Craig “WheezyWaiter” Benzine Nerdfighteria Craig “WheezyWaiter” Benzine Nerdfighteria Me and Craig “WheezyWaiter” Benzine! I cannot remember who suggested taking the photo like this. It may have been fate. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss / From the Grapevine)

What I learned at the first-ever Nerdcon

A weekend with Nerdfighters filled with surprises, insights and a whole lot of Ryans.

I have seen an auditorium full of people from California and Israel and England all wearing the same "Ryan" name tags. I have seen spontaneous Disney singalongs and a woman in a full Belle costume. I have seen a massive pizza that decreased world suck.

In short, I just left Boston after attending the first ever Nerdcon: Nerdfighteria, where I learned oh so many things. For instance:

I'm old

expo hall nerdfighters vlogbrothersThe expo hall. It felt a lot like a university student organization fair. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss/From the Grapevine)

Nerdfighters are young. Really young. I knew that going into it. After all, Nerdfighteria runs annual surveys to figure out Nerdfighter demographics, and last year's (every year's, I think) said Nerdfighters skewed younger, with most people falling in the 16-30 range.

But there's a big difference between knowing that and walking into a room full of immaculately baby-skinned people freaking out about AP exams. I was 26, and I was ancient.

John and Hank don't know everything about themselves

Legendary Green brothers John and Hank run this entire fandom, so perhaps it's not so surprising that they played a trivia game about ... themselves. It was John and Hank versus a couple Nerdfighters who apparently had to write essays full of inside jokes just to compete. John and Hank had the advantage of, you know, being John and Hank.

But somehow, they tied.

Emily Graslie dreams of spelunking inside a dead whale

Someone asked science communicator Emily Graslie whether she'd rather dissect a dead whale or something far less interesting that I did not write down because it was so much less interesting.

Graslie replied something along the lines of "Spelunking inside a dead whale? That's my dream!" When she put it like that, it actually did sound pretty cool.

Nerds are people who love things without irony

bulletin board nerdcon nerdfighteriaNobody forgot to be awesome on the conference's bulletin board. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss/From the Grapevine)

I'd never thought about it this way, but this idea came up again and again. It seems to be a staple of Nerdfighters, wherever they be.

"A nerd is a person who likes a thing, and is not afraid of showing said affinity through dress, behavior and other forms of communication," explained Neta Tropp, a Nerdfighter and physics student living in Jerusalem who was super jealous of me for going to Nerdcon.

Nerds unabashedly, proudly even, love whatever they love without having to attach a "whatever" attitude to it. Especially if it's Harry Potter (but maybe I'm biased).

WheezyWaiter goes out of his way to take out jokes

Craig “WheezyWaiter” Benzine is a pretty funny guy on YouTube and a pretty great Crash Course host. And apparently, his funniness is so overpowering, it gets in the way of his teaching. He had to intentionally stifle his funny bone while filming Crash Course government and politics.

"My urge is to make jokes all the time," Benzine said. "I've learned to not tell so many jokes."

Nobody's in charge of pop culture references on Crash Course

batman crash course hank greenI think this Batman reference was actually written into the script, but you get the idea. (Photo: Screenshot/Youtube)

If you watch Crash Course, Nerdfighteria's educational YouTube channel, you may have noticed that random pop culture references, such as Darth Vader, pop up from time to time.

I assumed these were written into the script. But apparently the animators just throw them in last minute. Episodes are made so fast (generally only in a few days) that there's no time to talk over these decisions. There's no approval process. Seems dangerous.

But I guess they need everybody throwing ideas in because ...

John has never had a new idea

giant pizza decreased world suck. don't forget to be awesome.After donating to charity, you get to put a topping on the giant pizza that decreased world suck. Surely that's a new idea. (Photo: Ilana E. Strauss/From the Grapevine)

A student told John Green she felt guilty for getting good grades by just spitting out information she learned. John replied that that's what learning is, and that there's a difference between learning old ideas and coming up with new ideas.

"I've literally never had a new idea," John explained. Vlogbrothers was inspired by another video series. "The Fault in Our Stars" was, as critics are happy to point out, derivative.

I'm not sure I agree with John on this one. Isn't bashing together old ideas pretty much how creative breakthroughs happen?


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Related Topics: Education

What I learned at the first-ever Nerdcon
The first-ever Nerdcon featured Nerdfighters, the Vlogbrothers, Crash Course, WheezyWaiter and a whole lot of Ryans.