Friday, March 6, 2009

3/6/09

I have certain habits of mind, certain tactile things I like. We have glasses in our house, tumblers, which are squat and heavy. My joke is that they have a lower center of gravity-- making them harder to knock over. But the truth lies in their reminding me of some glasses we used to have growing up-- not even in my real youth-- though I can remember those-- but just shorter glasses, solid, with hard cut edges. I liked them. I liked the weight of them in my hand. In the same way I have bad memories of the various vanity glasses you used to be able to get at McDonalds, then Arbys, then everywhere. Star Wars glasses, Mickey D's characters, I'm sure there we had others but I can't really recall them. I do recall a certain aversion to them, developed over the years. The companies had manufactured them as cheaply as possibly, with the thinnest glass. They'd shatter if you looked at them oddly-- a slight drop, too much pressure from your hand, cold liquids in one straight out of the washing machine.

I have other things that I keep strong tactile memories of-- some more recent than others. I have a couple of the Marvel Essential series (Dr. Strange, the Uncanny X-Men) and I have a hard time reading them. At first I thought it was the absence of color-- something that works for some books better than others. Then I realized it was the paper-- so absolutely crappy and thin that it felt odd in my hands. I get the same reaction sometimes when I'm at the remaindered bookstore-- from the small press editions of some things. I'll touch the book and then put it down immediately, slightly creeped out by the feel.

On a more modern note, that's been my reaction to the PS3 controller. I remember the first Playstation controllers-- light, but given some weight and gravity by the cord attaching it to the machine. Then later came the various Dual Shock controllers. Those felt right, especially the Logitech cordless version, amplified by the AA batteries tucked away inside it. When we got the PS3 I couldn't believe how flimsy the controllers felt. They have the same shape but no weight at all. I felt a little goofy using them-- like it had been finally pointed out to me that I was, in fact, just playing with a really expensive toy. There's a new controller out for the system, following some legal settlement between Sony and a patent rights holder, and it feels just right. I can understand how the Baby Bear felt.

In any case, I'm always a little startled by how many apparently non-essential elements go into our enjoyment of an experience. H, on her blog, has been talking about songs with an emotional impact. Certainly I have songs that make me sad, happy, upset, and so on. I knew a girl who wouldn't listen to anything but happy songs-- she hated my Elvis Costello, Adrian Belew, Talking Heads and so on. Even They Might Be Giants came off too introspective for her.

My usual reaction to songs, at least ones that have a real resonance for me is to remember a place I was when I heard that song. Not that I first heard it, but where it really stuck with me. And it doesn't have to be a great or memorable song. Usually it is about where I was driving when it really registered-- "Narrow Your Eyes" by TMBG on a drive to Boston, "Soap Star Joe" by Liz Phair while driving through Goshen at 3am on a foggy morning, Rise by Public Image Limited while just standing in the front yard of my old house. It is hard to pull up on demand, but sometimes when I hear a song those memories will just hit, and hit hard.

Tomorrow: Maps and Expectations (maybe)