Charlie Sheen and why it’s time to hit CTRL+ALT+DEL on culture

Notes from the Conquistadork…

Far be it from me to pull the “when I was your age” card, but…

…When I was your age, when me and my friends wanted to worship a drug addled lunatic, we went with Hunter S. Thompson. Nowadays, everyone loves Charlie Sheen and will not shut the fuck up about it.

…Whoops, I just crapped my Depends.

But really–the recent Roast of Charlie Sheen left me feeling like a guy who just made out with his hot stepsister. I mean sure–it was fun. But it leaves you with a dark, cancerous feeling inside. The fact that most of the jokes surrounding Sheen and guest Mike Tyson had to do with their women-bashing ways did not help. Because when I think comedy, I think domestic violence. If you missed any of it, let me give you an example:

Presenter: Mike Tyson is here!

Unexplainably loud applause from audience.

Presenter: Mike Tyson sure does rape and beat women.

Applause, as Tyson takes a bow, as if to say, ‘Yes–I do indeed rape and beat women’

Presenter: Charlie Sheen does drugs and beats women!

Wild laughter and clapping as Sheen stands and bows proudly. The audience bears Sheen aloft and buys him heroin-tequila shooters. Camera cuts to formerly abused ex-wives who shrug as if to say “That’s my man!”

They might as well have brought them a fresh hooker every time he needed someone to put out a cigarette on.

I know this is my weekly time to be funny, but we really need to do something about this. The obvious answer is to eliminate Charlie Sheen. But that is how martyrs are made.

No–I think the best thing for Charlie Sheen is also the best thing for the rest of us:

Make a third Hot Shots movie. Have him parody whatever action flunkie movies came out that year, and promptly forget he ever existed.

This will mean a clean sweep of the internet. That’s right folks: we might need to get rid of the past two decades worth of memes, comic strips and flash-based animations. Trust me–we need this. No more YouTube, no more Google, no more Classy Ha—-

….

Oh well, nevermind–long live Charlie Sheen!

Follow @ElConquistadork on Twitter! He’ll teach you how to friend the internet itself!

Murder on Skull Drive, Episode 4

This particular episode of Murder on Skull Drive deals with the secrets that people keep, the kind of deep, dark fetishes that damn a man in the night and keep him grappling within the stench of his own shadows. And apparently those shadows smell like “a cat died in a bag of cinammon”.

Also, almost twenty of the rooms in your house should be a functioning TJ Maxx, and I hope to God they all play “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” on their overhead speakers.

Nancy – Becca Flinn
Nigel Cornfellow – Dan Fulton
Roderick – Zak White
Narrator/Whiskers – Todd Spence
Written by Zak White
Recorded and engineered by Dan Fulton
Created by Zak White

episode4 by MurderOnSkullDrive

My Life as a Mash-Up VIII

There is something people like to tell you when you talk about of college, and it’s this:

“The longer you wait, the harder it is to go back.”

It’s one of those things that everyone’s heard a thousand times, and just accepts as fact. So, when you’re older, and you start obsessing about this thing you meant to do because you don’t really want to be a cocktail waitress for the rest of your life, people vomit the words that sit idly by on the back of their collective tongues for such occasions, much like the term “It is what it is.”, the latter being my least favorite of all.

Side note: “It is what it is.” is a nonsensical term that is said when there’s nothing else to say about something, but someone feels the need to have either A: the last word or B: a moment of condescension about some topic they really don’t know much about. “It is what it is.” is the equivalent of saying nothing. Tip: Saying nothing will make you sound smarter than saying “It is what it is”. Trust me.

I think I can safely divide people on the outside of ‘going back to school’ in to three categories. There are the “longer you wait…” people, who went to college and finished it in one go, or dropped out and have no plans to go back. That’s cool- I get school isn’t for everyone, and some people are just good at it fresh out of high school. It still doesn’t make that statement entirely true.

The second tier of peripheral ‘friends’ are the non-believers. Fact: These people suck. They get really defensive when you start talking about returning to a higher education, and usually answer your ponderings with “Why?” They’re the ones who’ll cite people that didn’t go to college in an example like this: “Well, Picasso didn’t go to college, and he was, like, a famous painter, ya know?” Or this: “Just get a book on it, man, and like, teach yourself.”

The third, generally minority, group of people are the supporters. These are friends. They say things like “That’s awesome. Do it, you’ll rock at it.” Or, even better: “If you need help with that, I’m totally here for you.” We like these people because they recognize that ‘back-to-school’ doesn’t mean you’re setting out to be smarter than THEM, but better than YOU WERE. Hey, non-believers, take note…

My Fair Lady-meets-O Brother Where Art Thou?

When I left film school in 2000 I set off on a fabulous adventure across the country every-which-way-I-could. My odyssey spanned the Brit Pop nights in Gainesville, Florida; public transportation-al wonders of Portland, Oregon; and the music scenes, respectively, of Nashville, Tennessee and Austin, Texas.

Out of the chain-gang-dom of (what I believed was) high-school-extended-college I was freed, and the epic journey to find a mythical fortune lay ahead of me across the glorious mountains and plains of the good ol’ U-S-of-A.

Though I started off as naïve as Eliza Doolittle, I was perfectly happy not sitting absolutely still- for seven years. Instead of longing to work in a real flower shop, pulled up from the dregs of lowly ‘flower girl’, I was happy working my way up from cocktail waitress to bartender, all the while scribbling away melodrama in stacks of composition notebooks. It took seven years of bar work, doing the ‘read a book on it’ writerly-education, to realize that I might be able to pass myself off as a Duchess (writer) to some people, but I never would believe it for myself.

After years of Henry Higgins (my uber-supportive mom) incessantly suggesting “The Rain In Spain” (go back to school), I started to actually listen. Then, one day, sitting in a house in East Nashville watching the naturally talented ex play guitar with confidence, I realized that school wasn’t something that I needed- it was something I WANTED. A well-choreographed musical number followed, with my mom dancing around in a smoking jacket singing “By George I think she’s got it!”

So that’s when My Fair Lady transformed to the stages of Ulysses Everett McGill. Or, rather, poetically speaking: And then came the flood…

This is when I discovered the triple breakdown of ‘friends’ I mentioned above. There were blind men speaking in theological codes (i.e. the “Why” rhetoric), attempted robberies (“You can’t.”), and many efforts to catch a train I just wasn’t ready or fast enough to hop on. But then there was a baptism of sorts (with a little bit ‘o luck): I got accepted.

Which was I, at that point: Eliza, or Everett? I think I was both. On the one hand, Eliza leaves a young suitor for her teacher, and I suppose that’s what eventually happened to me (metaphorically, mind you). But on the other hand, I was returning to something I had a falling out with. My education was like a relationship that had grown too demanding, too limiting for my liking, but after years of stubborn arrogance I found that I was really just working my way back to it.

Once I was in it- really finding my way (ego)- the masks came off and the real musicians were reveled. I was fucking GOOD. Not great, not the best, but GOOD- and what I got from going back was real confidence. Bona fide, even.

Now school is not without its own struggles. Lord of the Lake Rings happened again and again, rewrite after rewrite, but the biggest asset I had going in was perspective- not just seven years on most students, but of the adventure that got me there.

So the answer is not “The longer you wait, the harder it is to go back.” That can be partially true, if you get kidnapped by sirens or betrayed by kin (which, I suppose, can loosely be translated in to corporate underemployment-black-holes or mythic societal obligations). What’s really true is that, as long as you’re paying attention to what you’re experiencing on the road, everything is an asset when you get where you’re going. The longer you wait, the more shit you have to draw from. It IS a relationship, you and school: like dating, the more you do it, the more you know what you definitely don’t want. Eventually, through process of elimination, you’ll figure out what will you do.

From one enormous chair,
Jeannie

CTM: Overtime – 3

If not for the editing choices alone, this sketch is inspirational because Asterios Kokkinos shoulda been on Mad TV a loooooong time ago, and the entire sketch is a metaphor for my childhood. This is pre-pogs, mind you, which is a term that I just made up and suddenly adore: pre-pogs. Say, what do you call psychic who loves snap bracelets? A pre-pog precog!

Clearly, I have a future at Laffy Taffy. And my mother is strangely okay with that.

No, seriously, snap bracelets are the devil and are responsible for more playground fights than gum, girls, or your mom. This epidemic can only be controlled by educating our youth and annoying the adults that are too far gone to know better. Just think of how many hands could be slapped away from reaching for some deadly and harmful vice: beer, gum, girls or your mom. Now think of those hands being chopped off by a neon band of sheet metal and you’ve got a movement on your hands! …Er, hand. Expect the re-release of the Empire Strikes Back Blu-Ray to have Vader taking care of his son in this much more caring and colorful manner. Hell, I’d buy it.

 

Good news: I’m still great at video games.

