Reality Check on Reality

The idea of Western Society, or any society with similarly western proclivities (Japan, I’m looking at you), without Reality Television in its entertainment canon is impossible to imagine.  I remember the first time I saw a modern version of “reality” programming, the first season of “The Real World” on MTV.  I thought it was unwatchable, and I was certain that the show and its format were destined for failure; but I had much to learn about the world, and myself.  My initial reaction to the show was jealousy.  Jealousy that someone had figured out how to make a T.V. show doing what I used to do, on the rocky beaches of Manchester Washington, way back in the days before I had learned that the center of the known universe was something other than myself.  I used to walk down to the beach, find a Styrofoam cup lying on the ground, put two small crabs inside, and watch the fireworks ensue.  This is embarrassing to admit, although, on the bright side, it was an early expression of my recycle/re-use ethos. It was also a rare occasion when an actual fight occurred.  On that point I suppose I missed the heart of the issue; what MTV was doing was a little more scientific. I had no back-story on the crabs with which I could emotionally manipulate them, and thus guarantee a fight.  Ahhh a formula. People hate when you reveal the underlying formula behind any given example of “reality” entertainment. (Yeah, probably entertainment needed quotes around it, but I’m trying hard not to sound condescending, a noble task at which I am destined for failure, but 300 words in I’m afraid to trash this thing and admit the whole idea was a mistake…now button up your parka; we’re going back outside and it is a cold hard bitch out there.) But like I said, people don’t want to know the formula. I first learned this when I found myself in a near fist-fight after having the audacity to suggest that the fine folks of the “WWF” (now WWE) were being less than forth-coming with the facts surrounding their wrestling matches.  There-in lays the clot.  Why are we so invested in the concept of reality?  (And no, I don’t mean “you” or “me”, but “we” in a “they” sort of way.  Phew, that was close…)

Winston Churchill once said, “Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.”  But then again Churchill was a bit short-sighted, and sometimes had the intellectual proclivities of a man who looks the wrong way before crossing the street.  This isn’t a personal attack on Churchill’s ignorance, but an indictment of all who possess the kind of confidence that makes it tough to learn anything new; all is as it’s always been…the mind of the conservative.  He left out the fourth option: some see all three.

Noam Chomsky calls it “manufactured consent”, my friend Matt calls it, “a fragile piece of comfortable fiction”, but regardless of what we call it, it is our reality, and there’s the problem with being told that anything that seems real at first shine is, in fact, not.  We live in a society that is for all intents and purposes “free”. Free, that is, until one starts to ask questions about why we are spending obscene amounts of money and human resources on a war in a foreign desert (a democratic display of force if ever there was one; I remember when I voted to pick a fight with Hussein), or why Wall-Street was bailed out of their financial woes, rather than held accountable for ours, or why there are no true choices among the viable candidates for political office at the national level.  It is at that point that the term “free” starts to lose its luster, as they say.  This is not to say that we are being manipulated by a single puppet master, or some conspiratorial cabal, just that some of the back-stories are being manipulated.  By whom, you might ask.  I don’t know.  It is not important really.  The more appropriate question is: why are we so prone to believe things are true, even in the face of contrary evidence?  There really isn’t any need to over-complicate the idea with conspiracy theories, especially when the true issue lies in our hearts and our restless need to be told the things that we believe are true.  There wasn’t a massive conspiracy to perpetuate the claim that our country was started as an experiment in religious freedom, just one historian and a majority of people who found that comfortable fiction more heroic than the dirty honest truth that the country was founded on economic exploitation.  Even in the face of over-whelming evidence, suggesting this idea will land you in the same predicament I found myself in back in the ‘eighties when I hinted that Dusty Rhodes might’ve been more actor than athlete.

I think this is why we are so reticent to admit that any one of our pieces of “comfortable fiction” isn’t reality, because if we admit it for one, eventually the whole sweater comes undone.  My conclusions that lie here-in are not meant to be the ravings of a stark mad lunatic content with nothing more than pissing in the punch-bowl. Rather, they are just a small reality check; we all fight about things, issues we call them, that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  My hope is that we fight only for truth…rare, rare truth.

Fear not Bremerton, or You are Already Dead [ A Poem by Patso

The stranger walks amongst us.

Strange?  If in nothing but his wiring.

The filter’s gone.  No rights?  No wrongs?

Synapses misfiring.

The meek?  The strong?

Amongst us the stranger walks.

What is ours for the taking?

Ours?  All we have is ours.

“Hold on Loosely”, 38 poets said.

Life slips; blood pours.

Reflect once dead?

Ours is for the taking.  What?

Abandon redemption if you dare.

Do you dare?  The notion?

Every great story.  Dare you?  Do you?

Naked against the ocean.

The end is near, Atreyu.

If you dare, abandon redemption.

What, truly, do you fear?

You, the filter; his filter.

Amid the night, fear dances.

Justice off kilter.

Second glances?  Second chances?

Truly, what do you fear?

Excuse Me Stabby, Thats My Seat

A killer lurks the streets of Bremerton.  Well I’ve never seen him so I know little about his gait.  Mayhaps he skips?  Silly, knife-wielding homicidal maniac, you shouldn’t lurk…skipping is the ticket.  I’d be laid out on the concrete having lost three and a half pints of blood before I suspected that the guy who just skipped up to me, shanked me.  But this all is really beside the point.  And it is not my purpose to give out tips on clandestine conveyance to people who kill people.  Telling a serial killer to skip around as a way to gain the upper hand over his victims would be like building tanks for emotionally immature ex-jocks to run amok through some distant desert.  Totally UN-American.

This is a newish development in the fair city of Bremerton, at least as far as I’ve noticed, Bremerton has been fairly safe.  Don’t get me wrong I’ve fallen victim to some crime.  I had a bicycle and a lawn-mower stolen from my backyard.  I imagine it was the work of some rich, white aristocratic savage who donated it to a papist, non-profit outfit like St. Value De Goodwill, as a means of salving his conscience over the fact that his millions were pushed through the sweating pores of backs much darker than his own.  Regardless, his offenses against me fell fall short of running a knife through me.  Beyond that, I’ve my cars broken into a couple of times, and my car was once hit by another car, that was being driven by a Hispanic gentleman, who promptly cursed at me and sped off…I kid, I don’t know if he cursed at me…I don’t speak Hispanic.  More excitement mixed with disappointment than any real danger.

Citizens of Bremerton, at least the ones that I know are doing their level best to protect themselves against this threat, and this really is the true violence being done against the town…this man will take some lives, sure, but his physical reach will be impotent in comparison to his psychic reach.  The idea that a predator is stalking the streets of a town you love…or tolerate, does unspeakable damage to your mental space.  As a result, it is far too easy to become a prisoner to fear gripped by its terror, and give yourself over to the idea that every move you make must be carefully precise so as not to fall victim to your own misstep being the very weakness this lunatic could expose.  Self-defense, the insidious bulwark of the terminally stressed.  Stress is a legitimate reaction to the news that one person you may or may not pass by every day has it in his mind that he wants to stab you, but we control how we allow this fear to change us…he doesn’t deserve that kind of power.

I’ve heard tell of people walking the streets with their handguns looking for this guy, an idea that is possibly a little more scary than some guy with a knife.  To me, at least.  I can imagine a hypothetical where-in a man is walking about, with a gun in his pocket and pending manhood on his mind, mistaking me for a light-skinned black man who stands around six feet tall…(an excerpt of an eyewitness description of Stabby).  Concealed handguns only work well against maniacs with knives if they decide to run at you from about 25 feet knife held above their heads screaming “it’s stabbing time”; most serial killer stabbing scenarios leave much to be desired in the way of reaction time.  And really who is to say that “six foot tall light skinned black man” are reliable descriptors of this man?  In order to test the validity of this description, I’d have to know the race and political proclivities of the eye witness.  Certainly it is no well kept secret that white people who are politically conservative tend to remember things a bit bigger and darker.  There remains the possibility…plausibility, that this killer is an Irish grandmother; trust me they possess all the mis-wired gray matter one might need to think stabbing fellow citizens is a good way to end a stressful day.  All that to say, if you are one of those fine folks roaming around with his or her pistol in tow…be careful.

I understand the instinct, I feel naked walking around without my Gerber switch-blade, not that I’m some bad-ass…I mean I could probably cut you, but I wouldn’t stand a chance against a rabid human honey badger with blood on his thoughts…for me the cut-off is: I could probably defend myself against people who know how to use the Internet (this is an approximation, I’m sure I wouldn’t fair well against people who frequent survivalist, and white supremacy sites, as they possess the same potential for melee madness), but some stark raving mad Irish grandmother roaming the streets sans a device to navigate a WI-fi hot spot ends with me in a pool of my own cooling blood.  Frightening.

This person will one day stop killing the tax-payers of Bremerton.  At which time we will be left with the realization of how much our personal ideas about humanity changed because of one asshole.  My hope is that the people I love have no regrets about the way this changed them.  Self-preservation should always work in concert with grace, it is a piss-poor replacement for grace.

