Geek Philosophy; or, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Avengers Mansion

Patton Oswalt, the American comedian perhaps best remembered for his supporting role on the long-running sitcom King of Queens, wrote recently for Wired that it is time for Geek Culture to die. Oswalt, who has devoted no small part of his professional life to catering to the geeks (he wrote a terrific fan’s-eye-view of superheroes in the graphic novel Justice League of America: Welcome to the Working Week–scoring bonus nerd points by referencing a song by nerd icon Elvis Costello), says:

everyone has easy access to their favorite diversions and every diversion comes with a rabbit hole’s worth of extra features and deleted scenes and hidden hacks to tumble down and never emerge from, then we’re all just adding to an ever-swelling, soon-to-erupt volcano of trivia, re-contextualized and forever rebooted. We’re on the brink of Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever.

The modern Geek is kind of a Bizarro World inversion of the Hipster. Where Hipsters shy away from such nomenclature, Geeks have embraced their term, and in turn, they have diluted the idea of Geekdom. Originally, the word geek referred to the guy in the circus sideshow who opened the performance by biting the head off the chicken. Unless you actually were a geek, it wasn’t a way you wanted people to think of you. Eventually, geek has come to refer to anyone who is especially knowledgeable or enthusiastic about a certain subject. Not too long ago, that actually meant something. It took some effort to become a geek. When I was a young comic nerd, I spent long winter days absorbing Ron Goulart’s Great History of Comic Books by Ron Goulart (who else?) or Michael L. Fleisher’s The Encyclopedia of Comic Heroes Volume Three: Superman (also known as The Great Superman Book) at the Frances Morrison Library in Saskatoon. It wasn’t particularly hard work, but it took some effort. The upstairs non-fiction section was my refuge from the casual violence and daily humiliation of the sixth and seventh grades. My growing knowledge of comic books and comic book history was something I quickly learned to share only with my immediate family, lest I give my tormentors at school (classmates and teachers alike) more ammunition. Getting through the Eighties, that was an accomplishment.

Nowadays, though, you can use your iPad to scroll through an impressively thorough Plot Summary of the Kree-Skrull War on Wikipedia without even getting out of bed. Nowadays–at least in Vancouver–you have billboards featuring a dude wearing a Green Lantern shirt every four kilometres, advertising a crap TV show that seemingly does not revolve around said dude in a Green Lantern shirt getting a punch in the arm every time he walks past certain classmates.

The Nineties, for me, brought on puberty, increased hygiene & social skills, and I drifted out of comic book nerdery and into music geekdom. When I eventually found my way back to comic book circles, in the mid-2000s, I barely recognized it. Ideas that had once been relegated to the backpage letter columns of comic books were now mega-budget Hollywood blockbusters. You could now buy Fantastic Four t-shirts in women’s sizes. Fast forward to the summer of 2010, and no less a monolithic corporate behemoth than Warner Bros is trotting out a life-sized replica of the corpse of Abin Sur–a figure from the most secret place of my pre-adolescent imagination–to drum up excitement for next summer’s action movie crapfest starring the soon-to-be-former Mr. Scarlett Johansson. I don’t know man, when Van Wilder starts talking to Entertainment Tonight about the Guardians of Oa, it starts to feel like all those beatings I took in 1989 count for nothing anymore.

“Etewaf doesn’t produce a new generation of artists—just an army of sated consumers,” says Oswalt. But here’s the thing, if Everything That Ever Was really is available, why has Hollywood made a movie based on the current, totally boring, Geoff Johns iteration of Green Lantern when it would be just as easy, and more exhilarating to use the earlier, more elegant Gil Kane stuff (seen below)?

But I’m off track here…

Oswalt says Geek Culture Must Die! because we’ve disappeared so far up our the Sanctum Santorum of our unceded childhood that we may have lost the ability or the drive to Create. New. Things.

The coming decades—the 21st-century’s ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s—have the potential to be one long, unbroken, recut spoof in which everything in Avatar farts while Keyboard Cat plays eerily in the background.

I dunno if you’ve read any DC Comics lately, but that’s pretty much what it’s become. Oswalt’s solution–which, being a good nerd, I won’t spoil–involves lists, lists of lists, and Steve Ditko’s Shade the Changing Man.

Of course, Oswalt’s satirical diatribe has found its mark. Professional Geek Harry Knowles, of the ugliest website in Space Sector 2814 Ain’t It Cool News, has written a rebuttal, which you may choose to read at your own risk of eye-and-brain-strain here. Knowles’s argument is pretty much unassailable because, well, see for yourself:

GEEK CULTURE is fine, I say this because the same folks that didn’t love TRON for the past 28 years – are the leaders of the minority vocal opinion on the film.

So there you have it. To me, the argument is moot. Geeks and nerds are passé; the future belongs to the dorks, and especially the Dorkbots.

Dorkbot Ensemble from Neutral Ground on Vimeo.

Am I Going Mad, Snowy?

Usually when Whitworth sends me these early morning “You must blog this” e-mails I just blow him off. But this time, he’s right, Regina needs to know about this…..

Murray Groat, a really fantastic illustrator from the UK, has done a series of Lovecraft-Herge mashups. Insane genius.

There are three more up on his site. He also has a deviantART page where you can buy prints of some of his work (although, not of these Tintin covers… yet….).

Calgarians did WHAT?

Calgary, the rock-ribbed heartland of Canadian conservatism, the spawning ground of Stephen Harper, elected this guy (CBC Calgary) as its mayor.

Right. (Calgary Herald)

A 38-year-old policy wonk, university professor, of east Indian descent, Muslim who chose purple as his campaign color and whose residents have a hard time pronouncing his name.

Don’t they SHOOT people like him in Calgary?

All kidding aside, here’s his campaign website.

I guess this is also the best time to salute another Calgarian — or at least ex-Calgarian as she’s now moved to Montreal, Kara Keith, with her old band Falconhawk.

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

A friend caught a repeat of this Mythbusters episode this week. I’ve never seen it. Maybe it’s for the best. I don’t wanna hear how, in “real life”, Captain James T. “Set Phasers On Awesome” Kirk could not really have have totally kicked that Gorn’s scaly ass with an improvised bamboo bazooka.

This is even worse than the time Mythbusters proved you can’t explode a great white shark by shooting the oxygen tank in it’s mouth.

Mythbusters. Pffft. What a bunch of killjoys.

Toronto International Film Festival – Day Nine: Back to the Minors

As the TIFF winds down, smaller films take over. Most of them are vying for distribution or at the very least, lock video release. It’s a mixed bag in which quality doesn’t necessarily equal success.

Sensation: This bucolic Irish comedy has a fundamental flaw: It’s a bucolic comedy. Donal, the underachiever son of a deceased farmer discovers he has an affinity for business, but not the education or any social skills. Easy to predict, he becomes a pimp and falls in love with his only working girl (it’s like Napoleon Dynamite, only Irish and rated R). There is a sweetness to the procedures, which goes to the dogs as the business unexpectedly begins to prosper. If there is anything to rescue from Sensation is the protagonist, Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan), soon to bring his amazing blank-piece-of-paper charisma to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Two Prairie Dogs. Distribution? Not a chance.

Conviction: Hilary Swank, who despite winning two Oscars before hitting 40, still has serious problems to land worthy roles. In Conviction, Swank turns stubborness into a virtue, like in every other movie she has been. The movie is a completely average courtroom drama saved by the acting. Based on a real-life travesty of justice, Betty Ann Walters had to put herself through law school and beat the legal system in order to reverse her brother’s conviction for murder in the first degree. Swank and the always watchable Sam Rockwell make the close ties between the Walters kids believable, but there is nothing remarkable about this flick. Two and a half Prairie Dogs. Distribution? Mainstream release, but I would wait until premieres in cable.

Dirty Girl: This day would be a write-off if it wasn’t because of this teenage comedy set in the Eighties. Danielle (Juno Temple, Atonement), the most “popular” girl in school, ends in the special-ed class because of her promiscuous behavior. She is matched with overweight, nerdy Clarke (promising newcomer Jeremy Dozier) for one of those “maternity” projects that are supposed to teach kids responsibility. A predictable Hollywood sex romp would have them fall in love despite appearance and reputation. But Dirty Girl throws a curve ball by making Clarke gay and turning the parents into villains. With solid supporting performances by Milla Jovovich (finally!) and the reliably scummy Dwight Yoakam, Dirty Girl is a complete blast. Three and a half Prairie Dogs. Distribution? Just locked, thankfully.

Repeaters: Canadian filmmaker Carl Bessai brought to Toronto the least “Carl Bessai” movie ever (i.e. character-heavy, pretentious). Repeaters is a cheap thriller that borrows heavily from Bill Murray masterpiece Groundhog Day. Up-and-commers Dustin Milligan, Richard De Klerk and the very cute Amanda Crew (Charlie St. Cloud) are three drug addicts in rehab who find themselves reliving the same day, over and over (Groundhog Day!) The threesome goes through the same stages than Phil Connors: fear, wonder, abuse, despair, redemption (Groundhog Day!), but one of them gets stuck in the hedonistic part of the process. Only when the group splinters Repeaters develops its own identity. Too little, too late. Even the moral of the story is identical: Only good deeds will set you free. I have another one: Cheaters never win. Two Prairie Dogs. Distribution: In Canada.

That’s it from me at TIFF. For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while. See you at the movies.

Sci-Fi Author Ray Bradbury Turns 90 Today

And to mark the occasion, here’s a rude, funny video by New York comedian Rachel Bloom about how wicked-sexy Ray Bradbury is.

And now a disclaimer, because I don’t want our readers to freak out when we post something smutty on our website, like, you know, everyone else does on this Internet thing:

1.) This video is filled with vulgarity, swears and sexual subject matter.

2.) And copious cleavage (but no actual nudity, but the cleavage is faaantastic).

3.) This humour might not appeal to all tastes (but I think it’s hilarious).

4.) This video is obviously NSFW (Not Safe For Work: learn this acronym!)

5.) If you’re a kid, you shouldn’t be watching this kind of stuff unless your parents say it’s okay (which, if they’re cool, they will). Go kick a ball around, or better yet, go to the library and check out some of Bradbury’s books.

Right! Here we go!

Wired magazine has the story on the video here. (See? Wired posts naughty videos. That means prairie dog can too. Nyah.)

Happy birthday, Mr. Bradbury!

The All-Time Ultimate Video Game Boss Move

I’m cooked. I’m still getting over a cold and we just put the paper out. Tired, dopey, nothing to say. But I’ve got the blog-post guilties so something’s got to go up.

I’m feeling nostalgic and sentimental, so how about this: the biggest, baddest video game boss move of all time, from the 1997 PlayStation epic Final Fantasy 7. The boss is the devil-like Sephiroth and his limit-breaking move is called “Supernova”.

And oh, how it pwns. Witness and tremble:

The attack cause over 700 billion damage to your little dudes (734,893,749,212 to be precise). Sephiroth uses this move like, three times so you need lots of healing potions.

The world shall never see such pwnage again. ‘Cause it’s been blown up. Three times!

The Fun Kind of Hate

You know what God really hates? Probably nothing because if there is some sort of unfathomable higher power, it probably wouldn’t waste its divine intelligence on such petty human emotions as hate and love. Instead it would probably be all thinking “Galaxy” and there would be one and we’d all be “Dude, I can’t comprehend this.”

Seriously, he drowned all but two cats in the Old Testament.

That said, I doubt even God could resist loving Comic-Con, where nerds of all genders, colours, creeds, and orientations have banded together to mock the Westboro Baptist Church and their hate speech by forming a sarcastic, yet somehow genuine, rainbow of hilarity.

Godspeed, you wonderful nerds. Godspeed.

Flee In Terror From Graffiti Beholder!

Beholder
ARMOR CLASS: 0/2/7
MOVE: 3”
HIT DICE: 45-75 hit points
% IN LAIR: 80%
TREASURE TYPE: I, S, T
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2-8
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Magic
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Anti-magic ray
INTELLIGENCE: Exceptional
ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil
SIZE: L

——

This graffiti beastie (for which I’ve helpfully provided full D&D stats above — er — I’m sorry… is my nerd showing?) appeared on the east side of the Westminster United Church on 13th Ave. Isn’t it awesome? Thought it might be a stencil when I saw it from a distance but no, that looks like it was done freehand. Wow! Bask in its majesty! Wish there was more of this and less of the crappy tagging that’s been plaguing Cathedral of late.

Scrabblepocalypse 2010: Everything Will Be Okay

Just read this story in the Winnipeg Free Press online on the controversy over changes to scrabble rule that Dog Blogger Laura Pfeifer wrote about yesterday. Sounds like it’s not as bad as she feared: while it’s true there will be  a lame  new version of the game allowing celebrity names, it’s merely a limited edition. The classic game remains unchanged.

From the Associated Press story in the Freep:

Scrabble purists can relax. News of a new version of the classic word game that Mattel plans to sell in the United Kingdom allowing proper nouns set off waves of dismay across the Internet. But the official rules fans know and love aren’t changing.

Scrabble Trickster, due out in July in the U.K. only, will allow proper names such as city or celebrity names.

Other twists include playing words backwards or playing words unconnected to others on the board, Mattel said.

The game is a limited edition and will not replace the original Scrabble in the U.K. or the United States.

“This is just one new variation,” said John Williams, executive director of National Scrabble Association, authorized by Hasbro to speak about Scrabble.

So there you go, Laura. One less thing to fret over in a world gone wrong.

Making Star Wars Neat Again

If you’ve seen RedLetterMedia’s hilariously accurate reviews of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones (complete with unnecessary and unfunny psychopath side story), the last of your happy memories of Star Wars have probably met the same fate as Alderaan.

Fortunately, when geniuses like George Lucas are finally crushed under the immense weight of their own dense brilliance, others will eventually rise to resuscitate and reclaim a once-entertaining story.

Canadian animator Malcolm Sutherland is one such individual. In the three short animations below, he shares his own vision of Star Wars that is almost reminiscent of the wonderfully off-model Nelvana-produced animated short from the holiday-special-of-which-none-shall-speak. Dare I say that there are also references to 1990s Klasky-Csupo Animation, or perhaps Chad VanGaalen? I dare! I dare!

Star Wars Uncut – Scene 415 – “All wings report in…” from Malcolm Sutherland on Vimeo.

There are a couple more videos after the jump.

Continue reading “Making Star Wars Neat Again”

Say It Ain’t So: Scrabble Edition

Today while searching through a vast array of blogs I found a link to this story.

That’s right word-lovers, in the newest version of Scrabble, the use of proper nouns will be permitted.  That means that Shakira, Nike, and Titicaca are all acceptable words to play. 

Given this recent development I feel like it is an appropriate day to mourn the continued loss of our culture, language, and overall standards as a civilzation.  We have come to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator and no longer challenge people to be the best and brightest that they can be.  As a society, we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so we placate the masses with the idea that you can do anything or be anything if you feel like it (instead of instilling the idea that you can accomplish many great things if you work hard and educate yourself). 

So, instead of challenging people to learn new words and clever game play in order to get a 117 word score, you can simply find a celebrity name, or place name with a few z’s and a q in it and cash in.  The name Zaquir could fetch a pretty number of points – and who is going to question if I just made that name up?  As long as someone somewhere has that name, it is fair game… and a quick google search shows me that some people do have it.  There.  I just got 102 points if I hit a double letter score and triple word score!

So, Scrabble.  I know this may not seem like a big deal, but please, don’t allow us to lower our standards and expectations even further.  We need you to push us to be better, smarter, and not rely on words like Bape to get ahead in life.

Gaming for smarty pants

Local video game site Vigigames is declared rad.

"Games in context"
Video game criticism website Vigigames

“Bioshock”, “education”, and “textual analysis”.

Those are three tags you’re not likely to see on a Dog Blog post. You aren’t even likely to see them on most video game sites. Local site Vigigames is the place that rectifies that.

Their tagline “Games in context” sums up their project pretty well. The three contributors – Matthew Blackwell, John Cameron, and Christian Hardy – are trying to talk about video games from a critical perspective that takes into account scholarly theory and thoughts other than “the graphics are sweet”.

One of their more recent posts, “Game study; or, will we play Bioshock in classrooms?” (which has all the tags listed above) is a good place to start:

I bring up Bioshock not because I think that it’ll be studied in schools (well, maybe in universities one day. Too much gore for high schools), but because it sort of represents that hope that games will, one day, be self-aware enough to recognize their potential for a deeper insight into the human condition. A teacher shouldn’t use a particular book because it’s canonized – the book is a means to an end. By studying books and literature, the student is exercising their literacy skills and applying them in ways to examine the themes. This is why in my classroom, I often use unconventional texts, including movie trailers, advertisements and radio broadcasts. Yet, to some degree, this is still playing it safe.

There’s obviously a certain stigma with using videogames in the classroom. They’re so entertainment-oriented and, more specifically, product oriented that few would even be worth studying as a class. Bioshock is an exception, obviously, but more often than not, developers aren’t interested in making games that would require deep textual analysis. Not to mention that few people would understand why one would use videogames as a teaching tool – parents and administrators, specifically.

Nerd Gospel Music For Pi Day

Today is Pi Day! Hope you took some time to sit in a circle with your friends and family and enjoy a nice slice of pie. Last year, I posted this 2001 video by Hard ‘n’ Phirm of their song “Pi”.

It is awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that this year I’m going to post the same song only this time it’s a live version. Notice how when these guys are singing the digits of Pi they aren’t just making up random numbers. They can’t be. They’re singing the numbers in tandem. These two comedians have Pi memorized to like a hundred digits or more.

Hope to see you all tomorrow at the Pi Day celebrations at the UofR (1 pm, CW 113). There will be free pie, free Pi cookies, a screening of the movie Pi, three 14 minute lectures and a debate to resolve the question of which transcendental number is better, Pi or e? Karen Meagher (yep, that’s my wife) will be defending Pi’s honour against FNUniv math prof, Ed Doolittle.

Should be fun. And by fun, I mean nerdy.