“The Sleep Of The Happy: Defining ‘Nerd” For The New Generation”

waldo
“No one’s really sure what became of Waldo after graduation.”

 

nerd noun \ˈnərd\
: a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc.
: a person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers, etc.

It’s interesting that Merriam-Webster would actually lie about the definition of a nerd, since this goes by aesthetic rather cultural observance. A person who behaves awkwardly around other people is an extremely subjective statement and/or definition. I’ll bet you could swing a dead cat and hit thousands upon thousands of people who behave “awkwardly” around other people. Aren’t we all “awkward” in our respective ways? Never mind the “unstylish clothes” – we’re talking substance!

The second definition is even more baffling. A person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers … Huh? Just trailed off there, like … oh a nerd is a person who is like interested in like … oh I don’t know – stuff I’m not interested in, like say … oh computers! Yeah. (deep breath, there) Computers! Well tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you!

“Stuff I’m not Interested In.”

We proceed from the infallable position of “shit I’m not interested in”. Who had, at the beginning of time in creation, considered the most pertinent topics or subjects and then after this, in even rudimentary reasoning, who decides that his or her topics are more interesting than others? Short answer? This is an arbitrary and completely subjective thought process. We decide whom to exclude and keep everybody else. We decide that interests are … boring, so god-damned boring we can’t even begin to care.

But, come on – let’s be real. Everybody has interests! In fact, a lot of people love things. Right? This is my thesis. What are we, if not creatures who seek out items that interest us? Who? What?

Of course, the true real-world definition of the word has more to do with common practices (i.e. how people live their lives) rather than a ridiculous set of standards by which we apparently judge other peoples’ aesthetics. So, if we go by that definition of the word, nerds appear to be any part of the populace that is not lazy, shiftless, incurious, or irresponsible. We’re talking a good 60% of the population. At least 60%, possibly more.

“Pop Culture Splash-back”

Of course, television and pop-culture in general would tell you the opposite. The culture still wants nerds to be freaks. The culture still needs to separate people in groups. Here are the nerds, and over here, is everybody else. I’m not going to rag on “The Big Bang Theory” – it seems everybody does that, but the show is a test-case for this kind of faulty logic. Rules were put in place before the pilot even aired. Nerdy guys enjoy comic books and superhero/toy-related movie franchises. Women don’t enjoy those things, therefore all women everywhere are not nerds, yet there are two firmly-established nerdy-girl characters, played by Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, respectively.

Nerdy guys are apparently terrified of women, yet two of the four nerdy guy characters have been in successful relationships, one of them even leading to marriage. Nerds are only nerds when it is convenient to perpetuating stereotypes. By way of comparison, the progressive new show, “King of the Nerds” concedes the fact of female nerds, but this show’s idea of nerds involves lots of cos-play, “Dungeons & Dragons”, “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”. Even articles that defend accurate portrayals of nerds continue to insist there are “nerdy interests”.

Sauntering into the 21st Century (wow!), even the most simple, drooling idiot can see that there are no nerds! Nerds do not exist anymore! Well, let me put it this way. If there are nerds, then we are all nerds, correct? Good. There are music nerds, sports nerds (though some call them athletes, heh), science-fiction movie nerds, comic book nerds (or geeks in the vernacular usage), Facebook nerds, Google nerds, reality show nerds (or junkies), podcast nerds (or the enlightened, as I call them), tech nerds, fitness nerds, Donnie and Marie nerds – the list goes on.

“Revenge of the Nerds” paints a different picture; that of computer/robotics-obsessed, glasses-wearing, funny-laughing kids channeling their considerable skills to get a live video feed of naked cheerleaders. The college campus was divided into two groups, well three: nerds, jocks, and girls. The first two groups fought for possession of the third group. This kind of behavior was accepted, even encouraged in 1984 (to my knowledge). Nowadays … not so much.

Tanishq
Tanishq Abraham

 

“Report On Results”

All we can gather on the apparent change in demographic vis-à-vis the identification of the sub-group which can no longer be referred to as “nerds” is that societal tactics have changed. The phenomenon of bullying has been either reduced or modified to emphasize psychological rather than physical threat and attack. Our society is much more open now – people are less fearful (or possibly shy) of sharing their ideas and interests.

Right now, I’m watching Conan O’ Brien and he is interviewing a child genius; Tanishq Abraham, 11-years-old with a 4.0 GPA. Today, we celebrate knowledge and encourage diversity. We are appropriately impressed and even humbled to see children on talk shows discussing “string theory”. I just wish we had more kids around like Tanishq. Strangely enough, the other guest on tonight’s show is Simon Helberg, who plays Howard on … you guessed it, “The Big Bang Theory”.

Roger Corman’s – The Fantastic Four (1994)

Season 2 – Episode 12
Roger Corman’s – The Fantastic Four (1994)

f4

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VHS Rewind is preparing to tackle the legendary THE FANTASTIC FOUR movie from 1994 (you know, the one without Jessica Alba; the one produced by Roger Corman; the one that hasn’t been officially released).

THE FANTASTIC FOUR was subject to much behind the scenes shenanigans and has an extremely interesting production story (perhaps more interesting than the film itself).

This is all examined in the upcoming documentary DOOMED! THE UNTOLD STORY OF ROGER CORMAN’S THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

VHS Rewind sat down with the documentary’s director Marty Langford to discuss THE FANTASTIC FOUR and this passion project documentary.

We hope our discussion sparks your interest in this upcoming documentary as well as in our upcoming review of Corman’s THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

Frankly, some of us here at VHS Rewind enjoy Corman’s film much more than the one with Jessica Alba in it.

fantastic

An Interview With Martin Mander

Martin2

This is art when you look at it; a conglomeration of circuitry, the beast under the hood like the Hemi in the Plymouth Barracuda bubbling and percolating and ready to peel.  Martin Mander is an artist, and an engineer.  He is an innovator, and an inventor.

To look at his “Retro-Future TV Conversion”, an old Sanyo television housing the guts of an LCD monitor, I can appreciate his love of old-school design aesthetics juxtaposed or, more accurately combined with high technology, forming a beautiful balance of mechanization.

There’s no arguing the world of our future has given us incredible new technologies.  We have cell phones.  We have enormous televisions, and a variety of applications with which we choose and view our respective entertainment and products, but the culture of design (for me, at least) reached it’s nadir decades ago.

Think of the Atari 2600, the faux-wood panel design and the simple delight of a joystick with a big red button.  True, nostalgia may guide our eyes (and hearts) when we reach a certain age and pine for lost youth, but I believe when our resources are limited, we turn outward and desire a pleasing package.

Martin1

 

Martin has brought that design together with the inner workings of a (comparatively) ancient technology to create such unusual items as the “Raspberry PI Media Centre”, a reworked Sanyo VHS VCR (top loading!) with the backing of a high definition screen.

First, I want to ask you about your background.  Where (and how) did you learn electronics as they apply to these projects and your creations?

I’m not sure I made a conscious decision to “get into” electronics, as a child I just really enjoyed taking stuff apart to find out how it worked. My Dad was a craft, design and technology teacher at the time so there were always a lot of cool tools and projects around, and a well-equipped workshop to tinker in.

A friend and I would sometimes pool our money to buy a circuit kit to make, which is probably where it started getting interesting – our biggest success was an FM transmitter, you could tune a bunch of radios in a busy shop to its frequency then stand outside and prank the shoppers.

More recently our flat screen TV broke and on dismantling it I was struck by the tiny amount of space taken up by the circuits, I think this was what got me thinking about how much modern electronics you could fit inside an old piece of tech. Really I’ve just learned as I’ve gone along, building on the basic skills I learned at school to move a project forward.

Would you say that you are drawn to the aesthetics, the design, or the machinery that exists inside the box?

