Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Those Who Ponder Millenium Falcons

Must . . . not . . . . write . . . about Charlie . . . Sheen . . .
KIDS! I’ll write about kids.
One day, I was wandering through a bookstore by the seaside. It was crowded with people and it was one of those gloriously cluttered places, with teetering piles at the ends of the over-laden shelves. It was a beautiful mess. Books cuddled together on chairs and tumbled out onto the floor. It was the kind of place where you could make a discovery, not some electronic book-vending machine; not a place of credit cards and digital ghost novels. An honest-to-God bookseller's.
With a small summer-reading stack under my arm, I poked and flipped through whatever caught my eye. Turning a corner, I nearly stepped on a young boy -- maybe ten -- who knelt reverently over a gigantic, glossy tome spread open on the floor to a diagram from Star Wars. The title on the page: “Design Specifications of the Millenium Falcon.”
“Sorry,” he said, scooting over.
I let him know it was no problem, with a smile, and grabbed an Alan Dean Foster Star Trek novel. As I read the back, the boy mumbled to himself: “Hyperdrive converters . . . forward blasters . . . But where did Han Solo sleep?”
If this had been another time, in a more mentally-healthy world, I might have joined the lad on the floor to discuss that very question. But as things are (and, being the sort of dad who would reflexively kick any strange grown man who was sitting on the floor next to my own son) I smiled heartily to myself and walked away, only glancing back at the young explorer of space machines for a last pleasant impression.
I was in my mid-twenties, then -- still a long way from fatherhood -- but it occurred to me: something was going right with that little guy. In particular, that he was interested in stuff. How many ills in life it cures to be interested in things. Let’s face it: Hamlet started thinking suicide when the things of the earth, even the wondrous heavens, the "majestical roof fretted with golden fire” lost his attention.
Years later, a co-worker hung up the phone, put his hands behind his head, and he said, “Thank God my daughter is a nerd.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked, afraid to agree with this assessment. (I'd met her. It was accurate.)

“Because I know she isn’t out doing crazy stuff with the 'cool' kids -- drinking, smoking weed, etc. The worst thing that girl ever did was to sneak into a second showing of The Matrix without paying.”
It is true, isn’t it? Why would we want our kids to be conventional and “cool”? Our own pride? In the end, wouldn’t you really rather your kid spend his Saturday nights watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy or discussing online gaming with his friends than doing beer-bongs off of someone's absent parents' balcony?
God bless the nerds I say -- those who talk and think about ideas from he earliest days, oblivious to the judgement of the "cool" people. God bless those who wonder where Han Solo slept on the Millenium Falcon, unconcerned about the impracticality of what they are learning, content just to delve.
Charlie Sheen is about as cool as you can get, right? Parties, women, fame? Outside of parties, women and fame, what was he interested in as a boy? I wonder if he was the prom king . . . DAMN! [Slaps head with palm.]


  1. I feel compelled to say how much I love John Green's example:

    "...nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff. We don't have to be like, 'Oh yeah that purse is okay' or like, 'Yeah, I like that band's early stuff.' Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can't-control-yourself-love it... when people call people nerds, mostly what they are saying is, 'You like stuff', which is just not a good insult at all."

    Although to be fair, I feel that way about most of what he says...

  2. Wow -- that one quotation is worth more than my entire post. Fantastic. Thanks, Shane.

  3. Great great great great great. I find nerds to be the most interesting people on this universal shard. The day I accepted my nerddom was quite liberating indeed.

    Of course, I learned from you and the Yoda of All Nerds Iovino, so I had somewhat of a head start.

  4. Use the force, Nick. Use the force . . . (Do you sometimes see ghostly images of myself and Iovino glowing and nodding approvingly at you from the sides of roads?)

  5. I personally believe that Han Solo slept sitting upright in his chair with his feet precariously resting upon the controls of the Millennium Falcon while Chewbacca manned the controls and kept his eyes pealed for possible problematic run-ins with the law or perhaps in the smugglers hold he hid a little cot but I think the first is far more likely.
    Yes, I am nerd and proud to say so and while I like the large majority of your post I must correct the ending. Charlie Sheen may have been prom king but I do not like that you are implying that prom kings are in fact the cool kids. I was the prom queen.

    ~Squidward and her Clarinet

  6. Ah, Squidward -- how could I forget? But, perhaps in your case, the prom king and queen were the first truly "cool" ones in prom history.

  7. My students call me a nerd all of the time. I simply and sincerely say, "Thank you."


  8. You're in good company, Larissa. We nerds embrace you and your ilk!

  9. I think I must have been born with the word geek stamped on my forehead. This is me sneaking in to see Wrath of kahn.( many times) playing live D&D from rules we made up ourselves because at that time not only did LARP not exist but it was a BAD THING. OmG we geeks are the awesome. I'm still a geek/nerd even more so than ever because I married a Geek god, we met via the internet before it was cool in a star wars online game ( TIE fighter) chat club (Mirc) and I work at a computer company and it's my favourite job ever and I'm 45...

    I love this post! Thank you for writing it!

  10. Thanks, MFB (May I call you "MFB"?) It is just such a shame that the intellectually successful are often considered failures by the commonly cool! Thanks so much for reading. Wave the geek flag proudly!