If you had time between dragging your unmotivated ass into and out of work yesterday to check the news online, chances are you were deluged by semi-hysterical notices regarding Florida’s latest imminent environmental cataclysm. Mutant mosquitoes the size of a ninth grader’s fist are, even as we speak, staging en masse amid the swampy hidey-holes of the Everglades, just waiting for the weather to turn warm enough to inspire a statewide assault.
They’ve tasted the salty nectar of amateur python-hunter blood, and they’re hungry for more!
OK, so, gallinippers are not really the size of a ninth grader’s fist. They’re more the size of a quarter. But still — that’s like 20 times the size of a regular mosquito. A mosquito 20 times the size of a regular mosquito is, by all accounts, a Giant Monster Mosquito.
Well, I sure have.
In my Jeep, in the HCC parking garage. On the sofa in the old Creative Loafing offices above Cafe Creole. In a “loft” on the other side of the railroad tracks that was more of a hostel-slash-squat, spooning a pretty girl I sort of knew on top of somebody’s loft-in-a-box-in-a-loft and surrounded by people who were still partying.
And other times—the last one at the REAX Magazine office, to the sound of a cop on horseback galloping up onto the porch in pursuit of an assault suspect running from Club Empire. (We found unexploded pellets of pepper spray—the kind they fire from paintball-type guns—all around the place the next morning.)
Do you consider yourself to be an adequately informed member of your community?
Do you, perhaps, suspect you are much more well-informed than the average American?
It’s OK — I like to think I know more than everybody else, too. And you’re reading … well, something, hell, whatever this is. But you’re reading! That’s a good indicator you probably know several things that others do not. Many, many Americans don’t ever read at all. Or, worse, only read magazines, which is like not reading, but with pictures.
So. We have established that we are better informed than a lot of folks. Good for us. And it is good for us. It comforts us, gives us confidence, buoys our self-esteem. You know what’s even better, though, than knowing how well-informed we are?
That’s right: Showing other people how well-informed we are. Oh, man. Sometimes, nothing feels better than showing other people how well-informed we are. I mean, it’s not just good for us — it’s good for the people we’re showing! We impart knowledge; they receive knowledge. It’s a win-win, really.
By this time tomorrow, America (we hope) will have elected a new president.
And the two main candidates (and their most dedicated boosters, the super PACs) will have spent well over a billion and a half dollars in their efforts to sway the 19 people in the country who hadn’t made up their minds who they were going to vote for while sitting at the family dinner table when they were 8.
A billion and a half dollars. It’s a conservative estimate.
It’s also 24,000 times the nation’s average annual household income. It’s five of the world’s most expensive private jets, the $300 million Airbus 380. It’s 100,000 new Volkswagen Jettas. Eight million train trips from Tampa to Chicago and back. Eighteen million tickets to see Aerosmith at the St. Pete Times Forum next month. One and a half billion bags of freakin’ ramen.
Spent by two men. Each of whom was trying to tell the world he would be better at balancing the country’s budget than the other. On a popularity contest.
Yesterday was Columbus Day. As you know, Columbus Day is an arbitrarily assigned national holiday which serves as a tribute to a guy — who wasn’t American, or named Columbus in his native tongue — who accidentally “discovered” a land mass 32 times the size of his homeland while in search of enough not-land to get him to a bunch of tiny islands that would’ve been closer had he turned left instead of right when he first got started. A land mass that had already been populated for who knows how many hundreds or thousands of years when he got there.
As most even casually curious historians above the age of 12 or so are aware, Christoforo Colombo’s mistake became the catalyst for several centuries’ worth of exploitation, enslavement and genocide.
That we choose to honor that particular historical milestone is as darkly absurd, and as perfectly American, as it gets. That we couldn’t commit to giving it a specific day, year in and year out, might say something about the collective American conscience. But still it persists, respun into a powerful symbol of the indomitability of the human spirit by the pervasive and persuasive forces of arrogance, cognitive dissonance and historical revisionism.
I still have a MySpace profile. (Or, oh, sorry, according to the last “redesign,” I have a My[_______] profile, or whatever.)
Officially, I sign in once every six months or so, looking for a snippet of music by some band or other that for whatever reason refuses to post its artistry somewhere more contemporary. (These acts are always either death metal bands or gospel/bluegrass/folk performers that did a featured spot at the Grand Ole Opry in, like, ’87.)
Unofficially, I still have a MySpace profile because my MySpace profile is tied to an email address that has been defunct for about six years now. And I can’t delete my MySpace profile without accessing the email address that no longer exists to open the email they can’t send there and click the nonexistent link allowing MySpace to delete my profile.
Which is exactly the sort of shortsighted mismanagement and lack of attention to detail that led to the pioneering social network’s demise. Well, that and, you know, the fickle passing of more than a couple of years, which might as well be an epoch in Internet Time.
I have had the good fortune to visit a few of the world’s great cities. Paris. London. Madrid. New York. Los Angeles. While they vary in age, each of these metropolises exists as a symbol of mankind’s ability, ambition and drive.
Each is also notorious for its terrible traffic, and its alternately inept and murderous drivers. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. And if you haven’t been exposed to the incredible breadth of culture — and attendant lethal transportation — any of these places has to offer, I can assure you everything you’ve heard about getting from point A to point B in each is true. That shit can be terrifying.
So it is with some degree of experience that I assert that the stretch of State Road 60 from I-75 east to about Parsons Avenue boasts THE WORST TRAFFIC ON THE FACE OF OUR EVER-LOVIN’ PLANET.
Back in the very early '90s, I caught a documentary on cable about America’s then-nascent culture of candid video. (Don’t hold me to it, but I believe it was an episode of HBO’s America Undercover series titled “Surveillance: No Place to Hide.”) It was full of manipulative, button-pushy emotional swings typical of programs made by folks who don’t want to come right out and tell you that THE WORLD IS GOING TO SHIT, PEOPLE. In the interest of journalistic integrity, they balance the doomsaying with a few beneficial elements, and let the music and the tone do the talking.
So you got, like, 45 amusing seconds of a naked guy caught locking himself out of his apartment by the building’s security camera, and 45 harrowing minutes of hockey-dad fights and gay-bashing and dash-cam footage of state troopers getting shot and stuffed into the trunks of the stolen sedans they pulled over for burned-out blinker bulbs. I vividly remember a segment in which a group of troglodytic kids steal a tourist’s camcorder and tape themselves gleefully beating said tourist unconscious. It might’ve been the first time in history a video made by a group of criminals of their own crime was used as evidence in their prosecution.
If you pay attention to such things, then you know there’s lately a lot of talk about privacy and the Internet.
If you pay attention to such things, then you know there’s always a lot of talk about privacy and the Internet.
A lot of people don’t, you know — pay attention to such things. They’re only the least bit aware that all those pictures and comments and purchase orders they’re sending out into the digital ether are actually going somewhere, being stored somewhere, possibly being pored over by eagle-eyed programs much more astute and thorough than a human could ever be.
The topic of "new monsters" is frequently raised in the horror-sphere. Writers and filmmakers say the culture needs them; fans clamor for them.
Of course, there really is no shortage of "new monsters." Even in the midst of pop culture's current extended love affair with vampires and zombies, there are plenty of new scaries around; it's just that, well ... most of them aren't very good. For every creation like Freddy Krueger or the vengeful babies of David Cronenberg's The Brood, there are dozens of failed experiments involving alien viruses or possessed laundry presses or gigantic crustaceans from the depths.
Which is to be expected; the mummies and the werewolves had hundreds of years to get it right. And we do need new monsters, because the culture changes — new things scare us in reality, and we need new, relevant and resonant fictions to terrify us, and make the real-life fears seem more manageable. When somebody gets a new monster right, it's truly shocking and exciting to discover.
So, writers and filmmaker, keep looking for those new monsters. As a tribute, here are five of my favorites. (CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD.)