The Short Form Catastrophe

Briefs and bits: Longer than tweets, shorter than blog posts. Updated randomly and elegantly.

"Turn Down For What" or, Modern Existential Nihilism Writ Large

In December 2013, DJ Snake and Lil Jon released “Turn Down for What”. On first listen, this three and a half minute piece is little more than a ridiculous song geared at moving the club crowd.

But that sells the song short. Lil Jon’s simple three line lyric is a call to the mass of young people to reject the entire dead notion of life, work, society, and culture. It’s existential nihilism at its core, and at its finest. What Sarte and Camus spent years trying to codify is now complete.

"Fire up your loud…"

Here, the listener is being encouraged to let their feelings of rage, angst, ennui, and meaningless out in the loudest way possible. 

We are constantly inundated by the loud noises of our meaningless culture. Bosses scream for more productivity. Commercials scream to sell us useless products. Politicians scream useless rhetoric at us. “Media” outlets scream back and forth about the useless rhetoric. If there ever was any escape from noise, we long ago missed it.

But, like the piercing whistle that stop the mad crowd, our voices, our - if you will - “loud”, can be fired up and we can then be heard over the din.

"Another round of shots…"

Of course, the clearest rejection of society’s stranglehold on your life is to put yourself out of your own control. Oddly enough, a society so determined to drive us into a never-ending cycle of  work, consume, die, also includes legal purchase of alcoholic beverages. So, if this is the loophole, we must take it.

One more round of shots and we will begin to understand. This world is meaningless, and if that is true, then the question is: 

"Turn down for what?"

There is nothing to turn down for. Your job is an exercise in futility, a pointless activity designed to help you acquire money. Money, of course, is used to buy things - and the things that humans need should be free, and the things that are left over are the things we don’t need.

But, our culture insists that we do need them, so we work. While at work, we are not watching our children grow. We are not taking care of our homes. We are perpetuating a mythology that this is civilized culture. It isn’t. It will end as all things have.

"All illegal immigrants should be deported!!!"

Well, according to a Charleston TV news story, South Carolina “received” 350 of the children fleeing Central America.

Naturally, the station posted this to their Facebook page. The response was, to say the least, amazing.

Basically, people feel that we need to “take care of our own children (or vets. Or elderly.) first”. Of course, this is despite the fact that the very same people saying this are pretty much the exact same group of people who don’t actually support those social safety nets in the first place, or - at least - they constantly vote for the people attempting to eliminate those programs.

And, of course, there’s the notion that “all illegal immigrants must go. This is nothing against children, but they’re illegal and they need to go.”

Funny, the last time conservatives were this worked up over an illegal immigration problem involving children, they were saying the EXACT OPPOSITE.

Plane crashes, hysteria, and the failure of education

Sadly, the news this morning is that another commercial air flight is missing and probably down somewhere over Mali. Coming on the heels of the tragedy in the Ukraine, this has many people convinced of some pretty strange things.

Before I go on, let me just say that in no way do I wish to downplay the tragedy of the loss of life in plane crashes. On the other hand, I think it is important that people understand that we should not overstate or over-dramatize this crash, even in the context of the tragedy of MH17.

Yet, if you’ve checked in on the trending topics section of Facebook, you will see examples of people doing just that: overstating and over-dramatizing and, in general, being completely irrational. For instance, there’s this - a pretty typical reaction so far:


That’s right. The world is ending. Because a plane (may have) crashed. Or because two crashed within a relative short time. Well, I should say, because the media is now providing us with a very nice availability heuristic of plane crashes. But more on that later. First, let me give you an availability heuristic of my own; here’s another FB screenshot:


So, here we have not only the end of the world (and reinforcement of that idea from someone), but we also have the idea that “getting on a plane lately is a bit like PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE”) because 1 in several million is now “a bit like” 1 in 6.

Granted, there have been several horrible crashes this year. In fact, according to the International Business Times, 2014 “is on track to be a pretty bad year.” This article was written shortly after the disappearance of MH370, when the number of air fatalities was around 400. That number is now closer to 1,000 according to the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archive (I am not sure if this morning’s crash is included in their data yet. I imagine it won’t be until there can be conclusive proof the plane did crash).

Now, this sounds horrifying and you might be tempted to believe you should not get on a plane this year…until you realize that these numbers are still one-half of the number of fatalities in car accidents in any given month of 2010 in the United States alone

But, since not every car crash is given international news coverage, we don’t stop to think about how much more dangerous car travel is than air travel. Then again, due to the absolute failure of the educational system to teach people how to rationally approach the news, or how to examine data (or even know how to look for it, if they choose to actually look for it), we’re left with a sort of hysteria that grips the internet when a tragedy occurs.

It’s the same with homicides in most small- to medium-size towns and cities. Each news story comes with the requisite hand-wringing online about “what the world is coming to”.

Well, nothing actually. The world is not coming to anything. None of this is a sign of the end of the world.

It’s just a sign that you’ve heard about something that happened, and it seems to match a belief you already hold. Of course, that is an entirely different topic….


I just cleaned the microwave LIKE A BOSS

I paid someone else to do it, and I didn’t pay them much.

I gave them vague directions, then criticized their performance.

I told them not to complain that they didn’t have gloves, at least they had a job.


Radio Arratik - 06/25/2009 (Michael Jackson is Dead)


Five years ago, when I was still doing a semi-regular webcast, this fell out of my laptop after hearing the news that Michael Jackson had died. This was done completely on the fly, no edits or overdubs.




Far too late, I get my tumblr password reset…

Next week, #charmageddon, next week….

Tagged: charmageddon, .