August 3rd, 2003

amused, silly, ha ha only serious

Otaku-in-training

Full report on the day will come some time tomorrow, probably, because a particular incident from tonight got me thinking.

First of all, the prologue: a couple days ago, I spotted an otaku on the Boston T. He was sitting in his seat with a Megatokyo bag around his shoulders and headphones on. I moved through the train to reach him, but I couldn't bring myself to start a conversation, and he got off at the next station after I reached him.

I've actually made a conscious effort to spot other otaku on this trip, especially after I picked up the first Inu-Yasha; he was the first one I'd noticed, and the only one before tonight.

Tonight, something interesting happened. My family and I were in a shopping area in Greenwich Village (circumstances will be explained in the full report). I'm not a shopper by any means, so as usual I was pretty numb, walking by the shops while the girls oogled the wares. It was because of this that Mom spotted it first: a comic shop across the street. She pointed it out to me, with a comment to the effect of "you might be able to find those books you've been looking for." ("Those books" are the IY manga, which I've been buying every time I enter a bookstore--I know that she knows what they are, but she still just calls them "books".) I crossed the street and entered the store.

Something you need to understand about me: I have never been a comic person. I'd seen comic books when I was little, but I was never very interested in them. Actually, the first comic book I'd ever been interested in was a manga--the summer before sixth grade, I went to a sleepaway program at UC Irvine for a week, and my roommate had brought Ranma 1/2 #1 with him. I don't think I knew it was Japanese, which was probably why I never tracked down other issues--I simply had no idea where to look.

So, this was my first time in a comic book store. It was actually about what I'd expected, although I was somewhat surprised that they had novels and such in it--there were several shelves of original Star Trek books, for example.

In any case, I looked over the shelves near the front. When I spotted the mangas*, I looked over them, and recognized most of them. I didn't see any IY, so I kept going through the store, finding the back area with more obscure stuff. I recognized less of these, but still spotted a few I knew of. I crossed back to the first area to see if I'd missed them, but my brother came in and told me that everyone was waiting, so I had to leave empty-handed.

Well, at least materially speaking.

When we started walking back, I realized just how much of that store I'd understood. I'd recognized a lot of titles, even ones I had little interest in or knew nothing more about--Angelic Layer comes to mind. More interestingly was what I'd known about some of them. For example, I noticed X/1999 in the back area. I remembered that it was a manga about a Y2K apocalypse. I also knew that it was by CLAMP, and as such was likely to contain innuendo, and that it was a less popular title, so seeing a bunch of them together was probably a bit unusual even in a comic shop.

Six months ago, I not only wouldn't have known any of that, but I wouldn't have cared.

For some time I've considered myself to be an "otaku-in-training". It's even in my LJ profile. I'm not really sure when I gave myself that definition, but it's been a month or two at least. In that time, I've picked up some interesting habits. Throughout this trip, I've been peeking into shops, restaurants, and anything else Japanese, displaying a curiousity I've never had before. I've picked up most of the two dozen or so words that make up the English otaku vocabulary, to the point that I sometimes think with them. At one point today, I saw some grafitti on a handrail; I thought it was "HAI" until I got a little closer and saw it was "HA!". At another point, I saw "LAIN" written with a finger in concrete, and wondered if the person who wrote it was an anime fan.

Still, I don't think I can consider myself an otaku yet. I still only have one disk of anime and four volumes of manga, after all--hardly an impressive collection. But where is the boundary drawn?

Tonight, I saw an otaku on the NY subway. He was reading what was obviously a manga while sitting on a stair in the station; he looked to be significantly older than me, but I'm not a good judge of age. I didn't approach him, because I didn't know what he was reading and didn't want to seem like an idiot.

I suppose I'll know I'm an otaku when I'd feel comfortable striking up a conversation with him.


*Yes, I'm using an English plural of a Japanese word. So shoot me.
  • Current Music
    Whatever movie my brother's watching
amused, silly, ha ha only serious

Annoyances in the Car

Well, I'm typing this on the laptop as we drive to DC. It's a four hour drive, of which we've completed an hour. Unfortunately, I have two hours of battery time on the laptop and one (expended) hour of fresh IY manga. Maybe I'll start on that new Voyager book . . .

In other news, my sister somehow managed to destroy my burned copy of Evanescence's Fallen. She's been borrowing it for much of this trip, and apparently at some point the CD started to come off the spindle. I'm thinking it started spinning against an exposed screw, which scraped off the top plastic and ripped a huge gash in the reflective layer, around the entire the CD, and I think in the burned area. I may just bite the bullet and buy the thing-I don't really want to wait another week for those songs, and I derive enough enjoyment from it that I really should shell out the fifteen bucks. Perhaps she and I could split the cost--she's been listening to it a lot, after all.

BTW, guys, Semagic apparently does allow offline composition--but only if you get online so you can sign in, which I can't at the moment. Unless I'm missing something. Not that there's much to miss on the login screen. I'm writing this in Word instead.

Let's see, what else . . . oh, I set my own LJ to be saved by IE so I could read the friends page offline, but now it's giving me a "cannot find server", even though the icon indicates that it should have been saved successfully. Which leaves me with only Sango-chan's LJ (which I set to save before I got my own and had a friends page). No, wait, IE decided not to save that either.

Technomancer's Time Off? No.
Battle for Continuity? No.
OLSAL 4? No.

Fuck you too, Microsoft.

So I have no offline content for this trip, except my e-mail, which has about four messages I'm interested in and about eighty that I'm not. And that's after deleting all the spam--I'm on several lists for open-source projects I'm involved in, which gives me an incredible e-mail volume.

Well, I guess I'll read that stuff. *sighs*

(This post will have been backdated, since I'm offline.)
  • Current Music
    Evanescence - Imaginary (Origin version)
amused, silly, ha ha only serious

Day Nine

We're still driving. We stopped at a Friendly's--kinda like Denny's, but with really good ice cream desserts--for lunch around two, which delayed us a while. We're thirty-five miles from DC, but the freeway is reasonably crowded and there's an incredible downpour around us, so it'll probably be an hour or so.

Anyway, here's the report for . . .

Day: 9
Location: New York

We started the day at the Empire State building, which was full of lines. The line for security started on the sidewalk, a good distance from the entrance. After a while, we reached security.

Security at the Empire State Building amazed me because it was incredibly lax. It looked like standard airport-style security, so I started "taking myself apart"--taking the half-dozen or so suspicious-looking items off my body. But the guard waved them back on, putting my CD player and phone in a plastic tray, which he then passed alongside the metal detector (not through the X-ray machine). I walked through with my watch on, but the detector didn't go off. I retrieved my CD player and phone and put them away.

My brother was next. His belt buckle triggered the metal detector. Crap, I thought, this'll take ten minutes to clear up. But the security guard said "It's just his belt buckle--keep moving." The others passed through the checkpoint without incident, and we moved on to the next line.

This was the line for the ticket window. It took perhaps half an hour to go through. I listened to music, mostly, and mused about carrying a fake bomb through security to demonstrate how shitty it was. (The computer security industry has the concept of a "tiger team"--a group that tests security by trying to breach it. I'm told that the military uses tiger teams extensively, leaving a note reading "bomb" in the middle of a hangar, or a post-it with "your codebooks have been stolen" in a safe; legend has it that, were their exploits declassified, they would be counted as some of the greatest physical "hacks" of all time.) I'd started the CD (my forty-five-minute Evanescence miscellaneous-crap disk) while riding the subway, and stopped it when we got out of the subway; I finished it while waiting in this line. We finally got to the front of the line and bought our tickets.

Then we went up an escalator to the second story, and got in another line for an elevator. This one was actually pretty short-we got on the third or fourth elevator. The elevator went up eighty stories; the observation deck is on the eighty-sixth floor.

We got off at eighty and were greeted with another line, one that seemed to exist only to give "Tony's Audio Tours" one last chance to plug their product. My brother and sister opted to climb the stairs to the observation deck, but Mom, Dad and I decided to wait and catch an elevator. Five or ten minutes later, we reached the front of the line and climbed into an elevator to get to the top floor.

Amazingly, there weren't lines once we reached the observation deck, although we did have to jostle for space at the railing. The view was nice, but not really that impressive. We spent perhaps fifteen minutes up there.

There were short lines for the first elevator down--I think we got on the second one. That dropped us into a line that existed to sell us a commemorative photo of ourselves in front of a matte-painted Empire State Building. We declined to shell out $15 for something that we could get for fifteen seconds of camera battery time and a half-megabyte of compact-flash card space. Finally, we reached the second elevator down.

WoK-chan, you might want to skip the next couple paragraphs. If you choose not to, please don't anvil me.

We got into the second elevator. It wasn't a squeeze at all--until an incredibly fat man wedged himself in. Now there was no free space in the elevator.

And some random blonde woman's ass was pressing into my groin.

As you can imagine, this was rather difficult for me to handle. I couldn't back up--I was already pinned against the elevator's railing. She squirmed a bit to try to find a couple spare millimeters, which didn't help at all. Leaving me to spend eighty floors trying desperately to think about anything but the position I was in. Somehow I managed to avoid anything . . . embarrassing . . . happening, and emerged on the ground floor unscathed.

Welcome back, WoK.

We left the Empire State building and decided to walk to the Plaza Hotel.

On the way we had lunch and stopped in a bookstore. I picked up Inu-Yasha #3, but saved it for the drive to DC. Mom revealed why she was so hesitant about buying these things for me--it wasn't because I finished them so quickly (less than an hour for the first reading) or because she thought it was a bad influence or anything like that (not that she would)--it was because they were $9 and she was sure she could get them cheaper on Half.com if I'd only be more patient. That's a relief, I suppose.

Typical Jewish mother . . .

'Course, that's not going to stop me from checking the next bookstore for #4. It's not like I'm just buying them and saving them for home, after all.

Anyway, after we left the bookstore, we walked to the Plaza. It was pretty much what I'd expected, but then, Home Alone 2 had once been my favorite movie. (Hold your fire--this was long before I'd discovered science fiction.) Partly because I needed it, but also because I was curious how fancy they were, I stopped in the bathroom. It was pretty normal, except that the person I thought was a janitor was actually an attendant who turned the water on and off for you, handed you a paper towel, and wiped up the water you left around the sink. I didn't realize until I'd left the bathroom that I probably ought to tip the guy . . . oh well.

The nearest subway station was a ways away, so we decided to walk through Central Park to get to it. Central Park is very nice, and nothing like I imagined it. I'd always imagined a big, grassy field, with perhaps a few lakes and scattered trees, but my walk took me across a bridge, down a path, across a road for horses, past a carousel, and near a baseball diamond. Trees were everywhere, and in some places it wasn't difficult to forget you were in the middle of America's largest city.

Once we reached the subway, we went back to the hotel room to rest for an hour. That's when I posted last night.

We just got to the hotel; I'll finish this later.


It's night now. We went to Georgetown to walk around and get dinner. I'm not sure if today was worth writing an entry about-it was mostly driving, after all. I'm listening to Men in Black, which my siblings are watching.

Anyway, back to the story . . .

My mother, as it turns out, has family in New York-a cousin named Wendy. We arranged to have dinner with her. So at six-thirty or so, we left our hotel and got on the subway to Greenwich Village.

She lives with her husband in a three bedroom apartment on the eleventh floor of an apartment building. The apartment has a balcony, from which you can see the Empire State Building (with tourists' flashes visible at night), the Chrysler Building, and much of Manhattan.

She noticed a group of people behind the building, and herded us into her bedroom to see the "witches". Apparently a group of Wiccans (sp?) meets in a small park behind the building. Most of my family watched interestedly, but I barely looked--I don't really know why it is, but I have a thing about gawking at people like they're animals.

Anyway, after a tour of the apartment we went to dinner. It was at an Italian place, and was pretty good. We then walked around Greenwich Village. I spotted a newspaper vending machine with free dead-tree copies of The Onion, and grabbed one and started reading. I'm keeping it as a souvenir.

Okay, so I do keep souvenirs. But only free ones.

I read the headlines for a while, but the light kept me from reading most of the body text, so I only read the horoscopes. They were funny, as usual. Eventually, when I'd read all the headlines, I just carried it around, walking numbly along, not really paying attention to what people were saying. I do that sometimes.

I retreated further into that catatonic state when we reached a shopping area; see my entry last night for the story of what happened there. After that, I was lost in thought instead of numb, composing that entry in my head.

We eventually ended up at a dessert place near her house. The first thing I thought of when I went inside was Magical Cake--it seemed like the same sort of place. I had some gelato, which was excellent, in a hard chocolate shell, which was too rich for me to eat more than half of.

We walked back to her apartment and dropped her off, then stopped outside the building to argue.

By now, it was 11:30 or so. My brother had said earlier that he wanted to see Times Square, but my sister and I both wanted to go back to the room. Mom and Dad wanted us to see Times Square; my brother was indifferent. We eventually decided to go back to the room--which was probably a good decision, since our one-day subway passes would probably have expired at midnight, forcing us to pay for the extra subway ride.

All in all, it was an interesting day. I left New York feeling like I'd finished--there was still plenty to see there, of course, but I didn't feel a desire to stay and see it all.

Well, not yet. I'll come back one day, but that day is not today. Or this month. Or any summer month.
  • Current Music
    The thunderstorm around the car