Going Native In One’s Own Culture

Ever feel like an alien in your own culture?

You know the feeling. You pick up your daily newspaper and at some point check, for whatever reason, “Today’s Birthdays” and are lucky to recognize one name out of 10. And that’s if Walter Cronkite or Mickey Rooney have added yet another digit. But being ingénue-challenged isn’t the worst of it.

Some other signs, I can attest, are cluelessness about who is or was or might be an American Idol winner. Or why it’s even considered “news.” Or why certain people, from the Osbornes to Anna Nicole Smith to Paris Hilton, would have appeal – on any level – let alone as “reality” TV subjects. Or who’s a “survivor,” an “apprentice” – or fearless around worms or whatever. And why anyone could conceivably care.

Or why anyone would seemingly need directions when it comes to wearing a baseball cap or boxer shorts. Or why there’s a market for rap.

Or how it came to be that so many 20-something blondes became such serious broadcast news conduits. Or how Jon Stewart became the second coming of H.L. Mencken.

Or why professional educators can’t just say: “Of course, you can’t wear flip-flops to school. And lest there are any more such loopy queries, remember this: ‘We’re the adults; you’re the kids. You are allowed to be silly; but we’re obligated to call you on it. You’re going to school – not the beach. At least look the part.”

Or how some teens can leave a home where some parentally-responsible adult resides and head to school looking like they’ve answered a casting call for “Lolita.”

Or why anyone should have imposed upon them the insipid details of inane lives as conveyed via cell-phone conversations anywhere in public. Make that “like anywhere in, like, public.”

But every now and then it’s kind of a kick to feel like a veritable insider in the popular culture. So that’s my story as to how I came to watch the Academy Awards show last week. Plus, I had actually seen four of the movies nominated for “best picture.” And, yes, I would have seen them all had I not Brokebacked out.

A few Oscar observations:

*George Clooney’s looks and personality lend a semblance of credibility to his politics. To be fair, he should look like Michael Moore. Same ideology.

**Last year the edgy Chris Rock. This year the smug Jon Stewart. Who’s next if Billy Crystal keeps begging off? Andrew Dice Clay?

*“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” Indeed.

*Who’s responsible for letting Lauren Bacall go on? She’s been an actress for the ages. She’s been sassy and classy. Now she’s as vulnerable as she is venerable. She deserved better than to be seen losing a teleprompter encounter. It was sad, and it never should have happened.

* “Crash,” a movie seemingly made for diversity workshops, wins best picture. It wasn’t even best polemic; that was “Munich.”

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