Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

A Thirst for Knowledge

When I was about 13, I came to the realization that the coolest people walking around on this planet were the ones that knew a lot of stuff.  Maybe it came from watching T.V. shows with endless pop culture references, none of which I got.  Maybe it came from my crippling uncoolness.  Maybe it’s just that I spent a lot of time by myself and was bored, but at some point in my early adolescence I started teaching myself stuff.  Sure, it wasn’t stuff that was necessarily important.  I mean, I still can’t name every president of the U.S. and I have no clue as to what exactly the quadratic formula actually finds, but for some reason, it was important to me to know all the words to Back in Black.  It was of the utmost importance to me to know who Archie Bunker was, even though I wasn’t even born when All in the Family was on.  I just had to understand references to Casablanca, Easy Rider and Pulp Fiction and to me that was as important as being able to quote Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker (of course, these were also important).  I even once got out of detention by reciting the entire prologue to Romeo and Julietby memory.  

I remember once being in P.E. and being able to sing lyrics to at least one song by every band one of my friends mentioned.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized how weird a pursuit this was.  The pursuit of knowledge is not a new thing, but the pursuit of relatively useless knowledge is entirely different.  Knowing history is one thing, but knowing the history of the WB is entirely different.  Knowing Dickens is one thing, but catching the line in Juno where Juno refers to a drummer named ‘Tino’ and knowing that ‘Tino’ comes from My So-Called Life is entirely different.  
I often argue, when faced with the criticism that I watch too much T.V. or too many movies or I have too many books and too many CDs, that I am simply an expert at communicating in our post-modern age.  That in an age when everything seems to refer to something else, that every character name in fiction, every band’s sound, every movie has some reference to some other book or character or band’s sound, I became a sort of rosetta stone.  I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I know what’s referred to.  
But I’ve been thinking about it lately, and besides the fact that I’m practically unbeatable at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit (in fact, I’ve only met one worthy opponent and she’s got a tattoo on her ass that matches mine), what good does all this useless knowledge do?  I’ve become so adept at deciphering pop culture reference that I have actually passed the point of being able to communicate with most normal people and become one of those people who makes random obscure references that no one gets.  Perhaps this means I should write for television (watchGilmore Girls for confirmation that people like me exist on T.V. writing staff), or perhaps it means that I should compete on Jeopardy (except for the fact that I know little about things like Gerald Ford’s presidency and the U.S.S.R.).  Should I write one of those David Foster Wallace-style novels that no one understands but earns praise from the New York Times Book Review, or should I simply resign myself to a fate of unending communication problems.  
I guess the real question is, does pop culture knowledge matter?  And if so, how much is too much?
Peace, Love, and Useless Knowledge,

September 3, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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