unfollowed

today i unfollowed the last (vocally) conservative friend i have left on fb.

it took me this long because he was symbolic of a certain possibility i once believed in. that one day, there would be a moment i could intervene, to make a difference, to reach across the aisle. but over the last four years, i’ve watched him gradually embrace every single pillar of bigotry and self-destruction in modern conservative ideology.

i thought about unfollowing him so many times before. when he started spamming the transphobic pseudoscience. when he discovered that most wretched factory of ignorant hot takes, the Babylon Bee. when he found his way into evangelicalism and suddenly fetuses were a top priority. after every mass shooting, he would instantly transform into a human rights activist for Chicago and Philadelphia, deploying the latest gun violence whataboutisms hot off the Breitbart / Washington Examiner / Fox News presses.

over and over i told myself, i can’t look away. i don’t want to be naive. i need to know what’s happening over there.

but i can’t do it anymore. i’ve thrown in the towel. i’m done.

if there’s one thing that turning 30 has clarified for me, it’s that i gotta pick my battles. i only have so much time, so much energy. death’s knocking at the door. every moment i waste staring in shock and horror at his lunacy is time taken away from myself and my community. it does not better me, and social media is not a platform for changing hearts and minds.

this also mirrors a larger shift for me in the last year. i’ve stopped my daily reading of the Washington Post and NYT – not because i distrust their reporting, but because the daily news cycle seems to be an overwhelming source of toxicity for everyone on the planet. i try to keep most of my news and political reading to long-form essays (n+1 is the best nonfiction periodical in the country right now) and investigative journalism (shoutout to ProPublica, Southern Poverty Law Center, and The Marshall Project). obviously i can’t avoid lots of daily news since i’m on social media every day, but i no longer seek it out. it’s been a good change.

today, what tipped me over the edge was this Toni Morrison quote. i’ll be totally honest here: i’d literally never heard of this woman before. yes, i am an unread heathen. but it’s a great quote.

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

there will always be one more thing.

i’ve reached a point where i no longer wish to ever argue with people. i will continue to make arguments. i’ll be critical, offer insight, and make observations. i’ll keep writing. i’m going to live the best possible life i can, one that demonstrates the harmony and euphoria that’s only made possible when you’re a decent fucking human being to everyone around you.

but i’m not going to hash it out with some fool that cannot see the racism coursing through his every action. that energy will be saved for the people in my life that need it.

educating

i met a guy from saudi arabia the other night. he came up to me at the end because i was dancing my ass off and said i looked like someone who knew what this was all about. he was brand new to the dance scene and had all sorts of questions about how to find events, how to behave, and what the culture is about.

he struck me as someone that brought some problematic attitudes and behaviors into the space that night. he mentioned he didn’t tip the bartenders. he asked if he ought to bribe the bouncers because he didn’t bring any women with him. his impression of the scene was clearly built around the most toxic aspects of mainstream clubs and festivals.

so i spent the next hour explaining everything i could. i walked him through tipping culture – that you never, ever withhold tips just because someone wasn’t nice enough to you. that you don’t come to bossa (or any rave, for that matter) to be waited on – you’re there for the music and the company, not to be served. i explained that weekends can be rough for the staff because there’s so many tourists and visitors that don’t know the culture or the norms. that when people aren’t friendly, it’s not always about him.

he asked me if there was a lot of racism in the scene. he spent some time living in north carolina and told me about all the places that treated him poorly because he’s arab. he asked if he would ever be turned away or charged extra because of his ethnicity.

i said that yes, sometimes there is racism here. but he’d never be turned away from a party because of the color of his skin. at least, not the places i go.

i told him that the soul of techno and house is multicultural. that part of what we love and cherish about this scene is how many different kinds of people it draws in. that it’s something we celebrate and encourage as much as we can. this seemed to blow his goddamn mind.

i don’t always have the energy or patience to educate people. sometimes i go out and i just wish everyone knew the fucking rules and they’d stop causing problems. but other nights, i live for those opportunities to educate. to show people how to be.

rut

an unsorted thought dump.

there’ve been a lot more homeless folks near my office in the last month. i suppose it’s because it’s warm out now. the dystopia of it is impossible for the brain to resolve. you tune it out, because that’s the only choice. but sometimes the smell is overwhelming. or sometimes you’re face-to-face with someone’s bare ass cheeks as you walk up the stairs from the subway. how many times this week will i wonder if that person sprawled on the ground is asleep or dead? oops, better not be late for standup.

on the subway home today i was surrounded by six (6) people that were all scrolling through instagram. people don’t smile when they’re looking at social media. they don’t laugh or cry. it reminds of that trance-like zombie state i remember feeling when i watched tv as a kid. maybe they do feel things and they’re afraid to let it slip because it’s the subway. or maybe they’re just tired and trying to zone out for a minute because they had a hard day and they’ve earned it. i should post this thought for someone else to scroll through on their commute tomorrow morning.

whenever i see someone open spotify on their phone i want to ask them what they’re listening to. but i know that would be grossly uncouth. it is federal law not to speak to anyone with headphones in. still, i wish we had norms for sharing and openness.

things can change, things will change. but damn if it isn’t hard to see how that’s gonna happen from our current vantage point. it feels like the whole world’s in a rut, and we’re all just waiting for climate change to stir the pot a little harder.

joe biden fucking sucks.

performative

let us now whisper softly about PERFORMATIVE WOKENESS and MORAL FASHION

as we strive to hold society accountable, to raise the bar for behavior among our peers, to spread awareness of injustices past and present, we should recognize the ways in which our communication is working against these goals and opening itself up to malignant subversion.

social media strongly favors a certain kind of tone and attitude. we see it everywhere with the news, where controversy and bombastic headlines are what garner the modern currency of likes, shares, and comments. but this same trend exists beyond The Media or The Politicians, all the way down to the individual.

for anyone whose aspirations are tied to exposure – especially artists – there are strong incentives to be loud and angry every day of the week. social media is a grind, a rat race to stay relevant in people’s minds, to be remembered and noticed as often as possible. rage is one of the easiest emotions to squeeze into the 140 character limit.

activism is now integral to our brands, how we sell ourselves to the world. it becomes an act that can be performed at will, replicated by anyone who shares the right links with a sufficient number of upset emoji and a dash of the latest trend in favorable buzzwords.

take a more innocuous example: the environmental apocalypse formerly known as plastic straws, an injustice born for the current climate. a trite micro-optimization wherein, overnight, everyone demanded that restaurants and bars abandon this morally bankrupt practice as though it contributed anything meaningful to global trends in plastic waste. it shifted the responsibility for environmental justice away from corporations and governments onto the individual. as if we could make a dent in climate change by minorly inconveniencing ourselves at dinner.

this is how i’ve come to see a lot of the policing around the margins of individual social graces and language. while we bicker about which words to use, a battalion of megawealthy capitalist neofascists are hard at work cementing the prison industrial complex, immigration detention, and the socio-economic segregation of health care & education into the fabric of our society. and they don’t give a flying fuck about your wokeness.

yes, absolutely, we should strive every single goddamn day to deconstruct our words and behaviors to understand how we’re perpetuating the misogyny and racism passed down from our ancestors, to resist the ambient bigotry that permeates our culture and history. the work to self-analyze and critique our thoughts and actions is necessary and useful for growth.

but when we focus exclusively on presentation, on the look and feel and sound of moral behavior rather than the substance and meaning and motive, we miss the bigger picture, and we open ourselves to manipulation.

link rot

let us talk about my favorite topic: LINK ROT also known as MYSPACE LOST 12 YEARS OF MUSIC HISTORY AND THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

history and documentation is something i care about, because it’s crazy how quickly people start making shit up when there’s nobody to say otherwise.

then history starts repeating itself and everyone’s like “omg how could we let this happen” and the handful of people that were there from the beginning are in the back shaking their heads like “we tried to tell you but the proof was in a bedroom track from 2006” and now we’ll never know who invented deep electro dumpwave.

SERIOUSLY though link rot matters. the half-life of a link, depending on which citation you pick from wikipedia (haha i’m not doing more footwork here, get real), is roughly two years, meaning half of all links on the internet go dark every two years. you can see this in action all over the place, just go back in time on your facebook feed and click on links you shared a year, two years, three years ago. a lot of them will be gone and there’s no way to find them again.

the internet is a place of constant movement and upheaval, and this trend only gets worse as we centralize onto social networks that have no reason to fart a single concern towards the preservation or documentation of what is very literally our history and culture.

if you care about something, DOCUMENT IT, bring it into physical form, into the real world, transform it into new mediums. don’t trust facebook or instagram or twitter to preserve any of your genius or the beautiful interactions you have with friends and strangers. never trust these behemoths farther than you can throw them. take the preservation of your identity and your culture into YOUR HANDS.

sketchbook

Filled up my second sketchbook (ever), which seems as good a time as any to reflect on my relationship to art.

Image may contain: 1 person

1. Art is fundamentally performative for me. My dancing is my writing is my photography is my sketching, and all of these are done in the context of an audience, of being seen. There is a reason all of my sketching happens on the subway. Something about the mere possibility of being observed adds fuel to my creative fires.

2. In all of my creations, I’m looking for novel patterns, shapes, lines, and textures. My sketches are all guided by a gradually overlaid series of rules. Visual interest emerges when these rules conflict or the patterns can permutate in unexpected ways. This also describes my dancing, where my movement is built on a simple foundation of matching my body to the beat, but delight is found in breaking the patterns in ways that still conform to the aural structure.

3. I can call myself an artist in the presence of full-time artists and not feel like a phoney because I don’t live from my creations.

withholding

Recently I concluded that I’ve always been kinda withholding on social media. I’d never comment or respond to people, I wouldn’t like anything my friends were posting, I’d never share my friend’s cool stuff or really ever go out of my way to be supportive. And then I’d feel hurt when other people wouldn’t show me support for the stuff I’m working on.

I blamed it on a lot of things. I told myself I had high standards. I saw all these problematic trends that I didn’t want to participate in – the narcissism built into all of these interactions, the unrealistic fantasy lives everyone portrays. I wanted discussion and learning and hard conversations, but nothing here is built for that. So I tried to keep it all at arms-length.

But gradually, I’ve just stopped caring about any of that. This is what we have right now. It’s not going to become better by keeping a stick up my ass.

So you know what? Fuck it. You deserve that silly little dopamine rush we all get from the red badge that says you’ve earned the approval of your peers.

Your ten thousand cat photos? Carry on with vigor. That’s a cute goddamn cat alright.

Hey, the artwork you posted today maybe wasn’t your best work, but damnit you tried and you’re actively creating. Godspeed, my friend.

Uh…another selfie? I mean, damn that’s like the tenth one this week but you look happy and that new hat is, in fact, pretty fly.

All that’s to say – I think we should be generous with our affection. Remember how nice it feels when other people give you their approval, and pay it forward. These digital hearts and thumbs might be nonsensical to the extreme, but they’re all we’ve got.

hot takes: vol. 2

HACHI: A DOG’S TALE (2009) was ABSOLUTE DEVASTATION. okay, look. this is a movie where you need to get on its level. embrace the cheesy 90s-adjacent setting. accept Richard Gere into your heart. just let the movie do its thing. give it your full attention for an hour.

then cry for 45 goddamn minutes straight.

you’ll try to fight it.

you’ll say to yourself: PULL IT TOGETHER MAN, YOU WATCHED REQUIEM FOR A DREAM AND DIDN’T CRY LIKE THIS. YOU’RE NOT EVEN THAT INTO DOGS.

but the tears will come, and they won’t stop. as each new scene rolls in you’ll start to brace yourself and it won’t matter. you’ll be a snotty disgusting mess and your roommates will look at you with confusion and concern.

MANDY (2018) was CAGETASTIC. i don’t think i could ever recommend this movie, per se, but i sure enjoyed it. build up is way too long and torturous (literally and figuratively), but if you can make it to Cage’s seminal vodka-chugging-sobbing-underwear performance, you’re in the clear.

COCO (2017) was A VISUAL FEAST. i decided to catch up on some Pixar movies because animation is an important art form. this was maybe a little heavy-handed on its messaging but i’m not gonna argue with a dog that mutates into a technicolor butterfly, and all the skeleton gags were primo slapstick.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2006) was BEGRUDGINGLY ENGROSSING. it’s too long overall and much of the ending was unnecessary, but there is gorgeous poetry in the meta-meta-ness of slowly finding yourself engrossed in watching the story of a man who finds himself slowly engrossed in the story of a couple.

ANNIHILATION (2018) was A MESS. Natalie Portman is not a convincing sci-fi lead. cool premise, neat vfx, no likable characters or engaging dialogue.

THE GOOD PLACE was THE PERFECT BINGE. an excellent premise with a few incredible side characters propping up a mediocre main cast. totally fun.

CASTLEVANIA (S2) was TOP-NOTCH COMBAT. the production as a whole is super low-budget and they save everything for some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen in animation – the last few episodes are absolutely stunning. i’m also a sucker for the setting and themes here, which makes the poor illustration easier to deal with.

HEAT (1995) was SELF-INDULGANT. i can get behind Al Pacino and Robert De Niro any day of the week, but this felt like a movie where the editor got shoved out of the room before they could put a stop to the absurd conversations where they self-analyze or just veer into outright monologue.

bad romance

I’m falling out of love with the internet.

I don’t know what exactly that means.

I know that I used to feel this deep, ever-flowing fondness for this place; I consistently felt awe for its impossible weirdness, its endless nooks and crannies that were such a delight to explore. I would gladly lose myself in the digital woods over and over again, exploring abandoned fortresses of outlandish subcultures, hunting for obscure bullshit across hill and dale.

I know that I now mostly feel a mixture of neutral gratitude for its conveniences and a constant, aching throb of weariness. Not just for the news and politics and social media, nor for the eternal arguments between misguided anuses. But for the repetition. The intense homogenization of our dialectic.

me: Memes have become so ubiquitous that they are supplanting genuine conversation
also me: It is fucking WEDNESDAY my dudes

me, an intellectual: Memes are a truly 21st century means of communication, the next step in the evolution of humor
you, an idiot: These are barely more than knock knock jokes and future generations will mock us ruthlessly

Every goddamn day I get on Twitter, I see geniuses – actual geniuses, people that are stunningly good at fucking whatever – farting out hot takes frosted with whatever flavor meme is currently trending. Over time, some of these formats prove to have some longevity, and now we have a whole roster of lazy starter kits that are sure to make the kids at home go apeshit for your PIPING FRESH HOT CONTENT.

i’m not bitter YOU’RE bitter shut up~~

Imagine going back ten years in time and telling all the journalists that they’ll be unironically trying to use stock photo memes to speak truth to genuinely fascist power on Twitter.

I have no point here. I just feel like every time I hunker down with my laptop or phone and SURF THE NET I find my brain glazing over with this sticky, slimy sensation of same-ness wherever I go.

Maybe I’m just getting cynical. Maybe I’m romanticizing the way the internet used to be. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Maybe complaining is my way of feeling above it all.

Good night.

concentration camps

I’ve pretty much quit with the politics on facebook over the last six months to a year, which seems to be where most of my friends are also at. I’m gonna take a short break from this because I don’t want to look back at this time and think “damn I probably should have said something about immigration”.

We’ve grown so used to the hyperbole that the comparisons to pre-WW2 Germany feel utterly meaningless.

But today, right now, we are:

– rounding up people based on skin color, spoken language, and family associations
– stealing all of their belongings, confiscating their money, their property, their jobs
– literally snatching children from the arms of their mothers in broad daylight, in the streets; taking mothers and fathers away as their whole family watches, sobbing, powerless; permanently separating families, creating an entire generation of orphans
– dumping them in overcrowded camps with no legal recourse, no means of communication with the outside world, poor living conditions, and relentlessly inhumane treatment at every step in the process
– shipping them off to countries where they’ve never been, where they don’t speak the language or know the culture or have any foundations or relationships of any kind
– the camps are so overcrowded that they’re about to start building tent camps in the fucking desert in the middle of summer

America has a lot of sins, past and present. But right now, I believe this is at the top of the list. I don’t know what to do. We seem to be incapable of holding our government accountable for even the most blatant infractions.

polyamory

There’s a line from Her that has stuck with me over the years.

“The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love.”

I don’t know if Spike Jonze intended this as a reflection on polyamory, but that’s how I’ve come to interpret it.

I used to dismiss the idea that it was feasible to love more than one person at a time, that people were just fooling themselves, settling for less, diluting their experience of any single connection. That may actually be true for some people; I’ve come to recognize that there are a lot of people being poly for the wrong reasons. Talking about polyamory can be difficult because of this – everyone comes into the conversation with their own associations and preconceptions. Most of us have witnessed (or at least heard recounted through the gossip chain) some ill-conceived attempt at being poly where every party ended up hurt and miserable. Further complicating things is the fact that there are vastly different ways to be polyamorous.

My interest in this started with one realization: I’ve never really fallen out of love. I’ve had a lot of amazing relationships full of beautiful moments and memories. I learned so much and grew immensely as a person with each person I was with. I spent so much time with them. As I entered new relationships, I found myself wrestling with these feelings. I felt like I ought to let go of these memories, bury them deep and hope they wouldn’t resurface again. Am I really supposed to just dump those connections and feelings into the abyss and start over again?

That felt so incongruent, yet ironically I found myself stupidly jealous of people in someone else’s past. I wanted to feel special, like I was the only person they had ever dated, and this becomes wildly unrealistic as I approach the age of 30. Some of us have been around the block…a couple times. Part of my interest in this has been out of frustration with my own hypocrisy.

For me, this starts with being honest – with myself and with others – about what I’m actually feeling, rather than endlessly trying to tamp down thoughts that I’m afraid for someone else to hear. I don’t have to pretend that I’m not attracted to other people, or that I don’t have feelings squirreled away somewhere for someone besides the person right in front of me.

I once thought I couldn’t be poly because I never had interest in hookups or one-night stands. My heart just doesn’t work that way; I get attached, and I like getting attached. There’s so much joy in getting to know someone. My first night with someone has never been anywhere near as good as the tenth, and it (generally) only gets better from there. Intimacy fucking rules.

Yet I also don’t have the capacity or energy to maintain multiple relationships simultaneously. I can’t divide my attention or affection in that way. When I’m with someone, they have my undivided attention and energy. That’s how I want it to be. So where I’ve landed is probably better described as non-monogamy.

There are still rules. Being poly doesn’t mean you can do what you want – which is definitely a perception I’ve seen. Jealousy doesn’t cease to be a problem. But as someone who self-describes as being fairly jealous – I’ve found it a lot easier to manage these feelings than I expected because of how much more open and honest the communication becomes. Since there’s no need to pretend or pressure to uphold a fiction of permanent cognitive monogamy, trust can flow effortlessly.

It means there is flexibility and understanding. It’s okay for someone to feel attraction or love for another person besides me, that this doesn’t mean I am devalued as a partner or as a human. Because people are different. We each offer unique perspectives and attitudes, our own sets of experiences and expertise.

Increasingly I find it hard to imagine how one person could fulfill everything I might hope for in a partner. I have so many goddamn interests and passions. That’s so much pressure to place on someone, to hope that they would share in all the things I hope to enjoy with a partner. Conversely, I will probably never be the guy that knows anything about cool cocktail lounges or fancy restaurants to go to. I’m gonna have a hard time getting into sports and I probably won’t be an enriching conversation partner on the topic of gardening. There are other people out there that can provide that way better than I can. I feel no desire to compete.

One final thought: another trend I’ve noticed in conversations about this is that people often seem to interpret this as prescriptive, that because I’m doing this and talking about it, that I think it’s a better way of doing things for everybody. It’s CLEARLY not. It might not even be the right choice for me long-term, I genuinely don’t know. I have little experience here; I’ve just been thinking about it a lot this last year or two, trying out some of the concepts.

pink hair

Identity and aesthetics have been on my mind lately, largely because of dancing. A lot of my dance is wrapped up in imagining how I’m perceived, finding ways to experience the music through movement in a way that emits my personality. As I’ve explored, I find this ends up being inseparable from choices in clothing, hairstyle, jewelry.

I keep seeing people that have really mastered their presentation. Not specifically in terms of fashion per se – though for some people being dressed sharply and creatively is a core part of their aesthetic. But I’m more fascinated by people that have one style, one presentation that perfectly fits their body and accurately represents their identity.

I watched this bio on Hieroglyphic Being a while back, and besides having an incredible story of surviving abject poverty and homelessness, this dude just has the coolest aesthetic. He could wear that same outfit – all black, loose-fitting, sleeveless hoodie/cloak, wristbands, chains – and I don’t think it would ever look boring or uncreative. Because it’s just such an excellent composition of the identity that he wants to emit that matches his body and stature perfectly.

To this end, having dyed hair has really been a huge leap forward in this direction for me. I actually like what I see when I look in the mirror. The person I see looks more like me than ever before. There’s so much less disconnect. I feel more complete.

It’s also been such a joy to see how much it’s altered my interactions with everyone I encounter. I look and feel friendlier, so people are way more willing to spontaneously engage and interact. I’ve had more positive, random encounters with strangers in the last 3 weeks than in the last year combined. I feel less forgettable, less anonymous. That feels wonderful.

I’m certain there’s still much more to do before I’ve found the rest of my aesthetic. But this is definitely progress.

melt them all

I do not support your right to own a gun. I do not buy the argument that guns are a part of culture or society worth keeping. I have no sympathy for the idea that guns are important to anyone’s culture or lifestyle.

Of course I have no beef with hunting. But this isn’t, has never been, and will never be about hunting. For decades, responsible gun owners have chosen not to act in support of sensible legislation out of fear that their hobby might be inconvenienced. So my willingness to concede the validity of niche use cases has evaporated.

If someone’s cultural pastime was making bombs, we would not pause and say “well hold on now, many people are responsible bombmakers, we just need to teach responsible bomb usage to our children and tone down the reckless display of bombing in movies and video games”. This is an inane line of thought.

I am done drawing nuanced distinctions about guns. Throw them out, melt them down, and never look back. That’s the path to a society where we don’t get another mass shooting every month. That’s the society I want to live in. The one where we don’t have to do active shooter drills in elementary schools.

single

You don’t see people express much about being single in public spaces.

There’s a fear, I think. Expressing that kind of vulnerability carries unattractive connotations. Nobody wants to look desperate or needy.

Yet the overwhelming ubiquity of tinder and okcupid speaks to a desire we all share. Nobody wants to be alone. But the game, it seems, is to pretend it doesn’t bother you. Grin and bear it until you strike gold. Suddenly people who previously never post a damn thing are spamming kissing booth collages and tagging each other in dumpster-tier memes about babies and wedding planning.

But this isn’t a rant about romantic exhibitionism in the age of social media.

Ever since the first time I woke up in the morning next to a wonderful person I was excited to spend the day with, I knew I never wanted to go back. Genuine, loving romantic companionship is one of the handful of experiences that make our time on this mortal coil worth it.

The word “loneliness” doesn’t really capture the absence of this, for me. I am a pretty solitary creature for the most part; I need a lot of space in my day-to-day, and I don’t mind being by myself or being left alone with my thoughts.

The frustration of being single is in not having outlets for a huge fraction of my identity. Sexuality is a big part of it, of course, but it’s far more than just that. For me, one feature of a good relationship is a constant flow of affection, interest, and support. It feels great to be there for someone, to be trusted enough to share in their darkness and vulnerability. It’s exciting to have unmitigated permission to dole out compliments and smiles and appreciation. The filters are turned off. The inhibitions are unnecessary. Be as you are.

Yeah, these things are sorta possible outside of romantic relationships. But it’s not the same. I have some orthogonal thoughts on polyamory I want to explore related to this at some point, but I’m still chewing on that concept. Another time.

Point being: I see a lot of unhelpful advice for coping with being single. A lot of it is predicated on the idea that there is something wrong with the single person that is making them unattractive to others. Or that the primary goal should be to accept the status and learn to be okay with it. That seems to work for some people. But for some of us, no amount of self-love or fulfilling hobbies or interesting lifestyles will ever change that. Being single is just a lesser plane of existence.

It is what it is.

feel-good

so, there’s a lot of these feel-good videos where people do super kind or generous things, or there’s just some moment of raw happiness. this week alone, i’ve randomly encountered:
– a woman getting out of her car to give a homeless man a coat
– a sick kid returning to school getting hugs from all his classmates
– a whole bunch of family and friends going nuts after this kid opens his college acceptance letter

no matter how cynical i get, these are heartwarming. they’re a reminder that things aren’t always terrible.

but i keep thinking about how weird it is that we pull out our phones and record these moments. especially when it comes to random acts of kindness.

i’m just not sure what to think about it. in general, i don’t think it matters much why people do good things. inevitably there are people who volunteer or help others because it makes them look good or makes them feel good. and that’s fine. it’s not great, either, but i tend to think that it matters more what you do than why you do it. that could also be Bojack rubbing off on me lately, there’s a few episodes that riff on that theme.

i remember after the tsunami in Japan back in 2011, there was an initial barrage of disaster / destruction videos on all the blogs I followed because, of course, it was nuts to behold. it was also one of the first major natural disasters since the advent of ubiquitous cameras on all of our devices.

and then i saw the term “disaster porn” dropped, and there seemed to be a sudden awareness that we were collectively rubbernecking over the misery of others. it’s sort of like war photography – there’s a line between telling a story and profiting from destruction.

i don’t think these feel-good videos are in the same category, but there’s something weird about knowing that somebody’s out there getting a little dopamine rush imagining the views and likes they’re gonna get once they post their video of rescuing kittens from a volcano.

i’ve heard people talk in jest about this with babies and weddings, but there was also a shared acknowledgment that it wasn’t … really a joke. the attention feels good.

no slam dunk conclusion here, just something i’ve been chewing on.

holding pattern

I feel like I’ve been in a political holding pattern lately.

Since the brief glimpse of hope offered by the November elections, there’ve been a huge number of setbacks:

– the tax bill, which is a huge leap towards modern class warfare
– the outright give-away of 2 million acres of public parks
– the supreme court temporarily upholding the 3rd travel ban
– net neutrality’s looking mighty grim
– Puerto Rico never really got any (federal) help
– ??? take your pick, there’s so much

Most of this is basically out of reach. These are all decisions made by people who have absolutely zero incentive to heed my concerns.

