Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pixar's bitch

I am Pixar's bitch.

Everyone who knows me even a little knows this about me.

I have seen all but one (A Bug's Life, their second) of their movies in the theatre, and own all but one (Cars, the A student's only B+) thus far available on DVD, in addition to the collection of their shorts.  Last night I bought and rewatched Up, and it was still superb.  Not necessarily my favorite, but then it's so difficult to pick a favorite.  All of their movies have such original stories (except for the aforementioned Cars), such believable characters, such complex themes that don't talk down to the audience, child or adult, such incredible attention to detail, such brilliant visuals, that they make nearly every other American animated movie seem positively amateurish by comparison.  My ticket to Toy Story was one of the first I kept.  Toy Story 2 pulled off the nearly impossible feat of being a sequel that is arguably better than the original.   Monsters, Inc., perennially overlooked, cracks me up, and has one of the greatest child movie characters ever.  Ratatouille had one of the most effective character moments I've ever seen, in thirty seconds without dialogue.  Last year, I sat literally open-mouthed through nearly all of WALL-EUp managed to choke me up within the first ten minutes.  It can be safely said that I am, indeed, a huge fan, and have been for a long time.


With each successive movie they've put out, I've had a growing unease.  Not because of the quality, or the themes, or the messages, or anything like that.  No.  It's because, over the course of ten feature films, they have yet to have a female protagonist.  Woody (with Buzz as second lead), Flik, Woody and Buzz again, Sulley (with Mike as second lead), Marlin, Bob "Mr. Incredible" Parr, Lightning McQueen (with Mater or possibly Doc as second lead), Remy (with Linguini as second lead), WALL-E, and now Carl Fredericksen (with Russell as second lead).  Now, don't get me wrong, these films have had many wonderful, strong, believable female characters, some of them even second leads: Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl, Dory, Helen "Elastigirl" Parr, Collette, and EVE immediately leap to mind.  They're all fantastic characters, and none have been there purely as a romantic foil, even the one in the (robot) romance movie.  But the story hasn't been focused around any of these characters; they at best play a major role in the story of the male protagonist.  Their story arc, even if it's a good, strong, compelling arc, is still secondary to his.

Over the last several years/movies since I noticed the pattern, it's been getting increasingly embarrassing.  It's like when your dear, loving grandmother, who taught you so much about treating everyone with respect, refers to your adult black friend as "a colored boy," and locks her jewelry box when he visits.  You find yourself making excuses, because you know she obviously doesn't mean to be offensive, and all of her other actions show that she's not racist, and she just doesn't really know him yet, and she grew up in a different time, and and and....

And yet, there it is.   Nine protagonists, no women.

But wait!  There, in production!  No, not Toy Story 3, presumably starring Woody and Buzz, due out next year.  Not Cars 2, presumably starring Lightning and Mater, due out the year after.  After that, in December 2011!  It's The Bear and the Bow!  Written and directed by a woman (both also a first for Pixar, which is telling), and starring Reese Witherspoon as Pixar's very first female lead character... Princess Merida.
Well, crap.

Okay, look.  There's nothing inherently wrong with princesses as lead female characters.  And yes, I have faith that Pixar will put an interesting spin on it (already we can see that she wants to stop being royalty and become an archer, which has promise).  They could turn it into a "take that" against the very idea of animated female leads needing to be princesses, much as Up took a shot at the idea of the hero needing to be young.  They could end up turning the whole idea of princesses upside down, somehow.  We can't really judge now, a full two years before it's even released, can we?

And yet....

She could've been anything. They specialize in unlikely heroes: an old cloth doll, a rat who likes to cook, a lonely garbage compacter, the monster in your closet, a clown fish.  Ed Asner.  Do something else gosh-wow adventurey, like The Incredibles and Up: make her a time-traveler trying to fix the past.  There can be dinosaurs, because everyone loves dinosaurs.  Something else with animals, like Finding Nemo or Ratatouille: she could be the elephant who actually never forgets, and sees some sort of classified information.  Something offbeat, like Toy Story or Cars or Wall-e: she's, I don't know, a sentient vacuum cleaner or something.  I know, I know, my ideas suck (erm, no pun intended.) I'm not a writer.  But come on.  I could have come up with "princess."  It's been done, it's played out.  Disney even has a new animated movie with "Princess" right in the title!  You folks can do so much better, I know you can.  This is what you guys do.

