c.2014, Sourcebooks $16.99 / $19.99 Canada 320 pages
Your father sometimes says really odd things.
It’s “in like Flynn” this, or “Julie’s swan song” that, or “Just the facts, Ma’am.” He’s been talking that way for as long as you can remember. It’s like living with Richie Cunningham’s dad.
Uh-oh. Would your kids understand that last cultural reference? Did you ever consider that someday, your grandkids may think you’re outdated? Yep, read “The Mindset List of the Obscure” by Tom McBride and Ron Nief, and get a little perspective.
At least twice a week, you catch your teenager rolling her eyes at something you said because she thinks you’re out of touch. Positively archaic. Dinosaurian, even, which is what you once said about your own parents.
The thing is, each generation has its cultural touchstones – those things or sayings or gadgets that act as social glue. Fortunately, by studying those wide-spread popular icons from years past, we can understand society a little better today.
Eighty-some years ago, for instance, a couple guys who were insanely famous on radio, TV, and vaudeville did a skit about baseball. It was one of their best-known bits and, in the late 1930s, fans loved hearing Abbott & Costello tell them Who’s on First. Today, your kids can see a modern version of that skit on YouTube.
You may not know who owned America’s first “mega-church” (she was also “the second woman in history to get a radio license”), but your grandparents surely did. They also knew about singing telegrams, ballroom dancing (not with Stars), collect calls, an early “Crime of the Century,” genuine Amateur Hours, a noisily-emptying radio closet, and a couple of big dummies.
For you, those things might be almost-somewhat-distant memories – but you can easily recall when music came on 45s or even 8-tracks (things your kids are clueless about). You remember that Captain Kangaroo was mandatory morning-TV. You know you wouldn’t live with Festus Curtis if they paid you to do it, and that nobody LOLZ @ L.S.M.F.T.
So what will make your children’s children roll their eyes?
“The important thing,” say the authors, “is to stay tuned to the question.”
And how could you not? In a time when memes fly around the world in seconds and watercoolers aren’t the only place for buzz, “The Mindset List of the Obscure” proves how much we love our pop-culture touchstones.
What’s fun about this book, I think, is that authors Tom McBride and Ron Nief fill it with entries that are not only great memory-nudgers for readers, but that can also be used for sparking conversation between generations. There are enough factoids here to make fierce trivia lovers happy, there’s plenty of history for your historian, and it’s good gift for any Boomer or senior with a sense of humor.
If you’ve ever wondered what people will remember about Miley Cyrus in fifty years – or if you wonder what they’ll remember at all – this is a fun book to read and share. For you, “The Mindset List of the Obscure” is oddly addictive.
Disclaimer: The views expressed on this weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of PBG Lifestyle Magazine.