Assthetics

When it comes to the Star Trek vs Star Wars debate, I stand firmly on the Star Trek side (the Gene Roddenberry/Rick Berman era. Not the JJ Abrams/Alex Kurtzman era). I prefer my science fiction to be a bit more grounded. Star Wars, to me, is more Sci-fi/Fantasy.

The success rate of Star Wars, in terms of quality per production, is well below 50% (Star Trek hovers at around 50%). If you think about it, there are really only TWO really good Star Wars films: Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back. The Mandalorian is alright, but it’s a bit too predictable. Nevertheless, I can appreciate George Lucas’ creation. Despite some of the terrible storytelling, when historians reflect on the artful impact of cinema, Star Wars will be to film what William Shakespeare was to the English language or Plato to philosophy.

Star Wars is so ubiquitous in modern culture that people don’t stop to appreciate how it really was a game changer. Watch a Hollywood film before 1977 and watch one after. You’ll see that film and pop culture entertainment was forever changed by it.

To be honest, I don’t think George Lucas’ screenplay (or direction) was that revolutionary. The revolutionary aspect was the production design, music, special effects, and editing (although I’d argue that the James Bond films were far more revolutionary in film editing). In this respect, Lucas was more of a CEO overseeing various departments in creating a lived-in universe. For Star Wars, the stories were always secondary. What grabbed everyone’s attention was the myths and scope: it was like watching an ancient epic being played out on the big screen in a way that films before weren’t able to capture.

So I don’t think that devout fans enjoy Star Wars because of their incredible stories and performances (unless they’re watching because of Harrison Ford). It’s purely an aesthetic experience. Make a Star Wars movie without storm troopers, Star Destroyers, light sabers, Boba Fetts, Jedis, Death Stars, etc. then you probably wouldn’t have a Star Wars movie.

You could make the argument that you can’t make a Star Trek movie/TV show without Starfleet. But fans of Trek have shown to be more open to bending its internal rules to further explore its universe.

But I don’t know dude, you like what you like.

But you know who my favorite Star Wars character is?

Admiral Piett

I hope he gets his own spin-off.

faith based (2020)

So I was watching Spalding Gray’s Terrors of Pleasure when I thought “I’d probably enjoy this if I was sober.” So then I searched for something on Amazon Prime.

I came across a comedy called Faith Based, about two buddies that try to make a Christian film. It had all the ingredients to make a good film, or at least a movie that I’d enjoy. But it serves as a good reminder of how difficult it is to make a good motion picture.

It’s a story that I’d otherwise enjoy: about mediocre, yet good natured, talent trying to break into the big leagues by making a movie to help save their father’s church. Naturally, they discover the business is populated by cynical assholes.

Some of the jokes land. When the lead characters explain that “no one wants to see a movie where they don’t recognize anybody” and the camera lingers on the two actors you don’t recognize, I chuckled a bit. The film could have used a bit more of that self-awareness.

But I really am like my lead character in A Shot at the Title: I rarely watch a movie that I don’t want to completely rewrite and redirect. I think the film could have been salvaged by jettisoning all the Office inspired interviews and extending the length. The movie couldn’t have been made for very much money, but the production quality is pretty good. Maybe lingering on some of the shots would have extended its impact.

Of course, it’s not my movie, but if I were making it, as the lead characters go through their trials and tribulations, I would have played with audience by getting the movie as close to a shitty Christian film as one could possibly go before pulling the rug out from under them. That would have accentuated one of the film’s themes: that all of our hopes and dreams are actually just a scheme to make some asshole more money.

But if you’re interested, despite its subject matter, it’s not an anti-Christian or anti-religious movie. At its heart, it’s a film about family, community, and belonging. Nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times before.

Anyways, now I’m sober. Back to Spalding Gray.

“Layer Cake”: Britain’s finest hour

Before his James Bond got blown to shit on some rooftop on a Japanese island in No Time To Die (sPoIlEr AlErT!), Daniel Craig was in what is perhaps the greatest British film ever made: Layer Cake.

While every actor (except Tom Hardy) acts their ass off and every line of dialogue is an absolute banger, the film is perhaps best known as a turning point in film history: introducing the world to Daniel Craig’s god-like body.

Daniel Craig was blessed with being able to make whatever he’s wearing look like it was tailored specifically for him. He spends much of the film wearing the same plain gray raglan t-shirt with Levi’s…an outfit that probably costs $50 total, but it looks like he’s modeling Brioni.

