#RockTheVote: A Deletion Poem

 

*Editor’s Note: Stories For Sunday is thankful to have a guest post from Joe Valentine. He put this poem together as his civic contribution to this great country. 

Deletion poems don’t usually make a lot of sense. Presidential elections usually make a little bit of sense. And yet this deletion poem from the third presidential debate is a pretty solid encapsulation of the 2016 election. Source material found here

 

Chris Wallace: Good evening from Las Vegas.

I’m Chris Wallace of Cheers. No noise

except Trump.

Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump,

let’s get it on. First of all,

what’s your view on words?

 

Clinton: I talk. I stand up and basically say,

I would be great as President.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, same question.

 

Trump: First of all, it’s great to be so, so

very inappropriate

toward a tremendous number of people.

Many, many millions of people.

I am bent.

 

Wallace: We now have ten minutes

for an open discussion on

the arms of judge Antonin Scalia.

 

Clinton: The gun show. I respect the arms.

 

Trump: The toughest. Probably you could say

by far the toughest.

Tremendous. Very strong.

 

Wallace: Well, let’s pick on Mr. Trump. You’re pro-life.

 

Trump: I am pro-life.

 

Clinton: I strongly support regulations on

women that block them from Donald.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, your reaction.

 

Trump: Well I think If you go with what Hillary is saying,

you can say that that is okay and

Hillary can say that that is okay, but because

based on what she is saying and based

on where she’s going and

where she’s been, that’s not acceptable.

 

Clinton: Scare rhetoric.

 

Wallace: All right. Let’s move on.

The question is why are you right

and your opponent wrong?

 

Trump: Well first of all, she is just pouring

the blood of the youth.

 

Clinton: I rip apart children.

I want to see Donald rip apart any person.

 

Trump: We are a country of laws.

 

Clinton: There are some limited

places where that was appropriate.

 

Trump: Big league. Bigly.

 

Wallace: Secretary Clinton, you gave a

Brazilian for which you

were paid $225,000.

Is that your dream?

 

Clinton: That is private.

 

Wallace: Try to keep it quiet.

 

Trump: Now we can talk about Putin.

He said nice things about me.

He has tremendous

numbers of chicken.

 

Clinton: Well, he would rather have a puppet.

 

Trump: No puppet. You’re the puppet.

 

Clinton: I am not.

 

Trump: She doesn’t like Putin.

 

Wallace: I do get to ask some questions.

 

Trump: I don’t know Putin.

 

Wallace: I’m not asking you that.

 

Trump: I never met Putin.

 

Wallace: We are going to move on to

the next topic which

is growth.

 

Clinton: I think Bernie Sanders is on steroids.

 

Trump: Well, I’m a big massive husband.

 

Clinton: My husband has investments.

 

Trump: Her husband was one of the worst

things ever. They

actually fact checked

and they said I was right.

 

Clinton: Donald goes around

with crocodile tears, but he

brought Osama bin Laden to

The Celebrity Apprentice.

 

Wallace: The next segment is fitness.

 

Trump: I really want to just talk

about something different.

She is very sleazy.

 

Clinton: Well, I know I don’t have the AIDS.

 

Trump: You push gays off buildings.

 

Clinton: He can’t prove it.

What is really troubling is

that he has not paid

a penny in federal income tax.

 

Trump: You should have changed the

law if you don’t like it.

You should have changed the law,

but you won’t change the law.

I sat in my apartment today.

I will tell you I sat there. I sat there

watching ad after ad after ad, all ads.

And you should have changed

the laws. If you don’t like what I did,

you should have changed the laws.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, Governor Pence on Sunday

is one of the prides of this country.

Are you saying you’re

not prepared to commit to that principle?

 

Trump: I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

 

Clinton: Donald really is whining.

 

Wallace: Hold on, folks. This doesn’t do

any good for anyone. Let’s please move

onto the subject of the offensive to

take back Mosul. The question becomes,

whoever of you ends up as president,

will you vacuum ISIS?

 

Trump: Let me tell you, Mosul is so sad.

We had Mosul. But we lost Mosul.

Now we’re fighting again to get Mosul.

The problem with Mosul

is in Mosul.

They want to attack Mosul.

We’re going after Mosul.

I’ve been reading about Mosul.

So we’re now fighting for Mosul.

But you know who the big winner in Mosul

is going to be.

But who is going to get Mosul really?

We’ll take Mosul eventually.

So Mosul is going to be a wonderful thing.

 

Clinton: I just want everybody to go Google it.

“Google Donald Trump Iraq” and you

can hear the audio of him

saying Mosul.

 

Trump: Bernie Sanders said Mosul.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, Secretary Clinton, no.

We need to move on to our

final segment. It seems to me funny

that you haven’t prepared

closing statements. So,

tell the American people why

they should elect you.

 

Clinton: I’m awesome. I have made

children. I will do everything.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump?

 

Trump: I have depleted the

Earth for ten lifetimes.

 

Wallace: That brings us to the end of this country.

-Compiled by Joe Valentine

 

Cry Baby

office building

By Megan Jacob**

**Today, we’re thankful to have a guest post from upstart florist and meanderer of Portland, Oregon, Megan Jacob. Enjoy it. And don’t hesitate to pay her a compliment for this one. People who write things like compliments.  

 

My tears are different now. They’re sad, or melodramatic, or cheesy, or heartbreaking. They’re a lot like yours, probably. They serve a bodily function that my brain is in tune with, like a sneeze or a cough or, well, you get the point. But during that month, my tears were something else. They were like the drips of a leaky faucet, letting loose irrelevant splashes until something changed.

The cold, hard metal of the deserted bleachers had already imprinted lines into the back of my bare thighs, when I started sobbing into my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As far as multi-tasking goes, trying to eat thick peanut butter and open-mouth crying aren’t exactly conducive. I hardly noticed the homeless man that had migrated to my side of the baseball field. He approached, weary eyes trained on my blotchy, red tear-stained face offering a ratty handkerchief. I accepted and made contact with his eyes; as bleary as mine were bloodshot. All he had left to give was a half-hearted smile and a shoulder shrug before turning his back and moving on. I stared at the retreating silhouette of his shopping cart piled high with rattling glass bottles. My heart swelled at the stranger’s compassion and tenderness, but then he was gone.

I glanced at my watch – an hour had passed since I had collapsed on the bench in an unsuccessful attempt to compose myself. I gathered what was left of my soggy sandwich and walked into the sunlight. The homeless man’s smile restored my faith in humanity; maybe this day was worth giving another chance. I happily walked 20 yards reciting inspirational quotes and applying inherent goodness to even my least favorite people– all the bullshit they stick in iPhone commercials to keep us from murdering each other, and to keep us buying iPhones.

I glanced up at the approaching shadow I was about to enter. I shivered in the sweltering September heat, and pulled my work-appropriate cardigan a little closer around my shoulders. The temporary jolt of optimism never stood a chance. Was this building about to swallow me whole? No, it would chew me up first. Just like it always did. But I walked in anyway.

To work in an ad agency in your early twenties is to help people create a fake world, as your best attempt at entering the “real world.” The paradox would almost be funny if it weren’t so off-putting. It’d almost be interesting if it weren’t miserable.

Working on the fifth, and top, floor of the building, I was winded before each workday began. This was a rare day that I’d have time to catch my breath and compose myself before my manager, Heather, would advance on me, baring her lipstick stained teeth into a nasty grin and twisting her wrinkled hands as though they were longing to reach out and wrap tightly around my neck. I used to think that there was a special place in Hell for people like Heather, but with the three years of hindsight since I left the job, I’ve realized that her corner office was that place. Let’s just say the fifth floor certainly wasn’t heaven.

A late-twenty something in a corporate office, Heather thrived on catty cliques, pencil- skirt-and-high-heel combos that caused her to walk like a baby giraffe discovering its legs for the first time, and tossing her thin, bleached blonde hair over her shoulder. Basking in the incumbent glamor of a mid-to-lower level employee in the sales and marketing division, her daily routine included exaggerated sighs and talking loudly about how she could never possibly have the time to explain menial tasks to a dum-dum like me. On good days she chose to view me a younger, tag along sister. But most days I was like a piece of gum on the bottom of her cheap high heeled shoe.

I spent a lot of time staring at the gray felt of my cubicle wall. When my neighbor would stop chewing ice long enough, I had moments of quiet contemplation about the strange corporate environment I was (barely) trying to exist in. I often thought about the mirrors. Every employee in the company had one, of some size or shape. They would slip on the heels they had taken off because the blisters were growing to the size of large, unstable tomatoes. Lipstick was reapplied. Hair was combed…Perfume spritzed…. Noses were fresh and ready to be browned. They saw the same people at the same copiers, break rooms, and toilets every day, and yet they primped like they were getting ready for prom.

The mirrors weren’t all that put me in a stasis of unnerving insecurity during my one month temp position at this giant conglomerate. There was the cafeteria full of overpriced food where everyone got their limp, gray salads to eat at their desks, because lunch breaks were for the under motivated. Gossip was a routine and seemingly encouraged pastime. Worst of all was the inefficiency. God the inefficiency. It takes hundreds of people passing around various pieces of paper for several weeks to produce one advertisement. I worked there for one full month – that’s thirty days, give or take, on the average calendar that almost all humans use– and I honestly cannot tell you what people actually do there besides look in the mirror and hand off pieces of paper from cubicle to cubicle. Imagine Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls except no Bill Murray or Lindsay Lohan, just soul crushing Heather and 15 or so pudgy-faced, mousy haired, middle-aged women, who I want to say were all named Julie.

My only reprieve from all the miserable oddities of that place, was my weekly bag of Cheez-its from the vending machine. I slowly collected coins throughout the week to put forth toward my only friend, my sunshine in the bleak, wary life of wearing slacks and brushing my hair. One day, on the hour long bus ride to the temple of doom, I dropped my wallet and watched in horror as change rolled every which way throughout the moving bus. I can’t remember a lower time in my life than crawling around the floors of public transportation, reaching for change through the legs of strangers who probably needed it 10 percent more than I did, but had 20 percent more dignity.

