Sunday, August 28, 2005


So, it's actually been a year or something since I've seen the movie Sideways, but for some reason it always manages to come up in interesting conversations, as it did a few nights ago. I ended up loving the movie, even though I almost walked out of the theater (I had gone by myself) half an hour in.

So, what was great about the movie? I really don't care at all about the wine aspect. I'm not a big fan of wine. For me, wine was a metaphor for anything "otaku". Otaku is a good Japanese word that means somewhere between "fanatic" and "geek". Good examples of otaku are computer hackers and the guys who climb Mount Everest just for the hell of it.

If you've seen the movie, the otaku is Miles, played by Paul Giamatti. The non-otaku is Jack, played by Thomas Hayden Church (I just looked this crap up right now--I didn't know any of that off the top of my head). The movie is about a trip that Miles and Jack take from L.A. to Napa Valley, ostensibly to tour the wineries, though Jack's actual purpose is to have as much sex as he can before he gets married the following week.

Miles, meanwhile, has not recovered from a doomed marriage and does his best to avoid the intimacy of his past acquaintance and obvious soulmate, Maya. Halfway through the movie comes a very memorable scene. Jack has hooked up with a bartender and friend of Maya's named Stephanie, and the four, Jack, Stephanie, Miles and Maya find themselves at her house. Maya opens her soul to Miles, and they share a conversation about the perfect wine experience. Practically the only thing left to do is have sex, but Miles momentarily can't bring himself to it, and instead spoils the mood by hanging on to the topic of wine.

But it is a kind of turning point in the movie, after which Miles begins to fall for Maya. As they are driving away, separately, he gives her two boxfulls of pages that are the manuscript of his book and providing the thread that will keep them together.

The way I've set it up, there should be a moral to the story that's expressable in terms of otaku. Probably there's not. If there was, it would go something like this: it's not worth pretending your something that you're not. If you're an otaku, you might as well be an otaku. Miles is much better off with Maya than with his ex-wife. However, Jack might also be better off with his bride-to-be than with any of the people he just cheated on her with. He shuns the otaku world, and good for him. He was never one of them.

How does this relate to me?

I'm not sure whether I'm comfortable writing about all the ways it relates to me, but here's one basic way: I definitely think I'm an otaku. Not about wine, obviously, but about other things. I'm an otaku about languages, for one. Mostly though, I just want to think my way through things. I like understanding the technical arguments that people make. I like thinking about the theory of science, like how you can never really prove that a hypothesis is right, only that certain alternatives are wrong.