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3.30.2011

The Long Form of Emotion: Smallville

About a month ago, I was introduced to the television show Smallville. Now, I realize that this show has been around for close to ten years now, but I never got into it before. And, honestly, the only reason I watched it now is because someone insisted that I watch it.

For those of you who don't know, Smallville is an ongoing series that both explores and reinterprets the early days of the DC Comics superhero Superman in the form of a high school drama.

When I sat down to watch this, I was expecting campy, villain-of-the-week, teenage drama. And that's what I got. But I didn't expect the characters to be so utterly likable.

In fact, that's probably the best word that I can use to describe the series as a whole: likable.

The writing may not be Shakespearean, the special effects may be low-budget and old, and the acting might not be Oscar-worthy, but the whole package is an easily-digestible and pleasant-tasting treat. Like candy, but without the cavities.

3.23.2011

The Long Form of Emotion: Introduction

Quick note, I responded to an element of Matt's post from last week about being a geek over at my other blog earlier today. You reach the post directly with this link.

Alright, today I want to introduce a series of posts that I'll be writing each Wednesday titled "The Long Form of Emotion." Inspiration for this series came from an article with a similar title on the PC gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun. You can check it out if you like at the above link.

What is this all about? Well, this gets into the whole "Obsession" thing that Matt mentioned in his post (linked above), but it's focused on a much more personal pleasure of mine: Series Writing.

3.14.2011

It's Not Easy Being a Geek

This is a long one, folks. I hope it is worthwhile. I have done my best to make it so.

Craftman's introductory post nicely teed up a subject which I have been meaning to write about for a while: geek culture. I feel safe in saying that we're all geeks to some extent or another here on the Vanishing Blog... except for J.D. who is, of course, a hipster (and, being a hipster, he will vehemently deny that label.)

The Escapist Magazine is a bastion of geeky/nerdy information particularly pertaining to video games and the culture around them. I was poking around that site when I found a particularly thought-provoking video from their movie critic who goes by the handle MovieBob.

I'm not a big fan of MovieBob. Although I find him occasionally interesting, he comes off as something of an elitist to me. Also, he is coming from worldview diametrically opposed to mine. He seems to have no problem insinuating that those who disagree with him are small-minded. Plus, at the end of this video he basically says he'd like to be a supervillain.

But this isn't about MovieBob. Rather, it's about a point which he raises and discusses in the following video. Watch if you like though I will do a recap. Warning: there's some mild profanity and an aura of nerdiness about the whole video.



So the point I'd like to discuss why nerds and geeks are bullied or otherwise treated as outcasts in society. I think the terms "geeks" and "nerds" are unhelpful, however. They are uncertain and perhaps broad terms so let's define them.

I love this chart. It's seriously useful to whip out in a discussion of terms. That just shows how much of a geek I am.
Though this Venn diagram was probably intended as a joke, I find it helpful in explaining the essentials of what makes geeks and nerds worthy of those labels. Intelligence, obsession, and social ineptitude. In order of magnitude I'd say I have obsession, intelligence then a minor amount of social ineptitude. So I'm a geek, basically.

This is so very true.
What I would say makes me a geek is the fact that I'm concerned with a smaller number of things compared to your average person. I'm picky. I don't like that many things, really. I'm selective with my taste in film, television, books, music, etc. But the stuff I do like I really get into. Anything I don't get into I tend to berate.

I will attest to a certain amount of alienation from "regular people" - people who don't understand my obsessions or even accept that I have them. I have never understood why sports fans are tolerated in society but video gamers, comic fans, Trekkies and Star Wars nerds are shunned and looked down upon (MovieBob has a video about this as well). Being a gamer I could make an argument that gamers are "superior" to sports fans because we actually engage our brains and interact with the games we're interested in... but that's not my point right now nor do I necessarily buy that argument.

The point is geeks are not understood by mainsteam society. As much as nerd culture is on the rise with superhero movies and casual gaming bringing video games to the masses we are still very much on the fringe of society. I think there are three reasons for this.

1. Obscurity
Any time two cultures meet there is fear, distrust, misunderstanding and miscommunication. This is also true when subculture meets pop culture. When society meets geeks there is ignorance on both sides. Society has a built-up stereotype of geeks, nerds, comic fans, and gamers. Gamers are either violent, sick creatures or extremely lazy and anti-social. Nerds communicate entirely through mathematical and scientific metaphors while geeks communicate by referencing internet memes or maybe leetspeak. Yeah, it's true. I read it on the internets.

The problem with stereotypes is that they're never completely true but neither are they completely false. Only a closer look reveals the subtleties and nuances that stereotypes miss. Moreover, a closer inspection turns caricatured, stereotyped cartoon people into real human beings.

Geeks and nerds are really not that much different than sports fans or political junkies. We all obsess, we just obsess over different things. That is why I have begun to use the word "geek" like the word "buff." "History buff" could just as easily be "history geek" or "history nerd."

2. Fear
This is the point MovieBob highlighted in the video. He thinks people are afraid of nerds not because we are different but because we are better. We're smarter, more logical, more analytical, and more progressive-thinking. Is that true? Are we looked down upon because we are better?

This is my biggest area of contention with MovieBob. Better is relative. What do you mean better? In my experience smarter never necessarily equals better. Better is the comparative form of "good." Goodness is a concept that depends on one's moral, ethical, religious, and philosophical convictions.

Being a Christian, I think goodness has very little to do with one's intelligence or knowledge. In my experience, my own moral fortitude is often hampered by my analytical mind. I try to invent excuses to do things which I know to be wrong. I'm really good at making them sound like they have merit. I make them sound intelligent.

Here's a larger example: The Theory of Evolution. I'll say this right now. I don't believe it. It's not merely because I am a Christian. I think there are serious scientific problems with it. At any rate, evolution cannot be scientifically proven just as the existence of God cannot be scientifically proven.

There are a lot of "smart" people behind the Theory who insist it is scientifically sound. When confronted with problems in the Theory they make up some new ideas to justify it. This has happened many times since Darwin's initial thought. The problem is that Evolution is a foregone conclusion despite evidence to the contrary. Evolutionists are some of the most intellectually dishonest people out there even with their intelligence. But sometimes they do tell the naked truth like Dr. George Wald does in this quote:
"There are only two possibilities as to how life arose; one is spontaneous generation arising to evolution, the other is a supernatural creative act of God, there is no third possibility. Spontaneous generation that life arose from non-living matter was scientifically disproved 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and others. That leaves us with only one possible conclusion, that life arose as a creative act of God. I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God, therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution."
My intent here is not to write a mini-essay on the flaws of evolution, however. My intention is to show that intellect does not lead to better people. In the Evolutionist community we see a whole group of people who willingly deceive themselves and others in order to escape a belief in God and thus an authority in their lives. They make the arguments sound intelligent, but it is farce.

I do this myself on a smaller scale. I make myself believe that my behaviour is less important to God than it really is. Why? Is that belief based on fact? No. I do it because I want to live in my own way. I twist my intelligence - God's gift to me - for my own satisfaction. Sometimes I wish I were a bit less bright and a bit more obedient. I think I would be happier that way. But God has made me who I am for His purpose. As Tolkien noted: that is not for me to decide. All that I can decide is what to do with the time that is given me.

Now I would like point out that intelligence is indeed a gift. Like most things, it is neither good nor bad but can be used for either end.

Back to my point about fear: while I don't believe that geeks and nerds are better because of their intelligence, I do think there is a general perception that intelligence means "better" which, as I have just argued, is wrong. There is also the fear of progress.

The geek community seems to be divided on the issue. On the one hand, we have the idea in geek fiction that science/magic brings about an "ascension" to a higher level of existence which is comparable to Heaven, Nirvana, or becoming a god/spirit being. So in that view technology (progress) is our salvation. But just as frequently technology leads to our downfall. This is the Terminator school-of-thought. See also: I Am Legend and the entire post-apocalyptic genre.

Either way, we geeks look at progress with a sense of awe and wonder rather than fear and disgust. Most normal people are a bit frightened of progress because it's change and we're all afraid of change in some form or another. Just think about the way the general public has reacted to any number of new technologies versus the way geeks have embraced them (sometimes to our detriment.) Since geeks/"intelligent" people are associated with progress we are subconsciously feared for being the promoters and catalysts of change.

3. Elitism
This problem is entirely ours. We buy the aforementioned lie that are superior and we act on that belief. Sure, a lot of nerds do fit the stereotype of the fat 30-something in his parents' basement playing World of Warcraft, but not as many as the general public likes to think.

More often, the nerd is that IT guy who's only goal in life seems to be making you feel stupid. He knows more about technology than you. He thinks his thinking is more "forward" and "progressive" than yours. He likes to believe he is open to new and different ideas. He looks down upon any behavior he considers Luddite.

Because we are not "accepted" or "understood" by society, we can give into the tendency to feel victimized. We then make up a reason for our victimization. The best light to cast ourselves in is that we are superior beings.

Like many lies, this one is based on a half-truth. It is true that most geeky/nerd people are a bit better with abstract concepts and ideas or analytical thinking. Our media and our culture reflect the fact that we embrace things the rest of society finds ridiculous, weird, or even distasteful. While the rest of society might be a little too narrow in its views, nerd culture is by no means superior. As I have argued above, progress does not necessarily equal goodness.

Even as a Christian with a "right" idea of progress (that is, conformance of all thinks to the likeness and purpose of Christ), I fall into the trap of elitism frequently. Where do I get the idea that my opinions are better than everyone else's? They might be stronger than many peoples', but not better. Not more right. It is a struggle. I'll be honest: I think there is a part of the nerd that enjoys confusing people; that enjoys losing them in our useless knowledge.

Being a geek isn't easy but not for the reasons MovieBob asserts. We are not better. Like everyone else, we struggle against our own vices. We are just as much to blame for our alienation as anyone else. We are not superior beings. We are fallen, failed, flawed humans trying to overcome our own shortcomings.

3.01.2011

An Introduction

Alright, so Matt threw down the gauntlet earlier today, so I really have no choice but to take him up on the challenge.

Hello, everyone. I'm actually going to write something this time.

As Matt said, I usually run my own blog, "A Craftsman's Journey", where I discuss elements of my work that I feel pertain to "The Writer's Life" (in between doing the actual writing, of course). It's mildly pretentious, highly personal, and designed to be marginally helpful to those who seek insight into the life styles of a young, ambitious writer.

I won't be talking about that here. If you have an interest in such things, please click on the above link. It might entertain you.

Here on The Vanishing Blog, I'm going to be tossing around thoughts and ideas about some of the other things I'm passionate about in life. These days, the majority of those things fall under the collective header of "geek culture," so I'll probably talk quite a bit about that. (If you're unsure of what that means, go ahead and watch this video by MovieBob from the online magazine "The Escapist." It presents a reasonable overview of all the things that generally fall under the "geek culture" umbrella, especially during its second half. [Minor language warning for Escapist Magazine overall, though they tend to keep it at a harsh PG or a light PG-13.])

In more concrete terms, I'll probably be posting movie reviews, movie re-reviews, game thoughts, convention write-ups, travel news, and the occasional bit of world news (speaking of which, has everyone been following the situation in Libya?, how about the potential government shutdown in the United States?, and superheroes! In Seattle!) However, that doesn't mean I'm going to avoid subjects like politics, history, religion, technology, and all the other great mysteries of life. It's just that I tend to gravitate to the prior list when I talk about things.

Alright, I think that's everything I need to say for now. I'm not going to commit myself to a schedule just yet, but it would be exciting if I could post something here once a week. Until then, however, thank you for welcoming me to the community.

-Craftsman