Friday, October 14, 2011

Doctor Who Villain Rulebook

  1. The Doctor lies. There is no reason for me to take the moral high ground in this regard. I too will lie, particularly during the bit when I am telling him my master plan. He's just going to figure it out anyway, I'm damn well not going to make it easy for him.
  2. Should the Doctor give me the chance to renounce my evil ways (and he will) I will take him up on the offer, apologizing to all those I have oppressed and vowing to make amends. Then, when he gets in his TARDIS and leaves, I will go immediately back to whatever I was doing before he showed up.
  3. If it becomes necessary to kill the Doctor, I will do so without hesitation. Preferably using some method that does not favor regeneration, such as charring him into ash with flamethrowers or dropping a piano on him.
  4. If it becomes necessary to kill the Doctor's companions, I will do so without hesitation. They're more competent than they look, and if he does end up defeating me at least I'll be able to rub that in his face before I go down.
  5. I will not let the Doctor talk.
  6. I will not let the Doctor press buttons. Ideally I will not have any buttons that he can press in the first place. In a universe with voice print identification and bio-recognition software there's no excuse for getting defeated because the Doctor guessed your password.
  7. Jobs done by biological henchmen will require a robot partner, and vice versa. This will act as a check and balance against the Doctor's usual tactics: the robot cannot be persuaded to join the Doctor's cause via ethical debate, and the organic cannot be overridden by technical means. This policy will be in effect over all employment grades, including guard duty, administration, and my personal harem.
  8. I will invest in Deadlock Seals for absolutely everything. If I can afford a doomsday device, I can afford not to skimp on security. This includes the access panels on all the robots. Especially the robots in the harem.
  9. I will never, ever, ever imprison the Doctor and his companions in the same cell block, let alone the same cell.
  10. I will not imprison the Doctor in anything with a door. I will instead keep him in a 50-foot pit. 
  11. My minions, henchmen, and administrators will not have identification cards or lanyards. Anyone attempting to gain access to anywhere but the cafeteria or the restrooms using a paper ID will be thrown into the 50-foot pit.
  12. I will not try to out-science the Doctor. That never works and is utterly futile. Instead, I will keep on hand a variety of extremely low-tech alternatives for defeating him, such as a phalanx of archers wielding poison-tipped arrows, so that when he disables all of my technology I am not completely vulnerable.
  13. I will not try to steal the TARDIS for it's technology. It's tempting, but I already have a doomsday device that I know how to use and there's no point crossing horses in mid-stream. Eyes on the prize. I will, however, have it couriered to the middle of the Pacific Ocean and dumped there. I will also keep on hand a number of standard British police boxes in random locations just to mess with him.
  14. I will not form an alliance with the Daleks or the Cybermen just to defeat the Doctor. First, that's a tremendously stupid idea in general, and second, just look at their track record against him.
  15. If possible, I will invest in a Raston Warrior Robot. Not even the Doctor ever beat that son of a bitch.
  16. I will not let River Song kiss me under any circumstances.
  17. If for some reason I am compelled to make a dramatic speech to the Doctor at some point, I will not bother trying to justify my actions or equivocating whatever horrendous things he has done. Those are rhetorical devices and I am above such petty bickering. Instead I will keep to the facts, pointing out that he always shows up uninvited and pokes his nose in other people's business and that's just plain inconsiderate and unwarranted.
  18. Should I at some point capture the Doctor, he will be required to undergo the same thorough screenings as anyone boarding a standard commercial flight. Specifially, I will confiscate any and all items on his person that can be used as clever weapons. Which pretty much means any and all items on his person. Including his clothing. Especially his clothing. Especially if he is wearing a scarf.
  19. At least one of my "advisers" will be someone who speaks in complete gibberish, to make the Doctor think his TARDIS translation function is on the fritz.
  20. I will have an escape plan in case the Doctor defeats me. I am not an idiot. Putting all my eggs in one basket is just plain stupid. 
(Yes, of course it was inspired by the Evil Overlord List.)

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Chisa's Answers to The 20 Craziest Job Interview Questions

    Procter & Gamble: Sell me an invisible pen.

