Nerdgasm, n., an involuntary reflex of disproportionate scale to something most people don’t get or understand.
In the early eighties I was a squeaky pre-teen living just outside the suburban band that surrounds Boston. It was a town of five thousand, a lot of land, one stoplight and no public transportation.
Bikes got us to friends’ houses. We tromped a lot in the woods. In the winter there was snow and a fairly big hill behind our house.
And that was pretty much life.
Until 1983 or so. That was the year those with Ataris started getting this game called Donkey Kong. Gone went the bikes and the hikes through the woods. Life became much more complex. There was a princess to be saved, a gorilla — who I somehow identified with — to be battled and, of course, our digital, 8-bit self: Jumpman.
Yes, if we remember back almost thirty years, Mario didn’t become Mario until joined by his brother Luigi in Mario Bros. And when that came out, along with Donkey Kong Junior and later Super Mario Bros, the bikes basically rusted as those of us on the outskirts of Boston suburbia holed up with our game consoles for afternoons on end.
Which led me to this nerdgasm the other night. The Mario Sweater Vest is a throwback of the best sort. It’s also an example of analog remixing I’m seeing more and more of.
The mashup and the remix is digital culture’s basic platform. We hear it most easily in our electronic music: Moby, for example, made his name by remixing the old — the analog — into the new.
But the sweater vest takes us the other way by transforming the primitive early graphics of a global gaming phenomenon back into a most analog of mediums: the knitted sweater.
The digital to analog remix happens elsewhere. Take, for instance, this video of the Bad Plus’ remix of Aphex Twin.
Like the sweater, it’s pulling digital bits back to a tangible analog.
All this I think is a good thing. Digital culture is young yet, I know, kind of like us squeaky kids of so long ago.
But as both subject and object of a new generation of remix artists it’s maturing and coming into its own. Dare I say it might be about to get old.