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Survivor Guilt

Friday, February 20, 2009 by Michael Reynolds

Can we dispense with one thing up front? It's not the "magic of the marketplace." There's no magic. There was never any magic.

The free -- or freeish -- market is the best way we've found so far to ensure that more people are eating than are starving. It works. But it doesn't work pretty. It's crude. It's messy. It works like a 20 year-old Compaq with a frayed power cord. It gets the job done, but magic? No. So don't make a religion out of it. Don't pray to it. It's not Jesus. It's not Jehovah. It's not the Buddha. It's not even Harry Potter.

The marketplace is devoid of morality. It doesn't reward the good and punish the bad. It doesn't even reward the hard working. Or the smart. Or the capable. It shoves a bunch of money into the pockets of people who may, taken as a group, be somewhat more capable than those who aren't getting the cash, but that in no way suggests that any blessed individual is deserving or any screwed individual is undeserving.

It's hit or miss. It's not a smart bomb, it's a World War 2 era 1000-pounder falling from a meandering prop plane: it means to hit a target, but mostly it misses, and when it does blow up a target it tends to blow up a few houses next door. And a church. Maybe an orphanage. Crudely effective, not magic.

A drunk usually manages to drive himself home without hitting anyone, but that doesn't make the drunk a wizard.

But talk about the marketplace this way, as the leeches and enemas of economic systems, and people get very pissy. See, people need magic. They need faith in something perfect. So they need to believe that the economic system is somehow akin to God. They need the system to be benign and rational and moral.

The winners need to believe they deserve what they get, and the losers need to believe that all they really need to do is try again and they, too, will be winners. It's about 75% bullshit. Because as much as people hate to hear it, success or failure is, like all of life, affected by more than free will and positive thinking. DNA, environment and pure luck all have a role in your life. And the magic of the marketplace doesn't somehow exert its magical magitude and reshuffle that deck.

It looks right now as if 2009 will be a good year for me, marketplace-wise. You know why? Because some wad of gray goo in a corner of my brain was formed by DNA and environment into a tiny, slimy little plot machine. And luck led me to my wife, and put me in an English-speaking country at a time when those facts can be translated into income. If bad luck blows a hole in an artery tomorrow, guess what? Suddenly that wad of gray goo dies and I'm bagging groceries for minimum wage.

That's scary. It's scary to think that all you have, all you are, is a consequence of some kind of alchemy between DNA, environment, random chance and free will -- four factors that are each part of the other -- but that's the reality. And given what we've seen of the billionaire masters of the universe lately, isn't it time, finally, to admit the truth? There's no magic here. No morality. Assholes win, good people lose. Idiots win and geniuses lose. And other times the reverse. And the system we have isn't wonderful, it stinks. It's just the best we've come up with so far.

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Pitiful Drunk

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 by Michael Reynolds

You ever notice how an agile and disturbed mind can take a compliment and turn it into an insult? My wife is a genius at this. Most wives are. Normally I'm not. Because I'm a man, and we are, as a species, notoriously insensitive.

But I'm talking on the phone to a friend of mine who is a recovering alcoholic. (His terminology, not mine. To me he's a guy who demonstrates more willpower and strength of character every day than I have in the years 1981 to present.) And we're joking about the last time we got together in Hollywood. (Of course the place is irrelevant, but when I said "Hollywood" you paid more attention than if I'd said Glendale, didn't you?)

Anyway, he said, "Reynolds, the thing about you is you never even change demeanor. The difference between sober and five Scotches is: nothing."

Feeling obscurely insulted I said, "Hey, my speech gets slurred."

"Nah, barely. Drunk or sober you're exactly the same."

And it was then that I realized: there is no amount of alcohol that could make me fun at a party. I have no deeper level waiting to be liberated by alcohol or drugs. I'm a unitary creature. Perfectly integrated.

Or shallow. That would be another word for it. Unidimensional.

Absolutely shit-faced I'm still observing, and still judging, and still just as fucking tedious as I am in sober life.

I don't dance. There is no amount of alcohol (or weed) that will make me dance. No amount of alcohol that would induce me to karaoke. Here's how it goes: I take a drink and I'm still me. Another drink, still me. Another, me. Me. Me. Me. Unconscious. There's no transition. I'm me until I pass out and puke all over myself.

It's been bothering me ever since. So I'm going to get really hammered and run naked down the street.


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Pull My What?

by Michael Reynolds

Because life is good to bloggers:

You'll never guess which two App Store developers have engaged in a legal battle over trademark rights to App Store content. A lawyer representing Pull My Finger developer Air-O-Matic has demanded $50,000 from InfoMedia for using the phrase "pull my finger" in reference to their infamous chart-topping fart machine app, iFart Mobile. InfoMedia, not to be out-stunk, has responded by asking a court to rule in their favor.

At one point in my life I was involved in an angry legal tussle over who owned a thing called Barf-O-Rama.

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Hi, We're Staring At You.

Monday, February 16, 2009 by Michael Reynolds

Michael Reynolds (Grant), Katherine Appleg*te and Lady Liberty.

Photo by our son, Jake.

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Our Top 10 Obscenities

by Michael Reynolds

Your preferences may vary. These are ours:

10) Dick! (Includes Dickhead!)
9) Cocksucker!
8) Motherfucker!
7) Bastard!
6) Son of a bitch! (Variants: Son of a bitch! and son of a bitch!)
5) Asshole!
4) Jesus Christ! (Includes Jesus Fucking Christ! Jesus Tap-dancing Christ! Jesus Titty-fucking
Christ! and Jesus Christ fajita!)
3) Shit!
2) Goddam it!
1) Fuck! (Includes fucking! as an adjective.)

We're thinking of adding Banker! and Congressman!

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