How Big a Geek Are You?

A few weeks ago, MIT launched a new video through its home page which was intended to prove to the world that MIT folks are not all geeks. (By the way, sorry not to be able to embed the video here but in the name of Youtube, the MIT geeks have decided they need to lock down their content rather than allowing it to spread!)

It’s an effective video which calls attention to many of the things I love about MIT but it left me frustrated. For one thing, most of the folks they depict still come across looking like geeks, not that there’s anything wrong with that! And I thought the video would have been more effective if it broadened our definition of geek to include all of the rest of us at MIT who don’t participate in the robotics competition or spend most of our time talking to our shoes. I’m proud to be a geek — and to be geekish about culture and art. To my mind, saying that MIT isn’t all geekish because it teaches the humanities is another way of saying that the humanities are cut off from the things that made MIT famous and I don’t accept that core premise.

geeks2.jpg

So, rather than teaching our incoming students to feel proud because they aren’t geeks, we hit them with a geek entrance exam, inspired by our colleague Junot Diaz’s The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Diaz’s writing is full of in joke references to games, comics, animated series, and pop music, all of which form the raw material for the various characters to construct their own personal mythologies.

Make no mistake — Junot Diaz is a geek; he’s also a hep cat. Both sides of his personality were on display during his appearance on The Colbert Report earlier this summer. In writing this book, it is clear that Diaz was struggling to make sense of his own geekish impulses and perhaps, this award winning book is his way of reflecting on how and why he belongs at MIT. It’s an amazing book which I recommend to anyone reading this blog.

Every year we select a book to send to our graduate students to read over the summer. The books are carefully chosen to help set the tone and establish some key themes for the coming year. This year, we chose Oscar Wao and our graduate students are lucky enough to be able to sit down for a conversation with the author later this week. To get in the spirit, I put together a little quiz which includes many, though not all, of the geek references in the novel. We used it to break the ice as the graduate students got to show off their geek expertise. I thought you might also enjoy working their way through the quiz. I didn’t bother to put together the answers. That’s what Wikipedia is for, silly!

To show how geeky my students are, they ended up using ChaCha, the new text-message based research service, to track down answers to some of the hard to identify terms.

How Big a Geek Are You?

The following are geek culture references from Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous

Life of Oscar Wao.

How many of them can you identify?

How many other CMS students do you need to talk with to figure out what they all

are?

What digital resources would you use to track down this information?

Muhammad Ali

Akira

Lloyd Alexander

Appleseed

Isaac Asimov

Atari

Jeans Pierre Aumont

Balrogs

Billy Batson

Battle of the Planets

“Beam Me Up”

Big Blue Marble

Biggie Smalls

Blake’s 7

Ben Bova

Bon Jovi

Brotherhood of Evil Mutants

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Captain America

Captain Horlock

Chaka

Chakobsa

Champions

Clay’s Ark

Daniel Clowes

Dark Knight Returns

DC

D&D

Samuel Delaney

Deathstroke

DM

Doctor Who

Dr. Manhattan

Dr. Zaius

Dorsai

Dune

Eightball

Elvish

Encyclopedia Brown

The Exorcist

The Eyes of Mingus

Fantasy Games Unlimited

Final Fantasy

George Foreman

The Fountainhead

Galactus

Galadriel

Gamma World

Gen. Urko

Ghost

Gondolin

Good People of Sur

Gorilla Grod

Gary Gygax

Green Lantern

Hardware

Hector Lavoe

Robert Heinlein

Frank Herbert

Herculoids

Hernandez Brothers

Tracy Hickman

Harry Houdini

Robert E. Howard

Ill Will

Incredible Journey

Intellivision

Jabba the Hutt

Jack Kirby

Jedi

The Jeffersons

Kaneda

The Great Kazoo

Stephen King

Land of the Lost

Stan Lee

Ursula Le Guin

Lensman

Lothlorien

H.P. Lovecraft

Luba

Magic

Manhunter

Man Without a Face

Marvel

Mary Jane

Master Killer

John Merrick

Frank Miller

Minas Tirith

Miracle Man

Maria Montez

Alan Moore

Mordor

Morlock

My Side of the Mountain

“Nanoo-Nanoo”

Neo Tokyo

New Order

Andre Norton

“Oh Mighty Isis”

Palomar

Phantom of the Opera

Phantom Zone

Planet of the Apes

Roman Polaski

Project A

Rat Pack

Lou Reed

Return of the King

Robotech Macross

Rorshach

The Sandman

Sauron

Doc Savage

Shazam

Sindarin

Slan

“Doc” Smith

Robert Smith

Solomon Grundy

Sound of Music

Space Ghost

Squadron Supreme

Olaf Stapledon

Star Blazers

Star Trek

Street Fighter

Tom Swift

Sycorax

Take Back the Night

Teen Titans

Tetsuo

The Terminator 2

This Island Earth

Three’s Company

J.R.R. Tolkien

Tomoko

Tribe

Tripods

Twilight Zone

U2

Ultraman

Adrian Veidt

Veritech Fighter

Virus

The Watcher

Watchman

Watership Down

Margaret Weis

H.G. Wells

What If

What’s Happening

Wonder Woman

X-Men

Zardoz

Comments

  1. lucywiggin says:

    Only 66, *sigh*. Am I losing my geek-ness?

  2. querldox says:

    Do we get bonus points for spotting spelling mistakes? One’s insignificant; it’s “Gorilla Grodd” not “Gorilla Grod”, but “The Great Kazoo” is certainly different from what I suspect was meant to be “The Great Gazoo” as voiced by the late, great, Harvey Korman.

  3. Aaron says:

    92