Live By The Pop Culture

I was recently struck by this meme going around. You know how about Paul McCartney doing the surprise song with Kanye West, and West’s fans saying stuff like “I love it when he discovers unknowns” and “McCartney will have a career now.”

A lot of people a little older than I, and even my generation and a little younger were in shock over this.

… I don’t know why… I don’t know why, because what it brought to mind was two things:

My brother’s shocked gasp when my kids – then eight and thirteen – asked what the Beatles were, after a casual reference of his. And then he told me I was miss educating my kids.

And a book I read long ago which I cannot remember either by title or author, about the sixties and the student activism in the schools in the sixties and early seventies.

That book (though I can’t remember title or name of author, because I read it while moving into this house 11 years ago, and what I pull up when I think about it is carrying boxes into the basement) was like a revelation to me.
You see, because the future comes from America, and America sets “how things are done” in this new world, (and because unfortunately the people in other countries are remarkably bad at evaluating American experiments and take the bad (and the very bad) with the good) I saw the effluvia of the change to education in America due to the summer of sixty eight and the subsequent “student take over of college.”

For instance, in Middle School art, instead of learning perspective or lighting, we spent the entire summer painting a mural outside. Which for me mostly meant dodging the older guys who tried to splat girls with paint. Instead of having grades given for our work, we were supposed to grade ourselves. This became an exercise in seeing who was clueless enough to give themselves a C. I gave myself a B because I saw all my issues. Mostly the dumb kids gave themselves A. This was however better than having your classmates grade you, in which school grades became the Hugos. It was all popularity and the mean girls all got As and screamed if anyone else got more than C.

Fortunately that only lasted for a year.

But I found that the background of something else which had baffled me throughout my school career was also traceable to the student movement in the US.

Look, dad went to a school that was (comparatively) way worse than the ones my brother and I attended, both of which were “Magnet schools” for bright kids. And yet, he came out of it speaking Latin with ease, reading Latin poetry with fluency, being able to identify the style and time of a painting at a glance, and with a knowledge of world history and literature that left me speechless. (True story, the equivalent of my Master Thesis (It’s not that. It’s… complicated) was in American Literature, on Flannery O’Connor. She’s so unknown in Portugal that I had to ask my then-fiance to send me some of her works I couldn’t get there, as well as biographical information on her. This was, of course, pre-internet. When he came over to propose, he brought a bagful of books, because yes, he’s a sweetheart.) I was in the living room, surrounded by books in English. Dad wandered in, picked up one of the books, said “Ah, Flannery O’Connor” and proceeded to give me an extemporaneous lecture on the symbolism she employed. (His degree, btw, is art and textile engineering, not literature.)

My brother still had Latin, but only two years, and it never stuck to any depth. I never had it at all. Instead of Latin we were taught “relevant” things, like whatever was current at the time. We studied headlines and commercial jingles, in language classes; we were encouraged (to the point of nausea) to express ourselves in song and theater and story (and most of it was what you expect) and painting.

Music was no longer on the menu. Latin was no longer on the menu. I did get History but almost subversively and under the table, because my curmudgeon of a teacher refused to NOT teach and just let us play around.

Most of my schooling, except for two years in a stealth gifted class (gifted classes being outlawed) I found myself scrambling to try to learn more than what I was being taught. Because what I WAS being taught was to the previous’ generations’ knowledge base about like a candle to the sun.

And meanwhile things came in that we had to learn: who had written what protest song/poem; what the currently fashionable attitude on sex-drugs-rock and roll was; the “wisdom” of people ten years older than I.

All of this baffled me, until I read about students taking over universities in the US and the older people caving to their demands.

Turns out it’s EXACTLY like when the revolution introduced “revolutionary councils” to our schools which were run by kids (for about two months, before the parents stepped in, because revolutionary times or not they were not nuts and thought 11 year olds should NOT be playing around all day.) These students in the US really did have “revolutions” and “sit ins” to force the colleges to give them more ice cream, free time, and sex classes. Or, as they called it, “more relevant learning.”

I understand it, to an extent. Look, the boomers were a massive swell. The fact that those who took “action” were often also acting on Communist propaganda is something else. The fact there were so may of them of more or less the same age produced the illusion of a group that “belonged” together. Instead of trying to integrate with the culture, they tried to create the culture.

It’s not their fault. The fault is of the then-adults who, whether in guilt at the long wars of the 20th, or out of blinkered ideas that youth would increase forever in proportion to the population, decided to give in.

And by the time I came along, a lot of these “kids” now adults and with teaching degrees were the teachers. They couldn’t teach what they’d never learned or demand a rigueur that had been done away with for them.

Instead, what they taught us were the touchstones of their generation, including the importance of protesting, sit ins and tearing down the culture, (Well, it wasn’t perfect, you know?) and the names of their idols, mostly in pop music, because real culture is hard. (Though from science fiction we also read a lot of their cohort in school. Because SF was then cool in Portugal. Socially relevant SF.)

Most of the people my generation and a little younger have spent most of their lives catching up on the general culture stuff we were never taught. Even in stuff like cooking and cleaning, it’s like we were raised by wolves, and have to relearn civilization by ourselves.

Turns out “learn what is fun only” and “express yourself” doesn’t give you a good grounding in western civ.

We acquired – those of us who did – the timeless knowledge like purloined goods, in street corners and back alleys, from used bookstores and older friends, and sometimes just by sitting quietly while older people talked.

But since the sixties/seventies, there has been an emphasis on the “now” and only the “now” counting.

For a while that “now” was frozen in the boomers’ youth. (Again the swell of population, the numbers of people just distorting things.)

But it couldn’t stay there. It moved on.

The boomer teachers/professors couldn’t give the younger generations the grounding they never had. My generation being just after theirs, sort of caught on, by listening to parents. We at least knew what we didn’t know.

The kids after? Clueless. It’s all express yourself and whatever is going on Now, Now, Now! And it’s not their fault. Who created the culture of ephemera? Not they.

In the long run, I doubt if either McCartney or Kanye West will be more than a footnote in specialized histories, (of music and their times) though McCartney will be relevant too for the story of a generation, for the influences of the first mass-media and largest age-group to go through the culture. Okay, he might be more than a footnote, at least as part of the Beatles, but it will only be in reference to that time, that place, and to music.

Because in the end, music was very important for that generation, but it is not science, nor Earth-altering. Whether it will turn out to be “art” in the sense of echoing through the centuries… we’ll see. The kids don’t seem to feel it now, but those eclipses are sometimes temporary.

The more important thing about the episode of MCartney/Kanye, is the problem with our culture. We are a culture that was taught only the ephemeral, the pop culture markers of a generation are important.

This is the real root of stuff like the young kids in our field thinking that, yah, writing about non-binary gender was this thing they invented and that SF/F before them was all white males. It’s not just that they don’t know, but that they acquired a pop-culture image of the past.

Civilization – such as we’ve known it since we learned to write and pass on ideas – consists of knowing from where we came and where we’re going.

