Cool

“You should really thank The Big Bang Theory for making geeks like you cool.”

I stammered in response and finally offered up a fairly well thought out, “uh huh”  right after I did a quick age check to confirm what I already suspected, that I really was too old to care about whether I’m cool.  The fact is that I’ve never, at any age,  been particularly driven to be “cool”. (All of my friends and family just nodded in agreement with that statement.) Call it what you will – a character flaw – a love of Lee when no one could get between Brooke and her Calvin Klein’s – the ability to quote Monty Python or the willingness to argue that yes, Han did shoot first. I’m simply not cool.  And I’m ok with not being cool. Cool isn’t my thing. (Guys, you can stop agreeing.  Sheesh.  I can feel it.)

You see, there’s this implied idea that “cool” is “fitting in.” If you’re “cool,” then  “fitting in” is clearly something every person who has been labeled a geek is surely hoping to achieve, but hasn’t quite figured it out yet. I’m here to tell you “cool” has never been my personal goal (and I’m really quite well-accomplished at not being cool).  On the other hand what is popular shouldn’t be how we define cool in my opinion.  Look at any past trend – old photos from any generation. (You know the ones that show you wearing that bejeweled glove with the neon top and those parachute pants. Are you going to tell me you still feel cool?) To me cool is being comfortable enough to be yourself.  A TV show won’t give you that.

I would love this to be a piece about “how to be comfortable with yourself;” however, I’d be misleading you completely if I said there weren’t time that I’ve wanted to be something different, something more, something better than…

I remember the first time I really thought about labels and contemplated the big “who am I?” question.  “Am I cool?” It was around 1980.  It was the summer before I entered 7th grade and The Dallas Morning News ran an article about teen groups.  There were little summaries about preppies, ropers (which when I moved back to Austin were known as “kickers”), freaks, and I’m sure there were a slew of additional labels like “geek” that I can’t quite remember because I’m old (and kind of cranky).

I also don’t remember much about the actual definitions. I do remember preppies were “cool,” but “freaks” sounded closer to the group that best fit me. They were described as wearing jeans, sneakers and concert t-shirts.  I mean, I did wear both jeans and sneakers all the time and I did own that one “Wings” t-shirt from a show I never attended.  How could that not be me? Preppie certainly wasn’t me. My reality didn’t include anything bearing the name of Izod, Polo, Gloria Vanderbilt or Swatch, so that was out of the picture. Later I did own some Jordache and OP things. I stand by those clothes.  We will discuss this no further. I couldn’t name a single country group other than Alabama at the time, so “Roper” was out. “Future president of the orchestra/bookworm nerd” wasn’t a listed choice. That left me with being a “Freak” if I had to choose a category (and the newspaper seemed to think that this had to happen – all teenagers identified themselves by one of these, a journalist wrote it!). Also, at that time I was really working on being a proper delinquent (which the “Freak” title seemed to embrace), but unfortunately my natural prissiness and penchant for a good rule ultimately got in the way.  I did briefly join an all girl gang in name only, but was always “busy” come fight days. “Sorry, I would love to, but I have to go out of town for the rest of my life and during all of my free time. Maybe next fight?.”  Keep in mind this was a Dallas middle-class girl’s gang.  We’re not exactly talking east L.A. and yay, they did go about intimidating my bullies, which made hallway walking much more pleasant.

Still I didn’t truly embrace any label – freak, geek or otherwise.  I was me.  A me who liked math, science, orchestra, German club and reading books.  When a person would suggest I change who I was (fall under a different label) like my grandmother (the former president of her college sorority, president of various ladies clubs, a socialite – you get the idea) when she pulled me aside and declared, “you need to change how you act or no boy will date you.” (She wanted me to play dumb in this case.) My response was, “if someone doesn’t like me for who I am, then I guess I won’t date,” which was a lot like sassing and sassing was a big no-no and earned my grandmother’s immediate disapproval.  Her message of “be different than who you are in order to be more accepted” was never me.  Of course, I didn’t really date until I was a senior in high school, so she clearly read the omens and was onto something there.

During this time one of my fundamental characteristics became apparent – I really wouldn’t change who I was to gain other people’s approval – to be cool – from how I presented myself, to whom I chose as my closest friends, to what my interests were (and continue to be).

Ok, I lied a bit there.  I did drop out of the math club (don’t tell Dad – it was something I was drafted into and didn’t go to willingly) . Though I loved math (and still love it, it’s really quite beautiful). I already had the stigma of being an academic nerd. The idea of competing with the math club was just too much.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bigbluemess/16736367171

If I were to “thank” a TV show, it wouldn’t be The Big Bang Theory though I suppose kudos to them if it helps people be ok with someone else’s love of Star Trek. Just be warned you’ll lose a finger or three if you come at me with your “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock” (may Leonard Nimoy rest in peace) or if another person says, “you’re a lot like Sheldon.” I may not watch the show, but I do know what you’re saying.  The show I would actually thank is Freaks and Geeks, if I were the thank-y sort.  It’s the one show that got my 80’s right.  In fact, Lindsay is the closest I’ve come to truly identifying with a character (if you threw in a lot more orchestra).

What makes me feel cool? It’s not a TV show saying I’m ok.  It’s being me – doing the things I love and enjoying the things that I do. Sometimes that’s standing on a stage with a puppet.  Sometimes it’s taking improv or sketch classes. It’s watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon, playing spoons while waiting for the opening of The Wrath of Khan, and sometimes it’s just singing “Bad Romance” in a karaoke room with all of my friends.

What makes my friends cool? The ones you would label “geeks”? It’s that they do what they love without worrying about what you think.

We never needed a TV show to say it’s ok to be who we are.

My Secret Talent

I’ve always suspected I’m secretly great at something.  The problem is that I haven’t quite found that thing I’m great at.  Over the years I’ve learned it’s not drawing, writing, photography, improv, film making, pottery, gymnastics or tennis, but I’ve never given up hope (as you can tell).  Earlier this year I decided it might be special effects makeup based on the fact that I’ve shown little interest in it over the years other than applying a bruise makeup once to scare my cousin into thinking she’d get in trouble after she accidentally popped me in the eye.  (For the record, it had the desired effect.)  I bolstered my belief in my hidden SFX talent, because I’d seen many seasons of Face Off, the Syfy channel’s SFX makeup reality show/contest, and in HIgh School I did have that Bob Kelly make-up kit that is in almost pristine condition after opening it at least two or three times.  Clearly, SFX makeup was my calling.

 My friend April, you know the one who occasionally tries to kill me, the one I’m going to New Orleans with next week out of curiosity to see what she has in store for my demise this time (expect updates if I survive) – that April.  Anyway, April saw that the Austin Film Society was holding a SFX Makeup 101 class taught by one of the former Face Off contestants.  She let me know, because I think she also suspected I had hidden talents – perhaps even be a burgeoning SFX makeup star. I’m sure it wasn’t because I might be star struck by a local artist (the teacher) being a Face Off contestant and this fulfilling some stalkery need of mine.  Yes, I’m sure that’s why she told me – the hidden talent thing.  Did I mention he was a contestant on Face Off?

My friend Topping joined me. Off we go to the class and there he is – the Face Off guy.  He’s nice, patient and pretty cool.  He told us a few stories and then gave us these tiny little take-away kits to create wounds.  Then he laid out some silicone prosthetics.  We each chose one.  I, of course, picked a wound to put directly on Topping’s face.  I’m sure deep down she was delighted by my choice even if she wasn’t readily showing it.  As a much kinder person (better person blah, blah, blah), she picked one for my arm.

Eric Z. from Syfy’s Face Off (background) Me demonstrating natural talent (yada yada)

 My first (and only) application went ok.  I killed an edge, but what Face Off participant hasn’t really?  Then it came time to paint it.  I wanted something a bit bloody in the center.  It was a tear across her face – like she’d been attacked by a serving fork – maybe she tangled with an animal with serving utensils for feet?  It could happen! I decided what the wound needed was some deep reds with dark blues and purples, then on the edge I wanted some nasty yellow – maybe yellow with some red in there.

Evidence of Innate Talent Right There

It’s been a long time since I was in an art class or even colored or considered a color wheel.  All of my age 7 year old art class experience in color suddenly came crashing back into my brain when I used the aforementioned bright yellow, liberally applied some red and I made orange.  Orange. Imagine my surprise, which was quite genuine, as my inner 7 year old mocked away. It was a gigantic bright orange wound right on Topping’s face.  I tried to make it better by adding more colors to cover up the orange.  This ultimately ended up making her wound look like some depraved 1970’s mom had  assaulted her with a bottle of mecuricome.  It was a wound disaster that she got to have her photo taken with to remember throughout time and enjoy the added bonus of having to wear it out of the class on her drive home.  You’re welcome, Topping.

Even Oranger in Person! The blending is pretty gorgeous, too.


My take away – I think that maybe being a SFX makeup artist may not be my hidden talent.  Time to sign up for the next class.

Topping’s Application on My Arm (Grossed out husband = What Real Talent Looks Like)

iColossus

For over a week now I’ve been telling myself I’m getting a MacBook Pro.  My rationale – I need it to be successful in the Sketch Writing 101 class.  That’s solid logic.  I mean, I’ve seen the class set-up before and watched in awe as various students whipped out their laptops. Now those are writers. That’s what writers do! I figured if I had the trappings of a sketch writer, then it would naturally follow that I would be a good sketch writer.  And if my writing failed, I could just wow everyone with the soft glow of the Apple emanating from the back of my laptop.  Oooo… magic glowy apple.

I pictured myself as the perfect Mac tool (you know I mean that lovingly).  I’d wear my turtle neck, view the monitor through my thick framed glasses, maybe throw on some Nina Simone, maybe a beret and sip some herbal tea while wiggling my naked toes around and then I would type exceptionally thoughtful thoughts.  Ponies would be replaced by my thoughts on the latest TED talks, maybe a little Bill Maher or the deeper meanings of Bob Marley.  I would then adopt snapping as a way to signal my delight with things.  People would take me more seriously.

I tried to justify it by thinking back to our family’s first Apple – a IIe (2E, since that suddenly looks weird to me) with its 64KB hard drive.  Dad taught it to speak while I had it challenge you with the question “Shall we play a game?” at each boot-up (I grew-up in 80’s, it’s not my fault that question seemed clever/humorous at the time – I’m a simple soul).  It’s the machine I learned BASIC on and the machine I’d sit in front of for hours with a copy of Byte magazine at my side carefully programming away typing in the free code from one of the magazine’s published programs.  When I was forced to use the school’s IBM, I nearly spit.  It was so clunky in comparison.  The command lines weren’t as intuitive. The file structures seemed more archaic.  Apples at that time weren’t even sexy, but some how IBM managed to produce an even less sexy machine.

It didn’t help that Dad worshipped Steve Wozniack.  He was a god in our house and we were probably only a frame away from having his portrait displayed prominently.

When I went to college, our dorm had a shared Mac sitting in the main office.  As an RA who spent plenty of time in that office, I had the luxury of having a lot of access to it. I was blown away by the innovation – so compact, so… cool. (An adjective that the Apple brand mastered.)  But when it came to buying my own computer, I had to settle for a PC.  It was just cheaper and post college, I was a telemarketer who didn’t have a lot of money to throw around.  I remember looking at all of the computers and longing for that Mac and feeling defeated as I brought home the PC.

Apple and I later met again when I became the IT gal for my office and was responsible for our mixed Apple/PC environment.  There was a movement to switch completely over to PCs, but I stuck-up for the Apple users and eventually got the powers-that-be to upgrade from the older Apple LCs to the new iMacs – another truly sexy beast when it first appeared on the scene.  PCs have never had that.  Their idea of upgrading to a sharper looking product seemed to be taking their chunky putty colored rectangles and replacing them with slimmer black rectangles. Ooh. It’s so very square. And let me just say from a networking standpoint, the Macs were easier for me to set-up,  Although, you could rebuild your own desktop, thank you very much.

