Episode 110 – Stuff Jakob Actually Likes

April 29, 2011

Just from listening to Nerd Hurdles, it’s easy to see how I got this reputation for hating everything. Or, if that’s putting it too strongly, a reputation for harbouring mild to complete disdain for most things on the planet, living and dead. In an attempt to dispel this myth and give listeners a little perspective on why I’m so critical on the various arts and entertainments we cover, we thought we’d do an episode devoted to the stuff I like.

Well, if you don’t attempt it, you can’t fail at it.

Which is why we have shownotes. And here follows a brief explanation of my very narrow ideal of the ideal form in various arenas.

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Episode 109 – Atheism

April 22, 2011

Last Easter we did “Jesus” as a hurdle. Certainly a topic we could visit again, but I thought we should switch it up this time around. At first blush,  Atheism might seem like a strange nerd hurdle. If you’re a person of faith, you’re not avoiding atheism because it’s “nerdy” or “over-hyped” and no one’s asking you to become a non-believer.

Or historically that was the case. But recently things have changed. Atheists are no longer living by the golden rule, doing unto others as they’d have others do unto them. They’re no longer turning the other cheek and have begun casting the first stone. Atheists seem to no longer be content to go on not-believing and letting people believe whatever nonsense they want—they’re out to convert people now.

In recent year, they’ve been getting more and more dogmatic in their battle against religious dogma. Now it’s a crusade, a ministry spreading its own brand of dogma. It’s beginning to feel a bit like a religion itself with Richard Dawkins as its patron saint. The hypocrisy of this increasingly ferocious movement has become enough to make me hesitant to describe  myself as an atheist.

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Episode 108 – Get LOST

April 15, 2011

There’s two shows that people have repeatedly been at us to do an episode on since we started this podcast. One is Dr. Who and the other is Lost. No matter what we’ve said in the past, we honestly had no intention of doing either.

Then a series of fortuitous events occurred in which Lost made its way onto our TV-on-DVD pile in the basement. First, Elton McManus of the Rethinking Lost podcast sent us an audio comment which obliquely referenced Lost. Then the next day we saw Season 1 in the previously-viewed discount bin at our local Blockbastards. It was almost as if some malevolent force was manipulating our destiny.

Anyway, we watched the first six episodes (five by Mandi’s count) before recording our thoughts. Not to spoiler our own episode but we basically decided it’s a bad show that’s fairly entertaining despite being as ridiculous and subtle as starting a bonfire with jet-fuel. Perhaps I should actually say we found it fauxly entertaining.

What I mean by that is I’m not convinced it’s genuinely engaging. The writers are very good at keeping the audience guessing with intrigue and coming up with addictive cliff-hanger crack.

On one hand, you could ask what more we need to keep us engaged—if we want to watch the next episode, isn’t that the proof in the pudding?

But on the other hand, I would reply there’s a difference in being ensnared by matinée serial gimmicks and being genuinely engaged by a sophisticated, cohesive plot and rich characters who come to life on the screen.

It’s like the difference between masturbation and sex. Or a delicious slice of pizza from a street vendor and a 5-star gourmet meal. There’s something to be said for both options, but when people treat the former like it’s the latter, that’s where I begin to take issue.

Let’s be honest, Lost is street-meat (I’m going with the food analogy, not the sex analogy here). It’s tasty, it’s filling, it leaves you wanting more. But it’s also empty calories.

The characters—stereo- or arche- types depending on how forgiving you are—have little substance in themselves, but have been seasoned with so much dramatic-MSG they explode in your mouth. The situations they find themselves in look like a genuine chicken breast, but you know they’re made out of pressed-meat slurry. The plot is constantly being driven by characters’ bad decisions and random crises which superheats the ingredients like a microwave oven—a technique exploited by the similarily tiresome Battlestar Galactica. (Speaking of tiresome, this food analogy is getting out of hand).

Entertaining? Yes. Engaging? no. Just like that craving for another hotdog, once you wait it out, you’d rather have something more substantial instead.

So, yes we’ll be watching Season 1 to its fruition, but we’ll probably skip further servings in favour of something with less delicious, salty grease and more nutrients.

