Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ten Excessively Nerdy Things to Fear


Nerd culture isn’t just something that happens in imaginary lands, of course, so it’s worth noting, during this “Month of the Nerd II,” ten real-world (more or less) manifestation I’ve recently noticed:

•On the beautiful Saturday one week ago, in a rather strange combination of events, I walked from my place on the Upper East Side down to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan (my willingness to do that will help in coping with subway fare hikes), walked along Wall Street and saw the big bull statue, stopped in Battery Park to read a novel about a parasitic brain fungus causing people to form a collectivist utopia (about which, more in my October Book Selections entry) while gazing upon the Statue of Liberty and a performer in a convincing-looking movie-grade Spider-Man costume greeting people in the park for some reason, and then had a drink with some conservatives nearby and went on to party in the Village with Lisa Levy’s more liberal and arty friends. It was all very New York — and Spider-Man’s presence certainly helped.

(Yesterday wasn’t too shabby either, including my unplanned walk through a free Green Day concert in Central Park on the way to work, a live reading of a great new Lynn Rosen play called Puddy Tat inspired by that guy in the Bronx who kept a tiger and an alligator in his apartment, and seeing Terminator Salvation, which I thought rocked but was more enthused about than my companions. It wisely elided the issue of whether Judgment Day is supposed to have occurred in 2004 [per Terminator: The Rise of the Machines] or potentially 2011 [per the TV show] at this point. It clearly didn’t happen in 1997, anyway, as I think we can all agree. Unless we’re in the Matrix now. Or an alternate timeline, of course. Let’s move on, shall we?)

•Spider-Man (and theatre) reminds me that Julie Taymor, the director behind the visually-striking Titus, the stage Lion King, and Across the Universe (who is this year directing Helen Mirren in a gender-switched version of The Tempest), is going to direct a Spider-Man Broadway musical with songs by U2. This is one of those cases that suggests someone is my kind of nerd but not a case where multiple elements that I’d find cool in other contexts would necessarily fit together well (remember that entry about fan fiction I posted yesterday). Similarly, I am opposed to the spaghetti-covered pizza my mother once ordered out of perverse curiosity at a restaurant — and even more so opposed to the Domino’s Oreo Dessert Pizza.

(And I should confess, especially to younger readers who may not have my patience for U2, that they’ve basically sucked for nearly two decades now, whereas in my mind their astounding circa-1980s stuff will always loom unimaginably larger than anything they did afterwards, redeeming all else — but more thoughts along those lines during June, this blog’s “Month of Rock!”)

We’ll see. They say the costumes will be spectacular, and I’m curious how they’ll (reportedly) do the character Swarm, who’s a man-shaped cloud of bees. (As for Helen Mirren, not only has she played Ayn Rand and a gender-switched Prospero, she used to love cocaine, she readily admits. Come to think of it, I was at a party she attended once — as was playwright David Lodge. I wonder if she was on anything. As the linked article notes, she gave up coke to fight Nazis, though.)

•You may have read those news stories about a man killing a couple others in a swordfight last month. Is the country becoming a giant Society for Creative Anachronism event now?

•There’s a long tradition of changing the real world through political novels, but I question whether dystopian superhero novels by Las Vegas libertarian columnist Vin Suprynowicz such as The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Resistance will get the job done (sorry).

•There is a Wii game featuring the beloved, hilarious, moderately evil online cartoon character Strong Bad (called Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People), and I love the fact that one phase of the game is called “Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective.” Here, by the way, is a picture of Missy Palmer, voice of Marzipan and wife of Mike Chapman, less-vocal half of the brothers behind Strong Bad and friends.

•In some ways, the culture seems to keep getting more “intense” (celebrating Ice Road Truckers and all, as well we should). All nerds who admire the ideal of non-nerdiness, then, should be pleased there’s a TV series dedicated to determining, across history and fighting styles, who would be The Deadliest Warrior (which might also help with Dave Kasten’s zombie-ninja-pirate conundrum). This investigation was also the original idea, more or less, behind “ultimate fighting” (a.k.a. Mixed Martial Arts, illegal in New York thanks in part to a crusade against it by John McCain). MMA has quickly evolved into all grapplers, so aside from the death part, maybe we have our answer.

•How the real world will treat the increasing number of real-life amateur superheroes, such as the Shadow Hare, pointed out to me by Bretigne Shaffer, remains to be seen.

•It’s sort of cutely hyper-nerdy that one of my co-workers recently wrote an article that used scientific notation even while talking about amounts of money, without even stopping to think about whether that’s unusual. It didn’t seem to bother the Brits who published her article, either, but I edited it to just use the standard “$1 billion,” etc. format when reprinting it on our site.

•It’s far less cute that Sen. Chuck Schumer intervened to end an experiment in metering broadband use in New York, on some sort of ostensibly pro-consumer but anti-capitalist grounds, recently. Wouldn’t want the market rationally allocating things, after all, when we could limp along with the usual method of charging everyone the same high price and then having government complain about it and impose regulations. And you wonder why we don’t have rocket packs and robot butlers yet.

•Speaking of political economy, this comedy piece, combining science and econ, may be the nerdiest of the many brilliant (and recently InstaPundit-linked) items on the Op-Toons site a friend of mine (who shall remain anonymous) creates. We need it (and at ACSH, my co-workers recently noted this wonderful cartoon, which perfectly sums up what my job is about fighting every single day, for those who still don’t understand what we’re up against and why everything you believe is probably wrong).


Tim said...

It didn’t seem to bother the Brits who published her

article, either, but I edited it to just use the standard “$1

billion,” etc. format when reprinting it on our site.

Uh Oh. You used “billion” in a British publication for


Todd Seavey said...

Only _our_ site, which remains 100% American. It’s even in our name.

Jacob T. Levy said...

While David Lodge has written a couple of plays, I’d say he’s best known as “novelist David Lodge, who often writes affectionate but sharp satires of literary academia.” Changing Places and Small World are the masterpieces of the academic-life genre of novels. And if you’ve never read “Thinks…”, you really should.

Todd Seavey said...

Well, I’ve read _Small World_, but in _this_ particular case, the party was to celebrate the reading (featuring Judd Hirsch) for a backers’ audition of one of Lodge’s plays — and I politely got out of the way when Lodge and Mirren seemed to be chatting up a storm.

I was there at the invitation of the late Jack Temchin, then a head of Manhattan Theatre Club, back when I worked at Glenn Young’s now-defunct Applause Books, which Jack helped me escape — affecting my transition from publishing to advertising, with TV news the next step.

Jack also gave away the fact that Kirk would die in _Star Trek: Generations_, excited that he’d heard about it from his friend Malcolm MacDowell, but I forgive him. My favorite Jack story, though, is that he saw _2001_ in the theatre when it came out and thought that he was failing to follow the plot because he was stoned, but when he described what he remembered to people, they assured him that _was_ the plot.

While it crosses my mind: any praise of academic novels must include urging everyone to read Kingsley Amis’s _Lucky Jim_, which captures anger and frustration beautifully.

pulp said...

The book isn’t The Green Brain or The White Plague…is it?

Todd Seavey said...

It’s _The City of the Sun_ by Brian Stableford — not to be confused with the original, centuries-old _City of the Sun_ by Tommaso Campanella. But more on _both_ in October.

THE said...