Because no matter how well they handle it, no matter how much subversion they put in there, no matter how great a fighter she is, even if she saves him (though Pixar's been pretty good about such things so far, there most likely will be a "him") instead of the other way around, even if the entire point of the movie is about how girls don't have to be princesses and can be anything they want to be, even stereotypically male-dominated occupations, it doesn't really matter, because she's still a princess.  She'll still be folded into the vastly disconcerting "Disney Princess" line, togged out in the dress she probably hated wearing at the beginning of the film.  She'll still be made into a dress-up doll, likely without the archery outfit as an option.  She'll still end up, somehow, irritatingly and horrifically pink.  Hey, it happened to Mulan, and she's not even a princess in-story, through marriage or otherwise.

So I'm sure it'll be a fantastic movie.  It'll be funny, touching, mature, beautiful, original and everything else we've come to expect of them, and I'll be there to see it in the theatre.  I just wish that for their first female lead, after twelve movies, they could've picked something other than a princess.

Note: This was originally posted in slightly modified form last summer on Facebook.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about privilege lately.

See, I'm a very privileged person.  Oh, I don't mean I'm wealthy or anything; far from it, but the simple fact is that I have advantages that many people simply do not have, unearned advantages that I was simply born with.  I'm a straight, white, naturally-thin male who was raised Christian and who, while not wealthy, has never been exactly poor.  There are doubtlessly many other privileges I have that I don't have space to list, or that I don't even know I have.  Because the thing about having privilege is that... well, it's hard to see, when you have it.

There are, of course, many things that can go wrong when one has privilege, especially when one can't see it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I had the best of intentions Thursday night, I really did.

I had the evening to myself, no chores or work that required my immediate attention, and I was going to make the best of it.  I was going to update this blog, or finally organize my backlog of photos, or revive my essentially-defunct photo website.  I was going to be productive, and not just spend another evening playing around on the internet.*  I really was.

But I got home from work and found a telescope on my porch.

Now, it wasn't precisely a surprise, since I had ordered it myself back in August and have been waiting for it anxiously ever since, just a little disappointed every day I came home and there was not a package on my porch.  It's a Galileoscope, developed as a cornerstone of the International Year of Astronomy (which, as I'm sure you already know, is/was 2009) and specifically designed to be a high-quality but affordable telescope, with an emphasis on education (discounts for bulk orders, classroom activities, etc.)  Assembly is purposefully required, both to save on cost and as a learning experience (while the assembly is pretty easy, the included directions are incredibly terrible.  The expanded directions online are highly recommended.)  It can be used in three different configurations: 25x, 50x, and 17x, the last of which closely mimics the view through Galileo's original telescope.

I've always wanted a telescope.  I could never quite justify the expense, though, and didn't want to settle for a piece of crap, so I never asked for one growing up, and never went out and got one myself.  But still... I've always wanted one.  And now, with the good reviews this has gotten from trusted sources, I was willing to shell out the thirty-some-odd bucks including shipping and treat myself for my birthday (as I said, it took a while to get here.)

So, instead of doing something artistically productive, I built myself a telescope (which took longer than it should have, because of the aforementioned terrible instructions) and within minutes was in my backyard, looking at Jupiter, Callisto, Io, and Ganymede, all clearly visible at 25x, even in the middle of light-polluted Baltimore.  Once Annie got home, we went up on the roof and looked at the waning gibbous moon and the Pleiades.  I can't wait to show her Jupiter and it's moons, which had set by that point, and Saturn, which doesn't rise until about 3 AM right now, and whatever else we can see in the glare of the city.

But, really, this post isn't about my shiny new toy.**  It's about why I was so excited, why I was out late in the cold on my front porch to see if I could find the Orion Nebula (I couldn't).  Astronomy was the first science that I remember really, truly loving, and it remains my favorite of the sciences.  I majored in physics, spent five years doing school programs on a variety of scientific topics including biology, paleontology chemistry, and currently -- exclusively and inexplicably -- do classroom programs on embryology, but it was the astronomy programs in my college's planetarium and in the portable Starlab during those five years that I think I liked best.

