Instruments of destruction/ Tools of foul play/ It’s a vile interruption/ Existence drifts away; or “Oh shit, what are we gonna do now!?”

On August 10, 1986, I saw Transformers: The Movie. It immediately had an impact, but over the years, judging from its position in pop culture, I think it was a more profound experience than what I remember. Here is my brief recollection.

tftm1986c

During the last week of July and the first week of August of 1986, I found myself in Florida. It was a family vacation. I was nine. I was really into certain cartoons, television shows, movies, video games, etc. Now, of course, at this age, most kids are probably into this kind of stuff, but when I say I was really into things, I was REALLY into things. If I’m into something, it’s never casual. I really try to know as much as I can about whatever it may be. This has been by M.O. ever since I can remember. Anyway, enough of this shit.

The trip took us from the Atlantic coast (to some goddamn real estate pyramid scheme thing — more on this later) to Orlando (gee, I wonder why) and, finally, to the Gulf coast. Overall, the trip was memorable. My family is pretty fucked up, but in a good way. I hear so many people say this about their families. Then, after meeting these proclaimed crazy-ass, eccentric families, I’m completely disappointed; they always come across as fairly bland and not funny in the least, much like a family that would be in one of those goddamn fake documentary sitcoms. Lame. People tend to think they are more odd, strange, and fucked up than they really are. It kind of pisses me off. Okay, once again, enough of this shit. Let’s get back on track.

We got two free nights in a hotel if my parents attended some conference about buying real estate and investing in some company. My mom and dad’s combined income was probably around $30,000 per year. They didn’t play the goddamned stock market, and they sure as hell didn’t have enough to buy a fuckin’ condo. It was a total scam anyway. My parents went to the meeting, and we got the two nights in the hotel. They weren’t falling for this shit. The Atlantic side, in my opinion, sucked. I wasn’t feeling it, and moreover,  my mind was definitely on other things to come.

The next stop was Orlando. We did the Disney World thing. I remember it as being kind of fun, but I thought the amusement parks we had back in Ohio — Cedar Point and King’s Island — were superior (way better rides). Disney World had far too many cheesy performances from various high school kids across the county. Other than the parents of those involved, no one gave a shit about any of this, and there was way too much of it. I did leave the park with a Randotti skull, so that was something. However, once again, I was preoccupied and was not fully enjoying the moment (fuck, who am I kidding — preoccupied or not, I’ve never been able to be in the moment).

The Gulf side was far better than the Atlantic. The water seemed cleaner. It was less crowded, more relaxed/laid back, and, at least, during the mid ‘80s, seemingly more working class. As a family, it was a better fit for us. We somehow got a good deal renting this hotel room that was much larger than my current apartment. A private beach was just yards away. Long walks admiring aquatic wildlife were taken, elaborate sand structures were built, blue crabs were caught, stingrays were almost stepped on, and my dad’s swimming trunks split in half and flew off into the abyss while on one those high-speed waterslides, leaving him entirely nude at some waterpark near Tampa. I enjoyed this part of the trip more than the other two, but I still couldn’t wait to get back home. Why?

Yes, that’s right. On August 8th, Transformers: The Movie was going to be released. For some reason, I was worried I was not going to be able to see it if we didn’t make it back home by that date (like they didn’t have movie theaters in Florida). I don’t understand why I thought this, but I did. My theory is, up until that point, the only movie theater I ever been to was the Wheelersburg Cinema, so for some sort of psychological comfort or something, I needed to see it there. I kept on reminding both parents that we needed to get back home. They told me not to worry. We were going to be leaving and would be back home on the 9th. In my head, I was all “fuck you, that’s not opening night” but outwardly I was all “then, we are seeing it Sunday, right?” I was assured that Sunday would be the day. I was far more excited to see this film than going to Disney World.

The trip back home was met with all kinds of complications. I-75 near Atlanta was congested and took about two hours to get through. My brother had to piss, but there were no exits for miles; he pissed into a large empty Wendy’s cup, overfilling it and causing a mess. We stayed at a motel in Cleveland, TN that had bloodstains on the sheets, and I think a human turd was found under the bed. The next day there was a three-hour delay just miles into Kentucky from Tennessee. Once returning to Ohio, I went directly to bed. Tomorrow needed to come as soon as possible.

The next morning, my parents, my brother, the neighbor kid, and myself were off to see a matinee. We weren’t a religious family, so Sundays were almost always reserved for going to the theater. Sunday mornings also seemed to be the only time my parents had the same time off of work. Anyway, I can’t recall if this was the one o’clock or three o’clock showing. I’m fairly certain it was the one o’clock screening. Why is this important? It isn’t. Not at all. Fuck it.

My brother and the neighbor kid were not into The Transformers as much as I was. They were casuals and — for the lack of a better term — normal about this kind of shit. Both of them didn’t seem to get into anything with the same fervor that I did. (Looking back, I don’t think they gave a fuck about seeing it at all.) We got our tickets. My parents went to see Top Gun, which had been playing at this theater since May. I swear that Top Gun’s run at the Wheelersburg Cinema may have been a record holder. Our screens were on the opposite sides of the theater; we parted ways.

For the next hour and a half, my mind was blown. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I just saw. It fucked me up good and proper. Death was suddenly in the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t like I never thought about before, but this forced me to think about it. Before I go there, however, I’m going to discuss some other things (it will be brief — I just don’t have the time to write these things like I used to).

The movie took chances that I don’t ever think will happen again for an IP aimed at children. Let’s start with the music; none of it was recognizable. They didn’t use any of the orchestral pieces heard in the television show. Instead, we got a bunch metal songs, two Stan Bush songs, a “Weird Al” song, and a great prog rock score from Vince DiCola. Not what I was expecting. Other than the metal version of the theme song, there wasn’t a single note that was familiar. Pretty bold.

Another thing I noticed was the quality of animation was definitely a step above the show. There were some scenes that really stood out. For example, the opening scene where Unicorn devours the planet. That looked good. Really good. However, it seemed like they were running out of money and time toward the end of the film. Some of that looked bad. Really bad. That said, I’ve always thought the G1 designs were the best. I still do.  Also, I miss hand-drawn animation so fuckin’ bad.

The voice performances were also a step above the series, particularly on the Decepticon side. Frank Welker plays Megatron as a genuine threat, a force to be reckoned with. Chris Latta gives us the definitive Starscream. Leonard Nimoy was also very good as Galvatron. These performances were definitely aided by some good writing.  I felt that was the film’s secret weapon.

The screenplay was scary good, and I’ll argue this with anyone. Ron Friedman — I believe he currently teaches screenwriting somewhere in California — wrote the script. It’s so tight. Seriously, there’s no filler. It keeps moving at a satisfying pace, hitting all of the story beats with accurate precision. If you want to learn the three-act structure of screenwriting, I think this is one of the best examples (the other being Robocop).

The movie is so bleak for a children’s film. They could have easily kept the old characters alive and simply shifted focus to the new ones, but no, they killed them off — almost all of them. The first death that really hurt was when I saw Wheeljack’s dead body for a second of two. Here was a major character that didn’t even get a death scene. He was just dead. Pretty ballsy. Again, to have death and grieving as a main theme of a children’s film in such an unapologetic way was just crazy.

The Prime/Megatron fight was handled very well. The scene really felt urgent and tense; there was a lot at stake. Having Megatron essentially win the fight by cheating was such a nice touch. It was true to the character. Also, seeing the Deceptions regroup after the fight was also great. Never unified, various loyalties begin to reach their tipping points. When Megatron begs Soundwave not to leave him, that was gold. The subsequent scene as Soundwave carries Megatron’s severely wounded body with Rumble close behind, struggling to carry Megatron’s fusion cannon was quite touching and an animation cel that I would love to own.

optimus-prime-vs-megatron-hd-transformers-the-movie-1986-youtube-19

The television spots foreshadowed Prime’s death, but I just thought it was marketing. There’s no way they would kill off Prime. Boy, was I fucking wrong? There has been a lot of good articles written about this, so I’m not going to go into it much. Instead of analyzing the scene, I’m going to be blunt and to the point: it fucked me up.  I was not alone.  Optimus Prime was a father figure for millions of kids (and no, this is not an exaggeration — just perform a Google search on the topic). Ultimately, though, the death of Optimus Prime had some positive effects. It put me in touch with the darker side of existence and helped me prepare and cope with every form of death.

About year and half later, in December of ’87, at age ten, I had a complete breakdown — a little young for such a thing. I can’t say for certain, but I think Transformers: The Movie may have had something to do with it. If it did, I’m all the better for it. It prepared me for the hard realities of things yet to come and shaped my taste in art and pop culture.  For example, in ’88, I saw Robocop for the first time, shortly followed by Taxi Driver. The darker the subject matter, the more I liked it. This continued throughout my life. As a teenager, I always thought of myself as a living, breathing Nine Inch Nails’ song (fuck, I still think of myself as this). As an adult, I live in a constant state of disappointment — a disappointment, not only concerning myself, but with the world in general. I don’t read, watch, play, or listen to things to escape real life; instead, I engage in those things hoping to learn something about real life. Even in my fantasy, I prefer a healthy dose of horribly reality.  I just can’t escape that.

I suppose the most important thing about the film is that it didn’t sugarcoat things.   People die and you have to deal with it.  My fictional dad died August 8, 1986. I wasn’t prepared for it. If fucked me up. My real dad died June 4, 1992. I was prepared for it. It fucked me up less. My grandmother (dad’s mom) died on November 29, 1985. She was arrogant, boring, creepy, shitty, bossy, sucky, actually just list every negative adjective in the English language and call it a day. It didn’t fuck me up all. I didn’t give a shit. See, I’m pretty dark, right? But, seriously, that death meant nothing to me. A cartoon robot meant more to me than my own grandmother. If that makes me a terrible human being, I’ll own it.

2598cb5979464d266cfb515b76c024a1

 


Galvatron Costume; or It Could Have and Should Have Been Better (I’ll Be Modifying in Prep for Next Year)

Galvatroncos1galv2galvful - Version 2


Self-awareness is an Asshole; or I Can Feel Myself Rot

Part I: Bugs, Blood, and Jack Klugman; or Potentially Dying Can Really Wreck a Person’s T.V. Watchin’ Schedule

The year was 1982.  I was five years old.  Brood V was emerging from the ground.  I was fascinated by this occurrence.  It left quite an impression, and even though it only lasted—at most—six weeks, because I truly lacked any knowledge and concept of time, it felt like it lasted for years.  I think about it to this day: their tymbals producing a never-ending song that quite possibly caused some of my hearing loss, the sheer sight of what seemed to be hundreds of them visible at any given time, the feeling of having one land on your bare skin, and, upon gazing down to your arm to verify the sensation as being one them, losing yourself in those beautiful, but frightening red eyes.  Yes, the cicadas were an event for me.  I loved every second of it.  Their short visit back in ’82 remains one of my most vivid and cherished childhood memories—one that’s been on a constant loop in my head ever since.

However, while an early and beloved memory, it was not my even close to my first one.  My first memory is being rushed to the emergency room in Pink Panther pajamas while presumably bleeding to death from a cut on my head, resulting from an argument with my dad about where I could hang a picture of a rabbit I had drawn (my clever idea was to hang it on the television screen since I knew it would always be seen there … you can see why this was causing problems).  While arguing, I got so mad, lost my balance, fell, and sliced my head open on an unusually sharp corner of a normally placed nightstand.  The next thing I knew, I was in a speeding car.  My brother was in the backseat, crying.  My mom was driving, running every stop sign and red light.  My dad was holding me in his arms, using a beach towel to put pressure on the wound and was constantly talking to me, making certain I was still conscious.  Me, I was profusely bleeding and scared shitless.  Like the cicadas, this is also on a constant loop in my head.

No, I’m not Dustin Hoffman. I’m motherfuckin’ Quincy, motherfucker.

What a shitty first memory … it was rather traumatic and probably explains why I can’t stand the sight of blood and become uncomfortable even discussing anything related to it (I have a strange reaction that causes me to bite my wrists whenever the topic comes up).  It may also even give an insight into my personality and outlook on life, which predominantly features hopelessness, despair, anxiety, and meaninglessness as its bedrock tenets.  (If the first thing you remember is being injured and afraid that you’re going to die, let’s see how you would do.)  It was a truly frightening and terrible event, yet I think of this one much more than my wonderfully pleasant and purely magical cicada memory.  I believe that we tend to remember the “bad” rather than the “good”; in fact, it’s been proven.  For me, however, the worst part of it was not almost dying, but the guilt I felt (and still experience) that the incident made my mom miss an episode of Quincy M.E.; she fuckin’ loved that show.

Part II: Let’s Actually Go Outside, Take Risks, and Live Our Fuckin’ Lives; or I Was a Bad Ass (When I Was Four)

Actually, I smell worse than a butthole. Smell me, I dare you.

Traumatic, near-death experience in my very early years aside, for the most part, when I was younger, I was fearless and confident that I would not be hurt in any way.  I would touch and handle everything I came across, everything I encountered.  Anytime I saw an insect, a snake, or a spider, it made it’s into my hands and up to my nose.  Yes, my nose.  I don’t know why, but I loved to discover what things smelled like.  (Lightning bugs and daddy longlegs [harvestmen] smell like fuckin’ butthole, by the way.  Really, thinking about their odors is making me gag as I write this.  It’s some foul shit.)

I wasn’t alone in my courage.  My brother and I used to catch bees with our bare hands, placing them in jars for closer examination.  We would throw balls at hornets’ nests and see who would be the last one of us that would run away from the angry swarm.  We would hunt for snakes, hoping to stumble across a rattlesnake or a copperhead; we wanted things to be dangerous and exciting.

Sometimes, it got really fucking dangerous and exciting.  We used to do shit that I wouldn’t even dream of doing now.  After a heavy rain, we would take one of those plastic wading pools (that, after a few days, would always turn into some sort of southern Ohio summer stew, made up of the following ingredients: freshly cut blades of grass, bumble bees, mosquitoes, Japanese beetles, and an occasional garter or ring-necked snake), bring it down to the rain-swollen creek behind our house, and use it to ride the rapids caused by flash flooding.  Very dangerous.  Very exciting.  Very fun.

Too young for danger and adventure? Not quite. Around this age, I recall doing anything I could to make it into kitchen cabinets that where either too high or forbidden. I would rearrange everything and even used my brother as a step stool. The payoff was typically disappointing. For example, I spent an hour trying to get some nasty-ass Hershey’s baking cocoa. What a fucking disappointment! However, there was one time I scored some matches … now, that was a good day.

Here we are at launch. This was a light rain and was not considered dangerous, which is why there is even a parent-taken photo of the event. We used to do this during flash flood warnings and while it was still storming (lightning was not going to stop us, you lame fucks); of course, this was when mom and dad were both at work.  There’s a story about one time in particular, but that’s a whole other post.

It was fucking fun, man! Look at us. You can tell we were loving it.  Now, everything blows.

Another time, while driving home from the grocery store, my brother spotted this breathtaking ice formation that was about four miles (when you’re eight and six years of age, that’s a long distance) west of our house.  We went on this long trek only armed with a camera to find and photograph this beautiful ice formation, starting with the icy creek behind our house (that fuckin’ creek got used) and using only other frozen streams we stumbled upon along the way to guide us; we had no knowledge as to how deep the water actually was or if the ice was even safe for travel, but that wouldn’t have stopped us … we didn’t care.  We were going to do what we wanted to do.  The adventure and risk of the journey were the only things occupying our minds.  We had a goal, a destination, a purpose.  We encountered many problems along the way, had scary moments, but, fuck man, we felt alive.  We had to see this fuckin’ thing before it melted.  We did.  It was well worth it.

Slush Puppie is fun in a cup (especially if filled with gasoline)!

Like all kids, we would play with fire, but I think we were a bit more extreme than the average kids.  We took it seriously; it was like a job, one that we really fuckin’ loved.  I remember on several occasions sneaking around to obtain a medium Slush Puppie cup full of kerosene or, even better, the highly coveted gasoline (as a kid, having any amount of gasoline was the equivalent of having a million bucks as an adult).  One of our experiments with gasoline ended with setting the small grove of pine trees next to our house on fire, almost catching it on fire as well.  Mom and dad worked hard putting out that fire.  They threatened to get the fire department involved, but my brother and I were very aware that doing so would get them in trouble: “Why the fuck were your kids playing with gasoline?”  We knew we were safe, but would have to endure a heated lecture about the dangers of fucking with things that shouldn’t be fucked with (it worked—we didn’t mess gasoline after that).  However, matches, knives, power saws, electric drills, fireworks, log splitters, vice grips, kerosene (hey, it’s not gasoline), and various household chemicals were still going to be fucked with … and fucked with often.  Basically, our behavior didn’t change.

For instance, there was something supremely invigorating about shooting bottle rockets at each other, which, somehow, became a family tradition for several years every Fourth of July.  My brother took it seriously and built this bottle-rocket-launching device that backfired and caught his neon pink, nylon shorts on fire, melting pieces of those shorts onto his skin.  He didn’t stop, drop, and roll.  Instead, he ran as fast as he could into the house, only making it worse.  (I don’t remember how the fire was put out; I’ll have to ask him, but I do remember him soaking in the tub for hours.)  You would think going through something like that would put an end to reckless behavior, but, just a couple of weeks later, he mixed some bleach and ammonia together; we had to air the house out for a month.  Mom and dad were really pissed about that one, more so than the potential house fire.

Our precarious nature spread throughout our neighborhood, which, since we lived in rural area where houses are yards apart, the “neighborhood” consisted of only one other  kid.   Without any effort, the three of us would always think of the most potentially deadly way to spend time.  It was amazing how many dangerous-ass things there were to do.  We would ramp our bikes off of natural formations that led to rocky ravines and, sometimes, places were people would dump garbage (the neighbor kid fucked himself good and proper on this one).  We built unsafe ramps out of whatever jagged, sharp, rusty, or rotten materials we could find.  After we got bored with that, we would set up a Slip ‘n Slide that emptied out into a creek that was full of garbage and human waste, which resulted in a lot of cuts, busted heads, and strange infections.  Man, we were fucked-up, brave little shits.

However, my brother was clearly more of a thrill-seeker than any of us.  Yes, all three of us did some stupid shit, but I always felt my brother always turned it up to eleven, took things to the nth degree.  One time, he decided to have what he called a “feast” that was composed of only wildlife and other “things” he found in the same garbage and human waste invested creek mentioned above.  He would catch crawdads (crayfish), gather up some algae and fungus found alongside the creek bed, and used the refreshing water from this highly polluted creek to wash it all down.  To be fair, while he did fry up the crawdads and arranged the meal on a rock that was used as a plate, as if it were for some uppity fine dining establishment, he didn’t actually eat it, but he did drink a toy teacup full of that fucking dirty-ass water.  The next day, he was hospitalized with a viral infection that almost killed him.

We lived dangerously back then.  Sometimes, I think the reason I never got into drugs or any kind of reckless behavior as an adult or teenager was because I got it out of my system at such a young age.  Now, I’m so fucking boring that the biggest thrill for me is trying a new kind of soap or masturbating on my side and not on my back.

Anyway, things have changed.  Now, I don’t even pick up things that I should pick up and inspect: laundry, garbage, and old fruit (I just bite into it without thinking).  Now, I’m full of fear and doubt … about everything, not just what I’m currently smelling.  The sight of a spider leaves me paralyzed.  Stinging insects make me leave any room I happen to be occupying with them at the same time.  However, this is normal, right?  We have to realize that world is mostly a dangerous and cruel place. Most things are out to hurt us or, at least, fuck with us a little.  You have to realize that worst thing that could happen is probably what will happen.  As you age and gain knowledge, you should become fearful of all kinds of shit and not be so certain about your own opinions, or delusions.

Part III: Shit Ain’t Working Out; or ALF, Keep Watch and Let Me Know if Someone is Coming

Recently, I turned thirty-five.  It’s surreal to me to think that I’ve been alive for as long as I have.  Like I alluded to earlier, when you don’t understand the concept of how we measure time, it seems non-existent, passing by so slowly that every day seems like an eternity, but, once the concept is understood (which sadly happens far too early for most of us), time, for whatever reason, passes by all too quickly.  For example, when Brood V emerged from the ground in 1982, I thought they were around forever.  When they emerged in 1999, it was a blur, over in a day.

America caters to teens. Adults are to blame.

