Things I will probably never get a chance to do
- Be unmasked as an impostor.
- "Frown on" something. "The gigatron stomped across the bleak horizon, murdering millions and unleashing torrents of blood across the scorched land. The Dust Council frowned upon that."
- "Jet set," as a verb, or be part of the "jet set," the noun. This is highly improbable.
- "Summer," as a verb - the sort of thing a certain class does in the Hamptons, or Martha's Vineyard. As a life-long suburban jabroni, this is not an option available to me, on account of, my Marxist friends assure me, class struggle. More to the point, I am unsure what to do with crustless watercress sandwiches. Also I think if wine was served and I was given a taste to determine "corked-ness," they would see through the awkward pantomime of furrowing my eyebrow in concentration and then saying "fine," because I have no idea what corked wine tastes like. On account of being a life-long suburban jabroni.
- "Go on the lam." It just sounds like a lot of bother.
- Be described as "in the wind," although this is something worth expending effort toward because it sounds cool as hell. I wish I was "in the wind" right now.
- Be described as "at large." Although I have been described, sadly, as "large," and not in the good way.
- "Take a look-see." Although I have, on occasion, endeavored to undertake the yankee equivalent thereof.
- "Make the scene." Any scene. I would have been the guy Eddie Deezen attempted to shove into the locker in Grease.
- "Pound sand." I am unlikely to ever pound sand, the many entreaties to do so notwithstanding. I have, however, kicked rocks of my own accord.
- "Go on the Warpath." The french fries were undersalted, and now so-and-so is 'on the warpath.' This is a silly phrase.
- Be spotted "suckin' on a chili dog outside the Tastee-Freez." As a chili dog enthusiast and infamous consumer of chili dogs, this has always confused and agitated me.
- "Vogue," in the Madonna sense of the term. I tried to vogue once and blinded three ornery Teamsters by mistake, which was not, and I am emphatic about this, my finest moment. Worse yet, the Teamsters became ornery-er. Ornerier. That's actually a word, "ornerier." Check it out. Wow, that hurts to look at.
- Real Americans understand that an embrace of reason is a foundational imperative of a livable
and just society.
- Real Americans never subordinate their rational faculty to their emotions, neuroses, and whims.
- Real Americans are not solipsists; they understand that other people have to live and thrive in the
same society they themselves live in, and that respect for difference is reciprocal.
- Real Americans know how to agree to disagree, to be civil with their opponents, and understand that
a difference of opinion doesn't necessarily constitute an irreconcilable clash of values.
People's experiences, education, and gut feelings about the world may simply be different,
- Real Americans make a serious effort to prevent their personal problems and bullshit from becoming
other people's personal problems and bullshit.
- Real Americans understand that individual responsibility is a precondition for a free society, and
that exercising one's freedoms irresponsibly, especially in a flamboyant manner, will create
a growing sentiment antithetical to freedom. This may imperil the freedom of all of us.
- Real Americans don't invoke "muh rights" every time they are asked to stop being an irritating
- Real Americans know that they themselves do not know everything there is to know about everything,
and are therefore tentative in their statements, open minded to opposing opinions, embrace
nuance, and recognize expertise.
- Real Americans do not block roadways or interfere with emergency personnel, people due at courthouses,
or people driving to a hospital. Real Americans do not seriously believe that they can
irritate or enrage people into submission because Real Americans are not complete chuckleheads.
- Real Americans do not seriously expect candidates to perfectly mirror their values, policy
positions, aesthetics, or personality types in a nation populated by over 330 million people.
- Real Americans vote, even when they aren't enthusiastic about candidates. Real Americans
understand that a choice not to vote may hand power over to monsters. Real Americans clear
the low bar of voter registration by Googling, "How do I register to vote?" and following the
- Real Americans understand the difference between actions that create measurable and tangible progress
versus symbolic street theater bullshit, inane bumper stickers, and endless flags.
- Real Americans confront inconvenient or horrifying truths with courage and humility. Real Americans do
not put their heads in the sand or double down on delusions, faulty thinking, or indefensible
arguments. Real Americans know only the weak refuse to be moved in light of new information.
The strong honestly concede, and are grateful for the chance to level up.
- Real Americans change their minds, because Real Americans grow and learn and encounter new perspectives,
information, and arguments.
- Real Americans do not take cheap shots at others who change their minds, for this reason. Life-long
consistency indicates a stunted, intellectually uncurious, and dishonest mindset. A change of
heart is a cause for celebration, for all involved.
- Real Americans know they live in a reality tunnel, and that few (if any) people are truly "free thinkers."
Real Americans make allowances for this when they confront actual reality, and pivot when
- Real Americans read critically across the political spectrum. Real Americans know when their
own viewpoint is being flattered by a "news" source, and identify that source as being biased. Real
Americans know they are being consistently manipulated by those who pander to their own passions and
insecurities. Real Americans are concerned with their own mental ecology and the way they themselves
are being manipulated by being told what they want to hear.
- Real Americans mind their own business and do not seek to control the behavior, thoughts, or
emotions of other people, except when those behaviors, thoughts, or emotions, affect the rights
or security of others. Real Americans are honest and self-critical about the possibility that their
own behaviors, thoughts, or emotions, may be making someone else completely miserable, and will
question whether what they are doing is truly necessary. Real Americans carefully and judiciously
pick hills to die on when it comes to their rights, because the world is crowded, and that they
themselves may require a little charity and consideration one day.
- Real Americans know that everyone else knows that the phrase "separation of church and state"
does not occur in any of our founding documents, yet is an indispensible principle at the heart
of a free society. Attempts to force a creed on another will only invite others to do the same.
Separation of church and state protects the religious as well as the irreligious, equally.
Forcing either religion or atheism on others is tyranny.
- Real Americans do not litter. Real Americans clean up campsites. Real Americans do not throw cigarette
butts out of windows. Real Americans do not shit on the toilet seat. Real Americans do not pollute,
dump their garbage illegally, or vandalize things that do not belong to them. Real Americans are
cognizant of the risk of fire in dry climates.
- Real Americans are polite. Real Americans know boorishness has never been a virtue.
- Real Americans call out terrible arguments on their own side. Real Americans know that at some point
they themselves will make a terrible argument and will recognize and admit their error.
- Real Americans do not engage in "struggle sessions" or demand ideological purity. Real Americans know
these are the demented hobbies of our adversaries.
- Real Americans do not use the term "the lesser of two evils" when a choice needs to be made
involving two less-than-ideal candidates. Real Americans do not do this because they know that
this is a boring and trite, but more importantly because the endless use of the term "evil" for
people we disagree with is adolescent, reductive, and dishonest.
- Real Americans endeavor not to be a Karen, and apologize and make amends should they act like a complete
bastard in public.
- Real Americans forgive, because Real Americans know they are guilty of most of these terrible behaviors
from time to time.
- Real Americans do not crack jokes about Canadian politeness or the British penchant for forming orderly
queues, because Real Americans know our impoliteness and australopithecine ineptness in forming lines
is, or ought to be, shameful.
- Real Americans know that repeating we're the greatest country on earth is a sad proxy for actually taking
action to be the greatest country on earth.
- Real Americans know that like a car, society requires maintenance. And maintenance comes at a cost.
Real Americans pay that cost. The cost is time and money. Real Americans admit when they are being
parsimonious when it comes to spending either time or money maintaining their society.
- Real Americans do not believe they actually live in isolation from society, and that fantasies to the
contrary are juvenile and intellectually dishonest.
- Real Americans know who their representatives are.
- Real Americans do not attempt to divide people by race, class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference,
because Real Americans understand that liberty is, fundamentally, the right of people to be different,
self-actualize, pursue dreams, often in ways which befuddle us or run contrary our tastes,
aesthetics, and inclinations.
- Real Americans understand that while their own government is guilty of moral transgressions, the same is
true of foreign governments. Real Americans do not give aid and comfort to the enemy. Real Americans
spend time applying pressure on their own government to reform.
- Real Americans understand that standing by and doing nothing while a foreign state commits atrocities, while
it may serve a strategic end, does not serve a moral one. A refusal to stand up to oppression, tyranny,
and violence, does not score you any moral points. A refusal to stand up to predatory individuals,
similarly. Find something else to be sanctimonious about other than surrender.
- Real Americans understand that practically all hate that exists in the world is justified by a tangle of
haughty self-righteousness, and is not unlike their own. Real Americans wrestle their own
hatred to the ground, then drown it in the bathtub, and refuse to participate in movements -- even
ones which mirror their own desires -- which traffic in hatred, and its praxis, violence.
- Real Americans do not apologize for, rationalize, or justify, horrible things in their cultural or
- Real Americans understand that time moves in one direction only.
- Real Americans do not treat the actual (or their preferred) political or economic system as a religion,
or as pagan gods. All economic or political systems must serve justice and human dignity, or they
are simply cults.
- Real Americans read Thomas Paine.
- Real Americans give due credit to the opposition when the opposition has done something salutory. Real
Americans are fair-minded about checks and balances, restraints on power, and political realities,
and do not mindlessly attack the opposition for things they cannot control.
- Real Americans do not treat other people like commodities. Real Americans understand that oppression
and exploitation exist in our society in ways which are fully legal. Real Americans remember
that before we are workers, employers, friends, enemies, fellow-travelers, or adversaries, that we
are human beings first, born equal.
- Real Americans do not forget the metaphysical importance of the individual as the atom of society. Real
Americans know individuals are not resources to be disposed of or sacrificed to any other individual
or group. How we rationalize our present economic system (or any proposed economic system) with
this principle is part of an ongoing debate which will not resolve itself in our lifetimes.
- Real Americans conversely understand that they are part of a larger society and their actions, or refusal
to act, may hurt other people. Real Americans don't like it when other people get hurt because real
Americans understand that others, like them, are individuals, deserving of dignity, justice, and
- Real Americans know that freedom as an abstract principle written on paper only is insufficient to guarantee
a just, free, and prosperous society.
- Real Americans do not worship our framers as religious figures or our founding documents as religious texts.
Real Americans know that our framers were fallible mortals, just like we are.
- Real Americans recognize that none of us were consulted, and therefore never consented, to any economic or
political system, and we are all in the same boat. We therefore have the choice between either anomie and
chaos, or else making the best of a system generations of people have tried to shape into something
workable, equitable, secure, and just.
- Real Americans value civilization over chaos, and institutional justice over vigilantism. Real Americans have
done due diligence when it comes to developing their own conscience, and don't need this explained to them.
- Real Americans do not resort to revolution and uprising when they know, deep down, they've barely scratched
the surface of attempting political change through above-board civic mechanisms available to them.
- Real Americans do not blame their selfish lack of capacity for solidarity on others.
- Real Americans know a radical is just a political extremist or fanatic who doesn't like to be called a
political extremist or fanatic.
- Real Americans know that accelerationists are sociopaths. Many are psychopaths.
- Real Americans are at least as suspicious of non-mainstream political movements which promise quick and easy
solutions to the world's problems, as they are the establishment itself.
- Real Americans understand every child deserves a quality education, and that poor children deserve the same
as wealthy children. To believe otherwise is to be a supporter of aristocracy and caste.
- Real Americans understand that short-changing education is shooting themselves in the foot, imperiling the
prosperity and security of society as a whole and WHY DOES THIS POINT EVEN NEED TO BE MADE.
- Real Americans pull for Breakin' 1 because Breakin II: Electric Boogaloo gets all the press and Real Americans
are all about the underdog.
- Real Americans understand that only fools think humility is weakness. Humility is the strength in
understanding your own limits of experience, knowledge, and information. Humility is the foundation
of personal growth. Except for me, obviously. I rule, and you can take that to the bank.
- Real Americans do not mock people for the cards they have been dealt. Real Americans encourage others to
transcend, evolve, reform, develop, atone, apologize, with an eye toward redemption.
Important and Underrated Films
These are films I think are important. Some of them are obscure. Some are films people have heard of but haven't
taken the time to see. Some of them are flawed, but all of them are worth your time.
- ...tick...tick...tick  - About the first
black sherriff of Colusa County. Jim Brown and George Kennedy, with an excellent soundtrack by Tompall and the Glaser Brothers.
The resistance to change in the United States is one of the things which continues to frustrate me.
- High Noon  - One of perhaps three Westerns
even people who don't like Westerns should definitely see. Sometimes it is down to a single individual to do what's right.
For years, I assumed this would be typical Western schlock; it is anything but.
- The Indian Runner  - Sean Penn's directorial debut
and finest moment. Intense, authentic performances by David Morse and Viggo Mortensen. Based on the Bruce Springsteen song
Highway Patrolman from his bleak Nebraska album. Of all movies that exceeded my expectations, this one
exceeded them the most.
- Made in USA  - Criminally obscure, flawed, and
reportedly butchered in the editing process, Made in USA is nonetheless a film which had a serious impact on me when I first
saw it as a teenager. The 80's best road film, Adrian Pasdar, Lori Singer, and Chris Penn ride American highways through
oblivion. Soundtrack by Sonic Youth, Timbuk 3, and World Party. It resonates today even more, since the basic themes of the
film (environmental disaster) have only intensified in the intervening years. There is supposedly a director's cut out there
held privately; I'd give my right arm to see it.
- Paris, Texas  - Harry Dean Stanton's finest moment.
This quiet, meandering, meditative film was introduced to me by an old friend. Also starring the always likeable Dean Stockwell.
- Easy Rider  - You can watch the 1960s end in Easy
Rider. I had assumed initially that this was a biker exploitation film. It isn't. I found myself terribly depressed by the
end of it, but I felt like it had articulated something I was slowly realizing on my own. George (Jack Nicholson) explains
something terrible about the world in the famous campfire scene which
haunts me to this day. I am far from a conspiracy theorist, but the relegation of this film to "60s relic" really makes me
wonder sometimes, as I believe that this film is in many ways a Rosetta Stone for understanding the American condition.
Probably my single favorite film of all time, everyone's heard of it, but anyone who's seen it says they haven't seen it in
decades and only barely remember it.
- Vanishing Point  - Kowalski is driving across the Great
Basin in an effort to deliver a muscle car from Denver to San Francisco in an impossible amount of time. What feels like a sort
of action film takes on a strangely metaphysical character as the story unfolds. In a sense, a simple story of an outlaw
individual against authority. In another, a comment on our world.
- Alice's Restaurant  - Based on the famous song but
expanded greatly, I like this film for a lot of the things it was criticized for: namely, the older screenwriter/director writing
about this period of the 60s knowing it couldn't last. One of the things I like about it is the way it reminds anyone who might
have excessively nostalgic feelings for the period that the existential reality of the draft was hanging over a lot of people's
heads. For some reason, the Alice's Restaurant story has always had a strange (and serious) resonance with me, and to this day
I am not entirely sure why. The church is symbolic of something but I can't put my finger on what.
- A Serious Man  - The older I get, the more it feels
like there are always wolves just outside the door. That isn't paranoia. I can hear them scratching, right now. The Coens
are disproportionately represented in my favorite films of all time; this is one of their lesser-seen ones.
- Bob Roberts  - Right-wing folk singer Bob Roberts
is running for president. And he is a complete bastard. Watch out for Jack Black as a completely demented follower of
the candidate. He might remind you of a sort of person you may have encountered of late. Tim Robbins is Bob Roberts, and
his opponent, Brickley Paiste, is played by Gore Vidal.
- Brazil  - I have an ugly and codependent
relationship with Brazil. Don't watch Brazil with me. You wouldn't like me when I'm watching Brazil. A masterpiece. A
movie I watch when I am in a very bad mood.
- Breaker Morant  - The gifted Edward Woodward
plays Harry Morant of the Bushveldt Carbineers, who are on trial for war crimes. A tense and involving courtroom drama
by Bruce Beresford, Breaker Morant is about the "rules" of warfare, their selective enforcement, and "following orders."
- David Holzman's Diary  - What a strange
experience it was encountering this film for the first time. A "video blog" of David Holzman, from 1967. What I didn't
know when I saw this the first time was that I was watching fiction. I thought it was an actual video documentary of a
man's life. Great street shots and a memorable time-lapse shot of a 1960s television broadcast. Amusing, avant-garde,
and strangely engrossing, I've never seen another film like it.
- Downtime  - It is 1985 in Winnipeg. And absolutely nothing whatsoever is going on. A
film made almost entirely of empty space; I don't fully understand why it is as watchable as it is. Indie,
lo-fi, low budget, and you could call it proto-mumblecore except there's not much dialog at all, mumbled or
otherwise. Not for everyone.
- Eggshells  - A strange presence haunts a
hippie crash pad. An early Tobe Hooper film, before he'd hit it big with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Lots of experimental
film techniques. Not a horror film. I'm not sure what to classify this as, but it's an engrossing watch, especially if
you are interested in Austin, Texas in the late 1960s. Pour one out for Ben Skabarsak, wherever he is now.