Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Positive Word about Katy Perry

This probably won't ever happen again, so enjoy it while you can (oh, wonderful, I'm even unintentionally rhyming this one), but amidst Katy Perry's piggybacking off of pop punk to catapult herself into popularity as the untalented Lady Gaga, getting engaged to sex addict Russell Brand, and singing one of the most annoying songs in years ("California Gurls"), she actually did something positive...though it was probably by accident.

If you haven't figured it out by now, her new song "Peacock" is not about a bird. It's about guy parts, penis, dick, you know, cock....get it? Yes, the continued association of vulgarity with sexiness is bad, but the song actually does have one good lyric:
Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock?
What you're waiting for, it's time for you to show it off
Don't be a shy kinda guy I'll bet it's beautiful
Take that, feminist movement. I can't recall how many times I've heard over my lifetime, that the naked female form is beautiful and the naked male form is ugly, most notably in regards to genitalia. How do I know this brand of cultural bullshit has to do with the feminist movement? It was always girls who made this statement to me and that makes no sense. I always wanted to reply "Are you sure you just aren't a dyke?"

(And no, that wasn't a rejection line used when I was hitting on a girl. It always came up in serious "intellectual" discussions. Seriously, I went to Ithaca College for undergrad, what do you want from me? And you people wonder why I say I hate hippies...)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No Ordinary Show

"I have a lair...with wifi."
Heroes with heart, Everwood with superpowers, ABC's new dramedy No Ordinary Family surprised me more than the members of the Powell family were when they discovered their new abilities. Since ABC put the premiere episode on their website recently, I seized the opportunity to get my viewing of it "out of the way" so I could cross it off my list of new fall shows to try. Why was I so sure this show would fail? Because it's a rehash of everything that has been done so poorly over the last few years. Normal people get super powers...yeah, no one has forgotten the Heroes debacle. A generic family that just can't quite get along...yeah, no one has forgotten Everwood or the now defunct WB network. Though it seemed like the show would have to succeed in spite of these elements, it is exactly because of them that it soars.

Before the opening minimalist title screen (now a television staple thanks to LOST, which isn't the last time this show borrows from that game changing program), I was hooked. Show creator and writer Greg Berlanti, best know for creating and running the aforementioned Everwood, re-introduced me to his wit. In the middle of a dangerous sequence, the socially networked teenage daughter Daphne played by Kay Panabaker answers the question "Who are you texting now?" with the flippant retort "God." Then, a mere few minutes later, Berlanti also reminded me how adept he is at tugging at my heart strings with only a couple moments of footage. As father of the family Jim played by Michael Chiklis walked around his house and narrated, I could feel the distance between the family members. Where so many shows fail, No Ordinary Family had succeeded almost immediately. It reached both my head and my heart (metaphorically speaking).

Then, everything changed. (Come on, I had to use that transition in a story about super powers.) Jim accidentally discovers his super strength and the geekdom is kicked up a notch. The scenes where he tests his powers are reminiscent of Tobey Maguire's Spider Man. After Jim's wife Stephanie played by Julie Benz discovers she's incredibly fast, she demonstrates her new ability to her X-Men loving lab assistant by insanely quickly retrieving a Kitty Pryde action figure on the other side of the large research building they work at. The kicker of all this is the source of their powers. It's so nerdtastic and timing appropriate, you might not even believe me.

The family takes a vacation to a tropical locale. There, while on a private tour, their plane crashes into glowing water. No wonder Jacob et al didn't want anyone to go into the light. Who knew the black smoke was just the manifestation of the MiB's inner super power? Even more fantastically, when Stephanie realizes they gained their abilities there, she declares that "it's the only thing that makes sense, if any of this makes any sense." Take that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Don't think this show is a dichotomous venture between geekdom and family drama however. What holds the two threads together is that each family member's new power seems to be in response to his or her greatest weakness...but I'll leave all of that for you to figure out for yourself.

No matter how well it navigates its themes, what truly makes this show heroic is the element that can make or break any television show, it's cast. Chiklis makes you forget his role in The Shield as he completely embodies the new millennial husband who isn't the family breadwinner and never got his career off the ground. Benz is phenomenal (and hotter than ever) simultaneously managing to be softer than the evil Darla in Angel and stronger than the weak Rita in Dexter. I also have to note that the voice she has chosen for this character is her most bearable yet. I might even dare to call it pleasant. The highlight performance for me, however, was Romy Malco, best know for his roles in The 40 Year Old Virgin and Weeds, as DA George St. Cloud and Jim's best friend. Though he doesn't have much screen time and isn't given a whole lot to work with, his character is overflowing with comedy and conscience that fleshes out the universe in an important way.

Though the show isn't perfect, it does manage to turn its one misstep around in the closing minutes. Throughout the episode, Jim and Stephanie narrate in a way that is reminiscent of reality television confessionals, The Office, and Modern Family. This technique mainly feels unnecessarily tacked on, as if it's used in order to check another box on a "what works" in contemporary American television rubric. However, there is ultimately a point to it that solidifies it within the narrative. I won't spoil the details, but I will say it presents a nice surprise for fans of Everwood. Oh, and just in case you thought this show was completely devoid of social commentary and Berlanti lost his ability to tickle us politically, the main villain in this episode robs banks wearing an Obama mask. Good luck interpreting that one.

The scariest thing about this show for me is how far it could fall. There are plenty of places for it to go (it even hints at a broader mythology), but the worry is that it could go in the wrong direction. After one episode Panabaker's angsty high schooler Daphne is much more sympathetic than Hayden Panettiere's odd Claire in Heroes, though I can imagine the character progressing along a similar route. And though the LOST nod was nice, I don't know if I can take another show squandering all of its beautiful setup. Regardless of what happens in the long run, the "Pilot" of No Ordinary Family is no ordinary hour of television. If you're a geek with a heart...or just a geek...or just have a's worth tuning in for.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Alturisum Coefficient

Last night, I watched "The Box," a 2009 film by "Donnie Darko" writer director Richard Kelly. The story is based on the 1970 short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson, which was already turned into an episode of "The Twilight Zone" in the 1986. The association with that program should give you an idea what kind of a tale this: an ominous journey with a twist designed to make you question your basic premises. The unique thing here is, each subsequent version adds to and deepens the mythology.

The basic premise is that a man comes to a couple's house, presents them with a box with a button on the top of it, and explains that if they push they'll receive a large sum of money (the specific number changes to fit the era) and someone "you don't know" will die. In each version the wife Norma pushes the button.

In the original story, Norma's husband Arthur is pushed onto train tracks and the money she receives is the insurance settlement for the "accident." She asks the stranger why her husband was the one to die and he replies, "Do you really think you knew your husband?" It is a short succinct point about our most intimate of relationships.

In the "Twilight Zone" episode (which Matheson did not approve of), the stranger gives them the money and informs them the button will be "reprogrammed" and the same deal offered to someone else. He explains in closing, "I can assure you it will be offered to someone whom you don't know." It is still short, sweet, and simple, but the point shifts slightly to knowing the entire context of a situation before you get into it. I can understand why Matheson objected to it though. The ending begins to drift away from taking stock of your own life towards making decisions primarily based upon other people. Still though, it retains the edge of self protection.

The movie, however, takes both these points and runs with them wildly, adding a contemporary science fiction cliche. Before the button is pushed, Arthur asked what it means to actually know someone. After the button is pushed, the stranger informs the couple the button will be given to someone they don't know. Then, the plot twists and turns into a second scenario for the couple that intentionally obscures the actual functionality of the button. The added layer here is that all of this is being done to test the human race.

Like "LOST," "Battlestar Galactica," and "Star Trek Deep Space Nine," the movie plays with the ideas of a further developed species seeming like God, even quoting Arthur C. Clarke's third law of prediction: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Unlike "Deep Space Nine" though, the movie never makes it clear that "God" is just aliens. It hints at it, dancing around ideas that the stranger was killed by lightening and then possessed, mass mind control, and fantastical transportation devices, but never takes a definitive stance. This ambiguity is certainly intentional on the part of Kelly, as it allows religious folk to have their "God is testing mankind" interpretation and nerds, geeks, agnostics, and atheists to have their "a superior race is trying to teach us" interpretation. It's all irrelevant, as either way the point of the tests is held up. It is a convenient way of backdooring altruism by essentially saying "it doesn't matter if you believe in God or not, the values gained from that belief are important either way."

In the possessed stranger's lair deep within the NSA, the stranger explains the purpose of the tests to a NSA representative:
NSA Rep: "You spoke earlier about the altruism coefficient."
The Stranger: "If human beings are unable or unwilling to sacrifice individual desires for the greater good of your species, you will have no chance for survival...and my employees will be compelled to expedite your extinction. Clear?"
Here's how the scenario works in the movie. The button is known to be pushed three times, each by the wife in a young married couple. Two of the three wives end up shot dead by their husband (due to the second test). The third wife pushes the button in the final minutes of the movie, but her fate is presumed to be the same. (Angry feminists get mad her. Christians point to the Garden of Eve comparison.) The stranger informs the NSA representative that if enough people didn't push the button, the tests would stop. So, if you never push the button, you never get killed. The stranger collects the button and moves on.

Basically, the button test is the expedition of the extinction of the human race. Every time the button is pushed, one more person who wouldn't have died otherwise is killed because s/he was "unable or unwilling to sacrifice individual desires for the greater good." If people continued to push the button, the number of unnatural deaths would grow and humanity would be that much closer to extinction.

Sidestepping the obvious causation refutation (pushing the button directly causes another's death without his choice and is thus wrong), this story is dangerous because it directly links being "selfish" with negative things happening to you. By pushing the button, Norma sets in motion the series of events that lead to her own death. Even stronger, the movie concertizes "not thinking of your neighbors" in their dying, your dying, and the extinction of humanity. Not that David Kelly was trying to scare you or anything. It's just a movie, after all.

Except, it's not just a movie. It's just like this article I've seen making the rounds in the last few weeks. Intended as a satirical critique of Objectivism, tells the tale of a little girl who refuses to share her ball with another toddler from the perspective of her parents who praise her for the actions. The key paragraph follows:
You see, that Elmo ball was Johanna's reward for consistently using the potty this past week. She wasn't given the ball simply because she'd demonstrated an exceptional need for it—she earned it. And from the way Aiden's pants sagged as he tried in vain to run away from our daughter, it was clear that he wasn't anywhere close to deserving that kind of remuneration. By so much as allowing Johanna to share her toy with him, we'd be undermining her appreciation of one of life's most important lessons: You should never feel guilty about your abilities. Including your ability to repeatedly peg a fellow toddler with your Elmo ball as he sobs for mercy.
Like "The Box," this article tries to necessarily link "being selfish" with an anti-social attitude. In the bolded selection, not only is the little girl encouraged not to share, but she's applauded for essentially physically assaulting a helpless victim for no good reason. Never mind the fact that the ball belonged to the little girl and she could use it and share it with who she wanted. Never mind that playing with someone else can often be more fun than playing alone. Those thoughts have nothing to do with being selfish. Being selfish means hoarding your goods, acting elitist, and actively harming others.

Like "The Box," this article tries to demonize selfishness in a manner that is just plain unrealistic. Human beings are social creatures. It is in our self interest to be social. However, altruism is not the only way of being social, it is the only way of being primarily social.

The most dangerous thing I've seen is supposedly selfish people embracing the characterization of the article, lauding the little girl as a quasi-hero and praising her anti-social motives. It is the problem that "the altruism coefficient" presents. Those people that disagree with it embrace a reactionary attitude against it. They look at "The Box" and see a heroic couple who is illegitimately punished by the forces of evil.

Me? I agree that the force behind the stranger is evil, but can still only see a stupid couple. If someone came to my house and said "Push this and you get a million dollars and someone dies" and that was it, I would demand an explanation. If he refused to offer one, I would know there was a catch and throw the bum and his button out of my house.

The real tragedy of such stories is the continued portrayal of selfishness as simplistic and rudimentary. Living life for yourself takes a lot of intricate and intimate knowledge and thought...and that was exactly the point Matheson was making in the original story.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grindstone: Don't Turn the World into Yours

Everyone has an ax to grind. The reason I bring this up is a friend of my re-introduced me to this "critique" of Joss Whedon's "Firefly." Once again (as I did so around the time I first watch "Firefly" and Serenity") I ventured down the rabbit hole into this deluded writer's fantasy world. In it, "Firefly," and all of Whedon's work, is sick and oppressive, as it reinforces the hegemony of the white male wherein other races and women are only seen as caricatures and sex is always conceptualized as rape. I can't even begin to understand her rants (self chosen word on her part). Even writing the sentence describing her characterization of "Firefly," I felt like I just just stringing together words nonsensically...and in this next one. Of course, maybe I'm simply too stuck in a foundational mindset and thus unable to see past the dominate white male paradigm I've grown up in, which is no fault of my own, simply an example of the deterministic nature of our existence.

Buried deep within the comments section of her posts, the author reveals that she has been abused by several men and raped at one point in her life. These actions taken against her are truly wrong and immoral and should never be spoken of lightly. I mention so because I do not want to make it seem as if I am attacking her for those events which are clearly not her fault. However, I do think she relies on them as an excuse to hold irrational and debilitating ideas and premises. In her post where she discusses the definition of sex and rape (in a very obtuse manner because she can't seemingly just say "rape is [definition]" and "sex is [definition]") she indirectly asserts her lesbianism. Additionally, her (likely) British heritage is apparent from her use of such words as "wanker" and spelling of others such as "colour." (Yes, I recognize there are many countries she could be from, but, it's like House says, if the Queen's on your money, you're British.)

I point these things out not to drag this women over the coals (although she certainly deserves to be, simply for the irony that me even writing that she deserves to would send her into a fit of rage in which she would denounce my misogyny and ignorance...sometimes I have a really sick sense of humo[u]r). Rather, the problem is that she uses her life experiences as an excuse to say whatever-the-fuck-she-wants free of accountability. Everything about her life, tragic and otherwise, has pointed her down an extremist anti-human corridor and she accepted it. The heinous acts of violence she suffered gave her the journalistic evidence to incorrectly assert that all men are evil. Her lesbianism further cemented her outside the dominant paradigm (though she is cautious to avoid this critique by saying lesbian relationships can be focused on violence as well) so she could have the proper perspective to critique "everyone else." Finally, her British heritage biases her towards extreme left wing views due to the effects of the history of that (fallen) empire on its culture. I've gone too deep into my analysis of this one example, however. Just read my post and you'll get my point, which is: everyone has an ax to grind.

To me, growing up is not passing through a bunch of prescribed events and rituals that "prove" you are capable of "independent" existence. Growing up is gaining the ability to look back upon your past and put things in proper perspective and then live each day in a manner you are satisfied with so that you aren't continually parsing your past to be "ok" with it. When you are truly "grown up," then you can begin to live a healthy life. I recognize that many of the words I used (psyche, proper, satisfied, parse, healthy) can be given their own lengthy treatments. All I want to say now is I hope you understand them enough so we're on the same page, so I can move on to some thoughts on age.

In the manner in which the human mind develops, we each have about a decade's worth of experiences stored in our psyche's before we begin to be come truly self aware. Due to the way our culture is (I'm speaking in my "limited American experience" here), we have about two decade's worth of experiences stored in our psyche's before we begin to truly take control of that self awareness. Often times, it can be much more. The difficulty this truth of the human condition creates is the dual (and sometimes competing) tasks of untangling the mess of your mind and exploring/learning about the world. These tasks often, and should, overlap, but in the process muddle each other. This muddling is what I mean when I say "everyone has an ax to grind." These decades of unexamined experiences can be, especially if combined with the events of now (especially if the newer events are, God forbid, tragic and/or disgusting), turned into that ax.

I take the saying a bit further than "everyone has things that upset them so they see life as being all about those things." We all have values and preferences so we are going to try to select them in any situation. That's part of being a unique person. How I take the saying is by considering why you would grind an ax. The only purpose in doing so is to attack, and the only purpose in attacking (in this example of it) is to destroy. Yes, sometimes it is possible to attack in order to protect, but ultimately in such cases, destruction is being used as a method of that protection. In the case of ax grinding, no such protection exists, even though the people doing the grinding will yell to the contrary.

Return to our example of the anti-Whedon ranting. Though the author claims she is defending women, really all she is attempting to do is destroy the show (on one level) and men (on another level). Notice how she does not say a single positive thing about the show. Notice how she does not say a single positive thing about men (only what they could be in her hypothetical, and probably what she would say is realistically impossible, vision). To her credit, she does apparently not date men. However, she did take her time to watch all 13 episodes of the series. I don't often like this argument, but in cases such as this one, I have to ask: If you don't like it, why watch it?

The reason someone with an ax to grind willingly subjects themselves to things they don't enjoy is because it allows them to further grind their ax, to chop away at what they see as harming them...and I can honestly say I've fallen prey to this way of thinking, especially when I was younger. However, now-a-days, if there is something I know I won't like, I (generally) avoid it. I will admit to watching things that I don't believe I'll enjoy due to their popularity, things such as "Avatar," "Transformers 2," and "Jersey Shore." However, when I do watch these things, I go into them hoping they'll teach me something new or present some level of quality or I can understand the positive appeal. In the rare case of "Avatar," I am so sorely disappointed that I have pull it apart (because almost everything in it is awful). Most things have some redeeming quality though.

While I won't often praise Michael Bay, the guy does know how to make a big explosion and it's because he knows how to transition small stories into big stories. He can take a regular kid and turn him into an action star in one movie. Unfortunately, along the way he is so focused on the big, he loses track of the little and everything becomes exaggerated (but smile worthy) nonsense. I don't think anyone left "Transformers 2," who didn't have an ax to grind, with a negative feeling. Likewise, though I find most of the behavior in "Jersey Shore" to be immature and self destructive, I don't see it as intentionally so. The worst characters, such as Pauly D and J-Wow, are apathetic towards their promiscuous (Pauly D) or violent (J-Wow) behavior. The best characters, such as the Situation, Snooki, Sammi, and Ron, are trying to be good, they just have no real definition of it. All of them face the same problem though. They've never considered their experiences prior to their self awareness in order to place them in the proper context. To their credit, however, I don't think any of them have an ax to grind (except for maybe, maybe, J-Wow, who I fear is the most dangerous member of the cast).

That I've just written positive words about "Jersey Shore" speaks to my point. Don't grind your ax. What I mean by that statement is, don't live your life with your eyes turned to what is wrong with the world, live your life to enjoy the good. If you are constantly seeking out the bad, you will define yourself by it. If you want to constantly destroy, you will miss what is being created. Take the article I linked to at the beginning of this post. While buried deep within that ax grinding she may have some points about Whedon's work, she missed the charm, wit, and shine of "Firefly," as well as the overall point. I also question why anyone would want to talk to her except if they wanted to destroy the same things.

Let's all sit around and talk about how awful "Avatar" was. No thank you. I'd rather talk about how awesome "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" was. The problem is, "Avatar" has made nearly $3 billion worldwide while Scott Pilgrim has made only $13 million. Which do movie you think people are more likely to praise? Which movie do you think people are more likely to talk poorly about? That difference can make it very easy for me to boot up my grindstone and push my ax towards it...and that is something I see far too often.

In our era of "political correctness," we've been taught to vilify the other in order to explain away our own negative feelings. Whatever bad that has happened to you, I am sorry, but you can't spend your life wishing it had never happened. You can't even spend your life trying to stop it from happening again. You can only spend your life trying to experience the good, because the selection of good will necessarily defeat the bad. The problem is, by trying to destroy bad, you are only perpetuating it by trying to use its method against it (destruction). That's like trying to stop the New York Yankees by buying as many players as they do to beat them. If you truly don't like their roster building techniques, you need to use other ones to build a team to beat them. (Yes, a Red Sox fan just wrote those last two sentences.)

In other words, if you turn the world into your grindstone, all you're doing is arming evil with an ax.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Repunklicanism: A Universal Theme

I always say I'm going to write an essay or book explaining what being "Repunklican" means. I never quite follow through. Well, today I found another song that was extremely repunklican and figured now was as good a time as any. There will be controversial claims. There will also be lyrics and songs.

The idea of crossing being Republican and punk may seem odd at first, but it is no stranger than the genre that best typifies it: pop punk. In fact, one of its founders, Johnny Ramone, was a Republican/conservative. He was probably the first Repunklican and certainly atypical in a community filled with left wingers. The contradiction is though, no matter how much punk rockers scream(ed) for equality or badmouth(ed) the man, they still support(ed) and vote(d) for the parties that advocate a large federal government that runs things. They're ok with that though, as long as everyone is free to do what they want in their personal lives. (What they fail to recognize though is how deeply personal economics are and if someone has a hand in your bank account they also have one in your bedroom.)

