Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Manly Is That?

This past week I installed some laminate floors in my basement.  I ripped out the old fireplace, pulled up the carpet, scraped the floor, laid out the foam, assembled my floor and put up the baseboards.  My wife helped when she could, but she was running interferance with the kids.  Ryebone came over one night to offer an extra set of hands, but it turns out that he's even less handy than I am.  So basically I ran the show and did the bulk of the work myself.

And after I was all done I felt really fucking manly.

After I finished I looked out over the realm that is my Basement and took in a deep, manly breath, nodded an approving, manly nod, then fantasized about fucking Olivia Wilde.  I was on top, of course: the manliest of positions.  Then I started thinking.  This is usually a bad thing.  I thought back over the tenure of of my time here on this planet and tried to develop a scale of Relative Masculinity for the course of my life.  I tried to figure out why I felt so manly at this particular point in time.  I thought about my usual preocupations.  I didn't feel less masculine when watching movies.  I didn't feel somehow emotionally or spiritually impotent when playing video games.  I didn't have dreams about my penis falling off after working out.  I didn't feel somehow inferior when reading a book or jotting down my thoughts in a blog that nobody (including myself) will probably ever read.  In fact, most days I don't even consider my Relative Masculinity, or even what masculinity even means or why it suddenly became important to me.

Like everything else masculinity and femininity are cultural constructions.  And while I like to remain aloof and detached when it comes to association to culture in any of its forms I am also aware that I am not immune or seperate from its effects even as I am aware of them.  It seems to me that our modern concept of masculinity really consists of three basic tennets.  1) Some sense of Integrity or Code of Honour regarded as strength in the mental sense (Man Up, Take it Like a Man, Be a Man, Be a Man of Your Word, etc.) 2) Fucking.  3) Physical competance.   

Masculinity in our culture is related a great deal to the third tennet: physical prowess.  My indulgence in this aspect of male life was lifting weights, and more recently muay thai.  These two things seemed (and still seem) pretty manly.  But in our concept of masculinity something was still missing.  I remember one time being in the parking lot of a bowling ally and a woman was having problems with her car.  The hood was open and she was staring at the engine block as if trying to will it to fix itself.  I happened to be close by and she asked me if I could help.  And I couldn't.  What the fuck do I know about cars?  Beyond checking the oil and gas I had no clue about how to diagnose and then repair any sort of minor problems in small engines.  Which is what I told her before I continued on my way.
So our modern concept of masculinity is not just physical strength; it's the application of that physical strength in an activity that is percieved to be constructive.  This could manifest itself in a variety of ways from being able to change the tire on a car to building a deck in your back yard.  It seems that in the eyes of our society a key component of masculinity was manual labour directed towards organizing certain types of matter into socially acceptable forms, like a skyscraper or a sidewalk.

What's really curious about this particular aspect of masculinity is that it is simultaneously exalted and derided.  There seems to be this romantic notion of the honourable suffering of the blue collar working class at the same time we look down our noses at manual labourers as uncouth, culturally unrefined, "rough around the edges" and even intellectually inferior to their white collar-sporting counterparts.  Perhaps its the Underdog Syndrome where people like to root for the honourable loser.  I guess this is specifically the ROCKY Underdog Syndrome because Rocky didn't actually win in the first movie, but fought on in the face of almost certain defeat winning not an actual victory but a moral (in the traditional sense) victory.  In this way we tend to view the blue collar crowd as admirable in doing their manly jobs, but ultimately as somehow always a couple rungs down the social ladder no matter how hard they work or whatever successes they might have (and despite the fact that somebody working in the trades can make a shit-ton of money - our society's ultimate benchmark of success).

And as I stood there surveying my floors I felt that sense of the underdog.  In my case it was even more poignant because I am not the most handy guy.  I haven't used power tools on a regular basis since Grade 9.  Now the sound of a mitre saw is actually frightening.  I haven't changed a  lot of tires or built a lot of decks.  In fact, I tend to avoid manual labour whenever possible.  So for me to take charge on this project and step up and have to use not one but three different saws (mitre, table, and jig) as well as a nail gun.  I felt like the fucking Rambo of laminate flooring.

But again, looking back I didn't feel like any less of a man before I installed the floors.  And thinking about it there were other men who couldn't have done as good a job as me (or completed it at all) ad there were women out there who probably could have done a better job much more quickly than I did.  So in the end I'm not sure if my elation came from fulfilling the societal expectations for masculinity or simply as a sense of accomplishment for doing something I had never done before or didn't actually believe I could do.  Sometimes a cigar is jus a cigar.  And sometimes a cigar is a cock.  I suppose it's all about perspective.               

Hot, Sticky Avian Love

A couple of weeks ago I took my family to a small zoo in central Ontario.  Actually it was my wife's idea.  We had gone to a family reunion for her paternal grandmother's family: my wife for some kind of strange loyalty to a line of DNA and the same morbid curiosity that drives people to go to their high school reunions: me because I had not had enough time to come up with a viable excuse (apparently staying at home masturbating and eating corn chips all day wasn't an urgent enough reason for exclusion from this particular mission): and my kids because they were too young to leave alone and everybody we usually pawned them of on was going to the reunion.  The reunion turned out to be a bust due in large part to a bunch of old people who smelled like death warmed over who sat in the basement of the church where the reunion was being held which smelled like stale, dank, moth-balled, shit-tinged basement and kept an eagle eye on the food making sure nobody got anything until the unknown time that had been predetermined by this Council of the Damned to be optimal for consuming typical shitty pot luck dishes.  Thanks in particular to one old cunt obviously on the verge of death and with that sense of entitlement that some old people get simply for having existed for a long time who kept a sharp watch on the food to make sure people weren't having too good a time.  Which is good, because some people there were coming dangerously close to associating positive emotions with family.  Luckily, she nipped that in the bud.

Before we had gone down to the relatively boring/relatively pain free reunion, my wife and I had kind of semi-decided that we would turn this trip into a mini summer vacation.  The plan was to stay overnight in a hotel -far away from anybody's family- and then take the kids to the zoo and the beach the next day.  I don't know why we assumed that on a Saturday night in the middle of summer that we'd be able to find a hotel with vacancies left "no problem," but we ended up finding a place after only three tries.  The next day we got up had a semi-shitty continental breakfast during which time the only working toaster stopped working and I had to have my second helping of waffles cold which did little for my libido.  Finally after only one major "freak out" on the part of my daughter we were on our way to the zoo. 

As we got closer it became increasingly clearer that this seemed like an odd place for a zoo.  In was in some backwoods town.  Elmsville or Elksdale.  It's not really important.  The point is the whole operation (I say "operation" as opposed to "business" is I'm still not sure if this place was 100% legal) seemed kind of low-rent.  The main "office" was cramped and unkempt and the staff seemed apathetic and detached.  Of course, that could have been me.

As we made our way into the park the anti-grandeur settled in completely.  The cages for the animals were considerably smaller than I'd seen in other zoos and seemed to have been constructed in haste, mostly out of old two by fours and what seemed like heavy-grade chicken wire.  After seeing the inside of this zoo I was really surprised there weren't  bunch of protesters out front trying to get them to release the animals or stop selling dead giraffes to the local Vietnamese restaurant, or renting out the capybaras (look it up, dickhead) for children's birthday parties or some shit.  I have very little patience or respect for protesters of any type.  That has no bearing on this particular story.  I just think that conventional protesting is ineffective and just plain annoying.

I don't know if the animals were suffering or not (they looked fine to me) but the advantage of having such a small zoo was that the animals were really fucking close which made the experience slightly less boring than the usual zoo experience.  I got to pet some giraffes despite the objections of the posted warnings not to and a drunken security guard with an overbite and a build like the president of your high school chess club.  I also got up close and personal with several breeds of monkeys who totally freaked me out staring at me with their people eyes.  I got the feeling they were up to more than just swinging around, eating bananas and rubbing their genitals on random objects all day.  I could tell they were just biding their time until James Franco could come and free them so they could start the New Revolution.

Eventually we found ourselves standing outside the ostrich pen.  At first there was nothing out of the ordinary.  Then one of those avian giants came over to the section of the fence my family and I were standing at and started pecking at the fence.  From our point of view it seemed playful, but I imagine just like the velociraptors in JURASSIC PARK they were looking for weaknesses in order to plot their escape and eventual rampage, feasting on human flesh.  At first it was fascinating because of the proximity of the great bird.  He was literally like three or four feet away and I got a close look at everything.  Then we got double the pleasure double the fun when a second ostrich came over in front of us and started pecking at the fence.

Then things got really funky really quickly.

I didn't realize it at the time, but what we were actually looking at was a male and a female.  It didn't click in right away even as our second ostrich friend turned her back to the first and spread her flightless wings.  It didn't register even as our first ostrich friend started to climb on top of the the second.  Then it hit me. 

She wasn't turning her back to him.  She was presenting.

He wasn't climbing on top of her.  He was mounting her.  Hard and fast.

Without even a hint of foreplay these two behemoth birds began fucking right there in front of us.  Not making love.  Just plain fucking.  But more than that.  It wasn't just fucking.  It was hard fucking.  As the male mounted the female from behind he also wrapped his neck around hers and started choking her.  And no, it wasn't like some lover's warm embrace.  It was hardcore, all out, autoerotic asphyxiation.  It was feather-ruffling, down in the dirt, ostrich pussy pounding action.

And then there was a loud splash and I saw a puddle of water underneath these two extroverted avian lovers.  Only it wasn't water.  It was a virtual pond's worth of hot, sticky ostrich cum.  And there was a lot of it.  When it overflowed out of the other ostrich's pussy it hit the ground like somebody had dumped out a bucket of water.  When it hit, there was actually a wave there was so much of it.  And as they finished and the male pulled out I finally got a full on view of ostrich cock.

And it was huge.

And red.

And huge.

And retractable.

And huge.

It was almost like a veliciraptor's claw.  It retracted right back up into the ostrich's body.  And it was equally as terrifying as the dinosaur's weapon.  And just when I thought it was over, the dude whips out his dick again (huge!) and goes back for seconds before she can even stand back up again.  Right against the fence.  Three feet away from me and my family.

Now, I don't consider myself a prude.  I don't like to get naked in front of other dudes at the YMCA locker room after I work out, but I don't think that's such an unnatural urge.  I'm more of an intellectual exhibitionist than a physical one, and I've never been one for public nudity.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I urged my wife to move on (of course, this was while I was still fixated on the whole weird scene myself).  I think it was out of some strange sense of empathy; I just wanted to give these two wild lovers their privacy the same I would want if I was trapped in a zoo with my wife and I mounted her ostrich-style and started fucking her from behind while choking her.  I just figured it was a private moment.  I don't know if I could fuck with a bunch of strangers watching me (unless I was getting paid obscene amounts of money).  I wasn't too concerned about my children seeing anything.  It was just sex.  My three year old daughter didn't even bat an eye at the whole thing.  My nine month old son was sleeping soundly in his mother's arms.

My wife, however, seemed transfixed my the whole thing.  She was absolutely fascinated.  I couldn't drag her away (though, admittedly, I didn't try too hard).  And that was kind of cool.  After three years of having kids we've both kind of been reclassified as "mom" and "dad".  I'm sure most parent's -especially newer ones- will tell you that your sex life takes a bit of a hit.  I'm not complaining or anything.  "Moms" and Dads" are social constructs just like everybody else and part of that construction is asexuality.  You don't think of parents in terms of sexuality.  Their job is to Raise the Children.  So to see my wife so into ostrich sex was kind of a turn on.  Somewhere deep inside my wife might have some kind of fetish for ostriches.  Or maybe ostrich porn.  All of the sudden my wife was My Wife, and apparently my wife had a kink for hardcore animal sex.  And it was her really honest, human reaction to something as simple as two ostriches fucking that reminded me why we got married in the first place.  On that strange scale between Madonna and Whore that our society tends to balance the idea of monogamous femininity it was refreshing and a bit of a turn on to see my wife slide towards Whore.  She was a human being just like me who liked fucking just like me with her own kinks just like me.  And while I may not share (as strong) a fascination with ostrich sex with my wife, now whenever I think about ostrich sex (which is quite often now) I'll think about my relationship with my wife.  (And if my wife wants to spice things up in the bedroom with some ostrich porn, hey, I'm game...)

And the ostrich shall lead them...

Look to the ostrich.  Always to the ostrich.   

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On Moon Rocks, The Ethics of Ethics: What is the Emoticon for Love?

Have a nice day... On the motherfucking moon!
Since the beginning of time when our ancestors first looked up from the primordial ooze from whence they had emerged and stared out into the night sky at the the distant expanse of space in awe and wonder, one question has driven humankind forward and fueled the development of civilization: Is it possible to clone a human being? And of course the corollary: If you could be cloned and the clone was amiable and open to suggestion, would you take this opportunity to fuck yourself "just to see"?  And the corollaries to that: If you fuck your clone would it, in fact, be considered fucking yourself? And would it technically be considered homosexual? Or would it be an entire new subset of sexuality and sexual orientation?

Although the idea of cloning is not new, it was really brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness around February 22, 1997. This was the date that Scottish scientists Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell and their posse announced to the world that they had successfully cloned a sheep using somatic cell nuclear transfer.  This, or course, led to an outpouring of (mostly unwanted and illogical) public opinion about the prospect of human cloning and to the movie THE 6TH DAY, which is still officially regarded by the UN as a crime against humanity.

In doing a lot of reading I have come to discover that for some reason there are a lot of people out there who are morally opposed to human cloning.  To which I would respond: What the fuck is your problem? I haven't yet come across a single, coherent, objective argument to ban human cloning.

Problem #1: Leggo my Fucking Bone Marrow, Mom

The first problem people have was addressed (sort of) in the movie THE ISLAND where clones were grown (bred?) in secret for people with enough money for the express purpose of being harvested for body parts and/or major organs should the need arise.  Well, I would like to say this scenario is bullshit, but unfortunately humanity's depravity knows no bounds, and I'm sure some people would consider this scenario.  Apparently, some people already do.  After doing some preliminary research on Wikipedia (the most reliable information network in the history of the universe) I discovered that some parents with critically ill children will actually conceive other children for the sole purpose of harvesting their bone marrow and other body parts/bodily fluids (I mean, before those hardcore Commies can get their hands on our precious bodily fluids) to try to save the first kid because they will (most likely) be a genetic match.

That's just really fucking sick.  I can't even fathom the idea.  You've already produced one faulty child who has to live the rest of his/her no doubt short life in terrible agony, and then you produce yet another kid and then force him/her to suffer through medical procedures against his/her will.  Great.  Now you've produced two offspring who you will continue to torture for as long as you see fit.  The first kid will have to deal with the pain of ongoing medical procedures and probably the guilt of having his/her sibling suffer because of him/her.  The second kid likewise will have to undergo painful, potentially health and/or life-threatening medical procedures and learn to resent his/her parents and/or older sibling for putting them through this shit. So is it conceivable that we would mistreat clones when we already mistreat our children who are essentially clones already?  Some of them will probably be exploited.  But will they be systematically and routinely abused?

I highly doubt it. Or at least, not any more so than any other subset of society. The reason this argument is bullshit isn't because it's entirely false, it's simply predicated upon false assumptions and absurd generalizations. The argument that we shouldn't clone people because these clones might not be treated well is spurious at best.  The same argument could reasonably be made about having children, but nobody's calling for that to be illegal (although it should be strictly monitored and legislated by the government).  What the fear mongers would have us believe is that if human cloning were to be allowed on a wide - potentially international - scale that our culture would isolate, imprison, experiment on, torture, and potentially kill these clones on a level not seen since the Holocaust.  However, if we are willing to concede that any currents in Modern Western Culture run parallel to Hitler and his regime, then we may already be fucked and questions about human cloning are the least of our worries.

#2 Shoot Him, I'm the Real Me!

Another argument against human cloning is that if a human being was cloned it would somehow detract from the "original's" individuality.  This would be THE 6TH DAY argument.  Apparently if there was another person running around with your DNA somehow you would be less you.  I guess all those identical twins out there are already fucked.  Because god knows that all identical twins suffer from identity crises and all manner of psychotic episodes because they share the same DNA with somebody. 

But, just for fun, let's break this scenario down.  In order for one's identity to be in crisis due to being cloned the following presuppositions would have to be true:

A) Your clone would have to have accelerated aging so that it ended up at exactly your age (or, if you're Johnny Depp, anywhere between the age of 25 and 45)

B) Your clone would somehow have to be given all of your memories about every second of your life somehow transferred from your brain to his.

C) Your clone would then have to undergo any surgery/trauma/roller-coaster ride gone wrong to duplicate any scars and/or missing limbs (Lieutenant Dan!).  Then your clone would have to have various amounts of chemicals injected into it to approximate a lifetime of eating fast food, energy drinks, and Spam.  If you're obese, the clone would have to be force fed a lifetime supply of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Doritos, and pizza to account for your girth.

D) You clone would then have to follow you around for the rest of your life doing exactly the same things as you: eating the same meals, working at the same job, watching the same movies, using the same urinals, fucking your wife. (Which brings us to another philosophical question: if your spouse fucked your clone -or your fucked your spouse's - would that technically and legally be defined as cheating?)  At parties the clone would have to sit in your lap in order to maintain the same perspective.

I really don't like bees.
Your genetic structure is a very small part of your identity, if indeed it is a part at all.  Your identity is more based on the decisions you make and actions you take and their relation to the society in which you exist.  It's a sum total of your experiences; or rather, your perception and interpretation of those experiences.  And over time your perception and interpretation of those experiences will probably change based on other experiences and changes in your relationship with society.  Even if you were genetically predisposed towards certain actions - for example if your father was an alcoholic - you're not genetically predisposed to make a certain set of decisions for the rest of your life.  My family personally has a lot of anger management issues (and no, not problems with the movie ANGER MANAGEMENT, although I do have a lot of issues with that movie as well), but that doesn't mean that every time I get angry I fly off the fucking handle like Nicholas Cage overacting in any movie he's ever been in.  I take a deep breath, fantasize about strangling the object of my anger until his fucking body goes limp and then I laugh in his stupid, dead face, and then I try to approach the situation as rationally and calmly as I can.  It's called self-control, motherfucker.

Not only are your decisions not genetically preordained, neither are they metaphysically preordained.  There is no fate but what we make.  (He, he, TERMINATOR 2.)  The decisions we make are not set in stone.  I can totally recall dozens of decisions that I was completely on the fence about and, being in the same situation again, could easily have gone another way.  And that's not even counting the decisions I would consciously change given the chance.

And of course there is the fact that your decisions and memories are not genetic imprints.  They are stored in the genetic computer that is your brain and not inherited from your parents.  As of yet, scientists are no closer to understanding how the electrical pulses firing through your synapses are somehow translated into human consciousness than they were when our ancestors were still hanging out in trees, eating bananas, and trying to figure out how to wipe their asses without getting their hands full of shit.  Even if our most handsome scientists could find a way to somehow encode and transfer those electrical impulses there's no guarantee that just dumping them into another organic being would transfer actual memories or not.  I suppose the point is actually moot at the moment seeing as nobody can actually transfer your memories, so there's absolutely no threat to your individuality if you did get cloned.  Unless, of course, your entire identity somehow pivoted on your physical appearance.

#3 Religion, Religion, Why Fore Art Thou Devoid of Reason?

Another reason people argue against human cloning is because of some kind of religious or spiritual objection.  Apparently some crackpots out there believe that cloning is a slight against god.  I can only really speak for the Judeo-Christian ethical standpoint here as I have absolutely no background in any other religion.  The main reason I can determine why Christians are against human cloning is because they seem to think their god has some kind of inferiority complex.  The concern is that science is encroaching on "god's territory," uncovering secrets that were "not meant to be discovered."  So, basically, the argument is you shouldn't do it "because we say so" or "because we say the bible says so" (some hardcore Christians might quote you some shit like Psalm 139 or Isaiah 44 as "proof" that cloning is "bad"), which is the default argument for the fundamentalist Christian.  Somehow, they believe that a text written thousands of years ago has anything insightful or relevant to add to a discussion about something like cloning, which is completely beyond me. 

What's really at stake - and some of the brighter religious nuts must, at least in some small way, realize this - is far more fundamental.  If they are willing to concede that cloning humans is, in fact, a power previously reserved for the gods - or their god in particular - then if humanity harnessed that power we would, in essence, have harnessed the power of g(G)od.  If we take all of our triumphs as well as our tragedies and attribute them to that monolith known as Humanity, then if scientists unlock the secret to human cloning, that triumph belongs to Humanity, which would mean we all share the power of god, which by definition means we are all gods, and if everyone is a god that is the same as saying no one is a god.  Sometimes it's a slippery slope on the road to reason.

Another concern is that if we did make human clones, that they would be soulless automatons.  Again, this argument is predicated on whether or not you can prove the existence of a "soul."  This, in turn, is reliant on the objective definition of a soul and the ability to quantitatively document its existence.  The religious community would be the first to point out that while we can't currently conclusively prove the existence of a soul neither can we disprove it, therefore the metaphysical book is still open and the debate is not over.  On the Scale of Logic that argument ranks up there right behind "I know you are, but what am I," "He who smelled it, dealt it" and Dan White's "Twinkie defence."

The ultimate argument against cloning...
I don't know if we'll ever be able to define let alone prove the existence of a soul, little more than one can prove his own self-consciousness.  I'm pretty sure that unless George Lucas has his way, there will not be an army of evil clones trying to destroy our republic.  We're simply taking genetic material from one human being and making a new human being.  There's nothing more sinister about cloning than sex, which as we all know from the Internet is pure and wholesome and doesn't involve double fisting some BBW grandma while a transvestite hooker pierces her nipples and a one-eyed midget named "Gadget" surgically amputates her left foot and dry humps the bloody stump.  Nothing wrong with that.

 #4 This Is Progress?!?!

The fourth objection to human cloning is that inevitably we get shitty movies based on their lives.  A few notable ones are, of course, THE ISLAND, THE 6TH DAY, and STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES.  Of course, Lucas' moral ambivalence towards the philosophical ramifications of human cloning was perhaps the best part of the ATTACK OF THE CLONES.  In that film, it was simply a matter of social scientific integration just like swords made of light or faster than light travel.

However, this argument has finally been answered, and answered hard with Duncan Jones's MOON.  This movie is the first movie I have ever seen that took a rational, balanced approach to dealing with the concept of human cloning and actually treated the clone character(s?) as human beings and not soulless zombies.  The real genius of MOON was that it didn't really talk about cloning a lot, but rather what it meant to be human through the eyes of a clone caught on the moon (I kinda feel like there are some song lyrics in there somewhere).  In dealing more with the main character's reactions rather than the specifics of cloning, Duncan really put together a cohesive thesis about the nature of identity in a universe where cloning is a scientific reality.

MOON follows Sam Bell (played by the amazing Sam Rockwell) who is an industrial worker on the moon on a three year contract to oversee a lunar mining facility for a big, faceless corporation.  During his downtime he spends a lot of time working on anger management techniques, talking to his robot friend GERTY, whittling a massive miniature village, waiting to go home and bang his wife, and (presumably) masturbating gratuitously all over the space station.  Sam is nearing the end of a three year contract when he has a bad accident in a lunar rover, wakes up in the sickbay back inside the mining facility, then goes out to survey the accident only to find (mindfuck!) himself still trapped in the rover.

I guess in the universe of MOON cloning is a well-known fact, because the two Sams immediately jump to the conclusion that one of them is a clone.  See the first thing I would think is that maybe I was going crazy because of my total isolation on the fucking moon for three years.  Or, if I was on The Young and the Restless, this guy was a long lost twin.  Or maybe the other me could be an android or even an alien replicant from beyond the moon.

Immediately, the two Sams try to figure out exactly what the fuck is going on, and, in the course of their arguing, they begin to reveal a sociological construction of identity; they try to figure out which one of them is the "real" Sam Bell.  This is interesting for two reasons.  The first is that it seems like the natural thing to do and many of us in the same position would probably try to sort out that very same question.  The second is that it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever.  There seems to be this notion in the popular consciousness that something that comes first has to be inherently "better."  I've noticed this same reoccurring sentiment in discussions with other people about things like literature and movies.  Like saying the original OCEAN'S 13 was better then the remake simply because the one with Frank Sinatra "came first"  (though, obviously, the George Clooney vehicle was much, much better).  As a culture we seem to lend more legitimacy to things that occurred further back in the past.  To me, this seems to run contrary to logic and to the modern concept of progress.

In focusing on who was the "original" Sam Bell what both of them failed to realize was how individual they both were despite (potentially) sharing identical DNA.  One of the examples was how it was established that one of Sam Bell's demons was his rage ("I'm a rage-aholic! I just can't live without rage-ohol!").  The "older" Sam was nearing the end of his contract and had had time to contemplate and channel his rage into something semi-constructive like building a miniature village.  The "younger" Sam was still dealing with his anger management and easily flew off the handle.  To an outsider watching it was easy to see that each Sam was different: not because of their DNA, but because of their individual reactions to and perceptions of external stimuli.  In this universe, it is presupposed that the cloning process also transfers all of the memories of the "donor."  These two men - who both turned out to be clones and so had identical DNA - despite sharing about 90% of the same life experiences were already extremely different. 

The first rule about the moon is you do not talk about the moon...
I suppose the whole point of this movie was to examine the concept of human dignity and respect when faced with the most inhuman of situations.  A clone, which in the eyes of the people creating them at least were nothing more than biological assets, bred for a single purpose and, either by design or insufficient knowledge, were doomed to an incredibly short life span of three years after which time they would break down on the cellular level and die in what seemed to be an incredibly painful and horrible way.  Once the two Sam Bells discovered their terrible fate (with the help of the robot GERTY) they planned to escape the moon via a shuttle designed to send back shipments of valuable minerals.  They try to escape their fate.  They try to outrun death, or at least prolong the inevitable.  They hold out the (vain) hope that somebody back on Earth can help them.  This is the most human of sentiments.  The fear of death.  The drive to act in the face of certain defeat.

But what really got me wasn't the Sam Bell clones.  What really interested me was GERTY.  To me he (it?) represented perhaps the most fascinating aspect of cloning: creating an entirely new race.  Essentially, GERTY started to "feel" bad for the Sam Bell clones and actually helped them out.  This was a relatively minor plot point, but I was fucking blown away.  What was cloned wasn't human DNA, but human emotion.  GERTY displayed both empathy and sympathy and then self-sacrifice when he volunteered to have his memory wiped after helping the Sams thereby possibly destroying the "person" he had become.  GERTY's actions were obviously in complete conflict with his programming demonstrating an evolution in self-consciousness and self-awareness.  (Of course here is where some computer geek would make some joke about "cloning GERTY's hard drive")

And the idea of self-consciousness is really at the centre of the mindfuckery in MOON.  I mean, if you found out tomorrow that you were a clone, that you had not been born but cloned in a laboratory somewhere, it would change virtually nothing about your existence or your identity.  Your life would still be the same.  However, if you woke up tomorrow in a laboratory with thirty years worth of memories and then told that you were a clone and there was already somebody else living the life you had memories of, you would be totally traumatized.  But there, again, your identity would immediately start to diverge into something unique.  Or at the very least slightly divergent.

The other thing this movie did was finally give some validity for the existence of the moon.  At least in the movie MOON the moon contained some kind of valuable mineral.  In real life the moon is fucking useless.  It's boring to look at.  It's all grey and pockmarked.  Whoopee.  It doesn't even produce its own light.  It has to rely on the sun's light, which it reflects.  But even then the moon does a half-assed job.  Most of the time it only partly reflects light so all we see is a little sliver.  And then it has the audacity to fuck up our tides and shit.  Leave our water alone you boring, grey rock!  I bet in hell all you get to look at all day is the fucking moon.     

All right, I'm done.  So in summary say "Yes" to human cloning, "No" to the moon, and "Yes" to MOON.  MOON is a great flick that showcases the amazing talents of Sam Rockwell, who is on screen for almost 100% of the film and there are very few actors working today that would actually be worth paying for that much screen time in a movie.  I give MOON an 8/10 = One Cloned Head Slowly Disintegrating And Bleeding Through Its Eye Sockets          

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

What in the Name of Yoda's Ears? The Force Help Us All... Hate Leads to Ass-Kicking

Suck this article does not.
Celebrity is a strange beast.  While it is a reciprocal relationship it is not a personal one.  Or, I suppose more accurately, it is an impersonal relationship with strangely personal emotional consequences for only half of the parties involved.  It's reciprocal in the sense that celebrities need fans and ordinary people (or at least less extraordinary people) in order to be considered celebrities and the fans get some sort of emotional and/or intellectual stimulation/satisfaction from celebrities.  On the other hand a weird kind of one-sided relationship -or virtual relationship- develops.  Through a celebrity's "art" (or at least their product) and experiencing their public persona via various interviews and Celebrity Gossip Media (be it magazine or insufferable TV program like ETalk or Entertainment Tonight or TMZ or some other such bullshit) the fans -and really the general public due to the pervasive nature of media now- "get to know" said celebrity and develop an emotional bond with him or her. 

Even though we have never met these movie stars or musicians we begin to feel like we know them, even though we couldn't possibly because we have never met them or interacted with them in any way.  What we are actually doing is constructing a character based on the information we are given and compiling a compilation of traits that we associate with a series of images we see on the screen.  We're creating characters.  We construct narratives for these personas that are based on (key concept here) real people then we work these narratives into our our own personal narratives through our emotional responses to what these characters produce and what they "do" and say in their "real lives."

But here's the real kicker.  While these relationships with celebrities we've never met are objectively Virtual they are subjectively Real insofar as that they provoke actual emotional responses in the minds of fans who have invested emotionally in these relationships.  And that makes them Real.  The only Reality that matters is perspective -both personal and collective- so while the fact that Justin Bieber is currently dating Selena Gomez is of no concern to most free-thinking citizens, to a teenage girl with fantasies of dating Bieber this is potentially crushing news, even though the fantasy may and probably will still manifest in some way.  But the emotional response was real and that's all that's important.  It matters if it matters to you. 

It's like a metamorphosis.  The Virtual is cocooned in emotion until it becomes Real.  It's one of the reasons that celebrity deaths affect (some of) us so much.  Even though we mean (literally) nothing to them through the lens of the media we have (vitually) come to know them so when they die the personas we have constructed based on the also die and we feel a (real) peronal loss.

And even though I am aware of the nature of this bond I not only continue to engage in it, I relish in it.  It brings me great (potentially perverse?) pleasure to love and hate these unstrangers who probably have nothng more in common with me than the fact I have seen them on my TV and read about them on the Internet.  I suppose it could be considered a double-edged sword, but that implies some kind of negative consequence for me, which I don't really think is the case because even when I hate a celebrity, deep down I still derive some kind of twisted pleasure from the hating. Just the sheer visceralness of the whole thing.  Misery loves company and we love misery.

Like most people I tend to take the decisions of celebrities far more personally than I probably should.  This is especially true of celebrities whose work I actually enjoy.   I don't know Christopher Nolan personally, but for making THE DARK KNIGHT I am eternally grateful and if we ever met I would happily partake in any Heracles-style Labour that he sent me to do short of sucking his no-doubt gargantuan dick.  (Oh, who am I kidding...)  More than that, I actually felt joy at his success as the media kept posting the record-breaking numbers. I was totally stoked when THE DARK KNIGHT broke the1 billion gross mark even though I would never see a cent of that money.  I got satisfaction from all of the critical acclaim the movie garnered him and his accomplishment not only of making one of the greatest films of all time, but also lending legitimacy to an entire genre of movies.

Conversely it always hurts when a celebrity that you like makes some piece of shit.  It feels like some kind of personal betrayal.  How could he do this to me?  But more importantly: why?  Perhaps one of the greatest betrayals came from none other than the Big Guy himself.  That's right, I'm talking about George Lucas.

George Lucas is a strange enough idiom in and of himself.  He's become a living contradiction: paradox incarnate.  As the creator of STAR WARS he has created one of the most pervasive and important cultural texts in the last century.  The intertext between the STAR WARS universe and modern pop-culture is so cemented that they have now become inexorably linked.  Referenes to STAR WARS now pervade our culture to the point where fictional characters and technology have become incorporated into household vocabulary.  Even people who have never seen a STAR WARS movie (I know, I know) or -even worse- have seen them but aren't fans understand these references.  Han Solo.  Yoda.  Light Saber.  My the Force be with you.  Why the hell do I know who IG-88 was?  It boggles my mind sometimes.  George Lucas is one of the few people who not only influenced our culture but actually shifted it's tragectory.  I don't even know if there is currently a cultural presence more pervasive than STAR WARS, or if there ever will be in the near future.  Even if you're not a fan of the movies or -perhaps more importantly- the merchandise, if you take a look at cultural texts around you, you will see these intertextual references popping off of te page or screen.

Now here's where everything gets screwy.  Even as George Lucas is the creator of this vast cultural empire (pardon the pun) he is also his own antithesis.  This is kind of poetic, and also kind of sad.  And at times, kind of frustrating.  As much as George Lucas contributed to our culture, and as much as he became this icon, he also seemed intent on destroying his credebility as an "artist" and a rational human being.  In seemingly complete defiance of all conventional logic George took one of the most beloved movie franchises in movie history and seemed to do everything in his power to undermine them and himself with his trilogy of prequels starting all the way back in 1999 with THE PHANTOM MENACE.

I'm not going to get into all the nitpicky details about why the Prequel Trilogy was far, far worse than the Original Trilogy, but even as an uninterested party watching all six of these movies it would be easy to see the decline in quality in the prequels.  In general there was a heavy reliance on special effects to make up for a lack of quality storytelling (a perfect illustration of the difference between "pioneering" and "beating to death"), convoluted plotlines, wooden acting, and an all-around sense of lack of direction.  And Jar-Jar Binks.  To this very day I still can't tell if George Lucas is some kind of Malevolent Entity bent on torturing mankind, or a Supreme Being testing our faith.  Neither one would surprise me.

I think what the STAR WARS prequels indicated was something fans had suspected for some time, but out of respect to their Messiah had not dared utter: George Lucas is not that great a director.  This may seem like blasphemy, and I know there are some out there who will throw AMERICAN GRAFITTI and THX: 1138 back at me as examples of his directorial prowess, however I will still be willing to concede absolutely nothing (except that their dick-sucking abilities are probably superb).  I'm a fan of those two movies as well, but they only further emphasize he point that Lucas is no maverick director.  As a director he is adequate at best.  If you look at the Original STAR WARS Trilogy and I mean really watch with a critical eye, I think the weakest one cinematically was the original STAR WARS.  Most fanboys will maintain that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is far and away the best STAR WARS movie (for me a very close second to RETURN OF THE JEDI) and despite so much inexplicable hatred for Ewoks that RETURN OF THE JEDI is also a better movie than STAR WARS.  I'm not saying this to malign the original, because it was ground-breaking both narratively (well, not original, but innovative) and technically and captured the hearts and imaginations of several generations and without it we never would have had the subsequent movies.  I only draw the comparison to make a point.

And the poin is this: while George Lucas is undoubtedly a visionary with a vivid imagination and a creative mind he is not a director.  I think what George Lucas is good at is big ideas, but he has trouble working out the small details and navigating the nuances of translating his ideas onto the screen.  I think it can generally be agreed upon by fans and nonfans alike that the two best STAR WARS movies were the ones that weren't directed by Lucas.

And this really sucks balls.

As a fan of STAR WARS you can't help but be a fan of the entity who created it, despite any later attempts to alienate you.  (STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL anyone...?)  And as a fan of George Lucas I couldn't help but try to forgive what I thought was shitty about the STAR WARS prequels (especially ATTACK OF THE CLONES) and found myself in the (oftentimes) unenviable position of defending what I thought were mediocre movies just on principle alone.  Celebrity is a strange beast.  Even while defending his work both to others and myself, I still felt the need to exonerate George Lucas in my own mind for his heinous crimes against humanity (midichlorians?  WTF?).  You've probably found yourself wishing at some point in your fan-life that the object of your fandom wasn't responsible.  There must have been some other explanation, no matter how bizarre.  At times I found myself wishing that it was all just a terrible nightmare and that George Lucas couldn't have been responsible for the Prequels.  And now, thanks to YouTube I have an alternate, completely viable explanation as to what happened to bring about the STAR WARS Prequels in the form of a faux-trailer for GEORGE LUCAS STRIKES BACK which is loosely based onthe plot of OLDBOY.

There's tons of great little jokes like George Lucas getting upset at being labled "totally lame" by the media, his outrage over midichlorians, "I'm a businessman on my cell phone!," Darth Maul doing blow, assembling his team including Princess Leia, an older, rounder Short Round, and Chewbacca, Short Round's outrage over some clone trooper's admitted admiration of the new INDIANA JONES MOVIE, Greedo (not) shooting first, George Lucas fighting ninjas, clone troopers and Jar Jar, and several great lines like:

Princess Leia: "How do you take down an empire like that?"
George Lucas: "You shoot first."    

Princess Leia: "It's OK, George, even good directors make bombs once in a while"
George Lucas: "But mine go boom."

Anyway, after basically describing the whole fucking video for you just check it out below.  I found it quite hilarious and I hope you derive some pleasure out of the truth about what really happened in a galaxy far, far away...