Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Smiley Face Is the New Fuck You

So I was told recently by a group of friends that I am too negative, that my glass isn't even half-empty, but broken. "Why don't you just slit your wrists?" one of them sai

I tried to explain that just because I believe mankind’s Achilles heel is its own human nature, that a world full of 95% beatific lovebirds would unfortunately be enslaved by the other 5% with guns and no conscience, that there is no way to fix the American/global political/economic system, does not mean that I find my own existence hopeless.

Convincing them proved impossible. Was it because they weren’t listening, just acting on their own instincts and jumping to conclusions? Was it because I wasn’t clear? Was it because I am wrong and I do want to kill myself but just don’t know it yet?

Fear not, loyal reader who stumbled upon this site when Googling “Real Dolls”"Face Fuck" (it works--try it!), my end shan't come by mine own hand. I am not that kind of guy.

You see, I want nothing more than to live, to experience as much as I can while I can. Life is an adventure that I wish could last forever, but it can't--I will die some day. It is inevitable.

Equally as inevitable is the fact that while drinking in the endless beauty in this world, I too-frequently choke on a spot of sewage. Hey, whoa, whatever--sweetness and shit...that's life, right?

Right. Which was really the only point I was trying to make--no matter what we good people do, no matter how many wonderful happy things there are in the world, there will always be evil lurking. Always. And much like in Star Wars, the Dark Side is far more powerful, far wealthier; less like Star Wars, we have no Jedi on which to pin our hopes.

It is not pessimism that leads me to such a conclusion--it is realism. A common excuse, I know, but hear me out. Have you optimists not studied your history? Have you optimists not been reading the paper the last...since you've been alive? Has our government--or any government, for that matter--ever not been corrupt? Have there ever not been wars? Have many of these wars not been fought for religious reasons, of all hypocrisies? If we can't even trust our monks to not rape our children, whom can we trust?

(check this out)

Unfortunately, groups of people need leaders or nothing good ever happens (what does that say about us, by the way?). Have you ever gone to Las Vegas with 13 people who are "just there to have some fun and don't really care what they do?" I have--they do nothing. Or they do 13 things for five minutes each and spend the entire weekend in a taxi, stopping only to pay covers. Either way nobody has any fun or gets anything done and that's my point. They need a leader.

Whether that/those leader(s) is a monarch, a Parliament, a triumvirate, a President, or a Chieftan, it makes no difference. Those in power will eventually exploit those not in power, whether for sadistic or materialistic reasons.

If you are lucky enough to be a citizen of the Western World, your politicians smile and make promises, purport to be moral--all the while doing whatever is in their own best interests, which almost always makes your life worse and usually involves one of two ploys:

1. Talking a lot and doing nothing, when not in a hotel room with a prostitute (or sometimes even when they are in said hotel room, it makes me smile to say). This is a great tactic if they don't want their opponent in the next election (which they need to start thinking about as soon as they win the last one) to be able to say they supported a nefarious cause.

2. Blowing with the evil wind as they Kowtow to the quasi-legal bribes--campaign contributions, vacations, consultancies post-term, and/or favors for their otherwise inert offspring--offered by corporations through lobbyists (who I think we should just start referring to as Hessians), when not in a hotel room with a prostitute, because this not only makes them wealthy, but greatly aids their reelection since they will never want for campaign funds against a more honest candidate. Besides, if everybody else in their party is doing the same thing, it's hard for somebody to stand out as a bad guy--it just becomes 'party politics.'

If you are a citizen of the rest of the world, if you don't join them, you had better do as you're goddamn told or they kill you--or put you in a dungeon for the rest of your life. Your choice!

But just as there are happy people in China who lead good, honest lives beneath the shadow of an oppressive regime, I lead a good honest life in America. Just because I am aware that history has my back on the whole 'power corrupts' angle (and the whole 'the corrupt seek power' angle, while we're at it) doesn't mean that I let it bring me down. Much like the farmer in China, I simply am aware of the menace and try to avoid it at all costs while I do my own thing in a bubble of relative contentment. It's what I do.

It's what we all do--when we walk by a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk in the freezing cold, when we pay $12 for a beer at a basketball game, when our second consecutive governor is indicted, when the first four stories on the news involve grisly murders and rapes. We pretend it didn't happen, that it couldn't be as pervasive as it seems. It must just be the media exaggerating things, it couldn't be true that these problems were actually worse in the era before cameras, fingerprints, DNA tests, democracy, laws, the internet...right?

We bury our heads in our asses and get on with our lives.

But every time I come up for air, I find the world smells even worse than I remember, upon close examination of its inhabitants. Whether or not we like to admit it, the beauty that we know and love has a dark side that is something fierce and eventually it will swallow us whole before sashaying off as if nothing happened.

This will not happen in my lifetime, nor yours, nor that of any lawmaker, which is why many of them act as if they don't care about global warming, a fair distribution of wealth, or education--they are greediest when there are no direct consequences. As are most of us.

The reason we don't admit this to ourselves is because it is much better to imagine that our instincts are pure, the world will go on forever, good will triumph over evil, and there are only tiny pockets of problems in an otherwise gorgeous Garden of Eden. This is a comforting thought. Most people believe in God or follow a religion for the same reason--it is far easier than being burdened with the truth, that there is no meaning of life, that we are just here as one of many quirks in the universe, much like the badger, or bacteria.

Ever since I was younger than I should have been to know what a CEO was, I wanted to be one. I was a smart kid with lavish dreams and I wanted to be fabulously wealthy. CEOs are paid obscene amounts of money for decision-making and never have to break a sweat; it made sense.

I had a brain for business, as it turned out, and things were looking good. In high school, my favorite electives were Intro to Business, Business Law, Business Management, Accounting...I even won an accounting trophy! (Don't ask) I entered Northwestern University as an Economics major, but one of the reasons I went there over other schools was that they offered many more options should I change my career goals--top journalism, music, and theater programs, as well as a great film program (although not these days).

This was important because the more I learned about how to succeed in business, the less I wanted to be in business. To the detriment of mankind, good business decisions are rarely good decisions.

Fire a talented, loyal employee because you can pay a replacement less money? Done. Demand that your $20,000/year secretary have at least a master's degree and five years' experience? Done. Cancel your employee pension plan because the overpaid executives made too many bad decisions and your stockholders reaped too many dividends too soon? Done. Pay slave wages to Asians toiling in horrific work environments and pollute at will, in order to compete with all the other companies doing the same thing? Done. Bribe the government to let you keep making money at the expense of the health and happiness of the world? Done.

Once I gave up on my businessman dreams, I went searching for something that I would enjoy doing, something I was good at and felt good about doing.

I flirted with journalism, but realized that I did not want to spend ten years writing about PTA meetings at the fifth-grade level, a helpless puppet of some vast, self-serving media empire that wears its politics in its wallet. Political science? Yeah, right--try getting ahead in politics while still being able to look at yourself in the mirror.

Eventually, I realized that the most fun I ever had was making movies for class projects in high school, despite the fact that I spent easily 100 grueling hours to create a 30-45 minute low-budget costume epic that could have been a 5-minute unedited piece of shit shot in my kitchen by a dad with the shakes.

For better or worse, the fates and I chose the arduous path of the idealistic artist, easily the least-lucrative career I could devise. Especially if you have a bit of a motivation problem.

Once entrenched in the film industry in Los Angeles, however, I quickly confirmed that the film business is little more than a business these days, even for respected artists. Great movies still get made, but they are so rare it is embarrassing. Most movie ideas come from untalented film executives worried about their jobs at Must Have More Profit At Any Cost Corporation, Inc. And so P.T. Anderson struggles to get a movie made because easily-frightened investors would rather shell out for Shrek 4: His Shit is Green.

If Mr. Boogie Nights/There Will Be Blood has that much trouble, as an established auteur, what would it take for me to break in and how would it be any different once I got there?

There needs to be a game change if the movie biz is to survive, one which I believe is nigh. Nigh, I tell you! Online video is clearly the future, but its ultimate channels of distribution remain chaotically unclear. The necessary revenue streams are not yet visible. The art of cinema is in flux and, unlike photography, painting, and sculpting, movies are not only crazy expensive but require much more manpower. I can make it for the web, but how does this help me eat and pay rent? I can make it for the theaters, but how would I get a 1970s character piece without a love interest distributed by the big guys in a marketplace overrun by vampires, romcoms, and children's toys?

This continues to be a disheartening revelation. Short of moving to upstate New York and selling handcrafted furniture out of my garage as I fill the basement with banker's boxes of unpublished fiction and philosophy tomes, what the 'F' am I gonna do with my life that I can feel good about?

As much as it sucks, I guess I need to be an artist who works outside of the system, even if that means nobody notices, and I need to be really productive without encouragement, even if I never make any money. Besides, how many artists died penniless, only to be revered centuries later, when rich men start measuring their dicks with VanGoghs and Latrecs?

I don't have a figure, but I'm sure it is a lot, or too many, at any rate. So the next time you see one, hug a starving artist--especially if he seems depressed. Hell, give him a few bucks while you're at it--he's way more lovable than your average bum or banker and you just might melt away a bit of his disenchantment with the world.



Felson Charakas said...

or better yet buy him a drink

Goodtime Charlie said...