Saturday, April 24, 2010

It's Foolish to Wear Pants

Last night's tweets;

Tall cat ghosts smell like rotten, peeled onion.
Lasers replaced floss security beams.
Phantom toenails make purses malfunction.
No hula hoop's exactly what it seems.

I'm wearing my new green pants to-day. It was only when I stepped out into the sunlight that I realised they look like park ranger pants. I couldn't stop giggling at myself as I drove to the store in them, imagining this douchebag stepping out of his car in his faux ranger gear. If only they were skin tight.

And, yes, I'll continue to wear them. Now I love them. It's weird how much glee I can get at my own expense. I'm often reminded of a bit from Stephen King's Eyes of the Dragon, which I read around fifteen years ago, where the villain, Flagg, took some sort of mischievous action not because it actually served any of his schemes but because, and I forget King's exact words, he just had an instinct for mischief that told him to do certain things.

Maybe it's just that I'm afraid of taking myself seriously. Looking at Jim Carrey's twitter has been rather painful as it's obvious he thinks a lot of the things he says are interesting just because he's Jim Carrey. I'd hate to end up like that but, then again, which of us is the multi-millionaire? Though I'd point out it wasn't this vain bullshit that got Carrey where he is now.

I installed Oblivion on my new computer last night and was so pleased just being able to play Oblivion at home that four hours instantly shot by. It's amazing a game I've beaten so many times in so many different ways can have that effect on me, but I found myself just idling in grassy fields or reading little notes left by NPCs in dungeons, just generally drinking in the atmosphere. That's why I can't get into World of Warcraft--at every moment in WoW, verisimilitude is frustrated by some noisy, cartoonish reminder that this is all just fiction. That's why there's no real RPG in WoW. Oblivion, meanwhile, is just breathtaking in its attention to consistency in all conceivable forms of detail, and really its only flaw is Bethesda's typically bad ear for how people talk and think. And it needs plots that more directly involve your character and are influenced by your character's stats, which is something BioWare games have going for them, despite the fact that they also have generally bad dialogue. Really, only Fallout 2 has come close to satisfying me in that regard, though even then I couldn't help feeling someone could do better.

So I didn't watch much last night, only the first, twenty four minute episode in Doctor Who's second story, apparently about the Daleks, though they hadn't been mentioned yet in the episode I watched. It was just the party exploring a petrified forest and deserted alien city, both of which I found fascinating, even with the dated effects.

The Doctor's still travelling with his granddaughter, Susan, and Susan's teachers from England, Ian and Barbara, the two of whom seem to have some kind of starchy, vague sexual tension. I was rather amused by this bit of dialogue when they were alone together in the woods;

Barbara: "Ian, where are we?"

Ian: "I don't know."

Barbara: "Why doesn't he take us back?"

Ian: "I'm not sure that he can."

Barbara's earnestly asking questions of Ian she's as well equipped to answer as he is, yet neither of them seems to feel self-conscious in this dialogue, and I realised it was just Barbara's Weak Woman's Mind automatically subordinating to Ian's Manly Position of Authority. The two characters are so steeped in the dynamic that when Barbara says anything Ian agrees with he laughs this richly smug laugh that seems to marvel at the fact that sometimes a woman can say something clever. I'm glad at least the Doctor generally seems to be outside this behaviour.

All the characters fail to notice a dial indicating that the planet is irradiated, and the radiation sickness seems to manifest itself as just a general weariness. I had some fun imagining Barbara and Ian with real radiation sickness.

Barbara: "Ian, why is our hair falling out? Why am I puking and shitting blood?"

Ian: "I don't know."

In War and Peace, Tolstoy seemed to have a definite opinion about the roles of the sexes, particularly in bits like this, where Pierre is telling Natasha about his adventures;

Now that he was telling it all to Natasha he experienced that rare pleasure men know when women are listening to them--not clever women who when they listen either try to remember what they hear for the sake of enriching their minds and, when the opportunity offers, repeat it, or adapt it to some idea of their own, or who promptly contribute their own clever comments elaborated in their own little mental workshops; but the pleasure real women give who are gifted with the faculty of selecting and absorbing all that is best in what a man shows of himself. Natasha, without knowing it, was all attention; she missed not a single word, not an inflection of his voice, a glance, the twitch of a facial muscle, or a gesture. She caught the unfinished word on a wing and took it straight into her open heart, divining the secret import of all Pierre's spiritual travail.

I was taken a little aback by this which, especially in contrast to the evident disdain with which Tolstoy described the cleverness of Pierre's first wife, seems to indicate a feeling that intellectual discourse is not a place for women. But then I realised the above description was very reminiscent of this one, from early in the French invasion of Russia, of Kutuzov, commander in chief of the Russian army;

Prince Andrei could not have explained how or why it was, but after this interview with Kutuzov he went back to his regiment reassured as to the general course of affairs, and as to the man to whom they had been entrusted. The more clearly he saw the absence of any personal motive in that old man--in whom there appeared to remain only the habit of passions, and in place of intellect (grouping events and drawing conclusions) only the capacity calmly to contemplate the course of events--the more assured he was that all would be as it should be. "He will put forward nothing of his own, he will devise nothing, undertake nothing," thought Prince Andrei, "but he will listen to everything, remember everything, put everything in its proper place, and will neither stand in the way of anything beneficial nor accede to anything detrimental. He understands that there is something stronger and more important than his own will--the inevitable course of events; he can see them and grasp their significance, and perceiving that significance, can refrain from taking a hand in them or from pursuing a personal wish directed to something else . . ."

And it's clear that it's cleverness Tolstoy has sort of a low view of. Which got me thinking, "Would sexism be in the idea that women can't be valuably clever, or in the idea that men can be?" In the Doctor Who episode, Barbara's feigned feebleness and Ian's sense of superiority are both, if oddly endearingly, obnoxious, but I will say Ian's slightly more obnoxious.

Of course, War and Peace is an exceptionally clever book, and I'm hardly about to say intellectualism is without merit. But I really do dig what Tolstoy's saying about the rare pleasure in finding people who can truly listen to what you're saying, and who can truly absorb experiences without a need for personal gain. And when such people happen to be beautiful women or leaders of countries, so much the better.

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