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So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping with joy at an extra 24 hours on a new planet

As you start to get older and greener of the subalien tooth, you appreciate so much more any extra hours bestowed upon you. Little joys such as the clock going back in the winter or “gaining” up to an extra day when you fly west from our current planet.  But in both these instances there is always eventually the need to head in the other direction and I’m the first to feel (totally irrationally) shortchanged by ye gods when time goes against me.

So today – February 29th  or Leap Day - is a win/win situation for me. A whole “extra” day with no looming reversal of the clock to cast a shadow over my joy. It also makes me think back to previous February 29ths and how they represent our own interplanetary “leaps”. Our most recent two were in Paris but even that length of time was insufficient for me to learn how to even say “Leap Year” in French. I’ve just had to look it up and it is apparently “l’année bissextile”. Now I know it is all to do with Latin and “bis” and “sextus” but honestly, who is going to look at that word and not see something else. Especially given this is the nation that produced the marvellous term “cinq à sept” for post-work afternoon liaisons, niftily timetabling the hours between 5pm and 7pm for lovers’ rendezvous but still leaving time to be home for dinner. Please note, in French-speaking Canada, “cinq à sept” has a slightly different meaning – it is indeed a “happy hour” but of the bar variety. Just so you know.

I now have in my own mind how the nation of love may choose to spend its extra 24 hours. In Ireland, where we were in 2000, the thought process is still the same although the focus is more on managing to achieve the “sept à cinq” time slot. For according to lrish legend, on this day alone, young lassies in the Emerald Isle were allowed by St Patrick to propose to their young men; those not agreeable had to pay a forfeit which in olden times was a dress but in my youth had been reduced to a kiss. We explained the custom to Male Mini-me this weekend just in case - he was very disgruntled and expressed a desire to be living in olden times.

And then there was Brazil in 1996. I have to confess I also had to look up Leap Year in Portuguese, only to discover it was “ano bissexto” – think there is a pattern forming here? I also have to confess that I don’t actually remember that one as we were probably all recovering from the exertions of Carnival the week earlier.

So I have been looking forward to seeing how our current planetary hosts make use of their extra day. I was a little disappointed that with the local love of the greeting card, I have seen none wishing the recipient a “Happy Leap Day”. But there are “Happy Leap Year Birthday” cards, including one that reads “Happy Birthday for real this year”. Some locals are preparing to take advantage of the additional recreational time to have a special “cinq à sept” although of the French Canadian variety involving beverages not beds. And elsewhere on the planet, that great alien playground, Disneyland, is staying open for the first time for 24 hours straight from 6am this morning (is that a “six à six"?).

And if you didn’t feel the need before to celebrate these extra 24 hours, then the media yesterday made sure you might want to start appreciating them. Many ran a story that NASA scientists have identified an asteroid that currently has a 1 in 625 chance of crashing into Earth, possibly on 5th February 2040. Fear not, reassuringly, were it to hit, mankind is expected to live through it. Even more reassuringly, NASA officials separately also said they expect the odds of an impact to go way down in the coming years. But heavens above, let’s take this opportunity to make the most of today’s Leap Day – there may only be 6 more left! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Surviving two cultural revolutions with hands and head intact

The past two weeks have seen me go through a cultural evolution – a subalien I still may be but at least I now know how to clap on cue, cheer on command and, at the other end of the scale, survive three hours of Shakespeare with my head still intact (unlike most of the characters).

My evolution centred around two revolutions. The first was the name of the lunchtime chat show looking recently for members of the public to fill its seats at one of its tapings. This being a brand new “transformational” show (and, as I have since learnt, one which replaced a much-loved soap opera) it is, somewhat understandably, working hard to find suitably responsive and adequately enthusiastic audience members.

It is also probably not helped by the fact that, having sat through an entire morning of on-off whooping, cheering and applauding (I did not think hands could hurt so much), I would have to describe it as what I call a “once in a lifetime” event. So much so that I felt it would spoil the memories to watch the one-hour show when it was actually broadcast.

Let’s just say I didn't want to face up to reality and accept that others now know the secrets I gleaned from the show. Such as how a bowl of macadamia nuts has more calories than a platter of vegetables. Or that the dark brown/black combination I have always worn was in fact a fashion faux-pas but now apparently is “in”. I know it is – in my wardrobe and has been for years.  

For those of you vaguely interested, the key is while chocolate is good (but no macadamia nuts thrown in, of course), tan and khaki are both big no-nos. If you’re confused about the khaki, here this means beige and not dark green – something I wish I'd known when buying Mini-Mum's first school uniform. 

No danger of any of those colours appearing in the audience. We had all been given instructions to wear bright colours and it was heart-warming to see so many members of the audience applying this request to their facial colour palate as well as their wardrobe. And that they continued to apply them so many times during the taping. 

Perhaps their ever-appearing gold compacts served a secondary purpose in that they attracted the TV cameras as bright objects attract magpies. By the way, “in” colours for TV production crew - most definitely black and white.  Anyway, I have it from reliable sources that those of us more shrinking violets (not exactly a bright colour, I know, but at least it wasn’t black), did not make it onto the big screen. What can I say – heart-broken, gutted, deeply relieved.

If that was a girly, local planetary cultural experience, you couldn’t get "butcher" (in more ways than one) than our most recent one. The Revolution might not have quite fulfilled my New Year’s Resolution No 2 but I think few would question our cultural credentials after seeing Kevin Spacey in Richard III this weekend. Now there's a man who knows about overthrowing existing leaders (we're talking the king here).

Our theatrical outing was supposed to have been a family event. But as in the play, where men and women fell by the wayside one by one, so in the run-up to the big day, our party of four was first reduced to three and then two. My two, I hasten to add, in contrast to Richard's relatives, did live to tell the tale, despite dropping out because of the length of the telling of the theatrical version.

To give Superalien his due (and in the spirit of  New Year's Resolution No 10), I did not see him dropping "out" once during the performance - something I could not have denied him, should I have forced him to watch The Revolution.

To be fair, there were similarities between the two shows. Both had the same “audience-in-seat-time” and both focused on resolving problems and changing lifestyles. Although in the case of Richard, the main "presenter" was predominantly interested in sorting out his own problems and lifestyle changes he “suggested” tended to be rather permanent.
And both involved the audience coming to its feet at the end and applauding wildly – I’ll let you guess which one evoked the spontaneous reaction.
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