Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What About Your Friends?: A Pontification on Nerds and Community

Yesterday, my son – affectionately referred to here-in as Lil’ X. – was sick again… or still… depending upon which pediatrician you ask. Anywho, as a result I stayed home from work to tend to him.

I’m a dad. It’s what I do.

Due to the fact that he was so ill, he didn’t offer a lot in the way of entertainment. (Normally he’s more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys, but yesterday, in his weakened state, not so much.)

So, while I had resigned myself to whiling those lost hours away doing *shudder* the housework to which I have thusly been so negligent, fate intervened to the contrary.

Hipster, please! is a blog about nerd music and culture, and, as was so succinctly stressed in Wil Wheaton’s PAX keynote, nerd culture is a far more social affair than outsiders would care to admit. Case in point: yesterday, in the space between tapping yet another bottle of Pedialyte and the all-to-frequent diaper changes, I was comforted, amused, and distracted by a cavalcade of ever-supportive nerdy confidants.

First, I discovered that, though my position as la petite domestique had rendered attendance to either event impossible, I was well represented last week at both Nerdapalooza SE in Gainesville and at the High Dive in Seattle.

In Florida, my pal Steve (otherwise known as funky49) included a little bit of his track “Hurricane Love” in a medley he performed during his set at NSE, the breakdown of which contains a little voiceover by yours truly. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, my boys the Goondocks gave Hipster, please! a shout-out before launching into their excellent contribution to the Nerdcore Undercover compilation “Posse Needs Upgrades.”

As cheesy as it sounds, those are the kinds of things that remind me why I spend time that I rightfully should be working cranking out podcasts and blog posts; though I couldn’t make it to either coast to enjoy the festivities, I know I was welcome and maybe even missed.

I also received succor from several non-musical nerds as well. Big chunks of my afternoon (read: Li’l X’s nap) were spent helping Matt give Church a little good-natured hell (of the “we knew you when” variety) concerning the fact that his “Nixon Peabody” YouTube vid has gotten mad press. MAD PRESS!!!

Hell, I even played a little Animal Crossing with a really nice cat from CAG who helped me clean up the thousands of weeds that had grown since my last sojourn to my humble town.

I guess what I’m saying is, much like Mr. Wheaton, where most folks see nerds as awkward, borderline dangerous loners, I see them as a community. My community.

That’s not saying we’re not awkward, and, yeah, some of us are dangerous, but I’d hazard a guess that the ratio is no higher with us than any or social group. But I digress.

I write all of this to frame a single event, and event that is important within the sphere of nerdy music and also pertinent within the realm of our community.

Yesterday afternoon, Karl “Ultraklystron” Olson announced on his site that he will be taking a break from his musical endeavors.

I think Matt summed up my initial sorrowful reaction succinctly with the title of his post: “Crap.

Karl has been recording making music, in one form or another, since he was only 10. While I can’t attest to the quality of his early work, I can tell you that his recent electronic output – as well as his nerdcore hip-hop – has been some of my favorite. Ultraklystron billed himself as music for the otaku, but I always found his style appealing despite the fact that I know about as much about anime as I do bull riding.

Moreover, I was always charmed by his content. I’ve stated this before (both here at HP and via private channels), but I must reiterate that I’ve always found Ultraklystron’s ability to render a song – any song – as less a sequence of rhymes and more a uniquely personal experience to be among his most fascinating qualities. Karl always manages to draw me into a song, whether I comprehend the underlying cultural references or not, and that’s no small feat.

For all my talk of broadening nerd music’s horizons, I tend to compartmentalize. I often speak of the first generation of nerdcore by invoking the Big 3 – mc chris, MC Frontalot, and YTCracker. This by no means diminishes the work of groundbreaking artists like Jesse Dangerously, MC Lars, or, my personal favorite, Optimus Rhyme, but the former three are often the first names that come to mind when I discuss the first wave of nerdcore with fans and detractors alike.

Consequently, I’ve always seen second gen nerdcore in terms of its own Big 3 – Beefy, MC Router, and Ultraklystron. Again, there are many other influential and infinitely important artists – perhaps even artists that I, personally, enjoy more – but those three are my own personal shorthand.

Hearing that Karl has chosen to step away from his prescribe post saddens me a bit, but at the same time I know enough about the guy to recognize that he takes his music seriously, and wouldn’t take such a step lightly.

Karl has promised to help Rai and Nursehella with their current projects, and has even mentioned that his forthcoming album Opensource Lyricist may indeed see the light of day. And while we should and most certainly will lament the loss of his voice aside from these gleaming exceptions, I feel that it is important for us as a community to respect his decision and to wish him well in all his endeavors, musical and otherwise.

It takes an enlightened man to truly comprehend his own situation. It takes a brave man to admit that his current standing is not quite where it should be. It takes a strong man to dedicate his energies to rectifying his shortcomings.

Karl Olson is each of these, and it is these traits that have always drawn me to his music.

So while we as a community, as a family, mourn what we can at least hope is a temporary absence of Ultraklystron from our ranks, let us also celebrate the body of music that he has graced us with.

Karl was one of 2nd gen’s first true stars, and while he may no longer be rocking the mic, he’s still a friend to nerds everywhere.

Best of luck along your journey, Karl, wherever the path might lead, and know that when you finally come back around we'll be waiting. With open arms and ears.


Church said...

Sad Panda, indeed.

He'll be back, though. He's too good not to.

antisoc said...

All I have to say is "hop in the mech and start the poooooowwwwnnnnaaaaaaage!"

which will be most likely on my new cover EP

Nygel said...

I'd put Lars on the first teir of nerdcore, just saying... he's way more popular than the others, may not be the nerdiest of them, but definately up top. and yeah, he'll be back... they always come back.

Z. said...

I think we'll hear more from Karl too, Church.

New cover EP? Damn, Soc, I need details! :D

Oh yeah, nYgel, Lars is totally first tier nerdcore. I was just saying that Front/chris/YT are generally just the three that come to mind first for me personally.