See, astronomy, in many ways, is a gateway science.  I can't tell you how many science people (researchers, educators, or simply dedicated geeks), regardless of their field, have told me about simply looking up at the stars when they were kids and wondering.  It sparked something in them, a humbling awareness, a questioning, a yearning of some sort, though obviously they didn't recognize it as such at the time.  They, and I, simply looked up and went "Wow."  Many of them went on to apply those same feelings to other areas, whether it's stem cell research, organic chemistry, nuclear physics or, yes, astronomy.

But astronomy opened so many more doors than that.  It's no exaggeration to say that the human race itself was introduced to science via astronomy.  Many, many thousands of years before we could view or measure much of anything else scientifically, we could do it to the heavens.  The sky is enormous (many of us forget, since we usually focus on what's right in front of us), and mysterious.  Few things are so universally spread out through ancient myths across the globe as the stars, sun, and moon are.  They were gods, spirits, demons, heroes, life-givers.  They were omens, portents, signs, symbols.  They were patterns, stories, histories.  And they were predictable.  These incredibly important things that everyone could see, things that supposedly could determine our future, or give us a clue as to the workings of the gods, could be understood.  From these superstitions came the very first systematic scientific observations and recordings.  Those ancient astronomers/astrologers (for at the time, there was little distinction) viewed and charted when the sun rose and set, how it rose higher in the sky during summer and lower in winter, the phases of the moon and when it rose and set, how they could interact to cause solar and lunar eclipses, the positions of the stars relative to the sun throughout the year, what constellations were visible when, the movements of each of the planets, and so many, many other things that could be seen simply by looking up and paying attention.  So for millennia, these observations were recorded, and all the while we wondered what, exactly these lights in the sky actually were.  How far away are they?  What are they made of?  Why do they move as they do?  How do they relate to the Earth?  Do they affect us?

Four hundred years ago, in 1609, an Italian scientist named Galileo Galilei made significant improvements to a new Dutch invention for seeing across long distances that would later be called the telescope, and turned it skyward.  The observations he made through those simple, early telescopes and the theories proposed based on those observations are easily among the most important in the history of science, and inarguably helped kick-start the entire field of modern science.  Even more than that: he forever changed how the entire human race views itself, and its place in the universe.  It had been assumed that all of the heavenly bodies were perfect spheres manufactured by God hisownself, but Galileo saw rough mountains on the Moon.  Even the supposedly all-perfect Sun turned out, under Galileo's watchful eye, to have the occasional spot on it.  Everyone knew as well that everything in the sky rotated directly around the Earth, but Galileo saw four moons going around Jupiter.  Ah, but the major things, like the planets themselves, they still went around the Earth!  But Galileo saw that Venus had full phases, new, crescent, half, gibbous, full, and back again, while never going very far from the Sun.  The Morning Star, the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon, was orbiting the Sun, not us.  We were not the center of the universe.  This was, to put it lightly, a humbling discovery, and affected every single aspect of our lives, far beyond science.

And now, four hundred years later, a dozen human beings have set foot on the Moon.  We have sent probes to land on and orbit around other planets, to leave the solar system itself and report back to us.  We now know that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, untold numbers of stars (septillions?), black holes, quasars, pulsars, nebulae, and more.  Over just the last decade and a half, we have discovered hundreds of planets going around other stars, and it's only a matter of time before our observations are keen enough to find ones that are Earth-like.  We are learning more and more every single day about the entirety of the universe, everything that is, about the nearly 14-billion-year history that brought us here and about what might happen next.  And when I go out amidst the glare of city lights and look through my cheap, plastic telescope to see shadows on the Moon, and the Galilean satellites of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn, to see them, to really see them, not as a picture, not as a video or computer animation, but to really SEE them, right there before my eyes just as Galileo did, I feel a sense of awe at being part of such an unimaginably vast cosmos, and feel connected to all those who went before me, looking up and wondering and thinking, turning the world around and upside-down, even back to the dawn of civilization, and forward to all those who will come after, and look up at the stars, and wonder.

And that's why this post is late.

*Likely would have ended up spending it playing around on the internet.
**But, seriously, I've got a shiny new toy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On my honor

When I was about seven, I joined the Cub Scouts. I vaguely remember being inspired by my cousin Mike's recent earning of Eagle Scout, and made that my goal. Uncharacteristically, I stuck with it. I went from Wolf to Bear to Webelos ("We'll Be Loyal Scouts"), earned my Arrow of Light, and went on to join the Boy Scouts, the same troop my cousin had been a part of. I progressed slowly but fairly steadily through the ranks (Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life...), earned a string of merit badges ranging from Basketry (only two requirements) to First Aid to Indian Lore (which I believe has been discontinued). Since it was required to advance, I served in leadership positions including Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Den Chief, and Senior Patrol Leader, the last of which I wore like a suit that everyone tells you looks great on you but makes you feel like you're just playing dress-up, and pinches in all the most uncomfortable places. I was elected into the Order of the Arrow, the honored campers' society. I camped countless times in all sorts of weather, from the desert heat of Philmont to sub-zero Forestburg, where our campsite was only accessible via frozen lake. I staffed leadership training camps of several flavors, worked ropes courses, and held several summer positions at a Cub Scout camp (including, weirdly, Field Sports Director). Eventually, a week before my eighteenth birthday, I passed the Board of Review for my Eagle Scout, awarded the following November, very nearly ten years ago.

Those eleven years were incredibly formative for me. I learned that I'm not a natural leader, but I can do it in a pinch. I learned countless useful skills that I still use on a surprisingly regular basis (though I'm still kind of crap at fire-building). It boosted my confidence, something I still have an issue with. I have many fond memories of those times (as well as many not-so-fond memories, but hey). I have a collection of Boy Scout handbooks on my dresser, including my grandfather's from the '30s and my father's from the '60s, everything between and beyond, up to and past my own, from the '90s. To this day, I can recite the Scout Oath, Law, slogan, motto, and sing innumerable camp songs without thinking. Earning my Eagle Scout is one of the proudest achievements of my life.

And yet, with the exception of one final summer working at Cub Scout camp (Nature Director, that time), I haven't touched the BSA again.

Every so often, people ask me if I've ever considered getting back into it as a Scoutmaster, or Assistant Scoutmaster, or merit badge counselor, or something. I've considered it, yeah, but I couldn't. Not without me being dishonest with them, and more importantly, dishonest with myself. Point 1 of the Scout Law: "A Scout is trustworthy."

Let's ignore, for a moment, the fact that they wouldn't let me back even if I wanted to (my atheism vs. the BSA is a matter for another post), and focus on my initial philosophical differences with them. Maybe you remember back, oh, nine or ten years ago, the case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. If you don't want to read the whole Wikipedia article, let me sum up: James Dale, an Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster in Monmouth Council, New Jersey (my old council, coincidentally, though not my troop), became involved in his college's LGBT student alliance, and via his work there (unrelated to the BSA) was featured in a newspaper interview in which he stated that he was openly gay. BSA officials found out and had him kicked out. Dale took them to court, and the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that the BSA had to readmit him. The BSA wasn't having that, so they took the case up to the US Supreme Court, who decided that as a private organization, the BSA had First Amendment rights to associate with whomever they please, and keep out whomever they want. The decision was handed down June 28, 2000, while I was working at the aforementioned Cub Scout camp for my final summer.

I, like many people, was unaware of the BSA's anti-homosexuality until the court case became national news. Even when it was just a case in my home state, in my own council nonetheless, I hadn't heard about it. Oh, I seem to remember having heard about old policies, back when people still believed the long-disproved notion that homosexual man = pedophile, but assumed that since that concern proved to be unwarranted, the policies lacked justification, and had been removed. Obviously, I underestimated the power of self-justification.

The official line now is that homosexuality is in conflict with the section of the Scout Oath in which scouts promise to keep themselves morally straight, and point 11 of the Scout Law stating "A Scout is clean" in thought, word, and deed. In other words, homosexuality is immoral and unclean. Naturally, I strongly disagree with this stance, and think that they're being a little free-handed with their interpretation of those points. Let's take a closer look.

On page 46 of the 11th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, they explicate "morally straight" thus:
To be a person of strong character, your relationships with others should be honest and open. You should respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions, and remain faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance.
Funny how it doesn't say "honest and open, unless you're gay" or "respect and defend the rights of all people, unless they're gay." I guess that must be implied. It must come down to the "Be clean in your speech and actions," which of course comes back to point 11 of the Scout Law, explained on page 53 (with the part about hygiene removed):
There's another kind of dirt, though, that can't be scrubbed away. It is the kind that shows up in foul language and harmful thoughts and actions.
Swearwords and dirty stories are often used as weapons to ridicule other people and hurt their feelings. The same is true of racial slurs and jokes that make fun of ethnic groups or people with physical or mental limitations. A Scout knows there is no kindness or honor in such tasteless behavior. He avoids it in his own words and deeds.
How on earth does this apply? I defy anyone, anywhere, to show me evidence of homosexuality being inherently hurtful to others. Again, there must be something they're leaving out of the handbook. Unless, somehow, they're counting it under the hygiene aspect of cleanliness? As though you can't just take a shower afterward, if need be. Maybe the newly-released 12th edition, which I do not have, is the one that says "Homosexuality is icky." [Update, 3/3/2010: Nope, not in there either.]

I just find it puzzling how an organization that is so intent on being open and inclusive can have such a policy. Their values include "to help other people at all times" as one of the primary points of the Scout Oath, just below duty to God and country in importance. They also have point 4 of the Scout Law: "A Scout is friendly"
A Scout is a friend to all.... He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.... Accept who you are, too, and celebrate the fact that you don't have to be just like everyone else. (page 49)
and point 6, "A Scout is kind"
Kindness is a sign of true strength. To be kind you must look beyond yourself and try to understand the needs of others. Take time to listen to people and imagine being in their place.... Extending kindness to those around you and having compassion for all people is a powerful antidote to the poisons of hatred and violence. (page 50)
Why, when they place such importance on helping and caring and understanding other people, including and especially people who disagree with or are different from you, do they decide that homosexuality, which has never been shown in any way, shape, or form to be harmful to anyone, is immoral and unclean, instead of just another aspect to be accepted? Why are they betraying their own values like that?

Because, of course, hovering behind the official line is the fact that conservative religious groups make up a very significant portion of the BSA's sponsors. The Mormons alone sponsor about 13% of the BSA's youth membership, making them the largest single sponsor, and have outright stated that they would pull out if forced to accept homosexual leaders. Now, naturally, this is a serious practical issue from the BSA's perspective. Losing the support of groups like the Mormons would not simply mean less money for the organization, but would also directly impact the young Scouts who have nothing to do with national policy, as they would no longer have a place to meet. Many parents would pull their children out entirely in protest. And while other organizations would likely step up to the plate, organizations that may not be contributing right now, whether because of the anti-homosexual stance or because they simply don't need to at the moment, and other kids whose parents might not let them in because of this discriminatory stance might join after it was lifted, it would take a while. The organization would definitely suffer and face very lean difficult times for a while, and that's a scary thing. It's scary for those who've put their life's work into this organization to put it in jeopardy like that for a moral stance. It must be terrifying to think that you contributed to the possible downfall of a program that was so influential in your life, and continues to be influential in the lives of millions of young boys and men every day. It's so much easier to cave, and let things go on as they always have. Point 10 of the Scout Law: "A Scout is brave."
You are brave every time you do what is right in spite of what others might say.... And you show true courage when you defend the rights of others." (p. 53)
But, of course, it's possible and even likely that they believe they ARE doing the right thing, and being brave in the face of the so-called attack on their morals, morals that have no clear basis in the actual, long-standing, stated values of the Scouts, and that actually seem to contradict many of those self-same values.

When it comes right down to it, this is a fight the BSA is going to lose, sooner or later. This paradigm is shifting all over the country, and I know that they will eventually have to change with it, once public demand forces them to (if they indeed believe what they are saying) or allows them to (if they do not). I just wish that they would instead do it simply because it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bah humbug

Now that I've got you all revved up with promises of whiny introspection and deep personal feelings, here's a rant about a movie.

By now, you may or may not have seen trailers, commercials, and/or posters for the new Disney movie version of A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Jim Carrey. I have three basic things to say about this, keeping in mind that the movie won't even be out until next month.

1. I have some issues with Jim Carrey that will wait for a future post, but for now I'll just try to view him purely as an actor. Carrey can be a pretty good actor when he's reigned in at least a little, as in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and (yes) can be pretty funny when doing the wacky stuff, if that's your sort of thing. Too much Carrey, though, is simply too much, and here he's playing FOUR separate characters: Ebeneezer Scrooge and each of the three Ghosts. In other words, he'll be literally talking to himself in a variety of funny voices and accents (remember, the Ghost of Christmas Past is a wispy little thing and Christmas Present is a giant), and even in the brief trailer I saw that was quite grating. In addition, Scrooge is a part that can so easily go over the top, completely losing the subtle character touches that make his journey and eventual redemption both sympathetic and believable, and I am far from convinced that Carrey (or Zemeckis, really) is going to be able to resist the temptation to do him as more than a caricature.

That said, it has a supporting cast I can get behind. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn will be reunited to squees from Princess Bride fans all over (boy howdy, including myself), and any movie with Bob Hoskins in it can't be all bad (... I'll pretend you didn't say anything about Super Mario Brothers, The Movie, which I'm reasonably sure I saw in the theatre when I was 11, so shut up). I am, though, a little baffled at the fact that Gary Oldman is playing Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, and... Tiny Tim.

2. A little more to the point: holy crap, did Zemeckis decide that his hollow-eyed demon children from The Polar Express were not quite "uncanny valley" enough? I mean, seriously, look at this:Now, I know that he's supposed to look scary and stuff, but he does for all the wrong reasons. Yes, a good way to pull back from the uncanny valley is to make your human characters somewhat disproportionate, more cartoony (think The Incredibles). But, BUT, you can't then give them photo-realistic skin texture without it becoming downright creepy. It either needs to be less realistic, or much more realistic. Because, damn.

3. Most importantly, though... A freakin' Christmas Carol? Seriously? I mean, yes, it's a great story, it's a classic, but come ON. I know that it's going to be in IMAX 3-D and all (which, see also point number 2 because, damn), but really. What, exactly, are they bringing to the table that we haven't already seen with Alastair Sim, Reginald Owen, Albert Finney, Mickey Mouse, Patrick Stewart, the Muppets, the Looney Tunes (twice!), the Jetsons, Bill Murray, Tim Curry, Simon Callow, "The Odd Couple," "Sanford and Son," "Family Ties," and every other sitcom ever, not to mention every theatre company in the world several times over. Hell, I've played Scrooge before, and that was in my early twenties!

Now, I'm not one to say that certain classics are sacrosanct and shouldn't be reinterpreted, or that it's always a bad idea to remake something that's already been done well, but the simple fact is that this story has been done till it's as dead as a doornail. What justifies yet another version of it? What new messages and insights are we going to gain from this? What makes this worth suffering through Jim Carrey's horrifically distorted constipation face in four-story-high 3-D? What are they offering, besides gimmicks and slapstick, that could possibly make this morality tale that we've all known by heart since we were children fresh again?

I guess we'll find out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Brief Introduction

I'm not good with words.

I know, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement, stoking the fires that make you want to check this blog every day, but it's true. It's always been true. For as long as I can remember, I've had difficulty with words, and it's gotten worse as I've gotten older and had to express more complicated ideas. I mean, I can string sentences together; I know how to use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and such, but I have a great deal of difficulty figuring out what to say.

Usually, when presented with a new idea or situation or whatever, it takes me a long time to figure out what I really think about it. I may have some sort of broad "like/don't like" gut reaction, but it takes me quite a bit to determine why I feel like that. By the time that I do, the conversation (if not several days, and the occasional glacier) has usually moved well past me. When I do finally find the words to express how I'm feeling, I tend to run them over in my head again and again to make sure they're right before I let them loose in the wild.

Unfortunately, they're often insufficient, so upon further questioning I stumble and flail and repeat myself, using different words, hoping that I'll hit something by chance that'll accurately get my feelings and opinions across. It rarely works. Often, I somehow manage to get across the exact opposite of what I'm trying to say, or something incredibly insulting that doesn't truly reflect how I feel, and that causes me to muck about even more while trying to repair that damage while at the same time trying to get across whatever point I was trying to make in the first place.

Now, I know, I know, this sort of thing happens to everyone, especially if sitcoms are to be believed. But it seems to happen more to me than to others, and has been known to cause me to freeze up during very important and intense conversations, which makes everything that much worse. As such, I tend to rarely offer up an opinion, and going on about something that I actually feel strongly about can give me the shakes. I've gotten better in recent years, but it's still very difficult for me to feel like my words are really getting across what's going on inside of me. Even now, I'm wondering if this post is getting the right message across or is an unintelligible jumble of self-pitying nonsense.

But that's why I'm here. This is going to be a place where I can actually put down in words what I'm thinking and feeling, and enlarge upon and defend those ideas and feelings if necessary. There might emerge a coherent theme among the posts eventually, but for now it's just going to be me thinking out loud. In print. On, um, the screen.

...you know what I mean.