Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Which I Talk About Bullies and How Humor Works

I follow alot of fitness magazines, and fitness personalities on Twitter. I mean, I like working out, so it's nice to use Twitter as a resource for all things work out and nutrition related.

One of the fitness magazines I follow is Men's Fitness. Now, I'm sure I'm not the typical Men's Fitness reader. I mean, I'm a nerd. A geek. An adult person who reads superhero comics for fun. But I like lifting weights, and Men's Fitness is sometimes a place to get helpful information about lifting weights.

This week, they posted an article in which a writer from Men's Fitness went to New York Comic Con. So far so good, no problems there, right? Well, what do you suppose the focus of the article was? Do you think it talked about news coming out of the comic world? Nope. The passion that comic fans have for their chosen medium? Uh uh.  Cool costumes that people made themselves. Negatory, Ghost Rider.

The article consisted mainly of a series of photos of NYCC attendees with captions making fun of them for being fat.  Yup. That's right. The jocks went to nerdfest to publish an article teasing the nerds.

Now, as a nerd who works out and performs comedy I have a unique perspective on this article. Or I hate it for more reasons than most people probably would.

Reason the first, or why I hate this article as a nerd- Because it's 2011 and teasing nerds, or anyone, is stupid, and immature. Get over yourself, Men's Fitness magazine. Grow up. Move on with your lives. Nerds are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Reason the second, or why I hate this article as a weightlifting enthusiast- Because your magazine is called "Men's Fitness" not "Jocks Monthly." The whole point of your magazine is the advancement of physical fitness. How does teasing anyone help advance that goal?

Reason the third, or why I hate this article as a comedian- Because it's supposed to be funny and it's not. Comedy, at it's best, entertains, and advances ideas, or tells a story. Comedy fails when it's used as a means of oppression- to tease people who don't deserve to be teased. Teasing people, especially teasing people who can't defend themselves with fat jokes, is low comedy- it's easy comedy I would actually say it's lower than fart jokes and prat falls.

So I'm not going to link to the article in question here because I don't want to increase Men's Fitness's web traffic more than I probably already have. I just want to generally vent my displeasure. The author of the article, Jordan Burchette, and Men's Fitness magazine behaved like a schoolyard bully, and much like Captain America, I don't like bullies. Nerd, jock, preppy, skater, whatever, are all pretty silly labels when you really think about it. We're all human beings and we all deserve respect and dignity. Humor has a place, but that place isn't teasing people who don't deserve to be teased. A fitness magazine's goals, ideally, should be altruistic. They should be helping people- all people, get in shape. Making fun of people doesn't advance that goal.

In a perfect world, Men's Fitness would take the article off of their web site, issue a public apology, and fire the writer of the article. After observing their behavior towards the people who have responded negatively to the article, I don't really expect that to happen. But, if nothing else, I will probably never purchase another copy of Men's Fitness or visit their web site again. So, I'll consider that a small victory.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On X-Men Regenesis and Superhero Civil Wars

Much like sitcoms, superhero comics seem to cart out the same basic plot lines time and time again. For instance, how many comics have featured two superheroes meeting each other, having a misunderstanding, fighting, realizing their mistake, and then teaming up to fight a bad guy? Answer: A billion-ish. In the last 20 years or so, one of the more popular re-occurring plot lines is the superhero civil war in which two heroes, or two factions of heroes, have a falling out, fight each other (or each others) and then go their separate ways, glaring at each other vowing never to be friends again. The most popular example of this storyline is Marvel's "Civil War", and the most recent example is Marvel's "X-Men: Schism/Regenesis".

The two stories follow almost the exact same basic structure. In "Civil War", a superhero battle results in a some school kids getting killed. The US government decides that superheroes will basically need to get licenses to continue to be superheroes. Some superheroes are totally cool with getting licenses, like Iron Man. Others are not, like Captain America who thinks superheroes should have the freedom to hide their identities. The two superheroes fight over their new belief in registration/notregistration and their friendship basically ends. Oh, and then Captain America dies (SPOILER ALERT- He got better).

In X-Men: Schism, an attack leads world governments to revive their Sentinel programs. Threatened "as never before", the X-Men's leader, Cyclops, uses every weapon at his disposal, including X-Men students "Generation Hope" (like Generation X for the Millennial post-Barack Obama set). Wolverine objects to Cyclops's use of children as weapons (he never seemed to have a problem with Professor X sending the New Mutants, or Generation X, or the Young X-Men out to fight bad guys, but let's accept that for the purposes of this story that Wolverine objects to child soldiers). They fight. They stop being friends. Wolverine moves out to start his own X-Men team where young X-Men won't have to fight anybody (ummm, yeah right).

Here's the thing; I'm not really opposed to the fact that these stories are basically redundant. I get it- superheroes fighting each other is fun. Tension between characters is good for plot development. Watching Cyclops blast the skin off of Wolverine's face is great action. The problem I have with these stories comes from interviews where the writers say things like "We really tried to make both sides sympathetic. We want you to relate to both Iron Man/Cyclops or Wolverine/Captain America's point of view. No one's wrong here. Everyone is just doing what they think is best." I really, truly believe this is total bullstuff.  In "Civil War" Iron Man sided with the US government who were making superheroes register their secret identities AGAINST their will! Cyclops is using kids to kill his enemies! How in Odin's name are they NOT the bad guys in this? Sure, they aren't moustache twirling Snidely Whiplash villains. They have heroic intent, but they're doing villainous things. What did Cap do in Civil War that would make you unsympathetic to his side? Nothing. What did Wolverine do in Schism that was immoral? Nothing. Illogical? Sure. But bad? No way.

Oh, and did you notice that the more popular characters are the ones who take the more morally defensible positions in these stories? Wolverine is WAY more popular than Cyclops, so he gets to be both A) the good guy, and B) the "rebel" (who in American literature/pop culture is ALWAYS the good guy).

Look, if you're going to write a superhero fighting superhero story, great. Go for it. But make both sets of characters morally ambiguous, or don't pretend that both sides are sympathetic when really, one side is morally ambiguous and the other is as classically heroic as ever. I don't mind reading the same story over and over again, but I am kind of sick of writers saying the same, basically dishonest statements about the stories. That's it. Got a little ranty there. Sorry.

I love you, comics!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Impossible Things: Crossfit

A few weeks ago, Chelsea and I, newly married, found ourselves walking down an alley in the early evening. The alley was, as alleys are, kind of gross. There was some trash strewn about and the ground was wet. A few people walked by eying us warily and we warily eyed them right back. It's an alley. Alley law says that no matter how put together someone looks that you give them weird looks just to be on the safe side.

As we continued to stroll (briskly) we saw a light coming from a building- our destination. As we approached our destination we heard:

Loud rock music
Crashing
Yelling

We turned into the building and saw the source of the sounds- 20 men and women tossing barbells over their heads and back to the ground while an instructor shouted words of instruction/encouragement at them to the dulcimer tones of heavy metal music. The workout looked- in a word- terrifying.

This was/is Crossfit. Chelsea and I were there to sign up.

Okay, so it wasn't a done deal by any stretch. We're both fitness people now, and I've been looking for a new physical challenge in the wake of our wedding. I had been researching Crossfit as alot of people seemed to be doing it all of a sudden, the workouts seemed intense and awesome, and Crossfit Defined (the name of this particular Crossfit facility) was a five minute walk from our apartment.

When the crazy workout wound down, Noal, one of the instructors/coaches took some time to explain Crossfit to us. It's basically a fitness program that strives to create "complete" athletes- meaning they train you to be not just strong, agile, or fast, but all of those things. The gyms are Spartan. There are no treadmills, or stairclimbers, or Nautilus machines. There ARE barbells, pull up bars, kettlebells and rowing machines.

There is also a sense of community which I really like. If someone completes a workout early, they cheer on their classmates who haven't finished. You aren't there to beat your Crossfit fellows. You're there to overcome your own challenges, and help them overcome theirs- to me, THIS is what separates Crossfit from other gyms.

It has been a few weeks and we are now nearly done with our On Ramp program in which we have been taught the basic techniques that Crossfit incorporates. Soon, we will begin to participate in the "WODS"- workouts of the day.

So, when some future young couple shows up at Crossfit Defined and sees 20 people tossing around weights and shrieking like a Pict attacking Hadrian's Wall (look it up), two of them just might be Chelsea and myself.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quick Comment Clarification (aliteration, le sigh)

I'm not against comments in general.  I just think one should take a short pause, a breathe before posting something nasty.  A little etiquette goes a long way.

As you were. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What's in a name? And an Aside on Web Commenting

So, we're married. We just got our certificate in the mail so it's official and stuff.  Now I'm about to start the what-I-hear-is-no-fun process of changing my name.  I did what any Internet savvy person would do and Googled any suggestions on how to make the process as painless as possible. There is a perfectly nice post by "her" on the best way of going about the process in Chicago. Thank you to "her" for providing me with some very valuable information.  Then I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments section. And what did I find? A lot of a$$holes commenting on the fact that married people change their name at all.  "Her" specifically asked for further comments about tips for changing one's name, but 95% of the comments were self-righteous vaginafaces shouting "Don't change it," and then some "feminist" blah blah blah.

First things first, I should have never scrolled down. I know better. I know that even though the Internet is a delightful place, people think it is the perfect place to let their jerk flag fly.  A sure way to ruin any benefit I get from an article is by reading the comments at the bottom.  But in this case, I was actually looking for some extra tid bits about changing my name and instead I got b*tchery. Shame on me for scrolling down.

And on to that b*tchery.  Most of the comments assumed that I was changing my last name because Sean is making me.  Lets be fair, if you're entering a marriage with someone who can make you do anything like that against your will, you've an entire set of other problems that have nothing to do with last names. To be honest, I find it insulting that some people completely disregard a decision that I myself found to be a very difficult one.  I love my family name. My name has a great ring to it.  I like the way it sounds.  And so forever ago, pre and early Sean, I was convinced that I would never change it. As the years went by, however, I became less militant.  I hadn't changed my mind, exactly, but I was willing to consider the option of a new last name.  And then I really spent time with Sean's family.  I went to holiday parties and weddings with them.  I had conversations with his multitude of aunts and uncles and joked around with his plethora of cousins.  And I found that I not only like them, I love them.  They're great people. I discovered that the potential new last name took on a pleasant ring when said with Chelsea.  And it's because I was adding people to my family quiver that are awesome.  I finally found my decision.  I am going to change my last name.  I want to have my last name reflect my love for my new family.  I'm not getting rid of my other names. I will now have two middle names.  I love my parents and my siblings.  Obviously. And I could never lose that name.  My name is just growing, just like my family is.  And it was a hard decision.  It is not a decision that should be dismissed or criticized. It was a well thought out decision. I'm proud of it.

Thanks for listening.

Signed,
soon-to-be Chelsea C.I. Kelley

The CW Network Has Caught This Nerd Girl in Its Net

I'm a sucker for terrible television and movies.  Many a Sunday, Sean comes home to find me curled up on the couch (still pj'd usually) watching something terrible I found on TV or via our Netflix live streaming thingy (side note, their movie select is terrible for the most part.  Which works for me alone, but not so much when the 2 of us are trying to find something to watch together).  And I've been known to DEVOUR past seasons of television shows.

Most recently, the tv-object of my nom noms is The Vampire Diaries on the CW network.  It's terribly...terrible. And yet I love it. Though it has been done WAY too many times before, the angsty, over-emotional vampire dude is sexy as is the asshole, mistake-prone vampire with the heart of gold.  Sure, the plot lines feel like they've been stretched over too many episodes and some of the tertiary characters are played by some completely atrocious actors (read: the vamp-mother, Isabelle. Frak n' A, my cats could read lines better than that woman).  There are actors that do little but act with their eyebrows (I'm looking at you, sexy Somerhalder). But I can't stop. I'm 3 episodes away from being caught up and my DVR is already set.

Poor Sean.

Because on top of my new atrocious show watching, I also am pretty smitten with Supernatural.  I mean, sexy guys who deal with demons, angels and magic all while dressed like a cross between a lumberjack, landscaper and a male stripper? Yes please.  Brothers who seem to have trouble emoting and yet tell each other they love each other all the time? Sex.  And don't get me started on smolder-eyed Castiel and his trenchcoat. Did you know the actor who plays him, Misha Collins, built his own house and the furniture in it?  Be still my heart!  Sorry, where was I?

Anywho - The CW has me in it's grips.  Sure, it can be terrible. But it's handling some much-Chelsea-loved subjects and using some pretty attractive people to do it.  I could probably be happy if I never had to see commercials for any of their other programming (even using the voiceover stylings of Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell couldn't make me watch more than 3 minutes of Gossip Girl), but I'm hooked on Supernatural & The Vampire Diaries.

Again, poor Sean.

Frakking Shiny: The Revenge of the Kelleys

Did you miss us?

Okay, okay. We haven't posted a blog since July 8th. Sorry. We were busy getting married. Steampunk married.

And we did! And it was great! And we'll post some blogs about it. But we are- officially- the Kelleys now, Mr. and Mrs.

We'll be getting back to posting blogs with some regularity. We will of course, be returning to our regular commentaries on various nerd/geek related topics, but we'll be adding some new stuff in here too.

First new thing? Sean and Chelsea's year of Impossible Things. One of our big goals as a married couple is not to let marriage become an excuse for complacency. So, throughout the year, we will be trying new things, and challenging ourselves in different ways. If you see an "Impossible Things:" blog post, it will be an entry documenting some seemingly impossible thing that we did, or are doing.

So, we apologize for the 3 quiet months. But we're back! And better than...well ever really.