Category Archives: Random Geeky Things

This category features posts about geeky things that have no direct relationships to the book or CONvergence.

Music of the Spheres

When I was a girl, I was very interested in music, and at some point I became fascinated with the notion of the “music of the spheres.” I don’t remember much of what I read about it (and I don’t really think I understood much of what I read), except that the Earth sings “Mi, Fa,” symbolizing the misery and famine that dominate our planet.

Imagine my delight today when I ran across the news that NASA probes have recorded electromagnetic waves, which can be played back so that we can hear them. These recordings are supposed to be spooky, but honestly, I just enjoyed hearing them. It was like a childhood dream being fulfilled.


“Choo-choo Underwear for Girls”: Corporate America Ignores Female Fans

From an early age, my daughter has loved both traditional boy stuff and traditional girl stuff. Case in point: around the same time that she was drooling over a hideously pink plastic toy “kitchen,” she announced that she wanted me to buy “choo-choo” underwear for her. I told her that the only “choo-choo” underwear in stores, specifically Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, was for boys.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “They should have choo-choo underwear for girls, too.”

“And mommies and daddies!” she exclaimed.

To be fair, boys who like My Little Pony can’t get MLP underwear.

She was talking with me the other day about wishing that she could easily get superhero clothing. We looked around in a nearby big box store, and here’s what we found:

  • In the girls’ section, there was actually a set of underwear featuring female superheroes (Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl). Still no choo-choo underwear.
  • Also in the girls’ section, you could get Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirts and even a Superman shirt, but they were, as my daughter noted, glittery and/or “pinkified.” There were no t-shirts featuring female superheroes. (My daughter is crazy about Black Widow and would snatch up a tee featuring her.)
  • Girls could get MLP t-shirts. Boys could not.
  • There were no superhero shirts in the junior or women’s departments. Men had plenty of options – shirts, pajamas, sweatpants, underwear.

Sexism is a problem in and outside of fandom, and a lot has been said about things like pink LEGOs for girls, the lack of movies about female superheroes, the “fake geek girls” accusations that are made against women who don’t fit a particular stereotype, and the harassment to which too many women cosplayers are subject.

But women are very much a part of fan culture. I don’t feel like I’m in a minority or out-of-place because of my gender at sci-fi/fantasy conventions or at sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero movies.

Thankfully, there are strong female characters out there (including Tauriel, much as I dislike her), but all too often, women are short-changed.

Girls and women want to see movies about strong females. Give us our Wonder Woman and Black Widow movies already. Stop sexualizing the female characters in comic books and movies. For goodness’ sake, carry more non-pinkified superhero clothing for female fans. And while you’re at it, would you please make choo-choo underwear for little girls?

College Courses for Geeks

In honor of “Batman Day,” a friend of mine shared a link with obscure Batman facts, including a mention of a “Science of Batman” class. I started thinking about geeky college classes and did some online searches, but a lot of the lists I found had classes that were, apparently, no longer being offered. So I spent entirely too much time doing very specific searches and, in a couple of cases, paging through online course catalogs to give you this non-comprehensive list of geeky classes currently offered at U.S. colleges and universities. By “currently offered” I mean that these courses were offered in Spring 2014, will be offered in Fall 2014, or are listed in a current course catalog.

Macalester College: ENGL 260 — Science Fiction: From Matrix Baby Cannibals to Brave New Worlds

This course includes works written by Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler, China Mieville, and several other writers (not all of whom I normally think of as science fiction authors). Students also watch the Matrix trilogy and other films.

Swarthmore College: ARTH 039 — Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture

Manga is among the media covered by this course. Students discuss examples of design such as Hello Kitty.

Swarthmore College: FMST 041 — Fan Culture

This course includes an exploration of fan-generated content like fan fiction and videos. I wonder if it covers sweding?

Georgetown University: PHIL-180 — Philosophy and Star Trek

Students consider questions such as: Is time travel possible? Is Data a person?

University of California, Irvine: PHYSICS 12 — Science Fiction and Science Fact

Students use scientific knowledge to distinguish fact from fiction related to superheroes, science fiction, and news items. Note that this course might be offered online; I don’t know how easy it is to enroll.

Penn State: ENGL 136 — The Graphic Novel

This course includes a history of comics, an analysis of the medium (including panel layout and narrative techniques), and an exploration of graphic novels, such as Maus.

Kansas State University: ENGL 390 — Fable and Fantasy, ENGL 445 — Science Fiction, ENGL 670 — Harry Potter

An English major from Kansas State just might be a geek’s dream! Fable and Fantasy includes The Hobbit, The Princess Bride, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, and George MacDonald’s fairy tales. Science Fiction includes Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia Butler, and Ursula Le Guin. Harry Potter includes reading the novels in the series (all of them?) as well as works by Jane Austen, E. Nesbit, Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, and other authors.

I’m ready to go back to school.



Are You a Purist When It Comes to Film Adaptations of Books?

[Warning: If you haven’t watched The Desolation of Smaug, there are spoilers in this post.]

I’m one of those people. When I was watching The Two Towers, I thought, “Hey! Frodo and Sam never went to Osgiliath!” (For the record, I loved the Lord of the Rings movies.) I understand when changes have to be made, such as leaving a beloved character like Tom Bombadil out of a movie in the interest of time, but I hate it when changes are made to make an already excellent book “more appealing.” So, of course, I had to attend the CONvergence panel called “The Hobbit: That Wasn’t in the Book!”

I don’t have a mind for trivia. I’d hate to take some sort of test to prove I was a geek, because I’d probably fail. Did the hippogriff in the Harry Potter series have a name? Did it only appear in The Prisoner of Azkaban? I was tempted to look this up, but I’ll just leave myself wondering. I like to think my mind is full of things I need to use, like rules from the stylebook we use at work, so it doesn’t have room for things that are fun but not necessary.

Given that, you’d think I wouldn’t notice when movies vary from the book. In fact, with the Harry Potter series, I didn’t notice, because I’ve only read the series once – and since Rowling had creative control over the movies, they stuck pretty closely to the books anyway. But I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings four times now, so I have a good grasp of the books – though I still wouldn’t want to be quizzed on them. Besides, the Hobbit movies that have been released to date are so glaringly different from the book that I think I would notice many of their differences even if I’d read it only once.

Don’t get me wrong. While An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug don’t have my heart quite like Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, I still enjoyed them. The actors are good. The sets and costumes are amazing. In the second movie, the scene where Bilbo encounters Smaug was perfect. Although I like to joke about Kili and Thorin being “eye candy,” I really do like them. But so much of the second movie is so ridiculous that I’m already waiting for a new film version of The Hobbit.

Take Tauriel. I know, I know. She was introduced because there was a perceived need for a strong female character. I’m all for strong women. Read my previous post on Wonder Woman! But I loved the book even without a Tauriel. Most of the folks at the CONvergence panel really seemed to like her, so my daughter and I are probably in the minority, but we call her “Mary Sue.” She’s too perfect! And the dwarf-elf romance (not as popular with many panel attendees) seemed like unnecessary fluff. Is that meant to appeal to women? I really don’t believe my gender needs romance in every movie.

Many people in the panel did feel that all the “stuff” Jackson added (Azog the Defiler, the fight during the barrel scene, the “Hey! Let’s cover Smaug in molten gold” sequence) detracted from scenes that could have used more attention. Beorn made it into the movie, but Jackson didn’t let him shine. In my opinion, the bit in the book where Gandalf brings in the dwarves in small groups, so that Beorn will accept them all, is gold. It’s funny, and it tells us something important about Beorn’s character. The movie utterly did away with it!

I also dislike the unnecessary drama Jackson has inserted into both movies. All of the “stuff” I mentioned before: Azog, the barrel sequence (though I know many people love it), the attempt to encase Smaug in gold… none of it is necessary. The Hobbit is a wonderful book with plenty of excitement; it doesn’t need the added action, especially when the action is over-the-top – such as Thorin’s ride in the river of molten gold.

Unlike many of my fellow purists, however, I really like Radagast – bird-droppings and all.

I will loyally show up for the last movie of this trilogy. Come on – it’s The Hobbit! I have to see it on the big screen! But I’ll wait breathlessly for someone to take the book and do it right. Too bad that Martin Freeman probably will be too old for it by the time that happens. He was the perfect pick for Bilbo.

I welcome any purists to comment on what movies really bug them.

Wonder Woman!

As a child during the 1970s, I absolutely loved Wonder Woman, both as she was depicted in the TV series starring Lynda Carter and in Hanna-Barbera’s Super Friends. To this day, when I see anything related to Wonder Woman, I perk up. Here’s some recent news that attracted my attention:

Gilbert Hernandez is Writing and Drawing Wonder Woman

I confess that most of my reading in the realm of comic books and graphic novels is confined to a few titles, mostly from the ’70s and ’80s (especially the X-Men comics from that era), but the news about the upcoming Sensation Comics #3, a digital-first work, caught my eye. This issue will feature two stories about Wonder Woman, and everyone is betting that the story about her “rock star” days is the one that has been assigned to Hernandez. Comics Alliance ran a story on July 9 featuring four of Hernandez’s previous drawings of Wonder Woman. I have mixed feelings. I love how muscular, even beefy he makes her, though when I was a little girl, I would have been horrified by those biceps. What I don’t like: her Barbiesque bust-waist proportions in a couple of the drawings. I know other artists have drawn her that way, but I’m disappointed.

Also on July 9, MTV released the cover art for this issue, featuring our muscular heroine looking very fierce as she battles… androids from another dimension? That’s the focus of the other story in the issue.

Wonder Woman Teams Up With Scooby-Doo

My little-girl self may not have liked the Wonder Woman I mentioned above, but here’s something she definitely could get behind: On July 10, Comics Alliance announced that DC Comics has released a Scooby-Doo/Wonder Woman mashup, Scooby-Doo Team-Up #5. If you decide to check their post on this comic, be warned: They pretty much recap the entire plot.

Moviepilot Features Some Awesome Wonder Woman Fan Art

This isn’t really a news item, but it interested me.

With all of the chatter about Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Moviepilot decided to present a collection of fan art in a July 8 story. What I particularly love? Some designs, especially the first one, feature the heroine in a more useful costume that might actually be functional in a battle (unlike any of the Wonder Woman variations you’ll encounter in the news items above). None of them are perfect (in most of them her hair would be a problem), and some of them are ridiculous, but a few are quite good.

All of this blog’s readers are probably aware of the many conversations among geeks about how female super heroes are dressed. When they are dressed for sex appeal rather than the ability to move with ease and be protected, it detracts from the notion of powerful, competent women. (Or are they more competent than their male counterparts, since they actually do manage to fight quite well despite their costumes?)

For an excellent breakdown of the problems with heroine’s costumes, check out this entry in Mischief Managed, written after the blogger had seen Captain America: Winter Soldier.