#24: a quick rant against stupid political articles

For those of you who care what I read, I spend a lot of time on Salon. Too much time, I’m sure. It has, obviously, much to do with my leftist leanings. In general, I think they do a decent job. However, sometimes the choice to run an article makes me question if the editors periodically elect to hand their jobs over to a group of monkeys, possibly during a breakfast or lunch break. Case in point: this.

It’s from a staff writer at Salon, Andrew Leonard. I understand the function of “headlines” is to create page hits; however, the following article borders on gross misleading or just plain stupidity. A Silicon Valley head honcho changes his twitter pic or whatever, and suddenly this means all of Silicon Valley’s libertarians are suddenly backpedaling into some version of left-wing thinking. Not only does the article fail to actually address the headline, it uses a picture change as an excuse to bring up the divide between two different lines of political thought. In doing so, it only highlights the degree to which “journalists” will go in order to create controversy. Political journalism’s controversy should develop from actual reporting–of facts, of grounded opinions, of articulated thesis; instead, with this shoddy attempt at discrediting a libertarian view (which, mind you, I disagree with most libertarian stances, except for the end to the drug war and the reduction of our military presence), we get, at best, a sad overreach at interpretation, and, at worst, just a desire to get site clicks. Included in this is the author’s assumption that the change of pic from Ayn Rand to Alexander Hamilton is because the head honcho ‘has discovered that disrupting the existing taxi monopolies in the world’s great cities is easier said than done. Safety and health regulations, insurance issues — there are all kinds of nasty hoops to jump through if you want to make a big business of transporting citizens around urban metropolises. Like it or not, Silicon Valley’s most ambitious start-ups will be forced to work with government, instead of blowing it up.’

I don’t disagree with the sentiment; I wildly disagree with the starting point that then manifests itself into this sentiment. It’s poor analysis–a way to drum up interest in one’s personal opinions without actually announcing its one’s personal opinion. If you want to write about why Alexander Hamilton’s thoughts on governance are superior to Ayn Rand’s, then just own it. If you want to bash the inherent fallacies of the libertarian approach, then write an article about it, feel free to use A. Hamilton and A. Rand all you want in it, go bonkers, mr. journalist. But don’t try to create an overarching description of an entire subgroup of political participants; it’s the same type of shoddy journalism that Salon constantly tries to debunk coming out of Fox News. It’s shameful and contributes nothing to the political discourse we so greatly need to improve.

#23: I have made a grave, grave mistake–I can’t stop myself from reading the comments on political articles

Look, I use the internet on a daily basis; hell, it’s probably an hourly basis. It makes my job easier, it lets me read newspapers from all over the world, I get to listen to the Allman Brothers on my phone whenever I want, watch entire seasons of shows I don’t even like just because they are there, and even get to watch CFL games. The internet dominates my life, and, in general, I am grateful for it. Just last week, I got to read all about the racial politics of South Africa, checked my fantasy football team, and then read lots of opinions about the U.S. government from papers in Germany, Jordan, Australia, Canada, China, and Saudi Arabia. It’s an amazing thing. All of that being said, the internet is the worst.

I have no idea when stating an opinion became an act of war, but the wars of the Comment Section of any political article rage with vitriol I would assume has typically been saved for, like, terrible drunken Thanksgiving dinners. I actually read a comment today that finished with “I hope you burn in hell.” With such refined discourse seen as acceptable–or, perhaps, necessary–in order to facilitate one’s opinions, the real question isn’t if such opinions are valid, but if conversation via the internet, the so-called fantastical Wild West of human interaction, really represents your ‘average’ person.

The problem with using ‘average’ in anything that doesn’t involve sports statistics is that it more often denotes the middle of wildly polar opposites than it does an actual moderate, true representation of anything. Categorically, ‘average’ statistics don’t mean nearly as much as ‘median’ statistics do. However, in what way is there a ‘median’ person? In the United States, the dilemma of procuring a ‘median’ person has to do with inherent discrepancies in how we see ourselves: we are the exceptional members of the world and, as such, we are all special snowflakes whose opinions matter. To reduce ourselves to mere statistics would be the end of the United States civilisation as we know it. This, of course, is why ObamaCare is bringing the apocalypse upon us, sure to commence at any point in the future, as healthcare will, apparently, make us all the same–enfeebled and dependent on the government for all of our decisions.

First, the ACA is a terrible piece of legislation, but not because it ends the United States as we know it; we are not on our way to some sort of Sharia law communist enclave of heathen activity (I really read that once), nor are we close to turning into Canada or whatever strange fears the far-right feels like conjuring up depending on the day. The ACA is an agreement between the White House and the private insurance companies to get millions of more people on the insurance books, paying premiums, all under the guise of creating affordable insurance. It merely takes a step in the right direction, but Congress failed to properly vet it, nobody knew what they were voting on, and it, essentially, gives yet another handout to major corporations. The complete failure of our congress people to actually read bills they vote on has to be the single worst part of our government. Think about this logically: you are a health care provider, you are told you can no longer charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions, but, in exchange, you will get thousands upon thousands of more policyholders. You, the company, will be getting full premium pay, through some combination of policyholder and government subsidies. You get to charge more for younger people who, previously, got low premium plans or none at all. You have added billions of dollars in revenue with the risk of paying out more in claims. In what way is this a socialised health care law? It isn’t, and the fighting over it should be in its failure to actually promote true healthcare change, not this bullshit about the Obamapocalypse. Of course, if we actually attempted real change, like getting rid of Medicare and implementing a single-payer Medicaid for everyone, then the shouts from the right would at least be appropriately topical in decrying the socialisation of the United States, so, in reality, the tea party should secretly conspire to promote such a plan in order to extend their time in the bully pulpit.

Second, and this is most important, nobody whom you have voted for in a federal election gives a damn about you. You are not a special snowflake to them because you have not contributed millions of dollars to their campaign. You do not and will not ever matter; they will fake it when necessary, they will bleat out nonsense involving the words “the American people” this and “the American people” that, but at no point will you be of importance. They want your vote, they want your money, but they do not want you to actually exist. Your existence, regardless of political affiliation, means you are a possible hindrance to them keeping their job. They, like you, average American, want to make sure there is a paycheck coming, but, unlike you, average American, their position requires them to feign altruistic notions–these are called townhall meetings, handshaking, terrible TV ads involving those awkward shots of said politician “strongly investing” in regular-people interaction. The key component here is that the United States is an exceptional country, but that does not make us exceptional people; we are not unique in that regard, our homogenous state or lack thereof is irrelevant; we are, instead, non-special snowflakes who are told, constantly, that we are Personal Responsibility Warriors with American Can-Do Spirit born of our Distinct Individualism. This gets repeated over and over by the people we vote in who actually think the opposite of us. We are numbers, we are districts, we are gerrymandered groups of people pushed into pockets where our votes can be pre-counted–you are not an individual, you are a pre-determined statistic. That’s your American Citizen sovereignty.

That is, to me at least, quite depressing. And a bit hyperbolic, I’ll admit. And yet, prolific hyperbole is, of course, standard internet rhetoric. I’m merely keeping in line with acceptable speech patterns here.

I am often baffled at the level of cynicism I accept as normal from myself.

When considering this built-in feature of American-ness, this reverence for Self-as-Unique as cultural characteristic, it makes sense that the idea we should in some fashion be responsible for others in some “forced” way would be alarming. It creates a strange dichotomy: we see ourselves as important and individual, yet, we also cannot see that what we do in our day-to-day lives has long-term consequences because we can only see the impact as something immediate to ourselves. By telling a younger adult that his/her higher healthcare premiums will actually allow others who have no access to healthcare to obtain it, we are asking people to recognise their role on a much larger, non-personal level, to actually consider the ramifications of where a dollar goes and where it could end up. It means having to consider something that does not inherently have anything to do with ourselves, but has everything to do with a social structure dependent on selflessness. The thing that makes no sense is we do this everyday; we trust the people in other cars to know how to drive, we order food made by other people, we ask questions and make payments and interact with strangers when the need arises and we do so with the faith that all these transactions are done with honesty, with the idea that our interests are considered important. As a socioeconomic cultural structure, these transactions represent socialist thinking. But to admit that would require self-awareness that what we do affects what others do, not just those whom we recognise.

The frightening aspect of the Internet Comment Board, then, is not so much the vitriol, although it is absolutely crazy, but how much it highlights our actual lack of individuality. What people appear most fearful of is a change in how they view themselves and their society, a society they recognise best as one filled with others just like them–to each group, that group is normal, average, the median American. The homogenous grouping of people combined with the belief in a unique experience makes the world scarier, the evolving society a thing to stop, to discourage, all in the name of Personal Right and Opinion.

Again, the anger often expressed on the internet in regards to political articles has to do with an entrenched desire to have an opinion that is “right,” as well as to defend oneself against a terrible change. It’s the second part of that sentence which determines the vitriol. Having an opinion means you inherently believe you’re right; it’s what an opinion is–the expression of a self-believed truth about something. My opinion is that both major political parties are terrible because they are in the pockets of big banks, big corporations, and major donors. I believe the banking sector does not just need reigned in, but essentially redesigned, with strong regulations, CEO pay limits, and derivative and speculative trading on things like oil should absolutely be banned. People who disagree with me, I consider to be wrong. However, at this point in time, I do not wish them to burn in hell, except for the Koch Brothers, two people whom I consider top candidates for worst humans currently in America.

The construction of this opinion as Right vs. Wrong, however, creates a dynamic where we start to believe that defense of an opinion instead of analysis of it becomes far more important. On a completely logical level, I understand what the Kochs are doing–trying to make as much money as they possibly can; that’s capitalism; they want to perform it at an extraordinary level. What I actually disagree with is their willingness to let greed dictate their lives, and their lack of long-term thinking beyond their bank account, which means I appear to disagree with their capitalistic drive. And, of course, to disagree with capitalist drive is to supposedly prove my un-American-ness.

In the world of political article internet commentary, the easiest way to classify the fights is in this American vs. un-American context. The righteousness of either side–conservative or progressive–emanates from a desire to protect a personal vision of the United States. However, as I’ve said before, such visions of the U.S. are faulty because neither of those countries exist. The United States, at this point, is an ogliarchy run by major corporations with money available to dump into lobbying–on both sides of the political spectrum. What this means is the same type of jokes I make about how the reddest states need/use the most government funding, an “irony” that I assume vindicates my socialist leanings, is the same joke that somebody else would make about taxing our way out of debt. What the jokes ignore is the lack of awareness implied on the jokee, not because we are saying that the Other does not know the inherent “irony” associated with it, but because the irony, such as it is, almost always has to do with the jokee’s built-in sense of righteousness; the joke is a take-down, but a take-down is not way to change somebody’s views, no matter how many movies tell us otherwise. Real discussion, real analysis is the only hope, and, yet, the jokes eliminate the analysis, make people defensive, and defensive people will never listen; they are too consumed by the need to reassert their correct-ness.

It’s not that we hate the Other [well, sometimes, clearly hatred is the only driving force]; it’s the pressure to defend one’s uniqueness within the safety of a homogenous group. However, instead of citizenry of the U.S. being seen as homogenous, we base it on geographical, ethnic, religious, political, or any other type of sub-grouping one can think of. The classic idealisation of the American Individual prevents us from seeing anyone other than those we accept as part of America–the other is not an Individual, the other is a threat.

The absurdity of all this is that if we are actually uniqure, it inherently implies everyone else is an other, which makes a homogenous group impossible. So, instead, we actively select our group, create whatever artificial boundaries we need, and make decisions based upon that. I don’t see this as wrong, but I do feel that when we start creating opinions/policy, both foreign and domestic, with the intention of eliminating possible threats to our oxymoronic state of Unique-as-the Same, then all we are really doing is finding ways to isolate ourselves. Isolation invaribly leads to defensiveness, defensiveness invariably leads to an inability to properly approach problem-solving. Progressivism, therefore, must not only shoulder the weight associated with creating a balanced social structure, it must also use its shoulder to push the boulders of entrenched traditional thinking.

The United States right now has a limited ability to accomplish much without the use of force–even bills passed in Congress are often referred to as “pushed through,” as though implementing a law is a physical task. If you want to know what the United States is, ask yourself this question: Would a drone strike on U.S. soil from a foreign entity constitue an act of terror? Because if you say yes, and that there would have to be retribution, then you have just declared the United States a terrorist organisation. Which we are. We have conducted countless drone strikes with the belief that we are allowed to do so because we are more powerful; it has nearly destroyed our ability to assert real foreign policy, and we accept no responsibility for our destruction other than to declare we’ve earned the right because we got attacked once. We are no different than the bully we cheer against in every movie who lashes out over and over in an attempt to reassert his dominance.

What I really hate is that having such an opinion is akin to announcing that I hate the U.S. I do not hate my country. I hate what my country is doing. I believe we already have a socialist structure in place, but we refuse to fully acknowledge it, and that embracing it does not mean the end of our society as we know it. What I’m tired of is the immediate link of being American with an overly-idealised notion of America; such thinking lacks long-term vision, prevents us from adapting and growing, and, most importantly, continues to further isolate us from an increasingly interactive global market. In Facebook terms, nobody likes us, and that matters. And what the comment boards reinforce is the impossibility to enter dialogue hurts us, and that the lack of dialogue is active participation in a power grab. The perception is the United States is a desparate power–a warmongering, power hungry, data devouring behemoth–who can no longer see past its own bloat; just like normal life, the reality of the ‘median’ American citizen, no matter what you think of yourself, has little to do with the perception of our country as a whole. It’s the same thing we do to nations everywhere. The question is if we can change it.

#22: I continue to try to figure out what it means to grow up and become an actual human being

I have to admit, despite all of my narcissistic writing tendencies, that I have not had too many moments of actual self-realisation. Perhaps such lack of epiphanies is what drives my internal leanings; it would inherently make sense. I don’t know who I am, so I must filter all of my world through the lens of “I.” It would also probably explain my incessant need to start most of my posts with obvious throat clearing: I have no ability to enter a topic without first bringing some sort of meta-commentary on the thought process / develop an explanation for why I am even writing. Life is complicated.

This week, crystalised yesterday in a coversation with my friend, Pat, I realised I am a moron. And this realisation was not difficult to ascertain, nor was it actually a surprise. Pat and I were talking about the ridiculous mindset of some of the American voting public. I relayed to him a story about how at lunch I had to hear an older woman complain about the cost of her healthcare, how she was entitled to disability from the government because she at least earned it unlike all those moochers”, how Obama won in 2012 through a sinister consipiracy of voter fraud proven by facts on the internet, and that while she doesn’t believe we are in the end times at this moment, the apacolypse is coming soon. I cannot handle people like this. I may disagree wildly with the conservative approach to government, but I can, at the very least, allow them to have an opinion if it has its own version of logic. However, you cannot complain about healthcare and demand government money be given to you and then immediately go into how the man who supports those very things shouldn’t be the president. That’s incomprehensible, and it is a specific type of destructive thinking: if it is important to me then it matters with no regard for the actuality of the thinking. I want my government money because I need it; Obama is a Muslim Antichrist socialist from Kenya hellbent on ending the world and this affects me because I’m a solidly white Christian American.

The problem, however, is I cannot truly condemn people who think like this because I do the exact same thing with a loosely connected idea.

I am a strong proponent of strict regulation when it comes to the environment. The science clearly indicates climate change is occurring and that we humans are major factors. To ignore these facts puts the Earth’s, and thus our own, existence in peril. Keep this in mind as I’m about to start writing about something completely ridiculous in light of those previous sentences. I have been, for quite a while now, trying to convince G. to let me buy a truck. And not just any truck, but a diesel engine truck, which means 250/2500 or bigger. I argue that owning such a truck makes sense because with the amount of outdoor maintenance I have to do on our yard, I need a commercial mower which means I need a trailer, plus I need to haul materials and because we need something with four-wheel drive. And the diesel engine makes sense because they last longer and hopefully we wouldn’t have to buy another one in a long time.

This isn’t even the most ridiculous part.

When I decide that we must get something, such as my future truck, I cannot stop myself from looking up prices online. Autotrader is permantly open on my laptop. I see if trucks I’ve marked as “possibilities” [despite already knowing that none of them are an actual possibility] have sold and feel dejected when one has. There is a part of my brain that believes a purchase will occur and some asshole has taken that away from me by going in and paying for a truck I have set aside on a laptop screen in some delusional belief about the future. However, it gets worse. Part (most) of my desire for owning a hulking 4×4 vehicle comes directly from a crippling paranoia of and disdain for driving in snow. I hate snow. I hate snow to the point of panic attacks, and I feel it is necessary to wall myself up in a societally-accepted tank whenever the threat of snow appears. And this is how I started looking at Hummer H2s on Autotrader, and this is why, in terms of weather/vehicles, I am a goddamn Tea Party member.

The problem with making decisions solely based on fear and paranoia is that irrational thoughts find a way of being rationalised by the person having them. Facts/blatant self-hypocricies/outside opinions will not, cannot, factor into the thought process because it, in some way, totally makes sense to me to think owning an H2 because of the 4 months or so of possible bad weather is a good idea. I disregard all my notions of environmental concern when it no longer trumps my personal concern. What this also means is that I can grandstand all I want about how stupid it is for that lady at lunch to contradict herself about entitelements/Obama, but she’s only thinking in the same exact way I am. Protect myself, worry about the others later if it’s convienent.

It is a deconstructionist approach to life. We can take an abstract idea–say, the social safety net–then destroy it to fit whatever definition works best for what we want. For the hard right, the safety net is an “entitlement.” For the hard left, the safety net is an “equaliser.” We are talking about the same thing, but we’ve broken it down into nothing, which means we are actually arguing over nothing, because the “nothing” [unlike the movie Neverending Story] can only be defined by breaking down other abstractions–entitlement to abuse to moocher to rising government costs to the collapse of American society to the Rapture happening. To me such deconstructionist thinking is absurd, but to those who believe it, not only is it not absurd, it is an inherent truth of being. But, in general, such things are still abstractions because we are arguing over the idea of something–the idea of government waste, the idea of a moocher–because in every single instance there is a counterargument based entirely on the need of the person making the argument. The cycle of thought does not allow for logic because to the thinker the logic is clear and infallible.

Factually, the largest portion of our current budget goes to healthcare and Social Security, and then Defense. Factually, owning an H2 is terrible for the environment. Yet, fear and paranoia dictates the logic necessary to rationalise the need for both. Living in the United States means being part of country where the general consensus states that not only must we have the largest military might in the world, we must have the largest by a wide margin. Without it, we apparently put ourselves at risk of the rest of the world coming together and rushing our borders like some vicious Orc horde; the terrorists win; and the Rapture begins even earlier than expected. There is absolutely no reason we need more missiles than could ever be used in a war without utterly destroying the planet because if it ever came to that, there would be no reason for humanity to even exist. However, we have been trained for decades, starting with the Cold War, that the U.S. must be omnipresent as a War Power in order to protect our way of life. Even if you disagree with that mindset, if you have lived here, you have grown up with that as a societal norm. There is no way to escape it. It’s insidious and pervasive and absolutely necessary to keep reinforcing in order to justify the bloated budget; according to the warhawks’ line of thinking we can’t take away money from defense and put it towards the safety net because without the defense there is no safety net. Change is not in dollars and cents; change is entirely spiritual, and the bottom line is our country’s spirit has been warmongering for decades.

Knowing this as our cultural baseline, it makes total sense our political representatives cannot find a way to talk to each other in non-hyperbolic, accusatory terms. We are all always worried about losing the war, whatever the hell that war may be. Sports are wars on the field, there is a war on drugs, there’s a war on women, a war on Christmas, a war on religion, a war on gun rights; we are all righteous soldiers in the wars of our everday lives. We must win; we must vanquish; we must, at all costs, be protected from the snow. And here is the problem with saying all that: it’s a hyperbolic response to an abstract idea of U.S. society, and it, sadly, ignores the greater good we are all capable of accomplishing.

Perhaps the greatest human fraility is our need to be entertained. We may be liars, at-all-costs-self-protectors, psychopaths, oil baron douchebags, whatever, but the real fraility capitalism, and those who take advantage of it, preys on is entertainment, the desire to be soothed by something other. In its purest form, such a desire leads to creativity; at its most bastardised, it mutates from creativity into self-hatred. It seems pretty obvious to me that those Tea Party Patriots loudly proclaiming their love of the United States actually hate it. They hate it because it isn’t the place they imagine in their flag-waving fantasies; they, in turn, support (capitalism) the voices (Fox News, Drudge Report, Rush, etc) who soothe that hatred by confirming their fears. In this cocoon, we are safe; everyone agrees with us; and anyone who doesn’t is attacking us; the war is ever on. What the previous statement ignores, however, is that, in general, most of the people in that cocoon believe they are accomplishing the greater good. They will save the country from itself; the problem though, again, is that the country they are saving doesn’t actually exist.

Fixing this is rather simplistic: put some bankers in jail where they belong; close corporate tax loopholes in conjunction with lowering those tax rates; stop defunding science that could change the world for the better; stop pretending education is a score-rating endeavour [really, Obama, tying federal funding to graduation rates is only going to make colleges pass students who should have failed (which, really, is already happening because schools need the tuition money, education be damned)–you may have noticed this at the lower education level, perhaps? No? You still think this is a good idea? Okay, well, thanks for that.]; accept strict environmental regulations because the world still needs to exist later; quit pretending that making money is more important than any other action in life–put mandatory CEO salary limits, start investing in your employees because they in turn will invest in the economy which in turn means your company is inherently being invested in, and, for the love of everything, stop acting like making money is somehow a patriotic act; being a patriot means giving back to the country you care about–pay your taxes, bring your companies here and hire workers with a living wage, make people see that the U.S. means something to you other than dollar signs.

There’s obviously more. There’s always more. It’s a fluid society. And if I have to give up my desire for a legal snow tank, then others can make some spiritual changes as well.

#21: a self-cross-promotional piece of writing from logcabinliberal.tumblr.com

Not too long ago, my sister and I engaged in a text conversation in which she called out my inability to think of pretty much anything in unironic or non-sarcastic ways. I have been thinking about this, probably too much, ever since. I have come to the (hopefully temporary) conclusion that I have no idea how to address such thinking. David Foster Wallace and other people smarter and better at writing than I have attempted to tackle this subject, in ways I typically agree with. The problem comes down to something very fundamental: to be left emotionally unguarded by way of acting sincerely in all things feels terrifying and unfathomable. As such, I function in a way where even feeling outrage at things where outrage is justified makes me extremely uncomfortable and the only way I can imagine creating change is to be louder and angrier than that which angers me [see: previous 5 posts]. I do not consider it ridiculous to be angry at the mess that is U.S. politics, or, more specifically, to blame it mostly on the GOP. The question I cannot find an answer to is how to compete with the noise in a way where my [any other] voice can be heard.

The real problem is, despite its many benefits, the internet. The internet allows for ignorance, from all of us. In the same way liberals scoffed at Karl Rove raving on Fox News about Obama winning re-election and how the Republican base was so incubated by its unwillingness to watch anything other than Fox or listen to anything other than Glen Beck, Rush, et. al, liberals do to themselves by reading left-leaning blogs, etc. I do not claim everyone does this, but I will claim it is easy, all too easy, to read things which we agree with, further insulating ourselves in our own opinions. It’s a human tendency, really, just on a vast, technological scale: we want to belong; we want our opinions to matter; our opinions matter most to those who think like us.

The biggest lie America has told itself is that we are Individuals, all capable of making independent decisions because we are rugged, solo warriors who allow nothing and no one to influence us. And yet: commercials. And yet: trends. And yet: memes. And yet: music/movie/book/tv/etc. criticism. The truth is none of us are without notions of ourselves and the world around us that have been created by the shows and movies we watch, the ads we see, the things we listen to, ad nasuem. We like to believe otherwise, and that’s because we have been told that by advertising. The entire modern concept of the United States has little to nothing to do with the Individual and has everything to do with the Manipulation. We are all willing participants in the Manipulation–without it, the U.S. no longer exists as we have grown used to seeing it. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; the problem occurs when we start believing the advertisement as a cultural foundation upon which we construct our social and moral order.

Again, the main culprit in this is the internet, especially in how it has destroyed print journalism. While there is no point in arguing about whether or not the “media” is bias one way or the other [quick sidenote rant that I can’t help: how the hell can conservatives rant about the “mainstream” media when Fox News is the most watched cable news station? Does it get more mainstream than that? I mean, honestly?], it is important to see that by giving the freedom for anyone with an opinion [yes, I see the kettle, and it is black], the internet has turned journalism into an ability to create site hits. So much of our interaction with broad public policy has to do with what site or headline grabs our attention. It makes fiscal sense to say something like “Obama is HITLER!” or “The GOP Hates Vaginas!” because people will click on those things. The actual article matters little after that because the hits create [supposed] financial stability. Newspapers made money from advertisements, and could charge more for those ads based on circulation–that’s simple economics; however, a newspaper was not beholden to the quick attention among a billion voices. A newspaper, as an entity, requires time and thought, and, in turn, its articles were supposed to reflect that. A failure to do so meant lost readers. It’s a fundamental change not just in how we obtain information, but what we want that information to do for us as readers.

I, clearly, as easily indicated by the title of this site, am bias. I will admit, however, that I try to read and / or listen to opposing views. I try to understand policy as thoroughly as possible, and what I realize, above all other things, is that not being ignorant is incredibly exhausting. This is not because of the work involved; it’s because, at this point, I find it impossible to truly know what the facts are, what polls really tell us, what opinions are authentic and what ones are paid for–facts are often, at worst, lied about and at best merely manipulated to give the numbers said person wants; polls are so easily manipulated by simply changing wording that anyone can get the responses that are desired; when the leaders of Malaysia are discovered to be paying conservative media members to start saying nice things about them, it becomes hard to imagine that such a thing is an isolated event. Increasingly it is clear that powerful lobbies have the ability to determine what information is released to the public; as such, it is impossible to know what to believe which makes it so much easier to just read what I already agree with because I don’t have to question it [despite the fact that I should]. This is the common citizen plight.

The ability, then, to obtain so much information means that we really don’t know anything. In the same way we don’t have to know who the 14th president is because, hey, Google, we don’t need to know what Kenseyian economics is because, hey, Wikipedia. We can know and do have access to every single piece of knowledge in human kind, but that doesn’t mean we are equipped in any real way to handle it. This means we feel we have the right to know anything, yet don’t feel the pressure to actually study it. It’s a lopsided and self-absorbed state of thinking.

This self-absorption doesn’t just allow ignorance to become more pervasive, it demands such. And ignorance means less critical thought, of the information and of oneself, which means it’s that much easier to be a raving lunatic because you are no longer capable of performing self-analysis wherein you would recognize that you are, at best, under-informed. The combination of the American Individual and the Internet means people have access to spew their vitriol and then believe they have the right to do so. It’s, on some level, delusion, and delusion is, at its heart, insanity.

People claim they want answers, but in reality they want verification. Facts only work as verification if they serve our opinion; otherwise, they get in the way. There is no better example of this than Paul Ryan’s most recently proposed budget, a rehash of previous Ryan budgets, including the one he and Romney ran on and lost on. Losing does not inherently discredit his budget approach. However, numerous studies, like this one discussed in The Atlantic, indicate his emphasis on tax reduction does nothing to actually promote growth for the country as a whole:

Analysis of six decades of data found that top tax rates “have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth.” However, the study found that reductions of capital gains taxes and top marginal rate taxes have led to greater income inequality. Past studies cited in the report have suggested that a broad-based tax rate reduction can have “a small to modest, positive effect on economic growth” or “no effect on economic growth.”

Now, such studies mean nothing to many people because the studies don’t confirm what those people want to say/hear. The other problem goes back to the idea that information cannot be trusted, that we have little to no idea where information comes from and how much of it we can believe has no bias. As such, even fact checker websites get accused of liberal or conservative bias; the world of information stagnates in its own ability to question itself. The questions no longer create in-depth analysis of the problem at hand, but actually enable the problem at hand to split into pure ideology.

The Republican line is, “Cut taxes, promote job growth.” The Democratic line appears to be, “Raise taxes, invest in job growth.” Clearly, I disagree with the Republican model, and all anyone has to do is look at Europe’s austerity measures to see such draconian actions are ineffective. How the right wing deficit hawks can shout about the evils of socialist Europe while copying their exact model for recession recovery has become such a mind-boggling oxymoron that I don’t even know how to address the idiocy. However, I don’t believe in the Democrats either, but not because I disagree with their message, at least on the surface, but because President Obama, for all of the GOP’s “Hugo Chavez-Stalin-OH MY GOD LOOK AT GREECE-HE’S A COMMIE SOCIALIST RED MUSLIM WHO HATES AMURRRICA” shouting, is damn clearly, outside of wanting to tax the wealthy, a moderate Republican.

What I hate most about U.S. politics is the Republican stance that if you don’t agree with them that you hate the U.S. I don’t understand this at all. The GOP is not just the party of No, but also the party of Defensiveness. Any disagreement with them is an “attack,” on America, on money, on “freedom of religion,” on and on. They have positioned themselves to disagree with everything by way of a two-year old tantrum: the world can only be as I see it, and anyone who disagrees or interferes with such shall be forced to endure my screaming and crying until I am pacified with exactly what I want.

And the Democrats placate them. There is constant talk of a Grand Bargain; nobody does anything to stop the dismantling of the Electoral  College by states who want to go Red in presidential elections except to hope that such talk gets squashed by “clearer thinking;” both sides act like the 2014 mid-term elections are more important than the current state of things because who ever wins those can get their way, but somehow such thinking ignores that the Republicans have found a way to filibuster anything and everything and even if they were to win the Senate, the Democrats would just follow suit. Nothing will get done because getting something done risks one’s job in 2014 and onward. Apparently, the constituents whom these politicians work for have no problems regarding work, money, health care, etc., so it’s good that the politicians can prioritize their own.

For those of you who blindly accept Obama as better simply because he’s a Democrat, then you are just as silly as the people watching Fox News. Obama has made moves to liberalize certain aspects of our society, and for that he should be applauded; however, he rarely, if ever, actually takes a strong stand on anything, except for higher taxes. His presidential transparency is opaque at best. Gitmo is still open; drones are horrifying; he says we need to work on green technology but hasn’t denied the Keystone XL project that wants to carry the dirtiest oil on the planet, instead, he keeps finding a way to step around it; there has been no real movement to truly stand behind marriage equality and gun control–just enough talking points to make it clear he thinks it’s probably a good idea, but does anything happen? I know, most of the liberals will say the Republicans won’t allow any of it to occur. That shouldn’t matter; if Obama truly believed in progressive causes, then he shouldn’t just stand behind them, he should be leading them.

In the end, Obama has some liberal social notions, but very few of which he will actually look to make happen; and, fiscally, all you have to do is read Matt Taibbi’s ongoing journalistic take-down of Wall Street and banking industry to see that the president doesn’t actually give one god damn about fiscal justice. Piles and piles of proof of jail-able offenses by banks and bankers exist, and yet no one goes to jail. HSBC pays a fine that amounts to about a month’s worth of business for them, and it’s lauded as being a victory, but if you the average citizen had accepted any money from a terrorist organization or drug dealer, you’d be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Here’s a solution instead of saying jailing bankers would destabilize the economy: instead of allowing the very people who destabilized the economy continue with their horrendous money practices, you put people in jail and install individuals in their place. The bank keeps functioning and the new people in place will be expected to behave accordingly or the process of jail/replacement continues. The bottom line is both parties are subject to Big Money. Just go here: How Congressional Democrats Spend Their Time. That’s the Democratic side, and if you don’t think that the Republicans follow the exact same schedule, well, you’re delusional. This should have been the biggest news story of the year, yet it’s basically buried on Huffington Post. Welcome to the democratic process where raising money for future elections is more important than knowing, discussing, and determining solutions for America’s problems.

The GOP has won the media battle in terms of delineating sides: they alone are the defenders of American Individual Liberties and Rewards of Hard Work; Progressives are the party of Giving Away All That We Work For and Everything America Stands For. The question is, how are conservatives so much more successful at the media game than progressives? Why, for instance, does Paul Ryan’s budget proposal garner so much more attention than the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ budget proposal? The answer is simple: page hits.

Being angry makes it easier to create headlines. As the Defensive Party, the GOP has entrenched itself as the place for the self-righteous to congregate. They control political talk radio; I can name three huge conservative talk radio hosts–Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity [sidenote rant: I hate Sean Hannity. Hate him. It’s hard to put into words the level of hate here; it’s on par with Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets talking about having to take pills.]–whereas, I can’t name one progressive talk radio host; I’m certain they exist, and those on the right would probably just say something like, “NPR, duh,” or, “the whole media empire, duh,” but, No. Progressive talking points don’t have the immediate headline grabbing impact that conservative ones do; therefore, they don’t lend themselves to modern society’s stance on getting information, and, yes, we can thank Nirvana for their prescient and psychic notions: I want to be entertained! Despite, in general, being a party of outdated old white guys, the conservative movement has successfully built itself into the cultural landscape by providing for people the page-hit-attention they crave. Anger motivates people to get loud, and if you’re always defensive, it doesn’t matter how angry the other side gets, you can always be angrier about their anger, a cycle that doesn’t even break when one is proven wrong because, hey, facts aren’t necessary in this “post-fact” world. Facts do not equal attention; not having attention equals not having money; not having money means your voice has no reason to be heard.

People  like to say the internet has freed us; to an extent this rings true. However, that freedom has fundamentally changed how we think, not in terms of what we believe, but in the actual, physical way in which we create and consider thoughts. I read an interesting article not too long ago (unfortunately, I don’t remember where, so I can’t link. My apologies.) about how countries who don’t suffer through winter have, in general, an inability to do long term planning because they’ve never had to long term plan about food as it is always growing season. To the average American citizen, this seems ridiculous, and, yet, our current political process is entirely built on short-term thinking. The truth is this: the United States cannot continue to think of itself as a significant world leader when it cannot find a way to even take care of itself. Our infrastructure is a mess; our reliance on fossil fuels is short-sighted; no matter what the climate deniers want to yell, climate change is occurring at a rate even faster than scientists predicted; the amount of money thrown at Defense is nothing more than the U.S. entering a penis-measuring contest–look at us, we got huge dicks! You can tell because we got a zillion missiles!; there’s a lot of talk about how the deficit is taking away from our “children,” but very little talk about how lack of planning, in terms of energy/health care/technology/grid and city planning/education/etc. efficiency, threatens all future U.S. residents; there is plenty of waste at the government level, but that doesn’t mean reduction has to be made based on ideological lines–how about instead we locate the waste and find ways to streamline it? We are at the mercy of fear/class/war -mongers because they, again, have found a way to be the loudest. Just like my sister pointed out to me, if you’re always angry or sarcastic or ironic, that means you don’t feel anything or don’t want to feel anything, and if you can’t/don’t feel anything, you can’t be concerned with anything other than yourself. It’s short-sighted to think that U.S. is special enough to never fail; it’s criminal to allow that short-sighted view dictate our policies.

