Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Game Itself Is the Point (plus: "Black Swan" revelation)

Since there's some tech-nerdery in this entry, now's a good opportunity to assure everyone that I will resume my thus far minimal and experimental Twitter use very soon and will then "follow" the intrepid people who've been kind enough to follow me already.  I'm putting a few pieces (professional and unprofessional) of the post-Fox Todd media empire in place, and then it will all come together with synergistic smoothness before my February dance performance and RLC talk, I'm sure.

The meaning of "nerd" is ambiguous and complex, and I think it was during a Star Wars convention back in the 90s that I realized some nerds are more interested in aggression and one-upmanship than my kind of nerd is.  Indeed, it was right around the moment that some larger-than-average nerd angrily said of me within earshot of two of my friends (themselves employees of sci-fi book operations): "That writer guy was talkin' ta my girl!!" 

I had always thought of myself as more of a Wars guy than a Trek guy before that moment, but you just don't hear that kind of turf-protecting machismo at the Trek events, save perhaps among the Klingons, who perceive tolerance and kindness as weakness.  (I say all this as a guy who, I swear, has been to only about three sci-fi or comics conventions in the past fifteen years.)  More broadly: we standard non-aggressive nerds dream of talking to Arthur C. Clarke on the Moon about telecommunications.  Your aggressive-type nerd pulls the wings off flies (perhaps does taxidermy as a hobby) and loves to keep track of who has been "Pwned" in massive multiplayer online games.

And some of the latter-type nerd surely weighed in on my C-SPAN2 appearance in October, sometimes with very intense opinions on whether I had "Pwned" my co-panelist (much as I appreciate being seen as the victor), whether I was in some strange sense now "over" (as if I'd used up my life points or something), and whether both my co-panelist and I look heinous. 

On that last question, let me just note: we do not, but then, most people -- including ostensibly tech-savvy gamers and media obsessives -- are unaware just how much make-up people are normally wearing under the glare of TV studio lights, whereas in this case, we not only had no make-up, we weren't even really under C-SPAN2 lighting -- let alone normal-network lighting -- but simply under the same unflattering (Georgetown) classroom lighting under which some of my detractors probably took their most recent history exam.  In person, you would surely deem me a demigod.  Yet, people with nothing to say still manage to say things that are insulting, I find.  (I, by contrast, often do self-effacing humor, even when using phrases like "demigod," but you earn no points for being self-effacing when dealing with aggressive-type nerds or garden-variety jerks, so it's all pearls before swine, with no clear solution.)

But here are some other nerd-combat notes of interest:

•Someone at the philosophy convention I attended last week noted that if you tote up God's kills vs. Lucifer's kills in the Bible, Lucifer starts looking like a relatively nice guy (unless, as Michael Malice notes, you count Revelations).

•I should tell my dance critic associate, the lovely Natalie Axton, that I, working with insightful pop culture watcher Scott Nybakken, have spotted a genuine kinesthetic trend: I swear to you I have seen far more women than usual in this town (and one effete teenage French boy, which counts) standing on the street with their ankles crossed.  Why would this odd little tic, like something from ballerina class, suddenly be happening now?  "Black Swan!" realized Scott, opining that that film had probably done wonders to reawaken the thwarted ballerina dreams of half the women in America (and one teenage French boy).  Together, Scott and I are the Faith Popcorn of the twenty-first century, and you should probably hire us as high-paid pop culture detectives and/or branding experts NOW (or at the end of the year -- I'm sort of busy).

•And don't mess with Scott in the climactic final scene because he has a samurai sword (the murderous-nerd weapon of choice, as noted in this article pointed out to me by Jacob Levy).

•And speaking of murderous nerds, I'm pleased to see that I'm not the only one who liked a song I heard on the news in 1999 that a kid sang at the official memorial service for the Columbine high school massacre victims -- a decade later, it became something of a hit on YouTube: "Friend of Mine," by Jonathan and Stephen Cohen, written in response to the killings.  Good for them. 

Might there actually be a little homage to their tune within one verse of the Decemberists' song "Won't Want for Love" from the recent The Hazards of Love?  Stranger things have happened.

•And any remaining "liberaltarians" who enjoy batting ideas around with Brad DeLong should note that the jerk has nominated far-more-awesome economist Don Boudreax, a real libertarian, for Stupidest Man Alive, along with John Tierney and Mark Perry.  Here's a thought to save time in econ class, now that the global economy is unraveling too fast to beat around the bush: Any student or professor who implies that social problems and market failures can be assumed to be spotted by government with ease comparable to that with which they are posited on the professor's blackboard immediately flunks.  My impression is that that would end about half of econ classes and enable us to begin anew.  Then we start flunking the English majors.  (No nerd aggression here.)

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