Looks Blue, Tastes Red: Marilyn Manson and “Antichrist Superstar” (1996)

“When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed”- The Man That You Fear 

Marilyn Manson cucked after Columbine, although I can hardly blame him. If a kid went out and shot-up a Chuck-E-Cheese after reading “From the Arcade to the Girlfriend Experience,” I’d probably end up cucking too. It’s a heavy toll to pay for a guy who was just having a good bit of fun trolling.

Yes, that’s right- if you weren’t in on the joke, or actually took the old bastard seriously- Marilyn Manson started his career as a pre-internet, proto-troll. A tremendous practical joke, a long-con, being played on the very people paying to see him. And, yeah, two kids took it too seriously, played some Doom, and fucked the whole thing up.

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The Entitled Boomer and “Vacation” (1983)

“I found out long ago, it’s a long way down the holiday road”

Believe it or not, Clark W. Griswold was pretty fucking masculine. Sure, “Vacation” (1983) featured a kind of proto-idiot Dad, a trope that would become the standard by 1990- but Clark was a different kind of idiot Dad.

Clark was a masculine idiot Dad.

“Vacation” relied on one-joke with Clark, but luckily it was a good one. When Clark would do something stupid, royally screwing things up or putting his family in danger, he would say “I meant to do that” and move on.

This took many different forms. When Clark goes to trade in his car for a new station wagon before the trip- one he surely researched meticulously (my own Dad has a  “Consumer Reports” subscription to this day)- he gets the old “bait and switch,” being forced into buying an ugly clunker after his own car is traded in destroyed. To dispute this by waiting for the car he ordered to come in would ruin his family’s vacation- so what does Clark do?

He sells his wife on the ugly clunker by using the same line that the scam-artist car salesman used on him: “You may think you hate it nowhoney, but wait until you drive it.” Or, in other words, “I meant to do that.” He isn’t apologetic, he doesn’t admit defeat- he takes inventory of the situation and moves forward. This is the masculine approach- yes, even if you’re an idiot.

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Burying Your Father and “Return of the Jedi” (1983)

Re-watching “Return of the Jedi” (1983) as an adult makes the scene where Luke burns the body of his father stand out as the most important of the original trilogy- the culmination of Luke’s journey. While it may seem tragic that sister Leia wasn’t there beside him, this was something Luke had to do alone. After all, it was only Luke who saw the human face of his father and felt his humanity- and aside from the situational limitations of the movie’s plot, only Luke would have ever been able to understand his father on that level. Luke delivering his father’s funeral was his final rite of passage into manhood, and the true return of the Jedi.

Every man will have to bury his father, but will every man have understood his father when the time comes? The evolution of a man’s relationship with his father mirrors Luke’s struggle with Vader throughout the course of Star Wars- from not truly knowing him through the inevitable conflict of a young man’s teenage years. If you’re lucky you’ll have a moment where the pieces come together and you see your father as a part of yourself- but not everyone gets there… and, unlike a Hollywood movie, the story may end first.

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Looks Blue, Tastes Red: “Super” (2010)

I’ll go full red pill on the first date. To her credit, she listened carefully to what I had to say. When it came time for her response, she answered with the kind of pride one would have in beating Ganon at the end of “Legend of Zelda”- accomplishment and triumph; her victory moment. You see, everything I said was “just my narrative,” and it was as if these words unified the triforce and slayed the dragon- my argument lay defeated.

“Narrative” has become a pseudo-intellectual weasel word. If you don’t like the slant someone puts on something, it’s “just narrative.” If the narrative sounds appealing, it’s only due to the carefully constructed internal logic; a well-made narrative will closely adhere to this logic. At its core a narrative is constructed upon assumptions, which makes it narrative rather than reality- a good narrative will carefully hide these assumptions.

In a world increasingly torn apart by the oppositional forces of the political left and right, the term “narrative” has become a jab to the other side’s version of things; an attack on the strength of their reality.

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From the Arcade to the Girlfriend Experience

If the months between high school and college represent a budding sunrise of emerging freedom, the summer between graduate school and real life becomes your last chance at tasting it; time to get sick on Halloween candy because tomorrow is the start of winter.  I spent these months on a friend’s couch playing “Mario Baseball” (2005)- I regret nothing.

Video games are meant to be played socially. The long extinct shopping mall arcades of the 1980s were social hotspots buzzing with life as teenagers would crowd around machines watching the cool kids do their thing amongst the flashing lights and buzzing sounds of games like Q*Bert and Centipede, telling their own kind big fish tales of forgotten high scores; “…if only they’d left the Frogger machine plugged in, then you’d see…”

Consoles were originally packaged with two controllers for this very reason- video games were meant to be played together. In fact, a two-player mode was so important to the programmer who ported “Pac-Man” (1982) to the Atari 2600 that he mistakenly sacrificed game quality and playability to accommodate the game’s social aspect, producing an atrocious home-version and ultimately killing the market until the rise of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985- a console which also came packed with two controllers.

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It Used to be Better: The Death of Masculinity in Professional Wrestling

“If you take a thing apart or modify it, there are certain aspects which must remain intact for it to retain its identity. Without certain parts, it becomes something else.”- Jack Donovan, The Way of Men

So it’s a lazy Sunday evening, I did my dishes and tidied up for a bit, and I must admit: I don’t feel like being productive. I feel like hunkering down in front of my big silly TV to let the clown and puppet show melt my brain just a little bit more when it occurred to me- it’s a pay-per-view Sunday, brother!

The pro-wrestling pay-per-view Sunday was a highlight of my childhood. Months of intricate story lines, peppered with plot twists, met with my own, personal, mental preparation for the big day which would ultimately culminate in…. nothing. My parents weren’t going pay for a play-fighting television show (“pay for TV??”).

But those times when I carefully wore away their resolve with begging and pleading- usually with highly detailed explanations of all the moments that led to this happening, where on this particular Sunday evening everything would be coming to a head, and nothing would ever be the same in the entire world (wrestling federation). I needed to be in front of my aging 27″ to take it all in… and those times where they yielded to my lust for staged grappling were fucking beautiful.

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The Implicit Nature of Truth and Ugly Shirley Jackson

“Conceal your intentions”- Law 3, The 48 Laws of Power

The summer between high school and college presents a beautiful, uniquely modern, netherworld- the intersection of hope and accomplishment. A short pause between childhood and everything else, like the blank space between comic book panels, where reflection meets expectation.

I had a conversation with friend at the time about our idea of what college would be like. We had both felt severely burned by our Catholic high school education- that the limitations of Catholic doctrine had somehow obscured Truth. The Truth, we had both agreed, was the ultimate end-game of any education; the absolute highest priority.

And not that we were necessarily wrong on either account, however this belief in “Truth as God” without the components of wisdom and social acuity will only lead to misery and self-destruction.

This is where, if this were a perfect story, future-me would appear in the back lot of Donny’s Adventure Kingdom- behind the pirate ship- and tell past-me how Truth must be tempered with rhetoric. People aren’t looking for Truth; people are looking for identity.

And the clove cigarettes have got to go too, for fuck’s sake.

But, I had to learn the hard way.

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The Human Animal and “Of Mice and Men” (1937)

“You give me a good whore house every time. A guy can go in an’ get drunk and get ever’thing outa his system all at once, an’ no messes”- George Milton, Of Mice and Men

Compared to male sexuality, female sexuality is surprisingly linear. While it’s true that men enjoy the typical signs of youthful fertility- large breasts, curvaceous hips, clear skin- a man’s attraction to a woman must be tempered by a sense of realistic accessibility. “The girl next door” archetype is sexy because she isn’t intimidating; she’s unaware of how sexy she truly is and this makes her accessible.

Female sexuality is more linear because women don’t feel indebted to accessibility as a component of attraction; for a woman, this would be like going to a movie and wondering, “do I deserve to be here watching this movie?” Since women don’t have this concern, a woman can feel entirely unencumbered with whom she’s most attracted to- which inevitably is the highest-quality male in any scenario.

However, defining highest quality male isn’t always what it seems.

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The Narrative of Heartbreak and “Big” (1988)

In a flash Fake Winehouse was able to transform our hetero-normative experience back into something she was more comfortable with, her own safe space of gender neutrality, with the magic words: “get this shit off me.” Tossing her the tissue box, I chastised her for breaking the narrative, something usually reserved for slightly longer than fifteen seconds after sex.

Winehouse may have rolled her eyes, but the fact of the matter remains: sex is the narrative of attraction. For the red-hot 20 minutes I spent with Amy, she behaved like the ideal submissive, gleefully allowing my control. This was what she wanted in the moment, appealing to her own female nature. After, when her big girl brain came back, the feminist became disgusted with herself, and, “get this shit off me,” was her way of re-framing the mess she’d made by treating me like an alpha male.

Sex is like editing together a documentary film. Everything is based in reality, but it’s up to you to put together the story. Initial attraction may be there, but if you don’t string things together the right way, you’re not getting laid.

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Everything as Sexual Strategy and Ugly Harper Lee

Sexual strategy is like that scene at the end of Wargames where Joshua the computer tries to launch nuclear weapons and start World War 3; the computer cycles-through launch codes quickly while keeping the bits of code that are a positive match. Most people unconsciously allow their brain to do this work, matching behaviors with their positive outcomes, and bookmarking those behaviors while discarding the ineffective.

The conversation almost always goes like this when you tell someone that everything a person does stems from a foundation of sexual strategy: they listen patiently, provide the socially customary nods of understanding, and then say something like, “well, okay, but not everything…”

This certainly seems like it could be the case; it almost feels reductionist on some level to think that men and women are constantly being guided through their choices and actions by some invisible force emanating from their genitalia, silently screaming at them to just get it the fuck in like a pack of dogs in heat.  That there must be a special designation, or a degree of intellectual sophistication , which separates the human animal from his more primitive underlings.

And this is certainly true; the human animal is civilized. We are conscious of a wider-span of potential emotions, and are gifted with the ability to fulfill more significant goals than simply eating and fucking. We can shape our consciousness with language, and vocabulary, and with language comes access to higher level thinking.

It’s a lot like when you were a kid in kindergarten, at the beginning of the school year, with all your little school supplies. You mom could have gotten you the boring eight pack of Crayolas, but you wanted the big box of sixty-four; you know, the kind that comes with the crayon sharpener. So instead of just “red” and “blue,” you had a whole variety of different shades of the same color to pick from, and lucky you, right?

No, stupid, they’re all still crayons.

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