La difference

I think if there is one thing I could say I have learned in my years of being married to someone, it’s this: My husband and I are different people.

No, wait.  I tell a lie.  The truth is that if there is one thing of which I must continuously remind myself in my years of being married to someone, it is that my husband and I are different people.

We are different people.

There are many similarities between the two of us, and some of them are beautiful.  We both love nerdy pursuits, including video games and anime; we both enjoy new technologies; we love food and travel and feel, all told, very happy to have found someone who is complementary to our own way of being.

But we are different people.

This is important to remember.  This is important to remember because if I forget, then I will find myself wondering “why can’t he just think about this the way I do?” or “why doesn’t he seem to be having as much fun with this as I am?” or “why doesn’t he understand?” or “why can’t he just maybe not do that, this once?”

We are different people.

He has interests that I don’t have.  And it’s good that we should want to do different things sometimes, that neither of us lives a life in the shadow of the other.  Even the things that we enjoy most in geekland are subtly different: since my rediscovery of Dungeons & Dragons, I have learned that if I am one hundred percent honest with myself and could choose only one geek activity to participate in for the rest of my life I’d probably choose tabletop RPGs over video games.  I suspect that for him it’s the other way around.

I like video games a lot, sure.  And if I’m on my own for a while, that’s a great way to spend some leisure time.  But if I have the choice…if I’ve got people who are willing to join me in telling a story together…I’d rather do that, frankly.  I’d rather feel the companionship of a few other creative types, the sensation of being really active in the medium I am experiencing.  (In fairness, much of this probably has to do with the fact that when he and I play games together he is usually the one doing the driving.  In this age of high action, my poorer twitch skills just can’t keep up.)

I love having somewhere to go in the evening – a movie, a friend’s house, a game night.  To me these are rewards for completing a day, or breaks in the routine of work/eat/sleep.  To him, that’s a schedule without any free time, even if the thing that’s planned only eats an hour or two.  Never mind that he might be having fun at one of the scheduled events, that’s still time that isn’t his.  We both like to have things to look forward to – but where for me those things tend to be “martinis and animation on Friday,” for him that tends to be “an entire day with nothing at all scheduled in it.”

It would be easy to look at something like this and think that I am saying these are things that must change, that we must be more like.  I don’t think that’s so, though, not really.  It is only that I must remind myself of this fact, and keep it in mind, and try always to understand.

We are different.  And that’s all right. Love abides.

There should be more things made of string and construction paper.

I spotted this this morning (at BoingBoing) and it made me think.  There seems to be a quiet but distinct design camp in digital entertainment these days that is weary of things rendered in slick, shiny pixels.  Instead we get the pleasing layers of cardboard and fabric and string that make up levels in a game like Little Big Planet (link goes to Google Image Search) or the soft sculpture universe of Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

And I thought: You know, I’m kind of tired of things looking perfect.

I love sitting down to watch old monster movies, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, or anything else made before the advent of CG in everything, and I have to say…I miss the old days of special effects.  They weren’t always perfect, but they had mass.  They had weight.  You could see the actors reacting to them.  And you admired the cunning of the special-effects men and women who made it all happen.

I’m tired of things being too perfect, too glamorous, too glitzy, even when the glamor is all about thick-necked space marines or lining up the perfect headshot.  I’m tired of the culture of triple-A or nothing.

I wonder if this DIY aesthetic means that there are more people besides me out there who also crave more things that are legitimately DIY?

Judging a fake by its cover

Well, MY week’s been crazy busy.  How about yours?

I can’t tell you what part of the busy-ness is in reference to except that it involves reviewing and will eventually be online somewhere else, I hope.  But even aside from that, I’ve had an ill relative to tend, and of course about a million job applications to fill out, it seems.

Still.  That is no fun to talk about.  Let me share something actually interesting instead.

This article about an exhibit on fakes and forgeries in art is fascinating (can’t remember where I picked it up, unfortunately; apologies to misplaced link person!)  I am particularly intrigued by the author’s comments on why we think fakes and forgeries are cool: they appeal to some deep-seated inner something or other in us all that suggests that when you get right down to it, art is a scam.

Of course, this had me contemplating other recent forgery furors, such as all that business about Obama’s birth certificate…I wonder if the same principle applies?  Perhaps some of those people who believed he wasn’t really American-born clung so tenuously to that belief for the same reason…it spoke to some inner instinct that told them the entire political system was nonsense, a scam, a fraud.

(I shall refrain from offering my own opinions on said political system, however.)

On another hand, Naomi found this very interesting little survey about book covers and their impact on book purchases.  I’ll wait while you go have a look.

Intriguing, no?  Looks like a lot of people do judge books by their covers, proverbs aside.

Then again…Is there really anything wrong with that?  These days, when there are so many books to choose from…how do you make sure yours gets noticed?  You put a striking cover on it, that’s how.

More importantly, though, I am finding that I agree with the comments that a good cover should really try to capture visually the essence of the book.  No wonder the survey-takers felt that cliches were offputting; they don’t really tell you much, do they, about what kind of story you’re in for?

