Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our Proud Geek Heritage

 “Hey,” Matt, standing over the bed one morning, poked me while he was getting dressed. “Did you guys get Lincoln at the library yet?”

I pulled the blankets over my head, hoping the morning would magically revert to night. “Probably,” I said.

“Bring it home, would you? I want to see that one.”

“Sure,” I said, drifting in and out of consciousness.


Later, at the library, holding the DVD in my hands, I struggled over it. If I take this movie home, I thought, I will have to watch it. And it’s history. And it’s serious. And it might be boring. There’s no magic or dragons or anything. This is not the one where he hunts vampires on the side.

But I can’t pretend I slept through Matt’s request, because that would be a lie.

With a heavy sigh, I checked the Academy Award winning movie out to myself and put it in my purse.


That night, we ate dinner in front of the TV like uncivilized heathens as we watched our artsy, sophisticated movie. It required more focus than my usual fare, and there weren’t many explosions involved, but I felt I was catching the gist of it.

Mostly, I was loving the main character. Lincoln was such a likable guy, with his homespun nature and his anecdotes and careful speeches. At one point, another character proclaims, “I can’t stand to hear another one of your stories!” Here was a man (or, at least, a portrayal of a man) who collected words found far afield and saved them for sharing later, like butterflies pinned to a board.

This is an idea I can get behind, as I have a similar collection myself.

Deep into the movie, as Lincoln was speaking and I recognized a quote from Shakespeare, I had an epiphany:

Lincoln was a nerd! A geek before his time!

Think about it. The man read everything and quoted it back at people. He was known for it, all the time reciting stories he had read somewhere. The man was an expert on the pop-culture of his time – there was just less pop-culture back then.

This is a man who, if he were alive today, would read Harry Potter, because he read everything, and he would remember all the best and most compelling details and quote them back at us at appropriate times. Maybe he would read James Patterson or have a penchant for Tom Clancy or favor adventures from Clive Cussler. Maybe, since he read Shakespeare, we can assume he’s okay with magic and witches and spirits of the air, and he and I could discuss Tolkien and Lewis and possibly Pratchett.

I could tell him about all the best books in my library and he could introduce me to some I haven’t heard of before, and afterwards we could discuss our favorite movies and TV shows, because he would have those too – a man who loved stories as much as he did would gather them wherever he could, no matter their form.

Suddenly, this boring, serious history movie was about a real person, a nerd like me, and I wondered how many more are out there. What else did I miss in history class? How many other geeks have gone quietly into that good night – not just the authors and scientists who most obviously fit the nerd stereotype, but the world leaders, the generals, the statesmen and the explorers – when all they had to geek out over were poets and playwrights and dead Greek philosophers?

My friends, we are not alone in this modern age. A line of geeks and nerds stretches out before us clear back to the days when pop-culture consisted only of stories shared around a tribal fire. The thing you geek out over may be the thing you are remembered for later.

And who’s to say that years from now, when they make the movie about your life, some other geek down the road won’t be saddened by the loss of you, won’t wish fervently that you could have lived to see the ages ahead?

Who’s to say that future geeks won’t wish they could have talked with you, could have geeked out with you just once?

Maybe you’re unappreciated in your time, maybe you’re surrounded by people who can’t stand to hear another one of your stories. Keep sharing your stories anyway. Collect them and pin them neatly to the board within your mind like all the most radiant, beaming, beautiful butterflies that ever graced this earth. You may not go down in the annals of history for it, but by God your own people will know you when they hear of you.

And everybody else doesn’t matter.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Film Discussions

After X-Men: First Class
Matt: I just thought it was interesting that Magneto, bad-ass that he is, was entirely motivated by the fact that someone killed his mommy.
Me: Hmm… you’re right. There was another bad-ass with the same motivation… what was his name… Darth something? Gimme a minute. It will come to me.
Matt: No, it wasn—Oh, god, you’re right.
(Long moment of silence)
Me: Damn prequels.
Matt: See, I was just so traumatized by those movies that I prefer to pretend they didn’t happen and forget things like that.
Me: I wish I could. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

After Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Me: I have no desire to see Hangover 2. It’s not funny. It’s a morality tale. If you get drunk at a bar, you deserve whatever happens to you. You know how my grandma doesn’t like fantasy because she can’t get over how it’s not real and could never happen? It’s like that. I can’t identify with the characters because things like The Hangover would never happen to me.
Matt: And finding the fountain of youth is something that would?
Me: No, but the characters are more realistic.
Matt: Are you saying you enjoyed Pirates because magical adventures with mermaids on the high seas are more likely to occur in real life than things like The Hangover?
Me: I’m saying that IF I found myself on a pirate ship in the 1700s with a map to the fountain of youth, I would do that shit up like a boss. That movie could totally happen. However, if I found myself in a bar with the opportunity to get drunk, I’d leave the bar. That movie doesn’t exist in my world.
Matt: What makes you so sure you’d be good at the pirate thing?
Me: Well, you just have to put yourself in Captain Jack’s shoes.
Matt: (uncontrollable laughter)
Me: I’m serious. Think about it: You’re the captain of a pirate ship and your ship has been stolen. What do you do? You get it back however you can, am I right?

After Avengers (A Facebook conversation)
Sarah: Any better today?
Me: Home sick.
Sarah: Sorry.
Me: Gonna watch some comfort movies.
Sarah: Like what?
Me: Avengers. A few Disney princesses. Maybe Labyrinth, Willow.
Sarah: Sounds like a plan.
Me: Should have saved Avengers for last. It's almost over and I don't know how to follow it up.
Sarah: Thor?
Me: Maybe so. Then I get more Jeremy Renner also.
Sarah: Good point
Me: But actually… There are only two hot guys in Thor. There are six in Avengers
Me: I could just start Avengers over again...
Me: I had that thought.
Me: I cannot unthink it.
Sarah: Haha
Me: Talk me down, because that's too nerdy.
Sarah: Save the second watching for bedtime.
Me: Right.

After Man of Steel
Matt: That was epic.
Me: It was too big! Nothing Lex Luthor does can top flying Kryptonians destroying half of Metropolis!
Matt: Yeah, I can’t really see them making a sequel.
Me: I couldn’t stop cringing every time they broke something. First Zod destroys a huge swath of the city with his death ray machine. Then Superman stops that and they have their one on one fight, but do they fight in the already destroyed parts? No! They fly to an untouched part of the city and break more stuff! And then they take it into orbit – the whole empty vastness of outer space to fight in – and what do they do? Run into a satellite.
Matt: I can see your point.
Me: And we’re supposed to believe that after all that they just go back to work at the Daily Planet as if nothing has happened and it won’t take the city months and months to recover?
Matt: They did just sort of gloss over that part, didn’t they?
Me: All that destruction made me uncomfortable!
Matt: We’ll play King of Tokyo when we get home. That’ll make you feel better.
Me: I don’t know. After Metropolis, I feel bad about destroying Tokyo.
Matt: You’ll need to get over that before Pacific Rim comes out.

Months Before The Hobbit
Me: I wish they'd make Sherlock faster.
Matt: Yeah, but in the meantime, I can’t wait to see Morgan Freeman in The Hobbit.
Me (after a moment’s thought): You mean Martin Freeman.
Matt: Yes, that’s what I mean.
Me: However, I would love to see Morgan Freeman in The Hobbit. Which part do you suppose he’d play?
Matt: The awesome black guy.
Me: No, wait, I’ve got it: Radagast the Brown.
Matt (both shocked and appalled): Wow, dear.
Me: Well, he has to be a wise, elderly, wizardly type and he can’t be Gandalf.

Before Avengers (A conversation with myself)
Woohoo! Snowed in!
It’s time for a Book to Movie marathon! Like, a literary one, perhaps.
I’ll start with Pride and Prejudice
And then, um…
Much Ado About Nothing!
And I’ll follow up with…
Avengers! Yeah!

Hang on… That’s not what I meant.
No, wait! It really is. Comic books are books. And… um… they’re totally literature. I heard it at a literary conference in grad school.
And Tom Hiddleston is a Shakespearian actor! I saw it on Youtube!

Days After Star Trek: Into Darkness
Me: I’ve had a thought about the movie.
Matt: Yeah?
Me: The Star Trek universe doesn’t use the same calendar we do.
Matt: How do you figure?
Me: It can’t really be 2259!
Matt: Because?
Me: Kahn’s been frozen for three hundred years! That would mean…
Matt: He’s being frozen right now. It still works.
Me: No, 2259 minus 300 would be 1959!
Matt: Cold war era… Maybe he was one of those Captain America experiment things.
Me: That… that makes perfect sense.
Matt: Because he was basically a super soldier.
Me: OMG! Star Trek takes place in the Marvel universe!!!

After Jack the Giant Slayer
Matt: Well, that was a fun movie.
Me: It was! I’m really enjoying Nicholas Hoult’s career so far.
Matt: He’s pretty good.
Me: Not to mention how easy he’s going to make Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for us if he keeps this up.
Matt: Because of X-Men: First Class.
Me: Now we can leap from him to Ewan McGregor to any of the Star Wars actors, or go through Stanley Tucci to get to the Avengers franchise.
Matt: Or go from Hoult to Bill Nighy to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Me: I like to get there by going through James McAvoy to Kierra Knightly in Atonement.
Matt: Yes, that also works.

During Avengers
Matt: I’m home!
Me: Welcome back.
Matt: Still watching this? I thought you were going to start it as soon as you got home?
Me: Oh, I did. I was watching it while I did some writing, but I wasn’t done writing when it finished, so I started it over again.
Matt: Really? You couldn’t even be bothered to put a different DVD in?
Me: That would have taken valuable time I could have spent writing.
Matt: (sighing)
Me: You might as well watch it with me.
Matt: Might as well.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cake or Death at the Ballet

I was excited!

So excited!

I’d never seen Swan Lake before. This was the next best thing to an adventure!

Going to a theater (a real one with a real stage! Not for movies!) and watching a show performed by live and actual people… why I almost never do that!

Mandi and I had been planning it for weeks, since neither of our husbands was interested. The two of us, just a pair of girls out on the town, were all smiles as we picked up our tickets from the will-call window and started through the crowd of theater-goers and toward the stairs.

“The balcony seats were like $50 cheaper than the next level down,” Mandi explained as we headed up.

“I’m all for cheaper,” I said, because I workout every day and can handle a few stairs.

Which is great, because there were more stairs, packed end to end with other people who like cheap seats. Pausing on a landing to catch my breath, I saw two older ladies by a door, one an usher holding a stack of programs, the other a patron.

“Do these chairs lean back?” the patron was asking, loudly. “My hips get stiff if I sit up too long. Maybe there’s a place I could watch standing up?”

I stood obviously off to the side and held out my hand, but the usher, speaking just as loudly, addressed the patron as if she hadn’t seen me. “You can’t stand up during the show.”

I cleared my throat politely but the old ladies, both quite deaf, ignored me. Looking around for Mandi, I noticed her halfway up the next flight of stairs, having missed the entire exchange, and hurried after her.

When we were finally seated, three rows from the highest seats possible, Mandi said, “Where’d everyone get programs?”

“Outside and downstairs,” I told her. “You want to go get one?”

I saw her look toward the door, considering. We were far from the end, having climbed over several people in the narrow row to reach our seats. “Nah, we’ll be fine.”

I agreed. In my experience, I only look at the program once and then never again, except for maybe when I get around to scrapbooking it in the scrapbook I never look at again. Besides, I thought, I know the story already. I saw plenty of cartoons of it as a child.

When the lights went down and the curtain went up, I was fascinated. The colors! The costumes! The music! It was only after several minutes I realized I was totally lost. What the heck is going on here? I wondered. I think we’re at a dancing party… Like it might be this guy’s birthday, because he just got a present. People are applauding, so he must be the prince. I surveyed the scene before me, trying to determine who these voiceless characters were. Where the heck are the swans?

“I’m lost,” I admitted to Mandi in a frantic whisper. “Are you lost?”

“I am so lost,” she replied.

Somewhere, another patron shushed us.

The swans, just so you know, showed up in act two, but did nothing to alleviate my confusion. We went from a party to some swans? How does that work? I gave up on following the story and decided to enjoy the visuals.

Though I’d never seen the ballet, I’ve always enjoyed the music of Swan Lake. From a cheesy “childlike wonder” perspective, for example, it was great to see the music from one of my favorite music boxes come to life on stage. I especially enjoyed the scenery for the lake in act two, which seemed, were it a real lake, like it would have been a nice place to visit.

The ladies’ costumes were gorgeous as well, though I honestly couldn’t tell you about the men’s since my eyes never rose above their tights, a fact which Mandi and I both remarked on in more whispers despite the shushing and glares of those seated near us.

And so it went until intermission, when I whipped out my phone to consult the internet. “I really thought I knew this story already,” I said.

“So did I,” Mandi admitted.

I checked the plot on Wikipedia.

At the prince’s birthday party (yes, okay, that makes sense), his mother the queen (so far so good) gives him a fine crossbow as a present (I’m with you now) and encourages him to find a wife among the girls who are visiting for the celebration (it’s so clear to me now). The prince is disappointed he can’t marry for love.

Later (aka act two), the prince and his friends take his new crossbow out for a spin (that makes so much more sense) but he gets lost at the lake and he meets the magical swans, who are people at night (were-swans?) because of a sorcerer’s curse, and he falls in love with their queen.

“Okay, I think I’ve got this now,” I said. Mandi, reading over my shoulder, nodded.

We scrolled ahead to see what happens next: There’s a lot of drama, with mistaken identities and sorcery and such, but to make a long story short, at the end, to defy the evil sorcerer, the prince and the swan queen leap into the lake together to their deaths.

“They die?” I said.

“What?” said Mandi.

“We sit here for two hours then they die?” It was like an episode of Game of Thrones, only twice as long.

“What?” Mandi repeated.

We huddled around my phone’s tiny screen, reading it again. The plot did not change.

“Screw this!” I declared. “This calls for cake! On the way home, we stop for cake!”

“Agreed! Death calls for cake!”

We fumed in our seats until the lights lowered for act three.

I watched as the prince danced with the evil sorcerer’s daughter who was disguised as the swan queen, even though she was obviously a villain because she was wearing black, and the saddened swan queen went away to die in despair.

That’s right, Bella, I thought. Edward left you. Go cry in a corner.

But in act four, the prince followed her. Silently and with much dancing, he declared his love for the swan queen, and they danced some more. The evil sorcerer appeared and (dancingly) confronted them, but they (dancingly) confronted him right back.

Then, having apparently failed to bring it and losing the dance off, the sorcerer collapsed to the floor, dead. The happy couple embraced.

The curtain fell.

“What just happened?” I said.

The curtain went back up so the dancers, including the dead sorcerer, could parade across the stage to take their bows. The show was well and truly over.

I blinked against the raised lights and my own confusion as the people around me filed out the door. “Wait… did they just live at the end?” I asked Mandi.

“It didn’t look like they died to me,” she said.

“Yeah, it looked like they defeated the sorcerer and lived happily ever after,” I said, glad it wasn’t just me.

“So…” said Mandi. “Hooray?”

“Hooray for happy endings!” I agreed. I sat in my chair a moment longer, looking down at the stage and its red curtain.

Then I said, “This calls for cake!”

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Make a Fortune in the Kindle Store and Buy a Llama

“So what are you doing for International Talk Like a Pirate Day this year?” Benjamin asked me at the circulation desk. Last year, I’d planned a big pirate party at the library for the five to eight year olds, complete with treasure hunt and Pirate language lessons.

“I’m not sure,” I said, consulting the calendar. “It’s on a Thursday this year.” I lamented, wishing the holiday was on a weekend. Then I sighed, wishing it was currently a weekend. “There’s book club that night,” I said as an aside.

“We could get them in on it too!” Benjamin said with his usual enthusiasm. “I bet there’s a pirate romance novel out there we could use. And if there’s not, we should write one quick because I bet there’s a market for it.”

Our boss, Veronica, who happened to be passing buy, interjected jokingly, “You could use the profits to buy a llama.”

Our attempts to take up a collection at Christmas time to buy a llama through Heifer International had become a running gag among our coworkers, but Benjamin and I, of course, took the comment at face value and got excited over the possibilities (or llamabilities, if you like).

“Yeah!” I said. “We could work together on it and put it in the Amazon Kindle store for like a dollar! We’d only have to sell about two hundred copies!”

Benjamin looked at me with great pity for what he must have seen as my economic ignorance. “Or we could charge more and only have to sell like ten,” he said.

“No!” I said firmly. “That’s not how e-things work! Look at Angry Birds! You sell these things for a dollar and people say, ‘I don’t know if it’s any good, but it’s only a dollar so I’ll risk it.’ More people are willing to spend a dollar, so you make more money!”

“I never knew that,” said Veronica.

“Oh my gosh, that’s brilliant!” said Benjamin.

I nodded. “Yeah, I’ve often thought about writing a novel for the Kindle store and trying to make a fortune.”

“Really?” said Benjamin. “How?”

“Just think about all the cool things in the world and try to cram them all into the same book.” It was at this point that I realized I’d never given the idea any further thought than that...

“Like what?” I decided to use Benjamin as my target demographic. “Well” I said, considering my audience. “We were just discussing pirates. Pirates are cool.”

“Yes,” he agreed.

“And dinosaurs,” I added after a moment’s thought.

“Yes…” I knew I was onto something as his voice was rising now with excitement.

“Ninjas…” I said.

“I’m listening,” he said, giving me his full attention.

“Robots,” I said, on a roll now, “gotta have robots.”

Benjamin threw his hands in the air. “You have to do this!” he exclaimed.

I sighed. “I know. I just need the right plot to string them all together. It doesn’t even have to be a coherent plot. I mean, look at how popular The Matrix was.”

“Hey, The Matrix was a good movie!”

“Exactly my point,” I said. Someday, llama, I thought.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Vocabulary Test

The sun rose over a clear morning. Birdsong filled the yard.

“I think the hostas are coming up again,” she said from the kitchen.

“That’s nice,” he said. “Maybe winter’s finally over.” He sorted the mail at the breakfast table, over his morning coffee. “What’s with this bill? Did you call an exterminator?”

“I had to,” she said, carrying in the waffles and taking a seat across from him. “The words were going missing.”

He set the papers down. “What does that even mean?”

She gestured toward the butter; he passed it to her. “I didn’t understand it myself. I tried to Google it, but they’d eaten that one already, you see. I had to use Yahoo instead. They came up in the search results.”


“Not who. What. Term-mites.” She sliced her waffle into neat, bite-sized squares. She gestured toward the syrup.

“We have termites?”

“No, term-mites.”

“You’re not making any sense.”

“Look,” she said, sipping her juice. “You know when there’s a word for something and you can’t remember the word? It’s been eaten.”

He looked at her, blankly.

“Here, I’ll show you,” she said. “Eat your waffles.”

He shrugged, picking up his fork. “Could you…” he gestured toward the syrup.

“Could I what?”

“You know, pass the… hand me that?”

She smiled slyly, cocking an eyebrow at him.

He looked away. “I forgot what I was going to say,” he admitted.

“Because we have term-mites,” she declared.

Outside, the sounds of birdsong masked the gentle crunching of tiny jaws.