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Televised History

the recent television mini-series Chernobyl was good. It was on par with other fantastic HBO miniseries, like Generation Kill. yet it is another example of how people tend to be gravitating toward “learning” history through television shows and movies; the abundance of biopics and Based On A True Story entertainment provides ample evidence for this.

This is a moment of grotesque collusion between available data, endless criticism and a desperate need to create stories people want to read. A highly-rated television show provides just that, as anyone on the internet would have been supersaturated with articles regarding Game of Thrones over the past six months. Once again, mainstream American culture is fascinated with itself beyond the point of reason, ignorant to its own idiocy.

Chernobyl is being lauded for its high score on IMDB, but as The New Yorker points out, there are a varying degree of inaccuracies that border on egregious in its storytelling. This is dangerous because of how closely accurate some of the representation of the Soviet Union is: it makes the rest of the narrative seem additionally factual. in the end, though, it’s television.

What will be distressing is that, especially as digital media supplants books as the standard of information, the future of history may involve these fictitious tales. The television show Chernobyl featured a primary character—the ‘truth-telling’ scientist played by Emily Watson—who did not exist and was only revealed to be a complete invention as the final credits were rolling.

It’s an incredibly distressing time, when our stories are simply reimaginings of tragedy, often revised to suit one narrative or another; especially on this anniversary of Tienamen Square, so many western outlets are (rightfully) talking about the abhorrent Chinese censorship of the event. Yet America has just as a substantial ethic toward revisionist history, and to accept “Premier TV” as accurate because of costume design but not content is a dangerous practice that too many seem eager to adopt.

14:30 / 5 June 2019
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Day 47

I’m quite conscious of what I post and what I don’t; in the past this site has been heavy-handed on things I enjoy, culture and whatnot. The past few iterations, not so much, as I feel that the world is too heavy handed in the exchange of what people like as some sort of commerce instead of actual appreciation for art. So, for the most part, I’ve completely stopped sharing the things I appreciate. However:

… I have been waiting for some—any—conclusion, or continuation, or literally anything, regarding Deadwood, for so long now… there were so many splinters of a heart sewn together within the swan song that it’s difficult to measure exactly what was the most impactful, however this scene with Jane and Joanie. I don’t know.

It’s that thing about romance that when an artist gets it right there’s nothing else but to reiterate it and hope more people pay attention. I spent a majority of the day holed up doing my own thing making art but, honestly, it’s just this deserves the attention more.

01:00 / 2 June 2019
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a television version of a person with a broken heart

When I was maybe 10 or 11, my mother and I agreed one summer that for every day I spent without watching television she’d pay me $1. The only caveat was it had to be subsequent: I couldn’t go three days on, four days off, then back on. I ended up with 90 days.

To this day, it’s the longest I’ve been able to last without any screen interaction. I’ve always been a sucker for television—I deeply identify with David Foster Wallace’s take on the preeminent force of American culture1—and to me it’s become quite maddening. As an alcoholic I can tell you the difference between feelings of a long day at a bar and a few hours watching Netflix are nil. Most nights I do not want to watch TV, but I do anyway. I spend more time trying to decide what to watch—as most of the time the feature is relegated to the background of something else I’ve actual desire to do—than I do watching said material. It is, straight up, an addiction.

Though ‘revolutionary,’ the confluence of consumption and creation that is the internet is, at absolute best, distracting to the pure process of trying to make something. Even in this moment, writing on this blog, in a WordPress text window, I can opt out to read my previously-linked article or listen to Wallace talking about water or watch Jason Segel portray him. The very medium interferes with the flow of inspiration like a horde of zombies on a highway slowing down an escape route in some B-movie.

(I am struggling with dealing with myself, as even living a ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ life has still been filled with a certain type of despair that feels… unfamiliar. Sadness and misanthropy are nothing new to me, but since the dawn of streaming media, a constant ability to escape by way of repetitive, un-engaging fiction,2 there is a weight in my soul that just knows this blue glow is Hell Itself; that the internet is the Golden Calf of the mind.)

If there is a great existential crisis of our time, it is how our human nature for social interaction—and the growth and formations of civilization that has come with it throughout history—has been consumed by the medium providing media we consume. It is that we, as people, are not designed for a wholly intangible environment, for we are physical and spatial beings. Yet the fix this space provides 99% of us—an escape from the oppressive and psychologically violent act of merely waking each morning—is nearly impossible to overcome in the face of not only the social pressures to imbibe but the internal battle of Well what the fuck else am I supposed to do in a world that just doesn’t care?

That summer that I spent without television, playing baseball in the park and riding bikes all day? I took my $90 and bought a Sega Game Gear.3 Thinking about that now, I just … feel so defeated. I should have seen this coming.

      Notes
  • for all the faults Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived The Newsroom had, his meta-commentary on television as the most influential and important medium in American history is on point, as well.
  • Marshall McLuhan’s difficult but mostly accurate—if, perhaps poorly-labeled—take on ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ media is essential for truly understanding the different relationships between human behavior and art/entertainment. A medium like a novel allows the brain to follow along and imagine the visuals; words are a form of language that inspire the mind and assist it in growing by providing the trampoline for imagination. Television and film are contrary in that they consume the mind and create definitive parameters of interaction, so that the brain can ‘turn off.’ Comic books exist somewhere in-between, but for the most part media can be on one of two sides of the line in the mind between stimulation and subjugation. (I say mostly accurate because I would situate television with film as a ‘spoon-feeding’ medium.)
  • To my mind video games are the modern comic book, in that they constrain the mind and allow for an escape but do provide a narrative that allows for (a bit of) imagination… walking the line between that notion of inspiration and intellectual containment. I’m not a gamer—nor have I really ever been outside of a few years of obsessive Counter-Strike play in my early 20s—but it seems equally addictive.

12:00 / 4 May 2019
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Very Un-Dude

There’s a clip floating around of Jeff Bridges reprising his role as The Dude for an unspecified ad to run on Super Bowl Sunday. If this is, indeed, a promotion for a sequel to The Big Lebowski, color me stoked.

However, if it’s in the vein of Honda and Google making ‘sequels’ to beloved movies (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Home Alone, respectively) then all I can say is Fuck off and die everyone. Reboots and sequels for entertainment from the 80s and 90s are bad enough; must advertising agencies tarnish the memories of these great works for some cash grab disguised as sentiment?

I’ll wait until game day for the reveal but this smells like capitalism/bullshit to me.

15:30 / 24 January 2019
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Hell Freezing Over
(Will Be Televised)

Throughout the 2016 election, whenever it came up in discussion, I would say Don’t sleep on Trump. Once the primaries had been decided, I was the only person I knew who would claim Trump would win. After all, it’s the economy, stupid.

It isn’t that all Trump voters were racist: it’s that they care about racists less than they care about financial difficulty. Match up people that voted for Trump with people who had difficulty after the 2008 crash and you’re going to get a pretty big overlap.1 Yes, sure, some were racist shitheads and some were susceptible to fear, but those people are always going to vote Republican.

The thing about capitalism is that it doesn’t give a shit who you voted for or why. It’ll eat you and yours alive just the same. Neither of the parties want to admit this because the Republicans rely on it as an excuse for war (“freedom“) and the Democrats for globalization (“business“). So it was pretty shocking to see Tucker Carlson—known up until now for getting schooled by Jon Stewart and Crossfire subsequently going off-air—come out swinging against it.2

Anti-capitalism isn’t a left-versus-right position in the modern world. The political landscape is a sphere, not a circle.3 Though it wouldn’t make much sense, I suppose one could be anti-gay-rights and still believe in socialism as an economic standard for the well-being of the country. But economics and governance are not the same thing, even though they do tend to walk hand-in-hand.

It’s good to see Carlson taking this stand, because so much of the narrative on the left is anti-socialist4 that I can’t imagine the last time a mainstream figure on the right would have pushed back in the slightest against capitalism. This is a surreal thing to say, but we live in surreal times: Kudos to Tucker Carlson.

      Notes
  • Another reason to hate the Democratic Party: Bernie would have won. His message just needed a proper PR campaign at a national level to translate to the needs of lower-to-middle-class suburban whites.
  • “You need to go to one,” Stewart saying of Carlson and journalism school, is still one of my favorite owns ever said on television.
  • Much like time. #truedetectiveseason3
  • —fuck the democrats fuck the democrats fuck the democrats fuck the democrats—

09:00 / 11 January 2019
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The Other Half

The Saturday morning cartoons that began the weekends for kids in the early 90s may have aged only to create modern memes, but I distinctly remember the source of this was all well-intended: an affirmation that knowledge is power. Knowing, as GI Joe put it, was half the battle.

Nowadays I wonder exactly what the other half is. Though I doubt anyone writing up these cartoons imagined the ascent and implications of the internet, but these days knowing something isn’t too difficult.1 In fact, the juxtaposition of a wealth of information with such ineffectual leaders necessitates the question Why bother with any of it?

For the children

If the republic system was run to an ideal, an informed public would be able to vote representatives in to office who would then facilitate a state of governance as near as possible to the demands of the people. But in this day and age that sentence is so far-fetched that it almost makes one wonder what the definition of our modern state truly is.2 The influence of money cannot be understated: between American children being slaughtered and immigrant children left for dead, the cruelty of capitalism has shown neither of the major American parties will cater to overwhelming populist demand.

It’s no wonder why people get outraged at the news; the world keeps spinning—seemingly out of control—and all that grows among the people is a sense of powerlessness in averting disaster. The political systems seem to operate in a one-step-forward, eight-steps-back loop. And the more you know, the more hopeless the situation seems.

I guess John Prine was right all along.

      Notes
  • Not that it ever really was; it was simply less convenient to go to a library and find a specific page in a book or load up a microfiche than use Google.
  • Kudos to some of the new leftists in the House looking to fuck with the standard liberal agenda, though. (That being said, nobody seems to think a second term by Trump is possible, but if the moderate left doesn’t adopt some of the demands of the activist left and the party splits, there could be a free-for-all in 2020.)

12:15 / 6 January 2019
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Clear History

(even though this web site has operated with a blog—in some form or another—since 1999, it has undergone semi-annual design changes and annual database dumps throughout the years. thus, the "Archive" is actually only evidence of what has not yet been deleted.)