NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (18)
November 29, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of (one of) their nerdy obsessions.
Somewhere in the still under construction database of Village Voice issues, probably appearing one Wednesday in 1993, there is an essay I wrote, about Rhino Records compilation CDs, in particular the label’s multivolume 1970s AM radio hits collection, Have a Nice Day. And in that essay, at some point, for reasons I never bothered to explain, I summarized the argument of one paragraph with the line “Let Basehead judge.”
Now, if, in something like 1993, you had read your Soviet dissidents, you probably did know that, alongside Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov there was one named Roy Medvedev, who in 1969 had published a critique of Stalin called Let History Judge. And if you were also up on hipster music in 1993, you knew there was a group called Basehead who, a la De La Soul, had engineered an indie album, Plays With Toys, that combined the two great trends of the time: hip-hop and slacker rummaging through pop junk. So what I meant, speculating on the likes of “Indiana Wants Me” as a “cheese” aesthetic different from camp, was that the Rolling Stone, Woodstock view of rock history was Kremlinology and a set of randomly curated, individually issued volumes of apparently limitless, pretty great, half-remembered, inessential recordings had the termite-like power – if they replaced Dylan, Stones, Beatles – to tear down the Wall.
How had I become this obscure writer, accused by a friend who wrote his undergrad thesis on Derrida vs. Austin in re speech acts of being harder to follow than Wittgenstein? Well, my nerd passion is for too-quick and yet too-long summations. There was the 47-page paper I wrote for a high school social studies class on my family’s script typewriter, comparing the anti-USSR critiques of S, S, and M – “holding a mirror up to a mirror,” Mr. Marienhoff wrote. The junior paper in college on Sabbatai Sevi, Gershom Scholem’s beloved “mystical messiah,” whose failed religious revolt corresponded in gnostic ways with Protestant modernity. And my own 1988 senior thesis, about how reading Birmingham cultural studies could help you distinguish R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and Top 40 as equally riddled with questions of authenticity and commodification. Turned it in late, deleted whole sections—been revising it ever since!
In grad school, my cohort went to dinner at the late, great Leon Litwack’s and were taken to view this radical man’s conservatively composed home office, books he needed on every wall around a massive desk. I wrote a research paper for him based on reading two-plus decades of a weekly column on Black theater in The Freeman, struggling to comprehend the Bert Williams world of Blacks in blackface. He gave me high marks for content, low marks for form, but quite enjoyed my subsequent Voice writing. I’ll never complete my research, nor curtail my references. Let the Songbooks judge.
NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Peggy Nelson | Andrew Sempere on NERDING | Blanca Rego on RAIN | Lucy Sante on PSEUDO-AMERICAN PSEUDONYMS OF FRENCH PULP WRITERS DURING WWII | Heather Cole on AMERICAN GIRL | Nicholas Rombes on OLD GEOLOGY SURVEY BOOKS WITH MAP INSERTS | Susan Roe on TIME | Mark Kingwell on SCALE MODELS | Jessamyn West on THE POST OFFICE | Josh Glenn on ARDUIN | Vanessa Berry on NEWSAGENCY AESTHETICS | Toby Ferris on BRITISH/EALING WW2 FILMS | Annie Nocenti on MOSS | Adam McGovern on JOAN SEMMEL | Gabriela Pedranti on ILLUSTRATED BOOKS | Miranda Mellis on DOUBT | Tom Nealon on PAGE EDGES | Mandy Keifetz on KLINGON CONFIDENTIAL (NOVEL EXCERPT) | Eric Weisbard on SUMMATIONS | Kio Stark on LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CLASSIFICATION CODES | Charlie Mitchell on REPO MAN | James Parker on SEINFELD | Heather Kapplow on NOTHING | Russell Bennetts on MODE 7 | Vijay Parthasarathy on VIRTUAL TRAVEL | Marc Weidenbaum on NERD PROXIMITY.
KILL YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2022): TBD. BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2022): LEFT-CORNER BRICK | JOY IS RESISTANCE | THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | & 20 other apothegms to live by. KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2022): ARK II | WKRP IN CINCINNATI | BUCK ROGERS | THE WHITE SHADOW | POLICE WOMAN | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) TV shows. KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2022): KUILL | CATO | COSMO | TRIXIE | VOLSTAGG | & 20 other sidekicks. NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | DOUBT | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.