Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not About Food - A Digression Wherein the Protagonist Ruminates on Life

My room is frequently darkened. The reason for this is threefold:

1. I'm usually at my computer in the morning and that coupled with a south-facing window allows for only modest direct sunlight seeping between the uniquely Los Angeleno slat-blinds.

2. Despite the very prominent presence of a light switch on my wall it does not actually activate any outlets and my lighting is provided by three smaller lamps spread out throughout my room. And I don't like desk lamps during the day time.

3. I'm usually at my computer sparsely dressed and this area being dense with multi-family housing a couple buildings look directly into my room. At best I'm an ambivalent exhibitionist inasmuch as I don't particularly care if I am seen in moderately compromising states, but I don't want to actively solicit onlookers.

A darkened room, I'm shirtless in gym shorts, and I'm listening to the most recent Two Gallants album (it's called "Two Gallants). This album has been growing on me with repeated listens. I wasn't too keen on it at first as it's rather mellow and lo-fi and lacks much of the harder punk-y edge of "What the Toll Tells." But the emotions are honest, the stories are pathos-riddled, and they put out a shit tonne of quality sound for a couple skinny white guys from San Francisco.

And Pitchfork and Prefix deserve cockslaps for their missing-the-point reviews of "What the Toll Tells" in which they're critical of the song "Long Summer's Day" for "borrowing otherness" because it's told from the perspective of a black sharecropper. This is what happens when you let cultural anthropologists become music critics.

Helluva live show too.

I've been called an asshole numerous times. I've been called mean. Arrogant. A dick. Sarcastic. I've been criticized for not caring about the feelings of others (unfair, I think). People who care about their feelings being cared for are rather selfish people, no? I'm told I don't admit when I'm wrong. This might be true, but could it be that I'm just not wrong very often?

I've made a lot of mistakes and I have been uncharitable to a lot of people. I think that that part of my personality has mellowed with age, as all things should, in the same way that we move from ketchup to mustard on our hot dogs and we begin embracing more complex flavors like the bitter fresh spiciness of wild arugula or the gooey stink of a nice ripe cheese.

As most long-time wine tasters eventually leave behind big and spicy reds and rediscover the elegance and nuance of whites. This is a clear indicator that Robert Parker (and most of the wine establishment) have palates that are still stuck in late adolescence.

I'm still as passionate, opinionated, and driven as I was before. I'm just more intelligent and (hopefully) nicer about it.

But back to the point. It's dark. I'm shirtless. There's indie lo-fi folk rock on the Altec Lansing inMotion. And I have a profound sadness deep in my chest. That sort of cosmic sob that never quite wells into tears but really should.

I don't know if this is that "fear and loathing" I've heard so much about. It might be angst. It's not existential ennui since it moves me to action instead of inaction. Maybe it's nausea. In the Jean-Paul Sartre sense.

Why am I being brought to near-tears by Wikipedia accounts of the 1992 L.A. riots? The unnamed black reverend who stopped rioters from cutting off the (rest of the) ear of a Guatemalan immigrant and drove him to the hospital is a more important hero than the man who stood in front of tanks in Tienanmen. He didn't care about making a statement or swapping symbolic acts. He cared about saving one stranger's life.

Why do I feel a profound sadness when I hear a woman talking seriously about why she prefers Pepsi to Coke?

Why do we latch on to insignificant loyalties like to which diabetes purveyor we throw our money?

My entire body aches whenever I hear somebody say "I don't know anything about that" in that smug or just dismissive way as if there are somehow things worth knowing about and things nor worth knowing about. That knowing about the falling out between Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov is more valuable than knowing about the feud between Eazy-E and Dr. Dre. That sitting in a room and reading Hegel in the original German is a more worthwhile pursuit than playing CounterStrike. It's all equally valuable and by that I mean all equally meaningless.

If you can find something to commit yourself to and be passionate about, that's the most beautiful and most human thing in the world. Anything that allows you to challenge yourself and drive your curiosity.

I don't like not knowing about things. If I don't know about something I try to find out as much as I can about it. Even if it's things that I'll never be able to do, like solve theoretical math equations or have a g-spot orgasm, I still like to know how they work. It's useful. It lets you talk to scientists or women and not sound like a clueless dweeb.

I experience vitriolic anger when I hear somebody say "the internet's going social." These are mostly paunchy middle-aged men who will never get it since they weren't the ones sharing info across the world on Usenet boards in the 80's or organizing their entire life via IM as soon as their parents bought a modem.

As if we haven't always been discovering new ways to interact with each other since nomadic human tribes first settled down into towns and cities.

And the work of art that has inspired my strongest emotional reaction that I can think of in recent memory? WALL-E. Until the humans got involved, then it got a little bit Disney-ish for my tastes.

WALL-E is curiosity robo-personified. And it's his simple curiosity about a tiny plant and a sexy collection robot that ultimately saves Earth.

I suppose I should have said "spoiler alert" before that.

The scene of the "deranged" penguin running off into the interior of Antarctica to die instead of to the sea or to the colony in Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World" was also rather heartrending. He just wants to know what else is out there. Isn't discovery, even in the face of death, preferable to doing the same thing you've always done? He might've been eaten by a seal on that very trip to get fish had he not gone running alone into the hills.

I become very sad when I see people living in fear of the array of information, opportunity, and experience that is available. I'm sad when I see the powers that be in the entertainment industry keep banging their heads against the same wall trying to make a business model work that hasn't worked well since we first got cable television and VCRs.

I like the term "don't try to reinvent the wheel" as if we haven't been coming out with new and better wheels all the time for thousands of years. Sure the basic function is the same, but a 22-inch alloy rim with spinners is markedly different from a solid disc of wood hewn from an oak tree.

I'm upset at knowing that we go from the intellectual, emotional, and physical orgy that is college and into a life where most of us will be increasingly obsolete desk functionaries doing tasks that we haven't yet found a way to automate.

I try to live my life as actively as possible. If you don't try it's amazing how passive it can get. It's very easy to let hour after hour of television or Wikipedia or meaningless long-term relationship or meaningless one-night stand wash over you instead of making your life into something meaningful, as small and insignificant as that meaning might seem to others.

Grow some tomatoes. Write an essay. Bake bread. Bake it again. Travel to a country where you aren't the dominant paradigm. Don't just eat a steak and drink a glass of wine--find out where that steak came from and how that wine was made. Try one of the many kinds of sausage that aren't breakfast links and one of the many kinds of coffees that come whole-bean roasted fresh from a local roaster and not ground in a can for $1.99 at Vons.

Pancakes made from scratch are better than Bisquick and take about one extra minute.

All that we are is the sum of our experiences, so if you stop experiencing you've ceased to exist.

And now I'll go back to being pissed off about restaurants.


Ipshi said...

And it's time to come out in the open... i've been a lurker on your blog for nearly a year now. even though i live nowhere close to where u r and our reviews dont matter to me... but i love ur passion about food and wine and u write really well - without pretences if u will. But this post has impressed me beyond belief. it's so simply and beautifully written and one line in particular is going to be my sign-off line line for quite a while. I hope u read ur comments because i want u to know that whoever u r, u hav a fan out in India. Ta!

David J.D. said...

I appreciate it Ipshi.

I'd notice hits from India on Google Analytics and was always curious who was out there.

Thanks for reading.