Tag Archives: nerdery

Fairy Nerdmother

11 Dec

I wanted to draw pictures to accompany this post. I feel like it needs pictures. I don’t know if words can do justice to The Contact Story: Part 2; I don’t know if words can image-erise a grown man backed into the corner of his quite trendy mannish lounge room, eyes wide with fear and disgust, mouth enveloped by both hands in an attempt to protect the gross concept from entering it; kids leaping around me, screaming with terrified joy…

But there’s no pictures…

yet.

I woke up the morning after the most traumatic experience of my young life with BOTH my eyes, I’m pleased to say. Both eyes and a contact lens. Somewhere.

Pony and I had to pick up the kiddlets from their dad’s house (I shall name him Mr Argonaut for the purpose of this blog). According to Pony, Mr Argonaut was WAY experienced with contact lenses and eye-touching – he’d worn contacts for a bazillion years, until he had lasik eye surgery. He was Da MAN! when it came to eye stuff. It was possible that Arggy possessed special skillz re. my predicament. If we weren’t going to get to an optometrist this day, he was our next best bet.

When Pony and I arrived there were nice “hellos” and hugs and “come ins” and “how’s it goings?”

Pony: “Um, actually Arggy, Rae had a little mishap with one of her contact… [Mr A runs to the back corner of the room – see first paragraph] lenses…”

From behind one hand came a muffled “it’s stuck behind your… isn’t it?” the other hand was spared for the important task of indicating to his eye.

I nodded in confirmation.

Cue Sippy and Fil who were suddenly inches from my face; loud expressions of horrified fascination and ecstatic disgust; general flailing and springy room circumnavigation throughout. It was quite an event.

Mr A, after a gentle rebuke from Pony, (“You used to wear contacts ALL THE TIME! You said eyes didn’t worry you!” “MY eyes didn’t worry me!”) made his way towards me to inspect the damage. He very bravely (and I say this most sincerely, if it was me in his situation I would have stayed in the back corner of the room gagging) confronted my eye – “look up, down, to the right…”

No sight of the contact yet, no observable damage. Back to waiting.

The rest of this day’s events took place with that damned contact stuck somewhere in my face: The Amazing Spider-Man; walking around San Diego getting complimented on my Doctor Who/Portal t-shirt (like five separate times, nerdholes!); the Nerdist podcast taping; meeting Jonah Ray (twice); meeting Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira; locking eyes with John Barrowman (BFFs); meeting my Fairy Nerdmother. All of it.

Maybe it was my lucky charm…

While the whole day had been immensely plesant, the first bit of out-of-the-ordinary luck occured while I was waiting to pick up my Nerdist tickets from will call (for Aussies, “will call” basically means picking tickets up at the venue) at the Balboa Theatre. Pony and I were second in line but it was taking AGES to get to the window. The lady at the desk was very emphatically telling the gentleman in front of us that she couldn’t give him his passes until he presented the correct identification. He kept gently yet urgently arguing with the woman, but it wasn’t until he looked at his lady friend with exasperation that I realised it was JONAH RAY!!!!!!!!!! From the Nerdist podcasts. Like, Jonah Ray the guy who was meant to be onstage!!! Jonah Ray who was on the poster above the ticket window for that night’s event!!!!!!!!

Jonah Ray was desperately trying to explain this to the will call lady, but to no avail.

I got the giggles – it was like watching some B-grade farce. Mr Ray turned around to apologise for the delay. I remember saying, “That’s ok, it’s  entertaining” (SMOOTH!), while Pony looked thoroughly confused (this was her initiation into the world of Nerdist, so she had no idea why the whole line by this point was whispering and nudging each other and looking awkward).

The unmovable will call woman eventually asked Mr Ray to stand aside while she dealt with the rest of us. A guy further up the line must have been taking pictures of the happenings during this time because Jonah was all “You know, I’d be happy to take a picture with you, you don’t have to pap me” – the guy took him up on his offer which I thought was pretty courageous because Jonah’s expression suggested he was totally unimpressed with this ticket situation and probably wanted to inflict pain on someone.

Pony and I had a lovely chat to his friend while he generously posed for pictures with people (which still wasn’t enough to convince the will call lady that he was who he said he was, she was determined to get the right identification, dammit!).

I psyched myself up and for the first time in my life asked a human whose name was on a poster if I could get a pic with them. If I couldn’t go to Comic-con, I was fridging-well going to pimp my nerd wherever I got the chance.

I love this picture because Jonah looks really disgruntled and I look like I’m about to drop my carefully constructed pile of handbagless handbag contents (ahh, carry-on baggage restrictions). Special moment.  But seriously, what a champ*.

I encountered Lady Fortune again that night as she escorted Pony and myself to our seats. Front row…ish!!!!!

There’s nothing like eye contact to turn famous-foreign-media-mediated-images into actual humans – although, I desperately tried to avoid eye contact during the Quemment session. I mean, listen to this and you’ll know what I mean (nsfw). Still, John Barrowman and I are like *this* now [insert picture of fingers crossed to indicate tight, personal closeness].  Within the first few minutes of the show the final traces of my no-Comic-Con jealousy had well and truly disappeared. I don’t think I would ever have experienced such coolness from such a prime position at the convention centre.

It’s not in the recording of the podcast, but during the first ten minutes of the show, without knowing it, I saw my Fairy Nerdmother.

Chris Hardwick had come on stage to introduce the show. He noticed that the entire front row was empty and began riffing about why this might be the case.  A few minutes in  – and after John Barrowman had thrown a garbage bin across the stage, I can’t remember why – a few people filed into the auditorium down to the front. Chris launched into a very entertaining interrogation of these poor people, who it turns out were late because they had decided to pick up dinner on the way or something like that (whatever it was, it was a fairly lame excuse that provided a nice bit of comedic fodder for the Nerdists). The riffing continued and started revolving around the last remaining empty seat at the front – the hypotheses for what might have detained this last person got progressivly more ridiculous.

The door to the auditorium opened. Down to the front rolled a young man in a wheelchair**.

The guy who came in late was good humoured, and like a pro, Chris Hardwick converted the awkwardness to hilarity. And so began the official show which you can listen to in the link above.

I met Lady Fortune for a third time that evening (someone’s totally crushing. I’m just sayin’) whilst standing in line, a VERY long line, in desperate need of a loo, feeling all eye-twitchy, and hoping to scab a signature from le Nerdists in my copy of The Nerdist Way by Mr Chris Hardwick (it’s one of the texts I use regularly in my research, so it was full of sticky-tabs. I was pleased I had tangible proof that I’d read it – as though everyone else who wanted their copy signed was totally faking their audienceship 🙂 ). I noticed that the guy next to us was the guy in the wheelchair who’d come in late. He’d also contributed a quemment to the Quemment session. I caught his eye and complimented him on his quemmenting.

So began The Chat.

He inquired after our accents. Asked where were we from. What do we do? Was I there for Comic-Con? I told him my sad story about missing out on tickets.

“I can get you in.”

Let that sink in for a second. “I can get you in” – to COMIC-CON!!!!!!

I can’t describe to you all the thoughts my brain thought during the milliseconds after this comment. Part of me immediately thought the guy was bluffing. Part of me didn’t want to come across as needy and all taking-advantagey. Part of me thought I’d miss-heard what he said. Part of me had decided he was talking to someone else and I was ashamed I’d been so presumptuous as to assume he was talking to me. Part of me was ridiculously excited. All I managed in reply was “Comic-Con? Oh, yeah, nah, um, that’s cool…”

Thank goodness Pony was with me. “Really!? Are you serious? That would be awesome! Rae would love that!  Wouldn’t you, Rae!?”

“Um… yeah, but… um? Really?” (cool, Rae, really cool)

The guy  nodded in confirmation, “Yep, I have a spare ticket. I can get you in.”

Numbers were swapped (again, thank goodness Pony was there, I would not have had the presence of mind to get his number). I was going to Comic-Con!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that’s how I met my Fairy Nerdmother.

The cherry on the top of what had already been one of the most brilliant ice-creamy nights of my life was getting to briefly talk to Mr Nerdists. It’s weird reflecting on these moments; these sorts of meetings are simultaneously artificial/manufactured/shallow (you’re just one of hundreds requesting a slither of a moment of a famous person’s attentions) and super affecting (I was shakingly, on-the-edge-of-anxiety-attack excited that I was about to come into contact with people who were constantly present in my lived experiences, people who without knowing it have shaped my work and, therefore (or because of) and necessarily, my world view). I’m pleased to say the sticky-tabs instigated a quick convo with Chris, which was really nice. It feels good being able to tell someone that you liked the thing they made enough to use it in your research. It feels really nice to have that person seem interested and surprised that you use the thing they made in your PhD. Lots of really nice feels.

(Weird perspective crouchy photo!)

But this night didn’t just have one cherry. Oh No. It had TWO cherries. A cherry made out of my stalker, Lady Fortune.

In the taxi on the way back to Mr Argonaut’s house I continued my attempts at moving the contact around to the front of my eye (sounds fancy and intricate, but I was basically just rubbing my eye). At some stage it felt like something moved and my sight got extra blurry. My whole brain started screaming. Did I just ruin my eye FOREVER or did the elusive contact just come out from hiding?

Whatever it was, I sure as hell wasn’t going to move my eye until I got to a mirror.

I’d played calm in the taxi, but as soon as we got to Mr A’s he knew something was up. In another moment of courage he took a look at my eye. So did Sippy.

Mr A, very calmly: “Ok, Rae, I’m pretty sure I can see the contact, it’s moved to the front of your eye. If you go into the bathroom now you’ll probably be able to get it ou…”

Sippy (something to the effect of): “OH! MY! GOSHHHHHHH! PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! YOU’RE EYE’S ALL PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARRRRRRRGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Springy leap flail.

I rushed to the bathroom. Mr A was right, the contact was no longer behind my eye. It was back within the potential removal zone. Sippy was (kinda) right too. There was a lot of gunk. Not puss. But definitely eye gunk.

Deep Breaths.

Cotton-bud on a stick.

Ninja spirit summoned.

Contact…

REMOVED!!!!!!!

Adrenaline shakes.

I have very rarely ever felt relief like that before. It also looked impressive, all folded onto itself. When I unfolded it I realised that I had pinched it too hard the night I had first tried to take it out. It had a jagged hole in the middle of it – like a donut. Donut contact. I wanted to keep that contact. We’d been through a lot together. I wanted to thread string through the middle and wear it like a war trophy around my neck. However, I resisted my inner hoarder and deposited donut contact in the bin.

Much to Pony’s dismay, I wasn’t going to be a pirate (she tried to convince me to wear an eye-patch for a while to freak out the family back at home – an amusing but ultimately uncomfortable ruse).

I wasn’t going to be a pirate. But I was going to Comic-Con!

*I did drop the teetering pile not long after the photo was taken.

**psssst – two hours in the future this guy became my Fairy Nerdmother.

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The Magical Land of Nerd

24 Aug

Death and Catwoman hit da town – what up Nerrrrds!

I’m going to skip the details of my second day in ‘Murrrrkah! Not that it wasn’t super brilliantly fun, I mean, I woke up to a splendid plate of pancakes and fresh summer fruit, and got my hands on not one, but TWO really good coffees – which immediately exceeded my food expectations for the States. This was most welcome as it made me feel I would be gastronomically safe for at least the next ten days.

