#NerdCulture

Sorry, Mom…not my f-bomb, but still my amen to Mr. Kennedy’s sentiment.

It’s no secret: my apartment is a structural testament to a deep love of books. I have multiple bookcases, one of them taller than I am, and multiple prints from the designer at Ideal Bookshelf, artwork of differing genres all over the apartment, even on the bathroom walls and over the kitchen sink. I have a pin-up calendar in the kitchen of Hot Dudes Reading, because I think the sexiest thing a man can do is read. (The other stuff a man can do is nice, too, but kind of down the list after reading, writing, cooking, and playing a musical instrument.)

This love of books has gained me some grief in my time…painted me as a hermit, a snob, and a…nerd. The last distinction was the easiest to take (hermit is a struggle because reading is often mistaken to be exclusively solitary an activity, and snob is hard to take because I like literary fiction but the super-pretentious stuff I cannot handle well), after all I have “my books and my poetry to protect me,” to start with from Simon & Garfunkel. The definition of nerd-dom from my past experience (whether with books, in high school band, or in my choice of PBS) has usually involved some kind of social banishment. Sometimes there would be other nerds, a breakfast club of us playing all the tubas and bullied by the football players.

It seems, though, as Dan has so eloquently stated above, that nerd culture has kicked out some of its base. In some cases, some of us have to apologize for liking Coldplay, the planet formerly known as Pluto, The Big Bang Theory, or (gasp) Shakespeare. Can’t I just like the sonnets and be done? But there’s proof now he didn’t write them. So Pluto and Shakespeare can go the way of symbols, like Prince or Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

Look, newcomers to my lifetime of separation from society…if you find my eyeglasses and my Bradbury suddenly so very fascinating, can you…let me have my Richard Bach and my Woody Allen and my Hemingway anyway? I promise to love the rest of your hipster crossover and borrowing, and let you continue to pretend that you have the same awkward default as Issa Rae. I’ll look the other way at your new-found love of Trapper Keepers if you don’t say that my definition of nerd, lived so long, isn’t enough. ūü§ď

*****

The past couple of weeks in my world have been a bit hairy at work, for reasons it’s best to keep confidential at the moment, so here’s how I’ve been medicating lately…

Reading, lately: A lot of chef, food critic, and restaurateur memoirs for some reason…but I am trying to give up a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs and therefore my excitement about food is a bit diminished, so I’m hoping to gain some food love back, somewhere.

Listening, lately: nothing in particular and everything in small doses…from Jidenna to Marcus Mumford covering Dylan to James Bay like an old blanket to Ahi to…Springsteen, always. Repeat gets abused.

Watching, lately: HBO’s Insecure, because, well, she IS a nerd, ain’t no hiding. A lot of baseball because the MLB put a For Sale sign on the rest of the season and instead of $25 a month, the rest of the year is $10. Not sure how much of that applies to post-season, but I guess I’ll find out, right? With the current work situation I watch a lot of dumb comedies, like Disjointed on Netflix and Never Stop Never Stopping on HBO, sometimes on repeat like the music.

All of this, and it’s still hot and sticky in San Diego. I still run air conditioning. This forgotten corner of the world is always sunny and festering like a Petri dish. I’m looking forward to autumn, well, someday. ūüćĀūüćā

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The Boob Tube

If my parents wanted me to fit in with the world, they did a God-awful job in terms of culture. ¬†Raised on a secluded farm in Northwest Ohio, I didn’t have prolonged experience with television until high school, and my exposure with COLOR television started at about the same time as my prolonged exposure to it. ¬†I did watch a little television as a grade-schooler, all based in PBS and black-and-white films from the 30’s and 40’s.

My primary source of entertainment as a kid, young and adolescent, was reading.

Christmastime brings back that treasured activity, and if folks ask me what I want for Christmas, I usually ask for books or gift certificates to book stores. ¬†Anything literary is a hit with me. ¬†The earliest Christmas I can remember, all the way to the last “normal” Christmas I had at home in Ohio, involved gifts of books and words. ¬†When I lived at home my parents didn’t put presents under the tree; they split the couch in half and placed my gifts on one side and my brother’s gifts on the other side. ¬†In the middle, for both of us, was a luxurious spread of books, all signed with love inside the front cover in my mother’s small, spidery handwriting. ¬†I usually ended up with the collection every year, since my brother was more into games than books.

Water-cooler talk at any workplace I’ve ever had the privilege to serve has rarely drifted to books. ¬†There was some brief forays into literature with Harry Potter, but those moments were very, very brief. ¬†Always the subject of conversation was last night’s episode of something that bored me to tears if I tried to watch it, and I tried to watch over and over, hoping to understanding the draw. ¬†

Nowhere did that happen more acutely than when I worked for a little sporting goods company in Southwest Missouri called Bass Pro Shops. ¬†Bass Pro was my sustaining income while I was getting my literature degree; I taught call center employees there in the evenings full time and learned about writing and history in the mornings full time at Missouri State University. ¬†Bass Pro not only gave me the opportunity to teach, it gave me a restaurant called Hemingway’s to appreciate, and gave me a love of nature and environmentalism beyond the organic nature of my mother’s farming. ¬†But in the break rooms and on the phones with customers, I didn’t get to talk about Hemingway the man very much.

I was talking to fishermen, and hunters of all kinds.  Including duck hunters.

Which brings us back to television, and my complete lack of understanding its draw, and the backwoods shows from the Discovery Channel and A&E, particularly “Duck Dynasty.”

There’s been a lot of fuss lately over this show, thanks to an interview with its patriarch. ¬†Like most other forms of television, I tried to watch this show, and even though I used to sell duck calls and hunting accessories and I love Louisiana culture (in a Kate Chopin, Treme kind of way), I lasted only about twenty minutes. ¬†And this was before the world heard Phil talk about his views on all things cultural.

Being a writer, I believe this guy is entitled to his opinion. ¬†We all have protection of the First Amendment, provided we don’t shout “Fire!” for no reason in a crowd. ¬†I don’t believe that most of his interview was a “fire” alarm. ¬†Most of it was consistent to what I assumed he would say based on what I saw of the show. ¬†

I say most of it, because at one point he did say “Fire,” or something that rhymes with it, like “liar,” in terms of US history. ¬†And US history was my minor in college, so when I read that part, I couldn’t defend his First Amendment access for it…and I understood his appeal even less. ¬†He insisted that in his part of the world, African Americans loved life under Jim Crow, preferred it to the welfare state that they have been in since it ended, and said it in a way that insisted that anyone who said otherwise was to be dismissed. ¬†Numerous lynchings and hangings and humiliation endured were dismissed for trivial, because a star on the highest-rated US show on television said that time was preferred by the people it oppressed.

I know there’s no logic to that statement, but do the people who watch it see the logic in that statement? ¬†Do they accept it as fact? ¬†Do they believe it because they admire this show? ¬†

Do they think for themselves?

I’m reminded of a scene from a movie that I loved, with good writing, that wasn’t based on a dusty classic–Men In Black:

Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

See, wisdom. ¬†I’m hoping more people remember that movie and that sentiment than watch “Duck Dynasty” or listen to Phil…but I have to be realistic and agree with Kay…just enough.