Growing Up Geek Part 4: NCC-1701 vs. The Universe

I have several drawings in my collection which I affectionately dub the “Enterprise Blowing S#!% Up” series. Star Trek was perhaps the biggest psychological and creative influence on my early life, even more so than Star Wars. My earliest memory of deliberate mischief is of sneaking out of my room after bedtime to peer around a corner and down our hallway as my parents watched reruns of The Original Series. Eventually they let me watch the show without getting in trouble, and I drank in every detail.

For some reason though, nothing enthralled me more than the scenarios in which the Enterprise dolled out sweet, phasery justice on the Klingons, Romulans, or other such bad dudes with starships. In Image 01, The Enterprise-A (post-Star Trek III revision, if I recall correctly) decimates the bridge of a nameless Klingon battlecruiser. I loved this match-up so much that I drew it four times, the three best of which I’ve featured here. I will point out, however, that the second actually depicts the match-up from the infamous TOS episode “The Enterprise Incident,” wherein the writers had the Romulans show up using Klingon vessels due to some sort of ‘alliance’ retconning. Even as a kid I knew it was a money-saving move, but I didn’t really care that much. All bad guy ships still blow up the same!

Art-wise, there are a few things I’d like to highlight in this series. First off, I took great pains to make sure the “NCC-1701” markings appear in the right place on the ship in every drawing, no matter how small. I was pretty particular about getting that correct. Also, notice in Image 03 how the Enterprise seems to be using its tractor beam and phasers simultaneously. I’m not really sure what effect I was going for there, but it looks kinda cool. Oh, and speaking of cool looks, I just want to give myself a pat on the back for remembering to draw in the shadow cast by the Klingon battlecruiser’s exploding bridge onto the back part of the bulb section. Details, people!

So I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson here. Namely, that the Enterprise is a mean piece of machinery, even when completely outnumbered. Quality > quantity.

BONUS: Though I drew the Enterprise many times, I only drew Voyager once. In this rendering, she’s surrounded by a few Kazon ships next to the Caretaker’s space station in a scene from the pilot episode. I guess I picked this scenario to represent the series because, let’s face it, when Voyager wasn’t poking along at high warp in the general direction of Earth, she was getting her ass kicked by some exotic Delta Quadrant species. Amiright?

Growing Up Geek Part 3: End of an Era

LEGO Space Shuttle

The Space Shuttle was in my life from very early on, and served as an incredibly strong source of inspiration. One of my earliest computer memories comes from watching grainy, compressed video of the first 60 or so STS launches and landings off a CD-ROM. It’s a tired cliche that every kid at some point wants to grow up to become an astronaut, and I was no exception. As this particular image shows, I had (and still have, for the most part) a LEGO model of the Shuttle along with LEGO astronauts. However, I only have a couple of drawings of the Shuttle. I guess I preferred to have that tactile, physical object to play with, pretending to launch it into orbit for some world-saving mission.

Now, after 30 years of tremendous service to humanity, the NASA Space Shuttle program is coming to an end. Discovery recently landed after its final mission, and Atlantis will wrap things up for the program in June. I understand much more about the economics of the Shuttle program now than I did as a kid, and I understand why it cannot continue. Still, it pains me that this icon of technological achievement which so greatly inspired me as a kid will be no more. The private sector will ultimately grab the torch from NASA, but I fear there will be a dark age of little interesting space travel for a number of years after the Shuttle program ends. Just another sign of the times, I suppose.

PS: In other LEGO news, I recently constructed The Battlestar Galactica at the LEGO pile in the SXSWi conference hall. How’d I do?

Growing Up Geek Part 2: Epic Confrontation

Star Wars Epic Scene - Corellian Corvette in Trouble

Star Wars played a huge role in my geek upbringing. I remember first encountering the iconic sci-fi saga through a couple of scenes from Episode IV’s entry in Microsoft Cinemania ‘95. Oddly enough, my parents let me play the plethora of DOS-based Star Wars games long before they allowed me to see the full movie. I spent many an afternoon and evening engrossed in the DOS classics X-Wing and Rebel Assault, blowing away the TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers of the Galactic Empire with the help of my trusty Logitech Wingman Extreme Digital.

