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February 14, 2006

What's My Favorite? I Dunno

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

You ask me what's my favorite movie, novel, painting, symphony, artist, food, composer, automobile, architect, etc.

I give you a dull stare in return.

Same deal if you ask about my least-favorite this or that.

It's not that I don't want to give you an answer. My problem (if it is one ... please Comment) is that I find it really hard to single out things I love or hate above all others.

This doesn't pose a problem in my daily existence. I most definitely have my likes and dislikes. My crisis occurs in social situations when, to make conversation, somebody asks something like "Who's your favorite science fiction author?" and others in the group quickly chirp out names.

How do they do it? Out of hundreds of writers, most of whom produced their quota of gems and trash, people can select just one.

Me, I get to thinking: "Hmm. Space Opera. Doc Smith? Nah -- classic, but pretty crude. Does Jerry Pournelle qualify? Time travel? Maybe Poul Anderson in his better moments. Is Anderson better than Pournelle? But one can never ignore Heinlein. Still, the later Heinlein isn't as fun to read as his earlier stuff. And Asimov maintained an even quality strain, so he shouldn't be ignored. Newer writers? Well, I just don't read much fiction of any kind these days". And so it goes.

There are times when I actually can come up with a favorite, but that favoritism is usually fleeting. At one time I think "Gee that Offenbach is quite a melodist and listening to his music is sure fun." A month later I decide I prefer Schubert. After a while I'm back to Beethoven.

But I really do like chocolate ice cream best. Except when I was young and preferred strawberry.

One thing you can count on: 2Blowhards is my favorite blog.



posted by Donald at February 14, 2006


Eh, favorites are for losers. Er, except for my favorite blogs, of which this is one!

(As a kid in grade school I wrote about the all the colors in the rainbow when asked to pick a favorite color. I couldn't pick just one!)

Posted by: MD on February 14, 2006 9:16 PM

"Out of the Past"

Mitchum,Geer,Douglas,d Tourneur

I have no problem saying this, but this is where I stop.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on February 14, 2006 10:01 PM

You ask me what's my favorite movie - The Unknown (Browning, 1927)
novel - Treasure Island
painting - American Gothic
symphony - Eroica
artist - Giovanni Pisano
food - mashed spuds
composer - Beethoven
automobile - Bentley
architect - Palladio

Easy-peasy. You'd better stay away from The Gorge of Eternal Peril, Donald.

With artists, I consider them favorites if I even like the turkeys. F'rinstance, Dylan is a favorite of mine because I'll gladly listen to his worst rubbish - Self Portrait, Under the Red Sky, Down In The Groove - and even enjoy it. But The Beatles are not favorites because I only like the same tunes everyone else does.

Posted by: Brian on February 14, 2006 11:56 PM

Asking for a favorite is a sorting tool and conversation starter. People like to groove with people who like the same things. By saying "my favorite books are ..." you are saying something about yourself, and inviting someone to say something in response, to get a conversation going. I had a post recently on ChicagoBoyz about military history books. It got a ton of hits. Everybody wanted to weigh in with the ones they liked, and people like to hear about others in their category that they might not have already heard of.

And even if you don't have a "favorite" novel, if I gave you a list of 100 novels and asked you to cross out the ones you don't know, underline the ones you like, and put a star next to ones you liked a lot, you could do it, even if you did not have to say which of the starred ones were your favorites. And it would get the conversation going the same way.

Over-theorizing this point, I think, misses the point.

BTW, Doc Smith may be too crude (I'll concede that arguendo), but it is still a page-turner.

BTW II, 2Blowhards is one of my favorites. Of course.

Posted by: Lexington Green on February 15, 2006 12:12 AM

I guess its ok to have a favourite in context at any time, but not for ever.

Or....there must be something wrong with you :)

That's life.

look from

Posted by: look on February 15, 2006 9:58 AM

Yeah, it's really just a game.

To quoth the Genie in Aladdin: "Talk about her. She's smart, fun. The hair, the eyes. Anything. Pick a feature!"

Posted by: Yahmdallah on February 15, 2006 11:10 AM

I'm like you. It's like when people say "What do you do for fun?" Wellll...lots of things. What exactly are you asking? What's wierd to me is that people actually catalog themselves so extensively that they can immediately answer. It's like they walk around thinking---"what are my favorite things?" Like they are so interesting everyone would want to know. The closest I can come is that I guess blue is my favorite color.

The other element is the awkward social behavior---"What's your favorite science fiction author?" Who the hell thinks that's a conversation starter? It's like they are putting the other person on the spot. Why don't they just say "I read a good book by Robert Heinlein..." or something like that? Do they notice that signficant numbers of people move to the other side of the room quickly?

Posted by: annette on February 15, 2006 11:16 AM

A lot of people are quick (with answers to the "favorite" question)...and superficial. At least that what I like to console myself with when I can't come up with an answer.

But seriesly, annette's comment about the rudeness of the question is trenchant.

Posted by: ricpic on February 15, 2006 12:16 PM

When I was teaching English, grades 7 - 12, there was often a piece of the time allotted when we'd finished everything we wanted to do that day. So I'd make up "favorite" questions to ask. "What are your favorite socks like?" The kids loved it. They paid better attention than they did during the lesson. Sometimes we roused some non-vocal person into an opinion. I think it's an exercise in self-definition, useful in situations where people are unknown or one's own self is unknown to oneself.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on February 15, 2006 12:20 PM

I will disagree here with my friend Lex and agree with Annette. It's one thing to volunteer that you like something: that's sharing. But to ask a stranger what he likes may be to put him on the spot and tends to reflect a certain social cluelessness on the part of the questioner. Annette's point about favorites is also well taken: what kind of adult goes around thinking about such things? Sure I like vanilla ice cream, but tomorrow I may like chocolate more, so what difference does it make whether I declare a favorite? Maybe we should also declare who we are best friends with. The social line between my favorites list and Star Trek Convention is a fine one.

Posted by: Jonathan on February 15, 2006 12:41 PM

Lexington -- I have no problem if someone asks "What are some of our favorite [item class]?" I can handle coming up with various symphonies or cars or history books or whatever. It's just that I have real trouble if I'm forced to name only one. Actually I don't encounter this much except in party-game situations, but I thought my reaction was interesting -- I know it's hard for me to simply fib an answer just to keep things rolling. Sigh ... c'est moi!

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 15, 2006 10:48 PM

Back at my old job, there was an occasion when the whole department was given some supplemental computer training. One of our little class projects was for teams of two to design a logo for a hypothetical company. Working on my own, I came up with a design using my favorite color -- blue-green. It always has been my favorite color; and I distinctly remember responding to it and identifying it as my favorite as a very young child. For the logo project, I imagined the blue-green and associated other blue and green tones as representing the coolness and shadiness of an underwater grotto in the lagoon of some tropical island.

My co-worker and teammate for the logo project was a middle-aged woman. She looked at my idea and said the color scheme was so overwhelmingly and revoltingly MASCULINE that it made her SICK. I was dumbfounded. The blue for boys and pink for girls tradition aside, I hadn't even thought of blue-green as an expression of my testosterone. Like I said, I saw it as refeshing coolness, shade and shadow beneath the sea. But this woman practically screamed at me, and just about accused me of trying to DOMINATE her with my MACHO MALE ATTITUDE. Not only that, I KNEW exactly what I was doing, and she KNEW I KNEW.

Geeze...I would have thought a macho male color would be fire-engine red, say on a Corvette.

Meanwhile, her logo design was something with hot pinks and yellows, which kind of turned me off as being just too... flashy. I don't know. I just don't care for reds and yellows. Too bright. Hurt my eyes.

Again, I was dumbfounded by the whole thing. Didn't know what to say. Hadn't seen it coming. And the woman wasn't even the department's crusading feminist (we had one, but that person would have been much more reasonable, I'm sure) and had never before vehemently expressed herself on the subject of gender-appropriate colors. I'm still baffled as to where it came from.


Posted by: Dwight Decker on February 16, 2006 6:12 PM

But this woman practically screamed at me, and just about accused me of trying to DOMINATE her with my MACHO MALE ATTITUDE. Not only that, I KNEW exactly what I was doing, and she KNEW I KNEW.

Poor Dwight. I like blue-green, too. Of all the macho male stuff I've witnessed, this wouldn't make the first three lists.

I think you should apply M Blowhard's phrase: what a wierdo!

Posted by: annette on February 21, 2006 3:06 PM

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