Wednesday, April 28, 2010 :::
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::: posted by Mike at 9:33 PM
Wednesday, August 15, 2007 :::
Bullshit You Can Think and Say
I know for a fact that I have posted something on this subject before. I don’t see how I could not have. But rather than search through all previous posts (and possibly deny myself a repeated rant on a subject that at its best is a pseudo-intellectual meandering) I decided to post this anyway…
Let’s agree on some ground rules on how life, language, and the human machine operate.
Rule #1: If you can think something— an idea, an image, or even a fairly abstract concept like love or income taxes— you can articulate that into the spoken language of your choice.
Rule #2: If a person, event, or act is described to you, even if in incomplete terms, you can formulate a contextual image in your mind of the things described filling in from imagination and experience the missing details.
So using the two rules above nothing can be UNSPEAKABLE and nothing can be UNTHINKABLE.
These are Reserve Words of the Media and people with poor imaginations and poorer vocabularies.
I get the intended meaning. I understand that when a person says this they are trying to cordon off the event or act in question from the logical world and point it out as an anomalous hiccup of morality or decency. But if you use bullshit words to take a bullshit stand the end result is just more bullshit.
::: posted by Mike at 9:05 AM
Wednesday, July 25, 2007 :::
Punching The Shark
I saw this posted online… read the full story here. But first a little commentary.
Is it at all possible that maybe we have been trained to think that normal human reactions of shock and terror are no longer socially permissible means of dealing with the sudden or the tragic? Are we so totally full of self-confidence and fear that we have to concoct assuring fantasies that we won’t go gentle into that good night, that we won’t go down without a fight?
When that guy “fought” the shark years back in Florida I was the first guy in line to hand him the Billy Bad Ass Award. Who wouldn’t… this guy punched and kicked a shark to the beach and rescued the severed and mangled limb of his nephew from its steely jaws or belly or whatever the hell sounds most dramatic. Wow! Say what you want about true heroics in our time but that is a HERO with extra pickles and cheese.
But now, current page of our current lives, our delicate sense of self must drudge through that high-wire juggling act of recognizing very real and very present danger and the critical ego maintenance that says we too, if faced with the circumstance or opportunity, will punch the shark.
“The tranquil beauty of Hawaii transformed into a moment of terror for a vacationing Ohio man. Harvey Miller was snorkeling hoping to get a look at colorful sea life, instead he came face to face with a hungry shark. And what followed was a primal struggle between man and beast.
A dire warning was posted on the Oahu beach, but it came too late for 36-year-old Harvey Miller.
"I looked up and saw the snout of the shark. It bit me and spun me around," says Harvey Miller, Shark Victim.
The Ohio father of four was on vacation with his wife last week. He was snorkeling 150 yards from shore when an 8-foot tiger shark clamped its teeth into his leg.
Another tourist heard Miller's cries for help and rushed into the water.
"His first words were it broke my leg," says Ray Howell, Witness.
It's the first shark attack in nearly 50 years along this stretch of Hawaiian beach and it might have turned deadly if the victim hadn't started boxing the shark.
"I punched it twice in the body just below the dorsal fin," says Miller.
As the shark disappeared paramedics arrived. Miller's wife learned the news from a police officer.”
::: posted by Mike at 3:30 AM
Friday, September 16, 2005 :::
Every once and a while I get the feeling that there are factions at work in the media that want me, or better yet need me, to declare my self a member of a camp. And it is not even on a critical societal issue. It is not something like pro-life vs. pro-choice or which cola manufacturer has the best zero calorie Splenda blend. Usually it is something so banal and brain-deadening that I have to seriously stop and remind myself that this is the real media and not grade-schoolers playing dress-up journalism.
So what it is recently. Yep, it is our old Friends Jennifer Aniston and Angela Jolie with Brad Pitt arranged nicely in the prettiest freak show I have ever personally witnessed. Jen is crushed. Angelia says Jen drove Brad away. Jen says she is something. A source close to the Jolie camp reports that Angelina said that. And somehow… Brad, who just pulled the greatest lateral Hollywood hot chick move of all time, is not available for comment. He just shows up on the cover of magazines with this massive and egregious shit eating grin that is nothing more than him giving double-barrel “fuck you” finger gestures to the whole of the male population. So why the women fight, the Bradster loves. While Jen boo-hoos and Angie gloats, Brad makes tender love to an incredibly attractive woman on the backs of Ethiopian orphans. While the Tabloids and seemingly legitimate news sources try in vain to get me to cast my vote, to choose which side I am on (The girl-next-door turned hottie turned used up cast-off or the fat-lipped vixen with boobs jacked halfway up to heaven), Brad flirts with the camera and casually reminds me of exactly which corner of my dreams I get to live his life of fantastic train wreck of a love life.
So, if this thing is on… and if this is not really about real people living real life and struggling with real emotions and real divorce, then sign me up. Put my vote down and count me in as someone involved enough to exercise what little slice of democracy I can really be a part of. Jen or Ang? Jennifer or Angelina? Bradifer or Bradgelina? Come on Dammit, choose. Cast your vote. Fucking matter in this world.
Well, I have made my choice and for all the reasons I stated here and a few I didn’t… I choose Brad!
::: posted by Mike at 11:06 PM
Thursday, July 07, 2005 ::: Closure (with a Big C).
Recently an old wound re-opened all by itself. Most times these things need some help… like relentless picking on the edges of the healed over but still visible scar until the whole goddamned thing ruptures into swell of hurt, pain, and remembrance. But this one… this one happened without me even knowing it.
I need to dispel the myth is that there is such a thing as “closure”. It’s bullshit. It doesn’t exist. Things happen or they don’t. People live or they die. The people who make up the props and set decoration of your modern life are here one minute and the next they are gone. No suicide notes of elaborate explanation, no meaningful and mutually beneficial dialogue to close out the chapter, no calm transitions or “sun-setting” to a better way of life, none of that. People just go away and when they do… by all rights and measures, they should stay away. When they die there are no Ouija boards or séances. People stay dead.
In the end Closure is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. I know that sounds cynical and maybe a little bit like I am trying to distill cool from conspiracy, but stay with me. We do so much in the name of Closure. We buy things, we go to therapy, we take prescription medications, we behave in ways that are incongruent with who we are at our cores. And we do it all because at the end of the purchase, or the pill bottle, or the tantrum, we will have brought an episode to the end, resolved or settled unresolved or unsettled feelings from our first pass through a shit storm. Problem is… it doesn’t work.
To my knowledge and experience there is no mechanism that holds the power to undo my hurt. And there are many reasons in life for a person to hurt. But it does me no good to win an argument years after the point of contention has been rendered irrelevant. Apologies for a transgression against me don’t matter when I have already survived the damage. Validation, in any form, after I have moved beyond the moment of needing to be validated is extremely weak medicine. And this is the core of Closure… the idea that there is some combination of dialogue or confrontation that in some way limits, lessens, or nullifies real anguish years beyond the point of injury.
I suppose this might be a learned or at the very least a subtly instilled need, this need for Closure. And so we are not bullshitting each other that is how Closure manifests itself, in a deep-seated need that begs for fulfillment.
Closure is the last ten minutes of a romantic comedy. Closure is in the rhetoric of under-skilled therapists with a high charge out rate. It robs hurt of its true power and meaning because that hurt is analyzed and broken down to its essential and naked parts. And those parts tell the story of some imaginary theft of our identity and happiness and we must, MY GOD WE MUST, reclaim or have reparation made to put things right. I NEED to hear you are sorry for stealing my lunch money when I was 12. I NEED to know you’re sorry for being gay and obliterating the sanctity and meaning of love. I NEED to see you regret leaving me with babies and everything. I NEED to feel like I am whole again!!!
It’s all such a total load of sad and maladjusted bullshit. Hurt is the only currency that buys you any character worth having. Having to endure prejudice grants one the gift of an open mind. Going hungry enriches one’s taste for a fine meal. Sleeping in a subway station in South London makes the down comforter of a 5-star hotel all the softer. Petty insecurity of others draws the blueprint of self-esteem. The sting of stumbling and broken love opens the heart to the real thing. Broken bones mend themselves stronger. Broken Souls are better suited for salvation. Too much happy is boring and, worse, lets the mechanics of human potential atrophy to waste.
So… when the wound opened I was shocked that someone actually used the excuse of Closure. I realized after a few hours of bitch and rage that I have reconciled my hurts and pains and am so much the better person because of that. I don’t grant my detractors or transgressors power over me because I enacted a strategy of survival that put me leagues beyond my original inflictions. Sure, I have hurt. But as a result I have grown. I have prospered. I have succeeded. I have moved beyond the need for apologies or regrets. I have celebrated my pain and exposed Closure as the myth it is.
As it turns out, the wound didn’t open at all. I just heard a fool crying about blood and pain and I reacted. Then I realized I had already lived through that once and once was certainly enough.
::: posted by Mike at 3:59 PM
Monday, May 16, 2005 ::: A good (but not great) writer
The gift of honest self analysis is not something creative types are known to possess. And perhaps that is the design of the thing, the benefit of blindness to one’s own follies or shortcomings. And it seems the more creative the individual the more out of touch with reality that person’s perception of their own work becomes. I would venture to guess that a great many of these artists, whatever the art, tend to overstate the importance, or originality, or the relevance of their work. Others simply toil away in vain, ridiculing their works with detestation that can only come from an unyielding self-loathing. No matter what the polish or of the fix, it will never be good enough. Somewhere between idea and birth the genius of genuine art was aborted while the horrid remnants of left over inspiration were scraped out onto the canvas, or the page, or into the stale air.
So far it has been my fortune to be a good writer. I am not a great writer. Being good is good enough. Being great, I fear, might be tortuous.
