An Introduction to “Low Road”: A Novella


I’m trying to create another page where I can publish all of this shit, but I’m such an old man that I’m having difficulty doing so. But here’s the first chapter of my lone novel that I completed three years ago. I’m just now getting around to editing it. But between working full-time, a marriage, and keeping up with this blog, there’s only so much time in the day that I can dedicate towards this thing. So I’m releasing one chapter at a time.

Now the one-chapter-at-a-time method hasn’t always worked (Remember Phil Whistle? Which I do plan on completing at some point), but it’s the best idea I got and that’s what I’m rolling with.


Low Road was a novel-sized draft that I started in 2012 and completed in 2015.
Work on a second draft halted until 2018.

What’s presented here is a heavily, HEAVILY, edited version. Although I conceived the work as being a critique of the “male perspective” (or the “male gaze”), I’m not sure any of that translated. Instead of being a commentary on the Bukowski-esque perspectives and lifestyles…Low Road might be viewed as a celebration of it.

While I wouldn’t say that the story’s subject, a glimpse into the life of Rod Townshend, is a thinly-veiled auto-biography of my OWN life…except for the excessive alcoholism in my 20s, which in that view, this IS a thinly-veiled auto-biography….but these were the concerns that I was facing from the time of conception until completion of the first draft.

Some time has passed. And much has happened.

I’m not gonna lie, this isn’t my best work. But this being my first completed novel (or at least rough-draft of a novel)…I’ve always thought: what if? It might not be an accurate representation of what I had originally envisioned, but it will at least be completed.
Mind you, it’s still a work in progress. I’ll only release one chapter at a time out of hope that it will force me to edit the other chapters. (And I know…that plan hasn’t always worked out)

But anyways, here it is….


by Wes Michael

Chapter 1

I wouldn’t say that I’m a poker player. I don’t even know that I’m good. But it was the weekend. I wanted to be out with the cowboys and the slot machine junkies.

The older women across the table kept looking over. She must have been looking for a fuck. I attempted to keep myself engaged in the game. But the crowd around me was too distracting.

And there she was. Not the most attractive women in the room, but the one I wanted the most. Pale skin, thick legs, short jean skirt, long curly hair. I was too distracted to focus on poker. As the dealer continued to draw cards, it became apparent that this wasn’t my night. I was done.

“Perhaps you should stick to blackjack”, the older women across the table said to me.

“The only way to win at blackjack is to not play”, I replied.

Pale skinned beauty was at the bar with her white-trash friends. I proceeded to the bar, passing through the wild circus of ragged old souls. I ordered a whiskey coke. It was probably my fourth one of the day. I proceeded to think of some way to engage this woman. Nothing came to mind.

I continued to sip my drink.

The group kept laughing and carrying about. I opened my mouth. “Hi, my name’s Rod”, I said. That was the best I could come up with. It was surprisingly well-received.

“Hello”, the pale-skinned beauty replied. I realized her brown eyes. Her pupils fully dilated. She wore light gloss over her lips. She was also lightly freckled. I was hooked. I was taken back by her immediate interest. But she was slightly intoxicated as well.

“I’m Sandy”, “I’m Erin”, I’m….”all her friends replied to me. But I was only interested in one name:

“I’m Taryn”, she said.

“Nice to meet you Taryn, pleasure to meet all of you. Have I seen any of you all here before?”, I asked

“Doubt it. We’re just here for a few drinks. We’ve got a party to go to across the border in Arkansas.”

“Next round is on me”, I said. I was spending money I didn’t have. The bartender brought over three beers.

”And what are you having?” I asked Taryn. “Tequila”.

“Are you from around here?” I asked. “Yes, from West Siloam. Most of my friends live in Arkansas. All my family’s from Oklahoma, I’m part Cherokee.”

Everyone around here says they’re part Cherokee. She might have not known what she was talking about. Nevertheless I continued to be turned on. But the conversation had to cease quickly. It was time to leave.

“Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of each other in the future” I said.

“I’m sure”, she replied.

I remained at the bar and continued to sip on my cocktail. I sulked in silence at my lackluster night. But I didn’t remain alone for long. The older women at the poker table took a seat next to me.

“Tough luck, huh?” She asked. I started taking larger gulps of my whisky coke. “The story of my life”, I replied.

“I see you around here on occasion. A casino? This is for the old folks, darling. You’re just a boy.”

“I’m not a boy.” I replied.

“Honey, compared to me, you are a boy.”

I finished my drink and closed my tab. The night was done.

“Let me buy you another drink”, the women said. “My name’s Jeanne. I promise that I’m nice.”

I’m not able to turn down a free drink, so I agreed. The bartender brought me another whiskey coke. I was moving passed the point of drunk towards plastered. There’s not much of the conversation with Jeanne that I remember. I do recall is focusing on her body. Short blond hair. Tanned and thin. I couldn’t tell how old she was. I would have guessed early 50s. Clearly she was in shape. Her V-necked top easily exposed her cleavage. It was distracting.

At one point Jeanne got up and left, likely to go to the bathroom, but I didn’t know for sure. I thought our conversation was over. I walked outside and got out my cellphone. I tried to call my brother. It was probably past 2 in the morning.

I stood outside in the cold, right under the canopy. I was trying to sober up. Jeanne pulled up in her black SUV. “Did I strike out”, she asked? I attempted to slur out my words.

“I thought you disappeared.”

“Get in, I’ll give you a ride”.

I took my chance and I jumped into her SUV. I was too drunk to be concerned with safety. I just hoped that I wouldn’t throw up in her car. Jeanne pulled out of the parking lot and started heading west.

“Are you cold?” she asked.

“No”, I replied. That was complete bullshit.

I began to sober up. The reality of riding in a car with a strange woman was kicking in. It was getting me excited. I usually have a hard time getting an erection when I’m drunk. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights. Jeanne reached out across the console to feel my crotch.

“Doesn’t take much, huh?”

“Sorry”, I replied. I don’t know why I would apologize for that. The entire time, I was at a loss for words.

Eventually we pulled onto a small dirt road which led to a large stone house. I got out of the car and stumbled my way towards the front porch. Jeanne followed close behind. When I climbed up the stairs, she laid a huge kiss on me. I was slightly taken back.
I was unsure of how much she had to drink.

Jeanne unlocked the front door and I followed her inside. She immediately charged her way through the house and up the stairs towards her bedroom. She told me to wait in the living room. I began to admire the house. Jeanne was clearly a woman of means. The décor was a mix between some modern style and log cabin. It felt more like a hotel lobby than someone’s house. I continued to scan the living room and kitchen. Then I noticed the bar.

My drunk was wearing off and I was beginning to feel nervous. I found some silver tequila and shot it back. Jeanne came out wearing a robe. I assumed that lingerie was beneath it.

“Why don’t you pour me a shot”, she said. I poured her a shot and I took another one just for good measure. I was quickly regaining my buzz.

“You know, I don’t think that I caught your name.” Jeanne stated.

“Rod”, I replied.

“That’s a very fitting name”. Jeanne flipped a switch then the moderately dimmed room became darker. Then she sensuously moved across the room. When she reached the fireplace, she dropped her robe.

There was no lingerie, just bare nudity. I admired her backside from the bar. Her tan lines suited her thin and fit body. I was quickly aroused and I began to frantically remove my clothes. Her backside was still facing me while she tended to the fire. I snuck up behind her and started kissing her neck.

We fooled around in the living room for a while before moving to the upstairs bedroom.

I dreamt well that night. It was an unusually deep sleep. When I awoke, I was surprised to find myself in a foreign place. Dynamite sex and alcohol destroyed my memory. I frantically tried to recall the events of the night, wondering if I did anything stupid. Perhaps I did. But I looked over and saw that Jeanne asleep next to me. She was completely nude on top of the covers. Her backside was towards me. I got aroused again.

It felt good against the silk sheets.

Jeanne must have heard me rustling around. She flipped over and smiled. “Good morning”. She leaned in to kiss my neck and moved her hands all over my body. We exchanged a few dirty words and I thought that I was going to climax again. But she left me hangin’.

“I’m gonna take a shower.” She said and went to the bathroom. I laid there for a while. Was this girl crazy? Does she want something from me?

Is she going to give me a ride back to my car?!

A few minutes later, I heard the front door open. Was it her husband? If that was the case, then I wasn’t going to put my clothes on. As mad as he would be, I doubt that he would want to fight a naked man. But I listened intently, waiting for someone to come into the bedroom. Instead all I heard was a TV come on. After a while, the sound of what I’m sure was a video game began to echo across the house.

I got out of the bed, and slowly put my clothes on. I quietly made my way out of the bedroom to get a glimpse of the individual. I walked down the hallway, down the stairs and towards the kitchen. As I began to tiptoe into the living room, a girl popped up from around the corner. We startled each other.

“Hello”, I said.

“Hello”, the girl replied with some puzzlement.

“I’m with Jeanne.”

“Oh!” She laughed with a sigh of relief. “Don’t worry, I’m not her daughter.”

“Okay?” I said with equal bewilderment.

“I’m dating her son. He’s in there playing video games.”

I go around the corner, and there he was glued to the TV.

“So…who are you?” the girls asks.


She tells me her name is Angel. We go into the living room to join Philip, Jeanne’s son. He stood up to shake my hand. He was quite taller than me. I’d guess he was about 19 with long shaggy brown hair and round glasses. He looked like John Lennon. But he had huge hands that dominated my comparatively small ones. This went awkwardly with his scrawny frame and nerdy appearance which vacated any possibility that he was a threat to anyone.

He didn’t have much to say.

Angel looked about Philip’s age. Even though it was cold outside, she continued to wear a pair of white pajama shorts. She also had long brown well-conditioned hair and blue eyes. She was a cute girl that I only minimally took notice in. I was severely hung over. We chatted for a little bit before Angel proceeded to curl up next Phillip on the white couch. He continued to play his games. After several minutes of silence, Jeanne came out of the bathroom, completely refreshed.

“Can I get you anything? Would you like breakfast?” She asked.

“No, I must get back home. I’ve got a busy day today.” I was ready to get the fuck out of this weird situation. I don’t believe I’ve ever met someone’s family after a one night stand.

As we rode back to the casino to retrieve my car, there were a few moments of awkward silence. But I was perfectly fine with the quiet. Yet Jeanne had to speak up.

“So, how old are you anyway?” She asked.

“24” I replied.

“Are you fucking serious?!”

“I’m perfectly legal.”

“My son is 20. I can’t believe it. I thought that I would never get 20 year old ass again.” She said.

I wasn’t interested in probing any further. But Jeanne kept insisting on conversation.

“Aren’t you going to ask me how old I am?” she asks.

“I thought a gentleman should never ask.” I replied.

“I’m 49”

“Well shit, I was about to say 25.”

I filled the air with general banter until we pulled into the casino parking lot. My 99 Ford pickup was still there. It was still a piece of shit. But I was tired and ready to go home.

“Thank you for the ride…and the memories”, I said.

“It doesn’t have to be just one memory”. Jeanne pulled out a business card and wrote her personal number on the back.

“Give me a call and we’ll do this again”.

It read Jeanne Armand, Senior Vice-President of Osage Bank.

The Post-Positive Age: Episteme

Foucault argued (at least according to this video) that it’s the unconscious, or the things that don’t even occur to us, that shapes our history…or episteme…which contrasts with Thomas Kuhn’s paradigms, or the things that scientists are consciously aware of, which shapes historical outcomes, or shapes the zeitgeist of scientific thinking, or whatever. Just watch the video.

In the video, the speaker discusses how, in a Foucaultian view, the emphasis on individuals in historical development is misplaced. For instance, it’s entirely possible that Germany was going to lose the WWII, regardless of what Hitler and the Allies were going to do. While it’s entertaining to consider the possibility of Germany winning the war (in reference to Man in the High Castle, although it would NOT be entertaining in real life), their long-term strategy along with resistance from communism and liberal democracies would have meant an almost certain eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. To use the word ‘zeitgeist’ again in its Hegelian form, it wasn’t necessary for Winston Churchill SPECIFICALLY to stand up to Hitler to defeat him…if it wasn’t going to be Churchill, it would have been someone else. But it was Churchill, therefore he captured the ‘zeitgeist’, or spirit, of the age. But still, it didn’t have to be the heroes of an age to produce given historical outcomes, they are the result of unconscious and/or sociological consequences.

(For the record, I don’t completely agree with that view)

I’d just like to point out that the era in and around the 20th Century marked the end of “military victory” as a means of “political victory”. You can win ALL of the battles, but still lose the war. Military leaders, and the politicians that support them, have to concern themselves with the “hearts and minds” of both the vanquished AND the people of their own nation. War isn’t as palatable as it once was and that is, in part, due to the rise of the “common man” (perhaps more on that later) who once had to do the fighting on behalf of the political class.

But it’s these “unconscious” developments that shape history.

The Post-Positive Age (Part II): Parenting


I come from a long, proud line of losers.

My parents were the first to achieve middle class. I was the first to graduate college.

But I’m still a lazy piece of shit. Perhaps we can’t…or shouldn’t….escape who we are.

I got excited when I read the title “Parenting Doesn’t Matter” by Dan Engber (which you can read here.). Of course I was quickly disappointed when I saw how much reading I had to do. I hate to sound like a douche but I just don’t care about the lives of parents. Parents don’t care about the lives of parents for fuck’s sake (although I took time to read the line “it’s not like she’ll be shitting her pants at high school graduation”). So if you do choose to read the article, skip to the last paragraph. But essentially choices you make as a parent don’t matter as much as you would like them to.

Empirically speaking, that is if the research in the article it to be believed, parenting isn’t like a sculptor molding a creation…it’s another chain weighing down the mind in a Rousseauian sense…or, if you’re Roger Waters, another brick in the wall: as we have long known, children aren’t born a tabula rasa. When we impress upon them our parental philosophy, we are enforcing a dictatorship of sorts. Again, arguing from the point of the article, the aim of parenting shouldn’t be to “mold” but to “foster growth”…same thing we do with say, plants!

Tyranny begins at a young age.

Despite knowing for a VERY long time that humans aren’t born blank slates…as we observe in other species….in our arrogance, we still practice this misguided conception. Which is why I get excited when I see these kinds of articles as they tend to undermine commonly held beliefs. (Which, I have no idea if they’re right, but I appreciate the effort)

Of course, the philosophical implications of this are terrifying. Perhaps free will doesn’t exist. Vince Lombardi’s quote “leaders are made” becomes bullshit. Some of our shitty qualities are innate (I know mine are). And the list goes on. But the big one for me is that it puts a new spin on the assumption “family is the bedrock of civilization”, which is mostly said by disciplinary parents who want to believe they are shaping society…when they are, in effect, acting as a jailer.

So that stoner college freshman that’s always ranting about how oppressive society is…he’s correct.

“What’s your point?”

I’m too lazy to go back through Engber’s article, but I vaguely recall him alluding to parents obsessing over self-help books in an attempt to figure out the best methods of rearing children. Apparently there were fads that emphasized certain techniques at certain points in time, etc. etc. And now we have Engber saying that that’s all bullshit and cites a number of sources backing his claims.

Which underscores another point: research!

In Part I, I mentioned that there’s the likelihood of people looking back on our own era…an era of “positive knowledge” in a Comte-ian sense…and saying “can you believe people believed that shit.” Now I’m not saying that I disagree with Engber, I fully believe his assertions. But a thought occurred to me while reading his article, a thought that a future historian might have: “People couldn’t take a shit without a study saying that it was good for them” (in reference to our current times, as we seemingly need a study to confirm our most basic intuitions).

When I refer to this “post-positive” age, I am casting skepticism on the idea that positive knowledge…or our scientific endeavors…can reveal to us everything we need to know. It might answer questions that we need to know TODAY, but that might not be the final stage of human development (or whatever Comte’s terminology was).

How will this “post-positive” age look? I don’t know yet.

How could I know?

Thought of the Day: My Life is Serious. Yours is a Joke.


If you’ve never thought to yourself “I’m such a fucking idiot”, you’re a piece a shit.

Life’s a joke.

If God exists, he’d probably say that he’s fucking with you.

In the last post, I took shots at shitty talk radio. And every talk show host is a jackass to his or her (but mostly his) producer. It’s like you have to have “I’m an asshole” on your resume to get your own show. It makes sense. You’d have to be an egomaniac to want to talk that much. Yet people tune in.

Without exception, every talk radio host is a terrible person.

FUCK IT, let me extend that out to every person that states their opinion on ANY medium. And that includes me!

Would I want to be my own friend? Fuck no!

But I know that my life’s a joke. I make terrible decisions. And my personality leaves a lot to be desired. So what?

The older I get, the less people I want around me. So I become selective. And the first thing I assess is this: how seriously do you take yourself compared to how seriously you take others?

It can’t be balanced and it can’t be tilted towards yourself. You have to take others more seriously than yourself. In other words: you have to hate yourself.

It seems harsh, but it shows me something: you are willing to check YOU before others. It shows humility. It shows empathy. But more importantly….it shows that you’re not a MOTHER FUCKING PSYCHOPATH.

But like I said, I wouldn’t want to be my friend, so do with that information what you will.

But being a white, middle-class, privileged man my entire life, I got to spend a considerable amount of time around white, middle-class, privileged men. Naturally. When you’ve never been told that “you’re a worthless piece of shit that will never amount to anything”, maybe that fuels a superiority/inferiority complex. Or maybe if you HAVE been told that your entire life, then THAT creates a complex. I don’t know what contributes to “alpha male” behavior. But many men want perpetuate this “alpha male” myth due to underlying feelings of inadequacy and/or sociopathic tendencies.

There’s whole YouTube subcultures based on this shit. And surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), none of these guys seem that manly….only non-alphas even seem aware of the concept “alpha male”.

But where these men lack in physicality, they make up for in their self-prescribed “genius”. Which is another automatic disqualifier that I look out for. Only other people can call you a genius…you can’t call yourself that.

Maybe I just don’t have the energy. It’s getting harder for me to pretend, nay…FORCE myself, to believe in my own successes and abilities. Who gives a shit?

I certainly don’t.


A Lot of Words. Nothing To Be Said.


I work with all white guys….in a red state. There’s no variance of opinion.

But whatever. It pays the bills.

Yet due to this, I have to be subjected to right-wing radio…which, in all honesty, if I have to subjected to any form of halfassed news media, I’d probably choose that kind…but it’s all a Sophie’s Choice.

I’m not specifically calling out right-wing radio because it’s right-wing…I’m calling it out because I don’t know what they’re trying to say. I suppose I could say the same about a few liberal talking heads, it’s just that I rarely listen to any of those people. My concern is that it’s unclear WHAT exactly listeners are supposed to get out of these kinds of programs.

Is it knowledge?

Knowledge about what? How liberals are stupid and there’s a subliminal leftist conspiracy trying to erode away America?

Is that it? There’s a show dedicated to this problem that airs five times a week…for SEVERAL hours a day?! And if liberals are so oppressive, and successful, in implementing their agenda, how the fuck are they still on the air?

And why would they oppose their “agenda”? Is it just because liberals are whiny and hold these monolithic “Marxist” views which are never explained? What is it about these supposed “Marxist” views do they not like and why should people be persuaded to see things their way?

And strangely, these guys seem to get on to the Left for being so whiny, yet continue to whine about a guy that took a knee during the National Anthem.

This is why I’ve always said that cheap political punditry is more dangerous than pornography: it’s a gripe fest masquerading as intellectual discourse. It reinforces a limited worldview. It allows people to be mentally lazy…it tells them that they’ve achieved enlightenment, all they have to do is listen to the loud man in the box. When people should be thinking for themselves, they’re listening to some guy phone it in every day.

So don’t listen to those guys! Come read my fucking blog!

But seriously, the guys I listen to are the old-school “disciplined” conservatives. Not the new kids you can find on YouTube. These guys still talk about Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton like they were President yesterday. And since nothing new has happened since 2001, all of their talking points are addressing what other “mainstream media” outlets are saying.

So it’s all gossip. “Can you BELIEVE what CNN reported today?!”, “A kid was expelled from school for NOT participating in the anti-gun protests. The mainstream media will not report this!”

But like pornography, these programs are fine in moderation and taken with a grain of salt. It’s when they become a substitute for genuine discussion and rigorous thought that they become a problem.




The Post-Positive Age (Part I)


We can positively know things about the world, but can we know everything about the thing in the world?

The fuck am I talking about now?

Can more than one explanation account for a thing, and can multiple things account for an explanation?

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. But if there’s been a common theme with my last few posts, it’s been this: notions of progress are a human construction…things neither improve nor decline, they just change. (To get more specific with my personal philosophy, the mind is designed to seek flaws: whatever improvements we make gets exchanged for a new set of problems and conditions)

That’s all we can positively affirm in historical discourse.

Which seemingly makes Auguste Comte’s “three stages” of history (or social evolution) all the more nonsensical IF you misunderstand what I’m saying. Comte is essentially correct: how we come to understand the world changes. The mistake made is that he assumed the final stage, where we eschew the supernatural and metaphysical in favor pure positive knowledge (or science) would be a sort of “final destination”…where humanity didn’t need to advance any further.   In terms of how the “experts” assess modern questions…we are largely in a positive phase. Sure, we occasionally consult the priest or clergyman with life’s affairs, but to find factual or objective knowledge, we have to pursuit those knowledgeable in some form of inductive methodology…or in other words, people of science. Few people in the modern world would take the opinion of a priest over a scientist in the affairs of biology, meteorology, or most other -ologies (although MANY still do)

I suppose we could say that Isaac Newton ushered in this “positive” era (although Comte would have chosen a later era), where he was able to accurately uncover the principles of the universe without the use of theology (an -ology where positive knowledge WON’T help you). I suppose this turn in thinking would be what Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm shift. There was probably a paradigm shift towards the theological which fundamentally changed human thought at some point in history. As we are living in the “era” of Newton, there will be another paradigm shift in the future.

Despite the confidence in our abilities and knowledge, there will probably come a time when people will reflect on this era and say: “can you believe people believed that shit?”.

Scientific pluralism has something to do with this too, but I ran out of time. Which is why I’m posting this video below.

Thought of the Day: Past is Prologue


I should probably state the distinction between “Thought of the Day” and a regular post. A “Thought of the Day” is a more or less me taking a shot in the dark: it’s either going to make sense or be complete bullshit. In other words, I couldn’t figure out a way to coherently construct a thought, so I just started typing about a general subject and hoped for the best.

Keep that in mind.

Now I’m a nerd for history. But not because I see it as a window into our future. It appeals to me because the same way, say STAR TREK appeals to me…it just fucking does, okay?

Of course, I have frequently compared modern US to Ancient Rome but that’s only because it’s fun for me to do so. Not because I literally believe Rome and America are identical in their historical trajectories.

But the only way many can find the utility in history is if they see it as, again, a “window into the future”. “Those that don’t study history are doomed to repeat it” as the logic goes. Which is pretty idiotic when thought through. A historian must have thought of that one. But contrary to what your history teacher taught you, history doesn’t repeat itself. It doesn’t “echo” either. I mean, sure, events might be similar, but just because they’re similar doesn’t mean that they have the same cause. So what is history good for? Fuck if I know, I just like to study it.

But I suppose history as a discipline is useful for a means of (for a lack of a better term) rememberance. Shit happens. BAD shit happens. Some good shit too, but mostly bad. I mentioned something previously about empathy and its necessity for maintaining freedoms, which in turn helps bind our society. In a way, reflecting upon, investigating past events and peoples helps us engage this empathy…we are able to empathize with characters of the past and the conditions of their actions (in many ways they are “victims” of their age) because their decisions are what brought us to today. In a more negative sense, it might tap into our fear of what happens after death…notably what happens on Earth. Nothing could be worse than being forgotten. So we empathize with persons of the past for the sake of rememberance, lest we ourselves be forgotten. Look, I’m just spitballing here. But if there is to be a utility for history, it’s to remember. (To honor is another popular explanation, but “honor” seems insufficient to me)

How we recall events is also problematic. We tend to classify events based, in part, on future events. I suppose an example of this would be Gavrilo Princip, the man who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and kickstarted World War I…and in effect, World War II. We don’t need to know shit about the carnage of WWI to understand the motivations and life of Princip….nevertheless he’s lumped into the pantheon of the Great War. Upon closer examination, we realize such eras in history really weren’t eras….those titles are usually bestowed by future historians. Did the people living in the “dark ages” know they were living in the “dark ages”?

I’m not going to take this conclusion to its extreme where we can’t know anything about history (or a postmodern interpretation as an asshole might say). Obviously things DO happen. But can historical analysis transcend mere information? And is information alone enough to understand a particular timeframe? An example I have used before is my rant against SPOILER ALERTS! I argued that SPOILER ALERTS are useless and if you rely upon them to not ruin your movie-going experience, clearly you don’t know anything about how movies work. You can know everything there is to know about a movie before going to see it: it’s director, the script, it’s plot, etc…but none of that information will tell you if it’s a good movie. To learn that, you have to experience it. The study of history, at least commonly understood, is like studying a movie without watching it. We CAN know every detail about an event, about a particular era, but it won’t tell us what we want to know: what was it like?

In this sad sense, all of our memories and experiences will become, as Roy Batty eloquently stated, “lost in time, like tears in rain.”

So what is history good for? I suppose that it depends upon the era of history that you’re living in! Recently, the study has taken a more anthropological and/or sociological form with people like Jared Diamond and Yuval Noah Harari. But the study of it, and our interpretations, are based on the questions we want answered for our own time. 

But I can say, almost without doubt, history is not moving in a definite Hegelian-like direction where the meaning of it all will be revealed to some “final Spirit” or some shit (unless living consciousness can last until the end of the universe. In that case, my apologies to Hegel) We know this to not be true, YET to some degree we allow this to inform our opinion on the study of history itself. “Past IS prologue”, but is not a determinate to our future.

The Best and Brightest


Higher Education is notoriously attacked on the Right, somewhat on the Left, and even those within the Universities have their criticisms.

And all of these criticisms are well deserved, I might add.

A common critique from the average joe is that universities should teach the skills necessary for the workforce. Many institutions reject such notions, claiming the purpose of higher education is to develop the mind and, to some degree, spirit…knowledge for the sake of knowledge, if you will.

Naturally, I tend to agree with the latter view…individuals shouldn’t be developed for “workforce” purposes, to be a mere tool of corporate America. YET, at the same time, I have a hard time seeing students developing their mind and spirit…to be a well-rounded individual…in modern universities.

This might just be my personal bias. I attended 5 universities in total, and I never observed any sort of “mind development”. “Knowledge cramming”, yes! But personal development? Whatever personal development that did occur only occurred IN SPITE of the university (like coping mechanisms to handle the stress). My experience isn’t universal of course, but I never saw anything close the philosophy that academics use to defend the purpose of their institutions.

If “personal development”….or even LEARNING….is your aim, then I recommend not going at all. As I’ve said before, I graduated a pissed off, stressed out person…hardly worth the thousands that I spent.

There’s reasons for this. Schools are under political pressure to produce a skillful workforce. Additionally, they have to compete with countless other schools for applicants. For the more “elite” colleges, they know that they are selling you a name so they have to maintain an air of “elite-ness”. In short, the student exists for the purpose of the institution, not vice-versa.

I’ve always maintained that colleges and universities are in an awkward spot in the Internet Age. Once upon a time, if you wanted pure “knowledge”, you went to a library or a university. But now that information is no longer contained within brick and mortar institutions. Just pull your phone out of your pocket and find out whatever you need to know.

It’s here where somebody usually evokes the word “education”…or something like “you have to have the education to apply that knowledge”. Fine. But personal bias again, there’s a difference between “knowledge cramming” and “education” and I’ve mostly experienced the former.

But universities are failing to live up to their own integral standards. They want to develop people, to create a better society,  yet also want to be “elite”….I suppose a Platonic holdover of a by-gone era…where they can serve ONLY “the best and brightest” rather than develop people into “the best and brightest”.

I suppose that makes their job easier.

But as a result, they’re not creating a better society…they’re contributing to an unjust one.

Love Thy Neighbor


pexels-photo-145683.jpeg“Death penalty for drug dealers.”

In the US, we like our freedoms with an edge…with a boot to our throats.

“Live free or die”, as the saying goes. And by golly, you will fucking die if you don’t live up to our standards of “freedom”. So it’s only natural that our response to the opioid crisis is to let drug dealers and addicts die.

This conversation has been picking up steam: China and Singapore don’t have a drug problem because of their stringent laws, we should adopt the same policy. I don’t know shit about China or Singapore and their legal system because again, I don’t do research, but does it matter if it’s true? Is it worth compromising our ideals just to eliminate opioid addiction and possibly letting thousands die or subjecting them to state sponsored murder?

You know how to eliminate diabetes? Kill the candy-makers and let the sufferers die. (I’m joking, of course)

“Diabetes doesn’t have the same ill-consequences that drug addiction does.” Someone might say.

It doesn’t? Having large swaths of the population being overweight and unhealthy doesn’t have adverse affects on society?

Letting addicts die (as a recent paper from the Brooking’s Institute seemingly advocated) and killing drug dealers just to solve an epidemic seems to run counter to the purpose of well, SOLVING AN EPIDEMIC. The purpose is to save people, not let them die. Using this cartoon logic that conservatives (and apparently courts in China and Singapore) use, when another outbreak of Ebola or HIV occurs (which I shouldn’t be giving them ideas), we should just round the suffers up and let them die. Problem solved LOL!

Of course, it’s easy to use this logic to appeal to the White suburban reader who largely see themselves as isolated from the problem (they aren’t). But it’s another thing once when they are facing it personally. I’m sure they’d feel differently if their son or daughter was overdosing, and I’m positive (as Chapo Trap House stated) the paramedics wouldn’t want to standby and watch someone OD.

But to listen to Trump and others that advocate this sort of thinking, we should simply forgo our empathy and concern for our neighbors just so we can ELIMINATE a problem, not solve it. We must forceably enact our freedoms, not allow people the choice.

How can this even be considered “freedom”?

I’ll have to apologize once again for evoking Zizek, but when discussing his form of “Christian Atheism”, (perhaps more on that later) he mentioned the commandment “Love Thy Neighbor”. We intuitively understand this and practice it to varying degrees, but CEASE to do so when presented with evidence that our neighbor might not conform to our standards of morality. Suddenly we feel that we are permitted to no longer “love” our neighbor, and can choose to hate or feel indifference towards them. But we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and   “Ourselves” occasionally fail to live up to our own expectations…YET we countinue to love the self. The opioid epidemic has been a creeping one: there is a strong likelihood that YOU know someone close that’s suffering from it, with or without your knowledge. It is, in effect, impacting all of us and by failing to have empathy towards those suffering we are hating or feeling indifferent towards our neighbor and placing  such high expectations on our own moral character that it would be impossible to follow through.

Today, it’s the drug dealers and addicts…tomorrow, it’s you!

That sounded much better in my head…but in any event, a boot to the throat may indeed solve the problem, but without empathy, our freedoms dissolve.

Face The Violence


Many times, I read an article believing that I will soon write about it when I get home. Often times that fails. When I finally get the time to write about it, the article itself becomes buried in the sands of the internet and I’m unable to locate it.

That’s the case for today’s article. (Mind you, I only spent 45 seconds looking for it)

Thankfully, the article’s summary is simple: we criticize movies and entertainment for their glorification of violence, why do video games get a pass? If you have the time and motivation, you can find the article at The Week.

Despite growing up during an age where video gaming became the primary source of entertainment, I was never quite suckered in. Of course I went through stretches of gaming periods, mostly with Madden, but I never took much enjoyment in “first person shooters”. Grand Theft Auto was fun, mind you, but getting involved in far more strategic gaming just seemed like too much work. I don’t like to work….nor do I like stress. When playing Street Fighter on Sega Genesis, I would get infuriated. Anger isn’t my thing. So gaming never became a part of my identity.

So I empathize with the author of this article in that video games seemingly promote violence with its interactive nature without much reflection. From what I can recall, there is no subliminal message within Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty that gives any sort of reflection on violence. They’re presented as mere entertainment, a means of escape. Only the “action” and “excitement” around violence is shown and experienced….we don’t see the consequence of such actions.

But what bothered me about the article is that the author suggests that we don’t give movies and television that same pass…that when such violent material is presented in those mediums, it’s “called out” and discussed without much resistance. Yet strangely, The Walking Dead, James Bond, and countless superhero movies where thousands die pass through culture without any mention of their presentation of violence. In fact, ONLY video games get discussed in this regard while we give James Bond, Batman, and Rick Grimes a pass.

Nevertheless, I agree with the author’s fundamental assertion: our presentations of violence is troublesome. What can be done about it?

Infamously, Penn and Teller created the video game Desert Bus as a response to the moral panic that was occurring in the 90s. The purpose was to show that we don’t want accurate representations of the real world in our entertainment…we want escapism through excitement. (If we got actual representations, then our video games would be driving a bus at 45 mph from Phoenix to Las Vegas)

To combat the glorification of violence, predictably I take a Zizekian approach: show the violence!

An example of this is the aptly titled film A History of Violence. David Cronenberg not only shows gratuitous acts of violence…he also shows their consequences. In one scene, Viggo Mortensen viciously beats the shit out of a guy’s nose to rescue his son. After the individual was defeated, most films would likely not show the character’s face again as he would no longer be of consequence. But not here. Cronenberg shows this individual’s destroyed face and the pain he is enduring. It was a quick shot, but one that establishes that “throw away” violence which is usually shown in these films have victims: there is the initial act of violence, then there’s the aftermath that the hero rarely sticks around for. In such aftermath, there is blood, mangled bodies, confusion, distress, etc.  As A History of Violence shows, violence is not a contained moment in time.

We see James Bond kill the unnamed henchman, but we rarely see Bond at home living with his actions. We also don’t see friends and family of the deceased henchman learn the news of his death.

It’s tempting in times like these where school shootings are all too present to DEMAND censorship or some sort of superficial response like “having a conversation”. But I argue the contrary. As Dave Chappelle acutely pointed out, it was only AFTER American readers were exposed to the consequence of violence via a picture Emmett Till’s battered and deceased body that the Civil Right’s Movement took off. If we want to decrease the prevalence of violence, we can’t hide from their consequences: they must be shown.

Show the pictures of the Parkland High School shootings…show the bloodied mangled bodies, show the confusion immediately afterwards, listen to the distressed students and their loved ones, listen to how death and violence has effected the lives of everyone involved.

This graphic display doesn’t “de-sensitize” us from violence…in fact it “re-sensitizes” us after years of desensitization from escapist violence. It’s the escapist form that has caused us so much harm, which includes molding conservative opinion that all it takes is a “good guy with a gun” to stop a shooter because in their minds, James Bond films are genuine representations of how violence works (this also explains why they sometimes get offended when far more genuine depictions of violence are shown in entertainment). When we have this informed opinion on how real violence operates, suddenly its escapist form is less palatable….OR we are better able to appreciate (or critically analyze) escapist entertainment.

To change the moral fiber of a society, you don’t shield them the dynamics of truth….but present it to them in a very real way. And here in the West, particularly the USA, we’ve been shielded from this truth. We’ve allowed our entertainment to inform us on reality and hence our desensitization from violence….and a complete disinterest in reality itself.

And that’s my primary criticism of gamer society. Indeed, I suppose that’s my criticism of ALL internet-based cultures, to include those that are “addicted” to some form of social media: reality failed to meet their romanticized expectations, so they retreat into a subculture or platform that helps affirm their conceptions. This society, or identity, becomes more REAL than, well….genuine reality. This artificial world, perhaps subconsciously, informs the gamer on the nature of violence or fuels a narcissistic ego of the Facebook user.

In short, we’ve become unable to distinguish between reality and our escapist pursuits of entertainment. To prevent violence, we cannot retreat behind censorship or the comforts of our digital personas, we must LOOK AT IT.