> May 2011 Edition of Philly Nerd Nite

May 2011 Edition of Philly Nerd Nite

It’s that time again! Time to mark your calendars for the next edition of Philly Nerd Nite!


May 12, 2011
MarBar, 40th and Walnut St.
Doors at 7:30, show starts at 8

3 dollar cover


“Investigative Science Reporting” by Kerry Grens

In 2006, a California company earned the distinction of producing what Time magazine called one of the best inventions of the year: a hypoallergenic cat. While the morning talk shows lauded the idea of a sneeze-free kitty, scientists became skeptical. Where was the evidence? Kerry Grens brings you her reporter’s notebook on the investigation into the biology and the business behind this $4000 pet.

Bio: Kerry Grens is a health and science reporter at WHYY, the NPR and PBS affiliate in Philadelphia, and a regular contributor to Reuters Health. Previously, she was a staff writer at The Scientist magazine, and a health reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio. Kerry has a masters in biological sciences from Stanford University and a biology degree from Loyola University Chicago.


“Real Lomos, Fake Lomos, and the Politics and Practice of Analogue Photography Among Central Asian Hipsters” by Erica Pelta Feldman

Anyone who’s shopped at Urban Outfitters or set foot in Brooklyn over the past few years will recognize the term “lomo”–if nothing else, as the required tool for practicing “lomography.”  But what exactly *are* these lomos?  Where did they come from, who uses them, what are they used for, and how (and why?) did they become so popular?  As it turns out, the answers to these questions are tightly bound up with Soviet history, post-fall identity politics, the competitive spirit of the Cold War, the value and meaning of kitsch and nostalgia, and consumption opportunities and practices in the First and Second Worlds.  Seeking the material and ideological origins of your Diana Minis and Lomo LCAs, we’ll travel back in time to a factory in Soviet Leningrad, fast-forward to early-1990s Czechoslovakia, and end up in cosmopolitan present-day Bishkek.

Bio: Erica Pelta Feldman is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistic anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  Her research concerns youth culture, material culture, consumption practices, subcultures, and new urbanisms in post-Soviet Central Asia.  She is currently making preparations to begin her dissertation fieldwork in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, this coming September.


“The Strange Case of Charlemagne’s Muslim Elephant” by Paul M. Cobb

Around the year 800 AD, medieval chronicles tell us, the Muslim ruler in Baghdad, named al-Rashid, sent a gift to the Christian emperor in Europe, named Charlemagne, in the form of a live elephant, named Abulabaz.  While it was not unusual for rulers to send gifts to one another, an elephant was, let’s face it, a bit over the top, and the whole episode remains something of a medieval mystery, compounded by the fact that not a single Muslim source records the event.  What was going on?  Gifts always have meanings, and so tonight I will try to decode what elephants “meant” to medieval people and get at what al-Rashid might have been thinking when he sent Abulabaz trundling off toward his adoptive home in the West.

Bio: Paul M. Cobb is Associate Professor of Islamic History in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Penn.  He tends to write about the interactions of Muslims with medieval Europe including the Crusades.  His most recent book was a translation of a Muslim eye-witness to the Crusades called, *The Book of Contemplation: Islam and the Crusades* (Penguin Classics, 2008), and is hard at work on a history of Muslim experiences of the Crusades.  He prefers bourbon.



Comedy by Aaron Hertzog

Music by Kassie Richardson

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