Paradise of Storm

Category: Pop Culture

Mid90s is the Beginning and Ending of Our Lives

C-MID90s-Facebook

by Guy Walker

Growing up in Los Angeles in the mid nineties was supposed to be a time of perspiring boredom. There was no Great War to protest against, no major cultural upheaval, no new mind-expanding drugs to try. There was just the day-to-day unfolding monotony of being a kid, wading through the creamy smog the way grandmothers swim, swinging lunch pails, conceding that yo-yos and Pokémon were scenes of glamour and social footing.

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s, observes so much more than the fragmented trademarks of growing up in this strange and passionless orgy—the standardized confusion of slang, the Teenage Ninja Turtles ubiquity, the stapled fortresses bunched together into a barren and broken purlieu. Most representations of the nineties serve more like they were accruements of nostalgia organized neatly on the fireplace mantle. And within the context of skateboarding (as well as surfing and snowboarding), Hollywood has never achieved anything worthwhile. For the most part, these types of films have come across as one blurred and contrived iteration of Dazed and Confused, which in itself was feigned nostalgia.

What makes Mid90s the delicate masterpiece that it is, is our own obsession with authenticity. We’ll scour endless hours of interview footage and Twitter feeds to find a person’s single public stumble, and confidently write them off as a counterfeit icon. Jonah Hill rightly stated that a single Kowabunga! in a film that’s really only peripherally about skateboarding would disembowel the whole work, lump it along with the rest of the ridiculous genre.

But there’s none of this caricaturized glee. Thirteen-year-old Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic, comes from a moderately broken home—with a single mother, and an older brother who beats on him, he turns to a new group of friends. He stops watching movies with his mom; he starts smoking cigarettes, and drinking forties in the bathroom in order to catch up with the older kids; he’s deflowered in a sense, vaunting his success of fingering a girl for the first time. But Mid90s is a return to innocence. The resounding meliorism in Hill’s picture is finding family outside one’s own, in the ramshackled guardians who roam around like us, searching for some invocation of purpose. It seems negligible at times to try to pontificate on why a film is so successful in its delivery, in how it was molded over four years into its nice 84-minute package of what it means to grow up in a broken home. And maybe this was unintended. Director Paul Thomas Anderson said it was only well after he completed Boogie Nights did he realize it was about family—about finding it in the most unexpected places.

The return to innocence is what drives so much of the American adult narrative. It’s why so many of us have children, so we can vicariously relive life’s gleaming optimism through our children’s eyes. The innocence is summarized neatly in a scene when Fuckshit, a rhapsodic long-haired skater a few years older than Stevie, played by Olan Prenatt, explains to a genuinely engrossed homeless man about why they skateboard all day: “[It’s] why we ride a piece of wood—like, what that does to somebody’s spirit.” If an adult uttered those words, we could aptly scoff at their own self-indulgence; but the unprompted candidness of the young is what makes it good and true. That same scene was inspired by a moment just before the end credits in Plan B’s 1993 skate video, Virtual Reality, when one of the skaters sings along to Here Comes The Sun with a homeless man playing on his guitar. There was no mockery, no escaped abuse; just a moment of genuine kinship for the streets.

Because the treatment of the homeless and of skaters at the time were similar. Especially a young black man like Na-kel Smith who plays Ray, the oldest and most talented of the group, who occasionally nudges Stevie in a direction that an older brother or father should. He offers gentle encouragements that could only have been learned from his own time living and falling.

Mid90s has been compared much with the 1995 classic, Kids, for the obvious superficial similarities. Kids is about a day in the life of a group of New York City teenagers, their experimentation with dirty words, their required exaggerations of those novel sexual exploits, when every kiss and touch of a nipple felt like Rocky Balboa’s celebration at the top of the stairs. But as accurate as the youth’s depiction in Kids may have been, it was the product of generational cynicism, a sort of updated Reefer Madness that terrified parents on every friendless cul-de-sac than it did inspire more of an introspective art form. The similarities are there: Telly, the main teenage stalwart of awkwardness, intones to his friend about virgins. “I love ‘em. No diseases, no loose as a goose pussy, no skank. No nothin. Just pure pleasure.” It’s two excruciating hours of this. Watching it today, you don’t cringe for him and his clumsy gloating, but for yourself. We remember when this was the way it was—a collective effort of mentally inscribing the most irreverent displays from our older brothers and drunk uncles and coming to school each day as if to share our dirtiest vocal capabilities, gluing “pussy” with “cocksucker” with “your mom” like they were loose interchangeable Scrabble pieces. There’s a moment in Mid90s when Stevie first steps foot in the Motor Avenue skate shop, where he glimpses from behind a t-shirt rack at the private dialogue of his soon-to-be friends. They debate if they’d rather suck their dad’s dick or eat their mom out. Life or death. It’s as accurate of a moment as ever could be. Lunch hour was an endless joust of hypotheticals: would you rather break both legs or let your sister shit in your mouth. Debates that could run on for hours, fissuring our unrealized ideological confines. But there was always the bleary self-awareness that the whole thing was in jest, that life itself is just some strange ephemeral quip, fueled by waggery and drunkenness. Mid90s captured that integral lightheartedness within its dialogue that Kids didn’t.

Because at that age you’re still learning to form words, trying to croak out some meaning from your smutty orifice. As if there’s a vague awareness that we’ve only recently been weened off the teet, and our mouth is now told to perform, to interact casually and senselessly like normal adults do. Before you become a caricature of yourself, miming the sayings of pristine lawnmower American suburbia, drinking a light beer at your buddy’s bar-b-que, saying things like, “just nod your head and say she’s right,” as you all laugh together like you’ve never heard that witticism before. Mid90s is also the last hurrah of innocence before we start acting out these manufactured identities.

At its core, Mid90s is far more related to Hoop Dreams, the nearly three hour documentary that follows two inner-city Chicago teenagers, and their quest to make it into the NBA. Both films have a similar dialectic between chasing some endless victory lap of a debonair adolescence, sinking deeper into the impishness of being young and drunk forever, and pursuing the original dream of doing what you love professionally. In Hill’s film, Ray and Fuckshit begin as best friends, both with exceptional talent, who gradually drift apart amid their differing interests: Ray pursuing skating as a real, tangible career, and Fuckshit just getting more and more fucked up. This same wrestling of temptations underlies Hoop Dreams—it underlies our daily life. Every momentary lull gnawing with the beckoning of sabotage: am I going to drink more chamomile tea and finish this article, or overdose on ghb with my overweight landlord?

I was never much of a skateboarder, but I’ve surfed most of my life. And walking down the steps to the beach parking lot, there’s always the expected coven of old men, softly shuffling around the dusty blasphemous edge of the world with their shirts off, their dark brown beer-tits mummified forever by the sun, the scaled wrinkles folded over themselves. They still wear flip flops. They still ask me for pot. They still even surf on occasion. But most of all, they stand around like human seagulls, scavenging for the last morsels of cool, talking about their hippest days. It’s why a coming of age story with skateboarding serving as the glaring interest that the plot swirls around is so apt—we know this too will change, that our beloved maple-eyed protagonist lays in his hospital bed at the end of the film with two families that love him, with a myriad directions forward.

The skate documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys showed it without categorically declaring it so: the archived footage was of the Z-Boys as handsome sun-tendrilled kids; but their present day interviews were noticeably different. Stacey Peralta became a famous and respectable filmmaker, while Jay Adams slogged in and out of prison serving drug-related sentences, eventually dying at age 53. The blithe enviability of blond-haired grommets sneaking into backyard pools to skateboard disappears with old age.

Mid90s ends soon after the thwarting romance has fallen apart. These decisions are just beginning to be considered, when the audiences’ own desires for self-correction anticipates for a more comprehensive last verdict. It ends when it needs to end, before the rush of school shootings, before one or more of the friends gets addicted to meth, before the shuttering jolt into the next millennium and all its grotesque calamity. Jonah Hill lets us remember the last redeemable decade as it was, before the lights went out on us for good.