I read a story yesterday about Tristan Egolf, a writer of some repute that killed himself at the age of 33. Whether or not you have heard of him doesn’t matter to my point. In fact, I have never heard of him. Apparently he had written some critically acclaimed books, the first of which was published when he was 27. He was an activist and a musician. And by the admission of his close friends, he was a tortured soul.
Honestly, I don’t know what parts of the story are hype and which are fact. Am I to believe that this guy was so smart and so creative he just couldn’t stand living in his own head? Or perhaps a better (and slightly more dramatic) explanation for his suicide is that he looked down the intimidating timeline that was the rest of his life and knew he would never have the strength to be as good as he was supposed to be. Or maybe it was marketing. Not self-serving marketing, but legacy building.
They are a melancholy fraternity, these Suicide Writers. And there is certain publicity to being inducted into their number. Book sales increase. Notoriety is almost automatic. And alas, there is that intrigue. You become morbidly sexy and maybe just a little bit cooler than if you died of complications from an inoperable brain tumor.
Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, William Faulkner, John Kennedy O’Toole, Edgar Allen Poe, more recently Hunter S. Thompson: all famous writers who chose the express train to lapsed mortality. And these are just the ones we’ve heard about. How many more never published a word?
My thoughts are not crystallized on the subject but I can tell you there is no pressure in only being good. No one is ever going to accuse me of being the shining beacon of prose-form truth of my generation or country. The Noble Prize for literature… not something I will probably have on my mantle any time soon. But that’s O.K., right? To be at ease that I can, on some days, string together words that could make a person weep, or laugh, or think and NEVER have to prove it to anyone but myself.
The greatest burden a writer can feel is the significance of his own ideas. It’s sad when that burden crushes the messenger beneath. It’s tragic when those ideas were never really all that heavy to begin with.
::: posted by Mike at 3:22 PM
Friday, February 04, 2005 ::: The Molecules of Men
It was either homophobia or physics that made what I saw happen. In fact, it is far from an isolated incident. I see it happen all the time.
The conditions have to be just right, but if they are let me clue you in on a phenomenon that I can only describe as “socio-physics”… the study of society at its elementary basics.
There are a lot of elevators in the world. Hospitals, hotels, office buildings, and everywhere in between. I was at a work conference in New York City a few weeks ago and that was when I noticed. It was a long ride to the 50th floor of the hotel so I actually go to see this practical magic at work over a slightly longer period than most might notice it.
Let me set the scene. In the lobby the bell dings and the light comes on over a particular elevator car. Five guys board the elevator and select their respective floor. They each press the corresponding button themselves and only after suspiciously eyeing the matrix of lit and dark buttons for their floor. The elevator goes to the first stop, in silence assuming these men don’t know each other. The doors open and the first of the five men exits without ceremony or emotional farewells. Then it happens… The Dude Shift.
In a blind but beautifully choreographed movement the remaining men instinctively shift their positions to maximize the space between themselves and the other men. Next Floor: one man exits, three remain and redistribute the territory. It is a working model of spatial socialism. There is no contest for control of the vacated terrain by rival alpha males. It is an automatic and non-confrontational redistribution of real-estate. And this keeps up floor after floor until only one remains. The other day it was me, riding alone to the 50th floor in the center of the elevator, the king of the realm.
Now for some contrast, a changing of the variables, if you will. Any good pretend-social scientist will test a theory a few more times before retreating to his website to report his findings. So I watched with both a mixture of men and women and all women with me the only man. Same elevator, same hotel, almost the same floors, but once the variables change, the result changes. That is of course until in mixed company all the women depart leaving only men at which point the old rule applies. In mixed or mostly female company the ride is not so silent. The departing female does little to alter the space. The remainders actually seem more comfortable and likely to chat, in some cases moving closer to one another.
If you have ever taken a physics class, one of the things you learn is the activities of molecules and atoms and protons and electrons in nature. For given stimuli there will be basic and defined actions on all levels. Everyday things get boiled down to the action and reaction of the building blocks of our universe. That is what I thought about during the synchronized repositioning that took place on the elevator rides.
As a general rule, homosexuality notwithstanding, Dudes don’t like standing too close to other Dudes, bottom line. Our molecules are programmed to repel against one another in any available space. Sometimes it is in an elevator. Sometimes it is when one caveman builds his cave-home too far from another to be considered a community. At our basic levels we need separation from our fellow man. Prison doesn’t allow for this. Auschwitz totally violated this micro-biological imperative. Men need space from other Men and their molecules will sense the boundaries as well as the molecules of other Men and react accordingly. The electrons will fire and change their levels and orbits around the nucleus. The atoms will force new energy in a fury of molecular propulsion.
The lesson here is that Men will move. Men will move themselves, their boundaries, and eventually mountains to discover new and unpopulated territory. Manifest Destiny was an invention of the poets. In truth, Dudes in the East moved West to get away from other Dudes in the East who were standing to close to them.
This is the way of the Molecules of Men.
::: posted by Mike at 4:49 AM