April 17, 2008

Viva La Viral: Bicentennial Matt

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I have cried only three times in my entire life. The first time was when I was born. The second was when I first watched the film Bicentennial Man. The third time I ever cried in my entire life was when — a year after I saw the film — I started to think about it over dinner with some family friends and, after laughing about having cried the first time I saw it, began to cry again just from thinking about it. I was seventeen years old at the time. My father sent me from the table.
In the film Robin Williams want to become a real man, but can’t because he’s a “bicentennial” man. I think this is really relevant in our world today, because who hasn’t felt that way at one time or another? I know I have. Whenever I see the film or even think about it, I cry. I’m crying right now. This is the fourth time I’ve ever cried.
But for every Bicentennial Man in this world, there are hundreds of thousands of things that make me happy. I try to fill my time with those things what make me happy as much as possible. There are several effective tools I use for ensuring that I get what makes me happy:
1. Ignorance: I refuse to learn any trade, skill or craft that I hate, but which I could be tempted to do as a career for the money. For example: From the very beginning of my grammar school education, I have made it a point not to learn even the simplest arithmetic. I hate numbers, counting and formulas. By not learning math, I have ensured that I will never be seduced into the world of accounting or investing, no matter how much money my friends are making in those fields.
That might seem defeatist and narrow-minded, but fuck it. I love the outdoors and I love my country. If I’m ever that hard up for a job, I’ll join the Army. They can put me in charge of handing out candy to the children of war-ravaged third world countries. I think I’d enjoy that, and I don’t think the kids will mind it either! Now who’s being defeatist and narrow minded!
2. Hard Work: I think this one speaks for itself. I’m not going to waste time going into it.
4(?). Spending Money: I make it a point to overpay for music and movies that I truly love, even if I’ve seen them on TV or at a friend’s house (or on the internet). What I do is I take some of the loose change from my piggy bank (I can tell how much I’m giving by the weight of the coins; I lack the cognitive capacity to add it all up) and stuff it into the return envelope for my Netflix with a note to Hollywood to make sure the money gets into the right hands. That way, the fine business people who make the art I love (the nine producers of Bicentennial Man, for example) don’t have to become homeless and sell their bodies to buy some stale bread and evaporated milk to feed their ragamuffin children.
I say all of this because today I would like to use this column to get out the word about a group of people who make me happy, in the hopes that other people will continue supporting them in doing what they do. (I suppose writing pompous columns in college newspapers should be added to the above list.)
Why make a personal crusade public? First of all, I need to make sure the message is clear. It’s sometimes hard for people to understand your satisfaction with the things you like. I have this problem all the time, because I am so frequently overwhelmed with joy.
For example, people often think that I’m exhausted at fine restaurants because I tend to chew with my eyes closed and mumble my words. But let me tell you! First of all, my eyes aren’t closed when I chew because I’m sleepy. My eyes are closed because, since I was an infant, I have always reflexively closed my eyes when I eat something really delicious. Second of all, I’m not mumbling because I’m tired. I’m mumbling because I’m drunk!
So let me be clear: The people I’m talking about encouraging belong to the organization called Improv Everywhere (improveverywhere.com). For a while now, they have been using the interwebs to organize real-world “missions” where hundreds of operatives (volunteer supporters) come out to perform some good-natured shenanigans, which are always funny. You can watch the videos on the site to get an idea of what they’re about. Let me tell you about a couple of my favorites.
One is when the group coordinated a mob of volunteers to go into a Best Buy store wearing khakis and blue polo shirts (the uniform of Best Buy employees) and start helping customers make their purchases. The volunteers didn’t impersonate sales personnel, or disrupt the customers in the store. Rather, the customers just assumed that the Improv Everywhere people were real employees, and asked them for help picking out a new digital camera. Another favorite is when the group coordinated with Goodyear and NBC to give a local little league game the full blown “major league” treatment. They had fans flood the stands, paint their chests, cheer for both teams. They had a jumbo-tron rise out of the outfield and the Goodyear blimp fly by with an inspirational message for both the teams. Imagine how much fun that must have been for those kids and their psycho parents!
Anyways, I just wanted to say thanks to Improv Everywhere for making me and a lot of other people happy with their truly chaotic, fun events. And those envelopes you’ve been getting in the mail stuffed with random amounts of pocket change? You’re welcome.