March 13th, 2003

flavored with age

Towards clarity

I have, in the endless reels of free time that constitute my life, created a taxonomy which more clearly defines three words which are often used interchangably and, to my mind, incorrectly: DORKS, NERDS and GEEKS. It is through common understanding and plain speaking that our civilization advances; we may never be at peace until this issue is clarified.

DORKS are the most 'mainstreamed' of this troika of dweebiness. Your dork is almost a normal human being; the quality of dorky is not strained. A dork is simply someone with an enthusiasm for something that, while not fully embraced by the popular culture, is also not entirely a "fringe" activity. In addition, your dork tends to enthusiastic about rather than obsessed by her pleasures; she is a fan rather than a fanatic. Dorks are, in short, people who are just slightly too fond of marginally acceptable activities. A dork is someone who likes Broadway musicals, legitimate theatre, Hummel or Precious Moments figurines, collectible thimbles, marching bands, or birdwatching. Your mother can be a dork, but not a nerd or a geek. Dorkiness is harmless, even cute; there is in dorkitude none of the malignance of the geek or the arrogance of the nerd. Dorks are our children, our parents, our cousins who collect coins. God smiles on the dork. (The teenage equivalent of the dork is the "fag", as in "band fag" or "drama fag"). If you have ever worn a 'Cats' sweatshirt, you are most likely a dork.

NERDS are perhaps the most misunderstood of the marginalia-enthusiast triumvirate. Simply put, the nerd is someone whose unpopular passion can be put to a practical -- indeed, even profitable -- use. If you make money, especially a lot of money, off of the activity that got you wedgies in high school, you are probably a nerd. The most common sort of nerd is the computer nerd, but there are nerds in all the sciences: physics nerds, chemistry nerds, engineering nerds, math nerds, even radio & telecommunications nerds. Indeed, nerdistry is almost a necessary component to a career in the science or technology fields. (The teenage nerd is a "wad", be he a gaywad, a dickwad or a dorkwad.) Since nerds have become more necessary to the smooth functioning of society in light of the increased role computers play in our lives, they have lost some of their outsider cachet; they have attempted to counter this trend by co-opting the term "geek". Make no mistake: an expert with computers is a nerd, not a geek. They may dress themselves up in the pejorative cool of geekdom, but computer nerds they were and computer nerds they remain. They will soon be the true masters of our society; they should revel in their nerdiness, not deny it. Nerds of the world, stand tall. Or as tall as you can, with your bad posture.

GEEKS are the bottom-feeders of the unholy trio of sit-at-the-back-of-the-cafeteria types. A geek may glory in his role (God knows I do), but secretly, he knows he is just playing semantic bingo. He knows that, like his chicken-decapitating namesake, he is the dregs of the dregs, the lowest of the low. The geek is typefied by his obsessive, fruitless dedication to and knowledge of phenomena of only marginal interest to even other geeks, and of no interest to normal human beings. Unlike the dork, the geek's passions lie not on the borders of popular culture, but in faraway lands of total lameness; unlike the nerd, his interests have absolutely no profit potential or practical value. (It is not for nothing that the teenage geek is known as the "loser".) The most common sorts of geek are comic book, science fiction, fantasy, role-playing and movie geeks; but there are as many sorts of geek as there are colors of the junk-culture rainbow. There are music geeks (and, even more stupefying, sub-genre geeks); there are romance novel geeks; there are sports geeks and internet geeks and real-vampire geeks. There is no theoretical limit to the sort of thing one can be geeky about, since there are a limitless number of inconsequential, pointless activities which normal people rightly have no interest in. I myself am geeky about things as commonplace as baseball and comic books, and things as obscure as postmodernism and underground rap music. Yet for all their flaws, the saddest thing about a geek is if he doesn't recognize who he is. A geek is a geek, but a self-denying geek is a geek's geek. Let your geek flags fly, my brothers, my sisters. Represent.
flavored with age

Speaking of geeks

It is the curse of the geek that he must always evangelize for his lame-ass enthusiasms while simultaneously scoffing at the passions of other geeks. "Live-action role-playing games?", he scoffs. "What kind of loser would want to do that? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to monitor my eBay auction for an ultra-rare Magic: the Gathering Treachery of the Ice Castles card. Bidding is up to $782.00 and if I don't get it I'll kill myself." He mocks the SCA geek while immersing himself in the genius of Carmine Infantino; he laughs at the furries and plushies prior to masturbating over Sailor Moon vidcaps.

I am, of course, no different. I wax rhapsodic about the literary miniatures of Gilles Deleuze, I can talk for hours about why the designated hitter rule is a godsend, and I even bore myself going on and on about MODOK. But show me anything that had its origin in the brain of Joss Whedon and my mind becomes a peaceful and utter blank. I watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for a few months and quickly grew bored, mostly because it wasn't as funny as the movie. I watched "Angel" twice and thought it was terrible. "Firefly" was pretty good the two times I saw it, but not so good that I've ever bothered to see if it's even still on the air. And in every interview with the Buffy godhead I've ever read (which is to say, three), he comes across as an utter prick.

And yet there seem to be a huge number of people who devote a large portion of of their lives to discussing the minutiae of this man's work. A Google search for "Buffy quiz" yields more pages than there are in "Ulysses", "The Sound and the Fury", and the Holy Bible combined. I don't get it. For me, Buffy fans occupy the same universe as Trekkies, goths and anime freaks: adjacent to my own lit-funnybook-nerdcore dimension, but not likely to receive a lot of tourists in the near future.

Do I judge? Of course I do. Am I a hypocrite? Of course I am. Do I have a point? Of course I don't.
flavored with age

Today in neo-conservative America

Suzanne Fields: The French are a bunch of pussies, not like the manly beef-chomping British.

Paul Craig Roberts: Darkies are stealing our jobs. Well, not my job, specifically.

Thomas Sowell: If we don’t continue punishing an innocent man who has been dead for 50 years, our children will all kill themselves.

And while we're at it, what does the always reasonable and intelligent Ann Coulter have to say today?

"Liberals...emotionalism...mock hardheaded realism...spindly little muscles...womanly hysteria...flagrantly dishonest...phony...liberal preachiness about racial profiling...patent falsity...sleazy back-door maneuver...torture indisputably works when you know you've got the right guy...ridiculous ideas...intellection...have not yet persuaded liberals to give up on socialism and treason."
flavored with age

On bended knee, part 2

I've written before about how the press has ceased to perform its function as a proxy for the public whose job is to ask difficult questions of those in power, and has begun to act essentially as the public relations wing of the government.

The most common defense for this sort of behaviour -- which was more manifest than ever at the president's most recent press conference -- is that they HAVE to do what they're told, play along with the rules, and stay away from the hardball questions, because if they don't, they'll lose their access to the White House altogether.

Aside from the inherent problems with defending your behavior by saying you have to do as you're told, I have three problems with this excuse, which reeks more than faintly of bullshit.

1. It defers all responsibility away from the reporters. I mean, if you think about it, it's pretty unworkable, right? Let's say you work for NBC ask the President a tough question, so he bans you from press conferences. Why can't your replacement ask equally tough questions? After all, the president isn't going to just stop talking to the press altogether, is he? If the reporters agree collectively to show a little goddamn spine, this wouldn't be an issue. As a great man once said, people don't do whatever they want; they do what you let them do.

2. Related to my first objection: I would say it's news that the president bans reporters who ask him hard questions. Why not make that an issue? Why not shame the administration into ending the practice? Why not report: "PRESIDENT HAS LIST OF BANNED REPORTERS; Refuses To Allow Questioning from Certain Media Outlets". I'd say even in the current political climate, that would raise a few eyebrows. It certainly doesn't make the administration look good.

3. Finally, what's the point of even having reporters if they aren't going to do their jobs? They say "we have to ask the questions they allow, or we won't be able to ask any questions at all." So what? Is it somehow better to have a worthless media presence at press conferences than no media presence at all? Why should I care if they get banned, if they aren't doing their job when they're not banned? Why have reporters at all if they defer their responsibility?

Anyway, good article about it here. The 'drop them out of an airplane' stuff is a bit over the top (though amusingly so), but it nicely makes the point that if the press isn't doing its job, then what are we paying them for?

Meanwhile, in case you were worried that Americans aren't coming off as arrogant, bullying and hegemonic ENOUGH, here's some good news: Knife-wielding US troops storm a protest camp in England.
flavored with age

And now to lighten the mood, sort of

THINGS OUR FOREIGN POLICY STINKS LIKE

1. Ass
2. Barbecued ass
3. Lighter-singed monkey ass
4. Sloppy gas station men's room butt sex
5. The spunk trees of Los Angeles
6. The aftermath of a million chili cook-offs
7. Starch-blocker farts
8. Carrot Top's armpits
9. Canned peach sweat
10. Flame-broiled toadstool-and-Limburger-cheese sandwich, plus ass