June 25, 2009

Shameless Revisionism: Soapblox Rants #5 (2009)

Long weekend (!) equals new SR, so as promised, this week's Shameless Revisionism is the second of two that try to get a handle on my 2009 quasi-political rants in the Soapblox universe. It's an appropriately Dubious Venture, of course—compiling such recent material is by nature a stupid idea, because it hasn't had time to ferment and congeal and acquire "meaning" yet. However, I think we can safely disregard that silly piece of common sense, because A) these are blog posts we're dealing with, after all—they have no inherent meaning and have the life-span of fruit flies—and B) because it's my blog and I say so.

Anyway, I mentioned last time how these things have become less "political" for me and more "fictional," and for better or worse I'd actually been putting more thought and planning into them. I think that's because the 2008 election is ancient history in blog-years, and also because I'd been alternately avoiding completion and feverishly trying to finish the oft-mentioned "Weapon of Young Gods" novel. Even so, the overcooked-to-undercooked ratio this time around isn't too "bad"—half-assed rants are fairly equal to pre-planned essays (often in the same piece!). Click on an essay's title to read the whole thing:

Reviving the Lost Art of Self-Immolation (Apr. 23, 2008)
Here's a case where pre-planning had no effect whatsoever on the resulting half-assery. I mean, writing about ancient vengeful impulses (waah! I got a citation in 2nd grade!) is one thing, but ginning up some angry screed because bad things are happening to dumb people (ex-CUSD administrators) is quite another. By any measure, it should have worked, and yet I still manage to snatch Fail from the jaws of Win.

The soggy three-pound cage sitting on my shoulders is not prone to epic fits of vengeful retribution, but it is quite capable of holding minor grudges for surprisingly long periods of time. I re-discovered this disturbing fact over the past week—while trying to avoid the usual lesser spasms of paranoia so prevalent in this skittish new age of hope and change—but a sudden attack of hopeless boredom blunted any revelatory impact. I felt broken—to the point where I'd sunk comfortably into my nostalgia-padded rec room and resigned myself to the long, slow decline of decadent empires—but ironically, revenge put me back together again.
Because I Am, After All, a Professional (Apr. 29, 2009)
Probably the closest I've ever come to blogging about my job in a "meaningful" way, but dressed up in some superficial Arlen Specter Defection and Swine Flu clothing. You'd think that working in marketing—and web marketing in particular—would be fraught with all kinds of moral and psychological hurdles. You know, all those angst-ridden internal debates about the merits of art and commerce and the world-colliding intersection of the two in this, our media-saturated age. You'd think I'd have daily dilemmas in this field, but I don't—I do the HTML/CSS equivalent of drawing pictures all day, with some token problem solving and hair-tearing thrown in. Of course, since I have no hair left to tear, I've thwarted that problem forever. Cazart!
Good goddamn, the swine are squealing again. At times like this, a man needs some peace and quiet—some good healthy sleep, too—but when all he hears is the panicked sounds of screaming pork, that is not to be. Mother of sweet babbling Elvis, these ugly days of swine flu seem to have weird implications for me. Oh yes, I am freaking out, against my better judgment, because in my line of work, ladies and gentlemen, I have slathered lipstick on many pigs, so I have been dangerously overexposed. And now, now is the time that they have all chosen to home to wallow. And why? Because one has to admit one's mistakes. Because one must stand by what one has done, for good or ill.
Will Anything Ever Be Incredibly Awesome Again? (May 7, 2009)
I'd love to say that I had some high-minded intentions for this one, but it was mostly an excuse to post the Calvin & Hobbes graphic of a Tyrannosaur in an F-14. However, I managed to leech some relatively decent assertions out of that impulse, mostly having to do with the further dehumanization we all subject ourselves to everyday when interacting with other people over the Web. It was a theme I'd return to in successive posts, so perhaps it was a pretty fertile impulse after all. As if it wouldn't have been enough to simply say "Bill Watterson is a genius" and leave it at that.
I used to be a real hotshot pilot in another life. A brilliant master of my stratospheric domain. A truly reptilian, crazed-genius fusion of Han Solo and Kara Thrace. In this life...well, I have a paralyzing fear of flight—but vague recollections in the deepest recesses of my lizard brain seem to confirm a glorious, hot-dogging chapter of my soul's ancient history. It's something I cling to desperately in the current frightful times, because everything else I remember is an ugly black hole of fear. I've always been afraid of something or other, as far back as I can remember. It's shameful and embarrassing to admit, but eventually one has to face up to one's inadequacies, because let's be honest with each other here, man—we've all been in a scary, dark tunnel for a long time now, and I have certain concerns about the light everyone seems to be seeing these days.
Spastic Melodrama from the Great Magnet (May 16, 2009)
Continuing with the theme of "Internets be stealing our souls, yo" was still pretty easy at this point, and not just because it's such a hackneyed and clichéd idea that deserves to die a lonely and feeble death. No, the true measure of this concept's value is its accepted cultural omnipresence—for me, it's been a major defining reality for the past decade-plus of my life—and I'll be damned if I let a slow-moving target like that one go by without two-facedly jumping on the bandwagon while appearing to annihilate it. I mean, isn't that what cake is for? Having it and eating it?
Everyone's a little put-upon these days, obviously—but most of them don't live with me everyday like I do, so I thought I should get to the bottom of this, even if it would be ugly. So I did, and ugly it was. Upon consulting several scholarly works of metaphysical genius, I was reminded that "all energy flows from the Great Magnet," and therefore reminded that periodic fits of melodrama are extremely contagious, and that I myself have always been disturbingly susceptible to the teensiest shivers of angst. Were it not for certain recently acquired mitigating influences, I'd be permanently overboard in an ocean of soap operas. I came of age in the melodramatic 1990s, after all, and for most of my life I'd created spectacular seismic ranges of Himalayas and Andes and Rockies out of the grubbiest molehills.
Pat Some on the Back, Put Some to the Rod (May 21, 2009)
When undercooked ideas return to rear their ugly heads, they often do it via science fiction. Now, I have a love-hate relationship with sci-fi: I love it and hate the other people who love it (kind of like my relationship with U2 and many other things). Klosterman once called science fiction "morality for stupid people," which is essentially correct; if you need something like the New Caprica metaphorical plotline from "Battlestar Galactica" to realize how nasty 3rd world political oppression can be, you're pretty dumb. However, if you already know that, gawking stupidly at Katie Sackhoff, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, and all the other BSG babes remains one of life's more sublime pleasures.
I was one of the few volunteers. Oh yes, I was paid to screw that bear—paid very well, actually—but I started having second thoughts almost immediately. I realized I was in way over my head when the zoo gates closed behind me and the cages began rattling, the slavering detainees behind the bars smelling fear emanating from my every pore. There was no turning back, though, and the incentives were irresistible, so I trudged into the maw of necessity and received my orders like a good little cadet. The day I was inducted into the Non-Conformity Patrol may have been the first day of the rest of my life, but in many ways it was also the beginning of the end. I know that now, of course, only after a gauntlet of truly horrible experiences that have scarred me deeply, and I only hope that others reading this avoid the same pitfalls that ensnared me.
A Long Time Ago, We Used to be Friends (Jun. 3, 2009)
By 2009, the rising tide of Social Media had basically drowned everyone in its vapidly useful depths, with late adapters of all stripes whooping it up on Facebook and Twitter and the like. Even Iranians have now wielded the deceptive power of these tools, which give the impression of an active existence despite the inactivity required to maintain them. These and other lame ideas had been clogging my skull for months before I was able to purge them with the help of Courtney Taylor-Taylor and his silly band the Dandy Warhols, and I got to snidely bitch about my own idiocy as well as things out of my control. What's not to love?
Supposedly the universe is expanding at an incredible clip, faster and further than ever before. Well, the scientists are saying so, anyway...and since similar research has recently, and successfully, predicted other improbable things such as the Tampa Bay Rays making it to the World Series, or Barack Obama becoming President of the United States, why not trust the onward March of Science? There is untrammeled growth at every turn, unchecked expansion in every way. From my cushy corner of existence, however, the reality is quite the opposite. You see, my own mental and physical boundaries are most definitely shrinking, and have been for some time now. It isn't as if I hadn't seen it coming, either—hell, I aided and abetted the steady retrograde orbit even when I had the chance to do otherwise. Because hey, it's the American Dream, right? Give me my stuff and then leave me the hell alone, man!
Display Some Adaptability, Mister Jones (Jun. 7, 2009)
Another fun insta-rant about the deceptive power of applying truly transformative change, via a clumsy metaphor encompassing Bob Dylan (1966 model) and Barack Obama (2009 model). This superficially ludicrous comparison was nevertheless hilariously engaging to follow all the way to its dubious conclusion, because it never fails to amuse me when a public figure's most die-hard, fanatical supporters do complete 180's once they realize how completely the've been hosed by their erstwhile idols. As if singularly transformative people would ever allow co-writers on their scripts. Ho ho.
For a bona fide rock star, I'm a man of surprisingly simple tastes. I like electricity. And amplification. I like wielding both of those things with fearsome power and sublime glory, and I'm not ashamed to admit that. I love shaking up the citizens with a serious lightning bolt every once in a while, just to see them flinch. It's one of my absolute favorite things to do. I mean, it's one thing to be able to take a shock, but the ability—and willpower—to give a shock, to inflict a pure synaptic jolt of raw power upon someone else, well...that's a whole other frequency, dude. That's a level where only snow leopards play, ladies and gentlemen, and not many people truly comprehend what goes on up there.
My Long Nostalgic Nightmare is Finally Over (Jun. 18, 2009)
This one actually wasn't a joke at all—it was a serious bummer to cruise through my hometown gaping at the collective changes of fifteen years' time. I think it happened that way because I'd successfully delayed the inevitable for so long, though; the slow collapse of my 2006-2009 fiction/novel project was the nail in the coffin when it came to me and Dana Point. Now, before I start sounding too much like Don Henley, I gotta say that the whole process of writing the novel was fun and worthy and a great experience—but the reality is that it's nowhere near done as far as editing is concerned. Even so, I still feel like it's time to move on, creatively—and if that includes foregoing all these fun little sneezes of prose that came in tandem with the novel, well...así es la vida, no?
For someone who can blather on and on about the unsung virtues of transformative change, I don't seem to take it too well when the tables are turned. I mean, I've long since accepted plenty of undercooked truisms like "contradiction is balance" and "hypocrisy is relative," and I'm often able to place seemingly bizarre paradigm shifts into meaningful context instead of going completely berserk with fear and loathing, but that tendency recently deserted me at a crucial moment. In fact, my usual keen analytical instincts failed so utterly that all I could do was merely assess the psychic damage and stand still like poor Brendan Frye, maimed and bleeding from every orifice and waiting to be mowed down by yet another New Reality.
Speaking of the novel, I'm gonna be trying something different and weird with next weekend's (and this summer's final!) edition of Shameless Revisionism: condensing all 48 chapters into a single mammoth post. I have no idea how that's going to work out, but that's the plan, so tune in next weekend to see if I can pull it off or if I face-plant magnificently.

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