Friday, April 18, 2014

For C2E2 Attendees: Geeky Things to do in Chicago

If you're a Chicago Nerd, it's the most wonderful time of the year. That's right, C2E2, Chicago's most awesome comic and nerdery convention, is next weekend. The whole nerdiverse is going to converge on Chicago next weekend in an extravaganza of cosplay, comic sales, panels, artist meetups, and pop-culture referencing t-shirts (so very many t-shirts).

Now, if you're an out-of-towner flying into Chicago, you may say to yourself "Myself," you might say "Sure C2E2 is THE SHOW, but Chicago, that's a real geeky city! I need to get outside and see some of the geekiest things Chicago has to offer! But I am from not-Chicago and know nothing of Chicago's native nerds."

Fear not, oh gentle out-of-towner, for I have lived in Chicago since aught three, and have frequented many of Chicago's nerdiest establishments and institutions. Here for your reading pleasure are some geeky things to do in Chicago whilst you're in town for C2E2.

1. Improvised Star Trek.

Yeah, okay, the first thing on here is a shameless plug. I am a cast-member of Improvised Star Trek. But we have a show next weekend! Friday night at midnight! At iO Chicago! Tickets are only $5 AND if you present your C2E2 pass at the box-office, you can get 2-for-1 tickets! IST is a live-comedy show, AND a podcast. We've been performing for four years, and podcasting for three. The show and the podcast have gotten great reviews, and if you want a laugh after a long-day of walking the floor at C2E2, this is right up your alley.

2. The Museum of Science and Industry.

Chicago is just lousy with great museums. The Art Institute, the Field Museum, the list goes on. But the nerdiest museum in Chicago is MSI. Want to see a real German U-Boat? An Enigma Machine? Airplanes? Trains? AUTOMOBILES? SCIENCE!?!?! This is the place for you. Come for the science, stay for the giant frakking U-boat. Second nerdiest museum-type-place to go: The Adler Planetarium.

3. Dinner at Moto.

While not as famous as Alinea, Moto is kind of ground zero for molecular gastronomy (or, nerd food) in Chicago. Want to see someone blast your dinner with science? Imagine if Carl Sagan and Walt Disney had opened a restaurant together: you'd get Moto. And no, it's not just flavored foams.

4. Headquarters, Emporium, Logan Arcade.

Craft beer and arcade games: what's not to love? Chicago has three bar-arcades (or barcades, or beercades) and they're all awesome. I think Headquarters is my favorite, but that might just be because it's the closest to my house.

5. Plan 9 Burlesque.

If you're looking for something a little racier, Sunday April 27th, Plan 9 Burlesque, a geek-themed burlesque company, is putting on a cabaret they're calling "Nerdgasm." One of Chicago's finest burlesque troupes, AND they do geeky shows? Get there, out-of-towners, just get there.

6. The Lincoln Park Zoo.

Did you know Chicago has a Zoo? Did you know that zoo is FREE? Yeah, after you've spent all your latinum at C2E2, give your wallet a rest, and go get your learn on with the animals of the Lincoln Park Zoo. 

7. The University of Chicago Campus.

Chicago is home to some of America's geekiest institutions for higher learning, and possibly the geekiest one is the University of Chicago. UChicago made many important contributions to the Manhattan Project, and a certain current US President used to teach there. Plus, it's just a fairly cool campus. Take a little time and wander around.

Well, there you go. 7 awesome geeky things to do if you get some time away from the Convention Center. Have a great time next weekend, everybody!

Friday, April 11, 2014

There Are No Fake Geeks

1. Avatar
2. Titanic
3. the Avengers
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
5. Iron Man 3
6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
7. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
8. Skyfall
9. Frozen
10. The Dark Knight Rises

This is a list of the ten highest-grossing films of all time. Take a look at it for a second. Really look at it. Okay, so here are a few things you may have noticed. First: 9 out of the 10 films are genre films (Yes, I consider James Bond to be a genre character). 3 of the 10 films are superhero movies. 3 of the 10 films are fantasy movies. 1 film is about giant robots who turn into cars and jet planes.

What am I getting at here? Well, if you're a nerd like me, we live in strange times.

We live in an age when 9 out of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time are nerd films. We live in an age where Captain America and Thor are sex symbols. We live in an age where the phrase "geek chic" is a thing that people say un-ironically. San Diego Comic Con is now one of the largest media events in the world. The President of the United States collects Conan the Barbarian comics.

I think the reaction of most geeks is "AWESOME!" Which is an appropriate reaction to have. It IS awesome that "Captain America: the Winter Soldier" is the highest grossing film in America. It IS awesome that Harry Potter has become an intrinsic part of the process of growing up for millions of kids. It IS awesome that Neil DeGrasse Tyson is wicked famous. These are strange times for nerds, but they are also great times. We are living in the beginning of what promises to be a geek renaissance.

So why are some nerds so unhappy?

Well, okay, imagine you spend your whole life reading Captain America comics, and you're in the seventh grade, and some big doofus sees what you're doing and announces loudly to everyone within earshot that you're a "nerd" for liking that "kid stuff" and then proceeds to kick you in the shins. The rest of the kids around you, while not participating in the malicious verbal and physical attack, stand around, shrug their shoulders and walk away, not wanting to be associated with the nerd.

Now let's say it's twenty years later and all of a sudden those SAME people go on Facebook and RAVE about how great the Captain America movie was and how they're watching Game of Thrones and it's so good and oh my god I am SUCH a nerd.

Let me tell you how that feels: fucking weird.

So, the reaction of many nerds, nerds who spent years coming to terms with their identity, nerds who hid the things they liked until after many years they just said "fuck it" and embraced a slur as a badge of pride, a shield against the slings and arrows of those around them, has been harsh. The term "Fake Geek" has been coined to delineate the "Real Geeks" from the supposedly fake. Long time nerds have dubbed themselves keepers and protectors of our culture, shielding us from people who like Twilight, or True Blood, or Harry Potter but just the movies, or Star Trek but just the new movies, or Game of Thrones but just the TV show with that new slur "fake geek."

I get it, I do.

But look nerds, it needs to stop.

I'm going to tell you something right now and this is important.

There is no such thing as a fake geek.

Even if there was such a thing as a fake geek, YOU don't get to decide who's a real geek and who's a fake geek. Do you know what you are when you go online, and tell some fifteen year old girl who just bought the first issue of "Lumberjanes" and tweeted that she's geeking out about it a "fake geek girl?"

Do you know what someone who mocks people for not watching the old Dr. Who when they claim to love the Doctor is?

Do you know what you are when you grill a cosplayer about how many comics featuring the character they're dressed as they've read?

A bully. That makes you a bully. In some cases, it makes you a sexist bully since women seem to be the targets of the "fake geek" pejorative more than men.

Being a nerd means you accept people for their differences. Many of our geeky origin stories include exclusion from other groups. For this reason, I refuse to let the worldwide tribe of nerds exclude anyone.

Here's who gets to be a geek: Anyone who wants to be. Here's who gets to decide if someone else is or isn't a true geek: no one.

This nerd thing is going pretty well right now. We're building something different and great. And the best part is, anyone who wants is welcome along for the ride.