Friday, July 31, 2015

Looking Forward Looking Backward

It occurs to the present author that, for many years, the weekend was something to look forward to. It meant, during early school years, freedom from homework and classwork. It meant, during later school years, freedom from bullying and difficult tests and projects. It meant, during college, freedom from a violent, criminal roommate.

Given that the present author strongly detests the current employment maintained by said author, it stands to reason that weekend would still be something to look forward to. Instead, due to an ever-present strain of ennui, weekends have actually become something to not look forward to, as angst, boredom, and loneliness often conspire to render them even more unpleasant than an already unpleasant week. The weekends, then, become a 48+  hour ordeal of survival, of trying to maintain some sort of activity and avoid the mental traps that render one both habitually depressed and hopeless. That these ordeals have been survived, albeit extremely poorly so far, is a condemnation of the present author's ability to both maintain a decent life and to find enjoyment and pleasure in things. That today is also a Friday, and the last day before the weekend really kicks off, is not something that the author has lost sight of. Let the anxiety and pernicious waiting game begin.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

No K Cupid

The present author, over the last year and a half, has taken, as previously mentioned, some small steps towards enhancing a social life that is completely bereft of any actual face-to-face contact. These small attempts involved signing up for sites such as OkCupid, Tinder, and POF, under the pretense of meeting both men and women. It occurs to the present author, however, that not many people use these sites under that pretense, as, even with the small amount of likes the author's profile has received, less than 5% of them are by men, none of whom replied to further inquiry. This, perhaps, isn't too surprising, as the sites are marketed, ultimately, as dating sites, not friend sites.

What is perhaps most striking, though, is the present author's prolificacy at both failing to attract interest, and scaring away what little interest there is in the space of just a few days of sending messages. But perhaps foremost, some boundaries should be explained. It just goes to happen that the present author did not include religion, drug use, size, ethnicity, income, or relationship status as deal breakers in the veritable onslaught of questions and characteristics allowed to be chosen, but did name the act of already having a child as being the one and only thing that would prevent any sort of "dating" to transpire. The present author could certainly befriend one with a child, but never anything more. That 14 of the 22 likes over the last 18 months on OkCupid have been by single mothers is a source of cynical humour to the present author.

But, to wit, even when interest is given in the present author by non-single mothers, of which 6 people have evolved into the stage of "regular messaging," (4 on OkCupid, 1 on POF, 1 on Tinder) it has taken, at most, only a week of exchanging said messages for the other party to lose all interest in the author and cease all communications. This is, of course, not unexpected, but still creates a sort of mental proclivity towards assuming that the present author is both boring and ugly (both of which are undoubtedly true). Even when the author attempts to extend an interesting olive branch, by asking questions of the other person which may be considered courteous or showing some sense of intrigue into the person's life, the conversation eventually fizzles out. This demonstrates that the present author's limited and awkward social skills definitely translate even worse to written messages than they already do to verbal ones.  That the messages come off as stiff and unnecessarily formal is also a strike against them.

So it goes that after 6 dried out conversations, several other failed attempts, and months spent without a single face-to-face meeting, the present author is resigned to the fact that he is both; uninteresting, and un-dateable. This is not new knowledge to the author, and indeed, has been known for some time, but the veritable failure of anything even remotely close to friendship transpiring from the triumvirate of websites being used to ascertain just as much is, ultimately, a self-damning reality. That the author should seek to change themselves in order to perhaps appear more desirable as a friend or social contact or romantic interest is not something that is lost on the present author. It is simply something that is unattainable.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Holden Caulfield Hates This Place

Phonies. Everywhere, really, office is inundated with fake laughter - you can easily tell when it's happening - fake greetings. One co-worker lies so often that he'll change his story multiple times in the same day, he's the same one who steals food and toilet paper. I don't think anyone here cares about anyone. There's enough talking behind of everyone's backs, makes you wonder what they say about me, so I just try to keep my head down. So many phonies. Everyone puts on a face. Maybe that's the nature of being a salesperson, shoveling fake trends and facts to try to market yourself, or your product, to try to make money, put on a smile and tell someone how great the bullshit really smells. Can't help but think, though, the profession here makes it all worse.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Weekends