Then Steve Jobs passed away and it felt like suddenly innovation had died.  I wore my black turtle neck in memorial.  I read and re-read his Stanford commencement speech and watched the “Think Different” Gizmodo tribute to “the crazy one” and felt sad.  That feeling fueled my desire as much as the idea of me looking smart among a group of writers.

Sometime this past weekend reality set-in.  Somewhere after I toggled and re-toggled the two or three customization buttons for the MacBook Pro I knew it wouldn’t be mine.  I just can’t justify that price for essentially what I would use as a hot looking word processor.  Jay suggested a PC laptop, but that’s a bit like wishing for a pony and receiving a stick horse with a plastic head.  (Yes, I am adept at pony analogies. You’re being spared rainbows and butterflies for now.)  I even looked at Dell to see if I could convince myself that those were cool.  What I got out of it was “hey, for the cost of the low-end MacBook Pro, I can get a low-end Alienware laptop”.  That would be great if I wanted to go a completely different direction.

For now I’ll just have to settle for the college ruled owl notebook with the new gel pen.

But man, I can still envision a me that has that silver beauty on her lap typing out a story for the Big Blue Mess or maybe composing my first really great sketch.  Some how beautiful words run fluidly through my fingers to the keyboard. I see myself in class, glancing down at the screen to read my new words from the screen, the class broadly smiles approvingly and laughter erupts around the table at my inspired comedic masterpiece.  Tom, my instructor, beams proudly and exclaims, “Beth, that was brilliant.”

iColossus

Not like Jobs, the brilliant giant of Geek fame,
With conquering vision astride from land to land;
Here at our sun-washed, drought-scorched classroom doors shall stand
A gleaming laptop with an Apple torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and its name
MacBook Pro. From its beacon-emblemed case
Glows world-wide welcome; its mild curves command
The back-lit harbor that brushed aluminum frames.
“Keep, ancient architecture, your outdated pomp!” it cries
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your befuddled PC masses yearning to be Adobe Flash free,
The wretched users of your lack-luster shore.
Send these, the future sketch writing greats, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my Apple beside the golden door!”

(Heavy apologies to Emma Lazarus)

EDIT:  Dad reminded me that the IIe had a 64kb hard drive, not 512 as I mentioned.  I’m blown away by how much that computer  could do with so little.  Back when programmers wrote very tight code (pre-memory leaks becoming so very common in the years that followed).

Dear Syfy

It’s safe to say that it was only a matter of time before I felt compelled to send a letter to Syfy.  You know, that channel with the stupid name. The one that is apparently synonymous with wrestling, paranormal reality shows and cheap thrillers like “Frankenfish” and “Mega Snake”.  It’s that same channel that used to be associated with Science Fiction.

Well, their great offense this time was the cancelling of Eureka.  This is a problem for me since we just discovered Eureka last year, after diligently avoiding it, because well… the show seemed really goofy. I have to say that over this past year the show has really grown on me.  It is definitely goofy, but it’s my kind of goofy the kind that makes me feel like an overgrown lab puppy clumsily frolicking about after just discovering their tail and since you’ll normally find me watching shows like Dexter, or Shameless, or The Wire (well, not so much any more), it provides a fun mental break.

My simple understanding of what happened was that Syfy ordered up a 6th season, waited until Comic Con was over and then said “nah, seeing that you’re our number one scripted show at the moment, we’ve decided not to do that 6th season thing”.

When I read the article I knew I would end up writing them a letter.  Why you’re hearing about it is that Dad suggested I make it a blog entry after I made him snicker a bit.

I won’t actually post the letter, but I’ll share some of the highlights.  My thought process when I composed it went a bit like this:  I could write something quite eloquent, carefully lay out a well-crafted argument pointing out their obvious mistake and I will be rewarded for that effort by receiving a form letter thanking me for my feedback – something about how my input as a viewer is valued and then perhaps directing me to a survey to reflect on what I thought about their response OR I could write what I was thinking and get the exact same thing only I would get the added bonus of feeling that certain condescending smugness I get when I’m being kind of rude to people I think are stupid.  Either way, no one would care what I said, but at least if I was a jerk, I’d make myself giggle a bit.  Giggling is always good.

