7.24.2014

Quiz: How (Hometown) are you?

1. Do you remember when that store used to be where the other store is?
                A. Totally!
                B. I think you're remembering it wrong.
                C. Wasn't it a Domino's after that?
                D. No.

2. How about that time the football team made it to the semifinal?
                A. That was a great game! I can see that last-ditch run like it was yesterday!
                B. Jessica Feinstein let me feel her up under the bleachers in the third quarter.
                C. I thought for sure we had State in the bag that year. Good thing it just warmed me up for a lifetime of circling the fucking drain.
                D. I'm afraid not.

3. How about the candy you used to buy from that corner store?
                A. I haven't thought about that in years! They sure don't make 'em like they used to.
                B. I remember when we thought .70 cents for a candy bar was highway robbery!
                C. Where did the years go? What the hell happened to me?
                D. I don't remember that, either.

4. Oh, man! That theater and/or coffee shop downtown!
                A. They had the freshest popcorn/strongest coffee. I'll never forget!
                B. Jessica Middleton let me feel her up in the next-to-back row during a showing of "The Notebook."
                C. Sure, and it's gone with everything else that made this town great. Everything else that used to matter in this damn country.
                D. Nope! Not ringing a bell!

5. Hey, you remember that guy who used to hang out down by Main and MLK?
                A. Oh, man, yeah! Wonder what happened to him?
                B. I'm pretty sure he was on drugs. He tried to buy my sister one time.
                C. It's the immigrants! They ruin everything. Every fucking thing! I'd still have a job right now!
                D. Shucks. I sure don't!

MOSTLY A:
Ha, ha! You're a hometown boy/girl, through and through!

MOSTLY B:
I think you could use an attitude adjustment. Maybe if you'd grown up here instead of moving in for Junior High, you'd appreciate how much this place has to offer.

MOSTLY C:
It's these LIBERALS! Coming in with their healthcares and their pinko immigrants. Best to load up on guns and hunker down.


MOSTLY D:
Get the FUCK out. Just because you don't have a hometown doesn't mean you can just up and claim ours.

6.28.2011

Why It's Totally Awesome When Things I Like "Go Mainstream."

A guy I knew in a past life makes a comic called Our Valued Customers, about the people that he deals with on a day-to-day basis at the comic store where he works. It's single-panel, one real-life "character" a day relaying something that my friend has actually heard spoken in the shop. As someone who used to frequent the place, I can verify that nothing he's posted is beyond plausibility, as sad as that is.

One of the recurring themes that these people touch upon is anger at the neophytes into their culture. For instance, all of the people who became fans of Iron Man or Green Lantern or Thor when the movies came out. A discussion broke out under one of these comics about whether or not the person's anger was valid or not. I wrote my response, and posted it, and then realized:

A: It was roughly the length of a blog post in its own right, and
B: I finally hit upon some of the reasons that point of view upsets me so much.

I've cleaned up a bit, but the tone is still a bit more conversational than usual. (Since it was part of a conversation, after all.) As follows:

I am definitely cool with more people getting into the things that I'm into. In fact, I'm excited that I can talk about these things and receive a little more understanding than I used to. At the same time, I can understand the frustration that sets in when the trappings of a culture become widespread.

You see someone with a Superman shirt, that doesn't mean a whole lot, right? It's a widespread, well-known thing. You see someone with a Green Lantern shirt, that's just a touch more off the beaten path. You identify this person immediately as someone with a common interest, one that probably runs about as deep as yours, and whether you're correct or not, you imagine that you have found a compatriot.

With Green Lantern, Thor, Iron Man, and other less-popular (read: Not Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man) characters getting flicks, people feel less certain about who they can truly commune with culturally, and who's just kind of along for the ride.

Ultimately, though, I have to wave my B.S. flag on that. There's no reason to get upset when more people hop on. When the trappings of the hippie culture were bought and sold in the mainstream market, their sense of loss was understandable - something pure and idealistic (at least, in their minds) was suddenly about selling posters and t-shirts. Conversely, our subculture has ALWAYS been about selling posters and t-shirts.

We have, collectively, generated a lot of beautiful artistic expression, but consider: the hippies, the punks, and other counter-culture movements that were co-opted by the mainstream had this angst over their youth-in-revolt ideals being swallowed up by The Man. Whether they were right or not, they had this sense that all of their esoterica, these symbols and totems that held deep importance to them, were being stripped of value and sold to people who couldn't care less, all to fuel the materialist machine they struggled against. On the flip side of that, our culture is inherently materialistic. We shell out for sequels, and "Collector's Editions," and maquettes, whatever the hell those are. There's nothing to sell out, because our culture, much as I love it, is built around buying and selling. It may mean more than that to us, but it's not like we're some cultural revolution that's being undermined.

So what are we? That's harder to nail down. For my part, I'm someone who is eager to see the superb in the midst of the mundane. I'm someone who sees the rejuvenating power of the action stories comics draw so heavily from. Perhaps most of all, I'm a person who has realized that my childhood toys kick ass and refuses to get rid of them.

And on that note, I personally welcome anyone to my sandbox who wants to check it out. I've totally got the Technodrome over here; it's awesome. And if you don't know what the Technodrome is, or why it's awesome, I'm happy to share that with you - not resent you, not make you feel like an idiot, not tell you you're an ass for not already knowing - I will share these things with you because they are fun, dammit. And they are worth sharing.

6.24.2011

How Not to Display Your Genitals if You Are a Female or Perhaps a School

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about when not to display your genitals. It was mostly in the context of political scandals involving men, but were you aware that women can also display their genitals?

It's true! Sometimes this happens by accident. A woman will remove her clothing and allow photographs to be taken for private use by a boyfriend, husband, or Hugh Hefner. The photographer then betrays that trust, making the photographs available to the entire world. This is terrible. But at some point down the line, a few canny young starlets realized that if this were to "accidentally" happen to them, they could feign outrage (and who doesn't love that?) while also gaining both attention and sympathy from the public.

Except, of course, it doesn't work. They only thing we love more in America than looking at pictures of genitals is loudly condemning the people who are showing them to us. (Also, maybe looking at pictures of breasts. I'm not entirely sure what the hierarchy is on that.) And so when people started popping out of limousines without their panties, we weren't falling for it - at least not entirely. "Look at her," we'd tsk, frantically refreshing our browsers. "What was she THINKING, going out half-dressed like that?"
"Disgusting! Source, please!"

It especially looked desperate when Britney Spears did it, at the nadir of her popularity, less than two weeks after Paris Hilton was photographed doing more or less the same thing. We weren't buying the notion that these people were the victims when they were telegraphing their punches so obviously.

But we WERE falling for it in the less subtle way, the way that really mattered. Because while the sympathy failed to issue forth, the attention came pouring out, gushing like a swollen river. It works all around - we get to have our cake and be snotty about it, Britney Spears gets attention, and everyone goes home happy. (Except feminists, and people who like dignity.)

Nowadays, the cool thing to do is to take pictures of yourself with your smartphone. (Please see Rihanna, Blake Lively, and Vanessa Hudgens. Or rather, don't see them, because I'm not linking to them. Pervert.)
Above: Either a single pixel of something unspeakably naughty, or something I made in Microsoft Paint.

Unfortunately, none of what I'm writing here is new information. It's not novel; it's not challenging; it's not important. The whole path is as worn-down and tired as - well, I'll let you extrapolate your own metaphors, hopefully under the heavy influence of the above prose.

So why bring it up? Why discuss it?

I attend the University of Central Arkansas. This is actually the Gritty Reboot of my college career, having been dissatisfied with the results of my Actual Career. I came back to learn that the old alma mater was under New Management. Old Management, it turns out, had been embezzling quite a bit of money in quite a lot of novel ways - not really surprising, to be honest, but still sad. But while Old Management was terrible and greedy, they got things done. The school grew almost exponentially. The Honors College became a template copied all over the nation. The average ACT score shot up - they were well upon the way to becoming reputable. Prestigious even.


Conversely, upon receiving our stimulus money, New Management decided to rip up all of the shiny, new sidewalks (only a couple of years old!) and replace them with slippery, newer sidewalks. Why? BECAUSE, that's why.
I'll admit they've got a lot to deal with. Having your President arraigned doesn't do a lot for the morale of a school, and it does a lot less in the arena of public opinion. They needed to turn the tide of their publicity fast. They did the only logical thing:

That's right. They took off the school's panties, and stepped out of the limo. That is more than purple and grey turf. It's more than the ugliest damn football field you've ever seen. It is both a plea for attention, and a cry for help. How to help? Well, that, I'm afraid, is a bit out of my league. (Much like UCA, now that it's moved into Division I.) Not to mention that, as a person with a psychology degree, I'm endlessly irritated by the Dr. Phils of the world, judging problems and prescribing solutions from afar, for (once again) the sake of attention. But I do know that this should never have existed. It's like I've tumbled into an alternate Earth where things are happening that shatter everything I know about the way reality works.

Thing is, I held onto this post for awhile before publishing it. I thought it was too harsh, or that my extended metaphor might have a few holes in it. Then I read this, from our athletic director, Dr. Brad Teague: “Whether it’s positive or negative, people are talking about UCA on a national stage and we’ve never had that."

Indeed! We may be a laughingstock everywhere from the New England Sports Network to Sports Illustrated, but at least we're getting attention! You know where that philosophy gets you?

YEAH, you do.