Friday, July 19, 2002

Further Florilegia

I seem to have developed a habit of writing lists and outlines for posts instead of my usual straight-forward essay-style post. I'm in the midst of a life-change, apparently, and this is one of the indicators. I don't know what it means. Bear with me.

1) Knowledge is Power. For those who didn't bother to look up the word "florilegium" when I used it on Wednesday, it is a fancy word for an anthology or miscellany of stories or legends, meaning, in literal Latin, "gathering of flowers." I think it's a pretty and useful word for this "new" writing style (well, it's new to me)...just a list of completely unrelated observations or experiences. Maybe I'll turn it into a meme.

2) All babies are cute, but not all babies are pretty. The Boss-Lady brought her little foster-baby into the office again today, along with her husband (who happens to be our bookkeeper, but since he was Mr. Boss-Lady before he was Bookkeeper Guy, I don't count him as staff...I count him as the Boss-Lady's husband and therefore a Them rather than an Us). The baby is a fairly ugly creature...too small, wrinkly, kind of a bony face, not a very good color, and possessed of a disturbingly hairy forehead, as if his eyebrows and hairline are all of a piece with only a little thinning in between; and yet, when you look at him, you can't help but want to pick him up and take care of him, to coo over him and rebuild your life around his wants.

This phenomenon is one of those biological tricks that people mistake for higher emotion. Baby animals are always cute, not in and of themselves, but rather because Dame Nature in her infinite practicality has invested animals with a biological mechanism that makes babies inspire protectiveness and concern in their adult counterparts. This protective inspiration is generally labeled as "cuteness," as if the feeling inspired was an aesthetic rather than an instinctive one.

This phenomenon is by necessity stronger in the parents of the baby than in casual passersby...parents will have a greater visceral reaction to their own offspring than to other people's offspring...but no rational person with his or her instincts intact can ignore a crying baby. We are wired by nature to cherish and protect babies. Of course, not all of us are rational or have our instincts intact. There's always an exception to every rule. But in general, all babies are attractive to all people.

But to return to my original statement, just because a baby is cute as an object does not necessarily mean that it is cute as a baby. Within the strata of babyhood, there are pretty babies and there are ugly babies. Most people don't realize when their own babies are baby-ugly, since most people confuse their instinct-inspired feelings for aesthetics-inspired emotions (just look how people confuse sex and love). And when you suggest to a new parent that his or her baby is fairly low on the baby-prettiness-scale, they become fractious. So here's my advice: always say that the ugly baby is cute, adorable, cuddly, precious, whatever euphemism you can come up with without actually lying. I speak from experience when I tell you that observing the ugliness of ugly babies to their parents is a sure way to lose friends and get blackened eyes.

3) Look Around: Sharp-eyed visitors may have noticed already that I've made a few small additions and adjustments to this page. The "Favorites" link now goes to my Favorites page, which is so chock-full of informative links that I suggest you bookmark it for later study. I've added a couple of blogs that I've become addicted to lately (by the way, in case you were wondering, the Daily Visit Blogs appear in the order I like to visit them, not by their 'quality' or the order in which I discovered them or whatever). I've put all the weekly survey memes together in one cluster for easy access. I will be tweaking the pictures in the Cast column soon, too. But it's not a "redesign." I really like the design I have, I don't intend to change it any time soon. But if I do, I'm going to ask Amanda to do it for me. She's talented, that one! And she's redesigned her blog four or five times in the few months I've been reading it.

4) Is Violence in Media Bad For You? The last few days I've seen a couple of movies that sort of fascinate, but in which the sudden and sometimes overly graphic violence have left me feeling a trifle disturbed. I watched parts of Damien - The Omen II and Omen III - Final Conflict last night and this morning on AMC (I would like to watch them all the way through, but I didn't know they were on together until more than halfway through last night, and this morning I had to go to work), and some of the images are stuck in my mind...particularly the demise of some woman in a regrettably red coat (one should never wear bright colors when trying to fight evil) whose eyes were plucked out by a raven and then she was run over by a truck. The guys who were killed by their own horse and dogs when they tried to trap Damien (oy, but Sam Niell was a hottie!) on a bridge during a fox hunt died rather grotesquely. Then there was the woman who killed her baby and her husband by bashing them with a hot iron. Nasty!

Also, last night, I watched the fascinating thriller Along Came A Spider with Morgan Freeman. This one was rather more thoughtful than gory, but a lot of people got shot quite suddenly and unceremoniously. Usually right in the head. The amazing disregard for life — the villains' abrupt termination of complex and perhaps fascinating lives because they were in the way — left me feeling a little queasy. And then, at the end, Morgan Freeman kills the last, and perhaps main, villain with a shot in the heart. A shot in the gun-arm would have been just as effective, he was standing close enough to do it, he had time to do it, and the villain would have lived to stand trial and face Justice. But he just pulled the trigger, blood spurted and poured out, and that was that.

On the other hand, the two video games I most enjoy playing require me to walk around and kill everyone who crosses my path. I take great joy in doing it, too! I will often put my Goldeneye game on my Game Shark so that I can walk through the levels like an invincible angel of death, murdering Russian soldiers and scientists and civilians with impunity, delighting in their death-rattle grunts and satisfying ballets of demise as they die slowly or quickly, clutching their throats or their bellies or flying through the air with the force of fatal explosions. Or for more fun, I'll play Perfect Dark and delight in the screams and invectives hurled by the dying soldiers and guards..."I don't wanna die!"..."You bitch!"..."Aaaaaugh!"..."She got me!"...I just love it!

So I guess the question I'm asking myself is: do representations of violence in the media deaden our sensetivity to violence, or do they increase it? Or is there no effect at all? I mean, I still get queasy about death and violence in movies, especially if it's terribly graphic, but I love it in video games. Would I react with the same horror to a real death as an imaginary one, or more horror, or less? I don't know. But it seems worth thinking about. So I'll think about it and get back to you...and in the meantime, let me know what you think!


Well that's all I can think of for today. Join me again when I will have slightly similar or entirely different topics to discuss. Oh, but before I sign off for the day with my usual Beefcake Punctuation, how about I take part in the Friday Five?

The Friday Five for July 19th

1. Where were you born? Fort Ord, California. Daddy was in the US Army when I came along.

2. If you still live there, where would you rather move to? If you don't live there, do you want to move back? Why or why not? I don't live there, I wouldn't move back...and I couldn't even if I wanted to, because it's no longer there. Fort Ord was decommissioned years ago and is being converted for civilian use.

3. Where in the world do you feel the safest? In my car, oddly enough. But if you mean what part of the world, I would have to say in my own neighborhood, the Crocker Highlands district of Oakland CA. It's low on crime, high on scenery, and entirely familiar.

4. Do you feel you are well-traveled? Not really. I have been around California, but not farther south than Orange County, I've been to Tahoe and Yosemite once each, I've been up and down the Coast, and around and about in the middle. The first time I left the state of California was when I was 22, when I went to Hawaii. I have left this state only seven times since then...I've driven through or landed on slivers of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. I've stayed several days on Maui and Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii; in Issaquah and Oak Harbor, Washington; Bridger, Montana (near Billings); Hereford, Lubbock, and Longview, Texas; Manassas, Virginia; and Avalon, New Jersey. The only time I've left the country was to visit Victoria, British Columbia. I don't call that well-traveled.

5. Where is the most interesting place you've been? Hmmm...there are so many places that are interesting. I think I found Victoria the most interesting, but perhaps that's just because I didn't get to see as much of it as I wanted. I would love to go back and explore the museum, tour the Dunsmuir mansions, check out the little Chinatown, have High Tea at the Empress Hotel, and play around with Canadian money. I would like to go back and see more of Washington, DC...when I was there before, all I saw were the (terribly fascinating) Mall and the "Fruit Loop"...I'd love to check out the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, the White House and the Capitol and so on and so forth. Seattle was really interesting, and I'd love to stay there for a few days and see more of it. Parts of Hawaii were pretty interesting, too, especially the big park on Kauai that culminates in the Fern Grotto. But, really, I think that almost any really large or really old city will have something interesting in it.

Something like this?

Probably. I hope so. Guh.

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