Paradise of Storm

Month: July, 2017

Let the Beautiful People Rule the World

The_Rock_celebrating_Wrestlemania_28

by Guy Walker

You may have begun to notice the looming end of politics. It’s overwhelmed us like a marching band of wild rodents, a huge spectacularized circus of dysfunction. It happened so suddenly and so powerfully, there’s almost no memory of when things were normal. You tune in to the news not because you want to understand the nuances of public policy currently underway, or so you can better debate the advantages of a single-payer health care system—you just want to see Donald Trump stumble around like a mangled half-shaven sasquatch, smashing windows over his head, kidnapping women sunbathing on the beach, lighting off fireworks in the Oval Office. There’s no going back to the dreary ashen-faced days of passing bills and submitting formal disagreements. Especially now that a band of other celebrities have joined the elegiac cantus firmus and announced their plans for political office.

Most recently, it was Caitlyn Jenner, who told radio host John Catsimatidis that she “would look for a senatorial run.” Before her it was Kid Rock who announced he would also run for the U.S. Senate in Michigan. Soap opera star and underwear model, Antonio Sabáto Jr., is running for Congress. The Rock might bypass the whole bumbling peasantry and just run for President. If elected, he’ll sit there in the Situation Room in his neon highlighter panties and leather vest, and plot drone attacks on Wrestlemania enemies. Stone Cold Steve Austin will be blown to smithereens, body parts ablaze, the crowd screaming for more. Kanye West might also run for President, where he’ll campaign solely about the importance of cool shoes, as the First Lady’s chronic steatopygia gobbles up terrorists whole.

As the list of celebrity contenders grow, regular politicians are growing more concerned. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned about Kid Rock’s announcement: “There were a lot of people who weren’t concerned about Donald Trump running for the presidency…So, I take it all seriously right now.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in an email to his supporters, “I’ll be honest, we don’t know if this is real, a joke, or a bizarre publicity stunt. But I’ll tell you this: I don’t find it funny.”

By now, it’s obvious that the dull hubris of establishment politics is passed its prime, out of touch with the star-studded appetites of younger generations. Their awfully brittle logic ignores the successes of Saturday Night Live comedian turned senator, Al Franken, or the Tugboat Annie Sails Again movie star, Ronald Reagan, who rightfully matured into his political role and funded far right-wing terrorists in Nicaragua. Arnold Schwarzenegger arguably did as well as most governors before him. The problem is that our political beliefs have been condensed perversely into two camps: pro-Trump and anti-Trump. There’s no room for moderation, no slight left or right of center; just the ravenous schizophrenia of a public who is completely consumed by the wild orange beast in front of us. So when Warren and Schumer say they don’t find Kid Rock’s announcement for a senatorial run funny, they just mean that because he’s not on their team, he is a viable sensationalistic threat.

We’re not supposed to care this much about politics; it was never supposed to be front and center entertainment. Government policy is what only the most boring, moth-eaten cretins are capable of, allowing the rest of us to carry on our business of meandering through hobbies and escapism until we die. When President Trump tweeted the video of him wrestling down the spindly embodiment of CNN, his testosterone-bloated fists wailing into the emojilike head of the news organization, he wasn’t ‘insinuating violence’ or hurling metaphoric rage like a character on Street Fighter; he was tossing another morsel of entertainment to his deeply loyal fans, persuading by means of his cult of personality. Scott Adams—creator of the most lifeless, unimaginative comic strip, Dilbert, and likely the most rational of all Trump supporters—describes the aching dichotomy of responses to Trump as a “two-movie reality,” in that, between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump camps, we are all watching “two movies on one screen.” When Trump smashes in the head of CNN, his fans see their leader as the dominant alpha he already is while simultaneously working as a catastrophic blow to the frail sensitivities of liberals. His critics see another version, something akin to a deep-fried Michelin man who ejaculates fountains of Tang onto his own family members.

Critics call his CNN video unpresidential behavior, but what they mean is it’s not their movie of presidential behavior. Because there’s been many like him. Teddy Roosevelt wrestled and killed a cougar with a knife. Alexander Hamilton, though never president, was killed in a duel with then sitting Vice President Aaron Burr. Andrew Jackson—the man who Trump sees himself as the burly reincarnation of—killed a man in a duel who accused Jackson of cheating on a horse race. John F. Kennedy is well-known for his compulsive womanizing, fucking everything beautiful in site with his inescapable fury of charisma. So Trump’s behavior certainly is, to an extent, presidential—it’s just not the version his critics want to see in our languid arena of old men politely shuffling around in grey suits. What Trump is doing in all his orgiastic madness is being the celebrity showman his supporters want him to be. He is the caricature we all want him to be, because he fits our chosen narrative of hero or villain.

