The subject came up, not only from recent comments by proven ‘grown men and women’: Duncan with Marcel Marceau and Elanor with Alice’s restaurant, but also from my own experience. The famous-names I (trust me, reluctantly ) sometimes need to drop are more and more un-droppable, at least with any audible bang.
Here in Israel, however, I’m constantly amazed by being able to simply cite ‘Amish’ as my heritage, instead of boringly itemizing: ‘a ‘race’ of farm families, exiled from Switzerland, living in Lancaster County, an area of Pennsylvania, a state among 50 in the United States of America, Western hemisphere, planet Earth, you can look it up.’
Films like ‘The Witness’ and ‘Boys from Brazil’ save me hours of explanatory hoo-hah, for better of for worse.
Yet, as Donald Fagen (the guiding light of Steely Dan, a musical group popular like, before you were born) said in ‘Hey Nineteen’: “She don’t remember…the Queen of Soul”.
Trust me, I sob as I write these lines, the thought of I-phone-ists searching ‘Urethra Franklin’ after ‘R ES P E C T’ slays me.
Justifiably? Aye, there’s the rub.
We are all fighting the expanding borders of the ‘of course you’ve heard of’ . To the point where ‘FCL’ is now a respected acronym for ‘Feigning Cultural Literacy.’ Perhaps no one more than Duncan, (Some Witty Handle), in his sly comments has driven my personal browser traffic to WIKI, in order not to appear to be hopelessly dense on topics a real Renaissance man should master.
And so, I repeat the Title: ‘Exactly ‘what’ ought a grown man know these days?’
We’re all familiar, I assume, with polls which show half of’ Americans’ failing to identify Canada vs Mexico on a map. The Libertarian presidential candidate, ‘Johnson’ somebody,’ recently had a red-faced run-in on TV for asking innocently ‘What’s a ‘Leppo?’ And ‘Donnie Thump’, whatever, is now a viral meme ‘#book reports’, with tweets ‘facetiously, for now, saying ‘So many grapes, so much wrath!’ and similar even funnier parodies. I’m at least relieved to have Ms. Rodham to vote for in a week or so. Sure as I am that she could not, with a straight face, propose a ban on ‘Merchandise from Venice‘.
So yeah, Shakespeare, etc. But what of Aretha? Euclid? Newton? (‘famous back then’)
Not to mention…um… ‘Jsolberg’..
Aha, once again, it was the immortal SWH who called out the existential fear, in a recent post, by its name: ‘the fear of becoming irrelevant’.
To tell the truth, seeking to become a ‘house-hold name’ these days is doomed: ‘So many names, so few houses’ . The effort may be truly a tasteless GMO carrot on a stick, driving us onward toward an eventual and certain slaughterhouse as the curtains fall.
Ok, I can quite easily be dismissed as a ‘past-his-sell-by-date’ ranter on ‘kids these days’. And in fact, to me, Pearl Jam is ‘that gunk that lives between translucent-nail-polished toes’.
But History does repeat itself, and without common(?) Knowledge, it returns… as Tragedy, then Farce, and finally, Trump. (‘He don’t remember/ who said ‘America First!’ first’)
I’m far from recommending a ‘Core-curriculum’ here.
So what, that I could draw a map of the US with all 50 states named and present, freehand. Only on a WIFI-less island these day would that make me King. Any third-grader could download and print a three-color map before I got my pen working nowadays.
Hoping for anyone’s input here/ JS