Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

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No Prize

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I am suffering from some severe deja vu. I definitely feel like I wrote this post already but I can’t find any sign of it. So, if I wrote something like this before, forgive me.

I am writing about the concept of the “No Prize.” Back when I was younger, Marvel comics employed this idea. Basically, readers would attempt to find inconsistencies or continuity errors in the comics. Instead of just smugly pointing out these errors, however, they would be charged with coming up with an explanation to this mistake. The reader would find something wrong and use his or imagination to make it right. Then the reader would receive the appreciation of Marvel Comics but no actual reward; literally “No Prize.” I love this idea

I find I employ the “No Prize” idea in my enjoyment of the books I read and films I watch. I want to be entertained by the media I spend my time with, so even if something seems ridiculous or unlikely, I do my best to try to explain how it could actually work out. I want to give everything the largest benefit of the doubt that I can.

I know this seems weird for someone who has been reliably snarky since I started the blog, but I actually find myself working harder to make the story work more than the original writer, sometimes, seems to have.

I do try to be discerning in what I enjoy but sometimes I think we should try to make an effort to make something work even if we need to stretch our suspension of disbelief. If we’re going to hate what we use for entertainment, what’s the point, after all?

Spoiled Rotten

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I’m bored. I got home today and had time to do whatever I wanted. I’m in the middle of a pretty entertaining novel (Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, Thanks Jon), I have tons of video games on multiple platforms, I have RPG characters to work on, countless movies or TV shows to stream instantly, and a zillion fun, fulfilling personal projects I should pursue. I have more wildly entertaining means to engage myself than I ever would have thought possible as a child. There are a ridiculous bounty of ways to get my fix, whatever that fix may be. As I write this, even more forms of entertainment keep coming to mind. How about those comics I haven’t read? How about the DVD collection I haven’t touched in weeks?

Yet, none of this feels like it will hit the spot. I’m in a bored and restless mood, not wanting to do anything ranging from thought-provoking to mindless; exciting to relaxing. How pathetic and whiny is that? What a ridiculous, First World problem. My mood creates such a sense of self-loathing. Why should someone with so much going on find such little fun from any of it. I wonder if any of you ever feel like this.

A crisis of culture

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2010 at 12:32 am

Since I’ve started my new job, the room in my life for entertainment has dwindled to a mere appropriate amount. And I’m actually very grateful, as I like my new job and all that comes with it such as paychecks, which can be deposited as money, which can then be used in trade for goods and services. I mean, I imagine you are all familiar with the concept.

But as I use my time to entertain myself, I find myself reflecting on my consumption of media. With the release of new Iron Man and Tron related trailerosities on the internet, my geeky heart is all a flutter with the prospects of new delights. I find myself gleefully working my way through Dragon Age and dusting off Fallout 3 with honest enjoyment. I even polished off a collection of Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard. My assault on geek culture has been thorough, multi-tiered, and extensive.

So what is the crisis I am encountering? Not really sure. I’m just wondering if this stuff is really the extent of who I am or what I think is important. Are my sensibilities so immature, so escapist, so separated from the reality of my actual life that lightcycles and briefcase battle armor can really excite me? Shouldn’t I be seeking some kind of stimulation beyond that which made me happy as a child? Something with more depth? Something that matters?

On the other hand, maybe this “child-like” wonder is actually the human experience at its purest. Maybe all pretensions at culture or depth of contemplation are illusions that we are making progress when we should be seeking the primal sensations, the most simple and wonderful things. I have no idea.

I hate to be a bummer. Just had some weird thoughts bouncing around. Feel free to comment or just ignore me until the Dragon Age expansion comes out next week and I can back to life as normal.

Geek youth

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Sorry I’ve been away.  This blog has been a whole lot less daily than it should be.  My apologies for those whom count on it for 2-3 minutes of wasted time a day.  I have been busy with a new demanding endeavor: student teaching.  I’ve been starting early, going all day, then preparing for the next most of the evening.  Any other time I try to spend with my wife and our new TV addiction.  So, this blog has suffered.  I am sorry.

