Barcalounge Skipper - Revenge of the Football Nerds?

Gilbert and Lewis: Our Heroes
The age of the nerd is upon us.  Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Battlestar Galactica, Glee, Pixar movies, vampire movies, video games – heck, the entire freakin’ Internet – all of these things are evidence of the arrival of the Nerd Age.  The Information Age is the Nerd Age in most aspects.  EBay anyone? E-Trade?  B2B? Need I continue?  The real question is, are you 1337 or are you n00b?  And, furthermore, “Are you ready for some football?”

To quote Wikipedia – another nerd invention, BTW – “nerd is a term that refers to a person who avidly pursues intellectual activities, technical or scientific endeavors, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests, rather than engaging in moresocial or conventional activities.”  Star Wars, Star Trek, and D&D jokes aside, the “obscure knowledge” is a phrase I would take issue with.  In the age of blogs, podcasts, and the global information economy, there is no such thing as obscure knowledge – simply knowledge that has a very specific market for people who, well, want to go really really deeply into a subject.

The best example the explosive growth of the nerd ethos into new and surprising areas is fantasy football.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, The Football Nerd.  Last year, ESPN estimated that each year some 27 million people play fantasy football of one sort or another – and one would assume that the vast majority of them are US citizens.  This means that some 9 percent of the population of the country is playing, with an average of 9 hours a week spent on watching games, following players and stats, and working out trades and other player transactions within fantasy football leagues.  Perhaps, dear reader, you are already lost.  This only proves just how far nerd culture has penetrated into the lives of those of you who, as they say, have a real life.

Keep the Faith: Mint in the box.
I must admit to my own nerd tendencies.  I am 41 years old.  I have a comic book collection tucked away in the closet.  As I type this, I am surrounded by several hundred jazz and blues CDs. Nearby sits my 2004 commemorative Boston Red Sox World Series Champs Monopoly game and my Red Sox-Yankees rivalry chess set.  I have played fantasy baseball for some 12 seasons, although now I belong to one competitive league and, aside from draft day, I don’t obsess over it too much.

I played fantasy football for one season, and that was enough.  As fun as it was, and as good a group of guys as I played with, a seasoned nerd like me simply could not keep up with the serious Football Nerd.  They move fast, they hit hard, and they take no prisoners.

Some might say that it’s the ultimate revenge of the nerds.  That specialized, obsessive approach, after all, is what led to the ultimate triumph of Lewis Skolnick, Gilbert Lowe and their pals over the jocks and preps from Alpha-Beta House in the now-legendary 1984 film.  The profound impact on nerd self-esteem was documented in the 2003 film, American Splendor, based on the life of the late, great comics nerd Harvey Pekar.  In that film, the character of uber-nerd Toby Radloff, played by comedy nerd Judah Friedlander, speaks to the impact of Revenge of the Nerds.

Toby and Judah: White Castle rocks.
“It's about a group of nerd college students who are being picked on all the time by the jocks. So they decide to take revenge. . . I consider myself a nerd. And this movie has uplifted me. There's this one scene, where a nerd grabs the microphone during a pep rally and announces that he is a nerd and that he is proud of it and stands up for the rights of other nerds.  Then he asks all the kids at the pep rally who think they are nerds to come forward, so nearly everybody in the place does. That's the way the movie ends.”

Nearly everybody in the place.  Right on, Toby.

And now we have 27 million Football Nerds gearing up for the NCAA and NFL seasons. There’s an FX comedy series – now in its second season, The League,that is about a group of guys who play fantasy football.  Oh, the wackiness!  Who watches the show – Football Nerds, or the people laughing at the Football Nerds?  Some men – and most of the players are men, sorry – are okay in their pigskin dorkiness and have come out to their families, have given notice that they will be unavailable on draft day and every Sunday from now until January.  Others, sadly, keep it obscured or secret, like Paul Rudd’s sad character in Knocked Up, a man who is not cheating on his wife, but is in fact trying to get away for his fantasy draft with his buddies.  “No wives,” shouts one of his friends when Rudd’s wife barges into the draft room.  “No wives!”  And that’s just wrong.

So, to return to the original dichotomy of the cinematic classic, Revenge of the Nerds: Who wins here?    Also known as Nerdworld.

Gilbert and Lewis would be proud.

When you’re finished with your little pretend football team, big guy, why don’t you get off your butt and go shine the yacht?  We nerds will be in the man-cave watching Iron Man on the 60 inch plasma.

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PNodcast - I Was A Teenage Jazz Curmudgeon

Sitting around in life trying to figure out what the deal is with Kenny G. Or maybe the deal is with me.

Read the PN blog entry that started it all.

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Playlist - 88 Jazz Place Morning

I had a great time filling in for Frank Consola on the air this morning, and I had a chance to play more new music that I would have expected.  It was a smooth gig. WDNA recently moved to a much bigger and newly renovated building just outside of Coral Gables, and the new broadcast studio is big, comfortable, completely up to date and functional.  I don't have to bring my own headphones like I used to back in the day.

Playlist - Song, Artist, Album

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PN Video Jukebox - Miles Davis

We start a regular Thursday feature, the Video Jukebox, with a short playlist for Miles Davis -- an interview with Sonny Rollins about Miles, four performances from the late 50s and early 60s, and a final appearance during Davis' electric phase after his comeback.

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Guest Host - 88 Jazz Place, Thursday Morning

By request, Carol King's 'Shofar Away.' A-one, and a-two. . .
Tomorrow morning I'll be doing my best to fill in for The Walking Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Frank Consola, on 88.9 FM here in Miami and online at wdna.org.  We start at 6 am and run all the way to 11, so I've got five hours in which to play music -- some of the new stuff I've been listening to of late and, of course, all kinds of goodies dug up from the WDNA library.  Don't forget, it's Rosh Hashanah, so be sure to wish your Jewish friends a good and sweet new year.

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Review of Kneebody's 'You Can Have Your Moment' on eJazzNews

You Can Have Your MomentThe latest album from jazz -- er, collective improvisers -- Kneebody is, in a word, excellent.  If one could translate that excellence into the form of an angry, omnivorous bear, You Can Have Your Moment would rip your face off for starters, then eat your lunch.  It will do some damage, but unlike a bear attack, you will enjoy the experience.  I had a great deal of fun listening to this album, and even more fun writing about it, although I'm not sure I understood the half of it. This, to me, is a very good sign. My full review on eJazzNews can be found here.

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Review of Ethan Mann's 'It's All About A Groove' on eJazzNews

Its All About A GrooveNew York-based guitarist Ethan Mann brings his usual weekend gig buddies Chip Crawford (keyboards) and Greg Bandy (drums) to the studio to record It's All About A Groove, an excellent mix of originals, standards, and standards-to-be.  At times, it's a mainstream take on the classic guitar-organ-drums trio.  Other times, it's a little more stylish and smooth, like when it offers a few numbers from the Philly soul group The Stylistics.  Find my full review of the CD on eJazzNews.

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Housekeeping: Redesign, Video, Networked Blogs, Goodreads

A little digital housekeeping this weekend.  First of all, as you can see the website's been redesigned a little to alllow for easier reading and a slightly wider format for better display of images and video.

Through Facebook, the Notes is now available through Networked Blogs -- you can follow us through that feed if you like.

A fellow book-lover introduced me to the Goodreads social networking site, so if you're a member feel free to add me.

And, although it's just a starting point now, but we've started a channel on YouTube -- Passing Notes Video -- as a place to eventually deliver sound and image.  For now, it's a growing collection of video of jazz and blues performers, as well as a few interviews and lectures with authors of note.  We'll be adding video clips each week -- subscribe or friend us through your YouTube account and enjoy watching along with the PN gang.

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PNodcast - Charlie Parr's Rooster and the Case for Authenticity

Rooster (2005) by Charlie Parr
From the archives, a review of Rooster by roots musician Charlie Parr -- and my thoughts on artistic authenticity.

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Eater's Notes - Chowing Down I-95

Bobby O's in Dupont, PA
When I travel -- alone or with the family -- I really prefer to drive.  Flying with toddlers isn't much fun for anybody, and rolling along in our big van gives the kids, my wife, and I the chance to stop when we want, stretch our legs, and, if we pick our spots properly, find a nice independent restaurant at which to chow down.  This summer we found a place in Dupont, PA off Interstate 81 called Bobby O's that had excellent cheesesteaks, a pickle bar, and 101 flavors of milkshake. A story today on NPR about where to eat along I-95 put me in mind of the Hayes Family taste for road food.  Feel free to leave a comment mentioning your own secret special road food stop anywhere off the main thoroughfares.