I can’t believe I’m at the start of being officially middle-aged, part of a new demographic that is no longer as relevant to advertisers or represented much in pop culture, and since we live in such a youth-based, media-saturated, consumer-driven society, my relationship with the outside world and my place in it is starting to fade.  In other words, once advertisers decide that you are no longer their target market, you don’t exist; your media representation is reduced to being background characters in shitty sitcoms.  The greatest tragedy, however, is not the end of the advertising media inflating your importance to the world and everything in it.  Instead, it’s when you start to notice your contemporaries changing their tastes about what they find “cool” or “funny,” basically embracing things that they should, by this time, be media savvy enough to know “suck,” unknowingly or knowingly becoming the same stupid fucks they were criticizing in their late teens to mid-twenties.  When people who used to listen to Nine Inch Nails start diggin’ LMFAO, when people who used to be radical in their political beliefs think Obama best represents what passes as “left” in this country, when people who used to be caustic, brutal, and edgy in regards to their humor just over a decade ago laugh out loud while watching How I Met Your Mother, you know something has gone terribly fucking wrong; it’s fuckin’ over.  It’s like they have moved backward, not forward.

I don’t get it.  I thought that as you go through life and gain all kinds of knowledge on a variety of topics and are faced with harsh realities of just trying to exist, the natural result would to become darker, sharper, smarter, and demand a certain amount of realism and insight in just about everything that you read, watch, and listen to … your entertainment should be just as smart and fucked-up as you are, as the world is.  Instead, people seem to have gone soft, have become easily offended, and some even still believe things are going to be okay, reverting to some sort of childlike, idealistic state of thinking (I don’t blame them, but the denial of reality and the desire to always want to escape can’t, in the long run, be a good thing).   I think it’s kind of sick and pathological.  You should know better.  You’re too old to buy into such bullshit.  They seem to like things that paint life as one big delusional party of never-ending happiness and not the  poverty-striken, hopeless, sad parade that it really is.

Life is fast, expensive, and redundant.  Aging, just like everything in life, kind of blows.  It seems like it was only yesterday that I was sitting on the toilet, yelling for my mom to come wipe me.  However, it’s not necessarily the aging process itself that bothers me.  It’s the years I’ve spent believing that I’ve been moving toward something worthwhile only to realize that I’ve been treading water, running in place, and tilting at windmills.  I have been paralyzed and have not been able to make any progress.  I am stuck with no directions or map to any destinations I actually care to visit.  I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of years preparing for something that’s never going to happen.  While I know that’s vague, I think you get what I’m trying to say, and many of you probably feel the same way.  I thought life was going to be different, maybe even exciting.   Instead, for me, life has just been a series of things that I don’t really want to do, but have to do in order to survive in the same life that is just a series of things that I don’t really want to do.  It’s a shitty circle of futility.  Yeah, once reaching an adult age, you have moments of joy and happiness, but seriously, are they worth it?  No … not really.  People, all the time, state that these moments are worth it beyond question or debate, but shut up.  You’re all lying to yourselves.  Years of pain for a few moments of joy.  Not cool, man … not cool.

It’s no secret that I’m miserable, but I always wasn’t this way.  It started around eighteen or nineteen—that’s when I first started to realize that just about everything I have been told by just about everyone was a complete and total lie.  I realized that I wasn’t as smart or talented as I’ve been led to believe.  I wasn’t able to be anything I wanted to be as long as worked at it, stayed focused, and believed in myself.  That was all bullshit.  Geography and economic class play a huge role in determining one’s life.  Also, how much are you willing to compromise your values and ethics is another big one.  Anyway, the last seventeen years have been spent trying to reconcile the lies of my first eighteen.  It hasn’t been easy.  It has fucked me up pretty good.

Since this realization, I’ve been in a perpetual state of profound disappointment.  I tried to remedy this by focusing my thoughts more on issues pertaining to things other than myself.  I started reading a lot of non-fiction about the global economy and politics, which have always been an interest of mine.  At first, it was working.  My thoughts and energy were focused on other people and global problems that are affecting us all.  There’s a lot of horrible shit out there and it’s good to be informed.  Quickly, however, I realized that most of us are stuck with the lives that we have.  I’m not the only one that was told that I could do anything.  Moreover, I realized that this isn’t going to change.  The worst of us will always win.  Things are set up to keep things structured a certain way, and there’s nothing we can do about it, leaving most of us stuck living lives that we really don’t have much interest in living.  This isn’t hyperbole.  The (for the lack of a better word and for the sake of being purposely vague) bad people have won.  They always have, and they always will.

I think this “profound disappointment” would have been easier to take if I desired a more normal life, but I never wanted any that shit.  My biggest problem is that I was very ambitious and really naïve: a fucking terrible combination, a recipe for disaster.  Desiring things, situations, careers, and all kinds of other shit and not being able to obtain these “things” creates misery.  Now, I know this is nothing new; Buddhism has been around a long time and kind of nails this aspect of existence.  Desire is the cause misery and suffering.  These desires don’t even have to be lofty in nature either.  They can be simple things that are considered basic needs for survival.  If you’re hungry and you don’t have any food, you’re going to be pretty fuckin’ miserable.  If you desire to have success at something that you struggle with or have no talent in whatsoever, you’re going to be miserable.

Sometimes, I wish that I didn’t have any ambition at all.  If I didn’t, I would be a lot happier and my mental health wouldn’t be so shitty.  Instead, I had to have unattainable goals and shit.  I had to want things.  I had to be ambitious.  And most damaging, I had to believe things.  Belief in anything that exists only as ideas, comfort, and emotions is, in my opinion, fucking dangerous.  My problem is that I desired things that were out my reach, means, circumstance, and ability.  Knowing that you’re never going to do things that you really want to do and, even after having this realization that they are not attainable, still having a strong desires to achieve such things is a real asshole; therefore, as the title suggests, self-awareness is an asshole.  I wish that I could be satisfied with a seemingly normal life.  However, none of that traditional shit interests me that much, and I’ve even done some of it.

Now, I don’t think that I am special by any means.  Most of us wanted our lives to turn out differently than what they have, and most of us come to these realizations with minimal damage.  Also, from my experience, most people seem to be able to accept these disappointments much better than myself.  It’s killing me.  I feel like every decision I’ve made has been the wrong one, but I don’t think I’ve made any major mistakes.  My biggest mistake, which is something that I don’t have any control over (it has always just been there), is my desire for things that I can never have, and my complete lack of interest in what I consider the consolation prizes: a job that pays the bills, but you don’t really dig; a marriage you got into because … well, that’s what you are supposed to do; a family started by denying harsh economic realities because you really wanted babies and shit; and blah blah blah … you get what I’m trying to say.  Now, many people see some those aforementioned things as wonderful, life-affirming reasons for existence, but I’ve yet to meet anyone that seems like they are happier or are actually better than before settling into to these situations.  If anything, there have been a few people who seem even more and sad and defeated than me after taking these plunges, which is saying something.  However, there are other people who actually seem content, happy, and without a care in the world by settling into a traditional life.  I’m perplexed by it all.  Yes, I make fun of it and shit, but I don’t fault them for such things.  If it works for you, it works for you. It’s just that I don’t understand it.  It wouldn’t work for me.

Sometimes, I think my problem is that I’m just fucking nuts, but when I really sit down and confront that possibility, I don’t really think I am, not even close.  I’m just not wired to for a conventional life.  I can’t help it.  Anytime I try to be a bit normal, I feel like I’m living a lie.  Eventually, the lie just mutates into dread, anxiety, and finally into a rather deep depressive state.

For example, the grind of going to work and coming home is destroying what little bit of hope I had left, and, overall, I even like my job.  None of us are really made for this kind of existence.  We are creatures of leisure and pleasure; all of us are.  Our ancestors spent their days in the shade, eating berries, having sex, and sleeping.  This whole “work thing” seems more like the aberration, not our wonderful, natural propensity for laziness.  I was always told that when you achieve a certain level of independence that my mood would change, that I would feel better. Currently, I kind of have a decent job (again, I even like it), but I feel fuckin’ worse than I’ve ever felt.  On a basic level, my needs are met, but that creates comfort, security, and to a certain extent conformity.  I feel like this is it.  I’m beginning to fall into these patterns that make my life mundane and boring.  I’ve never been this type of person.  I’ve never liked schedules or planning.  I’ve always kind of hated myself, but lately, I’m really growing to hate myself even more.  Really, the person that I am becoming is a real lame-ass.  I’m beginning to feel like I could turn into a semi-average white guy.  I don’t want that to happen at all.  The more normal my life becomes, the more my life falls in compliance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the more I think my life sucks.  Fuck that noise!  I have to fight this, don’t I?

Let’s take a look at Abraham Maslow’s little creation.  Let’s see if it makes any sense or is just some bullshit put into writing (kind of like what you’re reading now).  I just want to state that this will not be an in-depth analysis by any means.  Instead, this is just some basic, primal reactions I had since looking at this thing for the first time since 1995.

The most basic category of this hierarchy is labeled “physical survival needs.”  According to Maslow, these include things like water, food, sleep, health, and sex.  Sex?  Trust me, you can survive without sex.  If you don’t count whackin’, I’ve been celibate for most of my life.  However, the other things listed I can’ t argue with; of course, they are needed for survival.  So, this section is pretty much accurate … not much to say here.  Other than including sex, I don’t have any criticisms with this section.

The second category is called “need for safety and security.”  This category includes: physical safety and economic security plus more abstract concepts like comfort and peace.  Okay, physical safety is a given.  Also, in our current economic system, economic security is also a must, but I don’t think many people truly have this.  Moreover, most people who believe that they do have it are probably unaware of just how fragile this illusion really is.  Losing your job is reality that many of us know all too well, which leads me to the next concepts listed in this category: comfort and peace. These two ideas seem far too abstract and subjective to be included.  Again, I have most of these basic needs met, but I don’t feel any comfort or peace.  I feel like, at any moment, I could lose my job and be out on the street.  This is a very real possibility, meaning unless a person knows that their job is a permanent situation, one they would have until their death, how the fuck could they ever feel any sense of comfort or peace?  Also, people may have different concepts of where and what constitutes these emotional states and ideas.  I feel that they are not concrete or defined enough to be included, especially  in only the second tier; these concepts seem more like top of pyramid kinds of things to me.

“Social needs” is the next category.  This is where I think this thing begins to really unravel.   Acceptance, group membership, association with a successful team, love, and affection are all listed in this category.  My biggest beef with this tier is that they don’t account that some us are lone wolves.  I’ve never really wanted to be associated with a successful team.  For me, it doesn’t matter if team is successful or not.  What matters to me is if I agree with this team’s objectives, goals, politics, and worldview.  Success, in this case, is totally irrelevant.  More importantly, I don’t think of myself as ever wanting to be on a team proper.  If, organically, a group of people come together for something, that’s one thing, but, if something pre-exists as some sort of “official” organization, I’m highly skeptical of it.  I’m not saying that all things of this nature are inherently bad.  I’m not Scott Walker attacking unions.  I’m just wanting anything that I would be a part of to be sincere and earnest … no bullshit.  I just want things to authentic.  Most people I’ve met will be part of something without fully understanding it, or just because they feel like they have to.  Bad idea.

Next, we have the “need for self-esteem.”  This includes important projects, recognition of strength, recognition of intelligence, prestige, and status.  Okay, this tier just pisses me off.  More and more, this thing sounds like it’s part of some sort of corporate conference or self-help seminar.  What exactly does it mean by “recognition of strength”?  I’ve never desired such a thing.  Of course, I’m not strong mentally or physically, but still, I don’t quite get it.  Recognition of intelligence?  What?  As crazy as this sounds, we are at a point where someone’s intelligent is another person’s stupid.  Often times, people who are pretty bright are called stupid, and people who are kind of dumb are considered brilliant.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at American politics.  Also, several times in my life I’ve come out of a movie that I thought was great, had a lot to say and was smart about saying it only to overhear an overwhelming majority of the crowd complain that didn’t understand and thought it was stupid.  While I know there are actual ways to measure intelligence (some of which I’m unsure about), this concept of intelligence is too subjective and abstract.  However, my biggest problem with this tier is the inclusion of status.  Again, I don’t think everyone desire status.  I certainly don’t.  If anything, I tend to mock those that have it, not out of jealousy either, but rather out of a lack of enlightenment to realize such pursuits are bullshit to the nth degree.  The idea of wanting to elevate yourself above others by achieving or buying things is fucking strange.  Now, you could make the argument that because I expect people to like the same movies or whatever that I considered smart is hypocrisy; however, I just want all people to be able to think critically and abstractly, which is the opposite of wanting to elevate myself above others.  I want everyone to be on relatively the same level in regards to education.  Yes, tastes and interests will be diverse, but I truly think things would be better in almost every way and maybe more people would see how fucking dumb it is to desire things like status and prestige.  It just divides us.  No time for that shit, especially when everything is falling apart.

Finally, the last category is the “need for self-actualization.”  Again, it’s moving into more abstract concepts.  Challenging projects, opportunities for innovation and creativity, and learning at a high level.  Well, I’ll get into this tier after this anecdotal story.

The strangest thing about Maslow’s Hierarchy is that I know people who don’t really have any of these things that seem to have a stronger desire to live, an enthusiasm for life, seem far more hopeful, and, in some cases, way happier than myself.  I’ve met homeless people who fall into this category.   I like to go on long-ass walks, especially in major metropolitan areas.   Of course, when you do this, you run across homeless people.  Sometimes, if one approaches me for money, I’ll offer to pay for a meal.   A few years ago on the Ohio State campus, I took a homeless guy to McDonald’s, and rather than just buying is meal, giving it to him, and running off, I sat down and ate with him.  Why?  Well, that’s the kind of motherfucker I am.  He was rather chatty, and I was in the mood to listen; we made great dinner partners.  He told me about his life, which basically boiled down to this: a very normal guy who suffered from depression and was an alcoholic, but no family or friends, which meant no support system.  He lost his job and then his apartment.  (Most people will make judgments about his depression and alcoholism being the cause of his homelessness, but hardly anyone will go into the cause as being the outsourcing of jobs overseas for cheaper labor by the capitalist class. So, they can grow even wealthier while this guy is barely making it.  Also, if you that think severe depression is nothing, obviously, you have never been severely depressed.)  He said that his depression came on as a result of not really having anything and was tired of feeling like nothing is going to change his situation (déjà vu  … see, I told you self-awareness is an asshole).  I don’t understand what keeps someone like this going.  I would have cashed in after a few weeks on the streets.  Of course, I knew what was coming.  I knew what his answer would be … and then, he said that he knows that it will get better, that ultimately God wouldn’t let him down.  Of course, I don’t believe in such things, but what kind of a dick would I have been to fucking grill him over that?  I let it slide, and we talked a little more about Columbus, life on the street, and OSU students.  It was interesting.  We parted ways, and I never saw him again, which is strange because I would roam that section of town all the time.  I got to expect certain faces when venturing out for a walk.  Who the fuck knows where he is at now?  Probably dead.

What I find interesting about this situation is, here is a man who doesn’t really have anything mentioned in Maslow’s Hierarchy, but seemed more “okay” with existing than myself: a person that, according to Maslow, has most of my needs met, yet, comparatively, I’m the more miserable one.  He was still optimistic that his situation was going to change.  Not once did this homeless man mention suicide; conversely, I fucking think about all the time.  Therefore, I don’t know how true Maslow’s Hierarchy really is.  It seems very flawed.  Also, upon doing some further reading, his research is questionable.  He only studied highly successful people, which, if true (Wikipedia was my source), distorts the results, don’t you think?

One thing that I do agree with is at the top of the pyramid: having a desire to engage in challenging projects and opportunities to create is something I long for and want very much.  However, let me modify that statement a little bit: having a desire to engage in challenging projects and opportunities to create something that actually has some sort of impact (or is even experienced by more than my family) is something I long for and want very much.  For some reason, this is a big deal to me.  I don’t know why, or from where this desire comes, but goddamn, it’s a strong desire.  Perhaps it’s at the top of this hierarchy because it’s something very few people actually achieve.  Is self-actualization even possible?  That said, while I think Maslow’s Hierarchy is flawed, I don’t think it is without merit.

Currently, I don’t feel like I have accomplished anything in my life.  I am far from being self-actualized.  Every day, I feel like I am letting myself down.  Something feels off and wrong.  I should be doing more.  So far, I haven’t done anything I feel that is worthy of doing.  With that said, if my life’s goal were to masturbate more than any person in the history of the world, shit, I achieved this the summer before fifth grade.  Of course, for whatever reason, I desired more from existence—not really content spillin’ my spermless, pre-pubescent, clear-ass seed on my ALF doll, which was strategically placed near my dong and used to obstruct the view of anyone that were to walk in on me in the event that the lock failed, or, on the rare occasion, I forgot to actually lock the door.  Luckily, ALF’s effectiveness was never put to the test, but I had to play it safe; paranoia forced me to be thorough when it came to my second favorite activity (video games first, of course).  It was a different time back then.  Kids today have the Internet.  We really had to search things out.  I remember watching The Price is Right, hoping they gave away a hot tub, boat, or some tropical vacation just to get a glimpse of one of Barker’s Beauties in a bikini.  After The Price is Right, ESPN an hour of workout shows.  BodyShaping (I had a thing for Jennifer Dempster—yes, even over Kiana Tom) was wonderful show for those of us going through puberty.  Thanks, ESPN.  The show actually did make me a bit more aware of health-related issues.  Who the fuck am I kidding?  I had no interest whatsoever in fitness or health.  This was pre-Internet, so you had to use what you had.

The most embarrassing thing about me is that I actually liked ALF.  At the time, I was old enough to realize that it sucked, but, for some reason, I liked it.  I should have known better. There’s no excuse. Actually, liking this show is the biggest shame of my life.  Yes, I’m serious.  It really bothers me.  I haven’t done anything as stupid as liking ALF.  I wish that I would have gotten to apologize to my dad for making him sit through this shit. Also, my brother’s hair seems to blend well with ALF’s fur.

Part IV: Madness; or The High Cost of Living Delusion-free

“Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.”

– Sigmund Freud

“To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It’s irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober.”

– Eugene O’Neill, The Iceman Cometh

We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it.”

– Bob Dylan, “Visions of Johanna”

It’s hilarious that we need delusions and lies to make life even bearable.  If we gave them up completely, we would go utterly fucking crazy.  I have, for whatever reason and not by choice, been living without any delusions for some time now.  I have completely lost the ability to lie to myself. And fuck, let me tell you, it’s killing me.  Seriously, I feel like I am on the brink of a breakdown or breakthrough … my money is on the breakdown.

Like I mentioned earlier, I started to feel truly miserable in my late teens.  This was around the time I became depressed, started having suicidal thoughts, and gave up on my own delusions concerning the world and myself.  In other words, I started living in reality.  I felt that things were not as they seemed earlier than that, but this is when it really hit.  It hit hard, affecting my mental and physical health.  My first week of college, I had some sort of mental breakdown and had to withdrawal.  It was an explosion of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness that caused me to go limp, lose feeling in my fingers and toes, and throw up constantly (there was also some crying, but not much).  It was fucking terrible.  Since then, I have only had a handful of these attacks, but when they do happen, it’s some scary shit.  It usually happens when my ideal of something is shattered in an extreme way.  (It hasn’t happened in years because I have no more ideal left to shatter.)  I have spoken with other people about this, but no one seems to truly understand it.  Again, most people deal with the disappointment of life much better than me.

A vast majority of people still have their delusions in tact.  They have some sort of vice or something that they have deemed important and worth living for in order to get them through life.  I don’t have any of those things.  I am free of delusions.  I don’t believe in anything that isn’t knowable anymore.  I have lived in this dark place now for about seventeen years.  I’ve gotten used to it, actually.  I own my misery.  I have, on occasion, tried to change.  However, as soon as I try to break out of it, attempt to fight the odds, or take up a project, I realize that it’s just a waste of time, and, even if I achieve whatever I set out to do, nothing will come of it—fuck, I’ll probably even hate it.   Yeah, I’m stuck here, but luckily, people with this sort of mindset tend to die early.

Religion is another delusion many people have.  It’s an entire system that tells you how you should live, and if you do things correctly, you get rewarded when you die.  I’ve always thought this was one truly stupid mass delusion.  Nothing about it seems even remotely possible, and I’ve always had a seriously difficult time trying to understand why so people buy into this shit.  It really bothers me that people believe thing without proof.  Basing your entire existence on something that isn’t real is very, very dangerous.  Of course, people argue that there are some positives about it, but I don’t think lying to one’s self in order to feel better is a good way to go through life.

Another thing people use to cope and to keep one’s self in a constant state of delusion (perhaps even enhancing delusions) is alcohol and drug use.  I’ve never been a fan of either, never understood their appeal.  I’ve always found it rather boring.  Even though I kind of hate life, I like to be as lucid and as cognitive as I possibly can be.  However, I understand this much more than religion; at least, beer is actually real.  Anyway, I tried these things a handful of times, but it’s not for me.  I’m just not a drug person.

