NERD CHRISTMAS!

Not to use this site to brag, but check out my haul!

I was given the Acme Novelty Library issues that I was missing (including #1, WHOA!), the new Charles Burns, and Girls to the Front. The incredible gifts clearly make an argument for why nerds should be partnered with those who work at book stores.

What did you guys get?

Art=Life

Loving art is not nerdy per se, but as we prepare for a holiday weekend, I feel like we all could use a bit of art to act as a little bit of sunshine. There is never too much beauty. (Or maybe I am projecting my own issues. We’ll leave that untouched for now.)

With the brief introduction, I offer you Beautiful Arts I Found on the Interwebs.

Andrea Wan on BOOOOOOOM!

Florence Bachard on EMARAMA

Jock on The Beat

Jim Mahfood on Food One

Betsy Walton on Brown Paper Bag

See, wasn’t that a nice respite from a maybe/possibly/potentially ho-hum day? Let’s go make some art!

We Love Movies!

Nerdcore Rising (2008)

A quick synopsis might read: MC Frontalot and friends get an idea to tour across the country in hopes of making it big. The band toils in quiet obscurity as they trek through America’s heartland, leaving underattended show after underattended show a little bit more defeated each time. The final stop of their tour is in nerd mecca Seattle, where thousands of adoring fans worship at the alter of Frontalot and his quirky bandmates. All the work pays off, and they all probably got laid.

Yawn, right? It’s a story that insists that you can be weird and make bad music (sorry to any nerdcore fans), but if you find your audience, you will be loved and adored and successful. You just need to sacrifice and work hard. Americans love these stories of bootstrap-pulling, hardworking, underdog successes. Its been a central tenet in our cultural milieu since conception of nationhood, and it will persist far after I question it in this review.

My bias firmly lies in my distaste for the music. MC Frontalot represents a lot of what is wrong with cross-cultural art theft. I’m not saying that white people can’t enjoy hip-hop, or even perform the genre, but I am saying respect the roots. Hip-hop rose out of the embers of a destroyed Brooklyn, ravaged by drugs and poverty and lack of voice. Nerdcore rose out of geeks wanting to play their weird music for each other and to try and harness to elusive cool factor of hip-hop. These privileged nerdcore musicians decide that they can contribute something to the lexicon of hip-hop, and never once acknowledge the struggle or heart or history of the genre they are performing. If the music is the heart of the film, it falls flat. The music reeks of privilege and lack of authenticity.

I admit I liked parts of the film, but only because it ends showcasing how nerdy and awesome Seattle is. PAX is awesome, and I’m glad to see that the attendees can find it in theirhearts to love this guy who may or may not deserve the attention. WEIRD PEOPLE UNITE … or something.

New Releases That Get Us Going

This week is surprisingly quiet for new releases, but there are a few stellar gems to be found:

1. Big Questions #15 by Anders Nilsen.

As sad as I am to have this moving, beautiful series end, I’m excited to see what Nilsen offers in the future. For the uninitiated, his soft art and slender lines match the occasionally melancholic but always moving tone to his stories. You will not want to miss this issue if you are already a fan. If you don’t have all the back issues, you may want to wait for the TPB because many of them are impossible to find.

2. Tron Soundtrack by Daft Punk.

From the land of Duh, we bring you a breaking news alert: we love us some Daft Punk. We may or may not have listened to an illegal copy and may or may not have been floored by the subtle quality of their score. If you are looking for a danceable and outrageous Daft Punk album, look elsewhere. If you are looking for something to whet your palette before the big movie release or if you are a fan of solid movie scores, grab this gem.

3. Exit through the Gift Shop DVD.

If you are a fan of street art, public space subversion, Banksy, or Space Invaders in Paris, grab this documentary. It has enough mystery, some humor, stencil art, and European street scenes to keep this movie watcher totally riveted.

Body Issues

A recent article on Jezebel chided Kathy Griffin for taking a pot shot at Bristol Palin for gaining weight, thus exposing her own body issues and recirculating fatphobia to a new generation. Weight commentary is a pretty common topic, whether we are referring to talking about pop culture or friendships or video games or families or television or your barista. Whether or not Kathy Griffin deserves to be vilified is almost a moot point; the better question to ask is if there is any escape from weight obsession.

Two things annoy me about weight commentary: it is almost exclusively the realm of women’s bodies that we dissect and the commentary is very rarely positive. The more we obsess over weight and whispher whether it is higher or lower than any other time and whether or not it falls within an acceptable range relegates female identity and beauty to the scale. I’m not preaching here – in weaker moments I have done this both to myself and others. But this destructive and hateful cycle has to stop.

The more I think about it, the less I am convinced there is an escape. I used to think my world of nerd culture was an oasis from the crazy. It’s not. A recent study by the University of Canterbury, New Zealand calculated the BMI of Marvel’s female characters, which revealed that they are predominately fixed at a lower weight. If the movies we watch and the games we play and the comics we read only present beauty within a twenty pound differential, what does this do to our understanding of health and attractiveness?

This leads to the ‘so what’: if weight criticism and narrowness is so ubiquitous that it pops up in everything from a shitty Kathy Griffin joke to the comics we consume, are we culprits in the continued obsession with weight? Can one simply opt out by rejecting the multi-billion dollar diet and fitness industry when we buy materials that recirculate these images? Are we perpetuating fatphobia every time we critique the size of our thighs? Should we be chiding ourselves every time we talk about how edgy it is for a designer to hire Crystal Renn to walk their runway?

Weight representations and acceptance ARE both a feminist and a nerd culture issue. I want my space of respite from the insanity out there to be protected and healthy and inclusive. Do you guys have suggestions for body positive comics or artists or games?

Con Abuse

I’m sure some of you kick-ass feminists out there have attended cons of some variety. Whether its a ComiCon, a gaming con, a programming con, or a craft upraising, a convention can be an amazing community building experience. I fondly remember my first event (APE, for the curious) as a mind-blowing explosion of art and fan-girling and meeting fellow comic bloggers.

But what happens when cons are an uncomfortable and violent place? And how does this destroy our beloved nerd communities? An account of sexual harrassment at San Diego ComiCon in 2008 by friend Kevin Church was terrifying. A positive effect of the sexist treatment was that our shocked community began speaking back, having important conversations about safety and responsibility that rippled through the blogs and forums. I can’t speak on behalf of the offenders, but having a frank conversation about proper behavior around women working in booths (ed. note: I refuse to use the term b–th b-bes for anti-sexist reasons) and treatment of women was in dire need.

Sadly, these incidents still continue. It’s heartbreaking and triggering to recount the stories, so perhaps it serves my purposes to weave a story of uncomfortable community interactions by redirecting you to Geek Feminism’s wiki page on reported incidents. Go ahead and catch yourself up, if you have the need or the heart.

With that sad groundwork laid, have you ever had an uncomfortable experience at a con? If not, have you witnessed behavior that made you angry? What is your tactic in handling these situations? While I am glad that a wiki exists, as information sharing is important to bring visibility to the fact that women do attend cons and have encountered sexism, we need to develop a strategy to calling offenders out on the floor. We need to learn to speak up.

Nerd solutions to holiday gifts

I’m pretty anti-Christmas because of the consumption it demands and the terrible songs and the whole religious bent. Hate as I might, I sheepishly admit a love of sparkly white lights and A Charlie Brown Christmas and a chance to make my people feel loved and cared for. So this year, I’m converting my disdain into creative energy. Eff giving money to huge companies for gifts during the holidays.  Homemade gifts are more economical, more thoughtful, and delightfully subversive.

Star Wars Paper Snowflakes via Geekologie. Thanks to Ju-Lie for the hot tip!

NES Controller USB drive via Instructables

Sculpey Nerd Icons (modeled by your humble resident craft nerd)

Wii controller cookies from Not So Humble Pie

Make a monthly planner (a la Slingshot) using your run-of-the-mill homemade journal instructions.

For the ambitious, Space Invaders bag via Kotaku

For the really, really ambitious, you can build a Dalek.

As always, I’m contstantly on the prowl for fun projects. Comment or send me an email at diy [at] grrlnerd.com.

Top 5 TV Characters

Top five television characters on shows that are currently airing, in definite order:

5. Louis C.K. as Louis, Louis

There are definitely cringe-worthy moments on the show (particularly during some of the stand-up interludes, but that may be related to my misgivings about stand-up in general), but there is something really endearing about the main character. His flaws make him human and vulnerable, and ultimately totally lovable.

4. Toni Collette as Tara Gregson, United States of Tara

Despite being created by Grrl Nerd favorite Diablo Cody, this show is also not perfect. We encounter the same old representations: what ‘crazy’ looks like, what ‘motherhood’ looks like, what ‘disability’ looks like. Collette as Gregson does amazing work in mitigating the damage of the same ole representations by making some of the…facets (?)…really remarkable. Somehow, the character of Tara reads less like a woman defined by severe mental illness and more like a woman who is enhanced by the multiple personalities that should plague her.

3. Danny Pudi as Abed Nadir, Community

All hail Abed. The somewhat disjointed character serves as a fascinating storytelling device in episodes. Occasionally acting as the narrator, sometimes positioned as the antagonist, watching Danny Pudi bring Abed Nadir to life is fun. Early episodes nodded towards a strong likelihood of ethnicity playing a defining role in his character, but writers seemed to grow tired of the easy grabs. If you are a coldhearted person who can’t handle the nerd speak, at least give credit for the end of each episode, which often features Abed and Troy acting adorably goofy.

2. John Noble as Walter Bishop, Fringe

I will probably always love me some mad scientist. Walter Bishop is part comic relief and part narrative device in explaining The Crazy that pops up in nearly every episode, but he is 100% heart. The story arc of rebuilding a relationship with his son (Joshua Jackson as Peter Bishop) is critical to the humanity of the show, and the hilarious and usually nonsensical quips keep me laughing.

1. Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

Disclaimer: Tina Fey is a life muse. Maybe I was destined to love and admire Liz Lemon because of idolization of Fey. Regardless, I’ll be the first to admit Lemon is a flawed character, rich with problematic constructs. She reflects the notion that career women will never be satisfied if they aren’t mothers, regurgitating the antiquated notion that femininity = motherhood. She reflects the body/weight obsession that plagues our culture. She reminds the viewer that nerdy women will very rarely be the crush object. These widespread and indoctrinated constructs ultimately make Lemon so lovable – we can see ourselves in every foot-in-mouth moment and low self-esteem decision and guilty food binge. And whether you love her or hate her, Fey and Lemon are a lightning rod for feminist issues that somehow, someway get a prime-time soapbox on a network show. This in of itself is laudable.

Y: The Last Man

Years after the series ended, Y: The Last Man stirs up a lot of conversation in the Nerdverse. Coming across this piece on Our Valued Customers reminded me of some frustrating conversations I have had with normally smart and right-minded people regarding the merits of the series, and the notion of a single gender in general. There is something about Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s comic really rubs some people the wrong way.

I, myself, am a huge fan. Generally speaking, I love post-apocalyptic stories (see: Tank Girl, Mad Max, et al.). I also like stories where the main character is flawed. And Y certainly delivers on both fronts. Yorick is far from perfect: he’s dangerously optimistic, easily distracted, and a bit whiny. For all of his flaws, the counters highlight the best of humanity. He really does believe in love and his family, and ultimately trusts in his handlers and their judgment.

One issue is consistently brought up in my discussions of the comic, and that is whether I love this series because I am a feminist. The myth that feminists hate men is both reductionist and terribly false. I think most feminists would agree that we want shit to be better for everybody. Destroying systems of oppression, like gender binaries and colonial racism, does not underline how we’re all man-hating crazies.

</soapbox>

Despite how much I love everyone, especially our male and male-identifying allies, losing an important half of the reproductive requirements it is an interesting conundrum in a post-apocalyptic world. And in Y, this problem is partly responsible for the cultivation of female collectives. The collectives bring an interesting commentary to what female superiority would look like while introducing fun antagonists, like the Daughters of the Amazons and Y’s own sister, Hero.

Getting into discussions about why someone likes a series is a dangerous topic, for obvious reasons. I have to believe the audience for Y is vast, due to the healthy sales of the series and the TPB circulation now. I wonder what more mainstream readers are getting out of the story, like our friend featured in the comic above.

Awesome Nerd Gear

In the spirit of mass consumption, behold a small list of gift suggestions to jump-start your shopping season. I know it’s hard to shop for your nerd or geek (because we tend to buy everything we want immediately), but here are some awesome wares if you are stumped and need some inspiration. Fuck giving money to corporations, let’s give money directly to the artists this year.

Rad t-shirts from the Forlorn Funnies shop. You should know Paul Hornschemeier’s work. If you don’t, stop what you are doing and go buy Mother, Come Home.

Right?! He’s amazing. And when you are done being blown away by his work, go back to the site to buy fun t-shirts.

If your gift recipient is smart, awesome, and/or amazing, get them this book written by Grrl Nerd favorite, Kevin Church.

Lydia is a great gift your loved feminist, with featured art by four kick-ass ladies, strips that feature our smart-mouthed, indie comic lovin’ heroine, and includes appearances by the rest of the beloved Yavin crew. (For the unaware, Lydia is a spin-off of well-loved webcomic The Rack, which is a story of the characters in a comic shop. It’s brilliant.)

Olympia artist Nikki McClure has a recognizable and revered art style that can be a gift that gives throughout the entire year.

Her strong lines and single paper cut designs are striking and instantly recognizable, and her calendars are an affordable way to celebrate such a great artist.

Know It All pencil set from Paper Pastries. Let’s face it, one of the worst personality defects of your run-of-the-mill nerd is that we know EVERYTHING. Celebrate fact with snarky pencils!

There you have it – an alternative to giving all your dough to large multinationals while celebrating the nerdly arts. If you know of any rad stuff out there, let me know. I’m…er…shopping for other people? Uh, yeah, that’s it.

Ahem.