January 25, 2013

Geek of the Week: Meet Kristen

What's your name?

Where are you from?
Pittsburgh, PA

What does it mean to you to be a geek/nerd?
The lover of words and language that I am, this is one that I feel that I've never been able to articulate quite to my liking. There are plenty of definitions out there about what being a geek/nerd "is", but here are my thoughts:

To me, being a geek has always been linked with a strong desire to want to know everything you possibly can know about a particular matter. To be so passionately consumed by something that you're obsessed, in a good way. You're a really enthusiastic guru of sorts. You care for said geektastic topic as if it's family; it is, in a way, it's a part of you, and it hits home on some level, wether through personal connection, a feeling of camaraderie, or something different. Being a geek is about having an enthusiastic thirst for something you love!

What are 2–5 things you're particularly passionate about?
  • Reading. Words. Novels. Literature. Books. Good stories! (And digital adaptations)
  • Languages
  • Video games as an art and narrative form
  • I could be a grown up and say something about organization and list making (I love me some sticky notes), but honestly, Sailor Moon. I will forever be nine years old and that's just fine with me.

Ed. note: This photo is of Kristen reading when she "should have" been getting ready for prom. 

Why are you passionate about these things?
I love anything and everything to do with reading. As a former English major, give me a book or story and I'm immediately picking it apart, exploring every theme that piques my interest and looking for meaning in what I read. Academia hasn't ruined my love of a good story, though. I was the girl who spent summers in the library and always had enough pizza to go around from my Book-It accomplishments. Words fascinate me, they always have, and being able to learn new things, to escape into a vivid and exciting world, to think on topics both external and internal has led to some of the most fulfilling moments and revelations of my life. Reading touches my soul in the way music does for others. From perfectly articulated sentences that can move you to solemn introspection, to a well-crafted story spun for pleasure, I've so far only met three books I haven't liked at least a little bit. Also, I probably have more fictional character attachments than living friends. xD
Ed. note: I know those feels well!

I'm also quite passionate about promoting reading, whether it be through local library visits, or researching and writing about reading in a digital medium.

On that note, languages. I got kicked out of my Spanish class's review games for a few years because I would just obliterate everyone else and win the game within minutes. Whoops. They've always come natural to me, which I'm sure is one reason why I enjoy them so much, but also the way phrases are emotions are expressed in other languages amazes me. Some Japanese phrases are ridiculous in how much subtlety (or powerful images) they contain, and I'm always left in awe.

As for video games? I'm gonna go big here and say that Final Fantasy VII changed my life. I remember being eight or nine playing it on my grandparents' PC in the basement. It was a story, and it was beautiful and captivating and, yes, I cried. I still do. But from there on out I was hooked. Video games are fun, sure, but as I got older (and as I wrote many thesis papers in college), the narrative component - namely the participatory component—of video games became increasingly important to me. I suppose it's the same reason I love reading. To be immersed in a world, with characters, with abilities, with choices, is absolutely magical, and a step up from just reading about someone else's adventures on a page—you get to have a say (to some degree of course, depending on the game)! Video games are a really great interactive and rich story, or movie even, and that's just awesome.

Aside from the nostalgic ties I have to watching Sailor Moon on Toonami everyday after school, it was bold, sentimental, and just a generally kick ass anime. I could get terribly emotionally involved here, but having a show like that, having heroines that were flawed yet realistic as a young girl was empowering. I learned many a lesson from that show, and years later, I'm stick geeking out about the reboot this summer!

Do you have any special or hidden talents?
I kid you not, I can lick my elbow. Not that I'd consider that a talent, per say. I did beat this pretty awesome Bop-It-esque game of my cousin's on Christmas Eve after 3 glasses of wine. I still hold the high score in the family, of which I am quite proud.

(Also, it's a totally simple yet addicting game. Curse you, QVC!)

What was your favorite book/movie/TV show/other from 2011?
It took me until last year to finally watch BBC's Sherlock but now I'm addicted and Peter Jackson is withholding my favorite sleuths from me. Read Mieville's Embassytown, which I enjoyed, but I think Ishiguro's Remains of the Day took the cake this past year.

What book/movie/TV show/other are you most looking forward to in 2012?
I can't wait for Game of Thrones to be back on television, and am dying a little on the inside waiting for Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby to hit theaters. Also, any news on Star Wars Ep. VII would be appreciated before I worry myself into a frenzy.

Do you have a "go-to" karaoke/Rock Band song? What is it?
I was forced by my Japanese host parents to sing Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" on multiple occasions. But I'll still always go for a round of "Billie Jean" when with a group of friends.

What are three websites you like to visit every day?
Most of the websites I go to are tools I use, either to check email, peruse Twitter, or jot down notes in Evernote, which I feel most of you probably know of or use already. So I tried to pick the fun ones for here. : )

The Mary Sue
The Great Gatsby game

Ed. note: How have I never heard of TeuxDeux before? I love list apps!

Do you have a blog/website/Twitter name/etc. that you'd like to share?
My Life as a Teacup

Any additional comments or thoughts?
Thank you, thank you, thank you for having me! You've created one of my favorite series in the blogiverse right now—I think the ability to learn about others and their passions is such an eye opener, especially in an era where labeling and identity declaring is such the rage. Awesome human beings are just that, awesome, no matter what they're passionate about! Thanks, Mandy!
Ed. note: Gosh, thanks! I'm so glad to have the chance to introduce all of you to each other—and to learn more about you in the process!

Kristen's bonus questions:

What are the three books that you didn't like at all? What was it about them that made you feel that way?
Animal Farm, Love in Translation, and Breaking Dawn. For some reason, I'm usually okay with most books. Even one I come out of not enjoying is usually not subject to harsh treatment. Most times, even books I don't like I will finish (especially true of a short series) just to settle my mind and say that it's complete. But these three are ones that stand out as complete fails. Animal Farm was one I read in high school and for some reason just loathed it. I think a combination of being too long and too blatantly a parable bored me. Love in Translation was just bad. I don't mind a fluffy, quick-read romance story, but this. No. No, no, no. Breaking Dawn was also horrifyingly bad. I won't launch into my essay-length thoughts on Twilight here in full, but I don't like the series for a number of reasons. I still wanted to give it a read though, to be able to come to that conclusion on my own. I can live with the first few books. But this is the first and only book that I've put down, mid-sentence. Why read the bizarreness that happened in this book when I can just watch Alien and actually enjoy Ripley kicking ass.

Even those books that aren't my favorite usually capture me in some way. It's like going to see an action movie at the theater. Good entertainment, not necessary to own on DVD, probably not ever going to be nominated for an Oscar. Still entertaining.

What are your thoughts on move or TV adaptations of books? Do you have to work to separate them or are they completely different stories to you?
I used to be a staunch member of the "books or bust" club, but after a very thought-provoking class during my undergrad, as well as some really well done adaptations in the past few years, I've stopped being up in arms about my favorite books being turned into movies and subsequently "ruined". With any adaptation, there's a fear of not doing the original material justice. Luckily, there are very few adaptations that I've found to be in the "utter crap" category (the recent remake of Brideshead Revisited, sadly, is one of those) so then it's just a matter of creative liberties. A movie can't contain each word and punctuation mark of the book, and understandably so, and in that process comes selective editing that may remove favorite lines or combine characters, or change the order or events. It takes me an intentional reminding sometimes, but once I tell myself that, yes, sacrifices sometimes need to be made, and some things translate better on screen - film is a completely different medium, and what works on a page may not work or even be physically possible on screen—I'm usually pacified. Plus, who doesn't love seeing their favorite worlds and characters come to life?

Thanks, Kristen, for being a Geek of the Week!

If you'd like to be a future GotW, please email me.


  1. Cool to see a fellow Sailor Moon fan! It's rare to find people who admit to being one, lol. I'm really looking forward to the reboot as well.

    1. Hello, fellow Sailor Moon fan! No shame! I have a wand that lights up and plays music and everything :D

  2. As a gamer interested in the narrative experience have you played "Shadow of the Colossus" or "Journey?" I love how they evoke such strong emotional responses using such minimal means.

    I would be lying if I said I never watched Sailor Moon as a kid. It was the first anime I remember being exposed to. I never followed it closely, but I remember liking it because in my mind it was somehow tenuously related to space.

  3. Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorites! But Journey isn't one I've played before. But a quick Google search on it, and it sound absolutely amazing! Definitely going to be looking into that one more. Shadow of the Colossus is a game I love just for that reason - its simplicity. The story really resonates, despite not having all of the fancy bells, whistles, or long expository cut scenes and dialogue of most games.

    Sailor Moon has always been inextricably tied up with space in my mind, even if that just means learning the names of Mars' moons and firmly believing Pluto still has planet status due to having a senshi. It also taught me a lot of basic Japanese words that I still go "hey, I know that from Sailor Moon" despite learning them in a formal college classroom :D

  4. What a fabulous interview! Loved reading your answers Kristin, and I'm definitely running over to add you to my RSS reader. =)

    1. Thank you, Becca! Seriously, please stop over and blogger-/internet- hang! :D

  5. yeah sailor moon!! also my first anime and holds a special place in my heart (mostly for the dreamy tuxedo mask). i completely agree about the best games being ones that you can fall into a story and get lost. of course i love the knights of the old republic series but the first game i remember playing and really noticing that there was a story i loved was jade empire. when my xbox exploded i purchased the pc version just so i could keep playing.