In a world that is not perfect, it helps to know where some of the imperfections (and the unexpected grace notes, too) come from. It helps to know, for instance, that until recently media went through a narrow channel that set what was “acceptable” because everything was broadcast by half a dozen people. It helps to know that yeah, perhaps women had less participation, but it wasn’t the plotting of men keeping them out. It was the plotting of mother nature.

If you don’t know the past you’re caught in the perpetual now and fighting against “injustices” you assume are willfully caused by some group or another – until the next reaction sets in. And you’re perpetually “discovering” things everyone else knew.

Some of that effect is inevitable, but some grounding in your own culture should be provided by your elders who KNOW they’re not inventing the wheel fresh.

Until we correct that, until we make sure the kids learn some of the basics of history and their own civilization, Oikophobia, pop-culturism and rewriting the past shall ride with us, and (cultural) death shall be at our side, ever ready to pounce.

Fifty years of the equivalent of ice cream for lunch and recess all day is more than enough. It’s time that (real) teachers stepped in, instead of leaving the kids alone.

Teach your children well – even if to do it you have to teach yourself first.


301 thoughts on “Live By The Pop Culture

    1. Possibly Draven but ask yourself this: How much of that is based on objective thinking and how much of it is based on personal preference?

      Kanye West is an @$$hole, but he’s an @$$hole that’s beloved by many on the left because

      A.) He speaks his mind


      B.) He agrees with them.

      This is the guy that said, “George Bush hates black people.” He’s the guy who came onstage and embarrassed a country singer at an awards show for the crime of being white and winning an award that Beyoncé had been nominated for. From a music perspective you may be right. If Kanye West is remember though, it may be for reasons other than his music.

      1. Is there an objective test of what is worth remembering besides waiting and seeing what actually gets remembered?

        1. That’s a good question. I’m working on an intelligent answer. I feel like there needs to be, but err… yeah…

          1. About the only thing I can come up with is that it’s always worth remembering the foundation when things get built off of it. If it’s worth remembering West Side Story, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, or Wyrd Sisters, it makes little sense to forget Shakespeare.

            The problem from the perspective of the modern Progressive determined to remake history and culture is that so much depends on references to the Bible.

            1. You notice that only a few plays are really in the pop vernacular. I once submitted a story based on Winter’s Tale to a writers’ group and was asked whether there really was such a play.

              (OTOH, someone else read the story, looked up the play, and came back to re-read it, and so could definitively tell me that it needed to be more independent so those who had not read the play could get it better.)

        2. IMO no.

          I get seriously annoyed at people who claim that “this book” is so superior that only idiots wouldn’t like it.

          Of course, those people will claim that “another book” is so inferior that no intelligent person would like it.

          Note, this is why if/when I comment on a book I’ve liked/disliked, I often add a YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) at the end of my comment.

          I know what I like or dislike but understand that others will disagree.

          Oh, there are some books that I do think “why would anybody willing read *that*”.

          Fortunately, most of those are ones that present company will likely agree with me. [Smile]

        3. Unfortunately, no. Some things each generation thought were magnificent spoke only to them.
          Having read/listened to/looked at some of these I think it’s because they’re TOO WELL targeted. In writing, for x, while I remember liking The Left Hand of Darkness with reservations, it was already dated when I read it in English in the eighties. (I read it first in Portuguese at 12 or 14.) The language felt “so seventies.” It could be read, but the whole communal raising, a lot of the world building, etc, was seventies. Now it’s virtually unreadable to me because of that. (I’m rather sensitive to currents of language.)

          1. I read a lot of the Dick Francis mysteries in the 90’s. I remember not thinking about the fact that they had been written over a thirty year span until I was brought up short by a Beatles reference–one character suggested hiring them to perform at a racetrack opening. That knocked me out of the story for a bit. Otherwise, the story telling was so good that I never said to myself “so seventies”.

          2. I remember reading Trent’s Last Case because Dorothy Sayers and others of that era raved about it.

            it is deservedly forgotten.

            Helen’s Babies, OTOH, I picked up because both George Orwell and G.K. Chesterton liked it, and it was indeed good.

            1. I’ve been reading her Lord Wimsey mysteries, and amusingly enough they hold up very well. The… not sure how I can say it… motivations for people make sense, even if I had no idea what some of the clothes talk meant it was still almost always made it clear what it implied.

              On the down side, the way she uses French and Latin points very strongly to the lack Sarah mentions. 😦

              1. Foxfier
                Right now Great Courses has Latin 101 for $80 on 75% off sale, and it’s a pace-yourself course with lectures. I took Latin 101… seven years ago, but I’m going to use this to recap. (Turns out that a real correspondence course, with homework due, etc, was just too much for my commitments.) Hopefully they’ll put out 102 and also Greek. You could learn in your (AH!) down time, so you can teach the kiddies.

                  1. I just bought them and haven’t an opinion — they haven’t arrived yet. I ordered the CD.
                    Some courses you don’t need it. Latin… I expect you need to see it or buy the manual?

                    1. Reviews say that the video is useful.

                      Thank you for the heads up, my husband responded with simply “It’s not for the kids, right? Happy Birthday.” 😀

                    1. Here’s my tip for the day — you gotta rote-memorize those cases and tenses. If you don’t, you will regret it.

                      On the bright side, the Internet has Latin memorization songs.

                      Happy birthday! And get the kids to learn it with you, for being able to do conversation practice.

                    2. I just want to learn enough to puzzle out scientific names and similar, and I already promised Husband that he has dibs on “learning a language with the kids” first. (Mostly because I am really, really, REALLY bad at language stuff.)

                      Japanese, if anyone’s wondering. He plans to practice with fan-dubbed anime.

                    3. My classes in college ran the $220-$580 per course at Big City State University, in the three credit hour and up range, I think. $80 at 75% off at today’s prices ain’t all that bad in perspective.

                    4. I wanna be able to get that kind of joke without the key of the name and “e, i, e, i, o”….

                      (Well, and I really want to have some subtle world building where my alien culture is speaking Mostly Latin.)

                    5. My mother was accustomed to giving every young Latin student with whom she had a connection a copy of WINNIE ILLE PU. She seemed to think it would help…

                    6. “Latin memorization songs”

                      I once set the Latin version of “How much wood…” to music. I think it would work as a round. It’s also how I remember certain Spanish constructions. (Feel free to correct my endings; some of them may have slipped in memory.)

                      Quantum materiae materietur
                      marmota monax si
                      marmota monax materiam
                      possit materiari?

                    7. … and I just spent half an hour in Finale Notepad transcribing it. It’s apparently in D.

              2. I encountered James Schmitz as a preteen at the end of the 80s and was absolutely floored when I got old enough to care about such things as copyright dates, because he felt as though he were writing decades ahead of his contemporaries. He’s always a good one to point to when people make a beef about a lack of strong female characters in science fiction back in the day—he not only has female characters that feel like real people, they have families and hobbies and can sometimes be that old grandma tinker who just happens to be an interstellar agent. Now there was a man who understood cliches and tropes and never missed a chance to subvert one…

              3. And don’t forget PG Wodehouse. If you don’t have French, Latin and a decent memory of the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare you’ll miss a lot of the humor

        4. Oh sure. The vast majority of pop music ‘artists’, from about 1950 to now, could’ve been fed into a plastic shredder for all the good they’ve done.

        1. Fair enough. Keep in mind though, that most history is currently being written by leftists and what they consider worth saying may not match up with your opinion of same.

        2. “Only valuable if your mind has thoughts worth saying.”

          Better to remain silent, etc.

      2. I will note that Howard Goodall believes that the Beatles were, as a group, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Now, one can disagree with that assessment, but music history IS Goodall’s business.

        Just throwing it out there.

        1. reminds me of a Goodreads conversation started by someone asking Should I read Lord of the Rings?

          At one point deep in it, someone pointed out that if you wanted to participate in discussions like that one, you really needed to read it. It was that significant.

    2. I agree, McCartney will be rememebred for the techniques he and the rest of the Beatles came up with, even if no one remembers his songs.

    3. Wasn’t this MacArthur guy a backup singer on an early Michael Jackson song? He looks familiar.

      Seriously, though, I thought the whole thing was a pretty funny trolling exercise.

  1. Would it be rude of me to point out that Kanye and McCartney actually have a lot in common?

    The vast majority of the music they perform was written by other people. Although with Kanye I use the term music loosely, and neither one would be relevant without the money record-labels spent to make them so. After all, “The Beatles” were just some two-bit bar band before a business man signed them for no reason.

    1. For no reason? They were obviously marketable, regardless of what you think of their music (and I’ve been known to refer to pretty much every British Invasion band as “a bunch of British guys with guitars and bad hair) they MADE MONEY. That’s why that business man signed them. He saw their potential.

  2. My attempts at engaging the local school board are pretty frustrating, they seem to be stuck in fantasy land themselves. Even when there is a charter school across the street doing things right, they are ensconced in arguing over how to spend more money on bus garages and changing the athletic fields to artificial turf, whining because the latest bond did not pass, etc. All but one of the old members managed to squeak by a few votes in the latest election. Sigh.

    1. If you’re having trouble engaging the local school board, perhaps you need a better scope, or perhaps to lead them a bit more. Oh, wait, that wasn’t the type of engaging you meant. Nevermind.

            1. Actually, no. It just means that you have some familiarity with things outside of your specialty. This is a good thing.

  3. What got me about the whole McCartney/Kanye thing is that in this era of instant access to the accumulated knowledge of mankind via your phone or computer, these morons didn’t bother to even look at who Kanye West was with.

    It’s kind of like the running battle my son and I have. He uses the internet for games, while I keep trying to tell him that just about everything he wants to know can be found there. It’s. Right. Freaking. There!

    “Kids today” (and I feel like an old man writing that) have tools that we only dreamed of as kids, and then they fail to make use of them and just assume that old guy with Kanye West is some unknown simply because they haven’t heard of him.

    On a side note, my spell check keeps flagging Kanye’s first name, and I absolutely refuse to tell it that it’s actually correct. My own little protest. 😀

    1. I have, more than once, admired the chiaroscuro in certain photos on a LJ photo group. One person thanked me for the chance to read up on the interesting history of chiaroscuro. Another asked me what it was. . . .

      1. Flip side: I have had some very long, frustrating discussions with people because I either looked up what the term meant, or already knew… and they didn’t. Slightly less annoying are the ones where there’s multiple meanings, and we just knew different ones.

        It saves a lot of time and agony to just ask what they mean when they’re saying it.

      2. Kinda like seeing pictures and movies in black and white. Nowadays it’s an artsy special effect to use black and white. “Man, I get the whole black and white thing, but they sure over-used it in those old movies.”

        1. Oh, you can have color in chiaroscuro. Just very pale colors and very dark ones, so you still have the stark contrast.

    2. back in the late ’90’s, I was working late one night repairing some of the electronics we installed in one of the classrooms in college (I worked on campus for the department responsible for every piece of AV equipment on campus) when security came through to lock up the building. After talking for a little bit, he noticed a couple of CD’s in my briefcase. He started telling me about this time he’d been in the music store at the mall looking at a CD when this ~13 year old was trying to describe this “hot new singer” to his mom – the kid couldn’t remember his name. To make a long story short, after a few minutes, he put the CD he was looking at up, turned around and said, “I think you’re talking about Roy Orbison.” The kid said, “Yeah! That’s his name!” “Thanks, kid. For the first time in my life, I feel old. Roy Orbison has been singing since before I was your age.”

      Too many people only know what they have experienced and nothing more. They might know a few other bits and pieces, but they never internalize it or learn from it.

      1. I remember when Roy Orbison had a bit of a resurgence. I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize who he was either at the time.

        Of course, we didn’t have Wikipedia back then. 😉

        1. Two true stories:

          1. Kids mocking my choice of music during breaks in the action at a roller hockey rink. Santana’s big comeback “Smooth” was everywhere at the time, and I thought (naively) that playing some of the classic stuff was in order. Nope. One kid actually told me, “If he’s so great, why wasn’t he at Woodstock?”
          2. After a while I offered to let the kids suggest bumps, so long as they provided a CD to be played. (And so that I could screen them beforehand – I’m an optimist, not a chump.) One song sounded familiar underneath the hip-hop mumbling, so the next break, I played it: Steely Dan’s “Black Cow.” The kids were ticked off! “Wait,” I asked, “it’s the same song you actually wanted me to play, only you can actually hear the music now. What’s the problem?”

          Kids these days. ::adjusts onion on belt, yells at cloud::

      2. When that Johnny Cash movie came out, the DJ that was in charge of my shop turned on the CD during cleaning quarters and was shocked that I was singing along with almost all of the songs, and was horrified that I’d grown up listening to them. (Although I did get him to try Marty and some of the other old classics.)

        Similar thing, different shop, I sang along with some rock/metal band that redid “Whiskey in the Jar,” and could not get the guy to believe that it hadn’t been original. (I want to say it was Metallica? Guy had a great collection, in the vein of Dio’s style, but it was easier to list off the drugs he HADN’T used before joining the Navy.)

          1. Liked them, one reason being that Phil Lynott sang low, unlike several other singers of that type of music back then who had a tendency to go towards falsetto, in the worst cases. My favorite:

    3. I’ll have to say that I’m glad my sons (who, granted, are probably older than yours) are quite comfortable with looking things up when they need info. My Google-fu is still better than theirs, mostly, so sometimes they will ask me if I can find something pretty obscure, but otherwise, they do pretty well.

      And I ask younger son for info about drugs. No, not those drugs! Sheesh. Medicines that are being prescribed for someone in the family. Younger son spends tons of time reading about how they affect brain and body chemistry. He’s almost obsessed with it.

      1. My oldest is 13, so yeah, yours sound older.

        Mostly, I think it’s a case of how he’s just so used to the internet. It’s nothing to him. It’s like television is to me, but was still something awesome to my mother. He can’t imagine life without it. As such, it’s not a big thing for him, so he just uses it for whatever and he has no real appreciation for what it really can be.

            1. Once upon a time, on a writers’ forum, a writer told how her husband decided to get her something he really knew she wanted for Valentine’s Day rather than something obviously romantic. Went to the bookstore, got a clerk to help, and they were searching for it when he happened to mention why he wanted the Writer’s Digest Guide to Poisons. The clerk gave him a funny look.

              “I consider it an expression of trust.”

      2. Google-fu vs. age and treachery: I won major street creds with the (now seniors) at St. Angus because I could answer AP Latin grammar questions faster than they could. I used the index in the textbook, they were going online. And it had been [redacted] years since I read Caesar and Tacitus in the original. *buffs claws on fur*

    4. “Kids today” (and I feel like an old man writing that) have tools that we only dreamed of as kids, and then they fail to make use of them and just assume that old guy with Kanye West is some unknown simply because they haven’t heard of him.

      In pop culture, they have a point, especially since the song was in West’s style.

      He was big news. Now, he’s just generically famous, and even that is only in some sub-groups which don’t overlap with West. If I wasn’t a news-listener, I probably wouldn’t recognize his name– and he only gets on the news because they think he’s news.

      On the spellcheck: I keep calling in Cyan in my head…..

  4. Eh, in my generation we were cracking jokes that a historically educated member of it was aware he had belonged to a band before Wings.

    1. When one of the other DJs at EBS-Zaragoza in the mid-90ies cracked that joke to me, there was a baby airman listening, who looked back at us with eyes rounded in astonishment … “But… but he really was in another band before Wings?”

    1. Ant-troll code is A. Reply only using Infrared Protocol. The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.

        1. The prophets are a mighty profane and illiterate bunch, judging by what they leave on the subway walls.

      1. Ob la di, ob la da, life goes on bra. Goo goo g’joob.

        Beep beep mmm beep beep yeah.

              1. You know where we can get fonts for Ancient Phoenician? 🙂 do you also know where we can get a practical, usable guide to the funky symbols of the international phonetic alphabet and what they actually sound like? Preferably one that does not require enrolling to get a linguistics degree? (I’d love one but time and funds…)

                  1. Definitely a good start. The problem with ipa is that the sounds are essentially unguessable just by looking at them, which makes it useless to the amateur linguist trying to decipher the pronunciation of an unfamiliar foreign language. Yet several language sites I’ve seen use no other means of transliteration and do not have sound files. It is frustrating.

                  1. I just assumed that if someone was not Odd, then that person would be considered Odd by the standards (for want of a better term) of this community, and that Oddness of not being Odd would be sufficient to meet the requirement.

                    1. Just curious but what does Dragon naturally speaking believe the sound of your head hitting the desk means? [Very Big Grin While Flying Away Very Fast]

                1. That makes no sense; the tattoos would simply put a wedge between him and anyone trying to hug him.

                  (I hope a pun war is OK now; otherwise we can tablet.)

                    1. Don’t worry Joel, she can still change her mind. This pronouncement has been set in stone yet.

                  1. Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
                    Shadows Of Ancient Rome
                    Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
                    Hung On The Telly
                    Hung On The Telly
                    Hung On The Telephone

  5. I remember reading an article written by a high-school teacher several years ago who shocked that his students did wot know who the Beatles were land, when he told them, derided them as irrelevant old white men.

    His solution to this imagined problem? He wanted to create a course where the wonders of the Beatles (and presumably other aspects of pop culture of his youth) could be taught.

    1. “derided them as irrelevant old white men.”

      My answer to that would have been to laugh evilly and send them to a music history class, which might get them to the Beatles near the end of it, or to play them something from just before they hit big and something from after, and say, “still think they’re irrelevant?”

      Of course, I have a passion for music, so even though the Beatles aren’t really my thing, I appreciate what they brought to the table. The music history class would just be to throw in their face the awesome complexity of music.

  6. My own objection to pop culture is the extremely limited range. People know no more than the Top Twenty fairy tales, for instance. And if you ever write a clever work of fiction based on some folklore, you may have to endure no one’s ever noticing your cleverness and instead discussing only the creativity of your stolen folklore.

  7. The comments made by Kanye’s fans about their idol “discovering” Paul McCartney reminds me of the college freshman complaining that Shakespeare was lazy because he used so many clichés, such as “To be or not to be.”

    1. Yeah, tell me about it! I read this “Tolkeen” guy because everybody was raving about him. Big mistake! His whole trilogy (gee, that’s fresh!) is about a quest to defeat a “Dark Lord”. Yeah, *that’s* original!

      1. Was in a discussion on The Last Unicorn where someone was asking what makes this fantasy work a great classic. Someone else pointed out when it was published.

    2. The there’s the story, which might be apocryphal, about an English professor who had a student accuse Joseph Conrad of plagiarizing one of Robert Silverberg’s novels (title of which escapes me at the moment).

      1. I’ve seen discussions where fans gang up on some twit who thinks that Lord of the Rings ripped off — Dragonball was one of them.

        And of course the Dork Tower cartoon of listening to kids talk about how LOTR rips off Star Wars until he starts to wonder what the penalty is for child battery.

          1. Check the “movie blooper” boards.

            Several of them listed Legolas walking on top of the snow past everybody else in the fellowship as a blooper. 😀

    3. Remembering to take in a work on the terms of its time is a skill. Example; CITIZEN KANE has been so assiduously stolen from by later directors that it looks old hat.

      You have to have BACKGROUND.

      1. In that respect, I’ve found Anne McCaffrey’s dragons unreadable now through no fault of her own. Her stuff like “gathers” and someone else going on about the wine of some place, and… have all been ripped off by so much fantasy that it keeps kicking me out of the story.

          1. My favorites are the Dragonriders trilogy (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, the White Dragon), the first two Harper Hall books (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger), and Moreta’s Ride. I also like Dragonsdawn and Dragonseye, thought not quite as much… I prefer the books from when they seemed more fantasy than science fiction, I guess.

            Most of the rest of her books I enjoyed, but not enough to reread. And I really can’t get into Todd McCaffrey’s books that much.

            1. I liked all of them until they published one that was a repeat of the previous in another pov. I liked Moretta’s Ride a lot. My problem was re-reading recently.

            2. I enjoyed Dragonseye up until the end, when I wondered what the plot was. I realized that my problem was that it felt like a short story blown up to novel length. Good writing all the way through but rather pointless, to my mind.

              I like her books through All the Weyrs of Pern, even the other POV book Sarah references below (Nerilka’s Journey.) It could be that I read that one first, or that I like multiple POVs if they’re not complete retreads.

              But oh boy, does that series need a continuity editor. A few changes here and there make sense (such as giving Lytol a brown dragon instead of a green when she decided to make him a principle character), but there are a lot of careless mix-ups of names and the like.

              1. I’m finding this is way too easy, if the author doesn’t keep/doesn’t have time to create a bible for the series.
                So, anyone volunteering to do a bible for DST? (Bats eyelashes.) 🙂

                    1. See, this is one of those things where I think, “That sounds like something interesting to do.” And then I smack myself in the head and say, “No, don’t commit to something else, dangit. You’ve got enough irons in the fire.”

                  1. re reading my series or any of them including Witchfinder
                    Everytime a character is mentioned, you look to see if some info about him is updated and enter that under his name. Like this:
                    Jonathan Blythe Earl of Savage – Pale
                    Blue eyed
                    Used to put frogs in the nurse’s knitting basket
                    Only in Darkships I need a heading called “Future History” and every time something is mentioned as having happened in the past it gets entered under that with a time frame. “21st century” or “Around the 24th”
                    Now I think about it, the other series need a “Linear continuity heading” for the same thing. “The king forbid travel to other worlds at minus 10 story time” or whatever.

                    1. I may not be able to give a strict chronology, but I’ll try to group things together. OK if I put novels and short stories separately?

            3. The White Dragon killed the series for me. I liked it originally, then I noticed that Menolly and Jaxom knew that fire lizards were to be marked with their Hold’s colors despite those two having left Benden before that decision was made or circulated:-(.

              1. I’ve heard that Anne McCaffrey was slightly embarrassed when some of her fans worked out just how much meat her dragons would especially considering the number of dragons just in one Wery?

                Pern couldn’t support that many giant meat-eating dragons. [Very Big Grin]

                1. I didn’t say it made the book bad, but it ruined the experience for me. That bad a break in internal consistency was something I couldn’t get around.

      2. Also remember that some very popular works achieved it because they did something new. Once others mastered the skill and did it better, the work declined. When we look back at times where the original work and all its imitators are all pretty much forgotten, sometimes the first is best, and sometimes not.

  8. Thank goodness for SF, without which I’d know nothing. My mother was 16 when I was born in 59. I knew the words to every song but little else.
    She did 10 years or so of college while I was growing up in the 60s and is an irredeemable social democrat (NOT! a socialist (sigh.)) I realized during the previous discussion, she never did read SF and has no clue where I’m coming from.

    She’s a clever girl, for all that, but has very little information to reason from. She absolutely horrified that I’m an evil TP radical, Repub voting, gun toting curmudgeon.

    1. It was reading Have Spacesuit, Will Travel early in my 7th grade year that brought home to me the need to educate myself about anything important because the school system wasn’t going to do it. H. Beam Piper and Poul Anderson using history as a basis of much of their fiction only strengthened this mindset.

  9. Years ago (mid-80s), when Ringo Starr was in that children’s show Thomas the Train, he was interviewed by some sweet young thing for a magazine feature on the show. She asked him (seriously) what he had done before becoming involved with the show. He simply replied that he had been in a band. This was in the 80s. I don’t like to think about how much worse things have gotten.

        1. Things are maybe getting forgotten a bit faster now, though. That movie (Sunset Boulevard) was made ten years before I was born, and I was quite familiar with it when I was a teen, having seen it a couple of times. Now the kids sometimes don’t seem to know what was happening when they were small, much less what was being done a few years before they were born.

          Too much going on now, perhaps? Fewer things manage to float on the top long enough to be noticed for the decades they might once do, when there perhaps were a bit fewer new big things (lots of smaller stuff, always, but with the older technology fewer got widely known) pushing their way into the limelight and crowding the old ones out?

          1. My perception is that there is less casual exposure to the old. You have to go looking for it. It’s THERE, if you do, in much more convenient form, but it doesn’ just show up randomly on one of the five channels you an get on a miserable wet Saturday afternoon, when the other options are BOWLING FOR DOLLARS and the like.

            1. Yep. There is that. I have been watching those old movies and listening to the old music which was used in some of them (I really like some big band pieces) my whole life, but that is because they were frequently the only option on television when I was young and we had only two channels here, and also, they were the cheap matinees in the couple of movie theaters we had in that town, shown during the days and sometimes on evenings during the week (and I think there were a couple of times when they had been supposed to get something new and it was late…). For example, my parents took me to see lots of the classic old Tarzan movies when I was still too young to go by myself, and I have first seen films like Rio Bravo and My Fair Lady in a movie theater. So part of my fondness for them probably is because I got used to the storytelling styles, and visual language, as a child, also in those movies in which the styles used were way out of style by then. If a kid now only sees new movies when young and gets used to those styles – splashy, lots of eye candy, usually faster – the older fare, if first encountered only when he is already a young adult, can undoubtedly seem quite boring, and in adventure stories like those Tarzans, the special effects and the whole look, incredibly clumsy. If he, for whatever reasons, gets to watch a lot of them then he may start to like them, but there would have to be that reason first (he studies film, has a girlfriend who already likes them, hangs around friends who have decided that looking at old films and listening to old music is their way to be unique…)

              Acquired tastes. And those new tastes are much easier to acquire which in some ways resemble the old tastes, something completely different much less so.

              1. Sid! Tantor! Bowmangone-e!

                After years of that being one of the random “MOVE IT!” things I say to my children, our 5 year old finally ask what it meant.
                Mom: “It means ‘you know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, now hurry up and get it done.'”

            2. This. In the years after my divorce, when my daughter was splitting her weekends between her mother and me, I introduced her to old movies, Ogden Nash, Rudyard Kipling, Tom Lehrer, and the like. One time, while watching one of the “Thin Man” movies, she commented to me, “You know, Daddy? Movies back then had taste.”

              Currently, I’ve lent Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Dark Star, and Kentucky Fried Movie to a young co-worker, as well as a couple anthologies of older SF and horror stories. He’s quite taken with most of them.

              1. We came back to the US from a protracted overseas tour of duty in the early 1990s, and I immediately signed up for cable TV, the basic package such as existed on Ogden, Utah. One of the channels we had was TCM – Turner Classic Movies … and my daughter (then about 12 years old, and having seen nothing much than TV shows taped for us by a family friend who lived on base, and what movies I could rent from MWR) began to watch and love various 1930ies and 1940s movies. The horror movies – she has always said – were all the much more scarier for what they suggested than what they actually showed.

      1. Very self-deprecative, in a healthy way. I always think of his “guest spot” on the Simpsons, where he’s faithfully writing back to every single fan letter even though it’s been 20 years since the Beatles broke up. “PS – please forgive the lateness of my reply.” Always cracks me up.

          1. The Simpsons have been a thing since the late 80s. I’m not sure when this episode aired, but it may have only been 20 years when it did.

            1. ’89, although IMDB doesn’t give a month. 😀
              In April of ’91 he first appeared on the show. (See? There ARE things I’ll admit are good uses for wikis…..)

              Mostly just wanted to hammer in how very long it has been for people to be outraged at a lack of instant recognition for former group members. The more I think on it, the more it just boggles me…..

              1. Oh yeah. Wikis are AWESOME for pop culture stuff. Now, if we could just find a way to keep people for using them for “scholarly” purposes…

                1. Pretty good for checking details on cars, too. (what year did that engine come out, etc.)

              2. And also:

                You just hammered in to me how long it’s been since that show started. Thanks. Now I’m trying to remember where I put my cane.

                1. ‘s OK, I remember uberlib teacher using TIME magazine’s article about how lame Republicans were for objecting to something or other the Simpsons had done to get attention from when I was in high school. (Yeah, I know, incredibly specific, there; I think TIME only did one of those every year or two, although I think they switched over to “see, those people who objected were lame, this has been going on for decades!” at some point.)

    1. Actually the name of the show was “Shining Time Station.” Ringo only did the first season and this was in 1989. George Carlin took over the role as Mr. Conductor. Thomas the Tank Engine stories are what remain of that original show.

      I miss the Juke Box band, they had some great covers to old railroad songs. 😦

      (Quit looking at me like that!)

      1. Thank you for more detail.

        I lost a lot of my “well, maybe that is kind of bad….” for someone not recognizing a guy from a band that broke up a generation before. Makes it a lack of research oops, instead of, oh, asking Nemoy if he’s ever done fiction shows as well as narrating documentaries. 😀

        1. 🙂 I had gone on a memory trip just a few days and found someone who had uploaded the full seasons onto youtube. Hence a fully refreshed memory.

      2. Err Thomas the Tank Engine precedes the show by some 30-40 years. The original books by the Rev W Awdry that is

            1. One of the things I like about the old Thomas books is the realism in the way they depict characters that you don’t have in modern children’s books.
              In one a policeman is ticketing everyone in town for minor offenses because he is unhappy with his job, and cites Thomas for not having the proper safety equipment. Sir Topham Hat/The Fat Conductor then comes down to the police station and attempts to throw his influence around and get out of the safety requirement. His “Don’t you know who I am?!” stunt doesn’t work and the railway must get a new engine with proper safety guards (Toby). What modern children’s book would depict a policeman’s motivation for being nitpicky on safety rules as being because he was unhappy with his job?

              In another Percy wants to go past a warning sign and so contrives a situation where he is ‘forced’ past the sign but in a way where it appears not to be his fault (and then he learns why you don’t go past warning signs). This is EXACTLY how real people behave, especially 4 year old boys who really really want to go past the velvet rope and touch the dinosaur exhibit but know they’ll get in trouble if they do.

              The old books (perhaps because they were written by a minister) have actual insights into train… er… human nature instead of the simplified lesson-indoctrinating fantasy ‘people’ that populate to many modern children’s books.

          1. I never knew that either… Until I took my oldest to a local historical attraction featuring trains and they had a book reading. Thomas the Tank Engine was one of the books they read. Good times.

  10. When I was a teenager knowledge of pop music was the requirement for fitting in. And the social clique you belonged to, determined by what sort of music you listened to. Perhaps it is still that way now, I don’t know.
    But you would think the adults would recognize that pop culture is by its nature ephemeral. In 20 years the music you thought was so important will be for the most part unknown to a new generation except as annoying back ground music played in fast food joints to appease the oldsters.

    That is one of the reasons it is so important to teach children about the aspects of Western Culture that aren’t ephemeral. So that when I am in my 70’s I won’t have to listen to rap background music.

    1. When I was a teenager knowledge of pop music was the requirement for fitting in. And the social clique you belonged to, determined by what sort of music you listened to. Perhaps it is still that way now, I don’t know.

      I think there will necessarily always be a correlation between subcultural group identification and cultural tastes. Some people will always build their identity around following whatever is considered mainstream by their peers (which may very well differ from place to place, what is mainstream in an urban culture will not be the same in a rural culture), some people will always be attracted to whatever defines itself as rebellious (whether or not it actually is), and some people will go their own way.

      I think there’s a faster pace of new developments; it’s easier to do something different and get enough exposure that enough people identify with it so that it continues. You’re no longer stuck with a handful of gatekeepers and no longer limited by geographic proximity.

  11. This is actually a conversation I’ve had many different times with many different people, albeit in a very different way. I’ve been having this conversation for years though, and the phenomenon that sparked this post is recent, so maybe that’s why.

    Most Americans (I can’t speak to other places as I’ve never lived there) seem to think that history started the day they were born and that anything that came before is only relevant insofar as they can use it to make a point politically. IE Ancient Rome is irrelevant but slavery matters to people who are trying to make a point about race. Then again, the same people who point to slavery will ignore the fact that it was the Republican Party that was founded on an abolitionist platform.

    A similar attitude seems to pervade this country in regards to pop culture with the exception that for many people there is an end date on it. Think about it. The generation that loved Glenn Miller hated Elvis Presley. The generation that loved Elvis Presley hated the Beatles. The generation that loved the Beatles hated Run DMC. The generation that loved Run DMC (my generation) can’t freaking STAND Kanye West. (Seriously. The most common complaint among people like myself is that these new guys have no lyrical ability and no job requirements other than to look good in a gold chain.) I’m not sure what comes next that the current crop of youngsters are going to hate on come 2035 or so, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be whatever’s popular.

    1. I was born after the sixties, and grew up hating huge swaths of modern popular musical tradition.

      I divide music into the categories of good and bad. One of the major uses for good music is erasing the psychic residue that the bad stuff leaves. With consent and turning the volume way down to tolerable, I’ve found that stuff I’d have guessed was bad is actually good.

      I still prefer silence quite a bit of the time.

      1. Schofield’s law of popular culture:

        We remember the popular culture of eras past so fondly because, mercifully, we don’t actually remember that MUCH of it.

        1. This is an excellent point. By the time we come along, the wheat has already largely been winnowed from the chaff, so we get only the stuff from the past that has endured.

          1. And yet, amd yet…

            One of the great Goods of thenvideo revolution is that we, the unwashed, can now get to see all the old ‘classics’ that the Intelligencia raved about, and decode for ourselves if they are tripe.

            And some of them are. I just DON’T GET the enduring popularity of I LOVE LUCY. Lucy is a snivelling, whining, scheaming bitch, and whatever Desi was getting paid to put up with her, it wasn’t enough.

            1. Actually, I think it was her routines that made the show work. She was a master of slapstick. The storyline was just an excuse to get her into the skitn and any excuse would do.

              As a small child, I would puzzle over her stupid decisions in the first half, ROFL through the skit, and leave the room during the last two minutes because I couldn’t stand watching that kind of humiliation–even when richly deserved.

    2. ” anything that came before is only relevant insofar as they can use it to make a point politically.”

      The problem is that the vileprogs use that to dismiss the Constitution as something that became irrelevant when it passed it’s 100th birthday.

      1. Not as much as you would think. I’ve heard more than one libprog describe the Constitution as a “document written by white men for their own benefit that must be repudiated.” To many it IS relevant; as a tool for tearing the country apart.

    3. Every generation pick up,a style of music that torments its elders. Each generation of elders is totally within their rights to,denounce the new stuff as trash. Each new generation is totally within their rights to hold on to THEIR trash.

      It’s when any of them start to get self-rightious about it that they become idiots.

      My folks worried at me about drug references in rock amd roll. Imshort circuited that by pointing out the drug references in ’20’s jazz.

      “oh, baby, have a little *sniff* on me”

      End of argument.

      1. You know, Glenn Miller was actually seen as too “sweet” for a lot of swing fans. There was a big gap back in the day between fans of “sweet” and whatever the other one was.

    4. I like almost all the styles which have existed so far, except I always like only some specific songs rather than the style as a whole. Love some swing, hate lots of other, love some Elvis songs, hate others, like some Beatles, hate most of it, love a few disco songs while hating most of them and so on. Styles, specific artists and so on, there is nothing and nobody I’d just like or love, it’s always only some individual songs (or sometimes performances or versions, like when different artists make different versions of the same song). And even with the artists I mostly hate, some of them may also have one or two songs I like or even love.

      This can also shift with time. Especially when it comes to current high radio etc play pop or something similar, there have been ones which I quite liked for a while, then got thoroughly bored with and would not listen for years. And occasionally I have started to like them again after enough time has gone by. (You could also claim I have no taste whatsoever: I have started to like Macarena again too…)

          1. That’s pretty “smooth” jazz. Nice.

            These folks do a respectable, downtempo, somewhat “Alpert”-ized version of a song Maynard Ferguson did in the early seventies.

            And here is the Master’s own version (after he fed the band a few bowls of the Devil’s Kimchi).

            Don’t mean to be responding out of kind to your posts, but music posts are to me like bratwurst is to a schnauzer.


      1. I like art, not artists.

        Shorter version of some very convoluted conversations similar to what you mention– I like some of the stuff from a whole lot of sources.

  12. But since the sixties/seventies, there has been an emphasis on the “now” and only the “now” counting.

    Maybe that has something to do with shrinking Science Fiction, that you reposted yesterday?

  13. Sarah,

    Please blog more on Flannery O’Connor, one of my favorite writers. I think her approach to writing holds many lessons for speculative fiction.

  14. I am very lucky to have been raised in a family that values history and taught me to direct my stubborn into finding things out not ignoring them.

    On the McCartney/West thing. I’m only 34 and I’m face palming over these folk.

    1. I only recognize the names because people natter on about unimportant things, and I have a good memory for trivia.

  15. Humph! I obviously went to the wrong college. UC Davis, 1970-74. Calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology . . . oh, well, yeah, there was other stuff available, but nobody made me take it, and the students didn’t run the place. Should have gone to Berkley. 😀

    1. Yes, but it’s STEM — stem still remains in place to an extent. It’s the “liberal arts” that have died, and they’re needed too, just not what we have.

      1. Frustrated me in college, I kept trying to find classes to address liberal arts deficiencies in my primary education and they kept being such hollow and pointless exercises.

        1. I went to a Jesuit university, and while there was a lot of glurge in place, the philosophy department was rock-solid, English had a professor or two of rare skill (like the one who could translate from Old English without even thinking, probably because his accent less English hid the fact that German was his first language), they still taught Latin, and you could take an Old Testament class with textual criticism* from a world expert in ancient Hebrew. But it was pretty much dependent upon each professor. The most amazing history professor I’ve ever seen had us as his last class; he died of uncaught cancer two weeks after finals, criminally young. I think the department was still decent after that but a lot of us were not going into history without him as a pied piper…

          (P.S. I started off in engineering, and yeah, absolutely solid sciences. In fact, a chemistry prof tried to convince me to switch majors. “I’m getting a C in your class!” Oh, you’d learn. “I keep breaking test tubes in lab**!” But you’ve never broken anything expensive…)

          *Not the literary form, where you try to extract meaning from the text via whichever method… which, BTW, we learned as a class and by groups applied to LOTR (I think Freudian was funniest)… but examining how it was pieced together.

          **The best part was that I never broke a tube the same way twice. I’m not normally klutzy, but I had some backhanded inspiration that term.

      2. It seems much harder to noodle around with anything involving mathematics.

  16. The 60’s have much to answer for. 😐

    The nature of public school education when I was incarcerated — eh, long-winded rant for another time.

    Suffice to say I bemoan the damage done frequently.

  17. My brother’s shocked gasp when my kids – then eight and thirteen – asked what the Beatles were, after a casual reference of his. And then he told me I was miss educating my kids.

    *giggles* Alright, I’ve seen geeks do this kind of thing… but we’re MOSTLY joking, and it’s a reason to show them (fill in movie or series.)

    1. My kids hate it when I do this. They translate it pretty much as “Well, there goes our afternoon”.

  18. This is a large part of why I’ve insulated and monitored my kids like I do. They aren’t completely separated from pop culture, as they go to public school (for now), but I’m doing my best to prevent indoctrination. (Though some people view raising children to have a sense of morals as “indoctrination”.)
    Mostly, I’m concerned with developing interpersonal skills before I start home schooling. My older boy is an Odd, and doesn’t understand social niceties. He’s going to have to learn them the hard way, like I did. But to do that, he has to be around people.
    So, it’s a balancing act between indoctrination vs. learning social cues.
    I guess we’ll wait and see.

    1. And sometimes it’s just genetics and no matter what you do, your child will be Odd at an awkward time. I was teased then bullied then an outcast during grades 5-6. Looking back, I had what would be termed Aspie traits. Now my oldest, who has always been part-homeschooled and part-public-schooled, is in grade 5, and history is starting to repeat itself with her. I’m a little appalled. I thought I’d found a way to help her learn to socialize without subjecting her too much to immature peers. At least she knows she can easily escape if school becomes too painful. I’ll let her come home whenever she wants.

    1. “I’m going to ask a dumb question here – who’s the black guy playing with Paul?”
      Nobody. His name is Xebache- he who talks loud, saying nothing, but he prefers to be called Nobody.

  19. A couple of thoughts….

    Random one that keeps echoing in my head:
    It’s not just navel gazing, it’s demanding that other people look at the world through your navel…..


    More broadly, I’ve complained (pauses for the shocked reactions to stop) about this sort of thing before. Memorable is when someone was talking about how Hillary had been a Goldwater Girl in college, obviously using it as a shorthand, and took great umbrage at my “willful ignorance” when I asked them to explain the implications of supporting someone who lost an election before my father could legally drive.

    Because objective sources are just thick on the ground, y’know; I’m supposed to “educate myself” on stuff that they were familiar with from having lived through it, by osmosis one must assume…..

    1. Well, one could argue that her support of Goldwater is an indication that she was always a political opportunist, and not necessarily a smart one…..

      But hanging that on Goldwater, when there is so muh stronger evidence, does seem a stretch.

      1. One could argue it, but that rests on people knowing the guy who lost decades before their birth, who was on the side where it’s hard to get fair information about current events, let alone anything older.

        We need to do a good job of teaching people if we’re going to beat the Left– good information can’t beat bad if it’s never even put out there.

  20. A) Homeschooling for the win! Save the blasted time’s mom would catch me reading books from the library instead of the assigned material (that assigned stuff was BO-RING!) and I got really good at writing 750 word book reports for a couple of years.

    B) Music- Up until about I was maybe 15-16, all we ever listened to in the house was …*sighs* sorry guys, Oldies. I knew and could sing almost any song from 1954-1977 by heart. Still have an incredibly deep appreciation for groups like the Mamas and the Papas, Neil Diamond, The BeeGees and Gordon Lightfoot (whose still touring by the way).

    1. “Oldies. I knew and could sing almost any song from 1954-1977 by heart.”

      Me too, but umm… they weren’t oldies when I learnt ’em.

                1. My brother, Lord I miss him, used to be able to turn light switches on and off with a shop towel.

      1. When I was 13, we moved to a place that had a non-NPR radio station. One of them was an Oldies station.

        My mom HOWLED when her high school graduation song came on. :biggrin:

        (I, of course, have only glee now that I can find the 80s-early 90s country that I favor on “classic country” stations.)

        1. *nods* In South Dakota, I discovered there exist country radio stations that continue to play music from a time prior to the Garth Brooks explosion. (His success triggered a near-extinction event to the recording contracts of those who came before him.)
          Getting to hear stuff from the likes of Ronnie Milsap, Rosanne Cash, or Lee Greenwood on the radio makes me feel privileged somehow.

    2. Don’t look at me. I grew up on the Kingston Trio, Patsy Cline and Homer and Jethro. My taste in music predates my own birth by 20-30 years.
      Needless to say, I didn’t fit into any of the cliques when I was younger.

      1. Kingston Trio, Gordon Lightfoot, Odetta, Ian and Sylvia, Limelighters, and New Christi Minstrels. Plus my mother singing the Childe Ballads as lullabies (“Cruel Mother”/ Greenwood Sidie O” among others *shiver*). And lots of classical music. I didn’t hear pop until the early 1980s.

    1. The Beatles are that group that the Berlin Philharmonic ‘cellos are playing cover songs from on the ‘Cello Submarine cd. You know, #43, that someone always yells at you kids to hit next on the player when it comes on? (My parents recalibrated their idea of gag stocking stuffers after I dropped it in their player.)

  21. Delurking to say that several of the Tweeters have admitted they were making a joke, which is pretty much what I figured the instant I saw the whole foofaraw. In which case, they succeeded brilliantly.

    1. I suspected as much at least from a few of them. however, considering some episodes of lack of clue from my kids, well… let’s say our icons are not as permanent as you’d expect.

      1. True. An amusing example from my own past: For while in grad school I worked at the equipment desk at one of the university gyms and would take in a few CDs to listen to during my shift. Once when I was listening to Dexter Gordon, a fellow said he was a saxophonist in the jazz program (the university has a leading music school) and asked who was playing because he was really good. I said, “Dexter Gordon.” He asked, “Who?” and I said, “What?”

        It provoked a number of random thoughts. (1) Jazzbos are notorious for their knowledge of the history of the genre. I guess there’s so much of it from the 50s and 60s though that even a fairly famous guy like DG wouldn’t stand out in the long view. (2) Training in a jazz program’s just like any other educational program–there’s a process of selection involved that will inevitably short someone. (3) Maybe I’m just too stuck on my own tastes.

  22. Evil Rob has postulated that the problem with music is that the vast majority of kids are only exposed to the musical version of board books. With that in mind, my car’s radio is default on and default to the classical station, so that my kids have been hearing complex music for years, every time they get in the car. It also means that when my husband puts on something complex (like Devin Townsend, which is what you get when you run Enya through a heavy metal filter, or progressive rock), they seem to enjoy it.

    1. When my kids were very small I started using “white noise.” You know how a kid will sleep fine with a loud party, but wake up to the sound of mom trying to leave the room quietly? And how it’s hard to get kids to sleep in a place that sound different at night? You pick a standard sound that raises the ambient volume.

      My noise of choice is KingFM, Seattle’s answer to “NPR doesn’t play any classical music anymore.” (Available online, in multiple flavors.)

      Between that and my husband’s wonderful collection of Japanese pop culture music (anime and video game soundtracks, mostly as done by a full orchestra) , I think they’ve got a start.

  23. “Even in stuff like cooking and cleaning, it’s like we were raised by wolves, and have to relearn civilization by ourselves.”

    Aargh, this. It is a crime against humanity that home economics is no longer taught in high school. Further, it is a crime against humanity that it had to be taught in high school in the first place, rather than at home. I’m part of (I think) the first generation that wasn’t taught by whichever parent happened to be around, and also not taught by the state … How to survive. I think the instructions that came with me from the hospital said simply “feed and water regularly, and ensure child reaches and completes college.” It was just assumed that as a college graduate, we would be able to afford to hire someone to cook and clean and balance the checkbook and raise the children. Only problem was that the people we were supposed to hire came with the same instructions, so they didn’t learn those things either. So much focus on doing things our own way, that we are reinventing the wheel, one person at a time, over and over.

    1. Not to mention — high school? When I was nine, I could cook a meal to feed the family.

      Though I have heard of a young man of my generation who could not cook. Vietnamese family, Grandma ruled the kitchen and her principle: boys don’t cook, girls cok.

      He went to college. Wanted to live at a place where they cooked for themselves, explained his plight, learned to cook from them. Went home for Thanksgiving, told what had happened, told what sort of dishes his solidly white instructors were teaching him. . . .

      Next thing he knew he was in the kitchen, and Grandma was teaching him how to cook REAL food.

      1. “Next thing he knew he was in the kitchen, and Grandma was teaching him how to cook REAL food.”
        clever boy.

      2. My dad had to live on his own for a decade, and mom’s dad traveled around for several years with just a couple of other guys his age–all of us learned how to cook, clean and repair clothing, figure out what problems were, etc.

        The only question I have is if the guy knew his grandmother would react that way. 😀

        1. My mother made sure all of us knew how to cook at least a couple of simple things, as well as sew buttons, darn socks, knit, and crochet. I’ve forgotten how to knit and crochet, and I don’t darn socks anymore, but I’m decent at sewing and have gotten to be a reasonably good cook.

  24. another time around the wheel I would probably know just how to deal
    With all of you

    or maybe not. ;o)

  25. You know… Fannish Culture could be an attempt to build the heritage that was taken from us. It’s deeper than pop culture– I don’t watch Monty Python, they mostly annoy me, but I still get the allusions and jokes– and provides the kind of common assumptions that I “see” in older books.

  26. “It’s not their fault. The fault is of the then-adults who, whether in guilt at the long wars of the 20th, or out of blinkered ideas that youth would increase forever in proportion to the population, decided to give in.”

    Partly it was cowardice. (Is there anything more craven than a tenured professor or university president? Anything?) But mostly it was because they agreed with the revolutionaries. Their only quibble was that they thought the revolutionaries were, perhaps, too impatient. (Think of the liberal asshats who thought Stalin was a “liberal in a hurry”.)

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