Category: A Geeksters Paradise

In Which I Concoct a New Way To Pay My Rent.

So for those who don’t know from Twitter or Facebook, towards the end of November I was laid off from my position of Director of Product Management at GAEMS.  We’d just shipped the Halo UNSC Vanguard and the follow up to the G155, the Sentry.  The company pivoted to pure sales since they had two new products and my position was defunded. I certainly wish them the best, that’s the way it goes when you take a chance working with a startup. I’m proud of the products I helped make and learned an *incredible* amount about designing, sourcing, manufacturing, and shipping a consumer electronics device from China. (If you just want a tiny taste of what I now know how to do, read this. If you’d like to see my resume, click here.)

So now I have that video game industry notch in my belt: “Shipped a product, got let go.” Achievement unlocked!

A number of interesting opportunities lay on the horizon, but I decided to take the time to do something creative last month.  Over the past few years I’ve been performing standup style geek comedy at a number of different events and venues, so I thought I would write and record a comedy album!  Here it is, you can buy it RIGHT NOW.

This photo was shot at Molly Lewis' Graduation Concert at The Triple Door in Seattle, June 24th 2012.

This was an enormous amount of fun to do and I am really proud of it.  If you’ve seen me perform a small amount of this will be familiar to you but much of it is new and expanded material.  I keep it fairly clean for the most part, so I wouldn’t call the comedy “Explicit” in any sense, but some of it is definitely mature.  It will soon be available on iTunes and Amazon Mp3, but if you buy the bandcamp edition you get a bonus track, and I get a greater percentage of the sales.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are one of my Kickstarter backers check your email, this album is free for you.

So please support getting excited and creating things on the Internet!  (so that I can make Wells Fargo happy this month)

This Happened Once Before.

Today I opened up my mail to find an automated red light camera had apparently accused me of making a right turn on a clear red light (and a Do Not Walk on the pedestrian sign) without making a full and complete stop. Shortly thereafter I made two ill advised tweets on the Twitter tubes that would profoundly affect my future.

You never know when these things will come and bite you in the ass.  For those of us in the, shall we say older Internet generation, we don’t worry too much.  I’m 38.  I know not to say something on the Internet that will get me in serious trouble in my life.  We often act with grave concern at the careless actions of the young today, posting their goat rodeo parties online for future employers to see. But how was I to know the repercussions of a careless Twitter post decades in the future?

Tonight I made the following two regrettable tweets, read from the bottom up:


The reference was to what many of us have always assumed would be John Hodgman’s eventual takeover of the planet Earth. I had just typed the upper tweet with the self satisfaction that only a writer who thinks they have written something funny and harmless and clever can feel when the first time traveler assassins kicked in the kitchen back door.

Remington, our youngest Golden Retriever, reacted in typical household dog protector style.  He jumped the first attacker and began licking him on the face to say hello.  Unaccustomed to actual affection, and the splendid lifestyle that early second decade humans were used to living, the first assassin was momentarily bewitched, while the second one screamed at him “Remember your training, they said this would happen!”  The first killer struggled with his Apple iDe-knowledge gun, which Remington had decided was a chew toy, while the second looked on in shock that we had working furniture and an actual roof.

Coolly, I reached for the cold unopened can of Dr. Pepper I was just about to enjoy.  The first assassin broke himself free of Remington’s playful grip and stood just as I wound up my arm to throw.  He looked at me in shock seconds before his demise.

“Real Dr. Pepper?  Not SynthaPepper?” he said just before the can hit his shooting arm and his weapon discharged right in his face.  The second assassin looked on in fear, surrounded by an alien pre-hodgman world of affluent suburbia that he could not comprehend. “Everything I have been told is a lie,” he mumbled.

Remington whined threateningly with love as he approached the interloper from the side. The killer paled.

“Please,” the assassin said, “Please, we had no choice.”

Remington smiled and panted, excited that this new stranger was about to play some ball. The opportunity was obvious as I reached for my next weapon.

“CHOOSE THIS” I yelled as I threw the jar of Jiff peanut butter at the hapless thug, again striking his firing arm and his weapon discharged in his face.  Before his body hit the floor the next two assassins arrived.

These were different.  Smarter, and dressed in the robes of the high order of the Hodgmans. But upon emerging from the time portal both were distracted by Rochelle’s voice, asking me “Did you just throw my peanut butter at that guy?”

She was answered only by the new assassins training both their weapons on her as one said “A useless life is an early death.”

Rochelle hates a lot of things, but none more than ridiculously stupid quotes from the works of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. Before I could even blink, another time portal flashed and two men appeared without weapons, while Rochelle was standing over the broken bodies of the other two assassins.  “I’m sorry,” she said looking down at her handiwork, “was I too Goethe for you?”

“Hi there, please no worries.  We’re just here to clean up the mess and apologize” the first of the two said.  Remington ran forward to say hello but both men shrieked in fear and backed away. “Remington!” I shouted, “Be bad!”

He stopped immediately and growled.  The two men relaxed. 

“John Hodgman sends his regards and apologies for the misunderstanding.” The men said in unison, “This has become quite an embarrassment in the future, you see you end up freezing the bodies and using them as evidence later.  It very much undermines the great overlord’s plans for total domination. We’re here to ensure no more teams are sent to kill you, and we need to take these…um…pieces of evidence back.”

In a flash they were gone, the only record of their being here was a can of Dr. Pepper and a jar of Jiff peanut butter both lying on the floor.

“You were twittering clever nerd jokes about the future again weren’t you?” Rochelle said.

I won’t even get into the next two hours of time travelers from the Xboxitarian 2024 election committee.

A Geek/Movie Exercise.

Thanks to a big fat check from Uncle Sam, which actually came in the form of electronic bits blinking into being and increasing the number of zeros behind the first digit of my checking account, I got a new TV. Hooray for e-filing and wire transfers.

When we moved up here we had a nice 50 inch Sony rear projection monitor I got in 2000, but sadly it did not have component input. So in 2004 we got a Toshiba 52" DLP. It was one of the color wheel ones and unfortunately I could see the rainbow effect. In addition it only did 720p. But it was much nicer than the Sony so I’d basically adjusted to it over the past 5 years. The problem however with DLP’s is that unless they are a new LED one, you have to replace the Bulb to the tune of $250. So getting a new TV for the Rock Band room seemed like a nice way to celebrate paying off a lot of our debt recently.

So we got the Samsung LN52A650, and since it boasted 1080p, advanced image processing and 120hz anti-judder I did what I do any time I get a new TV for that room and used it as an excuse to re-watch a bunch of my favorite movies. So I fired up the PS3 so I could mix Blu-ray and upscaled DVD’s and bathed in the film stuff.

Aside from the fact the TV’s picture is ASTOUNDING sauce drizzled over a powdered FANTASTIC deep fried AWESOME cake, I sort of found myself noodling over the movies I was sampling. Mostly I was thinking about what made them appeal to me but then I got into the fun mental exercise of perusing my collection and trying to come up with movies I thought expressed geekdom pretty well. And by that I don’t mean Star Wars or Star Trek or The Matrix. I was more thinking of if I was trying to explain to someone what the essence of being a geek is all about, what movies would I pick to do so. As culled through some films I thought it might be fun to write about it so here we are. I should also note that I’m writing this while putting off other posts I’m in the middle of but figure at this point posting "The 10 best Xmas movies" would tag me as obnoxiously early.

#1: The Abyss Extended Edition

A lot of people have never seen this edition of the film. The cut that hit the theaters was severely butchered by the studio and the ending made no sense whatsoever. But if you’re trying to hit the high points of geekdom, this has everything you need. A varied cast of interesting people. Aliens. An exotic location. This movie also has an extremely strong female lead in the character of Lindsey, who undergoes a sequence in the film that to this day there’s just no way I would have the courage to go through. She’s by far my favorite person in the story because not only is she smart, capable, she ends up being the only person who is essentially right the whole time. But the film I think embodies that part of every geek’s wish to be in an exotic fantastic location, and interact with an alien intelligence. It’s got cool military stuff in it, geek ingenuity, and a set of out-of-the ordinary characters. The extended cut adds a lot of interaction between Lindsey and Bud, who are two of my favorite characters in all of sci fi. It also adds quite a bit to the ending to provide an explanation.

#2: Jurassic Park

Forget the wining of the kids, and the saturation of Spielberg’s trademark "Slack-jawed look of wonder (TM)", this film has dinosaurs. Cool ones. But more importantly there’s a moment in this film that I think every geek has inside them, even if it’s not specifically about dinosaurs. It’s the moment when Dr. Grant sees the confirmation of what was before just a theory: groups of dinosaurs moving in herds. Even more so than seeing the Apatosaurus just a second before, this moment is important. It represents the confirmation of a scientific theory or a belief held dear. For many geeks that could be proof of extraterrestrial life or what killed the dinosaurs or how life began on Earth. But that moment when he says "They’re moving in herds. They do move in herds." with tears in his eyes, is something that every geek I think reacts too in some way. Plus the movie has dinosaurs did I mention that? Seriously. Dinosaurs. I can put up with a lot of pap dialogue for cool Dinosaurs.

#3: The Last Temptation of Christ

CURVE BALL. Most geeks I know aren’t overtly religious. That doesn’t mean they are all atheists by any means, but they tend to have a more pragmatic take. It’s one of the reasons I love this movie, because it takes basic assumptions about the role and life of Christ and pokes at them like a hacker would. Tinkering, breaking, and reforming the idea of a deity into something more worth worshipping. The Christ in this film is not, as I was taught from my Southern Baptist upbringing, divine from birth. In fact he’s not divine until the moment he dies. Christ as played here by Willem Dafoe is conflicted. He doesn’t know if it is God that provides his abilities, or Satan. He doesn’t know for sure he’s the son of God. He would give anything to just be a normal person. The movie opens with him making, as a carpenter surely would in those times, crosses for crucifixions. Judas isn’t some jealous betrayer, but Christ’s best friend who is tasked by Jesus to betray him or God’s plan cannot come to fruition. While on the cross, in the moment God looks away, the Devil tempts Christ with the life of a human. Nor more torment or pain, a family. A normal job. A normal life. What makes Christ divine, what makes his sacrifice worth worship, is when he denies that temptation and from the cross, bleeding and dying, triumphantly shouts "father, it is accomplished". Again this isn’t to make a point about what is or isn’t real about religion, or what people believe. It’s that I think geeks in general are far more inquisitive about such things and more open to examining them from another angle. Or deconstructing them and rebuilding them to make more sense. I look at this movie like I might look at someone rebuilding a BBQ grill into a computer case.

#4: Wargames

Probably self explanatory. Every geek wants to be the smart kid who manipulates the system. Also, it’s conflict is centered around video games! 25 years later this film is still better than Hackers or The Net or a variety of other computer oriented films. Second only to Sneakers for mixing plausible realism with fiction.

#5: Spaceballs

There are a lot of better comedies that are a parody of something geeks hold dear (Galaxy Quest for instance), but Star Wars, at least for the next decade or so, is still going to be the glue that holds a lot of geeks together. At least until the young ones grow up in a world where they always, duh, knew Vader was Luke’s father. The in-jokes here are funny because they are true: the extra long opening ship shot. Silly puns like pizza the hut. It’s almost as if geeks themselves made this movie which is why I like it. It points to the self deprecating humor that seems present in all the geeks I know.

Sure there’s a lot of others I could have chosen. Alien/Aliens was especially hard to not include, as was Blade Runner or Serenity. I even examined some flicks like Juno, or some John Hughes 80’s flicks. But my thought process was a little different than just saying what movies I love as a geek as opposed to viewing some titles that reflected geek nature. I wanted to limit it to five as well. A fun exercise, as it were. But there’s lots of facets of geek personality to cover, from politics to money to parenting, etc.

And as an aside 120hz anti-judder is nice when it’s implemented on a low setting. It makes even old movies look like you are watching them on stage and I find the effect quite life-like and pleasant. If you have the means and are in the market for a new TV, Newegg has the Samsung LN52A650 for $1999.99.

In which a long simmering feud bursts out into the open, like a baby alien.

Chris Hardwick, Nerdist, managed to get Doc Brown’s open letter to Marty McFly. I’d always been subtly aware of the suppressed rage between these two characters but didn’t know other people had the actual correspondence.

Marty’s reply is probably less known but I have reproduced here for posterity. Warning, these two guys have needed to have this falling out for quite awhile so the language is definitely NSFW:


Really? We’re going to go there? Cause I have some points that, you know, I feel you should take into consideration. Thanks to your needing to steal from terrorists to test out your well thought out scientific theories I NEARLY HAD TO BECOME MY OWN FUCKING FATHER ASSWIPE.

Oh sure, I know you could say I didnt HAVE to. But up until I had to confront his BONER after he was HUMPING A TREE LIMB while WATCHING MY MOM UNDRESS I’d never really considered how stupid and fucked up your self absorbed time travel process had become. Believe me, right about the moment my mother’s incestuous TONGUE was in my MOUTH just so I could ENSURE MY OWN BIRTH I was sincerely looking forward to watching you get shot again. Oh I’m sorry, did I suddenly reveal why YOU GOT SHOT AGAIN?

And by the way, I love how a guy with hair like Bozo the Bleached Albino Clown and a penchant for flailing limbs and bug eyed grabbing-people-by-the-shoulders gets to make short people jokes. Hey genius next time you want to fuck up my psyche while going through some convoluted scheme to live in the wild west and fuck some prairie woman after thoroughly fucking up my entire LIFE, how’s about you just go to the wild west in your machine and experience THE POWER OF LOVE ON YOUR OWN.

Do. you. have. any. idea. how long it will take for me to erase that alternate future where my mom has a massive tit job out of my mind? Never mind the fact that without you Biff was just an annoyance LET ALONE A MULTI TIME DIMENSIONAL MENACE.

I’ll never forgive you for fooling me into wearing that multicolored village people cowboy outfit.

Eat an ass dipped hoverboard,


In defense of remakes, reimaginings, reboots, and adaptations.

With the recent release of the second Watchmen trailer, and the release this weekend of the Star Trek trailer, I’ve been hearing a disappointing amount of grumbling about certain choices being made, etc in these two prominent examples of the recent heading back to the well mentality of Hollywood.

Sometimes remakes/adaptations/reboots work. As in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Sin City, Batman Begins, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Sometimes they work, partially. I’m thinking here of V for Vendetta, Superman Returns, the two Hulk movies, the various adaptations and remakes of adaptations of Dune.

Sometimes they fail miserably either in quality or in representing the original work at even the most basic level. I, Robot, Almost every Clancy film since Hunt for Red October, Galactica 1980, The Clone Wars CG movie, Many a Stephen King movie such as the Shining remake, IT, and The Stand.

In each of these cases previously I’ve always held a fanboys strong opinion of what should and should not be done, what is and is not ok in regards to canon. The two things that really cleared my mind of that bias are the Lord of the Rings movies and Sci Fi’s outstanding Battlestar Galactica. Each took significant liberties with the source material. Each altered some very fundamental sequences, characters, or events. And in the process made the soul of the original work much more accessible for one, and capable of being stretched and deepened.

The fundamental sense of a living breathing mythology that Tolkien labored for is clearly present in the films, and the underlying dark paranoia of the reality of Galactica’s rag tag fugitive fleet is more present and more real. Who cares if the Cylons look human? That only deepens the dilemma already present in the source material.

Adaptations and remakes that work partially usually fail because they took a left turn from the source material. For instance, the end of V for Vendetta the graphic novel was a second chance for the populace to seize, but the book ends before you truly know if they will seize it. Thus the underlying point is completely missed in the movie which stages an unlikely and clumsy rebellion where a paranoid totalitarian government would completely miss the sudden mass ordering in the tens of millions of the very getup the number one wanted terrorist in the country wears. It’s a mystifying and unnecessary change that very much feels like a producer wanted a more emotionally satisfying ending.

Sometimes an easy test of whether an adaptation or remake worked partially is when people who never saw/read the source leave the theater and go "well it was good but I don’t understand why people think it’s great"

And of course when the efforts fail it’s almost always because the resulting work is either stupid or silly or bears no resemblance to the original source material’s spirit while claiming to advance it.

I bring all this up because it’s a fine, fine line to walk. What do you change to bring a work to a new medium, and what do you leave intact?

In watching the trailers for Watchmen and Star Trek I can see easily within them the changes they have made to bring things around, but I also very deeply see that the spirit seems to be intact. The Watchmen wanted to explore, as a graphic novel, a number of things. But the soul was the moral quandary of the ends justifying the means.

Likewise Star Trek was not originally a high minded philosophical environment where the fundamental nature of humanity was given to us in the sometimes stilted lectures of Captain Picard. If anything the original series and movies were about hoping we could rise above the very flaws that often drove the narrative. The original Trek had fist fights, space battles, sex, humor, a tiny bit of camp thrown in for good measure. The new Star Trek trailer has me more excited about Star Trek than at any time in the past two decades. 20 years of Next Generation have made us expect a big morality tale. Don’t get me wrong, I think TNG is still the best of Trek, but it lost some of the umph along the way.

[EDIT: It’s been pointed out to me that First Contact and Insurrection and Nemesis all added action etc to the TNG formula. Let me take these one by one:

First Contact loses out because they violated the spirit of TNG in general by fundamentally changing an enemy well established in the mythos simply for the sole purpose of giving Picard a bad guy…girl…it? to fight. The Borg were a collective, not a Hive. It was partially successful in many ways, and I love the Enterprise E. But it’s like if in the middle of Matrix 3 you find out the machines are actually aliens. It’s a head scratcher. The borg were terrifying enough without a queen. No need to mess with it.

Insurrection had action sure, but tried to again give us the big morality tale. Plus how many times can you write yourself into a narrative corner and then try to solve it by kicking the shit out of the Enterprise? Geordi’s "We’re fresh out of warp cores" seemed to even acknowledge how dumb the plot was. Insurrection is the Star Trek Five of TNG films.

Nemesis? Could the movie more blatantly plead with its audience to close their eyes and pretend it was Star Trek 2?

Again don’t get me wrong, I love TNG but my point is about the source material and its soul. If they were rebooting TNG I would have a different opinion, but they are rebooting TOS and I think they may have possibly nailed it.]

Now, trailers do not a movie make. I still have doubts they can even effectively tell the soul of Watchmen in a two hour film. I worry that there might not be quite enough Star Trek in the new movie, and maybe a little too much Star Wars (especially the recent crap). But I’ve seen the rather visceral reactions from my fellow geeks and, well, I remember railing at length at how Battlestar Galactica was going to utterly fail. Now I think it could very well be the best Science Fiction show television has produced.

I’ve since tried to give up on predicting when a reboot might work. What I have changed is being sure to give it a good chance to grow on me.