So, the topic today are some of the young people I see around me on a daily basis.  I feel like I can spot the fledgling geeks pretty easily.  Whether it is a dragon T-shirt, an intelligent but awkward demeanor, or even a Twilight sticker on a binder, I feel like I can pinpoint those students my 8th grade self would have gotten along with.  Unfortunately, I feel it is impossible to communicate with them about it.  Here’s why.

For one, as much as I would like to think it would make me “cool,” I’m pretty sure it would make me lame.  Like, if I said “Hey, are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?” to a young lady, it would no doubt be met with a “um…whatever” versus the “awesome, Mr. Brown gets me.  What an inspiring teacher!”   It’s true.  No matter how great I think I am, to these kids I am old and lame and they are right to think that.  It’s pretty sad to try to look good to a bunch of middle-schoolers.

Secondly, even if I thought it might be nice for a geek student to be “gotten” by an adult in their life, I wonder if the seal of approval from a teacher is really any good.  I’d like to think I can be a good role model for my students but it shouldn’t be because I like their taste in video games.

So, I leave it alone, so far.  I’m working on trying to be a better teacher for everyone, not just a better geek for some.  This is why my posts might be a little further and far between,  Time will tell.

Geekiest thing I’ve done in a while

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Tonight, I am preparing one to engage in one of the silliest, geekiest things I have done in a while.  You might find this unlikely, considering I write a daily blog about the minutia of my interests.  You see, everyday I continue this mockery should be the geekiest day of my life, using Office Space logic.  As a rabid player of games video and tabletop, a lover of science fiction, and person whom could have a long conversation only using Simpson quotes, what activity could I be talking about.  Well, let me tell you.  I and some of my associates are having are picking real-world millionaires from a prepared list to make an imaginary team whom will be squared off against other people’s teams using the results of the rich guy’s job peformances to determine an winner of the fictional conflict.  Yes, I am preparing to play some fantasy football.

I wrote about the subject of sports as a geek interest before in this post, but what I am engaging in takes it to a whole new level.  This is shit is huge right now and if I, the most marginal of sports fans, is involved, you know it’s pretty popular.  For those who don’t know, my draft consists of me picking NFL players over the internet along with the other people in my league.  I have the 6th pick, so I will be picking 6th, 15th, 26th, and so on.  When my team is finished, then the game begins.  During the weekend, all my individual players will play their games and will have statistics connected to their performances.  Those statistics have points assigned to them.  So, I add up the points, compare them to the other player I’m playing that week, and see who wins.  Pretty simple concept, really.

Oh, Adrian Peterson with your +5 speed and improved evasion, you are not destined to be mine this draft.  I'll have to settle for some other elite RBs.

Oh, Adrian Peterson with your +5 speed and improved evasion, you are not destined to be mine this draft. I'll have to settle for some other elite RBs.

So, how is this different than a tactical RPG or a CCG (collectible card game, not sure we’ve talked much about them) like Magic: The Gathering.  Instead of preparing a party or a deck, I’m preparing a team of football players.  Instead of chance coming from dice or the luck of the draw, it’s coming from the real-life performances of the players on the field.  Like these types of games, it is a flawed simulation of the real thing.  It is tactical exercise requiring a ton of research and analysis to be successful.  As much as anything geekish, it is flight of fantasy; a creation of the imagination.

So, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  This is my first time at this.  Much like a newcomer cracking the PHB for the first time, I am overwhelmed and intimated but also excited about the prospect of a good time.

Geek casting

In Movies, Television, Uncategorized on August 30, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I heard the other day that Jamie Bamber, Apollo on Battlestar Galactica, is going to be on the final season (I assume final) of Dollhouse.  Coupled with Helo, this is another BSG alum moving onto another geek show.  I feel like Dollhouse is becoming a bastion for geek actors from canceled shows, as Summer Glau is making her way to the house straight from the terminator show, which she was on after The 4400, right after her Firefly days.  Joss Whedon’ regulars, Ronald Moore’s people, various people from various Scyfy (or however they spell it now) programming and USA shows all work in the same geeky circle and continue to over and over.  How does this happen?  How does Katie Sackhoff end up on The Bionic Woman?  How does Tricia Helfer end up everywhere?  She was on Chuck, Supernatural, Burn Notice, and Warehouse 13 along with work in video games (Command & Conquer, Halo: ODST) and cartoons (The Spectacular Spider-man, Green Lantern: First Flight) in the last two years.  I mean, who does this casting?  How does this work?