I couldn’t pull off that look. I tried.

Another thing Craig succeeds at is showing his “sex” gaze:

Sorry, this is the best screenshot I could find.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m happily married now because I mastered that gaze. Now personally, I like to use the Sean Connery method of tilting my head forward, arching an eyebrow, and smiling with my eyes. But every man has to master the “sex” gaze, to knock em dead with one look, if they want to be successful with the ladies (or the fellas).

That haircut is pretty good too. It’s definitely a 60’s style throwback, echoing the aforementioned Sean Connery and his toupee during his James Bond tenure. Unfortunately I’m a balding man, have been since I was 13, so I was never able to pull off that style. But because I’m balding, I’m sort of an expert at spotting hair plugs. And Craig, in my humble opinion, probably has hair plugs. That being said, I’d pay good money to find out who his specialist is.

Another thing on Craig’s style is that pimpin purplish/maroon jacket he wears to start the film:

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: no man has ever looked as good on film as Daniel Craig did in Layer Cake.

“We get it, you’re in love with Daniel Craig. But what about the film?”

Oh yeah, the film’s good too.

Preserve Western Civilizashun!!!!!1

I’m assuming Western history and civilization is defined by the culture of Europe and North America from the time of Alexander the Great onward.

Eastern civilization, I guess, includes India and China.

Meanwhile Ancient Egypt is left in no man’s land, along with the Middle East, Latin America, and Polynesia. And African civilization, history, religion, and philosophy gets neglected entirely.

And somehow, if common logic is to be believed, none of these civilizations interacted and influenced each other. Ever.

Civilization itself is a nebulous term. Same thing with culture (I’m not including “society” here because apparently, as some academic jerk wad told me, “society” doesn’t exist. Whatever that means). Yet somehow, for some reason, we’re supposed to preserve these things because that’s what shaped our perspective on things.

I’m not saying that I disagree, I’m just asking people to interrogate these things a little further. I’ve said before that a sense of belonging is necessary to form an identity. We are who we are by our relationship with others.

But how much is culture and civilization, both ill-defined terms, a part of achieving a sense of fulfillment? I’ve heard people from all different stripes…from Conservatives, Marxists, and even libs….that this is the case, but it’s never been explained. It’s not like we have a choice in the matter, and it operates under the presumption that people are essentially blank slates and are nothing like you and me.

It’s just not true.

We’re still cavemen, meant to dwell in tribes of only a few hundred people, yet we’re faced with a constantly changing world. We have fallen into what Benedict Anderson calls an “imagined community”, where no one knows each other, not even our neighbors, but we’re supposed to believe we form some kind of community. I guess our natural instinct is to preserve what we have.

Anderson was specifically addressing the phenomenon of nationalism and how traditional political philosophy failed to account for its emergence. It’s hard for us to believe, but nationalism is a fairly recent development. It is not intrinsic to our understanding of community. But along with all the political paradigms that came before, the concept of nation state will also go away.

I’ve said it before, and we all know it, but change is the fundamental force in the universe. You can fight that, but it’s futile. Permanence is an illusion. The sense of permanent self is also an illusion: our bodies, minds, memories too, are constantly changing

Being a caveman and defining yourself against the “other” is easy. And maybe I’m wrong. But at least be honest with yourself.

leadership

As you know, I have nothing but regrets.

I’m reaching that age where some of my superiors are younger than me. I don’t begrudge them. They all deserves their spots. Some older guys I work with don’t appreciate that they got passed over, but I think it’s our responsibility…as the “elders”…to bestow upon the younger generation what wisdom we have learned (in my case, what little wisdoms I have learned).

I don’t know if this is a regret I have, it’s more like a big “what if”. I spent some time in the military. Even did three years of ROTC in college. It’s laughable to think I could have been an officer now, but it almost happened (before I realized that I loved drinking WAY more than I loved the military). Despite the abysmal failure of that endeavor, a few lessons stuck with me.

“Just make a decision,” I’d always hear, “don’t worry about if it’s the correct one.” I thought that was stupid advice at the time, especially in a military situation where people’s lives might depend on it. But it seems to make a little more sense now.

Who are the three greatest military commanders of all time? It’s obvious: Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, and Captain Sisko.

The three guys in the middle

“But they aren’t real,” you might say.

So? Real life isn’t real.

