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“American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” – FX’s fun and topical new series

“It’s a tasty Proustian cronut that makes you remember the events of not only 1995 but 2015.”  – Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker

That’s right, young (younger?) America! FX and Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story (not to be confused with Abc’s American Crimehas somehow managed to give us a chance (and for older America a second chance) to experience the O.J. Simpson Story (chase, trial, and media storm) through a dimer, but still national spotlight. Based on its subject matter this series could have easily yielded nothing more than an expensive and embarrassing Lifetime movie, but instead delivers a topical, thought provoking, and nuanced experience. Following the straightforward, expositive, storytelling techniques of more traditional network television (with a higher budget) Murphy and FX present a nostalgic, accessible series with loud themes and clear reflections on this period in American history.

Like myself, I assume when all of you saw the teasers for this series last fall we all had the similar feeling of “WTF!”After so many years of experiencing this story on the singular note of “He got away with it,” hearing about a big budget series being made feels tiresome, overdone, and like a waste of your time. I will admit, I only started watching the series after reading and listening to overwhelming positive reviews from critics. Contrary to the initial impressions, American Crime Story brings humanity to the spectacle of the case and, will not have audiences “re-trying O.J. Simpson” but, instead attempting to reevaluate the entire judicial system, media’s role, societal and political issues of the time, etc. The premier episode starts (before anything O.J. related at all) with real news coverage and footage from the 1992 L.A. Riots. The writers aren’t being coy about wanting us to engage the coming narrative with the tone the riots set in mind. It will not yield the standard, speculative TV discussion about what “could” happen but, instead a reflective what “should” have happened. A conversation close to the hearts and minds of Americans as police brutality and racial/ class inequality continue to be a issue for finding justice and unity in this country.

The “spectacle” nature of the series lends itself well to Ryan Murphy whose hit or miss career in spectacle speaks for itself: Glee, American Horror Story, New Normal, Scream QueensMurphy’s campy nature tends to overly niche characters into their roles: the geek, the cheerleader, the conservative grandmother, etc. This at times becomes problematic because it leaves you with very one dimensional characters lacking in agency. However, this technique lends itself well to the O.J. narrative as it is one where the cast of characters are already overly niched players: Marcia Clark, Bob Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, and O.J. Simpson and use them as anchors for the viewers. From their Murphy is able to create something essential to the tone and ideological discussions of the series, the factions of L.A./ O.J. trial; the strongest of which are Johnnie Cochran, O.J Simpson, and Marcia Clark.

All of the performances in the series do it justice, including David Schwimmer (Kardashian), but Sarah Paulson (Clark), Cuba Gooding Jr. (O.J.), and Courtney B. Vance (Cochran) present an authenticity and energy that draws you in. Cuba Gooding’s O.J. is perfectly unbalanced and over the top, creating a character who is sympathetic and emanates the vibe of celebrity corruption. Paulson brings, to Marcia Clark, a fire and a passion that pierces through the apathy in her DA’s office; all she sees is a domestic abuse victim whom the system failed, Nicole Brown Simpson. Johnnie Cochran has yet to take a side in the literal case, but his presence in the series represents the racial wave that the show so far has slowly been building.  Vance portrays Cochran as pragmatic, intelligent, and the only man who seems to have a understanding of how racial tension in L.A. will lead to this man’s acquittal. All three performers are/ will act as our guides through the series, and so far the performances warrant following.

American Crime Story tackling the O. J. story first was a huge challenge as a first project to take on, and so far it has surpassed all of my expectations. Using hindsight at its most entertaining, it puts America’s celebrity worshiping culture under examine and, peaks at a dark side of America’s not too distant past with issues still very present today. If this style of storytelling will lend itself well to the Hurricane Katrina planned season 2 of the series is to be determined. Similar to Fargo, True Detective, and Murphy’s own American Horror Story another season of this anthology could have a completely different direction and style. That being said, Hurricane Katrina seems like a similarly great place/ time to discuss the themes of: race, class, government, and media bottled in a national spectacle/ disaster.

With so much new content constantly being released on various streaming platforms, and even on television it is rarer to find a series that everyone in America watches and talks about (Game of Thrones being the major exception). FX creating American Crime Story brilliantly attempts to fill that void with a universal and nostalgic series, and is notably the network’s first participation in the current true-crime trend, which arose over the past two years (Making a Murderer, The Jinx, Serial). So go call your folks and tell them to start watching. Just say, “We will have more to talk about when I call.”

American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson New Episodes Tuesdays at 10:20pm on FX, and/ or available for streaming with FXNow on your computer or various phone/ tablet devices.

http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/american-crime-story/episodes

 

We say we want a revolution: Sanders is our last hope for saving American Democracy

“The upcoming election isn’t about detailed policy proposals. It’s about power – whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well.”

–Robert Reich, Former US Secretary of Labor1

Head v. heart, pragmatism v. vision

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most experienced presidential candidate in the modern era and probably ever.2

Her most recent tenures as Secretary of State and Senator of a major state (New York) would forever be the first line of Clinton’s bio if the ride were to end here—already a longer resume than some former (and current)3 Presidents when they assumed office. As such, she understands foreign policy, the nuances of governing and institutional record more than anyone in the field, and will be the most prepared on day one to tackle the job.

As FLOTUS, she represented her husband’s more liberal 4 angels—universal healthcare, children and women’s rights. Before and throughout her stint as FLOArk, Clinton was highly politically engaged. It was during this time, she took up the fight—which she continues today—for women and children, all while playing “rainmaker” at her prestigious law and bringing home the bacon.5

Clinton’s broad experience and deep devotion to public service makes her an unimaginably qualified candidate. Her brand of pragmatism and “progressive doer” is vital to the health of the Democratic Party and American Civics. Hence our absolute, unqualified endorsement of her as Vice President of the United States and first alternate for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

In the preference of practicality, Clinton has eschewed a grand vision for America.6

Mario Cuomo7 famously said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”8 Hillary Clinton is all prose and pragmatism—even in this, her most important campaign. We need political leaders with Clinton’s breadth and depth of knowledge and experience; it’s the only way we’ll ever get anything done.

In the same breathe, the Luckswing Editorial staff strongly believes that a candidate asking to be President of the United States should have a clear and sweeping vision of tomorrow’s America. It is not only poetic, but vital to our self-determined national narrative, which, frankly, is one of the last vestiges of American exceptionalism.

There is only one candidate in today’s Presidential election cycle—on either side of the primaries—that understands that elections present opportunities, not only for peaceful political revolution, but to recast ourselves in the image of what we believe we should be. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) not only represents a normalization of progressive politics and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct the atrocity of big money in politics, he has real support and hard numbers that can be leveraged into instruments of political will.

A real shot

Let’s be clear upfront: though the odds have shifted dramatically in the last six months, a Sanders inauguration is still unlikely. The headwinds of change come strongest during election year, however, and here are four headwinds to heed from the last week alone:

  • The 50-50 split in Iowa was a win. Hillary Clinton was ahead 30% in Iowa as little as four months ago.9 Make no mistake: that coin flips dominated the post-caucus narrative and not margin by which Clinton spanked Sanders is a major victory for the Democratic Socialist.
  • New Hampshire is a lock. The generous University of New Hampshire pollsters had Sanders up 30, whereas the stingy Suffolk University number-crunchers10 him up 9, and Fivethirtyeight is giving the neighbor Senator a greater than 99% chance of victory.
  • If money is speech, Sanders’ choir sings loudest.11 Sanders out-fundraised Clinton for the first time this cycle with $20M in January—$5M more than the Secretary. He certainly hasn’t closed the gap, but to put this feat in perspective, Clinton started the campaign with $47M in the war chest to Sanders’ $15M. His, at one point, novel fundraising model is gaining momentum too. He’s fundraised over $75M with over 3.5M individual contributions at an average of $27 and no PACs. The sheer number of individual contributions alone is unprecedented in American politics and makes its own case for populism.12

fundraising screenshot

  • Early states, momentum still matters as national poll numbers keep rising. A Quinnipiac University national poll released on Friday shows Clinton and Sanders in a virtual tie—44% to 42%, respectively.13 Six weeks ago, Quinnipiac had him down 61/30.14 The biggest difference? Sanders’ results in Iowa, of course! He outperformed expectations, which puts column inches and air time in his favor, which signals to the general political conscious that he’s electable because other people are doing.

The nomination is far from guaranteed, but if Sanders’ margin of victory in New Hampshire is substantial, then we’re off to the races.15

Unapologetic liberals are a thing now16

The rise of Sanders has coincided with the growing prevalence of unapologetic liberals and increasingly progressive political rhetoric.17 A chicken and egg situation to be sure, the fact remains his “for the people by the people” candidacy, campaign, and message resonates strongly within the liberal sweet spot.

Let’s pause to point out that in these flickering shadows of the Cold War,18 Sanders’ viability as presidential candidate is, without exaggeration, incredible. He was a child during the McCarthy19 years, and now he’s a self-proclaimed Socialist among the two most likely candidates to be elected President of the United States.

But more to the point of a more progressive America, socialism is gaining traction among young voters; a June Gallup poll showed that 60% of 18 to 29 year olds and 50% of 30 to 49 year olds would vote for a socialist.20

 

socialism pollPeople are responding to Sanders’ radical politics. They’re contributing real money and showing up in the tens of thousands.21 Should this trend continue, his political world view no longer remains radical but becomes mainstream. His presence in the presidential political landscape validates an increasingly liberal electorate, and, like it or not, his presidency would normalize progressive policies and ideals, redrawing the very boundaries of mainstream national politics to the left.

The importance of aligning American policy to progressive ideals cannot be overstated, if only to set up Sanders’ political revolution.

We say we want a revolution

Which brings us to why we’re for the man in the first place22—the revolution.23

The 2016 Sanders political revolution is two-fold, and his thus far successful insurgency is the opening salvo and the proof of concept for perhaps the most important part.

Part 1: Socialism is totally okay

Liberal policies are good for Americans.24 More education opportunities,25 broader healthcare coverage, greater access to civil rights—there’s no way anyone says that every American citizen wouldn’t benefit from all of them. Surely, there are debates to be had on where the money comes from, but the fundamental values these policy outcomes represent are irreproachable.26

We stand with the most liberal candidate in the field27 because, in this moment, the evolution of our political consciousness requires it.

Sanders’ strain of socialism presents as myopic, so says the criticism. There’s virtually no foreign policy experience.28 His world view is limited to middle-class economics and income inequality.

To his critics: yes.

To Sanders: stay strong.

The question every Democrat and eventually every American voter has to answer is this: Is it middle-class economics and income equality the defining issue of our time? And can my vote in this election serve to preserve opportunity, meritocracy, and the American Dream?

We think it is, and we think your vote can.

Part 2: Nothing short of preserving American democracy

A Sanders presidency will net out the best and only real opportunity to take big money out of politics, thereby reinvigorating the democratic process and the very nature of representation.29

Academics, a former president, and anyone with working knowledge of a dictionary agree America’s trend towards oligarchy—as opposed to a true democracy. Power is concentrated among the rich. And thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2009 Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) decision, money equates to speech, safeguarding the system for wealthiest Americans to keep the loudest voices in the halls of government.

There aren’t many options when it comes to overturning a Supreme Court ruling, but the most definitive is through constitutional amendment.

Constitutional amendments, however, are really really hard to pull off30—requiring a Congressional supermajority to propose, and 75% of state legislatures to approve.31

If Bernie wins, a constitutional amendment stands a chance,32 and he’ll point to this cycle’s fundraising, volunteer, and voter support as the model for subsequent elections. A Sanders victory would be a signal to elected officials33 across the US that in they in fact have leverage against corporate interests; it would represent the eye in the heretofore unthreadable needle of big money in politics. It’s a chance to fundamentally alter the nature of representation through our republican democracy at the state and federal level.

There is absolutely no guarantee that an opportunity like this will arise in our life time. It’s incumbent on us to seize it.

Make America Great again: An open, untimely letter to Ammon Bundy

Dear Ammon,
You and your crew are actors in a great American tragedy.

With your semi-automatic weapons, legitimate grievances, and calls for violence, and my English degree, penchant for public policy, and lazy allusions to Euripides, it would seem that we’re destined to rip each other apart. Political campaigns, a relentless news cycle, and an ever-connected world have conspired to ensure the rhetoric coming from our respective corners remains divisive. We’ve forgotten how to disagree. That a race to arms, an invasion of federal land, and a public invitation of violence was considered a strong opening salvo to you is as much proof of this as it is a tragic irony.

There seem to be two pillars to your position—the reckless nature of mandatory minimums, and federal mismanagement of grazing fees and land rights—the former of which I wholeheartedly concede.

You see, we agree on mandatory minimums—the catalyst for your misguided incursion. You and I, improbable allies, both recognize mandatory sentencing laws are unjust. Sentencing statutes do irreparable damage not just to the individuals victimized by blind laws but to the very principle of justice; they strip judges of the very thing they were trained to do.
The mandatory five-year minimum sentences imposed on Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven have moved you to protest. I applaud your effort. The injustice of these sentencing laws must have been made apparent to you when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the original, much lesser sentences of three months and one year, respectively. Bring me a petition to end mandatory minimums. I will happily sign it.

To your apparent second point: federal land management should be a great, historic debate. We’d sit across the table from each other and talk. I’d start with the Homestead Act, pointing to originating injustice of receiving free land while Native Americans were robbed of their homes and freed slaves never receiving their 40 acres. You’d say that was before your time and isn’t germane. I’d say you get steep discounts for grazing on federal lands, and you’d say that the cost of remaining compliant is killing your livelihood. I’d point to the subsidies you receive from the same federal government you villainize. You’d point to a bureaucratic villain 3,000 miles away making grazing and water rights decisions without your input. I’d concede that the Bureau of Land Management policy disproportionately affects western states. You’d concede your business model is unsustainable in today’s economy. I’d offer recommendations. You’d share insights. I’d listen. You’d organize other ranchers to take legal and civil action. I’d call your congressman for you. We’d celebrate and commiserate, together, over sections of watered-down legislation that made some, if incremental, change.

Compromise might offend the ultimately unimpressive and ineffective machismo pose you’ve struck. But the same founding fathers called upon in the heat of unbending rhetoric would call that same compromise fundamentally American.

Disagreement is good. It’s how we know we live in a free society. Responsible opposition is necessary to a thriving democracy, and democracy is about the incremental movement of the whole of society to a better place.

The extreme and illegal action you’ve chosen to take skips several steps of jurisprudence and peaceful civil disobedience—the better angels of American history and tradition. A great nation requires great citizenship, and your act of ill-advised aggression undermines every core value we have ever stood for. It constitutes an act of terror.

As an Asian-Arab-American, I’m acutely aware of profiling and of labels that may limit better outcomes. Take the privilege you have been afforded and go home peacefully. Participate in and demand a higher level of discourse. Don’t be a terrorist, and make America great again.

Sincerely,

Dujie Tahat

A Tale of Two Videos: Tony Stewart & Ray Rice

Tony Stewart will not face charges on the murder, the vehicular homicide or the accidental death of Kevin Ward, Jr.

I’ve lost all hope in humanity.

The American justice system has failed yet again. I can only surmise Eric Holder’s recently announced resignation comes as a result of the inaction by officials to hold yet another a popular white “athlete” accountable for his crimes (see: Duke Lacrosse team, Oscar Pistorius, baseball players).

 »«

Two weeks ago, the last apparent last bastion of the fourth estate TMZ released a video of Ray Rice shamelessly knocking out his then-fiancé Janay Palmer.

Once revered as maybe the top running back in the world, Rice’s career as it stands appears unredeemable. The Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL Players Association has since appealed on his behalf, sighting tired (but unfortunately, most likely true) slippery slope, two punishments for one crime arguments.

 «»

On August 9th in upstate New York a 43-year old man driving a 1400 pound vehicle at a speeds of nearly 140 miles per hour hit a 20-year man—a boy really. The young man with a long, bright future ahead of him died, almost immediately. It was caught on tape.

One would hope—given the above circumstances—that the full weight of the law and public reaction would fall on the culprit. One would imagine that said culprit would be collapse under the pressure, a charged and convicted criminal as the world celebrates the triumph of justice.

 »«

So here we are. The NFL is the midst of a once-in-a-generation scandal. Employees are answering to the former Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (the goddamn Director of the F-B-goddamn-I!), turning over communications, cataloging steps taken and not taken in an investigation completed or not completed. Even Commissioner Roger Goodell—the shoot-first sheriff, self-proclaimed judge and jury of the NFL when he ascended to power—finds himself in the unusual position of target practice.

Rice is at fault, and the NFL and Goodell screwed everything to hell.

«»

There is a video that shows Ward’s murder. It wasn’t shown on ESPN or your local news, because it’s a video of someone dying (as if all that war footage of rockets firing and landing on nightly network news weren’t). Watch it here—if you can bear it.

The 43-year old man—Stewart, let’s be painfully clear—is free. He woke up this morning to a loving family, doting fans, a dedicated racing team and a job that he loves.

Ward will never get a chance to realize the NASCAR dreams Stewart shamelessly tried preserved in his all-too-early return to the track.

But more than that, Ward will never get to find and marry the love of his life, to swell with pride as he watches his children stumble and get back up, to grow old and see the world change. Ward will never get to turn the ignition or choke the throttle of his beat up no. 13, joke around with his team or get angry at his opponents, relish in victory or rise again from a loss.

Ward graduated from high school two years ago. Two years ago. And will remain fixed in his family’s memory an eternal 20-year old.

 »«

The institution of the NFL has been turned inside out—and rightfully so—for countless reasons. Among these include: the culture of violence that has been absorbed by the players’ family members for years, the countless players facing even more countless charges of violent crimes and the apparent cover-up (or shameful ineptitude, if you’re an optimist) of the Rice incident—only the most recent indication of the NFL’s unspoken mandate to “protect the shield.”

Despite all this, last Sunday came and went. Hundreds of thousands of fans across the country flocked to their football meccas and millions tuned in at home. Billions of dollars were made in salary and advertising revenue. The testament of sport.

It would be pretentious, and in many ways wrong, to call for a boycott of the NFL—and not just because it would never happen. After all, most football players are by-and-large good people (I think) who understand that they’re not actually allowed to pulverize other people off the field.

I would hope that recent events have disrupted fandom—at least for a blip—causing unease and skepticism. There has been some reporting on this, but not nearly enough.

Football is good. Ray Rice is bad. And the NFL fucked up.

End scene.

«»

Ray Rice knocked someone unconscious—his partner nonetheless. He may never face judge or a jury, but he is being punished—by the league he belonged to, the team he was a part of and the American public at large.

Tony Stewart Killed a person. Where’s the indignation? Why hasn’t ESPN rushed to Ward’s aide with hours of outraged Olbermanns and Wilbons?

When we were talking about Ward’s death—for that brief two week period that quickly was swept under the rug the moment Stewart gloriously returned to the race track to bravely not lose his position in the Sprint cup race—we seemed to shy away from what actually happened. Our headlines never used the words like “killed” or “fatally struck.” Instead it was an unfortunate accident that happened to an unfortunately young person.

“…an on-track accident that left 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. dead.”

“…he was involved in an incident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Kevin Ward Jr.’s death…”

“A sprint car racing incident involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart left another driver with fatal injuries…”

It’s no wonder that Stewart got away with murder. Our verbs hid him from the truth of it. I don’t know yet if that was for his sake or ours. Both are infuriating reasons.

Accidents and death are part of the machismo of racing. I get it. But Ward didn’t die in an accident. He died after an accident—when Stewart’s right front tire clipped Ward, throwing him in the air like a rag doll. As for machismo, the NFL certainly doesn’t lack in it, and they’ve still managed to hold individuals to a modicum of accountability—no matter how disjointed and backwards-ass the path is to get there.

Stewart Killed a person. It’s on tape. I’m still waiting for the Fury of God’s Own Thunder.

The Crossover: Greetings from Earth, Basketball is the Best I Ever Had

A product of thoughtful consideration (and content quotas!), I’ve begun email exchanges with a variety of luminaries across a range of professions and interests (this is hardly true). There is something to be said, however, about the implications of form qua blog and the enacting of discourse, but I won’t say it because it’s mostly doodoo. Academic and grounded in…something, but doodoo nonetheless. With that resounding endorsement, I present to you: The Crossover.

Shea Hurley:

Dujie,

Please respond to this email having something interesting to say about basketball. I’m a little bored. You’re probably not: congrats once again.

Michelle and me went to Leavenworth last weekend and climbed a proper mountain so it’s safe to say my ankle is mostly healed. I talked to your mom at the wedding, she said you felt at fault. I said you weren’t but that it was fine you going on thinking you were. So it goes.

Dujie Tahat:

I do feel at fault. You’d never played basketball really before and I should have warned you sooner that an ankle injury was inevitable if you didn’t get any basketball shoes. Unfortunately, yours was much, much worse than most (almost grotesquely so), and your subsequent employment was dependent on your physical prowess (not all of us can be 6’4”, a sinewy 215 and have a perfectly symmetrical face—so fuck you love you!) . Also, that was just one of the worst-sounding, -looking, gut-bending injuries I’ve ever been on a basketball court to witness. That definitely added to the guilt (for your stupid affinity for Tom Brady):

I’m over it now.

On this topic though, I have been meaning to ask you a question: what it was like to fall in love with basketball?

Yes. Love.

I’ve spent nearly as far back as I can remember playing basketball and can’t remember what it was like in the early years/months. Of course, over that time, I’ve fallen out of favor with the game, and subsequently, recommitted myself. Even then, there’s a rush when I lace up for the first time in a long time. The distinct tightness and traction of basketball shoes, a mishandled dribble, the first swish, when muscle memory takes over, even the pennies and compression shorts— it’s thrilling.

In those moments, during games, I find myself in complete ambivalence–one of those truly unsettling moments where you’re equally culpable to opposing forces. One the one hand, I am reorienting myself to the logistics of the game: positioning, spacing, assessing my side’s needs and focusing on those (i.e. rebounding, shooting, etc. (not et cetera: those are actually the only two things on a basketball court I can actually do)). On the other hand, I fight to get in “the zone”—which is already a losing battle I think because the sensation has always felt more like finding “the zone.” As if I had drunkenly, haphazardly and accidently stumbled into that state of mind that I’d characterize by a sharp dullness, or a sluggish honing.

It is a strange position to be in—rediscovering something you know so well—holding both these necessarily contradicting thoughts in a singular mind, in a singular body, in a singular game.  One requires thought and analysis; while the other demands near-blankness.

xoxo

 SR:

My affinity for Tom Brady—the great protagonist of the American Dream—is childish, sure, but it is not stupid. Lupe Fiasco is stupid, so were running shoes and I should have known that much without needing to be told.

As for love and basketball, I’m a little hesitant to throw love around while talking about a sport so new to me. But there was definitely something pseudo-romantic going on. Playing basketball had the same kinds of insecurities as a new love. I knew I was going to have to stop for a long time very soon and I was reminded always that it was a risky way to get in shape. If basketball was a love interest it was a fem fatal minx. I was infatuated, I had everything to lose, and I knew that at any moment it could expose me as a klutz and a fraud. I just didn’t think it would be so dramatic, or have such severe consequences when it happened.

Generally speaking, it is a bad situation to be in when your employment is dependent on your physical condition. Sometimes the job is worth it—it seemed like it was to me—most of the time it’s probably not.

As it turns out the premier rappel and jump bases in the country are both on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest here in Washington. I asked one of the older hotshot guys why he never jumped and he told me to put a 100lbs pack on and jump off my house. That was why, he said. Needless to say aerially delivered fire-fighters get hurt constantly. A jumper a few years ago, seeing the rocks ahead of him, threw up in his flight helmet before breaking both his legs on impact. The point here is that an injury was likely all along, so no worries; I’d rather beef it in the gym in front of ten people than in the wilderness in front of, like, no one at all.

Anyway, back to basketball. They say if you’re new to something it is best not to be nervous when doing it and visa-versa, when you are skilled at something the nerves can heighten your senses and are generally good for performance. This was the pendulum swing I found myself moving through and I felt much more natural, even in the zone, while I was able to think less. Thinking less, of course, I can’t do consciously. When I was thinking more it was about what a big rube I must look like, with my tall socks, ticking-bomb shoes and general lack of basketball paraphernalia. Or maybe a ruse instead of a rube, like a big, cruel trick in the form of a rangy, althletic-looking body who you could be pretty sure played at least JV in high school but who was really completely inexperienced and (initially) completely unskilled. Brick, sorry. That’s the punch-line and the joke’s on you, teammates.

I only wish I found the game sooner.

stay dreamy

DT:

Lupe Fiasco is not stupid. He’s a God. Toe shoes are stupid. I mean for Christ’s sake, wear regular fucking shoes! Or go barefoot! Mostly just pick one—stop trying to do both!

Also Tom Brady is not, I repeat not, the Nick Carraway of the American Dream—way more like Gatsby, or our 21st century version:

I mean, sure, seventh round pick, career back up, turned his one opportunity into multiple MVPs and Lombardi trophies, but whatever: the dude benefitted from the most effective pro football system since Vince Lombardi’s 1960s patented “Our endzone is that way, idiot!” offense.

Tommy Boi went to private school, went to football camps led by former Atlanta Falcon (and ArenaBowl Champion!) Anthony Graziani and grew up in San Mateo, California, among the top 25 wealthiest counties in the U.S. (just under $83,000 per capita), and the third wealthiest in California. There’s only one paradigm in the American Dream that his ascendency captures: MORE!

(Also, thanks Wikipedia for not failing to prove my point. This time.)

As far as basketball goes, I hadn’t meant love in a romantic sense. An initial pass makes that seem way too limiting, but I think you might be onto something.

Upon further review, I realized that I recently married a woman I’ve been on and off with for six years. Our relationship bears many of the characteristics of the relationship I have with basketball: there’s a definitive muscle memory to our motions, reading and reacting, learned instinct, a general machinery and lines that dictates the parameters but that wouldn’t mean a thing without the sheer joy of improvisation and cooperative freeplay.

There is one undeniable difference though: primarily that all sport ends.

I don’t believe that any human relationship ends—especially one that bears love. It just changes form.

To that end, when does basketball end? Surely, Basketball does not.

I get great joy from watching—marveling, really—at professional basketball players whose whole livelihood, whose whole identity and techne are contingent on what their bodies can do, a physical limit. To them, basketball never ends. They are the closest thing there is to the embodiment of Basketball. And yet, their’s is a precarious agreement with fate. Their very existence is all a gamble, a tightrope walk. Thousands of jumpshots, rebounds and crossovers a season, not to mention practice, conditioning, playing with the kids, each an opportunity to cripple these giants of the game.

I mean, can you imagine, these guys as fragile?

I’ve said it before, you need to watch Hoop Dreams. Not only will it keep warm your fire for the hardwood, but it’s just a great fucking movie. It changed the way documentaries were made thereafter. I bring it up though because what could be harder than your employment relying on your physical ability? Probably that the only opportunity you’ll ever have at any social mobility relying on your body.

To preempt some of your certain criticism: Yes. It’s not fair. Big picture, it’s a social condition that needs to be addressed.

The fire fighter that jumps out of a helicopter with a 100lbs strapped to their back into a blazing wildfire is perhaps the perfect metaphor for those kids. They’re the elite of the elite, playing men, acting like men when they’re probably only still boys, carrying their families and communities on the shoulders into a situation that will almost certainly eat them alive.

One of the kids Hoop Dreams follows, William Gates, suffered from a debilitating knee injury just as he was turning on in high school and college scouts were starting to pay attention. In fact, he had gotten into private school on a basketball scholarship. He never made it. He got swallowed by the fire.

I was never that elite of an athlete at anything to merit that kind of attention or even fancy. We were poor but, my parents insisted on education as my way up the ladder. I guess in many ways I’ve been tremendously lucky. It almost seems like a crime to insist that I, too, had and hold onto my own Hoop Dreams.

xoxo

SH:

Fine Dujie,

Tom Brady went to private school in San Mateo. But any descent parents would send their kid to a school that good if they could, if only to buddy-up with the crowd. And I should hope that when hardworking parents succeed in supplying their children with this quality of upbringing they do not resent the child as you seemingly resent the adult for what he got. So what if he went to private school in San Mateo? Tommy Jr. didn’t have say in the matter. This is to judge the son by the sins of the father (which—tsk-tsk—is anti-enlightenment and un-American) and frankly a sin I think you would readily commit.

But say (as you do) that Brady’s rich and lazy, embezzling, glitterati parents managed to jostle him into the lowest tier of a public university’s football program. Let’s give him the debts and credits starting there. Remember when he got to Michigan he was a timorous figure in the long shadow of Brian Griese, was 7th on the depth chart and seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety. He had to claw for the starting job at Michigan and for his spot in the pros. As a football player, it doesn’t seem like he was given much of anything besides talent, a pure apprehension of failure and a work ethic to channel it. These characteristics, thank you for noticing also, do evoke shades of Jay Gatsby.

“The Child is the father of the Man” as Wordsworth put it, probably holds true for both figures. I imagine the newly invented penniless Jay Gatsby looked out at the copper-kahuna, Dan Cody from the shores of Lake Superior much the same way the young Tom Brady Jr. regarded Joe Montana from the aisles of Candlestick Park.

The difference of course is that Brady does not come from piss-pot North Dakota. He did get his Daisy: the far-flung, sylphlike wonder of femininity Gisele Bündchen, and hasn’t yet suffered tragic decline and demise by the careless lies of careless people. Not to get too far ahead of myself though, he does play for the NFL, and with Junior Sau in mind, he might shoot himself in the chest before it is all over.

As for Lupe, I wouldn’t want it thought that I set myself up (and what a set-up it would be) so I will be short: He has paranoid delusions about the government of the United States, which is pitiable in its way, but also annoying because of his swollen following of credulous discontents who will take a junk-theory over the facts in plain view, if only to distinguish themselves from the presumed naiveté of cow-eyed parents and classmates and I guess whoever else.

~ ~ ~

Long break here. Work sleep work sleep work.

~ ~ ~

At age ten, I was deposed of my spot—middle back row—on class-picture day because I wasn’t any longer the tallest kid in class. It hurt then like no bad grade ever had or could. I feel a pathetic now remembering it, but I was young, and regarding at least my height, I grew up. Priorities, anxieties and pressures all changed. Problems might have arose if they didn’t, and games are a good example because maintaining skill at them becomes increasingly less practical as time goes by.

I’m not like William Gates (is the irony of that name addressed in Hoop Dreams?), who might have turned fragile athleticism into a career (i.e. a person for whom the game is practical). That was made clear to me early on. Time to go? Okay then, won’t have to tell me twice. The problem is with people hanging around after they should have left like drink-spilling old men at college bars: It’s just not going to happen these people and they’re the only ones who can’t see it.

Gates is exactly the kind of cautionary, all-eggs-in-one-imploded-basket-tale that 17 year-olds are hard wired to ignore in lieu of stories of guys who made it. If you can dream and not make dreams your master… If only. Outliers is bunk by the way.

Speaking of practicality and dreams and the boy being the father of the man, the image of the adult offered by the NBA—by pro sports in general—is not in the least bit practical. It provides a select few, a pre-selected few even—because DNA transcription is really more important here than anything that might follow—a chance to be rich and eccentric and idolized while it strings everybody else along.  Right now there is a guy just down the way on a barstool lamenting his wretched heap of a life to some poor stranger all because, he says, coach wouldn’t put him in, or his knee went out, or Ms. Bitch English teacher failed him out of eligibility. You’ll notice that when you chance upon this tedious foe (you have, and you will again and again and again) he is reliably incapable of prompting your sympathy.

The owners of the NBA—here I invite you to pause and muse with me on the oatmeal colored folds and gathers of Donald Sterling’s collapsing face—are nothing if not shrewd capitalists. Having an underclass of snowflake-or-bust kids who are made to think their endeavors on the court, or the field are more likely to repay their efforts than what they do in the classroom is agreeable; friendly; face-sucking, hand-under-shirt, over-bra simpatico to the status quo. The status quo being, of course, that the kids are without skills or footing and people like Sterling (who has excess money in almost exact proportion to excess skin) go on selling them hoop dreams. Dreams which are, to borrow a phrase nothing but net.

As I realize there is a Macklemore song about this I fill with self-loathing.

Talk to me

Shea

DT:

You did a whole thing there where you grew up and became a cynical old curmudgeon in the span of your last five ‘graphs. Good for you!

I’m going to try and keep this under 3000 words because I turn into a pumpkin after that.

Very quickly on Tom Brady: I would send my kids to private school. I hope to. But let’s not amplify the narrative. His ascendancy is limited to football—which, frankly, isn’t a mountain he could climb without coming from an upper-class, white, privileged family. I take no offense to his unlikely (sports) myth. As a fan of sport, I cannot help but to admire it. I do take offense to calling it the American Dream, and him the main character of it. America is no longer just a sea of pretty white boys (bad news for you). The American Dream connotes there is no alternative. His life wasn’t on the line and neither was the socio-economic outcome of his children. With or without football, Tommy Jr. probably would have still been rich, and his kids would still have their trust funds.

191 words to go.

The Brady discussion seems the perfect digression for the irony of William Gates’ name.

You are unassailably right about how the NBA is structured and capitalism in general. It sucks to be a Plebian. It’d be way cooler to wear a toga and admire little boys. But it sucks much less to be a Pleb that has mastered—or at least gets the daily opportunity to master—a craft as endlessly surprising and infinite as basketball.

Gates is a cautionary tale. There are a dozen of him for every Jimmy Butler. But you can’t blame people for doing what they’re good at, and hoping to achieve the highest form of success doing it. Anyone who can commit to that, seems to me, is the true “protagonist of the American Dream.” Failure is part of the equation. Much less talked about (makes a less inspiring poster), but completely necessary.

I know you’ve probably got some cheeky rebuttal, but this email exchange is my thing, so you’re going to have to hold onto it until next time.

xoxo

Guest Post: New Clubs, Same Old Racket

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] G [/dropcap] oing to the golf course cannot be recommended highly or often enough. The Beast of Boredom is rank and hairy and rising always on its hind limbs to overtake you, and the internet alone will not save you. The solitary sound of that little ball as it is welted into deep-green empty space, however, is as numinous a thing as there is anywhere, in any sport, and it will not fail you.

For those of us who can’t dunk a basketball, or send a baseball to the econo-stands on a line, a beautiful drive is maybe the highest confluence of physical power, symmetry, and control we will achieve. And we are not all alone; as you know, the list of retired and working athletes who regularly play golf is as long in length as it is high in profile. Clyde Drexler, Pete Sampras, Jerry Rice to name a few, even Mark McGwire—oh the motley bouquet of P.E.D. applications—probably have, no offense, lower handicaps than you. McGwire is purported to be an even-par golfer, discouraging I know, but take heart: Your friends will take your reported 85 (or whatever) at face value.

Ah, the drive: The sacrosanct, fixed concentration before the stroke begins is broken by the slow, dilatory rise of the back swing. The back swing stretches the front facing shoulder as the club-head reaches over to its cap and swooshes back down, igniting the ball and the fragrance of the turf. The ball lifts and disappears in an evanescent gleam.

If you have never tried this, it’s worth a Saturday. It’s worth a Saturday in any case.

The game of golf is not, however, won or fully appreciated from the tee, and while this seems like common knowledge it also seems that most golfers tend to spend their money emphasizing this particular aspect of the game. If the above has you considering a weekend loaf on the links, or at least the driving range (I consider my effort a failure if it does not) please also consider the following before you do.

It is more important to have a good hat, or a shirt that fits right under the arm, or a descent pair of sunglasses than it is to have an expensive or new set of clubs. If you can find grandpa’s blades in the storage room, by all means use those—the point is it doesn’t really matter.

Bobby Jones Jr., the spindly little boy who grew up to be a golf champion and legend, the co-designer of Augusta National, and a practicing lawyer of descent reputation and character (among these things, which is the rarer achievement you may decide for yourself) set what was then the single round record (in a winning effort) at The Open at St. Andrews with 68 through eighteen. This was done in 1927 with clubs made from persimmon and hickory and it would be over thirty years before the record was lowered again. The current record—Nick Faldo’s second round 65—was set in 1990 and has been tied only once.