Advertisements

The Transcendence of Hillary Clinton

god-of-the-sun
by Guy Walker

Everyone was busy watching Kavanaugh. His embalmed hairless face flickering against the light, his slippery greased-up coating penetrating against his accuser, like the slime on a newt or a poisonous mushroom, like he just emerged from a bathtub of K-Y jelly, his tits cold and heavy. His lips were pulled back in a menacing snarl, so as to show off his calcium-fortified teeth, and the type of predation only his kind can achieve. The country couldn’t take their collective eyes off him, nor his pitiful fraternal greed for beer or pussy or god.

What the country missed was something even more agonizing—if that is even possible. Hillary Clinton cameoed on CBS’s revival of Murphy Brown, episode one titled blandly, “Fake News”. It was only a couple of minutes, but there she was, flouting her petrified glee across our television screens once again, this squeamish reminder that she is alive somewhere, breathing, plotting to solidify her entitlement once again. Her appearance went like this: she entered the news offices of Murphy Brown, applying for a secretarial job. The balmy drollery ensued—jokes about her secretarial qualifications, her experience with email, her awesome resemblance to the presidential candidate of 2016. After all, Clinton informs, she’s not the famous Hillary Clinton. No, she spells her first name with one “l”. She then hands Brown her business card, who then reads her email address aloud: Hilary@youcouldahadme.com.

We coulda had her. What happened. She knows her name is forever ruined, but she doesn’t know why.

A study published in The Journal of Social Psychology in 1948, written by two Harvard professors, looked at 3,320 recent male graduates, and the effect their given names had on their academic performance. Those with more unusual names—say, Kipling, Bexley, Severus—were more likely to develop psychological neurosis or drop out of school. Alternately, those named John, Robert, William, had less to worry about. With this in mind, it’s important to note that Hilary isn’t a name. It’s a grotesque fragmentation of another name she ruined. As much as she wants to, she can’t change her name or identity. Her carnivorous Clintonian smile, gleaming for war, cackling for mass incarceration of blacks, advocating for further deregulation of banks. Knocking off an “l” only deepens the cannibalistic void of the insane.

Her continued pandering condescension eats away at daily posture of normal citizens. In her memoir, What Happened, immediately proceeding her failed campaign, she repeated this same smutty denialism, casting much of the blame on Bernie Sanders for not conceding quickly enough during the primaries, while at the same time echoing the same soft and heartless quips of personableness: “I have a weakness for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and was delighted to find out that 55 goldfish were only 150 calories—not bad!” You can hear the strategists whispering these suggestions over her shoulder: “Be relatable. Goldfish are awesome!” Like in her Twitter bio that mentions she’s a “hair icon” and used to include “pantsuit aficionado.” The predictably contrived self-flattery combusts under its own exploding nausea. Every presidential debate requires candidates to talk about their working-class parents, their first job, their overall croaking sympathy for humankind. Soon enough, candidates will discuss their favorite searches on Pornhub, their most overused emojis, their self-immolating tendencies and Netflix binges to make it through another day.

“Pay close attention to what the kids are into these days,” is the general theme of every political strategy—an overburdened hipness, degrading into the rubble of illiteracy. “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water,” is finally more literate than every time Hillary Clinton repeated Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” moment. Every time Trump opens his mouth and lashes words together, they are the utterances of a vile and gelded ringmaster, his lips squeezing and pulsing like a collapsed sphincter. But at least everyone knows this, himself included. Hillary Clinton is different. She’s more similar to Mark Zuckerberg, a misshapen automaton who drinks water only to make us believe she drinks water, or to cool the firing electrodes behind the scanning glass eyeballs.

In emails released by Wikileaks, we know the Clinton campaign deliberately elevated Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Republican primaries, under the self-described “pied piper” strategy. In an email to the Democratic National Committee, their stated number one goal was to “Force all Republican candidates to lock themselves into extreme conservative positions that will hurt them in a general election.” And here we are, locked in a Gumby hellworld, with no way out.

Kavanaugh is clearly guilty, but if he had even a modicum of self-respect, he would just say Fuck all y’all, I don’t want the job anymore, and quietly slumber off and melt into a puddle of milky phlegm. Hillary Clinton should have done the same. She’s the Gwyneth Paltrow of politics—one of the most collectively despised individuals who refuses to accept this. So instead, she started Onward Together, another ineffective establishment Democratic project that aims to “encourage people to organize, get involved, and run for office.” She cameos in sitcoms. She declares, with cold brutality, that she’s now part of the resistance.

The horror.

The resistance. Like the anonymous White House insider who penned the New York Times op-ed about what a scoundrel Donald Trump is, and that he or she, along with many on the inside, are also part of the resistance, trying to maintain some order for refined elites.

Perhaps it was displayed best at John McCain’s funeral. The florid nostalgia of war criminals and war hawks coming together, interacting with such decorum, people liked to emphasize. Isn’t it nice, their decency, reaching across aisles? The public seemed especially swooned when George Bush handed Michelle Obama a candy. They cheered when he put his underwear on over his pants, and somehow jammed the wooden triangle block through the square hole. They threw their arms in the sky and cried with paralyzing beauty when he showed them a painting of a doggy he finished. “His ears were floppy!” he grinned. “Floppy doggy!”

Perhaps the Iraq war cost trillions of dollars, and perhaps it cost half a million Iraqi lives, and perhaps Bush was a fool at times; but at least he maintained the standard vernacular of English-speaking adults, most of the time. Hillary Clinton is the same: maybe she’s a closeted racist, maybe she didn’t support same-sex marriage until the public pressure of 2013, maybe she’s a war hawk who would only escalate military operations overseas. But at least she can poke fun of herself. And that pantsuit, it’s to die for!

When Steve Bannon most recently appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, he predicted the next Democratic presidential candidate wouldn’t come from the establishment political arena. It will be someone like Oprah or Michael Avenatti, he said, someone who’s already a celebrity, someone with a more accessible personality than the dull bromidic fuckery of previous candidates. Because Donald Trump didn’t kill politics; Hillary Clinton did. She operates in an overly calculated impossibility, a self-scripted world, in an age when too many people can see through the drawn velveteen curtains into the self-hatred and paranoiac suppression of what is referred to as decorum and decency. Because we know Hillary Clinton hates all of her supporters their rice milk enthusiasm, their genuine concern for equal opportunity, their care for other humans. We know she only sees her thronging evangelists as a gross and infected puddle of sperm, a necessary collective sin she must entertain in order to advance her way to true power, where finally, after all these painful and patient years she can stand at the cliff’s edge of a flattened world and declare herself god.

But it’s over. It’s all too late for these pallid attempts of revival. There won’t be another generation of her type, of the Wolf Blitzers reciting testaments like drowning holograms. Only the dead and dying watch Murphy Brown, like only the dead and dying watched Rosanne. The illuminated overhead signs directing our laughter and applause; the warm-up comedian massaging the festering wits of the audience. No, instead of cameos on Murphy Brown, two thousand reality stars will be outcompeting one another for the next viral video, vying for the presidency, a sudden explosion of VR Snapchat confessionals that exclaim what flavor of goldfish is their favorite. Standing in front of a rented Lamborghini, a generation of Iggy Azaleas will say, “It’s three in morn, and I’ll be dir to git dat fone biiitch!!!”

And then we will cheer.

Jordan Peterson and the Last 12 Commandments

maxresdefault

by Guy Walker

In the end, Jordan Peterson tore his own flesh off until he was just a sobbing human scab, warning the world of a postmodernist nightmare in which everyone had shitty posture and didn’t pet the neighborhood cats.

Nobody knows what Jordan Peterson wants. His sad enthusiasm for pedantry seems to be all that he’s capable of—his strange and gruesome moanings are like that of a schizophrenic homeless man screaming endlessly about the color of the paint used in an alleyway. “It’s not scarlet!! It’s a deep vermillion!!!” It’s just this that makes him seem so useful—he is so tirelessly eager to talk about mysticism and Bible stories and peoples’ preferred pronouns, that some people actually pay attention for a while, more just to see if the Toronto-based professor will collapse in a self-made reservoir of tears, or if he’ll explain a pumpkin’s sexual proclivities. He tours from under the gleaming shamble of academic superstardom, as mobs of college-age males gather to see him speak; his mighty edifice of reason and purpose—the very reason his name erupted into the mainstream—is his refusal to ever mention non-binary pronouns, things like ‘zim’ and ’zir’ instead of ‘him’ and ‘her.’ And a storm of grotesque and frolicsome self-flagellation ensued, everyone protesting everyone else

But it’s his recently published book that has finally blueprinted a path of self-help for intelligent people, not the parading outrageous eulogies and feel-good confidence that everyone else corrals around. The Tony Robbins types. The sociopathic calmness of Wayne Dyer. The fanatical grandfather approach of Zig Ziglar. Peterson’s book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Its initial burst sold well, perhaps enough to ignite its own cultural revolution, a steaming courtship of suited-up bros hustling to get laid like real men, their pomaded hair-dos gone solid with bacon grease, their long noodle fingers reaching out like a Tim Burton animation figure, reaching for anything, reaching to pet every cat they can get their hands on (Rule #12), reaching to cover their mouths so they don’t bother children skateboarding (Rule #11), reaching to clean their room (Rule #6).

Cleaning your room is a contrarian dangerous act—this is actually what Peterson argues—because it’s going to upset your other filthy plebeian family members. They will resent your aristocratic order, resist against your clean dishes because clean dishes are shiny ornaments defying the laws of decay—the universe is a driving rod spiraling out of control, with supernovas of dirty bed linens and used condoms exploding with entropic infinity.  Entropy says that dogs’ natural state is defecating on the street, cracks in the asphalt burst into forests. It says every window eventually smashes into a million little pieces, instead of the other way around—instead of the sandy beaches magically forming themselves into polished rectangles. It can take years of labor and a lifetime of money to build yourself a house, but only minutes to destroy it in a fire. The fetid extravagance and overall weariness of the world would swell into mountains of feces summiting over the roofs of houses, and canopies of morning glories would suffocate the tallest buildings; the extraordinary granite faces of El Capitan will turn to helpless farts of dust taken away by the winds. Cleaning your room is the great defiant act for young white men in the early twenty-first century; it’s the ostended philosopher’s cry that has made all too real Nietzche’s Will to Power. The compounding evolution of history’s great thinkers and influencers have climaxed with the enunciation of Rule #1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back, and the rest follows.

Jordan Peterson is only trying to make this world more orderly. When he comes, clasping the metal bathroom handle with his delicate bone-peaked fingers, he screams something indecipherable about Carl Jung being a god. He doesn’t ejaculate across the backside of the upturned toilet seat; rather, he floods himself into a funnel, which diverts everything neatly into a mason jar—a clean organized system of Monday to Sunday bathroom vessels, stacking them in chronological order, and shipping them down the Euphrates. On weekends, he heads to the desert with a broom and goats pulling a cart of human chattel, sweeping the dirt into perfectly symmetrical cone piles, instructing his men to organize the granules from smallest to largest, and from shade to hue. He goose steps loudly into toy stores in the middle of the day and constructs all the puzzles in the most brazen defiant manner, afterwards laying the cardboard sceneries out side-by-side. “Get your store in order, Bucko,” he croaks, leaving with a few more greased-up men than before, the kind who see Patrick Bateman in American Psycho as a heartrending icon, a misunderstood hero of sorts.

Always tell the truth; or, at least, never tell a lie. Rule number whatever. It doesn’t matter anymore. Jordan Peterson has triumphantly binded the most sordid avenues in plastic wrap, the animality and bivouacs of sweat are now sterilized packages of saltine crackers. People line the glistening streets, waving a million kekistani flags, tossing handfuls of rice at the sun, asking Peterson what he will do next, now that his cheese-guzzling victory for meagerness has spread everywhere, now that skateboarders can do synchronized kick flips, now that the once terraqueous throes of the outdoors have been turned into a cathedral of cruel lividity. There’s nothing interesting anymore. The whores have become Youtube personalities, doing makeup tutorials to become Pepe the Frog. The jazz players are teaching basic chords to three-year-olds, vowing no further refittings of their once popular improvisations. The beggars and schizophrenics have bundled their pubes into charity hair depositories; they wear three-piece suits, and host Bible study groups. Everyone quit school, and just watches Jordan Peterson videos on the Internet, because “education is so easy now.”

It’s very clear where this is all headed. Jordan Peterson has corralled an army, men of coruscating morality have strapped themselves to two-by-fours to keep their backs straight. They are forever panicked about the spread of postmodernism, unclear of what it actually is, occasionally sobbing into brutal fits and extended months of anorexia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—author of The Gulag Archipelago—is the only other author they know, and they repeat the name over and over, like men with a single and severe mention in their turrets. The intellectual Mount Everest has finally been summited by a pristine masculinity, a polished thousand-foot cock standing perfectly straight in the storm of diversity. Jordan Peterson stands atop of the violet shiny bald head, his stance spread wide, the brittle gusts of wind billowing his long coattails, the crooked pulsing veins zig-zagging down like bolts of lightning, and the final and extraordinary explosion of cum rocketing Jordan Peterson to the stars.


Donate Button

15:17 to Paris and the Banality of Valor

zFT867s

by Guy Walker

Spencer Stone wasn’t supposed to be good at anything. He was deficient in his academics, overwhelmed with sloth, obese as a child, consumed with his love for toy guns and camo. In other words, a great American in the making. He eventually joined the Air Force where he was deferential and persevering, but kept failing in the most menial tasks assigned. But then on August 21, 2015, Stone proved what he was capable of when he helped thwart a potentially bloody massacre on a Paris-bound train.

He was with with his lifelong best friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, traveling through Europe together, unknowingly boarding the same train car that Moroccan-born Ayoub El Khazzani was readying an attack. He armed himself in the bathroom with an assault rifle and three-hundred rounds of ammunition, a pistol, a box cutter, and no shirt, like a self-hating Rambo pantomimist, the sweaty discharge of nerves dripping from his tits. When he emerged from the toilet with gun in hands, he was immediately met with the struggle and force from another passenger, American-born Frenchman, Mark Moogalian. After much hassle, in what looked like a deadly version of musical chairs with the disheveled handing-off of guns, Moogalian was shot in the neck with the pistol, and Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos seized the weapons from Khazzani, beat his face in with the butt of the rifle, and tied him up. They nursed Moogalian’s severe neck wound until the train stopped, and French police and doctors boarded, and all order was restored.

Clint Eastwood’s new movie, The 15:17 to Paris, centers around these suspenseful moments, contextualizing the episode with a strange selection of biographical accuracy. It’s been widely reviewed as a bold, yet mostly failed experiment. By casting the real heroes as the actors, their stultifying charisma is not equatable to bad acting—necessarily, the acting can’t be bad. Criticism of their performance is instead criticism of them as self-conscious young men—a hollow pointless objection that simply says they didn’t entertain the way a real hero would. These complaints are, of course, wrong. Eastwood’s experiment is neo-Stanislavskian idealism, a higher methodology of never breaking character, a newfound commitment towards death. Our heroes will never be in another movie not because they are loathsome as actors, but because they will never be able to prepare for another role.

So, why was the movie so unbearable?

Eastwood has long made clear his political leanings. His queer imbecilic performance at the 2012 Republican National Convention, in which he delivered a stumbling hallucinatory interrogation of Barack Obama sitting in a chair, made everything he did in the future a political act. The 15:17 to Paris wasn’t just shameless military propaganda, or an advocacy of mass distribution of guns and war games for children; it was a landmark entry in the anthology of alternative facts. The single most thoughtful and literary sentence of dialogue was also its worst: my God is bigger than your statistics. It was a moment in the film when our heroes are children; they’re acting up in school, and two of the mothers are speaking privately with their sons’ teacher. She flagrantly and brashly diagnoses the children with ADD, saying they need to be medicated, subdued. The film’s commentary on the reckless haphazard medication of children could have been poignant; but Eastwood’s screenwriter, Dorothy Blyskal, instead diverts it to a gratuitous pandering to Christian conservatism. My God is bigger than your statistics is part of the defiant eulogy in Christian politics—it’s a reactionary crack that’s widely distributed in its application, saying gays are faggots, abortion is murder, war is peace, and so on, until the whole American experience is a porcelain infancy.

