“I’ll Still be a Geek After Nobody Thinks it’s Chic (the Nerd Anthem)” by Russ Rogers – Musings on a Song #6
“Geek!” At one time the word meant something ugly. At one time if you said, “Geek,” you were talking about a specific kind of Circus Side-Show Freak. The guy would bite the heads off of live chickens and then NOT sing “Crazy Train.” Now, that’s an ugly job!
So the word Geek became an insult, synonymous with “freak,” then “weirdo.” Then slowly getting more specific, to mean a “nerd,” a hyper-intellectual with poor social skills.
I was a Geek as a kid. I was the nebbish, nerdy, picked-on kid in grade school. I got beat up for being different. As a defense, I also became funny. It was that Woody Allen/Jerry Lewis – nervous, self-effacing, wacky, sad-sack funny. I would do ANYTHING for a laugh. I was literally shameless at times. It was a strange mix, because I was also teacher’s pet, that kid who always had his hand up, over-participating in class.
But somehow the World caught up with me. Being a Nerd or Geek wasn’t as stigmatizing by the time I got to High School. There was a shift. Later, in “Revenge of the Nerds,” the geeks were the heroes. There were a string of movies like that: “Weird Science,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Real Genius.” Bands like DEVO or Talking Heads were popular.
Maybe it was the popularity of Star Wars and Star Trek. Maybe it was the importance of computers. Bill Gates became one of the wealthiest men on the planet! The meek really had inherited the Earth! Maybe it was the fruits of 60’s ideal of Individualism, the notion that we don’t have to conform to a normal standard to be valued. You can and should “just be you.”
And the word, “Geek,” shifted again. It no longer had to mean someone who was nerdy or bookish. Suddenly, you could “Geek Out” about things. You could even be Geeky over someone. It was just a sign of excessive enthusiasm. You could be a “Football Geek,” a “Racing Geek” or “Golf Geek.”
Maybe “Geek” is an insult over which the “Geeks” took control and defused. Maybe enough Geeks became powerful enough to say, “This word won’t mean something BAD any more! You won’t think of a Geek as a Freak! You will think of a Geek as an EXPERT in their field!
Marian Call is a self proclaimed “Geek Musician.” She’s clever. She writes good songs and has a lovely voice. Heck, she’s just plain attractive. I became a fan following her twitter feed, @mariancall. Last year, Call completed a 50 State Concert Tour, that she arranged, promoted and documented, pretty much entirely on twitter. It was an amazing adventure, watching her rearrange concert venues on the fly, or deal with cars breaking down or stuff getting lost. I kept thinking, “This would drive me crazy! My gosh, this is a brave adventure!” It was very cool. And as Marian Call traveled across the country she crossed paths with many, many other geeks!
Marian did a house concert in Len Peralta’s family room in Ohio. Len is an illustrator, who for the last year has created something called, “Geek A Week.” Geek A Week is a virtual trading card set. Each week features a different AMAZING Geek, from #25 Molly Lewis, to #35 Neil Gaiman, #27 Steve Wozniak, #49 Mark Mothersbaugh or #14 Wil Wheaton. Marian Call is Geek #38. All the geeks have accompanying blog entries about them. And most of them have recorded pod-cast interviews too. It’s a brilliant project with multiple levels to get geeked over. Len has done 50 geek cards so far. Just two more to finish out the Set, of what I hope will be just “Geek A Week: Series One.”
Opening for Marian Call at Len’s House Concert was Mike Lombardo. Since being featured here in “Musings on a Song,” Mike has joined a project known as, “The Periodic Table of Geek Musicians!” This Periodic Table is the brainchild of Dave Leigh. The idea is, gather together self-proclaimed geek musicians, sell some swag (t-shirts, mugs, mousepads, whatever) through a Cafe Press site. And then have all the proceeds go to a worthy charity, in this case Rite Care Centers for Childhood Language Disabilities. Artists just lend their names and images. Cool stuff gets made and sold. Children benefit! It’s a cool project, and I’ve already signed up my band, Godz Poodlz, to hopefully be Periodic Geeks. Maybe Marian Call will add herself to the Table. One can hope.
Then there’s ThinkGeek.com. Julia Sherred’s Geeky Pleasures, and NO, that’s not a geeky pron site, but I’m sure you can find that too, if you look. There’s even a new geek convention this fall. And yes, Marian Call will be performing at Geek Girl Con in October!
My point is, “Geek” is more than something that people are owning about themselves, it’s a brand that people are SELLING to other people. GEEK is COOL. Geek is the new “Minty Fresh.” Weird. Not “bad-weird.” Because even “weird” isn’t “bad” anymore. And that’s just weird.
So, when did the shift happen? And what or who is responsible for making Geek go from freak to cool?
Russ Rogers is a songwriter, comedian and children’s entertainer. He has a solo show called Rusty’s Rocking Jamboree and has recently recorded an album of more grown up songs in the duo Godz Poodlz. “Musings on a Song” features a different song each week. Hopefully this will introduce you to some songs and artists with which you’ve been completely unfamiliar. So, if you know of some Artist that deserves more attention, let me know in the comments.