    I already did, and you may also find that I have already replaced invisible money into your bank account as well.

    Facebook: Twenty-five racehorses, no stopwatch, five tracks. Figure out the top three fastest horses in the fewest number of races.

    This is one of those trick questions to see if I'm going to blow all my money on lottery tickets or something, isn't it?

    Citigroup: What is your strategy at table tennis?

    My strategy at table tennis, which everyone who is not an alien probe sent to scout on our species' homeworld for possible invasion calls “ping pong”, is to be as far away from anyone that plays table tennis as possible. Really, if you have ping pong balls in your house in 2011 and they're not for beer pong or some kind of arts and crafts reason like making a Dalek cosplay outfit for your poodle, there's something seriously off about you.

    Google: You are climbing a staircase. Each time you can either take one step or two. The staircase has n steps. In how many distinct ways can you climb the staircase?

    There is only one distinct way to climb a staircase: upwards. You're not trying very hard, Google. I saw that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation too.

    Capital One: How do you evaluate Subway’s five-foot long sub policy?

    Dude, it's not like we're talking about the debt ceiling or gay marriage here. These people make hoagies. Get a little perspective for chrissakes.

    Gryphon Scientific: How many cocktail umbrellas are there in a given time in the United States?

    That ratio is determined by the Hendricks Equation: the number of possible drunks divided by the number of possible bars, minus the subgroup of likely heterosexual males, times the average number of boxes per stockroom, times the average number of umbrellas per box. Most conservative estimates place the number somewhere around fourteen bajillion.

    Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Would you be okay hearing “no” from seven out of 10 customers.

    Seems a little early in the game for us to be discussing your sexual harassment policies.

    Goldman Sachs: Suppose you had eight identical balls. One of them is slightly heavier and you are given a balance scale. What’s the fewest number of times you have to use the scale to find the heavier ball?

    By what definition of “identical” can one ball be CLEARLY NOT identical to the other seven? This is how you people fucked us in the 2008 financial crisis, isn't it?

    Towers Watson: Estimate how many planes are there in the sky.

    I'm pretty much just not answering this one. I'm sorry, but really.

    Lubin Lawrence: If you could describe Hershey, Godiva and Dove chocolate as people, how would you describe them?

    I went to Milton Hershey boarding school for six years, a private institution founded by the chocolate magnate himself. It's a beautiful, arboreal place, akin to Plato's olive tree pocked Academy, where bright, hopeful, intelligent young people are sent so that they may one day become broken adults. I'm sorry, what was the question?

    Pottery Barn: If I was a genie and could give you your dream job, what and where would it be?

    In what possible universe do I have access to a genie and still have to hold down a job? You suck at world building, ma'am.

    Kiewit Corp.: What did you play with as a child?

    Up until age 12, I would use a variety of materials such as construction paper, wood glue, and permanent markers to compose elaborate pieces of art by which I could explore the universe in a diorama of my own creation, to stave off the lonesomeness of being an only child from a single parent family and the destitution of having no toys of my own due to our abject poverty. From age 12 onwards, my penis.

    VWR International: How would you market a telescope in 1750 when no one knows about orbits, moons etc.

    “Check out this all-metal club you can beat your neighbors with! Much better than conventional wood!”

    Diageo North America: If you walk into a liquor store to count the unsold bottles, but the clerk is screaming at you to leave, what do you do?

    I'd leave, because he's totally right, and also screaming at me, which I find unpleasant.

    Brown & Brown Insurance: How would you rate your life on a scale of 1 to 10?

    10! Total 10, every single goddamn day. I live the greatest adventure. I am Tosk.

    Jane Street Capital: What is the smallest number divisible by 225 that consists of all 1’s and 0’s?

    Oh, easy. 11100001. That's 225 in binary.

    UBS: If we were playing Russian roulette and had one bullet, I randomly spun the chamber and fired but nothing was fired. Would you rather fire the gun again or respin the chamber and then fire on your turn?

    Well, logically, it makes more sense to respin the chamber seeing as that gives you a one in six chance of getting the bullet instead of a one in five... you know what, nevermind. This interview is over.

    Merrill Lynch: Tell me about your life from kindergarten onwards.

    I'm pretty sure I already went over this one with the Kiewit Corp guy.

    Susquehanna International Group: Five guys, all of different ages, enter a bar and take a seat at a round table. What is the probability that they are seated in ascending order of age?

    There's no possibility, seeing as it's a round table. Next time use a linear table.

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Dear Steampunk

    Please stop putting goggles on top of your top hat. It looks idiotic and there is no functional way for you to use your goggles in that manner. What, the top hat or the goggles wasn't quirky enough?


    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Luke Skywalker, Alchemist: the Star Wars Trilogy as Magnum Opus

    Last week I was talking to Chronkite about cinematography and how it's often used to draw the viewer into a state the director wants to effect. There are many ways that this can be accomplished (the Kuleshov Effect comes immediately to mind), but the example I used was the reveal of Luke's green lightsaber in Return of the Jedi. Until this point in the third movie, lightsabers are either blue or red: Darth Vader wields a red one, and Ben Kenobi and Luke (using his father's) wield blue ones. This is important not because of the colors or even the visual implication of good versus evil, but because it sets up Luke for two movies visually in the subconscious.

    Thus when the green lightsaber is first activated, it short-circuits six years of the viewer's expectations about how the Star Wars universe works, and it does so brilliantly. We know everything that's going to happen in the scene; in fact the setup is so visually and musically languorous that even a child knows that Luke's about to wreck shop on Jabba's lackeys. But what they don't know is that Luke is a different kind of Jedi. The green lightsaber represents a third choice, and that's why the scene is so exciting even though we know exactly what's coming.

    What is that third choice? Alchemy.

    At the beginning of the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, the galaxy is run almost entirely by the Empire. The Empire represents science and reason as a superior force. Darth Vader is mostly robotic, sucking oxygen loudly through a life support system and speaking through a metallic speaker box. The Empire is literally and metaphorically mechanized: legions of Stormtroopers, waves of star fighters, immense battle cruisers, and a planet-sized monolithic Death Star as the final culmination of their technical prowess, represented as a perfect sphere, the most elegant and primordial of the natural shapes.

    We're soon told that things weren't always this way: there used to be a group of cool bros called the Jedi who took care of things for a thousand years. The Jedi represent religion as a superior force, so much so that the 'god' they put their faith in is literally called The Force. They were wiped out by the Empire in what essentially amounts to an intergalactic zerg rush: mechanization producing superior numbers. The Empire is the Walmart to the Jedi's mom and pop store. Quantity overtakes quality; assembly-line sweatshops put craftsmanship out of business. (This is all expounded later in the prequels, but let's leave those be for now.)

    We therefore have the classic struggle of science versus religion as the set-up for the entire Star Wars universe. But there's a third option: the Rebel Alliance. The Alliance represents alchemy as a superior force.

    Many people misunderstand alchemy as something akin to either pseudoscience or a strange mystic cult, which shows you how effective science and religion have been at both suppressing it and consuming it into their binary scheme. Alchemy in this case means the authority of the individual. In the dichotomy of religion versus science, authority is always placed outside the body. Religion insists that truth is unknowable and thus man must default to God's will. Science, in contrast, insists that truth is knowable only through observation and detachment. In both cases truth is impersonal and separated from the experience of the individual. Alchemy says: fuck that noise, the truth was always inside you. You know the truth already, and that empowers you to be your own authority. Rules are not laws, they are merely good ideas, and you can come up with those on your own.

    Of course, this is a gross threat to all those who need people dependent on externalized authority to retain money and power, which is why we're taught from the earliest age to depend on the authorities outside us. It doesn't matter that those authorities conflict with one another, that school and church teach you drastically different methods. In fact, that confusion serves to amplify the real lesson, on which both church and school (as well as politics, commerce, and art) agree wholeheartedly and with crystal clarity: to make you believe that you don't know what you're doing. It's no coincidence that fire-breathing fundamentalist Christians and hardcore conservative Republicans always find themselves at the same dinner table come election time, nor that the liberal and social elements of government always tag team with academia and celebrities. Whether the subject is fiscal policy, international relations, education, separation of church and state, medicine, entertainment or anything else, these players all push the same agenda: you need them to tell you what to do.

    Now we introduce Luke. Luke's kind of a dumb regular kid. He doesn't like the Empire (who does? They're dicks!) but he's willing to go to the Academy nevertheless, because anything's better than being stuck on Tatooine (an interesting situation in light of military recruitment tactics in the real world, where you can simply substitute “US government” for “Empire” and “Flint, Michigan” for “Tatooine” and get the same result). We can tell Luke's kind of different from his friends and his adoptive parents. He has a fire in his belly, a wanderlust. He doesn't know exactly what he's supposed to be doing, but he knows it's sure as shit not this. That's the athenor burning in Luke's belly, the alchemical furnace. The message that primal urge is telling Luke is one of life's most important lessons: “You know how it seems like everyone else is just as full of shit as you are? Well, guess what, they are. So you may as well go your own way.”

    It's not long before Luke gets his window of opportunity. Fate has a way of finding those meant for the path of alchemy, because, as we'll see, fate is not the enemy of free will, but it's ally – but let's not get ahead of ourselves. In any case, events lead Luke to the house of Ben Kenobi, who gives him his first real choice: to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a Jedi. Here Luke begins to understand the nature of authority and choice, but he still has a long way to go. He hasn't chosen his own path yet, he's merely become aware of the possibility of choice – and finally given one, jumps headlong into it.

    In a matter of hours Luke's life turns entirely upside-down. Once a farmboy with only the eventual promise of the Imperial Academy to look forward to, Luke is now consorting with ancient warrior-prophets, cool dude smugglers, crazy-ass aliens and beautiful princesses. He's definitely knee-deep in The Shit, too (literally, at one point), but the ride is so balls-out awesome that the severity of his actions seem lost on him for the moment. Luke is heady on vertigo like a child on a roller coaster.

    And then the inevitable strychnine crash from this acid trip euphoria happens: Ben gets murdered right in front of him. HOLY FUCKING SHIT. For the first time, Luke has doubt about The Force and the path of the Jedi Knight. Hell, if Obi-Wan Kenobi can be taken down, what hope does a backwater shmuck like Luke have?

    But even in his moment of crushing despair and confusion, the voice of his first mentor calls to him, echoing that fire in his belly, that driving urge that set him on the path to alchemy, that fiercest and most primal of animal actions: Run, Luke! RUN!

    Luke runs, and he doesn't stop running for a movie and a half. He becomes a fighter for the Alliance. He takes out the Empire's glorious technological marvel with a single manually-targeted torpedo volley. He begins learning what the Jedi are about, and how giving himself over to the will of the universe can give him great insight and ability.

    This is where Luke learns the benefits of religion, but he also learns the benefits of science. Remember, Luke's best friend and closest companion through the first two movies is a robot: R2-D2. As Ben Kenobi and Yoda are Luke's mentors in religion, so is Artoo his mentor in science. It's Artoo who first sets him on his path, not Ben; without Artoo he would never have known why Ben was important in the first place. Artoo carries the Death Star battle plans. Artoo attends Luke's X-Wing and plots the course to Dagobah. Artoo fixes the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon, finally allowing our heroes to escape. In fact, even while he studies the ways of the Force, Luke becomes so familiar and comfortable with the realm of science that he learns to speak Droid. This is Artoo's role in Star Wars: to give Luke perspective. Religion is great and all for its powers of oratory and determination, but when you need to actually get shit done, science is the guy you want on call.

    This also leads Luke to his first real test of character. Yoda tells Luke to stay, but Luke, using reason, deems that his knowledge of his friends' suffering will allow him to prevent it. Conversely, when Luke first confronts Vader, a vastly superior mechanical foe, he uses intuition to fight him. The problem with both of these decisions is that Luke is still trying to navigate the world based on either-or principles. If religion is wrong, default to science; if science is wrong, default to religion. But what if they're both wrong?

    Well, then you get your hand chopped off by your dad. Life's a motherfucker like that.

    At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is at a crossroads. He knows that science is flawed, and that following the path of his father will lead to mechanization and lifeless duty to the state; he's even got a mechanical hand to remind him of that. He also knows that religion, in deference to what Kenobi and Yoda told him, cannot hold all the answers. That too leads to death; he has, after all, seen Ben himself die while pridefully clinging to his idealistic and irrational faith. But Luke is still alive. The Alliance is still fighting. Some of their friends are lost to them, but they have new friends now.

    Here is where Luke makes his most drastic and amazing decision: he chooses to follow no path, but to forge instead into unknown territory and cut his own way. At the fork in the road that turns left to science and right to religion, Luke takes the only way that truly makes sense: forward. He is careful not to dismiss the lessons of the right and left; they have been useful tools, and he will not abandon them out of spite. With science he constructs a new lightsaber to replace the one lost to his father, and with religion he learns the proper way to wield it. Most importantly, he does all this on his own.

    When Luke returns, he is a grown man. He dresses in all black, a curiously stylish embrace of his father's scientific world to set him apart from the loose-robed Jedi ascetics we have seen before him. He is calm, even-voiced, controlled. He is sure of his abilities, but not overconfident. When his techniques fail, he is not distracted by anger, nor does he give himself up to despair. It seems Luke has tread a line between both worlds: he wields both the efficiency of science and the assurance of religion.

    But it's not until the fight over the Sarlaac pit that Luke's true power opens up like Krishna revealing his ultimate form to Arjuna.

    Once the green lightsaber is activated, Hell on Earth breaks loose from Luke's hands. His dizzying flurry of attacks are furious and unrelenting, like nothing we have ever seen in the Star Wars universe. Until now, lightsaber battles have been something halfway between ballet and fencing, with careful opponents measuring each other like chess masters or poker players. Luke, in contrast, is a 500 pound quarterback. He does not care what path it takes to get around, over, under or through you, but you can be damn sure he is going to be on the other side of you faster than you can process.

    This is important thematically and cinematically: Luke is not merely a Jedi or a Rebel Alliance hero or even his father's son. He is something completely new to the Star Wars universe, and that was the point of his story all along. Jabba's cronies fluster and flail at Luke's onslaught of pain and death. Even the supreme badass of Star Wars, Boba Fett, gets his face so thoroughly handed to him by Luke that a half-blind Han Solo ends up taking him out with an accidental assist. The reason this is so effective, so believable, and so accurate, is because it is literally true that none of them have encountered anything like this before, and neither has the audience. Luke is like a Lovecraftian horror emerging from n-space, something so alien and impossibly outside the accepted science-religion continuum as to be inconceivable to the common man.

    Luke is a fully realized alchemist at this point in the story. From here on, all that is left is for Luke to fulfill his destiny as the harbinger of the new authority of self. He visits Yoda, but what more can Yoda teach him at this point? He has so far surpassed Yoda that the only thing the little green elf can possibly do to help him is get out of his way. He then goes to see Vader, and their confrontation is largely the same, although admittedly somewhat notably more intense, since Vader refuses to accept that Luke has nothing to learn from him, and won't change his mind until he's on the bad end of an embarrassingly exhaustive ass-beating.

    Unfortunately, there's also the Emperor to deal with. “You meddlesome kid,” says Palpatine, “do you honestly believe that you and your pathetic self-policing are any match for the mechanized juggernaut of science and progress? You're nothing to me, kid. You're a stain on my suit collar, an unfortunate oversight at best. I wield the power of the elements and atoms; what the fuck do you have?”

    And sadly, Palpatine is correct. The final lesson that Luke has to learn is his most painful: that even though you have chosen the path of alchemy, even though you are now a fully self-made man with all the authority and powers due, people are still going to try to kill you, and some of them can. Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you, and Palpatine is one motherfucker of a bear.

    And then Vader finally sees the light. “Fuck you,” says Vader, “the kids are alright. And I'll fucking kill myself to stop you hurting them. What the fuck do YOU have, bitch?” Palpatine goes down in a trail of fire and madness, and Vader dies in contentment, proud of his only son, who has done what he'd always dreamed of and never truly accomplished: becoming Nietzsche's superhuman.

    In our modern world, we have largely abandoned alchemy. As I've noted earlier in this post, that works to the benefit of the people who run things in the world and need everyone else unempowered enough to let them. But I would posit that we as a society have felt the hunger in the pits of our stomachs, that we have craved that long denied self-actuation, and that this is the real reason why the original Star Wars trilogy rings with such clarity to our imaginations.

    It's also the prevailing reason why the prequels don't. Here we have the opposite system to the Empire: a Republic run largely on dogma and faith, with Jedi Knights entrusted with the highest ceremonial, political and military duties – duties for which they are about as appropriate and qualified as Bono is to hold an audience with the Pope (another perplexedly accurate real world parallel). We hate the prequels because they're the exact opposite of the originals. Instead of a third option, they present us with only two equally vile ones: an austere life of service to the Force bereft of love or passion, or a public life of service to the state bereft of awesomeness. Ironically, Jar Jar Binks, well established as the most hated of the prequel characters, is in fact the only one that escapes this binary pull; he may be a clueless, loud, accident-prone jackass, but at least he's not mind-numbingly boring. Jar Jar's only sin is that he is a man out of time. He has no place in the prequels because the prequels are not where alchemists belong. If he'd been a supporting character in the Rebel Alliance, I speculate we'd hold him in a similar regard as we do Admiral Ackbar or Lobot, or at the very least the Ewoks*.

    More to the point, the world has only gotten more mechanized and faith-based since the release of the original Star Wars trilogy. It would have been nice for the prequels to speak to that, to give us hope once again that, somewhere, there were yet some alchemists forging rules for themselves and accepting the destiny of supermen. The nature of the science-religion dichotomy is the illusory choice between fate and effort. There is no choice, says alchemy. Fate and effort are one in the same, and once you realize that and accept it, your true power will be revealed.

    Alas, George Lucas himself is, as stated elsewhere in this blog, now a slave to science. Lucas has become Anakin; we can no more expect him to deliver us an alchemical narrative as we can expect Darth Vader to take up the mantle of self-made man. But perhaps his offspring have a few tricks up their black-clad sleeves.

    * Say what you will about the Ewoks, but I firmly contend that the Battle of Endor is a striking parable of the Vietnam War: the Empire is well-equipped, entrenched, and disproportionally technologically superior, and they get their asses handed to them by stone-age spear-chuckers because they are not at all prepared for the type of guerrilla warfare that the Ewoks are willing to wage.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Phantom Menace, Indeed.

    Something JUST hit me about the Star Wars prequels: ostensibly, the entire plot of them are about Anakin being frustrated with not having enough power to fix all the stuff in his life that stinks. If he could just control enough – say, for example, whether or not people live or die – everything would finally work out and everyone will be happy and everyone will love him. Instead, doing this turns him into the most hated and evil man in the universe, because the actual problem is not that Anakin can't fix problems, but that Anakin is a flawed, small man who has never learned how to exist within the limitations of the life he has.

    Now here's the brain-twistingly insane, yet embarrassingly obvious when you actually say it aloud, thing I just realized: THIS IS, VERBATIM, WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO GEORGE LUCAS WHILE MAKING THESE SAME PREQUELS.

    It is well-documented that Lucas has always been very vocal about his frustrations with both the original trilogy and how Hollywood functions. He's yearned for the day he could exhibit his personal vision directly, translating whatever it is he sees in his mind directly to film. Here's the problem: what's in his mind is a schizophrenic mess. He is a good filmmaker in the literal sense: he knows how to get a shot, how to light it and frame it and block it. But it's also well-documented that actors absolutely loathe his directorial style and producers cringe at his scripts. He is a cinematographer, not a storyteller. And he just can't accept that.

    So: a strapping young lad with a head full of dreams helps to build an empire by exploiting the self-same system that annoys him so much. When he amasses enough raw power, finally able to exhibit total control over every aspect of his world, he does so; and in that process, he completely ruins what was beautiful about his universe and makes everyone despise him.