Notes From The Conquistadork…

Like all of you, in the year of 1990 I was horrified to discover that I was a geek. By this time, I had written original backstories for each and every one of my GI Joes (because the ones on those profiles cards on the back were such bullshit). I had decided that my life’s ambition was to become a mad scientist. Also, my weekly gaming of Super Mario Brothers and Castlevania and reached a solid 40-hours–early to bed, early to rise. Cause that nasty King Koopa ain’t gonna kill himself. Not yet, anyway.

I danced through these games with the ease of a robot assassin murdering non-robot assassins. This commitment to excellence continued until after college graduation, when the reality of poverty sank in, and I suddenly unable to keep up with the latest and greatest of consoles and video game innovation. I fell into what is known by some as the “old gamer curve”. We’re the aging gamers that buy all our games used, years after their release. We’re the guys who finished Halo for the first time around the time Halo 3 came out. It’s sweet and sad at the same time, like seeing an octogenarian buying green bananas.

So when I finally entered the realm of multiplayer shooters, I was suitably frightened. This, I had been told, was a world of asian hackers and preteens who execute you while screaming “faggot!” over the headphones. I don’t remember what made me thought logging in would be a good idea. As my system searched for a random party to join, I began to sweat. This wasn’t Super Mario anymore. I couldn’t just jump over my opponent to reach an axe and drop his bridge from beneath him.

Turns out, this is exactly what I could do.

After my first few rounds of learning curve, I found myself supporting teammates with code names that referenced old pen and paper roleplaying games. Some of these guys had stormed through fifty hours of Simon’s Quest. The idea that I wasn’t the only person pushing thirty was heartening. And then I cut down my first opponent. And I haven’t turned back since.

Now I’m the obnoxious guy screaming “faggot!” You won’t hear me, though–I still haven’t gained the courage to wear the headset.

Are you down with the totally cool new-wave gamer dudes? Are you leet? Remember: the leetest of the leet follow @ElConquistadork on Twitter!

100 Interviews: #2. KADAM MORTEN – “A Buddhist priest/teacher.”

–Editor’s note: Gaby Dunn first wrote an original piece for Classy Hands well over a year ago and since then, we’ve found ourselves reposting her material almost weekly. Gaby has become somewhat of an internet celebrity in the interim. Her growth in popularity has little to do with us. Instead her blog, 100interviews, has taken off. 

Recently Gaby finished her 100th interview for the project and will be publishing the final pieces over the next few weeks, in time for the deadline she set for the project. Everyone here at Classy Hands wishes a hearty congratulations and wishes her all the best. This is her most recent 100interivews article.–

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Kadampa.org

 

Buddhism, I learn, is a science of the mind.

In fact, in the free e-book ‘Modern Buddhism’ by Geshe Kelsang, it’s defined as “scientific methods for improving our human nature and qualities through developing the capacity of our mind.” This is not the scientific method I remember from grade school.

After work a couple Fridays ago, I head to an office buidling in Chelsea and take the elevator to the fifth floor. There I find Geshe Kelsang’s Chakrasambara Kadampa Meditiation Center and its resident teacher, Kadam (or “Teacher”) Morten.

The center is a few rooms used as a kitchen, an office, a bookstore and a big carpeted meditation and prayer “temple.” Golden statues of the Buddha line the walls, above them are paintings of the different Buddhas, representing different aspects of the enlightened mind. There’s also a platform with a pillow, from which Kadam Morten leads meditations and classes like “The Key to Happiness” and “Understanding the Mind’s Potential” while students sit on the carpet or in folding chairs. It’s a simple, beautiful set-up.

Morten, a welcoming guy who looks way younger than his actual age, is originally from the primarily non-spiritual country of Denmark. His father was a diplomat so the family split time between home, New York and Switzerland. When Morten was 10, his parents became interested in transcendental meditation, then a popular 1970s fad. That was when Morten learned to meditate.

In Switzerland, Morten’s father became sick with cancer. Morten remembers practicing meditation as a way to relieve his own stress. Back then, Eastern medicine was not mainstream; it would have been seen as absurd to teach meditation to sick people. There was less of an accepted medical connection between the mind and the body.

When Morten was sixteen, his father passed away.

“I felt no peace,” he says. “At that point, that was obviously a huge event within our family, traumatic, tragic. It was definitely, for me, really for my whole family, a bit of a spiritual wake‑up. I was basically interested in, for lack of a better way of saying it, exploring the meaning of life…That’s what I was trying to work out: Why are we alive? Why do we have to die? What the heck is going on?”

His fascination with meditation and Buddhism continued when he went to college in York, England to study English literature. There, he found a Buddhist center and kept gravitating towards what he calls “a meditative way of thinking.”

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing traditions, beliefs and practices based on the teachings of a 4th through 6th century man named Siddharta Guatama. He is commonly known as “The Buddha” and in short, believed in enlightenment as an end to the cycle of suffering and rebirth.

Morten says the main commitment is not to harm others and the main practice is to give love and to understand the potential for compassion, the mind and love. He does also wish to achieve enlightenment himself.

The Buddhist center is where Morten met his teacher: the aforementioned Geshe Kelsang, an 86-year-old Tibetan man. “Geshe” is a title meaning “spiritual friend.” Geshe Kelsang had been raised a monk in a Tibetan monastery, and fled to India when the Chinese took over the country. There, he went into a retreat for 20 years. When Morten met him in 1981, Kelsang had been sent over to the West to set up Buddhist Centers in Europe.

Morten gestures behind me to a series of three photos of Geshe Kelsang outside wearing a winter hat. They’re hanging on Morten’s office wall. He’s the cutest, thinnest old man I’ve ever seen. His smile practically blooms on his face. I tell Morten I think Kelsang is adorable.

“He is an authentically happy fellow, which is quite rare,” he says, admiration evident.

I ask if Kelsang is considered “enlightened” or if enlightenment is seen as possible for the modern human being.

Morten says enlightened people will never announced their own enlightenment. To Morten, Kelsang is enlightened and one of his teacher’s main goals  is to help now modern people have access to a mind of enlightenment.

His followers would regard Kelsang as enlightened, as “a source of inspiration in our own lives,” Morten says.

While Morten liked Kelsang, he fell in love with his teacher’s focus on Buddhism’s practicality.

“What I liked is that it explained our experience in terms of the mind, as opposed to in terms of some old story. It was just explaining it all in terms of the mind. The reason we’re unhappy is because we have unhappy minds,” he says. “We have agitated minds, like anger, or attachment, or jealousy, insecurity, these types of minds. Then you can learn to identify those in meditation, and you can learn to let go of those. That just felt very practical to me.”

The Chakrasambara Center has a couple days a week where the general public is welcome to sit in on a class. Morten says his classes usually focus on meditation and then one specific practical tidbit for students to apply to their everyday lives: dealing with stress or channeling rejection, etc. Someone need not be a Buddhist to be studying Buddhism: It’s not uncommon to identify as, let’s say, a “Jewish Buddhist” or the cutesy “JewBu.” Morten says people from other religions sometimes use Buddhism to deepen their appreciation of their own faith.

“The lovely thing about Buddhism is that it’s very practical, and you don’t have to be a Buddhist to make use of that practice, so people can introduce meditation or integrate meditation into their lives with any spiritual background or no spiritual background,” Morten says.

Buddhism, he says, is a method. It’s training yourself to learn about your own mind, and subsequently, on a basic level, it’s how to let go of unhappy states of mind and cultivate positive states of mind.

As Morten finished school, he split his time between classes and Kelsang’s Buddhist Center. He describes it as an internal “discussion between the Western perspective and the Buddhist perspective.” He was caught up in his secular studies, but remained drawn to Buddhist teachings.

Morten was among Geshe Kelsang’s first students. He was around before there were any teachers, or a set protocol for becoming a teacher. The first time they met, Geshe Kelsang told Morten to study and train to become a teacher.

“That was like the first thing he said to me, was that I should do that,” Morten says. “I thought he was joking, actually. I thought I was already taking enough exams at the university,” he laughs. “He wasn’t joking.”

Westerners were gaining interest in Buddhism and Kelsang wanted Morten’s help. I joke that the Beatles’ time in India really did a number on the popular hippie culture. Morten laughs, “Blame it on the Beatles,” he says. Whatever the reason, the interest was there. Tibetan teachers were being invited out to the West more and more frequently.

Kelsang’s teachings, Morten says, focus on the practical. Westerners, more so, wanted to understand how to use Buddhism in their everyday lives. In Tibet, there was a moreacademic approach to Buddhism.

Kelsang’s teacher gave him permission to re‑present the Buddhist teachings, or the Dharma, according to the needs of modern Western people. Morten says it’s something Kelsang has done with great creativity and energy: Kelsang has written 25 books on how to begin and progress on the Buddhist path.