Traditional political activism feels useless by nature of the fact that I live in Brooklyn. I have literally never met a Trump supporter here. My representatives are already among the most liberal in Congress. That isn’t saying much, of course, but they’re not bad, overall.

Further radicalization seemed like the obvious next step, but as I’ve written previously, I’ve been turned off by what I see from the DSA. I love Jacobin’s insight and rigorous exploration of socialist policy, but then I see platitudes like “eat the rich” touted as a legitimate platform. I don’t begrudge the sentiment, but it’s just such a laughably short-sighted perspective on the problem.

I don’t see any major political actors making strides in the problem of how we dig ourselves out of the situation we presently find ourselves in. What do you do about a constitution that gives the state of Wyoming the same political weight as New York? How can an activist in California have any relevance to the problem of voter suppression in Alabama?

Absent any movement I strongly identify with or find convincing in its short-term proposals for change, I find myself just silently observing, taking notes.

I’ve been a lot more focused on the somehow herculean act of making friends, because I think it might be the case that creating real relationships with other human beings matters way more than keeping track of every ounce of Trump’s bullshit. Or maybe this is a roundabout way of justifying a measure of apathy. I genuinely don’t know.

What I do know is that I’ve been absurdly happy the last 2 months. This might be the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. That probably has had a lot to do with finding a community in Bushwick that I adore, and pulling back the throttle a bit on how much energy I devote to the news.

hot takes: vol. 1

i binged netflix for like two weeks, get READY for some HOT TAKES

CITY OF LOST CHILDREN was: REMARKABLE. delightfully bizarre. driven by a relentlessly creative series of events that play out within elaborate set-pieces. unique in a way that most films could never dream of.

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was: DISAPPOINTING. Anthony Hopkins is a genius surrounded by peasants.

JESSICA JONES was: DECENT. desperately needed comic relief. creative use of an excellent villain. cool way to tackle gender issues, but left me feeling emotionless at the end.

LUKE CAGE was: ACCEPTABLE. felt really similar to Jessica Jones in pacing and tone. refreshing to see an all-black cast without tired racial stereotypes. relationships between characters mostly felt forced. better than most Marvel fare.

SPEED RACER (2008) was: SURPRISING. visually intense, hyper-exaggerated, massively eccentric both to its benefit and fault. charming enough to smooth over some of its failures. it knew what it was about and stuck to its guns. terrible casting for the main character, excellent supporting cast. not for everyone.

GOMORRAH (2008) was: MEDIOCRE. like City of God without compelling characters or relationships. has the trappings of a gangster/mob flick, but lacks the requisite insight into power structures or delightful confusion of empathizing with bad people.

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was: UNCOMPELLING. it reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, where the novelty of the technique being employed merits credit, but is still mostly a distraction. couldn’t get myself to care about the main character or his arc.

PARKS AND RECREATION was: DELIGHTFUL. i originally had it boxed in as a different flavor of the Office, but it is far superior. every character is worth loving for different reasons, and each has a unique kind of relationship to other characters in the show. they significantly evolve without losing their core identity. the writing is consistently good. it ends on an incredibly high note – one of the finest conclusions to a series I’ve seen.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 was: EHHH. lacked most of the oomph of the first.

LOGAN was: ADEQUATE. the first half of the movie was genuinely great. the banter between Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart is gold. the second half is worthless.


hot takes for your SATURDAY AFTERNOON

AMERICAN VANDAL was: GOOD. much better than you would imagine a mockumentary about drawing dicks to be. it’s fun to watch them squeeze eight full episodes out of it without going flat. the way it incorporates instagram / facebook / snapchat everywhere in its storytelling makes it a genuine product of its time. it’ll be fun to revisit this in a decade or two.

THE SOPRANOS was: STILL GOOD. my first end-to-end rewatch since it ended ten years ago. first few seasons are definitely stronger; as it gets into the 5th season, you can tell it’s wearing thin on a lot of interactions. but it’s still just fucking great television. deep, evolving characters and relationships, that delicious dissonance of empathizing with terrible people, even rooting for them. a slice of the 90’s with its high-waisted pants and a glance at the before-and-after of 9/11. i won’t defend the ending, but i still think it’s fine.

BABY DRIVER was: ECSTASY. my god i loved this. not a perfect movie at all – shoulda been much shorter and it’s more of an action flick than it needs to be. but it’s goddamn clever, stuffed to the gills with pop culture savvy and a love for music.

also wow the latest season of GOT was utter balls. it’s sad to watch the series sink like that, but ultimately i’m not that upset. they got 4 or 5 good seasons out there. it had its time, and it was a good while it lasted.


oh hey what’s that oh oh it’s more HOT TAKES

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS was: CREATIVE. i won’t tell you this movie is good, but it’s a visual feast and i will always enjoy a movie that shows me something weird and flavorful. it’s kind of in the neighborhood of Speed Racer or Pacific Rim.

CREED (2015) was: COMPETENT. it’s just a well-made movie. the characters have depth, the relationships evolve, and it feels like a fresh, modern update to an old story.

STRANGER THINGS S2 was: TIRED. the main villain is just a horde of feral dogs. the 80’s references felt more ham-fisted. that said, i really enjoyed the interactions between Dustin and Steve.

