Posts Tagged ‘life’

When I Was Cool

September 12, 2008

Way back in 1993 during a blizzard I became an uncle. I was 15 and this would be the first, but not the last, time my sister would give birth. I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know this was my chance to be cool. As I look back now this is right about the time that I began my development as a geek. This was slightly counteracted by the fact that by the time this kid would start to develop a personality and begin to look up to people I was the only immediate relative living in a big city. Definitely cool. Plus I had long hair, something which most guys in our town weren’t really into.

By the time he was able to talk I was the cool uncle trying to be an artist in the big city. A had a lock on the whole cool thing (at least as far as he was concerned). Whenever I would come to town he was a ball of energy wanting to do everything all at once. The kid would tire me out and when I would ask my sister how she keeps up with him she would tell me it’s because he’s so excited to hang out with his uncle.

I must admit it felt good to have somebody look up to me. I was the youngest in my family and never had this happen before. My reign of coolness went on unabated for years. It even continued when I gained a niece and another nephew. Even they thought I was cool. It was great. But then something began to happen with the oldest. It was so subtle that I didn’t even notice it at first. He became interested in skateboarding. No problem. I had began to skate and although I didn’t know much I knew enough to retain my coolness. Then he began to play guitar. Wonderful. Every kid should try the arts. But this kid was good. Really,  really good. The real red flag was when he started playing football. I can’t speak to the talent in my brother-in-law’s family, but nobody in my family had ever been good or even interested in sports. We were all in Little League at some point but football! That was unheard of! Plus he was good at that too! High school football coaches were calling his house to make sure he would join the team when got to high school. Things progress quickly here. Suddenly the kid is a great skateboarder, a talented athlete, and has formed a band. Before I know it he’s organizing a gig for his band to play at the local VFW (that pull a decent sized crowd) and has a girlfriend. At this point he’s probably the most successful person in my family and worse then that he is definitely cooler than me.

Meanwhile I continue to collect action figures for both my girlfriend and me. I can barely do the most basic of skateboard tricks, build model rockets,  and am starting to actually like Dr. Who. The coolness bestowed upon me by my uncle status is fading fast. What little I have may have vanished when I gave him a t-shirt I made myself with the logo for our imaginary rocket club on it. My coolness will soon be gone and then I’ll just be his uncle. I imagine he’ll still humor me when I invite him along on some geeky adventure but it won’t be the same. Rest in peace, My Coolness. It was fun while it lasted.

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Seeing Wii-sults

August 19, 2008

Back in my mid 20’s, something odd happened one day. Suddenly, and seemingly without warning my pants didn’t fit. I had just bought these pants and immediately assumed I had gotten the length/width sixes mixed up. But that theory was throw in the trash when I checked the tag. I guess I really was an adult since I was finally upsizing. I knew (and was told by several slightly older co-workers) that once I gave into upsizing, there was no going back. I was going to become one of those guys whose belt looks like it was swallowed by his gut. The battle was on.

My first course of action was joining a group of co-workers in an after hours Tae Bo group. Not being the most athletic person, I was nervous. After all there was kicking involved. But it was pretty fun and despite my lackluster kicking ability, I picked it up fairly well. The group atmosphere helped and the only drawback was having to stare at Billy Blanks sweaty crotch. Soon people were telling me that it looked like I lost weight. I didn’t see any “real” results. My pants were still weren’t going on any easier and eventually the group, much like my old pants, disbanded.

I was losing the battle. I began skateboarding and got a second job that required a lot of walking. I figured these combined efforts would stem the tide. Unfortunately they didn’t. Occasionally I would try to go back to Tae Bo or use my girlfriend’s treadmill but I never did either for very long. Eventually I got used to having to go up a size each year until I cut myself off and then got use to wearing small pants.

When I heard the Wii Fit I didn’t think a lot about it at first. The concept seemed a natural fit (no pun intended) for the Wii. The whole basis of the Wii seemed to be getting people off the couch and moving while still playing fun video games.

Even the game it is packaged with, Wii Sports, can make you break a sweat. As time went on though the idea Wii Fit seemed to grow on me. After watching an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto on the Nintendo Channel, I was convinced. According to him, the point of it wasn’t just to lose weight but to actually make you aware of your body and what you are putting in it and also to create discussions about it among families. Listening to Miyamoto made me a believer and on May 21st, I woke up early and got in line at the Nintendo Store at 8 a.m.

When I got home I immediately put in the disk and got on board. After the first workout I started to think that I might actually lose weight. Just a few minutes into Hula Hoop® and I was starting to break a serious sweat. The push-up/plank exercise made my arms sore and the yoga seemed to be stretching me. I prefer to believe that this was happening because it was a good workout and not because at that point walking from the couch to the kitchen was a considerable distance for me.

The other reason I thought this would work was that I liked doing it. Thanks to a friend my step aerobics class was filled with the cast of The Office, I felt ridiculous doing Hula Hoop®, and when things aren’t goofy fun (like Strength Training) I enjoyed trying to get the high score. Soon enough the scale started saying I was weighing less. Even more amazing, the number kept going down. Here it is 3 months later and I’ve lost 10 pounds. The last time that happened I had a stomach flu. So it seems to be working. And I’m not the only one. There are countless blogs ( like this one or this article) of people tracking their results.

But there’s something else going on here. Much like the Wii console itself, Wii Fit seems to becoming a sort of pop phenomenon. It’s already being used to aid in rehabilitation (or Wiihab). It’s been at the center of controversy. Plus this video has become such a hit on YouTube that Nintendo felt the need to deny it being a marketing scheme launched by them. Playboy has even posted similar videos on their website.

Is this the future or exercise? Are gyms obsolete? Is it just a way for fat ass gamers to become a normal shape? All I know is I have to go buy a new belt.

I’m Not in Love With Bill Bixby!

July 17, 2008

Today our female correspondent, Brillen, has a story of geek oppression by an older sister. Enjoy!

 

Hollywood recently released another film version of The Incredible Hulk. I’m not sure why. The Ang Lee version was certifiably bonkers but usually they wait a few decades before trying a reboot.

Anyhow one good thing from the new film was that SciFi ran a marathon of the old TV show. As I watched the episodes again for probably the first time in two decades, I kept thinking of the following three questions:

1. Why do the Hulk’s pants never rip off? (An eternal question to confused kids everywhere)

2. Why is David Banner such a klutz?

3. How many cars did Jack McGee lose in pursuit of the Hulk?

These questions have been pondered by some before, my remaining question pertains strictly to a peculiar fact of my childhood- why my older sister constantly accused me of having a crush on Bill Bixby?

Now don’t get me wrong, Bill was a decent looking chap, a fine actor and all that but it wasn’t like I doodled “I heart Bill” all over my coloring books. But my sister always had a habit of claiming that I had crushes on people just to get under my skin (which was effective since I was shy and easily mortified). Usually while I was watching one Incredible Hulk episode or another and she wanted to change the channel, she’d start in on how much I loved Bill Bixby, that I wanted to marry him and I would try to concentrate on whatever poor wall Lou Ferrigno was destroying and wish that wall was my sister. When I was seven, one Bixby related taunting got me so angry, that I went in my room and slammed the door so hard that I knocked a framed poster off the wall. The glass shattered and my favorite teddy bear poster (don’t laugh!) was destroyed. The Hulk’s rage claimed yet another victim.

After she got bored of targeting Bill as the fake object of my girlish affections she’d switch to another (never actually landing though on an actor I actually liked at the time ie Tom Wopat- I remind you it was 1985) – the other two most frequent mentions being David Hasselhoff and Levar Burton. I admit there is some humor in accusing someone of having a crush on the Hoff (and I have actually met some who had a real true life crush on the man. No lie!) but she managed to ruin many an episode of Knight Rider and Reading Rainbow with her taunts.

This was all brought up again as I watched the Incredible Hulk marathon a few weeks ago. I came home early and I stumbled into a strange episode where David Banner and Jack McGee were trapped on the side of a mountain and Banner was dragging McGee around on the wing of a plane. Oddly Banner’s face was covered completely in gauze the entire time and he had lost his memory. McGee couldn’t tell he was in fact David Banner and was calling him John Doe.

Since I came in half way through the episode, I was baffled as to what was going on (it took me a minute to remember who McGee was). I googled the episode title “Mystery Man” and found that Hulk aficionados consider this two-parter a classic.

As it happens the next day I was talking to my sister (the same one who did all the taunting) and I mentioned watching the episode.

“I saw that too! What the hell was going on there? I couldn’t figure it out.”

“I think they were in a plane crash and David Banner had amnesia.”

“Is that why he had bandages on his face?”

“I think so. Those must have been annoying to act in”

“Oh you just didn’t like that you couldn’t see his face”

“Don’t start that again. I’m still pissed about my poster.

“That was your own fault.”

“Why did you start that by the way? The crush on Bill Bixby thing”

“Well . . .it’s because I kinda had a crush on him.”

“What?!?”

“I kinda had a crush on him.”

“You jerk! You rotten, rotten jerk!”

“You know on the show he was all tormented and sad. . . you know that’s how Iike ‘em.” That was true.

“So David Hasselhoff . . .”

“No I did not like David Hasselhoff.”

“Levar Burton?”

“No I didn’t like Levar Burton either. Although you did.”

“Oh shut up! You’re unbelievable.”

So I finally had the answer to why my sister tormented me through poor Bill Bixby but as to why the Hulk’s pants never rip off, that is still a question for the ages.

 

 

 

Geek: A history

July 14, 2008

When dreaming up this site, the ThisIsForGeeks team keep asking of various things, “Is that geeky?” In order to determine this we realized that defining what geeks are is important. As a guide in discovering what it means to be a geek I offer you, our reader, this fantastic article by geek corespondent Will J. Munro.

Geek History

Will J. Munro

Geek:

1. a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.

2. a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)

3. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken


While searching for information on the history of geeks I discovered the above definitions and thought “Well, that about sums it up.”

Take your pick.

Geeks many be greasy, awkward and hygienically challenged but they’re

One of us! One of us!

One of us! One of us!

quite useful at assisting the rest of us with issues of technology or mathematics. Geeks may be self-identified and use the moniker as a gesture to deflect criticism for what may be a particularly odd personal obsession, like, say, dungeons and dragons. Or geeks may the classic carny variety who literally–or figuratively–bite the heads off live chickens. Of this category, the former type have certainly been pushed to the brink of extinction by a general decline of American carnival culture and by enlightened attitudes about animal rights, the latter, however, still enjoy a healthy existence while attaining seven-figure scores on violent computer games or maintaining collections of Nazi military ephemera.

Geeks are brainiacs, geeks are savants and geeks are psychos.  And sometimes they’re a combination of all three.

And whatever they are, geeks are hot property these days. The word “Geek” pops up a lot in the media: there are computer geeks, gardening geeks and cooking geeks. Any “expert” or “enthusiast” with a strong interest in a particular subject may also be a “geek”. Geeky-looking characters abound from the tidy, efficient Verizon Guy to the bespectacled Harry Potter whose charm and broad skill set has rocketed him into the stratosphere of geekhood.

Geeky hobbies are also popular. There has been a huge resurgence in knitting and other handicrafts. Comic books–long the bastion of geeks and other school-age outcasts–have grown in collectibility

and value.  And, of course, there is a huge array of commercially available electronic gadgets that provide games, snap pictures, take videos and make irritating noises for the entertainment of those who prefer interaction with machines over that with other humans.

But like pornography, geekhood is hard to define–you just ‘kinda have to see it to recognize it. Which begs the question, where did the concept of geekhood come from? And is there such a thing as “geek history?”

The word itself may be traced to a term in use 500 years ago that described “a fool, dupe, or simpleton.”

The earliest citation referring to a carnival-freak geek is from the early part of the 20th century. But the geek as an archetype representing a talented and possibly attractive social misfit seems a far more recent development.

In his 2000 book Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho, Jon Katz describes

Vote Pedro

Vote Pedro

the Internet as the geek’s primary catalyst for escape from social stigma into visible and respectable geek communities. Since the mid 1990’s the talented-but-awkward filmmakers Todd Solondz and Harmony Korine have introduced a variety of peculiar, socially unpopular but sympathetic characters that have become cult icons.  Jared Hess’ Napoleon Dynamite was hailed by one critic as “an epic, magisterially observed pastiche on all-American geekhood…” and has been the subject of at least one scholarly paper on Asperger’s Syndrome.

And geeks today are also…kind of sexy.

Type the term “Sexy Geek” into a Google image search and among the 2,700 hits you’ll receive are images of nerdy, overripe school girls,

Kari Byron. Sexy geek from Mythbusters

Kari Byron. Sexy geek from Mythbusters.

tattooed lesbian librarians and mustachioed bloggers who cook and ride motorcycles. In contrast, a search for “Sexy Jock” returns a measly 111 hits of boring soft gay porn.

In this particular example of culture war, it appears that geeks are the winners.

Yet, ironically, geeks are also distinguished by their deviation from conventional forms of beauty and style. Stereotyped geeks wear glasses. They’re shy and may have bad posture. They exhibit a general lack of style and suave. They may be clumsy or ungainly. But, as the saying goes, beauty is the sum of imperfections: it seems that “geek-chic” may be a reaction to pop culture’s dispiriting emphasis on aggressive attention-seeking and unnatural physical beauty.

For example: there isn’t much room in Hip-Hop for quiet, polite guys in sweater vests. America’s Next Top Model will not likely be wearing a corduroy skirt and toting a knitting bag. But you also don’t see geeks getting arrested on Cops. Geeks don’t get freakish boob jobs; they aren’t “babydaddies”; they don’t do meth; they don’t drive Hummers. The American entertainment industry has unleashed a flood of culturally toxic sludge that has mutated mainstream society into an ungodly parade of volatile, oversexed, nitwits who equate “being watched” with “being successful”.

In this midst of this chaos, geeks are distinguished by their calm hobbies, their modest wardrobes and their sensible life choices. Geek-chic seems related to a larger social trend that eschews popular culture’s destructive elements for simpler, more thoughtful and “authentic” lifestyles. The DYI movement is pretty geeky as is brown-bagging, thrift shopping, apartment sharing and biking. Geeks don’t carry guns, they carry Altoids. Geeks are culturally green.

Geeks are also distinguished by degrees of self-confidence and self-possession that further separate them from other marginalized social groups. In her study of “nerd” girls, language scholar Mary Bucholtz challenges previous studies that described nerds as “failed burnouts and inadequate jocks”. Bucholtz instead describes a community of high school girls who actively reject the various “forms of coolness” that define their less assertive peers. In short, nerdhood seems to be a chosen lifestyle.

Corn Nuts!

Corn Nuts!

If one were to define a geek as a “nerd with a purpose” then geeks, too,  are self-aware and self-defining. In the film Heathers, the character of Jason “D.J.” Dean seems to fit the classic Dangerous Geek stereotype: a brilliant, wounded social outcast skilled in both psychology and technology. If he’d been a merely quirky or intelligent nerd, D.J. would never have had the courage to make a move on a popular girl like Veronica Sawyer let alone seduce her away from her clique of mean girls. But D.J.’s edge enabled him to win Veronica and facilitate discovery of her own latent geekhood. D.J.’s charisma was his defining power and the defining skill of his geekhood.

So it seems that “geeks”, as we define them today, are a recent concept rooted in technological development and social rebellion. Emerging from the same roots as other outcasts, geeks are set apart by their dismissal of the herd mentality their specific talents and their uncanny ability to draw admirers. As the market for geek skills expands and popular standards of beauty and success grow ever more extreme, geekhood may be a new touchstone for sensible living as well as raw survival.

References:

Hope Levin and Steven Schlozman. “Napoleon Dynamite: Asperger’s Syndrome or Geek NOS?” Academic Psychiatry, 2006; 30: 430-435.

Bucholtz, Mary. “Why be normal?”: Language and Identity in practices in a community of nerd girls”. Language in Society, 28 203-223.

I AM A GEEK!

July 8, 2008

I am a geek. There, I said it. It’s taken a long time to get to this realization but somehow I’m handling it well. Not surprisingly, this revelation didn’t come through tireless reflection. Someone else pointed it out. My girlfriend in fact. We were sitting around discussing her geekdom and exactly what percentage geek she is (conservative estimates peg it upwards of 85% but the recent Netflixing of Battlestar Galaxtica may have raised it) when she started accusing me of having a percentage

The Host

The Host

that may rival hers. This notion was of course preposterous to me at first, but then she systematically laid the evidence out before me. The “action figure” collection. The comics. The model rockets. For Christ’s sake, I have an autographed picture from The Host on Angel!

I never really considered myself one of the cool kids, but a geek? Could it be true? Then again, is being a geek so bad? After all, my girlfriend’s geekness was one of the things that attracted me to her. Maybe that’s because, as I now know, I’m a geek as well. Our combined geek powers have made life more interesting. Guests have compared our apartment to an art museum because of all the action figures, bobble heads, Batgirl statue, bubble gum machines, inflatable sarcophagus, and general bric-a-brac. “Each time you walk around you see something different.” How can that be a bad thing?

Rachel Bilson as Wonder Woman

Rachel Bilson as Wonder Woman

Even pop culture seems to be making it ok to let your geek flag fly. Seth Cohen had TWO girls fighting over him. One of which was dressed as WONDER WOMAN! (I would have gone with Batgirl but that’s just me.) Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon has some geek to her. Comicon has become a major Hollywood event. It seems more than ever now is the time to be a geek.

So I say to all you out there who have a Dr. Who screensaver, those who dream of adult-sized Spider-man underoos, those who know what MIB means, fear not. This is our time. And THIS IS FOR GEEKS!