Monday, March 06, 2006

It's Hard Out There For A Deity

Suprisingly, I'm not going to mention the Oscars. I bet you thought I'd have something to say on the topic, but frankly, I just didn't care. As I saw a grand total of "zero" of the movies that had been nominated, I figured it was a waste of my time to watch a three-hour award show filled with self-congratulatory praise, smarmy, off-handed political commentary and in-jokes that end up falling flat but still eliciting a polite titter from the self-proclaimed royalty of America. All I know is that Best Picture was won by a movie that less that .135% of the world bought a ticket to see and Best Song went to a bunch of thugs whose members include an individual named "Crunchy Blac", (whose previous hits included "Where da Cheese At?" and "Knock the Black off yo Ass") and subsequently is the only Oscar-winning song in the history of the Academy to include the phrase, "Because a whole lot of bitches talkin shit." Who said art is dead?

No, I'm here today to talk (briefly) about the most ridiculous "protest" movement I have come across. Oddly enough, I first heard about it while searching for a webcomic called "Sock-Monster." Don't ask. Anyway, when I got to the site, I was met with this message . For those of you too apathetic to click, here's the message in it's entirety:

From February 15 to March 20, I am participating in an electricity fast called Lights Out Chicago. I will be joining friends and family in refraining from using electricity in my home for 33 days in order to raise awareness of the lack of reliable electricity in Iraq. Over the past fifteen years, Iraqi civilians have had to deal with two U.S. invasions, sanctions, bombings, a ruthless dictator and a powerful insurgency. It is time we start helping our Iraqi counterparts rebuild their lives and infrastructure. Because of this fast from electricity, I will not be updating Sock-Monster for a month. On March 21, Sock-Monster will be back with new cartoons, but until then, I encourage you to spend some time getting involved in helping people whose lives have been burdened in our name. Lights Out Chicago is a part of Voices For Creative Nonviolence's month-long protest, the Winter of Our Discontent, and has been organized by members of VCNV, Peace Action, and the Allium Collective. For more information go to http://www.vcnv.org.

I know, I couldn't stop laughing either. A guy who draws a webcomic highlighting the adventures of a poorly drawn sock-puppet is going to "raise awareness" about the abominable living conditions in Iraq by not using electricity. And he is going to tell the world of his desire not to use electricity by using the Internet. Which, as far as I can tell, uses electricity.

Remember the good old days when people who had a political statement to make did so by actually doing something? Writing articles and essays, picketing, chaining themselves to a tree, immolating themsleves in full view of a CNN camera crew? For god's sake, this guy is a cartoonist; wouldn't drawing a series of political cartoons accomplish his goal of "worldwide awareness" much more effectively than doing nothing at all?

The electro-fast is being led by Voices For Creative Nonviolence, a Chicago-based grassroots(read: pointless) group of do-gooders hell-bent on ending a war that they know close to nothing about. Their website, (updated two days ago smack in the middle of their War on Electricity I might add), details their namby-pamby crusade against violence with the following planned (in)action:

Fasting: an open-ended 33-day fast, possibly including a relay fast, with individual activists fasting all or part of the period.

What? A relay fast? Part of the period? Where's the dedication? In 1963, Thich Quan Duc, a Buddhist monk set himself on fire to protest the Vietnamese government's oppression of the Buddhist religion. That my friends, is the ne plus ultra expression of allegiance to a cause. Turning off your iPod for thirty minutes hardly qualifies.

But that's par for the course for this generation of couch potatoes and video-game zombies. Apparently to them, inaction is action. Any idiot can sit in a room with nothing but candles and an acoustic guitar and call themselves a "rabble-rouser", but quite frankly, if you aren't willing to put yourself in either extreme discomfort or danger for your cause, then your cause is inconsequential.

And I won't bother even pointing out the fact that 99% of this country's resources are hardwired; directly or indirectly, these peaceniks (read: unemployed art students) will be consuming electricity whether they like it or not. The only type of "awareness" that going without food, or water, or gasoline or power for any period of time brings is that there are an awful lot of people in this country, nay, this planet, willing to take the easy, illogical way towards "bettering" the world.

But don't think they haven't made me sit up and take notice. On the contrary, for the next 33 days I'm going to to double my energy usage to make up for whatever miniscule effect the Voices For Creative Laziness might have had on the country's electrical usage. Right now, I have three televisons simultaneously playing the FOX News Channel while every single light in my apartment is blazing away in hopes that I may become a beacon of rationality in an otherwise dark, stupid world.

I think Maddox said it best when he penned, "For every animal you don't eat, I'm going to eat three..."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Children Should Be Seen, And Heard Screaming

Just to switch gears a bit from the impending bloody global battles that will soon be fought by armies clashing over whose invisible man is more worthy of exaltation, I thought I'd offer a stirring example of how the very foundations of American culture are quickly and forever being eroded into dust. I only hope the grammar police don't cite me for the previous quasi-run-on sentence or my indiscriminate use of "hyphenate modifiers."

