Saturday, May 8, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Bacon is delicious; this fact cannot be disputed. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that bacon is no longer simply a food to be enjoyed by everyone but the jews but rather bacon has come to be something of a cultural icon. It is a well-known fact that I hate the term 'meme', for reasons I have already explained. So, I am not going to claim that there is a "bacon meme" out there infecting particular minds when people sneeze. However, it does seem to be the case that bacon is being utilized in a very problematic and unjustified way. Why problematic and unjustified, you ask?
Well, I recently came to learn that Torani makes Bacon Flavored Syrup. And I think the advent of Bacon Flavored Syrup has taken bacon too far. I have no problem with bacon qua bacon. And, hell, Beggin Strips were fine; dogs deserve bacon. But consider the following bacon products:
Assorted Bacon Snacks
I take these products to be indicative of a problem.
First of all, bacon is not a spice; bacon is not a flavor additive. Salt, pepper, mint, cinnamon, and coriander are all kinds of food additives, spices and flavorings to be added to particular foodstuffs. Bacon is not a flavor additive; bacon is a food unto itself. So where garlic salt is a sensible product, insofar as garlic is a flavoring to be added to foodstuffs, Bacon Salt is not sensible given that bacon is not a flavoring, but rather is a foodstuff unto itself. Mint flavored floss? Fine, mint is a flavor. But bacon is not a flavor.
Second of all, bacon is not healthy. There are studies which articulate the negative health effects of bacon, in case you could not figure this shit out for yourself. So the question to ask, given the health issues associated with bacon, is whether or not it is problematic for bacon to be so prevalent in popular culture. If we can maintain that marketing cigarettes to children is problematic then why not argue that marketing bacon to children is problematic as well? Why promote bacon or place focus upon bacon when it is so detrimental to one's health?
It is one thing to consider bacon-flavoring as a problem. But when one considers items such as the Bacon iPhone Case or these Bacon Shoes I think a problem can be discerned given that we are taking bacon beyond being simply a food and have made bacon something more. Just as it would be problematic to have an iPhone case which resembled a pack of cigarrettes, or a pair of shoes decorated with used needles, I worry that embracing bacon in this way indicates a problem with how we understand both ourselves, our bodies, and the world in which we live. We have ignored both what bacon is and its health effects and turned bacon into something else, a perpetual referrent with a meaning and value somehow estranged from bacon unto itself.
Moreover, I am personally growing tired of bacon jokes. The Push Button, Receive Bacon joke was funny for a few minutes. I mean, man, those three red lines do kinda look like bacon...kinda. But we've crossed the damn line. And, sure, this xkcd bacon comic was kind of funny, and the Three Panel Soul, Bacon Ice Cream comic was good for a lol. But if we understand each of these particulars to be participants in a larger whole, that which idiots would label the "bacon meme", then what does that say about our species and its values? Or, well, our species minus the jews.
There is no such thing as a "bacon meme"; there is no such thing as a meme. Yet it does seem to be the case that "bacon" has come to be something more than just bacon. And you can argue that it is just a joke, or that this is a harmless bit of fun.
But when Torani suggests adding Bacon Syrup to whiskey in order to make a Bacon Manhattan? Something is fucked up.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The term "theodicy" always confused me. Back in 1710, when things made sense, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz coined the term by combining θεός (theós, "god") and δίκη (díkē, "justice"), to make theosdike, theodicy, "the justice of god". The problem I always had was that I thought the term a combination of θεός (theós, "god") and (Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia) so theos-odysseia, a theo-odyssey, a God-adventure, which is entirely not what the term means.*
So, a theodicy is an attempted explanation to the problem of evil: Why bad shit happens if God is not a jackass. And while I've been aware of the fact that bad things happen my immediate situation is pressing me into a mindset such that I need contemplate why the fuck so much bad shit happens if
1) There is a God.
2) God is not a jackass.
This afternoon I was at Wal-Mart, which might be an explanation for why bad shit is happening to me, when some random person handed me a piece of notecard. One side presented a smiley face with the word "Smile" above it. The other side contained the message that "Jesus loves you!" followed by some Bible verses to serve as textual evidence of this love, a Prayer I need say in order to invite Jesus into my heart, and a helpful list of instructions (Read the Bible, go to Church) for what to do after I offer Jesus occupancy in my cardio-vascular system.
Given the apparent randomness of this event (no one else ever gave me a "Jesus loves you" card at Wal-mart before) as it relates to my life at the moment (everything is fucking terrible) this has me thinking.
I've always thought a deity to be a necessary component of one's ontology. I am something of a fan of the Quinque viae, Aquinas' five arguments for the existence of God. So I'll accept God's existence for reasons of unmoved mover, first cause, contingency, etc. But the notion of a personal deity, some invisible man in the sky hovering around giving a shit about me, never made much sense.
The thing I realized this afternoon is that I've always replaced the notion of a personal God with concepts such as Love, Truth, or Good as somehow being controlling, regulatory processes of reality. I've clung to the notion that, in the end, things will work out for the best; Truth will overturn Falsity, Goodness will triumph over Evil, and Love has the power to actualize any possibility. Polio is pretty shitty, but we created a vaccine. The Nazis were Evil, but they lost. And they never did make a sequel to that god-awful Golden Compass movie.
So I've, apparently, subconsciously based my life on this notion that things will get better, that there is some regulatory process controlling reality whereby, though things may become shitty, wrongs are eventually righted, evil is eventually triumphed over by good, and truth will overcome all falsity.
The problem is that I think I lost that a few weeks ago. And I'm not sure what to do without it.
Living makes sense when one can maintain hope, when one believes in a triumph of good over evil or can articulate a theodicy whereby one can reconcile the abysmal aspects of life with some consolation that there will be a better tomorrow, that there is an answer, a truth, which will make sense of reality. But when one loses that core component of their being and understands life to be simply a neutral, inert medium within which various things happen for no reason, to not end, regulated by only the laws of physics and whatever force particular beings exert...nothing really matters anymore; we're all just sort of here.
So I can reflect upon this little smiley "Jesus loves you" card. I can read my Leibniz and my Aquinas and cling to some notion of a better tomorrow, or a victory of Good and Truth over Evil and Falsity. But at the moment it seems to be the case that these are simply coping mechanisms designed to stave off a realization that the entirety of one's existence is simply a haphazard amalgamation of random nonsense the meaning of which is void and the purpose of which is null given that soul-less, viscous, self-centered, unreflective, terrible people are capable of performing unconscionable acts without ever receiving any form of comeuppance.
I would like for there to be a God; I would like for there to be a Good, a Truth, a Right, a regulatory process to reality which ensures that meaning and purpose are preserved. But I think that, in the end, that might all be bullshit. And while we can hand out little index cards at Wal-Mart and cling to our hopes...in the end Evil wins, Lies persist, and the entirety of existence is a meaningless void of pain and suffering within which we all delude ourselves until we just plain give up.
So maybe the whole project of a theodicy is flawed project from the beginning. Not only may there be no God, but perhaps there is no Truth, no Good, no Falsity, no Evil. Perhaps people just do shit and spout little contextual pseudo-truths which are simply linguistic articulations of perceived or understood temporary referents. Maybe we're just little biological machines fucking about for no reason. Maybe this whole thing of existence is a neutral, inert cesspool of dumb.
I'm not necessarily advocating nihilism; I'm not really advocating anything. I'm just saying that there are times when the events of one's life fundamentally challenge one's core beliefs; when one's faith and primary understanding of self are tested from without.
And, sometimes, the beliefs, the faith, and the self do not pass the test.
* This may have resulted from my having spent a wealth of my childhood watching Superbook
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
So, let's talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Hey, did you hear that on Monday Schwarzenegger withdrew his support for the Tranquillon Ridge offshore drilling project? Well, he did! Apparently as recently as Friday he supported the previously mentioned T-Ridge project to drill for oil off California's coast. That is until Monday, when he saw the images from the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
All of you have seen, when you turn on the television, the devastation in the gulf, and I'm sure that they also were assured that it was safe to drill. I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fishermen out of work, the massive oil spill and oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem. That will not happen here in California, and this is why I am withdrawing my support for the T-Ridge project.
So, to summarize, Schwarzenegger was entirely keen on the idea of drilling off the coast of California...until Monday...when he saw the images from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Which is the point at which we have to ask what the fuck is wrong with this misanthropic Austrian shit.
I'll admit that it has been a while since Exxon Valdez and back in 1989 Schwarzenegger was probably very busy filming Total Recall and Kindergarten Cop. But you would think that he might have noticed that some results of Exxon Valdez were birds drenched in oil, fishermen losing jobs, and the environment being destroyed. Yet, apparently, between March 24, 1989 and April 2nd, 2010, he forgot about Exxon Valdez and thought oil drilling to be the most peachy keen environmental policy to maintain. Then on April 3rd he turns on the tv to declare, "Oh shit! Oil and birds don't mix!" So reversing his policy on the Tranquillon Ridge project.
That's what pisses me off about this story. Schwarzenegger is an idiot, but despite his participation in Jingle All the Way he had to fucking know that there were risks involved in drilling for oil; he was alive for Exxon Valdez and had to know of the impacts drilling has on the environment. But he was entirely comfortable ignoring that until the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last friday provided an immediate example of the problems involved in obtaining and transporting oil. Schwarzenegger did the wrong thing (supported the T-Ridge Project) until public opinion, influenced by this most recent spill, made his support politically detrimental. Schwarzenegger acted not as a human being but rather as a windsock, drifting in the breeze of the political winds.
Drilling for oil is always dangerous, always a negative impact on the environment. But so long as enough time has passed since the last oil spill we're all completely comfortable resting upon our laurels of ignorance until reality shoves oil-soaked sea fowl and petroleum-drenched fish into our immediate consciousness.
You'd think that we could, maybe, pay attention and try to learn something from history instead of having to fuck up another generation of marine life simply because we forgot that it's incredibly fucking stupid to transport crude oil in something that can sink, across something that is treacherous.
So, great, Schwarzenegger stops this one particular attempt to drill for oil of California's coast because, at the moment, it is politically problematic for him to do so. Great. But we know that BP won't be held responsible. No one will learn anything. And in a few years they'll be drilling off the coast of California for oil because, well, they just can't help themselves. We'll forget, another spill will happen, and this moronic cycle will continue until we finally make the planet entirely uninhabitable.
But at least we aren't hurting anyone in the meantime, right?
Monday, May 3, 2010
So, I want to claim that there was a time, back in the early 90s, when The Simpsons created popular culture, when The Simpsons was an originary source of novelty from which came not only new jokes, but also new ways of referencing previously existing bits of culture. While The Simpsons is known to reference other bits of popular culture I want to claim that this intro is a qualitatively different sort of thing from that which The Simpsons has previously done.
I can accept that The Simpsons often referenced popular culture. The Greatest Episode of The Simpsons, ever contained a significant number of popular culture references. Moreover, most Treehouse of Horror or other such episodes are Simpson-ized retellings of stories from popular culture. So, The Simpsons has always referenced other things, but the manner in which the references occurred were different. Or, at least, that is what I want to argue.
At the moment I am thinking of the first Treehouse of Horror episode's retelling of The Raven. The structure of the segment is the original text of The Raven, read by James Earl Jones, over which characters from The Simpsons are placed. This is similar to the Tik-Tok intro, wherein the structure is the song over which characters are placed in a music video-esque style.
The difference I would indicate is that The Raven combines an interplay of both the narrative of The Raven and new jokes. For example, Bart's comment "You know what would have been scarier than nothing? ANYTHING!" While the segment is primarily a retelling of The Raven, the poem is interrupted by comments and jokes by the characters. The segment is not only The Raven with characters overlaid, but rather is a mixture of both The Raven and new, novel jokes which comment upon the narrative of The Raven being told.
The difference, I want to say, is that the Tik-Tok intro is simply a Simpsons music video of the Tik-Tok song; the primary component of the video is the unmodified song over which are placed Simpsons characters the actions of which are beholden to the lyrics and style of the song.
While Bart does have two lines during the song, his lines are lyrics already existing within the song. So there is no point at which the song, Tik Tok, is interrupted or commented upon but rather the song is preserved without interruption or comment. So, the intro is nothing more than the song, Tik Tok, over which characters are placed with their actions and lines always beholden to the lyrics of the song.
This intro is not a "reference" but rather is simply the song, Tik Tok, with video of Simpsons characters overlaid. This is no different, in style, than an anime AMV such as:
It could be argued that the novelty is found in how the characters are portrayed with reference to the song. One could argue that creativity can be found in, say, Groundskeeper Willy brushing his teeth with Jack Daniels when the song makes reference to a similar act occuring.
My point would be that what drives the structure of the intro is the song, Tik Tok, and its lyrics. Any references which are made are secondary to the lyrics of the song. There is no point where the song, Tik Tok, is interrupted or commented upon within the Intro. So it does not matter how ideally or adeptly characters are matched to particular lyrics given that the characters are always beholden to the song and its lyrics. If we had to create a heirarchy of power for this intro the fundament would be the song, Tik Tok, and its lyrics over which are placed Simpsons characters. This is not The Simpsons with Ke$ha, but rather is Ke$ha over which are placed characters from The Simpsons.
That's the difference: The Simpsons characters are beholden to the song, Tik Tok, and its lyrics without ever breaking away or enacting moments of novelty whereas in other such references, such as The Raven, the Simpsons characters are capable of breaking away from the referent to comment upon it, or act in a manner contrary to the original structure of that which is being referenced.
Also, Ke$ha is a fucking stupid, talentless amalgamation of Shakira, Lauren Conrad, and Snooki.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Nightcrawler: Second Coming
In Chapter Five of the X-Men: Second Coming storyline, Rogue and Nightcrawler fight an enhanced version of Bastion. When Bastion tries to kill Hope, Nightcrawler attempts to teleport in front of her, but Bastion detects Nightcrawler's mutant power activating and extends his arm where Nightcrawler appears. Nightcrawler appears with Bastion's arm through him, and is mortally wounded. With Nightcrawler's last breath, he teleports the girl to Utopia, the mutant haven, and tells her that he "believes in her". His actions leave Bastion crippled. Bastion reboots its system shortly after, with a three fingered appearance.
No more BAMF.