This week I’m interested in our most important interests that *aren’t* literature, writing, criticism, etc. More broadly I’m curious about the things that have a place in our lives besides “art”, and how they all fit together.
Music, neuropsychiatry, and converting to Judaism.
Music: I can’t conceive of what life would be like without music, and while I could give up art and writing if I had to, I *have* to listen to music all the time, every day.
Neuropsychiatry: this is the medical field I want to specialize in, where “brain” and “mind” overlap.
Judaism: religion is not for everyone, but it works for me, plus in Judaism you’re supposed to be skeptical and question everything, plus I like singing in Hebrew.
1: Owner of Burmese cats. I have two rescued older Burmese cats and they give and require a lot of attention. Burmese cats are a very social breed, and can be taught to fetch, walk on a leash etc, and dislike being alone. They are so expressive and bond so much with their owner, the cats’ company contantly give me insights into not only the psychology of cats, but of mammals in general (I’m a biologist and interested in all kinds of animals). I know several Burmese cat owners who say once you’ve befriended a Burmese cat, you can’t imagine life without one.
2: Gaming. Apart from writing, gaming has been a long-time favorite activity, and some years ago I found out I could just as well combine the two and write game (and film) reviews for magazines and websites. I’m no longer a game reviewer, but I still enjoy gaming, plus writing the occasional article about games. I’m also interested in the research of games and gaming.
3: Dont-wanna-be clothes horse. Fashion is a guilty pleasure, because I think it’s pointless and harmful for the planet and society as a whole. Yet, I occassionally find myself liking a piece of clothing or shoes so much, all my idealism goes out the window, and I buy it. When I’m traveling I’m often looking for clothes that are not sold here. I still curse the fact that the best looking clothes also seem to be most expensive. I’m trying to only buy clothes I actually need, but from time to time find in the closet items I’ve only worn once or twice and then forgot about. I counteract this by having a small closet. No walk-in closet for me.
Great topic. I can’t just list hobbies without being boring and predictable (you get a pretty clear sense of them from my Entropy posts), so instead, I will list elements that tie my other hobbies together.
1) Horror – Books, movies, games, TV, illustrations, even music (Oingo Boingo, anything that sounds like an 80s synth score). I think I like horror so much because, if done well, it taps into something primal–the scariest things are the ones that we can’t explain why they terrify us. By the same token, I’m not a big fan of pure blood-n-guts horror or things that are only scary because they are life-threatening and/or religiously “evil.” Cosmic horror, psychological horror and well-executed body horror are more my style.
2) Dreamscapes – If I had to pick the one aspect that drew me into gaming, it would be the ability to explore a wholly imagined landscape that isn’t necessarily subject to the same laws as the physical world. I’ve always been fascinated by dreams, for largely the same reasons I love horror, and all of my favorite video games drop me into a setting that is surreal or somehow larger-than-life, like experiencing someone else’s waking dream.
3) Problem Solving – One of my greatest skills and biggest hindrances is my love of problem solving. It’s great because I tend to dive headfirst and very earnestly into any project I take on. It sucks because, once I feel I have “solved” the problem, I tend to lose interest and move on to new, more exciting things, when I really ought to be knuckling down for the boring job of revision or whatever the equivalent is for the task at hand. I also love taking apart how other people have creatively solved problems, which is the primary motivator behind my love of tabletop games and practical special effects.
1) Football. Watching it, speculating about it, grousing about it, longing for it during the months in between seasons, hoping to be enshrined in the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame one day, etc.
2) I am that person who for some reason really needs to know/remember the names of actors all the way down the call sheet, like the guy who played the butler that ate the pickle in that roller derby movie from 1975.
3) I have a deep love for the Los Angeles landscape, and I take an annoying amount of pleasure in pointing out that the car chase in the film is actually taking place on the 210 through La Crescenta, not I-45 through Houston as it claims, or that Lassie found the lost goat right next to the Vasquez Rocks. I don’t know if things two and three amount to a hobby or an interest, but I kinda enjoy them in that way. I suppose I’m just a weirdly specific media nerd.
1) ARG (Alternate Reality Games). This is my second life (not intended pun). An old medium, but with viral campaigns for indie and blockbuster movies it became a global phenomen. Actually the transmedial storytelling was very influenced by ARGs. Usually an awesome world: a structure of blogs, websites, random data splitters on the net, videos, live events with professional actors. For some people it’s just viral marketing, for me it’s an endlessly beautiful genre – where you can interact with characters, experiences the story on-the-flow and even change the plot. There are big budget ARGs (for Cloverfield, Super8, Star Trek), and there are “grassroots”, theprojected made by players for players, because playing inspires to creation of own worlds. Do I say “play”? This is more than just enjoying, this is active reception.
I am enjoying ARGs as Player, as Blogger and sometimes as Author=GameMaster=PuppetMaster. And I say you, this is an unique experience to write a plot and see how people in meta forums are about to solve your riddles and to interpret the events in their way, and you response with new plot changes. This is LOVE with recipient.
Perhaps I will write about it more one day.
2) Blogging. I am blogger. I blog in my 19 blogs in various languages about various topics. I know, quite nobody read these blogs, but I still blog and blog and this insanity, this lonesome monologue of echoing posts in the virtual void is shimmering from my screen to my heart. Sometimes I get response. Leonard Nimoy thanked me and another 4 bloggers once in his Star Trek greeting video about our support of Star Trek ARG with our blogging reports. Blixa Bargeld commented my another blog and added some aspects to my analyse of Dadaism influences on the works of Einstürzende Neubauten. And some continuously friends, having their own blogs, is my blog circle. But the writing makes me feel a human beeing. Stop, I’m writing about writing. Is it interest? Is it hobby? A modus vivendi? My life? Everything at the same time.
3) Sorry, I have to steal the term used here by Byron: Dreamscapes. Yes! I roam around in virtual worlds, in video games, in forgotten photos, in old wroten postcards, in fleamarkets, in empty background sketches to anime, in data bits, in archives, in in in… Also in my Dreams, which aren’t lucid, but have some weird continuity, like stage set, as I know in my next dream, how to get from point A to point B.
I enjoy this loneliness, which reflects myself in this personal experience of dreamscapes. I settle the empty rooms with my imagination, and in every pixilated rendered game background image with a distant cityscape I see the live in every window light of the suggested house masses. I know, you understand, what do I mean. No. This is not loneliness, this is wholiness.
Dennis James Sweeney
1) Running. I’m not at the top of my game at present but about a year ago I ran my first marathon, and did the Cinco de Mayo half-marathon in Portland last month. My dad is a runner, and I grew up thinking running made a lot of sense. A lot of times it’s been the only reason I haven’t gone completely insane.
2) Meditating. This is newer for me as a regular practice, but since I did one of those 10-day silent retreats in Thailand in 2011 I have been into reading and thinking about mindfulness and related schools of thought like Taoism. Another good way to avoid going nuts.
3) Food. I guess everybody likes food, but I’m one of those people who is gluten-free, pretty much vegetarian, and talks about it all the time. Whenever someone gets all sniffly because of allergies, I tell them to stop eating wheat and animal products for a couple weeks and they’ll be fine. I’m a complete pain in the ass. I eat a ton of rice.
Man, not really going to keep this to just three, probably. Just going to throw a bunch of things down here.
I think of art as just one of my many obsessions and while it takes up a lot of my time, it’s also sort of just the well that everything else falls into.
Wolves – Always wolves, ever since I was too young to remember. I love wolves. Everything about them. I used to draw them all the time and now I’m always throwing money at wolf organisations. I can’t really explain why I’m so attached to them, but they feel like they’ve been in me my whole life.
Ravens – Sort of the same thing as wolves. Ravens are crazy intelligent and large and creepy. And sometimes I just can’t stop thinking about things that scare me. Not that ravens scare me, but they always feel like a bad omen.
Mythologies and gods and demons – Probably this is obvious to anyone who’s read my novels, how I’m always making up new religions, new mythologies, but I spent a lot of years studying various religions. I was raised in quite a conservative catholic family and because god never really fit in my head right, I went on a long journey during my teenage years to find a god or gods who did. Even before that, I was always reading the Greek and Egyptian and Norse myths, just loving how beautiful and strange gods and demons and monsters are. I’ve studied everything from Shinto to Voodoo to most of the major world religions and too many in between. I can’t say I found what I was looking for, but I found a lot of cool stories that I think were always a part of the fabric of my brain.
