Peanut Gallery Notes to My Generation

I can’t say that I’ve seen the best minds of my generation do much of anything. The baby Gen-X/Millennial 1.0 crossover demographic whom for the sake of brevity I will refer to as “X/Mers” (born ~1978-1982) has done little but be ironic and try to throwback everything in hopes of breathing life into a youth that their largely divorced parents all but snuffed out. Sure, some are funny. Many think they’re clever – even I did at one point until I backed out of tennis-style text messaging – and social media gives plenty of platforms. A lost generation with a college education and a NINJA (No Income, No Job or Assets) state of mind. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is an op-ed, not an anthropological thesis.

Now I’m not speaking about the easy target that are overt hipsters; flannels and undercuts and pithy tattoos and a mind blowing collection of shitty art and MP3s. No the overt hipster has long since ridden the fixed gear of mediocrity into marginal society. A lower caste of specters that no one of importance cares about. What I’m talking about is the new parents. The new homeowners (or aspiring homeowners, the folks that studied art history in college and whose parents are retired. The comedy writers and mid to upper-mid managers, the people that should know better. The growing new batch of “average folks,” the insurance salesmen of middle America, the machinists; my comrades that once aspired to larger things and now, to unapologetically borrow from C.P. “won’t fuck to save their species.” They have kids, sure, but they don’t innovate. They’ll write someday or do that thing they always wanted. The successful ones (if they can be called that) might work in T.V. before fading to obscurity or in some meaningless tech position or write jokes or blog about bacon.

Momentarily returning to the hipsters, the difference between X/Mers and hipsters is that hipsters don’t actually do anything. The folks I’m talking about do. They do lots of things all the time. They go on hikes and trips to Asia and rack up credit and buy Subarus and try new restaurants, but aside from basic economic consumption few do anything thing that matters. Perhaps it’s where I live. Perhaps it’s the protracted adolescence, an indictment of myself, my friends and my surroundings. I don’t know. Calls to action seldom result in anything and I frankly don’t have the passion (see irony above) to rally anyone into anything. Ah, so perhaps this is more of a personal indictment than I initially thought.

The result: over time Millennials will break into two camps. The first camp will be the replacement to the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers have always been obsessed with the zeitgeist going back to when they were a part of it themselves. The richest “Me” generation is pumping money into their youngest children/oldest grandchildren with the supreme confidence of the dying that youth is the solution to everything. Tech, business, charity, education; if you are over twenty five, you need not apply as your ideas are old and therefore irrelevant. The Baby Boomers don’t have to acknowledge the irony, because they don’t care. It’s all about ROI and then cash in and then go to Eagles and nag champa heaven in an awesome ’57 Chevy convertible and a Tommy Bahama shirt. Subsidized by these assholes, this first group of Millennials will be fine.

The second Millennial camp – the majority – will form the solid foundation of poverty and failure. Unable to ever crawl out of debt, their parents will leave them with nothing, yet they will reproduce and along with many of the X/Mers boost the ever increasing population of sickly and obese children that are for the first time in American history projected to have a shorter life span than their parents. This majority group of Millennials along with the X/Mers will continue to populate and consume and rack up debt as the Boomers die and a small handful of Chinese, Indian and Russian kids (with a sprinkling of other ethnicities for good measure) will take their tech/innovation billions and effectively rule the world with an economic stranglehold that won’t be shaken lightly.

Gloom and doom projections yes, but consider this: these future oligarchs have never been hungry. They don’t care about cars or designer clothes or government or war. All they care about is curating their virtual life experiences, fast paced entertainment and consumerism. The concept of currency to them being an intangible, readily available thing of little consequence as it’s inexhaustible. It’s simply a thing you use as you please. Currency for them will be akin to how most Americans view running water today. Now, whereas in the past the downtrodden everyman had a fire in their soul that would cause them to unionize, revolt, overthrow, put their foot down and stand up for themselves when pushed to the brink, we now have the fattest and stupidest – also living curated virtual lives – with no sense of community, country, duty or justice. The “me” generation all over, only without the power, education or conviction.

This is why I have so much vitriol towards the X/Mers. This is a generation that grew up under the Baby Boomers and saw the flipside to their selfish dreams. Most of us had access to early computers either at home or in school. We grew up with video games and pre fucked-up Star Wars and really cool physical toys (look at old G.I. Joes, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, Barbie Dolls, My Little Ponies, etc. compared to today’s reboots)that showed industrial craftsmanship; most of us had either nothing or pagers by the end of high school. If your friend wasn’t home you’d wait. If you couldn’t find a public phone, too bad. Cell phones and MySpace were a college thing. There are tubs full of CDs and VHS tapes and DVDs with nowhere to go. You can now download your favorite games to your console for a fraction of the allowance that once had to be saved up. Divorce used to hurt, not be taken for granted.

The X/Mers bridged the gap of tech and brick and mortar and what have we done? Drunk History and opening offal-centric restaurants. We spend money we can’t afford to buy shit from our youth. We dress like teenagers well into gray hair (myself included, sans the gray hair), not as artists or entrepreneurs, but because it’s all we know. As X/Mers stop wagging their fingers at the increasingly marginalized hipster while hiding behind their aging sense of irony, I wonder if it will ever be time to grow up? The core of Gen X are all in their forties and fifties now. The ones that stood for something made music when making music was hard and succeeding mattered. Many formed careers and many faded away, but there was a fire that somehow got quenched in the transition. Not quite kids, not quite adults and seen as nothing but varying degree purchase power to the big picture. They go back to school racking up debt for Masters’ programs that mean as little as their undergrad education. The world is growing smaller and never before has being so young mattered so much off of a battlefield.

And so I reach the end of another rant. Certainly not a new one, and I wish I had a meaningful call to action, but there is nothing innovative and new to preach. Boomers are dying, Gen X  is aging, X/Mers floating in the ether, Millennials enjoying their time in the sun, and the future – that generation that knew nothing analog and is rumored to perhaps never drive a car – is still in its infancy. What it means to the world, I cannot say. I’m a pessimist, so I deal in my milieu. We can hope for the often whispered Darwinian Flush, though save some terrible holocaust I don’t see how that might transpire. Fanaticism isn’t going to bring about long term change, no this is something more subtle and fast-moving. In the interim I can’t promise I won’t complain and try to do what I can as one might do when seeing a busted pipe in the midst of a drought.

Jamaica Me Crazy or A Misanthrope’s Journey to the Land of Riddim

I didn’t write a solitary word in Jamaica. That’s not to say that I didn’t make a note of everything, but my idea of writing in the jungle was washed away with so much rum and sunshine. I didn’t do any work of any sort and it didn’t take long for me to stop caring. Jamaica isn’t a place for work in the conventional sense, it’s a study in humanity and in its current state, the layers are as varied as the foliage.

Jamaica for many years held the same allure as Holland: that is, none whatsoever. A flock of stinking tourists, blubbering through tea-stained eyes held no interest. As was the case with Holland, I was mistaken. Jamaica is a land of heat and poverty, music and joy. The sea is warm, the weather always potentially vicious. The money has rolled in from abroad to create enormous monstrosities along the beach where the bloated and browned come to sip punch and smoke pot with the moronic and obvious secretiveness of teenagers. Not far are the half built houses of the natives, the benches lining the streets, the goats and dogs and motorcyclists giddily dancing along the streets just inches away from haphazard automobiles.

Fortunately, I made my stay in a couples only, bungalow-strewn jungle retreat across the street from its own small beach. The jungle never sleeps and at no point did I suffer the screech of children and miserable scolding parents. Being an all-inclusive situation, I appreciate the hypocrisy of my disdain for the large resorts. Still I hold to my judgments. I formed relationships, was sold nothing, ate wonderful food and learned from locals where the locals live and what they do for fun. What they feel is wrong with their country (corruption) and what they love (most everything else), but first on the docket was what brought me to Jamaica: I needed a vacation.

Getting settled in was a simple matter of fact. The bungalow was cozy and comfortable. There was no panes in the windows, rather mesh and plantation shutters. The bathrooms were small but updated nicely. The light was dim and the entirety of the space consisted of studio, bathroom and lanai. These cottages were originally built to house white miners in the 1940′s though now the compound passes seamlessly for the boutique tourist establishment that it is.  Still, there was an obvious balance to the place that certainly cultivated charm; a balance of resort and gentleman camping that could never pass off as roughing it, though also falls far short from the amenities of more moneyed establishments.

First activity was the beach. Bloody Bay is serene and smooth, the water bathtub-warm with practically nonexistent surf. Each hotel has its own section roughly cordoned off by a rope and buoy system, though nothing impedes walking the length of the beach save a stone barrier near the southernmost curve. Peddlers pass and lackadaisically hawk their wares, seemingly uninterested past initial contact if you buy or not. I opened with the tourist drink of rum punch which was sugary and approachable. I quickly switched to rum and Ting, the local grapefruit soda. And true to the local saying: rum and Ting does indeed go with everything.

There is a bar and grill on the beach where one can grab a burger, jerk cheesy fries, fruit salad and a ubiquitous Red Stripe. There are also plenty of activities for the restless, such as snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing and parasailing. For those packing penicillin and a nostalgia for Spring Break, there is the “Wild Thing” a party boat equipped with a waterslide, two trampolines and a dancing staff blasting loud and redundant reggae. I cannot give a firsthand account of life aboard the Wild Thing save an interesting anecdote that goes as follows:

There is a nearby tourist trap called Rick’s Café where people go to spend money and either pay a Jamaican to, or jump themselves from the cliff from atop where the café sits. A while back a wedding party decided to take the Wild Thing out to Ricks, partaking of the local drugs and copious amounts of alcohol.

Upon reaching Ricks, one of the more inebriated of the grooms’ party decided he would like to jump from the thirty foot cliff. A perfectly acceptable activity, though it’s made clear that one jumps at their own risk. And feet first. Apparently the warning signs are everywhere and clearly visible.

This particular gentleman decided he was up to the challenge and dove from the cliff only to emerge bumping against the rocks in a prone state. Apparently the corpse sloshed around in the surf like this for a few minutes before the staff realized the situation. The drunken and stoned crowd evidently didn’t have much of a reaction as the lifeguards fished him out and rushed the body to the hospital via taxi, ostensibly under the guise that there was still hope of reviving him.

This was relayed to me by a pipe layer from Illinois and his wife who were on their third visit to Negril.

Now I have to way of confirming the validity of the story, but what I saw of the party tourists I have no reason to doubt. I have heard of many such stories over the years of tourists sustaining bodily harm or even dying whether by mere accident or stupidity. From what I saw of the scene at Rick’s driving by days later, coupled with the nearly daily distraction of the Wild Thing boarding party goes, a cliff jumper snapping his neck makes as much sense as a hiker rolling his ankle.

Growing tired of the same scenery after a few days I ventured out in the capable hands of Lloyd, a gregarious former military man-cum-tour guide who I quickly learned seems to know everyone on the island. For $150 American he will take you to a semi-secluded destination I had learned about known as Mayfield Falls. I politely asked to have as much of a cultural sightseeing as possible and was in no way disappointed.

The Mayfield Falls are tucked away up in the mountains outside Negril. About an hour drive, we wound through the narrow streets and got a fair view of what life must truly be like in Jamaica. There were people out on the street every step of the drive up into the jungle. There is no part of the island that I experienced that isn’t teeming with life. The roads are treacherous with potholes, sporadic traffic and other obstacles, but Lloyd made the drive look absurdly easy. Winding up the hills the marshes and grasslands were overwhelmed Mangos, bananas, African Tulips and among the trees massive bamboo groves, bushes and ferns of every sort.

Reaching the village outside the falls had a compound feel. This is an insulated community and as I signed up for the hike was immediately up-sold to purchase lunch – which I did – at nearly $16 for snapper. I found this exorbitant and Lloyd quickly talked the woman down to a more reasonable price. I soon learned that all the tourist money goes to sustaining the villagers and I gladly made up for the difference later. I suppose that being transparent and simply charging a few dollars and asking for donations either hasn’t been tried or has met with unsatisfactory results. Either way, charitable as many of us are, if the motives are clear… but I digress. Once introduced to our guide Dwight, we set off across the bamboo bridge and down into the water.

Your humble correspondent won’t weigh down the piece with the myriad details that make the Mayfield Falls worth visiting. Sufficed to say, it’s a unique experience and if one is fortunate to not go as part of a group – which was my luck – that experience is exponentially better. The pools, the river jumping, he underwater tunnel, not to mention the sheer magnificence of the environment growing along the banks have to be witnessed firsthand. On the hike back to the village Dwight talked about the flora and the curious absence of fauna (there are few animals native to Jamaica that exist today; the largest – and imported – predator being the mongoose) and shed the aforementioned light on the people of Mayfield Falls. They are private and wish to remain so, yet they depend on tourist dollars. A sad conundrum around the world as these experiences dwindle with exposure.

On the tour back to town Lloyd talked about the neighborhoods, took us into the wealth of Orange Hill, showed where the foreign currencies are spent and ended at the westernmost point of Negril where the island gives way to rocky cliffs. Being close to sundown we landed at Whoopee’s for a drink. This was to be my final tourist-free experience of the trip. The sun went down and as we made our way back to the resort, the people came out. Hordes of them; natives, tourists, rich, poor, cops, kids, drunk, hobbled. The trip back was a trip indeed. This is where we passed Rick’s with its slew of waiting buses, The Caves, the clubs, Sandals, Riu and the rest of the shit show. This is the Jamaica that brings people to Jamaica. This is the Jamaica that my elitist attitude makes no subscription to. A necessary evil and seemingly more burdensome to me that to the people whose homes are overrun by the throbbing mobs. Yet this is the way it goes.

The rest of the trip was spent near the resort, watching the sea, strolling the beach, swimming and meeting people from all walks of life. I stand by my opinion that where I was fortunate to land was the least overwhelming of the other resorts I saw, and most of the other guests found that aspect the most charming as well. One solid foray out hardly counts as an adventure, but truthfully I didn’t come for adventure, I came to relax. The taste I got will certainly bring me back and I can’t stop singing praises to the wonderful people of the island. Never an optimist, I’m certain the days of a true experience are numbered. Whether that means more difficult to find or whether the plastic pantomime will stomp it out entirely, I can’t be sure. What I am sure of is that the passion of the island – the “riddim’” as they call it – won’t ever be eradicated as long as the Jamaican people exist.

I wanted to write about Jamaica while in Jamaica but I felt I would miss something. Perhaps this is masturbatory, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I spent as much time outdoors and experiencing as much of the pleasure the immediate part of the  island has to offer. It’s easy to sit and speculate and digest, but that’s what the wretched nineteen hour (multiple layovers) journey home was for. I leave you now a torn man. Don’t go to Jamaica because you might ruin it. Do go to Jamaica because they need you and if you truly want a great experience, all you have to do is ask.

A Sick Man

I am a sick man. Or more specifically I am a plagued man. There is no point in time where I am not plagued and my health and nerves and sanity suffer. I have tried to relocate, meditate, medicate, self medicate and still I am ill. I can’t seem to find anything either over or under the counter, speaking to someone or homeopathic. I fear that I am to be plagued for life.

My illness isn’t unique, but for those of us afflicted, it seems that we suffer alone. Intellectually I know this is wrong, but that doesn’t change the perception. We are too ill to see things any other way. From morning to evening the plague is at its apex and then, as if by act of god, it calms down for the night to rest up and come back again in full force the next day.

Naturally, the plague I’m speaking of is people. I say this generally and without conviction. People needing things and asking questions and trying to connect and with problems to solve and orbiting myopically around their own petty troubles. My immune system doesn’t seem to have a defense for this. People constantly harass, harangue, question, nag, prod and whine to me. They need and want and simply cannot go on. People claw their way into my time (which holds no value to them) and set up like a tapeworm, slowly sucking away until one of us dies.

I’ve looked high and low and reflected and deflected and run away and have yet to find respite let alone a cure. All people don’t fall into this contagion, but certainly most. Especially if given a chance. They slip into my life like a candiru and cause sharp pain and drink my blood. I used to think it was primarily women, but I was wrong. It is most everyone of every gender, race and creed. They claw away with their complaints and opinions; they browbeat and hand-wring and fret and fuss and bloviate.

This plague cannot be cured, I’m convinced. Sad as it is, I believe I will have to run out the clock a sick man who can only look forward to the brief moments when the symptoms are manageable. Typing these words I realize how many might think that this isn’t indeed so much of a problem. Ignore these people and don’t take things personally. Set up boundaries. Ah yes, the simplicity of it all.

What many don’t realize is that it isn’t finding solutions for all these people that kills you. No, there is the irony of the thing. The incessant griping is the end in itself and therefore the virus is perpetual. The plague has no cure because in its very essence it seeks to spread rather than kill. It only lives if the host lives (see tapeworm/candiru analogies above) therefore it does what it can to keep its host alive.

And this is where I find myself. Bags under my eyes, swelling gut and jaundiced. Fingers chewed away to nubs, hair unkempt and nerves raw. My mood is afflicted and my heart palpitates. Sleep eludes me and I live in constant fear and apprehension of them, my plague. I wish it were different for harmony’s sake, I truly do. I wish I could live happily and harmoniously with people and lord knows I have tried. Unfortunately that just isn’t in the nature of a virus. There is no logic. The optimist in me hopes for something else, but my optimism is another disease in itself best saved for a future diatribe.

When Jesus Left Hollywood

It’s a shame to think that in the twenty first century in a country as progressive as the United States we still have to hear the war cry of racism at every turn. In this particular instance regarding the Oscars who, for the first time in whatever the fuck amount of years haven’t shown enough recognition to people “of color,” whatever that might mean.

In this country racism is alive and well, but not as a layman might expect: rather as business of sorts. A way to get people to think certain ways and do certain things – not always positive – with intended results. I realize now I should have said layperson, but frankly I don’t give a shit. Hate mongers of every stripe complain incessantly about all the repression and underrepresentation they feel; for them this is a land of fear, violence and oppression, unlike like Mexico, the Middle East and 99.9% of Africa to rattle off a few enlightened counterparts. People of all colors live in the U.S. as second class citizens to be beaten down, abused and oppressed.

To slump down to the tired and stupid argument, I would posit that they should go back to their own country. To take the higher road I would say (sorry ladies) stop being a bitch in this, your own country. We’re most of us immigrants here or of immigrant stock. The Irish, Jews, Germans, Catholics, Greeks, Portuguese, Lebanese, Inuit, Uzbekistani, Hondurans, Mannish, et al were all discriminated against at one time or another by those that came before them. You talk of slavery, I talk of the enslavement of the Jews (by Africans; Egyptians to be precise). That’s not to mention the Roman persecution of the Germanics, the Spanish persecution of alleged heretics, Hutu genocide of the Tutsi, and nameless, countless other inhumanities of man against man (again, sorry ladies).

We live in a world of humans and therefore as hopelessly flawed as humans. We can fight or die, sit silent or speak out. The problem with speaking out is that when too many idiots do it all at once then the air gets a little thick with bullshit. As much as the lack of colored folks nominated for Oscars keeps me up at night I’m glad that two first timers, Marcus Mariota and Cardale Jones (Mariota of U of Oregon being the first Polynesian to win the Heisman , and Jones of Ohio State being a previously at risk youth and third string quarterback to make history) were the first two “colored” quarterbacks to be in the first national college football championship. Sadly I didn’t consider how underrepresented Euro-American men were in that fantastic game. That’s college ball. To take a totally different angle, I don’t even need to mention our president of color who won not one but two elections by popular vote.

The more we sit back, pen and paper in hand and try to demarcate just what race does what and when, we as Americans are going to be fucked as a society. To quote De La Soul:

“See them Cubans don’t care what y’all niggaz do, Columbians ain’t never ran with your crew, Why you acting all spicy and sheisty, the only Italians you knew was icees”

The business of racism is the business of separation. Identity based on the anxiety of losing the nebulous core of the self. People eat, drink, shit, breathe and fuck regardless of where they came from. I would hope this wouldn’t be an issue anymore. Sure there are regrets and skeletons in the closet, but we all have them. If we were all to beat ourselves to death over the shitty things we’ve done, how would we grow as people? How could we grow as a society?

Racism and all other bigotry is always going to be a one way street in that it’s by its very nature polarizing. There is no room for a gray area (note the aforementioned color and the color of the human brain) so there will never be peace. I don’t call for any sort of bullshit, I would just posit the question: isn’t there enough real world shit to deal with – food, cancer, bills, age, insurance, relationships, to name a few – that worrying about who is underrepresented at the Oscars shouldn’t be an issue?

I’m sure the Academy is flawed and that perhaps life terms is a bit too long to cycle through enough diversity. I’m sure Cheryl Boone Isaacs hates black people. I’m sure that the Academy seeks to award talent, not just showing up (or sending out screeners late). But what do I know… I’ll leave off with this: with the possible exception of the Somali guy that played the pirate and lost all his money, almost all of those nominees are millionaires, or at least richer than you. Regardless of color.  And they always will be.

Ted Talk Monologue – Disrupting, American Style

“I know for a lot of young people out there the idea of graduating college and having to start at the bottom is daunting at best. I know it used to cause me a lot of anxiety until it dawned on me: this is America, the land of innovation. Americans don’t just sit around waiting for fate to smile on them, they make their own luck which is why I’m here today.

It was my third year at Stanford and I was stoned with my friends playing Halo IV when I said: “You know what sucks? Transportation.” Sounds silly, right? But think about it: having to Uber to the airport and then waiting in line and having to sit next to people and wait some more. What if I don’t want to spend a day getting to Europe or New York even? And that’s flying. Now if you drive, forget about it. It was taking me like eight hours jut to get from Palo to Newport, which is why I would usually just fly. There had to be an easier way.

And that’s when the idea hit: teleporters! I did a quick Google search and learned that no one had made one yet, which frankly, sounded kinda nuts. I mean, how could nobody think to start a teleporter company and turn the whole transportation industry on its head? Think about it, you could be in California one minute and New York the next. Then you could go to London to have fish and chips or maybe to Taiwan for Chinese food and then be back in Cali in time for Jimmy Fallon!

I knew I had a golden ticket here, but now came the hard part. I needed money and scientists. I was able to scrape together $40 MM from friends and family and hired some Indian exchange students to get to work. We started off small, trying to teleport a hamster from one end of the room to the other, but the technology proved to be harder that we thought.  After about six months we had what amounted to basically a zipline that went from one end of campus to the other. At this point I started to lose hope, when I had my second epiphany.

It could take maybe even years to get a teleporter working right and by that time I’d be too old to really enjoy it. Why not disrupt another arena, one that’s been almost as problematic as transportation: communication!  If you can’t actually go to places that are far away without a hassle, then the next best thing is to talk to people that are far away and maybe even see images of stuff that’s far away. Telephones have been around for hundreds of years and people still use them. Why? What is this, Mexico?

Enter Vydeotalkk. The solution to my problem was right in front of my eyes – literally – the whole time. I changed the Indian’s focus to figure out a way people could talk to other people on their computers while being able to see them at the same time. The concept was easy, instead of a phone call, you just Vydeotalkk your friend and you can see what they’re wearing and stuff like that. It was the next technological revolution.

We spent the next month pioneering the technology and as of today, people are doing this all the time. There are competitors sure, but all good businesses need competition to stay lean. Currently we have a App in the works that will bring Vydeotalkk to your mobile device allowing you to see anyone anywhere while talking to them at the same time! And this is how I created my own luck. I still have about $32 MM of seed money in the bank and by the time I graduate, I can safely say I won’t ever have to worry about finding a job.

The conclusion here is this: sure it’s hard to get a job out there. Sure it seems like all the good ideas are taken and there might not be much of a future. To that I say bull. You don’t have to be rich or go to Stanford, you could even go to state school. Just think hard about what the world needs and then the money and the scientists will come. It is literally that easy.”

- Brylen Walch


Get Your Internets Off My Lawn!

“That we live in curious times is easy for me to say from the vantage point of my early thirties. There is much I don’t understand in this world, particularly why people would have any interest in doing what they do. Aside from the aforementioned age, I also acknowledge that as a person – an individual - I just genuinely have little to no interest in the majority of social anything, so I find peace in knowing that I was never the target audience.

Criticism leveled at youth can be found everywhere and is so tired it’s barely worth mentioning. The silence of school buses and the lack of social skills in the techno-saturated youth; the awful music and strange fashion choices. These are just the latest incarnation of the same criticisms aimed by the old and aging towards anyone younger than themselves. There is a perverse comfort in feeling old, perverted by the equally – sometimes stronger – desire to be young again. An inner turmoil that things are getting away from you just like life itself, one moment at a time. So why not hate the blissfully ignorant? They are, after all, squandering their youth in a way you would never dream of if given the chance to turn back time, right?

For my part, I grew up with video games – albeit simpler ones – cordless phones; pagers came around in high school, the internet was already a “thing” by the time I was interested in downloading pornography. I dressed funny and had friends that dressed funny and I listened to music that wasn’t widely popular and I was angry and moody and confused like teenagers have always been. Had Facebook existed back then, I would have likely been on it. I might have tweeted things and might have checked up on the status of friends, family and enemies. I might have given a shit, because I gave a shit about that sort of thing back then. Not because I was social, but because I was a teenager. I wanted to be loved and accepted. I wanted to be cool if only to casually blow off those simple enough to think that. I was a real peach.

Which is where I’m drawing a personal distinction. Youth has always brought with it its own culture and kids will always be kids and teens will always be holy terrors and well, Porno for Pyros (remember them? No?) summed that one up with their flash-in-the-pan hit “Pets.”. The fact is, that culture, trends, etc will change. But fundamental humanness does not. Criticizing youth for being plugged in and physically detached is more a criticism of pop culture rather than human nature. Pop, after all, is only a letter away from pap. It has also existed forever. Liszt was noisy and ridiculous, the Beatles and Elvis the same,  as were the Stones and Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls and Madonna, and the list goes on and on. I won’t even touch on the attendant fashions, but you get the idea.

At the end of the day, why anyone could possibly care is beyond me. Will youth ruin the world? Maybe. Did they before? Maybe. I guess it’s up to the individual to decide for themselves what constitutes as “ruined.” Every generation brings its ups and downs, and some of the ups are fantastic and some of the downs are awful. So what? From my youngish Gen-Xer perch I can say I don’t care for hipsters, or the music on the radio and I have no desire to join any sort of social anything.  But that’s just who I am. I look at my nephews and nieces and wonder what they’re going to do to piss off the current twentysomethings once they become teenagers. And I have to admit, I find the whole thing really fucking amusing.”

- Brylen Dingustein

The Social Shitwork

Brice couldn’t believe what he was seeing on his phone. This certainly wasn’t the first corn-based shitpic he’d ever seen, but Skylar had knocked it out of the park. This resembled the contents of an entire can of whole kernel corn held together with only the slightest noticeable amount of feces. If it wasn’t sitting in Skylar’s toilet right now he wouldn’t believe it. But he recognized the tissue dispenser sitting on the tank. Totes jelly.

This had been the third shock Brice had suffered this week. First his cousin in Amsterdam Vined himself taking a herring and beer shit which was already up to a hundred and seventy thousand hits. Then Django’s little cousin had autotuned her shit after eating Brussels sprouts and cheese; a cacophony of gas followed by just a few pebbles of hard, dark shit. It was hilarious. And now this cornucopia.

Brice’s mind reeled at how to top it. It seemed like everyone else was doing so many more exciting things with their shit. Glamorous things on a bigger scale. He felt he was falling behind and that his only true accomplishment to date – a smooth, fibrous turd at least two feet long that had coiled upon itself – was now old news and long forgotten.

Going downstairs he saw Crispin uninterestedly picking at a bowl of tuna and cheese while Kidz Bop played silently on the set. Crispin was lost in his new “Limoncello Piss” yellow Beats headphones. Even if he weren’t listening to Brokencyde he wouldn’t be much help. They’d been trying to top each other’s shit for years.

His iPhone 7, 12G LTE buzzed and to his horror he saw that Bianca from Home Ec. had just posted a picture of shit she left on the couch after eating some bad pizza. It already had ten likes. His heart sank as he clipped his phone back to its carabiner. It was unfathomable how this could be happening. Crispin chuckled hollowly from the table. Suely he’d just seen Bianca’s upload.

Going through the pantry Brice scrambled to find something, anything that he could work with. His shit from this morning had been unimpressive. He posted as they all did to keep up with shit, but it had only received several courtesy likes. He found a can of quinoa and some fiber powder which would be a good start, but not nearly enough. Some refried beans made with lard and jalapeno would help and he snatched those.

From there he moved on to the fridge. His phone buzzed again and within seconds his brother laughed. Brice wasn’t going to look. This is the kind of popularity contest that leads to school shootings and teen suicide. He had to keep his eye on the prize. Old Chinese food, good. Some finely shredded cheddar cheese. A bowl full of grease-filmed ground round. In the crisper he found kale, asparagus and onions. He took them all.

His brother looked at him and picked the crotch of his pants before pushing his bowl away and leaving the room. Brice placed all the items on the counter and started to figure a plan. The phone buzzed again and he couldn’t resist. Devon holding up her Great Dane’s shit in a napkin, Chadwick in Rio Instagramming a sweet pic of a public bathroom. Shit smeared all over the walls and floor. “Wish you were here.” The likes were instant.

More and more shit popped up in myriad forms, all of it incredible. What was going on? It was three in the afternoon. How did people have all this shit to post? Didn’t anyone study or work or sleep? He put his phone back and got out the blender and put everything in. At this point it would be a chunky paste that would take too long to consume. He needed something to add viscosity and settled for garlic-infused olive oil and two-percent milk.

Starting slow, Brice pulsed the concoction to break it up and then slowly upped the speed (adding fluids accordingly) until the blender whirred in easy indifference. After several minutes it looked like he was finished. He poured his creation into his old sixty four ounce Yo Gabba Gabba  Travelchug to shield it from prying eyes and poured in several squirts of Sriracha for good measure before moving to the couch.

He placed his phone on silent but still checked it constantly as he drank, each post further steeling his resolve. The goop went down well enough, oily and spicy and cool. A few chunks hadn’t broken down completely and he chewed these thoughtfully as he liked Raymundo’s ghost shit, evidenced only by faintest brown-orange smear at the bottom of the bowl.

By the time That’s So Raven came on he was done. The fear gripped him as he felt nothing. Nothing at all, nothing brewing, no gas no anything. He couldn’t let his Wednesday end like this. Come Monday they would be back in school and only the best shit would be talked about and there was a dance coming up and if he didn’t have anything… he was beside himself.

Ten minutes turned to twenty, turned to thirty. The day was dragging at a snail’s pace. How long would he have to wait? What if nothing happened? He got up off the couch and went back upstairs to play XBOX Palladium.  When he got to the top of the stairs, a grumble. Then another. He felt a hot jet soil his shorts and smiled.

Brice ran to the bathroom as the cramps grew acute and came at regular intervals. But what’s this? Locked! Crispin was probably in there jerking off again. More gas and shit started leaking out as he ran to his parent’s room. At last! He set up his iPhone on its built-in tripod and peeled off his jeans, hot shit flowing everywhere.

Shit sprayed on the shower door and seeped into the carpet. Shit got ankle deep and shit flecked up and soaked his shirt. The smell was wretched and he desperately wished he had the technology to share that. He took his phone and panned the room as the shit kept coming. It was massive and positively the most exciting thing he’d ever seen. This was the kind of shit that would get Lisle to go to the dance with him.

The unblinking eye of the phone caught it all and stored it safely in the cloud. Soon the bathroom looked as if someone had exploded an IED of shit in it. Not a square inch lay bereft of Brice’s glory. The stream had slowed down and he sat dizzily at the edge of the toilet. His head hurt and the shit seemed redder than it should have been.

As the bathroom bowed and shrank before his eyes he fumbled to post the video and peppered Facebook with some stills for good measure. The likes started coming in and he smiled as he stood and tripped over a length of lumpy red rope on the floor. He pulled it with his foot and felt it deep in his gut. His eyes widened and he took another step and fell forward into the doorknob lodging it into his right orbit.

It was uncertain how long it took his parents to get back from the farmer’s market and find Brice, but authorities calculate he lay dead in his shit for at least twelve hours before his body was discovered. The video received six billion hits, which means that roughly eighty six percent of the world saw what Brice had accomplished.

Back at school he was the talk of the town. People wore parachute pants filled with Jello pudding; the memes went into the hundreds of thousands. Dozens of blogs were created in his honor. “What Would Brice Poo” bracelets became de rigueur across the developed world. Brice’s glory radiated across the land for almost an entire week. Until a boy named Siegfried Carbuncle was taped launching his shit through not one, but three flaming hoops he’d set up in his grandmother’s back yard.

The Good Stink in BH

There are few places more wretched and soulless in the world than Beverly Hills, Ca. Mecca for all the money-flushed bottom feedersofevery stripe and creed, Beverly Hills has always attracted the worst of the worst. So much so that even most Hollywood types refuse tolive there on a permanent basis for fear that what little soul they have might be sucked out into the void of the ever rotating milieu of upscale store fronts. These stores are concentrated around the infamous Rodeo Drive, where suckers go to spend and dreams go to die.

But like most cesspools, if you look hard enough there is a tiny glimmer of hope. In this case that is the Beverly Hills Cheese Store. For those that don’t like cheese, I would recommend to stop reading immediately and do whatever it is you do besides read and eat cheese. This store is quite simply the finest establishment for cheese mongering I have found in Los Angeles. I’m sure the usual slew of hipster assholes will point out that they know of some locally sourced, civic-minded cheese dispensary in Silver Lake that I’m supposed to give a shit about. Sufficed to say, I don’t. Cheese can be bought anywhere, but the BH Cheese Store is different.

For starters, it smells like a cheese store should: a neglected roller skating rink. The pungent smell that in any other context is utterly revolting, is ambrosia to one’s nostrils and in short order, one’s palate. This store, for its tiny footprint and almost assuredly outrageous monthly rent has stocked all of the finest of everything that doesn’t contain alcohol. Tetilla from Galicia? You got it. Saint-Nectaire from Auvergne? Got that too. How old do you like your gouda? Perfect. If you are in the market for capers, jam, mustards, bread (soft or crusty) or any other indulgent, imported, over priced goody that few people you know will truly appreciate you’ve come to the right venue.

So why am I in the back pocket of this place? Quite simply, because it is the only glimpse of humanity I found in an otherwise bereft village of the damned. People come to Los Angeles to visit for whatever reason, and I’d like to think that not many make a return trip. The hot spots are not for the faint of heart. From stroller injuries and heatstroke at Universal Studios, to syphilitic pickpockets on Hollywood boulevard, the land where dreams come true is anything but. But every once in a while, if you look close enough, you find a gem like BHCS.

I never expected a chance to sample the wares. I was dead wrong. I got a taste of fucking everything in the place. Or would have had I asked. Not only is everything delicious, but they let you make sure before you buy it. The service is impeccable, almost like they rely on people to buy things in order to stay in business. To find that on Rodeo Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills is akin to something as implausible and stupid as you might find on an Old Spice commercial, say involving a polar bear and lightning.

Recently I found myself in this stinky oasis with the cackling group of hens I call my family. All opinionated and fond of cheese, I thought this experience would turn into the equivalent of getting people to agree on a pizza. I was blissfully mistaken. Once in that pungent heaven, the excitement of the prospect of all the lactic goodness coupled by the gentle guidance of the cheese monger put my tour guide duties in the capable hands of the cheese.

The ladies and I sniffed, nibbled and did all matter of masculine activities as we narrowed our selection down to eight cheeses from around the world. That’s right, before fist fighting and talking about tits with my friends, I was going to eat cheeses with my mother, grandmother and two aunts. This sort of behavior is the “pink shirt” proving how comfortable I am with my masculinity.

After everything was said and done the bill came to a reasonable $90, which I had thought I was erroneously paring down by suggesting we pick up bread elsewhere. The joke was on me, because they threw in the bread – two baguettes – for free. That’s the kind of place this is.  At the risk of beating a dead horse, in the land where taking a piss costs a few bucks American, getting bread for free is simply incredible.

I paid and went we went on our way, assuring the monger that I always bring family and friends here when they come to town. While true, I feel he could have cared less, and that made me care even more.  I’m sure I will have spent more than I care to think about at this establishment before it gets turned into a Wetzel’s Pretzels, but I sincerely hope that it outlasts my time here.

Sure there are other cheese stores, but who cares? There are other of everything everywhere. If you live anywhere near BH and family or friends come to visit , they will invariably want to visit Rodeo Drive and take pictures and do whatever it is they feel is important. If you make the trek, head over to Beverly Drive and do the BHCS a  solid. If you don’t like cheese, well then you’ve just wasted a few minutes of your day.


Book Release: Gourmont’s Lovely Lesbians

The long awaited, much anticipated book release by Michael Jones in conjunction with Anomie Publishing and is finally available. Official release date will be on June 9th 2012 at the “Art Speaks” event at The Vox Gallery (Vox Sacramento, 1818 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811-6515). But you may preorder it here and now and thus have it in time to bring it along with you and get it signed, or perhaps a custom doodle in the front page.

This book consists of almost 60 pages of selected Poems all paired with authentic Polaroid photography. Black and white insides, Color cover.

Bulk Order? Buy 15 at wholesale cost for your shop!

Sample Pages:

The Life Ironic

(Editor’s Note: This article has been more or less in the works for months. Not because it’s that good, but because I’ve been procrastinating. Looking back on it now, I can’t help but smile at my “kids these days” attitude, but I do sincerely believe that (American) youth is in trouble. Also, I want to point out that I use the terms “Hipster” and “Millennial” interchangeably, although I do draw a few distinctions. Lastly, I realize that I didn’t really address Gen X – to which I belong – that falls in the middle of the baby boomers and the Millennials. Truth is we straddle both lines, and are therefore just as bad.)

Young punks. The “Kids.” Slack-jawed youth roaming around doing nothing productive. The same criticism every older generation levels at the one beneath it.  A subject that had been addressed myriad times, but regardless I deem it necessary to express my hypothesis if for nothing else, peace of mind.  In this piece I’m broadly addressing most Americans currently between the ages of 14 and 30. To differentiate, Hipsters are a culture, whereas Millennials are a generation, but in our rapidly homogenizing society, they are in effect one and the same. Not – as you’ll soon see – that it really matters.

The Hipster. Ah, the designation everyone uses for someone else, no one admits to being a part of, and is absolutely everywhere. In case there was any doubt or confusion, Hipsters encompass 90% of everyone in the United States approximately 30 and down. Of course this is generally speaking, but it is safe to say you know at least ten. It would be impossible not to. The culture is everywhere, but what is it all about and what does it mean for the future?

Do you wear Waldo glasses, sport a handlebar moustache, and enjoy sassy/ironic tee shirts? Have a penchant for girl pants, gauged ears, random tattoos and you like sports? Is your favorite music “everything?” Can you spout clever one-liners with Daniel Tosh-like precision? Are you “madly” in love with your significant other? Married before 25? Divorced? Done enough opiates to land you in sanitarium if this were 1900-1960? Bored by everything? Chances are you’re a Hipster. Don’t feel you fall into that category? Chances are you’re still a Hipster.

I’ve been mulling over the Hipster issue since it truly became a presence in American society, that is to say circa 2005. That’s the year when the first wave of Millennials reached adulthood, and devoid of any defining accomplishments of their own, they decided to pirate bits and pieces of every other generation. Retro everything, Family Guy-esque obscure quips, and a manic attention span became the cornerstones of the American Zeitgeist.  With all this rehashed culture to showcase, and all this irony to express, what more efficient way to exploit their cleverness than with the aid of available technology? Or more specifically, technology as it’s used for self promoting over-exposure.

I would trace Hipster beginnings back to the first wave of Social Media programs, notably MySpace. What started off (and remains, to some extent) a good idea, quickly morphed into an anonymous platform on which – ironically – one could promote the hell out of oneself. Collecting friends, customizing your page with videos etc, and the perpetual popularity contest that was the “top eight” list, were the way of the future. This became in a very real sense the only form of validation for many. The problem, of course was (and still is) information overload.

Hours and hours spent on quizzes, writing clever blurbs, uploading pictures and videos. All this geared at 100+ friends that were impossible to have an actual relationship with. I should know. I had several hundred friends on MySpace at one point, and when I cancelled my account in 2006, my social life didn’t change one bit, except perhaps that it became a little less complicated. Fewer people could trace my activities. I didn’t have to be as clever anymore. Soon, MySpace was replaced by Facebook (which I’ve never used, so I can’t really describe) and the circle of life continues.

The rapid fire pace of a life lived inundated in hi-tech everything has led to everything being “played out” within minutes (hence no attention span) and human interaction has been reduced to a detached self-centered quest to advance oneself. Collecting friends, advancing status, dating up, “friending” up, “liking” things for no reason. There’s no time to waste when everything is flying by in fractions of a second. But to not be involved was unthinkable, because that’s how people lived now. This is life, right?

This brings me to my next topic: relationships. Of course, hipsters can’t live 100% in anonymity. No, but things have changed quite a bit.  Interpersonal relationships have taken on the manic pace of their online personalities. Relationships blur by, and consequences are seldom considered. Case in point is the Gloucester High School “Pregnancy Pact” where several years ago it became cool to get pregnant sans job, high school education let alone husband. What would have been unthinkable 40 years ago and was still incredibly taboo during my adolescence in the 1990’s is now a badge of honor to some. Why? I would argue it’s the most extreme form of self expression for a teenage girl. After all, without identity or consequences, what’s the big deal?

To be fair, it’s not their fault. The Baby Boomer imposed “Self Esteem” movement that most of these people grew up with left them with little hope. There are no consequences. Someone else can always be blamed. Someone will take care of it. Here’s a medal for losing. This lack of personal responsibility manifests itself in adolescence/adulthood into a hopeless attitude of “who cares?” And truth be told, who does?  If something bad happens, it’s someone else’s fault. Parents who can’t cope with adolescent emotions immediately turn to drugging their children. Whatever it takes to keep the kiddies feelin’ good.

The problem of course is that behavior like this is just polishing the proverbial turd.  How can someone be expected to relish victory if they’ve never lost? Raw ugly emotions can just as easily be beautiful and fulfilling. But that rocks the boat, interferes with second and third marriages. Gets in the way of yoga class. This mass lobotomization of an entire generation has left the world with the bland mess we have before us. Cleverness will only get someone so far, and when it’s completely aimless, then what’s the point exactly? The point is that there is no point.

In fact, that there is no particular way to describe a Hipster fits perfectly with what the Hipster movement is all about: everything and nothing all at once. Which brings me to the “point” of my diatribe: what’s going to happen when the “someone” who takes care of everything is gone? What will happen when the pills wear off? What happens when rapid-fire living fails and irony just isn’t as clever as it used to be? In short, what happens when all of a sudden this generation becomes responsible for everything?

The wealthiest generation in American history – that is the Baby Boomers – is finally starting to retire/die and is leaving their money to the most hopeless and least educated generation in American history: the Millennials. What this means for the rest of the world, only time will tell. A pessimist by nature, I don’t expect anything good unless a mass change in social consciousness takes place. But what do I know?  If such a thing as the sociological equivalent of the efficient market hypothesis exists, then perhaps American society will simply right itself and all this was just the rambling of someone who’s having a hard time accepting that he’s getting old.