Once upon a time, an awkward, nerdy producer at CNN.com convinced her bosses it was time to jump on the geek bandwagon – but do it differently.
Instead of producing stories that included little context for the passion people have about comic books, sci-fi, cosplay and all things geeky, we would examine the “why” of nerd culture. We would report on the people and the creative obsessions that drew them together. And, so a blog was born.
Now on CNN.com, you can regularly read stories surrounding nerdy pursuits and geeky events, from webcomics to Dragon*Con. Starting in the new year, we’ll be integrating the geek beat into the Living section at large and archiving Geek Out!
Thank you for reading the blog, posting your comments and sharing your views. We will continue to explore the many sides of nerdy culture on the site. We invite you to be a part of our ongoing conversation.
My greatest appreciation,
While the mock Civil War troops camped outside the grand porch of a large house in Mentor, Ohio, on a chilly February day, a bearded man captured their attention.
"The president's here!" said the captain, as the figure of James A. Garfield made an impromptu check of the soldiers. The next day the story of the chance inspection was in the paper, and the dignified gentleman's telephone was ringing off the hook.
Thus began Ed Haney’s journey as a presidential re-enactor. It was quite fortuitous he grew that beard.
Haney has been portraying President Garfield for 25 years now. He is a living historian, and began his presidential journey as a favor to the curator of the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, the museum housed in the preserved home of the 20th US president. He studied up on the president, grew a beard, rented a costume and portrayed the assassinated leader for a fundraiser organized to help fix up the house Garfield lived in from 1876-1881.
Living historians are "dedicated to the preservation of history through correct presentations of life and the preservation of our country's landmarks, cemeteries, and battlefields," according to the National Society of Living Historians. They often participate in Revolutionary and Civil War reenactments or work in living museums such as Old Fort Niagara in New York or Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
Haney's fateful turn as Garfield developed into an interest he couldn't shake. "The more I started reading about him, the more I was fascinated by him," he said. Newly retired, Haney joined the museum in a more substantial way as a tour guide (in the guise of Garfield) and began collecting Garfield memorabilia. (His spare room is filled with Garfield mementos, including a 38-star US flag, the type that flew while Garfield was in office.)
Haney's enthusiasm for Garfield ultimately led him away from the museum to organize a troupe of like-minded re-enactors that call themselves We Made History.
Being a living historian can be a hobby or a career: Haney and his friends work as independent contractors, scheduling educational appearances at museums, schools and civic clubs. They earn money for their portrayals, but don't depend on their fees to make a living. While some living historians choose to recreate a persona based on their own personal family history or invent a character from the past, Haney's group chose very specific and recognizable figures from American history to bring to life.
What's up, Thronies?
I just finished "Dance with Dragons," the most recent book in the addictive and heart-wrenching series "Song of Ice and Fire," which is the basis of the thrilling and sexy HBO show "Game of Thrones."
"Winter is coming" (as they say in the series) in the Northern Hemisphere, and we'll have to get through the coldest months without any new information about our favorite characters from this series. Author George R. R. Martin hasn't announced when the next installment will come out (last time there were about seven years between books). As for TV, HBO isn't debuting Season 3 of the show until March 31.
What are we supposed to do until then?!
The internet is full of Thronie homages to the series. Here are some treats and ideas for your amusement: FULL POST
Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.
You're fumbling around in the dark, and unless you have the twisted pleasure of taking the lead, you may be gripping onto the person in front of you as the group makes its way from one room of horror-made-real into another. It is a haunted house attraction, or haunt, and you can feel it in your bones - just around the next corner, someone is going to jump out and squeeze a scream right out of you.
And your scream might just be the highlight of that person's night.
Welcome to the world of the haunt nerd, whose obsession is crafting the best scare he can as an actor or effects artist through homemade and professional haunted houses. Halloween is his Christmas, a season where screams are the gift that keep on giving.
There are a lot of screams to give, according to Hauntworld.com an unofficial haunted attraction industry website. The site estimates there are more than 1,400 for-profit attractions and amusement parks charging admission in America, 3,000 charity attractions and 10,000 "home haunters." Moreover, a recent study by horror site and cable network FEARnet reported that nearly 50 percent of Americans would decorate their home or yard for Halloween and that about 23 percent of people would be visiting haunted houses this season.
These facts add up to a lot of interest in scares by the public, which is no surprise. But who are the people behind the terror? Who are the haunt nerds? FULL POST
As an overly passionate, silly geek, when I like something, I don't just "like" it. I tend to get excited in a very specific way, going into full fan mode fairly quickly (see this drawing for a visual explanation).
Once I get rolling, I become a constant broadcaster, excitedly telling my friends about my newest obsession, while I wave my hands around in the air for emphasis.
This excitement is called "fangirling" (or fanboying, as the case may be), and it's fairly common behavior when it comes to the nerd world. In fact, it even extends beyond nerds: Stamp collectors, vintage record experts, and doll fanatics have their moments, too. We all light up when we get a chance to talk about the thing we love. When we share our enthusiasm, we welcome another person into our inner circle.
Sometimes, though, in the midst of marathoning yet another Asian drama with impossibly good-looking leading men, I'll catch myself wondering: Is my fandom escapism? And can it go too far?
All pleasures can lead to escapism, but where do they cross over into obsession? Are you obsessive if you spend each year crafting yet another insanely detailed Final Fantasy costume to wear to Dragon Con, or are you merely nurturing your creative pursuits? Is an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek history a good thing, or does the need to keep it up-to-date eventually edge out the necessities of life? FULL POST