Episode 150 – THE WAR OF 1812

June 29, 2012

Click to DOWNLOAD War of 1812 podcast

This isn’t as much what you’d call “Hardcore History” as softcore rambling. If you want to know actual facts about the War of 1812, read this. I did. It’s everything I know about the war.

If you want to know more about Canadian history, you should check out Unboring Learning‘s video series on the subject. Apparently they’re doing the War of 1812 soon and I’m sure you’ll learn 100% more about it than you would from us and still in an unboring way.

If you want to know actual facts about blood poisoning read this.

Napoleon is 5'6"

Rick Mercer doing 1812 reenactments

More importantly, in this episode we answer the first question in our The Nerds Know segment. First up is a political pickle from listener Jay Gonzalez.

Want to know something? Ask us: nerds@nerdhurdles.com

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Star trek Voyager Voyages: Season 5

June 22, 2012

Star Trek Voyager, Season 5, kind of a mixed bag. Or perhaps the months-long, non-stop diet of replicator rations is finally beginning to take its toll on me. Here follows the good, the bad, and the often middle of the road…

Episode 95: Night

Voyager loses power traversing a dark region of space containing theta radiation.

This starts off as probably the best Voyager does Alien episode they’ve come up with so far. Then it gets weird and shifts into a heavy-handed allegory about pollution and ecology.

We also meet a new race of baddies called the Malon who are kind of Red Dwarf versions of something out of David Lynch’s version of Dune. They seem somehow out of place though being little more realistic in their motives than the usual Klingon-rehash warrior villains.

And finally, the new holodeck running gag for this season is Tom Paris’ Flash Gordon / Lost In Space style serial, Captain Proton . Campy and fun (I guess) but I always find it annoying when shows create old shows that never existed. It just feels like something Calvin (as in “and Hobbes”) would have come up with. Maybe it’s supposed to be an original creation by Tom Paris. That would explain why it’s so ridiculous. And Calvin-like.
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Episode 149 – The Definitive Nerd

June 18, 2012

Click to listen to Nerd Hurdles podcast do The Definitive Word podcast

 

This was our contribution to the aborted Simply Syndicated “switch-up” fundraiser. It’s our take on The Definitive Word which was Jakob’s gateway podcast. We recorded this episode almost two years ago exactly and have absolutely no idea what might be on it. If we did the original justice, it’s a sack of rambling, tangential gibberish.

 


Episode 148: PROMETHEUS

June 13, 2012

Click to listen to Prometheus Podcast

What an utter trainwreck of a film.

A lot has been written about it already. Notably, this HitFix piece covers most of what we ramble about in the episode. And we’re not the only people to talk about it either. The Dread Media podcast (see episode 250) have almost the same conversation that we do. Only they’re a little nicer about it (at least they’re trying to be).

One thing almost all the podcasts and articles on the subject have on common (other than nearly unanimous derision at this travesty of wasted potential)  is the bafflement at the Peter Weyland character.

Why would you hire someone with the star power of Guy Pearce and then put him in the least convincing old man make-up since the ’60s? Further, why are the character’s motivations completely ambiguous. What drives him? What’s his agenda? It’s got to be more than a trite, banal desire for immortality, right?

Well, apparently you were supposed to watch this clip before seeing the film.

Though, as it turns out, Pearce is actually kind of laughable as the young Weyland too, at least his character (and the casting) actually makes a little more sense. But only a little. Big questions like why he had to fake his death for two years remain unanswered.

But at least you can see the kind of driven megalomaniac he was as a young man. The kind of guy who spend trillions on some vague speculation that maybe there’s some aliens somewhere that are advanced enough to give him “more life.” It’s not the perfect explanation, but if this short clip had actually been IN THE FILM then I might have been more lenient on Weyland’s completely superfluous character’s inclusion in the story.

So, given that none of the characters in this film have clear motivations or behave in any kind of rational manner, one has to wonder what other important material was left on the cutting room floor (rumour has it there’s also cut footage of the young Weyland “dream speaking” with David). Do all the characters have nice little five minute explanations in their back pocket waiting for the DVD release? And would that fix the film?

I don’t think it would.

After all, there’s an excellent short about the android David (Michael Fassbender), the most compelling character in the film, which I did see before hand.

And, no, it did not shed light on his baffling behavior. Even exempting a fair amount of inscrutable robot logic, he puts whole series of events into motion which ultimately have no relevance to the story other than to drive the plot. Or even less than plot-driving devices, they’re merely action sequence set-ups. Whatever reason he had for infecting Holloway with alien DNA, and trying to prevent Shaw from aborting her alien fetus, had no baring on the film’s plot as a whole.

There have been a few theory’s floating about the Internet that his actions are a result of his needing to circumvent Asimov’s First Law of Robotics.

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

In this light, his overly complex plot to commit patricide (if that is in fact what he was doing at all) begins to make sense. Except at no point are we given any reason to assume Asimov’s Laws of Robotics apply to this film. The only film you can make the assumption the Laws apply in is I, Robot. If the writers intended for David to be circumventing the make-believe rules of another fictional universe, it needs to be stated at some point.

Perhaps in Weyland’s introduction of David to the group (in which everyone is oddly nonplussed) would have been the perfect time. It would have taken five or ten seconds of screen time to make the next hour and half make some kind of sense. Or it could have even been in the above promo clip.

The preceding clip doesn’t explain anything about Dr. Elizabeth Shaw’s (Noomi Rapace) baffling belief that the “Engineers” exist, had the ability to create human life and, if found, would even have the slightest notion of what their ancient ancestors were up to on Earth.

That’s kind of like someone showing up in a UFO in my backyard and asking me to explain what my Teutonic ancestors motivations for sacking Rome was. I can only speculate based on what I know from quasi-historical pulp novels.

The only proof Shaw, Holloway and Weyland have about the “Engineers” are a few ambiguous cave paintings. Though they might be enough to go on to suggest Earth had been visted by extra-terrestrial life, their greater assumptions entirely lack proof.

For Shaw it’s a matter of faith. Literal religious faith, in fact. Which is interesting. As an atheist, I was more than willing to believe in her irrational belief she’d literally “found God” and wanted to meet him. But based on what? There needed to be another 10-20 minutes of their discoveries which lead them to believe these cave-paintings had anything to do with the creation of human life and not simply playing a game that involves tossing stones in the air.

Even completely delusional UFO conspirists have reems of “proof” about these kinds of things. Not five cave paintings.

And why did the aliens opt for crappy cave paintings and not the exquisite, far more detailed, HR Gigerian murals the crew finds on the planet? Besides that, why did the aliens leave a “road map” not to, as it turns out, their home world but  their weapons installation? For that matter, why develop their weapons of mass destruction on another planet at all?

I suspect there’s not enough cut footage out there to explain any of the flaws in the film.

Perhaps there’s 15 seconds of biologist Milburn getting high with geologist Fifield which explains why he so irrationally tries to befriend an angry space cobra.

Perhaps the scene were Fifield comes back as a zombie was intended to come before Holloway’s infection.  This would explain Miss Vickers’ (Charlize Theron) absurd insistence on keeping him off the ship, his own readiness to be burned alive and the complacency which the entire crew takes his extermination.

Perhaps there’s some kind of explanation about the whole space zombie thing.

Perhaps.

But I don’t have faith there is.