    Just like Darth Vader. George Lucas IS Anakin Skywalker! And like Vader, Lucas is now a broken man; as a younger, more adventurous lad he did many great things (Powaqqatsi, Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Labyrinth, Grim Fandango, Maniac Mansion – just off the top of my head). Now? He's a breathless clown encased in machines; a slave to technology, even more frustrated than ever, embittered by his inability to escape karma, lashing out at anyone who criticizes him with ruthless viciousness. Imagine being George Lucas. You can't go ANYWHERE; you get hungry for a Subway run, you can't just show up and order a meatball sub. It takes 19 underlings, a delivery car, a pseudonym, a secure system of communication between all elements in play; that sandwich costs $5000 now and by the time you get it you're not even hungry anymore, it's cold and soggy, someone probably spat in it when they figured out it was for you for “ruining their childhood”, and you hate everything.

    The weirdest thing about all this is that neither the character nor his creator seem like they could do anything to stop it in the fake OR real worlds. Art doesn't just imitate life here; they are literally exact copies of one another, with parallels so vast and intricate that it boggles the mind how anyone could be inside it and not see it glaring them in the face.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Going Back To Tapes

    It's finally happened: the realization that I no longer understand young people, and am therefore by definition not included in their number. I can't say exactly when this inevitable metamorphosis began. I tried to fight it. I was hip for many years of my 30s. I listened to Boards of Canada and Chromeo and Jedi Mind Tricks while simultaneously posing ironically down with the latest Beyonce single. I blogged without reserve or censorship, unafraid to be labeled a troll or an exhibitionist (or, at times, an outright racist). I straddled that fine line with young, skinny, crazy white girls, between "respecting" them as "people" while still angling to smash them in their ratchet asses. I used blatantly co-opted street terms like "smash" and "ratchet". I was a boss.

    Then one day, I found myself flipping through Hip Hop Weekly, staring at pictures of Waka Flocka blazed out of his gourd and Gucci Mane with a tattoo on his face that, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself it was an ice cream cone with a lightning bolt coming out of it, still looked like an ejaculating penis, and that terrifying confession forced itself into my consciousness: I had no idea who any of these people were. Like an Alzheimer's sufferer in a nursing home, I suddenly found myself surrounded by unfamiliar faces. Who are you people? Where's my house? Are you my daughter?

    I didn't want to know who they were, either. Fuck your hip hop! I grew up in the 80s, you little bitches! I was in this game when Doug E Fresh and the Fat Boys were on the radio! I got up early to be there when the record store opened the day Public Enemy's He Got Game soundtrack came out! I own vinyl! I... wait. This is what old people say, the 21st century equivalent of boasting about walking barefoot to school every day uphill in the snow. There was no turning back now, I had played my hand. I was, by my own admission, out of the loop.

    I saw two options before me. I could, pathetically, try to reclaim some semblance of hipness. Download the latest Kimmy Blanco diss album, see if I can work some Taylor Swift tracks into a mashup... people still make mashups, right? I'll look that up later on my wifi-enabled Palm Tungsten when the kids at the coffeeshop can see me... huh? What's a 4G network? What do you mean everybody drinks Neuro instead of coffee now? Jesus, this is going to take some homework. I'll need some new brand names... Wet Seal? Do they make clothes for men? God damn it, I'm so fucked.

    The other path, obviously, was to resolve myself to fate and bask in the glory of being blissfully free of the demands of pop culture. Delete your Facebook and Twitter accounts! Pull out the oversized plaid shirts and Doc Martens! Load up the De La Soul and Pearl Jam! My life will no longer be Y2K compatible: anything conceived after 1999 will be promptly given the Gas Face. Oh, how it feels so good to say "Gas Face", so natural and familiar. Truly this was the correct option.

    I dug out my old box of cassettes and my Scott DD700B dual deck. Cassette recording was a huge part of my life for over a decade; I was a veritable master of the mixtape, back when that term meant you could expect both a mix and a tape. Nowadays, the word has been co-opted by the modern hip hop school to mean "a haphazard pastiche of my own lame-ass bullshit that I'm too embarrassed to call an album". Ha! That felt great! You damn kids, get off my lawn!

