Monthly Archives: October 2013

Empathy for the Devil

One of the great walls of isolation I’ve found myself up against is not a lack of empathy, but empathy of the wrong kind. Empathy for the murderer. Empathy for the suicidal. Empathy for the psychotic and psychopathic. It seems contradictory that the ability to empathize would be an isolating variable. Being able to understand what others feel and think should be a source of bonding and connection. But what about when that understanding is with the man on death row? Who then do you bond with?

Empathy for the devil pushes away all God-fearing people. The phrase, “I just can’t understand why [so and so] would do that” is a phrase I try to never allow to cross my mind. And yet it is one of the first things that pops into the average Joe’s head when he hears about the latest school shooting. “Why would he do that?” The question is rhetorical. He doesn’t want to know or understand why. “My sympathies for all those who lost a child.” But Joe also doesn’t want to understand what the parents feel either. He will sympathize, but not empathize. He can lift a perceived burden from his own shoulders by sending condolences and carry on with his life. To quote Robert Frost: “And they, since they were not the ones dead, turned to their affairs.”

The phrase I always try to remember when I hear of a terrible occurrence is: “Nothing human is alien to me.” This is a very unpopular sentiment. The best example is the Nazis, who have been summed up as mad, labeled as evil, and demonized in near totality. Average Joe doesn’t want to look at the Average Hans and know why Hans let his Jewish neighbors be killed. Then Joe would have to look into himself and practice that horrible, frightful word: introspection. Because to understand how another can do harm or stand by idly, one must be able to understand why they might do the same. Notice that I said might, not would. Just because I can empathize with a man who killed his family doesn’t mean I’m going to do the same. It simply means I can understand how that man got to that point, and how, with a different set of circumstances or a slight change in character, I could be that man.

That ability, the ability to empathize with the devil, renders me practically on the same level as the devil. Watching other people blindly lord their own impeccable morality over the damned is frustrating, yet how can I stand up for the psychopath or the drug-addled? I must sit in silence, isolated by understanding. And I can’t make people understand. Their defenses would never be let down so easily, their walls are as impenetrable as my own. Are you one of these people? Take a good hard look in the mirror, and then a long sensitive look around. The devil begs no sympathy, but even he must desire a little empathy.

All Over Again

You said goodbye, and I knew it was the end.
I watched you go down the road and turn around the bend.
In the streetlight your shadow echoed down the lane,
Now shadows and echoes, are all that remain.

Though there’s been many others, they broke like glass against you,
In my heart you know I have always stayed true.
No matter how much it hurts, it will stay with me ‘til the end.
And if I could I’d do it all over again.

The music you spoke fell on me like rain,
As a parched man I soaked up every refrain.
And danced to a tune I had known once before,
And a tune that at last I knew once more.

Then softly, slowly, surely, the darkness crept across my eyes,
The light ‘twas once so bright now seemed hidden in disguise.
Now I’m left with nothing but the days I knew you then,
And if I could, I would do it, all over again.

As a new spring flower, you sprung into my life,
A brilliant radiance shining out from all the white.
A welcome sight, if only I’d knew back then,
After summer, comes fall, then winter must come again.

And so I’m alone, ever-gray in my heart,
What had been made whole, once again came apart.
Some bonds are so strong, once broken, they cannot mend,
But I would do it all over again.

What We Were Left With

Why did you have to leave so soon?
We’d only just found each other again,
Years had passed with nothing to say,
Now I wish for but one more day.

And now I hardly believe the words,
Just go away, just go away.
Let me crawl under my bed and hide,
This dream must pass on by the by.

I suppose this is your way of getting back,
I didn’t want to go, you pushed me away.
And I know that I should feel differently,
And can you? But you could never see.

I take that back, I’ll take it all,
All my sorrow and all my joy.
And put it in a little black case,
And trade it all just to see your face.

And everyone else, all my friends who came,
And offered their hand and offered themselves,
To grieve instead but I turned them away,
And I think my sorrow is here to stay.

But now I feel and now I know,
What we have lost will never equal,
What we were left with, but I can’t be sad,
What we were left with ain’t half bad.

Some days I pull out the memories,
And I laugh and I cry but most of all,
I have them, and no one else can say,
They can pull them out on a rainy day.

Hyperreality and You

“Hyperreality?” you say. “What the hell is that?” Then you hear it’s a postmodern concept and that we are in fact living not in modern but in postmodern times, which seems to indicate we are living literally in the future, and you decide to crawl back to watching reality TV for solace.