 

Gradually, he began to set up centers and to train Western teachers. “He saw that if it was to flourish in the West, it needed to come through Western teachers,” Morten says. “Otherwise the danger is that it remains a bit of a trip. It remains exotic.”

In that way, Kelsang was radical and ahead of his time. He began his own Buddhist tradition, which he called the New Kadampa Tradition. Morten’s been there from the beginning.

After graduation, Morten and a few other young enthusiastic types moved into the Buddhist Center in York and started training to become teachers. For a decade, starting in 1984, Morten taught full-time all around England. In 1994, he came to New York and Washington DC to start spreading the New Kadampa tradition in the States.

“It didn’t exist here. Basically, when I arrived, there was nothing,” Morten says. It was also pre-Internet and so advertising was truly grassroots. “It was just me and some posters that I would walk around town and put up and say, ‘Hey, come and listen to me if you’re interested,’” he says. He sometimes placed ads in the Village Voice. “It was like starting up a band or something.”

Gradually, people started coming to hear him lead meditation and to speak on topics like learning to deal with anger, improving relationships or increasing self‑confidence. Sometimes Morten spoke on more profound topics like the ultimate nature of reality or the nature of consciousness. “Buddhism is very, very rich because it’s basically an exploration of consciousness, so it’s very interactive, and it’s very dynamic,” he says.

“That’s the cool thing that [Buddhism is] a science and it’s a religion although the thing about religion, especially these days, is it’s a dangerous word because I think immediately people associate it with a dogma,” he says.

Buddhists, for example, do not mix church and state, so to speak. There are no restrictions on the LGBTQ community (there are gay Buddhist teachers) or stresses to vote one way or another, which Morten calls “dangerous, dangerous stuff.” Kelsang does not want the centers to get involved in politics, however Morten says he is a “radical” person: two of the main teachers at the top of the tradition are Buddhist nuns, a position women don’t usually hold.

“Forget the patriarchy,” Morten says. “It was just very modern even though he is an 83 year old Tibetan. He just wants to bring benefit to all living being. Of course, everyone equally has Buddha nature.”

Buddhists tend to verify their religion through experiences: If you meditate this way, you will have this verifiable experience.

““People associate faith with believing in something unbelievable. In other words, faith involves believing in something that is irrational,” he says. “…Everything can be tested and verified in your own experience.”

But, I counter, Buddhism has fantastical stories about the Buddha, just as Judeo-Christian religions have in the Bible. Morten says whether or not those stories are true is unimportant to Buddhism.

“What’s important is are you becoming more peaceful, more loving, more compassionate? Is your own anger reducing? Geshe Kelsang says the real source of happiness is inner peace. Whatever’s on your mind is peaceful, you’re happy and you can experience that directly,” he says.

“We tend to think that there are stressful situations. We will say, ‘My job is stressful,’ or, ‘My kids are stressful.’ But they are only stressful if your mind is relating to them in such a way as to produce stress. Basically, if you investigate your mind, which is what we do in Buddhist practice, you will discover that there is some rejection taking place in your mind. So, the example that I often use is, if you are running to catch the subway train and the doors close in your face, then almost everybody’s response, it’s like a universal response, is, ‘No.’But if you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense, because actually the doors have closed. So we are resisting or actually rejecting what has taken place,” Morten says.

He compares it to driving the handbrake on.

“We are taxing our system. So, if we are constantly resisting our life and the circumstances in our life, guess what? You get exhausted and you become unhappy. You get angry. You get bitter,” he says. “So what we learn to do in meditation is first of all, to develop a peaceful mind.”

Meditation, Morten says, is a science. Paying attention to your breathing gives you momentary peace, through which you learn peace is possible. From there, potential is limitless.

“It’s basically telling you that your happiness is in your own control. It’s your responsibility. Rather than go around blaming all these people for making you unhappy or making you angry or whatever, no, it’s my mind. I need to start training my mind,” Morten says. “We learn to recognize those in our own experience and let them go. It’s like, ‘Oh, look. Anger. No big deal. Just let it go.’ Then, instead learn to respond with a creative mind, with a positive mind, a flexible mind and finally, a happy mind. So, in Buddhism, we can verify. Happiness comes through peace.”

In terms of the mind as a science, Morten says humans have unlimited potential for love, and for the use of their minds. They just have to believe in their own potential.

