Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water

So, it's Blog Action Day once again, and I'm here to talk to you about water. Or, specifically, water bottles.

Yeah, I know. Just go with it. It's for a good cause.

Anyway, anyone who used to read my first Blog (all...I don't know, five of you) may remember that my relationship with this illustrious holiday has been somewhat turbulent. It was less that I wasn't interested in the cause, or with the idea behind the movement (actually, I'm a big fan of the idea of Bloggers banding together for charitable reasons) it was more the fact that every year I registered to participate, Blog Action Day happened to fall on a day in which I was doing seven thousand different things or I was nowhere near my computer. This has led to a number of amusing entries in which I try to discuss the important issue of the year, but fail miserably due to being exhausted and incoherent. A few gems include my fifteen-year-old self writing "Care for the environment, or the Lorax shall come after you in the night, provided there's still a night to come after you in." or, more infamously, my sixteen-year-old self passionately pleading in a video "Poverty sucks. And so you should do something about it, even something tiny, it's like It's A Small World, or something."

I was obviously extremely eloquent in high school.

Well, I'm nineteen now, in my second year of college, and have found myself, as is tradition, in the exact same position I was every other year I've tried to do this. It's midterm season, I had class all day, and then a meeting right after. Basically, I think I'm cursed when it comes to Blog Action Day, as I was going to make a legitimate effort to do know, meaningful. Instead, I'm going to talk about water bottles.

Water bottles are bad. They're fairly unnecessary, and extremely overpriced for what you're getting. My mother doesn't believe in them. Well, she believes in them in that she acknowledges they exist, but they're somewhat taboo in and around the house. Over 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce the sheer amount of water bottles used in the US, as reported by Food and Water Watch, and despite the fact that they're all made of plastic, over 86% of them will never be recycled. To add to all this, most of the water in water bottles is, in fact, just tap water disguised by pictures of mountains and islands.

However, for some reason, we're all addicted to bottled water anyway. Why? Probably because the bottled water industry is doing it's absolute hardest to convince us that tap water is the ultimate root of all evil. We are extremely lucky in this country to have safe water at our finger tips, in several parts of the world, people would kill for our tap water, and yet we still worry about it's safety.

To sum it up, because, yes, I unfortunately have seven other things I need to be doing right now, don't buy bottled water. Or at least, don't view it as instantly superior to tap water. Chances are, they're the same thing anyway.

Happy Blog Action Day everyone. Please look up an entry that isn't this rushed and stupid. Here's hoping that one of these days, October 15th will not be an endless day of constant running around.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recollections Of A Convention

Yeah. That's right. New York Comic Con was just as epic as the music of Danny Elfman just made it look. I'm working on a complete video to document my experience, but for the moment, this is what I've got.

Conventions are possibly the most bizarre events in the history of themed events. It's difficult to describe them to people not "in the know" and even more difficult to explain why you would want to go to one in the first place. At it's core, a convention is a place where far too many people in spandex are crammed into a place that is never able to contain them, where people have fist fights over who the best Doctor or Star Trek captain was, and where you will inevitably find yourself out of money within the first few hours despite not intending to buy anything other than a comic book and some Pocky. It's hot, it's crowded, you're surrounded by people dressed as characters you've only barely ever heard of, and the only thing you can hear is the sound of some obscure J-Pop mixed awkwardly with the t
heme from Star Wars. It's nerds being nerdy, and if you're not into being nerdy, there's no way you'd be caught dead there.

But we nerds know better. Yes, comic, anime, and sci-fi conventions have their dark sides. They're certainly not a place you'd want to bring your psychiatrist to to prove that you lead a normal, healthy social life. But a convention is so much more than just a conclave of nerds in tight fitting spandex. On a slightly cruel level, they're possibly some of the only places you can go and not feel like the most pathetically nerdy person in the room. If conventions teach you anything, it should be that there is always someone nerdier than you. But beyond that, conventions are places without social stigmas. Do you genuinely like to walk around dressed like Batman and wish you could do it in public? Here you can. It's weird, but no one's going to think that when they themselves are dressed as Spider Man with a accompanying Mary Jane. In a world of quick, almost instant judgement, a convention is a place where you can legitimately do whatever you want (within reason, I'm pretty sure "though shalt not kill" still applies) and no one will think of you as anything other than just another person to talk to.

But then, this is common knowledge. Nerds have been flocking to conventions as a way to interact with like minded people since conventions were created. The chance to have a legitimate discussion about who the best Doctor was, or what the hell did happen at the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, is an opportunity rarely found just walking down 34th street. Just as sports fans need to occasionally hang out in bars and debate over the accuracy of the referee's decisions with people just as passionate about it as they are, nerds need to get together and be unabashedly, shamelessly nerdy.

But the atmosphere of your typical convention has changed a bit in recent years. In the early days of conventions, from what I can gather, they were basically just hardcore Star Trek fans hanging around in Star Fleet t-shirts comparing model phasers. Tony Lee, the writer behind my favorite Doctor Who comic saga "The Forgotten, said at his panel at New York Comic Con this year that Doctor Who conventions were really just more of a small, very nerdy party. The same people showed up with a few drinks, they'd occasionally have a few guests, and that would be that.
Judging from this, I'd say the idea of conventions as small, intimate affairs, is now an incredibly inaccurate one to have.

New York Comic Con was held at the Jatvis Center on 34th street in Manhattan. It's a gigantic complex built for the enormous events that New York tends to attract, however, once professional hours ended and the doors opened to general ticket holders, the place was mobbed. It was absolutely impossible to move for a lot of it, and I frequently found myself caught in human traffic jams that would make Boston look tame in comparison. The convention itself was not limited to just one room, either, and yet everywhere I went, I was surrounded shoulder to shoulder with people.

So how did this happen? How did small, geeky gatherings of like-minded nerds suddenly become the social event of the year? (Well, ok, the social event of the east coast. Thanks, San Diego) The answer lies with popular culture.

Nerds are actually some of the most up to date people on the planet when it comes to current popular culture. Though typically represented in the media as being extremely out of touch people, in real life, they're probably the first to know when something is going on in the entertainment industry. Whether it's the director of the latest Superman movie, or the news of Lost's cancellation, those who are "mainstream" are never the ones to know first, it's those who are obsessed, the devotees, the nerds. Through the intensely geeky need to be constantly up to date, conventions have morphed from simply being a place to discuss something that used to be on TV into giant celebrations of both the best and latest of popular culture. While they remain places for nerds to meet up and speak nerd to each other, they've also become an important tool for being up to date with what's going on in the entertainment industry. As conventions started to get bigger, with more people and more important guests, movie studios, gaming industries, and comic book companies started to take notice. Studios began to see the incredible benefits to sending previews and representatives to conventions. Especially with the rise of the internet, in which geeks can instantly share information with the masses, conventions became a mecca for those interested in entertainment and for the entertainment industry to get it's message out there.

What this has created is an event that, while nerdy and frivolous, is extremely important to the entertainment industry. In a way, it proves just how important geeks and nerds are to popular culture. Yes, we do freak out over really stupid things like whether the Doctor's half-human (he's not, by the way) or whether the Star Wars prequels really were worthless (the first two were, the third one was ok) but we're also vitally important in giving our current generation a sense of identity. In fifty years, when people look back at the popular culture of the day, who is going to remember the people who weren't in the extreme? People will remember the Harry Potter craze, and the finale of Lost. Who says nerds are behind the times? They're not. If anything, they're the ones defining what the times look like, always the first to jump into a new show or explore a new craze. Conventions are not just places to compare toy light sabers, they're windows into the entertainment side of our current culture, as bizarre as the image inside might be.