Culture goes *pop*

I spent the weekend with people who are voracious consumers of pop culture.

This is the new M.I.A. album. Have you heard it? I was so upset when The Sarah Silverman Program got canceled. I know! My favorite episode is the one where she drives around in her car while she’s drinking NyQuil from the bottle. We were at Lilith Fair this week and Mary J. Blige blew my mind. I mean, I never really considered her before and now I think I’d pay to see her alone. Did you know that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is on Netflix instant? I tried to read the first book but I just got bogged down at the beginning. Yeah, it starts off with a lot of unnecessary back story, information about Swedish politics and stuff. The story really starts about 100 pages in. Hey, what’s your favorite Dar Williams song? I don’t really listen to Dar Williams. I mean, I’ve heard of her, but… But what’s your favorite Brandi Carlile song? “Late Morning Lullaby,” no contest. Did she do “The Story”? I like that song but that album was kind of “meh.” No, I think that’s her best album. Oh! This is Florence and the Machine. I love this song! You know, I always want to say Florence and the Henderson. I heard that the StoryCorps people are staying next door to you. I heard a long interview with them on NPR a couple weeks ago. During Midday Matters? I don’t know. I just have NPR on all day and sometimes I lose track of what show I’m listening to. Who does “O Captain, My Captain”? What movie is that from? No, it’s a poem. Hey, Katie! It’s Tegan & Sara. I JUST WANT BACK IN YOUR HEADDDDD.

This is not a criticism. This is an expression of astonishment. Not every reference went over my head. I participated in probably 40 percent of the conversations, but my scope is rather…um…I want to say “limited” but I’m going to give myself “specific.” TV is my main thing, although I can shoot the shit about a lesbian movie or two. The truth is that my sponge soaks up culture more slowly than other people’s sponges. I mean, I’m still working my way through the 1970s.

All weekend, amid the flurry of iPods being shuffled, books being discussed (some were laying around as if being read but very little actual reading seemed to be taking place), movies being quoted, and TV shows being reviewed, I didn’t once hear about something that I didn’t want to listen to, read, or watch—with the glaring exception of a certain website involving cake and farts. This isn’t all that surprising considering that these people are my friends. We’re likely to have something in common. Still, because I am used to thinking of myself as having very limited taste, I was in fact surprised by how much pop culture exists that I didn’t even know I could be liking.

What I learned is that I could branch out, if I wanted to, but it’s doubtful that I will. More than once last weekend, I described myself as a “square,” and it’s true that I’ve never thought of myself as cool enough for most of the kind of pop culture that I actually enjoy. Part of the problem could be that I have here, in this post, referenced NPR as part of pop culture. Even my NPR habits are evidence of my non-coolness, though. I basically ignore all the cool public radio stuff—Radio Lab, Jesse Thorn, etc.—because I’m too busy listening to The Diane Rehm Show, which I honestly love.

See what I mean? Total square. Time to watch Rhoda.