2008 archive

Speaking of New York…

Speaking of New York...

Things and people spotted on the my daily commute that made me smile:

  • A guy intently reading a book on astrophysics, but who kept looking up furtively when he changed pages. I ended up sitting next to him. Glanced down at the page he was reading and discovered the book only had an astrophysics cover — inside was You: The Owner’s Manual. Good luck self-helping, subway guy! (Meant sincerely. Goodness knows I could have handled a fake cover for, say, Hot Target, the cover of which is much more neon pink that that image shows.)
  • “Scary” teenagers — mohawks, lots of piercings, studded leather jackets, the works (picture the guys from Star Trek IV, who hassled Kirk and Spock when they were taking public transit, except with music-playing cellphones instead of boomboxes) — who got up and gave their seats to a group of little old ladies.
  • A panicked tourist who caught me on my way to work this morning, and demanded to know where the nearest Starbucks was. (There are four within four blocks of my office. But it was clearly a coffee crisis. I sympathize.)

And finally, perhaps my favorite thing I’ve ever seen during my commute…

  • An off-duty clown. I actually noticed the shoes first — they were huge and bright red. I wondered why someone was wearing clown shoes in real life, then actually looked up at the guy and saw a baggy clown suit — with a regular demin jacket over it. He’d apparently washed his face, but smears of white makeup remained around his hairline. He was holding a large box labeled ‘TRICKS’ on his lap, and — like pretty much everyone else on the subway — listening to an iPod and zoning out. Hey, the commute home is universal, I guess.

Horrible Thoughts

So I watched Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. And I really enjoyed it! Until the finale.

First, in full disclosure: I’m not a Whedon fangirl. I was at most pretty much indifferent to Buffy and Angel; I watched them on occasion, but never got the big deal. I could see a lot of effort being put into making Buffy a dynamic female lead, which I appreciate, but I also spent a lot of time going, “…Really?” because there were areas where the show seemed to me to fail. But I’m sure those criticisms have been tackled by others, who are far more familiar with the show than I am, so that’s not what this entry is about. Also: I’ve never seen Firefly/Serenity. I kind of meant to get around to it, but never really had much of an urge, so it hasn’t happened. However, I’ve also always appreciated that, while he doesn’t do a perfect job, Whedon at least seems to always try, when it comes to female characters. He knows the world needs good ones, he does his best to put them out there, and he never comes across as a grandstanding douche who just wants recognition for writing good women even when he doesn’t do a good job, Aaron Sorkin.

Wait, got sidetracked.

Basically, what I’m saying is that I’m pretty indifferent to Whedon, but positively-inclined. And so the end of Dr. Horrible pisses me off hugely, because it really seems like he didn’t even try, and embraced everything he’s always stood against. More, with spoilers, below the cut.

A Short Survival Guide to Dating Someone Who Doesn’t Get It

Oh lordy, this sort of thing again. While I don’t find that article particularly offensive (though… fairy tales? Really?), it’s back to a whole bunch of pretty dumb concepts. Specifically the one-two punch of “Scifi is for boys and girls don’t get it!” and “Girls who do like scifi are amaaaaaazing and I looooooooooove them.” On the assumption that I don’t need to retread why either one of those points is ridiculous, let’s move on.

I’ve been the half of a relationship who loves scifi, with a significant other who thought it was, at best, silly — but mostly thought it was kind of dumb and immature. And it is indeed frustrating, but guess what? The way to deal with that was not being thinking about how awesome the dude in question would have been if only he had liked the same things I did. Because here’s a thing about relationships: why would you ever be in one if you aren’t happy with the person you’re dating? Not an idealized version of who you’re dating, not what you hope that person can someday become. Why would you date someone if you don’t like him or her for who he or she is?

Look, I have no real qualifications for giving relationship advice. I’ve been in a few serious relationships but am single at the moment. I’m not a therapist. But here’s a quick rundown of how I survived and (gasp!) enjoyed being in a relationship with a non-scifi-lover. And guess what? It wasn’t by trying to change him. It was pretty much all things I did, and internal decisions on my part.*

ONE: Accept that you and your partner have different feelings about scifi, and his feelings are not positive. You know what? Science fiction certainly contains great literature, great stories, and great concepts and characters; it also contains a lot of things that are ridiculous. It’s associated with being a big nerd. So it’s kind of on you to accept that hey — you love something that’s nerdy and sometimes ridiculous.

This wasn’t such a big deal for me, but I do my best to empathize with people who have a hard time with it. That scifi is nerdy and ridiculous is not a negative thing, or a negative reflection of you as a person. It’s not bad. It’s not a problem. It is what it is; you are who you are. Know thyself. Embrace thyself. Don’t be ashamed of who you are or what you love: that’s painful. If you’re secure in your own tastes, you’ll not just feel better overall, but you won’t feel as much need for your partner to love what you love to validate you.

TWO: Relationships are about people coming together, not becoming each other. It’s not just that you shouldn’t need your partner’s approval to validate your interests, it’s that it’s completely okay to have interests and hobbies that you and your partner doesn’t share. There’s no reason why you should do everything together, and it’s always seemed to me to be way healthier to have your own identity than to get subsumed by a relationship anyway. Yay for feminism, which has certainly helped me learn and internalize that idea.

THREE: Respect goes both ways. Your partner may not like scifi, and may not get scifi, but that doesn’t entitle your partner to make disparaging comments about something he knows you love. Communication is hard, and calling someone you care about out for making you feel bad is often even harder, but regardless of how he feels about the genre, he should respect you — your intelligence, and your taste — enough to not say things that will make you feel shitty about a hobby you love.

However, this is a two-edged blade. He has every right to dislike scifi, and to think it’s ridiculous. Expressing those feelings in a way that’s still respectful to you is hard, but if he does, guess what? He’s not any less intelligent than you are, and there’s nothing wrong with him for not getting it. You’re not entitled to disparage him for that, either.

So yeah, it’s hard to talk about it, sometimes. Ideally, he’d be able to enjoy your glee when you find something you really love and adore even if he doesn’t get it, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the best you can do really is to respectfully simply agree to disagree and change the topic to something neither one of you will find frustrating.

FOUR: If you feel you must — really, truly must — try and get him into science fiction, there is no magic combination of shows/movies/books that is guaranteed to work. Approaching in terms of “girls like fairy tales,” or “boys like space ships,” isn’t going to fly, because this isn’t about what a group of people allegedly likes. It’s about what your partner, specifically, might like. You know your partner’s tastes in stories and characters; only you can gage what he or she might appreciate.

My recommendation, if you’re going to do this, is also in how you approach it. Tell your partner, “Hey, I think you might like this one, I think it would be cool if we watched it together.” Be prepared to accept a similar overture in response, or even to suggest one. Don’t over-intro or spend too much time talking up whatever you’re suggesting: you want him to feel free to respond genuinely, not to force himself to have a positive reaction to please you — that will only lead to resentment down the line. Be okay with giving up or turning it off if he doesn’t like it after all. Be prepared for him to like one or two specific shows or books, but not interested in the genre as a whole. Try not to be too disappointed if these things happen, because not everyone will get it.

Hey. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Either way as long as what he does get is that it’s important to you and a part of who you are, and as long as he likes you for who you are… Well, at the end of the day, does it really matter if he gets science fiction or not?

* From this point forward, I’m talking from my perspective, which is as a woman who loves scifi dating a dude who does not. This relationship is obviously not indicative of all kinds of relationships out there. So not only may what works for me not work for everyone, but I’ve got no idea how this might apply to other kinds of relationships.

As Epitomized by Captain Planet, Really

Conversation from work yesterday:

Coworker: And besides, superheroes must have great carbon footprints.

Me: That’s true. When Superman flies home to Kansas to visit his folks, he definitely isn’t taking a plane! Not like Lex Luthor, taking a private jet all over…

Coworker: See, there’s saving the world…and then there’s saving the world.

New York City Deathsport

Today, I’m pretty sure, was the first day of New York’s Deathsport season. Like baseball, Deathsport has a fairly long season, though less predictable: it starts when the weather begins to consistently hit the upper 70s and above, and lasts until the weather no longer does that.

The rules are simple: catch a subway in Manhattan during rush hour. Don’t die. If you make it to your destination alive, you win.

This is not as easy as it sounds.

First, while you might think that what with the giant tunnels and all, subway platforms would get pretty good air circulation, you’d be wrong. They’re stuffy, and when you have the outdoor heat plus bodyheat (and during rush hour, platforms are elbow-to-elbow crowded in a lot of stations), you will find it sweltering. If your train doesn’t come soon (and don’t let the phrase “rush hour” fool you, it won’t), you may well overheat and keel over…and as the hospital is (presumably) not your planned destination, you lose at Deathsport.

Now let’s say that after four local trains go by in a row, your uptown express finally stops. Here is round two of Deathsport: getting on the train. Because it’s the first express to come by in twenty minutes or so, your train will doubtlessly be packed. Assume you can’t get on: repeat round one until you can, or until you die (and thus lose at Deathsport). However, if enough people disembark from the train that there’s room to get on, prepare yourself. First, you have to hold your ground against the relentless waves of people coming off, all of whom will be heading for the staircase directly behind you. If you get run over by a mom with a stroller, you lose at Deathsport. If you get pushed too far back to catch your train, go back to round one. But if you hold your ground, you can now begin to fight it out in the hand-to-hand combat portion of the game, trying to get on to the train before it is too crowded to allow any more passengers, and/or before the conductor closes the doors in your face. If you get blocked out of the train, you lose at Deathsport. If the door closes on your body and you aren’t a highly experienced player, you likely lose at Deathsport. (You also lose an arm.)

If, however, you have the cunning and fortitude to make it on to your train, proceed to round three.

Round three is the endurance round, lasting anywhere from five to seventy city blocks, or roughly between a quarter of a mile and four and a half miles. In this round, you are stuck in your car. On the plus side, many (but not all) subway cars have air conditioning. On the down side, rush hour cars are so crowded that you likely will find yourself longing for the freedom of the platform, where you could move almost six inches in any given direction. That is no longer the case: if you are claustrophobic or don’t deal well with crowds or with strangers pressing against you, you’ll likely end up sobbing or screaming, in which case you lose at Deathsport. Here, your challenge is to stand perfectly still regardless of the teenagers shoving each other next to you, the lawyer who continuously tries to shove his briefcase into your kidney, or the woman dancing to her iPod who doesn’t notice that her super-awesome kick-step involves coming down directly on your foot.* This is also a balance challenge: there are so many people between you and the nearest hand-hold that you have no way to hold yourself up. If you have inner-ear problems, you lose at Deathsport.

Round three presents an additional challenge to those of us who are less than average height: the people around you will likely be holding onto the ceiling-mounted bar, which you can’t reach. However, the bar is at the correct height to leave you nose-to-armpit with your neighbors. If you require fresh air to breathe (or indeed any air at all), you lose at Deathsport.

Round four, the final round, is a reverse round-two. You fight your way back towards a door, in an attempt to get out of the subway car before the crowd on the platform presses their way inside, sealing you in forever. Once you’ve reached the platform, you’re faced with vertical turnstiles and impatient people behind you, and if you can’t jump out of the way in time as you exit, you will be crushed against the exit itself and lose at Deathsport.

If, however, you have successfully navigated your way this far, congratulations! You win at Deathsport! Your prize is fresh city air, which smells rather like rotting garbage and dogshit. Ah, summer in New York.

Other fun New York games: Dodge the Gawking Tourist, Don’t Get Lost in Central Park**, and Wait Three Hours for Dinner in the East Village, among many others.

* Unless, like me, you are that girl. Sorry.
** I lose at this one a lot. I can enter the park on the East side, walk westward in a straight line, and somehow exit the park on the East side again. Seriously.