Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | August 14, 2013

Five phenomena of popular culture about which I am 100 percent clueless

Does it mean you are living a permanent “senior moment,” that you see more and more pop-culture references you can’t follow at all?

I don’t know.  I’m not sure I would have known more about these particular phenomena if I were, say, 20 years younger in the year 2013.  In 1993, when I was 20 years younger, there wasn’t nearly so much marginalia in our passing culture.  I’m not sure the issue is age, here, so much as the “informational” transformation that has made it possible for such a dense succession of pointless and unmemorable manifestations to parade before the average person’s consciousness in a given day.

But maybe I’m just getting old.  I do want to note, with some pride, that I have finally gotten a slightly better clue than I once had about what the word “Kardashian” means.  There was a long time there when, for all I knew, it could have been the name of one of those exotic, “French” diseases.

OK, here goes, in no particular order.

1.  Honey Boo Boo.  What in creation is Honey Boo Boo?  I don’t even know where to start.  Is it a stuffed bear?  A sugared cereal?  A human being?  What?  Why do we care?

2.  Duck Dynasty.  Again – what?  I’m dying here.  I can’t relate this expression to anything in my random-access memory files.  Is it animal?  Vegetable?  Mineral?

3.  Fifty Shades of Gray.  Do I want to know?  It sounds like Joe Biden explaining what used to be called, with distaste, “miscegenation.”  Thankfully, we don’t even think in those terms anymore, so maybe there’s no point in trying to account for whatever this is.

4.  Snooki.  This sounds like crossing a pool cue with a Hostess snack.  Is it a person?  A brand of sneaker?  A payday-loan-company merger?

5.  Bounty hunter show.  There’s a dog in this one somewhere.  I can imagine what’s going on with “bounty hunter,” so maybe this one isn’t the best example, but what’s the dog about?  Is this a pop adaptation of Albert Payson Terhune?  I’m thoroughly lost.

There are more.  I run into at least one per day now.  Granted, I don’t spend much time with TV channels other than watching some news, weather, sports, and HGTV.  I guess if I read – what, People?  The People website (I assume there is one)? Is that the Ur-guide to the pop cosmos? – I’d have more of a head start on this stuff.

I do absorb important things like the fact that the history and learning channels are forever using computer simulations to depict the end of life as we know it – building whole series around this premise, in fact.  It seems like a depressing premise, with limited scope for development, and I admit to not tuning in.  But I am aware of it.

I know where SpeedTV is in the channel line-up, so I can watch the F1 races after the fact.  (Who can be awake for most of them on Pacific Time? – and, plus, the live coverage of them isn’t always so good stateside.)  Just try, moreover, to pry the My Cat from Hell series from my cold, dead fingers.

I’m not completely alienated from pop culture.  I know what a reality TV show is.  They look awfully silly, but I could at least define what one is, if challenged.  I can usually recall, if I think really hard, what the big movie is at the box office right now.  I probably haven’t seen it, but I know what it is.  I know next to nothing about pop music after about 2003-4 – wake me from a sound sleep and ask me anything about music in the 1970s; absolutely anything – but I do know there’s a difference, fool, between rap and hip-hop.  Just don’t ask me to explain it.


Back when pop culture made sense...

Back when pop culture made sense…

Things like Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Endless, Incessant, Outta-My-Face-Already Vampires have penetrated my consciousness, at least to the extent that I could explain in 25 words (but more likely less) why they link minds together in today’s cultural-neuron network.  (Somebody wrote a book, and then somebody made a movie.  That’s my explanation.)

And yet, with those phenomena, I suspect I’m already in the “old and busted” column, and there’s new hotness out there leaving me in the dust as I type. I’m better with art, football, and fashion.  I read, a lot, although not that much from the NYT bestseller list, which tends to feature self-help books and novels no one will remember a year from now.  My taste differs pretty significantly from Oprah’s.

But I’ll just be hornswoggled if I can figure out a deductive approach to “Honey Boo Boo.”  I don’t have the tools to decipher that one.  I’ve crossed a cultural-instinct line somewhere.  I can’t navigate forward or backward; can’t intuit true north; I’m dead in the water, Honey Boo Boo-wise.  All I can do is ask for help.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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  1. 1. There was no popular music worth listening to after the 1970’s, except maybe Paul Simon’s “Graceland”.
    2. Helps to sometimes pay attention to Entertainment Tonight, before NCIS comes on, to know that HoneyBB and Snooki are apparently human.
    3. Guess you missed the five-figure closet redos for the Kardashian tweens on HGTV? (my favorite channel, if only I could import Canadian contractors!)
    4. “Too Cute!” is much better than “My Cat From He##” on Animal Planet, but that might be because my current cat is on permanent protest since the low water toilet was installed.
    5. Although I do not recommend western Massachusetts for fulltime living, it is remarkable how many people do not own a tv. Valley of the Literate: libraries and used bookstores abound.
    6. If it makes you feel better, imagine trying to find anyone who can discuss the Tsarist genocide of Circassians that ended on the beaches of Sochi in 1864 (Bullough’s “Let Our Fame be Great”) or the First Anglo-Afghan War (Dalrymple’s excellent “Return of a King”).

    • Funny you mention the Canadian contractors, K2K. What I have deduced from watching HGTV is that there was a crop of real duds somewhere between 20 and 50 years ago. I have yet to see a Canadian HGTV show in which the perky home-improvement squad does NOT find shoddy workmanship when it gets into the walls or subfloors.

      It’s like they opened they prisons in 1960, and the inmates rushed out to set up as electricians, plumbers, and building contractors.

    • Paul SImon hasn’t made anything worth listening to since he went solo. It’s nothing but pretentious garbage.

      Lot’s of junk since then in popular music, but also some really good stuff too.

      I recently saw an ad for HoneyBB – my god we are doomed!

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one clueless about pop culture. On the optimistic side, I am sure you could bring yourself fully up to speed with just a few hours of study. (Although that study might be nausea-inducing.) Years ago, I was flying somewhere and the only magazine in the seat pocket was a Spanish language version of People or US — I forgot which. Anyway, the Spanish words I can use in conversation could be counted on the fingers of both hands. Yet, with the really rudimentary prose and prolific photos in that magazine, I could understand about 75%. There’s just not that much substance there.

    In my case I cannot dismiss age as a factor in my cultural ignorance. I don’t see the attractiveness of elaborate tattoos and multiple piercings, for instance. But even when I was much younger, the things that Hollywood and television told us were cool often seemed completely alien. Do you remember the supposed pressure on young girls to look like the emaciated models of Paris? Trying to meet this pop culture ideal was causing eating disorders, sickness and even death. But I never met a guy who put a poster of some Auschwitz-starved model on his wall.

    Today, women are going to undocumented physicians to get black market injections of industrial grade silicone in their butts. Huh? How often have I heard a guy say, “She’d be really cute if she had a bigger butt.”? Never.

    I suspect a lot of what we are told is popular actually emanates from a few disordered elites in the media industry, and we end up with nothing to read or watch but People magazine.

    • Yeah, I think the “distorted body image” thing is due to “elite” fashion trends.

      It’s funny sometimes to look back at old issues of Vogue from the 1970s or 1980s, and see how robust the models looked. Sure, they were skinnier than the average Jane, but they were obviously members of the same species.

      Then Kate Moss came along, in the early ’90s, and it all went south from there. It wasn’t Kate’s fault; her status as an icon of presentable womanhood was urged on the public by designers and fashion editors. Same thing happened with Twiggy, 25 years earlier.

      Hollywood doesn’t help, of course. The industry makes money off of different body types, so you do find them in different venues (e.g., no stick insects sporting the bathing suits on Baywatch). Sometimes you find them all crammed in together, as on Charlie’s Angels. Kate Jackson had to be the “smart” one, because she was built like a surfboard. Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith, not so much.

      But Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell would be sent to a fat farm today, before they were allowed to make a marquee-topper. Sophia Loren would have been stuck in slasher flicks unless she submitted to liposuction. We’re in a down-cycle right now, body-fat-in-the-public-eye-wise — but, as you say, it’s not because guys’ tastes have really changed.

      • I would like a curve that is soft – not hard, and not straight. The classic look of a full formed women is where it is at.

  3. You’ll know you are in the Promised Land when you have thrown the T.V. set out the window, and nothing in casual conversations is identifiable or makes any sense whatsoever. I’m there already, and it’s bliss. In extreme situations I just ‘Google’ (a verb) it, and I feel like I’m in the loop once again. But my desire to do so is getting rarer and rarer. It’s just too much work.

    • Yep, Bob_M, it’s too much work. Welcome to TOC.

      Even my limited TV fare today is more than I ever watched before in my adult life. 20 years in the Navy just keeps you away from the tube. There were all these ’80s and ’90s shows I never saw an episode of (like Friends and X-Files), and to this day, I have never gotten in the habit of watching a network series, whether comedy or drama.

