this is the perfect place to get jumped

Month: July, 2016

amanda a

i walked up a hill, and in the white van behind me was a family owned “serbian” moving company. through the windshield i observed “the father” and “the son”; they had shaved heads and wore white undershirts. they had grey bags under their eyes.

i reached a red light and stopped walking. the van stopped behind me. “the son” jumped out of the van, ran to the trunk and opened it to ensure nothing had fallen, then slammed it shut and jumped back into the passenger seat. the light turned green and i began walking again. the van followed at the speed i was walking.

at the top of  the hill was a high school classmate. her face was smoother, rounder and more tawny than i remembered. her black hair was pulled back. she also wore a white t-shirt.

‘the serbs are her family, and they are helping her move,’ i concluded.

i hesitated as i approached her: ‘should i ignore her, or say hello? would she remember me?’

when i got close enough to make eye contact i said hello. she frowned. “I do not remember you,” she replied.

i walked past her, then turned my head and yelled back, “I’m Jimmy!” she stood in place, facing away from me. i pondered silently for a moment, then yelled “I’m Billy!”

now i’m triggered

internet alt poet @miragonz recently tweeted:

i’m not saying that i *want* trump to be assassinated, i’m just that saying him dying seems like a much better option than him not dying

sigh…i used to like this girl….

mira’s time is *famously* spent working from the internet, in seclusion, at home. thus, she can easily join her ostentatious friends and relocate to new zealand for a year or two if trump gets elected. but why put forth the effort of relocating when taking the life of the threat is a “better option?” no relocation required!

mira is an internet celebrity, so she is only *known* by her fans. to stay relevent she must tweet constantly, and since it’s election season it makes sense that she is outspoken on the subject of politics, even if her opinions are just as ignorant as any facebook feed.

trump is a controversial demagogue, but he has not yet been elected president. therefor, he has not done anything besides talk. “him dying” eliminates the need to make a cogent argument against his politics. in other words, it is easy; it proves that mira has no argument, since she’d rather trump be assassinated–the dead cannot talk anymore.

mira’s evil intents cannot be masked by her wry tone. this is violent rhetoric that gets a free pass because of its smarmy replacement of ‘living’ with ‘not dying.’

and sadly, this sort of regressive thinking is far too common.

i wish “celebrities”–im looking at eric andre too–with careers in entertainment wouldn’t open their mouths and expose their political beliefs to me. you lose customers that way! just shut up and make us laugh or cry without using your career as yet another platform for politics that i don’t want.

understandably, most people are too busy to be educated on the nuances of every issue. this fact does not stop anyone from having a political opinion or using social media to voice them. there is nothing wrong with voicing uneducated opinions on social media if they do not call for violence against political opposition.

i want to believe that mira is in the minority, but her clout on social media will lead to the normalizing of violent rhetoric, and deepen the ideological and racial divide of the american people, which, among other factors, has given a rise to populist candidates like trump and sanders in the first place.

but mira is not assassinating trump to clear the path for her candidate, so it doesn’t matter if mira supported sanders or clinton–she is assassinating him for the likes. for the popularity, for the applause. it is popular to hate trump, and ironically, it isn’t unsafe to call for his assassination, especially if one is *cute* and *witty* about it.

mira wants to be known for being unique and thoughtful and pensive, but she’s just another vapid blabbermouth on the internet.

Steven, we need to go NOW!!

Before any of my friends had driver’s licenses, I’d beg my parents to let my friend’s parents drive me to Monkey Head Games for Friday Night Magic. After they reluctantly granted me permission, I counted down, from weeks to days to hours to the minutes until I could wait outside for the carpool. Once in the car, I took note of the landmarks that indicated our approaching proximity to the store, each roadside sign a beacon for the tournament, and the impending release of my restrained craving for competitive play. For three or four glorious hours I effortlessly left all self consciousness at the door, and focused on the game, the object of my every waking thought.

Playing and trading in the ankle deep snack garbage of Monkey Head Games’ cramped backroom was the highlight of my teen years, and stoked the flames of my competitive spirit. Winning was always better than losing, but losing a close game was more acceptable than being forced to concede when the carpool arrived at 10:30pm.

My friends got driver’s licenses around the same time they got girlfriends, part time jobs and Warcraft accounts. I still needed permission granted by my parents, but now I was at the mercy of my friend’s changing lifestyles before we all split up and attended different colleges.

Following college graduation and the inevitable shrinking of the friend group, I rediscovered Friday Night Magic. Monkey Head Games doubled in size and transformed into The Brothers’ Grim in the years between my last time in attendance.

Playing Magic on Friday Night at The Brothers’ Grim in 2010 was nothing like playing Magic at Monkey Head Games in 2005. We drank alcohol, smoked weed, cursed loudly and made our own curfew. In the summer of 2010 I felt carefree; I enjoyed playing the game with an edgy new crowd of single fathers and molly dealers moonlighting as Best Buy showroom salesmen. In fall I openly admitted to sidestepping the reality of finding a job to play Friday Night Magic for the foreseeable future. I did not want to recover; I was getting good at Magic. My girlfriend could never understand.

In Winter I decided that I was a jobless slugabed that had progressed an inch in 5 years. I still loved the game, but the lifestyle was killing my self esteem. If I stayed at Grim, I would have become fat with comfort and arrogant with talent. I looked at Grim’s infamous employee, Dave. He was very fat and very rude to customers, but he had a fearsome army of Tyranids, and was the store’s best Starfighter. Lesser enthusiasts paid him to paint their models, but he was living at his parents house and approaching thirty, spending the very little he made at the store where he worked. He would probably live with his parents until they died, then inherit their house. Getting good at Magic was not going to help me reach my goals.

I felt guilty for enjoying myself because I had not earned that enjoyment, and was squandering my potential because I was addicted to the game. If I still believed in myself I needed to prove it by doing something new. When I moved out in 2011 I vowed never to return.

I went back on my promise last Friday. My two remaining friends were crossing paths for the first time in two years: Tom had returned from a teaching job in Korea, and Christian recently accepted a contract to work as a translator in Korea, and was leaving in a few weeks. I accepted their invitation to relive a Friday Night from 2010. After all, it would be the first and last time that the last of us would be together for many years.

“Why didn’t any of us get fat?” Christian pondered as he looked around the playroom, at the crowd of obese virgins.

“We value our dicks. Most of the patrons at the Brothers’ Grim do not value their dicks.” I responded.

The long term patrons at The Brothers’ Grim only value their own enjoyment, to the detriment of their future and their bodies. They spend their time consuming games and snacks in a comfortable position. They do not risk anything or challenge themselves.

My Grim friends from 2010 were slowly becoming unrecognizable, and seeing them brought me way back to the days when we’d go to Frank’s Dad’ s filthy house to eat junk food, smoke weed and play Magic. (Frank was a troubled kid with a young daughter out of wedlock. He moved from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to Selden where he could calm down amid some ensuing legal troubles. He lived with his medical doctor father and infant daughter in a filthy shack off Middle Country Road. We were often rowdy very early into the mornings when his father had work. (There is so much more to this story.))

Now, Frank’s black hair was almost grey, he’d gained forty pounds, his arms were decorated in grey lightning bolt tattoos, and he had some fresh cigarette burns on his already scarred legs. Mikey gained twenty pounds, but was just as chatty. His new voice had been ground course from smoking a pack a day, and he was not balding gracefully. He said he was an entrepreneur.

The fat guys had become fatter. Dave tucked his black t-shirt into his jeans as a fashion statement, (he only wears black t-shirts) which, whether on purpose or by accident, showed everyone in the store the extent of his softly hanging protrusion. Others wore shirts that had not fit them for years.

We sat down to play, and the same feeling of excitement from 2010 and 2005 lit up inside of me. I tuned out all of my new problems and focused effortlessly. Mikey couldn’t stop himself from talking.

20160719_124820    (a Steven lookalike)

I heard a squealing honk that sounded like an elderly woman in puberty. The source of the sound was the voice box of a 14 year old specimen named Steven. His pallid complexion disclosed no imperfections, though he held every other typical adolescent geek attribute imaginable: severe overbite being treated with braces, wire frame glasses, knobby elbows and crimped earlobes. The back of his head was an egg shaped shelf, and his short hair was scruffy and brown.

I was crushed by my Round 2 opponent, who I posited as Steven’s father. He was in his early-forties and resembled a potential version of an adult Steven, with a stronger build and gray hair. Father and son, playing Friday Night Magic together, I fantasized. That would have been the dream. A dad that shared my obsession and let me play past 10:30pm every Friday. Where would I be today, if I indulged, unimpeded, headfirst into my desires in 2005?

I sat at the same table as Steven for Round 3, and before we settled to play Steven showed me his Wolf tokens. “I’m going to carry these around with me until I get to use them!” he shouted.

“Nice,” I responded, deadpan. I secretly loved him.

My Round 3 opponent was a man hidden behind a thick beard, glasses, and a hat. A plump kid with soft skin and straight, greasy hair sat next to him, apologizing.

“I’m really sorry about that.”

My opponent did not answer. (I was crushing him.)

“I’ll make it up to you. I promise.”

No answer. (I won Game 1.)

“You said the small box. So I went into the small box. I didn’t know what you were saving it for, I’ll give you a Sol Ring. I’m sorry.”

“It’s Ok. It just makes you look really bad, that’s all,” my opponent replied brutally. He shuffled for Game 2.

“He traded a card you were saving?” I asked, to fill the silence and give him an opportunity to vent. My opponent did not answer. (I destroyed him in Game 2.)

With twenty minutes left in the round I wandered between the matches of my friends to check their progress. Steven was playing his match against an opponent in his mid thirties. They both had matching Super Mario Bros play mats.

Steven was still playing when the clock struck 10:30pm. The plump apologist stood in the doorway, and yelled towards the tournament tables.

“Steven, we have to go!” Everybody ignored him except for Steven and I.

Did this guy even play in the tournament? I wondered. Or did he lose Round 1 and drop?

Steven’s gaped in disbelief, his bottom jaw slacking open, his tongue hanging out of his transitional mouth. He threw his hands up, shocked, his eyes welling in utter disappointment. I smiled, winced, then covered my mouth. My emotions were so mixed up inside me that my outward expressions became confused jumbles.

“What?!” he screeched. His high pitched voice cracked further. “I’m in the middle of a game!”

The plump apologist remained in the doorway. His mouth was slightly open in disbelief, and though he showed no smile,  I knew that he secretly enjoyed this.

Steven looked desperately in all directions. Would he find support in the fat crowd of indifferent nerds? (I was neither.) Should I step in, as a stranger looking out for the young and the weak, abused by the older brothers? Should I meddle in the natural order of growing up? Or should I allow Steven to freely exercise defiance, and at least finish his game?

I got choked up, overcome with emotion. I sat next to Tom. “Poor Steven,” he said.

My Round 2 opponent sat unmoved. He was not Steven’s Dad.

I smiled, and I covered my face, and I tried not to stare, but I couldn’t look away. My eyes went back and forth between the door and Steven’s game.

He brother stood there, growing impatient.

“Steven, concede the game!” Fucking blasphemy! I wanted to shove the brother out of the door. Push him to the ground. Give him a scare. Watch his curl in submission on the floor of the parking lot…..but I remained an aloof observer and did not interfere with the laws of nature.

Inside I rooted for Steven to do the right thing: finish the game.

Obviously Steven’s parents worked an exhausting week, and they didn’t want to drive somewhere so late. The tournament ended at midnight, and 10:30PM was a fair compromise since Steven couldn’t drive himself home. He’d probably lose by Round 2 anyway. Whether or not he was losing, Steven continued playing as he turned into a pumpkin.

“Steven give him the win!” The mean man demanded. When Steven ignored him and continued to play the thirty year old newb.

“Steven! We have to go!” What’s the rush? I wanted to say. The mean older brother stormed away to wait with his mom in the passenger seat. After losing Steven packed up his cards, excitedly talked to his opponent about wolf tokens. The man seemed very interested. His week’s highlight was over, and the chance to play again would not be his choice to make. Hang in there buddy.

I stayed until midnight then left with Tom and Christian. “Steven’s Dad was a dick,” Tom said as I sped up to a red light. “Dad? I thought that was his brother.”

But how far have I actually come? I’m back at the same store five years later, still living hand to mouth. How much do I have to show for my time? How much have I really changed? I’ve been attending The Brothers’ Grim since it was called Monkey Head Games in 2004. I hope Steven is nothing like me, but he will become himself. Who will I become? Maybe I’ll go back in a few years, when I can better answer that question.

that’s exploitation!

Exploitation is the act of benefiting from treating someone unfairly.

Let’s say I hypothetically stalk the suburbs at night, stick my camera into unsuspecting living rooms and record the private lives of others without their permission. Trespassing on private property and intruding on someone’s expectation of privacy are against the law. But is it exploitation? Not unless I sell it, and benefit financially from their mistreatment.

Exploitation is also the act of benefiting from using resources.

(Humans can sometimes be considered resources depending on the context, but due to human rights we must differentiate between human and non-human resources. (Though non-human resources can also be alive, they are not human and therefore cannot have the same rights as humans.))

By this definition exploitation is not illegal. Mining ore, for instance, is considered exploitation. This is not only legal, it is encouraged because ore is necessary to make stuff. If one wants to argue against the exploitation of ore and in favor of ore’s rights I’ll be happy to read it. (I’m looking at you Jacobin.)

When a human was not the owner of his labor, and was not compensated for his effort, and instead was bought and sold like a non-human resource, it was called slavery.

Children may not have been enslaved when they were working factory jobs instead of attending school during the industrial revolution, but they were exploited because they were too young to have agency under the law and were forced to work by their parents. Their did not keep the fruits of their labor, as their parents needed their earnings to feed the family.

When consent is introduced exploitation evaporates.

Some freaks want to be exploited sexually. Good for them. Unfortunately, by definition, they are not exploited and never can be. By making a choice to exploit themselves, they are not exploiting themselves. They may not be receiving any material benefit from the fruits of their sexual labor, but they are receiving their own brand of pleasure, which, depending on the freak, might actually be pain. In their opinion, getting beaten and tied up and fist fucked is sexually satisfying. By their own choice they are being treated unfairly, which still gives them agency, as they consent to the humiliation. These freaks wanted someone else to profit sexually at their expense, and they chose to suffer sexually because they receive a purely subjective pleasure from it, and therefore benefit.

Nymphos are a rare form of freak that can get paid to experience objective sexual pleasure, the kind that does not involve physical pain. Laughing at people who believe that female porn stars are exploited is acceptable, since female porn stars earn more than their male counterparts. Furthermore, male porn stars agree to their salaries, despite the pay gap, because having sex with women on camera for money is a great gig for single, middle aged men with great personalities.

Even an ‘Exploited Teen’ series–where legal teen girls give rough pornography a try before quickly realizing they have an appreciation for themselves– are not exploited. Because these businesses are legal entities, they are performing their due diligence and hiring girls that are above the age of consent. When non-nymphos girls appear on camera sobbing, humiliated and covered in goo, they are choosing to act and appear this way. They chose to put themselves in harm’s way for a fee, and are reacting emotionally to their mistake. These naive teens are choosing to feel humiliated and afraid and cry as a reaction. Hopefully these non-nymphos will understand that their choices matter, and make better choices that fit their lifestyle and aspirations i.e not exchange their self worth for a paycheck. Similarly, a nympho’s emotional reaction would be laughing and smiling, covered in goo and begging for more. Everybody is different and nobody is exploited.

Prostitutes are arguably nymphos and/or homeless, but unquestionably running out of options. The circumstances leading to prostitution are numerous, and usually stem from a blighted economic situation. (Career wise prostitution is a dead end. Looks fade.) For argument’s sake, I am going to say that the prostitute did not choose to be poor. (This does not make her exploited by the economy. Look up what an economy is if you disagree.) However, she did choose to enter into prostitution, either hired by a pimp/madam, or working the streets by herself. Choosing to sell her body for money (which is by every means a desperate measure) does not make her exploited. The fruits of her sexual labor are compensated by her customers, who have agreed to the exorbitant price she charges for the use of her body. If a pimp/madam is holding a prostitute against her will and not paying her, then she is by definition a sex slave and exploited. Even if the prostitute is making less than the pimp, unless she is a slave, she can leave the arrangement. The pimp can intimidate the prostitute with violence, which is exactly why illegal prostitution is dangerous; there is no accountability or regulation.

