Strolling into geezerhood

I have noticed that slowly and surely I am becoming a geezer. Ok, I have not reached the stage where I go out in my bathrobe and shake a newspaper and yell at the neighborhood children to get off my lawn. In fact, the situation is the opposite. Children living on my block spend a lot of time on my lawn in the summers, since our dog Baxter has been adopted by all of them as their common pet and they come over to play with him.

No, what suggests to me that I am becoming a geezer is that I find myself increasingly unaware of popular culture celebrities. And what is more, I don’t care. The change has been gradual. It used to be that I knew a lot about popular culture which made me a force to be reckoned with when playing Trivial Pursuit. Not any more. Since I stopped watching TV (except for the occasional special program), my knowledge of actors and performers has decreased dramatically.

This was brought home most forcefully by the Hannah Montana phenomenon. The local newspapers suddenly had a major front-page news story about the fight to get tickets for a show to be given by her in Cleveland. The news report seemed to assume that readers knew who she was but I had not even heard of her name until that day.

I used to read the celebrity ‘news’ (gossip, really) section and other items in the newspaper that described TV shows and programs, so I felt that I knew what was going on even if I had never seen the shows or the actors referred to. But now I read about people who are supposed to be ‘stars’ (except that title inflation has set in and now even journeymen performers are routinely referred to as ‘superstars’ or ‘megastars’) and I have never heard of them before, so I have stopped reading those sections of the paper. There was a time when I would be concerned that I was losing touch but now I don’t care. I have no desire whatsoever to learn about celebrities and I am not in the least interested in the troubles they have with their parents, their children, their spouses or special friends, their sex lives, their fights, and their struggles with alcohol and drug addictions. In other words, Britney Spears’ life is of no interest to me. Of course, I feel sorry for her in a general way, just as I would feel sorry for any person whose life seems to be spiraling out of control. But the fact that she is a celebrity does not make her troubles any more important than those of any other person, and I don’t see why I should keep abreast of them.

I have also stopped following sports, except to occasionally take a quick look at the headlines and the standings.

Sherlock Holmes told Watson that the reason he did not spent time learning about whole areas of knowledge was that the brain could only store so much information and the more he filled it up with things that were not necessary for him to practice his detective skills, the less room he had to store the knowledge he needed.

Of course, that is rubbish. There is no reason to think that human brains are operating at anywhere close to capacity. But time is a zero sum entity and I find that the less time I spend on trivial things, the more I have for what is valuable. I must say that deciding these things are not worth reading about has released an enormous amount of time. I now zip though the daily newspaper in less than half the time I used to spend before.

The reason that I associate these things with geezerhood is that I think age plays such an important role in setting priorities about how time is used. When I was younger, I thought nothing of wasting time watching films that I knew would very likely be junk or watching hours and hours of sporting events that might contain at most a few minutes of genuine exciting athleticism. Now that I am older, I tend to be much more choosy about how I spend my time. I only watch films or read books for which there is a high probability that I will enjoy and hence am much more dependent on strong recommendations from people who share my tastes.

I don’t regret the ‘wasted’ time of my youth however. It was fun. But there is no doubt that what gives me enjoyment has changed a lot with time and I have gone with the flow rather than try and preserve the past.

POST SCRIPT: An atheist call to arms

People tend to think of Richard Dawkins as militantly hostile to religion since the recent publication of his book The God Delusion. But in this Ted Talk he gave in 2002, he comes across even stronger. If anything, it seems like he has actually mellowed since then.


  1. James says

    Mano, if losing touch with so-called ‘popular’ culture (and not caring) was the harbinger of becoming a geezer, then I turned into a geezer a long time ago (and I’m 25) =)

  2. says

    Thanks for that absolutely delightful post, Mano.

    I see the aging process as being similar to viewing a forest from different vantage points: When one is young our view is from the ground; we see the grass, flowers and trees, but have no idea where we are located. As we age, we in effect rise up above the trees. We still know what is at ground level, but now we have an unobscured view far into the distance. We can see the tree tops, the rolling hills, the canopy of the sky.

    This is by no means the “ultimate” view of things, but it is one in which the small things have grown less important, and one begins to understand how everything is interconnected.

  3. says

    I’m with James. And I’m 25 too.

    My only connections with “popular” culture are that I keep up on computer technology, copyright issues, video games, the occasional webcomic, and other artifacts of digital society. And I have a radio show where I mostly play rock that’s 1-2 decades old. So yeah, the Hannah Montana thing was a surprise to me as well.

    With the internet and a lack of TV or shoddy newspapers, it’s really easy to get lost in what you actually find interesting or worthwhile, rather than what is “pushed” onto you to fill time (tv)/space(paper) while you browse for something decent. At least that’s my experience.

    So either I’m a geezer too, or you’re younger than you think.

  4. says

    Let me add my “I’m 25 and a geezer by this definition” comment.

    Actually, it would appear you’re still doing better than I on such things. I still don’t know who Hannah Montana is, though I’ve gathered from this post that tickets to her show were in short supply. 🙂

  5. Katie says

    To all the men commenting here who don’t know who Hannah Montana is- that’s a good thing. She’s a 15-year-old Disney channel star, and I would be concerned if grown men without children did know much about her 🙂

  6. says

    I recently stopped watching programmed TV altogether, except for the occasional Daily Show episode if I need a study break. I now treat television as a social activity, and only really ever get in front of the boob tube on Sci-Fi Fridays.

    While it’s true that browsing the internet is a better way to find the information you want, the newspaper is pretty good too, so the advent of the ‘net can’t be the only thing driving us away from television. Maybe we’re all finally realizing that the personal lives of entertainers really aren’t that important.

    I have even cut back on my internet time lately. Instead of culling the unread feeds in my RSS reader over lunch, I read a book, chat with friends, or, now that it’s over 32 degrees outside, lounge on the quad and enjoy the sunshine which I’ve missed so much. Sometimes enjoying nature can be as good for my mood as getting information can be for my brain.

  7. Sam Rees says

    I haven’t watched broadcast TV in 5 years, and I’m only 19. I found it so amusing to see the evening news. They would inaccurately report on some Science/Tech news I had seen two days earlier. I browse through Slashdot, TheReg, ArsTechnica, and BBC world news via RSS on my n800. What else does one need?

    (other than audiobooks. make use of the neglected input! learn as you walk/drive!)

  8. Anonymous says

    I haven’t watched news in years, an I’m only 19.
    RSS via mobile internet device (nokia n800/ipod touch) is everything. Slashdot/ BBC world report/ArsTechnica / TheRegisiter. I hated watching the local 5 o’clock news, just to see a story a day after I saw it online, and royally botched at any hint of Science/Technology.

    Check out the difference in reporting on the elections. Blogs with a million links, including facts from the library of congress vs inane pundit chatter from NBC “politico anaylsts.”

  9. Anonymous says

    This page doesn’t update automatically after posting. Sorry about that. I thought it deleted it.

  10. says

    I am 35, and I don’t know how to react. I never was into gossip stuff of celebs, but I think I was a normal teen, etc. Does that make me a born-geezer? A lot of things that the other kids/guys/men did, I didn’t fancy much. So how will I know when I turn a geezer.

    I did find your post, at times, very funny. You write well Mano.
    My techblog

  11. Nemo says

    I spend a lot of time watching TV but that is dvd’s not broad cast TV. Broadcast TV is a waste of time. you can’t watch what you want, when you want, how you want with complete control.

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