Braving winter for no good reason

Yesterday we got about eight inches of snow here in Morgantown. That’s not a lot by Upper Midwest standards, but it’s fairly hefty for a hill-and-valley town with lots of ill-maintained streets. The governor even declared it a state of emergency. There was, to put it simply, some snow.

So what did we do? Well, after a 6 a.m. dog walk, Jess and I decided it would be a fantastic idea to drive to the movie theater and see Avatar. Understand first that this was not a fanboy activity. Although we were aware of Avatar, neither of us had given the movie much thought; we would not stand in line to see it. In fact, with the exception of Rifftrax this Wednesday, we haven’t been to see a movie since August, and there have been lots of them I’m much more interested in than Avatar.

Why go drive an ill-equipped Mitsubishi (with admittedly good tires) through unplowed streets in an ongoing blizzard to see a movie we both feel fairly apathetic about? I blame my upbringing. Up in the Frozen North, when you got a snow day it meant something – most people had snow tires, if not chains in the back of the truck, so it was rare that folks in Corry couldn’t make it to school/work.

I fondly remember one snow day because I’d rented A Link to the Past the day before, and the weather was so bad that we couldn’t return it, so I had all day to beat it. This, however, was a rare decision for a snow day. Where I’m from, what usually happens on snow days is everyone decides to get in their cars and drive to the store or the movies. People in snow boots stomping around Walmart, queued up for winter movies, and generally making all major roads even more congested and hazardous.

This kind of lunacy applies to my family just like any other. As with Black Friday, I’m pretty sure we didn’t do it right – snow days are for fun and doing stuff at home, not for driving 30 miles to Erie and seeing a movie you wouldn’t have seen under normal circumstances. Too dangerous to drive, and the state’s recommending you stay off the roads? Let’s go to the mall!

At least the people at the Granville movie theater had a sense of humor about things.

So how was Avatar? Pretty decent. I’ve read a surprising amount of heated opinion on both sides of it, but I thought it was a generally entertaining movie. The visuals are phenomenal – few are gonna argue with that – but about halfway through I started getting distracted by the mundanity of the story. It’s pretty standard fare, even cliched, and that started to wear on me. Also, Jess had to take off the 3D glasses because they were making her sick (but adorable):

As it continued, though, I swung back into the “like” side of things (though I’m curious to read the perspective of military audiences come the Monday overview stories – the Marines don’t exactly come off as noble). Most compelling to me, especially as the fridge brilliance set in, was the question of what it would be like to have an outsider wear the shape of your species. This is the peg upon which the movie hangs, and it gets explored not only with the titular avatars but with the space marines’ own prosthetics and mech suits, especially in the big finish. I wouldn’t have minded even more exploration of this theme, even at the expense of some of the (still fairly trite) plot elements. How would you feel if confronted by an alien wearing a human suit?

It’s a question that deserves some consideration today, when we’re creating multiple online personas. Facebook’s new privacy rules, for example, allow you (if you’re patient enough to make all the changes) to segregate certain content to certain audiences, e.g., friends or business. Some professors I know, like Paul Lester, are even experimenting with teaching classes on Second Life. To what extent does the skin you wear determine who you are, and just how mutable is the “real” person behind it? How liable is one persona for the actions of another?

Regardless of how many online personalities I spawn, though, at the end of the day I’m still a bonehead who likes to drive in the snow. There is not yet an app for that.