Secret Pop

Sep 20, 2012

Your Cake and Eat It, Too

Your Cake and Eat It, Too

"Your cake and eat it, too." I had cause to use this phrase to describe something recently, and it occurred to me what an inane idiom it is. If I'm going to have cake, of course I'd like to eat it, too. And yet whenever someone accuses you of wanting to have your cake and eat it, too, the implication is that you breached a covenant of the social compact. You're greedy. You decided you're entitled to a different set of circumstances than everyone else. And what's more, you are an anomaly. NO ONE ELSE wants to have their cake and also eat it. We're ALL perfectly comfortable with one thing or the other. I will have my cake, or I will eat my cake. But as God is my witness, I WILL NOT DO BOTH.

You'll pardon me while I sway a little further in the literal direction, but I don't actually like cake much. So I'm neither inclined to have it nor eat it particularly often. And if this is a metaphor, I guess that says something about whether I take more than what's coming to me or believe I deserve special accommodation, and I would say that metaphor has some truth to it. I am so tightly wound around the pillar of fairness it's crippling at times. I expect it, strive for it, and believe in its possibility, despite the countless times so far I've been served a slice of cake that had the words "Life Isn't Fair" scripted on its icing in a bright sugary extrusion of curly cursive.

Things are not generally fair. Fairness is not the stuff of storytelling. Or when it is, the stories are decidedly jejune. And we don't generally root just for what's fair. We root for what's heroic. Who even gets out of bed in the morning for fair. Well, me, I guess. And even so, I seldom get it. But it's possible my insistence on wanting what's fair originates somewhere in this murky soup of cinematic upbringing that has been my second life. A black hat/white hat world where we see both sides. We see what happens in secret. We know when someone is lying And we all know exactly the same things.

My parents loved Taken. It's actually hilarious to watch them eat it up, because in that film -- spoiler alert -- everybody gets what's coming to them. To an absurd degree. To a laughable, comical, absurd degree. And they loved it. Watching Taken was not especially my favorite thing. But watching my parents watch Taken -- that was the stuff of dreams.

The trick with movies is that we all generally root for the same person. We root for the figure we're supposed to root for. It's disruptive when a filmmaker tells us a story where the good guy doesn't prevail. It's a breach of trust. Or it's a tragedy. Or it's German. It's part of what sucked about the Prequels. It's why it's no fun to watch Law and Order episodes where Jack McCoy learns that the system isn't perfect or where juries decide it's acceptable for someone to get away with murder. That's called jury nullification, by the way. Even unsatisfying moments in procedural television can be comfortingly educational.

But the point is life isn't like that. The point is you don't get the admiration of the audience for being forgiving or for being heroic or for letting people get away with murder. The point is that metaphoric cake I'm having but not eating, or eating but not having, or neither having nor eating should actually say, "Life Is Not the Movies." The endings are not always happy. The good guy does not always win. You don't get to see what people say about you at your funeral. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones and later Devo: Satisfaction is a Western construct. Would anyone care for cake?

Sep 15, 2012

The Beginnings of the Ends of Things

The Beginnings of the Ends of Things

I don't know how I got so rusty, but the habit of writing things I think in anything but the briefest of bursts has fallen away from me with disturbing completeness. And here I am, ineptly marshalling all those unexcised words -- the things I'm always thinking, the conversations I'm always having, like a practice game of chess where you play both sides of the board and can only ever win and lose at the same time.

It's September. It used to be November for me. November was the month of melancholy. All my memories of loss and disappointment seemed to crowd around the eleventh month on calendar pages of the past. But today, it's September. And today, I'm realizing that if you live long enough, and ill-advisedly allow yourself to get your hopes up enough, you'll be disappointed plenty in all of the various months, and disaffectedness will not be necessarily seasonal. It's a law of averages thing.

It's September. But the melancholy mood lacks the clear causality of melancholy moods past. It isn't just one thing anymore. In a way, I covet those days when things were so seemingly clear and dire. Maybe clarity is a luxury of the naïve. Things are not clear. They are infinitely cloudy. Infinitely complex. The solutions are infinite. And possibly unknowable.

When we write, we either want to be saying something very timely or something timeless. When we publish our thoughts, we want to be the first to have the idea in a moment of great meaning, or we want to coin the idioms that will pepper the English of others long into the future. Well, some of us want these things. There are also plenty of people publishing today who are content to string a few words together. There are people today who are content to seek the attention of strangers just to say they're going to bed now. I hope it's fair to say that we are in danger of evolving past artistry altogether. But then, the value of a moment or a thought or a poignant turn of phrase is not uniform. And the only hope of not flailing to death in frustration is to try and regularly talk to at least one or two other people who see the same value that you do, however high or low it is. A shared sense of what is and isn't good, what is and isn't important. It's the only thing that matters.

There are a slew of draft posts pending in my blog account. They date back years. But the new thing that makes them update to today's date each time you open them makes me fear I'll destroy my own history just by trying to consider it. Sometimes I need to know when I felt that way as much as I need to know what I felt. It's a context thing. And another argument in favor of just writing shit down in a notebook like I used to.