They drone on like all weekends, really, but now sweaty and dousing out rising body temperature with endless glasses of water. Still enjoy the heat way more than the cold, it's easy enough to drink water and take a walk, much easier than bundling up and shoveling, and glasses fogging up, and black ice. Still, the weekend can become a sort of tepid thing; all boredom and longing and futile attempts at writing, or reading, or playing a game, or watching a movie, anything to keep the mind active and busy, off of things, off of frequent disappointments and loneliness. It's been said fear is the mind killer but I think dullness is perhaps even more so, fear heightens the senses at the very least, fear can be a motivator, boredom just dulls the senses and creates and endless malaise. The cicadas outside clash with the sound of a running fan, loud and steady, pulsating, occasionally accentuated by the laughter or talking of people down the street hanging out on their front porch, having some drinks and some food, and then there are the lawn mowers too, archetypal human inventions that consecrate a relatively painless job to the altar of fossil fuels. At least if I sleep through the weekend, the nightmares will make sure something intense happens.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To Be a Good Writer

It occurs to the present author, having spent a prodigious amount of hours over the course of existence consuming literature, that many famous and worldly authors write in ways distinctly frowned upon by teachers, critics, and literary types. And while it's easy and, perhaps, lazy to find people to say something to the effect that 50 Shades of Gray is "trash," it is harder to find someone say that, CS Lewis, for instance, is often very religiously heavy-handed and preachy, something that would not be considered a positive writing trait if one were to contribute such to a story in the pursuit of a creative writing degree. And yet, CS Lewis is rather often considered a landmark fantasy and science-fiction writer. Or take the case of one Robert Heinlein, a man who wrote about women deserving to be raped, a man who wrote positively about the Vietnam War and of nuclear war, and a man who delineated entire political thought into dialogue scenes between two characters, one who was often a foil for Heinlein's beliefs. While Heinlein is criticized much more today than in yesteryear, he enjoyed decades of being both financially rewarded and critically esteemed for his work.

This is not, of course, a phenomenon strictly held by the literary world. What it is, however, is a product of two distinctly uncontrollable things. One of those things is your birth. To say that the "Golden Age" of sci-fi took place in the mid 20th century - which many people do - is to say that a golden age can occur without any contributions from marginalized people; women, people of colour, LGBT, religious minorities, etc. Sci-fi was, at that point in time, strictly a white man's endeavor. And so, your chances of getting published and selling were at times a direct result of how you were born.

It is also a product, entirely, of luck. That an uncountable multitude of works that have been published and sold lavishly go against what is considered "good writing" is something that gets to the heart of whether or not writing can ever be considered good in the first place, or whether or not generally perceived ideas of "good" are true in the first place.

That Heinlein said that women deserve to be raped, and that E.L. James at times ignored ideas of consent or failed to use accurate, modern depictions of sexual slang, likely mattered little to each of them, respectively. Laughing all the way to the bank does not require one to read the critique of a supposed literary critic. The people have already spoken.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Happiness is Fleeting, Sadness is Forever

Perhaps Buddhist philosophy regarding impermanence is true in that we die, but then again, if you believe in rebirth, you could theoretically be sad over and over again until you reach enlightenment. That I do not believe in rebirth means that any sadness, while decades long, will be rendered moot, eventually, by the cold inescapability of death.

I spent Friday through Sunday in the heat of 110 degrees, sunlight, hostelites, music, Chicago, and fun times. Mom can be proud that I only cried 5 times on the way back home, to my drab hometown of 75,000 people (310,000 if you want to call it a "metropolis" but that's being generous), there are no hostels, no nightlife, no scenic views, no palm trees, no year round summer, no music, just the boring staccato of another rust belt city grinding on towards the perpetual notion that this part of the world can be saved. I made friends on my journey, friends I will never see again, thrown away to all corners of the earth and relegated to a number on my Facebook friends list, maybe I'll check in on their profile every now and see if they're happy, that'd be the ideal, happiness, but there's nothing about it that sticks. The closest ones were from Ann Arbor but they're all going away for college. My closest friend I made on the trip was adamant about being from "St Fucking Louis" and I can't say anything will ever pull me there.

