I’m really not a culture snob, or not much of one.
I don’t want to have my favorite things be obscure, it’s just that I have obscure tastes and enthusiasms. I actually get quite excited when things I like get popular, since there aren’t that many things that do. “My Name Is Earl” was the probably the most recent pop phenom that I endorsed with full fervor, but that’s since bit the dust, so I’m feeling ungrounded when it comes to TV of late.
That being said, I do have to admit that few things have made me grieve more for the soul of my Nation than those sad, dark nights when I forgot to take reading material to the gym, and realized that the only things left lying around the treadmills or spin cycles were piles of celebrity magazines. I picked a couple of them up thinking “Well, how bad could they be? They will certainly make the workout go faster, right?” Nope. They were far worse than I thought they might be, and it felt like time stopped as my brain seized in the face of the overwhelming vapidness, crassness and stupidity that filled them.
So it occurred to me that maybe I should try to shine a small candle of intelligence and taste into the cesspool of celebrity idiocy and reality show freaks that the gym magazine rack offers. I started by leaving my own copies of The Economist magazine when I finished with them. They are a good spot smarter than the latest issue of (I Wish They Were Friends of) Us or People (Who Would Ignore Me If I Saw Them on The Street), I figured.
And then I stepped it up a notch: I left my copy of the 33 1/3 series of books about Steely Dan’s Aja album. It’s a little, interesting book about a big, important album, filled with taste, style and intelligence. I figure if anything can repulse the forces of fake, shallow, hebetude that our pop culture inflicts upon us, then Aja most certainly must be that thing. In fact, the world as a whole would be a better place if more people asked themselves What Would Don and Walt Do?, rather than trying to figure out how to get reality shows by stuffing their uteri with babies or pretending to launch the ones that already fell out of them into space.
While I haven’t actually seen anyone reading the Aja book yet, I have spotted it in a variety of different places next to a variety of different pieces of equipment, so it’s being carried around the gym, if not actually digested. But as long as it’s there, I will feel good thinking that somebody, someday, opted to read about the chord progressions in “Deacon Blues” rather than reading about some couple of simpering idiots called Branjovi or Catapelt or Benjaweesie, because the pop culture media assumes our attention spans are too short to actually read both of their empty, meaningless names in their entirety.
Okay. So maybe I am a culture snob.