Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 9 Aug 00 14:44
Our next guest is Mikki Halpin, author of The Geek Handbook. Mikki is the former editor-in-chief of the brilliant, ahead-of-its-time webzine Stim, which featured the hilarious and strange contributions of many Well writers. She co-founded the seminal 'zine Ben Is Dead and has written for many cool publications, in print and online. She's also a former senior editor at the Oxygen network. But most importantly for our purposes, she wrote the classic essay "A Girl's Guide to Geek Guys," which you have probably received in email, without attribution, 4,812 times, in between cookie recipes and pleas for business cards for the leukemia kid. The essay now appears on over 300 web sites, in 5 languages. We will discuss it. She is being interviewed by Marjorie Ingall, former senior writer at Sassy magazine, who was a huge fan of Ben is Dead. When Marjorie first met Mikki in the early 90s, she was terrified that Mikki was so punk-rock and cool, she would scorn Marjorie for being a sellout co-opter of youth culture. Yet Mikki was nice, and hilarious, and shared cat-related wisdom, and impressed Marjorie as being quite possibly a genius. Many years later, when Marjorie married a geek, Mikki became an indispensible translator of geek language and behavior, thereby saving Marjorie's marriage. So: What is a geek? Why have geeks been historically so feared and ostracized? How has their position in society changed in recent years? How can non-geeks gain understanding of the geeks in their lives, thereby increasing harmony and tolerance and a better world for all? The Geek Handbook provides the answers. Please join me in welcoming Mikki and Marjorie to inkwell! And don't forget, if you have questions or comments about geeks for Mikki, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
snarly (obizuth) Fri 11 Aug 00 11:34
hello, people! i am thrilled to interview miss mikki halpin, as i believe she is a comedic genius. "the geek handbook" is "timely, funny, genuinely useful...I laughed out loud." (that's what noted geek expert jon katz said, but i say it too.) cleverly written in the style of a user manual, the geek handbook tells you everything you need to know about geek maintenance, programming and comprehension. mikki, are you there? can you tell us WHY a geek handbook, and why now?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 11 Aug 00 11:55
"The Geek Handbook" was given to all the guests at a geek wedding a couple of months ago. I read it that very night, and I laughed out loud many times. I'm a big fan of both Markorie and Mikki, and I'm delighted to see the two of them here in the Inkwell!
Mikki Halpin (filmmag) Fri 11 Aug 00 12:00
Will post more thoughtful answer later! Why, and why now: now, with more and more geeks coming out as geeks, and more and more people having computers, and therefore geeks in their lives, I felt it was my duty to write this handbook and bring my geek-related wisdom to the world. in my first job I worked with a geek who was a SUPER geek. if I had only had this handbook then.
snarly (obizuth) Fri 11 Aug 00 12:06
geeks have gotten a LOT of bad press lately. one only has to read thru other conversations in this very conference to realize that there is a lot of animosity toward geeks (or to be precise, a lot of people now associate geeks with dot-com assholes). how has the image of geeks changed in recent years...and are geeks themselves any diff, or is this merely a prob of perception? (i am reminded of discussions about feminism, actually, where people use the term to mean almost anything they want...and almost everything they loathe.)
David Gans (tnf) Fri 11 Aug 00 12:22
I'm old enough to remember when the sort of person known as a geek today was revered (and feared) as a "wizard." I was sort of a junior assistant geek/wizard for a while in my youth, and the guys who knew how to make those machines do stuff were regarded with awe. This was before Apple and Microsoft, when disk drives were the size of dishwashers and desktop com- puters were eight bits wide and you had to build 'em from kits.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 11 Aug 00 12:41
<scribbled by tnf Fri 11 Aug 00 13:09>
David Gans (tnf) Fri 11 Aug 00 13:09
From a web reader named sara: Here's my question for mikki ha: I have a soft spot for geek boys. How can I meet one and convince him to be my boyfriend? Where do they hang out?
Martin Minow (minow) Fri 11 Aug 00 13:49
Science fiction conventions, Society for Creative Anacronism, your local juggling/unicycle club. (I suppose I qualify as a geek/wizard, even though I started programming when disk drives were the size of a restaurant refrigerator and we impressed our girlfriends by showing them how you checked the oil in the core memory.)
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 11 Aug 00 20:14
If the book is written like a manual, is there a system requirements section and an installation and configuration section? What about error messages? If so, what do they say?
stupid historical TITS! ON TV!! (fsquared) Fri 11 Aug 00 22:53
Spoken like a true geek!
Mikki Halpin (filmmag) Sat 12 Aug 00 06:19
marjorie, I think your point about feminism, "where people use the term to mean almost anything they want...and almost everything they loathe," is a very good one. it's the way a backlash works. (when I was studying art history and post modernism was in vogue, the term "modernist" began to have a similar loathesome elasticity) I was struck when the "I love you " virus came along (not struck by the virus! hah! struck by social phenom Im about to mention) when I heard several commentators weirdly blame it on geeks. one guy on npr said something like "it spread all over and crippled us because love-starved geeks all clicked on it and therefore passed it on." which is so ridic of course, because it was nongeeks who spread it. another moment of geek backlash: when I was in san francisco doing a radio show to promote the book, the uh, jocks at the radio station were encouraging listeners to call in and say if they were geeks or not. Then the jocks would kind of jeer at the callers and say "you're a geek! You're a loser!" this really surprised me, in San Francisco of all places, until I thought about how these jocks probably feel left out of the dot-com thing and the way it has changed culture, most especially culture in san francisco. Anyway, yes I think there are signs of backlash. If anything dramatic happens in the stock market, or if more people begin to feel disenchanted or disenfranchised, I think it will grow. I'm not sure if geeks have the self- awareness as a group to combat it. First question : a downer!
Mikki Halpin (filmmag) Sat 12 Aug 00 06:22
dear "sara," I will direct you to the article on which The Geek Handbook is based, as it directly addresses non-geek girls dating geek boys. It's a bit out of date now, but still useful. http://www.bunnyhop.com/BH5/geekguys.html please report back.
Mikki Halpin (filmmag) Sat 12 Aug 00 06:25
castle, the handbook doesnt have the specific sections you mention, tho it addresses those issues. it does have diagnostics, bug fixes, and upgrade instructions. I feel that "installing" or "configuring" a geek are terms somehow inorganic and didnt use them. I realize this makes no sense, but there it is.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 12 Aug 00 07:41
I demand an upgrade!
David Gans (tnf) Sat 12 Aug 00 09:28
I think manual installation of patches is the only humane way to go.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Aug 00 10:16
I've never been called a geek before! Anywhere, here's some questions from a fan on the Internet: From email@example.com Thu Aug 10 19:03:06 2000 Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 20:32:48 -0400 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: Question for Mikki Halpin Dear Mikki: Marjorie says that you edited a seminal magazine. Have you also written with ink? -- OI!! I'M ALL FARKLEMPT!!!
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Aug 00 10:16
From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Aug 10 19:03:15 2000 Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 20:33:24 -0400 From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Question for Mikki Halpin Dear Mikki: Am I a geek? Please be gentle. -- OI!! I'M ALL FARKLEMPT!!!
snarly (obizuth) Sat 12 Aug 00 13:31
that would be my father, who is enchantingly insane. he has the good sense to be very fond of mikki, tho. everyone who wants to know the genesis of the book should go read that seminal (or ovoid) "girl's guide to geek guys," on bunnyhop's web site. like the early work of brecht and shakespeare, it reflects in its youthful exuberance the themes that the mature artist later explored to the fullest. basically, the bunnyhop article was really a kind of early "geeks rule!" shout-out to girls, alerting them that geekboys are good to date. (i agree. but this was a radical notion a few years ago, when "geek" did not have the cachet it seems to have now.) the book is not just for girls, tho--there are sections about your geek child, your geek parent, your geek boss, your geek coworker, your geek neighbor. is that why you wrote the book, mikki--to explicate all kinds of geekdom for the nongeek? why is this an important service? why does this book have such broad appeal? (broad like WIDE, not like CHICK, har har.)
blather storm (lolly) Sat 12 Aug 00 16:16
Dumb question department: is there an upper age limit on geeks? When they get too ripe do they turn into something else?
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Aug 00 17:51
I like the idea that geeks ripen!
Steven Solomon (ssol) Sun 13 Aug 00 07:11
I'm not sure that they ripen. Sometimes they wisen. Sometimes they sour.
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Sun 13 Aug 00 16:22
I do think the whole money mania has change geek culture for good and bad... however you define geek culture.
stupid historical TITS! ON TV!! (fsquared) Sun 13 Aug 00 18:28
Is geek culture even definable any more? I mean, now that computers are pretty much ubiquitous, there are so many kinds of geeks that they can't all have something in common, can they?
blather storm (lolly) Sun 13 Aug 00 20:07
Right - does it mean something different to each of us? I admit I probably am thinking of stereotypes and not real people, except a couple of real people, one of whom is both THE most geeky guy I know but then I think he goes for homo leather bars, so that doesn't really totally fit in...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 13 Aug 00 21:14
Check out http://www.brittanica.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=geek "a person often of an intellectual bent who is disapproved of"
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