Thursday 27 November 2014

Defining Age Appropriateness in Television and Films For Your Geekling


Most people are familiar with the Canadian rating system of G, PG, 14A, 18A and R, if only from knowing which movie theatre rooms they’d be permitted to enter as teenagers. What kids watch on television though is for the most part only regulated by parental supervision. Being as how geeks deeply love their particular brand of pop culture, it’s natural to want to share everything with your geeklings. I’m here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t let your children watch.

Just kidding; to each their own. I would like to share some related experiences though, and also promote the bejesus out of an insightful website called Common Sense Media.


There are two instances as a kid that I knew I was watching something I shouldn’t be. The first was Tim Burton’s Batman, rated PG-13. I was six or seven and watched only parts of the film with some older cousins. The storyline was lost on me and, well, I ended up terrified of Batman, like afraid to fall asleep at night because Batman. Batman was sulky, serious, overpowering and hid behind a mask while Jack Nicholson as the Joker just looked goofy. Sometime afterwards YTV aired reruns of the 1960s Batman series and that was an instant cure the my Batmanaphobia. 

The other time I knew I was watching something I shouldn’t be I was 11 or 12 and it was Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, rated R. The location where I watched it and the sequence made the experience memorable. It was a Christmas party at my aunt’s house with my Portuguese family (comparable to Toula Portokalosk’s family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding). My Christmas wish list that year included Fast Times because I was eagerly awaiting the release of Clueless and thought to check out the only other film directed by Sterling in the meantime. My parents bought it for me and I brought it to watch at the gathering. I watched it in the living room side of an open concept dining area - I picked up on the mature subject matter and swearing but no one seemed to notice so I kept watching. The moment 15 year old Stacy’s breasts appeared on the screen in her devirginization scene I knew I was in trouble. I froze and watched as 20 Portuguese adults went from talking over each other at deafening volumes (their normal) and children running around playing with toys all fell into a stunned still silence all heads turned to the television set. My mom got up, nervously fidgeted with the VCR (the scene was over by then), yelled at me, and confiscated the movie for a few weeks while my dad reviewed it (in retrospect, yes, that is weird).

These experiences didn’t cause me to overly helicopter what my children watch. I still take max flexibility on the rating system when determining what I allow my kids to watch. They did however emphasize the importance of talking about storylines during or after a viewing, emphasize positive messages, and try to either watch or read up on films before the kids watch them. My main grievances as a parent usually relate to content that reinforces stereotypes and misogyny, and the inclusion of product placement, factors that amazingly are considered in ratings by Common Sense Media.


Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that takes seemingly everything under consideration to review television shows (among other media). They individually rate a show’s educational value, positive messages, positive role models, violence/scariness, sexy stuff, language, consumerism, and drinking/drugs/smoking on a scale of one to five. Age appropriateness is colour coded, with green meaning age-appropriate, yellow meaning it depends on the kid, and red meaning there are serious issues to consider. The reviews themselves involve a one paragraph synopsis of the rating and elaboration of four straightforward categories: “what’s the story?”, “is it any good?”, “families can talk about…” and “movie details”. In addition, user reviews include a most appropriate age so everyone has a chance to make a pitch for a younger/older audience. 

Let’s have a look at the high-level details of some geeky favourites to see how they fare.

Kiki’s Delivery Service, a Hayao Miyazaki classic that makes a great introduction to anime, gets a fairly positive review. Common Sense Media judges the minimum age for which the content is relevant as 5.

The synopsis for the original Ghostbusters on the other hand may cause some parents to think twice, or at least click on the green factors for more information. A lot of popular 80s films score surprisingly high in sex, language, consumerism, and drinking/drugs/smoking (see also: The Goonies, Indiana Jones, and Short Circuit). 

I watched Michael Bay’s Transformers with my son when he was five and it was a great disappointment. I was excited to introduce him to the world of Autobots and Decepticons and while I expected violence I was caught off guard with the racism, stereotypes and explicit swearing.

I appreciate the insights provided by Common Sense Media but in the end think it comes down to knowing your kids and what value/harm viewing something will have on them. As part of that, we need to respect other parents’ decisions as well when their kids are over. We used to host an annual Halloween-themed night for my daughter’s entire class and as a part of it they watched Arachnophobia in grade 6 and Poltergeist in grade 7. The films were noted on the invitation and their rating and genre were mentioned to parents when they dropped off their kids. We piled the tweens in the basement for the viewing and the ensuing screams and hugs really (kids who didn’t want to watch hung around the snacks upstairs). They still talk about it to this day and to my knowledge no chronic nightmares ensued.


