Why are you so obsessed with celebrities?

I do a lot of celebrity profiles in my writing. This isn't because I'm obsessed with celebrities. This is because I'm obsessed with people.

I people-watch all the time. I think people are fascinating, and I also think the process by which we generate our guesses and impressions of people are fascinating. This is what happens when the kid nobody talked to in grade school goes into the social sciences. My family is bats and my classmates demonstrated a remarkable talent for bullying me and ignoring me at the same time, so I had very little meaningful or helpful social interaction as a kid. I pretty much had to teach myself socialization in my late teens and early twenties, the same way I taught myself everything else: by frantically inhaling as much information as I could and combing through it for patterns and rules.

The ability to read people is not unique to me. Most people can do it to some extent, and there are people out there who are far better at it than I will ever be. But because I'm an academic at heart, and I had to learn all this stuff explicitly much later in life than most people, I have developed the much rarer skill of being able to goddamn explain what I'm doing.

This is apparently of great value to other people. I've been told that my explanations are both interesting and informative to read, which is news to me -- this goes on in my head all the time, and it's pretty much always looked like that in there. But other people like them, so I keep on writing them. It's not easy to explain most of it without examples and visual aids, usually of the same person in a lot of different situations, and the easiest way to get that is to rummage around on YouTube for footage of celebrities. I generally pick my targets by whether they've done anything that caught my attention; most of them are musicians just because I listen to a lot of music. People sometimes ask me what I think of someone specific, which you are all welcome to do, although whether I have anything to say depends on whether I think they're interesting enough to zero in on.

I do occasionally feel like a voyeur doing this. I have a strict rule against using paparazzi photos or video for my observations, because I think they're hideous screeching vultures and want no part of their business. I only go hunting for interviews, shows, outside biographies, anything they've written themselves, and of course, their professional work. I don't tend to do current criminal cases; for those, you'll want Eyes for Lies instead. I do analyze fictional characters half to death, if the mood takes me -- I'm an amateur Sherlockian, for example -- so feel free also to send me recommendations for fiction.

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