I remember Mike Stoklasa praising Bill Shatner’s acting capabilities (in a video discussing Shatner’s hatred of Mike Stoklasa). You can laugh all you want, but it’s true: Shatner is an extraordinarily effective actor. And, for better or worse, Captain Kirk is Bill Shatner and Bill Shatner is Captain Kirk.

Kirk understands that he is playing a part as Captain of the Enterprise. He has to project confidence as its leader because the survival of his ship might depend on it. Shatner, I think, understands that Kirk himself is playing a part, which might explain some of the strange speech patterns he exhibits throughout the series and films.

That’s why I think it’s great that the handlers of Star Trek (at least back then) cast classically trained thespians for the role of the Captain. Just the ability to “play the role” is necessary for the crew to rally behind, even when the leader isn’t completely confident in his (or her) decisions.

Obviously Picard is the superior Captain. No disrespect to Shatner, but Patrick Stewart knows when to dial up the acting and when to hold back (even if, in my belief, Stewart didn’t completely understand the appeal of his character or Star Trek). But what Picard does better than anyone is embrace his mission: “explore strange new worlds”. He seeks out moral quandaries and mysteries because he understands that these hold the secrets of the universe. He’s an explorer but not in the usual sense of the term.

I think to be a leader, one has to be open to that sort of exploration.

Of course, Sisko was far more grounded than either Kirk or Picard. He had a life outside of Starfleet and his job was to navigate the political complexities of a particular section of the galaxy. While Kirk and Picard were explorers, Sisko’s mission was different: he was an ambassador attempting to bring together warring factions. But just like everyone else, he had to “play the part.”

“But those were actors that had scripts,” you might say. “Real life doesn’t have a script.”

True that, but if you understand the more technical aspects of your work, in a sense you kinda already do have a script. You can’t just willy nilly your way through a job, you are confined and in many aspects you have direction. It’s just making the best decision with the options you have.

So I think it’s interesting that the three best Captains in Star Trek history each explore the three most important aspects of leadership: confidence (or the projection of), eagerness to accept challenges, and being the middle man between conflicting parties. But most importantly, “just play the part.”

happenis

When I realize that there’s other people that are more miserable than me, that makes me happy.

In truth, I don’t know what happiness is.

I assume that it’s a state of contentment. This, as opposed to a constant state of euphoria. Presumably, many people would think that waking up with a blowjob while mainlining pure heroin then driving your Ferrari 95mph through a school zone would be peak happiness. But I don’t know, if someone lived a true carefree existence, that would breed some degree of resentment. Contentment wouldn’t necessarily only entail “being happy” all of the time, but it would be a place where daily struggles don’t cause a sense of existential dread.

Work, family, belonging, or having a sense of purpose in general, would be necessary to achieve this state of happiness.

Contrary to what you might believe about me, I actually have a good career, a loving family, and live in a place that I don’t necessarily love, but it doesn’t annoy the shit out of me. It wasn’t always this way, I just sort of stumbled into it (one of the amazing things that happen when you stop drinking). I’m not “happy” all of the time, but I would say that I’m in a general state of contentment.

My ideal state of pure bliss would be to own a cottage in the English countryside, wear a tweed jacket and monocle, and say “lovely” and “jolly good” all of the time. It’s not fame and fortune. I’m convinced that the only person that has found fame and fortune rewarding is Mark Wahlberg. Everyone else resents it.

So the secret to being happy is to be British.

cynics and stoics

The post-Socratics get a bad rap for being not nearly as good as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Stoicism in particular has been much maligned over the last few years. It reentered the public consciousness recently, which irked some in the philosophical community. I guess in our post-Enlightenment era, there’s a resistance to schools of thought that seemingly promote individuals to rise above their political realities. This makes sense to a certain extent, especially given our reality after the Great Recession. However, this in turn irks me because the intellectual community is unwilling to divorce the bad from the good in these philosophies, but they’ll gladly do so for Plato and Aristotle (and as I mentioned in an earlier post, for Marx).

Many claim to find stoicism to be too rigid in its determinism, which in turn means we should almost remain passive or unattached to the obstacles we find in our daily lives. But that’s an over simplistic reading, in my view. To be honest, I don’t know if this was the intention of noted stoic thinkers like Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, but I think we can infer from them that we have to exercise our best judgments and restraint to remain above the madness in everyday life. If we fail to do so, then we are no better than that madness. Through logic and reasoning, we actually find our free will, then subsequently, our happiness. Through this interpretation, Stoicism actually isn’t deterministic at all (though this might run contrary to actual Stoic metaphysics. I don’t know 🤷‍♂️).

I understand why Stoicism would have had detractors in its heyday as it seemed to have caught on with the Roman elite, who had the security to explore such lofty idealism while the proles weren’t afforded that luxury. But that seems like a lazy, bad faith criticism of it today, which comes across like an attempt to deflect personal responsibility and agency (especially given that proletarian-centered philosophies like Marxism is way more complicated, lofty, and at times hypocritical).

But I’ve always been more partial to Cynicism. Not that I condone it, it’s just way more in-your-face. It’s impossible to be a Cynic today (you’d be arrested for a being a public nuisance), but it does ask you to question common sense. Diogenes of Sinope was its most prominent thinker. He apparently jacked off and relieved himself in public, gave no shit about social status, and extolled the virtues of what amounted to homelessness. I agree with the leftist critics of Diogenes’ form of Cynicism in that his fetishism of poverty undermines how dehumanizing it actually is. But the real reason why I think Cynicism is unpalatable to modern thinking is it’s rejection of material wealth and its promotion of “cosmopolitanism”. While I find the Cynicism of Diogenes to be somewhat individualistic, his form of individualism runs completely contrary to its modern form.

While I wouldn’t call Cynicism’s version of cosmopolitanism to be sophisticated, it was rather forward thinking in its rejection of “imagined communities” (see Benedict Anderson). Diogenes allegedly called himself a “citizen of the world”, this coming at a time when the city state dominated political thinking. Cosmopolitanism is widely rejected by ideologies across the spectrum, from Nazi’s, traditional conservatism, and even Marxism (depending on your interpretation), despite its inevitability.

So I don’t know, maybe I’m asking you to reassess these schools of thought because they piss off the right people.

contra Marx (and politics in general)

I should apologize first off. A lot of this won’t make sense, but I need to get it off my chest.

Anywho, good luck reading this ✋

For most of history, there was no delineation between religion and politics. While it’s common to separate them currently, that’s really a false assumption.

Maybe I think it’s foolish to think so because of how I view religion. It’s common to associate it with thoughts on the supernatural, afterlife, etc. Meanwhile, politics is thought of as being policies directed at the governance of a population. But the social/psychological dimensions of these two realms can’t be ignored.

Politics and religion operate in unison. Religion is not just the worship of God or gods, it’s a methodology of perceiving reality. It’s validity of truth is irrelevant. If a significant amount of other people perceive this reality in the same way, then perception becomes truth. I’m not saying that truth is not real. It is. Human perception is, however, malleable and easily distorted. Religion is commonly thought of as being the most prevalent social force in this distortion, but political ideology works in identical fashion. In short, to this very day, the religious is political and the political is religious.

(This is why I say the only sensible position to take is the apolitical one. Political philosophy and science has not advanced one iota since Plato and Aristotle)

Take for example the two Right/Left extremes in QAnon and the resurgence of Marxism. Enough ink has been spilled over the insanity of QAnon, but not enough of it towards Marxists/Left/Left-adjacent Populism.

Part of the reason why Marxism has seen a resurgence…at least in the United States…I think, is because it was all but prohibited in the mainstream during the Cold War period. Additionally, it’s detractors made all sort of wrong assumptions about it or never read Marx, or any Marxist thinker at all. This had allowed it to fly under the radar for decades, with Marxists going unchallenged in good faith debate. Then the Great Recession and the pandemic primed the public for its popularity.

But despite its scientific and sociological pretensions, Marxism (and much of leftism/anti-liberalism as a result) functions no differently than Q-Anon: even when it’s allegations are proven false, it doesn’t matter. It’s critique is way of viewing reality, and no amount of data can contradict it (the explanation usually being that “the data” is bourgeois propaganda designed to undermine class consciousness…or some variation thereof)

As any Marxist/Leftist will tell you, they are not “liberals”. As most know, they are opposed to capitalism, now in its neoliberal form. While neoliberalism has an actual definition in the realm of economics, it takes on a nebulous form with the Left, making it useful as a boogeyman that can describe anything they disagree with. Therefore Marxists, like the Conservatives that once opposed them, fail to understand their opposition and how neoliberalism and global economics have fundamentally changed class dynamics since Marx’s death (or some acknowledge that there’s an opposition to Marx’s class analysis, but mock it. i.e by saying “Marx never considered…” or “Marxism works in theory”). They can’t agree on a “working class” definition (is it income? “Relationship with production”? What?) or where the demarcations are for any class structure, which is odd considering Marxism thinks of itself as a “material” based analysis. Therefore it’s class-based analysis comes to mean nothing. Additionally, Marxists/Leftists wish to take a post-moral approach to politics, but they’ll make a value judgment on the working class over the bourgeoisie (which again, are terms that mean nothing, or ill-defined in the current state of economics/politics). So they engage in the same friend/enemy distinction that they accuse the liberals of doing (and what all political tribes do).