Last Sunday my 14 year old daughter and I rushed to Pop Expo to get James Marsters’ autograph, who to us is none other than Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to our fangirl delight he was pretty chatty with us (!). He talked about be genuinely angry during the photoshoot in which the photograph we were having signed was taken. Marsters recalled that the photographer had asked him to twirl in order to lift his cape, and he replied that if he’d heard of the character he was shooting he’d know that he sucks people’s blood and kills them, and wasn’t about to dance or twirl. Marsters planned to reject all photos taken that day, but when he saw his genuinely pissed off face in the proofs it turned out to be his all-time favourite Spike photo.

{TRIGGER WARNING} My daughter had been in Marsters’ Q&A the previous day and thanked him for the way he handled the bathroom scene question from the episode Seeing Red of season 6. The scene deals with attempted rape and at the time that it aired was the only episode in the series to have to air at a later time of night on YTV. This led into me sharing with Marsters having first watched Buffy starting in high school and the experience of watching it last year with my daughter, despite a few uneasy moments in the storyline like the bathroom scene, and really appreciating him having spoken to it. Marsters LOVED that I shared the show with her. He high fived me for it and told my kid that his parents have never watched a single episode of Buffy as it isn’t their genre (gasp!). He was all smiles and said Buffy makes a great show to grow up with because it conveys the message that you can do anything. He grew up watching Planet of the Apes which preached humanity being doomed and hopeless, and so how amazing it would be to grow up on such a positive message. 

Marsters also told us about how he’s only ever met one person who confessed to not liking Buffy, and giving Sarah Michelle Gellar’s size as the reason, saying it just isn’t believable that a small framed girl would be that strong. Marsters said he put that guy in his place, stating he’s worked with similarly sized female stunt devils that are triple black belts and they can kick anyone’s butt. But also didn’t he catch the part about the Chosen One’s super strength?? We told him about how when we started kickboxing we pretended we were Slayers and that our instructor was our Watcher. We were quite giddy by this point at how personable he was being and as a result started talking too much.

Overall the conversation brought home to me how much series can change over time, and how this era of marathon series watching means kids don’t grow older at the same pace as the characters do. Season 1 of Buffy was okay for say, a 10 year old, but seasons 6 and 7 not so much, and that 10 year old isn’t 17 by the end of the series but still only 10. It’s just one more thing to consider when judging when to share our favourite fandoms with our geeklings. 

Angela is a 30-something year old mom of three kids - a baby, a school-aged kid and a teenager – and a furbaby, living in Orleans with her geek soul mate husband. She studied English Literature and Social Work but took an unexpected turn somewhere and ended up working as a policy analyst for the feds. Hobbies include reading, playing boardgames and Magic: the Gathering, cooking healthy foods, blogging, and discussing favourite tv shows and movies. She is the proud organizer of the Ottawa Geek Social Club, which strives to provide meetup opportunities that reflect the many facets of geekdom and beyond!

Tuesday 25 November 2014

John Barrowman Live at Ottawa Pop Expo


Source: Ottawa Pop Expo facebook
Credit:Petra Hudakova
There are three things you can expect from every John Barrowman panel: insanity, innuendo and inspiration.  It was no different this past Saturday when he took the stage in Hall 4 at Ottawa Pop Expo as this year’s Guest of Honour.  After shooing away the moderator and making sure he had plenty of room to wander around the stage, the Scottish-born actor best known as Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood, led the crowd in a Q&A that touched all aspects of his career on stage, screen and page. 

Starting with his current role as principled villain Malcolm Merlyn on The CW’s Arrow, John expressed his gratitude for “whatever you put in the water up here” that resulted in Stephen Amell.  While Amell has often stated that he asks Barrowman for advice on how to be the leading man on a popular TV show, he may be picking up some of John’s bad habits as well.  During the previous week’s filming, he explained that Stephen began to use a comedic limp  when the camera was strictly on John in an effort to make him crack up.  He also explained that if you are in the make-up trailer when Amell is getting Oliver’s extensive scarring and tattoos applied, the special chair he has to sit in leaves little to the imagination- and he’s not complaining. 

When asked about what he thought of both Captain Jack’s immortality and his future as The Face of Boe, Barrowman told a charming pair of stories that both involved John not reading his scripts soon or carefully enough.  When he received the scripts for the end of series one of Doctor Who, he was so devastated at Jack’s death that he didn’t bother finishing reading the episode. It wasn’t until the table read that he finished the script and was elated to find out the good Captain didn’t stay dead. By series three, he left poor David Tennant  practically bursting to tell him about the Face of Boe when the good Doctor finished reading the script two days ahead of John.  Both stories were accompanied by impersonations and theatrics that had the audience howling with laughter. John said he loves that omni-sexual Jack had inspired people and made them comfortable in their own skin. He said he didn’t know if being open about his own sexuality had lost him any roles or garnered any negative feedback, and that if it had he really didn’t care. 
Source: Ottawa Pop Expo facebook
Credit:Petra Hudakova

As for whether he would be back on Doctor Who anytime soon John answered that he honestly didn’t know. He would love to return but it was in the hands of the current show runners. In the meantime, on top of his work with Arrow, John and his sister Carole Barrowman have been commissioned to continue their popular children’s fantasy series Hollow Earth. The next series will take place several years after the end of Book of Beasts and be more grown up to accommodate the aged characters.  

After running over time to make sure that several children who had patiently waited in line got to ask their questions, John thanked the crowd for not only their attention during the panel, but for their ongoing love and support which provides him with the life he always dreamed of.  He then went back to his autographs booth for an impromptu signing session just because he was having too much fun. 

Courtney Lockhart lives in the west end of Ottawa with her husband and step-cat.  She is polishing her skills to pursue one of her dream careers as either a costume drama character, Torchwood operative or executive assistant to a billionaire vigilante. You can follow her daily mission to DFTBA on Twitter @corastacy.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

The Good, The Awesome and the Stress of NaNoWriMo

By Marie Victoria Robertson
Hey look, we’re in the second half of November! Show of hands, who’s participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you cool as a cucumber because you’re in the home stretch of novel-writing, or are you frantically calculating how many words a day you need to write to finish on time?

Incidentally, it’s pronounced “Nah-no wry-moh”, and for the uninitiated, stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s that once-a-year kick in the arse a lot of aspiring writers (and some seasoned pros) need to finally get started on that novel that’s been percolating in their brains for all this time.
So what’s the deal with NaNoWriMo? Founded in July 1999, the idea was to unite people through a common goal—writing 50,000 words (about the size of a small novel) in a month. NaNoWriMo has well over 200,000 participants now. You sign up through the official NaNoWriMo website, write your novel piece by piece in your own word processor, and update your word count on the site as you progress. You “win” by reaching the 50,000-word count before the end of the month. It’s open to anyone around the world writing in any language of their choosing. 
For a lot of aspiring writers, getting that first novel finished can be daunting. NaNoWriMo is the perfect motivation, keeping you encouraged and accountable for your writing. 
I’m personally not participating this year, though I have in the past. By the time of this article’s release, it will be too late to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2014, but here is some advice you can store away for next year, or hold on to for whatever writing project you’ve got on the go. 
You may not be allowed to type out a word of the novel itself before November 1st, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outline. Seriously, outline. The first piece of writing advice I always give my students is to lay out the plan for your novel. You’ve seen artists draw out a quick pencil sketch before they get to work, right? The same applies to writing. Write down your story arcs from start to finish, flesh out your characters, make sure you know exactly how your story’s going to end, even if it’s going to change later. You’ll feel much more inspired to write if you know exactly where you’re going.  
The most wonderful part of NaNoWriMo is the community aspect. Participants help each other stay motivated thanks to local write-ins, support through forums, and pep talks
What you’re writing down now is not your final draft. It’s supposed to “suck”, to not make sense, to look like terrible writing. You’re going to edit this later, but you can’t edit anything unless you have a first draft, and since you’re on a time limit, you need to focus on getting to the finish line first. You’re much better off with 50,000 words to edit than 500 words of “perfect” writing. 
Maybe you’re 1000 words away from the end on November 30th. Maybe you’re 25,000 words away. You know what? It doesn’t matter. Maybe you didn’t technically win, but you’ve got your novel started. Keep going into December. Keep going into January. Keep writing, and think about what you can do next year to make it to the end. 
You wrote, and that’s a hell of a lot more than other people can say. 

Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative ( When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and dressing up her kids like Ninja Turtles.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Games for Travelers

So you have travelled to a far off country, or maybe just to next province, and you have some time to kill while waiting for your connecting flight. Maybe you are on a business trip with some colleagues, and need something fun, and light to do in the middle of conference meetings. Or maybe that darned weather man said it would be beautiful tropical sun, but instead you got two days of utter downpour. Well traditionally you would go to a local bar, or read a book (or five), that you packed along for just such an occasion, but those tried and true methods can sometimes get redundant. Well they are other geeky ways you can spend your time with some nice light travel games.
The biggest thing about travelling, and bringing your own entertainment is packing light. You don’t want to be lugging around a bulky box, nor do you necessarily want a game that takes so long to set up you are just done unpacking it when the announcement for your flight boarding comes over the loudspeaker. Well don’t worry, there are quite a few games that travel well; from light hearted and speedy, to thematic, and slightly deeper strategy.
Dice Games are the most portable; there is no worry of pieces blowing in the wind. The other great thing about dice games is most of them play for two people, upwards to as many as you can fit in a room. The most well know would be Zombie Dice. You are a zombie trying to eat the most brains before being blown away by the humans escaping your clutches. Martian Dice is another where you are a Martian abducting various creatures: human, livestock, etc. and you are trying to beat other Martians (your opponents) to get the most points from your abductions. Chupacabra is another, sensing a theme here anyone? In this one you are the goat sucker, trying to suck the blood out of local livestock, and be the most successful chupacabra by stealing other chupies livestock.
Card games have come a long way from the traditional Euchre, and 500. Those are still good fun games but if you are looking for something new, there is certainly lots to choose from. Gloom plays two people but gets a lot more interesting with more and can play up to four, more with expansions. You are in control of a family and you are trying to give them the worst life possible, and kill them off when they are down as far as they could be. Keeping in mind you opponents are trying to do the same with their family and thus may play cards on your guys to make them have a happy, and fulfilling life.  Hanabi is a cooperative game that plays up to four people. You are trying to put on the most fantastic fireworks display. The trick is, you don’t get to see your cards but everyone else does; so you are trying to give the best information to your team mates before they play a card. Being careful not to set your display off too early and losing the game. Munchkin, plays 3-6; although I have played it just two people and works pretty good. There are more cards in this game but it travels light in its own skinny box. A very tongue in cheek game where you are all dungeon crawlers, trying to get to level ten by defeating monsters, all the while pilfering rooms, and amassing treasure you can use. Additionally this game has many expansions in almost every geeky theme, so you are sure to find something that you like.
What is a board-ish game? Well something that doesn’t fit in the above categories exactly but isn’t weighed down by a big… well, board and tons of pieces. Starting us off is Six. Solely a two person game where you are trying to create one of the three distinct winning patterns by placing an individual hexagonal tile each turn against your opponent; a simple mechanic with loads of strategic fun. Dungeon Roll, comes in a box shaped like a small treasure chest. You are a character trying to get the most victory points after three rounds. You are dice rolling to defeat monster dice, with the number of monsters depending equaling to the level of the dungeon you are exploring. You can stop at any level to guarantee you don’t lose all your possible points but there are only three rounds to accumulate the most and win so sometimes you may have to press your luck. Love Letter comes in a small velvet bag so travels well. You are a member of the royal court trying to get your love letter to the princess before the other suitors. A game of deduction, and luck meant for two to four players that fits in your pocket. The Resistance, a bluffing game that is best suited for more and plays up to ten players. There is an Arthurian themed version, Avalon as well. You are the good guys, maybe. There are one or more traitors amongst your group, and you need to complete missions all the while finding the traitors in your midst; who are hell bent on foiling your missions and winning by making you lose. Last but not least, King of Tokyo is a fun game of monster on monster destruction, for two to six players. A dice game, but with a tiny board of Tokyo. Monster(s) in Tokyo attack monsters outside and vice versa. Be the last monster standing, or the first to twenty victory points wins.

So when you are packing for that weekend conference, or looking at an extended stay in the Caribbean make sure to grab a game or two for a change of pace on your regular down time activities. Game on!

Married, with four fur babies, Tracy has recently rediscovered her love of board games, and has acquired a wonderful collection. Being new to writing, it is just one more newly discovered world she is exploring. At the age of 37, Tracy now proudly shows off her geekiness, through her love of crafting and creating; well, at least until she defeats Ganon with the master sword, she finds the blue crystal staff, or the TARDIS shows up on her front doorstep.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Geeks are Sexy! Meet Three Nerdlesque Performers

By Angela Hartwick

Burlesque, as in the cabaret-style stripteases of the late 19th century, has made a revival in the last few decades. As opposed to common modern stripteasing, burlesque focuses on creativity, self-expression, it can be funny or political, and its audience is mostly female. Burlesque and geekdom have teamed up so many times that “nerdlesque” is now a subgenre and, Ottawa, being a geeky hub, is seeing it thrive. I only recently heard of nerdlesque and I’m fascinated at how it redresses the stereotype our community has of being socially-awkward basement-dwellers and instead brings us together in a glittery show of confidence, allure, artistry and winsome tassels.

I wanted to learn more about it and these three local(ish) performers were lovely enough to virtually speak with me. Read on for their insights into the business.


Photo credits: Victor S. DeVice

What are your geeky interests? 
Sci-fi is definitely at the top of my geek list. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Stargate and the Mass Effect series. I also enjoy a good dose of fantasy, which I watch and read. Oh, and I cosplay so hard (I won Best in Show at the Ottawa Comiccon Masquerade 2014)

How did you first discover burlesque? 
It was less of a discovery and more of a crazy random happenstance. About a year and a half ago, I was complaining to one of the temps at work about how much I missed performing. She suggested I try burlesque (she herself moonlighted as local dancer Bibi Bourgeon), because it’s a fantastically inclusive community and a great way to perform.

She also explained, after seeing my horrified expression at the idea of stripping, that you strip down to what’s comfortable, no more (or less?). That stuck in my brain, so when I stumbled across a documentary on TV about burlesque, and they mentioned “nerdlesque”, I raced to my computer to look it up. Lo and behold! Ottawa had a nerdlesque troupe! Now THAT was something I could get into! So I contacted Ottawa’s Browncoats Burlesque, created a routine, and ended up being accepted into their ranks. Now, I aim to misbehave! ;)

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides? 
I love the adrenaline rush of being on stage in front of an audience. I’ve never been one for excessive drinking, thrill sports, and I’ve never done drugs, but I can’t imagine them being any better than the high you feel when performing.

And being able to fly my geek flag while performing is doubly pleasurable!! The downside is that creating a routine takes a lot of time, energy and money, which are not always easily available when you have a full-time job.’s worth it.

Tell us about your favourite past geeky-themed performance. 
My most recent act has become my favourite actually! I teamed up with Jasper Cox (a fellow Browncoat troupe member) to do Zydrate Anatomy from “Repo: The Genetic Opera.” I spent a whole day hot-gluing sequins to a black bra and corset to look like Amber Sweet’s getup from 
that scene in the film, and added a black wig, high boots, and pasties in a bright Zydrate-blue. I even borrowed a black leather whip from a friend. It was part burlesque, part lip-sync re-enactment, and ALL sexy. I loved it! I still have a soft spot in my heart for my very first routine, though, which was a tribute to Zoe from Firefly to Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” (the photo I sent is from this routine). I’m still proud of my Serenity pasties, ha ha!

When are you performing next and where on social media can fans follow you? 
My next official performance is Browncoats Burlesque’s annual “GeeKISSexy” show in January 2015, but I will probably end up slipping into another show or two before then. Different troupe members frequently guest in other troupe’s shows because we love to mingle! 

Interweb links: 
Twitter: @Lady_Gallifreya 
Also by liking Browncoats Burlesque, you can learn about our upcoming shows (in which I frequently perform)
Twitter: @BrowncoatsBurly 

Photo credits: Darren Boucher

What are your geeky interests?
I am mostly interested in games and literature. I play tabletop RPGs with friends (our current campaign is about the Roman conquest of Britain) and occasionally GM as well. On the video game front I am fairly casual, preferring horror games and Twine games with a staunch enthusiasm for Guild Wars 2 on the side. I studied English Literature for my undergrad and I am an avid reader—mostly of mystery, horror and fantasy. Few places make me happier than a library. I enjoy webcomics a great deal, and have been following Questionable Content and Gunnerkrigg Court for so many years that I almost feel like the characters are personal friends of mine. I like conventional comics, but I only keep current with Mouse Guard and Saga. Anime is also a cherished guilty pleasure of mine. 