Low wage workers are not exploited. Interns are not exploited. NCAA athletes are not exploited. Just because they are unpaid or paid very little does not mean they think they aren’t benefiting.

Typically, interns are not paid. They might get tiny perquisites, like free lunch or travel, but their labor is not compensated. Interns are students above the legal age of consent, which means they are choosing to accept school credit as payment. Though they might want a paycheck, they have not been officially hired by the institution, and are not on the payroll. Students intern chiefly to learn skills that relate their education to their preferred industry. Smart interns make business connections, while dumb ones believe they are being exploited and burn bridges. Interns believe that they may not benefit immediately in the form of a paycheck, but that sacrifice is worth the experience, which, they believe, will benefit them in the long term. Of course, less competitive internships at institutions without clout treat interns as free labor, but being an intern is always a choice.

NCAA athletes have agreed to a merciless existence for a shot at glory. They have signed contracts that require them to compete in competitions and attend classes, and they are not exploited because signing a contract denotes consent to the terms.

Working a low wage job without benefits is not exploitation. Businesses determine what they can afford to pay unskilled laborers depending on a variety of factors. Unions influence wage laws, which then hold businesses to standards deemed fair by the workers, who are not exploited. Some low wage workers are unhappy, and have every right to seek other employment or education that would allow them to become a skilled laborer. Some low wage workers are happy to have a job that pays them for their time.

These groups may be overworked, tired, bored, regretful and unhappy, but they are compensated for their efforts despite their feelings. They may not agree with the wage, but then again, not all work can be pornography.

Skilled laborers can exploit the ignorance of their customers in some scenarios. A mechanic might successfully exploit a clueless customer whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and overcharges them because they have a monopoly on parts and knowledge, and the customer is desperate for help. Car insurance eliminates the likelihood of this scenario.

Though they profit from their photos, paparazzi do not exploit the celebrities they photograph. Under the law, anyone in a public place can be photographed without their consent. When questioned as to the purpose of the photographs, a photographer does not need to answer or reveal their identity. A person in a public place who does not wish to be photographed can ask not to be photographed, but because they do not own the space, a photographer is not obligated to obey their request. They have the freedom to move away from the photographer, or enter a space that is privately owned by them. There are no special privileges for anybody in public.

The paparazzi’s job is to take photographs of high profile people in public. They are working to obtain a rare, in demand item to sell. The paparazzi do all of the work while the high profile person does nothing. Nobody is exploited.

When it comes to casting for roles in some of my movies and filming some unsavory public events for my YouTube channel, I have have been charged with exploitation, which is empirically and theoretically incorrect.

Recording public debauchery is not exploitative, even if the subject cannot consent due to drunkenness. They chose to be drunk in public, and photographers do not need consent. When a non-photographer urges a photographer not to take a picture, that is a queue for the photographer to take the picture. Part of being a good photographer is having the audacity to capture compelling moments regardless of subject matter. Whether this makes a photographer an asshole or not is subjective.

The world is more than pretty people. In fact, the world is mostly miserable people or average looking people. Writers that want to convey verisimilitude will write characters that are varying shapes and sizes. If the script calls for fat police officers, a casting director would be horrible at their job if they instead cast skinny people. The actor’s role is filled based on the description of the character in the script, and they are chosen for the part depending on their expertise. Even if they are unpaid, casting actors for their looks is not exploitation, it is the nature of audition and adds to the quality of the product.

Like the word violence, which can only be physical, exploitation can only mean unfairly benefiting from someone else’s work. Benefiting from work usually means stealing their precious time without paying them. Agreeing to be paid a low wage will never compare to slavery, which is the only true type of exploitation.

Also: you will never be paid what you think you deserve.