I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known -- cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all --
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
--Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson
I love life, and that enthusiasm infuses all of my sundry interests and everything else I do.
Strangely enough, however, my favorite sort of story is romantic-heroic tragedy, so no, I'm not simply a happy-go-lucky sort. Indeed, though I love Shakespeare's comedies, I prefer his tragedies (though my single favorite play is Henry V, one of his histories -- go figure). This preference for tragedy is the reason that my favorite mainstream Hollywood film is Gladiator (though my taste in film typically tends towards intelligent -- as opposed to "let's be different purely for the sake of difference" -- art films (think Twelve Monkeys or Gattaca or Jacob's Ladder)).
This is probably why my interest was initially piqued by anime -- there's so much wonderful heroic and romantic tragedy. However, as you can see from my Top 5 list, my taste in anime is broader than that. I enjoy a wide spectrum of genres, including such charming shows as KamiChu! and Azumanga Daioh.
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For what it's worth -- on a completely different topic -- that avatar actually is me. One of my hobbies is community theatre, and that's me as the Pirate King in a production of Pirates of Penzance.
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As much as I love great stories (anime, literature, theatre), and I very much do love them (spending a great deal of my time reading and viewing), I love doing even more. I am a skydiver with over 500 jumps, I'm a PADI Scuba Divemaster, I've been an avid rock climber and mountaineer for over a decade, I love to ski, and I'm a skilled fencer (epee is my primary weapon).
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The first anime I ever saw (and had any clue it was anime) was Galaxy Express 999. I was intrigued, but didn't have the time or resources to pursue any further viewing of the artform (this was over 20 years ago). A few years back, a friend of mine who worked in Hollywood saw a screening for the animators at Disney of Princess Mononoke, and e-mailed me about it. I managed to get a copy after Touchstone released it, and I was hooked.
I was already in love with the films of Akira Kurosawa and fascinated by Japanese culture (as well as other cultures of the Orient -- I lived in Hong Kong for awhile), so it was an easy fit for me.
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A few more trivia facts about me:
My favorite novel is Moby Dick (and no, I really didn't like Hakugei). I think Frank Herbert (the author of Dune) was the greatest literary genius of the 20th century (an opinion, unfortunately, not shared by many "true" literary types -- having been to grad school in English, I've certainly had my fill of what they do consider great). I have read everything Herbert ever wrote (with the caveat, of course: published writings). Every few years I re-read the Dune series.
I love good literature, poetry (I'm arbitrarily separating poetry from the rest of literature) and cinema. A few examples,
Literature: Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Conrad and, yes, the great Jane Austen. (What can I say? I like chick-lit, as long as it's not the anti-male variety -- that stuff is just plain boring.) The greatest literary genius of all time, of course, was the divine William Shakespeare (and no, his works weren't written by somebody else).
Poetry: Alfred Lord Tennyson, of course, and William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Milton, William Blake.
Cinema: Akira Kurosawa, David Lean, The Coen Brothers (though, in their case, I only really like the lighter stuff, such as the sadly ignored Hudsucker Proxy), Terry Gilliam, Hayao Miyazaki, Cecille B. DeMille.
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What else can I say about myself? We are not necessarily a sum of our genetic parts, but I do have Shakespearian actors, Scottish border raiders (interestingly enough, those are actually my relatives being executed by the English king at the beginning of Braveheart -- they were literally/historically members of my clan), soldiers of fortune, whalers and even a few real, honest-to-goodness pirates in my family tree. Fortunately, I also have some ancestors who just stayed home and raised a family and didn't wind up making a one-way trip to the gallows. :)
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A few of my heroes: George Washington (here was a man who could have been king, and turned it down -- an amazing man who put principles before power); George Mallory (I believe it was he, not Edmund Hillary, who first summited Everest -- the evidence points toward Mallory dying on the way down from the summit, not the way up); Clara Barton (a great humanitarian, and great lady); Leonardo da Vinci (what an amazing and fascinating mind -- and man); Neil Armstrong (okay, partially because he's a distant cousin).
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Thinking about the sort of things people use to define themselves (with likes and dislikes), food comes to mind. I'm actually defined by food in a somewhat unorthodox manner: I'm not particularly a food person. I can survive just fine up in the mountains with granola bars and dehydrated meals -- and not go crazy. While there are things I do enjoy (e.g. there's nothing quite like a good salmon steak, or a piece of Key Lime pie made from scratch), food isn't particularly central to my life -- except that one must eat to survive, of course. ;)
However, I like to try new things, and I'll try just about anything once. I've had fried grasshoppers (a form of locust), dog (my apologies to dog lovers -- it was a cultural experience, don't hate me), as well as thousand-year-old eggs (okay, they're really only a few months old, but that's what they call them). I do like to try local cuisine because I think food can say a lot about people and cultures, but when I'm involved in some project that takes a lot of focus I will often simply forget to eat. Weird, eh?
Here's an example (and an important lesson learned by me): I recently was summiting a local mountain for the third time (it stands at just under 12,000 feet (just over 3,500 meters)). I woke up at 2 a.m. and explored an alternative route (almost all the way to the summit) for several hours. When I got back to camp at 5 a.m. the others had already broken camp and so we all headed up my new route. We summited, watched a gorgeous sunrise, and then headed down. About six miles into the hike out (this was on the way down) I got "bonked" hard (carb depleted). This was actually the first time in my life I've ever hit the wall. At least now I know what people are talking about -- how's that for looking on the bright side? ;)
It was at that point I realized I hadn't eaten anything since the night before, but I had nearly summited twice, and hiked for many miles along the way. I had to eat, then sit for awhile until the carbs hit my system, in order to finish the hike out (another 3 miles). Making sure I eat is now on my conscious "to do" list when I'm in the mountains. :P
I took great care a few weeks later to make sure I didn't carb deplete and I managed to summit two different peaks in the 13,500 foot range (4,100 meters -- one just over, one just under) in a two day period with no problems. So that's your Important Safety Tip for the day. :)
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I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.
--Sea Fever, John Masefield
I love tall ships. There is something fundamentally soul-longingly romantic about sailing far out on an endless ocean. This feeling is in my blood -- I have a great many ancestors who heard and answered the call of the sea.
I've actually sailed on tall ships several times, once as a member of the crew (the Sorlandet out of Norway). I think the greatest moment of my life was furling sails 60 feet up in the rigging in the middle of a raging storm on the North Sea. I felt more alive than at any other moment (and I've had my share of adventures). :)
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"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet ... then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."
--Moby Dick, Herman Melville
It's not poetry, but it almost could be. :)
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There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me --
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads -- you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
--Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson