Friday, March 12, 2004
Solipsism on Parade

I thought it would be good to start things off with a self-indulgent, solipsistic meme. Just seemed like the right thing to do, y'know?

100 Things About Me


1. I am vigorously liberal these days. Prior to 2000 I was, as I preferred to call myself, "a-political": didn't know much, didn't much care. I hope that one day I'll have the luxury of being able to take a relaxed attitude towards politics again.

2. In spite of being a liberal and an erstwhile documentarian, I've got some serious misgivings about Michael Moore. I mean, he's fine and all... but I think some folks let him get away with way too much. Let's face it: sometimes the guy is full of shit.

3. My favorite haiku:

If we had some ham,
we could have some ham and eggs.
If we had some eggs.


That always makes me happy.

4. I'm a Sagittarius, with a Scorpio ascendent and moon in Capricorn. Don't ask how I know that. In theory, this would mean that I'm pretty accepting of people's little flaws, and while slow to warm up to new people, prone to forming intense affection and loyalty for those I decide I like. I would not, however, generally make a big display of it; some folks might never even know.

As it happens, all of these things are generally true.

Oh, I'm also 28.

5. I'm immensely commitment-phobic. The older I get, the more true this seems to become.

6. I've almost gotten married thr... okay, two and a half times. I was always the reticent one (at least in my memory... others may differ), and at this point I'm pretty cynical about the whole "love" thing. It strikes me as being awfully similar to anarchy... most favored by the young, and while great in theory, it never stands up to the rigors of real life.


7. I identify strongly with dogs. Not in the cat-shit-eating, dead-animal-rolling way; more in that enthusiastically accepting way. Y'know how a dog, when he sees you coming, will wag his tail furiously and shake with joy at seeing you? And he'll look at you as if he knows you're a complete asshole, but likes you anyway, damn what everyone else thinks. I admit I'm not demonstrative about this, but it's an apt portrayal of how I feel about a lot of people, including many who have no idea I feel that way about them.

8. I'm going gray. Or more accurately, I'm going white. You can't really tell yet -- the white hairs are mostly buried, underneath and in the back -- but they're there. I know they're there.

9. I am distantly related to Jayne Mansfield. But only by way of her first marriage.

10. If you wanna find out what really, really bothers me, figure out what I'm cracking jokes about. The darker the joke, the more distressed I probably am.

11. I drive slightly too fast; if I'm doing less than 70, I feel a bit stifled. But as I learned through painful experience, it's not the going fast that hurts... it's the stopping.

12. I have a bad case of Catholic-envy. It sometimes seems as if every friend I've got is Catholic, and I figure that must mean something. Ever since I was a child in a half-assed, high-church Episcopalian family (Catholicism without the good parts), I've been jealous of Catholicism; I can't really describe why... it's probably partly the ritual (I'm a sucker for a good ritual), partly the vaguely primitive physicality and sensuality of it, and partly because I had an early crush on an altar boy. Dunno. But it's some potent shit.

13. I share a birthday with Walt Disney, Little Richard, Otto Preminger, and General George Armstrong Custer.

14. Periodically, I have very visual dreams that come eerily close to true.

15. I still miss you guys, sometimes painfully. You know who you are.

16. I drink only rarely, but when I do, I adore a good margarita. Caipirinhas are nice, too. Anything with limes, really.

17. Some days, when the weather is nice and I'm feeling restless, I go for long drives through the delta. There is a certain inexpressible elation that comes from hurtling along those straight, elevated roads across the flat terrain, watching an isolated treeline approaching from the horizon. Invariably, in that clump of trees lies a tiny little town of sharecroppers' descendents, always named something like "Itta Bena," or "Belzoni," or "Little Yazoo." If you pass through during the right time of year, say, late September through mid-October, the sides of the road will be littered with dirty white cotton bolls, which the breeze piles up into a respectable, if small, impression of a snowbank.

18. I actually quite like being a Southerner. However, I like it a lot more when I'm not in the South. The same holds true for being an American.

19. On my mother's side, I am descended from a rather eccentric clan of fallen Texas aristocracy (my maternal grandfather claims to have traced our family lineage clear back to Joseph of Arimathea.) My father's side is, to be blunt, solidly hillbilly, mostly Scots-Irish and Cherokee. They're the salt of the wildly-dysfunctional earth.

20. They say solitude is a hard-won ally. I'm pleased to say that she and I are old childhood friends; she has stuck by me better than most.

21. I am really cranky first thing in the morning. Nothing pisses me off like people making me talk before I'm damn well good and ready to talk.

22. I'm a total sucker for Art Nouveau. Particularly Gaudi.

23. In spite of being a Serious Film Person (TM), I have (shamefully) never been able to drag myself all the way through The Godfather. I honestly just don't give a shit about gangsters. I have, however, seen My Dinner With Andre, in its entirety, at least once a year since I was 12.

24. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INFP. For whatever that's worth.

25. In 1994, I was proud to become one of only two National Merit Semi-Finalists in the entire US to drop out of high school (according to my guidance counsellor at the time.) It's kind of a long story. Didn't get in the way of my MA, though.

26. I have, in my life thus far, formally studied four additional languages: Spanish, French, Russian, and Latin. Latin was a complete waste of time... I remember nothing (except for the word "agricola," which means "farmer" and is masculine in spite of the fact that it ends with an 'A'), and was absolutely no fun to boot. Russian was more fun, but again, nothing stuck. I do feel, however, that having to learn how to read all over again was a beneficial excerise. Spanish came pretty naturally; I would hardly call myself fluent, but I have enough to get around when I need to. And French... French is my favorite. You can make any statement, no matter how dull, sound completely obscene in French.

27. I adore James Joyce's Ulysses. I first read it in college, under an accomplished senior (and very promising Joyce scholar... I wonder what ever happened to him), and immediately knew that I'd read it again. The key, I find, is not to force it... you'll likely never catch everything no matter how intensely you concentrate, but if you try too hard you will kill much of the joy and humor that the book has to offer. It's best just to lie back and let Mr. Joyce have his way with you. (He ain't half bad for a dead Irishman.)

28. Mostly, though, I'm big into magazines. Harper's, Mother Jones, Viz, The Door, Utne Reader (when there's something good), Wired, Funny Times, and massive stacks of film magazines. (My favorites are The Independent, Total Film, Premiere, and Documentary International. Res used to be good, but it's gotten awfully patchy lately... all slicky-slicky, no substance.)

29. I have a fetish for stationery and office supplies. Pens, blank books, legal pads, five-subject notebooks, you name it: I love them all. Satisfaction is 300 sheets of clean, college-ruled smoothness.

30. As of this writing I have not gotten even so much as a buzz on in over a year. There's a party coming up this weekend, though, so I hope to be able to remedy this situation.

31. Sometimes I wonder if things are ever going to work out. I feel like nothing is moving, nothing is progressing; but I'm not sure which things to change, and which to leave alone.

32. Sometimes I wonder if relationships are more trouble than they're worth. It's been a while since I've been involved with someone, mostly because when I'm on my own, I can find my balance. Love/lust is fun, but it sure does take it out of you... I mean, if I were with someone, I wonder if I would miss those things that I miss about being alone, more than I currently miss the things I miss about being with someone. If that makes any sense.

33. Sometimes I wonder if I should've just stuck to academia instead of trying to go into film.


Naaahhhhh...

34. I really, really, really want a dog. I've never gotten one because I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to provide for it adequately... and what with my propensity for moving around frequently and keeping an odd schedule, it's true it might be hard on the poor mutt. But I really would like to have one.

35. I'm happiest at night. The world is peaceful then... people don't scurry around so much.

36. I almost never raise my voice, and definitely never in anger. In fact, I find it physically difficult to speak loudly or yell... so the more pissed-off I am, the quieter I become. (And when I'm really livid, I sometimes don't talk at all.)

37. And not only am I quiet, I have a tendency to stoicism as well. Y'know how I always play tough, deny that I'm uncomfortable or unhappy? Here's some advice: don't fucking believe it for a minute. Your persistent protection in the face of my tough act will win you my undying affection.

