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)

A WORD TO THE WISE

Polls indicate that there is a very real chance Donald Trump will be our next president.

There are millions of (mostly white) working class people voting for him, and I am reasonably sure that somewhere between half and 3/4 of those voters have either gained access to healthcare themselves since the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was passed, or have friends or family members who have gained access to healthcare since the ACA was passed.

The ACA makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny funding to customers based on pre-existing conditions or to cut off funding whenever they think it stops being cost-effective.

GOP propaganda about the ACA included a lot of nonsense about “death panels” and how Obama was going to pull the plug on your grandma and all sorts of crazy stuff. In reality – a place many Americans do not spend very much of their mental lives, unfortunately – insurance companies already had “death panels” cutting people off from funding, prematurely ending vital treatment and often prematurely ending the lives of insurance customers who had been paying monthly premiums for decades.

The ACA did not create “death panels,” the ACA banned them.

Donald Trump plans to repeal the ACA as soon as he is in office. Many Trump voters will lose access to health care and die if this happens. This is simply a fact.

Here’s the thing: if that happens – and I really hope it doesn’t, but if Trump is elected it will – people like Hillary Clinton, people like Bernie Sanders, these people will continue to fight – as they have for decades – to help Americans get access to the healthcare they need.

And while I will support them in this endeavor in any way I can, I would like to offer a word to the wise:

If Trump gets elected, and you voted for him (or for that matter if you voted for Johnson or Stein; neither of them have any actual chance of winning, and news flash, geniuses, the Libertarian party is just as ideologically opposed to the ACA as the GOP), and you or someone you know loses their health coverage…

Well first off, you’d have my sympathies.

And second, if this unfortunate eventuality occurs, and you choose to lay blame for the fact that you or someone you know can’t get healthcare at the feet of President Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or the Democrats in general…

You’d better fucking not do so within earshot (or eyeshot) of me.

Have a great day! If Trump gets elected, we Americans may not have very many great days left.

Sincerely,

Michael Nathan Walker

TO GARY JOHNSON SUPPORTERS EVERYWHERE: “GEAUX SAINTS”

If it seems like I am picking on Gary Johnson and his supporters a lot lately, well, yeah, I am. I am picking on Gary Johnson and his supporters lately. This and other such blog posts aren’t directed at any one individual, for the record, and if I didn’t feel it to be of, well, pressing importance to write things like this, I wouldn’t be writing them.

Last night, the world tuned in to the presidential debate between the two major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Anyone with a third grade grasp of the English language could easily see that one of those two candidates, to be blunt, knew her shit, and the other wasn’t even sure about what position he held on several issues.

Giving Trump the benefit of a (totally undeserved) doubt, let’s just say that he forgot about when he supported the Iraq war. Let’s just say he forgot about that time he claimed global warming was a sham designed by China to stifle American productivity. Let’s just give Trump the benefit of a doubt and say every bald-faced lie he told during last night’s debate was actually a series of honest mistakes.

Let’s assume he wasn’t lying. If that’s the case, Donald Trump must be suffering from a significant case of dementia or some other memory-erasing brain condition. At any rate, whether he’s a bald-faced liar or just really confused, he has no business trying to run anything, much less the greatest, most powerful nation on the planet.

If it seems like I am picking on Johnson and his supporters, well, like I said, yeah, I am. The ideological gap between the average Trump supporter and the average Clinton supporter such as myself is far too wide to even attempt to bridge. At this point, Trump could start biting the ears off of puppies on the debate stage and it wouldn’t sway a Trump voter towards Clinton.

So I am picking on you guys for a reason. I am picking on you because I think every one of you — no matter how much you personally “hate” Hillary Clinton for whatever (imaginary) reason — would agree that she is by far the better major party candidate.

That brings me to something I really want to impress upon Gary Johnson supporters, as well as Jill Stein supporters:

There is no eventuality in which anyone but Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump becomes our next president. Not one.

One of those two people is going to be the next president.

I am not a sports fan, and I honestly had to look this up, but (pauses to use Google) the last Super Bowl was a contest between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.

Never at any point after it was determined that these two teams were competing in the Super Bowl was it possible for any other team to win the Super Bowl.

“Go Panthers!” says a random person at a Super Bowl party.

“Go Broncos!” says another.

“Geaux Saints!” said nobody.

🙂

The difference here is that, neverminding the fact that the Super Bowl has no actual influence on the well-being of the country or on international politics, the people who are metaphorically shouting “Geaux Saints!” in this election are going to actually have an effect on its outcome. If this were happening at a Super Bowl party, I’d just ignore you, or possibly even join in with your cheering for a team that isn’t even actually playing — I would only be at a Super Bowl party for the beer and food, seeing as how I have zero interest in professional sports — but since this sort of cheering is going to have an actual tangible effect on the country and the world I live in, well, here I am.

Gary Johnson is not going to win this election. Gary Johnson is not going to be the next president.

Sorry to break it to you, in case you didn’t already know that.

Gary Johnson’s goal is to secure enough electoral votes to prevent Trump or Clinton from getting the minimum amount. And he very well may succeed, with your help.

What would happen then? Congress would decide whether Trump or Clinton would be president.

I am sure there is some sort of convoluted Libertarian argument as to why letting Congress pick the next president is a good thing, so feel free to expound upon that in the comments.

It’s beyond ironic that this is Johnson’s stated goal, however, considering his stance on limiting the power of the federal government: if Johnson “succeeds” in reaching his goal, the federal government will be who chooses the next President, not the people.

Libertarian philosophy is pretty wonky, honestly. In all honesty, I used to consider myself a “libertarian.” I mean, I am pro-personal freedom. Like Gary Johnson, I support the right of people to live their lives the way they want to. I support the right of people to marry anybody they damn well want to. I support decriminalization of illegal drugs. I support the right of people to do whatever the hell they want to, as long as they aren’t harming anyone else.

Here’s where libertarian thought — and the policies of Gary Johnson — start to get wonky:

Let’s start with legalized pot. Gary Johnson wants to legalize pot. Far too many people are sitting in prison for cheefing on the reefer and stuffing their faces with Cheetos. That’s not right, Gary Johnson says, and I agree with him.

Here’s what’s wonky: Gary Johnson also supports the private prisons that have government quotas to fill where these Cheeto-munching nonviolent potheads are locked up. He supports them because libertarian philosophy is pro-“free market” and because he believes that public entities like prisons are better off run by private entities that are trying to make a profit.

Gary Johnson is also pro-choice. Like me, he supports the right of any woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Like me, Gary Johnson believes that this right to choose is a matter of personal freedom, and it shouldn’t depend on the approval of anyone else.

Here’s what’s wonky: Gary Johnson does not support the federal government’s ability to tell individual states whether abortion should be legal or not. He wants to leave that sort of thing up to states, because in wonky libertarian political philosophy, individual state governments are sacrosanct and the federal government is an evil oppressor.

The same thing goes for marriage equality. The same thing goes for civil rights. Gary Johnson pays lip service to these things, but he is against the federal government enforcing these things.

He’s playing both sides of the fence, folks.

And I am gonna toss one more barb at his supporters — all of you, not just the ones I know personally — you guys are also playing both sides of the fence by supporting him.

No matter which one of the two people from last night’s debate gets elected — and it’s gonna be one of them, like it or not — you’ll get to puff your chest out and say “well I voted for Gary Johnson!” any time either one of them does something anyone doesn’t like.

One of the two viable candidates is qualified. One isn’t.

Come back to reality, people. Help us elect the qualified candidate.

Thanks for reading.

I AM A DEMOCRAT, JUST IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T FIGURED THAT OUT YET

GOP: “We should deregulate business. All these environmental restrictions are stifling profits!”

Libertarian Party: “We should deregulate business. All these environmental restrictions are stifling profits! And also, let’s legalize weed!”

GOP: “Welfare is draining public funds! Those poor people are just lazy, that’s all!”

Libertarian Party: “Welfare is draining public funds! Those poor people are just lazy, that’s all! And also, let’s legalize weed!”

GOP: “We need to end big government. All this bureaucracy is keeping us from getting anything done!”

Libertarian Party: “We need to end big government. All this bureaucracy is keeping us from getting anything done! And also, let’s legalize weed!”

GOP: “I’m sick of political correctness. Everybody is too sensitive! Freedom of speech is important…unless you’re calling me a bigot, in which case you’re being totally unfair to me, even though I have not given any consideration whatsoever to your point of view!”

Libertarian Party: “I’m sick of political correctness. Everybody is too sensitive! Freedom of speech is important…unless you’re calling me a bigot, in which case you’re being totally unfair to me, even though I have not given any consideration whatsoever to your point of view! And also, let’s legalize weed!”

GOP: “Ayn Rand is the greatest author of all time! Poor people should bow down and worship the rich!”

Libertarian Party: “Ayn Rand is the greatest author of all time! Poor people should bow down and worship the rich! And also, let’s legalize weed!”

GOP: “Government is good when it gives me money! Government is bad when when it gives other people money!”

Libertarian Party: “Government is good when it gives me money! Government is bad when it gives other people money! And also, let’s legalize weed!”

GOP: “Weed is bad!”

Libertarian Party: “Weed is b–, I mean, I like weed, and I am an individual wholly disconnected from society, and I am special and unique, and one man’s freedom ends where another’s begins, and even though my actions often hinder the freedoms of others, thus rendering the previous platitude completely and utterly moot, I will do whatever the hell I want to, to hell with the environment and society! Your freedom ends where it starts to be an annoyance to me, and if you don’t like it go fuck yourself, because freedom — MY uninhibited freedom — is all that’s important! And also, let’s legalize weed! We can make scads of money off of it! We can legalize it here in our state, with a few restrictions, of course (government is good when it helps us, remember!) and support private prisons that incarcerate out of state people who buy our quasi-legal weed in our state and take it home to smoke! We can make money selling weed to them, and make money when they get arrested for possession of it!”

GOP: “That’s genius! You Libertarians are a lot like us!”

Libertarian Party: “How dare you! We are nothing like you stuffy old codgers!”

GOP: “Whatever you say, kid. Can we at least agree that the Democrats, with all their stupid social programs that benefit the environment, the economy, international relations, veterans, LGBT people, minorities, women, public school kids, college students, teachers, and people who aren’t already wealthy, are evil monsters that hate freedom?”

Libertarian Party: “I agree! The Democrats are evil monsters that hate freedom! And also, let’s legalize weed!”

GOP: “Look, kid, if you get caught with it, your wealthy parents are just going to bail you out anyway. Why do you want to legalize weed so much? Drug laws don’t really apply to people like you to begin with.”

Libertarian Party: “…I wanna make money off of it.”

GOP: “That’s my boy!”

AN INTERVIEW…

WITH THE LATE – AND (ARGUABLY) GREAT – DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, WHICH GETS INTERRUPTED TOWARD THE END BY THE LATE – AND (INDISPUTABLY) GREAT – CRAD KILODNEY

MICHAEL NATHAN WALKER: So, David, it’s really awesome of you to be here, to allow me to interview you and tell the world your answers to my questions.

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: …

MNW: I suppose the first subject we ought to tackle is your novel, the novel I just finished reading for the third time.

DFW: …

MNW: Yeah, it’s quite an investment, personal-time wise, I mean there’s something like 1079 pages to read, and they’re not all in like numerical order; I mean the reader has to check back to this part of the book and then look ahead to another part of the book, and–

DFW: …

MNW: You’re right, you’re absolutely right. But at the same time –

DFW: …

MNW: Right.

DFW: …

MNW: I agree, I mean I think–

DFW: …

MNW: I mean I think I know what you mean. But I–

DFW: …

MNW: Right, I mean I don’t really know, I mean I guess I just think I know, I guess.

DFW: …

MNW: Ha.

DFW: …

MNW: Exactly.

DFW: …

MNW: Right, I mean I am gonna make myself look stupid by asking, but what happens at the end? It’s pretty much open to interpretation.

DFW: …

MNW: That’s what I thought.

DFW: …

MNW: I mean, I read “Infinite Jest” three times, I mean I read lots of other stuff in between those readings, but I read a 1079-page novel three times – three times, Dav d – and I am still not completely sure how everything ends up.

DFW: …

MNW: I know! I mean, that’s the way to make a reader flip back to the beginning of the novel and –

DFW: . .

MNW: I agree, it all makes sense, the whole thing, I mean Hal, Hal Incandenza, his whole thing was that he liked to get high by himself, secretly, and that –

DFW: …

MNW: .. Right.

DFW: …

MNW: Right.

DFW: …

MNW: And at the end, like at the end of the novel, like page wise, like not timeline wise, Hal–

DFW: ..

MNW: Ha.

DFW: …

MNW: Hal broke into Pemuli ‘s stash, and Hal–

DFW: …

MNW: Right.

DFW: …

MNW: That’s what I was trying to say, that w en–

DFW: …

MNW: H l was using his own personal Subs ance to get himself by.

DFW: …

MNW: Yeah, I realized it while I was typing it, “Himself,” that’s what Hal calls his deceased father in the novel–

DFW: …

MNW: Right.

DFW: ..

MNW: Right. Yeah, I mean, I mean I get it. I get the whole thing, the whole metaphorical thing with ETA protecting its students from the outside world, the world that wants to exploit them because of their talents and –

DFW: …

MNW: Right.

DFW: …

MNW: Totally, I mean it’s ironic as hell–

DFW: . .

MNW: Yeah!

DFW: …

MNW: That’s what I have been trying to tell people.

DFW: …

MNW: ETA keeps the outside world away from its students, nominally for the students’ best interest–

DFW: ..

MNW: Let me finish, then we’ll talk about that.

DFW: …

MNW: No, I apologize.

DFW: …

MNW: Anyways, the whole ETA philosophy is to shelter ETA students from outside interference, and the idea is that doing so will allow them to develop their own personal identities to a degree beyond doubt, but…

DFW: …

MNW: I mean like not totally “beyond doubt,” but like to the point where they are confident – like ETA students, I mean – are confident in their abilities to the point that nothing can touch them, metaphorically; like if some sportswriter picks their tennis apart and tells the world that they’re, like I mean the ETA-trained tennis player, male or female, that they’re not any good, or on the other hand that their tennis is the absolute–

DFW: …

MNW: Yeah, I mean–

DFW: . .

MNW: Yeah. The same thing applies if they’re terrible. Terrible at tennis, I mean. ETA is there to like shield them from criticism, until they’ve developed their own personal abilities–

DFW: ..

MNW: Right.

DFW: …

MNW: It took me three readings to get that, but yeah.

DFW: …

MNW: …

DFW: …

MNW: I want to thank you for this interview, D vid, I mean it’s not like this is an everyday sort of thing, your being so–

DFW: ..

MNW: God, tennis is a lot harder than it looks, I mean–

DFW: …

MNW: I know! God…

DFW: …

MNW: But when two people are both good at it…

DFW: …

MNW: Yeah!

DFW: ..

MNW: It’s like tennis is a metaphor for everything, and I have to say that while reading your novel I realized that–

DFW: …

MNW: I mean I realized that the whole individual versus another individual aspect of tennis, the whole self vs. another part, is, like–

DFW: .

MNW: Yes, as a m tter of fact I am drunk, I don’t really know what this has to do with–

DFW: …

MNW: Anyways thanks for being here. I kn w i too a l t of patience to sit still s I c uld see you an he r you.

DFW: …

MNW: Yeah, I know, but I am trying to write this interview within the parameters of your own, well, whatever.

DFW: .

MNW: Right.

DFW: …

MNW: Right, like with the wraiths and whatnot. I get it.

DFW: …

MNW: Right.

SHE HAS A PET BUNNY RABBIT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD

This post is going to be a little scatterbrained. The inspiration for it, more or less, came from a TV show – specifically from a female actor on a TV show that I have developed a mild crush on – but as I began mentally composing it, thoughts regarding various authors (including one that my latest celebrity crush is apparently a fan of) started to creep their way into the mix, so anyways I decided to just start typing and see what ends up on the screen.

I would first like to state that I agree, there is indeed something rather loser-ly about a 36-year-old single male writing blog posts about female celebrities he has crushes on. If you feel the need to point that out in further detail, feel free. Nonetheless, well, loser though it may make me seem to be, I am going to write a little about the latest female celebrity I have developed a mild crush on (eat your hearts out, Sarah Silverman, Norah Jones, et al.), and then hopefully smoothly transition into writing about an author she likes – this author is one of my personal favorite authors, incidentally – and compare this author to a couple other authors I also like.

Without further blathering, the celebrity I have recently developed a mild crush on is Constance Wu, one of the stars of the hit ABC sitcom “Fresh Off The Boat.” In case you aren’t familiar with the show, it’s centered around the Huang family – dad Louis, mom Jessica (Wu’s character), sons Eddie, Emery, and Evan, and also Louis’ wheelchair-bound, Chinese-speaking but English-understanding mother – a Taiwanese-American family who live in Orlando, Florida. The sitcom is loosely based on the memoir “Fresh Off The Boat” written by celebrity chef Eddie Huang (the “Eddie” character is based on him) and I haven’t read that book yet but I intend to, simply because I am a huge fan of the sitcom it inspired.

Louis and Jessica moved to the USA – where they met each other – from Taiwan when they were either in their late teens or early 20s, I think. I am not certain…I am just going by information given on a couple episodes, like the one where Evan isn’t sure if he should use his American name or his Chinese name to open a checking account, and the one where Louis’ brother (played by Ken Jeong) comes to visit. In that episode, it’s revealed that Louis’ father told him and his brother that he could afford to send one of them to America but not the other, and Louis jumped at the opportunity, something his brother never really forgave him for. In the first episode I mentioned, Jessica tells Evan that she used to go only by her Chinese name, but that no Americans could pronounce it properly. Incidentally, I don’t have any idea how to spell her Chinese name, so…yeah.

The show is significant to many Asian-American people for the simple reason that it’s only the second (I think) prime-time network TV sitcom in the USA to center around an Asian-American family. The other one – I can’t remember the name of it off the top of my head – was about Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho and her family, and it was on the air way back in the 1990s. “Fresh Off The Boat” is set in the 1990s, incidentally, and the Margaret Cho sitcom (“All-American Girl”?) is referenced – and there’s a short clip from it – in one episode, after (I think) Jessica mentions something about how there aren’t any Asian people on American TV.

And above and beyond the fact that I find Constance Wu to be pretty – this may not make any sense to anyone but me, but she is pretty in the same way that Shelley Long (Diane on “Cheers”) is pretty, in my opinion – I also think she’s really funny in her portrayal of tiger mom Jessica Huang.

And above and beyond both of those things, Constance Wu has been quite outspoken on social media and in interviews regarding the phenomenon of “whitewashing” in Hollywood. “Whitewashing” is the phenomenon of white people being cast in roles written for nonwhite people. More recently, she spoke out quite passionately (and compellingly) about “white saviors” in Hollywood movies, such as a new movie (I don’t remember the title) that’s set in China I think…and Matt Damon is the film’s hero.

Being that I am white, things like “whitewashing” and “white saviors” and things like that aren’t things that I might notice, even though they’re right out in the open for everyone to see. I mean, for example, in the movie “The Last Samurai,” there’s only one samurai left in all of Japan…and it’s Tom Cruise?

Really?

That’s just one of the most apparent examples, there have been many others. And though I try to be as socially conscious as I can be, I don’t always see everything like that.

And going back to the FOTB episode where Jessica talks about why she chose to start going by “Jessica” instead of her Chinese name (she went by “Bob” for a while because she liked the “bob” haircut and didn’t realize “Bob” was a man’s name), that’s something that I as a white person with a pretty generic Anglo-American sort of name have never experienced. Nobody I have ever met in my entire life has ever had a problem pronouncing “Michael.” As a matter of fact, when I lived in South Korea for two years, no Korean person ever had a problem pronouncing it, because it can be phonetically written in Korean (마이클, ma ee keul, say it three times fast) in such a way that sounds pretty much exactly like it does in English.

And yeah, most every ESL student I taught over there had an English name, because many Westerners (and non-Koreans in general) have a hard time pronouncing Korean names. I mention that because I already knew that many Asian people prefer to go by English names when they are around English speakers, it’s just that I had never seen this phenomenon be the central plot point of an episode of a sitcom.

So anyways, getting back to my loser-ly, schoolboy-ish crush on a female celebrity, not only do I find Constance Wu to be pretty in a wholesome, all-American girl next door who is way the hell out of your league but nice to you anyway sort of way – she’s got a pet bunny rabbit, which oh my God how adorable is that – not only is she a talented comedic actor on quite possibly the funniest TV show currently in production (is there gonna be a third season of “Black Jesus”?), she is also raising my level of social consciousness.

And quite possibly most importantly, with regard to what prompted me to risk public embarrassment and write all this down, just recently, Ms. Wu wrote a tweet that made my sad, loser-ly little heart just absolutely flutter:

She told her followers on Twitter – she called them struggling little fishes, if memory serves – to think about the David Foster Wallace essay “This Is Water” to help them get through their daily lives.

I think I saw that Tweet on Facebook after a Facebook friend shared it. I pretty much immediately followed Ms. Wu on Twitter…which is when I saw her selfie with her pet rabbit, and the rabbit sticker on the back of her phone, and that is the cutest damn selfie on the internet, I don’t care what anybody says.

“This Is Water” was a commencement speech DFW gave, I think, I guess maybe at Amherst, his alma mater. I didn’t know for sure what that particular essay/speech was about when I saw the Tweet, but the fact that somebody I already thought highly of for various reasons is also a fan of one of my favorite authors, well, it is a fact I like, loser though it may make me seem to be.

And anyways, it turns out that I had read “This Is Water” before, and I actually have a PDF of it here on my phone. A while back, somebody on Facebook – somebody from a secular humanist Facebook page I no longer follow, if memory serves – was up in arms over the fact that in “This Is Water,” DFW makes the claim that there is really no atheism, because everybody worships something, be it money, or power, or themselves, or any number of things.

I have gotten in countless arguments online over the issue of whether “atheism” can be a sort of religion. I maintain that it most certainly can be a whole lot like a religion: for example there’s a lot of in-group/out-group behavior in atheist circles. Tons of it. And don’t even get me started on how the political views of many atheists in America line up almost perfectly with those of the religious right in America.

But I don’t want to waste any more of my time arguing that point. At any rate, I understand exactly what DFW meant, and I agree with him.

The main idea behind “This Is Water” is that people, by default, are selfish creatures. This is due to the fact that every one of us experiences life from our own point of view. We are, in fact, at the exact center of every experience we have ever had. Therefore it’s natural for us to perceive our own lives and our own experiences as being more relevant and more “real” than the experiences of others. But, as DFW wrote in the essay/commencement speech, we can choose to “adjust our default settings” to be more aware of our surroundings and of others.

DFW says, quite correctly, that this sort of awareness is very difficult to achieve and maintain. But also that it’s quite worth the effort it requires.

The thing about “everybody worships” is also true. If you’re an atheist who derives a smug sort of satisfaction from the (absurd) notion that your being an atheist makes you by default “smarter” than every religious person on the planet, well, DFW might say (and I would agree) that you worship your own intellect, and you therefore feel the need to constantly prove to everyone how smart you are.

Such as, for example, by throwing a fit when somebody writes a damn good essay with a damn good point about waking up and learning to see the world outside of your own skull because of a minor semantic point about “atheism,” which even though such a reaction requires selective reading and irrationality and anger and all sorts of things that really religious people do when somebody questions their religion, atheism is still not a “religion” to you, and DFW was crazy for questioning you, and so on.

At any rate, DFW’s making the conscious choice (and effort) to be (or at least try his best to be) aware of other people and their concerns – he wrote about this in the nonfiction essay “E Unibus Pluram,” sort of – led to his being one of the greatest fiction writers of all time, in my opinion as well as the opinion of many others.

Reading his fiction is like being put inside the brain and body of the characters he creates. There is an incredible amount of detail put into descriptions of their thoughts and motivations and obsessions and idiosyncrasies (and addictions), and one thing that I think set DFW apart from most other fiction writers was that he was able to write about all these things clearly and non-judgmentally – there isn’t a lot of “moralizing” in his writing, I mean – and even if the reader and the character have nothing whatsoever in common other than the fact that they are both members of the same species, the reader empathizes with that character. With those characters.

DFW’s fictional characters were sometimes seemingly superhuman in their abilities – Hal Incandenza in “Infinite Jest” has an eidetic memory and can quote dictionary definitions (including not only the etymology of any given word but also how different dictionaries and different editions of dictionaries defined words differently) off the top of his head at age 11, for example, and on top of that Hal is one heck of a junior tennis player – but they were also flawed and vulnerable and, well, human.

There isn’t a lot of “moralizing,” as such, but there are philosophical questions that are raised from time to time. It may even be said that certain of these questions – I regret I can’t list which philosopher/s are being referenced with these questions off the top of my head – are in fact the central theme in DFW’s writing, whether we’re talking about his fiction or his nonfiction.

As a matter of fact, the very same philosophical issue brought up in “This Is Water” – the idea that “everyone worships,” that people have to consciously force themselves out of their own heads and be aware of other people – is brought up within the first hundred pages (including quite a few pages in the “NOTES AND ERRATA” section in the back) of “Infinite Jest,” both when Remy Marathe and Hugh Steeply are discussing this issue in more or less explicitly philosophical terms and also in the corresponding locker room/“little buddy” sections from Enfield Tennis Academy.

Marathe (a wheelchair-bound assassin/triple agent [he’s pretending to pretend to be an informant]; Marathe is a Quebecois Separatist, i.e. he wants Quebec to secede from the fictional Organization of North American Nations, the acronym of which [O.N.A.N.] being a reference to a story in the Bible about a fellow named Onan who chose to “spill his seed upon the ground” rather than impregnate his dead brother’s wife: large dumpsters filled with toxic waste that the USA fires through the air across the [slightly altered] Canadian border that spill upon the ground [as it were] being a rather ham-fisted [and intentionally so, I would venture] sort of visual aid to this reference) criticizes the American way of thinking – or at least his interpretation of it – as being incredibly self-centered and ultimately nihilistic. Americans, Marathe says, care only about their immediate gratification, while Canadians (or at least Quebecois separatist agents/terrorists such as himself) devote themselves to higher causes, in his case the “liberation” of Quebec from O.N.A.N.

Steeply mocks Marathe, and also points out that Marathe’s motivation for being a triple agent is pretty much exactly what he describes the American philosophy to be: Marathe, you see, is risking both his own life and the success of the agency he works for (“Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents,” or in English “The Wheelchair Assassins;” I had to look the French term up in the book; I took a total of six semesters’ worth of French in high school and college but I am terrible at it) in order to help his wife get medical treatment from the USA. Marathe had just gone on something of a tear (in English, but using French syntax) on how romantic love – the end-all, be-all for most Americans, as he saw it – was ultimately only love of the sensation that the “loved” person gives the person who loves them, and therefore it was a hollow and solipsistic sort of “love;” i.e. really only self-love. Steeply disagrees, and points out Marathe’s hypocrisy.

The corresponding scenes at Enfield Tennis Academy mirror this exchange: the ETA kids (the guys, anyway) discuss philosophical aspects of the ways they are being subtly manipulated by their coaches and “prorectors” at ETA. Tennis is an individual sport, and all the kids at ETA are – at all times – vying for a higher rank; that is to say they are always competing with each other, always trying to defeat each other on the court. But the ETA staff – by pushing each ETA kid to his/her absolute individual physical and mental limits – provides the ETA kids a sense of community by being their common enemy. It’s basically the same “interests of the individual vs. interests of the group” question that Marathe and Steeply are discussing on a mountainside near Tuscon, AZ. (The fictional Enfield Tennis Academy is in the metro Boston, MA area, FYI.)

It’s worth noting that I began re-re-reading “Infinite Jest” after I typed the paragraph beginning with “DFW’s characters” and also the first sentence of the next paragraph. I wanted to refresh my memory, I guess, and since I have “Infinite Jest” on my phone’s Kindle app, I figured what the heck.

The first two times I read “Infinite Jest” – yes, it’s 1079 pages long, and yes, I intend to read the whole thing again this third time – I actually found these sections rather tedious. The thing about “Infinite Jest” is that the plot – in addition to not being anywhere close to being linear (the conversation between Marathe and Steeply occurs in late April, and the interspersed ETA scenes occur the following November, for example) – has several pretty big holes in it.

And those “holes in the plot” are not like “plot holes” as in the sense of “Indiana Jones does not actually make any difference whatsoever in the outcome of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’” or “there’s no way in hell that one blonde kid in the original ‘Karate Kid’ movie would just walk into Daniel-san’s crane kick at the end” plot holes, they are “holes in the plot” that were (at the risk of being florid) “dug” intentionally. The reader has to piece everything together, and even then it can’t be determined one way or the other if the reader is correct.

Although I am reasonably sure about what happens to Hal. It’s hinted at pretty heavily in the first hundred pages, and sorry if anyone considers this a spoiler, but it has to do (in my opinion) with the fact that Hal enjoys being secretive about his marijuana use as much (if not more) than the actual marijuana use itself. He likes sneaking around and getting high, and it’s mentioned several times that he likes the sneaking around as much as he likes the getting high.

I have read interpretations that involve ghosts, and, well, even though the ghost of Hal’s dad does appear to a (hospitalized and on the edge of death and probably hallucinating) character near the end of the book, well, I don’t think ghosts had anything to do with it. Unless by “ghosts” you mean “memories” and “psychological traumas” and that sort of thing.

This transition is a bit abrupt, I admit (I happened upon the word “discursive” in “Infinite Jest” the other day and had to look it up, coincidentally), but when I first envisioned this blog post, I wanted to mention Kazuo Ishiguro’s fiction as well. I recently read “The Remains of the Day” by him, and I read “A Pale View Of Hills” a few years back.

My link to DFW was orignally intended to be something about how Ishiguro’s writing goes so deep into the psyches of his protagonists that he doesn’t seem to leave much (if any) trace of himself in his fiction. Many authors employ distinct styles and idiosyncrasies in their writing – Kurt Vonnegut, for example (a major plot point in “Infinite Jest” may or may not have been inspired by the KV short story “The Euphio Question,” actually) – to the point that anyone who has read anything by them can recognize their writing within a few sentences or paragraphs.

Ishiguro – and admittedly I have only read two of his novels – does not seem to have idiosyncrasies like this, unless you can count “clarity” and “lucidity” as “idiosyncrasies.” The two aforementioned novels are deeply engaging on an emotional and psychological level, they tell their stories with a level of depth and nuance that is pretty much unparalleled by pretty much any other author I have ever read…except for maybe DFW, or Fyodor Dostoyevsky, or George Eliot, maybe.

I was going to try to draw a connection between Ishiguro and DFW by way of a “the author is invisible” sort of approach, I mean that their respective fiction is so clearly written and lucid that they – the authors – are nowhere to be found, so to speak, but after re-re-reading the first hundred pages of “Infinite Jest,” well, anybody who reads that novel and claims it isn’t chock full of idiosyncrasies is, well, full of crap. The same guy that wrote that – with all the “and but so”s and the foot/endnotes and the extremely long and detailed scene and character descriptions – is easily identifiable as the same guy that wrote “This Is Water” and “The Pale King” and pretty much all (or at least most) of DFW’s other stuff. Not that this is a bad thing, you understand.

And now that I think about it, a recurring theme in both “The Remains of the Day” – a novel about an English butler thinking back over his life – and “A Pale View Of Hills” – a novel about a Japanese woman whose adult daughter committed suicide who is reminiscing about when she was pregnant with that daughter – is how memory is not always as perfect as we would like it to be, and how when we look back on our lives so far, we (at least many of us) question if we made the right decisions in our lives, things like that.

I suppose Ishiguro actually did “write himself into” both “A Pale View Of Hills” and “The Remains of the Day,” at least to a degree: he was born in Japan, and he moved to England. The protagonist of “A Pale View Of Hills” is Japanese, and she moves to England, after marrying an Englishman. And perhaps – just perhaps – the pretty much self-imposed alienation from most of British society of the butler in “The Remains of the Day” is also Ishiguro peeking through the pages at us. Maybe. The butler is completely detached from everyone else in the novel, at any rate, and sees this as his own form of “dignity.”

At any rate, I think the thing that actually made Ishiguro remind me of DFW (and vice-versa), on top of their prose being among the highest-quality prose I have ever personally read, “A Pale View Of Hills” also has quite a few quirky interpretations of it floating around online, interpretations that require the reader to, well, make stuff up.

For example, in the parts of “A Pale View Of Hills” that are set in post-WWII Japan, the protagonist befriends a single Japanese mother and her young daughter. The protagonist is pregnant with the daughter that kills herself many years later in England, remember.

The woman she befriends (sorry for not remembering any names; I don’t remember the butler’s name off the top of my head, either) is a horrible mother. She neglects her daughter throughout the novel, and at the end she drowns the little girl’s kittens because they are moving to either America or England, I can’t remember, with the mother’s boyfriend.

I have read theories online that claim the pregnant mother and the neglectful mother are actually the same person, and the person telling the story is crazy, and so on and so forth. And sure, a person could read the novel that way – just like a person could read “Infinite Jest” as ending with a ghost of a dead father breaking into a stash of drugs and force-feeding his son drugs which would fry the son’s brain and render him incapable of communicating with anyone but his ghostly father – but doing so ignores what’s actually in the actual text itself, and to my view diminishes the text itself. But what do I know, and so on.

At any rate, if anyone reads all this, I hope they don’t insert things from their own imaginations into it. But at the same time, I recognize that to some degree, they are going to have to do just that, otherwise this whole post is just a bunch of words strung together, just a bunch of phonetic symbols arranged on a screen.

(Does that make any sense?)

I don’t know how to wrap this up – I said from the beginning it would be “scatterbrained” – but as I mentioned at the beginning, I am a fan of Constance Wu. And it gives me some sort of a weird, kindred feeling to know that a person from TV I like reads at least one of the same authors I do and (at least presumably) shares the same sort of philosophy that author expressed in his writing, because for the most part, I share it, too.

And please understand that I am fully aware that Constance Wu does not need or necessarily even want my “approval” or “admiration” or whatever, and that on the one-in-a-million chance she actually happened to see and read this blog post and read it, she might even explicitly feel compelled to say that she doesn’t need or want my “approval” or “admiration” or whatever.

Please understand that that would be fine with me.

I just hope she wouldn’t be weirded out by it. By this blog post, I mean. Though I understand completely if she were.

It’s sort of like – writing is sort of like, I mean – the “philosophy of tennis” idea expressed several times in “Infinite Jest”: the goal is to send something away from you which does not come back. In tennis it’s the tennis ball that you don’t want to come back, in writing it’s, well, the things you write. You want people to understand your thoughts, and you want them to interpret your thoughts the way you think you think them. You don’t want them to take something like the fact that you have a mild crush on a famous person and twist it into something nasty or bad.

So you try your best to explain what you mean, and what you mean by what you mean, and how you’d still think that famous person was really awesome and cool even if she wasn’t Diane-from-“Cheers” pretty, and even if she didn’t have a pet bunny rabbit, and so on.

And you hope – like a tennis player who has just successfully whacked the ball over the net to his/her opponent’s side of the court – that what you have written will not come back to you, or at least that it won’t come back to you in such a way that you can’t deflect.

Or, at least, I do.

Thank you for reading.

(Whoever you are.)

WOOP WOOP

There’s been a lot of talk lately about police in the USA. One recent conversation came about following the mass shooter in Dallas who targeted police officers.

And yes, the man was black, but no, he was not involved with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The Dallas chief of police made the suggestion that #BlackLivesMatter protesters who were concerned about predominantly white officers policing predominantly black neighborhoods should sign up for their local police force.

This suggestion was met with mixed responses. Some people seemed to think it was a good idea. If people from specific neighborhoods became police officers in those neighborhoods, there would be more openness and dialogue between the police and the people they are obligated to serve and to protect.

I think that argument has some merit. If every neighborhood, town, and city in the country had friendly police who not only get along with the local people but also play an active role in their communities above and beyond their duties as police officers (think Mayberry, think Andy Taylor, think Barney Fife), violent conflict between the police and the public might — *might* — occur less frequently.

Not everyone agrees with that line of reasoning. Some people maintain that it is not necessarily the police per se that are the problem, the problem is the policing. Many studies have shown that wealthy neighborhoods — specifically wealthy white neighborhoods — are simply not policed the same way that poor neighborhoods — specifically poor black neighborhoods — are policed.

If people from poor black neighborhoods become police, according to people who opposed the Dallas police chief’s suggestion, that’s not solving the very real problem of disproportionate policing, it’s maintaining it.

I see the merit in this latter argument also. And this argument doesn’t rely on unrealistic ideas from classic sitcoms, to be blunt.

Before I type anything else, I would like to state unequivocally that I have nothing but respect for the many upright, honorable police men and women in our country. Taking it upon oneself — *sincerely* taking it upon oneself — to protect and serve the public and maintain law and order is one of the most noble things any American can do.

I would also like to state, however, that there are very few things in the world that I consider more vile and unforgivable than corrupt police officers. These wastes of flesh — not to mention public funds — do not protect and serve, they murder, they rape, they supply drugs to drug dealers in exchange for a cut of profits, they ruin lives as well as entire communities through their abuse of authority.

I am not making these things up, for the record. Anyone who keeps up with national news — even casually — knows all too well that this sort of thing happens quite frequently in our country.
For anyone reading this — especially upright police officers — please don’t think that I am writing about these things in an attempt to demonize all police officers or to encourage hostility towards police officers. I most certainly am not.

I am writing about these things because these things are a legitimate problem in our society. And yes, I have a few suggestions that I feel might help the situation. These suggestions would not magically fix everything, but I think they would help.

I do not mean this disrespectfully toward anyone currently employed in law enforcement, but I think a very good place to start in solving these problems would be to make it much more difficult to become a police officer.

Put simply, not everyone is cut out to be a police officer. The vast majority of people do not possess the strength of character, level-headedness, and personal skills necessary to be an effective police officer. And again, I don’t mean this disrespectfully toward anyone currently employed in law enforcement, but hardly a week goes by where there isn’t a story about a police officer shooting someone under questionable circumstances.

People who shoot first and ask questions later should not be police officers. To be sure, there are many situations that arise where it is necessary for a police officer to shoot a criminal, especially if that criminal is shooting at the police. But far too many unarmed people — unarmed *citizens* who are legally and constitutionally entitled to be not only treated fairly but also *protected and served* by the police — are shot and killed by people who should never have been given a badge and a gun in the first place.

That’s my first suggestion: make it harder to become a police officer. I am sure that there are psychological tests in place already; I say make them more intensive and thorough.

If an applicant displays tendencies toward panicking in tense situations, that applicant shouldn’t be given a gun.

If an applicant displays tendencies toward sociopathic behavior, that person should not only be denied a gun but also escorted out of city hall post-haste. Anyone who would knowingly bring harm to others for personal gain should not be given one iota of the public’s trust.

And perhaps most importantly, if an applicant displays the slightest bit of racial prejudice, that applicant should not be given a job on any police force. Police are supposed to protect and serve everyone, not just people of a certain skin color.

“Hold on,” many people may be thinking. “Not many people want to be police officers to begin with. If we make it harder to be a police officer, won’t we likely be reducing the number of police officers on duty?”

If anyone thought that, I would advise them to reevaluate my first suggestion after they read my second:

Increase pay and benefits for the police officers who make it through the more difficult screening process. Not only that, make sure that all police departments across the country are fully funded.

A big part of disproportionate policing is (arguably) a direct result of economics. Underfunded police departments all too often rely on revenue from minor offenses, and not only that (i.e. fines stemming from minor offenses), but also on fines for being unable to pay the previous fines on time. These fines — for things like minor traffic offenses — affect people from different economic strata disproportionately: for someone making minimum wage, a hundred-dollar traffic ticket is is a significant blow to their finances, and if they have to make the decision whether to pay a hundred dollars for parking in the wrong place or paying their rent, well, they are likely to use that money to pay their rent. Which leads to an increased fine, or maybe an additional criminal charge, or maybe even jail time.

For a person on a middle class salary — and I mean “middle class,” not “just above the poverty line but driving a nice car to keep up appearances” — a hundred bucks is nothing. Having to give a hundred bucks to the police department represents the difference between eating at Applebee’s next Saturday night instead of at that new upscale joint downtown that everybody at work has been talking about. It’s a minor inconvenience, I mean.

Police departments depend entirely too much on fines to generate revenue. Is my point. If they weren’t underfunded, police in poor neighborhoods would have far less incentive to hand out expensive tickets left and right to people who (often) might not even realize they are breaking the law.

Now don’t get carried away here: when I say “make sure that all police departments across the country are fully funded” I mean “fully funded” with regard to covering administrative costs, paying salaries, keeping police vehicles in working order, that sort of thing.

I do not — do *not* — mean “fully funded” with regard to police having military equipment and fancy cars and flipping tanks and things like that. Sure, fully equip and fund SWAT teams and things like that. But neighborhoods in the United States of America should not be treated as war zones. People in the USA who aren’t committing any violent crimes should have no reason to fear the police, but if a person grows up in a neighborhood that is fundamentally no different than an occupied city during wartime, they’re not likely to think of the police in a positive light.

And again, I am not — *not* — trying to demonize the police or rile up negative ideas about police in general. I am trying to help find a solution that benefits both the police and the citizens they are employed to serve and protect.

Police officers are — first and foremost — public servants. If any police officer doesn’t understand this and accept this and make this the center of their philosophy toward policing, that person has no business being a police officer.

I don’t think that’s a controversial statement.

Do you?

At the same time, if we, the citizens of our country, want to have an effective police force to serve and protect us, we should be willing to fund the police departments these officers work for, and not force them to depend of revenues from fundraising events and ridiculously expensive ticketing. They should have what they need to do their jobs and live comfortably.

I don’t think that’s a controversial statement, either.

Do you?