Friday, January 27, 2012

Geek Hypocrite No Longer

I've been languishing for three years now, toiling in an IT department utterly devoid of True Geeks. Nobody in my department has read the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, I'm the only person who played (and would continue to play, if given the opportunity) D&D, and my Cthulhu fish car emblem only received confused "what the heck is that" looks from my coworkers.

Sure, when I introduced my cohorts to The IT Crowd, it became immensely popular around here, but four short seasons of it wasn't able to displace their favorite shows like Two And A Half Men (pre-Kutcher, if that means anything) and Sons Of Anarchy. (They also like Big Bang Theory, but that doesn't count, because most of it's jokes are the audience laughing at the geeks, not identifying with them.) All my coworkers think Spaced is too boring , and they're all surprised that anybody still listens to Weird Al (and seemed to think it odd I went to see him in concert a week after I started working here). There's not even any point in attempting to spark a Star Wars versus Star Trek war (a generally quintessential topic in any computer department) here at work. You're better off sparking animosity by playing up the Battle Of Alberta, pitting our Oilers fans against the lone Calgary Flames supporter. Don't get me wrong, I like my hockey, but I'm pretty sure my coworkers long ago became deafened to my complaints that our IT department is not geeky enough.

That said, I harbour a deep, dark geek secret, of which I've been ashamed for at least ten, if not twenty, years. I'm not certain it's wise to admit this, especially on the internet, where nothing is ever forgotten, but this needs to be brought out into the light, in order to properly deal with and dispel the horror.

Over the last decade, I enjoyed the movies immensely as they came out, and I considered them epic triumphs of fantasy movie making, but it is time to reveal a terrible truth.

Deep breath. I can do this. Phew! Who knew this would be so difficult? Okay, here it is:

I've never actually read anything written by Tolkien. (Please let me keep my "White & Nerdy" hoodie!)

I started reading The Fellowship Of The Ring back in middle school, but I don't think I ever actually finished it. I certainly recalled almost nothing of the plot when I joined my wife, my cousin Shawn, and my mom in going to an Edmonton theater to see the initial Peter Jackson incarnation of the Lord Of The Rings released in 2001. At the time (and ever since then), I was too ashamed of admitting to my kith and kin (not to mention anyone else) that, despite being the family nerd, I hadn't read the series.

Fast forward to December 2011, when Peter Jackson gifted (or tortured, take your pick) his fans by releasing a trailer for upcoming film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I enjoyed the Lord Of The Rings movies so much, that I could barely contain my excitement at seeing the prequel laid out in similar fashion. However, there was one thought tempering my enthusiasm for the upcoming film.

A number of times in the following month I found myself reading and revisiting various nerdy internet discussions I had previously scanned over, mostly regarding how true Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy had (or rather, hadn't) been to the source material. Spurred on by those discussions, and driven by the fact that, almost invariably, original books are vastly superior to the movies inspired by them, I determined that I would read The Hobbit before the film was released.

Realizing that I hadn't actually read a book in years (beyond the 4th edition Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide, plus various computer technical manuals in PDF form), I guessed that it would probably take me at least a month to read. Coupled with my well developed and vast capability to procrastinate, I decided that if I pledged to read The Hobbit in January, I might just have a chance of finishing it by the film's December 2012 release date. It turns out I need not have worried.

At first, I found the book a bit difficult to get into, as it wasn't quite what I was expecting. After over twenty years of D&D (and D&D-esque) books, manuals, and video games, a fair amount of the book seemed quaint, and even downright non-canonical in places. But Tolkien is one of the greatest sources for modern fantasy and role playing, and eventually I found I couldn't put the book down. Four nights after starting, I read the last lines of the book and flipped to review the map of Mirkwood that mark the final pages of the novel.

My thoughts? The book was good. I liked the characters and atmosphere. There wasn't quite as much detail or action as I was expecting, but overall I definitely enjoyed myself, and wonder why it took me so long to get around to reading even one book of this iconic series. I certainly will continue on to read the three Lord Of The Rings novels.

Mostly, though, I just can't wait to see how badly Peter Jackson screws the story up.