38. As far as I'm concerned, freedom of speech and expression is absolute and unassailable. For me, it outranks all the other amendments in our Bill of Rights... which isn't to lessen the others, but simply to demonstrate my dedication to the First. Without expression, ideas falter; without ideas, spiritual death approaches. Thought and expression are Life.

39. A strange thing: I hate jazz, I hate poetry, and I had pretentious artsy people. And yet, I love the Beats.

40. Okay, so I don't really hate poetry... I just hate 98% of poetry. If it ain't Whitman or Ginsberg or the equivalent thereof, don't waste my time with your ceaseless prattle. (The fact that you prattle in an over-archingly dramatic way does not fool me, so don't bother.)

41. I do, however, hate jazz. I can see the value in it... I understand why people love Miles Davis and Etta Fitzgerald. I just don't happen to enjoy that particular groove myself. So what, exactly, do I hate about jazz?

The sound. The sound made by jazz performers manipulating jazz instruments for the delight of jazz respondents. I think of it as musical barf.

-- Bruce McCullough, The Kids in the Hall


42. And as for hating pretentious artsy people... look, I wear mostly black, my primary work at the moment is unpaid, education-for-the-community stuff on behalf of a filmmaking co-operative, and 75% of my current friends are either vegetarian or gay.

Sometimes we most despise that which we recognize in ourselves, eh?

43. Strangely, I also hate both cucmbers and vinegar... and yet I like pickles. Especially garlicky kosher dills. Weird.

44. I hate telephones. Not in a phobic kinda way, I just resent their existence and avoid answering them whenever possible. I think I acquired this habit as a teenager, when my mother was very, very poor and having trouble with bill collectors. I learned that nothing good ever comes from an unexpected phone call... and I figure, fuck it, it's my goddamn phone, I don't gotta answer it if I don't wanna. That's what answering machines are for.

45. Text messaging is cool, though.

46. I'm really, really bad at chess.

47. I have always gotten along well with with sex workers. Strippers, prostitutes, S&M club mavens... practically every one I've ever met has been just incredibly cool as a person. And they tell great stories.

48. When I was about 16 years old, my father refused to buy me a paperback copy of the Marquis de Sade's 1000 Days of Sodom. Not that it mattered... I snuck back to the bookstore during a trip on which I was supposed to buy a new bra, and bought it anyway. I don't know what all the fuss was about... it was nasty, yeah, but there was nothing going on I didn't already know about, and let's face it -- it doesn't exactly make you want to go out and try it yourself, y'know? (Honestly it's just kinda silly.)

49. My dad also forbade me from delving into his collection of Maledicta journals, but to no avail... by the time I was nine, I was already hip deep in Japanese scatological slang and scholarly analyses of dirty limmericks. I've always thought it was actually a very beneficial experience... what better way to be introduced to the world of vulgar language than by taking a measured, academic approach from a linguistic and anthropological perspective?

50. I am so broke right now.

51. The single most valuable thing I own is my Canon XL1s digital video camera. It's worth more than my laptop, even worth more than my car. It is my darling.

52. I'm extremely intimdated by woodworking equipment. I took a woodworking class in college to a) provide an outlet for my manual creativity, and b) to attempt to get past this fear. It didn't work, and I ended up spending the semester carving abstract globular shapes by hand.

53. I also don't care much for heights, or for being upside-down. And pursuing any sport where my feet can potentially go in a different direction than the rest of me is generally a bad idea.

54. Except for this one time... it was Russell Hartman's birthday party, along about the third grade, and it was being held at a swish suburban roller rink with a video screen at one end. It had a parquet floor -- unlike the polyurethane job at the rink at which my school always held its Halloween parties -- and had a low wall all the way around. For some reason, that day -- between stopping to watch (then current) Michael Jackson videos for "Beat It" and "Thriller" -- I could roller skate like crazy. I'd never been able to before, and I've never been able to again since that day.

55. As a girl, I had an enviable Star Wars toy collection. I'm sure there are guys my age out there that could top it... but I haven't met one of 'em yet.

56. I detest Emeril Lagasse... he reminds me of my slightly creepy landlord in London. The next time somebody tells me they're going to "kick things up a notch," I'm gonna fuckin' kick something up their notch. You are warned.

