Sunday, December 30, 2007

You Heard It Here First

Partially inspired by this piece about television posted by my boss on Reality Sandwich, I would like to make a suggestion, and coin a phrase which I hope will catch on and help inspire others...

We're all extremely familiar with so-called "Reality TV" that genre of entertainment which puts "ordinary" people into semi-controlled but unscripted situations just to see what happens. The genre started out only slightly creepy, but to nobody's surprise quickly became unabashedly crass and exploitative, and ever increasingly divorced from "Reality." Of course, it IS real, in the sense that actual human beings do actually submit to the often outlandish things asked of them, whether it be to suck up to Donald Trump, or choke down a length of horse-rectum (which would YOU find more degrading?).

Well, not only does TV capture/reflect Reality but it also shapes it. People in the TV industry tend to discount the notion that their programming could possibly influence behavior. Yet, we all know that kids ape the "Jackass" guys despite being warned not to try this at home, not to mention the fact that the very existence of commercial TV is predicated on the belief (and the evidence) that the commercials will indeed influence consumer purchasing behavior on a mass scale. If you doubt TV's power to determine what real-life turns into, consider this: there had never been a single instance of a drive-by shooting amongst rural middle-American teens until shortly after MTV started airing gangsta rap videos. As frivolous and dismissible as you may think MTV-fluff is, it reaches greater numbers of impressionable kids than any other single television entity in the world. Would kids in rural Nebraska ever have come up with the "drive-by" on their own? I kinda doubt it.

So, in a sense, all TV is "reality" TV. Commercial TV is a real thing. It has an agenda, which is also real, and while presenting itself as shiny happy and pretty, it is actually unhealthy, anti-human and even anti-common-sense. If left alone, what sort of reality will TV create for us? A world where even a war-mongering chimpanzee can become president. Not my first choice of a world to live in, but here we are.

SO... what I think we need is something else for people to watch. There's plenty of video content that strives for a better way of life, pushes a healthier agenda, but it's still few and far between and there's no general umbrella term to unify it all, lending it greater weight... the strength of being easily identified as part of a genre, or even a movement. There needs to be a name for this good stuff, whether found on the web, or on the fringes of broadcast/cable. I propose calling it: Alternate Reality TV.

Let the phrase sink in. Think of the possibilities. Many people are already making Alternate Reality TV, whether they know it or not. If the phrase catches on, perhaps more people will be motivated to make Alternate Reality TV, with the full understanding of what it's all about. "Oh... I'm not merely trying to sell people on the idea of solar powered transportation. I'm helping to create an Alternate Reality!" And sure, somebody may hear the term and immediately think to take 10 total strangers and put them in a house in the forest together with nothing to eat or drink except for Ayahuasca, and-- wait a minute... I'd watch that show!

Alternate Reality TV: get with the reprogram.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Urine was Acceptable

So, as predicted, my piss passed and thus the offer to do my freelance job in more of a full-on staff job kind of way is official!

To celebrate, I'm forgetting what I said in my last post and this weekend I'm licking a bunch of toads and then smoking crack from a pipe made outa the frozen severed head of Timothy Leary. At least, that's what the dude who sold it to me down by Cooper Union said it was made of. I was like, "Dude! Where'd you get that?!" and he was like "I made it myself," and I was like "they let you carve Timothy Leary's frozen severed head into a crack pipe?" and the dude was like "Hey man, you don't only have to smoke crack out of it. You could totally smoke crystal meth, or opium or a whole bunch of other things out of it," and I was like "Totally dude... okay you sold me. How much do you want for it?" and he said, "350 thousand dollars" and I was like, "Huh, right, well, y'see... the thing is I don't exactly got--" and he interrupted me, saying "Well how much you got?" and I was like, "18 bucks," and he seemed kinda pissed but then he saw a cop coming and was like "Okay fine, just give it to me and take the pipe" so we made the exchange and he immediately packed up everything on his little folding table and took off into the holiday throng of young Japanese kids. I went skipping home, giddy as a school-girl, with my new one-of-a-kind Leary-Head Crack-Pipe tucked neatly away in my Hunger Site messenger bag. (I guess it's more of a laptop bag, really.) And the great thing is... I only gave the guy 17 bucks! Now I just need to get me some high octane crack!

Anyway, I officially start the job I'm already doing on January 2nd. Too bad I'm gonna be all hopped up on lickable toad poison that day.

Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why I Don't Do Drugs Anymore

I, Jon Levin, don't do drugs anymore...

...any more than, say, the average touring funk band.

Just kidding. That's a Bill Hicks joke. And like Bill Hicks was, before cancer released him from earthly Bill Hicksitude, I'm a pro-drug person who doesn't do drugs any longer.

Why did I stop? I'll explain in a bit. Why is this on my mind at the moment? Because the people I currently work freelance for, offered me my job on an actual staff basis, with the health benefits and the vacation time and the thing. And despite my reluctance to join or belong to anything, I accepted their offer. But before it can be official, I must submit to a fairly extensive background check and pass a drug test.

So... yesterday, I went to the walk-in lab at Foresight Security on 35th St. and pissed in a cup. They patted me down to make sure I hadn't smuggled in somebody else's piss. I hadn't.

Now, you may be thinking all of this is way too Orwellian for comfort, and you'd be right. I mean, it's not like I'm going for a job as an airline pilot or anything. I'm a professional media creative (or a creative media professional) and people in creative positions in media are expected -- hell, encouraged -- to do drugs. A lot. I don't know anybody else in TV or film who had to pass a drug test to get hired. (Good thing too -- most would've failed.)

But my co-worker Rick explained to me that since our company is ultimately owned by Cablevision, and since Cablevision is a... Cable-TV-service company that employs dudes who drive vans and show up at your house and come into your house and poke around in your house and stuff, they pretty much have to make sure that the people they hire for such positions aren't drug-addled criminals. And apparently, they can't just screen the dudes going for the van-driving home-entering jobs. They gotta screen everybody. Including me. I suppose it's possible that they don't actually care what's in my urine sample and they just have to keep up appearances by making me take the test. But either way, I ain't worried about it, because I don't do drugs anymore and I'll pass the piss test with flying colors.

But there was a time, not too long ago, when that would NOT have been the case. Not. Even. Close.

And even if they do reserve the right to fire me for USING drugs, there ain't no way they'd be allowed to fire me for ADVOCATING the use of drugs. So with that in mind...




CHILDREN SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED TO DO DRUGS AS EARLY AS, SAY... 12 YEARS OF AGE, if supervised by their parents, who should also be doing drugs.

I THINK THAT NOT ONLY ARE DRUGS FUN TO DO, but that proper drug use among a certain percentage of the populace is necessary for the very survival of the human race. If drugs were legal and more people did them, we'd all be better off. Not only should the average citizen have the option to use whatever substances s/he likes, but for certain people in certain professions, regular use of certain substances should be MANDATORY.

Now, I'm not talking about ALL drugs here. I don't think people should be forced to smoke meth or shoot heroin or anything. But I think that regular use of: acid, ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, marijuana, peyote, ecstasy, etc. should be unwaveringly required of anyone wishing to be a politician, school teacher, clergyman, law enforcer, judge, mental health care practitioner and probably a bunch of other things too.

Of course, my opinion is shaped by the overwhelmingly positive experiences I've had as a result of my drug use -- one especially overwhelmingly positive experience in particular. I won't go into the details, but it only involved a little bit of pot, was extremely enlightening and changed my entire life, for the better, forever.

Unfortunately, I wasn't living in a mature drug-culture with widely known, time-tested methods for guiding someone who has had such an experience. So, even though I didn't actually need a drug to induce mind-blowing mystical visions, insights and learning experiences, I still CRAVED the sheer awesome pleasure of it, and so began badly abusing the plant which I most closely associated with the transcendent experience -- marijuana -- attempting to re-create it.

I did learn about yoga and meditation, perhaps the most widely known techniques for helping humans achieve transcendence without drugs, but those techniques require something that drugs do not: discipline. Never been big on discipline.

So, I continued using, marijuana mostly, but mushrooms and acid and ecstasy too, and never did repeat that first unbelievable experience. Though other impressive, um, stuff did happen from time to time. But gradually, the good parts about getting high (on whatever) became less prevalent, and the harsher, less enjoyable aspects took over, until the drugs kinda stopped being any good to me at all. For a long time, I knew that my drug use was getting less and less effective, and that it was having a negative effect on my spiritual connectedness in general. But I was in denial. Despite all the obvious indications, I couldn't admit that I should probably stop using the drugs completely. Or at the very least, slow the fuck down.

But once the drugs did stop working, it wasn't really that difficult to quit, after all, I was quitting something that wasn't fun anymore. Unfortunately, by that point, I'd lost a great deal of the amazing gains I'd made. Hard to describe what I mean by that, so here's a pseudo-scientific hypothesis about how drugs work and why they stopped working for me:

Human beings (and all creatures) are physical manifestations of spiritual energy. The mechanism by which spiritual energy flows and interpenetrates our more mundane physical, mental and emotional lives, is called the Chakra System. Human beings have 7 major chakras, which correspond to specific points along the central nervous system, and are linked to specific endocrine organs (which are responsible for the most powerful bio-chemicals in the bloodstream, responding to and influencing our thoughts, feelings, emotions etc.)

The word "chakra" is sanskrit for "wheel" which doesn't really tell you anything about what a chakra really is, but rather just refers to the way the chakras appear (to those who can perceive them) and the way they behave (they rotate). A more useful, functional English translation of what chakras are would be something like "Energy Hearts." They are spiritual-energy-flow-regulating "organs." You know... sort of.

The chakras affect, and are affected by, everything we experience. This obviously includes drugs. Drugs act on the various physical systems of the body. They influence emotions. And they have profound impact on the chakra system. The most significant/fundamental effect of drugs is that they liberate certain subtle energies which are inherent in all humans, but which are generally dormant.

Awakening these latent energies feels good. On many levels. Perhaps you become gifted with especially keen insight into the emotional lives of those close to you. Or maybe you are inspired to write the finest poem of your life. Or maybe that burrito just tastes way too fucking good. Or maybe you suddenly grasp an overarching pattern in your own behavior which has been holding you back. Or maybe you suddenly grasp an overarching pattern in human history which has been holding us back. Or maybe you paint an incredible abstract painting that turns out to spell something in Arabic when held to a mirror. Or maybe sex is better than ever before. Or maybe you gain renewed appreciation for the genius of the last track on Revolver. Or maybe you and your friends just laugh and laugh and laugh.

But inevitably, there is a come-down, a slap-back. Sometimes we just need to rest and re-charge. But sometimes we feel like we've been run-over by a truck. Or want to jump off a cliff. The energies our drug use releases are then depleted. Dissipated. Lost. Proper drug use, safe, responsible and moderate, allows time for at least partial recovery of what is lost. Perhaps even total recovery. But I, Jon Levin, wasn't moderate. I just kept releasing the energy, and enjoying amazingly vivid, intense experiences, both sensory and extra-sensory. But all the while, these energies were being depleted and I wasn't allowing time for recovery.

Now there's not much left to recover. I did stop short of total depletion, but not by much. I am definitely left with a feeling of having "fallen from grace". Though, even now, I know that I'm not completely out of the game. I just have to work a bit harder than I used to and be very very VERY careful around all the people I love who continue to make drug-use a regular part of their lives.

Too bad for me. But if anyone out there learns from my mistake, so much the better.



peace, y'all.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I'm Old

I just realized how old I am. You see... this morning, I turned a corner in my life, and am now faced with a concrete unwavering signifier of my oldness. I used to be one way, and now I am another. Just this morning, I discovered that I, Jon Levin, now actually kind of like... raisins in my breakfast cereal.

Now get off of my lawn before I call the cops!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

There Should be a Law

I've worked in some swanky places, and some not-so-swanky places. The building I currently work in -- 11 Penn Plaza -- was built in 1923 and the lobby is actually pretty grand, in an old-school elegant way. So I was a little worried that with the onset of the Christmas Season, the people in charge of such things would decorate our lobby with holiday festoonery leaning toward the tackier, stupider end of the spectrum. The first morning I arrived to see the decorations in place, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were all extremely tasteful and appropriately elegant for the architecture in question. A truly lovely first rate job, to make even the scroogiest cynic feel the joy of the season during that brief moment actually spent in the lobby, between one's commute through the cold and the bleak, and one's stressed-out office environment. I found myself actually envying the security guards stationed in the lobby all day.


They added the sound-system.

Playing the Christmas music.

Now... there's obviously a spectrum of Christmas music out there, with lovely tasteful Christmas music at one end, and horrible nauseating make-you-want-to-jam- ice-picks-into-your-ears Christmas music at the other.

Guess which end of the spectrum 100% of our lobby music is on.

The otherwise beautiful environment has been destroyed by sonic wallpaper made of turds. Christmas turds, but turds nonetheless.

So now, I speed through the lobby like Indiana Jones running out of that booby-trapped cave, so as not to get hit with any turd laced christmas song arrows shot from the open mouth of Celine Dion's death-head. An opportunity to impart a little aesthetic appreciation, some sanity and calm, replaced by yet one more crass stress-inducer, just because somebody in charge of something has got shit-for-taste in music.

When I'm King of New York, those people will not be allowed near the public iPod.