Ode to Capitalism )or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Machine[

I know, what an inspired and unique title; right?  But if I can remind people through subtle movie references to go watch one of the greatest movies ever made, well then its like the old man said…the easiest way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing…or some such madness.  This is a new world record for me…shot right out the gate with tangential nonsense.  I’m honing my craft.  I was born a capitalist, baptized into the fold.  And Capitalists, like papists, like to dunk early.  Get ’em while they’re young, and keep ’em coming back for more.

While I’ve always been a capitalist, there exist many modes of which I’ve donned.  There are different modes all capitalists try on as they move from ignorant to educated…or the other way around.  There is the unfettered consumerist; a person who has to consume…and if the bank-roll won’t allow for the finer things in life, chotchkies will do fine…so long as I don’t have to think about anything too much.  The self-loathing hypocrite social justice worker, when I was one of these, I couldn’t stand the destruction I saw.  Destruction to the environment, to people’s hearts, to the people in countries more economically oppressed than my own, upon whom it fell to manufacture the salve what calmed my consumerist soul.  “I hate Wal-mart”, you could hear me yell…”I hate the way they sell things that I want at prices I can afford”…”those assholes”…”no, debit not credit”…”all of you should be ashamed of yourselves”…”yeah, receipt in the bag please”…always a sucker for comfy boxers at reasonable prices, all the social consciousness in the world couldn’t lure me away from the siren call…always low prices, always.  While there are many more modes of capitalism, the one I feel most cozy in these days is the “if you can’t beat ’em, sucker punch ’em” mode.  This is known by its inability to take anything seriously, and its ability to lob barrages of passive-aggressive criticism from the comfort of places far removed from retaliation.  All this to say, through the years of growing older, starting as one ignorant of the consequences of my choices, to a political conservative, to a political liberal, to a realist who has come to the conclusion that one’s conservatism or liberalism (or ignorance, or realism for that matter) does little in terms of real life change…real life good, save soothing the conscience of its owner, I have come to respect, or at least recognize, when a company gets its advertising right…when a corporation’s television spot doesn’t send me into a capitalist shame spiral, running like penguin with an inner-ear infection for the nearest place to perform the sacrament duties of the rape shower.  To wit, two spots I witnessed during the same break in broadcasting the other night; one was from Domino’s Pizza, the other, General Electric.

The first spot that I witnessed was done by the noon-day brightest minds Domino’s could muster; a real testament to class antagonism.  Here is Joe-schmo (whose name was on the screen, but a name I can’t recall), he is a delivery driver here at Domino’s, who has invented a new fast-food culinary atrocity which you can all use on your short trip toward type 2 diabetes.  Accompanied by fast pace shots of Joe-schmo doing the various things he must do to scratch together a minimum-wage subsistence  to subsidize his love of carbohydrate heavy snacks that can be consumed with as little self-reflection as possible…nothing more than a salty substrate for dipping-sauces.  This seizure inspiring sham was punctuated with one of Joe-schmo’s fellow proletariat’s suggestion that for his efforts Joe-schmo should become president of the Domino’s  corporation, to which the current president responded with a curt “no”.  The subtext being, “you just keep delivering our sub-standard product while we sell the piss out of these tasty treats you invented, and believe that we love your initiative, in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, as you enjoy tips as royalties that promise to never creep anywhere near 1% of total the dollar amount that Domino’s has enjoyed as a result of your brain-child.  Oh Karl, where have you gone?  We need you now, more than ever.

With the bar set so low, it was inevitable, or at least fairly easy, for the folks at G.E. to come in and look like the hero-pirates of the commercial spot.  Pillaging and thieving human dignity as a means for pimping their anti-cancer weaponry, but doing so with a care and precision that left one with the feeling of hope, or if not hope per-se, a reasonable facsimile there-of.  Employees of the corporate power-house were pontificating on the fact that their jobs, their work had been instrumental in changing peoples lives, and how good that made them feel.  It made me feel good for them.  Then, in a flash of genius the folks to whom G.E. turn to soften their public image, used a meeting between the employees of G.E. and the patients whose live were saved by their wares to show us the human element of the the fine folks at General Electric.  My tone has a confusing touch of sarcasm, but truly I found this commercial to be touching…at least when compared to the prior example.

All of this sanctimonious vitriol spewed to say one thing: with regard to capitalism, there are shades of self-absorption…not a right way and a wrong way…but many wrong ways, some of which that do not make my stomach turn…wow, this post came off more bitter than funny; if I were you…and I’m not…but if I were, I wouldn’t read this.

