7.25.2008

Talk Nerdy to Me

As you may know… I’m a proud Geek.

(I’ve also been told, in a loving fashion, I’m a Nerd. And I’ve also heard that I’m “a Dork… but in a good way!”)

That wasn’t always used as a badge of honor, though. When you’re young, awkward, and just wanting to be liked… and people are saying it with a sneer in their voice and a condescending look in their eye… you’d prefer to be anything BUT a Geek. Because then it sounds synonymous with Outcast, Aberration, Unliked, Unwanted, “Oh-My-God-Just-Go-Away-You-Pathetic-Piece-of-Nothing”, and so much else.

It’s hard to comprehend exactly WHY that is. Being a Geek is a trait connected to the attribute of Intelligence… and we are really the only species on this planet that actually *uses* our Intelligence to the degree we can. Our brains are larger, more defined than other animals… we have short-term and long-term memories, we can use reason and logic, we have a sense of morality… and it’s because of our brains and those functions, that enable us to live and adapt to almost ANY environment that we can encounter. As such, we are not slaves to Mother Nature, and can actually exist despite some of her harsher efforts.

It is an incredible achievement of Evolution, God, Fate, Luck, Buddha, or whatever you believe in… that we *can actually BE a Geek*. (Whoever is responsible… they done good!)

So, it’s odd that amazing achievement singles out some people over others… and not in a good way.

Don’t forget or ignore the fact that every human being on this planet can (and does) find pleasure solely in the acquisition of new knowledge.

That’s right… *everyone* has fun with facts. It’s obvious that when you meet someone that really likes Science Fiction or Film History… they’re going to know a lot about it. They’ll probably have a few hundred facts that you won’t give a damn about.

But exactly how different is it from the tough, jersey-wearing sports fan that knows all the names of all the players on his favorite football team? (Even the 4th stringers!) Or who’s leading the league in touchdown passes… or knows about all the college players that are up for the annual draft… AND has opinions on how they’ll adjust to the big leagues? Guess what? They got themselves a bunch of facts, numbers and statistics that the majority of the world doesn’t give a flying freeball about.

Or what about the person that spouts off memorized book and passage numbers from the Bible?

Or the Golf enthusiast who knows par for every hole and every course that Tiger Woods is playing on?

Or the guy that knows the name of every Playboy Playmate of every month from 1983 to today? (Actually… that one’s kinda creepy)

Or the tough-talking, tattooed grease-monkey mechanic that “knows everything about engines and cars”?

Or the gal that knows all the plotlines and episodes of Friends?

Are we allowed to get in a group and point at them, yelling:

“NNNNNEEEEEERRRRRRDDDDDD!!!!!!!!”?

What makes some subjects more “socially acceptable” than others? In America, someone who’s a fan of Doctor Who is considered a Nerd and a Geek, and maybe a bit shunned for being “weird”. Yet in several other countries around the world… the show (old version and new) is wildly popular. I hear Steven Spielberg himself, arguably the greatest filmmaker of the last 35 years, is a fan of Doctor Who. Would you call him a Nerd to his face? Or does the fact that he can buy and sell you 900 times over give him some leeway? Hell, I’ve seen intelligent, incredibly Hot women tell me how hooked they are on World of Warcraft.

We’re all Geeks. It just depends on exactly what you’re a Geek about. There is a subject that you know a lot about, that other people don’t (and don’t even care about)… but you derive a lot of pleasure from it. Doesn’t matter what it is… but that’s what you’re a Geek about. Even if your knowledge in it is limited… the pursuit of that activity/show/subject is enough to get your Geek on. I say… Embrace it. It’s healthy… it gives us an escape… a pleasurable option in life to relax within.

Me… I’ve got plenty of Geek to go around.

The aforementioned Doctor Who… I’m a fan. I watched the old series a little as a kid, but I was given a more thorough introduction in college… and I find it immensely fun. My favorite of “The Doctors” is Tom Baker… he had the big curly hair and the 13-foot long scarf. Sure, the acting wasn’t the best… but they were earnest, and had fun. Yeah, the sets wobbled… but the whole show has a “charm” to it… that just makes it endlessly watchable to me.

As for the new series… some of the best writing and effects I have ever seen on television. It’s absolutely genius!

Star Wars… I’ve talked about before. Admittedly, my enthusiasm for it has dropped off a bit… because sadly, the story *didn’t* end with the 6th movie… No, George Lucas is continually beating a dead horse… insisting there’s still milk in that teat. Cripes on Toast, man… just let it die! But the originals are just so great…

Harry Potter… I didn’t get into it until after the fourth book came out… and just before the first movie. It was my Graduate advisor, of all people, insisting that I read them… and once I did… I was hooked. Those books are like crack! I read the first four straight in a row. I ordered the fifth book, got it when it came out… but didn’t read it for about a month or two. Sixth and seventh books… read them the days they came out. I revel in most any opportunity to talk about and dissect that story… and my favorite character is actually Neville Longbottom… I was so glad he got to shine in the last book! (It’s not that much… but enough. He kicked ass! Hells yeah!)

