Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nerd Tests Are Stupid

Though I was never cool, I was never able to bring myself to self-identify as a nerd, and in my youth went to great lengths to distance myself from any taint of the crowd that embraced the most egregious geek hobbies and behaviors. Fortunately this was not too difficult for me to pull off, since I generally had no desire to participate in any of these pastimes, and my presence was at least tolerated in some of the social circles and activities that held more appeal for me, though I did not thrive nor make any kind of figure in them. On at least one occasion I did spend a Friday night, when apparently either nothing was going on or I had had some kind of falling out with whatever slightly more socially adept crowd I was hanging out with at the time, at a basement nerd gathering. I found it brutally depressing, though the nerds themselves were actually much less agitated about their situation than my usual friends were in their own (and would have been in the nerds' too). They really did order pizza and sit around drinking soda and playing board games and watching boring television shows the whole night. Girls have often seemed remote to me, it is true, but they never felt so hopelessly far away as they did in that basement. There was no possibility anyone was ever going to find you there.

So for the most part I have managed to avoid much physically intimate connection with the extreme nerd lifestyle and culture. The inexorable advance of technology however, especially the internet, has been seized upon by these people as a triumph and validation of their kind. It has empowered them greatly, at least as far as intellectual confidence goes (they still aren't pulling in a steady stream of babes for the most part). They have an apparently unshakable belief in the value of their minds and their heavily mathematical and scientific-based knowledge, and are extremely dubious about the value of any mind or knowledge without a deep, primary foundation in the hard sciences. Their values are ascendant. There are still plenty of confident and brilliant literary-oriented people of course, even some who seem impervious to doubts about the value of their field or its probable future of ever-diminishing esteem and standing in the culture. These would by and large are natural winners who would be successful in whatever cultural milieu happened to prevail during their lifetime. The (male) nerdy faction of the literary world, in contrast to its technological counterparts, is shrinking, its confidence is waning, and its outlook on the future tends towards extinction and despair. Indeed, in perhaps the ultimate insult, the literary nerd is no longer even regarded as a proper nerd anymore. He isn't smart enough. He has descended to the ranks of the merely pathetic and hopeless.

One of the staples of nerd psychology by the way is that, incredible as it sounds, most hardcore nerds are oblivious to the reality that they are nerds, or at least to what that reality really and truly implies--the literal extent to which they are repulsive to women, etc. I think I have a fair grasp on this sort of thing as it relates to myself, which I suppose tends to make me slavish towards the dominant segment of society rather than directly defiant towards it as nerds are at some level. Somehow this still doesn't make being a nerd more appealing.

1. Has anyone ever called you a nerd? Probably, although never from a source or in a way that made me really feel it, unless it were from some of my own extended family members, whom I knew to have a tendency to regard me in this unflattering light.

2. Did you skip a grade in elementary school? No. They never did this where I lived. I did have reading in the grade ahead of mine throughout elementary school. As you can imagine I never received a very warm reception from any of the people in that higher class.

3. Was your SAT math score 600 or more? This is not really a very high barrier, especially since the scoring was made easier in the 90s. I would be surprised if most people I know did not get 600 on the math SAT.

4. Can you figure out anagrams without a piece of paper? It depends how hard they are. I probably could figure them out up to 30 or 40 letters if I wanted to concentrate that much, but I doubt I would bother beyond 15, maybe twenty.

5. Did you try to figure out if the last question was an anagram? No.

6. Did you letter in high school for academics or band? They didn't give letters for this stuff at my high school. If they had, I would not have gotten them. I did get 6 letters for actual sports, mostly running sports, though I got one in basketball too.

7. Did you have your first drink on your twenty-first birthday? No.

8. Do you know at least one of these languages? perl, COBOL, C, C+, C++, FORTRAN? No. I never got interested in computers either as a tool to facilitate great enterprises or as a wondrous invention in itself until it became practically a necessity. My great problem as a person in this society is that I have no great need to change or reinvent life. I spent several decades trying to master life as I comprehended it to be in 1984, imagining this to be the secret of all happiness before I realized that everyone else had long, long moved on through many stages.

9. Was your last "intimate relationship" in a chat room? That would be living on the edge for me, my friend.

10. Do you own a fanny pack or pocket protector? No. Has anybody worn a pocket protector since 1975?

11. Do you consider chess a sport? I used to take a great interest in developments in chess. The circumstance that computers can now wipe out the top players in the world in 20 minutes has kind of ruined it for me, because I don't find the ability or brilliance of a computer compelling in the same way I would a human.

12. Have you ever told a joke about chemistry or physics? No. I went to a college where people told jokes about Immanuel Kant and made comic t-shirts featuring Dante and Antoine Lavoisier (the father of chemistry) but none of this humor originated from me.

13. Do you have endless debates on who was a better captain, Kirk or Picard? I could never get into Star Trek. I don't think I have ever seen a whole episode. Maybe it is just over my head. I was a TV junkie as a kid, especially for 60s reruns like Green Acres and the so awful I can't believe a) it was real and b) it was one of my favorite shows Petticoat Junction, but I would either leave the room or pull out a book and read when Star Trek came on.

14. Do you own more black clothing than Marilyn Manson? No. I dress like a 1984/East Gemany variation communist. Lots of brown, gray and drab.

15. Do you carry a backpack full of collectible card games? I do carry a backpack containing books, notebooks, pens, magazines, newspapers, etc, whatever I am working on, because otherwise my wife will go into a cleaning frenzy and put things where no one can find them.

16. Is your favorite day of the month new-comic day? I never got into comics either. I guess you can substitute some sports thing. I used to have subscriptions to the Sporting News and Baseball Digest back around 1982, when they were mostly just page after page of statistics.

17. Does your diet consist of soda, snack chips, and pizza? I do eat a lot of this, mainly because in the 2000s they really get upset if you swig whiskey at your desk at work, and I don't have my own office (yet). My wife is an excellent cook and she cooks something delicious and reasonably healthy for me about half the time. The rest of the time I am on my own and I don't fare so well.

18. Do your family and friends use you as tech support? No. In fact my ineptitude with computers is considered a fit object for raillery among many of these people.

19. Is deodorant as foreign a concept to you as toothpaste or mouthwash? I think of myself as having pretty good hygiene and not stinking, but what makes the nerd a nerd is his obliviousness to the reality and extent of his repulsiveness.

20. Have you ever played a video game for more than twelve hours straight? God no. I never got into video games either. A consensus seems to have formed among some people that most of the imaginative and creative geniuses of my generation--the people who would have been great novelists, musicians, etc, in a different era--used the video game as the medium for their art. If this is the case, then of course it makes sense that I would not have gotten them.

21. Is your mom the only woman to ever see the inside of your bedroom? Cold-blooded, man! I'm glad I'm not having to fill out this quiz on my 20th birthday anyway.

22. When your parents are worried, do they call the local comic or computer store? My parents wouldn't have called anybody until I was missing for a week probably, but no, they would not have looked to those places first. My wife would start calling the bars most likely.

23. Do you buy two of the same action figure, one for display and one for "the collection"? If you substitute books for action figure, the answer is still no, though as I like to collect old sets of classics and so on, I end up having 4 copies of Pride and Prejudice and that type of thing.

24. Do you own a PC, a PDA, a PS2, a DVD, and an MP3 player but not a C-A-R? Between age 18 and about 27 I did not, apart from brief periods, have a car (I wouldn't have had any of this other stuff either had it existed at the time).

25. Have you dressed as a movie or comic character, and it wasn't Halloween? No. I never wear costumes.

26. Do you have a shrine to Stan Lee, Gene Roddenberry, or Isaac Asimov somewhere in your home? No. These guys are sci-fi writers, I believe. I tried to read an Asimov book in 8th or 9th grade because a teacher, no doubt mistaking me for a pure nerd, thought I would like it, but it did nothing for me (doubtless the ideas in it were beyond my feeble powers of comprehension. I believe Asimov was supposed to have had an IQ of 180 or something like that). There is a growing, rumbling undercurrent of sentiment on the internet, coming from the empowered nerd community, that this class of authors has not received its proper due from the feminized, homosexual-dominated, mathematically ignorant (and increasingly irrelevant) official literary establishment. I may try to give them another look one of these days just to be sure there isn't something to this, but I suspect the literary establishment doesn't think much of them because the stories aren't interesting to most people whose lives actually in large part revolve around reading and studying literature.

27. Do you have the comic-book store on speed-dial? I do like to hang out in used book stores, when I can find them. As a side note, I have found that Salvation Armies frequently have more than serviceable used book sections, as long as you aren't looking for anything obscure. They're also good if you have any aversion to the poseur crowd, because they generally won't be there.

28. Have you written an angry letter to George Lucas pointing out all the flaws in the new trilogy? I've noted elsewhere on this site that I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies all the way through. My oldest sons want to watch them because their little schoolmates talk about them, but my wife has not given the OK for this yet because there is apparently violence resulting in death in them, and we don't keep it that real for six and seven year olds. As far as space movies go I do like 2001 of course, and I will confess to being taken in in the moment by Close Encounters (the Spielberg movie).

29. Do you know more URLs than girls' phone numbers? Oh, come on man. You know when I was growing up my parents always insisted on having an unlisted phone number, which caused me a lot of anguish because I was always thinking, if some random girl at school is wanting to call me anytime to have casual sex or something, she won't be able to do it, and she'll end up calling a guy whose parents have a listed number instead. And I swore that if I ever had sons, I would always keep the number listed for the sake of this very situation. Of course that doesn't matter at all among teenagers nowadays.

30. Have you waited months to see the latest comic-book movie adaptation just so you can tell everyone how "it sucks compares to the comic"? I'll change the wording here to "literary adaptations". The answer is, I actually don't have much interest in them, with the exception of books from England, and to a lesser extent the rest of Europe, set in the 1914-1965 or so era. I like the drinking, the style of talking, the decor, the clothes, the sex, the intellectual preoccupations, etc of this era enough to be interested in seeing what people do with them. When the miniseries of A Dance to the Music of Time Came Out, I did actually make of point of seeing it (it was good not great). There was apparently an adaption of Point Counter Point made in the 70s that is currently unavailable, but which I would be curious to see. I am sort of interested in seeing the 13 hour Brideshead Revisited, though 13 hours is about 3 months worth of movie watching for me at present. I don't know what else would excite me. An adaptation of Down and Out in Paris and London perhaps.

You get an extra on your nerd score for completing the test by the way. Looking over this post there are a lot of errors in it which I am too tired to go back and correct right now. I apologize for the sloppiness.

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