Big, huge, star-studded night last night. I'm sure there will be more accurate recaps popping up in the next few days. But I can tell you about the bits of it that I saw and participated in.
(If you just want to see my presentation and get on with your day & not read anything you can just click play here:)
Plus a story from CBS news.
A few months ago I got an email from Eric Smith and Tim Quirino, who together are Geekadelphia some sort of weird nexus for reporting on science and whatnot in Philadelphia. I'd been following them on Twitter for a while to find out what cool things were going on. I probably discovered them when I read this amazing article about how after a crappy relationship breakup, Eric Smith buit a suit of freaking Halo armor and wandered around Philly in it.
Anyway, I got an email from them asking me if I'd be a presenter at the 2012 Philly Geek awards. I of course said "yes" because I think being a presenter is better than being a nominee -- you get this feeling like you already won and you don't have to squirm in your seat wondering if you're going to lose and, even better, you never actually lose. They asked me to present the awards for Best Comic Book Writer and Best Comic Book Artist.
They sent a limo to pick us up, which was ... pretty awesome. It was a company called "Uber" and I guess they're everywhere, but they have an iphone app, and you hit a button on it and it's like sending out a bat signal, it takes your GPS coordinates and dispatches a car. You can watch it on a map as it gets nearer and you get a text when it's arriving. It was pretty cool and seemed (though we didn't have to pay) to only be about twice as expensive as a cab.
There was a red carpet outside of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and we got our photo taken and ... because the line was long and boring there was a guy from the Academy with a live alligator answering questions and whatnot. The alligator had been confiscated from someone who'd had it illegally and they don't know how old it is because it was terribly malnourished and almost dead. Every once in a while it would decide it wanted to get down and run along the red carpet but dude would hold on tight & I realized he was actually wrestling an alligator and winning. (The secret? Make sure you outweigh the alligator 120:1 -- it's easy then.)
An alligator. There was someone at the door with an alligator. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
Once we got inside we realized the scope of the whole thing -- there were hundreds of people in the museum, which was closed to the public. I didn't really take any photos of the lots and lots of people, which I should have. There was an hour and a half food & cocktail and private museum viewing hour which was painfully short. Because you'd be walking down a hall and suddenly there would be Johnny Zito or someone and you'd want to talk to Johnny Zito because you'd never met them but you knew their work and then you'd realize that there was a whole museum to see, so you'd break away and run off to look at things and you'd run into someone else -- I was constantly torn between wanting to talk to people and wanting to go into the freaking Butterfly room or stick my head in the mouth of the giant t-rex skull.
All the finely dressed people in the museum. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
The Academy of Natural Sciences has dinosaurs and such, but also dioramas -- it's a strange, weird, nostalgic kind of thing. It's been around for a hundred years now (more actually if you count when they called natural history "philosophy") and back then the way people saw and studied things is a naturalist would go out and they'd kill lots of birds and mice and coyotes and moose and elk and whatever they saw and they'd bring it home and someone would stuff it and they'd either keep it in a drawer or they'd put it on display in a museum. It's actually been of great scientific benefit to be able, for example, for scientists to go through specimens collected by Charles Darwin and look for changes over time. But it seems weird.
In college I wrote a paper about stasis and motion in Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye -- I don't know that it's profound, but it's what I think of when I'm looking at dioramas -- Holden Caufield going to the Natural History Museum in New York and looking at the Eskimo fishing and as his life is falling apart, he finds comfort in the fact that the diorama's never going to change, that it's the same one he saw when he was a kid and everything was ok, and it's the same one that's there now.
Years ago my friend Jonathan Maslow went to Russia to study akhal teke horse culture. He met a herpetologist there who'd written a thousand page book about the snakes of Russia and he begged Jonathan to smuggle it out of Russia so that people in the West could read it. So Jonathan did and came home bedraggled after many strange adventures (which he wrote about in a book called Turkman Cowboy which I love and is funny and poignant &c.) and staggered up the steps of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia to present them with this book he'd risked and suffered for to smuggle from Russia and found out they already had a copy in the library. Something about the book being in that library seemed to comfort me in the way Holden was comforted by the Eskimo.
And the taxidermy is ... epic to say the very least.
A polar bear. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
A moose once bit my sister. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
Stuffed parrots. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
We looked at stuff, we went around the museum.
trillian_stars and a t-rex skull. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
An owl! Someone was walking around with an owl. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
There was food and booze. There were also these Internet meme cookies made by Whipped Bake Shop. This was my favorite one. Held by Erica from the sadly now defunct Phillyist.
Why the Fuck didn't I win an award? Clickenzee to Embiggen!
I tied this necktie myself, which is why it looks like a poisoned bat. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
trillian_stars so close to what we later discovered was the green room we never found. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
Finally we went in and sat down the awards started.
trillian_stars and my seat! Clickenzee to Embiggen!
Many of the presenters! Dan Tabor with the glasses, engineer Elise Wei in front of him, NBC News' Christine Maddela, Clickenzee to Embiggen!
The men who made the whole thing happen, Eric Smith Rocks on the left and Tim Quirino on the right. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
Resurrect Dead director John Foy. Although we're kickstarter backers of Alpha Girls, I was quietly rooting for John. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
After the awards we talked with John Foy for a bit about the Toynbee tiles and how his movie came together. He said something along the lines of "I didn't work hard on my movie, but I worked consistently" -- I'm misquoting him but I believe I have the spirit of it correct -- he didn't give up his job and his life, but he kept at it every week. The long haul is so difficult -- for everyone I think -- whenever I start a new project I find I'm filled with enthusiasm and I want it to be over, I want it to be far along, past those initial stages where I have nothing to show anyone, but determination takes you to the end.
Resurrect Dead! Clickenzee to Embiggen!
We stood around the museum for a while, I chatted a bit with Derrick Pitts, the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute (he was up for "Best Science Headline" but didn't win) who I used to work for years and years ago, operating a telescope at the Franklin Institute's observatory. He hasn't aged a bit it seems. He told me that the letters "JPL" are written in morse code on the Curiosity Rover's wheels so that it signs its name while it moves, but they can also use it to measure things because they know exactly how far apart these are.
The after party was at National Mechanics one of those hip bars down town. It used to be a hip goth club years and years ago. It was packed wall to wall with people. trillian_stars and I made our way about 30 feet in at which point there were just too many people to actually move any further -- also one of my shoes had come untied and someone was standing on the laces. Eventually we gave up and just stood there, which turned out to be fine because everybody came past us on their way to either the bar or the bathroom or the front door.
Glasses at the after party. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
I got to meet a lot of really great people, one of my favorite was Jill Sybesma who works at the Academy of Natural Sciences and is part of Geekadelphia. Jill runs all the adult programming at the Academy, including, it turns out a bad movie night. She was one of the presenters and was a big favorite with the crowd.
Jennifer hall has a motorcycle helmet that looks like the top of R2D2's head. And Allie Harcharek, crazily enough, was in the audience in 2008 when I gave the convocation speech at Rowan University ... AND she remembered who I was.
Jill, Eric Smith Rocks w/ Allie Harcharek & Jennifer Hall (phillyartgirl.com) in front. Clickenzee to Embiggen!
I'm glad that something like this exists. It made me realize that high school was over and we won. The kids who got stuffed into lockers and punched behind the school and never got picked for sports teams. Here we were -- writing computer games and comic books and starting companies and steering the world.
I'm glad that Eric and Tim put this together and that this community gets pulled a little closer together. It's something good and kind in a world full of broken things.
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