Archive | May, 2013

Playing For The Other Team

9 May

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*****

letter HHere at Dorkdady.com headquarters we are very up-front about where we stand on the Star Wars/Star Trek spectrum. I don’t have anything against Star Trek, per-se. I would even go so far as to say I respect the franchise and hold it up as a top-tier member of the DorkDaddy pantheon of dork-worthy endeavors. I can even say with relative certainty that I have seen every episode of every branch of the Star Trek media conglomerate. I have my certificate of Star Trek competency, even if the certificate itself is stuffed in a drawer somewhere – as opposed to my Star Wars competency certification, which hangs on my wall in a custom mahogany frame alongside my gilded credentials, signed by R2-D2 and C3PO themselves, identifying me as a founding member of the Star Wars Fan Club.

OK, I may be talking in hyperbole there. But I WAS a founding member of the Star Wars Fan Club (in 1978) even if I’ve lost my original membership card. But I digress.

The other night, after reading our nightly dosage of Harry Potter it was time for our routine 10 minutes of Netflix/YouTube before lights-out. We’ve pretty much torn through all the age-appropriate stuff you can stream online (for free). On a whim I typed into the Netflix search box “Star” on the off chance that the original trilogy was available for streaming (fat chance). To my surprise, in the “available for streaming” screen popped up the original 1966 Star Trek series (digitally re-mastered versions).

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gore and skin and violence as it existed in 60’s-era television

I looked at my two little cherubs, snuggled at the end of the bed in their pajamas, under the covers, waiting for movies, and did a quick “appropriateness” assessment of my memories of the original series. There’s very little blood (beyond Kirk’s legendary chest scratch). There’s no sex (unless you have a problem with 60’s go-go-dancing outfits), and the “violence” is laughable by today’s standards. Seriously, have you watched Kirk’s epic battle with the Gorn lately?

So I decided it was time. I selected Season 1, Episode 1 (skipped the pilot), flipped my iPhone around, and my big kids got their very first taste of classic Star Trek. If you’ve got kids the same age as mine I must say, truly the only issue you’ll have watching classic Star Trek with them is the pacing. By today’s standards the plot points move incredibly slow. Each of those hour-long episodes could easily be compressed into a half-hour. But my kids stuck it out for 15 minutes or so, enough to warrant giving it another go tonight.

Watching Star Trek with your kids isn’t about indoctrinating a child into another level of nerdiness (as much as UnDorkMommy might think it is). It isn’t even about the lofty socio-political commentaries of the series(es) that academics like to point out. It’s about cultural competence. It’s about being able to hold a conversation with that stranger at the office Christmas party.

In that same way I have used Netflix to educate my children on some of the cultural touchstones of my childhood. We worked our way through the entire “Transformers” and “Voltron” animated series long ago. Recently we’ve covered most of the “He-Man” and “She-Ra” cartoons. Episode IV even powered through all three seasons of “Jem and the Holograms”.  (So, so, so cheezy. We had no idea how bad they were when we were watching them. Trust me. They’re bad.) Next on the list: “Thundercats”.

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Every single one of these is currently available, streaming on Netflix.

Certainly “He-Man” and its ilk don’t register quite as high on the cultural-competency scale. But I loved “Transformers” and “He-Man” back in the day, and it gives me and my children something else in common. And even though I never watched “Jem”, my sisters certainly did, and now my children have something in common with their aunties.

That… and the look on the lady’s face after school when she heard Episode IV singing “Woah-o-o Jem is truly outrageous… truly, truly, truly outrageous…!” was priceless.

Like it or not, no matter where you register on the nerd-spectrum, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and “Beam me up, Scotty” are part of the American lexicon. It’s like football, Loony Tunes, or Elvis. You don’t have to be all crazy into it. You don’t even have to like it, but you have to be aware of it. And if you want to be functional in social situations, you have to have at least a passing knowledge of what it’s about.

Because no matter how averse you may be to the greater dork sciences, the fact of the matter is we have taken over. You can either get on the train or get left behind.

-Dork Dad

Fan Fiction

6 May

letter My daughter is a girl growing up in a boy’s world. I try not to eclipse my wife’s influence with the kids, but let’s be honest – the beacon of my nerdiness shines a little (a lot) brighter than hers. What are the top-tier nerdisms that my family is bathed in? Comic books. Superheroes. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. Star Wars. Transformers, power tools, Legos, bike riding…

While raising my children I’ve made a point of teaching them that power tools are also for girls, and the kitchen is a great place to be a boy (although my own cooking skills are pathetic… definitely not leading by example here). But my daughter is still a girl, and as she navigates the world she has to find her own role-models, her own superheroes that she can relate to.

In the world of popular culture there are woefully few top-tier female superheroes out there for a girl to latch on to. Think about it. What options are there? Wonder Woman? They haven’t been able to manage a feature film, or even a television series since the Linda Carter days. Princess Leia? The princess herself is cool, but any true fandom leads to an investigation of the actor who plays the character. Have you seen Carrie Fisher lately? She’s a brilliant writer and public speaker… if she can stay sober long enough to string a sentence together.

It's not like we're going to see this movie any time soon.

It’s not like we’re going to see this movie any time soon.

For a girl looking for a hero to identify with the options are pretty slim. <<editor’s note: I should emphasize FANTASY hero, because Episode IV’s mommy is a pretty super-human role-model for any young lady to live up to>> But it seems that our little girl has finally settled on a candidate: Hermione Grainger (from the Harry Potter stories, for the unDorks out there).

Besides a passing physical resemblance, one of Hermione’s characteristics that Episode IV identifies with most is her academic success. We’re four books into the Harry Potter series and in every one Hermione is showered with praise as “the most gifted witch in her class” and she gets special favors from her professors because of it. My daughter also thrives in school, and lives off of the accolades that she gets there. Hermione excels at school where others struggle, and she’s always the voice of mature reason when Harry and Ron are about to do something stupid. Episode IV has two dopey younger brothers for whom she, like Hermione, often takes on the “responsible adult” role. Hermione avoids mischief when she can, but she also knows that once in a while a little mischief is necessary – and when she does it, she excels at it. If anything Episode IV is a little less averse to mischief than Hermione might be. In short, when my daughter sees Hermione, she sees herself.

hermione

Episode IV is also the sort of person who is constantly peaking behind the curtain. She loves the fantasy, but she never forgets that it’s actually fantasy. She always wants to know “how do they do that” when we’re watching movies. This line of thought naturally leads her to investigate the actor behind the character, and in this regard she relates even more. Emma Watson, at least publically, is a classy, well spoken, beautiful, educated young woman. She seems to have escaped the trappings of childhood fame. I’d much rather have my daughter cast her gaze in that direction, rather than… say… Kristen Stewart.

Friday afternoon Episode IV looked up at me and with frustration in her voice said “Daddy, I just… I wish…” She couldn’t find the words, but clearly there was something just below the surface she needed to get out. “Daddy… someday can I be in a Harry Potter movie?”

“Well, you never know, honey” I responded. “But I don’t think they’re going to be making any more Harry Potter movies for a very long time. They’ve already made all the books into movies.”

Her brow furrowed, stymied by the realities of the world that are beyond her control. But my daughter is nothing if not tenacious.

Saturday morning I woke up to find her hard at work at her art table, which in-and-of itself is nothing special. 1st graders have a lot of pent-up, creative energy they need to exercise. We’ve got stacks and stacks of her artwork we can’t bring ourselves to throw away. I stumbled through the morning, getting my coffee, getting the boys taken care of, figuring out the schedule for the day – the usual. Then from across the house at her art table I heard Episode IV say “There, Daddy. I’m done!”

What exactly had my academically precocious, Hermione-identifying 1st grade daughter done with her Saturday morning? It seems she had written a book, by which I mean a full-on book, complete with cover, title, illustrations, a table of contents, chapters and nuanced plot-points.

On her own, my daughter had written a Harry Potter book. She gleefully explained to me how Lucious Malfoy was the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher, and how Hermione and Ron were keeping a secret from Harry that had something to do with his parents. She was all-in. She was invested. She poured everything she had into this brand new chapter in the Harry Potter saga…

…for the exclusive purpose of making another movie that she could star in as Hermione.

Take that, world where things are beyond her control. She wasn’t going to let a little thing like no-more-books get in her way. Bam! Now all we need is a director, studio-backing, and a sound stage.

I flipped through the book, amazed. This was incredible even for her sky-high standards. “That’s amazing, honey” I said. “I mean really. Wow.”

“Thanks, Daddy” she replied. “Can we make the movie now?”

-Dork Dad

The 4th Will Be With You

4 May

letter Ican’t give away the specifics yet, because details haven’t been finalized and all the contracts haven’t been signed yet. But I did finally get permission from the suits, given today’s date, to share this little teaser for the next big thing to come to this little blog. Here you go:

After showing her this video, my fried said to me “But what if I don’t want a bunch of free Star Wars stuff?” Don’t worry. I’ll weave the promotion into the normal stuff I do around the blog to keep the obnoxious-factor to a minimum. But you should know that, amongst other things, the promotion will pit 10 blogs against one another. The blog that generates the most action on the contests over the course of 6 weeks will win the grand prize: “The Ultimate Star Wars Family Weekend Getaway” (details to be determined)

So if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for my kids; because you know… don’t these kids deserve “The Ultimate Star Wars Family Weekend Getaway”?

lightsabers

Happy May the 4th, folks. Have a great weekend.

-Dork Dad

What Is A Dork?

2 May

letter Last week when I brought Episode V to do science in his sister’s 1st grade classroom, we had a little time to ourselves afterward to unwind. We were goofing around together on the school playground to get some wiggles out before we went back home to UnDorkMommy and Episode VI. There was another school parent there who I recognized but didn’t know. We smiled at each other politely as she pushed her youngling on the swing and my boy and I horsed around on the jungle-gym.

As Episode V and I were playing he did something silly in front of the woman’s youngling and I playfully said to my son “You big DORK!”

superman_trunks-1

Now you must understand, in our family the word “dork” is a love-word. After almost 2 years of blogging, “dork” has worked its way into our family lexicon. Just last night as I was snuggling Episode IV down to sleep, she said to me “Goodnight DorkDaddy.” The kids know that “dork” is not a word that we use outside of the family – the word has special meaning inside the family that most people wouldn’t understand. But there on the playground, in front of that mother and her child, in the enthusiasm of the moment I slipped.

It was like the needle scratched off the record. The mother made no attempt to hide her look of mild horror and disapproval. It was as if the swing came screeching to a halt mid-swing and even the mother’s baby looked at me reproachfully. “How dare you call your son such a thing?” said the youngling’s eyes. I expected the mother to pack up her things and get her child away from the uncultured riff-raff as quickly as possible.

OK, I admit I may be taking a little poetic license for drama’s sake. But the mother did notice, and she did do a terrible job of hiding her disapproving look. For a beat my son and I froze, looked at each other with wide eyes, barely holding back guilty smiles, knowing that we had both been caught using a dirty word (even if I was the one who used it).

We moved on with our play because, you know… meh.

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So this morning I did a quick google search to satisfy my own curiosity. What does the word “dork” mean? Where does the word come from? What is the etymology of the word?

A little research yielded some interesting results. The word seems to have been around since the 60’s, and it seems to have two primary definitions:

dork noun 1 the penis US, 1961. 2 a socially inept, unfashionable, harmless person US, 1964.

Great. I named my blog after a penis. Who knew?

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What’s more, it seems there is an urban myth to the origins of the word. All scholarly evidence suggests that the word “dork” is strictly defined as outlined above, and has never had another legitimate meaning. But both wordorigins.org and urbanlegends.com went conspicuously out of their way to point out that contrary to popular belief, the word “dork” does NOT refer to the definitive portion of a male whale’s anatomy. A little more searching confirmed the assertion that the association between the word “dork” and a whale penis is a real thing. It’s out there, whether it’s academically accurate or not.

<<editor’s note: at this point I considered adding a picture of a whale penis… and after a google image search decided against it>>

“Contrary to popular belief.”

Popular belief.

Is it possible the mom on the playground thought I called my 4-year-old son a whale penis? Unlikely. But once Episode V is old enough to appreciate that according to “popular belief” the word “dork” refers to a whale penis, it may be a lot tougher to stifle our smiles the next time I slip and call him “dork” in public.

-Whale Penis Dad

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