Friday, December 30, 2011

Year of the Horse

I am a creature of habit. I toss out phrases like "regular feature" and "annual tradition" a lot around here, and that's because these things, in their own weird little way, give me hope. The fact that this blog has been around long enough for me to have go-to pieces reminds me of how fortunate I am to still be able to do this.

I don't write full-time, I haven't yet arrived at that ultimate blessing/curse of doing what I love to do as my for-real employment, but Hipster, please! and, to a greater extent, my work at GeekDad has allowed me to supplement my income by actually doing something I dig. And I have you to thank for that.

'Cause it's what I do. I'm a thanker.

It's also *ahem* tradition that in this year-end wrap-up I thank longtime backers like Jason, Matt and Church (AKA: The Shadow Council), faithful supporters like Larry and Chris and Jarod, and new-found homies like Euge and kHill.

Which I guess I kinda just did.

It's also required that I hem and haw over what were the standout releases of the year, and this time around that's even more problematic than usual. I mean, I reckon I have my top spot reserved for either Kirby Krackle's Super Powered Love or Supercommuter's Products of Science depending on which way the wind blows at any given moment. But with stiff competition from (aforementioned homeboys) Adam WarRock and Mikal kHill, The Bossfights' phenomenal debut full-length, Illbotz hilarious Pudding is Delicious, that brilliant Weird Al tribute album and significant major label showings from old favorites like Anthrax, there really are no losers in this race.

But what I do most in this little year-ender is spotlight one particular geek that set the tone for the previous 12 months. Sometimes I single out a long-established musical innovator. Other times I point toward the future of our tribe. Mostly, though, I cheap out and pick a whole group of people as my "nerd of the year."

Which I'm about to do now.

As nerd culture becomes pop culture, fandom, long our secret, hidden shame, becomes our currency. Whether in a bar or at the supermarket, I'm just as likely to hear cats rattling off baseball stats as passionately discussing Galactica, and that's an interesting paradigm shift. But, lest you fear that this wholesale adoption of nerddom will somehow sour your loser-makes-good victory of brains over bros, let me point out that 2011's most potent, virulent and widely remarked upon flavor of fandom came from a very unlikely source.

Over the past several months, as the brony ranks have continued to swell, I've heard their little enclave often damned and even more so observed with a sort of stunned journalistic silence. But while I can't claim to be one of them – my casual association with the property likely paints me more as at most a "brony sympathizer" – I am here to say that they are no more confounding (or annoying) than any group of motivated Trekkies, Browncoats, Wrock kids, Juggalos or Volunteers fans. They merely represent a new breed of fanboys that are less afraid to let their geek flag fly, even when it does so in the face of the traditional trappings of masculinity.

In a culture where gender roles are so ingrained that we almost refuse to think about them, the idea of men in their 20s and 30s latching onto a "girl's TV show" for no other reason than they recognize its artistic merits gives me renewed hope. Sure, nerd life has long existing in a space that often avoids some common masculine pursuits – sports, to use one stereotypical example – but the idea of men willfully embracing a series aimed at females represents a small but significant shift.

If nerdism stands for anything, it's the dogged refusal to put away childish things. It's a willingness to cling to the joys and wonder of youth even as we feel ourselves getting older. We are eternal adolescents, reminders that one can grow old without ever growing up. This is personally liberating, but the larger specter of gender disparity stills haunts us as a group.

If we are ever to get past not only our own culturally propagated sexism but that of the greater world around us, we must learn to avoid our own long-laid traps. If we're to raise our daughters to understand that chemistry and coding and Call of Duty are as much within their realm as that of their brothers, then we need to set examples. Even minuscule ones. If we're ever to make the words "geek girls" – surely as buzz-worthy a phrase as "steampunk" or "dubstep" was in 2011 – an obsolete relic of our divided past, then we have to change the way we allow our culture to be defined, from within as much as from without.

A violently promiscuous new Catwoman or a line of fem-LEGOs don't represent steps forward for our nerd sisters; they stand out as further examples of our general miscalculation of what the women, young and old, in our midst both desire and deserve. And if a group of a dozen dudes getting together and combing the hair manes of their pony dolls while talking about the symbolic importance of The Wonderbolts can ever so slightly nudge us in the direction of a community that's somehow a little less dependent on bullshit gender identification – many bronies even refuse to differentiate between male and female members, eschewing the designation of "pegasister" altogether – and a bit more welcoming to nerds of all genders, backgrounds or orientations, then I say go the fuck on, bronies.

You go the fuck on.

In 2011 bronies made news and music and memes and, yes, waves, and they did it all for the love of a cartoon. And if that ain't nerdcore, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 124: The Closer

Ah, the final podcast of 2011. You've been a longtime coming.

(That's what she said!)

I always try and pull double duty with my year-end show. I want it to showcase some great cuts from the previous 12 months that I neglected to play at the time of their release, but I also want it to give you a little dose of party music for your New Year's debauchery.

Hopefully this show fits both bills.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 124: The Closer [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 61.4 MB Running Time: 47:00 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Who will you kiss at midnight: Beefy or Spellah? We got some Mystery Date shit goin' on over here, y'all!

Track 1: Jonathan Coulton - "Sticking it to Myself"
JoCo is the man now. Thus the sticking it to himself.

Z's 1st interlude: "Nerdy thrashers."
I finally got to see Anthrax play live this year. Achievement unlocked.

Track 2: Anthrax - "Earth on Hell"
I can't imagine the refrain of "so say we all" was included by mere happenstance.

Track 3: Community dialog / POWERLIFTER - "Level 14 (PANTHERHAMMER)"
Let me tell you what POWERLIFTER digs: parenthetical subtitles.

Track 4: The Bossfights - "Eye of the Rising Sun"
An amazing cut from a wonderful album.

Track 5: KABUTO THE PYTHON - "My Baby Left Me (for Skyrim) [feat. STD]" / Skyrim dialog
KABUTO's got them gamer rap blues!

Track 6: Threv - "SMW (Ghost House B-Boys Mix)"
Nophi's Eightest Bits is a freebie download over at Bandcamp. Get on that shit.

Track 7: Wugazi - "Nowhere To Wait"
"Hittin' straight to the chest like a Primatene mist!"

Z's 2nd interlude: "My favorite movie of the year."
If you haven't seen The Muppets yet you are part of the problem.

Track 8: Kobi LaCroix - "CNR"
Twenty-Six and a Half is a fitting tribute to the king of comic geek rock.

Track 9: Parry Gripp - "Do You Like Arby's?"
Yes, Parry. Yes I do.

Track 10: Ken Ashcorp - "20% Percent Cooler"
Our final brony track of 2011 isn't a remix of the show's original soundtrack.

Track 11: Helen Arney -"Animals (feat. Professor Elemental)"
Yep, that's chap-hop legend Professor Elemental backing up Helen on this comically erotic little number.

Track 12: Kirby Krackle - "In Another Castle"
Admittedly, this one's a bit similar to their classic "Zombie Apocalypse," but it's still a delightful musical romp.

Track 13: Adam WarRock & Mikal kHill - "Out of Gas (feat. Jesse Dangerously)"
The Browncoats Mixtape is also free. I can't imagine you haven't already snatched this one up.

Z's final interlude: "Before SOPA kicks in and shit like that is punishable by death."
That is merely a slight exaggeration.

Track 14: "Weird Al" Yankovic -"Party in the CIA"
Longtime listeners may remember that I ended my first show of 2010 with a "Party in the USA" mash-up. There's an odd symmetry there. Possibly symbolic, even.

That's all I've got left in me for the year, folks.

I mean, you'll probably get my year-end review post – wherein I choose my nerd o' the year – later this week, but musically I am spent. I'm an old man, internet.

You may notice some (amateurish) scratching on a couple of dialog samples in this episode. I bought my 6-year-old an ION Discover DJ rig for Christmas, so I figured I'd play with it myself a bit. Perhaps I will continue to experiment until I'm actually passable at such things. Or maybe I'll never touch it again.

Only time will tell. And at this point we have nothing but time.