Winning! Internet Arguments

As many of you know, internet assholes are everywhere, and they exist in many different varieties. From the dopey douche-bro who can reach no higher than schoolyard insults, to the smug pseudo-intellectual who insists that scolding and belittling amounts to a “discussion,” you’ve got quite a motley crew out there, just waiting for the opportunity to feel superior to you. Once you let them in, there’s no escaping: you’re locked in an exhausting battle of wills that will only end when one of you gets bored. There’s no face-saving in a situation like this, and even though nobody cares but you and the person you’re dueling, odds are that you’ll end up feeling pretty bummed and strung out when it’s all over.

Well, folks, I have good news for you. I have solved this problem. Next time someone comes at you with cocky, smirking arrogance, wave them away with a tactic they can’t possibly get past: the Fortune Cookie Defense.

Yes, the Fortune Cookie Defense. It’s a surefire way to frustrate and annoy your opponent, while making you look transcendent and unflappable. Please observe the following example:

  • Random Asshole: What a mindless and vacuous comment.
  • Me: Your high-minded principles spell success.
  • Random Asshole: lol your videos are stupid and nobody likes you
  • Me: If you refuse to accept anything other than the best, you very often get it.
  • Random Asshole: btw is that you in your picture? ugly fuck
  • Me: Your shoes will make you happy today.
  • Random Asshole: wtf is that all you can say.
  • Me: People enjoy having you around. Appreciate this.
  • Random Asshole: whatever

No asshole can puncture your ego if you just read him his fortune. If he replies, just give him another one. Repeat until he stops. Acknowledging an asshole without really acknowledging him shuts him down very quickly. The beauty of the Fortune Cookie Defense is not only its impenetrability, but its effectiveness as a reversal move. It makes you into the troll, while turning your enemy into an increasingly ineffectual, yapping chihuahua. The angrier he gets, the stupider he looks. Your internet pride is invincible with the Fortune Cookie Defense, so get out there and start trolling, folks!

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The “Culture War” Is Really Humans Vs. Culture

Make America Angry Again! It seems like everyday now, there’s some TV show or public event aimed at upsetting the president, followed by a Trump Tweet that fires everyone else up. Everywhere you look, you see angry racists, angry anti-fascists, angry feminists, angry football players, and angry celebrities screaming, waving their arms, and killing each other with cars over something Trump said or something Trump did.

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Come on people. Look at this guy. Does he really deserve this level of validation?

Now, I realize that the issues that have Americans so enraged these days aren’t entirely the president’s fault. These are old fires being stoked, but we’re not going to douse by throwing tantrums or going out of one’s way to piss people off.

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Yeah, I’m talking to you, interchangeable NFL protesters. Now, I don’t care about the National Anthem or all this disrespecting the flag one way or the other. To me, those as symbols, and I leave symbols to the same people that George Carlin does. The way I see it, you’re just exercising a right that this great country is based on. I’m proud to live in a place where you needn’t worry about getting lynched, stoned, or even fired for your actions. Whether I agree with you or not, however, I still think you could find a better venue to share your viewpoint.

Let’s be honest: Monday Night Football is not the place for you to speak your minds. In fact, you’re not hired to speak at all: you are modern-day gladiators, paid to beat the shit out of each other in an arena for the pacification of the public. That’s all you are, and that’s all anyone cares about. As for me, I don’t care one whit. If you want ruin your careers and damage the reputation of the company you work for, then go right ahead. Maybe it’ll get Americans to stop thinking about football and start thinking about real issues. I just think you’d do better to speak at a college, publish an essay, or even write a letter to the editor, for crying out loud. You’ll have a smaller audience than when you’re on your precious tee-vee, but at least you’ll know that the people you do reach will actually give a shit.

It’s the egotism that bothers me more than anything. What kind of self-absorbed douche gets on a soapbox in the middle of work? If some dude at my office decided to interrupt every workday with a political message, the rest of us would throw our staplers at him. And don’t give me that shit about free speech. The First Amendment only protects you legally. It doesn’t mean that your friends, family, employers, or sponsors will like what you have to say. There are consequences for saying the wrong thing, so suck it up, buttercup.

