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.

An Interview

I was stopped in the hall today and asked if I’d mind being interviewed for the school paper.  Ok, so it may have been the office newsletter. Potato potato (err… that sounds so much better in my head.) Who can keep up with these things?

You’d think saying, “yes” wouldn’t be particularly difficult.  However, I am me.  You see, on the one hand, the ego-maniac inside me was saying, “hell, yeah what took you so long? I am AWESOME y’all! What what!!” while on the other hand, the extremely shy introvert reminded, “it’s impolite to brag.”  And my introvert won the first round to the jaw dropping horror of my inner megalomaniac by uttering this tried and true line, “well, I’m not very interesting.”  (Only this time I did manage to say it politely versus how I used it to be an absolute jerk over the holidays. For the record, they did have it coming.)  The woman responded encouraging, “that’s not true, you do take improv.” “No, I haven’t been in an improv class in over a year.” She frowned disappointedly and ummm’ed a bit.  It was the kind of reaction that nearly made me look to see when the next round of classes would be offered up from Merlin Works or The Hideout.  Crap! I am actually dull! My ego maniac leapt on the opportunity and slapped me, which caused me to blurt out to the great protests of my introvert, “but I did write for a sketch show! We had a three week sold out run and I just finished filming my second sketch in December.””OH!” Enter the huffing introvert, “however, I’m a poor subject, I’m afraid.” My ego maniac glared.

Suffice it to say that despite the overwhelming protests of the introvert inside me, I will be interviewed over the next few days.

I just want to thank my friends for their suggestions on Facebook when I went to them and asked, “what do I say to make myself interesting?”

They offered up the following:

  • Tell them you know about MMORPGs. (This is true. I do. In fact, I know a lot. I’m fairly certain that would bring out all of the “Big Bang Theory” lovers and the next thing you know I’d be spilling my guts about how I’m a Half-Elf or a Forsaken as I wave goodbye to my disappearing career opportunities. This is sometimes known as a crit fail, epic fail, Captaining the USS Failboat or more simply being ganked by THE MAN.)
  • You can talk about graphic novels. (I could.  In fact, I have talked about them much to the horror and dismay of someone who loves reading romance novels and felt like that reading choice was far superior to a graphic novel. She audibly snorted when I mentioned that some graphic novels had won literary awards.  Still, I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m also thinking this is yet another career limiting choice that will force me into a “Big Bang Theory” discussion. “You’re just like Sheldon!” Oh frabjous day.)
  • Tell them one of your short films was nominated for a TITie award. (It was, but you kind of see a theme here. Right?  For the record, that stands for The Institution Theater and it’s what they dubbed their awards. My “Hot Spots” short sadly lost.  You can enjoy the winner here:
  • Talk about zombies. (Hoo boy.  Not that I don’t have thoughts on zombies.  Not that I haven’t written a sketch about zombies or worked on an idea for a zombie web series.  It’s just that… you guessed it – “Big Bang Theory”.)
  • Tell them about your journey to find your sense of self after leaving a polygamist marriage (as wife eight), having broken free from a small village in Saskatchewan (how often do you get to say that?). You’ll obviously want to talk about your descent into the world of drugs, how you garnered the name Crack-a-tow-a on the mean streets of Minneapolis, and of course your “redemption” story in a small monastery in the northern Alps a la Julie Andrews. (Now this one has real possibilities and kind of wins for originality AND huge bonus, no one will be inspired to utter a single word about the “Big Bang Theory”.  I’d just need to polish up on “Breaking Bad” or possibly watch a few episodes of “Intervention” and “Sister Wives” for ideas on who this new Beth is, but then again – could be career limiting.)

So, I think that means Richard’s suggestion wins:

  • “No comment,” drop the mic, and walk out. (Bring your own mic if needed).

We’ll see how it goes.

Note: I know you love “Big Bang Theory” and “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” and I respect that “ish”.  However, I may see it exactly as my friend Jerin sees it, as black face for geeks/nerds.  Thus, I pick on it.  I also pick on it because I have low self-esteem and it makes me feel better about myself.  Oh, and possibly because if one more person compares me to Sheldon, I will physically hurt them.  I have mass.

Imagine Greater? I Can’t Imagine Worse

Let’s start with a story…

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was sitting on some bleachers in a studio full of my fellow co-workers staring at a music stand draped with a black cloth. Beneath that cloth lurked our new company slogan and beside it stood our beaming CEO eagerly waiting to unleash it. Before it was released, she proudly boasted that the slogan had been donated and our benefactors were one of the premiere advertising company in our area – a donation that would not only help revitalize our company, but would help drag it into the 20th century (sadly, the century was wrapping up and we were plowing into the 21st). This particular advertising agency was well known in our area. It was one that sported many of the more popular initials in its name (no x’s or q’s there) and whose very name let you know that they were hip and edgy – no stuffy last names of executive octogenarians strung together for this bunch.

Everyone in the room was filled with anticipation and glowing gratitude as we reflected on charity and how it’s nice to give to the community and even better to have a tax write-off. Looking back, I now suspect the company threw their top local community college interns at the task of creating this “free” slogan. (Oh, and it turns out that “free” actually costs a whole dollar, but it does allow you to have the rights to your slogan.)

When the cloth came off, what I saw was not the bright future of our company, but an amazingly large turd sitting on that stand. A money sucking turd. A turd hell bent on costing us a re-branding fortune. The CEO smiled with great pride and I swear someone shrieked while another person exclaimed “JESUS!” and the rest of us sat in horror-stricken silence, golf-clapping the brilliance of the turd. The surprises didn’t end there. We were also being blessed with a new digital logo – one that was supposed to make us look “high-tech”, but the CEO failed to qualify the statement with “yes, high-tech for 1982 – someone go unearth the old Epson dot matrix, mama wants to slap the new logo on some stationery.” And maybe we weren’t that blindsided – I seem to recall a voting process where several options were presented, but truly when faced with the possibilities we were forced to apply the “suck” scale and made our decisions based on what seemed to suck the least.

I imagine that’s exactly how the minions at the Sci Fi network recently felt the day they heard the news that they were no longer going to be the Sci-Fi network, but were going to “Imagine Greater” and become Syfy.

I’ve given the new name a little over a week to grow me. I mean, at this point, everyone has had the opportunity to take a swing at the name, but now I suppose it’s my turn. I have to start with one of my obvious peeves – the misspelling. Why grossly misspell Sci-Fi especially when the network clearly wants to distance themselves from the genre? Why not a completely different name? Sci-Fi still sounds like Syfy, unless you pronounce it “Siffy”, which is actually what I prefer to call it. As for the misspelling, I can barely take brands like “Artic Ice” or “Liquid Plumr” not to mention any brands that incorporate words like “Qwik”, “Cheez”, “Brite” or “Krazy” and now we have Syfy? Really? Brands like “Infiniti”, “Gleem” and “Flickr” slip by me virtually unnoticed, but “Syfy” makes me choke every time I see it.

As I now re-read the CNN article, “Sci-Fi Channel becomes Syfy; will viewers tune in or drop out?” by Todd Leopold, I can’t help but feel the same amount of contempt for the Syfy channel’s president, David Howe, as he surely must feel for me, one of his core viewers. According to the article the original name is seen as a “barrier” and the feeling is that the viewers will be there if the programming is good. This is already an uphill battle for the network, because the programming is not good. My husband describes it as the “bad movie/wrestling/Ghost Hunter channel”, a fairly accurate description now that their one critically acclaimed show has come to an end. When the channel first aired, you knew you could count on it for re-runs of Sci-Fi classics or original shows like Good vs. Evil or The Invisible Man. Now it’s where I go when I want to watch schlock horror “hits” like “Mansquito”, “Ogre” and “Mega Snake”, and that urge never hits me. “Warehouse 13” is being touted as the “flagship” of this newer/sexier rebranding effort and Howe is quoted as saying it “epitomizes the essence of the new Syfy”. I’ve watched it. Two episodes. I think that’s about all the time I need to devote to the series and it’s hamfisted send-up to “steam punk” and quite frankly, if this is the direction they’re going, then I’m glad they’ve parted ways with the term “Sci-Fi”. The show isn’t “bad”, it’s just not “good”. In my opinion, their “flagship” should be “Stargate Universe” with Robert Carlyle and money should be thrown at the executive producers, Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper and Carl Binder. But I guess that’s Sci-Fi and not the new Syfy, Sci-Fi’s buck-toothed, illiterate cousin.

The executives at Syfy must truly see their core viewers as dirty and undesirable based on their series of decision – from methodically divorcing itself from science fiction over the years to this latest rebranding. My apologies to them – you see, I actually chose to watch science fiction on a channel calling itself “Sci Fi” because I expected science fiction shows. And while Sci-Fi may be geeky and in the narrowest of definitions imply people are floating around in space, what does Syfy say? The network can’t spell? They get to make more poor programming decisions? The implication from the execs at SyFy seems to be that by misspelling Sci-Fi, more people will be drawn to shows like Battlestar Galactica? Really? Who are these people? Drunk people? Blind people? The execs also seem to believe that if you slapped Battlestar Galactica on the Biography channel or TNT, more viewers would be drawn to it because they would be fooled into thinking it was something else. I’m sorry, I do love Battlestar Galactica, but what’s keeping the mainstream from the show is not that it’s on a channel calling itself “Sci-Fi”.

Needless to say, I’m incensed and a lot disappointed. I enjoy Sci-Fi and this new Siffy obviously has no place for me. I can only hope channels like Biography, History, Discovery or even the Military channel don’t wake up one day and say “you know what? Our viewers aren’t cool. Let’s move away from our roots and try to be more like the CW network. We want THAT demographic.” Who knows though, maybe tomorrow I’ll turn on BBC America and find we’re broadcasting from Dubai – I mean, it is sexier and think of the revenues.

… and I’d like to think that when the out-of-touch execs at Siffy unveiled their personal enormous turd of an idea, their more savvy staff snorted with displeasure and maybe a shriek was heard or an indignant “JESUS!”. … and I sincerely hope they didn’t pay more than $1 for the new name.

Beth vs. Trek


With the latest Star Trek movie out, I’ve been trying to work out how to write about my take on Star Trek and Science Fiction in general.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Science Fiction, thanks to my father. We spent countless hours watching Star Trek with Kirk rolling around, his shirt half torn while hollering self righteously about humanity. Here was our intergalactic hero – the ambassador to alien-kind spitting on the “prime directive” week after week when duty called and duty always seemed to have Kirk’s number on speed dial. But despite Kirk being the head of the space version of Wagon Train, let’s face it, I was still more a Spock/Scotty girl.

In fact, one of my prized geek moments was James Doohan asking if I’d like to have my picture taken with him. Picture? No, I want to sit in your lap and hug you. Sadly I didn’t have a camera on me at the time and had to shyly excuse myself from plopping down on the poor man.

When “The Wrath of Khan” came out, after sitting for hours with my high school friends to be the first in line, I was barely able to hold it together when Spock died – “I have been and ever shall be your friend” still gets to me – I wept again when Picard played his flute after living out an entire life in a dream. In fact, my Trek love goes so deep that I’ve attended Star Trek conventions, had my picture taken on STNG’s bridge, fled from the Borg in one of the two Star Trek Experience adventures I’ve been on, had my pre-wedding dinner at Quark’s and have several autographs of my Trek heroes. I would have gotten married on the bridge of the Enterprise had Jay not had to put the breaks on my over enthusiastic adoration of Star Trek. You see, I am a complete Star Trek dork. (Unless challenged with the “Name that Episode” game and If it’s not “Mirror, Mirror” or “Amok Time”, I haven’t got a clue.)

And as much as I personally love Star Trek and its various incarnations, I don’t view it or its characters as sacred. I just honestly can’t stand up and say without snickering that the writing was consistent, the acting was great or that any of the shows were the best TV had to offer. Sure, I liked it just fine – loved it even; it was entertaining. But, when people start whining about the Star Trek “cannon” being violated by the latest incarnation or point out the inconsistencies it has with the old story line, I quite frankly snort. And I’m sure in doing so, I’ve lost some Trekkee cred somewhere – I’ll be denied entry into Stovokor and someone out there will wish upon me a hearty “die young and poor”.

“Star Trek: The Future Begins” was hands down the best Trek movie to date. You may love your Khan or your search for whales, but they’ve got nothing on this latest installation. The movie reinvigorates a dying franchise (thank you for driving it into the ground, Rick Berman) with a fresh re-imagining of what was often tired and stale story telling.

The movie did for Star Trek what Ron Moore (God bless that man) did for Battlestar Galactica – another beloved, poorly realized science fiction show that I watched loyally every week. Solid ideas were made so much better. Again, I say that and can still love Dirk Benedict’s version of Starbuck, but honestly, give me Kara Thrace any day and I wave a cheerful goodbye to Muffit (poor chimp) and Boxey.

In fact, let me just come out and say that while I love sci-fi shows and will stand by them to the end, a lot of them are just not great (or even good)t; however, we do still love them and they can certainly be entertaining.

Now I’ll patiently hope that J. J. Abrams does something with the whole Star Wars debacle. I’m eyeballing you, Lucas.

My Battlestar Friends

Don’t forget about the BSG Webisodes before the premiere (January 16) like I did. Episode #7 comes out tomorrow at noon. Plus, by virtue of being behind, you get to repeatedly see the latest trailer for the Underworld Movie – Rise of the Lycans. Sure, the first five times I saw it, I was all like “nah”, but boy that 6th time… woooo… Tomorrow afternoon, after I’ve finished webisode #7, I’m buying tickets – I tell you what. And in my next life, I’m sooo living in a blue/black world where I wear lots of skin tight leather, thigh high boots and buckles… yes, lots of buckles and metal bits. In that life, I will stand around looking moody and strike poses.

Who is Dawn?

When I post on the Big Blue Mess I assume a certain level of geekery from my handful of readers and I completely forget that there are those of you who haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. While I try to remember to include links, a few things get through the cracks and that brings me to this follow-up post.

Charla asked, “Who is Dawn?” And I’m going to have to say that I don’t actually know. Sure, I know she’s a comic book character and I happen to know that Joseph Michael Linsner is her creator. There’s usually a big display in one of the dealer rooms at Dragon*Con featuring her image, so I can say for certain that she’s buxom with an impossibly small waist and equally narrow hips. I’d imagine she’s prone to falling over… a LOT. I don’t know who publishes the series or if the series is still being written regularly. All I know is that there’s a look-alike contest and a lot of red heads (or wigged heads) come out wearing interesting outfits as they show-off their impressions of the character.

Another confession – I don’t know a lot about comics in general (well, maybe a lot more than the average person poking along down the street). I can talk to you a little about X-Men (the origins of the new team and by new, I mean Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler – not Jubilee, Marrow or Blink, but we can talk about them, too), I know the first two major story arcs of ElfQuest, the first Kabuki TPB (trade paperback), Quantum & Woody, and a little about Rising Stars (the last TPB is waiting for me). I tend to buy TPB’s (Gaiman’s The Sandman and Stardust, for example) and then I shove them away on a shelf never to be seen again. In the back of my head I still think of them as “funny pages” and associate them with Archie and Jughead, even though I actually know they’re considerably more sophisticated. I guess after about 5th grade I lost my dependency on pictures to help drive a story and there’s that defiant 5th grader saying, “I’m a big girl now. I don’t need illustrations.” I’m not slamming comics, mind you; it’s just my own personal barriers that make it hard for me to read them.

Plus, I have to confess it’s hard to get me excited about a character like Dawn (again, just judging by the art and not the story). What I see when I look at her display is a scantily clad, big bosomed gal wielding weapons – a 14 year old boy’s wet dream – and the same can be said about the artists who draw females for Marvel, Dark Horse, Top Cow and DC – so no matter how pro female they may be, they don’t speak to me. It’s the same argument surrounding strip clubs – are they about empowerment or exploitation? If it’s empowerment when it comes to comics, why is she always running around in thigh high boots and a thong while wielding a sword/gun/staff/what have you? Why does she look like she burst forth from a Boris Vallejo print? You can create a strong, powerful and still beautiful character without all the extra bimbo-iness, but the answer is obviously that their target demographic wouldn’t buy it and I am not their target demographic.

Anyway, in a nutshell since this accidentally turned into a pseudo rant, that’s all I know about Dawn and it will probably be the extent of my knowledge about that character.

Ask me about Kabuki.

Box Dawn

Come to think of it, I do have a story from the convention.

I conned everyone into attending the Dawn Look-Alike contest, which I had remembered as being highly entertaining from two years before when Anthony Daniels (C3PO) hosted. When we got there, we’d just come from a lovely dinner, which originally was just going to be drinks and the next thing we knew we were eating lobster grits and calamari. (Who knew calamari could be so tender and not so rubbery?) All thanks to a waiter who sold us by merely describing the food.

The room was dark and we ended up somewhere towards the back as each contestant strode across the stage to moody goth music. Sure Voltaire (give that a moment to load), the emcee for the evening was entertaining enough, but it was missing something special – like drunken Denise Crosby standing up to give the crowd the finger – cute girl. So, by around contestant 50, I had reached my limit and was moments from beating my head on the chair in front of me while trying to apologize to April for making everyone attend.

Out shuffle three cloaked figures to more moody music with overly done descriptions about how they’re representing some aspect of Dawn and I pulled the chair in front of me back a bit so I could lay my head down. I was waiting for the big reveal – something with red hair, possibly wings or big armor judging by the capes. A white-cloaked figure shuffled out – obviously the main Dawn, and more waiting as the description carried on. All I could thing was, “God, I hate interpretive performance art. Just toss off the capes and drive on already.”

Finally, they threw off their cloaks and revealed themselves as BOX STORMTROOPERS and BOX DAWN! Mind you, the boxes were my absolute favorite costumes this year. People who had taken square boxes and created Star Wars characters. Box Dawn had red streamers for hair and red balloon boobs and she and her Stormtroopers scampered from side to side on the stage. Everyone cheered! It was hands-down the funniest thing I’d seen all night. What made it even better, is she won Most Outrageous – again, that made the crowd go wild.

… and I found a video!

To put yourselves in the mood, pretend it’s late at night and you’ve just seen 50+ very serious red-haired gals strut across the stage – each providing a lengthy detailed description about her costume and how she best represents Dawn. By 50 you’re a bit loopy and this was perfect!

Another quick plug for Voltaire – if you get a chance, go to iTunes and look up his pod cast. He’s got some great Star Trek parodies and you can listen to them in their entirety. He really wasn’t what I expected from someone who calls himself a Goth musician – great voice – entertaining lyrics – solid emcee.
That’s my story.