Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time Flies

This is the video that played on the giant screen at the Porcupine Tree concert at Radio City Music Hall. I think it stands up quite well as a short film on its own.

It is high-resolution, so you might need to pause and let the whole video download before you play it. The full 12-minute long version may be released at a future date.


Monday, October 18, 2010

HvZ at SBU

I am following a group of about 25 college students on a windy, chilly night as they make their way across the Stony Brook University campus, heavily armed with sock grenades, Nerf pistols, blowguns and automatic rifles that shoot rubber tipped darts using compressed air. Suddenly the cries ring out – “ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES!” – as a large group of 50 to 60 zombies appear from the shadows and spot the rear guard of the humans. Ten seconds later, the zombies attack – charging on the dead run as the rapid-fire clicking of plastic unleashes a hail of foam darts which stop the first wave of zombies in their tracks. But wave after wave they just keep coming, eventually breaking through the human firing lines to tag their hapless victims, turning them into zombies and switching allegiances in this eight-day war. With their backs against the school library, the remaining humans make a valiant stand before they are eventually wiped out and assimilated into zombieland.

Zombie attack!

That was highlight of my weekend of adventures that started with an Open Love NY camp-out (which was really more of a camp-in because it was at someone’s five-bedroom vacation house in New Caanan, CT). I drove Yoshi from Princeton after work on Friday and picked up an OLNY newbie named Glenn at my apartment before heading out there. We watched movies and the Yankees game, played games, ordered pizza and I made spaghetti and sauce for everyone (which people seemed to enjoy). We built a fire in the fireplace and people recited poetry and told stories as if we were around a campfire.

In the morning, I led a grocery shopping trip with Leon and his companion Ardella and Bill to get supplies for the remainder of the weekend. After those were put away, I played a game of chess with Ardella (the first time in years for of us) and eventually I prevailed by checkmate.

Then I left to drive to Bridgeport and board the ferry, arriving at the landing only three minutes before departure – damn, that was close! The 75-minute ferry ride across Long Island Sound was pretty rough since the wind was blowing so hard, but it was fun watching the curl of white foam on the waves. I also enjoyed watching seagulls trying to break open shellfish by picking them up and dropping them on the rocks over and over as we arrived in Port Jefferson on Long Island.

Bridgeport to Port Jeff ferry

It was a quick drive to Stony Brook to meet up with Polina, and we went to Target to buy and exchange some clothes. I found a pair of work-appropriate jeans, i.e. ones that weren’t pre-ripped. Polina also found some cargo pants and jeans in the men’s section. Then we went to the drugstore and to John Harvard’s Brew House for our anniversary dinner, where we exchanged cards and gifts and shared a glass of delicious pumpkin ale. We talked about our relationship and how much we are enjoying each other, and our hopes and ideas for the future.

We came back to campus and went out at 9 pm so she could assume her role as moderator of the Humans vs. Zombies game that started last Thursday and runs for eight days, and involves over 1,000 student players. We attended a briefing for the human army (about 50-60 people) before they split up into three groups to try and accomplish their mission.

Dressed to kill at the briefing

Polina took on the role of an engineer and unfortunately got killed at the library, reverting back to being just a moderator.

Massacre at the library

Fortunately for the humans, one of their other groups managed to succeed in their mission at the Javits building by hiding their engineers in the bushes while the rest of the human force held off a large zombie mob in the open plaza. I know it sounds really dorky, but being out in the night and seeing a zombie army charge screaming “BRAINS!!” is actually kind of cool to watch.

Mediating a dispute

The next day I went with Polina to a moderator meeting where they talked about how things went poorly the previous night and how to balance the game a little better, since the humans are losing badly and they weren’t even at the halfway point yet. Afterwards Polina made us some lunch before going out again for a Humans vs. Humans mission in the daytime. For this mission, two teams of humans battled each other to obtain a zombie cure, which could be used to convert some of the zombies back to human.

Humans-only mission

After that was done, we went out to dinner at Carraba’s and sat at the kitchen counter to watch people cook while we ate, then got some groceries before I dropped her off to go home.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Supremely single

I was reading in today’s USA Today a letter from a reader commenting about a story that appeared last week about the personal backgrounds of the U.S. Supreme Court justices. The letter reads:

“I was dismayed, however, that it described both Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor with ‘Family: Unmarried.’ Women and men do not need to be defined by what they are not. They are single. Period. The single vocation is valid on its own terms.”

Interestingly, the author of this letter was writing from Wiesbaden, Germany.

This comment really got me thinking about how ingrained the institution of marriage is in this country, that a newspaper as high-profile and cosmopolitan as USA Today could define anyone’s family as “unmarried.” Note that the category is not martial status, but “family.” As if parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, children out of wedlock, adopted children, nieces, nephews and cousins don’t count as “family.” No, in order to have a family, you must be married first, according to USA Today.

It would be particularly galling for those GLBT people who are currently not allowed to be married to be referred to in this way. To be described as “Unmarried” when one does not have that legal option is like an unjust accusation and conviction.

And the letter’s author brings up an excellent point that we should not be defined by what we are not. It’s just like I’d rather say I’m in an open relationship rather than saying a non-monogamous relationship. It takes away the presumed expectation that you’re not there yet, but someday you hope to be.

And of course that kind of language also presumes that everyone’s goal in life is to be married. Clearly, if you want to become a Supreme Court justice, it’s expected of you.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Life in the fast lane

When I first moved here from Houston, Tara warned me about adjusting to the pace of life in the northeast. It didn’t take me very long to get acclimated.

In most parts of the South, it’s unheard of to walk on the escalators. Here’s it’s fairly common practice, especially in commuter areas. When I used to work in Midtown, I would go through the Lexington/53rd metro station every day, which has a very long escalator. Riding it took you a full 45-60 seconds; walking cut that to maybe 10-15 seconds. And every day, people would walk up or down on the left, while riders stood to the right.

This morning I was heading to a short escalator into Penn Station when two women merged right in front of me and stood side-by-side to ride down. I said “excuse me” and they looked at me like I had two heads. The woman on the left grudgingly slid halfway, and I pushed past her, bumping her with my backpack. As I reached the bottom one of them called out, “you could have taken the stairs easily!” I didn’t respond because there’s no point in engaging with imbeciles when I’m late for my train, but I also didn’t want to be cast as the rude New Yorker, although sometimes I am.

But honestly, I didn’t expect them to block the escalator like that, and even if I did, I still wouldn’t have taken the stairs. Unless you’re an invalid, there’s no reason you can’t walk down an escalator. And keeping people from doing so, especially going into a train station when seconds could mean the difference between catching and missing a train, is incredibly rude to me.

Living in Times Square as I do, several things are starting to really irritate me on the days I choose to walk along Seventh Avenue. People walking slowly while looking at their phones, stopping to take pictures in the middle of the sidewalk with no warning. People who gesture with their arms in crowds pointing at this or that – more than once I’ve had to push somebody’s arm down to walk past them. Guys that stand with signs at the corners advertising comedy shows or happy hours and forcing me to duck under them. People who sit on my stoop to smoke cigarettes and block me from walking into my front door. The list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like where I live. It’s very convenient, and sometimes I do like to feel the energy of the crowd when I’m not in a hurry for something. Walking in New York is like a carefully choreographed dance of near-misses. People walk by you as if the game is to lightly brush your clothes without actually bumping with the body parts under them. This is something I’ve routinely come to accept as a part of life here. But this morning’s escalator-blocking incident just riled me because it was an instance when the non-natives or the just plain stupid natives (whichever they were) don’t respect the pace of the city I live in.

On another note, I bought my copy of Beauty and the Beast today, my first Blu-Ray disc (which is included in the DVD because it doesn’t come any other way). I’ve been thinking about installing my projector (finally) and talked to my building superintendent to borrow the ladder. I already bought all the necessary hardware to install it, so it’s kind of wasteful not to go ahead and do it.

That will mean I might go ahead and buy a Sony Playstation 3 for its Blu-Ray capabilities. So maybe I’ll take some days off soon and devote myself to that project. I wouldn’t really want to use my projector on an everyday basis because from the playpen the picture would be too close and too big, like sitting in the front section of the theater. But it would be cool to have for parties to play movies or games in high-definition, if I ever chose to have people over for dinner again.