Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth To Bella

The title of this post has nothing to do with anything. I just figured I'd give it a reference to something else as Pixies often does. It's the song that's on my mind at the current time.

Ah.....going through some things, but, to Hell with it all. Here are some objects that are on my mind.

I've always wanted to address this before, but never did. It seems to me (thus, I'm assuming), that a lot of you other bloggers must think that I only comment on your blogs when I have a new post to direct you back to myself. It also seems like some of you others do the same. But I try not to present this as the case. Nowadays, with other things I'm trying to do, the time that I have to read your blogs is the same time that I have to write one. But I will work on setting a time to read and a time to write. Although with what's going on now, I may be homeless soon...........
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I was watching T.V. the other day, in particular, the Skittles commercial with the guy that gets a bodily Transplant from the Mexican man, and the Oreo commercial where a small Chinese girl on one train imitates the small Caucasian girl across the tracks on another train. It occurred to me that many pieces of media and advertising are still using foreign people as foreign objects. Or it appeared to me to be this way anyway, as the foreign characters had no personalities, much less lines of dialogue in the ads.
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Fast forward. Sitting on the train a couple of days back, I was trying to read some research for a story. Two other Hispanic guys were talking on my right, another man was silent on my left, and across the aisle in her own seat was a young Hispanic girl listening to what looked like an iPhone from the back. Surrounding all of us was glossy rectangular ads who proselytizations ranged from online college classes in your spare time to an African-American book that proposed to answer the question "Do Men 'Get Played' When Women 'Get Paid'?"

At any rate, a young Black guy was standing up at the double doors to get off the train as it eased itself to a stop. When the doors opened, he stood there for a little while and then looked at the girl's iPhone as she held it out to go to another track. But right before the doors closed, the young guy snatched the iPhone out of the girl's hand and ran off the train.

The guy on my left hopped up and ran to the doors, putting his foot in between them before they were about to close. He asked the girl in Spanish if she wanted him to pursue the guy and she replied in Spanish "no, no, it's ok". She kind of grinned to me and herself and shook her head. The other guy sat down and they spoke a little bit more. Then that was that.

Getting off my stop, a hundred things fired off through my head about the situation, but I've decided to save it all for a short story. Other than those, I didn't really have any other objective opinions about the event, but I felt I had to put the experience some place.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and the Anxious

Yo, yo, yo, live from da Boogie Down B-R-O-N-X, it's ya boy boy, C-Sammy Sam, in da house!!! Feel me! Keepin' it real fo dose bustas!!!!...................Nah, I'm just kidding.

But could you imagine? Having to wake up everyday being that person? I mean…..could you think of a better reason to take a few cyanide pills?

At any rate, I've been hit with a most angering piece of reality the other day, and I filed it under a current running theme in my life: Anxiety. Prepare yourself, this post is super long.

The other day, driving to meet someone at a small indie Japanese café in very south Manhattan, I was listening one of 6 preset stations in my mother's car (Hot 97, Z100, 107.5), all tuned to Hip-hop/R&B/Pop inclinations, with the occasional side genre thrown in there somewhere. With that said, about a good 80% of the songs that were played was stuff that I've heard at least 10 million times, was extremely uninteresting, old, or all three, which would lead said songs into the category of offensive. So, to find release from the pop-conformist assault on my cranium, I turned to 92.3 for a good dose of heavy metal, alternative and punk. But lo and behold!

At first, my speakers started to tremble with bass, and I heard some subtle techno bleeps over a slow paced beat. I figured it was new material from alt-rock industrial one-man band Nine Inch Nails, but no…………it was southern rapper T.I.!! I don't find much wrong with T.I. (although what played was an old, heavily repeated song ("Whatever You Like"), but what the hell is he doing here?!??? My question was answered with an audio montage that followed the end of the song: "this is 92.3 now! Playing 10,000 songs in a row, commercial free!"* It was at this point that I was ready to turn the highway I was driving on into the scene from "the Matrix Reloaded".

People wonder why there are violent revolutions in poor countries, insurrections, civil wars, high school shootings and the like: it's all because voices are not heard and respected! I mean, don't confuse the segue I just put: the simple cancelling of a radio show is no reason to start blowing up cars and taking radio station staff members hostage. I was just exaggerating because that's how I express myself. But in larger and more serious situations, making any medium solely represent the popular idiocy and not the various taste in expression that actually exists is precisely the kind of situation that creates severe anxiety, which creates severe revolt.

