Friday, June 27, 2008

Knowing What to Keep

I'm sitting here on my porch on a hot summer night with a beer, watching the fireflies and listening to some good music. Man, it doesn't get much better.

Saw The Wanted tonight.

Blood and gun battles in Chicago (in my old neighborhood! He snipes from one of the houses right next to the Wrigley Field stop!) and Angelina Jolie covered in tattoos and a great shirtless shot of James McAvovy (there should have been more of those).

Doesn't get much better than that, either.

It was just about worth the $10. First, let's get my biggest beef out of the way:

WTF???? There's only ONE female assassin? What is it with these fucking movies and "the girl"? Can we have more than one kick ass assassin woman in a movie, please? You know, a movie where they're kickass like Jolie instead of simpering, giggly little Charlie's Angels.

Anyway, James McAvovy is your typical washed out, broken down deskjockey (customer service rep), belittled by his boss (gross fat person caricature, very badly and lazily done; ok, that's another big beef I had). His girlfriend is fucking his best friend, he suffers from panic attacks.... your typical 21st century emasculated man.

Have I mentioned this is basically a superhero story?

One day, Jolie shows up and tells him he's a superhero... I mean, super assassin. He can shoot the wings off flies, curve bullets, hit impossible targets. His anxiety attacks are actually his superpower kicking in (seriously! I want my faulty immune system to actually be a superpower side-effect, seriously!). By medicating himself, he's been handicapping himself.

The solution to the cubicle bound, emasculated man?

Embrace the superkiller within.

It's fight club, baby.

And we all know how much I love fight club.

See, the thing is, I love this stupid shit. I love the underdog getting hit on by somebody hot, telling off their ex, standing up for themselves, become a super assassin... (

It's just...

It's just......

The first thing I thought was, "Hot damn, why didn't some hot guy every show up in my cubicle in Chicago and tell me I was a super assassin??? Cause that would be so fucking cool!!!"

See, you get these super wish fulfullment stories, these basic rites of passage for boys, and for guys they are these really powerful expressions of boy to man; growing up. You learn how to fight. You learn how to stand up to people. You take the power of life and death in your hands. You fight, you fuck, you kill, you have superpowers, you rule the fucking world.

And then you get these "chick flicks" aimed at young girls, with actual female heroines, that show our rite of passage as... getting some hot guy to marry us.

I mean seriously! So we can have babies and pick up socks and be "that bitch he nags about at work."

I mean, WTF?

And then people wonder why there's this stereotype about women feeling anxious and neurotic all the time.

It's because we're supressing our superpowers, yo (she says, cracking open her second beer. mmmm I have been hording this six pack of Negra Modelo for a month).

The first thing I thought was, "This would make a great comic book. How about Nyx has a daughter she doesn't know about who's a tax clerk, and her boyfriend's fucking somebody else (one of her former girlfriends??), and she gets shit on all day, and then one day this bel dame comes up to her and tells her she's a super assassin, and she gets to take control of her life and kick some ass and kick her boyfriend in the face and tell her boss to suck it."

Because this is a great story. It's great superhero wish fulfillment in a society where we have to supress every harsh, unhappy, uncivil, angry, violent impulse to live in an ordered, civilized world (I'm not knocking it. That's necessary for civilization, but hot damn it needs an outlet, hence my love of Fight Club). So instead we just numb and drug ourselves on video games and mortgages, and one day you wake up and realize you've settled for some life you never wanted or asked for (I'm not in this place, but I know a lot of people who are). Turns out, in fact, the movie was based on a comic book (which is now on my wish list).

Being based on a comic book may also explain that whole "only one female assassin" thing. Comic books are even worse than regular media with that whole "oh hey, sorry, didn't you know that the only women in the world are the chicks the male protagonist is fucking?"

What did I love about this movie, besides all the blood and gore and assassins and gun fighting (and James McAvoy? and kickass Jolie?).

I liked that I walked out of the movie wanting to be better than I am. Wanting to make the most of what I have.

Because we all really do have superpowers. We have something we're good at, passionate about, something we push back or suppress because people tell us we're weird, or we'll never make it, or we're not talented enough, or special enough, that that kind of life is meant for somebody else. We're told that we'll fail. Are you some kind of arrogant bitch, to think you'll get anywhere? Are you delusional? You're just some fat, plainfaced nobody. Get over yourself.

And they scream it at you, you know why? Because if you fail, you validate their hollow, cowardly little choices. The cowardly fear of failure that stuck them all in the lives they hate and got them screaming at you in the first place.

You know what?

Your life is yours. You're not doomed to never-ending rent, a spouse who cheats on you, a deadend job, an abusive boss, a life empty of everything save jelly doughuts.

You can build another life.

Thing is, too many people wait around for a hot Jolie or some rich Prince Nothing to deliver them from their own soft little lives. In that, this movie disappointed a bit. He was "rescued" from his dull life, in essence, by Jolie.

I mean, hello, "Hi, I knew your dad. Guess what? You're a super assassin!"

But watch what they did with that at the end. Watch the choice he was given, and the choice he made.

We are all given that same choice, every day. To do what is safe, expected. To marry the safest choice, to do the practical thing. To give up what's in our heart for shit we don't want and stuff we don't need.

I look at my life. What I've done, what I've made, the choices. I want to live bigger and bolder and louder. It's been hard to come this far. It's hard, sometimes, to look at my peers and go, "Isn't that what I should want? Am I weird for not having that? Or even wanting that? Is it weird that I'd rather build a book career and go to Peru than get married and have kids and work at this job forever (even though I like it - cozy as it is, this is a stepping stone to bigger things; that's my plan. Sure, it may fail. But if you're not aiming big, what the fuck are you doing still breathing)? Is it selfish and fucked up? Or is it just me, following that drive for something else, better, more, everything I can be?"

My path isn't everybody's. I have a long way to go. There are things I should have done differently (much of it to do with CC debt and friendships), but you can live a little wild so long as you're willing to fail. And fail. And repair. And then fail again. That's what it is, to strive for the best you can be. One long series of failures.

What's the quote?

"Creativity is allowing yourself to fail. Art is knowing what to keep."

Life is knowing what to keep.

Conversations with My Coworkers

Coworker: "I know I look old, but would you believe I'm going to be 30 in a week?"

Me: "Holy crap, you're only a little more than a year older than me? I thought you were ancient, like the DB guy."

Coworker: "Great, thanks."

Me: "Know what I'm doing for my 30th birthday?

Coworker: ?

Me: "Going to Peru."

Coworker: (dubious, like I'm trying to pull one over one him) "Are you serious??"

Why wouldn't I be serious???

Sometimes I think I live in a different world than most people. I think I've just made really different choices.

Thought Experiment

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