There’s about a twenty minutes sequence of Stone and Sadler ambling around Venice, Italy with a selfie stick, posing with the puerile occupation of “Americans in Italy.” There’s no plot here, no advancement of conflict, no foreshadowing of obstacle or goal. But in Eastwood’s obvious senility, in his dithering worship of films about strong men, in his attempt to remain modern and relevant, he inserts the selfie stick as a totem to this is what kids do these days, like a grandfather trying to stay hip with his runny-nosed grandsons: Man, this ice cream is the tits! he says, slobbering everywhere, embarrassing the world.

This has always been an illuminating hallmark of Eastwood’s. His entire career has been about re-characterizing his glory days as the elusive cowboy in the Sergio Leone films, characters that Donald Trump has purportedly idolized himself after—a trick-stopping showman who shoots from the hip and says it like it is. American Sniper was merely an episode in the gradual milk-lacquered entropy of Western heroism, the masturbatory fatigue weighing everything down with the onset of chronic blockbuster depression.

There’s a moment when our three heroes wake up together in a sunlit room after a night of dancing in some club in Amsterdam. One of them mutters the well-known adage: last night was crazy, but man, this morning I’m so hungover. The problem isn’t just that this is profanely hollow dialogue that doesn’t do anything to advance the story; rather, it unearths the more brazenly solecistic aspects of ourselves we’d prefer to edit out; it is unnervingly accurate in its portrayal of human simplicity. In truth, the vast majority of us speak the way an illiterate would write. If an invisible transcriber followed us as we went about our day, and we had to read ourselves in dialogue form each night before going to bed, most of us would shrink into the deepest folds of the sheets, cowering in the face of our brutish parody. A choked starling and her impish gasps is all we get; the rest is theater. The home-loving dramaturges that Chekhov and Arthur Miller beautified give an unrealistic advantage to their kind. Those everyday homely characters that we are supposed to relate to are too pictorial and precise in their structure. Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos are relatable in their doughy normalcy, their artless glorification of helping others.

It’s interesting to compare the incident on the Paris-bound train with a similar, more gruesomely intimate tale of everyday heroism. On May 26th, 2017, on a train in Portland, Oregon, Jeremy Joseph Christian, an ugly mullet-loving white suprematist, was spluttering his yokel philistinism at two teenage girls, one Muslim, the other African American. Strangers in the crowded train intervened, defending the girls, two men of which ultimately sacrificing their lives, and a third man surviving with a severe stab wound to the neck. It’s heroic, but not cinematic. Dead heroes don’t inspire others. But more importantly, there is no flag worship in this type of action; the Other is the victim and not the perpetrator. The messaging in The 15:17 to Paris is clear that these are our boys. Focusing on an incident like that on the train in Portland would confuse that dialogue.

The 15:17 to Paris feels cruel and inept because it is. It never should have been made. It feels like a movie built with stock footage, the kind you see in pharmaceutical commercials with couples walking their doggie on the beach, flying a kite, mowing the lawn—the everyday tedium that we are actually programed to forget. This is all stacked around a single moment of competence, when the shooter’s gun jams, and our hero tackles him. Actually, both of his guns jam. Eastwood makes a nod at the monumental luck, when Skarlatos inspects the guns immediately after the attempted attack, and comments on their “one in a million” fortitude; but Eastwood never fully illuminates this, that the grandiosity of one man’s valor swirls chaotically in our collective farts of ephemerality.

It brings it back to when they are children—my God is bigger than your statistics. “One in a million” is prophecy along this quixotic brand of Pulp Fiction divine intervention moment—it marries Stone’s awesome bravery to run headfirst at the barrel of a loaded assault rifle with the omnipotence of God’s hand at work, ending with the victorious ejaculation of hero-worship dripping off the screen, a hundred flag-waving hard-ons watching determinedly in the theater, their dicks overflowing like lava cakes. What the film achieves in is explicating the pedestrian nature of heroism—it’s something that everyday citizens like you and I can achieve—be fat, suck at school, stop terrorists. It’s the American way.

And in a way, 15:17 to Paris transcends above all other films. The exhausting banalities of our heroes’ day-to-day are all part of the unsentimental realism of how we live our lives. We’re shitty at nearly everything that’s interesting. We go to Europe—to the safe big cities, and to the hostels in those cities—out of some last-ditch desperation for menial indulgence. The 15:17 to Paris is Westernized avant-garde, an unintended masterpiece of social criticism; it forces its viewers to plug along with the careful representation of themselves—an hour-and-a-half autobiographical biopic in which we stand in front of the mirror staring at the religion of monotony that has overcome us, the utter boredom. It’s a sobering moment, when we realize none of us actually orate like the baroque Tarantino dialogues, that the extravagant fictions of our favorite films are exactly that—fantastic, impossible, award winning in their artistry.

Finally, we can continue as normal. Because this is who we are. Heroes are everyone everywhere, shuffling across the wide open range, consuming things like mac ’n’ cheese and Coca Cola. Our cinematic gallantry always just a moment away.


Donate Button

The Future of Desire

Blade+Runner+2049-1

by Guy Walker

What actually did happen to the sexual revolution? It wasn’t long after one of Freud’s most noteworthy students, Wilhelm Reich, landed on New York’s squalid shores in August of 1939, that the generation of prurience and free love was born. His most noteworthy invention and physical contribution apart from his writings now seems like an artifact of dereliction, some shambled box from an abandoned carnival: the Orgone Energy Accumulator. It looks like a boarded up telephone booth, an unexciting trunk turned on its side that you were supposed to sit in and wait to receive the brilliant and spontaneous orgasms it provided.

Sex from some obscure unknown realm has long been a preferred subject of science fiction. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a bounty hunter Phil Resch (a phonetic cousin of the Austrian psychoanalyst), who works for a fictitious police agency, and could be another android, remarks to Deckard with a tone of austere advice, “If it’s love toward a woman or an android imitation, it’s sex.” The reader is propelled into the obvious: how does it actually feel to be in a storm of eroticism with a robot?

Blade Runner 2049 offered another installment of this fantasy. Our hero’s girlfriend, Joi, is a three-dimensional hologram resembling an evolutionary masterpiece; you can watch the movie in what is seemingly another layer of 3-D, gaping up at her seductive digitization swaying into the bedroom, your mouth hanging open stupidly, staring up at the huge screen with your flimsy paper sunglasses. Joi’s character is a reincarnation of a character we know well.

In the 1956 French drama, …And God Created Woman, Juliette, the subliminally catastrophic temptress played by Brigitte Bardot, believed “the future was invented only to spoil the present.” Sixty years later, it’s the present that wants to spoil the future—it wants to give it all up for us, tell us of the trenchant nihilism ahead, popularize the ultimate ghosts of technology. In the film, she lays around naked, walks everywhere barefoot, undisturbed by the male forces and societal norms around her, causing a moral panic amongst those nearest her. The men in the film conclude she “was made to destroy men,” as they try to repel the inevitable gravity of her enchantment.

The destruction of man by the strange and impossible intrigue of the woman is a common theme now. Hollywood is smitten with this fantasy. How will people, you know, “do it”, in the future? Spike Jones’s 2014 dystopic interlude, Her, brought the same titillating futurism conceptualized in the bedroom to the big screen. The envisioned communing between Theodore and the computer operating system, Samantha, was little more than a banal exclamation that mimicked the snorts and grunts of pleasure. It was phone sex, mildly elaborated, only for the sake of the pronouncement of orgasm, leaving the fluids, sweat, bullwhips, fuzzy handcuffs, and every other physical attributor of touch, in question and out of the picture.

Ex Machina notioned that the most beautiful women of the future will be an invasive species of silicon chips molded in our most alluring fashion—they’ll be prowling amongst us, like a digitized playmate who could calmly and regularly beat the Kasparovs of chess, and then lock them in a cellar until they rot. There’s nothing more thrilling than taking someone home from the bar who might turn out to have a survival glitch that would necessarily have to kill you to succeed. BDSM for existentialists; the abstract fetishizing would turn a whole generation into a sex-themed Russian roulette game.

Or there’s HBO’s Westworld series, which featured robot prostitutes that would kill their way to freedom. Thus far, our popularized interest in artificial intelligence goes as far as what sort of envious bloom their reproductive organs will look like, how lusting and lifelike the interplay could and should be. Especially the women. Movie producers and audiences alike don’t desire the other possibility in quite the same way. There’s something deeply unsettling about their male counterparts that would only be used for sex—their dangling rubberized testicles waving in the dusty anarchy of the wild west, their smutty reprogrammable libido under spasms of defect, wreaking havoc on innocent female victims who only wanted a bit of cathartic delight.

It’s clear what’s happening. When Lacan famously announced “there is no sexual relation,” he wasn’t attempting a contrarian view of desire without features. He was iterating how we split ourselves up in the act of sex, between “its being and its semblance, between itself and that paper tiger it shows to the other.” In this, as in a combative death drive, we either give or receive a mask, “a thrown-off skin,” in order to protect our real being.

We’re never really alone with our sexual partners. There’s always a deep fantasy or weirdly-cloaked fetish lingering in the shadows, hammering away at our heads in varying degrees of distraction. In the strange and extraordinary partnership of cultural totems, Slavoj Žižek was commissioned by Abercrombie & Fitch to write for their 2003 Back to School Quarterly, where he quipped his bursting tic-filled remarks on youth and sex, the capitalized large font spread across a glossy overlay of two boys and a girl completely naked, barely of age, carousing in green fields, the sun’s yolk spilled across the whole verdant jouissance like a pagan dream: “The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the two partners overlap. If the man fantasizes that making love is like riding a bike and the woman wants to be penetrated by a stud, then what truly goes on when they make love is that a horse is riding a bike…With a fantasy like that, who needs a personality?”

A horse riding a bicycle is as real as Ryan Gosling passing his dick across and into the flickering static of his girlfriend, both of which are only barely less real than an undisturbed sexual communion between two people. There’s nothing remarkably novel about Hollywood’s attempts to realistically imagine the future of bodily desire. A robot’s vagina is not the exemplary nexus of modern art, not some avant-garde interpretation of Freudian psychoanalytics. But some productions have imagined a sort of post-Oedipal world, in which man creates his maker, fucks her, and then is gruesomely slain by her.

What Ex Machina and Westworld achieve is they thrust the viewer outside the obvious torments of being killed by the glamorous female lead, and they allow you to imagine the daily benign thrill of the technicians themselves, and what it must be like for them to pick and prod and quietly sculpt women of our yearning. As viewers, we know the architects of these humanoids had to at some point kneel down and masterfully sculpt the deep swelling crevasse of her reproductive organ, the realism of her sensuality more essential than any other appendage or feature. The absurd bald mounds on Barbie dolls, like they were long-legged congenital eunuchs disguised in aprons and wigs, no longer suffice for the pornographic obsessions of the modern age.

The cinema is now our most easily digested form of suggestive enterprise. We bring the whole circus of crime and drama and comedy and romance and war into our bedrooms, our gawping voyeurism permanently attached to our laptop screens. But it’s always been like this. The preferred art forms from before quietly distilled the same libidinal hankering as multi-million dollar productions filmed in front of green screens do today. What happens when Picasso or Lucian Freud paints one of their women? Are they not attempting to garner a lusciousness of dimension of the female form they never managed to see themselves? They spent countless painstaking hours leaning over their huge canvases, trying to improve on mere replication, detailing the dimpled flesh and overgrown pubic forests like things of undocumented mystery. They composed these scenes, arranged their women in candid moments of trembling bliss, and hyper-realized the overflowing smooth flesh of women as the givers of all life. The title of the painting above is “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” the model’s actual job title. The words give a humanness, a normalcy to the shapeless spill of tit over the edge of the couch, as if this could be every moderately heavy woman walking down the street. We are pressed with the overwhelming gravity of who we really are, the unflattering reality of ourselves as a gruesome patchwork of anuses and other spluttering holes, all held together with this dying membrane of sweat and pores and hair, the festering wounds of age slowly eating away at us.

What’s next, beyond each fantasy, is another. Most of us spend our days slouched in some form or another, our necks sloped like a cow grazing her fields, staring at a screen. We tap away at it endlessly, as if it will eventually do something, fetishizing the swirling blots of color, a whole universe encased in Snapchat doggy ears and nose. When you watch porn on your computer or phone, you’re signaling one half of a holographic sex doll—an illusory, yet very real, pleasure. There’s a brothel in Germany that’s already gotten rid of all the prostitutes—all the real humans, that is—and instead offers their clients a lineup of lifelike sex dolls. We’re almost there. It’s the same fantasy played out in different forms—different brands of the same product within today’s culture industry. Adorno and Horkheimer illuminated in their philosophical monument, Dialectic of Enlightenment, that the “culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises.” It usually ends in flaccid regret. Instead of the high definition fantasy playing out in front of us, we end with a white pool of mucous in a dirty sock. “The promise,” they continue, “which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is illusory.” But it’s voluntary. We pay $17 to see someone else play out our fantasies of what the future will look like.

It could have been an interesting storyline in Blade Runner 2049, between K and his holographic girlfriend—where their moments of affection and confidentiality really lead to, what they would have done about having children, arguments around infidelity and if it’s really considered cheating. But the filmmakers never went there. That particular subplot ended in masturbatory ennui, a close indifference about the future of our relationships. Again and again, we’ll watch these films on our own screens, the clutching voyeurism of survival fluttering across the backlit rectangles, the colorful blobs of other humans superimposed. But the end is always the same. The credits roll and the screen goes black, and we’re left staring at our dark naked reflection in the glass.


Donate Button

The Faux Patriot Phenomenon

0212militia05

by Guy Walker

On a dank fetid afternoon in the middle of August, as the sweltering torridity encouraged record-breaking fires to spread even further across the American frontier, Donald Trump emerged for a group of journalists, their questions frantic, as if each one were trying to clammer over the another. His skin was more opaque than usual, like a mangled sun-roasted apricot, a glob of hellish torture that housed his gleaming white blocks of teeth. He kept his lips pulled back in order to show off his teeth like a prey trying to scare off its enemy, and answered questions about the racial-infused violence that occurred just days prior, famously uttering there “were very fine people” amongst the Klansmen, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis that stormed through Charlottesville.

It was a simple seditionary remark, another snort of his trademark grandiose ignorance, the kind he exhibited when denying he knew who David Duke was while initially running his presidential primary campaign.

Fast forward a little more than a month, when Trump is speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama. His skin is softer; he’s surrounded by his unwavering compatriots peering up at their charismatic hero; he’s more at ease, and therefore even more reckless in speech, encouraging the firing of any athlete who kneels during the national anthem. “You’re FIRED!” he screams, as the crowd roars with approval, a deluge of blood rushing to his emaciated genitals.

Responses to Trump’s more treacherous remarks incite the usual bursts of outrage like they were little anger-filled ejaculations glazing the screens of countless blogs and social media platforms. Likewise, it positions any number of Trump whisperers to pontificate on what he really meant, as they condemn the media for always listening to him incorrectly. But it’s not an issue of Donald Trump as master villain or gilded hero; it’s the present manifestation of tribalism gone mad.

In The Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno and his accompanying authors posited a theory on the phenomenon of the authoritarian figure, including the unwavering patriotism of the masses that contribute to his manifestation. The authoritarian figure himself is the result of a Freudian developmental model, a sexually impulsive, insecure man, catapulting with outward hostility in order to overcome his shortcomings. With overwhelming impulses from the id (disorganized instinctual drives), and an incapable mediator of reason—known as the ego—the authoritarian shoves his way to power like a desperate and lonely drunk finally grabbing an old pumpkin to fuck. Hideous perhaps, but nevertheless inevitable.

Something analogous to the Napoleon complex, Adorno et al. considered that men pursuing roles of acute power and severity tended to be atoning for their bestial malformities. It seems plausible enough—a glitch in the mass outcropping of humans is bound to eventually take the form of a vainglorious sasquatch every now and then. It’s more the hysteria of support around him that is interesting—why do blundering fools such as Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler corral such aberrant loyalty? They were grotesque figures, considered buffoons before accessing power. It’s only because patriotism is more magnetic than any god. As Adorno et al. described, “patriotism…involves blind attachment to certain national cultural values, uncritical conformity with the prevailing group way, and rejection of other nations as outgroups.” It is the blind patriotism that is so fascistic—chauvinism, by its nature, is a fetid and truculent enterprise that only manifests from a long-exaggerated tribalism, when we smashed rocks and bones to establish survival over other threatening groups.

