Humpday Links for August 31

It certainly has been a busy few days here at Renaissance Dork.  Frankly, I’m ready to get back to enjoying my geekery instead of having to defend it.  In that spirit I’ve tried to find links to, well…silliness would be the best way to describe it.  So, in an effort to remind myself and you why we love this hobby so much, please enjoy the link smorg I’ve laid on for you today:

– I think we can agree, this pie chart is pretty darn accurate.

– Did you ever feel like your DM or players needed to be officially rewarded for their gaming prowess?  Look no further than this collection of GM Merit Badges, courtesy of Strange Magic.  Now, if I can just hunt up my old Scouting sash…

– Fan Expo was this past weekend, and apparently Toronto’s The Daily Mail had some douchey things to say about Haydn Panettiere’s appearance.  Eliza Dushku wrote a letter to them, explaining the error of their ways.  Here’s hoping it did some good.  Also, did not know Ms. Dushku’s middle name was Patricia.

– Ever wonder how the world might have developed if there hadn’t been an extinction-level event that killed most of the dinosaurs?  Then you need to visit the alternate world of Spec, and take a look at some pretty decent best guesses.

– If I had the money and six months to wait, I might just ask Benjamin Harff to make me a hand-illuminated copy of The Silmarillion of my very own.

– If you are a Game of Thrones fan (and why wouldn’t you be?), please enjoy some wonderful cartoon versions of all the characters, courtesy of artist Themico.

– Here is a thoughtful little article on body perception and the portrayal of lady geeks, “Do You Wear Your Clothes or Do Your Clothes Wear You?”

– Courtesy of Geek Soap, now you can show your true allegiance in the Game of Thrones.  Or if you’re like me, use both sides to keep clean…

– Continuing with Game of Thrones, here is an amazing version of the theme song, performed by a solo violinist.  Yes, I know, another one. But this one is pretty great.

– Jim C. Hines, fantasy author, presents for your amusement the lyrics to “Baby Got Books”, with apologies to Sir Mixalot.  Now we just need to record it…

– Here’s a little something about Phoenix Jones, real-life superhero.

– And of course, what we’ve been missing from out lives is the various Doctors, drawn as cats.  You’re welcome.

– All I can say about this shirt is, “Dear God Yes!”

– And finally, from the “About Damn Time Department” comes this series of women in sensible armour.  Does anyone else think they actually look hotter when armed and armoured properly?

That’s your Humpday links for this week, I hope that helped you while away some of your Wednesday.  We’ll see you tomorrow for some more fun and frivolity!

Gizmodo Saga Pt. 2: Who Are You Trying To Impress, Angry Nerdlings?

I woke up this morning hoping I would get to write about something fun today.  I had it all planned out, it was going to be glorious.  But I can’t do that now.  Instead, I need to write another blog about disappointment.  You might ask, who could have disappointed me so much this time that I would set aside geeky fun-times to write about it?

You did.

Well, maybe not you specifically.  See, yesterday I wrote a little something about Gizmodo and the article Alyssa Bereznak posted about her dates with Magic: The Gathering World Champion Jon Finkel.  I was disappointed in both her choice of subject and her apparent ignorance of Gizmodo’s target audience.  And I think I did a pretty good job of attacking her message and methods, without attacking Miss Bereznak (a woman I have never met) personally.  And the internet being the internet, a goodly number of nerds joined me in expressing similar disappointment. (Even, apparently, Gizmodo’s Australian counterpart)  To those nerds I say: this post is not about you.  Relax and keep reading, or if you prefer please enjoy some Girl Genius; it is delightful.

No, I’m writing this post for all the ignorant nerdlings that felt it necessary to range into personal attacks on Miss Bereznak.  If you descended into name-calling in your comments, this post is about you.  If you decided to attack Miss Bereznak personally on Twitter, this post is for you.  If you went past a disagreement with her message and disappointment in using Gizmodo as a platform for that message, and instead attacked Miss Bereznak’s appearance, sexuality, ethnicity and/or gender…Yeah, this post is definitely for you.

Let me clue you in, little nerdlings: attacking someone personally because you disagree with something they’ve said does not make you “edgy”.  It doesn’t make you “street” or tough-sounding, and it sure as Sheppard doesn’t make you sound intelligent.  What it does, is make you sound like petulant, angry children.  And think about it: when was the last time you took anything a child said seriously?  Especially one that was screaming and blubbering, tugging on your sleeve to get attention.  I can tell you that unless something serious has happened I pay that child very little mind.

