Monday, October 18, 2010

Brain Fatigue And Rage Deficiency

My sincerest apologies to anyone and everyone who comes here to read this blog on a regular or even semi-regular basis and a special thank you to those who have emailed me to make sure that I've been OK over the past two weeks. I'd like to tell you that I've left the blog sitting idle because I've been too busy with various wacky adventures and sexy hi jinks but the truth is that I've recently realized that I'm extremely tired, so much so that I don't think that I can go on any longer. Don't worry, I'm not so tired of life yet that I'm going to eat a bullet or anything like that but rather I'm actually bewilderingly and completely tired of American politics.

I watch and read about the various races across the country lately and I struggle to give even a modicum of a fraction of a damn. Every campaign commercial I hear now sounds exactly the same to me: "I'm tired of career politicians and business as usual in politics. Our elected officials have forgotten who they work for. Help me send a message to Washington that we're not going to put up with partisan politics any longer. Together we can change the tone in D.C. and take our country back." Blah, blablabbity blah, blah, blah. You've heard it all before; I've heard it all before and you obviously don't believe it any more than I do. I consider this type of boilerplate populist tripe to be no more than insultingly simplistic rhetorical masturbation for the ignorant masses (and I hold the entirety of modern media and journalism specifically responsible for this phenomenon, but that's neither here nor there at this point).

"But James", I imagine you retorting to your computer screens, "I thought you were a big supporter of President Obama! He's all about change and ending the partisan divide in Washington. Have you given up on that message and his seemingly earnest attempts to make America a better place?" No I have not, but I have realized that political culture in this country is so disturbingly corrupt and hopelessly mired in a system of failure and inaction that I no longer possess the zeal to believe that it can be significantly changed within my lifetime, short of a national tragedy or a similarly significantly-sized event to shake the average asshole out of their chronic complacency. In short: I give up, and I just don't care anymore. I'm sorry but it's the truth.

I finally understand what so many of my friends and acquaintances have been telling me over the past several years about politics, about how it's just not that important to get so worked up over people and events that are largely and almost completely beyond the control of the average American. I get it now. It's all a game (as so much of life and society is but that's a topic for another time) to make you feel like what you have to say about how this country is run makes a difference and actually matters to those in power. Now I can imagine many of you similarly retorting to your computer screens, "But James, one man/woman can make a difference! The people still have the power of the voting booth!" I wish I could still believe that matters, but I just cannot.

That isn't to say that I'm going to stop voting or anything as ludicrous or ignorant as that. Hell, I've already registered and the county's going to try to nail me for jury duty as a result so I might as well flex my citizen rights every two years but I've realized that the amount of energy and stamina it takes to remain emotionally invested in American politics is hardly worth the meager reward, either emotional or electoral. I'm reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movie Blade: Trinity. Blade (who is a vampiric vampire hunter played by Wesley Snipes, for the woefully uninitiated) is in police custody and a government psychologist is questioning him to assess his connection to reality and concurrent level of sanity:

VANCE: What about the President? Do you know who's in the White House at the moment?

BLADE: Some asshole...
Now of course I don't think that Barack Obama is personally an asshole (the movie came out in 2004 so draw your own conclusions as to their nonspecific target...) but it does speak to a larger problem within our society: most people who decide to go into politics are either self-involved assholes or self-important assholes or both. Yes, there are some legitimately good men and women in Washington earnestly trying to make this country a better place but the vast majority of people who eventually gain any significant amount of power there, and thus have the ability to institute any significant amount of change within the system, find themselves so endlessly mired within it that they eventually become everything they ran against, if they even made any attempt to portray themselves as such in the first place. Again, in short (and with all due apologies to Orwell): power corrupts, and I'm finally sick of it.

So, the next obvious and obviously self-involved question here is: does this spell the end of Brain Rage? I would very much like to answer in the negative and say "Hell no! Are you fucking kidding me?!" but the more honest answer is "I just don't know". Continuing on the honesty kick, I have to say that it's been fairly liberating not worrying about what I'm going to write here day to day and it's been even more refreshing not paying much attention to the 24 hour news cycle as if it were my job to do so, despite the nagging voice in the back of my conscience urging me to do just that on a continuous basis. I'd be lying if I said that I don't enjoy writing about current events here but I'd be lying even more if I said that I find the entire enterprise of caring about most of those said events more fulfilling than I do taxing of late.