    The artistry of the mixtape comes not from being able to put anything you want on it. That's easy; everyone thinks they have taste. The true beauty of the cassette come from its limitations, which have been lost in the era of infinite online cloud space and instant Music Beta accessibility. The physical limitation of a normal bias C60 is 30 minutes of content per side and no frequencies higher than 16 kHz. Even a cursory music listener would cringe at those restrictions today: what! My iPod holds 12000 songs, and I use Beats headphones!

    Yes, it's true that you have 12000 songs that you kind of like on tap, but you fast forward through virtually all of them trying to find the one that strikes your mood, which is itself ever vacillating due to the schizophrenic nature of modern civilization... which that iPod and devices like it help to create. We old folks call this a "vicious circle". The vast freedom of choice becomes an enabler, creating an additive feedback loop from which there can be no escape without intentional limitations. If your tools are always changing and expanding, then by definition you can never become their master.

    Which may be why so many young people today seem so lost, undirected, unsure, and scared. As John Taylor Gatto has noted:

    Rich or poor, schoolchildren who face the 21st century cannot concentrate on anything for very long, they have a poor sense of time past and to come, they are mistrustful of intimacy like the children of divorce they really are (for we have divorced them from significant parental attention); they hate solitude, are cruel, materialistic, dependent, passive, violent, timid in the face of the unexpected, addicted to distraction.

    It's hardly surprising that they've ended up so. Pathos is absent in the modern world. What do children of the modern age have to look forward to? Only twenty years ago, there were yet massive obstacles to overcome. The internet as we know it had yet to exist. The notion of a black president was still relegated to the realm of science fiction. Certainly we have not eradicated all problems of society, but that's not the point. To a child, the world seems infinite and unrestricted, and so they grow up believing so; with no perceptions of barriers, they develop with no drive to break them. They're like a species that evolved on an island without natural predators. Rebellion becomes passe when nothing remains to rebel against.

    Even an artificial deadline creates tension; anyone who's played the original Super Mario Brothers can tell you that. As I roll gracefully into middle age, I find that what I've been most missing is that driving force, that wall to climb over to see what's on the other side; it might be as boring and disappointing as what's on this side, but so what? The act itself is an accomplishment. Ultimately, the walls of the world exist not to restrict us, but rather to keep us from overthinking. If I decide to write, I have chosen a restriction. If I decide to write a steampunk novel in an alternate Civil War history, I have chosen a large restriction. I don't need to worry about those variables anymore, which frees me to concentrate on the more important details. As religion often fills the vacant space left by nihilism, so too do limitations fill the uncertainty of directionlessness.

    Don't be afraid of getting old and set in your ways. As David Mamet wrote: "The purpose of technique is to free the unconscious." That applies to living as much as film; you've figured out the generalities, now move on to the particulars.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Fucking the mannequin

    I watch you, standing motionless and quiet, your glass eyes gazing over me at the wall behind. Carefully, I step onto the pedestal with you, not wanting to imbalance it and send you falling, and once my equilibrium is certain, I embrace your plastic body, kissing your solid, unmoving lips.

    You are an object of purest lust to me, the hollow shell of a woman without any center. Unfeeling, unyielding, uncaring, undenying. You are cold and calloused, unable to look me in the eye, your molded expression permanently dismissive of my sincerity; and yet, you are the ultimate woman: you do not judge me for my depravity, you do not push me away, you are infinitely accepting.

    My manhood stiffens, causing all sophistry and validation to fall wayside. You are the Galatea for my Pygmalion, and I will offer a sacrifice of my seed to the goddess Aphrodite. Having no true womanhood, I am called to improvise upon you, rubbing myself along the contours of your fiberglass form as a dog humps a leg. I grind myself against your hard, smooth, painted skin, gazing into your unmoving, unblinking eyes as I rise to orgasm.

    There can be nothing within you; only a pretty statue stands allowing my perversity, but in the moment of passion, in that happy eclipse of the sun where all that is sacred or reasonable goes dark to the shadow of the animal, I look in your eyes, and I see love.

    And I love you, too.