One Pill, Two Pill, Red Pill, Blue Pill

Here’s another blog I wrote for my creative non-fiction class. This one had to involve our thoughts (either positive or negative) on a set text for the unit. I went with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

Let me tell you about Nugget Diving. It’s the difference between Gonzo and News. It’s the difference between culture and counter-culture. It’s the difference between truth and gossip. It’s about diving into a story and coming up with nuggets of truth and nuggets of information. It’s a term I coined myself. Chances are, it’s not going to stick.

At the point where Nugget Diving becomes something worth caring about, there is subjectivity. News is society. News is the nugget-less waters that acts as mediator between us and the world. News is the authority that picks and chooses information that tells us the things we think we need to know. Gonzo is the Nugget Diver’s goldrush. Gonzo is the interpellator that reminds us that the News is always subjective. It reminds us that we are reading, and that we are breathing, and that our apparent awareness of the world is limiting. And so is Gonzo, but it’s not trying to convince us otherwise.

Las Vegas has this stigma about it that entering Las Vegas is like entering a world full of decadence and sleaze and pornography drenched in alcohol. I went there when I was eight and it was nothing like that. It was loaded with flashy lights and slot machines and spectacular casinos and hotels, yet there was none of the stigma attached. Then comes Hunter S. Thompson with his Fear and Loathing. The book I read a couple of years ago. The book he wrote almost four decades ago. There was the American Dream in Las Vegas, lived only as Thompson could live it, and the stigma is written as a goddamn descent into madness. But the difference between Thompson and Las Vegas was that his stigma was not cultural, but personal. This was Las Vegas through Thompson’s eyes, demonic and beautiful and terrifying and real.

This is not the Vegas we grew up believing in. This is not the Vegas with the mountains of cocaine and casino chips. No dead hookers in hotel rooms. It’s like that surrealist painting of a pipe.

This is not Vegas.

This is Thompson’s Vegas. The perspective Nugget. The Gonzo Nugget. Thompson, this is you and no-one else.

If you think this is Vegas, you’re living in a dream world, Neo. You’re dreaming, Alice. You’re performing social normality, a Baudrillardian life reflecting media. Society performing the role of reified society.

Dive for them Nuggets, dive!

Take the red pill and dive. Come up in the machine world. Breathe in the air of the subjective. Look at the inner workings of our culture, and contemplate on what this means.

I read a science fiction novel in high school that had a quote that went something like: “If the human brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.” In the Matrix, you dive and come up looking at your own brain. You hold it in your hands, soft and grey and throbbing. You’ve seen images of brains before. You know what they’re supposed to look like. But you’ve never actually seen it before. Not like this. There’s nothing cosmetic about it. The brain is function and the body is aesthetics. We strip the aesthetics away.

Take a dive into Fear and Loathing and come up holding Hunter S. Thompson’s brain. A juicy little brain-nugget. And in the beginning there are bats because Thompson says there are bats. He believes there are bats. Thompson is not the sheriff of Las Vegas. He’s not the authority on flora and fauna in Nevada. Thompson is the authority on Thompson. And the authority on Fear and Loathing. And Gonzo Journalism. In your hands, in Thompson’s brain, there are bats in Nevada.

In Gonzo, there is no fabrication of facts. There is no making a story where there is no story. Thompson went to Vegas to report on the Mint 400 desert race, but he found it unreportable. Whether or not the bats in the sky exist doesn’t matter. What matters is that he found the Mint 400 to be unreportable, and so he offered his view on the race in the context as part of a larger experience of Las Vegas and the American Dream.

The thing about Gonzo, and the thing about Thompson (as one is synonymous of the other), is that you’re not diving through a sea of facts to find the truth, or to find the story. You’re diving through a sea of story to find the truths that stitch them all together. The truth in Fear and Loathing is that Las Vegas is wild, but the image of Vegas is a different beast altogether. And that is the Vegas that tourists often come out to see. Thompson’s habit of taking things to the excess exposed a Vegas that was wild and terrifying and self-destructive to the point of absurdity. This was a Vegas that exceeded its notoriety.

Have you seen the Japanese animated film, Ghost in the Shell? Have you read the graphic novel? You dive into that story and come up with an identity crisis. How can you tell the difference between humans and machines when humanity transcends the physical body? You dive into Ghost in the Shell and come up with nuggets of brain fused with machine. It is far more complex than we can comprehend. Human beings are complex creatures, and we are all distanced from one another in our perspectives and subjectivities.

I am not you, and we are not Hunter S. Thompson or Masamune Shirow. Yet we glimpse into their minds at a specific period in time. In Shirow’s science fiction, we see the creative process, a whole world invented and populated with cyborg police and artificially engineered terrorists. We dive into this world and come out with identity and psychological nuggets. Hypothetical nuggets that only science fiction seems to be able to produce. Like a warning for future societies to come.

In Thompson’s work, there is the temporal placement of the reader placed directly into the narrative, and Thompson’s construction of this narrative in reflection. The non-fiction narrative reflects on the past, on history. These things have happened, according to Thompson. We dive into Fear and Loathing and we come up drenched in a cold sweat, brain-deep in Thompson’s disturbing psychosis. We have nuggets of happening, of things that have existed and have been written about and have come from the brain of Thompson to the desk of Thompson to the book that sits on my desk.

I dive for nuggets and come up with Thompson speaking for Thompson, and Las Vegas has somehow been swept up in his gravity, an afterthought that has not been spoken for, but rather, spoken about.


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