February 11, 2013 § 6 Comments
This article won’t attempt to answer too many important questions or anything.
I found myself trapped in another internet rabbit hole on Sunday, back to the “Universal Drawing Board” of trying to gain a better understanding of the vast blackness and spots of light that surround us. I will never actually understand it of course, but we can always understand it better and I don’t think there’s really any point in doing anything else right now as a species. Because in the long run, the only way for humans to survive the demise of Earth (perhaps sometime in the future when the Sun becomes a Red Dwarf and says “It’s gettin’ hot in here, so consume the f***ing Earth!” billions of years from now) is to escape Earth. Stephen Hawking basically says that the escape from Earth is going to happen and to not even worry about Red Dwarves, since we’re doing an awesome job of killing ourselves.
But even if we managed to survive the death of Earth and survive a galactic road trip with our families to colonize another planet, whether it’s Mars or an extrasolar planet, we’ve still got to deal with things like the Milky Way colliding with the Andromeda Galaxy in 4 billion years or just the fact that the Universe itself will one day die out, even if it’s trillions of years from now and even if we think it’s improbable to see humans survive it. However, even though humans may not make it even another billion years in this universe, it doesn’t mean that we might not be able to leave the universe. String theorists hypothesize that we live in a multiverse, which is more like being the Russian doll inside of the Russian doll inside of the Russian doll and so on and so on forever. Michio Kaku, who you might know as “The Asian guy that is literally the guest talking head in every single documentary special about space”, talks a great deal about the simple things that make up the universe and our planet and how we got here in this video. It’s worth your time.
I’ll wait the 42 minutes until you come back.
Pretty interesting stuff, huh? I wonder what I was doing in that 42 minutes in my life while you were watching the video. Probably nothing that important. Probably not getting closer to helping anyone find out what dark matter is. Probably- Hey look, Chris Brown is on the Grammys.
Because despite how important it is to find out how to get from here to the next solar system at warp speed, or how we could possibly create a wormhole (which is sort of like Alice’s “Wonderland Rabbit Hole” that got me here in the first place) to find other dimensions (and pray that it’s not like the dimension crossover we saw in The Mist) we would much rather read 50 Shades of Grey. Or watch Real Chopped Champions of Macon County: SVU. Or give an award to Rihanna for “singing good and stuff”. And many other countless things that don’t matter. Is it wrong? Well, not necessarily and I am as guilty as anyone else. But we should still recognize just exactly what entertainment is:
Entertainment is how dumber people cope with the boredom of being helpless to advance humanity.
Not to say that most of us are necessarily stupid, because I wouldn’t want to sit here and tell you that I am an idiot, but I’m certainly a lot stupider than Kaku. Or Hawking. Or Newton and Galileo and Einstein and a very large number of people that have done something important for humanity even though those names make up a minuscule percentage of people that have ever lived. You must understand that literally anyone can have an impact on, or effect the very fate of, humanity. From me to you to Abraham Lincoln, but only a few of us make important changes directly. It took us until Christmas Day of 1642 A.D. to get Isaac Newton, some 200,000 years since the first known homo sapiens, some millions of years since we could trace back to our original ancestors, some
6,000 4.5 billion years since we got this planet, and then finally we got the guy that defined the basis for modern physics. That set the stage for what could finally get us off of the planet. And yet every domino during that 4.5 billion years still played a role, whether minor or major, in giving us Newton and then without Newton, we wouldn’t have the other geniuses that got us to the moon and continue to travel deeper and deeper into space. The people that are doing important things for the rest of us, while we sit here and think of new ways to keep ourselves busy – whether it’s Arrested Development or a Carly Rae Jepsen concert (does she do concerts or only YouTube videos? Who is Carly Rae Jepsen?) - for hopefully another billion+ years.
Ummm… Thanks, guys! (And girls. I’m using “guys” in the general sense here.)
Unfortunately for many of us, we are left with so many unanswered questions. Not only are they unanswered but we are helpless to find the answers. Because we’re too stupid or too lazy or too overwhelmed by the question itself. It’s not an insult, we’re talking about questions like “Is there intelligent life on other planets?” and “Is there a God?” You almost certainly should not know the answer to those questions, and if you do, please use the contact button on this website to tell me or send me a DM on Twitter! I’d really like to know, thanks. :)
Having these questions is sort of like spending every day of your life feeling like you’re a bird even though you are a human. That nature is telling you that you MUST walk outside, spread your arms, and fly above the clouds because it’s what you are meant to do. Except that you can’t. Because you’re a human. You can not fly and naturally, you likely never will. At least, not without some help. Maybe one day you’ll invent a metal box that does put you in the air and allow you to travel in the skies or perhaps even into space. A workaround, if you will, but an accomplishment of the urge given to you by nature. There’s still hope yet that we can find intelligent life, cross
swords universes, fold space, and maybe even travel through time. I might not be the one to answer any of the questions but perhaps we all play some small part in that and I know I still have so much left to ask.
Is there life on other planets? Yes. Hell yes. By definition a theory is not a fact if it’s wrong even once. In this case, I actually have zero facts to support the theory that there are alien lifeforms. But Jesus, man, there has to be. There are 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone. There could be 100 billion galaxies. Who cares about doing the math at this point, that’s just “a lot” of planets. Some will support life. In fact, some may not even have any reasonable reason to support life according to the life-supporting features that we are used to on Earth (water, oxygen, McDonalds) but actually might support some other kind of lifeform. Even here on this planet there are species that should not survive but do anyway, called extremophiles. A Tardigrade is a polyextremophile that lives right here on Earth and can survive: Subzero temperatures, boiling temperatures, all kinds of radiation, can go 10 years without food or water, pressures deeper than our deepest oceans and yes… they could live in the vacuum of space.
We might look at a gas planet like Jupiter and think it doesn’t support life but like hell that I’d be surprised if you told me that there were mole people in the middle just livin’ it up! It’s even easier to imagine that there could be life under the icy surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Or on Mars. Or on Titan, a moon of Saturn. If we can find just one other place in the solar system where any kind of life existed, we know that life on Earth wasn’t a freak occurrence.
So is there life out there? Yeah, I think so. Is there intelligent life out there? I would like to think so. One of the only problems with that, whether or not there are people like us out there in the Uni, is that we are rather young. The Big Bang happened some 9 billion years before Earth formed, twice as long as Earth has been around itself. Meaning that Earth has been around for only like 33% of how long the universe has been around and yet other planets, solar systems, and galaxies have been around for plenty of time to have bred a human-like species of intelligent life and theoretically, those people would have had the same questions about life that we do. They would have eventually wanted to meet other intelligent beings and they should be more advanced than us. Possibly to the point where they have everything we ever dreamed of and so much more. It’s conceivable that if humans could travel outside of the solar system within 100 years, or even 1000, that other intelligent beings would have already done so since they could have a head start of 1,000,000,000 years or more.
So where are they?
We couldn’t possibly be the first right? Are UFOs real? Is Ancient Aliens real? Are humans themselves the aliens? Did the aliens find that it was a bad idea to contact other lifeforms? Are we really the smartest people in the Universe*, or at least, the galaxy? Please tell me that the smartest lifeforms in the galaxy aren’t also responsible for Honey Boo Boo. As you can see, even one question, like the one about life on other planets, just becomes its own “multiverse” of questions. An infinite amount of more questions we must ask, like the child that just says “Why? Why? Why?”
*It simply does not compute that we could be the most intelligent life forms in even our own area code of the Milky Way. You realize that we are failing right? It makes perfect sense that the biggest cancer killer of Americans is actually the one we knowingly do to ourselves: Lung cancer. I mean, I smoked for ten years before quitting (still going strong) and I can tell you first-hand that there is absolutely no point in smoking despite the fact that it kills 150,000+ Americans every year. You could say that “God” gives you every other kind of cancer, and yes also sometimes cancer of the lungs, but most of it is us just saying “F*** it!” because “you’re going to die anyway.” And so goes the human race, killing the Earth at a faster rate every single day because it’s going to die anyway too. Hell-to-the-no are we the smartest beings in the M.W. Galaxy and if we are, God help us all.
And so we are left with exploring other possibilities about why we have no record of being contacted by aliens, and then if you subscribe to something like ancient aliens or Roswell, you are branded as a fool. Hey, don’t lump every believer in aliens in with this guy:
I don’t know if we have been contacted by aliens but based on the mathematical evidence of how many planets there must be out there, shouldn’t we consider it? I find it interesting that we can know how ridiculously large the universe is, that it’s packed with amazing images like different nebula that you would swear aren’t real pictures but in fact is an actual photo*, that we can live and breathe and think and have no idea why or how we are all here, that the Earth is just one of many literal miracles, and yet thinking that maybe aliens came and chilled on the planet some 50,000 or 50,000,000 years ago or something and then moved on makes you a crazy person. If you equated the history of Earth to a 24-hour day, the time that humans were alive would be the last few seconds. What’s to say that aliens haven’t come by a bunch of times but just not in the time that we were either A) here or B) had video cameras rolling?
*Crap, look how crazy the Ant Nebula is:
If we stopped and thought intelligently for a moment, it would be so blatantly obvious to us that we aren’t the only intelligent ones out there. Hell, we are really only intelligent relative to other Earth species. Our Sun is big as hell – to us. It’s more like a medium-sized star relative to other stars. For all we know, Earth Humans are the Honey Boo Boo’s of the galaxy. Maybe we haven’t been visited by aliens because they are too embarrassed to be seen with us. And could we even blame them? Do you go hang out at the house of the neighbor that doesn’t mow his lawn for 10 years and has two cars on blocks in the front yard?
I didn’t think so.
Which is another good reason that we need to be spending all of our energy on finding a way out of our solar system and being able to reach other Earth-like planets in our relative neighborhood. It’s the only way for humanity to survive (if it even should) and possibly get the answers we’ve been seeking for the entirety of our existence. Maybe even the answer to the most important question: Why are we here? Luckily, while us stupid people bet on the Oscars every year, there are people working to find the answers and possibly escape the solar system.
The James Webb Telescope replaces the Hubble in about 2018, nearly 22 years after the project was set in motion during the Clinton administration. (Unfortunately, important change takes time but we have to start somewhere, sometime.) The Hubble’s successor (which is 100x more powerful than the Hubble, the most powerful telescope we had ever invented) will hopefully answer many questions about the formation of the galaxies, planets, stars, and life. It will be positioned so far from Earth that we won’t even be able to service it and it may only last 5 years before breaking down, but it will be phenomenally important to understanding ourselves and our galaxy. And yes, this shit is coming while you are probably still alive. Amazing things should be known in the next 5-10 years. That’s not all. The ATLAST telescope is even more impressive.
ATLAST (Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope) is Hubble 3.0 and it has one specific mission: Find life on other planets. That’s a sick freakin’ mission. Though it is still in the conceptual stages, a potential 16-meter telescope sent out into space could photograph more planets than you could ever believe possible. The hope is to have ATLAST out there “at last” between 2025-2035. Just imagine if you gave birth to a baby boy today, he might only be 12 or 13 when we found out that there was life on other planets. Even if the concept of sending a giant 16-meter telescope millions of miles into space to see light years away and take voyeuristic naked photos of aliens in only 15 years sounded “stupidly ridick” to you right now, try telling a computer technician in 1965 that you carry a computer in your pocket that’s 1000x more powerful than the one that takes up an entire floor of his office building.
Technology doesn’t advance at a steady rate, it advances exponentially. That’s why it took thousands of years to get from point a to point b and yet it took like ten years or less to go from “everyone finally has a cell phone” to “literally nobody is looking at each other anymore because they’ve got mini-computers – that I guess also have a talking function? – in their hands 24/7.” We will probably have a mission to Mars in the mid-2030s and it might actually happen after we have found life on other planets. (Though it’s a longshot to happen that soon. James Webb was originally supposed to launch in 2007, not 2018. It also went from a $300 million project to an $8 billion project. Damn “inflation.”) To go from Hubble 1 to Hubble 2 to Hubble 3 and possibly Hubble 4 someday, it’s incredible to think about how advanced that technology could be. A large scale technological advancement version of going from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. Would you have believed that the original iPod could someday be a grandmother of the iPad?
Just imagine if instead of spending any money on wars, humans spent taxpayer money on space exploration. Just to think that if we could stop spending a single cent on crime prevention, we could funnel all that money into education. Of course, that’s an “insane” idea, right?
And still, after billions of years of the development of Earth, planetary species, and homo sapiens, you might actually be living at a very exciting time where many questions once thought “unanswerable” will be answered. We’ve already had the Large Hadron Collider possibly find a Higgs Boson particle that could answer many questions we’ve had for a long time. The Kepler Mission is deep in space looking for (and finding a ton of) new planets. We could possibly learn hundreds of answers to how our galaxy and universe was created with the launching of James Webb. Maybe eight years later we will launch the device that takes pictures of aliens. Shortly after that we might be walking on Mars. Maybe within your lifetime we will even be planting the seeds of true space colonization or other “science fiction” concepts like time travel and teleportation. Black holes were “science fiction” not too long ago and many “crazy” ideas were born out of some truth.
I have to believe that anything is possible just based on everything I’ve already just mentioned on how amazing and complex the universe and life really is. At some points in my life I find it impossible that a scientist could ever believe in the existence of God, while at other times I find it even more unbelievable that he couldn’t. Most of us are just lucky to be observers and have the answers given to us by the genius few. We have had certain questions for millennia that might actually be cleared up within our lifetime, but those answers will probably still only lead to more questions. That’s actually a good thing because what’s the point of being alive if you don’t have any questions?
Even if most of us are just biding time with stupid entertainment because we don’t have anything better to do, I know for a fact that we are all still bound by the same curiosities and quest for true Universal Knowledge.
It’s funny that during my Rabbit Hole vacation, I also came across a Tumblr site that is just photos of “Awesome People Hanging Out.” Random famous people that were photographed together. I started to look at the “Notes” section under each photo that shows you how many people commented or reblogged the photo. Some were as low as 600 “notes” and others might get as high as 3000. That’s a lot of people sharing a photo. And then all of a sudden I saw one photo that dwarfed all the rest as if they were non-descript asteroids orbiting a massive star. The fact that this photo had over 81,000 notes gave me so much hope in humanity at that moment that even if most of us are relatively stupid, and even if we want nothing more than to be mindlessly entertained because of the boredom of living a dull life, we still respect the hell out of the grand quest to understand this universe and just what the hell we are doing here. We are mostly just the drones, but we thank and admire the people that have helped get us from a planetary creation 4.5 billion years ago to sitting in front of our TVs or computers today. These 81,000 notes were proof that most of us all just want answers and respect the hell out of the Newtons, the Einsteins, and even some of our modern day scientific heroes – specifically the ones that have married science and entertainment. We know you geniuses are still out there, and we support your everyday mission for knowledge.
81,000 notes on Awesome People Hanging Out is my proof:
Now, can we please stop killing ourselves?
February 8, 2013 § 18 Comments
Take your relationship advice from me, I’ve been in one. ;) Literally, one.
Okay fine, I’m not a “relationship expert.” I haven’t had “a ton of girlfriends.” I’ve never “met” a “girl” that “liked” what “I” had to “offer” and maybe I’m not “handsome” or “smart” or “whatever” okay? Maybe in high school I never “went out” with any “girls” and didn’t ask anyone to “prom” and “homecoming”. BFD, amirite people?? But what I do have is my finger on the pulse of the American people. I am great at sensing feelings and understanding how others live. I am the human observer to the human experience, a meta-Zoo if you will. ”We Meta Zoo”
Sorry, once I said “Meta Zoo” I had to write that down. (Did you see We Bought a Zoo? It’s the literal worst.)
In all sincerity, I still think that I have valid opinions on relationships, even if my last serious one was a couple years ago. Okay, a few years ago. Okay, fine, four years ago exactly. Not like I was counting or anything. You do realize that most sports coaches were not good sports athletes right? If you can’t do — teach, right? Exactly. I’m an excellent teacher of the human experience. An excellent coach of sexual conquests. I’ll get you where you need to go, even if I can’t go with you. I am Sex Gandalf to your Sex Frodo.
One particular subject that I wanted to broach today was the concept of people who seem to have a hard time finding “the one.” People that might have been through a lot of partners, or people that find themselves single at a mature age. (Huh, maybe I do have experience on some relationship subjects.) It came up recently in the comments that older people that do find a partner seem to have an easier time making that relationship work. And it’s quite true. Statistically speaking you are much more likely to avoid divorce the older you get once you are married. It’s basically a statistical improbability by a certain age, and not just because you’re close to death. Why is that?
Well, there are a lot of easy answers that hold truth.
Experience, you wised up, you rushed into your first terrible marriage (terr-iage), you just don’t care anymore, the kids are out of the house, you’re more financially secure, you know what you want finally, you’re used to your lover farting in front of you now, and so on and so on. But I think the most important of those reasons is basically an amalgamation of all of those reasons; You just are not going to find “the one.”
Listen, I am a romantic moreso than the next guy. I own How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, so I think I know a thing or two about romance. ;) I’ve seen Can’t Hardly Wait a dozen times, okay. The only thing that “Drives Me Crazy” about romance is the movie Drive Me Crazy with Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier. Do I know something about romance? Only if you count that I know a lot about Love, Actually. And so on and so forth. I’ve seen a lot of movies, is what I was getting at there.
But there’s a lot of truth in that. We idealize relationships and romance moreso than our parents, and they idealize it a bit more than their parents, and so on and so forth. Our forefathers didn’t divorce our foremothers not just because they had a lot of foreplay and because it was fore-bidden (nice job, me) but they also probably didn’t think it could get any better.
“This is marriage. Martha likes to do needlepoint while I’m trying to play the flute and it annoys me but oh well!” not “Martha, stop that! Elizabeth doesn’t do that to Henry on Real Housewives of Humboldt County!” That was just life and love back then. As a matter of fact, its still life and love. We’ve just forgotten that. We’ve taken that for granted. This is how I see so many young relationships fail: You just want too much.
I wouldn’t say that older people “settle” necessarily into relationships that make them sad or angry, but I think older people start to realize that a good relationship requires things like patience, acceptance, sacrifice, and compromise. It’s not always going to be perfect, in fact it rarely will be. It’s going to be hard some days but those days shouldn’t make you run away. There are going to be times when it might not seem ideal, but you don’t want to become the disaster known as “Liz & Dick” and in that case I am talking about the real life relationship of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and also the movie Liz & Dick.
Mostly the movie. Jesus what a disaster.
I’ve been prepared for a long time to know that my next serious relationship will have rocky roads that must be traversed rather than turning away or going another route just because it gets difficult. You don’t settle, but you do settle in.
January 28, 2013 § 8 Comments
I put off quitting smoking for a long time really because of one reason and I am not ashamed to admit it: It seemed like it would be a really hard thing to do. I could hardly go four hours without a cigarette as it was, and “forever” is slightly longer than four hours. How could I possibly eat another meal without nicotine dessert? How could I drink another beer without a stoagie in hand, complementing the hops and barley so beautifully? How would I get through a day of work without my consistent and necessary breaks… from work? Well, two weeks since my last cigarette and now I must say…
I thought this would be harder.
That’s not meant to sound like I’m some awesome person that has great special powers when it comes to accomplishing seemingly difficult tasks. Quite the opposite, since I will do whatever it takes to avoid tasks if anything. Most people say that they hate going to the dentist because they don’t like the idea that a person is mucking around in their mouths, drilling and needling your teeth and gums. But for me, I literally just hate going to the dentist. I hate making appointments and then having to show up for those appointments. If the dentist came to me, then he could drill and poke all he wants (some sort of sex joke goes here) but it’s the actual act of going that I hate the most. So I am not even the guy that you would use as the example of a person that is great at doing stuff, and yet (my dentist will be happy about this) quitting smoking hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
That’s not to say that it has been without difficulties and obstacles. Indeed, the last fortnight has been interesting and at times, annoying, but cigarettes have done little to sway me back into the fold of being a smoker. Here is what the last 14 days has been like and what I have so far learned about quitting smoking:
Coughy, like the drink only spelled different
You would think that the worst “smokers cough” would come when you are actually smoking, but for almost two weeks I have not been able to restrain myself from a terrible and constant need to evacuate phlegm from my lungs and nurture a tingling sensation in the back of my throat. So why am I being punished for doing a good thing and quitting?
For ten years I was killing the cilia in my lungs. That sure seems like a silly-uh thing to do! (Well, there’s nothing left for me to accomplish on the internet. Goodnight, everyone!)
But seriously folks, those cilia help clean out the lungs and smoke puts them out like a candle in a very smoky wind. As soon as you stop trying to murder your own cilia with cigarette smoke, they awaken from a deep coma and start cleaning the chimney chim-chim-charoo in breathtaking fashion. Unfortunately that means that they are working overtime because I kept killing them and let garbage build up in my lungs, so it’s time to evacuate the lung waste and start from scratch, which might mean a scratchy throat, but I won’t bitch about this itch. I think it’s pretty cool that I stopped killing those little guys. It really makes you think about how your body is alive. Weird, huh? How bodies are alive.
I don’t know if my coughing is going to end today or go on for several more weeks, but it’s normal. If I start coughing up blood, contact my doctor immediately. (Call 555-2424 and ask for Dr. Tanner.)
I’m a former smoker, I’m popular
It used to be that the cool kids were the smokers but now you’re not cool, you’re nothin’ but a fool. I actually would never judge a person for smoking, as I have said before, but it’s certainly not the popular thing to do anymore. At least as of 2009, there were more former smokers (49.9 million) than current smokers (46.6 million) in the U.S. Almost half of smokers had tried to quit and failed in the last year, which is exactly why I never tried to quit until I was ready.
Will I succeed or am I being way too cocky right now about quitting after only two weeks of cessation? That’s a good question, because 90% of people fail upon their first attempt to stop! I also assume that many of them did not quit cold turkey, like I did, but I simply didn’t want to switch out one addiction for another and also end up paying more money to not smoke than to just smoke. Thanks to the ~$75 I have saved already in two weeks, I was finally able to purchase the Red Ryder BB gun and shoot my eye out.
The fact of the matter is that while nicotine may be one of the most addictive substances known to man, the chemical is basically out of your body entirely 48 hours after your last cigarette. In reality, nicotine addiction is no match for habit and it’s the habit, routine, and cravings-linked-to-association-of-cigarettes that really make it difficult to quit. When you stop smoking, it’s basically a 24-hour cycle of feeling like something in your life is missing. It feels like you went on vacation and know for a fact that you left the stove on, completely unable to do anything other than think about how you left that damn stove on. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times that I have finished a meal and thought, “Time for a cigarette” only to remind myself that I had quit. It’s that self-denial of something that feels so naturally right that really makes it hard to say no to giving yourself a cigarette. That association that a smoke has with food, beer, sex, driving, talking, walking, or reading the news. You’ve cut off an arm and you just want that arm back and you’ve conditioned your brain to think that you can’t have one of those things, whatever it is, without a cigarette. It’s a habit, so how do you break the habit?
They say that it takes “21 days” to make or break a habit, but is that really true? I trust How Stuff Works more than I trust my President, so let’s take a look at what they say about 21 days:
For most people, staying away from a bad habit is a lifetime effort, backed up by the fact that those well-worn synaptic pathways never go away. There’s no apparent scientific reason why it would take three weeks to break an old habit or make a new habit. Depending on your unique physical and psychological make-up, it could take three weeks, it could take five days, or it could take nine months.
Everyone is different. Maybe I could really break my smoking habit (for the most part) in two weeks. Maybe I have another four months. In reality, I’ll probably still have smokicidal thoughts in 20 years. But the actual habit, the innate “natural” desire to have a cigarette every time I do something, like eat or drink, will subside more and more each day. It’s already mostly gone, for now.
Cancer? Sorry, no, Sagittarius.
Nobody has ever said this before, but smoking causes cancer. It’s one of the hottest new ways to cancer up yo’ body! ”Kenny, my body is completely clean. How can I get cancer?” ”That’s easy: Smoke!”
I would be lying if I said that the risk of cancer was in the top five reasons of why I quit smoking and I honestly think that “You’ll get cancer!” anti-smoking ads are the least effective. Frankly, people do not really care about long-term benefits and risks of anything. I can’t even watch a DVR’d television show without hitting the FF button four times during commercials. And you’re telling me that now I have to worry about whether or not this thing in my hand is going to give me lung cancer when I am 75 years old? Or maybe even never? I am sure we have all heard of the people that smoked until they were 100 and most people don’t have all that much interest in living to be 100. We will hold more onto the fact that a few people can live for a long time as smokers than the fact that most smokers are gonna die from it. That’s just the way it is.
No, I would list reasons for quitting more like:
- That woman with the hole in her throat
- It’s cold outside
Most people are going to live their life how they want to live and not think about the long-term consequences, because I think a lot of people live in at least some fear that they might not live to see the day that smoking kills them anyway. I can’t have this cigarette because it might kill me in 40 years? Yeah, but I also might die in a freak kazoo accident so who gives a crap? However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that the benefits of a longer life, or at least the possibility that I’m not going to be the one to kill myself through smoking, aren’t very cool.
The risk of heart and lung disease for a former smoker and a non-smoker are just about the same 5-10 years after cessation. Which means that I got to live a little and be free to smoke in my 20s and could completely get away with it! Ha! All you never-smokers really missed out. And by quitting at age 30, I have reduced my chances of dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases by 90%. Not only that, I have increased my chances of dying from sex-related accidents by 400% because now that I don’t smell like smoke and have some extra money in my pocket, I will need to fend off droves of ladies with brooms and fencing gear.
The desire to smoke and the desire to eat are sadly very similar
One thing that I have noticed and that I will need to stay aware of, is that it is very easy to gain weight when you quit smoking. Not only does the body literally gain water weight when you quit, but there’s a need to fill that desire to smoke with something, and oftentimes that something is food. It’s especially hard for a person like me, because I was already having ZERO problem gaining weight!
Just this morning as I drove to work I felt a major desire for something. It was an empty stomach, but I used to smoke a cigarette bright and early and this would curb the appetite for a significant period of time. I can no longer do that, so I need to find other ways to get past it without smoking and without overeating. Trust me, I’m going to keep eating, but I don’t want to trade out one negative for another and in addition to that, I am back to going to the gym on a regular basis. (Seriously, I feel so bad for males in the Los Angeles area. Sorry dudes, K-Arthur is here for the ladies and there is nothing you can do about it unless you sabotage me with cigarettes and Snickers Ice Cream bars mmmm cigarettes and snickers ice cream)
The most important thing to remember for anyone quitting smoking is that cravings will continue to happen but when you consciously think about the cravings you will notice that they never last for more than a couple of minutes. Over time, those will get to be less and less and I can honestly make it through most of a day already without a single craving. At least, not for cigarettes, but when those cravings come for food, its just important to remember that moderation is key and that the desire will still go away in minutes.
