Monday, February 07, 2005

An Open Letter to Young Geeks



You geeks today don't know how lucky you are. Uber-geek Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was one of the most successful movie franchises of the last decade, and there have been five different Star Trek television series.

Back in my day, we geeks didn't even want to be known as geeks, much less have our interests made public. Brian Dilkes and I were the only ones in our elementary school who had read The Hobbit, and we sure didn't tell many people that we'd read it. (We had an extremely geeky thing we said, which was "I have developed a habit of reading The Hobbit.") There were six of us (seven if you count Noah Wyle, who drew a really good horse in second grade but left our school for another soon after) who played Dungeons & Dragons (which we mistakenly thought would sound cooler if we called it "D&D", but of course, in retrospect, it sounds just as dorky). And I collected stamps as well... but Aaron Friedland and I didn't share this hobby with anyone else. And Matthew Engle, with whom I collected Garbage Pail Kids cards in elementary school, has apparently teamed up with Daniel Berke, who wrote his first science fiction novella when we were in junior high school together; now they make video games.

But here's the difference between then and now -- back then, we were not the popular kids. Geekishness was either embraced (Daniel Berke, I'm writing about you now) or hidden (which is the path that I took), and those who joined me on the latter journey actually did have friends. I should mention that even Daniel Berke, who was never seen without his outré Member's Only jacket, had standards -- he often remarked that Christopher Alexander was a geek. And as for me, struggling to fight the geek image? Heck, I was on Prom Court in High School (granted, my high school was a math and science magnet, but I am determined to brag about it nonetheless. But I will only mention sotto voce that I lettered in high school... in journalism.

Whew, that is just too much geekiness.

Now kids are proud to brag about video game addiction. Now, they listen to William Shatner sing songs with Ben Folds. Now, they admire Larry Ellison and the Wachowski Brothers. And let's face it -- the only directors geekier than them are Tim Burton (hugely successful) and Peter Jackson, and he directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy!!! Yeah, you guys have it too darned easy.

We geeks of days gone by had to hide our light under a bushel, and deny our true nature. There were no examples of geeks who had grown into success, or at least none who were acknowledged as fellow travelers; we were taught that to succeed one must overcome those tendencies. Nowadays, everyone goes to see Spider-Man at the local cineplex, and you can find geek girls naked all over the net (Suicide Girls, anyone? Sure, they claim to be "punk" or "goth", but we know the demographic, right? When I was in school there were no hot geek chicks to ogle; there were the cool girls, who didn't even know we existed, and there were the girls who were even beneath our standards -- and even those girls ignored us). And as for Star Trek... you've had the original series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise (yes, I can name all five). Not to mention Rodenberry's other work. Yeah, you guys have it so sweet.

Am I still a geek? Let's check:
(1) Matrix Reloaded on opening day? Check.
(2) Buy old comic books on eBay? Check.
(3) It was only that once, honey.
(4) Isn't that enough, dear?
(5) I have a blog.
(a) I write about comics on the blog.
(b) I write about writing about comics on the blog.

(6) Those are my D&D dice in the picture.
(a) Those are my good D&D dice in the picture.
(b) My D&D dice are readily accessible for photo opportunities such as this.
(c) I took a half-dozen different pictures because I wanted them to look cool.
(d) I am actually still proud of the six-sided skull die and the eight-sided dots die.
Why does my wife put up with me? Is it in spite of my geekishness... or is it secretly because of it? We'll never know.

9 comments:

Salena Moffat said...

Wow, blasts from the past here! I guess I'm still a geek if I actually still display my little pewter D&D figurines, right? (Carefully hand-painted back in the day, of course...) I'm glad you posted on my blog, which led me to your blog--I'll be back for sure!

Pirate said...

I was not geeky when I was younger, but I sure am now. In fact, I get geekier with every passing year, though I still have a coolness factor or my cooler students wouldn't get along with me. Funny thing is, I get along with my geekier students, too. What I DIDN'T know is that being called a geek is not actually an insult (it's happened to me).

Hector Vex said...

Y'know what - I was never a true geek (eternal pimples, thick black glasses, bowtie) but I played D&D and Magic and I know Star Trek and Star Wars - but I gotta tell you - there is the geek culture, then there are GEEKS. Like those nerds that play Magic in the mall on the weekends - those kids are geeks. I would have beat the shit out of them back in high school. Social introverts, most of them losers, and all of them virgins. Then there are the other kind of geek like you and I. We know and enjoy geek things, but have sex with women and live normal lives away from our parents basement.

Anonymous said...

I knew you in high school and you were not that much of a geek, granted you had bunkbeds and the entire bottom bunk was a lego space village, but lets not overlook what made you cool.

A. You had lots of girlfriends.
B. Despite going to a math/science magnet, you hung with the Theater Arts crowd.
C. When I met you, you were the coolest guy at camp.
O.K. it was Jewish camp, and you did Israeli folk dance in "special" pants, but you also played guitar and were part of the most popular crowd, does that cancel eachother out?

You have more of the cool artist thing going for you - not to ruin your geek image- and you know why I put up with you . Of course you are still lucky that I am not going to mention that you know exacltly where to find naked girls on the net.

The best part about you hanging on to your geek culture status is that you still think you are lucky to be with me. But then again, I play Cosmic Wimpout with you and I get excited about anything Biblical, so maybe I am a geek too?

B2 said...

The naked girls were revealed to me by BoingBoing.net, a blog that I frequent. Seriously. I'm not trolling for naked pierced chicks.

The Misanthrope said...

What we learn about each other in these posts is very interesting.

Anonymous said...

yes Daniel Berke was famous for wearing his members only jacket, what fond memories. I am trying to figure out who wrote this blog, so my best guess is Jeremy?

B2 said...

Wow, someone knows Daniel Berke! So anonymous (if that *is* your real name), drop me an email if you know me and want to say hi -- when I went to school with Daniel at John Burroughs Jr High and Van Nuys High I was known as Isaac Bialik (I'm coming out of the blogging closet here)... email me at brynjegardbialik[at]yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

The Glindlober Wars rocked!