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Creating the next generation of nerds

I am not a guy who enjoys the company of children. This has been true ever since I was in high school and realized that age is no indication of childishness. It's something in the way people act that tags them as a child in my mind. I've met 10 year olds with more dignity and composure than some alleged adults I've met (or in some cases, worked with). It probably goes without saying that I have no children of my own. There are several steps in the social tech tree I would need to unlock to get to that level and I just don't see it happening any time soon.

That having been said, I do have sisters and one of them did decide to procreate. Twice. I have two nieces, 11 and 4 years old if memory serves, who are fun to hang out with in small bursts. One of my favorite activities is introducing them to the things I enjoy and see if they like it too. A few years ago, my older niece was gifted the first Harry Potter book when she turned 7. She is a prolific reader, and in between her birthday in August and Xmas, she plowed through enough of the Potter books that she was asking Santa for book 6. After that, she got to watch the movie versions.

It was around this time that I thought she was ready to sit still long enough with her uncle to watch Star Wars. I should emphasize that the original (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was one of the first movies I can remember watching. It's a deeply important film to me, though I know it hasn't aged particularly well. I was concerned that my niece wouldn't be into it. I needn't have worried, it's still as powerful as it was to me when I was a kid. However, I didn't realize until we were watching that first movie that I had a real treat coming up when we got to Empire Strikes Back. Virtually every adult knows the twist in Empire, even people who have zero interest in the galaxy far, far away. You've heard a deep breathing voice somewhere say "Luke, I am your father," even though this exact line doesn't appear in any of the films. It's been parodied to death, referenced to hell and back, it is a staple of pop culture... unless you're 7. My niece had no idea what was coming. The shocked look on her face was kind of amazing to see, and probably not something I'll ever get to experience on someone who's entered double digit years. The infamous declaration of paternity was immediately followed with the half excited, half terrified question, "Is that true?!" I asked what she thought and she determined then and there that Vader wasn't lying, which glued her attention to the screen even more. Kind of neat to see things like that still hold up.

Since then, she and I have been through all the Star Wars films, the two good Indiana Jones movies, various Batman versions (mainly the DVD copys of Batman: The Animated Series), and of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, there is one major series I held off on until last weekend. No, not The Matrix, she's not in high school yet. The Lord of the Rings trilogy... and for a very simple reason. While the three films that make up this trilogy are some my favorites and three of the finest ever made, I personally do not like the book The Lord of the Rings. I think it's an amazing piece of world building and a great history book. It's not a well paced novel*. However, I think The Hobbit is a fine piece of fiction, and a great introduction to Middle Earth. I loaned her my copy of the novel and told her to see if she liked it. The book never got read. She called it too boring. It was written strangely. It wasn't her cup of tea. This kind of bummed me out since it was reading The Hobbit that got me excited for the Rings movies. But oh well, everything can't be for everyone, I suppose. Having decided she would never get around to reading the book, I decided to try showing her Fellowship.

Short digression, I spent a lot of last summer and a fair whack of cash building an addition onto my home. I added a few hundred square feet of space to put in a pool table (I love pool, but I hate pool halls and bars. This is the best way for me, a non drinker, to play a game I like without encountering bar folk) and a projector style theater room. The two are separated by a blackout curtain and it seats six, in case you're ever in the area. It's got a damn good sound system, the picture quality is great. Anyway...

Sitting in the theater room, showing my niece Fellowship of the Ring, I was concerned again. We watched the extended cut Blu-Ray. The thing is 208 minutes, or just shy of 3 1/2 hours. What if she was bored? What if she hated it? Again, shouldn't have worried. The only parts that really upset here were Gandalf's fall and the end credits ("Why did it have to end THERE?!"). I told her we'd have to wait a month to see the next movie. When she whined, I told her that I had to wait a whole year between them when they were out in real theaters. She had no comeback for that. Besides, I need to find the time; Two Towers' extended cut is even longer...

All this is to ask, do you curate pieces of media for the young folk in your life, kids or otherwise? Do you hope they enjoy it the way you did? Do they surprise you with their differing tastes or do you find that good pieces of fiction tend to be well received? What do you look forward to showing to them? Stuff on my list includes The Terminator (and exactly one of its sequels), Tarantino movies, and Alien one day... Though I might watch it without the blackout curtain. Alien is still a freaky movie and horror is not my thing. And I still haven't shown the younger niece Star Wars yet. A chance to have the Empire shock all over again. I wonder how she'll react to it.

*This is my personal opinion and not to be taken as an assault on Tolkien. It simply wasn't an enjoyable read to me. Your mileage may vary.

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