(Though when I went to the grocery store yesterday, I said f*** it and went to the yogurt aisle which seems like a legit place to go nuts without getting a bunch of food that’s bad for you, so I went down the row and got 12 different kinds of yogurt. That seemed like a good way to live out the dreams of some millionaire rock star. You know, because I can afford 12 cups of yogurt of all different flavors and styles.)
In addition to more food cravings, you also have an increased sense of smell and taste when you quit smoking. I can honestly say that my mouth feels incredibly clean and I would totally make out with my own mouth if I could. It’s like a hotbed of naturally warm spring water and I want to go skinny dipping on my tongue. Try to get that visual out of your mind now.
But these are just a few of the benefits I have already found to quitting and enough reason for me to never smoke another cigarette again. I also get improved circulation and the ability to breathe, which should also make working out more beneficial than what it was when I was a smoker. Seriously, I didn’t know what this “breathing” thing was all about until recently but it seems pretty cool. I don’t know why I have not found it difficult to quit smoking but so far it’s been a breeze, I can only hope that it will continue to be that way.
I wish I hadn’t waited so long to find out what the big deal about quitting was in the first place. At least there’s still plenty of time and opportunity to make up for it.
(Edit: I don’t know why I didn’t originally include this because it’s the most annoying part of quitting so far but maybe it’s because I’m just too damn tired. I literally have been waking up at 3-4 AM every single day since. I am not one who usually sleeps in but this is ridiculous. Smokers are heavy sleepers and so when you quit, the sleeping is lighter and it’s very hard to get a good night’s rest. Eventually I will be sleeping like a normal human being again, but definitely the restless nights have been the most difficult part about quitting. Though, not an enormous deal.)
December 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
To understand a person and how they came to be the person that they are today (though you never truly understand a person) you have to trace back to every day of their existence. Every day is a brick, a chair, a room with a trampoline as a floor since my lifehouse can have that, its my lifehouse metaphor. You may not understand the theme of this article by me only giving you a little bit of background into my upbringing, it simply will not suffice, but I can try.
I was raised by a single mother from the time I was 3, though I am sure she was always raising me alone from the time I was born, since my father had other places to be. I have one sister, four years older, and she was cursed with a curse that all sisters have: She is a girl, and girls, especially ones that are four years older, do not want to hang out with their brothers. When my sister was 10 and I was 6, she wanted to be 16 and I wanted to be 6. That’s just the routine for young boys and girls and so I did not play with my sister very often.
In fact, I can’t recall a single time that I did so without her feeling forced to do so.
So what is a boy left to do during his formative years without anyone telling him how to form? Watch movies. And when there is no television, as we canceled cable several times for financial purposes, make shit up! I spent countless hours jumping around the couch shooting imaginary bad guys with my imaginary guns. I put my action figures into action. I will never forget the time that I was having a funeral for one of my toys, a G.I. Joe lost in battle that was being given an epic send-off, and humming Taps as the other action figures carry his body to the grave, except for one fatal error: It turns out that I did not know Taps, or at least I had gotten confused, because my mother came by and asked why I was humming the wedding song.
*pulls tight collar away from neck and says ‘oh. boy.’*
But that was my childhood. Not the part where I accidentally passed a gay marriage bill for my action figures, but the part where I was living in a reality made up of either movies and television half of the time, or whatever war, adventure, or game-winning sports play that I deemed to be possible for the rest of the time. It’s not that I, at the age of 4 or 8 or 16 or I-should-probably-stop-now, actually believed that I hit the game-winning shot for the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals (or that they actually allowed me nine attempts to hit the shot) because I am not a psychopath or completely delusional, but I did live with the idea that the world is whatever I want it to be.
I did not choose the reality as we know it. I did not create the Earth, the Sun, the Oceans or the iPod. Those realities are out of my hand. But whenever I want to, I can create a different world, a world where anything is possible and I can be anybody. Who would not want to live in that world?
In movies like Pan’s Labyrinth or The Science of Sleep, these imaginary dreamscapes are better described than what I could explain, but it’s something like that except without really seeing these worlds, settings, or characters. You just have to believe it. And so when I had time to myself as a kid, which was plenty often, I could be whoever I wanted to be and live where ever I wanted to live and the rules of science and math and physics only exist as I allowed them to exist. I don’t live in these worlds much anymore (I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t caught a few game-winning Seahawks touchdowns in my bed over the last couple of years) but that does not mean that I don’t still believe. Whereas I created these Universes* as a child for the purposes of entertainment and passing the time, now I use these same principles as a means of coping with the many unanswered questions that turn the Sun and our very existence into an enigmatic Rubik’s cube for which I will likely die before solving.
I am a logical and rational human being. I don’t want you to think that I have completely lost my shit. I know that the laws of physics seem rather legit. I don’t doubt that E does equal MC squared, even though I could not tell you how Einstein got there or how it makes my popcorn pop in the microwave, but I have no reason to think it’s bullshit. (I mean, I heard that nutrinos could fuck that up, but once again, not my field of expertise.) However, why do we, as people, have to stop there? Why do we have to accept anything and everything that has been told to us? You once told me motherfucking Santa Claus was real and THAT was bullshit, so why should I just bend over, look over my shoulder, and say “Sure, shove the laws of gravity up my butt, I’ll take it.”?
Yeah, gravity seems VERY legit. But what if I told you that tomorrow, there would be no gravity? Or that it would be like Moon gravity and we raised the NBA hoops to 25 feet? You can tell me that it won’t happen, but I will reply, “Why not?” And you would give me a verifiable 100% scientific answer as to why it wouldn’t, but that’s not really the point of what I’m trying to convey.
Here are some questions I would pose to you:
- What if time travel is real? How could you ever really know for certain? The life that you are living right now, what if it didn’t exist until a second ago? What if before that second, someone from the future went back in time and shot Abraham Lincoln and so now you’re Tim Carter instead of Tina Leone? What if Marty McFly was a real person?
- What if the Matrix is real? Fuck, how should I know??
- What if tomorrow you are eating Haagen-Dazs and watching Family Guy and then all of a sudden a vortex pops up behind your couch that leads to God knows where? Would you go through it? You most certainly would at least throw in the ice cream first or eat it all first.
- What if you weren’t even you until this very moment? What if you were transported into this body at this second and implanted with all of your memories that you think are real? What if you’re Quantum Leap but if Quantum Leap didn’t know he was Quantum Leap and what am I trying to stop from happening? Who do I have to stop from getting married or killed?
I am not trying to say that I necessarily believe all of the above because I pretty much don’t. I know that tomorrow I will wake up and go through my regular routine. The sky will be there, the Earth will be there, episodes of Sweet Valley High will still be around somewhere. I know this. But damn it, it doesn’t mean that I am absolutely and utterly against the idea that anything is possible. Please, for the love of Sweet Valley High, tell me that anything is possible.
Tell me that we will all be able to fly tomorrow. Tell me that one day I will get to jump in John Malkovich’s head. Tell me that I can be Limitless like Bradley Cooper in Limitless. Don’t we all sort of get by on hope? Don’t we all sort of get out of bed for a reason and not only because we have to (because hey, you don’t have to do anything), not only because we want to, not only because of what already is, but we also get out of bed because of the things that don’t exist.
“I don’t have a girlfriend.”
GET OUT OF BED!
“I need to pay my bills.”
GET OUT OF BED!
“I can’t walk.”
SOMEBODY HELP HIM OUT OF BED!
Everything we do in life should at least hinge somewhat on the idea that we are going to get something today that we did not have yesterday. Is today the day you fall ass-backwards into a windfall of cash? Is today the day that you look in the mirror and are satisfied with your physique? Is today the day that new episodes of Arrested Development are released? We need a little something to motivate us to go on. We need a little something to believe in. Maybe for me, that little something is the ability to fly, to find a vortex, or to travel back to the day when stock in Microsoft was like $10 a share.
Maybe when I was a bored little boy whose sister wouldn’t play with him I created these worlds and beliefs to pass the time and make the day a little better, but even as an adult I still hold out hope that anything is possible- so that I may pass the time and make the day a little better. It makes the morning more palatable. It makes existence more fruitful. It doesn’t make the Universe more understandable, but perhaps easier to cope with since we know we don’t know very much about it anyway.
For me, that’s all I need to wake up. That, and an action figure wedding.
*Side-Bar About Creativity, Writing, and Comedy
People often attribute creativity to some inherent attribute that never had to be worked on or molded. Many people think that if you are an adult writer, director, painter, musician, or likewise, then you are just one of the “lucky” ones. I have told people that I write and they immediately say “Well shit, maybe I should write too!”
