Thursday, February 24, 2011

Geeks and Grandma

Partly by request, I'm going back to my silly roots for today's post. I have two completely different topics to cover.

The first is the existence of the Geek of the Week trading cards. Behold the deck to end all decks! 52 trading cards, one for each week of the year, featuring geeks of legendary status. Unsurprisingly, this inaugural edition of the cards features such giants of geekdom as John Scalzi, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Weird Al Yankovic, and of course, Neil Gaiman.

As a lifelong dork of horrifying magnitude (at least, it always seemed to horrify certain relatives), I am pleased to see that we are at last collectible. Of course, this also means that I'm going to have to work harder to become famous in my dorkitude, so that I might one day be included in a future edition of these cards. This ties in decently with my existing goal of becoming an internet celebrity, so we'll see what happens.

Relatedly, I wanted to give a shout-out and thanks to The Cosplay/Anime Costuming and Masquerade Links Site (that's a mouthful). They've very kindly provided a link to my post of photos from Genericon, which has apparently been the source of some of my newest traffic. It seems only fair that I provide the return link. If you want to see even more photos of people dressed up as characters at conventions, check out that site. Some of the work people put into their costumes is incredibly detailed and impressive! I admire that kind of dedication to a hobby.

Moving on to the second part of the post, I want to talk about a source of terror in my life outside of the internet. (Yes, I have one.) I don't have links for this; I'm not even sure where it originates. But I'm here to talk to you about a frightening creature that haunts my moviegoing experience.

One of the awesome things about the area where I live, and there are more of those than most people want to admit, is the fact that we have this beautiful old theater called the Roxy. The Roxy is over 75 years old and specializes in second-run movies. Tickets are just three dollars, with concessions being comparitively priced, but the trade-off is that they only show one movie at a time. If you don't mind this, however, it's a great deal. The theater stays true to its roots; the 1920s-era art deco style of decorating is still very much in evidence all over the building. It's just a really neat place.

I love the Roxy. I've been going there since I was a kid. Currently in my adult years, it's a favorite destination for outings with my 'partners in crime,' Jess and Andrea. We were there just yesterday, in fact, because they're currently showing Voyage of the Dawn-Treader (fourth viewing, still crying like a baby every time). We love the theater, the movies, the popcorn, the laughs, the prices. But possibly more than anything else, we love being unified in our undying loathing of a creature we have decided to call "Satan's Grandma."

This is not a real person. This is a character. You see, the Roxy doesn't show trailers before its movies. But what it does show instead is a PSA of sorts, roughly a minute long (though it feels more like ten), talking about good theater-going manners. You know, like turning off your cell phone and not talking and throwing your trash away after the movie. This is perfectly understandable.

Less understandable is the fact that the PSA's hard to describe. It almost has to be experienced to be understood. She's a little troll-like woman, with curly gray hair and blue eyes that have a tendency to bug out unexpectedly, like a serial killer waiting to strike. She sits in her kitchen, making a huge mess out of whatever batter it is that she's mixing, and talks to you as if you're her beloved grandchild.

"You're going to the movies? I'm glad. Movies are good."

Um, okay.

She continues mixing the batter for whatever it is, and continues speaking in that same syrupy tone. "You know those nice comfy seats at the movie theater? Those are other people's furniture."

Suddenly the camera angle shifts, and her eyes bug out of her head, and her tone changes harshly. "So keep your feet on the floor."

Yikes. Yes ma'am. Just as abruptly, she switches back to sweetness and light. The camera weirdly zooms in on her lips, with lipstick crookedly applied, as she explains that "Whispering is talking. It bothers people."

She talks about turning off the pager and cell phone, and puts a hand to her cheek, sighing, "So much noise!" When she pulls her hand away, there's flour on her face. She slaps at the batter with a wooden spoon, sending globs of it surfing over the side of the bowl.

"You'll be eating," she chirps. "Of course you'll be eating!" We shudder as she licks her lips while thinking about the yummy-ness of the food in question. She gestures at us with eggs in her hands, threatening to drop them with every word, admonishing us to put our trash in the trash container. "That's good manners. And I know you have good manners." She cracks the eggs into the bowl, then drops the eggshells in too.

"Now let's see those hands!" she cries, lifting up her own. They're coated in egg, flour, and heaven only knows what else. "Have a nice time at the movies, dear!" And to complete the cringing, she blows us a kiss.

I have never seen this thing anywhere but at the Roxy, and I can't even find it on YouTube. Satan's Grandma seems to exist solely in that vacuum, a local attraction of sorts, something that can't be adequately explained to those who have never had the thrill. I try to avoid her, when I go, but it doesn't seem to work. Even if I'm in the concession line, or the bathroom, I can still hear her (the theater is that small), and I still shudder. The little film just hurts my brain. On TV Tropes, we call it Bile Fascination -- I don't want to stare but I can't look away. It doesn't dampen my enthusiasm or love for the Roxy in any respect; in a way, it's almost an added draw. Every time I go, I manage to convince myself that Satan's Grandma either doesn't exist at all or she's not nearly as bad as I remember. And then I get there, and I see her in all her bizarre glory, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Ultimately I do both.

But it's a comfort to have my friends with me when I do. Because they understand. They've experienced her firsthand; they know I'm not exaggerating; they share my pain. We howl together, bury our faces in our hands, laugh and cry and pass the popcorn. It's a bonding ritual, in its own freakish way. We are together in this time, and in this place, and though we are confronted by the horror that is Satan's Grandma, the fact that we are together makes it okay.

Three dollars probably can't buy much these days, but as long as it can still buy that, I'll take it.

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