Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My George Lucas Manifesto

George Lucas appeared just last night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which seems to be the main source of news for my generation and younger these days. Lucas fielded some sticky questions about his creativity and fan reaction to his more recent work. Although his answers were somewhat vague, they caused a renewed flurry of anti-George Lucas fervor on countless nerd sites. Ever since the release of the Phantom Menace in 1999, Lucas has been the brunt of incessant complaints, which sometimes border on frightening threats to the man's personal safety.

I just want to come out and say that I'm sick and tired of it. As hard as I try to avoid sites with forums where internet users type out (in their mothers' basements probably) the most abusive insults towards Lucas they can think of, I usually end up reading at least one comment after I finish the article I'm interested in. That one comment then leads to another and another until I'm mad at all the haters and at myself for getting dragged into the conversation.

My main issue is with people who feel the need to bash George Lucas because he ruined their lives by making this movie or that movie. First, I want to ask them if they have ever tried writing a story, transferring it to a script, and then actually filming a movie. Then, I want to secretly find out how often they watch the Prequels because I'm pretty sure that behind all their big talk on internet forums, they actually enjoyed the movies for the most part. But, since it is cool to hate with a destructive passion anything that George Lucas has done in the past 10 years, I better keep quiet that I actually, maybe, kind of enjoyed the Prequels.

So please, I'm calling all you wanna-be haters out there to grow up and admit that George Lucas has not ruined your life and does not deserve to be killed in numerous creative ways. Clearly, your hatred for him is a symptom of some other problem in your life. Deal with it. Even though I didn't love everything about the Prequels or the new Indiana Jones movie, I will forever go down as a staunch defender of the Man in Flannel. The Force will always be with George Lucas.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Sometimes you get a hole in your shirt or pants and it starts to fray a little. In order to stop the hole from getting larger or out of control, you use something that stops it and keeps it in check. Perhaps something like fray-check. I've discovered that this same principle transfers to nerds. If you don't have something to keep your nerdy-ness in check, it quickly grows out of control.

I have seen symptoms of this in my own life, which has led me to question the reasons for its occurrence. I think I have found the answer. I have always been a nerd, but it has always shown in varying degrees. In high school and college I kept a peer group of people who did not necessarily share all of my interests. Thus, there was some pressure to not be the overly nerdy guy and maintain some "cool" image. Now my peer group consists of my wife, who doesn't need me to be cool to accept me, and my graduate school colleagues, who all share my same nerdy interests. Without a "normal" peer group to keep me in check I walk the fine line between normalcy and being lost in the space-time continuum.

So the secret to maintaining your coolness without sacrificing your true self is a diverse peer group. If you hang out with someone who wouldn't give half a penny to know about the next Iron Man movie, that same person will keep you honest when you try to spout off about a recent internet rumor or start your own religion based on your favorite movie. Plus, you might even be the cool guy/girl at a party (well, maybe that's going a little too far). Keep some nerd-check in your repertoire and you'll never go out of control again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Harry Potter and the Curse of Acceptable Nerd-dom

The Harry Potter franchise has flourished under a period of prosperity and acceptance in pop culture for several years now. The books are eagerly read by all ages, and the movies have been fairly well-received by the general movie-going public. In addition, a Harry Potter Theme Park is supposed to open next year at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL so that everyone can experience the world of Harry Potter for themselves. This weekend we are going to a Harry Potter museum exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. All this hoopla for something that is so inherently nerdy at its core? Wizards, monsters, and magic? What about Harry Potter makes it so culturally acceptable to get your geek on?

I'm not complaining that it's acceptable to be a big Harry Potter fan because I jumped on the bandwagon about four years ago, but I also wonder what the future of Harry Potter fandom will look like. If other big-time nerd franchises are any indication, then I worry that Harry Potter's fate may be worse than facing Voldemort. Star Wars was initially a pop culture phenomenon before it digressed into the realm of pocket protectors and boys who can't move out of the garage. Even Star Trek had its heyday, although it has suffered a fate worse than its Wars counterpart (perhaps J.J. Abrams has breathed some new life into the series, however). Is Harry heading down that same path through the Forbidden Forest of irrelevant pop culture? I tend to think that it won't as long as it continues to stay relevant. Part of Star Wars' problem was that it failed to produce anything new and relevant for a new generation until recently. J.K. Rowling has been able to walk the fine line between generational relevance and nostalgia so far, only time will tell if she, and Harry with her, can continue for many more generations.

I, for one, will really enjoy my slice of nerd-dom this weekend at the Harry Potter exhibit. Harry Potter and a museum, it doesn't get much better for a big nerd!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings

I got my copy of the new Indiana Jones game for the Wii this week and have spent some time playing it this week. I thought I'd give a little review of it for the few of you who might actually be interested in it.

The idea of playing as Indiana Jones with Wii motion controls is quite appealing to a drooling fanboy. The potential for throwing a good punch and cracking the whip with your Wii-mote was enough to make me pre-order it. In some ways, the game achieved the potential and in others not.

First, the primary single-player game is entirely too short. If I really wanted to I could have beaten the game in one day. There are a fair amount of unlockables, so there is some reason to return to the game a couple times. The story is pretty good and feels very cinematic, although I would have liked a few more cutscenes to fill in the story. Sometimes there were some holes in the story because there wasn't a cutscene to fill in a little gap. The gameplay can be hit-or-miss and is generally not very challenging. The game guides you through the actions you need to do for the most part, but that does help make the game feel more cinematic. The fighting is probably the most enjoyable part of the game, although sometimes the motion controls don't quite respond how you like.

The extras are pretty decent. There's a co-op mode where you can play a separate story as Indy and Henry together, but I haven't tried it yet because I don't have anyone to play it with. There are a couple other multiplayer options which I haven't tried either, including tank and biplane fighting arenas. Probably the best extra is the inclusion of the original PC game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. This was one of the greatest PC adventure games ever. So, if you're a big Indy fan, you'll enjoy the game despite some of its failings, especially with the addition of the Fate of Atlantis.

Friday, May 29, 2009

10 years of The Phantom Menace

Ten years ago last week, Star Wars appeared on the big screen after an absence of 16 years. The anticipation for the movie was unprecedented in the history of film. Fans of the original movies in the theaters awaited the movie as eagerly as their children who had grown up watching the movies on VHS. And the movie wasn't anticipated just in America. Fans all over the world eagerly awaited the movie event of the century. It was truly a cross-generation, cross-culture experience.

The anticipation and excitement for the film can't be denied, but the ultimate reaction after the film was less enthusiastic. Regardless of opinions about the quality of the movie, I would like to take this opportunity to wax nostalgic about where I was when the Phantom Menace first hit theaters. At the time, I had a friend from church who worked at a local movie theater, and he had the opportunity to go to an early employee screening. Technically, he was only allowed to take one family member with him, so I went as his brother ("in Christ"). The showing was at about 7 PM on the Tuesday night before release day on Wednesday, so the best part was leaving the theater at 9:30 with everyone lined up in costumes waiting for the midnight show. I personally enjoyed the movie despite some of its weaknesses, and I think I enjoy it even more now, if for no other reason than nostalgia.

Does anyone else have any good stories about where they were in 1999 when the Phantom Menace hit theaters?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Conversation Piece T-shirts

The other day at the grocery store I got into a conversation about Norse mythology with the bagger. The conversation began because of the Viking longship t-shirt I got on our cruise to Oslo a couple years ago. The event got me thinking about t-shirts that inspire conversation and how nerds often have a large repertoire of these kinds of t-shirts. In addition, these t-shirts function like nerd beacons and often inspire shouts of appreciation or jealousy from other nerds.

I know that when I am out and about and I see someone wearing a particularly cool Star Wars t-shirt, I just want to go and start a conversation with that person and become lifelong friends. I often get comments of this sort about my own Short Round t-shirt. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that a mere t-shirt can bring together people across ages and cultures and inspire illuminating conversations about Norse mythology or which Marvel comic character is the best.

Conversation piece t-shirts, however, are not necessarily restricted to nerds. My cousin recently pointed out a link to a finely-crafted "wolves howling at the moon" t-shirt on Amazon. I'm sure everyone has seen a shirt like that at some point in their lives. So, do you have any conversation piece shirts? I'll even open it up to other sorts of garments beyond t-shirts. Perhaps you have a lovely sweatshirt or sweater that makes people wax particularly eloquent. I'm interested to hear your stories.