My favourite projects combine a strong retro design with really modern components inside, so I’m usually after something unusual from the 70s / Early 80s that has a classic look about it, so it’s aesthetics mostly.

It’s really hard to find good retro tech at a reasonable price though, so I tend to pick up non-working items which need some help to make their original charm show through. This also makes me feel less bad about tearing classic devices apart.

Martin3

When I looked at your creations, I was reminded of a quote by Fellini (this may be misattributed or paraphrased) where upon first viewing Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, he said, “Computers are beautiful.  Rip a man apart and he is hideous, gruesome.  Dismantle a computer and it remains beautiful.”  Is this how you feel about the machinery and technology you seek to improve?

I’m not sure I’d go as far as beautiful but I often have a real feeling of respect for the original designers when tearing down old tech, sometimes the insides are very elegantly put together, using consistent screw sizes, labelled circuit boards and so on.

The VCR was a great example of this, as it effectively combined complex electronics (for the time) with motors and levers to physically manipulate magnetic tape in a totally reliable and precise way.

There is a tremendous subculture devoted to technology from the past.  Mark Jeacoma, the administrator and co-creator of VHS Rewind! collects vintage computers and gaming systems.  I know of many other people who also collect antique electronics.  I keep an impressive assemblage of Warner Brothers VHS clamshell tapes.  Do you collect items that you do not integrate into your creative projects?

Absolutely – it’s an eclectic collection but I find it especially hard to resist vintage telephones, radios and TVs. Often these will stay unconverted if they’re fully working and I don’t have the heart to dismantle them, other times I’ll pick something up purely for the feeling of nostalgia, like the ZX Spectrum computer and bag of classic cassette games I bought most recently. The only trouble with collecting older items is storage – I picked up three top-loading VCRs recently and they take up a vast amount of shelf space!

Do we collect such things to remind ourselves of our youth, or is there a practical curiousity in wanting to know how things work, how systems are created and maintained before we fully understand their applications?

In my case it’s very much a reminder of my childhood and teenage years, some of the Pioneer hi-fi separates I use every day have been in the family since the 1970s and the dancing VU meters really bring back the carefree days of vinyl and cassette tapes.

I guess my conversions make a practical statement of how much technology has changed since then, fully embracing new developments but still with a misty eye on the early days of practical home technology.

Martin4

Now that we’ve re-explored the past, let’s look into the future.  We’ve moved away from the analog world, and are in the full embrace of this digital grip (like my analogies?).  I have a friend who makes a living in web development and information systems, and he tells me it’s only a matter of time before physical media is completely vanquished and everything will be a collection of bits, all entertainment will be streaming, and discs, cartidges, tapes, and cassettes will be museum pieces locked up in vaults, consigned to oblivion, thus the concept of ownership will no longer exist.  Thoughts?

I have a similar view if I’m honest, we no longer have a DVD, CD or cassette player in the house and all our media is stored on network or cloud storage, consumed via streaming boxes, phones etc. I think the demise of physical media is a little way off yet, but technology is certainly headed in that direction.

The culture of ownership is the main hurdle, we’ve grown accustomed to collecting media like books, having a physical collection that sits on display and says something about the personality of the individual. It’s hard to make the shift to pure content as album and case art are often part of the joy of our collections – seeing the original “Empire Strikes Back” cassette image you posted on Facebook recently transported me right back to the days of browsing and renting videos from an actual shop.

I do quietly mourn the demise of VHS though, even our local charity shops have stopped accepting VHS tapes as donations now, and when you consider how many are out there it’s a vast amount of plastic doomed for the landfill. As a maker I’d love to come up with a practical and modern re-use for these old tapes so they can live on.

Do you enjoy the new technology?  Blu-Ray?  Ultra HD?  The more advanced gaming systems?

I do really enjoy keeping up with new developments, I think the Chromecast is my favourite at the moment as it offers new, practical and fun entertainment possibilities, it’s great to mirror a phone screen on the big TV for looking at maps, exploring Street View and creating multi-user YouTube playlists.

I’m pretty sceptical about blu-ray, I think streaming will make it the Betamax of the HD world sooner or later. We don’t do a lot of gaming, the kids have DSs and an original Wii, and I dip into the Playstation 2 occasionally – though mostly to play old Atari games!

Finally, to my mind, it seems we are given wonderful pieces of technology that, what is called, “backward-compatible”, but only to a point, but the technology is not “forward-thinking” – that is it seems to become obsolete in a twenty or even fifteen-year cycle, and then newer, supposedly better technologies come along.  What would you like to see in the future as this technology develops?

Part of me would like to see products deliberately designed in a more universal and modular way, so that individual parts can be upgraded rather than having whole devices that are essentially disposable – although having said that the availability of cheap modern devices is what makes my conversions possible!

On the content side I think a universally aggregated “library” of music, books and video is coming pretty close, which will enable easy consumption of any content without having to choose between different providers like Netflix, itunes and google. My phone’s already starting to do this in a clunky kind of way, offering me slightly creepy recommendations based on my tastes and linking off to different online providers to grab the content.

Here are some links to Martin’s incredible contraptions:

http://www.instructables.com/id/1981-Portable-VCR-Raspberry-PI-Media-Centre/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Retro-Future-TV-Conversion/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Upcycle-a-70s-TV-into-a-Monitor/

Death By Tripod Or:Bob Crane’s Heart Will Go On

Cat-6701_003
Sony’s CVC 2100

 

The cables are like snakes; big, black things writhing and twisting when either detached from the heavy-metal box or hooked into it’s feminine grasp. The box is the size of a snare drum, but it weighs close to fifty pounds and across the scuffed, stainless steel face plate, you can see the words, ‘SONY VIDEOCORDER”. It operates on the same principle as any VTR, from Beta to Hi-8, with an enormous spinning drum and reading heads, but it utilizes open reel (like professional recording tape) magazines and magnetic tape with no cartridge, and requires threading like film stock.

You could get the tape stock in two sizes, relative to the length of time you could record – V32 or V62, but the images produced were black & white only (actually more of a jarring Electronicam-like monochrome) that jumped and bended on the screen when played. The prototype was developed in 1964 and then quickly mass-produced in 1967.

The camera tells another story. A standard configuration; heavy with a pistol-grip, a removable lens, and a detachable rectangular monitor box for on-the-fly viewing, but the weight and brief connection cables make portability an issue. These video systems were popular among the elite of Hollywood at that time. People like Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Roman Polanski, Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, and Steve McQueen purchased them.

Bob_Crane_Colonel_Hogan_1969
Bob Crane

 

Bob Crane got his first home video camera through a contact by way of “Hogan’s Heroes” co-star (and eventual game show host) Richard Dawson. John Carpenter (not the filmmaker, obviously) worked for Sony and sold equipment to most of the celebrities I mentioned. Carpenter and Hogan struck up a friendship, primarily based on their love of photographing sexual encounters with a plethora of gorgeous starlets. Crane enjoyed the ease with which he could record images as opposed to shooting footage with the motion picture format, and also having to wait for the film to be developed.

Roman Polanski had a penchant for filming his sexual encounters as well. When police searched his home in Benedict Canyon after the Manson murders of his wife and friends, they found several reels of V-32 tape in the loft above the living room. After locating a playback unit and viewing the footage, they sheepishly returned the reels to where they had been found, realizing the tapes contained intimate footage of the director and his wife.

For years, there were stories of wild Hollywood sex orgies being recorded with this camera. It makes the curious mind wonder why (when there were so many practical applications for which this camera could be used) the first users of this camera saw it mainly as a vehicle to document sexual conquest. I know it’s Hollywood, but come on! Instead of using the camera as a teaching tool, or for industrial application, we are witness to the birth of the sex tape.

The “sex tape” is a truly bizarre phenomena. Once considered scandalous, repulsive, and appalling, the sex tape is now a stepping stone to a celebrity’s eventual career. The culture of Reality-“based” television makes a mockery of true talent, pushes stardom as a cheap commodity, and sends the wrong message to future generations: that audacity and aptitude are one in the same.

In his last moments of life, Bob Crane was strangled with a video cable and then bludgeoned with a tripod – a fitting end to a strange, somewhat confused life. A man who loved the ladies, a popular disc jockey, a well-known actor, a jazz drummer, devoted father and loving husband (perhaps too loving), a self-described sex-addict (before it was cool), and a filmmaker way ahead of his time.

I speculate that his last breaths were exhaled while turning over in his bed, slumping to his wall-to-wall carpeted floor and crawling over to his beloved heavy-metal goddess, the Sony Videocorder, flipping the toggle to [rec] and documenting his fading heartbeat, in essence burning it into the magnetic tape. Yes, Bob Crane’s heart rests forever under the spinning drum of a low-resolution dream.

“The Secret Cinema”

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Much muck has been churned recently over the burial-at-sea (or muck, as the case may be) for 1994’s “Fantastic Four” comic book adaptation directed by Oley Sassone, exec-produced by the big man himself, Roger Corman, and his Concorde-New Horizon Pictures (beloved for the “Deathstalker” series, the “Carnosaur” series, the “Barbarian Queen” series with the late Lana Clarkson, and any number of bizarre sex thrillers starring Marc Singer, Julie Strain, or Shannon Whirry).

Concorde took a step backward producing “Fantastic Four”, and by step backward, I mean fronting a (comparatively) enormous budget for what would be considered a mainstream movie based on previously published and/or written material. In this case, the celebrated Marvel comic book created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961. Despite the success of the Superman and relatively new Batman movie franchises for Warner Brothers and Detective Comics, movies based on comic books and graphic novels were not in the mainstream … yet. It would take another ten years before we would begin to notice that every other movie on the list of box-office hits was adapted from either a comic book or a Gen X’er’s toy trove.

Chris Gore covered the movie’s production in the October, 1993 issue of Film Threat. It was a well-researched piece written by a fan. More importantly, it was the only clutch of information devotees could get about the movie from inception to completion. Other scant bits of rumor and publicity could only be found at conventions. Even the actors got in on the junket-wheel, and this is when the official story (that of co-exec Bernd Eichinger’s determination to get the movie released) gets twisted.

If the million-dollar budget, the 24-day shooting schedule, and the 89-minute running time weren’t any indication of the movie’s predestined failure, it had to be the shocking lack of enthusiasm on the part of either Eichinger, Lee, or Corman in generating buzz for the film. It appeared nobody on the executive-line-level of the picture cared about getting the movie into theaters. If Eichinger cared, we would’ve had a released movie. If Corman cared, he wouldn’t have accepted a quick buy-out of his right to distribution (in his defense, Corman did run trailers for the film, but he might have been trying to hedge his bets either way). If Lee cared, he would’ve destroyed Eichinger in the press every opportunity he could get. It seems the only people who cared were the actors, the crew, and the fans – all below-the-line, all ultimately insignificant little cogs in the machinery.

These are the games Hollywood likes to play. A million-dollar budget is atrocious for a film like “Fantastic Four”, and the bartering and back-room deals to bury a film like this usually begin in pre-production. Scripts are leaked. Casting choices are bandied about, and bad word-of-mouth is enough to kill any production. Yet, this movie was given a strange chance. It was the little movie that could. It seemed that in post-production, people were sneaking around, finishing the opticals and scoring the music under a cloak of secrecy because they knew they were not going to get a shot at a release, so they forced Eichinger’s (and Marvel development exec Avi Arad’s) hand, and then the whole ugly mess came out.

Inexplicably (even after claims that the final prints were destroyed), bootlegs emerged almost immediately. Even now, you can find the movie on YouTube, and similar sites. In fact, the movie is so easily accessible, to call it a “bootleg” would be laughable. If there was a serious attempt to block access to this movie, there would’ve been lawsuits all around! The FBI gets involved when nude pictures of starlets float all over the internet, but nobody cares if an unauthorized version of a movie plays on popular web-sites? George Lucas would blush.

Eichinger and Arad were embarrassed and shown-up by a rag-tag group of near-amateurs churning out a movie in less than a month on a budget that couldn’t provide catering for most productions, and then threw the actors and crew under the bus (an idiom I detest) so that Eichinger could maintain his rights to the property and then get a bigger cut of money (which he did, in 2005) with an eventual mega-budget blockbuster, but that’s just my opinion.

Exclusive! An Interview with Marty Langford

Season 2 – Episode 11
An Interview with Marty Langford – Director of Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four

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VHS Rewind is preparing to tackle the legendary THE FANTASTIC FOUR movie from 1994 (you know, the one without Jessica Alba; the one produced by Roger Corman; the one that hasn’t been officially released).

THE FANTASTIC FOUR was subject to much behind the scenes shenanigans and has an extremely interesting production story (perhaps more interesting than the film itself).

This is all examined in the upcoming documentary DOOMED! THE UNTOLD STORY OF ROGER CORMAN’S THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

VHS Rewind sat down with the documentary’s director Marty Langford to discuss THE FANTASTIC FOUR and this passion project documentary.

We hope our discussion sparks your interest in this upcoming documentary as well as in our upcoming review of Corman’s THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

Frankly, some of us here at VHS Rewind enjoy Corman’s film much more than the one with Jessica Alba in it.

fantastic

How I Learned To Stop Worrying…

cnn-doomsday-video

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The end of the world as we know it. Against the grating strains of “Nearer My God To Thee”, the Army of Eternal Golden Light (or a bunch of second-hand musicians – take your pick) stand at attention in front of an enormous mansion (I’m guessing Ted Turner’s summer home) waiting for the crash of the first missile, or the last drop of water to be drunk, or the last gallon of oil to be burned, or whatever we might label “Doomsday”.

Back to reality. I can’t help but be a little creeped out. Not at the video. Not at the composition. The motivation behind such a production is baffling. Are we trying to put people at ease with a hymn? As flaming bodies fall from the sky, and we look out our windows, gather our children, and head to the basement with a stockpile of canned food and shotguns, do we feel better knowing Ted Turner has our collective back?

How can we be sure the end is really upon is? Considering scenes of apparent armageddon will be caught on video, and that video comes streaming into our homes by way of computer and television (that is to say assuming electrical power and internet access is still available), will newscasters continue to do their jobs if the notion of a paycheck goes straight out the window?

Apocalyptic imagery is still fresh in our minds. I still go back to September 11th and see the images on the television. I look at the pictures. I hear those horrible sounds, those phone calls. I remember the blackout of 2003, and the incredible fear that engulfed me for roughly an hour. Thirty-four years ago (from our comforting perspective of hindsight), Ted Turner didn’t know a damned thing about doomsday. He speculated. He conjectured in a kind of “Dr. Strangelove” way. He had no idea of the madness we, as a species, would eventually endure.

Yes, we can nervously laugh at this tape as we look at it now, but I have to wonder – hundreds of channels, the 24-hour news cycle – how many “Doomsday” tapes are being stored in television archives just waiting, just itching to be played?

“We’ll meet again. Don’t know where. Don’t know when.”

CNN Ted Turner Doomsday Video

Season 2 – Episode 10
CNN Ted Turner Doomsday Video

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Mark and Chris discuss the recent release of the CNN Ted Turner Doomsday Video.  This video was to be played as the world was ending.  It was originally posted here

http://jalopnik.com/this-is-the-video-cnn-will-play-when-the-world-ends-1677511538