Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nerds Beloved

Thanks to Bill Gates, Nerd is the new Cool.

This has been happening for the past ten years. Cons
ider indie rock - I mean the real indie rock, not the mass-produced "vintage" tees that Junior Highers have been wearing off of J.C. Penney racks for several years now.

Buddy Holly glasses became mainstream. The margin b
ecame the center.

Listen, whippersnappers. I went to Pedro the Lion shows while you were graduating from middle school.

My indie days came in college. Before that, I was not only one of the nerds: I was one of the uncool nerds. Nice, normal kids would raise an eyebrow, say "you're smart, aren't you?" and then scoot their desks back a bit and go back to chatting with their friends about "Friends." Meanwhile, I was studying Spanish vocabulary on the bus every afternoon while everyone around me goofed off.

At college, I found a group that enjoyed being inte
lligent. This usually consisted of philosophy majors, theology students, and a few lit people thrown in to keep things fun. The inherent weakness of this group was too much appreciation of their own intelligence. But that was easy to take, after years of wandering around an academic wilderness with my history and English trophies - and the giant one that a teacher once created just for me, labeled "philosophical perspectives". (Yes, yes, I was quite the cool kid lugging that around my school hallways.)

Even in seminary, where I found more "like minds" with which to commune, I often found myself one of the only girls in the historical theology classes: one of two in "History of the Sacraments," in fact.

J.K. Rowling has further liberated geeks everywhere through her character Hermione Granger, the book worm, brainy girl of the Harry Potter friend trio Harry, Hermione, and Ron Weasley. While the boys think about sports (Quidditch), Hermione constantly studies - and saves their necks several times with her knowledge. Rowling doesn't gloss over Hermione's weaknesses, but neither does she hide her strengths.

In fact, in a book on Harry Potter and philosophy, one intriguing article dissects Rowling's fiction in a study of Hermione, feminism, and intelligence. And that raises an important point: is nerdiness friendlier in one gender than the other? Is it easier to be, say, Bill Gates, than it is to be Condoleezza Rice? Both people are extremely intelligent; are world leaders; are alone, in many ways, because of their own personal success.

But back to the indie rock culture of beloved nerds. Somewhere along the way, bowling shoes replaced Air Jordans, thrift store finds pre-empted department store wealth, and bands without a major label populated CD players over and above boy bands and manufactured, bland pop music. Low-lit, low-key "shows" replaced blazing, hi-tech concerts, by and large, and it seemed as if the arts and sciences were merging in a new, strange way: the brilliance, for instance, pops onto my television screen with every Mac user commercial. When did computer science allow math geeks to become - well - cool?
Nerds everywhere are flourishing, because now, more than in the past fifty years, they have a niche. Personal computers make it easy to record your own music (art) through innovative programming (science), cut your own films (art) through additional programs (science), and produce your own photographs (art) through user-friendly programs like PhotoShop (science).
It's not always easy to be on the margins. But all in all, it's the most interesting place to be.


Bob said...

I was a geek/nerd/oddball in school. Just an oddball in school. That's why my best friends were a pencil box and a kneaded eraser.

Bob said...

Okay....did you drop off the face of the earth? I want a blog out of you by 5 o'clock this evening or you're fired! We have a deadline you know!? Get on the stick and do something! Make something up if you have to just make it 500 words or you'll be doing obituaries faster than you can say formaldehyde!...love, Daddy

Beth and Jeremy Glass said...

Great blog. The first thing I thought was "Napoleon Dynamite". How many "Vote for Pedro" shirts did we see after that movie came out. I think that we are all finally acknowledging and celebrating our inner nerd. P.S. I'm completely "geeked" about the new Star Trek movie coming out.