Monday, December 31, 2001

John Tynes, with whom I had a fantastic dinner last night, shares a response to geek ranting. Knowledge of who Scott is is not necessary for gathering the gist of his comments.

You asked, "Is endless geek ranting and re-allocating of facts from one bucket to another a substitute for actual conversation?"

Having quoted your question, I'm now not going to answer it. Instead I'll comment on something that I've wondered at. Scott uses the neologism "subreference" to mean "a reference thrown out in a conversation or in a creative work not so much because it is to be understood by all and therefore add meaning, but more because it's to be understood by a few and therefore add a sense of belonging." (e.g. "Get up, it's time for work!" "But I was gonna go in to Taschi Station and pick up some more power converters!" "Cut the subreference and get dressed!") It used to annoy me when he'd say "subreference," since I always thought "What's wrong with just saying 'reference'?" But in truth, I think what Scott dubs subreferences are less than a reference and more than an in-joke. They are an in-joke that adds meaning. And I think they are something of a geek phenomenon. They accomplish three goals: 1) Establish the intelligence (or cultural literacy or whatever) of the speaker. 2) Affirm the intelligence of the speaker's comrades. 3) Comment on the situation in an amusing and meaningfully layered way. A simple reference does #3, because it assumes a large enough cultural context (Shakespeare, the Hydra of Greek mythology) to be usefully inclusive. An in-joke does #2. But the geek subreference adds #1 to the pot. It's the equivalent of using your Mensa membership card as the punchline to a self-deprecating joke.

All that said, and it is quite a bit, I want to flip to something else entirely: THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS.

Fantastic movie. Saw it last night with a belly full of great food, in the company of John and Jean-Michele, two of my favorite people, and I have to say that I'm in danger of having my geek card revoked for liking it more than Lord of the Rings. Superb, fantastic movie that did everything AMELIE did for other people, and did it in spades--what a triumph of fun, intelligent story. Quirky characters, but the story mixed with fantastic design swept along and did great work with everyone involved--my favorite Wes Anderson film so far, which is simply to say I liked it more than RUSHMORE.

I feel terribly sad tonight, as I always do on the cusp of a new year--it's even worse on the 1st. My life has changed so much in 12 months, a transformation made all the more surreal by the changes of national consciousness that occured this fall throwing it all into stark relief. I could never have imagined where my life would be now from a year ago--I think I had forgotten how much larger life is than any one man, and that's a kind of hubris I need to have washed from me--but at the same time I miss how certain my life used to be, and how I could see so clearly what success would be, and what the next steps were. Now I'm blind to all that, and I can only do my job and stumble forward. It's good to be in the dark, because you find better things there--it just isn't as comforting day to day, and when you look backward and forward like you do on the 31st it can positively horrify you with the uncertainty.

Okay, enough pop psychology and mournful wailings. I am supposed to be wearing a toga and drinking heavily. To everyone who reads this, my best in the new year, and I hope you're all blessed enough to be stumbling ahead too, heedless of the dark and mindful of the trip.