Monday, September 13, 2021

On Toxic Fans: A Correspondence with my Dad

The below is a response to my Dad about the above video he sent me. Incidentally it ended up being pretty good writing, so see below:

 This is fairly good from a writer’s point of view?  He seems to indicate that WOKE and PC may tend to diminish the worth of a worthy villain.

Yeah, I definitely get the impression that he is a toxic fan. 

I mean with both characters he cites, Captain Marvel and Kylo Ren, both have been universally hated, but only by the people that grew up with Star Wars. They will cite that the prequels were better, remembering when they were 10 years old watching them. Likewise the older fans will say that the prequels sucked, again, remembering when they were 10 years old watching them. This is why I like Star Trek, because Star Wars is ultimately a franchise for children. Which isn't bad by any means, not at all. That's a good thing, because children need good fantasy and rudimentary moral models to go off of. (And the same goes for marvel movies.) But most of the best villains aren't really villains of all. You ought to read my book (if you haven't already) because I tried to draw up multiple villains while not really having them truly be villains. 

The Captain Marvel critique though gets old, if only because people are complaining exclusively because they have to root for a girl. As a father of a girl, I think that it's awesome that my daughter is getting likable heroes that have popular appeal. They did the same thing with "The Mighty Thor" who is Jane Foster (Natalie Portman's character from the first Thor movie), and people bitched about it in the comics, as they will likely do so when Thor 4 comes out. 

At the end of the day, no one seems to have any sense of awareness when it comes to these characters. The fans behave like children, because their peak enjoyment of the characters took place when they were children. Again, this is why I like Star Trek, because you don't truly appreciate it's message and substance until after you get pubes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Adulting in Peace

 My life is slowly becoming that Dr. Manhattan meme, where the omnipresent, and nigh omniscient, super hero sits on the surface of Mars, contemplating his life with jagged simplicity. 

Behold, pretension!

We've been in the throes of our first escrow, an entirely new process that I'm only beginning to understand. The byzantine disclaimers and addendums, compounded with legal aphorisms, wash over me like a salty wave that someone died in. Of course, I should be thankful. Owning property is a gift. And every gift is an opportunity for understanding and growth.

In all seriousness though, I had this strange moment of clarity, maybe 5 minutes ago. I was in the kitchen, hovering over a dissected crown of broccoli, realizing that my mind was characteristically "adult" in the moment. (Obviously, I've been an adult since I was 18, though even that status is symbolic in our highly specialized society.) I was watching myself move, as if in 3rd person, a weight resting on my shoulders that was altering the way I moved and behaved in that space. A similar moment happened in my 20s, when I signed my first lease to rent a town house (for the low, LOW price of $1000 per month). I was so scared and immobilized by the weight of rejection and the potential for failure. What if I couldn't handle it? What if I lost my job and, therefore, couldn't make the payments? I felt, in a way, hobbled by the immensity of the commitment, despite the fact that it was so mundane in hindsight.

Now I was standing over the cutting board, feeling secure and in control of my life. I was doing an "adult" thing and feeling characteristically "adult" about it. 

I've said it before: the progression from a childlike mind to an adult one is less about the traversal of legal status and more of an epiphany that, you—yes, you—are in complete control of your decisions. (That is, as far as "mortal" control goes in the infinite and all powerful presence of God). When I was buying 3 six-packs of beer a week to self medicate my stress, I was a child, abdicating my right of control over my body and mind. Now, I'm making the conscious decision to be an adult and take the helm of my life, inasmuch as I can in light of God's will. 

The apostle Paul kind of addresses this in 1 Corinthians: 11-12. And, in the context of the larger dialogue at work in the passage, as God renews our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit, this peace that I feel will only grow, ultimately to resolve in my death and resurrection. And that, that is dope, my friends. 

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."

Friday, July 23, 2021

Another Year Around the Sun

 I am ready to leave work, go to the local brewery, and celebrate my Birthday. 

(Yes, today is the day.)

The past few years, other than my 30th, were not very fun. Or they were riddled with depression. Or the looming threat of being old, yet unaccomplished, weighed on me. Not so this year, I am happy to report. 

I'm not sure why things have changed. I'm as old as Jesus was when he went to the cross for the world, which would make light of any of our accomplishments, big or small. That alone could be the reason for my paradoxical contentment, but I don't feel like it is. I released a book in hardcover this year: also a big accomplishment. Still, it's not as big a brag as it sounds. (In fact, it's deceptively easy.) 

This year is different in ways I never expected, and it's because I feel like I'm no longer a kid. 

I am becoming less aware of "age." I'll find out that a co-worker is actually in his mid 40s, when I thought they were my age. We act how old we want to be, which is a lauded trait among our aging boomers. This charming deception gives me social mobility, where I previously didn't. Instead of the need to "impress" my elders, I am collaborating with my peers. 

Hopefully I can avoid the pitfalls of other unequal alignments though. Like, it's sad to see a child acting like an adult. Youth and joy has it's purpose. A child that works in a coal mine, or emancipates themselves when they are 14, loses the freedom to explore hobbies and ideas ahead of their adulthood. Likewise, it's sad to see a 50 year old acting like they are 20. Age carries with it a quiet, established dignity that inspires others. It's a responsibility that we all should feel inclined to take part in.  (I.e. help your kids plan for the future. Be their roadmap. Don't fuck off to Coachella, forget to pay your rent, and then get angry when your "van-life" kids make a mess of you're apartment while you're away.) 

Concerning the above, I would wager confidently the reason I am so happy is because I where I'm supposed to be. That's enough, right? 

I sure hope so. I've already printed t-shirts for merch!

(No, I haven't.)


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Working Inside is Weird

My desk at work.

This past week I have been working inside the office for a couple consecutive days for the first time since the pandemic started. This was primarily due to my wife going on a camping trip with her dad, leaving me to fend for myself with Eowyn. The thought of driving by myself was terrifying. (Around this time last year I had a really bad anxiety attack while I was driving.) But, despite some close calls and a stashed emergency Klonopin, I got through it. 

Don't we always?

Sitting in the office, the loudest thing I hear is the sound of the HVAC fans running. The keys beneath my finger tips are deafening. No weird neighbors next door, arguing over dumb shit that doesn't matter. No homeless couples bickering up and down the street. Just the fans. 

I miss the office. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Ode To a Shitty Burger

I like burgers. 

I like large burgers. I like sliders. I like pigs-in-blankets. I like hoagies. I like pulled pork sandwiches. I like ruebens, cubans, and breakfast sandwiches. 

I like, really, anything with two slices of bread and a piece of meat in the center. It's primal and debasing to hold a burger and try to eat it as, like a collapsing star, it disintegrates into a slurry of deliciousness. Growing up, I would get a burger before getting my allergy shots for bee venom, convinced that the meat in my belly made me impervious to pain. What a ludicrous conclusion! But a serviceable salve to ease my fear of needles. Burgers were my answer to most of all life's problems when I was 6 years old. Today, they still kind of are.

Burgers, like friends, are fickle. Not all burgers are created equal. Some burgers disappoint and demoralize. Some even betray you. They illustrate the lie of consumerism and the commodification of once sacred and immutable things. Like a life of watching porn and encountering sex for the first time with another human being, eating a Carls Jr. Six Dollar Burger illuminates the hyperreality of bread, meat, cheese and vegetables advanced in the fictional ad space, while what is unwrapped in soggy wax paper is the cold truth: that all of us have been lied to. The burger today, indeed, does has a true referent, but it exists elsewhere, far from any motor oil encrusted strip-mall parking lot.

The shitty burger is the aesthetic product of many components. Down the street from my apartment, there is a decaying fast food chain, local to the Santa Barbara area. The reviews online are as abyssal and empty as the employees that absently attend the greasy kitchen griddle, and food poisoning is alleged all too frequently in that virtual space. The dinning room is always empty. Aging CRT televisions are void of light and sound. Vending machines contain stale baubles, forgotten behind scratched, hazy plastics. The employee that takes your order is tense and on edge. The fact that you are there in this solemn place is an act of violence. The order will most surely be incorrectly filled, but out of kindness you feign ignorance. The truth behind the shitty burger is the commiseration found in consuming it. The thin, dry patties are ingested under the wan light of a desk lamp in solitude and shame. In eating it, you have contributed to institutional racism and, simultaneously, are now emboldened to end it. 

I would disagree with the post-modernists that we have lost the true referent, what I refer to as the proto-burger. Just like the desolation which attends the shitty burger, the proto-burger is a sum of harmonious parts. Just as the fresh cut tomatoes, the grilled onions, the chilled lettuce, and ground sirloin unify to achieve mythic synergy, so people also gather around charcoal grills on lazy Saturday afternoons to experience unshakable community. At the checkered picnic table, people of all kinds and creeds have the opportunity to experience the original and incorruptible authenticity of the proto-burger. And, like waking from a bad dream, the memory of the shitty burger fades, ultimately to nothing, thereby allowing only the knowledge of the proto-burger to endure. 


Thursday, March 25, 2021

"Oncoming Traffic" By Stuart Warren


There was traffic on West 580, right in front of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. 

Traffic rarely happens. When it does, it usually inspires fascination, even wonder. The passing traffic does not stop. Motorists spying in the moments between moments. Life oncoming, then gone.

This time was different though.

There were two cars hedged off to the right shoulder: a 2038 Tesla sedan and a 2018 Honda Civic. The rear crush points on the Tesla were pancaked—what remained of the trunk space, mostly gone. I glanced out of my window and saw the two drivers in a heated fight, a paramedic between them with her hands up. A police officer was dragging a dumbbell set—ejected from the trunk of the Civic—off the center lanes while we waited.

By 2028, most of the Bay Area was autonomous. By 2032, the rest of the state followed. The current Administration established a buy-out program for manual-pilot autos, encouraging the conversion. But, among the millions, a small minority held out. Mostly older men, and a younger generation galvanized by passionate rhetoric to retain their “right-to-drive.” When accidents happened, it always involved a manual-pilot car. There would be a highlight on the evening news—national coverage if the collision was big enough.

The Civic’s owner was red in the face with anger, spittle ejecting from her mouth. It wasn’t about the car. She stood her ground. This would be on camera, the pavement her stage. Ten-thousand talking heads explaining the nuance of car ownership, the “right-to-drive.”

It was something we debated at work, before our managers would step in to re-establish office etiquette. At church, I would argue the nuance of scripture, how the church adjusted for cultural changes, while others flatly denied my points, on the basis of free will and choice. In school districts some advocated—think of the children, they would say—for manual-pilot school busses, that it was unconscionable to entrust students to the cold will of the onboard intelligence.

But as passionate and antiquated the logic was, we all knew that 94% of auto-accidents involved manual-pilot vehicles. 100% of all autonomous cars were zero-emission, and manufactured by carbon neutral companies. Average commute time was lowered by 30% as the speed limit was raised by 25% across the western United States.

The police officer signaled to the line of stopped cars to proceed after a few minutes. I cracked open my book and thumbed to the page where I left off, feeling the pull of my body into the seat, the scene disappearing from view.

Where 580 merged with 101 North, brake lights crept up along the frontage road.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Respecting The Stillness

 About the middle of the week during the so-called "protest" held at the Capitol building in Washington DC, I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone. It was just too much. The rest of the week's news was carefully filtered through messages delivered via Facebook messenger by writer, and fellow wookie life partner, Desmond White. They were mostly memes and updates about the ongoing certification of President-Elect Biden's win of the 2020 election. After all, humor disarms, and Desmond has enough of it to be awarded an honorary black belt in Judo. 

It was quiet though, after the apps were gone. My mind was at peace. No notification dings. No wild Facebook threads of frantic, hateful people declaring their opinions. Pure silence. I had forgotten what that felt like. I grew up with it. 

I was a part of the generation that first experienced common and widespread use of the internet. The internet that we know of today, at least. The kind with browsers and websites that shared videos and files. The kind that had Altavista for web searching and General Mayhem for whatever disgusting thing 4chan currently is. The "small device" didn't really exist yet. I didn't have a cell phone or iPod until I was in middle school. I didn't get my first iPhone until after I had graduated college (2012, maybe?), though, in all fairness, I had resisted getting one just because the carrier plans were so expensive. I'm sure there's no true correlation, but it was a little after getting the phone that I got my first major panic attack. 

The idea of being constantly connected is both a blessing and a curse. I can't even express in words the convenience a cell phone affords when your car breaks down. During the pandemic, we can facetime with our parents and grandparents. Yeah, I know it's not ideal, but it's something at least! The increased distance we place between ourselves is problematic though. And there's a price to pay for being always connected. The speculative cyberpunk tv series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, features an episode (S1E11) about a government-run, social welfare facility, where patients are treated for Cyberbrain Closed Shell Syndrome. TLDR, it's a sickness that afflicts those who can't break away from the internet and it's communities. Disconnecting a patient being treated for the sickness causes them to become violent, withdrawn, paranoid, depressed, comatose, or incapable of interacting with people for prolonged periods. Obviously the illness is creative hyperbole, with no true equivalent in the world.  "Doomscrolling" and "shitposting" hardly compares, but the constant connection to Facebook and other social media websites already affects how we see the world and our attitudes towards others. 

Now comes the weird part. How do I tweet/post/gram when I don't have these apps on my phone any more? Not very easily I guess... If I had to chose between my health and leveraging social media to tell people about my books, I'm obviously siding with the former. So, this will be an interesting next few weeks as I launch my third book and connect with people about it. Please be patient with me as I adjust. 

Here's to a better, healthier 2021!