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All Your Favorite Holiday Specials are Anti-Capitalist

1) A Christmas Carol

Scrooge is a capitalist. He is the type of person who would be called a “job creator” today. He makes a ton of money and he hoards it. He’s basically a caricature of an Ayn Rand character (because Ayn Rand’s characters totally aren’t caricatures already), written 62 years before she was even born. He’s so rapaciously capitalist that it was probably inevitable that Disney turned him into a hero.

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After Scrooge has been haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Present, Past, and Future, what does he suddenly become concerned in? Higher workers wages. Healthcare for the families of his employees. Giving out free meals to the poor. In essence, Socialism. God would bless us, every one, if God wasn’t a creation of the bourgeoisie to keep the proletariat in check, Tiny Tim.

2) A Charlie Brown Christmas

This anarcho-Christian fable shows children acting like rapacious capitalists. Sally wants “tens and twenties” for Christmas. Lucy wants “real estate.” As Charlie Brown and Linus leave the school play to shop for Christmas trees, everyone demands fake, gaudy aluminum trees. This line even gets busted out:
tumblr_mxpq6xsKbV1r9a32bo4_250Linus, the story’s left-wing hero, explains that “Christmas has not only gotten too commercial, it’s gotten too dangerous.” He then gives a speech about the true meaning of Christmas. This shouldn’t be called A Charlie Brown Christmas. It should be called The Kingdom of God is Within You, Charlie Brown!

3) It’s a Wonderful Life

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I mean, the main villain is a capitalist banker who is trying to destroy the protagonist’s dream of building a housing project. Next.

4) How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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The point is that Christmas isn’t about presents, and that ultimately, human company is more important than material things.

5) Home AloneHome Alone 2

tumblr_ngr4rmw9iN1sjfljfo1_500Far be it from me to suggest that these movies are one and the same in terms of structure or plot, but they both carry the same message: adults – i.e. “the man” or “the system” – are incompetent, dumb, or criminal, and children – i.e. anarchy and chaos – will inevitably win the day.

6) A Christmas Story

tumblr_ngqoc0sOyF1tmzlb4o1_500One of the most chilling anti-capitalist fables is A Christmas Story, a cautionary tale in which a middle class family’s constant grasping for material things – leg lamps, Zeppelins, Red Rider BB Guns – is disrupted by their lower class neighbors starving dogs. The allegories in this movie just keep coming: Santa – the capitalist symbol of Christmas – is portrayed as demonic and uncaring. The Father futilely grasps at a higher standing in life, not recognizing that his status symbol, the leg lamp, is gaudy and obnoxious, and was doomed from the beginning. Ralphie is conned into believing that his mindless radio entertainment was ever anything more than just a cynical attempt to sell him Ovaltine. A grim reminder if there ever was one that underneath the shiny facade of capitalist society lies a dangerous, violent world of bullying, greed, and shattered dreams.

7) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

A more lighthearted communist tale, Rudolph admits that sure, materialism is nice, but it deftly points out that those outside or beneath the capitalist system are callously cast aside to the so-called “Island of Misfit Toys.” Those misfits (shall we call them a “vanguard”?) then save the day when a climate related disaster of excessive fog causes the fragile, materialistic holiday to collapse. Is it a coincidence that Rudolph’s nose is red? You be the judge.

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An Update to my Lovely, Loyal Readers

I’m sorry. I know I’ve done this too much. I’ve changed the name of my blog again. I’ve changed the direction of my blog again. This is horrible branding, and it makes me a gigantic pain in the ass. I know. I’m sorry. But welcome to my new (hopefully permanent!) blog.

I ended A Man Without A Country a few months ago because I needed to change the direction of my blog and work on my branding a bit. Then I tried to do three blogs at once on very specific topics, and it turned out I was far too lazy to pull that off. And I don’t like to be pigeonholed. It’s why I took up writing in the first place. I can write whatever I feel like writing. The three blogs didn’t work.

So this new blog is not A Man Without A Country, it’s not Don’t Be A Dick, it’s not All Cool Shit, and it’s not the bland MattHershberger.com. It’s called Catching Wise, and it’s a satirical blog. But I’ll be writing on whatever I damn well feel like, because that’s what satirists get to do. We get to poke at everything and hope our lack of focus means nothing pokes back. Jackasses of all trades, masters of none.

The title, by the way, is taken from the Jamaican proverb “Play fool to catch wise,” which I figured is fitting, considering how much I play the fool in the pursuit of what I think may be wisdom. It’s going to be fun, possibly.

Thanks for sticking with me, guys. It’s great having such a smart, patient, fun audience. Feedback is always appreciated.

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No, We’re Not Having this Conversation Anymore

A couple days ago, while dicking around on Facebook, a friend posted something about gay rights in her feed. It was fairly standard and generic, so I did the obligatory “like” and was about to move on when I saw that someone had posted a long Biblical opposition to gay rights in the comments. I briefly considered posting a response, or at the very least this Jed Bartlet video:

And then I realized something: we don’t have to dignify this conversation any more. Or at least, those of us who don’t live in the states where gay marriage still isn’t legal don’t have to dignify this conversation anymore. Those of us who don’t belong to churches that say homosexuality is a sin don’t have to have this conversation anymore. It’s like slavery for us: we no longer have to degrade ourselves by pretending we’re hearing valid points from the other side anymore. The battle is won.

There are much more interesting conversations to be had about gender and sexuality now, anyway. Moving on.

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Do They Know It’s Not Christmastime At All?

Band Aid has released another version of the Kony 2012 of Christmas Carols, “Do They Know It’s Christmastime?”

Is it a little condescending and ethnocentric to suggest that the lack of snow and/or Christmas in Africa is somehow a sign of poverty? Sure. (Though actually, it’s East Africa in this rendition, and among the worst side-effects of Ebola are the inability to hear sleigh bells and a deep apathy about the concept of Santa Claus, so fair enough, Bob Geldof). But the tune is catchy, so I’ll be singing “Feed the world!” for the next month and a half, which is at least mildly annoying because, for the first two weeks of the song’s release, it won’t be Christmastime at all.

Presumably, Band Aid released the latest version of the song because they wanted to get ahead of the Christmas song rush. Christmas songs, unlike other pop songs, aren’t released on regular radio. There’s no Swiftian, ad nauseum repetition of Christmas tunes on basic radio (and yes, I just used the word “Swiftian” to refer to Taylor and not Jonathan, so feel free to take that as a sign of the apocalypse), so people who want to get their shitty Christmas Carols on the top of the charts must get them played in retail stores.

Retail stores which are, because of Black Friday hype, starting to play Christmas tunes the day after Halloween.

If Vegas put odds on things like this, they’d give Black Friday the best odds for being the day of the year that Western Civilization will start to collapse. It’s certainly the day in which we, as a society, make the most blood sacrifices: Someone is almost certainly going to die at a Walmart this year. Let that sink in for a minute. Someone is going to die from stab wounds next to an XBox display in the saddest place on the planet, and their death is going to be witnessed only by underpayed, pensionless, geriatric Walmart employees who had to miss what was probably one of their final Thanksgivings with their families so they could be at the Walmart’s opening at 6 p.m. on Thursday to start their 14-hour shift.

It’s been made into a holiday, but we’ve never even tried to pretend it’s anything but evil. In Christendom, the day that Jesus Christ, our God, was murdered is called Good Friday. Black Friday, then, must be considerably worse than deicide. After all, only three people died on the cross the day Our Lord and Savior died – last year, 7 people were killed on Black Friday, and 90 were injured.

So yeah, this Black Friday might be a rough day for those kids living in Ebola-stricken East Africa, but hey, at least they don’t know it’s Christmastime at all.

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This Week in Butt News: Butts! In! Space!

This week, Kim Kardashian posted a picture of her butt on the internet, saying that it would “break the internet.” This has naturally caused a bit of internet uproar – yes, there is already an article on the racial politics of Kim Kardashian’s butt – because sometimes, when there’s nothing else to talk about, we need a good butt uproar. A “buttroar,” if you will.

As far as I know, nothing on the internet was “broken,” as the internet already has quite a few pictures of butts already, many of which are the same butt as Kim Kardashian’s butt. But I’m glad the 21st Century’s best philosopher is keeping it relevant in 2014.


As is internet protocol, part of the uproar (buttroar) about the Kim Kardashian picture is whether or not we should be talking about Kim Kardashian’s butt picture. But these people miss the point. Because yesterday, we – and by “we” I mean “humanity” – landed a spacecraft on a comet. On a motherfucking comet. We didn’t even need to redirect its course away from the earth, we were just like, “Hey look, bro, there’s a comet, let’s go chill on it,” and then it was all like “Comet me, Bro!”  and then we did.

Irrelevant to the butt news, you say? Not at all.

Alan Moore, the great comic book writer, wrote a great book called From Hell, which focused on the Jack the Ripper murders. What he was interested in was less who Jack the Ripper was, and more in how everything that made up Victorian society could have produced a murderer like Jack. How did the art, the politics, the architecture, even the layout of the city of London contribute to the Ripper murders?

His answer, basically, was that all of it played a role. And to an extent, this is true of everything. Without putting any more weight on one thing over the other, the society that has produced the ability for us to land a spacecraft on a motherfucking comet is the same society that has made Kim Kardashian’s butt a piece of relevant news. Who knows, if we removed one element, if we would still have the other? Could space travel still be a thing without Kim Kardashian’s butt? Could the forces that brought us her butt have been inextricably linked with the forces that have allowed us to travel into the stars? At the very least, we must say that no spacecraft ever landed on a comet before this picture of Kim Kardashian’s butt.

The answer is almost certainly yes. So behold, at the other end of this link, the very NSFW butt that has allowed us to escape bonds of gravity and make our way, with no help from Bruce Willis, onto the natural phenomena that our ancestors once believed to be omens of great upheaval and change. What wonders, what upheaval, what change, will Kim Kardashian’s butt bring us tomorrow?

Photo courtesy of Chris Wall

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Assisted Suicide is Wrong, Unless You’re Assisted by an Anaconda

In December, the Discovery Channel, as it so rarely does, will be living up to its name. It is going to discover something. It is going to discover what the inside of an anaconda looks like. Sure, it’s not a true discovery so much as a Christopher Columbus discovery: millions have been there before the Discovery Channel, like wild pigs, capybaras, turtles, and Jon Voight.jon-voight-anaconda-1997-

But the Discovery Channel will be the first to film it. Paul Rosolie, a 26-year-old “naturalist” and filmmaker, has agreed to be filmed being eaten alive by an anaconda during Discovery’s “MegaWeek” program “Eaten Alive.”

Rosolie says he will be safe because he will be wearing a “custom-built, snake-proof suit” – snake-proof in the sense that he’s still going to be eaten by a snake, but in that the snake won’t enjoy it – and because he will have an “emergency line” attached to his ankles, which hopefully means the show will end with one group of people pulling on Rosolie’s legs, and another pulling on the snake’s tail.

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The “Snake-Proof” Suit

Rosolie presumably lived, as the show has been shot already and he’s still tweeting about it – though, come to think of it, it’s totally possible he’s tweeting from the inside of the snake in his snake-proof suit while doing prep work for the follow up, “Pooped Alive,” – but he could very easily have died doing this stunt, and people would likely have responded with a very well-justified, “Well what the fuck did you think was gonna happen?” and then write him off as just another candidate for the Darwin Awards.

Which, dear reader, brings me finally to the point: Remember Brittany Maynard? The girl who had a terminal brain cancer and decided she’d rather die on her own terms than slowly and painfully from her disease?

Maynard very fortunately lived in Oregon, where she could legally choose to “die with dignity,” and, this past November 1st, ended her life surrounded by her friends and family.

This was a national controversy. Maynard was playing god. The state shouldn’t be involved with life and death, people argued. Suicide is a mortal sin, others argued, and Maynard would have to burn in hell for dying on her own terms rather than her tumor’s terms. Or, you know, on God’s terms, but hey, in this scenario, God and the tumor were basically one and the same.

Maynard’s problem, of course, was that she chose a death not properly suited to trash TV. She could have easily died by feeding herself to an anaconda, or by walking a high-wire across Chicago, or by skydiving from 128,000 feet. Death is fine, after all, as long as it’s for spectacle, and as long as you’re seen as “risking” death and not “attempting” it.

So Maynard’s problem was branding. Death, we all know, is chaotic and random, and you’re supposed to play the cards you are dealt. Folding is not an option. But you are more than welcome to say, “Hit me,” when dealt two Kings.

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Let’s Start Doing New Shit to Balls

A couple weeks back, I went home to Cincinnati and spent half of the weekend playing with my four-year-old nephew, Alejandro. We invented a game which, in my head, was called “do shit to a bouncy ball while running around.” It was a really great game. We did lots of shit to that ball, and it was very fulfilling. At some point, me and my dad tried to get an actual organized game going, but Alejandro was having none of it. He was good at doing shit to the ball. He was not as good at doing specific shit to the ball. When there were expectations attached to the shit he had to do, he was not as big a fan of doing that shit.

