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What to Do on Monday Night? Nerd Out, of Course.

By: Roswell Thomas Posted: February-20-2011 in
Nerd Night co-organizer Mike Hahn - Click for more photos
Roswell Thomas

What kind of hard-partying hooligans can be counted on to pack a bar on a Monday night? Nerds, apparently.

Nerd Night, a bi-monthly event that has been held at Gasolina and Equinox this past month, drew a crowd of about 70 to hear presentations on an eclectic mix of topics. Speaking at Gasolina in front of a bedsheet tacked up as a projector screen, Western and Cambodian speakers gave talks on their “nerdy” passions. Presentation format was modeled according to the ancient Japanese PowerPoint discipline of “Pecha Kucha” (of course), wherein each speaker has 20 slides and 20 seconds to talk about each one.

“The 20x20 format keeps the presentations short and sweet, which is good for both the loquacious and the shy,” says event co-organizer Yi Wei. Topics ranged from housing rights (“How to fill in a lake and evict people” was the title of Nora Lindstrom’s presentation on the Boeung Kak developments) to one woman’s Swing Dance odyssey through Asia, Smot (a Cambodian devotional song), and moustaches.

Vanessa Ferrer came to support David Burgess, giving the facial hair talk. “All I knew was I was going to see a presentation about a moustache, and I thought, how cool, it’s something different,” she says. In the end, Nerd Night exceeded her expectations. “We came together, it was such a different array of things, a little buffet of topics confetti,” she says.

Nerd Night 2.0 brought all kinds of people out of the woodwork: “friends brought friends who brought friends, some to support their friends speaking, others just out of curiosity, and others, already devout attendees. Even if you know some of the presenters, most likely you've never heard this version of their story before or seen the pictures that go with it,” says Wei.

“Nerd Night 2.07 was killer man!” says event co-organizer Mike Hahn. “I had no idea that many people would show up. The atmosphere was great, the presentations were out of this world. Funny, entertaining, interactive, informative...perfect!”

“To join this Nerd Night, is to learn and share feeling from presenters to audiences,” young Cambodian filmmaker Kavich Neang said in an e-mail after presenting on his Smot documentary. For his final slide, he treated Nerd Night attendees to a recording of the hauntingly beautiful music. “It was such a great event to exchange experiences.”

Ten audience members walked away with portraits by Dina Chhan, who called them up on stage, wrapped them in trash bags, and had them hold canvases while she painted their portraits in an exciting finale to the evening. “Dina’s presentation of art was refreshing and alive,” says Ferrer. “It was really nice to see it come alive. I’ve missed art and music, she gave me a little bit of that.”

Discussions after the presentations were equally lively. “The presentations serve to catapult attendees into provocative conversations, bypassing a lot of the requisite ‘where are you from, what do you do, how long have you been in Cambodia’ questions that produce answers that all just melt into one big blur anyway,” says Wei.

“People and organizations can be working on very similar problems and not even know about each other,” said event co-organizer Mike Hahn. “Nerd Night serves as a way for circles of people to collide and talk shop while maintaining an informal and inspirational setting.”

Nerd Night actively recruits speakers from all corners of Phnom Penh. “Anyone and everyone can be a presenter,” says Wei. “We want this to be of the Nerdgentsia proletariat. But we do tend to attract nerdy, quirky, and sexy people.“

Is Nerd sexy? “Geeky coolness is not just a passing fad, but something to be cherished and loved that will grow on you,” says Nerd Night audience member (and portrait subject) Hugo Rainey.

“You know what?” says Vanessa Ferrer, “I’ve come to the realization that Nerd is cool. How did it take me so long to figure this out?”

Nerd Night 2.21 is tomorrow night (Monday Feb 21st) Nerd Night event listing and more details here

See the Nerd Night Facebook Page for more information:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerd-Night-Phnom-Penh/196119643735481

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