I started out being reasonable.  I pointed out previous beloved Science Fiction shows that were wrongfully cancelled.  I mocked several of their new shows as well as the aforementioned wrestling and paranormal reality shows.  Then, I kind of asked them if the reason they seemed to hate Science Fiction so much was because geeks were mean to them at school – I even listed a few things that geeks might have done to them to make them feel small and miserable and suggested that getting rid of quality Science Fiction programming was their way of lashing out at all of the geeks.  I also mentioned that in their attempt to get new programming they had to rip off shows from the BBC (ok, so far it’s just the one, but I see a pattern emerging – a pattern of one, but still). I tried to help by further suggesting that they should continue to troll around the BBC for new shows, since they do have better programming, and I steered them towards Dr. Who where I recommended they call the American version Dr. Huh and the doctor could drive around in a gas guzzling Cadillac that was “…bigger on the inside”.  Brilliant!  When that series comes out, I’m watching it and I want credit.

Anyway, it’s safe to say that Eureka won’t be extended because of my tirade, but I did feel better after writing it.  I am a little sad, though.  I have yet to receive a note back thanking me for my valued input and I’m pretty sure that once they read it, it was valued.

Geeks Hate Gold Farmers

I’m a geek.  This is neither exciting nor particularly news.  It’s just a statement of fact and almost all of you who read this site are completely unphased by this revelation. 

Here’s my story: I’m one of those socially retarded (oh, I’m sorry if that’s offensive, it was clearly an attack on some woman’s child in Alaska, but if you’re going to be overly sensitive, we can call it “intellectually deficient” – there, there, all better now) individual whose only saving grace is they don’t snort when they laugh.  As such, I had a major episode last night.   For some of you, in order to continue, you need to pretend that you are both somewhat socially awkward and that you’re really invested in online games, particularly World of Warcraft or at least EverQuest.  You weren’t the “pretty” girl (or “handsome” guy) in school, you were the “smart” one that wore the jeans and the black t-shirt – your go-to look whether you’re working in the yard (which you wouldn’t do, because you shun activities outside and you want to proudly earn that vitamin D deficiency) or were heading to a nice restaurant.

I’ve been to conventions. I can speak in a primitive system of random numbers and letters. I have friends I’ve never personally met. I am the complete opposite of either being cool or interesting.

I had a bad week this week, brought on by a rotten attitude about something I did not want to do that was causing me a great deal of heartburn.  In fact, towards the middle of the week you couldn’t get me to shut-up about how put-upon I felt or how much I loathed a particular task.  I truly embodied Christmas cheer.  By mid-week, I had declared to my good friend Angie, while I was whipping up some individual servings of spiced pumpkin cheesecake, “I am NOT making these with love!  I’m spitting in each and every one.  Ok, I’m not really spitting.  You know I’m not spitting, right?” (Seriously, there was no spit in any of the cheesecake batter. That’s kind of gross.  But I was mad.)  I came home last night, fell into my computer chair, yawning the whole time, because I was wiped and lazily flipped on the computer.  My goal was to pop onto World of Warcraft, poke around a bit, say hi to some folks and then go have a nice salad care of Jay.

When I logon, nothing looks particularly strange.  I was tired.  The main character I run around on looked the same and I was so fixed on “let’s look at this new thing” that I wasn’t on alert to anything being off.  That’s when I decide to move my character from one area to another via a special ability she has and the game said “you can’t do that, you don’t have the right stuff.”  Weird.  I’m still really not paying attention, because there have been so many changes lately that I decide “oh, Blizzard changed how that worked.”  Not so.  I open my inventory and it’s completely empty.  I pause.  Empty?  That’s weird.  I really look at my character closely – no cloak, no weapon, no belt – I remember having those the other night.  And then, as I saw I had none of my bags (bags hold more inventory), it hits me – all my stuff is gone.  Years of all kinds of stupid things that I personally love have disappeared.  I go to the main screen and start scrolling through each character and each time I bring one up, she’s completely naked or an occasional tabard is draped over spindly naked bodies.  I’m horrified.    And really, none of it is a huge deal because it basically imaginary stuff – pixels – pixels that mean something to me and clearly the gigantic asshat that wrote the keylogger that is on machine stealing my keystrokes.  Keystrokes that get me into things that aren’t pixels.  Keystrokes that take me to bank accounts, bills and other services.  My world just started spinning like the moment in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels where the main character loses everything and it’s shot in such a way that you want to throw-up with him.

I tell my online buddy whose helpful advice is, “don’t click on links.”  No shit.  Not helpful. I’m so freaky about what I click on that I don’t click on things from family or friends if it looks the slightest bit hinky.  I don’t have add-ons to the game, because I don’t trust the third-party sites.  And seriously,  I work in IT and I was THE IT department in a past life.  I am not in the great habit of compromising my machine EVER.  And that’s when I got a little more pissed, because I have no idea how they got into my machine – not that it’s all that hard or even impossible, but I don’t log into anything with my account info unless it’s an official site – like when I log into the game or I login to manage my account.  Which spins me up into, what the hell did Blizzard do to compromise my account?  They added something recently that basically enabled every player’s emails to enter the public domain and they recently released a new expansion – the last time I was forced to login anywhere outside of the game screen.  Something happened between that day and Friday after 7am, where I could see in a log that my character was stealing from the guild bank.  Thankfully, I’m the leader of that guild (look, read the geek disclaimer above – I warned you) and I don’t have to write an apology.

Anyway, anything that could be sold for money off my characters was sold and then that money passed around the system.  Someone desperately wanted my pixels which was probably because they wanted to make some real money.   I don’t quite get how that works, but so be it. Of course, Jay busted out laughing when I loudly protested, “those bastards took Mr. Pinchy!!!!!”  Like I could somehow be ok with everything else being gone, but thieving Mr. Pinchy had just gone too far.

All of this added up to me having to reformat my hard drive, something I needed to do anyway, but wasn’t planning on doing last night and deciding it was time to change the OS AND replace Norton Antivirus (nice catch there, Symantec – way to do a deep scan and come back with “ooo, I found you a cookie” – how about you find the keylogger, you ginormous piece of crap.  So, for the past 15 hours, files have been moved around, applications have been restored (although I feel a strong urge to slap every employee at Microsoft because I’ve lost my key to MS Office 2007 and while they say, “sure, feel free to call us to reactivate if you lost the key, you have to do it through the Account Activation Window”, which it turns out is not a particularly easy thing to do.  You can’t get to the phone information without the bloody key.  Beautiful Catch 22, there. Yay.  I’m so very glad I did the digital download so I could get a backup disk that didn’t have the original key written on it and a big FU Microsoft, I paid for this software, have a frakking database where it will verify the information or don’t have a frakking activation system at all and suck it up that some people will probably be stupid enough to steal your software. MS rant over now.  Let’s sum it all up by saying that each and every application is giving me a new and interesting rash.

Tonight is “Funny Ladies Night” with April, where she’s invited all of her “funny” (and geeky) friends out.  Jay is dropping me off, because thanks to this week I declared “I’m getting stupid drunk, and when you come get me, we’re going to get nachos from Taco Cabana and I’m going to pass out on the livingroom floor smeared in cheese sauce and bile!”  It’s my plan.

(Pictures soonish after I discover the password to the magic server that holds them, because really I know you’re addicted to my captivating images.  No really.  Oh, and I’ll proof this later.  I’m still in the middle of “my mad”.)

I Also Hate Aliens



I had a message on my phone the other day that went kind of like this:

“Beth, do you like The Event?  I hear it’s just like Lost.  I mean, I’ve never seen Lost, so pardon the pun, I was “lost” in it; it was too confusing.  However, I love The Event.

I’ve had a few people ask me for my take on this show after it premiered, usually people who didn’t watch Lost, but they knew I did and they seemed to be asking for my blessing or looking to bond, since they missed their bonding chance with Lost.  It took me a bit (a whole few minutes), but I finally found the premiere

online and watched.

Here are my thoughts having watched a whole 2 1/2 episodes of The Event:

  • It’s not Lost (not necessarily a bad thing – I didn’t always light a candle at the altar of Lost)
  • It’s not even Lost-light, well maybe it is if you’re pretty loose with your comparisons – there are mysterious happenings on The Event and there were mysterious happenings on Lost and some are sustained from episode to episode – practically the same show. 
  • By episode two we know the big mystery is aliens who crashed on Earth and are now a bit miffed
  • I really hate aliens
  • Blame the X-Files

I’m not against all aliens – sure, I think Ferengi, Klingons/Jaffa, Cardassians, Wraith and the Centauri are fairly annoying and that the Hirogen are just the Star Trek kid cereal approved rip-off of Predator, but if those lovely people from Caprica came looking for a place known as Earth, I think we could find a spot for them and their generic mid-western accents.  They look like us, they sound like us and hey, they have cars and hearses, which means they might have similar burial rituals (honestly, who can trust a society that doesn’t’ stick with the 6’ below the ground or “light ‘em up” rule of thumb? Stuffing your dead in a jar for a year and tucking it away in a corner may be great where you come from, but I’m not coming over for tea anytime soon if that clay pot is actually your grandmother nestled away next to the table – it’s not you, it’s me).  At the very least, the fact that they invented cars is a sign that they have combustion engines and where there’s a combustion engine there was once fire and wheels – and we all know those are the cornerstones of any trustworthy civilization.  If they can’t make fire, but they do have a ship, there’s something hinky going on.

 

I will admit, I’m not against all aliens (just a particular disdain for most bipedal, oxygen breathers). I do kind of dig those quirky little bugs that lived in the slum of District 9 – can you believe their love of Alpo? Crazy things!  And what sort of backward individual doesn’t love the Asgard clones?  “Thor, ol’ buddy!” And I even take a shine to those frisky guys that burst from your chest. However, that’s about the limit of my alien tolerance.  ALF I’m looking at you.

 

What actually killed aliens for me? the whole X-Files alien conspiracy. I was an X-Files fan girl – they had many great episodes, but every few episodes or so a writer would get uppity and say, “hey, we need to get back on that over-arching storyline – ease up on those random chupacabra ghost encounters and dust off the alien conspiracy again.  Hey this time, instead of beating the Samantha abduction thing to death, let’s throw in some bees and a cornfield; our audience will eat it up – black oozing eyes FTW!  We’ll even sew up the guy’s mouth.  CREEEPY, eh??”  But it wasn’t, it sucked, it was overly confusing and it detracted from the show.  Is the cigarette smoking man really Mulder’s father?  I don’t care.  Now get Mulder and Scully back on that werewolf sighting or that family where mama was a mouthy, hillbilly torso strapped to a board.

As I was watching The Event and we get to the part where the plane heads through the portal just in the nick of time to avoid hitting the president, I told Jay “if it’s something crazy like angry angels or ghosts, I’ll stand by the show and continue to watch, BUT if it’s aliens like I think it’s going to be, I’m throwing in the towel”.  And sure as shit it was aliens.  Aliens who look like us, live longer than us and are pretty pissed that they are stuck in Alaska – I would be, too.  And now they’re roaming around (a few avoided detention) and they have A PLAN! A crazy plan that apparently involves picking on some dopey guy who just wanted to take a cruise with his girlfriend, but he’s slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  *YAWN*

Do I like it?  No.  If they’re actually stuffed in purgatory and this is a schizophrenic’s fantasy, let me know.

Dungeons & Dragons: Goodbye to Gary Gygax

I remember my first exposure to Dungeons & Dragons. It was the “it” game in the 1970’s and because it was the “it” game my mother grabbed a copy from the local Toy Box (it was the overpriced mall version of Toys R Us back in the day – before Kaybee). Knowing my mother, she probably had to explain we’d be trying it out because it was incredibly popular (and Parcheesi and Monopoly weren’t cutting it). I remember Mom opened the box and started reading the rules, “it says I have to be something called a Dungeon Master.” Hmm. “I’m supposed to create a dungeon with monsters in it and you walk around and discover things.” Hmmm. “It says the game can go on indefinitely.” Umm? My Charlie’s Angels board game was sounding more appealing by the minute. Within days that box (aka – future collector’s item) was returned to the store. (See, back then D&D came in boxes – not those fancy hard bound books – these books were probably hand stapled… by real dwarves…)

That’s where I left roleplaying until 11th grade came along and I was being forced to come to terms with my dorkiness and social inadequacies. (I was SOOOO not the homecoming queen.) A group of guys approached me with a little “psst” and a “hey, wanna play Elfquest?” Sure, it sounded like a creepy come-on line, but I could hurt most of them and it’s not like my Saturday social calendar was full. I remember they handed me my character sheet with the drawing of a buxom midget elf leaning against a mace. And then I acted like I’ve seen a lot of new gamer girls act. “What do I do?” they made some noise about dice and skills – honestly, who could follow that nonsense? “Ok,” as I twirled my hair and feigned being geek cute. (I’d seen actual cute people pull this off – me, it’s a lot like a Joan Cusack in any 80’s movie rip-off – kind of awkward and a tad spastic, but hell they were glad to have a REAL LIVE GIRL.) “I don’t get it. Can you guys just tell me as we go along?” I was NOT about to read a rule book. I scanned my sheet a little more closely, “umm… does this mean she’s pretty?” The guys who had obviously voted against girls in the club house groaned. “I mean, it is an 18 in pretty isn’t it? Can I attack the bad guys with my hotness?” To this day I’m not sure why they didn’t boot me out of the house. But, as I said, I was a real girl – and for me, there were BOYS that actually noticed me – a win-win. So, among the many reasons I thank Gary Gygax, it’s for giving me a dating outlet. D&D and every game that followed meant that I had a date not only for prom (I’d share the picture, but it was a bad hair day that pounds of Aquanet couldn’t fix – you can thank me for global warming, too – it all started thanks to flat hair) but that I could date through college – heck, and even meet this really great guy that I married.

So, on this day (only a couple of days late) I mourn the loss of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and co-founder of TSR. You allowed us to continue playing pretend long past the time we moved out of our playhouses and sold our Hot Wheels, holstered our toy guns and waved goodbye to Barbie as she made her final move into a cardboard box (ok, so they call us Kidults – there’s still a place for us).

 You gave me a reason to draw so badly (and share). (NOTE: This is 20+ years old and something obviously died under the laminate – and yes, 20+ years ago, I decided laminating was a COOL idea.)

 

You gave my friends a reason to to set some paper on fire and choose the blood red font color. All for the sake of giving a lost Orc leader the means to recapture her pride, honor her father and save her people.

 You helped introduce me to new friends.

 Commission art.

  Say hello to my cousin online because I’m too cheap to call (hello, the internet is CHEAPER – and this way I can loom over him – he’s a halfling!) and I can also remind him, one more time, about one of the 101 reasons he loves me – LOVE YOU!

… and have an excuse to be around the people I love – my husband and friends. (HUGS PEOPLES!)

Oh, and how could I end without thanking you for teaching us about baby sacrifices, because everyone knows that’s what we’re really up to when we’re not scampering around sewers having hallucinations about being our characters. (A small nod to Tom Hanks and his movie “Mazes & Monsters” you do the 700 Club proud. For those not familiar with the flick, it’s the geeks version of “Reefer Madness”.)

Thank you, Gary Gygax!

(Psst, the photo above – that’s what gaming looks like – a bunch of paper, pencils, dice and a hex map. All babies sacrifices are conducted in the antechamber or a cellar, which is the right and proper place to do it if you have the correct amount of candles, dark hooded robes and one of those wiggly knives. You don’t want to ruin a perfectly good character sheet by making a mess in the kitchen.)