Uncool Passions

This week’s F5 question comes from among the Green Boogers in Laura’s extensive collection:

I have a confession to make: I actually like watching those lame, cliche-filled success-story films. You know the ones I mean – girl works her way off the streets and ends up studying in Harvard; boy wants to dance his own steps; girl wants to sing but her mother forbids it. Yeah. Hallmark channel material. Add a pot of ice cream and a box of tissues and I’m all set for the evening. Now that I revealed my darkest secret, what are your five most uncool passions?

Oh, my, oh my, oh my, oh my. Laura, you are devious.

Most of my life, I’ve had passions that other people my own age found weird, or “uncool”. Jazz music—atonal jazz music, for that matter; Bach; the saxophone; science; role-playing games; philosophy; sf novels (and before those, fantasy and horror novels); meditation; poetry; later, Foucault and theories about consciousness and odd historical Chinese rebellions. As a result, one way to conceive of the story of my life was as a process of finding people with whom I could connect on these things, with whom I could share these interests. I did so by cultivating my own circles musically—passing as much as I could of the kind of jazz I liked to younger musicians around me and then getting them to play it with me; by building groups of gamers with whom I could play RPG games; by studying music and literature; by finding SF readers online, at first on the old Brin-L mailing list and thereafter in other ways. The rest I took care of either by going to grad school and/or by hanging out with the sorts of people interested in science, poetry, neuroanatomy and so on.

So I’m at point now where I feel most of my interests are, yes, idiosyncratic, but not uncool. Sure, you might think Pharoah Sanders sounds weird and squeaky and nasty, but I have at least one friend I can call and commiserate missing his concert in Seoul, who understands how I could feel that way. While I don’t play RPGs much anymore, I know at least a couple of people who I can mention (not even explain, but just mention) my distintest in LARP roleplaying games without getting a funny look, because they, as gamers themselves, understand what I am talking about. I have at least a few friends who understand that, dammit, poetry matters.

So for me it’s hard to say what passions of mine are “uncool” because, basically, I’ve learned (from long training) to reject the judgment of those who tell me my passions are uncool. I’ve taken what my friend Helen once said as a motto for this kind of attitude: “It doesn’t matter what you do, just care about it.

But I suppose there are things I absolutely love to do which I myself am not yet comfortable with. What are they? Let me take a deep breath and begin.

  1. I like watching those nice romance movies and silly romantic/martial-arts-comedies. The ones like Serendipity or even such schlock as 조폭 마누라 (My Wife Is a Gangster). You know, where there are problems to be worked through, narrative devices which must be kicked in, and yet, somehow, things work out nicely in the end. I, like most of the world, seem to have been infected by the myth of love-as-romance-plot. So like I the lovestory with a happy ending, at least in films. Not in books, but on the screen, I like it.
  2. I love, I absolutely love, to make up goofy songs. I do it all the time. At band practice I warp the lyrics to our songs. At home I sometimes just think warped lyrics to songs when I am listening to anything with a singer. The only time I don’t do it is when the lyrics are already warped. It’s weird because my old man used to do the spoken equivalent of this, making sentences that no native-English speaker would ever make. Now, I do that with songs, and sometimes I even do it in Korean. Sometimes Lime even joins in with me, now, which let me tell you gives me the weirdest joy. I think someday I shall have to find an outlet for this perverse passion of mine.
  3. I love to go atonal. I really really love playing free from chord changes, and when I have to follow a strict harmonic progression I always feel a little bit like I’ve been shoved into a box, musically. Of course, to most people this kind of music sounds scary or angry or downright offensive, but to me it’s the most beautiful stuff around, at least the most beautiful stuff you can do on a sax. Sometimes when I’m told to “you know, freak out,” in a song, I’ll go atonal, but usually I’m told, “No, no, not that way…” Meaning, no, this isn’t the time or place for atonality. Well, for me anytime and anyplace is the time for that kind of free playing, where it’s all about sound, noise, texture, rhythm, and tone and most emphatically not about specific pitches. This, I think, is still something I’m not completely comfortable in myself with, else I’d have fought my way into leading a jazz group of some sort here. But I think I’ll do that for my next musical project, after I take a year of to practice sax and write.
  4. Gaming. I like gaming, but I have nobody to do the kind of gaming I like with, nor do I think that the people I know here would like the gaming I like. Furthermore, I feel uncomfortable with the distraction of gaming these days. It seems a bit like fiddling while Rome burns. But, nonetheless, I do have a passion for a certain type of game, the RPG game. Try to get me to play Settlers of Catan and I nod off; no insult intended, but after the complexity of even D&D Basic, it seems to me like RPG for low-IQ people, or something. Like fancied-up monopoly. It’s funny that I can sit back and reminisce about the days when Mayfair Games (makers of Catan) used to make “real games, man.” My dismay began with the new generation of gamers who turned their backs on things like, oh, characters, plot, and meaning, and instead gravitated to card games like Magic: The Gathering, and it’s never abated since. Gaming, to me, can be an art, can be as potent an experience as attending a well-performed play or reading a moving novel; with the right people, gaming can be an amazing experience. And yet… it’s just a game, isn’t it? I am a little awkward in myself, considering how I see this, obviously.
  5. I am, I admit now, a technophile. I think it’s uncool, it’s actually rather stupid, to be so enamored of the whole world of high-tech as to enjoy reading Wired Magazine. I think it’s dumb to invest too much energy and time into knowing about all of these proprietary formats and hardwares that mostly will go the way of the dinosaur. VHS was a collossal, society-wide consumer mistake considering the superiority of Betamax technology, sure, but one that will hardly matter in a few years when DVD is the standard. It’s one thing to keep up with tech, which is perhaps important; it’s another to keep up with science, which for me is very important; but it’s still a third, and a rather distasteful one, I think, to be enamored of the glamour of the high-tech society, the hope of living in a hypermediated world of gidgets and gadgets; I think it’s as irresponsible and escapist as never missing one game of basketball on TV or webcast, as being addicted to the NFL, as being obsessed with porn, or frittering away the precious hours of one’s life perfecting strategy for online wargames. I don’t want to be Amish, but I don’t want to be such a technophile, to be honest. I feel as if tech promises me a lot of things that can only, in real life, be solved or found by methods other than those which tech offers; not to rant luddite or anything. Tech can be and sometimes is an unmistakeable good in our world; but the gadgeted society is the distracted society, and I am embarrassed to find myself sometimes just as entranced by the gadgets as anyone around me… sometimes even moreso.

Wow, this probably wasn’t meant to be an exercise in deep self-criticism. Ah well. The unexamined life is not worth living, I suppose. Hmmm. The other Friday Fivers probably have happier things to say. You can see a list of the current respondents to the Friday Five in the usual list. Note, however, that only current respondents are listed, thanks to a wonderful script by Rob over at About Pip. (Current meaning last week’s question or this week’s… so check back in a few days and see the new responses.)

4 thoughts on “Uncool Passions

  1. I don’t think RPGs are uncool, although I suppose that depends on what kind of people you’re used to hanging out with… lol

    Don’t feel you should be so critical of yourself – I always felt that it’s the “uncool” things people are into that makes them cool :)

    Except for the Hallmark films. Those are decidedly soppy.

  2. Hey, do you game now? Do you live in Seoul? If yes and yes, give me a line or a ring, at 016-9244-5407. I like RPGs and Magic cards… 29-year-old Canadian man living in .

  3. I can see the Hangeul just fine! *shrug* It may just the the comments window, I don’t think I changed the language encoding format for the little windows as I didn’t use them much in older versions of this site.

    I don’t really game now, and I wouldn’t have the time even if my inclination were stronger. But I do appreciate the invitation, Brad. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *