This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I don’t know everything.
It's like finding out there's no Santa Claus, I know. But I am not omniscient, though it may sometimes seem so. Not only do I not know everything about everything, I don’t even know something about everything. There actually are some subjects about which I am completely ignorant.
I know a little something about a lot of things. For example: I know a bit about the game of Cricket, and early Christian heresies, and German expressionist film, and sexual identity crisis. Not a lot...I've heard things; I may have even read some stuff...but something. Yet, other subjects, like the Chinese alphabet, and Dr. Livingston, and Wilmer Valderama's sexual prowess? Not a lot of knowledge there. Not even an iota. And that’s fine.
I don't need to know everything about everything. It's cool. But I’m desperate to know everything about something. I want to be an expert. A pundit. One of those talking heads on television. A go-to-guy for talk show hosts and industry panels. The authority.
My only real issue, aside from a lack of networking connections amongst the pundit circle, is uncertainty about which topic to control. Everything else is pretty much set.
I graduated high school. I did okay on the SATs. I’d tell you my score, but it wouldn’t make much sense in this new era of 4800-point tests (and an essay question? I’d have gotten into Harvard when I was 10 if they’d had an essay section back then! Please). I went to a reputable college. Sure, my major was iffy but I made it through with a good GPA just the same.
So why shouldn’t I be on call as a consultant on [some topic that I have yet to decide upon]? I know plenty about [it]! More than you.
I just need to pick my poison. The arena in which I come closest to being an authority is pop culture. Primarily movies. And if you really want to get specific, mostly The Karate Kid and Die Hard.
Lately I’ve been watching "VH1’s Pop Culture Challenge" and been dominating the shit out of most of the teams competing. And, for once, this is a trivia show that is actually pretty legit. The questions aren’t a total joke. Some are, of course, like “Who was the voice of Darth Vader?” But others, such as “What band was featured in the “What’s Happening” episode in which Rerun gets caught bootlegging their concert?” aren’t exactly common knowledge.
But it's common enough.
There are thousands of people out there sitting at home with twelve-packs, a bag of Tostitos and a jar of K-Y -- I mean salsa -- watching VH1 in nothing but plaid flannel pajama pants, furious that they aren’t the ones on TV embarrassing their families with evidence of their wasted childhood. It's a tough market to crack. But can we really call these people, my people, "experts." We're more like sponges, soaking up inconsequential info no one else really cares much about. Hell, not even that Mormon guy who hasn’t lost a game of "Jeopardy" in like four years is an expert; he's merely absorbed a lot of info about ostensibly "important" subjects. Like potent potables. He just has a wider breadth of knowledge than most, and a quicker trigger finger. And also more wives.
I have bigger things in mind than popping up on VH1 sixteen times a day, fighting for airtime with the gap-toothed guy from Modern Humorist and the Sierra Mist promotions team.
So what other field can I turn to?
I love the NFL, but ESPN already has a solid stable of ex-jocks and stat nerds. And as much as I’d love to terrorize John “Bowtie” Clayton by backing him into a wall and screaming about the Dolphins, I already can’t stand Stu Scott's beatboxing and Stephen A. Smith's yelling and Ron Jaworski’s megaphone crooning on TV, so I doubt I’d be able to hack it in the same room with those guys for more than a few minutes.
I also know a fair amount about Scientology, but I'm not a deprogrammer and I haven't actually been deprogrammed. Most cult experts have had some direct experience with the sects they consult on. I love devil stuff too, but again, I've never actually attended a black mass or sacrificed a goat in the name of Lucifer. Not yet at least.
I'm kind of an expert on temping, and blasphemy. I'm good at those. I also have a decent amount of experience being a grade-A, top-shelf prick, but I'm don't think that's an area in which I need to be ranked #1.
I guess I'll just have to be content to be the local expert on nothing. No, not the Nothing, though I do know a fair amount about The Neverending Story as well. Except the name the kid yells at the end. Anyone?
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8.14.06 @ 7:49a
Bravo, Mike. Half the battle is not being afraid to toss your opinion on the fire.
Of course, the other half is being able to back it up. This is usually where I lose interest.
8.14.06 @ 8:20a
Surprise? It was a SHOCK! I've always counted on you. I've said, "Well, if I can't find it on the internet I can always email Mike and get the answer." No Ask. No Google. No Yahoo. Just you, Mike, were my ace in the hole, and just because I haven't had to email you yet doesn't mean I mightn't one day. Sigh!
I'm one of those sponges soaking up whatever I hear, see, read. But let me tell you, at the ripe young age of 72, the retrieval system is the first to go. It's all still IN there somewhere, but the neuronal pathways don't click into place the way they used to. I'm too embarrassed to tell you how many times I have to traipse across the house to my daughter's room to ask her what the word for X, Y or Z is. Fortunately she's another sponge with younger pathways and has always come up with the answer so far.
I still have not been beaten in Trivial Pursuit, even when they all gang up against me as a "team." I suppose that's some kind of honourable achievement. Tra la...
I personally think we need more generalists. Every other person is a specialist in SOMEthing. I like the idea of knowing a little bit about darned near everything, if only to be able to enter any conversation and ask an intelligent question. You learn even more that way.
8.14.06 @ 12:00p
Wow. I asked Matt just yesterday how the hell Mo Rocca became a know-it-all pundit media "gadfly" not knowing how one puts oneself in those positions. It's so obvious you could kick his ass!
8.14.06 @ 12:48p
Whaddya mean 'there's no Santa Claus'? Don't be messin' with the King of Ho, Ho, Ho.
8.14.06 @ 12:55p
FYI, the answer to the "What's Happening?" question is: The Doobie Brothers.
8.14.06 @ 2:16p
And the answer to the Neverending Story question is: "Moonchild!"
8.14.06 @ 2:50p
FYI, the answer to the "What's Happening?" question is: The Doobie Brothers.
This is why "What's Happening" was five kinds of awesome. This and the fact that no one ever took a hand to Dee Dee.
Of course, they killed it with "What's Happening Now."
8.14.06 @ 3:30p
They show a fair amount of the "concert" in that episode too and it is fanTAStic stuff. Smoke, a gong, pyrotechnics, all in a high school auditorium!
8.14.06 @ 10:39p
I can't tell you how stressful it is to be forced to watch Pop Culture Challenge with Mike.
However, he has gotten me into Trivia Nights at local bars.
8.18.06 @ 11:40a
By the way, thanks Juli! Moonchild is right, as atrocious as it is.
I always thought it was his dead mother's name but it sounded like gibberish.
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