I must interrupt your usual HealthFactsAndFears.com programming just briefly to note that its editor me will be on one of those fashion makeover TV shows that are all the rage lately, specifically Style Court on the Style Network, at the following (Eastern) times:
Thursday, Jan 8: 8pm and 11pm
Friday, Jan 9: 9am and 4pm
(If you have digital cable, you may well have the Style Network.)
To make a long story short, my friend Michael Malice met producers from the show and they invited him to be a "plaintiff," accusing me before the Style Judge and a Style Jury, of dressing like a nerd. My defense? That there is no longer any shame in being a nerd.
In a free-ranging argument that probably covered a bit more philosophical ground than the producers are used to in a seven-minute segment about clothes, I argued that as Todd Seavey of the American Council on Science and Health, I have a responsibility to concern myself more with matters of the intellect science and public policy than of fashion, though the plaintiff marshaled the arguments of fellow nerd Virginia Postrel, author of The Substance of Style (and ardent defender of cloning) against me, while I countered by invoking my right to wear a Marx Brothers tie if I feel like it and warned that my stoic, rationalist approach to things will be vindicated one day when, inevitably, the robots take over the planet.
In truth, I was hamming it up a bit one of the Style Jurors was an actress from the soap opera All My Children, so I can hardly be accused of mocking a serious judicial institution and I recognize the importance of aesthetics and taste...but I must say, a recurring theme on this website and a recurring problem in public discourse is that people are too often guided by aesthetic impulses instead of by critical thinking. Surely half the impetus behind the less rational factions of the environmental movement is the vague, gut-level feeling most people have that nature is pretty. Surely much of the paranoia about industrial chemicals is rooted in people thinking smokestacks and long chemical names are icky and alienating.
If in some small way, my argument on behalf of nerds helps to tip the cultural balance farther in favor of those who think and crunch numbers and measure and weigh and calculate and away from those who simply emote, bully, shriek, or empathize I feel I will have done one more deed in the indirect service of science.
But will I be found guilty (and given a complete fashion makeover, which creates something of a perverse incentive structure), or will I, and by extension nerds everywhere, be found not guilty? You'll just have to tune in and see or wait until the robots come. They'll be on my side, you mark my words.
Todd Seavey will co-host a screening of the Style Court episode at Manhattan's Lolita Bar, corner of Broome St. and Allen St., at 8pm on Jan. 15.