Review for Festival Of The Spoken Nerd: You Can't Polish A Nerd
I was jumping for joy at another unsolicited review disc. That’s not something I do for the average unexpected thump on the doormat, and most such discs, either end up at the bottom of a mile-high pile of anime check discs, or more likely in the circular file. But this was a review copy of the new Festival of the Spoken Nerd release; this went to the top of the anime pile. It also turned out to be an object lesson in not extrapolating from two points of data. After reviewing Full Frontal Nerdity, and then after 2½ years, Just for Graphs, I facetiously remarked that I would expect the review disc for You Can’t Polish a Nerd in May 2020. But here I am, just ten months later, about to lose myself in Festival of the Spoken Nerd’s most recent show, filmed for this release at the Arts Depot in London on the nights of the 27th and 28th June 2018.
For the uninitiated, Festival of the Spoken Nerd combine cutting edge science with comedy; entertaining and enthralling with theories, experiments and songs, and the odd pop-culture reference as well. They juggle too. As well as this DVD release, you can buy the show on HD download, and on 3½” floppy disc. Yes, the entire 109 minute show has been digitised and divided onto 227 floppy discs, and you can buy one (plus download) for £12.57, or buy the lot for the budget price of £1440 (Just for Graphs came on limited edition VHS, I expect their next show will be on VHD, video on vinyl).
So join Geek Songstress Helen Arney, Experiments Maestro Steve Mould, and Stand-up Mathemetician Matt Parker as they talk about the melancholy of soap in a microwave, sing the periodic table, demonstrate gravitational waves with Lycra, turn the world Escher and much, much more.
The image is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic format on the Region 0 PAL disc, and it’s what you would expect from a live performance. The important thing is that everything that you need to see is clearly visible, and there are no technical issues with the disc.
What is it with the love for obscure formats? Not PCM, not Dolby Digital, and not DTS, we get MPEG 2 audio in 2.0 format; English of course, with optional subtitles. The Safe For Schools soundtrack accessible from the Alternative Soundtracks menu inserts comedy noises over the minor swears to completely sanitise the show for our delicate youth. The all important dialogue is clear throughout.
You get one disc in an Amaray case and a 16 page booklet with more experiments to try at home, and various other goodies.
On the disc you’ll find a DVD Unboxing Video with a difference. Quite honestly, I’m surprised that it fits on just one disc. ∞ mins.
You also get three commentaries, Helen comments on Steve’s commentary, Steve comments on Matt’s commentary, and Matt comments on Helen’s commentary. All of which raises the question, which commentary was recorded first?
I absolutely adored Full Frontal Nerdity when I first reviewed it, an extravaganza of science comedy that both entertained and informed the way the BBC can only dream of. It presented me with science that astounded and intrigued, tantalised my nerdy taste buds that had lain dormant for many a year. So you can imagine how delighted I was when Just For Graphs turned up, and while it was more science and more of the funny, I have to admit that there was a slight deflating feeling with it. Just for Graphs presented me with science that I was aware of, things that I knew about, and I missed the sense of wonder and discovery that I had with Full Frontal Nerdity, even if I enjoyed Just for Graphs just as much. And now that You Can’t Polish a Nerd is here, I have to say... Mind Blown!
I have to admit that it did take me a little while to warm to You Can’t Polish a Nerd. The webcam in a microwave was typical Steve Mould anarchy, and the Space Traveller song covered the same philosophical ground as Eric Idle did at the end of The Meaning of Life, but 30 years of cosmological research and discovery surely deserves a more up to date lyric. But once we got to the Freezer/Plane conundrum which illustrates the necessity for clear communication in science, I was hooked into the show.
I could go on listing all the good bits, but that would entail detailing the whole show, but things that did indeed blow my mind included the measurement of ℼ with a pie, the demonstration of gravitational waves, the real-time demonstration of recursion, and the call-back to my favourite mp3 player, Winamp (note that this show was recorded before the release of Winamp 5.8).
Speaking of recursion, I’m basically going to say the same thing I said in my previous two reviews. The beauty of Festival of the Spoken Nerd is that they make important and occasionally complex scientific ideas entertaining and easy to understand. It’s because the three stars of the show are so personable, and have naturally funny bones, skilled communicators that you stay hooked to the show. And they provide their own heckles. With You Can’t Polish a Nerd, they are on top form, and this is a DVD that any self-respecting nerd will want in their Christmas stocking, or indeed Bonfire Night stocking or Diwali stocking.
If you want to see Festival of the Spoken Nerd live (with guests), then you can get tickets for An Evening of Unnecessary Detail at the Backyard Comedy Club on the Festival of a Spoken Nerd website.