Sunday, January 31, 2010

LABOR LOSS

I have wondered for months what it is that makes me want to crash my car into a tree on the way to work, to avoid 12 more hours in the hole.

I've said before that I don't fit in there, I'm not going to tread down that path again, readers, you don't deserve that kind of redundancy.

In the world today, there's a lot of dislike. Republicans and democrats. Conservatives and liberals. Talk show hosts. Neighbors unhappy with the guy next door. Drivers in traffic, not happy with being cut off.

A maelstrom of conflict. From the door in the morning to the pillow at night.

That's the way it's always been and always will be, yes? But I've come to an understanding of this that relates to my workplace.
Yes, my occupation is contained within a compressed microcosm of everyday disdain.

From 1st shift to 2nd shift these guys don't like each other, and it weighs on me like a wet blanket after 12 hours. Like some kind of warfare being waged in the trenches of disharmony, I'm caught up in it, in a foxhole between two sides, not wanting to load my rifle anymore. It's exhausting, it takes a toll, it's a tremendous draw on my body.

It's black weight.

Finger pointing, guys trying to set each other up for failure or a harder day. Name calling, ignoring, ad infinitum.

I used to partake in this, now it's too much even for me.

I'm tired of trying to be an emotional Jason Bourne, seating myself in the corner of a restaurant, back to the wall, as to be able to case the whole place. You have to see your existential exits and your metaphysical entrances, needing the broadest view possible to avoid that next soul-sucking attack.

After enough time of dealing with this, it starts to become a physical malady. A pain deep in the stomach (or maybe buried in my soul somewhere), I can't sleep at night if I have to work the next day, I am mortally drained of all want to do what it is I have to do.

Now, I fully understand that in this economy I should feel fortunate to be hanging onto a job with decent pay and benefits, but I'm not like these guys. I don't like working with my hands, I'm not mechanically inclined, despite being a printer for 18 years. Am I that good of a liar, or just smart enough to accomplish something I hate doing for the greater good? The answer to either question is not a good one.

And I certainly don't want to be part of their complaining, name-calling, desultory disdain, or scheming negativism.

I'm right brained, working in a left-brained facility and it's killing me. I'm not asking to be president of the United States, but there's no one to blame for myself. For I made the collegiate decisions, and faulty base-covering in my youth that put me here.

Here on Earth, savoring every glorious moment at home as if it were the last, every note of "Don't Change" by INXS, every single frame of "Fight Club", for those are the things that really matter, not this over-pondered and all too seriously taken production industry where paperwork, sweat, sometimes blood, frustration and anger, all go into making a giant roll of what will soon enough be landfill. (And don't think that that hasn't crossed my mind either)

Here on Earth.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A QUESTION OF WHY

Faith.


I saw the "Book of Eli" this week with my son. It's a good film for a lot of reasons but the really great one is faith. A rare film indeed, that illustrates the beauty and power of faith while illustrating the pure horror of how a basis of faith, manipulated by someone strong and enigmatic enough, can destroy.

Faith.

My son's faith is unwavering.

I've told him that I'm envious of him. That knowledge, rooted deep within, not only of the existence of his higher power, but that he/she/it does everything for a reason. We're all here for a lesson to learn.

"I believe in all paths to God...."--a quote from a USA Characters promo I saw this week.

I've been searching for answers since I was 15 when I had my first and 23 year long crisis of faith. I'm not looking for scientific proof of God, nothing so inane, for I believe that would ruin the reason for faith in the first place. I'm not searching for the tangible "Discover" magazine unveiling of the truth, if there is such a thing.

I'm asking why.

If we have lessons to learn, why do we have to have the curriculum pounded into our heads over and over again? For every personal disaster, when I hang my head and feel miserable for myself, a natural calamity comes along somewhere and makes me feel guilty for it.

God's way of telling me to stop the pity party, or just to fuck myself?

What does he want from me then? I will never be Abraham, but I'm hardly Cain.

I have days where all I look to my left, my beautiful coonhound snoring there. The door across the hall is open, and in that darkened room lies the snoozing form of the greatest thing that ever happened to me, my son. I have a roof, dogs, cats.

Blessings all.

What am I so angry about? I get headaches from clenching my teeth. Absence seizures rack my brain from stress over what I see.

West Memphis, 1993. 3 dead naked boys found in the Robin Hood Hills. Naked, destroyed and racked into rigor mortis. Who tosses aside little boys as if they were squirrels?

Guyana, 1979. Jim Jones gets hundreds of devoted followers to drink enough poisoned Flav-or-Aid to die in piles on the ground.

This is footage I've seen in just the last couple of days, hard enough, that when I get psychically well-adjusted, it slaps me in the face.

And I question that power. I know I'm not the only one, and that's fine. And down to brass tacks we go, to accept these horrible atrocities that happen without snapping, faith is what you gotta have, kid.

So I'm hovering somewhere in the middle.
I'm hardly a happy person, but I've got a lot to be thankful for. I'm angry, but have a mighty pronounced sense of humor. When the good things are good enough, I can almost feel the heat of some sort of faith developing, a grasp of ease that we're in the right hands.

Then I turn on the news. Darfur. Rwanda. Mexico. 9-11. Green River.

23 years and counting.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

RETRITIS: Or My Mother Sold My Childhood Part Two

I guess instead of preparing legal action against my mother, I should maybe start concentrating on why a grown man should miss his King Kong lunchbox (1976 Dino DeLaurentis version, hold the damn laughter, please). Maybe I should deal with why I wish I still had my completely filled 1983 Topps Baseball Sticker album. I think I know why this shit is what it is. Retritis is maybe not a disease, but a feeling of longing. My love of all things retro is not necessarily a bad thing, right? Whether the era is the 1940's (antique radios and big band fliers), to the early 80's (my McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers placemat collection). I realize with obviousness that I draw joy from the objects of the past.

The retro bug takes me back to somewhat simpler times. Whether it's the era of Little Orphan Annie (where you don't have to be from that time period to grasp it's innocence), or onto my own childhood, a time largely spent watching "Mork N' Mindy", trading baseball cards, and taking in movie after movie. Retro draws up the memories of not having any debts and the only thing I needed to concern myself with was where my next pack of football cards was coming from. Most of which, I, thankfully have saved from my Mom's holocaust of resale.

All these vibes of warmth, freedom, and safety were largely destroyed by the death of my Dad, which is another story entirely. I won't drag the room down.

There's sad enough news in the fact the retritis isn't my only "looking back" disorder. Imagine having to suffer from what I like to call Retritis by Association. It's a pathetic nostalgic feeling I get when seeing something one of my older brothers and sisters had as I grew up, bu was too young myself to enjoy them. For example, Pet Rocks, 8-tracks, and glow-in-the-dark posters. It's bad enough to be nostalgic for my own childhood, let alone someone else's. It's a curse sometimes. But another story for another day.

Now that I know the cause, it doesn't help the fact that the symptoms can be inflammed by the way things are today. The old "You Don't Know What You Got 'til it's Gone" syndrome. (As I suppose exists for all generations). For example, did you know they don't really air Saturday Morning Cartoons anymore? The ones that are on are just extensions of WB or Fox Kids regular programming from during the week. Today's kids are being deprived! They do not have any Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show (my personal favorite). There is no Super Friends, no Hong Kong Phooey, No Drac Pack for them to watch while devouring overly sugarized cereals. Unless of course they watch the Cartoon Network during the right hours. There aren't even newer versions of these cartoons on Saturdays for a new generation. How Sad. And it makes me crawl even further into my retrotic cell. How can networks not run Saturday Morning Cartoons? When did this happen? It certainly flew under my radar.

Today there is no environment-wrecking foam Big Mac containers. There are no crying Indian or Smokey The Bear warning us that us, and only us can stop forest fires. No "Bud Man" cartoon character on T-shirts making beer more attractive to children. It all seems so sad these icons have been replaced and no substitute created to fill the vacuum. Advertising is now geared to adults and adults alone. With the possible exception of Christmas season, which now starts sometime in August.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

FAVRE ZEALOTS : A Romantic Comedy

I've been finding an irritating trend amongst my coworkers and many Wisconsinite cats in my southeastern neck of the woods. The Double Standard.

These people, a cast of thousands are they, are the same ones that 5 years ago when Favre threw 29 interceptions, wanted him hung from the rafters. 2 years ago, when he threw that inane interception in OT of the NFC Championship game at Lambeau, these same folks wanted him retired. Among other less savory things I will refrain from adding here. I do have some fucking restraint.

Those same chaps are now wearing a purple #4 Jersey on Sundays.

Yeah.

When you get into "conversations" with these people, it borders on the ludicrous. If you're gonna get into a semantic argument, come fully strapped, please... For example:

I cite:

When you discuss Favre's signing with the dreaded Purple Princesses, his zealots claim "It's a business." Conversely, when the Pack Management dealt him to the Jets last season, the organization was being "disloyal".

When Favre danced on the proverbial fence for 6 seasons, and brought that jitterbug to an epoch 2 springs back, the favre-lots, as I call them for brevity's sake, claimed he'd "earned the right". But when the QB job was given to #12 whilst Brett dawdled, the organization was being "ungrateful". I am to believe it were all Favre, all the time, and the rest of the organization and team had nothing to do with it. Brett was out there alone?  Is #4 playing Linebacker?

An insult to Reggie White, LeRoy Butler, Robert Brooks, Frank Winters, George Koonce, and a slew of others.

Now I'm not saying Thompson was blameless in this, not even a little bit. But I'm just tired of the fans who spent the better part of the last 16 years thinking this guy could walk on water, and a whole damn state that looked at him as a demigod, being put on the back burner for his ego.

"True Packer Fans will understand" says Brett.

Really?

For perspective's sake how about Miami fans picturing Dan Marino suiting up for the Jets and taking them to the playoffs. Any Aikman fans like the idea of #8 leading the Redskins to the Super Bowl?

Didn't think so.

When all this Favre crap is blessedly over with, and Aaron Rodgers is consistently leading the Pack to post-season berths, I know the Favre zealots are gonna be running along the bandwagon, latching on, in an attempt to get back on .

I'm just gonna kick them right the fuck off.

Brett can go into the hall as a Viking, and I will be keeping his jersey around, just in case we run out of toilet paper.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NOTHING ON MY LEFT, NOTHING ON MY RIGHT

I've found myself in some strange dreams over the last year. They've involved unseemly and demonic events involving blues legend Robert Johnson, Nazi snowplows, navigating a snowstorm on a paper tricycle. But this one, though an easy solve on the metaphor front, may be the most disturbing.

I'm in an old gymnasium. Dingy and run down bleachers, ancient backboards, giant blocks of false light generated by fluorescent bulb units. I'm gazing upon 3 or 4 groups of people, gathered separately around the gym. Some of these groups are as small as 8, other gatherings balloon up to as many as 15.

Instantly, I feel lost. The small group to my left boasts people that appear to be about my age. Seeing that, I gradually saunter over. This band of people parts to allow me in, much in the same way that all crowds do, gradually and with little or no reaction to my presence.

As I listen the subjects shift from cars, car parts, snowmobiles, bars, beer, "bein' all fucked up", "bitches", ad infinitum. I chime in something of my own that is a bent version of what they are talking about, bent so that it fits my life. This, in an effort to relate.

Their voices die instantly. They look at me in embarrassment.
They are embarrassed for ME.

I try to mosey my way around to the other groups and the reaction is pretty much identical. Where am I supposed to fit here?

I went to the local convenience store earlier today for soda, and the lines were unusually long, and I was in the midst of a group of about 12. The conversations were among people who didn't know each other. They were about snowmobiles. I've never even been on one. Never wanted to. It went on, seemingly forever, subjects changing to other things I don't care about. I felt my face getting hot, my hands digging into the thin pressboard box of Diet Mountain Dew in my right hand. I was shaking a little, and wanted out of there.

Mercifully, much like the dreams, it ended. I left, welcoming the 20 degree air outside to cool off my steaming face and it's calming effects.

I don't know where I am anymore. It's not the fault of those around me that they know nothing about click tracks, whammy bars, directors of photography. Why should they care about what "Namaste" means, or what a Gnostic is? No one should be forced to know who invented the A bomb, or who was president when the Vietnam conflict ended, much less who Jack Ruby is.

So where does that leave me?

Monday, January 11, 2010

DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT

underachiever,
what did you want to be?
nonbeliever
what did you expect to see?

I didn't know where I was going
Because I wasn't ready when I left
Summer's coming and it's still snowing
It's stopped raining and I'm still wet

Behind my times
Ahead of my thoughts
Imagined crimes
and moments lost

I'm spending my evening
One moment at a time
It's burning a hole in my pocket
And I'm down to my last dime

I know what I'll face tomorrow
It'll hit me like a truck
Breaking my heart and hands
And forcing me to duck

Cause my head's coming off soon
It's on fire and continues to burn
Acceptance of the way things are


It's something I'll never learn.

Monday, January 4, 2010

MOUTHPIECE

I keep trying to fancy myself as a writer. I've never been published. Haven't written anything "with a purpose" since college. I have a blog. So does 3/4 of the American population. I just try to pat myself on the back, thinking mine's "different" or "not just a diary" or "has more to offer".

Now, I've promised one of my best friends I would stop beating the shit out of myself on here, so I shan't delve too far into the territory of self-deprecation. That's because he's right, art's a matter of opinion, so if this claptrap (kidding, C!) is enjoyed by anyone, then it's worthwhile.

But, if drawing cake from it or not, I am a writer, why must I feel the need to use the Paul Westerbergs, Nick Hornbys, and Greg Giraldos to speak for me?
Do I not feel qualified to speak for myself? After all, who knows more about me than me? Do I think I'm hip that I can use these maestros of artful linguistic flair to fill a spot in a conversation?

Or is it identification? It's nice to have corroboration and empathy for the way you think or feel, and if someone does it poetically, it's all the more impressive.

I don't confront well, I, despite being a green belt in Tae Kwon Do, avoid violence at all costs, and find myself frustrated in arguments, thusly seeming to lower my intelligence bank account. It's not due to lack of funds, but more my cerebral struggle to have easier access to it under heightened circumstances.

So, because of that, during great moments of duress, be it anger, melancholy, depression, outright betrayal aftermath, what have you, my ability to tap into my muse becomes static-ridden. Until I turn to pharmaceuticals, then the mudslide stops, it all quiets, and I can begin the flow.

Unfortunately, this option, though convenient in those evenings when I'm writing and creating, is not available when working, driving, or carrying out my day to day.

Helpless and weak becomes my feeling, my mode.

So, to quote Tom Perotta: "Dave didn't answer. He just sat there, staring at the nutritional information on the side panel of a box of Cheerios, marveling at his own cowardice."


That about sums it up.

STOP THE HYPE

Sometimes something is so built up, so talked about, so made into a big deal, that it couldn't possibly be as good as billed.

"Paranormal Acitivity"

This is that film shot for $6,000, and made bazillions right around Halloween. Press rumblings made it out to be the scariest shit on celluloid since "The Exorcist". People couldn't make it through full viewings. Infrared shots of horrified crowd reaction in the marketing scheme are now the stuff of legend.

I saw this movie on Saturday Night and began to fear being numbed, desensitized. Losing what was left of my dying Peter Pan element (see previous post). Now I realize it's not my fault.

As Chuck D. once said, "Don't Believe the Hype", and I agree with that now legendary Public Enemy statement. But what I think is more apropos is "Dont Even Start the Hype".

I had a realization as the weekend progressed that if the media hadn't caused such a terrifying buzz about this film, it actually probably would have scared me. Really. The problem is, I went in knowing so much about what the film was supposed to do to the viewer, that it's thrills and chills were dulled. If I had known little about "Paranormal Activity" and just nicked it off the shelf at my local horrible video store took it home and watched it, I firmly believe I would have at the very least been able to claim, "Okay, that was fucked up."

Just like when critics ruin a twist simply by stating there is one, they have ruined yet another movie for me.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

ELEMENTARY

Well, thanks to Jon Favreau and Mark Steven Johnson, there's at least been a tendency among Hollywood auteurs to at least attempt to carry over the spirit of source material to major-budget movie adaptations. Favreau did a nice job with "Iron Man", The director's cut of "Daredevil" was nicely executed by Johnson and now add Guy Ritchie to the mix with "Sherlock Holmes".

It's not perfect, mind you. There are periodic slip-ups, some minor character alterations, but the spirit is there. The mysterious woman, Holmes' muse and frustration is here, and carried well by Rachel McAdams. LeStrade is the numb-skulled, but well intentioned chief inspector of Scotland Yard. These translated well. One would expect a bit older an more portly Dr. Watson than Jude Law, but as I said, in Hollywood, compromises are made, and Law's excellent humor and physical presence more than makes up for the tangible differences.

Downey amazes me. When you consider the shitstorm his life and career had become, and look at his work since his comeback, (which actually began with the spectacular "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", if you haven't seen it, get on it) he's priceless. He holds the accent through the film, carries over Holmes' substance abuse, martial arts expertise, musical prowess, and yes, the defining characteristic, deductive reasoning. To the point where it becomes a physical nuisance, an exhaustive hypersensitivity to his surroundings. Interesting and overlooked touch from Doyle.

I'm not going to go into the plot, it's complicated and I don't want to spoil. Those hoping for classic Guy Ritchie touches in the visual arena won't be disappointed. Choreography, film speed, limited but acceptable CGI usage, and humor are all vividly and properly installed here.

This is a good film, well thought out and acted, and helmed by a confident director. Whether you've read Doyle or not, you will enjoy it. Frequent readers, as myself, will find themselves performing knowing nods and grins throughout.

That's all you can ask for in a modern Hollywood film.