Take

I’m writing this blog post so that I don’t have to murder a kitten to exorcise my anger. See, I scraped a dude’s car. It was my fault. I was driving in a big city (which always makes me nervous), then changed lanes without looking to make sure it was unoccupied and swiped his door and front bumper. Surveying the damage, my untrained eye judged that the damage would take about $500 to fix. It doesn’t even look that bad. But my father, after seeing pictures, said that it would cost over $1000, easily. How the fuck is that even possible? Do they have to replace the entire door just to fix one little dent? Honestly, it wouldn’t even be worth fixing except that the dude’s mother (who is the car owner, not the dude himself) apparently takes very good car of that car. Fuck. Everything.

Of course, my father will cover the damages. He’ll have to. He asked me about my plans to find a second job not too long ago. I told him I had no such plans. He asked me what my long-term goals were. I told him that I was trying to become the best possible coffee shop employee that I could. Because, you see, he’s planning to move to SoCal to be with my mother early next year. They’ve been living in separate states and flying back and forth to see each other for the last six years or so and are understandably anxious to be living together again. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t want to move to SoCal and I don’t think I’ll be able to make enough on this job alone to pay for rent, groceries, loans, and coke orgies. But I will be goddamned if I’ll get another job when I’m still learning the ropes at my current one just because he wants me to. I just wish I weren’t so dependent on him. And that one momentary slip-up didn’t cost so much. And that all of you were dead.

Maybe I should go volunteer with a local organization that I like. I’m sure I can find one. I scraped a parked car last year and the damage (at least, what I had to pay) was just under $900. The crunch that I made as I hit that car was sickening. It sounded like somebody had died even though there was nobody inside. I could have just hit and run, but decided that would be dishonest. Hitting and running for this recent incident would have been difficult, as the dude would almost certainly have been able to remember my license plate number and find me. But sometimes I wish I were a terrible person. It would make my life so much easier. What the fuck do I have to show for all this? A low-paying job customer service job (which, given my antisocial inclinations, is very stressful), a home that I don’t own and will have to move out of soon, a fuckton of debt, and a whole lot of time spent masturbating. I hate everyone.

Ever want to just disappear?

Ever want to just disappear?

I’m not sure if I’m making myself clear here. Look around. Do you see a window? Jump out of it. Make sure you go headfirst. If you’re on the ground floor, you might have to headbutt the pavement a couple times to finish the job. Do you think I’m joking? Fuck you. I’m so angry right now that I can barely even sleep. One. Thousand. Dollars. Fuck. Everything. And as always, I was just starting to feel excited about my future. Why do I allow myself to feel optimistic?

I guess fixing car doors is harder than fixing fenders or headlights. All I know is that the sound I made as I hit this dude’s car really didn’t sicken me the way the last one did, and that ought to count for something. Maybe the last guy’s insurance paid for some of it? I have no idea. I don’t even know much about insurance. The furniture in my room is banged up and missing pieces because every time I get angry, I hit something. I’ve destroyed shit I like because I couldn’t stop myself. You try sitting alone in your room all day with no friends or distractions and see what that does to you. I’m not a freak. I don’t even think I have anger management issues because I haven’t struck another human being in almost a decade. But I am angry all the same. I deserve much, much better than this.

There was a required course in my final semester of grad school that frustrated the living hell out of me. Conceptually, it was very easy, but there was so much busywork that it was common to spend six to nine hours on a single assignment, sometimes more. Even though I probably worked harder than others, I couldn’t get the hang of it. My spreadsheets didn’t look right. It’s not difficult to set up a spreadsheet, but I just…couldn’t picture it. So I consistently scored lower than my classmates on assignments on which the class average was around 98%. Somehow, even with sample spreadsheets to use as a template, I could spend hours staring at a blank screen before even setting up a table. Maybe I’m just not very detail-oriented. By contrast, they’re constantly telling me that I’m taking too long to finish tasks at my current job. I guess that’s because I’m a perfectionist.

I got an A in that class, by the way. The professor gave almost everybody A’s (just for effort, I’m guessing). I remember looking at that grade on my report card and thinking that, just once, I might have earned a pleasant surprise. I feel like I could use a pleasant surprise right now. Which means I won’t get one for a very, very long time.