Towards the end of my month there, I was being berated daily by an endless, faceless line of people sent my way by Heather, who had begun to use me as a scapegoat for each and every one of her own mistakes. After the third Julie of the day yelled in my face about memo fonts, I lost it. Publicly crying on my lunch break was a daily occurrence, but it took something really special to get me to ugly cry to the point of drawing the attention of the transient population.

I wish I could tell you that I quit in a blaze of glory – flipping the bird as I kicked through the glass door with my steel-toed motorbike boots, shards flying every which way. In reality, I found another job, let my boss know of my intentions to quit, and I quietly left at the end of the day, relieved to escape the unblinking gaze of the corporate monster that had longed to suck out my soul through every orifice in my body.

I still have the tears that come from living life, just like you. Probably more, because I’m a wimp. Tears from breakups or rejection or fear or injury or loss or nostalgia. God, they hurt. But they hurt the same way growing pains hurt or healing bones ache. Those tears are cleansing. It’s called having “a good cry” for a reason.

The tears that come in between the time you realize you need a change and the time you’re brave enough to make it are some of the worst tears imaginable, because they are so goddamn unnatural. Your rationality can’t tell you why you’re supposed to quit a job you hate or get out of a relationship you inexplicably lost passion for. And your body doesn’t know how to handle it either, so it just presses the ‘cry’ button for lack of a better idea.

Getting out didn’t get me anywhere. It just got me out. That was enough.

-Megan Jacob

Going To Sleep in a City and Waking Up in a Hashtag

1467949777-NM_07blmprotest22SP

My experience last night wasn’t all that traumatic compared to what you’ve already seen and read. My apartment was a (safe) five-minute drive from the scene. I followed along on Twitter and CNN, I reassured concerned family and friends, and by midnight about 80 percent of my Dallas friends were accounted for. I tried to tell myself to go to sleep, that more accurate information would be out in the morning. Then sirens would roar by, and I’d pick up my phone and refresh Twitter.

I fell asleep around 3:00 and woke up at 7:00. By then, the rest of the country felt sorry for the city I’ve lived in for two years. People are dead, and my connection to them feels primarily spatial, which comes with a strange obligatory addition to my grief. I’m not just supposed to feel empathy and pain. I’m supposed to feel loyalty.

I put on my Dallas Marathon t-shirt with the city’s skyline and diverse little stick figures running in unison, and I made the same 15-minute walk to Starbucks that I make everyday to write. We’re supposed to carry on in the aftermath of tragedy. This was mostly an empty gesture. I don’t think anyone in the snooty West Village Starbucks (rumor has it that JoJo from The Bachelorette lives across the street) found any additional courage from my shirt.

Of course, there are concrete ways to positively respond to this. You can donate to the victims and their families, and I strongly suggest you do. But how people, in Dallas and elsewhere, process last night, how much effort they put into processing it, will be a more complicated task.

SONY DSC

Obviously, all of the slayings last night were equally tragic and the whole thing was disgustingly senseless, but the name that won’t get out of my head is Brent Thompson, a 43-year old DART officer, or Dallas Area Rapid Transit. I ride the DART rail (essentially just a metro or train) around Dallas fairly often, and I don’t think that Thompson signed up for that kind of danger. His tasks are supposed to include lecturing or kicking off idiots like me who might have forgotten to buy a ticket once or twice.

I don’t need to give you the obligatory statement that Dallas is a great city. There’s no bad city that deserves to have this happen to it. But public transportation is probably one of the best ways to get to know a city and its people. I’ve seen men and women like Brent Thompson doing their jobs. I’ve seen them joyfully interact with all sorts of citizens as if they consider them co-workers, including many people who might have been justifiably outraged by the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and who wouldn’t ever think to associate people like Thompson with the perpetrators of those deaths. Some will look at the two sides involved last night and tie two narratives together and suggest total causality, but that’s not how it works.

Those interactions on the DART, that are a bit closer to the heart of the growing conflict in America, don’t get their own hashtags. They don’t make it to Twitter. They get denied in aggressive narratives. The Black Lives Matter protests of police brutality were peaceful until disaster struck. Those men and women had every right to protest and they were being dutifully enabled to do so by the Dallas Police Department.

These were two groups that were working together because of a systemic problem in America. That should have been a powerful thing. It was something that Dallas might have been proud of. It was something indicative of two different perspectives understanding an issue. 

Instead, it was made into something horrific by a couple terrorists acting on behalf of terrorism.

The most destructive bomb a terrorist can plant goes off in the ensuing weeks in our search for justice. The most effective terrorism divides us.

skline

Processing extreme tragedy is supposed to be a reckoning that we all have to go through. We’re supposed to struggle with blame and solutions. #Dallas can mean a lot of things. It can be a voice of support or it can pit one group against another.

I live next to a bridge over a freeway that runs through Dallas. The other side of that bridge is one of the wealthiest, trendiest parts of the city. The rent on my side of the bridge is probably 35 percent cheaper. It’s not a dangerous place to live. The apartments and shopping are nicer on the other side, but sometimes I get the sense that the people on the other side are paying a premium to avoid some of the people on my side.

