You can tell a lot about a couple by the way they cross the street.
On Saturday, I witnessed four coupled-up street-crossers in the span of about 30 minutes. That’s what happens when you’re strolling down Fifth Ave in search of the perfect suit.
(The suit wasn’t for me, by the way. I spent most of the shopping portion of the day reading on the so-called boyfriend chair.)
On Saturdays, Fifth Avenue becomes a fashionable version of football. The teams are shoppers decked in their best leopard print ensembles, sizing each other up from opposite sidewalks. The “walk” sign flashes, and each team – a herd of maybe 20 or so – must reach the other side in the time allotted with little injury.
You must be ruthless. Standing between you and the end zone are a clueless tourist pointing at the sky, a mom who refuses to carry her barely mobile toddler, a grandpa recovering from a hip replacement. An elbow here, a jab to the ribs there. All’s fair in the sport of crosswalk.
Further, you must be prepared for the unforeseen. A stiletto-wearer might step into a crack or a carriage-carting horse might sideswipe a straggler.
Most interesting is how people reveal their true selves in the face of possible death by cab. In most cases, they will fall under one of two categories: Leave No Man Behind or It’s Every Man For Himself.
It is in that split-second decision that the couple is put to the test.
At Crosswalk No. 1, I watched a man cross just as the light turned green. Behind him, his wife or girlfriend was just stepping off the sidewalk. She was on the phone. She stopped.
“We can’t go yet!”
But it was too late. The man was almost across the street, barely acknowledging her.
At Crosswalk No. 2, another possible death by cab. This time, the woman was stepping out into the street just as the light turned green. She wasn’t looking. The man, waiting with the rest of us, reached out to pull her back.
As cars passed, they looked at each other, she with the sheepish “Oops” face, and he visibly annoyed.
At Crosswalk No. 3, the couple was hand in hand. They stepped out into the street together, confident the cabs were going to stop for them. They kept talking, never missing a beat.
At the fourth crosswalk, the couple was in the midst of conversation. A cab approached, but there was enough time to get to the other side. The woman darted across the street; the man hesitated.
“Ha,” she told him seconds later. “You’re always hesitating.”
It’s likely I’m looking too far into this. (Lucky for you, dear reader, I’m a fervent too-far-into-this-looker who likes to inject stories where they may not belong. As for the rest of you.)
Where the rest of you might see a man who saved a woman from certain doom, I see a woman so used to the man shielding her that she doesn’t even bother to look both ways anymore.
After all, relationships are made of little crosswalks. They are unpredictable. They are risky. You never know if, in the face of adversity, the person you’re with is going to look out for you or leave you behind.
Which makes it all the more frustrating. I mean, life would be so much easier if we could employ a reliable test to gauge a person’s crosswalk mettle. Like: Hey, you, let’s meet at a crosswalk, where I will close my eyes, step out into the street and, though I will not tell you this beforehand, you will pass my test by making sure we both make it to the other side.
But that’s not exactly foolproof. For one thing, you could be crushed by an overzealous texter should your mate be distracted by a unicyclist, a no-pants-wearer, a Uniqlo of epic proportions.
The more accurate measure, I think, is the one taken over time, time and time again. Because should you both survive one crosswalk mostly unscathed, albeit clumsily, there’s always the next one.
And maybe, hopefully that one will be a hand-in-hand kind of thing.
It was the kind of day — no, week — when everything was just going wrong. The kind of week better spent in bed, curled up under my sheets, crying to something “Dashboard Confessional.”
So there I was, utterly miserable, when my sister gchatted me.
Elaine Omg hahaha A horrible pic of me got posted on the NYK Facebook Fml fml!!!! Me where where where
The night before, my sister and brother had gone to a Knicks game at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. With Amare and Carmelo out, my sister was there for the “Linsanity.” She even made a poster.
This poster caught the attention of a journalist, who, likely under the auspices of a well-intentioned editor saying: “Go forth, young man, and find an Asian!”, asked my sister why she was a fan of the Linmeister.
Her response? “He’s awesome!”
Seconds passed. Cue awkward staring contest.