How did you first discover burlesque?
I attended my first burlesque show after reading about it in an Apartment 613 blog post in 2009, and began performing in early 2010. I got my start through Rockalily's Burlesque Idol in 2010, which was a fundraiser for breast cancer research that ended up jump-starting not only my own burlesque career but also those of Lana Lovecakes, Bessie Mae Mucho, Del Roba and Kicky Laroux.     

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides?
I enjoy interacting with audiences and sharing my passion and physicality with appreciative observers. I'm also a fire artist and I love exploring the movement of flames. I like that burlesque can be funny, challenging and creative, which are not characteristics immediately associated with sexiness in mainstream culture. It's a very personal art form and every performer brings something different to the table; even within Ottawa there is an enormous breadth of style and skill, and no single show or artist could be representative of burlesque at large. There are downsides to every industry, but most problems in the burlesque industry are reflections of problems within our wider culture: racism, sexism, fatphobia, ableism, classism and other various oppressions. We also encounter the same challenges of all performing arts and live theatre, so it always means a lot to me that people spend their hard-earned cash to attend our shows. 

Tell us about your favourite past geeky-themed performance.
It's hard to pick a favourite! I definitely have a soft spot for my interpretation of Amon from Legend of Korra, because it sort of brought my headcanon to life: at the start of the series, I had initially hoped that Amon would be revealed to be a woman. Obviously the mask is central to that costume, but my favourite element is actually the pasties; I made them from plaster and hand-painted the symbol of the Equalists on them, for a "revolutionary propaganda poster" look. For music, I used a custom mix of music and dialogue from the show with "Uprising" by Muse. I also really enjoy my Carnage number, and my portrayal of Shinobu from Bakemonogatari was a geeky thrill. 

When are you performing next and where on social media can fans follow you?
On December 5 I will be at the National Arts Centre, as part of a spectacular vaudeville variety show co-produced by Stanley Mansfield, Critical Miss and Retro Joad. I am particularly excited because I think I may be the first burlesque performer to grace an NAC stage, and I'm also performing to live accompaniment courtesy of my Rockalily sister Sorry Sinatra. There will be cabaret, opera, hula hooping, magic, comedy and more! Tickets are available at the Comic Book Shoppe. 

Interweb links: 


Photo credits: Photolena

What are your geeky interests? 
I have all sorts of geeky interests, I like to think of myself as a well-rounded, and nicely curved, nerd. 

I began playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was 12 and have kept up with role-playing games as much as I can as an adult. I generally get to play more board games now, but I still join campaigns that will have me! I've taken this love and merged it with burlesque by producing a monthly show with my troupe, Nerd Girl Burlesque, called Tassels and Tabletop, where the audience watches an hour-long burlesque show, then enjoys a board game social with the performers afterwards. 

I'm very much into video games, with RPGs and FPSs being my favourite genres. I love most things made by Valve (I haven't even given up hope on Half-Life 3), as well as the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. I also play more casually on my 3DSXL. My thesis work for my Masters centres around gender and sexuality as presented in modern North American video games. 

As a kid, I used to have to make my dad drive me to the comic book store, because we lived in Hamilton and there wasn't one within walking distance. Now, I live under a ten minute walk from that same store's newest Toronto location, and I can get my fix along with a tea latte! I read everything from indies to superhero books. My favourite titles are Fables, Chew,and Batwoman. 

I don't want to bore you with too many details, so an abbreviated list of fandoms that have my heart includes Sherlock, Buffy, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Tolkien, and Hannibal. 

How did you first discover burlesque?
While it feels like burlesque has always been in my life, I know that isn't so! I saw my first show about seven years ago through some friends and was immediately hooked. I began attending shows, including the Toronto Burlesque Festival, and eventually began lessons with Coco Framboise.  

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides?
I come from a performance background, and have always loved performing. Burlesque allows me creative control over nearly all aspects of my artistic expression. I get to choose the story I want to tell, the costume, the music, the choreography, and craft and explore my own vision, rather than conforming to someone else's. I can pick the characters I want to perform as, rather than waiting for the parts I desire to become available. 

That said, I am only one person! My capabilities, and budget, only go so far. I may be able to dream up fantastical costumes and props, but ,without a team, I cannot build them. While many people imagine us to have teams of glamour minions at our service, most of the work of a burlesque dancer is done solo. I'm very lucky that I have a troupe and community around me to help me out when I'm in a costuming rut or at a loss for musical choice. 

Tell me about your favourite past geeky-themed performance.
Picking a favourite is incredibly difficult! One of them is my tribute to Sappho, the Ancient Greek lyrical poet. I was inspired by the call from local producer Scarlett LaFlamme for acts based on bad (or badass) women from history. As a queer history nerd, there was no one better I could think to base my act on. 

The act is set to an alternate version of I Kissed a Girl. I wear a (historically inaccurate) satin toga, a laurel leaf head piece, a blue underbust corset, and white rhinestoned g-string and bra. I also have a prop scroll with a bedazzled image of something very naughty and Sapphic on it and a very large ostrich feather quill pen, both of which are also used as costume pieces.

When are you performing next and on where on social media can fans follow you?
Fans in Toronto can next catch me at The Night is Dark and Full of Tassels, a Game of Thrones burlesque show on November 29 at the Great Hall, or the next day at a more intimate show at Cherry Cola's. 

Interweb links:
Twitter: @deliciapastiche
Instagram: @heroofkvatch 

Angela is a 30-something year old mom of three kids - a baby, a school-aged kid and a teenager – and a furbaby, living in Orleans with her geek soul mate husband. She studied English Literature and Social Work but took an unexpected turn somewhere and ended up working as a policy analyst for the feds. Hobbies include reading, playing boardgames and Magic: the Gathering, cooking healthy foods, blogging, and discussing favourite tv shows and movies. She is the proud organizer of the Ottawa Geek Social Club, which strives to provide meetup opportunities that reflect the many facets of geekdom and beyond!

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Board Game Lunch Club

By Sandi Moser
Last winter, I overheard an animated discussion over a Friday lunch in a closed boardroom at work. Things don’t usually get animated in my neck of the woods, particularly over lunchtime, so my interest was piqued. When the boardroom opened at the end of lunch and a group of coworkers emerged with Settlers of Catan, I was shocked. Colleagues were playing a board game right beside me and I didn’t know about it!

That afternoon, after casually asking a colleague, I learned of the existence of a group of likeminded individuals who get together periodically to play board games over lunch. I personally don’t like Settlers, but if there’s a game to be had rather than eating at my desk, I want in! I quickly secured my invitation.

In the months since that first encounter, I've joined my coworkers every second Friday for a fun-filled board game lunch. Playing games has been a great opportunity to see my colleagues in a different light. It has provided a chance to bond with colleagues with whom I don't often get to interact.
During those lunchtime game sessions, we've also inadvertently learned things about each other that help us work together professionally. For example, in teaching each other new games, we’ve learned some of our preferred learning methods. In playing the games, we’ve learned how we think strategically. I've been surprised to see just how competitive some coworkers can be, and who can trash talk with the best of them (which may come in handy professionally one day, you never know). I work in a bilingual environment, so it has also gives a fun opportunity to practice my second language on occasion.

A side bonus to our board game lunch crew is exposure to new games (thank you M for introducing me to Zeppelin Attack!). We take turns bringing in our favorite games, providing opportunities to test drive new games.

A couple of things to think about if you want to start your own board game lunch at work:
  • Choose a location that will cause the least disturbance to other co-workers. In our case, we book a low-traffic boardroom.
  • Be flexible with everyone's work schedules and the use of the boardroom if someone else needs it for business purposes - work should still come first.
  • While it is a social activity, continue to be somewhat professional (ie, watch your language). Essentially, remember you are still at work and need to interact with your coworkers when the game is done.
  • Focus on games that can be completed in 30-45 minutes, or that can be modified to be completed early. Carcasonne is a good choice, since it can be ended at any time.
  • As with any board game session, keep the ability of the group in mind when choosing a game. For example, working in a bilingual group, try not to choose games like Dominion that require players to be constantly reading English instructions on the cards as they're played.

If you’re looking for a new way to get to know your coworkers, consider starting your own Board Game Lunch. You may be surprised how much you learn about each other.

Sandi is a 30-something environmental engineer and mother of two from the metropolis of Stittsville, Ontario. In her spare time, Sandi enjoys playing board and video games, reading books, watching movies, and crocheting. She looks forward to sharing her geeky endeavours with you, as well as reporting on the next generation’s response to those endeavours.

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