MOST BELOVED STORIES AND COMICS
- Falsus Corpus: Thoughts About Women's Stupid Bodies
- When To Hug Someone: Life's Greatest Mystery
- Getting Old: The Side Effect of Aging
- The Apex of Cuisine: When Too Far Isn't Far Enough
- Ghost Dogs and the New American Job Market
- Epidermal Ornateness and Absurd Discord
- Heartache in the Absence of Love and then, Eventually, the Other.
- An Open Letter to the People in Charge
- Spiders In School
The humorless democratization of entertainment and politically correct jerk-off festival that the internet has become is really bumming me out. Last week the contentious comedy troupe, Million Dollar Extreme, was banned from YouTube. The channel initially went down on July 16th and has since been officially terminated by the website under allegations of copyright infringement or breaching the community guidelines of decency. This effectively removes hundreds of the group’s videos from online existence. These ranged from scripted and edited pieces of thoughtful irreverent comedy to an impromptu clip of Sam Hyde singing to his mother about how cool she is as she begs him to stop. Nick Rochefort’s prank calls to Craigslist prostitutes and Charles Carroll’s depiction of a homeless Satan are equally and troublingly missing. Going to these videos now yields the text “this video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.”
The only videos that have survived are fan tributes and exceptionally popular content, like their Williamsburg Street Fashion Interviews and Sam Hyde’s hijacking of a TEDx event. MDE is infamous for this type of comedy terrorism and seems to take special joy making fun of groups that most people would deem off limits, taking more of a scorched earth approach to humor. Nothing and nobody can be considered sacred. They also rarely offer a comforting wink to the audience when satirical elements get uncomfortable or a character says something particularly monstrous. It doesn’t feel safe and, in a world of politically correct labels and trigger warnings, people really like to feel safe. When asked about what Million Dollar Extreme’s response might be to the YouTube ban Hyde said, “I’m planning something big, loud, and ‘legal’ outside the YouTube headquarters. Let’s just say I’m gonna be on national television.”
The democratization of online entertainment that YouTube is so fond of may have helped promote untalented trash and clips of people falling down, but it hasn’t done quite so much for creative innovators pushing the boundaries of normalcy. Last winter, sensitive objectors with no sense of humor rallied together to flag MDE’s content to a point where YouTube placed them under review before allowing them to continue posting again. It is widely believed by the group’s fans that this has happened again with people specifically flagging for the potential use of hateful and offensive language. YouTube’s Community Guidelines state quite clearly that hate speech is defined by any language “which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity.” It also explains that the website is not a place to host shocking or disgusting material and does not want people posting videos of people being hurt or humiliated.
Meanwhile, here are some videos that are still available on YouTube:
In a country where a television network previously called The Learning Channel can have a programming lineup filled with shows about about fat illiterate families that yell all the time and people who didn’t even know they were pregnant, it probably isn’t incredibly shocking that there is an anti-vaccination movement in America. However it may be surprising to read that the movement has become popular enough to create a resurgence in diseases like measles, meningitis, mumps, and whooping cough (a disease that immediately makes me think of gold panning prospectors and people losing their jobs as slaves to the cotton gin). Despite overwhelming data that vaccines do not cause autism and avoiding getting vaccinated can be flat out dangerous, these people are convinced they are the gatekeepers of some hidden scientific knowledge.
But the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement always seemed like this distant thing surrounding an intangible group I had no direct contact with. That is until someone I knew who actively avoided vaccinating themselves and their children had a intensely weird looking baby. I had previously spent months arguing with her about various fad medical miracles and the risks of not getting inoculated but, just when I thought I had made some headway on a topic, she refused to speak on it any further. After her first child, she became convinced that traditional medicine was a farce and that all she needed to be healthy was eat organic foods and avoid GMOs. While I insisted that she see at least visit a general practitioner, it was her assertion that God would protect and bless her family.
A few months later it was pretty clear from the initial viewing of her second bundle-of-joy that God had blessed her with a spectacular dud. I am aware of that being an incredibly insensitive thing to say but it was truly breathtaking, and not in the good way. The colossal and potentially hydrocephalic head has its mass focused unusually high. This creates an oversized load for an already feeble neck, so the cranium bounces around a lot. The fingers are formed but not separated so both of the hands are lumpy orbs of singular flesh. The eyes bulge out and appear too old and tired to be those of a child. They are also widely spaced and black as anthracite coal. It is not what I would call a handsome baby. It looks more like something witches would summon out of a bubbling cauldron than the result of love-making between two human adults.
This was all well documented on the infant’s social media page. Some of the first images of it were in a neonatal intensive care unit where the mother added the caption that it was the baby’s “personal limo.” The thing received more CT scans in the first 48 hours of being alive than I have had in my entire life. Yet everyone seemed content to just pray and hope for the best. Nobody acted like anything was the matter or as if avoiding traditional medicine might have contributed to any of the health issues in some small way. Of course there is the possibility that this baby’s deformities could have absolutely nothing to do with improper prenatal care, avoiding vaccinations, and not having a medical practitioner examine the mother before the actual birth. But there is also a chance that this family’s passionate ignorance helped to ensure the birth of a human-amoeba hybrid and not a healthy baby girl.
It didn’t take long before I got really tired of people commenting about “how cute” the baby is when this thing was clearly a disaster. I’ve complained about the phenomenon before, but things felt different this time. I eventually went completely insane and started posting anonymous photos of the poor creature on websites in the hope that somebody could tell me what was the matter with it. I needed to know if it was some genetic snafu or if this person had ensured this breathing cataclysm through their personal hatred of science. They named it after a flower and have yet to publicly acknowledge exactly what is wrong with it. I want to know why it has skin mittens and if it is going to suffer from mental deficiencies. I’m curious as to what its life will be like and if any of this could have been prevented.
In the end, I know I’m a vile monster for worrying so much about this. It isn’t my family, my life, or my business. I should be like everyone else and just say “congratulations on your offspring” and hope that it leads as happy and healthy of a life as it can before it suffocates in its sleep like the Elephant Man. But there is this thing in the back of my skull scraping away at proper etiquette and begging me to get to the bottom of this. Just having doubts about her ability to properly care for a child is terrifying. The quality control for parents is appalling. A woman in my neighborhood smothered her eleven-month-old son last week. Then she put him in a white silk suit, placed him in bed, and posted a bunch of photos of the body on the internet with captions like “RIP, Tinkabutt.” It was all over the New York news.
Of course I know that not every angry parent is going to resort to murdering their child and that my now ex friend probably isn’t responsible for her infant’s maladies. But there is a piece of me and that will never know for sure and that bothers me. I don’t want to be some internet hall monitor but social media has really become a stage to showcase bad parenting and general idiocy. Almost any moron can have a child and every single one of them has the potential to ruin it. But that is sort of the name of the game. It’s just much more difficult to remain idle when someone makes dangerous choices for their offspring. There is a almost a subtle joy that comes from witnessing a person you don’t like destroy themselves by eating too much fast food or abusing steroids. You think to yourself that there is a hint of natural selection remaining in humanity’s perverted relationship with evolution.
But nobody wants to see a child suffer. No one feels vindicated when idiots produce a baby and then raise it into an ignorant and unhealthy child. However, we allow people to do it every single day with zero repercussions. If I were President I would solve the wealth inequality gap, because that’s obviously the bigger problem. Then I would form a coalition that would employ people to go to Jenny McCarthy book signings with giant ice-cream scoops to rescue infants from all expectant mothers before it is too late. Once the program received the necessary funding, they would hit up ICP concerts, Tea Party rallies, and every Walmart in existence. Eventually I’d like to just have them patrol the streets in purple squad cars on the lookout for people in oversized Tweety Bird shirts, talking too long about celebrities, or using incorrect grammar. Those scooped-out babies would receive the finest schooling available and be given to a loving family. Meanwhile, their mothers would get free tuition for two years and a chance to see those babies again if they can pass a basic intelligence test of my design. The test would be short but a single incorrect answer would result in a failure.
Of course it’s easy for me to tell other people how to raise their children when I haven’t bothered to have any of my own, and I can almost hear all the angry parents cursing my name as they read this. However “don’t tell me how to raise my kids” isn’t a fair rebuttal when you’re doing a shitty job. I haven’t the slightest idea of how strict you should be, if spankings actually work, or how to effectively get a child to use the big boy potty. But I do know that you should vaccinate it and that you should see an obstetrician before any of that other stuff is even a concern. This isn’t about personal preference; it’s about public health and common sense. There is no place for anti-intellectualism in a progressive and thriving society.
