Portland State Vanguard Geek Guide 2013

Page 1


From Galaga to BioShock: Infinite— a journey... p.15

What to do when your particular geeky interest is hijacked by pop culture... p. 16

Geek boutique... p. 22 1



Erick Bengel

Daniel Johnston


Kayla Nguyen

Whitney Beyer, Marco España

Miles Sanguinetti

Meredith Meier, Louie Opatz

Corinna Scott

Deeda Schroeder

Art Direction & illustration

Riza Liu


Elizabeth Thompson

Rachel Porter



Colton Major

Sam Gressett



Karl Kuchs

Romeo Salazar

cover photo


Kayla Nguyen

Jordan Gekeler Brittany Laureys

Kayla Nguyen/Vanguard Staff

Kari Tate

Geeky hangouts......................................................................................................... 3

Deborah Thompson

Alternatives to A-list superheroes....................................................................... 4

Online Editor


Q-and-A with comics writer Brandon Seifert................................................ 6

Claudette Raynor

Judson Randall

Best comics shops in PDX...................................................................................... 8



Best in geek television............................................................................................. 9

Emily Gravlin

Ann Roman

Best film buff locations in PDX.......................................................................... 10



Memoirs of a teenage cinephile......................................................................... 11

cover design Elizabeth Thompson

Tom Cober, Danielle Fleishman

Matthew Ellis

PSU: The Game....................................................................................................... 12

Dillon Lawerence,

Katie Hendricks

Tabletop gaming..................................................................................................... 14

Elizabeth Thompson, Maria Perala

WRITERS Zach Bigalke, Gino Cerruti, Tristin Cooper Robin Crowell, Ryan S. Cunningham

Video gaming + Bioshock: Infinite.................................................................... 15 What to do when your particular geeky interest is hijacked by pop culture.................................................................... 16

Matthew Ellis, Stephanie Fudge-Bernard

Sports analytics...................................................................................................... 17

Breana Harris, Nicholas Kula, Turner Lobey

Nerds-4-lyfe: professor profiles......................................................................... 18

Kaela O’Brien, Ashley Rask Janieve Schnabel, Daniel Shepard

Wordsmiths uber alles.......................................................................................... 20 Bronies....................................................................................................................... 21 Boutiques for geeks................................................................................................ 22 Music geekery.......................................................................................................... 23

2 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

Kayla nguyen/Vanguard Staff

Get your fix at a variety of haunts throughout Portland that cater to every classification within the geek genus.

Get out of your mom’s basement A guide to the best hangouts in Portland for every kind of geek Ashley Rask Vanguard Staff


ooking for a place to reveal your insane knowledge of everything Joss Whedon? What about assembling a group of likeminded individuals who enjoy shooting zombies in their free time? Portland offers hangouts for every kind of geek you can imagine. Whether you’re into watching obscure movies or collecting novelty toys, comics or video games, there is a place for you.

Avalon Theatre & Wunderland With six locations in Oregon—two in Portland—Wunderland is one of the cheapest hangouts in Portland that will guarantee a good time. The Southeast Portland location contains a nickel arcade and cinema where you can have a night of fun for less than $10. Play everything from skee ball to racing games and win tickets that you can redeem for a variety of prizes.

3451 SE Belmont St. 503-238-1617 wunderlandgames.com

Ground Kontrol This barcade is a hot spot for gamers and nongamers alike. With classic games, a huge variety of pinball machines and frequent events, Ground Kontrol is a great place to hang out with friends and kick their butts at Tekken. If that doesn’t convince you, Ground Kontrol has a full-service bar,

so you can sip on some beer and scarf down a delicious hummus sandwich while you play. Ground Kontrol hosts a video game trivia night on the last Sunday of every month, where you have the opportunity to win a myriad of nerdy prizes. Game on!

511 NW Couch St. 503-796-9364 groundkontrol.com

Portland Geek Trivia Comics and collectibles store Things From Another World has teamed up with hosts Cort and Fatboy for geek trivia night every other Tuesday at the McMenamins Kennedy School. Form a team of up to five people (you can also fly solo) and earn geek cred by answering questions and winning prizes provided by Things From Another World and other local businesses. In the event of a tie, Street Fighter tiebreakers are held. Prove your nerdy aptitude!

5736 NE 33rd Ave. 503-249-3983 facebook.com/PortlandGeekTrivia

Movie Madness Video Filled with incredibly obscure and outrageous movies and real movie props, Movie Madness is the ultimate movie geek’s wet dream. Most stores are organized according to typical movie genres—comedy, romance, horror, et cetera—but at Movie Madness they arrange movies in a much more unique way. Want to find the entire works of a specific filmmaker? They will all be in the same section. The Evil Dead’s Bruce

Campbell has even stopped in to check out the hype. With more than 80,000 titles, the store boasts an unmatchable collection of movies.

of Legends, Borderlands and Team Fortress 2. Stop in for a bite and a quick game or call in and reserve the LAN center for a get-together with friends.

4320 SE Belmont St. 503-234-4363 moviemadnessvideo.com

115 NW Fifth Ave. 503-248-2900 backspace.bz

OMSI The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is not only a great place to bring your family to check out the latest exhibit, the planetarium, the IMAX dome theater and the labs—they also have events specifically geared toward the science-loving adult. OMSI offers a night for those 21 and older the last Wednesday of every month, at which attendees can drink beer and wine, eat tasty snacks and explore a child-free museum. OMSI also holds Science Pubs, which are 21-and-older (minors are welcome with an adult) events where you can learn about topics in science and technology straight from the experts.

For more information on geeky events around Portland, check out the Portland Geek Council of Commerce and Culture’s Facebook page. The council is made up of organizations and businesses around Portland with a desire to spread and support geek culture in Portland. You can also check out geekportland.com for a calendar of geeky events happening around town. Get out there and get your geek on. May the Force be with you.

1945 SE Water Ave. 503-797-4000 omsi.edu

Backspace Backspace is the perfect place to meet fellow gamers. With an isolated LAN center, Backspace has 10 computers with LCD monitors and headsets set up with high-speed Internet. Enjoy a cup of tea and a delicious barbecue tempeh wrap while you game. Some of the games Backspace offers include Left 4 Dead, World of Warcraft, League


Alternatives to the A-listers

Obscure heroes to get excited about Turner Lobey Vanguard Staff

4 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

Elizabeth Thompson/Vanguard Staff


lienated by Batman’s brooding? Unimpressed by the wisecracking, webslinging Spiderman? Traditional superheroes aren’t for everyone, and they may deter potential comic lovers from picking up a book and giving it a shot. Is this you? Perhaps what you’ve been looking for is something a little more unique. If you bypass the A-list superheroes you’ll find there are plenty of caped and costumed do-gooders on the fringes who might be just the thing to get you into comics.

Swamp Thing Swamp Thing is Alec Holland, or at least he thinks he is. Holland was a botanist who died in the marshes of Louisiana after an explosion at his research facility. Something else emerged from the swamp—and whatever it was, it wasn’t a man. A mass of vegetation (moss, twigs and flowers), Swamp Thing carries the memories of Alec Holland, torn between being a man and a monster. Roaming the planet as an avatar of the plants, Swamp Thing is connected to all vegetative life on earth through an ethereal network known as the Green. While the Justice League fights costumed villains and aliens from outer space, Swamp Thing hunts down polluters and clear-cutters and defends the forests from the forces of death. If you’re looking for a more philosophical approach to the superhero, look no further than the pages of Swamp Thing. Arguably the most notable Swamp Thing run was under Alan Moore, famed author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. Moore’s take on the monster is available in collected editions from Vertigo Comics.


The Umbrella Academy

Some heroes can fly. Some can shoot lasers from their eyes. Others have super strength, invisibility, or skeletons made of steel. Mudman can turn into…mud. Owen Craig is your average teenage kid with average high school problems. It’s his first day back at school and he’s struggling to talk to the girl of his dreams, the school bully has it out for him, the principal ran him over with his car, and gold thieves shot him three times in the chest and kidnapped his dad. To top it off, he just discovered that through some freak accident his body has the ability to turn into mud. The art is charmingly rough, and the writing is a refreshing take on the teen superhero genre. If you’re looking for an accessible story, this is the one for you. Mudman is available through Image Comics.

Spaceboy is half man, half space gorilla, with super strength and laser pistols. The Rumor is an uncontrollable liar who alters reality through her fabrications­— anything she lies about becomes true. The Kraken can hold his breath forever and has a knack for accurate knife-throwing. The Seance has mastered levitation and telekinesis, and can also communicate with the dead (but only when he isn’t wearing shoes). The Boy is a 60-year-old man trapped in the body of a 10-yearold. Vanya is the normal one. She doesn’t have any powers, she just really loves music. Together they are the Umbrella Academy, a group collected and raised by world-renowned entrepreneur and alien in disguise Sir Reginald Hargreeves, aka The Monocle. The children were all born at the same moment— to women around the globe who had shown no signs of pregnancy—and were adopted and trained to become a fighting force against evil. Reuniting to mourn the death of their adoptive father after years apart, the dysfunctional family has to learn to work together to battle the terrible evil that threatens the planet.

The Great Machine Ex Machina is the story of a man who doesn’t want to be a superhero—he just wants to help people. Mitchell Hundred is the world’s first costumed superhero with the ability to communicate with and control mechanical devices. Cell phones explode, guns jam and blenders blend at his command. Mitchell wants to change the world, but flying around the city with a jet pack and fighting crime as his alter ego, the Great Machine, just isn’t cutting it. Following the 9/11 attacks, Mitchell decides that the best way for him to change the world is to become the mayor of New York City. In a story that is equal parts The West Wing and The Rocketeer, Ex Machina follows the politics of Hundred’s first term in office intermixed with flashbacks from his superhero days.

And on a totally unrelated note...

15 interesting science facts Janieve Schnabel Vanguard staff





1. Because only hydrogen and helium are not made in stars, about 90 percent of the human body is composed of (as Carl Sagan put it) “star stuff.”

5. Gliese 436 b is a planet literally made of burning ice. The atmosphere is composed of a white-hot substance so tightly packed that it can’t become gaseous or liquid: in other words, burning ice.

8. Part of the static on old TVs is leftover radiation from the Big Bang.

12. There is a disease called Ondine’s curse that makes people lose the ability to breathe automatically while sleeping, resulting in death.

2. Bee stings are acidic, whereas wasp stings are alkaline (basic). 3. Helium’s freezing point is so low that currently there’s no such thing as solid helium. 4. If elemental sodium comes in contact with water, the reaction is so exothermic that it creates fire.

6. In the time since it was discovered, in 1930, Pluto has never made a full revolution around the sun. 7. Because there’s no gravity to separate gases, solids and liquids, it’s impossible to belch in space.

9. If you look through a telescope at a planet that’s light-years away, you’re seeing that planet’s past. 10. Hot water freezes faster than cold water. 11. If you stand on the equator or with the moon directly overhead, the gravitational forces make you weigh slightly less that you would elsewhere.

13. There is more genetic difference between individual chimpanzees than there is between individual human beings. 14. The only creatures that can suffer from leprosy are humans and armadillos, who can also infect each other. 15. Giraffes only sleep 20 minutes per day.



Former Portland State student Branden Seifert has found comic book success with his Witch Doctor series.

Comics craft Brandon Seifert talks writing comics, moving from AK to PDX and being true to Doctor Who Tristan Cooper Vanguard Staff


ortland is rife with comics writers and artists. Close your eyes and stick out your hand at Holocene and you’ll probably accidentally hit one of them, or at least someone who knows someone. They come in all varieties, from established cartoonists like Craig Thompson to crime-writing veterans like Greg Rucka. More creators are moving to Portland every year to be a part of the city’s burgeoning comics community. Brandon Seifert is an up-and-coming Portland comics writer and former Portland State student who found success writing for big-name books based on the Doctor Who and Hellraiser franchises. He’s most known for Witch Doctor, a kind of magical medical procedural (think the TV show House mixed with Marvel Comics sorcerer Dr. Strange) that he created with artist Lukas Ketner. The second volume of Witch Doctor, Mal Practice, has just finished its initial single-issue run and will be available in collected paperback format this summer. The Vanguard sat down with Seifert to talk comics, fact-checking, the rise of digital and his time at PSU. This interview has been edited for concision and clarity. Vanguard: Tell me how you got started in comics— your origin story. Brandon Seifert: I’ve always liked comics, and I’ve always wanted to write comics, but I’m by nature kind

6 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

of lazy and scared. So it took me a lot of wanting to write and not actually writing. And then in 2007 I met Lukas Ketner, who is my artist on Witch Doctor. He was working as a freelance illustrator at the time, and he also wanted to do comics, so we decided we were going to team up and do basically a portfolio piece. It was going to be 16 pages, it was going to be really short, and it was just exclusively so we’d each have something in our portfolio that we [could] take and try to get other work through. What ended up happening was that the idea that we came up with was Witch Doctor. Really quickly it was obvious to us that it would be stupid to just do 16 pages with it, because it was a viable concept in itself— we could actually get a publisher for it. So we did the issue, we shopped it around, we got a lot of interest from Dark Horse and IDW and some other publishers, and then [Robert Kirkman of Image Comics] made us the offer that we went with. VG: What was the tipping point? What was the thing that got you to Image? BS: The thing was, Lukas was a freelance professional illustrator. When you’re starting out in comics, frequently there is no money up front. They don’t actually pay you; you just get the lion’s share of the profits if the series ends up being profitable. [Lukas] was not going to be able to produce the book on what’s called “the back end,” exclusively for royalties, so we had to go with someone who would actually pay him a page rate. We’d gotten two offers from the larger indie comics publishers, both of which would have been backend deals, so we couldn’t take either of those. Kirkman was the one that was like, “All right, I’ll pay him money up front, I’ll pay him in advance,” and so that was the offer we couldn’t refuse. VG: You were a fact-checker for the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. How [did] you get that job, and what was that like? BS: There’s a website called the Marvel Unofficial Appendix, something like that. It’s sort of like the Official Handbook but for really obscure characters, and it’s really, really in-depth, like summarizing every appearance that they had. I submitted some profiles for it, but it was so time-

consuming that I really didn’t do too much of it. But then I ended up setting up a Yahoo group for the people who were doing it. When Marvel decided they were going to do the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe again, they just went to this website and hired all the guys from it, because they were already doing the job for free and were clearly detail-oriented. The guy who was the head of the website became the editor on that project, so I got to proofread a bunch of different Marvel handbooks. Which meant I knew the endings of some Marvel events six or eight months before they happened—like I knew that Captain America was going to die the summer before it happened. I couldn’t talk to anybody about it. VG: So you were looking at stuff going forward, you weren’t researching what’s in Journey into Mystery #182? BS: No. I’ve always been a Marvel fan, and I have my specific corners of the Marvel universe, which I really like and I kind of exhaustively know about. Things like Power Pack and New Warriors and Cloak and Dagger. Anything pertaining to those, off the top of my head I can generally be like, “Oh, it’s not quite what it said in this random issue.” It wasn’t fact-checking in the traditional journalistic sense, where I’m double-checking all of the things that it says. Part of it was proofreading and part of it was from my own knowledge of the subjects being covered, making sure it all seemed accurate. VG: So you have your own original creation, Witch Doctor, for which your word is law, Lukas Ketner’s word is law. But then you have stuff like Hellraiser and Doctor Who, where you deal with these established characters with a lot of fans. Has your experience as a fact-checker affected how you attack franchise work? BS: I came from a journalism background to begin with. I did freelance journalism, arts and culture journalism, for a couple years, which is what ended up introducing me to Lukas and getting us working on comics together. That was something I ended up applying a bunch of different places. I applied that with the fact-checking of the Marvel handbooks and…Doctor Who and Hellraiser. My strength coming from a journalism background is that I know how to research shit. I know how to read things. That is something I used with Hellraiser. I go back a lot and read the book and watch the movies and try to make sure I’m getting things accurate. But it’s also something I use in Witch Doctor, because Witch Doctor has a lot of medicine biology, and I try and get it right. Basically, if there’s anything that’s not accurate to how it works in the real world, that’s just choice on my part rather than me screwing up. There’s a really large folklore and mythology com-

Riza liu/Vanguard Staff

Mal Practice, the latest installment in Bradon Seifert’s Witch Doctor series, is on newsstands now.

ponent [to] it, too. If I can get the facts or the details right about these things that people believe in, or used to believe in, I would prefer to do that. It’s all just different ways of applying the same skill set. VG: You’re only human, you can’t get everything right 100 percent of the time. How do you deal with those times that a fan or someone else points something out that’s wrong? BS: There’s usually one moment where [I get it wrong and say], “Augh!” but most of it is stuff I can’t affect. There was one thing that I remember in my Doctor Who two-parter that I did. I got really good reviews on it, but one of the reviews said, “Overall, this is really good, but there is one bit of dialogue where it’s clearly not British.” A character yells “Mommy!” instead of “Mummy!” and I was just like “Augh!” I can’t believe I didn’t get that. I screwed up one word. VG: One letter of one word. BS: That’s true. And if I’d had her yell “Mummy!” in a U.S. comic, I think people would have gotten confused anyway. It’s the same journalist thing of, I want to get the facts correct. And if I don’t, I kind of beat myself up over it. VG: Witch Doctor originated, as you said, as a selfpublished one-shot online. Where do you see digital going in the future? Do you see it peacefully coexisting with retail, or will it consume paper products? BS: I also did some other digital work. I did a twoparter called Spirit of the Law, which is another thing I created. And that’s for a digital-exclusive company

called MonkeyBrain Comics, who are based here in town. It’s a writer named Chris Roberson and his wife Allison Baker, and that’s all through the ComiXology digital comics platform. For me, there is this big question right now of whether digital comics are good for the industry or not good for the industry, or whether they’re going to decrease sales or increase sales. My personal feeling is that it’s gonna be good and that it is good, but that we’re still seeing how it’s going to play out. Some things may shift. I don’t know whether single-issue comics are going to go away or not. It’s very hard to tell because publishing as a whole right now is still in so much flux. Things like digital I think are very useful, and for us, like with Witch Doctor, part of the reason that the first miniseries sold so well was because we’d already put that first issue out there digitally. It was a small fan base, but it was a fan base and they were really interested in it and really wanted to see where it was going. And there were people all over the world. If we were just printing comics, we couldn’t have gotten fans in Australia or Poland or South Africa or Malaysia like we have. We do a letters column, and we hear a lot from people in just completely random places that I would never think would be reading our comic, and most of them are reading it digitally. While I do think that there is a danger of a decrease of new print sales because of digital, I for one am kind of tired of reading single-issue comics. Well, I like reading single-issue comics, but I don’t like

owning them. They just take up a lot of space, and they’re awkward to file. I’m mostly switching over to reading digital single issues and buying trade paperbacks. Right there, that’s the thing that traditional comics retailers are scared of. Overall, I think it’s a great way to grow the medium and to grow the fan base. And there’s also lots of stuff you can do with digital that you can’t do with print comics, which I find really exciting. VG: Do you feel like you would’ve gotten your foot in the door by now if, say, you wanted to get into comics 15 years ago? BS: That’s a good question. The landscape has just changed so much in the industry, even within the last two or three years, let alone the last 10, 15 years. If I had tried to do this 15 years ago, I would’ve had to go about it a completely different way. We self-published our first issue in 2008. If we were doing that now, I would totally do a Kickstarter. But that wasn’t an option back then. I think we probably would’ve figured out how to get in, one way or the other, because we were producing quality work that people liked. We were actually doing the legwork to talk to publishers and put them in front of fans and retailers and stuff. The way we would have got in with Witch Doctor definitely would have been different, but I think it still would have happened. VG: You’re from Fairbanks, Alaska. How did you get all the way to Portland from there? BS: Alaska is a great place to leave. It’s got a lot of things going for it. It’s very pretty, but it’s also extremely isolated and a really drastic climate. On winter solstice, the sun sets at 1:42 in the afternoon after being up for three hours, and I can’t do that. I did that for 26 winters, and then I had to get out. I honestly know more Alaskans in Portland now than I knew Alaskans in Alaska. Portland is the place that young Alaskans tend to move to, and a lot of it is because there’s kind of a similar culture; it’s got kind of a small-town feel, and people talk to each other. And the climate is, you know, it’s not super crazy—and the landscape is not super different than what we’re used to, it’s not all palm trees or desert or whatever. It’s kind of like a happy medium between living in Alaska and living anywhere else. I just came down because I liked it, and then [it] turned out that all my friends were moving here and that there was a huge comics community down here, which I hadn’t actually known about ahead of time. VG: You were a teacher’s assistant for [Marvel Comics writer] Brian Michael Bendis at Portland State. How did that come about? BS: When he was teaching at PSU, I [took] the first class that he offered, and I ended up helping out a lot. I set up the Google group for it and just tried to help because I was really interested and wanted to get the most of it [I could]. And at the end of it I asked if he needed a TA for the second class, and he was like, “Sure,” so I came back for the second installment of the class. I [had] met Brian briefly once or twice prior to the class, but he didn’t know me [and] I didn’t really know him. But that first class was spring 2010, which was right before we got the Witch Doctor publishing deal. I was about to be a published comics writer but I wasn’t quite [there yet]. VG: So Witch Doctor: Mal Practice just wrapped up—what’s coming up next for you? BS: Clive Barker and I are co-writing Hellraiser: The Dark Watch series. Besides that, I’ve got several other projects that haven’t been announced, so unfortunately I can’t talk about them. But I’m doing another project for characters that somebody else came up with. And then I’ve got several other creator-owned books that are, you know, ideas that I came up with that I’m trying to get off the ground and [that] are all in varying stages of production. That’s the thing that I would like to focus on, doing more things that I came up with, because I do feel that’s my strength. VG: Does that mean continuing Witch Doctor, or continuing other things? BS: Right now I want to get to some other stuff. The only things that I’ve created are Witch Doctor and Spirit of the Law, and Spirit of the Law is only 22 pages altogether. What recognition I have so far is mostly based on Witch Doctor, and unfortunately Witch Doctor is very difficult and time-consuming to produce; we can only do a miniseries basically every other year. I can’t really build a career off that. Plus, I’ve got a bunch of other projects that I love just as much as that one that I want to get going. So right now my focus is on doing some new stuff. VG: Power Pack, the 4-issue miniseries. BS: Oh yes, exactly. Absolutely.


KAyla nguyen/Vanguard Staff

Another agonizing, possibly life-altering decision at the comics rack.

Get thee to a nerdery! A guide to the best comics shops in PDX Tristin cooper Vanguard Staff


ortland is without a doubt one of the best places on earth to be a comics fan. Besides the multitude of comics publishers and creators in town, the Portland metro area is home to several great shops. Scattered throughout the city, each store has its own idiosyncrasies, whether it’s a focus on independent publishing or a wide sampling of pop culture. It’s tough to go wrong when walking into a Portland comics shop, but it still helps to know what you’re getting into. Here’s a look at five of the most prominent comic book stores in town.

Floating World Comics Located next to barcade Ground Kontrol and just blocks away from Powell’s, Floating World is Portland State’s closest comic book shop. Owner Jason Leivian is one of the pre-eminent proponents of independent comics art in the city; he publishes comics under the Floating World banner, and last year the Vanguard covered the debut of experimental comics art festival The Projects, which Leivian headed up. It’s probably Portland’s trendiest comics shop. You don’t have to stick around long to see an ironically mustachioed, Goodwill-red-leather-jacketwearing patron inquiring about obscure zines. Don’t be so hasty to throw around the h-word, though, as most pretense disappears when you realize that they’re reading X-Men, too.

400 NW Couch St. 503-241-0227

8 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

Excalibur Books & Comics The epitome of the mom-and-pop, Excalibur has been in business for almost 40 years. And they haven’t missed a beat—their store is immaculate. A vast library of graphic novels surrounds dozens of boxes representing decades of comics, all kept pristine. Combined with the constant stream of new titles each week, Excalibur is the go-to comic book shop for the hardcore fan. Newbies should feel welcome too, though, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff defies the aloof-andcondescending comic nerd stereotype. If you want to know the difference between Deadpool and Deathstroke, all you have to do is ask.

2444 SE Hawthorne Blvd. 503-231-7351

Things From Another World Though the chain is owned by Portland-grown Dark Horse Comics, Things From Another World stocks comics from Marvel, DC and a number of other publishers. Figurines, toys and other licensed merchandise line the walls and eye-level bookshelves. TFAW’s focus is definitely on the most popular titles—your Avengers, your Batman, your Walking Dead. Big events are a regular thing at TFAW, from mini-concerts by geeky locals The Doubleclicks to signings by Fables’ Bill Willingham and Hellboy’s Mike Mignola.

2916 NE Broadway 503-284-4693

Bridge City Comics Nominated for the prestigious Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award for the last two years, Bridge City is kind of a big deal. It’s one of the smaller comics shops in PDX, but it’s absolutely packed with great books. This is also the only place in the state you can find ghost variants—special limited edition covers for popular comics like Saga, East of West and The Walking Dead. At least until they sell out. Being on Mississippi Avenue, Bridge City has some pretty hip neighbors. You can browse vintage video games at CD Game Exchange next door, grab a spinach-and-red-onion slice at Mississippi Pizza and check out the wacky souvenirs at Gumbo Gifts and Gallery, all in the space of a few blocks.

3725 N Mississippi Ave. 503-282-5484

Cosmic Monkey Comics The cavernous Cosmic Monkey has a special flavor that’s hard to put your finger on. Maybe it’s the creaky floorboards or the affable, laid-back staff. There’s also something to be said for the huge back issue room tucked away in the corner, where you can search out everything from last year’s Green Lantern to the 1960s adventures of Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen. A fantastic food cart pod is now open just down the street from Cosmic Monkey. At the Rose City Food Park you can find everything from gutbusting $5 burritos to delicious chocolate-covered desserts. Garcelan’s will even juice up his grilled cheese sandwiches for any comics fans who come in on Wednesdays.

5335 NE Sandy Blvd. 503-517-9050


We offer a full range of comics, manga & graphic novels.

There are two all-ages sections full of safe options for kids, one of them features a small play area.

We have a foreign language section featuring Spanish and French language comics.

Full range of collecting supplies.

Sections focused on art books, biographies, history and analysis.

Sections focused on Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr Who and Buffy.

Large selection of back issues. Cosmic Monkey Comics 5335 NE Sandy Blvd Portland OR 97213 503-517-9050 www.cosmicmonkeycomics.com

The best in geek television Geek out with these genres and shows Stephanie Fudge-Bernard Vanguard staff


eeks tend to get way too excited about pretty much everything, including TV shows. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a sci-fi fanatic or obsessed with inappropriate cartoons, there’s something out there to feed your geeky obsessions.

Fantasy For many geeky folks, fantasy is absolutely thrilling. Between all the mythical creatures and dramatic costumes, it’s easy to get sucked into alternate realities and amazing storylines. HBO’s current geek favorite Game of Thrones combines bold cinematography and a provocative plot. Most can agree that the incest and statutory fornication give the show a serious creepiness factor, but we can’t help but be pulled in anyway. The BBC fantasy show Merlin puts a creative spin on Arthurian legend. Though a bit goofy at times, it manages to produce exciting episodes and endearing characterization. Other shows that are a mustwatch for any true fantasy geek include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, both conceived by the godly talent Joss Whedon. Also check out Lost Girl, the BBC’s Robin Hood, True Blood and oldiebut-goodie The Twilight Zone.

Another sci-fi epic is the BBC’s Doctor Who, which centers on a time lord who can rejuvenate himself into sexy new bodies and features time travel, the constant fight between good and evil and irresistible accents. If you like the dry humor of British television and enjoy plots that jump between hysterically silly and deeply moving, it might be time to whip out your sonic screwdriver and jump into the TARDIS with one of the eleven incarnations of the doctor. Sci-fi lovers also absolutely need to watch the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. As the satirical sketch show Portlandia noted, BSG will literally take over your life with thrilling storylines and an epic ensemble cast featuring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell and the beautiful, beautiful Jamie Bamber. Wait until after finals to commit to this show. By the end, you’ll be sure some of us are Cylons. Of course, there’s also The X-Files, Warehouse 13, the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood, Farscape, Fringe and countless others just waiting for you to discover them.

© bbc

Gamer and IT culture Gamers and IT nerds are also represented with shows like the lowbudget, high-entertainment The Guild, which features the sexiness of Felicia Day and the scumminess of Wil Wheaton. The characters will bounce between horribly annoying you and being uncomfortably relatable with their RPG addictions and social awkwardness. Or jump back over to the BBC and watch the The IT Crowd, which focuses on the idiocy of a small team working as tech support. The brilliant thing about most British television is, of course, the wacky humor that pushes the limits of sense, and The IT Crowd is no exception.

Science fiction

Adult cartoons

Speaking of Whedon, many fantasy buffs cross straight over into sci-fi for shows like Firefly. If you can stand captivating plots, space battles and the gorgeous face of Nathan Fillion, check out this short-lived show. Star Trek: The Next Generation is an absolute must-see for anyone who claims to love sci-fi. TNG is an engaging combination of futuristic space exploration and thought-provoking lessons easily applicable to modern times. Furthermore, with cast members like Patrick Stewart enthralling us with his Earl Grey, Jonathan Frakes beguiling us with his manly beard and Michael Dorn raising a laugh with one of his character’s clumsy outbursts, TNG is utterly charming.

Last but certainly not least, geeks should get into some incredibly funny cartoons with childlike animation and offensive adult humor. Flip on Archer to discover the not-so-undercover spy agency ISIS, and fall in love with the irascible Sterling as he systematically drinks his way through entire liquor cabinets and jeopardizes the lives of his co-workers. Many of the same actors lend their voices to the lesser-known Frisky Dingo, which will either confuse or titillate your funny bone. With completely unexplained and unrepentant storylines, like a giant evil white space alien and a billionaire playboy who is the laziest superhero of all time, you’ll be laughing uncontrollably and baffled beyond comprehension. Other adult cartoons to check out are Futurama and The Venture Bros.

© syfy media, llc

© hbo

TV shows Doctor Who, Warehouse 13 and Game of Thrones are viable substitutes for friends and a healthy social life.


corinna scott/Vanguard Staff

Silverscreen dreamers are welcome with open arms in the Portland film community, with a host of options available for the cenephile in all of us.

Film buffs! All the great spots in PDX to see and learn about movies Kaela O’Brien Vanguard Staff

Where to see movies:


t’s easy to be a film lover in Portland. There are so many alternatives to chain theaters that there’s no reason to go see brand new movies at high prices.

5th Avenue Cinema Free for students and only $3 for the public, PSU’s 5th Avenue Cinema is quite a deal, especially since all moviegoers receive free popcorn. Oregon’s only student-run cinema, the films shown here range from classic to contemporary, mainstream to cult and everything in between. This theater is a great place to catch older or more obscure films not playing in regular cinemas.

510 SW Hall St. 503-725-3551 5thavenuecinema.org

Living Room Theaters

Enjoy a combination of new and old films while chowing down on well-priced popcorn, pizza and wraps. While ticket prices are low ($4), if you are under 21 be prepared to see a show beginning before 5:30 p.m., since all later shows are restricted to the drinking-age crowd. The drink menu includes wine and microbrews.

If you are looking to get a great bite to eat, hear some live music and see the newest buzzed-about indie movie, then Living Room Theaters is for you. The menu offers selections such as prosciutto apple provolone paninis, spicy tuna hand rolls and hoisin flank steak skewers. The drinks list offers up a wide array of red and white wines, draft beers and cocktails. Live music is performed on Fridays and Saturdays, and films run the gamut from big-budget to indie. This theater also accepts submissions from filmmakers.

2735 E Burnside St. 503-238-4088 laurelhursttheater.com

341 SW 10th Ave. 503-922-2637 livingroomtheaters.com

Laurelhurst Theater & Pub

10 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

Hollywood Theatre This is another theater that offers viewers the option of drinking and dining while seeing a film. Films shown here range from Oscar-nominated mainstream flicks to foreign and independent films to shorts and classics. Tickets are $7 for the general public and $5 for students. The theater is host to several film festivals, including the recent Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival and the Portland EcoFilm Festival. Beyond being a place for film lovers to see movies at a low price, the theater provides workshops and supports local filmmakers.

4122 NE Sandy Blvd. 503-493-1128 hollywoodtheatre.org

Where to take your passion for movies to the next level: For those of you whose love for films goes beyond just viewing them, there are a couple of places in Portland where you can go to increase your film production knowledge.

Northwest Film Center Located very close to the Portland State campus, the center offers a range of class options. Short workshops focus on specific aspects of film production such as storyboarding, time-lapse cinematography, lighting and sound recording. Workshops range in cost from $10 to $95. Classes at the center are priced much higher than the workshops, but are held over longer periods

of time and involve more meetings. Classes can be taken for PSU credit, and topics include screenwriting, digital editing and facial expression in clay animation. The center also hosts special film screenings, which can be found on the website.

934 SW Salmon St. 503-221-1156 nwfilm.org

Portland Community Media PCM is a nonprofit organization that promotes noncommercial media created and produced by the local community for the local community. PCM boasts several studios, quality equipment available for check-out, affordably priced workshops and professional advice. In order to check out equipment, you must complete one of the certifying workshops, such as the HD studio production workshop. With five three-hour sessions covering studio lighting, audio, pre-production, HD camera operation, directing and graphics creation, the price of the workshop ($100) seems quite reasonable. Once you’re allowed to check out equipment, you can produce a short film, series or feature-length film that PCM will actually show on one of its nine channels a minimum of five times. PCM also offers open peer-learning time on Saturdays from 2–4 p.m., when the public is invited to bring in questions or projects and receive extra help and feedback.

2766 NE Martin Luther King Blvd. 503-228-1515 pcmtv.org

Memoirs of a teenage cinephile Your guide to geeking out over films Breana Harris Vanguard staff


ow does anyone first discover that they’re a film lover? It has to be tied to childhood just like everything else, right? I remember watching John Huston’s Annie when I was little, especially the part when Daddy Warbucks takes her to the movie theater for the first time at Radio City Music Hall, no less. It’s the most exciting extravaganza you can imagine, with a fabulous musical number: Welcome to the movies! Welcome to the stars! Welcome to this grand illusion! All of it’s yours! Right through these doors! (Trivia: They see Camille, which came out in 1936, even though Annie is supposed to take place in 1933. And both films feature the work of editor Margaret Booth.) I like to think that going to the movies when you’re a kid is a little bit like that scene. And, to me, being a film geek means you never really lose that feeling. That’s the only definition I can settle on. In my case, official film geekdom began in junior high, when my movie-watching habits became so obsessive it’s kind of embarrassing. It seems kind of fitting that I associate puberty with the discovery of some of my favorite directors. I went through a phase in the seventh grade where I woke up at 4 a.m. every morning to watch a movie before school, because I hated school and I just couldn’t stand getting out of bed and then having to be there. I needed a buffer, something to shield me from real life— and isn’t that what films are all about? Red lights holler deep depression! What do we care? Movies are there! That was when I started devouring everything. I watched classics like Goodfellas, Blue Velvet and The Untouchables. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time. And I developed my taste. I discovered Quentin Tarantino and Gus Van Sant, Richard Linklater and Danny Boyle. I found something I liked and watched it over and over and over and over again. I have so many memories of rewinding VHS tapes to the beginning so I could watch them one more time. Did you know the first three movies released on VHS in the United States, in 1977, were The Sound of Music, Patton and M*A*S*H? They each cost around $60 at the time. By contrast, Twister was released on DVD in 1997 and cost about as much as it would today. What about now? I think there’s a very important distinction between being a film geek and being a film snob. Don’t get me wrong: For a long time I thought my taste was better than everyone else’s. I was a champion of independent film and looked down on anyone who didn’t like The Royal Tenenbaums but was really excited by You’ve Got Mail. But, seriously, don’t do that. No matter what you’re a geek about, it shouldn’t be a competition. (Trivia: Originally, The Royal Tenenbaums’ Richie and Margot were intended to be blood siblings, rather than Margot being adopted like she was in the final version. Director Wes Anderson knew a kid in the fourth grade who was in love with his own sister. I love DVD commentaries.) If you really love films, you love the ones that mean something to you. Each one represents something you learned or something you related to or something that affirms your beliefs and values, even the silly ones. I no longer believe in the hipster-esque notion that your taste defines you. Great films, like great music or literature, exist to let you know you’re not alone. They say the things you’ve always wanted to say but never found the words for. The films that do that for you might be very different from the films that do it for other people. I remind myself of this every time someone tells me that Tree of Life changed their life. It’s still hard. I suppose being a film geek is in my blood. My grandmother is in her 70s and still watches at least two

films every weekend, and every conversation we have begins with, “What have you seen lately?” It just goes to show that film lovers don’t look a certain way or follow a certain set of rules. She may not have lined up as quickly for Django Unchained as I did, but she can tell you more about movies than most people I know. My grandmother was born in 1934, the year Capra’s It Happened One Night swept the major categories at the Oscars and Greta Garbo starred in The Painted Veil. Two years later she starred in Camille. Welcome to the movies, all over again.

10 underrated films by celebrated directors:

© lightstorm entertainment

Strange Days, Kathryn Bigelow, 1995 It definitely lacks the realism of The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty, but Bigelow’s unique celluloid tale of a virtual-reality hustler at the turn of the millennium is part campy, part menacing. It deserves to be a cult classic. Plus, the soundtrack is amazing.

A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg, 2011 Cronenberg, the so-called master of venereal horror, is celebrated for a host of films, from Videodrome and The Fly right up to A History of Violence. But his undeniably talky history of the relationship between Freud and Jung looks at weird from a new perspective. It’s one of my favorite films and deserved more love than it got.

Sunshine, Danny Boyle, 2007 Boyle won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, the only one of his movies I don’t love. A year before, he made this stunningly bleak sci-fi horror gem about a crew trying to reignite our dying sun. It’s both frightening and beautiful, something he does exceptionally well.

Romancing the Stone, Robert Zemeckis, 1984 © columbia pictures industries, inc.

Big Fish, Tim Burton, 2003 Burton is much more famous for the unique macabre worlds of classics like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands and his more recent collaborations with Johnny Depp such as Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd. But Big Fish, the poignant and whimsical tall tale of a man trying to connect with his dying father, is arguably his most human creation.

The Abyss, James Cameron, 1989 Everybody loves Titanic, but I still maintain James Cameron was a better director in the 1980s. The Abyss tells the story of the motley crew of an underwater oil rig and the deep-sea aliens they discover. It gets its thrills from the unknown since this was long before big-budget special effects were in the picture.

The Age of Innocence, Martin Scorsese, 1993 Everyone thought Hugo was the biggest departure for the director of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Casino and a bunch more films we all love. But his poetically detailed adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel about Victorian society in New York City might be an even greater leap, and a better one.

We love Zemeckis mostly for the Back to the Future movies and Forrest Gump, but does anyone remember that he directed Romancing the Stone? The story of a frumpy romance novelist who joins forces with an adventurer in the South American jungle is sexy, funny and vastly entertaining, much like the decade that spawned it.

The Game, David Fincher, 1997 The follow-up to Fincher’s beloved Seven is the cryptic tale of a rich financier and his very strange birthday present. It might not be quite as flashy as Fight Club, but it’s definitely just as interesting.

Mona Lisa, Neil Jordan, 1986 Jordan is a fantastic Irish director known for Interview with the Vampire and The Crying Game, but his third film, about a curmudgeonly ex-con who works as a driver for a high-class call girl, should have put him on the map long before a certain famous crossdressing scene ever did.

Dune, David Lynch, 1984 Yes, I get why Lynch is famous for Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, and why Dune is considered one of the biggest failures of all time, but I still find it the most entertaining of his films. The freakish, brilliantly intricate world of Frank Herbert’s novel is perfect for Lynch, and I think it’s a sci-fi classic.


PSU: THE GAME Welcome to PSU: The Game, where there are no winners but there are losers Janieve Schnabel vanguard staff



New year begins New year begins

New year begins


• Place the coins on the board at intervals of 6-8 spaces with the arrows pointing at the chosen spaces. • Roll the die. Move that many spaces forward on the map. • Draw a card upon entering each new year or when the space you land on indicates to draw a card. • If two people land on the same space, they must each roll the die. Whoever rolls the highest number can take one of the other players’ cards. If there is a draw, no cards change hands. • A player may repeat their senior year one time by shuffling one of his/her cards back into the deck. The player does not get a new card upon restarting the year. • The game is over when each player has reached the end of his senior year. Multiply and then tally all points: Academics x1, Social x1.5 and Career x2. Highest point value overall wins!

12 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013






Straight A’s WaitListed!

get an Internship

Skip a turn

+1 Tuition Increase Move back 3 spaces


Spend a quarter partying

–1 +1

+1 +1

Academics Career

get a Scholarship

join a student group

+1 +1

Academics Social

Rumors about you spread

Academics Social





Midterms! Draw 1 card

Get a job on campus

Broke Again Skip a turn

Class counts for 2 majors Roll again


+1 +1

Can’t afford textbooks

Career Social



Start a study group for class

+1 +1

Academics Social

Car accident

Tuition Rises

Interview for dream job

–1 –1



Career Social

CPSO Found youR weed

Roll the die & draw half the number of cards




Favorite Prof. hires you for research

+1 +1


Birthday party!

Academics Career




Roll for initiative With a tabletop gaming community as big as Portland’s, it’s easy to get your game on Ashley Rask Vanguard Staff


othing brings people together and tears them apart like a good tabletop game. Friendships are tested, obscenities exchanged and occasionally a d20 gets chucked at someone’s eye. And with all sorts of fantastic game and hobby shops around Portland (Guardian Games, Cloud Cap Games, Other Worlds Games, Unplugged Games, et cetera), it’s easy to jump right into the good time that is the tabletop gaming community. What is tabletop gaming, you ask? Tabletop gaming refers to a variety of gaming, from board games to tile games, dice games, card games or any other kind of game typically played on a table or flat surface. Some attribute the growing popularity of tabletop gaming to actor, writer and avid tweeter Wil Wheaton’s web series TableTop, where the widely proclaimed geek icon plays board games with everyone from The Guild’s Felicia Day to My Drunk Kitchen’s Hannah Hart. Tabletop games date back as far as 3100 B.C. Senet, a game from Egypt, is the oldest known board game. Artifacts of ancient board games have been found in China, Iran and India. Jumping forward a few millennia, board games increased in popularity in America with the introduction of Parcheesi in 1874 and Monopoly in 1930. Moving forward another 30 years, America was introduced to one of the most commonly known tabletop role-playing game to ever exist: Dungeons & Dragons. Still popular today, Wizards of the Coast released the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2008. That brings me to my next point: RPGs. A roleplaying game is one in which players take the role of a character in a fictional narrative. RPGs can take the form of live-action role-playing, where players physically act out the actions of a character. They can also be in the form of a tabletop RPG where, as opposed to LARPing, players discuss their character’s actions instead of physically acting them out. Some of the top tabletop RPGs are Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, World of Darkness and Savage Worlds. Other popular tabletop games include Gloom, Settlers of Catan, Zombie Dice, Ticket to Ride, Star Fluxx, Munchkin, Small World, Star Wars: X-Wing and HeroClix. Portland is a hub for tabletop games with shops like Guardian Games, where you can uncover a goldmine of obscure games and partake in weekly game nights. Not only is Portland a great place to buy games, but it seems as if new groups devoted to tabletop gaming are popping up all over. Rose City Boardgaming has monthly game nights where you’re free to bring your own game or choose from their large variety of games. Events typically draw 30 people or more and are new-player-friendly. Portland State also has a student gaming organization called Gamers Republic of University Players. The group meets every Thursday at 6 p.m. and is in the process of setting up biweekly RPG nights, the next of which is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8. For those of you who are new to the world of RPGs and tabletop games, I’ve compiled a list of tips to get you started.

1. Invest in a dice set If you’re interested in jumping into the tabletop RPG scene, I suggest you invest in a set of RPG dice. Most gaming shops around Portland carry standard dice sets for less than $10. I recommend Things From Another World and Guardian Games for a wide selection of colors.

2. Do some research The groups and places I’ve covered are merely a fraction of what Portland’s huge gaming community has to offer. Hop on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or Google to find groups that best suit you. You can even ask employees at local game shops about groups around Portland.

photos by Miles sanguinetti/Vanguard staff

Sam Barnhart paints Circle Orboros minatures from the Hordes tabletop game.

3. Explore your local game shop Pick up a game you’ve never played before, or ask an employee for suggestions—they’re typically more than willing to help you find something that fits your gaming preferences. Sometimes the crazy obscure games that you normally would never buy end up being the most fun.

4. Leave your house Sure, having a cozy game night in with friends is fun, but why not play some Zombie Dice out on the town? The great thing about the tabletop gaming community in Portland is that game nights are hosted everywhere from comics shops to bars, so get out there, have a pint and meet some great people.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions This is the most important tip of all. Meeting new people and joining a group can be intimidating. Just remember that everyone was a beginner at some point, so don’t let it stop you from trying out a game. There are plenty of new-player-friendly groups around Portland whose members are more than willing to explain the game to you and would be thrilled to have someone new to add to this fantastic community.

Cygner Stormwall, a colossal unit in the Warmachine tabletop game.

Danny Modesto (left) plays Warmachine (center) with Asher McKee (right).

14 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

kayla nguyen/Vanguard Staff

Guy 1: Hey, man, that was my shot! Guy 2: Hell, no, I saw him first. Guy 1: Whatever, I just got some free ammo.

Gaming evolved From Galaga to BioShock: Infinite—a journey in gaming Robin Crowell Vanguard Staff


never thought that I would call myself a gamer. It’s just that the word “gamer” has so many connotations. During my high school years, enduring countless hours of others’ conversations about World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI gave me the impression that gamers were nothing more than pimply males who sat in front of their computers for days at a time while all but forgetting what the outside world looked like. Boy, was I wrong. Since I’m not a computer gamer, next-gen console gaming innovations were lost on me when they first hit stores. I was a purist focused only on the classics. The first game I ever owned was Galaga—for my giant red brick of a Game Boy. I eventually moved on to a Super Nintendo, a Sega Genesis and, finally, in 1996, a Sony PlayStation. Sure, we had a PlayStation 2 when it first came out, but something just felt lost. No game ever held the same magic for me since the first time I turned on Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Innumerable sequels emerged as I was stuck on these first few games. Crash Bandicoot was great, but it was

no Sonic the Hedgehog. I felt, at this point, that no other games could satisfy my appetite. Fast forward to 2012. My boyfriend and I finally allowed an X-Box 360 into our home, and my previous convictions about gaming were entirely erased. We got a great deal on the console itself (free) and we were able to pick up a handful of games for right around $30, BioShock being one of them. After my first trip in the Bathysphere and an opening glance at the skyline of Rapture’s underwater city, it became abundantly clear that I’d been missing out on something big. I’ve never had a game tug on my heartstrings quite as much as the first BioShock. After delving into the secrets of Rapture, fighting off Big Daddies and rescuing Little Sisters, I found myself looking for more. Shortly after the completion of that game, I moved on to Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, my first real attempt at modern-day RPGs. I never tired of scouring the postapocalyptic wastelands of Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas for bobble heads and new weapons, meeting ghouls and innumerable super-mutants along the way. Their stories, their lives—it all resonated as if I were watching a movie in which I was emotionally invested

every step of the way. I was introduced to Borderlands and grew excited each and every time I had the opportunity to meet a new Claptrap or find new elemental weapons in the crates of the planet Pandora to add to my arsenal. And then something else happened. On March 26, a game came out that ruined other games for me forever. BioShock: Infinite, the long awaited follow-up to BioShock, changed everything. From storyline to the most interactive artificial intelligence introduced in gaming to date and concepts that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, BioShock: Infinite is truly a triumph of gaming. Taking place in 1912 in the floating sky city of Columbia, BioShock: Infinite courses the player through concepts including American exceptionalism, racism, religion, rebellion, quantum physics and anarchy. While politics paired with an epic mission to rescue “damsel in distress” Elizabeth are the main themes of the story, the innovative combat and gameplay shouldn’t go unnoticed. The player takes control of Booker DeWitt, equipped with a “sky hook” to make use of the city’s skylines as a means of travel. DeWitt’s only melee weapon, the sky hook makes for gruesome and exciting gameplay to which no other game I’ve played compares.

Unlike the previous BioShock games, DeWitt can only carry two weapons while two Vigors (powers akin to the Plasmids from the first two BioShock games) can be equipped and toggled between at any time. From the first awe-inspiring view of Columbia to the last few moments of the game, I couldn’t pull myself away. Upon completion, I had to pry my jaw from the floor. Games like BioShock: Infinite are what make me proud to be a gamer. As I sit around with my friends making jokes about how buggy Bethesda games are and comparing Borderlands weapon inventories with my friends on X-Box Live, I’m not ashamed. I’ve found art where others have found none, and to me that’s what it means to be a gamer.





What to do when your particular geeky interest is hijacked by pop culture A guide to coping Matthew Ellis Vanguard Staff


know what you’re doing. You picked up this geek guide out of sheer horror, reeling at the latest encroachment on your world by capitalism and obnoxious “journalists” making absurd generalizations about the shit you like. First it was The Big Bang Theory, now this! Stop it. Breathe. It’s going to be OK. We seasoned geeks can often feel like we are being invaded by the very people who used to taunt us for going to Star Trek conventions and bringing comic books to school. There are ways to cope.

1. Realize it was never yours to begin with. Think about it: Whatever slice of geek culture you are into is essentially a product built and designed by a company trying to make money—either a giant corporation trying to sell you a DVD box set or a freelance comic artist trying to pay his medical bills. You didn’t find your favorite TV show hiding in the bushes; it was specifically designed to entice you into investing something into it to ensure that you became a return customer. There are supposed to be people other than you who know about Doctor Who. That’s kind of why they make the show. This doesn’t mean you are an idiot for liking geeky things, or that you are some pawn in a giant capitalistic scheme to take over the world. And it’s true that, more often than not, these things we love start solely as a labor of love by their creators. But if you know about it then it’s probably past that stage. And it’s not just a money thing. It’s dumb, but we all like knowing about some little thing before everyone else does. It makes us feel good. But don’t you think that the emotions and ideas that Battlestar Galactica stirred within you are emotions and ideas that other people feel too? Why is that a bad thing?

16 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

And, sure, there comes a point when something gets stretched so wide that it turns into a self-replicating, dollar-sucking machine void of the content that originally drew you to it. Just look at Star Wars. But you’ve got three choices here. You could be a willing participant and blindly buy every useless trinket on ThinkGeek.com and help perpetuate the system. You could go all ascetic in hopes of solving the problems of modern capitalism and work toward a future liberated geek universe. Or you could just watch and read what you want to watch and read, and not worry about what everyone else is doing. But who wants to do that?

by issue in 2003, and now that it’s the biggest TV show in the world your only option is to lash out to try and take back just a little part of it for yourself. Find another TV show to watch. Or log into the Netflix account you share with your brother in Arizona and start any one of the 8,000 sci-fi shows you’ve had in your queue for two months. It’s not that hard. DVD box sets are cheap on half.com. Who knows, maybe the next show you’ll give up when everyone else hears about it is just around the corner!

2. Find something else.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I empathize. Fully. It’s a pain in the ass hearing about Doctor Who from people who used to make fun of you for reading comic books and watching The Twilight Zone. But you know what? Maybe they grew up and realized that it’s OK to like geeky things. Maybe they realized that they didn’t have to make fun of you for liking what you liked and that they were being stupid back in the day. Geeks everywhere created this isolated little community of geekdom precisely to get away from all the other crap that bummed them out—and now that everyone wants in, geeks are acting exactly like the jocks and bullies

When you loudly complain to everyone that “Oh, well, you know, I— heh—stopped watching The Walking Dead after the first episode, because clearly Frank Darabont has never even read an issue of the comic,” you’re not opening the world’s eyes to your vastly superior vat of nerd knowledge. You’re not upholding some unwritten geek code. You’re just being an asshole. But maybe that’s what you want—I think a lot of people do this because it feels crappy when The Thing they like becomes bigger than themselves. You started reading The Walking Dead issue

3. Become a gatewaydrug dealer.

they were trying to get away from in the first place. If you’re annoyed that that Rachel girl who sits next to you wears her “It’s Bigger on the Inside” TARDIS T-shirt despite not knowing who Christopher Eccleston is, then tell her! You have the opportunity to be a helping hand and let these New Geeks find out about all the cool shit you’ve known about for years. If The Avengers has one of your friends asking you about comic books, show them Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run and tell them to avoid Frank Miller. How great would it be to mold all of your friends into mini-geek images of yourself? Here’s the thing: You used to be that New Geek. You were 12 years old and ran into a comics store to buy some Batman books, and the guy behind the counter told you which run to get and which to avoid. You spent countless hours on the Internet scouring blogs with awful lists like “The Top 10 Scariest Horror Movies with Dead Children Murdering Their Parents in Japan in the 1990s!” and you actually found some great movies. This is an exciting period in these people’s lives. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to be an ambassador or an asshole.

Now the jocks are stealing your math, too! How stat-heads have revolutionized the way our favorite pastimes are organized and consumed Zach Bigalke Vanguard Staff


veryone has that friend who takes fantasy football or fantasy baseball a little too seriously, poring over reams of data to select the perfect lineup for achieving vicarious glory. This is probably the same friend who spent summer vacations indoors as a kid, rifling through baseball cards and sifting through statistics rather than getting outside and experiencing the sport firsthand. When you go out on the town, a constant chime emanates from his smartphone as updates ping in at a rapid rate. Every few minutes he retrieves the device, fingertips clicking frantically as his eyeballs race through the information. Emotions fluctuate based on whatever numbers the screen spits out, a smile breaking or a grimace growing with each incoming update. Numbers have always been a big part of sports. What has changed, though, is the way these numbers are being manipulated and used by people whose lives are enriched by the games they follow. Instead of merely showing us what happened in contests already concluded, the analytics of today are designed to offer predictive potential to the statistician who understands the wealth of knowledge to be gleaned from them. Both individuals and teams are working with an increasingly complex range of data to provide a more nuanced understanding of what is happening and what that might indicate about future results. The explosion in statistical analysis began in 1977, when a factory security guard and aspiring writer named Bill James self-published his first Baseball Abstract and irrevocably changed the way numbers are perceived and processed in sports. By writing not about the action within the contests but rather pinpointing specific actions and analyzing their overall effect, James shifted the mentality of franchises, writers and fans

daniel johnston/Vanguard Staff

A couple of sports geeks demand an explanation for their improperly collated stats packets. (BTW, those who can’t play, play fantasy.)

toward a focus on the possible outcomes of a game well before the first pitch is thrown. This predictive use of statistics—identifying those underappreciated facets of a game that can have a quantifiable effect on the win-loss column—has since become an obsession for franchises. After the 2003 publication of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, which detailed general manager Billy Beane’s success employing nontraditional statistics to keep the small-market Oakland A’s competitive on a shoestring budget, other MLB clubs acquired their own eggheads to emulate Oakland.

Teams in other sports started to adapt this methodology to their own lineups, taking advantage of a new generation of high-definition cameras and data-collection technology to rethink roster construction and game strategy. It was the career path of one among this new wave of forward-thinking executives that led to

the creation of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference—the preeminent symposium in the ever-expanding world of sports analytics and the vanguard for the push to expand our statistical understanding of athletic success. For years, Daryl Morey worked in the front office of the Boston Celtics and lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. But when the Houston Rockets tapped him to become the team’s new general manager in 2006, his relocation to Texas meant that he would no longer have the opportunity to lecture at MIT Sloan. So Morey worked with the school to create a two-day conference that would bring together sports executives, management students and number-crunchers for presentations and panel discussions about the growing role of analytics in the field of athletics. The conference, originally held in a collection of classrooms on the MIT campus for less than 200 participants, has become an essential pilgrimage for thousands of stat geeks each year. At the seventh annual conference, held March 1 and 2 in Boston, MIT Sloan welcomed 2,700 attendees to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, with ESPN serving as the primary sponsor of the event. With ideas disseminating between franchises and across sports boundaries, the analytics only become more complex as amateur statisticians and professional staff seek out the next underexploited facet of the games they love. “It is not just about hearing the preeminent ideas of the day,” said Zach Slaton, a writer for Forbes.com who has attended the Sloan conference the past two years, “it’s really about networking and getting access to the people you meet and the opportunities that come out of the conference.” Therein lies the essence of this geek movement in sports. Rather than perpetuating the introvertedstatistician stereotype, analytics

specialists congregate at the Sloan conference every spring in culmination of another year’s work conducted collaboratively all across the country. Think tanks and private analytics firms come together to share the highlights and lowlights of their efforts to understand the true value of every action on the field of play.

These collaborations expand our knowledge of what is really happening on the turf, the court and the ice, trickling down from the teams themselves and writers like James and Slaton to the masses following along on television screens and smartphones. Because of events like the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, teams have discovered new ways to maximize their rosters—and your stat-junkie friends now have a new alphabet soup of acronym-stamped information to help their fantasies run wild.


Nerds-4-lyfe Passionate professors pass on inspiration Daniel Shepard Vanguard Staff

photos by miles sanguinetti/Vanguard Staff

Professor Katy Barber, associate professor of history. Fields of expertise include the Pacific Northwest, Columbia River history and public history. Earned her doctoral degree from Washington State University.

Vanguard: What is a geek to you? Katy Barber: Not me! (Laughs.) Someone who is intensely passionate about something that is not shared by the majority of other people. VG: Following that, were you a geek growing up? KB: I was thinking about that, and thought: Of course I’m not a geek, but was I a geek growing up? Yeah, I guess so, because I really liked to read. I don’t know. I was not a good historian as a kid. I loved literature. I guess in that way I was geeky, because I liked to read things that were above my grade level—significantly. I loved to talk about books. I remember one time in German class I was reading Gone with the Wind in the back of class in fifth grade, and

18 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

my language teacher called me out and told me that I wasn’t supposed to be reading in class. When I hung out with my best friend, I spent a lot of time reading while she watched TV. VG: What led you to where you are today? KB: Inevitably, reading led to questions of history. I read the newspaper when I was a kid. I had conversations with my parents about what was going on in the newspaper, and that often led to historical questions. So in some ways I didn’t realize…I was engaged in intellectual pursuits and loved it. I think some of it is finding your peer group. I certainly did in graduate school. It’s prized to be that geeky. Becoming an academic is

kind of like you’ve won the lottery of geekiness. VG: Do you still consider yourself a geek? KB: I have the same intellectual interests as I did when I was a kid, and I have friends now who have the same interests, or similar interests, and we spend an awful lot of time talking about them. I have a standing Sunday morning walk with somebody, and we do talk about our families and we occasionally gossip, but mostly we talk about our work, which I think is probably the ultimate of geeky—to do it in your off time. VG: Star Wars or Star Trek, or other? KB: Firefly !

Alex Ruzicka, professor of geology. Fields of expertise include planetary sciences and earth sciences. Earned his doctoral degree from the University of Arizona.

VG: What is a geek to you? AR: Somebody who gets involved in technical things quite a bit more than the average person. VG: Following that, were you a geek growing up? AR: Yes. I was definitely not doing the normal things that [other] people were doing with their lives. I never got into sports, but I did like to look at technical reports, like the ones that were coming back from the Apollo moon landings. I thought it was so cool that we could go to another body, we could explore, we could pick up some rocks, we could learn about the origin of the body. I thought, “That’s neat.” VG: What led you to where you are today? AR: I was always kind of interested in space exploration and thought, “Maybe I want to become an astronaut,” and then I realized, no, I’m not really much of an engineering person. I started in college, taking an aerospace major at the University of Minnesota, and I quickly learned that that stuff is dull as dishwater. Some geeks might like that stuff; I didn’t like that. So, what is it that I’m really liking? I like space exploration, I really like learning about the bodies, like the moon and the rocks, and [I] thought maybe I should learn more about the rocks part. So I started going into geology, and said, wow, plate tectonics—the Earth actually does this? How cool is that? Finally I said, what about rocks in space? Then it just snowballed into meteorites and planetary bodies. VG: Do you still consider yourself a geek? AR: No, because what I do now is consistent with my profession. Now, I can go to a conference and that’s what people do, they study the rocks from space and we can talk to each other. We’re colleagues. So I don’t feel like I’m unusual, because that’s my job now. VG: Star Wars or Star Trek, or other? AR: Both and other. I liked Enterprise, and the first one, but for different reasons. Enterprise reminds me of me in a way, because of how we want to venture into space and the exploration [of it]. Also, I think the acting was really good and the story was really good. The first one was good because they dealt with big themes and there was a lot of symbolism. I’m getting my kids to watch it now, but they aren’t quite there yet because it’s at a higher level.

Professor Catherine deRivera, associate professor of environmental science. Fields of expertise include ecology and behavior of intertidal and nearshore marine and estuarine animals. Earned her doctoral degree from the University of California, San Diego. VG: What is a geek to you? CD: Someone who gets very excited about their discipline, or maybe even video games or Dungeons & Dragons. VG: Following that, were you a geek growing up? CD: Yeah, I was, a bit. I’ve always had really diverse interests. I get really excited about things, but I get really excited about a lot of things. So I don’t just identify with one thing, which allowed me to hang with the popular kids and the jocks as well. I liked a lot of sports as a kid, acting, crafts and art. VG: What led you to where you are today? CD: Sports were important…I started off as a long-distance runner and you have to be pretty disciplined for that, [which is also] pretty important in academics. I also spent a lot of time outside, checking things out. My family has this island in Maine that I got to spend every summer on. I spent a lot of time in the intertidal zone, and not surprisingly I’m a marine ecologist [now]. And the crabs that lived there are the European green crabs that I study. VG: Do you still consider yourself a geek? CD: Yeah. Pretty hardcore. I love the research I do. A lot of it has such incredible and important management and policy implications, which is really important to me, but I also really geek out on the science. I think everyone should love doing science. VG: Star Wars or Star Trek, or other? CD: I’m going to go with Star Wars.


Wordsmiths uber alles Take note logophiles, bibliophiles and word nerds

Ryan S. Cunningham Vanguard staff


ord nerds stand at the apex of the geek hierarchy. Most species of the obsessive and socially maladjusted retreat from the world, but the linguistic acrobats transform it. The geek world is a black hole, and the stuff at the center never escapes. Trekkies and otaku and Whedonites huddle in sweaty circumscribed enclaves that fold their monomaniacal obsessions back onto themselves. The role-playing game crowd can claim a little more visibility—they’ve got Stephen Colbert and Robin Williams in their club—but dungeon masters seldom leave their dank, incense-scented suburban basements for much longer than it takes to bag the Kilimanjaro-scale stack of empty Mountain Dew cans in the corner. Don’t even get me started on Doctor Who fans. Maybe the Slashdotters, open-source advocates and early-adopting IT desk jockeys are equals to the wordies. They’re pushing the cultural mainstream toward an electronically saturated panopticonic technonightmare in which everything will be known all the time. In utero embryonic cybernetic engineering will integrate SMS into our frontal lobes: If you can think it, you can text it! But that’s the future. Right now the content providers reign supreme. Speech, to paraphrase Aristotle, is that which moves us to action. Science and philosophy furnish the truth, but truth just sits flaccid on the shelf next to the Gundam models of some inarticulate shut-in until an enterprising wordsmith hones its tip with the verbal whetstone and thrusts it hard into our collective consciousness. Poets, journalists, crossword enthusiasts, Wikipedia editors, opinion-page columnists, stoned scriptmonkeys turning out episodes of Family Guy and PG-13-rated garbage starring Ben Stiller: These—word nerds and former English majors all of them—are the real brahmins of the modern West. A representative sample of word nerds proves this point. Take Will Shortz, Super Mario look-alike and editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, is the consummate words-for-their-own-sake nerd. The only individual in the world to hold a university degree in enigmatology—that is, the study of puzzles—and the owner of the world’s largest private puzzle library, Shortz exemplifies an unsurpassably eclectic field of verbal knowledge. Who else could have included crossword clues the likes of “repeated Wayne’s World cry” and “France’s ____ d’Avignon” in the same puzzle? (Answers: “party on” and “Pont,” respectively.) At the other end of the spectrum lies The Wit, an individual who harnesses language’s destructive and excitative power to hold the world at bay. And who

20 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

jinyi qi/Vanguard Staff

The fierce and fervent subculture of word nerds is always ready to provide clarification of even the most inconsequential points of linguistic dispute.

more witty than Oscar Wilde, whose disarming humor crushed the grim realities of loss, sadness and death? “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative,” Wilde proclaimed, and, “A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.” Say this stuff aloud—see how awesome you sound? So awesome that everything you say must be true. Then there’s The Sage, a spellbinding specimen who with a succession of images and pronouncements expertly calculated to instill the wisdom of the ancients holds captive all those around him. Though sages traditionally plied their trade around campfires under the spreading summer expanse of stars, today they’ve mostly been subsumed by hip-hop. Twentyfirst-century shamans like the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA return us to the elemental, violent reality of our ancestors with pyrotechnical braggadocio: “I’m on a mission that niggas say is impossible/but when I swing my swords they all choppable.” Word. How, you ask, might one enter this elite cadre of lexical transfigurators? What’s the first step toward transforming the objects of the world into bright, shining prosody?

Read, my friend. Climb the great intellectual heights of Joycean epiphanic navel-gazing; wade through Nabokov’s ambiguous mire of ironic sincerity; stare hard at pages of Pound and snatch at the merest inkling of whatever the hell it is he’s talking about; peruse Craigslist’s unending volumes of classifieds and fully appreciate the debased, utilitarian speech of the streets. Communicate freely with each passing stranger, copying every indistinct utterance into ink-scribbled notebooks. Vent your bitchiness and bile in unedited blasts on unread Internet forums while the moderators sleep. Make the least argument seem best in every inconsequential conversation you engage in with barflies and birdwatchers. You may slowly become another species of human: outcast, stigmatized, excluded for your savage, incisive pronouncements. But fret not. As a new member of our tribe, we will welcome you with open arms and unending jiggers of hot bourbon. Genius recognizes genius, and yours and mine are the same. Together we will stride tall o’er the earth. And we’ll show the sallow-faced recluses a thing or two about true, self-consuming nerdiness.

© Matt cardy/Ghetty images

If you find grown men fetishizing plastic ponies somewhat creepy, then you’re probably paying attention.

That’s my brony When obsessions become way too real Gino Cerruti Vanguard Staff


or the past few decades, many subcultures have bewildered the general public (goths, emos and hippies, to name just a few). And while these groups may have been misunderstood in their time, their members bonded as one and basked in their own invented way of life. Today, their contributions to the world at large are historic reminders that black lipstick, hair that covers 95 percent of your face and hemp underwear are all bad ideas. However, society has for the most part learned to accept them and has even incorporated some of the less bizarre aspects of their respective communities into the American mainstream. So am I saying that bronies, the 21st-century example of subcultural eccentricity in America, will someday be accepted by renowned fashion labels­­— that models will walk down runways with pink plush ponies in tow? Hey, stranger things have happened. The term “brony” refers to an adult fan of the children’s TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The program, if you haven’t guessed by its title, is drawn in an extremely prismatic style, with wideeyed, multicolored ponies sporting names like Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle bouncing around and singing catchy parables about sharing, caring and, of course, friendship. You may have heard of the trademarked brand My Little Pony, started by Hasbro in the early 1980s. The line of toys developed into a massive enterprise,


These bronies look positively tickled by the prospect of meeting other grown men with disturbing proclivities. Yay Internet!

with feature-length films, TV specials and an insane amount of merchandise. The target audience has always been little girls, but for some reason the newest animated incarnation has grabbed the attention of a large demographic of adults—namely, adult men. It began, as many 21st-century subcultures do, on the Internet. The popularity of the movement began to grow steadily around 2010, and by 2011 there was already a My Little Pony convention scheduled: BronyCon. The first BronyCon, held in New York, drew a crowd of about 100, and it grew exponentially from there. The most recent BronyCon, held in New Jersey last summer, attracted well over 4,000 fans, while the next event, scheduled for August at the Baltimore Convention Center, is estimated to bring in twice that number. There’s even a Portland State club dedicated to the show. Undoubtedly there is a stigma attached to following the cutesy, innocuous adventures of ponies, and it is one that calls into question the maturity level of an adult who actively fixates on a children’s cartoon show. Those curious about bronies are typi-

cally introduced to their unique brand of fandom via YouTube, which may not be the best way to get acquainted with them. The most-viewed videos of bronies often feature sing-alongs of the TV show’s theme song in public places (e.g. McDonald’s) or a devious non-brony with a microphone interviewing shy, awkward fans. A personal favorite of mine features a fan ranting over the incongruity of a My Little Pony coloring book and the TV show’s backstory, seemingly unaware that adults should probably not be spending their time combing over the details of a coloring book created for children and infants. Yet it is unfair to generalize the brony culture as a haven for man-children simply based on what one finds in the deep, dark recesses of YouTube. Like the goths of the ’80s, bronies form a subset of individuals who share a common interest, or at least identify with a subject that suits their personalities. Like the characters on the show, the fad they’re celebrating is harmless. And at the rate the group’s popularity is growing, many more of us may be sporting Pinkie Pie tattoos in the very near future.


Boutiques for geeks What to wear and where to find it in Portland

photos by corinna scott/Vanguard Staff

Lensless glasses and a beret will complement your unproduced screenplay and crippling student loan debt.

Stephanie Fudge-Bernard Vanguard staff


inding your geek look depends on what your passions are. Whether you are a pop culture geek, a vintage diva or in love with geek-chic fashion, there are some basic guidelines to follow that’ll help you pick out the perfect outfit. Many fashion-focused geeks tend to stand out when they pair professional, classy and beautiful items with a flair of eccentricity. Add a bow tie and suspenders to a boring dress shirt; combine a graphic T-shirt emblazoned with Spock’s likeness and an embroidered cardigan; or throw a Goomba pin on a blazer, put some black-framed glasses on your gorgeous face and carry a Doctor Who messenger bag. The key to flaunting your fashion sense is expressing your obsessions no matter how obscure they are. In fact, the more obscure the better. Express your love of old video games, anime, campy movies and misunderstood TV shows with the help of some of the below Portland stores.

Hollywood Vintage No traditional geek outfit is complete without a pair of old-school thick-rimmed eyewear. Hollywood Vintage stocks an inventory of new and vintage frames. In just about three days, HV’s onsite optician can help get you fitted and fabulous in styles from as far back as the 1920s.

2757 NE Pacific St. 503-233-1890

Things From Another World If you prefer the comfier side of geek fashion, TFAW offers a variety of tops bearing nerdy images from Godzilla to Darth Vader. TFAW even offers a variety of accessories; check out their Game of Thrones Littlefinger Mockingbird pin. Plus, you get to look through comic books, games and a bunch of other products that’ll make you feel right at home.

2916 NE Broadway St. 503-284-4693

22 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013

Red Light Clothing Exchange Red Light Clothing Exchange is a visual wonderland. Bold vintage and new brand-name garments will please those looking for geek-meetsPortland-hipster fashion. Old prints, graphic T-shirts and a unique collection of vintage couture make Red Light a great stop for anyone looking for an interesting wardrobe, men’s or women’s, and all at affordable prices.

3590 SE Hawthorne St. 503-963-8888

Buffalo Exchange Buffalo Exchange is another affordably stylish clothing store. Buffalo trades and buys local clothing and then resells it at prices trendy college students can afford.

1420 SE 37th Ave. 503-234-1302 1036 W Burnside St. 503-222-3418

Anthropologie For the ladies and others interested in feminine-focused clothing, staple items for any chic closet can be delightfully discovered at Anthropologie. The soft colors and sophisticated designs of Anthropologie’s blouses are both sweet and modern. Splurge on a gorgeous cardigan to add class to an outfit or dress up a graphic tee.

1115 NW Couch St. 503-274-0293

Upper Playground For casual and artsy folks, Upper Playground offers a variety of shirts with beautifully bizarre prints. If you’re looking for two copulating balloon dogs, a Ghostbusters-inspired “Bunny Busters” shirt, or a Strange Brew tee with Rick Moranis’ face and the word “Hosers” written across it, you need to head to Upper Playground.

23 NW Fifth Ave. 503-548-4835

Music geekery: the blueprint Nicholas Kula Vanguard Staff


obody is a stranger to the concept of “the geek.” The word’s been pejoratively thrown around since the ’80s, and it’s only recently that people have started embracing their geekiness without fear of having their underwear pulled over their heads. Pretty much every form of physical media has a geek persona attached to it. But just what does it mean to be a music geek? The confusion lies with music’s differentiation from other forms of media. For example, comic geeks would need to own a lot of comics in order obtain geek status in the eyes of most. However, music is so much more prevalent in our society than comics, thus owning a lot of music simply won’t cut it: If having a large collection of music made one a music geek, preteens with gigabytes of One Direction bootlegs would be in the same category as you and I, and that simply won’t do. In the subtle art of geekery, it’s important to recognize layers. Like comics and film, music geekdom doesn’t start and end with its most basic category—band or artist names. What good would a comic book geek be if all he or she knew was a bunch of characters? Hell, I don’t know a thing about comics, but I can probably name 40 characters. In music, it’s not enough just to know the band names, because that’s only layer one. Layers two, three and four are musicians, producers and instruments, respectively.

It’s not very geek to know things like John Lennon’s favorite food—that’s just trivia. Researching that food will not lead you to other musicians that like that food, and so on; researching individual musicians and producers will lead you somewhere. Often, they will lead you to other bands, and it is then that the descent begins. It can often be cumbersome to work backward in time, but it’s very important to know the origins of each genre because they often splinter off into new paths to explore. Here’s where to start your musical geek journey with select genres.

Genre: Rock Band: Spirit Album: Spirit Year: 1968 Spirit’s branches extend every which way: they were a weirdo psychedelic band from Los Angeles, their lead singer used to play with Thelonious Monk among other jazz legends and they’re notorious for supplying Led Zeppelin with the riff for “Stairway to Heaven.” Spirit toured with Zeppelin way back when and heard “Taurus” on every date. Sure enough, on IV, “Stairway” came out and was a gigantic hit. Some years later, Spirit released The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, which is every bit as good as other super-ambitious art-rock pieces of the same era like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Tarkus. Strangely enough, the band stuck around until the late ’90s, even though their singer was born in the ’20s.

Throughout their 30 years in rock music, they were a huge part of shaping rock bands of that era, including Led Zep—and just look at how many they influenced.

Genre: Electronic Band: Hot Butter Album: Hot Butter Year: 1972 While the music contained within the grooves of the Hot Butter record is slightly catchy but honestly nothing special, it’s important to note that it was made by a bunch of music geeks screwing around in a studio. The band was led by a guy named Stan and in the liner notes the band is officially credited as “a bunch of fellow players.” However, the most important thing is that Hot Butter was the first mostly electronic band to sell millions of records. This is pretty important, because it ushered in the era of synthesizers occupying a place in records that people actually want to buy. Of course, this opened the floodgates for electronic instrumentalists who eventually brought you keyboard punk, disco, the ’80s and more.

terized the wound that would have become a cancer of lackluster artists. He pioneered a number of techniques that are still in use today and perpetuated hip-hop’s innovative use of sampling (the title track sample is a funk song released six years prior by a band named The Whole Darn Family). More importantly, the Grandmaster took hip-hop from the good time party music of Kool Herc and Sugar Hill Gang to a socially conscious wave of self-expression. The musical landscape would never be the same.

Honorable mention: The Winstons Album: Color Him Father Year: 1969 The real gem of this record isn’t “Color Him Father,” but the b-side, “Amen Brother.” This track alone has inspired countless samples spanning many genres, but was first used in hiphop tracks like NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton,” among others. If you’re interested in hearing this sample, which has been used in music by everyone from Oasis to Nine Inch Nails to Jars of Clay to Slipknot, skip to 1:26 in the track to have your mind blown.

Genre: Hip-hop Band: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Album: The Message Year: 1982 The year was 1982, and hip-hop was relatively new there was plenty of new ground to break in music. Thankfully, Grandmaster Flash broke so much with The Message that he cau-


24 Geek Guide | Vanguard 2013