Horror… well, I’ve also talked about this before. It still applies… I love it, but most of it sucks.

Science Fiction… a lot like Horror… there’s a lot of crap out there. But when it’s good… it’s brilliant! (And there’s quite of bit of underrated stuff out there) What makes most of it crap… is that the stuff they call science fiction, *isn’t really* Science Fiction. I may have to do a whole post on this sometime.

Theatre… probably my first official Geek label. It was really the first thing I found that got me on my way to actually finding an identity for myself… and even so, I think I’m a bit of an anomalous freak amongst Theatre Folk. For one: A lot are touchy-feely, and say, “I’m in Theatre, I don’t have a personal bubble”… but I do. I’ve been told several times over the years that I’m “not a typical theatre person”… whether they meant it as a compliment or insult, I’m not always sure. And while I usually know what I’m talking about… as I’ve been studying it about half my life, and even taught it for awhile… there’s STILL a lot I don’t know. (Musicals for one… I’m not *that* learned in.)

Movies… while I attain that I’m not a “film buff”… I do know what I like, and like to see it often... and I have opinions on it. When I worked on the fringes of the industry, and trying to get into it… I did learn a lot, and was exposed to a lot of older movies and shows that I wasn’t previously aware of. And whenever I watch a movie or a new show… usually right after, I hop on IMDB or Wikipedia and look up any trivia or notes they have about it… just to find out more about it. Hmmm… maybe that *would* make me a film buff… I just think that’s a silly title.

Graphic Novels… This is kind of intersecting with movies, these days. Normally referred to as “comics”… but I think this is more accurate. I haven’t collected actual comic books in several years… I wait until they collect several issues together and throw them in a trade paperback, otherwise known as “graphic novels”. Sure, maybe it’s a little more expensive… but I get a complete story… with a beginning, middle and end. And there’s no chance of missing a middle part of the story, by having that chapter sell out before I can get to it. Plus, there are a lot of stories made FOR the graphic novel format… and there’s nothing “comic” about them. There are a lot of darker, more adult-style stories out there. Hell, anything written by Alan Moore I’m willing to read… he’s just that good of a writer. Same with Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, and the Granddaddy master: Will Eisner (who is probably responsible for elevating the world of comics to Art).

But at the same time… every now and then, I like to kick back with an old Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comic (written by Carl Barks… without him, there would never have been Ducktales). They’re just so much fun!

RPGs… Yep… Role-Playing Games. No, I don’t mean Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft. This is not computer or video games… this is the actual and original meaning of Role-Playing Games… where you actually play a role. You have dice and character sheets, and actually sit around with friends and interact and engage your imagination in ways that video games can’t. It’s more social than computer pixels… and more interesting to me. If you have a problem or an obstacle in a computer game, it can only be solved by doing one of the solutions that has been pre-programmed in by the developers… which is limited, no matter how many options they give you. In a real pen-and-paper RPG… the options are whatever you can imagine. The inventor of the obstacle may actually have no idea HOW you’d get past it… just wants to see you try. It’s basically Co-operative Improvisation Storytelling… and I’m surprised more people in the Theatre/Filmmaking world are not involved in it. (Though it is gaining some credibility these days… as filmmakers and actors like Jon Favreau, Wil Wheaton and Vin Diesel have all talked favorably about their past involvements with the hobby) I actually credit this hobby for having a significant impact on my personal writing and storytelling skills. Don’t knock it till you try it.

And no… I’m not a Satanist, I don’t know how to do Black Magic, nor do I think I’m a Vampire. Sheesh… And for the record, I’ve never gotten lost in Steam Tunnels. (Okay, I have… but NOT for purposes of gaming)

Board Games… Because you wouldn’t put Monopoly in the RPG category, that’s for sure. I have myself a nice collection of board games. Hell, I’ve got almost 10 different versions/variations of the game Clue (my all-time favorite classic board game). Plus several horror-themed ones (perfect to pull out around Halloween)… some collectible games… and still have several games that I’ve owned for awhile, but haven’t had the chance to play yet. Yeah… this probably is the hobby that takes up the most room in my house. Ooch!

And my newest hobby:

Letterboxing… it’s very simple and very cheap to do. Since discovering it a short ways back… I think it’s just the Bee’s Knees… and can’t believe it took me this long to discover it. It’s like Geocaching… only you don’t need a GPS. All you need is a rubber stamp (either buy one, or make your own for cheap), and a logbook. Then you go to this website (www.letterboxing.org), and look for “clues” in your area. You follow the instructions on the clues (they can be very direct or very cryptic… mostly they lead you through public parks and hiking trails), where you eventually find a small box… and inside is ANOTHER rubber stamp and another log book. You use *your* stamp on that logbook… use that stamp on *your* logbook, sign and date it with a little message… and put it all back for the next person to find.

