Sunday, July 22, 2012

Philosophy Is Over

... so everybody just start burning those classic texts because we don't need them anymore.  What do I mean?  In late 2011 some in-bred Canadian genius (and I'm not referring to Justin Bieber) basically did what Plato, Rousseau, my man Kierkegaard, Sartre, Foucault, Aristotle, Hegel or Mill could do.  He ended philosophy as we know it.  Sure, Wittgenstein tried with his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and Kant got all bland and measured by talking about the Categorical Imperative, but they were nothing compared to this recent development.  Nothing.  And into mid 2012, it truly spread around ... like herpes.

This revolution in modern thinking came from a man named Aubrey Drake Graham, who has a Ph.D. from Cambridge and several honorary degrees (including ones from Johns Hopkins and Harvard).  He speaks multiple languages, has an IQ well over 100 and somehow survived being shot and rendered a cripple in high school to becoming a walking, talking, fast-stepping bundle of energy in his twenties.  In his magnum opus, La devise (translated into English as The Motto), he said four words: you only live once.

The world of intellectuals dropped to its collective knees.  Sartre's corpse turned over in its grave and had a cup of café au lait.  Kant's skeleton started shaking.  A stuffed Jeremy Bentham came to in its box in London, shuffled over to the iTunes store, listened to Dr. Graham's proclamation, raised his mummified finger to the cosmos and muttered (with a wax head), "This is what I was talking about!  He did it!"  All over the United States and Europe, the philosophy professors were taken outside, executed and had their offices gutted and replaced with photocopy machines.  Students all over the globe with degrees in philosophy had their diplomas simultaneously combust right on their walls, leaving only a shadow of the sheepskin that once hung there.

To call it landmark is an understatement ... and makes previous landmarks in critical thinking laughable in comparison.  It's so simple, too.  Basically it says - and I apologize if my translation doesn't give the original thesis its full due - "do whatever you want because your actions have no consequences on others or yourself and once you're dead who cares about anything or anyone."  That's it.  I must admit, my fingers and wrists and hands were trembling in ang ... I mean glee as I typed that (and no it's not because I have Delirium Tremens).  Come on, Aquinas, were you too busy eating bugs to think of that?

So if one is ever faced with some challenging life choice, it's probably best - according to Dr. Graham - to act whimsically.  Need money?  Commit crimes!  Crimes are beautiful and fun, and if you get caught, who cares?  So you end up with a life sentence in prison.  I repeat: who cares?  If you want to treat people like objects, it's fun to do so - they don't have emotions, they aren't human and their opinion of you is irrelevant.  Wanna make meth in your apartment and sell it?  I say bravo!  Pack up one day and live in an ashram; disown your family because it doesn't matter if they miss you or not.  If you don't have a soul, how can you possibly corrupt it?  Guilt magically evaporates: the pleasure of the moment is all.

Now, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer pondered whether or not such a thing as the Eternal Return is possible: the notion that time is cyclical and that the universe is recurring.  The Buddhists believe in karma - that bad deeds will be punished and good deeds will be rewarded (do good and good will be done to you).  Poets from various cultures and traditions have praised honor and trust and respect for one's fellow human beings.  In response to these individuals, Prof. Graham not only says that they are totally whack, but they're also pussies and should climb on his dick.

The case, thankfully, has been made.  Adopt the philosophy immediately and never regret it.  If some miscreant challenges you and asks, "... but what if you don't only live once?," brand that unbeliever a heretic and cast him/her out of the kingdom.  Thinking is merely a thing of the past.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Left Part of My Thumb in Paris, France

I returned, a couple of weeks ago, from my third trip to France (and second to Paris).  While on my last two trips I went with other people, this time I was fortunate to accompany my parents, who had never been to the City of Light.  I was worried, of course, that being in a country that's somewhat averse to speaking English (and a little on the snobby side) would be a problem for my weapon-toting, high-energy Father, who seems to be fine in places that speak Spanish (he loves the brutality of Mexico and Central America) because he can freely shout in their faces ("HEY BUDDY, WHO DO I HAVE TO KIDNAP TO GET A BURRITO?") and they seem all right with it.  In France, however, they don't take kindly to that kind of aggression and forcefulness.  More than once I had to try to pull him away from people ("I'M GOING TO PUT THIS STOOL DOWN RIGHT HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FLOOR AND YOU BETTER LIKE IT.") and control his temper.  It's not an easy task. 

When my Father wasn't trying to start fights or intentionally mangling the language or lacing it with pejoratives ("BAWN-JOW-ER QUEERBAIT I WANT A JACK DANIEL'S AH-VECK GLAH-SEE."), he was fine company, because my Mom and I were able to accompany him to one of the Meccas of Bloodshed, the beaches in the Normandy region.  Being a Vietnam Vet and former Marine, this was heaven to him.  Our tour guide was an incessant French chatterbox who must have had a Ph.D. in naval warfare or something, and my Father ate up everything this man said.  It didn't matter that getting to the WWII Memorial in Caen required walking about nine miles (long story), it was what he was there to see, come hell or high water.  He even yelled at a frightened female crossing guard (who did not speak English) to get us in the right direction ("THE BEACHES! THE BEACHES! OMAHA! WHERE THE HELL IS IT?").  Quivering, the crossing guard waved her arm in the direction of the north and inched away from him.  The Normandy tour was the main selling point for him; seeing Paris again was mine.

As I mentioned before, my Father likes to ... travel with ... items ... that can harm people.  Or even his own family.  One night, my Mom and I discovered our new favorite apéritif: the Martini Rouge (sweet vermouth over ice with a lemon wedge).  We had a few (to say the least) and a few other tasty beverages (Jameson by the barrel).  At the end of the day, when we returned to the hotel, I realized that I wanted some candy and a cigarette before I went to bed.  My Mom bought a bag of sweets from the Montparnasse area earlier in the day, and it was in a plastic bag with a red bow that, I swear, was like glued onto the bag and simply wouldn't come off.  In my not-quite-sober brain I thought, at that moment, the best thing to do would be to ask my Father for a knife to cut open the bag.  He had knives on him (several, actually), but what he threw me was ... a mini-hatchet that he was also carrying with him.

Now, instead of asking for a knife instead of the hatchet, I thought maybe for a minute I could be Davy Crockett or some shit and lop the top of the bag off with it.  I was wrong.  I was also wrong in using (for whatever godforsaken reason) my left hand to swing the weapon.  With one swipe I missed the bag entirely and sliced right through the right side of my right thumb.  I jumped in shock as blood - oh so much blood - cascaded down my thumb and onto the following: my bed, the hotel carpet, my pants, my long sleeve shirt, a pillow and the bathroom floor and sink.  There was so much blood I thought I removed the thumbnail, too.  My Mother, who actually enjoys the sight of blood (she should have been a nurse), leaped up and proceeded to grab towels and try to help me out.  I was barking (and laughing) "Why did you throw me a hatchet?" while my Father proceeded to clean out the inside of a pistol (he had that, too) and shake his head in disgust.

Eventually he forced himself to get up, examine the wound ("THAT'S A LOT OF BLOOD BUT I'VE BLED WORSE.") and cauterize it with a cruder technique than they could teach in a 3rd World medical school before leaving the bathroom, instructing me to keep my thumb in the air (to stop the blood flow) and going back to cleaning his beloved pistol.  My Mom wrapped my thumb in a smallish towel and we used (a lot of) tape to keep the towel on my thumb.  Adrenaline pumping, I couldn't just go to bed.  My arm and pants and clothes covered in blood, I realized I needed that cigarette, so I took my battle-scarred self outside to pace around the Rue d'Orsel.  While heading out the door my Father made a point to yell, "DON'T GET LOST. I WON'T LOOK FOR YOU" ... which goes without saying.

Outside I was half-trembling and half-laughing at my own idiocy, but out there I had what I consider a vision from God (or the City Itself, I'm still not sure which).  I'm certainly not a peeper, but in the one apartment window across the street appeared a woman in her late 20's (it's hard to tell) placing clothes on the wrought-iron railing ... and she was completely naked.  No bra, no panties, long dark hair.  She saw me looking (and I was really looking) and didn't flinch or cover up: she just kept putting the clothes there from a basket she had nearby.  I had cigarette after cigarette, chaining one to the other (because it was too awkward to light a new drag with one hand), while she kept putting clothes out.  Now, I'm not necessarily one for Symbolic Moments in life (though I've had a few), but this naked, unfazed woman spoke to me in her non-verbal, shamelessly French way, "Everything is going to be all right, you fucking drunken goof."  When I eventually went back to the hotel room, I informed my Father what I witnessed, although he was less than impressed ("YOU SAW FREE TITTIES. SO WHAT.  I'M WATCHING LINDA FIORENTINO DUBBED IN FRENCH ON TV.").

The next day was our last in town, and I replaced the gore-soaked towel that was wrapped around my thumb with layers and layers of toilet paper (and tape) so it looked like a circumcised infant's severed pecker.  We piled the bloody towels in the corner of the bathroom with a note on it (and some Euros) for the maid as a kind of apology for the mess (though my Father said, "SHE'S AFRICAN SO SHE'S USED TO SEEING THIS KIND OF THING.").  We bolted out of town and flew straight to Dublin, where the rain-soaked Irish were more than happy to provide some liquid nourishment for my throbbing thumb (and mind).  One day I hope to return to Paris for a third time not because part of my thumb was disposed of there (although that is so very fitting), but to once again experience the gloriousness of one of my favorite cities in the world.  I just won't be bringing a hatchet ... nor catching one from anyone, either.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

#Occupy Logic and Reason

As some of you may be aware, there are people around the globe waging a war against the richest "1%" of the population, protesting against the extremities of Capitalism and the unfair wages the "99%" of the rest of the population are suffering through. And when I say "waging a war" what I mean by that is there are individuals who have taken to the streets with their tents and their baggies of food and their heavy clothes and they are expressing their disgust by sitting down and holding up signs and spreading bacteria to each other. It's as brutal a campaign as has ever been waged against the Powers That Be, more brutal than the Battle of Stalingrad or the Battle of the Bulge or the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. In those battles, there were things used called "guns" and "knives" and "bombs," which led to direct casualties and disfiguring deformations and bloodshed and sorrow. In this battle, the Battle to Be Seen, Tolerated and Quietly Dismissed as a Farce, they're making hot cocoa and yelling and saying things other people told them to say because they read them on a blog and act really, really, really indignant and use that disappointed face your Mom used on you when you wet the bed.

The 1% is clearly cowering in fear.

The occupiers, chosen by Time Magazine as the Most Ineffective Protestors in the History of Protesting, are certainly getting their share of press and attention and pepper spray to the face. Their Goal is simple: they're mad. And ... they're still mad. Okay, let's face it, they have no goal. Except to be looked at and kind of noticed, like those obnoxious nerdy girls in the cafeteria who can be heard over everyone else but everyone does their damnedest to ignore and roll their eyes in disgust. Most people are waiting for them to give up and return to their cozy apartments with their parents, where they will once again go on Monster and CareerBuilder to get those part-time jobs they've been avoiding so defiantly.

The Occupiers have a brave and strong leader ... okay, wait, they don't have a leader. They have The Internet. And as we all know, The Internet is a great place to find people arguing with each other over the dumbest crap, people posting animated pictures of cats in boxes, people claiming celebrities have died (when those celebrities are alive and well), people posting videos of themselves talking about chicken wings and people obsessively stalking people they'll never know, meet or interact with in person via useless, sycophantic, soul-crushing social networking sites.

Meanwhile, on the other end, the 1% are sitting and trembling while wearing their poorly-tailored Dolce and Gabbana suits and clicking their computers and feeling remorse over making godlike sums of money. They are so glad they are not being tasered or beaten with clubs. They're partying in clubs with each other ... but doing it with the weight of the world on their shoulders. When they sail on their company yachts and fly in their company jets or do karaoke at their company parties, I'm sure they are deeply disturbed and concerned with the well-being of those who have never flown first class and have racked up thousands in credit card debt. I'm sure those sleepless nights they experience are due to worries about proto-hippies calling for a Change. I'm sure the 1% are swallowing Xanax by the fistful, praying for a sweet release from the agony of their existence. On the limo ride to their offices every morning, I'm sure they wish they could take all their money and make it rain: not on strippers, but on the poor, the weak, the infirm. Those collecting unemployment. Those making minimum wage. Those who drive beaten-up Chevys and are forced to smoke L&M's because those Nat Shermans are simply too expensive.

Right now, it's an emotional bloodbath. I have no clue how it will turn out. Maybe once the Occupiers win and the 1% give in, we'll have some New Wave Utopia come into being ... or some kind of New American Pact in place that everyone will happily sign. Maybe Wall Street will close its doors and turn its focus onto things like preserving the environment or making sure the hungry get fed or making sure health care is provided for all citizens. Maybe the birds will chirp a little louder. Maybe the sky will suddenly undergo a physics-defying transformation, and turn to a brighter, more fluorescent, Yves Klein-inspired blue. People will smile more at each other and crime will be nonexistent, because human nature will change permanently and no disagreements or law-breaking misbehavior will be necessary. Maybe the ozone layer will be replenished. Researchers, with their new lease on life and respect for human dignity, will release those cures for AIDS and cancer they've kept locked up. Children will respect their elders. Adults will respect their children. The world will give itself a massive hug and pat on the back and shake its own hand.

I wait with bated breath.