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.