But the most annoying thing for me, is that you all ended up hurting the very cause you seemed to want to help.  When the response to Miss Bereznak’s article was still at the point of disappointment with the message and the platform, we had a chance, however slim, of changing her mind about it.  At the very least there was a chance for discussion, and something positive could have come from that.  But once you nerdlings got involved and escalated things to the online equivalent of throwing rocks and bottles, discussion went right out the window.

And the really sad part, nerdlings?  All you did was show Miss Bereznak why she was right to dump Jon Finkel.  How can she help but assume that Mr. Finkel is just like every screaming, ignorant nerdling that attacked her?  Why would she want to date that?  I can tell you from personal experience that loud, obnoxious ignorance is attractive for about…negative seconds.  So go on, nerdlings, give yourselves a slow clap build to a standing ovation; you helped prove Alyssa Bereznak right. Bravo.

Two things:

  1. I’m sure there are going to be a whole lot of people upset about today’s post.  They might feel I’m waffling on this issue.  Let me be clear.  There is a difference between attacking the message (which I did yesterday, as well as this wonderfully satirical piece by @kiala) and attacking the messenger.  One is acceptable, the other makes you a douche-canoe.
  2. My use of the words “nerd” and “nerdling”.  It is common, when discussing a species, to use terms that delineate the animal in question at various stages of development.  A bear is a “cub”, for instance, until it reaches a certain age and becomes and adult.  For my purposes, “nerdling” represents an immature nerd, either because they are five years old, or because they go on the internet and act five years old.

Okay, tomorrow we get back to fun with some Humpday Links, and then some posts about gaming.  Because I will have fun, dammit!

As always, feel free to comment below.

Who Did You Think You Were Impressing, Alyssa Bereznak?

Just when I despaired of having anything to write today, along comes this article from Alyssa Bereznak, entitled, “My Brief OKCupid Affair with a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player“.  Please, take a moment to follow the link over and read it. I’ll wait…

(For those that don’t want to follow the link, here’s a summary: Miss Bereznak went on a date through OKCupid with a pleasant man named Jon, who turned out to be Jon Finkel, Magic: The Gathering World Champion.  She found this to be a terrible omission on Jon’s part, and because he didn’t disclose this information on his OKCupid profile, decided to write an article about her horrible experience.)

All done?  Okay, I wasn’t even really sure who to be more disappointed in: Gizmodo or Miss Bereznak.  Then I did a little digging (ie, Googled Miss Bereznak, as she suggests in the article), and discovered she is in fact an editor at Gizmodo.  Which solved that problem handily; now I could bundle all my disappointment up into one package.

I want to give Miss Bereznak the benefit of the doubt here, I really do.  I want to believe the article she wrote was meant to be a satire, something in line with Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” in which Swift satirizes the plight of the Irish by suggesting they sell their children to the rich as food.  I want to believe that Miss Bereznak is that clever a writer.  But nothing I read in the article supports that.  In fact, I would suggest that if you need to preface your piece with a paragraph explaining the point of your article, that should be a red-flag moment.

What I get from her article is someone who has not properly gauged her audience.  She wrote a long, bad joke. And she wrote it on a site aimed pretty much at the people she makes fun of with her long, bad joke.  I’m not sure there is any other way to look at it.  Trying to explain away your long, bad joke by claiming it was aimed at showing up the foibles of OKCupid and online dating sites, is a little like trying to explain to people in O’Byrne’s Pub why it’s okay for you to tell Irish jokes.  As a matter of fact, that would have been a good exercise for Miss Bereznak to try: go through the article and where she talked about Magic players, substitute a religion or nationality.  Chances are, if it sounds offensive with “Irish” or “Muslim”, it’s going to sound offensive no matter what proper noun you insert.

I should make it clear that it isn’t “nerd rage” fuelling this post.  I’m not angry at Miss Bereznak for what she wrote.  I really am just, as the cliche goes, disappointed.  Disappointed that someone working for Gizmodo of all places, would think this negative, bitchy-sounding geek-bash even has a place.  Disappointed she would use her public platform to engender and maintain this ignorant idea of “Us vs. The Geeks”.  Seriously, Miss Bereznak, do you really think that supposed conflict is relevant any more?

Mostly, I’m disappointed that Miss Bereznak chose not to dig deeper.  By her own admission, Jon Finkel was considerably more literate and interesting than anyone else she had encountered on OKCupid thus far.  And she found him enjoyable, charming company on their dates, up until she allowed her ignorance to get in the way.  She could have used that moment to examine nerd prejudice by exploring her own prejudicial feelings and preconceptions.  But she didn’t.  What we got instead was the written equivalent of a catty bitch-session.  And for someone in Miss Bereznak’s position, that is a just a sad waste of an opportunity.

But I’ll end by quoting the last line of Miss Bereznak’s article: “So what did I learn? Google the shit out of your next online date. Like, hardcore.”  That’s good advice, Alyssa.  It would protect us from winding up on a date with, well, you.

Comments? Counterpoints? Handy space for that below…

Update: @kiala wrote a brilliantly satirical response to Miss Bereznak’s article over at Nerdpuddle.  See, Miss Bereznak, that is what satire looks like…

Rock on, Princess Leia!

Carrie Fisher has been in the news recently because of her weight-loss success story, dropping 50lbs since last December.  I remember when I first saw her appearing as the spokesperson for Jenny Craig, and I thought, “Good for her! I hope that works.”  Well, apparently it did, because she is now just one size larger than her daughter, as she reports in an interview.  And in another interview she jokingly mentioned a desire to fit back into her old metal bikini, circa Return of the Jedi.

And I say, good for her!  I don’t really know much about Ms. Fisher beyond what I’ve read on her blog and in her excellent book Wishful Drinking.  But I know she’s had a fair share of personal demons to overcome, and she has done so with wit and grace.  I won’t lie; as someone in the process of overcoming my own demons, she is somewhat of a new inspiration.  And as anyone working at weight-loss and fitness will tell you, you can never have enough inspiration.

The one of Ms. Fisher’s quotes that really struck a chord was, “I thought that was getting old. It turns out it was mostly getting fat.”  There is a tendency, especially for men, to accept a certain “thickening” of the body as we get older.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ascribe the 100lbs or so that I’m over-weight to aging.  But as I got older, I started to feel easier with the idea of being a “comfortable size”.  Or fat, as the doctors call it.

Even after deciding to do something about my fitness level I still have moments of, “Well, is it so bad if I carry a few extra pounds? Maybe I could just lose 60-80lbs, that would be okay, right?”  But reading and listening to her recent interviews has helped me cut away some more of the excuses and little white lies I tell myself.  No, I don’t need to lose 60-80lbs, because I am 100lbs over-weight. So that is what I need to lose.  And if age does mean getting a bit thicker, well…$@#% aging.  Maybe it’s time to exceed my body’s programming a little.

So thank-you, Princess Leia, for giving me some much-needed inspiration.  I still stumble a lot, but its helpful to follow other people on the path.

*     *     *

There seems to be a moderately vocal minority who take exception to the idea of Carrie Fisher wanting to fit back in her “Slave Leia” bikini.  Most of it seems to be a mix of lazy feminism and ignorant ageism. Let me say this: Carrie Fisher is the only woman on the planet with the right to wear that costume.  Anyone else who has dared to do so since has done so as a privilege, and, at least through my eyes, has been mercilessly compared to the original. Now, I am almost certain she was joking for effect when she made the comments, but if she wasn’t then so what?  If Harrison Ford decided to get in shape and wear his old Han Solo costume around the house, would anyone be having even half a fit?  She is Princess Leia mother-#@%&ing Organa of the Rebellion, and she can wear what she Force well pleases.  That is all.

Questions? Concerns? Dirty Limericks? Fire them off in the comments below!

Why SyFy Needs a Eureka Moment

If you are a geek, the news that SyFy cancelled Eureka probably isn’t news anymore (If it is, well, better we ripped that band-aid off before you kept reading).  And you likely know that the PTBs have “graciously” granted the show an extra episode in it’s sixth season to wrap everything up.  Which, quite frankly, is the least they could do, considering they waited to announce this decision at the end of shooting for Season 6.

The cast and crew of Eureka have publicly been very positive about the whole thing, despite some of them finding out about the cancellation via Twitter (sorry, Erica Cerra).  And really I would expect nothing less from the people that have entertained me so well over the seasons.  They are consummate professionals, wishing to leave the series with their heads held high and not mired in acrimony.  Being neither professional nor answerable to SyFy, I don’t have that problem.  So speaking only for myself, but likely echoing a number of Eureka fans, I just have to ask:

What the @%$# is your problem, SyFy?

Eureka is one of their most popular shows, with (if the reaction to cancellation is an indicator) a varied, enthusiastic and loyal following.  Even SyFy acknowledges that, claiming the only area in which Eureka under-performs is cost.

Okay, valid point.  No matter how popular the show, if it costs too much to make then SyFy has to drop it.  Sure, I can buy that.  It isn’t as if there were other projects that could be down-sized or even scrapped in order to free up funds for a more popular show.  After all, how could we expect them to put aside quality movies like Meteor or Stonehenge Apocolypse in order to properly fund a series watched as more than drinking-game fodder?  Why, that kind of thinking would have deprived us of Killer Mountain, premiering this Saturday.  And obviously they should cancel Eureka before losing any of the three Ghost Hunter shows they carry.  God bless SyFy for keeping us safe from the phantom menace (though not from The Phantom Menace, sadly).

Or could it be that Eureka got cancelled because it was so popular?  It doesn’t take a GD scientist (pun intended) to see that Sci Fi…sorry, SyFy, has been re-branding themselves.  Bad enough they shame-changed their name. (SyFy? Really?  That’s like that annoying kid in your high school named Steven who spends one summer break in Europe, and insists his name is now pronounced “SteFAWN”.)  But the addition of shows like WWE Smackdown and a kludge of paranormal/urban legend “reality” programming shows that SyFy’s heart just isn’t in science fiction anymore.  And if it continued to carry a great sci-fi show like Eureka, they might be in the awkward position of supporting something they don’t really care about anymore. Heck, we geeks might even insist they make more great sci-fi, and then they’d really be in trouble.

So for me, it comes down to one of two possibilities. Either the people in charge at SyFy are making a tremendously stupid business decision, or they are following their re-branding strategy.  I could be completely wrong on both counts, and there could be a third or fourth possibility I don’t see from my position outside looking in.  But for right now all I see is a station cancelling a hit television series based on their bad economics.  Whether that’s from stupidity or malevolence, doesn’t matter much to me.

But SyFy, I think you need to take a second and consider your future.  There are already many stations carrying the reality-porridge you are so eager to add to your line-up.  And there will always be people ready, willing and able to make bad sci-fi, disaster and monster movies (cthulhu bless them!).  But there is no one out there doing what you used to do, back when you went by Sci Fi; you wowed people with your Dune mini-series, for instance.  You have a chance to create truly unique programming, about subjects and in ways that both entertain and make people think.  If you were truly focused on your job, we’d be watching Walking Dead and Game on Thrones on you, or some other equally amazing series we hadn’t heard of yet.  Maybe you need to take some time to think about that.

Maybe you just need to take your own slogan to heart, and imagine greater.

*     *     *

Comments? Counterpoints? I’d love to hear them!

What My Blog Has Taught Me So Far

Sorry if you looked for me at the end of last week.  I got slammed with a summer cold and decided to take Thursday and Friday off.  But I didn’t waste that time away, in fact I thought a lot about my blog and what I want it to become.  For those of you that enjoy reading, don’t worry, this is not a “I’m done with it all, goodbye!” post.  Not even close.

Taking my blog seriously again has opened up a number of opportunities and helped me better focus on my goals, both short and long-term.  I’ve learned a number of things, mostly through trial-and-error, about writing, editing, social media and the mystical realm that is the blogosphere.  I’ve discovered some wonderful blogs, really helpful people and, sad to say, a fair number trolls.  But even trolls can sometimes be useful in the learning process, if you can pick the 1% (rounded up) of legitimate criticism out of their inane hooting and bellowing.

I won’t bore you with every little discovery I’ve made right now. Not only would that be prohibitively long, but would also deprive me of blog fodder for later.  But I’ll let you in on three things I learned for myself about blogging:

1)  Pick your subjects as if you write for yourself; write the subject for other people.  I write about geeky things because I love geeky things.  Left to my own devices I would spend every waking moment thinking about this stuff (luckily, my devices are often packed away in a box).  And if I were just writing for me, the blog could be as haphazard and chaotic as the things teeming about in my brain, because only I would get to see it.  But I don’t just want to write about geek culture, I want to communicate my love of geek culture to other people.  That requires me to hold my writing to a higher standard.  For me, that has come to mean that I do not just finish writing and hit post. I go back through and edit, I make sure that the post is saying what I want it to say in a way that will be understood, and hopefully enjoyed.  Because the blog isn’t just about me; ultimately I want it to be a conversation I have with my readers. If I want a good conversation, I have to hold up my end.

2)  Write like it’s a job, but in a good way.  Early in my blogging “career” I struggled with my writing.  Not the technical aspects, I have a decent grasp of those.  No, I suffered from Not Planting My Ass in Front of the Computer to Write Syndrome, which is a disease that afflicts many new bloggers, some so severely that their blogs just waste away.  For Renaissance Dork, I didn’t want that to happen.  So I treated it like a job, like there were people depending on me to put out a blog five days a week.  Are there such people? Chances are good, no, no one’s day is ruined if they don’t hear from me.  But that little lie to myself carried me from “have to write everyday” to “want to write everyday”.  And wanting to write everyday has made a huge difference in my writing plans outside of the blog.

3)  If the worst thing that happens in my Comments is someone says something mean, then I’m still having a great day.  Look, no one can tell you what your troll thresh-hold should be.  Mine is pretty high, I’ve learned, because the relatively few trolling comments left on my blog left me feeling…meh.  Almost every troll has remained anonymous, and the few that didn’t used false IDs.  So how seriously am I going to take what they say?  The answer is, not seriously at all.  And I should stipulate that I don’t consider disagreement to be trolling.  You can disagree with me; heck, you can even disagree angrily.  I even encourage you to play devil’s advocate and oppose my viewpoint just for discussion’s sake.  But there is no need to be a douche-canoe about it.

So one way or another, trolls don’t bother me.  What comments do bother me?  The ones that don’t get left; no comments means my post was just okay. But that just pushes me to write better.  After I’m done crying, of course.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below.  Until next time, good geeking!

Humpday Links for August 17

It’s that time again, gentles!  Have a whole mess of links to get you through to the weekend.  And while you’re checking these out I’m going to work out for a while.

– It’s no secret by now that Eureka has been cancelled.  It’s almost like SyFy is Fox’s little brother, imitating in the hopes big brother will think them cool.  And though I don’t think it will do any good, you can check out the effort to save Eureka.

– In other television news, the popularity of cable television seems to be dropping off.  Personally, I think we are closer than further to a point in which television favours streaming and/or on-demand.  I think cable companies are going the way of companies that made widgets for wooden sailing ships.

– Closer to home, Edmonton’s Fringe Festival this year features Sustainival, a fully green carnival.  I had reservations about adding carnival rides to a theatre festival, but I spoken with smart people that give me good reasons why they should stay.

– Geek vs. Life features a great article on cosplay and feeling good in your own skin.  I’ll admit, I’m guilty of judging some cosplayers based on body-type. But I’m getting better.

– Here is a little behind-the-scenes look at Team Unicorn’s latest photo shoot.  Learn the secrets of their radioactive goo, and how the Unicorns are like Ninja Turtles.

– NPR has released a list of the Top 100 Sci-fi and Fantasy Books.  I’m happy to report that I have read at least 60% of this list.  I’m also happy to report I now have a shopping list for my next bookstore run…

– Sticking with fantasy literature for a while, here are some interesting artist renderings of the dwarves from The Hobbit.  I really think I prefer these to the photos I’ve seen for the upcoming movie, but then what do I know?

– Scott Kurtz, creator of PVP webcomic, talks about his very smart and honest use of product placement in his work.

– No one wants to see this more than I, but I do have some reservations regarding a possible biopic of Gary Gygax.  $150 million seems like a lot.  Also, I’d much prefer a straight ahead documentary than some semi-fictional tomfoolery.

– In a trend I could fully support, Paizo outsells Wizards of the Coast.  I think WotC/Hasbro will have to seriously consider listening to their player base, because that will be the only thing that saves them from this slump.

– A little ditty from Reggie Watts and Amanda Palmer about our beloved Doctor.

– Last but not least: from @geekyjessica comes this pictorial comparison of the Women of Sci-Fi vs. the Women of Prime Time.  No surprise, Sc-fi for the win!

That ought to hold you for a while.  If you have your own links to share, send them through the comments, below.