Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I continue to be ravaged by insomnia. Anyway, last night's topic of contemplation: what I would do if I won a contest where I was given a few million dollars with the mandate that I had to use it to attempt to start a magazine.

I decided my magazine would be called Ketchup. It would be for people who don't watch much TV, see many films, or listen to much new music--and who are just fine with these habits--but who still want to be able to follow the pop-culture references that permeate everyday conversation and perhaps even insert occasional references of their own. The articles would describe ascendant trends in various media from first principles, with no presumption that you have any interest in going and consuming the media yourself. Some quick ideas for regular features:

1. "What's That About?" As in, "What's That About?: Lost" or "What's That About?: Entourage." With subheadings "The basic premise", "Who watches it?", "Why do the people who love it love it?", "Who's it making famous?" and "5 intelligent general insights you can pass off as your own".

2. "Three Minute Cinema", where the word length per movie would be whatever is the number of words the average reader reads in three minutes. Contains: a complete summary with all spoilers, 3 "upshot" assessments taken from movie reviews, and 3 short descriptions of the scenes that are most likely to be scenes people make reference to.

3. "The Three Songs You Should Download This Month If You Want to Pretend You Listen To:" where the subcategories would be "Top 40", "Hip-hop", "Hipster College Kids", etc..

4. "Join the Backlash" a short essay with arguments you can repeat about what something most people like is hopelessly overrated. Like "Join the Backlash: March of the Penguins." Again, includes a complete summary so you never have to even watch the movie or TV show to diss it in the first place.

5. "Subtleties" contains examples of pop culture references made in newspaper columns or overheard at parties that a non-pop-culture-consumer might not realize were references at all, with a full explainer of where it's from and what it means.

6. "Fresh Meat" would each month contain a short, to the point profile of one man and one woman who have just now reached the status in which you can expect them to get dropped in hip as a reference to a generic hottie.

7. "Scrape Off Your Mold" This would list various events and pop culture references and how old people of different ages now were when they happened. In the last year, I've heard people giving talks with a largely student audience where they made joking references to "Where's the beef?" (1984, when the average undergraduate was being born) and "I've fallen, and I can't get up" (1990), and of course these joking references fell flat. It's also great when people talk to relatively new graduate students about the Reagan presidency as if it were something about which they have first hand-knowledge, presumably by following the Iran-Contra hearings in their kindergarten classrooms.

Catch up with Ketchup, coming to a newsstand near you. Or, if you are sufficiently withdrawn from culture that you do not go into bookstores, presumably it will be available by subscription as well.


eszter said...

Love it!

There is one concern though: I suspect some people take pride in not knowing what's going on in certain pop realms and who are the people referenced in certain conversations. But then again, even if you want to be hip in that way, you may want to catch up on the material just so you know what you don't want to be associated with.. or something like that.

A propos "Scrape Off Your Mold" - I made a reference yesterday that I thought would be funny, but students didn't get it. I had a slide called "Did Gore invent the internets?"

They didn't get the "internets" part! That was last year!

FYI, most students have also never seen the mid-90s New Yorker cartoon with the dog at the computer. In this case that's good as you can use it again and get some laughs. Of course, then you should go into a lecture about how these days it's relatively easy for people to find out that you are a dog on the internets.

eszter said...

Ooops, sorry for the double post, I had meant to add this link to the previous one under "Did Gore invent the internets". See that post for relevant links.

Anonymous said...

I would buy this if you got it published. Out here in the sticks with rabbit ears for an antenna, I can't even watch Lost. References to cable shows leave me baffled. I don't even know who the woman is that Oscar Madison is so sick of.

I need to scrape off my mold. A few semesters ago I made this comment in class "Yeah, and ketchup is a vegetable!" Only the professor and I thought it was funny. She had to remind me the other students were babies when Ronnie was president. Yikes!
~pj, non-traditional student

dorotha said...

i will give you $15 toward the start up costs of this magazine. you are a genius. or, at least, this is the most genius thing i have knowledge of you coming up with. maybe you were behind the new Meat'normous from Burger King, too. i dunno.

this is waaaaaay better than the Meat'normous.

Jennifer said...

I would totally susbscribe to Ketchup.

Anonymous said...

I understand that like a sun dial, your blog comments now count only the sunny hours ...

jeremy said...

Eszter: Yeah, there is only so much one can do if students don't get an "Internets" reference one year later. As for those who take pride in not knowing pop culture references, they would be outside the Ketchup demographics, unless we can convince them that they want to know what's going on even as they pretend they don't.

Dorotha: I hadn't heard of the meat'normous before, but I see its brilliance and am flattered to be included in the same company.

Annie B said...

Brilliant idea. One way to reach the people who *say* they don't care about pop culture (even Madonna likes to brag that she never watches TV or reads the paper, which is total bollocks) is to make your mag look like the New Yorker or the Economist. Drape the cover in muted colors and hire an aging Pop Artist to sketch something ironic, then drop an elegant mast head over it all.
Kind of like flipping through the shiny mag with Brangelina on the cover, only to realize it's the Star, and you never would've even spit on it, much less touch it, in its black-and-white tabloid incarnation.

Kim said...

Re: Scrape off the Mold --

OTOH, some cultural references from my youth have surprising sticking power. I used the "Bueller? Bueller?" line in a class full of freshmen & sophomores this year, and got real laughs rather than just a smattering of polite chuckles. I blame TNT.

Allen said...

I'm constantly being reminded of how old I am. I used to do a bit about supercoiling of DNA by talking about the helical springy cord on your phone and how it gets tangled -- as if any of them ever use a phone with a cord on it.

BTW, Cabell once did a school assignment where she had to look at newspapers from the day she was born and summarize what was happening -- the "ketchup is a vegetable" story was on the front page that day. So yes, that was a while ago. I'm rapidly approaching the age of my students' grandparents.

Now that I no longer spend a lot of time in the car with a teenager (as she's across the river from you now at BU), I could definitely use the "songs to download" tips.

Anonymous said...

I think you also need to have special issues that address important pop culture events. For example, what happens when you need to discuss what movies/actors/actresses/etc. get Oscars? You could call such a special issue "Pickles" because of the obvious predicament.

Anonymous said...

Ketchup could be a blog. I would definitely read it, and hit the tip jar.