Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Don't Watch the Video

Today, a madman with a gun did what has become one of the most mundane, everyday incidences to lead the day's news headlines in America: he killed several people; however, this time was different. The man took a video of the shooting on his phone as it happened on live TV.

The man shot a reporter, her interview subject, and the cameraman, filmed it, and posted it on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. As you'd expect, it was taken down by the sites, but many have saved it and uploaded it elsewhere. Don't watch it.

Why, you ask? You probably expect to hear the usual "this is what the killer would have wanted you to do" from many people, but that isn't why you shouldn't watch it. You shouldn't watch it because this is a video depicting a brutal act that shows the end of someone's life. We shouldn't want to watch people die, regardless of whether or not we know them, or hate them, or what have you, because it isn't at all like a movie or a TV show. These people won't appear in other shows, or movies, or talk about their death scenes in an interview: they're gone.

Death isn't a fetish, it is a fact of life and something that just about everyone will try to avoid in the course of their lives. It is both fascinating and perverse, but we do not set up shop in a hospital's ER just to watch incoming patients fight for their lives.

What's more, who wants to be remembered solely for being killed on tape?

That's all for now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Trump Dump

Donald Trump is a joke. I'm not even going to provide you with any examples of that because I don't need to, nor do I want to; all you have to do is Google "Donald Trump" and I'm pretty sure the first hit that'll come up will be about something he said or did. He's the greatest living actor alive: he took on the role of a condescending, narcissistic talking cardboard box of a man for a TV show where people gargle on his testicles day in and day out, and apparently he's still living it, whether he realizes it or not.
He's also running for president of the US of A. Any political scientist worth their salt and poor salaries will tell you that he has about as much chance of winning the presidency, let alone the republican nomination, as most of the contestants on his shitty TV shows have at tasting anything other than the bitterness of defeat on the hairs of Trump's ballsack. Recent polls suggest that Trump is ahead of the other candidates, but polling is notoriously flawed.
But, for the sake of dreams and rainbows and 'fun,' let's imagine a world where Donald Trump has attained the republican nomination for president. (Keep in mind that this is also a world where pigs fly and human farts reverse global warming.) Now let's think about how various people would react on election day; I can think of a few:
  • "Donald Trump is the nominee? Better vote for the other guy/lady, whoever they are."
  • "Donald Trump is the nominee? Sweet! Let me go grab my gun and shoot some immigrants! Oh, and vote too!"
  • "I wasn't going to vote for him anyway."
  • "Donald Trump is the nominee? Well, this just delegitimizes the entire American political process and demonstrates precisely that only the wealthy can attain power in the country, whether it's directly or indirectly by lobbying! I'm not voting. Now I'm going to go to Chipotle and fight global warming."
  • "We have elections in America?"
I'd say that covers it. Speaking of coverage, I get that news stations are supposed to cover candidates, but come on, guys. If you want a smarter electorate, give us smarter programming that's not about self-aware vacuum cleaners.

That's all for now, Das Flüg 



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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Maybe

When I walk to and from work on my usual route, I normally pass a raucous homeless man who is impossible to not notice with any of the 5 senses. He would push his cart up and down the street, yelling incomprehensible proclamations to the sky, every so often pausing to read from what I assumed was his personal bible. I believe I once made out the words "CIA" and "Obama" from his hoarse pontifications.

Whenever I walk to or from work, I typically turn my brain on autopilot and set my legs to one course: the train station home. My eyes stare forward at my distant destination, and nothing diverts my attention, save for the occasional attractive woman or the aforementioned homeless man.

It took me several walks to and from work to realize that the homeless man wasn't there anymore. No more partially toothless shouting, no more layers upon layers of clothes, even in warm weather. I started to wonder if he had moved to somewhere with better shelter, or perhaps he had died. That was the sad thought: if this man was actually dead, then he likely died without anyone knowing his name.

And I started to wonder about him. He was someone's son; maybe he was a brother. Maybe he had a father, maybe he had a mother, maybe he was an uncle, maybe he had a cousin. Maybe he had friends; maybe they stole a Playboy and saw their first naked women together. Maybe they knew his name. Maybe he grew up in a house where life wasn't easy and circumstances were drawn against him. Maybe he made some bad choices; maybe he made some good ones. Maybe he once marveled at the simplicity of rain, maybe he once wondered about how cars worked. Maybe he went to school. Maybe he was enjoyed at it, maybe he didn't. Maybe he never wanted to admit that he enjoyed it; maybe he thought he could do something else with his life. Maybe he fell in love; maybe he had his heart broken. Maybe he made a mistake; maybe he lost everything. Maybe he was a genius who lost his mind. Maybe he had regrets. Maybe he didn't realize he had regrets. Maybe his friends forgot him. Maybe his family was gone. Maybe he never knew it.
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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Party on a Sinking Ship

There's a strange irony to global warming. On the one hand, the world is getting invariably hotter due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This will, of course, cause the ice caps to disintegrate and sea levels to rise, which will create coastal flooding and completely muck about with the air streams in the oceans, which will affect temperatures globally, which will affect crops, rainfall, etc. etc. etc. NASA recently estimated that the rate of melting is actually increasing. All of this has, of course, been precipitated by the human race's use of fossil fuels.
Not much has been done in terms of stalling the rise of temperatures past the point of no return, though steps have been taken, such as in China. In other places, such as in Australia, where James Bond villain caricature and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sought to renew Australia's use of coal. The debates in the US congress might as well be made into mythical songs, given that around half of Republicans in congress don't believe in climate change.
On the other hand, companies have already started lining up for the possibility of drilling for oil in the eventually melted arctic ice shelf. And even though President Obama has continually vocalized for action to be taken on global warming, he allowed for Shell to resume its drilling in the Arctic. It's generally unsurprising, given that the US is set to become the largest oil producer in the world, if it isn't already.
Obama put it well enough himself in his bit during the 2015 Correspondents Dinner when he had 'Luther the anger translator' yodeling behind him: ignoring the science of climate change is stupid, irresponsible bullshit. And yet, he's still allowing for continual mining of the very resource that contributes to rising global temperatures.
Some companies (notably Shell) have bandied around the tag that oil helps underdeveloped countries/regions catch up to more developed countries, but that entire mode of thinking is completely illogical. Wouldn't introducing clean technologies allow for an even greater leap in development? Why not fund research for more efficient solar energy in regions around the equator and on island nations?
I like to imagine that most world leaders, either at the corporate or government level, go into their positions believing that they can change their country and the world for the better (except for Tony Abbott. And David Cameron, for that matter, who said that climate change is serious but still advocates for hydrolic fracturing, aka fracking). They then, after learning the ins and outs of the job, succumb to the pressures of economics, or at least to the silver tongues of advisers with deep, wide pockets.
Or I could be entirely wrong and most elected leaders are just very good orators with no actual substance behind them. Tomato, tomato.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The World is Too Big

How do you view yourself? A fish in a pond, a cog in the machine, a beacon in the dark? Do you hold the next great idea? Are you the next big actor? Will you change the world? Save it? Burn it? Rule it? Leave it?

Do you see yourself as the mouse in the maze, or the scientist testing the rat's best time?

So much happens in the world and we can't even comprehend it all: Vladimir Putin trying to sow discord in the EU and annex more of Ukraine, China and US in a cyber war that goes completely unspoken, all the human rights violations in North Korea, ISIL spreading throughout the Middle East, Palestinians struggling to get electricity, strikes and discontent across South America, the hottest year on record in Antarctica, California running out of water, the FBI not allowing for public disclosure of its surveillance technology, cartel wars in Mexico, the slow privatization of public services and the military, corporate oligopolies, etc. etc.

If the list in the paragraph above strikes you as surprising in any way, I can assure you that this is a very, very small list of issues that runs in the background of the news you see on TV every day. The fact is that the average news show is only set up in such a way so as to present to you the news of the day with some other tidbits in between, depending on what station it is. Even if a show anchor wants to present something other than the doldrums of the day's headline news, they're required to dedicate a certain amount of time to the stories, even if the anchors on the previous shows have covered them to an early death.

I concede that it's good to know what the president/prime minster is up to, but to follow them around in the course of their daily lives, even if they're on vacation? Even if they're just spending time with their family for Christmas or going out to get a burrito?

It serves a purpose, some would argue; it humanizes the president/pm and makes him/her seem more like a person and less like a plutocrat. At the same time, dedicating a news story to how he/she hit a jump shot only detracts from a much more important story, such as the pending merger between Comcast and Time Warner, or the murder of Putin's largest opponent. (Those are two stories that have been covered, but to the extent that they should be? Certainly not.) A person's day-to-day is not news.

But then what is important to the average person? Usually, you can count them off on your fingers: money, job, social life, a place to live, and all the minutiae in between those fingers. Most will never look to completely change the world or lead it, and are content to make enough money so that they're happy.

This doesn't speak to the difference in some cultures, where getting more is better, or having too much money is looked down upon.

Few will ever make a huge dent in the sociopolitical fabric of everyday life. It's a fact that can be generalized throughout time whenever one studies the 'lucky few' who have their names in the history books. For instance, a majority of Americans (estimation by Howard Zinn) in the 1770s didn't support separation from the UK. And yet, America's founding fathers hold an esteemed position in American history, even though all were wealthy slave owners, and were, on average, very young to boot. They were the extreme minority.

I've found myself thinking that the world is far too big, regardless of how much some pundits may say that it's smaller than ever because it's more crowded and we've got the internet and whatnot, because it's the truth. The world is big, and complex, and one person could never even hope to truly comprehend every viewpoint and issue that pervades the social fabric of our time. There are 7 billion people on this Earth, a number that is unconscionable to most, since most people can't even accurately guess how many pennies are in a jar when there's a prize on the line.

What's more, it's easy to completely ignore the rest of the world. It's easy to never think about how some things affect people thousands of miles away because they're not immediate. You'd never imagine the life of someone who is afraid of a clear blue sky because of the possibility that they'd be killed by a drone high in the sky, or understand what it is to be without running water in a desert, because those problems aren't immediate. Yes, we in the western world are concerned about drones, but overall, they aren't bombing anyone on the local soil. There is no danger to us.

Terrorism was the one action to slither its way into the public conscience because it became immediate. The danger was there, clear and present, playing on the TV nonstop for 24 hours a day for months on end. Terrorism was the issue that moved from the invisible to the visible, from the shacks and debris of war-torn regions to Main Street.

Those in the smallest minority, those dedicated to waging a lopsided war on behalf of a defunct notion of justice, changed the course of history. That's not to say that the people who commit atrocities should be lauded in the centuries to come, but that precisely isn't a judgment anyone can make. History, as is said so often, is written by the victors, and there has never been a victory so difficult or an issue so muddled as what it actually means to triumph against terrorism.

Even then, when the issue became visible, so many people didn't understand it. The world was too big at that point, the issue too complex, so the reasoning became simple and stupid, compacted and rebranded until it could be sold to even a squirrel picking at nuts in the Autumn.

The world is big. You're small. It is simply the way of any organism living on a rock floating in space. Don't feel bad because that's how you were born, and it's how you'll die.

This has been a post full of rambling. I'm sure I had a point somewhere, but I'm typing this out at work while there is nothing to do. Oh well.

That's all for now,
Das Flüg

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Finish writing one book, start another. It's all I can do to be alive.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Old Artist on the Train

The hairs of his thick white mustache bristled back and forth with each swivel of his head, and he made many, stealing far too many glances at his subject while the thick black marker trapped between his fingers skated across the page of his hand-held notebook. With each scan of his muse, flickers of youth swam behind his eyes as the spirit of past artisans guided his hand without the slight tremble of his bones.
In a moment, he pushed his rectangular glasses up the bridge of his nose, held together only by the thinnest copper wire, and reveled in his work, but only for a moment; there were other subjects on the train, he saw. In fact, everyone was his subject, including the young beauty next to him.
With a straightening of his black newsboy cap and a lick of his lips, his marker was off once again, racing across the page while the old man drew the likeness of his neighbor. She, like the old man's other neighbors, looked on curiously, trying to restrain their childlike grins and excitement at the notion of an artist amongst them.
In another few seconds, the drawing was finished, and he tore it out of his notebook and handed it to the beauty. She smiled, brushing the stray blond hair from her face that poked out from under her winter hat, and thanked the man.
"Is a, is a motion," he said in his broken English, motioning to how he drew her. "Is a, how I see through my eyes, is a concept. Ah, look."
In a second he was drawing again, squinting his eyes towards a passenger in the distance. The other woman next to him, someone who was trying too hard to hide their obvious fascination, smirked wider than she intended. He finished the drawing and smiled, spreading the hairs of his mustache into a comb.
"Is instant concept. In my studio, in Romania, is many drawings, many paintings, I see people, person, and imagine how they look inside, as people, not as person. Are you artist?"
"I guess," said the girl with a shy grin. She clutched the drawing in between her mittened fingers. The old man shook his head in a quick jitter and pulled on the end of his worn out black leather jacket.
"No no, artist is or is not, but there, eh, there many people who artists but, don't see it! Ah, don't see it! All people artists if they like, just need to search for, eh, eh, inspiration! Ha!" His eyes darted to another subject, and like a well-practiced horse, his hand was off to the races, moving across his small piece of paper before the beauty could realize it. There were times that he paused in his movements to take in the subject, or when his hand would move across the paper freely without his eyes tracing its path, but at every moment, he was captivated by his subject.
"All people artists, all people art," he said, turning the page. "You see this?" he asked the beauty, pointing to the drawing he gave her. She nodded.
"It is how your face is not, but it makes your painting more natural. Ah, ah, the, ah, bone in the face, it is not true to the person, yes? How you see yourself, yes? Only if your bones matched you!" He chuckled, but his eye caught yet another subject, and with rapt attention, he took to the page once again.
The beauty watched in glee as this man made no other attention towards anything but his subject, a young man whose youth was spiraling down the drain of his late-night coffee-addled job. The gentle lines underneath his eyes, like waves of skin, belied the hardened edges of his fingers where, even decades earlier, one might have found the artist dabbling away with a pen and a notebook.
"It is the, the ah, the pain, the tired, in him. He is tired," he said, pushing his glasses up and pointing to the drawing. "It is not how he wants to be, but, ah, how he has made himself."
He flipped the page yet again.
"It is how, ah, he is, ah, in, in prison, in his eyes."
The beauty's smile flickered, and her eyes darted briefly to the subject. The smallest bit of empathy betrayed her gaze, and perhaps she understood, at least underneath the simplicity of the moment, the emotion that the artist saw.