#20: I finally watch the Dark Knight Rises

It is not a highly supported argument, in terms of the general fan, to say Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is not a good movie. However, the fact is the movie is not particularly good when considered as a single entity; instead, it is an overly-reliant-on-twists Explosion Spectacular Revenge Story by way of Lifetime Movie Network. [A second] However, as a rebuttal, Nolan’s determination to consider the psychological costs of what it means to wear a mask throughout the trilogy as a whole means Rises still has the ability to mean something. [The third] However, in the end, Nolan’s failure to truly address this psychological layering in this last Batman episode is what ends up rendering this as that Revenge Story and why the movie actually fails to deliver on the promise that seems so readily available after the first two movies.

When considering the psychology of masks, most people assume a mask has entirely to do with Hiding and Protection; strange as it may appear on the surface, these two terms can be mutually exclusive: Batman hides his identity, whereas Superman protects his by pretending to be much weaker. In the real world, a person may hide his identity to protect himself—the Witness Protection program, say—or, in a far more common trope, a person may use the protection of never having to identify him/herself to become an internet troll, and, thus, the mask most used today is the computer screen.  For Christopher Nolan, however, in the Batman trilogy, the mask is not about H&P; it has everything to do with cultural projection, an interesting twist on how we—the viewer, the community of viewers, society at large—think of ourselves.

Strangely enough, one of the more intriguing interpretations of mask psychology occurs in the aptly named The Mask, a Jim Carrey vehicle that also helped introduce audiences to Cameron Diaz. While it’s easy, and correct overall, to see this movie as just another way for Carrey to act a loon and perform as many impersonations as could be thought of, at its core it asks an important question: Who am I? For Jim Carrey’s character, Stanley Ipkiss, the answer has two parts; on one hand he’s a mild-mannered man who just wants to be loved, on the other, he’s apparently a wildly outgoing man capable of seducing women through sheer will—the Superego and the Id. What we learn while watching, however, is that neither of these two presentations are truly who Stanley Ipkiss is; both are, in their own ways, masks he uses to create a version of himself he believes is most necessary; as the “nice” man he can prevent himself from taking risks that may hurt; as the “mask” he can take whatever risks he wants without any consequences because the masked Stanley is merely a cartoon, a non-reality that eliminates any possibility of hurt. The breakthrough (shallow as it may be) for him is discovering he can win Diaz’s heart by being a combination of the two.

Nolan has long dealt with the idea of identity of self versus the projection of self. In his early movie Memento, with Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a type of short term amnesiac trying to track down his wife’s murderer, we have a narrator who must cope with knowing exactly who he is but is physically incapable of remembering what he does for longer than a few minutes. He literally has no idea who he is in the present moment. Instead of a mask, he covers himself with tattoos, things he has determined to be essential to his identity. The movie is shot in jarring fashion, unraveling backwards, each cut a way to reinforce the memory faults of the clearly unreliable narrator. What we know of Shelby is learned by way of a phone call he is having that acts as the Plot Developer, but we eventually learn that  Leonard has no idea who he is talking to; as such, how much of his story can we accept? The audience is privy to a host of possibilities, including Shelby being an escaped patient or being used to murder people for a dirty cop or purposely setting himself up to commit murder out of anger or some combination of those. By giving no clear indication of the answer, Nolan dares the audience to come up with it—Do You Know Who Leonard Shelby Is? could have been a pre-Facebook meme that considers an important facet of living in modern society: do we know who anyone is and if we can’t answer that question,  does that means nobody can answer that question about ourselves? And suddenly things start getting complicated.

In the later films, The Prestige and Inception, the complications associated with identity aren’t just investigated but are completely unraveled. In The Prestige, for the sake of art Christian Bale’s twins dedicate themselves to being one person, maintaining the illusion through actual physical disfigurement; what is witnessed is far more important than what is true.  Hugh Jackman, in turn, finds a way to clone himself, the ultimate mask in reality, only to kill off the extra version of himself for the sake of “magic;” more troubling to the viewer, though, is the question that never quite gets asked: Who is getting cloned? Is the original Hugh still in existence, or is each clone a copy of the previous clone, and, if so, how real is he? How real could he be? And is there any more obvious question to ask of Inception than, what the hell is real? Isn’t the very idea of entering into someone’s dreams a harrowing violation of self? Are we at any time any more “unmasked” than when we dream, but does that make our dream-selves more or less real than our awake-selves? Of course, Nolan elects to only leave the top spinning as an answer.

Considering this strange fascination with identity and its role in determining what reality is, it should be no surprise Nolan wanted to work on the Batman reboot. While the trilogy has been praised for gritty-ing up the comic book genre, in truth it should be most praised for pushing the layering of mask psychology to previously, in comic book movies at least, unexplored levels. What Nolan has been most interested in each movie isn’t so much the cost of being Batman but the cost of self-understanding. Ask yourself the following question, if you were a citizen of an actual Gotham City, who would you consider more real, Batman or Bruce Wayne? The obvious answer is Bruce Wayne; he was actually born, his existence has been determined through various governmental channels that we understand, he has a history that can, to a certain degree, be traced and understood. Batman, on the other hand, has none of those attributes.  Yet, there is very little of Bruce Wayne that matters to you, average citizen that you are, whereas Batman may have a direct influence on your day-to-day life; Batman exists as an actual being creating change in your city; Bruce Wayne is an abstraction, a money sign that roosts over the city in general.

Knowing this, Nolan presents an interesting thesis: Batman is the real Bruce and Mr. Wayne is the mask he wears. In Nolan’s mind, Batman and Superman have far more in common than just capes.  Mr. Wayne is a caricature of the Rich Playboy, easily able to have people believe he has absconded the Russian ballet on a whim or, more importantly, people believe him so incapable of committing to justice there is no chance he could ever be confused with Batman. Mr. Wayne is Batman’s most vital mask. As such, it is clear that the greatest cost of being Batman is not the physical risks but that at no point is the real Bruce able to be anything more than what other people need him to be; for Gotham he is Batman; for Batman and those closest to him, he is Mr. Wayne; Alfred knows of the two masks, and he clearly hates both. What must it mean to the human psyche to never be anything but Another in all situations and then to have the closest person to you desperately want you to give all that up?

This is, to put it bluntly, some deep shit to take on. We currently reside in a society where the ability to craft a self on multiple social media platforms means a person can have as many “selves” as s/he can come up with; the limits of our self-creation are whatever parameters our moral and / or imaginative guidelines determine for us. As such, Reality, as most of us most likely understand it, has very little to do with the world around us, and far more with how we project ourselves into that world. The dilemma of this is that such projections have nothing to do with reality, in a completely objective way, because self-reality is created by beliefs. Consider the response to the Guns-In-America debate: on one side, people assume gun control is necessary in order to prevent tragedies; on the other side, people assume tragedies are an inherent part of modern living, and, as such, they must take protective steps. Neither side can refute the following statement: Guns are designed to kill. What they do refute is the belief of how and why that gun is wielded. In essence, reality is arbitrary because its construction is one of billions of personal projections all seen as having the right to exist.

Therefore, the very idea of Who Am I means parsing through an incredible amount of internal and external stimuli. The fascinating part of this Batman trilogy is that it actually reflects much more on celebrity culture than anything else. Obviously, political overtones—extradition, due process, war on terror, etc.—are the things given most attention, but Nolan clearly, on purpose or not, has an understanding of the Cult of Celebrity, and this understanding feeds directly into the Idea That is Batman: if you are a celebrity who are you except that which the audience has decided? The question Who Am I has far less meaning than Who Do You Declare Me to Be. Batman / Mr. Wayne, even as Bruce himself struggles with the idea of Mask can be nothing more than what Gotham thinks of him. This is beaten over the movie audience’s head at the end of the second movie where Batman elects to be the villain in order to save Harvey Dent, in order to create a hero out of nothing, because Batman and James Gordon know that the objective reality of the moment has little to do with the projected reality the people will need. It becomes much easier to believe, despite all previous evidence to the contrary, that the abstraction in the mask is concrete evil, somehow existing as both specter and physical.

Such reductive thinking is no different than standing in line at the grocery story reading cover stories on the (incredible amount of) magazines dedicated to the lives of celebrities, giving its viewers and readers insight on the lives of people who the normal person only understands in a one-dimensional way—celebrity—brought to us by way of the ever astute “insider.” We, as the audience, may never truly believe what the magazines state, yet we cannot help but to include any statements into our “knowledge” of said celebrity. Combine this mentality with the internet where websites exist just to proliferate the grocery-store-line magazines and give people a chance to comment on these celebrities, and difference between rumor and reality no longer exists. The reason Mr. Wayne can supposedly run off with the Russian ballet, as stated to earlier, isn’t just because people believe it is possible of him but also because it verifies the opinions of him the people held. The reason LeAnn Rimes apparently deserves to be publicly destroyed in some modern version of the Scarlet Letter, to have each tweet, interview, picture, and PR move dissected for its layered and hidden revelation of her Horribleness, is because doing so enables people to continually reinforce their moral opinion of her. LeAnn cannot be anything other than The Woman Who Stole A Man, in the same way that Mr. Wayne cannot be anything but The Spoiled Rich Bastard, and in the same way that by the end of The Dark Knight Batman cannot be anything but The Unhinged Vigilante. There is no self but the one projected upon them by outside forces.

And this is why The Dark Knight Rises fails. Instead of continuing to build on the turmoil created by having no self but the one projected on him, we get a movie that at its core is about a woman fucking a man to fuck him over. Meanwhile, an epic opportunity to explore the layers of masks, self, reality, and projection are lost when very little actually occurs between Bane and Batman. Yes, Bane breaks Batman’s back, but even the backbreaking fight could be seen as merely creating a way to further complicate the twist of the Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter being revealed. Bane is the Batman the ending of The Dark Knight implies; he is the unknown masked terrorist, enacting justice as he sees needed, regardless of actual laws. In some parallel universe, Bane and Batman could easily reverse roles and nothing would be different. For Nolan, who so closely examined the idea of self in the first two movies, to ignore such fertile territory just to bring back Liam Neeson for a brief cameo and to give the viewers a “surprise” goes against everything that he previously established. It is sad, really, that the trilogy should end on a twist and a surprise because it could have been much more; it could have been a chance for Batman to look into the mirror and tell us what he sees.

#19: live blogging the Oscars, because I’m original like the rest of the internets

Coming to you live by way of delayed-until-I-hit-publish downstairs in the log cabin, it’s the J. Oscars Super Live Blog because I made G. watch some horrible movie called The Raven (apparently not nominated for anything) on Friday where John Cusack played Edgar Allan Poe so I cannot, in any way, argue with what she wants to watch. Currently, I am watching the awkward-as-hell red carpet interviews because G. “likes to see what people are wearing.” This means I have reactions like:
Jennifer Garner — she’s a purple stegasaurus, how Barney of her.
Halle Berry — a glam zebra; she even has a mowhawk hairstyle to act as the mane. Well done, you batshit insane, woman.
George Clooney — George somehow makes looking like the Unabomber awesome.
Look, there are Anne Hathaway’s tits. And she just made a mullet reference about her dress? Or it was a butt sex joke.

Okay, what in the hell is this trivia crap they are pulling? Aaaaaand, Anne, who the internets hates or something because she’s really into winning an Oscar and as an actress this is a horrible thing for her to want because it’s sooooooo, like, just terrible of her to want her acting to be recognised as good and stuff, guesses the trivia.

Um, I don’t think Jamie Foxx’s daughter could look more uncomfortable. Maybe she’s wearing a corset that’s pinching. There’s no way it could be the fact that her dad is sexing up on Kelly Rowland live on tv right in front of her.

I honestly expected Daniel Day-Lewis to show up in character. Is Daniel Day-Lewis a character? Like, DDL is a method actor about his own non-movie role? That’d be meta as fuck.

Whoever the short lady asking question on the red carpet is–I know she was on that show Pushing Daisies–looks like her hair is pulled so tight that it’s like she’s scalping herself.

Kelly Rowland just said “there are no words” when it comes to Halle Berry. I disagree; there are at least a few: nuts, insane, holy shit that woman is cracked out of her damn mind, and, of course, glam zebra.

Renee Zellweger or however the hell her name is spelled is apparently trying to look like the Oscar trophy. If Bridget Jones wrote about a Renee movie, would the world explode? Or would it just be retarded? Both?

Queen Latifah is bringing the U-N-I-T-Y.

Why the hell do the red carpet hosts have butterflies “for the nominees”? I don’t get it.

I will bet $65,873,990,042,994 Seth MacFarlane is horrible tonight, but not a dollar more.

The Penguins are also on at the moment, and they are currently winning. FOR YOUR INFORMATION. Also, the Pirates won a spring training game, which means it’s time to guarantee a World Series. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.

Nice glasses, Coppola dude. They’re just great. You look like a War Games reject.

Obligatory DDL method actor joke. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, DDL ACTS SO HARD WHEN HE’S ACTING IN A MOVIE IT’S LIKE THE WORLD ISN’T REAL. Or something.

Mel Gibson bashing. I keep expecting Seth to make some sort of “I’m banging the kaleesi!” sing-a-long. Oh, instead we get a “we saw your boobs” sing-a-long. I’m impressed with my guess, however.

If G. could get boners, she’d have a boner over Charlize Theron. This is a direct quote. Also, “Channing Tatum looks like a potato.” Channing Chips for the ladies!

Harry Potter is a midget.

Even the Oscars mock Anne Hathaway wanting to win an award. This is reaching stupid levels of stupid.

So, in case you weren’t getting it, Seth singing is awesome. A lot. This is apparently hilarity in action. SINGING, WOOOOOOOFUCKINGHOOOOOOOO.

Best Supporting Actor: I’m guessing it’s going to be an old white guy. The Nazi dude wins and I was totally right in my prediction. Also, I get that Tarantino thinks himself a badass, but is it too much to ask that he not look like he’s on the last legs of a 5 day bender when he comes to this thing? Dressing sloppy does not a scary motherfucker make.

Melissa McCarthy is channeling that Chris Farley SNL talk show host character.

Best Animated Short (? I think?): Paperman, not to be confused with The Paperboy where Nicole Kidman pisses on the dude from High School Musical. Keep that shit straight, yo. Unless you’re into weird, weird, weird, anime.

Best Animated Feature or something: Brave, in which a redhead is not told to dye her hair, and accented people shoot arrows in hilariously and emotional and maturing ways.

Samuel L. Jackson is dressed like a 1950s hotel bellhop.

Achievement in Cinematography: Life of Pi. If you asked me to explain what the hell this award is for, I’d tell you the decision is based on how much fun it is to watch a particular movie while stoned out of one’s mind. And based on the dude who just won it, I’d say he enjoys lots of mind-altering experiences. I may be generalising. Or judging. Also, he won’t stop talking.

Achievement in Visual Effects: Life of Pi, again. Because, again, drugs and movies are fun. The guy speaking just said Mike Malone, but I thought he said Mark Malone, and I thought he was a big Steelers fan, and, well, he just got cut the fuck off by the production people. Mark Malone’s mustache celebration should never be cut off. Oh, and I will include that as a pun, thanks.

The Penguins are still winning, FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

Jennifer Aniston and Channing Chips making waxing banter, hilarity ensues.

Best Costume Design: The Russian movie. Or whatever. Anna Karenina. The dog just got excited, so apparently he’s a big fan of period movies. Or at least, the costumes.

Achievement in Make-Up and Hairstyling (?): Le Mis. I’m certain people will find a way to bash Anne Hathaway for this. Which she deserves. Because, good God, wanting to win an Oscar is lame. Holy Pink Tights.

Bulimia jokes are always awesome!

GLAM ZEBRA introducing 50 years of James Bond. Who will be the next Bond? I’m guessing Harry Potter, because MI6 or whatever can run much more efficiently and cost-effective when they get rid of the R&D department and replace it with a magic wand. Hermione can replace M. Right? That’s the boss lady, isn’t it? I’m rather Bond ignorant. Sadly, I know way more about Austin Powers.

I have no idea who that lady is singing a Bond song; I think I’m supposed to, though. I’m a cultural failure.

Kerry Washington kind of looks like a walking bobblehead.

Best Live Action Short Film: how short must a short film be? I wonder at the regulations in play here. Curfew. Applause follows. There’s no way anyone there knows who they are applauding for. “Producer-in-crime” was actually stated.

Best Documentary, Short Subject: It better be whatever that was about old people dancing. Inocente? or something? My computer only types in English (AAAAMMMMUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRIIIICCCCAAAAAAAAA)

Liam Neeson could kick your ass. It’s funny, in that not-funny way, that Lincoln led to Mississippi finding out they hadn’t ratified the 13th amendment and then had to do so quickly. Life as art as life and whoa.

Best Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man. I read an article about this guy once; is that on the same level as watching this movie? Also, any time I see people from South Africa, I try to guess their age and see if they had been a part of the apartheid society because, um, I have no idea why. But it’s what I do.

The Penguins are still winning, FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

Best Foreign Language Film: AAAAMMMMUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRIIIICCCCAAAAAAAAA

Um, is that how John Travolta always talks? He sounds like English is his third language. Look, without any reference to Face Off, there’s no reason to bring out Travolta. I remember when it was a big deal when Catherine Zeta-Jones wore that body suit and went through lasers in whatever that movie was with Sean Connery, where Sean was a master thief–Entrapment? For the internet’s sake, I’m just going to assume she’s lip synching. Actually, from now on, I’m just going to assume everyone is always lip synching, all the time, including when I’m having face-to-face conversations with people and that this is proof the Matrix exists and the computers control everyone around me. I used to think it was called “lip singing” and I didn’t understand how singing with one’s lips was different than actual singing and found it very confusing. I believe this whole section of the Oscars is called, Musicals Matter. I haven’t understood a single word Jennifer Hudson has sang. I don’t think I have good ears, but I get the feeling in all the recaps people are going to talk about how she slayed.

Is Russell Crowe going to sing live up in this bitch? Maybe he’ll improvise some lyrics about beer, gladiators, and his rugby team. Isn’t actually really lame to have people in a movie currently up for awards to sing live at the award show? If the movie wins a bunch, then this singing just makes it clear that the Oscars is bias; if they don’t win, then why would a movie that can’t win be featured? It’s a no-win situation. Oh, right, it’s Anne Hathaway’s fault; she’s such a try-hard bitch. AND RUSSELL DID SING, THE WORLD IS GLORIOUS.

Well, kids, I’m old and G. has to go to work in the morning, so, that’s it for me. I don’t give a shit who wins, but for the sake of the universe’s sanity, I hope Anne’s tears don’t drown the Earth. I assume she’s crying whether she wins or loses and the flood could be of biblical proportions.

My predictions include Zero Dark Thirty, because fuck it. I think the Oscar voters like the idea of pissing off Spielberg again.

Good night.

#18: adventures in Gossip Girl

In today’s exciting debut of a random column idea that may never be followed up, we start in the middle of season two of the rich-kids-of-NYC-and-not-the-OC-doing-dramatic-shit-or-whatever, and shit is hitting the fan. For those of you who don’t know, Gossip Girl is a teen drama that ran on the CW, I think, for I have no idea how many seasons and is now on Netflix and G. enjoys watching it, which means I watch it, which means I spend way too much time thinking about the purpose of the show, beyond, of course, showing people in their twenties playing teenagers who, by way of family or something, have more money than some small countries or even some middle-sized countries.

Something I don’t understand: shows about poor people are always comedies; rich people can go either way, but apparently poor folks don’t have drama. While I will not support this with a thorough researched proof of such a general statement, I will say Gossip Girl = millionaires cavorting in dramatic fashion, and Raising Hope = poor ass folks who make us laugh. Proof, check, and mate.

I can’t finish this. They just had the one high school senior writer douchebag nonchalantly mention he had a story accepted by the Paris Review, and wires in my brain just fried. Oh, and his little sister is apparently a design superstar gone homeless because, like, dads are so overbearing when it comes to making clothes for a living at 15. Everyone is a superstar! See, kids, the GOP has it right: cash money = better human, as long as you’re white, or maybe, just maybe now, Hispanic. We’re getting political.

I understand that television operates on a heightened emotional scale, that we, as viewers, don’t want to invest our sitting time in something that merely reminds us of our every day lives; what would be the point? If that’s what I wanted, I would just film one of my days, then put it on repeat on the tv. The excitement and ratings for such a thing would most likely be lacking. However, I find something about the obvious class warfare in this show to be unsettling, probably on a purely politically correct reasoning. I have a hard time believing watching television informs who I am, and, yet, it clearly does. This gets pointed out to me quite often on the website Cracked. What that means is, when I watch rich people assume a life of jet-setting dramatic good times, I assume that my life would be one of Europe luxury train rides and St. Bart’s golf courses and yachts and boat shoes and slick-as-hell pastel shirt, tie, and v-neck sweater outfits [okay, I can’t make fun of the last one. There are very few of Chuck Bass’ outfits I wouldn’t willingly wear]. Oh, sidenote: the guy from the Princess Bride who always says “inconceivable” all the time just made an appearance as somebody’s mom’s boyfriend. This caused much chagrin. Ugliness is not tolerated in the world of money.

Oh, and now senior superstar writer is going to write for New York Magazine because, um, he’s from Brooklyn, man, and the kid has all that talent to go with those cheek bones. Where was I? Oh, right, tv’s influence on my ability to actually know the world around me: I will never be able to be objective.