Now, I suppose that I do engage in some activities that may shield me from the harshness of reality.  I do read lot, listen to music, watch movies, and play video games to pass time, but a lot of what I like is just a constant reminder of how bad shit is.  Moreover, even when I’m enjoying myself, I realize that the moment will be over while it’s actually taking place—not since childhood, have I ever been able to enjoy or live in the moment.  Kind of sucks, but that’s me.  Self-awareness is truly an asshole.  That said, I am not an anhedonist.  There are a few things I enjoy.  Also, I laugh all the time, about how fucking terrible everything is.

This scene from Return of the Living Dead really scared the shit out of me. The thought that the state of being self-aware follows you post-death rattled me to the core. The idea that you could be aware that you are dead and feel yourself rot really fucked me up. Did this fuck anyone else up?

If I could, I would go back to braving flash floods, throwing balls at hornets’ nests, playing with gasoline, and may even drink some creek water this time around.  Back then, I believed that anything was possible and had my entire life ahead of me; now, I know that hardly anything is possible and have about forty more years left to deal with it.  Life ends at puberty.  That’s when it all starts to suck.  If I could (but for whatever reason my mind won’t allow it—I’m so self-aware that I realize when I’m lying to myself [the plus is that it makes lying to other people just as impossible]), I would go back to having all my old delusions, living a life where anything is possible, everything is going to be okay, and summers feel like lifetimes.


My Dad Died Twenty Years Ago Today; or When a Parent Dies, It Fucks You Up Good and Proper

Part I:  The Times They Were a-Changin’; or Did Jay Leno Kill My Dad?

June 3, 1992 was the penultimate day of my freshmen year of high school.  On a personal level, the first half of this school year was kind of shitty, filled with acne and about three hours of sleep per night (caused by rarely missing certain late night talk shows and, moreover, not being a morning person).  The second half, surprisingly, got a little better.  There were a couple of people I was forming some real friendships with, people with whom I genuinely felt a connection.  I was growing more comfortable with my personality (which was only truly revealed to those I liked), worldview (which was [is] very bleak), intellect (which was [is] nothing special), and sense of humor (which was [is] esoteric and somewhat mean [at the time, it was a complete reaction to being around people who didn’t dig me all that much—the feeling was mutual and hundredfold, however], but, if you somewhat understood my angle, I had some golden motherfuckin’ moments … way fucking better than Henry Cho).

Well, since I doubt anyone is laughing and there’s an eerie silence when you’re on the stage, I have a feeling it could be an audience member’s watch. Yeah, I’m pretty certain that’s what it is. (To be fair, I haven’t seen your act since you were hosting Friday Night Videos.  You seemed like a nice enough guy, but man, you were really not funny at all.  If it’s any consolation, at least, you’re not Ray Combs.)

While all this was nice, it took a couple of more years for me to become comfortable with my appearance, which was helped greatly by growing out my hair—long hair really worked for me.  If anything, it was a little protest against these lame-ass people who were supposed to be inspiring me to learn, offering me their expert guidance, and providing me their profound wisdom in order to aid me during this pivotal transition from being a teenager to becoming a young adult.  However, none of that wonderful, whimsical, inspirational shit promised to us by various movies and television shows that we were exposed since birth came to fruition: I didn’t have the “one” teacher that got it, spoke my language, understood my problems, and changed my fuckin’ life.  Overall, it was an amazingly shitty assortment of former high school sports heroes, their cheerleader counterparts, and some real sad sacks that offered no real inspiration or advice other than to go to church, major in nursing or education, (and my favorite) “Have you considered joining the Army?”, or just flat-out mocked you because you wanted something more than a job that you hate, an ugly wife, accidental and unwanted children, and the alcoholism or religious fundamentalism that result from trying to cope with having just one or all of the above.  It was a toxic environment that stole my youth, killed my idealism, and turned me into a cynic far too early (seriously, I wish I could have had, at least, a couple of years in my twenties to have had a handful of “Bono at Live Aid” moments or something … instead, I became almost Bukowski-level hardened before I took the ACT).

Conversely, the period at the end of my freshman year was different from what would become my miserable status quo: it was an oasis of idealism before the giant, happiness-destroying sandstorm in the middle of the desert known as adult life.  Really, I don’t know what it was, but there was something strangely satisfying and exciting about this time period, probably a combination of youthful energy and incredible naiveté.  I was sincerely looking forward to the summer of ‘92.  (Hey, cut me a fuckin’ break … I was fifteen and still had hopes and dreams.  Like I mentioned above, I hadn’t lost my innocence yet … it took a couple of more years of disappointment to finally destroy me, and goddamn, those years destroyed me.)

Everything during this time had a sense of newness about it.  Anything could happen.  And there were a lot of things I was planning to do that summer.  I recently discovered music and really enjoyed listening to new bands; I was buying a couple of CDs a week and 120 Minutes, which I started watching when Dave Kendall was the host, was being viewed habitually.  We had an old VHS camcorder that we used to make little improv movies and record just about everything we did.  There would be trips to the comic book store.  There were movies to be seen.  A Link to the Past was going to played over and over again.  Friday nights meant USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear, locked doors, and a very happy dong—meaning a rather relaxed and easygoing me.  I was soaking in all the pop culture I could, and if we shared the same interests and tastes, that is how I determined if I wanted to get to know you.

There were also some game-changing personal decisions that were going to be made that summer.  I was considering cussing for the first time (it’s strange to think there was a point in my life when I didn’t cuss—even stranger, some of my peers were already fuckin’ and suckin’ and pokin’ and proddin’ each other while I was having a needlessly intense internal debate about saying “shit” … Jesus, I was fucking lame).  In addition to finally allowing myself to utter the word “motherfucker,” I decided to be totally open with my thoughts, ambitions, political beliefs and atheism to anyone that seemed interested or asked.  I decided, for better or worse, to be myself.  No hiding.  No pretending.  No alarms.  No surprises.  There I was now, entertain me.  Yes, indeed, things were lookin’ up.  The teen years weren’t going to be a troubling time for me.  It all seemed like it was going to be a great—I was shittin’ kittens … everything was coming up roses.  However, there was some dark and heavy shit coming down the pike that changed the course of that summer and my entire goddamn life.

Mom, when you’re done shopping, I’ll be playing TMNT: The Arcade Game. Could you give me about 50 bucks?

After coming home from my second to last day of school that beautiful June afternoon, I went with my mom to Big Bear Plus (perhaps it was still Hart’s at the time).  She had to do some grocery shopping and pick up my dad’s medication.  Mom was in a somber mood that day; I could tell things were stressing her out, so I gave her some time alone.  I think she liked to get out and do the shopping because it was a brief escape from whatever was going on at home.  Leaving her in the grocery section, I made my way over to the department store side of the grocery/department store combo and browsed through the CDs.

After being intrigued by his performance on Late Night with David Letterman’s 10th Anniversary Special, I bought my first Bob Dylan album that night: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.  On the trip home, I popped it into my portable CD player, skipped to the song I was familiar with, listened intently, and instantly became a huge fan.  I learned more from one listen to that album—of all things, a greatest hits compilation—than I learned in four years of high school.  I didn’t know it at the time (or perhaps I did), but I needed Dylan desperately at that moment.  I needed something that was realistic, idealistic, a little mean, a little hopeful, and smart.  If I would have discovered Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave that evening as well, I may have stopped seeking out new music altogether.

We arrived home and noticed my brother and grandma were at my dad’s side, who had spent the last couple of weeks in a hospital bed set up in our living room.  The entire scene was grim.  The look on my brother’s face gave the situation away.  My dad’s life would be coming to an end very soon.

I helped put the groceries away, and I immediately jetted off to my room.  Whenever I could, I tried to avoid going into the living room.  I couldn’t stand seeing my dad—or anyone—in that condition. Knowing the death of one half of the team that was responsible for giving you life was imminent puts you in a fucked-up state of mind, and I don’t even like life that much.  I had been mentally preparing for this for some time now, but still, the reality of it was quite jarring.  I put myself into my interests to keep sane: there was a lot of music being listened to, video games being played, and television being watched.  Luckily for me, a new interest—better stated, the “ultimate” interest and an entirely new way to live—was on the horizon.  That night, my life would be changed forever.

It was a Wednesday and a friend of mine invited me to an evening service at his church.  I was reluctant to go (I was not in any way a believer), but it would get me out of the house.  So I jumped at the chance.  The service started in rather standard way, but then it turned into a rousing lecture about death and what happens when you die.  It was good to hear these things.  Hearing about heaven sounded great.  I wanted my dad to be there when he dies.  I felt warmth and understanding from everyone at the service, which typically I’m creeped out by these types, but this was different … I finally understood what I’ve been avoiding and mocking all this time.  The positive energy there was overwhelming.   It felt great.  For the first time in my life, I knew that I was part of something bigger than myself.

The need to return home overtook my spirit and body with great urgency; I was in His hands now.  I told my friend that I needed to leave.  He understood.  The church was within walking distance, so getting back was not going to be a problem.  I ran home, and, to this day, it was the fastest I had ever moved in my life.  I was on mission: to make certain that my dad would go to heaven.  I busted through the door, ran to his bedside, and asked, “Dad, have you been saved?”  He only looked at me.  He had been unable to speak for the past few days.  “Have you?” I inquired again.  He slowly shook his head.  I had to work fast.  I wasn’t going lose his soul to the devil.  “Do you accept Jesus?”  He was losing consciousness.  I raised my voice, “Do you accept Him as your savior?”  He was slipping.  My dad was dying right before my eyes.  There was no time left.  I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”  Suddenly, from out of nowhere, he quickly regained consciousness and spoke with more, lucidity, clarity and power than I ever heard him speak throughout his life.  In a loud, confident, and powerful voice, he said, “Yes!”  With that, he was gone, but I knew he was at a better place with God.  The last two paragraphs have been total fucking bullshit.  Let’s get back to what really happened.

Since I was really into movies and shit, I was excited that Tim Burton (at the time, I was really into him) was going to be on Later with Bob Costas for two nights in a row promoting Batman Returns.  I had the VCR set to record and was also planning on watching at its regular broadcast time.  (Again, school or not, I have always stayed up as late as I could.)  The show ended at 2:05 a.m.  I pondered the interview, which was pretty good, and called it a night.

Things were far from okay, but I had my little media rituals to keep me in check, to keep me sane. Fuck, I needed something to take the edge off.  My dad’s condition was dire.  In early April of ’92, his cancer was diagnosed as terminal.  He was initially diagnosed with colon cancer just two years previous, which had now spread to every vital organ in his body.  In two years, none of the treatments or experimental procedures had worked.  He was going to die, and I had a front row seat.

The back story of how we got to this point is interesting to know.  His initial diagnosis was a misdiagnosis.  During the summer of 1990, he had been complaining of stomach pains and went to the doctor.  The doctor thought that he had just pulled a muscle and advised him not to engage in any strenuous activities for a month.  This made sense because my dad was always working (his regular job, around the house, for other people), and it almost always included lifting heavy shit.  One night, however, the pain was so severe that he was doubled over in the bathroom, begging my mom to drive him to the emergency room, and in keeping the theme of school playing a role in this saga by providing significant dates of major occurrences, this happened on the first day of school my eighth grade year.  That evening he and my mom were told the shitty news.  However, I didn’t find out the news until that Friday.  I found out that my dad had cancer at a Walmart parking lot.  My grandma (who wasn’t supposed to tell us that day) took my brother and me to buy the first Final Fantasy (I’m still not too crazy about this game) and let the sick cat out of the bag.  “Your dad has got ‘the’ cancer,” she said, not making any eye contact with my brother and me, but directly looking at a Kentucky Fried Chicken yards away.  “It doesn’t sound good.  He might die.  You guys hungry?”  What the fuck do you say to that?

From late-August 1990 until his death, he spent about ten months, off and on, of his final two years in a hospital bed at Ohio State’s James Cancer Center.  There, he was basically a guinea pig.  The cancer was already in its late stages, so, as he said, it only made sense to donate his living body to science.  Once he left there, he returned to work at the water treatment plant, where he worked until a couple of months before he died.

May 1992 started out fine; he was cognitive, lucid, present, and could hold a conversation.  Actually, one of the last conversations we had was around this time (I’ll get to this later).   Then, on May 22, 1992, he began to falter.  His speech was becoming difficult to understand.  He was having trouble writing his name.  He was heavily medicated and was drifting in and out of consciousness.  His mind and body were breaking down.  May 22, 1922 was also Johnny Carson’s last Tonight Show and was the last time I heard my dad’s voice.

On June 4, 1992, a little over a week after the Leno takeover, my mom at around 5:30 or 6 in the morning awakened me.  She was sitting on the edge of my bed, quietly calling my name, “Shane … Shane …”  This already felt dreamlike, and I knew what she was going to say.  “What?” I said in a voice more quiet than a whisper.  “Your dad is dead, honey.  He died last night in his sleep.”  Like I mentioned earlier, I had been preparing for this moment since his initial diagnosis two years prior.  I nodded and the word “okay” made its way out of my mouth; for some reason, it made the most sense for me to say only that.  What else could I say?

Maybe after a week of watching Leno host the Tonight Show, he decided that life isn’t worth it … maybe it finally broke him … maybe he lost his will to live.  I doubt it.  Not even Jay Leno would make my dad want to die.  He was that strong.  My dad really wanted to live.  I’ve always been amazed by this, for I don’t share his enthusiasm for life.

Part II: It’s My Dad’s Funeral, and I’ll Grieve How I Want to; or Why Does that Man Always Dress the Same?

“Are you okay?” asked my mom.

“Yeah,” I replied in a soft voice.

“Do you want to go up and see him?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

The last thing I wanted to do is see my dad’s lifeless body.  The previous night he motioned for my mom to help him upstairs to their room.  He knew that his time was up and wanted to die in his regular-ass bed and not in the one supplied by hospice.  I didn’t want to see him in that bed, a bed I used to fall asleep in watching television with the entire family.  I wanted the last memory of my dad in our house to be him reading the newspaper on the couch, bitchin’ about Republicans.

“Okay,” mom said in an understanding tone.

“Would it be okay if I went to school today?”

“If you want to, you can.”

“Yeah, I think I will.”

I knew that there would be all kinds of people in and out of the house that day.  Most of these people would try to try talk with me and console me.  I suppose this was nice and to be expected, but I didn’t want an earful of religious bullshit, which I knew I would get from several of these people.  The other thing that I didn’t want is to deal with are people who would give me their stupid life advice.  I didn’t want to hear shit like: “Stay strong.  You’re the man of the house now.  Your dad would want it this way.”  I just turned fucking fifteen.  I’m not going to be responsible for the house and shit.  What the fuck did they expect me to do?  What the fuck did this even mean?  Moreover, I’ve never really bought into roles that people think they should fall into simply because of tradition.  In short, I needed to get out of the house to avoid being around people who I didn’t really like that much.  So, it made sense to go to school.  Being the last day, I knew that there would barely be anyone there.  It would be quiet and somewhat relaxing.  For the most part, I was left alone.  The only fucked-up thing of the day was when an announcement was made for dead-dad-flower-money, singling me out by name.  However, when that announcement was made, I was in study hall with people who had no fucking idea who the hell I was.  Regardless, it was just surreal to hear that announced over the PA system by our awkward principal.  It’s such an odd detail, but it left an impression.

I remember getting off the bus that day and running straight to my room.  Again, other than my mom, I didn’t want to be around anyone.  My mom must have been sharing some of my emotions.  I found out that she had left for a good chunk of that day, too.  She went to get clothes for us to wear to the funeral.  My mom would buy things way too big for my brother and me.  In high school, I was 6’ 1” and 115 pounds.  She bought me extra-large and, sometimes, extra-extra-large shirts, but always the correct size in pants—I was 28” around the waist, which I still am, by the way.  Her reasoning behind the shirts was that, eventually, we would grow into them.  My brother and I did not grow into them.  I have remained a small since the age of fifteen.  And while my brother did gain some weight, he hasn’t gained that much weight.  Mom expected us to physically turn into our father.

My dad’s ass.

My dad was as blue-collar worker as you could get (for all I knew, it could have been his ass on the Born in the U.S.A. album cover).  Physically, he was built like a tank: 5’ 11” and about 255 pounds (only about 140 when he died, however).  He wore his blue work shirt and his name tag 90% of the time; it didn’t matter if we were at McDonald’s or a more uppity restaurant (which hardly ever happened).  He also wore an orange toboggan that advertised some chainsaw company about 80% of time.  He had either a regular-ass mustache or a horseshoe mustache living on his face (I preferred the more eccentric horseshoe).  Also, I don’t know if he had terrible taste in eyeglasses, was limited to the choices of the time period, of just didn’t give a fuck (most likely), but he always wore oversized, plastic-rimmed glasses (which seeing him in those frames is one the main reasons I become a contact wearer).  My friends would ask me if he ever changed his clothes and why he wore the same outfit all the time. My dad’s look was locally and arcanely iconic. Even if you didn’t fucking know him, you were aware of his presence.  At about $20,000 a year, he knew what socio-economic class he belonged to and was perfectly okay presenting himself  everywhere as its unofficial ambassador (at the time, maybe a little embarrassing, but knowing what I know now, totally fuckin’ bad ass).  The work shirt was always on.  It was pretty bitchin’.  My mom debated whether or not to bury him in his work shirt, name tag, and orange toboggan.  Looking back, she should have.  It would have been a fitting tribute.  Plus, I know my dad would have liked the money that it saved.

Fuck Fonzie’s jacket and that Indiana Jones shit! This stuff belongs in the Smithsonian.

My dad is on the left.

I was dreading the funeral, for reasons that I already mentioned (ya know, the whole “being around people” thing).  Also, I really hate ceremonies and traditions.  They have always felt forced and silly to me—anyone been to a wedding?  I talked to my mom about skipping out on both the showing and the funeral.  At first, she was against the idea, but she slowly reconsidered and gave me the option to choose one or the other.  I chose the showing because it was less formal.  There would also be more opportunities to hide at the showing.  And, of course, there were.  And, of course, I took advantage of them.  At the time, I remember my mom facing some criticism for allowing me to skip out on the funeral.  In her defense, she knows me more than any of those that criticized her.  She knows how I deal with things.  I got more out of grieving alone than being around people who only knew me because we were related, or because they knew my dad.  Moreover, when I reflect upon that decision, I don’t feel any regret.  I’m still very comfortable with not attending and would make the same decision if we fired up the DeLorean and went back.

My sanctuary from avoiding the crowd was short-lived that Saturday.  Slowly, people started arriving at our house after the funeral for some sort of post-funeral gathering.  A friend of mine, that I was drifting apart from—due to me letting my freak flag fly high and his increasingly obvious well-adjusted, normalcy, came into my room to see how I was doing.  The conversation was fine.  We really didn’t discuss the elephant in the room, which, of course, was a dead fuckin’ dad.  Instead, we just behaved normally, but with a sense of “things aren’t going to be the same” or “we are losing our innocence” kind of feeling looming over us.  On the television, MTV was playing Unplugged performances.  Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” was a big fuckin’ deal that summer.  I remember uncomfortably sitting through that, which was followed by Mariah Carey’s cover of “I’ll be There.”  I remember saying, “I don’t like this.”  “I think it’s good,” my friend replied.  “No, it’s schmaltzy and trying too hard,” I quickly countered.  I then turned the channel, and something caught my eye on TNN: Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart”—an even bigger fuckin’ deal that summer.  Upon seeing and hearing the video and song, a wave of cynicism far stronger than my current state of grief came over my body.  It was a turning point because I was beginning to understood “why ” and “how” things suck.  I was picking up on just how overall shitty our culture was (is).  Yes, things were not going to be same, and I was losing my innocence.  It was a catchy song, though … I’ll give it that.

Part III: It Just Ends, and You Don’t Get Goddamn Parade; or It’s R.E.M. not REO …

While most other kids were doing normal teenage things: hanging out with friends, talking on the phone, going on dates, getting drunk, smoking cigarettes and weed, huffing paint thinner, popping pills, snorting coke, shooting heroin, developing a gambling problem, stealing from their grandparents, beating their mothers senseless, kissing, fucking, participating in orgies, and having babies, I was at home watching my dad slowly die of cancer.  I really missed out on a lot.  I wish I could have gotten to do some—or all—of those things.  I would have loved to have had a kid when I was in high school.  That would have been a lot of fun.  Instead, I was relegated to my room, alone with my thoughts, television, magazines, comic books, Super Nintendo, and CDs.  Honestly, though, it wasn’t that bad at all.  I was lucky enough to meet a few other people who were living in less than ideal circumstances.  Divorce, poverty, right-wing extremist or religious fundamentalist (typically, one in the same) parents, and just general fucked-upness were just some of the conditions that brought us together.  Comedian Marc Maron dubbed it “trauma-bonding,” which is a more than apt description for this cultural phenomenon.  (I know that this is an actual psychological term, but the way Maron described it really fits here.  Let me have it, please.)  Having the knowledge that life is fucking painful is probably one of the best conditions for a good friendship.  I could never stand being around people who were either too dumb to understand how shitty things were, or were too cowardly to admit it.  Miserable people are always more interesting, and, yes, more fun to hang out with.  Seriously, name me a truly happy person that is genuinely funny.