So again, where does this leave us? And again, I just don't know. I've always been one to follow my intellect over my instincts on most matters because I've realized over the years that my instincts amount to exactly jack shit when compared to my intellect (which definitely says more about my instincts than it does my intellect) and I'm not planning on abandoning that line of reasoning anytime soon but I have been known to change my mind on occasion. Regardless, I plan to spend the vast majority of my time in the immediate future concentrating on real world plans that've been fomenting for some time now outside of the blogging world, i.e. dressing up as a masked crime fighter by night and solving mysteries. So if these are indeed my last words here, many thanks to those who have taken the time to read the meager thoughts I've committed to cyberspace over the past few years and bon chance in your own future endeavours. I'll be around, somewhere.

I remain, as always, James B. Webb. Adieu.

P. S.: I would be remiss here if I didn't take a moment to address my conservative counterpart and constantly comedic foil Donald Douglas of American Power. Don, I've tried to find even an iota of entertainment within your posts or even from one of your sycophantic commenters over the past few weeks as I have in the past but I've woefully come up short on both counts. To say that you're a caricature of your side of the aisle, again as I have many times in the past, is still entirely accurate but unfortunately it's no longer nearly as entertaining. To happily quote one of my fellow nihilistic bloggers: "You're fucking clown shoes". I'll be around two years hence to collect my one hundred dollars when Barack Obama is successfully reelected as our president. Enjoy rhetorically beating off to your big victory this November: it will almost assuredly be short-lived. And good luck with that whole "leftists hate America and are trying to destroy it" schtick. I can think of no more suitable nor entertaining epithet for this blog. Please have someone explain the concepts of humor and irony to you at some point before you shuffle loose this mortal coil. And again, adieu.

[Update: There's no way I'm going out on a down note by addressing Don. Here's something a thousand times more kick-ass: Sgt. Adam Sniffen from the 101st Airborne Division delivering the game ball via parachute before the Michigan vs. MSU game at Michigan Stadium two weeks ago:

Too cool. Adios.]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Something Inspired Someone Else Said

"Then, knees touching, neck muscles relaxing, brow drying in the cold dry air, we should drink. Certain things were put upon this earth for our enjoyment, and it’s wasteful and wicked to condemn them," -Barbara Holland, "in praise of the happy hour, the darkened bar, and the winding down of the day".

The New Yorker article I took the quote from begins thusly:

A few weeks ago, the headline of an obituary in the Times caught my eye: “Barbara Holland, Defender of Small Vices, Dies at 77.” A “defender of small vices”—what a fine title by which to be remembered, the kind of informal, appointed job that you didn’t know exists but then seems essential once you do.
I never knew Ms. Holland, nor did I even know of her before today, and although we were divided by forty years and a vast swath of the United States I already consider her a kindred spirit. In Endangered Pleasures I think I may have just found the next submission for my book club.


Political Connotations

Shankar Vedantam talks about studies of both campaigns from the 2008 presidential election:

The researchers found that when they subliminally flashed the name Obama before [McCain] volunteers—the flashes were so brief that the volunteers did not notice the flash—this unconsciously activated words such as Arab, turban, and mosque in the minds of McCain supporters. Likewise, subliminally flashing the word McCain unconsciously activated words such as senile, dementia, and Alzheimer's in the minds of Obama supporters. The same thing did not happen when volunteers were flashed the name of the candidate they supported. The slur-related words were activated only by unconsciously reminding them about the candidate they opposed.
This is why I always say that "both sides do bad things" and that if anyone says that their side does not that they are inveterate liars. But I also say that "one side is better at saying bad things and making them stick". Ask yourself which is more likely to be true: that John McCain is losing control of his mental faculties because he's growing old or that Barack Obama hates America because he's a secret Muslim?


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Something Someone Else Said

"In the Western world today, there is a group of people who live in a haze of unreality, and are prone at any moment to break into paranoia, hallucinations, and screaming. If you try to get between them and their addiction, they will become angry and aggressive and lash out. They need our help. I am talking, of course, about the Drug Prohibitionists: the gaggle of politicians, bishops and journalists who still insist that the only way to deal with the very widespread drug use in our societies is for it to be criminalized, where it is untaxed, unregulated, controlled by armed criminal gangs, and horribly adulterated," -Johann Hari, The Huffington Post.

Illogic is indeed powerfully addictive.


Maher's New Rules: Barry Whitehouse

Last night Bill Maher laid out why people need to stop their whining and remember everything President Obama has accomplished thus far when they go into the voting booth in November:

Things haven't gone as smoothly as many would have liked but these are tough times and I believe that we're better off with Obama than we would have been without him. I still can't stand the Democratic party but in a two party system with these choices I don't consider it much of a choice at all. I realize that my perspective is somewhat skewed leftward but I still think the majority of honest intelligent Americans would agree with me on this. November will be rough but I don't think it will necessarily be as bad as many are predicting. Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Amazing Musical Instrument

An obviously fictional musical instrument favoring process over product: