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Don’t finish.

My thoughts are all incomplete, but y’know… that’s…

There would be a picture here of my notebook, but I don’t have a webcam on this computer in Sweden. The notebook doesn’t have a front or back cover, or the first two or last two pages. They’ve been destroyed by time and my pockets. The next pages are illegible because of rainwater and food spills. In the middle is somewhat legible scratches of meaning. A picture is worth 1000 words. My description is only 45. Bear with me.

This is what I find inside:

She pressed the button because she needed to know what would happen, but she knew it is embarassing to be so interested in a toy’s sounds. Every time she pressed the button she exclaimed: “What the heck!?”

My dad’s proud of me the way that you’re proud of your pee stream when you piss off a roof – unconditional, and inextricably tied to masculinity. I could call him to explain how I just threw away all of my belongings and am planning on living at the bottom of a lake, and he would start emailing me cheap deals on underwater abodes. If I told him I was a cannibal, he’d send me a recipe for intestine stew with tofu. This is the kind of thing that’s embarrassing in high school. There is nothing more embarassing than having supportive parents.

“Real mature, just run away!” She yelled as she was running away.

I had slammed the door in anger because I didn’t want to start my day angry. Our back and forth hypocrisy was lost on us as we were too focused on the hypocrisy of the other. It’s emotionally draining to imagine emotional abuse all the time, but I had mastered the art.

“It makes me sad when you don’t think of me” had become “You hurt me constantly with the emotional distance you’re forcing between us” in my mind, and by the time I had gotten a block away from her apartment huffing and puffing my way down the sidewalk it had become “You don’t care about me or this relationship.” 

To be fair to me, this had started because I bought a ticket to our mutual friend’s performance online. This became “I bought one ticket to our mutual friend’s performance” and by the time she had huffed and puffed her way through brushing her teeth it had become “You should have bought me a ticket because you care about me” and by the time I apologized and explained my regret for waht I thought still seemed like a reasonable mistake, it became “It makes me sad when you don’t think of me.”

I marched home in a temper tantrum to get cleaned up so that I could go teach children. It’s hard to be a role model when you hate the role you’re playing and the model you’re setting.

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Uncategorized

There’s No Such Thing as a “Rape Joke”

When I was a Junior in high school I performed a 10 minute self written play with three of my best friends called “The Summoning of the Flamingo of Love.” It was “so offensive” that we were forced to go to a hearing where students and teachers were asked to find appropriate punishment. The reason it was “so offensive” is because we made a masturbation joke.

Johan, The Magical Prince of the Magical Swans, had just watched both his parents die and had accidentally let Mosquito Man steal the potion of love from his kingdom. Speaking out towards the audience, he said: “Ooooooh, I’m so lonely. Why am I so alone? When will I ever find love? Why is my right arm so much bigger than my left?”

The point is that that is a joke. Saying: “I masturbate” is not a joke. That is not to say that saying: “I masturbate” isn’t funny. In fact it might be funnier than the shitty joke I wrote when I was 16 depending on context. But it is not a joke.

The worst part about doing comedy is coming back to your rural hometown and having your parents friends ask you what you do. The second you say “I do comedy” they respond: “Oooh. Tell us a joke!” Telling jokes and doing comedy have as little to do with each other as selling life insurance and murdering people. 

Stand-up is an art form that attempts to open avenues of self-exploration for an audience by watching someone explore themselves. Stand-up is instructional scaffolding. It leads its students to water then asks them to watch as they screw up drinking in numerous ways.

For this reason: Stand-ups should talk about rape. We should be talking about rape. A stand-ups job is to educate our society, and we really need to have better education about the rape culture in which we live.

“Rape jokes” are easy and stupid and not really jokes. A joke is something that plays with misdirection to shock someone into laughing. Saying “rape” without context is a form of misdirection that will typically shock someone into nervous laughter. Shitting your pants while you’re talking accomplishes the same thing – except shitting your pants is funnier. The reason it’s funnier is because you are demanding vulnerability – you are asking the audience to pay attention to you while you illustrate how much you suck at life. Telling a “rape joke” where you make fun of people who get raped is like having an audience member accidentally shit themselves while you’re on stage, you can claim none of that laughter as your own – the only thing that’s happening is that a bunch of mean people are laughing at a person who is sad. This is not stand-up.

Comedians DO need to talk about rape though. But they need to do it intelligently. This does not mean that they need to lecture us about the pervasiveness of a society that deems male dominance the norm and asks rape to be the logical extension of that normality, but it means that they need to internalize this dialogue. When you do stand-up you should only talk about yourself. Therefore your comedy about rape should be about how living in this rapey-country/world affects you – a country where 14.8% of women and 3% of men are are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, where victims of sexual assault are 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, where 54% of sexual assaults go unreported to the police, where 73% of sexual assaults are by “non-strangers.”(source)

A lot has been written about what makes a rape joke okay to do – about why it’s different when Louis CK, or John Mulaney, or Sarah Silverman does it. It’s because they aren’t telling jokes. They are speaking from the heart about what life is like for them in this society where rape is prevalent and disturbing.

Daniel Tosh did not do that. He tried to tell a rape joke. He got frustrated that someone was farting in the audience and he started claiming that they had shit themselves. The reason people are so mad at him is because he’s not a stand-up comedian, he’s an asshole, and we’re tired of watching assholes get money and popularity.

When I made that masturbation joke in high-school it was because I was lonely and masturbated a lot. I was tired of the popular, rich asshole making fun of me for being a loser who couldn’t get laid. So I got on stage and told everybody that I was a loser who couldn’t get laid. As a gay man, Tosh understands how it hurts to be ridiculed for something inside you that you can’t change. As a kid he felt insecure about his secret and found a way to distract people from his sexuality was to make fun of the fat kid, or the slow kid, or the poor kid. I know it’s defensiveness and fear that pushes him to make these jokes, but you’re popular and rich now Daniel, you don’t need to keep making fun of others. You can make fun of yourself.

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Uncategorized

Fuck Sorkin

Intelligence requires dialogue. Intellectualism requires even more dialogue.

It’s childish to use definitions to prove points, so pardon me while I am childish.

a : a conversation between two or more persons;

Dialogue is NOT enslaved to the prefix “dia.” And that’s important. We have been tricked into believing that all dialogue has two sides – that somehow we must be a part of polarized society. This starts with Democrat and Republican, but it doesn’t end there. Combating a two party system is not the only step necessary to provoking dialogue.

Let’s use Aaron Sorkin and his loyal cult followers as an example. It isn’t the only example and Sorkin isn’t the only dangerous person in America, but he is the one I feel like over-analyzing.

Here’s a line from his new show Newsroom: “There’s nothing more important in a democracy than a well informed electorate.” This is Aaron Sorkin’s mantra and it also embodies why he sucks at making art.

1st let’s tackle the art issue. Art is not meant to be something that jams opinions down your throat, which is all that Sorkin knows how to do. He takes his shitty, shallow opinion and puts it into the voices of three to four characters and creates a dialogue that is nearly nonsensical because of its lack of realism then he takes a smarmy douchebag and makes him the enemy. It’s a formula – and it’s not a good one. It’s a formula that is starting to feel surprisingly similar to Family Guy in its repetition and inflexibility.

Now let’s tackle the bigger issue: That Aaron Sorkin’s opinions are shallow and shitty. To say “There is nothing more important in a democracy than a well informed electorate” is like saying “there’s nothing more important in French Fries than eating them.” It means nothing and refuses to answer anything interesting. How does an electorate stay informed? What information is necessary? How are we defining “important” in a democracy? These are questions that Sorkin refuses to answer because they are difficult. Saying that people should know shit is Kindergarten class material. Sorkin just masks it in fast dialogue giving the impression that it’s intellectual or “informed.”

This line of dialogue, which means nothing at all, means so much. It immediately divides the country into “well informed” and “uninformed” as though by simply replacing “democrat” and “republican” with new words he has undone a century of polarization. This is dangerous. This is dangerous because it pacifies a somewhat informed electorate into thinking that if we assume those that disagree with us are stupid then we will have a a better dialogue.

Remember I said dialogue could contain more than two voices. It also MUST contain more than two voices. We can’t replace “democrat” and “republican” with “liberal” and “conservative” or “well informed” and “uninformed” or any two buzzwords

Informed comes from the word information and information comes from people not from automatons who have been trained in synthesizing information into digestible, irrelevant and divisive bites. Sorkin creates art about his utopian present-futures, but they seem to me to be scary dystopian present-futures. i don’t want an MSNBC that pushes the narrative of a divided public, but tries to change what we’re divided over to a different but similarly simplistic binary. The problem with a two party system is the same problem with shitty art. Instead of asking questions for us to discuss in public, it forces us into “solutions” that solve nothing. Shitty art is art that pretends it has the ability to provide solutions. It can only provide one opinion on the truth. Providing two opinions is not that much better, and what inevitably happens is that the two perspectives of the truth meld into one. Because Aaron Sorkin is uninformed he does not realize that by dividing a country over uninformed and well-informed will only resulting uniting them over truth from one perspectives and neither are useful.

Oops.

The thing that when happens when you have too many issues to tackle is that you get overwhelmed trying attack all the things that are wrong. Let’s try to boil them down to digestible bites that are neither divisive or irrelevant. Remember when Sarah Palin kept on saying “real America?” What she was really trying to do was present the image of her Ideal American.

-Joe Six-Pack
-Joe the Plumber
-Blue Collar, stay out of my way, outdoors, heterosexual families who have jobs but hate newcomers.

Sorkin has a “very” different Ideal American.

-Matt Albee
-Josh Lyman
-Will McAvoy
-Sarcastic, mean, jaded, liberal heterosexual single people who like expensive things and refuse to apologize for their love of having expensive things.

We can’t have only two options. We can’t have a BIlogue, we need a DIAlogue.

In the first episode of The Newsroom a skinny British woman with an agenda to make “news good again” demands that her anchor wear a sexy dolce and gobana suit (Which I refuse to look up how to spell) because she wants to “make [elitism] sexy again.” Are these really our choices? Are our options rich asshole or rich moron? I hope not.

Sometimes it’s best to just end with a Noam Chomsky quote (because I’m an elitist).

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

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Attention Whoring, comedy

I Want to Be Funny So Bad

I’m a pretty useless person who feels the world is unfit for my presence. Or, more accurately, my presence is unfit for this world. Actually, I don’t think that’s more accurate. I don’t think it’s less accurate either though. I think I just wanted to repeat myself, but sometimes when you repeat yourself you sound super serious and I wanted to sound super funny.

Part of my problem is that I always want to sound super funny, but I rarely have anything funny to say. All of my thoughts are super serious. But I do love laughter and attention. Which seems to imply that I would have liked the stares I was getting for laughing out loud as I listened to This American Life on the subway. I didn’t like it. It’s not the right type of attention. In my head they were asking shitty questions in their head. “Why is he having so much fun? Doesn’t he know how miserable you are supposed to be while in transit? Can’t he contain his excitement out of respect for my boredom?”

Of course no one thought that, but I thought that they thought that and then I felt guilty for my imagined inspiration of their jealousy and then indignant at their annoying jealousy making me feel guilty. “Who are you to be frustrated with my fun? Why can’t you just let me be? This person talking into my ears is funny and I want to appreciate it fully, why won’t you let me?” I continued the conversation in my head with my imaginary opponents.

The subway is a really distracting place also.

There are too many exciting people to watch who don’t realize you are watching them. I once saw a man dressed in a full yellow suit looking at pictures of himself that he had just taken wearing the full yellow suit. I’ve never seen someone happier.

Image     Image

So I took pictures of him to share with the world. It’s so funny!! He’s so funny!! And all I want to do is share funny things, but I’m too serious and so I have to find funny things that aren’t me and take them down as evidence that I recognize funny things.

We had a put up circle in 3rd grade. Each day a different kid would go in the middle of a circle and the rest of the students would go around and say one nice thing about the one in the middle. In the midst of the barrage of “you’re nice”s was either a scattered “you’re funny” or “you have a good sense of humor” and I was consistently frustrated with the use of “you have a good sense of humor.” It was used to mean “you laugh a lot” which is the opposite of a discerning sense of what’s funny and what’s not. I have a great sense of humor! I don’t necessarily think I’m funny, but I know what is.

So, while I’m feeling embarrassed for laughing on the subway I notice something much funnier than This American Life. There is a man asleep on the subway. Not all that funny. His baseball cap is about to fall off. Still not all that funny. But I notice that he has his Iphone out and it is on his calculator app which is displaying the number 10.5864… This is very funny.

There is some epic story here of a man battling his demons trying to overcome the obstacle of sleep to do one last subway calculation – to find this number that will solve all of his issues, and just as he does he falls asleep. Or it’s less epic, and he was so bored by the bath he was doing that he fell asleep mid-calculation. Falling asleep mid-task is very funny to me, but especially when it’s a task that is necessarily completed on a calculator.

So I took a picture.

Or tried.

I held my phone up high as though the glare was preventing me from seeing which hilarious song I was listening to, then aimed it down to take a photo of my sleeping accountant. And I snapped the photo discreetly. Except that I forgot to turn off the flash and I awoke my subject, attracted more attention, tried to turn off the flash and ended up taking a photo of my feet with a flash, and had to rush off the subway two stops too early out of embarrassment.

Image

Also. His phone screen went to sleep right before I flashed my picture and therefore nothing is funny about this photograph. Nothing is funny about me.

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Attention Whoring, Indignant, Media, Socialism

Getting Arrested is My Only Inspiration

There’s a thought that keeps screaming back into your head – it’s as if you’ve left this thought to run away on its own, but it’s attached by a bungee cord and at some point you’re smacked in the face by this thought again: “I shouldn’t be here. I haven’t done anything wrong. No one thinks I’ve done anything wrong.”

We’ve named our set of jail cells “correctional facilities” despite the fact that they are not intended to correct and are barely facilities. It’s like some morbid stand up comedy routine. There are 8 of us in 4 cells. 3 men to my left, 1 man to my right, two men in the cell with me, and two women in a cell within yelling distance. We’ve all been arrested for various degrees of being a tourist. One man can’t stop ranting about how all he did was pat a cop on the back and say “good job” sarcastically. From their our crimes become more and more confusing. One was trying to put away a sign he was legally allowed to carry, but didn’t do it quick enough. Another didn’t want to put away a sign. Another put away his sign and started to walk away in order to follow police instructions. Me and another were standing near the guy who tried to walk away. One accidentally backed up into a police blow-horn. Another was accidentally backed up into by a police officer.

None of us wanted to get arrested that day, but the feeling doesn’t change when you intend to get arrested. You still feel like getting arrested is not a proper response to a mild disagreement about where to stand.

Honors British American Literature was the first class I had with Lucas Michelson. I knew him vaguely as the rich kid. I’m sure he knew me vaguely as the tiny vegetarian. We quickly came to not particularly care for each other. It wasn’t hatred. It wasn’t even true dislike, but it was a disagreement about how to handle life that we weren’t quite mature enough to handle in discussion. One day Lucas went to get a drink of water and go to the bathroom. He had been sitting in the comfy chair. I had been sitting in it at the beginning of class, but I had gotten up to get a drink and go to the bathroom. Now the chair was free and I was free to take it back. He had set the rules that a free chair was a free chair, and though I disagreed with his ruling, the rules were now turned in my favor. I retook the chair and our classmates applauded my decision. It wasn’t that Lucas was disliked. He was. But so was I. It was that we had all witnessed his original seat stealing antics and had decided against trying to reason with the spoiled kid with the well known temper problem. When he re-entered the classroom, Mrs. Lyons’ large wooden hall pass dangling from his wrist, his eyes lite up with fury. The primordial screams of “GET OUT OF MY CHAIR!” seemed to echo in my ears as he grabbed me by the throat and picked me up – feet dangling above where my books and homework assignments had fallen. Mrs. Lyons was a measly 3 feet away and yelled with the same force “LUCAS!” Her scream was surrounded by a cloud of confusion and disappointment. Though I never scream at the cops, I feel that same cloud of confusion and disappointment surrounding the words I do say to them.

When I was slammed down on the ground, I asked if I was under arrest. “Am I under arrest?” It wasn’t a snarky response to a police officer to claim a higher understanding of my rights. It was a question asked out of genuine confusion as it seemed as though I had just been collateral damage as the cop tackled a crowd of people trying to leave a crowded area. It was a question I was realizing the answer to as I asked it and it filled me with disappointment. Disappointment in this police officer, disappointment in the country, disappointed that we lived in a society that would immediately interrogate me and my motives first.

We all spent 11 hours in those tiny cells without getting a drop of food before we were shipped off to another jail cell. I tried to sleep, but I kept getting woken up by this thought. This thought that I shouldn’t be here, I didn’t do anything wrong, nobody thinks I did anything wrong.

The cops don’t even want to look you in the eye because they know they’ve screwed up. Your “arresting officer” is never the one who tossed you to the pavement, but they know you have no reason to be there. They feel guilt and shame but it doesn’t change their actions because they’ve been told a job is more important that morality. They’ve been told that you do what the rules say not what you believe – and this becomes an increasingly difficult tightrope to walk as the rules keep getting changed.

The system is broken because it pits the guilty against the confused in an effort to distract from the evil. The system is broken and needs to be corrected, but in its last act of self-preservation the system got rid of the correctional facilities. Let’s create our own correctional facilities. Let’s start correcting the facilities that be without fear of laws because laws do not translate to morality – that connection is becoming thinner and thinner every day. If we have morality on our side then we will eventually tear down the laws that bind us to immorality. At least, we have to believe that. At least, I have to believe that. For me. And Mrs. Lyons.

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Attention Whoring

Why Storytelling. A Post an Hour.

10AM:

Playing yourself on stage or in writing is bizarre, but I think it’s the only genuine way to make art. Art is a way to let the uncomfortable ramblings in your head out without being considered schizophrenic or, at least, friendship-numbingly self-absorbed. It’s a way to say “listen to what I have to say and I promise I’ve practiced this self-indulgence long enough to make it worth your while.” As artists we demand your attention, and in return offer you nothing but the hope that we will have enlightened you enough to turn that attention back inward with a new set of eyes.

People pay to perform.

It happens all the time. You can say it’s product of the american dream – a method of investing in your future – a method of putting the money down to practice so that later people pay you to perform. But you’d be saying incorrect things. People pay to perform because it’s cheap therapy. If you come away from an open mic with any other conclusion, you went in and came out blind.

This attitude towards art is what gravitated me towards storytelling – a supremely narcissistic concept. Storytelling becoming an artform can seem as rational as chugging out of a beer pong as an artform. Both were done by that kid you wish didn’t show up to your party in college. But looked at from another angle, and we can see that it’s the only artform that makes any sense. It’s the only artform where you honestly describe the process that created a situation where you thought that it was important that people pay attention to you. You are explaining the exact details that happened in your life that compelled you to demand that everyone stare and listen to you create art. If all art comes from life (and it does) then storytelling is the only artform that’s honest about that. Even stand-up operates under the guise that some of this might not be true – some of this might be my imagination running wild with truths that might have been, but storytelling is not lying.

What can be beautiful about this honest is that with it comes no assumptions about what you are supposed to “get” out of this art. As an audience member, you “get” what you “get,” and as an artist I am not at liberty to change my art in order to change its meaning because doing so would be betraying your trust. This relationship is freeing.

I guess in the spirit of honest I should be open about my intentions. I want you to come to the show I co-produce:Image

It’s something I care about deeply. I will be getting therapy on stage and I need an audience otherwise no one will consider it art.

11AM:

Laundry, and my hatred for doing it is my most written about subject. It is the bane of my existence is the most cliched way possible. Tasks that are meant to be mindless turn my mind inward and I get very distracted by what’s inside and therefore fuck up my laundry a lot. Laundry is not mindless. It is a multistep task based on remembering times and tools that is totally too much. I can’t focus on other things while I do my laundry, but it seems so easy when I’m not doing it that I let my mind wander as I forget to bring the quarters, laundry detergent, clothes, and myself down to the laundry machine in our basement. Then I forget that I left clothes down there for days and find my robes strewn across the cement floor awaiting their owner or a cold rodent depending on which one finds it first.

This invented story invites no happy ending, and therefore I resent its conclusion so much that I refuse to begin it. Instead I let the rotting, mildewy pile of cotton and polyester build upon itself in the corner of my room. As stray socks creep up the side of my bed and towards my desk I start to wonder if the shirts have mated with the pants and created little underwear children because I don’t remember having that pair that’s resting on my pillow before.

Two weeks ago I brought the wrong detergent down to the laundry, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn around. I said: “soap is soap, right?” Wrong. All my clothes came out with white streaks of crusty powder.

When the story becomes about my garmets instead of myself I start to get jealous. “This is my room! Get out!”

I guess I’ll have to do my laundry.

12NOON:

When I was 12 I drew up a plan for what I thought would be the best, most fun, basketball team to watch ever. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom, and Marcus Camby. Right now four of those five players are on the same team and they easily have the resources to trade for the fifth. The problem is that it is not 1998, and the 13 years I’ve aged since then has corresponded to 13 years of aging for each of these players as well. The Mavericks are my 6th or 7th favorite team. But purely out of nostalgia. Despite their plethora of late ’90s powerhouse players, their leader is an ugly German who shoots silly shots and yells at the fact that he’s angry. He’s one of my least favorite players. It’s incredible how nostalgia can make us look past the awful and seek the good, as if out of defiance of change. The Mavericks play my least favorite type of basketball – slow moving half court offense waiting for old people to move into the correct geometric shapes until one of them is open, but I will root for them over most NBA teams because I remember the days when four of the players on their team who play 20-25 minutes each used to have names synonymous with alley-oops and fastbreaks.

I’m not sure what this is an argument for/against. I think it’s an against Rick Santorum as a popular political personality. Nostalgia can be a fun exercise in understanding where we come from, but it should not be used as a template to determine where we should go in the future. Vince Carter can’t jump over a man, Shawn Marion is less Matrix and more Matrix: Revolutions, Lamar Odom second position isn’t PG it’s reality TV star, Jason Kidd can’t get triple doubles any more than he can get senior citizen discounts, and the US can’t bomb countries to “protect” Christian capitalism – that was the Vietnam War.

1PM:

I love to sit on the subway next to the girl listening to Nicki Minaj too loud on her headphones. I get to share a pleasurable experience with a person without them having to give me consent to share. We’re friends in my mind without her even having to be aware of my existence. I bob my head to her beat, mouth lyrics in my mind as she mouths them in reality. Of course this delusion is steeped in problematic elements of racism, classism, and sexism through fetishizationism. My beautiful dark twisted fantasy is that for a brief moment me and this WOMAN who grew up marginalized because of her RACE and kept in check by the man because of her CLASS and I, who have been forcefed the power that is inherent within my white male inheritance, are not simply singing a duet of mental karaoke, but also cultivating a friendship based on the content of our character – defined through a mutual love of Young Money.

This subway ride is becoming stressful.

I’ll just post something about Lady Gaga on one of my gay friend’s walls. That’ll make me feel better.

2pM:

The expiration date on the almond butter was 3/04/11. It’s over a year later, but the ingredients are almonds, oil, and salt. Oil and salt can’t go bad and almonds can only get stale. I’m fine with a mildly stale almond butter and cinnamon agave and raisin sandwich on flatbread. I should have something more substantial for breakfast before I go to court. I’m going to need energy to fight the man. All I have in the fridge is spinach and homemade pickles. So now I’m going to have an almond butter, agave, raisin, pickle, and spinach sandwich on flatbread. That’s when I realize I have granola. I feel like “I always find the granola too late” could be a good metaphor for my misfortunes if it were accurate. The truth is that granola and the things it metaphorically represents are some of the few things that I don’t come across too late and I am surprised at the absence of crunchy oats and clusters in my pre-court snack/breakfast. A handful of  granola later and I’m realizing that the expired almond butter was wholely unnecessary.

An hour into waiting for my legal representation to explain to me how boring my fight against the man was going to be and I was wholely regretting the expired almond butter that was making a concerted effort to become almond butter of the butt. My power struggle with the powers that control had turned inward as I fought my innards for the power to control my bowels.

There is a lot of waiting when you are trying to fight the man. I wait in a room full of scruffy beards, sewn on patches, pins, and cool hair while sitting in pews facing an empty throne behind which reads the words “IN GOD WE TRUST.” I’m waiting to go into an indentical room that is filled with selection of similarly dressed/appearenced people and a selection of uniformed individuals whose job is either to sit and record or stand and menace. I think about whether or not to write about the fact that uniformed and uninformed are simply one letter apart. I decide it means nothing and is simply a distraction from my point. The recorders are given pens, and their uniform involves a tie. The menacers are given a gun and their uniform involves a badge. We’re all waiting for the day to be over.

“The people move for an ACD”
“The defense refuses”
“Trial moved to May 7th.”
“Trial moved to May 7th”

In the age of email attachments, facebook events, and googleplus hang outs this feels prehistoric. Things move quicker nowadays. Phones and all recording devices have been left by the security checkpoint in an effort to transport us back in time. We read books, and write with pens, and nap, and wait. The patience required feels like punishment enough and I want to scream out: “What do we want?!” “Modern Technology!”  “When do we want it?!” “NOW!” and by “now” I mean this instant not “now” according to this absurdist representation of rural southern life that it feels like we are parodying now. i do not need sweet tea and a story before “now” comes. The almond butter is pushing its way out.

I can’t stop looking at the uncerimonious way in which “IN GOD WE TRUST” is written on the wall behind the judge. Though in gold it is not celebratory. It looks as though it is a reminder – dry wall somewhat peeling around it, only illuminated in shadowy flickering florescent. It doesn’t say “God is a great and trustworthy figure who we must envy” it says “we have no one else, let’s let God make the decisions. It just seems easier.” It is a deceleration of laziness and conformity. It proclaims relinquishing self empowerment for the ease that comes with giving THE MAN that power.

It takes patience to tear down the powers that be and start over, and it’s hard to have patience when we’re given the option to know exactly how long our pizza is from our doorstep. But waiting is important. Rome wasn’t built in a day, fuck, that shelf I thought I could build took longer than a day. Our country has made a mistake. You could call that mistake capitalism, imperialism, puritanism, xenophobia, globalization, or the Reagan years, or whatever, what’s important is that we’ve made a mistake. I ate expired food from my cabinet and now all I can do is wait for it to exit me. I’ll eat healthily in the mean time as I try to expel the expired almond butter of the butt.

3PM:

I’m leaving to do this show. I think I’ve spent each hour contradicting my first hour more and more – finding ways to try to “say something” by only talking about my life. I need to focus less on how the world relates to my life and more on how my life relates to the world, but I’m 25 years old and I live in Brooklyn and my laundry doesn’t get done. I don’t think I’m ready to fix that equation yet.

