Keeping Up With Anything (even the Kardashians)

Posted on May 16, 2010

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confused and befuddled

I had lunch today with my good friend Ellen. Ellen, like some People of a Certain Age, is slightly behind the curve on pop culture and pop technology. I sort of suspected this when she commented on one of my recent columns by asking, “Who is Heidi Montag?” The truth is, Heidi stars in a popular MTV “managed reality” (I just made that up) show called “The Hills,” about very young people in southern California with a lot of money who make me regret the outcome of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. I Googled Heidi about two seconds before I started to write this column. The latest news regarding her is “Heidi Montag Calls Cops on her Mother.”

At lunch, Ellen also confided that when she started going to the gym again after a long hiatus, she was shocked and dismayed to see all of the young people there with heart problems. It took her awhile to discover that what she thought were heart monitors strapped to their arms were actually iPods.

Also today, my friend Jim from the office told me that he hadn’t been to the library in awhile. When he did go, he went up to the reference desk and asked where the card catalogues were. Depending on the age of the person at the desk, it is likely that the phrase “card catalogue” would have had about as much meaning as “illuminated manuscript.”

Pop culture, because of its very nature, has a pesky way of moving along at a faster rate than some of us who have had hip or knee replacement. And Technology… Well, if you are one of my handful of loyal readers, you already know my thoughts on technology. I simply don’t have any. That pretty much covers it. But, as a service to those of you who manage to slog through this column every once in awhile, I can give you some handy tips:

Watch “The Soup.” It’s on the E channel. It pretty much covers the entire world of Stupid TV, especially the fake-boobied, dimwitted celebs who populate all of those shows you’ve never heard of. It’s smart, it’s funny, it takes no prisoners. I laugh out loud. Ditto for “Chelsea Lately,” also on E. If you have to ask what the E channel is, forget it. Go to Safeway or Giant and force yourself to look at the screaming headlines of the magazines in the checkout line. That will give you a pretty good idea Who is Who in pop culture. Just remember to actually hold something you intend to buy, or you will block the line and people with get really pissed off.

Technology is a bit peskier. Unfortunately, “The Soup” doesn’t have a Technology segment. I have developed a couple approaches to Technology. The first is when someone is talking about something I have never heard of, I nod knowingly and say, “Right, it’s pretty cool, and I can’t wait for the next version to come out. It looks unbelievable. ” It doesn’t matter what it is. You already know that any device already has a “next version” ready to pop, even if the current version hasn’t come out yet. If the person you are talking to then asks “How so?” whip out your cell phone, look at it, and say, “Oh sorry, I have to take this call!” Then exit the area as quickly as possible. Hopefully, you won’t have been in a moving car when this conversation has taken place.

Another approach, and one that Jim could have used in the library, is to simply assume that whatever knowledge you have is already sadly passé. A great example of this is that when I just typed the word “passé, my computer put the little accent over the “e.” I thought you had to travel to different countries to get computers to do that. But, I digress.

Upon not seeing a card catalogue anywhere, Jim could have easily approached the reference desk and said, “I’m trying to research that 30-acre, 100-ton fungus in Michigan that is estimated to be 1,500 years old, and I’m having a bit of a problem. What might be the best way to approach that?” Of course, the Research Desk Person would have been really impressed. But the important thing is that she/he would have immediately started clicking away at the computer that was sitting right there in front of her/him, and, unless Jim was being completely distracted by trying to remember what he did with his car keys, he then would have said, “Ah, thanks, and where are the computers located at this branch?”

The point is that no matter how old you are, you can happily go through life giving the impression that you are totally up to speed on pop culture, Technology, whatever is thrown at you. Just remember that whatever is happening, never look confused or perplexed or befuddled. This moment will pass. And eventually, you will find your car keys. Maybe.

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