Monthly Archives: November 2010

Upon Black Friday

I stare into the mirror and wonder if I’m ready for what’s to come. It’s a time that will try the souls of countless retail employees, a day of reckoning for those of us who make our trade peddling goods to the Horde.

There are no customers on this day, there is just the Horde. One massive Allmind that consumes everything in its path. They are not looking for food or books or clothes or anything material. They are hunting for Deals, in all shapes and all sizes. “Buy one, get one 50% off!” “Buy 2 get the third one free!” This is what the Horde is truly looking for. And when the day has passed and night has fallen and the Horde has fallen apart and broken into its base components, they look at what they have bought and wonder at what their madness has wrought.

“Why did I buy three pairs of cat warmers?” they will wonder. “Why do I own the boxset of “The Nanny”? I don’t even LIKE The Nanny!” They will look upon what they did while they were Horde and they will weep.

But all of that will come later, after the shopping fugue has passed, after the madness has passed and they have left a trail of broken and sobbing retail employees behind them. They will not remember the terrible things they do today.

I cannot think of them as people, as individuals, or even as customers. They have gone beyond that and below that. They are a force that cannot be stopped. Their demands must be acquiesced to. The only thing I can do on this day is give them our Deals and hope that that will be enough to survive. For that is the goal today: survival.

I look in the mirror and wonder if I will still be here when the Deals are done. I wonder if I’ll be the same person.

It’s November 26th, 2010 and it is Black Friday and I am so very afraid.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Day-to-Day: What's Going On, Events, Releases and New Things

Sam Adams, Lady Gaga and Doyle’s

Since Liang is visiting up from New York and since the proper response to an out-of-town visitor is to drag them around the city to do touristy things, we all went out to Jamaica Plains to do a tour of the Sam Adams brewery. The brewery has been around for a goodly amount of time, but has only been in Sam Adam’s possession since the mid-1980’s. Currently, its main purpose is experimentation and brewing specialty beers.

Our tour guide was on the snarky side. I think. Memories begin to take on a hazy quality around the point that we entered the tasting room. Since we sat at the far end of the tables, we were the last stop for the pitchers that got sent down the table to be sampled. This lead to us getting more than our fair share and to Dylan acting silly. Also, if you get a postcard from me from the Samuel Adams Brewery, I was stone cold sober when I wrote those and you’re welcome.

At the end of the tour, our guide suggested that we get on the trolley and go to Doyle’s Cafe for more beer and “chowdah”. Then a loud man with a Boston accent so strong that it had its own gravitational pull told us we should also board the trolley and go to Doyle’s.

So we went to Doyle’s.

This was one of the more surreal moments I’ve had in Boston. Our trolley looked to be older than God and was decked out with wooden floors and plastic disco balls. And speakers. Speakers blaring out Pokerface by Lady Gaga. Which the trolley danced to.

Our dancin’, Lady Gaga listenin’ trolley jerked into the parking lot at Doyle’s, spat out its passengers and waited for the next batch, a wary looking group of people who’d already, clearly, ridden it once and looked a little leery about doing so again.

Doyle’s was, apparently, featured in several recent movies that took place in Boston. Sadly, I saw no Ben Afflecks,  but I did see a surly waitress and I did see bowl made of bread filled with clam chowder.

In conclusion, I really like clam chowder served in a bread bowl.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Day-to-Day: What's Going On, Events, Releases and New Things

Book Review: The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris

I thought I would have few problems with this book. There’s little to no reason where I’d be annoyed by a book where I agree with the fundamental, underlying principles of the work. I fully believe that it’s possible to scientifically determine moral values. And look! It’s a book about scientifically determining moral values. We should get along famously.

Except that’s not what ended up happening.

Instead I found myself getting progressively more and more annoyed by the general tone of the entire book. I found myself arguing against what Sam Harris was saying, even when I agreed with him. He has such an insufferable, condescending way of putting things that I didn’t want to agree with him. And if that’s how I reacted, I can’t imagine how much he’d put off people who already disagreed with him. He hasn’t really mastered the persuasive part of the persuasive essay.

Then there’s the fact that by the end, he had strayed so far from the point that I had completely lost interest in what he was talking about. It had devolved into an attack on attempts to reconcile rational scientific thought with religious beliefs and faith. Which wasn’t really the point of the book or, at least, I didn’t think that was the point. I picked up the book so I could learn “how science can determine human values”, not look at a vomited up pile of Sam Harris’s bile.

While I appreciate that he seems to consider himself the lone voice of reason in an increasingly insane world, the man needs to actually talk to people and not rant at them in a thinly veiled attack on his critics.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Book Review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

I’ve had a long history with Stephen King’s books. When I was twelve, I read my first King book (It, I chose it because it had a monster hand coming out of a sewer grate) and I wasn’t able to finish it for six months because it scared the shit out of me.

I’ve read (pretty much) everything he’s written since then, so keep that in mind when I say that Full Dark, No Stars is one of the grimmer books he’s written.

As he says in the afterword, the stories are all about people in difficult and trying circumstances and what they have to do to get out of them. There are four novellas, starting with “1922” which opens with a farmer confessing to the murder of his wife and what happens to him and his after the crime’s been committed. The cheerfulness factor maintains at about that level throughout. “Big Driver” is a revenge story, “A Fair Extension” is about a deal with the devil, and “A Good Marriage” asks how well you can truly know the person you’re married to.

And it’s a grimness that I could dig. Both “1922” and “Big Driver” are creepy and entertaining, though it’ll probably be a while before I reread either. And “A Good Marriage” is my favorite King story to come out in a while.

“A Fair Extension” was, for me, the weakest of the lot. It was dark without any real weight behind, feeling more mean for meanness sake than to drive a plot home. And I didn’t get the references to major events and tabloid news stories throughout the story.

Aside from “A Fair Extension”, I really enjoyed the collection. It made me giddy and happy and depressed and creeped out all at once, and I think that’s the best one can expect from good horror.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Horror: Movies, Books, Stories and More

In Defense of Eve

Eve has taken a lot of crap over the years. Not only has she been vilified as being some sort of demon temptress harlot whose actions doomed humanity to a life of misery and suffering, but all of womankind has had to bear the withering scorn of Adam’s sons for daring to eat of the fruit first.

Ignoring whether or not Eve is solely responsible for man’s eviction from the Garden of Eden, it should be asked WHY her actions are viewed as a bad thing. Eve’s crime is that she gave humanity knowledge and self awareness. Before they ate of the fruit, humanity consisted of two dopes who were kept as pets by a jealous and vengeful god. Eve’s actions lead to mortality, yes, but they also lead to the actual beginnings of humanity, they lead to defining what makes people, people.

The Greeks had a similar story, except in their story, the main character was a tragic hero. Prometheus, an immortal titan, stole fire from Hephaestus’s forge and gave it to man. For his crime, he was chained to a rock and suffered two eagles eating his liver every day. He wasn’t viewed as a bad guy. He was viewed as someone who interceded on man’s behalf, giving them something wonderful and then paying a devastating price for it.

Eve’s actions, however, were apparently so terrible that they were used as justification (in part) of misogynistic teachings by the Church. Where did Original Sin come from? Why it came when that damn WOMAN ate of the tree of knowledge!

Instead, the Church should revere Eve as a saint. Without her, humans would be nothing more than two kept pets, the property of a god who demonstrated repeatedly that he couldn’t abide anything that dared to approach him. One only needs to look at the story of Babylon to see the results of humanity daring to say it was awesome. They built a tower that reached into the heavens and He struck humanity down for it.

When humanity reaches toward the stars and tries to claim greatness, the Old Testament God is always there to squash them back into the mud. And yet it’s Eve who is vilified. Why revere the God who tries to damn us with muddled thought and shortness of intellect? Why condemn the rebel who granted us capacity for greatness?

The entire depth and breadth of human history is the result of that spark of human self awareness. Maybe we should celebrate our humanity instead. Eve personifies everything we are: over curious and consumed with a  thirst for knowledge. We rebel against the universe and thumb our noses at the higher powers and stick our noses where they most certainly do not belong. And it all started with Eve.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think