Monday, August 19, 2013

What's Wrong With America (in 1200 words or less)

After living the UK for a year and a half, I find I still encounter a barrage of questions about being American. Recently, most of these questions stem from a cultural perspective, rather than political, what with such news tidbits as the Paula Deen incident floating around, the George Zimmerman verdict, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (finally, some might say) arriving on British TV. I think the core most of the enquiries I get are "Why?"

  • Why are people like that? (like what?)
  • Why is this funny? (is it?)
Now before I go proliferating incorrect stereotypes, let me just say that Europeans don't make fun of Americans by and large; nobody in Europe truly "hates" America, including the French. It's just that America tends to have the biggest mouth of the moment, and most of the world, being older, more historical and possessing eons more generations of culture, simply wonders why. 
As a writer, I tend to take a matter's temperature by the words used around it, from headlines to the way people describe incidents in interviews, and I think one of the biggest problems with the American culture is in the motivation that drives it, that compels it to want things, idealise these things, and believe they can and should have these things; when they don't, all hell breaks loose and on the popular scale, everybody is just miserable. 

I think this situation can best be summed up in two words that, as of 2013, have been so subverted, we see them on a daily basis and it just feeds the hearts of Americans the kool-aid that keeps them hooked. These two words are "hero" and "Christian."
Hero is a word we see every single day in virtually every American-based news outlet. There are big heroes, little heroes, national heroes and local heroes, but regardless of their geographical significance, these people are called such because of an incident where they allegedly showed exceptional bravery and balked in the face of the cowardice "all of us readers" would, no doubt, have succumbed to. But it wasn't so long ago when a "hero" was something much grander, that one aspired to, rather than label oneself in one's Facebook status, or allow to be pinned by their local newspaper. Superman was a hero, a mythical creature that represented courage and honor.
The funny thing is, the term "hero" has its roots in ancient Greek, as the term used to describe a demigod, a semi-divine child that was the product of a god and a mortal, who just sat back and did their demigod thing, collecting praise and genuflection all day long. 
Which isn't too far from how heroes are described today. 
Now everybody can be a hero--wait for it--as long as someone else says they are. In order for one to wear the symbolic badge of heroism, one must first be given that term by another individual with an influential tongue. So before you go earning your hero badge by saving that cat stuck in a tree or telling that boy the dangers of hanging out with men who wear salmon coloured pants, make sure you're in good with the headline writer of your local paper. 
I'm sure there are even some who would call George Zimmerman a hero. I mean, did you hear he put his life on the line by emerging from hiding to rescue some guy from an overturned truck?
And then there's Christian, by far my favourite--both the reason and the excuse for so much. How often do we hear "It's because I'm a Christian!" or "I can't do that because I'm Christian." The reason and the excuse.
What is a Christian? Traditionally, it's an abstract term used to describe people who, in theory, subscribe and attempt to imitate the teachings of Jesus Christ, who go to church apparently because they want to, who donate 10% of their income to their parish because they want to, and who help people left and right because they want to, out of the goodness of their heart.
Yeah, maybe that was the case when Jesus was still alive, but with the crucifixion went the "because they want to" because after he died, it was all about the guilt. They "follow" Jesus because they feel like they have to, the power of guilt compels them, and they quote Jesus and the Bible on a daily basis, yet that live their everyday lives and political careers denying masses of people their basic human right to love. Who are told by their saviour to deny no one, but turn a blind eye to every homeless person that crosses their path. Condemns abortion because that would make them baby-killers, but happily condemning a man to the electric chair because the other 11 people are convinced he's guilty. 
Let's check in with middle-American correspondent Marguerite Perrin on the state of who is and who is not a Christian in that lovely stretch of states we call the Bible Belt, shall we? Marguerite, take it away:

Thank you, Marguerite. "Because she's not a Christian," she says, so she must be evil, right? Yet last I checked, Jesus, the dude with the "Christ" affixed to the latter part of his name who inspired this illustrious title, hung out with all kinds of riff raff, even those thought to be "evil." I mean, according to some, he even married one of them, that whore Mary Magdalene, after chilling with the lepers and tax collectors and other menaces of society. But I could see how easy it is to overlook such silly details like that, especially seeing as how they can obstruct one's quest to be a hero!
So how does it all add up to constitute one of the things that's wrong with America? Here's how.
It's ironic that a generation in which the most advanced technology known to man is readily available to the mere commoner is also severely in need of a lexiconic upgrade.

Both "hero" and "Christian" have evolved from words with real meaning, symbolism and and a grand brand in our minds, to something subversive and idealised, something we feel we can have and say we follow, yet that never feels like we've attained it because we're only after it as a way to quell our fears of being individual. We are born into societal oppression: some cope, living quiet lives and finding fulfilment in everyday things, while others focus every cell in their body to somehow standing out, getting noticed for their individuality. Yet deep down, we all know we are individuals, and want to be seen as such. So we take one of two routes: we either aim to be heroes, making folly after folly along the way and never really feel like the Superman we visualise ourselves to be, or we join the pack of sheep, calling ourselves "Christian" (among many other names) and condemn others who dare to be different, who dare to stand outside of the flock and embrace their individuality, out of our own bitterness. And both paths lead to perpetual unfulfilment. The void in our hearts never gets filled, and the misery passes down through generation after generation.

And that, my dear friends, is only the beginning. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

hidden blessings

i think it's amazing how, during the worst of things, the best of things may actually be happening.

i've always been a forthright optimist, attempting to sow the seeds of positivity everywhere i go, mainly so people would be nicer to me (don't all gay kids fall into this trap?) and this optimism grew to eventually categorise me as "one of those people who are happy all the time" as an adult (though for far nobler causes than affecting one's attitude toward myself). a side effect of always seeing the glass half full, the rainbow amongst the clouds, etc. has been the ability to lessen pain with the promise of pleasure. this morning, as i was about to make coffee, a thought occurred to me: i do this every day. i drink coffee or tea virtually every day. i'm no caffeine hound (one or two cups of either in the morning suffices) but i do enjoy this daily ritual. a nagging thought followed, however, that made me realise i probably have a small addiction to caffeine, detected only by the immense headache that would probably result from me not claiming my morning fix. but then i further realised this may not be the case. the only days i don't start my morning with a dose of caffeine are those when i can't ingest anything solid, like when i'm hungover. and by the time the pain and nausea subside and the appetite sets in, the last thing i want is caffeine.

so i deduced, essentially, that by disrupting the regularity of my daily caffeine intake, the occasional hangover prevents me from forming an actual dependence, thus saving me from all-out addiction.

now i said i see life with the glass half full, not half-stupid, so i obviously recognise this may indicate another bit of a problem a'brewing, but there's always the health-boosting, anti-aging benefits of resveratrol to consider as a redeeming factor, or the queen mother's 70 units of alcohol per week being responsible for her living to 103 ripe years of age.


Friday, May 24, 2013

you know who else has bitchface?

laura dern, that's who. 'cause even when she is smiling she looks like could be clenching a knife in her fist.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

a few notes on bitchface

walking down the street the other day, i was approached by a friend who said he had seen me walking in the distance for a while before approaching me, but hesitated at first because he wasn't sure it was me.
was it my hair? no--same wispy nest as always.
my body? no, I'd only been working out a month or so--i couldn't expect anything too drastic so soon.
my gait? nah, even though my back had been giving me trouble for a few days, giving my frame a slight skew to the right, it wasn't anything that would give the illusion I was anything but normal.

then, like an unexpected smile at a funeral, it hit me: it WAS my smile! i had been smiling.

"was it because i was smiling?" i asked. at first, this question seemed odd to him. his mind was probably replaying scenes from our past encounters that may have contained some story about a genetic muscle disease in my face that prohibits smiles from forming, or something like that.

a semi-awkward conversation later and all was ironed out. but yeah, how funny? not being recognised because the lady gaga blasting in my ears gave my usual bitchface the heave ho for the day.

a few more notes on bitchface:

  • there is no clear correlation between one's actual mood and the expression of dismay so universally associated with bitchface.
  • it's much more common than you'd think; for proof of this, simply ask the next person wearing a profuse downturned-smile how he or she actually is feeling. there is an 84% chance they'd say, "great!" it's just that their body chooses to display it in iterations beyond their facial expression.
  • actual causes of bitchface vary, from underdeveloped facial muscles to a squint brought on by poor vision that is accompanied by a subsequent frown, leading to a mask that says nothing but "tsk" and "disapproval." additionally, some people's faces are just made like that. don't hate.
and that, my dear friends, is the state of those of us with bitchface.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

work it out

so here i am at the gym, commencing what was to be an intense leg workout with a nice dose of cardio on the treadmill. i turn on the machine, increase the grade, turn up the speed, and was on my merry way. despite the headphones in my ears playing my carefully selected 'workout' playlist, i look up to the six televisions positioned at the front of the cardio area for a little visual stimulation. on one is a cooking show where some rotund chef is going rather heavy on the blue cheese. just what i want to see as i'm trying to build up the will to run a solid three miles of warm-up. on the next is a nature program showing two guys fishing in a river. the next TV, dedicated solely to showing MTV, features a music video with yet another mohawked and sassy-red-lipsticked female singer. (ya can't all be pink, ladies). on the next TV is an episode of "the big bang theory," a show i've likened to the fun of a colonoscopy. and then, on TV no 5, my attention is bludgeoned into a very anti-climactic sobriety as i both see and read, thanks to subtitles, a slew of bangladeshi stuck in the rubble of the collapsed building. poor people with bloody faces begging to be rescued from their stony graves. this is a terrible thing, yes, but not what i need to see at the gym. i look away, focusing back on my music, allowing madonna to realign me to the rigor of my workout, when my eyes are drawn back up at the television. no more horrific scenes of the building collapse and the corpses surrounding it, thank goodness, but instead an uplifting slideshow of images depicting the newly-discovered chemical warfare going on in syria. people bound to tables with tubes sticking out of their bodies, their faces twisted into grotesque expressions of fear and pain. anger swelled up inside of me. i checked in with myself, and was relieved to find the bulk of my anger lied in the fact that such horrible things are happening in the world and not in the fact that my gym was showing such programming (reality) in an environment that thrives on, shall we say, more motivational distractions.

but still.

i read the news several times a day. i know the wonders as well as the horrors of the world, and pride myself in dedicating a good deal of my time affecting change in the right direction. but this dreadful news coverage was only the strongest color of a spectrum of completely inappropriate fitness center programming. instead of cooking shows about blue cheese, show a travel program and give people motivation to achieve a bikini body. how about one of those first-person camera programs that tour a famous road or city, so it looks like you are actually running through it yourself? the MTV is basically faultless, but something can be said for the fishing show (buzzkill and a half) as well as the content of the sixth television, that i barely had the faculties to notice, on account of the blood stains marking my retinas, which showed an episode of east enders. again, remarkable programming, but personal drama, however captivating when enjoyed with a glass of red in one's living room, has no place in motivating one to pump one's blood and get all crazy in the gym.

i think i need to write a letter.


Friday, February 22, 2013

mean girls

a yoga class is a whole new level of mean girls. a room full of (mostly) women, supposedly all attending with the common goal of achieving spiritual harmony and all, beaming evil "i got here before you" half-smiles to fellow yogateers, showing off mediocre stretches to intimate they take private lessons on the side, and flashing the lululemon logo around like it's the prada triangle.
they show up to a yoga class with a full face of makeup, soldered onto their faces and sealed with aqua net, to ensure nothing drips as they're downward dogging, sit on their mat for pre-class banter, and position themselves atop a perky butt, boobs safely held behind the latest overpriced lululemon biodynamic yoga crop top and perform their warm-up stretches, reaffirming their mat placement every few stretches with a sly look that canvasses every square inch of the room.

yogabitches. ain't nobody got time fah dat.


Thursday, February 21, 2013


a thought crossed my mind today, and after i analysed it in my true, over-analysing fashion, i was quite happy with the diagnosis: if madonna were to ask me to dinner, i would not be nervous. i figured i am an interesting person--i am interesting--i am unique, and i have quite a story of my own to tell, so just because i'm not madonna doesn't mean i can't be appealing to madonna. ('cause that's basically what would give someone about to meet madonna a hemorrhoid). although we do have plenty in common. i am opinionated, loud, yet somewhat refined. so there's that.

i would most likely give her the liberty to begin the conversation, out of gallant consideration, of course, as well as the curiosity over the fact that she asked me to dinner (which is the way i saw it happening. this is my fantasy, remember). it would most likely be a result of something noteworthy i had done, like the book i would have written, that got her attention. and, as she is madonna, she fed her thirst to know more about the fascinating person that captured such attention, using the ubiquitous power of being madonna to simply request the presence of the person or the wordsmith or whatever, fully knowing they would respond positively and promptly.

i'd definitely tell her about the BRYANAMBITION phase and the senior thesis that hatched the phenomenon, but only after a certain amount of of alcohol had been consumed and allowed to work its magic because, after all, there's a certain threshold surrounding that woman that isn't surmountable without a little social lubricant. she's like medusa. she won't turn you to stone, but she can make the testicles reascend (another expectation of mine). ain't nobody got time for that!


where do i begin...

where do iiiii staaaaaart?

so it's been ages, and for good reason! i moved to a different country. shit's hard. and stressful. nuclear stressful. 

but after so much thought, procrastination, deliberation, and hesitation (in no particular order), i decided to finally start blogging again. i went through this phase where i thought, "why would anyone want to read what i have to write?" despite the fact that the gilded tongue is over 220 entries old. i suppose this phase was spurned by the relentless wave of "who gives a shit" statuses i read each time i check into Facebook. more specifically, the ones where people felt the need to rub in their good fortune, like "NYC to LAX in my favourite seat, Delta A1!" and the only people who actually comment are their "friends" who live in said writer's sad little hometown who are more jealous of than happy for them, but manage to passive-aggressively express both under the guise of a bland "have fun, mate!" (as if anyone in america ever says "mate," but if there's anything i've learned from living abroad, it's that americans tend to supplement their speech with foreign words and accents in times of shyness or anxiety, as if acting a part gives them temporary reprise from...nevermind). i just got myself in a bit of a tizzy explaining all of this, which serves as proof of the very entity that stood between my brilliant mind and my shaky fingers.

but back i am, i hope, and i feel lighter of mind, warmer of heart and, shall we say, possess shoes with bigger treads that allow me to easily trample over, rather than muddle in, the angst that drove a lot of what i wrote before.

so i shall say what comes to my mind without believing one day it will make a great book because, even though it might, that's not living in the present, and i didn't just spend £32 on a new meditation cushion to be thinking about some big publishing company payout that may or may not happen and allow it to stifle my speech. 

to the veterans, welcome back. to the newcomers, strap it on or snap it in or whatever one would do to secure oneself, 'cause it's going to be a bumpy ride. to all, thank you for being here. i am happy and honoured that you care what i have to say.

bmli ;-)