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Don’t Answer Me

Why is youthful romance so difficult to portray in an interesting way? I know people who absolutely hate Romeo & Juliet, although the whole point of that one is that the main characters are just nitwits who think they’re in love, so if you read it as a satire, it’s pretty good. The Tempest is a great play, but easily the most boring aspect of it is Miranda’s romance with whatshisname, whom she falls in love with, literally, at first sight and marries after knowing for about one afternoon. Jesus. Not surprisingly, my favorite Shakespeare play is Antony & Cleopatra, which is about two flawed, complicated people who realize that they share something and decide to have a go at it anyway. I see a lot of plays, movies, and books about meeting that special someone. I would like to see more about what you do once you’ve met that special someone. According to The Winter’s Tale, you immediately become paranoid that they’re cheating on you and fuck everything up royally. It’s ironic that even though Shakespeare’s men are terrified of being cuckolded, the only example I know of a woman actually cheating is in King Lear. Draw your own conclusions.

I saw a play not too long ago. It was an erotic gay comedy about coming out and finding love. I’m not going to name the play or where I saw it because this is not a review, and I don’t want people to think I’m bashing it when all things considered, I had a pretty good time. It was really funny. An old theater friend of mine was in it, and she was great, too. But with that out of the way, I have to ask: Why is so much gay fiction about coming out? Coming out, as Harvey Milk said, is the most important thing any LGBT person can do, but it’s hardly the most interesting. The play started, we were introduced to the nice couple, then it flashed back to how they met, and I realized that that flashback would be the whole play. I would have rather seen what life was like for them after 20 years.

Adolescence is difficult for anyone, so dealing with a sexual awakening on top of the realization that you are part of a persecuted minority is a lot to take. That’s why it can take so long to get over it, if “get over” is the right term, which I don’t quite think it is. So much of the world is still hung up on this shocking fact that yes, some men like other men, and some women like other women. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. The evidence that a child’s sexuality is determined when they’re still in the womb is piling up, and to top it off, the factors that control for it are so numerous and variegated that we couldn’t engineer a child’s sexuality even if we wanted to. (Well, some do, but I don’t.) Clearly, God (or nature, if you prefer) saw homosexuality as part of the divine plan, and did not want anybody to tamper with it. It’s here to stay, is what I’m trying to say, and so deeply wired into people that it’s there long before they even know it. It can take a long time to get used to that, which is why, again, coming out can be so damned difficult. Even if everyone already knows and is just waiting for you to say something (and you know they know), it’s scary. And some experiences stick with you no matter what.

At the same time, there is a sense of entitlement that can come with being accepted by everyone around you. Part of the reason that I never got seriously involved with any of the LGBT organizations in college (well, there was one, but I was only semi-involved) is because they are all primarily geared towards helping people accept their own sexuality/gender identity, then helping others accept that fact about them. That’s important, but there’s more to it than that. It’s about building up a cultural and political identity as much as it is about accepting that you like cock (if you’re a guy, which I am). That does not have to mean watching Mean Girls over and over again (funny movie, but seriously!). It’s subtler than that.

brokebackThe message, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” is relevant and somehow a bit trite at the same time. I want to know what happens once people have gotten used to it. Paradoxically, that might help some of us get used to it. We have to walk a fine line between recognizing that it was not so long ago that homosexuality was still classified as a mental disorder and the thought of gays getting married was, at best, a distant dream, and understanding that even then, it wasn’t just about which team you play for. Brokeback Mountain is one of my favorite modern-day love stories, but depending on how you look at it, it’s not really a gay movie, is it? There’s nothing overtly political about it, and it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a film that has the same basic plot points but features, say, a ranch hand who falls in love with the rancher’s daughter but can’t have her because of classism or something, Okay, so it wouldn’t be quite the same movie, but it’s easier to picture than a straight version of Weekend.

I don’t want to sound like a crank here. The Daily Show had a great segment about this a few years ago that I’ve probably linked to before, but will link to again just to make a point. If I had to boil this down, I would say that while it is important not to be defined by one’s sexuality or gender, it is important to not completely not be defined by it either. Think about it.

End

gravity

I posted the John Denver version of this song a few days ago, but since I like it so much, here’s the original songwriter performing it. It’s a very pretty song. My choir performed it way back in elementary school, and while I’m not a country person, I do like this version quite a lot.

I’m not the kind of person who locks themself out of their car, except when I just did that for the first time ever. I got very angry. My father was sick and had left me the car for the day, which was nice, as I was going to take a train to grab lunch at In-N-Out Burger, then catch a showing of Gravity. Now I had a car instead. Except I locked myself out. That has never happened. It enrages me when shit like this happens, because I’m generally very cautious. I’m the kind of person who will look over their shoulder when changing lanes, then look over it again as they’re turning the wheel in case a car magically appeared in their blind spot in the split second since the last time they looked. Somehow, I still manage to cut people off sometimes. By the same token, I tend to make absolutely sure that I have my keys before locking the door. Except today. It was the one time in recent memory that I haven’t checked to make sure I had my key before locking the door, so of course it turned out to be the one time that I didn’t have my key. Isn’t it great how things work out?

I lost my iPod a little over a year ago. I kept thinking it would turn up again because I had lost it in the building where I took all my classes and it seemed likely that whoever found it would turn it in. Except they never did. I bought a Sony Walkman, which costs more and holds less, but has superior sound quality. That just broke down, so I’m using an iPod that my dad had lying around and didn’t need. Isn’t it great how things work out?

I’m thinking that I should take my mp3 player down to the Sony store and ask them if they can repair it anyway. I like it, even though it’s bulkier than any iPod. Mp3 players, from the sounds of things, are a dying breed because everybody just uses smartphones. Have I made it clear that I don’t like smartphones? I had to catch a train home, borrow my dad’s key, then catch a train back, unlock my door, and go see the movie a few hours later than I’d intended. I had been meaning to use my transit card, as I had paid for more rides than I would need before the end of the month (when I’ll just get a monthly pass). When my father stayed home sick, it threw me for a loop, since I would now be able to take the car when I had, for some strange reason, been looking forward to using the card. I ended up using it anyway. Isn’t it great how things work out?

I know I’m still young, but I’m not going to live forever. Dating is the one area of my life that remains fuzzy no matter how hard I try to clarify it. Over the past few years, I have gained a much clearer idea of who I am, what sorts of people I like to hang out with, what kind of job I want, where I want to live, and so on. But what sort of a person do I want to date/marry? I think I have an idea, but actually realizing that fantasy still feels far away. Honestly, am I going to be 30 before I find someone? Almost everyone I know has been in a relationship by this point in their lives. I like to think this means that by the time I get mine, it will be rock-solid and last for decades. But there’s no guarantee of that. The only comfort that I can draw is from comparing it to my living situation. I’ve had a long line of shitty roommates (and one or two who were actually decent), but none have stuck for whatever reason. So maybe that is, in a sense, practice for dating. I think. I hope.

I hate the term “straight-acting”. It’s nothing more than a term patently insecure gay men use to make themselves feel better about liking cock. “I mean, sure, I’m gay, but I’m not like all of those other gay guys who like musical theater. No, I like manly things like action movies and bear wrestling.” This needs to stop. There are plenty of gay men who like sports and shit. There are plenty of straight men who like musical theater. I’m not saying that a disproportionate number of gay men don’t like musical theater (because most stereotypes do have a basis in truth), only that the biggest showqueens I know like pussy. The stereotype is that gay men tend to be either effeminate or hypermasculine, so if you really want to be “straight-acting”, you shouldn’t be afraid to exhibit one or two feminine traits so long as you still tend towards masculinity. Honestly, why are you so afraid to go to a goddamn club or gay bar every now and then? In my experience, they’re pretty friendly places.

I’m still tired and still spending lots of time on YouTube. I’m making money from my job, but I must have made a mistake on my tax forms, because I’m paying about one-eighth of my income in taxes. I don’t think I should be paying any. So I might have to ask some people to see what I can do about this.

In conclusion, I’m in a really bad mood. Gravity was good, though.

Samson Agonistes

Let us talk, for a second, about 50 Shades of Grey. I haven’t read it and I’m not going to. I picked it up in a bookstore, read the first page, and put it down out of fear that someone might see me. It’s funny–the book is an international bestseller, and yet nobody I know will admit they’ve read it. By contrast, I know at least a few Twi-hards. But this book doesn’t even rise to that level. It’s empty wish-fulfillment for women who are too timid or repressed to get their rocks off any other way. I don’t blame them. Women are socialized to feel bad about their sexuality. We live in a world in which a rape victim can be blamed for what happened just because she was dressing provocatively and the culprit can be let off with a simple “boys will be boys”. It sucks.

