Survey Says

So today while making my rounds at the office I took a shortcut through the cafe to get back to my desk. There's a TV in there that they leave on all day. I think the original intention was to have it on the news or weather channel during the day so people wouldn't feel disconnected and would have something to watch while they ate, but something funny happened on the way to the forum -- and now you can find just about anything on there depending on what time of the day you happen to show up.
You think watching Maury Povich helps the time pass when you're unemployed?
Just wait until you see who the baby's real father is while you're still on the clock.
I think the trouble really started to happen when Anna Nicole Smith died, and CNN's 24-hour coverage started to feel like a second-rate version of Entertainment Tonight. And while everyone couldn't help but be drawn into the train wreck at first, management didn't really have a problem when people started to get tired of all the sensationalism and switched over to other channels.
But once that floodgate opened, all bets were off.
The funny thing is that we get a lot of corporate visitors in this place. As a multi-national medical engineering firm, it's pretty common to see the execs walking around explaining our operation to foreign dignitaries, research scientists, and various medical professionals. Guys in expensive suits taking notes about our quality controls, manufacturing processes or whatever.
What I wouldn't give to hear my boss try to hold it together while giving one of these VIP's a tour that passes by the flatscreen featuring two brawling trailer trash girls while the crowd chants "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!"
Anyways, I'm cutting through the café today and the TV's on like always -- this time tuned to a recent episode of Family Feud -- and they're playing that bonus round game where the contestants answer questions and then see how many of the surveyed people had the same answer,
And at the top of the board, showing as the #1 answer -- was the word BOOBS.
I mean, how totally priceless is that? Here, right at the center of our campus, literally within feet on an ongoing production meeting -- some guy leaned into a microphone, said the magic word, and then listened while his relatives shouted "Good answer, good answer!!"

To be honest though, embarrassing answers like that have always been part of the appeal of that particular game, a fact that's been proven again and again during the seemingly billion-year run it's had on broadcast television.
Game shows certainly aren't as popular as they used to be in popular culture, but it's hard to think that they'll ever truly go away. And in my mind that's not such a horrible thought -- because despite their inherent cheesiness, there's still something about them that's hard to resist. I can't say I watch them all the time -- but like a lot of families growing up in the late 80's watching Wheel of Fortune was an every night kinda thing. And before that my family watched the hell out of things like Family Feud, Hollywood Squares and The Joker's Wild.

I think the main reason for this was my mother -- an incredibly well-read and intelligent woman who possessed the two main qualities that are utterly essential if you ever want to be considered a real game show fan:
1) A burning need to validate your own intelligence by shouting out answers before the people on TV can.
2) A pure sense of joy that can only be attained when other people show themselves to be stupider than you.
Qualities which I'm proud to say (for better or for worse) that I have completely inherited from her. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that watching Jeopardy with me tends to be a total pain, because I'm continually playing along. I'm not always right -- but rest assured my answers are always shouted out before anyone else can buzz in.

Even worse, getting my two cents in on a game show question is something that usually takes precedence over any other conversation I might happen to be having at the time.
"Of course I love you baby, you know you're the only one for m.. WHAT IS A RAKE!!"
It all sorta goes back to this theory that I've been expounding for a long time, ever since I was a corporate trainer back at Alltel -- which is that smart people desperately need you to know just how smart they are. It's like a drug. If we've read the book then we're gonna tell you that it's better than the movie. If you mispronounce something we're gonna call you on it -- and if you're trying to pass off a joke as your own that we saw on the Simpsons or the Daily Show the night before we're gonna make sure you don't get credit for someone else's stuff.

Especially in this day and age where the encyclopedias are written by committee and everyone seems to be an expert about something -- once you get a couple of know-it-alls into a catfight the rest of the day is basically over. From "Who would win in a fight between Kirk and Picard" to "What was Miss Teen South Carolina thinking?" -- nothing's more important these days than knowing what you know.

The thing that's changed about this though is that it's not only smart people anymore. Even the idiots you meet on a regular basis are willing to fight about the things they know better than you. From how much I don't know about what it's like to try to make it on the streets to telling me how hard it is to get respect from your peers when you're beautiful, there's no shortage of "informed sources" out there to choose from -- even when it seems like the vast majority of them don't really know what the hell they're talking about.

I find it interesting in a culture where being "too smart" is still seen as a social handicap, it seems like now more than ever there's been a huge spike in the value that's placed on the idea of someone being an authority in a given area. And I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else -- especially when it comes to things that I feel like I've put time into learning about.
Or to put it another way, I don't so much have a particular taste in music anymore as
much as I'm completely convinced that all the music I don't happen to like totally sucks.
Of course the worst part of it all is the hypocrisy that comes with this sort of though process -- because as much as I'm truly offended by people who tell me that I'm un-American for not supporting the war in Iraq, I'm the first one to point out that anyone who voluntarily listens to and enjoys a song like "Big Girls Don't Cry" must have been dropped on their head as a baby.

I'm not trying to sound all superior here, but I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. I read a lot. I'm a college graduate. I enjoy learning new things, and even if it's not my chosen profession anymore I truly love teaching others. At the same time I still can't balance a checkbook to save my life. I have no idea where Albania is. Lolcats still crack me up. Few things in this world are funnier than watching me attempt to do long division in my head, except of course if you need me to figure out and fix what's wrong with your wi-fi connection, explain to a mechanic what's wrong with my car, or try to name any members of the current presidential cabinet.

Never mind the fact that I can name (from memory) the stunt coordinators for all 3 Blade movies, the exact technique and accessories Kirk Hammett used to get the wailing sounds you hear during the outro section to the Metallica song "The Thing That Should Not Be," the names of all the current head coaches in the NFL who used to be coordinators for Mike Shanahan, or how to make an upside-down kamikaze without a glass,
..when you get right down to it, I'm kinda stupid.
I guess in the end none of us can really know everything. But I don't know that it's the worst thing in the world if we don't. Even in this culture where everyone seems to be a know-it-all about something -- there's still a world of difference between intelligence and maturity. Some of the best people I've known never finished school. Some of the worst people I've come across have more degrees than they know what to do with.

It's not what you know -- it's what you do with it. It's how you apply it, where you put your particular knowledge to use.
But then again, any dummy could have told you that, right?

[Listening to:    Coal Chamber"Shari Vegas" ]