Another anxious situation:
I am currently dating hanging out with a woman I met a little while back, and she is a pleasant being. A college counselor for high school students that lives in Queens, she is a generally uplifting and hopeful person who is focused on power in society and educating the lower class and respect for civil rights which is the way everyone should be, or dead!. Inevitably, over the course of our trips to the movies (see "Watchmen" below this post) and dinners at various places, our interactions turned into debates on the validity of being pro-black (which I am most certainly not, as this ideology goes directly against being progressive). In explaining "reality" to me (since I'm apparently naïve for not dwelling in the way things are instead of the way things should be), she gave me a bunch of blanket statements and stereotypes: Indian families prefer their daughters with white people instead of blacks. If a black woman dresses down (scarf on her head and t-shirt and sweats, things of that nature), white people will think she's some bum from the projects, all races think light-skinned are better than dark-skinned people. The usual.

But here's the anxiety: in first trying to explain that all of this was old news, and then trying to explain that by dwelling on these things she began to believe in them herself and based her own life on them, everything I said was just turned into one of her blanket beliefs in her mind and churned back out into something she thought I said:

Woman: The system fails lower-class citizens and exploits them. Capitalism is terrible.
Me: First of all, there's different kinds of capitalism. There's regulated and free market. There's a difference. Now, yes, I know that they're exploited, but are you saying that none of the American poor have had opportunities to pull themselves back up?
Woman: Oh, so now the poor is poor because of their own fault?? That's messed up, Samurai.
Me: That's not what I said at all. I know the poor is oppressed by the system and of course I'm all for programs and things to help them out and reach out to them, but you can't tell me that all of them were never given access to education or introduced to any social programs that could've helped them out, and they turned their back on those because they didn't like school or being surrounded by people of other races or some other silly reason. I mean, give me an example of exploitation.
Woman: What do you mean? Having to live hand-to-mouth everyday with jobs that barely pay their rent, having to feed their children with that same job.
Me: Those are living conditions. I said to give me a detailed example of exploitation. A direct employer to employee one.
Woman: You need to come to my job and see what I see. These people are poor. The libraries that they have have outdated books. People work all hours of the day and don't get paid anything. That's exploitation.

After that I gave up. That was as close to a logical answer that I was going to get. If she thought about it, she would've answered that privatized companies exploit people by paying below minimum wage and sometimes not paying employees for days in the week. But anyway, the point is that the details in everything I said was destroyed and filed into whatever viewpoint she had stored for her usage, making it very difficult. Ah well.

I would speak on A.ssholes
I.nstilled in G.reed, but they've pretty much already been covered in national media.

*That's funny. They said that it was commercial free, but every song they played was commercial (for a pop audience).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Watchmen"


Ok, so I will admit that I liked "Watchmen". But, not in a I-don't-understand-what-people-would-find-wrong-with-this sense. I can only speak from my experience of having read the graphic novel a little bit of time before the film was released. The film was an almost-exact carbon copy of the graphic novel...of course with some minor changes and bunching together of scenes to get to the point (like the assassination attempt on Ozymandias, and the missing explanation of Rorshach's mask, and the ending).

My theory is: people at least minutely steeped in the comics world will understand what author Alan Moore through director Zack Snyder (Moore said that he hated the fact that they put his work in Snyder's hands and will never watch the movie himself. I completely understand. "300" was horrible) is trying to portray in "Watchmen" immediately: taking the mythological images of superheroes and placing them in the real world with a very in-depth and gripping narrative. On the other hand, people who have confined their minds to the "real" world and expect to only see things they're familiar with will see the film talk about the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Nixon, and other things, and then see these silly people with colorful costumes showing up with their ridiculous personal problems and intense gore and blood all over the place and wonder what the hell is going on. A co-worker at my job took her kids and husband to see the movie because she thought it was some sort of children's story akin to "The Incredibles". After explaining that the film was very much for adults, she went to see it with her family anyway ("my kids watch violence at home all the time, so why not?"). Of course she didn't like it, which I think stems from the fact that she barely knew what the hell was going on (one of those people that can only attach herself to the simple things in life).

I'm a fanboy, so of course I enjoyed the fact that "Watchmen" was just like its literary counterpart. I thought the acting was superb on all counts. What I find additionally interesting is that, everyone from the people who have just seen the film to those who have just read the comic find Rorshach as the most interesting character. I agree, and I think that Jackie Earle Haley translated him on to the big screen perfectly. The opening montage was probably the best part of the whole film. I enjoyed the martial arts that Snyder worked into the story. The graphic novel hardly has any action of that kind in it, but bringing a story about superheroes into film would also breed some expectation for fighting in the public's eye (unless the film is advertised otherwise). However, the computer graphics in many parts of the movie were downright awful. Especially notable were the scenes that took place in Antartica and views of New York City from above during the ending, which looked like the director had a 10-year-old designing it.

So, overall, I'm not going to just up and recommend the film to everyone, but I'll say that you should read about it and a little of it's history and rapport with it's pre-established fanbase prior to viewing. It's not a typical story, and I'm not really sure that Snyder did a good job of introducing it to newcomers. I will definitely recommend that everyone purchase and read the graphic novel though, especially if you're a literary person. You can read my take on this here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Proselytizing.

In the last few sermons, the pastor at my church spoke on this subject (particularly concerning the Pharisees) and I've thought about it myself.

Christians are currently, in the secular eye, most known for their proselytizing. Most likely because their version of it usually entails telling people about extremely severe (read: fiery, painful, eternally damning) consequences for not attending that particular service, or giving money to this particular church. But the truth is.........everyone proselytizes! I guess, it's only considered proselytizing when Christians do it.

Just earlier today, a simple walk to the bank and barber shop alone introduced me to huge ads for things from allergy pills to "Watchmen" to technical colleges to whatever is Mercedes' or Hyundai's new attempt at an environmentally friendly vehicle is. At said barber shop, whilst having the black wool shaved off my scalp, about 5 different companies with probably 5 different unsaid agendas assaulted me with requests to buy their product or donate money in the matter of a 6-minute break in between viewings of "The View". I could probably fill up enough pages to make a book with the amount of envelopes I get in the mail asking me to donate to the Dalai Lama, or the Wildlife this-and-that, or this political magazine, or this movement.

Now, surely, I don't mean to inspire distrust or say that all of these people are just out to take your money. In my ideal self, I'd faithfully give money and time to all of the justified movements and organizations in the world, but I'd probably have to tap into Dunkin' Donuts' earnings through a weekly night shift at one of their locations in order to afford this. All beside the point, though.

All kinds of organizations, movements, franchises, companies and conglomerates try to push themselves on the public everyday. I wouldn't say that they shouldn't do this; some products are good for society (medicine, health insurance, books, iPod) and should be made known that they are available in stores. But there's a difference between making yourself known and shoving yourself down the public's throat. Which brings me back to the Christians.

I wouldn't dispute the perceptions that some sorts of Christians are known for forcing their views on you. I'm mainly talking about the Jehovah's Witnesses (you want a true dream vacation land with rich green trees and flowing meadows and white people that respect you even if you're Mexican? Take this pamphlet and save yourself! Then tell others to follow you.) and the Mormons (you are to JOIN GOD'S ARMY. You are to REPENT. You are to dress like a used car salesman and hit the streets for recruitment into the Holy Military! I want 30,000 new members by the end of this month. Huuuahhhh!!!). But a stronger, intelligent and more discerning mind would not let these people destroy the validity of the Word itself.

I'm not trying to convert or force anyone here into my "brand" of Christianity (although I may be indirectly proselytizing by criticizing other Christian groups), but I do think that people should take the time out to examine the principles and imagery and ways of Christianity before judging it, and not just resolving yourself to silly stereotypes ("they're just feeding you lies!", "they're trying to take your money!", "The preacher probably has a couple of little boys in his office closet somewhere...."). Furthermore, a quick note of what and what's not a good church or movement or whatever is that: a bad organization would expect you to completely throw your own life away to completely join whatever they're trying to affirm, while a good organization will take pride in who you are as an individual and show you how to make your own life better.