3.01.2009

LET'S DO THIS

I can write anything. Most things I can write better than anyone else in the world. I just can't come up with ideas for what to write. Give me them. I will do them. I will do them better than anyone else in the world.

Had a close call a second ago. Eating soup after TCBing it. Didn't know what was on my finger. Almost just licked it. Instead, I wiped it off with a tissue. Better safe than sorry.

And yet...I wish I'd found out what it was.


I think if I were a domestic abuser I would like listening to The Band while I got drunk before throwing a few backhands. It's not angry music. It's just down-home, backwoods, get excited music. Pound a few Bud+Jack boilermakers to "Up On Cripple Creek," get pissed off at Levon Helm for winning a bet at the race tracks, and take it out on my own lil' Bessie.

I swear I would never do this.

2.24.2009

Nobody's Fault But Mine

Another Philly cop was killed about a week and a half ago. It's gotten to the point where Philly just feels like Gotham City, like you're not surprised by any act of violence, corruption, or lack of human decency anymore. Anything could happen and it wouldn't faze me at this point. (I'm not sure if this is related, but I've had a couple dreams where I was Batman in the past few months. Just sayin'.)

The craziest thing about this, though, is that people's attitudes toward this violence have seemed to change. It's like Philadelphians' brains are so fried by what's happened that they can't properly process the awful level our city has sunk to, morally, politically or economically. Today, as a couple friends and I made fun of the "Even works on drug addicts!" testimonial on a package of Mace in a Chinese convenience store, I read off the next quip, "Because the streets just aren't safe anymore!" The weird-looking lady(?) in front of me, who was excessively excited about her lottery tickets, responded to no one in particular, "Ain't that the truth." I kind of thought that was a little harsh, since I safely travel through some rough neighborhoods on the car ride home from work everyday without incident.

But it's that kind of attitude that's run rampant across this city's society, the feeling that "you'd be crazy to go outside after dusk." In Coatesville, there's now a citywide curfew because stupid-ass teenagers can't stop setting people's houses on fucking fire. You know how you stop kids from setting houses on fire? Tell parents to stop letting their asshole kids leave the house on a goddamn school night. Is that so hard?

And yet, it is, for some reason. Everyone wants to pass the buck on this societal disorder right now, like we're all victims and have nothing to do with the cause. But when that officer was killed not two weeks ago, you know what people were saying? They were talking about how he probably fucked up and put himself in the position to get shot.

Really? We've come to the point where we're blaming a police officer for getting shot by some crazy fuck with a gun and a death wish?

Yeah, sometimes cops make mistakes. They're humans, just like us. But there's a difference between an asshole who writes you a bullshit ticket because he's having a bad day and a guy who's responding to a 911 call from a frantic taxi driver who thinks he's about to die.

I don't know, call me crazy on this one, but I'd rather blame the dude who committed murder. And, maybe, the guy in charge of the city who's talking about laying off police personnel. Great plan there, Nutter. Wasn't crime supposed to be the main focus of your mayorship?

It's funny, about that Batman/Gotham City thing. You know when Batman was created? 1939, on the heels of the Great Depression. Seems like we could use a superhero right now.

1.23.2008

'93

I wanted to preface this entry by saying that as soon as I finished writing it, I became convinced of my own insanity. I then wondered if there are insane people who are perfectly aware of their insanity, or if every insane person lives in a world where everyone else is crazy and they're the only sane ones. I could be the first self-aware insane person. I'm a pioneer of the movement. It's time for the world to go mad.

For the sake of argument: Let's say that our perception of the world around us is very closely related to our memory. If I remember a moment in the past differently than it happened, it doesn't matter: My memory is the only record. Therefore, in a way, memory is reality.

With that in mind, I will now prove that every moment in time in the history of the universe is defined by its relation with the year 1993 A.D.

1993 is the year everything became real to me, the year I developed critical thinking and a greater handle on the infinity of the universe. I attribute this to being raised Roman Catholic.

Therefore, everything (based on my memory — which is, in my life, the only true record of reality) that came before 1993 is old, and everything that came after 1993 is new. 1993 is the exact midpoint of the universe. So what exactly does that mean?