I had firsts of course, first club I'd ever been to, not the first time I'd been up until 5:30 drinking, but the first time I had done so in awhile, suffice to say my work day is one of 'where am I?" and "who am I?" Everyone I met was both kind and incredibly sociable, even teasing out words from a recluse like me, who would have thought? Part of me wanted to just return, tell my job to fuck off and drive back, or just take a roadtrip, but there's that impermanence again, all the friends you meet on your journeys are friends you'll never see again, just common travelers who all have to return or go on their own way like you, that's why I have to get out of this town, start again, hit reset, find a big city and make connections, I have none here, nothing but sadness and fleeting moments that grace my existence when all seems lost. Take another pill, show up for work, go to class, go to bed. No palm trees. I spend every day here slowly dying. Hopefully it won't be permanent. I will never reach enlightenment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

On HG Wells, Duly Noted

To say HG Wells is that of an considerately influential and popular science-fiction writer is not a statement of controversy. What is perhaps most remarkable about his continual fame, is that, much of what he wrote, if written today by someone trying to break into the world of science-fiction authorship, would be soundly discounted as amateurish. HG Wells, perhaps most notably in both his novel War of the Worlds, and novella The Time Machine - two of most popular works - uses the narrative devices of sci-fi to push, usually fairly inelegantly, a political point. The Time Machine rambles on for entire passages about the evil of both class hierarchy and communism, with the surrounding story almost superfluous in its existence, only 90 pages long, and with the non-political points all used up rapidly to develop both the world and the one and only character we really get to know - and not all that well do we know him, I might add. It could have existed, rather succinctly, as a period drama, or an essay. HG Wells, like many sci-fi authors, seeks to demonstrate some societal critique by setting his story against the backdrop of some futuristic setting, but the trivial way in which he discusses politics and science often feels like the prattling of a high school student's attempt at writing a dystopian novel. That War of the Worlds has the entirety of its conflict quickly resolved in the span of one insular paragraph near its end is not without frustration. And while the point of the buildup to it perhaps makes the journey more valuable, one still can't help but wonder why Wells was seemingly so bad at showing and not telling, and yet his work is considered to be a hallmark of the sci-fi genre. Certainly, ostensibly political works don't have to be subtle or sneaky about their dealings, but when ideas are presented drily in the form of a rant from an omnipresent narrator, and not naturally through the setting or characters of the story, well, it behooves the present author to say that, in all likelihood, the political message could have been delivered better.

Monday, July 13, 2015


It occurs to the present author, upon a recent re-reading of the well-reputed and historically significant novel Frankenstein (the 1818 version), that the Monster of that story is, in many ways, a relatable creature. To wit, the Monster in Frankenstein shares such characteristics with me as;

A) Rabid ugliness
B) Social ineptitude
C) Desire for human contact

The Monster was born into the world without consent (as we all are), and placed in it with a degree of physical characteristics that deemed him, according to society's standards at the time, horrendously hideous and unspeakably ugly, as am I.

That the monster is also 9 feet tall and inhumanly athletic, however, is not something which the present author is, much to the dismay of the childhood self of the author who wished to play in the NBA. That the Monster also murders several people is, again, something that the present author has never done and will never do.

That the Monster died of his own choosing, however, is something that parallels to will be revealed, in all likelihood, in time.

Friday, July 10, 2015

What is the Internet?

Nostalgia is a powerful drug. I don't think there's anything particularly controversial of that fact. Nostalgia is what will in part drive me to seeing the next Star Wars movie at midnight in December when we're likely laden with snow and cold. We like to think we're better than it, that we can take off the rose-tinted glasses at any point, that we can see past the seemingly natural inclination to filter out the bad and only consider the good of what once was. Perhaps some are better at that than others. Perhaps not.

Today is July 10th, 2015, not a particularly infamous day by any respects, another that will be lost to the menagerie of time. An animated movie comes out today, called Minions, which anyone who has spent any time online knows about all too well. Minions, the seemingly shapeless, formless yellow creatures from said movie, have infiltrated every level of the web, paraded non-ironically by people on Facebook alongside text entries formed of New Sincerity, and paraded ironically by those who see a moment to contribute to the ever lingering postmodern irony of the 80s and 90s now weaponized into internet pop culture in a sort of ironic twist of fate itself. They are pictured alongside any idea or any statement someone wants to make, grievance they want to air, reinforcement they want to give, or personal diatribe they want us to endure. They are a corporate device of epic proportions, not unlike many internet fads in recent times (Paul Blart just zoomed by on his Segway, I suppose). And some of us, well, in our postmodern irony, decided it's ok to laugh at them if we are laughing at the Minions, not with them. What a strange twist on modern mannerisms.

