A Very Special Christmas With BothEyesShut

My readers tend to develop a vivid impression of me rather early in our relationship, I must say, and I can’t blame them.  I mean, this is far from the most pandering blog on the Internet, and I sure haven’t sugared my opinions for anyone, so I suppose forming an opinion of me is a little like sizing-up the character of a covered pie; if you get two or three slices of blackberry, you naturally presume that the rest will not turn out to be cherry, apple, or peach-pecan.  In my estimation, this is as it should be, but I must say that I believe my ideas to be independent of any personal touch on my part — that is, I hold current points-of-view based on their logical likelihood to me at present, and consequently I have no pride or ego invested in themso many things I say can be construed as perpendicular to one another, incompatible, or schizophrenic.  I know that.  I accept that.

It may well surprise many of you, then, that of Christmas I consider myself a fan.  There are many such proponents who cheerfully advocate the holidays, and if you count yourself in this number, please trust in my sincerity and continue without trepidation.  This is not a trick, nor sarcasm, nor an insidious ploy to make fun of churchies.

For my friends whom have already begun to feel somewhat betrayed, however, remains the following, which is a brief account of exactly why I feel enthusiasm for such an obviously materialistic time of year.  People have raised eyebrows, so I feel an explanation is in order.  So merry Christmas!  And don’t worry; I won’t get all warm and fuzzy on you.  This shit is much too deliberate for that.

The Coca Cola Santa campaign, 90 years old and joyfully roaring.

Alright, so everybody knows that Thomas Nast dreamed up the American Santa way back during the Civil War, and everybody knows the story about Coca Cola’s campaign to show their product as a winter beverage, about how the campaign successfully launched old Sinter Klaus’s own career here in the states.  That’s not too interesting, really, unless it’s news to you; you can get it here from the horse’s mouth if it is.  Maybe you should.  It’s important to know where our gods come from.  What people don’t think too much about, though, is how much more important Santa is to society than many of our other icons and symbols.

For instance (and if this paragraph is a low blow, I apologize) the crucifixion of Christ is an important symbol of selflessness for billions of people.  Christian culture sees the crucifixion as a magnanimous act of self-sacrifice for the benefit of mankind, but Santa’s a more suitable symbol for selflessness than Christ is now.  It’s hard for agnostics like me to see the crucifixion as a glorious gift, because believers seem much more impressed by Mr. Jesus’ sorcery, his famous trick of rising from the dead like some bearded zombie and ascending into heaven after checking-in with his friends than by his being gracious.  I try to never judge a philosophy by its misuse, though, and the truth is that it’s self-sacrifice that allows for so-called salvation in the Christian system, redeeming the world “by the blood of the lamb” like a clinking Hefty bag full of empty Corona bottles at the local recycling center.  The Catholic church did a number on the Christ story by putting so much emphasis on miracles over the last seventeen-hundred years, though, mainly in a bid to win converts, so the best symbol for selflessness that humanity had, the Christ figure, has been pathetically reduced to an icon of — shudder — forgiveness, which is not only condescending to non-believers, but accusatory, as well.

Santa, on the other hand, stands for selflessness without complexity or complication.  He is the spirit of charity and cheer, of belly laughs and granted wishes.  Not to be outdone, he’s also an arbiter of morality, rewarding goodness in our children no matter which family standards outline it.  Hell, even if you were bad this year, Santa’s still going to leave some coal in your stocking so you can have a warm Christmas morning.  Everyone except a very self-righteous few can celebrate him without checking their church manual for oversights, and everyone with an inclination to be good to his or her fellows can respect an example of selflessness like ol’ Saint Nick.

Life: it ain't wonderful because it has a happy ending.

Selflessness is not a joke, bytheway.  If you’re surprised that I back Christmas in spite of its  materialistic dark side, consider the importance of social grace and the rewards of a diminished ego.  We are much less independent of one another than we pretend.  Alienation from the society of humans means madness or death, as does any sufficiently vast divorce from other forms of life such as plants and animals.  Consider how arbitrary our independent self-images are!  Where do you think your body is divided from the world?  At your skin?  What about the hairs on your arm — are those you, too?  How about the sebum and moisture that your skin produces to protect and lubricate itself, is that you?  How about once it evaporates?  For that matter, think of the air we breathe.  Is that oxygen you when it’s in your lungs, your blood, your brain?  When you breathe out, is that breath of air you?  Oh, I get it, it’s you when it’s inside you, but it’s not you when it’s outside you.  Remember though, everything that makes you up and keeps you alive originated outside of you.

OK, OK, this is all physical, but what about your thoughts, your education, your words; they all started with you, right?  No?  That’s interesting.  And when you speak, those thoughts, those ideas, those will die with you, right?  From nowhere to nowhere?  No?  And economies, and global infrastructure, and the capacity to drive alongside thousands of people every day without an accident, these things clearly show that humans are independent of one another, I suppose?

Nope.  No way.  We can’t even really tell one another apart without drawing lines “somewhere,” without giving names to things that never a name did need, without choosing cliques in high school, professions in college, and political bumper stickers in November every four years.  Oops! I thought you were a friend of mine; you have the same haircut.  We do everything in our fucking power to make it look like we’re individuals, but you know the truth.  We’re all leaves on the same tree, and that’s where selflessness comes in.  You see, selflessness achieves on purpose what evolution attains by accident: a better humanity.  So yeah, I’m on Santa’s team.

I don’t need to be more precise, do I?  For further study, see Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” pictured above.  Don’t watch it if you’ll need to feel macho or Nietzschean at any point over the following few days, though.  Trust me on that.

Oh, and a very merry Christmas to you, too.

What of all the buying and selling, marketing and wanting, though?  Yeah, it’s definitely part of the season, no doubt.  Still, when I think of Machiavellian corporate fucks sitting around long tables in black leather chairs and talking about how to harness the holidays for the best of their companies, I don’t think of them as evil, nor as the dark high priests of the almighty dollar (no more than usual, anyhow).  They do these jobs the rest of the year, too, you know.  It just seems blasphemous in December because Christmas is about giving, and the corporate fucks go to great lengths to ensure their commercials engender as much desire and selfishness as possible.  Their jobs seem very out of place during Christmas, perhaps, constantly vying for your purchases, but the real responsibility for making the holidays a beautiful thing lies on the traditions of your family.

Listen, if you’re distraught because the Christmas bonus didn’t come through again, or Uncle Hobart won’t drive to San Diego to see the kids, or yes-I-know-what-I-said-about-charity-but-he’d-just-buy-beer-with-it, then you’re living too close to earth.  Earth is cold and hard, and that’s not what Christmas is for.  We have eleven months a year to fixate on our shortcomings and the meanness of life.  Can’t we at least pretend to be better people between Thanksgiving and New Year’s*?  Christmas is an italicized opportunity to be cool to people.  If buying gifts for your friends and family seems like a pit battle at the stock exchange, then you’re fucking doing it wrong.  A wise man once said: to the pure, all is pure; to the base, all is base.

Yeah.  That’s so goddamn true.

So anyhow, merry fucking Christmas!  You people are completely awesome.  To drop the showman shit and be honest, I can’t tell you how many interesting people I’ve corresponded with as a result of “In a Real World. . .”  I’d bid you merry Christmas anyhow, and I’d say nice things, too, but it makes it real easy when being polite and being earnest do not contradict one another.  You know what I’m talking about?  Of course you do, you beautiful bastards.

Seriously though, merry Christmas.  If I see you out, be sure to introduce yourself.  First round’s on me.

All My Best,

-BothEyes

*See earlier post, “Actors are Schizophrenic,” on the topic of pretending to be other people

Stale Loaves, Gamey Fish, and Feeding More than Five-Thousand

How exactly does one appeal to the masses of humanity?  What’s the secret recipe to make culture go pop?  Is it a common ingredient, a hermetic principle, or what?  I mean, it can’t be all that complex; just look at the people who’ve accomplished it.  In this week’s “In  a Real World, This Would Be Happening,” I want to attack the glamor of being the name on everyone’s lips.  Let’s see what the experts have to say.

Andy Warhol

“In the future everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes,” said the man, and boy was he right.  If you haven’t been world-famous yet, then you haven’t wanted to.  Andy Warhol learned how to do it more than three decades before Internet fame was available.  His magic trick involved taking images most people were already familiar with and painting them numerous times on a single canvas.  He raped popular culture, using everything from movie stills to canned soup labels, and when people decried him as a charlatan, a fake painter, he laughingly agreed with his detractors, saying that his paintings had absolutely no artistic value, that art itself had no value, and that an artist is someone who makes things people don’t need.  He said finally, “I’ve decided something: commercial things really do stink.  As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market, it really stinks.”

I’ve learned this, too, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to suspect that perhaps this is more than a simple opinion, that perhaps widespread acclaim really does harm a thing.  However, not all things seem susceptible to this form of corruption, only works of art.  I say so for the simple reason that non-artistic things like tools and such are used by everyone in proportion to their usefulness.  Nobody uses washboards anymore, because washing machines are much more efficient.  Everyone uses wheels to move things around, because wheels are exquisite at rolling.  In fact, they are experts.

But wouldn’t it be cool to use a washboard to clean clothes in the sink?  It kinda would, yeah, but our crappy modern clothes wouldn’t stand up to the scrubbing.  And wouldn’t it be chic to have a working bicycle with square wheels?  You bet.  Jean Paul Gaultier would have his brand stamped on one overnight if it were possible, and then he’d charge $15,000 for it, and you know what?  It’d sell.  So it seems that living contrary to popular culture has artistic merit.  Andy figured it out as a painter in the 1950s and made an entire career out of thumbing his nose at the rest of the artistic community, merely rendering silly commercial icons and symbols into fine art, and now he’s revered as one of the most important artists of all time (though not with art history intellectualites).  He’s the biggest pop-culture painter in the history of pop art.  In fact, he’s sometimes called the father of it.  Goddamn, irony can really make me smirk.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde

Oscar Wilde said the same thing Andy did, that “All art is really quite useless,” and also that, “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.”  Well done, Sir, well said indeed, but what signifies good art if it is all useless?  The number of its admirers could gauge the quality of our art for us, couldn’t it?

Marketing giants sure want it that way.  They would have us believe that popularity is the barometer by which all art should be measured, but not because they have a solid, philosophical reason or honest, subjective opinion on the matter, but rather because they do want to sell as many of their products as possible, and since any one product is going to look and act precisely the same as the others once we get them home, advertisers want it to be a sign of quality that we all have one, rather than evidence that we haven’t been thinking on our own.  They say that Britney Spears is a genius; they say you can tell by the millions of albums she’s sold.

On the other hand, making money is a rather obvious purpose, a typically modern use for a thing, wouldn’t you say?  And if Britney is useful to the corporations, then Oscar says she is not art.  What about Andy, though?  Andy said to the media once, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”  Yeah, but Andy painted Campbell’s soup cans and laughed at his buyers to the media.  His joke on the art world was his true art.  His lifestyle was his true art.  His paintings were like the stage magician’s wand, which when waved about would distract the audience from what the other hand was doing — namely, anything it (he) wanted.

Wilde’s “intense admiration”

The other half of Oscar’s quote could be true, though.  What if excellent art could be measured not by the number of its admirers, but by the intensity of its fans’ admiration?  It’s possible.  If it were true, the corporations sure wouldn’t like for it to get out.  Could you imagine?  Imagine legions of soccer moms and old ladies taking down their Thomas Kinkade paintings and re-framing various images they found at the local bazaar, and why?  Because they like the way they look hanging there on the wall, that’s why, and because nobody anywhere else has got one.  It’s unique.  It’s unique, and for some reason, that’s a good thing, but you sure can’t sell it.  It’s hard to manufacture unique.

I’m not here to figure out exactly what makes good art, though.  That was Aristotle’s thing (the nature of quality, I mean) and he never really nailed it down; I’m arrogant, but not so conceited that I think I’m going to define it in a Wednesday morning web log.  I wanted to find out what it takes to produce mass appeal, and so far I’ve only figured out that people have been fooled into buying things based on their popularity.  This is not going to work.  Quickly, let’s go, let’s go.

Jackson Pollock

This is Jackson Pollock’s work.  It’s called “Galaxy,” and I think that’s fitting.  It looks — something like that.  There are two immediate reactions to a Pollock piece.  Sometimes people say, “Say, that’s a pretty thing,” and other times they say, “Hell, I could do that.”  You know what?  It’s true.  Even a 4 yr. old can do it.  They can do it and make thousands upon thousands of dollars.  This approaches an answer to our problem, which was, how does one go about garnering mass appeal?  How does one snare the positive attention of millions of common people?  The answer lies in a suggestion.  I’m putting it in bold so it stands out to my casual readers.

What if people are commonly of bad taste, whereby corporations sell things of bad taste to satisfy an enormous consumer demand?

Were it true, then it would cause a tailspin of poor taste and reprehensible artistic values after a decade or so.  Consumers would allow marketing geniuses to tell them that mediocre artists produce works of enduring quality.  The public would come to believe that every new thing that everyone purchased had intrinsic benefits because everyone had purchased one.  That’d make selling things to the people even easier, because excellent things are much more rare than commonplace things; it’d be far simpler to convince people that auto-tune makes a song more fashionable than talented vocalists can, whereby great singers wouldn’t have to be found in great supply; it’d be much more straightforward to make splatter paintings more fashionable than, say, expressionism or pre-Rafaelite art, because then big business could have toddlers create a steady stream of high-demand products, pre-framed and ready for their place on the living room wall; it’d be a cinch to sell children’s books to full-grown adults if the adults were convinced that adults everywhere were already reading them.

The real cover of Harry Potter VII, and the pretend cover for adults.

On this last score, one wonders, “Is it necessarily so that great children’s books are poor literature for a man or woman?”  It’s a fair and fine question.  I think that if the reader’s comprehension of the literature is at a child’s level, then children’s books are perfectly appropriate to help him or her learn to read books which deal with mature ideas and circumstances, books written with magnificent poetry and masterful turns of wit and cleverness.  Is it too harsh of me to suggest that adults who read children’s books should be ashamed of themselves unless their reading comprehension is at a child’s level?  Nope.  Here, look: Rowling’s publisher released a second edition of Harry Potter VII, one with a big-boy grownup cover on it, so that mature fans wouldn’t have to be embarrassed for reading baby books in public.  If they’re ashamed of themselves, why should I go easy on them?

Alright, then, we have seen that corporations produce second-rate, mock-up, or ill-suited art for the ignorant masses, and that they manufacture ignorance to boost sales.  Rowling’s people know Harry Potter is not suitable for adult reading, so they facilitate the retardation of adult literacy by disguising consumers’ laziness as a respectable literary endeavor.  Fine.  I believe now that I have an answer.

In order to appeal to the masses of humanity, one need only produce something as near as possible to what most people are already interested in.  The largest number of people is the most homogeneous; the largest number of people is the most average and mediocre; the largest number of people is the most unsurprising, the most unoriginal, the most lacking in ingenuity.  In other words, in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator, one need not trouble oneself; one need only have something truly unimpressive to offer — and the truly unimpressive are sure to snatch it up.

Can it be said that mass appeal actually harms an otherwise quality work of art, then?  Certainly.  Many great works of art stunned and offended audiences because they were innovative and ingenious.  If everyone had accepted the punk rockers, the movement would have been dismantled.  If all the Thomas Kinkaid sort of fans had suddenly found an interest in dadaism, the dadaists would have had to try something else.  If the people who dress unfashionably suddenly donned Gucci and Prada, guess which designers wouldn’t get invited to the next show in Milan.  Can it be said that popularity actually harms art?  Why not, when things like fine art, influential music, and classic literature are continually thrown over for cheap, flash-in-the-pan imitations?  If the people of mediocre taste, values, and education find something irresistible in a certain thing, then the art itself becomes an accomplice.  It’s guilty by association.

This brings us to the final irony, and to me, the funniest.  I’ll let our pop-culture authority close this chapter by elucidating:

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.”

-Andy Warhol

The Southern California Motorist

In a more lighthearted vein, I’ve been considering the driving habits of Southern Californians lately.  I’m not going to lie; I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for some time, now, and it appears that the moment is come.  Upon reflection, several possible approaches appeared: I could rant about things that piss me off during my commute; I could teach a sarcastic driving course; I could make fun of the habits of drivers from various different areas; or I could make fun of drivers by stereotyping their choice of automobiles.  The choice has been a difficult one though, so I’m just going to do all four.  OK?

So let’s go!  Walk around your vehicle and perform your five-point safety inspection, being sure to check tires for proper inflation, lights for functionality, and the ground for any suspicious puddles of leaked fluid.  Adjust your mirrors, seat, head restraint and steering wheel angle (if applicable), buckle and adjust your seat belt, engage the clutch and brake, and finally, turn your ignition key to start the motor.  E-brake off!  First gear!  Lightly off the clutch and hard on the accelerator, and don’t forget to make that left turn in Albuquerque.

The Average Jane or Joe

The Average Janes and Joes of Southern California drive to familiar places daily and know their roadways.  As a rule, they break posted speed limits by approximately 10 MPH and eye out-of-state plates with contempt.  They usually carry no more than two passengers at a given time (often children) and limit their choice of bumper adornments to one icon or sticker, much like local police cruisers, except that adornments on civilian autos are typically religious or political in nature.

On that score, So-Cal. Average Janes and Joes drive rather like So-Cal. cops drive, since cops give tickets here for failing to drive like a patrolling cop.  In short, the Average Jane or Joe in Southern California is a happy conformist, using signals before lane changes and turns, casually commenting on the mistakes of others, and trying not to text too much during long commutes.  Nothing spectacular.  They may be recognized by their unremarkable vehicle, which generally looks like a nice, shiny used car even when it’s bought brand-new, and which they sell 40,000 miles later with no discernible aesthetic differences.

Personally speaking: I have no beef with the Average Jane or Joe — that is, unless I’ve recently had a run-in with one of the inconsiderate bastards described below.  Almost everyone is an Average Jane or Joe sometimes.  It can depend on the car we’re driving, current stress levels, how many antidepressants we’re on, or even something dumb like what song is on the radio.  So, yeah.  As long as you aren’t doing some intensely ignorant shit, I want you to know that I understand.  We’re all on the same team.  I’ll even let you merge.

The Soccer Mom

The Southern California mode of soccer mom can be seen pacing down the freeway at a static velocity without regard to the surrounding flow of traffic.  She often seems to speak animatedly to no one, though this is really a conversation via Blue Tooth or with children hidden behind tinted windows.  Of course, it also may purport the onset of schizophrenia.  She has a selection of both political and religious bumper stickers on her rear window, and she thinks they look classier there than on the actual bumper.

The So. Cal. soccer mom has also the dubious distinction of pre-menopause, a self-administered sexual repression during what is generally considered to be the peak of female sexuality.  Soccer Mom Pre-menopause, or SMP (a reversal of PMS like menopause itself), causes a particular social apathy which is believed to produce her disregard for the surrounding flow of traffic.  The cause of this phenomenon is unknown, but researchers widely recognize a probable connection to both Oprah Winfrey and the Lifetime network.

Notable hazards include (but are not limited to): ignorance of nearby vehicles, failure to check blind spots before lane changes, and habitual stopping twenty feet before crosswalks at traffic signals.  The latter is particularly dangerous in inner cities, when Soccer Mom’s buffer of twenty feet leaves drivers several cars behind sitting in an intersection when the light changes.

Soccer moms may be recognized by their sensible choice of automobile, typically a minivan or station wagon, though overprotective and so-called “helicopter” parents prefer SUVs and 80s-era trucks such as the Ford Bronco, as these behemoths politely crush anything that otherwise might test the safety specifications of a conventional car or pickup.

Personally speaking: when one of these bitches cuts me off while reaching to slap the brat in the back seat, I begin to fantasize about all the ways I’d like to remind her that there’s a world outside the faux-safe environment she’s contrived around her kids.  Sometimes we happen to be going to the same place, and I once waited to talk to one as she got her kids out of the car.  I wanted to scare her, to invade her sanitary little incubator of a lifestyle, maybe say something to the effect that people who drive like selfish, clueless twats sometimes find Hustler magazine centerfolds flour-pasted to their precious family wagons in the morning, maybe a broken beer bottle or two on the floorboard — oh, wicked world! — but can you believe it took that bitch over five minutes to armor her little maggots against the harsh Orange County elements?  I had to give up in disgust.  They win again.

Nondescript Van Guy

Nondescript Van Guy comes from a variety of possible lifestyles.  He may be driving an airport shuttle, rideshare, or church bus.  He may be a utility worker, IT professional, or caregiver to the elderly.  He may work as a courier, electrician, cable guy, or repairman.  Several attempts to clarify the taxonomy of homo vana nondescriptus have been made, but these efforts are thwarted by several factors.

Strangely, all vans are white.  They have been painted thus since 1994, the year of the popular Harrison Ford movie, “Clear and Present Danger,” in which a string of white vans is exploded with rocket launchers.  This lack of color would be confusing enough but they also all sport tinted windows, tinted so black as to be opaque.  Many do not have side and rear windows at all, these last belonging to branch Chester molesterus, the purpose of which van is commonly presumed.  In addition, many Nondescript Van Guys do not advertise the name or nature of their business on the outside of their vehicles, forcing interested parties to guess at what regularly – or irregularly – transpires within.

Notable hazards include: use of turn signals after lane change has commenced or completed; poor driver field of vision; forward field of vision obscured for following drivers; possible kidnapping/molestation, esp. in 909 area code (watch for TAP OUT, F-Word Industries, or Metal Mulitia logos on bumpers or windows).

Personally speaking: Nondescript Van Guys don’t piss me off too much, usually.  Most of these guys have to drive these lugging steel Twinkies for their work, and they hate the lack of windows at least as much as I hate their inability to see.  Every now and then one of them gets tired of having to be extra-cautious, though, and casually slides into my lane without so much as a glance at his side mirror.  That’s when I take advantage of his lack of a rear window and start chucking stink bombs at his tail.   You’d be amazed how well those things seep into a cab from behind at sixty miles per hour.  Learned that in high school.

Plodding Doom: old people and three tons of moving steel

Though not especially confined to this locale, the elderly motorist takes great interest in the mild Mediterranean climate of Southern California, and like most red-blooded Americans, she would rather lose a limb than relinquish her cherished automobile.  This trend gives rise to perhaps the most ubiquitous known roadway hazard — the Plodding Doom.

Fortunately, the Doom feels out-of-place in traffic over 25 MPH and shuns freeways and highways in favor of community avenues and boulevards.  This sadistic disposition leads Plodding Doom to refrain from exceeding 25 MPH, however, which requires other motorists to evade, circumvent, or simply endure them, even in 45 or 55 MPH zones.  This critical danger is augmented more than somewhat by the condition of the motorists who must pass the Doom in sudden bursts of speed, many of whom are themselves Soccer Moms, Nondescript Van Guys, Grand Prix Guys, or hitherto-undocumented roadway hazards.

Approach Plodding Doom with extreme caution!  They may be recognized by their slight, non-erratic swerve, intermittent brake lights, driver invisibility, or by their vehicle, which is invariably an early model in far better condition than naturally occurs.

NOTE: the Doom is not a dextrous creature; if you suspect that you are being followed by a member of this genus and species, quickly execute a U-turn; the Doom will not be able to reciprocate, thus facilitating your fortuitous escape.  This maneuver is colloquially known as “flipping a bitch,” as the surviving majority of Plodding Dooms are of the female gender.

Personally speaking: I don’t sweat Plodding Doom.  I just go around.  I mean, shit — these people are rolling toward death as it is, and if they happen to plow into a crowd of people on 4th St. in Santa Monica every now and then, well hey, that’s facilitating evolution, too, isn’t it?  Be ever vigilant, my friends!

Modern Harley Guy

Modern Harley Guy is a disarming specimen.  He observes traffic laws, uses his turn signals, and whenever possible, travels in large packs in order to increase visibility for his own safety and that of others.  He is good-natured, magnanimous in heavy traffic, and exudes an aura of a man on holiday.  One must remind oneself at every sighting that Modern Harley Guy is a killer, and that one ought not engage him on the highway without the proper precautions: water balloons, for example.

The split personality of Modern Harley Guy contributes to his hazardous behavior.  He affords his $25,000 motorbike by working days as a doctor, lawyer, or corporate executive, a lifestyle which affords him much stress, little relaxation, and no time with which to exult in a hobby or family (though many Modern Harley Guys purchase hobbies or families intending to invest time in them at a later date).  After his children grow up and monies sufficient for the sustaining of the — often newly divorced — Modern Harley Guy are garnered, the Modharg retires from his job and accedes to  a life of leisure: a maximum of four days at the office; two days maintaining recently acquired real estate; and one day on which he forces himself to indulge in the hobby he invested in during the failure of his marriage.  Without fail, this new hobby is motorcycling.

The Modharg, having grown up in an era of Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, still associates the Harley Davidson brand with rebelliousness, vigor, and freedom, a delusion which impels him to bizarre highway behavior, such as taking in the sunset at a cool 40 MPH without watching the road.  He does not possess any latent mechanical skill and so does not understand some or many attributes of his vehicle.  This lack of confidence causes Modern Harley Guy to operate his motorcycle like a Soccer Mom / Nondescript Van Guy hybrid, riding at static speeds, changing lanes without checking his blind spot, and moving down the road with all the apathy and deliberate ignorance of a doctor on his lunch break.  If the Modharg achieves a level of confidence with his Sunday plaything, he may take a second, younger and more blonde mate to entertain him on weekends, and in this stage of development ceases to cause problems on the road, being only dangerous when inebriated in the presence of another Modharg in a prior stage.

He may be easily recognized by the perfect condition of his new leather jacket, which is usually bedecked in scores of leather tassels, or by his Willie Nelson stars n’ stripes bandanna, which he may be wearing on his head, around his ankle, or out of his back pocket.

Personally speaking: now seriously, I want to stress that it’s the weekend warrior bastards who tend to be total wastes of water.  I mean, I ride, and I’ve met everyone from the crusty ol’ Easy Rider rebels from the 60s to the neon-suited street-bike bros, and honestly, they’re all pretty nice guys.  I mean, hell, there’s alot of camaraderie between riders, anyhow.  But Modern Harley Guys can really fucking suck!  Who gets off the bike and starts bragging about his new Ferrari?  Who fucking does that?  And what about the needless and careless fuck-you-I’m-riding-here attitude?  Needless does not mean independent, asshole.  And careless is not the same as carefree.  You’ll notice that Modhargs tend to ride with other Modhargs.  There’s a reason for that.

Grand Prix Guy

Grand Prix Guy is the villain discussed in most driver’s education courses, the type-A personality with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, a disease stemming from various causes without any significant difference in the symptoms.  These symptoms include neurotic and unpredictable decision-making with a tendency towards active rather than passive, sharp versus gradual, breaking-through instead of blending-in.  Grand Prix Guy finds himself unable to escape the delusion that everyone envies his lightning reflexes and commanding presence on the road, and studies show that the rise in testosterone levels during his commute actually makes him feel sexier to females whom may be sharing the road with him.

Grand Prix Guy may rev his engine at stoplights to entice other drivers to compete against him or as a show of feigned self-confidence.  He may also do this as part of a bizarre mating ritual which has baffled experts, baffled them because the mating call has no record of success outside of classic movies and therefore does not lend itself to the evolution of the species.  Another step in GPG’s mating ritual is to show his poor taste in music by playing it as loud as possible, music typically of the top-40 hip-hop genre; this has changed through the years, having been gangsta rap in the 90s, heavy metal in the 80s, and in the 70s — disco.  He advertises his poor taste in music in order that Grand Prix Girls (also called “Bro Hos”) might associate themselves with him through their own poor taste in music and thereby seek him out if he happens to park nearby.  This scenario is also part of GPG’s delusion.

He may be recognized by his erratic behavior and shocking gambles on the road, but not by his vehicle.  Terrifyingly, Grand Prix Guy has been known to drive every known make and model of automobile, including even the forklift, the golf cart, and the La-Z-Boy.

Personally speaking: I used to brake-check Grand Prix Guys, until one day this jackass in a fucking Trans-Am (of course) was so close to my bumper that when I hit the brakes he fishtailed behind me and almost lost control, and at the next light he got out to threaten my life.  This motherfucker was so high on amphetamines that he looked like his face was about to tear free from his head and float away, and so pissed that he couldn’t even talk.  When the light turned green I just cruised on ahead and regretted having almost created a terrible accident.  That Trans-Am didn’t hurt anyone.  Why should I take my aggression out on a helpless macho relic from the 80s?  The moral is, when you see Grand Prix Guy and want to flip him off, remember that GPG is very likely PCP — on wheels.

S.U.V. Captains

SUV Captains have been piloting their tuna boats through the narrow straits of our cities and suburbs for a little over a decade, now, and calculating the amount of damage this misgiven trend has caused could crash the most stalwart computer processor.  Without even considering ecological complications, drivers of SUVs are six times more likely to kill other drivers in a collision, and they know this.  The Southern California breed of SUV Captain often does not own a sports-utility vehicle for sports or utility, but rather for the selfish safety of their families at the expense of other people’s safety everywhere they go.  SUVs also afford their owners all the luxury and comfort of an early-model conversion van, with an entertainment center instead of a sink and wooden cabinets.  SUV Captains drive without regard to laws, social conventions, or other drivers, and can be expected to commit any of the atrocities here described when it suits their fancy.

Large trucks present an obstacle to the flow of traffic as well as myriad other hazards, and for this reason the drivers of conventional vehicles distaste having one nearby, a lesson that newly commissioned SUV Captains learn soon after leaving his or her port-of-call.  They resent that no one wants to let them merge and do not understand that they obscure the forward field of vision of everyone following them, so they quickly begin to neglect their turn signals and opt instead for the “Fuck you, I’m coming over” method.  They also do not understand that without being able to see ahead, everyone behind them depends on their SUV’s brake lights to warn them of any approaching danger whatsoever, so they do not keep a large following distance in front of them but instead tailgate others, using their mammoth size to intimidate drivers into making way for them.  It takes no time at all before the SUV Captain sees that he is reviled on the road, and rather than rethinking his rash, self-serving decision to buy a behemoth, he sides with the other SUV Captains and simply decides that all common courtesies and civic codes were intended for common people in common cars.  A small example of this elitist mentality is pictured above.  Note the CA plate.  No surprise there.

Personally speaking: when these fucking Tonka toys first gained popularity, people made lots of dick jokes, the kind we used to tell about the Lamborghini owners and Corvette bastards.  Guy steps out of something flashy like that, you pretty much automatically figure he’s got a little dick, but it’s always seemed extra true about SUV Captains to me, maybe because I’ve never seen a tall guy step out of one.  It’s always some Napoleon motherfucker in a polo shirt, looking around and hiking up his Dockers before strutting into the local Trader Joe’s.  If their demeanor were yoked to their driving habits, I could stand being around these Rear Admirals, but the ones I’ve met have almost uniformly been assholes (and having worked in Orange County as a kid for ten years, I’ve met hundreds).  My hypothesis is that the “fuck-you-I’m-coming-over” attitude leaks into their personality until they drive their lives the way they drive their fucking Tonka toys.  Or, alternately, perhaps they were like that all along, and it took the advent of the S-U-fucking-V for them to feel right at home in their jerkmobiles,  a selfish little castle for selfish little men — oh, and for their Soccer Mom Pre-menopausal wives, lest we forget.

Rolling Status Symbol Guy, Addendum I.

Rolling Status Symbol Guy drives like a cross between a Modharg and a Soccer Mom, except I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it is that causes their utter apathy.  They aren’t necessarily assholes in person, and they don’t seem particularly unintelligent.  Whatever it is, I know that I should never get behind one, because the nicer the car, the less urgent the business, and I want to get where I’m going preferably before my unborn grandchildren do.  You ever notice how a late model Lotus will never exceed the speed limit by even a little?  And speaking of the Lotus, why are they all neon?  Who wants to spend 60,000 dollars on a lime-green sports car?

That’s nothing compared to the Lamborghinis, though.  The way Lamborghini drivers get around is irony beyond compare.  Imagine! $300,000 just to putt around like you were in a Volvo.  What the fuck is the point in that?  If I could afford something exorbitant like that, and if I could justify its expense to myself, I’d be able to justify driving like I was on the autobahn, too, and I’d poo-pooh speeding tickets just as if I were shooing a fly.

Of course, maybe it really is just a status symbol.  Really?  Really?  These fucktards are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so other people are forced to accept that in some parts of the world, this is considered a standard purchase?  I guess if I were at the top, I’d be lonely, too, and this sort of reaching out for some semblance of respect, some distant glimpse of a smile in my direction might be all I had that kept my uneventful existence from becoming an exciting front page murder/suicide story.

On the other hand and to be fair: maybe they’re just sleepy, boring fuckers with irrational spending habits and a penchant for leather seats?  Couldn’t tell you.  Last time I tried to interview one, I practically jumped out the window myself.  Those poor bastards converse like a real-estate firm’s answering machine.

The Fixer, Addendum II.

OK, OK, I know — the fixed-gear bicycle is not technically a car.  But they’re on my fucking roads, and they’re in my fucking way everywhere I turn here in Long Beach, CA.  These entitled sons of bitches actually seem to think that I have some obligation to them and their $3,000 fashion accessory.  They want to merge into traffic at 30 MPH in the 45 zone.  They want extra room in the slow lane so they can ride in their trendy little cliques, three people abreast, their cute little capri shorts showing off their cute little emo bottoms.  They actually lobbied and won their own stupid lane in the road here where I live! Never mind the heavy traffic — we have goddamn fixers to coddle.

That was to decriminalize behavior like this jackass exhibits here, in the above photo, shown doing a K-rad skid out in the middle of the fucking roadway during heavy traffic.  Awesome!  Good job.  And who would you suppose snapped up this fantastic photo opportunity?  The driver of the car behind, who was completely impressed, I’m sure?  No, it was one of the other fixers in the fashion-fuck echelon of Tour de France assholes behind him, of course.  They probably took turns doing fabulous skid outs for one another to take iPhone pictures of while riding one-handed, downhill, in traffic, so that they’d all have the eye-catching splendor of themselves in fixed-gear fashion on their Facebook pages.

Well, fuck them.  And you know what?  Even if they weren’t riding around like they owned the place, popping up in swarms of self-acceptance like the result of a Lance Armstrong gangbang via members of Paramour and My Chemical Romance, I still wouldn’t be OK with the spandex-free cycling fad, because fixers’d still contend that they’re engaged in this ridiculous trend for reasons other than that it’s fashionable, and I can’t stand a lack of introspection that grievous.

*                *                *

So that’s that.  I’m not going to say any more about any of the other kinds of shitty highway behavior or anyone else’s lack of etiquette.  To be completely honest, it’s frickin’ horrifying to look back on all this and see that this is the amalgam of death that we gamble our lives on here every day.  It’s even more chilling to reflect on ourselves honestly and realize that from time to time, we’ve all been one or two of these assholes.  Some of us are Grand Prix Guy every Friday after work.  Others are Plodding Death every Sunday after church when we’re still feeling “the spirit of the Lord.”  Still others of us much resemble the Rolling Status Symbol Guy, except that instead of Vivaldi’s “Quattro Stagioni” on the stereo, we have Sly and the Family Stone, and instead of a Bentley, we’re bouncing along in a VW bus, and instead of a Cuban cigar, we have a British-Columbian cigarette. . .  You get the picture.

Anyhow, the point is, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Today, world, I am going to drive like utter shit all over you, and on top of that, I intend to be a total dick.”  Nobody says that, so keep it in mind when you really loathe that motherfucker in front of you clogging up the fast lane, or start to kind of hate the swerving madman who really may be drunk, or begin to detest whoever parked that goddamn SUV half on the sidewalk in front of your apartment.  If there’s any difference between your Average John or Jane Doe and the other people on this list, it’s that some drivers work together to keep from getting home any later than necessary, and some fuck it up by trying to do it their own way.  I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

Have an Awesome Trip and Happy Motoring,

-BothEyesShut

Have It Big: a Varied and Vociferous Vocabulary

The F-Bomb: persona non grata.

The last time I remember being slapped by my father, I had spoken out-of-turn to him at the dinner table.  I was thirteen or so.  The conversation went something like this:

“Damn.”

“What did you say?”

“I said damn.  Sorry.”

“That’s too bad,” he said.  “I thought you had a bigger vocabulary than that.”

I was going through a phase at the time.

“So,” I said, “if I took that word out, my vocabulary would get bigger?”

Wham!  I hadn’t seen it coming, even though a blind man could have, and it hurt.  He didn’t answer my question and I didn’t ask him why he hit me.  It was a concealed incident like a covert military action in a third-world country.  It was neatly concealed.  It was politely concealed.  And the question posed to my father, to my society, slipped into quiet obscurity like a sailor’s fumbled cigarette.

It’s a question I still pose to certain people — a very certain sort of person who disdains some words because they are considered bad, immoral, or vulgar, yet has retained the capacity for reasonable discourse.  So far, nobody’s done anything but agree with me that using fewer words must result in a smaller vocabulary, but strangely, no one’s ever argued to me that the resulting vocabulary, while smaller, is still better somehow.  Certain people must believe so.  No one’s ever told me so, and for a long time I wondered why.  This week’s “In a Real World This Would Be Happening” discusses the causes of small vocabularies through the history of cussing, rails against the wagers of the war on words, and champions that holy grail of English, the Largest Vocabulary.

With no further ado, let’s get the fuck on with it, shall we?

BibleSTUDY_000

Rich people don't need real jobs.

Throughout history there have been people who decide how you need to talk in order to look cool for the rich pricks in power.  This verbal prejudice trickles down to socialite fashion fucks, magazine-cover types who also decide you need to mimic the way the rich pricks talk to look fashionable.  Let’s have a look.

*        *        *

We don’t have to go all the way back to 3,000 BC like we did in last week’s piece.  No, the good words versus bad words war wasn’t in full swing until Latin became a language known only to the clergy, pictured with their favorite books above.  In medieval Europe the churchies had control of the Western world’s knowledge and money.  Nobody but the rich could afford the time necessary to read, or to learn to read for that matter, so the only people who had any education outside their family trade were churchies, most Catholic.

Well the Catholic church had decided that Latin was the Holy Language, so these rich bastards hoarded all the sciences, maths, philosophies, histories and what-not and made sure that they had perfect control over it by speaking and writing in Latin, a language nobody but churchies could understand.  In England and France the language was that of the indigenous people, the common speech, and the Largest Vocabulary of the common people included all the same “bad” words we use today, like arse, cock, cunt, et cetera.

Of course the churchies had need for alluding to these grand specifics of anatomy just like anyone else, and they used their own ecclesiastic lingo to describe them, ergo: anus, penis, vagina, from the Latin.  This trend continues today, as anyone can see.  What can get a person sued for saying aloud at his or her workplace in Anglo-Saxon is perfectly fine in Latin.  You can tell your boss to self-fornicate.  It’s fun.  People get a kick out of it.  Try telling him to fuck himself, though, and you’ll get fired for speaking such vulgar language.

Oh, that reminds me.  That so-called “vulgar language”?  Yeah, ‘vulgar’ comes from vulgaris.  It’s Latin for ‘common’.  So the next time some old bat tells you the movie had too much vulgar language for her liking, just remember: she’s echoing the disdain of rich bitches who found last year’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” too provincial! filthy! so — so — so common!

72 names! God is HUNG.

Now one of my favorite inconsistencies concerning the church’s war against the Largest Vocabulary is the name of the Judao-Christian god, who goes by the ingenious name, God.  In the early days of worship, the only word that was a sin to speak was the Holy Unspeakable Name of God, so you had to say the Holy Unspeakable Name of God, or HUNG, for short.  Of course, the Jews have 72 holy names for God, all of which come from their holy books, and I don’t think they are all bad to say — just HUNG.  Why?  Because it would be vain to try and label an omnipresent being like a god.  That’s why Moses commanded his crew to stop using his Lord’s name in vain: naming God was logically impossible to do, and diminutive — therefore blasphemous — to try.

But churchies today use “God” all the time, calling him by name just as if he were “Mike” or “Bill” or “Bob.”  Churchies today have reams of other words you shouldn’t use and topics you shouldn’t talk about, though, and preachers warn congregations against reading from strange doctrines and fraternizing with non-believers, effectively censoring all manner of information but their own single-minded, near-sighted interpretations of a single text, their Bible, which is already a selection of books from a much larger selection of books, thus censoring the largest portion of Hebrew thought and theology before the churchies even get started censoring everything else.

The next time you take shit from some self-righteous religious zealot, ask them what it means to “take the Lord’s name in vain,” and while you’re at it, ask them what God is.  When they regurgitate the line that God is love, tell them, “Nope!  God is HUNG,” and revel in your superior Sunday school skillz.

Russian snobs: voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Following in the footsteps of the medieval churchies were the aristocracies of the 19th century.  At that time the richies had moved from Latin to French as their code language, because the population of France in the sixteen-hundreds had been the largest in Europe, which had its lasting political effects.  To be fashionable, one affected une air de francais, so one was expected to speak in French.  Once again, if you weren’t in the know, then you weren’t allowed into the party, so we get such endlessly annoying historical crap as the great Russian dynasties speaking French to one another in books like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and at diplomatic foo-foo balls such as the one pictured above.  Of course, in neither language did these fuckfaces take advantage of the Largest Vocabulary.

Can you imagine going to a party and getting snubbed when all the fashion fucks start speaking in a different fucking language from a different fucking continent?  Ah bien, très désolé (gee, I’m sorry).  Vous êtes un bâtard (you are a bastard).  Baisez-vous (fuck you).

God I feel so cool when I speak French.

Modern codebook of secret handshakes and passwords. Shhh!

But the 17th century had other lasting affects, too, such as the development of etiquette in France.  This is another damned password used to separate the aristocrats from the common people (vulgar people, don’t forget).  The French courtiers had absolutely nothing to do but amuse themselves in those days, and they amused themselves mainly with drinking, fucking, and making up complicated little fads to differentiate themselves from the middle and lower classes.  Once again and of course, they did not use their Largest Vocabulary.

“Look!  Bertrand’s wearing his ruffles agog!”

“Dear me, can one wear ruffles — agog?”

“Indeed!  Oh, I quite like it.  I think I shall turn my bourdalou buckle to one side.”

“But Marie, simply all of Paris is wearing them to one side — hadn’t you heard?  Oh, it’s positively how it’s done this season.”

“And you never thought to tell me?  How gauche!”

“Well I–”

“Hmph!”

“Well!”

Marie has been wronged, for sure.  I mean, how is anyone supposed to look cool without a friend on the inside to alert one to sudden changes in the language of fashion and the fashionable language?  I mean, look at these secret signals:

The blade of the butter knife is to be turned inward and closest to the plate on a folded napkin.  A man’s shoes are to be matched to his belt and briefcase, his tie matched to his handkerchief which is also a patterned, folded napkin.  A woman’s heels are matched to her purse and hat band, and she must have her initials sewn onto a lacy handkerchief so that she may snare cute, rich, fashion-fuck boys by the well-timed drop of a monogrammed folded napkin.  Hundreds and hundreds of little passwords, and any tiny slip would give a vulgar person away as a poor bastard from no wealthy upbringing at all.

Today, these passwords include firm handshakes, the car-salesman eye-contact contest, and the utterance of corporate lingo like “proactive,” “touch base,” and “on the same page.”  But the real victims are teenagers, trendy little dickheads and posh little cunts.  They don’t even know how pathetic their fashion-groveling looks to nerds, dweebs, geeks and weirdos who don’t fit in and don’t want to, who don’t vote for homecoming queen, want to be cheerleaders, or try to look like the cutey pies on the cover of Sixteen magazine.  Sad, sad, sad.  What do you think: nature, or nurture?  Either way, it’s a shitty way to treat the offspring of humanity, mindfucking them like that, even if it is just the backlash of 600 years worth of class warfare.

No. Really.

The stinking relation between fashion and censorship is only a matter of degree.  Some words and discussion topics are unfashionable enough in wealthy circles that these jerk-offs can actually look cooler to their friends by banning certain words and themes from society.  Tipper Gore made the Parent Music Resource Center in 1985 because she thought Prince sang about sex too openly, something the Catholic church made uncool hundreds of fucking years ago.

She’s responsible for the “Tipper Sticker,” that insulting little rectangle of hate that says, “PARENTAL ADVISORY — EXPLICIT LYRICS,” which is now a music industry standard.  Last I heard, Walmart doesn’t even carry music with the Tipper sticker on it, and I know my mom used to throw away my cassettes and records if the local youth minister told her they were of the devil.

The war on the Largest Vocabulary steals our fucking music, goddamnit.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to want to cuss as much as I can fit into a cohesive conversation.  You know what I want to do?  I wanna make a sticker that says, “CONSUMER ADVISORY — INSIPID LYRICS,” and plaster them all over the pop industry, all over the country music industry, slap one on every worthless, safe little Miley Cyrus album produced for blonde daughters and make the independent record stores boycott them.

But of course the boycott wouldn’t be necessary, because those stores don’t carry that nonsense.  I guess their clientele’s too — highbrow?  Elite?  You bet your fuckin’ ass.  That’s the kind of knowledge money can’t buy.

Hooray! Hooray for cussin'!

Words have meaning dictated by context; everyone knows that.  Out of context, they’re like nails without a hammer, like paints previous to their painting.  To get excited over words because they are “cussing” is to show ignorance of, or disrespect for, denotation.  Cussing is just an American Mid-Western mispronunciation of cursing, not a group of unspeakable words.  “Fuck you” is not a curse cast upon someone’s head like some hick pagan voodoo juju.  “Fuck you” is not cussing.  “Fuck you” is an open threat thrown right into your enemy’s face, the way we like it.

So join the ranks of the fully vocabulated!  Use euphemisms in making fun of aristocracy, and vulgarisms in defending Democracy!  Embrace neologisms and thicken that dictionary up.  Slang is fun!  Ever notice how the people who get offended by the words you use are people you wouldn’t want to talk to anyway?  Fuck that medieval bullshit!  Drive their linguistic prejudices back into the Victorian Age where they’re still fashionable.  Defend porn as the front line of free speech, attack censorship and disinformation in all their forms, and never, ever, ever forget the most important principle, the most invaluable precept of all. . .

Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Sincerely and Utterly,

-BothEyesShut

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