Saturday, May 8, 2010

Total Geek Fail: Wondertwin Takes Shape of Deer in Headlights

Last night I attended w00tstock in Seattle, a basic geek paradise, at the Moore Theater, which was filled to the brim with geeks on and off stage. Paul and Storm, Adam Savage, and Wil Wheaton put the show together as a multimedia orgasm of all things geek, with other awesome people Molly Lewis (songwriting genius discovery love!), Jason Finn, Loading Ready Run, and MC Frontalot performing. But Wil, he’s the reason I was there.

I’ve been following Wil’s blog for years now, and I enjoy his writing. I own three of his books, and hope to support more creations of His Geekliness for decades to come. My husband James and I were recently watching Criminal Minds on dvd, and we skipped ahead three seasons to watch Wil’s episode. (For me, skipping ahead in a book, movie, or series is blasphemy. If the author wanted you to experience the story in a different order, he would have pulled a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and jumbled it up himself, dammit!) So I consider myself a fan of Wil Wheaton, which is why I attended w00tstock.

Now, about my geek cred. Let’s just say it plainly: I have none.

• I do not own a hand-held personal utility device. James carries our pre-paid cell phone, which has no apps and just two games.

• We still have a land line in our home, connected to an old school base and handset telephone (though it’s not rotary dial – that’s where we rebels draw the line). It’s beige. Srsly.

• I have not played what any self-respected gamer would call a video game for more than 10 minutes in a row. (This is mostly due to inner ear and vertigo issues; just watching a movie in a theater gives me a headache for the day.) I was addicted to our Atari in 1984, but we only had Combat and Asteroids, and I got tired of trying to get past the Crocodiles in Pitfall.

• Until a few months ago, I was using a pc that was scavenged from a dumpster in 2002, could only run Windows 98, and had no real video viewing capabilities.

So I’m not a geek in the full techie sense of the word. However, I have crossover with most geek culture. I have worshiped The Twilight Zone and any other mind-bending television since I was 10. I am a member of the Cult of Whedon. I was teased a lot in high school, though I wasn’t in marching band. I love teaming up with people and solving puzzles, at work and at home. I adore and have been the underdog, and 90% of my friends are complete utter card-carrying geeks who inspire me with their ability to embrace their geekness.

But I was taught to hide the things I love. I mumble, I stutter, I make fun of myself to keep people from knowing what I really feel. I poke fun at my husband so no one will know how truly wonderful and talented he is. (If they knew, they’d just steal him away from me.) I obfuscate, and I don’t use words like obfuscate, even when they’re exactly what I mean, because then people would make fun of me for being smart, right? I have big love for many many things, but shhhhh. Don’t tell.

So all this leads to my moment at the signing table with Wil Wheaton. Now, first I must apologize to the wonderful performers Paul & Storm, and Mr. Adam Savage. Paul & Storm performed some great songs, and I predict that I’ll memorize most of their ouvre within the next year. Mr. Savage was hilariously funny, and I know James is going to make me watch many eps of Mythbusters in the near future. But I was there to see Mr. Wheaton. The Man. The Geek Without Which Many Things Would Not Have Been Possible. And there he was. At the table. In front of me.

Of course I had planned things to say, and of course I went utterly blank. I asked if he minded signing his books – uh, duh? – and I stood there. I tried to mention the blog post I had sent him about playing basketball a year or so ago and he looked at me blankly. I turned to James for rescue and said of course he’s not going to remember that, it was a year ago, what was I thinking. Wil continued to sign in an awkward silence, and as he opened the Happiest Days of our Lives, he said, Hey, this is one of the original copies of this book, isn’t it? and looked up at me expectantly. My inner voice said of COURSE this is an original printing, I am a HUGE FAN and couldn’t WAIT to get your book. As I looked at him utterly blankly, my outer, actual voice said nothing, nothing at all. When he handed me back my books, my paralysis broke, and I handed him two Squirrels cds I thought he might like. I told him they were an awesome Seattle band who did a cover of Pink Floyd’s the Dark Side of the Moon, and I thought he would like them. His real smile took over his face and he seemed genuinely interested, and then we left.

What would I have done differently? Of course my monkey brain wants to play this over and over and point out all the things that I should have done or said, but I don’t know that anything different was possible. Even at my best, I am more likely to fade to the back of the room than geek out authentically. I knew the performers were tired after their show – I’ve been that tired before. The signing experience is such an awkward, stilted imitation of real life. You have 30 seconds to tell someone everything they’ve meant to you, the pressure is enormous, and if you get it wrong, it’s huge fail, not little teeny fail.

And yet what does this interaction really mean to me? Right now I’m sitting in my home, surrounded by five cats, with James working outside on his 400 projects, including a rammed earth greenhouse wall. We’re building a new life here on our 2.7 acres in the middle of nowhere, I love my job 80% of the time, and I spin yarn, knit, read, work in the garden and play with my kitties. I’m learning how to take care of myself after years of survival only and bad medical and nutritional choices. What difference does it make in my life that I failed or succeeded in connecting with one of my favorite bloggers who lives two states away and has no impact on my daily life?

But I guess that’s what I’m trying to say: He does have an impact on my daily life. Wil Wheaton tells the truth about himself, his career, and his life on his blog every time he posts. He tries as best he can to find the perfect words to express his feelings and opinions on everything from gaming to fatherhood (and where those happily coincide), and that has made my life a better place. I read his books because they are honest and true, and through him, I’ve learned what it looks like when you embrace the things you love in public, when you openly declare, These are the things and the people I adore. What remains unstated is perhaps the most important part: Nothing you can say or do is going to stop my adoration and involvement with every aspect of these things that I love.

One of my favorite indie soapmakers has this saying on their products: “Surround yourself with the things you love and your life will be filled with beauty.” I’ve gotten the surrounding myself part down. But admitting I love those things out loud? The sign reads “Under Construction.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reading Challenge! 25 books before Labor Day!

A friend of mine is having a reading challenge on her blog:

I have answered the call.

This is the list of Books I Know I Will Love and Have Been Putting Off Reading:

1. The Great Fire - Shirley Hazzard (Assigned for a seminar, but I ran out of time.)
2. About A Boy – Nick Hornby (Loved Fever Pitch even though I don’t really like soccer, adore High Fidelity, and How to be Good was pretty okay. I know I’ll enjoy this one.)
3. The Learners - Chip Kidd (The Cheese Monkeys is close to my heart.)
4. The Story of My Life: The Restored Classic – Helen Keller (I’ve been fascinated with her life since second grade. I memorized the kids’ book version of her biography.)
5. A Very Great Profession: The Woman's Novel 1914-39 – Nicola Beauman (The author started the beautiful Persephone book publishing company, and chose books to publish based on her research here.)
6. The Shuttle – Frances Hodges Burnett (A Persephone book about marriages spanning the Atlantic.)
7. Somehow Form a Family: Stories That Are Mostly True – Tony Earley (I’ve read one essay already, and enjoyed.)
8. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America - Paula Giddings (I’ve been meaning to read this since I took Race, Racism and the Feminist Movement at Fairhaven.)
9. Heartburn – Nora Ephron (I can’t remember if it was Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Sara Nelson, Meghan Daum or even Sarah Vowell who wrote about having lent this book to an acquaintance, never received it back, and then hunted them down to get it back. I’ll read it on that basis alone.)
10. Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man - Susan Faludi (Adored Backlash.)
11. High Wages – Dorothy Whipple (Another Persephone book about a girl who opens her own dressmaking shop.)
12. Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson (I started this book, didn’t want it to end, didn’t finish.)
13. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (Ibid.)
14. Under the Dome – Stephen King (Just haven’t gotten there yet.)
15. Lucky – Alice Sebold (My sister loved this. That doesn’t always translate, but I think it will in this case.)
16. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby (Always assigned, never read. Time.)
17. Consider The Lobster and Other Essays – David Foster Wallace (I am loathe to read his last writings. But they’re so fun I can’t resist.)
18. Zelda: A Biography – Nancy Milford (I adored Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay.)
19. 501 Minutes to Christ: Personal Essays – Poe Ballantine (His essays are amazing.)
20. Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire – Poe Ballantine (I didn’t love his first novel as much as his essays, but I will try again for him.)
21. The White Album – Joan Didion (I read the title essay and was amazed. I had not enjoyed much of her other work. I’ll give this its own chance.)
22. The Women’s Room – Marilyn French (Been meaning to read this classic.)
23. Coraline – Neil Gaiman (Well, just duh.)
24. American Gods – Neil Gaiman (Ibid.)
25. The Madwoman in the Attic. The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination - Sandra Gilbert & Susan Gubar (Wanted to read this ever since I saw the title in a Fairhaven class bibliography.)
26. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers - Daniel Ellsberg (I am fascinated with the whole Watergate truth to power thing. I have All The President’s Men (movie) memorized. I heard him speak on NPR.)