A Thank You and a Eulogy

Two big ripples happened in the pond of my geekdom this weekend. The first will get it's own blog in the near future, a monumental evening of Back to the Future nostalgia. (We met Christopher Lloyd!) For that I need to thank my good friend Jen.

Item #1 - The Thank You

A little backstory...Jen and I briefly lived together. Sorta. We shared a house, she lived in the upstairs apartment, I lived in the downstairs apartment. The first time I ever really hung out with her, she threw an awesome Oscar party and invited me. Strawberry cupcakes, which were so great that I now make them for Jake for special occasions. Later, when we lived in separate locations, we started to bond the way geeks do. Via the internet over shared pop culture and artistic interests.

Jen is thoughtful. She sent me a Spock bobblehead last summer because she knew I would love it, she sent me an amazing headshot of Angela Lansbury last year in an art deco frame that still sits on my office bookshelf today. (Somehow, she intuitively knew that I loved the Lansbury, despite the fact that we had never talked about it before.) She introduced me to the Boss and countless other amazing musical selections (White Stripes songs that weren't on the radio.) via handcrafted mix tapes with hand drawn covers. Hand drawn covers! She sends me email links to cool stuff like art exhibits I might like and most recently, a link to information about a showing of Back to the Future near Chicago.

Well, I went to that showing yesterday and it was epic. But again...trying to stifle that glee for now because it's worthy of it's own entry...and I'm still processing the sheer amount of awesome that was yesterday. But much like Marty McFly, I find myself looking back across time. What if I had never met Jen? I wouldn't have done, seen, heard about, or enjoyed a lot of the things that are now very significant parts of my life. So to that I say, in the most Golden Girls way that I can, thank you for being a friend. I owe you big time for one of the coolest days of my life.

Item #2

One of the artifacts of the beginning of my professional life as a career has ceased publication. Geek Monthly is no more. Fusion Publishing went bankrupt along with many other publishing houses during the recent financial crisis.

The editor there published me when I had only done a few other things in print for local magazines. In the world of freelance, it's all about momentum. When I first pitched to Geek Monthly, I had none. After I was published there, just once even, all of the sudden I could say that I had written for Geek Monthly.

I took that confidence, that tiny little line on a resume, and I was able to pitch to other magazines with it, start writing columns in other locations, decided to go to grad school, and even began to branch out into voiceover and production.

In short, I was doing the things I had always been doing, only now I had a modicum of success. Sometimes it just takes one person to give you a break, and from there everything starts to change. I know it sounds really dramatic, but that's a moment in time that I can look back on, point to and realize that's when I became serious about actually making a career out of my obsessions and aspirations.

Geek Monthly was the bridge to my professional life. Not like I'm sitting in my high rise being fed grapes and signing checks for movie scripts, I'm a working shmo just like every other writer in the world. But now I have momentum, confidence, a trajectory, and projects...which is a long way from the frustrated writer knowing I had something to say but nowhere to say it. I have to thank Geek Monthly and the editors there for allowing me to work with them. It really boosted my confidence to get a green light from my peers, the people whose opinions seem to matter to me most outside of my family and friends...my fellow geeks.

The greatest thing about Geek Monthly was that it was all-encompassing of geek culture. Not just movies, not just music, not just one genre, all of our interests were combined there on its slick and colorful pages. It was the Captain Planet of the niche magazine market. I don't say that just as a writer who worked for them occasionally, I say that as a reader who will really miss seeing it on the stands.

So thank you Jen and R.I.P. Geek Monthly.


How Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade Can Make You Cry

I'll be starting a new monthly column soon for Orlando Attractions talking about the rides from my childhood that I miss. Some I wish would be re-built, others I simply wish I could find a YouTube video of, and others still I don't feel the need to ride again but think fondly of them often. Jake and I will also resume filming of Park Geeks soon, our webisode series about two geeks giving others helpful tips from their years of experience attending them. (We were even engaged in a theme park.) First up for filming will be the cleanest park in America. Got any guesses?

Anyway, recently I was sent a weird Myspace message that got me thinking. (Is there any other kind?) It was from someone on my friends list that I almost never communicate with, a virtual acquaintance, if you will. It simply said, "Get over it honey, Disney is S*#$!"

I sent her a reply asking her if this was in response to something and even offered the possibility that it was I in error, after all, what if I had posted some kind of status update I didn't remember and this was a reply in jest. I try not to jump the gun. But she replied telling me that I seemed too Disney-focused and that it didn't seem healthy to her and that it was just, and I quote, "some friendly advice". I know. The internet, right?

But I'm never too lofty to really examine something like that when it's thrown out there. Am I too Disney focused? Jake and I have taken a Disney vacation every year since we've been married. (Granted, two of those trips were for work. Once for a magazine I wrote for and again for Park Geeks. But still...) We don't own any Disney cartoons, (They are quite costly.) but I probably spent the better half of my childhood watching them, and I'm not ashamed to say that I love them. I could go on and on, Disney is a source of inspiration to me because of people like Don Hahn and those that use their creative talents behind the scenes for a living there.

But there's something else...something else underneath not only my Disney nostalgia, but my theme park nostalgia in general, and I began to chip away at it last night. Jake and I laid in bed talking, in that way that we do when we know it's Sunday night and we don't really want the week to start. So we put it off by talking about nothing in general for at least an hour. Suddenly, it came to my mind that I had forgotten to tell him something that would be HUGE news for both of us.

Disney World is bringing back the Main Street Electrical Parade. Something that hasn't appeared there on a regular basis since my childhood. That parade represents one of the most vivid visual memories from my youth. Sitting on my Dad's shoulders while my Mom took photographs on the parade line at WDW's Magic Kingdom during one of our most memorable family vacations. To my child's eyes, it really was magical. All those lights in the shapes of so many whimsical objects and it just went on and on and on. It was that time in childhood when I didn't know how anything worked, so it just had to be magic. THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound of my childhood. Those who know me won't be surprised.

(That footage is from a revamp of the parade at Disneyland in 2006.) Jake has heard me sing that song again and again and was never able to see it for himself. Now he'll finally be able to see it.

When I hear that music, I'm on my Dad's shoulders again and life is just beginning. For all of us.

I don't remember much about that day at the park. Just flashes here and there. I remember walking through the parking lot at the beginning of the day hand in hand with my sisters, standing at the Tikis in Adventureland with my Dad, sitting on my Mom's lap during the Enchanted Tiki Room show, and then that moment from the parade.

So you see, when I get misty eyed hearing something as goofy sounding (no pun intended) as the theme from the Electrical Parade, I'm not crying because the song is so moving. I'm thinking about my family. How my Dad probably can't go there with us again to relive that because of his hip problems, how my parents are divorced, how one of my sisters has passed away. There are happy tears too, for how lucky I was to have such a great childhood and how lucky I am still to have such great relationships with my parents and sisters. In this way, nostalgia is a very tricky thing, very tricky indeed with it's unpredictable mixture of happy and sad.

By the way, the meaning of the word "nostalgia"? The short version is that in Greek root word, NOSTOS = Coming Home and ALGOS = Pain or Ache. Seriously. What does that say about us geeks and our near surgical attachments to movies and pop culture?

Maybe that they equal a very real yearning for home, either one that existed for us or one that we wish could've been. Maybe that's not the case for all geeks, but it certainly is for me. When I watch Star Trek and Star Wars, it's my own little way of walking back into my living room in the 1980's, hideous brown shag carpet and all. It's true, I love what I love simply because I enjoy it. I'm a Trekkie for obvious reasons. I love Trek. But it is true that in my case, it will also be a lifelong connection to home. The same way that I'm trying to fold time together when Jake and I spend time in places that were so pivotal in my childhood. He can't see that time in my life, but he can at least be where it took place.

I could dredge up a million theme park memories having to do with my family. The summers at Kings Island with Smurf Ice Cream, the antelopes chewing on my mom's straw hat at Busch Gardens, my numerous trips to WDW with cousins, aunts, and mom and grandma, and even all our trips to so many zoos and museums. (This may call for a litany.)

-Getting stuck on Spaceship Earth with my Grandma.

-Singing Biz Markie songs with my sisters after the rain at Kings Island.

-Taking pictures in the movie museum there with my best friend, sister Heather, a friend who has since passed away, and eventually Jake literally seconds before he asked me to marry him. (In front of a model of the Starship Enterprise, no less.)

-Riding Tomb Raider with my Mom during our only trip alone together, when we were both feeling down and out about love.

-The long shady walk to the Top Gun ride as the sun set the day after my high school prom. That sickly sweet feeling in my stomach the entire time that life was about to change forever as my friends and I, my first love and I, prepared to part ways with goodbyes in the coming months both planned and unplanned. How's that for a run-on packed with feeling?

-Of course, there are all the subsequent adventures filming Park Geeks, where Jake and I are able to enjoy a really fulfilling friendship with one of our best friends, Josh, who at one time we probably thought we would never be able to hang out with again. (Long story.) See? Theme Parks equal redemption too...

-Jake's first time at any Disney park in 2007, his pure joy and elation over the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as a life-long Rod Serling fan. And there's a moment all about connecting with inspirations and motivations for us creative types.

-Riding the now defunct, "If You Had Wings" ride over and over with cousins Eamonn and Dara. It was dedicated the magic of air travel, no, seriously...

To me, theme parks are a place to spend time with the people you love. Undistracted time for the pure purpose of enjoying each others company and letting go of life's worries and stresses. To me, it's the way that life should be. But we're all so busy and tired, that it rarely happens. So we have to get away to make it happen. And that's how we roll in mi famiglia.

I could go on, but I won't. The point is that when people like me latch onto something as a hobby, or in my case, a career, don't be so quick to brush them off as weirdos. (There are plenty of other reasons to put me in that category.) Know that there's something underneath our geeky devotion, something we want to share with others, some joy or feeling we want to help them recreate, and it likely goes deeper than what may appear on the surface.

For me, it's family. It's about my childhood, and the magic of that time. It's about my family now and how I enjoy looking back at the fun times we've spent together, and now it's about building my family with Jake, however that ends up looking down the road.

And of course, it's about a career. I love travel and tourism, I love journalism, and I like the fact that for me now, sometimes a day at work means a day at a theme park. I've discovered a way to get myself back to my happy place on a regular basis for a practical reason. Before you roll your eyes, ask yourself, what's your happy place and how can you get back there too with the ones you love? People may think you're strange, but you will find that it's worth it for the price of personal fulfillment and that warm squishy feeling of knowing you are working toward a goal related to something you really care about.

And because I know you're just dying to see a ride created in the 1980's and dedicated to air travel, here is a video of, "If You Had Wings". Enjoy.


A Valentine from Pee Wee Herman

I found this sitting in my inbox today...ah, the glory of the mailing list.

I do declare, I am also on the mailing lists of SyFy, Disney, and StarWars.com

How about you, did you get any email love from any of your favorite people/organizations this year?

This is probably, hands down, my favorite movie of all time. It reached that status the summer that my college roomies and I lost cable in our rental house due to a fallen tree and subsequent landlord cable scam discovery. ("It's a splicer!")

At any rate, this movie, Tomb Raider, the first Mummy movie, A League of Their Own, and lots of the Muppet flicks were sort of played on loop in my bedroom after that. Naturally, one of my roomates (and best friends) Lauren and I memorized this fight and quoted it all the time during our long summer of waitressing at the very glamorous Olive Garden. So to me, not only does the movie represent the sheer awesomeness of Tim Burton and Paul Reubens, it also represents one of the best summers of my life and the great friendships that sprung from it.

Lauren is coming over for coffee tomorrow morning and I just may have to pull this clip up for her and bring a little love. Remember Valentine's Day is about the love you have for everyone in your life! Don't forget your friends and family.


Happy Valentine's Day, the Magnum P.I. Way

Jake and I have always shared an affinity for the adventure genre...after all, we were the children of the Jurassic Park generation. We've spent a lot of time together during our marriage working on a spec script based on the Disney attraction, "The Tiki Room", not because we ever expect to sell it in a million bajillion years, but because writing together is fun and we had an idea for it.

We love LOST, the Jungle Cruise, travel writing, the nostalgia and sheen of all 80's adventures like, Romancing the Stone, and of course...one of the greatest television shows of all time, Magnum P.I. So I couldn't resist when it came to choosing this year's valentine. I knew what the best gift would be.

Need I say more? I wish you a very happy Valentine's Day, celebrate it your way!

Also, since the day is all about love, consider making a donation to the charity of your choice. Perhaps a local animal rescue, maybe a homeless pet would like to be your valentine! Also, Haiti still needs our help. I recommend giving through helphaitiheal.org, an organization I used to work for, and I can vouch for them that they are on the ground in Haiti as we speak and working hard to provide for people's needs... www.helphaitiheal.org or you could even purchase the new, "We Are the World" on Itunes. Be creative and spread the love this weekend!

Here's a romantic little ditty for you today.


Asian Conan and How to Survive the Conan Drought

Martial Arts artist and stand-up guy Steven Ho, who made three appearances setting up stunts for Conan on the Tonight Show, (and surely would've made many more if it weren't for that blasted cancellation) has a special surprise for you. Yes, you!

It's Asian Conan, coming exclusively to FunnyorDie.com. You think it's too good to be true, don't you? Well my disappointed but never jaded Conan buddies, you are wrong! Things are looking up, and Asian Conan is just one way we can keep vigil during this sinister comedy blackout.

During this, the winter of our discontent, our time without any new Conan O'Brien content, (and thanks to NBC pulling all the Coco-related Tonight Show material from their website, no old content either) here you will find several Late Night and Tonight Show staffers sticking together to keep the laughs coming in the contractual absence of our fearless leader.

If you're still feeling down, there's always the I'm With Coco Facebook page, where lots of fans are sharing their favorite sketches and show moments via YouTube. If you haven't joined the cause, please fan the page. There are almost one million members, surely we can band together and keep the numbers climbing.

You can also buy "I'm With Coco" merchandise now, with at least some of the profits (if not all, I'll have to check on that...) going to charity. It's a win/win. I know this whole ordeal may seem silly to some, but as I've explained on my blog before before, there's more going on here than meets the eye.

And of course, being that it's the future, Asian Conan has a Facebook page himself. I'd friend him and stick to the code...or you might be sorry.

Do what you can to get through these lean months, my husband and I have found that watching the 10th Anniversary Special helps quite a bit. We've all got to find a way to get through...what's yours?


Which type of Geek are you? - A Geek Manifesto

There are lots of ways to classify a geek. The most popular would be the specialty geek, if I had to pick one, it would probably just be "movie geek". But I don't want to pick one, life is a veritable buffet for the easily inspired. I consider myself an adventure geek (the genre), a musical geek, an old horror movie geek, a Disney geek, a tattoo geek, a memoir geek, a Golden Girls geek, a sci-fi geek...honestly, the list could go on and on, so I'll spare you.

But there are other ways to classify a geek too, some ways that cross over into diagnosing disorders...there's the geek who won't socialize. The angry geek (think Nick Burns, your company's computer guy), the one who is tired of being picked on for their special interests and so they have to lord their expert knowledge over others to feel superior.

There's the weird geek, the one who has isolated themselves from friends, or even potential friends, usually because they've been burned by teasing their entire lives. (They lack social skills, tend to stare at others a lot, expect the worst and just generally make others uncomfortable...and a digital wristwatch is usually involved.)

There's the reality-immune geek. The best example would be the people who see Avatar a million times (okay, maybe that's hyperbole...but you get the idea) and wind up depressed because Pandora isn't a real place where they can go and live.

There's the insecure geek, the one who thinks that every idea they have is stupid and everything they like is dumb, and they're idiots so why don't they just go jump off a cliff. They have believed a lie, a lie someone told them about themselves when they were little, or a joke made at their expense at the office one too many times. They are alone and everyone else in the world is happy and successful because they are cool. It's not true, but they believe that it is, so they will feel sorry for themselves and ashamed of who they are until someone or something gives them a swift theoretical kick to the head. (Like this guy, who learned not to be ashamed of his SKA roots...)

I think at different times in my life, I've been a combination of all of the above. I wear a digital wristwatch (but so does Tomb Raider), I was QUEEN weirdo in Jr. High School until some merciful girls kind of adopted me into their social circle and re-trained me how to talk with humans.

Later, in High School when Titanic hit...I spent way too many hours gazing at pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio and wishing I could marry him. Or rather, his character from the film. So embarrassing...

Just last Halloween, when I returned to my hometown dressed as Princess Leia to go trick-or-treating with my best friend and her family, I found myself snapping at an old acquaintance for no reason at all. We were childhood friends, and she used to tease me. A lot. (I was oversensitive, which added to the whole incendiary mix.) She was taking her kids trick-or-treating too, and all she said to me was, "Hi." with a pleasant smile, and I immediately fired back, "Yep, it's me, still a geek!" like I had a mild case of embarrassment-related Tourette's Syndrome. She tried to recover, "No...I mean..." and then I smiled and pretended I was kidding.

But for a brief moment, I was ten again. With a bad haircut and crooked teeth and high water pants and feet too big for my body wearing a Thundercats shirt.

I bring all this up, because lately, I find myself under some of the same world pressures that I felt when I was a kid and I've been trying to compensate. To justify. To prove that I'm cool, even with the very tools of my un-coolness. I'm way off track.

I fear that I'm losing my inner fangirl and assimilating a little too much. A road trip to Comic-Con this summer might cure that, but until then, what to do, what to do?

I'm in graduate school right now, which means I'm perpetually exhausted. Everyone is. There are classes, and there is work to do outside of classes, and presentations to plan for and give, and events to attend and participate in somehow if you can't attend, and opportunities to seek and grab, and the list just goes on and on and on. Not to misrepresent myself, I'm immensely grateful for the opportunities and the challenge, I can feel myself growing leaps and bounds almost daily under all the pressure. So it's been good.

But in order to retain one's geekdom amongst said pressures...one has to know, in some ways, when to stop listening. I take a lot of classes that tell me what is and isn't worth my time. What is real art, literature with a capital L, and what is wasteful and beneath me. And I disagree with almost all of it, and I then become caught up in my defiance. Which can be a real waste of time. Life is full of people who disagree with you, and you just have to know who you are and move forward, freed from the need to change their opinions.

I came to graduate school for one purpose, because I needed to have a structured environment where someone would FORCE me to finish a book. I know I have many books inside my brain, just bouncing around in there like early nineties screensavers. Movie scripts too. But I have to learn how to extract them. Because God bless my hopeless little heart...I'm a writer, and I'd like to be one for a living. I've spent the past three years as a freelance writer, and I've loved every minute, but someday, I'd like to be able to afford fancy things, like a car or a house or a bag of Cheetos. So whether I like it or not, I have to try to climb up the ladder a little bit.

But as geeks, we CANNOT lose our GEEKDOM on the way up. It is our identity, and when we lose that and try to morph into something else, something more acceptable to those around us, we risk becoming major jerks, bitter at everyone around us. Not that what you like is who you are, (who you are is your soul, not your preferences) but if you lose your true north, your connection to childhood and fun and inspiration, your dreams for your future, your God-given personality...you pretty much have nothing left.

If you focus on the opinions of others, you take the risk that you might start living for other people, what other people say you should do, who you should be. And that's impossible, because there are billions of people on this planet, and A. Most of them don't know you exist, and B. The ones who do have their own junk they're carrying around and their own motives and they all probably have a different idea about who you should be or what you should do.

So now I have to be the vigilant geek, the one that realizes there's a real world to live in. Participating in that is good, nay, great even. You can't hide in your office with your Indiana Jones toys and your Star Wars posters forever. (Not that I would know anything about that.) Well, you could, but life wouldn't be very fun or fulfilling.

But you also can't go the opposite route and believe everyone who tells you that you are too old for such things or that what you want to do isn't valid. You...oh, who am I kidding? I have to find a place of comfortable and polite defiance. A style and a voice all my own in a world that will offer up constant opposition, because that is the nature of the world after all.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I have a bit of a cold, and I'd like to get back to being a healthy geek. So I'm going to go have some chicken soup and watch some episodes of Magnum P.I., and I'm not gonna take any guff about it.

So ask yourself...what kind of a geek are you? You may be surprised to find the answer if you can tell yourself the truth...feel like rejoining the world today?


My Top 12 Geek Crossovers

Because sometimes there's just too much geek to be contained by one franchise and universes simply must collide to create epic (or at the very least, nifty) crossovers. Today I present to you a very six degrees of Kevin Bacon Top 12 list, sans the Kevin Bacon.

Here are just a few of my favorites, tailored to my distinct geek tastes. This list is by no means complete. Feel free to share some of your all time favorite geek crossover moments in the comments...

1. Sherlock Holmes meets Star Trek: The Next Generation

The cast of Next Gen met fairly often with the universe of the literary world’s greatest sleuth via the Holodeck. It was always entertaining. In fact, Moriarty became something of an arch nemesis for Captain Picard and the character of Sherlock became a way for Data to study humanity in a relatable way...through the delicate and unfailing art of logic.