Posts by Patrick Stephenson

I hate commies!

I’m Not Counterculture

(In that I’m not a slacker or a beatnik.) [1]

Allen Ginsberg [source: Cody’s Books]

I remember that, in my mid-teens, I assumed my cousin E. and my uncle J. as role models. They weren’t quite my dad’s age—they were one to two decades younger—and so they were role models for the age bracket I was approaching. I took these guys on because my dad was so impressed by them. And if you admire your dad, the people he admires become admirable to you.

Both were smart and capable and charismatic. One had tried out for the Olympics, was and still is a major biker, and could repair anything. The other was co-creating his own comic book and could, similarly, repair everything, e.g. he worked on crazy projects like a sun dial carved from stone for my dad. Most of all, they had what I at the time would’ve called drive or hunger. I was ashamed of myself because I didn’t feel I had this. Comparing myself to them, I felt like nothing. Their antithesis was someone who lazed around and leeched off his/her parents, and I was afraid I would become that, afraid I already was that.

I don’t know whether I got as much from college as I could have, but I feel the thrust or result of these past five years has been, figuring out who I am and what I want. I’ve finally got what I thought E. and J. had. I know what I want now. If I don’t know, I become depressed and hopeless. If I do, I can chart a course toward it. I can lay down steps and knock them out. So. I have, I think, finally become what I wanted to be: a guy in his twenties who desires success and acts on that. I’m not content with laziness anymore and that’s why, though jobless till July 1, I’m finding whatever I can to fill my time.

As a result, I’m feeling remarkably solid lately. In my pants.

[1] Actually, Kurt Cobain & Allen Ginsberg embodied what I describe. Both were artists who as it were made statements with art despite representing alternative cultures that may be misperceived as, uh, supporting laziness. Not true. They rebelled against a culture/society—the mainstream—they considered stultifying. I feel the same. Still, some part of me dislikes what I wrote above, as though it’s an admission or confession and I should feel ashamed of wanting to succeed.

[Cross posted on P.S.]

Just Like a TV Show

I never want to hear the phrases ‘It was just like a TV show,’ or ‘It was just like a movie,’ or any variation on those in word choice or arrangement, ever again.

A few nights ago on the 10 o’clock news—which I never watch and shouldn’t have—the lede for a story about a local bail bondsman who (1) was kidnapped, (2) was tortured, and (3) escaped, was the following: “If you were a TV writer for a show like LAW & ORDER, you’d probably come up with a story like this.” That was the anchorman’s introduction, after which the show went to an eyewitness who said essentially the same thing: “It was just like a TV show.” Must we revel in our detachment?

The bondsman was tortured for days and that’s how his story’s introduced. No focus on the pain/suffering. Focus rather on his story’s similarity to an episode of your favorite cop/lawyer show, which by the way has stories “ripped from the headlines.” TV reflects reality, reality is compared to the TV show and then turned into a TV show—and so on and so on until we can’t live through any sort of life-drama without seeing ourselves as fictional figures at the center of a television show that must, therefore, have some epiphanic moment, or closure, and end with a song by Los Lobos.

I wouldn’t level the same complaint at those who—of 9/11—said, “It was just like a movie.” That was an incapacity to describe a tragedy whose magnitude we’d never witnessed except in films and so is forgivable. What happened to this bail bondsman goes on every day, though. We are capable of a fitting description. By reducing his story to the level of an L&O plotline, we’re reducing what he suffered through and the achievement of his escape. We aren’t doing his story justice.

Neither would I complain the same of someone who says, “I feel like a character in a novel,” because the long forms of fiction and non-fiction writing allow for a fuller approximation of reality. Television shows and movies are, by necessity, boom-boom-boom, from set piece to set piece, from one emotional drama to the next. Every scene/shot is essential. Meanwhile, novels can afford to include sections that reveal only character, that focus on the events of everyday life. So, novel readers are allowed this, thanks.

I hate this even more: “Everyone tells me I should have my own reality show, because blah blah blah…” Such statements are always followed by the most boring stories you’ve ever heard.

As Easy As Breathin’

Finally you have returned, John Rambo. Where have you been?

At first, this trailer appears to advertise a serious drama. The Goldsmith score, the Christian prayer, the debate about whether to interfere in a genocide until a pretty American blonde is killed. By the end, it looks like it’d easily belong sandwiched between PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF.

The way craggy-faced ole Sly says, “John” and “long time” at the trailer’s beginning breaks my heart. JOHN RAMBO and ROCKY BALBOA are obviously his double aught attempts to deconstruct his iconic, superheroic characters from the ’80s. They’re equivalent to THE WATCHMEN, in a way. Rocky’s now a gentle old man, managing a restaurant and wearing his huge spectacles and cute hat to the supermarket. Rambo’s still the loner, caressing his cross in solitude, but older now, more pacifistic. UNTIL, a horrific act occurs that rips him from his peaceful life and forces him to become a decapitating, throat-ripping badass. To which I say, YES.

And I will be there for the midnight screening. Fourth row center. You can count on me, Stallone.

Ear Wigs

I go through periods where words—like strong-hookéd pop songs—get stuck, lodged you might say, in my head. Recently, it was ‘legerdemain,’ today it’s ‘vituperative.’ I had a dream about ‘vituperative’ last night. Someone, his face dream-shrouded now, was applying it to everything including me around his person: ‘You’re so vituperative.’ I didn’t know what it meant till just now, via “marked by harshly abusive criticism.” Based on that definition, I don’t believe you’d use ‘vituperative’ to describe a person. It seems applicable to media only: texts, criticism. I hope I’ve freed my mind of ‘vituperative.’

Does anyone else experience this?

[Cross posted at P.S.]