Well, if we know how many years the universe existed before 1993, we can figure out how many years it has remaining. Given that the Big Bang model estimates the universe to be about 13.7 billion years old, we can assume that we only have about 13.7 billion years left.

The reason I know it's 1993 is that in 1993, the Phillies went to the World Series and I entered my formative years during the same summer. The Marlins and Rockies, though having been part of Major League Baseball for 15 years at this point, were new in '93. Because of that, they will always be new. The Minnesota Twins won the World Series in 1991. It seems like a million years ago. But the 49ers won the Super Bowl in 1995 and it feels like it happened yesterday.

For similar reasons: The Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Washington Nationals, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Angels, Dallas Stars and Oakland Raiders will always be THE FORMER (insert team name here): Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Montreal Expos, Washington Bullets, Winnipeg Jets, California Angels, Minnesota North Stars and Los Angeles Raiders.

The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are formerly AL East teams. The Milwaukee Brewers are newcomers to the National League, recently coming over from the American League. The Seattle Seahawks are new to the NFC, the Arizona (formerly Phoenix) Cardinals are new to the West, and the Indianapolis Colts are new to the AFC Central (before the very recent 8-division alignment change) after coming from the East.

This is how my memory is organized. If that's how my memory works, that's how my universe must work. Because of the permanence of 1993, this explains Pearl Jam's prolonged success and the Phillies' eternal misery. It had to be you, Mitch Williams. It had to be you.

1.14.2008

There Can Be Only One

In my musical youth, my favorite radio segment was a nightly head-to-head battle of the bands called The Cage Match on Philly's now-defunct modern rock station, Y-100. The battle would pit two new, unheralded songs against each other. After playing both songs, the DJ would take votes from listeners before announcing the champion that would continue to the next night. If a champion carried on for two weeks, it would be retired into the Cage Match Hall of Fame and might get some decent airplay during the day.

But the thing I remember most fondly about the Cage Match was the sound clip they'd play to introduce it, "There can be only one." I never knew what it was from, but it sounded cool as hell.

Two months ago, I heard the clip in context for the first time ever when I watched Highlander, a movie whose mere existence is inexplicable. But more on that later. Today's assumption is a ridiculous one, but if it's true, I'm faithful that I've unlocked many secrets of the universe.
*
For the sake of argument: Let's assume Master Shake, a character from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, is a credible one, that his statements are meant to be taken seriously.

When he says, "The Highlander was a documentary...and the events happened in real time," clearly he cannot be speaking literally. This is evident because the film itself does not take place in direct sequence, at times jumping from forward centuries at a time, or even jumping from nighttime to the next day's events. Thus, the movie could not have happened in real time. Since Shake's statement would be partly untrue literally, let's assume he is not speaking literally.

Now: Think of the statement figuratively. Highlander was a documentary, a film designed to capture a true-to-life story without scripting or staging. It has a message. If Highlander is a documentary on a figurative level, it's by definition not the same as, say, Bowling For Columbine. But what does that make it?

It could, theoretically, be a mockumentary. But it's not a funny movie, so that's probably not true. So what else is like a documentary but not a documentary?

Reality television.

Shake is saying that Highlander is on the same level of truth as The Real World, or Survivor, or The Apprentice. The story is framed in such a way that, with the use of a staged plot, heavy editing, and real-life average joes starring as themselves on TV, a very slightly fictionalized version of reality is portrayed.

Now, apply those qualities to Highlander. First of all, the plot was not historically accurate. Okay, I can accept that. Maybe they fudged some details. No biggie; we do that every Thanksgiving Day.

Second of all, the film stock was heavily edited. This is an easy concession, as life (unfortunately) does not come with a live soundtrack recorded by Queen. Sorry, but Freddie Mercury is dead.