Episode 107 – TIM BURTON

April 8, 2011

When I was seventeen or so, I don’t think there could have been a director as hand-designed for me as Tim Burton. First he introduced me to my highschool celebrity crush, Winona Ryder, in Beetlejuice. Then he made Batman dark and interesting again. Then he topped it all in 1990 with Edward Scissorhands where her plumbed the misfit, underground alterna-goth psyche and produced a film that defined a generation of freaks.

Though Winona was (unfortunately) blonde this time out, 21 Jumpstreet’s 2nd-rate bubble-gum heart-throb, Johnny Depp, unexpectedly mezmerized us with his Robert Smith-meets-Frankenstein take on the titular role. And with Breakfast Club nerd Anthony Michael Hall playing a beefed-up, meat-head jock, it was a signal the ’80s were over and the ’90s were going to wash away the Reagan-era glitz and reveal the grungey underbelly of our consumerist society.

In 1990, in bummed-out bedrooms across the continent, you were guarunteed to find three things. A Jane’s Addiction tape, a Cure poster and a 2nd-generation VHS dub of Edward Scizzorhands.

So, for years afterwards, if you asked me if I liked Tim Burton movies, I’d say, “Yeah, I love Burton.” I say it without hesitation, without even thinking about it.

Bossom (and urethra?) buddies, Depp and Burton.

Then something funny happened. I thought about it. And I realized I kind of didn’t like Tim Burton movies. I could appreciate them for their uniqueness—the Tim Burton brand remained very defined and very specific over the years—but I couldn’t honestly say I enjoyed them much.

Even with old Edward, nostalgia only took me so far. His movies had taken on a cloying juvenile quality, somehow saccarine in their darkness. And worse, the newer films had a bit of a cookie-cutter feel to them. “Burton” had truly become a brand, like Disney or Pixar, simply rearranging the same elements in a different order in each film (i.e., Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter). The Burton brand had, what I would never have believed possible in 1990, become populist and boring. Burton movies remain unique, but they’re no longer original.

Here is the Stand Up For Your Gay Friends video from Ireland we talk about near the end.

Giant Tim Burton reccuring collaborators table after the cut (from Wikipedia).

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March: Urine Batteries and Turd Temperatures

April 5, 2011

how to make urine battery: Bwhaat? Apparently this is an ACTUAL THING. Personally, I look forward to the day when our homes are powered by our own wee-wee.

interwebz internet badass nerd: I was picturing some kind of gamer wearing a special cyber glove and 3D goggles but This is the image Google gave me. Holy fuckballs, indeed.

do i look like angelina jolie: Are you a skull wearing a set of oversized wax lips stuck on the end of a broomstick? But seriously, I love that someone Googled this. And for those who want to emulate Angelina’s look but don’t have a set of wax lips, here’s a handy guide.

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Episode 106 – This Poem Sucks

April 1, 2011

Click to play podcast!

In the podcast we focus mainly on that flowery, angsty, cringe-inducing darkside of poetry: the awkward teen years. Oh, those bleak years when every young poet tries to out-Howl Ginsberg and make Plath seem like the leader of the glee club. And if they’re really on a roll, they try to do both at the same time. High school yearbooks are full of these dubious verses.

But there’s more to poetry than heavy-handed metaphors and self-loathing. There are pockets of sublime revelation to be found buried in the filth as well. As with most art, there’s more bad than good in the world. Bad poetry is perhaps the most painful of all art forms. So finding those few sublime moments—even within the oeuvre of a celebrated poet—can be a daunting and painful task.

Reading, or listening to, a truly bad poem can be entertaining in and of itself. But like great poems, the truly bad are hard to come by. At worst, and this is the majority, a poem is mediocre.  Many odes and lyrics are simply boring and express poorly a thought or observation that didn’t really need to be expressed at all. Sometimes, though the words melt together nicely, it is impossible to even discern what is being expressed.

An example of the sublime, “As I Walked Out One Evening” by that delightful old dandy,  W.H. Auden.

Nearly every time I’ve read this poem, I’ve gotten shivers. It expresses in words what mere words cannot express. The ironies of life, the glories and tragedies of love, the ineffable battle with time we all must fight in our own way, are all revealed between the syllables of the narrator’s nocturnal stroll.



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