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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Thursday (2/25/10) 8:08pm - ... wherein Peter answers formspring questions about miscellaneous topics.

Here are all the uncategorizeable questions I've received so far on formspring.

Peter, you always seem so calm and collected when I see you. Would you say you have high self confidence? [1/28/10, anonymous]


No.  But I am shy and a bit flat-affect, so that might make for a semblance of calm collectedness.

What super power would you have, if you could have any super power in the world? [2/4/10, by juliejezebel]

I've often thought I would go for mind-reading, and then be a lab rat for the rest of my life. I figure if I had that superpower, we could settle a lot of interesting questions about perception ("Like, what if my 'blue' was your 'red', man?" *toke*), psychology, and philosophy pretty definitively.

If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose? [2/4/10, automated]


That depends, I guess. If we're talking "re-live a year to change things around and make them go differently", I might go all the way back to '97, and get myself into screenwriting much earlier on, maybe making a go of it in LA after college.

If it's just "re-live a year that's fun & cool", probably '03, when I was dancing and writing songs and sketches all the time, and seemed to know everybody in Austin.

Which one of your ongoing side projects would be the most likely to make you rich and/or famous, assuming one of them did. [2/4/10, anonymous]

Well, let's run down my current hobbies:
* Guitar
* Singing
* Improv
* Writing scripts
* Writing reviews
* Writing amusing bad Spanish translations.
* Blues dancing

The odds that any of those will make me rich and/or famous are really miniscule. (Although last week's KOOP reading reached 35,000 people [!], so that's a kind of fame.)

Frankly, the only scenario I can image making me famous is "Peter comes up with some sketch-comedy video that goes viral on youtube" (even then, the fame would be fleeting and the money, nonexistent).[1] Maybe there's a 1-in-10,000 chance of that ever happening.

[1] That, or "Peter visits the jungle and becomes Patient Zero for some horrid new hemorrhagic fever".[1b]

[1b] But that's not really a 'side project', is it?

What is the craziest thing you have ever done? [2/4/10, anonymous]

Well, we know *this* is going to be a tallest-midget contest. :)

Look, if we take "crazy" as the canonical "sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll" trinity, then we're not going to get much beyond the odd one-night stand, spending high school zonked out on antihistamines, and occasionally listening to Exile on Main Street because it's a quite good album.  I don't do anything crazy.  It's sort of my defining quality.

Judson suggested "majoring in English, Biochemistry, and Computer Science" as a candidate for 'crazy'.  But even that decision was logical in its context:  I liked taking classes, I wanted to get my money's worth out of college, and frankly I had no life and preferred being happily busy to being miserably bored.

If we expand 'crazy' to involve 'zany', then probably my sophomore year of high school takes the cake.  That was the year I got bored and wrote a satirical essay about one of the teachers we couldn't stand.  I wrote it in the form of an internal memo from the school board listing problematic things the guy had done.  Then somebody got hold of it and mimeographed (dating myself) a thousand-odd copies of it.  The copies spread throughout the school.  Unfortunately, I was the only student around there who could write worth a damn, so I was immediately caught as the culprit.  I think I got suspended.  Good times.

Do you have a best friend?  And what, if anything, distinguishes your friends from your acquaintances? [2/5/10, anonymous]

These days, I'd say my best friend is Katherine (my sister).  (There's a bunch of family stuff going on right now; we're all helping each other through it.)

Generally it's pretty simple:  most of my acquaintances are people I don't even talk to beyond "Hi" and "How's it going?" (or "May I have this dance?").  I'm so introverted that that covers, like, 90% of the people I know.

I'd say my friends are limited to people who get my sense of humor.  Most people don't -- I'm not good about cueing sarcasm or indicating when I'm veering off into whimsical/counterfactual/improv-y mode -- and when I have to talk without humor, I feel like I'm speaking some kind of inexpressive pidgin.

I'd also say I'm very thin-skinned, so if I feel like somebody's being persistently insensitive towards me, they go into the 'acquaintance' bin pretty quick. :-/

As you might guess, I have a lot of acquaintances, but very few friends.  ("Not many, Lord knows, but you only need a few.")

You seem pretty even-keel, emotionally. Has there been any work of art that gives you the swoony, heart-is-going-to-burst feeling? [2/18/10, by 3stripedsocks]

Hmm.  Good question.  I often get that feeling from *doing* art.  Playing guitar is swoony.  Writing the "Cindy tells Lars he can quit" scene in the pilot spec was swoony.  The end of the One More Night premiere was incredibly swoony.

But *taking in* art?  Much less swoony.

I could give a kind of dodgy answer:  frequently I'll watch a movie or TV show, and wind up writing a different story in my head than the one I'm watching.  That process can be quite moving.  When I was watching the "burn the big tree" scenes in Avatar, for example, it got me thinking about the perception of the military in the U. S.  I wondered what it would be like if you were a soldier who had helped save some Bosnian town from ethnic cleansing, and then you had to return to a culture that frequently assumed you were a burn-the-big-tree type.  That, I thought, could be a hell of a story.

