Purchases of Equal or Lesser Value

I’m hopeful there’s already been significant psychological research on a consumer experiencing Black Friday.  A graduate student somewhere must have a locked drawer full of the specific reasons why people love to stomp each other to death.  Maybe at next midnight copies of the work can be taped to the glass door front of every local CircuitCity or CompUSA or wherever it is that the kids shop these days.

My fingers move at incredible speeds when it comes time to explain the inner recesses of my mind.  It’s not as if I’m routinely asked about my stance on foreign policy, but if they do, I like to be prepared.  Sometimes I can go on about morality’s place in religion and forget to sleep.  Greater issues are important to me, and even if I say something as condensed as “Drugs are bad” or “Superman is good,” there’s probably an essay I built to support it.  I like sales.  They’re nice.  But I can’t look at a man’s brain juice running out of his fractured skull, and then look at a lanky 6’5” dude in a No Fear hoodie with a suspiciously-red sneaker and think there aren’t essays to write.  I cannot comprehend anyone who doesn’t go through a Russian novel’s worth of introspection whenever they encounter something troublesome.

After all that self-aggrandizing talk of ethics, my God, my first thought is to take everyone seen in those videos and nuke them from orbit.  There are hundreds of heads in those four-by-three videos all conglomerated together to create the husk of a mega-monster, and I have to kill it.  I have a problem, one that’s persisted for decades, where if I find significant flaw in another person I’m quick to assume their lack of worth.  A man could be the best father and husband the world has ever seen, but then he breaks someone’s glasses in a stampede and every kind deed he’s done is negated.  I suppose human beings are more complex than that, but the end goal is to not be.  In a way, I don’t feel as much sympathy for the lowly employees of these major retail outlets as others may.  Being put in such an abusive and genuinely life-threatening situation is worth storming into your manager’s office and quitting over.

Half of my life has been spent mulling over the ramifications of being a financially-stable straight white male in the middle class.  I question if my education was better, or if my parents reading to me had a profound impact, or if choosing Sesame Street over Barney really does make a kid more able.  While I may not always follow them, and I’m wrong more often than I care to admit, I do have some ethos that refuses to leave my core.  “Money isn’t happiness and goods aren’t happiness,” says the kid who received every video game system he asked for.  I could’ve been spoiled.  Hell, I don’t know, I could be spoiled.  I just know, from the perspective of someone who didn’t always have to fight a Black Friday crowd just to save money on a designer boot, that killing a child in the rush into a Wal-Mart isn’t going to bring my cat back or my grandfathers back or make my first relationship not a disaster.  I operate with that knowledge and if you lack that knowledge, I don’t know what to do.  I resort to anger and immediate thoughts of barren wastelands.  The act of mass consumption with disregard for human life seems primeval, and right now I’m sitting in a house as clean as my parents could possibly scrub it.  When your daddy leaves you and you get all those “daddy issues,” I can’t empathize, because my dad is here and is super nice most of the time.  I’m so very not handicapped that my mind jumps through hoops attempting to find reasons to die.

The fact is that I don’t want to be negative about others all the time.  I want to celebrate them.  I just see schlock on YouTube that makes me question, even rightfully, the absence of a basic ruleset that determines human decency.  For as isolated and introverted as I can be, I want to help every person who thinks that shit is okay.  I want to let them sleep on my couch and I want to cook a nice meal for them, if need be.  I don’t just get off on writing about fault all the time, but I want action to back it all up.  I want to give someone a gift because they’re special to me, not because I punched a grandmother in the face for a sick deal.  Dangit, world, let me be better.  You can be my belief if I can be your doubt.

The very notion of Black Friday (aside from the gruesome term that becomes a bit less gruesome when it’s applied in its figurative capitalist terms) isn’t inherently a bad one.  I’m inclined to spend money on Amazon every single year.  I just need to remember that what I’m doing is so first-world, so special, so far above the poverty line.  I’m still going to be insane whether or not I buy a video game.  These are separate issues, and I would be remiss to confuse the two.


11/12/2012: Nation of Domination Edition

Hey, you!  Yeah, I know you!  The person who keeps looking up “Patrick Kay Winthrop” or “Patrick Kay WordPress” in Google’s search field!  Awww, hey, buddy!  Here’s my third article for The Johnsonian!  It deals with mystic space reptiles that I would have loved to explore in more detail had I not been operating under a word limit.

My desktop computer, as it currently is, displays a “System Recovery Options” screen.  My precious hog of precious finite resources had a bad driver error in the hard drive (hopefully) that sent itself into a slow downward spiral to the point that it won’t even turn on anymore.  Thankfully, I bought a second drive in time to recover my data.  Oh, it’s not there to recover family keepsakes, it’s just recovering Crystal Castles songs and videos of The Matrix Online.  The priorities.

I’m actually really peeved at the whole process.  My machine was bought lightly-used from an eBay auctioneer who builds and immediately sells machines at discounts.  He made sure to include all the manuals, but didn’t offer receipts or Windows install discs.  On top of that, and on top of a graphics card I may have wrongfully assumed was the problem, it’s difficult for me to even parse what exactly the problem is.  This isn’t “Oh no, my mouse stopped working!”  It’s blue screens.  It’s BIOS.  It’s the deep, nasty, near-illicit levels of computer programming that was covered up by an influx of the casual market.  I haven’t seen some of these screens on my monitor since WarGames.

Then, my backup drive didn’t come with its necessary SATA cable.  Way to piss on my life, Western Digital.

Who cares, though?  The internet now uses the Cloud, which means I’ve been able to keep up with my silly mediums.  I made remarks recently about how dumb it was that Microsoft charges sixty dollars a year to watch YouTube on the Xbox 360.  PlayStation has my back, though.  That giant corporate monolith at least has the decency to not charge me for a free service, so I was able to watch Giant Bomb quick looks and 30 Rock episodes with some degree of regularity.  30 Rock was in a weird funk in its last couple of seasons.  It still existed as a funny, better-than-average show, but its sincerity seemed increasingly lost.  In the four or five episodes I’ve seen of 2011’s season, the lack of sincerity is actually used as a resource for humor.  Rather than playing the Scrubs failed line-walk where it attempts humor and sweetness in separate-but-equal measure, it just dives headfirst into cocaine madness.  That was a compliment.

I often, perhaps wrongly, pride myself on being an individual.  This doesn’t mean that I react to situations solely on the basis of being “different,” but I do tend to follow my heart.  Sometimes you stop eating at a restaurant because it’s what you imagine a decent human being would do, not because you were inspired to become one with the crowd in a political boycott.  I either shy away from small talk or let it be all I appear capable of, depending on the conversation.  People ask me what I want for a career, and I tell them, “To get paid for being myself.”  That’s an honest answer.  I presume that would come through in writing, but whatever works.  My parents treated me all special-snowflake enough for it to leave a permanent impression.  So it alarms me when a random person, pointing to no one in particular, can so clearly define the way I operate in just a few short seconds.

The best submissions come in late because all the good writers are either huge procrastinators or are such perfectionists that they won’t get their imagined magnum opus’ done until the last minute.  I sure don’t know if I’m good, but I know the last two speak some awkward truths.