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Monday, July 14, 2008

The Monday Briefing -- Well, contrary to the past couple of weeks, I didn't get much writing done over the weekend. In fact, here it is:

* I reviewed the first volume of Warren Ellis's Thunderbolts.

Other than that, I spent a good deal of time with my wife and kids; Saturday we dropped in to Earthworld in Albany, and I picked up some graphic novels, including the aforementioned Thunderbolts, Jack Kirby's OMAC hardcover and an independent comics anthology called Awesome, some profits from which go the benefit the Center for Cartoon Studies, which is a nice idea. The book had three or four entertaining stories but a lot of filler-type material that didn't really register. Roger Langridge has a solidly hilarious piece that seems out of place for its polish and professionalism, never mind its humour and ability to entertain. But, it's money spent and some of it goes to a good cause, so, enough about that.

I had one of the most unusual experiences of my life on Sunday; my wife asked me to go with her to a local gambling establishment because she wanted to pick up a gift card for her aunt, who likes the buffet at this place. We were hungry so we ended up eating there after my wife picked up the gift card, and I really felt immersed in the fin du monde atmosphere of this nightmarish monument to stupidity and greed.

The first thing I noticed was how the deafening cacophony from the thousands and thousands of slot machines almost immediately transports you into a dream-like state of non-reality, like listening to a concert or a marching band as you drown at the bottom of a swimming pool. I noticed the majority of the people playing the slots -- senior citizens literally throwing their futures away -- had proprietary credit cards connected to them by lanyards around their necks, each feeding into an individual slot machine. It was a disturbing visual to say the least.

I noticed that everyone seemed to be evaluating everyone else constantly, as if wondering if every person they saw was somehow stealing their good mojo, or perhaps telling themselves they are luckier and better than the bunch of losers staring for hours at the blinking lights and digital screens before them. And more than anything, once I figured out what it was, I noticed the smell of piss almost everywhere. Do people really pee their pants while playing the slots, afraid if they get up to use the bathroom someone will take their place and usurp the winnings that are obviously theirs and obviously just one more game-play away? Call me crazy, but once I pointed out the smell to my wife, she noticed it too.

I played a dollar at a nickel slot machine just to say I had the experience. It was gone pretty quick. My wife's dollar quickly turned into ten, and she was excited to have won so quickly. I pointed out that the only way to really win at that point was to take her ten bucks and leave, and we did. It was a good two hours before the smells, the sights and especially the dizzying, deliberate orchestra of disorientation finally wore off and I stopped feeling like I was going to throw up.

People seriously go to these places for fun?

I know I'm a downer with all my end of the world-watching and all, but a couple hours in a giant building filled with video gaming terminals and some of the most desperate, loathsome people I've ever seen, and it's hard not to feel that whatever is coming, we're asking for it, we deserve it, and it's long overdue.

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Blogger owlwise12 said...

A fascinating, somewhat depressing post -- I hate that gambling environment too, it reeks of despair & emptiness.

Still ...

As it happens, I agree that our culture is disintegrating, and that a major change is coming. Perhaps it'll even be for the better in the long run, who knows? The insatiable materialism & free-floating dread of this one doesn't have a hell of a lot to recommend it, that's for sure.

Still ...

Just be careful that you don't wind up internalizing the end of the world too much. There can be a point where expecting it, even preparing for it, leads to actually making it happen -- if not outwardly, than inwardly. Which can be even more devastating.

It may well be that the near future is going to be some sort of wasteland. All the more reason not to carry that wasteland within, then, not to live it every day, even before it happens. Because I don't know if that can be called living, to be honest. Just existing.

I'm not suggesting we all hide our heads in the sand & pretend that everything is just fine, la la la, can't hear you, la la la. Clearly our culture needs a newer, more spare direction & guiding narrative. Maybe we'll create one in time, maybe we won't -- I really can't say, because I really don't know.

But I do know that hope -- even if it's just a pared-to-the-bone, raw & wounded hope -- is vital. This is something Viktor Frankl discovered while surviving four concentration camps during WWII -- that a personal meaning of life was invaluable in staying alive.

When I start getting too depressed by the seeming inevitability of a coming Dark Age, I recall what RD Laing wrote some 40 years ago in The Politics of Experience -- after concluding that humanity was most likely to destroy the world, as it had been destroying itself in the millions for the first half of the 20th century, he added:

"Yet if nothing else, each time a new baby is born there is a possibility of reprieve. Each child is a new being, a potential prophet, a new spiritual prince, a new spark of light, precipitated into the outer darkness. Who are we to decide that it is hopeless?"

As always, your blog makes me think! The best to you, ADD>

Tim Lukeman

14 July, 2008 08:41  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

Thanks very much for your comments, Tim, it's great to know my post inspired such a thoughtful response.

14 July, 2008 08:48  
Blogger AugieDB said...

On the bright side, those cards hanging from the senior citizens' necks that were plugged into the slot machines weren't credit cards. They're likely the cards that track how much money the seniors are losing so that the casino can comp them a drink or a room or entries into a contest for a new TV or something down the line.

I've spent money at slot machines. I don't get the thrill. It's just dumb luck. I'd much rather do a table game, where I make actual decisions that increase or decrease my chances of winning something; where skill and mathematics are assets, not the ability to blow on your fingers before pulling the arm or pushing the button of the one-armed bandit.

BTW, I just bought a house. The economy isn't allowed to tank now for 30 years. Please tell your friends. ;-)

14 July, 2008 23:48  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...


If the economy can keep going another 30 years -- or hell, 60, and give my kids a shot at a decent existence -- I'd be very happy for us all, indeed. Congrats on the new home, seriously.


15 July, 2008 00:31  

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