I adulted on my awesomesauce (3/23/2019)

Romanticized immaturity among Millennials – while I see the organic genesis of it (the fundamental anxiety that our experience of adulthood is somehow not what was prescribed to us, that our rites of passage into the world are fundamentally different from those of our forefathers by virtue of a rapidly changing world), I also think it needs to stop. Referring semi-ironically to the completion of everyday tasks as “adulting” isn’t cute or quirky anymore, it’s self-infantilizing. Why would you speak about yourself that way?

Now, simultaneously, I think our supposed immaturity is a tremendous advantage because much of what is socially sanctioned as “maturity” is in fact blind acquiescence. Succumbing to pressure to pump out kids you don’t want or devote your being to a bullshit job have long been considered hallmarks of adulthood proper, but adherence to such things hardly seems mature.

Questioning the parameters of our own sense of maturity, especially so we might functionally redefine it, is great. All this “adulting” shit, however, seems like cynical brandspeak designed to infantilize. It’s phony. Let’s be the architects of our own maturity, and our own immaturity for that matter.

The century belongs to you, reach out and take it.

Excerpt from nothing in particular (3/22/2019)

The 1998 American revamp of Godzilla is a pretty dumb movie, but it also has a bit of heavy nostalgic value for me. I don’t know how alone I am in that regard. Was this big on anyone else’s childhood watch list? Anyway, in its end credits and in other promotional stuff, that movie also featured one of the odder moments in the footnotes of pop music history, a remix of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” (with Jimmy Page reprising his role on guitar, no less!) by Puff Daddy.

The lyrics to the rap beat ostensibly address an ex-lover or some other close intimate one with whom the author has had a particularly hurtful falling out. It’s fairly well-written and is delivered with passion. One guesses that maybe people could have had a different opinion of the song if it hadn’t been a remix of a rock classic, and hadn’t been created just to serve the marketing of a really dumb late 90’s disaster movie. Sadly, the song attempted to bridge the wrong genres (in one corner: rap, which we all are supposed to believe is artistically inferior because it is because it is because it is, and in the other corner: classic rock, which we all know is sacred and not allowed to be reinterpreted in any way shape or form) and fell under the wrong franchise umbrella, so a fairly interesting rap that describes interpersonal betrayal and grief with surprising poignancy is, well, lost to obscurity.

Tony Hawk’s Complicated Technological Nostalgia 2 (PS2)

Hey yo, I dusted off the old PS2 and played a few minutes of TONY HAWK’S UNDERGROUND 2.

The idea, naturally, in my playing this 2004 Tony Hawk game as a nearly 25-year-old man at the tail end of the 2010s, is to indulge on a tiny nostalgia trip. I nearly guarantee that many others playing this game in 2019 Anno Domini probably frames their indulgence and enjoyment in similar terms. Where this becomes misleading is in the fact that this video game, taken in isolation, has no direct cause to inflict nostalgia. Of course it does, as many pop cultural items from this very time period invariably do for my generation, but the curiosity with this or I suppose any specimen of technological nostalgia is that the game itself, a consumer product, never really went away. It has been freely and relatively cheaply available since its release to all since its initial release date 15 years ago. A used copy goes for $8.83 on Amazon right now, perhaps a little more in other retail locations where games are sold. As with anything like this, it seems a bit at odds with our traditional understanding of nostalgia.

That’s because it’s less the item itself that invokes a longing for the past than the circumstances surrounding our original interaction with it. The latter usually involves that for which we are truly nostalgic because there are connotations of that which is gone forever – those days when one of your grandparents was still around, when you still belonged to a circle of friends nearly all of whom you have now lost contact with, when the dog you grew up with was still alive, when you still lived in your hometown, when as chance would have it you first played TONY HAWK’S UNDERGROUND 2.

All of this, the video game can be a sort of conduit for.

And let’s face it – if you even casually play video games, you’re probably not playing the exact same titles you did 15 years ago. (Exchange this statement for other cultural artifacts as they apply to your taste: watching the same shows, listening to the same music, etc.) The strange, roundabout idea of the game as the object of nostalgia is therefore reinforced when one opens old Tony Hawk up on a PS2 for the first time in several years and feels, instantly, the insidious sense of time hurtling forward and coldly leaving this artifact in the cold ruins of the past as one looks upon their last save dates on the memory card: “2007, 2008? Holy shit!”, etc.

To be nostalgic, after all, is to long for that which cannot be retrieved, which of course is to suffer (the Greek root words that form “nostalgia” mean “homecoming” and “pain”). This must be why social networks are weaved around nostalgia – suffering is more palatable, or at least can be downsized to a vaguely bittersweet sensation, when experienced communally. It’s not surprising therefore that much online discussion of this game or similar games is focused on mid-2000s nostalgia (“REMEMBER THE TONY HAWK GAMES?!”, you’ve probably seen three videos to the tune of this week), a phenomenon which I suspect will sooner than later become mainstream-profitable as those who were born in the 90’s – but whose pivotal youthful memories were mostly relegated to the decade of Dubya and My Chemical Romance – begin to age, reflect on their youths and feel more and more keenly, by the day, their own mortality.

