Happy Geek Pride/Towel/etc. Day!
Our pal Larry wonders, "Where's a spaceship when you need one?"
May 25th, 2012
02:01 PM ET

Happy Geek Pride/Towel/etc. Day!

Editor's note: A few years ago, the nerds at CNN.com had to explain to our coworkers what Towel Day was. We helped clear things up on CNN's long-defunct SciTech blog. In commemoration of today, we're bringing back our very informative post. We like to think of it as a "collector's edition."

Romulans, puppeteers, hobbits - lend me your ears! Today, we geeks can gather today and celebrate all that makes us unique.

Worldwide, May 25 is known as Geek Pride Day, Towel Day (for "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" fans like our own No. 42 above) and Glorious 25th of May, for Discworld fans.

Although Geek Pride Day is a relatively new holiday; founded in Spain in 2006, the Inalienable Rights of Geekdom (at least as we see them) that it celebrates are not:

1. The right to strive to be even geekier.
2. The right to not leave your house when there's plenty to entertain you there.
3. The right to not like football or any other sport.
4. The right to freely associate with other nerds.
5. The right to have a few select (inevitably awesome) friends.
6. The right to have a ton of friends - each geekier than the last.
7. The right to not be “in-style.”
8. The right to be overweight/underweight/have poor eyesight and the like.
9. The right to show off your geekiness at all times.
10. The right to take over the world.

Not all geeks will agree with or adhere to all - or in some cases even most - of these rules. Everybody geeks out in their own way; that's the beauty of it.

But we can all agree that being a geek can be a good thing. Why is that?
Well, let’s take a look at a couple of the great things about being a geek:

1. We can always find a game to play no matter what. We are like the MacGyver of games. Give us a pen and paper and we’ll entertain ourselves and others.
2. We look good in glasses. Seriously, we do.
3. We are clever. Who was the one who everyone turned to on "Lost?" The doctor.
4. Speaking of doctors, we have Doctor Who. He’s smart, funny, has a time machine and is one of the biggest geeks in the universe.
5. We can balance a checkbook. Whether we use a computer program, our raw brain power or a good old-fashioned abacus, we will not be overdrawn.

Geek Pride Day is all about looking at the best parts of being a geek, so grab your towel, stick out your thumb and tell us what your plans are - or what you've already done - for Geek Pride Day.

K-pop: You can thank Google for your new obsession
Girls' Generation performs at the K-Collection In Seoul on March 11.
May 14th, 2012
01:14 PM ET

K-pop: You can thank Google for your new obsession

Google announced last week that it would host a free concert May 21 at its Mountain View headquarters featuring a host of Korean pop music acts such as SNSD (also known as Girls' Generation), DBSK (also known as TVXQ), Super Junior, The Wonder Girls, KARA and more.

You may not know these names, but to a devoted K-pop fan, seeing even one of those bands is a seriously squeeworthy event.

Fans like me would easily pay a great deal to see a show like this. And in many ways, it is fan devotion that is responsible for such an event appearing in the States. A representative for the concert said in a statement, "I think that previous performances by Korean artists were targeted towards Korean-Americans or the Koreans living abroad, but this time its appeal will spread to all fans of pop music in the US."

There's only one message to get out of this: Google believes K-pop has universal appeal. It's been on the rise for a while, though. Last year, a similar variety show sold out Madison Square Garden and sent fans across America into a total frenzy. Girls' Generation was also featured on David Letterman in early February and performed the English-language version of their hit song "The Boys." My friends and I gathered around the television, waiting to see how it would all turn out. And we were overjroyed when the performance met with resounding applause.

My own discovery of K-pop was a slow one. I've been a J-pop fan for more than a decade, but K-pop was a foreign world that I had no idea how to get into. That is, until I saw my first TVXQ video. FULL POST

Posted by
Filed under: Otaku
The mystique of the Japanese male idol
Takuya Kimura, SMAP member and one of Japan's favorite male idols.
May 3rd, 2012
02:15 PM ET

The mystique of the Japanese male idol

After a 22-year streak of sending pop fans into a frenzy, Japanese "boy" band SMAP debuted their newest single this past week, "Upside-down Sky," which rocketed to the top of the charts immediately. It's not the band's first time there, either - it's actually its 24th time hitting the No. 1 slot, and its second time this year.

Maybe SMAP sounds more to you like the sound of a bug hitting a windshield than the name of a band, but these guys have nailed the boy band formula in a way that few American bands ever have. With 19 studio albums and 45 singles, they are just as successful as a New Kids on the Block or Backstreet Boys, but they have something more: longevity.

"They're ubiquitous," says Eric Allerton, founder of the Japanese culture hub Gaijin Kanpai network. "They work like crazy hosting variety shows, charity events, and they star in dramas and commercials. They're famous because they were one of the first idol groups ever and they've grown up with their fans."

"And now, all the housewives drool over them because they're on TV 23.5 hours a day."

But it's not just SMAP. Its members are a golden example Japan's "male idol" - beautiful people who wear their hair longer, prefer fitted clothing and are even sometimes mistaken for women. SMAP member Takuya Kimura has often worn his hair in a style that is usually considered ladylike, and the fans love it.

While they might not resemble America's heartthrobs, they've got a following in the United States, too. Their fame is spread through magazines at Japanese grocery stores, videos on YouTube and online fan clubs and communities. FULL POST

Posted by
Filed under: Otaku
Why the U.S. might never catch on to the next big rhythm games
Nintendo's "Rhythm Heaven Fever" was released in the United States, but many popular Japanese rhythm games aren't.
April 20th, 2012
03:29 PM ET

Why the U.S. might never catch on to the next big rhythm games

This week, a Japanese game company announced it is making "AKB48+Me," which features the enormously big-in-Japan all-girl pop group AKB48, and gives the player a chance to rock out right alongside them - as a member.

It's meltdown-worthy for fans of J-pop, but "idol simulation" is just the latest in the long line of games that bring together music and motion - and never made it to the United States.

It's not unusual to find plastic guitars and drums in American living rooms these days. "Rock Band" is massively popular with gamers and nongamers alike, and Nintendo of America recently made a move to localize several entries in its "Rhythm Heaven" series, which has been a beloved franchise in Japan for years. But so far, its 2 million in sales doesn't quite compare to the 75 million in Japan.

American gamers have gotten pretty good at jamming Metallica and Van Halen, but when a Japanese gamer goes into the zone while playing an arcade rhythm game, there are flying hands and speeds that seem beyond human capability.

The truth is that rhythm games were born in Japan, and evolved a bit differently in the United States.

FULL POST

Posted by
Filed under: Master User • Otaku
Cuteness is served: Exploring Japan's maid culture
April 13th, 2012
02:21 PM ET

Cuteness is served: Exploring Japan's maid culture

In America, a woman dressed as a maid can mean one of two things: She's here to clean your house, or she's dressed in a costume. The latter is considered sexy, while the former is anything but.

In Japan, however, the maid costume is a symbol of something entirely different: It elicits an immediate reaction. The Japanese culture has so much love for maids, in fact, that an entire culture has developed around them. Rooted in Japan's love of cuteness, it's not at all uncommon to see women dressed as maids in the streets of Akihabara, handing out fliers to promote the shops there.

And of course, otaku have a special soft spot for maids.

There have been many stories in the American news about "maid cafes" (also known as "cosplay restaurants") in Japan, which originated there in the early 2000s. At the maid cafe, the staff is exclusively made up of young women who wear maid costumes and serve their clients. The menus often feature desserts with cute decor, and maids will visit your table to decorate your food with cute designs or draw hearts in your coffee foam before they deliver it. These have become increasingly popular in recent years, and they have popped up all over the world, even in America. Tokyo is so glutted with them that even "best of" maid cafe lists have been published.

The heart of the maid cafe experience is about an intimate, safe relationship, but a subdued one. For instance, the maids refer to their clients as "masters" or "mistresses" when they welcome them to the cafe. Depending on the location, services besides basic table service are available, such the chance to play video games with the maid or take a photograph with her and have her decorate it by hand for you. The latter normally costs an additional fee, as most maid cafes forbid photography inside, but these are allowed in special cases. FULL POST

Posted by
Filed under: Otaku
« older posts
newer posts »