Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

10 Dec 2005, 7:26 a.m.

On Cutting Through Personal Style

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2005 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Sometimes I wonder why I like House (properly House, M.D.). After all, in real life, I'd shut a jerk like Greg House out of my life entirely. But then I remember the writing - not of the plots, but of individual bits of dialogue. The conversations between House and his consciously Watson-esque friend Wilson always slay me. Check the Wilson/House conversation when House is about to go on a date with the sweetest woman on the show:

Dr. James Wilson: [House is attempting to put on a tie before his date with Cameron] The wide side's too short. You're gonna look like Lou Costello.
Dr. Gregory House: This is a mistake. I don't know how to have casual conversation. You think you're talking about one thing, and either you are and it's incredibly boring, or you're not because it's subtext and you need a decoder ring.
Wilson: Open doors for her, help her with her chair -
House: I have been on a date.
Wilson: Uh, not since disco died. Comment on her shoes, her earrings, and then move on to D.H.A.: her Dreams, Hopes, and Aspirations. Trust me. Panty-peeler. Oh, and if you need condoms, I've got some.
House: [sarcastically] Did your wife give them to you?
Wilson: Drug rep. They got antibiotics built in, somehow.
House: I should cancel. I've got a patient in surgery tomorrow.
[House moves to the kitchen]
Wilson: And if you were a surgeon, that would actually matter. That's a good idea, settle your nerves. Get me a beer too.
House: No beer.
Wilson: You're gonna eat before dinner?
[House reaches into the fridge and takes out a corsage.]
House: This is pretty lame, right?
Wilson: I think she likes lame.

So my guess is that, after three years of customer service and living in The Real World, I've toughened my resistance to perceived arrogance. I can better derive useful data from what people say, even if I don't like the style, unless the style is the message in 90+% of cases, in which case I stop listening. This is why I've stopped reading Heather Havrilesky's snarky TV criticism and Skot Kurruk's blog. This is also why I keep reading, say, the Nielsen Haydens' lit/politics blog and software/economics essays by Paul Graham; I may not like their style of sweeping generalization, but they are saying interesting and important things, and I'm more willing to put up with unpleasant style for information and wisdom now than I used to be.

Someday I should really do an overhaul of my links page. It's inevitable but not urgent; learning what can wait and what can't is another skill I'm on the way to picking up.