Archive for the ‘Rundowns’ category

How Nerd Culture Became a Mainstream Culture

June 5, 2010

I remember growing up being classified for most of my youth as a “nerd”- I stopped playing sports very young, I read comics, I knew too much about topics only a few people cared about, and I managed decent grades in school.  I learned very quickly that- until I found my own kind to run with- to stay quite and keep my head down.  This was the pox given to those labeled “nerd” in that time, that of the outcast.  Move forward to today and “nerd” is the new cool.  Now it is okay to be different and be involved with things that were once considered too “nerdy” for the general public culture.  How did this happen?  How did being a “nerd” go from being a bad thing to being a good thing?  While I make no claim to be an expert, here are the reasons I believe the views have been changed over the years:

Video Games become one of the most successful forms of entertainment: For several years now video games have kept pace with all other forms of media in total sales both in the US and globally this includes movies, music, video and books.  There are also more gamers in more genres playing now more than ever.  In a report released in February 2009, there was 50 million users on XBOX LIVE and the PSNetwork.  Lets not forget the over 5 million that still play World of Warcraft like a religion.  The simple fact that there are so many gamers out there now makes it easy to see how video game culture become excepted as a norm so quickly.  The terms “WOW” and “Gamertag” are now common terms for anyone age 10-30 and even beyond.  We were a generation that grew up gaming and have made it the powerful entertainment industry that it is today.

The “Always Connected” Age of Computers: When I was a kid, it seemed odd if you knew too much about one thing.  Now, with the ease of the internet and the ability at any time to connect to it, anyone can quickly become an expert even if it’s in their own mind- about any topic within minutes.  In fact, it was seen at one point that owning a computer or such device was the factor that instantly made you a nerd whereas now if you don’t have at least a computer of some kind you are the person out of the norm.  We now live in a technical world that requires knowledge of things that once seemed only possible to those in the nerd world.  Even the computer age has grown more excepting of those that were once outcasts- at one time it was odd to have a “website” and “post on a messageboard” but now nearly everyone in on Facebook and has several blogs they read and message boards they post on.  The sub culture changed within itself to except what is actually happening: everyone is connected almost all the time and are part of the ever-growing universe that has become the Internet.

Nerd Topics go Hollywood: Breaking into the mainstream in the US is actually an easy feet if you can accomplish one goal: make a successful media item- especially in the form of television or film- and get people to watch it.  You can either let it happen naturally or you can market your item to the point where you tell people they are supposed to like it.  But all sarcasm aside, topics generally seen as only for nerds have become not only popular forms of media but huge financial successes, leading to even more media from those genres being created.  Look at all the franchises that used to be seen as “for nerds only” that are now part of “must see tv/films”: Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings, Stargate,etc.    Then think about all the media that grew out of their success: Heroes, Twilight, Harry Potter, all the Stargate and Battlestar spinoffs, all the other vampire tv shows and movies.  Add to that the retro franchises like Transformers and don’t forget the huge success that comic book movies have had over the last decade, especially the Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Batman franchises.  Anything that was once seen as nerdy is now fodder for possible success in various forms of media.  In fact, there are whole movie and tv shows made based on the nerd lifestyle- Big Bang Theory, The Guild, Superbad- and they have all had success.  True that this is due in part to the quality of some of these works, but also to how fans of these shows support what they like.  In fact this helps to complete the cycle- at one time it was the ultimate in nerd to be a die hard fan of something -like a Trekker- while now it is all part of the experience of enjoying what you like.  Being a fan of something is actually cool now, and even a socially acceptable way to spend ones spare time.

Nerds outnumber the Norms and take control: I think everything above is due to one simple truth- there are more people now than ever that consider themselves nerds than ever before.  And, for the first time, it’s okay.  You can get excited a new Mario game is coming or a new Spider-Man movie is being made or the last Scott Pilgrim book is coming out.  People have become not only more tolerant about each others differences but also more free to add there support and love as well.  Nerds don’t have to fear the jocks anymore.  In fact, it is now the nerds of the 80’s that were once so tortured that control the output of entertainment of the world.  Why do you think all of a sudden all those movies were finally getting made?  Those same grown up nerds are also the bosses of their one time tormentors.  They can freely talk about anything they like without fear of abuse simply because nerds now outnumber the cool kids.  In fact, this balance is so off that in most cases the cool kids ARE the nerds, at least to some degree.

Sure, it’s odd to live in a time where being a “nerd” is not a bad thing.  But it’s a welcome change. Now let’s all get our +5 Dexterity vest, lightsabers and NERF guns and have one good LARP session.  Wait, that might still be too nerdy….

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Two decades set to music…

June 16, 2009

I got the idea for this post after someone pointed out today that I tend to find a new band or singer and obsess over them -I literally consume everything they ever made, brood over every line they ever sang and (for the most part) become a devoted fan for life- for months before moving on.  After a bit more thought I realized that I roughly fixate on an average of one new band every year or so.  Don’t get my wrong- this isn’t a list of all that I listened to that year.  These are just the major artist that effected me then and still-in some ways- to this day.

To begin with, a little background is needed.  While I researched this I realized I had no real musical identity until I was able to drive and go check other people’s music.  My formative years were set mostly to country and oldies rock-both which I still have a bit of an infinity for to this day (in regards to country I agree with Tom Petty- the only real country is the old stuff; all the new stuff sounds like “a rock band with a bad fiddle player”).  That may explain why the list seems so random-that’s how my tastes are.  Also, it may seem I only have “big” acts on the list.  Well, they are “big” for a reason.  Music is and was a huge part of my life, and starting early in this list (around 1992) I used it to define my emotional status on more than one occasion. So here goes:

1990: Prince

no videos cause that’s how Prince roles.  Just imagine him singing “I never meant 2 cause u any sorrow…I never meant 2 cause u any pain…

1991: Micheal Jackson

got to give it to him: man knew how to make a video…

I was a typical child of the 80s and both these guys were at the top of their game at this point just before they started to decline.  Micheal Jackson is just someone you have to respect -who doesn’t know all his songs?- and I still drive with the Batman Soundtrack by Prince blaring loud.  It was like opera-cheesy, sexy superhero opera.  These were also some of the first albums my dad would buy for me that I picked out and they -especially Prince- talked about things I knew nothing about and sounded like unlike anything currently playing at my house.  And I wanted more.

1992: Pearl Jam

Anyone who knows me personally knows how much the music of this band means to me.  Want a soundtrack of my life and that defines me?  It is mostly gonna be Pearl Jam songs….

1993: Metallica

I had one year or so of a “metal” period.  Their Black Album was the soundtrack to a truly amazing summer when I learned what it truly meant to have friends.

Not Metallica (I don’t want to get sued), but another favorite from this time of my life…

1994: Weezer

Someone who sings about stuff I like and talks like me?  Sign me up.

1995: The Waiting

Religion, spirituality, and the quest to understand a higher power set to music.

1996: R.E.M.

1997: Robbie Williams

Whenever I hear either it feels like I’m back in my first apartment all over again.

Get past the cheers and such for a great live performance…

1998: Ben Folds

It’s funny: I once hated this guys music.  I used to ride with a friend a lot and Whatever and Ever Amen was the only album he played for months.  But after I moved alone to a new city I guess I missed it, bought it, and actually listened to it.

great new song (obviously a TimandEric video):

1999: The Beatles

I know, I know.  But at least I finally did discover them.

You don’t need a Beatles video.  If you don’t own a CD go buy the Red & Blue Greatest hits-it’s a great place to start. And watch “Across the Universe”

2000: Barenaked Ladies

The best “big band” on the list.  Don’t go by their hits; listen to the songs not released as singles and you’ll hear how great they are.  Too bad they lost one of their singers recently (he went solo full time).

actually the lead singer…in the bathroom!

2001: Incubus

So much spirituality and sense of self.  Brandon Boyd and crew helped my find inner peace and ways to loose all the anger: “High fives to a better judgement;  by saying less today I will gain more…”

2002: Jack Johnson

Peacefulness in a stressful time…

…which leads me to…

2003: Ben Harper

Want a gospel, rock, and blues album but can’t afford all three?  Just buy a Ben Harper album; he’s got it covered.  And his new album is a great rocker.

2004: Colin Hay

Don’t know his music? Your loss….

2005: Modest Mouse

Another group I hated until I gave them a second chance. Best thing to listen too when you just want to move on:

“Gonna find another place, maybe one I can stand.
I move on to another day, to a whole new town with a whole new way.
Went to the porch to have a thought.
Got to the door and again, I couldn’t stop.”

2006: Minus the Bear

Much like Incubus-SoCal metaphysical insight…

2007: The Frames

Glen Hansard is one of my favorite “new” singer/writers.  If you haven’t seen the film Once do so ASAP- then you’ll understand why.

2008: The Killers

I can’t even really explain this one well.  Many I know say I just “get them”.  Guess so.  It also feels like another case of great songwriting that tells a story that is also open to interpretations.

2009: Kings of Leon

My current group.  They sound like my Ego and Id started a band and just rock the hell out of life.

That’s twenty years in music for me.  Anyone got any new music to recommend?

The Rundown: Fall TV 2008

October 19, 2008

Fall TV had a really odd start this year.  Due to the writer’s strike last year there wasn’t as many new shows as there usually is, but that may not be the worst thing to ever happen.  So I wanted to give everything a few weeks to get started and a few episodes on the air before I made my list.  But I’ll be honest: compared to last year my TV time – just like my internet time- has dropped incredibly.  So for what it’s worth, here is my Rundown of my Top 5 TV shows as of right now….

5. My Name Is Earl

When this show first started 3 seasons ago it was my absolute favorite sitcom aside from Scrubs.  But for the last two years-aside from an episode here and there- it seemed to have lost it’s purpose.  Now, with the “return to the list” the show is back on track and really clicking again.

4. The Office

I only started watching this show because some friends did.  It was funny then, still funny now.  I like how they’ve gotten to a good level on mixing the extreme and the real in the new episodes.

3. Heroes

Speaking of going to the extreme….

It seems the creators have decided to see just how far they can go with plots twists and new story lines this year.  So far, while campy at times, it’s working okay, especially after the reveal from last weeks episode (no spoilers here).  It’s also a show that as embraced it’s universe and the characters that live inside it.  I just hope they know where they are going with it this time and they come up with new ideas (really?  A city explodes?  Again?  And again?) to keep things fresh.

2. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

After discovering this show this summer it’s become my favorite sitcom on TV.  Personally I believe it’s so good because the people making it are so into the show and talanted….

1. Life

Simply put: for me this is the best all around show on TV right now.  The writing, the style, the performances: all top notch.

Shows I record and watch later….

Fringe, Knight Rider, Little People Big World, SNL

Yeah…it really has been a slow year for TV.  At least there is football and Presidential coampaign coverage to watch…..

The Rundown: Summer Movies 2008

July 22, 2008

UPDATED AS OF 7/22/08; THIS SHOULD BE THE FINAL LIST!

It’s summer time and besides being a time to sit back and unwind it’s time for the big summer flicks. How do they stack up for me? Please do read on, as below is my top five movies of summer ’08:

5. Indiana Jones and the Valley of the Crystal Skulls

The best things about this movie for me were:

-the fact that Indy is Indy.  Odd as it sounds, that was my biggest concern.  But Ford is back as Indy and in full form, albeit an older version of the character.

-the acknowledgment of time passed.  We get to hear, through conversations, what Indy’s been up to since The Last Crusade and many a comment is made on how old he is, yet he is still as tough as he ever was.  It’s makes an endearing character that much stronger by letting them grow and age.

-the acknowledgment of more story.  IN the last three movies, the only time the other adventures were referenced  was when Indy saw a drawing of the Ark on a wall and when asked if he was sure he simply said “pretty sure”.  There are many more subtle nods to the rest of the character’s history in this movie, especially references made to -which was a surprise- the Young Indy TV show and by bringing back and talking about old friends.  It’s something that is not needed to enjoy the movie, but something to remind fans that Indy is supposed to be a serial hero – the kind of character that has been on many adventures over the years, which leads to…

-the character living up to his pulp roots.  I remember an interview with Lucas years ago where he said Indy was created to be a hero for Saturday morning serials.  If you’ve never seen these types of movies, it’s a character much like comic or pulp heroes Superman or the Spirit, or other serial heroes like the Lone Ranger or Zorro: it’s not the character;’s story that is important but how the character reacts to the story they are in that made them endearing.  That’s probably why many reviews state that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull doesn’t “feel like an Indy movie”.  And I can see that.  But what you need to remember is that Indy has been through many an adventure and the other movies only show the ones that involve three major religions of the world -Jewish, Christian, and Hindu- and I think that people are thrown that the new movie focuses on an ancient religion with possible science fiction roots.  I think it’s a big pill to swallow for some fans.  But I enjoyed it because it was a true example of a “character reacting to situation” story.

Overall, it was a fun movie.  I’m glad they didn’t try to do anything other than make another Indy movie; how could you go wrong with that?

4. Speed Racer

I know some will say “what they hell, this movie was better than (insert others on list)?!  Yep.  My site, my opinion.  And there are others that tend to agree.

Speed Racer was a movie I was actually hoping would be horrible; I was looking for a bad movie to watch just for the fun of it.  And then the reviews started to come out and it seemed like my predictions were proven true.  But then I saw the movie.  Now I’ve decided: I will NEVER trust another professional movie reviewer again; if I want to see a movie, even in the slightest, I’m so there- no matter what they say.

Speed Racer was so well done – both in design and package (story, cast, etc.)- that it was a movie I was totally swept up by.  I was so pulled into the story of Speed’s brother in the beginning I even got a little misty.  I was rooting for Speed in the races, even though I knew he would win.  But unlike other predictable movies, Speed Racer made the ride to the end so plain fun I didn’t care I knew how it would all end.

More advice on how to enjoy Speed Racer: watch it with the mind set that it is a kid’s movie (it is) and you’ll have so much more fun.  Even better: find a 5-10 year old boy -one you know, please don’t just grab one- and take them to see it.  You’ll enjoy it, but you’ll enjoy his reaction even more.

Easily, one of the great examples of a perfect summer movie.

3. WALL-E

Few movies can go from just a movie to art.  Wall-E is one such movie.

First of all, there is hardly a spoken word for the first act of this movie, aside from a few sounds that can be perceived as “words”.  But it doesn’t matter, as you still become invested in the characters and there goals.  The story is simple but very effective and, even though it is completely predictable, pulls you along until you are rooting for the ending you know is coming.

The design work in this film is also amazing.  Aside from the humans, which are the only “cartoony” elements of the movie – but they are supposed to be, you can tell so much work went into making it look and feel right.  I don’t mind it when filmmakers are hammering a message into my head if it’s done as artful and as thought out as Wall-E is.

2. Iron Man

Being the comic geek I am, it should have been a given that I would like this movie.  But those that know me know I look at these kind of films a bit differently: they don’t get a free pass and I am definitely more critical of them that I am of other movies, as they are playing in a sandbox with characters I feel like I’ve known for as long as I can remember.   Usually I have to watch them twice to enjoy them, mainly because the first viewing is spent still taking it all in and worried they won’t get it “right”.  But I was relaxed 20 minutes into Iron Man.

I can plainly say that Iron Man is the best comic adaptation I have seen.  I think this is true because A.) they made the smoothest transition form comic to screen and B.) it was made by people who truly cared for the work they were doing.  I think this is a combination that we haven’t completely had in a movie like this.  We’ve always had a studio or director try to make subtle changes not realizing those changes are huge to longtime fans, actors who “did the job (George Clooney as Batman, anyone)” and didn’t really care, or a combination of the two in some degree but never have we had everyone so into getting it right.

Iron Man is the movie I answer with when people ask what to go see, whether they are a comic fan or not.  It’s so well performed and created that is is worth every bit of praise it has been receiving.  As decent as Spider-Man was, it made me wish Jon Favreau made it instead.  It reminded me how badass of an actor Robert Downey Jr. always was.  It made a lesser Marvel character into the best Marvel movie to date.  And with it being the first movie controlled by Marvel directly, it gives great hope to the future of their movies.

1. The Dark Knight

I had a huge debate about the placement of this movie.  Everyone loved it, so that means I’m supposed to hate it, right?  But see, the thing is I can’t find anything wrong with it.  Sure, Batman sounds like he’s smoked three packs a day since he was thirteen, but is that really a valid complaint?

I’ve had an odd feeling bout this movie and how to explain my thoughts about it, and I couldn’t place what it was until I sat to write this: the movie is so good that is hasd absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Let’s run the list:  Great cast and acting?  Check.  Complex story that actually works? Check.  Moments that remind you why you love movies?  Double check.  It also is hard for me to look at this movie as a “comic book” movie after seeing it.  The Dark Knight is a movie that is played for reality with the perfect amount of substance to make a perfect movie, Batman movie or not.

I have to strongly advise that if possible you need to see this movie in IMAX.  Holy heaven did that help to make it amazing.  The opening shot of the the city made the entire -yes the entire– audience make an audible sound of “wow” once it started.  When Batman jumps of the building, you do it with him; I felt like I was falling and grabbed the arm of the seat to hold on.  It was completely amazing and is something that needs to be experienced if your a movie fan.

The Rundown: Heroes of My Childhood

June 26, 2008

We all have heroes – those people we all look up to or gather inspiration from.  Growing up as an only child in a small town and being the only kid for miles, a lot of my heroes as a kid were fictional, but equally inspiring and important in teaching me about life and how to get through it…

5. Kevin Arnold

As a kid, I grew up with my grandmother.  We had a daily ritual of doing our own thing during the day -I was always outside and she seemed to always be cooking – but in the evening we would come together and watch TV.  And man did she have good taste.  Through her I discovered The Wonder Years.

Kevin wasn’t a super hero or anything like that.  But he was important due to one simple fact: we were the same exact age.  When he started 7th grade, I did to.  And that led to a shared experience.  Middle school was a rough time for me so it was great to have someone to relate to – someone who was going through the same experiences and having the same problems.  Someone else who generally wanted to do the right thing but was always having to deal with something else.  Kevin showed everyone deals with growing up and we can all make it through it we keep at it.

4. Superman

What kid didn’t have Superman as their hero?  For me, just like everyone else, it was because he fought for truth justice and the American way.  But he also showed what it was like to be a great citizen.  Plus, as I learned his story, it always impressed me how he was willing to do so much for people who didn’t know and that he was willing to do anything for the betterment of his adopted home.

Also, my dad was working on the road most of my childhood.  But one of the few things we’d do whenever he was home was go and see the new Superman movie that was out.  When I never hardly saw my dad, the character helped to give me some of the few father-son memories I have from those younger years.

3. Luke Skywalker

Yeah I know he started out as a whiny brat, but look at what he grew into.  Across the span of the original trilogy, Luke went from being a miserable kid who was frustrated by his lack of parents, his life situation, and the thought that there had to so much more to like.  And then his life changed when he found out who he really was and what he was meant to do.  He didn’t run and hide from it – like most of us would have – but he excepted his fate and become one of the strongest people in the galaxy.

Luke not only took responsibility for his destiny, but also for his friends; Luke would do anything for them.  Sure, everyone always says Han was cooler, but who came to his rescue when he was captured?  Luke was my generation’s classic hero and he lived up to the legend in every way.

2. Optimus Prime

Man, there sure seems to be a theme about missing parents, huh?  Maybe I should look into that.  Funny story:  in 4th grade or so we had to write a story about who we would want our parents to be if not or real parents.  My choice?  Well, I didn’t pick a mom – I distinctly remember when asked why I said “I didn’t need one” – and I chose Optimus as my dad.  I realize now this was probably same twisted public school mental stability test, but oh well…

Optimus also taught me what it meant to be a leader, and it reflects in how I handle myself professionally to this day.  I learned you got respect my giving respect.  He also taught me you could be friends with those that work on your team as long as everyone remembered their place on the totem pole.  He was a “human” leader – he felt the stress sometimes but he always was there when needed.  When Optimus spoke people listened, whether they agreed with the plan or not.  That’s the kind of leader I work to be.

1. Spider-Man

I’ve liked Spider-Man for as long as I can remember.  Something like that makes it hard to remember what drew me to the character in the beginning.  It could be his eternal search to belong.  It could be his sense of responsibility and honor.  It could be the really neat costume and powers.  It’s probably all of the above.  But Peter Parker has served as inspiration to, not only throughout my childhood but into my adult life.

There you have it.  Some my find it odd that all of these heroes are “characters” and not real people.  I was a kid, what do you expect.  But does their lack of being real make less the stories they have lived?  Does it defame the lessons and morals they taught me and millions of others?  I think not.  As Christopher Reeves once said: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

I don’t think it matters if our heroes or real or fiction.  As long as they inspire us to better ourselves and the world around us, to make the world just a little bit better, then that is all that matters.

I would like to thank all the creators – the writers, artists, directors, actors, and techs – who helped to create these characters and to keep them “alive” all these years….