Friday, May 17, 2013

Episode 64: Outwit. Outlast. Outgeek.

Picture First, this week, the Ace of Geeks is joined by David Oberholzer, one of a group of Survivor fans trying to get their tribe onto the show, and by doing that, revitalize televisions longest running reality TV show. Then, Mike and Jarys discuss terrible fan fiction, Electronic Arts' new slice of the Star Wars pie, whether Zach Braff should be using kickstarter, Ender's Game, World War Z, and a review of Iron Man 3!

Episode 64!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lieutenant Pandez, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fur

I like to think of myself as part of a very accepting community, and as an accepting person. I've written before, on this blog, about how geek culture should exist to be the warm, embracing hug that all of us need after years of being "that weird guy," or, "That girl doesn't talk much. Do you think she might kill us all?" We, as a group of outcasts that is slowly becoming more and more powerful and mainstream, have a responsibility to be as open and accepting of whatever comes our way. And I try to live by that philosophy. When I met my wife, I hated Star Trek with a passion. Now I can tell you which captain I think is the best, and even argue the point. (Still Picard.) No one's perfect, but I think I do a pretty good job. But there was one area that still just creeped me right out.


According to CSI, this is the Furry Murder Rush, right before they EAT YOU.

If you've been on the internet for more than a week, you know about Furries. They're a group of people who feel, as I understand it, that they're closer to animals than humans. They pick a specific animal, whether its a real one or a fantastical one like a unicorn, and they dress up like it whenever they can. Some of the time this just involves a pair of cat ears and a tail, but a lot of Furries sink a lot of money and time into constructing the kind of costumes you might see at Disneyland - big, cuddly, furry animals. Hence the name.

And yes, a group of them does enjoy adult pursuits while wearing the big furry outfits. It's called "yiffing." This is the laser focus for what most people know about Furries, and certainly what I knew about them. I had thought it was just a sexual thing, and a gross sexual thing at that. And that's the thing these days, isn't it? If something's a little off, it must be perverted. That's why people think Bronies are child molestors, after all.

Then, last week, I first heard of Lieutenant Pandez.

The one on the right, in case you were wondering.
Lt. Pandez (although his pips make him a Commander), is one of those rare breeds of Double Nerd. While he may be a giant, furry, panda-cat hybrid, he is also a Starfleet Officer.

The Lieutenant first appeared on my radar on Reddit this week, when he shared this set of pictures:

The look on Patrick Stewart's face.
When Mssr. Pandez posted these images, the haters came out of the woodwork. And this is Reddit, which can alternate between the most welcoming place in the world, and a living engine of pure hate spit from the depths of hell. I jumped into the thread, all set to watch the fireworks fly as people took aim at this weirdo deviant. Then...something strange happened. I watched the good Lieutenant take on his haters with a humor and understanding - he won each and every one of them over with a smile. Soon, his detractors were his defenders. After all, they said, it's just something he likes. Why should we judge? Soon, the anti-furry posts were downvoted into the darkest depths of the Gamma Quadrant, and the thread was full of love and acceptance.

Someone asked the giant anthromorphic man what his favorite story of meeting a Star Trek celebrity was. He told us about the first, second and third time he met Levar Burton.

The first time was fairly standard. He came to one of the tiny photo booths they have at conventions, snapped a picture with Levar, exchanged a few kind words, and that was that.

The second time, he wanted a picture with his real face in it. So when he went into the photo booth with Levar Burton and Brent Spiner, he took off the Panda head. Levar still recognized him (possibly because he was still wearing the feet), and remembered his Furry name.

...At this point, my brain is filled with a mental image of Levar Burton saying "Hey, Pandez! Good to see you!" This fills me with joy.

Anyway. He leaves the photo booth, puts his head back on, and goes back to the convention floor. A few minutes later, he gets a tap on the shoulder. Levar Burton is standing behind him. He looks him over, now in the full Cat/Bear suit, and simply says "Much better."

Star Trek has always been about tolerance. In the 1960s, Gene Rodenberry had to fight every day to keep a black woman on the bridge of his ship. In the 80s, the crew of the Enterprise took a member of the race that had been their greatest enemy and welcomed him to the crew with open arms. Even the more war-heavy Deep Space Nine is filled with the message that the universe can only move forward if we are all more open minded. The cast of Star Trek has embraced this. When I went to a Star Trek convention in San Francisco, I was constantly impressed with how much they took care of their die-hard fans, no matter how socially or physically awkward.

With that said, Levar's reaction is not surprising. But it is a good example of what my wife calls a "teachable moment." I looked at that story, and thought long and hard about how I'd been acting. And then I did some research. Turns out, most Furries are not in it for the sexy times. Most furries genuinely feel better in a different body, and with a community of people that understand and accept them. Who can blame them?

Really, in the end, isn't that how we all got here? We're geeks. Nerds. Freaks, even. And we've gathered into this tight knit little group because we were outcast and tortured for who we are and what we love. For years, sure, we tried to make ourselves the cool kids by excluding and looking down our noses. But the reason geek culture has grown so much in the last two decades is because we left that behind, and started opening our minds and our hearts.

No, not like that.
If Trekkies and Star Wars nerds and Browncoats and Whovians can all sit together in one giant hall one to twenty times a year, we can open the circle wider. We can let the Bronies in. We can let the Twilight fans in. And we can let the Furries in.

After all, they're just like us.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Episode 63: A History of Magical Britain

Picture The Ace of Geeks gives you a quick bite after the meaty Bioshock Infinite Episode, and right before at least one big interview! In this episode, we discuss why Cthulu's a thing, the Old Testament and the cartoon movie The Prince of Egypt, vaguebooking, Jarys' imagined history of the Harry Potter universe, and we give #1 fan Alisha the ending of the podcast she wants!

Episode 63!

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Being Charlie" by Aaron Teixeira

     Red banners hang from the walls. Each sewn with the black symbol of the vampire clan of the Camarilla they represent. The Prince of Portland sits regally amidst his court, a Toreador (the artsy ones), his impeccable white suit and long blonde hair every bit the part of a Vampire lord.
I meander through the gathering, eyes darting every which way, nonsense spilling out of my mouth as I play “Charlie” the Malkavian (the crazy ones). My imagination launches me into character, the wig and horn rimmed glasses carry me the rest of the way. “Charlie” has a condition known as word salad. He says random, sometimes unintelligible, always inappropriate, things instead of what he intends and is not quite aware of why people don’t understand him.

From San Francisco the trip to Portland, where the vampire convention was being held, was about a 12-hour drive. We took off work, packed the pit bull and bags in the truck, and headed for I-5 at about 4am, Friday morning, caravanning north with other soon to be vampires. By 10pm I’m standing in the Hilton’s Doubletree salon surrounded by about sixty or seventy other people playing in the Mind’s Eye Society’s Vampire the Masquerade pre-Chronicle event, and I’m a psychotic blood sucking monster who’s called “Charlie,” because “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was the only random thing I could think of to say when Alexander the mystic scarred Tremere (the magicky ones), played by my friend Skylar who runs the local game store Gamescape (, introduced me to the very old, very powerful Brujah (the punk rock ones). 

LARPing ( is a phenomenal thing. It’s like tabletop with the safety off. For years I’ve been dressing up and playing pretend. I think a major difference between myself and more normal people, is just that I never stopped playing pretend. Imaginatively, this is one of the best outlets I have. The challenge of improvising a character in a collective storytelling environment inspires me in ways even stagecraft falls short of. There’s a fun to it all that’s quite infectious. 

When “Charlie” encounters the World of Darkness, it’s a very different experience than I usually get out of gaming. It’s not a qualitative thing either. Playing WoW in my boxers with a bowl of hummus and a loaf of bread getting crumbs all over my keyboard is it’s own particular brand of awesome. And gathering around a table to hurl dice at one another for hours on end pretty much describes my social life. But every now and then organizations like the Mind’s Eye Society ( put together these events that really pull out all the stops. See, Charlie, who was once a brilliant mathematician for NASA’s Skylab program, before the ‘accident’, and can’t communicate with the world around him, alienated and alone in a room full of people, “Charlie” cried when the very real and talented violinist played for the assembled vampires. “Charlie” reported back to his Prince in San Francisco,

Smoked Algebra,
Fish broken drinks. Scrotum Horace screaming puppy. Coed bumblebee, cream creative suite. Atari bridge running chamberpot. Burning catheter ripped out. Blood spilling into the floor. Crying garbage can. Fear crayon. Hasan burning. Wax mouth calculus yellow-red. Glass anglefish eye top hat. 

NORAD ice cream, 
And it was “Charlie” who ate that pretty vampire’s crayon. And I, in my own way, got to live vicariously through my imaginary construct. As a result, today, I feel less alienated, less incomprehensible, and that impulse to randomly eat other people’s crayons has been remarkably satiated, at least until the next gathering. 

I think that what draws people to this peculiar hobby is more than the thrill of being someone or something else. It’s more than the distorted vicarious pleasure of it all. It’s more than the girls in the corsets, or the chance to be a supernatural being of the night with cool powers. The attraction of the LARP is a chance at sovereignty. More than the fantasist’s escape, it’s a chance to dress up out of grandma’s trunk in front of a collectively constructed mirror world, or in my case a broken mirror world, and having a relevance usually reserved for mega stars, presidents, and CEOs of multinational corporations. To be a princess or a madman, an oracle or warrior of great renown, and know that the decisions you make, mean something to the shared imagination and enrich the world we’ve all agreed upon. And who cares if it’s just for tonight, so much the better. At least that way, tomorrow night, we get to build a whole new world.

No, it’s not always like that. Sometimes, though, one is able to transcend self-doubt, explore alternative ideas, and entertain the unthinkable. Certainly, the imagination can take one to a dark and dangerous place, and of course those feelings of sovereignty and validation ought to be regular parts of our every day lives. But you must first discover the notions before you can aspire to them. And that is what happens. I often look at history as a vocabulary of human action. And in this seemingly innocuous hobby we’ve found a means to imagine ever more remarkable permutations and possibilities.

In the end, “Charlie” had a great time in Portland, almost as much as I did. He was able to establish ties between the Court of San Francisco and that of Portland, help rescue a terrified Tzimisce (the flesh warpy ones) from a band of ruthless assassins, see a cool vampire duel, and even had time to do a cartwheel. But all that pales in comparison to what I got from “Charlie”. Cause in the end, when we tally it all up, I get to have been someone else just long enough to appreciate who I am.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Do Kids Today Truly Have Better Toys?

 Here I am, sitting at Vector Sigma (My Computers Name) looking at the new transformer toys that Hasbro and Takara Tomy are set to release. I collect primarily vintage transformer figures and accessories, however I have bought and thoroughly enjoy some of the new figures. Now, lets define my use of the word “new”. I don't mean if it was produced this year per-se, I use the term to encompass everything that is not Generation 1. While looking at some of the newer toys, I came up with the idea to compare and contrast new and old transformer toys. I am leaving nostalgia at the door and grading them on how well they meet a series of criteria. I am looking at several things: quality control, durability, range of motion and all around likeness to characters. So as a control I will use what some have claimed as the best figure of all time, Transformer Masterpiece 01 Optimus Prime Convoy.

Quality control or QC as it is called is a big sticking point of mine. Most of the time you really see these in the newer of the toys. For example I just recently acquired a Transformer Prime Ultra Magnus. The figure is riddled with stress marks and scratches. A simple once over in the factory would have caught it. I mean don't get me wrong G1 had some QC problems like rough paint etc, but on a far less occurring basis. The Transformers animated line had by far the worst quality control issues I have ever seen. They were rough to the touch, along with excess plastic at joining points. This caused uneven lines and made transformation on some figures an all out bear. So as far as QC goes I have to go old school. Simply because they cared a lot more about churning out a quality product and it shows.

The next point I am going to cover is durability. How well can they taking a beating. Well I can tell you this as avid collector who lives Near The San Andreas fault. There is a reason my G1 figures are on the top shelves and my newer figures are closer to ground level. The durability of the G1 figures is outstanding. These guys take a pounding and come back for more. The more modern figures lack that durability. They break a lot easier then their predecessor. So once again point goes to G1 for its toy rugged toy designs.

Well it appears that G1 has taken an early lead. Lets see how well they do in range of motion test. Well this one I am sad to say is a no brainier. The G1 one toys are great example of QC and durability, but not so much as far as range of motion goes. You would be lucky if you had the main four points of articulation - being left and right arm and left and right legs. Most of the time you would get moveable arms with an hinged elbow and that was about it. Very few G1 figures had real pose-ability. However the modern figures really knock this one out of the park. The have almost total figure articulation. Hinged knees, arms an elbows and even fingers in some case. (And they still transform! -Ed) So point I say the modern figures take this one.

Well here we go. it is old 2 and new 1 and we are at the final category: character likeness.
This is another one that is a no brainer and must go to the more modern figures. Not because they all look so spot on, but because the G1 figures were really off. I own a G1 Perceptor and if I didn't know his transformation or have the box, I wouldn't have a clue who he was. His color is a bit off and his head doesn't match the cartoon or the comics. Same problem with Star Scream, Ironhide, Ratchet and Mirage: horrible renderings. However, none is as bad as Skyfire. Who is Skyfire you might ask? He is the one that was renamed into Jetfire and made into a toy that looks nothing like him. One could argue that the rendering process now is much more advanced thus resulting in a closer facsimile. Whatever the cause they are still better, so point to the modern.

Well it looks like were are tied at 2 each. However, like Optimus Prime and Megatron, one shall stand one shall fall. This decision is one that I can truly say was not an easy one. Both types have their strengths and there faults. When the toys were great there truly never was any equal. However when they failed, they failed hard. So I choose a winner by looking at the numbers. Not number of sales, number of production. With modern toys they are mass produced to reach and fill a world wide demand. However their Transformers Generations and Transformers Classic lines are the number one seller. To me that says people want the original. People want the toy that they had when they were 9 that made them feels so happy. They want to remember and share what got them into it in the beginning. So that leads me to this conclusion you can't beat G1. No matter how complex a transformation or what bells and whistles it has. All they are is a sad attempt to dethrone the kings of Cybertronian kingdom.

Thank you for reading my compare and contrast of Transformer Toys. I hope you enjoyed it. My views are totally my own and if they are shared by others, great. However if you disagree with what I had say that is okay too. A horrible judge of taste possibly. Someone who really needs to consider a seventy two hour observation at a local mental care establishment. I mean in your defense, who am I? Really who am I to judge the quality of Transformer toys? Oh yeah I am the guy who has a hundred thirty five mint condition G1 figures. The guy who has a collection of 65 other post G1 figures. I have items from Transformers Headmasters to Transformers Prime and items from everything in between. I couldn't possibly see how I know anything about the world of Transformers. Well guys in all seriousness thank you for taking the time to read what I had to say. Thank you to Mike and Jarys for letting me be apart of The Ace of Geeks guest bloggers. I look foreword what the future holds.

Episode 62: Infinitely Bioshock Infinite!

Picture The Ace of Geeks welcomes back Robert Fulkerson from our sister podcast, Found in the Alley, and we spend an entire podcast talking about one thing. That's right folks, it's Bioshock Infinite time. We'll discuss the philosophy of the game, the choices we make and how they affect us, how the gameplay adds to and detracts from the story - it's more than an hour of pure Bioshock here, folks, so expect spoilers. And expect....awesome.

Episode 62!