One day, I was walking home and crossing the bridge at the same time was a quirky, talkative African American man who worked for the city. We talked for the five minutes until I reached my apartment. At one point, he gave me props for having a conversation, mentioning, “Nobody over there will even speak to me” and pointing backwards. He was wearing the yellow vest that many city workers wear. He was short and slight, not remotely intimidating.

That bridge is about 100 feet long. We can’t afford to make it any longer, in Dallas or anywhere else.

-Jonny Auping

 

 

2 Chainz, and How I Thank Generous People

clean water

Coming into my 27th birthday this year, I had the same long overdue realization that many lucky people are susceptible to having at some point in their lives, which is that I’m a very lucky person. So I did some research, and in lieu of gifts, I asked friends and family to donate money to people in this world without clean water. I set the campaign goal at $350 thinking that might be around the accumulative amount of money spent on my birthday otherwise. I was just hoping I’d get close to that number.

The campaign raised over $1,000, and I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. It’s probably the best gift I’ve ever received, if for no other reason than because it’s confirmation that I have people in my life who are so willing to do something selfless knowing that they have absolutely no pressure to do so.

In return, I promised I would write at least 400 words about anything for whoever donated to the cause. Below is a batch of requests. They are a weird mix of funny and sincere and stupid-in-the-best-way -possible. Peruse at your leisure. Read one. Read all of them. Do whatever feels right. If you donated and would still like to request something, just get in touch at jonathan.auping@gmail.com. I’ll publish more of these depending on the number of requests or I’ll just write out something and email it to you personally so that you can frame it and give it to your first born son when you think he’s ready. 

More importantly, there’s still 10 days left to donate to an incredible cause where every single one of your dollars will go to helping people get clean water that would otherwise die. Please help. 

https://donate.charitywater.org/jonathan-auping/jonny-auping-s-water-campaign

 

Subject: Why the Orioles are better than the Rangers.

 Requested by: Eric Wetsch

As a Rangers fan, I get the sense that this request borders on trolling. Also, spelling the word “Orioles” numerous times is a nightmare scenario. Seriously, I hope Baltimore newspapers provide awesome benefits for their sports copy editors because there should definitely be another ‘e’ in that word somewhere. But Eric requested this; so let’s talk about it.

A lot of novices would look at the standings (as I write this the Rangers have five more wins than the Orieles Poorly Spelled Baltimore Baseball Team) and say, “What are you talking about, Jonny? How are the Orioles better than the Rangers?” But wins and losses are just numbers, and baseball isn’t about numbers, despite what every baseball expert might tell you. It’s actually about pain and heartbreak and forcing your grief onto everyone around you.

The Rangers are a more balanced team than the Orioles. But Baltimore hits all the home runs. If someone asks you how many home runs have been hit in the MLB this season just ask how many Baltimore has hit, and say, “a little more than that” because, if my analytics are correct, that’s the most accurate answer.

They are the perfect candidates to be an exciting fringe playoff team that turns it on in the post season and all of a sudden looks unstoppable. It sort of reminds me of the 2010 Texas Rangers who made their first ever World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. Or the redemption-seeking 2011 Rangers who came within a perfectly reasonable outfield catch of winning the World Series only to lose to St. Louis, the city where I was living at the time.

After the Rangers lost Game 7 to the Cardinals, I sat in my then-girlfriend’s bathroom with my back against the wall screaming that she just didn’t understand. There must have been a lot of perfume in that bathroom because my eyes wouldn’t stop watering.

I’m going to be honest with you, I hate baseball now. It makes me angry, and I pretend I don’t care, but I still kind of do. So let’s all agree the Orioles are better than the Rangers. They’re primed for an exciting run. Soak it in, Eric. Enjoy randomly losing to the Washington Nationals in the World Series. Good luck trying to find meaning in one of the 162 regular season games next year once you’ve discovered that nothing matters and life is bleak and what is hope but the rickety ride up on a rollercoaster you know is taking you down at full speed?

Go Orieles!

Subject: A first-person account of an interaction between my cat, CC, and myself. From the perspective of CC.

Requested by Jessica Overton

…The best thing about The One With The Beard is that his bedroom door is broken and doesn’t latch shut. He doesn’t give me as many treats as The One Without A Beard, but if there’s no food in my bowl in the morning I can wake him up to tell him. It takes a little effort pushing the door with the crown of my head, but once it gets loose, I’m in. Then it’s just a matter of jumping on his bed and pawing at his face or nibbling on his elbow until he wakes up. He’s always super grumpy. He’s probably just mad because I’m the only girl that ever gets in his bed. There’s a cruder joke to make there, but I’m not going to make it. I’m just a cat, a classy one at that.

It took some time getting used to living in the apartment after coming in from the streets. I’ve gained a lot of weight since then, but it’s not like I don’t earn all that food. There are pros and cons. The One Without A Beard constantly takes pictures of me and it’s creepy as shit. Sometimes The One With The Beard stays home all day and types on his computer and bangs his head against the table every few minutes. A lot of humans sing in the shower, but he sings for the five minutes before he gets into the shower so there’s no way he doesn’t realize how awful it sounds. It’s pretty pathetic.

