How Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Saved My Life (Sort Of) Jul10

How Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Saved My Life (Sort Of)...

My friend Chris introduced me to Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K) after we became friends in university, and the show changed my perspective on community. Chris was an active tape trader. The show wasn’t easily available in Canada, so Chris used a wide network of associates, trading things from his impressive collection of VHS tapes, laser discs, and, later, DVDs to get episodes. I still have a banker’s box full of Seasons Eight through Ten of MST episodes I inherited from Chris in my office. Soon, word of the show spread through my apartment building and every week a group of 20 or more university students would gather in the living room of my two-bedroom apartment to watch Joel/Mike and his robot pals make fun of some of the worst movies ever made: The Skydivers, Mitchell or, my personal favourite, Manos: the Hands of Fate (Manos literally means “hands.” So the actual title of this film is Hands: The Hands of Fate. The only thing you need to know about this piece of celluloid sludge is that it’s about a fertilizer salesperson from Texas). As someone who grew up well before “geek” was the term of endearment we’ve all embraced, liking geeky things could be incredibly isolating. In the pre-internet era, there wasn’t an easily accessible network of fan communities. There may have been comic conventions in some of the larger urban markets, but they were primarily about comics (as the name does suggest, though it has since grown to mean so much more). I certainly remember being teased because I liked science fiction and comic books. I had specific friends who shared interests, but my fandoms were usually limited to one or two people. I had a couple of friends who really liked Star Wars,...

Life Lessons I Learned from a Cosplayer Jun09

Life Lessons I Learned from a Cosplayer...

A short video popped up on my newsfeed today and I’m glad I decided to watch it. Yaya Han, a professional cosplayer, shares her journey “from amateur to cosplay queen”. As a cosplayer myself, I found Yaya Han’s story inspiring. Here’s a few things I picked up from her video. 1. Be dedicated It has taken her a very long time and lots of dedication to get where she is now. It did not happen overnight and It means that I can take a breath and go at my own pace. Like any sort of art form, cosplay takes time and practice to get good at and there’s always room for learning and improvement. 2. Do it because you love it We are so used to instant gratification that I often find myself getting impatient with my own lack of “cosplay fame.” I can get discouraged when only a few people like or comment on a new photo I post, or when no one asks to take my photo at an event. I compare my creations to the professionals and feel inadequate or that I can never measure up. Yaya’s story reassures me that cosplay is a journey just like anything else worthwhile in life. I don’t have to produce super-intricate folding wings, light-up helmets, or doorway-defying ballgowns in order to be a good cosplayer. I don’t need 5,000 likes and my own YouTube channel. I just need to love what I do and have patience. 3. Find confidence in who you are I can identify with Yaya’s story of growing up an outcast and finding cosplay as a safe place to express herself and build confidence. Yaya says, “I can dress up as a character that is stronger than me, that is more...

Call for Writers Dec19

Call for Writers

Do you want to write for Area of Effect magazine? We’re looking for a couple new writers who are excited about combining their faith, morality, philosophy, social justice, and more with their geeky interests. As geeks we tend to (over) analyze these shows that we love and our goal for Area of Effect is to take those same conversations we have all had, dig a little deeper, and publish it. What we are looking for in prospective writers: a willingness to put beliefs, ideas, and biases on the table for discussion (i.e. vulnerability is a must) professional writing experience—your work has been previously published at least three times in print or online an understanding of Area of Effect‘s writing style and content a commitment to a Christian faith (we do not require any specific denomination but look for an affirmation of the basics: a forgiveness of sins through the death of Christ, centrality of the word of God, and the Triune nature of God) a commitment to write at least one  700-1000 word article every other month (1001 words is too many and 1005 is RIGHT OUT) specialization in a geeky subjects we haven’t covered much is an asset creativity and sense of humour ability to write thoughtful, intelligent articles preference given to those who can hum any version of The Legend of Zelda theme song What staff writers get: to become a part of a community of passionate, geeky folks who love writing about their fandoms opportunities to grow with writers and professional editors 25 CAD for first article and 50 CAD for every subsequent article to give their editor cookies as bribery… er… we mean as thanks… How to apply If you are interested in writing for Area of Effect, email allison@geekdomhouse.com with the subject line “AoE Writer App.” Include...

Why You Should Watch Cartoons with Your Kids Oct17

Why You Should Watch Cartoons with Your Kids...

I’m routinely told by other adults, “I don’t watch cartoons anymore.” Their loss, I say!  Cartoons are some of my favourite entertainment, and I love kids’ cartoons. In fact, when the kids wander off and I still have them on, I get a pleading look and a semi-desperate question from my husband, “Do we have to keep watching this? The kids are in bed…” Yes, yes we do. Cartoons Are Awesome The first cartoons were made for adults. Naturally, they had appeal for all ages, but the jokes, references, and subject matter were pretty grown up. Even now, cartoon movies consistently add jokes “for parents” that are just plain messed up. My eldest son recently warned me that there were some very inappropriate things in the Disney movie, Cars (apparently, he thinks his mom is as innocent as the BVM). He was shocked at what he now understood. Besides the fact that cartoons are some of the best stuff on TV, I’m at a particular advantage for liking them. Many parents, trusting that “it’s a kids’ show,” will let their children watch cartoons without giving any thought to their message or content. Time and time again, I have been surprised, disappointed and, at times, horrified by some of the stuff marketed directly to children. An Opportunity for Discussion My kids aren’t very young—they’re 12 and 15—so we aren’t watching pre-k shows. The shows that are directed at their ages include themes and issues that older kids are likely dealing with in school and social settings, like dating, relationships, attraction to others, parties, moral dilemmas, and problem solving. Except that some of the ways these themes are presented are not what I want modeled for my children (especially since one is getting to an age when dating is...

What is a Geekdom and where is this House? Sep30

What is a Geekdom and where is this House?...

Who or what is Geekdom House? It’s a question we get asked a lot and I anticipate getting asked a lot more over the next number of years. It seems only fitting that since this month’s theme is “identity” that we take some time to address this question. We do have an About Us section on the website, but who wants to read us writing about ourselves? I am far more interested in sharing how we have been perceived by those not intrinsically a part of the mission as it stands. I mean, we can have the best intentions, but it’s the impact we are having outside our own perspective that really matters. So without further ado, here’s what the media is saying about Geekdom House: ReachFM Grande Prairie Radio Interview (with Kyle Rudge) —Mike Ferrier, Drive Host (September 9, 2015) “Well my wife and I found ourselves inside a people group and the church was strangely not present.” CHVN Winnipeg Radio Interview (with Allison Barron) —Amy Davey, Drive Host (September 4, 2015) “We have been surprised by how many have now found us.” Episode 68 – Breaking Down Boundaries (with Kyle Rudge) —Grant Woodward & Peter Martin, Saving the Game Podcast (September 8, 2015) “Kyle … brought lots of fascinating things to talk about, like: Creating a geeky, mission-forward small group in his church; introducing that group to Dungeons & Dragons; his appearance on the “Faith and Gaming” panel at GenCon 2015; a Firefly-themed Bible study; taking a choir to Winnipeg’s Central Canada Comic Con; the tight-knit communities of fandom; Done the Impossible and The Guild; and characters who reflect ourselves.” [Subscribe to the podcast here.]   This is Gen Con – Episode 2: The Panel —Mike Perna, Gamestore Prophets (August 5, 2015) “This year’s panel talk about faith...

A theology of Christian geekdom Sep11

A theology of Christian geekdom...

Geek (gēk): A person who is very interested in and knows a lot about a particular field or activity; a person who is socially awkward and unpopular; a usually intelligent person who does not fit in with other people. Christian (krĭs′chən): A person who believes in and follows Jesus Christ. ____ North American Evangelicalism doesn’t have the best track record of embracing the arts. From Puritan iconoclasts to 20th-century fundamentalists, the arts and artists were historically pigeonholed with the worst sectors of high church legalism. More recently, the arts have been associated with dangerous flirtations with worldly culture manifested in film, television, comics, and video games. Some even go so far as to suggest that Christians who engage with the geek arts shame God and open themselves to demonic attack. While it is entirely possible for people to be “geeky” about sports or the hard sciences, there is a subset of geekdom that focuses primarily on the arts. Books? Television? Movies? Video Games? Anime? These are storytelling arts. Art (ahrt): Something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings. Certain geeks—say, the people who regularly read this site—are actually art lovers. That’s right, kiss the cheese doodle dust off your fingers and give me a high-five, because I’m looking at you! In some ways, Evangelicalism’s rejection of the arts has often implied a rejection of geeks. Those of us who love video games, movies, comics, fantasy stories, and all the rest have felt misunderstood, belittled, or in the worst cases, outright rejected by our families and church communities for frittering away our time and energy on these pursuits. In his critically-acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel Blankets, author Craig Thompson includes these frames that characterize the...

A laughing matter? Jul09

A laughing matter?

“But you must never imagine that just because something is funny… it is not also dangerous.” —Mr. Croup, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere How many times does a Mennonite laugh at a joke? Two times. Once when the joke is told. Once when it’s explained to them. Within many Christian circles there seems to be an unwillingness to engage with humour and comedy. In fact, I don’t recall any discussions about comedy or the nature of laughter in my lifetime of church-going. Besides an amusing list of bulletin typos or the odd joke at the beginning of a sermon (and the less said about these the better), humour doesn’t have much of a place within the church. Some view humour with suspicion, at best a distraction, at worst idleness. Why is there such ambivalence about laughter and the art of making people laugh? In the 1980 historical murder mystery, The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco suggests one perspective on this unwillingness to engage in deeper thinking about comedy. While investigating some murders in an Italian abbey, William of Baskerville, a Franciscan monk, discovers the importance of some illuminated manuscripts of the abbey’s. While visiting the scriptorium, William encounters Jorge, the blind librarian whose opinions on the evilness of laughter surprise the Franciscan. In Jorge’s opinion, laughter distracts the faithful from the serious-mindedness of the gospel: “The comedies were written by the pagans to move spectators to laughter, and they acted wrongly. Our Lord Jesus never told comedies or fables, but only clear parables which instruct us on how to win paradise, and so be it… laughter shakes the body, distorts the features of the face, makes man similar to a monkey.” Of course this isn’t the only perspective held within the church. When I was a...

It’s all geek to you May21

It’s all geek to you...

A few weeks back, X-men lovers (including myself) discovered that Bobby Drake, Iceman, is gay. As with any change in the characters we love, there was a public outcry. I’m adding my own pitchfork to the pile in response to Franklin Graham’s post on the subject. Franklin’s statement bothers me for reasons beyond the LGBTQ debate, which is a hotly contested topic in its own right. Stepping away from the Christianity vs. Gay battle royale here, Franklin’s statement is a prime example of how us geeks are so often misunderstood by the Christian church. “…our young people…” My primary frustration is the inferred belief that comics are meant for young people. That is a common misconception in the Christian church. The expectation is that as we grow up we are to “put away childish things,” and comics is one of these. But I am in my thirties and I still want to read about, enjoy, and follow the lives of these characters. “…indoctrinate…” Franklin’s belief about the comic world appears to be one of subversive agenda. That these stories are only tools to push moral and political agendas. In this particular instance, it appears Franklin reduces the Iceman story to a Sex Ed pamphlet meant to educate a particular worldview. But these stories have deeply affected me and other comic fans. We grew up with these characters, we get tense when they are in trouble, we grieve their losses, we laugh at their jokes and celebrate their successes. The characters in these worlds are every bit as real and alive to us as a dog is to a dog lover. They are not tools for an agenda, they are our friends. If my best friend came out as a gay, the last thing I...

All I really need to know I learned from COSPLAYING May07

All I really need to know I learned from COSPLAYING...

Part of being in Geekdom House is participating in the geek culture and community. This past Tuesday (because Dawn always gets in trouble on Tuesdays) was an event that we simply could not miss: Sing-A-Long with Feeling, Once More! It began as a dream of one die-hard Buffy fan, Kendra Monk, and turned into something best described as a Rocky Horror Picture Show showing, except it was comprised of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog and the musical Buffy episode “Once More With Feeling.” The night was made complete with mini-PhD degrees in Horribleness (that we were given to wave around at the appropriate time) and paper hearts that loudly snapped when you broke them (to use during those times when Spike gets rejected). The event was a smashing success. Given the relatively smallness of the event (and the promise of prizes), I decided to give my first go at this thing called cosplay. My first idea—a cardboard adaptation of the Serenity ship combined with a long black haired wig and a name tag that says: “Hi my name is River Tam”—did not work out. Plan B: I thought I could pass for Wash and it was off to MCC Thrift Store and Value Village to make that dream come alive. Along the way I learned a few things about cosplay and about life: 1) Life (like cosplaying) starts with the joy of an idea. Joy in life starts with a day that has a specific purpose and direction. 2) Life (like cosplaying) is better when you’re not comparing yourself to others. It is bad to compare your outsides to other’s outsides but it is infinitely worse to compare your insides to other’s outsides yet for some reason we all do it far too often. You will always fall...

Learning from the best in San Diego Apr29

Learning from the best in San Diego...

The whole mission of Geekdom House is to love and serve the nerd and geek community. Our method is primarily through the support, encouragement, and facilitation of the arts prominent within geek culture. While the idea of doing that is perhaps rare, it is not new. There is a group of people at the largest con in the world, the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), who have been doing it for years. So when I flew to San Diego (pronounced San Dee-AHHHH-go, I learned) for a wedding, I opted to stay an extra day to meet up with Brendan Prout, Committee Member and Programming Senior Staff of SDCC. We shared stories back and forth of the practical ways we’ve found to serve the geek community. We bonded over our love for geek culture. Prout and other volunteers on their own will purchase single packets of sun-screen and hand them out to con-attendees as an act of kindness and service. Those random acts were met with a wide variety of response (Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes and all that). He was excited to hear about our efforts with the Geekdom House Wandering Minstrels and was curious to know if a small group (band) of us would come down and do it at the SDCC. Not a bad idea. So either I finally learn how to sing properly or don a costume and conduct. Let’s be honest, it’ll be the latter. His advice for Geekdom House? Two things. The first: don’t go too fast. Find the right people and put them in the right seats on the right bus. In the excitement of new beginnings and growth, we will no doubt come across very passionate individuals. Their passion will tempt us to incorporate them into key roles. Brendan...

Convention Survival Guide Apr27

Convention Survival Guide...

You meet all types at a convention, some odd, some annoying, all awesome in their own way. Knowing how to deal with the other-than-average con-goers is crucial to your success (and mental health) as a vendor at any con. Here are the ones we encountered at our table during Retro Gamers Unite in Winnipeg. The where-are-your-parents kid. Congratulations, you have become the latest object of their obsession. If you’re not careful, they will monopolize your entire time, break your stuff, and generally make your booth less welcoming to the average passer-by. Seriously kid, where are your parents? How to react? They want attention. Strike up a deal with them to give them your undivided attention for 5 minutes and in return they move on afterwards. The this-con-sucks vendor. Their stuff is not selling and this is everyone’s fault but theirs. Like a succubus, they will lure you into their island of bitterness. How to react? Best killed with kindness. The I-am-going-to-buy-this-later guy. They won’t. They are just too polite to say no. How to react? Wish them well. The I-have-a-kickass-costume cosplayer. Cosplaying requires two things: time and money. You can sacrifice some of one but it only increases the necessity of the other. How to react? Take a picture with them. Seriously, they worked hard and what better way to reward them? The I’m-so-desperate-to-sell-you-things vendor. Your booth might not be doing as well as you hoped, but approaching me every time I pass by to talk my ear off about how wonderful your merchandise is isn’t doing you any favours. How to react? Smile politely and move on. The is-this-free guy. No, it’s not free. Please don’t walk away. The prices are clearly listed. Give me back my stuff. How to react? Terry Crews. Any to...

Artist of the Month: Plight of a steampunk jeweler Mar21

Artist of the Month: Plight of a steampunk jeweler...

She refused to share her trade secrets when I asked. I guess I can’t blame her for wanting to keep her methods (like where she finds all her unique materials) a secret, but you can’t blame me for being curious. Making it as an artist like Angela Sawatzky of By Blackbird Designs can be extremely difficult. Gathering materials is only one of the challenges that a jeweler like Angela faces all the time. When every piece of jewelry is unique, every sale requires an immense amount of creative effort combined with marketing prowess to ensure it sells. [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”11″ gal_title=”Angela Sawatzky – 1″] Visual artists like painters and graphic designers have a lot of options available to them to easily replicate their work so it can be sold and re-sold without much added effort. However, as a niche jewelry maker you ultimately lack the ability to mass produce the same product over and over. Therefore the scalability of the business is near impossible. “I need to find a job that compliments my jewelry making business. Maybe something in marketing,” says Angela. “Then I can keep doing this on the side.” [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”12″ gal_title=”Angela Sawatzky – 2″] Like all artists, Angela continues to do this because she absolutely loves what she does. Don’t forget to browse Angela’s wares at the upcoming Retro Gamers Unite Winnipeg event on April 25 in Winnipeg. You can also check out more of her creations at the By Blackbird Designs website. And if you didn’t catch Angela’s story, you can read about her discovering her love of steampunk by overcoming massive chronic pain that left her bed-ridden for a...

Pi Day @ Geekdom House Mar16

Pi Day @ Geekdom House...

Once a year, nerds and geeks alike gather around the fireplace to celebrate Pi Day with, well, pie. We did the same because, you know, we’re geeks too. Our goal was to have a meal with a variety of pi-es, the more creative the better. We capped the evening off with everyone’s favourite pi-e-shaped game. The Appetizer: Pi-neapple Spears [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”6″ gal_title=”Pi-Day 2015 Appetizers”] The Main Course: Pizza Pi-es and Shepherd Book’s Pi-e [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”8″ gal_title=”Pi-Day 2015 Main Course”] For Dessert: Butter Tarts, Rice Krispie Chocolate Fruit Pi-e (Commander Alli made it), Chocolate Pi-e, and of course Apple Pi-e [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”9″ gal_title=”Pi-Day 2015 Dessert”] The Entertainment: Trivial Pursuit [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”10″ gal_title=”Pi-Day 2015 Games”] We did modify the game a bit. Someone brought a Doctor Who version of Trivial Pursuit cards; we added these to the 1981 version of Trivial Pursuit, which well, pre-dated all but two of us. All the “Roll Again” squares on this 1981 version of the game became Doctor Who trivia. Most of the Doctor Who trivia was near impossible for anyone but the die-hard Whovians (although one question in particular seemed horribly easy). THE ANSWER WAS THE NAME OF THE CATEGORY. (Category: Time Lords. Question: What race are the Rani, the Monk and the Valeyard? Answer: Time Lords.) Needless to say, they got it right. What did you do for Pi-e Day this year? By the way, the owner of the Teemo cup lost Trivial...

Artist of the Month: Angela Sawatzky Mar14

Artist of the Month: Angela Sawatzky...

It took a life-changing medical condition—one that left Angela Sawatzky in bed for a year—for her to realize she had an inner “geek.” Since then, her inner geek can hardly be contained. Angela Sawatzky is best-categorized as a steampunk jeweler, though her creations on occasion dabble into fairy-tale and fantasy worlds as well.  She is the creative (and business) brains behind the Winnipeg company By Blackbird Designs. It has been her primary passion for the past five years. Growing up, Sawatzky was perhaps more of a literary nerd than anything else. She is a huge fan of poetry, classic literature, and, in her words, “the weirder Shakespeare stuff.” Her father worked as a welding supplier and she mostly grew up next to the oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta. At the age of 15, the family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and has called it home since. After graduation at Churchill High School, she had dreams of media and marketing and was accepted into Red River College’s Creative Communications program. However, due to life circumstances she postponed her acceptance for a year. During that year the rules for postponing were re-written and Sawatzky opted not to have to go through the extensive application process for the program again. Little did Sawatzky know that just a few years later her entire life would change dramatically. She started to experience intense non-centralized pain that was unexplainable. “I left school, I left college, I left friends, I left my 20s.” She gave up her apartment, moved back home, and quickly found herself in so much pain that she required 24/7 attention. “I couldn’t move for most of the day. I would just lie in bed,” recalls Sawatzky. “Sometimes I would scream and cry for hours, the pain was so intense.” Doctors diagnosed...

The Wandering Minstrels of C4 Feb25

The Wandering Minstrels of C4...

“To love and serve the nerd and geek community.” That was our small group’s mantra and with Central Canada Comic-Con (C4) less than half a year out, we were frantically brainstorming service ideas. We settled on a plan that used many of the talents present in our small group  and formed the team who would eventually be called “The Wandering Minstrels.” The idea came to me when my wife and I remembered attending one of the coveted pre-screenings of Serenity back in 2005. Full disclosure: we arrive at the movies remarkably early to ensure that we get the primest of seats. So there we are, fifth row from the top, dead centre, and ready to witness what we believed would be cinematic gold. My favourite parts of the day were when someone was brave enough to request a song from us, or even more brave, to come up and sing with us. Even though we were surrounded by other Firefly flans, we felt alone. Sure, there was plenty of conversation happening around us, but it was all contained within small clusters of people. Perhaps it was out of boredom or from being punch-drunk on the anticipation of space cowboy drama, but after a quick whisper, my wife and I broke out into song. “Jayne.. the man they call JAAAYNNNNNNE!” What unfolded was truly a sight to behold (or something to earhold – is that a thing? Spell-check says no). The entire theatre joined us, erupting into song for our favourite loveable, untrained ape. The results were even more remarkable. Exhorbitantly priced snacks were being shared from the top row to the bottom, compliments of fandom t-shirts and cosplay were thrown from one side of the theatre to the other, and these former strangers suddenly found...

Doctor Who is my saviour Feb10

Doctor Who is my saviour...

Personally, I miss the days of Battlestar Galactica’s supremacy on TV, but I cannot deny that allure and magic of Doctor Who. Either way, it was my love for Science-Fiction and linking it to things deeper than “who is the best doctor?” that caught the attention of an Anglican mission in Winnipeg, St. Benedict’s Table. Geekdom House was asked to come kick-off their relaunch of ideaExchange. As the title would suggest, ideaExchange is an exchange of faith-based ideas not typically addressed from a pulpit on a Sunday morning. After meeting with Jamie Howison, a priest at St. Benedict’s Table, we came up with the idea to watch, study, and discuss the episode “Vincent and the Doctor.” The episode stars the eleventh (and my favourite because of this episode) doctor, Matt Smith. However, due to technical difficulties the episode could not be played on the night in question, and instead what happened was a semi-improvised discussion about geek culture, community, faith, and why Star Wars episodes 1,2, and 3 were comparable to poorly made Christian films (of which there are a number of examples). Here is the podcast in its entirety, and if you’re interested in listening to more ideaExchange talks, you’re more than welcome to check out the St. Benedict’s Table podcast on...

The Heart Behind Geekdom House Feb01

The Heart Behind Geekdom House

The primary operating belief behind Geekdom House is that both the Christian community and the nerd and geek community have something to offer one another. We are not trying to Christian-ify the nerd and geek community, but our philosophy is about creating a space where both groups can interact with each other. We want to be honest about our love for all things nerd and geek related and not be afraid to engage with it on a philosophical, spiritual, and faith-based level. We want both communities to have a positive impact on each other. “We believe that being righteous is far more valuable than arrogantly being right.” We truly believe that there are those within both communities that love to engage in rich discussions about the metaphysical. We believe this because for years many of us have found ourselves with feet in both camps. Area of Effect, as a publication, is meant to be a place where we band together in our love for all things nerd and geek related, and we hope to inspire moral, ethical, and metaphysical discussion. We are honest that our bias is rooted within Christianity, but we humbly believe that we, too, are mere Padawans on our journeys. As an organization we do not have a unified theology, and each staff/writer/minion has their own interpretations and understandings. We do have though the expectation that none of us truly believe we have it all figured out. We believe that being righteous is far more valuable than arrogantly being right. We are open to discussion, open to being wrong, and open to learning more from anyone about who we are, why we are here, and what our purpose is. We hope that, as Christians, by making an honest and earnest creative contribution to the community, others (regardless of their faith background) will accept our invitation to have discussions about these things in the nerd and geek community that we all love so dearly. We love having these discussions and we hate having to leave our faith at the door. We want to bring ours and let you bring yours while we figure this all out together. Let the discussions...