the glob

I sit at my desk.  I rest my cheek against my hand and I look out the window.  I see a bird flit away from the bird feeder.  I think the seeds might be getting low.  Maybe I will go out and replenish.

It’s a perfect distraction, a perfect means to procrastinate.  These birds need food in the early spring.

I’m sitting here because I’m between writing projects.  But then, I’m in between projects more often than not.  Even when I am working on one thing, I’m in between a couple of others.  It’s like bad group pornography.

I want to write something about the endocrine system.  How I think that conscious evolution could have to do with learning to control the involuntary actions of glands, like the hypothalamus and the pineal gland.  Everything we do is happening on a chemical, cellular, hormonal level.  When someone says “I love you,” the brain receives the stimulus, and triggers the hypothalamus to release peptides.  Those peptides wash the cells in the body.  The cells have receptors which suckle at the peptides like a babe at the breast. More… they chant, silently, afterward. More…

Everything is an addiction at this level.  Dopamine, serotonin, neurotransmitters – all that jazz is about the brain’s agenda.  We want to feel good.

The addict is addicted to the feeling of addiction’s absence.  The “score” is this moment when the addict no longer feels the need, but has his or her junk.  This is the high before the actual imbibing occurs.  The acquisition of the drugs, the alcohol, or the moment you make-up with your spouse or significant other after a fight.  That moment is the peak in the cycle.  Then it begins again.

The next moment after getting the thing, getting the drug, the booze, the new outfit, or have the person tell you they love you, that is not as good as the moment just before it, when the acquisition occurred.  Now the addiction starts up again, and it’s the long journey down the rotating wheel towards the depths – the withdrawal, the despair of not having anything good to wear in the closet, the vicious fight with the significant other.

So how do we control this?  Even if we are not in the throes of some addiction which is hurting our loved ones, if we have a healthy relationship and are not abusing any substance or material thing, we are still caught in what the Buddhists call “samsara.”  We are still involved in suffering.

Suffering can be approached from different ways.  Attachments and desires are said to cause suffering.  We can understand what an attachment is; we know what it is to desire.  But on a biochemical level, do we really understand what is happening?  Is it possible, even, to learn to control this?

From a “science-y” angle, we would want to get in there and poke around and see what we can affect with different drugs or different behavioral therapies.  From a “new age” or “spiritual” perspective, we might look into meditation, or yoga, and so on.  No matter how we approach it, we are trying to transcend something which, while understandable by all of these credible schools of thought, is happening in a chemical, glandular way.

Some say the pineal gland is the seat of the soul.  If there is a soul, they say, it is an electrochemical phenomenon.

We live in this world of the ever-increasing availability of information.  Blackouts of wikipedia and SOPA notwithstanding, we are bombarded with information on a daily basis.  This is both good and bad.  We need to erect filters in order to properly handle and process the glut of information.

“Glut” doesn’t even cover it.  There is so much “stuff” out there, it boggles the mind.  And the idea that it boggles the mind is the reason for another “G” word, what I call the “Glob.”

The Glob is this:  On any given day of the week, I have the TV, radio, internet, papers, and magazines to get information.  The TV I watch is on the internet, but I distinguish between TV and the internet as TV: shows on hulu, and the internet: blogs, social media, video content, etc.

I could (and often have experienced) the Glob effect on any given day of the week.  And that is:  I’ll click on hulu in the morning and watch the Daily Show from the night before.  What Jon Stewart talks about, I’ll then hear echoed in posts on Facebook, or in Yahoo news.  I’ll then get in the car to go run some errands and click on NPR.  I’ll hear the same things discussed as I just witnessed on the Daily Show and on Facebook.  If I pick up a copy of “The Week” later in the day, invariably I’ll find that topic or those couple of main headlining issues repeated once more.  (Yes, the point of “The Week” is to glom together all those big news stories from the Washington Post, New York Times, etc.; I’m aware of this – the point is, “The Week” often cites multiple publications talking about the same story, too.)  It’s the water cooler theory, basically.  There is always a daily topic of discussion – now we don’t just jawbone about it at the office, we see it and hear it everywhere we look.

Until the next day, or maybe a couple days later, and then we don’t.  It has faded out, receded away like a ship back to sea in the fog.  Already we can hear the horn of the next ship coming in to briefly port.

This is the same paradigm we have for celebrity and pop culture.  Something or someone shoots up, ephemerally grabbing our attention, and quickly becomes part of the Glob.  The Glob is like how Robin Williams theorizes his patients are behaving in the film Awakenings.  He posits that the catatonic patients actually have Parkinson’s – a disease which causes shakes and tremors.  But these patients have such severe shakes and tremors that they’ve sped up to the point of lockdown, of freezing.  This is the Glob.  The geometric expansion of a particular meme, or cultural item, which begins with a few taking notice and rapidly, exponentially builds, reaching such a frenzy that it congeals into this massive blob where every camera is aimed at it, every reporter is writing about it, and every Joe-howdy is blogging, tweeting, posting, and jawing about it.

And then, as the man says in The Usual Suspects – “Poof, he’s gone.”

I want to know if, like transcending our endocrine rule, we can also transcend the Glob.

First, though, I need to go feed those birds.

50/50: a brief dvd review

A 27 year-old has cancer.  Let’s just get that out of the way.

In 50/50, the star of the dark indie Hesher looks like someone else, or maybe like that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun.  Perhaps the fresh-scrubbed, preppy hair-cutted look for Joseph Gordon Levitt helps convey him as naïve.  And naivete is definitely part of his character.  This film has its little bit of coming-of-age thrown in.

Bryce Dallas Howard is fantastic as his selfish girlfriend.  She does, though, want to do the right thing and vows to stick by him when he tells her he’s sick, and even offers her a chance to leave.  But, sorry, Bryce Dallas, based on your shifty antics in the first scene and the fact that you’ve gotten fourth billing behind another actress…I’m going to wager you don’t do the best job playing loyal nursemaid.

But that’s about the only predictable element in the story, when you remove the major plot element of getting cancer (and how that will typically resolve itself in a comedy) from the realm of labeling “predictable” or “unpredictable.”  The supporting relationships are great, and neither telegraphed nor overdone.

I wish Angelica Huston could just keep acting for all of time.

Seth Rogen says “uh huh-huh” a lot, sort of like a bigger Butthead, always scamming to “get laid” and get his buddy laid and referring to penises a lot.  Then again, that’s his character, and it works.  The reason it works is the reason the whole movie works – everything is just enough to be there, to give you the components of a life – the best friend since high school, the not-so-sure girlfriend and the new love interest, the overprotective mother, and the no-eye contact, monotone doctors, but none of it is too loud to overcome the central silence of Levitt’s character, and the vacuum he’s in, alone with his cancer.

There’s a huge difference between a film being slow or being short on action or plot and when a film has proportionate space.  This film is not slow, or short on anything.  The structure of writer Will Reiser’s and director Jonathan Levine’s  50/50 allows it this breathing room in the center, where a nimble, capable Levitt slowly draws us in to care about him, to root for him, and, by the end, to have your heart break for him and those who love him.