It's impossible to use a major social networking platform without seeing them, the Minions. But then again, that's true of anything that enters the cultural lexicon these days. There's little agreement on internet eras - indeed, a medium so young is hard to divvy up - but I think it's very permissible to consider, at least in part, the internet as being pre or post Facebook. Facebook; of almost a billion and a half users, an amalgamation of content and the single greatest source of personal information that has ever been constructed by humankind, has become a sort of lens in which we view the aforementioned cultural lexicon. Minions may litter our timelines now, but before that was Left Shark, and before that was some other meme, and so on and so on. While the same can be found on Twitter, the character limits and profile limits render a sort of barrier between the content and the user. We can easily divorce ourselves from a site that doesn't require our real names, our real photos, our real history. Facebook is the giant, the one that collects our entire lives - that we contribute all too willingly - and disperses them amongst... what? The machinations of the global corporate infrastructure? My picture of me at a concert appears next to the Minion, the shark, the doge, with everyday seemingly making it more and more likely that the trend is commercial, that my info is sold to the highest bidder, that the content I see is not made by the people I have on my friends list but instead by the algorithms behind the scene that prune my content so that everything I view is formed on Facebook.

It's easy, at times, to look upon Facebook, or Twitter, or Youtube, these corporate giants, these progenitors of our news, our jokes, our content, and wax poetic of an earlier internet era. Of not having to worry about ad block, or commercials before videos, or the idea that anything conceived is filtered through the Terms and Conditions of one of the largest companies on earth. Minions, after all, are a purely corporately contrived icon, like so much of what passes as popular content these days. The commercialization of the internet has been such an overwhelming success that one wonders if there was ever really a chance for the medium at all. I Am Carles was many things to a strange cultural niche of people, but it's easy to see it as a weirdly prophetic final gasp of the individual internet landscape. It wasn't always pretty, or nice, or even, perhaps, relevant. But it just was. There was no driving factor behind it from a CEO hell bent on profit margins. Is it any wonder the blog has disappeared from internet lexicon over the last few years? A blog is individual, it is textual, it is - frustratingly to the corporate world - not a Minion, not a commercial entity that can be spread like wildfire and posted to every wall and timeline imaginable. And so it fades away as another internet fad, disparaged to far corners where people commit more than 140 characters to an idea. Much like books - forever displaced by e-readers and tablets - which can fire up an ad before we even have a chance to get to the content we want to view on them. I can read Frankenstein after I see a - you guessed it - ad for those goddamn Minions.

Back then, even with Myspace, which was never what Facebook has become, or Google, when it was a simple search engine and nothing more, the internet seemed a bit wilder, quirkier, dirtier, less filtered. The trendy icons and content were made by individuals more often than by a corporation that studied behavior online and sought to create the most viral hit imaginable. Of course, to grow up during that period means anything will seem a bit wilder, quirkier, dirtier, and less filtered; when it's viewed through the guise of rapidly progressing adolescence, of parental restrictions and peer pressure. But there was a time when we didn't communicate what the new internet fad was on the internet itself, but in hushed tones at lunch the next day at school, because there was no way to get in touch with 345 "friends" in one quick post.

And it's all perhaps most uniquely frustrating when years of internet use have blended posts and content and writing styles together, but now it's all repackaged by some suit in a generic office trying to make you click it just one more time, so they can make one more buck. Vice is Gawker is 4chan is message boards, spunk has been around forever, inserting swear words into your piece and at the same time feigning self-awareness at what is truly bad content, irony, meta-irony, sincerity, new sincerity, parody, analysis, it's all just endless developments of styles and genres and ways to communicate that have been developed for centuries before us and centuries after us. Only now, it's impossible to avoid, it's curated by our timelines and walls, and our friends can't wait to tell us about it, and... oh my God, it's just like newspaper was before the web! One truly wonders what the 1800s Minions were. Hopefully for our ancestors sake, they spoke a bit more cohesively.

Regardless, it's easy to look back on the earlier internet with fondness and forgo the negatives; that back then, the modern landscape of information could be horribly fractured. Use this site for a map. Use this site for news. Use this site for email. Use this site for music. Many of these sites had endless copies and rehashes, there was no one-stop convenience, no grand source of information other than the internet itself; but by virtue of that wildness, there was no Great Filter, no corporation signing off on anything and everything that was posted or written or made.

It's also easy to ignore that, in all likelihood, the internet was a more dangerous and fear inducing place back then, remiss of cultural dialogues about what is truly appropriate in internet space, or who the internet is for, or how we can make it more inviting. From a purely logistical standpoint, the laws and regulations of various nations had little to nothing to say about the internet, such was its explosion so rapid and complete that the law was either clumsily applied in overly restrictive ways, or haphazardly applied in ways that didn't protect the people it sought to.

