May 9th, 2008

Mad Red

Peculiar Nostalgia

For some reason, I find myself very nostalgic for Richmond today, particularly for the Fan District, which was always my favorite part and where I lived during most of my time in Richmond.

Richmond is kind of a weird city; a large portion of the population is (or at least strives to be) genteel and olde-worldy, while another large portion of the population is run-down-urban-southern-slummish, a third population is beer-shotguns-and-pickups redneckish, and a small portion of the population are ambitious go-getter types who keep trying to save Richmond from its perennial slide into obsolescence, irrelevance, and ruin in spite of itself.

Add into this mix an evergreen population of fresh-faced college students (blue-bloods at U of R, commoners at VCU), state politics, and a love-hate relationship with more developed regions such as northern Virginia, and you've got a Groundhog Day-esque city which always has something happening but which never quite gets past 1959. [1]

I think it is the "genteel and olde-worldy" part that appeals to me the most. Having grown up in banal, stressed-out, postwar suburbia, it was quite a shock to me to move to a place where people's homes had been deliberately been built to be beautiful. The Fan, with its Queen Anne townhouses and big ol' beautiful churches (not to mention the incredible Maymont Park), was not just a new place but like a whole other world. What's more, even though Richmond was a city, and the Fan an urban area, it had a slow and peaceful quality that I had never experienced in WE'REALLBUSYHEREANDWAYMOREIMPORTANTTHANYOUGETOUTTATHEWAY northern VA.

I used to walk all over Richmond, which is something that's not really feasible here. Or as I've often described it in conversation, "In Richmond, drive 45 minutes and you're across town. In northern VA, drive 45 minutes and you're just reaching the edge of your neighborhood." It's a world in microcosm, where areas are measured in blocks, not miles.

Of course, Richmond has big problems, too, which is why upon graduation I moved up here instead of staying down there. A Richmond boom economy is like the bleakest northern VA recession. Housing is cheap, the cost of living is cheap, but paying jobs are nonexistent. Racism is ugly, ubiquitous, and entrenched (in both directions). Religious right medievalism constantly attacks the schools, the libraries, bookstores, gay bars, straight bars, television, radio, and anybody who has a slightly different opinion. Beautiful old buildings stand vacant and decrepit, with homeless alcoholics flopped in the foyer, while the city government tries yet another brainless get-rich-quick type scheme to "revitalize downtown."

There's also the fact that from June 1 until October 1, living in Richmond is like being in somebody's mouth — 98.6° and 99% humidity. Not a healthy clime for somebody with a passion for turtlenecks and a pathological hatred of sweating (like me).

I'm not sure why I'm feeling nostalgic for the place today; I think it may be that traffic and the job have somewhat got me down, because I keep fantasizing about sitting at home in my nice little Stuart Circle townhouse, working on my latest novel while laurie_robey plays with Buddha in the background. Just one of those "wishing for a different lifestyle" type days, I guess.

-The Gneech

[1] Or at least, that's what it was like when I lived there, which admittedly was almost 20 years ago, now.

Friday Night Deep Thoughts

From montecook: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus
So that's the answer to the question, "Where do they find the time?" Or, rather, that's the numerical answer. But beneath that question was another thought, this one not a question but an observation. In this same conversation with the TV producer I was talking about World of Warcraft guilds, and as I was talking, I could sort of see what she was thinking: "Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves."

At least they're doing something.

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

And I'm willing to raise that to a general principle. It's better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, "If you have some sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too." And that's message--I can do that, too--is a big change.

This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

Yes, this.

-The Gneech
Six Million Dollar Man

Mission: Impossible

Man, Jim Phelps was a heckuva strategist! And Barney, wow, what an electronics whiz! And how about Rollin Hand, man of a million disguises! And Willy ... um ... sure could lift heavy things.

...Just kidding, Willy. :) You were awesome too. And so were you, Cinnamon.

It was a great, great show. :)

-The Gneech
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    Mission: Impossible theme (in my head)
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