Today is


   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I can't get to sleep ...

... and I've been thinking -- what the hell do these lyrics mean?

"Give to me your leather ...
Take from me ... my lace."

Sometimes I think I might have done some good in this world if I hadn't listened to pop songs in the 80's. By the time that memorable decade began, my mind was already cluttered with the pop culture ephemera of my formative years. Mom always said, "Don't play ball in the house." Dick York or Dick Sargent? Babaloooo! Babalooo-aiiii-ayyyy! Richie the "C." Hello, Angels! De Plane! De Plane! Good night, Johnboy. Little Buddy. That Afterschool special about the bed-wetter with Lance Kerwin. [Click on that last link at your own risk. It's technically work safe, but your coworkers will look at you real funny.]

But why didn't I just stop there, and leave a little room in my brain for something worthwhile? I have never read Don Quixote, but when we went out for Chinese last night, and that inane Stevie Nicks song started playing, I found I could sing along with the whole accursed thing. And when the girls, my sister, and I browsed at Pottery Barn last week, I absentmindedly sang along with all the songs in the Pottery Barn '80's mix. My four-year-old danced her way through Come On, Eileen, Overkill, and Ain't Nothing Gonna Break My Stride. When I laughed at her and called her a little nut, she said, "I can't stop dancing." [I was *not* letting her disturb other customers. Don't want you to think I'm one of those parents.]

I know how she feels. As it turns out, I can't stop dancing either. I never learned the names of trees and plants and flowers. I never road in the ice truck with Mr. Nealy, or found a litter of kittens up in the hayloft at Unlce Henry's farm. I've never been to a soda shop. The first time I ever saw a firefly, I was a grown woman, and of the few times I've been on a fishing trip, about half were at man-made lakes. If pressed, though, I could probably remember the names of all the actresses who played Charlie's Angels. The sad thing is that it's precisely the flotsam and jetsam of the popular culture that forms my strongest link with my generational past. Or maybe I just think it's sad when it's simply inevitable. If I want to create a bond, or establish my cultural bona fides, with a member of my generation, I usually do it by trading catch phrases and song lyrics and movie quotes. Even people whom I find in other respects insufferable will throw a casual reference to the Sleestaks into the conversation and cause me, if only momentarily, to reconsider first impressions. Sure, Marshall, Will, and Holly are kitschy and fun, but shouldn't the shibboleths of our common culture be more significant, more sublime? Probably not; after all, shibboleths are about pronunciation, not meaning.

But still.

When I was in graduate school, I went with Sadeeq, Madman of Chu, and another friend to see The Real Live Brady Bunch. The show was a verbatim reenactment of an episode of The Brady Bunch (it was the "Oh, my nose!" episode, I think). The actors and actresses camped it up only slightly, and, while the audience certainly appreciated the cheese value of the whole thing, its affection for the show outdistanced its typically cynical and reflexively postmodern pose. In the end, we sang along with the music and shouted out the lines, not with a sneer on our faces, but with love in our hearts -- love that encompassed an affection for our individual pasts, an acknowledgment of vanished innocence, and a kind of gratitude that we had something, anything, to bring us all together. It's the closest we were ever going to get, as a generation, to the Book of Common Prayer.

And that's what's kind of sad about it.

11 Comments:

Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Poor KM. At least your head isn't full of leisure suits and disco songs -- or do-rags and hip hop or rap.

Still, my "baby" never went fishing, probably doesn't remember planting a garden (though I blame the deer for that), never went camping out (because I was never fond of it), and only experienced a farm via a day camp. All the memories of this generation will be on-line. They'll be trading Google and iPod stories when they're in the home. Or maybe they'll just upload their brains and live IN the internet.

Actually, these cultural differences are why I don't understand how marriages of people more than a couple years apart work. I don't grok most of your references and you probably wouldn't know most of mine.

[Hey, Stewdog, do you remember: It's about time. It's about space. About 2 men in the strangest place.]

January 26, 2006 5:50 AM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Don't mind me, CIV. I was just tired and rambling last night. I thought about deleting the whole mess, but what's a blog for if not self-indulgence?

I guess I partly wish that there was a little more grandeur (spiritual or aesthetic) to the culture that links me with others of my generation.

By the way, a bridge between generations isn't hopeless. I grokked your "grok" reference, I think.

January 26, 2006 8:21 AM  
Blogger stewdog said...

Hey, KM, I loved this post. I actually understood it.
"Give to me your leather, take from me my lace" is actually a song of barter. The girl likes the guy's wallet and he appreciates the doileys on her divan and easy chair, hence the swap. The IRS, by the way, would consider this a taxable event.
And to CIV, I sure do remember that short lived show about the lost astronauts, It's About Time.

January 26, 2006 9:15 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

KM, I understand this concern well. Last night, I taught my first medieval lit class of the semester, but even though I've lived with the material for years--and this is the fifth time I've taught this course in seven years--I found myself working to remember stuff that should be basic to me, such as where certain kings and scholars fell on an approximate timeline.

In the end, the lecture came together well, but I'm deeply bothered by the realization that it takes time and effort to open the little mental compartment where I store the important cultural and historical knowledge I've accumulated as an adult, even though I can instantaneously recall the lyrics to some crappy song that was on the charts for two weeks in 1986. I can't really claim the "high culture" as my own, but I also can't deny the "pop culture" upbringing that still helps me relate so well to my students. It's a strange thing to be stuck in the middle.

January 26, 2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger stewdog said...

And to further illustrate the point, the last sentence triggered this song in my mind "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you". We just grew up with music as a soundtrack of life.

January 26, 2006 9:48 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Ha! I'm actually wondering if KM's post title, "I can't get to sleep," was supposed to make one of us add: "...I think about the implications..."

January 26, 2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger stewdog said...

". . cuz I was tossin' and turnin'. . tossin' and turnin' all night"

January 26, 2006 10:25 AM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Bingo, Jeff! I was wondering whether anyone would come up with the "implications" of my post title.

It *is* strange to be stuck in the middle, and I don't want to deny the pop culture that I grew up with -- I have an affection for it. I just wish that there were still aspects of "high culture" that were part of the common culture, but maybe it never really was that way.

Anyway, you're way ahead of me in the high culture hierarchy, Jeff. I could benefit from one of your lectures.

Stewdog, this may be a generational thing, too, but when I hear that song (Stuck in the Middle), a very unpleasant image comes to mind. Anyone? Anyone?

January 26, 2006 1:30 PM  
Blogger stewdog said...

"Anyone. . anyone. . Bueller. . Bueller. . .Bueller. Got me. It is an old song by Stealer's Wheel. I think it may have been featured in some Yucky movie that I haven't seen, such as Resevoir Dogs, but I can imagine that KM saw that.

January 26, 2006 1:52 PM  
Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

KM, you can at least try to correct things for your little Princesses.

We do not watch TV. The "culture" at our home, at least, is high tech and classical music. I sneak in some "oldies" -- older than yours -- and the youngster complains of only knowing music "30 years or 300 years old," but guess what I find in the iPod? Classical music and Beatles. And we're talking about HS age (and not a social misfit).

I suppose you could ask Sadeeq and the Dogs to take the Princesses fishing, but that seems like a pointless skill when we know that global warming is going to kill all the fish.

January 26, 2006 2:18 PM  
Anonymous twinprism said...

I'm glad there are others that consider 80's pop culture and music high society. Music forms the tapestry of our lives, it may be cliche, bit I can recall the way I felt at a certain time by obsessing over lyrics I identified with, or a song that happened to be playing. I seem to have lost touch with that part of myself that was searching for something to identify with, and it's fun to recapture it at times.

August 12, 2006 11:09 PM  

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