And so from the 90s and aughts we have now sprung headfirst into a form of content and communication so immense that even TV, the giant goliath of all goliaths, the thing that either killed us all or brought us all together, depending on who you read, is slowly losing to the web, losing users, losing content, losing relevance; its death prolonged by the corporate giants who have stakes in it, just like some day, the corporate giants that were birthed on the internet as it is now will vainly try to swim against whatever revolutionizes the world next. And yet, for all my ruminations on the past, of a less commercial internet, we've all, as a species, swam forward over time immemorial further and further away from the dystopia. To hear some people speak, you'd think the internet is dead, media is dead, the future is hopeless, and I will complete this sentence only if I can get it sponsored. By the way, here's a clip of something I didn't create, just to get hits! And it has a Stamp of Content Approval from Facebook itself! Now appearing on your Timeline for the next 30 minutes only! I kid, of course, but prophecy is laden with doom and gloom more often than optimism, and one wonders if that's why news is a natural extension of tragedy.

What is the internet, then? Is it the wild west of the earlier years, still, of individuals and rule breaking and subcultures? Is it just another commercial venue? Is it - dare I say it - just TV with a new skin? Was it ever anything else? Or has it always been something else? I don't know, perhaps nobody does. That's why all the guesses; by people, by CEOs, by creators, of what the next big thing will be, of how to latch onto it, and how to bring it to the forefront of our daily communication, or even of what to do on the internet in the first place.

In the meantime, sit back, and revel in whatever Minion your aunt has posted to Facebook. Perhaps the greatest irony is that we were the Minions all along; spewed out by corporate culture, and laughing at ourselves all the way.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Money Can't Buy Happiness But It Can Buy Feeling Better

Forgive me, for a second, for introducing an economic policy into the meat of this post, but, it serves the point I am trying to make rather well. As most of you, I am sure, are well aware, one of the largest impediments to the pursuit of either; one's dreams, one's desire to travel, or even just one's desire to eat out every now and then, is a lack of money. We, as a species, have constructed a society in which a majority of people, based on numerous studies, both:

A) Dislike their job
B) Do not have their dreams come true.

While the job conundrum is a little harder to crack - after all, we're all consumers of the goods we sometimes get bored of producing, or the services we can't stand rendering, and until we limit or consumption, these things demand work - the dreaming conundrum might be a bit easier to solve. And in turn, this solution could solve some of part A, as well, since one of the largest and most common complaints about work are the hours one must spend working in the first place.

To wit, a form of universal income, which has broad support from economists on both the right and left, would give people more monetary means to pursue dreams of travel, or having a nicer car, or what have you, and/or would allow for a more stringent commitment to a 40 hour work week, as opposed to the 45 or so many Americans end up working instead. It seems, on a philosophical level, somewhat cruel to have constructed a society in which personal desires are so rarely met and so dependent on luck and the state of one's birth, but considering that the US has both the money and bureaucracy in place to extend a universal income to all citizens 18 or over, and could save money by doing so on the currently cumbersome and multi-faceted system of welfare and tax incentives we have now, one would think that this system could, perhaps, be implemented one day. And while this author fully expects it will, it will most certainly be several lifespans down the road, rendering any hope for the current day, as all things, entirely meaningless.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Right Thing

It occurs to the present author, as many things do (albeit meaningless things), that little will be done individually to make the world a better place by said author. This realization has been substantiated before, years ago, but now, 26 years into a rather tepid existence, its reality is set in stone, ingrained into the functioning reality that is experienced on a day-to-day basis.

It also occurs to the author that the world most glaringly suffers from poor resource distribution. To wit; world hunger and thirst could be solved with a better and more efficient distribution of resources, such as food staples, clean water, and money, but currently, our system concentrates said goods in such a way that millions of people needlessly suffer from thirst and malnourishment. This is most assuredly a heavy critique of human society at large; that we can solve our problems, but have constructed our world in such a way as to not to.

It then, also, occurs to this author, that due to circumstances uncontrollable; in this case, one's birthplace, the present author consumes a non-inconsequentially large amount of planetary resources by way of being born and living in the US. These resources could, upon reflection, be better used and distributed if they were either; not being consumed by the present author, or were going to someone who has a greater chance of doing something meaningful with their existence, which would happen to be anyone.

Due to this conclusion, it stands to reason that the most noble and significant way that the present author could improve the planet and the people who inhabit it, would be to summarily terminate the author's existence in due fashion, preferably in a way that takes few resources. Given that the present author has already stated that nothing will be done to improve the world, this termination is unlikely to occur. Thusly, resources will continue to be wasted on the present author's existence.