Friday, September 9, 2011

I'm Just Not Geeky Enough

I am a geek. I've pretty much always been a geek, and I've never really been ashamed of that. I spend an inordinate amount of time with my Playstation. I own Optimus Prime and Blaster transformer toys. There is a barrel of monkeys on my desk at work, nestled amongst my four monitors. My kids have Star Trek, FFA, and Metallica onesies. I can name the pilots and colors of the five Voltron lions (I miss Sven). I have Jim Henson's autograph, and I'm staring at a statue of Kermit the Frog right now. I have a large collection of Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes memorabilia. I listen to gothic rock. I often say things like, "Why am I still talking while there's science to do."

Yes, I'm a geek... but this weekend, I learned that I'm just not geeky enough. What taught me this? Why... Dragon*Con, of course. (note the asterisk - some people seem to get a little snippy if you leave it out or replace it with a hypen. I'm not sure how you pronounce the asterisk, though...).

Dragon-asterisk-Con, for those not in the know, seems to be Atlanta's very own geek festival. People travel from all over the country (world?) to see the costumes, check out the exhibitors, and visit the panels. As a moderately geeky geek and someone who kind of enjoyed the San-Diego Comic Con that one time, I thought this might be pretty cool. After all, I found my Kermit the Frog statue at Comic Con. Sure, some of the costumers were... odd... and the overall smell was bit off-putting (they all stank like Kenny Chesney), but it was a good time overall. Given that, how bad could Dragon-star-Con be?

So last Friday some friends and I took a look at some of the scheduled events. We immediately noticed that at this event we can learn "how to be cast as a zombie in a B-movie" or "how to scientifically investigate Bigfoot sightings". A featured session taught attendees how Hershey bars are made and another discussed land use in early modern Germany. The list went on: "Zombie Prom", "Pimp my Zombie", "How to obtain your own personal machine gun", and certainly one of the most educational, "Assassination for Beginners." I promise you, I'm not making this up.

Onward through the program... "Sewing Basics"? "Fabric Swap"? "Fabric Dying Chemistry"? "How to Protect Yourself on Public Networks"? "Advice for Aspiring Erotic Writers"? "Why you should NOT use a virus-scanner"? "Ten Rules for Dealing with the Police"? "Are you a potential Samurai or Ninja?"? "Jet Engine Creation"???

Seriously, I thought I was a geek. I must have been wrong. Is this the stuff I'm supposed to be interested in? And here I was simply worried that too much of the convention would be dealing with strange Japanese cartoons featuring pink-haired schoolgirls....

Despite this less than appealing list of sessions, and the fact that most panels seemed to be run by fans instead of by actual writers, directors, or actors (for instance - instead of a panel with, say, the writers or talent from the Venture Brothers show, it was a panel with Venture Brothers fans talking with each other... seriously, I could just get that at home), my friends and I decided to go check it out anyway. On the subway ride there, we sat near Chell (from Portal) and Wolverine, apparently (who I didn't recognize, but I was assured that was him). Okay, so the costumes were pretty cool, and I'm a big fan of Portal, and these two actually didn't smell bad at all, so good start. But it was all downhill from there.

Emerging from the subway station near Dragon-six-pointed-star-Con we discovered hordes... throngs... a plethora (yes, El Guapo, I do know what that word means) of costumed, interesting looking people. Many of them didn't look like they needed to be costumed, especially not as what they chose to be costumed as. For instance, if you want to costume yourself as a fairy, that's all well and good. Fairies have a great tradition in fantasy, I guess, with most of us thinking first of TinkerBell from Disney's Peter Pan. Fairies are fun, whimsical, lithe, youthful creatures who flit about with great athleticism and enthusiasm. So with that in mind, I humbly suggest to the hordes of Dragon-Shift-8-Con that morbidly obese people, especially males and heavy smokers, do not really need to costume themselves as fairies. Especially not showing that much skin. Am I closed-minded?

Sadly from a male perspective, with few exceptions, the proportion of the amount of skin displayed to the amount of skin the average person would actually want to see was decidedly negative. I was constantly reminded of the truism I learned when Debby's doctor insisted on showing me a post-surgery photograph of her ovaries: many things, once seen, can never be unseen, no matter how much you might wish it otherwise.

Don't get me wrong, some costumes were amazing. I saw some great Captain Americas and Wonder Women, a swell Roxas & Axel combo, several stormtroopers, and a very odd set of individuals dressed up as, I think, Lego versions of superheroes. These people, in the good costumes, just kind of stood around taking pictures with everybody who constantly walked up and asked to take a picture with them. On the other side of the equation, I encountered the fattest stormtrooper I'd ever seen in my life, with his belly-button sticking out of the seams of his armor, waiting around expectantly for somebody to ask to take a picture with him. Nobody did.

My prize for the best costume went to the gentleman who wore a Darth Vader helmet, a black cape, tighty-whiteys... and nothing else.

At one point a strange man in a Batman cowl and a ZZ Top beard tried to hold my hand. Later I was hit in the head with a keyblade. A lady with red skin poked me with one of the horns emerging from her hairline. Somebody I've never met before entreated me to join him for an evening of watching pornographic Asian cartoons. A pickup truck drove by with Han Solo, encased in carbonite, balanced in the back end. Have I made it sufficiently clear that this was a peculiar morning?

Some of that may have sounded cool... and I have to admit it was... but I'm not sure the overall balance was positive for me.

After an hour of a half of walking from hotel to hotel, trying to find the registration desk so that we could enjoy(?) the panels and exhibits, I had noticed that although we never found the registration line, we found plenty of other lines. Lines to get into exhibit halls. Lines to get into display areas. Lines to get into celebrity signings (if you consider that guy who Darth Vader choked in the first Star Wars movie a celebrity). Lines to get into panels wherein science-fiction fans would discuss long lines for panels in a panel format (no joke). Very, very long lines. And then, finally, we did find the registration line... which emerged from the hotel, turned right, turned the corner at the block, ran down the block, snaked through a neighboring building, emerged from the neighboring building, went further down the block, snaked into a parking garage, emerged from the parking garage, went back down the block, and turned at least two more corners. We never did find the end of it. It was at least a three-hour line, perhaps more, all because the all-knowing coordinators of Dragon-Starburst-Con refused to allow internet registration to those of us who only wanted to check it out for one day.

So the three of us looked at each other, came to a quick agreement, went to get some hot wings, and went home.

I've come to the conclusion that there are levels of Geekdom. I'm probably midway up the range - I enjoy things like Star Wars, Muppets, Star Trek, and moderate video gaming, but I don't own costumes and don't frequent internet chat rooms or forums. Maybe I'm a Level 50 Geek, out of a possible Level 100. My wife might be a level 3 or 4 Geek, just because she likes Star Trek and she likes me. My friend Gene is a little higher than me on the geek scale, I'd guess, because he's designed board games, built game show electronics, and is (incidentally) much smarter than I am. I'm geeky enough to find that cool in a nonconformist way, but not geeky enough (or maybe smart enough) to do it myself. I need more Geek Experience Points (GEP) to get to his level (and incidentally, I just gained some for coining the term "Geek Experience Points"!).

I think you need to be at least Level 75 on the Geek-scale to enjoy Dragon-Whatever-Con. I don't think I'll be returning next year. Until then, I'll just continue shopping at my beloved online store for Geeks from Level 30-60, ThinkGeek.

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