When my parentally limited time with these games ran out, my head still swam with the images of intense starfighter battles played out on the grand stage of deep space. To keep my head from exploding, I channeled these images onto paper. A huge percentage of my early works (‘95 to ‘97 or so) consists of scenes from Star Wars flight simulators, many of them starring the cockpit of the venerable X-Wing.

Star Wars Epic Scene - Cockpit Panel Detail

This particular piece stands out from the rest, however. For one, it’s the only scene featuring a Y-Wing cockpit. Note just how precisely I attempted to reproduce the design from the game, down to every detail of the control panels and indicator lights. I’ve included a screenshot from X-Wing for comparison. This theme of intense attention to faithful reproduction pervades my art works.

Star Wars Epic Scene - Full Cockpit
Star Wars Epic Scene - Original Y-Wing Cockpit Screenshot

There’s a lot going in this image. I’ve cropped various pieces of it to highlight the several mini-scenes contained within the larger one. Corellian Corvettes battling Mon Calamari Cruisers, TIE Fighters taking down a Rebel Medical Frigate, Rebel shuttles commandeering Imperial cargo containers as A-Wings destroy their Imperial shuttle escorts… it’s all there in the background as the player’s Y-Wing uses its ion cannons to disable (or just weaken) an Imperial Assault Gunboat.

Star Wars Epic Scene - Frigate Getting Owned

I wish that every moment of the actual games had been this inspiringly epic. More often than not the take-down of that lone gunboat would be about as exciting as things would get. This piece is a perfect example of how I used art to create the scenes that the games never did.

Pretty badass for a 9-year-old, eh?

Growing Up Geek Part 1: Introduction

A long time ago in a childhood not so far away, I was somewhat of an artist. I produced over 300 pieces of artwork over the course of my childhood. Recently I took it upon myself to scan this collection and over the next several weeks I would like to share some of my favorite creations with y’all.

The title of the series says a lot about the content of these works. I was, am, and always will be a geek. As a kid I watched Star Trek and Star Wars, played DOS games like Raptor and Stargunner, and collected a plethora of Pokémon cards.

I processed these cultural concoctions through art. With a pencil, a marker, and a little free time I busted out drawing after drawing depicting the images swimming around in my head. Often I recreated scenes from movies or games. Other times I mashed up different scenes or games in a glorious orgy of geekery.

Not every piece was a winner, but as I went through the papers recently, I found far more value than I thought I would. I hope you find some amusement, inspiration, or simply diversion in the works I post here. Thanks to the Internet they can now find an audience I could only dream of reaching all those years ago.

Today’s Image: I played a lot of two particular top-down scrolling shooters in the mid-90’s: Overkilland Raptor: Call of the Shadows. This drawing is a mashup of the two games, taking the body style of the player’s ship from the former and then applying the weapons and markings from the latter, with a few of my own additions.

So this is what the kids call "sexting?"

I just now had about the most bizarre text conversation of my life. It started with a random incoming text and went down some pretty strange roads. I played along, as you will see, and “she” seemed to as well. Kind of NSFW in some parts, but whatever. Have a read:

[12:12am] Them: Hey baby girl.

Me: I don’t think this is who you think it is.

Them: Chelsea?

Me: Definitely not Chelsea

Them: Well can we still have some fun?

Me: What did you have in mind?

Them: Whips and chains?

Me: Not really my thing. How good are you with snakes?

Them: Depends, where do you want them?

Me: On second thought, forget snakes. Tell me what you were looking at the moment before you looked at your phone just now.

Them: A no parking sign. Tell me your secret fetish.

Me: Random interesting people texting me. As you can imagine, I’m doing pretty well right now.

Them: Would you like to choke me spank me and pull my hair?

Me: Yeesh! Do I at least get to buy you dinner first?

Them: Only if I can be daddys little cutie ;)

Me: “daddy”? What makes you so sure I’m a guy?

Them: Well chelsea was. But you can be my daddy either way.

Me: Chelsea is an odd name for a guy. Are you into guys with feminine names?

Them: Whats weird about chelsea? And ohm whats your name.

Me: Jeremy. And you?

Them: Sara.

Them: Where’d you go babe?

Me: Had to feed my cat. Anywho! Where were we?

Them: You were about to tell me how you were going to make love to me.

Me: Oh, right! Well, I would obviously make love to you in the impeccable style of Mad Men’s Don Draper: your hair in one hand and a whiskey in the other.

Them: No tell me how you’ll touch me.

Me: Expertly. Deftly. Leaving nothing to chance but the degree to which you would glimpse heaven in your raw ecstasy.

Them: I want you to throw me against the hood of the car, i want you to rip my clothes off, I want you to hit me and pound me while you bite and claw me.

Me: Done. What else?

Them: I want to lick you up and down until you say stop.

Me: I would never say stop. I would let you lick until your tongue went dry. Like sandpaper. I like it ‘rough’ ifyouknowwhatImean.

Them: Heres how its gonna be, im going to live in a cage in your room, and your gonna take me out for “walks”

Me: Is someone with you? Because that idea is way too devious for one person to hatch on her own.

Them: Im with my friend, we do everything together ;)

Me: Oh, I see what you did there! Look, I appreciate a threesome just as much as the next guy, but all this biting and clawing has got me tuckered out.

Me: What do you say we adjourn for turkey day and you text me whenever you get a craving for hood love, eh?

Them: Well alright, its not turkey day here, but ill text you another time babe.

Me: I look forward to it. Pleasant dreams ;]

[1:16 am] Them: Of you babe

I don’t really understand why this person persisted with the sexting route. I suspect alcohol/drugs, or maybe they too just wanted to have some ‘fun’ with the situation. Really though, a cage? Whips and chains? Why does S&M always have to get involved at some point? Also they totally missed/ignored the blatant Mad Men reference. I was really hoping to go somewhere with that.

I will of course post a followup if this person ever texts again. In the meantime, shoot me your thoughts at twitter.com/storrence.

PS. Random Sara just sent me a text obviously directed to someone else… again. The drunk sexting theory is looking more and more plausible by the second.

W00tstock 2.9: A Spunky Elephant's Review

“Take a moment to look around you. This is what the Internet looks like.”

As I sat there on the mezzanine level of the Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin, glancing playfully from side to side and up and down the rows at smiling nerds, I felt a tremendous rush of camaraderie that would set the tone for the epic extravaganza that was W00tstock 2.9.

For the uninitiated, W00tstock was founded by mythbuster Adam Savage, nerd musical duo Paul and Storm, and some geek named Wil Wheaton. The latter was unfortunately unable to grace our great city with his physical presence, so in his stead he sent a slew of short videos, a full-size two-dimensional effigy, and the literary rock star Neil Gaiman. We left him a heart-felt voicemail.

The memorable moments flashed past like phaser blasts throughout the entire evening, leaving little time for reflection or comprehension. It was the kind of entertainment that spawns new Internet memes (when not referencing existing ones heavily).

Speaking of spawn, I must give props to Neil Gaiman for coining the term “elephant spunk” in a short story he read us, and to the intrepid ASL interpreters who made its translation into sign language known (an obscene number of times) to the crowd assembled. I sympathized with them, but I could tell that they were having about as much fun signing the vulgar phrases the entertainers threw their way as we were watching them do so. Additionally, I spoke with them at the show’s intermission and confirmed that they were interpreting the songs in real time, having never heard them before. Remarkable.

Despite the plethora of WIN last night, there were underwhelming moments as well. Foxtrot creator Bill Amend had a speech near the beginning where he presented a number of his geekier comics from over the years. They channeled the iMac’s lack of a floppy drive, the Double Rainbow meme, and basic mathematics in relatively unoriginal but superficially entertaining fashion. As much as these generated laughs of recognition from the crowd, they also brilliantly (and perhaps unintentionally) highlighted the disconnect between the old print dynasty and the brave new frontier of the Internet.

“As newspaper comic writers we have to appeal to a very broad audience,” Amend said at one point. He called the geekier comics his “2%” panels; those which only a small percentage of his readership would “get.” He makes his living by using as generic humor as possible, but occasionally he can indulge and pandor to very small segments of his audience. Still, the print medium in which Amend swims necessitates generalization, not specialization, in order to maintain revenue.

In the opposite extreme, shows such as Mystery Science Theater 3000, RiffTrax, and Cinematic Titanic depend entirely on a scattershot construct of eclectic, non-sequitur 2% jokes smashed together in rapid-fire fashion. They cover a wide spectrum, in the hopes that their audience will wait through 98% of the content in anticipation of that 2% which resonates in them with such vigor that they come back for more. In my opinion, neither extreme makes for a very successful venture in the long run. (I invite you to comment if you have thoughts on the subject)

Speaking of MST3K, Mary Jo Pehl came on stage briefly, making an obscure and long-winded reference to the death of Supergirl (something about internal injuries sustained from an epic boss fight) and how it touched her deeply because her grandmother died the same way. The punchline, while superficially funny, smacked of anti-climax. She walked off stage to moderate applause.

But I digress! By far my favorite time of the night was Adam Savage’s monologue about parenting, porn, and Jamie Hyneman. He gave perhaps the most reasonable stance against the cruelty and misogyny of certain portions of the Internet I’ve ever heard in the context of a sex talk with his son. Some of the jokes and stories Adam shared of his time on Mythbusters I’d heard before, but seeing him do the Jamie impression never gets old. To tie it all together, he related a tale of his own teenage years and a certain beautiful girl that swept him off his feet for obvious reasons. “My first kiss happened as a direct result of a D&D session.” Spot on.

If the evening had an overarching theme, it was this sort of vindication of the nerd/geek lifestyle. Granted, a large portion of the crowd had never seen Paul and Storm before, and a smaller but significant portion (including myself) had never seen Neil Gaiman before. The camps and subgroups within geek culture are worlds in and of themselves, divided in virtual space across disperate forums, Twitter streams, and blogs. Despite this, W00tstock 2.9 managed to unite these varying subcultures to the greatest extent possible for those four hours. If the Internet were America in its formative stage, W00tstock would be our constitutional congress.

Walking away from W00tstock 2.9, I found myself filled with separation grief. The evening reminded me just how wonderful a community we have in the new continent we call the Internet, and how few times we get to bring our physically fractured society together to share in the things that give us a relatively coherent identity. I still have no idea what exactly constitutes that identity, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with prehensile mustaches, double rainbows, and a whole lot of elephant spunk.

[I might add more to this review if I feel like it. In the meantime, feel free to tell me what I missed and why I’m wrong]

Twitter Search: #w00tstock

FormSpring: What was the happiest moment in your life?

This is a hard one, mainly because the word “happy” contains many facets (such as contentment, euphoria, and joy), each with their own distinct moments of greatest intensity.

My most content moment was this past February, and it’s a bit too personal to describe in detail. Let’s just say that a window, a girl, and a fresh snow were all involved.

My most euphoric moment to date was about 2 years ago, at the moment that I watched the student population of Texas Tech rush the field as we beat the University of Texas at home. It was the culmination of one of the most interesting, spirited weeks of my life and the absolute high point of my time at Texas Tech.

My most joyous moment is also a bit personal. The most I’ll say is that I might be able to talk about the circumstances in a few years.

Hope that’s enough of an answer for ya! :)

    Be blunt, be adventurous. Ask away:

FormSpring: Perfect employment / city?

I really wish we still lived in the age of patrons. If so, I would love to devote a couple of decades to designing and building real-world manifestations of maps and locations from iconic video games, starting with Myst and then continuing with Halo, SimCity, and anything else I had time for.

Alternatively, I would love to work with Virgin Galactic on designing and realizing the world’s first habitable commercial space hotel… and then become its live-in concierge.

    Be blunt, be adventurous. Ask away: