The Delaware Problem

Pixar Collection!

Once upon a time Pixar was so bulletproof that I aspired to a complete collection as each new film was released. You’ll note there are now intentional gaps as well as one pretender that speaks to why there are gaps.

Collections. Series. Runs. Seasons. Sets. Discographies. Filmographies. When geeks love a thing, they’re often overwhelmed with the desire to consume or possess all of that very thing. It’s not enough to say you’ve done some or many or several or a lot of a particular thing. Whatever you did, watched, read, listened to, or owned, what matters most is you managed all of it.

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21 Movie Headlines That Don’t Belong on a Front Page

Joe Don Baker. Mitchell

Fun trivia: Googling “Joe Don Baker Mitchell remake” yields negative-3,000 results.

I brake for far fewer movie-news articles than the average geek. I still like movies, but what passes for movie “news” nowadays generally doesn’t merit my time or clicking because the majority doesn’t meet my minimum specifications for “news”. I have no vested interest in following the full life cycle of every production from germination-of-idea to perennial-AMC-airings.

I can think of numerous examples off the top of my head for most steps of the filmmaking process and marketing campaign. To illustrate my apathy, let me walk you through the vantage point of internet news outlets — not official sources such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, or Nikki Finke, but the other guys. Pretty much all the other guys.

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend the following examples revolve around a remake of the 1975 police drama Mitchell, which starred Joe Don Baker as Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple, plus a gun, minus friends. Let’s pretend we’re in a near-future dystopia in which Hollywood used up its first 5,000 ideas and the only things standing between us and the bottom of the barrel are Mitchell and The Snorks. And James Cameron already has plans for the Snorks.

Let the disposable headlines begin!

Retreating from Pop Culture with Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers Brunch, Panera BreadAs much as I post about the entertainment options around me, I can’t immerse myself in them 24/7. Sometimes they disappoint or frustrate me. Sometimes they demand more of my time and attention than I care to give. Sometimes the idols among them remind me how their previous versions guided me through childhood. While I grew up and improved in a way or two, too many of those idols lost their luster, descended into mediocrity, or had their Reset buttons punched to turn them into different creatures with the same names. Ultimately they’re undependable as worldview building materials.

Hence my weekly one-man retreat. Every Sunday morning after church I isolate myself from my loved ones and collections, hole up in a local chain eatery that has plenty of loitering space (it’s not too hard to identify if you know the place), clear my mind, and spend an hour-plus with caffeine, snack, Bible, spiral-bound notebook, and a copy of the late Oswald Chambers’ devotional collection My Utmost for His Highest.

For those newer readers who’ve been wondering to themselves for months: I assure you the “faith” mentioned in the site subtitle isn’t a typo.

More about my weekly habit…

BREAKING NEWS: Cumberbatch to Play Sir Johan in “Smurfs 3”

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Johan

Prove it’s true, you ask? I say, prove that it’s NOT true! Because impeccable internet journalism.

You love him in TV’s Sherlock. You thought he was one of the best things in Star Trek Into Darkness even though he straight-up lied to the press about his character. You were annoyed by his ten-minute role in War Horse despite having no idea who he was at the time. You’re looking forward to his dual roles in Peter Jackson’s overextended Hobbit trilogy. You’re undecided about watching him play Alexander Godunov in The Fifth Estate. You noticed his name in the fine print for August: Osage County and are weighing your options.

Today is now the best day of your week because the internet has collectively decided to buy into the sketchy rumor that Benedict Cumberbatch, England’s second-biggest export of the decade after One Direction, has allegedly been cast to play an unnamed role in JJ Abrams’ still-untitled Trek sequel, Star Wars Episode VII. On a normal news day, your competent aggregator sites and discerning bloggers prefer to wait for official word from the likes of Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline Hollywood Daily, or from TV news a full two months later. Sometimes, though, some headlines are just too awesome for professional composure or baseline fact-checking. Thus, this gossip is popping up everywhere today.

Along those same lines, I’ve decided to announce the nonexistent, completely unfounded, nonetheless tantalizing rumor than Cumberbatch has also signed on to give life to the role of brave Sir Johan in Smurfs 3. Just because I can, and clearly because we geeks now demand that he star in everything ever hereafter.

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An Old Man’s Excuses for Not Hoarding Digital Music

Mp3 icons

Why browse through someone’s full-sized collection of vinyl cover art when you can peruse a strictly formatted collection of charmless Windows icons instead?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, I waxed verbose about my long-standing like/loathe relationship with commercial radio, the medium that lured me into Top-40 fandom in my pre-teen years and spurned me from high school to the present.

One digression was left unexplored due to issues of relevance and length:

My reluctance to embrace MP3s would require an entry in itself. Short answer: not at this time, but thank you for the option.

Far be it from me to let a promise of digression remain unrequited.

I recognize that digital music has numerous advantages over CDs and its precursors, but I have yet to embrace iTunes or to fill multiple external hard drives with jams for a variety of reasons. Some of them may sound tired and overused; most are conclusions I reached over the years after repeated bouts of personal deliberation. Continue reading

A Moment of Uncool Remote Post-Convention Decompression Quality Time

RosemontGreetings from busy, action-packed Illinois! After several hours spent at Day 1 of C2E2, my wife and I are glad to relax at last, off our feet and without our backpacks burdening us any longer. So far we’ve had a delightful experience, met several comics creators and a few Star Wars actors, acquired a few freebies and several quality items, and made plans for Day 2 on Saturday. Until then we’re enjoying the quiet ambiance of a particular hotel that’s treated us well before, up in the scenic village of Rosemont, down the street from the Donald E, Stephens Convention Center.

Careful readers, and anyone with a passing knowledge of the Chicago geek convention scene, may notice a discrepancy: C2E2 is being held at McCormick Place, a different convention center in a different Chicagoland section altogether, nearly twenty miles away. According to conventional convention wisdom, we’re doing it wrong.

We don’t mind. We have our reasons:

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“Veronica Mars” Kickstarter Success Raises Unreasonable Hopes in Fans of Every Canceled Series Ever

Kristen Bell, Veronica MarsJust as Star Wars fans spent weeks celebrating in the streets at the news that their beloved childhood franchise will return to theaters, so is another fan base breaking out the party hats this week…and, more importantly, their wallets.

In a first for a major-studio intellectual property, Warner Bros. has allowed producer/creator Rob Thomas to use the power of crowdfunding to extract Veronica Mars from mothballs and feature her in a major motion picture. Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign less than 48 hours ago with a lofty goal of $2,000,000.00. As Thomas describes the conditional deal with Warner Bros.:

Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot. I believe it’s the only one we’ve got. It’s nerve-wracking. I suppose we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there’s also the chance that we completely revolutionize how projects like ours can get made. No Kickstarter project ever has set a goal this high. It’s up to you, the fans, now. If the project is successful, our plan is to go into production this summer and the movie will be released in early 2014.

Thomas worried for naught. Pledges from tens of thousands of fans reached that formidable goal in a record-setting, jaw-dropping twelve hours, leaving 29½ days for slower fans and curious bandwagon-jumpers to keep adding to the budget in hopes of upgrading the film from niche project to wide-release underdog, maybe even with action scenes and trained stuntmen. At the rate the pledges are accumulating, they’ll have enough money to set it in 2030 and equip Veronica and her dad with robot sidekicks.

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Why I’m Not Yet Hoarding Ebooks by the Dozen

Michael A. Stackpole, In Hero Years...I'm DeadFun trivia: I bought my very first ebook at GenCon 2012. When I accompanied my wife in the autograph line for Michael A. Stackpole, author of some of her favorite Star Wars Expanded Universe novels (several books in the Rogue Squadron series), I was surprised that one of the few items for sale at his table was a superhero novel called In Hero Years…I’m Dead. In lieu of hard copies, Stackpole had it available only on disk in ebook format. Undaunted by my complete lack of an eReader, I bought a copy anyway, for a few reasons:

1. I rarely buy much at GenCon because I’m not a gamer. The only vendors to extract profit from me were Stackpole and Oni Press, the only professional comics publisher on site.

2. I read the Rogue Squadron graphic novels Stackpole wrote for Dark Horse Comics once upon a time. Not bad, considering I read none of the novels and had no idea who most of the characters were. (Wedge, yes. The others, my wife had to explain to me.)

3. I’ve found the best way to spur myself into trying a new medium is to buy a work first, then worry about the device later. We owned our first DVD (The Phantom Menace) months before I bought my first DVD player. Likewise, the Blu-ray in my Up combo pack waited a good while before I could do anything with it. So there’s a precedent.

I’d like to read Stackpole’s novel at some point. As of this writing, though, I still have no eReader. I didn’t ask for one for Christmas. It wasn’t targeted on my Black Friday hunt. I’m not saving up for one. It’s not even on my wish list.

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My Geek Demerits #6: No Use for Movie Rumors

movie rumor stranger

This mysterious stranger sees all, knows all, defies accountability, and is trusted by millions.

Today the Internet exploded with the news that J.J. Abrams would be directing the seventh installment in the recently unretired Star Wars series. Abrams fans rejoiced and are more excited about the next episode than ever. Movie fans grappled with the idea of one director dallying in both the Star Wars and Star Trek universes instead of choosing a side and sticking to it unconditionally. Abrams haters decided their world is ending and life no longer holds meaning. Members of all of the above circles rushed to be the first Internet user to crack a joke about lens flare. (Hundreds of millions lost that race.)

I found merit in the three theatrical releases that Abrams directed so far. (In order I’d rank Trek first, MI:III second, and Super 8 irksome but not terrible.) I bear him no ill will and wish his fourth film, Star Trek: Into Darkness starring man’s-man Benedict Cumberbatch and some other guys, were in theaters exactly now. I’ve seen all six Star Wars films several times apiece; follow the Clone Wars animated series; have partaken of several Dark Horse Comics SW projects; once read an entire Star Wars Expanded Universe novel; and am married to a wondrous woman whose encyclopedic knowledge of SW EU doesn’t frighten or alienate me. No matter who directs Episode VII: the Cash Cow Cavalry of Corellia, I expect to see it at least once.

All that being said: today’s announcement does nothing for me.

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My Geek Demerits #5: No Alcohol

Bloody Mary, podium, convention

Convention photo: Bloody Mary at the podium.

[Being the fifth in an intermittent series covering assorted areas in which I feel resigned to live as a minority among geeks.]

Despite the fun my wife and I have had attending comic book and sci-fi conventions together, I’ve heard the best con-related stories happen after hours, whether at the scheduled night-owl events or at the nearest hotel bars after official programming is over. Casual encounters and chats in the convention hallways or between panels during daylight hours have their charm and keep the weekend lively, but the Internet keeps telling me that con parties are where the real geek gathering happens. Be there or be even squarer-than-square.

The last convention we attended made no secret that drinks are part and parcel of the community experience. The guests on stage and the more boisterous audience members traded comments back and forth about their plans that evening, about the drinks that left the most indelible impression on them, or about the previous night’s unforgettable rowdiness. In such settings, everyone’s an adult capable of making their own decisions and surrounded by like-minded folks out for a good time. The convention is an attractive draw in itself, but it’s also a great excuse for sharing hobbies and activities other than science fiction or comics. To a certain extent it beats the good old days, when everyone lived in isolation in separate states because they had no idea that anyone else on Earth was quite like them. There’s something to be said for engendering fellowship and the interconnectedness of “family”, so to speak.

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My Geek Demerits #4: Not Watching “The Big Bang Theory”

[Being the fourth in an intermittent series covering assorted areas in which I feel resigned to live as a minority among geeks.]

The people who hang around us the most realize that my wife and I differ from them in key ways. In small-talk situations we find ourselves fielding questions about certain movies, TV, books, genres, and other topics that never arise at elegant dinner parties. We’re not know-it-alls and we’re immediately honest in admitting when we haven’t seen or become aware of a certain work or area. If the answer lies within one of our personal proficiencies, we cheerfully oblige. I do edit myself for length because no one ever wants or truly needs my complete, passionate answer in paragraph form. I’m merciful that way. It makes me look more introverted and antisocial than I really am, but it’s for everyone’s own good. Also, people tend to wander off after the first three sentences.

Every August like clockwork, someone will ask if we’re attending GenCon. Five to six weeks after a new super-hero movie is released, they’ll ask if we’ve seen it yet. When the subjects of Star Wars or Star Trek arise on occasion, my wife tags in to the convo while I sit ringside. Once every eight to ten years when someone asks me about comics, I have to remember to limit my answers to twenty words or less, and to confine my citations to Marvel or DC titles only, because explaining the fact that hundreds of other publishers have existed throughout comics history will only frighten and confuse them. Conversely, if someone mentions sports of any kind, we have nothing to offer them and wait patiently until they can find a normal, human, sports-loving conversationalist to rescue them from us.

In the last year or so, one question has begun popping up more frequently than any other: “Do you guys watch The Big Bang Theory?”

For my wife, it’s an easy question to answer. She has no use for 98% of all network TV shows produced after 1992. Her part in the conversation is done, and she’s ready to flow to the next topic. I have my response rehearsed and down pat: I fix my gaze upon any other point in the room except the questioner, pause with a strained expression, and mumble, “No.”

They’ll say, “Really? Oh, it’s so funny!” Then they’ll try to quote a line or antic that comes to mind, smile, and wait for me to be bowled over. The most common choice is a shout of “BAZINGA!” as if this will implant fake happy memories of the show in my head and win me to their side.

Instead I bounce my gaze to a point on the opposite side of the room from the first faraway point, smile sheepishly, wince, and mutter, “Heh. Yeah, I…just don’t.”

If they’re terrible at reading body language, they’ll finish their pitch with, “Oh, you should try it! It kinda reminds me of you guys!”

My first impulse is to imagine them dying gruesomely before my eyes. Since that’s a sinful thought, I try to capture it, suppress it, nod a little, replace my smile with a blank look, and wait out the rest of the scene in silence, just like Clark Kent used to do on Smallville whenever anyone confronted him with a question he didn’t feel like answering. If I’m to continue living in peace with others, then I have no choice but to muster up a humane response.

I watched the entire first episode. In 2007 a magazine graciously sent us subscribers a promotional DVD containing the premiere episodes of both BBT and How I Met My Mother. My reaction to the latter was easy to summarize: Neil Patrick Harris was in top form, but I’m generally not amused by comedies about people striving for sex and love in that order. My reaction to the BBT pilot was even more adverse, but tougher to articulate. Everything that bugged me about the pilot has only been exacerbated by further examples and new reasons developed over the years.

Right off the bat, I was disappointed that the pilot was entirely stocked with stereotypes. The classic dumb blonde was the central figure, surrounded by the emotional good geek, the unemotional bad geek, the worse geek who thinks he’s suave, and the token nonwhite geek. I was more disappointed that all five characters were conscripted in service to a comedy about people striving for sex and love in that order. Well, except the bad geek, who appeared to suffer from a Vulcan emulation disorder.

More problematic: I simply didn’t laugh. At all. I half-smiled at the periodic table shower curtain. That’s as good as it got. Most of the jokes didn’t feel written For Geeks By Geeks. It felt like classically trained sitcom writers dusting off the old clichéd jokes about geeks and taking them for a spin at the geeks’ expense, even in lines spoken by one geek berating another. If I might borrow Johnny Carson’s old shtick and pretend that someone just shouted, “HOW BAD WAS IT?”: it was so bad, I once watched an entire episode of According to Jim that made me laugh more. The gags at the dumb blonde’s expense only worsened the feeling that I was watching corporate-approved assembly-line sitcom product.

I came away from the single viewing experience with an offended impression in my head that I couldn’t properly label until a few years later when an Internet participant under the message-board username “Front Toward Everybody” coined the right summation and crystallized my conclusion for me: “nerdsploitation minstrel show“. If the frat jocks from Revenge of the Nerds suddenly became aware enough to create a TV show spoofing and mocking their arch-nemeses, BBT is the end result I imagine.

I’ve witnessed little evidence to reverse my position. The jokes that are quoted to me every so often, whether by well-meaning friends or by easily amused magazine writers, elicit no merriment from me, and fall a few notches below the everyday chatter that online friends proffer via social networks for free. Those same samples have failed to dispel my presumption that the show revels in laughing at — not with — the issues and weaknesses of some among our crowd. I find that more saddening than snicker-worthy.

On a different level, I’m also annoyed that the show does indeed kowtow to corporate interests. I’d suspected this at first when ads for the show (produced by Warner Bros.) began appearing in titles published by DC Comics (owned by Warner Bros.) with the cast all wearing DC super-hero attire. My suspicion was confirmed this weekend when I received my subscription copy of the new issue of that same magazine that sent me the DVD in 2007. This week’s cover story about BBT (apparently they still love it to pieces) confirms on page 33, “A rule that only DC Comics products can appear in the comic-book store was lifted in honor of Marvel legend Stan Lee’s guest appearance in season 3.” I’m surprised DC didn’t bar Stan the Man from appearing and insist that the show feature special guest star Dan DiDio instead. Openly corporate favoritism is, in my opinion, highly anti-geek.

Naturally, the Nielsen commoners can’t get enough of it. It’s now the highest-rated sitcom in current production, preparing to start its sixth season this coming Thursday, September 27th. I realize the industry has rewarded it with many Emmys, which mean about as much to me as Tonys do. (Hint: as I live nowhere near Broadway, the answer is near zero.) I get that I’m supposed to dig the theme by Barenaked Ladies, who’ve composed several great songs but have never sustained a fully satisfying album from start to finish for my taste. I realize the show has garnered many renowned guests hallowed and revered to our crowd — numerous Trek actors and actual scientists, among others. How nice for the show that it has powerful friends, allies, and fans. Good for it.

Perhaps the show has matured since then and stopped falling back on easy go-to shtick. “It’s funny ’cause geeks don’t get women!” “It’s funny ’cause geeks use real big words!” “It’s funny ’cause geeks like stupid stuff!” If those have disappeared, great. I’m glad it’s experienced a miraculous, hopefully repentant turnaround. The rest of the world can continue enjoying it at their leisure for the twenty more seasons sure to come.

Meanwhile, I’ll be fine over here without it. If I want to see or read works authentically FGBG, funny or even dramatic, I’ve had plenty of options past and present about our mindset — Scott McCloud’s Zot!, Evan Dorkin’s “Eltingville Club” stories, Sideways, Frasier, High Fidelity, Phonogram, Fringe, The Nerdist channel, and the amazing, colossal, heartbreakingly underrated Community, which in its three seasons has been more magnificently FGBG than I thought humanly possible, without stooping to the lower common denominators or compromising a great taste in reference points.

Even if the Nielsen commoners take Community away from me after the new showrunners fail to appease them, I guarantee shouting “BAZINGA! BAZINGA! BAZINGA!” at me won’t change my mind.

My Geek Demerits #3: Speaking and Writing Without Cursing

Full disclosure: I wrote 75% of the following piece in March 2012 in response to a question from a good online friend who finds it odd that I don’t use profanity, except in very rare cases when milder ones appear in proper nouns such as Hellboy.

I was raised in a household whose adults never used them in front of me. Like all children raised in such atmospheres, I learned them anyway from the neighborhood kids. I tried them out occasionally, and eventually developed a finely tuned on/off switch inside my head that worked instinctively whenever I entered or exited polite company. All throughout my young-stupid-male years, from high-school until my mid-twenties, they occupied one of the largest compartments in my communication toolbox.

When I changed career tracks in 2000, it didn’t take long for them to disappear from my spoken-word vocabulary. Not only did I want to project a more professional image, whether on the clock or off, I also found I was much more relaxed and less angst-ridden once the frustrations and disappointments of my previous job were lifted off my shoulders. In the twelve years since, I’ve uttered precisely one profanity aloud — one day as I walked around Monument Circle and came mere centimeters away from being flattened by a speeding white kidnapper van barreling around a corner flagrantly disregarding us pesky pedestrians. Losing momentary control of my tongue seemed a preferable alternative to losing control of my bladder.

For a time, my online interactions were a different story. Harsh language remained a part of my online communication because, frankly, it seemed like everyone else around me was doing it. Whether on Usenet or on message boards, it served as a necessary defense against the other dysfunctional participants and/or a badge to prove you were part of Team Internet. After spending much of 2002 rethinking my life in a number of serious philosophical ways (to put it with gross inexactitude), eventually I phased Carlin’s Seven Words and many of their lesser sidekicks out of my online responses and works as well.

The why of it all is a combination of thoughts and decisions accumulated over time.

When explaining this to my online friends, I started with the simple standard of the words labeled “profanity” as comprising the specifically designated section of the English language that is the immediate go-to choice of the ungodly and the unprofessional. Also from the Department of Other People’s Typical Responses, there are Bible verses to be cited. I’m actually terrible at memorizing Scripture for a convoluted reason that could comprise a short essay in itself, but Colossians 3: 8-10 comes closest to nailing what occurs to me from the basic Christian standpoint.

Beyond those, I naturally added bullet points about why I don’t cuss anymore:

* People use it too often when they want themselves to be taken SERIOUSLY, when in fact they’re basically just being hostile. They use contempt as a cheap substitute for confidence.

* People admire them, especially the F-word, for their ridiculously flexible use in nearly every part of speech, to describe, modify, or reductively summarize just about anything that comes to mind, regardless of whether they’re being complimentary or derogatory. I’m of the opposite mind. A word with unlimited uses effectively becomes meaningless and cries out to be replaced by more vivid descriptors. The English language is a sophisticated system with plenty of alternatives, especially if it’s being used as a needless synonym for “very” or too shorthand a dismissal of a bad person, place, or thing. If I’m fully conscious of what I’m writing (as opposed to blithely typing on the fly for everyday back-and-forth with others), I try to avoid ubiquitous multi-purpose words like “make”, “do”, or “get” on similar principle.

* They’re an easy way to cut yourself off intentionally from a wider audience. If you only want to be read by people exactly like you, it’s your privilege as an artist to cater to them as you see fit. If you want to be read by anyone not like you, realize that there’s a cultural demographic out there whose thoughts on this subject are more simplistic than mine, but who’re less likely to cut you the necessary slack to tolerate your indulgence. Puerile direct-to-DVD family movies turn a tidy profit for a reason, and it’s not because they’re being used for skeet shooting.

* Conversely, no one worth paying attention to will reject a given work for not having enough cursing. I’ll grant you that substitutes like “frag”, “frick”, “frig”, et al., are aesthetic abominations, but most works — well-liked classics, even — managed for decades without resorting to lowest-common-denominator-speak. I’m not convinced All About Eve would’ve been twice as epic if Bette Davis had talked more like Sarah Silverman. Or take something as recent as Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which had more colons than profanities. Amazingly, it didn’t suck and moviegoers flocked to it. I can also add an extra paragraph about the adult virtues of the average exemplary Pixar film as generally quality material that never lacks for emphatic dialogue.

* I would be lying if I said I limit myself to reading or watching G-rated material. And yet, it’s one thing to recreate a harsh reality (The Wire, Saving Private Ryan) or achieve a specific artistic effect (Glengarry Glen Ross, Reservoir Dogs). Sadly, not everyone is David Mamet or David Simon. Precious few people are, in fact. It’s another thing altogether to use it just because it’s ostensibly “funny” (see: countless R-rated comedies that don’t understand the concept of the punchline) or just, y’know, expected. “Everybody does it” is not only one of the worst excuses for doing anything ever, and among the absolute best methods for perpetuating stupidity, it’s also inaccurate. When overused in a movie or other work, each word becomes like a jarring CD-skip to my ears. After too many CD-skips, I tend to lose my concentration and interest. I prefer not to provide the same disservice to others, whether they share that issue or not.

Bottom line for me personally: nowadays I’ve found I can accomplish my aims well enough with tone, expression, vocab, craft, and occasionally volume if need be. I’m not forced at gunpoint to use profanity as a crutch any more than I’m required by law to work the words “esophageal” or “blunderbuss” into conversation every day. But that’s just me.

My Geek Demerits #2: No Smartphone

My wife and I share a single cell phone between the two of us. It’s a dinky LG model 300G prepaid phone with no Internet access. Its special features include a very limited wallpaper selection, a paltry library of super-MIDI ringtones, and the ability to play Sudoku. Its texting capabilities are more primitive than a Speak-&-Spell. I have no interest in writing to someone on a device that requires four keypunches to generate a single “s”.

We didn’t even buy it for ourselves. It was an anniversary gift from a well-meaning relative. Neither of us is a fan of telephones. We keep it on hand for emergencies or rare moments of convenience. I let her carry it most of the time, out of a combination of chivalry and disdain for the thing. Thankfully the minutes roll over infinitely as long as I keep purchasing additional service days. So far through disuse we’ve stockpiled over 2,800 minutes. I could theoretically call Australia and stay on the line from midnight to midnight with no concern for cost.

We know we’re an extremist minority among our under-60 peers. Today’s average American considers their cell phone an essential part of everyday life that combines the usefulness of a few different appliances with several hundred useless distractions. Much discussion has already been held in various venues about smartphones displacing landlines from many homes. I’m sure the same holds true of PCs and laptops for those casual typists who don’t need word processing, spreadsheet capabilities, or CD/DVD-ROM drives.

We realize we could afford upgrading to a smartphone if we felt the urge, but forgo it for several reasons:

* No interest in haggling over pricing, contracts, or bandwidth usage. As long as we continue to underuse, our prepaid Fisher Price toy costs me $15 per month to keep active. If we decide to drop it at a moment’s notice, the financial damage would be negligible. If someone has invented a smartphone contract that’s month-to-month for the same approximate price with unlimited bandwidth, I could see an argument for upgrading. I’d prefer to avoid a long-term commitment to a plan that charges me dozens of extra dollars just because I exceeded my monthly bandwidth allotment after five rounds of Words with Friends.

* Itsy-bitsy keys. I have sausages for fingers. I need a manly keyboard for my manly typing. Even some laptops are uncooperative. I suspect a stylus would be easy to lose and would be an insufficient, frustrating substitute for my reflexive hunt-‘n’-peck keyboard method. I could live with extra typos if I had to, but I would pretty much die without my precious capitalization and punctuation.

* QR code-scanning holds no temptation for us. Oh, no, we’re missing out on extra advertising! Curse the fates!

* Our current appliances remain fully functional. My wife is very happy with her camera. Mine could be better, but it’s not nearly obsolete enough for me to be in the market for a replacement. Our PC serves all our Internet needs with the added advantage of a screen larger than an index card, all the better for viewing movie trailers and extended, heated Comments-section debates. We’re still old-fashioned enough to wear wristwatches, so our timekeeping needs are covered. Our cheap landline still keeps ticking, too, in case we need to dial 911 without worrying whether or not we remembered to charge the phone battery.

* I plan ahead without need for GPS. When we travel, I have all our directions prepared in advance. In the event of a wrong turn or bad directions, I also bring maps in case I need to navigate the old-fashioned way, the way our ancestors managed back in the dark, primeval twentieth century. So far we haven’t failed to return home yet.

* We’re discouraged by the behavior we’ve seen in other smartphone users. We realize millions of sane, collected users exist and conduct themselves just fine. Just the same, we’d rather not risk turning into one of today’s highly visible Stepford Callers. To wit:

— Eye contact no more. As a natural introvert, I already suck at making eye contact, even with people who want me to look at them. If I start carrying around something glowing and flashy to placate me like an audiovisual pacifier, I’ll never know anyone else’s eye color ever again, let alone acknowledge that they’re worth my personal, undivided attention. (Reminder to self: wife’s eyes are brown. Probably. Should double-check that.)

— “Ladies first” is more awkward than ever. When it’s time for crowd egress through a given doorway, it’s hard to be chivalrous when a lady’s mind is in a faraway place and unaware of her surroundings. My recently instated rule for elevator dismissal is, if she’s being hypnotized by her phone, she no longer counts as a “lady” for purposes of determining order of disembarkation. I’ll excuse myself first and let the doors shut on her. Far be it from me to be rude and interrupt her very important reading. I’m sure all those Facebook-shared unfunny Photoshop gags aren’t gonna Like themselves.

— Theaters as Internet cafes, even during the movie. Setting aside the massive distraction and rudeness it presents to the rest of the audience that was respectful enough to put away their toys, I fail to understand why anyone would focus on the tiny handheld screen they carry with them 24/7 while ignoring the large screen they paid an exorbitant fee to watch just this once. If you’re expecting an emergency, a vital communication, or a chat you just can’t miss because that one friend is so totally awesome to hear from, perhaps that two hours of your time would be better spent isolated at home, waiting for the DVD release and leaving the moviegoing to the rest of us stalwart, considerate lot.

— Apps are better than family. I will never forget the time I walked into a nephew’s birthday party and saw most of the adult “partygoers” sitting in a row in the living room, all silently engaged with their phones while the birthday boy spent quality time with the only loved ones not ignoring him — i.e., a few other tykes too small to own their own phones. Just imagine a future after someone invents Baby Einstein smartphones for all ages. With such scientific progress at hand, every family gathering could possess the warmth and charm of a deathly silent study-hall period.

I realize the entry qualifies more as “human demerits” in today’s society than mere geek demerits, but my lone moment of weakness in this area is the twinge of jealousy I feel whenever comic book conventions tout their schedule apps, QR codes for exclusive materials, and other handy on-site networking tools that offer no help for attendees like us who leave their ‘Net access at home. We can see merit in that, especially when it comes to last-minute event cancellations or celeb-sighting flashmobs.

All things considered, we’d still rather do without. Despite what Madison Avenue tells us, we firmly believe we don’t have to have everything. For the sake of some semblance of integrity, I accept my demerit and will continue to appreciate what meager service we’ve gotten out of our li’l plastic push-button knick-knack, even if it can’t access Angry Birds from a single corner of the continental U.S.

My Geek Demerits #1: No Midnight Showings

As I write this, millions of hearty moviegoers in the EDT zone are high on anticipation of tonight’s midnight premieres of Marvel’s The Avengers. Part of me wishes I could join the party and stay ahead of the curve on the online chatter and spoilers. Unfortunately, the majority of me has a full-time day job and a finicky attitude toward use of my vacation time. I’m weak like that.

Even if I’d taken the time off, my family would also like to see it, but they aren’t in a position to drop everything and go nocturnal. Sure, I could hit a midnight showing solo and plan my second screening with them at a later, mundane hour. That would be a boon if I love it enough for multiple showings. That worked for Chronicle, but what if something goes wrong? What if the movie is constructed entirely within the framework of the common Joss Whedon motifs of All Fathers Are Monsters, All Corporations Are Evil, and Destroy All Couples, all of which set me on edge? What if I hate it and find myself forcibly sequestered at the shunned contrarian end of the Internet next to Armond White and Cole Smithey?

I shudder to imagine enduring an encore for the sake of family quality time under those circumstances. I’m reminded of my final theatrical viewing of The Phantom Menace, in which I slept through the entire Tatooine sequence, even the podrace, as a defense mechanism. Knowing that I blew actual money on an extra ticket for that avoidable privilege added insult to injury.

Most problematic for me: my body can no longer handle gallivanting around town till 3 a.m. anymore. In my youth, I knew the occasional evening that ended with bedtime after sunrise. Today, retiring at midnight is normal for me (if not for others my age), but if I push too far beyond, the following day is made of regret, stupor, and double the normal assault of old-man muscle aches. Braving those hours of discomfort is not as fun a dare as it used to be.

I’ve had to learn to be patient and resist the temptation. For the sake of recognizing my limitations, I accept my geek demerit and will bide my time till Saturday without grumbling. I wish all the best to those superfans lining up hours ahead of the rest of us to see the best Greatest Film of All Time of the year.

Before you exercise your bragging rights too brashly, keep in mind: if you were a true hardcore Marvel’s The Avengers fan, you would’ve arranged to catch it last week in Australia. Waiting till it’s cordially escorted to your spoiled American front doorstep is weak.

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