It’s basically a treasure hunt! How cool is that? When I was first told about it… I was intrigued, because I never heard of it before. So, I got a little book… made up a crude rubber stamp… and grabbed a clue off the website… and went to see for myself.

It was right there… just where it said it would be. And this particular one had been there for months. It was so neat… and I couldn’t believe that something like that could be there, and not be vandalized or taken away. I got such a kick out of it… I felt like I was Five! I loved it!

I’ve even made my book a little more elaborate. All you’re really supposed to do is stamp your book, write where you found it, and move on. Me… I’ve been adding photos of the locations and hikes to mine. Making it into a little art project/collage-type-thing… and gets me back doing a little photography. Gives it kind of a “storybook” feel to it… is an easy reminder of the experiences of getting each one… and also makes it easier to illustrate to others what exactly the hell it is I’m doing on my weekends.

More than anything… it’s a great little excuse to go for a hike, and get a little exercise. I think that’s a wonderful byproduct of a “Geek Hobby”. Plus, I’m having fun… so bite me.

So… that’s my Geekness (or at least a good portion of it).

How about you?

What are YOU a Geek about?

7.18.2008

Adjective Grudge Match… Hot vs. Beautiful

I’m almost scared that I’m not going to be making much sense this week… but here goes:

[deep breath]

I’m not that big on Hot women.

Oh, don’t get me wrong… I sure like looking at them. What red-blooded Heterosexual guy wouldn’t? I’m not repulsed by them… far from it. If given the opportunity and permission, I’d gladly pull up a chair, grab some popcorn and enjoy the view.

But when it comes to developing a crush, an interest, relationship, or just plain unrequited longing… I prefer having HIGHER standards, and prefer the Beautiful women.

Now, when I’m talking about Beautiful… you see I’m using an Upper-Case B there, right? I’ve talked about and made less-than-pleasant comments about “The Beautiful People”… but those are in a different context. Notice the quotation marks, and the presence of the word, “The”? “The Beautiful People” is a category… a clearly-defined demographic group, that looks more-or-less exactly like what the Media says is the definition of beauty… and since a large percentage of the world do not have the genetics to support that narrow range of Body Mass Index, or even have the model-quality symmetrical looks… it’s a category that’s pretty exclusive and elitist, if you ask me. The wording is only talking about the shell… only looking at the surface, and refers to nothing else. It pretty much HAS to refer to looks exclusively… because most of “The Beautiful People” have absolutely nothing underneath in terms of personality or heart. Saying someone is one of “The Beautiful People” is NOT a compliment, as far as I’m concerned…

Now most of “The Beautiful People” are Hot, as that’s another term that’s almost exclusively used to refer to the outward appearances.

Yet, not all Hot people are necessarily part of “The Beautiful People”… it’s easily possible to defy the common conventions of the Media-dictated idea of beautiful, and still be smoking Hot and Sexy. Watch enough Porn (pro and amateur) and you’ll see women that weren’t part of “The Beautiful People” crowd… but are still Smokin Hot and full of Sexual Sexiness.

(That is… from what I *hear*. Yeah, I heard. I’ve only seen…. Two? Yes, two! Actually one and a half… I was walking by someone’s dorm room in college and they had it on. And the first time I was barely paying attention. Seriously. Yes. That’s right. Stop looking at me like that… [insert non-challant whistle here])

Hot… with a capital H… *can* be, and is usually intended as, a compliment. Face it… it doesn’t matter you’re intelligence level, your breeding, your pride or whatever… it’s just that sometimes it’s a lot of fun to know you appeal solely to the baser, animalistic, Neanderthal instincts that involve the Hokey-Pokey. (After all… that *is* what it’s all about.) Other times, it can be a bit on the degrading side… because it can be interpreted that your looks and NOTHING ELSE ABOUT YOU is at all appealing. Kinda goes back to my “deep” blog entry… while it can be nice to feel attractive, you’d prefer to be more than just that.

So… “The Beautiful People” is an ironic insult.

Hot… is neutral (depending on what you’re going for, and how you interpret it at that time.)

With me so far? Good.

If you’re wondering where my disdain for “The Beautiful People” comes from… well, I think I can trace that back to Middle School. I can probably come close to pinpointing it, actually…

I wasn’t popular. In fact, I was considered to be the “shyest” in my class… and I was an easy target for bullies. And not all of them were male.

In 8th grade, one of these bullies was a girl… one of “The Beautiful People” and throughout High School would be considered one of the Hottest girls. I will admit… she was very physically attractive… everyone knew it, and I’m pretty darn sure she did too. And she acted like she had a crush on me. Yes, I say “acted”… and I know it was acting. How did I know? Simple. For one, the advances were a little “Too” strong… and to a late bloomer that was still just starting to discover the phenomenon known as “girls”… it was a bit off-putting, actually… and it made me suspicious.

