Saturday, 22 March 2014

Geek Rant vs The Geek Legend.

So, geekrant has been quiet for the last week, “oh no!” I don’t hear you cry, “How have we coped without your opinionated, patronising view upon all things geek”.

Well I’m glad you were concerned, (although I know you really weren’t), over lack of postings. The truth is work has been hard and carrying on a relationship with a 4000 mile distance and a 6 hour time difference is not as flexible as well, any relationship that you have in the same time zone as the other person. But my wonderful fiancé makes it all worthwhile, all the time.

Anyway, Saturday was the birthday of William Shatner, for many the ultimate geek deity. The guy who was captaining the Enterprise while Picard still had hair and before Riker could even grow a beard, the ultimate example of a celebrity not taking themselves seriously in the slightest by appearing to take themselves far too seriously.

He’s also the guy who defies any rules on what should and shouldn’t work on T.V. 1980s crime series “T.J. Hooker” is a perfect example. On paper, this is a series that shouldn’t work, at all. Older actor (desperately fighting against the advances of middle aged spread, I know who am I to make comments about other people’s weight?) plays middle aged plain clothes detective who returns to uniform to teach younger officers how to fight crime. It shouldn’t work! But then you’re forgetting its Shatner, who manages to make it look like some kind of high intensity work-out to fight said middle aged spread combined with an acting class to show just how much of an expert he is at T.V. acting. And despite the fact that series was never phenomenally scripted, Canada’s greatest export since maple syrup and ice hockey still kept it going for 5 seasons. Just watch the intro sequence to see why it shouldn’t work but really does!

William Shatner is one of those unusual actors in geek circles, a man so identified with his iconic character that he can do pretty much anything, even tell Trekkies to “get a life” on an early 80s episode of Saturday Night Live. He’s almost given a free pass. Because HE IS JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK. Chris Pine might play Kirk in the new “Star Trek” movies but Shatner IS Kirk!

If the planet Earth was invaded by monster aliens next week, I wouldn’t send out the Army to fight them or stand like an idiot under their destruction beam with a cardboard sign saying “take me with you” or even fly a jet upwards into said destruction beam while saying “hi boys, I’m back”. No, I’d send Shatner, he’d know what to do. If nothing else he’d make them laugh so much with his jokes that they’d simply give up on eradicating the human race and watch some “Star Trek” while noting that Shatner’s version of “Common People” is as good as anyone can get with a “Pulp” cover version if they don’t come from Sheffield.

So, Shatner gets a free pass in the geek world, why? Because he behaves like he doesn’t deserve it. He knows the severe limitations in the original “Star Trek”. Its effects and scripting and that it’s amazing it’s lasted as long as it has. He knows that his performance by the necessity of the time is slightly melodramatic and that every “Star Trek” Captain has been more believable and realistic, because 1990s and 2000s audiences needed that. But he is James T Kirk and in the heart of every geek, at least every male one, we want to be James T. Kirk.

So, keep on trekking, I’m going to watch “T.J. Hooker” and admire Shatner’s stunt running.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Geek Rant! vs The Remakes or how 80s kids shows will always be the coolest.

I was born in the 1980s.

The 80s saw many things, Reagan and Thatcher, Bush and Thatcher and Cagney and Lacey. The Berlin Wall came down. Mobile phones appeared. So did personal computers.  Two sets of Summer Olympics  boycotted over Cold War antagonism. It saw the growth of a culture exemplified by Wall Street.  Braces (that’s “suspenders” to the Americans), shirts with worrying stripes and a culture dedicated wholly to the pursuit of money.  Many have said that this could be seen as a rebellion against the Sixties inspired “flower power” attitudes. It might have been. But it was also a time fertile for the breeding of geeks.
For many of my generation the 1980s was a kind of geek nirvana. The time when our passion was born and kindled, it had movies that took children on a voyage of discovery and did it with humour. It had television series that easily became cult t.v. . Honestly which male 80s child didn’t want to grow up to drive “KITT” from “Knight Rider”, we all knew we’d do a better job than “the Hoff” did. “The Goonies” made us believe that anyone of us could go off with our friends, find buried treasure and all the while outwit clumsy adults.  Even science fiction saw a new prominence with the return of a “Star Trek” series.
Maybe that is why Hollywood is remaking so many of these great movies and tv series.  And maybe that’s why so many people get dismayed or angry or even hurt when we see the things we love get remade into things we never imagined.
 I love “The A-Team” , for example. I have most of the series on dvd. I know the names of the characters, the actors, the ranks of the characters ( Lieutenant Colonel, Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant). I know that veteran character actor Alan Fudge (who played Patrick Duffy’s boss on “The Man from Atlantis”) played three different characters on each of the first three seasons of the series, that Faceman fell in love with the same actress playing two different characters in successive seasons and that Boy George is perhaps the worst example of pop star acting since Pat Boone did movies.  I excitedly awaited the movie when it came out.  It looked great. Face, BA and Murdoch were all fantastically realised modernised versions of the original characters. Then there was Liam Neeson.
Neeson, who it needs to be said, is a brilliant actor, thoroughly ruins, for me, the whole movie. Called upon to play the charismatic, attention seeking, brilliant and at times, slightly unhinged Lieutenant Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, he instead seems to be engaging in some attempt at a Western tough guy. At various points I expected him to say “Get of your horse and drink your milk” or to ask some bad guy to “Go for your guns”. It ruined the movie for me.  How he could totally have misread the character I could not understand until I read an article about his preparation for the movie in which he said he’d read the script and felt the character was a Lee Marvin style of character and that he’d never watched the series. The other three leads, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson were all children aged 7, 9 and 4 when the original series came out. Neeson was an adult of 29. The first three acted their parts brilliantly, because you bet they’d watched the series in the 80s, but Neeson hadn’t, so he just played the part from his view of the script not the series.

But that made me think, maybe that’s the point. Maybe geeks are just children who never let go of our heroes of childhood. We can’t stand interference with them because of what they meant to us in our lifetimes.  We dislike the remakes, not because they’re truly bad ( although some DEFINITELY are, the least said about the recent remake of “Ironside” the better) but because they shatter our childhood memories, we see the characters not now as heroes but the fragile human beings they are. The plotline holes and storyline errors are more obvious because we are older, more aware of the world around us. We don’t live in that perfect vista of youth anymore, where Saturday morning cartoons (my favourite, “The Raccoons) encompassed our world and summer holidays stretched on forever like some fun filled, sunlit ocean.

My friend Neil’s favourite movie is “The Karate Kid”, the original version, and like myself with many of the t.v. series and movies that I love, he wasn’t even born when the original came out in 1984. And yet he loves that movie with an utter passion. Nothing can come close to that film for him. And I have the utmost respect for his attitude. He can barely stomach the remake of “Karate Kid” (not really surprising for a film that really serves as a Jaden Smith stepping stone vehicle from the brilliance of “Pursuit of Happiness” to the utterly bonkers, mindbendingly boring “After Earth”) but is that truthfully because of the problems with the movie (making the protagonist younger, setting it in China when Mr Miyagi was from Okinawa, Jaden Smith) or is it that it is “Daniel San” is his childhood hero?
 When I visited my fiancée Kelly in the US last year and got the opportunity to ride in her co-worker Caleb’s jeep with the roof or doors on, although I was riding through residential housing in Madison, Wisconsin, in my heart I was in the back of a jeep on a mission with “The A-Team”. I know Neil would probably love to meet Ralph Macchio and I would love to meet Dirk Benedict. (Bradley Cooper too, but only because of his part on “Alias” not “The A-Team” or “The Hangover”)

Maybe we give remakes too hard a job. They’re never going to win. Because in reality they’re not just going up against the old movie but for the geek nation, our childhood imagination, and I’m honestly not sure that can ever be beaten.

So until my next blog… “I love it when a plan comes together”, “Wax on, Wax off” and if you want to be a true hero never “Sweep the leg!”.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

To Boldly Go where EVERY geek has gone before

Another day, another geek rant, a geek’s work is never done.

At this juncture, however, I feel it is necessary to put a little disclaimer in my work. That is to say that this blog isn’t meant to offend anyone or make myself sound anymore patronising or pompous than I can do in the flesh. It is just me trying to complain about things over which I have zero control, so if anyone has a problem with anything I say, please contact me and let me know and I’ll see if I can accommodate you.

Anyway, on with the subject of today’s post. And that is a subject that stands above all other geek subjects. It rises like Godzilla out of Tokyo Harbour (not that it actually is Godzilla) and beats all into submission. It is the subject that all geeks have opinion about. Even if said opinion is dismissive and derisory. And that subject is “Star Trek”.
No television series polarises people’s opinion quite like it. For the totally non geeky, it is that symbol of the geeks complete loss to the rest of the human race. They look at you as you say you like it, with the exact same look on their face as Diane Keaton has in the last scene of “The Godfather”. As Pacino is lost to the mob, we are forever lost to the forces of geekdom, at least in their minds.
And then there are the people who like sci-fi but don’t want anybody to know it. “I only like Star Wars” they say “I’ve never watched Star Trek”. As if watching sci-fi was a crime akin to taking a controlled substance and saying “I only like Star Wars” is like smoking one cannabis joint in college whereas watching “Star Trek” is like snorting cocaine while tweaking crystal meth. So long as you’re not a “Star Trek” fan, you’re not completely gone.
There are the hardcore fans of course, those who’ve watched every episode, have every Star Trek novel ever published, they have their own uniform and a character profile they’ve created to go with it. I can’t keep up with all that. It’s too much effort but I have a lot of respect to anyone who does. To you I say “Qapla!”
I just like watching it. I have some on dvd. I enjoy it and will happily converse with you for hours over the merits of DS9 versus Voyager, Kirk versus Picard, Spock versus Tuvok (as the best Vulcan, I know it seems ridiculous to suggest anyone comes close to Spock but it’s a close run thing for me).
Despite all that I’m only a passing fan. I enjoy it, well enough but that’s it. When I was in school, a group of guys would watch every episode religiously, (this was “Star Trek : Deep Space Nine” which conveniently finished the year we left school for college) they talked about it, debated it and one even used it for an English speaking and listening presentation.
It is very clear to me that I’m not a Star Trek geek, just a fan. (I’m also rubbish at making a presentation. Back in school when asked to give constructive criticism of others pieces I went slightly overboard while never working on my own. I thought I could wing it. Needless to say it was a verbal bloodbath when my turn came around. Ah! The patronising arrogance of the geek! Everyone in that English class knows I deserved the response I got and so do I) But there is lots in “Star Trek” for the passing fan. So for anyone wishing to dip their figurative toes in the Trek pool here are my (humbly offered, lest a repeat of Year 11 English Class of ’99) top tips.

1. Start with “The Original Series” or “The Next Generation”, They’re the least geeky (although my friend Danny loves “Voyager” and he’s about as ungeeky as they come)

2. There’s going to be a lot of rubber foreheads. As a general rule whenever “Star Trek” wants to make an alien, it sticks moulded rubber on a human head, you can’t cope with that, give up now.

3. It will not make sense. It is highly illogical.

4. The new films are great but check out the series.

5. The Captain WILL fall in love. REPEATEDLY. Deal with it.

6. The Vulcans WILL fall in love. REPEATEDLY (Even though Pon Farr, the Vulcan mating cycle happens only once every seven years and they’re supposed to have controlled emotions)

7. All the computers WILL sound the same. And they will get trapped on the Holodeck again and again.

If you can cope with these things then sign up for Starfleet and watch some classic ‘Trek if not then there’s always some girl on “Maury” who’s about to have a paternity test on her baby for the 15th time. No doubt she’ll run backstage in a totally unscripted act when she finds out that it’s not his. Peace out and Live Long and Prosper!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Soaps: Taking on the Housewives favourite.

There is a moment that every geek knows. That moment, when, while you’re deeply engrossed in a major plot point of a “DR Who” episode you’ve watched three times already, somebody interrupts and suggests that some storyline point of that or whatever tv show/comic book/movie you were watching the day before yesterday is mildly unbelievable. “Really?” I hear myself reply “And there was me naively watching it for its factual basis.”
I’m being facetious of course, but it does display a peculiar prejudice to which the non-geeks amongst us often fall into. That their interests are somehow much more realistic, and therefore more mature, than ours are. Soap fans are the worst for this, ridiculing sci-fi fans for watching unrealistic television while they watch equally unrealistic programmes simply dressed up in the gritty realistic clothes of “real life”.
There they are, ridiculing us for the likelihood of Captain James T. Kirk falling in love with everyone he meets while accepting total ridiculousness as down to earth realism. Even when such realism includes Rita, from British soap opera “Coronation Street”, having a breakdown, losing her memory and then being chased by her murderous ex-boyfriend Alan Bradley across tram tracks in Blackpool just so you can end the episode with Bradley getting run over by a tram. A tram! Now that is unrealistic.
“Who shot J.R.?”, “Free the Weatherfield One”, (any non- British people reading, don’t ask about this last one, you’re better not knowing) the entire series of “Eldorado” in Britain and “Dynasty” in America. These are unrealistic events. But just because there are no phasers, transporters, superheroes, temporal paradoxes, TARDISes or falling in love with alien princesses (although I’m not sure “Dynasty” didn’t try the last of these), then you can judge us.

Trust me, you can’t. The reason why not? Jason Donovan’s “Neighbours” era mullet. Honestly, any genre of television loses its credibility when one of its young romantic leads looks like he has a meerkat stuck to his head. (For all non-Brits and non-Aussies, check this monstrosity out on google images, it gave me childhood nightmares)

Another reason? “The Flying Doctors”. More Australian soap opera mullets only now they’re flying to get you.

It would be wrong to say that I hate soaps. I can quite happily watch them for a long time. I know “Who shot J.R.” and I actually remember when Alan Dale’s character died in “Neighbours” from a heart attack. (Interestingly enough, Dale’s characters in “Ugly Betty” and “The O.C.” both died of heart attacks too. Although in “ER” he only got paralysed from the waist down) I quite like soaps. I just don’t think they’re more realistic.
And, I would argue, that is what makes our geekery so enticing. Its lack of reality. It is unreal. It is that it takes us away from ourselves. To other galaxies and worlds, to revel in tales of derring do, of heroes and villains. This is why geeks exist. Its why, even when they find out its all fake, WWE fans still love to watch wrestling, the knowledge that it’s a story somehow makes it better. Rather something uplifting like that than watching some fight over who’s sleeping with who on a soap opera.

So next time, somebody ridicules your choice of geekdom, think “Jason Donovan’s Mullet” or “Joan Collins Shoulderpads” and at least it will make you laugh as you wonder whether the “Galactica” would be quicker than the “Enterprise” and just how do the three seashells work in “Demolition Man”.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

A "Geek" New World

In the 21st century world of the internet, geeks, and their wannabe pretenders, thrive. We discuss and argue, disseminate ideas and opinions at an extreme rate. We have found a new and fertile breeding ground for our supercilious proclamations of mastery over our particular subject matter. Geekdom it seems now lies in how often you can make an appeal for this series to return on a production company’s facebook or how many times you can get pictures of yourself in cosplay, for some ridiculous anime series that nobody has never heard of, onto instagram.
It has to be noticed, now it seems, it has to be seen. No longer is the geek content with just having a pair of Superman boxers which he keeps hidden under his jeans, oh no, now everything he wears has to be authentic, in-universe, from the series official collection and if it’s vintage then “Huzzah” all the better. (It should be noticed at this juncture, that saying “Huzzah” rather than “Great” or “Cool” does not make you sound daring in a Victorian adventurer kind of way, it just makes you sound foolish)
It’s the same way in which every teenage girl seems to have a copy of the same Ramones t-shirt, they’re all punks! Joey Ramone would be proud! Only they’re not, they’re just following a bandwagon (with the exception of one girl I know of who’s liked the Ramones since she was six). They’ve never heard “Blitzkrieg Bop” in their life. My friend, Gary and I, once made an agreement that if you wore a band t-shirt, then you had to know at least an album’s worth of their songs before you could wear it. If only the new generation of so called geeks felt the same.
It’s fashionable to be a geek! It’s all the rage to be a geek! Join the geek takeover! Only it’s not really geekery. It’s just trendy, like wine bars and mineral water and Del Boy’s Filofax in the late eighties, it’s in! (for any non-British readers of this blog, Del Boy Trotter is a character in the fantastic and classic UK sitcom “Only Fools and Horses”,its well worth a watch if you get the chance)
This new geekdom is low effort, low maintenance and best of all will lead to absolutely no loss of social status. Which is exactly why it’s not really geekdom, Its like a hundred metre sprint that doesn’t require any sprinting. You just turn up and wear the kit.
Now the real geek, on the other hand, spends years developing their geekiness. They hide themselves away watching entire tv series in a day. They sat through all four seasons Wil Wheaton was on “Star Trek :The Next Generation” and wouldn’t dare to say “Wheaton”, with the people who think they’re geeks because they watch “Big Bang Theory”, because they actually remember what an annoying character Wesley Crusher truly was. They read the books that science fiction series are based on then they watch the series. They call “cosplay”, “fancy dress” because they know that calling it something new won’t make it cool and what geek ever wanted to be cool anyway.

The real geek understands that we do it all for the love of it. Not to be noticed. We did it only to see a bunch of people jump on bandwagons, left, right and centre. When Peter Capaldi was announced as the latest Dr Who, a female fan went on twitter and complained about the fact that “Dr Who should be fit” and I thought back to my teenage self, saving my money hard for vhs tapes of a series that wasn’t even on television anymore at that point, and I realised how much being a geek means nothing anymore. There have been 12 actors (if you count John Hurt’s War Doctor) who have portrayed Dr Who on T.V. and Capaldi will be the 13th and with the exception of the last two, none have been considered fit. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe geeks are now young trendy people with vintage moustaches and steam punk anime cosplay not working stiffs like me. Oh well, I better go watch that season of “Babylon 5” I’ve been meaning to watch all week.   

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Rant Begins or The Reason This All Began

I’m a geek. Ask my beautiful and funny fiancée. I’m a definite geek. She is as well, in her own way, of course. However, her geekiness is more normal, extending to getting excited when she finds that chain coffee shops in the UK serve flat whites and enjoying blues tracks that I don’t always get around to listening. And she’s American, which means her geekiness fits in more with the altogether less reserved personality of Americans.
I’m British, of course, and therefore subject to the reserved rules of my race. Also being from the north of England, I am expected to subsist on a diet of football, fry ups, Friday night booze ups and stories about my time with women of a graphic nature. I am using stereotypes of course, but on the whole, my geekiness doesn’t fit in that much and is altogether less acceptable than my unbelievably better half’s slight coffee obsession.
I am a sci fi geek. I’m also an old tv series geek. I get excited when I see actors names in credits on modern shows and can tell you that they were on this show for 5 years in 1984 when I was 1. The average person of my age sees the actress Teri Garr on a tv show and would recognise her as Phobe’s mother from “Friends”. Myself on the other hand, I think immediately of the “Star Trek” episode “Assignment Earth” where she played Roberta Lincoln and “Tootsie” where she played Dustin Hoffman’s character’s female best friend. I can accept that not everybody is freaky like this. I know it is slightly disturbing that I can remember actor’s careers like a stalker but that’s fine. I understand. I’m strange. I’ve learned to deal with it. But then things changed. In seven simple words.

It became cool to be a geek.

The worst thing that could have happened, you see, when I was a teenager, being a geek was deeply uncool and required effort. It was like athletics, training yourself to be a true geek. Now it’s easy. You just say it. “I’m a geek” and there you are, you’re a geek.  Now, I hear you cry, “You started this blog by saying that you’re a geek, how are you any different”, I’m very glad you asked, dear reader.
I’m a geek because other people say I am and when in a conversation about geeky things I know what I’m talking about. I also don’t claim to be geeks of things I’m not. I’m not a Lord of the Rings geek (notice I don’t abbreviate the name in that oh so trendy way to LOTR, I refuse, it’s a book series title, you don’t shorten “Great Expectations” to “GE”), although I had read “The Hobbit” and “ The Lord of the Rings” by the time I was twelve and have watched all the films, I had real difficulty with “The Silmarillion” and thought “The Children of Hurin” was altogether too dark in a lot of places. I also haven’t learnt to speak Elvish, a lot of respect to those who have though. You guys are the true “The Lord of the Rings” geeks.
I’m not a “The Lord of the Rings” geek and just to reiterate owning the boxset limited edition dvd collection of the movies wrapped in mithril silver with a copy of one of the Elven rings from the movie and whatever else you get with it doesn’t mean anything unless you’ve read the books. Don’t say you’re a “The Lord of the Rings” geek and then say “I don’t like reading”.  Oh, you don’t like reading? It’s an epic book series, “dude”, it has been for sixty years. It was written by an Oxford professor of “Anglo Saxon”, it has exhaustive appendixes. It has invented languages. It is a whole body of work, not just some films from the turn of the millennium.  If you want to be a geek of a movie series go watch “Star Wars” for goodness sake.
I wouldn’t say I’m a Star Trek geek either, I mean, I love all the series, but I just haven’t gone into it to the level some people have. Buying or making their own costumes, buying every episode on dvd and then rebuying them when it comes out on blu-ray, although for the record, Picard is definitely a better captain of a starship and Kirk is just psychedelic sixties fun.
I’m not a comic book geek either. I’ve got my fair share of graphic novels and collected titles but I’ve never been able to keep up with the endless different titles. However it gets hard not to put down so called “comic book geeks” when they tell me they don’t like “The Amazing Spiderman” because it departs from the comic by having Spiderman invent his webbing rather than it come out of his arms biologically. Unbelievable, that’s not the comic. Sam Raimi came up with webbing out of the arms for the first movie, you obviously haven’t read the comics.

Anyway. This blog is about a look into the geek world. Well, my version of it, at least. And I’m sorry if all that earlier seemed slightly petty and teenage but I am a geek after all. So on these pages. I will talk about tv series and sci fi and give my opinion of them. You can read if you want and comment if you’d like. But I’m writing this to rant a little bit if that’s all the same with you. I won’t be going near music, by the way, because I have friends who are a lot better than that and if you want to be berated for liking Kasabian then I can put you in touch with them.