And yes, as sure as the circle button performs a melon-grab, that is what this is all about. Mortality creeps quietly around the whole concept of cultural nostalgia, the sense that all the traditions and signifiers that are familiar to us from our glory days is, ultimately, fading away and we’re next.

This all seems obvious, like an overemphasized and sophomoric retread of basic truisms about the relationship between consumer commodities and nostalgia, but the point I’m really driving at here is: that challenge in Classic Mode, where you have to break all the sprinklers in the Training Level? It’s a lot harder than I remember.

The Shack

Was this a nightmare? What was this? It had something to do with being heavily clothed, standing in a dark storm. It wasn’t a dark storm in the sense of that old cliché, ‘it was a dark and stormy night’, because this seemed to be a plane absent of sunlight or nightfall. But it was most certainly dark, and it was most certainly raining.

I only describe it as a plane because it wasn’t land, nor was it the ocean; hell, it was barely even air. If outer space was constructed only out of dark clouds and rain in place of stars, this might be what it looked like, because there was nothing to literally, physically stand on. You were still standing, but you could look down at your feet and see the rain falling into eternity below you. Of course, it didn’t help that you couldn’t for the life of you figure out where the rain was falling from. Looking up was the same as looking down.

The rain is cold as hell, but that’s what your clothes are for. You’re heavily dressed, in several layers of what seems like wool and jackets. Maybe what you’re wearing on your head is a sweatshirt hood, or a cowboy hat. It might not be useful. The rain is just getting colder, and these layers of clothing can only keep you warm for so long. The clouds and rain will beat against them, and they’ll win. Oh, they’ll sure as hell win. It’s the weight of everything the cosmos has to offer versus one carbon-based life form, do you really think that you don’t know the score?

There’s something that seems like it would have to be a hallucination, or some reflection from the raindrops tricking your eyes, but it’s actually a light somewhere in the distance, as you push onward through the rain and clouds. It’s a shack. It may be a humble one, it may be an extravagant one, but the details are hardly significant. The point is that there’s a large, warm candle. This candle, like everything else in the shack, is guarded by a strong roof; tin, wood, the material is still irrelevant. It’s the resilience of the material that matters.

ANGST REIGNS: [Material cut from “2007!”]

People spin the word “angst” to mean something trivial and trite, and as a result, you’re going to find that there’s a stigma inflicted on anyone outside of a certain age group who expresses dissatisfaction about life on Earth. They will be branded as automatically immature or developmentally hindered. The clinically depressed are told to “get over” their disposition, the dissatisfied are commanded to be satisfied. The swindlers and bastards of this world have created a checklist of attitudes and feelings that humans are and are not allowed to display. But for right now, young man, you are. You’re expected to, in fact. You are supposed to be petulant and disenchanted, because you are a Teenager and this is the role you must play.

If you don’t play the role, you will still be ostracized. You’re fucked whatever what you do. This is why, no matter what hindsight-informed guidance I might offer, I really can’t advise you. You can be intelligent and possess extraordinary ethical fortitude, but it’s inconsequential because you’re a Teenager. If you exhibit good spirits, they will interrogate you about what’s secretly bothering you until you snap and confirm that you are in fact the misery-case they suspected you were. If you play the role and rage against this world and all its hypocrisies, they will just as easily use that against you. They won’t look down at your child flesh anymore and smile. Instead, they’ll scrutinize your every step when you walk into the supermarket. You will become emblematic of “what’s wrong with today’s youth”, whether you want to or not.

So, if I was going to suggest anything to you, I’d like to remind you to hold on to that all that anger and contempt, because it is one of the most pure and unadulterated things in the world. Your beer goggles are off. You are in the reflective interim between childhood fantasy and adult life’s bottomless sea of petty distractions in the guise of responsibilities.

Let me deflate the suspense and inform you that, no, you don’t know everything. More than likely, the next few years are going to be host to a ton of poor decisions on your part. However, you’re at a crossroads where you’re considerably less burdened by rose-colored optimism bias or delusions of a just world than at any point in your lifespan before this point, or likely at any point after. Consequently, you can see life for what it is: mediocre for the most part, often highly unpleasant and punctuated by moments of extraordinary jubilee that just slightly atone for the rest of it, albeit not by much.

Don’t let this angst govern your life forever, but save some room for it in your mind. Don’t drown in the anesthetics of the adult world’s hedonic treadmill, that dead-eyed world of motivational placards and empty pseudo-positivist bromides. Never mistake blind acquiescence for maturity.


“Vocabulatrophy”, in LITERARY YARD (2019)

Literary Yard

By: Austin J. Dalton

The day already seemed to be a less than auspicious one when I glanced over at the alarm clock from where I was positioned on the couch. Ten in the morning, I’d missed my academic advising appointment by an hour. The worst part is that I had indeed set my alarm clock a few times over and hadn’t even slept through the noise when it went off; in a half-awake daze, I must have opted for the snooze option and fell straight back asleep. Good luck explaining that one, am I right?

“Goddamn it,” I muttered to myself as I considered my predicament.

Getting up, I stubbed my foot on a plastic stegosaurus that my nephew had for some reason left in the living room from when I had been watching him the other day. The spikes on that little things back had, apparently, been meant…

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