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Written by Rob Schultz (human).

Cynicism

"You get to the age where you just like everything, ya know? Or you just find value in everything."  -Patton Oswalt

I want to like everything.  All of it.  I don't, of course.  And that's okay.  A lot of it is terrible. Too many things escape their creators without the time and attention they deserve; short films that aren't short enough or blog posts that nobody proofreads.   Still others are just what their creator intended, and I'll have to settle with disagreeing philosophically with speaking abominable internet phrases aloud or paintings that aren't blue.  But very rarely is anyone struggling with an eye to producing badly.  So I want to like it, just like I want to believe in all the ghosts and magic at the peripheral of our world, but sometimes that's hard to do.

What I don't want is to join in the (ever-less-)anonymous horde of internet commentators who shout dismissive, obvious, vicious, partisan, or thoughtless jabs at the news and gossip of the day.  Much of the crowd, for instance, that was taking up arms in January in support of Team Coco demonstrated that they are not listening, they are just swarming around the flavor of the day when one week later they're fully engaged in this decade's equivalent of the e-mail forward  re: Tiger Woods or the iPad announcement.

Social Media has allowed us to combine John Gabriel's GIFT with a rousing mob mentality.  I hate the deluge of variations on a one-liner that clog facebook feeds and twitter streams for the first two or three days months after a news story breaks (here's looking at you, Mr. iPad Nano Jokester!).   It is as though this is a group who is afraid to like anything at all, in case it turns out to be the wrong thing.  This is far from the worst thing on the internet, but I think we can aspire to better.

So how to sort the signal from the noise?   More to it, how to do so gracefully?  Can I poke at Mr. iNJ without dropping to his level?  Is there any reason to, or is it as inevitably ironic as complaining about the co-worker who talks behind everyone's backs?

Well, there's no sense being dismissive by class - to write off an entire genre of film would be - at best - to miss out on its most redeeming, shining examples.  I don't know what the shining glorious example of a teen sex comedy is, but I've seen a couple that were a whole lot better than the advertising suggested.  I'm more likely to watch a heist movie, but I'll bet at least half of the surprisingly vast American Pie saga is better than, let's say, How to Rob a Bank.

I imagine myself  an open-minded sort.  And yet, I find myself turning off more movies in the first ten minutes than ever before.  I can't possibly see every show or hear every podcast that catches my interest, certainly not while maintaining the notion that I create as well as consume, and especially because for all the offal on the (comforting graphic of tasteful wooden) shelves, there's such an awful lot of good out there too.  Not middling, not decent, not inoffensive, but terrific!  Even by IMDB's standards, I've still never seen 95 of the 250 best movies ever.  And really, of the 1650 or so that I've seen so far, there're less than 200 that I would enthusiastically recommend.

What I've settled on, for now, is narrowing the field.  My plan last year, to Improve My LA Experience, wasn't just about surrounding myself with better things. It was about identifying the bad influences, the drains on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and excising them.  So why not do the same here?  Certainly an artist who has repeatedly disappointed could come around and create something I enjoy, but after a few strikes it might just take some extra outside recommendations before I'm keen to give them another shot.  I'd be delighted to have new facts sway my opinion, but for now I don't know if I need to see another movie from Ang Lee or Paul Greengrass or Doug Liman or Ron Howard.  And it's oddly liberating to unfollow Mr. iNJ.

Remaining open to new experiences doesn't require staying open to negative ones.   I don't doubt that any number of chefs could make a delicious meal chock full of eggplants, but every experiment so far has been a round failure and I'm in no hurry to try again when there are so many other fine foods available.  The important thing here is that closing off certain avenues already explored means making a note on your map, not bricking up the alleyway, and certainly not standing in front of it for the rest of your life, chasing off anyone who comes near.

With the unprecedented amount of choice available, a life spent focused on just the stuff you hate is something I find baffling.  In the maelstrom of options, it can be difficult enough to focus on anything at all. Having so much choice is a luxury, and the opportunity to cultivate tastes is an even greater luxury, but there's a distinction between tastes acquired and acclimated.  Either one can be numbing on its own, and I've found the acclimated tastes fall by the wayside right quick in the face of a quality alternative.

There aren't a whole lot of people, places, or things that I love.  For me, that means a genuine boundless desire to grow and prosper and be joyful.  It's the purest form of well-wishing (not well wishing).  On the other hand, I have even fewer objects of enmity.  There are people I would not do business with or want to call on the phone.  There are movies I would not choose to see again.  They have all been strained out of my day-to-day and year-to-year life.  I rarely think of them, they are not even given the privilege of being the subject of my daily 5 minutes' hate.  But I've seen and known people who do choose to spend their days being furious.  The ones who are the best at it get themselves twisted up into this little, angry, ineffective coil of bitter.  These are the bigots who lie in wait for someone to mention one of their favorite topics so they can spring out at you from their peanut brittle can of choice into a well rehearsed, if ridiculous, tirade.

Might as well be angry at the moon.

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