I can probably weave a quick tale, story, subplot, or narrative together for you right now but it’s not because that shit is easy to do. If everybody was a good writer, then 99% of screenplays wouldn’t wind up in a: Fireplace, waste basket, shredder, Recycle Bin on your desktop, or turn into emergency toilet paper. And guess what? If I turned in a screenplay to Hollyweird right now, best be sure that it would wind up in the same place. Maybe if I keep working on it for 8 or 10 or 15 more years, we will see what happens, but where I am today at 30 wasn’t because the writing fairy tickled my nutsack when I was 2 days old and said “You get to be a writer!” No, do you want to know how people become creative? They were really fucking bored for a really fucking long time and so every single fucking day they worked that muscle. For me, I did not work it with the purposes of turning it into anything; it was a means of survival. I watched 1-4 movies every single day. I made up shit every single day. I spent all day in class scribbling and doodling and making up villains, heroes, space battles, and monsters on paper because the I was more interested in that than I was in math. (Maybe an occasional pair of boobs.)
What did a scientist do in class? Probably spent all day in the lab because he or she couldn’t get enough of the beakers and such.
What did a philosopher do in class? Wondered what the fuck he or she was doing there.
What did LeBron James do in class? Probably jack shit because he was great at basketball, but hey, he was/is great at basketball!
Everybody everywhere gets something out of something. You are where you are at least partly because of the shit you enjoyed when you were a kid and how you spent your days. You: Perhaps a musician that picked up a guitar when you were 5 or 9 or 14. Me: Kind of a loser actually. I always had A friend, but I never had like 30 friends. So I coped with my childhood by making shit up and watching TV. You know how funny people are funny? They coped with the society of bullies or feeling that they needed attention or not feeling like they were good at anything else. I was a child that thrived, no thirsted, no hungered, no needed-or-i’m-going-to-have-a-fucking-fit on laughter. Nothing makes ME feel as good as when YOU are having a laugh. Comedians can go through 10+ years of stand-up before making any kind of names for themselves. The first few years are even rougher because you bomb a lot and frankly that’s no different than a classroom. You have to re-live the days when your first *fartnoise* joke causes rolling in the aisles, but dead silence because “Hey we’ve heard that one before, Kenny. Say some shit about crayons!”
I know a lot of people that read blogs, especially on WP, are writers or bloggers themselves. I’m not saying you, yes YOU /reaches through Laura’s computer screen/ are a person that would say that writing is something that comes natural to people, but a lot of people seem to have that inclination. Fuck no it does not come natural and neither does comedy. This is something you live with. This is how you cope. This is something I have been working on before I knew you needed to work on shit to get good at it.
It just so happens that writing for 40+ hours per week has only happened in the last two years. But there was a pretense of over two decades in which I fine-tuned and worked and molded that muscle. In retrospect, I should have been a doctor. But instead, I am a person that likes to write and make jokes. It was not natural.
*Side-Bar Over* *Overruled*
November 28, 2012 § 11 Comments
Roughly ten haircuts a year, same haircut every time, call it 15 years, 150 haircuts. Consider 95% of said haircuts have come at Supercuts, 142 Supercuts haircuts, same haircut every time, average about $20 per haircut with tip, $2,840 spent on haircuts since I was old enough to get a job and pay for my own haircuts. Two-thousand-eight-hundred-forty dollars spent so that I could keep the same haircut, almost $3000 spent just so that I can look the same.
I wonder how much extra it would have cost to look different.
Nearly 150 haircuts and still to this day when the Supercuts stylist asks me the inevitable question, “So what are we doing today?” I am still befuddled as to some of my answers. ”Umm. 2 on the sides? No, 1 on the sides. Blended into the top and then… “some” off of the top?” ”An inch?” ”How much is an inch?” ”Okay, so like this much.”
The stylist uses his or her (honestly, 95% “hers”) fingers to measure what we’re leaving, which does absolutely nothing for me because it doesn’t really represent at all what my hair is going to look like when it’s cut and her fingers are out of the way. My best answer to this point has become, “Just enough for me be able to do some work with it, not enough so that I have to.” Basically I’m going to be upset if I come out looking like an Army private because it’s too short or like an aspiring child actor because it’s too long. (Seriously, why do all male actors have long hair?) ”What’s in the middle between Pauly Shore in In The Army Now before and after he had his head shaved? I’ll take one of those.”
So many haircuts, so many trips to the same franchise, so many “No” answers to the “shampoo” question (despite how nice it is to have someone else wash your hair, I pass on paying someone to do it) and yet I couldn’t tell the person cutting my hair exactly what I wanted. At my latest Supertrip, I might have gotten the words out as quickly as I ever have: “One on the sides, blended into the top, aaannndd…. half off the top.” Fuck it, half-off, it works for sales why couldn’t it work for me?
Okay, so I’m really nailing it. Quick and easy answers, now it’s sit-and-go time. Now it gets awkward.
It all depends on my mood, but I usually prefer silence to a chatty hair stylist. If small talk with a co-worker is a pointless exercise of finding ways to fill the time and air with words, then what good does it do to chat with a person that I literally met five seconds ago and that I’ll literally leave behind with the tattered remains of my brown and gray hair that are no longer a part of me when I’m finished? The stylist and I were born one day, we will die one day, we will live a certain amount of years (at least 29 for me and preferably at least 30 for her) and within that amount of time of birth and death, we’re going to share 15 minutes. So why exactly does it matter that you know what I do for a living? I mean sure, it’s a little unfair that I already know what you do for a living, but past that we’ve come to an impasse. We are mysterious strangers, you and I, let’s remain in that abyss.
Of course, this is only my experience. Many people either:
A) Love small talk
B) Go to the same stylist every time
I would have written about another person’s personal preference or experience, if only I could be that other person. I’ll tell you what John Malkovich prefers after I find the tunnel that goes into his head. I can only detail how I feel about small talk and how I feel about it is that it’s not a preferable solution to one of the few other options a person has when they are getting their haircut. My avoidance to the distraction leaves me with that other incredibly awkward activity that a person is faced with in the moment: Trying not to stare at yourself.
Uma Thurman’s character in Pulp Fiction talked about how two people have a comfortable or uncomfortable silence, so what does it say about me being uncomfortable when the face staring across from me with a blank stare of “What am I doing here? What excuse can I make to get out of this?” is my own? Thoughts abound run through my head during these times:
- “Okay, just don’t look directly at him.”
- “Keep your chin up. I can see the double-dip chin rollin’ in.”
- “Man, I really need a haircut. Oh sweet, it’s happening right now.”
- “Why are the bags under my eyes so deep in purple and droopy?”
- “Seriously I can’t look at this guy. Hey, whats going on with that haircut behind me?”
- “Even if I did initiate small talk, I’d have to look at myself because she keeps telling me not to move my head.”
Do I talk to myself when I am alone? Sure. Do I go into a bathroom and stare at myself when I’m bored? I think I’d be saner if I simply heard voices telling me to burn things. We don’t tend to look at ourselves unless we are grooming ourselves and if we are grooming ourselves, we are occupied. Idle eyes during a haircut are the devil’s playground as well, I’d say. Idle eyes are not something I idolize. /quits writing forever because he’s nailed it.
/takes writing back up again because the alternative is more time alone with my thoughts.
You see, there are two sets of any haircut: The side you see and the side you don’t. With the side you see, things tend to get very critical.
- “It’s too short!”
- “It’s too long!”
- “I look like a six-year-old!”
- “Why am I yelling at this person?!”
But there’s definitely vanity in the side that we are going to be looking at every day, assuming that you have a mirror in your bathroom and that you use the bathroom. This is the side that we groom, the side that we touch up, the side that we feel matters if we are going out into public or on a date. I’m not metrosexual, this I know for sure. If I was, I’d probably be in so much better shape and I’d go clothes shopping more than once per presidential election, but I do use product in my hair and have a set way that I like it to look. I have no idea if anyone else thinks it looks good, but most of the time I think it looks good. (It’s a funny sort of idea when we think about what “looks good.” Everybody knows people and sees people that have a hair style that makes you think, “Wow. How could they POSSIBLY think that is an acceptable haircut or doo?” Yet, they do do their doo, dude. /quits writing again. That person, that possibly perfectly self-aware person, is probably satisfied or even elated with their current hairstyle. It’s a personal opinion. Because of this idea that people are either A) not self-aware or B) are self-aware but are completely “uncool”, I actually have inner-dialogues wondering if I am either A or B. Is it possible that my hair is now, and has always been, stupid-looking? I know that people say that you shouldn’t care what other people think, but I’m just a squirrel tryin’ to get a nut in this world. What I want to know is if I’m a blind squirrel. When I was in middle school, I tried many different experiments with my hair, but I was completely self-aware with how much I was fucking it up. I’ve spent $3000 trying not to fuck it up and yet here we are. Staring into the mirror of self-doubt. end scene.) When it doesn’t look good to me, when I think that the stylist has done a bad job, I’m not happy about it. Usually it’s because it’s too short. How could she not read my mind from the “ehhh… thiiiis much???” description? Either way, this is the part of me that I see and this is the part that I know what I am showing to the world. I’m self-aware of this part.
What I find more interesting that though is the other question I receive every time I get a haircut. ”Straight or curved in the back?” This is not a question that most girls have ever gotten during a haircut (not that I hate on girls with short hair. Natalie Portman may have gotten hotter) but what the stylist is referring to is the line at the top of the neck and the base of the head. ”Do you want corners or curves?” Wait, now I have to concern myself with how I look on a part of my body that I will literally never see? (A mirrored imagine in itself is not technically seeing, let alone a mirrored image of a mirror.) Beyond the fact that it is something that I will never see, how many people have ever look at the base of my head and thought either “Oh wow, nice fucking corners!” or “Hey buddy, we don’t take kindly to your curved neck base around here.”?
This seemingly inconsequential decision is not something that I want to think about when there are so many other decisions that are more important in my life, so I typically tell the stylist to “surprise me” because holy shit what a meaningless question. I’ve never been that big of a fan of making decisions in the first place and I’ve always told myself that if I came into a ridiculously large sum of money that one of the first things I’d do is hire somebody that knew my tastes really well (or better yet, had much better tastes than me) and then have them make many of my decisions for me. ”What am I having for dinner tonight?” ”What am I wearing on my date?” ”When do I need to go to my next dentist appointment?”
I’ll decide when to wake up, when to go to sleep, what I want to watch (because nobody fucks with my remote), and still plenty of other decisions, but I will not decide how the back of my head is going to look. Sure, I don’t want you to shave a Swastika back there, but corners or curves? There’s shit going down in Gaza.
After pretending like I care whether I have “sideburns” or not (I’m not Elvis Presley, we’re talking about the difference of like a half-inch of hair going down the front of my ears), feigning interest in how the back of my head looks in the mirror mirror (“Looks good!” every time), and brushing off whatever hairs don’t grasp tightly onto my shirt collar and neck, which never seems to be very many, my 150th-or-whatever trip to Supercuts is finished. Nearly every single one blended together to form more of a singular memory about one very long trip to Supercuts instead of dozens, and why not since I’ve spent nearly $3000 to have the same thing over and over again. A ‘Groundhog Day’ task.
So what does it all mean when:
- Supercuts is my only destination for a haircut? In & out, we aren’t trying to re-invent the beehive.
- I can do something over and over again and still not be descript in explaining what I want?
- I can’t share 15 minutes with myself staring down on me in the mirror without being uncomfortable?
- I can’t find meaning in small talk with a stranger that won’t become anything more than a stranger?
- I can’t ensure my own self-awareness of how it looks?
- I’m not concerned at all with the parts of myself that I don’t see?
- A gentle buzzing on the base of the next is next to Godliness.
(I never got to that last part in this essay but good lord, I would gladly pay another $3000 straight-up for 15 minutes a day of the clippers gently cleaning up back there. I may not care whether it’s straight or curved, but you damn sure aren’t going to skip it.)
What does it mean? What does it mean? What does it mean? I guess that’s the point- I can’t give you an answer, I’m not Dr. Melfi, but each of those little eccentricities mean something. A haircut can tell you a lot about a person, not really so much the “doo” but everything in between. The where, the how, the descriptions, the hang-ups of a somewhat interesting activity that nearly every person has to go through with a routine, everything that goes into getting your haircut can say a little something about your life. Everybody has their own experience and since people typically don’t go in groups to get haircuts, it’s a rather personal experience.
15+ years of going to barber shops on my own, 150 haircuts, $2,840 spent at Supercuts, the same exact routine over and over again without much fault or difference and what does my routine say about me?
uhhhh… I don’t know… half-an-inch?
November 19, 2012 § 7 Comments
I made a new friend at work. He is much smarter than I am and insists to discuss topics that I had not dared to discuss with others. Perhaps it is not fair to say that I “dare not” because I did, in fact, dare, but rarely did I have to cite examples or quote authors in most of the day-to-day conversations I have. Deep discussions I have lean more towards the philosophical and rarely the factual. As much as I would like to say that I am a smart guy, I have no empirical evidence to prove this point.
I’ve fought too hard to be known as anything other than what I am: A lazy, drunken, immature, silly, goofy, fuck-up.
However, that doesn’t mean that I have entirely given up on bettering my education. I consider going back to school quite often, usually fantasizing about a degree in Astronomy thanks to my recent fascination with the Universe and what makes us so totally us. If I could actually learn facts about the stars and the blackness and combine that knowledge with my passion and experience in writing, then perhaps I could actually make a difference. Perhaps then my life would have a meaning greater than the meaning I have spent most of my life work towards: Making people shoot milk out of their noses with dick jokes.
One of the ways that my new work friend has encouraged me to expand my proficiency of what it is to be an intellectual is through the work of David Foster Wallace. My first initial thought when my friend, we’ll call him Matthew (because that’s his name), said the name of this author was that Wallace was definitely a name I had heard before. That he must have written poetry or perhaps a great novel of the 20th century. Just the fact that I had no idea that he grew to popularity in the 90s, that he was not yet 50 when he committed suicide a few years ago, or that he killed himself at all, is undeniable proof that I am so far removed from the world of higher learning that it might as well be as far away as the planet that is not a planet, Pluto.
I ask Matthew, “Should I read Infinite Jest, then?”
“Oh no. Definitely not. Try his essays first and work your way up.”
“What could be so hard about reading a novel?”
I didn’t have to get through (or attempt to get through) many of his essays before realizing exactly what he meant and why so many have perhaps tried and failed ‘David Foster Wallace’. Not because he was not genius, but because he was operating on a level above most of the rest of us. The part of him that so apparently made him one of the best authors of his generation and perhaps decades from now will be held in a regard higher than what he already is, his prognostications and feelings towards the world seem almost too perfect to not hold true. Now, I say that like now I am some sort of David Foster Wallace expert and that’s about as true as me being an expert on the climate changes of Jupiter; I’m neither of those. But I do have an early fascination with both, a preoccupation with fostering this need for more knowledge on each subject. Not because I have to. Not necessarily because I even want to. But only because I feel like there’s going to be a certain way that we all spend the rest of our hours here, and that seems like the best way I can fill mine. Even if we’ll never get an understanding of why we are here, we can at least attempt to get a better understanding of why we are here.
So I trudge through Wallace essays one by one, trying my best to attain knowledge and not only knowledge on the work of Wallace, but knowledge of everything. That’s the best part about it, his essays are a double-edged sword that bring you enlightenment on both the author and the subject. A rare quality indeed.
As such, I was reading this essay on television, entitled: “E unibus pluram: Television and U.S. fiction”
Could a title be a more fitting representation of it’s content? E unibus pluram; Out of many, one. The Latin phrase might be on the Great Seal of the United States, but if you polled 100 people on the streets of the Great United States, how many could tell you the meaning? For Wallace, it was likely as simple as an average American of 1999 saying, “He had sex with my MAMA!” It was at the tip of the pen for him, at the end of a Google search for many others. And so too would be half the words in the essay, to the point where each “difficult” word would be highlighted so that you could scroll over for definition. Except for me, not nearly enough words were highlighted. I was still befuddled.
Megametrically. Deus ex machina. Phosphenes. Turgid. Elision. Fecund.
I grabbed a few example (it only took a few dozen seconds) words that I would need the definition for. Words that half of which still have squiggly red lines holding them up above this sentence, so that they would not fall down below and crash into other words. Yet I can’t deny the beauty of them. How I long to work ‘Megametrically’ into a sentence of my own one day, besides this very one. How I yearn to create descriptions such as this one, one of the most perfect sentences I have ever read:
“Fictionally speaking, desire is the sugar in human food.”
Oh fuck you, DFW. Damn you for having the ability to write something so incredibly apt, complicated and simple. It’s the perfect description. The words stand side by side like the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. And best of all, I have seen, read, and defined all of the words in that sentence. It’s like getting Final Jeopardy right after having a terrible night at answering answers from the first two rounds. I know these words. That doesn’t make it a better sentence, just because it appeals to the non-intellectual like myself, or a wordsmith that’s not even amateur. It just makes it a beautiful sentence that I can read over and over again, without referencing dictionary.com. That’s all.
To be one, that would seem to imply that I’ve made an attempt at being a wordsmith at all and I absolutely have never done that. When I was a kid, I once tried to read the dictionary, as many kids are wont to do. Perhaps I made it a couple of pages. How many kids in the country have ever read the dictionary definition of Aardvark? It must be the most-read definition in history. But that’s as far as it goes. I didn’t read a lot of high-brow novels, I never pushed myself to seek answers beyond the page. If I read a word I didn’t understand, I did what most kids do and used the context to get the gist of it. How many of us have gotten the gist of many big words without ever getting a full understanding of it’s meaning?
Megametrically… I get the gist. I know ‘Mega’ and I know ‘Metric’ and I understand what ‘ally’ does to a sentence, plus I read the words around it. This has something to do with ‘MegaMan vs Metroid’!
And that’s when I told Matthew how much I have enjoyed reading Wallace, and also just how damn difficult it is. Now I understand why reading Infinite Jest would be instead like reading through the ‘Infinite Gist.’ I wondered to myself, “Can this be done?” Not now, this much I know for certain. But could I be ready some day? Will I ever have the acumen to get through a thousand-page science fiction novel filled with words that I don’t understand and also because pages on a book don’t grant you the opportunity to hover over for definitions? That’s when I had to come to this conclusion:
I’ve already learned words. I don’t know how much more I’ve got left in me.
It’s funny how as children we learn so much and yet have no memory of doing so. I can tell you where I was when I learned the story behind Olympic cheater Ben Johnson, because I watched a documentary on ESPN a few weeks ago. I can tell you where I was when I first watched Vertigo and learned more about the catalog and style of Alfred Hitchock. I can tell you where I was when I first told a girl that I loved her.
What I can’t do is tell you where or when I first learned that green is green. Or what the state capital of Virginia is. Or that a cow says ‘Moo’. Or that I’m 100% sure what the state capital of Virginia is even today. (I want to say Norfolk. Oh shit, I am wrong! Sorry, Richmond!) And I certainly can’t tell you anything about how I learned the definition of any of the words that I am typing now or when I learned how to use these words. It just happened. It’s like how your computer downloads an update in the background without you ever being acutely aware that it ever happened. All you know is that your computer is up-to-date or that you’ve got a virus and ‘Lots of sexy ladies in your area want to meet up now!’ We can’t go back and expound on the moments, typically, of when we learned a word just like we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how we learned to eat or breathe. We just do. I don’t know how I know the word ‘the’, I just do. That doesn’t mean that I can’t learn what a ‘deus ex machina’ is or that I don’t want to know what it is since it sounds so sexy, it just means that retaining new information like that is so much harder now than it was when I was six.
When it comes to learning something so mundane and simple as words, am I eternally doomed to ignorance?
Of course not. There is just as much opportunity to learn new words as there is to read the Harry Potter novels, to see a play, to finish a crossword puzzle, or to find out the mysteries of another galaxy. If I can pretend like it’s possible to go back to school and become an astronomer, then it is absolutely possible that I can expand my vocabulary from a few hundred words (which I assume it is) to a few thousand (which I assume is the maximum possible.) It’s only a matter of taking the time and exhausting the effort to do so.
I just have chosen not to exhaust the effort. Not now, but not not ever. By reading through David Foster Wallace, I am committing myself to a life that won’t be ignorant of the existence of the words, even if I sometimes choose the gist over the total understanding. Eventually the gist will have to make way for the truth, if I were to ever dream, or dare to at least, to make it through a 1000-page opus like Infinite Jest or another several years of schooling. Such is the course we must decide to take on the remaining hours of our journey here.
For whatever that may mean to each of us, megametrically and otherwise.
October 17, 2012 § 6 Comments
Let me start off by saying that I am not a very political person. My opinion of the facts, history, or laws of this nation should not be held in high regard because I am not a “political pundit,” I didn’t graduate with a degree in political science or political math and English, I vote for the President and pretty much nothing else. So what does that make me?
Just a regular, dirty, American civilian. I still get to have a vote and an opinion. My regular, dirty, American civilian opinion of this election is that we’ve veered so far off course from policies and reality that election season is basically no different than promoting the next Transformers movie. ”Hey look! Things go BOOM and we got rid of that awful lady!”
Watching the debates so far is like watching interviews or first dates. They go up there, put on their absolute best face, tell you everything you want and need to hear, and theyll lie their dicks off if it meant getting the job or sleeping with you. What we are getting mostly is statistics from the past and not answers for the future. We are getting deflections from the questions, and politicians turning their answers into the statements that they had planned to make all along in that particular debate.
“Mr. Romney, what’s the deal with assault rifles? Are you going to put one in the arms of every boy when he turns 12?”
“Well thank you very much for that question, I appreciate that someone had the balls to ask that. But first I really think you should go see the new Vin Diesel movie, FAST & FURIOUS: O6AMA!”
“Mr. Obama, I am very concerned about some of the things that went on during your first four years in office. Can you please help me better explain why you put in the policies you did and what you are going to do to fix the economy, with at least one specific example?”
“That is an amazing question, thank you. I appreciate it and I love it. I love you for asking it. Michelle and I would like to have you over for dinner some time and then whatever happens after that, happens. ;) But let me get back to what I was saying about the 47%”
The Earth doesn’t spin as often as two candidates getting asked questions that might require them to come up with real answers. I am sure that oftentimes the candidates fear that the answers are going to hurt them politically, turn away some votes if they knew the truth. But on the other hand: THE TRUTH.
Having an actual political candidate for either party that spoke the truth and was willing to be honest about the policies, about what they were going to do to fix America, what they disliked about this country and how they were going to fix it, well those kinds of aspirations are only left to Hollywood anymore. It would be like “Dunstin Checks In 2: The White House!”
What we are left with are two candidates instead that are only trying to sell you on which person sounds better, looks better, and is most charismatic.
You will vote for Obama if you are:
- A hard-line democrat
- Against Mitt, for whatever reason
- Attracted to him
- Comfortable when he speaks
- For Michelle
- Against change right now
- Sexy and you know it
You will vote for Romney if you are:
- A hard-line republican
- Against Obama, for whatever reason
- Attracted to older white men
- Comfortable when he speaks
- Of the opinion that Ann is the bee’s knees
- Need change right now
- A baller and a shot-caller
What’s left is a small number of undecided voters that likely won’t change the outcome of the race. Democrats might not like Obama, but they hate Bush. Republicans might not like Mitt, but they hate Obama. You’re really not even voting for who you like as much as you’re voting against who you hate.
I might not know all of the issues. I may have not read up enough and educated myself enough, but I know that the debates don’t leave a single American with any answers, and I also know when I’m being dicked around. Be honest, motherfuckers. I will probably vote for Obama, but I’d be lying if I said that I’d be taken aback, confused, and curious if just once Mitt had said something like,
“I did say that shit about the 47% and let me tell you why. I came from a privileged background but I also worked my balls off to get where I am today. I wasn’t the smartest, but I was the hardest working. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it. If I don’t have the resources, I’ll manufacture them out of raw fucking materials. So it pisses me off when Americans tell me that they want a handout. Work your ass off, hell, work your dick off, work everything off until you’ve got nothing left to give and make it happen. My goal is to get rid of people on welfare and on food stamps and to eradicate poverty in this country, not by making it easier for them but by making it harder. To eliminate the ties that bind their hands and their feet and to create businesses in low-income neighborhoods that will provide opportunities for each and every American and I don’t care if you live in Compton or Beverly Hills, we are going to provide opportunity. If you deny that opportunity, too bad. If you accept it, you’ll see why I said that 47% feel like they’re victims. You’re not a victim, you don’t have to be a victim, take responsibility and action and make your own fortunes a reality. I’m not going to just give it to you.”
I would have been floored by something like that. My respect for Romney would have gone off the charts. It’s not even necessarily that he’d be right or wrong, but for a moment he stopped spinning me right round and had finally spoken from his heart. It’s rare that you ever feel like a candidate even has one. Whenever they dive into yet another anecdote about an encounter they had with an American (as if that’s something that’s so crazy) I can’t help but dive into my imagination and think about the weeks of rehearsal that went into telling that single anecdote.
“Oh shit, guys! Someone from that terrible incident just cried in my arms!!!!”
Stop turning a tragedy for one person into a political gain for yourself. Be a real person, have encounters with real people because you care about them, not about another photo opportunity. This is a major reason why I have such a problem with treating the debates as even a modicum of a “real thing” when it is so obviously nothing more than a show. Nobody wins a debate by anything other than flashing smiles, making the other guy look bad, and standing 15 feet away from their opponent whenever they hopefully say something stupid.
Obama probably “won” that debate in a single moment, his burn of Mitt Romney on his pension, making himself look quick-witted, not concerned with his own benefits, and funny. (Even if they had practiced hundreds of burns this week.) “This. Is. The debates. Yo mamma!”
For my own money, I would actually prefer it if we had some more rules to these debates and made it a real competition. Here are a few ways:
- When a candidate starts to spin off of the topic at hand, play the Oscar walk-off music.
- When a candidate starts to spin off of the topic at hand, remove one piece of clothing from a cardboard cut-out of his wife.
- “Ladies Night”
- Moderator Jon Stewart. (Not my idea but I honestly love it.)
- Instead of a meaningless running clock, the candidates are placed in tanks and those tanks will be full of water in two minutes.
- The girl in the Ray Lewis commercial that asks interview questions like “What’s your favorite color?” gets to be moderator, because what’s the fucking difference?
Here’s the bottom line: I don’t care if you’re democrat or republican. I don’t care if you’re politically active or politically casual, because I’ve already stated that I am the latter. I couldn’t care less if you made a buck or a thousand bucks (you can’t make more than $1,000 right? Please tell me this is the limit!) because at the end of the day we are all Americans and if you want to take it further than that, we’re all Earthlings. The President of the United States won’t just affect the U.S., he’ll have an impact on the world.
What I care about is the water cooler talk the day after the debate. The arguments about who won and who lost. The debates on the debates. If you think that you’re having a political conversation, think twice. Unless you learn something new from them, debates are entertainment television that might as well be moderated by Billy Bush and hosted by Maria Menudouswhatever. Add a swimsuit competition if this is the kind of pandering that the candidates are going to give us during “da’ bate season.”
I am not a very political person. But as a television fanatic, I am appalled.
September 26, 2012 § 4 Comments
Time to get back on the train of deciding which network or cable channel is the best of them all. We continue today with a quick look at a cable network that’s quickly growing into the best of both worlds as a hybrid between the excellent programming of a Premium Cable channel, to the “Can’t say ‘Fuck’” of a Network.
Most of the shows that you’re currently watching on FX are less than five years old. Some of your favorites might only be three years old or less actually, but the road for them was paved by other programs that the network took a chance on. Fittingly, FX is the “FOX” of cable channels. It didn’t seem to have anything going for it when it premiered other than being “edgy” and now it’s dominating almost any non-AMC cable channel in terms of programs.
It starts with Justified, arguably the best drama on TV. (and the reason I show “Justified!” when I shoot someone in the face.) When I first started to watch Justified, it was only for one reason: Timothy Olyphant, my “If I had to do a guy” guy. I’ve been following the ‘Phant since Scream 2, through Girl Next Door and Deadwood, and now we are here. I wasn’t super impressed with the show early on, it felt like one of those “new crime every week!” shows that are rather pointless to follow like CSI or Law and Order.
Oh sure, I’ll sit down and watch me some L&O:SVU if my TV happen to be on TNT (or USA, or local FOX, or 30 other channels) but it’s nothing that’s going to go down as one of the best shows ever. Too rapey.
However, as Justified started to get into it’s groove by midseason, it had established it’s characters and setting and I was hooked. The on-again, off-again relationship between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder as the main setting for what should be an epic showdown when it’s all said and done. I came for the ‘Phant, but I’m staying for the backwater shootouts.
American Horror Story debuted last year with much anticipation, and despite the fact that it felt like the show had written itself into a corner and had no way out other than to say, “Wait, this is fiction, I’ll just make something up!” I thought it turned into a show that we could praise for taking chances. It’s definitely weird, dramatic, confusing, and off-kilter, but I thought that’s what people have been praising David Lynch for since the 80s. Except that I think that creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have out-Lynched Lynch, since I actually want to watch AHS. They’re killing it. (As opposed to “The Killing it,” which means that you are actually making frustrating, annoying, shitty television.)
(To be fair, if Lynch had anything to hang his hat on, it’s that he was most successful during his run with Twin Peaks.)
The other drama on FX is Sons of Anarchy, a show that I only started watching earlier this year. I ran through the first two seasons on Netflix, as addicted as one could be to a show, but then they started to lose me. Sons felt forced at times to do something edgy, but then every time you thought something was going to happen… it didn’t. I love Charlie Hunnam because of Undeclared, but it doesn’t feel to me like he truly suits this character.
That’s probably blasphemy to say and I’m sure Sons fans will run me over for saying it, but him in that role stopped working for me. However, I’ll eventually find out where I left off and continue to watch the series. It’s not going anywhere, since last season it saw a major ratings jump when it hit 7.5 million viewers per episode, compared to 3.23 million viewers two seasons earlier.
So when comparing AMC and FX, I’d have to say that they’ve both got strong arguments in the drama categories, but there is no competition in sitcoms/comedy/whatever the hell Louie and Wilfred are. Because FX stands alone in that department.
Giving Louis CK free reign to make whatever show he wanted without notes or post-editing was the best thing that’s ever happened to sitcom television. As mostly the only writer, director, editor, and star of Louie, we get to see his vision exactly as he sees it and holy shit is it amazing.
There are times when I watch Louie and I laugh so hard that I can’t breathe. There are other times that I watch an entire episode without laughing and yet at the end, I’m just very impressed with what I saw. I want to watch it five more times to catch everything that I had missed, and often I’ll find myself again laughing so hard that I can’t breathe, I just didn’t catch it the first time.
This is what Louis CK was meant to do, and I’m grateful that FX let him do it.
Wilfred is another experimental show and though I never seem to hear other people talk about it, I think it’s one of the most addictive, well-written, funniest shows on television. It’s not just about a dog that can talk or a man in a dog suit (though it is also about those things) it’s about depression, anger, manipulation, heartbreak, torture, love, crushes, drugs, and… dogs eating vomit. But it’s also deeper than that.
Two years later we still don’t know what Wilfred is and that reveal might not come for awhile, but at least it’s a sitcom that’s giving me reason to keep coming back. I feel like I’m watching “Funny LOST!”
None of this would have been possible though without the sitcom that broke the mold and the longest running show on FX, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s crazy how all these other new shows have sort of made me forget about Sunny after what feels like a very long hiatus, but I sort of did. And now I’m sort of remembering how amazing it is.
First advertised as “Seinfeld on Crack” or something, Sunny turned out to be so much better than a shitty FX tagline. The adventures of Charlie, Dennis, Mac, Dee, and Frank have been far more satisfying than one would imagine from a show that’s often described as “crass” or “crude,” it’s actually one of the smartest written shows on television. The group is actually much smarter than one would think if they judged a book by it’s cover or its dick towel. (Glenn Howerton went to Julliard, for example. And Danny DeVito is Danny fucking DeVito.)
Seven seasons and still going strong, I highly anticipate a new year of a show that set the edge in 2005 and is constantly fighting to stay ahead of it.
Then FX debuted Brand X with Russell Brand and Anger Management with Charlie Sheen and screwed everything up. What the hell, FX? You went for ratings and completely shot your reputation among the smart crowd. Brand X is literally one of the worst things I’ve seen on television.
Archer – Kill me if you must, but I have not yet gotten into Archer.
FX doesn’t try to complicate too much, but they’ve taken chances with their programming that few other channels ever have and it’s paid off. Justified makes a case as the best drama on television. Louie makes a case as the best sitcom (or just plain any show) on television. Wilfred and American Horror Story are two of the most successful “weird” things on television. Sunny is going down as one of the most influential and important shows in cable history. FX has been to cable what FOX was to Networks…
Let’s just hope that Brand X isn’t a sign that they’re going to start a reality singing competition and fuck the whole thing up.
September 22, 2012 § 7 Comments
Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at supper time. When pizza’s on a bagel, you can eat pizza any time.
We are all familiar with the jingle. If you want a refresher course, here is the commercial. It first starts with “Now you can give them pizza WHENEVER they want.” This is only about the song, so let’s just get this first part out of the way…
Parents have no interest in how they can give their kids pizza whenever they want. It’s very low on their list of priorities. Right below “How can I get them to run around the house yelling and screaming more?”
Let’s talk a little bit about what’s wrong with the jingle:
Pizza in the morning STOP
People are already eating pizza in the morning.
Pizza in the morning STOP
I have never actually had a bagel bite in the morning, as I can recall it, but I feel that I’d be about 10,000 times less likely to have a bagel bite in the morning than a slice of pizza. I don’t usually wake up and say, “Hmmm… the roof of my mouth feels fine. How can I fuck that up?”
Pizza in the evening STOP
There was not a shortage of people having pizza in the evening.
Pizza in the evening STOP
Bagel bites are really a snack or maybe a lunch. I’m not going to lie to you and act like I’m all high and mighty and haven’t eaten 10 bagel bites in the evening or in the middle of the night, but my honest opinion is that MOST people eat a bagel bite in the middle of the day. Afternoon, noon, lunch time… it’s never mentioned.
Pizza in the evening, pizza at supper time STOP
Now, I have never lived in an area where “supper” was a term that anyone used, but as I understand it and as Wikipedia explains it, supper is an evening meal. It seems to me that supper has ALWAYS been an evening meal. Is this line not redundant? That’s like saying, “Pizza is some pizza, eaty eaty pizza, did you know that pizza is pizza?”
Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at supper time STOP
So when it comes down to it, we’ve named just two times that you can eat pizza when it is on a bagel.
When pizza’s on a bagel STOP
This is more of a pet peeve maybe, but can we please not compare this:
To fucking pizza?
Pizza is not on a bagel. It looks more to me like four to seven tiny cubes of fake pepperoni, 10-20 tiny cubes of fake cheese and maybe a few cubes of fake sauce. And then I have to ask myself what the hell constitutes something actually qualifying as a bagel.
When pizza’s on a bagel, you can eat pizza any time STOP
Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.
When I was a kid, this made some sense to me. The size makes it portable, the way it’s kept makes it accesible at any time, as a child I’m saying to myself “Fool proof.”
As an adult, here is how the song should go instead:
Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at supper time. When you’re a fucking adult you can eat pizza any time.
There is nothing about a bagel bite that actually makes it more okay to eat at any given time, and in fact, there are probably less times to eat pizza on a bagel than just regular pizza. I’m also just dumbfounded and confused as to why the company is selling the idea to parents that they can now give their kids pizza any time. When did parents start a national letter writing campaign to congress that there weren’t enough ways to give their kids pizza?
I’m not better than bagel bites. I’ve had plenty of them in my lifetime. But I think we’re all better than this completely confusing, terrible, non-sensical, and incredibly catchy jingle.
I’ll give the song that, it’s catchy. I can listen to it at any time, both in the evening AND at supper time.