But wait.

Come on back here. It’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s worse. My goal is to try and help you better understand this concept in just a short five minutes. Then you can go off and tell your friends how hyperreal they are, and everybody’s happy.

So, what is hyperreality? Here are two definitions from postmodern theorists,

  • “A real without origin or reality” – Jean Baudrillard
  • “The authentic fake.” – Umberto Eco


Wait, that doesn’t clear things up? Well, let me continue on then.

Hyperreality bears similarity with the literary concepts of metonymy and synecdoche, if that means anything. Basically, it is when something takes on a meaning that it wouldn’t naturally have, blends the new fictional meaning with the old real meaning, and the blended meaning or idea becomes “real”. Let’s go back to reality TV. Does reality TV actually depict reality? If you answered yes, you are a victim of hyperreality.

Reality TV depicts a fantasy played off as reality. However, many people will come to accept this false reality as true reality, and then try to model their own lives after it. Reality TV is a simulation, a mixing of reality and fiction until one can’t tell the difference. This can have negative effects due to that fact that there’s probably a good reason the hyperreal isn’t real.

Seemingly opposite from reality TV would be movies that employ large amounts of CGI. However, these are (you guessed it) hyperreal as well. The use of CGI depicts things that are impossible in “real” reality, but that viewers may come to believe can actually be done.

“But what about the people in these movies and shows? Surely they’re real, right?” Wrong. Celebrity worship completes the hyperreal picture. Celebrities are often held up as some impossible ideal. Daniel Boorstin probably said it best: “We come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but who are famous because they are great”. (*cough* Kardashians *cough*)

Hyperreality isn’t only a postmodern thing either. One example is a king’s crown. Rather than being seen as just some metal with some jewels possibly in it, the crown represents power, authority, mornartchy etc. The crown is now a simulacrum, “an image without resemblance” as Gilles Deleuze put it. It is fair to say, however, that hyperreality has become more prevalent as time has gone on.

“Alright, so now I kinda sorta get this hyperreality thing. But I’d really just like to get back to “real” reality. If you could direct me that way it’d be great, thanks.” Well, that’s not really going to be possible, not if you want to live within the bounds of (post)modern society. You see, at this point in our consumerist culture, pretty much everything is hyperreal in some way. I mean, I guess if you emigrated to, say, Antarctica, you could get pretty far away from hyperreality (although your preconceptions of things will stay with you of course).

So no. Basically, you live, not in reality, but in hyperreality, and you might as well accept it. Alright, you can go take your headache medicine now.

By the Crescent Moon

By the crescent moon I wait for my comeuppance but I know,
I cannot live within myself but without I fear to go.
The sentencing was swift and harsh, and no appeal was made,
And time has seen, the memories all begin to fade.

Drowning in my shadow I watch my life roll away,
But the tide of life does not roll back in later in the day.
I thought I knew but then I was always blinded by the light,
And now I lie here, sleeping in an everlasting night.

And though I try, I never can wake,
All my life has seen to take,
Is that which I never can earn back.
You cannot live with a life you lack.
Bring me out of this misery,
Take away my cold apathy.
And let the warmth flow through my blood,
Before I’m swallowed by the flood.

Trapped within the drenching darkness deep within my mind,
Bound only by the chains and bars I’ve put myself behind.
Lost in the shadows, there’s nowhere I can run.
Far away from the warmth brought by the setting sun.

But suddenly I feel a crack,
In the wall and I attack.
Claw my way out from myself,
Turn around into someone else.
Someone else who I can’t see,
And only know because he’s me.
And when you run out from your mind,
You know you’re just as good as blind.

Spiraling Ever Upwards

Spiraling ever upwards to the starry, dreamy sky,
I look ahead while wondering what I have left behind.
The waves upon the world seem to vanish in the breeze,
That comes upon their faces like a bird that’s flying free.

High upon the purple mountains wait until you know,
You’ve reached the top but down is not the only place to go.
Step back and catch a breath of the perfume in the air,
That rises from the pines and surrounds you everywhere.

Take a step and careful or you’ll fall into your mind,
And what’s within is sometimes better left unto the blind.
The hazel trees are rustling in the winds up from the sea,
Dive under and gaze upon the world that’s meant to be.

Turn around and find it isn’t you that’s left behind,
Another man whose face seems ever more obscured left your mind.
With the birds and bees offer up a fond and true farewell,
In the days to come wait only for the sounding of the knell.

The silver crystals dancing cross the sky for you and me,
As the ruby turns away upon a different company.
The reflection of our lives rises higher with the breeze,
And is blown away as finally we find what it is to be free.

Hope Never Dies

Will you please forgive me, but I can’t put into words,
That feeling, well you know how it goes.
That magic feeling, you know how it goes.

My ideals have fallen one by one,
But this last, it can still be saved.
Oh I believe it can still be saved.

Oh and there is so much I could do,
But what’s the point, all I want is you.
There is no point, without you.

Where do I go now, can you give me a sign?
Sometimes you smile and sometimes you sigh.
I’m dying inside, but I can’t let go,
Tell the sun not to rise and then maybe you’ll know.

And they say it’s the only love that can last,
The love that will never come to pass.
But we can prove them wrong,
Oh I believe it’s true, how ‘bout you?

And I don’t want to bore you,
But I can’t think of anything else.
And you know a man must be selfish,
To want to keep you just for himself.

And I know that word still hasn’t crossed my lips,
Should I keep it in or should I let it slip?
Do I take that chance, or do I stay silent,
Because hope never dies, hope never dies.

Hazel Skies

I remember hazel skies,
And the song borne through all the trees,
On the soft southern breeze.
It came to whisper into my ear,
A sound too faint to hear,
And then it slowly slipped away again.
I don’t know where I’ve been.
I turned to look through the violet lens,
All the straight lines were bends,
And then I slipped off into a dream,
Or at least that’s what it seems.
Feel like I’m living a dream.
Don’t wake me up when I fall back asleep,
The only thing I can keep,
When I’m in my mind,
The only thing that’s mine, don’t mind the time,
It’s only a dream.

I remember chestnut seas,
Where the water would never freeze,
I waded in to my knees.
The salmon sun spelled in the sky,
Words too far from my eye,
And then I saw marshmallows rolling in.
I don’t know where to begin.
Took off my glasses and I peered through the dawn,
All the rights seemed so wrong.
It’s not like when I’m drifting through my dreams,
I know what everything means,
When I’m living a dream.
Don’t wake me up when I fall back asleep,
The only thing I can keep,
When I’m in my mind,
The only thing that’s mine, don’t mind the time,
It’s only a dream.

Why You Should Watch: Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is, simply put, one of the hands-down funniest television shows in the history of history. Originally aired on KTMA, a television station in the twin cities region of Minnesota in 1988, Mystery Science Theater moved to the Comedy Channel in 1989, which became Comedy Central in 1991, and finally moved to the Sci-Fi Channel for the last 3 years of its run, ending in 1999. The show was the brainchild of comedian Joel Hodgson, who was joined by producer Jim Mallon and fellow comedians Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein. Future member Kevin Murphy was doing camera work at this time. Weinstein would leave after the first Comedy Channel season, and the main cast would henceforth be Joel as Joel, Trace as Crow and Dr. Forrester, Kevin as Tom Servo, and Frank Conniff as TV’s Frank. Mid-way through season 5, Joel would leave the show and be replaced by Mike Nelson, who had been head writer since season 2. Frank and Trace would both leave shortly after, being replaced by Mary Jo Pehl as Pearl Forrester and Bill Corbett as Crow.


MST3K alums Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, Josh Weinstein, and Frank Conniff

File:Michael J. Nelson & co.jpg

Fellow MST3K alums Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, and Bill Corbett

The show has a very simple premise: a man and his robot friends (Gypsy, who doesn’t watch the movies, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo) are forced to watch bad movies as part of an evil experiment. To keep their sanity throughout this experiment, Joel  (later Mike) and the bots riff on the movies while in the theater. The riffing is by and large hilarious. I won’t pretend it’s always spot on, but for a show that ran an hour and a half, it makes the most of its run time.


Gypsy, Crow, and Tom Servo

So what kind of movies were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000? Movies like this:

Shockingly Bad

…with heroes like this:

I don’t know where they found some of the movies they found, but I don’t envy whoever had to screen them the first time.  Such illustrious masterpieces as “The Skydivers”, “The Pumaman”, “The Creeping Terror”, and my personal favorite, “The Final Sacrifice”, are a few of the films whose last shreds of dignity were torn asunder by the MST3K crew.

All in all, the true test to see if you’d like Mystery Science Theater is to go and watch an episode. An hour and a half too long for your busy schedule? Try one of the shorts, which often contain more laughs per minute than the full movies. But no matter what you watch, prepare yourself for pain. Pain from knowing movies like the ones featured on the show exist, and pain from clutching your sides from laughing too hard.