That’s 63 years of golf-club technology developed through the most industrious years of the 20th Century to yield three strokes at St. Andrews, or 1 stroke every 21 years. This period has accounted for the slowest rate of professional improvement since the game was invented. I’ll add that golf is now being played by more people in more places than ever—bigger pond equals bigger fish—and is exponentially more lucrative than it has ever been. The winner’s share for Faldo in 1990 was £85,000 and for the most recent champion, Louis Oosthuizen, £850,000. These two factors convincingly negate really any credit that could be given to the dubiously improved balls and clubs.

No player has ever shot under 63 at one of the four major-championships and Johnny Miller first did it in 1973. I scorn to remind you that that was over 40 years ago.

A record, forty years unbeaten, in a sport whose sponsors supply so much esteem to their equipment, and to themselves, of course, for the equipment’s ongoing refinement and development, must mean only one of two things: Either golf club and golf ball manufacturers are not taking their jobs seriously; or, and this is my itching suspicion, they do not actually have a job to do in the first place—besides stamping the little bludgeons out. After all, they are not dealing with electric cars or Lady-Viagra or other things which technology might foreseeably improve.

Remove the word golf and you will be confronted with the essential absurdity in the phrase club technology. We have had 41 seasons of voguish product lines and glittery new rollouts since any bunch of them actually delivered what they all have promised to confer. No need to feel sorry for the sheep-like bourgeoisie that Callaway, Titleist and Ping annually fleece of their pocket money, I agree. This, however, is a plain racket that panders in magazine ads to the most solipsistic depths in the American psyche and is an embarrassment to any thinking, albeit occasional, reader of Golf Digest on every other glossy page.

The Shooter McGavin vibe of the sports’ ostensible practitioners aside I won’t hear it said that a game I love is all about class, or money, or anything of the sort. Class and money are about class and money and they have as much to do with golf as they do with anything else, which admittedly is a lot.

Golf though, when seen from the fairway instead of the clubhouse, is about other things.

To begin with, it is about the dictatorial clutch of a good groundskeeper and the essential Hanoverian exercise of pitiless dominion over all that troublesome vegetation. It is about hoary double entendre and childish sexual innuendo, obviously. It is about a person in silly clothes trying to command a petulant little ball while adhering to austere, made-up rules of principle. And, most singularly—now largely a bygone casualty of TV invigilation—golf is about self-governance and personal accountability. Like P.G. Wodehouse said of character: “Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that [no one] is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.” If you have the competitive vein and have ever felt unsure of who you are when no one is looking that little pencil will tell you right away.

The golf course is a land apart from everyday life where I can face my essential human futility—the inability to transmute intention into reality—on prettier and more reassuring grounds and terms. I wouldn’t be without it and I invite you all to join.

Everyone Needs A Hobby

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] S [/dropcap] eems appropriate at this point in time, in light of a few recent victories that could be readily classified as very un-Mariners insofar as said victories were not only emphatic but, in a way, expected, to address the elephant in the room: this Mariners’ season has coincided with the invention and subsequent growth of the blog you are reading today. Luckswing may be responsible for the Mariners’ successes.

What are the things required as a winning baseball team? Good players are certainly nice. Baseball is a good place for identifying good players because the numbers over large sample sizes tend to allow for some pretty well-thought predictions as to a players’ future successes  and failures. That being said, Chris Young sort of flies in the face of that. Chris Young sort of flies in the face of everything though. The term “Flies in the face of” is an unexamined idiom. Idioms are pretty much always unexamined which is why idiomatic language pretty much never translates well between languages. They just do not make sense divorced from the cultural context that birthed them. To shatter the generalization I just made, apparently this particular idiom’s origins involve some rural-ass scenario where a hen flies in the face of whatever predator, probably some canine like the dogs we keep as pets or the foxes we wish we could keep as pets, attacks her. So basically Chris Young is waging an assault against conventional metrics and expectations fueled by sheer farm-animal-desperation and he, like the rest of this improbable team, is succeeding.

Now that we have introduced improbability and desperation into the scenario, let us subsequently introduce the creation of this blog and by doing so really obviously connote (the words obvious and connote are also indirectly competing words but fuck you) that there was a certain degree of desperation in this blog’s creation—the quiet sort of desperation that manifests itself in really boring symptoms from probably more boring causes.

Luckswing was created, in a way, out of desperation. It shouldn’t take any reader a very long time to realize that this blog is more of a hobby than a job. Jobs pay you money and are almost by definition boring. If you think your job is exciting, there is a fairly decent chance that you are a habitual abuser of anti-depressants and are rapidly accelerating towards a hell of a wake-up call or you simply haven’t worked at your job for a very long time.

Hunter S. Thompson has a quote for this scenario that I have liked for some time: “Old whores don’t giggle.” Seems simple enough given a brief, cursory look. Great job on that first glance because it is every bit as simple as it seems initially or “out of the gate,” (to further estrange this from whatever subaltern other we feel like alienating today by using more idiomatic language).

Fuck it though. Let’s dig into the aforementioned simple-ass quotation just for funsies. Sex is fun and that is probably the jump-off point Hunter is trying to construct to then jump to the second axiom “jobs are boring” and see where he gets from there. Sex is fun because the chemical response to orgasm is literally a volcanic eruption of fun-chemicals attributed to the release of the neurohormones oxytocin and prolactin as well as endogenous morphine. But that is not all that there is. Obviously this is not the case. There is a different part of people who enjoy sex because it intrinsically validates a perception that is browbeaten into young people in American society and likely several other societies as well: the idea that the subject, male or female, can attain objects of their sexual desire and in doing so simultaneously validate their own need to be desired as well. It is the exultation in possessing and being possessed. Feelings of attachment post-sex make sense because the act correlates so strongly with notions of objectification that it will usually take real, mental work to adopt the kind of loosey-goosey collegiate attitude towards sex that most people can only get or at least pretend to get once they have done it enough. But even then, this work can often only be internally justified if the sexual subject is themselves confident of their own ability to possess multiple objects and thereby require less of an attachment to just the one, in which case they are more a collector than anything and they still covet the sexual object of possession but in their case what they covet is less of a single entity and more of a state of mind whose passivity is only supported by the ability to switch into successful attainment of a unique object at any given point in time. Basically this is like the Spotify of people fucking each other and similar to Spotify once your wifi connection ends up sucking i.e. you get fat or old and can no longer possess the multifarious objects of attainment at will any longer and are forced to either A) settle down, a term that explicitly includes the uncomfortably connoted “settle” or B) die cold and alone with your better years behind you and the distinct feeling that you may have wasted whatever energy you had on something that ended up being about as frivolous as a heroin addiction except perhaps even more expensive if you managed to knock/get knocked up along the way.

Neither of these seem like good options, which is why people will struggle with notions of “want” wherein they claim to want somebody to see past their own ability to be objectified and bitch and moan and wail about how nobody perceives the real them when in reality the only “real” thing under the surface essentially is anxiety regarding the desirability of the surface. Sucks to suck, as they say.

Ignoring all of that, let’s just accept the supposition that yeah, sex is fun. If that is the case then sex as a job is inviting tedium into what should be qualified as an escape from tedium. That is essentially Hunter’s point then when he says that “Old whores don’t giggle.” Any activity when pursued for and subsequently equated to financial benefit for too long shifts from having its end as something pleasant to having its end as something we deem necessary. It becomes an act of survival and the performance of that act repetitively until elevated to the rank of “profession” becomes just a faculty or aptitude, an adaptation for capitalist survival.

Fun things become un-fun very quickly when you are forced to participate in these activities against your will for extended periods of time for fiscal compensation that is in no way related to the object, subject or product of your labor but is instead a function of whether or not you are doing whatever it is you told somebody you were going to be doing for money. Somebody thinks that what you are doing for work is worthwhile. They have to. “Worth” is even in the fucking word and worth in this context is referring to money. To then retranslate the sentence above: Someone is giving you money to do something that they think is worth money. If they are paying you to do something that they did not think was worth money, then they are either extremely generous people or clinically insane and these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive in the least.

Operating within the worth-as-fiscal-compensation paradigm it is pretty easy to see that this site, what I am doing presently, is “worthless.” Writing doesn’t intrinsically benefit anyone if your notion of benefit is restricted to those things that allow you to, as they say, “put food on the table” or “pay the bills” or whatever else. Earning money for doing something has become the human equivalent of being say, a hunter or a gatherer, except that in this case there are actually just a few entities providing the necessary elements to living such as food and shelter while the rest of us basically just wallow in our own compensatory filth. Homeless or unemployed people in this setting become sort of the equivalent of a lion with a broken leg or a really lazy vulture and basically have no place in the edifice we have constructed over time beginning with whatever fuck thought capitalism as a system was a good idea when really it was just a way to create a society that flits from distraction to distraction and constructs flimsy, lazy narratives to ascribe meaning to what is essentially a living breathing game of flappy-bird untowards death with the worst part about that ride being the fact that we evolved to realize how pointless it is and in so evolving now strive to counter that helpless feeling by assembling a meaning as to “why” we have this awareness when really all we want is a compelling reason to stick our fingers in our ears going ”LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA.”

So yeah, blogging is worthless. It compounds its worthlessness by virtue of it being but one of many blogs amidst an absolute sea of un-edited unrestricted buttfuckery that plagues every deep corner of the internet—millions of people advocating their right to be heard without realizing that the cacophony of the group and the singular lack of specialness inherent to each individual entity makes their voice but one dissonant tone amidst a garbled scream that sounds like a stadium filled with teenage girls all enacting some sort of reverse-peristaltic apocalypse. Word vomit. It’s like Mean Girls, basically.

So yeah. This site was created as one of those voices amidst the cacophony-orchestra (the cacophestra?) as a means to exert some sense of voice or will or something that is pointless. If the rantings and ravings of this post haven’t made it abundantly clear how I feel on the matter there is this tidbit: participating in activities for one’s own survival are necessary but necessity is not enjoyable and necessity does not satisfy the “want” to feel as though the ever-elusive and ever-self-deluding “I” has a voice separate from its efficacy within a system of buying and selling.

The worst way to conceive of this voice is the whole “My voice matters, I am going to change the world, blah blah blah.” These are the words of deluded millionaires and their children-turned-sofa-activists who probably aren’t even 100% sure what their definition would be of “the world” and certainly do not seem conscious of the fact that the pedestal for ignored reform and change is itself a luxury inherited by being born to the royalty of the system they pretend to hate. Seems kind of shitty that “change the world” has become a cliché, but it has. The whole notion of changing the world has become one wherein it is less important that this nebulous “world” has changed but rather that the person wants it to be themselves who have changed it and thereby validate their status as a precious little snowflake for which there is none other so special and unique and just lovely.

So instead: Sports! Why not? Has there ever been anything as meaningless as opining as to the outcomes of events structured within arbitrary rule-sets for which people are paid millions of dollars to skip their formative educations and hit round things with sticks? There probably has! But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t some pretty meaningless shit we are hitting on here. This is the point. If you ever find yourself taking things too seriously or losing grasp on the meaningless expressions within life’s little hell-ride towards extinction than you do so at your own loss. You lose the joy of, “wow that orgasm sure was nice” and creep ever closer to Hunter Thompson’s hypothetical whore being dully pounded into oblivion without so much as batting an eyelid and all of those little giggles become yawns and you have turned pointless hobby into vocation into job into total bore.

So now we can make claims like, “The Mariners’ successes coincide with Luckswing being created. We are responsible for their success.” Why not? I invite all readers to come bury their heads in the sand with us. Everyone needs a hobby, right?

Guest Post: Consider NOT Watching

It is a hard enough time trying to live my own life, televised sports aside. It’s difficult: just try filling up the day with activities that are of your own design.

TV entertainment, at large, is no help with this pursuit. It is, in fact (IN FACT: I have to put the blame somewhere), the principle obstacle to it. Among the many arresting, come-hither faces television programming makes, the most tantalizing for many—my own shameful, feckless self, included—is sports.

The NBA Finals transported me out of the utter boredom that otherwise was my languid, lonely weeknight evening and delivered me the kind of solitary stimulation whose only rival is that unutterable height of masculine indignity: the video game.

But where did it take me really, these NBA Finals? And what exactly did it ask of me once it plopped me down?

It took me three time zones away—as many tax-brackets to be sure—and impel me to exist vicariously through other fellow humans who have not a scant idea or care that I exist.

Why should he?

Unlike me, Mr. James apparently has a life of his own to keep him busy—hence this arrangement in the first place.

At this point, it may sound like I am dogmatically opposed to entertainment in general (to anticipate a criticism), but that would be only partially true.

A movie, like, say, a book (they exist!), begins somewhere, says its piece and is over. Voila and ta ta, you let two hours blissfully slip away with little industry to show for it. Nonetheless, the movie is over. The movie is kaput. You can go ahead and get on with your own business now if you like, but sports never goes belly-up, does it? They never even end—there is always the next game, the next series, the next season (maybe you have noticed…).

It is not the time lost watching the game that is the tragedy (although this is pointlessness-squared, and, frankly, there is not all that much time to spend). It is the time spent in listless anticipation of the next game wherein the calamity lies. There is no shortage of better things to worry about in the world, believe me.

The person who might be described as a “fan”—although I admit to feeling a pang of guilt for hectoring them with this term, but, having apparently forgotten the word’s etymology, they seem take no offense to it—has been infected by sports entertainment. The mind-rot extends well beyond the temporary insanity that axiomatically accompanies the viewing of these frenzied pageants. “The game,” the thing that once upon a time was the escape from the banal and tedious hours of the lonely evening, now becomes the principle supplier of the tedium and nail biting in the meantime.

Ergo Sports Center.

»«

I can’t help but feel embarrassed for Faith Hill (or Hank Williams Jr. or the Dixie Chicks or whoever) when I hear it sung—you know the jingle: “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday Night!”

Does she mean to tell me my whole day has been building toward a blood-sport television program? It’s not even consolation anymore; the day is to be organized around it! It’s a bit like gleefully looking forward to watching other people in the sheets.

And don’t, I beg you, tell me this nonsense brings out the best in people or brings them together. Tell that instead to the tens of thousands who now choose to sit in “Family Zone” seating at NFL games to avoid a fist-fight with a drunk over a loyalty to the wrong team, or a lack of zeal even for the right one. Maybe there is something compelling about the number 42 or Michael Sam, but for every Jackie Robinson story there is a John Rocker and Riley Cooper and Kobe Bryant and Garrison Hearst and so many more to be sure, holding down the hatred for now like so much sour milk. And, mind you, these are only athletes who have said hateful things.