Jean Cocteau said that the worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood.
I bet that’s true.
In hopefully unrelated news, Katie Fox was the big winner of the hat and doesn’t even look remotely stupid in it. We all dodged a bullet there because I would have still posted a photo if some really ugly person had won it. I would have done it and you would have to learn to live with it.
I have been carrying around a sweater with me all summer because this country has an egregious and unhealthy obsession with air conditioning. Air conditioning doesn’t build character or make you a more interesting person. It just encourages you, an almost thirty-year-old college graduate, to stay indoors and argue with adolescents on XBox Live while intentionally trying to make them angry for your own amusement. It transforms balmy summer days into intolerable hellscapes that make us scurry our pudgy pink flesh from one climate controlled environment to another. While an article against conditioned air might appear to be one of the most trivial series of complaints in existence, consider that the average US household owes roughly twenty percent of its annual power usage to cooling. That’s a lot of money and wasted energy when you could just wear an old wrung out shirt that you dunked in the sink for free.
Twenty years ago air conditioning was nearly ubiquitous in the United States but relatively unheard of in places like China or India. Since then, the number of American homes equipped with A/C has actually doubled and it has become almost commonplace in developing countries. That’s a lot of units when you consider just how many people live in places like China and India. Experts are anticipating energy consumption to reach, if not surpass, ten trillion kilowatt-hours every year just for cooling. If that sounds like a huge number it may be because it is. And that’s sort of ludicrous for a luxury item that contributes directly toward global warming while simultaneously increasing the cost of the very energy used to run it. We are tempting fate to an alarming degree here.
But it’s not exclusively a problem relating to the environment. It can also be a quality of life issue for individuals. Like many people, I used to work in an office building
as a slave. I primarily commuted by motorcycle during the summer months and, after moving to New York, rotated in walking. It was nice to have the time outside but, for the first three hours of every day, I would shudder and quake as my normally easy flowing vital fluids would coagulate inside of my body as a result of refrigerated air. Some days were so cold that I couldn’t even think straight. I would forget to do all of those little things that keep a business running smoothly. Things like adding exclamation points that help to saturate an otherwise bland corporate email with false positivity and reassure coworkers that you aren’t upset with them (even though you usually are). That’s the sort of mistake that could ruin a professional relationship forever. Strong hot coffee served to thin out my blood enough to push it around my body and keep me conscious while I wasted the day fixing spreadsheets and occasionally jotting down creative ideas on company time. This was not, however, a permanent solution as I became increasingly lethargic as lunchtime neared. Meanwhile arguments would usually spring up about the thermostat depending on what people were wearing and who had most recently been outside.
Actually going outside on an oppressively hot day after having spent four full hours in an arctic cavern with florescent lighting is somewhat similar to developing a severe mental illness inside of a microwave. The heat boils your brain while your eyes fail to adjust to the natural lighting. All that cool air has done is make the normal summer climate feel like a stifling vomit-inducing furnace. The first breath of warm pollen-laden air is so incredibly unpleasant that you have to ask yourself why you bothered to come outside in the first place. It’s a miracle that people don’t just contort themselves into a screaming ball whenever they leave the building. We literally feel disoriented and sick when exiting the icy grasp of an office building or restaurant for the midday heat. It’s like the sun is exercising its own personal vengeance upon us for forsaking its cosmic glory by partaking in artificially conditioned air.
The truth is that it usually isn’t all that hot; sitting around in cold air has just fooled your body into thinking it is. Unsurprisingly, I have not noticed any of this when I work from home or at locations that just use fans. The reason for this is that our bodies have evolved to deal with this kind of thing if we give them the opportunity. Air conditioning in the home was designed to make those few uncomfortably hot hours during the worst days of summer bearable. It was not designed to act as refrigeration for fat people who never go outside. It should be used in hospital burn wards and to keep astronauts from being cooked alive by solar radiation. It should not be used to preserve your flesh and keep you indoors while you gorge yourself on snacks and watch marathons of television shows with your spouse/eating-partner. The only time I’d ever want to be subjected to non-stop conditioned and purified air is if I am living inside of an iron lung or trying to colonize the Moon. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you are finding yourself sweating while stationary, drink more water. However, if you find that water is insufficient in cooling you down or you start to feel shaky and sick, then it might be an okay idea to turn on your A/C. But let’s not just give up the ghost once it hits two degrees above your idea of the perfect temperature. The official temperature at which a fan starts losing it’s cooling effectiveness is when it’s above 90 degrees Fahrenheit indoors (33 degrees Celsius) and even hotter outside. At this point, you might be contributing to rolling blackouts but can still switch on the A/C nearly guilt free. Below that, some shade and a fan should almost always suffice. And don’t act like they don’t do the trick. In South Korea, superstitious types believe that the power of indoor fans are enough to kill people while they sleep. It is called “fan death” and has led to all Korean fans to having timers. It is also acknowledged by the South Korean government to be a genuine health concern. Look it up before I get further sidetracked.
I wonder who even decided that it should be the same temperature year round and that the seasons were just a big inconvenience. Do children still chase after ice cream trucks and play in the park or are we past all of that? We should be saving air conditioning for the important stuff like biological laboratories, microchip production, industrial facilities, mining operations, and making sure server rooms don’t overheat. As for our individual comfort, I do not believe we are gaining anything by attempting to maintain an unchanging indoor climate. With the exception of those poor few living in the most sweltering places on the planet, nobody’s life is being enriched by air conditioning in the home. Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m some great twentieth century author in my muggy New York apartment with the ceiling fan whirring reassuringly overhead. But other than the occasional abuse of stimulants and alcohol, the overall lack of wealth, and the infinite hours wasted on my art, there are few similarities. The oldest thing I occasionally write on is a PC from the start of the new millennia, I’ve never once done a stint in prison or mental institution, and I know that I will eventually lug that stupid air conditioner over to the window and turn it on. But I promise not to do it until I am so immobilized by the stifling summer heat, that all sense of shame has left me. That is my pledge. I solemnly swear not to be some milquetoast wonder who contributes to the subtle downfall of society and nature (like my neighbors) by perpetually running my air conditioner because I am too timid to experience even the most subtle changes in weather.
I spent the last couple of weeks visiting my family in Michigan. My mother is a school teacher and I found out that they no longer use blackboards or chalk. While I understand the benefits of whiteboards, there is something aesthetically pleasing about chalk. It will be sorely missed.
I ate a lot of bad-for-you-foods in the Midwest and acquired a pretty impressive farmer’s tan while driving a mid-90s Sea-Doo Personal Watercraft™. Also, if anyone is looking for a place to live, much of Detroit remains abandoned. There is plenty of space for anyone who wants it.
EDIT: Katie Fox won the hat. If you followed me on Twitter you’d have known sooner than later.
There is a dive-bar somewhere in the Midwest that several of my friends claim makes you pay the cover charge in teeth. When considering the usual clientele, this seems less like a joke and more like a plausible assumption to make. If there is a location on planet Earth that has a severe tooth deficit, this was it and I had spent several late evenings drinking there in my youth. The only draft beer they have is Old Milwaukee and it arrives watered down in tiny mugs. Everything else comes in a can. You can hypothetically ask for a cocktail, but the bartender will act confused if you order anything other than a shot. The bathroom doesn’t have a lock, a sign, or even a smell that differentiates it from the nearby closet. It swings out so there is no way to protect yourself from being interrupted or exposed for everyone to see.
Even though I am well known for my adventure seeking behavior and love for quirky places like this, I had promised myself never to return to this particular bar. But, with a little encouragement from my friends, I found myself breaking that promise. When I showed up, a woman wearing a stained t-shirt as a dress winked at me before I could locate my friends. Once I actually joined them, I couldn’t help but notice how out of place they looked. Even at a normal bar they would be considered interesting and attractive, but here they must have seemed like ethereal creatures other-worldly in their beauty. Two men had already descended upon them and I inadvertently sat between them while the older gentleman was off buying six bags of chips and a can of diet cola to split with his wingman, who I’m fairly certain was his son. Their heads were small and spherical like honeydew melons. I dubbed them “the egg-men” by writing down on a nearby napkin and tucking it into a back-pocket. Then I watched a four-hundred pound man in flip-flops sing with the voice of a baby angel sing for us while they made the table reek of barbeque potato chips and got all giggly before finishing their second beer.
The girls were relatively unfazed by their advances. They had come to enjoy the spectacle and act ridiculously during karaoke. They did the latter with exquisitely. It is funny how watching a person be totally comfortable in an act, no matter how ridiculous or mundane the action might be, makes them all the more attractive as a human being (there is old footage of Hitler playing with dogs that illustrates this perfectly). The egg-men squealed with delight when either of the girls went up to sing, and told me how impressed they were. At one point, both of the women began incorporating dance breaks into their songs and I got a little sucked into the magic myself. The two round headed gentlemen had fallen in love and I went outside for a cigarette.
The back exit was the most crowded area of the bar. It was a narrow alleyway that bottlenecks immediately, trapping people and smoke against the exit. The smoke ranged from standard leaf based classics, like marijuana and tobacco, to slightly more exotic blends of crystalline substances requiring the usage of glass pipes. Occasionally you’d see a syringe on the ground. A woman began hitting on me using some fairly graphic language until another guy told her she was the sexiest thing at the bar. She snickered and said that she is regularly confused with someone half her age. Unless that age was two-hundred, I found that claim to be fairly dubious. Saying that she just survived a meth-lab fire or a direct hit from a cruise missile would have been much easier for me to swallow, but I didn’t allow myself to dwell upon it. Some hairy gentleman complemented me on my jacket, saw my “The only American motorcyclist will be on a Harley” shirt and asked what kind of bike I rode.
“A Suzuki.” I said earnestly.
After being momentarily distracted by a man throwing up in the ally, he laughed and then asked me what I really rode. When I told him that was the truth he frowned and called me a communist faggot. I’m not entirely sure why, but a lot of stuff that happened at that bar will forever be mystery to me.
It was a decent night.
Are you a fan of You Monsters Are People but still feel like a worthless human being because you’ve never done anything to support it? Have you wanted to help out but just aren’t an altruistic enough person? Do you need some form of incentive to do anything? You are in luck!
My good friend Chloe, from Chloe Hearts Owls, fashioned a hand made You Monsters Are People beanie hat and I’m giving it away to a random fan. I have personally approved this hat as “100% wearable.” As a bonus, I will include several skin cells and a hair or two from when I tried it on! I’ll also throw in an original printed booklet of some of my earliest works with something special scribbled inside just for you. Runners up will get that same ancient black and white copy of my writing and a few stickers to put on parked police cars.
All you need to do is promote You Monsters Are People by linking to the website and including the hashtag (which we used to just call a pound sign) #YouMonstersArePeople. Make sure that you make the posting public and are following on Facebook or Twitter to ensure your entry is easy for me to find (because I am not about to make this a lot of extra work for myself).
As long as you follow the above guidelines, you can write basically whatever you want. But if you want some help, here are a few examples that you can copy and paste right into Facebook or Twitter:
- You-Monsters-Are-People.com once made me laugh so hard that I blew out my prostate AND I LOVED IT. #YouMonstersArePeople
- I’m going to kill your friends and family members if you don’t check out YouMonstersArePeople.com right away. #YouMonstersArePeople
- You-Monsters-Are-People.com made me laugh until I had a brain aneurysm and died. #YouMonstersArePeople
- I’m going to maybe get a free hat from #YouMonstersArePeople and you can too if you share this. #FreeHat
- My mom hits me and I need someone to call Child Protective Services. Go to YouMonstersArePeople.com #YouMonstersArePeople
- Life is meaningless… unless you visit You-Monsters-Are-People.com and get a free hat! #YouMonstersArePeople
But enough about what you should say, let’s get to that marvelous hat you are all coveting. First of all it’s geared towards normal-sized heads but can stretch to suit slightly larger craniums. If your noggin circumference is approaching Elephant Man status though, this might not be the hat for you. It is also entirely hand knit “grandma style” from an acrylic and wool blend. That means it’ll keep you warm on cold days but also remain comfortable on the warmer ones without getting itchy. That is not, however, an endorsement to wear this thing on the hottest day of the year like some kind of idiot.
The giveaway starts immediately and ends June 23rd (you can enter as many times as you want in that period). I’ll be keeping track until that date, when I will randomly pick the winners. Deliver a clever quip, link to your favorite article, link to your most hated article, or simply explain that you’re in this for the free hat. Just make sure that you do it before midnight on June 23rd.
Anti-intellectualism is at an all time high in the United States of America. We currently have a large portion of the population angry about the waning standard of living that remain absolutely convinced that raising people’s wages will somehow destroy our massively corrupt and confused economic system. While oligarchs bluff about withholding jobs and pay, the middle-class is being carved up to benefit the wealthy, leaving the low-income families to fight over whatever scraps remain. Anyone who needs help is deemed unsavory and anyone who expects it is even worse. The rest of the developed world understands that it lives in an age where it’s perfectly reasonable to feel entitled to an education and a life free from hunger and poverty. The United States, somehow, does not. Instead of demanding better, we’ve got a massive population prepared to wait it out until society dissolves. The hope being that they will thrive while those around them falter and die, seeking promise in America’s constant retrogression and failure.
It is a all little more every man for himself than it really has any right to be. We have a generation in power that spent its entire life getting nearly everything that it ever wanted, so perhaps the “me first” attitudes shouldn’t be so surprising. But even those that have lacked prosperity fear the success of others so much that they’d rather see it all go to hell. This is a survivalists’ mentality and many self-proclaimed survivalists litter the general population much like trash on a city sidewalk. While a number of these people are skilled craftsmen that have educated themselves on a great many things, the majority remain adult children playing a terrifying version of pretend. The survivalists of today were the same people that supported the Patriot Act of 2001. Having proudly given up freedoms a decade ago, they now resent it and fearfully assume the government will inevitably take more. They can’t possibly imagine any other scenario but do not bother to inform themselves on issues in any meaningful way. They’ll rattle against the government and have opinions on the economy without ever truly understanding either.
That said, being prepared for the worst is enough for most of them and that is, in a sense, something to be admired. A real survivalist is probably preparing for more than the zombie scenario they’ve been having wet dreams about. They’re the type of person that could sustain themselves during an unprecedented natural disaster, economic shutdown, or even something as crazy as nuclear/chemical warfare. I suppose preparing for even the most unlikely of scenarios would be preferable to ignoring them. I’m not suggesting they’ll ever have to beat a neighbor to death with a shovel and then murder his crying children because there isn’t enough food to share. However, I bet practicing that scenario in your backyard with watermelons every single weekend is going to help prepare you for when and if the time finally comes.
But for every genuine hardcore survivalist that could actually put down a sobbing neighbor, hunt their own food, and survive in a world turned upside down, there are three that are buying caltrops on the internet because they are fantasizing about being a ninja. Most are the type of people that inexplicably own a lot of swords or always remind you that they took Karate, even if it was only for a couple of months during their childhood. But these fantasy survivalists come in a lot of un-ninja flavors too. They might be a dad with military training that fills his bomb-shelter with more guns than he could ever need and ominously talks about “the coming war between the races.” These are the kind of people that become police officers in the hopes that they can someday shoot someone. It’s the guy that works at the dollar store who goes home every night to put on camouflage face paint and growl at himself in the mirror. It’s the woman who decided not to vaccinate her children because of some vaguely defined government conspiracy. It’s all of those people that go to church and ignore the messages of peace but get all amped up that Jesus might show up on some mountain and announce Armageddon any day now.
The survival community seems to include everything from hardened ex-military psychopaths to thirteen-year-olds who go to the mall with a pocket full of throwing stars in case, “some shit goes down.” In the middle you have avid campers who know a thing or two about staying alive and a loose community of worried citizens that, perhaps correctly, does not place their complete trust in their government. Sadly, these rational few seem to be in the minority. The survival community doesn’t appear to be particularly well-read or informed on most issues and is really only brought together by a mutual fear of the future. This creates a problem that is further compounded by a bizarre sense of pride accompanying that fact. This makes rationalizing, debating, or even befriending them intensely difficult.
When dealing with incredibly stupid people for the first time, your absolute best bet is to be agreeable and bring them food. If possible have a few drinks together. Pretend they are a tribe whose language you don’t actually speak. If they say they hate a specific group (even if it’s one you belong to), don’t overtly disagree. Instead say something like, “I’ve heard people say that before but I can’t say that I feel the same” and hope nobody stabs you with a bayonet for “being a faggot.” Upsetting a group brought together by stupidity and fear will mark you as an outsider and they ultimately will chase you out if you make too many waves. If you don’t know what I’m talking about watch ANY documentary on groups of chimps. If one of them smells like the wrong type of pee or gives a rival group of chimps the benefit of the doubt, they’ll be lucky not to be ripped apart and cannibalized. As primates ourselves, a lot of us have fear and a need to control the situation bred into us.
While I can understand the mentality, I cannot endorse it. If your vision of the future includes you hunkered down in a Y2K bunker holding a rifle to defend your family and its fifty-five gallon drum of peaches, I am going to argue that maybe that isn’t even a future worth living in. If the world ends, and I don’t instantly evaporate in a brilliant flash of radioactive energy, I am probably going to hope to fall back on a rudimentary knowledge of how to repair things and whatever people-skills I have left. Any plans I make have to take into account the possibility that my once handsome face could be partially and gruesomely melted off. But I’ll have that angle covered when I can knit a sweater that reads “NOT A ZOMBIE” to ensure I don’t get picked off when shambling near encampments and make-shift towns. That, in conjunction with hand drawn business cards with a winking smiley face explaining that I will do anything for food and to to please not kill me, ought to keep me generally safe.
The point is, I know that buying four pairs of nunchaku and a bunch of condensed milk isn’t a guarantee that I’ll become one of the lucky ones when the aliens, zombies, government, computers, atomic war, or whatever finally comes to kill us all. Like ants, some of our most impressive skills are linked to teamwork. I’m not saying that someone should stop practicing sword techniques in their backyard as the sun sets (because that’s admittedly pretty awesome), I am only hoping they stop to join us in the present from time to time. That goes double for all of those people stockpiling weapons and despising the government despite still claiming to be patriots. I like how a pistol feels wrapped in my digits as much as the next man, and I think everyone should have the ability to protect themselves while also being self-sufficient. But we should be supporting and protecting each other first.
Regardless of how it turns out, the most useful and important person in the future won’t be the one who opted out of improving the present. It will be the one who actually wanted to enhance it. A real patriot understands the system and is willing to fight against it when it goes bad. They’ll be the one protesting and informing others about genuine issues, not the one digging a hole to live in for the next forty years because they suddenly became upset about microchips. Doomsday survivalists give up on society because they simply do not understand it. Many alleged patriots covet the founding fathers but don’t try to live by their example. Americans shoot other Americans because they incorrectly believe that power over another person’s life is the greatest that one can possess. It isn’t about the weapons, or distrust of the government, or even an obsession with survival– it’s about wanting better and not having to get it at the expense of your fellow man.
Garbage culture is so pervasive that we can’t escape being involved in it somehow. It doesn’t matter if you don’t watch television or follow celebrity news, it will eventually catch up with you. Despite actively trying to avoid it for years, it sought me out, held me down, and had its way with me earlier this week.
It all started with an invitation to the cinema. New York City is kind of a hot bed for underground films and they often have screenings where someone from the project is good enough to come by and say a few words about it after the show. It’s one of the perks of living here that you trade for your peace of mind. That night’s film was the slasher classic, Sleepaway Camp. The film combines goofy humor with genuine horror and they sort of serve to exacerbate the other’s effectiveness. The final five minutes of the film has the biggest laugh followed immediately by the film’s utterly disturbing ending.
The entire audience was comprised of dressed down members of Generation X and slightly older members of whatever you call the people that are too young for Generation X but too old to be a Millennial and don’t identify with either. The exception were the people sitting in the reserved section near the front. They were all overly tan and impeccably dressed. Most impressive was the amount of time each person must have spent on their ridiculous hair. Had they not all been over thirty, I would have hedged a bet that they were on their way to prom.
After the film there was an exceptionally brief Q&A that included the films writer/director (Robert Hiltzik), a principal male role (Paul De Angelo), and an exceptionally small role played by Frank Sorrentino (also known as “Frankie Stylze”). If you are as unfamiliar with Frank as I was, he is the brother of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame. Of course I did know that at the time. None of us did. All we knew was that a camera crew had set up to film everything and assumed it was going to end up as a DVD extra for the next film in the series or just extra coverage for Fangoria magazine (who had sponsored the event).
Hiltzik was wearing a tasteful blazer and good enough to answer any questions about the film’s direction and script. Paul De Angelo, still appearing fairly muscular, reminisced on how much he enjoyed working on the film. Frank Sorrentino’s unnaturally tanned body showed up in a purple silk shirt and silver vest with his receding hairline gelled to a point so he resembled Burt, from Sesame Street, if he were addicted to coke and sexually harassing women in clubs. And it was when Frank was passed the microphone that the entire thing became insane. He began with talking about what a wonderful experience it was and then triumphantly announced his return to acting after a thirty year hiatus. There was also some muddled talk of a documentary about his family entitled “The Sorrentinos.” When I returned home and researched him, I learned that his acting career began in 1983, when he appeared in Sleepaway Camp, and included no mention of any other work with the exception of a footnote that he began taking acting courses in NYC last year. Despite that lengthy period off, he has kept busy during the last thirty years as an accountant, clothing store employee, and occasionally appearing on The Jersey Shore as somebody I don’t care about’s brother.
But at the theater, I was still deep in the middle of having absolutely no idea of who this man was. Most of what he said yielded a few slow claps from a jaded and perplexed audience. A pattern was established as the moderator tried to avoid giving Frank the microphone, knowing full well that his answer would inevitably turn into some weird rambling story about his family and growing up Italian or pointing out his brother Mike “The Situation” in the third row who was probably chewing gum with his mouth open. Being eight at the time, Frankie would have been much younger than the rest of the cast. His brief time on the screen also never required him to interact with the primary cast. So every mention of how close he felt to everyone during filming felt as overcompensating and fake as his Rolex. At one point someone in the audience asked about a hilarious discrepancy with a character’s mustache and Frankie used it as an opportunity to make an important announcement.
He then took a long pause and smiled until people in the back frustratedly yelled out, “Just tell us!”
One deep breath later and he hit us with, “I’m going to be changing my name to Maximo John Franco Sorrentino!”
There was another very long pause while everyone looked confusedly around the theater in silence and a few cameras turned to face the audience. All I could do was tilt my head like a dog trying to make some sense of an unfamiliar sound. None of us had any idea of what was happening but the rape had clearly begun. Maximo explained that by keeping Frank as sort of a middle name he felt comfortable enough to change the rest of it, as if that somehow cleared things up. He went on to say that he felt that this was the right time to make the change. By now I was literally asking the people around me what the fuck was going on, like many others in the crowd.
I don’t know if that was a bit to make him seem stupid for the sake of the show or if he genuinely thought to himself that forty was the right age for a ridiculous name change. Either way, it made all of us cringe as he laughed and clapped before us. The moderator thanked everyone for coming and a young woman jumped up and yelled out that, by occupying that space, we had given our consent to be filmed. If we didn’t want our faces in the twenty-eight minutes of digital brain damage that would be airing on (I’m assuming) MTV to help sell garbage to children and young adults too stupid to realize they don’t need it, we had to come up front and notify them directly before they hurried us out of the building. But none of us did. We just walked out discussing how weird the entire experience was. Upon exiting, I could see the white limousine waiting on 12th Street and I felt simultaneously angry and sad. The Sorrentino brothers exemplify a flashy, fake persona obsessed with silk shirts, expensive accessories, next-level grooming, and masculinity that somehow ends up crossing over into near homoeroticism.
The entire family seemed proud of the fact that they’ll spend the next two to six years functioning as a public joke. Reality TV is obsessed with championing the absolute worst examples of humanity so we can feel a bit more normal by comparison. But that’s kind of like measuring your penis with a miniature ruler just to make yourself feel better. I get humiliation as entertainment but not when someone is being paid top-dollar for deliberately staged antics. It’s too phony and absurd and when you’re a part of it the only acceptable response is utter bewilderment. We walked out of that theater as if Will Smith himself had given us all a white hot blast from his neuralizer stick.
While that is probably the one and only time I will make a Men In Black reference, I plan on routinely complaining about trash culture until I am a suicidal old man. As for Reality Television, I am at a bit of a loss. It all seems to function somewhere between silly planned events and the genuine stupidity we assumed it was all based upon. They seemed that normal kind of stupid that sits a few cubicles down from you. They feel the standard type of greasy that you’ll find hanging out at the bar in most restaurants. The most remarkable thing about them is that they’re not particularly remarkable. There isn’t much to do but shake my head sadly and slowly. America bought into this nonsense and let it become a prevalent part of our society. But I’m still left thinking that the seemingly pathetic clowns on the screen might not actually be quite so dumb as the people sitting in front of it.
*UPDATE: I looked into it and the show does indeed look to be airing on MTV sometime in the future. I guess you can consider this stupid story breaking news or a major spoiler then. You heard it here first, some stupid Italian stereotype that resembles a silk-laden muppet changed his name to something stupid. See if you can spot my confused face in the crowd.