Readers, revolution was in the air at last night's very special Soviet-themed edition of Nerd Nite. The speeches covered rebellion against government-controlled media (through underground rock!); rebellion against occupying forces and restrictive citizenship policies (through singing!); and rebellion against the very notion of rhythm itself (through "polymodal chromaticism"). Yes, it was quite an inspiring evening!
Here are some highlights:
The obligatory Nerd Nite origin story made room for some terrific Soviet stop-motion animation featuring the beloved little creature "Cheburashka" (the Russian equivalent of Mickey Mouse) and his accordion-playing crocodile pal. Terrific!
1st Presentation: Notes from the Underground: Dissident Music in the Soviet Union by Austin Charron
Beginning with "The Era of Stagnation" (1964-82), Austin traced the underground world of Soviet Rock as well as the underground trade ("Magnitizdat") of Western records that were smuggled in, pressed onto x-ray film (this is known as "on the bone"). Toward the end we were getting a little worried that the recent case of Pussy Riot was not going to be covered, but we shouldn't have worried. Pussy Riot appeared!
Best line: "Deep Purple is huge in Russia!" (likely due to the records that were smuggled in).
Moment that elicited a collective scenester orgasm: a show-and-tell involving a Russian vinyl copy of Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation.
Here are a few of the bands. We can see ourselves really getting into this Zoopark band!
2nd Presentation: You Sunk My Citizenship? – The Estonian Singing Revolution & Citizenship Dilemma by Dave Trimbach
Former Nerd Nite co-boss Dave began with a very true assertion, at least in our case: "Most Americans don't think about Estonia at all." But his presentation told us all kinds of interesting facts: it's the home of Skype; internet access is a human right; all elections are held on-line (oh, Kris Kobach would NOT be pleased with that!). The presentation focused on the "singing revolution" of 1987-91, which grew out of unrest due to environmental issues and Soviet occupation and, at its height, featured 300,000 protesters singing folk tunes (fully 1/4 of the population!).
Best line: Asked about the strong Swedish tradition in Estonia, Dave replied: "Sweden was their favorite occupier."
Please watch this "History of Estonia in 18 Seconds" :
3rd Presentation: Bar Talk: Bela Bartok, Polymodal Chromaticism & Modern Classical Composition by Steve Dahlberg
Our friend and fellow PBR Book Clubber Steve opened with another very true statement: "We're not gonna understand it completely." But he nonetheless absorbingly immersed us in the "drift away from the tonal" in the works of composers such as Bela Bartok and the like, complete with samples of his own symphonies (dude is prolific!!) composed in his attempts to understand these techniques.
Best line: "Fuck rhythm!"
Second best line: "I've never heard a windchime in a chromatic 12-tone scale."
Final thoughts: we sadly missed the previous Nerd Nite, so this was our first time in the venue's new Ballroom setting at Pachamama's. It's a big space, but what it lacks in nerdy intimacy it makes up for in not having to turn any nerds away, since there's plenty of space for rows of chairs to be set up apart from the table seating.
Also: the next Nerd Nite is on 12/12/12 (holy shit!) and will be an "alumni edition" with past nerds returning with new material.
Big shout-out to Loaded for Bear for sending us all kinds of funny stuff this week (we love guest columns, which allow us to be lazy for the day!).
Their new comedy show, Loaded for Bear 3: Rocket to Awesome, commences at 9:00 on Friday with another show on Saturday.
Today they offer us five delightful haikus to promote the show. Are haikus hip right now? Yes. Haikus are always hip!
LOADED FOR BEAR 3: ROCKET TO AWESOME, IN HAIKU FORM by Jacqueline Grunau and Imagene Harris, writers, actors
Turkey Day is near
Family Gatherings Suck
First, Loaded for Bear
Two leg Sea Captain
Arrrrrr! Yarrrrr! Avast me hearties!
Come and see him dance!
We can’t say there’s beer
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, bring some cash
Get Loaded for Bear
Cure all your worst fears
Laughter is the best of meds
Rocket to Awesome!
That’s what your mom said last night!
Ha Ha! We make jokes!