Let’s Help Some Folks Stay Fed

Hey all,

The Festive Season often brings thoughts of charitable giving for me. I’ve done different things in different years both to give money to good causes myself and to encourage others to do the same.

Most of my giving these days goes to getting people fed in my hometown. It’s basic, but so fundamentally important.

This year, I’d like to offer you all something if you contribute, as well.

If you donate at least $20 to The Greater Boston Food Bank, Food for Free or your own local food pantry or food reclamation & distribution charity, I’ll write a post specifically for you. Want a movie review, a real-time commentary post, a particular topic or a list of movies, video games or comics around your specifications? Want to force me to watch something I normally wouldn’t at all? Now is your opportunity. Or you could do it just to make someone in your community a little happier.

Send your receipts and accompanying requests to thanksgiving2017@metagnat.com and let me know how you’d like to be identified (if at all) when I post your piece.

Believe it or not, I have trouble finishing movies by myself.

It’s difficult to force myself to sit through things that are at all emotionally difficult. Left to my own devices, I tend to watch stuff that is low-stakes or cheesy or that I’ve seen before — sometimes all three!

There are plenty of movies I’ve seen a ton of times, as a result of this tendency. I don’t get people who can only watch something once (or read, or hear or play something only once). I mean – it’s okay. I just don’t get it.

I will watch certain movies just to experience the moods inhabit, or to revisit the characters like old friends. Sometimes it’s just to scratch an undefinable itch in my brain. Like when you hear a snippet of a song you love and then you have to go listen to the whole thing.

Sometimes I re-watch a movie chasing whatever head-space it put me in the first time I ever saw it. I have at least one movie I am literally not allowed to watch more than once a year because if I did, I’d watch it constantly chasing the mental space it brings. I usually watch it even less, even though it’s one of my favorites of all time. I want it to retain the maximum possible impact.

Then there are other films I just watch whenever. I can’t even think of a through-line that these movies have other than they don’t jangle my anxiety. Some of them because they aren’t that kind of film, but more of them, I suspect, because I’ve seen them so many times they’ve been de-fanged.

Watching a new movie is something I need to be in the right mood for. It’s easier in the theater when I have no control over when the film starts or stops. It’s one of the reasons I keep on with seeing so many movies in the theater.

It’s easier for me to watch at home if someone else is with me, too. Particularly someone who hasn’t seen the film before. I am fortunate enough to have some friends who trust me when I invite them into unknown fiction, so I get to do this on a pretty regular basis.

And sometimes I can force myself to keep on through something difficult. I watched season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil in 10 minute increments with large pauses to calm down in between. I was also sick enough at the time to feel hazy and somewhat emotionally distant about the grimness and violence.

It’s funny. I know it is. Because I do love movies. And I do love fictions. And some of the ones I love are full of gore and awfulness. I am a huge fan of certain kinds of horror movies. I also love cheesy action and that can be full of violence, too. The thing that gets me is emotional connection to violence. I can’t really watch realistic war movies. I have trouble with torture scenes, particularly ones where someone’s head is being fucked with. On the same spectrum: I can’t watch embarrassment comedy. It really quickly overwhelms any emotional distance I have and makes me profoundly uncomfortable.

All this is apropos of nothing in particular. Just kind of a note to say – however you interact with stories, it’s fine. We’re all weird, somehow. This is just one way that I am. And raking myself over the coals (or being pushed by others) has never even come close to getting me past it.

I decided at some point to give myself a break and roll with it. It’s one of those arenas it’s much easier to change your environment and the way it interacts with you than it is to change yourself to fit the environment.

Life is already hard – don’t make it harder, if you can avoid it. Embrace the weirdness of your brain and find a way to work with it. Your story-times will be happier and so will you.

My roommate (who we shall call A) and I have this concept we call the One Day Internet Expert (Or odie for short, obviously).

We’ve all probably been this. You spend a few hours getting sucked down into a wikipedia spiral or flipping through educational sites and now you know the 20 most important basics (plus random facts) about the history of helicopters or about the methods of tanning leather used in medeival Germany or the genus Hydrochaeris.

It can be fun and fascinating to get dragged into such a knowledge alley and get a tiny glimpse of how interconnected all the pathways are. And then you get to impress your friends with random trivia.

Knowledge is power, but more importantly, knowledge is fun. Knowledge is entertainment. Knowledge is hearty food for your brain to masticate and feel satisfied.

It’s funny to me that people would ever consider that a waste of time, though I understand there’s this urge to be *doing* and in general our culture contrasts learning and doing as two completely different things. It’s like the manmade/nature split or the mind/body split. There’s really no chasm between these two things. Humans are part of nature. The brain is made of flesh. And self-distraction and self-directed learning are both activities that are important to fulfillment and health.

Sometimes I can’t act on these beliefs, myself. When the brain weasels attack, I wind up feeling pretentious for seeking meaning in pop-culture and the pursuit of same. But on my better days I can recognize the utility in it, as well as the entertainment. The brain thrives on making connections and teasing out meanings. It’s a muscle that gets stronger with use.

I used to come up with these mini film-festivals to put on for friends of mine. I’d pick 3 or 4 movies on a theme and folks would come over and watch them and chat about them. I had some centered around a particular actor, but more often, it was a theme like “The Destruction of the Nuclear Family” featuring films with unusual family structures and which addressed the nature of what makes a family, or “The trick is, you have to find the ones without the hoedowns” (hat-tip to Sports Night from which I stole that title) which featured unusual musicals.

I come up with more all the time, though I don’t always have the werewithal to put them on. It takes energy to convince people to show up to your house for 7 solid hours of movies, after all.

Anyway, here are some of the ones I’ve come up with recently:

The “WHAM! Out of nowhere” mini film festival: featuring action films that prominently feature the music of George Michael.
Potential movies include:
– Deadpool
– Keanu
– Atomic Blonde

The “Getting there is delicious” film festival: featuring films where road trips are taken in food trucks.
Potential movies include:
– Chef
– Magic Mike XXL
(This one needs more films, but it’s too good of a theme to let go of.)

The “Skewed Scares” mini fest: movies with horror elements that aren’t horror films:
Potential movies include:
– Warm Bodies
– Fido
– Only Lovers Left Alive

It’s a fun game. Once you come up with a ridiculous thread that connects films, you can start to imagine how they interplay – what themes they have in common, what makes them distinct, the way each of the films in a mini-fest might influence one’s perception of the next, etc.

The fests are the most fun if you can come up with a theme so loose and bizarre it brings together movies that are nothing like one another and then think about how they relate. It’s also just a good excuse to show movies you like, of course. And to make and consume popcorn-based snacks. Not that you need one.