Friday, February 20, 2015

It's a Nerd World; or, Leaving the Door Open

Last night, or maybe yesterday afternoon, I was talking with a friend of mine and as is so often the case these days I was talking about Doctor Who and how I have noticed that it is a "Nerd's World" right now. I confessed that I had once written an essay called "I Hate Space" and then I had to find it, because well, memory is my thing. I had a bit of an existential crises last year when I fell so hard for Doctor Who. I had always placed what I called "Space Fiction" (not its real name, sorry) Science Fiction and Fantasy in a "yeah, not for me" pile. For the most part, it was true. I genuinely did not enjoy my forays into those genres. I remember half-jokingly saying that I don't even know who I am anymore. But people change. I can't say that now I am ready to join a colony on Nerd World, but for once I have left the door open a bit. Anyway, I found the essay and reprinted it below, I believe it is from 2007:

I hate space (3 possible reasons why)

I am not all that into space, I'm not really impressed by stargazing, eclipses, or the idea of moon landings, and colonizing Mars.  I hate Star Wars, Star Trek (TNG or otherwise), Space Camp, Shuttle launches, comets, black holes, and rockets; I even hate those little glow-in-the-dark planet/star ceiling decals.  Until I recently found out that if we didn't have a space program there wouldn't be any satellites and I wouldn't be able to watch the Yankees on TV, I was against NASA.  However, I am sad to report, this is a minority opinion. Most people actually think space is cool... okay, I don't get it.  Perhaps, these childhood rememberings of space may help to explain why. 

In 1984--the actual year, not the novel--the space shuttle Challenger exploded on live television.  Like many American school children I was watching, in a classroom. Because Challenger had schoolteacher Christa MCauliffe on board, the first space shuttle disaster hit a lot of teachers hard. It hit my teacher, Mr. Schroeder, right in the gut.  Mr. Schroeder had applied for the opportunity to be in MCauliffe’s unfortunate shoes that day. In fact, he had made it pretty far along in the process and had even had a phone interview by a NASA official.  So, not only was my class completely shocked by what we had just seen, but then we also watched our teacher face his own mortality, and frankly, kind of lose it. That day was not the first time I saw a grown man cry, but it was one of the most awkward.  Let's just say that the principal taught our class for the rest of the day. 

In my elementary school, like most elementary schools, there were THOSE guys. You know the ones that were hopelessly dorky, knew everything about science and technology, wore glasses, and had gigantic crushes on Princess Leia. In my hometown, those two boys were James Turk and Jimmy McConnell. I am not completely sure that Jimmy was not the inspiration for Napoleon Dynamite, because he looked and talked just like him. So, nothing against Napoleon, but Jimmy was not my type. James, on the other hand was kinda hot.  Nerd hot, but still: hot.  One day, I had just come from one of those peer-counseling-togetherness-propaganda meetings about being nice to everyone, when my secret and oh-so-shameful attraction to James prompted me to extend myself and I offered to hang out with them. In the middle of the elementary school was a ring of tires suspended by chains attached to cement pylons.  I am not sure what the main idea of this contraption was supposed to be, but to space dorks like Jimmy and James, it became a spaceship. They played there everyday for 9 years Kindergarten through the 8th grade. So, on this day, full of democratic kindness, I sauntered over and asked them if I could play. After a very awkward pause, Jimmy says, "yeah."  I can still see that gleam in his eye as he told me that I could play "Princess Gwan." A character that I imagine that up until that moment had only been a fantasy, and that, now, to this day, in his mind she looks like me at 12. Now, I imagine that Jimmy is still a major dork, but that he has tons of money earned in the dot.com days, but that sometimes, late at night, he still jacks off to that image of his Princess Gwan. Anyway, for my part in this game, I had to stand next to the cement pole and act like I was tied up. J & J put me in a position that basically had me standing spreadeagled, with my chest jutting out, while I writhed around a bit, and, of course, every once in a while they would prompt me to cry out in distress. All the while, they flew their ship around through dangerous meteorites and other space dangers. It was so boring I thought I would shoot myself in the face. It was the first time in all my days of recesses that I couldn't wait for the bell to ring and send me back to my classroom. Jimmy and James talked space commander gibberish and mimed different space commander actions all the while ogling my junior high rack. Worst recess ever. Every day for the next two months Jimmy would send James over to ask me if I wanted to play again, but I politely declined, and said, "I needed to play basketball, ‘cause season was starting soon, and my jump shot was really rusty."

My brother and I saw Star Wars in the theater. Neither of us was particularly enthralled. But then my Aunt Katherine (yes, I am named for her) sent us a lot of Star Wars toys.  There were light sabers (really just a flashlight with a yellow plastic tube attached), space ships, and action figures. She hadn't seen the movie and she didn't really understand the idea involved, so she sent us Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader. My brother and I both had crushes on Han Solo, and of course, I wanted to be Princess Leia, so I was not pleased.  In the end, my brother, who was a bit of a jerk, (ask me sometime about "teddy bear boxing" and "Karate in the dark") decided that he wanted to be both Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  So that left me to be Obi Wan. Now keep in mind, I was FIVE. And Obi Wan was old, I mean he was played by Alec Guinness for god's sake; this was no Ewan McGregor Obi Wan. So, I played, but with very little gusto, and well, I had to LOSE all the time. I didn't watch Star Wars again until I was in my early 20s when I dated a guy who turned out to be a bit of a Star Wars fanatic, and NOT a baseball fan, as he led me to believe.  I still didn't like the film--turns out me at five and me at 22 shared similar tastes in film--and when I began to make fun of it Mystery Science 3000 style, we got into a nasty fight and actually broke up.

I can't say that any of that has anything to do with my instant visceral reaction to anything spacey, but, it might. Stranger things have been proven true

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