My father’s death changed me, but in ways I’ll never know.  I don’t know how my life would have different if he didn’t die, survived cancer, or was never diagnosed to from the get-go.  I only know that it would, in fact, be different, just not “how” it would be different.  Sometimes, I wonder if we would even get along.  I think that we would.  I know that our politics would line up, and that’s a big one (both sides of the family seemed to be left-leaning, which ranged from your standard, boring-ass Democrats to radical, but ineffectual socialists).  So, at least, our basic worldviews would line up enough not to cause me to be kicked out or disowned.  Having that in common means that communication about anything would be more effective.  I’ve seen kids with differing basic beliefs than their parents, and it’s fucking awful.

Would my interests be any different?  For example, would I be into fishing, beer, and know how to work on cars?  Fuck no, I wouldn’t.  Regardless if he were alive, I still wouldn’t have any concern for that shit.  No amount of bonding or love could make me be interested in something I had zero interest in and can’t stand doing to begin with.  Also, I’m not good at pretending to like things just to make the workflow run more smoothly.  So, no, I wouldn’t be hanging out in the garage just to spend time with him or something.  I would be inside playing video games and masturbating.  However, while situations involving cars, fish, and beer were not going to lead to meaningful, bittersweet father/son moments filled with fucking life lesson after life lesson, we would have shared other things.  We both had a strong dislike of sports and the culture surrounding it.  We both had similar tastes in movies and music, and I know we both thought Lynda Carter in her Wonder Woman outfit and Elvira were sights to behold (I’m eventually going to dedicate an entire blog about Wonder Woman, Elvira, and some key “others” being responsible for my sexual awakening.)

Here’s another one. Why? Do you even have to ask?

However, I don’t know if he would appreciate my negativity and depressive nature.  One thing my dad was not was a negative person.  He wasn’t some lighthearted, stupidly optimistic fool either.  Instead, he was a pragmatic idealist, if such a thing is possible.  My dad was more the tortoise than the hare.  He was methodical and deliberate.  Things could be falling apart around him, but he remained calm.  He thought in the long-term.  Every decision was well thought out and executed.   I have only some of that in me.  I tend to over think everything and never make a decision at all.  Overall, other than some controlling aspects regarding my mom (which are duly noted), he was a pretty good guy.  There are two major things that I know I inherited from my dad: his resigned, passive, but intense personality (which I will explain in greater detail) and his sense of humor.

Yes, another one …

Let’s start with his personality; for better of worse, it was transferred to me.  I don’t think it’s necessarily a good nor bad thing.  Personalities are complicated and can change according to what situation you are in and what company is kept.   For instance, if you know someone really well, you are going to behave differently than you would around a total fucking stranger.  My dad’s default personality was stoic, stubborn, and quiet.  That’s how most people saw him.  When he would enter a room, he would size it up, try to figure out what people were like simply by observing them.  He wasn’t the type of person that comes in and talks to everyone like they have known you for years—a trait that I can’t stand, along with people that feel the need to touch you when they don’t know who the fuck you are, like the people that hug “hello.”  If my dad, for whatever reason, decided that he didn’t like you or that there wasn’t enough common ground, he would completely shut down, not say a word.  Even if he found himself in a group of people that he overall liked, if there was just one person that he didn’t gel with or ruined the group dynamic, he would hardly speak.  (For those that know me well, doesn’t this sound familiar?)  On the other hand, if he liked you and felt comfortable around you, he could be very warm and chatty.  I think behavior like this is wrongly categorized as shyness.  It isn’t really shyness.  I always thought it was about not wasting anyone’s time.  I look for kindred spirits and real connections, so did he.  If there isn’t a connection, the conversation will be like pulling teeth.  Really, it’s just being self-aware enough to know if you’re going to like someone or not, which, in my opinion, is much, much different from shyness.

Last one … I promise.

The second thing I know I inherited from my dad was his sense of humor.  My dad was funny, but an acquired taste (of course, everything’s subjective).  He definitely wasn’t that fucking Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler type of bullshit: making faces, talking in “funny” voices, and trying way too hard.  That schtick gets old quick.  Have you ever been around someone who is an aspiring comedian and this type of humor is their style of choice?  It’s unbearable.  Really, it’s one of the worst things to have to be around; as if their comedy stylings aren’t bad enough, it’s only made worse because they believe everything that comes out of their mouths, every contorted face, and every over-the-top gesture is a comedy gem.  Fuck ‘em.  It’s so draining to be around.  Anyway, I’ve digressed enough.  Let’s bet back on track.

My dad would come home from work around midnight.  From the earliest I can remember until about the age of twelve, I would be in the living room, waiting for his arrival.  As soon as he came in the door, he immediately found his way to the couch.  I would go sit beside him.  Then, he would take his big hand and stick it down my pants, gently rubbing my penis.  (No, I’m just fuckin’ with you.)  I would remain in the floor with a blanket and pillow.  He was parked on the couch.  For the next two to four hours, we would be glued to the television.  Both of us were night people (actually, my entire immediate family was nocturnal), and luckily for us, local stations used to play b-movies all night.  WBNS in Columbus had Nite Owl Theater.  WOWK out of Huntington, West Virginia had Elvira’s syndicated show.  Also, since my mom worked at a video store, movies were brought home every night; we always had something new to watch.  Everyone in my family appreciated great filmmaking, but my dad and I recognized that most mainstream movies were so mediocre that they weren’t worth the trouble watching.  For every Taxi Driver, you would get several cheesy romantic comedies or bland, trying-too-hard-to-be-great-would-be masterpieces.  We preferred low-budget, fucked-up, and strange.  If it had monsters, aliens, beautiful women, and looked like they had just a week to make the fucking thing, the more we liked it.

As we would watch whatever bottom of the barrel opus rolling through the VCR on any given night, my dad would begin commenting on the movie Mystery Science Theater-style, but way fucking edgier and better.  His quick wit and impressive knowledge of a variety of things ranging from an obscure Rolling Stone’s song to the Sandinista National Liberation Front was impressive; the man knew his stuff.  He may have not have had a college degree and the high income and status typically (and wrongly) associated with jumping through those hoops, but the motherfucker was bright.  (Actually, a friend of mine’s dad that made a shitload more money and has a couple of degrees believes that dinosaurs are a lie and evolution isn’t real because it contradicts the Bible; my dad knew better than that shit, and he only went to high school.)  He was able to weave highbrow and lowbrow together, which I’ve always felt creates the best anything.  He could be lighthearted, whimsical, but still dangerous and menacing.  He could go to some very dark places: no subject was off the table.  Most importantly, he could provoke thought in an entertaining and funny way.  He was a good “dad” to have around.  Other dads were just dicks.  Seriously, some people’s dad’s I knew were mean as shit.  Not fun, man … not fun.

I watched Nite Owl Theater every night with my dad. The Gamera movies were some of our favorites.

My dad had a real edge to him, a “hipness” and “awareness” that other dad’s seemed to lack.  I remember going to friends’ houses and would be shocked by how dull their parents were.  I couldn’t believe people came from such joyless and humorless homes.  Most dads were not funny at all let alone edgy and dark.  My friends’ fathers seemed like men that were already dead, but just didn’t know it yet.  Seriously, they all seemed so boring, lifeless, mean (without humor), and shitty.  It bothered me.  I hated going to certain kid’s houses.  I would always want people to visit my house.  At my house, we could be ourselves.  Don’t get me wrong.  There were rules, but they weren’t stupid, arbitrary ones that just seemed pulled of someone’s ass to keep their children from having any type of fun.  The rules laid down by my parents seemed more rooted in safety and health rather than pissing off God by some crazy interpretation of a fucking commandment.  In other words, if your parents were super-religious, it wasn’t fun to go to your house … it was just fuckin’ creepy: kids that had alcoholic parents were more fun to be around than that shit.

I hope it’s obvious that my dad’s sense of humor was passed on to me; it’s the one aspect of my dad that I remember most fondly.  I liked that he didn’t stop himself from thinking or discussing certain things.  I liked that he didn’t pander to whoever was in the room.  I liked that he rattled some cages.  I liked that he would go after people that he thought were terrible human beings; I liked that, sometimes, he would be just has hard, even harder, on himself for lesser things than those he was criticizing.  For the both of us, no subject is taboo.  We will go anywhere, now matter how fucked-up or offensive it potentially is to others. I like how serious, intense, and dark he could go, not only with his humor, but in his thoughts in general.  However, my dad was able to come out of the darkness.  I can’t seem to do that.  My lighthearted and whimsical days are, for the most part, dead and gone.

Being dark, hopeless, depressive, pensive, and brooding are all components of my default mode.  For me, suicidal thoughts are just like breathing or my heartbeat, totally involuntary.  I don’t know how he was able to crawl out of this pit, but he did.  He could drop some pessimistic gem of comedic misanthropy and then go back to enjoying the sunset.  What the fuck, man?  How the fuck, man?  His ability to never allow himself to be truly depressed for a significant amount of time, even though he could go to these dark places, is the major difference in our personalities.  He had the ability to think and grasp the futilities and meaninglessness of existence, but was able to not dwell on them.  I can’t do this.  I think this is something that I got from my mom.  She can dwell on things for quite some time; however, she’s even able to eventually let go.  Me, on the other hand, I’m somewhat enjoy the misery and darkness.  I stay there, all the time.

My dad, when faced with terminal cancer, wanted to live.  He was fighting for his life every single day.  I was always amazed by his desire to live.  I remember looking downstairs once while mom was helping him eat.  I just watched the two of them.  It was so difficult for him to even chew, but he was doing whatever he could, trying his hardest.  When the day comes that I am diagnosed with terminal cancer (which could be any day now), I know myself well enough to know that I won’t have that “fight” in me.  I won’t try to beat death.  If anything, I could see myself trying to speed up the process.  Again, this is the biggest difference between my dad and me: he was a glass-is-half-full-kind-of-guy, and I’m a glass-is-completely-empty-and-has-a-crack-in-it-kind-of-guy.

A few weeks before my dad got so bad that he couldn’t even speak, he came into my room for a talk.  This was the last time I spoke with him in any significant way.  I was in the floor watching television.  Typically, I would remember such a stupid detail of what I was watching (I’m like that), but, for some reason, I don’t any idea what it was—don’t remember at all.  All I know is that I didn’t even bother to turn it off.  We were both aware that this was going to be one the last times we would speak to each other, and I didn’t even bother turning off the television.  However, I don’t think he gave a fuck.  He really didn’t come in to teach me any profound lessons or share some secrets of life.  He just came in to have a casual conversation, as if he didn’t have terminal cancer and everything was normal, and perhaps he didn’t share these things because they don’t exist.  I know there are people out there that believe in such things, that think you can follow certain rules and your life will turn out just peachy, but I am not one of those people.  To me, life seems very random and unfair, and despite what self-help books, daytime television, various religions, and the . salient exemplars of allegorical myths that tell you that you can do anything under capitalism, it is.  Life is pretty shitty.  Don’t buy into that fairytale ending bullshit.  Things don’t really work out.  Being good doesn’t lead to a great life.  Bad people are not punished.  Seriously, we have very little control over anything.  You don’t live life … life lives you.  Illness and death are perfect examples of that.

It’s been twenty years since my dad has died.  I think about him constantly.  Like I said, my life would probably be rather different had he not died.  I’ve always had a good relationship with my parents, but after my dad’s death, the bond between my mom and me has grown very strong.  I wonder if that was a direct result of his death or something that just would have happened with age.  Therefore, I wonder how close we would have become.  It would be nice to have another person around that knows you really well, just to simply have long conversations about things that more well-adjusted people wouldn’t dare discuss.  My family has always been a little fucked-up and edgy in this way.  It hasn’t been the complete “family” experience without him.  It’s kind of tragic, really. I feel like I really missed out on something that could have made life more interesting, entertaining, and possibly even bearable.

However, one of the most tragic things about his death was a miscommunication during one of our last conversations.  He noticed that I had been buying a lot of CDs and wanted to know some of the bands I was into.  I mentioned some of them.  When I said R.E.M., he stopped me.  “You like REO Speedwagon?” he said with a tinge of shock and disappointment.  He was weak, going through chemo, and it just didn’t feel right to correct him.  I said nothing.  “No.  No.  You like what you like.  You are what you are.  They have a couple of songs that are okay … I guess,” he told me as he was leaving my room.  I’ve been carrying the weight around that my dad died believing I was a huge REO Speedwagon (a band that I don’t have a strong opinion about either way, but isn’t really my style).  Also, the last movie he saw in the theater was Lethal Weapon 3.  Not a good way to go out.

Yes.

Not really.

No.

I remember being at the funeral home and looking down at his lifeless body, thinking how about surreal and dreamlike this entire thing was.  I then retreated to the back of the funeral home, away from everyone.  I noticed a room where no one was going, and I claimed it as my own.  After seeing my brother breakdown, which—to this day—was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen, and the fact I don’t like to be around people, I found refuge in this empty room.  Slowly, however, a few people began to trickle in, but they mainly left me alone.  I think they knew not to fuck with me.  They could tell I was deep in thought, probably even looked comatose.  I was just sitting there, thinking about how a person’s existence can be totally wiped out, and, other than a handful of people, really close family members and friends, no one really cares … and even among these people, emotions quickly fade and you become a name of a person in craft services in the end credits of a movie no one even bothered to see.  They go on with their lives, whatever the fuck “life” is, and that’s it.  Minutes turned into an hour, I was still sitting in that fuckin’ room, just one room away from my father’s lifeless body, thinking about how pointless it is.  In death, your life isn’t really celebrated.  You don’t get any parade.  You just get people off of work a day or two.  You don’t exist anymore.  You’re dead, and the most tragic thing about it is that it fucks up the people who were the closest to you, forever and in huge ways. One hour then turned into four, the showing was almost over, and I was still just sitting there in introspection, pondering the meaninglessness of life, the various personal and financial problems on the horizon, and if we were able to even keep our house.  I was fucking scared.  Twenty years later, I still am … more so of life, not so much of death.

This one’s for you, dad.


People with Meek, Shitty Voices Shouldn’t Date Each Other; or Hell is Listening to These Two Talk

Image


Demon’s Souls as a Metaphor for Life; or The Reason I Play Video Games is Because They Are More Fair Than Reality

Part I: It’s Either This or Suicide; or Since We Can’t Solve the World’s Problems, Let’s Not Even Try

As hard as this game is, it’s still easier than shitty-ass real life.

You know what I’m sick of?  People that make fun of or bitch about people who play video games, proclaiming those that play video games as “not having a life” or as “not being productive members of society.”  Seriously, what the fuck do you people do that’s so goddamn great?  I don’t rip you new ones for keepin’ up with Kardashians or thinking that Chuck Lorre-produced sitcoms are actually fuckin’ funny?  Okay, I do, but video games are way fucking better.  Also, what do you assholes mean by “not having a life” and  “not productive members society” anyway?  If “not having a life” means not having sex or not going out to bars and shit like that (typically, those making such claims seem to be implying as much), then, fuck it, I’m sticking to video games.  Also, saving Princess Zelda and catching all the Pokemon is being productive because in video games, unlike real life, there’s actually a goal that can be reached: there’s a point; there’s meaning.  Anything that I really want (or wanted to do) in my real life isn’t even fuckin’ possible, so if my real life goals are impossible, I may as well achieve some virtual ones that are.  (However, MMOs are a different beast.  They never really end, so they are more like real life.  For example, I played DC Universe Online, but after a month, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I needed a nice ending cutscene to let me know I did something.  They are too much like real life—long, pointless, and not at all that satisfying.)

Anyway, if you are one of these people who have a problem with video games, then, on behalf of the millions of people who play them, fuck you!  I’ve met several of these “serious” social critics over the course of my disappointing life.  Typically, these are some of the most weird-ass, uninformed people you’ll ever have the misfortune of being around.  In their delusional eyes, video games are the new rock music—the new Marilyn Manson causing Columbine—responsible for all of society’s problems.  Man, I would love to live in a world in which such serious, complicated problems have such fucking simple, illogical solutions.  For example, convicted money launderer and former Republican Party House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, actually blamed Columbine on the teaching of evolution in public schools … see, very logical, makes perfect sense.  Case closed.  Man, what the fuck happened to us as a species?

It must be nice to be kind of dumb.  Really, I’m serious.  These people seem just as happy and content as they are angry and stupid.  Fuck, at least, they still feel something.  Increasingly, I’m so overwhelmed and aware of the world’s problems that I’m beginning to absorb all of its negativity, making me only feel an overall general disconnect and a sick numbness to my own condition and situation (which is pretty fucking bleak), but hypersensitive to everything else (which is also pretty fucking bleak).  I’m like John Coffey.  Seriously, here are some of his lines: “Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other.  I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day.  There’s too much of it.  It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time.  Can you understand?”   Hell yes, I can understand.  That’s I how feel all of the time, too.  However, I’m fuckin’ useless.  I don’t heal anyone; I just make everyone around me just as depressed and miserable as I am.  Also, I don’t have the option of being executed to remove myself from the unbearable heaviness of being.  Of course, there’s always suicide, but c’mon, that takes real courage and commitment.  I don’t have such qualities.

I have a feeling these people are kind of dumb, but they’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit. Also, look at those fucking teeth!  Fake-ass teeth, fake-ass people, fake-ass world. Why can’t these people feel suicidal? Oh, that’s right, you have to live in reality to actually understand just how terrible and hopeless things really are.

Society really needs to stop calling people who kill themselves cowards—nothing is further from the truth.  It takes a person of great conviction to complete the act, real “go-getters” and “risk-takers” that—if it weren’t for them being such good, decent, and sensitive people (I sense this about many that commit suicide) that see through corporate bullshit—would make great business executives because they have what is known as “follow-through,” which is essential for the driving entrepreneurial spirit that our great nation was founded upon (sadly, there are people that actually believe this shit).  As for myself, I don’t even have it in me to change my underwear on daily basis, so suicide is definitely out of the question (see, it really does take commitment, planning, and dedication).  When you realize that your life is truly insignificant and you don’t really have anything to look forward to, you don’t bother with such things.  For instance, you don’t give a fuck if your room is clean and orderly.  It’s not on the fucking radar.  It’s not fucking important.

A person that shall remain nameless once said to me, “When you’re not as messy and more organized, you’ll feel better about everything.”  I quickly replied, “No, that makes your ass feel better, not mine.  Besides, I’ve tried that, and it didn’t make anything any better.  All it did was create the following scenario: my life is still shitty, meaningless, and hard … the entire world is falling apart, but goddamn, this room is spotless!”  Really, if something as trivial as having a clean room can make you happy, well … to me, that’s kind of fucking sad.  Those of you that are “truly” miserable understand this, but those that are not miserable or the type of assholes that try to relate by passing off your “mild disappointment” as major depression or those really bizarre people who think that life is just a party, well … I don’t know what to say.  I’ve never really been in that frame of mind, so I’m not even going to pretend I know what that’s like.  How the fuck do you get there, to that plane of existence?  Let me know, so I can join you and ruin that, too.  But, seriously, how do we sleep while our beds are burning?  I’m surprised so many people go through life without giving serious problems much thought.  Again, it must be nice to be kind of dumb.

Part II: Hey Mom, You’ll Find Me In Closet Thinking About Some Deep Shit; or Merry Fuckin’ Christmas, You Idealistic Fuck

You were better than most people.

Video games entered into my life in late 1987.  Looking back, at ten-years-old, I was the perfect age for Nintendo’s first console.  I really needed something that I could actively participate in that didn’t involve sports (I was [and still am] a tiny person—plus, I never looked up to professional athletes or the more athletic kids in my class, always seemed like real cocksuckers to me), school (up until high school, I was an “A” student [like that even fucking matters], but regardless of doing well, I hated it), church (never went, but was constantly invited—the last place I wanted to be was with Christians, always found them scary as fuck), or anything that involved being around most other kids (they bored, annoyed, and didn’t understand me).  I preferred (and still do) solitary activities (for example, I would rather masturbate than partake in an orgy—I’ve turned down a couple of invitations to orgies thus far in my life, just not my thing).  It wasn’t like I didn’t try to participate in a few things, but communication was way off—I couldn’t talk to my peers worth a shit, had nothing in common with any of them.  They just didn’t seem know anything; they couldn’t talk about anything with any detail, passion, or depth, so fuck ‘em.  I was on my own.  Anyway, I needed something challenging that also provided some amount of fun.  Therefore, video games and my personality were a great fit.  They were the friends that I just didn’t have.  Now, did video games change my life?  I don’t know if I would go that far, but they certainly left quite an impact (actually, they seem to be more important to me now than then, but I’ll get to that later … okay, upon thinking about, they did change my life).

