Saturday, September 29, 2007
Everyday we're learning new uses for this deck: trading cards; sex, death or marry; gin rummy; war; tarot; 52 pick up†; etc.
Try to make your own!!
†Not anymore fun with this deck.
**Update: You can also play Friendship Charades, simply by pulling a card at random from the deck and then acting them out. The game gains in complexity as different players draw the same person, and must invent new ways to evoke them! Extra points earned for very very derogatory portrayals. - Alex
The last week has sounded uncannily like LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" on repeat. Music is supposed to be that great unspoken catalyst that opens us up to the feelings we need access to in order to feel happy, or at least to know what it is we *are* feeling. Then why is this the song I'm listening to? Do I find familiarity in the endlessly repeating piano note that reflects the monotonous grind of my life? Do I sense an uncomfortable inevitability in James Murphy's narrative point of view -- that I'm destined to, like him, become a 37-year-old looking back on his life regretting things and hoping to replace those things in the ever-dwindling future? Does the wistful melodrama of the song reflect my own yearning for something that probably doesn't exist, even when my knowledge of its nonexistence does nothing to mitigate the yearning?
But what about all of the things this song gets wrong? I mean, how stupid of a decision did he make, and how do we know it *wasn't* worth five years of life? You'd think that this disconnect between my own situation and that of the song would must-needs diminish the resonance the song is having with my life right now, but it's not. Those tired echoes with which the song dies, before its corpse is re-animated by the fun, but utterly verve-less "Us v Them", seem to me to signal a kind of all-too-God-damn-unavoidable termination not just of Life, but of all the things in it that make it worth Living. The people we know, the places we're able to go (apartments, road trips, concerts, sleep-overs, her couch, his favorite bar, the library when it's raining out), the books we want to read and then the ones we do, ideas we have and think about without ever telling anyone else, the jokes we can't get out of our heads weeks after we've heard them...these are the things -- the drums, the cymbals, the electric rush of guitar, James Murphy's voice, and that gloriously obnoxious piano -- that come together to make the entire song of our lives. Or at least my life. Maybe only parts of my life, the parts that are meaningful, that I remember, and that I look back on as the foundations of my identity. So if that's the case, then those resigned, undefined fuzzy blobs at the end...what do they mean? Is that the part where you're thrown off the train of life, and all you can make out is the blurry lights of the caboose as it goes around the last bend? I mean, is that when you *die* and that's it? Or, if you follow the structure of the album, is that where all the real meaning of your life goes on ahead without you, and you're stuck trying to construct something out of your memories of what was good? "Us v Them" is a great song, but it's merely a simulacrum of the heart of "All My Friends." Is that what we're destined to? Do we not get a choice, or is that the challenge of the whole thing, to figure out how to make that meaning last? By the six minute mark, the climax is in sight and every element of the song is in place, like the Tour de France, the Iditarod and the New York City Marathon all converging on one finish line, but they're not there yet. It is beautiful, but it is excruciatingly temporary.
Those runners, those instruments, that layering of sound that magically becomes a song -- those are the things in our lives we don't even notice at the time but realize at some point later on that they are what gives our lives meaning. They are Kleist's untestable, impermanent truth. But imagine, for a second, that, as fast as our lives go, and as hectic as this modern world is, we are able to fixate on one thing, one real thing that has real meaning for us. In the whirling tumble of the song's last 35 seconds, you've latched onto something that makes your skin prickle, lifts your hair from your hair like someone turned off the gravity, speeds up your heart and puts the rhythm of anxiety in your legs.
That...is that happiness? Is that meaning? That one thing, that one person, or place, or discrete process, is that the thing that gives your life meaning? And if it is, how much more terrible is Murphy's cry, "You forgot what you meant when you read what you said/ And you always knew you were tired"? He's seeing the future here, for him only a dozen or so seconds' worth, but for us that's the rest of the week, the rest of 2007, the rest of our lives. How can we ever be happy when the things that fill us with meaning are as transient as the soundwaves coming out of our headphones? Is it necessary, to save your sanity, that your last thought be, "over and over, 'Hey, I'm finally dead'"? Is it necessary, to save yourself from immeasurable pain, that your last action be a self-defensive reflex of forgetting, forgetting all of these things, all of your friends, until at last you've even forgotten whose friends they were to begin with? Are we destined to cry out alongside a confused Murphy, "Where are your friends tonight?/ Where are your friends tonight?" I don't want that destiny, but I don't see how to avoid it. I don't want all of the good things in my life to pass out of relevance. I don't want to face a stage in which I remember people's faces without remembering the gut-punch of how much they meant to me.
The five distorted snare hits that bring the song to silence might not indicate actual physical death, but they're the death of importance, the death of a single instant of personal truth, and like sea-sinking cannonballs tied to ropes that stretch back across the beach and into the mainland, when this truth is lost to us, it pulls with it the meaning it brought. So how come we don't all just kill ourselves now? Facing the horror of the ultimate meaninglessness of all the meaning in our lives, why do we go on? There's got to be a reason, because we do. And the thing is, the longer we go on, the more we encounter and accumulate, and the more we ultimately lose. Why?
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
I wrote this/these between two and three am this morning. Please enjoy responsibly:
I sure am alive. I wish I knew how I knew, though. There’s no way for me to actually prove to myself that I am. That whole thinking-therefore-being idea is bunk. Who’s to say that I’m not some recursive blip of data or information floating around in the ether of reality that has somehow managed to trick itself into interpreting itself as real, completely independent of the actual physical world? The answer to that is other people, I guess. Another person’s brain is the only proof that I exist. That doesn’t make sense, you’d say. I have to explain it to myself this way: everything I think might as well never have been thought at all, if I can’t expose it (or air it out, vent it, so to speak) to someone else and then have it returned to me with their fingerprints on it. This doesn’t mean proposing a business plan to a partner and then revising it to incorporate their suggestions. This means looking at someone’s face and knowing that I have a face. Telling a joke to my friend and hearing them laugh tells me what humor is, when paired with both my own laughter at my joke and my laughter at theirs. To contrast this, an example of something I might as well never have thought at all would be a joke I told myself, that I laugh at (or don’t). If I tell myself the joke, and then forget about it, and so it never influences anything else I ever do, then there is absolutely no point in having told it, which means that it was a wasted thought, which essentially means it was an empty thought, in that it is a period of time in my life during which nothing (might as well have) happened. A life of nothing but these empty stretches of time would be functionally and essentially indistinguishable from non-life. The only thing that fills these stretches of time with meaning is the way they influence further action towards the end of perfect mutual comprehension with someone (ideally, everyone) else. So, a lack of others to commune with voids one’s life entirely of meaning. That’s what I think.
But what do I mean when I say “meaning”? Very quickly, this question reduces to “What does it matter if I live my life entirely in a state of un-ending excruciating physical pain versus a life of uninterrupted blissful pleasure?” Basically, why does anything matter? We have to draw a baseline at the physical, but exclude the hedonistic. “Meaning” is drawn from the balance between the physically painful and the physically pleasurable, at its basest, but it can only really be understood once it is contextualized by thought. A person who I am attracted to can influence me to any number of feats that perpetuate our interactions without ever resulting in actual, physical pleasure (i.e., sexual satisfaction), but that doesn’t mean that all of the benefit I derive from our interactions doesn’t reduce to physical pleasure. If I find someone physically attractive, it absolutely shades everything I think about them. The significance I give to the time we spend together is measured in terms of good (being with them, thinking that I mean something to them, etc.) and bad (the opposite), but these terms, i.e. being with, meaning something, ultimately are built on the foundation of physical pleasure and pain. (We can expand the definition of pain to include the absence of pleasure when we are expecting it, which leans towards disappointment.) One question to ask is what hurts more, the presence of something painful or the absence of something pleasurable? At first the answer seems blatant, i.e. that a red-hot poker on your arm hurts far more than an absent pleasurable stimulation. But when you look at what these things “mean,” a contradictory answer arises. AT THIS POINT I GOT TOO TIRED TO KEEP WRITING.
THEN I COULDN'T GO TO SLEEP:
I always open up a blank document on my laptop when I feel like I am in the mood to have something particularly significant to say, but I never actually say anything. Mostly it’s when I am in a lonely mood, or am feeling restless. I mainly want to say, most of the time, that I am unsatisfied with my life as I perceive it at this exact moment, despite the fact that I am satisfied with it at almost every other point in the day/week/whatever. The reason for this is pretty simple. I want something I don’t have. What I want is something that may or may not exist: someone who makes me feel like I have something I don’t deserve while simultaneously making me feel like I have something I deserve. Another way to phrase this is: I want to feel as if I have managed to attract the attention of someone who, under ‘normal’ circumstances, would never deign to spend their attention on me, while at the same time never having to worry about losing their attention. This is the same thing as holding out for a super model girlfriend. So that’s what I invariably want to express whenever I open a new Word document, and instead I ramble and obfuscate my paltry whining with what I take to be fancy wordplay and philosophizing until I get tired enough to fall asleep.
So what does everyone else think? Is there something to this life, or is it chemical and nothing more? Does that feeling we sometimes get exist independently of ourselves, or is it only our perceptions of reality phrasing something too grand to comprehend in language we can interpret? Is there really something called love, or is it what happens when two people want to have sex with each other? Is there really something called love, or is that what we say when our brains want specific things that fall in specific categories? There are only two categories, though. Hard, physical, empirical truth; and subjective, un-testable noumena. The first category is only comprehensible to our minds through the language of mathematics; the second category is only comprehensible to us through the language of culture (so, the language we speak and write in, and all the images we instantly can interpret without having to process them). The first one is there whether we are or not. The second category only exists with human beings. So what does that mean? I means that, because love is not measurable with math, it doesn’t exist without us, which means it’s essentially a fabricated device to help facilitate interactions between humans, much like language is. So we, as humans, stand halfway between the two. Math came first, and we have to understand it. Love comes after, and we have to understand it. This is existential ramble #2 of tonight.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sep 17, 12:55 pm
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Public and private spheres
Ritual and performance
Critical race theory
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
When invited to an event, I look at the invitation list and write down all of the people I know (luckily, Facebook puts these people at the top of all the lists). Then I view the mutual friends I share with the inviter and mark off everyone who was on the invitation list. From there you can see who wasn't invited to said event.
It sounds too obvious, that people wouldn't be careless enough to essentially make accessible whom they do and do not like, but sure enough, a recent event invite I received led me to a list of people someone clearly didn't want to invite somewhere. Sometimes it was informative, sometimes it was confirmative.
It's fun!! I even made a spreadsheet! ("X's Who's In and Who's Out List")
I've started making webs based on who invites whom to events when they're being discriminatory, who writes on whose walls and with what frequency, who appears in photos with whom, etc. Well, started. Then I realized it was a massive task and abandoned all efforts to demarcate clique boundaries (which are fluid, anyway, and whose connections are non-binary) w/o some studied method.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
A group of friends gets together, has some drinks, and eventually start playing "Hey! Let's hypothetically assign our friends silly superpowers!" (like so). After a few powers are assigned, one friend yells out, "Wait, wait, I've got to write these down! These are great!" and pulls out a recently purchased notebook. Little do they know that the notebook is a magical, mysterious notebook, and anything written down in it comes true. After many superpowers are delegated, the group disperses, the notebook is closed and set aside, and then the magic slowly starts to eek out of the pages.
At first, the friends think there are just a few odd coincidences occurring. In one sure to be classic scene, Chelsea Flowers is absent-mindedly doodling in class when someone sitting behind her whispers in awe, "Wow, Chelsea, you can draw perfect circles." Suspenseful music sets in as Chelsea begins to wonder if maybe she does have those superpowers she and her friends were assigning ...
In a twist of fate that is both unfortunate for the friends and very fortunate for the plot, the notebook is accidentally destroyed in a freak, accidental superpower usage accident. It's not long before the friends are rushing to remember all of the superpowers they assigned and to warn all the recipients of them.
The friends are left with their powers (some more like curses), and set out to live their lives as such. They never stoop to fighting crime or anything — they just live as any average person who just discovered he could will yogurt factories out of business would.
I am most excited about the slash.