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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Forgot to mention I finished Nugent's American Nerd last week, and while I found the latter half of the book to be a little padded, I thought the first part was a good social examination of the nerd/geek/dork phenomenon, and how these types came into existence. Interesting points:
  • To know where nerds come from, you need to know where jocks came from, since that's the norm they run opposition to. And jocks go back to notions of 'muscular Christianity' or the values of Teddy Roosevelt, as Western societies moved to more urban environments. Physical prowess was no longer proven on the farm, so sports emerged as the popular expression of physical skill and fortitude.

  • The nerd model can be seen in literature as far back as Jane Austen, EM Forster and PG Wodehouse.

  • The one precept that unites all nerdly activities, from LARPing to anime lovers to D&D players is a strict adherence to rules; a desire to conduct social interaction with the rigidity of a computer program or an RPG rulebook. You always know what to expect from people if you know they have a Charisma value of +14.

  • A tenuous, but thought provoking chapter examined the link between nerdiness and mild forms of autism like Asperger's. One expert in the condition is quoted as saying when he speaks at places like Silicon Valley or any other tech-centered town, the attendance is 10 times what it is anywhere else. Nugent asks, are we diagnosing a social condition instead of a mental one? This is probably a highly controversial notion, but props to Nugent for not shying away from it.

  • Personally, I enjoyed the piece on the anime convention, considering my recent falling out with all things Japanese that North Americans love. Nugent has the stones to point out that what's being sold at such cons isn't nerdiness, it's childhood. More than that, it's a sexualized childhood. He mentions how at one panel, the discussion on the panelist's favourite candy is longer than the story of her emigration from Russia and her breaking in to manga publishing. Old men flirt with young girls, the girls cosplay half naked, they all 'glomp' on each other, but nobody ever hooks up. Seriously, y'all? It's kind of creepy. I'm happy everyone has found a place, but it's still creepy.
That said, I'll still see you all at the Canadian Comic Expo in August. So yeah, The book gets a B+. That said, it's still definitely worth a read.

Speaking of anime, the Lady and I discovered a bizarre little video shop in Square One yesterday [bizarre to be found in a mall, and not in some dilapidated building downtown], and I managed to score the last three volumes of Satoshi Kon's Paranoia Agent for an acceptable $10 per disc. Kon, as my old timers know, is the man who gave us the modern classic Perfect Blue, and has since given us Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika. I believe PA is his only attempt at TV thus far. I picked up the first disc upon its release, but I was on the tail end of my fandom and $40 for a three episode disc was too rich for my blood after that [thank you very much Cinema One Devonshire]. But 10 bucks? That I can do.

I should run down my top ten anime loves one day. Prove my cred [and subsequent disillusionment] to be legit. We'll see.

Lucky for you, that's for another day.

ADDED: Listen to The Sound of Young America interview American Nerd author Benjamin Nugent on their podcast!

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