To be fair, I still do maintain that there is something animalistic about the male sex drive. I remember an episode of This American Life in which a transman said that one of the most difficult things about transitioning was dealing with intense and nearly-uncontrollable urges. He would be sitting on the train, notice that the woman across from him, while not particularly attractive, had, let’s say, nice ankles, and find himself unable to turn off all of the pornographic images that flooded his brain. Honestly, I don’t think women know what that’s like, but I do think that they have sex drives all the same and should not be slut-shamed out of pursuing what they want. 50 Shades of Grey, from what I’ve heard, is pretty fucking tame, but it meets a need that so few other books are willing to even aim for. This is a problem. The overwhelming majority of its readers are female. I don’t think it’s too big of a leap to say that most of them are sexually repressed in some way.

Ultimately, I can’t bring myself to hate 50 Shades of Grey. But I definitely hate the culture that makes it the best we can do when it comes to female-oriented kinky erotica (not that I was going to read that shit anyway). Come one, surely there is somebody with talent who likes to write about this shit? The relationship in this one is, evidently, abusive, but what some people don’t realize is that it is possible to have a relationship that explores an imbalance in the power dynamic without being unhealthy. Essentially, you have to understand that it’s all an act. There are plenty of people who are in to S&M and role play who make their partners (or have their partners make them) tie their shoes, serve them hand and foot, and clean the house while dressed in some revealing or nonexistent outfit. You just have to realize that it’s all an act. Real-life men who act like Christian Grey should be avoided. But there is nothing wrong with men who act that way in the bedroom and respectfully outside of it. As with anything, the magic word is consent.

Oh, hello...

Oh, hello…

It’s a shame that I even have to point this out, as there are people far more qualified than I am to discuss female empowerment and sexual liberation. I like mocking things, but I’ll say again that I can barely even work up the energy to make fun of this book. Twilight is stupid, misogynistic, poorly written, and unintentionally hilarious. 50 Shades of Grey is a sub-par knockoff, nothing more, nothing less. So for the time being, I will say no more about it.

I’ve been hearing a lot of criticisms that the script for Gravity lacked subtlety, that the symbolism and Bullock’s character arc were too obvious. I thought it was fine. It was a thrill ride, and certainly a hell of a lot deeper than any other movie of that type that I can name (see: Avatar). It was a remarkable technical achievement and a genuinely moving story about letting go. It prompts all of us to ask what we would do in that situation and who we would want to say goodbye, too. Sandra Bullock, who I’ve never been a big fan of, is really very good, prompting me to wonder if my dislike of her didn’t have more to do with role choice than acting talent (see also: Matthew McConaughey). (On a side note, Bullock was good in Crash. That film has a reputation for being one of the worst films ever to win Best Picture, and while I’ll concede that the script was heavy-handed and laden with coincidence, the acting–even from people I don’t normally like, like Ryan Phillippe–was absolutely stellar. So yeah.)

Love Rifftrax, but they need to stop making fun of good movies. Night of the Living Dead? Seriously? Maybe they think even good movies should be subject to mockery or that it’s just more of a challenge to mock them, but I can’t say I see the value in it. I’ll stick to mocking Twilight, thank you very much.

Those last two thoughts had nothing to do with 50 Shades of Grey, I know.  But I’ve been blogging more than normal lately and I couldn’t figure out where else to fit them in. Maybe my father is right. Maybe I do need to look for a second job. The current one, even if I tripled my hours, would barely be enough to pay the bills. And those loan payments are due very soon. Weird little glitches keep keeping into my life. I was walking to the train station for work this morning when my iPod skipped in the middle of one of my favorite pieces of classical music (and one of the only ones I know). The file isn’t corrupt. It plays fine on my computer. It’s just weird, that’s all.

I don’t have a conclusion here. Maybe I should take up meditation.

The Inner Light

I feel that we need to have a discussion about sexism in nerdland. See, if you’re a woman, you have to put up with all manner of douchebags telling you that you’re just a poser, and not really a nerd. John Scalzi called those people the “gatekeepers”, and it’s not a term of endearment. Ultimately, it shouldn’t really matter if you meet somebody else’s arbitrary standards as to what constitutes a proper nerd. But the fact remains that the stereotypical nerd with poor hygiene who lives in his mother’s basement, spends all day arguing about whether Deep Space Nine or TNG is the best Star Trek (DS9, obviously), and has never touched a breast is, like a lot of stereotypes, at least somewhat based in truth. Oh, they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule, but I have met one or two, and believe me, the rest of us nerds view them in much the same way that most Christians view the Westboro Baptist Church. They are insecure, lonely, and want nothing more than to create an enclosed world in which only their like-minded friends are welcome. If some female wanders into that, they feel threatened, whether she actually belongs or not.

I should add, before I go any further, that this, like a lot of things, cuts both ways. There are some women out there who will throw on a Batman T-shirt and waltz into a sci-fi convention just because they like the attention. A lot of nerds are socially awkward, and thus will gravitate towards anyone who shows the least bit of interest in what they have been told is weird and geeky. But those women are few and far between. Much more common are women who are every bit as into D&D and Doctor Who as any man, but face nonstop harassment because some dumbshit chauvinists can’t face the possibility that yes, she really does know what she’s talking about. I have friends who have dealt with this. Even if they can convince the men that they belong there, they’ll get a condescending remark about how they’re “one of the good ones”. Fuck. Off.

doctor who

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s stagnation. That’s why I have such a contentious relationship with technology. I’ll concede that the internet is cool, but I refuse to own a smartphone or a tablet. I can see the use of a Kindle if you don’t have the space to store books (and ebooks are cheaper anyway), but honestly, what is a tablet good for? I see people watching movies on their iPads while on the treadmill at the gym, but so what? An automobile is an amazing thing. The invention is over 100 years old, and even now, the thought that I can hop in a giant metal box that is powered by explosions and can go faster than any horse is amazing. That I can buy a small, handheld device that allows me to play games and watch movies and shit is cool, but that’s about it. Telephones are amazing. Computers are amazing. Smartphones are…neat.

What does this have to do with geekdom? Simple: People like to isolate themselves from whatever makes them feel uncomfortable. Geeks (and I am conflating nerds and geeks, even though the two are not quite the same) have always felt a little bit different, and for some, that alienation makes them feel special. They like to believe that they are somehow better or more thoughtful and cultured than those who don’t read comics or like science fiction, so they associate only with people who are exactly like them. Except the barriers are crumbling. Football players watch Doctor Who, Whovians play football, and people with vaginas can enjoy both if that’s what they’re into.

Part of the problem is rape culture. Read this article, if you’ve got a minute. I admit that I haven’t played the games it talks about, so maybe I’m unqualified to discuss it, but then again, I think not. The most shocking thing about it to me is the comments section. Here’s my favorite:

I’m rather disturbed by the claim that rape is the “most horrifying thing that can happen to a woman.” Just so we’re VERY clear on the implications at stake, are you suggesting that my vagina is worth more than my life or my children? I lost my virginity to rape when I was 12 and while it was the most horrifying experience of my life, I could list twenty things right now that would be FAR more horrible!

Wait, go back to the part where you said that getting raped was the worst thing that ever happened to you. If your leg has just been sawed off, I really don’t think the guy in the next bed who lost both of them has any business telling you to shut up. Yes, I suppose that getting raped to death, eaten, and having your skin sewn to Reavers’ clothing would technically be worse than just getting raped, but only in the sense that having $1,000,000,001 is better than having $1,000,000,000. It boggles my mind that out of all the things in the article, this is the one that the female commenter is most worked up about. There are complications and shades of gray even in cases of sexism, but that doesn’t mean the sexism is nonexistent. Bigotry is a lot more nuanced than people care to acknowledge. But it’s still wrong.

My father has been giving me grief lately about looking for a more high-paying job. See, he’s happy that I got a job with the coffee shop (especially considering that he suggested it to me), but since he’s thinking of moving out soon, he’s worried that I might have to find something that will pay enough that I’ll be able to find my own place. At least, that’s what he says he’s worried about. I think he just doesn’t like the way that I do everything he asks me to. I’m not a very difficult person to live with. Mostly, I just go along with whatever my roommate needs. But sometimes, you need to push back. You need to let people know that you’re quite content with things as they are, and they have no business changing them. It is a give-and-take, after all. And with that, I’ll leave you with one final question: Do Sherlock and Watson have the best bromance ever, or what?