Episode 15: 2011’s End, Being a Nerd and a Good Dose of Crazy
I do not think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I, a Person Who Writes About Comics On The Internet, has a healthy interest in things that are geeky, nerdy, or whatever-you-want-to-call-them-that-is-literally-the-most-ridiculous-argument-I-think-it-is-possible-to-have-and-I-once-argued-about-the-lyrics-to-Rainbow-Connection-for-two-hours. Neither will it come as a surprise that when it comes to these sorts of topics, I have certain… compulsions. No, it’s nothing dirty, and I’m not talking about the counting-things-or-else-something-terrible-will-happen-to-your-family kind, though I have those, too. But “James’ potentially serious mental health issues” don’t really make for a cheery feature.
I feel like I am getting off-topic.
It’s the end of the year and, customarily, it is the time to reflect on the twelve months past and assess both where you are and where you want to be. All things considered, 2011 has been a pretty good year. I started this site with my closest friend, got to do some fun pieces and interviews and received a great response. I moved into a great apartment and have fallen in love all over again with the revitalized downtown of my home. And, of course, I fell in love with a bunch of new comics, shows, movies, games and activities. Of course, what I’ve truly realized this year is that I am incapable of liking something without being an obsessive nerd about it.
It might have been the move that kickstarted this realization; when you have to move a few hundred pounds each of comics, books, DVDs, CDs and video games and then organize your plastic Batmen, Batgirls & Simpsons/Futurama characters, it is hard to avoid the fact that you tend to Get Very Into Things. I’m not sure why I do; it might be an ingrained desire to know and experience as much as possible – my dad is very much the same way – or it could be something slightly more sinister. Whichever it is, I figured it would be interesting to look at some of the things my obsessive side has turned to this year that aren’t comics, because I write about those frequently already. I’m highlighting three different things – some new to me, some with which I was already familiar – that fell victim to my inability to not be a nerd in 2011:
01. DOCTOR WHO
I know! A nerd who likes Doctor Who, the longest-running science fiction television series in history? Who knew? Truth be told, I’m not surprised that I have fallen in love with the show as much as I have, but that I fell in love so completely and absorbingly as I did. This is a show I “decided” to watch in 2009 and then didn’t for almost a year and a half, but that I finally watched in the spring and immediately started inhaling.
Of course I’m absorbing the series like a madman. Of course I watched the 2011 Christmas Special with my family earlier this week. Of course. Again, that in itself is no big deal. However, I didn’t just watch the series. I threw viewing parties. Not singular. Plural. I debated plot points in person while eating TARDIS-blue cupcakes and comparing my 11th Doctor sonic screwdriver flashlight with the toy replica Brandon’s girlfriend has. Last weekend, I realized that I was watching Doctor Who while drinking tea out of a TARDIS mug, wearing a shirt with hundreds of damask TARDISes on it and tweeting about it on my iPhone with a TARDIS case. Afterward, I might have read a Doctor Who comic. This is more or less par for the course.
Of course, I got Brandon into it too, since we share a brain and it was literally as simple as showing him a single episode. I at least try to be a good friend.
This is one that, technically speaking, is nothing new. I enjoyed baseball as a kid, and staying up late with my mum watching the Toronto Blue Jays win the 1993 World Series is still a fond memory almost 20 years later. During the mid-90s, I frequently attended games of the local Triple-A team, affiliated at first with the Oakland Athletics and finally the Montreal Expos before both teams moved on. My grandpa had season tickets and attendance was a family outing. During these years, my dad taught me how to keep a box score on a hot summer night in the back yard while listening to a game on the radio. And if you think following baseball closely can be nerdy, then you need to be introduced to the practice of charting a game play-by-play so that you can revisit it in the future.
In the 90s, I was absolutely a baseball nerd. But then I fell away from it for some forgotten reason (I’m guessing it was the New York Yankees), and excepting the rare World Series game I caught on TV and the 2002 Oakland Athletics’ 20-game winning streak, I didn’t really pay attention to it anymore. Until Matt Fraction and John Siuntres, that is.
Now, I’m pretty sure that if it’s not necessarily nerdy to fall back in love with a sport, it’s at least a little bit nerdy to fall back in love with it because of a 15-minute tangent your favourite comic book writer went on with an interviewer during a two-hour podcast. I did, and that was it for me. Suddenly I was watching games on TV again, reading game recaps and buying $15 iPad apps so that I could watch games even when they weren’t on local TV and analyze every single pitch and call, which I compared to statistics popularized by Bill James. Suddenly, I was looking for a new Oakland Athletics cap. I convinced people to see Moneyball. I had an opinion about the Boston Red Sox again.
The cap to everything was that when pressed for weeks to actually give my mum ideas for things she could get me for my birthday, I immediately wrote down:
Baseball, A Film By Ken Burns (DVD)
That’s right, my ideal holiday gift was a 23 hour-long documentary about the history of baseball. And I got it! And I am incredibly excited to have literally a full day of baseball ephemera to nerd out over. That is a real thing that I now have to accept about myself, that I cannot just like baseball, I have to obsess about it.
I’ll confess, I have been a bit of a nerd about cooking for a lot longer than just this year. I remember the first thing I ever cooked, an Egg in a Basket I saw the kids on Camp Cariboo make in the early 90s and immediately woke up my dad at 7am so that he could teach me how to use the stove. I was raised to cook. I have a lot of cookbooks, read food websites, pay Eat Your Books a monthly fee to keep the two organized and pay three different branches of America’s Test Kitchen subscription money. A couple of years ago, I even took over my parents’ backyard with an ambitious garden so that I could have access to cheap organic fruits and vegetables. I am not, strictly speaking, new to being a cooking nerd; 2011 was just the year that I started really obsessing about it all.
A big part of it was my aforementioned move. In my old area of town, the main restaurants available are generally chains, with the occasional family restaurant thrown in. The downtown, however, has started to see an explosion of restaurants and food trucks dedicated to adventurous cooking that’s locally sourced. Why get tacos that aren’t authentic Mexican ones at Tres Carnales? Why get a fast food breakfast sandwich when I can stop at the Elm Cafe and get a giant one made entirely with entirely local food? Why go to Starbucks, as much as I like them, when Transcend Coffee (host to Canada’s currently crowned best barista) roasts everything in-house based on beans the owner personally sourced from Latin America and serves it alongside coxinhas, pao de queijo and pupusas? The places I eat out got exciting this year and it inspired me to get a bit more serious about things.
So did having a farmer’s market literally two blocks from my apartment. On a Saturday morning in the summer, all I have to do is walk out my door, turn right and walk for a couple of minutes. I will physically run into small local businesses selling fresh ingredients and artisan products. It’s easy to get really into food when there are so many wonderful ingredients, so close.
It also helps that I started watching shows like Chopped. I’m not generally into reality competition shows, but when I watch some chefs open baskets full of mystery ingredients, I’m impressed with the improvisation and technique they have to show just to make something that is technically submittable to the judges. For all the drama the show tries to create – and is usually pretty good at, actually – what I really love is watching people who know food just trying out new things.
All of these things got me interested in not just trying making new types of dishes, but going even more basic than that. I have two recipes for homemade sriracha sauce and I want to see which is better. I want to learn about butchering my own meat from primal cuts and how to make exciting loaves of bread. Every staple in my fridge, freezer and pantry is now looking like a challenge. Can I make it myself? Can I make it better? Can I learn techniques well enough to truly improvise with whatever I have on hand? I’m looking at classes. I’m seriously considering starting at the beginning and working my way up systematically. I’ve made a connection at a local brewery who wants to help me learn how to make my own beer. I want to make my own sausage. Why should I have to pay for mayonnaise?
Goddammit, I’m a nerd. I don’t know how not to be. At work I play with numbers and turn them into manuscripts. At home, I’m no different. It’s how I view the world, and I’m wondering what 2012 will do to bring it out in new and interesting ways.
Happy everything, everybody.