“The mind is this incredible thing. Sadly, most of us in our life, we don’t identify with our potential. We walk around identifying with all our limitations. We think I’m a loser or nobody loves me and all I need to do is find one person who will love me and then I’ll be happy,” Morten says. “We go about life in a very passive way, grasping on to ourselves as being stuck and then just trying to see if we can find some kind of situation that will make us comfortable. But the real problem is you have an uncomfortable mind, doesn’t matter how comfortable the situation is.”

Morten says by learning to identify the person who angers you regularly, you can instead begin to see them as a sparring partner, someone created to test your peaceful mind.

“Instead of being an object of anger, they become your object of patience,” Morten laughs. “You’re growing as a person through your relationships, through your difficulties. I think one of the misconceptions about Buddhism is that it’s also about running away, heading for the hills or becoming an aesthetic or walking around very slowly and drinking tea very slowly.Actually, it’s about developing a quick mind. It’s really a very creative practice that enables you to make use of anything that’s going on in your life as part of your training, as part of becoming a better person.”

I tell him I find all this really great in theory, but I’m skeptical about the ability to implement it in real life. I’m a very stressed out person, and it’s hard for me to imagine breathing my way through problems.

“That’s why people come here regularly,” Morten says, gesturing to the center.

“They get a dose of inspiration, not just from the teachings but from hanging out with other people and meditating together so that you feel that it’s not just you,” he says. “That this is something that’s really possible in our society.”


 

Bitch, You Don’t Know Shit…

Daymon Dodson was a friend of mine. One thing that I valued about our friendship was that it started because of our mutual distaste for each other. A lot of people mention how much they loved Daymon as soon as they met him, and many people say similar things about me…our initial meetings must have been the exception to this rule. I thought he was loud and annyoing, and he though I was an arrogant shit talker…other things that people have said about the both of us. Once we realized our similarities, we were fine with each other.

Daymon passed away in 2006 and his passing was a huge deal to the music and art community in Columbus, but that was chump change compared to the effect his passing had on his friends and family. At his wake there had to be over a thousand people easily, it seemed closer to two thousand. To this day that still blows my mind. Since then Daymon’s friends and family have held an annual parade and celebration to pay homage to Daymon, and to everyone else that we might have lost along the way. This is always one of my favorite weekends in Columbus.

I am not going to wax poetic or carry on about how important Daymon was to people. I am just going to tell a few of my favorite stories about Daymon.

1. Daymon loved to party. Loved it. Me and Mike Fardal (along with Josh and Tony) used to live on Stinchcomb Dr. near Riverside Hospital in Columbus. Daymon would come over and pregame at our house regularly. He did this because we had a blender, and for awhile Daymon was all about making blended drinks. More often than not Daymon’s drinks were terrible. They would be these absurd concoctions of more than 3 liquors, whatever fruit was on sale, and ice. If he made a particularly good one, he would make it at the party. He would try to talk Mike into letting him take the blender to the party in case the party was unequipped. Never worked. One time he came over to pregame, and we did not have any hard liquor, just beer. Daymon wanted to set the night off right, so he felt he needed liquor. Mike had an airplane bottle of Courvoisier that he had saved for a long time because it was just cool. Daymon took it and drank it. His rationale being that he was a big guy, and beer could do nothing for him…he needed good liquor to make the night perfect.

2. One time me, Mike, Daymon, and PRZM (RIP) all went to the dollar theatre on Bethel to see Hustle and Flow. Hustle and Flow was regarded by many as this landmark film about life in the hood as a struggling pimp/rapper. What a bunch of dumbness. As soon as Terrence Howard was talking in that goofy Tennessee accent and lamenting on life as a pimp we lost our shit. The only other people in the theatre other than the 4 of us were an older white couple who were probably annoyed by our pressence. Daymon remarked “They are only here because only white people would actually like this movie. They read about it in People magazine.” Again we lost our shit. The best moment was at some point in the movie DeeJay (Terrence Howard’s character) smacks one of his hoes for something minor and petty. We lost all control of ourselves. It was the funniest slap any of us had ever seen. Daymon remarked again “Those two probably think black people act like this all the time!” To that we laughed a lot more. We all went to Adriatico’s after that and continued to act like asses.

2b. On another trip to the dollar theatre Daymon got really mad because the second Fast and Furious was packed so we could not watch it. He was really excited to see it because the oldest son from Home Improvement had a role in it. He was genuinely pissed. We ended up seeing X-Men instead…this pissed Daymon off even more. His only reason for going to the dollar theatre that night was to see the oldest son from Home Improvment.

I have a bunch of other fond memories of Daymon that involve going to the mall, shopping at AJ Wright, eating Houndogs, watching movies at his house, parties, QBC shows, Bernies, etc. etc…I shared those few because they were personal and stood out to me.

Daymon did a song called “Bitch You Don’t Shit”…it is sort of like an underground anthem in Columbus. Here is a link to the DL of the song, and nice write up by my dude Wes. There is also a vid from the 09 Daymon Day. I’m at the tail end somewhere yelling loudly. Like the loud, annoying, arrogant shit talker I am. Daymon would be amused.

 

-Justin N.

My Life as a Mash-Up VII

Oh disillusionment, I have heard you call my name- and how.

So, this isn’t exactly about writing. It’s more about getting a degree in writing. I don’t want it to be like a big WARNING sign- I’ve found that us people who have to do this crap really HAVE TO do it. Sort of like heroin, or crossword puzzles- once you start, you can’t stop without therapy (unless the newspaper company cuts you off because you’re not paying your bill, which you never actually signed up for in the first place).

By saying “getting a degree” I mean what happens directly afterwards. In my case I moved back to Austin, Texas- my self-proclaimed “home” (when you’ve moved as much as I have you get to do that).

I left my college with a 3.94 GPA. I graduated Suma Cum Laude. I majored in Writing. One of these things is probably not ideal.

Reality Bites-meets-The Purple Rose of Cairo

To be fair, I wasn’t early-twenties Wynona Rider smokin’ weed and being all pop-cultural on a rooftop after graduation. It took me seven years to go back to college from my “adventure-time off”, so I was 28 when I finished my degree in Dramatic Writing. Though I’ll have to exchange the personalities of one Cecilia (Mia Farrow) with Lelaina Pierce (Ms. Rider), the ‘clumsy waitress’ thing and burgeoning Depression depression in Purple Rose is dead on post-graduation ME.

You can glean the basis of this depression from the over-all plot of Reality Bites:
Girl graduates at the top of her class only to find the idealistic ethics surrounding her work will get her nowhere in the “real world” of filmmaking (or any other media outlet). Sadly it wasn’t even my ethics that stood in the way of making any headway out in the ‘world’- a lot of it had/has to do with the economy. Enter the 1930’s Purple Rose of Cairo backdrop.

2009-present: What a fantastically dreary time in American history to be graduating from college. Between religious zealots attempting to rewrite the Constitution, banks and multi-million-dollar corporations rewriting Morality, and the literal embodiment of “change” and “hope” being reduced to little more than a hall monitor for the aforementioned bullies, the bleak outlook on life wasn’t centered just around me, but the whole damn country.

So what was there to do? Movies.

Let me tell you about something that exists in Austin, Texas that should be in every town and city across the WORLD. It’s a little something called the Alamo Drafthouse, and when I call Texas my home, I really mean a seat somewhere in one of the cool, dark theaters of the South Lamar cinema with a cold pint and a plate of green chili mac-and-cheese in front of me. There’s no place like it (except for the other locations they have in Texas and, apparently, now Virginia).

So when Tom Baxter breaks the fourth wall and climbs down to comfort Cecilia, he’s really 90’s-indie-band-front-man Troy Dyer who’s “this close” to a degree in Philosophy. When she falls in love with him (Ethan Hawk), despite the attraction of the Hollywood producer who’s aptly played by Ben Stiller, she offers half of her chocolate malt (with the little candy-covered sunflower seeds), while clinging desperately to the hope that her career, as well as the economic and ethical standards in the country they live in, HAS TO get better. All this with eyes glued on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse.

I spent the better part of a year avoiding the uber-corporate world and committing various acts of escapism all over Austin (yes, while waitressing), until I realized the alternative ending to both Reality Bites and The Purple Rose of Cairo: leave the country. Sadly things didn’t get better when I was away (sigh: worse) but that doesn’t mean that after I get ANOTHER writing degree they won’t pan out (right? Right?!!).

Perhaps a sane person would stop going to school for writing. Maybe Lelaina Pierce really had it right, recording every single moment of her Gen X life with a camcorder, blinded by her faith in constant indecision and struggles for identity. Don’t they eventually make a bigger picture with a very solid decision and identity? Isn’t that my generation?

But what does she do with it, in the end? We know she moves in to a swanky new apartment- but they couldn’t possibly have done that all on one gas card (could they?). Something gave somewhere- Troy went to work at Whole Foods or Lelaina finally figured out the definition of irony (something I wish she’d share with a younger generation). Reality Bites took the tone of a hip Michael Moore film at the end there- no answers, just a funny, sarcastic (depressing) view of “how things are”.

