Sunday, June 26, 2011
I heard a story once about a man from India. It was his first time in a grocery store. An American grocery store. Apparently, he was walking down the bread aisle. He looked to his left, and to his right. He saw loaves of white bread, wheat bread, honey wheat bread, and so many more flavors that he couldn’t count them.
There was so much bread that he began to cry.
I was helping my mother shop at such a store yesterday. Have you ever stepped inside a Sam’s Club? It’s just like Wal-Mart, but not as pretty. Concrete floors, metal shelves, and ugly freezers are the norm. Without the shiny white walls and decorations that populate most stores, the goods for sale are thrown in stark focus.
There is a blistering array of food. Huge shelves overflow with cans, bags and boxes full of it. I can walk down one aisle and find myself in a white tunnel of flour and sugar bags, stacked high and running down for what seems like a hundred feet. I walk down another one, and see crates full of apples, oranges and bananas, ripe and beautiful and begging to be bought. The candy aisle alone is stuffed with so many bright colors and names that I don’t know where to look first.
It was one of the most disgusting things I had ever seen in my life. This is too much surplus for any human nation.
I don’t have to tell you about the woes of what we call the Third World. But I will ask you how much you think about them. I’ll honest, to encourage you to do the same. I never think about the people who starve from day to day. I’m too comfortable. Why should I have to worry about the pains of others when they’re so far away? Elie Wiesel puts it even better.
“Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one's sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?”
I can’t answer that. What I can do is wonder why we have so much, and others so little. The poor may always be with us, but that does not excuse us from action, does it? If the American people rationed their food and sent the rest to countries that need it, what would happen? I like the idea of it, myself. I can put up with tightening my belt a little bit, if helps out someone else. At the very least we can store some of this food in case a drought hits, or some other disaster kills food production.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
In a burst of warmth for my family, I agreed to sit down with them a few weeks ago and watch Robots. If you don’t remember this, don’t kick yourself. It’s one of many animated kids comedies with celebrity voices and pop culture references, trying to be the next Shrek. If you’re a parent, odds are you know what I’m talking about.
Somehow I cringed my way through the whole thing. A while later, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. I don’t have it verbatim, but this is the general idea…
Me: I noticed something scary in that movie.
Me: It has no respect whatsoever for genocide. All of the less-developed robots are going to be exterminated, and melted down for scrap metal, and all anyone cares about in individuality. Nobody praises Rodney for saving thousands of innocent robots like him from destruction. When he’s celebrated at the end, he’s celebrated for following his dreams. You ever see Hotel Rwanda? No? Well, there’s this hotel manager who saves a bunch of Tutsis from being killed by Hutus. Would you praise him more for saving those people, or for following his dream to be a hotel manager?
Friend: Well, you know, Sean, Robots is a kid’s movie; it doesn’t have to be realistic.
Me: What? What about The Lion King? It’s one of your favorite movies of all time! One of the best children’s movies of all time! When Mufasa dies, it’s pretty darn serious!
Friend: Well, not every kids’ movie is The Lion King.
Me: But it still has to show respect for death! Kids’ movies show them a view of the world. Do we want them to take in information demonstrating that an individual’s aspirations are more important than other peoples’ lives?
Friend: How about you just let your little brothers watch it, and leave me alone?
Sometimes I wonder if I’m obsessing over details. More often than not, though, I think I’m not. I am a Barney child. I watched that stupid purple dinosaur tell us how wonderful we were until I was at age 8. Since then, I have scorned children’s entertainment.
Kids are constantly taking in the world around them. They’re looking for cues on how to live. They’re walking out of a tunnel, wondering what this strange world around them is, and how they need to act in it. Whatever signals they get, they translate into a view of the world.
Go watch children’s programming on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or PBS. You will see a constant parade of self-esteem, tolerance, and friendship. It portrays a world of perfect peace and harmony.
But this is not a world of perfect peace and harmony! Anyone, regardless of religion or creed, must recognize that this world is rife with bloodshed and evil, and has been for mellenia. I have trouble to this day remembering that. Imagine millions of kids like me. All of us, watching the TV that our mothers bought us so we would leave them alone.
If the TV doesn’t show anything seriously evil, and we are shown nothing seriously evil by Mom and Dad, it naturally follows that we find it hard to conceive that serious evil even exists.
But that’s okay. Can’t we all just hug and make everything better?
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I am up to my armpits in my novel. Therefore, I shall turn you over to my comrade from Benedictine College: the one and only Master Ean. His take on a certain beloved pop star is to be commended. Enjoy!
“First off, I'd like to thank Sean for giving me some space to share my research with you all. It's often difficult to find a platform from which to reach a good portion of right-thinking individuals, and it's much better to have a blog with a preexisting readership than to start from scratch and hope somebody pays attention to me.
As a longtime student of supernatural beings specializing in vampirology, a particular interest of mine is the way in which some vampires masquerade as human seemingly right in front of our eyes—especially as celebrities, whose high profile and subjection to public scrutiny would seem to make them easy targets for discovery. My research efforts in this area have been long and involved (in fact, I have a forthcoming book on celebrities and vampirism—self-published, of course), but for the sake of brevity, I will restrict my interpretative analysis to one work by one celebrity. We find some of the most convincing proofs of pop artist Ke$ha's vampirism in her inherently repellent yet obnoxiously catchy song “Tik Tok.”
One of the most telling lines in the song says that Ke$ha will fight through the night until she sees the sunlight. The key point here is that the fighting will cease once sunlight becomes visible, implying that there is a clear boundary here that causes her to cease her chosen activities, ex. What exactly she is fighting is rather uncertain. It could be that she struggles against her vampiric nature and its attendant bloodlust, or she could be duking it out with drunken werewolves in a Soho bar. Or it could just be a usage contrived to rhyme with 'night' and 'sunlight.' Regardless, the boundary between nighttime and daytime is clearly important.
Of course, Ke$ha has been sighted in the daytime as well—so why hasn't she burst into flames, or at the very least developed a severe rash? The answer lies in another peculiarity, which is her penchant for glitter. This love is well-attested, but it raises the obvious question: why would anyone go so far as to cover half of their body with glitter? I maintain that the glitter is a cover for a vampiric condition that has achieved increasing prevalence since first being brought to public attention in the Twilight books: sparkling in the sunlight. As these books mention, not drinking human blood is a tradeoff for not burning to a crisp in the sun—it still keeps vampires alive, but it does result in sparkliness. They're a bit shaky in other aspects of vampirism, but they did get this aspect of it right. Ke$ha's reliance on glitter, then, serves as a cunning ruse: if anyone catches a stray sparkle, it is assumed to be glitter, nothing more. One might feel that only drinking animal blood is a bit of a wussy move, but at least Ke$ha has a good reason for it, unlike the vampires in Twilight: she is high-profile enough that someone would probably notice if groupies began to go missing. Yes, even Ke$ha groupies.
The world Ke$ha inhabits is one fraught with violence—witness the speakers being exploded and the boys blowing up telephones and later being kicked to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger. This last line in particular reminds one of the extreme longevity of vampires: I think it goes without saying that anyone who's actually attracted to Mick Jagger is going to be old. Like, really old. But the point is that a hectic, nocturnal lifestyle full of partying, drinking, and aggression can only be successfully navigated by someone with superhuman strength, keen nighttime senses, and a propensity to avoid death—a vampire, in other words.
If I may make a small note about the alcoholic beverages, specifically the “bottle of Jack” with which Ke$ha brushes her teeth: she would have to be mentally unstable, severely confused, or rascally drunk (the three are not mutually exclusive) in order to brush her teeth with an alcoholic beverage. Given this, I charitably elect to believe that she is in fact cleaning up with a bottle of blood from somebody named Jack in order to keep her pearly whites nice and pointy. I'm sure she'll take her human blood where she can get it, and a darkened glass bottle would be rather less obvious than carrying a roadie around on an IV drip.
Of course, there's a bunch of ridiculous stuff in this song about pedicures and trying on clothes which she probably threw in there to ensure that the song, and consequently its fans, would be divorced from the sort of people who are likely to actually believe in vampires and to obscure the vampiric references just in case vampire believers truly listened to the lyrics. I must admit, it took me a while to treat her as deserving of serious investigation, which just goes to show how becoming a celebrity can be an excellent disguise for a vampire, but after analyzing her song lyrics and observing her behavior I must say I am convinced. There is one lasting enigma, though: the question of why she wakes up in the morning (morning for vampires is of course dusk for us) feeling like P. Diddy.
Having read this, you may question my analysis or its necessity. Why look for this subtext and these improbable coincidences? Why does it even matter? All I can say in response is that it takes a special caliber of person to recognize these clues and string them together. Besides, do you really expect me to believe that someone would come out and admit it if she were a vampire? Vampires are dangerous and cunning. Dangerously cunning, even. What better disguise for one than a glittery pop star with addictions to AutoTune and other illicit substances? Mark my words: vampires are out there. They exist, and they are coming.
Coming Soon: Vampire Weekend! They're so obvious.”
– Ean writes from the Pacific Northwest and goes to school in the Midwest, where he is working towards a double major in Vampirology and Youth Ministry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or with a very long stick.