Many, though not all, Marxists/Leftists oppose “identity politics” because they believe it undermines their “class politics”. But they’re functionally no different. In addition to keeping the “working class” divided, Marxists claim that proponents of identity politics are actually cynical actors that portray the various identities as completely monolithic or lacking agency. But the Left does the exact same same with its class politics. It works in their favor to portray the working class as brutish, uneducated, and needing guidance from those that know better. And their “enemy” can be anyone, because again, the “bourgeoisie” can mean anything. Marxists can claim that identity politics undermines class consciousness, but proponents of identity politics can accuse the Marxists of undermining the unique struggles of various groups.

Every political faction has its problems. What I’ve said about Marxism I can say about everyone else. What I’ve always found confusing is what do the Marxist Left and anti-capitalists want? I’m not talking about some egalitarian revolution to make a better world. We all want that. I’m talking about “what happens after the revolution”? A classless society? Sure it may be possible to create material equality for all…but does that eliminate “class”? The need for management of affairs (or politics) would still be necessary. What would we do if an elite “political class” takes control? I’m just skeptical about a “classless society”…especially one that has to be achieved through violent revolution. I could be wrong, but self-conception is heavily linked to cultural and societal structures, this includes structures of power. It is my assertion that since the dawn of complex language, there has been no widespread non-caste(ified) society. Not even in the hordes of pre-history (that usually numbered about 100 people). There were elders, priests, big men, warriors, hunters, gatherers, etc. There were men at the top calling the shots and men at the bottom carrying out the orders. Sure these societal structures varied greatly, but some people definitely carried more power than others, even in the smallest of groups. As power paradigms shifted, from priests, monarchies, military dictatorships, and democratically elected officials, so did the class structures. And these paradigm shifts cannot be predicted, at least not with any complete accuracy. Will capitalism last forever? No. What will replace it is anyone’s guess. The fact is you don’t know, and trying to predict the future is a fool’s errand. Even if you do get your communist dream, it’s days are limited, and a new paradigm will take its place.

I’ve gone into detail on how Marxism mirrors Christianity perfectly (class consciousness=salvation in Jesus Christ, etc.) so I won’t go into detail on that here. This isn’t to say that some tenets of Marxism aren’t without their merit. It’s historical method sounds reasonable enough. But I treat the works of Karl Marx as I would any thinker of the past: remain critical, some ideas work, but a lot of it is outdated. We do that with every other philosopher/economist, why must we treat Marx any different? It’s not like God directly inspired Das Kapital, but that’s how it’s treated (along with Luxenburg,Gramsci, etc.)

Not gonna lie, I’ve spent four years steeped in this shit and I feel mindfucked and robbed. However, studying this stuff has informed me that I need to be skeptical of ideologies proclaiming “truth”. The universe is seeming infinite while we’re laughably finite. The only thing we can be certain of is that we certainly know nothing.

i dont care what ppl think of me

Show me somebody that has said that (the title of this post) and I’ll show you a liar.

Everyone cares about others think about them. If you don’t, then you’re a legit sociopath.

In fact, concern for what other people think is the cornerstone of civilization. We wear the clothes we wear because of this. Observe and obey laws. We have fucking language because of this!

But people say these things because they want to shield off their empathy, and by wearing the “i dont care what people think” badge, they believe they’re fooling you. Yet clearly they do care, because they tell you all the time. Obviously they want you to think something about them.

Unfortunately the human psyche just can’t shut off its concern for others, and the ego can’t lock out its concern for what others think of it. Our whole sense of self is based upon our relations to others.

Of course I’m not saying that we should be paralyzed by fear over other’s opinions. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be “I am who I am”, and coming to terms with the fact that it’s impossible to please everybody.

I think that’s a more honest assessment.