01 Jan THE NEW MILESTONES
Happy 2013! I feel like this year’s going to rank right up there with 1967, 1974 and 1989 in the “this year was a tolerable bridge between way more interesting years.” We’ll see.
Oh man — why didn’t someone write a perennial New Year’s Eve song called “We’ll See”?
Births, Deaths, Weddings, Divorces, Victories and Defeats. These are pretty much the milestones by which we look back on a year, and anticipate the next one. Out here in Los Angeles, in the jumped-up magic show I work in, we add Debuts, Breakthroughs, Finales and Cancellations. It’s our sad way of conflating the illusion of our vaporous trade with the actual weight and gravity of existence. The same thing gets done in sports, finance, real estate and music. It’s an unspoken but agreed-upon facsimile of import. “The show must go on”, and all that.
It’s harmless — an office rally chant for slow days, if we’re going to be honest about it — unless you allow it to have ACTUAL weight and gravity in your own life. But that decision is up to you. For every Zen, happy artisan like a Bill Withers or a Garret Keizer (more about his crucial genius in a MUCH longer post later this month) there are self-torturing flagellants to fame like Madonna or Dr. Phil.
Or maybe the kiss of the scourge is the only thing that truly makes them happy? I shouldn’t be speaking for them like this, but I’m allowed to wonder.
But it hit me, looking at a lot of this year’s BEST OF/WORST OF lists, that we have some new metrics by which to measure milestones in life. They’re just as illusory as some of the milestones invented by us show business types. How was it that W.B. Yeats divided us up, after interpreting the automatic writing of his batty wife? The Will and The Ought? Man, I should’ve been less drunk in college. But I vaguely recall — God forbid I do a Google search right now but, fuck it, this is about how I remembered something to suit my own needs which, isn’t that what life is about holy shit is this a run-on sentence.
Anyway, there are Solar and Lunar professions. Solar people are the bankers, lawyers, builders, educators — people who pretty much make the world run. Then there’s my crowd — The Lunars. Poets, actors, painters, writers — the dreamers who live in the bullshit way the world Ought to be. And comedians, my tribe, whom Dana Gould describes as, “…just below the guy who puts the condom on the donkey before the Tijuana sex show.”
I’d put the donkey above us as well, but there you go.
But it struck me, reading all of these lists, some of the new “milestone” categories we’ve quietly added to the list of things to tick off as the coming year unspools. A lot of them have to do with our lives lived online — the electronic adjunct to mere experience which makes a lot of Lunar types unable to live in the moment. There are tiny, curtained stages in our pockets now. How can we resist the urge to hop to the lip of the proscenium and take a quick bow for thinking of something clever to say about the rude person in front of us at Gelsons?
So here are my five new milestones. As I wrote them down I realized I’ve been anticipating these for a couple of years now:
1. BLURTS: This is the racist Tweet, homophobic Tumblr post or clumsy panel segment that temporarily (never permanent; the word “permanent” is about to go the way of “gardyloo”, “pismire” and “galimaufry” although, oddly enough, the archaic word “twattling” is making a comeback) derails someone’s public goodwill and positive fame. This differs from the second milestone on this list in that it is deliberate, and done with some amount of forethought. Also known as “The Publicists’ Ulcer.”
2. CAMERA PHONE CRACK-UP: An un-deliberate public meltdown, captured by a civilian’s camera phone, and quickly posted to the world. “We are our own Stasi,” said Janeane Garofalo to me one night, and she’s right. Big Brother was a pussy compared to any three teenage girls at any mall.
3. REVERSE DORIAN GRAY: This is the slow-motion dissolution of a seemingly happy, healthy celebrity, with us as the anti-Lord Henry Wotton (and the tabloids as Basil Halliward). We tut-tut and shake our heads and think what a tragedy and devour every scrap of tragedy off the bone. Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse are hung forever in this gallery of annihilation, and there are spots waiting for, it seems, Lindsay Lohan and Katt Williams. I hope they both miss their unveilings. I hope they turn it around. I really do.
4. BREAKING THE SHAME BARRIER: Every year, one reality show wannabe decides, “Fuck it, we’re done with quotidian life. I’m happier in the geek pit.” Honey Boo-Boo’s monstrous mom did it last year; Sarah Palin did it in 2008. Someone, this year and the year after and every fucking year after, is going to find the hideous courage to become Famous Without Talent. They’re out there right now, crouching down and hungry. They just haven’t met the eye of the lens — but when they do, it’ll be the media equivalent of an ALIEN face-hugger attack. You’ll see.
5. CATEGORY “X”: This is, simply, a new Milestone we don’t know exists yet. Could we have conceived of careers wounded by Twitter ten years ago? Five years ago? Or a shaky cell phone film of Michael Richards popping his rivets at The Laugh Factory going “viral” — fuck, could we have imagined the new meaning of “viral”? Well, those who read Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451 probably could have (a book that deals with SO MUCH more than mere book-burning, and deserves to be re-read by anyone fascinated by reality TV, the fetishization of police chases and Twitter, all of which Bradbury predicted).
There’s a new category of Milestone we’re going to discover and name and add to the way we measure time. This year. Soon. Maybe something to do with Instagram, or FourSquare (an adulterous affair discovered through “Mayor” badges?) Or a blazing leap in technology we’ve yet to be blindsided by. “X” waits, right now. Get ready.
Add it to the Births and Deaths. The wheel isn’t spinning any faster or slower, but it is getting noisier.