MEN IN BLACK (1997) was: CLASSIC. i hadn’t watched this in at least 15 years, and it has aged delightfully well. it’s gross and silly but, again, creative and fun. it’s also got a lot of cute New York humor that totally flew over my head as a kid.

MORTAL KOMBAT (1995) was: STILL FUN TO MOCK. it’s the right kind of bad movie for the non-stop peanut gallery.

CLOUD ATLAS was: INSTANTLY FORGETTABLE. a mess of cheesy dialogue and heavy-handed motifs strung together with a plot that offers no real engagement or thrill. i watched it like a month ago and honestly can’t remember the main arc.

WONDER WOMAN was: LIFELESS. i’m definitely burning out on superhero movies, that’s for sure. but i heard boatloads of praise for this as a feminist masterpiece and i don’t see it at all. she gets dragged around london getting dolled up as the beautiful-but-naive foreigner while all the men around tell her what she needs to do. as far as female empowerment in action movies go, this doesn’t come close to Mad Max.

hindsight

The thought I’ve been coming back to the last two days is that, if he hadn’t been elected, I would be less politically engaged. I’m sure the same is true for many others.

To be clear, it’s not like I’m putting in any herculean effort here. I called my representatives for the first time. I marched in my first protest last year. I voted in my first local election yesterday. Maybe I’m reading and writing a bit more. But all it takes to bring change is just a little more engagement from a lot of people.

If Hillary had been elected, would we see anywhere near the same levels of participation? Given how slim the margins have been for these disastrous bills in Congress, it seems quite plausible to imagine that they would pass if there were fewer calls and protests. Does that outweigh the damage from Gorsuch, the executive orders, and his appointments? Perhaps not, I don’t know.

November 2016 was a major shift in my perspective. I spent weeks feeling utter dread. It was so hard to imagine a good future in world where Trump could be elected. I’d never felt such a persistent mixture of disappointment and disgust.

But over the last year, I’ve seen tons of powerful activism, which has stayed strong even though the news is so relentlessly, oppressively terrible. More than ever, we’re painfully aware of the problems in our society. I don’t see anyone with the answers, but I see a lot of people searching for them. More than before. There has been horror, but also solidarity and reassurance in seeing that there are many people as horrified as me.

We’ve survived our first year. This year’s election bodes well for 2018. Nothing is yet broken that cannot be fixed. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’m hopeful, but I do see plausible routes for our country to recover.

part of the problem

I’ve been very lucky to know a lot of women who never hesitated to call me on my sexist bullshit.

I remember, many years ago now, when an ex called me crying because a total stranger had slapped her ass and I shit you not the first thing I asked was what she was wearing. Thank god, she did not stand for it one bit.

That conversation was the beginning of a long process of change. It sucked to realize that I had all this toxic nonsense lurking in my mind, that I’d hurt someone I loved with thoughtless sexist garbage. But meaningful change and growth aren’t usually as fun as people make them out to be.

So, here’s a big thank you to all the strong ladies in my life who took the time to tell me when I was wrong.

d-a-n-c-e

Unsorted thoughts on dancing:

I remember when i turned 21, i was so desperate for a place to dance. I think the first time i danced at a bar (the Haunt) I was out with some coworkers, and that song with the apple-bottom jeans came on and i got up on this stage by myself to shake my ass. Then I went to this one place up the street from my house (Level B) a dozen times because that was the only place to go. It was terrible and the music sucked but at least they had a spot that was meant for dancing.

The first real taste i got was an Infected Mushroom concert. I never broke it down so hard in my life, there was this trance opener that i couldn’t get enough of, i sweat straight through all my clothes by the end.

I sweat a lot. It’s just a thing i have. When i dance it’s absurd, i have no idea why it’s so excessive, but i will admit i get embarrassed about it. There are these moments where some cute lady smiles at me and then does this weird look of confused horror when she notices i’m sweating like nuts. I have come to accept it…mostly.

I love watching how the crowd relates to the music. There’s an ephemeral but totally real relationship between the DJ and the crowd. A great DJ has immense control; they can make the crowd bust it out at a moment’s notice and it’s a beautiful thing.

The scene is getting more progressive, and it’s awesome. The good places are banning phones, getting tough on harassment, seeking out ways to make it safe and comfortable for everyone. It makes a world of difference.

When you get to the end of the night – 4, 5, 7am – it’s amazing. Everyone is just exhausted and ecstatic. The whole thing is a series of pure moments; great music, the satisfaction of moving your body to the beat, the glee of seeing nothing but happy faces around you. The trip home makes for great moments of reflection and synthesis.

It’s hard to put these things into writing; it’s all nebulous stuff. But i’m so excited to be diving deeper into the dance community the last year.

between centers

it’s like, yeah, i get it, she’s out of touch. for such an intelligent and composed person, she doesn’t understand how politics and society has changed. she lacks self-awareness. she is unwilling to acknowledge her own flaws and failures, not that she’s unique in that regard.

but man, nothing makes me less interested in participating with the far-left than the endless stream of vitriol that they spit at her.

one thing that’s clear from listening to her is that she actually believes her “between center-left and center-right” stuff. it’s true, she’s not a liberal, never really was. but in that sense she is totally authentic. she is, to her core, a boring realist who lacks vision, not because she doesn’t care, but she has genuine faith in her milquetoast strategies for change. she believes in the system that we have. this is the game she knows and it’s the game she wants to play.

fuck me for seeing merit in a diversity of political ideologies. do i agree with her? god no, but i recognize she comes from a place of experience and knowledge, that she does offer meaningful insight into the realities of bureaucracy and politics, that she still has value and power even in the shame of defeat. there are people who like and even love her earnestly for who she is, and there is no virtue in shitting on them for that.

mostly i’m just feeling politically isolated. sign me up for that sweet luxury automated gay space communism but leave me out of the endless pissing contest over bernie.

never forget

if you have strong feelings about 9/11, you might want to skip this one. this is one of those days that i can’t nod along and bite my tongue.

“never forget” is an awful motto.

sure, there are countless stories of heroism and selflessness that we get to recount, and that’s what many people will say they refuse to forget.

but the legacy of 9/11, as it will go into history books, is not of first responders running up the stairs and passengers taking down a plane.

“never forget” is a commandment that we stay bitter, harbor resentment, and relive painful memories so that we stay angry and foster ill will.

“never forget” is a cynical phrase used to perpetuate our endless conflict in the middle east and our farcical war on terror.

9/11 is the beginning of my acquaintance with america as a nation that abuses its power on the global stage. someone bombed us, and in return we bombed the poorest nation on earth into oblivion. then we invaded another country on false pretenses because, hey, we were in the neighborhood.

extract whatever heartwarming memories you want from 9/11, but the terrorists got exactly what they wanted. our country has never been weaker or more unstable than it is today. 16 years of unjust war may have something to do with that.

maverick

I see a lot of sudden celebration of John McCain as a legendary hero in response to his diagnosis of brain cancer.

I don’t wish illness or death on anyone. This isn’t about withholding sympathy or empathy. You can be sad that someone is sick or mourn their passing without ignoring their flaws. But our collective willingness to suddenly cast the sick and the dead as heroes is not honest or helpful.

When it comes to the life and death of public figures, it’s a chance for society to reckon with the quality of their character. Famous people, whether they like it or not, become role models by mere virtue of their presence. They are examples of what sort of lives can be lead. How we talk about their example is one of the many ways that we define the meaning of a good life, of a life well-lived. When we speak in glowing terms of someone’s story, there is an implication to everyone listening that this person’s actions are worth mimicking.

I’m not a student of John McCain’s life. All I know is what I’ve seen for the last decade or so.

To me, he’s the guy that picked a woman he barely knew as his vice presidential candidate. He launched Sarah Palin – a dreadful harbinger of Trumpian behavior and rhetoric – into the national spotlight. He’s a guy that frequently goes on television to critique Trump, but still votes with him over 90% of the time. He’s an active participant in the political party that denies climate change, limits civil rights, that actively enacts policies that intentionally harm the poor, the needy, and the suffering.

No doubt, he appears to be a more decent human being than many of his colleagues. He shows respect for others. He has a history of voting across party lines (even if that hasn’t been the case recently). He went out of his way to call Obama a decent human being during the ’08 election. He doesn’t speak with venom or malice.

But that doesn’t make him a hero. It means he’s not a terrible person, that he does what a lot of us do every day of our lives. He looks great because he’s surrounded by such abhorrent individuals.

I think that’s what people are reacting to, more than anything else. It’s not about him specifically, but the fact that the one guy who lets out even a fart of reasonable attitudes might be out of the game. That we’re one step closer to political insanity.

dear FCC

My comment to the FCC on net neutrality:

As a software engineer that works entirely from home, my livelihood is dependent on a fair and open internet. None of my work would be possible if my colleagues and I had to wrestle with bandwidth caps, throttling, or unequal access to the internet. The current proposal to eliminate Title II protections will cause enormous damage to all users of the internet by stifling the growth of new websites, technologies, and communities. Just like electricity and water, the internet is a utility that all of us depend on, every day of our lives. Treat it as such, and preserve Title II regulations.

tweets’n’such

Twitter is easily the worst place for my mental health with its relentless formula of cynicism and groupthink masquerading as irony, but it provides an incredible wealth of information and perspectives on current events.

It took over a year, but I finally curated an excellent mix of people that provide a reliable stream of useful insight with a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives. The direct access it provides to journalists and political insiders is a thing of beauty. It can often be its own, isolated world, where people continually mistake the shared catharsis of mocking opponents with meaningful engagement. But there is legitimate, educational, enlightening discussion going on there. It just takes a lot of digging to find.

I still don’t feel comfortable contributing or interacting on Twitter. I don’t think I have much to contribute in that format, but I’ve also never really tried. I think it would be quite difficult to navigate towards an experience that would be fulfilling rather than soul-crushing.

Meanwhile, Facebook is utterly dead to me as a place for evidence-based discussion. I have seen zero constructive disagreements take place here since the election. At the same time, this is the only reliable window I have towards seeing actual, confirmed human beings express sincerely-held conservative beliefs. Finding that on Twitter or Reddit is impossible, so I do appreciate the occasional glimpse of “my god he really believes that trump is doing the lord’s work” as a reminder that our election was not a joke.

That leads me to conclude that there is still merit in putting thoughts out there as a means of bolstering representation. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll give some words to thoughts that others have not yet been able to articulate.

But it’s important to recognize these efforts for what they are. My posts are little more than thinking out loud, an outlet for the stuff that gets bottled up in my brain over time, a mostly selfish act rather than some benevolent community service. I’m not changing the world with my words. Nobody’s going to be won over or convinced solely by what I write.