Follow the Herd

note: this is what most kids grow up believing, this is how they are brainwashed, it’s not too late to make a change, it’s not too late for them to learn to be themselves, to ignore the messages they receive, to learn to love individuality and difference. We can make a change, but first we have to accept our own limitations, and recognize that what’s wrong with our youth reflects what is wrong with our own selves and society at large. 

Follow the herd

High school is a plastic doll factory. It teaches you to one thing and one thing only: be like everybody else. These jeans are the latest hot fad, those shoes are not acceptable, hair shouldn’t be too long nor too short, and so on. The easiest way to avoid being bullied is to join the crowd, sacrifice your soul, and willingly turn into a sheep. Follow the leader, be part of the herd, don’t think too much, just go with the flow.You have to remember what’s important: keeping up with your friends. You won’t be judged on your mind or personality, you will be judged on your clothes and appearance. Accept it, and learn to relish it, after all, there is no I in team.

All this does not end with high school, though. High school is just the beginning. It’s the training camp for the real world. The lessons you learn now will serve you for the rest of your life. If you don’t learn them, you’re screwed. If you don’t fit in now, you probably never will. You’re probably one of those weirdo misfit people who think up is down and black is white. Good luck with that. You’ll be a loser the rest of your life, because you don’t know how to follow orders. Not the teacher’s orders mind you, but the social order.

The pecking order we all adhere to, because there are winners and losers, and we get to pick them amongst ourselves. The alpha dogs and head bitches in charge will not be questioned. You are allowed to be a beta, or a random follower, but you are not allowed to have a mind of your own. If you do, then you have two choices: be an outcast (get beat up or harassed on a regular basis) or be invisible (be ignored by everyone and have no friends).

Welcome to paradise, these are the rules, don’t like them, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. We’re in a club, an exclusive one, only certain people get in, the rest watch from the outside forever. That’s how things work. It’s best to accept and follow along. Conform. Be like everybody else and turn your brain off. It builds character, you know, having friends and fitting in. You’ll always land on your feet in life if you fit in, if you know how to schmooze, if you look the right way and say the right things. Never mind those other people: the rebels, the introverts, the prudes, the homosexuals and asexuals,  the punks and the geeks, the losers and the nerds, the artists and the dreamers, the techies and the bookworms, the scene kids and the goths, the addicts and jailbirds, and so on. They’re bad for society. They’ll fail, they already have.

Inertia

Impossible standards you can’t reach
Ambition greater than talent
Envy is the fuel of the artist
And the sign of the downward spiral
What do you do when it’s never enough
When fear of failure blends in with fear of success
And binds you into struggling inertia
To the point you’re so consumed
With your own paranoia
You’re stuck without motion
And nothing is finished
Nothing is achieved

September

This is a flash fiction I wrote, it’s called September 

She let her gaze fall across the Brooklyn Bridge and frowned as the clouds rolled over the cables and obscured the towering skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline. She pulled her coat closer to her body and yanked her hood over her head. Rains in New York often came unannounced, dropping onto the city in a sudden downpour, particularly in the heated, musty months of summer. At least this time, the rain would come after a warning and she’d be fully prepared.
Three months after she moved to the city, Kate was still bewildered by it. Maybe it was her strange timing, coming to live here a mere two months after the world shattered into pieces. She heard once that everything happened in September, whether good or bad, endings and beginnings always came with the fall. Watching the towers crash and burn on television was like the coming of the end, the apocalypse in real-time.
Everyone thought she was crazy. Packing her bags, leaving everything behind, to go and live in a city under siege. When the glittering lights shut off, and the streets emptied, and plumes of black smoke choked the night sky, she wanted to be there. Call it a death wish, an impulse for self-destruction, a mental illness, whatever it was, Kate had to live it, experience it, rather than watch it on a screen. If death was her fate, then she would face it head on, than cower from it. What good she could do in the short time she had to live, she would do it all, and on her own terms. And she knew in the depths of her heart, that in this troubled city, in this despairing time, she had found a new home.

My All-Time Favorite Movie

Here’s a review I wrote a few years ago, it’s my explanation for why Casablanca is my favorite movie of all-time, and it also helps explain why I write and read romance. Casablanca is more than a love story set in WWII, it is a character study, the story of a wounded, hardened, cynical man who after going through the motions for years, finds what it means to love again.

Casablanca: A Film Review

           Casablanca (1942) is the perfect movie. It’s an amazing blend of different genres and styles that work together, instead of antagonizing each other. In less than two hours, Casablanca features the stylish shadows and contrasts between dark and bright of a film noir, the suspense of a thriller, the raw emotion of a tearjerker, the backdrop of war, and a love story that speaks to each of us.

         Casablanca does all this with a tightly written, hilarious script where each line of dialogue is a memorable gem. Seriously, this has to be the most quotable movie ever made. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. We’ll always have Paris. What nationality are you? I’m a drunkard. I’m shocked, shocked, to see gambling going on in this establishment. Your winnings, sir. Major Strasser has been shot, round up the usual suspects. Here’s looking at you, kid. These are only a handful of the timeless lines that have been quoted, parodied, beloved, and copied over the decades.

        However, what makes Casablanca work isn’t just the brilliant writing, or the classic story, but the perfect acting. Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine is in a class by himself. The charisma, the suppressed rage, the tough guy persona that covers a vulnerable heart, the cynical and sarcastic way he delivers the lines. Bogart’s performance as Rick Blaine is my favorite of any actor in any movie, and I have watched a lot of movies. He simply embodies the tortured hero. He’s not perfect. He’s had to break the law to survive. He’s become this cynical empty shell, and yet by the end of the movie, he’s found it in his heart to be a human being again. To see through the pain, to re-learn what it is to love, and to embrace that love, and be strong enough to know when to let it go. Rick Blaine’s character arc is heartbreaking, moving, and wonderfully portrayed by Bogart. Bogart would go on to deliver other acclaimed performances, including the one he won an Academy Award for (a great movie called The African Queen), but I think this character and this performance is his quintessential one. It’s the one that just embodies all of his work, and goes beyond the realm of typically well-received performances into a another stratosphere: that of a classic, timeless icon.

        Not to be outdone, Ingrid Bergman smolders as the beautiful, elegant, mysterious Ilsa. Her acting is restrained, but effective. She can convey so much with a single glance, she doesn’t need to dig into a bag of tricks. The supporting actors also make an invaluable contribution to the film. The likes of Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, all immensely talented character actors, add an authenticity and electricity to the film that can’t be duplicated.

      The film’s sole weakness may perhaps be the relatively stiff performance of Paul Henreid, who was much better in the Bette Davis classic, Now Voyager. Henreid is not entirely at fault, since his character is quite underdeveloped compared to the characters in the film. Lazlo is little more than a plot device, the obstacle that keeps Bogart and Bergman apart from each other. This is a small quibble, however. Casablanca is a timeless masterpiece. It is also my personal favorite movie of all-time.