Archive for the ‘Geek pride’ Category

Why the scariest show on Netflix is…Marie Kondo

February 23, 2019

Why the scariest show on Netflix is…Marie Kondo

There are a lot things that scare people on Netflix: Poltergeist, The Witch, The Haunting of Hill House, Jaws, American Horror Story…

I can watch (and enjoy) horror movies/TV shows, and have for a very long time.

There’s one show, though, that I can’t bring myself to watch…just thinking about it raises my heart rate and starts the fear sweat stirring.

What is it?

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

I suspect that a lot of other people feel the same way, even if it’s an immensely popular show.

Why this fear?

As a collector, as someone who champions what most people feel is unimportant, the idea of getting rid of things scares me.

I would guess it always has.

Now, I have to be clear…as stated, I haven’t seen the show, so I’m just going on what I know about it through summaries and such.

As I understand it, the basic idea (and I’m sure there are a lot of subtleties to it) is that you go through the items in your house. You pick up an item (say, a book or a piece of clothing), and commune with it in some manner, to see if it “sparks joy”. If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank it for what it has contributed to your life, and then remove it from your life, preferably by donating it if it would have value to someone else.

What a bizarre idea! 😉

Clearly, this resonates with people…thrift shops have indicated that they’ve gotten so many items donated by people inspired by the show, and I presume, to a lesser degree, by the book

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) | 4.4 stars out of 5 | 13, 889 reviews at time of writing

that they have had to turn donations away.

Now, on the surface, this makes some sense.

One of the things I do in my day job is help people with time management, and I’m very effective. I once sat with someone for an hour who was routinely leaving work two hours or so late. Within a few weeks, that person was leaving on time.

Part of that is cleaning things up.

Let’s take e-mails.

Suppose you get lots of e-mails, and you either take action on them or delete them…at least, that’s the theory.

However, there are many of them that you read….but then just don’t bother to delete.

You may think having those undeleted e-mails in your inbox doesn’t affect your efficiency, but it does.

You can think of it this way: you have two systems of mental processing.

One of them works very quickly, and you aren’t even aware of it most of the time. It’s constantly assessing everything around you…one of its main functions is to determine threats.

It’s very shallow and judgmental…it makes snap decisions.

If you are about to cross the street, your System One looks at traffic for you. It analyzes whether that traffic is dangerous to you. If it is, you might instinctively jump back on to the curb. You probably couldn’t articulate why, exactly, in many cases…what it was about a car or traffic flow that made you consider it dangerous.

Now, in some cases (relatively few), that system can’t make a decision…it then passes the problem to your “slow” system, which engages your intellect for a thoughtful decision.

Stick your hand in the fire, System One.

See a stranger on the other side of the street, creeping along like Bela Lugosi…System Two. There may be nothing wrong with that person, and it may be prejudice that tripped your initial concern, but you consider it.

When you leave those e-mails in the inbox, you likely don’t engage System Two at all. However, your System One still needs to assess them…every single time. If you have a thousand e-mails, your System One will make that super fast decision that they are unimportant…on all of them.

You aren’t aware of it, but that takes intellectual energy…which makes it harder to deal with the actual important (probably new) e-mails.

So, why wouldn’t the same thing apply to the clothes in your closet and the books on your shelves?

It does.

Absolutely, no question: if you have a bunch of clothes in your closet that have no sentimental value, and that you will never wear again, they are stressing your intellectual systems. It makes perfect sense to get rid of them.

I’m fine with that.

Donating is great: I’m fine with that, too.

What I don’t like is the “sparks joy” test, which could lead to a lot of false positives…identifying things as having no value when they do.

First, it suggests that you will always be exactly the same as you are now. If something doesn’t “spark joy” for you now, it never will. I don’t know about you, but there are things I didn’t need, but years later, they were exactly the solution I needed for something.

Second, it feels selfish…I have a lot of things that I have * don’t have just for me…I have them for the value they’ll have for someone else at some point…even for society at large.

The latter can be a big part of collecting, when you aren’t doing it for just economic reasons (hoping to make a profit).

There are items I’ve kept for decades…I may have some of the few copies of them that exist.

That doesn’t mean they have economic value…that used to be true for a lot of geeky stuff, like science fiction novels, although that has changed some.

I grew up with the belief that some comic books were valuable because people’s parents threw out the vast majority of them. It turned out later that wasn’t exactly the case…there was an intentional campaign against comic books which even led to public burnings, as explained in this excellent book:

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Still, a lot of what I have would be considered ephemera by mainstream society…something that doesn’t have any lasting value.

