said feeling, but at that moment I became disgusted with the actions that enabled me to lay this girl in her sleep number bed and the very idea of my contrived identity.  I am nothing more than a character whose actions have been shaped by the cheers and jeers of an audience for 21 years.
 Who am I? I remember screaming out at this innocent girl.  A cold sweat came over my body and my member went flaccid.  No explanation could have set this girl’s fragile emotions at ease….so I left.  All of my friendships and relationships are dependent upon the character and fame that I acquired as an adventurous bald headed one year old. 

Dr. Lip Schitz: That is a troubling story Thomas.  At what point in your life would you say that you began to develop this keen sense of seeing yourself from a “birds eye” view?

Tommy Pickles:  As the show accurately depicts, my Dad, Stu Pickles, was an inventor—err actually a “failure” is a more accurate job title.  He just liked to play with power tools and tinker around with toys in the basement to compensate for his sham of a childhood.  Regardless, after 20 years of failing to come up with a single invention capable of putting food on the table, he invented the Yak-Bak which he sold the to Mattel for a lucrative sum.  Shortly there after, my mom caught him in the garage with a freshly “legal to consent” Suzy, beat-boxing on his flesh bone like Biz Markie.  I always thought that my dad was referring to snickers bars when he said he loooooooved chocolate, but alas, he was expressing his affinity for ebony chicks.  Last I heard the two of them were living somewhere in Barbados off the royalties of my Dad’s Yak-Bak Fortune. 
            As it turns out my psychotic woes were not brought on by my absent father, but more so by his legacy invention—the Yak-Bak.  I would play with the Yak-Bak for countless hours, mimicking “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s guttural voice in those Slim Jim commercials.  I would record, playback, critique, and rerecord my voice until I sounded the way I wanted to.   In theory the Yak-Bak sounds joyous, almost fun, but it’s the first time I remember being able to view my actions in the past, critique them in the present, and make favorable changes for the future.  The Yak-Bak enabled me to become a casual, and eventually critical observer of myself. 
Now I know that self-reflection is imperative for growth.  Presumably, people have been reviewing, analyzing, and judging their pasts and altering themselves for the future since the dawn of time, however, technology has changed the process of healthy reflection. Personally, I never had the chance to reflect on my actions and find my identity in a healthy way because of the television show I was on, and the digital era I grew up in. It is impossible not to see myself from the third person perspective as some sort of character.  Between the Rugrats, the Yak-Bak, home videos, blogs, and Facebook, everyone one of my memories has been chronicled in a vivid way.  My T.V. career may have ended years ago, but technology has enabled me to rewind, fast forward, and critique my existence as if it were a show stored on my DVR hard drive. 
 Facebook, specifically is damning because the validation or rejection of self is so instant and visual.  By visual I mean that there are a series of videos, photos, status updates, and wall posts throughout my life that evoke vivid emotions, allowing me to either marinate in my triumphs or wallow in my despairs.  Whether it’s looking at photos of my state winning high school football team, or that summer I spent in France indulging on crepes, chardonnay, and Parisian whores, I always feel energized by the documentation of my happiness, but it is just as easy to mull over life’s disappointments.
 Facebooks “see friendship” function is a window into my social progression. Every digital conversation that I have ever had will exist for eternity.  Sometimes I’ll look over conversations with people that are no longer in my life and try to pin point when the tone of our friendship/relationship changed.  I try to use the digital dialogue to aid my mental memory of events, but the faintest ink is better than the strongest memory and soon the only recollection I have of an event is how it is represented on Facebook.
  The Facebook machine is also instantaneous. Whenever I update my status, it’s a stream of consciousness—a cathartic release of emotion or whit.  I sit and wait for the that little red number to appear over the globe in the left hand corner—a “like”, a comment, anything really. As I feel incrementally better about myself with each response.  It teaches me what people want and do not want from me and in the process contrives my personality.  In other words, what type of statuses, photos, and memes, and the characteristics/themes associated with them are worth adopting into my being?  This process supplants internal reflection.  Everything is a public decision that I share with an audience for their approval or disapproval.  All of this probably sounds like technical jargon to an aging man like you Doc, but the truth is that the digital representation of self is nearly synonymous with identity. 

Dr. Lip Schitz: You seem to be lacking a clear and defined purpose.  Structure is crucial in order for you to realize Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.  If you have nothing to get up for in the morning, then surely you lack a reason to go to bed at night.  Time loses its value without structure, goals, and benchmarks for reaching those goals.  What would you say is your purpose in life?  What do you want out of this world and…yourself?

Tommy Pickles:  That’s a deep question Doc…. Admittedly, my goals are just as conceited and selfish as the next individual.  I want to be loved, even liked by as many people as possible.  I want true and meaningful relationships and friendships.  I want to see the aggregate of my hard work materialize into a college degree with my name on it.  I want a 1040 with a six-figure income.  I want to return to my hometown and donate enough money to the local library that they will rename it in my honor and people will drive by and think “wow that guy really did something special with his life”.  I want to wrap myself in a cocoon of material possessions until my insecurities and vulnerabilities are protected by the intangible value of my 5-stall, centrally heated garage.
            The Greek’s have a word called Thurmos that literally means the desire to be recognized by people, not only now, but also for eternity.  Every morning, while I am asleep, the sunlight pierces my windowpane and numbs my brain, reminding me of the consciousness and the reality that I must face.  At that moment, I turn and bury my head back into my pillow for one last taste of solace.  Dreams are free of noise, expectations, and obligations—a beautiful state of tranquility.  Recognition, fame, or whatever you want to call it, is a slippery desire.  If you do not have it, you want.  You strive for it.  However, coming from somebody who has it, I would do anything to let it all go. I am merely the victim of someone else’s selfish desire to be recognized.  My parents and the creators of the show traded my privacy for fortune, my identity for fame, my childhood for instant gratification.

Dr. Lip Schitz:  Wouldn’t you say that the fame and fortune that you acquired from being on the Rugrats has enabled you to achieve all the goals that you mentioned?

(Jason Russell-Kony 2012 Creator)
Tommy Pickles:   That’s exactly my problem.  Most people spend their whole lifetime climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, whereas I was handed enough instant fame and money to supplant the steps of true self-actualization.  And, this all happened to me before I even developed a conscious or learned to wipe my own ass.  People who achieve mass recognition without the struggles of hard work and the creation of value are not equipped with the emotional and intellectual tools to survive.  Look at child actors, lottery winners, film makers who disguise themselves as philanthropist dedicated to taking out Ugandan terrorists, and especially reality T.V. Stars…the list goes on and on.
I don’t even know who to blame anymore. Money always muddies the feeble parameters of morality.   Reality television especially disgusts me.  People who have no skin in the game continuously exploit modest individuals by putting them into social constructs with the promises of free booze, an unlimited wardrobe sponsored by Under Armor, minimal obligations, and of course international fame.  Audiences everywhere root for mayhem and the psychological destruction of normal human beings.  The more mayhem, the more entertained the audience is, and the more money everyone makes.  The humans on the show become cartoonish versions of themselves with each passing episode.  This happens, in part, because much like the Facebook status, the gratification or rejection of self is so instant.  Countless websites, fan forums, and post-show specials give audience members a platform to actively participate in the formulations of the characters they want to see on the show.  The characters on the show become critical observers of themselves and pander to the audiences responses because their relevancy and essentially their paychecks comes from pleasing them. 

Dr. Lip Schitz:  In the time of Ancient Rome, people used to pile into the Coliseum to watch gladiators fight each other to the death.  Though on the surface this may seem crass, I would argue that it is an essential component of keeping humanity sane.  Freud came up with this idea of the Id vs. The Ego.  Simply put, the Id harbors the innate, animalistic components of personality—the need to reproduce and destroy.  The human brain is obviously more complex than that of an animal, so throughout time we have learned that there is much more to life than passing on your seed and dying.  The Ego focuses on the reality principal by trying to please the desires of the Id in realistic ways.  I would argue that reality television picked up where the blood shed at the Coliseum left off—it provides the masses the opportunity to service the desires of the Id in a healthy way—at the expense of only a few.

Tommy Pickles:  Ha-ha.  Listen to yourself, at the expense of only a few?  Can’t you see that I am apart of that few.  I have seen first hand what fame and characterization does to people.  Chucky had a predisposition for anxiety on the show and now he is a delusional schizophrenic mess.  He calls me periodically to pitch ideas about how to get the Rugrats back on television.  “When is the gang getting back together for another movie? How about a reality Rugrats series where we live in Italy for three months and work at a pizza shop?  American Idol is looking for two new judges, use your celebrity to leverage us a spot Tommy”
            Phil’s level of delusion and desire to get back into the spotlight is even more depressing.   Every time I see him he is wearing the same Austin 3:16 t-shirt that he purchased 15 years ago.  His skin looks more tan and glabrous with each passing day.  He has been trying to get onto the reality series WWE: Tough Enough for as long as I can remember.  Like most wresting stars, or childhood actors with unrealistic expectations of reaching the limelight one last time, he has battled drug addiction and alcoholism since 13. 
            As a child, I had no sympathy for Angelica because she was a narcissistic twat but now I pity her.  More than anything, she wants to be a Kardashian.  She married J.R. Smith about two years ago but it ended after three months when Deadspin broke a story about J.R. tweeting a photo of his dick to a Stanford co-ed.  She plans to audition for Basketball Wives this fall.
            These testimonies perfectly capture the destiny of anyone who has ever been characterized by a television show—once a reality star, always a reality star.  If there is not a camera to document their existence then they are left with a crippling sense of loneliness, emptiness, and delusions of importance.

Lip Schitz:  Thomas, you need to take a step back and look at what you have.  You are young and still have a lifetime to make whatever it is that you want of yourself.  Do not let your past define your future.  Depression is simply an illusion of circumstances, as is the “character” you feel has been created in place of your identity.

Tommy Pickles:  It is too late for me Doc.  My character follows me wherever I go.  It hunts me.  It haunts me. It chases me like a fire-breathing dragon named Reptar, except the grave consequences of life cannot be summarized into 15 minute parables like they can on Rugrats.  Maybe I am ungrateful, and perhaps we are all just actors in a play called Life!, waiting for the right casting call to help us achieve temporary happiness….I just wish I were given the chance to choose my character.

Dr. Lip Schitz: Who are you?

Tommy Pickles: Nothing more than an idea Doc…as fictional as the reality in front of me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

7 Facebook Personas We Could All Do Without

Facebook Personas
Facebook does not operate with the same social norms of face to face human interaction.  Thus parasitic personas have risen to the surface that six years ago would have been stifled by simply saying "Larry, are you seriously expressing your emotions in Coldplay lyrics right now?" or "Devon--if you hi-five yourself one more time after making a joke I'm going to break your hand off".  

This is the world we live in....

1) The guy who likes his own status.

This type of guy is subtly the most irritating persona on the web.  Liking your own status is like wearing a t-shirt for your own band.  Of course, you like your own status—otherwise you would not have posted it!  However, this does not mean that you should give yourself a thumbs-up like an ass clown.  Look, my dog can lick her own privates but I still look her right in the eyes when I catch her doing this and say “a bit indulgent, don’t you think?” 

2) BFF’s (who love to advertise their best friendship)

This persona is the joint effort of two people who, throughout the day, write on each other’s walls.  These people clutter and dumb down news feeds with the sustained fury of a caffeinated Rush Limbaugh.  The content of their posts range from inspirational memes, to ludicrous spring break plans—which usually leads to one friend declaring to the other: “we need to have a SKYPE DATE to discuss the plans and quotes I posted on your wall earlier!!!!”  90% of the time these two people are roommates and could have had the exact same conversation in person, in a matter of minutes…but where is the social validation in that?

3) The Guy who inexplicably posts rap lyrics 

I could be wrong, but I am willing to guess this guy has never sold drugs or broken a hundred dollar bill on anything besides a pack of skittles.  Likewise, I doubt they will ever develop enough respect to be deserving of being referred to in the Spanish formal tense.  These dudes usually have girlfriends and yet their posts consistently refer to woman negatively.  As long as the message is delivered under the guise of a rap lyric—all is well.

4) The Political Pusher
Politics should only be discussed—with any type of intensity—after a couple of beverages.  This type of person constantly jams up the news feed with articles from obscure publications and quotes from their favorite presidents (only on slow news days).  Usually they end their posts with some sort of call to action like “Get out and Vote!” or “What are you doing about reducing your carbon footprint?????”

5) The obsessive/aggressive sports fan
Everyone has a friend like this.  They are not fun to watch the game with in person, but it is entertaining to watch them chronicle their aggression on the social airwaves.  If the Packers are playing, they will post after every offensive play that progresses over 6 yards. “Niccce cut Ryan Grant”.  The support is kosher but this type of person will flip on a moments notice as soon as someone drops a pass or the ref blows a call (so really anything that negatively effects his team’s efforts). “Roughing the passer Are you f*cking kidding me? The NFL is for p*ssies.”

6) The guy/girl who posts song lyrics to describe their mood

The difference between the rap lyric poster and this type of persona is that the lyrics are actually applicable to a person’s current state.  That does not, however, make them any less annoying.  As a rule of thumb I try to avoid referencing Ke$ha when summing up my struggles with the opposite sex—and John Mayer for that matter.   

7) The asshole that is always trying to get you to read his blog

This person might actually be the worst type of person on the web.  They are generally arrogant and misguided.  Their ego is artificially swollen into believing that anybody would want to read their take on anything.  Where was their authority derived from?  Where do they get off thinking that anyone would actually want to read their take on something like credit cards, or Facebook personas? Fuck this person.  :) 

Thanks for reading ;)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wake up Mr. West--I have a problem

Whenever I run on a track, I make sure that Kanye is there to narrate my attempt at physical fitness.  A movie montage breaks out in my head with the song “Last Call” playing in the background.  The camera angle cuts back and forth from the first person perspective to a side view of my stride.  A feeling of invincibility rushes over me as the song builds up to the chorus.  Everyone in the gym starts to feel my heart rate increasing, the burning in my gluts, and even the bittersweet irritation of my nipples chaffing against my cotton t-shirt.  A sizeable crowd begins to mount behind me as they cheer me on to a successful workout.  It is almost as if everybody is listening to the exact same song I am at the exact same time.  And we all have this incremental boost in our swagger, which materializes into running that much faster. It takes every ounce of my self-restraint to not yell out “Mayonnaise colored Benz—I push miracle whips!” as I finish mile one.
I am a self-diagnosed Kanye-A-Holic.  If I go longer than four hours without hearing a song off the College Dropout album I get the shakes.  But like a heroin addict who can get by on xanax until their dealer comes thru, I am able to settle for a crappy synthetic radio jam like 808 and Heart Break in a pinch.  I often find myself trying to parallel his lyrics in conversations ranging from the meaning of life to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The question is why?  I do not have the slightest idea what its like to stunt on a jumbo-tron, or to be the owner of a 20,000 dollar Jesus piece, or to have bi-weekly brunches with Jay-z and Beyonce….but by god I would love to. 
Music panders to every emotion imaginable and when an artist pours his soul into a rhythmic, cathartic release, it is beautiful.  The beauty of any art is this: we continuously harbor painful/triumphant memories, and the crippling self-awareness of our shortcomings and vulnerabilities—that we need an escape from ourselves.  We become bored with the trite voice inside our heads so we live vicariously through someone else’s description of the human experience.  Sometimes we can directly relate with the message of the artist and other times we cannot, and yet we do not care.  The latter is exactly how I feel about Kanye West.  
Who else has the bravado to shit on america's
sweetheart? And still bounce back.
I cannot directly identify with what he is saying but I respect the way he carries himself.  He speaks with confidence, candor, and consistency.  Too often, I let social norms and the status quo dictate the person that I am but Kanye is not shackled by the rules of normalcy.  I suppose when you are rich, famous, and talented you can get away with just about anything but Kanye does this with an attitude and style unlike any other artist.  I wish I could go through life like Kayne but I would be perceived as cocky, arrogant, and thick headed.  But that desire is the empirical value of his music: he personifies a demeanor we wish we could all ostensibly present but instead we can only embody him internally, and by ironically imitating his lyrics at house parties or in the privacy of our vehicles.  His music describes the human experience through his eyes and its kind of romantic to try and imagine the lens with which he sees the world through, if only for a moment.
Art, in any capacity, has a lot of value to me because it’s a means of expression, escape, and it has an eerie way of unifying people.  For example, many people think that Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” accurately describes their romantic plight, just like their are those who believe daily horoscopes accurately describes the essence of their lives.  It’s a self fulfilling prophecy in the belief that “we are never alone”.  Social interaction is driven by the fear of loneliness and the silence that is associated with it.  Music solves both of these problems because fans connect with other fans and thus are not alone as the music fills the silence.   
The perfect example of this is of course concerts.  Concerts alter our moods, inhibitions, and confidence. We have a chance to be around people who all came to see the same person purge their emotions into a symphony of theatrics.  There is something rather comforting about having at least one thing in common with thousands of people in a single area.  This comfort allows you to relax, release, and enjoy.  I specifically remember my knees bending in ways that they never have before while listening to the sweet live guitar rift of Blink 182’s “What’s my age again”.  Similarly, the first and last cartwheel I ever did in my life was when I heard the live sax-a-phone solo in Dave Matthew’s song “The Warehouse”.  I was hardly myself and I never felt better.  
I suppose as a white male I can identify with somebody like Dave Matthews or Blink 182 more than Kanye but they do not evoke nearly as much emotion out of me.  I don’t even want to know how I would act if I ever got the chance to attend a Kanye concert but my guess is I would have a hard time reverting back to reality after having my swag gland artificially stimulated for two straight hours.  Music is so important because it gives you a chance to either affirm your reality with a new perspective or temporarily escape it, while simultaneously connecting with both the artist and the people around you.

I bought my whole family whips, no volvo's

Next time I'm in Church please no photos,
Police escorts, everybody passports,

This the life that everybody ask for

Sorry, that was the last Kanye reference --Watch the throne while I am in Kanye Rehab.   The cure? Two hours of Jason Aldean’s Pandora station followed by one hour of Garth Brooks, followed by Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” played continuously until I stop referring to myself as Ye’.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cruise-Ships & The Banality of Relation-ships

Cut to a setting at a coffee shop near the Miami coast.  The weather is gorgeous, the crop of people trekking thru the area are youthful, determined, and ignorantly oblivious. 

Gerald: (sets down his chi latte) Yo! buddy its good to have you back in God’s country.  How was the Caribbean cruise? Tell me everything.  What was the spread like?  Did you meet the indigenous people of Disney Island?

(takes a deep breath and stares off into the horizon) Gerald, you have no idea what I have just been through.  In the weeks leading up to the cruise I found myself loathing the very thought of it.  My preconceived notion of cruises was based on that one Cuba Gooding Jr. movie where he mistakenly boards a gay singles cruise. I thought the boat was going to be littered with overweight tourists who wanted nothing more than to eat buffet food, drink to excess, and tan their pasty white complexions into a lobster tail red.

Sounds like heaven, what chu bitch’n about?

That’s just it man, I thought I was going to hate it but it was heaven.  It may have been the greatest week of my life….until I arrived at the realization that it was all an illusion.  Cruise ships are like being in a relationship. 

Gerald: How is cutting through the Caribbean on a 80,000 square foot vessel that has an Old Country Buffet every 10 feet like being in a relationship?

Think about any girl that you’ve ever dated in your life.  When you are getting busy the excitement stems from the unknown.  What is she going to do next? Whoaa was that her tongue nearing my ahhh…is she really going to let me hit it from behind?
But it doesn’t have to be sexual, maybe she blows your mind intellectually or emotionally in a way a girl never has before.  It’s the honeymoon phase, you know? She can’t do anything wrong because it’s all new.  You want to explore every inch of her body, every fold in her brain.  You cannot get enough.

            The first day on the cruise ship was just like the euphoric feeling of being with a new woman.  The cruise staff greeted me with a pineapple cocktail the second I walked on the ship.  I didn’t even need to pay cash, they just asked for my room number.  I felt compelled to explore every crevice of the ship initially but I got caught up at the self-service ice cream machine that was located on the ships upper deck.  I grabbed my cone and dipped my toes into the wading the pool while the multi-cultural staff tended to my every need.  I have never been so happy in my life.  The breakfast buffet, in particular was like nothing I had ever seen before.  The lox were fresh, the bagels were soft, and they even had bacon wrapped honeydew topped with a sliver of brie.  Bacon wrapped honeydew with a sliver of fucking brie!  Can you imagine? Every corner that I turned there was something new and exciting. Bacon wrapped honeydew is to the cruise ship what stand up 69-ing is to a relationship—an unbelievable perk.

Gerald: You’ve seriously dated a girl who doesn’t let you hit it while stand-up 69-ing?

Arnold: It’s a metaphor you jackass…keep up.  The honeymoon stage went on for a couple of days and things just kept getting better.  You know the little things.  It’s the way the wait staff fluffed my pillows every morning.  It’s the way they made sure there were fresh towels in my cabin at precisely 9:30 am.  It’s the way they looked at me sincerely every time I passed them in the hall and said “how are you today sir”.

I had dinner every night at 5:30 at one of the five premium restaurants on the ship.  The same wait staff would rotate each night to the restaurant that I was eating at so they began to get to know me.  Well, not the “real me” but rather, how I like my steak done and the fact that I prefer desserts filled with chocolate vs. fruit.  The little things add up and I had a growing sense that these people cared about me. Then I instantly grew bored with them.  At that moment, I realized that there was nothing left to discover.  The cruise staff spoiled me rotten and I found myself growing progressively disgusted with the whole thing.  The only means of excitement left on the trip was when the boat docked for “day trips” on an island. But it was a controlled and contrived excitement because the cruise line planned everything that I did in advance.  Part of me was turned off by this contrivance, but the other part liked the comfort of not having to make decisions for myself.

The boat stopped at a total of three islands and I did the exact same thing at each: para-sailed, went to the gift shop (strategically placed close to the harbor) to purchase a neon cutoff t-shirt that said something like “I was here: Key West 2012!” and a post card to send back to my friends as proof of my vacation….before B-lining back to my place of comfort—the boat. Sadly I went to three exotic Caribbean islands and all I have to show for it is six fucking neon t-shirts and a half smoked faux Cuban cigar.  At the time, I saw no purpose in venturing any further than that because I just wanted to get back to the boat where people knew how I liked my steak!

Gerald:  Thanks for sending me a post card asshole….

Arnold: By the fourth day, I had sampled nearly every drink on the menu and I had devoured every type of cuisine.  In order to keep things interesting I began to test the limits of the wait staff’s hospitality.  The more I pushed the more accommodating they were and the more frustrated and bored I became with the whole thing.  I ordered 4 cheeseburgers with 2 sides of fries from room service at 4:30 in the morning and the food arrived 20 minutes later.  I didn’t even eat it. I just let it rot on my desk in front of the vanity mirror for the wait staff to clean up in the morning.  I wanted someone to express some real emotion to me. Discontent, jealousy, frustration, anything!  But they didn’t…they took everything in stride with a smile on their face.
Every night at dusk I would go down to the boat’s 3rd floor deck to run laps.  As I circled the boat I became infatuated with how beautiful the horizon looked and how deeply blue the water was.  However, the infatuation soon faded into lust and romantic fantasies about leaving the boat behind.  I just wanted to get into one of the rescue boats and trek off into the horizon but where would I even go—there was no land in sight.  Who would I even be without the comfort of the cruise?
Gerald:  So you are saying that your identity entered a temporary state of paralysis while you were on the cruise?

Arnold: Exactly, a cruise ship is like a pressure cooker for simulating the stages of every relationship. At first, everything is exciting and euphoric.  After the excitement fades away, the basis for the relationship becomes the established comfort zone.  Exclusive relationships exist solely because they are efficient, easy, and predictable.  It’s much more efficient to spend time finding one person who embraces your strengths, hobbies, aspirations, and overlooks your faults, than it is to convince multiple people that your life has some sort of value. You use this comfort zone as a crutch to avoid any scenario that threatens your perceived well-being and in the process your individual identity is compromised.  The identity of you and your significant other begin to meld into one indistinguishable, interdependent being.  Suddenly you find yourself only associating and socializing with other people who are also in relationships, thus eliminating the possibility of ever lusting for someone or something else.  This leads to complacency.  When you feel completely satisfied with who you are in terms of someone else, it’s easy to abuse the relationship, either consciously or subconsciously.  That’s the precise point that a relationship begins to erode—when you know someone too well to the point that you exploit them.  The longer you rely on the comfort of someone else, the more difficult it becomes to reenter society as an individual. When you are locked into a long-term relationship life becomes a calculated set of destinations, rather than an aimless, yet, organic journey of finding yourself.
On the last day of the cruise, I awoke and went down to the accounts payable office to settle my outstanding bill.  I left the wait staff a generous tip for their service over the last week.  After that, I headed towards the breakfast buffet one last time before docking on land.  As I approached the buffet, I was astonished to see that the bacon and honeydew were in separate trays.  Why are they not wrapped around one another?  And where the hell was the brie!??? The wait staff had already been tipped out, what was their incentive to impress me? Their hospitality was an illusion, their sincerity was an illusion, the whole goddamn cruise was an illusion that I grew to depend on over a week.   Although at times I tested their affection just to keep myself entertained, having the option of neglecting someone is more appealing than having no one who cares enough to let you neglect them.  The second they stopped caring, I realized just how much that week meant to me--even if it was an illusion.  With them, I was a needy, selfish human, and without them, I was a lost, torched soul who did not know where to turn.

Gerald: So, much like a woman, the wait staff neglected you after your perceived value had diminished.  You have been back in America, on solid ground for three days now …how are you holding up?

(Staring off towards the Caribbean Sea) I would kill for some bacon wrapped honeydew with a sliver of brie wedged in between…

Gerald: Wait.... are you talking about the food? The standup 69-ing? A woman? The cruise wait staff????

Arnold: Its a metaphor Gerald, life is one big metaphor....