For the Christmas of ’87 (it feels strange to admit that I even celebrated Christmas—I was never religious, however), I asked for the NES and The Legend of Zelda, and that was it.  If I got these two things, everything would be okay in the twilight years of my childhood (sadly, just a couple of years later, I started growing hair around my dong—and, trust me, it all went downhill from there).  Like most kids on Christmas mornings, my brother and I always got up really fucking early.  This particular year was no exception; I can’t speak for my brother, but this was the most exciting Christmas that I could remember, better than the year we got all the Constructicons and Areialbots.

It was a tradition in my family for my parents to put the presents under the tree while my brother and I were sleeping (never bought the concept of Santa, but I went along with it because, for some reason, I liked it … it was kind of fun, made things more exciting).  It was always a great feeling to look at the tree on Christmas Eve with nothing underneath it and go to bed only to wake up to an explosion of color caused by the wrapped gifts and the decorated tree itself.   (If I’m honest with myself, nothing has rivaled that “Christmas morning” feeling thus far in my adult life.  These memories will be on loop as I approach death.)

Anyway, I did, in fact, get the two items I requested, but it turned out to be a disaster.  Why?  Well, the console itself didn’t work.  Something was horribly wrong, and we couldn’t even get the goddamn thing turned on; it was dead … no power, no red light, no Mario, no Zelda, no happiness.  I begged both my mom and dad, throughout the morning, for assistance, but they were too busy getting ready to make the rounds of various family gatherings, bracing themselves for the upcoming sad parade of alcoholics, drug addicts, chronic gamblers, mental patients, and suspected child molesters (and all of those things just described “one” fuckin’ guy on my dad’s side).  I didn’t want to deal with that shit; of course, they didn’t either.

… and featuring Karl Marx as Santa.

Somehow, I convinced them to let me stay at home and try to remedy this problem … fix this broken machine, which, at that point in my life, was the greatest personal tragedy I had faced.  I was a tenacious little fuck.  I was doing anything and everything that I could to get that motherfucker to work.  I almost asked for a Christmas miracle from a “God” I didn’t believe in, and if that didn’t work, I was going sell my soul to Satan, which, of course, I didn’t believe in either.  Obviously, when you start thinking things like this, you’re pretty fuckin’ desperate, but I wanted this to work more than anything.  This combination of desperation and desire was rather distinct; I remember it to this day, for it is kind of what I feel like all the fucking time.

Anyway, nothing I did worked.  The thing was broken.  I was devastated.  For the remainder of the Christmas break, I spent all of my time in my closet.  Now, this wasn’t entirely unusual for me.  I used to sleep in my closet.  For some reason, I really liked (and still do) small, confined spaces; I slept much better in the floor of my closet than I did in my bed.  Plus, subconsciously, I was just getting myself used to less-than-ideal and uncomfortable situations, prepping for myself for my inevitable homelessness.  In my closet, there was this area underneath a shelf where I would curl up into a ball and cry.  At first, my crying spells were based on truly petty circumstances: my fucking NES didn’t work and I couldn’t play The Legend of Zelda.  However, within a couple of days of being in that closet, something happened: I began to realize just how terrible life is going to be.  I started thinking about my parents and my brother, about how, one day, they were going to die.  I started thinking about how no matter how much progress we make as a species, no matter how much knowledge we gain, the sun is going to go supernova and everything human beings have accomplished will be wiped out (of course, we are well on our way to destroying ourselves before that even happens, which I thought about, too).  Basically, I came to terms that our lives are meaningless.  The Christmas of ’87 fucked me up good and proper.  I’ve never been the same since.  December 25, 1987 was the official end of my innocence.

That’s right. Nothing really matters. You can create your own meaning in life, but self-awareness makes you realize that you are assigning meaning to the meaningless, thereby rendering your self-created meaning to the meaninglessness meaningless. You are all just lying to make yourselves feel better. I dare you to stop.

Part III:  Well, I’ve Got About Fifty More Years of This Shit; or Playin’ the Existential Blues on the Ocarina with the Other Skull Kids

Since the meaninglessness was (is) inevitable, I decided that video games were my distraction of choice.  From 5th grade to my sophomore year of high school, most of my free time was occupied with video games.  I loved them.  I truly loved them.  The more difficult the game, the more I liked it.  I was fucking good at them, too.  My explanation as to why is because, at the time, video games were solitary endeavors.  I didn’t have to be part of a group or a team.  It was just myself on my own time trying to get through these damn things.  As I said before, this suited my personality.  It was a great relationship, better than most marriages.  It was a wonderful way to end  childhood and a pretty good way to start adolescence.

During this period, Nintendo was king (I was a Nintendo loyalist until this current generation).  The NES paved the way for the Super Nintendo with the Game Boy acting as a buffer between them.  I owned them all.  I loved them all.  Then, something strange happened, I was buying fewer and fewer games and started to become interested in other things: film and music.  I always had an interest in film, but how could I actively participate in it?  Well, I couldn’t, so that left music.  Guitars were affordable and assessable, so it only made sense to go in this direction.  The next decade of my life (late high school until the end of college) was wasted doing things related to music.  Unlike video games, I rather sucked at music.  I was a horrible lyricist and had a terrible singing voice.  I wish someone had set me down, told me pawn my guitar, and go pick the controller back up.

(Now, to be honest, I didn’t entirely give up on video games; they just weren’t the primary focus of my life anymore.  There were certain IPs that I could never resist: Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, etc.  So, yes, I did own a Nintendo 64.  And I don’t want to downplay the experience of playing through Ocarina of Time; it was bitchin’, but for some reason, at the time, I was attempting to be less solitary.  What the fuck was I thinking?)

After I graduated from college, I thought things would fall into place: a decent job would be obtained or something unusual or exciting would happen.  But, nothing at all happened.  I found myself working in fast food, telemarketing, and retail.  I was (am) miserable.  Fuck, nothing in life was working out.  Most people who reach this point deal with it by getting married and (accidentally) having children (which, in my opinion, is a terrible idea—“hey, our lives are kind of shitty; let’s make some more people” … I’m not feelin’ it) or by heavy drinking, popping pills, and that kind of shit.  I’ve never been a drug person.  After even trying some of it, I’m still not a drug person.  I don’t get it.  Perhaps I haven’t hit rock bottom yet or don’t have the personality for it; regardless, for whatever reason, I don’t like that shit.  It’s boring.  However, I needed something to take the edge off of the drag of being alive.  So, what the fuck did I do?  I dealt with the misery the same way I did when I was less miserable and still  I had the hopes and dreams of my youth: I played video games

Fuck man, I have to go a job I hate for the rest of shitty life!

In order to alleviate the utter demoralization that most people experience, with even the slightest amount of dignity and self-awareness, after of working just an hour of a shitty job, I bought Nintendo’s latest console, the GameCube.  Almost overnight, I was back into video games in a huge way.  So, once again, just as in my ass-end of childhood, video games monopolized all my free time.  While many panned the GameCube, I felt it was a pretty solid console.  It had two The Legend of Zelda games, two Metroid Prime games, a Metal Gear Solid remake, and a couple of Resident Evil exclusives.  Its controller remains one my favorite designs in gaming history, and I’ve always loved the color purple.  Honestly, it felt good to be back into gaming.  It was the happiest I had been in quite some time.  Really, some of the best moments of my life have been experiencing certain moments in games for the first time.  Yes, some of them are that fuckin’ good.

Eventually, after one of my shitty jobs came to an end, I found myself being revitalized.  For some stupid-ass reason, I started believing that I could actually do something with my life again, so I gave up on gaming for a second time.  I had some money saved and moved around the country, hoping that something—fucking anything—would happen.  Of course, nothing did, and this just cemented what I always believed:  I’m never going to escape my class or economic situation.  I’m motherfuckin’ stuck.  So, once again, I just wasted more time.  Completely out of money, I moved back home, where my GameCube was waiting on me, wanting to be played.  It’s been far too long, but, fuck yes, the relationship was back on.  She took me back.  I was in love again.

Desperate, I returned to school for a graduate degree in a field that I thought was practical, but had no real interest in at all.  During this period, the new generation of consoles was released.  It was time for an upgrade, but my loyalty to Nintendo was in question.  I played the Wii at my friend’s house and was completely disappointed, worst thing Nintendo has ever created (however, it became their biggest seller).  After 22 years of buying their products, I decided to part ways with the company, not even a new Zelda game could make me stay; I hated it that much.  I have never really been impressed with Microsoft and the Xbox.  Plus, after reading about all the problems they were having with the “red ring of death,” I decided to pass.  That left Sony and their Playstation 3.  However, I was still hesitant about making such a large purchase, but from what I’ve read, the PS3 seemed to be more my kind of machine and their exclusives were more to my tastes.  Then, I read about a game called Demon’s Souls.  That sealed the deal.  I was buying a PS3.

Demon’s Souls appealed to me because it seemed to be a blend of old-school difficulty (over the years, games, on the whole, have gotten a bit too easy) and more modern mechanics, design, and features.  Also, I was really craving a hardcore RPG, something that I could invest a lot of time into and not a game that I could finish after a few evenings of play.  Moreover, the screenshots just looked cool.  The art style looked very mature, serious, atmospheric, and foreboding, but with its own style (the armor, weapon and enemy designs were crazy bitchin’).  Again, I just had a desire to play a game that wasn’t typical of its era, something that was a bit out of the mainstream.  After simply finishing the tutorial, I knew that I made a great purchase.  This game wasn’t for everyone, and that’s a good thing.

Since it’s really a hardcore, underground title, it’s no surprise that Demon’s Souls is a truly unusual game.  There’s a constant feeling of loneliness as you play.  You meet some bizarre NPCs that remind you just how bleak the situation at hand really is.  One guy loses his will to live and fades away into nothing.  There’s no Hollywood-inspired action set pieces or a theatrical orchestral score.  Instead, it features intricate level design, methodical and challenging enemies and bosses.  Also, it has an intimate score that doesn’t drive the action, but colors it; the score seems like a sonic introspection of the game’s situations more than an extraverted exercise in being loud, epic and over-the-top (I’m looking at you God of War).  Honestly, it’s amazing this game was even made, let alone a success.  This is a special game, one that will be remembered for some time.

In my opinion, the Human Centipede isn’t as scary as the Man Centipede. Seriously, one is just defenseless humans sewed together mouth-to-anus, and the other is this fucking thing. Which would rather have chasing after your ass?

The game has some truly fucked up and genuinely frightening moments.  For example, world 3-1 of the Tower of Latria is scary as shit.  It takes place in a prison.  You constantly hear the moans and screams of the prisoners.  Sometimes, when you open up a cell, you see the prisoners trapped in iron maidens, slowly bleeding to death.  You see bodies strewn all over the floor.  Every few minutes, you hear a voice cry out “help me!” in extreme agony.  However, you don’t know who the fuck it is, where the fuck it’s coming from, or how, or even if, you’re supposed to rescue this person.  All the while, you’re in narrow passageways that are being patrolled by enemies called Mind Flayers.  These humanoid octopus-looking things walk around with lanterns and cast powerful magic spells.  There’s a real sense of dread seeing their lights in the distance and then hearing their chimes (or something) as you get closer to them.  Then, in 3-2, there are enemies known as Man Centipedes.  I found them just awful to look at.  I hated knowing that they were out there, and that I may have to encounter them.  It fucked me up.  Maybe it doesn’t sound that bad, but, trust me, reading my description and playing the game are two different things.  The first time through it was scary, but it still wasn’t as bad as the Resident Evil remake for the GameCube—that one scared me so much that, while playing at night, I was afraid to leave my room, causing me to piss in jars and empty them in the morning after a night of playing.

Demon’s Souls also features my most hated level in the history of gaming, world 5-2 of the Valley of Defilement.  It fuckin’ blows.  Ask anyone that has played the game and I’m certain they will say the same thing.  The level is a total pain in the ass.  The water or sludge or whatever the fuck it is that makes up probably 80% of the level is poisonous, so you constantly have to heal yourself (and healing items are not in abundance).  Also, while in the water, you can’t roll away from enemy attacks, which sucks because this level features Giant Depraved Ones, enemies that are hard hitters and very aggressive that you typically encounter on tiny islands with no room to fight.  I have been one-hit killed by these assholes several times during my first playthrough.  Also, the water slows your movements down so much that you’ll think that the frame rate has taken a dive.  Visibility also sucks in this level.  Really, all you can see is a lot black with some faint glows of purple.   5-2 is excruciating, painful, and difficult, but I was determined to keep moving forward.  When a game is hard, but you still want to keep on playing, well, I think you know that you are playing a great game.

Part IV: I Pressed a Button and Did Something Cool; or I Graduated, Got a Job, and Can’t Do Anything at All

Now, how is Demon’s Souls a metaphor for life?  Well, there are several reasons for this, and I’m going to try to tackle some of them right now—however, there’s a twist.  For most of us, life is pretty fuckin’ hard, yet we keep going, much like how we do when we play any video game, not only Demon’s Souls.  In life, our plights feel (and often are) hopeless.  In life, there are no answers, no set paths, and no guarantees.  In life, we are constantly searching for something to help us through tough circumstances; we are just out here guessing and feeling our way through various shitty situations.  At first glance, the exact same thing could be said about video games.  We battle through tough predicaments.  We overcome obstacles.  We search for useful items.  However, in a game, no matter how hard it may be, it’s always possible—it may take some time, but it’s always possible.  In life, this isn’t the case.  You may never find that item you need.  You are unable to level up.  You probably won’t ever earn enough money to afford something you need in order to overcome a challenge (healthcare comes to mind).

Eventually, two years after I bought the game, I finally earned my platinum trophy for Demon’s Souls, which is another way that the game is better than real life.  Now, when you accomplish something in a game (thanks to the trophy and achievement systems), you have something to show for it.  When you do something in real life, often times, you have nothing to show for it.  Yeah, you finish college and get that piece of paper, but it doesn’t mean shit.  It doesn’t lead to a job.  If anything, unlike the reward you get in a video game, in real life, you are penalized with debt and uncertainty.  You can’t enter up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start and get thirty chances at this motherfucker.  You only get one chance.  In real life, you’re probably not going to get very far: you’re fucking stuck.  Video games are nice enough to provide you all the items you need to complete your journey (again, some of these things may be hard to find, but they’re there).  In real life, for the most part, you’re on your own, and with the austerity measures being implemented on a global level, it’s going to be even worse.  The powers that be (mainly financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank) are going to make an already shitty situation even shittier.  And really, since forces out of our control determine so much of our lives, how can we be held accountable for anything that goes wrong in our lives?

If I am the result of the strongest sperm fertilizing the egg, that was the shittiest batch of sperm ever!

Luck has a lot to do with life, maybe everything to do with life.  No one likes to admit it, but it does.  The more realistic, honest, and enlightened will freely admit to such a notion.  Where you were born, to whom you were born, if were you born with any major mental or physical defects are all factors that determine how your life will turn out, far more than hard work and persistence.  For example, much has been written about the crushing difficulty of Demon’s Souls.  Yes, the game is hard, but, once again, it’s not impossible.  The game rewards planning and careful play, which is in contrast to most games currently on the market, so, unlike real life, the game rewards persistence and hard work (a myth that needs to be debunked).

Also, while Demon’s Souls implements luck in your character stats, it’s not much of a factor in the overall game; however, in real life, luck is the determining factor of your entire life.  If you are born in a low-income situation, you will probably remain there, most likely move down in economic class.  Who your parents are, the night they decided to have sex, the strongest sperm reaching the egg out of that particular ejaculate, and the specific egg that was fertilized are all totally fucking random events that are out of our control.  If you’re physically attractive, it’s fucking luck.  If you were born without any a debilitating defects, it’s fucking luck.  Again, if you were born to rich parents, it’s fucking luck.  All of these things are out of our control.  Unlike video games, it’s almost impossible to “level up” to and become strong enough to overcome our situations.  Upward social mobility is almost impossible in this country as writer Dan Froomkin describes in his article “Social Immobility: Climbing the Economic Ladder Is Harder In The U.S. Than In Most European Countries” :

Is America the “land of opportunity”? Not so much.

A new report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) finds that social mobility between generations is dramatically lower in the U.S. than in many other developed countries.

So if you want your children to climb the socioeconomic ladder higher than you did, move to Canada.

The report finds the U.S. ranking well below Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany and Spain in terms of how freely citizens move up or down the social ladder. Only in Italy and Great Britain is the intensity of the relationship between individual and parental earnings even greater.

For instance, according to the OECD, 47 percent of the economic advantage that high-earning fathers in the United States have over low-earning fathers is transmitted to their sons, compare to, say, 17 percent in Australia and 19 percent in Canada.

Recent economic events may be increasing social mobility in the U.S. — but only of the downward variety. Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, for example, argues that America’s middle class had been eroding for 30 years even before the massive blows caused by the financial crisis. And with unemployment currently at astronomical levels, if there are no jobs for young people leaving school, the result could be long-term underemployment and, effectively, a lost generation.

My life is totally stagnant.  I’m part of this “lost generation.”  Nothing is working out.  One thing people need to stop doing is blaming themselves for their misery.  There are far too many people who are fucked and are in the same situation—so many that it would delusional or a complete denial of reality to blame them individually.  The problem is systemic in nature.  For a lot of us, the most you can hope for is 38 hours a week at Walmart wages, but you can’t really live a comfortable life working such a job.  It’s no wonder America has one the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse and violent crime.  When you’re backed into a corner, you’re going to react.  Some will lash out at other people, and some will torture and numb themselves with drugs, alcohol, and sex.  Me, I have video games.

I am anxiously awaiting the release of Dark Souls, a spiritual successor (not a direct sequel) to Demon’s Souls.  Early reports claim that it’s even more difficult than Demon’s Souls, which is fitting because my life is only becoming more and more difficult with every passing second.  I’m about $100,000 in debt from college.  I have no prospects for any “good” job.  I’m 34, unemployed, and live with my mom.  After months of sending out hundreds of resumes and getting no responses, I don’t see much point.  I’m done.  It’s over.  I’m never going to do anything that I wanted to do in my life, even the mundane,  uninteresting shit doesn’t even seem to be a possibility at this point.  I majored in something that I have no interest in because I thought it seemed like a somewhat practical decision, which has now shown itself to be a complete bust.  I’m fucked.

No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I compromise, I’m not winning this game called life.  Fuck, I can’t even get through the first level.  However, what keeps me going is that I know with some serious effort and diligence, I’ll probably be able to get somewhere in Dark Souls, most likely finish it or, if I give it my all, even platinum the game—no matter how difficult it is.  In real life, however, a vast majority of us are stuck, even with occasional access to walkthroughs (help from friends and family).  Eventually, we grow so tired of playing that we decide not even to play anymore.  It’s not worth it.  We aren’t getting anywhere.  It’s broken.  Life is the shittiest game ever.

In video games, there are answers and solutions to problems.  In life, there’s nothing but problems; you’ll hardly ever find solutions to them, and, even if you do, more problems will arise, making existence just a series of meaningless conflicts.  Life, like Demon’s Souls, goes on, and both only get progressively more difficult with each day, each playthrough, but, at least, Demon’s Souls is fucking fair.

This blue asshole lost his will to live in the game. I have lost my will to live in real life.

“What, you again?  The disciples and the magicians in the Nexus despise one another.  Did you notice they never sit in sight of each other?  The fools.  What good comes of childish rivalries?  We are all prisoners here.” – Crestfallen Warrior (the blue asshole)


F.U.S.B.I., Please “Come on Back” and Save Me from the Irony That’s Slowly Killing Us; or Regular People Doing Shit on the Internet is Way Cooler than Rich People Doing Anything, Anywhere

Part I: Net Neutrality Makes Bald Eagles Cry; or Reymon14 is the Greatest Thing I’ve ever Seen

Some people believe I am crying because abortion is legal, but I hit my talon on the corner of the couch. It hurt like shit.

I love the Internet.  It’s one of the greatest things that I’ve been exposed to since being alive.  Actually, I think it’s better than sex.  Of course, I really don’t like sex that much (not fuckin’ around here—I seriously think sex is kind of dumb [I could go into why, but it would take an entire book to explain it fully; even then, only about five people would actually understand any of my grievances … so fuck it!]).  Anyway, because of my anomalous personal feelings toward sex, that preceding declaration isn’t really proving my point, carrying any weight, so let’s try this again: I think it’s better than video games.  Okay.  Now, I’m gettin’ somewhere.  With that statement, I’m beginning to illustrate just how wonderful I think the Internet really is.  Seriously, it’s totally bitchin’, and very few people would disagree.  In many ways, it’s the new and much improved form of television.  However, it’s far from that icy cold, passive medium of yesterday.  Instead, it’s the red fuckin’ hot, highly participatory medium of right fuckin’ now.  If Marshall McLuhan were alive today, he’d be so excited that he’d be playin’ WoW, postin’ pics of his dong on 4chan, and shittin’ bitcoins.

Because of the Internet, for the first time in my life and for the first time since understanding the dangers of concentrated media ownership (I’m looking at you, Telecommunications Act of 1996), I feel that the media has been “somewhat” democratized by its ubiquitous presence and widespread use (much more than CB radio or public-access television ever did—there’s only so much “truth” horny, methed-up truckers and wacky Christians with shitty hairstyles can spew).  It’s given us direct communication with a myriad patchwork of regular people (not celebrities), alternative ideas (not only Republican or Democrat), unfiltered news (not as obviously corporate-controlled, but still—to some extent—corporate-controlled), and general strangeness (far too many things to single out anything in particular).  Of course, this won’t last long.

Milkshake mayhem!

Net neutrality is not going to withstand the lobbying from the telecommunications industry; therefore, the end of this Golden Age of the Internet is coming very soon.  From my understanding, there already seems to be major plans underway to fuck us over.  With that said, it certainly has been a nice, short ride, hasn’t it?  I’ll miss you, Reymon14, but don’t worry—we shall be reunited again with Harpo Jarvi and its connection in some sort of digital version of a “Lost” afterlife, where we will drink nail polish remover, chew on some lead, and “fuck parental” for all eternity.  We’ll be there with Monoxide, ChristinaBeanah, and those two girls (they can leave their fuckin’ cup with the living).  Honestly, this sounds like it could be a blast.  Are you ready?  No, no!  I said, “Are.  You.  Ready?”  Then, for the thousands in attendance, for the millions watching online …

Ultimately, the day will arrive when the Internet—as we know and love it—will be mutated into just another corporate entity (ironic, since its inception was funded with public money).  Then, not only will they have 40 hours of our weeks siphoned out of us through our shitty jobs, but they will also have control of what websites pop up in our search results when leisurely browsing, manipulating our free time and our access to unfiltered information as well.  Moreover, once they start their new and seriously unfair “bullshit” billing practices, the anger will be relentless and widespread, but absolutely nothing will happen.  The bad people will have won; they always do … after all, this is America.

And by this point in the battle, those siding with net neutrality, which, once people actually learn what the fuck it is, would be almost everyone in existence (even our dead relatives will appear in our bedrooms as scary-ass, but progressive ghosts to voice their support with haunting, but strangely beautiful, indescribable sounds … they will also will leave cold spots and maybe even odd scratch marks on your stomach, so be sure to get some bandages and keep some extra blankets nearby to shield yourselves from their cold, dead souls) … fuck, I got carried away; let’s start that over.  And by this point in the battle, those siding with net neutrality will have been labeled socialists and left-wing terrorists by the surrogates of the business and financial classes, using the power that their concentrated ownership of the telecommunications industry (aka the media) guarantees in order to manufacture consent for their undemocratic, unfair stance on net neutrality and all of their other evil bullshit, but how can this be?  I mean, we all know that the media is owned by “leftist” elites that despite also sharing ownership of transnational corporations that have long histories of destroying labor and socialists movements and have even murdered union organizers  in other countries are actually the leaders of a pro-labor, socialist revolution right here in America via their own radio and television outlets.

Really?  That’s who controls the media?  Leftist billionaires that sit on the boards of transnational corporations that destroy labor movements in third world and first world countries across the globe—I don’t know about you guys, but doesn’t that kind of cancel out the whole “liberal media” thing?  Of course, the preceding scenario about business-owned media being left-leaning, pro-labor socialists doesn’t make any logical sense, and with that kind of fucked logic, no one could possibly take such an idea seriously, could they?  Again, this is America, so of course, they could … and of course, they do.

Needless to say, we all know the outcome of this little scenario.  A small, but sizable group of very loud, angry people will be convinced that net neutrality would be worse than a new strand of AIDS that only affects straight people and will begin to make a bunch of noise; subsequently, the corporate-controlled media that created the hysteria to begin with will cover them 24/7, making it seem like the entire fuckin’ country is against net neutrality, thereby creating outrage from people that actually know better and manufacturing some sort of weird-ass, herd-like approval from those that are normally apathetic at best, bringing the vast majority of those that are living in this listless haze to the crazy side of the equation, which would look something like this: (crazy, anti-human assholes + bullshit) + (clueless, apathetic people + bullshit) – informed, altruistic people = the end of the Internet as we know and love it and a giant loss for the entire goddamn universe, other than those in the capitalist class, which is only about 1 or 2% of the population.  In other words, we’re fucked.

And who are the easiest people to manipulate into believing that net neutrality is a dangerous, freedom-destroying abomination, concocted by the evil socialist Satan himself (even though Anton LaVey stated that he was influenced by Ayn Rand, the queen bitch of capitalism and chain-smoking, right-wing hero, while writing The Satanic Bible, which really doesn’t have that much to do with Satan at all, but seemingly, is a love letter to the virtues of unfettered capitalism)?  Well, people that don’t know anything, people that don’t need facts to back up any claims, people that tend to see the world in black and white, and people that base their entire existences on shit that isn’t real.  Does this sound like anyone to you?  That’s right, religious fundamentalists (aka Tea Party Patriots [I don’t care what anyone says—every “Tea Bagger” I’ve ever met has been more religious than Carrie White’s mom]) and also the new special batch of free-market libertarians that believe that the already mega-fuckin’-powerful transnational corporations of the private sector need even more fuckin’ power (most of them seem pretty goddamn religious, too).

Capitalist.

Capitalist.

Capitalist?

The manipulation of the crazies has already begun.  Months ago, I remember Glenn Beck bitching about net neutrality.  Then, I heard a clip of David Barton (perhaps the king of the crazies) from his radio show describing his take on it.  Not surprisingly, it was just as stupid as I thought it would be.  Barton said, “Net neutrality sounds really good, but it is socialism on the Internet.” Barton actually thinks the idea that having an Internet where everyone has an equal voice is a bad thing.  (Fuck man, these cold motherfuckers don’t even believe in virtual egalitarianism!  How fuckin’ badly were these people beaten as children?)  Barton then added, “This is the Fairness Doctrine applied to the Internet, and I’ll go back to what I believed for a long time is: fair is a word no Christian should ever use in their vocabulary.”  Well, that pretty much says it all.  What a dick!  What a crazy-ass fucking dick!

Unfortanately, we all know the type of people that would take Barton seriously.  Like I mentioned before, these are the people that base their entire lives on shit that isn’t real (sure, there’s a [Christian] God, and I’m actually gonna do something with my life).

These are the people that get all of their news and information from television and only from a single source.

These are the people that promote freedom at all costs, but don’t allow themselves to say “shit” or even “butthole” or any other word that has been deemed “bad” by an authoritative source that limits the very freedom that they claim to love and are offended by anyone that does use their freedom to say words like “fuck” or “fucking” or “motherfucker” or perhaps a combination of these words in a complete sentence, for example, one might say: “How the fuck can you claim to love freedom when you don’t allow yourself to say what you fucking want, you contrary motherfucker?”

These are the people that bitch about trivial things like Harry Potter being a wizard or Dennis Franz’s naked ass on NYPD Blue and will organize boycotts of sponsors and start letter-writing campaigns, but serious sociopolitical problems that result in the deaths of thousands of human beings per day don’t seem to phase them at all—way to prioritize your grievances, sociopaths!

These are the kind of people that want to ban violent video games, but think real-life wars where people are actually killed and mutilated are just bitchin’.

These are the people that hate the government, but, often times, will be, currently are, or have been in some branch of the military (or have received some sort of government aid)—and, in some cases, it’s the only real job they’ve ever had, owing their entire livelihoods to the government.  Now, there are exceptions to this.  Some people that have served in the military despise our government because they have seen the horrors and hardships of unnecessary wars or, conceivably, have been screwed out of medical care upon returning home, which I am sympathetic.  However, in my experience, I have rarely met those individuals.  Instead, I tend to meet people that passionately hate the government, but fail to see the major contradiction that they are employed by the largest part of the government that they claim to hate and are essentially performing their “hated” government’s dirty work on a global scale. To simplify the above observation, these are people that hate the government, but are intensely jingoistic.

These are people that love The Beatles, who are known for the humanistic music and activism, but somehow ignore the music’s content and are staunch supporters of unfair, austere, and anti-human political and economic polices.

These are people that actually believe that bald eagles can cry.

Okay, I’m almost finished with this this, but here’s one more—saving the worst for last: these are people that think Two and a Half Men and Adam Sandler movies are fuckin’ hilarious.

Seriously.  They don’t make any goddamn sense.  Being around these people makes my head hurt because of their innumerable and blatant inconsistencies.  It’s bizarre.  Also, I have to admit that, from my own experience, I am very well aware that we all contradict ourselves on occasion, but this is extreme.  This is mental illness.  This is unbearable.  These people need help, but they are against the very programs that could help them.

This is going to be the hot issue of 2012.

Every family has, at least, one of these people.  They show up at events, speak their bullshit, and kill the mood, and because most people are nice, no one ever calls them out—of course, you can’t be rational with an irrational person, so it wouldn’t really do any good.  If you do argue with them, it only makes them stay longer, so it’s best to let them win.  The illusion of a victory will make them feel like they have power over you and your guests, which is ultimately what these people want anyway—yes, they’re that kind of “prison sex” fucked up.  Once they leave, everyone will breathe a sigh of relief and will try to go back to having a good time … back to normal, but it’s too late—the threshold has been crossed; they have tainted the event, the day, the week, the month, the year, the decade … before you know it, they have ruined your entire fucking life and the lives of everyone on the planet.  Goddamn, they suck!  These people need hobbies and interests that go beyond watching television and attending church.

Mom, give me all your quarters. After we finish eating here, I’m gonna blow $10 at Aladdin’s Castle, playin’ “Rampage.”

Well, anyway, I went into net neutrality to provide some much needed context for the meat and potatoes that’s coming up soon.  Net neutrality was just the appetizer.  Hopefully, my conclusion will be the dessert and read like the delicious chocolate pudding, with the little chocolate shavings on top, that you used to get at York Steak House (just for you, Valerie—I’m sure we met there at the Eastland Mall years ago without even realizing it: we could have been “baby friends”).  However, I have a feeling this will read like a kid that just mixed all of his food together on their plate.  In other words, who the fuck knows where this will go and how it’s gonna end up?  It’s been a long time since I have blogged, and I’m approaching it a bit differently than before.  I’m going to try to blend personal experiences and observations with actual information from other sources—try to get out of my own head for a bit.  I just hope that I can stay on topic.  For example, is this paragraph even necessary?  Probably not, but this is why blogging is way more fun than academic writing or writing for any kind of compensation: you don’t have to play by any rules or answer to any editors.  Anyway, enough of this shit, every journey has got to start somewhere, so let’s start looking for the eight pieces of thing known as the Triforce, shall we?  (It’s dangerous to go alone!  Take this.)

Part II: Let’s Have Some Babies so They Can One Day Work Shitty, Low-wage Jobs, Watch Sitcoms, and Be Lied to, Too; or Milton Friedman is a Dong

Recently, I came across the best thing that I have ever found on the Internet: a music video for the song “Come on Back” by the band F.U.S.B.I.  Now, I know that when someone declares something as the “best thing ever” that it is typically hyperbole; however, I can assure you my feelings toward this song, video, and band are sincere.  (I wouldn’t bother writing about anything if I didn’t feel strongly about it.  I’m passionate in that way.)  At first, I treated it as just a bizarre curiosity that I found to be both genuinely entertaining and unintentionally (though there’s some debate about this) hilarious.  While it’s true that the first time I watched it, I was laughing my ass off; I also, simultaneously, felt kind of bad about my reaction.  Then, after my second viewing, something strange happened: I legitimately liked the song.  And after my third viewing, I loved both the song and video—without any irony whatsoever—and shortly came to the conclusion that F.U.S.B.I.’s “Come on Back” is the most important music video ever made.  And yes, I’m very serious about that statement, but before I go into why I think this video is so important, we need to understand how I arrived at my seemingly bizarre and weighty conclusion.  There are two major concepts or ideas that I think will shed some light into my proclamation: our irony-saturated and (manufactured) image-based culture.  So, since the premise has now been set up, let’s continue this journey to the Lost Woods and start with the more obvious of the two: our (manufactured) imaged-based culture. (10th enemy has the bomb.)

I would hope that most people realize almost everything that they see on television, in a magazine, in a movie, etc., is a total fabrication and distortion of reality; very little is real, especially content that claims to be “real.”  However, once again, since this is America, I seriously doubt most people really think about such things (notice a theme?).  They’re probably too busy doing … too busy doing … honestly, I don’t know what fuck normal people do with their time, although my guesses would include pretending that they like their jobs and spouses, regretting having any children, and forcing themselves to be satisfied with how their lives turned out—there’s also probably a lot of alcohol involved, too (because, you know, when people are constantly drunk, everything is okay—it’s not an indication that you’re unhappy or anything like that … no problems at all and also a wonderful environment in which to rear those unwanted or accidental kids that you now have to guide through this meaningless life).

Are you guys buying this shit? Yeah, I’m not either.

(Are you readers pissed at me now?  Well, if so, is it because I had the audacity to flippantly throw out such fallacious and venomous personal attacks directed toward  the choices that you have made in your lives, or is it because I hit the nail directly on its misery-inducing head?  Take a breath.  Think about it.  Confront your frustration and discontent and blame all of your problems on me.  Now, take another breath.  Think harder.  What’s really bothering you?  And to all of those that laughed, thanks.  You people don’t need a weatherman to know which way the blows.  You know what the fuck’s up.  You know how fuckin’ bad it really is, and you know how fuckin’ bad it’s gonna get.  And trust me, it’s gonna get much, much worse.)

Anyway, regardless of how media savvy one believes themselves to be, the need to recognize and understand the system of complex machines that make people, places, things, and ideas seem better or worse than what they really are and the power that this mass media, in all its assorted forms, has to distract us from things that we actually should be concerned with—things that could royally fuck our collective pile of shit up—is paramount.  So stop masturbating so much and pay attention to the world in which you live.  Who knows?  It may actually change things.  Okay … probably not.  Keep on masturbating.  At least, it’s something real that actually makes people feel good.

In the book, The Unreality Industry: The Deliberate Manufacturing of Falsehoods and What it is Doing to our Lives authors Ian I. Mitroff and Warren Bennis dedicate entire chapters to explaining how this “unreality industry” functions and flourishes.  Chapter 4 entitled “Manufacturing People: The Prosthetic Society” points out that the media wants us to increasingly be unable and unwilling to differentiate between reality and unreality.  The reason for this, according to Mitroff and Bennis, is to basically sell things.  The indiscriminate mixing of various levels and kinds of reality and unreality sells TV programs, books, tabloid and magazine articles, products, political candidates, etc., on an unparalleled scale (Mitroff,  Bennis 75).  This is evident by just going shopping.  A few years back, I worked in retail, and I noticed that the store was stocked with products that were simply advertisements for other products.  For example, the magazines we sold were not about anything really—there were no ideas in them: they were just light, breezy, simple-minded, good-looking pages of nothing, purely a collection of ads and reviews for other things you could buy that was, sometimes, packaged as important news.  Also, the dumber and more useless the item was, the better it sold.  Of course, I know that taste is subjective, but man, that shit was useless, dumb, and awful.

Dork.

Moreover, we are constantly being fed that we live in a consumer-driven, free-market miracle (an unreality for several reasons—check out Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism to really get into this), but, at the store where I worked, we were trained as salespeople that our customers were not “free to choose” (a reality).  (So, take that, Milton Friedman and other dumb ass “free-market” libertarians—now, I already know your over-simplified, unrealistic retort  [I can even hear you smug, asshole voices saying it]: “Well, you have the choice to shop at another store.”  Seriously, though, name one fucking retail store, one fucking business on a national level that isn’t hostile, unfair, and predatory toward their own customers and workers, just one, you fantasyland-living motherfuckers!  Also, don’t tell me to shop locally either.  Local business owners are just as greedy and corrupt as thier multinational counterparts.  You cats in the business class are typically some world-class dongs.)  In fact, not only were the customers not free to make their own decisions, we were told to be aggressive and to promote specific products (usually the “dumber and more useless” stuff that I mentioned before) and push special offers that were just fuckin’ moneymaking scams for the companies and shareholders involved.  It was a win-win for the rich, and a lose-lose for the consumer and worker.

Her best role? I think so.

You couldn’t just waltz into our store and kill time browsing around or buy something that you actually like with without any hassle.  No Sir-ee Bob!  We were under direct orders by our district manager, who was also a miserable alcoholic, to prevent such a natural thing from ever happening.  During one of the dreaded and pointless conference calls, he said, in his overly confident, evil voice, “People don’t know what they really want.  People don’t know what they really need.  It’s our job to tell them what they want and need.”  Okay, Gordon Gekko, but personally speaking, no one in the fuckin’ world is ever going to convince me that I need a Kate Hudson movie on Blu-ray and eight free issues of Entertainment Weekly just for buying stuff with my already bullshit, scam-ass credit card.

Sadly, the only people that did go for this stuff were the most naïve and trusting of our species, so basically, my job was to take advantage of people, which goes against everything I stand for—it fucked me up, man … doesn’t sound like much, but it fucks us all up, much more than most of us even realize or care to admit: it’s a cancer in the system.  Even more fucked up, if you didn’t comply and reach your unrealistic sales goals, by forcing a certain number of people to buy things that they didn’t even want or need to begin with, you would be out of your shitty job, making your already shitty life even more filled with shit.  Life is great, isn’t it?  Anyway, as horrible as that aspect of that job was and currently “is” for people that work (and are unfortunately stuck) in those positions (I truly am sorry), somehow, I survived it, but I know that I’ll be working at a similar place in the future—if you’re in a certain geographic area and from a certain class, no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape this shit.  Stop belieiving those “1 out of 100,000” success stories; it’s all bullshit.

(And remember, free-market libertarians and Tea Baggers basically want our lives to be dictated by unregulated markets: the buying and selling of goods without any rules whatsoever.  This sounds like a great idea!   It’s very practical and rational.  They “truly” are kings and queens of rationality, even their magazine is appropriately titled Reason.  Their ideology doesn’t seem crazy at all; it wouldn’t lead to any major problems or anything, only happy workers and consumers.  Life is just buying and selling things; we stick with that and everything will come up roses.  Almost sounds too good to be true.  Way to take the whole human element out of economics, assholes!)

Even worse, there’s much more damaging, sinister, and far-reaching effects of the blending of reality and unreality than simply selling people shit they don’t need—or even perpetuating the myth of the free market as being peachy-sweet-delicious-perfect.  The incapacity to recognize what is real and what is bullshit is the most dangerous aspect of the unreality industry.  The blurring of the real and unreal eventually affects our judgments and mental capabilities.  The facility to know that you are being fucked over and the facility to actually care that you are being fucked over are pretty goddamn essential.  The ability to differentiate, the values to appreciate the differences and the desire to exercise them are like any other human skills or talents.  They must be constantly exercised or they vanish over time (Mitroff, Bennis 75).  I think these abilities have already begun to diminish in the general public.

The Unreality Industry: The Deliberate Manufacturing of Falsehood and What it is Doing to our Lives was published in 1989, and I feel that this blending of reality and unreality has only gotten worse over the past two decades.  There are far more access points to media content than ever before.  Everyone has phones with Internet access; almost every restaurant has armies of television sets on at all times—it’s just our culture.  Postmodern life has become one giant distraction to keep us from realizing just how terrible—or how possibly great, but, most likely, how terrible—life can actually be.  The media is so omnipresent that it has now been reduced to background noise or just something akin to eating, shitting, and sleeping—it’s mechanical biology, a clockwork orange: it has become part of our cultural automatic nervous system that strangely possesses the power to shape popular opinion and our economic and political policies by simply always being there, saying absolutely nothing and everything at the same time.

Of course, this isn’t anything new.  We’ve been warned about the dangerous power of the media, from writers of fiction and non-fiction, for years.  However, most of the time, the readers of such works have already been unplugged from the Matrix—preaching to the choir, so to speak.  The message needs to reach those that don’t know and probably don’t care about receiving it, but how do you reach people that don’t care.  Well, you don’t.

We have been at a point in which apathy as been the norm for several years—maybe even decades—now.  However, it seems that something far worse than apathy has taken over our culture: the lack of any kind of awareness within the general population.  (Seriously, what the fuck happened to introspection and self-awareness?  Remember these things?  They actually made conversations interesting, maybe even funny.)  Really, it’s one thing not to care; at least, when one is apathetic, you are aware that you are making a cognitive decision not to care, but, when you lack awareness, you don’t even know who the fuck you are, where the fuck you are, or why the fuck you are—you don’t have the rudimentary functionality to even ask yourself such basic fucking questions.  It’s gettin’ bad out there.  Very few people seem to have the self-awareness to know just how bad they actually have it … or the fortitude to even care.  The media has distracted and consumed us with entertainment presented as reality and reality presented as entertainment.  Many of us don’t seem to know the difference.

I am not optimistic at all that you can wake up an entire nation of people, especially not about something like this.  There is a great number of people that have lost most of their ability to differentiate between what is what is real and not real; however, I believe that even more people don’t even care enough to question what is real or not real.  The more difficult it becomes to figure out what real or not real, sincere or insincere, or important or unimportant, the more power the capitalist class will have. Mitroff and Bennis sum up the current condition of American society (perhaps of all industrialized nations with an abundant access to media) regarding its lack of awareness with a simple, but telling statement: In short, it is ignorant of the fact that it is ignorant.  It doesn’t know that it doesn’t know (179).  Now, this is fucking dangerous.  Did we just get a piece of the Triforce?  (Pay me for door repair.)

Part III: When Everything Goes to Shit, We Can “Blame It on the Rain” or the Fact That We Really Don’t Want to Be Informed at All … Only Entertained; or It’s all about Class

Here we are now, entertain us.

How does any of this relate to F.U.S.B.I?  Well, I am trying to explain our (manufactured) image-based culture, and I felt it was important to get a quick overview of some of the more negative aspects of the media in order to get an understanding that content is basically seen as simply a product for commerce or as information for the purposes of distraction and distortion—never informing us truthfully, thoroughly, or providing any context about what’s really going on.  And since the ultimate goal is making a profit, producers and distributors will go to great lengths to do so, controlling not only how the product is created and circulated, but also even fucking with the its very inception.  For example, they will create a band and the band’s image rather than the allowing for the organic formation of like-minded musicians to come together for a common musical vision.  Of course, this practice has been going on for years: The Monkees, New Kids on The Block, Backstreet Boys, etc.  These bands were not groups of individuals with the burning desire to say something about the human condition, but were merely employees that worked seemingly interesting and glamorous jobs.  Eventually, however, a lot of them grow tired with being industry-created “people” and try to do different things or quit the business completely.  (With that said, the story of The Monkees is a fairly interesting one and worth checking out.)

Venue managers, financial managers, professional coaches, publicists, personal mangers, and talent agents are all players in the manufacturing of this content and the celebrities that result from their fantasy-making machine.  As an aspirant to the industry, you need these people in order to get a first break or any kind of initial recognition at all.  Basically, it’s a like a pay-to-play situation.  Also, a potential band or entertainer must be willing to make several compromises concerning their talent, goals, motivation, and even themselves.  Most likely, their private selves will be rearranged to fit a public persona that has been researched to sell to a specific demographic.  Often times, once a band moves up in its career, even that rare band that has, somehow, broken through on its own, must allow themselves to be somewhat malleable in order to be molded to fit specific roles designed for them by the various machines of the industry in order to climb or to even maintain their current position.  Sometimes, as a certain genre goes out of fashion, the act will go through a transformation that will be branded by the media as a comeback or an artistic breakthrough.  Hardly anything can just happen organically in this industry; everything is spun, orchestrated, and made into a huge event (of nothing).  They can make anyone what they want or need them to be, and this is dependent on who has the best publicist or marketing team and who the label really wants to be successful.

This is not the mythological free market in which a person rises or falls based on their talent, ability, intelligence, or merit.  For the most part, this is a very controlled industry where your triumph depends on how much you are willing to sell out in order to achieve your success, which is just like any other industry or profession.  For example, in my experience, people that went along with company policies; didn’t care about their fellow workers; and were willing to lie, cheat, swindle, and scam were the very ones that climbed the corporate ladder and got promoted.  Don’t act surprised.  You all know it’s true.  Once again, bad people always win.

(At this moment, I would like to point out that I’m mainly speaking of acts or people that are more in the mainstream.  The rules, processes, and institutionality of more underground acts are probably a bit different, especially those that have the desire to remain in the underground.  The problem with this is eventually the mainstream will infiltrate various venues that are homes to thriving countercultures.  For example, I have read about various companies sending out people to underground venues in search of the next new, big thing. They take notes on fashion trends, hairstyles, general attitudes, and artistic movements and then apply them to their own creations, co-opting things that had a bit more credibility and turning them into fucking advertisements for cigarettes, high-end liquor [whatever the fuck that is—seriously, do we need “high-end” liquor?], and other stupid shit.)

Another way that content is manipulated is through performance itself.  For example, this is the age of auto-tuning, a now seemingly embraced, overused, and hopefully, on-its-way-out audio effect that automatically tunes a singer’s voice, which really just makes it sound like shit—personally, I think it makes everyone sound like Soundwave’s kids got a hold Fostex MR-8mkII 8-Track and are just fuckin’ around with it.  That being said, deceptive practices have plagued the recording industry for years.  Nothing new under the sun, right?  For instance, do you remember the Milli Vanilli incident?  The more recent Ashlee Simpson fiasco?  There’s also an isolated vocal track from a live Britney Spears performance that’s floating around on the Internet without any effects added; it’s an interesting listen.  Honestly, though, I kind of felt bad for the guys in Milli Vanilli.  From my understanding, they were being manipulated just as much as the general public.  However, once exposed, they absorbed the brunt of the consumer outrage, and the corrupt industry that created the situation to begin with got a free pass.  People don’t take the time to think about things on a deeper level or see the bigger picture, do they?  Of course, they don’t.  Wait … I know better.  Why the hell did I even bring that up?

There was also the C+C Music Factory controversy, which, by today’s standards, wouldn’t be much of anything.  The video for the band’s song “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” deceived viewers into believing that Zelma Davis was performing the female vocal featured in the song.  However, the vocal was actually preformed by Martha Wash.  The band or (more likely) the band’s management (or perhaps both jointly) decided that Wash, being obese, shouldn’t be featured in the video.  Instead, they opted for the more television-friendly, photogenic Davis.  They needed to use the image that would move the most units, and that image was of a group that was purely composed of young, good-looking, urban gatekeepers and tastemakers that lived in a world of only beauty, success, and great motherfuckin’ times.  (By the way, I’ve always hated that song. There’s just something about it …)

The controlling of performances, images, and the presentations thereof has only grown more sophisticated since the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.  Also, as this sophistication of the unreality industry has gone up, the population’s critical thinking skills seemed to have been on the decline.  Our society seems to want the decadence, glamour, and lies of whatever it is they are consuming.  I sometimes wonder that if we were to start showing things as they are, would people accept it on a mass level?  Of course, some people would.  There will always be a few that crave authenticity, but overall, I think it would be quite jarring; people wouldn’t know what the fuck to do.  I don’t know if people have gotten used to the lies, need the lies, or, as discussed before, don’t even know that they are even being lied to.  I’m perplexed by people.  I don’t understand them.  However, one thing I do know is that we’re fucked.  If you don’t believe me, go to a mall or have a meal at a casual-dining chain and eavesdrop on some conversations … see, I told you: fucked is what we are.

While we’re on this topic, I think it’s important to mention that these deceptive practices are not just limited to the entertainment industry.  Our supposed “hard news” has always been distorted or filtered to some extent; however, like with all the other scenarios covered, it has only gotten worse over the years.  There are a few major reasons for this, but the slimy-ass, rat-infested public relations industry is one the main culprits:

By their own estimates, the authors of High Visibility contend that public relations accounts for more than 70 percent of all the information that is disseminated under the label as news in our society.  That the decentralization of the celebrity/PR industry has contributed to a vast infrastructure in the nation which itself contributes to deliberate production and distribution of partial or slanted truths at best and outright untruths at worst is disturbing.  It has become difficult to sort out how much this development has contributed to versus created the public’s general distrust in truth.  Whatever the case, there can be no denial that the existence of an elaborate infrastructure for the production and dissemination of the slanted information is not healthy for a public that needs to know more and more in order to function in a complex environment (Mitroff, Bennis 108).

Well, no shit, it’s disturbing.  Discovering that 70% our news is written by PR firms that are hired by various businesses and industries that write stories, press releases, and maintain websites that distort and lie to carry out their own agendas is pretty fuckin’ terrible.  Fuck, there’s even software for persona management that creates fake profiles on various online communities in the attempt to sway public opinion in whatever way the users of this software desire; this is known as cognitive infiltration, just another word for propaganda.   When I say that everything is bullshit, I’m not fucking around.  Almost everything is bullshit.

To further give a middle finger to the PR industry (which I like doing—seriously, have you ever met people that work in this field?), Wendell Potter, former Vice President of corporate communications at CIGNA (an asshole health insurance company), reveals a lot of their dirty tricks and dubious practices in his book Deadly Spin—a good read for people that want to know just how fucking terrible the PR industry really is.  During the buildup before the release of Michael Moore’s Sicko (a critical overview of America’s healthcare system), Potter’s job was to orchestrate a public relations campaign against Moore personally and against the film’s general message and claims.  Conversely, once he became a whistleblower, Potter stated that the film was an accurate portrayal of the insurance industry.  Also, in keeping with the theme of the public unable to determine what is fact or fiction, Potter said, “Without basic knowledge of PR tactics and the ability to distinguish between fact and distortion, Americans–and that includes journalists, both professional and citizen–are at the mercy of spin doctors and the public relations practitioners whose loyalty to their clients outweighs the public’s right to the truth.”  However, from my several experiences with this very situation, when people are confronted with evidence that goes against their held beliefs, people will still believe what they want to believe, regardless of its state of being factual or not.  Like I mentioned before, you can’t be rational with an irrational person.

How could anyone want to be in corporate communications, public relations, advertising, or marketing (all big players in the unreality industry)?  A lot of these people make six-figures per year (so there’s my answer) for fucking lying.  Really, that’s all they do.  They just make careers out of lying … lying about very important things that affect the lives of millions of people.  It’s not surprising.  People rationalize rape, murder, child molestation, war, and becoming investment bankers or life coaches all the fucking time.  However, I find this confounding.  I couldn’t do it.  I’ve met a few people in my life that have jobs in advertising and public relations that make more in one day than what it takes most of us to make an entire month.  Think about it.  Someone whose job it is to pick and harvest the crops or prepare, cook and serve the food make far less than people that just make the food look better than what it is really is, using various methods that the above-listed industries provide.  Lying is a lucrative business: America is great at it, and Americans make the greatest suckers.

Now, before we go any further, let’s go over some of the major points that have been covered:  (1) the media is owned and controlled by transnational corporations and their shareholders;  (2) 70% of our news comes from PR firms, which have the same large corporations as clients; (3) the differentiation of reality and unreality is growing more difficult to determine; (4) the general public seems unaware that it is “unaware”; and (5) an uninformed populace makes it easy to pass policies that screw them over.  In short, we are fucked.  (So far, how many paragraphs have I ended with a similar sentence?)

Okay, let’s get back to the heroes of this world full of shit, piss and lies: F.U.S.B.I.
There is very little doubt that F.U.S.B.I., in my opinion, is an organic beast made up of local guys that work together or have been friends for years that share a love for music and just wanted to form a band.  Perhaps they put out an ad for their young keyboard player, but who knows?  The mystery is part of the intrigue.  F.U.S.B.I. is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.  Seriously, it’s really difficult finding any information about this band.  There’s no publicist sending out press releases.  There’s no one handling them.  There’s no one telling them to wear certain clothes or project a specific image.  They are: they exist.  Simply.  Beautifully.

At this time, I would like to go into a few details concerning the video.  First, let’s start with a list of each band member and some short thoughts and observations:

  • Singer – could be a bad ass, but one with a heart of cold, would do anything for his friends
  • Shirtless guitar player – the wacky one of the bunch, will do anything for a laugh, possibly a little dangerous
  • Keyboard player – good kid, really wants something different for his life, hope it happens for him
  • Leather-wearing guitar player – great life-worn face, has really been through it all, probably the heart of the band

Now, I could be completely wrong, but those are my general impressions.  They aren’t trying to be anything other than themselves.  I think that comes through.  When the singer makes the hand gesture symbolizing intercourse, he really believes it’s a cool thing to do.  When the shirtless guitar appears shirtless for the first time and jumps into the air, he knows it’s fucking ridiculous.  When the keyboard player smiles into the camera and sings, I really believe that he’s having the time of his life.  When the leather-wearing guitar player looks down during his solo, he’s so in the zone, serious about his role within the band.  The performance parts of the video play like a practice in their garage.  We are seeing them just as they are.

The narrative parts involving the woman that dropped the twenty are equally as telling.  I’ll try to break down my interpretation of the video.  First of all, she seems like she’s from another class, making her unattainable to the singer (or any of the band members).   Normally, there would be no reason or chance to even speak with her, but when that twenty drops, he’s going for broke … he’s going to take a chance and not give in to his own circumstances.  When he finally comes face-to-face with her, she appreciates his honesty, but she also sees this as an attempt to strike up a conversation in hopes of getting a phone number or a date.  Realizing that the two of them are from different worlds, she hands him back the twenty and leaves.  The singer, slightly heartbroken, is a little perplexed, but overall, not really shocked by her reaction; he expected it.  Giving the twenty back to him was her way of saying what he already knew: they have nothing in common.  The entire narrative portion of the video is about class division.  When he sings, “Come on back,” within the context of this video, he doesn’t mean it literally.  Instead, he is referring to what he wishes would have taken place—he is dreaming, as evidenced by the final shot.  He simply wonders what it would be like to experience how the other half lives, so to speak.  She was a symbol to a different life within the same city, one the band members will never see.  Am reaching here?  Maybe a little, but I don’t believe I’m that far off from the video’s intention.

Unsurprisingly, there’s some speculation that the band and the video are just an ironic joke (which I’ll get to later).  However, like I mentioned, I believe them to be the real deal, the most real deal we’ve ever seen, but it certainly would be nice to get a confirmation.  Again, I’ve had no luck.  Perhaps the guys were driven into exile after the Internet began to mock them—some lovingly (which is fine) and some with malice (which kind of sucks)—and tried to distance themselves from the video.  I hope not.  The band and the people responsible for the video should be very proud of what they have accomplished.  And what is exactly have they accomplished?  Well, the have made the most anti-unreality industry and, therefore, culturally significant video I have seen.   In the age of net neutrality and the somewhat democratized media as its result, they have made the people’s video, a real representation of what is like to be an outsider trying to produce anything that isn’t part of daily routine.  They have made something real, raw, and without bullshit.  I love them for it.

What’s worse than me? Nothing. I’m the shittiest thing ever.

We’ve been conditioned to only believe things that are slickly produced, have high production values, and huge marketing campaigns are the best of the bunch and are the only things to be taken seriously.  We expect things to look, sound, and feel a certain way, but as my critical and analytical skills improve and as I grow more media savvy, these productions mostly feel empty— they are, for the lack of a better term, soulless, lacking a sense of humanity.  Watch any Michael Bay Transformers film and see if you get a similar reaction.  You realize that your only watching a lot of money being thrown at the screen.  It’s all style and no substance.  However, since it took a lot of money to make, constantly see ads for it, and Access Hollywood did a story about it, it must be good.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that have this way of thinking.  It’s strange to me.  Seriously, have you ever met anyone that talks for hours about their fuckin’ car, but can’t tell you what their own child’s interests are?  We’ve all met these people, right?  I bet these people love Michael Bay movies.  (I know it’s low-hanging fruit to bash Bay, but seriously, he really deserves it.)

I am definitely not in the above-mentioned mindset.  I see through most of this bullshit.  I don’t want things to look neat and perfect.  It’s a waste of our time, energy, and intellect.  Life isn’t neat and perfect and, therefore, art and entertainment shouldn’t be either.  In other words, the better the voice, the less I believe it … the less I feel it.  Now, that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate a great singing voice or the technological marvel that is a talking CGI animal, but it’s expected.  It’s dull.  We’ve all grown used to it.  For me, it doesn’t make the work as relatable.  This is why “Come on Back” really stuck a nerve with me.  Most people say that the singer for F.U.S.B.I. has a shitty voice, but I disagree.  I think he has a very endearing voice.  It’s real, honest, and flawed—completely opposite of what we are typically force-fed by the unreality industry.  Moreover, anyone that will put anything out there in a sincere and honest way is taking a real risk, showing real bravery to face any consequences that result.  There is something to be said for that

I also see life gushing from this video.  The guys in the band (with the exception of the keyboard player, of course) are middle-aged, working-class people that still have a passion and desire to do something other than work their undervalued and probably underpaid (but important) jobs, go home, drink, and watch television.  These guys are making something, creating their own entertainment, and experiencing the thrill of the artistic process that, often times, seems to be only meant for more privileged classes.  This should not be taken lightly or made fun of, and yes, I’m not fuckin’ around here.  I’ve known so many people whose zeal and fervor for just about everything is lost by their early twenties (I’m one of them), so for the people that mock them, when you get to be their ages, let’s see you have the desire to even try to do anything that doesn’t involve things that you have to do in order to survive.  Once people get comfortable in their lives and routine is when they become the walking dead.  They are no longer people, but only consumers and tools of mass production, which I think was the kind of the point of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, right?

Really, I’ve seen so many people turn into even more boring and lamer versions of their parents by just going through life without even questioning if there is another, perhaps better way.  Nothing quells the desire for anything (I’m not talking about material shit here, either) more than becoming comfortable and settling for normalcy.   It’s sad, but hey, things have worked out for them; they have their basic needs met, and, once that happens, there’s no need or desire to create, take risks, or explore.  There’s a path to follow.  Life is on autopilot until they die.  Of course, this scenario is only for the people that have their needs met.  (Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to have a decent job.)  Most of us work full-time gigs and struggle with even having our basic needs met—one emergency or health problem and we are fucked, which can quell all of those loftier desires, too, but for a very different reason (opposite of comfort): you have no choice in the matter.  So, I guess, we are all fucked.  Anyway, the motherfuckers in F.U.S.B.I. haven’t given up.  They are still fighting, searching, and living.  And as miserable as I am, I find this somewhat inspirational (and not in some schmaltzy fuckin’ way).

F.U.S.B.I.’s “Come on Back” is a hydrogen bomb dropped by the new neutral democratic media on the unreality industry and the manufactured images it produces.  Of course, it won’t put a dent in it and most people won’t even notice its presence or importance.  But, man, for those of us that do, it’s a beautiful thing.  Speaking of bombs, I just found some.  The quest continues … (DODONGO DISLIKES SMOKE.)

Part IV: Why the Fuck Can’t We Just Say What We Mean?; or A Few Reasons for a War Against the Constant State of Being Ironic

To represent irony, I almost went with a pic of Obama, but that was too obvious. Instead, turn off the dark, motherfucker!

Earlier, I mentioned that that there were two things that I wanted to explore concerning my reasons for loving all things F.U.S.B.I.: our (manufactured) image-based and irony-saturated culture.  And now that you know a little bit about my thoughts on the former, it’s time to go into my thoughts on the latter—which is going to be a little more difficult to discuss.  And that is because “irony” is such a complicated term to define.  I’ve read academic definitions that are tantamount to the length of a full chapter of a novel, and I’ve also read standard definitions that don’t include anything close to the meaning needed for the intents and purposes of this blog entry.  So before I go any further, I am going to supply the definition of “irony” that will best illustrate my objective.

The following definition was taken from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

2 a : the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of   the literal meaning
b : a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony
c : an ironic expression or utterance

This is the second entry out of three listed was the best suited for my intent, and “a” is exactly the denotation that I needed, which is, basically, the condition of not saying what you really mean.  (I suppose that it wasn’t that hard to define at all.)  Some people may disagree, but I feel that we live in a constant state of being ironic.  Because of this, no one really seems to be able to communicate well.  It’s causing major problems.  The root of this problem is varied and numerous, but the media more so than the general public is responsible for perpetuating this condition—perhaps it’s even the major cause.

Recently, Roger Ebert, film critic and prolific online author, made a comment about how many people on the Internet can’t seem to pick up on irony or satire.  For him, the evidence is the large number of people that can’t determine that articles from The Onion, a satirical newspaper, are not real.  This is something I’ve noticed online as well, but I’ve also noticed this in my day-to-day conversations.  People can’t seem to tell when you are fucking with them or are being deadly serious: there’s no difference.  Is this yet another side effect of the insidious unreality industry?  Are people not able to pick on concepts like irony because they can’t determine what is real or not real, sincere or insincere, or important or unimportant, thereby rendering every piece of information they come across and every conversation they engage in as a blurry mess of words and ideas that they can’t comprehend or even pick up on basic tones or concepts, failing to form an accurate meaning of what they have just been exposed to?  Yes, I think this is the case.

Not that long ago, I found myself in a conversation with some random stranger waiting in line at a restaurant.  Typically, I don’t say a fucking word to people I don’t know, but for some reason (honestly, I wasn’t given much of a choice), I let her into my life … for a brief time.  She was going on and on about the crime in southern Ohio, about how you used to be able to keep your doors unlocked and how neighbors took care of each other.  Now, these kinds of observations may have some amount of truth to them, but I have a feeling they are exaggerated and idealized.  I listened only because I was there.  (We’ve all been in these situations, haven’t we?)  The more she spoke, the more I wanted it to end.  However, I was curious to see where this was going.  I had a feeling that somehow it was going to turn into something about religion or politics.  Then, she said, “If these people just had God in their lives, they wouldn’t do the crimes, drugs, and the other things they do.”  Not being a complete pushover when met with opposition, I replied in my normal speaking voice, “Yeah, there’s never been any Christian that I know of that has ever been convicted of any crime.”  “I know,” she replied, not understanding my comment, which I thought was completely obvious.  Seriously, how could anyone not understand that I was making an ironic statement?  I was hoping to get her to think about how ridiculous her statement was by making an equally crazy-ass statement of my own.  No such luck.  I let it go.  You can’t win with people like that.  Fuck, I can’t even find any common ground with people like that.  Babies and kittens are more engaging.

I can’t believe that slave that works at my diamond mine wanted to be treated like a human being. That is so fucking funny!

(The above situation just reminds me of something that I have noticed throughout my entire life: Christians [probably all super-religious people] are not funny [well, they are unintentionally hilarious].  They aren’t funny because they lack a sense of irony, sarcasm, satire, hyperbole, and don’t have a general understanding of the world in which they live—all of the components needed for a sense of humor, and I’m not talking about necessarily advanced one, either [not expecting them to be Pryor in the ‘70s or anything].  I would just like to see some semblance of “something” there.  Humor derives from being highly aware, perceptive, and smart.  On a whole, they are none of these things.  They really don’t know much about anything.  Most of them I’ve had exposure to seem a bit, for the lack of better word, slow.  Honestly, they seem kind of dumb.  When having a conversation about anything that isn’t related to their own religion [which,  sadly and often times], I seem to even know more about than they do.  Really, they don’t seem to know anything.  Yes, they certainly know a shitload of untrue facts, but something seems off to me.  I think they’re creepy as fuck.  Seriously, nothing makes more uncomfortable than being in a room filled with them.  They all seem mentally ill to me.  It’s like all the inhabitants of Arkham Asylum busted out and started having weekly meetings every Sunday; they all seem like weird-ass, comic-book villains—at least, that’s what I’m thinking when I’m around them.  Anyway, if this fucking home schooling thing catches on and Christian parents began educating their litters of children, well, once again, we are fucked.  Come on, I’m just saying what you’re all thinking.)

Anyway, for a few moments, waiting in a long line to get our five-dollar footlongs, this woman thought that she had found a new friend, a kindred spirit that believed people commit crimes because they are not Christians.  Boy, was she wrong.  (This is why I have to let my hair grow long again.  She wouldn’t have even made eye contact if I had longer hair.  Then, I wouldn’t have had to go through this shit to begin with.)

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only time in recent weeks in which people haven’t understood something that I have said that was completely ironic.  About two months ago, I found myself at a “kind of” a family gathering, but “not really” a family gathering.  I was sitting at a table with a group of people that I really didn’t know at all.  The group was composed of young parents and middle-aged people taking about the dangers of the Internet.  Most of the conversation dealt with the Internet usage of their children and grandchildren.  They were all petrified that their little darlings were going to get picked up, raped, and killed (yes, it can happen, but they’re more likely to contract a fatal case of pneumonia or die in a car accident).

Be quiet! I’m not going to hurt you, but I am going to steal your innocence. We’re going to have a shitty dinner at Applebee’s. After about ten minutes of awkward conversation, we will both realize that we don’t have anything in common and just wasted an evening of our lives. I’ll drive you home in uncomfortable silence, and we’ll never speak to each other again. You have now just experienced dating as an adult.

Of course, I was silent, just sitting there, waiting for this thing to be fucking over (I only went because my mom really wanted me to go).  Suddenly, one of these women asked me, “What do you think about all of these Internet abductions?”  Again, typically, I don’t say anything, but when asked a direct question, I feel obligated to answer.  So, I decided to be myself (which I was always told to do from various sources throughout my life) and responded, “Well, a couple of years ago, I was getting a lot of random messages from all kinds of people on MySpace.  Most of these messages were from people that seemingly wanted to meet up for a date or something.  This was new and kind of exciting for me, and most of the time, I was up for it.  So, this one time, I met up with this person at Dairy Queen, of all places.  Things went okay, and the next thing I knew, I found myself naked and in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room.  I didn’t know where I was.  I was scared.  Then, in walks the person I met up with, laughing with knife in their hand.  I noticed that my clothes were in the floor.  I quickly got up from the bed, grabbed my clothes, ran though this strange house trying to find the exit, found the exit, went out the door, searched my pockets for my keys, and took off in my car.  I was in shock.  I don’t know what’s wrong with people.  Seriously, when I was six, I never would have thought of doing such things.  I knew he was gonna be trouble, but I couldn’t resist.  He was too cute.  Six-years-olds are way too old for me, anyway.”  Now, of course, this was total bullshit.  I thought that anyone could determine that, but they couldn’t—and they weren’t having it, either.

From the very beginning, I noticed that they were alarmed and gasping at the thought of even using the Internet to meet people.  When I got to the part about being naked on the bed, they were visibly horrified.  Fuck, they didn’t even pick up that I was bullshitting them after I revealed that a six-year-old boy raped me.  How credulous can you be?  I know that I would have picked up on it rather early.  Anyway, after I finished telling what I thought was a harmless, totally bullshit story, I had to let them know that I was joking.  I really felt like I had to … they looked like they were near death.  I couldn’t stand the look on their naïve, weird-ass faces.  If these people are a good representation of the average person, it’s no wonder that people can’t tell what is real or not real.   Man, they were so fucking strange.

Also, I noticed that they reacted to the story like they’ve never heard such a thing before, although the discussion leading up to it was about real and horrible things that have happened to people in similar situations, so obviously, they’ve read about it or heard about it on television (why else would they be discussing it?).  However, they have never really been around someone that has experienced such a thing (or, at least, has the  ability to make up such things on the spot).   Upon learning it was meant to be a joke, it only got worse.  They couldn’t comprehend why I, especially at my age, would joke about such a thing.  In my mind, I was wondering why, at any age, you couldn’t tell when you’re being fucked with, especially, when it’s so fucking obvious.  Seriously, who the fuck would admit that they are a homosexual pedophile in a casual conversation with people that don’t even know?

(Once again, if someone told such a story around me [and they have], I would definitely know that it didn’t happen—it was only to get a laugh.  Moreover, depending on my mood, I might actually laugh hard at such a thing.  However, whatever my reaction, I would definitely appreciate the intent and approach.  I would be amused by it.  To me, it indicates a creative and active mind, which I am very used to being around, so whenever I’m around regular-ass people, I am baffled by how fucking dull and boring they are.  These people lack the basic skills to pick up on sarcasm and irony.  Are people really this gullible?  Of course, they were probably angry because they found what I said offensive, but goddamn, after sitting there for three hours, listening to their ridiculous theories and anecdotal evidence of the dangers of the Internet, I needed to spice up the conversation somehow; it was killing me.  By the way, later, this entire paragraph will make me a hypocrite.)

So, as you can see, one of the reasons that I am declaring a war on irony is that people don’t seem to pick up on it.  Oddly enough, I have noticed they pick up on things that they have been conditioned to find funny or amusing.  For example, there have been many times that I’ve been in a theater with an audience and some trailer for a lame-ass comedy starts playing.  People are really fucking laughing at this shit and not little, under-the-breath laughs, but hard, laughing-out-loud kind of shit.  Again, I don’t get it.  For me, it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud—something has to really be firing on all cylinders to really work.  Recently, while watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon (I went to see it because … because … fuck man, I don’t why I went to see it), there was a middle-aged guy behind me that laughed at every fucking line the two little robots delivered, and, once again, these were not little chuckles; they were laughs that were fused with his very soul.  I don’t know, man … I just don’t know.

Has the unreality industry caused a large number of the population to only accept and respond to humor at designated and appropriate times?   Yeah, I think so.  Unless they are exposed to things or situations that are supposed to be funny, i.e., sitcoms, films, stand-up, etc., people don’t seem to pick up on ironic statements or sarcastic comments.  Has the unreality industry made people believe that only those on stages or on screens are the only ones that have been given permission to be entertaining or funny?  For several people, I believe it has.  When the average person is exposed to people that have the ability to think analytically and abstractly, giving them the knack to make ironic statements, they meet them with hostility and even disdain; people tend not to like people they know that are smarter than they are.  I’m not saying I’m a genius, but I can’t go anywhere in the small town I’m from without some sort problem arising.  Basically, when I’m home, I have to take a vow of silence for my own survival.  Otherwise, someone will threaten to fight me or challenge me to a dual or some crazy shit just for letting my thoughts be known.

Now, you’re probably thinking that I’m really reaching here.  You’re saying to yourselves: “People make me laugh all the fuckin’ time.  I can tell when something is intended to be ironic.”  Well, that may be true.  I feel that most of the people that I run with in real life are far funnier than most forms of entertainment.  However, these are people that we know, so there’s probably a lot of bias.  Would most people “get” them, or would people be offended and not understand them?  If you answered, yes, well, it’s safe to say that they probably are funny.  If you have no fucking idea what I’m even talking about, you’re part of the problem and have a terrible sense of humor, a terrible sense of taste, and you should stay away from any promotions involving the use of your credit card when you are shopping.

Do I seriously believe that we should never use irony?  No, that was total hyperbole.  (It’s sad that even I feel that I need to point that out.)  Irony is far too useful and necessary for criticism, analytical thought, and humor to be banned or limited in any way.  However, like I’ve discussed earlier, we seem to be living in a world in which a great number of people lack the skills to determine when such concepts are being utilized.  How do we educate and reach these people?  Can you even teach someone the ability to determine such things, or for whatever reasons, are their brains unable to learn and comprehend these concepts?  If not, are we to hold their hands and explain everything to them?  Seriously, because their lack of awareness, it’s scary that this many people are such easy victims of mass manipulation.

While I am fully aware that irony has its place and purpose, I do think it is overused among a certain type of person, mainly the artistic and creative types that understand the concept all too well.  They abuse it, and ultimately, it weakens their work.  However, perhaps I’m coming to this conclusion after coming of age in the ‘90s and being exposed to a lot bands that were always trying their hardest to be lyrically clever and too damn cool for their own good.  Albums from these ironic bands have not aged well.  They feel forced and contrived, far too silly for such serious times.  Of course, this is only my subjective opinion, and I could be changing a bit as a person: perhaps I’m becoming too serious.

Pioneer of aerodynamics (little eiffel, little eiffel). They thought he was real smart alec (little eiffel, little eiffel). He thought big they called it a phallic (who the fuck cares, who the fuck cares).

Over the years, I have realized that I appreciate sincerity, earnestness, and seriousness far more than wit, whimsy, and humor.  Like I mentioned, a lot of the music from the ’90s was just ironic, lighthearted shit, performed by somewhat privileged kids (Pavement, Pixies, Weezer, etc.) that had nothing to say (or if they did, it was done in such a “quirky” way that it lost any chance to truly resonate with the listener, rendering the bands as, basically, novelty acts).  Other than a few bright spots, there were far too many of these types of bands during this decade.  Tragically, there was probably better stuff out there at the time, but I missed it.  I was too busy laughing with these bands and not at them.

Of course, there were more serious acts at the time.  For instance, recently, someone asked me, “You like Pearl Jam?  Really?”  I do, in fact, like Pearl Jam quite a bit.  Pearl Jam’s strength is that it took itself seriously.  However, at the time, I didn’t get that; I was too busy being my own version of cool, which “ironically” included a lot of irony, quirk, and sarcasm and also was disingenuous, for it was manufactured by the same industry I’ve been bitching about (man, I was such a sucker).  Anyway, time and introspection has made me realize that I was kind of dick, sometimes a fairly big one (still am, but now, the targets of my dickdom are far more deserving).  My lesson has been learned: it’s really easy to be a smart ass that doesn’t give a shit, but it’s really hard to a smart ass that does.  Pearl Jam was far too mature for me at the time, which is an odd thing to say because I was known as being rather level-headed in my youth—rebellious, yes, but never reckless and stupid: there were very specific reasons I was fighting authority (which always did seem to win).  Also, I never thought of myself as an incredible shallow person, either.  I mean, at the time, I was bit a fashion victim, but that was due to my age and not fully understanding what it meant to be a rebel or dissident.  Anyway, I was young and kind of dumb, but even knowing what I now know and being a quite a bit more media savvy, I still would have dressed and acted out—it was too much goddamn fun.

In relation to works of art (some people have an uppity concept of what art can be—I mean it as anything a person creates), irony dates things too much.  When something is earnest, it’s timeless.  Moreover, irony is too easy.  It’s so undemanding to treat everything as a joke.  Sincerity is far more difficult quality to achieve in a work of art.  There’s something that sours me watching, listening, or reading something that just seems like entertainment and nothing more.  I need substance over style, love over lust, and cold, hard truth over warm, fuzzy lies.  Now, I’m saying that I avoid everything that isn’t all doom and gloom or emotionally heavy, but I need a sense that some emotion, concept, or idea is being explored in some serious way.  Lately, most of the music, books, shows, and movies aren’t making the cut.  I thought that this has to do with my age, but from judging what much older family members choose to expose themselves to, I think it has more to with personality and worldview.

The detached irony that was ushered into our culture by the lesser, pre-Internet distribution model of pop culture participants from the previous seemingly concerned, angry generation that eventually just turned into asshole capitalists, as every generation before them did, has left its ugly mark on our ethos.  By singing their quirky songs about fucking nothing, nothing was gained or learned.  Not being able to say exactly what you mean in your own work is, in my opinion, a sign of cowardice.   It has consequences beyond making trivial, lighthearted dreck.  It has the power to change the way people think.  If you want people to think about nothing, keep on singing about sweaters, haircuts, and monkeys going to heaven.  Of course, I’m probably taking this way too seriously; it’s only entertainment and a distraction, but seriously, do you really think we need anymore fucking distractions?

The situation itself is ironic.  While a lot of people can’t seem to pick up on ironic statements, there’s an entire section of the population (the creative, educated, and more affluent) that can’t seem have any conversation without resorting to sarcasm, hyperbole, and irony.  These are the people that should know better.  If we don’t start revealing our true intentions, I fear the consequences will be dire.  The blending of reality and unreality and the inability to recognize sincerity or insincerity is going to make any kind of meaningful conversation that can already be difficult even more difficult.  What we will be left with is a society made up of individuals that lack awareness of any kind and do not possess strong personalities or a sense of identity or place, once again, making them easier to manipulate and control.

Like Pearl Jam or Bruce Springsteen, F.U.S.B.I. is an earnest act (you don’t have to write about profound topics—you just have to be sincere in your approach, performance, and presentation).  This band is the epitome of real.  My goal was to contrast F.U.S.B.I. against the media and most of its content, exposing it all as total manufactured bullshit.  (I hope that I succeeded.)  F.U.S.B.I is a dose of reality and earnest passion that we desperately need, a wonderful kick in the ass of entertainment produced by ironic people from privileged backgrounds that mock us, profit from us, and manipulate us.   Of course, many of you may not even know why we needed a band and video like this.  That’s the bigger problem.  The Internet must remain neutral in order to make certain we have access to things that aren’t manufactured distractions, PR firm produced news stories, and utter lies that create an alternative universe filled with capitalist class approved content, which a lot of you seem far too comfortable in calling that fucking place home.  Ultimately, F.U.S.B.I. is a symbol of some type of weird-ass purity in a fucking terrible, fake-ass world.  And in my opinion, that’s pretty goddamn important.

Of course, I risk being wrong about everything that I have just stated.  Perhaps this is some kind of joke, mocking people that, in my opinion, don’t really deserve it (there are actually really horrific and terrible people, events, and ideologies that deserve being mocked).  For me, the most heartbreaking thing is that I am wrong, and this is some sort of joke put on by some college-aged kids that think they have their fingers on the pulse of culture and believe that they actually know something about life.   If I am wrong and this video is a tongue-in-cheek joke, well, the joke is on me.  However, even with my disdain for the kind of people that think such things are funny (yes, I realize that I’m about ready to contradict myself here), I can’t tell if it’s a hilarious, strangely inspirational critique of the possibility of Internet fame or just a mean-spirited, unfunny cheap shot.  Maybe it’s both.  Why do things always have to exist in two equally opposing halves?  There is a lot of room for anything and everything to be more complicated that its creators intended.  However, when all is said and done, I believe that F.U.S.B.I. is the real deal.  It is too important for the band not to be.  With that said, we just got the last heart container.  Our journey is almost at an end.  (There are secrets where faeries don’t live.)

Part V: My Breakdown and My Conclusion (Which if This is Like York Steak House Chocolate Pudding, it’s Made with the Darkest Chocolate Possible—‘Cause I’m Not a Happy Camper); or F.U.S.B.I. is Automatic for the People

As I alluded to earlier, at this point in my life, whimsy, quirkiness, people smiling for no fuckin’ reason, or any other actions or qualities that even resemble or remind me of those states of being really piss me off.  When I younger, this wasn’t the case.  I embraced that shit, laughed at it, and even participated in it, but, in my defense (yes, I feel ashamed for not being miserable), I was young, didn’t understand concepts like social class and environmental determinism very well (or at all) and, therefore, was far more optimistic.  I thought that things were really going be okay.  I truly thought that as long as I didn’t make any major mistakes or fuck up too badly that I could actually reach some of my loftier goals that I had set for myself (now, I can’t even achieve basic goals like finding a full-time job).  Strangely enough, by the way, I don’t really think that I’ve made any major mistakes at all, but that didn’t seem to matter; I know people that got knocked up in high school, are currently drug addicts, and don’t accept evolution as fact that are doing way fuckin’ better than me.  Of course, I suppose that most people are in the same boat, but they seem like they can deal with it—notice I didn’t say that they are dealing with it in a more “positive” way … they’re are just “dealing with it” in whatever ways that they can.  Good for them, I suppose, but I sure the hell can’t do it.

I’m fucked, and I know it.  90% of my week is thinking about what the fuck went wrong, and the remaining 10% is thinking what the fuck is gonna go wrong.  I am stuck living in my confusing past and constantly thinking about our (whether you like it or not, you’re also part of it) unpromising futures; the present isn’t really lived or thought about too much.  It comes up, but it’s more painful than the past or the future combined, mainly because I know that I’m stuck.  And don’t give me that shit that you make your life what you want it to be.  I may have fallen for that year’s ago, but I fucking know better now.

To sum up my life’s arc thus far, years ago, I thought that anything was possible; people—while flawed—are, overall, good, and as long you stay true to yourself, you’ll achieve, at the very least, a sense of inner peace, contentment, and would have more moments of joy and happiness rather than a constant state of misery and sorrow.  I was fucking wrong.  Now, I don’t think anything is possible; people—while flawed—are not necessarily bad, but rather meek and are intellectually and spiritually lazy and allow the absolute most terrible of us to control our lives, and, even worse, you constantly have to lie to yourself to create only a handful of moments of joy and happiness throughout your existence just in order to escape the baseline of misery and sorrow that the vast majority of our lives have become (most people are only a few thoughts away from suicide—they just don’t know it yet).  To restate the same concept, in my teen years, I was ready to take on the world and its problems through whatever skills, intellect, and talents I believed (and was told) that I possessed, but now, I sometimes think about shitting in my pants because I don’t want to leave my room; my will and motivation for required for simple biological functions have been obliterated.  Okay, one more, then I’ll stop with this shit (boy, I really know how to beat a dead horse).  In my youth, I believed we were going colonize the universe, and now, I’m not even convinced that the planet will make it through the current day.

You did, in fact, blow me away.

Yes, my outlook is bleak, but I’ve given this much thought and genuinely feel that this is really how it is.  When you get to a point in which you think that life is nothing but disappointment and that nothing is possible and you’re constantly surrounded by glamour, distortions,  lies, and decadence, it makes people that have may my worldview and personality seek out anything that is real, raw, and earnest.  F.U.S.B.I’s “Come on Back” was the motherfuckin’ cure to my existential depression that only a free and neutral Internet could provide.  In that video, I saw everything that is good about humanity, and for a short time, I forgot about everything that was bad.  It was a huge middle finger to everything I’m against.  It destroyed our image-based, ironic, wealth-obsessed, bullshit, fake-ass culture.  Media outsiders that are more representative of reality than most of the shit we are force-fed made something more valuable than what they even realize.  They don’t seem to give a fuck, and that’s why it’s the most important music video ever made.

Well, the journey has ended.