As for poor Cecilia, at least she got rid of the abusive husband. She goes back to the theater (I went back to the learnin’)- but then, what the hell happened to her? Don’t get me wrong, that ending was the ONLY ending Purple Rose could have had, and it was brilliant, but then… where does that leave me? Will I be one of those fat people that has to get skin grafts because I’ve bonded to a reclining chair in the Alamo- desperate for good news, albeit fantasy, so much so that I’ve started identifying with Michael Bay characters?

Sans the Woody Allen cadence, Cecilia and Lelaina talk a similar talk: their souls are ‘saved’ by their obsessions. I guess the trick is to hold on to some part of you that really means something- a documentary, a love of adventure, the need to write… Then, at some point, you decide what kind of life you can live with. Do you get lost in the love of it (stay poor longer), or do you give in to the pressure of the Vast Machine (work so much you don’t notice you’re poor)?

Ah yes, the disillusionment conundrum. It will last my entire life, I know it. But if I can just squeeze out two more years of writing, it’ll all be worth it- so here’s to an MFA…

Remembering the Alamo,
Jeannie

CTM: Overtime – 2

Y’know, it’s been a pretty emotional weekend, what with the anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund and all. Those guys have not only saved countless helpless pandas in their habitats, but are responsible for the World Wrestling Federation (formerly known as the WWF) changing their entire name to World Wrestling Entertainment. I don’t think that its any small coincidence that a lot of character wrestlers stopped being as prevalent in professional wrestling after the WWE thing and we started getting jankass name-names like Chris Jericho and John Cena. Thanks a lot, pandas. This weekend was especially rough for me because I didn’t get to see guys with names like Jake the Snake, Koko B. Ware, and Big John Studd in my beef jerky ads between the footage of people dying. And that, my friends, is the true price of freedom.

Say, speaking of pandas…how would you guys feel about making a panda into a samurai? That works, right? Then I could get my WWF violent-nationalistic-stereotype fix and get something cuddly! Yes, it all makes sense now!

(if the sound isn’t working, click on the lower bar and view in “240p”)

 

 

Amazing tales of spectacular sloth…

Notes from the Conquistadork…

I’ve always suspected that I was lazy. I have also suspected that I was a genius. And as many of you know, I am a man of great, zealous faith. So I spent an evening praying to the baby Jesus to send me a sign.

Please, baby Jesus, I said, kneeling in a pile of Chinese takeout cartons. Please send me a sign that I am indeed lazy. Or a genius. Or both.

And lo and behold–my infant savior sent me a sign in a ten-piece box of chicken McNuggets.

I was excited about these McNuggets. I had waited for them for far too long. Think about it! Crispy, golden processed chicken parts! And if you find a deep fried beak, then there’s the prize at the bottom of your happy meal. Keep calm and chow down.

I settled the container (now transparent with grease) into my lap, and the nuggets clustered together, like the gold coins Scrooge McDuck took his morning baths in. And settled between two of them, almost perfectly at the center of their pile, was a black hair.

This was not my black hair.

It stood there, proud and defiant, like an asian protestor after being sprayed with a fire hose. It seemed to regard me, and I spoke to it.

“Hello, hair.” I said.

“Hello, Conquistadork.” it replied.

“How long have you been in my chicken McNuggets, hair?”

“I have always been here, Conquistadork. I have been here since the beginning. I have been awaiting the moment you would open my transport and expose me to your disgusted face.”

“I see.”

“Now, if I were you, Conquistadork, I would pluck me away, and allow me to become shifted into the plush of your industrial carpet.”

But I didn’t have the time. Christopher Hitchens was debating the merits of theocratic tennis with Sean Hannity on YouTube, and Snookie was doing her taxes in the latest episode of “Jersey Shore” on my television. I was watching both simultaneously.

Carefully, I began to circumnavigate the hair. Starting at the McNuggets furthest from said follicle, I circled the hair, consuming my processed meatcakes as I went.

But life, my darling readers, is distracting.

“You can’t have love without God!” shouted Hannity. “Not even in tennis!”

And I was absorbed. The world allowed some time to slip by, and I looked into my now empty container.

The hair was gone.

And a chill ran down my spine.

Sweet baby Jesus–what have I done?

And I knew in that moment that I was lazy. And perhaps not at all a genius.

And the hair agreed.