Thursday, July 3, 2008

The "Dork" Knight

In the past couple of years, I've finally been able to come to grips with the fact that I'm a HUGE NERD. That's not a solely figurative statement. This pic is a few years old, but I've managed to maintain this particular look in spite of going through a recent phase when beer, pizza and homework (listed in order of importance) eclipsed my need to crush unopened soda cans--with one hand. After I took this picture, I faintly recall going back to playing PlayStation games and shooting Cheez Whiz into my mouth.

Anyway, yesterday, a friend of mine was giving me grief about my advance purchase of IMAX tickets for "The Dark Knight." I responded to his playful ribbing with...

"What? I only bought them three weeks in advance, sheesh."

I was browsing through the vast array of "basement virgin" websites (rottentomatoes, 49erswebzone, Askmen, etc.) I frequent this morning, when I thought....

"Ya know, Aubrey...why don't you just admit that you've got a PhD in Goober-ology? You'll feel better if you 'out' yourself."

My logical side responded...

"Aubrey, anyone that knows you is quite aware you're the Ayatollah of unintentional virginity. There's no need to announce something that folks with functional gray matter can deduce for themselves."

But I can't help but feel like I've been keeping some horrible secret; like Morgan Freeman in the movie "Deep Impact" (which by the way, was much, much better than the craptacular "Armageddon").

OK, perhaps not advertising my love for Rocky IV, robots with lasers and kung-fu/ninja movies isn't as bad as the end of the world. But like a good friend of mine once said, I'm honest to a fault--which is especially true in terms of my own perceived shortcomings.

But why would I want to allow strangers into my geeky little world? After minutes of self-analyzing, I've produced several theories of why I feel some unprovoked need to put my uncool-ness on display...

a) I believe that people think I'm much cooler than they actually do.

b) I assume I'm much lamer than I actually am.

c) I actually am so cool that I can't reconcile with the guilt/responsibility inherent in Über-coolness (all afore-mentioned coolness is now voided due to my use of the word "Über").

d) So strong is the (nerd) force in me that I feel a need to unleash my knowledge of obscure trivia facts, martial arts cinema and aircraft specifications on the world.

I'm gonna go with "d."

I mean, I'm not really a virgin or anything (it's funny how for us guys, insertion is apparently where downtown Nerdville ends and the freeway to Cooltown begins). I know when it's appropriate to delve into the mysterious origins of the "Dracula" legend or when to commence with a "Gollum" impression. But the fact that I occasionally do these things has always worried me.

In high school, I was never one of the "cool" kids, BUT, everyone knew my name, and (I would like to believe) liked me for the most part. I played football and was OK at that (not the case in track), but honestly, I didn't excel at anything in high school beyond drawing, writing poems/short stories and shoving quarters into a Street Fighter II machine. Nevertheless, I knew deep down, that there was nothing really wrong with that. Or was there?

My closest school friends and I were always keenly self-aware, and were as pop-culture conscious as the "sheep" we pretended to despise. But I also remember more than one lunch period spent in the library where we read newspapers and compared NFL statistics. We were all--in some respect or another--artists at heart. But, as we got older--the doldrums of an anemic high school social life shrinking in our rear view mirrors, something strange happened. We became "cooler." In my case, I chalk it up to military-inspired confidence, being a late physical bloomer and obscene amounts of alcohol.

This influx of cool completely sapped my creative juices. I was always too hung over to write a story; or there was a new club to go to; or a random somebody whose name I couldn't remember needed attending to. It wasn't until I got out of the military, got my degree and got too old (or tasteful) to allow myself to be seen in "FUBU" that I started feeling that old dork gene kicking back in. I probably needn't mention that when my father (as a kid) wasn't picking tobacco out in Lynchburg, South Carolina, he was reading "Spiderman" comics (Sorry Pop, but I can't take the whole rap for this).

Which brings us to the here-and-now. I have friends that own homes, have beautiful significant others, listen to nothing but Too Short and have all the imagination of dry toast. I have buddies with the house and the cute wife who worship at the alter of "Grand Theft Auto" and can cite the genus and species of aquarium fish on demand. Each side teases the other tirelessly. Can either one really be right?

Are any of you wrestling with your inner nerd? Is there a medication I can take for nerd flare-ups? Please help!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My "Friend" The Internet

Jan 1, 1984 -- A year has passed since the first international "TCP/IP" (Transmission Control Procedure/Internet Protocol) network went online; effectually launching what would eventually become a worldwide technological and social revolution...

The date fell within Christmas vacation for students at Phillips Elementary School. I'm sure I hid behind a pine tree sometime that day--all misty breath and bad intentions--clutching a compact ball of fresh, Virginia snow. Winter's winds whistled while working my ears over mercilessly. Every gust echoed like a howl of laughter, accompanying the lashing of my icy, reddish-brown annoyances with heartbeats.

My target was in sight. Robbie--an over-bundled, blue-eyed, duck-in-a-lounger if I'd ever seen one--had waddled out into the open. He stepped slowly, unsuccessfully attempting to silence the pronounced crunch of powder crushing beneath cumbersome boots.

His breath was masked by a woolen reindeer scarf that mummified the poor boy up to his nose. Breath condensation and wayward spittle had iced over the wrapping in the area surrounding his mouth. Robbie's face remained squished up, transforming his eyes into cobalt slivers of unfettered determination. He was flawlessly Antarctic.

I wasn't sure if Robbie knew that I was behind my friend, the giant pine, which stood proudly in my front yard. In winter the old pine kindly scattered thousands of itchy needles that I would be forced to collect in spring. In summer, it yielded a child's treasure trove of molted Cicada bug exoskeletons--which were used to scare my sisters; prompting deserved beatings. Alas, I peeked out to discover Robbie had seen me and was now in full duck walk, headed in my direction. The pine had failed me.

My heart kicked against my chest cavity and my ears ceased their rhythmic throbbing. Cocking back my iced-over ammunition, I prepared myself for what would possibly be a face-numbing leap into action. I counted down in my mind towards the duel awaiting me a mere moment away. Robbie must have sensed my intentions and charged into battle. Five...Four...[crunch, crunch, crunch]...Three...Two...[Crunch, Crunch, Crunch!]...ONE!


OK, the story didn't really end like that. I really popped out from behind the old pine and pegged Robbie in the face. But he was a good sport about it, and I seem to remember the remainder of the afternoon consisting of grilled cheese sandwiches and friendly skirmishes between toy Transformers armies. But this whole convoluted story came about after I recently thought to myself "How would I be different today if I had Internet access from the time I was a child?"

My parents said it to me when we got cable television. I'm sure their parents droned similar sentiments as mom and pop basked in the awesomeness of indoor plumbing. Who am I to try and rock the USS Tradition? So, I'll just be a cliche and say it...Today's (Internet-proficient) kiddies are more than a little spoiled.

I was a kid once (yup, me too), so I understand the whole grownups vs. children dynamic. I haven't lost sight of the beauty in having what later might seem like impossibly grandiose dreams--spawned by limitless imagination; or your own secret world where adults with all of their rules, negativity and limits aren't welcome. Childhood is an amazing thing, and it saddens me that I couldn't grasp the enormous significance represented in every sunset as I journeyed towards its passing. Then again, if I could understand such things at that age, I would've been some freakish, Emo kid, I suppose.

That said, the problem I have with the Internet, is that it has blurred the imaginary line separating children (and those of childlike thought) from people who at least appreciate rationality. Most children are not rational. They come from the " I feel, therefore I'm right" school of philosophy as opposed to the "I think therefore I..." well, you know. Through my forays into this new global universe--inhabitants connected by keyboard and monitor--I've ascertained that Internet has created a world where...

- a child's ability to utilize traditional speech has an inverse relationship with the amount of his/her Internet use. Example: "This class is 'teh suck.'" (the suckiest).

- people who are probably undeserving of their freedom of speech rights (namely young children and morons) have an unlimited forum from which to spread stupidity...unchecked.

- people can shoot out snappy email or create an awesome interactive profile, but are absolutely terrified of making friendly contact with strangers in real-life.

- news writing (or writing in general for that matter) is no longer looked at as a respected art form by the masses.

- a position or argument doesn't need to be thought-out, because it's your Internet-given right to let the whole world know how you feel.

"Ah ha!" (I can practically feel you saying this now) "The journalism angle is the crux of your argument, Aubrey." Well smarty, you might be partially right. Yes, it does anger me that a good portion of Internet users truly believe that there's "nothing to" journalism or writing in general--but what really pisses me off is that by way of the Internet, these people have likely contributed to their own delusion. Comment sections, amateur news bloggers and celebrity gossip sites are all thumbtacks in my Hanes. In addition, the Internet has taught me that deep down, most of us (myself included) are just plain unlikeable in many aspects.

I can't read a controversial, hard-hitting news story on the Internet if it has a "comments" section. Why? Because like a dimwitted motorist passing a cop giving somebody a ticket, I can't mind my own business. I spin my head to check out car accidents, despite an innate desire to stray from the herd. I read rude, unfounded and just plain hateful comments penned by the wonderful Youtube community. I read the occasional gem on CBS Sportsline. I even partake in asinine commentary courtesy of the informed crowd at CNN. What reading these comments does is alert me to the presence of every English-speaking mental defective (to include racists, radicals and absolutists) with Internet access and free time.

Consequently, I've developed a rather undeserved superiority complex with regards to the average person. I know I'm not a genius or anything like that, but a steady diet of idiocy has fattened my already rotund noggin to bobble head proportions.

Perhaps, once again, I've taken a stance that (despite what I may believe) has more to do with my advancing age than any perceptible wrong. I mean, I really do love the Internet for all its wonderful advantages. It's infinite knowledge on tap, with videos of dogs riding skateboards to boot. But the fact remains that while the world has never been more informed and connected; I've never felt so isolated from the average person. Isn't all this connected-ness supposed to make me feel the opposite?

Am I simply unable to deal with what seems like minute-to-minute change in a world ruled by technology? Has the dreaded "Internet Divide" claimed another old soul? Did Robbie ever get revenge for that iceball to the face? Find out next time...on Catnip For Cuckoos.

And please chime in with your (thought-out) opinions.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

To Be Continued...

I'm going to provide what will hopefully prove to be a more though-provoking update sometime tomorrow (if not this evening), but in the interim, I'll wax poetic on my weekend...

It was a pleasantly uneventful couple of days; the type of weekend when what you do "gives up shotgun" so "how you do it" can take its rightful place of importance.

Over the course of the weekend I spent time in the company of friends, family, a good book and Mr. Two Buck Chuck. I was pleased to discover that (gasp!) spending quality time with people you actually like can be every bit the entertainment that more celebrated forms of diversion (bar/club anyone?) can be.

Particularly on these types of weekends-- I'm quite sincere in my appreciation of things that don't necessarily have a big price sticker peeling off them.

I'm not sure if I believe in the notion of the "prosperous peasant," but I certainly feel richer knowing good times aren't always a by-product of a fat paycheck. Although a few extra dollars for another bottle of Charlie wouldn't hurt.

Talk to ya soon...