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Then you’ve got the people who love to say that the president has emboldened racism and hate groups. Once again, I think those people are giving Trump a little too much credit. These organizations have existed, and will continue to exist, for years and years. You can’t blame Trump, a professional narcissist, for these violent rallies that are going on. Have we forgotten that the president works for the citizenry, and not the other way around? We hired him. Trump became president because we voted for him, not because he reached into his bag of racists and Russians and pulled them all out to vote. He is a reflection of us. Cruelty and ignorance are All-American home goodies, baked at three-hundred and fifty degrees for over two-hundred years.

Why do we keep blaming the president for all our problems anyway? He wields no real power. Sure, he puts his name on the bills, but his position only exists for one purpose: to provide “good feelin’s.”

Let’s be honest again: for all his impressive oratory skill, what did Barack Obama really change? I mean, really, as in the quality of our daily lives? Any changes in my life during his presidency were brought on by my own efforts. He certainly didn’t turn the country into some femi-homo-disarmed-Euro-paradise like conservatives feared. All he did was send warm, liberal fuzzies through the television while business, war, and politics went on as usual. In 2017, we just exchanged one talking head for another, one that says what the other side likes to hear. And still, nothing is changing. Do you have more money in your pocket than you did before Trump became president? Do you feel better protected from terrorists and scumbags? Is the nation a warmer, happier place than it was last year? Nah, but at least you have your alpha-male role model shouting down those pussy libtard snowflakes, and that’s all these people need.

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Therein lies the trouble we face: mindless tribalism, or as the magazines are calling it, the “culture war.” People are trading their individuality for groupthink and entering into twisted crusades against each other. You can’t say it’s only happening on one side, either, or else you wouldn’t see the childish clashes we’re getting. Those militant morons out there chanting and whining don’t care about making life better for anyone, they just want to feel morally superior to those they disagree with, by shouting them down and belittling them. When they vote, they don’t consider which candidate will improve the nation, but the one that will run their enemies out on a rail and silence them for good.

Now here’s the truth: if that’s the way you think when you vote, then you’re admitting that you don’t want a president, you want a king. That makes you a defector from democracy, and a supporter of despotism. You are precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned us about, and precisely what the Revolutionary War was fought to tear us from. In a democracy, everyone gets to speak, and in a society as diverse as ours, a tug of war must exist in perpetuity.

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So what’s the answer? I don’t know how to calm these nutballs we see on TV every night, but I do see the difference between them and the regular people that surround me in real life.

The fact is that regular people don’t get so worked up over these things. They’re too busy trying to survive. They have households to manage, families to raise, budgets to balance, jobs to attend to. They stay informed of policy and vote, but they don’t allow their identities to be so wrapped up in gang mentality that they want to kill the opposition. They are decent, reasonable folk who want to live in peace, not to create trouble where it needn’t exist.

It’s time we started taking responsibility for ourselves. We have to stop surrendering to the waves of manufactured consensus, and start owning up to our actions. Terence McKenna once said that “Culture is not your friend.” It aims to control you, to categorize you, to paint you as something you might not want to be. In fuming over the latest stupid tweet Trump made, you are playing straight into culture’s hands. Focus on your life, your reality, your people, your God. Consider how to improve your world practically, and don’t let anyone else, especially some nimrod on television, tell you how you should do it.

Not-So-Top Cartoons: Wreck-It Ralph

Something’s gone wrong in Videoland, and it’s not that Sarah Silverman found a way into it.

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I don’t know what to make of Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s 2012 niche-teaser about a video game villain who just wants to be liked, dammit. Is it a morality tale? Is it an action film? Or is it just empty-headed entertainment that’s about as satisfying as a Sugar Rush?