Last Friday, a group of students from the Holly Academy in Central Michigan was visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts, when one of the "next generation of educated adults", weaned on a diet of overindulgence by his Gen-X parents, decided that a 1963 abstract painting by Helen Frankenthaler was the perfect place on which to park his moist wad of masticated Wrigley's. The painting, entitled, "The Bay" is valued at about a $1.5 million dollars and will need to undergo two weeks of delicate restoration to remove the stain left by the gum.

The boy, who is 12 years old, has been suspended by the school, and according Julie Kildee, the Academy's director, has been disciplined by his parents.

Aside from the fact that the only discipline little Tucker / Taylor / Tyler is apt to recieve is ten minutes in the "time out chair" followed by a whole weekend deprived of his Xbox 360, what bothers me the most about this situation is a quote by Director Kildee:

"Even though we give very strict guidelines on proper behavior and we hold students to high standards, he is only 12 and I don’t think he understood the ramifications of what he did before it happened, but he certainly understands the severity of it now."

How strict were the guidelines set by the school if "don't stick gum on valuable artwork" was a subject not broached by the teachers? I can remember when I was but a wee lad being led around the labyrinthine Metropolitan Museum of Art knowing that if we stood any less than arm's length away from the paintings, we would have our knuckles broken by our teacher, a formidable 900 year old nun in a starched black habit.

Corporeal threats notwithstanding, even at 12 years old I had enough self-discipline to refrain from touching the exibits, let alone sticking my used gum on their frames. Instead of assessing students on their ability to "Sing independently with 85% or better accuracy in two-part singing," the Holly Academy should focus on training their students in the lost arts of Composure, Decency, and Common Sense.

Let me tell you a little story, which I swear on a stack of bibles stolen from hotel rooms is true. About two weeks ago, at about 10 o'clock in the evening, I was walking back from the convenience store around the corner from my apartment after securing some cigarettes for the weekend. Three junior high-school kids, about 13 or 14 years old, were approching from the other direction. Instead of parting or standing aside to let me pass, as children of my generation would do if their path was blocked by an adult, the kids continued to walk, three across, DIRECTLY INTO ME as if I were nothing more than a fogbank. I know that they saw me, as am I 6' tall and weigh 200 pounds - hardly an unobtrusive figure. And yet, here was some pubescent troglodyte colliding with me because he was under the mistaken impression that he was entitled to trapise around without minding his environment or acquiescing to my elder status.

It gets better. As the child bounced off of my unyielding frame, he yelled, "You better watch where the fuck you're going, nigga!" Let me point out that neither I nor the child happen to be of the Afro-American persuasion, so the vociferation was a complete non sequitur. Also, and perhaps this is whistling past the graveyard, but I do not frighten easily, least of all by mortal teenagers who do not know their place in society. As my objective of smoking cigarettes and drinking scotch was being unrightfully delayed, I decided that then was not the time to launch into a ten-minute diatribe about civilized behavior, electing instead to ignore him and return home.

But wait, there's more! As I continued down the street, the child yelled after me, "You better run away, nigga!" and then, with his two friends laughing like the idiots they were, proceeded to walk across the street - directly into the path of an oncoming car. I actually didn't see it, but the squeal of brakes followed by the hollow thud of 125 pounds of moron hitting the pavement forced me to turn around. At this point I was about 20 yards away. Professor Wise-Ass was on the floor, dazed, and holding his leg in pain. I detected a faint whiff of crying, as well. His two friends were standing on the curb, equally in shock. The driver of the car (a 1980 model POS) had gotten out, and the look on his face was not one of disbelief, or sympathy, but more like, "Oh shit, I don't have insurance." He was probably 40 or 45 years old, Hispanic, and was either returning from or travelling to some low-paying, labor intensive job. The rest of the street was quiet and dark and completely bereft of any other passersby. Which meant that, ethically, I had to step in and assist this poor soul in his moment of need and despair. I walked halfway back towards the car, looked the driver dead in the eyes, and said, "Yo no vi nada. Vaya ahora." Which he did, posthaste. And I happily lit up a cigrette, waved at the tough guy blubbering prostrate in the street, and continued on my merry way.

The moral of the story, ladies and gentlemen? Perhaps it is that one is never too young to learn a valuable life lesson. That kid in Michigan should have recieved the exact same punishment from the authorities that woud have been doled out to an adult exhibiting the same uncivilized behavior. Or maybe the lesson is that schools and adults have a moral imperative to teach today's youth that acting according to one's own whims (especially when they contradict societal order) is flat out unacceptable. Too much emphasis today is being placed on personal "freedom" and "expression" without a hefty modifier of "moderation" and "rationality." More on that later.

I'd like to think, however, that the moral of my story is "Don't cross swords with the crazy half-elf when there's Scotch waiting for him at home. Especially when he speaks badly-parsed Spanish."

Lex Talionis.
Un Ojo Para Un Ojo.