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Even in what’s been called the age of the geek — with URLs
everywhere, computer-related material occupying growing proportions of
our magazine space and TV time, and websites such as Amazon and Buy.com
majestically taking over the billboards lately vacated by the
Marlboro Man — it’s still not easy to BE a geek. If the misery and
social alienation of geekery weren’t already clear, the problem’s
certainly been brought to our attention in the aftermath of the
Littleton tragedy. But the young killers in Littleton weren’t true
geeks, any more than they were genuine goths. Having an easy facility
with computers and getting picked on by jocks aren’t nearly enough to
constitute hardcore geekdom.

Just what is a classic geek, so to speak? Well, Real Geeks have a
tendency to accessorize with Coke-bottle glasses and pocket protectors.
They’re physically wanting: they probably have galloping acne,
irritatingly nasal voices, or uncouth, braying laughs, and they’re
probably either 98-pound weaklings or morbidly overweight. Real Geeks
never, never, ever get to date anyone remotely appealing. And all geeks
dress funny — not because they’re making an alternative style choice or
social statement, but because they don’t know any better. Think of
television’s Urkel, or of the Anthony Michael Hall character in any John
Hughes high school movie. (In contrast, the movieland prototype for Eric
Harris is Christian Slater’s character in “Heathers.” Not even close to
the same thing.)

But what really makes geeks of all ages geeks, as opposed to just
different, is that they FEEL like geeks: they’re possessed by a
soul-crushing consciousness of their deep cluelessness, ineptitude,
and utter social failure, and they haven’t the beginnings of an inkling
as to how to deal with it.

Enter Johnny Dupa to the rescue, with his new book, Geek
Redemption.
His
first chapters are devoted to an incisive and funny analysis of geekery
in all its forms and discontents. Like a Charles Atlas for the
millennium, Dupa then offers hope to these hopeless ones via his
three-step program of Presentation Redemption, Social Redemption, and
Physical Redemption (roughly: clothes and grooming, social graces and
comportment, and body alteration through exercise). Follow his advice
and you should be able to train yourself out of the unpleasant habits,
social ignorance, and rotten fitness level that make you a geek in the
first place.

The book seems to me a little top-heavy with chapters devoted to the
bodybuilding aspect of the program. I’m not at all sure that the only
answer — the One True Way to Salvation, as it were — for the world’s
geeks is to transform themselves into full-out jocks, as Dupa
evangelizes. A whiff of well-intentioned incipient fascism there,
perhaps. Still, I haven’t been a Real Geek myself since fifth grade; my
own adolescent desperation was never a geek desperation, so my best
medicines may not be theirs. And Dupa’s advice does at least seem both
practical and effective. Which is more than enough to make this book a
spring of water in the desert for the lost ones it addresses, as well as
an amusing read for the rest of us.

The conservative response
to police brutality

Robert George’ cogent
commentary
on the
response to the Amadou Diallo killing in New York City identifies a
hidden contradictory strain in the Giuliani cheerleaders’ thinking.
George’s cutting observation: “Conservatives, advocates of the merits of
a limited, non-intrusive government, seem all too ready to scrap this
philosophy when the government in question is local or state.” The NYPD,
in other words, receives the sort of unquestioning support from
Republicans that the FBI could never hope for. Meanwhile, the pundits of
the right sit scratching their heads in bafflement as to why more blacks
— a considerable proportion of whom espouse conservative values when
polled — don’t vote Republican. Is a police state really any better, or
different, than a nanny state? This essay really should go straight onto
the Republican required-reading list.

Capturing summer lightning

I usually think of high storm season as July and August, but try
telling that to the folks in Oklahoma. Thunderstorm weather is upon us
already in many parts of the country. Storms aren’t always destructive,
luckily, and they can be magnificent to watch, even if you prefer to do
so from behind the safety of a reinforced double-glassed window. What
mystifies me is how photographers manage to capture the glories of a
storm — lightning, for instance. How in
heaven do you shoot a picture of lightning, which is basically gone by
the time your eyes even manage to register that it’s there? And isn’t it
horribly dangerous? Well, believe it or not, there is a man named
Douglas Kiesling who has survived the process of becoming expert in
lightning photography, and he’s here to tell you all about it. His
page explains what
equipment you need to take pictures of lightning and how to use it, as
well as giving suggestions on where to go for the best views. As an
urban dweller — and card-carrying thrill-seeker — he favors golf
courses and high parking ramps. Definitely high-risk stuff: if the storm
doesn’t get you, the security guard will. Looking at the stunning
photographic results of
such lunatic
exploits, I’m really glad somebody is out there doing this, but I think
I’m even gladder that it isn’t me.

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