Worse yet, being punk (which has transferred over to being hipster/scenester) carries with it an ethos of poverty, anti-success, and anti-progress...all which the main participants either don't realize or don't want to acknowledge. To explain what I mean, here are some lyrics from "Hot Topic is Not Punk Rock" by MC Lars, a song in which he rails against the corporate store Hot Topic selling the punk image to teenagers:
Hot Topic is a contrived identification with youth subcultures to manufacture an anti-authoritarian identity and make millions. The $8 you paid for the Mudvayne poster would be better spent used to see your brother's friend's band.

DIY ethics are punk rock
Starting your own label is punk rock
G.G. Allin was punk rock.

But when a crass corporate vulture feeds on mass-consumer culture, this spending mommy's money is not punk rock!
My intent is not to defend Hot Topic, but to demonstrate the self contradictory nature of punk. Through MC Lars it's clear that "DIY [do it yourself] ethics" and "starting your own label" are "punk rock." You know who else used "DIY ethics" and started their own labels? Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, JP Morgan, John D Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. You know, the people they call "robber barons" because their business grew into corporations and "oppressed people." More modern examples include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, and Sam Walton. Basically, the problem between punk and corporations is seen when you turn to MC Lars' GG Allin reference. GG Allin was known not only for his individualism, but his nihilism...and that is where the accepted contradiction of punk aligns, in the Fight-Club-Joker-in-The-Dark-Knight-the-Dude-abides spot where aggressive rebellion against the collective meets apathy towards value. In this conception, punk rock is about staying unknown, not developing your skills, and not making too much money..all while being yourself.

Repunklicanism doesn't take issue with the former. It takes issue with the latter. Fight Club and The Dark Knight raise important questions about society, but their answers are ultimately destruction and hiding in the shadows. The Big Lebowski is compelling in its main character's constant coolness, but the issue here is best summed up by the Dude's pal, Walter Sobchak:
Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
And that, for me, was the moral of that movie. Punk, at its contradictorily accepted roots, has no ethos. It is a quagmire of dudes abiding other dudes, all be it angrily to make sure you abide them as well. Why does this nihilism degenerate towards collectivism? Because a focus on wealth as status as a defining trait of the ethic is inherently focused on others. It's a misunderstanding of money that says the more money you have the more other people like you, and if other people like you, you must be conforming to their standards. Thus, the only way to be an individual is to have no money, as that shows you're not conforming to anyone else's standards.

The problem is, this view of money is not only that it's wrong, but it holds no matter if you're rich or poor, so ndividualist punks become collectivists anyway because they're so worried about what the collective is doing.mBasically, it's the non-conformist. If you're intentionally not doing what everyone else is doing, you're still basing your decisions off of them.

Enter the Republican part of of Repunklican, the party that is for economic freedom and (supposedly) supports big business. How can this mesh with a "DIY ethic" and starting your own label? Economic freedom is good precisely because it allows for, and necessitates, people starting their own labels (metaphorically) and doing it themselves. The great industrialists I named earlier are the men who did it themselves, who started their empires with only their own minds and bodies; empires which brought some of the greatest advancements in the history of mankind.

However, the Republican party also has it's own great contradiction. For as much as its members want the government to stay out of economics, it inversely wants the government to manage people's private lives by telling them what they can and can't do. Don't do drugs. Don't have abortions. Don't teach evolution. Don't come to this country unless we approve of you. It is in that approval that the problem exists. Like the Democrats in economic issues, the Republicans want the government to dictate how things ought to be (be it on a federal, state, or city level).

Enter the punk part of Repunklican. Individualism is best. Where the Republican party fails is attempting to deny the individual the ability to choose. What makes their position more tolerable and slightly less dangerous is the inherent futility of it. It is impossible to increase economic freedom and decrease social freedom. The more unregulated an economy, the more choices will be available to people, and the less a government that wants to promote a free market system can do about those choices. Democrats, on the other hand, support and enact policies that lead down the path to destruction. The less economic freedom there is, the less choices are available to people, whether you allow them to do it or not. Sure, it's nice to say people are allowed to smoke cigarettes, but when you regulate the industry through taxes and limitations, you stifle the consumers ability to choose and the producers ability to innovate by denying them their means to participate in an economy/society. I know, I know, this all sounds familiar.

You're probably thinking, "Are you just a libertarian?" Answering that question with a yes presents two problems:

1. I do tend to agree with Republicans on social issues. I think drugs are bad (mmkay). I think abortion is rarely the rational choice. I think indiscriminate sex outside of a rationale agreement is mentally unhealthy. I define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, I don't think any of these things should be mandated. They should be thought through and chosen by the individual. That's punk. (Actually, in a way, it's very straight edge...minus the veganism and celibacy.)

2. Adhering to an already available label because it is available and generally fits you is anti-individualistic. Individualism is discovering who you are (what you value and what you want to do) on your own. It's walking through a store (metaphorically) and considering each option while realizing that every single person will leave that store with a different combination of goods. Even more to the point, it's going into a bunch of stores and purchasing something from each. Finally, individualism is starting your own store (your own label, if you will) for yourself, which also happens to make you one of those options for other people to pick from, which you proclaim to them with flashing neon signs (or harsh chords and gang vocals). That's punk.

Repunklicanism is the summation of my experiences, my knowledge, and my values. It is the individual choosing freedom and values...and expressing it powerfully, passionately, and punk-ily (err, it's a word now). It is pro-reality and anti-nihilism. It is the recognition that there is a right and a wrong, but only the individual can decide that for himself or his life will be filled with suffering...and that he must express those decisions to anyone who will hear them and remain loyal to those who appreciate them. Will Repunklicanism ever be as identifiable to a large number of people in the way punk, conservatism, or liberalism are? I don't know, but if it ever is, I hope people embrace it by saying "this is what I say," not "this is what Jayemel said" like they do with Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, FDR, and a host of other figures.

So what's the song that inspired me to write all this? Does it actually have anything to do with this or was it one of those typical "random associative" moments that everyone has? My taste in music is specific and thought out, as most of my life is. My favorite genre is pop punk, as it blends individualism and value seeking in a manner appropriate to reality, all with a positive sense of life that is often missing from more "traditional" punk. (Yes, the humor in the fact that I just referred to some punk as traditional is not lost on me.)

Appropriately, the song is from pop punk band Punchiline and appears on their recently released album "Delightfully Pleased." It is called A Universal Theme, a title that is infinitely fitting, and can be heard here. The lyrics are as follows, with highlights bolded:
This is a reaction to the songs we’re forced to hear
Spread like and infection from the airwaves to our ears.
Don’t give up now kid you see.
What you’re searching for is on the tip of your tongue.
The future is here finally,
Writing an end to an open chapter.

Who you are depends on what’s inside of you.
Spin the globe and change the world.

This is a reaction to an existential state
Only a reflection throughout our sleepwalk days

How can we change what’s engraved in our psyche
Like invisible strings on the tips of our Nike’s
Pulling us faster and harder
To chase dreams that weren’t ours in the first place.

Who you are depends on what’s inside of you.
Spin the globe and change the world.
Who you are depends on what’s inside of you.
Spin the globe and change the world.
Who you are
Who you are

Who you are depends on what’s inside of you.
Spin the globe and change the world.

Who you are
Don’t wanna be by myself
Don’t wanna be by myself
No, I don’t wanna be by myself.

There are nights I can’t remember,
where I woke up on the floor.
I’ve seen friends become successful
And then be a friend, be a friend no more.

Who you are depends on what’s inside of you.
Spin the globe and change the world.

Who you are depends on what’s inside of you.
Spin the globe and change the world.
Perhaps the most powerful part of the lyrics is the plea against being alone and losing friends, a tough false choice the prevailing wind of collectivism forces the individual in: you can be you or have everyone like you, not both. Of course, this is what the song itself asks: how can I be myself in a culture that is setup to make me everyone else? Taking such an action is, at its root, revolutionary. However, the point is not is to to "spin the globe and change the world." That is merely a consequence. No, rather the point is to combat the infection and save yourself by saying the answers that are "on the tip of your tongue" and "inside of you." That is the universal theme that reverberates throughout pop punk, repunklicanism, and humanity. Here are some other examples.

In their song "Free," Allister highlights the same idea almost exactly:
Now it seems I've fallen victim to the same disease that's
eaten up the world
Our generation's gonna fall apart if we continue to be
pushed around
So now it's time to make a change
We gotta lock down and rearrange
And reject the fundamentals of society

The time has come to live my life
I'm gonna break out and do what I like
And I don't care what you say or think about me
Yeah, yeah
Say Anything points to it in their song "Do Better" in which singer/lyricist Max Bemis takes himself to task in a way that also critiques everyone else's apathy and collectivism:
Your life is always the post of something else.
Where is the present in the way that you present yourself?
It's disgusting how little that you try:
The existential equivalent of pink eye.

Drink alone and watch TV.
You're expecting harmonies
To tap your tune with silver spoons,
The anthem of impending doom.
Guiding Satan's steady hand.
Forcing Beatles to disband.
It's ego freaks and drama queens
The young at heart know what I mean.

You could do better
You could do better
You could be the greatest man in the world (woah!)
You could do better
You could do better
You could be the greatest man in the world (woah!)
In Say Anything's song "No Soul," Bemis is even harsher on the collectivists in his fight for his soul:
There's something in the way you people smell
Like you've got no soul at all
Fingers crawling with ringworm
Your sneer's a mating call
To lure in others of your breed
Spread that smug and slimy seed
Borrow quotes from the cultures you've crowded like weeds

Is your schedule sufficient tonight, you toad?
Hop another bar until the rooster crows

This song belongs to you and all your crew
This curse will sting the worst as it shall mark you
New Found Glory likewise criticizes the sloth, apathy, and ease of collectivism in their song "No News is Good News:"
I see billboards on the horizon,
I can’t imagine what they’ll tell me,
What to wear,
What to drink,
Where to eat,
It’s so easy not to think for yourself anymore,
So naive,
You don’t do anything anymore.
In another song on the same New Found Glory album, "This Disaster," lead singer Jordan Pundik sings about the difference between himself and someone an personal level:
All my life I've been looking for the answers
To the questions you never asked
These themes trace back to New Found Glory's first album where on "Better Off Dead" Pundik sings:
It's your own life
Live it for yourself
Likewise, also on that album, the New Found Glory song "Dressed to Kill" states:
And you feel like you owe it to the world
But you owe it to yourself
Perhaps best of all is recently popular Paramore on their song "Born For This," where lead singer Hayley Williams bemoans the difficulty of standing in the face of it all in order to lead the audience in a culminating chant of the title that perhaps answers Punchline's quandary about how to be an individual yet maintain relationships in today's world:
Oh no I just keep on falling
(Back to the same old…)
And where’s hope when misery comes crawling?
(Oh my way, Ay…)
With your faith you’ll trigger a landslide
To kill off this common sense of mind

It takes acquired minds to taste, to taste, to taste this wine
You can’t down it with your eyes
So we don’t need the headlines
We don’t need the headlines
We just want…

(We want the airwaves back, we want the airwaves back)

Everybody sing like it’s the last song you will ever sing
Tell me, tell me, do you feel the pressure now?
Everybody live like it’s the last day you will ever see
Tell me, tell me, do you feel the pressure now?

Right now you’re the only reason
(I’m not letting go, oh…)
And time out if everyone’s worth pleasing
(Well ha-ha!)
You’ll trigger a landslide
to kill off their finite state of mind

It takes acquired minds to taste, to taste, to taste this wine
You can’t down it with your eyes
So we don’t need the headlines
No, we don’t want your headlines
We just want…

(We want the airwaves back, we want the airwaves back)

Everybody sing like it’s the last song you will ever sing
Tell me, tell me, do you feel the pressure now?
Everybody live like it’s the last day you will ever see
Tell me, tell me, do you feel the pressure now?
Everybody sing like it’s the last song you will ever sing
Tell me, tell me, do you feel the pressure?

Alright, so you think you’re ready?
Ok, then you say this with me
We were born for this
We were born for this
Alright, so you think you’re ready?
OK, then you say this with me
We were born for this
We were born for this
We were born for this
We were born for this

We were born for
We were born for

Everybody sing like it’s the last song you will ever sing
Tell me, tell me, can you feel the pressure?
Everybody live like it’s the last day you will ever see
Tell me, tell me, can you feel the pressure now?
Everybody sing like it’s the last song you will ever sing
Tell me, tell me, can you feel the pressure?
Tell me, tell me, can you feel the pressure?

We were born for this
We were born for this
We were born for this
Yes, you were, and, more importantly, so was I. That's what it means to be Repunklican. Any questions?