Come to the show tonight, maybe I’ll have fixed myself by then.

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Indignant, Socialism

A Plea For Sanity In Economic Thought

I’m not opposed to positive reinforcement which is essentially the idea behind incentive based economies – the economy America keeps demanding that we have and we have more of – but we’ve gone too far. We’re now incentivising doing good for yourself and out of fear of being hypocritical we’re punishing doing good for others. We’ve become a culture defined by its economics, and the economic system is one that punishes sharing – that is based on the idea that empathy is dead, or at very least a silly concept born out of childish naivete.

While I’m not sold on the idea that empathy and positive reinforcement are incompatible, if we are to treat that as the choice we must make then we have a tough decision on our hands. The decision is grounded in this simple question: What happens to the psychopaths? We can either pat lots of people on the back at the risk of patting the wrong person on the back, giving psychopaths our endorsement and our resources, or we can act as indiscriminately with our second chances, giving psychopaths fewer resources but more opportunities to use those limited resources. With fewer resources psychopathy has a harder time mounting power, though with more opportunities psychopathy has an easier time conning their way into laziness. You give psychopaths resources you end up with people like Bernie Madoff and companies like Goldman Sachs. You give them opportunities you get “welfare queens.” Which is more destructive? Which do we truly believe hurts us more?

We can strive to be the society that has left the largest mark on our world through the unchecked psychopathic reign of a few (these are the societies that created the pyramids and the great wall of china, though our great accomplishment will be a large hole in the ozone layer) or do we strive to create a society in which the people who are here in the present are happy and creative and our psychopathic few are kept in check through comfortable but mindless tasks. Do we suffer evil or lazy?

I propose this, but don’t think we need to answer this question.

I believe there is another conclusion that starts with a rethinking of how we define culture and economy. As I said before, we define our culture through our economy. Black Friday and Valentines Day are holidays in America that were created solely by economic forces. Buying a house and a car has become an American right of passage – ideas created to increase the bottom line of industries in power. In America, the question “what do you do?” is aimed at finding out how you acquire money. Because culture is being decided by economy, empathy has been pushed aside. There was no mathematical way to talk about how empathy and profit are correlated when America was defining itself as a superpower. While that’s changed, and an empathetic culture has proven to provide a longer-term profit, it’s more important to change the direction of the equation. No longer should we be slaves to the economy because money should not dictate how we live, rather we should dictate how money lives. Money is simply pieces of paper and metal, right? We need to embrace the idea that our economic system needs to be a reaction to our culture, and if we change our culture first – specifically to something empathy based – than our economics will change too. If we define our culture and let our economy follow, economics will have the best interests of the people in mind as opposed to having the best interests of the money in mind.

Defining culture does not mean that we define what a family should look like, or how a person should dress, culture is how we treat others within our society, so let’s define our culture to be one where empathy reigns supreme and psychopathy is shunned.

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Selfish, Socialism

I am a Barista Person

I gave my two weeks notice at what will hopefully be the last food service job I ever work. Food service and I have a relationship, and as with any good relationship there is horrible emotional turmoil. Mostly I have worked as a barista. It is a noun, it is a verb, it is even an adjective in the title of this blog entry, but it is rarely a profession. It is a job that some people take way too seriously and end up in competitions because of, but it is a job. Most people who do it don’t want to do it any more, but have addictions to food, rent, and art – mostly art. They deserve our tip money. They are good people.

Last week a woman ordered a Large Iced Americano. The Americano at our cafe involves two shots of espresso and then water. The amount of water changes depending on if you order a small or a large. This means that a large involves a lot of water. So I wasn’t surprised when she sidled awkwardly up to the counter and politely demanded that she get to cut in line to politely explain that her drink was watery.

I hate barista stories about shitty customers who don’t understand what the drink they order is. It’s okay to not understand the drink you ordered because you don’t spend 8 hours a day in a coffee shop like a barista does. Our job as food service employees is to politely explain the food that they ordered so that they understand how to order it better next time.

I politely apologized for our policy on including two shots of espresso in all sizes of our Americanos and politely offered to add additional shots to her Americano for $0.50 – which is this cafe’s unreasonably low price for an additional double shot of espresso. She politely explained that she did not want to pay extra money because we gave her a watery drink. I wanted to politely explain that I didn’t want to give her free things because she ordered a shitty drink and then politely stick my fingers in her mouth and make her deal with the taste of my dirty fingertips on her tongue the rest of the day, but instead my fellow barista saw the cartoon steam billowing from my ears and stepped in to solve the problem by giving her free things for ordering a shitty drink.

Working in food service often does mean that parts of your life are not what you want them to be. It indicates a certain amount of failure. Especially in New York. All of us baristas, servers, bartenders, etc. have come to terms with that and talk about it to each other. But this life decision failure does not imply that we are worse at everything than those we serve. Especially serving food and drink. Because we’ve been forced to spend so much time serving that food and drink, we are better at it then our customers. That’s why we get paid the big bucks/change you didn’t want to keep in your pocket.

I truly believe in the draft – a common experience for entire generations to talk about forever where they dedicated themselves to bettering the world around them. I don’t believe that war betters the world around us. Food does. I truly believe in the food-service draft – where everyone from ages 14-22 must work at least 9 months in food-service. One must understand what it’s like to pick out stranger’s half eaten food from a drain pipe in order to understand how to do dishes correctly when you live with people. One must understand how to organize an efficient list of tasks that are both menial and degrading that a higher up has given you to make it seem like you are busy in order to understand how to prioritize your laundry and check cashing tasks for the day. Most importantly, one must understand how to serve people and maintain an environment in which people enjoy being in order to understand how to be a member of a community.

The laundry for our apartment building is in the apartment building two doors down in a building owned by the same management. 66 people use these three washers and three dryers, but because the people who own them are a reality management company and not a laundromat, they don’t clean the laundry room very often. Our laundry room is dirty – there is dust everywhere, a pair of panties that has been sitting on the ground for two and a half weeks, and the trash bin, which is tied to a heating pipe with a piece of string, has been overflowing for a week and yet people keep stuffing their dryer lint on top as though someone is going to take out this bag of trash. I don’t think I need to go over the cultural implications that someone is more worried that a plastic trash receptacle gets stolen by criminals too lazy to untie a knot than worried about getting rid of the trash the receptacle holds. What I’m more concerned by is the attitude taken by us tenants.

Each time I go down and think: “this is disgusting. Somebody better clean this up.” and then I think “I should clean this up.” and then I think “it’s not my job to clean this up.” and then it stays messy. It may not be my job, but I’m affected by it, and it’s not that hard to fix. Just as I get frustrated when someone sees a napkin next to someone else’s spilled milk and dances around the spill with their coffee as though it is a radioactive e-coli strain searching for human flesh to eat through, forcing me to walk all the way around the counter and wipe up a bit of dairy, I need to take out the trash and replace the trash bag instead of forcing some guy who lives in Bay Ridge to drive all the way to my apartment building to take out some trash.

So I did.

I didn’t sweep the floor or pick up the panties, but… baby steps. Maybe I’ll do it out of nostalgia now that I’m leaving food-service.

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comedy, My favorites

Performance, Therapy, Science

I began performing because it was an opportunity to be sure that people were listening, and I kept performing because it was therapeutic to hear and see reactions to me. It was why I enjoyed comedy – it was why I was only able to do things that made an audience laugh or cry. They were the only performances that were really therapeutic because without a guttural reaction to watch as a response to me I couldn’t be sure that people were listening.

A girl transferred out of the democratic cooperative k-12 school that I volunteer in, and we held an appreciation circle.

1st. Whatever intention I had of rebelling against my parents’ vegan, swedish, kibbutz, health-food, anti-war, gender bending hippie upbringing has obviously been quelled.

2nd. About 3/4 of the way around the circle a boy began crying.

Height: 6’2″
Height with hair: A Little Too Much
Weight: 235lbs
Muscle Weight: Not Enough
Glasses Size: Smaller Would Have Been Better
Humor: Above Average
Sadness: Even More Above Average
Ability To Write Poetry: Good. He’s 16 Years Old, So, Don’t Stick With It For Too Much Longer, But, Y’know, Stick With It For Now
Ability To Care: Great
Coolness At A Regular School (Out of 100): 32
Coolness At The Commune/Child Labor/Educational Environment That I Volunteer At (Out of 100): 79

The amount he cared about this girl that was leaving was touching. Obviously. Also. We all understood that the genuineness of his tears was embarrassing. How we reacted to that embarrassment was different. A group of kids laughed. A group of kids defended. A group of kids ignored. A group of kids gave sympathetic looks. I cried.

It just looked like so much fun.

I think that’s why laughing and crying are so appealing to me. We think of laughing and crying as being extensions of smiling and frowning, but I see more in common with yawning. Real laughing and crying is an uncontrollable reaction – something that happens because you had to despite your best efforts not to. This lack of control is appealing. It is something we as humans are rarely faced with. Its rarity is the cause for our obsession with fate, our fixation on addiction, and our creepy interest in psychopaths. More interestingly though, the acts are contagious.

Seeing someone yawn makes you yawn.

Being around laughter makes laughter more socially and emotionally appropriate.

Watching someone cry always makes me cry.

3rd. The superior temporal sulcus (an area of the brain) is strongly activated when you yawn (proof). This part of the brain is connected to understanding the emotions of others and how those may differ from our own (proof). Kids under the age of four and people with autism don’t “catch” yawns (proof). The sounds of others laughing or crying activate the STS as well (proof).

This all implies that when we perceive laughter, crying, or yawning, a similar thing is happening in our brain, and also that that thing that is happening is making us subconsciously want to do laugh, cry, or yawn as well.

3rd(ii)) When a restaurant that I had worked at for a year and met most of my friends at and met my girlfriend at and had been the start of my life in New York City closed I cried. But only when I looked at my friend Claire and saw that she was crying too.

This also implies that there is some subconscious understanding of emotional dissonance ingrained within us as humans – that there is a part of our brain working without our knowledge aimed at finding those moments where emotions overtake our fellow humans and they are simply reacting to their surroundings. And when we are faced with this understanding that others’ emotional reactions are completely separate from our own we seek to correct this – we join them. We yawn because they yawn, we laugh because they laugh, we cry because they cry. We emote because they emote.

I perform because it is therapeutic to watch an audience’s superior temporal sulcus get activated because it will activate my own. I worry they will find a drug that does this chemically and I’ll no longer have to perform.

PS. They have found that the smells from Vanilla and Rotten Eggs activate the STS a little. Makes sense. The only two smells that can make you viscerally frown or smile come from STS activation.

PS(ii). This does imply that if they do find a drug that activates this part of the brain it could cure autism, right?

PS(iii). People with a larger STS have more facebook friends (proof). I think that’s important.

