Nihilism Presented by Jerry Seinfeld

Anyone that knows me well knows that Seinfeld is my shiet. For one, it’s hands-down the funniest show in the history of TV. (I can’t help you if you like Big Bang Theory.) Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the unspoken, tacit, existential, misanthropic, nihilistic worldview of the show speaks to me in a way unrivaled by any other work of art–save for most things Woody Allen has done (including his collection of short stories), and Albert Camus’s The Stranger. (Here’s a fun fact: ever notice any similarities between Seinfeld‘s last episode and The Stranger? It’s no coincidence. The episode parodies the book.)

Well, recently I was watching an episode from Jerry Seinfeld’s latest project, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Great as the concept for that show is, it doesn’t hit me in a way the abovementioned works ever hit me–but nor do I think that was ever Jerry’s intention. It’s just a show in which you get to watch two people eating food and driving in a car. There’s not really that much to be moved by.

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That is, until I watched the episode from Season 3 featuring Sarah Silverman, specifically the below dialogue (there’s no background or scene that needs setting up; the two of them are just sitting at a table eating their food and chatting):

SS: I went through a terrible depression. I remember my step-father asking me, “What does it feel like?”

Jerry, instead of replying to Sarah, turns to the waiter.

JS: Excuse me. May I have some half-and-half?

Only after this very important request does Jerry acknowledge Sarah.

JS: I’m sorry.

SS (upset): Of all the stories! “I went through a terrible depression–” “Excuse me. Can I get some half-and-half?” Was it that much of an emergency?

And here’s where my man J-Sein drops the fucking bomb, one of the dopest lines I’ve ever heard from anyone in any place at any time. 

JS: In the comedian’s view of life, those things are kind of equal.

Those things are kind of equal? Depression and half-and-half?

Absolutely.

“‘Inappropriate’ Is a Vaginal Word” Part One: Humble Beginnings of a Vaggie, Self-Hating “Man”

“‘Inappropriate’ is a vaginal word”—the way it sounds is just MUAH. I wish I could claim authorship over the phrase, but unfortunately I’m just not that great of a wordsmith yet. No, the above poetry belongs to the late Patrice O’Neal, who cast the statement while highlighting undesirable male behavior in his 2011 stand-up special “Elephant in the Room.”

“I’m a neanderthal, okay? They’re taking away what I used to just automatically think and feel, and now they just take it away from you. So that now even you look at dudes like me, older dudes, and go, ‘Oh, you’re—’ It’s like self-policing. Men go, ‘Oh, that’s not—you shouldn’t…’

“Like, ‘inappropiate’ is a vaginal word. Like, that’s not a word… (in a self-righteous voice) ‘THAT IS INAPPROPRIATE.’ Is that coming from a man? Women say that. That’s women’s job.”

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder—or so they say. What I might find dope or hilarious could be the very thing that makes you want to throw up. Such is probably the case with Patrice’s quote. From the point of view of a feminist, and probably the modern “man,” the comedian has committed the ultimate crime of sexism in employing rhetoric that relies completely on all the implications the word “vaginal” excites for its derogatory power.

And the primary implication: that Patrice’s “vaginal” not only supports the existence and cementation of gender roles, but that it also enjoins men not to deviate too far from the cock-shaped border of masculinity, lest they be judged or punished for overstepping into the foreign, lesser territory that society (“patriarchy!”) has arbitrarily gerrymandered.

In other words, Patrice’s is a loaded statement.

Compound that annually. If you’re like me, if you too were reared from conception by a single mother forced not only to cook but to play catch as well, if you too are now in your 20s, and if you too spent your formative years in the clutch of a Top Five hipster/liberal cesspool in all the world—Seattle, WA—home to the genetic engineering experiment responsible for the breeding of every Gawker, Jezebel and Buzzfeed writer on staff, then when someone declares, “‘Inappropriate’ is a vaginal word,” you don’t get to have a choice: you’re offended to the marrow in your bones; you’re so pissed we can see the steam rising from your shit, and by now you’ve already cooked up a hundred finger-wagging admonitions ready to serve Patrice O’Neal, that fat motherfucking sexist pig.

Oh my God. That is sooo offensive, especially to women.

Male privilege much?

You’re reinforcing and helping to keep in place patriarchy and sexism against women around the world. And you’re doing it all for a laugh!

Aren’t you ashamed?

Don’t you feel bad?

How do you live with yourself?

Embarrassing as it is to concede, this was me from the very moment I had my first “thought” about politics, society and what it meant to be a morally decent person. I had queued up properly like a nice little boy, without any sort of deviance, in the line farthest to the LEFT. Equality-this, communism-that, power to the people, “barcodes, that’s the sign of the beast,” men are swine and women sacred, bottom line.

And then I took the red pill.

How this watershed moment came about is very important, but I’ll save the story for another post. At present, suffice it to say that the law of cause and effect is still immutable, still posting a zero in the loss column. Globe hopping in the last two years—from Seattle to Brooklyn in 2012, then Brooklyn to Taiwan in 2013, where I’m still residing—has completely and radically transformed the beliefs I once thought to be indestructible.

A year ago Patrice’s “vaginal” line would’ve offended me deeply. I’m not even his intended target but none the matter; the white knight in me would’ve been offended on behalf of all the women in the world who so bravely endure each day as the uphill battle patriarchy has designed it to be.

Now I’m like, “FUCK THAT SHIT.” I’m completely on board with Patrice’s implications supporting distinct gender roles. It was the drastic change I made in the second half of 2013, the year’s atheism, the latest eye opener that’s been eating up the majority of my thoughts ever since. It’s so simple! Men should get women, not behave like them. We should be masculine, and women feminine. What a revolutionary fucking idea!

The problem is I’m not even being sarcastic. Sincerity has a stranglehold on my every word, and the bulk of attribution rests on the flimsy, narrow shoulders of this politically “perfect” epoch. (“Correct” no longer suffices as a word to illustrate just how impactful feminism has been in altering what it means to hold the “right” belief.) In the age where feelings 11 times out 10 trump truth, where the most common words in the English language are some version of “I’m offended by that,” where jokes are no longer jokes and free speech is about as free as subprime lending rates, the very idea of human beings conforming to, and fulfilling on their respective gender roles, is not just obsolete, it’s—surprise, surprise—grossly offensive.

Enter Butch and all her “big-boned” progressive friends.

These are the ladies to hold accountable for Western civilization’s steep and tragic plunge: those shoving the tenets of feminism so far up the mainstream asshole you’d think rape were the dominant mode of procreation.

Because that’s what’s happening now. Twisted and greedy, deluded and ruthless, low on verity but high as hell off self-esteem, 21st-century girl power looks exactly like Tony Montana after climbing coke mountain. These cunts got “THE WORLD IS YOURS” tattooed across their brains; they’re levitating above sky, getting away with the murder of every John Smith Testicle, and “bitch, YOU go make ME a sandwich.” They’re not just fighting to up the vaginal collective at the expense of the phallus-wielding enemy; they’re going flights of stairs farther by telling a single horrible lie that’s every day being propagated and sold as truth.

They’re telling us that gender is nothing but a social construct, that it’s made up and if Sally Sue and Tommy Tin were born in a vacuum, there’d be no difference between them except one would have bigger tits. (And if they’re especially hardcore, vegan-esque in their feminism, they’ll have the audacity to tell you it’s okay that Tommy’s the one with the larger bra.)

Of course it’s complete, utter nonsense. The biggest load of shit since the E. coli stools I was sitting on in the summer of ’98. Because I know better now,  but the first time they pitched the gender-as-a-social-construct argument to me, blind as I was at the time, I did what most vulnerable teens would’ve done in the same situation: opened wide and gagged repeatedly on the entire shaft of their doctrine like a little bitch.

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The year was 2008. I was taking a winter course at the University of Washington called Global Youth Studies with my girlfriend of two-plus years. It’s worth noting that back then I didn’t wear pants—my girlfriend wore enough of them for the both of us and my following her into this Global Youth course just exemplified this fact further. Our professor was a British bloke by the name of Craig Jeffrey and like most British men who can open their mouths and say things, he had me at “Hello.” It wasn’t till much later that I realized it was his accent that perpetually rendered him impervious to any polemic regarding his many theories and teachings—the most groundbreaking of which was his take on the issue of gender in society.

To bring more repute to his argument he enlisted the help of heavyweight social theorist Judith Butler, whose works include titles such as Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity; Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”; and Undoing Gender. According to Butler, gender is “a stylized repetition of acts…which are internally discontinuous…[so that] the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief” (Gender Trouble). In plainer words, gender is “real only to the extent that it is performed” (Gender Trouble).

I was floored when Prof. Jeffrey introduced all this in class. It really was an authentic revelation for me. I couldn’t believe my whole life up until that point had been a sham, a pretense, a “performative accomplishment” if you will, in which I was a sleepwalking actor taking stage direction from a screenplay called Brotein and Brodryers: A Manual on Getting Money and Fucking Bitches. My trying to be manly all the time wasn’t a product of nature or biology; it was social constructionism!

Everything seemed to be coming together for me, and at the perfect time too: as an awkward, lanky teen finally grows into his body after years of precarious evolution, so was I beginning to fulfill on the mold I’d been reared to fit into, becoming the paragon Seattle liberal to whom fairness and equality meant everything. And so this new realization—that men and women would be the same barring the power of social conditioning—only further excited my fundamental belief of Everybody Needs to Be Equal, Period.

I was free. Out of the matrix. Masculinity was a performance, and therefore a certain kind of work for which I no longer needed to punch my time card in and out. I could be any way I wanted to be. And so I stopped lifting weights. I scoffed at the idea that I’d once been the owner of the brotein bottle with the metal ball on the inside. I dropped out of my fraternity because I’d been unhappy for some time, and these assholes just didn’t understand righteous ideals like love and equality. They used hateful words like “faggot” and “queerbag” all the time; I grew uncomfortable and started referring to the word “faggot” as the “the ‘f’ word.” I identified with women! They too could be any way they wanted to be. I encouraged them to be more like guys, and guys to be more like them. And perhaps most extreme of all: I became convinced that sexual orientation was another product of social constructionism; that if we untangled ourselves from the shackles, everyone would be humping everyone else, men, women, and—don’t call them the “t” word—“female impersonators” alike.

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My transformation was complete. From mere “boy” I became a superhero poised to fight every slight ever committed against minority groups, with that air of conceited self-importance one is required to have when telling people with a straight face: “My name is Steven Lo and my goal is to save the planet.” No cape, no flight, no x-ray vision, no matter; informing you that you were being inappropriate, without a trace of shame or embarrassment—that was my super power.

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Well, that’s it for today, folks. Stay tuned for Part Two, in which I’ll detail how I reversed the conditioning and really broke free.

In the meantime, holla at me in the comments section. Even if it’s just to tell me what an insensitive cuntlicker I am.

The Problem with Inspiration

If you know me well then you know I’m all about impulse and inspiration borne from outside catalysts. For example, I hear that it takes 10,000 hours of doing the same craft over and over again to reach mastery. All of a sudden I’m racing home to my computer and punching the keys like a boxer would a bag of dope, and I’m being productive as hell and everything is great and there’s that fantastic feeling of unstoppability you only get once every couple years. The problem for me is that all this endures for a few hours only, a day max before the inspirational high depletes and I’m stuck again with the stark reality that the “down” begets, which is that I’m lazy and I don’t want to do this anymore. So I pause the thing and either require a new fix to resume it, or I quit completely if the requisite inspiration can’t imbue my famished veins.

For discussion’s sake, let’s say I’m able to acquire the former. That means maybe I stumble upon a moving youtube video. For example, the “How Bad Do You Want Success” audio paired with various clips of professional athletes in training. Wow, that gets me going. I watch that after waking up in the morning and suddenly I’m this wrecking ball tasked to obliterate every blank page I see. But my eyes are bad and after an hour or so I lose sight of why I was inspired in the first place. Off to the YouTube search bar for my next fix.

But of course I’m busy after the morning passes so whatever it was that impulse propelled me to create gets the broom treatment, and two years fold over before one day I’m opening random files in my dropbox as a way of procrastinating on my latest project, and that’s when I chance upon seeing the from-yore, bastardized document that looks a little too much like Brenda’s baby.

By then, I could give a shit less. I’m not gonna revisit this document. Why would I? The original inspiration’s already made the obit page. My beliefs have altered so drastically since I first wrote the thing, I don’t even believe in the subject matter’s stance anymore. I’m juggling 15 other blog ideas and 20 satire pieces, a fiction short and two novels, along with life outside of writing, pondering meaning and purpose while getting upset by things like people using the wrong window wiper speed. With all that, I’m gonna pay mind to a shitty little 100-word document I created two years ago that I forgot about until just now? Fuhgeddaboudit.

And so the vicious cycle is born. I see or hear or discover a thing. I’m inspired. There’s an impulse. I create something. I work at it.

Then the inspiration escapes.

The motivation to keep on goes limp.

I stop.

And then I see or hear or discover a new thing.

It’s a sick disease, not being able to see a creation through to the finish line. I’m actually fearful right now, wondering if this post will be fated to the same dead end as all my other stillborn projects before it. Because this wasn’t premeditated. This post, focusing on impulse and fleeting inspiration, is a product of that very same impulse and fleeting inspiration. At present I’m still inspired; I don’t want to let any of the magic go, so I’m still up writing and keeping on, scared shitless that if I put it down for the night, come tomorrow, in some Kafkaesque way, this fucking pen will turn into an anvil harder to pick up than Candace Swanepoel at a billionaires’ ball.

But goddamn, I’d like to do it. Get to bed at a reasonable hour, then pick up right where I left off. Right now it’s Wednesday December 11, 2:30 a.m. The snow has abated, the ice is freezing over and Wayne, New Jersey is sleeping peacefully. I’m on my Ariel tip, wanting nothing more than to be a part of that world. Close my computer, lay in bed and read Tropic of Capricorn till I doze off for the next eight hours.

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I ended up doing it. I put the pen down, read Tropic of Capricorn, and then slept… for 50 hours. Not all at once, of course. As I write this now it is Tuesday December 17, which means six days have passed since I touched this document, since inspiration dictated the page margins and I got honest with myself in forefronting a major character hump I can’t get over, that I’m self-debilitating in my ability to finish what I start.

And now it’s Monday, December 23.

Yet another six days have gone by since writing the last paragraph and at this point I’ve got negative gajillion inspiration to persevere with this post. It took all the mental fortitude I could muster just to open the document up and read what I’d so far written. A 100 new ideas are brewing, simmering inside my brain. Even if discipline precludes me from entering the proverbial kitchen so long as I’ve got food on my plate (this post), still I can’t help but get a whiff or 20 of the myriad smells gravitating my way.

That’s not to say they even smell good. They could smell horrible for all I know. These new ideas could all be suffering from that pungent odor you only get by crouching down toward the sidewalk and picking up dog shit. But still I’d be allured for the very simple reason that whatever this new idea, what’s important is that it’s not the one I’m working on now, the one time has gotten me to loathe and despise. Wine with time is still wine; but after just a few days these written words become something sinister: textual mirrors reflecting back a very perverse man who gets his kicks from surfeiting in the fatty, gluttinous swine of laziness and procrastination.

Truth be told, a real man finishes what he starts.

I don’t finish what I start.

I am not a real man.

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I don’t want to be inspired anymore. I’ve already been down that rabbit hole a million times. I know what’s down there.

No, I just want to be a hard worker. Someone that persists and perseveres and finishes what he starts, shitty little excuses be damned. Starting with this post. And then with every other future post, story, novel, email, Christmas and grocery list I write.

But first I have to clean up the mess I’ve amassed up until now. I have a folder in my Dropbox named “Current Projects” and another called “Limbo.” The former is self-explanatory; the latter is for projects I started but deemed too dumb, too corny, too unsalvagable to round off. What I’m vowing now is to go back and finish every single one of these projects, no matter how long it takes me. I will not start a new project during this time.

My goal is to build and fortify a threshold that will allow me persist in writing while enduring long bouts of being uninspired.

Ultimately this will foment a total personality change, one that begins with hard work and ends with an unyielding confidence to complete any task I start, by whim or by long-thought-out premeditation.

A real man finishes what he starts.

I’m 24 years old right now. It’s time I become a real man.