But again, that's dodging the question.

So.  What's on the swoon list?  Some items have earned permanent places on the swoon list.  As I hinted in an earlier answer, the closing scene of the Freaks and Geeks pilot is on the list.  If you're a LOST fan and "The Constant" doesn't make your list, YOU HAVE NO SOUL.  "The Whole of the Moon" is on the list, and so is the Hilary James version of "Storm Warning", and so is any version "Picture in a Frame", and so is the The Soul Cages.  (Yeah, that muffled 'pop' you just heard is my last remaining bit of music cred exploding.)

(Side note:  oddly, I can't think of any visual art that puts me in that same state you're talking about.  The Rothko paintings I've seen have definitely had an effect on me, but the mood they put me in is always tempered by a quiet, contemplative quality.  Honestly, I think all visual art has that quieting effect on me.)

More recently, the Ry Cooder album A Meeting by the River, which we used as part of the One More Night soundtrack playlist, definitely makes me feel like my pericardium is suddenly a few sizes too small for my heart.

Oddly, a lot of art that really *guns* for that swoony effect -- I'm thinking especially of the more programmatic Romantic composers (Berlioz, et al) -- usually miss the mark with me.  If anything, they draw a eye-roll-y, "Oh, stop being maudlin" response.

So there are bits of art here and there that really move me.  But most art doesn't.  So I keep art-ing my way through life instead.

(As to whether I am emotionally stable, I suppose that's true.  As a teenager I was moody as hell -- with most of the mood swings being downward ones -- but things evened out after that, I assume because of normal post-adolescent brain development.)

What's something few people know about you that you'd like to share? [2/18/10, anonymous]

I think sometimes people assume that because I'm so prudish in my behavior, that I'm also very judgmental.  That's not the case.

This happens with the not-drinking thing occasionally.  I'll mention that I don't drink, and somebody will tell me, "Ohmigod you must think I'm such a lush, all drinking and stuff."  Um... no.  Do what you will but harm none.  I'll be over here sipping on my microbrew root beer.

The same goes for sexual mores.  Yeah, I'm not doing much.  But you crazy kids go and do whatever.  Have fun.  :)

Hmm.  I suppose I sound kind of self-satisfied here.  I mean, look, I know I *can* be judgmental, don't get me wrong.  I'm very pro-western-science, for example, and forms of inquiry that sidestep the "let's actually test this against reality" process move me to roll my eyes and think, "Aw, that's cute.  Now get out of the way so the grown-ups can cure diseases and build bridges and stuff."

But the bottom line is, I'm not the stern social conservative that one might infer from my style and behavior.

To tell the truth, this might not qualify as "something few people know about me".  Maybe my friends all understand that this is my take on things.  But I do think it's kind of odd that my beliefs and my actions are this far out of alignment.  Maybe people figure, if Peter has nothing against <x>, wouldn't he run off and do <x>?  *shrug*  Who knows why I am how I am?

(Side note:  I suppose the flip side of this is that I sometimes have a breezy, "whatever"-ish view of people's deeply-held beliefs.  Somebody tells me something they're incredibly passionate about, and if I'm not careful, I'll absently say, "Oh, okay," before going back to making a sandwich.)

Why do you think Colin hates me so much? And why do you hate me too? [2/19/10, by 3stripedsocks]

For my readers' benefit, I believe Ms. Socks is referring to this thread, wherein I linked to some pictures of the Wednesday night soul dance and included a #makelanijealous hashtag.  This has led to a battle of disturbing-picture links which drifts ever-closer to Mutual Assured Goatse.cx.[1]

So, let us first establish:  Colin does not hate you.  If Colin *did* hate you, you'd know by the fact that you had somehow wound up in a Turkish Prison.[2]  Once you were stuck in a fetid, filthy cell, Colin would send you a musical greeting card that played a tinny recording of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" and bore the neatly-written message "I hate you so hard. :)"

You have also asked me why *I* hate you.

Perhaps we could address the broader question:  "What does it take to make Peter hate somebody?"  Generally, I'd say the quickest way for me to hate somebody is if they make a big effort to 'put me in my place'.  Look, in my day-to-day interactions, I play incredibly low-status.[3]  So I get really irate when anyone tries to obviously alpha-dog me around:  "WTF, are you afraid I might *apologize* in a way that threatens your ego?"

To a lesser extent, I'll get irritated with people who generally work at knocking other people down, but honestly I mostly notice how people treat *me*.  I'll bet I get biased by looks, too -- incredibly attractive people probably get more slack from me.  I'm probably also biased by whether or not somebody agrees with me about various issues, and whether I think someone is funny or not.

In any case, there are usually only a few people I really hate at any given time.

Now, on to the more specific question of why anyone would hate you in particular.  I can only ascribe a few possible causes:  (1) it could be a "picking on people you actually like" sort of thing; (2) we Austinites like you and we are irked that you moved away; or (3) you are doing something you're clearly passionate about, and the rest of us are jealous. :)

[1] Don't google that.  It refers to a really gross picture you don't want to look at.

[2] Useful reference:  the opening credits of The Prisoner.

[3] "Low status" is a term from improv/acting.

I was already well-aware of your lack of judgment towards others less "prudish" than you. But given that, another question just occurred to me: have you ever identified a source for why you're that way? Averse towards cussing, etc.? [2/19/10 by happywaffle]

For my readers' benefit, Mr. Waffle is referring to my earlier reply, which described how I don't drink, for example, but I don't feel judgmental towards people who do.

As to why I myself don't do anything risqué, I'm as befuddled as anybody.  I certainly wasn't raised in a restrictive atmosphere (a whole bunch of older siblings wore my parents down).

If I had to guess, I'd say it's all down to rollercoasters.  See, I hate rollercoasters.  I get on.  I spend five to ten minutes hating the world.  I get off.  As far as I can tell, the thrill that comes with doing something risky, or out-of-control, or full of surprises... there's just a burnt-out synapse somewhere in my brain that makes that feeling never happen.  So instead I'm just scared, and annoyed, and slightly nauseous.

Technically, this might be begging the question.  ("Why do I do prudish things?  Well, it's because I don't like un-prudish things.")  But that's really the best I can do.  A quiet, peaceful life makes me happy.

As for the "averse towards cussing" thing, I wouldn't say I'm *that* averse towards it.  I don't cuss on IM on my work computer out of some odd paranoia about workplace-monitoring.  In meatspace, I suppose I cuss as much as the people around me cuss.  *shrug*

How do you feel about America? [2/19/10, by SullyUT]

Eh, "unfit to judge it", frankly.  I've never lived in any other country, and never spent more than a week or two even visiting other countries.  So it's kind of like trying to answer "How do you feel about breathing oxygen?".  I have nothing to compare it to, so I don't really know.

Culturally, I can't even get a handle on America.  It feels like a zillion different cultures, and every time I try to find some common ground, I realize that I've disincluded half the country in the process.

As a political entity, my gut feeling is that it's a really noble concept that we keep failing to live up to.  I love the batshit-revolutionary Enlightment ideals we started out with.  And yet somehow we've settled into a decaying empire run by corporate plutocracy. 

So I suppose it's a love/hate relationship, there.

(Great.  Now I'm probably on some kind of government list.)

What's it like to have arms and legs? [2/19/10, by gelatinouscube]

It makes social dancing a bit tricky.  It's very tempting to move yourself around just with your legs, or move the follow around just with your arms, instead of moving from your core.  Bipedal motion is a bit of a fustercluck, if you know what I mean, but arms are pretty convenient for reaching stuff.

What sport do you like the most or dislike the least?  Athlete?  Why? [2/19/10, anonymous]

I'll answer your second question first.  "Athlete?"  No, I'm not.  You know the 'runner's high?'  I have never experienced anything like that -- exertion just brings me some combination of fatigue and pain.  The only way I can force myself to exercise is if I distract myself with TV or podcasts at the same time.  Couple that with a seething dislike of competition and a tendency towards peaceful/mellow activities, and ta-da!  I am not an athlete.

What sport do I dislike the least?

Well, first off, I'll happily watch any sport with Derek Asseff, a friend of mine from high school.  He loves sports, and when he watches a game with some ignoramus like me, he'll happily and clearly explain what he loves so much about what's going on, and soon you find yourself loving the game, too.

It's pretty awesome.

I guess "What sport do I dislike the least?" breaks down into two questions:  "What sport do I dislike the least to play?" and "What sport do I dislike the least to watch?"

I do have some happy memories of playing incredibly bad tennis with my friends at Rice.  I have very unhappy memories of taking a semester of golf at Rice.  (I managed to drive a golf ball straight into my own shin.  Ow ow ow.)  I still can't swim (in spite of repeated efforts to learn), so that sport is right out.  I played soccer as a kid, and I mostly remember it being unpleasantly fast and exhausting.  I went cross-country skiing once and really loved it (very peaceful), but I don't know if that's really a "sport" so much as a "nice walk through the snow".

So I'll let "incredibly bad tennis" win by default.

As far "What sport do I dislike the least to watch?"  Hmm.  That's tricky, because I don't watch any sports at all.  I could probably watch martial arts or fencing for a while without getting bored.

What was the question that you didn't answer? [2/23/10, by majcher]

Oh, somebody sent me "Boxers or briefs?" and I deleted it. 

For the record, "briefs".  At the time, I just didn't want to talk about my underwear, and I couldn't find a way to make the answer interesting.  I suppose I could have gone on a bit about how I've never really explored various kinds of underwear -- I just picked something, figured "I've solved the underwear problem", and focussed my energy on other pursuits.  That outcome probably says a lot about both (1) my lack of a love life, and (2) my desire to get "stupid meatbag stuff"[1] squared away and put out of mind so that I can focus on artsy stuff instead.

[1] "Stupid meatbag stuff" is my pet phrase for all the tasks you have to do to maintain your physical existence.  Food.  Water.  Washing.  Et cetera.

Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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