I'll come up with something in a minute.

No favorites

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I never trust anyone who says they have a single favorite of any given thing and tries to sound expert about it. Movie, book, painting, food. Whatever it is, I just don’t trust people who sound like they know what they’re talking about, but only on the one item.

Let’s take books for an example. If someone were to tell me their favorite book was Dracula, I’d be suspicious right there. If for no other reason that they picked Dracula for a favorite. I mean REALLY. If you have one favorite book, then you probably don’t read much. If it’s your favorite horror, favorite vampire, favorite example of a style that was already considered outdated when the book was first written, then yeah I’ll buy that. However, to just say it’s their favorite book? I’m already thinking they’re trying to pass. Now if this person then went on to talk about all the themes and character arcs along with analysis of each thing, but I’d never heard them say this about any other book? I’m thinking that this person is a full of it. If they’re talking up all these points about Dracula, but I’ve never heard them say anything like this about any other book, then I’m suspecting that they’ve just read a few Wikipedia pages about the book, but don’t really understand the differences.

It’s not like someone says “Oh, that Caravaggio is my favorite painting” and I instantly suggest they’re a lying son of a bitch. It does raise a red flag for me though. I never learned about art formerly, but I know a good amount about the history and I can spot a painting with depth from one that seems to be mostly flat. I won’t begrudge someone a casual delight in art. BUT! If they then talk about use of light in the painting, the colors, the shapes, but never mention anyone else’s use of light (ignore the fact that Caravaggio was a dark painter and only tended to paint the foreground object in any kind of light for a moment) that’s another red flag. If they then talk about all the other things that Caravaggio had as his hallmarks, but never talks about anyone else I start to think they’ve just learned what people say about this one painting and can’t apply it to anything else. That does help me suggest they’re a lying son of a bitch.

The worst, the very worst for me anyway, is when someone does it about movies. Of course most your everyday people just gives you the old “I don’t want to think about it” when they talk about movies. I’m not talking about those people, that’s fine if they don’t want to think about themes or color or focus or anything like that* because they aren’t trying to pretend like they know all about it. No, I’m talking about people who will repeat the same four things everyone knows about Citizen Kane, or try to sound knowledgeable about Seven Samurai while giving the same talking points as the back of the Criterion Collection DVD box. Just saying Seven Samurai is your favorite film doesn’t do it much for me unless you’re going to justify it with some serious qualifiers. I mention it because I myself mentioned it as my number one favorite in a list I did sometime ago. That was forcing myself to put things in a list and one had to take the number one slot though. Also, I think people forgave me, or they didn’t read the list. It’s still up near the top, but next time I’ll get someone who can do flash and create a cloud of favorites rather than a list.
*Well, actually it’s not. You’ve got to think about shit or your fucking brain will atrophy in your skull and turn into a useless sludge of gray goo only good for feeding particularly hungry zombies who can’t be choosy right now.

I just don’t think much of a person who only has one favorite that they claim they’re enthusiastic about. I think people who are really into something should have a number of favorites if they’re really into the subject they’re discussing. Particularly if they’re giving details that would make one think that they are really into the subject. It makes me think they’re trying to fake their way through, and I don’t like that much.

See, I know how to fake my way through a talk about books and movies, because I used to do it all the time. I’d realized at about age 12 that almost no one had read most books or seen most movies either, so I learned the main points about your average classic and got on without reading it. Got me through a lot of talk about Moby Dick that did, and thank god because when I tried to read it I quickly realized why I’d been faking it all this time. Actually, I can still do this for most things, but it feels dishonest. The internet has made faking the details about a given book or movie much easier. You don’t need to read Tarzan of the Apes now, you can just look up the Wikipedia page, which will give you most of what you need and the Tarzan character page will fill in any blanks you might need. Hell, now you don’t even need to have read a single book to claim that Tarzan is your favorite and talk about it intelligently. At least among most people, because few people have actually read any of the Tarzan books and the only Tarzan they know is Johnny Weissmuller. If they even know who he is anymore.

As I say, one of my biggest problems is I know how to fake my way through conversations like these. I learned those tricks at a young age and can spot them a mile off because I’ve used them enough. However, I’ve done a lot of work in the intervening twenty years since I learned those tricks so that I wouldn’t need them anymore. As a result, when I see someone outside of their teen years trying to use those tricks it annoys me. Sure, they’re useful for a time, but at some point, you’ve got to pony up and actually learn some shit.

February 23, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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