Well, it probably has a logical answer.  It seems in Hollywood, people get caught up doing the same kind of thing and have a hard time breaking from that mold.  If someone becomes a fan-favorite on a geek show, that becomes the audience they can appeal to.  Therefore, they end up doing similar types of shows or movies for years to come.  While maybe Johnny Depp can get away with picking strange, eclectic roles to challenge his abilities, most mid-level, TV star celebrities don’t have that advantage.  They happily take whatever work is there to make a good living.  The funny thing must be those people whom have no interest in geekiness but keeping falling into those type of gigs.  Is Summer Glau a geek?  For her sake, I hope she has some interest in that kind of stuff because I see a long, Walter Koenig-like convention career when the world realizes she can’t act and her hotness (personally, not a big fan but I guess I’m in the minority) fades.

Summer, these guys have a seat all warmed up for you.

Summer, these guys have a seat all warmed up for you.

Another answer might be that some actors enjoy working on geek projects.  The best example I can give for this is Christian Bale.  Bale is considered a solid, respected actor with a resume of interesting, adult roles.  So what does he keep doing?  Equilibrium, Reign of Fire, Terminator: Salvation, Batman Begins. During the span in which he made these flicks, he has made plenty of non-geeky, perfectly respectable pieces of cinema.  He clearly likes being in movies where he gets to wear outrageous outfits, wield bizarre weapons, and fight all kinds of science fiction adversaries.  I say, good for him.  I’m glad he keeps appearing in our type of flicks, though the Batman-voice is getting pretty goddamn old.

I’m glad that I see the same old faces when I watch geeky media.  It’s always nice to see that Miles Dyson survived Terminator 2 and landed on Eureka.  I’m always happy to see Jane in the Buy More.  I just hope they enjoy being there as much I enjoy seeing them there.  Hmm…yeah, they get to make millions working on television.  I’m sure they’re fine, in retrospect.

Out of the loop

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2009 at 11:08 pm

This is a relatively new phenomenon for me.  I mentioned an inkling of it it before in this post, but this is a little different.  I’m not talking about keeping up with continuity (which I continue to struggle with) but having a limited idea of what’s happening in the industries I pour my time, energy, and money.  It happened when I went comic shopping with Kettner about a week ago.  He was showing who was working on what project and what was good and not.  I recognized a lot of the creators, but I didn’t know which writer was on which book.  This is shit I used to be pretty up on.  What new titles are coming out, which books are surprisingly great, which comics are disappointingly terrible, and so on.  I had another shock like this when I was listening to the 1up videogame podcast ( a week late, I might add).  In it, they were talking about a lot of games.  I could obviously follow the conversation (I am a geek, after all) but it was amazing to hear which games had already come out while I was figuratively sleeping on the job.  I mean, I was in Best Buy a while back when I saw the Wii Sports Resort with the new controller add-on had come out.  I made a purchase like some kind of normal consumer at a store instead of my usual, up-on-the-news self.  These are just a few examples.  The time when the nice but non-geek at work asked me about new games and I stared blankly at him.  The time I realized I wasn’t familiar with the Mark Millar Kick-Ass comic when I saw the trailer for the movie.  So, what happened?

Well, for one, I stopped having a mindless job with a computer.  When I went back to school full-time, I stopped working in the dreaded office environment.  So, while I used to waste hours of my non-productive day scouring the super highway for every morsel of data that might be interesting to me, that was no longer all I had to do with my time.  I had school work and the like, of course, but also better stuff to do with my free time.  Besides time spent with actual human beings, I spent my time playing games, reading books, and creating stuff instead of reading blogs or rumors about games, books, or other people creating stuff.  While more fulfilling, I think, it definitely increased my ignorance on the geek industries working around me.

Also, I got kind of down on the actual businesses involved in making my geek media.  When I left the weekly comic grind a few years ago, I was less than inspired by the work being produced.  And while I still love games, I was getting annoyed by the banality of the limited imagination of most big game producers.  This is not to say I didn’t read or play anything.  Just, I wasn’t all that interested in MPD numbers, the weekly DC series starring obscure characters, or why Bioware’s Dragon Age was taking so long to come out.  It just didn’t interest me to know this kind of shit.

Who am I kidding?  I'm dying to know everything about Dragon Age that I can squeeze from my computer.

Who am I kidding? I'm dying to know everything about Dragon Age that I can squeeze from my computer.

And finally, it’s nice to be surprised every once in a while.  It’s fun to forget about something entirely, then turn the corner in the store and see something you can be excited about.  In this age of information, it’s becoming a rarity.  I remember going to bookstores, hoping that a new whatever was out but having no convenient way of finding out.

So, of course, I’m actually pretty in-the-loop about most things.  I still keep up with upcoming movies more than anyone I know, really.  And, with the success of my current rpg playing, I’m back on that more than I was.  As for video games, I do still listen to a weekly podcast on the subject (though a shitload less now that 1up has paired down its operation).  Comics…yeah, I’m still out of it on comics but that’s easy enough to get back into when I have the inclination, time, and money.  No worries there.  It’s just that I feel like I used to obsess over the details of the news in my geek world.  Now, I don’t.

I think that’s probably a good thing.

Is it just a phase?

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2009 at 1:30 am

I like to cling, helplessly, to my idea of individuality.  I mean, I don’t think my choice to like nerdy things through adolescence was a desire to conform.  If it was, it was a pretty stupid method.  Whether we rose up apart from each other, we have became an entity; a type.  It’s no coincidence that people whom have never met can have entire conversations using nothing but Simpsons quotes (or Family Guy quotes for the younger crowd).  Not to crush the concept of free choice, but we have been formed by the media of society into a subculture to be catered to, advertised to, and sold to.  We have our own specific tastes, no doubt, but geek culture is a now a shared experience for millions of people.  You go to a party, you get introduced to some new people, and you often gauge that experience by their love of Batman or interest in Robotech, for instance.

This guy might regret this someday.  Probably already, actually.

This guy might regret this someday. Probably already, actually.

Ahh…so you may be looking for the point?  Well, I wonder if this is how society will be for foreseeable future.  How long will the age of big-budget comic book movies or well-made, interesting video games continue.  Are we an example of a big shift in society, or just a small, short-lived generation that will by replaced soon enough by some other thing that we don’t know about yet.  Like the  hippies of the 60’s or some disco practitioners from the 70’s?  Are the kids of tomorrow going to wonder why a bunch of man-children (or women-children) got excited about the release of Halo or pumped about a movie about laser-sword magicians and space-apes.

Okay, let me give you an imperfect example.  Go with me, please.  I got home late.  Anyways, so think about the state of the western in the 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s..  People loved their western shows and movies a shit-ton.  Bonanza, The Magnificent Seven, The Rifleman, Rio Bravo, Gunsmoke, and on, and on, and on.  It was very common for children to attire themselves like workers in the bovine transportation business of the late 19th Century and no one thought it was weird.  It was a phenomenon.  So, where is the western now?  While still alive, it is hardly flourishing.  Kids are on to the geeky shit that they are on to, having grandfathers whom love John Wayne.

Are superheroes, zombies, and all the shit we like now going to disappear?  Will it go in waves, with some diehards keeping interest alive until the pendulum swings back?  Is the health of the geek subculture just a momentary phase?  Or has it grown strong and diverse enough to be a sociological entity with real legs?  Time will tell.

Geek indignation

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2009 at 11:56 am

Sorry about the lack of posts recently.  I was involved with The Daily Scott Brown Live Road Show (aka. hanging out for the weekend with half the people whom read this blog) so I didn’t have much time to post.  And, of course, I got home yesterday evening with plenty of time to post but there were a ton of episodes from Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 3 on my DVR and, well, those aren’t going to watch themselves, are they?  So, I’m getting to it now.

Usually I don’t like to take suggestions for posts (except “That Guys,” which have become completely suggestions).  This isn’t because I want this blog to be all my ideas.  I really appreciate all the amazing suggestions and comments I receive.  It’s because I don’t like to disappoint people.  They might say “Write about X” and so I do my best to write about “X” and what I write isn’t very good.  Then that person might think: “Man, I should have written about ‘X’ instead of this loser.”  So I usually restrict myself to my own ideas to butcher with snarky, over-analysis.

But today is not the case.  My friend Josh suggested a topic that I think is too interesting to not tackle, especially since it seems to connect well with another topic I discussed, geek shame.  This topic is the other side of the coin and I like to call it geek indignation.  It happens when you hear someone you would consider a non-geek or at least a non-geek on a specific subject talking about something you feel especially qualified to discuss.  The indignation rises up more so when this person seems to consider themself qualified to speak with authority or, god forbid, challenge you.  Then, the shame fades away as you prepare to go to flame war, your inner-grognard rising to the surface.  You begin to push back the phantom taped-up glasses from the bridge of your nose and your voice breaks into the stereotypical nasally tone of the abomination you usually try to hide in yourself. 

This happened to me at work several years ago when someone innocently suggested that Megatron and Optimus Prime were brothers from a throwaway line in Michael Bay’s Transformers.  Suddenly, I thought: “I collected Transformers comics for years.  I remember Buster Witwicky before the cartoon created Spike.  I remember the comic issue when Spider-man guest starred in his black costume.”  Then I said to this guy, “Um…that’s not true, actually.”  He looked at me like an idiot, quoting the line from the movie.  All of a sudden, ideas of what is canon and not, how shitty the movie was, or how many incarnations of Transformers never mentioned a fraternal link between the respective Transformer leaders came to mind.  Luckily, my healthy geek shame kept me from opening up on this guy.  I exited with a relatively meek “whatever” and left it at that.

But this shit happens all the time.  People calling themselves X-Men fans because of a short stint of watching a shoddily animated cartoon from the 90’s.  Co-workers saying shit like, “So is this new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show a sequel to the original Shredder/Krang show?”  WoW players not paying homage to Everquest, Ultima Online, or MUDs before that.  Players of Baldur’s Gate not knowing what pen-and-paper games are.  These are just a few examples of the triggers for this indignation.

So why do we feel this?  Do we think these people haven’t earned the right to be enthusiasts without the years of being treated by a marginalized group of freakish lepers?  Do we feel our deep, rich and ultimately worthless amount of geek knowledge gives us an expectation of deserved respect in these matters?  I’m curious for your thoughts and experiences on this subject.  Thanks.

Built to last

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Today, I bought a new computer headset and new earbuds for my iPod.  They both went on the fritz recently.  The earbuds make a little sense, I guess, because I keep them wrapped around my mobile podcast player and I keep that in my pocket most of the time.  With the headset, however, I have no idea.  I never took them anywhere.  They just stopped working, with the sound dropping in and out with any movement whatsoever.  So, the biggest surprise with this recent technological problem was that I wasn’t surprised at all.  I feel like some old cranky bastard saying this, but nothing seems to last anymore.

It’s not just the headphones, either.  Last year my iPod just stopped working.  It didn’t suffer a fall or get smashed or get stuck to an electromagnet or anything.  It just stopped turning on.  I went to the Apple store.  They said: “It’s not working and it’s not under warranty.  You need to buy another one.”  I never received an answer regarding why this happened.  Did it get worn out?  It just ceased to be operational.  So, 18 months or so after buying it, I had to buy another one.  This is the world we live in, I guess.

And so it goes.  Computers seize up and crash forever.  Mp3s get corrupted or lost as we lose track of which device had which file.  Attachments get accidentally deleted.  Easy come, easy go.  It seems like you can buy less and less in today’s world, just lease the right to use for a while.  Dealing with either hardware or software, never has the possession of technology felt more temporary.  If you have a cellphone for more than 2 years, it becomes an antique.

Warranty's up?  Well, now it's both an entertainment device and a timebomb.  Enjoy.

Warranty's up? Well, now it's both an entertainment device and a timebomb. Enjoy.

So, this is what plagues me.  Not the breaking of my stuff, but the waiting for the breakage.  When will that little crease in my headphone wire break entirely.  When will my hard  drive not recover from an unexpected freeze.  I mean, I play with a launch era X-Box and its starting to show its age.  It works, but it overheats easily unless I pull it out of the TV stand and put a fan blowing directly on it.  I’m afraid to buy new games because I assume it will break so…but it seems to hang in there.  I am tempted to buy a new one but can’t really justify the purchase yet.  So, I wait for it to give out.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Is anything technological built to last anymore?  Should it be?