01/30/2004: "Uncle Tim's Cabin"

Listening to: DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
Current mood: Nondescript

It's 2004. Somehow, over the past two or three years, the world has become an indefiniably better place. Whether due to some kind of dying out of the previous century's ideals, or through the increasing ubiquity of high technology in modern American society, we have come at last into the Age of the Geek. The trend towards valuing an individual based on their intelligence, rather than their ability to hold onto an oblong ball while rolling around on the ground with other sweaty men and breathing heavily, is on the upswing.

One way this has manifested itself is in what I can only describe as geek pride. No longer do we try to hide the fact that we spent last weekend reading comic books, programming, or watching 27 hours of Dr. Who. In fact most of us who consider ourselves part of the geek movement even go so far out of the way as to purchase t-shirts and other paraphernalia in an attempt to show the world our true geekiness. It is a golden age, a renaissance for the intelligent individual of esoteric tastes. Alas, not all of us feel this way however.

Let us say that I have a friend, and for the purposes of this article let us refer to him as "Tim," though it is not his real name. It may merely be his predilection against the appropriation of negative/derogatory terms by the social groups they are used against, but he absolutely abhors and refuses to be identified by the terms "geek" or "nerd". (In fact I'm afraid he's going to be quite upset with me just for writing this article).

Unfortunately for him, he fits quite well into the modern defintions of these words, at least as used among the blossoming geek culture. The modern terms "geek" and "nerd" are used generically to refer to those who cultivate their own interests to the exclusion of most other things. Even a non-geek culture definition of the term "nerd" taken from Merriam Webster fits quite well - "nerd: one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits." Hardly cruel or hurtful definitions. He is in fact, incredibly intelligent, and a devoted scholar of several pop culture fields. He could be referred to in fact as a sort of "Master Geek" or "Nerd Guru" to whom other, less erudite geeks, flock for enlightenment.

The problem is, this "Tim" not only rejects the terms "geek" and "nerd", but the culture associated with said terms. In distancing himself I'm afraid he has become a sort of "Uncle Tim", turning his back on the culture that led him to his current respected position as an expert in the fields that interest him, and instead seems to see himself as so far above the geek mainstream as to be totally unrelated to it. Admittedly this is no great sin; denying one's geekhood is hardly hubris. However, in these pro-geek times, it can't hurt to think back to those lonely nights in junior high spent daydreaming about what you would do with Spider-powers, or dialing up a C-64 BBS to talk about Star Trek. Those are the things that have led us to the happy semi-well-adjusted lives that we live today, have kept us from being washed away in the mainstream, drowning in the sea of mediocracy.

Ok. I'll shut up now.

* Apologies to the individual here referred to as "Tim": Sorry man, I just really needed a solid example to introduce my Uncle Tim meme. If it makes you feel better, I don't think you're a nerd. *

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