Demon’s Souls as a Metaphor for Life; or The Reason I Play Video Games is Because They Are More Fair Than RealityPosted: September 27, 2011 | |
Part I: It’s Either This or Suicide; or Since We Can’t Solve the World’s Problems, Let’s Not Even Try
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
“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, AnywherePosted: September 5, 2011 | |
Part I: Net Neutrality Makes Bald Eagles Cry; or Reymon14 is the Greatest Thing I’ve ever Seen
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
(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).
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.
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.
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.
The Almost Conquest of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes; or James Franco and Tom Felton Aren’t Very GoodPosted: August 12, 2011 | |
In 1968, Planet of the Apes was released to both critical and commercial success, giving birth to a new a franchise. Four more films were made based on the original mythology from 1970 to 1973. In 2001, Tim Burton directed his interpretation of the series with yet another film simply titled Planet of the Apes; no direct sequels followed. Burton’s film had great makeup effects, but fell short on every other level. Now, a decade later, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, director Rupert Wyatt reboots the franchise in earnest, without the inanity and goofiness that beleaguered Burton’s version. This change was as needed as it was welcomed.
Out of the original five films, I thought all of them were good, and three of them were great: Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes are (with their dated effects and all), in my opinion, some of the strongest science fiction films of the ‘60s and ‘70s, if not of all time. Science fiction is perhaps the best genre to explore humanity’s problems with itself, its challenges with the exponential growth of knowledge, and its difficulties with the sweeping social and technological changes that occur as a result from such knowledge. The original films dealt with sociopolitical themes that mirrored the tribulations that plagued society during the tumult of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s: racism, class division, worker exploitation, nuclear war, and the general way in which power was distributed among members of society were all ideas that were explored (oh, how some things never change). Each film had a point of view and wasn’t afraid to tackle those themes with a certain amount of conviction and fervor. These films treated the situations that their characters were in rather seriously, but also took their loftier ideas even more seriously: this is what made these films standout. They were much more than entertainment and amusement. They were trying harder than most films. They were greater than the sum totals of all their parts. (Yes, I think this highly of them.)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets some things brilliantly right, and a few things offensively wrong. The film opens in an African jungle. Poachers are capturing chimpanzees and sending them to Genesys, a San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company that is using them as test subjects for a drug that is attempting to cure Alzheimer’s disease. The head of this project is Will Rodman (terribly played by James Franco). Events unfold that eventually force Will to bring a baby chimp home, but not after having the effects of the experimental drug genetically passed to him. Will’s father (terribly played by John Lithgow), who is ailing from the very disease that Will is working to cure, immediately takes a liking to the baby chimp recently named Caesar (wonderfully played by Andy Serkis). Caesar spends his days in the Rodman’s attic, watching the outside world through a circular window. At first, he seems at ease with his captivity, but this quickly changes.
We learn that the prototype of the drug increases the intelligence of the apes. Caesar eventually demonstrates intellect that is considered above average—even over human counterparts the same age. Caesar is taught sign language and communicates freely with Will. He begins to develop self-awareness and the burdensome and complicated emotions that arrive with such a cognitive state. Eventually, in an effectively emotional scene, he asks Will if he is a pet. Regardless of Will’s denial, he still feels like one. Caesar knows there is one else like him; he is alone. Moreover, once Caesar learns what Will does for a living, we assume that he starts to harbor trust issues and general disgust for the human race. Conflicted and confused, Caesar only grows more introspective, questioning, and curious; as a result, he becomes more difficult to control. After a mishap involving Will’s father and a neighbor, Caesar is captured by animal control and sent to a primate facility.
Once at the primate facility, the movie begins to shine. Caesar has never been around others of his kind. His first meeting with the other apes in a jungle-themed primate recreational room is handled very well, as are most of the scenes that take place at this facility. The amazing thing about this section of the film is that hardly any dialogue is spoken: it almost turns into a silent film. The significant glances and the determined looks on Caesar’s face are far more engaging than any human actor in the film. Seriously, the apes, including those in the background that are seen as only specks on the screen, are far more compelling than any human character. There are also some terrific and surprising moments involving a former circus orangutan and a silverback gorilla named Buck. More of the film should have taken place here. It would have given us a chance to know some of these apes more as characters rather than plot devices. For example, the orangutan and Buck are way more interesting than the scientists—I wanted to know about their backgrounds.
Eventually, Caesar grows tired with how the apes are being treated and begins to plan a revolt. He forms bonds with some of the apes, but he knows that most of them are not intelligent enough to understand how dire their situation really is; therefore, he sneaks out of the facility and fetches some canisters of the drug to aid in the evolution of his peers. They begin organizing, plotting, and eventually escape. Again, I would have liked more scenes involving the apes communicating and sharing their experiences. If we spent more time with the apes, it would have made their rebellion that much more satisfying.
Caesar leads his troops into the streets of San Francisco. They seemingly free all of the apes that are being held in captivity in the entire Bay Area and do battle with local law enforcement. Visually, there are some nice moments here. The image of Caesar popping up over a building’s ledge—followed by hundreds of other apes armed with makeshift spears was memorable. Also, the unwavering look on Caesar’s face as he approaches the Golden Gate Bridge via streetcar was particularly powerful.
The film concludes with Caesar and his army trying to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Caesar’s use of strategy was quite impressive. He uses the dense fog of the Bay Area as an asset. He commands three separate units to gain an overwhelming tactical advantage. After recently viewing Michael Bay’s hideous Transformers: Dark of the Moon, it was refreshing to see an action set piece that had a point, was presented in a logical way, and had characters that made smart decisions to carry out their desired actions. Overall, however, the conclusion felt rushed and was not entirely gratifying, mainly due to some poor writing and one really dumb human character.
Much praise is to be given to Andy Serkis and the designers that brought Caesar to life. Anytime Caesar was on the screen, I was entertained and excited by what could happen next. The amount of emotion conveyed through his eyes alone was amazing. Serkis did an incredible job here. I believed the performance, became emotionally attached, and cared more about a non-existent, computer-generated image over any flesh and blood human in the entire film. This was truly Caesar’s film.
All of the human actors were weak, but out of the terrible human performances, two actors need to be mentioned by name. The first of these is James Franco. He showed almost no emotional response to any situation throughout the movie—no matter how minor or major the event was. For example, when a major and startling revelation was discovered, he squinted and delivered his lines like nothing unusual had taken place, but the information he just received was truly mind-blowing. Moments like this really killed the film. (Also, for someone that’s about to earn a PhD in real life, you would think he could’ve pulled off playing a research scientist rather well, but he didn’t.) However, as bad as he was, he was not the worst actor in the film. This dubious honor goes to Tom Felton, who played Dodge Landon (with a name like that, you know he has to be bad), an abusive worker at the primate facility. I’m not even going to waste my time writing about his performance; there is life to be lived.
Other than all the human actors’ performances, the additional major issues I had were with the script. There was an unnecessary character, Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto), a veterinarian that was introduced in the first act as Will’s love interest. Other than a couple of lines about questioning the ethics of animal testing, she did nothing in this film. She was only there because it’s the standard Hollywood practice that main characters always have to be in relationships. Seriously, why can’t people be single in movies? The second major problem was that they should have delved into just how cruel the human race can really be. I felt that this was sugarcoated and glossed over. For example, the Ape Management Center that trained apes for slave labor in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was far more brutal than anything seen in this film. A few scenes like this would have made the plight of the apes more poignant and, for the simple sake of cinematic storytelling, made the film more dramatic. And the last thing that I want to bring up is the truly stupid scene where Dodge brought a friend and their dates to the primate facility to get drunk and torment the apes. This was the worst scene in the film. Everything about it was forced and rang false. I can’t imagine two women (no matter how right-wing, Ayn Rand-loving, and anti-animal rights you could be) that would actually put up with two guys shocking apes in cages. I know that I just mentioned that I would have liked to have seen the film explore the violence and depravity of the human race, but this was just stupid. There are better ways.
Rise of the Planet of Apes is an above average film, but it didn’t come together quite the way it should have—and that’s a shame. If certain aspects of the production would have been changed or tweaked, it could have been a great piece of science fiction. Instead, it’s a pretty good movie that turned out to be a missed opportunity, but they were so close in many ways. And being so close to greatness only makes its faults standout even more. When the film was working, it was exciting, emotional, and engaging. When the film was bad, it made your eyes roll. The film was simultaneously marvelously smart and disappointingly dumb. (Bipolar would the best way to describe it: its highs were high, and its lows were low.)
Fortunately, the film worked more than it didn’t. However, the negative aspects were so glaring that they tainted the overall product. The screenplay should have gone through a couple of more rewrites. The first act should have been totally thrown out or completely restructured. The melodrama needed to be contained. More time should have been spent with the apes. The human characters needed to be presented as complicated and conflicted people and not as simple-minded archetypes. The human characters also should have been shown as more sadistic and cruel, which would not only have been more realistic, but also would have given the ape revolution a more salient sense of urgency. James Franco and Tom Felton shouldn’t have been let onto the set, and, most importantly, the film missed a real chance to follow in the footsteps of the five original films to bring up serious sociopolitical issues and to make some sort of statement (like the more recent and superior District 9). Sadly, while some issues were there, they were left in the background—taking a backseat to forced scenes involving unnecessary, unsatisfying, and hackneyed relationships.
Personally, I felt that it would have been more interesting to explore just how far drug companies will go to make a profit, the comprehensive ethical dilemma of animal testing, or a “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” comment concerning the exploitation of the working class would have been nice. Instead, we got a movie that took its situations seriously enough, but seemed to ignore its bigger ideas.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was not a terrible film, but Caesar and his revolution deserved much better.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5