The Superest Game in all of Gamedom! )a quick correspondence from the sports desk[

It is the Thursday morning before Super-Bowl 40-something.  And if that doesn’t get you excited then you are just not a fan of football…or you’ve been informed of the two teams that are playing…didn’t we just see this game less than five years ago?!?  The whole thing smacks of the same aesthetic sensibility that brought T.V.’s “One Tree Hill” back to the CeeeDubbya after a much deserved hiatus, or the same knuckle-headed confoundery that brought us the re-boot of “Two and a Half Men” starring a visage of the former Ashton Kutcher, who despite all of the Hollywood wizardry of make-up and lighting, looks as though Nikon rode him hard and put him away wet.  I mean, come on, the show has always sucked, but at least Charlie Sheen received his scars honestly, like the rest of us, a result of an over-bearing father, and an under-developed sense of identity.  But I digress.  These are the teams with which we are stuck, for better or worse, until Monday, February the 6th, when I suspect after much grumbling, mainly about heartburns and hangovers, most will forget this game ever happened…at least until Al Michaels brings it up at their first Sunday Night Football game next season.  But he has to say something to arrest the nuanced explanations of various offensive/defensive strategies pouring from the cake hole of Chris Collinsworth, because, after all, these are not the things the increasingly casual fan-base of the NFL wants to hear…just tell ’em who the Quarterbacks are, and why they should care about this particular rivalry, and let ’em get back to mining all seven layers of their dip, Collinsworth.

Let us talk about the real issues at stake here…true football journalism…the issues beneath the issues.  The mascots.  There is no better barometer to the impending doom, or certain success of a team, than the little cartoon it wears on its helmet.  The mascot has a long and storied history of being the face of a teams savage disposition, and irrational view of reality.  Often, to an offensive result.  This takes the shape of animals, like the bear or the honey-badger.  It takes the shape of inanimate objects, like a jet or a brown?  Or it takes the shape of a people group, like a fighting Irish or a vandal.  Regardless of shape or scope, the idea is the same…”we are to be feared once we hit the field”.  The examples with which we’ve to work this time are, “The Giants” (aka the g-men), and “The Patriots”; no doubt two of the most feared and irrational examples of humanity in the annuls of history and fantasy, meeting together on a field in downtown Indianapolis…of course.  Where else would you expect this clash of titans to take place?  Seattle?  Oh, grow up!

Giants are scary, they eat people…one could only imagine the Alighierian contract the owners and players of this team signed with the Giants they represent to keep from becoming dinner once they lost their usefulness on the field…the contract is a bit too tight for my liking…I could get used to a world in which Phil Simms and Michael Strahan ended up in the septic system of a giant, and not doing analytical commentary on CBS and FOX.  None the less, Giants are scary, and thus a great way of showing dominance on the chess-board of the NFL field.  But are they scary enough?  If the point of the mascot is to show one’s opponent that they should abandon hope all ye who step on to the field, have they covered all of their bases?  It would seem so, when dealing with union dock-workers, and mining engineers, but this week the opposition is the patriot, more to the point, the American patriot, and one would be safe in arguing that few have witnessed a creature more savage and less reasonable than the American patriot.  This fact has, no doubt, turned the ventilation holes in Eli Manning’s athletic supporter into drainage holes.

The patriot IS the symbol, the ultimate symbol, of irrational savagery.  Patriotism and nationalism have brought us every manner of irrational fear, and reaction history has to offer; from the justification of all forms of slavery, to the desert oasis mirage of WMDs that made it okay to open a war zone in a sovereign country.  Sure the country was run by a lunatic, but close your eyes and spin a globe…unless your finger lands on the 75-80% covered by H2O, chances are, you are pointing at a country led by a lunatic.  Too bad that isn’t the bet we’re talking about here…so much simpler.  Nay, we are talking about the ultimate victor of a game whose shelf life will be better summed up in days, rather than years.  Unless, you are sitting in a sports bar in New York, or Boston…in which case, you’ve bigger fish to fry…move along this blog can’t help you.

The point is the patriot is the mascot to beat, the leanest, meanest example of irrational dominance the grid-iron has ever witnessed.  The only way a Giant could be less rational than a Patriot is if you gave it the brain of a pubescent male, and while there is a chance that Eli Manning could be that very brain, it will take nothing less than a miracle for the G-men to pull this one off, just like last time.  Which is confusing, because it used to be the other way around.  Miracles were Giant killers.

Editor’s note:  I had a similar post lined up just in case Houston made it in; it had more allusions to racism, but was essentially the same.