LATER THERE WILL BE DIAGRAMS, BUT FIRST THERE ARE WORDS:
His name is Justin and I have known him since elementary school. He lives in Chicago now. I am in Chicago. The only other time I have been to Chicago, oddly, was to visit him, visit Justin, but that is just a coincidence. He didn’t live there then. He was there performing in a play, Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon. A couple years later, we would perform that play together in high school in Houston.
Justin lives in Chicago and I am visiting, here on a business trip, my first ever business trip. I am attending the Seed Conference, about which there is much to say, but to which I will limit myself three hyperlinks: Jim Coudal, Carlos Seguro, and Jason Fried.
Justin takes me to a place called Webster's Wine Bar. It is neat and looks out over smokestacks, everything outside tinted the yellow of highway lights. The music surprises me, delights me. It is not jazz. When you find a wine bar not playing jazz, you hold that wine bar close and you love it and you never let it go. This wine bar is playing Destroyer, and to them I say this: you had me at destroy.
We both order flights of wine, and when they arrive, the server lays out a placemat with four circles on it, one circle for each of the wines. It is a simple diagram, and while it could be way more geeky (and thus way more cool), it is way better than the wine menus I’ve received at other wine bars, menus with jack-ass descriptions.
Here is my theory, and Justin is a good test case. And it isn’t really my theory - it is one of the classic American stories, as classic as the cowboy in the white hat; as the soldier reading the love letter; as the teenager dancing. The theory/classic story is this: the people who were the most cool in high school never adapt to be cool beyond high school, while those who were the most geeky hit their cool stride as they near 30. (Nerds kind of remain nerds, though often become wealthy; and dorks retain their subservient position, always trying just a little too hard to be cool.) This is the theory and it can be applied to most American public schools. (Click on the image below for a larger, more readable view.)
Justin and I were geeks, though I narrowly escaped being a dork, the result of my early career as a cool kid, a career from which I was fired in the ninth grade. Justin was a child actor, knew how to work computers, had access to the internet before I think it really existed, directed movies before iMovie made every kid in the world a friggin’ auteur (about which, you should see the stuff my stepson and his friends make - it is ridiculous and I want to stuff him inside a trashcan for making it). Justin was the kid who received ridiculing nicknames and adopted them with pride. IN PARTICULAR: we called him Smokin’ J.
AND NOW: Justin writes television pilots, Justin runs a production company, Justin races bicycles, Justin might move to LA, Justin maintains a blog, Justin feels excitement. For Justin and for geeks, life is all about potential simply because life is all about really liking stuff.
ALL OF WHICH IS TO SAY:
P.S. While I love diagrams and use them to explain things to myself all the time, there is no way to deny the inspiration these diagrams take from Jessica Hagy at the amazing and maddeningly good Indexed. A true diagram lover’s dream.