As long as we’re still human, we’ll likely never fully outgrow our tribalism. It was a survival mechanism that worked too well. Now, we clutch maniacally only onto what we know, fearing the other shaded men outside. We hate the neighboring middle school in town, then the other high schools in the league, then sports teams or religions that differ from our own—we’re seven billion tribesmen standing with crooked cheeseheads and smeared body paint, stammering why our paddock of dirt is better than theirs. What makes it far more beastly and hideous today than when our ancestors hunched on all fours, grunting and tossing their feces, is we moderns should know better. We’re the momentary products of a 200,000-year enlightenment—one would expect us to be a little more astute of our prevailing commonalities.

But there’s reason for this lingering stupidity. English essayist, Samuel Johnson famously announced that “patriotism is the last refuge for a scoundrel.” Patriotism works like an impenetrable edifice of one’s identity, an ideological safe space for anti-intellectuals. The more illiberal corners of the political left have been justly blamed for calling anyone they disagree with a racist or a bigot—they apply it so haphazardly that when they finally do meet a legitimate racist, the term is no longer effective; similarly, many conservatives call their opponents un-American, as if this were the towering lord of all insults. It is difficult to recover from if a politician is deemed un-American—they’re now on the defensive, having to prove that in fact they are a proud member of this relatively new land.

The Patriot Act of 2001, by its very name, challenged anyone opposed to the act as the antithesis of patriotism. It didn’t matter what the contents of the act were—indefinite detentions of immigrants, the searching of telephone and financial records without a court order, the searching of a home or property without the consent of the owner or occupant. The Patriot Act passed 98 to 1 in the Senate, the only dissenting vote coming from Russ Feingold from Wisconsin, saying its provisions violated the civil liberties of citizens.

Blind patriotism is nothing new, and its tempting to think this is just one more manifestation of our cyclical human deformity, with all its baseless love for the stars and stripes. But it’s not. The patriotism of today is far more contrived than it is blind. There’s a bombasity and overachieving loudness to American patriotism today that makes it all seem so fraudulent and miserable. Men stomping around in head-to-toe camo with semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders, women proudly flaunting their bulging muffin-tops cinched tight with America-themed body armor, red trucks lifted to the height of houses, babies drinking breast milk from Big Gulp mugs while simultaneously punching commies—American patriotism is a fashion statement no more sophisticated than girls wearing garlands and John Lennon glasses at Coachella. It’s a shitty Halloween costume that countless Americans wear everyday. The faux patriotism of today comes out of a desperate overcompensation of life-without-meaning—they wave only the symbols of those ideals without propagating the ideals themselves.

As of 2013, 94 percent of all imported American flags came from China. Polyester showered with carcinogens. But it still works. The meaningless piece of cloth still triggers something deeply primordial in good patrioteers, like a bull who sees a red bed sheet and starts blowing steam from his nostrils. It makes the authoritarian personality that much more serious.

The monumental pettiness surrounding the national anthem debate essentially ends with the contents of the anthem itself. The entirety of “The Star-Spangled Banner” reads more like whorish pedantry, the abecedarian rhymes of which cheapen all polemics about nation and virtue. Written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, only the first verse has been extracted and used for our arduously long ceremonies preceding every major sporting event. Given that the first verse is still dragged through exaggerated undulations, minute after minute, like a glittered masturbatory spectacle in front of forty thousand exhausted beer-bloated fans, perhaps no one dare add a second verse. Adding even one more verse would compromise the attention spans for the rest of the night. Or, perhaps it was to hide the overtly racist rhymes near the end of the third verse:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Francis Scott Key was referring to something specifically annoying to him. In response to the Americans trying to hijack Canadian territory from the British Empire, the British recruited entire families of slaves, training the men to form their own regiment known as the Colonial Marines, assuring they would not return any of them to their former American owners. Not only was it an invitation to escape a life of shackles and routine whippings and sexual humiliation, but a chance to fight against the ideological perversity that enslaved them in the first place, to openly antagonize the ubiquitary of systemic despotism. Anyone in their right mind would take the British up on their offer. Francis Scott Key—a slaveowner himself—held this against slaves, scribing his paeans of death for the opportunistic men with darker skin than his.

“Land of the free and the home of the brave” is now a meaningless phrase that still triggers the most frenzied ravenous excitement. We humans are animals that attach overbearing emotions onto words. When Trump tweets “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag” as reason for why professional athletes should be forced to stand during the national anthem, he’s serving a word salad of patriotic idioms that his base will recognize as their own. Every major word in the sentence ignites a shallow sense of pride and purpose; it assures arousal without providing any real meaning.

The word “patriot”, for example, wasn’t always used to describe the illustrious bravado of camo-obsessed Americans as it is today. Liddell & Scott (A Greek-English Lexicon) wrote that patriotes was “applied to barbarians who had only a common [fatherland].” It was a term used for derisive mockery, defined in Samuel Johnson’s fourth edition of his Dictionary as “a factious disturber of the government.”

The American journalist John Thomas Flynn wrote about it in his As We Go Marching in 1944, a time when even the most ardent American patriotism may have seemed justified: “[W]hen fascism comes it will not be in the form of an anti-American movement or pro-Hitler bund…it will appear rather in the luminous robes of flaming patriotism.” This is where we are today—the gilded dawn of fascism, when men and women march gladly into their weaponized barbarism. Flynn said “when fascism comes,” not “if,” as if it’s an entropic inevitability, as if we humans will invariably create dystopia in our pursuit of utopia.

The cult hero is the representative of this phenomenon, hoisted on his high stage, lamenting about why non-patriots are destroying the country. Trump managed to corral 81 percent of the white evangelical vote without noticeably understanding any Christian practice himself. Similarly, he successfully branded himself as the patriotic choice without having any history in serving the country. When he famously mocked John McCain for getting captured and tortured for five years in Vietnam, or snubbed the Pakastani-American parents of Army captain Humayun Khan, or announced on Twitter that transgender soldiers would not longer be allowed to serve in the military, he became the incarnate celebration of the faux patriot. We’re amidst the self-destruction of reason, a gloating dystopic tribunal of normalities. The world is a cube; sea cucumbers are just slimy cucumbers; and it’s patriotic to loathe and belittle true patriots.

Trump had five deferments during the Vietnam draft, one of which was for heel spurs—calcium buildup in the heel that can oftentimes be treated through stretching exercises. In an interview with the New York Times in July of 2016, he said “I had a doctor that gave me a letter—a very strong letter on the heels.” He never produced a copy of the letter, nor could he remember the doctor’s name; but it doesn’t matter because it was categorically the most patriotic thing he could have done. He was patriotic not to pay his taxes. He was patriotic whenever he grabbed a rogue pussy. He was patriotic under every golden shower, lathering his mangled genitals in the noxious suds. And if hard evidence does reveal that he purposefully colluded with Russia, Trump’s loyalists will not waver—the magnetism of the cult hero is fixed permanently.

This self-styled faux patriotism erodes away only through reason alone, as the demagoguery and supreme brutishness is slowly replaced with a more humane understanding of ourselves, until we fully abandon what Bertrand Russell called the “willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”


Donate Button

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

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

How Trump Rallies are America’s Last Circus

Donald Trump

by Guy Walker

Donald Trump is still campaigning to be president. He’d rather assure his last dreary-eyed supporters that his “Promises Made” are “Promises Kept”—as huge banners read at his rallies—than actually try to understand the complexities of tax code or health care reform.

Trump’s rallies have always had this same desperate tone, like a house party for high school dropouts who managed to beat the nerds in World of Warcraft. From the beginning, it was only about the rallies—a Trump-frenzied gala where he could stand over everybody and flail his arms and ramble on unintelligibly. If it wasn’t about him, then there was no point in going. In February of last year, Trump didn’t attend the Conservative Political Action Conference because it was rumored that around 300 attendees were going to walk out if he came to the stage. This time, he was the star.

And now he didn’t go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner because he didn’t want to sit as a Muslim comedian stood, because he knew he would be publicly caricatured as a human pumpkin, a lasso-twirling madman who doesn’t know what he’s doing. He didn’t want to face the press because they don’t howl his name with smeared American flags painted on their chests; they don’t shove their newborns in his face, demanding that he autograph their little bald heads. The Correspondents’ Dinner was a black tie event, not the usual pageantry of red hats. Besides, Trump was in need of another hurrah, one more orgiastic blowout of nationwide tailgate parties.

