Thursday, February 14, 2013

Six Romantic Assertions That Aren't Really Romantic

Hey, welcome back people! I'm Dick N. Asshole, your cynically maudlin host for today's festivities! You all know the rules: you have to figure out whether or not the presented idea is either...


We've lined up a number of contributions today. Each is a conceit of modern love that many people seem to unquestionably accept. We are going to see if they are actually useful parts of a sensible, romantic attachment. Though I tell ya folks, sensibility doesn't necessarily enter into it anyway, am I right fellas? Aaaaahahahhaaaa, yeah. Right, let's play.... ROMANTIC... OR... BULLSHIT!

1: “Love at First Sight” = [X] BULLSHIT!
Sorry folks; an endorphin-charged glance of curvy body with a pretty face is not an attachment. Romeo is not an ideal boyfriend. Every relationship that’s ever actually developed out of its first meeting inevitably changes from whatever the initial feelings were into either a stronger connection or “moving on, now”.

2: Infatuation = [X] BULLSHIT!
Don’t you have other things in your life? Family? Friends? BMX bikes? Eastern philosophy? The perfect egg-and-cheese omelet? Your masturbation technique? One person and the associated fixation cannot both consume your every thought AND be actual, honest, sane romance. There are degrees of course, from innocent crush to sociopathic Twilight-esque obsession, but it's never where honest emotions come from.

3: Deifying your Crushee = [X] BULLSHIT!
No, Anakin. She is not an angel. You can glorify the object of your affection with florid wordplay and supernatural worship, but your would-be honey-bun is human, no more or less flesh and bone than you. Also, isn't its kind of cheapening someone's real assets that you have to raise them to some demigod-type level in order to express your adoration? Ask my good pal William: “My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground; / And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare.

4: Possession / Belonging = [X] BULLSHIT!
When you introduce your wife/girlfriend, you’re not saying you own her but that she occupies that position as your wife/girlfriend. And several other positions. (We’ve seen the tape…) But those are okay. Phrases of belonging and implied “ownership” are just fucking creepy. You know, Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Brooding leans in and sighs, “you belong to me” or “I belong to you”. Yuck. This is also the twin cousin of the obsession problem. I know you’re all attached-pants to your significant other, but just let them be a fucking human and don’t make everything about that one relationship. Jesus.

5: “Forever” or just about any sense of “Eternal Love” [X] BULLSHIT
I know this is going to make a lot of minds explode but NOTHING IS FOREVER. Are we clear, ladies and gentlemen? NOTHING. IS. FOREVER. In MOST cases, relationships just end on their own. Plenty of relationships do withstand the test of time, yes (such as most people before the 1960s when divorce was an Über-Stigma™ alongside women voting). But you can’t predict the future. Spouting a “forever” philosophy as some kind of catchall motto or safety blanket for love just makes you sound ridiculous.

NOOOOO SUUUUCH THIIING. Unless everyone keeps falling in love with Neo. (Well, do that actually; it seem to be very good for his health.) Remember, relationships do in fact work out plenty of times. But where in the seven hells were you given this magical power to know that HE is the one you’re going to spend your life with? And isn’t it a new height in hubris to assume that YOU are HIS special someone that he’ll be forever bound to? While many of these topics have dealt with varying possibilities, it’s safe to say that any and all romances that have worked out ONLY did so AFTER the people involved got to know each other. People love to add a bigger importance to themselves and their choices, and in few other cases is this so apparent than when they belch about “matches made in heaven”, “destined romances”, and “their other half”. There are enough people in the world that it would be strange if there WASN’T at least a few people with whom you seemed to click perfectly. Remember what Tim Minchin’s song tells us “If I didn’t have you, … I’d probably have somebody else.” Statistically, that’s simply true.

Well okay, I think I’ve clearly deviated from Dick N. Asshole’s little game show, but I can summarize my point with four simple questions:

1: What actually attracts you to the person of your interest?
2: Why do you have to exaggerate the grandeur of your attachment in order to express how “special” it is?
3: Do you feel that romantic love is something you need to pursue as quickly and adamantly as Hallmark wants you to?
4: Why do you think in such future terms about where you’ll be with them and what they will become to you rather than enjoying the present with them?

If these don’t really apply to you, then pass them on to someone to whom they do apply. See how they answer and if those answers make sense. As humans, we should feel all those “Valentine’s Day” emotions: crushes, attachment, passion, enamor, and love. We are often so compelled by them that we do not really think critically about them. There is a natural divide between heart and brain… but does there have to be? Love may be a lot of things, but it does not have to be stupid.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Not Write? (aka: "Output")

First, a quick story:
"These are the chains that conceal the great beast beneath the mountain."
Did you like that? Cool. I came up with it while on a hike last weekend. I was advised to simply write that down and post it on this lonely blog as part of my output. Output.
That's right, output. I made this blog so that I could write; practice writing and regular writing. Written material whose quality I am not so much invested in as I am its quality. It's my water whereas my longer works in poetry and literature are my wine. Well, I should say that my literature is like my wine. I don't drink, you see, so it's pretty damn fitting that I call my own written literature my wine. Then again, I do read sometimes and have read plenty, so I guess it's not a perfect analogy, but it is at least now written down. It's transcribed from my undisciplined ind into a cohesive linguistic pattern you can understand.
This is kind of a non sequitor and not an excuse to not write, but I feel like I'm just imitating the YouTube vlogger TheAmazingAtheist, or at least that's kind of the general voice I have while writing right now, though this particular paragraph is sidestepping that particular expression at the moment. It is perfectly okay to emulate others so long as it help one progress towards his own voice. As Christopher Hitchens wrote (well, in the book I am about to quote, he was quoting something he told his writing students) - "you have a voice; use it." In other words: write, damn you.
I went through a brief period of overusing semicolons. I guess I assumed that every unfinished thought merited this unique little dash of punctuation, as my stream-of-consciousness rambling never really takes a breath so much as a syllabic shift of inflection to indicate a rerouting thought.
Bubble bath. I don' know why I wrote that, it just came up. Lemon curry comes up next. What else? Monty Python? That's apropos, given the lemon curry reference I guess. Acoustic guitar. Nope; my brother isn't upstairs playing at the moment. This is stupid. I prefer meaningful output.
I think a great deal around a given issue that bothers me. I'll think of oblong and complicated ways of talking about the fact that I am talking and why the hell do I need to talk so much? I'm not even really frustrated that I do so; sure, plenty of times it does frustrate me, but it doesn't matter... DRUMROLL...
The perfect excuse, ladies and gentlemen! You're too kind, you're too kind.
Ahem. Write plenty. Okay, I can do that. A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about riding his bike past a swarm of tumbleweeds. I jokingly suggested he write a 10-minute journal prompt, though I did expect he would actually do it. (A journal prompt is where you basically write for a set amount of time and don't let yourself stop for any reason and just unleash your thoughts onto the page.) Thing is, my friend actually did it. He wrote out a quick story (yes, longer than the one I posted atop this article) but he fucking did it.
Wait, lemme go back to self-pity over mistakes like failing to write on my article blog regularly, lamenting how nobody is actually reading my blog. NO. Boring. It's weird; have you ever found yourself obsessed with a definite answer? Personally, I want to be certain I am aware of my own blog so I want to say things like this: "I'll write knowing that no one is reading but I'll still put out interesting stuff so that if anyone does happen to read it, they'll like it."
Okay, fuck this, it's boring you. It's not boring me; I could keep up this "creative" output for another couple hours. I'd have to pause for my wrists' sake mind you, but you're reading this because you're the audience and I don't want to bore you, certainly. For the record, I'm perfectly aware of my self-pitying tendencies, but I'll keep working with my therapist to learn how to cope with that. You of course will want to be up to date on it.
So, the chains keep the monster beneath the mountain. Cool fantasy story. Raises a lot of questions. Its content has nothing to do with this article; I'm just writing because I'm trying out my latest attempt at "regular output." Ha ha ha. Betting pool's open on how many weeks I keep it up this time. I've got a tip for ya, mate: you won't need two hands to count it. Cheerio.
By the way, I finished my latest poetry collection. See, that's something a few people will give a shit about enough to read. I guess I don't want to invest in something that isn't being read. And rightly so; it really isn't an interesting blog. But it's not for you; it's for my practice. Run along now.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Terror of Telescreens

Reference cleanser time: in George Orwell’s absolutely brilliant novel 1984, the totalitarian government that controls the nation of Oceania employs devices called telescreens throughout society to eternally monitor the captive citizens and ensure their unwavering obedience. Right, now that I’ve demonstrated that I’ve been through a high school English writing course, it’s time to get to point-making: I think we have something rather like telescreens in the real world. Now, I am not referring to household television sets nor am I suggesting such direct means of control are in use. Hold back on those sprouting thoughts you’re having about public security cameras and other surveillance issues, because that isn’t my point either.
I want to go over what I call, interestingly enough, “telescreens”. (Now that the audience “huh?”s in confusion, I’ve successfully hooked them in, you see; another little writing trick I learned back in high school)
Specifically, think about public television screens. The moderately short list of places we have them now includes restaurants, sports bars, gas stations, grocery store waiting lines, medical and dental waiting rooms, airports, theme park lines, and even community college cafeterias. Several of these places are also complimented with the audio invasion of radio, just to make sure that as many avenues of advertising and entertainment are being pumped out as widely as possible.
Oh, and that’s neverminding that plenty of SUVs are equipped with flip-down screens, but it does fill in an interesting gap. 11-year old Jimmy can be lazing on his couch after two hours of SpongeBob, but his precious third hour is being interrupted by mom going to the store. Boo. Luckily, he can watch half the episode on the way over to Ralph’s and the other half on the way back. The grocery shopping itself will be a bore, but at least the checkout line has flashy, rapid-fire advertisements keeping him comfortably distracted.
So, this complaint does come right out of a much older decade, but honestly… why the fuck do we have this much television? Remember, I don’t mean the actual quantity of material on TV, I simply mean the omnipresence of access to TV.
This telescreen boom does seem like a recent phenomenon, something that has grown alongside the explosion of mobile media. (To clarify, I use “telescreens” from here only in reference to these public TV sets.) It is hardly a society-changing thing, as we’ve gotten used to radio being in every corner of the public for decades now. And hey, maybe it is a convenience for those who do not yet have smart pones and want to check the weather while filling up their Ford Focus. Great.
I think telescreens are fucking awful.
I need not name the vast list of media we all know in order to give you a sense of just how much information the average American processes in a day. Even the surface problem of the raw data glut is ridiculous, and that’s before you factor in the madness of advertising and the siren song of constant entertainment. So, let’s just touch bases on each point before I lose your precarious interest.
We all know these telescreens are there. We see them even if we’re not watching. But look carefully at just what the hell it is we’re really getting on these public screens. At the gas stations near me, it’s nearly always bite-sized flashes of celebrity news, a trend dreadful enough for its own future article. In Wal-Mart, it’s advertisements for shit IN Wal-Mart! You know, advertisements for stuff that is already IN your goddamned cart! If you want to hang out with your friends at the college cafeteria, be prepared to grapple attentions with the bloody MTV videos along the far wall. Stop by Wendy’s and be inundated with ads for pop musicians and… Carl’s Jr.??? And so on likewise.
The information we’re actually getting from telescreens is superfluous right off the bat. It’s cut into vacuous attention-grabbing bites so as to ensure our retention of their jingles, slogans, and logos. When I went to Comic-Con in 2009, I’ll never forget what Joss Whedon described as the kind of mind control he sees in the world. At first, I thought him conspiratorial, but I listened carefully and realized exactly what he meant: that the world is full of forces trying to affect the rationale of the individual and trying to think for us.
To bring it full circle, it is not direct mind control. We have an active choice whether to look or not, yes. But then the catch: almost anywhere we look, there are telescreens and a means for insubstantial news and thought-corrupting advertising to have their way. As long as there are telescreens all over the places where we attain our food, clothes, and services, the dark side of public media has the power to tell us what to think, say, and do.
To say we don’t need them is too passive a suggestion; I say we need to be rid of them. We need be liberated from the sheer noise mortaring our public space. The trick is, again, not to rebel in the face of a tyrannical big brother, but to ignore what Cocoa-Cola, Fox News, and Wal-Mart are yelling at us and think for ourselves.