Always Crashing in the Same Car

I keep driving around your building writing a letter to you in my head. Sometimes the words don’t come to me. Sometimes I can come up with a line or two that I’m proud of, that deliver the exact message I want you to receive, but I never get to write it down. All I have are some crumpled up McDonald’s receipts and a couple of pens from the bank that I steal from that little canister when I go through the drive-through. When I think of something good I try write it down on the materials I have available but the paper is too crumpled. Between red lights I try and straighten it out on the steering wheel but I can’t get it quite right. When I do get one of the receipts right the light turns green or it is too dark where I am to write it down. Then I forget the idea.

I could always just park somewhere. How hard could that be? Just park somewhere and write it out. Hell, there’s a pharmacy on every corner, I can just walk in and get some notebook, a fresh pen, and have the space to write out my thoughts. Hell, if I am to do all of that I can just go home.

I give up on the letter idea. It’s a little trite, isn’t it? Maybe there is some romantic idea of that being a thoughtful personal thing to do, but I don’t know. Living in the same city, knowing where you are, what reason is there to write a letter? I could just park in your building’s lot. I could just walk up to the door and buzz you and you would let me in. I would walk up the stairs to the third floor and avoid touching the handrails because of the one time you told me you were walking behind some woman down the stairs and she hocked a loogie in hand and rubbed it off on the handrail you were using. I could use my stupid coded knock rhythm that I picked up from my uncle when I was eight. You would open the door with the rolling of your eyes and a smile. You would let me in and I would go to the fridge and check for your leftovers. You would tell me what was in there and then make it for me not out of kindness, but because I always make a mess. You would tell me about your day, who pissed you off, who you pissed off and how you didn’t care, and I would pretend to care. You know that, but you don’t care. You know it isn’t personal. I would eat the food you reheated for me, make a second plate, and make the exact mess you were hoping to avoid. You would make me clean it, but I would do a shitty job so you would grab the rag for me and call me useless. You would only half mean it.

We would go sit on the couch and put on some sort of tv show we have watched a thousand times and I would rant and rave to you about some bullshit, bullshit you aren’t interested in but I am passionate about. I know you don’t care. I don’t care. I know it isn’t personal. The conversation would continue, and while you didn’t care you were still listening. You would pick up a word or phrase of what I said and it would take you back. It would take you back to something I did that wasn’t so wonderful. It would make you mad. You would be right to be mad. I wouldn’t know how to make up for it. Even if you never say anything in the moment, I would know that you hated me. We would get tired and go to bed. We would have sex, or maybe not. We would fall asleep, and you would hate me.

So back to the letter. I’m still driving around. I keep looking at your building. I have a horrible conception of relative space, but I know which apartment is yours by the awful dying plant your Mom got you that you never wanted. I don’t park. I don’t write the letter. I don’t want to. It just feels worse than speaking words. I can’t go upstairs either. You would let me in. I don’t want to make you hate me again.

 

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Dave Chappelle, Rape Jokes, and Time

They’ll say, “You can’t joke about rape. Rape’s not funny.” I say, “Fuck you, I think it’s hilarious. How do you like that?” I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. See? Hey, why do you think they call him “Porky,” eh? I know what you’re going to say. “Elmer was asking for it. Elmer was coming on to Porky. Porky couldn’t help himself, he got a hard-on, he got horny, he lost control, he went out of his mind.

A lot of men talk like that. A lot of men think that way. They think it’s the woman’s fault. They like to blame the rape on the woman. Say, “She had it coming, she was wearing a short skirt.” These guys think women ought to go to prison for being cock teasers: don’t seem fair to me.

– George Carlin, Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics (0:22, 1)

The Funny Rape Joke has been something of a white whale in comedy since Lenny Bruce taught comedians that they could venture into the blue. Quoted above, George Carlin performed a routine that got as close to a funny rape joke as possible, a Charles Blondin-esque tightrope walk. The paragraph that follows the above cited joke captures in the most succinct fashion his philosophy of how to make such jokes, and what qualifies as a joke in general.

Don’t seem right, but you can joke about it. I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is, what the exaggeration is. Because every joke needs one exaggeration; every joke needs one thing to be way out of proportion. (1:04, 1)

You can see that model applied to every joke Carlin or any other comedian has told in their career. You use that model yourself in every day life joking with friends and co-workers. When referring to the Porky Pig rape, the disproportionate exaggeration is the placing of beloved timeless cartoon characters in an extreme sexual position.

The argument against this joke being funny is a simple line drawn in the sand, one that is hard to disagree with. As always, I crowd source thoughts on social media about topics before writing and my sister offered that “The ridiculousness of the image of Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd is the fact it’s Porky Pig having sex with Elmer Fudd. That’s the funny part. The rape part, the necessary power dynamic that exists between the rapist and the victim, is still not funny.” The humor in the joke could remain without the rape. It could just be consensual intercourse and the absurdity remains. With this absurdity, nothing about Carlin’s model of a joke requires that it be imaginary. In fact, the real absurdities of human life are what comedians strive to point out and make light of. This brings us to Dave Chappelle.

In the first of his two Netflix Specials released earlier this month, The Age of Spin, Dave Chapelle recounts a half-assed pitch to hollywood executives about a superhero whose super powers can only be activated by touching a woman’s vagina. Unfortunately, the Super Hero is so ugly no woman would allow him to touch their vagina, so he is forced to rape them. However, this rape allows him to save tens of thousands of people, or as Dave puts “He saves more than he rapes.” Later in the performance, he speaks of his personal anguish coping with the reality of Bill Cosby’s alleged (though Chapelle admits, likely) rapes, “It would be as if you heard chocolate ice cream itself … had raped 54 people. You’d say to yourself, ‘Aw, but I like chocolate ice cream. I don’t want it to rape!’” Chappelle goes on to list off all the good Cosby has done for the world, his achievements as a black entertainer paving the way for people like himself. The good Cosby has done is undeniable. To wrap it up, Chappelle recalls his imagined superhero who saved more than he raped.

The special featured a frame tale regarding the four times he met OJ Simpson. Before the whole double-murder thing, OJ was a superstar much like Cosby. His fame in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s was as if you merged Tom Brady and Brad Pitt, then made him black. OJ was one of the first black cultural superheroes. Dave recalled early in his showbiz career after the trial shaking OJ’s hand whilst at a restaurant having dinner with showbiz people. His dining companions were aghast. His defense was similar, “he ran for over 10,000 yards.”

Needless to say, Chappelle’s jokes about rape were not well received. Over a week has passed since the special and it birthed numerous thinkpieces whether or not the rape jokes were okay. The overall consensus was no. Some publications were harsher than others. Lux Alptraum in Complex wrote “Abuse survivors are used to people treating their pain as collateral damage on some important man’s road to greatness. It’s just painful to see that kind of talk echoed by a man who claims to be a feminist” (2). Even kinder takes still offered some heat, as Michael Harriot wrote in The Root “The rapey transphobia came off as if he were trying to be shocking for shock’s sake. We wanted to fall in love again with the skinny, awkward outsider from 2003. It turns out we found a muscle-bound multimillionaire who just wanted a one-night stand” (3). The middle ground position and narrative take was captured by GQ’s Damon Young, writing:

He is a public figure whom we (black people) have collectively and justifiably circled the wagons for; sensitive to his wish for peace of mind, and his attempt to possess it; ultimately aiming to protect one of our icons from the scourge of capital letter Whiteness attempting to transmute him.

I just… I don’t know, I just would like for him to join us in 2017. There’s so much he can do here. (4)

Time. It’s the same sort of thing that is said about people we like when they say offensive thing, like when Alec Baldwin calls someone a faggot. It’s a product of the times he grew up in. It’s half reprimand, half excuse, all bull shit. But in fairness to Chappelle, the special was recorded in 2015 at the height of the Cosby scandal. At the time it was recorded it was timely, and it was doing a lot. In Young’s article he comments on Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain special and how the politics of some of the jokes made re-watching it uncomfortable. He acknowledges however that it is “an example of how comedies tend to be snapshots of a moment of time—reflections of the politics and the cultural zeitgeist when they were created” (4). This would have to apply to Dave Chappelle in 2015. The moral and ethical questions surrounding the Cosby rape was part of the zeitgeist.

The ethical questions of course, were not whether his actions were okay but how we are supposed to treat the legacy of a man who had committed such horrific crimes. Do we throw all of his contributions out? Do we scrub history of him? As a black celebrity Dave Chappelle is in a unique position to comment. Dave Chappelle makes a living on the achievements and groundwork laid by Bill Cosby and yes, even OJ Simpson. It would be absurd to expect Chappelle to throw out everything Cosby achieved. He would be throwing himself out with it. Even worse it would be unfair for him to pretend Cosby never existed, that the ground he is standing on was paved by some nameless gray face.

But at the end of the day, it is about the rape jokes. The Carlin Exaggerated Absurdity was present, and it was real. Maybe too real. Cosby sure did do a hell of a lot of good. Cosby also raped a hell of a lot of women. The topic was worthy of exploration from Chappelle, but Dave seemed awfully cavalier in talking about the rape. Maybe it was gallows humor, a man trying out loud to work out the struggle between what he knows he ought to feel in the present and the way he felt before, a man who himself has struggled with what it is to be a black celebrity, but it is unfair to dismiss Chappelle as someone who time has passed by.

Sources

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwMukKqx-Os
  2. http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2017/03/dave-chappelle-rape-jokes
  3. http://www.theroot.com/the-world-changed-but-dave-chappelle-didn-t-1793742273
  4. http://www.gq.com/story/dave-chappelle-netflix-standup

Finding the Right Words for the one who has the Best Words #1

The inspiration for the name of this page is President Donald Trump. In this series, by consulting friends and referring to historical precedent I attempt to find words, existing or of our crowd-sourced invention, to describe aspects of the Trump phenomenon.

What do you call it when someone tells indiscriminate lies? The sort of lies that don’t even help the person telling them? The sort of lies that can be disproven in real time? What do you call it when the liar continues to tell the same lie to the face of the individual who had just debunked their claim?

If you were to follow philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s lead you would call it bullshit . Frankfurt’s 1986 essay On Bullshit (later published in 2005 by Princeton University Press) seeks to define the concept of bullshit. Frankfurt defines bullshit as being unique from a lie or falsehood. The distinction is in the claim or action’s relationship to the truth. In short, a lie or a liar is beholden to reality. The liar makes false claims knowing that they are false in order to obscure an unflattering truth. A lie can be exposed as such. To preserve the lie more lies must be told. However with lies being tethered to truth in opposition, maintaining this web of lies becomes impossible. The knot unravels. Similar can be said of bullshit except there is no tying, just piling on. Bullshit holds no relationship to truth. Bullshit exists in utter indifference to what is real or isn’t. Where a lie can be unraveled, bullshit can take whatever form it needs. Much like actual bull feces, Frunkfurt notes, it is devoid of nutrients or anything valuable. A bullshitter can just keep shitting when confronted with reality. Reality is irrelevant (1).

Picking a single example of bullshit when it comes to Donald Trump is no more difficult than drawing breath. One of the most familiar instances of this is the Birtherism conspiracy. For those residing under rocks, during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign there were claims that Obama was not born in the United States but in Kenya, thus disqualifying him from the presidency. This claim of course is outright false and can be proven via government records and birth certificates. Trump at the time and on through Obama’s presidency was a leader in this field of conspiracy. In easily falsifiable conspiracies such as this there are three general categories of believers. There were people who were simply misinformed, there were those who knew it was not true and saw the benefit in being ambivalent regarding the theory’s truth, and those who did not care if it was true. Trump fit through door number three, a bovine rectum. Trump’s twitter feed was filled with wild claims to knowledge about Obama’s birth that would either be debunked or be entirely unfalsifiable themselves. Even when Obama relented and released his long-form birth certificate, Trump and other birthers claimed it was a fake. Trump went so far as to say he had personal investigators who found the truth (2). Needless to say he never released those revelations, because it was bullshit. Truth had nothing to do with it. It was an unyielding moving of the goal posts to where no amount of empirical evidence would ever be enough to debunk the claim.

If only it were so easy to stop at bullshit. Trump’s bullshit has a distinct quality. As opposed to bullshitting for the forces of good or evil, Trump bullshits for himself. The classic historical example of such Trumpian bullshit is the mystery surrounding his net worth. The Trump shtick relies on himself being viewed as a successful businessman. To Trump, his net worth is the easiest scoreboard to point to. The issue is that he claims the scoreboard reads something it doesn’t say. Trump keeps the scoreboard where only he can see it. It is no secret that Trump’s claims are dubious at best. Consider the following from the February 2016 article from the National Review regarding journalist and Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien’s statements regarding Trump’s net worth:

In 2004, O’Brien had co-authored a piece for the Times detailing Trump’s financial woes — he had recently filed for the third of what would be four Chapter 11 bankruptcies — and quoted anonymous sources who reported that Trump’s wealth was not nearly what he claimed; in fact, it was in the hundreds of millions, they said. (Contemporaneous reports in the Washington Post and Time magazine suggested the same.) Trump, meanwhile, notoriously unreliable in his own estimates, offered figures ranging from $1.7 billion to $9.5 billion. In TrumpNation, O’Brien cited those numbers, alongside “three people with direct knowledge of Donald’s finances” who estimated his wealth was “somewhere between $150 million and $250 million.” Trump denied it, in his usual colorful fashion: “You can go ahead and speak to guys who have four-hundred-pound wives at home who are jealous of me, but the guys who really know me know I’m a great builder.” (3)

Trump responded to O’Brien with a $5 billion lawsuit.

Not that the truth of the matter concerns Trump. Rest assured that if Trump really were worth $10 billion, he would claim he was worth $20 billion. If he were worth $20 billion, he would say $40 billion. It is an infinite regression of self-aggrandizing bullshit. That sentence serves as the definition for the word or phrase that this essay is searching for, an infinite regression of self-aggrandizing bullshit.

Upon settling on this definition for the phenomenon I was seeking to describe, I posed the question to social media in search for suggestions. My mother responded suggesting “cockalorum” which is a word for a self-important little man. This would no doubt describe the subject of this piece and the agent who would engage in the behavior being described. However, it was not quite it. A friend reminded me of a passage in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions where Vonegut remarks to another character that his penis is 5 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. The character responds that his penis is 800 miles long and 100 miles in diameter, but nearly all of it is in the fourth dimension. This captures the spirit of Trump’s infinite regress of self-aggrandizing bullshit, a gigantic claim characterized in such a way that evidence can not prove it false. Trump’s birther investigators found their proof in the fourth dimension. The phallic aspects of this passage only resonates further considering the prominence of candidate dick size during the 2016 Republican Primary.

With this, I have settled on Character Phallacy – the infinite regression of self-aggrandizing bullshit.

Sources

  1. http://www.csudh.edu/ccauthen/576f12/frankfurt__harry_-_on_bullshit.pdf
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/09/politics/donald-trump-birther/
  3. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431575/donald-trump-tim-obrien-courtroom-story

Sealand

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,

Ahoy,

I am the Secretary of State, Homeland Security, Interior, and Defense, Prime Minister, and the Dear Leader of the Principality of Sealand, Thomas Tuttle. I am writing to address the United Nation’s continued refusal to recognize the Principality of Sealand as a sovereign state and invite us to join the United Nations.

To, again, briefly state the case for the Principality of Sealand, firstly it must be acknowledged that Sealand is beyond three miles from the British mainland, and therefore is outside of England’s authority. England itself has acknowledged this truth and lays no claim to Sealand. If anything, the government of Sealand is doing Britain and the surrounding nations a favor by existing. To care for and govern territory in the middle of the ocean would be a burden upon respective governments and their citizens. Even the great colonizers such as America and England have no interest in Sealand due to the lack of natural resources (mind you, both historically pillaging nations are members of the UN). Lastly, looking at some of the scaliwags allowed into the UN, such as human rights disaster areas like Iran, most of Africa, Russia, and so on, exclusion is rather insulting. The Principality of Sealand has never invaded another sovereign nation, committed genocide on our own people, engaged in the use of chemical or nuclear weapons, nor have I personally plastered shirtless pictures of myself riding a bear into the hotel rooms of guests at the Olympics. All of the aforementioned charges, nearly every nation in you club have committed twice over. Sealand would be a proper addition with a unique perspective on world affairs, and is not run by and gang of criminals. While as of 2004 as many as 74 of your 184 members were “free” democracies (let’s not dare say what that makes the others), that’s a number that could always use some bolstering.

Sealand has made numerous overtures over the years in hopes of persuading yourself and your predecessor Kofi Annan to allow Sealand into the UN. We have sent you the finest salt-water taffies and fish we have to offer. We have offered numerous peace treaties and voiced support for the council despite the outcry of our citizens. When repeatedly denied, sure, we may have gotten carried away with attempted embargos and declarations of war (which mind you, our beef with Uganda has not tempered with time), but our intentions have always been pure.

However, I know now my efforts are in vain, but as the lone member of this nation I am quite lonesome, and could use the company. This man is an island. Though with my lack of loved ones and anyone to care for, I also have a valuable asset; time, all the time in the world to poke around the mainstay of the Sealand economy, our massive server farm, the world’s largest. Sealand is a popular destination for torrent websites, pornographic pages, and search engines because of our utter lack of regulation and relatively low taxes. The only regulation really is that I have access to what is on these servers, a minor clause which most companies are happy to oblige. I mean, I’m just one guy. With my ample time, I have been able to research the interests of many world leaders through their Internet browsing history. Samples of my findings are as follows:

  • Russian PM Vladimir Putin most often searches for “living with a micro-penis.”
  • Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad often submits articles such as “9 Problems Only Girls With Big Butts Will Understand” to Buzzfeed.
  • Pope John Paul II often posted on fan forums of the famed “Naughty Midget Nurses” adult film trilogy, favoring the third film “Anal Fist This”
  • The Dali Lama searches for “big black butts,” as do coincidentally most U.S. congress members in the South, regardless of party.
  • Former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton searches “Monica Lewinsky how to dismember body” on an hourly basis. Her husband former President Bill Clinton also searches the same name but followed with “upskirt pics.”
  • Former US President Barack Obama has a foot fetish
  • Former British Prime Minister David Cameron often views amputee pornography

I won’t even bother going into Trump. So that is enough for now. Though, I have one more. It seems that you, honorable Ban Ki-moon, do not believe there necessarily needs to be grass growing on the field to play ball, as it were.

To be candid, it would be a shame if I were not accepted to the United Nations by your next session. I can’t take another failure. It may break me. I might be forced to commit genocide on my people (myself I guess) and achieve the first full ethnic cleansing of any nation ever. It would also be a shame if, aside from having the blood of a nation on your hands (though I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling), I, in my last crazed act, sent this document and the evidence to every major news outlet in the world and expose your intense and passionate love of children.

I hope you sincerely consider my application,

– Secretary of State, Homeland Security, Interior, and Defense, Prime Minister, and the Dear Leader of the Principality of Sealand, Thomas Tuttle

A Cruise

By now the bodies have started to ooze, creating a pool of bile, urine, and shit on the Cinderella ballroom floor. Rigor mortis has set in making the makeshift nautical mass grave impossible to parse through. The hermetic seal nature of most cruise ships makes the full dissipation of the odor impossible. The only saving grace were the vents through which the stench travel out into the ocean air. God help us on the days where the wind is still.

Three weeks ago we set sail for Jamaica from Miami on a two-week Disney luxury cruise. It is the sort of simulacra scenario of my nightmares, but your perspective shifts when you have kids. They eat this shit up. Regardless of how you feel about Walt Disney’s history of anti-semitism or his work’s reinforcement of gender stereotypes, imprinting them on the minds of children for centuries to come, you can’t shake the feeling you get when you see your daughter’s eyes light up when she sees the characters from her movies and coloring books and bed sheets and lunch boxes and band aids and socks come to life. So you go.

In the days before ships were made of steel and still had sails, the worst disaster that could befall a vessel was a fire. It would spread in a matter of minutes with the wood feeding it like Popeye’s spinach. The boat’s movement would only fan the flames as they soon engulfed the sails leaving crew members to decide whether to jump and drown in the brisk waters, cling the a piece of driftwood and be baked to dried leather by the sun, or to burn. More often than not that decision was made for them.

On a Disney luxury cruise liner, the worst disaster is illness. Someone had boarded the ship without a clean bill of health. Nurses on the ship called it the worst strain of the stomach flu they had ever seen. Ask me how I know this. The flu was fatal not necessarily from the virus itself, but with every passenger shitting and vomiting his or her guts out, the plumbing in the entire ship stalled. Individuals resorted to relieving their bowels in trashc ans, potted plants,  even inside the heads of our beloved Goofy and Pluto. All of this because they were too embarrassed to admit they clogged their toilet. From this practice the entire ship became exposed to an unspeakable array of bacterium. We may as well have been eating raw chicken.

After most of the passengers contracted salmonella, they experienced similar yet more extreme symptoms of the flu. Passengers shat and vomited themselves to bone. More often than not the dehydration killed them. Everyone was horrified to eat the food on the ship due to its near certain exposure to fecal matter. This fear was justified considering that exact exposure killed most of the cooks themselves. People had decisions to make; drown, bake or burn, dehydration, starve, or suicide. Most people went with the latter two. There appeared to be more dignity in those options, though not always. Snow White jumped screaming off the top deck, not jumping far enough to reach the water as she is now currently occupying two of the ship’s decks. Grumpy Dwarf hanged himself, though evidence suggests it may have been auto-erotic asphyxiation.

So here I am, stacking bodies. Rather I’m rolling the bodies down the steps where Cinderella loses her glass slipper. I’m almost by myself now, as most of the ship’s crew left on lifeboats because they deemed the possibility of being found out in the ocean a stronger prospect for survival than remaining on the ship. They knew what was coming. They chose bake. I stayed with my daughter. I haven’t let out of her room. I told her she was grounded. I don’t want to ruin her vacation so every so often I’ll don a Donald Duck costume (really any costume not filled with vomit and excrement) and come by the room to cheer her up.

I knew I should have listened to my doctor when he told me not to go.

Welcome!

Greetings!

My name is TJ/Tom Burns and this is my blog. The purpose of this space is very much fluid. My primary intention for the page is for it to serve as a portfolio of sorts for my writing. However I feel that I will have a hard time resisting the urge to participate in the blogging experience. Friends of mine on Facebook would be happy for me to move my pontificating on all things politics, sports, and music elsewhere.

Speaking of politics, that is where most of my non-literary interests lie. The title of this blog is in reference to President Trump’s declaration as Candidate Trump that he has the best words. One could choose to view that as an ultra-meta bit of irony on his behalf, though we all know the truth. While the namesake of this page may occupy a large degree of the work here, my intention is to share thoughts and ideas on music, sports, and even some literature. Like I said, this is a fluid space.

This post itself may get buried as I intend to immediately post examples of some previous work as well as a new original piece which directly draws on the page’s name. I am easy to contact. If you find this content interesting, let me know. If you don’t, let me know. Most of all if you are interested in paying me for any of this, for the love of God let me know.

That’s enough for an introduction. Following this will be some of my words.

-TJ