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I’ll summarize it as best I can: there’s this arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr., in which the player guides the friendly Felix up a building to stop the ape-like Wreck-It Ralph from busting up the place. It’s an obvious send-up of Donkey Kong, but this particular Kong is tired of getting tossed off a roof everyday. So, against the advice of his fellow bad guys, Ralph abandons his post and tries heroic deeds in other arcade games, so he can prove that he’s more than just a terrorizing thug.

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Along the way, Ralph is tormented by the violence of modern games, the gooey pitfalls of a saccharine candy-land, and the specter of a former villain who “game-jumped:” the glory hog Turbo, who caused two games to go out of order.

Like Pixar’s Toy Story or the classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Wreck-It Ralph presents us with a strangely complex society, with many rules and expectations for its citizens. Like the toons and toys of cartoons past, Wreck-It Ralph’s video game characters exist to please and entertain humans. As such, any individual’s attempt to rise above his or her station is considered disruptive to the community, and is thus met with disapproval. The mantra of Ralph’s support group, Bad-Anon, is, “I’m bad, and that’s good. I’ll never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”

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So the message of the film seems to be the stale old platitude of “be happy with whom you are,” but with the tacked-on amendment of, “so long as you remember your place.”

I take issue with this because, in the real world, criminals (or “bad guys”) who reform are to be commended. It takes real effort and work to improve oneself, to recognize the consequences of one’s actions, to learn empathy, to foster positivity. Even if the motivation is self-serving, i.e., to avoid prison or to save money or to raise a family, breaking away from a life of crime is indisputably a good thing, for both the group and the individual.

So is the constant urging for Ralph to stop his pipe dreams of heroism and just get back to breaking things really healthy?

Keep in mind that I only “take issue” with this. I’m not offended by it, and I understand that Ralph’s world has certain requirements in order to function, but the can of worms that this story opens isn’t, and cannot be, fully explored, and that’s frustrating. There are many perspectives and feelings to consider in a topic as complex as this, and a Disney cartoon just isn’t equipped to handle them all. You might say that Ralph’s writers were aiming to raise questions, to encourage its audiences to have lively discussions on the ride home from the theater. When a movie’s height of humor is a sassy little girl spewing doody jokes, however, I highly doubt that it has such lofty artistic goals.

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Anyway, that’s my main beef with this film: the story feels slapped together to line up with its “Roger Rabbit in Videoland” premise. And really, that’s what Wreck-It Ralph is: an updated version of Robert Zemeckis’s masterpiece, only more niche. It references the Golden Age of Video Games, when kids actually played 8-bit games in arcades, it’s got cameos from faces such as Q-Bert, M. Bison, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Clyde, and its original characters are amalgamations of existing Disney fixtures, like Mickey Mouse and The Mad Hatter.

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I actually like that last part. Fix-It Felix Jr., as played by Jack McBrayer, is basically a human Mickey Mouse. He may have been modeled after Mario, but his movements, attitude, and mannerisms are all Mickey’s. Imagine any one of his lines in Wayne Allwine’s voice and you’ll see it, I promise you. I find this idea of a postmodern update to the Mickey persona fascinating.

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(spoiler warning)

Then there’s my favorite character, King Candy, who’s voiced by Ed Wynn…as impersonated by Alan Tudyk. Put a top hat on him and you’re back in Alice’s Wonderland. I actually think the King is more like Judge Doom, in that he’s an ancient, whispered evil in disguise, revealed by accident and assuming a monstrous form.

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Turbo is, of course, a device meant to lead Ralph’s quest to a battle to save all of Videoland, but I guess that’s okay. The real antagonist of this film seems to be the insufferable weight of one’s peers, though I suppose that’s open to interpretation. There are things I like about this movie — the performances of John C. Reilly as Ralph and McBrayer as Felix, the occasionally irreverent tone, the fact that it has no songs — but the rest of Wreck-It Ralph is pretty forgettable. As with most Disney productions, it never goes too far in any direction, for fear of upsetting somebody. So instead we get fizzy, fuzzy harmlessness painted in sweets and sugars, to be ingested for a quick high before seeking out something more filling.