Finally, since points one and two are clearly true, we move to a big one: Real-life average joes play themselves. Do you understand what this means? It means that Christopher Lambert wasn't just playing MacLeod. Christopher Lambert IS THE HIGHLANDER. Sean Connery was just making extra cash when he was playing James Bond, because he was actually an immortal, Egyptian-born Spanish warrior named Juan-Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, who fought with a Japanese blade and spoke with a Scottish accent. Why am I speaking in the past tense? Because Sean Connery is fucking dead. He was beheaded by The Kurgan. The Sean Connery who said "Losers always whine about their best; winners go home and fuck the prom queen" in The Rock and starred in The Hunt For Red October — he's an impostor, in the same way Paul McCartney died and was replaced back in the middle of Beatlemania.

More importantly, it is now clear that Christopher Lambert is a brutal serial killer who must be stopped. He can only be killed by decapitation, so this could be difficult.

Since we've established that Highlander was unscripted, heavily edited reality entertainment, its message doesn't necessarily have to be as clear as a typical documentary. But it does have to say something about society, as shows like The Hills and The Real World do in a more roundabout way. What is Highlander trying to tell us about ourselves?

The answer to that question could be left up to personal interpretation. But my interpretation is that Highlander's overarching conceit is revealed in the first scene featuring present-day NYC Christopher Lambert. He stands in a sold-out arena of fans shouting wildly, watching a pro wrestling match in the ring below. But The Highlander does not cheer. He watches in silence and leaves before the evening's matches are complete.

The message, to me, is clear. The Highlander's world is a lifelong series of wrestling matches. He wins them, one by one, until he is the last man standing. There can be only one. The world's mortals find this life exciting from a distant view. But The Highlander does not enjoy this lifestyle. He is unhappy. He just wants it to be over. Why? There can be only one, the movie's mantra. Immortality is a lonely life, one mortals could never understand. Eternal life is not heaven. It's hell. You love someone, and the next thing you know they're being raped by The Kurgan after the decapitation of your mentor. They later die, and you only find out about it a thousand years later when The Kurgan lets it slip in a Roman Catholic church. I'll take mortality.

But we, the mortal society, do not understand. That's why Western religion is so popular. Perhaps Christopher Lambert hates God, because he knows better than to love some asshole who screws you into a life of eternal emotional anguish.

That's what Highlander tells us about ourselves. We ignorant mortals want eternal life, but we don't understand how painful eternal life can be. The Highlander understands.
*
Now that we've looked at the first half of Master Shake's statement, we can look at the second part: "The events happened in real time."

The events didn't literally happen in real time, but metaphorically, Highlander takes the saga of an immortal tribal Scotsman (a Highlander, MacLeod) and over the span of two hours reveals through flashback how he became the greatest warrior in the history of the world. He kills The Kurgan in present day NYC to become the only immortal left. There can be only one.

Think about that. The movie lasts two hours in real time, but it encapsulates a worldwide epic tournament of champions that lasts over 600 years. Probably more.

Symbolically, Highlander is saying something very bold about immortality: A) It doesn't exist for just anyone, as The Kurgan found out; B) It's dissatisfying, as MacLeod and Ramirez can attest; and most importantly, C) Human existence at its peak of glory can be portrayed in its entirety in a two-hour film.

Humanity is nothing compared to everything else out there. Sure, MacLeod has killed The Kurgan to win "the prize," but what if there are more immortals not of this earth? What if "the prize" is hell compared to what lies behind the decapitations of extraterrestrial immortals?

When Master Shake says Highlander's events happened in real time, what he's actually doing is making a statement on the insignificance of human existence.

Want a real mindfuck? Master Shake is a character on a TV show that was created, produced and distributed by humans. If humans are insignificant, Master Shake is even less significant because he is a slave of humanity. And thus, his metaphoric statement about Highlander should carry little to no significance whatsoever.

Or maybe, just maybe, for those reasons, it's the most significant thing anyone's ever said.

1.13.2008

Right Back Atcha

Heads up. I'm not working for The Daily Collegian this semester, so I'll be writing more. Checkitout checkitout checkitout. I'm going to be experimenting with a feature I'm going to call "For the Sake Of Argument" in which I will make a few assumptions, some real, some made up, and then make my argument. The first one involves the film Highlander and the TV show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The second one is about the construct of memory, the history of the universe, and the year 1993. That's all I've got now, but I'll have more every week. Stay tuned.

4.17.2007

Control

I woke up in the morning only to hear the news: no school today. KYW 1060 said the magic words: "All Philadelphia public and parochial schools are off." Cardinal Bevilacqua was a stingy bastard with those snow days, but he gave in that day.

But the excitement of my snow day was short-lived. I had to go to the dentist. The fucking dentist. My mom and I took off in our old Ford truck. I found later that my dad was mad at her for taking me through the inclement weather. It was just the dentist, and the weather was bad enough for Bevilacqua to cancel school. This was not the best day to get my teeth cleaned.

But we forged on, trekking across the frozen tundra of Northeast Philly. We safely arrived on the street of Dr. Solomon’s office. But, my mom at the wheel, we passed the office. She's not the best at driving in pressure situations. My mom turned the big wheel of the truck to make a U-turn and we spun out of control — driving up a hill. Another car coming down the hill slammed on the brakes, but it the street was too slick to stop. We got slammed and the big Ford truck met its ultimate fate. My mom took me to the hospital because I’d jammed my little feet into the floor of the truck when we were hit. I turned out fine, and better yet, I got to ride around the hospital in a wheelchair for a bit. (I’ve always secretly wished that I could have a wheelchair. They’re so damn convenient.)

But for that one moment when the truck spun out and the approaching car struggled to stop, time seemed to move in slow motion. It was the first time I’d experienced a complete loss of control. Our fate was in limbo for a few fleeting seconds. It was simultaneously strangely exhilarating and crushingly terrifying. But in the end, everything turned out fine.

Yesterday, that was not the case. I had no control over anything. Nobody did. And nothing turned out fine. I sat at my computer, constantly refreshing CNN.com, Fox News, ABC News, and Yahoo! News, just searching for answers that never came. The death toll just grew and grew. 20, 21, 22, 28, 31, 32, 33. I was confused and angry. It was unfair. My generation's already had its national tragedy. I can't handle another day like this.

But yesterday was different. It wasn’t like 9/11. On 9/11, I had no understanding of who was behind it all, what the implications were, or what it meant for our country. Yesterday, I knew that there was one man who just fucked with the lives of a bunch of anonymous college kids and their families. And I had no idea why.

College kids. On the cusp of greatness, their potential was taken away. As more details came out, I just got angrier and more frustrated at the whole situation. Why were these kids in class? Why weren’t they in the safety of their rooms? Why was a murderer able to roam the campus of Virginia Tech for two hours before finding another chance to strike? Why did Virginia Tech allow a man to kill 30 more people before taking his own life?

This wasn’t like that one day in high school when the only immediate result was that none of my classes involved anything more than watching TV or talking it over. I remember my 8th period class, in which my physics teacher Mr. Cipolla just had everyone sit down for 40 minutes. We just talked about it. On a superficial level, it did nothing. But it was comforting that he treated us like adults, and that in doing so we knew that he was probably more than a bit shaken by the whole situation too. But Cipolla remained cool, and we finished the school day without worries.

Yesterday, I knew that there was no realistic way we could have stopped what was coming. Basically, some lunatic with a couple guns had a bad day, the worst day ever. But the shootings were preventable, and I had no control over it. I like to think that people in a position of authority, no matter how incompetent, would never do anything to cause the senseless death of someone they look after. Even President Bush, in sending troops to Iraq, has a reason for causing soldiers to die. But there was no mission behind sending a class full of future engineers to die. They never had a chance. The image stuck in my head — 30 defenseless people trapped in a room with no exit, left to face a lunatic with two handguns. The last few killed had to sit and watch as 29 others died in front of their own eyes, not more than yards away from them.

There will be no FDNY or NYPD in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech Massacre. There’s no hope, no opportunity to salvage the lives of the 32 innocent people who were left to die. And to make things worse, there’s no enemy left. There can be no justice. The coward who put that classroom full of people into a living hell is dead, but there’s no vengeance. There’s no redemption. There are no answers. All we have is a body count and a university’s administration that refuses to take responsibility. In a struggle to find an enemy, the finger must be pointed at Virginia Tech.