In my sister’s defense, when given something unquotable, the reporter is supposed to ask more questions. Like “Why?” “Explain.” “Elaborate.” The guy did none of these.
What should have been a moment of glory for my sister, a die-hard Knicks fan since we immigrated to the city during the Starks and Ewing era in 1992, became a clear example of how the internet can be a not so nice place.
The first comment?
“WTF IS UP with her FOREHEAD”
“Yea her forehead is pretty huge”
The fifth —
OK, you get the idea.
The comments were cruel. Fantastically mean-spirited. Absolutely dehumanizing.
The lens had compressed and elongated my sister’s face in the worst way. The fivehead, a prominent feature among us Bowl of Pastas, was on display for the sick, sad world to see.
What normally looks like this:
Looked like this:
It was incredibly unfair. My sister is obviously hot in real life, and most of the commenters were obviously not the sharpest knives in a drawer of really blunt knives, namsayn? If I had absolutely no life, I would have looked through all of their profiles, saved their public images, scoured the interwebs for publicly available information and court documents, and dedicated a viral-worthy blog post to their miserable existences. But, as I absolutely did have better things to do, I decided against it.
Which left me doing the next best thing.
But it went beyond your customary IM laughter. I laughed in real life. I laughed so hard my face turned red, I got sweaty, and I couldn’t breathe. Squeaks could be heard arising from my desk, where I trembled from the lack of oxygen. It’s the kind of laughter that only worsens the more you try to stifle it. The kind that gets you right in the gut.
My terrible day officially became the day I cackled into the ether.
Someone else who was having a bad day called my sister. It’s not really clear what transpired during that call, because the friend was laughing too hard.
“See,” I said. “You’re bringing joy to the masses!”
In typical sports fan fashion, my sister had this to say:
Elaine And someone’s like, “I wonder if she was a Knicks fan before.” That’s the only one I got mad at.
Later, my brother gchatted me. Maybe he had some words of wisdom.
Me the comments are so terrible they’re funny Allan hahaha i know Me one of them said she looks like this guy
Allan ahahaha this is awesome one of them is like she can fit a dozen headbands on her forehead Me hahahahah Allan “She looks like the leader from iron man” Me hahahaha i like that one someone said the knicks should take it down or she might kill herself Allan hahahaha Me my stomach hurts
Soon, the comments died down (with the last ones pointing out the lens distortion), and the next day, my sister did end up sharing the link on her Facebook.
This all reminded us that the internet, cruel as it is, is a fickle thing. What seems like a big deal now will likely be forgotten three hours from now. Unless, of course, your distorted mug becomes a meme, posted on a blog, reposted on another blog, and posted on reddit.
Looks left and right. So far, so good.
FOOTNOTE  Me: How come the reporter didn’t prod her? Like… How? Why? Maybe he sucks, too.
Allan: Yeah, I think he does suck. Because he asked her one question, then after she answered, asked me the same question. WTF. Give me something else. Pick my brain. I have important things to say!
Me: Hahaha. She probably has no idea what basketball is and was told to look for Asians at a Knicks game. Ooh. I like how I switched to the female pronoun when talking about lack of sports knowledge. I am sexist! Unintentional.
Allan: Sure, sure. MEN ARE SUPERIOR.
 My sibs also got into a Taiwanese paper. My sister used Google Translate.
Came from the south of Virginia, the Pori Bada and his wife Lin Hao (Allan & Elaine Bolipata) said, “In the past, live in New York, diehard fans, has always been the Knicks, Lin Hao, an incredible performance, the enthusiasm of the team once again renewed. ” Pori Bada and his wife opened three hours by car from afar, and production support LinShuHao slogans waving at the scene.
Me HAHAHA. this is great. Allan she is having a rough week Me the knicks, source of misery.
This time around, my top 10 links mostly lead to things I’ve featured on Tumblr. This could mean one of 50 things. Either I’ve finally figured out a purpose for my Tumblr (Originally, I’d used it for camera phone pictures — something Instagram kind of rendered obsolete) and have been linking to it more, or of everything I’ve linked on Twitter, my Tumblr links are the best of them.
Other than that, I’ve been so beat this week I haven’t had energy to write patent-related ramblings (Stop that. You, with the pumping of the fist).
Luckily, that’s what pictures are for. Here’s a few days in my life.
On my way back from a meeting at City Bakery, I looked to my left long enough to walk back to the middle of the crosswalk and snap this picture. If that cab looks like it’s gunning for me, it’s because it was.
City Bakery, by the way, is the kind of place where you have to be vigilant about finding a table at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. On the upside, there’s never a need to fill awkward silences because no such thing exists there.
The roomies and I are trying to do this thing where we get together more than once every leap year.
Though I’ll always refer to them here as my roomies, one of them actually moved out months ago. Still, it’s not uncommon for New York roomies to never see each other. Which is not always a bad thing.
One Wednesday, the original plan was Buffalo Cantina for dinner, land of buffalo wings and more buffalo wings. But when I found out there was a creative nonfiction panel at Housing Works in SoHo, I dragged everyone to, you guessed it, a bookstore. The buffalo wings (and it’s not every day I say this) had to wait.
I wanted to hear about a piece I’d read some time ago that explored why Asian males, despite doing well in academic settings, usually don’t successfully climb the corporate ladder. Turns out New York Mag editors, as editors tend to do, had assigned the story to a writer with a tenuous connection to the subject matter: “You, Asian guy. You’re up.”
One night in Park Slope, a friend celebrated his birthday at Pacific Standard. Presidential debate playing in the background with very serious spectators in attendance? Check. One dude adamantly arguing about why shark fin soup is a symbol of this generation’s disposable nature? Check.
Don’t think you are a photographer just because you use Instagram.
It’s one of those things people say to make things that aren’t quite so clear, well, clear. As if imposing boundaries on the boundless adds certainty. As if the world were black and white. As if everything needs its own place, its cubby, its designated compartment. This way, the world makes sense.
Which does help explain some of life’s great mysteries. But not completely.
Take intellectual property, for example. When I tell people I write about intellectual property law, their eyes glaze over, they politely nod and smile, and say, “Cool!” Cool. Cool said in the way I’d say cool if someone told me their hair stayed curly much longer today than yesterday, all thanks to this new hairspray they’re trying because it’s personally endorsed by The Hair Queen of Hairdonia.
But it’s OK. I would have said something similar just a year or two ago. I mean, I never once thought, “Gosh, when I grow up I want to become a journalist and write about patents and copyrights! Yayayayaya!” After all, intellectual property on its surface is this weird, enigmatic thing. It’s intimidating and scary. It’s amorphous and complex.
We ordinary humans take intellectual property and say: I am putting you in my amorphous and complex cabinet, only to be opened on desperate occasions, like that time I ran out of sugar so I finally opened that hard-to-reach cabinet over the fridge to check if it happened to have sugar because risking food poisoning made more sense than putting on five layers to go outside.
The dictionary doesn’t help either. Merriam-Webster takes intellectual property and says: It is a “property (as an idea, invention or process) that derives from the work of the mind or intellect; also: an application, right or registration relating to this.”
So, let me get this straight. Intellectual property is property of the intellectual kind? Obviously, Merriam and Webster stayed home from school the day they went over how you’re not supposed to use the words you’re defining when you’re defining them.
But all is not lost. Let’s break it down, Will Smith styles.
This is the story all about how My understanding of intellectual property got flip- turned upside down
OK, I can’t explain IP in rap.
Let’s break it down. Karen styles.
Let’s start with the patent, because it’s a major part of IP and it’s pretty damn old. (How old? Yo patent’s so old, it was filed before Abe Lincoln’s patent.)
I could talk at length (Actually, no I can’t. Don’t make me) about Article One, Section 8, of the US Constitution:
The Congress shall have power…To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
With this, Congress said: Let there be the patent system!
People like to create almost as much as people like to freeload. The patent protects the innovators from the moochers.
It also gives people an incentive to create stuff by granting them the exclusive use of their inventions for a limited time. In the US, it’s 20 years. So, for those 20 years, no one can use someone else’s patented invention, unauthorized, and profit from it. After the patent expires, the findings of that invention enter public domain, and anyone can use them to innovate. Basically, it’s one generation’s gift to the next.
Simple enough, right? This makes intellectual property less amorphous. There are now cubbies.
Intellectual property is the invention. The patent protects it. Anyone who profits from the invention without permission is infringing the patent. The very smartphone you’re reading this on is likely covered by thousands of them.
So, let’s say someone takes an iPhone, replicates it and passes it off as a new product. That’s infringement. But let’s say someone sells a smartphone covered by its own set of patents that cover its own set of features similar to a set of features also covered by an entirely different set of patents for the iPhone.
What is that?
Other than the subject of ongoing major litigation, it’s also the gray area. And the grays are the really interesting part. The grays defy a simple definition. Because one person’s definition of what constitutes infringement may not mesh with your definition of what constitutes infringement. These various, often conflicting definitions of infringement are what’s plaguing Googlebooks, SOPA/PIPA and, many would argue, the progress of science and the arts.
So, while definitions help us understand things better, they don’t cover everything. Some things don’t belong in neat little cubbies. Maybe they belong in more than one.
Even worse than an incomplete definition is a misguided one, like when people define an enigmatic concept by using the wrong words (at least Merriam and Webster used the right ones). This is what’s happening with the Instagram. It’s an attempt to define a photographer by the tool she uses. Which is fine, if you’re part of that “REAL photographers use silver on a copper plate with their bare hands, just like Daguerre did in 1839!” set.
But my definition of what makes a photographer is not their definition of what makes a photographer. Because in my definition, a photographer isn’t defined by the camera she uses but by how she uses it.
In the beginning, there was the camera. Scientists, mathematicians and astronomers used it for scientific, mathematical, astronomyish purposes.
The artists, as artists tend to do, took that contraption and made things look cool. And I’m not talking Hair Queen of Hairdonia cool; I’m talking Gladwell wrote a bunch of interesting books connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, got them illustrated and repackaged into a boxed (My birthday’s coming up!) set cool.
Luckily, Ansel Adams didn’t have to resort to bioluminescent installations (Notably, he was a musician in his youth. A world sans camera might have led him to pursue music instead), because the commercially made camera made it possible for more people to do with it whatever they wanted to do. Just like smaller film cameras did, the lower priced ones did, the SLR, the DSLR, the point and shoot, and the camera phones did (and do).
What hasn’t changed is what makes a good picture.
It’s easy to say that a photographer is someone who knows how to use a DSLR or develop his own film, because they come with tangible measurements. The photographer, this suggests, knows how to let in a little more light, speed up the shutter speed and adjust this or that to produce the desired result. There’s a bit of math, craft, science, mechanics involved.
But a great part of creativity, and that’s what I’m really talking about here, is intuitive. There’s curiosity, the feeling, the story, the eye, the connection to the reader, the viewer, the listener.
And communicating that doesn’t require supercalifragilistic lenses. I’ve seen people take terrible pictures with awesome cameras.
People get enamored with the intricacies of things, as if the more buttons and complications something has, the more impressive their abilities. I liken it to a writer adding fluff to a sentence, as if the longer it is and the bigger the words, the better delivered the message.
But see, all that is nothing without the idea. Once you reach a certain level of competence, what sets you apart is the story you tell. A writer with perfect grammar, a MacBook and nothing to say will always be trumped by the slightly flawed writer with a notepad and insight. A photographer with a great camera but no perspective produces a nice picture that says nothing.
In this ever evolving world, where a picture, a song, a movie can be produced and shared in ways only previously imagined, the challenge is in producing a quality product when there are fewer places to hide.
Of increasing importance is the intangible, the thing that’s hard to define. It’s what will always set a work of art apart from a work of technical brilliance.
This is part of a series of posts about PROBAATD, an overly broad project in which the only guidelines are that it involves a book, a list, a blog. This particular entry came from spurts of random thoughts brought on by the book of the moment, “Steve Jobs.”