At first, a nerd was a geek with better grades. The word described a high-school or college outcast who was persecuted by the jocks, preps, frat boys and sorority sisters. Nerds had their own heroes (Stan Lee of comic book fame), their own vocations (Dungeons & Dragons), their own religion (supplied by George Lucas and “Star Wars”) and their own skill sets (tech support). But even as “Revenge of the Nerds” was gracing the nation’s movie screens, a different version of nerd-dom was percolating through popular culture. Elvis Costello and The Talking Heads’s David Byrne popularized a cool geek style that’s led to Moby, Weezer, Vampire Weekend and even self-styled “nerdcore” rock and geeksta rappers.
If you, say, are rehabilitating a surgically-repaired knee, and you experience a bout of pain--acute or chronic--it crosses your mind that it may be the results of working the thing, or it may be some sort of reinjury. And you realize it's a problem you're not going to solve; you either wait it out or you return your wallet to the healthcare industry.
Likewise, over the past eight years I can't tell if I've simply gotten older or people have truly gotten stupider, but even if it's the former I don't think David Brooks is helping matters any. This sort of construction--The Reflection of All Matter In The Universe Is Determined By How I Became Aware Of It--is a goddam pandemic, and not the good kind that eventually raises working class wages, either, but the bad kind that makes everyone dress like something from a John Travolta movie for six months. I'm not going to argue about this "Fonzie popularized 'Nerd' business". Maybe he did, maybe he didn't; I remain as ignorant of that and every other piece of commercial "comedy" tied to Garry Marshall as it's possible to be and still have electricity. To be sure, the term started spewing like projectile vomit from the lips of every teenybopper and their intellectual cohort at the time, a veritable Where's the Beef? of hilarity; but it was simultaneously denuded of the perfectly expressive meaning it had carried for years, and turned into a sort of medium-purpose insult for the television-addicted witling. So it's like crediting Lazlo Toth for helping out with The Pietà. It's bad enough that David Brooks is nearly fifty, on the pages of the Times, and still thinks history is something that flew out of his ass at age eight. And Nostalgia sucks ass, for precisely the reason on view here: it's dominated by people who can't tell the difference between Preston Sturgis and The Three Stooges, or Elvis Costello and The Fonz. But it's Happy Days that makes the damn thing twenty times worse, since it's a matter of people being nostalgic for a piece of manufactured nostalgia too cheesy to qualify as cheese food. This is fine, as a mindless diversion, in a Hey Man Is That Freedom Rock sorta way, provided you're under twenty-six. Thereafter it's just embarrassing.
Like you, I'm sure, I've learned about stuff from all over. It wouldn't occur to me to attribute some insight about the manipulation of the German economy after WWI to postmodernism just because I first read about it in Gravity's Rainbow, and I sincerely hope that the success of Cats has nothing whatever to do with Eliot's fisticuffs with Ezra Pound in "Desolation Row". David Byrne and Elvis Costello are artists, and uncommonly good ones as rock-and-roll goes. Their public images--then--had nothing to do with the rise of Bill Gates, George Eff Will, or David Effing Brooks, just as they do not have anything whatever to do with art.
Sure, the column was a lazy way to take a five-day weekend without missing "work", but what's the distinction between this and believing Ronald Reagan winning the Cold War "felt" "true"?
2) Via Roy, it's the Senator from Arizona we imagined we were done with for the week:
But I am running for the office of Commander-in-Chief. That is the highest privilege in this country, and it imposes the greatest responsibilities.
The President is Commander-in-Chief in time of war, Senator, which I realize you think is now a permanent condition of that America you hope to command, but it ain't. That clearly was the only conception possible in the 18th Century, though even that only lasted until John Adams realized it meant he'd have to climb on a horse and get shot at. Even with the rise of standing armies it remains the case that the President exercises civilian control, except in wartime or, briefly in an emergency. His Constitutional powers do not trump the system, or aren't intended to; he can command the military for just so long. What you're referring to is the permanent militarization of the country begun by Wilson and cemented in the aftermath of WWII, when we decided we hadn't yet killed everybody we wanted to. It's a situation which has led us into three disastrous major wars in sixty-five years, and it's a situation crying devoutly for complete overhaul before another idiot dick-measurer in the Oval Office tries again. It's too fucking late to try re-wrapping it in the Flag, Senator. It's time to be a real patriot and own up.