Then… when it was still early on… she sat next to me in Science class… where the brunt of the abuse came. It was the first class of the day, so there were several minutes before the day actually started when it would be convenient to take pot shots at the chosen victim. And since it was science class… you didn’t have the regular desks like in other classrooms. They were the long black tables that several kids could sit around and do lab stuff… and by strange coincidence, most kids ended up at a table with ALL their other friends. (Go figure) I was at the table in the front, center… and I sat with ONE other kid (and not always) Anyway… this girl… (her initials were “CH”, so that’s how I’ll refer to her)… sat at the table directly to my right, the one against the wall, with her little clique of friends. She would venture over and “flirt” with me. (It’s in quotes because it wasn’t sincere flirting) This occasion, she came over and started talking to me… and was actually quite convincing. She asked me questions about myself… even though I didn’t say much (my shy reputation *was* deserved), and then at one point directly asked me if I wanted to go out sometime. I said, “uh.. yeah, sure.” She stared at me in the eyes… then immediately turned and walked to her friends, saying, “Oh my God, he believed me!” They all had a big hearty laugh, and I sank lower and lower in embarrassment.

Apparently, this joke was so funny to them, it was worth repeating. She’d make “advances”… would actually grab my ass (the old-fashioned “Goose”) when she walked by me, then look back at me and laugh with her friends. Personally, I never got the joke. The Goosing never went beyond that 8th grade year… but the gag did. All through high school, every now and then… I’d get it again. Even from her friends… “Hey, you *do* know CH has a crush on you, right? No, seriously!” (Really? Is that why she’s very publicly dating that football guy? Hell, one time HE even said that to me!) I’d find rare notes in my books in study hall, describing overly-pornographic things that she (and others) “wanted to do to me”. Yeah, right. I was short, weak, awkward and I knew I was an easy target… but did they *really* think I was that stupid? I wasn’t going to fall for it twice… under ANY circumstance. Which is pretty much why whenever a “Hot” girl made an advance (always on the “too strong” side)… I recognized it as a set-up and an insult. You know, it may be entirely possible that I actually passed up legitimate opportunities for love and relationships in high school because of that mistrust… (but honestly, I doubt it).

Now that it’s been about 15 years since graduating… I sincerely hope that CH went off and became a better person… one where the inside actually matched the outside. It would be depressing on a societal level if she and all those others were still complete bitches now.

But that’s pretty much where my contempt for “The Beautiful People” started (and why whenever I see folks that would fall in that category, I have the urge to use them for target practice...).

But then, there’s Beautiful… capital B… no “the”, no quotes.

While “The Beautiful People” and Hot really just refer to the direct appearance… Beautiful *can* be influenced by the personality. To me, that’s a word that can encompass more than just what’s on the outside. But it doesn’t have to… I can look at a woman and find her Beautiful without knowing about the personality. (and a Beautiful Woman can become *really* Ugly if the personality is crap) For purposes of this discussion… I’ll stick to the looks aspect.

Having said that… there IS a difference between Hot and Beautiful… and I prefer Beautiful.

Now, a woman can be Beautiful *and* Hot… both at the same time… or even exclusively, one at a time… Yet, she can also be Hot and *not* Beautiful… and Beautiful and not Hot.

Simple, right? (Sheesh, I feel like I should have a graph or something to help here…)

If you’re Hot… I’ll imagine having the Freaky-Deeky-Sexual-Sexy-Sex with you.

If you’re Beautiful… I’ll imagine waking up next to you afterwards and lazily cuddling under the covers in the morning light, and not getting up till the crack of noon.

Being Hot… is probably somewhat definable… because it does go more with the Media-dictated standards mentioned earlier. (But not always) As a general rule… wearing low-cut shirts helps (actual boob size doesn’t matter, believe it or not… and yes, I’m referring to women only. I have no idea what makes a man hot, otherwise I’d be trying harder).

Beautiful… that’s a bit more difficult, actually. Because there is no standard to it. I have no set “rules” for what makes someone Beautiful, physically. The only thing I can think of is that a Beautiful woman has a… “thing” about her. Some examples…

My first really huge Crush… the first girl I ever asked out (and subsequently rejected by) was this VERY attractive girl named Shannon. She remained in the “Very Attractive” category… until I saw her smile. THAT’S when she became certifiably Beautiful. I wouldn’t have called her Hot… because it didn’t seem like a high enough term… and she didn’t wear low-cut tops and wasn’t someone I wanted to just bone… I wanted to be in Love with her. Oddly enough, with me in the midst of puberty, thinking about Sex every 3.2 milliseconds, I don’t think I ever imagined her naked, or doing the nasty with her. All I thought about was that smile, her laugh and very sweet personality. Till that point in my life, she had to be the most Beautiful girl I’d ever seen… once I saw that smile. (Ever since, whenever I wrote a play or story that had an unrequited love… I named that crush Shannon. It became symbolic for me)

In Grad School… there was a young lady I’d see walking around campus. Part of the “punk rock” crowd. She wore big, bulky clothes, combat boots, all that stuff. And this gal had her head completely shaved. Now, she probably did it to rebel against the “normal conventions” of beauty and what is considered “attractive”… I’ve known a lot of people to intentionally try to uglify themselves for that reason. The only hitch with her… she was Breathtakingly Beautiful… WITH the shaved head. Maybe her head was just the right shape or whatever… but on her… and only on her… the shaved head made her look absolutely Beautiful. No idea what she’d look like *with* hair… but I like to think it wouldn’t give or take away anything from her. So maybe that means she was Beautiful *despite* the no-hair…

When I lived in Los Angeles, and the first year I worked with a children’s theatre group… there was another of the teachers (or “Big Kids” as we were called) that I had me a bit of a crush on. She wore the long flowing skirts with a full t-shirt… not showing anything for skin, except for her arms, really. She also wore these cat’s-eye style glasses… and I looked at her and thought she was absolutely Beautiful. As much as I was having a lot of fun there anyway… I looked forward to seeing her everyday. Plus, she was great with the kids, and she was very friendly and sweet. I figured, I’d be an idiot if I didn’t at least TRY to ask her out. So, I did. She actually agreed… but I don’t think she was looking at it as a “date”… just a friend-thing. The first night we went out… she actually took me (and two other guys) to a small party at another friend of hers. Yeah… didn’t get much of a chance for one-on-one time with her. But when I saw her dressed up for this evening of socializing… she was showing some cleavage… her skirt was shorter, she put in contacts… admittedly, she was like the librarian that lets down the hair, unbuttons the blouse and is instantly Hot. No doubt… she was *extremely* Hot…

But personally… I preferred the Beautiful.

We did go out again… this time just her and I. She didn’t dress “hot”… and she looked Beautiful. I took her to dinner and we saw a movie… the standard date-date. I thought we had a really good time… she introduced me to the concept of smoothies with “boba” in it (which, actually I haven’t had since… it was kinda weird) and I figured I was doing okay with laying the nice foundations for something better in the future. That’s basically my reasoning for not trying to kiss on first dates… its too bad that never actually works. Yeah, I actually never saw her again after that night… no returned calls or e-mails. Guess she got the realization I was interested in “that way”… and she wasn’t. Last I heard, which was about a year after that… she had flown to Iraq to be a War Correspondent. (????... yikes! Guess she was a roaming soul…)

For a more pop-culture example everyone can witness… Ashlee Simpson. Yes, the younger sister of Jessica Simpson (man, there’s a name I hoped I’d never be mentioning on here)… I thought she was absolutely Beautiful… much more so then Jessica. Jessica just has that Barbie-Doll-just-out-of-the-clone-vat look to her… that is just SO unappealing to me. Seriously… it actually disgusts me. (Plus, the complete airhead part is a total dealbreaker… I can’t even have porno fantasies with her in them. I just can’t.) Ashlee… I thought was Beautiful… until she had her nose job. Then it got smoothed out, looks more like the rest of Young, Hot Hollywood… and became a complete clone… just like her sister. Her non-perfect nose is what MADE her Beautiful… and she threw it away with an outpatient surgery.

When I look at some women… and I’ll remark to a male friend that’s accompanying me of how Beautiful I think that woman is… sometimes, they’ll very much disagree with me. “What? You think *she’s* Beautiful? Are you kidding? There are MUCH hotter women around here!” They won’t think she’s Beautiful because she’s got no boobs, is too tall, too short, has too big a nose, too small a nose, her hair is too short, too many piercings and tattoos, too exotic, not exotic enough, covered in freckles, or any of 100 other reasons.

But those are the EXACT reasons why I think that particular woman is Beautiful. Sometimes, it’s the little “faults” that make someone Beautiful.

Guess it’s just a personal taste… and maybe my tastes are a bit on the different side, but I never thought so.

Sure, it’s nice to be thought of as Hot from time to time… but I think its overall better to be seen as Beautiful by someone. I certainly would rather BE with someone that thought of me that way… and I’d rather be with someone that I find to be Beautiful.

All the women that I’ve been with… or had big crushes on, or asked out, or made a pass at, and had serious romantic interests for… I saw them as being definitively Beautiful. (Even the psycho one from 10 years ago. Physically Beautiful… just a bit nuts.) I wouldn’t even want to kiss you if I didn’t think you were Beautiful. (Not to mention the several I didn’t kiss that I thought were Beautiful) And if I get e-mails from any past crushes, relationships… or gals that I missed opportunities with, asking, “Really? Even me?”

The answer is a resounding Yes.

And I think it’s a tragedy unto itself that they even have to *ask* that.

7.11.2008

The Psychic Circle

Request fulfillment for Agent Cake…

I consider myself to be a fairly scientific guy.

I like to have evidence. Hard, actual, touch-it-look-at-it-feel-it-rub-it-on-your-happy-parts-kind-of-serious-proof when a fantastical claim is made. Even still… I never buy the “you’ll believe it when you see it” arguments… because I *don’t* trust my own senses, and don’t consider that to be solid enough proof. No, senses can be influenced and tricked… by others and even ourselves… so “firsthand experience” isn’t as reliable as most people think, in my eyes. We need actual informed, 3rd party-science to back it all up.

Simply put… I find Scooby-Doo to be more scientifically realistic than The X-Files.

(The talking dog part is simple… we all know Shaggy is a Hippy with Constant Munchie Syndrome, so we all know what he’s on. In fact, he’s doing so much of it, that all the others are on a continuous contact-high as a result. Notice how Fred, Velma & Daphne never talk to Scooby without Shaggy around? But I digress…)

Yes, I’m a skeptic. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing to be. Being skeptic doesn’t mean “ultimate non-believer that can’t be swayed”… it just means that I don’t take things for granted. I got questions that I would like answered before I swallow the “miracle elixir that cured a hundred European villages in the 17th century”… or whatever it is I’m being asked to swallow. Just because the sales-pitch, label and a so-called “doctor” reading a cue card (badly) say its good for me… doesn’t mean I’m going to believe it.

So, I think I’m a fairly tough sell when it comes to “the Unexplained”… that is, if you want me to take it seriously. For pure entertainment value, however, I’ll sign up on it in a second.

That’s kind of the trick to it… at the bottom of the screen on every Psychic Hotline commercial… in tiny letters on every daily horoscope… hidden away from obvious view on every pack of Tarot cards and store-bought divination method… there are the words “For Entertainment Only”.

Which seems a bit hypocritical when you think about it, actually… because aren’t these practices and items based on religions and practices from other parts of the world? So wouldn’t it be a slight infringement on the right to Freedom of Religion to insult it by saying it’s “For Entertainment Only?” I’ve never seen a similar disclaimer in the front of the Bible… nor do I think you’ll find a church bulletin that mentions the subject of that day’s sermon, along with an asterisk telling you that.

Though it would be a VERY interesting way to piss people off. (That almost makes it worth it to try…)

Hypocrisy aside… there are a lot of people that DON’T look at them as “Entertainment Only”, and in fact put a lot of stock in them. I’m not one to say one way or the other that “your belief is crap”… I wouldn’t do that to anyone, no matter how silly I think the logistics are. It’s important to have SOMETHING to believe in… and I hope that in believing in whatever you choose, you don’t get fleeced, betrayed, molested or are ever referred to as a “mark”.

But for myself… if you want me to swallow that “wonder elixir”, then you better be able to back it up… and NEVER say, “Well, you just have to ‘trust me’” (or anything resembling it). Ironically, that’s when I *won’t* trust you. I can’t blindly trust on something like that… it’s just not in me. I’m way too suspicious of humanity.

So, it’s the Path of the Healthy Skeptic for me. I’m able to stay open-minded and yet critical at the same time. Nevertheless, I’ve known many people that were determined to make a “believer” out of me. More often than not, they were talking about Psychic readings, tarot cards, or other methods of fortune-telling and divination.

I’ve had several friends that read Tarot Cards… a few of them took it WAY too seriously. I came in late to a gathering one evening, where this ultra-serious-pseudo-Wiccan (“pseudo” because she called herself that… but really didn’t know that much about it) was doing Tarot readings. When someone suggested that I get mine done… she was hesitant, saying she was “feeling so drained”.

Uh… aren’t you just dealing out CARDS? I don’t exactly see what’s so physically or mentally “draining” about that. Other Tarot readers I’ve known have been more realistic… they knew it was only card-dealing, and didn’t mind doing more than one on a particular evening.

Most times, I kept hearing that my future holds great riches and wondrous happiness. (Or was it wondrous riches and great happiness?) The first time I had a friend that practiced Palmistry, she looked at my hand and said that I had the “longest Fame line” she’d ever seen. “This is like… Robert De Niro-type famous! It goes right off your hand!” Now, I’m not one to criticize the gods or my Fate or anything like that… but I’m just saying: I’m hurtling towards my mid-30s. De Niro had already done Godfather Part 2 and Taxi Driver at my age… tick tock tick tock, know what I mean, guys?

Too bad my Psychic visits were never that optimistic. There were 2 times that I’ve talked with a professional Psychic… I say “professional”, because I assume they make money at it normally. I didn’t pay them anything.

First time was just after I graduated High School. The school had a big all-night Lock-In After-Party for the graduating class at the YMCA. They had a bunch of activities, carnie-style games, and one of these was a group of Psychics giving free readings. Now my love-life hadn’t even begun at that point, never had a relationship… so naturally the first thing I asked was what my love-life was going to look like in the near future. I had recently met, in person, a pen pal (female), and we had been hanging out a bit, and becoming good friends. So when the Psychic asked if I’ve met anyone new recently… well, that was my answer. The Psychic got a big smile and started spouting, “WELL… I see you two dating for quite awhile, and while it won’t ultimately last, you two will be mature enough to remain good friends.”

Now, I found this slightly comical… because we DID talk about the possibility of dating prior to this… and both mutually decided that we didn’t want to. We just wanted to be friends. And that’s how we remained… as good friends.

What I found even MORE comical was when she concluded the reading with, “Now remember… this is all in the future, so nothing is set in stone… it can easily change.” Even at my 17-year-old-about-to-be-18-na├»ve state of mind… I still had the intelligence to think, “What the F did she just say? Did she just give herself an ‘Out’? So that even if/when the predictions DON’T come true, she can still have credibility? Are you F-ing kidding me????”

That… was a complete sham. An obvious one.

The second time was a few years later when I was at college. The school hired a few psychics for a “Psychic Fair”, to give free readings to the kids. I managed to get in line fairly early (I had to get in there about 2 hours early and wait… because it filled up FAST). When I got my turn… I soon realized I got the “low-rent” psychic. She said she was a Numerologist… so with all the questions I was asking, she was basically saying, “oh… Numerology doesn’t answer that. Nope, not that either.” (What the hell DOES it answer?) Again, I was asking about my love-life (because our priorities never *really* change, do they?)… and I kept insisting that she give me SOMETHING to justify my 2 ½ hour wait in line. She relented and asked me to slowly count to 10 aloud. I did, and while I was counting, she closed her eyes and put her hands to her temples and “concentrated”. When I finished, she said that she saw, “A girl… thin, a little shorter than you, with straight black hair, and an ‘Up’ personality”. Okay… that sounded pretty specific… and the first person that came to mind was a friend of mine… who was like my long-lost twin sister. And… frankly, it would have felt incestuous to even think of dating her. (Not to mention her long-time boyfriend who is now her loving husband)

Just after I left, I spotted a group of my friends, and I ran over to join them. They asked what I was doing over there, and I described my “totally bogus psychic reading” I just got. And I described exactly who she said I’d be dating… just as I’m finishing, expecting us all to laugh together… someone else approaches us. A young lady named Erika… who was a little shorter than me… was thin… had what could be considered an “Up” personality… and while she was a straight-haired blond… on this occasion, had dyed her hair jet black. I suddenly start having a brain hemorrhage over the coincidence… all my friends are cracking up laughing, and Erika is saying, “What? What? What did I miss?”

And later that night… ended up being mine and Erika’s first date.

Now… it does sound like the low-rent Numerologist totally pinned me on that one… but the description she gave, wasn’t exactly *that* specific. I was just a little taller than most women. EVERYONE is trying to be thin. An “Up” personality is really someone that isn’t completely depressing… so that was most people. And the hair color? 50-50 shot at the two most prominent hair colors… blond or brunette. In actuality, that woman probably described 75% of the sorority girls on campus. It’s called playing the odds.

Not to mention that I could have made it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, Erika was extremely attractive… but I had never conceived the idea of dating her prior to that. Given this description, maybe I was ON THE LOOK for someone like that… and since Erika was the first one to come along that fit that… well, maybe that’s what made me interested, and not for her actual personality. (Which, I’m sad to say, is admittedly an insult to her, as SHE was interested in me at the time. Sure, we didn’t last long, and broke up under unpleasant circumstances… but I do hope she’s doing well today.)

I told you… I’m skeptic. I don’t take personal experience as stone-cold fact. No matter how convincing.

Now, my best friend has told me about a “Great” Psychic that she’s seen… an older woman named Ramona. Apparently, my friend never gave her much information… and Ramona started spouting back specifics and all-too-freaky-hit-the-nail-on-the-head kind of things. She said that if I’m interested in seeing a Psychic… she’s the one.

And I’ll tell you… I *am* interested, still. I never paid for those other two… and well, you do get what you pay for. Maybe I’ll have a different experience when currency is exchanged… or maybe I’ll just lose the money. I’ve gone to the store/liason that Ramona deals through… a new age store about 45 minutes north of me. I’ve stopped in and inquired about making an appointment… turns out Ramona only does the “Psychic Fairs” they put on about once a season. (Hmmm… I don’t fare well with the Psychic Fairs… but still, I’d be paying, and my best friend, whom I very much trust… highly recommends her. And she’s a tough cookie to pull the wool over.) So whenever the next one is… I’ll try to make an appointment.

If the experience is at all note-worthy… I’ll do a follow up about it on here.

But I’m going in ultra-skeptic… because maybe she’s just REALLY good at cold-reading (the technique used by con artists to pass off fake psychic abilities)… or has a crack-team of Super-Google Search Engines sitting in the next room, on the other side of a wireless microphone. Because ultimately… it doesn’t hold a lot of outward credibility for me. It has to be earned, and psychics, tarot cards, reading tea leaves, throwing stones, examining goat entrails… they haven’t earned it yet.

Now, I’ll flat out admit something… that probably will make me sound very hypocritical.

I own a set of Viking Runes. Yep… I own my own set of a divination method.
I got them in 1993, just after I graduated High School. In my town, there’s this little train caboose that just sits by a set of unused tracks… and it’s rented out as actual business space. Tiny business space, sure, but business space nonetheless. At this time, I think it’s rented by a massage therapist. But back then, it was a New Age Hippy selling New Age-Hippy stuff. He was a very friendly guy… and I bought two things from him in total. One was a shirt with about 1,000 skulls all over it (I thought it was cool), and the other was this set of Viking Runes. They were in a bag that was hand-made by some little old lady on consignment… and I was under the impression that runes themselves were also hand-made, but I’m not exactly sure on that. They also came with a small book that detailed what the runes meant. I’d seen similar sets in regular stores… runes and a book in a shrink-wrapped-mass-printed-box (looked very commercial)… but these were just the bag with the runes and book inside. Basically, the way I keep them now, is the exact way they were purchased. The non-commercial simplicity of it kind of appealed to me. Felt genuine. (Though it’s entirely possible that one of those mass-produced sets was bought, unwrapped and dumped into a $2 cloth bag. But it FELT genuine.) When I went back the second time to pick up the skull shirt (it was a special order), the Hippy told me that the woman was “so happy someone bought her runes”… so I thought that was nice.

It didn’t come with a “playing field”… usually a piece of cloth used to simply lay out the Runes when doing your “readings”. I was in Spencer’s and found a placemat… that had a big picture of the moon on it, with stars and other planets dotting the outside. Since I’m a Moon Child 3 times over (I’m a Cancer, born on a Monday and in the evening… any one of which makes you a Moon child… I’ve got all 3), I thought it was appropriate for me. Sure, the moon has a big cartoon smile… but still…

Anyway, I looked over the book… trying to learn how the darn things work. It had several examples on doing different kinds of readings… and how you could do them to look at once specific issue in your life… or do it to look at your life as a whole. I was interested in the “life as a whole” reading… but I was hesitant. I mean… I only have one life… from birth to death… so logically, I can really only do ONE reading of it to get the overview. Doing any more after that simply invalidates the first one. “Oh, I didn’t like that one… I’ll do another until I get something I like.” No, I don’t roll that way. If I’m going to do the “Life Reading”… I’m only ever doing one. None of the models they gave appealed to me that much… so I made up my own. Nothing too imaginative… I just laid out all 25 Runes in a circle. (I was thinking of a whole “circle of life” thing… and this was well before The Lion King.) I also copied the layout on paper, and marked where I began.

I looked at the whole layout, and didn’t see anything that had earth-shattering meaning… I wasn’t really expecting that. But at the very end of the circle… the last two runes did seem a bit symbolic. You see, out of all 25… the last rune is the “unknowable” Rune… or the Blank one… is supposed to hold the most mystery. I was partially hoping to get that as the very last one… maybe symbolizing jumping into the next life/plane of existence/whatever. Because that truly is “unknowable”. It wasn’t the last rune… it was the second-to-last on mine. The very last one… when I looked it up… was the “Rune of the Self”. It kind of represents who you truly are (and is the first Rune in the set). So… according to this… I encounter the unknown… and then Myself.

Metaphysically speaking… whoa, that’s heavy. (isn’t it?)

Now I never did another reading like that… true to my word. From then on, the way I used or “read” the Runes was reaching my hand into the bag… mixing them around until I’m sure I’ve at least touched each one. Then I pick them all up in a mass, and while still buried in the sack, start to shake and move my hand, causing them all to fall out… until only one remains in my hand. Then I pull it out of the bag and look at it. I never did more than one a day at any one time. Sometimes going a long time without selecting one… other times doing it for several days in a row. Sometimes I’d pick a Rune before a performance for whatever play I was in… just as a personal tradition, to see how that performance would go. (It helped keep me on my toes)

I never looked at it as “the Gods were guiding my hand in picking the Runes, and this is their divine wisdom”… because reading the meanings of the Runes… they’re pretty darn generic, actually. EXTREMELY generic. Downright vague. In fact… ANY of those Runes could apply in “some way” to my current life… So I know I’ll never get an earth-shattering answer from them… but I saw them as “a different way to look at things”. If something was bugging me… they gave me a suggestion to meditate on it in a manner I probably hadn’t yet considered at that moment. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it doesn’t. Its credibility is similar to me directly asking my cat what the solution should be. (Which, according to her… usually entails eating a snack and sleeping in the sun for 5 hours. Admittedly, that *does* often help…)

So there’s my Hypocrisy. I know it. I admit it. Bite me.