We used to judge a presidential candidate’s competency on the beer test: they could likely negotiate a peace deal with a hostile nuclear threat if they seemed like a dope person to have a beer with. We’re beyond that now. We want our government leaders to be glossy overlords, greased up with coconut oil and a stringy goatee, commanding over 320 million screaming fans with a burning trident. We’re a generation who grew up on American Idol and Internet porn—the dull bromidic fuckery of Nixonian politics is over. And although there have long been celebrities who later became politicians, Trump galvanized the celebrity persona and showmanship within modern politics. He brought the celebrity with him, as others before him separated themselves from their starry personas. The Rock, Caitlyn Jenner, Antonio Sabáto Jr., Kanye West—these are the gods of youth and sex we’ve always gawked at up on a high stage or ohuge television screen; now they are the obvious chosen ones who can fix health care, resolve the climate crisis, pardon turkeys, do whatever it is our government does.

When you go to the cinema and see another heroic war drama projected monstrously in front of you, there’s a subtle, yet gnawing depression when the film ends and the overhead lights come back on, and you have to shamefully walk back to your car and then your thankless life back home. The tragedy and ecstasy has ended, and the verdant luxury of escape along with it. It doesn’t have to be that way. Because we’re in a movie now. It’s likely all a computer simulation anyways, freewill just an imaginary fart in the VR imaging system; so let the big-titted celebrities roam like they were always meant to, declaring war on octopus demons and fucking supermodels in space. Reality will be so much better. Caitlyn will put on his Bruce costume whenever he wants to fuck with other leaders at G20 summits. Kid Rock will Snapchat himself in a wife-beater, masturbating into sinks and killing rodents with a hammer. Kanye West once made a music video of him in bed with wax figurines of Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, and other celebrities and world leaders—now it will be real life, striking a peace deal with Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by humping their legs like a dog underneath the bed linens. The show must go on.


Donate Button

Advertisements

Inside the Awful Hell of Urban Sweat Lodges

fig_6.26
by Guy Walker

There’s no longer any need to exercise. The days of calloused gallantry are behind us; beauty, fitness, health—mere trifles to be acquired, like items on a grocery list that are quickly scribbled out. Modern city-dwelling man doesn’t need to step outside into the putrid stink of the real world to get the body he wants. He doesn’t even need to hold a downward dog in stretch pants as he simultaneously feeds himself large spoonfuls of granola. He can transform himself into a sinewed Herculean masterpiece merely by wrapping himself in a bed sheet of tinfoil and watching television. They call it “sweating”—the banal inactive act of doing absolutely nothing and still getting fit.

Probably the most prominent sweating establishment is Shape House—with four locations in the greater Los Angeles area, it is poised to spread across the country as the new way to get your body the way it was always meant to look. The business model is sensible enough: you pay $50 to lay on a massage table and cook your innards with what they call FAR infrared, which, as they define it, is a “radiant form of natural energy” that results in not just any normal sweat, but in an “intense, detoxifying, health-boosting sweat that helps you look and feel healthier, happier, and brighter.” A bit verbose, perhaps, and promising maybe more than seems reasonable; but in a way, you can’t blame them. We live in a culture of microwave dinners and pornography on demand—we want nothing more than for our most congenital desires to be met instantly, as well as all-inclusively. There was ephedra, the dietary supplement popular in the 90’s, which promised a fat-burning energy boost for body builders. There was 8 Minute Abs; or the electric ab belt. Today, there’s Soylent, the colorless powdered water that advertises itself as the “Food That Frees You,” rousing many to go on a Soylent-only diet. So it was only a matter of time until the phenomenon of instant microwavable fitness came to the front of New Age popularity.

This is the most opportune place and time to begin a trend like sweating. Los Angeles is a desert of silicone-festered boutiques, the streets crowded with swollen-lipped hominids that are begging desperately to be famous. In the 1970’s, people overran an ice cream parlor on Hollywood Boulevard because Marlon Brando frequented it, sometimes seen licking off globs from an ice cream cone in the privacy of his limousine. Countless people fly from the other side of the world to visit the Walk of Fame so they can take a picture with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator or step on the sticky gum-covered gold star of their favorite actor. Shape House knows the libidinal cajolery that celebrities have on us plebeians: they begin their informational video with pasted together clips of the Kardashians wrapped in the metal suits, or LL Cool J promoting it on Ellen. They know we can’t resist the idea—maybe I too will lay where Kim’s ass poured sweat.

