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Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Happy Geekness Day!

July 13th is Embrace Your Geekness Day. As DaysOfTheYear.com states: "In an age of social media, mobile technology and gaming consoles, it’s impossible to avoid being just a little bit geeky. Don’t fight it; jump head first into Embrance Your Geekness Day and show the world how intelligent, technically savvy, and clever you really are!” I was invited by Sam Bowling of SingleHop.com to write a special blog post celebrating this great day.

Would I consider myself a geek? Yes I would. And I believe many people are geeks; they just don’t realize it or they refuse to call themselves that. What is a geek? What is a nerd? Are they the same? I think there is a difference, but the line between them is getting blurred. In my mind, a geek is someone who loves a thing, no matter what it is, with great passion. They are crazy about a show, or a comic, or a video game; something that catches their interest and hearts. Nerds, while also passionate, tend to be into ideas and practical or theoretical studies. Quantum mechanics, time travel. biology, computer programming, and the like. This article from the UK takes an interesting view. Again, it is my personal opinion, but I agree with the article: geeks love things and nerds love ideas. But the two terms are becoming intertwined, and maybe in a few years there will be no difference.

What makes me a geek? I’m a collector. I don’t have many interests, but what I am interested in, I’m deeply into. I love learning all about it. And if it has merchandise…my wallet better watch out. I love getting memorabilia and goods from some of my favorite TV shows and movies; which include Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Castle, Sherlock, superheroes, and more. I love buying useful items that resemble things from these shows or are products from the show. I have a pen that resembles the Tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, as well as replica Triad playing cards from BSG.

I believe one reason geeks love collecting things is the same reason sports fan collect sports stuff: it connects us with that reality and reminds us of the good times, even when we aren’t watching our favorite program or reading our favorite books. People love stories, and the genres of science fiction and fantasy offer fantastic other worlds to visit. And geeks want to hold on to those stories, those characters, just a little longer after the story ends. When a San Francisco 49ers fan is wearing a team jersey as he walks down the street, he is bringing a bit of the team with him. Their victories and defeats are there. It’s the same with writing with a sonic screwdriver pen or using a pizza cutter shaped like the Enterprise: we are carrying those stories of heroes, villains, love, and lost with us.

But for some reason, it is much more acceptable to wear a team jersey than it is a Starfleet uniform. Geeks and nerds are made fun of for their interests. But we shouldn’t. We have every right to proudly display our geekiness, just as every sports fan as their right to show their team spirit. But, as LeVar Burton always said on Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it. Below are three of my favorite quotes about nerds, geeks, and our beloved but misunderstood culture.

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.” - Simon Pegg

I believe that actor Will Wheaton described it best in a YouTube video that was filmed during one of his convention appearances. A female fan had recently had a baby and asked him to explain why it was so great to be a nerd. His answer was epic. "My name is Wil Wheaton. It’s 2013. And you’ve just recently joined us on planet Earth. So welcome. I’m an actor. I’m a writer. And I’m a dad. Your mother asked me to tell you why it’s awesome to be a nerd. That’s an easy thing for me to do because I am a nerd.

I don’t know what the world is going to be like by the time you understand this. I don’t what it’s going to mean to be a nerd when you are a young women. For me, when I was growing up, being a nerd meant that I liked things that were a little weird. That took a lot of effort to appreciate and understand. It meant that I loved science, and that I loved playing board games, and reading books, and really understanding what went on in the world instead of just riding the planet through space.

When I was a little boy, people really teased us about that, and made us feel like there was something wrong with us for loving those things. Now that I’m an adult, I’m kind of a professional nerd, and the world has changed a lot. I think a lot of us have realized that being a nerd … it’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.

So, there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love. I don’t know what that’s going to be … and it doesn’t matter what it is. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes you a nerd. The defining characteristic of [being a nerd] is that we love things. Some of us love Firefly and some of us love Game Of Thrones, or Star Trek, or Star Wars, or anime, or games, or fantasy, or science fiction. Some of us love completely different things. But we all love those things SO much that we travel for thousands of miles … we come from all over the world, so that we can be around people who love the things the way that we love them.

That’s why being a nerd is awesome. And don’t let anyone tell you that that thing that you love is a thing that you can’t love. Don’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t love that, that’s for boys … you find the things that you love, and you love them the most that you can.

And listen: This is really important. I want you to be honest, honorable, kind. I want you to work hard. Because everything worth doing is hard. And I want you to be awesome, and I will do my very best to leave you a planet that you can still live on."

And those parts about being teased for being nerdy or that you shouldn’t like the things you do… Doctor Who actor John Barrowman has a great response to that as well. At a convention, during the Q and A session, a fan began her question with, “I’m sorry for being such a nerd...” He interrupted her and said: “Don’t ever apologize for being a nerd. Not here and not on the outside. Don’t ever apologize for being a nerd because the non-nerds never apologize for being dickheads.”

Being a nerd or a geek is about wholeheartedly embracing what you love and not having to apologize for it.

photo credit: whatmattdoes via photopin cc

Monday, July 07, 2014

Doctor Who: Fantastic Timey-Wimey Adventure

I don't have many interests. But what I do get interested in, I often get deeply into. My music tastes, for example, usually consist of Hello! Project, Jim Steinman songs, and soundtracks. I'm a Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver reader, although I occasionally read other authors. But it takes me a while to get into things. It's like my subconsconcious knows that, if it get interested in something, I'm really going to get into it, so it is picky. Because of this, I often enjoy shows and movies long after they are popular or have been around several years. I may have heard of them or been aware of them, but never really ventured into their territory.

That was the case with Doctor Who.

I first became aware of the show in my childhood, via the Intergalactic Trading Company catalogs. I used to scrounge through them, looking at the Star Trek merchandise I couldn't afford. They offered goods from all different SF shows in the early and mid 80s and I saw stuff from Doctor Who. It never caught my interest but I became aware of the name.

Fast forward to the present day. I'm a SF fan, my interests have broadened somewhat. I know enough about the Doctor to know he is a time traveling alien in a blue police call box. What? I'll pass, thank you. Give me the Enterprise any day. But after Star Trek had ended and I finished the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (I love that series) I wanted to try something different. I had heard the hoopla about Doctor Who returning to TV after a long hiatus. I knew that Stephen Moffat, the show runner and writer for another series I love, Sherlock, had worked on it. Plus, Christopher Eccelston, who I knew from the Nicolas Cage movie Gone In 60 Seconds and as Destro from G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, starred in the first series. I like him and decided to give the show a shot.

I'm so happy I did.

It took a while to get into it. Here was the Doctor and Rose traveling billions of years in the future, witnessing the end of the Earth as the sun expanded. All that time and these spaceships have pipes billowing out steam? Where were the transporters and faster-than-light travel and stuff? Why did some aliens look like walking trees? Those first few episodes were rough, and I had to get used to the rules of this TV show, how its universe operated. And after I did, and accepted that this was how things operated on this show, I really began to enjoy it. If you want to watch the show, stick with the first series. It gets better.

I knew Eccelston left after only one series (each season is called a series and only lasts around 13-14 episodes) and I was sad to see him go. But David Tennant blew me away. He is by and large my favorite Doctor. The Doctor is a Time Lord who can regenerate after the end of his current life cycle. This is an interesting aspect that was written into the show after the First Doctor, William Hartnell, left the show but the producers wanted to keep it running. Instead of simply recasting the main character (as in Bewitched) they wrote in a narrative explanation. This regeneration process allows a completely new actor to be in the role yet they are all the same character. The writers were brilliant again in that each regeneration caused a personality change as well. The Doctor is still the Doctor, but each version allows a different side of him to come out. This give the writers freedom to explore the character and let the actors give their own spin on it. Each Doctor, by a combination of the writing and acting, is unique, and each fan has their own favorite.

The new series, which began in 2005, is split (by fans) into the Russell T. Davies era and the Stephen Moffat era. Davies was responsible for bringing the show back on the air. His tenure was focused more on Earth and Earth-based stories and a positive outlook on humanity. While there were some so-so episodes, and not many overarching plots, there were many standout episodes (Blink and Midnight being two of my favorites). After series 3, Davies left as executive producer and Moffat took over. I’d say his tenure is characterized by more SF elements and storytelling and much more interrelated overarching plots and recurring characters. But I would have to criticize that there weren’t that many standout singular episodes that I can recall. Moffat and Davies are wonderful writers, both had vivid imaginations. I like Moffat a lot, and many of his episodes will scare you.

This show is hard to describe to non-fans, but the longer you watch it, the more awesome this show becomes. Whovians (the term for Doctor Who fans) are a dedicated lot and I’m proud to count myself among them. If you have ever thought of giving this show a try, start with series one and stick with it. You’ll get hooked.