Archive for the ‘Arts/Entertainment’ Category

The Life of the Unemployed

September 21, 2007

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve update this. And, as no one reads it anyway, I’m planning on dialing up the typical level of ostentation from threat level ‘Amber’ to ‘Orange’ as this is just one big exercise, equal parts self-aggrandizement and self-deprecation. Aaaaaaaand done.

I’m back in Washington D.C. After a summer of intellectual stagnation, self-doubt, asking people for money, managing staff, unethical behavior, farmers’ tans, nuclear-familial disintegration and a pittance of a paycheck, I have returned to the place that, in German, means ‘a whale’s vagina.’ Washington D.C., drink it in. It always goes down smooth.

I’ve been unemployed for about five weeks now and it’s beginning to get a little redundant. When you’re unemployed, you attempt to stretch every tolerable activity into an ordeal lasting long enough to fill the void once occupied by your job. Allow me to give you a couple examples.

The first five times through, the movie ‘Fight Club’ is artistic genius. Nowwwww, viewings number six, seven, and eight may compel you to scratch out your own eyes. Seriously. Don’t do it.

And, as Fight Club is only 2 hours long and there’s only so much one man can masturbate in a 24 hour period (they’ve done studies you know) I’ve had to find other things to do. So I started running again. Great idea—until I sprained my left foot, rendering myself completely immobile. I’ve been sedentary for a week. No joke; I am anchored to this couch. And, seriously, there’s only so much one man can masturbate in a 24 hour period.

Then I got really lucky. I limped into the bookstore looking for male fashion magazines (again, unemployed guy here) and wound up purchasing Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Cat’s Cradle.’ If you’ve never read it, stop reading this trash and go pick it up.

Cat’s Cradle, written in 1963 during the Vietnam soirée (yea, ostentation alert), is a book about mans’ absurdity and the inevitable apocalypse to which it will be attributed. On it’s surface, this book is about a writer set about chronicling the lives of famous people the day the United States dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, the midget son of the father of the Atomic Bomb, his horse-faced sister, their brother (a third world dictator’s right hand man), the necessary lies of religion and its conflict with science in the modern world. It’s a comedy.

Vonnegut is always very funny, but this book is dark and fatalistic. Among the most profound ideas present in the book is the extent to which man uses lies (religious, scientific, sociological) to make life livable. Scientists believe that all of life’s mysteries can be solved in a lab and churchgoers have the audacity to imply an understanding of God’s will; we prop up our heroes and embellish the villainy of our villains. An especially disheartening commentary to the young idealists among us is what the chief religious guru in ‘Cat’s Cradle,’ a man named Bokonon, has to say in his 14th book entitled, “What Can A Thoughtful Man Hope For Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?” The book has only one word, “Nothing.”

It’s truly one of the best books I’ve ever read (and to think, I almost picked up a fashion mag) and I recommend it to anyone interested in thinking. It’s one of my hobbies: thinking. I’m good at thinking, just passable at writing, ahhh life’s many frustrations.

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The Fourth Hand

April 18, 2007

I just finished reading John Irving’s The Fourth Hand. While it is worth noting that I have previously read both The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany, found each to be better than The Fourth Hand, and recommend that you read both, The Fourth Hand is especially significant today–two days after the Virginia Tech shooting.

The Fourth Hand is a story that follows a cad of a television field reporter who loses his left hand to an Indian circus lion while on an assignment. The reporter, Patrick Wallingford, later falls in love with the widow of his hand transplant donor. The book has fewer layers than Garp or A Prayer for Owen Meany, and is without the adroit literary architecture present in most of Irving’s work. However, its commentary on the era of sensationalist ‘all-news-networks’ and their exploitation of national tragedies is particularly pertinent this week.

The following is from a Facebook group, posted by a news outlet on Monday:

“Hi everyone. My name is Karen Park. I am working with Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in New York City. We are looking for (korean) people from VT who knew Mr. Cho personally, had a class with him, was his roommate in previous years, etc…

We would also like to know if anybody has any photographs or video clips of him or with him. We are interested in only showing his face and so we will blot out the faces of other people in the photographs.

Lastly, if anyone is willing to do a brief on-camera interview with one of our correspondents in Virginia or a telephone interview, please call us immediately…”

On Monday night, Brian Williams did the NBC Nightly News broadcast from the Hokie campus in Blacksburg. Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s chief political pundit, was also there. Hoards of reporters have descended on Blacksburg, looking for the “he kept to himself” sound bytes and B-roll of the hysterical, sobbing friends of victims; ESPN is reporting on the canceled Hokie spring game and how the ‘innocence’ of college sports will bring us back together. Even the all-sports-news network struck gold:

“you realize there are 32 people who aren’t walking down to the football game.”

In The Fourth Hand, Wallingford is at the anchor desk the week of JFK Jr’s plane crash over Martha’s Vineyard. He curses both the local news and all-news networks for taking telephoto shots of the victims’ friends and family, and the networks’ proclivity to stretch a tragic story into a multi-week feeding frenzy. Wallingford would chastise Brian Williams for his reporting with all the gravitas and feigned verisimilitude of having been in the classroom with the victims, and the way the press will scrutinize the writings of Cho Seung-Hui and opine that someone should have seen it coming.

The Fourth Hand is about a man who loses his hand and finds his soul. Needless to say, it is a work of fiction. Our aggressive all-news culture will ride the Virginia Tech story like they did Imus and Duke and Anna Nicole Smith; they will be relentless. There are 28,000 students at Virginia Tech and, by the end of this week, each will have been solicited for an on-camera interview, photographs of Cho Seung-Hui and more information about the thirty-two victims.

On the fourth or fifth day of non-stop reporting following Kennedy’s plane crash, Wallingford sits in the anchor’s chair watching—with millions of viewers worldwide—a network montage of Kennedy Jr.’s life. The montage ends—with the image of John-John saluting his father’s funeral procession—and the camera is back on Wallingford. In lieu of his usual signoff (“Goodnight, Doris. Goodnight, my little Otto.”) Wallingford says, “Let’s hope that’s the end of it.”