Archive for January, 2011

IRL I’m also a miserable and wretched buzz-kill

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Of the countless internet/texting lazy vocabulary-istic disasters, there amidst the LOLs and LMAOs and the IKRs and BRBs and IMHOs, there is one that stands out. It denotes a curious quality about our technological mentality. Its use puzzles me, a reaction compounded by the fact that I’ve seen it used very frequently of late.

IRL.

In Real Life. It’s internet shorthand which basically alludes to a physically-based existence we all (hopefully) lead in which our five senses share the burden for our brain in a way which fingertips and eyeballs cannot quite approach. In real life.

Look, I can be as hopeless a Luddite as the worst of them, but even I must step in here. And ask.

Is cyberspace not real life? What is so “fake” if not for the fact that our existence outside of it prevents its ensuing promotion to “real.”

Why our need to clarify real life as opposed to that state of unreal existence we measure in the context of binary points of data? That cyber existence which is at once frighteningly real but ethereally not?

Of course I realize “IRL” is a figure of speech, a reflexive clarification. We know what is inferred by the use of the phrase. However, behind every careless utterance and popular idiom lurks an element of truth, a revealing insight into the state of the communal human mind. Yes, IRL can mean that 3-dimensional world we inhabit and that has shaped the human form and mind for millions of years. IRL is what we know and breathe and smell…it is what lends us our visible existence. In drawing a distinction between the “fake” cyber world and the “real” planetary world, I believe we are failing to absorb the friction such a dichotomy gushes in shaping our daily outlook.

Cyber life is as “real” as any other life. Cyber life, in fact, is a subsection of real life. Without real life we would not have the tangible computers and modems and high speed lines and silicon gadgetry that makes cyber life so unreal. Cyber life is a muted version of real life and though we indulge in it and spend much of our time “in” it (way too much for some, ahem), we fictionalize it. We fantasize it right into casual oblivion. We polarize cyber life and real life, though they are the same. We draw a distinction, unaware we are doing so. We allude to meeting someone IRL, we allude to our hobbies and our job IRL. As if all that we do and say and shape in the netherworld of the internet is less than real, less than significant. We treat the cyber life as a second class reality yet we invest much of ourselves in it. This segmentation comes natural to us in all aspects of life but we name them differently. We have work life, love life, school life, married life, single life…a million segments of this life which we separate from all others, each containing its own values and aspirations. None are more or less real than others. In fact, if I had to pick a life segment which I feels is not real life, it is work. Everything outside of work is real life for me!

I think the terminology is gray and unresolved and prone to misinterpretation.
We use “real life” in the sense that it is a legacy of our pre-internet three-dimensional, concrete world in which concepts and ideas are delineated by the physical structures and barriers of our world. There was not a concurrent “reality” living within the sandy innards of the bricks and mortar that shaped our world in eras past. There was no unseen and intangible existence lurking beneath the surface of our outward reality. Still immersed in this idealization of reality, we call our old world “real” when in fact, it’s all real.

A figure of speech. Perhaps.
Why then did it materialize in the common nomenclature?
Why didn’t we call it “flesh world” or “whole world” or “outside world?”

Because we meant to call it “real” world. This was no accident…we truly understood the ramifications of “real” when used to describe this stumbling farce of an existence we lead out here beyond the silicon fog of dislocated faces and voices. Real is a value judgment for better, and for worse. It is the root of “reality” which has frequently let many of us down. Maybe we should call it the “waking world.” Cyberspace, by extension, is the dream, the fantasy, the escape. Anything that transpires there is unrepresentative of what lives and breathes outside its metallic encased walls.

In the cruelness of the real world.

If a tree falls in the forest and it doesn’t fall on you, do you hear it?

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Dawdled in Pasadena today after taking care of some business. It was a nice day in SoCal. The sun was shining but there was a sheath of coolness that made you seek an open spot in the solar heat lamp because the shade presented a different climactic experience. I think of the planet Mercury’s predicament. It is sliced into incomprehensible boiling temperatures on the sunward side; incomprehensibly freezing temperatures on the opposite side of the molten globe. A union of wildly contradictory environments sharing the same planetary body, and if I remember correctly, Mercury does not rotate. It is fixed in space. I suppose I could do some quick cyber research Here and Now but is it worth it? Shouldn’t I “keep it real” as they say? Screw it, I’m almost positive my cosmic recollections are accurate regarding the innermost planet of our solar system. A contrasting epic landscape melding hot and cold. That’s what today was like here. In the sunlight, brilliant bliss; in the shade, not iciness but a chill taunted with shivers in the sunshine.

So it was against these polarized conditions that I wrapped up my business this afternoon before heading off to a small-sized chain restaurant for a late lunch. I won’t name Names but let me just say it is a more or less nationally-known diner-type of eatery that serves some pretty good food. We ordered our food and ate quickly as we were rather hungry by this point, having skipped lunch. Toward the end of our meal a famiily of four walked in. The parents looked to be late in their late 30’s or early 40’s. Their children, a boy and a girl, perhaps 11-14 or thereabouts. I noted them vaguely as they walked by our table and rounded the corner near where we sat. As happens in the big city, lives cross and you don’t linger on every stranger who wanders in and out of your existence. We finished eating and as I slurped down the last of my coffee our waiter brought the check. He was slightly grimy and exuded a roughly uncomfortable vibe but I didn’t think much of it. He had taken our order promptly and brought our food to the table in a sufficiently efficient and friendly manner. I asked for extra napkins which he brought us. There was nothing outstanding about him as far as I remember. I was experiencing a state of dwindling comfort as my coffee cup was slowly emptied and I realized I would have to get up and drive home soon. About this time, the family quickly headed to leave even though they had just ordered. The waiter rushed over and asked them if anything was the matter in a concerned tone. They continued walking, the father taking up the rear. Again the waiter asked him if everything was OK. The father stopped and though they were a distance away, I heard him tell the waiter (approximately) “We saw you blow your nose and not wash your hands. We’re going.” And he left the restaurant. The waiter, nonplussed, really, yelled “cancel the order” into the kitchen.

I don’t know where the family went to eat, but hopefully their waiter at the new restaurant was a little more discreet about his forgettable hygienic habits.

“Any time you choose to eat out you know you’re eating something that you have no control over,” I proclaimed. “You’re taking a chance and you have to face the fact that many servers are not going to follow all rules and regulations governing the preparation and serving of food. Sometimes it’s better not to know what happens to your food before it arrives.”

That spurned family might very well have chosen to eat at another restaurant where a kitchen worker might have used the restroom and only symbolically waved his hands under a weak trickle of cold water for 1/2 a second before returning to the kitchen where he handled their fries or bread rolls. Not knowing this they would still continue to relish their meal. If I was in their shoes, I would have done the same thing, however. Funny how that works.

We deliberately ease into a cynical awareness that spells to us the dysfunctional habits of our world however we happily continue enjoying our insular life with this half-knowledge hovering over us, infiltrating our reality on a very base level, and as such, not remaining valiantly unaffected. It’s only when we witness a malefactor’s misdeed first-hand as it directly affects us that we rebel and express enhanced consternation. The incident in the restaurant is a prime example of human nature. My waiter was the same waiter who the family saw blow his nose without washing his hands however our experiences were vastly different. I didn’t personally glimpse him do this before serving my food, and subsequently, I didn’t realize this happened until after I had finished my meal. So I remained unruffled for there is little to be done in hindsight. It affected me enough to superficially revolt me, but not enough to affect my actions.

I’m happy, like a great many, to coast along this haphazard route of modern life while the vague admonitions of wrongdoing flutter across my subconscious.

We live this life. We entertain and amuse ourselves and become expert at deferring our apprehensions, failing to give them life for we would rather expend our mental energies feeding life to trivialities. The world collapses but we don’t care because the trees don’t fall on us.

Soccer vs Football, a parallel to Involvement vs Complacency

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The great articulator of reason in this region of the blogosphere, Ferdinand Bardamu, has posted an epic couplet over the past week entitled broadly “The Rise of Generation Zero,” a memorial to that unsteady stream of disenfranchisement lurking within the bowels of our modern cultural matrix. He has spelled out much that those of us with dismaying senses of perception see in the haggard and robotic march of modern man as he climbs the ladder of materialism in his quest for…something. He has no idea what he pursues. But he knows he wants it, that which he can’t know.

Ferd wrote:

For all their bravado and chest-thumping, Americans are the most cowardly chickenshits in the Western world, far more gutless than the “Eurotrash” they love to mock. You suckers mocked the French as “surrender monkeys” and had a good laugh with your “Freedom Fries” jokes, but the average Frenchman has more courage in his pinky then an entire Tea Party rally has in their whole bodies. Why? He’s passionate about what matters. When public sector workers and university students in Europe have their livelihoods threatened by government spending cuts, they get angry. They hit the streets, they protest, they block traffic, they set cars on fire, they attack police. Their governments fear them because they don’t respond to threats to their lifestyles by vegging out in the soft glow of the flat-screen watching fucking Glee. Even if you think they’re a bunch of worthless moochers, you have to admire their resolve.

Reminds me of the latest profusion of foreign passion and revolutionary dissatisfaction in Tunisia and Egypt. A display which sends chills down my spine as I witness masses of people defiantly resist the certain armed superiority of governmental forces whose maniacal duty it is to battle back against the potential usurpers with weapons, fire hoses and armored personnel carriers. It reaffirms my faith in mankind to see such passion and courage in the evil face of a mighty and established government suppressor. For the sake of this post, the “right” or the “wrong” of the demonstrator’s putative cause is not important. What is important for the point I seek to make is that the self-righteous and fierce belief in one’s cause drives people to disrupt their lives by physically exposing themselves to harm and possible death for the sake of a conviction that may or may not end in victory. The passion paves the way for a willingness to “inconvenience” themselves for a concerted idea.

Ferd alluded to something I’ve often surmised was a primary “un-motivator” afflicting the typical apathetic American citizen. From the previous passage: “Their governments fear them because they don’t respond to threats to their lifestyles by vegging out in the soft glow of the flat-screen watching fucking Glee.” The fat, slothful, lazy American, the archetypal pop culture-obsessed ignoramus who can’t summon the slightest iota of passion over a governmentally enabled oligarchy that enslaves his fate and walls in his existence with dictatorial marketing strategies (but who will show uncharacteristic passion over the happenings of some bullshit not-so-reality show). Give him his standard dose of high fructose corn syrup and some hollow brain filler piped in over the hypnotic television screen and he will not give a flying shit who is trampling his rights or scavenging his future livelihood. I too believe that the civil complacency which numbs the revolutionary passions of our Red, White and Blue populace is indelibly etched in the mentally dissolute offerings of a pop culture which neither instructs nor thinks and the legacy is 200 million ignorant wretches bored out of their minds and seeking the electric succor in the fire-extinguishing pall that is the shit offerings from Hollywood and the rest of the dim product line the entire swath of the American entertainment industry can dish out.

I was struck by a parallel I noted when considering the enthusiasm with which many foreign nations take to the streets in cycling storms of uncivil disobedience as opposed to the American version of ideological protests which involves some tame and post-adolescent marching and chanting in Seattle or other geographical left-wing outpost only to be swatted down futilely by the might of the police who waving their iron penises around. We have no culture of political protest in the U.S. anymore. Some try, usually the young, but they cannot summon the faintest trace of ferocity in the over-25 crowd. The crowd that has finally attained its precious college degrees and married and birthed and looks forward to a wonderful set of entertainment options sitting in their living room, or who need to maintain their reputation and physical well-being for the sake of bolstering their credit score so they can finally buy the house that they are culturally obligated sink into debt oblivion for.

These are not the prime protesting demographics. Oddly, the parallel I speak of is international soccer and NFL football.

Have you ever noticed that the countries capable of the most virulent political protests are also unwaveringly faithful to their own brand of soccer? Which essentially is the rest of the world outside the U.S. And the U.S. which pays homage to its symbolic embrace of soccer even though its heart is not in it. Not like it is in the chalk-lined centerpiece of the American gridiron. Baseball is not the national pastime. Football is. Football long ago captured the boisterous bravado of the aggressive American temperament and its obsession with strategy and quadrants and the minute precision of timed intersections of action and rest. Football is so American. It is a big, wild and physically voracious sport with equally big scores. Football captures the modern mentality of the complacent American. The U.S., with its legions of apathetic and ADD-stricken consumers, provides the ideal template for the NFL mentality, the football paradigm. It’s a battle, it’s a physical crunching. It’s heavy layers of equipment. It is war delineated and neutered by rules and strategies and layers upon layers of assigned roles and duties. It is industry, it is magnificent American capitalism writ physically and ably. It is a sport of distraction, a sport of squandering… And there is the rest of the world where soccer rules the hearts. Occasionally the NFL attempts to interject its blase madness into foreign lands, such as London or Mexico City. The NFL is fond of touting these events as popular hits due to the sellout crowds, but this is merely a result of the novelty factor with the foreign audience. Football can’t fit into a foreign environment. It is at odds with the soccer/civil disobedience mentality. If football was a surefire hit overseas, wouldn’t we be witnessing as the gluttonous rush of American capitalists battled to the death to bring this profitable enterprise to the world? Of course, but it doesn’t happen. Because it won’t work. Bring soccer to the rest of the world and you’re guaranteed madness and sell-outs, time and again. Once the novelty of American football dies (not a hard feat to witness), I guarantee you the foreign audience would once again resume its soccer allegiance.

Soccer, of the minute scores and capricious time line and the most restrained of game attire. Soccer and its blaring uneventful nature is troubling to the American psyche and just as football will never take hold in foreign soccer-occupied lands, soccer will never take hold between our 2 shores. Soccer, in its subtle and understated tone of nimble athleticism is decidedly un-American. Its apparent nuance and fleeting repetitive dance appears weak and unremarkable by NFL standards, hence, by American standards. Yet its countries of residence give birth to the most violent and demanding demonstrations of societal anger and revolution you can find. Soccer is most popular in countries where people have balls and the intelligence and stoicism to know when their balls should be put on the line. Their priorities are in order.

American football’s creepy and overbearing hold on our psyche is emblematic of our cultural madness and reluctance to prioritize or consider the unpalatable truths that must be fought. American football lives out our undemanding vicarious haze by which we live out romantic notions of power and might.

The American revels in the sights and sounds of 300-pound meatheads colliding into each other and screams the frantic macho scream in response. Then he looks forward to beer commercials and leggy cheerleaders and intolerable half-time spectacles. And his government and masters laugh as they tighten the clamps on his fading liberty. But the macho boldness of NFL lunacy captivates his concern. He lives something through the violent sport. A sense of release settles in as the standardized clock counts down the minutes to the next parcel of inactivity. He goes home and sleeps.

But the soccer fan goes berserk over the subtle happenings on the soccer field. The clock rarely stops and not many know when it will finally stop. The sport is small but its glow is mighty. It does not occupy the grand depth of the fan’s perception that American football does its fans, and there is still something left in reserve by the time he gets home and realizes his masters are slowly prying his humanity from his life, and he fights back with all the ferocity of a wounded animal. The limber delicate maneuvers of the soccer field have not spent him nor affronted his sense of complacency with the harsh rumblings that overwrought American football serves his NFL fan counterparts.

Drinking While Working (DWW)

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

In steering generations of innumerable lushes toward lives of saintly sobriety, Bill Wilson advised his fallen subjects (literally) to make “direct amends to [people they had harmed during their drinking eras] wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” This is the 9th step of the 12 to Recovery. Hell with that. Fuck it. I mean, I like to reminisce once in a while. Hark back to some really stupid shit I did while completely drunk off my ass. But ya see, there is absolutely nothing therapeutic about my anecdotes. I derive no spiritual succor from retelling these sordid tales. You want to know the truth? I’m just amused as hell about some of the shit I’ve done when I was loaded. I’m tickled that I’m still alive (in one piece) and that I’m not languishing away in some state prison cell, getting bitch-fucked by some Alpha beast. There but the grace of God…

One of my worst drinking habits (let’s say the least dangerous to my survival or rap sheet) has been DWW. Drinking at work, during work, before work… I’ve worked long enough to remember the day when having a couple of nips during lunch or even in the Sales manager’s office wasn’t quite the jaw-dropping infraction of work-place etiquette it is now in our Mother Hen era. Granted, part of this freedom to drink also meant you were expected to show more responsibility to stay somewhat sober. Getting loaded during work hours was strongly discouraged. Like driving in Texas with open containers until the Mother Hens (MADD) took over. Our standards of behavior are directly proportional to the strength of our freedoms. But having some booze during the workday wasn’t so shame-worthy Then. However, leave it to me to take DWW to a ridiculous level of absurdity. I won’t name any companies. I won’t cop out to DWW in my current job. Horrors, no. I would never do such a thing!

Weekend Warriors
One of my jobs involved working on the weekends. I worked with several dudes who were all laid back slackers just like me. We were in our early 20s and didn’t have a care or worry in the world. Plus, working weekends left us tragically unsupervised. In fact, our supervisor was one of us and he was the biggest lush out of us all. We would frequently run down the street and buy a 4-pack of wine coolers (we were hard-ass) or more. I can’t remember how we sneaked them past the bitter weekend guards, but we did. We would open them up in the lunch room and down them way too quickly. Over time, we found a couple of chicks who worked in an adjacent area…they 10-keyed shit into the barcode computers. They were willing compatriots and the wine coolers went faster when they joined. Most amusing was the fact that this boozing happened on the cusp or the heels of the invariable Friday all-nighter. It was great being so young and having magical recuperative powers. If I did that now, they would have to scrape me off the floor and put me under a heat lamp to get me going. Very rarely, a weekday supervisor would drop in and we needed to be leery of this, but we were never caught. Even though we became comfortable enough to store some of our bottles in the department fridge. Hey, we had to keep the booze chilled!

Lone Pubber
There was a job where I was the sole representative of my department which lived offsite. I was placed in this facility to work single-handedly, and as such, lived a rather onerous and lonely existence, which was perfect for someone of my temperament. I made very few friends and the only time someone said anything remotely friendly to me was when an equally misanthropic creepy dude who saw a copy of “Dubliners” sitting on my desk said something like, “Wow, I can’t believe someone here is reading this.” It may have been a pick-up line, not sure. It was a lonely gig. I sat alone in an office that no one entered. There was something oddly Bartleby-like about this, but whatever, I did my job. This was during my mid-20s, I was a more responsible drunk by then. I worked full-time and I had a scarce reputation to uphold. To no one in particular. But it felt adult and responsible to work 40 hours per week. It was rough man. Working so much after years of dead-end slacking and producing nothing of value. Suddenly thrust into a situation where I needed to show results. Shit. It was so rough but I soon discovered a great English pub where they served the greatest cold turkey sandwich, steak fries and bubbly pints of novel beers. I was fond of dropping in there once or twice a week, drinking the equivalent of about 5 beers, stumbling back to work where I could smolder away in my lonely office and not do one iota of work for the remainder of the day. Usually, by the time I was ready to clock out for the day, I’d sobered up sufficiently to drive home without a paranoia.

Organ Failure
I worked this one job that seriously put the “sponge” on my liver more than any other period of my life. I worked there for 5 years and the place was seriously a depraved Roman swath of degeneracy and drunken filth. Drinking was the the pastime of nearly every employee. Everybody in the company was under 35. Every special occasion (and there were many) was celebrated with an abundance of drink, food and debauchery. If civilizations were to die, this was their road map. Oddly, I was rarely drunk during work days; it was the vibe of the place and the after-hours partying that did everyone in. One year, we had a Christmas party at the Hollywood Athletic Club at Universal City Walk and there were countless epic moments that lived on in the annals of the corporate scrapbook (and scorecard). Women stage diving the bar, men making the most ill-advised comments and physical maneuvers, others vomiting all the way back to the hotel room (me). It was a disgrace, and our prim and proper Mormon HR lady. who didn’t attend, made it a point of castigating everyone for their flagrantly un-Christian behavior that night., I frankly remember very little except leaning over a planter in the middle of Universal City Walk and vomiting my last intestine out. One guy made an incredibly lewd comment to a hot blonde bombshell that worked with us and he was known for that in the ensuing years until his untimely death years later in Texas. I wonder if that comment was the last thought in his dying mind? Thing about this place is that every little event was a reason to drink. The management was composed of lushes and they set the tone for the impressionable youth of the company. It’s like a parent giving their child a bottle of whiskey with the admonition to “take it easy.”

Auspicious Beginnings
And there is this one job that took me a month of interviews to finally land. By the time I was notified that I got the job, I was so strung out and burnt that I didn’t give a shit. I walked out of the interview office at about 1 in the afternoon. I had taken the day off from work, so I had time to kill. And I killed it. I dropped in at this dive in Hollywood and began drinking Newcastles. Fucking Newcastles, I drank so many while I should have been headed home with the exciting news of a new job. Nope, I sat and drank. I had obligations but I decided to drink Newcastles in a dark bar instead. The entire afternoon flew by. I talked to many people but there was this old lady on the opposite end of the bar who was getting her drink on. She just sat there and stared and this old feller I was chatting with told me she was checking me out. By this point I was pretty loaded and didn’t care. I kept drinking, the afternoon flew by, and I finally left about 4 or 5. Or 3? As I was driving out the driveway, I saw her standing there, almost as if waiting for me. I waved her over and she got in my car. We were both loaded and we stopped at a Rite Aid and bought some more booze before going to her apartment., Turned out she was only about 20 years older than I and a freak. Her apartment was sparsely furnished but but it was clean and nice. She had jars with dead animals and that was a turn on. We began making out and I started giving her some young cock. We undressed and she had some gray pubes but I was so loaded I truly did not care. We had some vicious sex while life forms floated in formaldehyde around us. I was young and an idiot and I kept asking if she liked it (even though she kept screaming like there was no tomorrow) and she gave me her phone number. I later lost it or threw it out in my apartment dumpster. Sorry about that. She’d be 66 now, the Golden Age of Sex for women.

On women’s make-up

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Had a conversation that is as old as the Max Factor female beautification lab earlier today, during my lunch break.

Women always ask men what we think of make-up. Do we like when women wear it? Do we not like it? And if not, why not? When is too much too much? Cosmetics matter a lot to women, even women who don’t use a whole bunch or none at all. Make-up, well applied and skillfully rendered, is the great female equalizer. Make-up can turn a hideous chick into something not half bad (especially after a few Martinis and amidst bad smoky lighting). Women know this and they can expertly turn a drab and tired face into a glamorous snapshot of an image that never was. Make-up is smoke and mirrors and the smart women use it well. Men…we don’t have such a thing. All we can do is keep our skin clear and clean and groom our hair well. We need to avoid the pitfalls of manly traits…zits, scraggly, oily hair, oily skin, bushy unibrows. For men, it’s a ploy of avoidance. It’s what not to do. We have very few tools available that are “proactive” (so to speak). There are not many active measures men can take to alter their appearance for the better. I know some “men” are not averse to using make-up, but let’s face it, they are fags. No…a man lives and dies by his natural appearance. Covering shit up and enhancing false features is a woman’s game. A man lets his actions and words and body do the talking. He doesn’t need to disguise his craggy appearance beneath layers of blush and colors and other superficial pomp and circumstance.

So I told my lunch partner that make-up is fine.
Too much is tacky and embarrassing.
Too little or none is plain and dykish.
Certain personality traits accompany a woman’s choice in personal “dressing.” A woman who overdoes it is usually possessed of superfluous and attention whorish traits; a woman who uses too little is conversely possessed of tomboyish, misandrist, femocentric traits. Our appraisal of make-up is extremely relative. Some guys like girls who look like clowns. Some guys like girls who look like the girls they knew in 4th grade. Most guys fall in between.

Due to this broad range of personal preferences when it comes to make-up, I think it’s difficult to cast any “rules” or generalizations about cosmetic practices. However, there is one point I can safely make that is a timeless and irrefutable summation of cosmetically-enhanced beauty. This is my benchmark for judging a woman’s application of make-up. One must examine the discrepancy between her stage face and the crawling-out-of-bed morning face. Is the gulf between her fiction and reality impossibly vast? Is one unrecognizable from the other? Does a woman’s make-up transform her into a beautiful alien spawned from the ashes of her true haggard state of existence which you can glimpse before she takes the hour to put her mask on? This is my sole criteria. If a woman’s face looks nothing like her fancy masquerade, I’m turned off. Physical dichotomy’s are horrendous. There is nothing worse than a woman revealing her unglorified face and realizing that she is an amazing make-up artist who can turn water to wine. I prefer the woman whose face doesn’t span the extremes of appearance based on the presence or absence of painted oils.