I have to admit I’m as much of a sucker for a well-designed cover as anyone, though I’ll put the book back if whatever’s inside doesn’t sound interesting.  I’ll have to try the reverse some time – go pick up covers I find really UNattractive and see if what’s inside will motivate me to buy the book anyway…

LFG

Recently The Boy and I had one of those discussions.  The sort that begins with “You don’t get out enough.  You should go find some groups to join.”

He is probably right, of course.  I don’t get out enough, as is probably evident from the glee with which I pick up any invitation that comes my way.   And so this week I have promised to begin the long and arduous process of hunting for something to do.

Problem one: I appear to be in one of those phases of ennui where nothing seems particularly exciting.  Perhaps this is the weather, which has been stultifyingly sticky and motivation-crushing.

Or perhaps not.  There is also the part where if one is very bored very consistently for a very long time it becomes difficult to get excited about things.

Problem two: I am naturally a somewhat shy person, and the idea of going someplace all by myself and talking to a bunch of strangers is a front runner for most terrifying evening’s “entertainment” ever.  I am not partial to loud, crowded places, so just wandering down to the pub and schmoozing isn’t really something I’m keen on.  Never mind that I am not dating, just looking to expand my social circle.

Problem three: It’s difficult to justify to myself the notion of taking part in any new activity that does not seem to have some immediate relevance to my job hunt.  Of course, on the other hand, it’s probably not conducive to mental health to spend as much time as I do obsessing about that, either.  Does having more fun make you more likely to get employed?  I wonder.

Still, I have gamely plowed through all thousand-odd meetup groups on meetup.com, and found a couple that might maybe possibly be kinda sorta interesting, except then we get again to problem one.  It’s hard to imagine myself getting brave enough to overcome my shyness without being really interested in whatever is going on out there.

It’s a heck of a first world problem to have, I suppose.  I am not starving or homeless or hiding in a war zone from people who would like to massacre me and my family.  I am just under-stimulated.  The other day I was told “Your brain is like a greyhound cooped up in a tiny apartment; it needs to get out and RUN.”  This seems accurate.

Frustratingly, the thing I feel most like doing is rounding up a friend or two and working on something creative together – writing an adventure or something, perhaps, for fun.   Unfortunately this is impossible, as my social circle is so busy as to make it just this side of impossible to arrange contact, and anyway most of them are going through some Very Bad Things right now and aren’t feeling up to much.  Hence the need to meet more people, and we are back where we started.

How does one go about auditioning for friends?  I always met people through people, before.

And why is there not a more convenient listing of all the social groups there are in a place?  Someone should get on that.

Those of you who prefer it when I just post things: Please enjoy this man’s loathing of Bella Swan, which mirrors in many ways my own. (via The Boy)

Alternately, there is some amusing video game nostalgia here at Kotaku, and the art of cheating has apparently gotten much more high tech than I remember it – or so sayeth Neatorama.  Still not doing it for you?  Try this list of weird things stolen from hotels (via Apartment Therapy).

Have you heard the message?

I have this talent, apparently, for attracting small weirdness.

Oh, it’s little things.  I am the person who will be standing on the sidewalk when a man rides by on a bicycle, and points a banana at me and says “Stick ’em up!”  (I did, for the record.  He said “That’s right!” and rode on by.)  I will comment on a Sherlock Holmes poster in the subway and be drawn into a long discussion with a very quirky aficionado of the steampunk aesthetic.  I will be in the one car on the entire train that has That Crazy Dude in it, and he will spend the entire train ride making threatening holding-a-gun type gestures at another passenger.  I will be accosted by creepy people and asked to pretend my name is Debbie.  I will bump into a guy who tells me my aura would be so much better harmonized if I wore more green.

Sometimes the people I am with will be lucky enough to be around when one of these things happens.  If it’s my husband, he will usually then turn to me and say something to the effect of “This NEVER happens when I am on my own.”

Honestly, most of the time, I like it when this happens.  These strange encounters are sometimes like little presents from the universe, reminding me that yes, the world is a strange and lovely place where all sorts of oddities are possible.  (Man Who Was Making Up Songs About People On The Sidewalk While Playing A Harmonica, I am thinking of you.  You rock.)  Sometimes, on the other hand, they’re kind of creepy and alarming, and then…well, then it is not so nice.

This afternoon I was on my way to have lunch after I finished volunteering.  Had my headphones on, was thinking about nothing much, strolling toward the prospect of Chinese food.

All of a sudden, I registered that someone was, you might say, up in my grill.  A cute girl (Japanese?), nicely turned out in a red dress shirt and black jacket, leaning riiiight over into my path and rather alarmingly into my personal space.   Whoa.  Um, okay.  Normally I leave my headphones in to avoid just this sort of occurrence, but sometimes the people stopping me want directions or something, and with the vague thought of being nice I pulled mine out.

At around this point I noticed she had a guy with her, about the same age, also respectably dressed.  The girl apologized for stopping me and said, in a very heavy accent, that they were students.  Well, they looked like students – university undergrads maybe.  So, okay.

I am not sure what I would have expected next, but it was not what she actually said, which was something like “Have you heard the message about the female form of God in the world?”