Is Bella Swan autistic – Strange Search Terms (May 2012)

June 8, 2012

Not a single person searched for “May the 4th” during the month of May. It’s enough to make you lose faith in the humanity. At least the rest of these searches are batshit crazy enough to restore that faith. If “restore” and “faith” are the correct words to use in this context…

is bella swan autistic: This is an intriguing explanation of many things in Twilight. For instance, perhaps this is why Edward can’t read her thoughts. But I think it’s more likely that, given her delight in things that sparkle, she is actually a magpie.

kate beckinsale is insane in underworld awakening: This puts a much more interesting spin on the film. It’s all a hallucination she’s experiencing while in stasis. It’s like the “Indiana Jones died in the refrigerator at the beginning of Crystal Skull” interpretation.

oh you mean fuck gif: Yeah, Gif’s an asshole. Fuck that guy. In related news, I love Mr. Rogers even more now.

pizza on people’s faces: I’m guessing it’s like a “pearl necklace” but with bloody pus from an infected penis.

poutine fetish: I’m not sure it’s a fetish so much as a way of life.

stephen harper rapes kittens / harper kitten rape: Apparently this is a popular subject in hentai anime. Tentacles are passé. Kittens and sociopathic dictators world leaders are in.

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Episode 147 – State of the Nerd Nation (Has Nerd Culture Changed?)

June 1, 2012

Click to listen to the State of the Nerd Nation address

Has Nerd Culture Changed?

In the roughly three-ish years we’ve been doing the podcast, I’ve noticed a drastic change in so-called Nerd Culture. A pop culture explosion, if you will. Some have even called it a mainstreamization.

But has Nerd Culture truly become Mainstream Culture?

Yes, it’s unequivocal that shows like Big Bang Theory have brought Nerd Culture into the limelight. But have they made it any more socially acceptable to be a nerd?

Some say yes as more people than ever identify as “nerd” and let their nerd flag fly. Science Fiction books are no longer hidden behind copies of classic novels on the bookshelf, Captain America is now acceptable water-cooler talk and  “geek chic” is the latest trend in fashion.

But does this mean there more nerds in the world? Has any normie truly been “turned” by all the nerd propaganda coming out of Hollywood and the Internet? What makes someone a “nerd” and is it any easier for someone who was “born this way” to live in our society?

There’s a difference between appreciating Nerd Culture and being a Nerd.

People that call themselves nerds

Nerd Culture includes a bevy of of popular things: Comic books, sci-fi and fantasy movies or books, vampires and zombie television shows, video games…

Due to the association of the nerdy fan who’s rabidly obsessed with above, mainstream society has traditionally looked upon these things as nerdy. But a nerd might not even like any them.

A nerd is more than a sum of their interests. A nerd is a person who  cannot fit into mainstream society; a person who is devalued or simply overlooked by mainstream society; someone who will never be accepted by mainstream society. And it has nothing to do with liking Star Trek.

People who are nerds, true nerds, nerds deep in their DNA, are cripplingly socially awkward. Even if they figured that their “time is now” in the wake of Big Bang Theory, they wouldn’t even be able to pull off geek chic—they’d get it wrong somehow. A real nerd cannot “blend” into social gathering. They will make social faux pas and either succumb to withering mortification at the fact or blunder on heedlessly. Some nerds will become bitter and grow walls around themselves claiming they “don’t want to be accepted by mainstream culture” and others will die agonizing that they never were.

But the commonality between all true nerds is that no matter how many prime time sitcoms there are, no matter how many people follow Wil Wheaton on Twitter, they cannot and will not be assimilated.

Pop goes the Nerd

So it’s no wonder that in the golden age of the Internet—the natural habitat of the nerd—an explosion of Nerd Culture occurred. A grassroots movement of memes, videos, tweets, web shows, podcasts, blogs sprouted into existence in the safe haven of the social outcast. A hidden subculture became so prevalent (on a medium more ubiquitous than television or radio ever were in their golden ages) that it was unable to be ignored by the rest of society.

And with the right tweaking, with enough attractive faces attached, Nerd Culture was ready to be packaged, shipped and sold back to its originators.

And Nerds ate it up.

Artistic merit and legitimate talent be damned, all it takes to launch your YouTube career is to pay homage to a movie, videogame or Nerd Culture in general (and it helps to be a cute—not actually very nerdy—girl). Nerds will geekgasm all over you no matter if what you’re doing has any merit or not.

The Nerd Singularity?

Finally, acceptance and legitimization. No more hiding in the margins, no more biting your tongue when someone in the lunch room says Tony Stark has superpowers. The Nerd Singularity has been realized: Mainstream Culture and Nerd Culture are one and the same!

But are they? What’s really going on here? I see it as two fold.

1) Exploitative acceptance or “House Nerds”

Shows like Big Bang Theory are doing for nerds what shows like Will & Grace did for the LGBT community. Though Will & Grace did  help make openly gay characters on TV and in movie less of an issue, the character of Jack was the stereotypical “gay clown”.

Jack’s fabulousness was the butt of the joke in almost every scene he was in. For that matter, Will’s neatness, design style and body consciousness was as well. The show made it okay to laugh at gay stereotypes because it created the illusion of laughing with them. Still, it opened a lot of doors. It was a deal with a fairly benign devil, but a devil none the less.

It opened doors for LGBTs who could pass or were non-threatening. But not the doors to the marriage chapels in many States in America. And if you’re truly, absolutely fabulous—to the point where you neither can nor want to blend in, Will & Grace didn’t change the fact you’re a target to be mocked.

Big Bang Theory does the same thing with Nerds. The average person who likes Star Trek or comic books might feel more comfortable identifying as a Nerd, and their friends more likely yo accept it, but the True Nerd, the person with Apergers or autism, the mouth-breather, the person who’s intensely ADHT, the acne-ridden adult, the person suffering from any number of social anxiety disorders, the chronically overweight and the simply painfully socially inept are still social outcasts.

And some Nerds are happy to dance to please their Normie masters, believing they’re free.

2) Geek Chic is the new Punk Rock/Goth/Emo

nerd fail girlAt its very core, what is “geek chic”? Is it people dressing like nerds?

No, not at all. It’s people adopting aspects of a cartoonish stereotype of the nerd. Vintage Buddy Holly or Sally Jessy Raphael glasses, bow-ties and retro Star Wars decal t-shirts.

True Nerds do not wear these things.

The uniform of the True Nerd is an oversize Wolverine or Darth Maul t-shirt tucked into a pair of jogging pants and if they wear glasses their eye-wear is affordable, practical, unfashionable wire frames.

Geek chic less about being nerdy and more about giving society the finger. It’s like dying your hair green or wearing  an eyebrow piercing was in in the 1990’s. It says “I’m not part of your mainstream society, but I am am desperate to conform to a cultural subset that is fashionable.”

How many people (from teens to celebrities) are trying to become geeks as opposed to merely emulating what they saw in a magazine. After all, those giant nerd glasses all the girls wear started with hipster models saying “I can wear something this hideous and still be hotter than you.”

But a True Nerd doesn’t look hot in those glasses, they look like a total nerdbag.

So, then, what is the State of the Nerd Nation?

Vastly different yet exactly the same as it ever was.

I estimate there’s only about 10% of the population who are True Nerds. And about 10% are true Coolie-Woolies. The remaining 80% of us, whether we identify as nerd or normie, are just people.

Nerds, Cool People and Everyone Else

Most people are a bit socially awkward but they can “pass” in society. A lot of people (literally billions of dollars worth) enjoy Science Fiction and Fantasy but aren’t obsessed. Almost everyone spends too much time on the Internet. A lot of people are beautiful but somehow aren’t “cool” and pretty much everyone around you is just plain average—not really nerdy, not really not-nerdy either.

What’s changed in the last three years is the vast middle ground is now okay with being called a Nerd. Even though they’re not really True Nerds.

And it’s still open season on the real Sheldon Coopers of this world.

Videos discussed in the episode:

Bill Nye dancing: “Nerd or Douchebag?”

Cast your vote!

Epic Proposal

Montreal kids: “I gotta feeling”

Mandi’s weird YTV fandom: PJ Katie’s Farm


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