Bringing Out The Dead

Lay down, make yourself comfortable. It’s time for some Rizzo bootleg phychology.

You have Magic. But do you have magic?

I think you have an idea of which way you want to go.

On Wednesday, I had to take an indirect route to work that I usually avoid at all costs. While stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the better part of an hour, I began to form the "traffic relationships" with the cars directly to my left and right. I noticed that my "traffic buddies" had virtually the same face; a face of inevitability. I was awash in tens of thousands of people mindlessly driving along to punch in and get some Scooby Snacks that they could exchange for the really vital things: random items that would temporarily give them pleasure and keep them complacent. For almost an entire hour I was disgusted by them.

I could hardly contain my desire to jump out of my truck and beat upon their homogenous persons in an attempt to wake them the hell up. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that I would’ve failed miserably at opening eyes that are glued shut by choice.. (I am Rizzo’s seething discontent – The Ferrett)

Then an overwhelming sense of pity overtook me as I stared at the mass of numbers aimlessly wandering through life. I mean I really stared; I could see beyond the facade of SUVs, $1,000 business suits, cellphones, laptops, DVD’s, palm pilots, expensive jewelry, and the most fashionable colognes and perfumes. And I saw a bunch of people who were not aware that they were already dead.

They have no Magic. They have no magic.

Many people will claim to have magic in their lives, but they may base the precise amount of magic on how their favorite sports team is doing on any given day. Perhaps their magic is partially based on which of their favorite TV shows is on tonight. Maybe the magic ebbs and flows with their bank account.

I used to despise them. Now I pity them.

Survivor. Temptation Island. Big Brother. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The World’s Grisliest Decapitations…

Who are the people that watch and become hooked on these shows? They are the same ones that the entire Fox Network is catering to: the straight-and-narrow that live vicariously through others in such an obscenely voyeuristic manner that they should go directly to confession, do not pass go, and forget about collecting that $200. They sit in their recliners passing judgment on people that are only more pathetic than them because they were actually selected for one of these shows.

"That Richard is a fat, evil, fag!"

"Gervase is so self centered!"

"Christ! Regis practically gave him the answer and he still missed it!"

"Kaya is a hunk and Billy is such a jerk!"

"I can’t believe Michael’s wife has started a campaign to help him stay on the show!"

They can go to bed fully aware that they will never be as disgusting as these people. They can sleep like a baby because they know that they would never go on any of those shows and embarrass themselves like that. Then they wake up, get some coffee, kiss the significant other on the cheek, get in their car, and drive to their death.

They drive along knowing that they are the "good people" who the world depends on to keep everything at an even kilter. They turn on the radio and listen to the news: "A newborn baby was found in a dumpster this morning…" "Mayor Whoever is being indicted for…" "A five-alarm fire leaves hundreds homeless…" They are repulsed, just like they should be. But they can’t turn it off; this is real life, baby, and it further cements their idea that they are the "good people." They are disgusted and vindicated as they continue to listen…

They have no Magic. They have no magic.

They stop by the water cooler and chat amicably with their coworkers – even if Judi seems a little flighty, Tim is a homosexual, Sean is still living with his parents at age 35, and Sarah is cheating on her husband – they are still better than those losers on TV. Sort of.

They take a seat at their desk and glance at the clock: 9:45… It’s going to be a long day. They make their calls, input their data, order their merchandise, and order in for lunch. They sneak online for a few minutes to check the latest news on Survivor and Temptation Island. "Wow, these people are so lame," they mutter to themselves, assured of their uniqueness. They check their stocks, the sports scores, and if they have time, they send a few emails to friends.

A glance at the clock shows 1:25; time to get back to work. They make a few more calls, input some more data, and before they know it it’s 4:45; time to wrap things up for the day. They put things neatly away in preparation for tomorrow; things go smoother that way. After a "catch ya later" here and a "have a good one" there, they are in their car with a $586.35 monthly payment, eager to get home, eat a little dinner and catch up with those disgusting people on TV.

On Friday night, they go to the symphony to hear Conductor X perform a little Beethoven. After all, this is culture, and culture is just… plain… good. Plus, the Vice President of Marketing said it was a fine performance. They sit there listening to the timeless music. But they don’t hear it.

After the concert, they go to Posh Eatery and try the Master Chef’s latest masterpiece: Weird Food.dec. "It’s very good." "Yes, I agree that this is fine cuisine." They place their napkins on their laps, bring the food to their mouths, take small bites, never talk with their mouths full, and keep their elbows off the table. They enjoy a $300 meal that they can’t even taste.

"Shall we perhaps stop by The Club?"

"Indeed, it would put a fine cap on a very nice evening."

Walking into The Club, they feel welcomed by the quiet and reserved members who are talking politely at the bar or enjoying a fine cigar around the fire. It feels good to be with friends. They order drinks: A Scotch for him, and a nice glass of Chablis for her. "Oh, that was a very good year." They sip their drinks that they can’t even taste.

Chatting among like-minded people always feels comfortable. He begins to tell the others about one of his coworkers kids…

He: "Judi was telling me about her son today at work; owns his own business, wife and kids, house in the country, but, how can I put this… Well, she told me that he enjoys playing this card game called "Magic." Have you ever heard of such a silly diversion?"

She: "I think <insert some mailroom lowlife here> kids play that game or something like that. How old did you say this gentleman was again?"

He: "I think he’s in his early thirties or so. He seemed to be on the ball from what she told me; on the right track; a real go-getter. Well, until she brought that ‘game thing’ up, that is."

Another She: "Seems a pity that such a man of promise would endeavor to partake in such a childish activity.

Another He: "Another example of why this country is going to the dogs, if you catch my meaning."


They talk to each other but say nothing. They are the dead.

They have no Magic. They have no magic. And they pity us?

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Check out Joe Sixpack: full-fledged union member, has an "ol’ lady" and the two-point-three kids, a cookie cutter house in a cookie cutter housing development, three weeks vacation, and season tickets to the Steelers games.

He’s never heard of Magic; he prefers to watch/participate in "real" games such as penny-ante poker or the lottery, and he places a bet or two on the NFL games with his brother-in-law’s bookie. He’s one of those guys who stands in line to buy a ticket for the hundred million dollar Powerball drawing. He thinks about what he would buy if he won. He’s about five years from retirement and he’s looking forward to doing a lot of fishing. Might even move to someplace warmer, if he can swing it.

He might know someone who once owned a chessboard, and he remembers his college roommate used to play Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday nights instead of going to the kegger of choice. Of course, this was before he blew out his knee against rival State during the fourth quarter, and ended up losing his scholarship. But he could’ve made it in the NFL – no doubt about it, buddy. "Next round’s on me… Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you all about how I would’ve been the next Jack Lambert if that fat lineman didn’t fall on my knee ten years ago."

His kids are just about old enough to start playing Little League baseball and Midget football. And they’re gonna be great, he can guaran-damn-tee that! They won’t be like his supervisor’s kids: one of them is in the friggin’ Drama Club, and the other is the Marching Band! He pities the supervisor; he must be so disappointed that his kids aren’t the athletic type.

He might try his hand at a game or two of Trivial Pursuit, but he really hates all the faggy "Arts and Literature" questions. "Gimme a friggin’ ‘Sports and Leisure’ for once!" he often barks while snuffing out his cigarette and chugging his beer.

He lives for Sunday. In fact, he makes sure that he gets all the errands and assorted home projects done on Saturday so he can enjoy all the football games on his brand new Dish Network that he bought himself with his Christmas bonus.

When he retires, he’ll spend some time with his buddies at the local Denny’s, regaling in the days of yore, perhaps lamenting a few choices here and there, but otherwise satisfied that he did the best with the cards that life dealt him. He’ll live his life out in relative anonymity; but he is already dead.

He has no Magic. He has no magic. And he pities us?

All of the above are the dead. One group just gets to "live" with more toys than the other. He who dies with the most toys wins, and Joe Sixpack feels a little cheated by fate; that fat lineman stole his destiny, and he is very resentful.

Any way you slice it, they are the dead. Because they have no Magic? No, it’s because they have no magic. They have no passion.

And that’s why they’re the dead.

How do you define "passion?" Can passion be defined as a desire for something you enjoy? Hell, I enjoy sleeping, but that doesn’t mean that I have a passion for dozing off at odd hours for no apparent reason and with almost no provocation.

What words come to mind when you think of passion?

Sex? Devotion? Love? Something else?

If you are truly passionate about anything, then you don’t need to come up with any words; it may even be an insult to attempt to juxtapose real words into a box with your passion. But the dead will ask for a convenient definition to apply to something that they can’t even understand.

What do the dead have a passion for? Things. Things suck. Take the things away from the dead and you can begin to see just how dead they really are. Have you ever seen news footage from a house fire where the scumbag reporter asks the victim, standing directly in front of their burning house, "How do you feel?" The reporter is most assuredly dead for even thinking about asking that question – but it’s all about the shock, baby. The cameraman will take that question as his cue to zoom in on the victim’s face. And you can set your friggin’ watch to it.

If the answer to the question "How do you feel?" is something along the lines of "At least I’m alive, everything else can be replaced," you might be witnessing someone who is truly alive and realizes that tangible items are worthless; anything you can touch that is not organic is irrelevant. But that doesn’t make for compelling television. "Back to you, Mr. Perfect Haircut Anchorman."

If the answer is, "Oh, God, I lost everything I own!" then you are a witness to the dead interviewing the dead, filmed by the dead. But there is no need to stick a tape in the VCR and catch this moment; it happens every day in every corner of the world.

Burn all the pictures I have of my family, set my laptop on fire, feed my cards into a paper shredder, and take every other thing I own and put it in the trash compactor. Then ask me how I feel. Then ask yourself. Then ask the above dead people. I’m pretty sure our answers would not make for compelling television, but the dead, as interviewed and filmed by the dead, would make the top story. And that’s all it’s really about, right?

"Hello, you’re caller ten!"

"Oh my God!"

"Honey, we’re getting back two grand on our taxes."

"Oh my God!"

Yeah, God is pleased that you think of Him when you have a financial windfall. Money and prizes are worthy of calling out to the Lord! "But that two grand will help us out so much!" That’s exactly what it will do: help you out. And that’s the sad part.

But it’s so much more than crappy TV, pseudo-intellectualism, fractionated elitism, and the desire for things; it’s emptiness. How many people know what they want to be when they grow up? How many people actually know what they want to do with their lives? How many people are doing exactly what they want?

I posit that the answer to the above questions is "not many."

It goes way beyond what you do for a living; it’s what you do to live. What gives people life? Trust me when I say that your job should not define you. But it does all too often. Think of the prototypical investment banker or stockbroker; it’s all about the bottom line for them. If they don’t bring in the dollars, they’re out. That leaves an occupation where striving to squeeze every last drop of profit out of any transaction is how they judge their success. Lame? Yeah.

Your bank account should not define you.

Your wardrobe should not define you.

Your things should not define you.

But they do. They define the dead.

How do investment bankers and stockbrokers live? What is their passion? Money and the things that money affords? Are there any tech white collar guys that would, all things considered, rather be in Philadelphia hanging with Joe Sixpack shooting the breeze on a boat in the middle of a lake? Maybe. But for many, that isn’t a realistic possibility – because they are already defined, pigeonholed into how they are supposed to live and what they are supposed to be.

It also goes way beyond what you do for fun; it’s what drives you; it’s what supercharges your passion. It might be fun to go to a football game, but does that ignite your passion until it explodes out of you? It might be fun to go to the game, get a dog or two, chug a few cold ones and enjoy the fellowship that the "us against them" mentality implies. But can this count as igniting your passion? For many, it probably does count, but there is no way in hell that it should; for being an observer instead of an active participant defeats all aspects of passion.

I have a passion for Magic; a passion for magic. It goes way beyond the game and gets to the root of the game behind the game behind the game. It entails the abstract aspects of a game that is so very much not a game – it’s so much of a game that it becomes more and less than a game at the same time. Ow.

Your passion should define you.

You should define you.

We’ve teased the kids who wore Toughskins while we sported our brand-spanking-new Levi’s. We’ve laughed at the kids who wear their Hanes T-shirts while we come correct on our tricked-out Hilfiger gear. We’ve even fallen off the chair when we found out that what’s-his-name doesn’t even have cable while we click through five hundred channels of nothingness. We used to be dead, didn’t we?

Not anymore, though. Now we have Magic. We have magic. And maybe some of those Toughskins-with-Hanes-T’s-and-no-cable laughingstocks have Magic too. Or maybe just magic. And we’re all alive.

Dear the dead,

You can laugh at us, mock us, belittle us, and give us your pity. You can be assured that our passion is doing just fine – but thank you very much for your concern.

the living

If you knew a guy who had recently graduated from college and got himself a very nice 45K job in a field that he sort of hates in order to acquire things, would you think he is the dead? But, um, he plays Magic. Is he the living? Need more information? Fine.

Within a few months of getting hired, he picked up a brand new truck, a new wardrobe, a gigantic big screen TV, a DVD player and boatloads of discs, a top-of-the-line laptop, a brand new leather recliner and couch, and a couple boxes of Magic cards. And two new satellite dishes. Things.

Things are his God. That fulfills the requirement to become a full-fledged member of the dead.

He plays Magic as much as he can. Does that mean he is also a member of the living?

He’s both; he’s neither. Right now, he is in the middle, neither group can claim him as their own; the crossroads await his decision.

He is the living dead, breathing just enough to be classified as the living… Yet the same breath is infrequent enough to group him with the dead. It’s never too late to join the living, but it’s difficult to escape the grasp of the dead; they are loathe to loosen their grip, even for a moment.

If you are reading this column, there is a very good chance that you are the living, or at least the living dead. I have yet to meet anyone through this game that could be classified as the dead. But there are many who are at the fork in the road, and none too eager to make a decision as to which tine they will follow.

You have Magic. But do you have magic?

You know which way I went.

And I think you have an idea of the direction you want to go.

Choose wisely.

John Friggin’ Rizzo

"Don’t tell me they’re just like letting the audience just [expletive] stand out there like that. Oh my God, okay. So let’s hurry y’all, seriously. This is retarded. They told me they were gonna do a vamp. Oh [expletive]. Oh no, what are they doing?"
-Britney Spears, Oops I didn’t realize the mic was on (Rock from Rio)

A terrible singer? Dresses and acts a little too slutty? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer? All true.

Passionate about giving a good show? Yep.

FrigginRizzo: <—Has newfound respect for at least one aspect of who Britney Spears is.