I went to Shape House myself, of course, to see what it was like to burn 1200 calories by not lifting a finger. The grounds resembled a barren utopia: a few isolated cacti stood in an otherwise empty yard of rocks. The front door was bright orange against an otherwise gray and nondescript structure—the obvious scintillating portal to the perfect summer bod. There was no one at the front desk when I entered, but a folded notecard informed me they were “tucking in other clients” and would be right with me. The front lobby and waiting room were also orange—lit dimly with Ikea shade baskets wrapped around every lightbulb; semi-pornographic posters lined one wall—black-and-white photographs of anonymous sweat-dazzled bodies, each poster inscribed with “weight,” “fitness,” “life,” and other vaguely forward-looking profanities, the post-sex dew drops on their skin just titillating enough to convince you to get out your credit card. Eventually, a woman with a greased-up bun and gleaming white teeth greeted me. She smiled enthusiastically as she handed me a waiver to sign, forcing me to surrender to the possibility of a heart attack or stroke. The Shape House provides you an intense, health-boosting sweat that could also kill you—“please, follow me,” the nurse said.

I changed into the provided gray workout clothes, and finally got into bed, zipping the contraption up past my neck. There’s something intrinsically horrid and lonely about being rolled up in a sleeping bag of heated tin foil, your testicles suffocated and ablaze, your head propped up just enough to watch the latest episode of Fuller House. You paid $50 to just lay there and cook in your own pool of steamed alcoholic residue, clothed in pajamas that so many before you have soiled, trying not to think about your decades of squalor and waste that are now perspiring out of you. Yes, I did pay for this sordid humiliation, but I really didn’t—I laid there because I had to; it was the only reasonable thing left to do.

Shape House fancies itself as a quiet sanctuary in today’s arena of political and social chaos—a place to let go of all of your problems. The founder of Shape House, Sophie Chiche, said she wanted to create a space for people to “rejuvenate … have some me-time, and somehow recharge.” Its moody lighting and musky perfumes allow you to forget about the looming death spiral happening directly outside. We get the cathartic rejuvenation of sweating away the all-consuming problem of Reality.

After an hour of laying in a bag of my own filth, it was all over. The nurse hovered over me once more, smiled, then pulled off my headphones, and asked, “How was your sweat?!” A cloud of farts and steam billowed from my unzipped bag, and I was then directed to the Relax Room, where I was given an orange slice and a cup of tea. This was it. Sitting in a dark room with my knees pulled up to my chin, cupping a mug of chamomile tea with both hands, recovering from my sweat. I made it—the untraversed peak of evolution. The great white man emerges from his cocoon like a newly evolved species of butterfly. Where do we go from here, except deeper into limp insouciance of modern man?

These “urban sweat houses,” as Shape House calls itself, are an inevitable phenomenon of our culture’s celebration of laziness. We don’t want to do anything ever again, unless we can Instagram it. This is what Shape House was always meant for—to make us feel like we are part of a community of spiritual elitism—like a plastic shaman blessing you with incense, we’ll drink every kind of kool-aid we can get our hands on.

It’s obvious what Shape House wants in the end: a skyline of towering orange skyscrapers, each one inhabiting millions of FAR infrared bunkbeds. Everyone in the world will be zipped up like Chipotle burritos, streaming HBO for eternity, getting fitter than they’ve ever been in their life. Outside will be a barren wasteland of rocks and ashen fortresses; flying cars will whiz in and out between the buildings; and you’ll barely lean your head forward, taking another sip of the alkaline water as you turn up the volume, drowning out reality forever.


Donate Button

How the G20 Summit Summarized the Death of Politics

TOPSHOT-GERMANY-G20-SUMMIT-PROTEST
by Guy Walker

Now that the G20 summit has come and gone, everyone returns to their chronic tedium back home, either proud and spritely of their own performance, or disheartened that international politics are in a state of seemingly permanent gridlock. Donald Trump shuffles away with his head slouched, his fingers impulsively clasping at the squalid air, anxious to tweet brazen threats again behind the comfort of locked doors. Angela Merkel simply sighs as she stares into empty space; to her, the whole world looks like a huge school project that’s barely held together with Elmer’s glue and Scotch tape. Protestors return to their chic flats and coffee shops; they untie their black hankies, throw their anti-capitalist banners away, and begin sipping green tea lattes from oversized mugs. Everyone feels the same faint confusion: what actually happened? and what was it all for?

The summit and accompanying protests were both nonevents not just because they lacked any substantive content or messaging, but also because of the way they were covered by the press—by the way we demand they be covered. All people want is something to gossip about. We want our leaders to either steal the show through charisma and desirability, or to trip and roll down the stairs. Justin Trudeau can just stand there, and do nothing but smile his gorgeous glistening smile, and his approval ratings climb ever upward. In the United States, however, people only pay attention to Trump now because they want to see him actually bodyslam a reporter. There’s no middle ground. Nobody cares about diplomacy anymore—we just need a tabloid headline to blather over.

Political commentators and body language experts spent endless collective hours analyzing the position and angle of the Putin-Trump handshake. It was like the wild-eyed frenzy of sports analysts drawing arrows and X’s all over the still frames of a last second, game-winning shot. Did Angela Merkel just roll her eyes at Putin’s mansplaining? Why did Trump just walk up to Narendra Modi for an impromptu chat? When Putin and Trump sat down for the press, Putin had his hand partially covering his chest, while Trump’s hand was partially covering his pelvis—or was it the other way around—who’s dominant?

It’s true: the world’s great leaders are actually this weary and dull. The sheer pedantry of such summits must be gut-wrenching to actually attend: regarding climate change and the Paris Accords for example, other nations agreed they wouldn’t go so far as endorsing Trump’s language of including fossil fuels, but they would recognize it. These types of semantic compromises are the cornerstone of political atrophy—they degrade men into shuttering relics of themselves, as journalists scribble furiously, and anarchists’ scrawny pale arms chuck rocks at anything that moves.

If you search online for news about this year’s G20 summit, you’re offered a banquet of tepid reports that have nothing to do with international affairs or trade policy. Sure, most of what is discussed amongst the nations’ leaders is done so without the press present, and so we’re left to gawk at their orgiastic meet-and-greets; but nevertheless, what the press does cover and emphasize inspires little more than a fart-drenched cynicism. It’s lo-fi drama, cheapened with the dull bromidic fuckery of men and women shuffling around like penguins, trying to position themselves in the best place for a photograph.

It’s why Donald Trump got elected in the first place—everyone was either resentful against establishment politics, or they were so wretchedly bored by politics-as-usual. And as much of a mad despotic clown that Trump is, he has enlivened politics for everybody. He gave our feverishly short attention spans something to latch onto, like staring at some grotesque baggy mass that consumes everything around it and swells and morphs like cold beef gelatin—we can’t stop watching the thing amass weight and disease. Trump might have record low ratings, but he’s the most popular man in the world—he’s the excuse kids use when they just want to throw a chair through a window.

The lack of spectacle and excitement at a G20 summit used to be acceptable. That’s what politics was—old, tired men (and a woman or two) sitting in rooms, discussing the fate of the world. Donald Trump changed that for everybody, and there’s no going back to the way things used to be. I don’t know if it was the Republican National Convention in July of last year that permanently shifted everything for the worse, but it stands out as a pivotal moment of masturbatory ennui, as the cowboy’s triumphant scream into the void of human dignity. It was a pageant from hell, full of ornate hats and body glitter, grown men twerking because it seemed patriotic in the moment. It ignited a newfound appreciation for whorish theater, a huge party at which to say, “You seem reasonable. Here, take the codes that can blow up the world!”

There’s no recovering from that. We want the next thousand years to be a Jerry Springer episode—it’ll be good for ratings, fuck diplomacy.

The protests were equally prosaic. By now, we expect our leaders to be as predictable as motorized bobbleheads, nodding and shaking hands in a performance of masked propriety; but even the angriest of the demonstrations around this year’s summit were as banal as a kid from Brentwood’s temper tantrum. Yes, in their wake, protestors left burned vehicles and looted stores; they took selfies in front of burning heaps on the street; they chanted anti-globalist idioms, and consequently got hosed down with pepper spray and water cannons. But in the end, it amounted to very little—perhaps a glorified, cathartic version of giving your Facebook profile pic a positively-themed filter. But this sort of feel-good activism that lets you feel like you made your voice heard and that you are part of something larger than yourself is tenuous at best.

The problem isn’t so much that the protestors were weak at protesting, but rather that it was the same predictable thing as before. These self-styled marches don’t work the same way that they used to. They worked in the 60’s. Even the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle quantified a historic level of popular mobilization against the colluding elites. But the WTO protests were historic for another reason: it was the first major modern example of the beginnings of a mass movement that went nowhere. It had all the right ingredients: unwarranted police brutality, the unification of blue-collar workers and indigenous peoples, the relatively focused messaging of something specific within their anti-globalist agenda. But it fizzled out to a few distant croaks of dissent.

Our present generation has adopted this legacy of expecting failure. The Occupy movement could have developed into something significant, but white dudes with dreads and girls with blue armpit hair just wanted to dance. The left always loses because they relish in their own failure. When Jon Ossoff lost the special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, the Democrat’s response essentially was, “we may have lost, but we barely lost,” as if that was worth celebrating.

From the press coverage, to the protests, to the summit itself, the G20 as a whole knows politics-as-we-once-knew-it is over. It was a last gasp of diplomacy, a relatively civil weigh-in before an epoch of Wrestlmania. After all, The Rock says he’s going to run for president.


Donate Button

%d bloggers like this: