Oh well, what a let-down.

One of my friends recently posted an article on Facebook with the intriguing title of “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage.”  Always eager to hear a new perspective, I was excited to see what Doug Mainwaring had to say on the subject. That interest only intensified when I saw his professed methods:

“Neither religion nor tradition has played a significant role in forming my stance. But reason and experience certainly have.”

Certainly a recipe for effective, empathetic, wide-reaching conclusions, right? Perhaps that set my expectations too high, because I was sorely disappointed by his actual execution. In order to sort through my own reaction, I wanted to take a moment to examine his logical process.

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Casual Tie Day

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw today that Tie Society started following my blog today. Then I was embarrassed, because I realized how long it had been since I’d updated.

For those of you who don’t know, Tie Society is basically a service like Netflix for neckwear. I wouldn’t feel comfortable endorsing anything (and it would be meaningless if I were to do so), but I’ve been using this service since late last year and have enjoyed it a great deal. It’s also allowed me to engage in a fun routine, one which would allow for a little more self-expression and which now makes for a decent menswear-related blog post.

Since I work for a small company, our office environment is rather casual, which is pleasant most of the time, but is paradoxically restrictive when it comes to clothing. Collars and non-denim pants are a must, but my coworkers look askance at a blazer and consider ties anathema. When I was teaching, not only did I get to express myself sartorially a bit more but it also made sense to turn out well to exude the sense of authority one needs when students literally look down on one.

(One is me. I’m short. Keep up.)

So when I started working for my current employer, I felt hemmed in by this unspoken edict. Every once in a while, I’d get to go on a business trip or to a meeting that would let me break out a suit, but for the most part, my closet languished in disuse. That’s when I decided that I’d repurpose a classic workplace tradition.

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La Forza del Destino

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There has been so much conversation about the ending of Mass Effect 3 by both nerds angry about it and nerds angry about nerds angry about it. It got awfully hyperbolic on both sides, and I was honestly hesitant to even talk about it, since I don’t feel like I fall into either of those camps. Still, I figured that the conversation had sufficient time to cool a bit, and it’s a prime example of a surprise, our theme for the month. That said, I’m about to talk about a bunch of Mass Effect stuff without regard for spoilers, so if that bothers you, don’t read on just yet. You have been warned!

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April Fools!

Photo: Princeton University

A few years ago, my college invited Crispin Freeman to speak at our campus about comparative representation of women between American and Japanese animation. For those of you who have never heard his name, you may know Mr. Freeman’s voice acting work, particularly in English dubs of Japanese animation. Certainly, much of his career has been immersed in this specific aspect of popular culture, but the lecture itself had little to do with the production and localization side of which he had been a part. This, instead, was more along the lines of filmic criticism, an in depth look at cultural gender assumptions and how popular culture can propagate or challenge those assumptions. Honestly, it was a surprisingly thorough and thought-provoking presentation.

The problem, however, came when the evening turned from monologue to dialogue. As with most lectures, the worst part was the question and answer portion. The first person up to the microphone to ask Mr. Freeman a question was a young woman who breathlessly requested that he perform a line a dialogue from one of his shows. He was taken aback, a palpable wave of vicarious embarrassment washed over the audience, and, after Mr. Freeman graciously obliged the request, our professor hurriedly clarified that questions must relate to the subject matter of the lecture. Still, it led me to wonder how our preconceptions of public figures shape our expectations of their public output. Does James Franco suffer from similar disappointment when dealing with people in his current studies? Was Mr. Freeman more comfortable with that out of place question or the grad students’ criticism of his cultural assumptions?

This was the sort of thing I thought about when I heard that the 92nd Street Y had issued refunds and apologies to its audience for Steve Martin’s appearance. They were dissatisfied apparently because he spoke about art criticism, the topic of his book, rather than, I don’t know, walking on stage with an arrow through his head or something. People had assumptions, and when those assumptions were denied, they grew bored and restless, apparently enough to complain and ask for a refund. What’s great, however, is Mr. Martin’s hopeful opinion piece in the New York Times afterward. Rather than wishing he had played to expectations from the beginning, he regrets caving to them at all. He laments abandoning intellectual opportunities in favor of safety and familiarity.

This sort of denial of expectation can lead to the sorts of exciting things this blog was meant to celebrate, so April Fools, everyone! This month is full of blog posts about surprises, the terrific things they lead to, and the bad taste they leave in some people’s mouths. I’m pretty excited about it; I hope you are too.