Alex Mathews

Alex Mathews – writer, bared naked dude blah blah blah

Sunday Learnin’

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When I first began looking at schools for my son, I used a selection criteria that was pretty much pieced together in an insular vacuum. I had no particular agenda or philosophy other than wanting the best for my child. And when we think of this, I suppose even that criteria is subjective and it could be completely misguided. I had been somewhat aware of the ideas espoused in the ‘Race to Nowhere,’ or other dissertations about modern education and its failings. There is a part of me that simply used my experience as a baseline. I went to good private schools on the East Coast, where the race to nowhere was in full flight, but to proclaim that in the go-go eighties would have been treasonous. This is likely a hard argument to follow even today, because I am not so sure we all agree that nowhere isn’t somewhere. The old somewhere is the new nowhere, apparently. Now’s nowhere is where apparently everyone dreams of going, and in this bubble of expensive private education, the norm is established that these children will go to the old somewhere, and they will more or less kick the shit out of the rest of the people that didn’t do well in school, leading to the conquest of the game of life based on the criteria of acquiring success, money, and power. Yes, sign my son up for that. We certainly don’t want our own children getting squashed on the playing field of life, do we?

One trouble is that we don’t unanimously agree that the aspirations comprising the conventional target are even worthy of ideological challenge. We are still using the paradigm of work hard, do well in school, get a good job (which is fiscally bound, like it or not), work hard, work harder, pay for shit and die. And there is also still a stratification in society based on the individual’s ability to excel in the current system. The more academically successful students go to better places, while those that don’t rise to the top are relegated to other career trajectories. The stratification of society has a long history, no? What is the world we are priming our children for? Will there always be those that employ, and those that are employed? Do you want your kid to win or lose the game of life?

I suppose I could be schooled by many that my perspective on life is extremely skewed, for how very provincial and pathetic is this outlook, and yet I don’t believe I am the only human with these very stringent and deeply rooted notions about society, economy and life. One thing I have found is that these beliefs are deeply ingrained in our minds, to the extent that we don’t even feel they require analysis or review, nor are they spoken of explicitly. And most definitely not in the brochures for kindergarten. They are the quietest assumptions. They are woven into the fabric of routines of parents, in the smiles and the the greetings at drop-off time, in the conversations on the playing fields, in the sports we make our kids play, in the way we parent. There is so much talk of bullying, but are we not simply a bullying culture at the very root? Do we really teach turning the other cheek? Not if you don’t want your kids to end up carrying luggage for the winners in the world. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide.

And Television

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I left a pitch meeting today, where the subject was same as it usually is in these things. Though not identified as such, packaging mediocrity for the lowest common denominator is hard work. There are meetings, and more meetings, email chains, conference calls; sexual favors are usually dispensed, or taken non-consensually. Popular culture is raped, too, for the formulas for successful programming must be exploited and repeated. And these Hollywood clones want something that is exactly what sold well last season, but it has to be unique, visionary, forward. Who are these people? Minions, they are. Minions with a lexicon. Minions with career trajectories. These are people who shouldn’t have any authority at all, so fortunately they work in television, where nobody can really get hurt. Unless of course you count the mental anguish that dramatic sludge posing as entertainment causes to people with too much time on their hands.

The world is divided into three sections here. There is the audience. That’s most of the world. They need to be lulled into a sense of complacency so you can sell them soap and boner pills, anti-depressants and processed cheese products. They like a good hero, and a love story, and sometimes something that gives them a sense of humanitarian wisdom. But not too much, because then they get too scared of reality to buy soap and boner pills. That’s what these meetings are for, to figure out how to lull the audience into being better consumers. But nobody in the meetings knows it. They’ve been weaned on this shit so they just know what to mimic.

Then of course, there is the talent. These are your celebrities. Celebrity is pretty much every fifteen year old girl’s dream. They have no plan to attain it, or any real sense of taking action in general, they just know it would be cool because attention feels good, and when you are a fifteen year old girl, your religion is pretty much solipsism, so there you have it. Actors are incredibly insecure, and they require constant affirmation. They can act like they’re confident, but criticize their performance and they go ape shit. But quietly, inside. Try it sometime. There must be a community theater near you. It’s fun, and you can get laid, too.

And lastly, there are the behind the scenes people. These are the ones that learned quickly that their chances of fame were statistically against them, but they figured if they can light a famous person, or mic them, or write what they utter, or paint the environment they act in, well, that’s real power. This is more power than the executive branch, because nowadays nobody takes government seriously. That is a different form of entertainment. That is designed to stir up rage and hostility so you’ll turn on channel 4 and go to sleep.

But the minions bought it, and I am getting paid. Night night.

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