We have no control over homicidal maniacs. They’re essentially random in our society. The people we depend on to protect us from these lunatics are our everyday heroes — the police officers, firefighters, philanthropists. Just three days after an unanswered bomb threat, Virginia Tech decided it was more important to get 30 engineers to their morning class than to save their lives. As many people spun out of control yesterday like that old Ford truck on the icy hill, Virginia Tech stood by and refused to use its control. They originally put the campus on lockdown, but lifted the lockdown soon after. Whether that first shooting was a domestic disputer or not, you can't let a campus run free with a murderer on the loose. The most frustrating thing about the whole situation is that it seems clear as day to me that those 30 people should not have been at class yesterday. And while I'm not convicting Virginia Tech of pulling those triggers, it's their fault the gunman had a target.

4.09.2007

Hope Springs Eternal

I was home this past weekend, partially for Easter but mostly to partake in the world premiere of my silver screen debut in The Paper, a documentary about the 2004-2005 school year at the Daily Collegian. In case you're wondering, I'm on screen for up to five whole seconds. I have no speaking lines, but thanks to director Aaron Matthews, the glorious mane of hair I had that fall will be passed down to generations to come.

Though I was home to see the film, the most consequential news of the weekend came on Friday. Seemingly, it shouldn't have been consequential news, but it was. My mother told me that she thinks my beloved fox terrier, Scout, may be diabetic. I always hate it when people grieve over a pet; I love my dog and all, but crying about a pet's death always seemed so juvenile to me. After all, how much emotional attachment can you have with a being that can't speak to you or even comprehend half the feelings you have?

When my mom told me, I was just kind of shocked. Apparently, the dog drinks water like a camel, and as a consequence, constantly wants to go outside to relieve himself. I imagine it's an inconvenience, but beyond that, it doesn't seem like a big deal.

But later that night, I came home from DJ's house and my parents had gone to bed. I watched TV for a bit, and just before I went to bed, I looked over at Scout lying on the couch. I broke down. It's not so much that he might die, or get sicker, or anything like that. It's the possibility that this might happen while I'm away at school, and I won't be able to see him one last time before he goes. It's the complete helplessness of the situation, that I can't possibly do anything to change his fate, make him better, or keep him around just until I get home from school in May.

Seemingly, I should be more upset about the possibility that this could happen to my grandmother. Her health has rapidly declined in the past year, and the thought of the insane coincidence involved (one I've written about before — I've lost grandparents in 1995, 1999, and 2003, and it's now 2007) is mainly just eerie. But since I've been through this with grandparents three times now, and that the last time around, it was almost a foregone conclusion, perhaps I'm more ready for it. I'm not saying my Mom-Mom is going to die this year, but it seems odd to me that the thought of Scout dying is more devastating to me than losing her.

When I chose to attend Penn State, there were a number of reasons: it was a great campus, it had a real journalism program, and my then-girlfriend was going there. But the simplest reason was location, location, location. It was close enough that I could come home for a weekend if I wanted, but it was far enough that my parents wouldn't swing by for any surprise visits. In my fourth year up here, that's the reason that has held strongest. But there's a sacrifice to go along with that, one which I hadn't really considered back in 2003. I rarely see my life-long friends (or my high school friends, for that matter), I miss all the good shows in Philly, and I'm completely helpless in any grave situation at home. I don't know if this factors into my adamant insistence of staying in Philly for as long as possible after college, but it certainly bolsters that feeling.

If you take away the idea that my failure to graduate this spring is partially (if not wholly) my fault, I shouldn't feel any guilt over being away while my grandmother and dog decline in health. But I can't take that away. If I'd chosen a different school, if I'd made a clean break with Erin before college, if I'd gotten my shit together (or never gotten my shit separated), etc. There are plenty of reasons to blame myself, and now I'm just hoping Scout and Mom-Mom can hold out for another year. It's a lot to ask.

Well, fuck it. I can't do anything but ask. Not even Apples in Stereo and Wild Cherry Pepsi can cheer me up. Here's to eternal life.