"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Friday, February 4, 2011

Holier Than Thou or Just Nerdy?

Inspired by a post on a blog called Building Frustration, I've been wondering if my obsession with music actually counts as nerdiness. Geeks are loud and proud these days. I admit that I own the Buffy Season 8 comic books. I don't deny that I still have a talking Pee-Wee Herman doll circa 1989. And it doesn't feel like Christmastime until I've screened my annual marathon of all of the Lord of the Rings movies.

I own over 3300 albums. (I used to say "CDs," but that changed a couple of years ago when I started downloading MP3s.) I read a lot about music, even about music I don't really like. I think I've heard a complete Katy Perry song all the way through, like, once, and that was (by chance because I rarely listen to the radio) the very first time those afternoon DJs on Alice 105.9 played that "Kissed a Girl" song. (As I listened, I thought about how the Jill Sobule song about kissing girls in the 1990s is so much better.) But for some reason I seem to know everything about Katy Perry's video antics and Sesame Street controversy.

My mother-in-law was over the other day, and my iPod had randomly chosen to play the Christopher Cross album from 1980. I had recently bought this CD for my wife as a joke because at some point last fall, on Glee, Mr. Schue thought it would be neat if they sang "Sailing" and all the youngsters mocked him for his 80's soft rock sensibility. As Mr. Schue jammed out, I turned to my wife and said, "It's funnier because I've always liked that song." She laughed and said, "Me, too." So when I saw Christopher Cross at Second Spin for 99 cents, I couldn't pass it up. I gave it to my wife and she appreciated the joke, and it turns out that the album isn't half bad. The point here is, however, that my mother-in-law took an interest in the music. I'm pretty sure she cringes at most of the music playing at my house when she visits, but this time she seemed to like it and asked who was playing.

Become more nerdy about Christopher Cross
What happened next was an oil slick of information about Christopher Cross that no one would ever really want to know. I said things like:
"That song was 'Ride Like the Wind' and sung with Michael McDonald who used to sing with the Doobie Brothers."
"You might remember the popular song 'Never Be the Same.'"
"'Sailing' is the best one, and he also sang the theme to the movie Arthur, which he got an Oscar for."
"And in 1981 he won the Best New Artist Grammy, which basically means that he didn't do anything decent after that."
I spent the next ten minutes explaining the Best New Artist Grammy curse, which is that so many Best New Artist winners turn out to be one hit wonders and never make a splash in the music industry again. (Here's hoping that Justin Bieber wins it next week. Fingers crossed.)

My mother-in-law was gracious and said the music was nice and that she liked the saxophone. She also agreed that the Grammy curse is similar to the Best Supporting Actress Oscar curse (which is a subject for another blog, perhaps).

Depeche Mode. The baby years.
Elizabeth Fraser. Heaven on earth.
If I use brain power to file away this glut of information about some stupid music I hadn't heard in 25 years and really don't care about, just imagine the worthwhile information I've got about the history of Depeche Mode or any note Elizabeth Fraser's ever sung or even something new and cool like how Inara George is doing some of the most creative pop music of the last few years, from the retro Andrews Sisters-harmony of The Living Sisters and composing with songwriter Van Dyke Parks to the hip indie covers of Hall and Oats tunes with The Bird and the Bee.

Inara George. Hear her now.
But the real question is this: is "nerdiness" really just another word for "superiority"? Because I certainly feel better knowing that Lady Gaga is just Madonna in new shoes and some meat, and I wish everyone else would see it that way, too.

My wife just walked in singing some Broadway showtune: "If ever I would leave you, it would not be in the  summer" or something and I had no idea what she was referencing. She's such a nerd.

Watch Mr. Schue jam to "Sailing"


  1. Wow. I barely made it through that one. It was like "Depeche Mode nerd nerd nerd blah nerdy blah nerd speak more nerd speak nananananannerd!"

    Like I can speak, right? Great post as always. You are coming along nicely in the bloggety world...with bookshelf gagdets and all!

    The Pee-Wee Herman doll does freak me out though.
    Funny Stuff I Write

  2. I think one good way to explain nerdiness is liking something so much to a point where other people say, "Geez...lighten up." Like the guy who likes sports so much he can reference back up players on old ABA teams.

    I'm happy I could supply a topic :)

  3. @Charlie, thanks for the vote of confidence, and you should ask your wife about the Pee-Wee doll. She was sooo jealous...

    @Johnny. I think Liz Lemon describes the need to be nerdy when she says, "What, you want to just sit around and be wrong?" Nerds are always right, and if they don't know, they'll find out what they need to know to be right.

  4. Brent you have the most astounding music collection of anyone I know. I know I was in awe of it years ago, and I know it is even more amazing now. And if knowing about music makes you nerdy, then I think that is the coolest thing ever!

  5. It's better to be nerdy about music than indulge in the latest Katy Perry songs that make no sense. Also, if you're playing Adele you have to be doing something right.

  6. I must comment that your mother-in-law sounds gracious and always interested in getting a conversation going, and it may be important that she likes the saxaphone. I bet she was impressed with your knowledge of Chris Cross, your take on the Grammy Curse, and your remembrance of the conversation! Interesting entertaining blogs, please continue!

  7. My mother-in-law is indeed gracious, always. She is perhaps the best conversationalist I know. My point in using her in an example of my nerdiness is that even courteous people have their limits and might react to someone's obsession by thinking, as Johnny Utah says above, "Lighten up."