It’s possible, in some cases, that I have one of the only ones of these items in existence.

I’ll just make something up: let’s say it’s the schedule for a local science fiction convention (maybe 200 attendees) from the 1980s. Most people would just throw it away (or nowadays, recycle it), and that’s fine. Picking it up is not necessarily going to spark joy for me.

If I get rid of it, though, there may no longer be a copy of it in the world.

Your response may be, “So what?” 🙂

Well, it was a part of our society…undoubtedly, a very small part. It may not have affected anything else in any meaningful way…pop culture doesn’t always follow “The Butterfly Effect” hypothesis, although I suppose it might. Maybe somebody who went to that con became more involved in geeky things, and eventually, contributed to a movie which changed the world.

Maybe not.

Even if it didn’t, objects like that didn’t just grow on a tree. People contributed to it…human-made objects are evidence of people, of their dreams and efforts.

If I just say that this item doesn’t mean anything to me now and therefore should be destroyed…well, as I said above, it feels very self-centered.

Sure, it’s easier to get rid of things, and I know why it feels good short-term. I’ve said in the past, though, that I’ve never regretted keeping something but I have regretted getting rid of something.

That doesn’t mean that I just keep everything! I’m not a hoarder…really, I’m not.

For example, I’ve recently started donating a very large percentage of my library. I started with something like ten thousand paperbooks in my home (I’m a former bookstore manager, for one thing). I recently had major surgery, and that made me rethink what might happen if I died (even though it was a very low risk surgery, it’s a good specific impetus). I got my will in order.

I also thought about all those books.

Why did I have them? I almost always read e-books now.

What I pictured was that, after my death, my offspring would donate the books.

That would be a considerable burden!

I know where I want the books to go. I want them to go to people who will preserve them and make them available, perhaps for sociological study.

It would be ridiculous for my now adult kid to need to deal with ten thousand books!

I’ve started donating them. I’ve been sending boxes to Loren Coleman’s

International Cryptozoology Museum

I trust Loren: I’ve been a reader of Coleman’s books from the beginning, we’ve had some correspondence, and while we don’t really know each, we did have lunch once.

The museum is a non-profit: I can write off the donations. It’s tough to assess the value, and they often won’t assess as being worth much…one good thing: I can write off the shipping costs, which are not insignificant.

If they are duplicates, ICM could sell them, of course, as a way to raise funds….I’m confident, though, that they would make sure some copy of it is preserved.

Couldn’t I sell these books myself?

Sure…we could do that through eBay or Amazon. That’s a lot of work, and there’s no guarantee that the person buying them would try to preserve them or make them legally publicly available. I’d rather donate them.

I’m certainly going to keep some books: my Doc Savage paperbacks, my original Oz books…those are more like family heirlooms. Somebody in the family might want to read them later. I’m toying with the idea of keeping all the floor to ceiling bookshelves, and “facing” the books…putting them with the front cover showing. That might be cool, like art, but I’m not sure yet.

Yes, I get rid of things. Yes, I donate things.

My criterion isn’t simply if they “spark joy” now. My “Kondophobia” has to do with the idea that people would just indiscriminately toss or even donate things. They’ll follow the old saying, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

One important strategy: do separate the “archives” from the current use. If you have a t-shirt from a concert you saw in college, don’t keep it with the t-shirts you wear every day. That’s going to stress your System One. You want to keep it as art? Frame it, hang it on the wall, just like you would a picture.  Just preserving it for your kids? Put it in a box or a special closet.

You want me to watch The Exorcist? I’m there. You want me to watch Tidying Up? You’re on your own… 😉

What do you think? Do you think keeping things is ridiculous, a waste of space? Do you think I should sell my books, rather than donating them? Do you want to keep your “collectibles” as a legacy for your descendants? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog

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Geek-friendly, blockbuster…and critically acclaimed

January 19, 2018

Geek-friendly, blockbuster…and critically acclaimed

“You know, Tommy…you’re really a freak. I don’t mean that unkindly. I like freaks. That’s why I like you.”
–Mary-Lou (played by Candy Clark) to Thomas Jerome Newton (played by David Bowie)
The Man Who Fell to Earth
screenplay by Paul Mayersberg
based on the novel by Walter Tevis
collected in
The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) by Bufo Calvin

Now that the geeks have inherited the Earth, what do we want to do with it? 😉

I remember back in the olden days 😉 when consuming geek-friendly media was something that only a few of us did…and pretty much everybody else looked down on us for doing it. Robert Heinlein was in the kids’ section. You could make just about anything into a “sci-fi” movie for the summer drive-ins, because the market was small enough that we literally could see every single geeky movie released in the USA…and some of us did.

While there had always been some geeky hits, the seventies saw the real start of the change: The Exorcist (horror) (1973); Jaws (monster movies) (1975); and Star Wars (science fiction, although loosely defined) (1977) were giant blockbusters, dominating the box office.

If you look at the top-grossing movies of all time in the USA (not adjusted for inflation), and remove the anomaly of Titanic (even though it’s full of special effects and directed by a geek-friendly director), the top thirty are all geek-friendly, and they dominate on down the line for the top 100.

When we look at critical acclaim, though, that’s been a tougher path.

Not this year.

Again, if we look backwards (and I’m talking about movies here), there have been geek-friendly critically-acclaimed performances and movies. Fredric March won the Best Actor Oscar for portraying the title roles in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Julie Andrews won for the title role in Mary Poppins.

However, there is an important distinction in all the buzz around The Shape of Water and Get Out (which may each get multiple Oscar noms, announced on January 23, including Big Six awards…Best Picture/Director/acting awards).

They are originals, written for the screen. They are also both written by their directors, and are unambiguously geek-friendly.

Being based on a book gives geek-friendly movies a certain cachet. Even though the books themselves may have been considered “lowbrow” or for kids, that still counts, even in a sort of retroactive respect.

This year, critics are recognizing geek-friendly works that are born and raised in the geek-friendly world.

The Shape of Water, according to IMDb, has already won 67 awards and had 190 nominations.

Get Out has 84 wins and 142 nominations.

Note that that doesn’t mean they lost in those other cases…some of them have not been decided yet, like this weekend’s SAG awards.

When we look at the Oscar odds at

Gold Derby

nominations seem very likely, and wins are possible.

I don’t think we geeks need to worry that we are going to be like everybody else (that’s a negative, right?).  😉 There will always be eddies which keep us out of the mainstream. Still, I think the time has arrived that we can say, “All your base are belong to us”… 😉


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The Geeky Road to Gold 2014

March 2, 2014

The Geeky Road to Gold 2014

Actors rarely get nominated for Oscars for geek-friendly roles.

That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t claim this year’s acting nominees as our own.

After all, once you’ve got one geek credit, we’ll go to see you at a convention ten years later. 😉

Maybe it’s because we think of ourselves as the outcasts…we not only want to welcome people into our ranks, but we want to show that great actors work with dragons* and robots** (even if Hollywood doesn’t know they are great at that point).

Let’s take a look at the nominees for this year’s acting Oscars, and see if “we knew them when”:

Lead Actor

  • Christian  Bale: come on…he’s Batman! GEEK CRED
  • Bruce Dern: Silent Running** would be enough, but you can throw in the original The Outer Limits…and The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant! GEEK CRED
  • Leonardo DiCaprio: Inception…and Critters 3! GEEK CRED
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: Children of Men…and 2012! GEEK CRED
  • Matthew McConaughey: Reign of Fire*…and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation! GEEK CRED

Lead Actress

  • Amy Adams: Man of Steel…and Smallville! GEEK CRED
  • Cate Blanchett: The Lord of the Rings…and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! GEEK CRED
  • Sandra Bullock: Demolition Man…and Love Potion No. 9!  GEEK CRED
  • Judi Dench: one letter is enough…M!  GEEK CRED
  • Meryl Streep: Death Becomes Her…and The Simpsons! GEEK CRED

Supporting Actor

  • Barkhad Abdi: sorry, only 1 credit so far
  • Bradley Cooper: Limitless…and Alias! GEEK CRED
  • Jonah Hill: Strange Wilderness…and How to Train Your Dragon! GEEK CRED
  • Michael Fassbender: X-Men: First Class…and Hex! GEEK CRED
  • Jared Leto: Mr. Nobody…and Urban Legend! GEEK CRED

Supporting Actress

  • Sally Hawkins: HG Wells: War with the World! GEEK CRED
  • Julia Roberts: Hook…and Mary Reilly! GEEK CRED
  • Lupita Nyong’o: a TV series and a short before this
  • Jennifer Lawrence: The Hunger Games…and Mystique! GEEK CRED
  • June Squibb: Ghost Whisperer (hello, Grandma!)! GEEK CRED

So there, Hollywood! Except for two relative newbies, we can claim them all! Next time you are watching somebody act with an alien or a zombie, just remember…you might be reading that name in an envelope some day. 😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.


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