Trees – I just like trees. I don’t know much about them but I feel at home when they’re near.
Science – I’ll just group these together because saying you’re interested in science is like saying you’re interested in words–it doesn’t really tell you much. People tend to assume I’m a literature major because 90% of the people in the indie lit community are lit/creative writing majors. My background’s actually in neuroscience, and I only took one or two literature classes my entire time at college. Neuroscience will always fascinate me and I think it’s one of the most interesting fields that exists right now, as it’s sort of an intersection between biology, pscyhology, philosophy, chemistry, robotics, linguistics, and physics. More recently, I’ve become much more interested in physics, which is also a crazy large field, so I’ll say especially quantum mechanics and astrophysics. A lot of it goes way over my head, especially if they’re getting into the actual math underneath it all, but I can sort of wade through it on a conceptual level. It’s endlessly cool and inspires me always.
Politics – Again, sort of a catch all. My main obsessions without politics are totalitarianism and anarchism. Anarchism because I feel it’s correct, totalitarianism because I see it everywhere. I’m sort of on the very extreme end of the political spectrum, and I don’t even expect anyone to be way out there with me, but I often find it depressing how many people who allege to be liberal are holding fascist ideals in their mouths. Rebellion and revolution are big things for me, which sort of leads me to my next one.
History – Mostly South American [though I’m by no means an expert], Irish, East Asian, Russian, Mongolian, and then most recently, Somalian. I’m drawn mostly to oppressed and brutalised regions of the world, and then Ireland will always feel like another home to me after my time spent there. It’s interesting to connect so deeply with a place, because I felt very at home there. I felt more connected with the place itself and the history than I did with any of the actual people there, which is probably strange, but the same is true of South Korea. But, yeah, like I said above: I’m really into rebellion and revolution, and only in Ireland do you have a revolution led by poets.
Knives – It just always feels better when I have a lot of knives. I used to have about a dozen, though most of them disappeared in my worldwandering. I’ve been slowly acquiring more, but only have, like, three right now.
Posthumanism/transhumanism – These are mostly bonkers theories and movements, but I find them extremely interesting, and though they’re pretty fringe now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they became normalised within my lifetime.
Cooking – This is perhaps my favorite thing to do in the whole world.
Beer – I actually don’t drink much these days, and it’s even rarer that I get drunk, but I really enjoy discovering new beers. It’s nice living in a place with a lot of breweries and microbreweries. Means there’s always something new to try.
Werewolves – Always. Forever. I feel very protective of werewolves and hate the way most artists have ever depicted them. Stephen Graham Jones has a new novel that’ll probably be out within a year that gets it just about perfect though.
Vampires – Almost as much as werewolves, but I also feel that just about everyone who’s ever tackled the subject has gotten it so wrong.
Knots – I only know how to tie one knot, really, but anytime my hands get ahold of rope, I keep making and unmaking that same knot just about all day.
That’s probably enough by me for now.
I’m cheating like Eddy and listing a bunch but maybe not going as overboard as he did Though MAN I easily could.
Web design & development – I run my own web design company POTG Design and it’s a large chunk of my livelihood. It gives me a lot of flexibility in terms of my schedule and I love working with writers and creative organizations. I’m good at mixing logical/technical/practical concerns with creative/aesthetic/design ones.
Hiking, Camping, Backpacking – Generally I love being in the outdoors. I’m sort of into survivalist, to a very surface-level degree, but really geek out on backpacking and survival gear. I love being in the forest. I love the mountains. I love sleeping outside. I love the desert. I love walking and hiking and constantly moving.
Consciousness Studies – Really I’m a big science nerd in general. I was on the track to going to medical school for awhile. And for a time, I read more science books than I did fiction, especially in the realms of cognitive science, neuroscience, consciousness studies. Julian Jaynes, who isn’t a hard scientist but a psychologist, has a big impact on me. In college I also minored in Biological Anthropology and consequently have an obsession with skulls and bones and analyzing them. And brains. And body parts. And eyeballs.
Haunted Places – I have a huge fascination with the paranormal, the occult, the supernatural. Ghosts. Yes. I try to frequent haunted spaces, abandoned places.
Film – As is already pretty publicly known, and as it’s found its way into my writing, I’m obsessed with films that utilize long takes ie. Tsai Ming-Liang, Wong Kar Wai, Tarkovsky, Pasolini, Bela Tarr, etc. The long take.
Dogs – I might love dogs more than people. I probably do.
Veganism, animal liberation, vegan feminism, critical psychology, the psychology of meat-eating/carnism, the psychology of trauma and recovery, the psychology of violence and non-violence, narrative/language and trauma, the Enneagram (anyone wants to talk to me about the Enneagram, I can seriously nerd out), neuroscience, Buddhism/the dharma, the history and politics of Burma, Burmese hill tribe struggles, running as a spiritual and political practice… thanks for letting me/us nerd out about this
Fashion, food, eating disorders, rescue fantasies, Mary-Kate Olsen, Andy Kaufman, dark water rides, whirlpools in noir films, David Lynch, boiling sugar, France
1) Improvisation. I came to this interest via a deep,informal study of jazz. I still listen both to a great deal of what sounds like jazz as well as what doesn’t sound like jazz but probably still is, but my focus has shifted away from learning how to appreciate such music and into phenomenological considerations. (A good example of a text that opens up such considerations is David Sudnow’s WAYS OF THE HAND.)
2) Toy photography / lomography. What can I say? I need some way to elevate my walking exercise to the level of flaneurial peregrination while simultaneously validating my limited photographic skills.
3) Xeriscaping and natural landscaping. Two words: Hedge apple (aka, Osage orange, aka Bois d’arc). A fruit that survived the megafauna that once partly subsisted on it..
4) Vintage / early / primitive computing. From Babbage to Bushnell.
5) Social justice. Its practicalities, not its aesthetics (well, not exactly). Can one be an Oppenite? I might be.
#1. Education – I work for Boston Public Schools and I’m always interested in ideas about education, epistemology, whose knowledge we value and why, and who is able and/or allowed to access this knowledge; I work at a school with substantial populations of ESL students and students with Special Education learning needs and I’m interested in particular in exploring how these students engage with knowledge, culture, and art, among other things. There are a lot of other factors — race, class, social justice, questions of equity and accessibility — that are often ostensibly invisible and deeply relevant to K-12 education, and I interested in talking about those.
#2. Adventuring – Going places, doing things, sending postcards, cavorting, gallivanting, jousting, shenanigans, and so forth
#3. Napping – Shamelessly, although with an occasional tablespoon of guilt, I nap everyday, usually from 2:30 or so to 3:30.
Music. I’ve been a musician since I was 15. I play guitar and percussion. I’m also a music lover, nerd, and writer. I covered the Austin music scene for a year as a journalist. I can’t spend a day without music. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by a rich multiplicity of cultures, people, and influences, so my tastes are wide. You know how people often say “Oh, I listen to everything”? Well, I’m one of those that actually do. Flamenco. Metal. Classical. Reggae. All kinds of jazz. Salsa. Rock en español. Singers/songwriters from places as diverse as Cuba, Brasil, Spain. the US, Mexico, Puerto Rico, etc. The list goes on and on. I’m the kind of nerd that collects rare Japanese Freddie Hubbard bootlegs and takes pride in knowing who played the cajón on the most influential cante hondo/flamenco records. I also have an unhealthy obsession with shredders and will talk about guitar players passionately until someone tells me to shut up and change the subject.
Weightlifting. This is how I start or end my days. It’s simple: if I didn’t do it, I’d strangle a lot of people. I get angry at gravity so I don’t get angry at people. In 2005 I became a certified personal trainer, set up a studio, and paid the bills doing that for about two years. It was a sweet, sweet gig. Trained everyone from overweight mothers to a semi-pro freediver. It’s also immensely therapeutic in terms of my Napoleon complex. I’m a short book geek with glasses, so I had to grow sideways to keep the bullies away.
Continuous acquisition of useless knowledge. I’m addicted to useless information. The only thing in my head that works really well is my memory, and I waste it learning useless things like the length of the longest tapeworm ever pulled out of a human (37 feet) or the history of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” (those are two from the last couple of days). In fact, I’m writing this in a language I basically learned by memorizing random words from an Spanish/English dictionary!
In no particular order: Video games; Anime; history; science; music; cooking; good food; good beer; yoyoing; random things on Wikipedia.