Wait. What?

This was about as surprising as being stopped by a stranger and asked if I had seen the Yellow Sign, though oddly enough I think I would have had more of an idea how to respond to that than I did to this.

I am naturally a somewhat shy person – it takes me quite a long time to open up to people at the best of times.  When suddenly confronted by something startling, that shyness tends to kick into higher gear.  And anyway, something seemed weird.  These people weren’t handing out literature or anything, and they looked very normal, except for that rather extraordinary question.  But…I don’t know if you believe in “vibes,” Internet, but there was something about these people that weirded me out, in a way that more overtly “weird” people I’ve met have not.

And so I begged off, stammering something about needing to hurry someplace, and left.  Escaped downstairs to the comforting anonymity of a nice crowded eating place and settled in with my Chinese.

In spite of myself, though, I still find myself wondering what the message is.

I ponder the Western

This evening it will be movie/tv night, as it is most Mondays.  Our regular crew has just finished watching the BBC miniseries Jekyll (my assessment in brief: many lovely moments, and is good watching up till the last episode, when a number of things come apart.  Oh, and don’t watch the last five minutes at all: if you are anything like me they will only serve to annoy you.  On the other hand, James Nesbitt is delightful.  Might be worth picking it up just to watch him cavort about the screen.)

Tonight, we begin our next project, a sort of exploration of movie Westerns.  This delights my husband hugely, since he is all about Westerns and has recently come off a bender of Red Dead Redemption.  There is at least one other big fan of the genre in the group, too, so good times are anticipated.

True confession: I am not that much of a Westerns kind of girl.  Considering that I’ll be seeing a lot of them in the next little while, I’ve been thinking today about why this might be.

Westerns, as most genre works, tend to share some common features (apologies for my wild paraphrasing to Diana Tixier Herald, from whose excellent reference Genreflecting I learned most of this):

  1. They take place primarily somewhere in the American West, usually in the last half of the nineteenth century (the aforementioned Red Dead Redemption is an exception, set as it is in the decade just prior to World War I.)
  2. Heroes tend to be strong-willed, individualistic characters, often in opposition to social or political realities of the time.  The rugged frontier individualist vs. the artifice of city life, and so on.
  3. That said, the real star of a Western is often…the West.  The landscape, the natural environment, the huge, sweeping forces with which the hero must contend…
  4. Themes include: clashes between chaos and order; the struggle to survive in harsh surroundings (both natural and social); justice and redemption. (Herald, 2006)

Morality in a western tends to be fairly black and white – we do, after all, get our very literal concepts of who is “white hat” and who is “black hat” from the genre.  The good guys may not win, though it is no less clear that they are the good guys.  And there is a kind of nostalgic haze over the entirety of the goings-on, or so it seems to me – but perhaps that is simply my status as a modern reader/viewer looking in.

I get why my husband loves Westerns so.  He fancies stories with heroic! men of action! who sally forth and overcome mighty challenges – or don’t – while adhering to a strict moral code.  (It is not unlike what you see in heroes of noir stories, really – in both genres you get many protagonists who are essentially chivalrous white knights displaced in time and space to a land or society where the things they value are in conflict with reality.  This probably tells you a lot about my husband, too. ;))

What is a little more strange to me is why I am not correspondingly into them.  I have read several, watched quite a few, and often enjoy them – but I almost never pick up a book or film of this type when I’m out looking for media to consume.  It isn’t the type of protagonist.  I enjoy noir (generally.)  It isn’t the landscape: I have been to the American West on several occasions and find it very lovely and mysterious in that rather terrifying way that deserts are beautiful.

Perhaps it is simply that I am not much of a rugged frontier individualist myself – I’m a geek, a big one, and enjoy city living.  And, while I do enjoy solitude as much as the next introverted person, there is to me something stimulating about having lots of people out there even if I’m not interacting directly with them.  Ah-ha, perhaps that is it: the vasty wilderness of New Mexico is less populated with characters for me to latch onto than Los Angeles circa 1935, hence the greater appeal for me of noir’s streets of intrigue.

Well, that and that most westerns I’ve encountered tend to be…shall we say…testosterone-heavy.   This is in part just a factor of when and where the stories tend to be set: the frontier is classically a man’s world, and there’s not really anything wrong with that.   Wouldn’t it be fun to have some more action girls in the Old West though?  (That said, I did recently read Sandra Dallas’s Spur-award-winning The Chili Queen, which was great fun and features some entertaining female characters.)

I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to explore the Weird West a bit more, since that subgenre intersects very nicely with my fondness for fantasy and science fiction.  I’ve already read Midori Snyder’s interesting western/fantasy fusion The Flight of Michael McBride, and enjoyed it quite a bit – there is something endlessly entertaining in the way that combining unlikely things produces quirky results.  Recommendations for Western + supernatural hybrids, anyone?

Anyway.  Tonight’s film will be Destry Rides Again – it would have been Stagecoach, but that one was out at Our Favorite Local Video Store, alas.

We’ll see how I do. 🙂

Further Reading

Herald, D.  (2006). Genreflecting: A guide to popular reading interests.  (6th ed.).  Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.