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Indignant, My favorites

Thoughts From a Hardened Criminal: Part IV

I was always embarrassed of my parents because they were very loving and supportive. They would show up to all four performances of the play that I had less than four lines in. When I was reprimanded by the school for performing in the talent show as the co-writer/director/star of a ten minute skit riddled with masturbation jokes my dad stood up and yelled at the staff head of the “hearing committee” for making a sham of the public educational system. I always had more fans in the stands than minutes played at soccer games. They made me an unwilling activist from the age of 10.

My dad was not just a part of every peace protest he was the one at the beginning of every email thread that started every peace protest, and I hated it. It’s embarrassing to get dragged into town on a cold December Saturday to chant “No More War!” because you don’t have plans that allow you to excuse yourself from protesting because you look and talk like you’re twelve and your friends are starting to have sex. And it’s embarrassing to discover your voice cracking at age 16 through screams of “Drop Bush, Not Bombs.” I confused my teenage angst with disgust for the way the movement was run. I was looking for errors in the way we presented ourselves – searching for flaws in the message – claiming a higher understanding of the morality that we were supposedly together to espouse; all because I had delivered upon myself the role of critical thinker – of the prophetical voice of reason in the confused mayhem of longhaired wishful thinkers stuck in an era where they had the ability to change things but didn’t have the internet.

They said: “Show me what democracy looks like.”

I said: “This is what democracy looks like.”

Then in my head I continued: “But was Winston Churchill right? And if this is democracy, is democracy simply a futile exercise ultimately aimed at finding solace in like-minded accompaniment? Is democracy purely a therapeutic activity for a group of individuals needing a loudspeaker on which to hear their voice?”

Fuck Winston Churchill.

Faith is a belief not based on proof or necessarily evidence. I understand the animosity some people have towards it as one of those people, but I think it’s important that we understand that that absence of rationality is linked to the same emotions that make us human. It’s sometimes okay and necessary to release logic. It’s just important to direct that release of logic in a positive direction. Therefore I choose optimism. If I am to have faith, I have it in hope – the idea that improvement is possible. It may be irrational, but it seems to be a reasonable way to improve.

Before this gets too Oprah, I want to tell you what I first saw when I came to Zucatti Park in late October.

There was a vibrant group of individuals no longer concerned with individual goals. Flashbacks to my days in the midst of Vietnam protest veterans at first filled me with trepidation. There were the same telltale signs of futility – signs, songs, and repetition. Repetition was my least favorite. It’s what I always hated about marching down the streets of Bangor, Maine. Someone would yell “No Blood For Oil” and the rest of us would be expected to yell the same, as though we all had the exact same belief on what our oil policies should be. Sure, I agreed with the idea that the blood to oil exchange rate should be zero, but I didn’t think that was the only reason to stop our descent upon Iraq – and I wanted to be welcoming to new people who might slightly disagree. Repetition was the death of discussion. Repetition forced us to masquerade under the false concept that we all believed the same thing.

This repetition was different though.

Repetition was a tool being used to amplify each person’s voice as opposed to being used to simplify a message – forcing a palatability of concept so that the legislators can hear our voice on the news and interpret the changes we want. The trust in our lawmakers had vanished, but the occupiers had reinstated that trust within themselves. They said let’s finally have the conversation we’ve been telling our leaders to have for years.

Within this 33,000 sq. foot rectangle was an open mic, a kitchen, a library, a medical tent, a sanitation department, and people – lots of people: discussing. Still, I felt self-conscious about joining the discussion so I took out my sign and sat down.

It claimed a message that could not be repeated because it was too silly, but I felt it pushed at a deeper truth about the structural issues in our financial system. But most of all: it was my belief. Most people (including most occupiers) don’t believe in the dissolving of our currency system, but it proved to be a conversation starter. I didn’t have to worry about starting discussion because soon discussion came to me – not started by a discussion starting leader, but rather by an environment that encouraged dialogue. A 25 year old after school teacher who had left his job at a bank and I talked about the political movements and image and the importance of a representation in a media environment bred for 24 hour slogan machines. A 43 year old tea party activist from the Midwest and I talked about the role of a government paid for by the people. A day traveler from Philadelphia and I talked about the validity of a wheat and ore strategy in Catan.

We talked. In the past month and a half I have discussed more politics and formed more solutions to our current problems than I had in the rest of my life combined, and that was because of the Occupy Movement. Occupy’s openness to discussion is all the Occupy is about.

Discussion means not focusing on that one detail you don’t like, but rather searching for the details you do like and expanding upon those. Discussion means not interrogating a message until you discover what you disagree with, but rather uncovering the truths you do agree with and providing your perspective. Discussion is an improv game and you need to say “yes, and…”

The world is a terrible place full of hope.

That frustration that comes from the fact that this world is terrible is understandable, but not the end of our journey. You can be a critical thinker that adds to the critical dialogue.

I always assumed I would get arrested at some point in my life. From a young age I understood that laws were not always just, and it would be my duty at some point to stand up against those laws. That was what ran through my head when I got arrested for the first time just over two weeks ago. And all of my fantasies of jail were exceeded. Jail was a just another place for us to occupy. The discussion continued. Join. Join this discussion because it needs your voice – because it wants your voice. But if you join, want other’s to join because this is about hearing – this is about listening. Go get arrested when there are unjust laws because they cannot shut down discussion by putting it in a jailcell.

Our first amendment is freedom of speech because it is the principle our country was founded on, but we have to remember the freedom of speech is also the freedom to listen.

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