Welcome back everyone to the sights and sounds of nerd culture enveloping around you like the warm glow of the sun … or something like that. Yes indeed, ladies and gentle-people, we are all ready to come back to you with our G33K of the W33K articles!
We took a long time off because we really got into the Podcasts, and of course had the Mass Effect Marathon to contend with, so free time became scarce. Now though we return and are hopeful to get this back on track and actually make it a weekly “award”. I use that term loosely because really, the G33K of the W33K is simply a highlight for people that you should read more about because they are doing great work.
When trying to get back into the swing of things though, I started to wonder about the origins of the word geek. After all, everyone here on the site uses it as a term of pride, but it was not always as such. Geek is actually a very old word, as it is a variant of geck, a term of Low German/Dutch origin that dates in English to 1511. It originally meant fool, simpleton, dupe, etc. Then in the 1920s and the rise of traveling carnivals, geek became synonymous with a sideshow performer who bit the head off of chickens or snakes. An early day Ozzy Osbourne if you will.
It’s tough to decipher when the term geek was “taken back” and became this kind of chic and accepted word used to describe an entire culture. There are instances both pro and con ever since the the 1980’s, but it seems like late 1990s into the 2000s is when geek became an accepted positive term. As a rise in popularity for the items and activies that stereotypically defined geeks, nerds, dweebs, etc grew, so did the accepability to be called a geek. I’m not that old (going to be 28 on January 12, 2011) but I do remember being called a nerd and a geek in grade school and that being a really bad thing. By the time I was called that in High School, it was a term of endearment that made me feel awesome inside.
Amazing how quickly things can change, don’t you think?
With all of that being said, who is someone that we feel like is working everyday to make geek a favorable word, and not one of disdain? There are many people out there, many of whom will get their due in this very space, but for this week I wanted to single out someone that really has made a lasting impact. When I did some digging, I decided that I needed to talk to you about Jonathan Coulton.
Now I know what you are saying. “Charismatic Guy, you haven’t done this in months and all you can come up with is the guy who wrote the Portal song? Really?!” While it may seem like an obvious choice to many of our readers out there, but when I started to dig into his history more, I found out that he really is living the geek dream. Allow me to explain.
The vital stats on Mr. Coulton include boring information like he was born December 1, 1970 (happy belated birthday!) and that he was born in in Brooklyn, New York. He rises to internet stardom and fandom for writing the supremely awesome songs “Still Alive” and “Re: Your Brains” as most of you know. If you don’t know, then I am going to educate you in a moment but please click on those links and see the music videos!
Coulton graduated from Yale in 1993 where he had been a member of the Whiffenpoofs and the Spizzwinks(?) which are both a cappella groups. In the case of the Whiffenpoofs, they are the oldest and most prestigious of the collegiate a cappella music groups. The Whiffenpoofs are a seniors only group, and many people try in their junior year for one of 14 spots on the team. The Spizzwinks(?) are a more light hearted a cappella group at Yale that allows the underclassmen to get some awesome music in as well. If you want to see just how good the Whiffenpoofs can sound, I suggest you go check out their 2010 rendition of “Leaving on a Jet Plane“. Go check it out I’ll wait for you.
Wait still not convinced? OK fine, since I’m going to New Orleans next week, what if I show you the Whiffenpoofs performing “When the Saints Go Marching in“? Please watch that and come back. =P
Yeah they are that good, and Coulton was apart of that fine heritage and lineage.
So yes, Jonathan Coulton makes really funny songs, but he is also an exceptionally accomplished a cappella singer. Did you also know that after he graduated he went on to program software, and that he got so burnt from it that he quit and used that as his inspiration for the song Code Monkey? Let that sit in for a second because this is why I had to choose Jonathan Coulton this week. Here was a guy who is a self-professed geek, someone who was really good at computer programming, and singing. The man went to Yale so he know he’s pretty smart!
He then takes that background and education, and now makes a living singing fantastic, and many times, hilarious songs that entertain other geeks. Now do you see how he is living the geek dream? He took all of the geeky things that he was passionate about and made that into his career and legacy. That to me is worthy of a week long love fest from all of us here at g33kWatch.
Oh yeah, and he did a banging cover of “Baby Got Back“. Just saying that should win him the award alone. =P
For more information on Jonathan Coulton, you should check out all of the following. Also check out my favorite song that he does right on below. =)