      I do have to have my football. Your handle is “approved” now, so feel free to comment any time. Don’t be shy.

      • Speaking of which – doesn’t college footbal start in earnest in a few weeks?

    • No crap. After 12 years unplugged from american ‘culture’, myself, I can say without exaggeration I don’t know what the hell is going on anymore.

      I’m only here because of hesitantly googling “what the hell is a kardashian,” and already I’ve learned too much…

      • Welcome, foxinabox. My apologies for the delay in approving your comment. You’re “in” now, so your comments should appear automatically from now on. Join the fun!

        P.S. Other than this post, TOC is a Kardashian-Free Zone.



    Let us answer the question: What must I do to be saved under the terms of the New Covenant? All Christians from the Day of Pentecost, until the present, were and are saved under the terms of the New Covenant, also called the New Testament.


    1. Believe in Jesus. (John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but does it include all the requirements for salvation? No, it does not. It does not say that all you have to do to be saved is believe in Jesus. Even demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God.(Luke 8:26-31)

    2. Believe and be baptized. (Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but it does not detail all that men have believe and do to be saved.

    3. Confess and believe. (Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;)

    This verse is true, but is does not include all of the requirements for salvation.

    4. Call on the name of the Lord. (Acts 2: 21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’)

    Is this verse true? Yes. Does this verse explain the meaning of calling on the name of the Lord? No, it does not. All of the relevant verses concerning salvation and forgiveness of sin are needed to understand what is meant by calling on the name of the Lord. Being obedient to the gospel is calling on the name of the Lord. Saying the man-made sinner’s prayer is not calling on the name of the Lord. There is no verse of Scripture that includes a sinner’s prayer under the New Covenant.

    5. Be born of water and Spirit.(John 3:5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but it does not explain the process to be born of water and the Spirit.

    6. By grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;)

    Is this verse true? Of course it is. We have the opportunity for salvation because of God’s grace, however, this verse does not say that we are saved by grace alone nor does it say we are saved by faith only. Salvation is the gift mentioned in this verse.

    7. Be buried with Christ in baptism. (Romans 6:4-5 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,)

    Are these verses true? Yes, but baptism alone is not the only requirement in order to walk in newness of life. Unsaved men do not walk in newness of life. We are told to walk in a new life after we are baptized. We are not told to walk in a new life the minute we believe. Water baptism is the final step to becoming saved.

    8. Water baptism. (1 Peter 3:21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

    Is it true that water baptism saves us? Yes, but this verse does not say, baptism alone, saves us.

    9. Be baptized calling on His name. (Acts 22:16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name!)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but it does not list all of the requirements for salvation?

    10. Repent. (Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.)

    Is this verse true? Of course it is, however, it is not all one has to do to have sins forgiven. Repentance is making the intellectual commitment to turn from sin and unbelief and to turn toward God.

    11. Baptized into Christ. (Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, however, you cannot be baptized into Christ unless you believe, confess, and repent prior to being baptized. You are not clothed with Christ the minute you believe. You are not clothed with Christ the minute you confess. You are not clothed with Christ the minute you repent. You are clothed with Christ the minute you are baptized into Him.

    12. Repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but is does mean that you can have your sins forgiven without having faith and confessing Jesus as the Son of God? No.

    13. Believe in the Lord Jesus. (Acts 16:30-31…”Sirs what must I do to be saved? 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”)

    Is this verse true? Yes, however, it doe not state that men are saved by “faith only.”


    1. God provides a Savior in Jesus Christ. (1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.)

    2. God makes His grace available to all men. (Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.)


    1. You must believe. (John 3:16)

    2. You must confess. (Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:37)

    3. You must repent. (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19)

    4. You must be baptized. (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38)


    1. You must remain faithful until death. (Revelation 2:11, Matthew 10:22)


    The Bible says we are saved by grace. It does not say we are saved by grace alone.

    The Bible says we are saved by believing in Jesus. It does not say we are saved by faith alone.

    The Bible says we are saved by confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead. It does not say that confessing Him and believing in His resurrection alone, that we will be saved.

    The Bible does say we must repent in order to have our sins forgiven. The Bible does not say that repentance alone saves us.

    The Bible teaches us that water baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and that it saves us. It does not say that water baptism alone saves us.

    In a honest hermeneutical approach to the question “What are we saved by? The answer has to include the following:


    Which one of God’s requirements for salvation can we eliminate and still be saved?

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  5. Egypt: Brace yourself for a storm of Fifth Column Treasonous Media Lies.

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