The adventures really began on my third day in SoCal. Even though I wasn’t able to go to Comic-Con, San Diego goes ALL OUT during the week of the convention. Lots of smaller nerdy fringe events take place across the city – professional nerds have come from all over the world to appear at SDCC, they’re going to make it worth their while. So I’d managed to get tickets for a couple of “fringe” events. There were also a few smaller sub-cons like Nerd HQ which had its doors open to the public for the duration of the convention.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be completely excluded from the nerdstivities, my heart broke a *little* when we went into the city for the first time. All the geeks walking around with their human-sized Comic-Con bags and stylish neck tags. Every pop-culture character that ever existed was walking around the streets of San Diego. I could only imagine what it would be like at the hallowed convention centre. I was surprised at my levels of jealousy.  I was like a five year old watching another kid have a birthday.  I had to practice some serious head-talk to stay atop the envy:-)

I was on my way to a swanky comic-book themed party. I was going to a live taping of the Nerdist Podcast with JOHN BARROWMAN as the guest the next night. Life wasn’t too bad.

([the rest of my brain] jealoussssssssssssssssss….)

Pony had discovered that a comic book themed party was taking place at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. Guests were expected to dress as a comic book character. This slightly freaked me out for three reasons.  1. Pony is notoriously amazing when it comes to costumes. This meant I wouldn’t be able to fudge it all last minute-style. 2. The non-fudged costume would have to be transportable from Australia to the States. 3. The costume options for female comic-book characters are fairly limited – lycra, boobalicious, butt-flashy, maybe a tiara.

Not my favourite things to wear.

(except tiaras – yes to tiaras)

After much deliberation and consultation with the siblings I decided to go as Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. She’s a pretty cool, perky goth. Pony had organised a Catwoman costume. Damn those humans who can pull-off Catwoman. They should be pushed to the edge of society and poked repeatedly with a sharp stick.

The party itself was estupendo! (yeah, I’m all over that Spanish now I’ve spent 10 days on the Mexican border. Sadly I was not so bueno at Spanish when I ordered a beef tongue taco. I would have liked knowing that’s what “res lengua” meant before money had been exchanged.) Lots of artsy nerdery took place at the doo. Body painting. Cyborg dancing. Superhero photoshopping. Keith Richards was even there![1]

But I think my favourite parts of the evening were the bookends – the hectic getting ready process/testing out my swanky new camera, and the post-party stalker drinks at the Hilton. It’s really fun putting on goth make-up. Try it some time. It’s also really fun being the only two people in a fancy bar with (presumably) fancy famous nerdy people, sporting an accent that is considered cool (yeah, I was cool for a whole 16 days!) dressed as, well, as Catwoman and Death. I’d recommend doing that sometime too.

By the end of the evening, Catwoman was in desperate need of a wheelchair and my wig was starting to itch. But the most… exciting?… adventure was still to come.

We headed home. I went to take out my contact lenses. I’ve written about my experiences with contact lenses before. I’m still fairly new to them. The thought of wearing them whilst overseas unsettled me because I wouldn’t have my fabulous optometrist safety net in case anything went wrong. I practiced some more head-talk. Told myself to stop being stupid, nothing has gone wrong since I’ve had them. The universe doesn’t think “oooh, she’s away from her safety net, let’s mess with her”. That’s crazy Rae. Crazy.

The universe is a bum-face.

First contact came out like a champ. The second one snapped as I pulled it out and got stuck behind my eye. TERRIFYING! Absolutely TERRIFYING.

Shout-out to Pony who was amazingly brave during the ordeal. I woke her up with the words “I’m sorry to get you up, but my worst nightmare has just come true”. Eyes are gross. I find my own eyes gross, let alone someone else’s. Pony managed to keep the gagging to a minimum and sat on the edge of the bathtub patting my back as I poked around in my eye for a while.  She did an excellent job comforting in the face of such grossness.

After quite a few calls to Australia to gather advice and comfort from the contact-experienced-father-shaped parent and my optometrist (“Um, hi. It’s Raewyn Campbell. My contact broke and is stuck in my eye and I was wondering what I should do…?” “Come in!” “Well, I’m actually in the States at the moment…”) I felt assured that I had a few days up my sleeve until my future as a pirate was sealed[2].

The plan was to go to an optometrist as soon as we had a spare moment. It wasn’t a complicated plan. It was a good plan. The only problem was that the next day was going to be hella busy with little cousin retrieval, Spiderman, and the Nerdist podcast, so we’d have to aim for Saturday morning. Deep breaths. Pirates get parrots, so, silver-lining.

But kids, there’s a lesson to be learnt from this traumatising event. Eyes are resilient. Eyes can withstand a surprising amount. And you’ll find that out for definite in the next blog post.


[1] By “Keith Richards” I of course mean an old, stoned, leathery man Pony and I had weirdly met only that morning at the coffee place and who had turned up to the comic-book themed party dressed as Keith Richards. As you do.

[2] Just to reassure people who might find all this too disturbing. My dad once had a contact stuck behind his eye for about two weeks and didn’t even realise until it moved itself to the front one day all folded up and easy for the removal. Eyes are hardy. Deep breaths. Everything is ok. Optometrists are super adept at fixing this type of situation as well. I think the opt’s words were “simple procedure”.

What’s it take to be a nerd these days!? Part 1

26 Mar

Let me tell you a story.

One day my siblings were talking about something they’d seen on the internet. Or a game. Or maybe a comic book. Anime? The details elude me, I was slightly traumatised by the situation that followed so have practised repression…

Anyway, my siblings were talking about this thing they liked and I asked something about it and my youngest sister looked at me with this patronising ‘oh, bless’ expression and said (I quote verbatim) “Stop trying, Rae. You’re not really a nerd”.

Wha!? Not really a…

What!?

I picked up the pieces of my shattered self image and walked away to watch reruns of Sabrina the Teenage Witch by myself.

The next day at uni I told The Office Mate about my sibling’s comment and her response was, “Well, you’re not”. What’s more, The Office Mate decided to gather support for her opinion at a party-like-gathering the following weekend, and I found myself amongst a group of people sagely nodding along with her assessment of me.

A couple of weeks after this, one of my post-grad friends stopped by my office and as we were chatting he said “You know how some people are in denial about being a nerd, well, I think you’re in denial about NOT being a nerd”.

I just sat there not knowing what to say. I looked around me and all I could think was “Is he being serious?” I mean, look at my office! Here, see, pictures! This is what I was sitting in when he suggested I was not a nerd.

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I mean, really!?

Now, having this many people in such a short period of time tell me I’m not something that, quite frankly, is a dominant aspect of my sense of self, well, it’s a little confronting. Each time these (unusually) blatant statements were made, I felt an instant urge to defend myself. I wanted to thrust my One Ring to Rule Them All in their faces, dangle my Buffy staked Edward shirt in front of their eyes, and point out that MY eyes have thick rimmed glasses around them BECAUSE I CAN’T SEE WITHOUT THEM. I wanted to assault their ears with wizard rock and make them experience the uncomfortable situation of watching me weep over ‘Doomsday’. I wanted to make them throw a ball at me just so they could see it smash into my face thus exemplifying my complete lack of coordination and athleticism. I wanted to make them sit through a slide show of my high school years – set to MORE wizard rock. I wanted to correct their assumption that nerd identity is somehow an essential and biological trait of a person. I WANTED THEM TO NOTICE THAT A CORRECTION LIKE THAT IS ITSELF AN EXAMPLE OF ME BEING NERDILY PEDANTIC. dammit.

I desperately wanted to remind them that I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer. Surrounded by books and printouts of critical theory, computer history, and nerd reflections. Writing a PhD thesis. In Media and Communications. ON NERDS!!

It’s funny, I had just started writing this blog post when I picked up Chris Hardwick’s self-help book for nerds, The Nerdist Way: How To Reach the Next Level (In Real Life). I experienced one of those “the-universe-is-totally-on-my-side” moments where external factors seem to align with your internal process and it’s all a little bit freaky but mostly it’s just awesome. Early in the book, Chris discusses the definition of ‘nerd’ (he is perhaps a little more cavalier in his definition then I am – oh the luxury of not having to be academically reviewed at the end of the writing process) and in this section he tells a story about his personal experiences with the nerd label:

Many times I have been told I’m not a Nerd because I don’t “look like one.” I think I kind of understand what this means, but it’s always slightly offensive to me. Like if you tell someone you’re Jewish and they say, “THAT’S funny. You don’t LOOK Jewish!” Really? Offensive much? What does that look like exactly? Oftentimes, I get the Nerd denial from members of the Nerd community, which is shocking to me because if ANY group should understand the merits of exercising open-mindedness and tolerance…

I think what they’re trying to say is that I don’t seem socially awkward. Nor do I have a lightsaber attached to my hip (though for Halloween last year I was Luke Skywalker Texas Ranger and had a lightsaber awkwardly attached to my hip). (p.5)

Chris’ response to people questioning his nerd credentials was similar to mine. He tried to fight back*.  Chris  uses his words to defend and prove his nerdiness. In fact, one could argue this entire book is his response to scepticism regarding his nerdity, just as this blog post is (finally) mine. But most importantly, Chris and I had both unintentionally fallen into a wider cultural dialogue about authenticity.

The subject of authenticity is huge, so I’m going to write about it across a number of posts. However, I quickly need to note here that authenticity is a construct; it’s not biological or essential. It’s a narrative that draws on notions of essentialness, truthfulness, and realness with a flow-on effect of rendering something more valuable or worthy**. Chris goes so far as to liken nerdom to ethnicity. I don’t quite feel comfortable going as far as Chris goes in his analogy, mainly because I don’t think nerdom yet has a community, heritage or culture as strong and precedented as that of an ethnic group. But I can see his point. There are some potentially helpful parallels that can be drawn between nerd identity and ethnicity. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I think critical theory surrounding ethincity can provide super significant insights into the construction and deployment of nerd identity. In many ways, race, like nerdom, is constructed. No one is born with an Australian gene, or even a Jewish gene. People are, however, born into a shared heritage, tradition, lineage, family, history, and narrative; a culture. And just because these things are not biologically essential, it doesn’t make them any less important, powerful or valid. The reason I wanted those who questioned my identification as nerd to understand and acknowledge the deep affective ties I have with the realm, was purely because they are deep and affective. And, even if it’s not biological. Even if there is no nerd gene. Even though definitions are wibbly-wobbly and contextual and constructed. It’s personal.

Stories of authenticity affect powerful implications; authenticity is a gatekeeper of inclusion and exclusion, of participation and the material benefits that come from these. In the next couple of posts I will be considering narratives of authentic nerdery and some of the implications of these narratives.

*Claiming I “fought back” is perhaps an over statement, unless you count general arm-flailing and exclamitory noises like “whaahh” “bah”, and “ner…” as fighting back. The desire for eloquent rebuttle was at least definitely there…?

**I realise this is a contested issue, but, at least today, I find “anti-essentialist” arguments on the issue most compelling – I’m particularly liking E. Patrick Johnson’s work on blackness and authenticity at the moment: “Inevitably, when one attempts to lay claim to an intangible trope that manifests in various discursive terrains, identity claims become embattled, or […] “color” or “blackness” becomes a “dangerous phenomenon.” Because the concept of blackness has no essence, “black authenticity” is over-determined – contingent on the historical, social, and political terms of its production.”(p.3) Who woulda’ thought critical theory on blackness would be so relevant to a study of nerd identity…?

Johnson. E. Patrick. Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. Durham (NC) : Duke University Press. 2003