How is it, then, that this caravel of primeval loathing keeps its anchor under a monsoon of unchecked praise—praise issued on account of even-handedness and for providing our children with good “role-models” no less? There are more than a few athletes I would call outright criminals if that tag did not so sinuously fit on the team owners as to make the players’ crimes almost too piffling to be worth mentioning. Which, in your estimation, is more appalling: that Ray Rice punched his wife unconscious and dragged her around the Revel Hotel lobby by her hair? Or that the official Ravens Twitter account, seeking to smooth “Little Ray’s” brand back to that of game-time idol, tweeted: “@Ravens Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”?

Did you hear that young, impressionable men of America?

It was—once again—her fault.

From the theft of money by Little League presidents in Hawaii to Wisconsin, to the shady business dealings of pro-team owners (yes Mr. Cuban, quite a slippery slope there indeed) to the flat out, knife-in-teeth piracy that is the dealings of the NCAA in all its shadowy forms, these bodies have no shame and brand themselves as if they have no guilt.

Lastly, and with the above in mind, I have heard all I can bear about “locker room culture” as some kind of relativistic, Margret Mead-esque excuse for anything. It’s a debasement to the language in the first place. And in the second, is that really what a man does? Dawn plastic armor and fight make-believe bad guys from the next town over? I don’t think so.

I mention this just as a point of comparison:  My four-year-old nephew dresses up like Iron-man on Sundays sometimes and shoots lasers out of his fists. Say what you like of me if I join in. It is not much of a game for an adult, but at least I’m the one playing.

 

On writing, readership, and trying to convince myself that I can happily do the former without craving the latter

Dear readers. Some of you may know me and others may not. Most of you are probably familiar with me in some capacity as I doubt that our site’s reach extends much further than a few close friends and relatives and even among that demographic I think we are likely limited to the 3 or 4 of you who bother clicking on any of this when you are scrolling through your web browsers finding out which Lord of the Rings character you are based on your favorite color, food, etc. (#buzzfeed)

It occurs to me that this blog could be readily classified as a waste of effort but only insofar as that effort is deemed a means towards an end with that end being somebody reading what it is we write.

But then again, it ought to be pretty fucking easy to represent writing as an end in itself. Doing so lessens the burden of acquiring readers so I will try to do that here.

This case has been made before (the whole “end in itself” thing is actually a fairly prehistoric notion) and it makes plenty of sense. Those who suffer most in their literary careers often do so from a lack of fulfillment. If this seems like a pretty sweeping generalization then that is because it is one. That being said, how many starving artists and authors exist out in the great wide world who are just so so sure that they have something special to offer if only someone would give them the opportunity and time to pay attention to them. Fulfillment. Me me me me me. What is fulfillment?

Fulfillment is a simple ass word because it basically just means “fill.” For someone to be fulfilled or to feel unfulfilled they are implying that there is some emptiness in them that only say, an avid readership could cure. And yet, I can’t help but think that this is a dangerous way to perceive things.

Think about those thing we have under our control as human beings. We control what we eat, drink, put into our bodies. We control what we do on a day-to-day basis and how we interact with others. We control our manner of expression upon meeting a new person and control how we comport ourselves in interaction with those people.

Think about all of those hypothetical situations and then imagine how often it has come to pass that any of those activities which you would typically label as being something under your control were in fact, not under your control.

How often have you yielded to an animalistic temptation to do one thing when logic or even your own physical wellbeing dictates the contrary? Have you grabbed the last slice of pizza completely unnecessarily after facing 4 slices already? You have definitely grabbed the last slice of pizza. You motherfucker. Did you need it? Did you even want it, insofar as “wants” are those things that we desire (hopefully) translated from something we deem good for ourselves or at the last, pleasant? In this case the activity becomes not a taking for means of fulfillment as much as it is a yielding to that which is easy and available. You feel shitty afterwards as you knew that was a slice too far (as the saying goes) yet you did it anyway. You acted in direct contradiction to your own best interests as a human being and you did so unthinkingly.

The world is filled with these oddities. The things directly under our control can often seem like some of the more difficult things to control, as their sheer immediacy renders the act of choosing opaque to the extent that we don’t realize in these moments that we have a choice at all. We simply act in accordance with what instinct or impulse or addiction drives. These are not moments of fulfillment, nor do they imply a lack in the same way as demanding readership implies one. We do not necessarily feel a personal absence prior to our choosing to eat the last slice of pizza or smoke a cigarette. These are not things over which we agonize and are not things to which we lend a healthy portion of our conscious thought. They just are.

The difference then is in the way in which demanding readership or some other validation is tied to our intellectual and deeply personal notions of ourselves. I am of the opinion that our notions of ourselves are complicated, constructed and chosen. How could they not be? People do not see themselves as just people. People see themselves as people that do things or have certain traits that lend credence to their propensity to do well at some particular thing (even if they never even really act on this belief and just sort of assume that if they did then they would be good at it or something). If you ask someone what they do- they don’t say: “I eat, shit, sleep, eat, etc.” If somebody says something like that then it seems as though they don’t do anything, even though all of those things are not only, you know, “things,” but are also fundamentally basic to our existence as organisms. We don’t care about those things. Those things are common and those things in being common do not paint the image of us as the special, lovely snowflakes that we all think ourselves to be. People need to do things and further, they need to do things that they perceive to be differentiators that separate them from the crowd, things that make them interesting and the curious thing about being interesting is that it can’t exist in a vacuum– there has to be someone else there to be interested. A shiny rock sitting out in space may as well not be shiny. What a waste of effort!

People feel a certain way about themselves, lend adjectives to those thoughts and then rely on others to act as validation towards that end i.e. someone might say “I am an intellectual.” They say intellectual things in casual conversation. Upon saying such things they expect to then either be engaged deeply in such a way as to spark discourse of a higher nature than typical table-talk (tacit validation) or rather they expect to be directly validated through those sorts of flippant “that’s deep” type of statements and things to that effect. It isn’t enough to carry the opinion of oneself as intellectual—rather, the perceived substance to that personal claim lies in external validation—yet this is a dangerous and fickle path to tread. If the lack that we feel regarding our own validating conceits can be thought of as a bucket or some other vessel to be filled with water (external validation) than that metaphorical bucket is riddled with metaphorical fucking holes and needs refilling constantly. There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza. There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Demanding readership or craving readership is more of the same instinctual bullshit that drives one towards some of the vices listed above. It is not a choice that we are even capable of making as its satisfaction is driven by external factors that we can try to manipulate but cannot possibly control. This makes validation of this nature less a choice and more of an ardent desire coupled with an expectation that, if not met, renders us feeling hollow or worse, like liars who are lying about our own purpose, abilities, life and trajectory. We desire gratitude and fulfillment and we think that the only way to go about grabbing these things is to be validated by others. We are stricken with fear as we tell a joke that nobody laughs at and we sit around looking at people and praying to not be left in the state of hollow vulnerability that precedes the first, polite chuckle from a friend who knows you are craving a validation fix like a crack addict craves…cigarettes.

If this sounds like a fancy way to convince myself that I do not crave readership then that makes a lot of sense because that probably is what this is. That being said, I have really enjoyed writing for this blog, readership or no. If you are a human being reading this right now, I thank you! If you are not, then I obviously have nothing to say to you, since you wouldn’t be able to hear (see?) me anyway.

Writing for its own sake. It can be a thing. Hobbies and such. Go Mariners.