Instead, I was seated in the middle of a bar and restaurant with a throng of people listening to the historical connections between underwear and moveable type printing.
And I was enjoying it.
This is the setup for Nerd Nite Philly. It’s held on the first Wednesday of each month at Frankford Hall, where a gathering of nerds and geeks listen to other nerds and geeks talk about a plethora of topics for 18-21 minute presentations and also watch performances from local artists.
For just $5, you gain admission and happy hour specials.
Just think of it as “the Discovery Channel with beer,” which is how the event is described on its website.
Nerd Nite originated from Boston back in 2003 and has grown in popularity so much so that it is held in cities all around the world, from Aachen, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland.
Gina Lavery, Chris Cummins and Jill Sybesma are the current co-bosses for the Philly iteration, which was started by Melissa McCartney and Michelle Bland near the end of 2010.
Cummins, a writer who regularly contributes to sites like Geekadelphia and Den of Geek U.S., joined the team last year after giving his first presentation about movie novelizations. The previous month, he delved into one of his passions: board games and the influence that pop culture has had on them over the years.
“I fell in love immediately with the event,” Cummins said. “I just have always been a fan of science fiction, and I write about pop culture for a living so this stuff just comes naturally to me.”
He and the others are responsible for organizing a lineup of local guests willing to speak about interesting topics every month. Luckily, they don’t have too much trouble.
“Almost all of our speakers are local, so these events give you a great sense of some of the awesome projects that people in Philly are working on,” Lavery said, who works full-time at the University of Pennsylvania and is a student at Penn’s School of Design for City Planning.
In the end, as long as it doesn’t involve partisan politics or self-promotion, speakers who are passionate and genuinely interested in a variety of topics are welcomed with open arms.
“Our speakers are always enthusiastic, regardless of whatever topic they cover, and their nerdiness and excitement quickly captivates the audience,” Cummins said. “We want the event to be a loose, fun and informative one.”
That passion for what they know and want to inform people about is what essentially defines a “nerd” or “geek.”
Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, weekend librarian and first-time visitor to Nerd Nite, said she identifies herself strictly as a geek but still relates to what the night is all about.
“Librarians love information,” Bergson-Shilcock said. “For me, when I’m geeky about something it’s in service to helping people find information or having something to myself that I’d like to share.”
Victoria Watts, local full-time musician who played her music between presentations, is also a self-proclaimed nerd at heart, having graduated with a history degree at the top of her class.
“I really appreciate Nerd Nite,” Watts said. “It’s filled with people who appreciate learning and it’s something you don’t have to go to; it’s more of a lifestyle choice.”
“We should all aspire to never stop learning,” Cummins said. “People can be introduced to all sorts of topics outside their realm of experience, and that kind of learning is exhilarating.”
Albert Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org