My First San Diego Comic-Con: It was OK

The first highlight of SD Comic-Con 2015 was getting a free coconut water. A few blocks after I stepped off the trolley, a Vita Coco employee in a blue minivan said, “Want a coconut water?” and I said “Yeah!” and she gave it to me and then I kept walking. Sami getting free stuff and perking up after marching through crowds of nerds is going to be a common theme.

I was surrounded by nerds a lot; it was ok.

I was surrounded by nerds a lot; it was ok.

I am going to be using the word “nerds” quite a bit. I prefer it over the (probably) more accurate descriptor, “geeks,” because it has more dignity. I call these convention-goers nerds not because I think they are uncool, but rather out of deference to their superior knowledge. You see, I am not nerdy enough for San Diego Comic Con.

Write your own blog post about SDCC by filling in the blanks!

Write your own blog post about SDCC by filling in the blanks!

I am nerdy about birds, and words, and throwing theme parties. I am not nerdy about movies, videogames, and definitely not comics. When it comes to movies (and actors, and directors) I have to tell people to pretend I grew up Amish, because I don’t know anything. I have a game I like to play when someone mentions a title I don’t recognize: Describe the Movie in a Convincing Way So People Don’t Make Me Watch it Because They are Stunned I Have Never Seen it.

Wait, you lie about movies you’ve never seen? Do “Wag the Dog”

Yeah, it’s that movie where the emotions of one person screws up everything for everyone else and it makes you wonder about systems of control and…I’m totally off, huh?

No, actually, that’s pretty accurate.

SD-comic-con-giant-sriracha-bottle

I heart Sriracha but I didn’t heart how many booths seemed to be reselling cheaply made goods from China.

Videogames are pretty cool. I watched my brother play them growing up, and I have clocked enough hours in The Sims to have built an actual house. Same goes for Minecraft. More recently, I enjoyed GTAV and I even have a little murder song I sing under my breath when I kill innocent civilians for petty cash. I’m on kind of a lifelong binge-and-purge cycle with viddy games and, by keeping no gaming systems at my house and using OSX, I’ve remained purged of these time-sucks for a very long time — long enough to be totally out of the loop with real “gamers.”

Wait. Does anyone really enjoy a person listing their interests, especially when their interests are things they can do in their pajamas? Next I could prattle about the webcomics I read, and how at Comic-Con I stood near Dumbing of Age creator David Willis and took a bookmark from his booth, and didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t have anything to say. A person getting their caricature done asked Willis if Joyce, the main character, was based on anyone real, and the answer is Yes. It’s all there, it’s all in the website and the comics and there’s really nothing to ask David Willis because he makes quality art and quality stories and just pay goddamned attention.

I was grumpy because my free bookmark wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the free Mad Libs booklet I got earlier. The emotional cycle of feeding a swag addiction was getting to me. I wanted good swag only, and I didn’t want to carry a lot of it, and I also didn’t really want it — I was just bored. One of my favorite swags was ice cream, even though they made me take a selfie for it, simply because I got to throw the trash away when I was done with it.

Another cool swag I got was this hat. It also required a selfie -- with this attractive woman.

Another cool swag I got was this hat. It also required a selfie — with this attractive woman.

Some of the nerds had these giant swag bags. Katelyn explained that they fill them with “trash” (flyers, cheap posters, cards with advertising on them) and then put them in a corner of their bedrooms for several months before throwing them away. I admit this sounds like a strange custom to me, despite being pretty happy about this Mad Libs booklet I will hold onto for a few weeks in case it becomes fun for a party, be disappointed, and throw away.

She also explained that Comic-Con used to be the place to get rare comics and other nerd stuff that you couldn’t get at your local comic stop, as well as a place to see exclusive previews. Nowadays, you can eBay and also videos of previews go online about an hour later. She didn’t buy anything or preview anything, but I can only assume that going through every single row gave her some ideas for her nerd shrine.IMAG1212

It seems, to this newcomer with no nerd cred, that SDCC suffers an identity crisis. If buying cool comics has been replaced by buying overpriced junk, then what is it? Is it a cosplay event, a chance to meet celebs, a place to play pokemon, great for geeky photo opportunities, an art show, the home of [adjective] panels (I did not go to any of these), a nostalgia circle-jerk, even worth it at all? Not for me, not really. I’d rather just go home and decorate my bicycle because even though that’s what I do for fun, I’m just not nerdy enough for Comic-Con.

You say black I say white You say bark I say bite You say shark I say hey man Jaws was never my scene And I don't like Star Wars

You say black I say white
You say bark I say bite
You say shark I say hey man
Jaws was never my scene
And I don’t like Star Wars

Never been? You can:

  1. Not go at all, and enjoy the convention from the comfort of home by watching it on snapchat!

:)

Trivia: n. unimportant details or information

I’m losing my patience for trivia worship. I don’t have a mind for holding facts — at least not facts about popular culture. I’m a goddamn encyclopedia for pet behavior and grammar laws, but I haven’t found my flock of fellow bird & word nerds, yet. If geeks are excited about counterculture, then why do I only ever hear them exchanging social affirmations? Do you know about this? Do you know about that? Do we fall on our knees for the same gods?

I love birds. All of my snapchats are of birds.

I am a bird nerd. I love birds. All of my snapchats are of birds.

Real eggheads study an obscure or challenging subject and revel in the love of knowledge. Media culture geeks are just like any insecure high-schooler who wants to be part of a clique that’s big enough for safety in numbers but exclusive enough to be “cool.”

Yes, we’ve decided that a certain amount of geekitude is cool. But, no poindexter is standing on a table, reciting arcane theorems and getting all the ladies at the parties. People are doing what they’ve always done, and that’s dish news and check that everyone knows the what-what of the happening, socially shaming people who can’t get with the program. What’s changed is that the never-ending internet has given us more what-what to sputter over our red cups. Almost anything goes as long as you have a little tribe of other geeks who are into your geek kink. And you do have a little tribe. You’ve seen them somewhere on Tumblr.

I understand, I really do, that having a common lexicon is a short cut to establishing shared experiences. But if you go on and on about Naruto, and I don’t know jack about Naruto, what am I supposed to do? Pretend I know what you’re talking about so I can skip on the noob history lesson? Change the subject? Point out that you’re a fucking nerd?

In a perfect world, I’d tell you I don’t know jack about whatever-his-face guy-with-a-rune on his headband (at first I thought it was blue-arrow-forehead child. Don’t act shocked, they’re both animated kids shows and I’m not a kid). Don’t give me a history lesson, I’d say. Instead, share an experience or an insight you gained from watching the show.

Do you really need to figure out which episodes we’ve both seen? Why can’t you just tell me what it all means to you? How it compares to your daily life? How it’s improved your relationship with your daughter? Why do I have to partake in this pissing contest that is proving I know enough about your geek fantasy to belong in your geek fantasy?

umbrella cockatoo on the porch

You just did a lot of reading. I will reward you with another bird picture.

This trivia spouting infects everything with a fandom, music appreciation included. Particularly, I don’t know how to react when a person knows more about my favorite band (Queens of the Stone Age)* than I do. I don’t know all the names of all the band members, though I’m certainly familiar with their discography. I can sketch out a list of songs for most albums with decent accuracy. Not that I care — I’ve just listened to R, Songs for the Deaf, Lullabies & Clockwork enough friggin’ times to know.

So, when this guy knows some obscure trivia (historical dates, formation of this or that) about my QOTSA and I yawn and pretend I know Josh Homme held this or that concert for his dead friend because I’m a bit embarrassed at my lack of expertise for my self-proclaimed “favorite”… when this guy goes off on some story I frankly don’t care about (don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed he’s retained so much information on his not-favorite-band), I’m realizing I need to just say: “Hey, thanks for teaching me something new, but what does it all really mean to you?”

When he gives me his baffled response, a “what” or a blank stare, I elaborate, “I don’t really care about the trivia. I care about the music. And I care about the music because of the band’s particular influence on my family, the way the shows I’ve attended shaped my understanding of rock and live performance and human appreciation for both. Tell me about an event you went to, how you felt, which beer you drank, how much sweat stained your t-shirt.”

I’ll tell you I first saw them when I was 17, with my dad in Austin, Texas. People there thought maybe he was robbing the cradle, because I dressed a bit too stylish and they didn’t know I was his daughter. I stood on my tiptoes to watch the longest drum solo I’ve ever seen, in a tiny venue called the Rose (it’s a lot like the Casbah, if you’re familiar with that), for “Feel Good Hit of the Summer.” I saw people smoking weed and carefully looked to my dad for an appropriate reaction, as I’d never seen the stuff before.

Don’t recite some band drama you picked up in your readings — some trivia that has nothing to do with you. Make it personal. Make it you. Bands are bands and some are better, but I’m not sitting in a spa with Josh Homme so what do I care if he wrote this or that song in this or that city? Unless, of course, *you* lived in that city.

Look he's so cute he's squinting. Don't you enjoy all these bird pictures? They are like my children. Look at all these pictures of my children? I'm not boring you am I?

Look he’s so cute he’s squinting. Don’t you enjoy all these bird pictures? They are like my children. Look at all these pictures of my children? I’m not boring you am I?

What I’m trying to say is, I coasted through my history classes because they weren’t *my* story. I’m much more interested in humans right in front of me than humans that are “popular” enough to make it to the books or the silver screen. I’m more interested in you. Tell me a tale, and make it one I can’t watch on TV. Tell me something I don’t know.

As media expands, these little clusters of allegiance to external narratives (Did you watch the new Game of Thrones? Are you into Attack on Titan?) might just fall apart. Lifespans of trends are shortening as the fire hose of popular media keeps pouring. We can’t keep up with everything. Certainly, established common ground makes us feel less alone. But I hope that the growth of communication technologies connects us such that we don’t need these superficial obsessions to lope along in a conversation. We could download in instants what someone else has already digested (here’s an emotion/dream/experience I had — let me transmit it to you in a microsecond so you know what I mean) and instead of validating that we’re on the same island of thought, examine and compare our reactions in the same moment. Make meaning, not just chase meaning laid out before us for us to follow like helpless human eyes scan a constantly flashing, changing TV screen. Quit worshiping trivia. Create your own legends.

*P.S. I’m going to the show in SF on the 17th! Will I see any other San Diegans there?