Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ridin' Nerdy

Despite the nearly endless variety in our appearances, we hairless apes spend a lot of time and effort to distinguish ourselves from one another. Ironically, we often do this through our proclamation of allegiances and the various groups and philosophies we choose to associate ourselves with. Sometimes these allegiances are spiritual (believer vs. non-believer, Protestant vs. Catholic) or reflect how we prefer to produce or access information (readers vs. viewers, Mac vs. PC), but others are more whimsical, like what sports team we support, or our cola preference.
When it comes to the brands, symbols and logos you see displayed on vehicles, it can run the gamut of these and more. A lot of rear windows have the Sikh Khalsa Khanda symbol (three swords and a circle), but as someone outside that community, I'm embarassed that it took me as long as it did to recognize its significance compared to, say, the 'stone' logo of Volcom, a clothing manufacturer with links to skate and snowboarding.
As the first clothing company to create their own record label (!), I can see the appeal, but it has always struck me a little funny that people would carry their brand-loyalty to the point where they are spending their own money to put a huge corporate logo on their car or truck. Likewise, while I understand and appreciate the myriad variations on the ancient 'ichthyos' or 'Jesus fish' theme (including the Darwinian variety), the dedication by so many others to 'Fox Racing' continues to mystify me. I sometimes wonder how many people who sport that brand of clothing are aware (or even care) about its roots in the sport of motocross. And then I realize I am probably overthinking things a bit.

Am I though? Isn't a part of the reason we fly these colours to tell the world about ourselves? Look at the rear window stick figure families, and both the iterations and backlash they have generated. We've had a half-century of bumper stickers covering everything from political affiliation though the academic achievements of our offspring and the places we've been to, to our driving priorities (my favourite was the proper Jeep with a sticker that said "Yours may go faster but mine goes everywhere"), all in a bid to say something about who we think we are.

When someone's window tinting contains the words "No Fear" or its rebuttal "Fear This", I chalk it up to some kind of insecurity, but when one sticker said "14 Words", I actually did get a little frightened...of what I might do in response.

In the end though, it turns out I am just superficial as the next guy, and have themed all the decals on our Flex to the sci-fi show Firefly.

Firefly was a wonderful but short-lived program from that told entertaining and insightful stories about friendship, loyalty, and the necessity of standing up to authority once in a while, whatever the cost.

I picked up the 'Engineered by Firefly' one at the Calgary Expo last year, as well as the embroidered patch I put up inside. I was especially pleased when one of my friends thought the sticker was legit, and asked if that was part of the reason I had purchased this particular vehicle!

A 'Shiny' decal went up at the same time, but I applied it poorly and was glad to find a replacement at the Edmonton Expo last weekend. I got a handful of others as well, and got Glory's help in determining where to put them.
I've always been the fan of 'crypto-nerdery', an oblique approach to sharing your particular fandom, a geeky shibboleth that we can use to find each other. Instead of an 'X-Men' t-shirt, we'll have a patch on our jacket for Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters; instead of a 'Star Trek Lives!' bumper sticker, we might have a decal of a Klingon trefoil, or the Vulcan IDIC symbol (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations). In the case of Firefly, it means dressing up my humble station wagon as an interplanetary vehicle from a televised space western.

I was really unsure about where to place this one, as it really would make more sense on the inside, since it is a type of bridge plating replicated from the set of the show. I toyed with putting it next to the fuel door, but ended up putting it beside the aft starboard port crew access- I mean, the left passenger door, on the window pillar.
One place I allowed the Flex to 'break character' was in the decal depicting the 10th character of the show: the eponymous Firefly class ship itself, Serenity. In addition to being a big fan of its design, I thought there should be at least one element that other fans could recognize while driving past, as opposed to the tiny details of most of the other stickers.
Lastly, I added the Serenity kanji characters from the film to the opposite side because a) it balanced things out a little, and b) it just looks cool. Plus, who doesn't want at least a little more serenity in their life?
Between this and the "Wash is my co-pilot" license plate frame, I think I have played out this theme about as far as I am willing to go. The temptation to add a sticker with the phrase, "I am to misbehave..." is still there, certainly, but feels a bit disingenuous (not so much that I would never misbehave, but the idea that I would give others an opportunity to prepare for it beforehand). Well, okay, obviously I am going to need one of those Serenity key chains from ThinkGeek, but I have enough points that I believe I can get one free with my next order as soon as the Hydra polo shirt comes back into stock...

In the meantime though, I look forward to the Fireflex prompting knowing grins and nods of acknowledgment from fellow fans, and from the rest, either a complete lack of reaction, or perhaps the same bewilderment that 'Metal Mulisha' window stickers provoke in me.

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