57. Believe it or not, I really like Mississippi, where I currently reside. Which isn't to say that I really like residing here; only that I like the state itself more than one might expect. I have a theory that the location of Memphis is Tennessee was a tragic error that left both Memphis and Mississippi unable to realize their true potential. Memphis belongs in Mississippi, even Faulkner thought so... it doesn't make any sense as part of Tennessee. It's continually overlooked, relegated to second-class status behind Nashville... it's the second largest city in the state, and yet it doesn't even have a major undergrad branch of the state university. And people wonder why the state's cultural life is still stuck in the 50s...

In some parallel universe, Mississippi is not the poverty-stricken, gutted state that we know; but rather is an oasis of culture and social progress in the south, and Memphis is the jewel in its crown.

58. In reality, though, I have yet to find a place that feels like "home." Maybe this is because I never had a home that felt truly secure growing up... I have very little family, and can't locate any one place as "my hometown." And that's okay, there were parts of my nomadic childhood and adolescence that I really enjoyed, and I wouldn't want to exchange that for a calm, staid life. But it does leave me restless and rootless, and unable, it seems, to be completely comfortable anywhere.

59. So far, I have lived in:

Waukesha, Wisconsin
Tyler, Texas
Houston, Texas
Richardson, Texas
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Anchorage, Alaska
Memphis, Tennessee
Brattleboro, Vermont
London, UK
... and finally, here in DeSoto County, Mississippi. Some of those moves were repeated; all in all I suppose my longest tenure is in Memphis, where I've lived -- with significant gaps -- for more than a decade. I expect I'll be back in Vermont in the next year or two, and after that, I couldn't say. Hopefully not here, though.

60. Why'd I move so much? That's a good question, although not one that's easily answered. My usual clever response is, "because my mom had bad taste in men," but that's not the whole story. (Anyway, the guy she's married to now treats her very well, and I kept moving after she settled down.)

I suppose the real answer is, because I don't know how to live in just one place.

61. I have no brothers, nor any sisters. I always wanted a big brother, though.

62. I don't watch much television. When I do watch, I invariably have a magazine and/or a book open in my lap at the same time, to help fill the time during the commercials. Must have more input!

63. 2004 is the first election to which I've actually paid really close attention throughout the process. I was one of those sad, sorry souls watching the results from the Iowa caucuses come in... and yeah, I was hoping Dean would win, but oh well. Like many other people, I found the 2000 election disappointing -- I watched that one from overseas, although I did vote in it, for whatever an absentee ballot might do in a blood-red rural Mississippi county. But I never expected to see such grim consequences. So like other people, I suddenly became far more engaged with the process than I have ever been before... I take this shit seriously now.

64. I hate children.

65. Ha! Nah, just kidding... I love kids! (Especially broiled and served with garlic butter.)

66. No, no... really, kids are great. Really. Okay... in small groups, they're great. Small groups being no more than one at a time.

67. I dunno about the baby thing, though. I've never really known what the big deal about babies is... but then, babies tend to make me nervous anyway. I'm a rational being, capable of expressing myself in complex, subtle ways... what the hell do I know about relating to babies? My mother says it'll all be different when I have one of my own. Frankly, I've spent most of my life treating the idea of pregnancy in much the same way that I treat the idea of major head trauma, so I'm not sure exactly how I'm supposed to suddenly start feeling maternal and looking to get knocked up. Which is to say, I remain unconvinced by that argument. But I guess she'd know better than me.

68. I have recently become oddly enthusiastic about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This is odd for several reasons: one, I haven't even thought about PB&J since I was nine years old; and two, I didn't actually like it much even then. But one night a few weeks ago, I was suddenly hit by desire, and since then I've been eating one every few days or so. I can only speculate that, since I've been trying to cut back on the amount of meat in my diet, this is some unexpected expression of a need for protein.

69. "Need for protein"... I know what you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter.

70. One of my greatest challenges is a notable degree of introversion. Considering my chosen field is one in which the ability to go out and hustle is pretty important, actually doing this is something I find hugely exhausting. That has to be the thing I like least about this work, although from my perspective, the rest makes up for it easily. But being a quiet, reserved type is not generally a big help in any kind of film work.

71. Having said that, it's not like I'd trade up to extroversion if I had the opportunity... being someone who observes (and I do observe, oh yes) rather than acts can have immense benefits for a filmmaker, especially a documentarian.

72. If you know me personally, and if we've spent any amount of time together socially (alone or in groups)... believe me, I picked up on more about you than you think.

(That should unnerve a few folks, eh?)

73. I'm particularly good at remembering birthdays. Not always so good at remembering to send cards or what have you, but good at remembering the actual dates. It's sort of a specialty.

74. I'm not a big shopper... that is to say, I'm not terribly preocupied with "stuff." I do, however, have a definite propensity for buying things which aid in transferring information and ideas: books (big-time), magazines, newspapers, music, and any electronic gadgets that are useful in communication (computers, cameras, sound recording equipment, etc.) I will happily spend money on these things, as well as on education and travel.

75. I'll eat almost anything that once had feathers, most things that once had hooves, some things that once had fins, and absolutely nothing that once had paws.

76. Last year, I did finally go to Graceland with my mother. It was... underwhelming. When we finally got to the end of the tour -- and christ almighty did it drag -- and stood by Elvis' grave, the only thing I could think about was Spinal Tap.

77. I adore bagels. The best bagels I've ever had came from a tiny shop just outside the entrance to the Manor House tube station in London... they were small, faintly sweet, chewy, and you could buy seven for a pound. Heaven.

78. I spent most of my life vehemently rejecting those things about myself which I thought resembled my father. And I admit that I'm still uneasy about them... but I'm learning to deal with it a bit better and simply enjoy what I enjoy, regardless of some eerie similarities between his taste and my own.

79. I get along with my mom really well, though; she's great. At least, as long as we avoid talking about politics. (I can't help tweaking her about it sometimes, though... she's just such a colossal Nixonite these days, I can't resist.)

80. I really dig Gabriel Garcia Marquez.I especially love his short story, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings".

81. I love Bill Hicks, God rest his soul. I often wish I could be as angry as he was... he had that pure anger, that righteous rage that comes not from fear or hatred, but from genuine (if brutally honest) love. Occasionally I feel it, too, although I'm not good at expressing it. Most of the time I'm pretty laid-back in spite of my own worst intentions. But then... if the world needs some angry people, it needs some laid-back folks, too. One to rouse us to better things, and the other to accept us, as flawed as we are.

82. On the flip side of that coin, I also love Harpo Marx. If Bill was responding to what the world is, then Harpo was, in my opinion, a model of what the world should be. Silent, irrepressibly happy, kind to kids and animals, and more interested in playing music, pulling a few gags, procuring some chow, and running after potential conquests like a satyr in the woods than in accruing power or prestige. That, friends and neighbors, is how we were all meant to live our lives.

83. Oh, and Andy... we can't forget Andy. I love him, too. He's from Hollywood.

84. For a couple of years when I was, oh, say 11 and 12, I attended a ranch camp in central Texas. I went because of the horses; I was slightly horse-mad, and this place essentially gave you a horse for two weeks. The downside, though, was that this camp was run by very rigid fundamentalist Christians. Even though I'd gone to a private religious school since kindergarten, I had never yet run across a real Jesus Crispie before, and I found the experience unnerving. They made us participate in daily prayer session, they forbade us to sing anything but Christian songs, and they instructed us to carry these little potmetal crosses around in our pockets at all times. Whenever a girl fell off her horse or skinned a knee, the lady who ran the camp would always blame it on the fact that she wasn't carrying her cross at the time. (In reality, we were all reticent about carrying them, but it was mostly because in a pocket, the little corners tended to dig into your flesh as you rode your horse. Not so fun.)

Anyway, the second year I went there, I became a self-proclaimed agnostic. I didn't interfere with anything, but outside of the owner's earshot I'd express my new-found opinions freely. Since that time, I've learned to see the difference between genuine religion and fundie weirdness, and I trust fundamentalists (of any stripe) even less now than I did then. Alas, I still remember those fucking Christian campfire songs, too. Ho-ho-ho-hosanna, ha-ha-ha-hallelujah...

85. Going back to the subject of hookers... I firmly believe that, if there is such a thing as a series previous lives, I have been a prostitute in most of mine. I've always identified with the figure of the whore, and in all honesty I can't imagine how I could possibly have survived in most past eras without taking up the sex trade, given that it was generally the only occupation that gave a woman some hope of attaining self-determination and autonomy. But if this belief is true -- and I'm not saying it is, but, for the sake of argument, if it were -- that would probably explain why, this time around...

86. I'm such a good girl. I mean, a nice girl, completely in spite of myself. I certainly have it in me to be a very, very bad girl... don't get me wrong, this isn't prudishness talking, not by a long shot. It's just that, for whatever reason, I'm slow to make a move. (Although once I do, the speed with which I move can be quite dramatic.)

Anyway, I'm such a good girl that most often I don't even catch on that somebody's come onto me until hours after the fact. More than once I've been talking to a guy, and he'll say something sorta suggestive -- something that any other woman would recognize as a line -- and I'll chuckle it off like he made a bad joke... "heh, good one, smartass." (Seriously, this is a recurring pattern in my life.) Some hours later, the light bulb will invariably come on over my head... "Shit! Did he? Nawwwww... that's stupid... but... did he?" When recounting these events to friends later on, they usually roll their eyes and infer that I'm completely hopeless. They may be right.

Thus do I keep my honor and reputation intact.

87. Hell, by now it's been so long, I might as well be a virgin again. I'm sure I'll be as suprised the next time as I was the first time.

88. I do much better in a cold climate than in these hot southern latitudes. I can shrug off bitter cold all day long, but heat will knock me out in minutes. When I first moved to Vermont almost ten years ago, I found that I'm much happier with deep snow and long nights. Sure, it can be a drag after a while -- anything can be -- but I've always liked coats and jackets and big boots and flannel, but there's never any call for it down here.

89. Screw it... time for the Daily Show. I'll be back after.

90. Heh heh... "chum guzzlers"... excellent. (In reference to gay penguins... never mind, guess you had to be there.)

91. I don't trust anyone who dresses too well. The person who presents a dishevelled face to the world is someone who doesn't mind you knowing what they're thinking.

92. I've got to get out of Memphis... after a while in this place, my drive and my aspriations start to become dried-out and brittle. It seems as though every tiny step forward requires ten times the normal amount of effort, and I get so tired, so apathetic. It's getting to be time to pack up again and leave. Maybe north again.

93. You detest George W. Bush, too? Cool... always nice to meet another sane person.

94. The #1 reason I don't want Dubya to be re-elected: two of my cousins, Ian and Chris. Both are around 19 years old right now, both of 'em fine young men. Chris, once he fills out a bit, has the potential to become movie-star good looking; he's got those deep brown George Clooney eyes. And he's not an asshole, like most too-attractive young men... not even a little! Ian is intelligent and good-natured and sweet, unafraid to be his own man, a damn fine bass player, and so gentle. Neither of these guys deserve to be picked up and shipped off to go fight for Dick Cheney's cash cow. They are of more use to humanity here, undamaged. I want them to stay that way.

95. I've been reading over some other random "100 Things..." lists, and I'm struck by the number of people who state somewhere therein that the exercise has been "sooo deep and enlightening" (or words to that effect.) Dude, seriously... if this is what passes for a profound journey of self-discovery in your life, you really need to try a little harder. Me, reading back over this, I just think I'm a little too verbose, and maybe somewhat more of an asshole than I thought I was. Not exactly profound, y'know?

96. I have a little-known side interest in theology. At one point, I seriously considered studying it formally; had I not gone to film school, it was probably my next choice.

97. I'm getting so fed up with this... fuck it, from here on out, the rest is just filler.

98. Favorite authors, including but by no means limited to: James Joyce, William S. Burroughs, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, Angela Carter, Douglas Adams, Willie Morris, H. L. Mencken.

99. Favorite bands: Mr. Bungle, the Pixies, Ween, Barenaked Ladies (I'm not proud), Dead Kennedys, Nirvana by virtue of my grunge roots. I know exactly fuck-all about music, so bear that in mind when you judge me.

100. I hereby claim this blog for Spain.
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Amy :: permalink
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