One day about 8 months ago, something went horribly wrong with a big project that The One With The Beard was working on. Some random publication really screwed him over and reneged on publishing something that had taken hours of work. It looked like a real tipping point. He was a mess. He sat in the dark and talked to himself about his career and how all of his peers were approaching financial security while he chased the least lucrative dream imaginable. Anyway, my food bowl was empty so I walked up and nuzzled him and purred and gently pawed at him. You know, typical “give me some food” protocol. He just smiled, composed himself, shook off his ridiculous pessimism and moved on. It seems like things have been going well with him since then. He forgot to fill up my bowl. The One With The Beard is an idiot…

 

Subject: Friendship

Requested by Bob Jameson

It’s probably fair to say that I’m an uncommonly lucky person in that I have a lot of great friends. They’re great friends in both the sense that they are great, totally independent of their relationships with me, and they are great at being friends.

The degree to which I value those friendships is difficult to articulate, but I suppose I’ll try.

In a moment of honest confession let me tell you that I have pretty severe anxiety. I imagine there are people more deeply afflicted with the same problem, and there are worse mental afflictions to be had than what I go through; I’m not depressed, I’m not a victim of traumatic stress, and I’m a genuinely happy person. That said, the average amount of anxiety a typical person experiences in normal conditions is less than the amount I’m susceptible to experience under the same conditions. When I can’t stay ahead of it, I’m not a fun person to be or to be around.

I’m not against the notion of taking medicine for such issues. It can be a total game changer for people just trying to live the life that best reflects who they actually are. I don’t take medicine for my own reasons—one of which being a slight paranoia about how it might affect my writing/creativity. So I have my own routine of things I do specifically to keep my anxiety in check. I exercise every day. I write something every day. I meditate every day.

Lastly, I make sure to text or call someone that lives in a different state as me every day. There are people in California, New York, all over the Midwest and Texas and elsewhere who aren’t totally annoyed by hearing from me. That’s an extremely gratifying feeling. Nothing feels more like a safety net than keeping up with people you care about. Space and circumstance don’t have to turn good friendships into causal ones. They don’t have to turn casual friendships into former acquaintances.

I could definitely do better. I could make a better effort with high school friends I’ve slowly lost touch of. In fact, I could stop referring to it as “effort” because it doesn’t even take that. It’s a rewarding thing.

The best thing about having a lot of people who would do you a favor when asked is less about potentially cashing in those favors and more about how good it feels to know those people are in your life. And that’s not to say you need a plethora of friends to experience that. One or two people who are there for you no-questions-asked makes an enormous difference if you soak it in as a conceptual experience and then realize it’s your reality. I know it’s true, because every now and then I forget, and that’s when the anxiety really kicks in. 

 

 

Subject: #TuesdaysWith2Chainz

Requested by Linda Kovac

If you’ve been reading this site since Day One then you might remember that I used to write a column called #TuesdaysWith2Chainz because #content is king and 2 Chainz is a prince. It was funny in a stupid way and stupid in a ‘I’m-still-glad-this-is-how-I’ve-chosen-to-spend-my-time way.’ It was supposed to capture the whole 2 Chainz vibe, and if I came anywhere close to that goal then I’m a proud man. In fact, next month I’ll be published in one of those fancy pants publications that people talk about at dinner parties that cost more than my car, and I’m really tempted to request that my bio read “Jonny Auping writes a recurring column called #TuesdaysWith2Chainz.”

But ultimately that column represents a different time in my career. If this is the last #TuesdaysWith2Chainz where do I even begin to attempt such a daunting task? I suppose the same way I always did: by Googling “2 Chainz” and seeing what kind of crazy shit he’s been up to. This always seems to provide an eclectic potpourri of 2 Chainz information, and if I’m going to worry about anything right now it’s certainly not structure. So here’s a bunch of stuff about a funny rapper:

-In a short profile by the Daily Beast, 2 Chainz said the following in regard to his decision to go to college out of state:

“I could’ve stayed in Georgia, sold dope, and went to school, but I decided to sell dope and go to school somewhere else.”

This is one of the best sentences anyone has ever spoken. It evokes the following qualities: honesty, humor, inspiration, pragmatism, and entrepreneurship. It’s an analogy that applies to so many levels of life. Does your young son want to stay at the school with the great baseball team even though the other school also has a band where he can expand his love of saxophone? Well, buy him some cool black sunglasses and send his little saxophone playing-ass to the new school and pack a baseball glove in his bag too, because that new school’s short stop is about to have to sit his ass on the bench. If he’s nervous just remind him that 2 Chainz could have just stayed in Georgia and given up his drug dealing, but he went out of his comfort zone and sold drugs there.

*Note: 2 Chainz attended Alabama State on a scholarship. He had a 3.2 GPA in high school, which is basically the same GPA I had despite not being distracted by responsibilities like selling drugs or getting laid.

-In Chance the Rapper’s excellent new mixtape “Coloring Book” 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne are featured in the song “No Problem.” At one point 2 Chainz raps the following line:

Aye, Aye Captain

I’m high, Captain,

I’m so high,

Me and God dappin.’

Incredible. Let’s first establish, that “Coloring Book” is full to the brim with Chance’s declarations of Christianity. The majority of the songs contain uplifting gospel-oriented lyrics as a way to provide some sort of context to the happiness that radiates out of his music.

Enter 2 Chainz. His contribution to this theme is to compare how high on marijuana he is to literally being so high up in the air that he is in heaven. At which point, he sticks his fist out to God for acknowledgment and God does the same out of respect. 2 Chainz actually bumped knuckles with God, and your son is too fucking scared to switch schools?

-Linda requested I write this. Linda is a proud Kansas City resident. This is a photo of 2 Chainz on Father’s Day that is captioned to have taken place in the Kansas City airport:

IMG_2552

Here are 10 points of note:

  1. This doesn’t look like an airport.
  1. You’re not allowed to smoke weed in an airport, and he’s definitely smoking weed.
  1. He is wearing a Johnny Cash t-shirt.
  1. His Johnny Cash t-shirt is tucked in to his pants.
  2. 2 Chainz has three children named Heaven, Harmony, and Halo. That’s real. And awesome.
  1. Would Johnny Cash ever wear a 2 Chainz t-shirt if her were still alive?
  1. Is the following a Johnny Cash lyric or a 2 Chainz lyric:

“I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody

I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time,

And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime,

I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time.”

  1. The answer to question 7 is Johnny Cash. It is from the 2000 song “Nobody.”
  1. Did 2 Chainz ghostwrite the lyrics to “Nobody” for Johnny Cash?
  1. The answer to questions 6 and 9 is “probably.”

-Jonny Auping

The Intellectual Sequel To the Entourage Movie

entourage

Are you absolutely sure they already made an Entourage movie? I think I would have remembered that.

Let me see the synopsis. Yadda yadda yadda…Vince directs and stars in an adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…yadda yadda yadda…E. and Sloan have a baby. I don’t know, I’m pretty sure all of that, or something essentially just like it, happened in season five. Or six. Or two.

It says here that, instead of playing himself, Billy Bob Thornton played a fictional studio head and Haley Joel Osment played his incompetent son. This doesn’t sound right.

Well, so what if they already made a movie? It’s not like they can’t do a sequel. Besides, I’m thinking about a totally different kind of Entourage, one where Vince tries to abandon the hollowness of mainstream Hollywood and experiments with the heights of his own intellectualism. No more blockbusters or box office concerns. A complete departure from stardom into near anonymity. Maybe the occasional Noah Baumbach flick or a This American Life story about the first time he met E. 

I’m not totally sure I would buy him and Greta Gerwig as a couple, but I’m not totally sure I wouldn’t. You know what I mean?

Writers, poets, philosophers, playwrights, and essayists are allowed to have entourages too. Nothing about being a member of the intelligentsia prevents one from having friends, and I don’t see why we can’t take that this journey into the life of the mind with the same cast of characters we’ve grown to love. There are plenty of storylines to mine. Imagine if Turtle tries to keep up with Vince on a philosophical level so he’s reading Thorough and Emerson on his Kindle, and Sloan laughs at the irony of it all, and E. laughs too even though he doesn’t totally understand what’s wrong with reading Walden on a Kindle, and Johnny tries to call out E. for not actually knowing what irony is and, and E. would be all like, “I know what ironic means, Drama!”

I mean, it might not sustain an entire plot, but it’s a jumping off point. I’m spit balling here.

Of course, plenty of people just watch Entourage for its blatant misogyny and tendencies to pigeonhole versatile women, and I don’t see why any of that would have to go anywhere for this version. No need to nix the celebrity cameos either. Just sprinkle in a couple happenstance run-ins with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Maybe Drama will beg for a part in a traveling Hamilton show.

Is it the Entourage movie that America is asking for? Probably not, but it just might be the Entourage movie that America needs right now; Turtle is the last relevant voice that hasn’t weighed in on Gamer Gate, after all.

Has Elon Musk finally met his match in Ari Gold? Probably not considering Musk is an enormously successful engineer, inventor, and CEO and Ari Gold is a rage-filled, shout-monster whose degradation of women somehow leads to starring roles for his clients. But then again, does Elon Musk have Lloyd? Because Ari does, and when he makes his play for executive control of SpaceX, Musk will never see it coming.

This will come in handy in the third act when Vince decides that the true subtext of Kierkegaard can’t actually be understood unless read from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. That’s why he, Turtle, Turtle’s dog Arnold, and three porn stars takeoff on a quest that’s part Interstellar, part Grand Budapest Hotel, and part Furious 7. Billy Bob Thornton, known mostly for his role in the original Entourage movie, would play a visibly overworked but reassuringly confidant ground control supervisor. Jason Schwartzman would play the space shuttle librarian.

I can sense your concerns, but let me assure you that the sequel will have the same old vibe you’re used to from the Entourage franchise, only much more pretentious. Bring your own personal entourage to the theater and watch E. try to get an op-ed in the Atlantic Monthly or Drama triumphantly prove that Charlie Kaufman is still alive or Turtle struggle to figure out what MOMA stands for.

I think we’re all ready for Vince to grow up, and Entourage 2: Le Retour is where it finally happens.

-Jonny Auping

 

In-N-Out vs. Whataburger: Toeing the Political Line

burgers

It’s an election year. Things are about to get rough, guys. If you think the country is divided now, give it another five months. The political and social issues we’re being faced with are too pressing for any of us to ignore, and shouting and sarcasm are a lot easier than discourse.

No one is completely right in just about any situation, hence, you know, democracy. The scary part about politics is that certain things are definitely wrong, in a moral sense. The fight against such wrongful things are worth the effort, frustration, and perhaps persecution you might face from strangers or friends.

But there are two kinds of fights. The fight to eliminate what you consider to be morally corrupt is one of them. The other is the fight to be right about something because of a growing distaste for those you consider to be wrong about that same thing. The latter shouldn’t be as common as the former, but it probably is. Even worse, it might be just as exhausting, infuriating, and derisive. When someone disagrees with you passionately about something you truly feel to be true, anger is the most immediate and overwhelming emotional reaction.

And so, hamburgers. 

Whataburger vs. In-N-Out

Friendships have likely been pushed near the brink of destruction. Over what? Two establishments that serve food so delicious that maintaining the optimistic nature required to accept that we live in a world where they both exist goes against the cynicism so deeply entrenched in our very beings. Instead of living in that world, we pose the question: Which is better?

There are only two. Some people might throw Five Guys into the conversation. Personally, I would disagree with those people, but for the sake of argument let’s say we’re exclusively dealing with restaurants where you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for less than $10. Perhaps Steak and Shake deserves an honorable mention, but I mean come on, we’re all adults here; they’re fighting in a different weight class. You’ll get a lot of McDonalds defenders, and I don’t have much to say to those people besides a brief plea that they find some self-respect. You’re better than that. That’s the kind of blatant disregard for values and general safety analogous to thinking a hateful reality star should be the most powerful man in the world. 

There’s Whataburger, there’s In-N-Out, and there are a bunch of other chains fighting for third place. The anger towards one of these two is always rooted solely in a deep love for the other. 

As with most national debates, region bias is a big part of starting the conversation. In-N-Out might have the advantage in this regard. For centuries Americans have traveled West in hopes of treasures they’ve never before experienced. In-N-Out is a product of California and we associate it with palm trees, beach vacations, and generally relaxed vibes. If you live there, it’s a sense of pride. If you’re visiting it is required destination to mythologize about with less-traveled peers back home.

Whataburger exists only in the Southern regions of the United States, primarily Texas. Historically, the reputation of things that exist only in the South haven’t had the best track record. Southern Pride– towards anything– is generally off-putting to outsiders. For myself, growing up in Texas, I took for granted what Whataburger meant to me until I went to the midwest for four years of college. It was like giving up on a girlfriend before realizing how hard it would be to live without her. Luckily, she took me back.   

The reason I jumped back into her arms so graciously is because of the versatility. While In-N-Out’s menu has about six words on it, Whataburger has a nearly overwhelming abundance of quality options from a regular Whataburger with cheese to an A1 Thick and Hearty Burger to a Patty Melt to a Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich on Texas Toast. And that’s to say nothing of the breakfast. The beautiful, fresh, served from 11:00 pm until 11:00am breakfast. Fluffy eggs generously layered in taquitos with bacon and cheese. Flakey biscuits sandwiching honey butter chicken strips. Whataburger breakfast might not cure your worst hangover, but it will make you wonder why you ever turned to alcohol to drown your sorrows or celebrate your accomplishments in the first place when this was available as the alternative.

Such a selection isn’t available at In-N-Out, and I don’t want to hear about a secret menu. If you think ordering your fries “animal style” makes you unique then you need to develop a more interesting facet to your personality.

But this is about the burgers. It always was. And that’s where it gets tricky, because they are both delicious. I’ll admit that in terms of consistent excellence, In-N-Out might have the edge. I’ve probably had a burger from Whataburger that was 10 percent worse than its typical standard. In-N-Out has never wavered from burger to burger. It also has a signature sauce, but Whataburger typically has better cheese. Both have buns that begin the mouth-watering process pre-bite.

In recent years, In-N-Out has expanded to other regions including the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As a current Dallas resident I live where both restaurants are available to me. In other words, paradise. If you’re looking for a conclusion, this is the best I can do you: Burger to burger, it is a matter of taste, and location aside, will differ from person to person. HOWEVER, if I could only eat one for the rest of my life it would be Whataburger because of the variety of high standard selections. 

I believe that determination, while perhaps slightly biased by sentimentality, is totally reasonable and thought out to the point that you probably think I’m an insane person. Past verbal attempts at this discussion have ended in shouting. The above is proof that they didn’t have to. 

The emotions of being right usually come from proving someone else wrong, and all this does is entrench both sides in their beliefs for reasons that have little to do with logic. The topic never really matters when you hate the idea of disagreement. Look down your Chipotle Burrito towards a card carrying Qdoba fan and the rage will actually be visible. A round of fisticuffs will surely be penciled in directly following both participants’ food comas.  

If the other side of your argument leads to legitimate suffering or wrong-doing towards a person or people then the collateral emotions that come out of the debate are necessary. If not, maybe what you mean to be having is a conversation. 

-Jonny Auping

 

 

 

 

Star Wars, Spotlight, and Escapism as a Constant

I have yet to decide whether I’ll be eating Milk Duds or Sour Patch Kids while I watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters. The Venn Diagram of people who file W-9 forms and know which color (red) Sour Patch Kid has the best aftertaste is admittedly small, but that won’t really matter when I’m sitting in that theater. As soon as an attendant hands back my Star Wars ticket stub, I’m granted the luxury of leaving things like taxes, adulthood, and responsibility in the hallway.

Immediately, individual and collective problems are galaxies away from me.

Spotlight, Tom McCarthy’s telling of how the Boston Globe uncovered atrocities in the Catholic Church, was probably the best film of 2015. I didn’t bring candy to my seat when I saw it in theaters. It didn’t occur to me, like how it wouldn’t occur to me to wear a basketball jersey to a job interview.

So I wonder: If we see The Force Awakens to escape reality does that mean we see Spotlight to come to terms with it?

Star Wars might be the most famous example of fantasy escapism in modern history. Its seventh installment comes at a time when there’s plenty to want to get away from. A radical terrorist group has the whole world living in fear. Mass shootings have become commonplace. A reality star who campaigns with hateful and offensive diatribes has a seemingly realistic chance of becoming the most powerful man in the world.

The Force Awakens sends us to two different worlds: the world of Star Wars where Jedi Knights fly spaceships and the world of nostalgia where we look back on a specific time and romanticize it for not being now. We’ll already know some characters and we’ll be introduced to new ones, and the story will go on for our sake. The Dark Side will once again materialize itself. The Force will apparently wake up.

We’re supposed to be offered escapes during the Christmas season. We’re allowed the comfort of knowing that Leia never forced Han to sell his old ride or his favorite vest. New creatures, droids, and villains will provide us with a sense of wonder. It’s up to J.J. Abrams to effectively nail the conflict and drama of the story, but even falling short of expectations would effectively spark thousands (millions?) of backseat filmmakers who deep down understand that, when it comes to a franchise like this, critiquing the product is ultimately part of the larger product being sold. All of these things are distractions, and don’t we deserve them?

Spotlight takes us back in time 12 years, but it only pulls us closer to the world’s problems. The movie follows the four-person “Spotlight” team of the Boston Globe in the entirety of their investigation of the Catholic Church. The film takes on the life and feel of the story as it develops; when the Spotlight team is trying to determine if Cathloic priests are abusing children it feels like a small movie that maybe you heard some good things about. When their focus shifts on trying to figure out how many Catholic priests are molesting children and how far the cover up reaches it suddenly feels like a colossal film, the type we might see a teaser trailer for 18 months before its release.

The stakes are high in Spotlight and every scene is pleading for its characters to expose real evil, perpetrated on innocent children. The story’s arc doesn’t have much to do with defeating evil. A victory comes from acknowledging it.

So, the question again: If we see The Force Awakens to escape, would we merely see Spotlight to become educated by attractive actors?

That notion might be giving us too much credit. It’s all the more relaxing to sit down in front of the new Star Wars movie with some popcorn, take a deep breath, and think about how we earned this two-hour break from reality after the year we’ve had. The truth is, though, that we spend almost every spare moment we have partaking in escapism. It’s why we go to bars, play or watch sports, read literature, glue ourselves to a Netflix screen, or go on vacation. Any time not spent trying to fix our problems (personal or societal) is spent trying to forget about them. 

On a recent Channel 33 podcast, Bill Simmons implied that the impact of the Boston Globe’s real life story on the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal was partially diminished in Boston, where Simmons was living at the time of the story, because it was published during the foundational moments of Tom Brady’s unlikely rise to superstardom as the New England Patriots’ quarterback. In theory, people talked about Brady instead of talking about child molestation. This might sound ridiculous, but it also sounds like escapism. It’s human nature, and it can be dangerous.

Oddly, this is also why we see Spotlight: for it’s entertainment value. Whether through superb acting or clever writing (usually both) every single scene contains high intensity, so much so that you might actually feel physically tired after the film.

Spotlight evokes an appreciation for the power of journalism and the determination of truth in the face of scandal. All of this is important, sure, but that importance doesn’t fluctuate when communicated in a bland or uninspiring way. We choose to watch a version of it told through Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams because, suddenly, it’s riveting. How it affects the way we look at the world once we step out is ancillary.

Star Wars, good or bad, will feel worth the hoopla of seeing it in theaters because it will take us so far away from where we are, if just for a few hours.

From beginning to end, Spotlight is a great movie, and ironically, in being such, is an escape. It keeps us close, though, and it invites us to bring our ideas and experiences into the theater with us. More importantly, it asks us to start acknowledging the things outside that theater.  

-Jonny Auping