Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Rhyme-A-Whenever Project

Ok, so I haven't been keeping up, but here's a few more I've written lately.

The companion piece to the Selena Gomez rhyme? (Inspired by this video.)

When I met Blake Lively, she said, "Hey get inside me."
Accepted her advances with a toss and a twirl.
She said, "I think I love you." I said, "That's gossip, girl."

The hook to an imagined song called "Defriended."

Offended, defriended. I saw the topic trended.
Is that how USendIt?
Offended, defriended. I have to wonder when did
your tactics get so splendid.
Offended, defriended. I wish we never pretended.
These fences can't be mended.

More Belichick inspired goodness.

All I do is win like I'm Bill Belichick
If you think that I can lose then you don't know me yet
Man you're crying like you're coaching for the Jets
Rex Ryan, what you see is what you get
Three rings, it's time for you to kiss 'em
These things, all you do is miss 'em
When you're talking 'bout your stats and how your record glistens
Listen, a true winner shuts his mouth and buys into the system
You can tell I'm feeling nice, these are whispers of my wisdom

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Golden Rule

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

What does this quote mean to you? To me, it means I "put myself in other people's shoes" when I make decisions that concern them. In other words, before I act I'll often ask myself, "how would I want other people to treat me if I was in the exact situation they're in now?" The answer to that question is the action I choose.

I believe this thought process/heuristic is not only morally, logically, and philosophically consistent, but extremely important, as it acknowledges the reality that other people exist and shape the world too, which is what makes humans necessarily social creatures.

(Disclaimer: The above post is just what's rattling around Jayemel's brain, and no one else's brain or any organization's Standard Operating Procedure or Manual or like concept, on a fall Sunday morning during a week when the Patriots don't play until Monday night.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rhyme-A-Day Project 11.29.10 - 12.3.10

11.29 + 11.30

You leave in a huff calling me a cheater
But the only way you're tough is if you're backed by PETA
I beata
with or without fur
And I don't need a tape to know how to make it purr
I'm sure
you confer
with your database of porn
That's the only way for you to get a taste when scorned
Be warned
I'm not the one to talk to
Like the Niners you're so bad I don't need to see your walk through
I got you
ready to throw in the towel
Terrible like Big Ben it's time you buy a vowel
I know you think you're mean, but you don't have a cape
What you lack is I, so r-p-e makes rape
Or rope, you'll hang yourself you dope
And nope, I don't mean to give you hope
I use my language properly
that's why you're never stopping me as I make these words my property
so the only way you're topping me
is if you pull a George and chop a tree
start over
build your own philosophy
because as long as you won't drop the G
you might as well be watching me


Wesley Snipes went to jail for tax evasion,
so why can't you go to jail for facts evasion?
Not the docs you ignored on this lax occasion
I mean the points that you scored on your crass vacation
or rather that you whored in slack initiation.


Judd Apatow taught me how to tap a ho
Cut the crap let's go, you've got a sack to blow

I like the mainstream cause I like production value
I don't listen to your shit cause it sounds like you're on Valium


I tapped her when she said she liked the raptor
I capped her when I put her out to pasture

I call my shower Katy Perry cause it runs hot 'n cold
and I think it's disgusting but no one sees the mold

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rhyme-A-Day Project

In order to better hone my rhyming skills (and perhaps transition into actually making songs) I've challenged myself to write (at least) one (worthwhile) rhyme per work day. The following is the results of the first eight days. Daily updates will start from now on.

Selena Gomez, you can give me dome, yes
We'll make our own scene if you know what I mean
I won't be too obscene because you like to keep it clean
but I heard you can still stay pure if
I act like a novice florist and ignore your bush
by making like a Martian tourist and traveling to your tush.

I don't think you're dumb. I know you're not evil
so I'm forced to conclude that your will is feeble.
This is what happens when you deal with people.

You come into my space looking for trouble
but you can't find any, might as well call you Hubble

Maybe if you're lucky I'll take you out to Shoney's ho
You want to make this something, telling me I'm phony yo
well the only Gates I recognize is known as an Antonio
So go ahead, try to make this something larger.
I'll only answer questions on the San Diego Chargers.

Paperclip that lip cause you don't know how to spit
it with it quit it
before that you get caught
saying something you ought not
I know you think you're hot
but you sound like a bot
repeat the routine so you can own the scene
except what you mean is that you want to be seen
any way any means to get up on the screen

After she was done bouncing on my cock
I looked at her and said, "Achievement unlocked."

I've got t-rex arms, but I'm no dinosaurus
The way we spit, your friends they abhore us
they miss rhymes for the trees and raps for the chorus
I mean forest, they're in the lost woods
they can't tell the difference between bad and good

All I do is win like I'm Bill Belichick.
If you think that I can lose then you don't know me yet.

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?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do I need to slide? No, you need to learn.

What world do you live in? Where I exist, reality does not bow to my whims, comfort and happiness are a result of the ideas and effort of men, today was pretty good, tomorrow can only get better, and I face the world and other people with an earnest and sincerity. I want to see them do well. I want to see me do better. It benefits everyone. Most importantly, if I don't outdo them, it benefits me. Go ahead, write the greatest television show ever and make millions. I won't be jealous. I'll enjoy and appreciate it. (Thanks, Lindelof & Cuse.)

Except, I don't think you live in that world. I think you live in a world that is cruel, cold, and unforgiving. Like the Buddhists say, life is suffering, and that pain comes from everyone else taking at your expense, when all you're trying to do is give, because you're the only damn good person there is. And since you're so alone, it's ok for you to play their game. After all, they started it.

You see, there's something I'm fundamentally having trouble understanding now-a-days. No matter how down I've felt, now matter how dark I thought my future was, no matter what, my instinct is never to lie, cheat, steal, smear, slur, denigrate, manipulate, coerce, sling mud...well, you get the idea. On the other hand, those things all seem to be the tactics on the tip of your tongue. There's literally a time in every day when I sit back and say, "How does someone think of something like that?" ("I'm not a good person, Charlie.") See? I didn't even intend to reference LOST, but I couldn't help it. I agree with them on this point. The only reason you're a bad person is because you think you're a bad person.

DTR is always telling me about "sense of life." He said that's the reason I love LOST so much, we share a sense of life. I'm beginning to really agree with him. Sense of life is your basic feel of the world. Everything you believe, whether explicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, is thrown into a pot (your brain) and boiled until it reaches the gas stage (your feel of the world). For me, sense of life is the best metaphor I've ever heard for the soul. Except, we can control it.

In our politically correct culture, we're not supposed to say that certain activities are linked to certain types of people. Well, they are. People with similar senses of life are going to be attracted to similar behaviors. I'm going to fall back on my old partying example. Contemporary, partying doesn't mean getting a bunch of friends together and celebrating. It means getting shit ass drunk and, hopefully, fucking. What type of people are going to be attracted to this activity? People with a negative sense of life. They need to destroy themselves because the world, and themselves suck. But wait, this only happens during college, right?

Put aside my drinking rant because I'm about to say something really important. In our society, and I'm speaking as an American here you dumb pseudo-arrogant fucks with "globalized perspectives," we have prescribed moments that are supposed to change our sense of life, moments when we "grow up." Yup, growing up is the contemporary metaphor for gaining the proper sense of life. You hit puberty. You learn to drive. You graduate high school. You have sex for the first time. You graduate college. You get a real job. You get married. You buy a house. You have a children. All these moments are supposed to change your sense of life just by their happen. Supposedly, we've crafted a life path that intrinsically gives us a good sense of life. The only problem is, it doesn't.

To return to the drinking topic, something I've been struggling with is the idea that the partying stops when people graduate from college. Now I understand that while, to me, it's an arbitrary cut off, to everyone else, it's an actual cut off. The only problem is, they're wrong. The partying doesn't stop. These pre-prescribed events don't change a person's sense of life. There's only one way to change a sense of life. You have to truly experience your experiences.

An experience is not worthwhile just by it happening. You have to engage in it. If you don't engage in it, you are a passive participant. If you do engage in it, you are an active actor. This divergence returns to my two worlds dichotomy that I started with. If the world sucks and all that depressing crap, you're just going to let things happen and try to get out live. If the world is good, then you're going to try to do what you can to make it better. The latter builds a positive sense of life. The former builds a negative sense of life.

The problem is, I think, that you form a sense of life before you even realize what one is. Then, if you're passive, things only go downhill from there, snowballing into an emo spin cycle of "the world sucks" and "I suck," and, if you're active, well the opposite happens without a much perkier metaphor, like you constantly get boob jobs and you stare at your breasts in the mirror because they look awesome. Wait, where was I? Oh, right, the problem is by the time we realize what our sense of life is, it's so difficult for us to change it because it's so ingrained in us. It's like Hoyt said in the new True Blood, whenever anything goes wrong he has to stop himself from running back to his Mom and doing everything she says. That's his sense of life. That's one of the best portrayals of sense of life I've ever seen because it's elegant in it's simplicity (insert evil laugh here).

How do you fix a sense of life? You do what Hoyt did. You recognize it and tell yourself to resist it. How do you resist it? You learn. You see, we're not living in parallel universes and I don't need to slide out of your awful one like Quinn Mallory until I find the positive one I believe in. No, you need to seek out new experiences and learn to build a proper sense of life. (Side note: Yes, I believe the way we raise children, generally, gives them a debilitating sense of life because they don't learn about the world properly).

Don't think my sense of life is perfect either. I actually feel guilty about being attracted to a girl. Why? Because I've been taught that when you feel an attraction, you're supposed to stuff it down and ignore it. If you express it, you're being oppressive to the girl...unless she's attracted to you first (which becomes the stereotype of an attractive guy). Then you can express attraction all you want because you're being generous. Generous? Yes sex is used to gain self esteem (not express it), so if someone is attracted to you, they're trying to take from you. Guys should give to women because they've oppressed them through out time. Thus, you should only be with girls who are lesser than you and girls tell you when it's ok to express sexual desire. But, women shouldn't give to guys, because it would be degrading for her to be with a lower guy. All of this crap I've internalized, from when I was young, builds a sense of life that tells me relationships are inherently manipulative and dishonest and only guys who are the stereotype of attractive actually are attractive and get to be with a girl and have sex. Real healthy, right? I know! Trust me.

See, we all have something to learn. My already awesome sense of life is growing as you read this. How's yours?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Final Night Farewell

The most tragic choice thrust upon us by the contemporary culture is the one between others and ourself. Choose the former and you are headed for a life of classlessness, pleasure seeking, and underachievement, where your greatest goal (never acknowledged explicitly, of course) is to collect them all, as if people are nothing more than oddly name creatures that fight for you on command. Choose the latter and you are headed for a life of respectability, happiness, and achievement, where your greatest goal is to produce what your mind finds that you should, as it is the highest authority of which you can think. The choice is tragic because the former excludes the latter, yet is the popularly endorsed perspective, but the latter doesn't exclude the former.

You can be you or you can be everyone else. The popular response, of course, will be to say it's not such a black and white choice, not so cut and dry, not so easy. You can't not care about people at all, they'll say. Except, they're missing the point completely. The point is to care about people because they make your life better (because they seek to make their life better), not merely because they are people. If you spend time with people who are classless, you are telling them classlessness is acceptable. If you spend time with people who seek pleasure, you are telling them pleasure seeking is acceptable. If you spend time with people who underachieve, you are telling them underachievement is acceptable. These statements are especially true if you are around a person when he is immediately acting in such a manner and you don't hold him accountable for it. That accountability is how you care.

True friends, lovers, family members, and human beings want others to act respectably, find happiness, and achieve. Everyone else is participating in an animalistic race to the bottom.

(Note: Pleasure is immediate and dissipates rapidly. Happiness is long term and sustains indefinitely. Pleasure is a good thing when it is part of your happiness, but is debilitating when it is not.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Mirror Moment: Clemson in the Rear View

S6 of LOST relied heavily on the motif of mirror moments as a metaphor for people looking back on their lives after they had died. I don't think you should only look at yourself then. Yes, what happened, happened, what's done is done, but it's important to consider whether you take pride in or are disappointed with the way your life was/is going.

When we're young, checkpoints are easy to come by. Society tells us when they are, certain ages, certain "rites of passage," pretty much every school year. The older we get, the less frequent these checkpoints are, especially once you've gone through most of the "rites of passage" (not necessarily talking about myself here...I'm also thinking Checkpoints might be a good name for a show, maybe about a NASCAR driver or NASCAR fan culture). Fortunately for me, right now is one such mirror moment. I am closing another chapter in my life, one that has immensely amazing for me.

Clemson, I fell in love with you. You seduced me with your simplicity and saccharine sweetness. I studied all week and watched football on Saturday and Sunday. Everyone was generally pleasant and affable. The contrast from where I was from was a welcome one. I'll never forget the first couple days when I was here and I crossed the street when no one did. The don't walk sign was up, but there was no traffic coming, so I did what any good Northerner did. That was when I realized it was different down here.

Then I fell in love with the world. Despite everything that was being taught to me, that had been taught to me, I had the mental wherewithal to reject what I knew to be untrue and continue to seek the answers...and I found them. I finally understand. I know what the world is about. I know the meaning of life. They always said the question was impossible to answer. I mean, it's 42 right? But it's not. It has an answer. I'm not saying I know everything. There are many things I have only passing knowledge of or am ignorant of. I am saying that you can know the meaning of life. You just have to look for it.

Then I became disenchanted with you, Clemson. I earned my MA. My eight hour Saturdays writing my thesis in the library were over. I poked my head up and didn't like what I saw. Teaching college, paradoxically, granted me more free time than studying in college did, and I use that time to venture into the social world. What I discovered was homogeneity, more than any burgeoning Emo kid or "non-conformist" could ever complain about up North. It went deeper than any fad, style, or physical appearance. It was an attitude."I'm ok, you're ok." An accepting of the status quo. A lack of desire for improvement, let alone self improvement. A lack of that something extra that put you over the top, that killer instinct.

Sure, the North is full of self hating and bitter people, but I often think it's a bad thing that people in Clemson probably can't even fathom that level of passion about life, either way. It's cool. It's all taken care of.

Strangely, what pushed me over the edge about this town was Oliver Purnell resigning as the men's basketball coach out of nowhere. What was the result? Nothing. No one got fired up, in either direction. Another mediocre coach was hired. It was like Tommy Bowden all over again. What was inherently obvious to me after only a month here, that Bowden had to go, took three full years before enough people kind of clamored about it enough for it to happen. Then who was he replaced with? More of the same, basically. Why? There's no killer instinct. Win or lose, the money comes in, the support is the same. I'm not saying stop being fans. I'm saying what it means to be a fan changes based upon context.

Context is a big thing I learned, mostly through the Patriots. Sure, they won their championships while I was at Ithaca, but that time still seems like a dream, a myth that game them their legacy. My time in Clemson felt like their championship era. They've won a lot of games. They went 16-0, 18-0, 18-1 in devastating fashion (still have to give props to Tyree for that catch). They didn't win any championships, but it didn't matter. They're winners now. They have that legacy. More is expected from them. Great things are expected. And that's exactly how I feel.

I'm a winner now. I expect great things from me. I can't accept mediocrity or worse any longer. I've seen the Celtics return to greatness. I've seen the Red Sox win two champions. The first, while I was at Ithaca, seemed surreal, especially considering how they got there. The second, while I was here in Clemson, was very real and very powerful. Yes, Jack, the Red Sox did win the World Series.

You want to know how much it all means to me? I cried a bit watching that scene again. It combines two things I love a lot and, ironically, Jack wasn't the one letting the tears loose. That scene is one of my favorite of the series because what Ben tells Jack resonates so deeply with me personally. "That's why the Sox will never win the Series." They did, in real life. There is no fatalism. There is no determinism. We can improve. We can change (really, not the Obama kind). We can be what we want.

So, I'm leaving you, Clemson. I grew. You didn't. Don't fret. We'll always have Paris. I made some of the best friends of my life here. You know who you are, and I thank you for letting me into your life and accepting my invitations into mine. I learned so much about myself here. If you can step in front of a classroom and truly have something real to say, then you know true confidence. Thank you to my students who indulged me, from my growing pains and my mistakes to my successes and long conversations about LOST. I tried to teach you in the same way I learned: with unabashed honesty and passion. I hope you learned something. Thank you to the girls I spent time with or didn't spend time with at all or, oh, you get the picture. I can't explain the amount you helped me grow. The most unfortunate thing is you're missing out on more than you'll ever know. And that's the thing. You'll never know. Which is why you're not on my level (yet). What's amazing is I can say that now, and mean it. I hope you can catch up to me someday. Sometimes I see too much goodness in everybody.

When I look into the mirror now, I see exactly what I want to see. Where I've been, where I'm going, it's all less important than the fact that I'm here now and I'm truly happy about it, not in the short term hedonistic pleasure seeking way, but in the long term truly contented way. I honestly believe most people can say that. But I can. And I'm damn proud of it.

I'm JML. It's nice to meet you. Who are you?

(Btw, if you thought I was talking about you, I probably was. Have something to say about it? Say it. I encourage all of you to keep in touch. I want to hear about all the things you accomplish, and I'm here if you want someone to talk to. Only you can find the answers you're looking for, but I can share my experiences with you.)

Now, suit up!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Yesterday: My apologies for being so slow in posting my LOST columns to this blog this season. I've been focusing on putting them on CulturEsponse (link on the right). I hope you've been following them there.

Today: I'd like to do some writing tonight, finish a project I'm working on and then write something for this blog, a sort of retrospective on the last four years.

Tomorrow: The last leg of my Clemson journey begins eventually giving way to an unknown future.

Wow, that last one sounded kind of dumb. Oh well, it's true.

Now if the rain would only stop so I could get some food.

The Midside: LOST S6E17 The End

Six years later, and it’s over. For those fans like us, who write and read columns, we feel like we are losing a friend or close relative that we shared many deep and important conversations with about the world. We are mourning their death. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse expected such a reaction so they wrote an episode, and a season, about the mourning process and death. (As my friend Nate wrote about here.)

In actuality, S6 and “The End” were just a logical extension of the basic theme/metaphor of the series. LOST is about life, as I have been saying for a long time. The characters' journeys, and the faith vs. reason debate, are supposed to parallel our own experiences and existence. It starts in the “Pilot.” Jack’s eye opens. He wakes up alone in the jungle. Hearing noise in the background, he sprints to the beach. After initially being greeted with a beautiful view of a clear ocean and cloudless blue sky, he rotates towards the noise to see the fiery, twisted metal wreckage of a plane crash with passengers strewn about. In other words, he’s born, alone as we all are, and is immediately thrown into the middle of it all. There is no preparation. You’re born and enter into the world.

The next few S1 episodes are named: “Tabula Rasa,” “Walkabout,” “White Rabbit,” and “House of the Rising Sun.” All extend the metaphor. The first is a philosophical statement on how you are born. The second is an important moment at the start of life: Walking up right for the first time. “White Rabbit” is about how you find something to follow down into the middle of it all. “House of the Rising Sun” is obvious. You get the idea. The rest of the series progressed from that point on. We explored the world (opened the Hatch). We worried about the future (flash forwards). We encountered what we’d been hearing about our whole life (the Incident). Then, like all good things, it had to end (TNG FTW).

Quite predictably, the last shot of the series was the reverse of the first, Jack’s eyes closing, bookending the story nicely. The life on the island had been lived. To drive home the point further, Lindelof and Cuse wrote a season of flash sideways that act as a metaphor for the mourning process. Yes, the mystery of the “parallel universe” has been revealed, and many people have been conceptualizing it as some sort of purgatory or something, but the actual explanation is much simpler. Think of the metaphor of the mirror.

The Whatever-atory is a metaphor for reflecting on your life while on your deathbed. Now we know what the point of the mirror moments were. It is commonly said that when you die your life “flashes before your eye.” Similarly, it is thought that when your death is imminent you think of how you could have lived life differently or better. These characters imagined a life where the Jughead plan worked, the plane never crashed, and the island was submerged, so it never affected their lives. It was a giant “what if” scenario where the characters revealed their deepest views of themselves and their deepest desires. Kate truly believed she was innocent and helped Claire. Sawyer was a cop, but worried other people would find him out for what he is (an unloved person because his parents abandoned him). Sayid still said “I’m not that person anymore,” yet was that person. Desmond had Widmore’s approval. Jack loved his son and his son loved him. Sun and Jin were never married, but ended up together in America with Sun pregnant with Ji Yeon. These examples are just what I thought of off the top of my head. We could go back and watch each episode again and complete this analysis more complexly.

Need more evidence that it all came from the characters’ minds? Consider what Christian told Jack in the “church." “They made the place so they could find each other and it exists outside time and place. It exists outside time and space because it happens at a different time for everyone." Look at Sawyer and Juliet. Juliet died in “LA X” mumbling things from “Whatever-atory” such as “it worked” (plugging in the machine) and something about getting coffee (which they agreed to do). We don’t know when Sawyer died, as we saw him get off the island, but it is presumably years after Juliet, yet they both experienced the same “whatever-atory” moment, just as they were all sitting in the “church” together at the end (a common association we all share concerning death and funerals).

How is it possible they are all really in that place at the same time? That question is irrelevant. Don’t try to conceptualize it in terms of time, space, and reality. You can’t. That’s the point of the statements by Christian. It’s a metaphor for how we mourn. It’s the reason why we see the conversation between Jack and Christian in the “church” at the end of the episode. Jack is on his deathbed and his life is flashing before his eyes. Then, the flash to Whatever-atory ends, and Jack closes his eye to die--as we focus on the fact that on their deathbeds the characters attempted to find each other, which is the ultimate point of the show.

(Note: An interesting thought now that we know that Desmond was dead for a bit in “Happily Ever After” and flashing to “Whatever-atory” is: Was Desmond dead after turning the fail safe key in the Hatch and flashed to a unique “Whatever-atory” for just himself based on his personal problems at that time?)

What this whole series is about is other people. Lindelof and Cuse answered the question, "Is humanity LOST?” with a yes and an explanation of “because we believe it is.” Their reasoning is that an improper application of faith corrupts us (as evidenced in the MiB/Jacob story) as we focus on the wrong things (God and not people). Logically, they then present us with a new definition of faith, which is based upon the idea that other people are what make life worth living.

More complexly, the meaning of LOST is a resolution of the faith vs reason debate with what I call “Hurleyism” or “humanistic faith.” In the first part of my column, I will explain how the episode (and series) leads us to this conclusion by discussing the rivalry between the MiB and Jacob and how that affected Jack’s life. I will then prove how Hurley is the most important character in the show and explicate what the writers’ idea of faith is from there. The idea, however, is self-contradictory, and I will prove so by discussing morality, decision making, and the idea of the self in relation to Sayid in the second part of my column.

Understanding the overall philosophy behind LOST will also reveal why Lindelof and Cuse focused so heavily on the characters and not the mythological answers in the final season and “The End.” Fortunately for me, I agree with them to the point that I understand why they did what they did with the mythology and characters. There’s a lot to appreciate about this series. It’s truly the best television show ever. It’s just “Hurleyism” that bothers me, so let’s get into it, shall we?


I’m about to delve into the mythology, but, be warned, the end point I reach will undermine the importance of the mythology. Huh? Yes, that statement is internally contradictory, but let’s save the critiques for the second part of this column. My intention right now is understanding. I’ve read a lot and heard a lot of people tell me that they think the mythology is irrelevant. How it is relevant is twofold. First, the mythology of the world shapes the context we live within. Second, the mythology was designed in a way to build a critique of the contemporary conception of faith so that Lindelof and Cuse could put forward their new definition of Hurleyism. This transition is best understood by looking at the failings of the MiB and Jacob, how those mistakes affected Jack, and how Jack ultimately passed the torch to Hurley.


The important thing to remember when looking at the brothers of MiB and Jacob is that they are both wrong and that condition causes them to be opposing forces rather than allies. While the MiB is turned into a cloud of black smoke, Jacob gains the supernatural ability to shape people’s life. It all begins with the CB and her misguided teachings and ends with the fruition of Jacob’s long con, and, tragically, it was all at the expense of the MiB.

The lasting impression of “Across the Sea” will always be the CB’s teachings to the boys. She taught them both that the basic nature of humans is bad. They come, they destroy…you know the mantra by now. In the MiB, this premise manifested in a sort of nihilism, a futility with dealing with people. You could say he had a “can’t live with them, can’t live without them" mentality. In Jacob, this premise manifested in a savior mentality. He spent his whole life trying to redeem humanity. The problem is he was trying to redeem them for his mistake.

Though the MiB fills the role of a villain in S6, his overall story is actually tragic. Upon his birth, he wasn’t given his name. Then, he discovered who he really was and was punished for trying to pursue it. Worse yet, he began to explore the island based upon his natural ability and was punished for it. The tragedy doesn’t end there. As he began his fall from grace, he used the curiosity of men to try and get off the island. The vengeful CB smote the people, causing him to respond by murdering her, which in turn caused Jacob to throw him into the light, taking away his body and humanity. How was his humanity stolen? His free will, the exercise of his mind, was taken away from him. He was forced into an oppressive either-or: Live on the island as an inhumane creature or destroy the light. Thus, his goal became to destroy the light, something which he never previously cared about. In this way, the CB turned the MiB into the villain with her poor teachings and actions. If she had simply let the boy figure out how to leave, no problem would have ever occurred. However, her basic belief was that man is so bad that reason can’t go unchecked. Her teachings had a similar effect on Jacob.

The portrayal of young Jacob as a bit slower and a bit kinder was not by accident. Before the CB, he was a harmless person. Afterwards he manipulated people over the ages for one purpose: To fix his mistake. What was his mistake? He vengefully threw his brother into the light, but, as I explained, vengeance was the CB’s MO. Jacob was too kind to act in such a manner naturally. Yet, over his life he grew to be that way because the CB planted poor ideas in his head about humanity and his brother. He accepted they were bad. He accepted that the light needed to be protected. He went about doing both and as he witnessed the results of his efforts, the MiB as smoke monster roaming the island, he realized his grave error. He hadn’t questioned his faith in the CB. He hadn’t been given a choice. Thus, he designed an elaborate scheme, a tapestry of lives that factored in free will to his design, not realizing his new mistake that you can’t plan pre-will, that a grand design is a contradiction of free will. Here’s where Jack Shepard enters the story.


Jack is Jacob’s solution. He is the perfect candidate to complete Jacob’s life goal, as he is similar to Jacob himself. Like the CB, Christian told Jack he wasn’t good enough. Christian made Jack feel like he wasn’t special. Thus, as with Jacob envying the MiB, Jack spent his entire life attempting to fill his need to prove himself. It’s why he needed to fix things. If he could just fix something important enough, his life would have meaning, and his worth would be proven. Note how Jacob’s entire life was spent trying to fix something, his mistake. The parallels between Jack and Jacob are not coincidental or unintentional. They’re the reason Jack became like him.

Then Jackob finally fixed something, with an assist from Kate. Except, as they stood on the cliffs on the shore, the island shook below them, and Jack realized, Jacob’s mistake nearly brought an end to the island itself (the metaphor of the island as the world is pertinent here). He also understood what he needed to do to fix it. He needed to go back down into the Source and put the cork back in the hole, an action that would lead to his death, a death that would be the last negative consequence of Jacob, his mistake, and his tapestry. And the journey into the Source taught us some interesting things about Jacob and his unquestioned faith.

The most interesting thing about the Source is its design. It appeared to be excavated. There were skeletons strewn about. Most importantly, the cork itself was most definitely man made. Do we have our answer to the origin of the job of protector? Do we know why the CB hated reason? Imagine the following scenario, if you will. A group comes to the island and discovers, as the MiB did, that there are areas on the island where “metal behaves strangely.” They search and search and eventually find the greatest concentration of the explanation as to why, what we know as the Source. They dig down, punching a hole into the light, and what happens? The island begins to shake and break apart as the release of the magnetic energy is too much for the infrastructure of the island to withstand, perhaps explaining the existence of Hydra Island. What do these men do? They rush for a solution, creating the cork and plugging the hole. Except, they have to make sure the cork is never removed, so they create the job of protector and use the story of evil escaping into the world as a reason for it. Who knows, maybe they really believed evil was tearing the island apart. What’s most interesting is we can see why they would begin to distrust reason, as it nearly destroyed the island (in their view), and that this story strongly parallels Dharma drilling into the ground, hitting the pocket of energy, and creating the Swan Station and button pushing mechanism.

The actual truth value behind that story is unimportant, as it will never be confirmed. The point of telling it is its plausibility. What does that plausibility tell us? The need to protect the light to “save the world” is still unproven. Yes, Jack believed himself to be right, and clearly so did Desmond (as evidenced by their exchange where Jack admitted this was the first time he was ever right). However, throughout the series, characters constantly believed they were right (or wrong) erroneously. We have to judge Jack’s actions and beliefs on our own. If the major thing Jack believes at the end of the series is left ambiguous, what’s the point of him then? What’s his story?

Jack is the undermining of the conventional hero in order to emphasis the transition to a new character type. From the beginning, he was full of self-doubt, never really accepting his position of leader, nor did others really accept it. The conventional hero is always beloved, despite any questionable actions he might take. Some fans flock to Jack as if he is that archetype, but they simply are responding to what they’re used to, not what is displayed on screen. Likewise, when the conventional hero sacrifices himself, completing the Jesus myth (not the use of the Jesus statue in Whatever-atory), he is celebrated by many for his altruism. Take Neo in the Matrix trilogy as an example. After he sacrifices himself to the machines, the Oracle, little Indian girl, and the Architect (three programs that represent humans, programs, and the machines respectively) all spend the last scene of the movie reflecting on Neo. The little Indian girl makes a sunset for him. In LOST, Jack is only greeted by Vincent after he puts the cork back in. No, there is no fanfare for his death. It is a quiet tear jerking moment. It is tragic. He was taken advantage of by Jacob in order to fix a mistake that never should have been made. Except Jack realized this result (finally understanding himself and the world) and passed his role onto Hurley before he embarked on his suicide mission.


From the beginning of the show, Hurley was the most beloved character. His innocence and simplicity was charming. In many ways, he was the most identifiable character. I don’t even think any of the characters disliked him. More importantly, I don’t think he disliked any of the characters. He always saw the good in people and worried about their happiness. Let’s briefly recount the things he did. He built the golf course to give people a break. He took the census to learn who everyone was and protect everyone. He distributed all the food found in the Hatch. He turned Sawyer into a leader by duping him with the “worst con ever.” He fixed the Dharma van he found in order to prove you can “make your own luck.” A lot of the time, he also served as the voice for the audience, asking about the dinosaur theory, expressing confusion over Scott and Steve’s similar appearance, and infamously arguing with Miles over time travel. He was the character we were most meant to identify with and like. He was the character that was most concerned with positivity and helping other people.

These personality traits best embody Hurleyism, the era that began as soon as Jack told Hurley, “Now you’re like me.” This transition, and what it means, is best explained through two quotes. The first is how Ben advises Hurley to approach the role:
Ben: “I think you'll do what you do best: Take care of people. And you can start by helping Desmond go home.”
Hurley: “How? People can't leave the Island.”
Ben: “Those were Jacob's rules. Maybe there's a new way, a better way.”
Ben openly encouraging Hurley to make new rules, along with saying there’s a better way, is a signal to us that faith is being redefined. Protecting the island won’t be accomplished by making sure people stay away from the light. Besides, it’s nearly impossible to find it anyway, so focusing on it so much was never the point, especially because we can’t know if it actually needs to be protected or not. What should be the focus then? Ben tells Hurley he should do what he does best, “take care of people.” The focus here shifts from the light, or God, to people. In other words, faith isn’t about our relationship with God, it’s about our relationship with other people, especially because we can’t know if God actually exists or not. See how all of the mythology is coming together? But wait, focusing on people doesn’t tell us how to deal with people. We know saying their bad like the CB doesn’t work, but what is the alternative?

To understand how Hurley deals with people, the best place to look is his scene with Sayid in Whatever-atory. Sayid is the character who struggles the most with a moral appraisal of himself. He constantly says, “I’m not that person anymore,” because he doesn’t like the violent tactics he uses, yet he continues to use those tactics. His story in Whatever-atory stood out because it was the only one that wasn’t better, happier than the on-island story. This emphasis was intentional, as it lead to the following pay off, the speech Hurley gave as he attempted to help Sayid have flashes of his life:
"I think you're a good guy, Sayid. I know a lot of people have told you that you're not. Maybe you've heard it so many times you started to believe in it. But you can't let other people tell you who you are, dude. You have to decide that for yourself."
Once again, we see Hurley’s focus on making sure the other person is okay and happy, on making sure Sayid believes in himself. (The tidbit about deciding yourself is also interesting, but I’ll return to that in a minute.) Hurley’s speech is followed by Shannon being attacked in the alley, and Sayid rushing out to save her. They touch and both have flashes, ready to move on, just like all of the characters have flashes in Whatever-atory when they touch or connect with another person. This trope fits perfectly with what Christian tells Jack in the “church” at the end:
“The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That's why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them and they needed you.”
“The most important part of your life” is not what you accomplished, your job, or yourself, it is other people. Why? Because you needed them. Just like Sayid needed Hurley to tell him he was a good guy before he could believe he was a good guy, we all need the same. This idea also fits nicely with how Hurley told Jack, “I believe in you, dude” right before Jack went off into the jungle with the MiB. And that statement is the mantra of Hurleyism. “I believe in you, dude.” Still though, the picture of this version of faith is still not complete.

To explain the “decide for yourself” portion of Hurley’s speech to Sayid, we have to look at his “#2” Ben. Ben is to the MiB as Hurley is to Jacob. Part of the tragedy of the MiB and Jacob story is if they had just worked together to protect the light, Jacob’s innocence would have been put to good use, whereas the MiB would have never been turned into the villain. Likewise, Ben always wanted to protect the island, but went about it with Machiavellian methods that the MiB used. He purged Dharma. He used his superior intelligence to lie to, manipulate, and con other people. Now, by putting it at the discretion of Hurley, his ability will only be used to help other people. Their relationship is similar to the relationship Hurley has with Desmond in Whatever-atory, as Desmond is the one focused on giving knowledge (flashes of their lives), and Hurley is the one everyone loves. Thus, we can also look at what Desmond tells Kate before he brings her to the concert:
Kate: "Hang on a second. You bust me out of jail and make me put on this dress so that we can go to some concert and you won't even tell me why we're here."
Desmond: "No one can tell you why you're here, Kate, certainly not me."
Kate: "You're the one who brought me here."
Desmond: "I'm not talking about the church. I'm talking about here."
Just like Sayid having to decide who he is himself, Kate has to decide who she is herself. How are they going to do that? They’re going to use reason. Except, just like Sayid, someone had to tell Kate she had to figure it out on her own. She had to be given the go ahead, the OK, the moral sanction (if you will). Someone had to have faith in her. It’s exactly like how Ben is the #2 and Hurley is the #1. In other words, faith is first and reason is second. But don’t forget what faith is about. Faith is about other people. They’re what make life worth living, the relationships you form with them. It’s about having faith in other people, faith that they’re good. Then, they will also believe they’re good and use the reason to figure out the how and why. It is what I call “humanistic faith” or “Hurleyism.”

There you have it. The meaning of LOST: Humanistic Faith. Hurleyism. “I believe in you, dude.” It’s why the focus was on the characters, not the mythology. We’re all born into a world with a complex mythology that sets the context for us, but the odds of us learning everything about it are almost nonexistent. To reveal all of the mythology would have violated the life metaphor of the show and blurred the point: “I believe in you, dude.”


The term “humanistic faith” is an oxymoron as well as the ideas it identifies, that reason should be secondary to faith, that people are what make life worth living. Holding such an ideas, living your life by them, actually produces a contrary goal to the one that Lindelof and Cuse portray it as reaching in LOST. To best understand the contradiction, we should look at the character of Sayid and how his mantra “I’m not that person anymore” demonstrates a negative view of self that inhibits him from properly understanding “good” even though he is making moral decisions most of the time.

What Sayid is good at is being a soldier. He understands the best methods to make someone talk and the best methods to protect people. In a way, he is LOST’s version of Jack Bauer. When he finds himself in difficult situations, he relies upon those abilities to find a way out of them. Take his story in Whatever-atory for instance. Though he doesn’t want to hurt Keamy and company, the best way for him to protect Nadia and his brother is to use his training as a soldier. He doesn’t go anywhere with the intent of harming anyone, but when he decides the situation has reached a point when he needs to, he uses his skills. Likewise, when the Oceanic Six end up in Dharma times, he decided he should shoot Harry Potter. He did, but then punished himself for it afterward. He made himself feel guilty for nothing but trusting the judgment of his own mind.

What defines humanity is our ability to reason. No other creature has the capacity for rational thought, to understand the world. It is how we make decisions. It is how we know what is important. As Desmond and Hurley both said, reasoning is something only you can do for yourself. Only you can decide who you are and why you’re here. If you don’t believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that you’re good and believe in you. Let’s look at it a little more complexly.

Since we are rational creatures, what is moral is living by the judgment of your own mind, but then, what is good? The point of life is to live. Therefore, good is anything that promotes life or promotes your best possible life. Your best possible life is a life that reflects your values. Your values are, of course, derived by your mind. Thus, a good decision is one that promotes your life and values and a moral decision is one that is made by the judgment of your own mind. Notice how a bad decision can be a moral one. Go back to the case of Sayid shooting Harry Potter. It was probably a bad decision, as it didn’t really accomplish much, but it was a moral one, as Sayid thought it was the best course of action. However, because it failed, Sayid felt guilty over it. What he forgot, though, is he is not omnipotent. We often make bad decisions because we don’t understand the complete context. You should endeavor to gather all the information you can, but sometimes you just don’t know everything. Still, the only way to pursue a good life, a life based upon what you value, is to trust the judgment of your own mind, yourself, above all.

What does all of this explanation have to do with Hurleyism? This conception of “humanistic faith” is built upon the idea that the ultimate value in life is other people. You need other people. You need them to believe in you. You need them to make your life memorable. The problem this presents is that it directly contradicts the notion of pursuing the judgment of your own mind. If what is most important is other people, then their values are more important than yours, as the quickest way to making someone like you and believe in you is to promote their values instead of their own.

Other people and relationships definitely present a very important value in life. However, those relationships must be based upon values that are decided upon independently. If a person in a relationship lacks a true sense of self, the relationship will ultimately fail. The Sawyer and Juliet relationship is a perfect example. She considered herself to be “the other woman” so much that she allowed Kate’s return to end her relationship with Sawyer…and her life. It didn’t matter how much Sawyer told Juliet that it was her, that he believed in her and loved her; she believed it was Kate. End of story. (It's interesting to me that the writers wrote this event into the story, but don't seem to understand its relevance to their overall philosophy.)

The problem with Sayid is not that he has no one that believes in him. Nadia is a perfect example of someone that always believed in him. The problem with Sayid is that he has a negative self-image. He makes the best decisions he can, but then feels guilty for making them. Why? Because he believes he is a bad person and can’t let it go. Here is where we find the internal contradiction of humanistic faith.

Faith is concept that has nothing to do with thought. Sayid thinks about his decisions, but believes he is a bad person. He has that division inside of him, and it causes his internal strife. Faith is based on nothing. It is trust for the sake of trusting. In contrast, humanism is a philosophy that is focused on humans. What defines humans? As I already stated, it is the capacity for rational thought. By making faith #1 and reason #2, you are subjugating reason to something that is anti-reason. It is no coincidence that Hurley, a character that couldn’t spell bodies in the first season, is the figurehead of this new definition of faith. Is that really who you want to model your life after?

This critique doesn’t mean LOST isn’t an amazing show. In fact, I think it’s the best television show ever. However, I disagree with their final philosophical point (though agree with many of their points along the way). Mostly, I appreciate their sense of life and think they understand people on a complex level, which would make sense if they truly believe other people are what make life worth living. Me? I’m just really glad Sawyer, Miles, and Frank survived until the end. I only wish we had found out who Miles girlfriend in Whatever-atory was. What’s my guess? Someone he met after he got off the island.


There you have it, the final Midside about LOST, the completion of six years worth of work. Some of you have been here since the beginning. Some of you have joined me more recently. Some of you called me crazy to Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Some of you know me as a stoner Ayn Rand fan (I’ve never done a drug or drank alcohol in my life, btw). All of you took the time to read something I wrote. I appreciate it, hope you enjoyed it, and ask that you only do one thing as you go on to live your life:

Think about it.