WE ARE LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD, AND I AM A MATERIAL GIRL

So, in my most recent blog post, I sort of obliquely discussed the philosophy of materialism.

I would have to do more research to confirm this, but the type of “materialism” I was referring to in that post most resembles dialectical materialism, but I am not confident that I would necessarily agree with everything in that particular philosophy.

In fact, what I am talking about might better be described as physicalism rather than materialism. I am honestly not sure.

At any rate, what I was (and am) talking about is the idea that everything in the universe is explainable through “material” or “physical” terms. And yes, that includes all types of “spiritual” and/or “supernatural” experiences.

My use of “quotation marks” there should not be misconstrued as reductive. I am not trying to delegitimize anyone’s subjective experiences, nor am I trying to say that things like religion and “spirituality” are useless.

On the contrary, I think both of those things can have an enormously positive effect on people at the individual level, and as long as religious people don’t try to force any of their views on other people, and as long as those views don’t oppress anyone within the religious group in any way, I have no problem whatsoever with anyone’s religious views.

Religion (and membership in any other sort of ideologically-based group) provides its adherents with a sense of community, a common set of values and beliefs, and so on. To repeat, I think that membership in such groups can have an enormously positive effect on people at the individual level. And heck, it can have an enormously positive effect at the group level, also…

Have you ever heard anyone say (or have you ever said), “I want to feel like I am part of something bigger than myself”?

That feeling, I would venture, is one that is common across all religious and/or ideologically-based groups. It’s also, I would venture, a feeling that is common to all (or at least most) human beings. The desire to feel connected to something or someone outside of and separate to one’s own physical self.

I certainly have this desire. And I have come to realize that my relatively recent (like in the past few years, I mean) attraction to various strains of materialism is a product of that desire.

This may not be immediately apparent — it wasn’t immediately apparent to me, at least — based on that last post I wrote. Someone could easily read that post as “human beings are just physical things, thoughts and emotions are just the result of physical processes, nothing means anything, we’re all gonna die” and not see anything more than that. That’s my fault; actually after publishing that post I remembered that I didn’t post it last July because it might be interpreted like that, and I didn’t quite know how to articulate how and why I didn’t intend for it to be interpreted that way.

I am not sure I can articulate it now, but I am gonna try:

I think it goes back to a phase I went through a decade or more ago when I was fascinated with transcendentalism, specifically its attempts to integrate/appropriate various spiritual traditions into one philosophy. This led me to Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, though only in a philosophical/intellectual sort of way. I never converted to anything — in “the anthropological sense,” I remain a Southern Baptist — but philosophically (and more importantly, politically), I have very little in common with most Southern Baptists, beyond “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Anyways, I have personal views and beliefs that prevent me from being able to honestly say that I adhere to 100% to any of the various philosophies and/or religions I have listed so far. I don’t quite “belong” in any of those groups.

That’s not me trying to prove I am special, or that the objections I have to various aspects of these philosophies and/or religions make me “unique” or something. I am just relating to you, the reader, that I don’t feel especially “connected” to any ideologically based group… although I am certainly “more connected” to some than I am to others.

So, what’s a person to do, once he (or she) has explored various philosophies, gone by various labels (I used to tell people I was a “Taoist,” for example), and subsequently found that he (or she) doesn’t quite “belong” in any of them completely?

Especially when this person acknowledges fully that he (or she) *wants* to belong to a group, because as mentioned above, group membership can have an enormously positive effect on one’s life?

Should he or she start (or join) a group of philosophical misfits, whose only reason for belonging to the group is that they don’t belong in any other group? Sure, one *could* do that…

Or, one could attempt to do what I am attempting to do, though I admittedly am not doing a very good job of explaining what I am trying to do: put every philosophy and every religion under one umbrella.

I wish I were able to articulate it better than that, but alas, I’m not. Let me try again:

The desire to feel connected to something larger than oneself can be satisfied (or perhaps “realized”) without even bothering to join any group. (And yes, I borrowed this idea from someone else.)

You *already are* part of something larger than yourself. You are part of the whole of humanity. You are a member of a species that inhabits the planet Earth, which is part of a solar system, which is part of a galaxy, which is part of the universe… which may be only one of many universes.

You are part of that. The process that produced lil’ ol’ you began around 13.8 billion years ago. It will keep going a looooooong time after you’re gone. After I’m gone; after everyone currently living is gone.

At any rate, that’s what sits at the heart of my own personal attraction to materialism: the desire to feel “connected.”

Does that make *any* sense whatsoever? Honest question.

A COMPLETELY NON-SCHOLARLY DISCUSSION OF MATERIALISM, WHICH, LIKE IT OR NOT, ACTUALLY CAN DESCRIBE PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS* IN THE UNIVERSE, FROM HERE TO GN-z11

*and what it can’t describe yet will probably be described at some point in the future, assuming humanity doesn’t destroy itself first.

Hi there.

If you’ve read my blog at all, like pretty much any post, you already know that my approach to blogging is haphazard at best.

And if you haven’t, i.e. if this is the first of my I don’t even know how many posts you’ve taken a gander at, well, you’re about to find that out.

Here is what is happening right now:

My brain is sending bioelectric impulses to my spinal cord, which provides a pathway through the muscles of my arms to my fingers.

These impulses compel my fingers to strike the keys on my keyboard.

The muscles in my hands and fingers have been trained by decades of interaction with QWERTY-arranged keyboards so that it is not strictly necessary for me to look at the keyboard while I am typing.

Most of that last sentence was typed without looking. I did have to fix a couple typos, but I did so without looking for the “backspace” button. And I did involuntarily glance at the keyboard a couple or three times, despite making a concerted effort not to.

Why? Because my eyes have become accustomed to glancing down at the keyboard.

That is to say, the muscles that control my eye movements have become accustomed thusly.

But back to the keyboard: after my fingertips strike the keys, the mechanism under each key sends a signal through my computer, and for every letter I type (and for every punctuation mark I type), the corresponding character appears on my screen.

When I click “save draft” (as I just did a few seconds ago), what I have typed is recorded onto a hard drive connected to the WordPress server, the exact location of which is unknown to me.

After I finish and publish this blog post, and you (whoever you are) read it, your computer, tablet, or smartphone will have sent a message the WordPress server requesting to access it, and the WordPress server will have replied by sending your device the data saved in the file on their server.

Forgive me if any of that is “off,” with regard to exact terms.

My point is that “blogging,” from the impulses that prompt my fingers to strike the keys on my keyboard to the light being focused by your eyes’ lenses (and the corrective lenses you may or may not have sitting in front of your eyes) on the retinas at the back of your eyes, to your brain interpreting the signals sent through your optic nerves (the awkward plurals here being a result of most humans having two eyes) to you having any sort of emotional reaction (from bored indifference to anger) to what you are reading is an entirely physical process.

Do I understand every detail of this process well enough to explain it? Unfortunately, no. Much to my chagrin, I do not in fact know everything.

I am quite limited in what I know. What I know is a result of what I have studied and what I have been taught, and the subjects I chose to focus on were largely a result of my environment and my own personal set of genes.

Which one of those two things (environment and genetics) played the bigger role is up for debate. And that’s a debate for a more knowledgeable person to comment on; my point in mentioning those two things is that they are both quite physical. Genes are actual physical things, I mean, and the environment one grows up in acts upon a person in an entirely physical way.

This includes the things that are said to one as a child. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a pretty positive environment (I have no complaints, really); I just want to state that before I continue.

Things that are said, like things that are typed, originate in the brain. The difference is that the muscles involved in speaking are a different set of muscles than the ones involved in typing. And also, of course, things that are said out loud are heard when sound waves strike the eardrums, and so on and so forth.

None of this is magical. None of this requires any sort of magical explanation.

At one point in human history, before far more intelligent and intuitive persons than I figured all of this stuff out, we believed things like this were magical.

They’re not magical.

My fingers striking the keyboard is not magical.

Your retinas sending images to your brain is not magical.

Your brain interpreting those images is not magical.

The emotions you feel or don’t feel are not magical.

Emotion. What a thing, huh? Despite all high-minded attempts to suppress them, they still dictate to us (to a degree) what we do or don’t do in any given situation.

But what are emotions?

They are neurochemical responses to external stimuli. And/or the result of our brains over- or under-producing this or that chemical, or various glands over- or under-producing this or that chemical, or the result of any number of physical occurrences within the body.

People who live with chronic pain, for example, may be more likely to suffer from depression than other people. And what causes any sort of pain? Either an external physical force (like getting punched in the face) or an internal malfunction of some bodily system.

Pain is a physical thing. And on the flipside, so is pleasure.

What is pleasure? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s a response to external stimuli. Etc.

It isn’t magical, any more than anything else is. It can certainly seem to be magical, but it’s the result of physical processes, just like everything else.

It’s unfortunate that I am not knowledgeable enough to explain all of these processes in detail. But if you’re reading this, you presumably have access to the internet, and you can look all this stuff up for yourself.

Thinking of yourself as a material thing, as an object that has been acted upon innumerable times, as an object that acts upon other objects, as an object that consists of various systems that interact with each other, etc. has its advantages. It allows you to look at yourself and your actions in a much more, well, for lack of a better term, non-magical way. That is to say, you can begin to understand why you do the things you do, and you can control those things to a much larger extent.

Don’t get me wrong: you’re still going to lose control of yourself sometimes. Sometimes you’re going to do things you regret. Sometimes you’re going to say things you wish you hadn’t said.

But instead of blaming some irrational thing like “the devil” or else just throwing your hands up and saying “well, that’s just the way I am,” you can take steps to correct yourself and prevent the same thing from happening again. Or at least reduce the probability of it happening again.

That’s not to say that “rational” is always preferable to “irrational.”

Have you ever been in love? You don’t have to tell me or anyone else, but have you?

Doesn’t it feel good to be in love with someone? Doesn’t it feel amazing to become emotionally attached to another person, someone who seems perfect in every single way, even though it’s objectively quite easy for a disinterested outsider to point out that person’s many flaws?

Doesn’t it piss you off when somebody points out your love’s flaws?

In a world of billions of people, there’s a pretty significant chance that there’s somebody else in the world that is even more physically attractive than your love (like to you personally, I mean), but here’s the thing:

Being physically close to another human being, especially one you find sexually attractive, causes neurochemicals to be released in your brain (oxytocin, for one) that cause you to feel attachment to that person.

That’s an oversimplification, to say the least. If you find that or anything else interesting, I hope you’ll look into those things more.

At any rate, you are a physical being. You act and react entirely in the physical world.

Is there anything beyond the physical world we live in?

If so, what would it consist of?

Would it have to consist of anything?

Can you even conceive of something that consists of nothing (physically speaking) without employing a physical process in your brain?

Let me remind you that reading this and thinking about what I have written is an entirely physical process.

Is the unknowable worth thinking about?

Why or why not?

🙂

FOR “MATURE” AUDIENCES ONLY

One thing most people never spend much time thinking about is how the language we use shapes our reality.

I’m not gonna go into a whole “thing” about that, and I want to say first that I am not philosophically opposed to profanity or vulgarity, or fart jokes or dick jokes or anything like that (I’m quite the opposite, actually)…

But does anyone ever stop to think about how “for mature audiences” now means, basically, “this show is full of fart jokes and dick jokes”?

I mean, yeah, I get it, people don’t want their kids to pick up nasty language and start using it, and they want shows that have nasty language to be labeled, and “for mature audiences” is (I guess) as good a way as any to label shows like that…

But what effect does labeling a show full of fart jokes and dick jokes as “for mature audiences” have on adults that watch the show? Probably nothing major, but on the other hand, does it give shows labeled as “mature” a sort of authority that they wouldn’t have otherwise?

Take South Park, for example. It’s a cartoon, chock full to the brim with fart jokes, dick jokes, and all sorts of offensive humor… and somehow it’s become a running political commentary that many people take at least semi-seriously.

The “politics” of the show are not actually informed by anything other than what a couple rich white dudes from Colorado think about various items in the news, things that usually involve the concerns of non-white (or non-rich) people.

The most recent episode, in the first 6 minutes or so, mocks anyone who acknowledges that Christopher Columbus was a murderous slave trader, as well as anyone who wants to remove any monuments to the Confederacy, or for that matter rename any building or street or anything else named after a historical figure with ties to the slave trade.

The episode before that mocked white working class people being put out of work by changes in the economy. That’s been a running gag (“They took are jebs”) for a while now on the show, and yes, I laughed at it, and even used it in online conversations regarding immigration…

Please understand that I am not advocating censorship, nor am I calling for a boycott of South Park, or anything like that. I am just making observations. Last time I checked, I was still allowed to do that. 🙂

But it’s interesting to me that as Trey Parker and Matt Stone became more successful over the years (hell, decades now), South Park became more and more political, until every single episode became its own absurdist, highly skewed take on whatever those two assholes happened to see on Reddit the week before.

Did becoming successful make them more political? Or did becoming political make them more successful?

It’s probably both. But who knows?

What I do know (well, I am about 99% sure of this) is that somewhere on the internet right now (somewhere else, I mean), someone is complaining about how South Park nowadays is looking less like the funny, irreverent, absurdist dick joke-fest the show once was, and it’s looking more and more like your standard run-of-the mill red-piller alt-right self-congratulatory tribute to the status quo.

That someone is probably pointing out that South Park’s politics are poorly informed, that it skews the points of view of non-white, non-rich people beyond recognition and relegates their legitimate concerns to mere annoyances to be mocked and/or ignored…
And I would be willing to bet you one US dollar that wherever that’s happening, there’s a (probably white, probably male, probably middle-class or above) person responding to those accusations by telling that someone complaining about South Park that they “need to grow up.”

Of course that’s speculation. I’m not going to pore over South Park discussion threads to find examples. Lord knows I’ve seen plenty already. Not just about South Park, but about anything anyone anywhere has the audacity to be offended by.

Haven’t you? Sure you have:

A: “[offensive comment/joke].”

B: “Hey, that’s offensive. You shouldn’t say [offensive thing], because [detailed, well-thought out explanation].”

A: “OMG you seriously need to grow up!”

[etc.]

You’ve never seen conversations like that?

Really? You must be new to the internet. Welcome! 😉

Somewhere along the way, the idea came into the internet’s collective unconscious that “not being offended by anything” is equivalent to “being a grown-up.”

That fart jokes and dick jokes and other offensive things are something only “mature” adults laugh at, and that anyone who doesn’t laugh, or (gasp!) has the inclination to say “that’s not funny” is just a whiny crybaby who needs to put on his big boy britches and grow up already.

I wonder where this notion came from? 🙂

To be clear, in my opinion, fart jokes are hilarious. Dick jokes? Also hilarious. I rue the day that I don’t laugh at a well-timed burst of flatulence. I anticipate laughing at fart jokes and dick jokes for the remainder of my life, however long that turns out to be.

But is that because I am “mature”?

If so, I’ve been “mature” since I was about 3 or 4.

At any rate, thanks for reading.

THE ULTIMATE IN NAVEL-GAZING: A SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR REVIEWS HIS OWN NOVEL, PART ZERO

Hello all. As you may or may not be aware, I wrote a novel. I began writing it in I believe 2014, and I finally finished and published it in June of 2016.

That is to say, I “self-published” it in June of 2016. And I do mean “self-published”: beyond a few words of encouragement from a friend or two who indulged me after I asked them to read an early chapter or two, I had approximately zero input from any other person while writing, editing, or formatting it.

Although to be fair, I did do quite a bit of Google-ing about how to format a novel for Kindle. And I may have asked friends for help regarding the HTML necessary for said formatting (I honestly don’t remember); nonetheless the actual formatting was done entirely by me.

That’s why the indents in the Kindle version are uneven, matter of fact. Anyone who is familiar at all with HTML probably knows that web browsers (and the Kindle app) do not recognize spaces or tabs at the beginning of paragraphs. You can literally hit the space bar a hundred times before you start typing a paragraph in an HTML document, and the browser (or Kindle app) will not recognize it. The same goes for the “tab” key.

So, in short, when I got ready to transfer the 200+ page document from OpenOffice Writer to Kindle, every paragraph indent in the entire novel disappeared. Which was kinda discouraging.

And even though every professionally-formatted Kindle book I own has regular indents (i.e. “indents that are all the same size/length”), and even though I scoured the internet for tips on how to achieve said regular indents, the best I was able to do was to manually insert the HTML code for a space five times in a row in front of each paragraph. (FYI the code is an ampersand [&] followed by “nbsp” followed by a semicolon [;]. I would just type the code out here in my WordPress blog text editor, but it would just appear as a space when I publish this post.)

At any rate, I copy/pasted that bit of HTML code (times 5) in front of every single paragraph in the entire novel. Or at least I attempted to; there may be a paragraph or two I missed. I will undoubtedly find out as I periodically work on this post, or perhaps series of posts.

I intend to read and comment on each of the novel’s 25 chapters. But I am getting ahead of myself:

I assumed that forcing 5 spaces to appear at the beginning of each paragraph would result in even indents. And it did, at first, when the text of the novel was left-aligned. The indents looked great, but the right margin was choppy and uneven.

And while that’s fine for a blog post in my opinion (no indents here, either), for my one genuine attempt at literary glory (if such a thing still exists) I wanted it to look as nice and presentable as possible.

So I changed the alignment to full justification. I.e. the left and right margins line up evenly with the edge of the page/screen. The thing about full justification is that it stretches (or compresses) text to make it fit the margins. Which means, spaces are no longer uniform size.

Which means, my manually-coded indents ended up being anything but uniform. Some appear more or less “regular,” others are much longer than they should be.

It was at this point that I decided that between a choppy, uneven right margin on every page and wonky indents, wonky indents were the lesser of two evils.

Why didn’t I just hire someone to format it for me, you may be wondering?

Because I was broke. As in flat. As in “Jesus Christ I hope at least a few people buy this godforsaken thing so I can afford to buy cat food this week.” I was between jobs when I did the majority of the writing, and I forestalled actively looking for steady employment while I was finishing it.

Suffice it to say I eventually had to secure other methods of procuring cat food and other necessities, and I eventually did. But on the topic of going broke while writing a novel, despite the fact that they may share articles on Facebook about how J.K. Rowling went broke and “got on the dole” (the UK equivalent of food stamps) while she was writing the first Harry Potter book, I am going to go ahead and let you know that your friends and family are not going to be impressed when you decide to sacrifice financial security for a vanity project that may or may not pay off. To be clear I am not saying I wouldn’t act the same way toward a mostly unemployed friend or family member spending hours a day on a novel or something similar; to be clear I probably would advise such a person to get over themselves and get a job.

Nonetheless, I got my novel finished before I got one. And I formatted it the best I could under the circumstances. And it isn’t perfectly formatted, but it’s formatted as well as it’s ever going to be formatted, at least on Kindle.

Why don’t I hire someone to format it for me now, now that I am once again employed and no longer destitute?

Because kiss my ass, that’s why. For good or ill, I did every damn bit of the work on that novel by myself (including the cover photo and design), and I have no interest in sacrificing that accomplishment for cosmetic purposes.

At any rate, I wrote a novel. And despite the fact that sales have been abysmal so far, and despite the fact that only one human being on the entire planet has actually read the novel and told me what he thought about it, it’s a novel I am proud of.

It’s chock full of references that may or may not be obvious, depending on the reader. No doubt there are parts I consider to be “clever” or something that readers may consider to be hackneyed, hokey, or worse. Especially considering that certain parts of the novel were intentionally hackneyed and hokey, given that the narrator is himself a failed fiction author who quotes his own work from time to time.

At any rate, seeing as how this initial foray into hardcore navel-gazing is already over 1000 words long, I will end it here and let this post stand as an intro to the series of posts that will (eventually) follow. As much as I would enjoy critiquing my own work for another hour or so, or for that matter all damn day long, I have an actual paying job I need to get to.

But I will leave you with one factoid, regarding the somewhat cryptic dedication at the front of the book. That is to say, I will “decrypt” it for you. Here is the dedication:

For H.F.

And for K.T.

“H.F.” refers to “Horselover Fat,” the fictionalized protagonist of a novel called “VALIS” by Philip K. Dick. “Fictionalized” because Horselover Fat and Philip K. Dick are more or less the same person.

“K.T.” refers to “Kilgore Trout,” a fictional, recurring character in Kurt Vonnegut’s novels.

The protagonist/narrator of my novel was inspired by those two fictional characters, and the tendency of my novel’s protagonist/narrator to go off on tangents about bizarre sci-fi stories with ham-fisted cultural/political references was more or less ripped off from Kurt Vonnegut’s tendency to do the same thing with “Kilgore Trout” stories in his novels.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say.

At any rate, have an awesome day, and thanks for reading.

WHY I (TEMPORARILY) QUIT FACEBOOK, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING

The summer after my 10th grade year, when I was 16, I went on a trip to England with my grandma, her sister, her sister’s grandson, my grandma’s cousin (about my grandma’s age), and my grandma’s cousin’s grandson.

The traveling party was, basically, three teenage boys and their grandmothers.

We went on a bus tour around the south of England. It started in London, then went around to various touristy spots, then circled back to London. All in all the tour lasted around two weeks, and it was a lot of fun.

We went to Stonehenge on the tour. I remember thinking that it looked a lot bigger on TV.

There were New Age hippies there, like meditating in a circle or something. Which I guess was cool.

The other people on the tour were mostly other Americans. One older fellow, probably 80, maybe, approached me and asked if I knew how they got those big stones on top of the other ones.

“No,” I replied.

“Helicopters,” the old man said. His name was Blake.

I stood there kinda dumbfounded for a second before realizing that Blake was cracking a joke.

“I’ll be danged,” I may have said. “I never thought about that possibility.” I may not have said that at all, but at any rate I laughed and went along with the joke.

A few minutes later, I watched as Blake tried the joke on my cousin D____, the grandson of my grandma’s cousin. That makes D____ my third cousin? I honestly don’t know.

D____ didn’t quite get the joke, I don’t think. His reaction was different than mine, at any rate. He replied in more of a “humoring the old person” sort of way, as opposed to a “ha ha, that’s funny” sort of way.

“You sure are a nice young man,” Blake said to D____. “If you’re ever up around the Great Lakes, drop in.”

“I sure will,” D____ replied. “Thanks for the invitation.”

“And if you’re ever in the Rocky Mountains,” Blake continued, “fall off.”

Screenshot (143)

Do you recognize that fellow? That’s Alex Rogan, the hero of the 1980s sci-fi/adventure film “The Last Starfighter,” a film I am a pretty big fan of, mostly for sentimental-type reasons.

Actually, that might be Beta, the android sent to replace Alex while Alex was off in space, fighting the Ko-Dan Armada. Beta looks just like Alex, and his purpose was to cover up the fact that Alex was gone, so his family wouldn’t miss him.

It’s Lance Guest, I know that much.

If I hadn’t told you what film that screenshot was from, would you have known? I’m sure some of you would have… but honestly if I hadn’t been the person who took the screenshot, I’m not sure I would know, despite having watched “The Last Starfighter” about a hundred times growing up, and even after watching it again recently.

Now, if somebody had shown me a picture of a Gunstar, the type of spaceship Alex ends up flying around in, or of Grig, the lizard-y alien guy who pilots Alex’s Gunstar, or even a picture of Alex in his Starfighter uniform, I would probably have recognized it instantly.

But just going on that shot up there, no, I’m not sure I would recognize it.

***

Why must I spell it out for you?
All of the images you see
Are just a tiny part of me.
The images I see of you
Are just a fraction of what’s true.

***

I remember sitting with you under an umbrella. It was drizzling rain. We were sitting on the curb in front of that one convenience store on the opposite side of the block from Lotteria. We were drunk, as we often were.

You died nearly a decade ago.

***

I don’t remember the last novel I read. Which novel it was, I mean. I’ve started a couple in the past several months, but I haven’t had the attention span to finish them.

***

There was a barber shop a couple blocks away from my fraternity house in Fayetteville, years ago. I had happened to mention, among a group of fellows hanging out at the house, that I needed to get a haircut. Or quite possibly someone mentioned to me that I needed to get a haircut. At any rate the subject of haircuts came up.

A frat brother suggested I go to “Crazy Eric” to get a haircut. “Crazy Eric” was the barber at the aforementioned barber shop. Crazy Eric talked everyone’s ear off, I was told, and he had some pretty interesting ideas about the government, conspiracies, and things like that.

So I went. Crazy Eric’s barber shop doubled as sort of an antique shop, I think. There were all sorts of old antique-y things in there. Crazy Eric’s wife also worked there.

I got my hair cut by Crazy Eric several times. I tried to get him started on conspiracy theories the first couple of times, but he never really bit. He actually didn’t talk much at all while cutting my hair, which was kind of a disappointment.

***

Etc.

[INSERT CLEVER QUOTE ABOUT HOW A PERSON SHOULDN’T SIT STILL FOR TOO LONG]

So as I mentioned the other day, I am currently “on vacation” from my job. I didn’t actually go anywhere on vacation, I am just taking a few days off.

I am currently sitting in P.J.’s Coffee on the square in El Dorado, Arkansas. I just had a chicken fried steak, two hard-fried eggs, hash browns, a biscuit, and coffee for breakfast, from Johnny B.’s Grill just a couple blocks from here. It was fantastic.

I paid $2.48 for a 20 oz Dr. Pepper here at P.J.’s. “Good Lord” is exactly what I said when the woman rang it up.

“We do coffee here,” was her reply. Something along those lines, ha ha.

I sat in one of the comfy chairs and tried to get on the free WiFi, but the WiFi is apparently down today. I didn’t bother asking about it; I just activated my phone’s WiFi hotspot feature, put on my headphones, and started this up:

Yes, in the world of electronica and popular music in general, this particular video may be old hat by now. The Field has put out a newer album than this (“The Follower”) and anyways I hope he puts out another one soon. But in the meantime, his older stuff is still amazingly good, in my opinion.

There’s no point to this blog post, in case you were wondering. I am just typing whatever comes into my head.

“Philosophy” is pretty much my default category, in case you were wondering. I don’t exactly have any one idea or whatever that “informs” my outlook on life; it’s more of a mishmash of various things I have picked up over the years, from anything from religious and philosophical texts to novels I’ve read to movies I’ve seen (“Blade Runner” possibly being a bigger influence than, say, “Tao Te Ching,” for example, with “White Noise” by Don DeLillo out-influencing both of them) to Saturday morning cartoons (ask me about The Smurfs some time) to song lyrics to poetry to…

You get the idea, hopefully.

It looks like it might rain today. I hope it doesn’t; I am going to be on foot most of the day. When I’m not sitting in a comfy chair somewhere.

As I have mentioned, my current job requires me to do a lot of typing. And I am usually sitting when I type. I do the “standing desk” thing sometimes, but not as often as I should. I always get up and go for a walk after an hour or two of typing, but apparently I have not been getting up enough lately.

Pardon me if this is inappropriate to share, but I have developed what is apparently a “pressure sore” (a.k.a. a “bed sore”) on my ass, apparently from sitting too long in one position on hard surfaces. The chair at my normal work desk is an unpadded wooden chair, and my desk in my bedroom is one designed to be used while sitting on the floor.

To be fair, this pressure sore (no, it has not ruptured or anything) was first noticed by me after a long session of sitting at my work desk while “on vacation” watching TV on Hulu. I tend to shift my weight around as sort of a nervous habit while I am working, but I don’t necessarily do that while marathon watching “The X-Files” or “Rick And Morty” or “Twin Peaks” or “Peep Show” or what have you.

At any rate, yes, sitting in one position for too long on a hard surface can cause problems.

Hence my seeking comfy chairs today. 🙂

And yes, it’s disgusting of me to write about something like that. But that sort of illustrates (sort of) another aspect of my own “philosophy”: I find it’s best to be open and honest about most things, even unpleasant stuff like having a sore ass.

But I don’t share everything. Believe it or not. At least not publicly.

Sun’s coming out… wait, nope, covered by dark clouds again. I really hope it doesn’t rain today.

My academic advisor from college has told me many times that I should write every day. And I guess I have been writing most every weekday for the past… eight months? Writing for my job, of course, not writing on this blog, or fiction…

I wrote a novel, in case you didn’t know. 🙂

The main difference between writing for my job and writing blog posts and fiction and stuff is a pretty significant one: I make money writing for my job. I don’t make doodley-squat writing on this blog or writing fiction. At least not yet.

I don’t really expect to, actually. Make money from “creative writing.”

So why do it?

Good question.

I guess it acts as sort of a release valve for the constant internal dialogue going on in my brain. I guess.

I honestly don’t know why I like writing stuff like this. I guess I just do.

Etc. etc. etc. Blah blah blah.

I kinda have to pee. I think I will do that, then head on over to the liberry.

Thanks for reading.

***

So here I am at the liberry…

I had thought about writing a blog post about chess today, having something of a swollen head regarding that game, after finally beating a buddy from high school yesterday at online chess, following approximately 1,684 losses in a row to him…

Well, it hasn’t been that many, but he usually beats me. And I finally won again yesterday. I have beaten him I think… three times? Maybe four?

(Maybe two?)

We’ve been playing off and on for a couple years now. Plus, I like to play random people online.

It’s a hell of a game, I have to say. There are tons of openings and defenses and attacks and things that all have specific names… but I have to confess that I don’t know more than an opening or two by name.

Chess.com, at least when you play in desktop mode, shows the name of the opening you or your opponent is using, as well as defenses or whatever (you don’t see this if you play on a smartphone, at least not on my smartphone), and anyways here is the opening I used in my most recent victory against my buddy from high school:

After reviewing the game on my phone just now, this isn’t exactly the opening game we played… it must have been some variation on it. I played as white, my buddy played as black, and he moved his kingside knight to f6 on his third move, as opposed to moving his kingside bishop to c5 like the guy does in the video, as you can see:

InkedScreenshot_2017-05-26-10-57-18_LI

You’ll note that I drew over my friend’s username. There’s a reason for that:

While I am confident my friend would give literally less than half of a proverbial crap if I shared his chess.com username here, well, it isn’t my place to go sharing stuff here on my blog (or anywhere else online) about people other than myself.

Note that I didn’t draw over his rating, which is significantly higher than mine.

At any rate, stuff like that (the discrepancy between the video and the game screenshot) is why trying to study chess openings and defenses and things and memorize the names of all of them basically confuses the hell out of me. So I don’t really spend much time doing it, although I do scan Wikipedia articles about various openings that have cool names like “Giuoco Pianissimo” or something.

Which is what my dang comprooter said the game was. I couldn’t get the game to come back up on my computer, and I got tired of messing with it.

“Giuoco Pianissimo” is actually a variation of “Giuoco Piano,” I guess, and (I also guess) the particular game my friend and I was a variation of a variation, because every variation on Wikipedia shows black moving the kingside bishop to c5 on the third move…

And long story short, this is why I don’t even try to memorize the names of chess openings and whatnot.

Moving on… let’s listen to some more of The Field, shall we? Awesome…

Listen to that with headphones, not quite as loudly as possible, a few notches under “as loud as you can stand it.” Let it play in the background of whatever you’re doing.

Here’s an interview I watched/listened to the other day with The Field/Axel Willner:

He talks about how the human brain fills in the gaps, sometimes, when it expects to hear something, and how his music actually probably sounds different to different people because their brains fill in the gaps differently.

I love this dude’s stuff, at any rate.

Moving on…

I have actually recorded some low-fi electronica myself, if you can believe it. I say “low-fi” because I used a free drum machine app, inexpensive recording software, and a USB headset microphone to record it. Check it out:

“Sensory D” and “Chago” are both members of an imaginary band called Meander Kittens that is essentially me dicking around at home with guitars and whatnot. Sensory D is a rapper and producer, and Chago is a singer/songwriter.

They’re both actually me, of course.

Here’s a song Chago did a few years back:

The Chinese characters on the video mean “error” or “mistake,” and if you use their single-syllable Korean pronunciation (excluding the definition that often precedes Hanja readings [“Hanja” being the Korean term for “Chinese characters”]), they are pronounced, roughly, “cha-go.”

“Chago” means “mistake,” is what you should take away from this. Chago leaves mistakes in his recordings, partially because he thinks they add sort of a human element to them, partially because he’s flipping lazy.

Here’s Sensory D’s debut EP:

The video pic/”album cover” features every “instrument” used in the recording.

Meander Kittens have released quite a few recordings as a band on YouTube as well. The band members (all of whom are actually me, 99 percent of the time) tend to rotate, and so does the instrumentation.

Meander Kittens like to include at least one “cover” song on each of their albums and EPs, but they don’t always do so. Quality tends to vary on these “covers.” Sometimes they try to play covers as accurately as possible; sometimes they don’t.

Here’s an example of when they don’t:

Just in case you’re not familiar with the original version of this song, here it is:

The name “Meander Kittens” was made up by me many years ago, when I lived in Fayetteville, AR with a roommate, who also would probably give less than half of a proverbial crap if I gave his name here, but I’m not gonna.

We didn’t have a TV, and we had a computer in the apartment (it was his computer), but we didn’t have an internet connection. So, to amuse ourselves, we started creating fake album covers for fake bands using Microsoft Paint. “Meander Kittens” was one I came up with.

Here’s a song we recorded on his computer all those years ago, with fake album covers we both made as the video:

I’m playing guitar, bass, “drums” (beating on the computer desk with my bare hands), and singing, and he came in later and added extra vocals. The song sucks without his contribution, in my opinion.

Anyways, I am about typed out. It’s still kinda overcast outside, but I think I am gonna go grab a bite to eat somewhere.

Probly gonna try to find an umbrella first. Don’t want my laptop to get soaked.

I left my umbrella at home because Accuweather claimed it wasn’t going to rain today in El Dorado.

Time will tell, I guess.

***

It is now 3:13 p.m., and it hasn’t rained yet.

I spent most of the day just sort of walking around. Believe you me, I needed the exercise. When you sit still so long you get a bed sore on you your ass, you gotta get up and move around some.

Screenshot_2017-05-26-14-59-32

That route is from P.J.’s to La Villa and back, along with a short stretch where I walked the opposite way down NW Ave, thinking I was going to go bowling over at El Dorado lanes.

Luckily, I checked online. It was a little after 1 at the time, and I found out El Dorado Lanes doesn’t open until 4. So I guess it’s good I checked.

I turned around and walked the other way, up to the mostly empty mall.

LIGHT A ROMAN CANDLE AND HOLD IT IN YOUR HAND

So I haven’t updated my blog page in a while. You, Dear Readers (all three of you), will have to forgive me: I have a job which requires me to be on my computer typing most every weekday (a job I love and hope to keep a while), so after a long day of typing for my job, I simply don’t have the energy or gumption or wherewithal or whatever you want to call it to sit down and type even more.

My last few blog posts have been done after work (i.e. after devoting the biggest part of my quite limited brain power to doing the best job I can for the company I work for), and they came out even more haphazard and sloppy than these posts usually do.

I am on vacation from work at the moment, and since I am more or less in the routine of getting up, showering, eating some breakfast, then sitting down at my computer and typing, well, now seems to be the perfect time to write a new blog post.

Especially since something happened last week that I would like to write about.

I’m not one of those people who just flat-out abhors celebrity culture (q.v. this post from last year), but I’m not really all that into it, either.

Nonetheless, every now and again, I suppose I get a little emotionally attached to certain celebrities, sometimes without even realizing it… until they go and do something stupid, like asphyxiating themselves in a hotel bathroom or something.

Yes, you’ve figured it out: this is one of those “this is how Chris Cornell‘s suicide makes me feel” blog posts.

I’ve read a few of those, and the ones I read were really well done.

But this isn’t going to be like most of those. I didn’t know Chris Cornell personally, I don’t have any stories about “The Seattle Scene,” and I no longer harbor any delusions about “grunge” music being anything other than a fad, one where MTV helped a couple hundred mediocre nothing shit bands get famous by riding the coattails of the handful of “grunge” bands that were actually making music worth listening to.

Sorry if that upsets anyone. If I might digress, there’s a reason I don’t have a “music” section on this blog: the act of listening to and enjoying music is an intensely personal and subjective experience. I have often opined (at least to friends and on social media) that there are actually only two (2) genres of music. Those two genres are:

1. Music I Like

and

2. Music I Don’t Like.

And the “I” here is me, and it’s you, and it’s your significant other (if you have one), and it’s everyone you know.

For example, I can’t explain to you why actual literal tears have actually literally streamed down my cheeks at around the 4:30 mark of this song right here. I can’t.

There aren’t any lyrics. It doesn’t remind me of anything in particular. But something about the way the sounds are arranged makes my brain release a flood of neurochemicals that cause actual literal tears to actually literally well up in my actual literal eyes.

It’s happening as I type this.

This particular song may very well do nothing whatsoever for you. You may even be put off by it. This may actually literally be the worst thing you have actually literally ever heard.

That’s OK. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. I wish I could explain to you why I like it (and the album it’s from) so much… but I can’t.

I just do. It randomly popped up on YouTube one day while I was listening to The Field while working, and since “Fuck Buttons” sounded interesting, I listened to it. And I found that I liked it bunches and bunches.

If you’re one of those “that ain’t real music, that’s just a buncha comprooter noises” people, well, I used to be one of you. All I can say is that there’s lots of really cool comprooter noises out there that you haven’t heard, and you’re the only person missing out because of your, well… snobbery.

And sure, my characterization of most “grunge” bands being “mediocre nothing shit bands riding the coattails of a handful of good bands” or whatever I said also counts as “snobbery.” But it’s a slightly different sort of snobbery: I listened to those bands, I became obsessed with those bands, I bought CDs by those bands, I even learned how to halfway play a few songs by those bands on my guitar. I’m not just dismissing those bands outright; I am intimately familiar with the music those bands produced… and quite frankly I don’t like much of it any more.

You’ll notice I’m not naming any bands here. There’s a reason for that, and it should be obvious, but just in case it isn’t, here’s the reason:

Just because I, Michael Nathan Walker, don’t like this or that band anymore, that doesn’t mean that anyone else is “wrong” for still liking them. It just means that I don’t like them anymore.

That’s all.

That’s it.

The vast majority of “grunge” bands have shifted from “genre” 1:

“Music I Like”

to “genre” 2:

“Music I Don’t Like”

in my own personal brain. That’s all it means; it means precisely nothing else.

So relax, please.

But let me get back on track. Or, actually, let me rewind 20+ years to the mid-1990s, when “grunge” was in its heyday.

This was before I even owned a CD player, I am almost certain. I am almost certain that I ordered three cassette tapes from either Columbia House or BMG, and that they all three arrived in the mailbox on the same day, in the same package. The three tapes were “Nevermind” by Nirvana, “In Utero,” also by Nirvana…

And, you guessed it: “Superunknown” by the band Chris Cornell was most associated with, the band that made him famous, Soundgarden.

I had heard two songs from “Superunknown” on MTV, “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun.” And I liked both of those songs, “Black Hole Sun” especially.

I will now share a still shot from that video, just so there will be a Chris Cornell-associated pic that appears as a preview for this post. Hopefully, at least… I am not very good at coding, and I have no idea how to set the preview image for these blog posts. It seems like the one closest to the top of whichever post is what appears, even if the pic is from another post. Heck, once I re-shared a post on Facebook, and it showed a friend who commented on the post’s avatar in the preview. So I don’t know if this is going to appear correctly, but here’s hoping:

You member that video? I member…

There’s a link to the “Black Hole Sun” video just above the pic, in case you missed it. Click on the purplish “Black Hole Sun” text up there.

As you are undoubtedly aware, there are tons of videos on YouTube that are just images of album covers with the entire album in one big track. I was actually going to try and link full album videos to the titles of the three “grunge” albums I got on cassette, but I couldn’t find one for “Nevermind.” “Bigger name” acts like Nirvana (or at least the record companies that control all the rights to their stuff) often have people working for them that take videos like that down, and anyways I couldn’t find a full-album “Nevermind” video on YouTube, so I didn’t bother looking for “In Utero” or “Superunknown.” As you may already know, I just linked to the Wikpedia pages for each album.

But while I was looking, I found this video. It’s a video of a guy playing guitar along with every song on “Nevermind.” And if you want to learn how to play every song on “Nevermind,” maybe you should check it out.

If not… nevermind. 🙂

As is usually the case on these posts, I have yet again gone off track a bit. So let me back up:

When I got my first copy of “Superunknown,” well… other than “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun,” well…

The majority of the album fell squarely into Genre #2. I.e. I didn’t like it.

It was too complex. The songs were in weird tunings. There were weird time signatures. Etc. I was learning to play the guitar at the time (I am still learning, BTW)…

And there weren’t any songs on it that I could play. Or even wrap my head around how to go about start playing. Or even appreciate, really.

If that dude that played all of “Nevermind” made a video where he played all of “Superunknown,” even just the rhythm parts, I would be impressed, to say the least.

The point is, I didn’t like “Superunknown” the first time I heard it. I was a weird kid, one who prided himself on liking weird things… and it was too weird for me.

That changed over the years, though. It was an album I kept coming back to. I am pretty sure I also had a CD copy of it at some point. The more I listened to it, the more I was able to hear how those weird time signatures and weird tunings and weird vocals worked together, and maybe as long as a decade after I first heard it, it became one of my favorite albums.

To get back to being a music snob vis-à-vis “grunge” bands I used to like, and for that matter a whole slew of other bands I used to like when I was a teenager, “Superunknown” is still just as kick-ass and amazing now as it was the day it was released. It’s a high-water mark of ’90s guitar rock, all sub-genres included.

The album is simply amazing, from beginning to end. But now we’re getting back into subjective territory. I may as well tell you blue is the best color and then get pissed off when you disagree.

So I am going to stop with that sort of thing, and get back to the real reason I am writing this: to record for all the internet to read how Chris Cornell’s suicide affected me personally.

I found out the morning after it happened, before I started working. A Facebook friend shared a story about it.

It didn’t really bug me at first. I posted several Soundgarden songs on Facebook and Twitter, and I listened to all of “Superunknown” while I was working.

And it messed with me a little then, I guess. Chris Cornell’s lyrics were always sort of bleak, borderline nihilistic, etc., but there always seemed to be a hint of irony to them, sort of like “yeah, the world’s gonna end, bad stuff is going to happen…”

I don’t quite know how to articulate what I mean.

Let’s take “Black Hole Sun.” The song’s refrain goes

“Black hole sun, won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun, won’t you come
Won’t you come?”

The chorus is basically expressing the hope that the sun will collapse into a black hole and bring the world to an end. But look at the video, with all the funny faces! It was all in fun, it seemed like. I mean, people joke about that sort of thing a lot. Surely you saw these bumper stickers last year in the run-up to the election:

I mean sure, there are probably a few people sporting bumper stickers or t-shirts or whatever with that slogan on them that actually literally want a giant meteor to actually literally destroy the Earth…

But most people don’t, I would venture.

And maybe Chris Cornell really didn’t want the whole world to end. I actually doubt that. I won’t get into dissecting lyrics or anything, do your own research. Start with “Superunknown.” You owe it to yourself.

I just mean… I mean…

I didn’t expect him to actually be suicidal, is what I mean. And it came as a bit of a shock to me.

And if that weren’t enough… this video eventually turned up on my news feed. It’s Chris Cornell playing the song that made Sinéad O’Connor famous, “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

And he did a hell of a good job at it, I must say.

It was around this point that Chris Cornell’s suicide really “hit home” for me. And it was for a reason that didn’t have anything to do with Chris Cornell or Soundgarden or Audioslave or Sinéad O’Connor or even Prince, who you probably know wrote the song in question.

See, I’ve sung that song before.

I taught ESL for a couple years, several years back, in a small city just outside of Seoul,
South Korea called Gimpo or sometimes “Kimpo,” depending on who you’re talking to. The reason the G and the K are pretty much interchangeable there has to do with how the Korean language is written, and let’s just leave it at that.

(Also, “Kimpo Airport” is mentioned several times on the classic T.V. series M*A*S*H, and I think Hawkeye and the gang actually go there at least a couple times. But I digress.)

At any rate, when I lived in Gimpo, I would often go out with friends to Noraebangs (“norae” means “singing” and bang [pronounced “bahng”] means “room”) to drink beer and sing.

It’s fun, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

And for a decent amount of the time I lived in Gimpo, I was seeing a young Korean woman I was pretty much crazy about.

And I sang “Nothing Compares 2 U” to her at least once or twice. I could pretty much nail the whole song, except for the “all the flowers that you planted, mama” part.

And long story short, she died pretty much the same way Chris Cornell did.

And I don’t want to write about this anymore.

Thanks for reading.

Here’s Norah Jones (someone whose music has helped me sleep many a night in the intervening years, incidentally) singing “Black Hole Sun.” Enjoy.

ETC. ETC. ETC., BLAH BLAH BLAH

So anyways, a while back, a Facebook friend suggested that I take a personality test.

Actually that’s not quite true…

My friend made the observation that I tended to make arguments based on feelings rather than purely on thinking, and that was reflective of my personality type, or something to that effect.

Admittedly — despite assurance from my friend that there was no reason to — I took a bit of umbrage at the observation. In retrospect that reaction may have been proof that my friend’s observation had some merit: this “umbrage” — my own “feelings” regarding my friend’s observation — prompted me to ask my friend where I might take a personality test to determine whether I actually have the personality type — the “Feelings” part, at least — that my friend claimed.

So my friend provided a link (I will find it later and add it; right now I am thumb typing in Gmail and I have a crap signal), and I took a short quiz, asking how I would behave in certain situations, what I think about this or that, etc. etc. etc., blah blah blah.

There are 4 main categories on this personality scale, and each category is split into 2 parts. For clarity’s sake — it may not be clear now, but it will be in a minute — I will list the 4 categories and their 2 parts.

Category 1 is whether a person is Introverted (I) or Extroverted  (E).

Category 2 is whether a person relies on Sensing (S) or iNtuition (N).

Category 3 (the one that made me needlessly take temporary umbrage) is between Thinking (T) and Feeling (F), and

Category 4 is between Judging (J) and Perceiving (P).

(Regrettably, I am not knowledgeable enough on this subject to go into any more detail on these categories. Search for “Briggs Myers Personality Types” for more detailed info.)

At any rate, I took the test. I answered each question as honestly as I could — including ones that asked about “feelings” — and this was my result:

From the four categories, this test determined that my personality type is

INTP:

I — Introverted
N — iNtuition
T — Thinking
P — Perceiving

My friend (who is ENTP) pointed out that my overall score on the “T/F” section was pretty close to 50%. Nonetheless, for no good reason whatsoever, I felt somewhat vindicated that “T” popped up in my quiz results over “F”.

The INTP personality description was pretty on-point, for the most part, and seeing as how the website listed “Albert Einstein” among the most famous INTPs from history, well, I can’t deny that I liked my test results.

Something else kinda stood out: INTP personalities are (I think) the most rare of the 16 types on the scale. Something like 3% of the population has the INTP type, I think I read.

Long story short, a couple weeks ago, after I took daytime cold medicine at night and couldn’t go to sleep, I got up and played around online, looking for entertainment.

I ended up taking the personality quiz again. And bear this in mind:

The first time I took the quiz was in the middle of a work day. My brain was geared up for thinking, acting rationally, doing what’s best for the company I work for, etc. And remember, I got “INTP” with the “T” just beating the “F”.

The second time I took the quiz (a couple months after the first time), my nose was running, I had a fever, I was loopy from cold medicine, and it was about 3 in the morning.

Long story short, this second time, the results were a little different. This time around, I got “INFP”, or

I — Introverted
N — iNtuition
F — Feeling
P — Perceiving

as my result. And again, the “T/F” section was pretty close to 50%. The other categories — like the first time I took the quiz — were all skewed heavily to one side.

So, based on these two tests, the “I” part is a definite yes, the “N” part is a definite yes, and the “P” part is a definite yes. The variable is “T/F”.

The description of the INFP personality type was also pretty on-point, vis-a-vis yours truly. There was only one thing I took issue with:

INFPs, according to the website that had the quiz and whatnot, always see the good in people. They believe that all people are good at heart, and so on and so forth.

I do not — do *not* — believe that. I believe that some people are just basically rotten. I believe — actually, I know — that some people wake up in the morning looking for a way to screw people over. I know that a great many people in the world screw people over every day that goes by and feel absolutely wonderful about it.

There are, in fact, terrible, terrible people in the world, people who absolutely salivate over the suffering of other people. People who thrive on that suffering, people who are even motivated by it.

But at the same time, I recognize that these people *must* have something fundamentally wrong with them. It may be something genetic that makes them be awful, maybe they’ve been hurt before and are now taking it out on others…

And etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah.

It isn’t exactly that I “see the good” in “bad” people…

It’s more like I pity them.

And I guess if you get right down to it, the difference there is merely semantics.

Again, though, something stood out about the INFP personality type as well:

It’s also pretty rare. 4% of the population, I think the website said. And the most famous INFP from history (which how they determined this is even more of a mystery than how they determined Einstein was INTP)?

Shakespeare. As in William.

And no, I ain’t no Shakespeare. But with my liberal arts background, and my abilities with verse and whatnot (I can iambic pentameter with the best of em), well, I am closer to Billy Shakes than I am to Allie E. any day of the week.

Either way, I’m somewhere in between two of the most uncommon personality types, INTP and INFP.

And I have to say… looking back on my nearly 37 years…

That explains a whole hell of a lot.

Etc. etc. etc., blah blah blah.

YOUR THAI BRIDE IS NOT THE PROBLEM, YOU CLOYING, MELLIFLUOUS WANK

So I still haven’t finished my “Twin Peaks” blog post (and no, I’m not bothering with a hyperlink, it should be easy for you to find if you want to read it), and in lieu of finishing that right now, I am going to write another “Movies/TV” post about a short documentary I watched last night on Hulu.

How I ended up subscribing to Hulu is its own (boring) blog post; suffice it to say the local cable provider cut Comedy Central from its lineup a couple years back, and I have been suffering South Park withdrawals ever since.

When I find myself with nothing else to do, I sometimes get online and binge-watch South Park. Other times, I just hit the “watch a random episode” button at southpark.cc.com and see what pops up.

Anyways, last night, I was on the South Park website, perusing seasons I have not seen every episode of, and I noticed that a great many episodes were only available on Hulu, and that I had to pay $7.99 a month to see them. And long story short, after determining that every episode of The X-Files is also available on Hulu for 8 bucks a month, well, I went ahead and Paypal-ed my way right on through.

(I opted against the $11.99 a month deal that eliminated all ads, because four bucks is four bucks, and sometimes those ads are kinda entertaining, plus they give you a chance to go grab a Coke or a beer or what have you.)

Hulu also claimed to have a whole bunch of awesome movies, so I began perusing them. I didn’t see much of anything I wanted to watch, but I am sort of a snob when it comes to movies and I have never pretended otherwise. I am probably the least fun person in the world to go to the movies with, as I think I have mentioned here on this blog before, and anyways none of the movies caught my attention. I figured “hey, I can watch South Park and X-Files for 8 bucks a month and cancel whenever, so I’m happy.”

Still, having all those movies and TV shows available to me, regardless of the fact that 99% of them didn’t appeal to me, well, it inspired my wanderlust, at least within the confines of Hulu.com. I mean I didn’t actually get up off my fat ass and “wander” anywhere; I just felt compelled to explore my options.

So I moved on to the “documentary” section. And again, meh, but again, unlimited South Park and X-Files for 8 bucks, so no big deal.

And nestled in between a bunch of crap UFO documentaries and assorted documentaries that looked fake as all hell…

I found an hour-long documentary called “My Thai Bride” that looked mildly interesting, if only for the fact that it seemed to be based on real life, as opposed to Bigfoot or some crap.

Here’s the imdb page for it. I don’t feel like typing out <a href… and all that crap on the “text” page just to create a link nobody’s going to click anyway, so anyways here it is, take it or leave it:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2090573/

This movie is about a British fellow named Ted. Ted used to make a living by traveling from Britain to Thailand, buying a bunch of cheap but well-made knockoff clothing, then taking it back to Britain to sell at inflated prices.

That this practice is probably illegal (or at least would be here in the USA, if he were selling, say, fake Polo shirts as if they were legit Polo shirts or something, copyright infringement and whatnot) was never mentioned.

Nonetheless, this is how Ted made his living, and more power to him, I say.

Ted had been married and divorced in Britain. And he lamented that in Britain, he had a hard time meeting women, because women wanted younger men with money and blah blah blah cry me a river. Nonetheless, I won’t deny that I sympathized with Ted at this point in the film. I mean, yeah, it gets tougher to meet women who want to date you the older you get, but whatever, Ted, suck it up.

And to Ted’s credit, well, he kinda did… in a way.

He talked about how in Thailand, there were tons of beautiful women everywhere who wanted to hang out with him. He held no illusions about these women — “bar girls” — I mean he knew that they (at least most of them) only wanted him for his money, and so on and so forth.

But I mean think about a guy like Ted (look at his picture): he’s not all that handsome, he’s not some sort of hotshot businessman… but in Thailand, women were just hanging all over him.

And yeah, sure, “gross, that’s gross, Ted’s gross, and Michael, you’re gross for sympathizing with that gross, gross man,” but anyways the “cloying, mellifluous wank” mentioned in the title of this post is Ted himself, so I’m gonna give him what he’s got coming here in a minute.

Here’s another link about this movie, by the way: http://www.mythaibridefilm.com/story/

Anyways, Ted meets a bar girl named Tip, and he finds that he likes her. Like he really likes her, like as a person, not just as a “bar girl” or “prostitute” or whatever.

And if you thought I was going to give Ted a hard time about this part of the story, well, no, no I wasn’t. Bar girls and prostitutes and sex workers of all types are people, too, and I have no issue whatsoever with Ted or any other person falling in love with one of them. Put simply it isn’t my business who anybody falls in love with, and love is love is love is love and so on.

(And you’ve seen “Pretty Woman,” damn you, don’t act like you haven’t. 🙂 )

Ted and Tip started hanging around a lot, and they more or less moved in together. Ted talked about how he would leave money lying out in the room when he would leave, and when he came back it would still be there. Which given the circumstances, well, I guess that showed him that Tip liked him  too, maybe.

Anyways, after knowing each other about a month, Ted and Tip got married.

Before I go on, I need to back up and talk about Tip a little. I don’t remember specifics, but Tip grew up dirt poor. And she had worked in factories for next to nothing, and she had a child to support, and the only way she had to make any money was to move to Bangkok and be a bar girl.

So she tells about that, and friends she met who helped her out, and all of them didn’t make any bones about why they were bar girls: they needed money, foreign men had money, and they could make a lot of money being nice to foreign men.

Which, yes, I agree, it’s terrible that they don’t have any other way to make a living. Yes, everything about the whole situation is gross and awful and terrible… but if I were a pretty young Thai woman with absolutely no other way to make a living, well, I’d probably put on some tight pants and go flirt with foreigners, too.

I’m not judging Tip or any of the Thai bar girls featured in the film. Please don’t think I am. In fact, from where I was sitting — right here where I am now typing, actually, right here on my fat ass in front of my computer — Tip was by far the most sympathetic character in the film.

So Ted and Tip got married. And since Tip seemed to be better at managing money than Ted, and since he felt like he could trust her with his money, he ended up letting her manage his money.

She made pretty good use of his money, I’d say: they moved to the village in northern Thailand where she grew up and built a pig farm. Good, practical use: a pig farm could provide them with enough money to live and with food to eat. If we’re talking about using funds accrued from hawking knockoff Polo shirts and whatnot, well, “steady stream of income and sustenance that doesn’t require international travel or violating any copyright laws” sounds pretty gosh-darn sensible.

But Ted didn’t see it like that. And before I really give Ted the business, I will also say that the film featured a few other foreign (read: “white”) dudes who had been in Thailand for quite a long time. These fellows also had homes in Thailand and (presumably) Thai wives, and they noted that lots of people (read: “white men”) moved to Thailand with what seemed like a lot of money, and they lived like kings… until the money ran out.

One of these fellows said his house in Thailand cost about $20 grand to build, but it would be worth about $300 grand in the US or anywhere in the west.

Another fellow (or maybe the same fellow, I don’t remember) said that it was impossible for a foreigner to own land in Thailand, so everything was always in the wife’s name, in cases where white dudes marry Thai women and build houses over there and whatnot.

A local myth or legend of some kind was also mentioned: this legend was about a beautiful queen who ruled over part of Thailand, and anyways an invading group of male soldiers came into her kingdom, intending to rape and pillage and take the place over.

This queen instructed her female subjects to throw a big party for the invaders, to offer them wine and food and what have you, and to make them feel at home and welcome, and whatever the proper name is for the feeling lonely men get when women hang all over them.

So, that’s what the women in the kingdom (“queendom”?) did… and after all the invading soldiers were asleep, worn out from the wine, food, and what have you…

The women killed every blasted one of them. With their own swords. While they slept.

And that legend or myth or whatever was brought up as a parallel to the whole “bar girl” situation, I think. The bar girls were who were telling about the legend.

And yeah, I am sure there are true stories of lonely white dudes getting legitimately ripped off and screwed over by Thai women…

But I don’t really think our Ted is one of those fellows.

I sincerely think Ted is a cloying, mellifluous wank who didn’t realize how good he had it, honestly.

Toward the end of the film, Ted tells about how Tip just wouldn’t pay him any attention, leading up to when he decided to leave her.

Ted tells, in his cloying li’ul accent, how towards the end of their marriage, Tip would get up at like six in the morning every day to go feed the pigs.

Tip would spend all day tending to pigs, doing chores, running the farm…

…meanwhile Ted’s “laid about,” not doing anything…

…and toward the end of their marriage — if you can believe it, folks — Tip was so busy feeding pigs and cleaning the house and doing farm chores that she didn’t even have time to bring poor Ted a beer.

Poor Ted! His wife’s up at six, busy all day running the farm…

And Ted had to get up off his fat arse and get his own beer, when he sat around the house all day doing *literally* nothing whatsoever.

Ted gives this as a reason why he had to leave Tip.

No, I’m not joking.

The film goes back and forth between Ted’s point of view and Tip’s, and Tip mentions that all of her family and neighbors had begun to wonder why Ted didn’t help her with anything whatsoever, or even work at all…

Meanwhile Ted’s talking about how Tip became “distant” from him, because she was worried too much about running the farm!

So anyways, this film was interesting to watch, but the whole “my Thai wife stole my money and ruined my life” angle Ted tries to foist on everyone is bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.

You didn’t want to be a pig farmer, Ted?

WHY’D YOU BUILD A PIG FARM?

You wanted a wife, instead of patronizing every bar girl that’s nice to you?

WHY’D YOU TREAT YOUR WIFE LIKE A SERVANT?

I have to admit, being that I have lived most of my life in rural Arkansas, the idea of running a pig farm (or any type of farm) with a wife holds a certain amount of appeal for me. It’s honest work, you’re outside a lot, you’re not sitting on your ever-widening ass typing on a computer…

And it might not appeal to everyone. And it honestly might not appeal to me, after a week or two.

But I like to think I would have sorted all of that out before I built my own pig farm, if you understand what I mean.

Ted ended up having to bum money from Tip to get a ticket back to Britain.

And he’s supposed to be who I, the viewer, sympathize with in this film.

RIGHT.

“WHAT DO YOU FEAR MOST IN THE WORLD?” — SERENDIPITY AND “TWIN PEAKS”

Hello everyone, I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything to this blog — and even longer since I’ve posted anything related to anything other than politics…

Which on that front, well, what can I say? The guy that Back To The Future Part 2 alternate timeline dystopian 1985 Biff Tannen was presumably modeled after is now our president-elect. The guy that killed Marty McFly’s dad in alternate timeline 1985 is going to be sitting in the Oval Office for four years.

Can’t say that I’m happy about that.

But hey, it is what it is, and I can’t just make like a tree and quit the internet just because I’m honestly scared shitless for the future of the United States and civilization as we know it.

I gotta keep on keepin’ on.

So that’s what I’m doing. And this blog is not and was never intended to be solely a political or news-related blog, it’s a blog featuring the various and sundry things that rattle around in my brain long enough to warrant my typing them out and sharing them with all of you awesome folks out there in internet land.

And somewhat serendipitously — the serendipitousness of which I speak will be revealed near the end of this post — I happened to purchase a Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition DVD set off of eBay in the weeks leading up to when the guy that tried to rape Marty McFly’s mom on multiple occasions got elected president of the country with the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet.

I didn’t pay full price for my Twin Peaks DVD set, at least not the price Walmart is asking for it on the link provided. Mine was slightly used, but it’s in great condition, and I enjoyed watching the pilot (including the alternate international ending) and both seasons immensely, and I will probably watch them all again at some point.

Yes, Twin Peaks really is that good of a show.

I also purchased a copy of the feature film/prequel “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” on eBay — also used, also cheaper than retail — and watched it after I finished season 2 of Twin Peaks. And it’s interesting to watch, but I honestly think that the nudity and profanity featured in it took something intangible away from the Twin Peaks universe. A big part of what’s so addictive about Twin Peaks is that the viewer is made aware that there’s something less than wholesome going on under the lily-white surface of the small logging town of Twin Peaks, but what those less-than-wholesome goings-on actually are is never completely revealed in explicit terms in the TV series itself.

And hey, don’t get me twisted here: I’m no prude. To people who only know me through my blog or through social media, I may come across that way sometimes, but to anyone who knows me personally, well, you can ask them yourself. I prefer to leave that aspect of myself to the real world, and while that dynamic does sort of mirror the dynamic of Twin Peaks — the whole “dark underbelly vs. prim and proper facade” thing, I mean — I prefer to maintain that dynamic rather than carelessly blend the two together.

In a roundabout way, what I am saying is that if Showtime’s Twin Peaks Season 3 features lots of boobies and four-letter words, it’s going to be fundamentally different than the first two seasons.

It’s not that I don’t like looking at boobies, or that I wince whenever someone says “fuck,” it’s just that “Fire Walk With Me” sacrificed something essential about Twin Peaks by including lots of boobies and cusswords.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, I don’t know how to explain it any better.

Anyways, moving on:

I don’t want this to be a completely political post, but a major plot element in Twin Peaks — incidentally, one that is only fully revealed in “Fire Walk With Me” — quite serendipitiously coincides with something rather disgusting about our new president-elect.

And yes, it’s more disgusting than when Biff Tannen got manure dumped in his convertible, and some of it got in his mouth.

But for me to explain this any further, I am going to have to spoil certain things for you, the reader. And if you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Twin Peaks or “Fire Walk With Me,” well, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. This spoiler is pretty major, and it affects the way the viewer empathizes with certain characters, and as Twin Peaks is by far more character-driven than plot-driven, well, the way the viewer feels about the show’s many characters as the show progresses is important.

So, before I get into that, I want to briefly discuss the visual aspect of Twin Peaks. Articles and even books have been written about this, and they reference all sorts of symbolism and mythology, and knowing that David Lynch obsesses over every little detail of every shot of every film he’s ever done — he didn’t direct every episode of Twin Peaks, by the way, but the obsessiveness is still there when other directors stepped in — all these articles and books are definitely worth checking out, if you’re a fan of the show.

I’m going to take a much more superficial approach and just talk about — and show you — how good-looking most of the actors in the show are. This is both to provide people who don’t want me to spoil a big part of Twin Peaks for them an opportunity to navigate away from this page before they accidentally read my spoiler and also to just have an excuse to post pictures of good-looking people to my blog.

Anyways, here we go with the “avoiding the spoiler/look at the pretty people” section of this post:

That’s Laura Palmer. Her dead body is found in the pilot, wrapped in plastic next to a big log, after the tide receded and left it — left her — on the muddy gravel bank. This still frame is from a home movie that Laura was in, one that the local sheriff’s department and the FBI examine, following the discovery of her body. Laura’s murder is the central plot theme of the entire series. It’s worth noting that even though Laura appears multiple times throughout the series in home movies, photographs, dream sequences, etc., she only appears as her living, breathing self in “Fire Walk With Me.” She’s pretty, isn’t she?

That’s Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI. He is investigating Laura’s murder. He’s quite eccentric, and his methods of investigation are anything but conventional. He loves a good cup of strong black coffee, and he does his best to maintain a cheerful disposition throughout the series, no matter how unpleasant the situation. And just in case you were wondering, I, the author of this blog, am heterosexual, but look at that guy and tell me he isn’t handsome. Go on, do it.

That’s Audrey Horne, teenage daughter of Benjamin Horne, a wealthy real estate developer in Twin Peaks and owner of the Great Northern Hotel, where Agent Cooper stays during his investigation. (TO BE CONTINUED…)

Bobby

Shelley

Leo

Josie

Harry

Donna

James

Annie

(et alia)