I understand completely. I operate best in situations with absolutely zero expectations. Though I come from a long line of people who are very good at doing specific things to balls, I myself do not quite fit into that line. I played football, lacrosse, and wrestling (which, before you object, involved doing shit to balls in its own, very uncomfortable way) and I was atrocious at all of them. Alejandro was beating off that day when he would have to be judged on his ability in doing shit to balls by literally beating the bouncy ball into the ground with a wiffleball bat while screaming “NO!”

~~~

I do genuinely enjoy watching football. It is a great way to justify sitting and day-drinking for three and a half hours. But lately there’s been a lot of uproar around football. It turns out that even if you’re a big, muscly grown man, your body is still prone to the negative effects of constant physical trauma. It turns out that some institutions think that the sport is more important than the safety of children. It turns out that some institutions are willing to ignore domestic abuse unless it becomes a PR problem.

And at this point, you kinda wanna hammer the ball into the ground with a wiffleball bat and scream, “NO!” The sport is, after all, just another way of doing shit to a ball. And while the sport seems eternal right now, it was actually invented in 1869 in New Jersey. The world’s great game, soccer, was first played only six years before that. Baseball was started 25 years before that. Someone made up the rules to those games. Someone who probably used the word “knickerbocker” at least once in their life, and someone who thought that the lumps on your head could tell you your future.

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Yes, there is a lump for “firmness.”

For whatever reason, the only games we really seem to play were all made up in the 19th Century, which is also the last century that Thomas Jefferson pooped in. Why is there a cut-off? Why are these new sports now too big to fail? They don’t matter at all.

Not that I’m saying that they don’t matter a great deal, but they matter in the way that music matters. It doesn’t matter so much what you play, it matters that you play. Just like music, sports are ways for us to take our internal thoughts and feelings and project them out on the world in fun and creative ways. People are capable of doing beautiful things when they play. Remember this?

RVP-headerThat’s a man diving face first and knocking a ball into a net with said face. If that’s not art, then nothing is art. The sport around it doesn’t matter a goddamn bit.

And the sport in itself doesn’t have to be eternal. The organization in charge of the world of soccer is straight up evil. They’re currently allowing construction to continue for their 2022 World Cup even though hundreds of workers have died in horrible conditions. The World Cup is huge and important, but it’s not that huge and important. We could totally come up with another big worldwide party game. At the end of the day, soccer is still a game made up by posh Victorian wankers, and it’s no more or less special than any other game made up by anyone else ever.

We can make up new and better games. We can create new sports. We can find new ways to do shit to balls. When we’ve started to put kids, women, Native Americans, migrant workers in Qatar, residents of Brazilian favelas, and the physical well-being of our athletes behind the importance of the game, we’ve started to take the shit we do to balls too seriously.

Let’s do other shit to balls. We can figure out the rules later.

Calvinball

 

The 9/11 Corporate Tribute Round-Up

9/11 has become what is undoubtedly the weirdest day to live in a country with the concept of corporate personhood. Here are some of the Tweets that have been coming out of corporate Twitter accounts in honor of September 11th.

I took screenshots instead of embedding them because some of them will undoubtedly be taken down.

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For those who don’t know, the Fleshlight is a male sex toy disguised to look like a Flashlight.

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For those who don’t know, Brazzers is a porn site. Their next Tweet read “.@MadisonScottXXX gets her sweet tight ass fucked in “Wet and Ready”” followed by a link to the video.

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This Tweet has since been taken down.

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And a couple from last year:

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Adpocalypse: Double Dare Condoms Made of Real Human Skin

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 12.58.15 PMSteph and I have gotten really into Top Chef. It’s the rare reality contest show where everyone is legitimately talented, and also, who doesn’t love their food porn? Also, we enjoy pretending that Padma Lakshmi is a cold-blooded psychopath that keeps herself from going out into the city and murdering bums and prostitutes by torturing these poor chefs with barbed comments and long pauses. Thank you, Top Chef, for saving us from the murderous Lakshmi.

The problem is not with the show, it’s where we watch it. If we want to binge an entire season of Top Chef, we have to watch it on Hulu. This in itself isn’t bad either: Hulu is a decent service. It’s not as good as Netflix, but it’s got a different selection and a lot of really great shows. The problem is that, unlike Netflix, if you pay for Hulu Plus, you still get ads. And not, “Hey, go buy our cars!” ads. Experimental ads. Psychopathic ads. Ads that are deeply, soul-chillingly creepy. There are so many of them that I’m actually going to do a series on them.

Buffalo Bill’s Penis-Sheath Condoms

If you didn’t have a minute to watch that, it’s a condom ad. Specifically for wearing Skyn condoms, which are already the creepiest condom on the market. The idea behind them is that they “feel so good, they’re basically like skin.” Everyone knows that condoms are the worst. Yeah, you should wear a condom when you have sex just to be safe, and yeah, safe sex and family planning are important. And yes, making condoms feel better is important if people want to convince kids and irresponsible types to wear them while having sex. But drawing attention to the fact that they feel like skin is incredibly disturbing. Because I’ve never been having sex and thought, “You know what would make this better? Having my penis sheathed in the skin of another penis.” That’s some Padma Lakshmi-level crazy shit there. If Padma Lakshmi had a penis, that is1.

This commercial, though, is literally the worst condom commercial ever in a world where there has never once been a good condom commercial. It shows a pretty woman in lingerie basically writhing on white sheets and talking about how much she loves sex but hates condoms but loves Skyn condom’s specialized Buffalo Bill penis skin-sheaths, and then at the end, she turns to the camera, and says “Worth trying if you like sex. You do like sex… don’t you?”

The camera cuts away before she can shout, “PROVE IT TO ME, PUSSY!” and then berate you while you burst into tears. You get the sense that whatever creepy Christian Grey-wannabe ad-exec that had the final rubber (ha!) stamp on this commercial, “Yeah, it’s great guys. Just one thing: you know how all sexual encounters begin with belittlement, then a ball-tap and a dare? Yeah, maybe let’s do that at the end so all the men watching suddenly have the compulsion to quash their feelings of loneliness and inadequacy with some violent sexual aggression.”

And this isn’t even the worst ad on Hulu right now.

1. In her freezer, she has several.

The Ice Bucket Challenge Isn’t Slacktivism

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Facebook exploded this past week with the “ice bucket challenge,” which asks people to film themselves dumping water on their heads or to donate $100 to support ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research charities. Then they nominate three more people to do the same.

Obviously, some people ignore the challenge, as they are totally allowed to do, and others don’t have enough money, so they dump ice on their head. Others, like me, have neither a bucket nor $100 to spare, and pray quietly that no one nominates them.

Others still have been getting on the internet in droves and posting pictures like this:

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…and just generally decrying it as “slacktivism.”

The clean water joke is mostly that, a joke, because most people that have shared that meme presumably flush the toilet when they pee and not just when they poop, and thus waste clean water for purposes even less noble than raising money for a charity on a far more frequent basis than the ice bucket challengers. Or maybe they’ve been to a water park or a swimming pool before. Either way, “wasting water” isn’t a complaint that holds any water (ha!) with the ice bucket challenge, considering there are far more mundane wastes of water out there.

As for those who call it slacktivism, they’re just wrong. It’s not slacktivism. It’s not even activism: it’s philanthropy with a gimmick. And it’s a particularly effective gimmick: the ALS Association says that it has received nearly $12 million more than they received in the same period last year as a result of the ice bucket challenge. So kudos to the ice bucket challenge people for figuring out a clever way to raise money.

The internet, as always, is flooded with cynics, and sometimes, they’re right: the Kony 2012 video was a particularly bad example of slacktivism, where sharing something on social media was mistaken for actual political action, and where the political ends of the campaign were poorly thought out in the first place. And “liking” Gay Rights doesn’t bring about gay rights: actual political action does.

But charities shouldn’t be condemned for finding a way to hack the short attention span of the internet and to turn it into a sudden influx of funds. And that’s the way of the internet: to take anything attempting to make a positive change, and to cynically chew it up and spit it out. Usually, there’s an element of truth in the cynicism, but with the ice bucket challenge, the cynicism has finally overstepped a bit and has simply revealed itself as cynicism: the challenge actually is making a difference for those charities, and that affects real world change.

Most of the claims about the challenge are at the very least exaggerated: complaining that people would “rather dump a bucket of ice water on their head than donate to a charity” ignores the fact that many people do both in order to both raise money and spread the message. And if people decide to dump the ice water on their head instead of donating, so what? They could have just as easily ignored their challenge and broken the chain, which would cut off the possibility of someone else down the line donating that money. Any harmless act that results in an uptick of philanthropic giving is a positive act.

Other complaints are patently ludicrous: Vice claimed it was an excuse for people to show off their beach bodies, and that’s why it took off: “it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism.” Leaving aside the fact that the inclusion of the word “narcissism” in any article discussing a millennial trend is getting incredibly boring, let’s assume for a minute that it is simply narcissism: good. Narcissists are the worst, most of the time, and if the ice bucket challenge gets them to do something that is at least nominally in service of others, than maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Another complaint is that the ice bucket challenge is cannibalizing money from other charities, and this is just a little bit over-the-top. First off, there’s nothing stopping an ice bucket challenger giving money to any charity: ice buckets aren’t specific to ALS in any tangible way. Second, the summer months are traditionally dry periods for charities, so many of the ice bucket dumpers were likely not donating to charity anyway.

Slacktivism is an issue in the internet world, and it is a real thing. But internet cynics tend to think internet activists are far dumber than they are: during the DOMA decision, they were annoyed that many people on Facebook changed their profile pictures to the HRC’s equal sign, claiming that “changing your profile picture doesn’t influence the supreme court.” Which no one who changed their picture really thought: the equal sign was a symbol of solidarity, not an impetus of change. They’re doing the same now: assuming that ice bucket challengers are all miserly narcissistic slacktivists rather than well-meaning people who have found a fun way to give.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Central Arkansas.