Celebrating his 100th day in office, naturally, he wanted a party.  And, per usual, his speech wasn’t about anything other than why his party was better than the one in Washington he refused to go to.

“A large group of Hollywood actors” he retorts, pausing for the expected boos and sneers from people who unanimously forgot their conservative hero Ronald Reagan starred in such movies as Tugboat Annie Sails Again and Bedtime for Bonzo, “and Washington media,” he continued, pausing again, “are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital.” A girl can be seen in the background, looking around, booing because others boo, waving her thumb down in unison with everyone else, like a crowd waving the same gesture at a Roman gladiator about to make the kill.

This is normal and expected. During his campaign rallies, he didn’t wait for hired security to drag protestors out—he instructed his fans to “knock the crap out” of them. “I promise you,” he said, “I will pay for the legal fees.”

And now he might have to. During a 2016 campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, 75-year-old Alvin Bamberger shoved a black female protestor repeatedly, pushing her through the crowd. He was still wearing his Korean War regalia, his barracks cap as crisp and white as a burger flipper’s hat at In-N-Out, his shirt as stiff as cardboard. The woman is now suing Bamberger for assault; and he, in return, is suing Trump for his “urging and inspiration” to shove the woman. In other words, Bamberger is claiming to be a victim of ideological kidnapping—he’s just a slobbering troglodyte anesthetized under Stockholm syndrome. It’s the same helplessness that Patty Hearst claimed when she was supposedly brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, consequently robbing banks and later described as “a low-IQ, low-affect zombie” by clinical psychologist Dr. Margaret Singer.

How many more—and how soon—will admit under the open scabby firmament that they too are low-IQ zombies, barely literate, mesmerized by an orange mad clown with anemic circles around his eyes, blubbering upon his high stage about how rich he is? He currently has around a forty percent approval rating, which is notably high given how sloppy and thunderous his psychopathy is. More than anything, it illustrates the strength of Trump’s cult of personality—the more demonic and perverse he becomes, the more devout his followers are. In the preface to the psychoanalytic masterwork Anti-Oedipus, Michel Foucault refers to man’s innate lust for fascism—and not an external political fascism, but the inexorable fascism within us all that causes us to “desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” It’s why Trump’s comment during the campaign about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and not losing a single supporter is so true. Man loves a good despot, and he will do anything he can to touch even the fringes of his garments.

This isn’t even a metaphor. Remember the viral Youtube video from September 2015 when Trump’s “spiritual counselor” Paula White, and some twenty other ministers all laid their hands on Trump, praying for his victory. At some point during the blessing, a messianic Jewish rabbi groped his face, like some hideous reenactment of Hook when the little black boy identifies the Robin Williams character as Peter Pan. There you are, Donny! There he is, the deep-fried Michelin Man who has now returned their prayers by allowing churches to meddle with future elections. But it’s more than Trump himself—it’s the true power of ideology we see at work, the stalwart allegiance that is especially emblematic of the GOP.

We can scoff at countries like North Korea for deifying Kim Il-Sung, when its citizens still hang pictures of the founding supreme leader in every room of their house, when his body is perfectly preserved and embalmed for public viewing, when a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl drowned trying to save a picture of him (and posthumously given an award for her efforts). But the apotheosis of Donald Trump is equally lurid and dangerous: because he seems to represent everything anti-Obama, many of his supporters will tumultuously follow him down into the fetid depths of depravity, like a Jim Jones or David Koresh character, the facts of his insanity perhaps not yet obvious or intelligible.

The eagerness for political cannibalization of the left, on the other hand, is the other extreme of how an ideology fetishizes in destroying itself. The recent wave of protests on university campuses that have succeeded in preventing speakers with different points of view isn’t driven by anything even mildly virtuous; it’s a wave of politically correct moral panic that suffers by its own impotence. When Stephen Colbert made a joke about Trump’s mouth only being good for Putin’s cock holster, the hashtag #FireColbert immediately began trending on Twitter—self-described American nationalist, Mike Cernovich, and his sickly band of puttering cretins began fuming behind their keyboards that the late night show host should lose his job for making a dick joke about King Pussy Grabber. They knew the hysterical left would take the bait—and they did. Colbert won’t actually get fired, but it’s emblematic of a key difference between the inordinately generalization of “left” and “right” ideologies, in how each treats their television hosts: Colbert simply made us imagine two rotting dictators blow each other, whereas Bill O’Reilly had to actually sexually assault many women to finally be let go. It’s a race for political suicide, but Trump and his marching cavalry of liver-spotted perverts are leading the way.

This image reminds us of General George Custer. An overt racist who had a knack for killing natives during the American Indian Wars, it was Custer’s cavalier nescience that finally did him in. He finished last in his class at West Point, and relished as a media personality; but it was his overconfident superiority complex that caused him to stroll into an Indian encampment in the Montana Territory, assuming he would easily round up or kill all two thousand natives. He was outnumbered and overpowered, and his unprepared invasion resulted in him and his entire 7th Cavalry Regiment being killed—the event now commonly known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

We didn’t need a 100 days to know if Trump could competently govern a nation of 320 million people—we already grimly knew it would be this disastrous. But there’s more than a thousand days of this nightmarish acid trip left, and the only hope is how many more of his followers will pull back hard on his reins the way Alvin Bamberger is now doing. Whether or not there’s any habitable world left after Trump is gone, it will be determined by how many followed him into his own Last Stand, or if he was finally abandoned, left alone in the woods waving his jelly-soaked arms at the buzzing sky, yelling “Follow me this way! It’ll be so great. Believe me, believe me.”


Donate Button

From Silicone Implants to Silicon Humanoids: The Body Must Die

androidcover

by Guy Walker

It’s always the same shameful exposition: standing completely naked in front of a full-length mirror, self-criticizing every lifeless pouch weighed down by gravity. If not that, there’s an extra piece of baggy skin somewhere that hangs like a kite begging for the wind. If not that, your legs are too scrawny; or your lips aren’t plump enough; or your lower-back-to-buttocks ratio isn’t what it should be. We’ve all done it—staring at ourselves in our full bleakness, wishing we had it another way.

But these peripheral fixes are mere trifles. Hacking open a woman’s chest and stuffing it with water balloons, or trimming down an obtuse nose with a metal file doesn’t suffice as a satisfactory remedy to our quaint ephemerality. Our agreed upon commitment to resent our own bodies is driven by far more than the fluttering vanity for a better figure—we’re trapped in a decomposing suit of meat, a slow entropic nightmare drawing out over many decades. A few bright years perhaps, but the window between crawling on all fours in a diaper full of your own excrement and being pushed in a wheel chair in the same embarrassing condition is excruciatingly short. In the grand scheme of things, we’re here for a few seconds and then all drop dead like flies.

Humans have always been at war with their own bodies. We want our fittest most enviable qualities to carry into the future, selfishly imprinting ourselves in as many offspring as possible. Plutarch told stories of the Spartans tossing their unhealthy babies off the mountain—a practice that was presumably meant to heighten and preserve their genetic fortitude. This is, perhaps, a display of antiqued animalism, like an unwarranted human sacrifice without the gods to accept their gifts—babies flailing and crying as they somersault down the hill, smashing into rocks as they go. It’s the human version of a mother bird eating her weakest chick. Ancient Greeks and Romans were known to leave sick infants on manure heaps, sometimes being rescued by others and turned into slaves. We like to think that things have changed, that our proud domesticity has evolved enough to care for the destitute and disadvantaged—but the 2,000 year history of female infanticide in China that still continues today is evidence that the brute is still there, that we can do the unimaginable just for the right set of genitals.

For a while, it seemed like religion’s fault. It’s always wanted to turn the human into some sort of sexless troglodyte, inhibiting the body of its most carnal features until all that’s left is a stinking abstract form of functioning organs, everything wrapped up in a colorless gown. When Catholic nuns—and virtually all women in Saudi Arabia—cover themselves from head to toe, they presumably wish to purify the body’s total libidinal sense. It’s intended as a visible sign of getting closer to their god—a display of ornate sterility, like a peacock who jumped in a bog because it was afraid of its great color. Many Orthodox Jewish married women cover their hair with a wig or half-wig (a sheitel) in order to conform to the religion’s standards of modesty. Cover yourselves, or be damned!

Female genital mutilation is clearly the result of a desperate phobia of pleasure (98% of Muslim women from Indonesia have been hacked at, 93 % of Muslim women from Malaysia, and 98% of all women from Somalia, just to name a few). Masturbation in males was long thought to have caused blindness, mental illness, and epilepsy; and circumcision was the popularized remedy, now postured under the guise of just better hygiene. John Harvey Kellogg, a Christian fundamentalist, created Corn Flakes as an anti-masturbatory breakfast cereal, also advocating for pint-sized yogurt enemas to clean the gut, consequently purifying the soul. Religion has done everything to destroy the human body in some sempiternal quest of holiness, driven by the belief that the body is inherently filthy.

The once prominent religion, Christian Science, declared that there is no body at all, that the material existence is mere illusion, and we should simply ignore growths on the body, symptoms of disease, even death itself. Because you don’t even die—you pass on, presumably to higher worthier frontiers. Nearly every ancient religion seems to have had human sacrifice as a necessary theater of gore in order to appease their gods. Even Christianity is based on the human sacrifice of one man: he had to be crucified for the sins of unwedded orgasms and envying our neighbor’s ass.

But maybe it’s not religion that is innately anti-human. Our war with ourselves has modified through the ages—it has reshaped itself to every cultural and moral custom since monkeys threw feces at each other, and now conforms to the acceleration of scientific and technological advancement. There are those who still pierce their faces with blunt sticks, or stack their necks with thick golden rings because for some reason or another they must manipulate what they were born with; the forefront of modern science basically does the same thing—people naturally indulge in the technologies available to them.

Embryo selection through in vitro fertilization (IVF) is of course the expensively high-tech way to avoid tossing our ugly crippled newborns off the mountain. From what is available from a woman’s supply of eggs, parents can curate their child to their preferred gender, eye and hair color, even selecting the “most intelligent” embryo. But this is only from what is available. Maybe one’s entire gene pool is shit.

So when a new technology called CRISPR-Cas9 emerged in 2013, everything changed. We could now begin the quest of the gods, not curating what was already available, but engineering something entirely new. The Cas-9 protein has been used as a genome editing tool, in which an unfavorable section of DNA sequence can be cut out and replaced with a more desirable section. It’s through this permanent modification of genes within organisms that we can hypothetically build superhuman immune systems, completely eliminate disease and malformities, and finally sculpt man with features from Homeric epics. CRISPR is avant-garde eugenics—it’ll be for parents who want superior babies, no different than when the Nazi’s attempted to manufacture a racially pure race in their hospitals.

For now, CRISPR has only been used to edit animal genetics: researchers have removed malaria from mosquitos, treated muscular dystrophy in mice, modified pig organs to be safer for transplantation into humans. But even now, this research seems pedestrian and passé in the shadow of what we know is possible. An all-knowing übermensch is marching on the horizon, chanting with genius and prose—man will finally achieve his god not through ancient myth and sacrifice, but through scientific excellence, turning us shit-tossing monkeys into computerized cyborgs.

But the allure of genetically reengineering human embryos is here. Once this technology is deemed safe enough, parents will swarm the editing rooms in hospitals (or just laboratories), curating their soon-to-be babies to be a blend of Mozart and Tom Brady, or Marilyn Monroe and Simone de Beauvoir. Every Little League sporting event has a squad of dads at the edge of the playing grounds, their eyes raging and cynical, their mouths frothing like wild dogs, yelling at their sons to play better ball. Soon these same dads will be hovering behind doctors, yelling at them to max out their son’s gene sequence of athleticism. And the levels of excellence will so quickly surpass anything any human has ever achieved. Of course only the richest will be able to afford these “designer babies”, consequently widening the wealth and opportunity gaps to unimaginable levels, impossible ever to recover from.

In our fury of anticipation of CRISPR’s potential, we have already begun the dramatization of where we’re headed. The ultra-fustian HBO series, Westworld, about a vacation retreat in the near future that’s populated entirely with Wild West humanoids, in which wealthy human clients pay to rape and kill anyone they choose without consequence, is a moderately fun thought experiment. Most of it seems possible. The morbid titillation of living out our Grand Theft Auto dreams would be too much for us war-crazed humans to resist—the theatrics would be too great; the ornate bloodshed would be too glorious.

The series begins simply enough: a train of new clients—who are as excited as a gaggle of frat boys headed to their first toga party—arrive in a dusty nondescript town, every detail of which has been tailored to the predictable look of every other Hollywood depiction of the Wild West. After they drink their whiskey and kill their prostitutes, they return to their boring lives back home, in the real world, plodding along on a treadmill at the end of a cul-de-sac. As viewers, of course, we don’t see that part—nobody wants to watch their own tedious lives laid out in front of them. What we see is the dramatized bloodshed, and then the repair, and then the evolution of artificial intelligence take over. Whenever a humanoid is injured or killed during a session of rampaging tourists, they are taken into laboratories and repaired by technicians, reprogrammed and erased of all the horrific memories for the next round of torture. A humanoid’s level of aggression, compassion, hostility, and so forth can be controlled with simple dials on an iPad, allowing a Westworld engineer to easily manipulate how he or she wants a character to behave. It’s little different from the Nexus-6 brain units in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, in which androids can modulate any one of “fourteen basic reaction-postures” and are more intelligent than most of the humans left on earth. In Philip K. Dick’s classic dystopian novel, the robots harness their power and fight back against the humans, who are now a threat to their survival. In the HBO series, they do the same. One of the main characters, a humanoid prostitute, eventually controls her own character dials, giving her abilities her fellow characters don’t. From there, it’s all runaway chaos.

As devouring consumers of these types of shows, we’re programmed to want nothing more: three billion years of evolution and all we want to do is watch robot hookers running wild with guns as we grab another handful of Fritos. But it’s not hard to see the bridge between the CRISPR technology being used to enhance characteristics in embryos and these angry self-controlling AI bots who will do anything to control their own settings. The acceleration of this technology is compounding on itself. Look at video games. When Pong was released in 1972 as the first ever video game, it was radically advanced, capturing the obsession of every runny-nosed kid at the time. It’s only been a few decades since, and we’re already battling other players from around the world in three-dimensional high definition virtual universes.

But this already goes well beyond video games. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on an implantable chip for U.S. soldiers that will connect their brains to death-obsessed computers, consequently turning boys into military cyborgs. It’s what President Obama referred to in 2014 during a White House manufacturing innovation event when he chummily quipped, “we’re building Iron Man.” It’s easy to see where this could go. Previously, police departments have been equipped with the Pentagon’s excess—an overflow of MRAPs and grenade launchers have been used to deter protestors after a black kid gets shot and killed by the police. It doesn’t seem far out to imagine a time when cyborgs—or full on androids—police our streets, lurking in and out of alleyways, suspicious of anything that moves.

Maybe that’s where we always wanted to be: anywhere but this carnal Eden of humans wrapped in nothing but leaves. The religious want to drift amongst the heavens, whipping up clouds behind them as they smile for the rest of eternity. The futurists want to be cyborgs with superhuman strength, nostalgically reenacting their unlived pasts with gun-wielding prostitutes in the desert. We’re stuck too much in the past and the make-believe, while at the same time catapulting ourselves into a future that cannot host something that is committed to destroying itself. Religion never fixed our basic human anxieties, and CRISPR won’t either. It’s one thing for Donald Trump to go giddily insane when Mack Trucks pull onto the White House lawn, as he hoists himself up onto his high chair, blowing the horn and screaming like a chubby toddler with chocolate frosting around his mouth who just got a new toy truck. Just imagine when he gets ahold of DARPA’s Iron Man. He’ll stomp the world, holding the thing like a G.I. Joe action figure, wreaking havoc on us like we’re a city of ants.

“It’s a disaster, a total disaster,” he’ll say, looking upon the rubble of death. “Oh, I did this. Just incredible. Good work everybody, this is incredible.”


Donate Button

%d bloggers like this: