Category Archives: Geek

I’m a tech geek. Sometimes I talk about software, computers, issues surrounding open source software, and so on.

[A-Z] P is for Picture Show (Rocky Horror)

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Just yesterday I wound up listening to the soundtrack for the Rocky Horror Picture Show at work. It was pretty awesome. Although it’s been a good twenty years since I last saw that film, I still know most of the songs by heart, and can still recite the audience participation lines for them as well. Of course, I didn’t do that at my desk at work. Nor did I get up to do the Time Warp when that song came on (though a co-worker did suggest we could have a Time Warp dance mob in our conference room).

Listening to the album left me nostalgic for my high school and early college years. It was my friend Brad Sunday who introduced me and several other members of our high school science fiction club to Rocky Horror; somehow he’d acquired a VHS copy and played it during an after school meeting (bear in mind this was a Catholic high school, and it was done with a teacher’s permission). He taught us some of the audience participation lines (but not all — because Catholic high school) and when and where to throw toast and toilet paper at the screen, so that when we finally went to the real thing, we wouldn’t be unprepared.

Me, I didn’t go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show until I was in college at UC Davis, and then for awhile I really got into it. With my friends P. and T., I drove into Sacramento just about every weekend, often twice a weekend. I threw the toilet paper, I shouted the lines, I danced the Time Warp in the aisles, and I even played Eddie in the floor show one night. That was fun.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Certainly it’s nowhere here in Sacramento. It might be playing regularly in some small theater in San Francisco or Berkeley, but those theaters are just hard for me to get to. I went to the Berkeley show once, about fifteen years ago, with a bunch of friends, but that’s about it. Nowadays, if I want to see it locally I have to wait until June (when the Sacramento Horror Film Festival rolls into town) or Halloween.

And perhaps that’s for the best. I’m past the age where staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning appeals to me, and, of course, that was part of the whole experience. I’m still young enough to be appalled that Fox is considering making a two-hour television version of the movie, but too old to want to go and dress up as Eddie again.

Or maybe I should go in June. Maybe I should go, just to do the Time Warp one last time.


Let’s do the A-Z Blogging Challenge again!

Justice League #1: A Brief Review

This is a quick review of a comic book by a guy who doesn’t typically read comic books.

Not that I’m a total ignoramus when it comes to comic books and graphic novels. I’m a big fan of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, as well as the Preacher series by Garth Ennis, and I love Fables by Bill Willingham. I’ve read Watchmen, and several issues of The Walking Dead. During the 80s I climbed aboard the Dark Knight bandwagon, and for awhile I was enthralled by everything that Frank Miller did.

But when it comes to Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the Fantastic Four and so on? I have to admit that I just don’t bother. These comics have been going on for so long and have storylines so complicated and all the titles are so tied in with each other that I figured I’d never have a prayer of simply picking one up and figuring out what’s going on, let alone getting engaged in the story. What is the meaning of this bit of dialogue Superman says in JLA #252? Well, it requires that you know what happened in Wonder Woman #’s 159 through 182. That sort of thing.

So when DC Comics announced that they were rebooting fifty-two of their titles, starting over from scratch, I was kind of excited. Of course, the part of me that thinks that reboots, reimaginings, remakes, and very likely to be bad ideas in general was skeptical. But what the heck: since I’d never kept up with the titles, perhaps this reboot was the perfect time for me to start reading comics fresh, getting in on the ground floor, and understanding what’s going on without having to go and borrow my buddy’s complete collection and spend a year doing nothing but getting caught up. This, I thought, was my chance.

So I called Big Brother Comics in downtown Sacramento to reserve a copy of Justice League #1, and during my lunch break I walked down to pick it up (during my walk I dodged a bicyclist, tripped over a curb, and ripped a hole in the knee of my favorite jeans — but that’s another story). It sat on my desk at work mocking me for a few hours until I was able to get it home and read it.

Now, despite my relative ignorance of comic books, I have been exposed to Batman and Superman, but this is a total reboot and so I tried to read this with the perspective of someone who’d never read anything about these characters.

First impressions, then. Well, it’s kind of short. This guy who’s dressed up in heavy-duty armor with bat ears is fighting something that appears to be an alien (it breathes fire and has an ugly face, so it must be an alien) in the downtown of some large city, when a guy in green shows up. The first character, we learn quickly, is Batman. The second is Green Lantern. The city is Gotham City. Oh, and all this is taking place five years ago, when no one knew what a superhero is. Though Green Lantern and Batman seem to know each other.

The two of them talk while Batman continues to fight this alien monster. We learn that Green Lantern is kind of a pompous jerk, and Batman is a grumpy sourpuss. We also learn that Green Lantern is part of a galactic corps of Green Lanterns, and he’s responsible for the sector of space that includes Earth, which is why he was drawn to Gotham City: the alien attack that Batman was warding off.

But this alien — who lets out some sort of warcry just before blowing up, I won’t reveal exactly what — is not alone on Earth. Green Lantern reveals that there is at least one other alien on Earth that needs to be investigated: some dude in the city of Metropolis who goes by the moniker Superman. Green Lantern, powered by his magic space ring, believes he can take down Superman if necessary. Batman isn’t so sure. Guess who’s right?

Anyway. I enjoyed Justice League #1. It was a worthy purchase. Will I keep on buying comics in the rebooted DC universe, and try to keep up with all of the new stories? I’m not sure. Jennifer took a look at Justice League sitting on our dining room table and asked, “So are you going to start collecting comic books now?” to which I replied, “I doubt it.” But I think I’m going to buy a couple more next week when the next round of old/new titles are released.

We’ll see.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Brief Review

Cover of 'How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe'How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
by Charles Yu
Vintage, 2011

After a couple of people at WorldCon recommended How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe to me, I decided to give it a shot. I’d seen it on the shelves, after all, and the premise looked interesting. I love stories about time travel, paradoxes, that sort of thing (Doctor Who is one of my favorite TV shows — ’nuff said), so a novel that features that sort of thing should be right up my alley.

And, on the whole, it was. I can’t honestly say that this was the best book of the year, as some reviewers have said; but, then, I haven’t read that many new books this year. This novel has its comic moments (though I would probably have listed Vonnegut and Fforde as the antecedents of this novel’s humor, rather than Douglas Adams, as one of the reviewers cited on the cover did), not to mention moments of poignancy and near tragedy. I’m a fan of wordplay, and Yu incorporates a lot of that as well, with techno-babble which is obviously not meant to be taken seriously and a (very) few well-considered puns. There’s a lot here to like.

So the question I have for myself is, why didn’t I enjoy this novel more? Why would I give How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe three stars instead of four or five?

I think it’s partially because it was a chore to get into this book initially. There’s a lot of exposition in the beginning; cleverly written exposition, to be sure, but exposition nonetheless, that tells us about how time travel works in Yu’s universe. He tells us about how the vagaries of human emotions — particularly nostalgia — play into how time travel works, and in why people go to the trouble of traveling through time. These are important ideas for Yu to get across to the reader because they are important to understanding the novel’s underlying theme, but the technobabble — and remember, I love technobabble — got on my nerves. I found myself rolling my eyes and muttering, “Again?” at certain passages. By the time I reached the midpoint of the novel, which is where it really begins and the plot clicks to “activate”, I was more annoyed than amused. Of course, once the plot did click in, then the novel, with the themes and ideas that had been developed in the first half, really shone. In short, I felt the first half of the book could have been cut by, oh, at least half, probably three-quarters, without losing the important ideas that are developed thematically in the rest of the book.

The second half of the book is more enjoyable, with its meta-fictional devices and its evocation of time loops and the Ontological Paradox (which just happens to be my favorite of the time travel paradoxes), but still far too reminiscent of Vonnegut for me to feel like there was a lot of originality here. Don’t get me wrong here: I like Vonnegut, and I grant that it’s very hard to evoke him without sounding like a pastiche, and Yu manages to do that here. Still, I wish there were more Yu and less Vonnegut in this novel. And I wish I could make this paragraph make more sense than that.

In short, then: I did enjoy How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and would recommend it to other people looking for comedic science fiction, though I’d offer some caveats (e.g., “Just stick with it through the first half, I promise it’ll work out”). But would I call it a masterpiece of the genre? I’m not certain. I think it’s flawed, but shows promise. I know that Yu will publish more novels, and I know that I will read them.

Coda

Take a look at the images from Cosplay for a Cause gallery. There’s some great creativity and talent in these costumes, of course, but there’s also a lot of cleavage and hourglass figures. Don’t think that I object to cleavage and hourglass figures, because I don’t. I just wonder about expectations.

What do you think? Do these images set unrealistic expectations for women who want to cosplay themselves? For how women in the “geek community” should look if they want to be taken seriously by others, especially men?

Or am I over-thinking this?

In Which I Realize I Have Much to Learn

Today, GeekFeminism.org ran a thought-provoking article entitled, “‘Geek girls’ and the problem of self-objectification“. It’s worth a read, especially if you’re interested in issues of geekery and feminism.

There’s a lot of sexism in geek culture. We geeks, nerds, dorks, whatever, like to believe that we have overcome the various prejudices and hangups that exist in the society at large, just because, say, we read Heinlein’s books and enjoyed his stories of alternate sexualities. But the sexism persists nevertheless: whether it’s a booth babe being ogled by a fan or a woman computer scientist receiving death threats for her comments on a tech forum, it’s there. The objectification is there, just as it exists in society at large.

But the question that Geek Feminism raises is how much of that objectification is “self-objectification”; that is, how much are women in geek culture (specifically, women who cosplay at conventions) buying into the notion that they have to look sexy in order to be accepted as a member of that culture? Take a look at this spoof PSA starring Kaley Cuoco:

Are the women who dress up at Slave Leia doing so because they enjoy feeling sexy and beautiful? Or are they doing it because they are objectifying themselves in a culture which rewards that behavior? Chatting with @HelloTheFuture on Twitter yesterday was certainly helpful for my thought processes in this regard. Certainly there are women who dress up in terrific cosplay outfits because they genuinely enjoy the attention, being sexy and attractive, winning costume contests, and so on. But how many of them do it because they feel they won’t even be taken seriously as a woman or even as a geek unless they dress and act in a way that panders to male expectations of what women should be? There are “booth babes” who are objectified in this manner, that’s for sure.

I’m still working out my feelings on this matter. I do know that however a woman dresses, that decision is hers and we shouldn’t judge her for it.

I don’t know. What do you think? What are your opinions?

More random updates

The vet called back today with the results of Sebastian’s bloodwork and fecal workup. As I predicted, she told us that he was amazingly healthy, especially for an older cat. She also said that he was the loudest cat he’d ever treated. Not bad for a cat who is basically a geriatric.

Also, tonight we beat the final boss in House of the Dead 3. Basically, you just keep shooting at him. The game’s origins as an arcade game were certainly evident. Just keep shooting as you move through. And the zombies splurt green goo at you. Fun!

The future is here, and kinda scary

I use a program called Subversion to keep all my documents syncronized between my various computers. And recently I copied all my documents onto an 8 GB USB drive that I picked up from Woot.com. After I did that I saw that I had more than six GB left. That means that my total repository was less than 2 GB in size. That means that my repository could fit onto this 2 GB MicroSD card that I bought to supplement my new phone:

Yeah, my close-up photography sucks. But the main takeaway message here is this: every story I’ve written, every novel, every document for work, every outline, every NaNoWriMo novel, every bit of artwork I’ve created (not many, granted), everything I’ve ever done on a computer since I started seriously using computers just over ten years ago (and longer, really, since I transcribed a bunch of stories I wrote before I even had a computer)… It all fits onto a chip smaller than a frakkin’ penny.

That’s kind of humbling. And kind of scary. I keep at least five repositories of all my files, two on remote computers, so if anything happens I won’t lose much. I won’t stick a copy of my repository on my phone’s MicroSD card, though; it would be scary, sad, and quite surreal if I lost everything I’d ever written because it was on my frakkin’ phone.

Not really a map geek, but…

From the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection comes what it possibly the coolest overlay for Google Earth ever: a collection of historical maps which you can overlay on Google Earth. Here’s a screenshot from my own computer:

I’m not really a map geek myself, but I do have a fondness for historical maps and globes, so this is especially cool.

A Nautical, Musical Treasure

Awhile ago, my musical friend Stephen Whitehead sent me this nautical treat:

[audio:http://www.mossroot.com/worlds/audio/apirateslifeforme.mp3]

I SO want to write a story about pirates now!  But The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster calls…

(And a PS to those reading this on my LJ.  The MP3 enclosure doesn’t seem to have translated properly.  I’m still trying to figure out how to make this audio thing work.)

Eep. And squawk.

Tomorrow I turn 39.

I’m freaking out.

In other, more random news, the Marabou stork, which hails from sub-Saharan Africa, is quite possibly the ugliest bird on God’s green earth. Continue reading Eep. And squawk.