A post-script: yes, the animation is excellent, but that’s to be expected from Disney. Besides, computer-generated animation is so prevalent now, even in freaking live-action films, that its spectacle has become numbing. Had Disney been bold enough to depict Wreck-It Ralph in the pixel-art style of the games it was evoking, it might have earned a real high score from me.

People I Will Never Be Friends With

A partial list.

  • Anyone who says, “Sup, bitches.”
  • Women who think it’s cute to roll their eyes in pictures.
  • Those who think turn signals are optional.
  • People who find a way to bring Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump into any given conversation.
  • Anyone who uses an anime character for a Facebook portrait.
  • Guys who hate cameramen for catching criminals in action (it’s always guys).
  • People who write horror stories and call it “creepypasta.” You can’t call it creepypasta if you’re writing and submitting it to a website, okay? You can only call it that if you copy it from, and paste it to an image board! Otherwise it’s just more bad horror fiction.
  • Mud runners.
  • Men who despise women for expecting decency from men. True, such women are idealistic, but you don’t get to despise them for it.
  • People who share details of any kind about their digestive habits.
  • Anyone who uses chat acronyms in everyday speech.
  • A person who says “I’m on fire for God!” Well, a person who says he or she’s “on fire” for anything, really.
  • Those who treat YouTube as a career option.

The Perils of Being a Wallflower

“Metaphorically, DMT is like an intellectual black hole in that once one knows about it, it is very hard for others to understand what one is talking about. One cannot be heard. The more one is able to articulate what it is, the less others are able to understand. This is why I think people who attain enlightenment, if we may for a moment comap these two, are silent. They are silent because we cannot understand them. Why the phenomenon of tryptamine ecstasy has not been looked at by scientists, thrill seekers, or anyone else, I am not sure, but I recommend it to your attention.”

~ Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelics, Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFO’s, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, & the End of History. (1991).

Dimethlytryptamine: the granddaddy of all hallucinogens. I’m not interested in trying it, as the results sound a little overwhelming, but I am very curious about the psychological, emotional, and spiritual implications of the experience that many of its users have shared.

Terence McKenna described the five-minute DMT trip in great detail: after smoking or otherwise ingesting the ayahuasca plant, the user sees a colorful mandala. It starts out small, as if in the distance, but then it grows and approaches. When it fills the user’s vision, a tearing sound is heard, as of ripped cellophane. The user pushes through the mandala like a Trojan onto the football field, and enters a vivid, sharp, unearthly landscape that is described as a vast, underground dome.

Then the entities show up.

McKenna called them “self-transforming machine elves,” which sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless, he insisted that this was the most fitting term for them. They are the size of basketballs, and their surfaces continually roil, bubble, and shift. They bound up to the user like happy dogs, and they speak in a nonsense language. Nonsense or not, though, the user understands exactly what they’re saying. The message is understood as, “It’s so good to see you! We’ve been waiting so long for you to show up!” This message is “felt,” rather than translated. McKenna says there is a warmth and a welcome, a sense of hospitality and eagerness that has no menace or threat to it at all.

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After the greeting, the elves, as though knowing that their time with the user is short, quickly demonstrate their powers. They urge the user not to give in to astonishment, but to pay careful attention to them. Then they pull a series of miraculous, impossible artifacts out of thin air, like a child eager to show off his or her toys. These objects, like all the other elements of the experience, are mystifying and bizarre, both organic and geometric, and constantly changing. The user is invariably amazed, whether it’s a first-time trip or not.

Next, the entities remind the user not to freak out, and they do something even weirder than the demonstration: they gather before the user, and leap into his or her chest! Users say there is no discomfort in this, or any physical sensation at all, though that fact alone can still be disconcerting or frightening.

At this point, a sort of “bubble” grows in the user’s body, like an expanding gas. It rises into the user’s throat. If the user relaxes and lets it come out of the mouth, the most incredible part of the trip occurs. The “bubble” expresses itself as a song of glossolalia, a musical string of gibberish that the user cannot fathom, even though it is not dissimilar from the language the elves used.

What’s more, the nonsense words manifest themselves visually: expanding from the mouth as artifacts of the very same kind that the elves created.

In describing the trip, McKenna didn’t go much farther than this, so I guess that the user wakes up shortly after this curious creative rush.

Now, what the hell does this all mean?

While tripping, a DMT user does not physically go anywhere, and yet, by all reports, the landscape they envision is completely foreign, and clearer than any dream. It all looks “realer than real.” What this tells me is that the user does not travel outward, but inward.

Somewhere inside his or her own mind.

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The subconscious, perhaps? The entities are so glad to see the user that it reminds me of the near-death experience — those who’ve gone through it describe the sense that loving spirits are awaiting their arrival. It’s such a warm feeling that they presume the entities to be deceased family members beckoning them to Heaven. Are they peeking into the same realm where the DMT dome lies?

I think – and this is the theory of an untrained goofball with limited formal education – that the “elves” are messengers, ambassadors of that subconscious self that we usually suppress.

I see the subconscious mind as a foundation: a neglected part of ourselves upon which we build an identity. This identity is a hemlock chalice. It is the product of societal myths that are drilled into us from childhood: values, judgments, opinions, worries, assumptions, things we think we want, ways we think we should behave, things we think we are. We perch at the top of this tower with a monocular, watching for trouble ahead.

Sometimes, the subconscious foundation doesn’t like the weight that’s pressing down on it, and it lashes out. Being so far above it, we sense this shouting as feelings of unease, a distant banging on the pipes beneath us. Most of us ignore these unbidden thoughts and ideas, or bury them under distractions until they go away.

The DMT upends this situation. It pulls the user down from the imaginary tower and forces him or her to look at the foundation, at the dreams and thoughts that they ignore. And they have a lot to say.

“Pay attention. Don’t freak out. Watch what we do, and then do it yourself.”

So what is the lesson to be learned? How does the spontaneous creation of impossible objects help us? Moreover, why is it that we’re able to imitate these alien beings so accurately? It can’t be done in the real world, but in the trip it happens by simply allowing it to happen. It is simple, and yet inexplicable, like willing our hands to move. It must be because the elves are part of us, right? So it seems to me that they’re not teaching us something new; they’re reminding us of something that we have forgotten.

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I say “we” because this is an experience shared among DMT users of many stripes. This raises another question: how can so many people receive such a singular message? Is it possible that they all receive it from the same source? If so, what is that source? Instinct? Adaptive memory? Jung’s collective unconscious?

God?

Alan Watts, a staunch advocate of Hinduism, pointed out a fundamental difference between the religions of the East and the West. Whereas Christianity and Judaism profess that God is a sort of engineer, an omnipotent father figure that built the universe and knows its every end and purpose, Hinduism describes God as a dancing, many-armed force that did not construct the universe, but expressed it, and continues to express it, like a song. The concepts of past and future, good and evil, death and life, are all meaningless to God; It simply is, right now. The vibration of existence, the so-called “cosmic wiggle,” is the result of the endless movement of God. This means that each of us is an extension of God’s dream. We are not connected to each other laterally, like a spiderweb, but rather we each extend from the same hub, which is…well, I don’t know exactly.

It is possible that the machine elves, by joining with us and showing that we are as powerful as they are, want to help us regain our true personas, return to our foundations. That wouldn’t explain, however, why so many people experience the same thing. Perhaps the machine elves are trying to remind us that since we are capable of creating life and matter with nothing but wholeness and will, we are not far removed from God Itself. God exists through us, and as such – blasphemous though it may sound – we are God.

It’s a theory. I would never presume to know what God is, or why It does what It does. However, these concepts seem to line up with the psychological knowledge that I’ve gathered. The problem I have now, though, is that I don’t know how to apply these ideas. I am still too shy and afraid to heed my own feelings as a writer, as a cartoonist, and as a person. I may be part of God’s dance, but that doesn’t mean I know the steps.

I suppose that, when I am ready, the answers will come to me. Should I continue to examine my dreams, act on my true feelings, and follow the directions that my being provides, I think I might figure it out.

One day.